George Campbell Morgan (December 9, 1863 – May 16, 1945) had the titles of Reverend and Doctor and was a Doctor of Divinity (D.D.) Also He was a British evangelist, preacher, a leading Bible teacher, and a prolific author writing many works in his lifetime. This includes the 10-volume set of sermons, “The Westminster Pulpit,” his sermons that were published independently as booklets and pamphlets, his posthumous works, as well as various other works. He wrote commentaries on the entire Bible, and on many more devotional topics related to the Christian life and ministry.
G. Campbell Morgan preached his first sermon at age 13. He was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London from 1904 to 1919, pausing for 14 years to teach at Biola in Los Angeles, and returning to the Chapel from 1933 to 1943 when he handed over the pastorate to the renowned Martyn Lloyd-Jones, after having shared it with him and mentored him for some years previous. From 1911-1914 he was the president of Cheshunt College, Cambridge.
“Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:2
“Daughter, be of good cheer; thy faith hath made thee whole.” Matthew 9:22
“Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.” Matthew 14:27
“Be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Be of good cheer; for as thou hast testified concerning Me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Acts 23:11
Five familiar pictures of the New Testament are recalled by the reading of these words.
The first is that of a man sick of the palsy, carried by his friends into the presence of Jesus; physically trembling and troubled in heart by the consciousness of sin.
The second is that of a woman struggling to reach Him through the movement and pressure of a jostling crowd, troubled by all the suffering of twelve years, twelve years of physical pain, of divorce, of ostracism, of excommunication.
The third is that of a company of disciples in the midst of difficulties which had arisen in the path of duty. The Master had bid them set the prow of their vessel toward the farther shore, and the wind was contrary, and the waves were boisterous. The picture is that of these men suddenly confronted by a new and nameless terror, a specter of the night, moving over the waters toward them.
The fourth is that of a company of disciples face to face with three facts: first, the fact of their Lord’s approaching departure by some way they could not understand, and to some borne about which they knew nothing; second, the fact of the antagonism of the world to Him and to His ideals, and consequently to them also, if in His absence they remained loyal to Him; and, third, the fact of their own appalling weakness. Or briefly, it is a picture of a company of men troubled by the fear of the future.
The last picture is that of a servant of God in prison, rescued from the mob yesterday, threatened by a new conspiracy tomorrow, troubled by the force of circumstances which hindered the progress of his service.
The central fact in these pictures is not that of the troubled souls. The central fact is that of Christ, and of what He said to these people. To the man sick of the palsy He said, “Be of good cheer, child.” To the woman broken, bruised, weary, emaciated, and forlorn, He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter.” To the disciples in the midst of the storm, terrified by the approach of the phantom, and to the disciples yet more afraid of the future without Him, He said, “Be ye of good cheer.” To the man in the prison, hindered in high and holy service, He said, “Be of good cheer.” In each case He challenged fear, and uttered a call to courage, and gave His reason for doing so.
These incidents illustrate and illuminate the whole realm of discipleship, and I bring them to you this morning in order, as I may be helped by the Spirit of God, to fasten your attention upon that challenge of Jesus. I bring them to you as a New Year’s greeting, not as my word to you, for that would be very worthless, but as the Master’s word to you. “Be of good cheer.”
First, then, the call of Jesus, “Be of good cheer.” Now I take up my New Testament, and I find that these are the only occasions on which we have any record of His using these expressions, and no one else is ever recorded to have used exactly the same expression in addressing men. The word is almost peculiar to Christ. It emerges in the writings of Paul in certain applications; but this personal, direct, immediate call was peculiarly that of the Lord Himself. It is therefore important that we should, with all simplicity, inquire what He really did say. In the Revised New Testament from which I read, you will notice that there is uniformity of translation, that on each occasion we have these words, “Be of good cheer.” In the Authorized the translation is, “Be of good cheer” in each case except one; in the record of His speech to the woman, the 1611 translators rendered Jesus’ words thus, “Be of good comfort.”
Now, without any question, there is a fault in this translation, “Be of good cheer.” There is something very bright about it, very hopeful about it; and before I am through I shall show you that I have robbed you of nothing by saying that it is not exactly what our Lord said. Indeed, so to translate it is to miss the deepest value of the word. “Be of good cheer” suggests the result rather than the cause. The actual word of which our Lord made use described the cause, and left us to discover the result. There is another word in the New Testament for cheerfulness. When Paul wrote, “The fruit of the Spirit is… joy,” the thought is that of cheerfulness. But that is not the word here. Cheerfulness will be the outcome of what Christ commanded, but He did not command men to be cheerful. He never dealt with the surface of things. He never told men to smile when they were in agony. He dealt with the underlying agony, and thus called men into such attitude of soul as made cheerfulness possible.
