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life freely.” Many a church can not say to a hungry world, “Come and dine,” because it will not let Christ prepare the meal. It will not live in His spirit, it has no real faith in His gospel, it does not understand that its true strength is not in elaborate organization or worship, but in simple reliance on His grace. And so there is the table covered with elaborate confections, which are not bread, and when it says, “Come and dine,” men will not come, for they know that there is nothing there for them. Let Christ prepare the meal and all is different then. When He says, “Come and dine,” there is “enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.” And as Jesus spoke, I think there flashed upon the memory of these men the scene when Jesus fed the five thousand, and by that memory they knew their Jesus. No one else ever spoke like that, with such certainty and such authority. And the same Voice speaks even now to your hunger-bitten soul, to your famished heart, “Come and dine.”

V. “Then Jesus taketh bread and giveth them, and fish likewise.”

There is no mistaking the act; it was a sacramental act. Here, upon the lake shore, without a church, without an altar, the true feast of the Lord was observed. For what does the Holy Supper, which is the bond and seal of the Church’s fellowship, stand for, if it is not for this, the sanctification of the common life? Bread and wine, the commonest of all foods to an Oriental, are elements indeed, because they are necessary to the most elementary form of physical life, things used daily in the humblest home. By linking Himself imperishably with these commonest elements of life, Christ makes it impossible to forget Him. Once more the thought shines clear, Jesus among the common things of life.

And then there comes one last touch in the beautiful story. While these things happened, the day was breaking. Is there one of us long tossed on sunless seas of doubt, long conscious of failure and disappointment in life? Are there those of us whose sorrow lies deeper than that which is personal–sorrow over our failure in Christ’s work, pain over a life’s ministry for Christ that has known no victorious evangel? Turn your eyes from that barren sea to Him who stands upon the shore; He shall yet make you a fisher of men. Turn your eyes from that bleak, dark sea of wasted effort where you have fared so ill; it is always dark till Jesus comes, it is always light when He has come. There is a new day breaking for the churches–a day of widespread evangelistic triumphs that shall eclipse all the greatest triumphs of the past, if we will but go back to Christ’s school and learn of Him how to save the people. And to each of us He says to-day: “I am the living bread; I am the bread of life come down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever.” “Come and dine.” Will you come?




GEORGE ADAM SMITH, divine, educator and author, was born at Calcutta in 1856, and educated at New College, Edinburgh, Scotland. He is at present professor of Old Testament Language, Literature and Theology in the United Free Church College, Glasgow. He is author of “The Historical Geography of the Holy Land,” “Jerusalem, the Topography, Economics and History from the Earliest Time to A.D. 70” (1908). He is generally regarded as one of the most gifted preachers of Scotland.


Born in 1856


_Preserve me, O God._–Psalm xvi., 16.

The psalmist lived in a period when belief in the reality of many gods was still strong, and when a man who would follow the one true God had to prefer to do so against the attractions of other deities and against the convictions of a great number of his fellow countrymen that these deities were living and powerful. That stage of religion is so distant from ourselves that we may imagine the psalmist’s example to be of no practical value for our faith, yet in such an imagination we should be very much mistaken indeed, for, to begin with, consider how much you and I to-day owe to those believers who so many centuries ago rejected all the gods that offered themselves to the hearts of men except the true God, and who chose to cleave to Him alone with all that passionate loyalty which breathes through these verses. But for them you and I could not be standing where we are in religion to-day. As the eleventh of Hebrews reminds us, we are the spiritual heir of such believers. It is to their struggles and their faith and their victories that we greatly owe it that we have been born into an atmosphere in which no religious belief is possible to us save in one God who is Spirit and Righteousness and all Truth.

That, then, was the great choice that the psalmist’s faith was turning to–a choice that was no mere assent to a creed that had been fought for and established by previous generations of believers. It was the man’s own proving of things unseen and his own preference of those against the crowd and a system of things seen, palpable, and very powerful in their attraction for the senses of humanity. But we are not to suppose that the rival deities, from which this man turned to the unseen God, were to his mind or to the mind of his day the heap of dead and ugly idols which we know them to be. They were not dead things that he could kick away with his feet that these believers had to reject when they sought the living God, but things which he and his contemporaries felt to be alive and powerful; powerful alike in their seduction and in their vengeance. They were believed to be identical, as you know, with the forces of nature; they were supposed to be indispensable to the welfare of the individual and of society, and they were fanatically supported at the time by the mass of this man’s own countrymen; so that to break from them in those days meant to abandon ancient opinions and habits, to resist many pleasant and natural temptations and to incur the hostility, as was believed, of the powers of nature, to break with customs and with rites that had fortified and consoled the individual heart for generations and been the support and sanction of society and of the state as well. Yet this man did it. From all that living crowd and system, from all those visible temptations and terrors he turned to the unseen, fully conscious of his danger, for he opens his Psalm with a great cry, “Preserve me, preserve me, O God!” but yet deliberately, and with all his heart: “I have said unto the Lord, Thou art my Lord.” I have no goodness, no happiness, that is outside Thee or outside the saints that are in the land, “the excellent in whom is all my delight.” Here we touch another great characteristic of all true faith which is full of example to ourselves. It is remarkable how, when a man really turns to God, he turns to God’s people as well, and how he includes them in the loyalty and in the devotion which he feels toward his Redeemer. His confidence and the sensitiveness of his faith in and toward God become almost an equal confidence and an equal sensitiveness toward his fellow believers. So it is throughout Scripture; you remember that other psalmist who tells us how he had been tempted to doubt God’s providence and God’s power to help the good man–“does God know and is there knowledge in the Most High? Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain and washed my hands in innocency.” The psalmist immediately adds: “If I had spoken thus, behold I had dealt treacherously with the generation of God’s children.” If I had spoken thus, denying God, I had dealt treacherously with the generation of God’s children. Unbelief toward God meant to him treason toward God’s people; and the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews affirms the same double character of true faith when he emphasizes just these two points in the faith of Moses: “choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God,” and “enduring as seeing Him who is invisible,” and God Himself through Jesus Christ has accepted this partnership of His people in our loyalty–“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren ye have done it unto me.” I do not believe in the full faith of any man who does not extend the loyalty he professes to God to God’s people as well, who does not feel as sensitive to his brethren on earth as he does to his Father in heaven, who does not practise piety toward the Church as he does toward her Head, or find in her fellowship and her service a joy and a gladness which is one with his deep joy in God, his Redeemer. Nay, is it not just in loving people who are still imperfect, often disappointing, and far from their ideal it may be, that in our relations to them we are to find the greater proof and test of our religious faith? In these days such a duty is unfortunately more complicated than with the psalmist. The lines between God’s Church and the world is not so clear as it was to him, and the Church is divided into many and often hostile factions. All the more it becomes the test of our religion if our hearts feel and rejoice in the fellowship of God’s simpler and more needy and more devoted believers, however unattractive they may otherwise be.

Consider the way in which the psalmist reached this pure faith in God and in His people. A factor in the process was distaste for the ugly rites of idolatry–“Their drink-offerings of blood will I not offer.” Idolatry always develops a loathsome ritual. Sometimes it is cruel and sometimes it is horribly unclean, but it always debases the worshiper’s mind, confuses his conscience, and hampers his freedom and energy by the burdensome ceremonies it imposes upon them. Standing afar off from them as we do, and knowing that there is no heathen religion but has something good in it, we are apt to think that it does not in the least matter how crude or how material a nation’s faith be if only it be faith in something more powerful than themselves, if it satisfy their consciences and have some influence in disciplining society and helping the individual to control himself. But you have only to see idolatry at work, and at work with the habits of ages upon it, to recognize how terrible it can be in its identification of sheer filth and cruelty with the interests of religion, and how it at once demoralizes and paralyzes its adherents. To see it thus is to understand the passionate horror of these words: “Their drink-offering of blood will I not offer.”

It is, however, no mere recoil from the immoral which started the spring of this psalmists’s faith in God. That faith was formed on personal experience of God Himself. In simple but pregnant phrases the psalmist tells us how sure he has become, first, of God’s providence in his life; secondly, of God’s intimate communion with his soul. God, he says, had been everything in his life. One does not know whether the psalmist was a prosperous man or a poor one; the inference that he was prosperous and rich has sometimes been drawn, but wrongly drawn, from one of the verses of the Psalm. His indifference to that is clear, but what he did have he knew he had from God. God, he says, is all his happiness and all his strength–“The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup; thou maintainest my lot.” Whether poor or prosperous he could say: “The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Now that assurance of divine leading is not analyzable, but we know that it does grow up solid and sure in the experience of simple men who have put their trust in God, who have felt life to be a commission from Him and who have done their duty obeying His call. With such men “all things work together for good.” Tho life about them shake and darken, they feel their own solidity and have light enough to read the future. Tho stript and stark, they feel the Lord Himself to be the portion of their inheritance and of their cup. The portion of my inheritance the Lord is, i.e., the little bit of land that fell to each Israelite as his share in the promised inheritance of the nation. “The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance,” as we might say in our Scotch language, “The Lord is my croft and my cup,” so they find in Him all the ground and the freedom they need to do their work, fulfil their relationships, and develop their manhood.

It is, however, with the psalmist’s second reason for his faith we have most to do. “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel: my reins also instruct me in the night seasons.” This man held close communion with God. Is it not great to find the testimony of a brother man coming down all through those ages, from that dim and distant past, clear and sure as to this, that he had God’s counsel and that God kept communion with him? God had spoken to this man and shown him His will. Yes, he had received what we call inspiration and revelation, and had proved the truth of these in his life. They had led and they had lifted him. Nor had they come to him as many men falsely suppose revelation and inspiration exclusively have come to mankind, by means, namely, that were extraordinary and miraculous. The psalmist tells us of no vision of angels, of no voice from heaven. The Lord had not appeared to him in dreams nor by any marvelous signs; on the other hand, he tells us simply that the divine counsel of which he was so sure, and which he passes on to us, came to him through the workings of his inner spiritual life. That is what he means by the emphatic statement “yea, my reins instruct me in the night seasons,” which he adds parallel with the thought, “I will bless the Lord, who hath given me counsel.” According to the primitive physiology of this man’s nation and times, the reins of a man fulfil the same intellectual function which we, with our larger knowledge, know are discharged by the brain. This was how God’s revelation came to this brother of ours, through the working of his mind and conscience, but it was in the night seasons that they worked, not in the day and in the sunshine, but in the night when a man is left to himself with only this advantage to his thought: that like the blind he is yet undistracted by the influences which are seen. When he lies down he thinks soberly and quietly about himself and about life and about God, and about the great hidden future that is waiting for him. He was communing with God, who had made his brain and used it as an instrument of revelation. In these thoughts God was communing with man through his reason and through his conscience. You and I are always contrasting God’s providence and His grace. We are always attempting to oppose reason and revelation; to this man they were one. God’s great grace had come to him through God’s own providence, and God’s revelation was ministered to him through the reason with which he had endowed the creature He had made in His own image. This psalmist’s chief and practical help to us men and women today is that he became sure of God not because of any miracle or supernatural sign, on his report of which we might be content indolently to rest our faith, but in God’s own providence in his life and in God’s quiet communion with him through the organs God Himself has created in every one of us. For all time, whether before or after Christ, these are the chief grounds and foundations of faith in God. So it was in the Old Testament–“stand in awe and sin not,” “commune with your own heart upon your bed and be still,” “be still and know that I am God.” So with Christ, “for the kingdom of heaven cometh not with observation, but the kingdom of heaven is within you,” and so with Paul, “the Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” “For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, … that he would grant you according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, to the end that ye being rooted and grounded in love may come to apprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length and depth and height and to know the love of Christ.”

