At the siege of Khartoum, when someone suggested to that great Christian, General Gordon, that they stop up the windows of his headquarters with sand, he became angry. Putting lighted candles on the table he said, "When God was proportioning out fear to all the peoples in the world, at last it came to my turn, and there was no fear left to give me. Go tell all the people in Khartoum that Gordon fears nothing, for God has created him without fear.
Biologists say that fear is not only universal emotion but the first of emotions to be developed in man and beast. The whole creation is under dominion of fear. Man comes into this world stamped with fear before he is born, and those fears are multiplied as he increases in knowledge and expience.
As a boy did you never catch a robin or an oriole and, holding the bird in yout hand, feel the rapid, terrified beating of the little heart? The bird had had no experience or acquaintance with you or any other man. It had no reason to fear you but that of instinct. It was in dread of everything but its mother and its companion birds. As the creation is at the present time, the sense or the instinct of fear is a very necessary part of the equipment of beast and man.
There is a painting by Max Gabriel which seemed to illustrate and reprsent a great text of John's. You see copies in almost every gallery, the original of which is in the Louvre in Paris. It is called "The Last Token." It describes a scene in the days when to be a Christian meant persecution, suffering or death. One of the Christians, a slender and beautiful maiden, is about to be to torn by the beasts. At her side is the great stone wall of the amphitheater, rising tier above tier and crowded with t brutal multitude whom sin has brougth to that fearful state. The iron grating into the den, or vivarium, of the beasts has been lifted, and a ferocious tiger, enraged by captivity and hunger, is stealthily creeping out of the cage toward his helpless victim, with the blood lust in his glaring eyeballs.
The maiden is clad in white, save for the dark mantle about her head and shoulders. She stands only a few feet from the opening out of which the tiger is coming. But she heeds not the beast, and seems to be oblivious to its nearness. At her feet lies a white rose, which some friend or lover or relative has thrown into the arena; and her upturned and fearless eyes eagerly scan the benches above for the face of him who has cast the rose. The hate of man has condemned her to death, and the savage beast is soon to taste her virgin blood; but one single rose with one beating heart behind it has changed the whole scene. Now there are no beasts, no bloody sands, no jeering mob—only a white rose and love triumphant. Perfect love has cast out fear.
Fear is man's greatest adversary. According to an ancient legend, a man driving one day to Constantinople was stopped by an old woman who asked him for a ride. He took her up beside him and, as they drove along, he looked at her and become frightened and asked, "Who are you?"
The old woman replied: "I am Cholera"
Thereupon the peasant ordered the old woman to get down and walk; but she persuaded him to take her along upon her promise that she would not kill more than five people in Constantinople. As a pledge of the promise she handed him a dagger, saying to him that it was the only weapon with which she could be killed. Then she added: "I shall meet you in two days. If I break my promise, you may stab me."
In Constantinople 120 people died of the cholera. The enraged man who had driven her to the city, and to whom she had given the dagger as a pledge that she would not kill more than five, went out to look for the old woman, and meeting her, raised his dagger to kill her. But she stopped him, saying: "I have kept my agreement. I killed only five. Fear killed the others."
This legend is a true parable of life. Where disease kills its thousands, fear kills its tens of thousands. The greatest miseries of mankind come from the dread of trouble rather than from the presence of trouble. From the cradle to the grave fear casts its baleful shadow. Fear betrays man's spirit, breaks down his defense, disarms him in the battle, unfits him for the work of life, and adds terror to the dying bed.
A mother and her little four-year-old daughter were preparing to retire for the night. The child was afraid of the dark, and the mother, alone with the child, felt fearful also. When the light was out, the child caught a glimpse of the moon outside the window. "Mother," she asked, "is the moon God's light?" "Yes," said the mother. "God's light is always shining." The next question was, "Will God blow out His light and go to sleep?" And the mother replied, "No, my child. God never goes to sleep." Then out of a simplicity of a child's faith she said that which gave reassurance to the fearful mother: "Well, so long as God is awake, I am not afraid."
No wonder Jesus said, "Except ye become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." How often we allow fear—of darkness, of failure, of suffering, of death—to rob us of our sleep and of our joy in life! God's light never goes out; He is ever awake to our needs.—Selected.
And though this world, with devils filled,
Should threaten to undo us,
We will not fear, for God has willed
His truth to triumph through us.
The prince of darkness grim—
We tremble not for him;
His rage we can endure,
For lo! his doom is sure,
One little word shall fell him.—Martin Luther.
Life that does not fear in this present world is abnormal life. Some false cults and philosophies would remove all fear from life; but they would make of us abnormal and useless beings. Not only "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and not only can we be delivered by Christ Himself from unworthy and weakening fears, but other fears also are vital to sane, useful living. The Keswick Calendar quotes a pertinent and needed comment: "We cannot live either our natural or our spiritual life without fear. A man will never be a first-rate surgeon unless he fears infection, and sterilizes his instruments. A child will never be fit to live alone until it fears to throw a lighted match into the waste basket. A man will never be a successful builder until he fears to put one rotten timber into his house, nor a successful Christian until he fears to put one rotten thought into his character. Do not go any farther unless you can say that you fear sin in all its forms."—Sunday School Times.