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´╗┐Title: Sermons on Biblical Characters
Author: Chappell, Clovis G.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sermons on Biblical Characters" ***

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SERMONS ON BIBLICAL CHARACTERS


BY

REV. CLOVIS G. CHAPPELL, D.D.



RICHARD R. SMITH, INC.

NEW YORK

1930



COPYRIGHT, 1922,

BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY


SERMONS ON BIBLICAL CHARACTERS. II


PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



CONTENTS


    I  THE MISSING MAN--THOMAS
   II  THE GREAT REFUSAL--JONAH
  III  THE ROMANCE OF FAITH--PETER
   IV  LOVE'S LONGING--PAUL
    V  GOING VISITING--JONATHAN
   VI  THE WOMAN OF THE SHATTERED ROMANCES--THE WOMAN OF SYCHAR
  VII  A GOOD MAN--BARNABAS
 VIII  THE INQUEST--PHARAOH
   IX  A SON OF SHAME--JEPHTHAH
    X  A CASE OF BLUES--ELIJAH
   XI  THE SUPREME QUESTION--THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER
  XII  THE MOTHER-IN-LAW--NAOMI
 XIII  CONFESSIONS OF A FAILURE--THE BUSY MAN
  XIV  A MOTHER'S REWARD--JOCHEBED
   XV  A GOOD MAN'S HELL--MANASSEH
  XVI  A SHREWD FOOL--THE RICH FARMER



SERMONS ON BIBLICAL CHARACTERS


I

THE MISSING MAN--THOMAS

_John 20:24_

"Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when
Jesus came."  Did you notice the name of this man who was missing?  Who
was it when the little company met after the crucifixion that was not
there?  There was a man expected who failed to come.  Who was this man?
When the little company gathered in the upper room behind shut doors
there was one chair that was vacant.  Who should have occupied that
chair?

Well, in the first place, it was not Judas.  He was missing.  He was
not there, it is true, but he was not expected.  Judas had already
betrayed his Lord.  Judas had already been whipped and scourged by his
remorse of conscience clean out of the world.  Judas had gone to his
own place in the great Unseen Country.  Judas was not there, but he was
not expected to be there.

Who was the missing man?  It was not Pilate.  We no more expected
Pilate than we expected Judas.  Pilate had had his chance at Jesus.
Pilate had had an opportunity of knowing, of befriending Him, of
serving Him.  But Pilate had allowed his own interests to get the
better of his conscience.  Pilate had chosen the friendship of Caesar
and had spurned the friendship of the King Eternal.  So we did not
expect Pilate to be present in this little company of the friends of
Jesus who met on the resurrection side of the cross.  Who was the
missing man?  It was not Caiaphas.  He, too, had stood in the presence
of Jesus, but his envy had made him blind.  And he shouted "Blasphemy!"
so loud that he drowned the voice of his conscience and the gentle
whisperings of the Spirit of God.  No, it was not Caiaphas, nor any of
the indifferent or hostile crowd that we miss in this meeting.

Then, who was this missing man?  And we read the text again and we find
his name was Thomas.  That is a very familiar name.  Oh, yes; we
remember Thomas quite well.  It was Thomas who was missing.  Now,
Thomas was expected, for he was a member of the little band of
disciples.  He was one of the Twelve.  He belonged to the Inner Circle.
His fellow Christians had a right therefore to expect him.  Yet Thomas
was not with them.

It is a sad day ever for any congregation when its own membership begin
to absent themselves from its services.  It is a sad day for any
congregation when those who compose it can be counted on to be there at
the social function, there at the place of business, but cannot be
counted on when the interests of the Kingdom are at stake and when the
Son of God goes forth to war.  Believe me, no community ever loses
respect for a congregation till that congregation loses respect for
itself.

And did you notice when it was that Thomas was absent?  "Thomas was not
with them when Jesus came."  What an unfortunate time to be away!  What
a great calamity to have missed that service of all others!  There was
the little despondent, despairing company of ten meeting behind closed
doors.  They were sorrow-burdened and fear-filled.  But Jesus came, and
Thomas, the saddest and bitterest man of them all, was not there.

Of course he would have gone if he had had any idea what a wonderful
service it was going to be.  If he had even dreamed that Jesus would be
there, of course he would not have missed it; but he expected the
meeting to be a very dull affair.  He felt confident that whoever else
was there that there would be no Christ.  He expected that Peter and
James and John and the rest would meet there and talk of a glorious
past that had gone forever.  He would have said, "Yes, I know what they
will say.  They will tell how Jesus called them at the beginning.  They
will tell how they forsook all to follow Him.  They will tell of the
great dreams that they dreamed, of the high hopes that they cherished.
They will tell of all the glad, radiant days that have 'dropped into
the sunset.'  But they will have nothing to say to relieve the
bitterness of to-day or to fling a bow of hope upon the black skies of
to-morrow.  So I will not go to the meeting to-day."

But the meeting was not dull.  The meeting was not sad.  The meeting
was not a lament for a glory that was passed, for a glad day that had
slipped behind them forever more.  It was a service that thrilled with
present joys.  It was a meeting that made the future to glow with
glorious possibilities.  It was wonderful, because Jesus came.  He came
then, and He comes still.  Wherever hungry hearts come together who
yearn for Him and make Him welcome, there comes the blessed Christ to
stand in the midst.  And therefore I would not absent myself from the
meeting together of the people of God.  I would not because I want to
be there when Jesus comes, when the King comes in to see the guests.

"Thomas was not with them when Jesus came."  I wonder why it was that
Thomas was missing.  I wonder how it came about that he, the neediest
man among the apostles, was not there to receive the inspiration and
the uplift that came from this service.  Why was he not there?

It was not, I am sure, because he was indifferent.  There are many
to-day who have separated themselves from the services of the church,
from the fellowship of the saints, because of a deadening indifference.
They have become absorbed in a thousand other matters till they have
become doubly uninterested in the things of the church and in the
affairs of the Kingdom.

Thomas was not missing because he had found satisfaction elsewhere.
Thomas was not satisfied.  Thomas was not happy.  I doubt if there was
a sadder man in all Jerusalem than Thomas.  I doubt if there was a more
wretched man in the wide world at that time than was Thomas.  Thomas
had not turned aside from Jesus to satisfy his soul on husks.  He had
not left Christ because his needs had been met and his thirst satisfied
at some other fountain.

Why was Thomas missing?  He was missing because he had lost hope.  He
believed that Christ was dead.  He believed that the cause for which he
had stood was lost and lost forever more.  He believed that right was
forever defeated; that wrong was forever enthroned.  Over his head was
a blackened sky.  For him there was not one single ray of light nor one
single gleam of hope.

If I had met Thomas on the streets of Jerusalem on that day and said,
"Thomas, I saw your friends going together to the Upper Room.  Aren't
you going?  Jesus might come while they are there," Thomas would have
answered, "No, I'm not going.  Jesus will not be there.  He is dead.
Don't you know if I thought I would see Him I would go?  Don't you know
that I loved Him and love Him still better than life, but Jesus is
dead.  Dead!  Dead!

"I was in the garden when Judas kissed Him.  I saw them lead Him away.
I saw the soldiers scourge Him.  I saw Him crowned with the crown of
thorns.  I was out on Calvary when the black night came on at midday
and I heard that wild, bitter cry.  Oh!  I will hear it forever more:
'My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?'  I saw His head bowed and
I saw the brute of a soldier thrust the spear into His side.  Don't
talk to me about seeing Jesus again.  Jesus is dead."

The very bitterness of the sorrow of Thomas had driven him to despair.
He found it hard to believe always.  Here he found it impossible.  Now,
there are some folks who are sweetened by sorrow and made better.
There are others that are made bitter and morose and despairful.  I
heard a man cry one day, an awful cry "Oh, I could curse God," he said,
"if I knew there was a God, for letting little Mary die!"  For Thomas
everything had collapsed.  There was not a star in his sky.  There was
not a horizon in his life in which he might hope for a dawn.  So that
he, the neediest man of them all, was not there when Jesus came.

And now, will you see what he missed.  Truly, the man was right who did
not wonder what people suffered, but wondered at what they missed.  And
just see what this man Thomas missed by not being in the little meeting
among the ten.  First, he missed the privilege of seeing Jesus.  He
missed the privilege of seeing Him who had throttled Death and hell and
the grave and had brought life and immortality to light through the
Gospel.  He missed seeing Him, one vision of whose face would have
changed his sobbing into singing and his night into marvelous day.

He missed seeing Jesus, and failing to see Him, he missed the glorious
certainty of the after life.  It is Christ, my friends, that makes
Heaven and the eternal life sure for us.  It is He who enables men to
go down into the great silence without a doubt and without a fear.  It
is He who makes us absolutely confident that there is a Home of the
Soul, that--

  "There is a land of pure delight
    Where saints immortal reign."

Having seen Him once dead and alive forever more, we have no slightest
doubt of the truth of His promise that, because He lives we shall live
also.

By staying away that day Thomas missed the thrill of a great joy.  Had
he been there he might have seen the Lord.  This is not a possibility
in every service, possibly, but it ought to be.  It is a possibility in
every successful service.  I heard of a preacher once who thought that
what his congregation wanted was beautiful epigrams.  He thought that
they were more hungry for bejeweled verbiage than for the Bread of
Life.  He thought they were thirsting more for a stream of eloquence
than for the Water of Life.  But he was mistaken.  And once he came
into the pulpit to find a card lying before him on which was written
this word: "Sir, we would know Jesus."

At first it angered him a bit and then it made him think.  And then it
sent him to his knees.  And then it sent him into the pulpit with a new
message.  And one day he came again into his pulpit to find a second
card before him.  Picking it up, he read these words: "Then were the
disciples glad when they saw the Lord."  Of course they were.  Their
gladness was the gladness of the ten that met in the Upper Room.  Their
gladness was the gladness that might have been experienced by Thomas.
It was intended for him, for he was the saddest and most wretched man
in Jerusalem.  But Thomas was not there.

Thomas missed also the gift of peace.  Jesus said to those present,
"Peace be unto you."  And how Thomas needed that gift!  Thomas was in a
fever of restlessness and wretchedness.  He was whipped by a veritable
tempest of doubt and utter unbelief.  And all the while he might have
had the peace that passeth understanding.  He might have had the vision
of Him who stood then, and still stands, the central figure of the
ages, saying, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and
I will give you rest."  Those present that day were blessed with the
gift of peace.  They had "fervor without fever."  They had motion
without friction.  But Thomas missed it because "he was not with them
when Jesus came."

The disciples who were there were re-commissioned that day.  Jesus said
to them, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you."  With His
death everything seemed at an end.  The great program that He had given
them seemed to have lapsed forever.  A man said a few years ago, "Life
doesn't seem worth living since I found that Christianity is not true."
It was so with these men.  They were men without a goal.  But Jesus
came and recommissioned them, laid upon them again the high task of
conquering the world.  And Thomas missed that great blessing because he
was not there.

Last of all, Jesus breathed upon them and said, "Receive ye the Holy
Ghost."  These men were not only recommissioned.  They received the
Holy Ghost.  "He breathed on them."  How close they came to Him that
day!  How their hearts were warmed!  How their hopes were revived!  "He
breathed on them and said, Receive ye the Holy Ghost."  And poor Thomas
missed also this benediction because he was not with them when Jesus
came.

It may be that you were once active in the church.  It may be that you
were once a live and enthusiastic Christian.  But little by little you
have slipped back.  You have moved to strange places.  Your life has
been thrown in great cities.  And you have missed the fellowships of
yesterday out of your life.  It may be that to-day you are no longer
found regularly among the worshipers in God's House.  You are missing
something.  Don't deceive yourself.  As the saints of God meet together
Jesus still manifests Himself.  And seeing Him, there comes to us a new
joy and peace, a new sense of the purpose and worthfulness of life.
Seeing Him there comes to us a new power for battle and for conquest.

But if we have missed Him, whatever else we have won, we have missed
about all that is worth while.  Oh, there is one thing of which I am
absolutely sure, and that is that if I have Jesus, if His presence is a
gladsome reality to my heart, nothing else matters much.  But if I miss
Him everything goes wrong and everything is disappointing.  Darius is
in the palace and Daniel in the den of lions, but there is restlessness
and wretchedness in the palace and peace and joy in the lions' den.  It
is the presence of God that makes the difference.

Thomas, because he missed receiving, also missed the privilege of
giving.  When the other disciples came from that meeting, how radiant
were their faces!  What a spring they had in their step!  What joy
bringers they were!  What a marvelously thrilling story they had to
tell!  Freely had they received and freely did they give.

But Thomas.  He had received nothing, therefore he had nothing to give.
He was a disappointment to his Master.  For a whole week he went
doubting Him, mistrusting Him, when it was his privilege to have walked
into His fellowship and been as sure of His reality and of His nearness
as he was of his own existence.

In the second place, he missed the privilege of helping his fellow
disciples.  What an encouragement he might have been to them!  How it
would have strengthened the faith of those Christians who had not yet
seen the vision of their risen Lord to have seen the light even upon
the gloomy face of Thomas!  But Thomas missed the privilege of giving.
I cannot rob myself without robbing you.  I cannot starve myself
spiritually without helping to starve you.  I cannot sin alone.  If I
do that which lowers my spiritual vitality, by that very act I help to
lower yours also.  "Thomas was not with them when Jesus came," and he
missed a double blessing, the privilege of receiving and the privilege
of giving.

But Thomas, in spite of his failure, succeeded in the end.  Tradition
tells us that he died a martyr for his love and devotion to his Lord.
How was he saved?  How was he brought to the joy and usefulness that
are born of certainty?  Thomas, you know, was a doubter.  A very
thoroughgoing doubter he was.  How then, in spite of his doubts, did he
find his way into the fulness of the Light?

First, Thomas was not proud of his doubts.  He did not look upon them
as blessings or as treasures.  There is a type of doubter to-day who
does.  I have heard men speak of "my doubts" as if they were very
priceless things.  But no man is of necessity the richer for his
doubts.  I know that doubt may become a doorway to a larger faith.
Still, I repeat, no man is of necessity the richer for them.  For
instance, no man is the richer because of his social doubts.  The man
who does not believe in his fellow man is poor indeed.  The man who has
doubts about the inmates of his home suffers something of the pangs of
hell.  And the man who doubts God can hardly consider himself the
possessor of a prize to be coveted.  Thomas doubted, but he was not
proud of his doubts.

Thomas was not only not proud of his doubts, but was thoroughly
wretched on account of them.  And being thoroughly wretched because of
them, he was willing to be set right.  He wanted to believe.  It seems
to me that any man would.  Thomas was eager to be made sure that the
Christ he loved was really alive.  He yearned for certainty.

Thomas was not only willing, but Thomas was reasonable.  When he sought
to be sure of Jesus he put himself in the best possible position to
learn the truth.  When he wanted to be made sure of Christ he did not
seek knowledge at the hands of the enemies of Christ.  He did not ask
information of those who were confessed strangers to Christ.  So often
we do.  We get in the grip of doubt and straightway we turn from the
fellowship of those who know the Lord to the fellowship of those who
confessedly do not know Him.  We read those books that strengthen our
doubts rather than those that strengthen our faith.  But Thomas was
wiser.

"Thomas, we have seen the Lord."  That is what Peter and James and John
and the rest said to Thomas after this wonderful service that Thomas
missed.  And what was the answer of this doubter?  Did his face light
up as he said, "I am glad to hear it"?  Not a bit of it.  He said,
"Except I see in His hand the print of the nails and put my finger into
the print of the nails and thrust my hand into His side I will not
believe."  And what Thomas meant by this answer was simply this: "There
is nothing that you can say or do that will make me believe at all.  I
simply cannot believe and cannot be made to believe that Jesus has
risen."

Now I do not think that his fellow disciples argued With him.  Really
it would have done no good.  They simply left him to his own thoughts.
And I fancy that those thoughts ran something after this fashion: "What
they say is not true.  They are mistaken.  Of course they are.  They
must be.  And yet they certainly believe in the truth of what they say.
God grant that they are right.  There is nothing that I would not give
to know."

Then what did this honest and earnest doubter do?  Listen!  "And after
eight days again the disciples were within and Thomas with them."  Yes,
Thomas is a doubter.  But he is an honest and hungry-hearted doubter.
He is willing to give himself every opportunity to know the truth.  He
says, "I will turn my face toward the east.  Then if there is a dawn I
will see it."  And what happened?  The dawning came.  The sun rose,
"even the Son of righteousness with healing in His wings."  "Then came
Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be
unto you.  Then saith He to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger and behold
my hands, and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side; and be
not faithless, but believing.  And Thomas answered and said unto Him,
My Lord and my God."

Thomas became absolutely certain.  It is my firm conviction that that
same certainty is your privilege and mine.  I believe that Jesus spoke
the simple truth when He said, "If any man is willing to do His will,
he shall know."  However little you may believe at this present moment,
if you will be loyal to what you do believe, if you will follow the
light that you have, it will bring you into the brightness of the day.

You remember how Horace Bushnell, while a student at Yale, felt that he
was in the way of a great revival that was sweeping through the
University.  He did not want to stand in the way of this revival and
yet he was an unbeliever.  He did not feel that he could come out on
the side of Jesus Christ for he did not believe in Christ.  "What then
do you believe?" a voice within him seemed to ask.  "I believe there is
an absolute difference between right and wrong," was the answer.  "Have
you ever put yourself on the side of the right to follow it regardless
of consequences?" was the next question.  "I have not," was the answer,
"but I will."  So Horace Bushnell kneeled there in his room and
dedicated himself to the service of the right.  And what was the
result?  After he had been a preacher of the Gospel in Hartford,
Connecticut, for forty-seven years he said, "Better than I know any man
in Hartford I know Jesus Christ."

When I was a lad I was overtaken by darkness while some eight or ten
miles from home.  The night was intensely black, so much so that I lost
my way absolutely.  I found myself after some hours in a dense forest.
I made up my mind to dismount from my horse and sleep on the ground, as
I saw no chance of finding my way home.

But I had no sooner dismounted than the lightning began to flash and
the thunder to roar and I was warned of an approaching storm.  A little
later the storm burst upon me.  And I mounted and rode on through the
dark, not knowing whither I went.  At last, far past midnight, I saw a
speck of light in the distance.  That light did not look at all like a
sunrise.  It was as small as a needle point.  And yet I followed it
because it was all I could see on the black bosom of the darkness.  A
little later I found that that light was shining from a window in my
own home.  A little later still I found my anxious mother behind that
light waiting for the home-coming of her boy.

Now, I did not have much light to begin with.  It was pathetically
meager.  But as I followed it it led me home.  Thomas had but little.
Bushnell had but little.  But they were willing to be true to the light
that they had.  And being true to it, they found the fullness of the
light.  For it was true then as it is true to-day, "if any man is
willing to do His will, he shall know."



II

THE GREAT REFUSAL--JONAH

_Jonah 1:1-3_

There is doubtless not another book in the literature of the world that
has suffered more at the hands of men than the book of Jonah.  It has
been tortured by its enemies and wounded in the house of its friends.
We have been so prone to give our attention to the non-essential in the
book rather than the essential.  We have had such keen eyes for the
seemingly ridiculous and the bizarre.  For this reason it has come to
pass that you can hardly mention the name of Jonah to a modern audience
without provoking a smile.  Thus Jonah, coming to us as an evangelist,
is mistaken by many for a clown.

Now this is a calamity.  It is a calamity in the first place because
the book of Jonah is one of the gems of literature.  There is not
another book in the Old Testament that is more fragrant with the breath
of inspiration.  There is not another book more radiant with the light
of the divine love.  It is a wonderful gospel in itself.  Therefore it
is a great pity that we have turned from its winsome wealth to give
ourselves to the unedifying task of measuring the size of a fish's
throat.

Did you ever hear of the hungry men that were invited to a feast?  When
they came within the banquet hall they found the table spread with the
viands of a king.  But the table was a bit out of the ordinary.
Therefore, there arose a discussion over the material out of which it
was made.  These guests began heated arguments also over the method of
its carpentry.  And they argued so long and learnedly and well that the
food went utterly to waste and they went away more hungry than when
they had come.

There is a story of a prince who loved a beautiful peasant girl.  In
spite of his royal blood he determined to marry her.  To seal his
pledge of marriage he sent her a wonderful engagement ring.  It was a
gem so marvelous that it was said the stars shut their eyes in its
presence and even the sun acknowledged it as a rival.  But the girl was
more interested in the beautiful box in which it was packed than she
was in the ring.  And when the prince came he was humiliated and
disappointed to find her wearing the box tied upon her finger while the
jewel had been neglected and forgotten and utterly lost.

Now there is real jewelry here.  Let us forget the rather queer casket
in which this jewel comes while we examine the treasure.  "The word of
the Lord came unto Jonah the son of Ammittai, saying, Arise, go to
Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for its wickedness has
come up before me."  "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah."  There is
nothing crude about that statement.  There is nothing in that to excite
our ridicule.  That is one of the blessed and thrilling truths of the
ages.  To this man Jonah, living some time, somewhere, God spoke.  To
this man God made known His will and holy purpose.

And God is speaking still.  The word of God is coming to men and women
to-day.  There is not a single soul listening to me at this moment but
what at some time in your life there has come a definite and sure word
from God.  You have felt the impress of His Spirit upon your own
spirit.  You have felt the touch of His hand on yours.  You have seen
His finger pointing to the road in which you ought to walk and to the
task that He was calling upon you to perform.

How this word came to Jonah we do not know, nor do we need to know.  It
may have come to him through the consciousness of another's need.  It
may have come to him through a study of the Word.  It may have come to
him through the call of a friend.  How it came is not the essential
thing.  The one thing essential and fundamental is this, that the word
did come.  That is the essential thing in your case and in mine.  God
does speak to us.  God does move upon us.  God does call us, command
us.  God does stir us up.  "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah," and
it comes this very moment to you and to me.

What was it that the Lord said to Jonah?  He gave him a strange and
unwelcome command.  He said, "Arise and go to Nineveh, that great city,
and cry against it, for its wickedness has come up before me."  It was
hard for Jonah to believe that he had heard aright.  Was it possible
that Nineveh was a great city in spite of the fact that it was a
heathen city?  Was it possible that Nineveh grieved God because of its
wickedness?  Could it be possible that God really loved Nineveh, though
it was outside the covenant?  Jonah did not want to believe this, but
he had to believe it.  He had to realize that

  "The love of God is wider than the measure of man's mind
  And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind."


Jonah did not want to undertake this mission.  His objection, however,
did not grow out of the fear that Nineveh would refuse to repent.  His
reluctance was not born of the conviction that there was nothing in the
people of Nineveh to which his message would appeal.  I know we are
often hampered by that conviction.  We feel that it is absolutely
useless to preach to some folks.  There is no use in trying to
christianize Africa.  There is no use even in trying to christianize
some of our next door neighbors.  We so often forget that there is in
every man an insatiable hunger and an unquenchable thirst that none but
God can satisfy.

But to Jonah this call was unwelcome because he feared that Nineveh
might repent.  And that he did not want Nineveh to do.  Jonah believed
that God was the God of Israel only.  He believed that God blessed
Israel in two ways.  First, He blessed her by giving her gifts
spiritual and temporal.  And He blessed her, in the second place, by
sending calamities upon her enemies.  An abundant harvest in Israel was
a blessing from the Lord.  A famine in Nineveh was also a blessing from
the Lord.  Jonah was firmly convinced that the prosperity of a nation
other than his own meant calamity to Israel.

It is a pity that this selfish belief did not perish with Jonah.  But
when we face the facts we know that it did not.  It is a very human
trait in us to feel that another's advancement is in some way a blow to
ourselves.  It is equally a human trait to feel that another's downfall
and disgrace in some way adds a bit of luster to our own crowns.  Of
course, nothing could be more utterly false, but in spite of this fact
we cling to that faith through all the passing centuries.

On the whole this duty, then, that God had put upon Jonah was so
distasteful that he made up his mind that whatever it might cost him he
would not obey.  Therefore, we read that he "rose up to flee unto
Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."  Ordered to Nineveh he sets
out for Tarshish.  There were two cities on his map and only two.
There was Nineveh, the city to which he might go in the fellowship of
God and within the circle of the will of God.  There was also Tarshish,
the city that lay at the end of the rebel's road, the city whose
streets, if ever he walked them at all, he would walk without the
fellowship of the God whom he had disobeyed.

And there are just two cities on your map.  The Nineveh of obedience
and the Tarshish of disobedience.  You are going to Nineveh or to
Tarshish.  I do not claim to know where your Nineveh is.  It may be a
distant city.  It may be a city across the seas whose streets you will
crimson with the blood of your sacrifice.  It may be a city as near to
you as the home in which you live, as the child that nestles in your
arms.  But wherever it is, if you walk its streets you will walk them
in the joy of the divine fellowship.

On the other hand, you may go to Tarshish.  Tarshish is the city of
"Have-Your-Own-Way."  It is the city of "Do-As-You-Please."  It is the
city of "Take-it-Easy."  It is the city with no garden called
Gethsemane without its gates and no rugged hill called Calvary
overlooks its walls.  It is a city without a cross and yet it is a city
where people seldom sing and often sob.  It is a city where nobody
looks joyously into God's face and calls Him Father.

I met Jonah that day on the wharf.  He looked like he had passed
through a terrible spell of sickness.  His cheeks were hollow.  His
eyes were red with sleeplessness.  He had a haggard, worn, hounded look
about him.  "Are you on the way home, Jonah?"  And he shook his head
and said, "No.  I am going to Tarshish."  Tarshish was the most far
away place of which the Jew had any conception.  "Tarshish!" I say in
astonishment.  "What are you going to do over at Tarshish?"  "Oh," he
said, "I hadn't thought about that.  I do not know what the future has
in store for me.  What I am trying to do is to get away from God."
"And Jonah arose to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord."

I wonder why the text did not say "And Jonah arose to flee unto
Tarshish from the presence of his duty" instead of "from the presence
of the Lord."  The writer of this story had real spiritual insight.  He
was far clearer in his thinking than many of us.  He knew that to flee
from duty was to flee from God.  Whenever you make up your mind to
refuse to go where God wants you to go and to do what God wants you to
do, you must make up your mind at the same time to renounce the
friendship of God.  You cannot walk with Him and at the same time be in
rebellion against Him.  God has no possible way of entering into
fellowship with the soul that is disobedient to His will.  Believe me,
it is absolutely useless, it is mere mockery, to say "Lord, Lord" and
then refuse to do the things that He commands you to do.