God’s guidance of his life, first of all, produces in a man a great sense of stability. “I have set the Lord always before me: because he is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” He who has found God so careful of him, he whom God hath regarded as worth speaking to and counseling and disciplining, will be certain that he shall endure, provided he is sure of his own loyalty. The life so loved of God, so provided for, and in such close communion with the Eternal is not, can not be the creature of the day, and this assurance stands firm in face of even death and the horrible corruption of the body. The psalmist refuses to believe that he is to dwell in the horrible under-world forever–either himself or any of God’s believers. “Thou must not, thou wilt not leave my soul in sheol, thou must not, thou wilt not suffer thy loved ones to see the pit.” To this man it is incredible, and our hearts bear witness to the truth if we have had any experience of God’s blessing and guidance. To this man it is incredible that the life God has cared for and guided and spoken to and brought into such intimate communion with himself can find its end in death. Those whom God has loyally loved and who have loyally loved God–for this word badly translated “holy” in the psalms really has that actual significance–those whom God has loyally loved and who have loyally loved God shall never die. As He lives so shall they; they shall never be absent from His presence. Be the future unknown and unknowable, be we ourselves incapable of conceiving the processes by which this mortal shall put on immortality, or where heaven is, or what eternity can possibly be to those who have never lived outside time, yet that future is secure and its immortal character is indubitable–where God is there shall His servants be, and because He is there their life shall be peace and joy, and because He is eternal it shall last forevermore. That thought is the whole of the hope and argument. We are assured of the future life because we have known God, and as we have found Him to be true to us and proved ourselves true to Him.




Frank Wakely Gunsaulus was born at Chesterville, Ohio, in 1856. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1875. For some years he was pastor of Plymouth Church, Chicago, and since 1899 pastor of Central Church, Chicago. He is also president of the Armour Institute of Technology. He is a fascinating speaker, having a clear, resonant voice, and a dignified presence. His mind is a storehouse of the best literature, and his English style is noteworthy for its purity and richness. He is the author of several books and is in popular demand as a lecturer.


Born in 1856


[Footnote 1: Preached as an impromptu reply to R.G. Ingersoll. Printed from an unrevised stenographic report.]

_There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification_.–I Cor. xiv., 10.

Ours is a voiceful era. Perhaps, as the ages come and go and man’s life grows richer, its questions more restless for answer, its moral supports called upon to bear heavier interests of faith, its enterprises more often and searchingly compelled to defend themselves, the voices of time will be increasingly potent and worthy of his attention. A singularly suggestive collection of messages fills the air today, and all of these voices speak of one theme–the Bible.

Anarchy, which is always atheistic, holds its converse in the places of evil which this book’s message would close forever; the foes of that civilization builded on its laws and stimulated by its hopes asks us to condemn it as worthy only of caricature, vituperation, and hate. Let us find a path of duty today, not refusing to listen to any of these voices, but asking that other voices also may help us to the truth.

The preacher’s message is a book called the Bible. That is only the literary form of his message–telling its history. Even that form, which is much less divine as paper and ink are less lofty in the scale than humanity, has worked wonders. To-day, the Bible offers the nineteenth-century infidel as testimony of the influence it has. It has force enough to make infidelity preach tearfully and well about man, woman, and child. Skepticism did not do so well until the Bible came. The Bible has furnished the eloquence of infidelity with such a man as Shakespeare to talk about; no student of literature could imagine Shakespeare without the Bible and the Bible’s influence upon him as he created his dreams. It furnished an Abraham Lincoln for an orator to compare favorably with incomplete ideas of Almighty God; but it seems to have been unable to show the critic that Christian ideas of Almighty God made Lincoln so love the Lord’s Prayer that he wanted a church builded with this as its creed. It would seem that any general denunciation or humorous caricature of a book which has worked such an amazing effect in literature as has the Bible would be tempered by some recognition of the fact that these other minds–poets, orators, sages, and scientists–have found illumination and help in its pages. Liberal Christianity will be intellectually broad. Certainly the greatest of modern pagans, Goethe, will not be accused of favoritism toward the Bible, yet he said: “I esteem the gospels to be thoroughly genuine, for there shines forth from them the reflected splendor of a sublimity, proceeding from the person of Jesus Christ, of so divine a kind as only the divine could ever have manifested upon earth.” The Earl of Rochester saw that the only liberalism which objects to the Bible, in its true uses, is the liberalism of licentiousness; and he left this saying: “A bad heart is the great argument against this holy book.” And Faraday, weeping, said: “Why will people go astray when they have this blest book to guide them?”

If we turn to literature we encounter many such liberal thinkers as Theodore Parker, who calmly informs us: “This collection of books has taken such a hold upon the world as has no other. The literature of Greece, which goes up like incense from that land of temples and heroic deeds, has not half the influence of this book. It goes equally to the cottage of the plain man and the palace of the king. It is woven into the literature of the scholar and colors the talk of the street.” That is the voice of the liberalism which includes rather than excludes.

These were men not of the band of evangelical Christian preachers, who are roughly classed as a set of persons unable to tell the truth about the Bible, for fear they may lose their means of subsistence; these are men who know the true mission of the Bible. It is not to furnish a picture of life in the time of Moses such as life ought to be, a portrait of a David for the imitation of men, a statue of a warrior in a time of barbarism who shall command my obedience to his commands now, an idea of God wrought out in ignorance and darkness, which has no self-development within it. The mission of the Bible is to furnish a humanly written account of a people, just as human as we, in whom, by divine inspiration, the soul of truth so lived and worked as to develop, in gradual course, by laws, by hopes, by loves, by life, a living, and, at last, perfectly authoritative ideal of righteousness, but more than all a gradual growth of such moral power as would be commanding in the redeeming self-sacrifice and love of Jesus Christ. Every page of the Old Testament was only preparatory, as the thorny bush is preparatory for the rose. Christ is the end of the long, weary human history that leads to Him. If the laws of Sinai had been enough, there never would have been a Calvary. No one for a moment dreams that the God of nature could have brought forth such a fruit as the life and ideas of Jesus without a tree of such a history, a tree rooted in the ground, storm-twisted, gnarled, and valuable only for its fruit. We are not asked to eat the roots and bark and branches; only the fruit has an appeal to us. Its appeal is to our hunger, its authority lies in the fact that it satisfies our hunger.

It has satisfied the hunger of men whose liberalism came from their being made liberally. Large and capacious souls of mighty yearnings are they. They stand in contrast with the puny critics who assert that the Bible fails to feed them, because they have never tasted its nourishment.

Liberal Christianity, separating itself from the dogmatism which would make Christianity a book religion, worshiping a literary idol rather than loving a human revelation of the divine, knows it is not an ignorant lot of men and women who have received most from the Bible and spoken most gratefully of its message. When we think of sending the Bible to barbarism, with the hope of creating in its stead civilization, we can look into the face of John Selden, one of the most illustrious of English lawyers, when he says: “I have surveyed most of the learning that is among the sons of men, yet at this moment I can recall nothing in them on which to rest my soul, save one from the sacred Scriptures, which rises much on my mind. It is this: ‘The grace of God, which bringeth salvation, hath appeared unto all men, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blest hope and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us that he might redeem us unto himself, a peculiar people zealous of good works.'” Liberal religion must include Selden. We will not be deterred from giving the Bible to heathenism of any kind when we remember that Sir William Jones has left these words: “The Scriptures contain more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty, and finer strains of poetry and eloquence than could be collected from all other books that were ever composed in any age or in any idiom.” Liberal religion must be as broad as Sir William Jones.

This is a very needy world, and many are the institutions of evil that need to be changed for institutions of goodness. If we are to believe the eloquence of hopeless unbelief, we ourselves will only be the slaves of a fatalism which says that man is but a result of forces; that what we call crime is but a part of the necessary course of things, and that there is no such thing as moral responsibility. This makes all reform or efforts at staying the tide of evil useless. Oftentimes the heart of the man who has ceased to read his Bible gets the victory over this dreadful philosophy, and it is not remarkable that the skeptic becomes the exponent of freedom, charging like a host of war upon all institutions of slavery. Liberal theology puts its one hand on the dogmatist who tells him to accept literal infallibility, and its other on the sincere lover of men who has lost his Bible entirely. And liberalism says: It is in just such moments that we trust our Bible the most, and we remember that William Wilberforce, who lifted the chains from the bondmen, has said: “I never knew happiness until I found Christ as a Savior. Read the Bible! Bead the Bible! Through all my perplexities and distresses I never read any other book, I never knew the want of any other.” We are certainly not despising the science which is worthy of a name, nor are we forgetting any proposition which has found a place in the world’s thought, if we look into the face of Sir John Herschel, who tells us that “all human discoveries seem to be made only for the purpose of confirming more and more strongly the truths contained in the holy Scriptures.” It is truly no part of wisdom for us to conclude that for scientific reasons we ought to forsake our Bible when Professor Dana avers: “The grand old book of God still stands; and this old earth, the more its leaves are turned and pondered, the more will it sustain and illustrate the sacred Word.”

Surely it is not the hour dogmatically to withdraw this book, which has proved the basis of civilization. Professor Lyell, the great English geologist, tells us: “In the year 1806 the French Institute enumerated no less than eighty geological theories which were hostile to the Scriptures, but not one of these theories is held today.” Bacon’s remark is still true: “There never was found in any age of the world either religion or law that did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible.” And John Marshall and Prince Bismarck agree with Daniel Webster when he says: “If we abide by the principles taught in the Bible our country will go on prospering and to prosper; but if we and our posterity neglect its instructions and authority no man can tell how sudden a catastrophe may overwhelm us and bury all our glory in profound obscurity.” There is not an anarchist in America who does not clap his hands when he hears a Bible with the Ten Commandments and the Sermon on the Mount denounced. Indeed, the civilization in which we stand, as compared with the barbarism out of which we have been led by the Bible, would make William Henry Seward’s assertion only a mild statement of the truth when he says: “The whole hope of human progress is suspended on the ever-growing influence of the Bible.” I prefer lawyers like these to lead American public opinion. Part of the service of these men has been that they have shown theology that the Bible is not a set of texts on a dead level of authority and equal value, but the revealing, slow and sure, of an inspiration obeyed by a certain people in the realm of morals like that inspiration obeyed by another people in the realm of art, and its test is: Does the Bible’s ultimate message, its crowning commandment of Christ’s life and love, produce goodness in morals? just as the test of the long revelation of beauty in his ancestors and the Greek is, does its ultimate commandment produce goodness in art.

