There was a man among the one hundred and twenty “upper room believers” in whom Pentecost effected a most apparent and almost spectacular change. It was Peter. We remember him as the man at whom the young girl pointed her finger and laughed. We recall that he was so cowardly that he denied his Lord on the spot, swearing that he did not know Him. Behold this same Peter on the day of Pentecost. He is charging home the murder of Christ. Fear is gone, and gone forever. He faces men and does not flinch an iota. Carnality, the source of cowardice, has been removed, and the weakling is turned into a Lord Nelson for bravery, and a Savonarola for faithfulness to men’s souls.
Shall we tremble?
Fear of man is one of the most illogical things in the world. Men sell the blood of Jesus and hope of heaven and eternal happiness because of “what people say.” Think of it, afraid of a man who will die and be hurried under ground before he rots! Frightened at a thing dressed in a long black coat and a white cravat with a golden-headed cane and a tall hat and a frown; a thing which will stop breathing some fine day and the worms will eat! Shall I tremble when an ecclesiastical Leo utters a roar? Shall I halt and stammer because a top-heavy lad from a theological seminary, hopelessly in love with himself, scowls at the word “sanctification”?
There are some who bolster their courage by saying ostentatiously, “I don’t care what folks say,” but their very vehemence shows that they do care a very great deal. We boys all remember how we used to whistle when we passed a graveyard after dark to show we “weren’t afraid”; and how hard it was to keep our mouths puckered and how shaky our legs felt!
The folks we are afraid of are afraid of us. “What a situation! A great regiment of people marching straight down to hell, everyone afraid to break step for fear the others will laugh! That is precisely the condition of nearly every sinner.
Sanctification takes away the shrinking timidity and puts in a courage like that at Thermopylae. There was once a young man who, previous to his sanctification, was so timid that he frequently stayed away from church for no other reason than that he feared God might ask him to testify. He enjoyed meetings and loved to hear preaching, but the very idea of testimony would frighten him almost ill. Now he frequently addresses many hundreds and never feels the slightest embarrassment.
The ministry is sadly in need of a blessing which will give it courage to attack sin of all kinds and degrees. We need men who will rip the mask off the putrid face of corruption and pronounce God’s sentence upon it; who will lift up the trap-door of the cess-pools of men’s hearts and bid them look within at their own slime and filth; who will “cry aloud and spare not,” though the infuriated cohorts of bat-winged demons snarl and shriek.