Now, when Jonah saw the spaces of water growing wider between him and
the shore a kind of deadly calm came upon him.  A man with his mind
made up to do wrong is far more at rest than the man whose mind is not
made up at all.  So when Jonah had fully decided that he would rebel
against God and give up all claim to God, a dreadful restfulness came
to his troubled spirit.  He went down into the sides of the ship and
went fast asleep.  The days before had been troubled days.  The nights
had been restless nights.  But the battle was over now, even though it
had been lost, and he was able at last to sleep.

This period marks, I am sure, the period of greatest danger in the life
of Jonah.  Jonah had been a rebel before, but he had been a restless
rebel.  He had been disobedient before, but his disobedience had
tortured him.  It had put strands of gray into his hair and wrinkles
upon his brow.  But now he is not only in rebellion, but he is content
to be so.  He is not only without God, but he is, in a measure,
satisfied to be without Him.  No greater danger can come to any man
than that.  As long as your sin breaks your heart, as long as your
disobedience makes you lie awake nights and wet your pillow in tears
there is hope for you.  But when you become contented with your
wickedness, when you come to believe that it is the best possible for
you, then you are in danger indeed.

Now, I am fully convinced that Jonah's danger is the danger of a great
many, both in the Church and out.  You who are listening to me at this
moment are kindly and cultured men and women.  You are full of good
will toward the Church.  You love it and desire its prosperity.  Yet
many of you are doing practically nothing to make its desired
prosperity a reality.  One of the most discouraging features about the
Church to-day is the large number of utterly useless people within its
fold.  And these are not only useless, but saddest of all, they are
content with their uselessness.  They seem to feel that it is God's
best for them; that it is all that God expects or has a right to expect.

Did you ever make out your religious program and look at it?  What does
discipleship cost you?  What is involved in your allegiance to the
Lord?  Coming to church once or twice a month on Sunday mornings and
making a small contribution.  Only this and nothing more.  The Sunday
School is not your burden.  The prayer meeting is not your burden.
Visiting the new members that have recently come into our Church and
into the Kingdom and need your help is not your responsibility.
Helping by your presence and by your prayers to give spiritual fervor
to all the services, is not your responsibility.  Yours is to make your
way up to the doors of the House of Many Mansions by and by without
ever having made one single costly sacrifice in order to follow the
Lord.

Are you running away from your duty this morning?  You know what it is.
At least you may know it.  This is a needy world.  This is a needy
Church.  It has an opportunity to touch the uttermost parts of the
earth if it is spiritually alive and spiritually mighty.  Are you
making your contribution?  Are you accepting your responsibility or
have you turned your back upon it for no other reason than just this,
that it is too much trouble?  If that is true of me and if that is true
of you, may the Lord wake us up this morning and give us to see our
deadly danger.

So Jonah turned his back on his duty and turned his back on God.  He
took ship for Tarshish and went to sleep.  Surely his situation is
critical indeed.  But though he has forgotten God, God in His mercy has
not forgotten him.  God still loves Jonah, still longs for him and
still hopes for him.  And so in mercy He sends a storm after him.  That
was dangerous cargo that that ship had on board.  It had better have
had gasoline or T N T than a rebellious prophet.

It was in mercy, I say, that the Lord sent the storm after Jonah.
Coverdale translates it, "The Lord hurled a storm into the sea."  Let
us thank God for the storms that rouse us, that wake us up, that keep
us from sleeping our way into the pit.  May the Lord send us any kind
of storm rather than allow us to fling ourselves eternally away from
His presence.  I am so glad God will never allow a man to go
comfortably and peacefully to eternal death.  He never allows any man
to be lost until He has done His best to save him.

I read some years ago of a New England farmer who was driving to town
on a cold winter's day.  He overtook a woman on the way who was walking
and carrying a baby in her arms.  He took her up on the seat beside
him.  The cold became more bitter.  He noticed after a while that the
woman replied to his questions drowsily.  A little later he saw that
she was asleep.  Ho knew that unless awakened she would sleep the sleep
of death.  So he did what at first seemed a cruel thing.  He sprang
from the wagon, dragged her out into the snow and took the child from
her clinging arms.  With the child he sprang into the wagon and started
his team down the road at a trot.  The woman roused herself and began
to totter feebly forward.  A little later she quickened her pace.  At
last she broke into a run.  And as she caught up with the wagon a
little later and the farmer put the baby back into her arms, life had
come back to the mother.  A temporal loss was a blessing to this woman.
Let us thank God for any losses that may come to us that will keep us
from sleeping our way to ruin.

So Jonah was down in the sides of the boat asleep.  Meanwhile the
tempest was raging.  Meanwhile the fear-filled crew was rubbing elbows
with death.  Then a hand is clapped on Jonah's shoulder and he is being
given a vigorous shaking and a voice is calling to him.  And though it
is a heathen voice it is full of rebuke.  "What meanest thou, O
sleeper?  How is it that you can sleep amidst all the agony, amidst all
the danger that is about us?  When the situation is as it is, how is it
that you are not on your knees?  Else and call upon thy God."

I wish through this message that I might take some of you who are
sleeping so soundly and peacefully and shake you awake.  I wish that
God might speak through my voice to my heart and yours and say to us,
"What meanest thou, O sleeper?  What do you mean by sitting idly and
stupidly in the House of God Sunday after Sunday and never doing
anything?  What do you mean by having children growing up about you and
not being enough interested in their spiritual welfare to even have a
family altar?  How is it that amidst the tremendous issues of moral
life and moral death that you can be as complacent and as undisturbed
as the dead?  Why in the name of all that is reasonable will you
continue to 'lie like huge stones across the mouth of the sepulcher
where God is trying to raise some Lazarus from the dead?'"

That shake and that message got Jonah awake.  He sprang out of his
berth and rushed upon the deck.  And the sight that met him there made
a new man out of him.  It changed him from a provincial Jew into a
world citizen and a missionary.  What did he realize as he looked into
the pallid faces of those death threatened men about him?  He forgot
all about their being heathen.  He only remembered that they were one
with himself in their common danger and their common need.  They were
all threatened with death.  They all needed somebody to save.  And, men
and women, that is true still.  We folks differ in many respects, but
we are all alike in this: We have all sinned and we all need a Savior.

He not only saw that they were one in their needs but that they were
also one in their hopes.  He realized what we have been so long in
realizing, and that is the oneness of the race.  He came to know, even
in that distant day, that since we are one body, one member could not
suffer without all members suffering with it.  He faced the fact that
his own wicked rebellion against God had not only brought wretchedness
upon himself, but that it was bringing it upon all that sailed with
him.  No man ever flees from duty without incalculable hurt, not only
to himself, but to others as well.

But, thank God, the reverse is also true.  If my disobedience hurts my
obedience helps.  If my sin carries a curse my righteousness brings a
blessing.  Here is another vessel lashed by a tempest.  But the
preacher on board this time is on good terms with his God.  Therefore
he puts one hand into the hand of his Lord and with the other he saves
the whole company of two hundred and seventy-six souls that sail with
him.  "Be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man's life
among you, but of the ship.  For there stood by me this night the angel
of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must
be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that
sail with thee."

"How may the sea become calm for us," is the question.  Jonah does not
offer an easy suggestion.  "Cast me overboard," is the reply.  The man
who a few days ago despised the heathen is now ready to die for them.
That shows that God had made him a new man.  I know he backslides a bit
later, but he comes out all right in the end.

And, my brethren, God has no other method for stilling seas than that
employed by Jonah.  When the tempest of this world's sin was to be
stilled there was no cheaper way than for Christ to allow himself to be
thrown overboard.  When Livingstone wanted to still the tempest of
Africa he did not undertake the task from long distance.  He allowed
himself to be thrown overboard.  And that is the price you and I have
to pay for real service.  "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground
and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."

So Jonah was cast into the sea.  But by losing his life he found it.  A
friend of mine told recently of an experience of his in dealing with a
British soldier in India.  This soldier was seeking salvation.  They
prayed together.  But as they were about to separate, the soldier was
not satisfied.  He staggered against the wall and prayed after this
fashion: "Lord, my sins are many.  I am unworthy of thy salvation.  I
am unworthy of a vision of thy face.  But if there is any place that
you want some man to die for you I would count it as a great favor if
you would let me be that man."  "And then suddenly," said my friend,
"the light came into his face and he was conscious of the presence of
Christ."

If you will do this to-day, stop running from God and turn and walk
with Him, you will find that Nineveh is not a city of restlessness and
wretchedness.  But you will find that it is a city rich in fellowship
with God and in the blessed experience of that peace that passeth all
understanding.  Which way are you going to travel from this hour?  Out
of that door you will go in a moment facing toward Nineveh or toward
Tarshish.  Which way will you face?  May God grant that every step you
take from this hour may be toward Nineveh.



III

THE ROMANCE OF FAITH--PETER

_Matthew 14:28_

"Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water."  I could not
tell you how many times I have read this fascinating story.  I have
turned to it again and again.  But in spite of its familiarity it
always grips me.  I can never read it thoughtfully without a thrill.  I
can never expose my soul to the vital truth of it without being helped
and made a little bit more hopeful and I trust a little bit better.

Look at the picture.  Here is a little ship in the midst of a storm at
sea.  A dozen men are manning the oars, battling with the tempest,
fighting through the long hours of the night with the storm-whipped
sea, fisticuffing with death, and yet getting nowhere.  It has been
long hours since they left the shore.  It is now three o'clock in the
morning, but they have made very little progress.

I have a fancy that they have become very tired and very discouraged.
And more than once has one said to the other, "I wish the Master were
here.  If He were here He would know what to do."  And then, to add to
their terror, they suddenly see their master walking from wave to wave
toward them across the sea.  But he is not recognized.  They take him
for a ghost and they cry out in fear.

This is not an altogether unique experience.  Many times Jesus comes to
us in a way that makes us rather dread than welcome His approach.
Sometimes He comes with demands for the giving up of certain sins or
certain pleasures that we do not wish to give up.  Sometimes He asks us
for services that we do not wish to render.  He demands surrenders that
we do not at all desire to make.  Sometimes He comes to us in the guise
of a great disappointment.  He comes in the garb of a heartache that
wets our faces with tears.

The disciples, I say, were at first afraid.  But Jesus calmed their
fears by saying, "It is I.  Be not afraid."  The Bible seems to have
been written in large measure just to still the fears of our timid
hearts.  Over and over again is that message directed to us, "Fear
not."  And at once fear was driven from these hearts.  And in the place
of fear came, to one at least, a glorious and buoyant faith.

"Lord, if it be thou," shouted Peter, "bid me come to thee on the
water."  You see the effect the presence of Christ had upon Peter.  As
soon as he recognized Jesus he ceased to fear and began to hope.  As
soon as he realized the presence of Christ he gave up doubt and despair
and began to believe.  The presence of Christ always makes for faith.
Peter was gripped by a firm conviction that now that Christ had come
impossibilities were transmuted into possibilities.

"Bid me come to thee on the water."  Peter had no disposition to climb
out of that boat before Jesus came.  He had no desire to undertake this
seemingly mad task while Christ was yonder on the mountain side and the
little boat was being battered by the storm.  But Christ had begotten
within him a beautiful and seemingly utterly reckless faith.  That
which a moment ago was an impossibility is now altogether capable of
being accomplished.

Christ always inspires such faith in the hearts of those who really
know Him.  In such faith He takes the keenest delight.  There is
nothing that so pleases Him as the most daring and reckless and
romantic faith.  He is never so joyed as when men trust Him with mad
abandon.  Never once did He praise a prudent and conservative faith.
All His encomiums are for those who trust Him with a romantic
recklessness.

Did you happen to meet the woman with the issue of blood as she set out
to see Jesus?  Well, it is good that you did not or you would have done
your best to have discouraged her.  Of course you would and so would I.
"Sarah," I would have said, "are you going to ask Jesus to help you?
Are you going to seek him out and fall on your face before Him in
prayer?"  "No," she would have answered, "I am not going to pray.  I am
not going to ask the Master to do anything for me at all.  I am simply
going to slip up behind Him when the crowd is thronging Him, and touch
His garment.  I have a shamefaced disease.  I want as little attention
as possible.  Hence I am not going to say a single word to Jesus."

Then, I would have answered with conviction, "You will never be cured.
The Master has made no promise that He will honor a mad faith like
yours.  When did He say He would heal if you merely slipped up in a mob
and touched the fringe of His garment?"  But I was not there to throw
dashes of cold water upon the fire.  She went on her reckless way.  And
wonder of wonders, she was healed.

"Lord, bid me come," said Peter.  And what was the reply of Jesus?  Did
He say, "Peter, I am astonished at you.  Why do you want to do this
foolish and insane and impossible thing?  Don't you know that the storm
is against you?  Don't you know that the law of gravitation is against
you?  Don't you know that the whole experience of the race is against
you?  You have been about the sea all your life.  When did you ever see
anybody walk on the waves?  Why do you request, then, to do this absurd
and ridiculous and impossible thing?"

But Jesus did not say that.  I never read where He told a single
trusting heart that his request was impossible.  I do read where He
said the very opposite.  He said, "All things are possible to him that
believeth."  He makes all things possible.  That is what he is for.  He
ever attacks men at the point of their impossibilities.  He calls on
the selfish man to love his neighbor as himself.  He calls on the
paralytics to rise and walk.  And never does He have a rebuke for the
man who dares to fling himself blindly upon His power.

And instead of rebuking Peter He approved him.  He encouraged him.  He
set His sanction upon his request.  He said to him, "Come."  I am sure
if you or I had been there we would have wanted Him to have said far
more.  We would have wanted Him to explain to us how He would hold us
and enable us to walk.  But the invitation, "Come," that one word was
enough for Peter.

"Come," said Jesus.  What would you have done under those
circumstances?  What would I?  I suppose I know.  I would have said,
"Lord, I'd like to.  I wish I could.  I've always wanted to do
something magnificent.  It has occurred to me again and again as I have
read the record of thy dealings with thy saints that the Christian life
is not to be a dull and drab and unromantic thing.  I have felt a
thousand times that the faith of the saints ought to have far more of
buoyancy and enthusiasm and daring and romantic adventure in it than it
has.  So since you have bid me come, Lord, I'd like to come.  I'll
think it over.  Who knows but that I may try it some day?"

But Peter was made out of more heroic stuff.  The spirit of adventure
had not died within him.  His faith is full of the finest romance.
"Come," said Jesus and immediately I see Peter drop his oar and begin
to climb down out of the boat to go to Jesus.

Some of the commentators are very hard on Peter for his boldness and
seeming foolhardiness here.  But I am frank to say that I like Peter
here very much.  I suppose most of the critics would have sat very
still in the boat.  I shouldn't wonder if they would not have put a
restraining hand upon Peter.  In fact, it would not surprise me if some
of his fellow disciples did not do that very thing.  I can imagine that
Andrew might have gripped him and said, "Peter, sit where you are.  You
can hardly stay on top of the water now."  And Thomas would have said,
"Man, are you mad?  Nobody ever walked on the water before."  But Peter
said, "By the help of Christ I will."  And with the "storm light in his
face" and the spray in his hair and with faith in Christ in his heart
he pushes the boat from under his feet.

There is something great about that.  There may be much base alloy in
Peter, but there is something fine in him also.  He is to be admired if
he never takes a step.  He is worthy of praise if he sinks into the sea
as a piece of lead.  At least he has dreamed of doing the supernatural.
At least he has dared in the presence of Christ to undertake what
others were afraid to undertake.  He has ventured to stake his life on
the power of Christ to make good His promise.  If he fails utterly he
is still worthy of respect.  It is better to make a thousand failures
than to be too cowardly to ever undertake anything.

So he steps out upon a stormy sea.  It does look a bit mad, doesn't it?
And yet it only looks mad because of our blindness and dullness and
stupid unbelief.  What did Peter have under him when he was in the
ship?  Upon what were his fellow disciples trusting to keep them from
the bottom of the sea?  Just two or three planks, that is all.  Upon
what was Peter trusting?  He was trusting upon the sure word of God.
When he let himself down from the side of the boat at Christ's
invitation he did not drop into the sea.  He dropped into God's arms.
He dropped into the arms of Him who holds every sea in the hollow of
His hand.  He dropped into the arms of Him whose power kindled every
sun and flung every world into space.  Before Peter can sink he must
break God's arm.  And mad as seemed his act Peter was never so safe in
his life.  Pile upon him, if you will, all the mountain systems of all
the worlds and he will never sink low enough to wet his sandals if he
keeps his feet planted upon the promise of Christ.

Jesus said, "Come."  Peter did the same that you and I may do.  He
responded in the affirmative.  He said, "Yes, Lord," and made the
venture.  And what happened?  Let me read it to you.  "He walked on the
water to go to Jesus."  He did what was humanly impossible.  He
accomplished what was absolutely beyond the reach of any human being
except for the power of Christ.  He walked.  It must have been a
thrilling experience.  It was a joy to himself.  It was a joy to his
Master.  It was a benediction to his fellows.  I can see the terror in
their faces give way to wonderment and gladness as they say, "Well,
well, well!  He is doing it after all."

Yes, Peter walked.  Let us not let any subsequent failure blind us to
this blessed fact.  I know that he did not walk far.  I know, too, that
that was his own fault.  It was not the fault of his Lord.  Peter might
have walked the whole distance but for one fatal mistake.  He might
have won a complete triumph but for one tragic loss.

What happened to Peter?  "He saw the wind boisterous."  What does this
mean?  It means that Peter ceased giving his attention and his
confidence to Christ.  He fixed upon the difficulties.  In other words,
he lost his faith.  He came to believe in his hindrances more than in
his help.  He believed in Christ a great deal, but he believed more in
waves and wind and lightning and thunder.  He believed in Jesus, but he
believed more in weakness and death.  Looking at the wind he stepped
right off God's promise and it wasn't a second till he was up to his
neck in the raging water.

There was absolutely no failure possible so long as he stood firm upon
the promise of Christ.  "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy
laden," Jesus is saying to you that are troubled and sin burdened.
That means that you can come.  That means that He is eager for you to
come.  And however far you have gone from God and however stiff may be
the tempest that blows about you, if you get this promise under your
feet all the storms that hell can let loose against a human soul will
leave you unshaken.  But you must keep a firm stand on the promise.

If you are here with some great yearning in your heart, some special
prayer for usefulness or for deliverance from a peculiar temptation,
lay hold on God's Word and cling to it and you will never be put to
confusion.  A saintly old friend of mine told me on one occasion about
praying for his child.  And he said he got the assurance that his baby
was going to recover.  She was suffering from membranous croup.  That
very night he was awakened by the mother and the nurse.  And he heard
the mother say to the nurse, "Is she dead?"  And he turned and went to
sleep with never a question and never a doubt.  He refused to look at
the waves.

Peter got too interested and too absorbed in difficulties.  It is so
easy to do that.  Peter took counsel of his fears.  I have done the
same and you have done the same a thousand times over.  We are not
going to be harsh and critical with him.  By so doing we would be too
hard upon ourselves.  But this I say: It is a great calamity.  It is a
great shame.  Oh, that we might get upon the higher ground of the
psalmist who said, "Wherefore will we not fear though the earth be
removed and though the mountains be cast into the midst of the sea."

But looking at the boisterous wind and taking counsel of our
fears,--these are not the only things that work our ruin.  We might be
persuaded, and often are, to take our eyes off Christ as much by our
advantages as by our disadvantages.  Had Peter said within himself,
"The law of gravitation is not so invariable as I thought," or "I am a
much superior man to what I dreamed I was."  If Peter had fixed his
confidence in self or in circumstances he would have gone down just the
same.  Anything that turns our eyes away from a steadfast gaze of faith
upon Christ spells disaster.

What happened to Peter when he began to look at the boisterous wind?
You know.  He began to sink.  Peter sinking right in the presence of
Christ,--that is pathetic.  He can help nobody now.  He could not have
saved his own child if he had been there.  Unbelievers seated smugly in
the boat said, "Ah!  I thought so.  I knew something like that would
happen."  I do not know that Peter would ever have noticed the
boisterous wind unless somebody had called his attention to it.  I can
imagine Thomas might have shouted to Peter and said, "Look out, Peter.
There comes a tremendous wave."  Anyway, Peter is sinking.

Did you ever have that experience?  Do you know what it is to feel that
soul sickening sensation that comes to one who is sinking?  Do you know
what it means to be losing your grip on God, losing your power in
prayer, losing your grip of things spiritual?  Did you ever sink?  Are
you sinking to-day?  I think I know something of the experience of
Peter.  I have an idea that you know something of it.

Young man, away from home for the first time, are you sinking?  Little
by little are you giving up your faith?  Little by little are you
flinging away the fine ideals that were the strength of your earlier
years?  Young woman, are you sinking?  Business man, cumbered with many
cares, living your life in the thick of the fight, are you keeping
straight and clean or are you losing your vision?  Are you sinking?
What was the matter with Lot in Sodom?  He led a sinking life.  That
was it and it cost him every one that was dear to him.  It will prove
expensive to you.  Oh, Christian worker, you will not count as long as
you are living a defeated and failing and sinking life.

But even in his failure Peter has a message for us.  In his defeat he
is his own straightforward, sincere and honest self.  When Peter
realized that he was sinking he did not try to conceal the matter.  He
did not say, "I'll fight it out in my own strength."  He threw himself
at once on the infinite strength of Christ.  He prayed.  That was a
wise thing.  That was a big and manly thing.  Peter prayed.  Have you
forgotten the art?

And listen to that prayer.  It was white hot with earnestness.  "Lord,
save me."  It is short, too.  Notice that.  When you do not want
anything, when you have no burden, when you are careless and
indifferent and listless, you can get down on your knees and pour out
whole hogsheads of mere words.  When you are spiritually asleep and
morally stupid you can utter platitudes in the form of prayer
endlessly.  But when the sword of genuine conviction has passed through
your soul, when you are doing business in great waters, then you fling
aside your platitudinous petitions and call out in solemn earnestness
for help.

That prayer was a confession.  It was a confession of failure, a
confession of defeat.  It was also a confession of need.  Some men
would have been too proud to have made it.  What a terrible thing is
pride, that damning pride that makes us unwilling to confess our sin
even to God.  "For he that covereth his sin shall not prosper."  But
"if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Peter was different.  That was his salvation.  He blurted out the whole
pitiful story and threw himself on the mercy of Jesus.  And what
happened?  That which always happens when men thus pray.  "Immediately
Jesus stretched forth His hand and caught him."  And Peter, who had
walked and had sunk, rose and walked again.  And so may you and so may
every single sinking and floundering and failing soul here.  All you
need to do is pray as Peter prayed and to believe as Peter believed.

And now, my brethren, do you not agree that we need more of the faith
that made Peter undertake his mad enterprise?  Isn't the tragedy of the
Church to-day just this, that the average Christian is not walking by
faith, but by sight?  That is the reason we have so little of that high
spirit of daring that marked the early Church.  That is the reason that
life for many of us is so dull and prosaic.  What we need is faith.
For faith is not a tame and spineless thing that dares nothing.  Real
faith dares something, something big and brawny, beyond the human.
Hence it brings into life the thrill of finest romance.

"Come," said Jesus, and Peter gave an instant obedience.  May you and I
be as wise.  For our Lord is inviting us just as He invited Peter.  Are
you thirsty?  He says, "Come to me and drink."  Are you hungry?  He
says, "Come and dine."  Are you tired and burdened?  He says, "Come and
I will give you rest."  Are you eager to be of service?  He says,
"Come,--and out of your inner life shall flow rivers of living water."
Brethren, all our needs are met in Him.  He is our sufficiency.  He is
summoning us even now to venture upon Him.  "Will you make the venture?

  "Out of my shameful failure and loss,
    Jesus, I come, Jesus, I come;
  Into the glorious gain of Thy cross,
    Jesus, I come to Thee;
  Out of the depths of ruin untold,
  Into the peace of Thy sheltering fold,
  Ever hereafter Thy face to behold,
    Jesus, I come to Thee."



IV

LOVE'S LONGING--PAUL

_Philippians 3:10_

"That I may know . . . the fellowship of His sufferings."  Weymouth
gives this translation: "I long to share His sufferings."  Paul is here
leading us into the very innermost sanctuary of his heart.  He is
revealing to us the supreme passion of his life.  He is letting us know
what is his one great ambition.  "I long," he says.  And knowing what a
mighty man he was we lean eagerly forward that we may hear the word
that comes from his lips.  For we are keen to know what is the dearest
desire of this brave heart.

And as we listen this is the perplexing word that comes to us: "I long
to share in His sufferings."  How startlingly strange that longing is.
We are half ready to wonder if we have heard aright.  And when we
realize that we have, we instinctively think of the words of the Roman
governor, Festus: "Paul, thou art beside thyself.  Much learning doth
make thee mad."  We wonder if Festus was not right after all.  Isn't
Paul a bit insane?

"I long to share in His suffering."  It sounds like madness to many of
us because it is so foreign to our own deepest desires.  Had Paul said,
"I long for a place of honor; I long that my presence should elicit the
applause of the world and call forth the crowns of the world"; had he
said this, we could easily have understood him.  Had he expressed a
longing for a place in the hall of fame, had he said, "My one desire is
that the world shall keep sacred my memory," he would have been easily
understood by us.  We would have said "This is very natural and very
human."  But that is not what he says.  This is his strange language:
"I long to share in Christ's sufferings."

Had Paul said that he longed to escape pain and anguish and sorrow we
might also have understood him.  Had he said, "I long to escape the
penalty of sin even though I live in sin," many of us could have
appreciated this desire.  For there are always those who, while they do
not yearn especially for deliverance from sin, do yearn to be saved
from its penalty.  They do not desire to be saved from the sowing of
tares, but they want to be saved from the reaping of the harvest.  They
do not pray for deliverance from the broad road, but they desire that
this broad road terminate at the gate of Heaven instead of at the gate
of destruction.  Had this man said that he desired to escape hell
everybody could have sympathized with him.  But that is not his desire.

What he said was entirely different.  "I long," he says, "to share in
the sufferings of Christ; I long to weep as He wept; I long to
sympathize as He sympathized; I long to travel life by His road; I long
to pass through His Gethsemane and to climb His Calvary and to share in
my finite way in His Cross."  It is an amazing desire.  What is its
secret?