Christianity does not ask: “What think ye of the Bible?” It asks: “What think ye of Christ?” There the throne is set, and so majestic is His glory that the moment we come into His presence we are judged. The Judge of the earth has taken His place in thought, history and hope. He is not on trial, and He asks no question as to what man thinks of the book which has enthroned Him in literature. The test is placed in my conduct and yours; each may say with Michael Bruce, who left these words on the fly-leaf of his Bible:

‘Tis very vain of me to boast
How small a price this Bible cost; The day of judgment will make clear
‘Twas very cheap or very dear.

Shall we go forward with our Bible or backward without it? Infidelity has always forgotten that, so far as it has an eye for liberty and humanity, the Christianity not of sects but of the Bible has furnished it and trained it. The liberalism which puts its Bible aside will acknowledge that a Christless humanity culminated in Rome. Skepticism is often eloquent when it tries to show how much “fragments of Roman art” had to do with the making of modern civilization. Now, as Rome marks the height to which humanity without a Bible ascended, it would seem that this would be just the point where free and untrammeled thought and the fullest intellectual liberty would be found. Right there, where a Christless race was supreme, ought to be the place where the liberty abounded which the religion of Christ is said to destroy.

Whose program for the production of intellectual and spiritual liberty can liberals accept? Hoarse is the cry: The Bible is to be cast out. We look and behold men who have these opinions sitting on the throne of the Caesars. Now, one would suppose the intellect of that whole realm would have fair play. There was no Bible there to fetter or to annoy. This ought to be the halcyon age for “the liberty of man, woman and child.” These rulers have the same dignified abhorrence for all kinds of religion. The skeptic Lucretius says: “The fear of the lower world must be sent headlong forth. It poisons life to its lowest depths; it spreads over all things the blackness of death; it leaves no pleasure unalloyed.” I match the Roman with the phrase of a recent orator of this school who spoke of the soldiers dead, as now “sleeping beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless palace of rest.” There was no window in the grave when more illustrious and original skeptics talked about it. Modern infidelity has many expressions on the future after death which sound like the old Roman distich, “I was not, and became; I was, and am no more.”

Its orator, bending over the body of his dear brother, said nothing more touching than did Tacitus over the grave of Agricola, as he wrote: “If there is a place for the spirits of the pious; if, as the wise suppose, great souls do not become extinct with their bodies; if”–oh, that age of “if” ought to have been an age when every brain was free and no thought or sentiment were a chain. The Bible of Christianity was not powerful enough to throttle anybody. Its pages were not all written; its authors were hunted and outcast. Morals, too, ought to have been all right, for we are told that they are independent of God and Christ.

But what is the fact? Strangely enough, in that age, when nearly every monarch, or poet, or philosopher was a humorous skeptic and they had no Christian religion to “bind their hands,” in an age when nothing but this sort of infidelity was supreme, Seneca, to whom connoisseurs in ethics blandly turn when they grow weary of the strenuous Paul or the pensive John, Seneca, while he wrote a book on poverty, has a fortune of $15,000,000, with a house full of citrus tables made of veined wood brought from Mount Atlas. While he framed moral precepts which we are besought to substitute for the Sermon on the Mount, he was openly accused of constant and shameless iniquity, and was leading his distinguished and tender pupil, Nero, into those practises and preparing him for those atrocities which Seneca himself had upon his own soul while he wrote his book on clemency. At that hour the Bible Christianity offered to the world’s heart and aspiration, not a book, not a theorist of morals, but a man for the leadership of humanity, and, of that Man the literary and calm French skeptic says: “Jesus will never be surpassed.” In the age of Rome, when people were not burdened by churches or Bibles, Lucian says: “If any one loves wealth and is dazed by gold; if any one measures happiness by purple and power; if any one brought up among flatterers and slaves has never had a conception of liberty, frankness and truth; if any one has wholly surrendered himself to pleasure, full tables, carousals, lewdness, sorcery, and deceit, let him go to Rome.” There was no Bible either to preach against it or to interfere with it. These things were the product then, as they are now, of infidelity. Whenever the world wishes a civilization so barbarous as that, the reviler of the Bible must create it, for they have the applause of evil and the good-will of crime. In the age of Rome, when this skepticism was the creed of the State, Nero got tired of the goddess Astarte, and murdered his own brother, his wife, and his mother, and the senate was so affected with the same opinion that they heard his justification and proceeded to heap new honors upon him. He threw the preacher Paul into jail, but there Paul wrought out the impulse of Europe. In the age when the great Livy said that “neglect of gods” had come, Caligula let loose his imperial frenzy, and every stream of blood that could be sent toward the sea carried its red tide. In that age when, like later eloquent critics, Ennius said that he did not believe that the gods thought of human beings, “for if the gods concerned themselves about the human race the good would prosper and the bad suffer,” the courtesan was kept for pleasure and the wife for domestic slavery. In that happy age of unbelief, when Menander sung “the gods do not care for men,” “the homes were,” according to Juvenal, “broken up before the nuptial garland faded”; and according to Tertullian, “they married only to be divorced.” Friends exchanged wives; infanticide and other hellish crimes were common. This is what that spirit, in its purity, did for the home, when there was no Bible to read at its hearthstone and no New Testament to put into the hands of young lovers departing to make a new rooftree.

Labor will some day be too liberal to give up its Bible. In that age, when “God was dead”; in that age, when “the gods had abdicated”; they said, “the mechanic’s occupation is degrading. A workshop is incompatible with anything noble.” The curse of slavery had blotted the name of labor, and they agreed that “a purchased laborer is better than a hired one,” and thousands of prison-like dwellings rose to conceal the myriads of slaves. In that age Nero, who had the same opinion about God which the vaunting spirit which calls itself liberal has today, had a “golden house” as large as a city, with colonnades a mile long, and within it a statue of Nero 120 feet high. That is what the theory of infidelity did for labor and the working man when it was on the throne. Do you wonder that from that day to this the “carpenter’s son” of the Bible has been scoffed at by this infidelity?

In that age, when the theories of infidelity ruled, the gladiators made wet with their blood the great enclosure of the arena. The women and timid girls of Rome gave lightly the sign of death. The crowd shook the building with applause as the palpitating body was dragged by a hook into the death-chamber, and slaves turned up the bloody soil and covered the blood-dabbled earth with sand that the awful amusement might go on. All this was allowed by infidelity in its purity, before it had been influenced by the Christian’s Bible into believing that such things are atrocious.

Oh, when I hear infidelity prate of the horrors of slavery and defend a Godless theory of the State, I remember that those who had it in its purity did not regard the slave as a man. When I read the story of slavery and hear an exponent of free thought say, “The doctrine that woman is a slave or serf of man–whether it comes from hell or heaven, from God or demon, from the golden streets of the New Jerusalem, or the very Sodom of perdition–is savagery pure and simple,” I say, “That is so, but just that was the ruling idea when infidelity was on the throne of Rome.” And only where the Bible has gone and triumphed has woman the privileges which are thus praised.

When I hear it said: “Slavery includes all other crimes. It is the joint product of the kidnaper, pirate, thief, murderer, and hypocrite. It degrades labor and corrupts leisure. To lacerate the naked back, to sell wives, to steal babes, to debauch your soul–this is slavery,” I answer: “That is so,” and I add that all these and a thousand other damnable features of slavery were seen in Rome when the whole Roman people felt and spoke about the message of the Bible just as your type of liberalism does today.

To all this wretched state of man what offers came from Seneca, whom skepticism quotes as a moralist? Why, he said: “Admire only thyself”; and when he saw that a man must get out of himself, he said: “Give thyself to philosophy.” Not philosophy, but the power of the Bible’s Christ has lifted man upward to his highest life.

If ever anti-Christianity had a chance to show its beauty, it was when it was at its supreme strength, and when Christianity was a babe in the manger; and these are only suggestions of the hell it dug for man at Rome. You say that it was not what skepticism is at the present day, and I acknowledge that it is so. Why? Because nineteen centuries have rolled like waves of light between, and Christ has improved it in spite of itself. Never had the world so good a chance to see what almost absolute skepticism and unbelief could and would do for the liberty of the human soul as then. But when the thrones of Rome were occupied with men who held the same opinion of the Bible as he does today, what was the freedom of the race?

The scene all comes back. Here is a little, obscure set of poor people who follow the words and life of the son of a carpenter. They are powerful in nothing that Rome calls power. But Rome says that they shall not think that way. Celsus, from whom our less scholarly skepticism is ready to borrow arguments, was not enough for the new thought in the arena of debate, and they cried for another arena. Let us remember that unbelief, in its purity at that date, was so offended at nothing as at the fact that the Church said: “Christian justice makes all equal who bear the name of man,” and that Paul said: “There is neither bond nor free, but ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” Nothing so offended the representative of free thought in that period as the fact that a rich Roman, in the time of Trajan, having become a Christian, presented freedom to his 1,250 slaves on an Easter day. And, in all that time, when poor Christians with the funds of the Church were privately buying the freedom of slaves, I do not find that a base liberalism believed in liberty. Neither did it believe in freedom of thought. It is the blossom of egotism; it has nothing to which it bows; it beholds no majesty to which it can look up. It is sublime self-conceit, and it has no hesitancy in telling the whole human race that at its grandest moments it has been wrong. This egotism dared to become active in Rome, and it asked the Christians, in the person of the Emperor, to worship him, and to strew incense about him. “I will honor the Emperor,” said Theophilus, “not by worshiping him, but by praying for him.” Such men as that infidelity kindly put to death. Around their quivering limbs the infidelity of that day made the fagots to flame, and it taught the red tongues of cruel death to creep about their smoking bodies.

Men who believed that the Bible’s influence was what infidelity says it is, made the funeral pyre for Polycarp, the populace bringing fuel for the fire, and while the flames made a glory of their lambent glare, he cried out: “Six and eighty years have I served him and he has done me nothing but good, and how could I curse him, my Lord and Savior. If you would know what I am, I tell you frankly, I am a Christian.” He did his own thinking, and was brave enough to avow his opinion, for which hate of Christianity duly burned him. This was the way infidelity treated free speech. In that way it unchained the soul of Polycarp. Infidelity’s idea of Christianity sent the martyrs of Numidia and Paulus out of the world while they were praying for their murderers. Who believed in freedom then? Infidelity’s idea of the message of the Bible followed the Christian like a wild beast, and in the catacomb of Calixtus drew from the pursued soul the pathetic exclamation: “Oh, sorrowful times, when we can not even in caves escape our foes!” And all this was true, because they said, “Recompense to no man evil for evil”; “Pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you.”

This spirit of hate has had at least one holiday at the expense of Christian faith. On the night of the 18th of July, 64, Rome was swept with fire. Six days and nights it raged. Ruined was the world’s metropolis and excited were the wo-stricken people. Nero, whose opinions of Christianity, by the way, were wonderfully like the orator’s, was king, and the people suspected that this royal monster did it. Men told of how he exulted over the sea of flame as he watched it from the tower of Maecenas; and whatever the truth of this may be, it is certain that for the rage of the people Nero must have a victim, and Tacitus tells us that he charged the Christians with the crime. Then opened in Rome the awful carnival of bloodshed that the orator never mentions, in which horrible modes of torture and excruciating methods of producing pain vied with each other in satisfying the demands of death. Women bound to raging bulls and dragged to death were not without the companionship of others who, in the evening, in Nero’s garden, were coated with pitch, covered with tar, bound to stakes of pine, lighted with fire, and sent to run aflame with the hatred of Christianity. Through the crowd of sufferers a gentleman, who was ultra-liberal as the orator, drove about, fantastically attired as a charioteer, and the people were wild with delight. Domitian had the same ideas, and severe were his persecutions of the new heresy. This was the day on which infidelity was so full of the love of freedom that it cried: “The Christians to the lions!”

