"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VIII No.II Pg.23-24
October 1945

A Darkling Plain

A. B. Keenan

"Still thou art blest,

compared wi' me!

The present only toucheth thee:

But och! I backward cast my e'e

On prospects drear!

And forward, though I canna see,

I guess and fear!" (Burns.)

"Present fears are less than horrible imaginings." (Macbeth.)

It does not need to be argued that most of us will gladly put up with what woes we have before we'll fly to those we know not of. "In the world ye shall have tribulation," the Redeemer foretold. No one who has reached the years of maturity with his mental faculties intact can do other than abundantly confirm the coming to-pass of the Savior's prophecy.

It is this trouble of one kind and another, experienced, being experienced, or anticipated which leads men and women to be afraid of life. Christians, despite their birth from above, are still men of like passions with their fellow human beings. They are subject to the same phenomena. If you tell one a joke, he'll laugh; if you relate a sad story, he'll be moved; if you prick him with a pin, he'll bleed. Christians have fears which are common to all men, and they possess others which are peculiar to themselves.

First, Christians live in fear of being ignorant. "And his disciples asked him, saying, what might this parable be?" (Luke 8:9) Life has taught them that they know too much that just isn't so, too little that is. Their years in Christ have been devoted to the eradication of misconceptions by a close scrutiny of What is Written. They realize that they know too many things that are harmful, too few that are helpful. They have been scarred by unfortunate experiences, the language of the streets along which they walk, demoralizing associates.

Their thoughts on the subject of truth have led them to a belief in its oneness, whatever its subdivisions: revealed, scientific, sociological, historical. They accept their Lord as the truth, and that any truth anywhere of whatever kind finds its source in Him. Revealed truth is for them the most precious kind, and that is why they make Bible reading a daily practice, the Sacred Scriptures a constant subject for meditation. They know there is no virtue in ignorance per se, and that is why they will listen to anybody who can throw light on their problems, rejecting meanwhile any obscurantists,—whatever their reputation for piety.

In the second place, members of the church live in fear of failure. The gospel net gathers in all kinds of fish. The bad at the Judgment will be cast away. Or to vary the figure, not all sown gospel seed produces a harvest. No one can tell what the fate of a new born babe in Christ will be: only time can tell. Are they "wayside" material? Are they the "rocky soil" type? Do they belong to the "thorny ground" group? Or are they of the good ground, thirty-, sixty, and hundred-fold caliber? In proving that they are not one of the undesirable classifications, children of God work out their own salvation.

Their ministers, servants, preachers, teachers in public and in private life in fear of their work's being consumed. "For the day shall declare it." (See I Cor. 3:10-15.) They are afraid not all of their conversions will prove to be type number four—the good soil folk. It may prove futile enough for the evangelist to keep visiting types one, two, and three. But the aforementioned ones will stick by their profession, made before many witnesses, in spite of the preachers.

Third, brethren often live in fear of public disdain. "Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee." (Luke 8:20) To a definite degree each of them, like Paul, is a "spectacle unto the world, and angels, and men." A gazing stock, no less. Christians are often the objects of curious interest, commiserating smiles. It takes constant heavenly vitality to combat a fleshly desire to get quietly home (as the family of the Lord wished to get Him quietly home) and under cover—there to shroud our light, undoubtedly offensive to some, with a bushel.

Then, in the fourth place, Christians are afraid of nature. "And there came down a storm of wind on the lake." (Luke 8:23.) Natural forces tear at the strength of their frail bodies. Like Trophimus, they are often ill. Like Paul, they have need of cloaks, garments. Like Timothy, they are advised to resort to medicinal aids. Christians, no less than non-Christians, have been the victims of floods, droughts, eruptions, cyclones, lightning-bolts, heat waves, and blizzards.

Fifth, they live in fear of Jesus Himself. "What manner of man is this!" (Luke 8:25. See also verses 37 and 47.) Their worthlessness is always contrasted in their minds with His peerless Majesty and Purity. The latchet of His shoes they do not make bold to unloose. How many of them indeed have cried aloud, "Depart from me, for I am sinful man, O Lord!" His separateness awes them, His being higher than the heavens, His altogether loveliness.

Finally, Christians live in fear of futility. "Trouble not the Master." (Verse 49.) What's the use? Why worry ourselves with useless struggle? Why bother the Lord with our endless, bootless petitions? Why continue on the treadmill of His service when results are so difficult to discern?

But we have not finished the verse with which we began this lesson. "In the world ye shall have tribulation." But, thank God, the text continues: "But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world." All the foregoing depressing considerations are outweighed in the scale of the love of the Savior and the providence of God. "Thy faith hath made thee whole." (Verse 48.) This is indeed the victory that overcomes the Christians' fear of ignorance, of failure, of public contempt, of nature, of the Lord Himself, of futility, in fine, of the world itself,—even their faith.

Faith in Jesus Christ is the touchstone of abundant success, abundant overcoming of the world, the flesh, and the Devil. Knowledge may fail the children of God, success may fail them, public acceptance likewise, together with the "brethren." But Jesus never. God is love. Christ is God. Christ is love. Lover never faileth. Christ never faileth.