Why could Paul truly say such a word as this?  In the first place, he
could not say it because it was natural for him.  There had been a time
when he had given utterance to such a statement it would have been
grossly false.  When Paul rode out from Jerusalem on his way to
Damascus, for instance, he longed for anything else more than he longed
to share in the sufferings of Christ.  It required a marvelous change.
It required an absolute transformation to bring Paul to the place where
he was able to give utterance to this high and heroic sentiment.  He
was not possessed of such a longing by nature.

Nor did Paul long to share in the sufferings of Christ because he
looked upon these sufferings as trivial.  Few men have ever understood
the sufferings of Christ as did Paul.  He had an appreciation of their
intensity and of their bitterness far beyond most other men.  He
understood as few have ever understood the physical agonies of the
Cross.  Paul was a great physical sufferer himself.

But he knew what we sometimes forget, that infinitely the deepest pain
of Jesus was not physical.  Had there been nothing involved in His
crucifixion but physical agony then we are forced to acknowledge that
many of His followers have endured the same kind of pain with a
fortitude to which He was a stranger.  His agony was from another
source.  He suffered because He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no
sin."  He suffered in that "he was wounded for our transgressions and
bruised for our iniquities."  It was this fact that wrung from Him that
bitterest of all cries, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

Nor did Paul possess this desire because he longed for pain in itself.
Paul was not a calloused soul.  Few men have ever been more sensitive
to pain.  He had no more fondness for being shipwrecked than you and I
have.  He had no more pleasure in being stoned, in being publicly
whipped, in being thrown into dark dungeons and stenchful prison cells
than you and I have.  He no more delighted in being ridiculed and
ostracized than you and I would delight in these things.  Paul took no
more pleasure in hunger and cold, in peril and nakedness, in agony and
tears than you and I would take in them.

Yet we find him longing to share in the sufferings of Christ.  Why did
he long for this strange privilege?  There are two reasons.  He longed
to share in Christ's sufferings, first, because he genuinely and
passionately loved Christ.  If you have ever at any time truly loved
anybody you will be able to understand this longing of Saint Paul.  It
is the nature of love to always seek either to spare or to share the
pain of the loved one.

One of the sweetest stories in our American literature, I think, is
that of "The Wife" told by Washington Irving.  You remember it.  It has
been re-enacted a thousand times over.  A man of wealth has lost his
fortune.  He is heart-broken over it, not on his own account but on
account of his wife.  She has been tenderly nurtured.  He is sure that
poverty will break her heart.  But he has to tell her.  The lovely home
in the city must be given up.  They must move to a cottage in the
country.  He enters upon the hard ordeal.  It is his Gethsemane.  But
to his utter amazement he finds his wife more joyous, more genuinely
happy in the midst of this trying experience than he has ever known her
to be before.  What is the secret?  She is in love with her husband and
loving him, it is her keenest joy to be able to share his sorrow with
him.

The wife of the southern poet, Sidney Lanier, was just such a one as
Irving's heroine.  You will recall what a long hard fight Lanier had
with sickness and poverty and what a tower of strength through it all
was the gentle and tender woman who loved him.

  "In the heart of the Hills of Life, I know
  Two springs that with unbroken flow
  Forever pour their lucent streams
  Into my soul's far Lake of Dreams.

  Not larger than two eyes, they lie,
  Beneath the many-changing sky
  And mirror all of life and time,
  --Serene and dainty pantomime.

  Shot through with lights of stars and dawns,
  And shadowed sweet by ferns and fawns,
  --Thus heaven and earth together vie
  Their shining depth to sanctify.

  Always when the large Form of Love
  Is hid by storms that rage above,
  I gaze in my two springs and see
  Love in his very verity.

      *      *      *      *

  O Love, O Wife, thine eyes are they,
  --My springs from out whose shining gray
  Issue the sweet celestial streams
  That feed my life's bright Lake of Dreams.

  Oval and large and passion-pure
  And gray and wise and honor-sure;
  Soft as a dying violet-breath
  Yet calmly unafraid of death.

      *      *      *      *

  Dear eyes, dear eyes and rare complete--
  Being heavenly-sweet and earthly-sweet,
  --I marvel that God made you mine,
  For when He frowns, 'tis then ye shine!"

Now, what was there in the seeming frown of God to make the eyes of
love shine?  It was just this: they were alight with the joy that comes
when love is privileged to share the pain of the beloved.

I heard a grizzled old soldier who was an officer in the Civil War tell
of a raw recruit who came into his regiment.  This recruit was awkward
and uncouth and unattractive.  He seemed to be little more than an
incarnate blunder.  He would stumble and fall down over his own musket.
Naturally he was the butt of many jokes.  He was the laughing stock of
all his comrades.  But this officer said that he tried to befriend him.
But if the uncouth fellow appreciated his efforts to help him he never
said so.  He seemed as awkward in expressing himself as he was in all
other respects.

"One night," said this officer, "we were sleeping without tents and it
was bitter cold.  I shivered under my blanket till I went to sleep.
When I waked in the morning, however, I was warm.  Then I noticed, to
my astonishment, that I was sleeping under two blankets instead of one.
I looked about me for an explanation.  A little way off was this gawky,
green, uncouth soldier striding back and forth with the snow pelting
him in the face.  He was waving his thin arms as he walked to keep from
freezing to death.  That soldier died a few days later.  He died from
the exposure of that night.  But a smile was on his face as I sat
beside him."  Now, why did the soldier smile?  You know.  He was
rejoicing that he was able to spare and to share the suffering of his
friend.

"I long to share in His sufferings."  That is the language of love.  To
one who does not know love it will forever be a mystery.  But to the
lover it is easily comprehensible.  Any real mother can understand it.
Down in Tennessee a few years ago a mother was out riding with her
little boy.  The horse took fright and ran away.  The buggy was
wrecked.  The mother escaped without injury.  But the little lad was so
crippled that he was never able to sit up again.

Now, before this tragic accident the mother of this little wounded boy
had been very active in the life of her Church and community.  But with
the coming of this great sorrow she had to give up all outside work.
She gave herself instead night and day to the nursing of her boy.  At
times she would hold the little fellow in her arms for almost the whole
night through.  At last, after three years, the angel of release came
and the patient sufferer went home.  And there were those in the
community who said, "I know that his mother will grieve.  Yet his
home-going must be a bit of a relief."

But what said the mother when the minister went to see her?  She met
the preacher at the door and as love's sweet rain ran down her face she
did not say anything about being relieved at all.  But this is what she
said: "Oh, Brother, my little boy is gone and I can't get to do
anything for him any more."  Why, it was the grief of her heart that
the little fellow had gone out beyond the reach of her hand where she
could no longer have the joy of offering herself a living sacrifice
upon the altar of his need.  She longed to continually share in his
suffering.

So Paul wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ because he loved
Christ.  Then he wanted to share in the sufferings of Christ, in the
second place, because he knew that suffering was involved in being like
Christ.  You may suffer and yet be un-Christlike, but no man can be
Christlike and fail to suffer.  If you ever, by the grace of God,
become a partaker of the divine nature you must also inevitably become
a partaker of His sufferings.

To be Christlike is to suffer for the very simple reason that Christ
cannot be what He is and fail to suffer in and for a world like ours.
What is the nature of Christ?  Christ is like God.  Christ is God.  "He
that hath seen me hath seen the Father."  But what is God?  There are
many definitions.  There is only one all comprehensive and all
inclusive definition.  That is that sentence of pure gold that fell
from the lips of the apostle that leaned upon the bosom of his Lord.
"What is God?" I ask this man who had such a wonderful knowledge of
Him.  And he answers, "God is love."

Now since God is love He must suffer.  He cannot look upon the lost and
ruined of this world without grief.  He cannot behold the tragic
quarrel of man with Himself without taking it to heart.  There is
nothing more true nor, in the deepest sense, more reasonable than this
tender sentence: "In all their afflictions He was afflicted."  Our
afflictions must afflict Him because "His nature and His name is love."

J. Wilbur Chapman tells how he one night explored the slums of New York
with Sam Hadley.  About one o'clock in the morning they separated to go
to their own homes.  Dr. Chapman said he had not gone far before he
heard Mr. Hadley saying, "Oh!  Oh!  Oh!"  And he looked back to see his
friend wringing his hands in deepest agony.  He hurried to his side
thinking that he had been taken suddenly ill.  "What is the matter?" he
asked.  And the great mission worker turned his pain-pinched face back
toward the slums out of which they had come and said, "Oh, the sin!
Oh, the heartache!  Oh, the wretchedness!  It will break my heart.  It
has broken my heart."

Now, just as Christ cannot be Christ and not suffer in a world like
ours, so He cannot be Himself and fail to make a sacrificial effort to
save this world.  What says the gem of the Gospel?  "God so loved the
world that He gave."  What was the song that abidingly made Paul's
heart to pulsate with heavenly hallelujahs?  Just this: "He loved me
and gave Himself for me."  Love grieves.  It does more.  It serves.
Love beholds the city and weeps over it.  But it is not satisfied with
that.  It also goes to the Cross for that city over which it weeps.
Sam Hadley wrings his hands in grief over the wretched in New York's
slums, but he does more.  He goes to their rescue.

So when Paul said, "I long to share His sufferings" he meant, "I long
to be, in the truest sense, like Him.  I long to see the world through
His eyes.  I long to feel toward men as Christ feels toward them.  I
long to sacrifice for them in my finite way as He sacrificed for them."
And what was the outcome of this longing?  There are some ambitions
that God cannot gratify.  To do so would only mean our impoverishment
and our ruin.  But such is not the case here.  God graciously granted
the satisfying of this longing of Saint Paul.

Listen to the testimony to the truth of that fact from his own lips.
"I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.  Yet not I, but
Christ liveth in me."  Again he says, "For to me to live is Christ."
That is, "For to me to live is to reproduce Christ.  For to me to live
is for Christ to live over again in me."  In a most profound and vital
sense he has come to share in the divine nature.

Having come to share in the divine nature he is privileged also to
share in His sufferings.  His ministry is a daily dying.  He is a man
of great heaviness and continual sorrow.  The secret of his pain is
this: "I fill up that which is behind of the sufferings of Christ in my
body."  In sharing thus his Master's sufferings he shared with him in
His work of bringing salvation to men.  To-day we could better spare
many a nation than we could spare this one single man.

And now we are going to gather about this altar where we shall remember
together the suffering love of Jesus Christ.  As we take the bread and
wine we are going to be reminded of the broken body and shed blood of
our Lord.  And I trust that as we think upon His love and upon His
sacrifice for ourselves we shall come to be possessed with the holy
longing of this great apostle.  May we too be able to say, "I long to
share in His suffering."  This high longing is possible for every one
of us through the riches of His grace.  And it is possible in no other
way.  Therefore, let us gather round this table with this song within
our hearts:

  "Thy nature, gracious Lord, impart;
    Come quickly from above,
  Write thy new name upon my heart,
    Thy new, best name of Love."



V

GOING VISITING--JONATHAN

_I Samuel 23:16_

"And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David into the wood and
strengthened his hand in God."  "Going visiting" is a very commonplace
occurrence.  Oftentimes the visits we make are thoroughly trivial and
unimportant.  But there are other times when our visits take on a
profound significance.  There are times when they mark a crisis.  There
are times when they set in motion influences that tell on the entire
future of those whom we visit.  There are times when they mean the
making or the marring of a human soul.

Now, this visit about which we are to study to-day is no ordinary
visit.  I think it is one of the most beautiful stories to be found in
literature.  This visit was made many centuries ago.  It was made in an
obscure corner of the earth, and yet it has never been forgotten.  It
never will be.  The Inspirer of the Word saw in it too much of worth
and winsomeness to allow it to slip out of the memories of men.  It is
remembered to-day, not because Jonathan left his calling card on
David's center table.  It is remembered because the visit was so
blessedly beautiful.

It is a great privilege that God has given us in allowing us to visit
each other.  We can help so much by it if we will.  Wasn't that a
lovely visit that the old school master made to Marget that time in
"Beside the Bonny Briar Bush" when he came to tell her that she had a
"laddie of parts"?  And wasn't it still more beautiful when he came
later, rugged old Scotchman that he was, to burst into tears of wild
joy over the good news he brought her that her son had won first prize
in the great university?

Wasn't that a lovely series of visits that a kindly old man made to the
room of the little laddie who had swept the street crossing before he
had been crippled in the discharge of his duty?  A city missionary went
in to see him and asked him if he had had anybody to visit him.  "Oh,
yes," was the answer.  "A good man comes every day and talks to me, and
sometimes he reads the Bible to me and prays."  "What is his name?"
asked the missionary.  And the little fellow studied a moment and said,
"I think he said his name was Gladstone."  England's grand old man
appears to us in many a charming role, but in none is he more manly and
commanding than in this of visiting a little crippled waif in a London
attic.

Florence Nightingale was a lovely visitor.  Do you recall that
exquisite bit of poetry in conduct on the field of Crimea?  A soldier
was to go through a painful operation.  An anaesthetic could not be
administered and the doctor said the patient could not endure the
operation.  "Yes, I can," said the patient, "under one condition: if
you will get the 'Angel of the Crimea' to hold my hand."  And she came
out to the little hospital at the front and held his hand.  Glorious
visit.  No wonder the man went through the operation without a tremor.

But the visit of our text,--to me it is more wonderful still.  The
truth of the matter is, I know of but one other visit that ever took
place that is finer and more beautiful.  You know what visit that was.
It was the visit that One made to a manger in Bethlehem nineteen
centuries ago.  That was a visit that remade the world.  It was so
wonderful that a star pointed it out with finger of silver, and our
discordant old earth was serenaded with the music of that land of
eternal melody.  But aside from that one visit, I think this the most
beautiful one ever recorded.

What is the secret of its beauty?  First, it was beautiful in its
courageous loyalty.  You know who Jonathan was.  He was the King's son.
He was popular, handsome and courageous.  So lithe, athletic and
graceful he was that they called him "the gazelle."  He was a prince.
He was heir-apparent to the throne of Israel.

And you know, also, who David was.  He was at that time in disgrace.
He was under the frown of the King.  He was being hunted from one
refuge to another like a wild beast.  To be his friend was to be the
enemy of the King.  To smile upon him was to meet the frown of the King.

But notwithstanding the fact that these men were so far apart, one a
favorite prince and the other an outcast peasant, yet we find the
prince visiting the peasant.  You say they were friends.  Yes, that is
true, deeply true.  But their friendship had started in other days.
When David and Jonathan first met they met under altogether different
circumstances.  You know when Jonathan first saw David.  It was when
David returned from his fight with Goliath, with the bloody head of the
giant in his hand.  He met him amidst the hurrahs and the wild
enthusiasm of the people.  He met him on one of the great red letter
days of David's life, when he sprang suddenly from obscurity to be a
national hero.

It does not seem so surprising, therefore, when we read that on this
day "the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David."  David was
courageous.  David had shown himself a hero.  David was a favorite with
the King and a favorite with the people.  It took no great effort to
love him then.  It took no great courage to be his friend.  But all is
changed now.  The King no longer loves him, but hates him and seeks his
life.  The sun of his popularity has gone into eclipse.  We wonder if
Jonathan's friendship will stand the test.

And again we turn and read the text: "And Jonathan, Saul's son, arose
and went to David into the wood and strengthened his hand in God."
What beautiful loyalty.  What fine fidelity.  How blessed is David in
the friendship of a man who can love him in the sunshine and who can
love him no less in the midst of the shadows.  How blessed he is in the
friendship of one who can stand by him when many lips praise him and
who can also stand by him when many abuse him, and many criticise him
and many lift their hands against him.  Truly this man loves David for
himself alone.

Second, this visit is beautiful because of its fine and costly
sympathy.  Jonathan really sympathized with David in his trials and his
difficulties.  He did not express that sympathy in any cheap and
distant way.  He might have sent David word that if he needed anything
just to let him know.  He might have dispatched a servant to comfort
David in his sore trials.  But he did not try to express his sympathy
at long distance.  He went to David.  He came to handclasp with the man
that he wished to help.

Now, I am perfectly aware of the fact that much of our sympathy must be
expressed at a distance.  For instance, we cannot all go to the foreign
field.  We must express our interest in those who have not had our
opportunities by our gifts.  Much of the service we render in our own
land must be rendered in the same way.  But when that is said, the fact
still remains that there is nothing that will take the place of our
hand-to-hand dealing with those who need us.  We cannot perform all our
charities by proxy.  We must come in personal contact with those whom
we would help.

There is one poem I think that we have a bit overworked:

  "Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
  Where the race of men go by.
  They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
  Wise, foolish--and so am I.
  So why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
  Or hurl the cynic's ban?
  Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
  And be a friend to man.

  "I see from my house by the side of the road,
  By the side of the highway of life,
  The men that press on with the ardor of hope,
  And the men who are faint in the strife.
  But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears,
  Both parts of an infinite plan.
  Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
  And be a friend to man.

  "I know there are brook gladdened meadows ahead,
  And mountains of wearisome height.
  And the road passes on through the long afternoon,
  And stretches away to the night.
  But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
  And weep with the strangers that moan,
  Nor live in my house by the side of the road,
  Like one who dwells alone."


Now that is good, but after all,--

  "It's only a half truth the poet has sung
  Of the house by the side of the way.
  Our Master had neither a house nor a home,
  But He walked with the crowd day by day.
  I think when I read of the poet's desire
  That a house by the road would be good,
  But service is found in its tenderest form
  As we walk with the crowd in the road.

  "So I say let me walk with the men in the road,
  Let me seek out the burdens that crush;
  Let me speak a kind word of good cheer to the weak
  Who are falling behind in the rush.
  There are wounds to be healed, there are breaks we must mend,
  There are cups of cold water to give,
  And the man in the road by the side of his friend,
  Is the man who has learned how to give.

  "Then tell me no more of the house by the road,
  There is only one place I can live.
  It is there where the men are toiling along,
  Who are needing the help I can give.
  'Tis pleasant to dwell in the house by the road,
  And be a friend, as the poet has said,
  But the Master is bidding us, Bear ye their load,
  Your rest waiteth yonder ahead.

  "So I can not remain in the house by the road,
  And watch as the toilers pass on,
  Their faces beclouded with pain and with shame,
  So burdened, their strength nearly gone.
  I will go to their side, I will speak in good cheer,
  I will help them to carry their load.
  And I'll smile at the man in the house by the way,
  While I walk with the crowd in the road.

  "Out there in the road that runs by the house
  Where the poet is singing his song,
  I'll walk and I'll work midst the heat of the day,
  And I'll help falling brothers along.
  Too busy to dwell in the house by the way,
  Too happy for such an abode,
  And my glad heart will sing to the Master of all,
  Who is helping me serve in the road."


And the beauty and glory of this lovely visit that Prince Jonathan made
to David, the outcast, was that he walked with him in the road.  He did
not dwell in his princely palace and send him some money.  He did not
allow him, as Dives allowed Lazarus, to gather up the crumbs.  He went
to him.  And because he went to him he helped him.  Oh, heart, that is
the secret of the salvation wrought by our Lord.  He came to us.  Had
He merely come for the day and gone back to Heaven at night, He would
never have saved us.  He came into personal contact with us.  That is
how He lifts us.

This visit was beautiful, in the third place, because of its high and
holy purpose.  I see Jonathan as he is turning his face toward the
forest where David is hiding.  I say to him, "Prince Jonathan, you are
going down to see David, I understand.  Why are you going?"  This is
his answer: "I am going down to strengthen his hand in God.  You know
David has had a hard time recently.  He has been sorely tried.  He has
been bitterly disappointed.  He has passed through one great sorrow
after another.  I am afraid his faith is going to be destroyed.  I am
afraid he will lose his grip of God unless I go to see him and help him
and strengthen his hand in the Lord.  And that is why I am going."

And so Jonathan hurries on.  And the angels must have crowded the
windows of heaven to behold him as he walked upon this glorious errand.
I would go a bit out of my way any time to get to see a man who is
going to see his friend, not to ask for help, but going for the one big
purpose of making the man whom he is to visit a little stronger, a
little better, a little more loyal to his Lord.

And not only did Jonathan go for that purpose, but he succeeded in it.
When he left David, he left him a stronger man.  I do not know what he
said to him.  That is not recorded.  I do not know that he quoted
scripture to him or even prayed with him.  He may have.  He may not
have.  It is not absolutely necessary to have prayer always in order to
strengthen our friend in the Lord.  Sometimes all we need to do is just
to talk to him and let him talk, and convince him that we sympathize
with him, that we are interested in him.  And having done that, somehow
he comes more and more to believe in God's interest.

But whatever Jonathan said, David was stronger and better and braver
after he had gone.  I think I can hear him as he looks after the
retreating figure going through the forest.  And what he is saying to
himself is this, "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me,
bless His holy name."  And I think when the books are balanced in
Heaven that Jonathan will get quite a bit of credit for David's
exquisite music.  There are terrible clashes in his songs.  "He that
did eat of my bread hath lifted up his heel against me."  Jonathan did
not inspire that.  But there is many a blessed passage that might never
have been written but for the loyal and loving and constant friendship
of Prince Jonathan.

And last of all, this visit was beautiful in its self-forgetfulness.
Its beauty reached its climax here.  Just think of the circumstances.
Samuel, the prophet, has declared that David is to be king.  But in
everybody's mind, the throne by right belongs to Jonathan.  David is in
perplexity.  He is on the point of losing his faith.  If he loses it he
never will be king.  This will give Jonathan his chance.

Now, why, I wonder, didn't Jonathan feel about this matter as many of
us would?  Why did he not hold aloof and say, "If David fails and loses
his chance it is no fault of mine.  If he fails it will only mean that
he will not take away the throne that by right belongs to me."  No
attitude would have been more human than this.  I do not know how many
nights Jonathan spent in prayer to be delivered from the bondage of his
selfishness.  But I do know this, that he was delivered.

And I want you to watch him as he goes down into this forest to see
David to-day to strengthen his hand in God.  I said we do not know his
conversation with David.  We do know a bit of it, and that is this,
that he encouraged David to believe God, to believe this one particular
promise at least, that God was going to see to it that David was king.
And when you see Jonathan going thus into the woods he is going for the
deliberate purpose of taking the crown off his own brow and putting it
upon the brow of another.  He is abdicating the throne in behalf of
this outcast friend of his who is hiding here in the forest.

You will doubtless agree, therefore, that this old world has not been
blessed with many visits so beautiful as this.  Watch this Prince as he
goes into the wood.  His stride is like that of another:

  "Into the woods my Master went,
  Clean forspent, forspent;
  Into the woods my Master came,
  Forspent with love and shame.
  But the olive trees were not blind to Him,
  And the little gray leaves were kind to Him,
  And the thorn tree had a mind to Him,
  When into the woods He came.

  "Out of the woods my Master went,
  And He was well content;
  Out of the woods my Master came,
  Content with death and shame.
  When death and shame would woo Him last,
  From under the trees they drew Him last,
  'Twas on a tree they slew him--last
  When out of the woods He came."


Yes, Jonathan went into the woods to uncrown himself! to empty himself
for his friend!  Truly "the spirit and mind was in him that was also in
Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God thought it not a thing to be
clung to to be equal with God, but emptied Himself and became obedient
unto death, even the death of the cross."

But the "practical" man stands aside and looks on and says, "Jonathan,
you have made a great mistake.  You never wore a crown and you never
wielded a scepter.  You took your opportunity for earthly greatness and
threw it away.  It was a great mistake."  And we take the words of
Judas and say, "Why this waste?"

But after all, was it a mistake?  He lost his crown, but he won his
friend.  He helped banish the discord and increased the melody of the
world.  He threw aside his scepter of temporal power to lay hold on an
eternal scepter.  He threw aside the crown that he might have worn for
a day to lay hold on a crown that will last forever more.

If ever I get to Heaven I expect to give particular attention to the
Visitors' Gallery.  I think there is going to be an especial place, a
very choice place in Heaven for the visitors.  Not, you will
understand, for those who are visiting Heaven, but those who were good
at visiting here.  For mark you, the Lord has spoken of a special
reward that He is going to give to those of whom He could say, "Ye
visited me."  And about the handsomest, the loveliest face I expect to
find among the immortal and blood-washed visitors is the face of this
man Jonathan.

And now, will you hear this closing word?  Jonathan uncrowned himself
for his friend.  And he won his friend and he won an immortal crown.
But there was another who gave up infinitely more than Jonathan.  And
He came to you and me when we were in an infinitely worse plight than
that in which David was.  He came to us when we were dead in trespasses
and in sin.  And what He says to us this morning is this, "I have
called you friends.  Ye are my friends."

The Prince who did that for us was not the son of Saul, but the Son of
God.  Through His renunciation He was crowned.  By His stooping He was
forever elevated.  "Wherefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him
a name that is above every name."  But what I ask is this: Have you
responded to His friendship as David responded to that of Jonathan?  He
has been a friend to you.  Have you, will you be a friend to Him?  That
is what He is seeking.  That is what He is longing for to-day as for
nothing else in earth or Heaven.

You know why He came.  You know why He is here now.  Why did Jonathan
visit David in the gloomy wood that day and uncrown himself for him?
It was just this reason: It was because he loved him.  Again and again
the story had said that Jonathan loved David as his own soul.  I
thought it was a mere hyperbole at first.  I thought it might be a kind
of poetic way of putting it, but it was only sober truth.  And David
spoke sober truth in that noble and manly lamentation when he said,
"Thy love was wonderful to me, passing the love of women."

And it is love that seeks you and me to-day.  It is a love that longs
to gain our friendship.  It is a love that had been told to us, but at
last was shown to us in the death of the cross.  And we know it is
true.  David responded to the love that was shown him.  He did not
disappoint his friend.  May the Lord save you and me from disappointing
our Friend.  "For He is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother."



VI

THE WOMAN OF THE SHATTERED ROMANCES--THE WOMAN OF SYCHAR

_John 4:4-26_

Look, will you, at this picture.  There sits a man in the strength and
buoyancy of young manhood.  He is only thirty or thereabouts.  About
him is the atmosphere of vigor and vitality that belong to the
spring-time of life.  But to-day he is a bit tired.  There is a droop
in his shoulders.  His feet and sandals are dusty.  His garment is
travel stained.  He has been journeying all the morning on foot.  And
now at the noon hour he is resting.

The place of his resting is an old well curb.  The well is one that was
digged by hands that have been dust long centuries.  This traveller is
very thirsty.  But he has no means of drawing the water, so he sits
upon the well curb and waits.  His friends who are journeying with him
have gone into the city to buy food.  Soon they will return and then
they will eat and drink together.