And so I might recount to you how for hundreds of years the Church found out how early and unchristianized infidelity loved freedom of thought. To a type of liberals, it has for years seemed a joy to go to the places in the old world and note how intolerant the Church has been. Now I suggest to any one that he go and visit some of the places where men who thought of Christianity as negativism thinks showed their faith and its fruits. Let him go to the Colosseum and ask the winds that moan over its ruins what they know of the history of infidelity. The winds will hush in that wreck of stupendous magnificence, and with an eloquence gathered from seventeen centuries they will tell him a story that will cause a flow of tears, for much of infidelity is of noble heart. They will tell him how the marble seats were crowded with thousands; again will sweep upward the shout of the excited throng; before him there will lie a half-dead Christian martyr, and near that pool of blood will stand a lion who has satiated his horrid thirst.

They will tell him how infidelity made that splendid place a temple of the furies, how it laughed and yelled and applauded, as it amused itself with that spectacle of horror. They will tell him how the underground passages served to keep and cage wild beasts, and how those who then hated Christianity starved the fierce lion until his eyes rolled in hot hunger and his teeth were sharpened with its agony. They will tell him how the infidelity of that day put balls of fire on the backs of the lions, and how the madness of their passion was increased by scattering hated colors about, tearing the beasts with iron hooks and beating them with cruel whips. They will tell how the Christian was made to fight these infuriated beasts without weapons, while infidelity was frantic with applause. It said “no” to the torn body yonder, that was mangled and supplicating in blood for life. I would have him stand there until, in after years, in a nobler strain than that of Byron, he could say:

And thou didst shine, thou rolling moon, upon All this, and cast a wide and tender light, Which softened down the hoar austerity
Of rugged desolation.

* * * * *

Till the place
Became religion, and the heart ran o’er With silent worship of the great of old! The dead but sceptered sovereigns who still rule Our spirits from their urns.

So long as I know what this book has been and done, so long as man’s history will not allow me to risk the interests of society with the infidelity which has so often demoralized it, so long will I yearn to get the Bible and its message to all men. It has been our world’s best book. With this book as inspiration and resource, William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale were so to continue and complete the task of The Venerable Bede and John Wyclif as to make an epoch in the history of that language to be used by Shakespeare and Burke–an era as distinct as that which Luther’s Bible so soon should mark in the history of a language to be such a potent instrument in the hands of Goethe and Hegel. For this very act of heresy, Tyndale was to be called “a full-grown Wyclif,” and Luther “the redeemer of his mother-tongue.” With the Bible, Calvin was to conceive republics at Geneva, and Holbein to paint, in spite of the iconoclasm of the Reformation, the faces of Holy Mother and Saint, and in spite of the cruelty of the Church, scripturally conceived satires illustrating the sale of indulgences. With that book Gustavus Vasa was to protect and nurture the freedom of the land of flowing splendors, while Angelo was transcribing sacred scenes upon the Sistine vault or fixing them in stone. Reading this book, More was to die with a smile; Latimer, Cranmer, and Ridley to perish while illuminating with living torches, and the Anabaptist to arouse the sympathies of Christendom by his agonies. With this book in hand, Shakespeare was to write his plays; Raleigh was to die, knight, discoverer, thinker, statesman, martyr; Bacon to lay the foundation of modern scientific research–three stars in the majestic constellation about Henry’s daughter. With this Bible open before them the English nation would behold the Spanish Armada dashed to pieces upon the rocks, while Edmund Spenser mingled his delicious notes with the tumult of that awful wreck.

This book was to produce the edict of Nantes, while John of Barneveld would give new life to the command of William the Silent–“Level the dikes; give Holland back to the ocean, if need be,” thus making preparation for the visit of the Mayflower pilgrims to Leyden or Delfthaven. Their eyes resting upon its pages, Selden and Pym were to go to prison, while Grotius dreamed of the rights of man in peace and war, and Guido and Rubens were painting the joys of the manger or the sorrows of Calvary. His hand resting upon this book, Oliver Cromwell would consolidate the hopes and convictions of Puritanism into a sword which should conquer at Nasby, Marston Moor and Dunbar, leave to the throne of Charles I, a headless corpse, and create, if only for an hour’s prophecy, a commonwealth of unbending righteousness. With that volume in their homes, the Swede and the Huguenot, the Scotch-Irishman and the Quaker, the Dutchman and the freedom-loving cavalier, were to plan pilgrimages to the West, and establish new homes in America. With that book in the cabin of the _Mayflower_, venerated and obeyed by sea-tossed exiles, was to be born a compact from which should spring a constitution and a government for the life of which all these nationalities should willingly bleed and struggle, under a conqueror who should rise from the soil of the cavaliers, and unsheath his sword in the colony of the Puritans.

Out of that Bible were to come the “Petition of Right,” the national anthem of 1628, the “Grand Remonstrance,” and “Paradise Lost.” With it, Blake and Pascal should voyage heroically in diverse seas. In its influence Jeremy Taylor should write his “Liberty of Prophesying,” Sir Matthew Hale his fearless replies, while Rembrandt was placing on canvas little Dutch children, with wooden shoes, crowding to the feet of a Jewish Messiah.

Its lines, breathing life, order, and freedom, would inspire John Bunyan’s dream, Algernon Sidney’s fatal republicanism, and Puffendorf’s judicature. With them, William Penn would meet the Indian of the forest, and Fenelon, the philosopher, in his meditative solitude. Locke and Newton and Leibnitz would carry it with them in pathless fields of speculation, while Peter the Great was smiting an arrogant priest in Russia, and William was ascending the English throne. From its poetry Cowper, Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning would catch the divine afflatus; from its statesmanship Burke, Romilly, and Bright would learn how to create and redeem institutions; from its melodies Handel, Bach, Mendelssohn, and Beethoven would write oratorios, masses, and symphonies; from its declaration of divine sympathy Wilberforce, Howard, and Florence Nightingale were to emancipate slaves, reform prisons, and mitigate the cruelties of war; from its prophecies Dante’s hope of a united Italy was to be realized by Cavour, Garibaldi, and Victor Emmanuel. Looking upon the family Bible as he was dying, Andrew Jackson said: “That book, sir, is the rock on which the Republic rests”; and with her hand upon that book, Victoria, England’s queen, was to sum up her history as a power amid the nations of the earth, when, replying to the question of an ambassador: “What is the secret of England’s superiority among the nations?” she would say: “Go tell your prince that this is the secret of England’s political greatness,”

Beloved friends, when spurious liberalism, with all her literature, produces such a roll-call as this; when out of her pages I may see coming a nobler set of forces for the making of manhood, then, and only then, will I give up my Bible; then, and only then, will I cease to pray and labor that it may be given to all the world.




Newell Dwight Hillis was born at Magnolia, Iowa, in 1858. He first became known as a preacher of the first rank during his pastorate over the large Presbyterian church in Evanston, Illinois. This reputation led to his being called to the Central Church, Chicago, in which he succeeded Dr. David Swing, and where from the first he attracted audiences completely filling one of the largest auditoriums in Chicago. In 1899 he was called to Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, to succeed Dr. Lyman Abbott in the pulpit made famous by the ministry of Henry Ward Beecher. By his strong personality and mental gifts he draws to his church a large and eager following. His best known books are “A Man’s Value to Society,” and “The Investment of Influence.”


Born in 1858


[Footnote 1: By permission of the _Brooklyn Daily Eagle_. Copyright, 1905.]

_Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God, &c._–Isaiah xl., 1-31. _He shall not fail, nor be discouraged_.–xliv., 4.

This is an epic of the unwearied God, and the fainting strength of man. For splendor of imagery, for majesty and elevation, it is one of the supreme things in literature. Perhaps no other Scripture has exerted so profound an influence upon the world’s leaders. Luther read it in the fortress of Salzburg, John Brown read it in the prison at Harper’s Ferry. Webster made it the model of his eloquence, Wordsworth, Carlyle and a score of others refer to its influence upon their literary style, their thought and life. Like all the supreme things in eloquence, this chapter is a spark struck out of the fires of war and persecution. Its author was not simply an exile–he was a slave who had known the dungeon and the fetter. Bondage is hard, even for savages, naked, ignorant, and newly drawn from the jungle, but slavery is doubly hard for scholars and prophets, for Hebrew merchants and rulers.

This outburst of eloquence took its rise in a war of invasion. When the northern host swept southward, and overwhelmed Jerusalem, the onrushing wave was fretted with fire; later, when the wave of war retreated, it carried back the detritus of a ruined civilization. The story of the siege of Jerusalem, the assault upon its gates, the fall of the walls, all the horrors of famine and of pestilence, are given in the earlier chapters of this wonderful book. The homeward march of the Persian army was a kind of triumphal procession in which the Hebrew princes and leaders walked as captives. The king marched in the guise of a slave, with his eyes put out, followed by sullen princes, with bound hands, and unsubdued hearts. As slaves the Hebrews crossed the Euphrates at the very point where Xenophon crossed with his immortal ten thousand. In the land of bondage the exiles were planted, not in military prisons, but in gangs, working now in the fields, now in the streets of the city, and always under the scourge of soldiers. When thirty years had passed the forty thousand captives were scattered among the people, one brother in the palace, and another a slave in the fields. Soon their religion became only a memory, their language was all but forgotten, their old customs and manner of life were utterly gone. But God raised up two gifted souls for just such an emergency as this. One youth, through sheer force of genius, climbed to the position of prime minister, while a young girl through her loveliness came to the king’s palace. One day an emancipation proclamation went forth, from a king who had come to believe in the unseen God who loved justice, and would overwhelm oppression and wrong. The good news went forth on wings of the wind. Making ready for their return to their homeland, all the captives gathered on the outskirts of the desert. It was a piteous spectacle. The people were broken in health, their beauty marred, their weapon a staff, their garments the leather coat, their provisions pieces of moldy bread, and their path fifteen hundred miles of sands, across the desert. To such an end had come a disobedient and sinful generation!

In that hour, beholding these exiles and captives, a flood of emotions rushed over the poet; he saw those bound who should conquer; he saw that men were slaves who should be kings. Then, with a rush, an immeasurable longing shivers through him like a trumpet call. Oh, to save them! To perish for their saving! To die for their life, to be offered for them all! In an abandon of grief and sympathy, he began to speak to them in words of comfort and hope. At first these exiles, dumb with pain and grief, listened, but listened with no light quivering in the eye, and no hope flitting like sunshine across the face. Their yesterdays held bondage, blows and degradation; their tomorrow held only the desert and the return to a ruined land. Then the word of the Lord came upon the poet. What if the night winds did go mourning through the deserted streets of their capital! What if their language had decayed and their institutions had perished? What if the farmer’s field was only a waste of thorns and thickets, and the towns become heaps and ruins! What if the king of Babylon and his army has trampled them under foot, as slaves trample the shellfish, crushing out the purple dye that lends rich color to a royal robe? “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.” Is the way long and through a desert? “Every valley shall be exalted, every mountain and hill shall be made low.” Has slavery worn man’s strength to nothingness until he is as weak as the broken reed and the withered grass? The spirit of the Lord will revive the grass, trampled down by the hoofs of war horses. Soon the bruised root shall redden into the rose and the fluted stem climb into the tree. And think you if God’s winds can transform a spray and twig into a trunk fit for foundation of house or mast of ship, that eternal arms can not equip with strength the hand of patriot?

