Act Like Men! – Horatius Bonar


I recently led an Christian manhood retreat for Grace Life Church of the Shoals and in my preparation I found this brief article from the great Scottish preacher and hymnwriter Horatius Bonar. Few things are more out of vogue in contemporary American culture than a full-throated call for males to act like real men. The word “andrizesthe” (v. 13) translated “quit you like men” (KJV) in Bonar’s sermon is “a dramatic verb, stressing masculinity” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. X, 295) The NIV helpfully renders the word, “Be men of courage” and the ESV renders “Act like men.” While the text can be applied more broadly to all believers it must be uniquely applied to Christian men.The exhortation in 1 Corinthians 16:13 reflects an OT motif of a call to courage (Deut. 31:6–7, 23; Josh. 1:6, 9, 18; 10:25; 2 Sam. 10:12; 1 Chron. 22:13; 28:20; 2 Chron. 32:7; Ps. 27:14; 31:24). I think you will be challenged by Bonar’s exhortation below.

[Horatius Bonar, “The Apostolic Trumpet-Blast,” Light and Truth: Or, Bible Thoughts and Themes, The Lesser Epistles (London: J. Nisbet & Co., 1883), 77-81.]

Stand therefore.’—Eph. 6:14.

Be vigilant.’—1 Peter 5:8.

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’—2 Tim. 2:1.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.’—1 Cor. 16:13, 14.

We throw all these passages together as bearing upon one point, as summing up the needful exhortation for Christian men.

As soldiers the apostle says to us, ‘Stand,’ and ‘Stand fast;’ flee not; be brave; keep your ground. As sentinels he says to us, ‘Be vigilant;’ never off your guard for a moment; never giving way to slumber. As teachers and witnesses he says to us, ‘Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.’

It is specially the last of the four passages above that we mean to notice, but in connection with the varied exhortations contained in the rest. We shall find them all bearing on each other, and all of them summoning us to a life of courage, and vigilance, and hardihood, and persevering energy. No softness, no sloth, no cowardice, no sheathed swords, no turning back in the day of battle, no shrinking from the heat and burden of the day.

The passage in Corinthians gives us five decided and solemn watchwords. Each of them seems to issue from a trumpet that never knew what it was to give an uncertain sound; each of them summoning the Church to deeds of hardness and daring.

I. Watch ye.—The servant takes up the Master’s words; for these are specially Christ’s words, and of the twenty-one times that they occur in the New Testament, twelve are in the Gospels. The Lord saw that His Church would need such a word, as her watchword and motto. Our tendency is to be off our guard, to fall asleep; therefore we are exhorted to watch. We are to watch against things both within and without. We are to watch constantly. One unwatchful hour may work unspeakable evil, to ourselves and to others. Were a pilot to fall asleep at the helm, or the keeper of the lighthouse, or the engineman on one of our expresses, what would be the consequences? We are to watch—

(1.) Against ourselves, our unbelief, our carnality, our indolence, our selfishness, our covetousness, our bad temper, our vanity, our worldliness.

(2.) Against the world, its errors, its follies, its gaieties, its temptations, its open sins, its novels, its theatres, its ball-rooms, its parties of pleasure, its idle companionships.

(3.) Against Satan, his sophistries, wiles, delusions, arguments, fiery darts. Against all these there must be vigorous, honest, brave, incessant, uncompromising watchfulness. No truce with the enemies of Christ; no friendship with the seed of the serpent; no alliance with this present evil world.

II. Stand fast in the faith.—The word here is simply ‘stand;’ maintain your position; and the stress is laid on ‘the faith,’ the things most surely believed. The exhortation takes for granted that we have believed; and it calls on us to adhere to the truths which we have thus received. It is not of the quantity or quality of our own faith that the apostle is speaking, but of the excellency, and fulness, and trueness, and sufficiency of the things believed. For it is out of these, and not out of our own acts of faith, that we extract all the peace and strength and holiness to which we are called by the gospel. This ‘standing’ is not founded on ignorance, but on knowledge. It is intelligent and reasonable. It is not obstinacy, or crotchety adhesion to one’s own notions. It is large-minded, large-hearted cleaving to what is revealed, and so ascertained to be true, divinely true. ‘Stand fast’ in these days, when so many are falling, or stumbling, or departing from the foundation. ‘Stand fast;’ but be sure that it is in ‘the faith,’ the old apostolic faith.