As he looks along the road that leads into the city he sees somebody
coming.  That somebody is not one of his disciples.  It is a woman.  As
she comes closer he sees that she is clad in the cheap and soiled
finery of her class.  At once he knows her for what she is.  He reads
the dark story of her sinful life.  He understands the whole fetid and
filthy past through which she has journeyed as through the stenchful
mud of a swamp.

As she approaches the well she glares at the Stranger seated upon the
curb with bold and unsympathetic gaze.  She knows his nationality at
once.  And all her racial resentment is alive and active.

A bit to her surprise the Stranger greets her with a request for a
favor.  "Give me a drink," he says.  Christ was thirsty.  He wanted a
draught from Jacob's well.  But far more He wanted a draught from this
woman's heart.  She was a slattern, an outcast.  She was lower, in the
estimation of the average Jew, than a street dog.  Yet this weary
Christ desired the gift of her burnt out and impoverished affections.
So He says, "Give me to drink."

There is no scorn in the tone, and yet the woman is not in the least
softened by it.  She rather glories in the fact that she has Him at a
disadvantage.  "Oh, yes," she doubtless says to herself, "you Jews with
your high-handed pride, you Jews with your bitter contempt for us
Samaritans--you never have any use for us except when you need us."
"How is it," she says, "that you being a Jew ask drink of me who am a
woman of Samaria?  You don't mean that you would take a drink at the
hand of an unclean thing like me, do you?"

But this charming Stranger does not answer her as she had expected.  He
makes no apology for His request.  Nor does He show the least bit of
resentment or contempt.  He does not answer scorn with scorn, but
rather answers with a surprising tenderness: "If thou knewest the gift
of God and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou
wouldest have asked of Him and He would have given thee living water."

Mark what the Master says.  It is one of those abidingly tragic
"ifs"--"If thou knewest."  "The trouble with you," He says, "is that
you do not know the marvelous opportunity with which you now stand face
to face.  Your trouble is that you are unaware of how near you are to
the Fountain of Eternal Life.  You do not realize how near your soiled
fingers are to clasping wealth that is wealth forever more."

"If thou knewest"--if you only knew how He could still the fitful fever
of your heart.  If you only knew the message of courage and hope and
salvation that He could speak through your lips, you would not be so
listless and so careless and so indifferent as the preacher is trying
to preach.  If you knew the burdens that are ahead of you--if you knew
the dark and lonely places where you will sorely need a friend, you
would not lightly ignore the friendship and abiding companionship that
is offered you in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

"If thou knewest."  Do you not hear the cadences of tenderness in the
voice of our Lord?  Do you not get a glimpse of some bit of the
infinite compassion that looks out from those eternal eyes?  "If you
only knew the gift of God, if you only knew who I am, instead of my
having to beg you, instead of my having to stand at the door and
knock--you would be knocking.  You would be asking of me."

Now, isn't that a rather amazing thing for Christ to say about this
fallen woman?  There she stands in her shame.  Once, no doubt, she was
beautiful.  There is a charm about her still in spite of the fact that
she is a woman of many a shattered romance.  Five times she has been
married, but the marriage relationship has had little sacredness for
her.  Her orange blossoms have been dipped in pitch and to-day she is
living in open sin.

Who would ever have expected any marked change in this woman?  Who
would ever have dreamed that underneath this cheap and tarnished dress
there beat a hungry heart?  Who would ever have thought that this
outcast heathen had moments when she looked wistfully toward the
heights and longed for a better life?  I suppose nobody would ever have
thought of it but the kindly Stranger who now sat upon the well curb
talking to her.  He knew that in spite of her wasted years, in spite of
her tarnished past, in spite of the fact that the foul breath of
passion had blown her about the streets as a filthy rag--there still
was that within her that hungered and thirsted for goodness and for God.

And, my friend, you may assume that that thirst belongs to every man.
There is not one that is not stirred by it.  It belongs to the best of
mankind.  It belongs to the elect company of white souled men and women
that have climbed far up the hills toward God.  It belongs to the great
saints like David who cries, "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living
God," who sobs out in his intensity of longing, "As the hart panteth
after the water brook, so panteth my soul after thee, O God."

And thank God it does not belong to the saints alone.  It belongs also
to the sinners.  It does not belong simply to those who have climbed
toward the heights, but also to those who have dipped toward the lowest
depths.  About the only difference between the saint and the sinner in
this respect is that the saint knows what he is thirsting for.  He
knows who it is that can satisfy the deepest longings of his soul, and
the sinner does not know.  But both of them are thirsting for the
living God.

Jesus Christ knew men and women.  He knew the human heart, and knowing
man at his deepest, He knew what we sometimes forget.  He knew that in
every man, however low, however degraded he may be--that in every
woman, however soiled and stained she may be, there is an insatiable
longing for God.  They do not always realize that for which they are
thirsting.  But I am absolutely sure that Augustine was right when he
said that "God has made us for Himself and we never find rest till we
rest in Him."  Every human soul that is in the Far Country is in want,
is hungry for the Bread of Life and thirsty for the Water of Life.

Do you remember what the Greeks said to Andrew that day at Jerusalem?
"'Sir, we would see Jesus.'  We would have a vision of the face of
God's Son."  And this is a universal longing.  It is a thirst that has
burned in the heart of man from the beginning of human history.  It is
older than the pyramids.  It is a cry that is the very mother of
religion.

As we sit by our Lord and see this unclean woman coming with her
earthenware pot upon her shoulder we would fain warn Him.  We would
whisper in His ear, "Look, Master, yonder comes a degraded woman,
yonder comes that creature that in all the centuries has been the most
loathed and the most despised and who has been regarded as the most
hopeless.  Yonder comes an outcast."  But Jesus said, "You see and know
only in part.  Your knowledge is surface knowledge.  You do not know
her in the deepest depths of her soiled soul.  Yonder comes one, who in
spite of her sin longs to be good and pure and holy.  Yonder comes an
immortal soul with immortal hungers and thirsts.  Yonder comes a
possible child of mine that longs ignorantly but passionately for the
under-girding of the Everlasting Arms."

And believe me, my friends, when I tell you that this longing is
universal.  You have feared to speak to that acquaintance of yours who
seems so flippant, who seems so utterly indifferent to everything that
partakes of the nature of religion.  But that is not the deepest fact
about him.  Whoever he is and wherever he is, there are times when he
is restless and heartsick and homesick.  There are times when he is
literally parched with thirst for those fountains that make glad the
city of God.  Dare to speak to him as if he wanted Jesus Christ.  For
he does want Him, though he may not know it and may be little conscious
of it.

"If thou knewest the gift of God . . . thou wouldest have asked of
Him."  That was absolutely and literally true, though I seriously doubt
if the woman herself would have believed it of herself.  If you knew
the gift of God, if you knew what God could do for you, how much he
could mean to your wasted and burnt out affections--you would ask Him.
You would seek for Him.  You would change this well curb into an altar
of prayer.  You would change this noon-tide glare into an inner temple,
into a holy of holies where the soul and God would meet and understand
each other.

This reply of the Stranger awakens the interest of the woman while at
the same time it mystifies and bewilders her.  He is evidently sincere,
and yet what can He mean?  And in puzzled wonderment she asks Him,
"Whence then hast thou living water?  You have nothing to draw with and
the well is deep.  Are you greater than our father Jacob who gave us
the well and drank thereof himself and his sons and his cattle?  Jacob
was a great prince, a man of power with God and man.  Do you know a
secret that he did not know?  Can you do what he could not do?"

And this winsome Stranger does not hesitate to say that He can.  Will
you listen to the claim that He makes to this woman.  No other teacher
however great and however egotistical ever made such a claim before or
since.  "Yes," He replies, "I am greater than your father Jacob.  I am
greater because I can give a gift that is infinitely beyond his.
'Every one that drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but
whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never
thirst.  But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of
water springing up into everlasting life.'"

Did you notice here the two-fold declaration of the Master?  He said in
the first place that this old well would not satisfy permanently.  And
what is true of that well is true of all wells that have ever been
digged by human hands.  What is wrong with them?  For one thing, they
never satisfy.  They never slake our thirst.  To drink from them is
like drinking sea water--we become only the more parched and thirsty as
we drink.

Do you remember "The Ancient Mariner"?  He is on a ship in the ocean
and he is parched and dying with thirst.  What is the matter?  Has the
sea gone dry?  No--

  "Water, water everywhere
  And all the boards did shrink;
  Water, water everywhere,
  Nor any drop to drink."

There is water, but it is not water that will satisfy.

And so men have digged their wells.  They have been real wells.  They
had held real water of a kind, but it has been water that was utterly
powerless to slake the thirst of the soul.  Here is a man who has
digged a well of wealth.  Treasure is bubbling up about him like the
waters of a fountain.  He is rich beyond his hopes, but is he
satisfied?  Listen!  "Soul, thou hast much good laid up for many days,
eat, drink and be merry."  But his soul has no appetite for that kind
of bread.  His soul has no thirst for that brackish and bitter water.
It is hungry and thirsty for the living God, and nothing else can
satisfy.

Here is another who has made the same tragic blunder.

  "I'm an alien--I'm an alien to the faith my mother taught me;
    I'm an alien to the God that heard my mother when she cried;
  I'm a stranger to the comfort that my 'Now I lay me' brought me,
    To the Everlasting Arms that held my father when he died.
  I have spent a life-time seeking things I spurned
           when I had found them;
    I have fought and been rewarded in full many a winning cause;
  But I'd yield them all--fame, fortune and the pleasures
           that surround them;
    For a little of the faith that made my mother what she was.

  "When the great world came and called me I deserted all to follow,
    Never knowing, in my dazedness, I had slipped my hand from His--
  Never noting, in my blindness, that the bauble fame was hollow,
    That the gold of wealth was tinsel, as I since have learned it is--
  I have spent a life-time seeking things I've spurned when
           I have found them;
    I have fought and been rewarded in full many a petty cause,
  But I'd take them all--fame, fortune and the pleasures
           that surround them,
    And exchange them for the faith that made my mother what she was."


Here is one who has dug a well of fame, but he cannot count up twelve
happy days.  And though he has drunk draughts that might have quenched
the thirst of millions, he is dying of thirst because there is no more
to drink.

  "Oh, could I feel as once I felt,
  And be what I have been,
  And weep as I could once have wept
  O'er many a vanished scene.

  "As springs in deserts found seem sweet,
  All brackish though they be;
  So midst the withered waste of life
  Those tears would flow to me."


"Oh, what is fame to a woman," said another.  "Like the apples of the
Dead Sea, fair to the sight and ashes to the touch."  Here is another
and he has digged wells of wealth and fame and power and pleasure.  He
seems afloat upon a very sea in which all the streams of human power
and glory and wisdom mingle.  He tastes them all only to dash the cup
from his lips in loathing and disgust as he cries, "Vanity of vanities!
All is vanity and vexation of spirit."

And so Jesus says to this woman, "This well can never permanently
satisfy you.  No well of this world can.  But if you are only willing,
I can give you a well that will satisfy.  I can impart that which will
meet every single need and every single longing of your soul."  What a
claim is this!  How marvelous, how amazing!  And yet this tired young
man, sitting here by the well, makes this high claim, and through the
centuries He has made it good.

"I can give you," says He, "a well that will satisfy you now.  I can
touch the hot fever of your life into restfulness now.  I can satisfy
the intensest hunger of your starved soul even now.  And not only can I
do this for the present, but I can satisfy for all eternity.  I can
give you a fountain that will never run dry.  I can bless your life
with a springtime where the trees will never shed their leaves and the
petals of the rose will never shatter upon the grass."

"If you will allow me, I will give you that which will enrich and
satisfy your life to-day and to-morrow and through all the eternal
to-morrow."  In all world feasts there comes a time when we have to
say, "There is no wine."  There comes a time when the zest is gone,
when the wreaths are withered.  There comes a time when joy lies
coffined and we have left to us only the dust and ashes of burnt out
hopes.  But Christ satisfies now and ever more.  And this He does in
spite of all circumstances and in the presence of all difficulties.
For His is not an external fountain to which we have to journey again
and again and from which we may be cut off by the forces of the enemy.
His is a fountain within.  It is that which makes us independent of our
foes and even, when need be, of our friends.  Dr. Jowett tells how he
visited an old, ruined castle in England and found far in the inner
precincts of that castle a gurgling and living spring.

What a treasure it was to the man who lived in that castle!  His
enemies might besiege him and shut him in, but they could never cut off
his water supply.  No foes however great were able to overcome him by
starvation for water because he had a fountain within.  There was
within the castle a well of water springing up, and he was independent
of all outside sources.

Now, when Jesus had told this woman of the wonderful gift that He had
the power of imparting it is not at all strange that she answered,
"Sir, give me this water that I thirst not, neither come all the way
here to draw."  And that is just what Jesus desires above all else to
do for her.  But there is one something in the way.  Before Christ can
impart His saving and satisfying gift the woman must be brought face to
face with her need.  She must be made to face her own sin eye to eye
and to hate it and confess it.  She must be willing to turn from it to
Him who is able to cleanse from all sin by the washing of His blood.

And how tactfully does Christ bring her face to face with her past!
Nothing could be more tenderly delicate than His touch here.  "Go call
thy husband," He says.  "I have no husband," is the ready response.
And then He compliments her.

If you are to be successful as a soul winner, if you are to be
successful as a worker anywhere--it is fine to have an eye for that
which is praiseworthy.  There is something commendable about everybody
if we only seek for it and find it.  A disreputable dog came to our
house the other day.  My wife looked at him and said, "What a horrible
looking dog!"  But our small boy looked at him with a different eye and
found something good about him and remarked that he could wag his tail
well.

There was not much in this woman to compliment.  But Jesus picked out
one thing that was commendable.  He complimented her on the fact that
she had told Him the truth.  He said, "You have been honest in this.
You have no husband.  You have had five husbands, but the man that thou
now hast is not thy husband.  In that saidst thou truly."  And now the
woman stands looking her soiled and stained past eye to eye.  She does
not like it.  She would like to get away from it.  She wants to start a
theological discussion.  She is ready to launch out into an argument
over the proper place to worship God.  But Christ holds her face to
face with her sin till she loathes it, and utters that deepest cry of
her inner nature, the longing for the coming of the Messiah.  And then
it is that Christ made the first disclosure of Himself that He ever
made in this world.  He seems to lift the veil from the face of the
infinite as He says, "I that speak unto thee am He."

And this woman has found the Living Water.  She forgot her old thirst.
She forgot the errand that brought her to the well.  She left the empty
water pot by the curbstone and bounded away like a happy child into the
city.  She is under the compelling power of a marvelous discovery.  She
has a story infinitely too good to keep.  And in spite of the fact that
her past had been a shameful and sordid past--she would not let it
close her lips.  She gave her testimony, and as a result we read these
words, "Many believed because of the saying of the woman."

Heart, this woman never had your chance and mine.  She was placed in a
bad setting.  She wasted the best years of her life.  She never found
Jesus till the sweetest and freshest years of her life had been
squandered in sin.  She only met him in the last lingering days of
autumn or maybe in the winter time of life.  Though she met Him so
late, when she stood in His presence a little later in glory she had
her hands full of sheaves.

You have had a great chance.  Is there anybody that believes because of
what you have said?  Has any life been transfigured and transformed by
the story that you have told?  Will you not give a little more
earnestness and a little more thought and a little more prayer and a
little more effort to the doing of this work that Jesus Christ did not
think was beneath Himself as the King of Heaven and the Savior of the
world?

And if you have never found the fountain that satisfies, if you know
nothing of the spring that flows within--will you not claim that
blessed treasure now?  Will you not do so, first of all, because of
your own needs?  Then will you not do so not only because of your own
needs but because of the needs of those about you?  You are thirsty men
and women, and this is a thirsty world.  You need God and God needs
you.  Will you give Him a chance at you?

Remember that this well of water is not to be yours on the basis of
merit.  It is not to be bought.  It is not to be earned.  It is not
found in the pathway of the scholar or of the rich or of the great or
of the gifted.  It is God's gift.  If you want wages serve the devil,
for "the wages of sin is death."  "But the gift of God is eternal life
through Jesus Christ, our Lord."

In oriental cities, where water is often scarce, water carriers go
through the streets selling water at so much per drink.  And their cry
is this: "The gift of God, who will buy?  Who will buy?"  And sometimes
a man will buy the whole supply, and then allow the water carrier to
give it away.  And as he goes back down the street, he no longer says,
"The gift of God, who will buy?" but "The gift of God, who will take?
The gift of God, who will take?"  That is my message to you: "The gift
of God, who will take?"  It is yours for the taking.  May God help you
to take it now.



VII

A GOOD MAN--BARNABAS

_Acts 11:24_

This is the text: "He was a good man."  Doubtless you think me daring
to the point of rashness to undertake to interest and edify a modern
congregation by talking about a virtue so prosaic as goodness.  "He was
a good man."  We do not thrill when we hear that.  It is not a word
that quickens our pulse beat.  We do not sit up and lean forward.  We
rather relax and stifle a yawn and look at our watches and wonder how
soon it will be over.  We are interested in clever men, in men of
genius.  We are interested in bad men, in courageous men, in poor men
and rich men, but good men--our interest lags here, nods, drowses, goes
to sleep.

The truth of the matter is that the word "good" is a bit like the poor
fellow that went down from Jerusalem to Jericho.  It has fallen among
thieves that have stripped it of its raiment and have wounded it and
departed, leaving it half dead.  It is a word that has a hospital odor
about it.  It savors of plasters and poultices and invalid chairs.  Its
right hand has no cunning.  Its tongue has no fire.  Its cheeks are
corpse-like in their paleness.  It seems to be in the last stages of
consumption.  If people say we are handsome or cultured we are
delighted, but who is complimented by being called good?

What has wrecked this word?  What is the secret of its weakness and
utter insipidity?  Answer: bad company.  The Book says, "The companion
of fools shall be destroyed."  And this word is an example of the truth
of that statement.  It has been forced to rub elbows with bad company
till it has come into utter disrepute.

Its evil companions have been of two classes.  First, it has been made
to associate with the gentleman about town whose greatest merit was
that he would smoke a cigar with you, if you would furnish the cigar,
or take a drink with you, if you would furnish the liquor.  He also
graced a dress suit, even though it were a rented one with the rent
unpaid.  And he looked well in pumps.  He was a graceful dancer and
good at poker.  He also was very skilled in never having a job.  And
his friends all said that "he was a good fellow."  And, of course,
being forced to keep company with said fellow was enough to ruin the
reputation of the word forever more.

But as if that were not enough calamity to befall any innocent and
inoffensive word, it was forced into another association that was but
little less disreputable.  There was an individual--sometimes a man,
sometimes a woman--who did not swear, nor lie, nor steal, nor dip
snuff; whose conduct was as immaculate as that of a wax figure in a
show window; who never made a mistake, nor did he ever make anything
else.  He was as aggressive as a crawfish and as magnetic as a mummy.
He was "faultily faultless, icily regular, splendidly null."  And one
day we felt called upon to clothe this colorless insipidity, this
incarnate nonentity, with some sort of an adjective, and so we threw
around its scrawny shoulders this once glorious robe "good."  We said,
"Yes, he isn't much account, it is true, but he is a good fellow."  And
the garment fit him as the coat of Goliath would fit a pigmy.  But
little by little the once great cloak seemed to draw up and to come to
fit the figure of the dwarf.

Thus the word "good" lost its reputation, fell, as many words and many
folks do fall, through bad company.  But let me remind you that, in
spite of popular misconception, "good" is not after all a weak word.
It is a strong, brawny, masculine word.  It has the shoulders of a
Samson.  It has the lifting power of a Hercules.  And the reason God
employed it here to describe this man Barnabas was not because He had
to say something about him and could not find anything else decent to
say.  It was not a word to cover up the deformity of uselessness or the
glaring defect of a moral minus sign.  He used the word because there
was none other that would fitly describe the fine and heroic man of
whom He was speaking.  It means here all that "Christian" means.

"He was a good man."  That was what God said about him.  That was how
he looked when seen through "the microscope of Calvary."  He had
matriculated in God's school, and after faithful and patient study, his
Master gave him a degree.  And what was that degree?  Barnabas, the
genius?  No.  Barnabas, the gifted?  No.  It was a higher degree than
either of these.  It was the highest degree that Heaven itself can
confer.  He gave him the degree of "good."  Barnabas, the good.  "For
he was a good man."

Now, why did God call him good?  Or, in other words, what are the
characteristics that go to make up a good man?  When is a man good in
the sight of "Him who sees things clearly and sees them whole?"  In
what branches must a man show himself proficient in order to receive
this degree?  I ask these questions with the hope that some of us who
are here to-day may want to matriculate in God's school to receive the
high degree that was conferred upon Barnabas.

The first branch in which Barnabas showed himself proficient in his
preparation for this degree was the branch of Christian Stewardship.
And I make bold to say that no man will ever receive the degree that
Barnabas received who is not proficient in the grace of stewardship.

Here is the story.  Barnabas is in Jerusalem at the time of Pentecost.
The Church is in the early spring-time of its power.  Many Jews, both
home-born and foreign-born, have been brought into the fold.  They have
thereby broken with their kindred, and many of them are without any
means of support.  Then Barnabas comes forward.  He is a wealthy land
owner.  He sells his land and puts every dollar of it upon the altar of
his Lord, for the saving of the church in its hour of crisis.

What does this mean?  It means that when Barnabas became a Christian,
that when he gave himself to Christ, he gave his money also.  Now,
stewardship for you may not mean that you, as Barnabas, sell what you
have and give it all away.  God does not call upon all men to do that,
but what He does do is to call upon every man to put both himself and
his money at His disposal.  He calls upon every man to recognize God,
and not himself, as the owner.  That is the first step in Christian
Stewardship: that God owns all; He owns me; He owns my home; He owns my
children; He owns my property.  I have called your attention before to
the fact that the modern idea of ownership is pagan.  The Christian
idea is this: that God is the absolute owner of all things.

I am sure that we are as ready as was Barnabas to acknowledge this
fact.  We nod our heads and agree, but a truth like this demands
something more than simply a nod of the head.  If God owns everything,
then I am to acknowledge that ownership.  How was God's ownership
acknowledged throughout all the Old Testament days?  By the devoting of
a tenth to His service.  That was required of the rich and of the poor.
No man was exempt.  Christ never at any time set that law aside.  I do
not see how any man dare do less than that to-day.  The Jews, without
one thousandth part of our light, were cursed because of their failure
to do this very thing.  Since when has it come to pass that the greater
the light the less the responsibility?

There is nothing more needed to-day than a Christian attitude toward
money.  There has been a reaction from the altruism that prevailed
during the war, and the world is more money mad than ever before.  And
men are making money as scarcely ever before, and the man who is making
money is the man who stands in the position of a peculiar danger.  For
the men who can rapidly accumulate money and at the same time be loyal
to Jesus Christ are few indeed.

While I was in Dallas the other day I talked to a friend who was a man
of wealth.  He said without enthusiasm, "I have made more money this
year than I ever made before."  And then I questioned him regarding his
work in the Church.  At one time he had been the teacher of a very
large class of boys.  He told me that he had given up his Sunday School
work, that he had given up all his religious work.  Then I said, "If
you had a thermometer for registering happiness, I suppose your
thermometer would register lower to-day than at any other time since
you came into the Church."  And with sadness he acknowledged that such
was the case.

Yes, Barnabas was sound in the doctrine of stewardship.  And I am fully
persuaded that the man who is genuinely Christian in his attitude
toward money will be Christian in every other relationship of life.
And I am likewise fully persuaded that the man who fails here, who
falls short of the standard of goodness here, will fall short
everywhere.  A man may be a liberal man and fail to be a good man, but
no man can be a good man and at the same time be a gripping, grasping,
covetous man.  It is an utter impossibility.  Barnabas got a degree in
goodness, and the first course he mastered was a course in Christian
Stewardship.

Second, Barnabas was proficient in that difficult branch that we call
faith.  He had acquired faith till he was full of it.  Faith in God?
Yes, he had faith in God.  That lies back of all that he did and all
that he became.  But the faith that shows itself most in his life, as
we see it, is his faith in men.  How he did believe in folks!
Confidence in men is an essential to true goodness.  I do not believe
that any cynic was ever a really good man.  I know we sometimes pride
ourselves on being hard to fool.  We congratulate ourselves at times on
being able to see more through a key-hole than other folks can see
through a wide-open door.  We boast of our ability to read character
and to see behind the scenes and to detect sham where other folks
dreamed there was sincerity.  And I am not arguing for blindness or
stupidity, but what I do say is this: that the really good men are the
men who believe in their fellows.

You have met the man who says that every fellow has his price.  But
whenever you hear a man say that you may know that there is at least
one man who does have his price, and that is the man who is making the
statement.  You can compromise till you come to persuade yourself that
compromise is the law of life.  You can play with honesty till you come
to believe in the dishonesty of the whole world.  And the man without
confidence in his brother is a man who personally knows that he himself
would not do to trust.

Barnabas believed in men.  One of the greatest enemies that the Church
ever had returned one day from a tour of persecution in Damascus.  He
declared that he had been converted on the way, but nobody in Jerusalem
believed him.  Yes, there was one glorious exception.  That exception
was Barnabas.  He believed in Paul, staked his reputation, his life,
his Church, which was dearer to him than his life,--he staked all these
upon his faith in Paul's sincerity.  But for that, Paul might have been
lost to the Church.

And here is another instance: Paul and Barnabas are on their first
missionary tour.  With them is a young man named Mark.  He has been
tenderly nurtured.  He finds the missionary life harder than he
expected.  He proves a coward and goes home.  Years after, when the
faces of Paul and Barnabas are again set to the battle front, Mark once
more offers his service.  But Paul will not accept him.  He knows that
the mission field is no place for parlor soldiers.  And so he flatly
refuses to allow him to become a part of the army of invasion.

But Barnabas,--somehow he cannot bring himself to give him up.  He
believes that even if a man failed once he may succeed at a second
trial.  He believes that a coward may become a hero, that a deserter
may yet become a trusted and faithful soldier.  And so he stands by
John Mark even at the great price of parting company with Paul.  And
his confidence was gloriously justified, as our confidence so often is.
Who wrote the second Gospel--one of the choicest pieces of literature
in the world?  It was written by John Mark, the deserter.