Is the Shepherd and Leader of His little flock unequal to their guidance across the desert? “Behold the Lord will come with a strong arm; he shall feed his flock like a shepherd and he shall gather the lambs in his arms and carry them in his bosom.” What! Man’s hand unequal to the task of rebuilding Jerusalem? Hath not God pledged His strength to the worker, that God whose arm strikes out worlds as the smith strikes out sparks upon the anvil? Is not man’s helper that God who dippeth up the seas in the hollow of His hand? Who weighs the mountains with scales and the hills in the balance? What! Thine enemies too strong for thee? Why, God looketh upon all the nations and enemies of the earth as but a drop in the bucket. He sendeth forth His breath, and the tribes disappear as dust is blown from the balance. Then the trumpet call shivered through these exiles. “Hast thou not known? Have the sons of the fathers never heard of the everlasting God, the Lord, Creator of the ends of the earth? Fainteth not, neither is weary!” Heavy is the task, but the Eternal giveth power and strength. Even tho young patriots and heroes faint and fall, they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. While fulfilling their task of rebuilding they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint. Oh, what a word is this! What page in literature is comparable to it for comfort! Wonderful the strength of the warrior! Mighty the influence of the statesman! All powerful seems the inventor, but greater still the poet who dwells above the clang and dust of time, with the world’s secret trembling on his lips.

He needs no converse nor companionship, In cold starlight, whence thou can not come, The undelivered tidings in his breast,
Will not let him rest.
He who looks down upon the immemorable throng, And binds the ages with a song.
And through the accents of our time, There throbs the message of eternity.

And so the unwearied God comforted the fainting strength of man.

Primarily, this glorious outburst was addrest to the exiles as heads of families. The father’s strength was broken and his children had been crusht and ground to earth. The ancient patrimony was gone; he had gathered his little ones in from the huts where slaves dwelt. He was leading his little band of pilgrims into a desert. But the prophet spoke to the exiles as to men who believed that the family was the great national institution. With us, the family is important, but with these Hebrew exiles the family was everything. For them the home was the spring from whence the mighty river rolled forth. The family was the headwaters of national, industrial, social and religious life. Every father was revered as the architect of the family fortune. The first ambition of every young Hebrew was to found a family. Just as abroad, a patrician gentleman builds a baronial mansion, fills it with art treasures, hangs the shields and portraits of his ancestors upon the walls, hoping to hand the mansion forward to generations yet unborn, so every worthy Hebrew longed to found a noble family. How keen the anguish, therefore, of this exile in the desert! What a scene is that of the exiles upon the edge of the desert. Darkness is upon the land and the fire burns low into coals. Worn and exhausted, children are sleeping beside the mother. Here is an old man, lying apart, broken and bitter in spirit–one son stands forth a dim figure–looking down upon his aged parents, upon the wife of his bosom and upon his little children. Standing under the stars, he meditates his plans. How shall he care for these, when he returns to his ruined estate? In the event of death, what arm shall lift a shield above these little ones? What if sickness or death pounce upon a home as an eagle upon a dove, as wolves upon lambs, or as brigands descend from the mountains upon sleeping herdsmen!

Every founder of a family knows the agony of such an hour! We are in a world where men are never more than a few weeks from, possible poverty and want; little wonder then that all men seek to provide for the future of the home and the children. But to the exile standing in the darkness, with love that broods above his babes, there comes this word of comfort: God’s solicitude for you and yours will not let Him slumber or sleep! God will lift up a highway for the feet of the little band of pilgrims. The eternal God shall be thy guide in the march through the desert. His pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night shall stand in the sky; He shall lead the flock like a shepherd; He shall gather the little ones in His arms, and carry the children in His bosom. And if the father fall on the march, the wings of the Eternal shall brood the babes that are left. His right arm shall be a sword and His left arm a shield. The eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary. Having time to care for the stars, and to lead them forth by name, He hath time and thought also for His children. What a word is this for the home! What comfort for all whose hearts turn toward their children! What a pledge to fathers for generations yet unborn! This truth arms every parent for any emergency. For God is round about every home as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, for bounty and protection.

But the sage was also thinking of men whose hopes were broken, and whose lives were baffled and beaten. These exiles, crossing the desert, might have claimed for themselves the poet’s phrase, “Lo, henceforth I am a prisoner of hope.” Like Dante, they might have cried, “For years my pillow by night has been wet with tears, and all day long have I held heartbreak at bay.” For these whose glorious youth had been exhausted by bondage, life had run to its very dregs. Gone the days of glorious strength! Gone all the opportunities that belong to the era when the heart is young, the limitations of life had become severe! Environment often is a cage against whose iron bars the soul beats bloody wings in vain!

How many men are held back by one weak nerve, or organ! How many are shut in, and limited, and just fall short of supreme success because of an hereditary weakness, handed on by the fathers! How many made one mistake in youth in choosing the occupation and discovered the error when it was too late! How many erred in judgment in their youth, through one critical blunder, that has been irretrievable, and whose burden is henceforth lasht to the back! In such an hour of depression, Isaiah assembles the exiles, and exclaims, “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people. Tho your young men faint and be weary, tho the strong utterly fail, yet God is the unwearied one; with his help thou shalt take thy burden, and mount up with wings as eagles; with his unwearied strength thou shalt run with thy load and not be weary, and walk and not faint.” For this is the experience of persecution and the reward of sorrow, bravely borne that the fainting strength of man is supplemented by the sure help of the unwearied God.

Therefore, in retrospect, exiles, prisoners, martyrs, who have believed in God seem fortunate. The endungeoned heroes often seem the children of careful good fortune and happiness. The saints, walking through the fire, stand forth as those who are dear unto God. How the point of view changes events. Kitto was deaf, and in his youth his deafness broke his heart, but because his ears were closed to the din of life, he became the great scholar of his time, and swept the treasures of the world into a single volume, an armory of intellectual weapons. Fawcett was blind, but through that blindness became a great analytic student, a master of organization, and served all England in her commerce. John Bright was broken-hearted, standing above the bier, but Richard Cobden called him from his sorrow to become a voice for the poor, to plead the cause of the opprest, and bring about the Corn Laws for the hungry workers in the factories and shops. Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people.

Let the exile say unto himself: “Your warfare is accomplished; your iniquity is pardoned; the Lord’s hand will give unto thee double for all thy sins that are forgiven.” The great faiths and convictions of the prophets and law-givers, your language and your laws and your liberties, have not been destroyed by captivity; rather slavery has saved them. At last you know their value; in contrast with the idolatry of the Euphrates, the jargon of tongues, the inequality of rights, the organization of justice and oppression, how wonderful the equity of the laws of Moses! How beautiful the faith of the fathers! How surely founded the laws of God. Henceforth idolatry, injustice and sin became as monstrous in their ugliness as they were wicked in their essence. Everything else might go, but not the faith of the fathers. Persecution was like fire on the vase; it burned the colors in. Little wonder that the tradition tells us that for the next hundred years, at stated periods, all the people in the land came together, while a reader repeated this chapter on the unwearied God and the fainting strength of man that had recovered unto hope, men whose hopes had been baffled and beaten.

The thought of an unwearied God is also the true antidote to despondency. The ground of optimism is in God. When that great thinker described certain people as without God and without hope, there was sure logic in his phrase, for the Godless man is always the hopeless man. Between no God anywhere and the one God who is everywhere, there is no middle ground. Either we are children, buffeted about by fate and circumstances, with events tossing souls about in an eternal game of battledore and shuttlecock, or else the world is our Father’s house, and God standeth within the shadow, keeping watch above His own. For the man who believes in God, who allies himself to nature, who makes the universe his partner, there is no defeat, and no death, and no interruption of his prosperity. Concede that there is a God, and it follows as a logical necessity that He will not permit any enemy to ruin your life and His plans. For a man who holds this faith it follows that there can be no defeat, or failure. Indeed, the essential difference between men is the difference in their relation toward God. Here are the biographies of two great men. Both are men of genius, both are marvelously equipped, but their end was, oh, how different. One is Martin Luther, who stood forth alone, affirming his religious freedom, in the face of enemies and devils thick as the tiles on the roofs of the houses. The few friends Luther had shut him up in a fortress to save his life, but Luther mightily believed in God. With the full consent of his marvelous gifts, he surrendered his life to the will of God. Knowing that his days were as brief as the withering grass, he allied himself with the Eternal. In his discouragement he read these words, “The Everlasting God fainteth not, neither is weary.” In that hour Martin Luther shouted for joy. The beetling walls of the fortress were as tho they were not. Victorious he went forth, in thought, ranging throughout all Germany. And going out, he went up and down the land telling the people that God would protect him, and soon Germany was free.

Goethe tells us that Luther was the architect of modern German language and literature, and stamped himself into the whole national life. The Germany of the Kaiser is simply Martin Luther written large in fifty millions of men. But what made Luther? There was some hidden energy and spirit within him! What was this spirit in him? The spirit of beauty turned a lump of mud into that Grecian face about which Keats wrote his poem. The spirit of truth changes a little ink into a beautiful song. The spirit of strength and beauty in an architect changes a pile of bricks into a house or cathedral or gallery. And the thought of our unwearied God changed the collier’s son into the great German emancipator. But over against this man, who never knew despondency, after his vision hour, stands another German. He, too, was a philosopher, clothed with ample power, and blest with opportunity. But he did evil in his life, and then the heart lost its faith, and hope utterly perished. The more he loved pleasure and pursued self, the more cynical and bitter he became. Pessimism set a cold, hard stamp upon his face, and marred his beauty. Cynicism lies like a black mark across his pages. At last, in his bitterness, the philosopher tells us the whole universe is a mirage, and that yonder summer-making sun is a bubble that repeats its iridescent tints in the colors of the rainbow. Despair ate out his heart. He became the most miserable of men, and knew no freedom from sorrow and pain. And lo, now the man’s philosophy has perished like a bubble, his influence has utterly disappeared, for his books are unread, while only an occasional scholar chances upon his name, tho the great summer-making sun still shines on and Luther’s eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary.

Are you weak, oh, patriot? Remember God is strong. Do your days of service seem short, until your life is scarcely longer than the flower that blooms to-day and is gone tomorrow? God is eternal, and He will take care of your work. Are you sick with hope long deferred? Hope thou in God; He shall yet send succor. Have troubles driven happiness from thee, as the hawk drives the young lark or nightingale from its nest? Return unto thy rest, troubled heart, for the Lord will deal bountifully with thee. Are you anxious for your children? God will bring the child back from the far country. For the child hath wandered far, the golden thread spun in a mother’s heart is an unbroken thread that will draw him home! For things that distress you to-day, you shall thank God to-morrow. Nothing shall break the golden chain that binds you to God’s throne. Are you hopeless and despondent because of your fainting strength? Remember that the antidote for despondency is the thought of the unwearied God who is doing the best He can for you, and whose ceaseless care neither slumbers nor sleeps.

