This dazzling courage, which catches all our eyes and infects all our hearts, is the courage of the heart that waits still upon God, and in the Lord has put its trust. The man who acts so courageously feels rightly that he is but a weapon in the hand of the Almighty, and that it is the spirit of the living God, in him and of him, that enables him to dare the right in scorn of consequence. (p. 5)
But this deep-seated moral courage is also rarer than we have reason to expect. And it has been well said that the disease of our day is “Moral Cowardice.” It certainly is a paralysing disease and an infectious one, for since the day when Nicodemus came to Jesus by night until this day, it has plagued Christian congregations and Christian Associations of every denomination. (pp. 5-6)
The Young Men’s Christian Association has largely, as I believe, a reason for its existence in its wish to stay this plague of moral cowardice. (p. 6)
We cannot be blind to its effects. The young lad at school wants to be generous, pure, devoted, yet he hardly would dare to say his prayers before his fellow-schoolboys. He grows up and goes to the shop, and hates profanity with all his heart; goes to the club or the public, and hates the drink as he sees it there stupefying all the best affections of a young man’s heart, and converting a young man’s brains into idiocy, his body into a sponge for poison and paralysis, and his mind into a sty for all uncleanness. But he dare not be brave enough not to join in the oath or the liquor; he has not the moral courage of his convictions either to protest or to leave the company. (p. 6)
And when he goes out into the world of trade or public life, if he gets to know the dishonourable dodges by which men succeed, he will not lift up his voice. He dare not: is afraid of being accused of being a purist, a moralist, afraid of being called a Pharisee. Nay, often he will not go to a house of worship for fear of what men may say of him, but will let his wife go instead. And all the while he is a coward, and knows it. Yes, and knows that the very men who make him a coward are men who are contemptible, whose good report of him is as worthless as their ill report of him is really of no weight. (p. 6)
But moral cowardice is not to be reasoned with. A man is not persuaded by argument to be any the less afraid of his fellow-men. We need to have our eyes lifted to the hills. We need to look above our fellow-men unto the Father. (p. 6)….
Once let us see and know that we come from God; are indeed His sons and go to Him—that it matters nothing what the people or our next door neighbour think of us, so that we think rightly of our Heavenly Father, and that the Heavenly Father’s face shines brightly upon us—we cease to be respecters of persons in our efforts after righteousness, we dare to be Daniels, we follow the Christ, and looking unto him, the Author and Finisher of our salvation, to him the Perfect Man, we learn Perfect Manliness. (p. 7)
It is here where we would appeal to the Young Men’s Christian Association, that having before us plain the fact that many men actually dare not be known to be followers of Christ, dare not be openly rejoicers in the religious life, it is the solemn duty of members of this Association to see to it that they put away unmanliness, and play the man in season and out of season; set such an example of manliness before their friends that it shall never be possible for people to laugh at this Association, and say, as I have heard it said:—"It should be called the Young Women’s Christian Association.” (p. 7)….
Ideas of true manliness alter. The Greeks thought it manly to be a clever imposter; to be able to lie well was manly. The Red Indians think it manly to bear pain without a sign. The Viking thought it manly to face death and smile upon it. (p. 10)
The Christian thinks it manly, living or dying, to dare to do the right—and as we do it, to have one desire, and one desire only, that God may be glorified and our brethren may be served. (p. 10)
And we who look unto the Perfect Man, Christ Jesus, feel and know that manliness, such as was Christ’s, means the giving up of all we are and have, body, soul, and spirit to God, that He may fill us with Himself, that filled with God’s spirit, we, though clothed in the body of this death, may daily do and think deeds of everlasting life. (p. 10)
In a word, friends, it seems that till we actually live Christ’s life, we cannot tell how He will use all the manhood in us to His glory. It is not till we actually learn the joy of bringing His Spirit into all our doings, that we know how gladly He the Master will find work for us in all departments of our life, and how He who stands at the door and knocks, is unwilling that any portion of it shall be barred against His presence “till we all come unto a perfect man.” (p. 10)
(An Address Delivered at the Annual Conference of the North-Western District Union of Young Men’s Christian Associations held at Keswick, Sept 28th, 1893)