III. Quit you like men.—This is literally, ‘be men,’ or ‘be manly;’ very different from ‘muscular’ or materialized Christianity. Your creed is the creed of men, not of babes; so let your walk and bearing be, your whole life, your conversation, your recreations, your literature, your tones and looks. No cant, no whining, no simpering, no effeminacy, no sentimentalism. Let all about you be erect and manly. Be manly, yet calm; be manly, yet gentle; be manly, yet polite and courteous. A true Christian should be the manliest of men. His Christianity should be robust and healthy. Such was Paul, such was John, such was Peter. Such was Knox and Calvin and Luther. God’s design in conversion, and the Holy Spirit’s work in indwelling, is to make us thoroughly what God, when creating us, meant us to be,—men, true men, in dignity, in integrity, in nobleness of bearing, whether of soul or body. I remember the remark of one regarding a young man newly converted. He said, ‘His conversion had improved his very gait, and given him a free and noble bearing, which he had not before.’ So let it be with us. Popish saints are all pictured as hanging the head to one side, looking demurely and askance on the ground. So let us not be; but erect, looking upward, with joyous, stedfast eye.

IV. Be strong.—The word denotes vigour and power, whether of soul or body. It is the word used of John and of Jesus: ‘The child grew and waxed strong in spirit’ (Luke 2:40). We are to be strong in every way and in every sense; strong in mind, strong in will, strong in purpose, strong in faith. Not feeble, cowardly, compromising, yielding, vacillating, timid; afraid to face danger, or difficulty, or toil, or loss, or shame. ‘Endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ’ (2 Tim. 2:3).

A true saint is no coward, no mere soldier on parade; but ever ready for the field; not turning back in the day of battle. Christian strength is a real thing. Christian vigour is one of those things by which we glorify God. Christian bravery is that in which we are followers of primitive saints, of martyrs, reformers, and covenanters. While men deride us as professors of the ‘soft theology,’ let us show what true strength is; enduring hardness, and fearing no foe.

V. Let all your things be done with charity.—Solomon’s exhortation is, ‘Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might;’ Paul’s is, ‘with charity.’ Both must be remembered. The love and the might must go together. Let love pervade everything, even your strongest words and most energetic deeds. The one need not exclude the other, nay, they mutually help; the love makes the might the mightier, and the might makes the love more loving. Love one another. Love the brethren. Love all men. Let us go forth each day in love, to work the works and speak the words of God. Let all men see that we love, and that the love of God reigneth within. Watch, stand fast, be men, be strong, yet, above all, be loving! Love is the best of gifts, the most excellent way. We have been loved, let us love. Let us put away all hatred, strife, wrath, unbrotherliness. Let us be kindly affectioned one to another. Let love make us brave, liberal, noble; yet not soft, timid, effeminate, childish, either in word or deed.

Let these apostolic trumpet-blasts sound loud and far through the great Christian camp. Let them rouse into vigilance and vigour the whole Christian host. The old enemy still marshals his hosts against the saints of God; he still launches his fiery darts, the artillery of hell. He braves us to the conflict. And we must fight and watch and toil; our swords unsheathed, our panoply clasped round us, our faces to the foe. No thought of coward flight. No wish to come to terms with the enemy. On, on! Fight the good fight of faith. The Captain will soon be here; and His appearance on the battlefield will be the ending of the campaign, the signal for victory. Then comes the conqueror’s recompense; the warrior’s wreath of triumph; the song of victorious battle; the entry of the bannered host through the gates into the city.

By |April 27th, 2016|Categories: Blog|Tags: |

About the Author:

David E. Prince is pastor of preaching and vision at Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky and assistant professor of Christian preaching at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of In the Arena and Church with Jesus as the Hero. He blogs at Prince on Preaching and frequently writes for The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, For the Church, the BGEA and Preaching Today