Then years later, when bitter days of persecution have come, Paul is in
prison.  He especially needs men about him now on whose loyal courage
and devotion he can count absolutely.  For whom does he now ask?
Listen!  "Take Mark and bring him with thee, for he is profitable to me
for the ministry."  Mark has come back.  He has been saved to Christ
and to the Church.  And the one to whom we are mainly indebted for his
salvation is none other than the good man Barnabas.  And Barnabas won
because of his sturdy, persistent faith.

Now to some this virtue may seem a bit of a weakness, but if weakness,
how like it is to the weakness of Christ Himself!  For certainly one of
the most marvelous characteristics of Jesus is His faith in men.  How
Jesus could expect that the poor slattern who was dragged into His
presence taken in adultery could be utterly different from that hour, I
do not know.  I certainly would not have expected it of her, but He
did.  And I hear Him saying to her, "Go and sin no more."  How Jesus
could expect that twelve faulty, unlearned, self-seeking men, such as
His disciples were, would ever be the means of remaking the world, I
cannot for a moment see.  They failed Him in His hour of supremest
need.  They slept in the garden and ran like frightened sheep when He
was arrested.  And yet, knowing their cowardice and their weakness, He
tumbles the responsibility of world conquest upon their frail shoulders
with the declaration that "the gates of hell should not prevail against
them."  Certainly the wildest faith that was ever exercised is the
faith that God exercises in men.  And the faith of this man Barnabas
was a quality born of a goodness that was close akin to the goodness of
God.

That is the way, I think, that this man got his name.  You know they
did not always call him Barnabas.  The folks over in Cypress knew him
as Joses.  They named him Barnabas because that was the word that best
described him.  It was a verbal picture of the man.  What does it mean?
A son of consolation.  Isn't that fine?  James and John were called the
sons of thunder.  That speaks of power, might, dash, the lightning's
flash, the thunder's crash.  There is storm wrapped up in their
personalities.  But Barnabas is the peaceful sunset after the storm.
He is the light at eventide.  He is a son of consolation.

Now, if there is anything finer than that I do not know just what that
something might be.  To be incarnated encouragement, embodied comfort,
flesh and blood consolation,--it would be hard to find a better
vocation than that.  This man had the tongue of the learned that he
might be able to speak a word in season to him that was weary.  He
delivered men from the bondage of their self-despisings, from the
burden of their self-contempt.  He brought hope where there had been
despair and turned the westward gaze toward the east.  He pointed out
the streaks of dawn that were lighting the sky.  He made men hear the
bird's song within the voiceless egg and to catch the perfume of
flowers under the snow.  He was a son of consolation.  "Be pitiful,"
says Dr. Watson, "for every man is having a hard time."  There are some
folks who depress us.  There are some wet blanket personalities who
stifle us.  And there are others like Barnabas who refresh us, and when
they come and knock at our doors we pass out of the stuffy atmosphere
of a mental prison into a flower garden where the air is fresh and
sweet with perfume and musical with the morning song of birds.

Third, this man was thoroughly missionary.  He had taken a course in
God's doctrine of evangelism.  He believed that the Gospel was for all
mankind.  Some Christians of that day were trying to keep it a Jewish
sect.  When they heard that folks were actually being converted down in
Antioch there seems to have been not the least bit of joy in the fact.
But under the leadership of the Spirit they sent Barnabas to
investigate.  He came and saw the same light in their faces down in
Antioch that was in the faces of those who were Spirit-baptized up in
Jerusalem.  And the story says that when he saw the work of the Lord he
was glad.  And not only was he glad, but he threw himself at once into
the work of evangelizing that foreign city.

Then he did another big thing.  Seeing the great opportunity that was
there, he went and sought Paul out over at Tarsus and brought him over
as his helper.  And it was there as they labored together and
ministered to the Lord and fasted that the Holy Ghost said, "Separate
me Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them."  And
they went forth as the world's first foreign missionaries.  An army has
gone forth since that day,--the choicest spirits that this world has
ever seen.  And those who have gone have consecrated the soil of every
continent by their prayers, their tears and their sacrifices.  Their
ashes rest to-day upon every shore and the songs of the redeemed are
sung to-day under every sky because they have labored.  Who was the
vanguard of that great army whose going forth was as the going forth of
the morning?  The vanguard was made up of two men.  One of them was
Paul, the other Barnabas, a man not marvelously clever, not greatly
gifted.  His supreme merit was just this, that in a real and genuine
sense he was a good man, full of faith.

And last of all, Barnabas was a spiritual man.  The inspired writer
says that he was full of the Holy Ghost.  And that implied, of course,
that Barnabas was a man fully given up to God,  There can be no deep
spirituality apart from that.  Our surrender is the condition of our
being full of the Spirit.  "For we are His witnesses of these things,
as is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey Him."

So you can readily see why Barnabas has a right to the fine compliment
that is paid him here by the writer of the Acts.  Barnabas was generous
with his possessions.  He had the Christian attitude toward money.
Barnabas was generous in his judgments.  He had a brother's attitude
toward his fellows.  He was thoroughly missionary.  He made Christ's
program for world conquest his own.  He was profoundly and genuinely
spiritual.  And because of these fine qualities one who knew him well
said of him, "He was a good man."

Now, there are compliments more flashy than being called good.  There
are encomiums that are much fuller of glitter, but in spite of that, I
am convinced that nothing greater or better could possibly be said
about any one of us living to-day or any one that ever has lived than
just this that is written about Barnabas: "He was a good man."  I had
rather my boy would be able to say that about me when he stands by my
grave, sunken and grass-grown, than to say anything else in all the
world.

Brother, let us covet goodness.  Let us seek that rare treasure.  For
there is nothing better or finer or more beautiful or more useful.
"Goodness."  It is the fairest flower that can ever bloom in your soul
garden.  It is the sweetest music that even God's skilled fingers will
ever be able to win from your thousand stringed heart harp.  It is the
virtue in those we love that grips us tightest and holds us longest.
And wonderful to say, it is within reach of every one of us.

There are certain fine things that you and I can never possess.  We
know that.  Genius, greatness,--they are high and forbidding mountain
peaks.  Their sides are rugged and precipitous.  They have pulled iron
hoods of snow and ice upon their brows.  But goodness,--that is a peak
that may be scaled by the tender feet of little children and by the
tottering feet of old age.  It may be scaled by the reluctant feet of
those in life's prosaic middle passage.  Let us address ourselves then
to this high task.  Let us matriculate this morning in God's school for
this degree, the degree of "goodness."  And one day it may be written
of us as it was written of Barnabas, "He was a good man."



VIII

THE INQUEST--PHARAOH

_Exodus 14:30 and 9:16_

In Exodus 14:19 we read these words: "And Israel saw the Egyptians dead
upon the seashore."  It is rather a ghastly and grewsome sight.  There
they lie, the soldiers of the once proud army of Egypt.  They are in
all sorts of positions, these dead men.  Some have their heads pillowed
peacefully upon their arms as if in sleep.  Others have their hard
faces half buried in the sand.  Others still lie prone upon their backs
with bits of seaweed in their hair and their sightless eyes staring in
terror at nothing.

They are very much alike, these corpses.  But here is one that is
different.  Look at the rich costume in which it is dressed.  Look at
its bejewelled fingers.  There is no crown upon its brow.  There is no
sceptre in that nerveless hand.  Yet it is easy to guess that this
corpse, this "pocket that death has turned inside out and emptied" was
once a king.  Yes, this is the body of Pharaoh, the one time ruler of
Egypt.  But here he lies to-day among the meanest of his soldiers.  He
is sprawled in unkingly fashion upon his face as if the sea had spit
him out in sheer nausea and disgust.

And now comes the big question that we want to consider.  How came this
famous Egyptian here?  He was once a king, you remember.  He was ruler
over the proudest nation in the world.  And here we find him dead.  He
died away from home.  He died a violent death.  Let us hold an inquest
over him for a moment and see how he came to die.  He did not leave
Egypt and march into the Red Sea for that purpose.  He never intended
that life should end thus.  Nor is he here because his enemy Israel has
proven stronger than himself.  What is the cause?  And the question is
answered by the voice of God.  We read it in Exodus 9:16, "For this
cause have I raised thee up that I might show forth my power in thee."

Will you notice what this strange text says.  Without the least
equivocation it says that God raised this man Pharaoh up that He might
show forth His power in him.  And that purpose He accomplished.  This
ghastly piece of royal rottenness has not been thrown upon this shore
by the hand of man.  As we look at him we see in him a monument of the
power of God.  And strange to say, he is not a monument of God's power
to save and to keep and to utilize, but of God's power to thwart and to
disappoint and to wreck and to utterly destroy.  And in his destruction
God tells us that He has achieved His purpose.

You will agree with me that this is an amazing statement.  The teaching
seems to be that God has raised this man up that He might glorify
Himself by making a complete and utter wreck of him.  I wonder if that
can be true.  We agree, I suppose, all of us who believe the Bible,
that God has a plan for every life.  All nature tells of a planning
God.  All revelation teaches it also.  We have the message direct from
the lips of the Lord, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you."

But in admitting that God plans every life, can we believe that He
plans for some to go wrong and for others to go right?  Can we believe
that He plans for one to become a Judas and the other a St. John?  Is
it the purpose of God that one shall develop into a Moses and the other
right at his side shall grow up into a miserable and distorted wreck
that we call Pharaoh?  In other words, is Judas as much a part of the
plan of God as John?  If so we are of all men most miserable because we
have a wicked God.

But we know that such is not the case.  God never planned that any man
should go wrong.  He is not willing that any should perish, but that
all should come to repentance.  He is the eternal lover.  He loved
Moses, but He loved Pharaoh no less.  And Judas was as dear to God's
heart as John.  And whatever failure they made of their lives, and
whatever failure you and I make of our lives, we do not make because
God forces us to do so.  In whatever way we go wrong, we do not do so
because God planned that we should.  We do it because of our own
willfulness and wicked rebellion against God.

In other words, though God plans your life and mine, He cannot in the
very nature of things, force us to enter into His plan.  You who are
fathers and mothers realize that.  Many parents have made beautiful
plans for their children only to have those plans despised.  Our
children are not ourselves.  They have independent wills.  They have
the capacity for entering into our purposes for them and thus bringing
us joy unspeakable.  They have also the capacity for despising those
purposes and breaking our hearts.

How, then, do we explain this strange text, "For this cause have I
raised thee up that I might show forth my power in thee"?  Because it
is a fact that this death in the Red Sea was not an accidental death.
It is a fact that this corpse here upon the beach is not here by mere
chance.  This king was flung here by the power of a disappointed and
grieved and rejected God.  He lies here dead upon the shore according
to the deliberate plan and purpose of God.  But while this is true, we
need to keep this big fact in mind: Though Pharaoh lies here according
to the purpose of God, this was not God's first and highest purpose for
him.  But Pharaoh resisted and rejected every noble and worthy purpose
that God had in his life.  By his own rebellion he made it impossible
for God to realize any purpose in him at all save the last and the
worst.

Do you remember that story in Jeremiah?  One day the word of the Lord
came unto the prophet Jeremiah saying, "Arise and go down to the
Potter's house and there I will cause thee to hear my word."  And
Jeremiah went down and heard the message.  Arrived within the Potter's
house, three objects at once drew his attention.  There was a man
working, the Potter.  There was the instrument with which he worked,
the wheel.  And there was the substance upon which he worked, the clay.
In the Potter's hand the clay was misshapen and unsightly.  The cup was
not yet finished in the Potter's hand.  But there was a place where it
was finished, and that was in the mind of the Potter.  The Potter could
already see the finished product.  He was trying to make the cup
according to the ideal that he had in his mind.

But we read that the cup was marred in the making.  That is, there was
something in the clay that resisted the Potter.  Now, what did he do
with the marred cup?  We would have expected him to throw it away, but
he did not.  He made it again.  What a gospel that is for failing and
sinning men like ourselves.  How glorious that, when we resist God's
purpose and all but wreck ourselves, He will make us again.  Truly we
would be a hopeless race but for the fact that we have a mighty God who
is able to remake us even when we have rebelled against Him and have
thwarted His blessed plans for us.

He made it again.  Yes, but notice this.  He made it again "another
vessel."  He changed his plan for this latter vessel.  He realized that
he could not make it according to the fine ideal that was in his mind
for the first vessel.  That one refused to realize the best, therefore
he made it into another vessel.  He sought to make it realize the
second best.

There is a truth here of tremendous importance that we are prone to
forget, and that truth is this, that having rejected and resisted God
for days and months and years, God cannot make of us what He could have
made if we had entered into His plans from the beginning.  If you
reject God's best for you, then He tries to get you to realize His
second best.  If you reject this, then He seeks to bring you to the
next best.  But remember this, God cannot, in the very nature of
things, make as much out of a fraction of a life as He can out of the
whole of a life.

Now, suppose, the clay upon which the Potter was working had been
marred again.  Again he would have undertaken to have made it into
another vessel.  But all the while that clay would have been becoming
less and less plastic.  All the while it would have been becoming more
and more difficult for the Potter to shape it according to his purpose.

Thus the time would inevitably come when it would no longer be capable
of being shaped by his hand at all.  Then what would be the result?
Step outside the Potter's house and you are in the Potter's field.
About you lie broken crockery and shattered earthenware.  Why is it
there?  Not because the Potter made vessels for the stupid purpose of
breaking them to pieces.  They are there because there was something in
the clay that so resisted the hand of the Potter that he was able to
make nothing of them but these shattered and misshapen and broken
wrecks.

Now this is the story of Pharaoh, king of Egypt.  God had a noble
purpose in this man's life to begin with.  He gave him every
opportunity.  He brought to bear all that infinite love and mercy could
bring to bear to get Pharaoh to be a good man.  The reason Pharaoh
ended as he did end was not because God did not love him and did not do
His infinite best to save Him.  It was because Pharaoh resisted and
resisted, rebelled and rebelled till at last he threw himself a corpse
upon this distant seashore.  And the message we hear from his clammy
lips this night is this, "Look at me and see what a terrible thing it
is to rebel against God.  Behold me and see the tragic failure of the
man that persistently throws himself in wicked madness against the
bosses of the buckler of the Lord Almighty."

Look now how hard God tried to make something of Pharaoh.  In the first
place, He gave to him a great and faithful minister.  Pharaoh had the
privilege of knowing Moses.  He had an opportunity of hearing about the
greatest individual that the world has ever seen.  He threw himself
away, did Pharaoh.  He chose God's worst instead of God's best, but he
did not do it because he did not know better.  Neither are you wasting
your life because you do not know better.  If you have not had a
teacher great as Moses, you have yet been faithfully warned, and in
your sin you are without excuse.

God gave Pharaoh a chance to cooperate with Him, to help Him in saving
Israel and making her into a great nation.  Moses' first word to
Pharaoh was this, "The God of Israel saith, Let my people go."  Now,
Pharaoh's answer to this demand was haughty enough.  He answers, "Who
is the God of Israel?  I do not know him."  And he didn't, though he
might have known Him.  But God did not throw him away after this one
chance.  On the contrary, He gave him ample opportunity to know Him.

With this end in view God brought His infinite energies into play.
Wonder after wonder He worked in the presence of Pharaoh by the hand of
Moses.  At first these wonders were imitated by the magicians.  These
fakes, by their cunning, made it easy, at least for a while, for
Pharaoh to resist God.  They helped the King to close his royal eyes to
the truth.  They helped him to start with decision on his course of
rebellion.

But the magicians were soon outdone.  Moses began to perform wonders
that they could not imitate.  And they themselves were forced to
believe in the presence and might and reality of God.  And they who had
helped their king to go wrong, turned to him with this acknowledgment
on their lips, "It is the finger of God."  But it is easier to lead a
man astray than it is to lead him back.  It is easier for you, by your
godless and worldly life, to lead your children to despise Christ and
the Church than it is to lead them back after they have gone astray.
Pharaoh listened to the magicians when they counseled him to do wrong,
but he turned a deaf ear to them when they counseled him to do right.

Then followed that series of plagues upon Egypt that were always
preceded and always followed by this demand of God spoken through the
lips of Moses, "Let my people go that they may serve me."  You see what
God was demanding of Pharaoh.  It is the same that He demands of you
and me, obedience--that is all.  He is commanding us to surrender
ourselves to Him, to enter into His purpose.  And the one thing that
God wanted was the one thing that Pharaoh did not want.  But he was
becoming afraid and so he proposed to compromise.

In his fright he tells Moses that he will obey.  He will let the people
go.  That is, he said, "I will let part of them go.  I will let the men
go.  Leave the children here."  Pharaoh knew that just so long as he
kept the children in Egypt, just so long would Israel remain in
bondage.  And the devil knows to-day just so long as our homes remain
unchristianized, just so long will the world remain unchristianized.
We will never bring in the Kingdom by simply seeking to save an adult
generation.  We must give God a chance at the children or the cause of
righteousness is going to be defeated.  But if we will save the child,
we will surely save the world.

Then Pharaoh offered a second compromise.  He said, "I will let you and
the children go, but you must leave your cattle and your sheep.  You
must leave all your flocks and your herds."  That is, you may go into
Canaan if you must, but leave your business in Egypt.  And the devil
to-day is perfectly willing that you and I be just as pious and
prayerful as we want to be on Sunday, provided we forget all about such
things on Monday.  He is willing for you to be devoutly religious if
you will only confine your religion to the church.  But a religion that
does not permeate and purify and uplift and sanctify business and
business relations is not the religion of Jesus Christ.

And then Pharaoh offered a third compromise.  He said, "I will let the
people go, but they must not go far."  Why was that?  For the very
human reason that he wanted the privilege of getting them back.  He
said, for instance, "I will obey God, but I do not want to promise to
make my obedience permanent."  You have seen plenty of instances of
that.  Here is a man who has decided to be a Christian, but he won't
join the church.  He wants to see how he gets along first.  Such a man
is already making provision for going back.  "Take up thy bed," said
the Master to the paralyzed man whom He had healed.  He ever wants us
to make a complete break with the past.

But the plagues grow worse.  Pharaoh is becoming more and more
frightened.  While the scare is on he promises again and again that he
will obey the Lord unconditionally.  There was a terrible storm, you
remember.  The hail stones fell like shrapnel and the lightning dropped
from the clouds and fairly played along the earth, and terror gripped
the King's heart.  And he sends for Moses.  When Moses comes he tells
him, all atremble, "I have sinned this time.  I will let the people
go."  But when the storm ceases and the sun shines out he is quite
ashamed of his weakness.  He is so ashamed that he forgets altogether
the promise that he made when the fear of death was upon him.

This is a side of human nature that is a bit disgusting, yet we dare
not shut our eyes to it.  There are scores listening to me at this very
moment who have acted for all the world as Pharaoh acted.  And you have
done so with all the light that he had and far more.  I do not know of
a man that is in greater danger of being ultimately lost than that man
who never cares for religion except when he is scared.  Because the
truth of the matter is that a man of that kind does not care for
goodness or for God at all.  Not even in his moments of most abject
terror does he want to be truly saved.  He simply wants to escape the
results of his sin.  He does not want to pay the penalty for wrong
doing.  He wants to defeat the ends of justice.  He is not interested
in being good and pure and true.  He is simply interested in keeping
out of hell.

How patient God was with Pharaoh.  We are amazed at it till we think
how infinitely patient He has been with ourselves.  By storm, by black
night, by adversity after adversity, God is doing His best to fight
Pharaoh back from the Bed Sea.  He is doing all He can to turn him away
from committing suicide in body and suicide in soul.  But Pharaoh, as
some of ourselves, seemed absolutely greedy for damnation.  He seemed
completely bent on working out his own utter destruction.

After the king had broken one vow after another and lied and lied and
lied again, God brought the last dark providence into his life.  He
made one final effort to save him from his ruin.  Pharaoh was called to
kneel by the coffin of his first born.  And his hard heart seemed
softened at last.  By the grave of the Crown Prince he made a solemn
vow that he would obey God.  And he set about putting the vow into
execution at once.  And the children of Israel were not only allowed to
go, but they were hurried out of Egypt.

At last, at last, we say, with what infinite expense the man is brought
to obey.  But would you believe it the grass had not yet grown green
upon the grave of his boy till he forgot his vow and turned back to the
old life again.  Oh, what a grip sin gets on us.  Oh, how blind we
become if we persistently refuse to follow the light.  So Pharaoh
brushed his tears out of his eyes, gathered his army and set out after
the departing children of Israel.

I see the bustle and hurry of the setting out.  I see the look of hate
on the king's face as he comes within sight of his one time slaves.  He
laughs a mirthless laugh as he sees their predicament.  They are shut
in on either side.  The sea is in front and he and his army in the
rear.  What a sweet revenge he is going to have.

But look.  Something has happened.  There is a path through the sea.
These hunted slaves are marching in.  But it doesn't matter.  Wherever
Israel can go, the Egyptians can go.  So he and his army march in
behind.  They keep the Israelites in sight.  Now in the distance they
see that the last Israelite has reached dry land.

And then there is a great shriek that is quickly choked.  The waters
have come together again.  The sea waves roar about these struggling
soldiers like liquid hate.  The King is forgotten.  His men are madly
trying to save themselves.  A jeweled hand flashes in the light for a
moment.  There is an oath, a cry for help, a gulp, and silence.  And
the hungry sea has its prey.

Pharaoh, why are you here?  And if those dead lips could speak he would
say, "I am here because I persistently refused to obey God.  He offered
me the best and I spurned it and spurned it again till at last He threw
me here.  He did it because I made it impossible for Him to do anything
else."  And as I look at this wreck I think how different the story
might have ended.  This man might have had a part in the making of a
great people.  He might have been associated with Moses in giving to
the world a new nation.  He might even now be in the fellowship of
Moses among the tall sons of the morning.  For the difference between
this man and the great man Moses is not in the fact that God purposed
evil for the one and good for the other.  It is in this, that one was
obedient unto the heavenly vision, that one could say, "The grace that
was bestowed upon me was not in vain," and the other resisted and kept
resisting till he ran by every blockade that God could put in his path
and plunged headlong into destruction.



IX

A SON OF SHAME--JEPHTHAH

_Judges 11:35_

"I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back."  I like
these big words.  There is a ring of sterling strength in them.  They
have a robust masculinity that grips my heart.  They are not the words
of a weakling.  They have absolutely no savor of softness or moral
flabbiness.  They are not cheap.  They are high priced words.  They are
words made costly by a plentiful baptism of tragedy.  They are words
literally soaked in blood and tears.

This man Jephthah has made a vow.  And now the hour is upon him in
which it is his duty to make the vow good.  His vow involves far more
than he ever expected.  But that fact does not cause him to be untrue.
He has given his promise.  Pay day has come.  His promise involves
measureless sacrifice.  To keep it is to put out every star in his sky.
It is to pluck up every flower in his garden.  It is to change life's
music into discord.  It is to take from him the one he loves far better
than he loves his own life.  But even though the price is big, he will
not refuse to pay it.  Even though his promise is hard, he will keep
it.  "I have opened my mouth unto the Lord and I cannot go back."

Jephthah has had many hard things said about him.  He has been wronged
since before he was born.  I do not think that justice has been done to
his memory.  Frankly, I think he is one of the most heroic souls of Old
Testament history.  It is true that he would not fully measure up to
all our modern ideals, but remember this, he lived in the morning of
human history.  He lived when the light was dim.  And he was true to
the light that he had.  He was true with a rugged fidelity that will
cause him to rise up in the day of judgment and condemn many of us.

Jephthah, I say, has been greatly wronged.  He never had a fair chance.
He was wronged in his very birth.  He was the son of a father who was
unfaithful to his marriage vows.  Jephthah was a child of shame.  His
father had chosen to sacrifice upon the wayside altar.  His father had
had his fling.  He had sown his wild oats, and of necessity there was a
harvest.  His father suffered, but sad to say, he was not the only
sufferer.

How we need to be reminded again and again that no man ever sins alone.
No man ever walks from the path of virtue without he walks upon bruised
and bleeding feet.  He himself suffers, but what is sadder still, he
causes somebody else to suffer.  I cannot go to hell alone.  I cannot
plunge out into the dark without involving another soul, at least in
some measure, in my tragedy.  This father sinned.  It meant suffering
for him.  It also meant suffering for one who was altogether blameless.
It meant suffering for his boy.

Not only did Jephthah have as part of his life tragedy an unclean
father, but he had an unclean mother as well.  Jephthah's mother was
not one of those unfortunate souls, more sinned against than sinning,
who had made one false step for the sake of the man she loved.  She was
a professional outcast.  She was a woman who made it her business day
by day to sell herself over the counters of iniquity.  She was one of
those whose feet in all ages take hold on hell.

So Jephthah had a bad chance.  He was the fragment of a home that never
was.  He had no father that dared to own him.  And the first eyes into
which he looked were the eyes of an unclean woman.  And the first lips
that kissed him were lips soiled and stained by years of sinful living.
Poor little baby.  Poor little foundling.  Poor little outcast.  How
much he missed.

What are the most precious memories in your life to-night?  What are
the scenes to which you look back with deepest love and tenderness?  I
know.  They are the scenes of your childhood's home.

  "How dear to my heart are the scenes of my childhood,
    When fond recollection, presents them to view;
  The orchard, the meadow, the deep tangled wildwood,
    And every loved spot that my infancy knew."

But the secret of the fascination of those dear scenes is this, that we
saw them by the glow of the light of love.  We think tenderly of our
early homes because they were presided over by a father and mother who
knew God.  And the one cord that has failed to snap between us and a
good life is the cord that ties us still to the faith of our fathers
and our mothers.

But Jephthah missed all this.  His father was unfaithful.  His mother
was an unclean woman.  There were no tender and holy associations that
made it easy for him to be good.  There were no memories to come in
after years and whisper old half forgotten prayers.  There were no fond
recollections to lay their hands upon him with angelic tenderness and
lead him away from his City of Destruction.  He was a child of sin, a
child of blackness and of night, a child bereft of the inspiration of a
good mother's life and the sweet uplift of a pious home.

And not only was this man wronged in what he missed, he was equally
wronged in what he suffered.  Early he was branded with a shame not his
own.  I know of few places where society has been so unjust and unkind
as it has in its condemnation of those innocent ones who are the
victims of another's sin.  We forget that every child comes into the
world with the Father's kiss upon its clean soul regardless of the
circumstances of its birth.  We forget also that that child is no more
to blame for those circumstances than it is to be blamed for the
currents of the sea or for the darkness of the night.

