Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the middle of the sea;
Charles Wesley preached from this text, I think, in City Road, in the year of the London earthquake. People fled terror-stricken from their homes and crowded City Road Chapel, feeling that if disaster were overtaking the world safety might be found in the company of godly people. The great preacher thundered forth, "Therefore will we not fear," etc. It was a great moment, and yet some of you doubtless will remember that the founder of Methodism himself at a certain crisis in his life passed through an antithetic experience to this. John Wesley records in his Journal that when he was crossing the Atlantic a storm came up which threatened to overwhelm the vessel in which lie was borne, and he cried out for fear. He felt ashamed of his terrors when he came to think of them afterwards. "I, a Christian man, afraid in the presence of death." What brought his shame home to him was the spectacle of a group of people — Moravians they were — men, women and little children — singing, some of them kneeling, some of them standing, in a tiny circle on the deck of the ship — singing as fearlessly as though they were on their own hearthstone; and he thought to himself, "These possess something that I do not possess." And the time came when John Wesley was as remarkable for his absolute fearlessness in the face of overwhelming odds compared with which most religious workers of the present day have a very easy time indeed. The time came when he could not only say but help other people to say, "Therefore will we not fear," etc.; and He was able to make that Old Testament experience his just because he had come into a closer relationship with Him who says, "It is I; be not afraid." Though the Christian may have much to do with pain, there should be in his experience no place for fear. Take three examples — three orders of experience shall I call them? — and describe them. Take one who has a business worry. Alongside of him suppose one who brings a home sorrow; and we ought not to omit the man who knows himself to be guilty of moral transgression. To begin with, then, there may be here a small tradesman who has been overtaken, like many other people, by bad times. Your assets are good enough, but you cannot realize them, add yet you are being pressed to meet claims, perfectly just, but which, If they are pressed to the full, will ruin you. You are working so hard, yet you never have an hour free from worry. Now, what is really the matter with you? Is it not fear of something? It is not just what you passed through yesterday. If you knew every day was to be no worse than yesterday — hard though it was, and extensive as your efforts were, and difficult some of the problems undoubtedly are — if you could be sure that things would be no worse, it would not look so very sad. What is the reason? Those who are near and dear to you are part of your problem. If you could only get rid of all fear concerning their future and your own as bound up with theirs, would it not make a difference? Now, not far from such a person there is another whose heart is full of pain, caused not by one thing merely but by fifty. Perhaps within recent days sickness has invaded your home, and misfortunes never come singly, That sickness means more than the suffering of the loved one whom it has attacked. It means disaster in some other form. It means there is less money coming in; it means perhaps that you are called upon to make sacrifices that you can only make up to a certain point. Then in the train of this there comes, perhaps, the loss of friends, the loss of reputation, or you have to suffer from being misjudged. Somebody is saying something about you. You do not like it — none of us cares about false accusations. Now, you cannot but feel, and imagination helps you a little, that these things one on top of another constitute an immense problem and make life more dark for you. Supposing, now, that I could stretch forth my hand and sweep all the fear out of your experience, you have got none left; supposing things were just as bad as they were yesterday, supposing they were worse to-morrow, but no fear — what a difference that would make to the strength with which you would meet the problems of your life — yes, and to the fashion in which you would overcome the adversary that besets you to-day. Now we come to the third. Years ago you contracted a bad habit.. You thought very lightly about it then, you fancied you could do wrong with impunity, and you knew that while it was wrong you went on till you found you were growing a devil out of your own substance, and he will not leave you now that you want him to go. He has got his steel talons fixed upon your throat and is tearing the manhood out of you. Your friends are beginning to whisper about you, and your own heart is filled with foreboding, and it will only be a matter of time before you are wrecked — wrecked not by what any man has done to you, but by what you have done to yourself. You have trifled with moral questions in the past. You have been a strong man and could afford to give range to your passions, but now you feel a very weak one indeed, and far weaker than you would care to own. Now, how do you feel about your experience? What is most wrong is that you have very little hope of getting free. If you could only see a way out of the moral entanglement, if you could only be perfectly sure that a battle for righteousness, however late it was taken, would be a successful battle. It would lighten your load, and you would go home feeling a far different man. Now, there are more ways than one of getting rid of this enemy, of which we are all sooner or later conscious — fear. Some people take the wrong way. I want you to take the right way. For some natures the way of escape has been to fling oneself into the arms of a greater enemy. That is the reason why so many unlikely men, for instance, take to the wine-cup. Morbid excitement, or some anaesthetic that will dull thinking are the way in which some people try to get rid of the fear that blights and blackens their life. The philosophy of "Let us eat and drink and be merry, for to-morrow we die" has its adherents still, and certain it is that it is a miserable cheeriness, a wretched, cynical sort of happiness which comes by that means. Deliverance from fear under such circumstances is never complete. Observe the hunted looks in the eyes of the man who is trying to forget himself, who leads the laughter in a company, but should not be laughing at all. You know that fear is not gone, it is only waiting outside the door. Very different is the man who cultivates a habit of mind or an order of character which meets hardness with hardness. Sometimes we are almost compelled to admire the dauntlessness of a bad man. He knows he has made the world black. His heart may be very sore, but he does not give way. Sometimes the people upon whom we are hardest in our censures deserve our pity more than our censures. We think them unscrupulous and unrepentant, whereas remorse, which is just next door to repentance, has gripped them. Well, that is one way. I believe it is possible for a man to gradually, as it were, harden his feeling until pain does not make the same inroad upon him as it did at first, and it is possible to expel fear by defying it and keeping on in the old, bad way. But there is a better way than that; that way is a poor sort at the best, and often. times it breaks down completely in the stress of life, and you will see a man become as a little babe, weak as water, when fate has tried him beyond a certain point, and his philosophy all goes for nothing. "Therefore will we not fear," he says, as long as he can, then one day comes the dread spectre before him and overshadows him, and he sinks before it in the darkness of despair. The real way is not to destroy fear, but to expel fear by faith. Watch your own little child, and he can teach you something. The child is troubled with a real trouble. Look upon him with love, and the sunshine breaks over his little soul. He will enjoy life even when it is dark to you; if only you are there. He somehow feels that his father is good for anything. And that trust of his is justified. The more he trusts you the better you like it; the more complete and beautiful the innocent loyalty that he offers to you, and his confidence in your strength, the more willing you are to rise to fulfil his expectation. I wish we could do as our Master taught us to do, and learn that the fatherhood that we see is just that — a corner of the reality. It is the pale glimmer of the light from which it came. "If ye, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more your Heavenly Father "Now, that is the simple duty, but expanded it means a great deal. Trust what? Well, I say this — trust in the essential rightness of things; trust that, though life seems to be organized so that hardness is part of your lot; trust, too, that there is such a thing as the peace passing understanding which comes to the soul of the man who is willing to place himself upon the altar for righteousness' sake. Believe this also, that when you trust God it is not yours to dictate, but God. God is master of the issues of your life; what have you got to be afraid of?
(H. J. Campbell, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;