Little wonder therefore that God became all and in all to this feeble band of captives, journeying across the desert back to their ruined life and land. God had taken away earthly things from them, that He might be their all and in all. When the earth is made poor for us, sometimes the heavens become rich. God closed the eyes of Milton to the beauty in land and sea and sky, that he might see the companies of angels marching and countermarching on the hills of God. He closed the ears of Beethoven, that he might hear the music of St. Cecilia falling over heaven’s battlements. He gave Isaiah a slave’s hut, that he might ponder the house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. How is it that this prophet and poet has become companion of the great ones of the earth? At the time Isaiah rebelled against his bondage, but when it was all over, and the fitful fever had passed, and the fleshly fetters had fallen, he smiled at the things that once alarmed him, as he recalled his fainting strength and the unwearied God.

Gone–that ancient capital. Babylon is a heap. Jerusalem a ruin! But this epic of the unwearied Guide still lives! Isaiah, can never die! Can a chapter die that has cheered the exile in his loneliness, that has comforted the soldier upon his bivouac, that has braced the martyr for his execution, that has given songs at midnight to the prisoners in the dungeon? Out of suffering and captivity came this song of rest and hope. At last the poet praised the eternal God for his bonds and his imprisonment. Oh, it is darkness that makes the morning light so welcome to the weary watcher. It is hunger that makes bread sweet. It is pain and sickness that gives value to the physician and his medicine. It is business trouble that makes you honor your lawyer and counselor, and it is the sense of need that makes God near.

Are there any merchants here who are despondent? Remember the eternal God and make your appeal to the future. Are there any parents whose children have wandered far? When they are old, the children will return to the path of faith and obedience. Are there any in whom the immortal hope burns low? The smoking flax He will not quench, but will fan the flame into victory. Look up to-day; be comforted once more. Work henceforth in hope. Live like a prince. Scatter sunshine. Let your atmosphere be happiness. If troubles come, let them be the dark background that shall throw your hope and faith into bolder relief. God hath set His heart upon you to deliver you. Tho your hand faint, and the tool fall, the eternal God fainteth not, neither is weary. He will bring thy judgment unto victory, immortalize thy good deeds, and crown thy career with everlasting renown.




Charles Edward Jefferson was born at Cambridge, Ohio, in 1860. He came to public attention by the effectiveness of his preaching during a most successful pastorate in Chelsea, Mass., from which he was called to the Broadway Tabernacle, New York, in 1897. During his New York pastorate the Tabernacle at 34th Street has been sold and a unique structure, including an apartment tower ten stories high, has been built farther up-town. Dr. Jefferson has published several successful books. He has a mellow, sympathetic voice, of considerable range and flexibility, and he speaks in an easy, conversational style.


Born in 1860


[Footnote 1: Reprinted by permission from “Doctrine and Deed,” Copyright, 1901, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.]

_Christ died for our sins_.–1 Cor. xv., 3.

I want to think with you this morning about the doctrine of the Atonement. Having used that word atonement once, I now wish to drop it. It is not a New Testament word, and is apt to lead one into confusion. You will not find it in your New Testament at all, providing you use the Revised Version. It is found in the King James Version only once, and that is in the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the Romans; but a few years ago, when the revisers went to work, they rubbed out the word and would allow it no place whatever in the entire New Testament. They substituted for it a better word–reconciliation–and that is the word that will probably be used in the future theology of the Church. It is my purpose, then, this morning, to think with you about the doctrine of the reconciliation, or, to put it in a way that will be intelligible to all the boys and girls, I want to think with you about the “making up” between God and man.

Christianity is distinctly a religion of redemption. Its fundamental purpose is to recover men from the guilt and power of sin. All of its history and its teachings must be studied in the light of that dominating purpose. We are told sometimes that Jesus was a great teacher, and so He was, but the apostles never gloried in that fact. We are constantly reminded that He was a great reformer, and so He was, but Peter and John and Paul seemed to be altogether unconscious of that fact. It is asserted that He was a great philanthropist, a man intensely interested in the bodies and the homes of men, and so of course He was, but the New Testament does not seem to care for that. It has often been declared that He was a great martyr, a man who laid down His life in devotion to the truth, and so He was and so He did, but the Bible never looks at Him from that standpoint or regards Him in that light. It refuses to enroll Him among the teachers or reformers or philanthropists or the martyrs of our race. According to the apostolic writers, Jesus is the world’s Redeemer, He was manifested to take away sin. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. The vast and awful fact that broke the apostles’ hearts and sent them out into the world to baptize the nations into His name, was the fact which Paul was all the time asserting, “He died for our sins.”

No one can read the New Testament without seeing that its central and most conspicuous fact is the death of Jesus. Take, for instance, the gospels, and you will find that over one-quarter of their pages are devoted to the story of His death. Very strange is this indeed, if Jesus was nothing but an illustrious teacher. A thousand interesting events of His career are passed over, a thousand discourses are never mentioned, in order that there may be abundant room for the telling of His death. Or take the letters which make up the last half of the New Testament; in these letters there is scarcely a quotation from the lips of Jesus. Strange indeed is this if Jesus is only the world’s greatest teacher. The letters seem to ignore that He was a teacher or reformer, but every letter is soaked in the pathos of His death. There must be a deep and providential reason for all this. The character of the gospels and the letters must have been due to something that Jesus said or that the Holy Spirit inbreathed. A study of the New Testament will convince us that Jesus had trained His disciples to see in His sufferings and death the climax of God’s crowning revelation to the world. The key-note of the whole gospel story is struck by John the Baptist in his bold declaration, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.” In that declaration there was a reference to His death, for the “lamb” in Palestine lived only to be slain. As soon as Jesus began His public career He began to refer in enigmatic phrases to His death. He did not declare His death openly, but the thought of it was wrapt up inside of all He said. Nicodemus comes to Him at night to have a talk with Him about His work, and among other things, Jesus says, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness so shall the Son of man be lifted up.” Nicodemus did not know what He meant–we know. He goes into the temple and drives out the men who have made it a den of thieves, and when an angry mob surrounds Him He calmly says, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” They did not know what He meant–we know. He goes into the city of Capernaum, and is surrounded by a great crowd who seem to be eager to know the way of life. He begins to talk to them about the bread that comes down from heaven, and among other things He says, “The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” They did not understand what He said–we understand it now. One day in the city of Jerusalem He utters a great discourse upon the good shepherd. “I am the good shepherd,” He says; “the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.” They did not understand Him–we do. In the last week of His earthly life it was reported that a company of Greeks had come to see Him. He falls at once into a thoughtful mood, and when at last He speaks it is to say that “I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” The men standing by did not understand what He said–we understand. All along His journey, from the Jordan to the cross, He dropt such expressions as this: “I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished.” Men did not know what He was saying–it is all clear now.

But while He did not talk openly to the world about His death, He did not hesitate to speak about it to His nearest friends. As soon as He found a man willing to confess that He was indeed the world’s Messiah, the Son of the living God, He began to initiate His disciples into the deeper mysteries of His mission. “From that time,” Matthew says, “he began to show, to unfold, to set forth the fact that he must suffer many things and be killed.” Peter tried to check Him in this disclosure, but Jesus could not be checked. It is surprising how many times it is stated in the gospels that Jesus told His disciples He must be killed. Matthew says that while they were traveling in Galilee, on a certain day when the disciples were much elated over the marvelous things which He was doing, He took them aside and said “Let these words sink into your ears: I am going to Jerusalem to be killed.” Later on, when they were going through Perea, Jesus took them aside and said, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and at last be put to death.” On nearing Jerusalem His disciples became impatient for a disclosure of His power and glory. He began to tell them about the grace of humility. “The Son of man,” He said, “is come, not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” On the last Tuesday of His earthly life He sat with His disciples on the slope of the Mount of Olives, and in the midst of His high and solemn teaching He said, “It is only two days now until I shall be crucified.” And on the last Thursday of His life, on the evening of His betrayal, He took His disciples into an upper room, and taking the bread and blessing it, He gave it to these men, saying, “This is my body which is given for you.” Likewise after supper He took the cup, and when He had blest it gave it to them, saying, “This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for you and for many for the remission of sins. Do this in remembrance of me.” It would seem from this that the one thing which Jesus was desirous that all His followers should remember was the fact that He had laid down His life for them. One can not read the gospels without feeling that he is being borne steadily and irresistibly toward the cross.

When we get out of the gospels into the epistles we find ourselves face to face with the same tragic and glorious fact. Peter’s first letter is not a theological treatise. He is not writing a dissertation on the person of Christ, or attempting to give any interpretation of the death of Jesus; he is dealing with very practical matters. He exhorts the Christians who are discouraged and downhearted to hold up their heads and to be brave. It is interesting to see how again and again he puts the cross behind them in order to keep them from slipping back. “Endure,” he says, “because Christ suffered for us. Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree.” The Christians of that day had been overtaken by furious persecution. They were suffering all sorts of hardships and disappointments. But “suffer,” he says, “because Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Certainly the gospel, according to St. Peter, was: Christ died for our sins.

Read the first letter of St. John, and everywhere it breathes the same spirit which we have found in the gospels and in St. Peter. John punctuates almost every paragraph with some reference to the cross. In the first chapter he is talking about sin. “The blood of Jesus Christ,” he says, “cleanses us from all sins.” In the second chapter he is talking about forgiveness, and this leads him to think at once of Jesus Christ, the righteous, “who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world.” In the third chapter he is talking about brotherly love. He is urging the members of the Church to lay down their lives, one for another, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us.” In the fourth chapter he tells of the great mystery of Christ’s love: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” To the beloved disciple evidently the great fact of the Christian revelation is that Christ died for our sins.

But it is in the letters of Paul that we find the fullest and most emphatic assertion of this transcendent fact. It will not be possible for me to quote to you even a half of what he said on the subject. If you should cut out of his letters all the references to the cross, you would leave his letters in tatters. Listen to him as he talks to his converts in Corinth: “First of all I delivered unto you that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins.” That was the foremost fact, to be stated in every letter and to be unfolded in every sermon. To Saul of Tarsus, Jesus is not an illustrious Rabbi whose sentences are to be treasured up and repeated to listening congregations; He is everywhere and always the world’s Redeemer. And throughout all of Paul’s epistles one hears the same jubilant, triumphant declaration, “I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Let us now turn to the last book of the New Testament, the Book of the Revelation. What does this prophet on the Isle of Patmos see and hear, as he looks out into future ages and coming worlds? The book begins with a doxology: “Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” John looks, and beholds a great company of the redeemed. He asks who these are, and the reply comes back, “These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” He listens, and the song that goes up from the throats of the redeemed is, “Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain and didst purchase us for God with thy blood.” At the center of the great vision which bursts upon the soul of the exiled apostle, there is a Lamb that was slain. Whatever we may think of Jesus of Nazareth, there is no question concerning what the men who wrote the New Testament thought. To the men who wrote the book, Jesus was not a Socrates or a Seneca, a Martin Luther or an Abraham Lincoln. His life was not an incident in the process of evolution, His death was not an episode in the dark and dreadful tragedy of human history. His life is God’s. greatest gift to men, His death is the climax and the crowning revelation of the heart of the eternal. You can not open the New Testament anywhere without the idea flying into your face, “Christ died for our sins.”