But Jephthah was blamed.  Ugly names were flung at him before he was
old enough to know their dark and sinister meaning.  He was forbidden
to go to the big house of his father before he knew why he was not
allowed to go.  He was excluded from the games of those more
fortunately born than he, when he could no more understand why he was
excluded than he could keep back the bitter tears of childish
disappointment.  I can see him as he watches his half brothers and
sisters play in the distance, and his little heart is lonely and he is
hungry for a playmate.  And the gate is shut in his face, the gate of a
shame not his own.

By and by youthhood comes, and early manhood.  The parental estate is
to be divided.  Jephthah is disinherited.  He is driven from among his
people.  He is forced to flee for his life.  And he goes to take refuge
in Tob with its mountain fastnesses and with its rude heathens who are
less unkind than those kinsmen of his who claim to be worshippers of
Jehovah.

So we have here the material out of which this young man is called on
to build a life.  He has no parentage.  He has no kindred.  He has no
friends.  Nobody believes in him.  Everybody expects him to go wrong.
It seems even at times as if everybody wanted him to go wrong.  They
said, "Oh, yes, I know him.  I used to know his mother.  She died in
the gutter.  You can't expect anything of him."

And it is not at all difficult to go down when everybody expects you to
go down.  It is a great thing to have somebody to trust you.  That is a
tremendous help.  As long as you feel that there is somebody who counts
on you, who believes in you, you are not without an anchor.  I read the
other day of a little newsboy who was given a quarter that he might get
change.  And on his way back he was run over and crushed by an auto.
And the last word he said was, "Be sure and hunt him up and give him
back the change.  He trusted me."  But here is a young fellow exiled,
robbed, persecuted and mistrusted.  And out of this charred and ugly
material he is called upon to build a life.

And what is the result?  Well, he refused to surrender.  He said, "If
nobody else will believe in me I will believe in myself.  Since nobody
else will help me, I will help myself.  If I am to be robbed of my
inheritance I will make a way of my own."  And so he set to work.  He
did not spend his time hunting up his neighbors to tell them of his
misfortunes.  He did not put in his time boasting of what he would do
if he were as well off as his half brothers down in Israel.  He went to
work to build his fortune in the here and now.  And little by little he
won.

And then one day a runner came to him in the field and said, "Jephthah,
you have company at your house."  And the man looked up in surprise and
said, "Company!  Who is it?"  "A committee of elders from Israel."  And
Jephthah is astonished.  He is filled with wonder.  He is trying to
guess why they came.  And with the problem unsolved he goes to meet his
guests.

These elders greet him like a long lost son.  They tell him how they
rejoice in his prosperity.  They informed him how they had always known
that he would make good.  They let him know that they would never have
sent him out of Israel if they had had their way about it.  And then at
last they gather courage to tell him their errand.  And they say,
"Israel is being besieged by the Ammonites and we want you to come and
be the commander-in-chief of our armies."

Well, now that was a shock.  Here was a young fellow who began with
nothing, and worse than nothing.  But instead of whining, instead of
quitting, instead of complaining that he had no chance, instead of
putting in his time wishing that he was somewhere else, he did his duty
where he was.  And folks found it out and came to kneel at his feet and
ask him for help.  And I am not saying, young man, that every man gets
his just deserts, but I do say that in the overwhelming majority of
cases, if a man is really any account, sooner or later somebody will
find it out.  It may be true that

  "Full many a gem of purest ray serene
    The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear.
  Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
    And waste its sweetness on the desert air."

But I doubt if any gem of real human worth ever lies permanently
concealed.  I seriously question if any radiant flower of human
character ever wastes its sweetness on the desert air.  Learn to do
something that the world needs to have done and men will make a path to
your door even if you live in a desert.

They came and asked Jephthah for help.  It is a humiliating experience.
Now, I suppose those half brothers of Jephthah's down in Israel, those
fellows who had scorned him in his childhood, those fellows who had
robbed him of his share in the estate,--I suppose they did some loud
talking about the general being a kinsman of theirs.  Oh, they are very
much like we are.  We seldom boast of our relationship to an outcast,
but if we are one hundred and first cousin to somebody who is prominent
we are mighty apt to go about telling it.

Jephthah heard their request and promised to help them.  I think that
was fine of him.  It would have been so easy for him to have said, "Oh,
yes, you kicked me out when I was a little helpless waif.  When I
needed help you would not give it.  When I needed help you laughed at
my childish tears.  Now you need help, I will laugh at you."  But there
was nothing of revenge in him.  Wronged as he had been, he would not
nurse his wrongs.  He would not allow his bitter treatment to make him
bitter.

I wish we all were so wise.  You were injured years ago by somebody.
That somebody perchance was in the church.  And so you have never had
any use for the church since.  You have never had any use much for
anybody since.  You have been snarling and snapping.  Do you remember
Miss Harrisham in "Great Expectations"?  She was to be married.  All
arrangements were made.  The wedding cake was on the table.  But at
twenty minutes to nine a cruel note came telling her that the groom was
not coming.  Therefore, the clocks were all stopped at twenty minutes
to nine.  The cake stood upon the table till it rotted.  The blinds
remained drawn and no sunlight was ever allowed in the house again.
And life for her stopped at twenty minutes to nine.  One disappointment
wrecked her, embittered her, made her throw her life away.  But
Jephthah refused to be embittered.

He consented to go.  But before he undertook the campaign he stood
beside the altar of God.  This man had lived for years among heathens,
but they had not heathenized him.  He still stood true by the altar.
Circumstances were against him, but religion is not simply for the easy
situations in which we find ourselves.  Your test, as one has said, is
not how good you can be if you have a devoted saint on either side of
you down at the office.  Your test is what your religion can do for you
in the midst of a godless crowd.  Daniel's God was tested not in the
pleasant situations of his early home life.  The test was among his
foes.  It is amidst the horrors of a lion's den that the king's
question echoes, "Oh, Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God
whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee?"

Jephthah went to battle from the altar of prayer.  As he went he made a
vow.  It is the vow for which he has been most severely criticized.  It
is a vow that has caused his name among some to be branded with shame.
He vowed that if God would give him the victory he would offer to Him
whatever first came out of the door of his house to meet him on his
return.  It was a rash vow, I am ready to admit.  Yet rash as it was, I
do not find it in my heart to be severely critical of him.  I rather
join with Dr. Peck in my admiration.  You know what is the matter with
a great many of us smug church members?  We are so prudent.  We have
such admirable possession of all our faculties.  We are in danger of
dying of self-control.  This man in the white heat of his enthusiasm
made a solemn pledge to the Lord of that which was destined to be
infinitely the most precious thing in his life.  But some of us in our
prudence will not even make a pledge of a few dollars.  We say we do
not know how well we will be fixed next week or next month or next year.

You have heard of the man who subscribed $50 and refused to pay it,
saying that he was too religious that day to look after his own
interests.  Some of us never get that religious.  But all the encomiums
throughout the Word of God are uttered upon those who are utterly rash
in their giving.  The widow foolishly gave away all that she had.  And
Mary squandered a whole box of ointment when a few drops would have
been amply sufficient.  But it was their mad recklessness that made
them immortal.

Jephthah made his vow and went to battle.  He went confidently.  He
went believing that inasmuch as he had put himself and what he had at
God's disposal, that God would put Himself at his disposal.  And God
did not disappoint him.  He won the fight.  And now the victorious army
is marching home.  The soldiers are rejoicing.  But there is a strange
tenseness and anxiety in the general's face that the soldiers do not
understand.  Nobody understands but God and Jephthah.  At last they
round the bend in the road and the general comes in sight of his own
home.  And then suddenly his bronze face goes deadly pale.  He reels
upon his horse.  For out from the door of his home has come a lovely
girl with dark hair and sunny face, and she is singing a song of
welcome.

Father and daughter come face to face.  The girl is perplexed, and the
general strains her hard to his heart.  He is father and mother to her
at once, and she is all he has.  And the cup is bitter almost beyond
the drinking.  And he says, "Alas, my daughter, you have brought me
very low."  And he tells her his story.  And the girl with sweet
resignation understands, and the great sacrifice is made.

Jephthah was a hard man, you say.  Do not judge him in the light of the
twentieth century.  Judge him in the light of the day in which he
lived.  And remember this, that he had the manhood to keep his promise.
Remember that he had the sturdy courage to pay his vow.  "I have opened
my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back."  Oh, the world is saved
by the "cannot" men, by the men who have big impossibilities in their
souls.  Joseph says as he faces the temptation of his life, "I cannot
do it."  The apostles ordered to keep silent, say, "We cannot."  And
Jephthah with breaking heart and tear-wet face, tempted to break his
vow, says, "I cannot go back."

Oh, I know what we would probably have done.  We would have said to
ourselves, "Nobody knows that I made that vow anyway, nobody but God.
I made it in the secrecy of my own heart.  I never breathed a word into
any human ear.  If I go back on it, it will not matter so much.  It is
simply a promise that I made to God."  This man had not told his vow.
It was a secret between himself and his Lord.  He was not driven to the
performance of it by public opinion.  He was not urged to it, as flabby
Herod, "for the sake of those that sat with him."  He was urged to it
by his own unstained conscience and his sterling manhood.

Or he might have said, "I made the vow, it's true, but I made it under
pressure.  A great danger was threatening and a man is not to be held
responsible for a vow he makes in the presence of danger."  Did you
ever get frightened when a storm was on and promise God things, and
then go back on it?  Of course you have.  We have been false to one
another, some of us.  How many of us have been false to God!  How far
is this old hero ahead of ourselves!

Think of the vows that you have made as members of the church.  You
have not even fulfilled the vow you made to your groceryman.  Some of
you have not paid for the clothes that you have on, and never will.
Some of you have made pledges to the church and have forgotten them.
And just because the church won't sue you, you are going to break the
promise that you have made, not simply to men, but to God.

And what have you done with your church vows?  You have promised to
renounce the devil and all his works, the vain pomp and glory of the
world.  Have you kept your vow?  You have promised to obediently keep
God's holy will and commandments.  Have you been honest with God in
this matter?  You have promised to be subject to the rules of the
church and to attend upon its services, and some of you have trampled
on those rules flagrantly, openly, knowingly.  And remember that when
you took that vow it was not a pledge that you made to me.  You opened
your mouth that day unto the Lord.

And you that are here outside the church, may the lord help you to pay
your vows unto the Most High.  For there is hardly a single one of you
but that at some time has opened your mouth unto the Lord.  What about
that promise you made to God when you were sick?  I do not say you made
it into any human ear, but you breathed it in prayer into His ear.
What about the promise you made to God by the coffin of your baby?
What about the promise of consecration you made by the bedside of your
dying mother?  May the Lord help us to make this day a pay day.  May
the Lord give us the courage to say, "I have opened my mouth unto the
Lord, and I cannot go back."



X

A CASE OF BLUES--ELIJAH

_1 Kings 19:4_

One day you were reading in the New Testament and you came to that
surprising word from James: "Elijah was a man subject to like passions
as we are."  And if you were reading thoughtfully you stared at that
sentence in wide-eyed amazement.  And then in your heart you said, "It
isn't true.  Elijah's story doesn't read a bit like mine."

Then you thought of how he came and put his finger in Ahab's face and
made that face go white.  You thought of how he carried Heaven's key in
his pocket for three years and six months.  You thought of his lifting
the dead boy into life; of his victory on Carmel; of his quiet walk to
the little station beyond the Jordan where the Heavenly Limited met him
and took him home.  And again you felt like saying that James was
altogether mistaken.

To fortify yourself more fully you reread his story.  Then you came to
this passage and you read it with a gasp: "And he came and sat down
under a juniper tree," etc.  And down by the print of your foot you saw
the big footprint of the old prophet and you said, "After all, we are
very much alike.  After all, he got in the dumps, fretted and broke his
heart with the blues, even as I."

Now, what was the matter with Elijah?  He was not a natural and
deliberate pessimist.  There are some folks that are, you know.  There
are some people who study to be pessimistic.  They are the
"self-appointed inspectors of warts and carbuncles, the self-elected
supervisors of sewers and street gutters."  They pride themselves on
being guides to the Slough of Despond and on holding a pass key to the
cave of Giant Despair.

One such woman, being asked how she felt, said, "I feel good to-day.
But I always feel the worst when I feel the best because I know how bad
I am going to feel when I get to feeling bad again."  Two buckets went
to a well one day.  One sobbed and said, "Oh, me! it breaks my heart to
think that however full we go away from the well, we always come back
empty."  And its companion laughed outright and said, "Why, I was
congratulating myself on the fact that however empty we come to the
well, we always go away full."

One morning when the world was brimming with spring, two little girls
ran out into a garden where the dewdrops and the sunlight and God had
wrought the miracle of a hundred full-blown roses.  They looked at the
lovely scene and one went back and said tearfully, "Oh, mother, the
roses are blooming, but there is a thorn for every rose."  The other
looked and went back singing and said, "Mother, the roses are blooming
and there is a rose for every thorn."

No, this man was not a deliberate pessimist.  Had he been his name and
memory would have rotted long ago, for the men that bless us are the
hopeful men, the forward-looking men.  I read of a man who was put in
jail during the Boer War simply because he was always prophesying
disaster.  He was a discourager.  He refused to see anything hopeful.
And a man of that kind ought to be in jail because he is as harmful as
a man with the small-pox.  "He who steals my purse steals trash, but he
who filcheth from me" my sunny outlook, my expectation of the dawn of a
to-morrow, "takes that which not enriches him, but makes me poor
indeed."

What was the matter with Elijah?  Well, in the first place, he was
tired.  He was utterly spent.  He had just passed through a very trying
and exacting ordeal.  We can well imagine that the days just preceding
the test upon Carmel were toilsome days and the nights were sleepless
nights.  Then came the great day of contest and victory.  There was, of
course, no rest that day.  And, in the exhilaration of victory, you
know how he ran before the chariot of Ahab from Carmel to Jezreel, a
distance of seventeen miles.

Arrived there, he got a message from Jezebel threatening his life.  He
had expected, of course, that the men who had shouted "The Lord He is
God" would stand by him.  But they did not.  He had expected that even
Jezebel would be afraid to lift her voice in defense of the old
defeated heathenism of the past.  But here again he was much mistaken.
In fact, instead of tamely acknowledging defeat she sends him this
word: "So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life
as the life of one of them by to-morrow about this time."

Jezebel's threat totally upset the prophet's sense of victory.  He came
to feel that he had not won after all.  For the first time he gave way
to fear.  Cowardice rushed upon him and drove him, without rest, down
the road that led into the wilderness.  The terminus of this road was,
quite naturally, the juniper tree.

So one source of his discouragement, one secret of his being in the
blues, was that he was utterly tired.  It is hard indeed for a man to
be hopeful when his nerves are on edge.  It is hard for him to keep out
of the blues when he is completely exhausted.  As a tired body yields
at such times far more readily to physical disease, so does it yield
more readily to the exquisite torture of discouragement and depression.

A second reason for his collapse was a lost sense of the divine
fellowship.  Up to this time Elijah's every step had been ordered of
the Lord.  He had a sense of the Divine Presence that was continuous.
But Jezebel's threat had made him believe that he must look out for
himself.  So he took his case into his own hands.  And that is the road
that must always lead to the juniper tree.

Such a collapse is next to impossible as long as we keep on intimate
terms with God.  Yonder is man named Paul on a ship that is going to
pieces.  The sea "curls its lips and lies in wait with lifted teeth as
if to bite."  The sailors' faces are ghastly with hunger and panic.
But while despair grips every other heart and while death laughs with
hollow laughter amidst the popping timbers of this wrecking ship, this
man steadies himself and shouts, "Be of good cheer."  What is the
secret of his cheer?  "There stood by me this night the angel of God
whose I am."  He was saved by an intimate and personal sense of the
Divine Presence.  Elijah had lost this sense of the Divine.  Hence the
deep, dark night of utter discouragement was upon him.

Thus utterly wearied and his old intimacy with the Lord gone, the worst
naturally followed.  All his hopes seemed to fall about him.  There
came to him a heart-breaking sense of personal failure.  He sobbed out
the complaint: "I am no better than my fathers.  They allowed Israel to
drift into idolatry.  I have not been able to bring it back.  I have
accomplished nothing.  I toiled long and hard, dreaming that at the end
I would clasp the warm, radiant hand of success and victory, but in
reality I only clasp the skeleton hand of failure."

Have you ever had a feeling that you were of no account and never would
be; that in spite of all that God had done for you, you were a failure?
There are few things more fraught with heartache and bitterness and
discouragement than that.  That is something that makes you want to sob
and give over the fight utterly.  And there are a lot of folks that
allow themselves to come to that dismal conviction.  They work, and
nobody seems to appreciate it.  They toil, and nobody compliments them.
Then they decide that they do not amount to anything, and they feel
like giving over the fight.

I read the other day a fascinating essay from Frank Boreham.  In this
essay the author spoke of a certain discouraged friend of his.  He
declared it his purpose to help this friend by sending him a present.
And the strange present that he was going to send him was an onion.
Yes, he was going to wrap this onion in lovely tissue paper and put it
in a beautiful candy box and tie it with pink ribbon and post it to his
friend at once.

Now, why send him an onion?  Well, for the simple reason that though an
onion is one of the most valuable of all vegetables, though it is the
finest of relishes, though it has added piquancy to a thousand feasts,
yet nobody praises the onion.  Of course you know the author is right
here.  You may have read some great poetry in your time, poems on
daffodils, violets, roses, daisies.  Even you have known a great poet
who could write about a louse and a field mouse, but where do you find
a poem about an onion?  What orator waxes eloquent in its praise?  What
bride ever carries a bouquet of onions as a bridal bouquet?

This is true, of course, but why is it true?  Not because the onion is
useless.  The real reason is because it is so strong.  It is harder to
grow sentimental over great strong things,--though tears have been shed
over onions, as our essayist has pointed out.  There are some we
praise, you know, because we think that they need it to keep them
going.  They are weak.  There are others we do not praise because they
are so strong, or because, being strong, we expect strong things of
them.  The football hero receives an ovation when he makes a touchdown,
but no greater than the baby receives when it takes its first step.
There was more noise in the former case, but only because there was a
larger crowd of spectators.  So it is not wise to conclude that because
nobody is praising you, you are of no account in the world.

Not only did Elijah for the moment lose faith in himself, but he lost
faith in others as well.  He thought there was not a good man in all
Israel.  And if you want a short cut to wretchedness, get to a place
where you do not believe in anybody.  Some people seem to cultivate
this disposition as if it were an asset.  It is not an asset.  It is
the worst possible liability.  If you want to make a hell for yourself
in the here and now, cultivate the habit of seeing a selfish motive
back of every seemingly unselfish act.  School yourself to believe that
all men and all women have their price.  Say not in haste, but
deliberately, that "All men are liars."

That is the leading characteristic of the devil.  "Hast thou considered
my servant, Job," the Lord asked, "that there is none like him?"
"Yes," replied the devil, "I have considered him.  I know him through
and through.  I know him better than you do.  He is deceiving you.  He
is putting it over on you.  You think he loves you for yourself,--I
know that he loves you simply, because you are feeding him bonbons.
Let me touch him and he will curse you to your face."  That is the
devil's habit.  That is what makes him such a success as a devil.

If you do not believe in people no wonder you are miserable.  If you do
not believe that a fluctuating Simon can be changed into a rock; if you
do not believe that a Magdalene can, through the grace of God, become a
herald of the resurrection; if you do not believe that this world of
men is a salvable world; then it is not to be wondered at that you are
blue.  If you do not believe in the honesty and goodness and purity of
at least a few, I do not see how you can be in any other place than a
veritable perdition.

There are bad men, vicious men, godless men, but they are not all so.
Do not believe that they are.

  "There are loyal hearts, there are spirits brave;
  There are souls that are good and true,
  Then give the world the best you have
  And the best will come back to you.

  "Give love, and love to your heart will flow
  And strength for your utmost need.
  Give faith and a score of hearts will show
  Their faith in your worldly deed.

  "Give truth and truth will be paid in kind,
  And honor will honor meet;
  And a smile that is sweet is sure to find
  A smile that is just as sweet.

  "For life is the mirror of king and slave;
  It's just what we are and do.
  Then give the world the best you have
  And the best will come back to you."


But if you frown at the world the world is going to frown at you, and
if you mistrust it, it will mistrust you.  I used to stand as a boy on
the river bank on my father's farm and shout at the great rugged cliff
across the silver Buffalo River.  If I spoke kindly to the grim old
cliff, its answer would be in the same kindly tone.  If there was
harshness and menace in my voice, it came back the same way.  And life
is a big echo.  It speaks to us in the tone of our own voice.  It gives
us the faith or the unbelief that we ourselves give.

And with faith in self gone and also faith in men, it is not to be
wondered at that Elijah requested for himself that he might die.  But
though he made this request, it is not the real sentiment of his heart.
It is not the real Elijah speaking.  A man ought never to make an
important decision when he is in the blues.  He is not himself any more
than is a man under the influence of drink.  Elijah is not himself
here.  How do we know?  He really doesn't mean what he is saying.  How
do we know that?

Well, he is requesting for himself here that he, might die.  Now, if he
was really in earnest about dying, Jezebel would have attended to that
for him without any prayer on his part, if he had just stayed round
Jezreel for a while.  The truth of the matter is that the love of life
is strong in him.  The truth of the matter also is that he still
believes somewhat in himself and in God and in men.  He is just in the
blues now and is not saying what he really believes when he is at his
best.

When you get in the dumps and fret and fume and wish you were dead,
just stop right there and tell yourself that you are a liar.  You do
not wish anything of the kind.  I heard of a man once who was always
threatening to commit suicide.  He had a good friend who was a pious
man and who was grieved by such threats.  But he heard them till he
knew they meant nothing, so one day he stepped into this man's room at
the hotel, laid an ugly looking revolver down on the dresser and said,
"John, old man, you have been threatening to take your own life for
some time.  I do not want you to do it.  It is murder and you will have
no chance to repent.  I love you as I love myself.  For this reason I
have decided to kill you.  I will live long enough to repent.  So get
over there at the table and make your will."  And the man's face went
white and he wanted to wait till to-morrow.

How did God cure this man who was in the blues?  First, He used a very
commonplace remedy.  He put him to sleep.  He let him rest.  Rest is a
very religious thing for a tired man.  Now, a man who has overworked
himself needs to rest from his work.  A lot of blue people need rest
from idleness.  One big reason they are blue is because they have
nothing else to do.  God gave this man a rest.  That was the first step.

In the second place, He showed him his sin.  He showed him where he was
wrong and brought him to repentance and thus restored the old
relationship of the past.  He asked him this question: "What doest thou
here, Elijah?"  The emphasis is on the "doest."  Elijah must have
blushed at that question.  And he said, "Oh, I am whining.  I am
complaining.  I am trying to keep books, to add up a few columns of
figures and test by that as to whether I am a success or a failure."

Now, what the Lord wanted Elijah to learn is just what He wants you and
me to learn, that our job in this world is not bookkeeping.  It is not
for us to try to sum up the amount of good we have done.  It is not for
us to test whether we have succeeded or whether we have failed.  The
truth of the matter is that we are not always competent to tell the
difference between success and failure.  There are some seeming
successes that in reality are failures and there are some of the
supreme failures that have turned out to be the most glorious successes.

The greatest failure in the eyes of men that was ever made, was the
failure on Calvary, and yet it came to pass that the world's darkest
night was in reality the mother of its brightest day; that its grimmest
desert became its sweetest flower garden.  Do not break your heart and
tear your hair keeping books.

One of the sanest things I ever heard was spoken by an able preacher
who came one day to preach in my town.  There was almost nobody out to
hear him.  And he preached a wonderful sermon and closed with this most
sensible word: "I don't know what I have accomplished by coming to this
town.  I only know that I have come with God in my heart and have done
my best.  I am not keeping books.  God is doing that.  Some day on the
other side of the River I am going to take down my book and look at
it,--God will let me,--and I am going to see just what I accomplished
when I came to your town."  That is sensible and that is religious.

And so the Lord was saying to Elijah: "It is not your business to keep
books.  You do not know how to keep them, in the first place.  You
added up a column of figures and got zero.  I added it up and got
7,000.  Yes, there are 7,000 that have not bowed the knee to Baal.  You
have been a help.  You have been an inspiration.  You have not been a
failure, because you have walked with me."  God doesn't fail and the
man who walks with him will not fail.  He may not accomplish his
ambition.  He may not realize many of the great hopes of his life, but
if he lives in the secret place of the Most High his life will never be
a failure.

I read not long ago of a young woman who consecrated her life to God
for mission work in India.  She was ready for the great enterprise, but
just before she was to set sail for that far country, her mother was
taken sick with a lingering disease.  She had to stay and nurse her for
some three years.  Then the Angel of Release came and the mother went
home.

Preparations were made a second time for her setting out to India.  But
from a little home in the distant west there came a call for help.  A
widowed sister of this would-be missionary was sick and there were
three little children to be cared for.  She went to her sister's
bedside.  In a short time the sister died and the three little orphans
were left on her hands, and the one big hope of her life had to be
given up.  It seemed strange.  It seemed hard.  Yet she remained true
to the task that lay nearest.  At last all three children were able to
look after themselves.  But by that time she herself was too old to go
to her loved mission field.

Then one day one of those orphans for whom she had given up her life's
dream put her arms around her neck and told her that she was going to
be a missionary and that the field that she had chosen was India.  And
in later days the other two told the same story.  So they all three
went away to India to which she had so longed to go.  And as they
passed out to the land of her love and her prayers this heroic soul
knew that she had not failed.  And so God's call to Elijah, to you and
to me is to leave off our heart-breaking bookkeeping, to put our hands
in His and to resume the journey.  And as we go we shall in some way
shake off our discouragement as a hampering garment and we shall find
ourselves in the sunlight once more.  And we shall come to know for
ourselves that "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is
stayed on Thee."



XI

THE SUPREME QUESTION--THE PHILIPPIAN JAILER

_Acts 16:30, 31_

"What must I do to be saved?"  That question was asked by a startled
jailer.  He was amidst strange and perplexing happenings.  He had just
seen wonderful sights.  He was being shaken by unfamiliar terrors.  For
these terrors he sought relief and so he asked this infinitely wise
question: "What must I do to be saved?"

But this jailer is not the only man that has ever asked that question.
He is not the first man that asked it.  This is a universal question.
Men of all times and of all climes have asked and sought an answer to
this question.  The cultured Greeks tried to answer it by building
altars to many gods.  Then realizing that they had missed it, they
sought further by building an altar to "the Unknown God."  It was in an
effort to answer this question that children were once sacrificed to
the fire god, Moloch.  And it is the struggle to answer the same
question that causes the Indian mother to-day to cast her baby into the
Ganges and to come home with empty arms and with an empty heart.

