Friday, April 25, 2008

Fearless Conservatism: the Spirit of Power, of Love, and of a Sound Mind (from the Presbyterian Magazine), part 1

The Presbyterian Magazine.
January, 1860.
Edited by Rev. C. Van Rensselaer, D.D.
Chestnut St, Philadelphia.
pages 8-11

“Fearless Conservatism, or the Spirit of Power, of Love, and of a sound Mind.”

In times of perplexity, we should endeavor to act upon the principle of fearless conservatism.

God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. “The spirit of fear,” which is not God’s gift, is, on the one hand, that unrestrained lust of power, which, riding on the whirlwind of passion, and spreading its bolts of destruction, presages woe to man; and on the other hand, “the spirit of fear” is that servile, timorous spirit which cringes before arrogance, trembles in the face of opposition, heartlessly yields principle, and ignominiously shrinks from all danger and struggle. These are both alike foreign to the Gospel temper, for “God has not given us the spirit of fear” either to produce dread in others, or to be the subjects of terror ourselves.

I. The Gospel and civilization were detained, tarrying at Jerusalem, until the disciples were “endued with POWER from on high.” (Luke 24:49.) From that baptism of power the hosts of God have gone forth under “the banner of love,” evangelizing and elevating the nations. Then and now, the temper of Christian progress has been “from on high,” a power to encounter foes and dangers; a power to bear up under trials; to triumph in persecutions. In the Epistle to the Ephesians, the Apostle (6:10) exhorts children and parents, servants and masters: “My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” The nature of the Gospel is to inspire its possessors with holy courage.

This Christian boldness is the very opposite of that reckless audacity, whose frenzied zeal overrides all caution, tramples under foot principles of eternal truth, justice and mercy; and whose fell sport is “as a madman who casts firebrands, arrows, and death.” Blind to time and fitting season, and defiant of natural causes, relations, and results, this mad audacity inflames peaceful communities to fratricidal war, and claims, forsooth, to be doing service to God and humanity.

These tempers are as diverse as light and darkness. “And I turned myself to behold wisdom and madness and folly.... Then I saw that wisdom excels folly as far as light excels darkness.” (Ecclesiastes, 2:13.)

Part 2.
Part 3.

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