Yet, mark you, their enthusiasm was seasoned
. It grew under fire
, or practically so, in the presence of the danger. There is always an abundance of the green article of enthusiasm, but it's not worth much for steady ditch-work. There is a sort of wood enthusiasm, apple-wood. You know how apple-wood burns in a fire. It catches quickly, throws out a good many sparks, makes a loud crackling noise, but doesn't last long.
There is another sort, a soft-coal enthusiasm. It's better than wood. But it needs a lot of attention continually to keep a steady fire. Then there's the hard-coal enthusiasm that will burn steadily and faithfully by the hour. Yet no kind, mark you, will run long without fresh fuel. We need in our service more of the seasoned enthusiasm.
It has been said of General Grant that one great reason for his success as a soldier was in his coolness. While the fighting and firing were hottest he sat on his horse quietly, coolly watching, listening, and giving his orders. And much of his power has been attributed to that quality. Well, if coolness is a qualification for success in Christian service there seems to be a large number of persons splendidly qualified. They are cool all the time; cool as icebergs at the North Pole; cool from the topmost layer of hair to the bottommost cuticle -- about certain things.
We want coolness of head such as General Grant had and hotness of heart such as he had, too. The ideal combination is a cool head and a hot heart. The head should resemble a refrigerator, and the heart a flaming furnace. There is one bother, however, among many people. Either the coolness of the head works down too much and affects the heart, and that is bad, or, else the heat of the heart gets up into the head, and a hot head is always bad.
Yet there is a sure key to preserving the poise between the two. It is in the quiet time daily with Jesus, over the Book, with the knee bent, and the ear keen, and the spirit quiet. In that time there comes, and comes ever more, the calmness for the brain, and the fresh fuel for the heart, and new steadiness for the will that holds all under its strong hand.
Many difficulties will yield only to fire. When you cannot reason your way through a problem, or a difficulty, or into a man's heart, burn your way through. Nothing can withstand fire. It is very remarkable that the symbol used most for God in the Bible is fire. A man never amounts to anything until he catches fire.
The proportions are worth noticing here. Thirty-two thousand were volunteers. A third of that number are courageous volunteers. About a thirty-third of these, less than a hundredth of the original, are hot-hearted, courageous volunteers.
This is Gideon's Band; three hundred young men fresh from the farm, who were willing, and courageous, and hot-hearted, all heart qualities. They stood every test. They had faced a foe that humanly they had no chance to overcome, and because of God's call they were not only willing, and stout-hearted, but intense in their desire to get at the fighting.
Then under Gideon's leadership they were well fed, and organized; they proved individually faithful in the thick of the fight, and they pushed persistently on even when bodily tired out. And the nation knew a great victory over its enemies, and a time of prosperity for years after.
God is still sifting men for service. He will use gladly every man who is willing to be used. When a man stands the first test well, there comes a second. That, stood well, means others. These are our promotion tests. He lets those who stand all testings into the thickest of the fight and up to the highest heights of victory.
Master, help us to endure every test as seeing Him who is invisible.