How different all this is from the atmosphere of the modern Church. When you go into the average church to-day, what great idea meets you? Do you find yourselves face to face with the fact that Christ died for our sins? I do not think you will often hear that great truth preached. In all probability you will hear a sermon dealing with the domestic graces, or with business obligations, or with political duties and complications. You may hear a sermon on city missions, or on foreign missions; you may hear a man dealing with some great evil, or pointing out some alarming danger, or discussing some interesting social problem, or urging upon men’s consciences the performance of some duty. It is not often in these modern days that you will hear a sermon dealing with the thought that set the apostles blazing and turned the world upside down. And right there, I think, lies one of the causes of the weaknesses of the modern Church. We have been so busy attending to the things that ought to be done, we have had no time to feed the springs that keep alive these mighty hopes which make us Christian men. What is the secret of the strength of the Roman Catholic Church? How is it that she pursues her conquering way, in spite of stupidities and blunders that would have killed any other institution? I know the explanations that are usually offered, but it seems to me they are far from adequate. Somebody says, But the Roman Catholic Church does not hold any but the ignorant. That is not true. It may be true of certain localities in America, but it is not true of the nations across the sea. In Europe she holds entire nations in the hollow of her hand; not only the ignorant, but the learned; not only the low, but the high; not only the rude, but the cultured, the noble, and the mighty. It will not do to say that the Roman Catholic Church holds nobody but the ignorant. But even if it were true, it would still be interesting to ascertain how she exercises such an influence over the minds and hearts of ignorant people–for ignorant people are the hardest of all to hold. When you say that the Church can hold ignorant men, you are giving her the very highest compliment, for you are acknowledging that she is in the possession of a power which demands an explanation. The very fact that she is able to bring out such hosts of wage-earning men and women in the early hours of Sunday morning, men and women who have worked hard through the week, and many of them far into the night, but who are willing on the Lord’s Day to wend their way to the house of God and engage in religious worship, is a phenomenon which is worth thinking about. How does the Roman Catholic Church do it? Somebody says she does it all by appealing to men’s fears, she scares men into penitence and devotion. Do you think that that is a fair explanation? I do not think so. I can conceive how she might frighten people for one generation, or for two, but I can not conceive how she could frighten a dozen generations. One would suppose that the spell would wear off by and by. There is a deeper explanation than that The explanation is to be found in the spiritual nature of man. The Roman Catholic leaders, notwithstanding their blunders and their awful sins, have always seen that the central fact of the Christian revelation is the death of Jesus, and around that fact they have organized all their worship. Roman Catholics go to mass; what is the mass? It is the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. What is the Lord’s Supper? It is the ceremony that proclaims our Lord’s death until He comes. The hosts of worshipers that fill our streets in the early Sunday morning hours are not going to church to hear some man discuss an interesting problem, nor are they going to listen to a few singers sing; they are going to celebrate once more the death of the Savior of the world. In all her cathedrals Catholicism places the stations of the cross, that they may tell to the eye the story of the stages of His dying. On all her altars she keeps the crucifix. Before the eyes of every faithful Catholic that crucifix is held until his eyes close in death. A Catholic goes out of the world thinking of Jesus crucified. So long as a Church holds on to that great fact, she will have a grip on human minds and hearts that can not be broken. The cross, as St. Paul said, a stumbling-block to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. The Catholic Church has picked up the fact of Jesus’ death and held it aloft like a burning torch. Around the torch she has thrown all sorts of dark philosophies, but through the philosophies the light has streamed into the hearts and homes of millions of God’s children.

Protestantism has prospered just in proportion as she has kept the cross at the forefront of all her preaching. The missionaries bring back the same report from every field, that it is the story of Jesus’ death that opens the hearts of the pagan world. Every now and then a denomination has started, determined to get rid of the cross of Jesus, or at least to pay scant attention to it, and in every case these denominations have been at the end of the third or fourth generation either decaying or dead. There is no interpretation of the Christian religion that has in it redeeming power which ignores or belittles the death of Christ.

If Protestantism to-day is not doing what it ought to do, and is manifesting symptoms which are alarming to Christian leaders, it is because she has in these recent years been engaged so largely in practical duties as to forget to drink inspiration from the great doctrines which must forever furnish life and strength and hope. If you will allow me to prophesy this morning, I predict that the preaching of the next fifty years will be far more doctrinal than the preaching of the last fifty years has been. I imagine some of you will shudder at that. You say you do not like doctrinal preaching, you want preaching that is practical. Well, pray, what is practical preaching? Practical preaching is preaching that accomplishes the object for which preaching is done, and the primary object of all Christian preaching is to reconcile men to God. The experience of 1900 years proves that it is only doctrinal preaching that reconciles the heart to God. If, then, you really want practical preaching, the only preaching that is deserving the name is preaching that deals with the great Christian doctrines. But somebody says, I do not like doctrinal preaching. A great many people have said that within recent years. I do not believe they mean what they say. They are not expressing with accuracy what is in their mind. They do like doctrinal preaching if they are intelligent, faithful Christians, for doctrinal preaching is bread to hearts that have been born again. When people say they do not like doctrinal preaching, they often mean that they do not like preaching which belongs to the eighteenth or seventeenth or sixteenth centuries. They are not to be blamed for this. There is nothing that gets stale so soon as preaching. We can not live upon the preaching of a bygone age. If preachers bring out the interpretations and phraseology which were current a hundred years ago, people must of necessity say, “Oh, please do not give us that, we do not like such doctrinal preaching.” But doctrinal preaching need not be antiquated or belated, it may be fresh, it may be couched in the language in which men were born, it may use for its illustrations the images and figures and analogies which are uppermost in men’s imagination. And whenever it does this there is no preaching which is so thrilling and uplifting and mighty as the preaching which deals with the great fundamental doctrines.

In one sense, the Christian religion never changes, in another sense it is changing all the time. The facts of Christianity never change, the interpretations of those facts alter from age to age. It is with religion as it is with, the stars, the stars never change. They move in their orbits in our night sky as they moved in the night sky of Abraham when he left his old Chaldean home. The constellations were the same at the opening of our century as they were when David watched his flocks on the old Judean hills. But the interpretations of the stars have always changed, must always change. Pick up the old charts which the astrologers made and compare them with the charts of astronomers of our day. How vast the difference! Listen to our astronomers talk about the magnitudes and disunites and composition of the stars, and compare with their story that which was written in the astronomy of a few centuries ago. The stellar universe has not changed, but men’s conceptions have changed amazingly. The facts of the human body do not change. Our heart beats as the heart of Homer beat, our blood flows as the blood of Julius Caesar flowed, our muscles and nerves live and die as the nerves and muscles have lived and died in the bodies of men in all the generations–and yet, how the theories of medicine have been altered from time to time. A doctor does not want to hear a medical lecturer speak who persists in using the phraseology and conceptions which were accepted by the medical science of fifty years ago. Conceptions become too narrow to fit the growing mind of the world, and when once outgrown they must be thrown aside. As it is in science, so it is in religion. The facts of Christianity never change, they are fixt stars in the firmament of moral truth. Forever and forever it will be true that Christ died for our sins, but the interpretations of this fact must be determined by the intelligence of the age. Men will never be content with simple facts, they must go behind them to find out an explanation of them. Man is a rational being, he must think, he will not sit down calmly in front of a fact and be content with looking it in the face, he will go behind it and ask how came it to be and what are its relations to other facts. That is what man has always been doing with the facts of the Christian revelation, he has been going behind them and bringing out interpretations which will account for them. The interpretations are good for a little while, and then they are outgrown and cast aside.

A good illustration of the progressive nature of theology is found in the doctrine of the atonement. All of the apostles taught distinctly that Christ died for our sins. The early Christians did not attempt to go behind that fact, but by and by men began to attempt explanations. In the second century a man by the name of Irenaeus seized upon the word “ransom” in the sentence, “The Son of man is come to give his life a ransom for many,” and found in that word “ransom” the key-word of the whole problem. The explanation of Irenaeus was taken up in the third century by a distinguished preacher, Origen. And in the fourth century the teaching of Origen was elaborated by Gregory of Nyssa.

According to the interpretation of these men, Jesus was the price paid for the redemption of men. Paul frequently used the word redemption, and the word had definite meanings to people who lived in the first four centuries of the Christian era. If Christ was indeed a ransom, the question naturally arose, who paid the price? The answer was, God. A ransom must be paid to somebody–to whom was this ransom paid? The answer was, the devil. According to Origen and to Gregory, God paid the devil the life of Jesus in order that the devil might let humanity go free. The devil, by deceit, had tricked man, and man had become his slave–God now plays a trick upon the devil, and by offering him the life of Jesus, secures the release of man. That was the interpretation held by many theologians for almost a thousand years, but in the eleventh century there arose a man who was not satisfied with the old interpretation. The world had outgrown it. To many it seemed ridiculous, to some it seemed blasphemous. There was an Italian by the name of Anselm who was an earnest student of the Scriptures, and he seized upon the word “debt” as the key-word of the problem. He wrote a book, one of the epoch-making books of Christendom, which he called “_Cur Deus Homo_.” In this book Anselm elaborated his interpretation of the reconciliation. “Sin,” he said, “is debt, and sin against an infinite being is an infinite debt. A finite being can not pay an infinite debt, hence an infinite being must become man in order that the debt may be paid. The Son of God, therefore, assumes the form of man, and by his sufferings on the cross pays the debt which allows humanity to go free.” The interpretation was an advance upon that of Origen and Gregory, but it was not final. It was repudiated by men of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and finally, in the day of the Reformation, it was either modified or cast away altogether.

Martin Luther, Calvin, and the other reformers seized upon the word “propitiation,” and made that the starting-point of their interpretation. According to these men, God is a great governor and man has broken the divine law–transgressors must be punished–if the man who breaks the law is not punished, somebody else must be punished in his stead. The Son of God, therefore, comes to earth to suffer in His person the punishment that rightly belongs to sinners. He is not guilty, but the sins of humanity are imputed to Him, and God wreaks upon Him the penalty which rightfully should have fallen on the heads of sinners. That is known as “the penal substitution theory.”