I heard a missionary from the heart of Africa say some years ago that
he used to live among the savage tribes of the far interior.  They were
people of the lowest type.  They wore no shred of clothing.  But in
their wild and barbarous religious dances they would swing round and
round till they frothed at the mouth and fell down rigid.  It was their
way, said the missionary, of asking the supreme question: "What must I
do to be saved?"

This was a dramatic moment in this jailer's life.  It was a moment big
with blessing.  Look at the picture.  Two strange preachers have come
to this Roman city of Philippi.  Their preaching has brought them into
conflict with the authorities.  They are drawn before the magistrates.
Their clothing is torn from them and they are severely beaten.

It seems that this would have been shame enough and pain enough, but it
was not.  They were then turned over to a callous and cruel Roman
jailer with the order that he should keep them fast.  So he threw them
into the inner dungeon and made their feet fast in the stocks.  The
place was foul and cold and dark.  Their backs were lacerated and
bleeding.  And this wag their reward for seeking to bring to men the
unsearchable riches of Christ.

Now it was dark enough for these two.  But they did not lose heart.
First they prayed.  I can imagine they prayed secretly and then they
prayed aloud.  And those people in prison heard the voice of prayer for
possibly the first time in their lives.  Now, real prayer always makes
things different.  It brings us a consciousness of God.  And so as
these men prayed their hearts grew warm and joyous till by and by
prayer gives place to praise and they begin to sing.

I have wondered what these people sang that night.  It might have been
the Twenty-third Psalm.  Or they might have sung, "I will bless the
Lord at all times.  His praise shall continually be in my mouth.  My
soul shall make her boast in the Lord.  The humble shall hear thereof
and be glad."  Or the Thirty-seventh Psalm would have sounded well in
the darkness of that hideous dungeon,--"Fret not thyself because of
evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green
herb."  But I think the most likely of all is the Forty-sixth: "God is
our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.  Therefore
will we not fear though the earth be removed and though the mountains
be carried into the midst of the sea."

Whatever they sang it was great singing.  I think the angels opened the
windows when they heard it.  I think it made the very heart of our Lord
glad.  What a surprise it was to those in that gloomy old prison.  They
had heard the walls ring with groans and shrieks.  They had heard
bitter oaths in the night, but songs with the lilt of an irrepressible
joy in them--they had never heard anything like that before.

Now as the melody rang through the gloomy cells something else
happened.  The old building seemed to be shaking with the very power of
the music.  An earthquake was on and God took this petty prison in His
hand and shook it as a dicer might shake his dice box, and all its
doors were thrown open and the fetters were shaken from the feet of
those that were bound.  And the old jailer is shaken out of his
complacency and out of his bed and a great terror grips him.

I can see him as he picks himself up and looks about him in dismay.
The doors are open.  He is sure that the prisoners are gone.  He knows
that his life will be to pay.  He will not face the shame of it.  He
will inflict justice upon himself.  He draws his sword and prepares to
thrust it through him, but Paul's eyes were upon him, and knowing his
purpose he shouts at him, "We are all here, Jailer.  Do thyself no
harm."

There is love in that cry, tenderness in it, longing in it that the
jailer could not understand.  Neither could he fail to realize the
might of it.  It touches him deeply.  He is gripped by another terror,
the terror that has come through the presence of these strange men who
have brought the things of eternity to seem real to him.  And urged on
by that new terror he rushes to these men of bleeding backs and
tattered garments and throws himself at their feet with this great
question in his heart and upon his lips, "Sirs, what must I to do be
saved?"

Now, I am aware of the fact that this jailer was a heathen and I am not
accusing him at all of being a great theologian.  I do not know how
learned he was.  I do not know whether he could read or write or not.
I do not know whether he was widely traveled or not.  He may have never
been beyond the precincts of his own city.  But what I do know is this,
that he asked the biggest question that ever fell from human lips.
There can be no greater.  It was the greatest for him.  It is the
greatest for you.  It is the greatest for me.  "What must I do to be
saved?"  There is no question quite so big as that.

And I am wondering now if it is a big question to you.  Remember, it is
not: What must I do to be decent?  It is not: What must I do to be
respectable?  These things are all right, but they are not supreme.  It
is not: What must I do to get rich?  Millions of us are asking that
question as if it were the one question of eternal importance.  But you
know that it is not.  It is not: What must I do to be beautiful?  Some
of us are asking that question too, and some of us, I am sorry to say,
are missing the answer to it very much.  But that is not the big
question.  The supreme question is: "What must I do to be saved?"

What is implied in this question when it is asked intelligently?  There
is implied first of all that there is an absolute difference between
being saved and lost.  There is implied in it that there are two
classes of people, not the cultured and the uncultured, not the learned
and the unlearned.  They are the saved and the lost.  They are those
that have life and those that do not have life.

I am perfectly aware that we of to-day do not like such dogmatic
divisions.  But I call your attention to the fact that they are the
divisions that are made in the New Testament.  They are the divisions
that Jesus made.  He puts folks into two classes, and only two.  There
were two gates, one was broad and the other narrow.  There were two
foundations on which a man might build, one was of sand and the other
of rock.  Mark you, He did not divide men into the perfect and the
imperfect, but into those that had life and those that did not have it.
And it was He that said, "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that
hath not the Son hath not life."  So this question, if it means
anything, means that there is such a thing as being saved and there is
such a thing as being lost.  That fact is recognized throughout the
entire Bible.

This question implies, in the second place, a consciousness of being
lost.  "What must I do to be saved?"  When this man asked that question
there were many things about which he was uncertain.  He was uncertain
as to how he was to get out of his darkness.  He was uncertain as to
how he was to be saved, but of one thing he was sure--he was dead sure
that he was lost.  He did not try to dodge that fact.  He did not shut
his eyes to it.  He did not try in any way to deny it.

And, if you are here without God I hope you will not deny it.  For if
you have not taken Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you are lost.
Then the best thing you can do, the first step to be taken in the
direction of getting saved, is to realize your lostness.  A man will
not send for the physician unless he believes himself sick.  He will
not try to learn unless he realizes his ignorance.  Neither will he
turn to God for salvation unless he realizes that he is lost.  Oh, it
is a good day for a man when he gets a square look at himself.  It is a
great day when he has a glimpse of himself as God sees him.  It is a
great hour when, conscious of his guilt, he bows himself in the
presence of Him who alone can save and says, "God, be merciful unto me
a sinner."

This question implies, in the third place, not only that the man is
lost who asked it, but that there is a possibility of his being saved.
"What must I do to be saved?"--and here was a man conscious of being
lost, conscious of being sin scarred and stained and guilty, yet he
believes, and he is right in believing, that salvation is possible for
him.  He believes that even he can be saved unto the uttermost.  There
is such a thing as salvation and it is possible for me, even me, to lay
hold of it.

And you too must realize that, otherwise it will do you no good to
realize the fact that you are a sinner.  It is not enough to know
yourself lost.  You must also believe that you may be saved.  It is not
enough to realize that you are weak: you must believe that is possible
for you to be strong.  You must believe that even a fluctuating Simon
can be made into a rock.  You must believe in the power of God to
remake men, otherwise for you the question is only a question of black
despair.

This question implies, in the fourth place, a willingness to be saved.
"What must I do to be saved?"  This man is not asking this question to
gather material for a future argument.  He is no speculator.  He is no
trifler.  He is not even asking it because he is intellectually
curious.  He is not simply asking that he may know the conditions of
salvation.  He is asking with the earnest purpose in his heart to meet
those conditions.

This question implies, in the fifth place, that while salvation is a
possibility for you, you must do something in order to obtain it.
"What must I do to be saved?"  What sort of an answer would you expect
to a question like that?  What did the apostle say?  Did he say, "Do
nothing.  Let the matter alone.  Forget it.  Drift?"  That is what many
of us are doing.  No, sir, he said nothing of the kind.  He told this
man to do something.  And this man knew, as you and I know, that if we
are ever saved we have got to do something in order to get saved.

I say every one of us knows that, and yet too few of us act as if it
were really true.  We seem to think that salvation is something that we
are going to stumble upon by accident.  We seem to think it is
something that we are going to receive with absolutely no effort on our
own part.  We act as if we thought it might be slipped into our pockets
while we sleep or dropped into our coffins when we die.  Ask the
question intelligently, heart,--"What must I do to be saved?"  Then you
will realize that you must do something.

This question implies, in the first place, that the conditions of
salvation are not optional, that it is not up to you and it is not up
to me to decide just what we will do in order to be saved.  You can
accept salvation or you can refuse it.  You can meet the conditions or
you can refuse to meet them.  But one thing you cannot do.  You cannot
decide upon the terms upon which you will surrender.  If you are saved
at all you must surrender unconditionally.

So the question is, "What _must_ I do to be saved?"  It is not, What is
the expedient thing or what is the respectable thing or what is the
popular thing to do in order to find salvation?  The conditions are not
of your choosing and they are not of mine.  God has made them and you
and I dare not change them.  Therefore, if you are ever saved there is
not something simply that you ought to do, but there is something that
you absolutely must do.

Last of all, this question implies that salvation is an individual
matter.  "What must _I_ do?"  It is not a question of what must God do.
He has made full provision for the salvation of the whole world.  It is
not what must the Church do.  It is not what must the preacher do.  It
is not what must this man that is beside me and this man that is behind
me or in front of me do.  The question comes to my own heart--"What
must _I_ do?"

"What must I do to be saved?"  You must do something, but there are
many things that we are doing that will not save us.  If you expect to
be saved, in the first place, do not depend on your own goodness.  "All
your righteousnesses are but as filthy rags."  Do not count on your own
decency.  No man was ever saved that way.  I challenge you to find one
single one.  I was holding a meeting some years ago and I met a young
fellow who told me he was good enough without Jesus Christ.  Of course
he was not saved.  A man who says that virtually tells Christ that He
has misunderstood his case altogether and that Calvary was a wasted
tragedy so far as he himself is personally concerned.

Neither will you be saved trusting in the other man's badness.  I know
what some of you are saying to yourselves as I preach.  You are telling
yourselves one of the oldest lies that was ever told.  You are saying,
"I would be a Christian but there are so many hypocrites in the
Church."  How many men give that as a reason, but it is no man's
reason.  And I never knew one man to be saved by it.  Believe me, the
shortcomings and the sins of my brother are mighty poor things to
depend on for my own personal salvation.

Again, you will not be saved by seeking an easy way.  You will never
win by catering to your own pride and cowardice.  I was conducting a
revival in a Texas city some years ago.  At the close of one of the
services a young lady came forward to shake hands with the preacher.
As she did so she said, "I am going to become a Christian."  I
congratulated her upon her decision, but she answered, "Oh, I do not
mean right now.  I mean I am going to be very soon."

"You see," she continued, "it is like this: I am going in a few days to
visit some of my relatives that live way back in the country.  There is
going to be a revival nearby.  It will be easy for me to make the
decision there because nobody knows me.  But here it is different.
Everybody knows me here and I simply haven't the courage to come out
and take an open stand for Jesus Christ."  She went into the country as
she planned but she was not saved.  Of course not.  Nobody ever found
salvation by catering to his own cowardice and pride and seeking an
easy way.

"What must I do to be saved?"  There is an answer to this question.  It
is an answer that is absolutely dependable.  There is nothing in all
the world of which I am more sure than I am of the correctness of the
answer to this question.  I am as sure of it as I am of my own
existence.  I am as sure of it as I am of the fact of God.

I wonder if you are interested to know the answer.  Remember that it is
the answer to your supreme question.  It is the answer to the most
important question that was ever asked.  It is the most important that
you will ever be called to act upon in this world.  Does the prospect
of an answer quicken your heartbeat?  Does it shake you out of your
lethargy into intensest interest?  It ought to if it does not.  For the
answer that I give is not the answer of a mere speculator or dreamer.
It is the answer of inspiration and it is an answer whose truth has
been tested by the personal experience of countless millions.  "What
must I do to be saved?"  Answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and
thou shalt be saved."

What is it to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?  It is to believe that
Jesus Christ can do what He claims to do and what He has promised to do
and to depend on Him to do it.  Mr. Moody tells us how that he was in
his cellar one day when he looked up and saw his little girl making an
effort to see him.  She could not because it was dark in the cellar.
"Jump," said Mr. Moody, "Daddy will catch you."  And instantly the
little girl jumped.  Now, that was faith.  That was believing on her
father.  So the jailer believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.  He depended
upon Him then and there for salvation.

And what happened?  He was saved.  That very moment Christ came into
the man's heart and he became a new creation.  He became possessed of a
new joy.  He became possessed of a new tenderness.

Did you notice what he did?  He took water and washed the stripes of
the preachers.  Paul and Silas were bleeding when they came to the
prison but the jailer did not care.  But now that he had found Christ
he has already begun to be a partaker of the divine nature.  A new love
has come to him.  He has become tender where he was cruel before.  Even
so does the power of Jesus Christ make men over.

Now, this question: do you want to be saved?  If you do you can be.
It's the surest thing in all the world.  It is as sure as the fact that
night follows day.  It is more sure than the fact that if you sow wheat
you will reap it, that if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you
shall be saved.  Test the matter now and you will know the blessed fact
in your own experience.



XII

THE MOTHER-IN-LAW--NAOMI

It is thoroughly refreshing to come upon this exquisite bit of
literature called "Ruth."  It follows, as you know, immediately after
the bloodstained stories we read in Judges.  It shows that while there
was war and confusion and hate there was also friendship and love and
romance.  It is a bit of exquisite beauty elbowed on either side by
ugliness.  This delightful story comes to us like a glad surprise.  It
is like finding a spring bubbling up in the desert.  It is like
plucking roses amidst ice bergs.  It is like finding a violet in the
very crater of a volcano.

I hope you have read the Book of Ruth and are familiar with it.  If you
haven't you have slighted one of the sweetest and tenderest stories
ever told.  If you haven't you have neglected about the most delicate
and winsome idyl to be found in ancient or modern literature.  I have
read some good literature, first and last.  I have read poetry that
lifted the heart and "set the soul to dreaming."  I have read prose
strong as granite and songful as a mountain brook.  But I confess to
you, if I wanted to find a finer piece of literature than the book of
Ruth, I would be at a great loss to know where to search.

The author sets you down at once amidst strange scenery.  And the
characters, while genuinely human, are also full of the witchery of
romance and poetry.

Here is the story.  The rains have failed in the Bethlehem country and
the harvests have been exceedingly meager.  A certain little family
composed of husband, wife and two children, is having a hard fight to
keep the wolf from the door.  Elimelech, the husband, can find no work
and Naomi, the wife and mother, "kneads hunger in an empty bread tray,"
and goes through the daily torture of being asked for bread that she is
not able to supply.

Then one dark day the husband comes home utterly discouraged.  He takes
up the discussion where it was left off the day before.  "Yes," he
says, "there is nothing else to do.  There is no bread in the land.
There has been rain in Moab.  We can go there.  I do not know how they
will receive us, but at any rate, they can only kill us and that is
better than starvation."

And Naomi's sad face becomes a shade sadder and she says, "The will of
the Lord be done.  But I had so hoped that we might be able to remain
in the land of our fathers.  You see, my dear, it is not of myself that
I am thinking.  We have two boys.  We do not want to rear them in Moab.
Moab, I know, is not far off physically, but it is a long way morally.
If we go there we may lose our children.  The time may even come when
they will break the law of Moses and marry among the Moabites."

But, hard as it was for her to consent, at last she was driven into it
by sheer starvation.  And we see the pathetic little family scourged by
hollow-eyed hunger from the land of their fathers into the land of the
heathen Moabites.  Just what their reception was there we are not told.
However, I am quite sure that they were received more kindly than they
had expected.  Their want and their own kindness seemed to have opened
the hearts of the strangers among whom they went to live.  Certain it
is that the husband and father was able to find sufficient work to keep
from actual starvation.  By and by times grew better.  The pinch of
poverty let up, and they began to feel somewhat at home in the land of
their adoption.

But the boys were playing with the children of the Moabites.  Of course
they were.  All children are alike.  They know no barriers of kindred,
of class or of religion.  A child is the true democrat.  Sad to say, we
soon train him out of this.  But he is a thorough democrat by nature.
He plays as gladly with the son of a scrub woman as with the son of a
queen.  He lavishes his love as freely upon a pickaninny as upon a
prince.  So these Jewish boys were playing with the heathen children.

Then a few years went by and the pious father and mother came to
realize with horror that their two boys were actually in love with two
Moabitish girls.  Not only did they love them, but they even wanted to
marry them.  This was a calamity indeed.  I can hear the protests of
the father and mother.  They warn them of the danger of such marriages.
They plead the law of Moses.  But all in vain.  And we are not
surprised.  You might as well get in front of Niagara Falls and say
"Boo!" and expect it to flow back the other way, as to try to reason
with the average young fellow who is in love.  Both boys married
Moabitish women.

And then what did this wise and godly father and mother do?  They did
not do what is so usual in cases of an unwelcome marriage.  Our boy or
our girl makes what seems to us a foolish and ruinous marriage.  Then
what do we do?  We declare that we will never speak to them again, that
they shall never darken our doors.  And we thereby help on a disaster
that might never have come.  Naomi and her husband had better sense.
They took the wives of their two sons, heathens though they were, into
their home and into their hearts.  They felt sure that that was the one
way that promised a remedy.

Then one day disaster came to the little home of the strangers.  The
husband and father died, and Naomi was left with the whole
responsibility of the family upon her lone shoulders.  Her
daughters-in-law had seen her in her joy.  They marked her also in her
sorrow.  They were impressed, no doubt, by her calmness and her
strength.  She walked with the sure and quiet step of one who felt
underneath her and round about her the Everlasting Arm.

Then the final disaster came.  Both the boys died.  Naomi was not only
a widow, but she was childless.  There were now no bonds that held her
longer from the land of her fathers.  She decides, therefore, to
return.  Her two daughters-in-law are to accompany her as far as the
border of Moab.  There they are to bid her farewell and then go each
her own way.  They make the journey, these three women, to the borders
of Moab.  Here Orpah tells Naomi good-bye.  She parts from her with
real grief and regret, for she loves her genuinely.  I think I can hear
her sobbing as she takes her lone way back to her own people.

Then it is Ruth's time to say good-bye.  I see her as she flings her
arms about the neck of Naomi and there she clings.  "There, there,"
says the older woman, "you must be gone now.  Your sister is going.
She will turn the bend of the road in a minute.  Go after her and God
grant that you may find rest each in the house of her husband."

But Ruth clings only the tighter.  And then she makes a confession.  It
is a confession of love.  And nothing finer in point of tenderness and
beauty was ever uttered by human lips.  I hope you are not too old to
thrill over a love story.  John Ridd's devotion to Lorna Doone still
stirs my heart.  And there is the confession of a heroine in another
story that we can never forget.  "Tell him I never nursed a thought
that was not his; that daily and nightly on his wandering way pour a
woman's tears.  Tell him that even now I'd rather work for him, beg
with him, walk by his side as an outcast, live on the light of one kind
smile from him, than wear the crown that Bourbon lost."

That is a beautiful confession.  It is made by a woman to a man.  But
this was made by a woman to a woman.  And strangest of all, it was made
by a daughter-in-law to a mother-in-law.  Ruth has this distinction, if
none other, that she loved her mother-in-law.  Her mother-in-law, mind
you, that creature who has been the butt of evil jokes in all
languages; the one who has proved the dynamite for the wrecking of not
a few homes.  This confession is the confession of a daughter-in-law to
a mother-in-law.

It is the confession of youth to age.  It is spring-time clinging to
winter.  It is June flinging its arms in a passionate tenderness around
the neck of November.  "It is time you were going," said Naomi.  And
Ruth's arms clung all the closer and this exquisite bit of poetry fell
from her lips, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from
following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou
lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people and thy God my
God: where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord
do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me."

You cannot beat that.  No confession of love has ever surpassed it.
But it is more than a confession of love.  It is also a confession of
faith.  It is the declaration of a strong woman's choice.  As Ruth
clings to the woman she loves she announces her decision, a decision to
which she remained true through all the future years.  "Thy people
shall be my people and thy God my God."

And the people of the little village of Bethlehem had something
interesting to talk about a few days later.  Two strange women had come
their way, women who were poverty-stricken and homeless.  One of them
was a Jewess.  The other was a Gentile.  Neither of them was welcome.
Naomi had lost her place in the life of the community.  Ruth, the
Moabitess had never had any place.

The days that immediately followed their arrival were sad and bitter
days.  But the younger woman, with a fine courage, refuses to be a
burden.  Instead, she will be the support of the mother of her dead
husband.  So she takes upon herself the menial task of a gleaner.  It
is harvest time and she goes out into the fields to glean.

Now, it happens in the good providence of God, that the field in which
she went to glean belonged to a very rich and prosperous man named
Boaz.  And to that very field where Ruth was gleaning Boaz came that
day.  He was a young, vigorous, and positive man.  He was accustomed to
command.  There was a dignity about him that made him seem older than
his years.  Everybody respected him.  He was just and generous and
religious.

No sooner was he among the workers than his attention was attracted by
the winsome young stranger from Moab.  I do not know why he should
notice her at once, but I have a fancy that Ruth was attractive, that
she had personality and charm.  I feel confident that she had that
superior beauty that is born of superior character.  Anyway, the great
landlord saw her and was interested.  And he spoke kindly to her, and
when Ruth got home that evening she had an interesting story to tell.

And Naomi--wasn't she interested?  I can see the flush of her face and
the sparkle of her eye across the centuries.  She is a woman, too,
every ounce of her.  And being a woman, she is by instinct and by
nature a match maker.  She guesses at once what is going on in the
hearts of these two young people.  And she sets about with delicate
good sense to help them to understand each other.  By her wise advice
things turn out just as they ought to turn out, and . . . "they lived
happy ever after."

Who is the heroine of this exquisite story?  I know that first place is
given to Ruth.  And I am in no sense disposed to try to put her in an
inferior position.  She cannot be honored too highly.  She is so
absolutely lovable.  But I am going to give first place to Naomi.  I do
not do this because she is more winsome than Ruth.  I do it because she
accounts for Ruth.  If it had not have been for Naomi, Ruth would have
lived and died a heathen in the land of Moab.

Now, what are some of the lessons that we learn from the beautiful life
of this ancient woman, Naomi?  Were we privileged to sit down beside
her in the Father's house to-day, she could teach us many wonderful
lessons.  But one truth she would impress upon us would be this: that
life's greatest losses may, through the grace of God, become its
richest gains.  She would tell you then of the black despair of those
days when she was being driven from her home by the cruel hand of
poverty.  She would not hesitate to say that it was very difficult for
her to keep up faith in God in those dark days.  "But the Lord was
sending me then to find Ruth.  You know He had to have her.  The world
could not keep house without her at all.  Yet I would never have found
her but for my terrible poverty."

Then, I think she would tell how she was beginning to feel at home in
Moab.  "My life was taking root in that foreign soil.  I was about
making up my mind to live my life there.  Then death came.  One by one
I buried my loved ones till not one of my own flesh and blood was left.
Then it was that I resolved to come back home.  It was my bitter loss
that sent me back.  I would never have come back but for that.  And had
I not come back the marriage of Ruth with its blessed outcome would
never have been possible."

This woman learned the fine art of capitalizing her calamities.  In the
midst of all her poverty and heartache she kept firm her faith in God.
And she came thus to realize the sufficiency of His grace.  She came to
know, even in that distant day, the truth of Paul's great word, "All
things work together for good to them that love God."  There are times,
I know, that it is hard for us to believe this, just as there were
times when it was hard for Naomi to believe it.  But there came a day
when she was privileged to know the truth of it in her own experience.
And if you cling to your faith you, too, will come to know, if not
here, then by and by.

Then we learn from Naomi, as another has pointed out, the power for
blessing that may be in one consecrated life.  Naomi was a very hidden
and obscure woman.  Had you walked by her side as, hunger driven, she
left her native land, she would not have told you anything of the great
destiny that was ahead.  She never dreamed of enriching the world as
she did.  It never occurred to her that she was to be one of the great
light bringers of all the centuries.  And yet such was to be the case.
The world simply could not get on without Naomi.  It could not for the
simple reason that Naomi led Ruth into the knowledge of God and into
the fellowship of the people of God.

"Thy people shall be my people and thy God my God."  That is Ruth's
confession of faith.  How did she come to make it?  How did this lovely
heathen ever come to fall in love with Naomi's people?  She had never
even seen them.  She made up her mind, however, that they were the
people, of all others, that were most worth knowing.  She made up her
mind that they must be very winsome and very lovable people.  How did
she come to that conclusion?  Answer: By association with her
mother-in-law.  That is also how she came to fall in love with God.
She was led to the realization of the charm of Him through the
God-possessed personality of Naomi.

So it was Naomi who won Ruth to God.  It was Naomi who made possible
Ruth's successful marriage.  Then one day the sweet angel of suffering
came to the home where the one-time-stranger lived and Ruth held her
first-born in her arms.  And the years went by and there was another
child born among the Judean hills and the sunshine was tangled in his
hair and countless songs were pent up in his heart.  And he so sang and
battled and sinned and repented that everybody loved him and we thank
God still for David.  And David was Ruth's grandbaby.

Then other years went by and there was a burst of light upon those
Judean hills.  And there was music from a choir that came from that
country where everybody sings.  "There were shepherds abiding in the
fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night.  And the angel of the
Lord came upon them and the glory of the Lord shone round about them
and they were sore afraid.  And the angel said, 'Fear not, ye, for
behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which shall be to all the
people; for there is born unto you this day, in the city of David, a
Savior who is Christ the Lord.'"  And that Savior was another one of
Ruth's grandbabies.

But in the purpose of God, neither David nor David's Greater Son would
have been possible without Naomi.  And so one woman remaining true to
God became a roadway along which the Almighty walked to the
accomplishment of His great purpose, even the salvation of the world.



XIII

CONFESSIONS OF A FAILURE--THE BUSY MAN

_1 Kings 20:40_

In 1 Kings 20:40 you will find the text.  "As thy servant was busy here
and there, he was gone."  This is part of a parable that was spoken by
a certain prophet to King Ahab.  This prophet was seeking to rebuke the
king for his leniency in dealing with Benhadad, whom he had overcome in
battle.  It is not our purpose, however, to discuss this parable in
relation to its context.  We are going to consider it altogether apart
from its surroundings.  We will rather study it as it is related to
ourselves.  Here then, is the story of this man's failure from his own
lips.  "Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold,
a man turned aside and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man:
if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or
else thou shalt pay a talent of silver.  And as thy servant was busy
here and there, he was gone."

