Between St. Giles and the Parliament House you can see today a stone with "J. K." on it, marking the spot where John Knox's dust reposes. Knox was full worthy of the verdict of the Regent Morton, who, as he saw him laid in the grave, exclaimed, "There lies he who never feared the face of man!"
In the first World War an officer was leading back to the front a company of British soldiers who had been on furlough. The country was war-scarred and desolate. The cold rain had fallen; the road was trampled and muddy. The men knew what they were going back to—mud and blood, and possibly death. Their shoulders sagged. None spoke or sang. Glancing through the door of a ruined church on the line of march, the officer happened to see the figure of Christ on a cross above the high altar. It: came to him like a breath of courage, like a voice of assurance. Turning to his company, he gave the command, "Kyes, right! March!" The depressed and discouraged soldiers saw what he had seen, and in the suffering but triumphant Christ they found their strength. Their heads lifted, their shoulders squared, and they marched on like conquerors.
Tertullian relates how when the Emperor Severus was distributing bounty to the troops after his victory over the Parthians a great review of the army was held, and the soldiers were asked to march by the imperial stand crowned with laurel. The Christians of that day believed it was disloyal to God to wear such a crown. There was one Christian soldier in the army more steadfast than the others, who could imagine that they could serve two masters. His head alone was uncovered as he approached the stand, and he held the useless crown in his hand. His fellow soldiers began to jeer at him and to revile him. When he was brought before the tribune, he was asked, "Why are you so different in your attire? Why do you not wear the crown like the others?" The soldier answered that he had no liberty to wear the crown like the rest. When a reason for this was demanded, he answered, "I am a Christian!"
Wellington used to speak of what he called "three o'clock in the morning" courage. What a man thinks, does, determines, when things are at their worst, makes or mars his future. Bitter disappointment, broken trust, the fading of cherished hopes, precipitate a crisis for every soul thus tried; for the soul must choose hate, bitterness, and despair—or have the courage to choose the way of forgiveness and heroic endurance.
Great scenes have been staged by those who in the hour of trial stood boldly for Christ, ever since Stephen lighted a flame that has never gone out. By the side of Stephen stands Luther in the great moment of his life. Anyone who has seen the Luther monument at Worms, representing the reformer just at the moment when he made his grand defiance of this world—"HereI stand, I cannot do otherwise"—must have been deeply impressed with the look on the uplifted face of Luther. You could say of him, as his murderers said of Stephen, that his face looks like that of an angel. In this day, when the popular tide runs away from morality and religion, there is all the greater need on the part of the followers of Christ for that courage which is born of fellowship with him, the courage which can make a man say to all the rest of the world, "Stand thou on that side for on this am I."
We have a stirring example of the courage of a man facing a beast in the great story of Rome and the early Christian Church, Quo Vadi where Ursus grapples with the wild bull across whose horns is strapped the naked body of a Christian.
A story is told of a well-known missionary in India who was bowing on night in prayer at the side of his bed when a great python lowered itself from the rafters of his bungalow and encircled his body with its cold and powerful coils. It made no attempt to constrict, and yet the missionary knew that if he struggled the great serpent would tighten the coils and crush him. With marvelous self control, and courage born of faith, he went on quietly praying, until at lengt the animal unwound itself and went back into the roof.
The annals of men of letters reveal many a tale of heroic fortitude, but none more honorable than that of Sidney Lanier. With his flute in his pocket he fought in the ranks of the Confederate army—and returned to blackened Georgia with the seeds of disease in his body. Soon after, he had his first hemorrhage; and from that day until his death in 1881 it was one long battle with sickness, but he never forge his vision of distinction in poetry. Supported by the implicit faith of one heart that believed in his genius, he was driven by disease from state to state—Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina—between the periods of sickness stirring up and exercising the gift that was in him. It was in December, 1880, at Baltimore, when "to feeble to raise his food to his mouth, with a fever of 104 degrees, that he penciled his last and greatest poem, "Sunrise." The "thing to be done" for him was death, but even so he sang:
But I fear not, nay, I fear not the thing to be done;
I am strong with the strength of my lord the Sun:
How dark, how dark soever the race that must needs be run,
I am lit with the Sun.
An example of that rare courage, the courage to face a mob undaunted, is related by Dickens in one of his greatest stories, the somber tale Barnaby Rudge. The locksmith, Gabriel Varden, stood before the doors of Newgate Prison during the Cordon riots of 1799. A basket of tools was put on the ground before him, and it was demanded that he pick the lock of the prison. "He had never loved his life so well as then, but nothing could move him. The savage faces that glared upon him, look where he would; the cries of those who thirsted like wild animals for his blood; the sight of men pressing forward and trampling down their fellows as they strove to reach him and struck at him above the heads of other men with axes and with iron bars—all failed to daunt him. He looked from man to man, and face to face, and still with quickened breath and lessening color, cried firmly, 'I will not!'"
When Christian in the battle with Apollyon was hard pressed by the black fiend—fallen to the ground, his sword had slipped from his hand; and Apollyon was lifting his weapon to dispatch him—Bunyan's hero grasped his sword again, and springing to his feet, cried out, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise"; and with that he drove his cruel foe from the field. Human nature assumes its grandest proportion when, in the battle with sin, it reaches again for the lost sword and puts the foes to rout.
In 1825, at the height of his fame, surrounded by his family and friends, Scott was living at Abbotsford, his "romance in stone." In that year his printing house failed and left him in debt more than a hundred thousand pounds. In his diary of that period we find such entries as this: "Naked we entered the world and naked we leave it; blessed be the name of the Lord"; "I have walked my last in the domains I have planted—sat the last time in the halls I have built. But death would have taken them from me if misfortune had spared them." With splendid courage he took arms against a sea of troubles and began to write the new romances which were to clear his house of debt. Year after year he toiled on, until his health gave way under the strain, and still he continued to write until death stilled the wand of his imagination.