It was not altogether satisfactory, many men revolted from it, and in the seventeenth century a Dutchman, Hugo Grotius, a lawyer, brought forth another interpretation, which is known in theology as “the governmental theory.” He would not admit that Christ was punished. His sufferings were not penal, but illustrative. “God is the moral governor,” said Grotius, “his government must be maintained, law can not be broken with impunity. Unless sin is punished the dignity of God’s government would be destroyed. Therefore, that man may see how hot is God’s displeasure against sin, Christ comes into the world and suffers the consequences of the transgressions of the race. The cross is an exhibition of what God thinks of sin.” That governmental theory was carried into England and became the established doctrine of the English Church for almost three hundred years. It was carried across the ocean and became the dominant theory in the New Haven school of theologians, as represented by Jonathan Edwards, Dwight, and Taylor. The Princeton school of theology still clung to the penal substitution theory, and it was the clashing of the New Haven school and the Princeton school which caused such a commotion in the Presbyterian Church of sixty years ago. They are antiquated. They are too little. They seem mechanical, artificial, trivial. We can say of the governmental theory what Dr. Hodge said, “It degrades the work of Christ to the level of a governmental contrivance.” If I should attempt to preach to you the governmental theory as it was preached by theologians fifty years ago, you would not be interested in it There is nothing in you that would respond to it. You would simply say, “I do not like doctrinal preaching.” Or if I should go back and take up the penal substitution theory in all its nakedness and hideousness, and attempt to give it to you as the correct interpretation of the gospel, you would rise up in open rebellion and say, “We will not listen to such preaching.” If I should go back and take up the Anselmic theory and attempt to show how an infinite debt must be paid by infinite suffering, you would say: “Stop, you are converting God into a Shylock, who is demanding His pound of flesh. We prefer to think of Him as our heavenly Father.” If I should go further back and take up the old ransom theory of Origen and Gregory, I suspect that some of you would want to laugh. You could not accept an interpretation which represents God as playing a trick upon Satan in order to get humanity out of his grasp. No, those theories have all been outgrown. We have come out into larger and grander times. We have higher conceptions of the Almighty than the ancients ever had. We see far deeper into the Christian revelation than Martin Luther or John Calvin ever saw. These old interpretations are simply husks, and men and women will not listen to the preaching of them. If, now and then, a belated preacher attempts to preach them, the people say, “If that is doctrinal preaching, please give us something practical.”

And so the Church is to-day slowly working out a new interpretation of the great fact that Christ died for our sins. The interpretation has not yet been completed, and will not be for many years. I should like this morning simply to outline in a general way some of the more prominent features of the new interpretation. The Holy Ghost is at work. He is taking the things of Christ and showing them unto us. The interpretation of the reconciliation of the future will be superior in every point to any of the interpretations of the past.

The new interpretation is going to be simple, straightforward, and natural. The death of Christ is not going to be made something artificial, mechanical, or theatrical. It is going to be the natural conception of the outflowing life of God.

The new interpretation is going to start from the Fatherhood of God. The old theories were all born in the counting-room, or the court-house. Jesus went into the house to find His illustrations for the conduct of the heavenly Father. He never went into the court-house, nor can we go there for analogies with which to image forth His dealings with our race. It was His custom to say, “If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him.”

The new interpretation is going to be comprehensive. It is going to be built, not on a single metaphor, but on everything that Jesus and the apostles said. Right there is where the old interpretations went astray. They seized upon one figure of speech and made that the determining factor in the entire interpretation. Jesus said many things, and so did His apostles, and all of them must contribute to the final interpretation.

Two things are to be hereafter made very clear: The first is that God reveals Himself in Jesus Christ. The old views were always losing sight of that great fact. There was always a dualism between God and Christ. I remember what my conception was when I was a boy. I thought that God was a strict and solemn and awful king, who was very angry because men had broken His law. He was just, and His justice had no mercy in it. Christ, His Son, was much better-natured and more compassionate, and He came forth into our world to suffer upon the cross that God’s justice might relax a little, and His heart be opened to forgive our race. I supposed that that was the teaching of the New Testament, it certainly was the teaching of the hymns in the hymn-book, if not of the preachers. And when I became a young man, I supposed that that was the teaching of the Christian religion. My heart rebelled against it. I would not accept it. I became an infidel. A man can not accept an interpretation of God that does not appeal to the best that is in him. No man can accept a doctrine that darkens his moral sense, or that confuses the distinction between right and wrong. I would not accept the old interpretation because my soul rose in revolt against it. I shall never forget how, one evening in his study, a minister, who had outgrown the old traditions, explained to me the meaning of the reconciliation. He assured me that God is love, invisible, eternal. Christ, His Son, is also love. In becoming at one with the Son we become at one with the Father. This is the at-one-ment. And when that truth broke upon me my heart began to sing:

Just as I am–Thy love unknown
Hath broken every barrier down;
Now, to be Thine, yea, Thine alone, O Lamb of God, I come!

I wonder in telling this if I have not spoken the experience of many of you this morning. It is impossible to love God if we feel that He is stern and despotic, and must be appeased by the sufferings of an innocent man. The New Testament nowhere lends any support to that idea. Everywhere the New Testament assures us that God is the lover of men, that He initiates the movement for man’s redemption. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son….” “Herein is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us.” “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” “The Father spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” “I and my Father are one.” These are only a few of the passages in which we are told that God is our Savior. When an old Scotchman once heard the text announced, “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son,” he exclaimed, “Oh, that was love indeed! I could have given myself, but I never could have given my boy.” This, then, is the very highest love of which it is possible for the human mind to think: the love of a father that surrenders his son to sufferings and death.

And this brings us to the second great truth which is outgrowing increasingly clear in the consciousness of the Church. The death of Jesus is the revelation of an experience in the heart of God. God is the sin-bearer of the world. He bears our sins on His mind and heart. There are three conceptions of God: the savage, the pagan, and the Christian. God, according to the savage conception, is vengeful, and capricious, and vindictive. He is a great savage hidden in the sky. We have all outgrown that. According to the pagan idea, He is indifferent to the wants and woes of men. He does not care for men. He is not interested in them. He does not sympathize with them. He does not suffer over their griefs. He does not feel pain or sorrow. I am afraid that many of us have never gotten beyond the pagan conception of the Almighty. But according to the Christian conception, God suffers. He feels, and because He feels, He sympathizes, and because He sympathizes, He suffers. He feels both pain and grief. He carries a wound in His heart. We men and women sometimes feel burdened because of the sin we see around us; shall not the heavenly Father be as sensitive and responsive as we men? But somebody says that God can not be happy then. Of course he can not be happy. Happiness is not an adjective to apply to God. Happy is a word that belongs to children. Children are happy, grown people never are. One can be happy when the birds are singing and the dew is on the grass, and there is no cloud in all the sky, and the crape has not yet hung at the door. But after we have passed over the days of childhood, there is happiness no longer. Some of us have lived too long and borne too much ever to be happy any more. But it is possible for us to be blest. We may pass into the very blessedness of God. The highest form of blessedness is suffering for those we love, and shall not the Father of all men have in His own eternal heart that experience which we confess to be the highest form of blessedness? This is the truth which is dawning like a new revelation on the Church: the humanity of God. It is revealed in the New Testament, but as yet we have only begun to take it in. God is like us men. We are like Him. We are made in His image. We are His children, and He is our Father. If we are His children, then we are His heirs, and joint heirs with Christ. Not only our joys, but our sorrows also, are intimations and suggestions of experiences in the infinite heart of the Eternal.




George Campbell Morgan, Congregational divine and preacher, was born in Tetbury, Gloucestershire, England, in 1863, and was educated at the Douglas School, Cheltenham. He worked as a lay-mission preacher for the two years ending 1888, and was ordained to the ministry in the following year, when he took charge of the Congregational Church at Stones, Staffordshire. After occupying the pulpit in several pastorates, in 1904 he became pastor of the Westminster Congregational Chapel, Buckingham Gate, London, a position which he still occupies. Besides being highly successful as a pulpit orator, Dr. Morgan has published many works of a religious character, among which may be enumerated: “Discipleship”; “The Hidden Years of Nazareth”; “Life’s Problems”; “The Ten Commandments.” His last work, “The Christ of To-day,” has passed through several editions.


Born in 1863


_Jesus therefore said, When ye have lifted up the son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself, but as the Father taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me; he hath not left me alone; for I do always the things that are pleasing to him. As he spake these things, many believed on him_.–John viii., 28-30.

The Master, you will see, in this verse lays before us three things. First of all, He gives us the perfect ideal of human life in a short phrase, and that comes at the end, “the things that please him.” Those are the things that create perfect human life, living in the realm of which man realizes perfectly all the possibilities of his wondrous being–“the things that please him.” So I say, in this phrase, the Master reveals to us the perfect ideal of our lives. Then, in the second place, the Master lays claim–one of the most stupendous claims that He ever made–that He utterly, absolutely, realizes that ideal. He says, “I do always the things that please him.” And then, thirdly, we have the revelation of the secret by which He has been able to realize the ideal, to make the abstract concrete, to bring down the fair vision of divine purpose to the level of actual human life and experience, and the secret is declared in the opening words: “He that sent me is with me; my Father hath not left me alone.”

The perfect ideal for my life, then, is that I live always in the realm of the things that please God; and the secret by which I may do so is here unfolded–by living in perpetual, unbroken communion with God: communion with which I do not permit anything to interfere. Then it shall be possible for me to pass into this high realm of actual realization.

It is important that we should remind ourselves in a few sentences that the Lord has indeed stated the highest possible ideal for human life in these words: “The things that please him.” Oh, the godlessness of men! The godlessness that is to be found on every hand! The godlessness of the men and women that are called by the name of God! How tragic, how sad, how awful it is! because godlessness is always not merely an act of rebellion against God, but a falling-short in our own lives of their highest and most glorious possibilities.

Here is my life. Now, the highest realm for me is the realm where all my thoughts, and all my deeds, and all my methods, and everything in my life please God. That is the highest realm, because God only knows what I am; only perfectly understands the possibilities of my nature, and all the great reaches of my being. You remember those lines that Tennyson sang–very beautifully, I always think:

Flower in the crannied wall,
I pluck you out of the crannies;– Hold you here, root and all, in my hand, Little Flower–but if I could understand What you art, root and all, and all in all, I should know what God and man is.

Beautiful confession! Absolutely true. I hold that flower in my hand, and I look at it, flower and leaves and stem and root. I can botanize it, and then I tear it to pieces–that is what the botanist mostly does–and you put some part of it there, and some part of it there, and some part of it there. There is the root, there the stem, and there are the leaves, and there is everything; but where is the flower? Gone. How did it go? When did it go? Why, when you ruthlessly tore it to bits. But how did you destroy it? You interfered with the principle that made it what it was–you interfered with the principle of life. What is life? No man can tell you. “If I could but know what you are, little flower, root and all, and all in all,” I would know what life is, what God is, what man is. I can not.

Now, if you lift that little parable of the flower into the highest realm of animal life, and speak of yourself–we don’t know ourselves; down in my nature there are reaches that I have not fathomed yet. They are coming up every day. What a blest thing it is to have the Master at hand, to hand them over to Him as they come up, and say, “Lord, here is another piece of Thy territory; govern it; I don’t know anything about it.” But there is the business. I don’t know myself, but God knows me, understands all the complex relationships of my life, knows how matter affects mind, and physical and mental and spiritual are blended in one in the high ideal of humanity. Oh, remember, man is the crowning and most glorious work of God of which we know anything as yet. And God only knows man.

But here is a Man that stands amid His enemies, and He looks out upon His enemies, and He says, “I do the things that please him”–not “I teach them,” not “I dream them,” not “I have seen them in a fair vision,” but “I do them.” There never was a bigger claim from the lips of the Master than that: “I do always the things that please him.”

You would not thank me to insult your Christian experience, upon whatever level you live it, by attempting to define that statement