Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.
Fortitude is opposed to timidity, irresolution, a feeble and wavering spirit. It is placed, like other virtues, between two extremes: at an equal distance from rashness on the one hand, and pusillanimity on the other.
I. THE HIGH IMPORTANCE OF FORTITUDE.
1. Without some degree of fortitude, there can be no happiness; because, amidst the thousand uncertainties of life, there can be no enjoyment of tranquillity. The man of feeble and timorous spirit lives under perpetual alarms. On the first shock of adversity he desponds. On the other hand, firmness of mind is the parent of tranquillity. It enables one to enjoy the present without disturbance; and to look calmly on dangers that approach, or evils that threaten in future. It suggests good hopes. It supplies resources. It allows a man to retain the full possession of himself, in every situation of fortune.
2. If fortitude be thus essential to the enjoyment of life, it is equally so to the proper discharge of all its most important duties. He who is of a cowardly mind is, and must be, a slave to the world. He fashions his whole conduct according to its hopes and fears. He smiles, and fawns, and betrays, from abject considerations of personal safety. He can neither stand the clamour of the multitude, nor the frowns of the mighty. The wind of popular favour, or the threats of power, are sufficient to shake his most determined purpose.
3. Without this temper of mind, no man can be a thorough Christian. For his profession, as such, requires him to be superior to that fear of man which bringeth a snare; enjoins him, for the sake of a good conscience, to encounter every danger; and to be prepared, if called, even to lay down his life in the cause of religion and truth.
II. THE PROPER FOUNDATIONS OF FORTITUDE.
1. A good conscience. There can be no true courage, no regular persevering constancy, but what is connected with principle, and founded on a consciousness of rectitude of intention. This, and this only, erects that brazen wall which we can oppose to every hostile attack. It clothes us with an armour, on which fortune will spend its shafts in vain. What has he to fear, who not only acts on a plan which his conscience approves, but who knows that every good man, nay, the whole unbiassed world, if they could trace his intentions, would justify and approve his conduct?
2. He knows, at the same time, that he is acting under the immediate eye and protection of the Almighty. The consciousness of such an illustrious spectator invigorates and animates him. He trusts that the eternal Lover of righteousness not only beholds and approves, but will strengthen and assist; will not suffer him to be unjustly oppressed, and will reward his constancy in the end, with glory, honor, and immortality.
III. CONSIDERATIONS WHICH MAY PROVE AUXILIARY TO THE EXERCISE OF VIRTUOUS FORTITUDE IN THE MIDST OF DANGERS.
1. It is of high importance to every one, who wishes to act his part with becoming resolution, to cultivate a religious principle, and to be inspired with trust in God. The more firmly this belief is rooted in the heart, its influence will be more powerful in surmounting the fears which arise from a sense of our own weakness or danger. The records of all nations afford a thousand remarkable instances of the effect of this principle, both on individuals and on bodies of men. Animated by the strong belief of a just cause, and a protecting God, the feeble have waxed strong, and despised dangers, sufferings, death.
2. Let him who would preserve fortitude in difficult situations, fill his mind with a sense of what constitutes the true honour of man. It consists not in the multitude of riches, or the elevation of rank; for experience shows that these may be possessed by the worthless, as well as by the deserving. It consists in being deterred by no danger when duty calls us forth; in fulfilling our allotted part, whatever it may be, with faithfulness, bravery, and constancy of mind. These qualities never fail to stamp distinction on the character.
3. But in order to acquire habits of fortitude, what is of the highest consequence is to have formed a just estimate of the goods and evils of life, and of the value of life itself. For here lies the chief source of our weakness and pusillanimity. We over-value the advantages of fortune; rank and riches, ease and safety.
(H. Blair, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.