The word employed indicates courage rather than cheerfulness, and, moreover, courage subjectively as a feeling rather than objectively as an enterprise; “Be of good courage” rather than, Do a courageous thing. Our Lord did not say, Forget your trouble by doing something. That may help for the moment, but the agony surges back when the activity ceases. The word that our Lord addressed to the man, to the woman, to the disciples, to the imprisoned apostle, was a word suggestive of that strength of heart which is at once the inspiration of daring and the reason of cheerfulness. The call, then, is to freedom from fear, and to an absolute assurance of safety.
Passing from that attempt to consider the actual meaning of the Lord’s word, let us glance at these pictures once more, in order to discover what Christ meant in each case.
There is a conscience troubled by sin; to that man He said, Do not have any fear, be of good courage.
There is a woman’s heart trembling through long suffering, which has become destitution; to that woman He said, Have no fear; be full of courage; there is nothing to be afraid of.
Look carefully at those men on board the ship. What was their condition? Intelligence menaced by mystery. I wish I could bring you into real sympathy with those fishermen of blue Galilee. They were men accustomed to the storms that suddenly swept its waters, men who were not often baffled, even when the sea was tossed into fury. Their chief trouble that night was not that of the storm, but that of the specter moving across the waters. They did not know what it was. Do not, in your superior wisdom, say they ought not to have been frightened at ghosts. That is what you are frightened at this morning! What you are fearing you will find presently to be the Lord Himself! So do not be angry with these men. Try to sympathize with them. Their intelligence was menaced by mystery; and when He came to them, He said, Do not be afraid. There is nothing to be afraid of. Banish panic, establish peace, be of good courage.
Then look at the group of men in that upper room. They were men full of a spiritual aspiration, but threatened by opposition, not merely the opposition of men who were angry with Jesus, and about to crucify Him; but that most subtle and forceful opposition of worldliness in the true and New Testament sense of that word, those materialized ideals for which the enemies of Christ stood, and which had gained so strong a hold upon the heart of the multitudes. That little group of men in the upper room saw Him going. They had been able to believe while He was with them. They had been able, with Him, even though tremblingly, to believe in His philosophy when He said, “Be not afraid of them which kill the body and after that have no more that they can do.” But He was going. How were they to be true to that high spiritual ideal, with all the forces of the cosmos as men were interpreting it, against them. To them, thus filled with foreboding, He said, “Be of good courage,” there is nothing to fear. Do not be afraid.
And then we come to the picture of Paul, the man of high purpose, and unswerving devotion, who had said, “I must also see Rome,” knowing that Rome was the very center of the world, the strategic point from which to proclaim the Gospel and send the messengers of the King along all her highways through the nations. Everything appeared as though he were not going to reach Rome. He was in Jerusalem, and there he had been mobbed, and barely rescued yesterday; and conspirators were planning to murder him to-mor-row. Paul was not grieved by reason of his own imprisonment. He was troubled because he was an ambassador in bonds, and his high purpose was being hindered. It was night, when suddenly the Lord spoke to him; and said, “Be of good courage,” Paul, there is nothing to be afraid of, neither the mob of yesterday, nor the conspiracy of tomorrow; be of good courage.
I am talking out of my own heart. I am a fearful soul, and I am ashamed of the fact. I have been trying to find out how to be courageous. I have found out! God help me to be true to the revelation! It is to see Him! Looking off unto Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith! Consider Him Who endured such contradiction of sinners!
I am speaking to Christian men and women, to those who are familiar with Him in some sense. All our fear and all our panic result from a dimmed vision of the Lord, a dimmed consciousness of Christ. I believe that is the trouble with us all today, individually and in Church life, all these tremors, all these fears result from lack of the sense of His presence.
Another word, and I have done. Have you no fear in your heart at all? There are those who are quite without fear. Well, let them suffer me to ask a question. Why not? I believe that there are men and women who answer my inquiry by saying, Because we have seen Him; because we see Him now. I have no more to say to them. Such men and women have found the secret of peace.
But there are others who are not conscious of fear today. Let me press upon them the same question. Why not? I charge all such most earnestly to remember in these days, when there may seem in their case to be no cause for fear, no trembling, no panic, weakness, foolishness, that any reason for absence of fear, short of the vision and consciousness of Christ and confidence in Him, is false and your confidence is misplaced, and it may be that before this first Sabbath day of the year be gone to its last hour the crack of doom will come to you, out of the light will come the darkness, and from behind the mountains will rush innumerable foes to assault your soul. There is no refuge for the soul of man other than the Lord Christ.
But now, finally; trembling, terrified, troubled souls, I pray you look and listen! Look to your Lord, and with eyes fastened upon Him listen to His word, “Be of good courage.” That means, when He says it, that He puts Himself between thy soul and all the forces in hell and earth that may be against thee.