I imagine I meet this soldier immediately after he has been put in
charge of his important captive.  He walks with the purposeful stride
of one who knows his task and who is setting seriously about doing it.
He seems to appreciate the honor that has been conferred upon him.  He
seems also to have a sense of the serious responsibilities involved.
And when he takes his position before the cell of his prisoner he
watches with all diligence.

But when I pass his way again next day I am greatly shocked.  My
soldier is no longer on guard.  Another had taken his place.  And when
I look about for the important prisoner that has been captured at the
price of blood and conflict he is no longer to be seen.  Upon inquiry I
find that he has escaped.  In his place, bowed down with shame and
dressed in chains, is the man who yesterday was a guardsman.

I cannot pass him by without a question.  "How did this come about?" I
ask.  "Were you surprised and overcome?  Did your fellow soldiers allow
a strong company to break through their lines and to overpower you and
take your prisoner from you?  Did a strong hand strike you down from
behind in the dark?  How is it that your prisoner had escaped?"

And the man, without being able to look me in the eye, answers, "No, he
did not escape because I was overpowered.  He did not escape because I
was surprised.  He escaped because I was too busy to watch him."  "Too
busy," I answer in amazement, "too busy doing what?  What task did you
find more important than saving your country and saving your own home
and saving your own honor?"  "Oh, no task in particular," he answers.
"I was just busy here and there."  That is his confession.  "As thy
servant was busy here and there, he was gone."

And the man is sentenced to death.  And we must admit that the sentence
is just.  Not that he has committed any aggressive crime.  He has not
cut anybody's throat.  He has not stabbed anybody in the back.  He has
not stolen anything.  He is not being punished for what he has done.
He is being punished for what he has failed to do.

And that kind of sin, let me warn you, is just as dangerous and just as
killing as positive and aggressive sin.  How foolish are they who think
they are pious simply because they do no wrong.  How absurd it is to
get it into your minds that a man is a Christian by virtue of what he
does not do instead of by virtue of what he does.  Now, I know that
there are certain sins that are damaging and damning, but in order to
be lost now and ever more it is not necessary to be guilty of any of
them.  All that is necessary is that you do what this man did, and that
is fail in your duty.

This is what our Lord taught us again and again.  What was wrong with
the fig tree that He cursed it?  It was not loaded with poison.  It
simply had nothing but leaves.  What charge is brought against Dives?
No charge at all.  We are simply made to see him neglect the man at his
gate who needed his help.  He does not drive the man away.  He simply
lets him alone.  And over his neglected duty he stumbles out into a
Christless eternity.  What was wrong with the five foolish virgins?  It
was not that they had water in their lamps.  It was simply the fact
that they had no oil.  What was the matter with those to whom the judge
said, "Depart from me"?  Only this, they had failed in their duty.  The
charge is, "Inasmuch as ye did it not."

So this man failed in his duty.  That is what wrecked him.  Why did he
fail?  First, he did not fail through ignorance.  He did not fail
because he did not know his duty.  He understood perfectly what he was
to do.  He understood also the great importance of his doing it.  He
knew it was a life and death business with him.  I know that he failed.
He failed miserably.  He failed to his own ruin.  But it was not
because of his ignorance.  And that is not the secret of your failure.
We need to know more, all of us, but our greatest need in the moral
realm is not for more knowledge.  Our greatest need is the will to live
up to what we already know.  The reason you are selfish, the reason you
are unclean, the reason you are godless is not because you do not know
better.  You have known better through all these years.  It is because
you are unwilling to do better.

There is not a man here that does not know enough to do his duty.  It
may be that you do not know the exact niche that the Lord wants you to
fill.  It may be that you do not know the exact task to which He is
calling you.  But you do know this, you know that there is an absolute
difference between right and wrong, and that you ought to be enlisted
on the side of the right.  You know that it is your part to help and
not to hinder, to bless and not to curse, to lift up and not to drag
down.

And while you may not know your particular task, yet it is your
privilege to know even that.  I am confident that God has a particular
task for every single soul of us.  And I am equally confident that He
will let us know what that task is if we will only make it possible for
Him to do so.  He tells us how we may know.  "In all thy ways
acknowledge Him and He shall direct thy path."

There are many misfits in the world, and you know a misfit is the
cheapest and most useless thing known.  If you want a cheap suit of
clothes go to the misfit establishment.  I remember when I was a young
fellow just getting grown I decided to quit wearing the crude
hand-me-down suits such as I could purchase at the village store.  I
decided that I must have a genuine tailored suit.

So with this idea in mind I wrote for the catalogue of Montgomery Ward
& Company.  I might have used Sears Roebuck, but I liked Montgomery
Ward better.  I found the suit I wanted, read his directions, took my
own measure and ordered the suit.  In due time it came.  And I pledge
you my word that you might have tried that suit on every form of man
and beast that the whole Roman Empire could furnish and it would not
have fit a single one of them.  The legs of the pants were large enough
to keep house in.  They would have made admirable wheat sacks, but as
trousers they were a failure.  To me the suit was worthless because it
was a misfit.

And there are many men just as worthless to-day.  But they need not
have been so.  If they did not know their task they might have known
it.  They did not fail, as this man did not fail, through ignorance.

Second, this man did not fail for lack of ability.  If he could have
said that he was overpowered, if he could have told that superior
numbers came upon him and took his prisoner in spite of himself we
could have pardoned him.  Or if he could have shown us a scarred breast
and a face that had been hacked by a sword, and said, "I won these
wounds trying to keep my prisoner," we would have respected him.  We
would have sympathized with him.  But he had no scars to show.  He had
made no fight at all.  Therefore he could not say, "I failed, 'tis
true, but I could not help it."  Neither can you say that.  No man here
is failing for lack of ability.

Now, I do not mean by that that you can do anything that you want to
do.  When I was a boy people used to come to our school and tell us
such rubbish as that.  But it is all false.  Suppose I were to take a
notion to be a great painter, not one after the fashion of the ordinary
sixteen year old girl of to-day, but a painter like Turner.  Why, I
might work at it a thousand years and never accomplish anything.

Suppose some of you were to take a notion to be great singers.  Is
there any use for me to tell you that if you persist you will succeed?
Not a bit of it.  You might succeed in ruining the nerves of your
teacher.  You might easily make those who hear you practise "want to
gnaw a file and flee into the wilderness."  But you would never learn
to sing.  There is no hope for some of us till we get to Heaven.

No, we cannot do anything that we might want to do.  But we can do
something infinitely better.  We can do everything that God wants us to
do.  I cannot do your task, and you cannot do mine.  I am glad that
that is true.  I am glad that we all do not have the same aptitudes.  I
am glad that we all cannot do successfully the same things.  I am glad
that we do not all have the same tastes.  But while that is so, every
man has the ability, through grace, to perform the task to which he is
called.

In the third place, this man did not fail because of idleness.  He did
not fail because he was lazy.  Of course idleness will wreck anybody.
Laziness is a deadly sin unless it is overcome.  I know something about
it because I have had to fight it all my life.  But this man was not an
idler.  This man was a worker.  He failed, but he did not fail because
he refused to put his hand to any task or to bend his back under any
load.

Why then did this man fail?  Not from ignorance, not from inability,
not from idleness.  He was busy.  That is his word about himself.  And
nobody denies it.  "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was
gone."  What, I repeat, was the secret of his failure?  Just this, that
though he was busy, he was not busy at his own task.  He was simply
busy here and there.  He was one of those unfortunate souls that has so
many things to do and so many engagements to keep and so many functions
to attend and so many burdens to carry that he cannot do his own duty.

Do you know of anybody like that?  "Did you keep your prisoner?" I ask.
"No, I was too busy."  "Busy at what, in Heaven's name!  Do you know of
anything more important than obeying the orders of your king?  Do you
know of anything more important than helping to save your nation?  Do
you know of anything of more importance than saving your own life, your
own honor, your own soul."

You can see his trouble.  He allowed the secondary to so absorb him
that he neglected the primary.  Those things that he was working at
here and there, those unnamed tasks that he was performing, there is no
hint that they were vicious things.  I am sure that they were
altogether harmless.  They may have been altogether good and useful.
But the trouble with that good was that it robbed him of the privilege
of doing the best.  The trouble with the Prodigal in the Far Country
was not simply the fact that he was in a hog pen.  He might have been
in a palace and been quite as bad off.  It was the fact that he was
missing the privilege of being in his Father's house.

The sin that I fear most for many of you is not the sin of vicious
wrong-doing.  It is the sin of this man, the sin of choosing the second
best.  I read recently of an insane man who spent all his time in an
endeavor to sew two pieces of cloth together.  But the thread he used
had no knot in the end of it.  So nothing was ever accomplished.  Now,
there is no harm in such sewing.  But the tragedy of it is that if we
spend all our time doing such trivial things we rob ourselves of the
privilege of doing something better.  And that is just the trouble of
much of our life to-day.  Many of us are engaged in a great, stressful,
straining life of trivialities.  Some of these are not especially
harmful.  But the calamity of it all is that they so absorb us that we
have no time left for the highest.

Down in Tennessee near where I used to live a house was burned one day.
The mother was out at the well doing the week's washing.  The flames
were not discovered till they were well under way.  Of course when they
were discovered the woman was seized with terror.  She rushed into the
house and brought out a feather bed and a few quilts.  But in her
madness she forgot her own baby and the child was burned to death.
Now, I submit to you that there was absolutely no harm in saving a
feather bed.  There was no harm in saving a few old quilts.  The
tragedy was that in the absorption of saving all these half worthless
things she lost the primary.  In her interest in the good she became
utterly blind to the best.

I wonder if that is not your folly.  You are busy here and there.  You
go to work six days in the week.  You are passionately in earnest about
amusing yourself.  You do a thousand and one decent and respectable
things.  But while you are busy here and there the peace of God slips
out of your life.  While you are busy here and there you neglect the
Sunday School and the Church.  While you are busy here and there you
lose your interest in the Word of God and you forget "the secret
stairway that leads into the Upper Room."  "Busy here and there" you
lose the sense of God out of your life.  "Busy here and there" you
allow the altar in your home to fall down.  "Busy here and there" you
allow your sons and daughters to stumble over that broken down altar
into lives of Christless indifference.

Oh, men and women, there is but one remedy for us if we would avoid the
rock upon which this condemned guardsman wrecked himself.  We must put
first things first.  Let us listen once more to the voice of the sanest
man that ever lived.  This is His message: "Seek ye first the kingdom
of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto
you."  If you fail to do this, however noble may be the task at which
you toil, life for you will end in tragedy.  If you do this, however
mean and obscure may be your task, life for you will end in eternal joy
and victory.



XIV

A MOTHER'S REWARD--JOCHEBED

_Exodus 2:9_

"Take this child away and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy
wages."  This text refers to one of the big events of human history.
This is one of the most stupendous happenings that was ever recorded.
I doubt if there was ever a battle fought that was so far reaching in
its influence.  I doubt if all the fifteen decisive battles of the
world taken together were of greater importance than this event that
took place here on the banks of the Nile.

It is a simple story.  An Egyptian princess, with her attendants, has
come to the riverside for a bath.  To her amazement she discovers a
strange vessel lying at anchor upon the waters of the river.  Her
curiosity is aroused.  When the vessel is brought to land its cargo is
discovered.  And what a cargo it is.  It is so wonderful, it is so
amazingly great that we marvel that any ship should be large enough to
hold it.  We are amazed that any sea should be vast enough to float
such a vessel.

What was this cargo?  It was a baby, a baby boy.  He is waving dimpled
hands and kicking chubby feet, and he is crying.  And the vessel upon
which he sails becomes a battleship.  He at once begins to lay siege to
the heart of the princess.  He pelts her with his tears.  He pierces
her through and through with his winsome weakness.  He cannonades her
with his lovely helplessness till she capitulates and gathers him in
her arms.  And this princess is no wicked woman, I am sure of that.
She had a mother heart.  I think I can hear her across the centuries
talking to this little waif.  She hugs him close.  "Yes, yes," she
said.  "You shall be my baby.  The big, old soldiers shan't have you.
They shan't kill mother's little boy."  And she loved him as her own.

Now, two bright eyes had been witnessing this wonderful scene.  There
was a little girl hidden nearby and she watched all that happened.  And
when she saw the princess take her little baby brother to her heart she
understood.  She felt sure at once that the baby was safe.  And a glad
and daring thought took possession of her and she hurried from her
place of hiding and approached the princess.  And this is her word, "My
lady, may I get a nurse for your baby?"

And the princess did not despise the little girl.  I feel perfectly
confident that the spirit of God was moving upon the heart of this
princess.  She listened to the child and accepted her services.  And I
can see that little girl as with flying feet she hurries to her mother
with the good news.  "Mother, they have found Little Brother, but they
are not going to kill him.  The Princess found him and I told her that
I would get somebody to nurse him for her.  Come, and we may have him
for our own again."

Now, I take it that it was an important event when the Princess decided
that the child was to live.  The death sentence had gone out against
him.  You know that.  The death sentence had been pronounced against
every son of the Hebrews.  But an even more important event took place
when the Princess decided who should be the baby's nurse.  When she
decided who should have the training of the child, then she decided
what the child was to be.  Suppose, for instance, she had determined to
train him herself, she would have made him like herself.  Moses would
have become a heathen in spite of the blood in his veins.  He was
destined to be a genius, but his genius might have been very far from
being the helpful something that it was.  Wrongly trained it might have
been as brilliant as the lightning's flash, but also as destructive.

But this woman chose, all unwittingly, it is true, to give her baby to
be nursed by his own mother.  And this Jewish woman was not a heathen.
She was a faithful servant of the Lord.  I can see her as she hurries
down to the banks of the Nile.  And as she goes there's a wonderful
light in her eyes.  And her lips are moving, and she is saying,
"Blessed be the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Israel, who has
heard the prayer of His servant and who has granted the desire of her
heart."

And I love to look again upon this scene.  The Egyptian princess is
handing over the precious little bundle of immortality into the arms of
a Jewish slave.  And that Jewish slave is hugging her own child to her
hungry heart.  And the princess is talking to her proudly, haughtily,
as becomes her rank, "Take this child away and nurse him for me and I
will give thee thy wages."  And away goes this mother, the happiest
mother, I think, in all the world.

Now, had you met this mother with her child so wonderfully restored to
her and had asked her whose was the child and for whom she was nursing
it, I wonder what she would have said.  I know what the attendants of
the princess thought.  I know what they would have said.  They would
have said that she was nursing the child for the Princess.  They would
have said that the Princess was her employer.  They would have said
that Moses was the Princess's baby.  But this mother never thought of
it in any such way.  She laughed in the secret depths of her heart at
the idea of her being employed by the Princess.  Who was her employer?
I know what she thought.  She believed that God was.  She had a pious
fancy that God was speaking through the lips of that Princess and that
He was saying, "Take the child and nurse him for me and I will give
thee thy wages."  She thought her child was God's child.  Therefore,
she believed that it was to God, and not to the Egyptian Princess, that
she was to account at the last for the way in which she trained and
played the mother's part by her boy.

Yes, I feel confident that this mother believed that God was her real
employer.  She believed that she was His minister.  She believed that
she had been chosen for the task that was now engaging her.  And she
was right in her belief.  When God, who had great plans for Moses,
sought for some one who was to make it possible for Him to realize His
plans, whom did He choose?  To whom did He commit this precious
treasure, from whose life such infinite blessings should come to the
world?  He did not commit him to a heathen.  He did not commit him to a
mere hired servant.  He committed him to his mother.  When God wants to
train a child for the achieving of the best and the highest in life He
sends him to school to a godly mother.

Now, when God chose the mother of Moses for his nurse and his teacher
He made a wise choice.  The choice was wise, in the first place,
because this mother of Moses was eager for her task.  She was a willing
mother.  Whatever glad days may have come in her life history, I am
sure no gladder time ever came than that time when she realized that to
her was going to be given the matchless privilege of mothering her own
child.  I know there are some mothers who do not agree with her.  I
know there are some that look upon the responsibilities of motherhood
as building a kind of prison, but not so this immortal mother.  She
looked upon her duty as her highest privilege.  She entered upon her
task with an eagerness born of a quenchless love.

The choice was fortunate, in the second place, because she was a woman
of faith.  In the letter to the Hebrews we read that Moses was bidden
by faith.  Both the father and the mother of Moses were pious people.
They were people of consecration, of devotion to God, of faith in God.
It is true they were slaves.  It is true they had a poor chance.  It is
true they lived in a dark day when the light was dim, but they lived up
to their light.  And their home was a pious home and its breath was
sweet and fragrant with the breath of prayer.

And I have little hope for the rearing of a great Christian leader in
any other type of home.  I have no hope of rearing a new and better
civilization in any other type of home.  Our national life is
discordant and hate-torn to-day.  We are living in a time of intense
bitterness and selfishness and sordid greed.  But what civilization is
to-day, the home life of yesterday has made it.  And what civilization
will be to-morrow the home life of to-day will make it.  If we do not
have Christian homes, believe me, we will never have a Christian
civilization.

"I know Abraham," God said, "that he will command his children and his
household after him."  And there are two remarkable assertions made of
Abraham in this text.  First, He said, "I know that Abraham will
command; I know Abraham will control his own household.  I know that
Abraham will control his children."  And God considered that as highly
important.  Of course we are too wise to agree with Him to-day.  We
believe it best to let our children run wild and do largely as they
please.  We believe that Solomon was an old fogey when he spoke of
"sparing the rod and spoiling the child."  And I am not here this
morning to tell you just how you are to control your child.  But what I
do say is that you cannot commit a greater blunder than to fail to
control it.  A child is better unborn than untrained.

Then God said of Abraham next, not only that he would command his
children and his household, but that he would command them after him.
He would not only exercise the right kind of authority, but he would
exert the right kind of influence.  He would set the right kind of
example.  He knew that Abraham would be in some measure what he desired
his children to be, that by authority and by right living he would
Christianize his own home.

And so when God wanted to raise up a man Moses who was to remake the
world, He put him in a pious home.  He gave him a godly father and
mother.  And the dominant influence in the life of Moses was his
mother.  No woman ever did a greater work.  But it was a work that she
accomplished not because of her high social standing.  Nor was it
accomplished because of her great culture.  It was accomplished because
of her great faith.

And while I am not in any sense a pessimist, I cannot but tremble in
some measure for the future because of the decay of home religion.  And
this decay, while traceable in some measure to the madness for money
and pleasure among men, is traceable even more to this same madness
among women.  The woman of to-day is in a state of transition.  She has
not yet fully found herself.  There has come to her a new sense of
freedom, and this freedom has not made her better.  She has become in
considerable measure an imitator of man.  And sad to say, she imitates
his vices instead of his virtues.  She often patterns after what is
worst in him instead of what is best.

I am told that in the Woman's Club of this city the handsomest room in
the building is the smoking room.  Now, a woman has a right to smoke.
Who says that she has not?  A woman has a right to swear, and that
right she is exercising with growing frequency.  I am not going to deny
her right to do that.  But what I do say is this, that I have
absolutely no hope for the rearing of a right generation at the hands
of a flippant cigarette-smoking mother.  The child of such a mother is,
in my candid opinion, half damned in its birth.  Remember, the mother
of Moses was a pious mother.  If she had not been I am persuaded that
the Moses who has been one of the supreme makers of history, might
never have been known.

Now, what was this woman's task?  Hear it.  I take these words as
embodying not the will of the princess, but the will of God, "Take this
child and nurse him for me and I will give thee thy wages."  This
mother was not to govern the world.  She was not to lecture in the
interest of suffrage.  I have nothing to say against the woman who does
so.  She was not to be the center of a social set.  She was not to turn
her child over to some colored woman while she went gadding about to
every sort of club.  She had just one supreme job.  She had one highest
and holiest of all tasks.  It was for that cause that she came into the
world.  She was to train her child for God.  And whoever we are and
whatever may be our abilities, we can have no higher task than this.
The training of a child to-day is the biggest big job under the stars.
He is the center of all our hopes and possibilities.

Did you ever read the story of the "Little Palace Beautiful"?  In the
Little Palace Beautiful there are four rooms.  The first is a room
called Fancy.  In this room looking out toward the south sleeps a
little child, a beautiful baby.  It is the Child-that-Never-Was.  It
was longed for, hoped for, dreamed of, but it never came.  In the west
room looking out toward the sunset, the room called Memory, is the
Child-that-Was.  Here sleeps the little fellow that came and stayed
just long enough to gather up all our heart's love and then he went
away.  In the room toward the north, the room of Experience, is the
Child-that-Is.  He is the little fellow that now plays in your home in
your Sunday School class.  And in the room looking out toward the
sunrise, the room called Hope, is the Child-that-Is-to-Be.

Now, we are interested in all four of these children, but our interest
in the four is to be expressed in our care for just one, and that is
the Child-that-Is.  We think tenderly of the Child-that-Never-Was.  We
think sadly of the Child-that-Was.  But we bring the love that we might
have given and did give, to lavish it upon the Child-that-Is.  We think
hopefully of the Child-that-Is-to-Be, but we realize that all his
possibilities are locked in the Child-that-Is.  And so the world's
future salvation is in our cradles, in our homes and in our nurseries
to-day.  To train our Children for God is the highest of all high tasks.

And notice that this woman was to receive wages for her work.  What
were her wages?  I suppose the princess sent down a little coin at the
end of each week, but do you think that is all the pay that this mother
got?  I feel confident that she never counted this as pay at all.  But
she received her reward, she received her wages.  And they were wages
that were rich in worth beyond all our fondest dreams.  First, there
was given unto her the fine privilege of loving.  And Paul, who knew
what was priceless, Paul, who knew what was of supreme value, said that
love was the soul's finest treasure.  And he meant not the privilege of
being loved, as fine as that is, but the higher privilege of loving.
And it has been given by the grace of God to the mothers of men to be
the world's greatest lovers.

  "If I were hanged on the highest hill,
    Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
  I know whose love would follow me still,
    Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

  "If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
    Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
  I know whose tears would come down to me,
    Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

  "If I were damned of body and soul,
    I know whose prayers would make me whole,
  Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!"


To her was given, in the second place, the fine reward of
self-sacrifice.  She had the privilege of giving.  She had the
privilege of offering her life a willing sacrifice upon the altar of
her home.  It is blessed to receive, but it is more blessed to give.
And the rewards of motherhood are the highest rewards because she is
the most godlike giver that this world knows.

Then, she was rewarded, in the third place, by the making of a great
life.  She became the mother of a good man.  Her faith became his
faith.  "By faith Moses was hidden."  That was by his mother's faith.
But in the next verse we read this, "By faith Moses, when he was come
to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter."  That
was by his own faith.  Where did he get that rare jewel?  He got it
from the training of his mother.  He saw it in her life.  It looked out
from her eyes.  It spoke through her lips.  He drank it in as he lay in
her arms.

"When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which
dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois and in thy mother Eunice, and I am
persuaded is in thee also."  Oh, if you are here a man of faith, a
woman of faith, the chances are you secured that precious treasure at
the hands of a God-loving and a God-trusting mother.

So this despised slave woman, this mother has this to her credit, that
she mothered and trained one of the greatest men that ever set foot on
this earth.  She took a little boy named Moses to her heart and trained
him for God.  She had him for a little while.  Then he went away to the
big University.  But he stood true.  She speaks to him as she holds him
close in the twilight.  She says, "Laddie, do not forget how God has
watched over you.  One day when death was suspended above your baby
head by a thread, one day when your life was frailer than a gossamer
thread, I took a queer little basket and lined it with pitch, and also
with faith and with prayer.  And I put you afloat, and God preserved
you and sent you back into these arms.  And I carried you and cared for
you.  And now when you are grown you won't forget.  You won't prove
disloyal to your mother and you won't forget your mother's God."

And Moses did not forget.  And one day the little laddie who had once
been carried about in the arms of a slave mother, was a big
broad-shouldered man.  And he had a big broad-shouldered faith, and he
trusted in a big broad-shouldered God.  And in the strength of that
faith, and in the might of that God he lifted an enslaved people in his
arms and carried them clean across the wilderness.  And he made
possible an Isaiah and a Jeremiah and a David.  And he made possible
the birth of Jesus Christ.  And he became the blesser and enricher of
all the nations of the earth.  And this mother, whose name is not well
known in the annals of men, but whose name is known in Heaven to-day,
had the rich reward of knowing that she mothered a man who fathered a
nation and blessed a world.

Oh, it is a blessed reward, the reward of success in the high
enterprise of motherhood.  I know of no joy that can come to a father's
or a mother's heart that is comparable to the joy that their own
children can give them.  I have seen sweet-faced mothers look upon
their children when there was enough joy in those faces to have raised
the temperature of Heaven.

But while it is true that none can bring us so much joy, it is also
true that none can so utterly break our hearts.  To see disease take
our children in hand and wreck their bodies is painful, but it is as
joy in comparison to seeing sin steal the moral rose from their cheek
and the sparkle of innocence and purity from their eyes.  But the
deepest of all damning griefs is that grief that comes to us when we
realize that we failed, and that their ruin is due to sin and
unfaithfulness in ourselves.

Do you hear the wild outcry from that broken-hearted king named David?
There he stands upon the wall and looks away across the wistful plain.
A lone runner is coming.  He knows he is a messenger from the
battlefield.  "Good tidings," he shouts.  But the king has no ear for
good tidings.  His one question is this, "Is the young man Absalom
safe?"  And the runner does not rightly answer his question.  Then the
second messenger comes with the news of his son's death.  And there is
no more pathetic cry in literature than that that breaks from the lips
of this pathetic king.  "O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
He is sobbing over his lost boy.  But there is an added pang to his
grief.  It is the awful pang that comes from the torturing fear that he
himself is in large measure responsible for the loss of his boy.  And
there is no more bitter agony than that.

Oh, men and women, let us who are fathers and mothers spare ourselves
David's terrible agony.  Let us spare our children Absalom's tragic
ruin.  Let us give ourselves the joys of this old time mother.  While
our children are about us, may we hear the very voice of God speaking
to us on their behalf, saying: "Take this child and train it for me and
I will give thee thy wages."  And wages we shall receive just as surely
as did this mother of Moses.  We will be privileged to love, to give,
to bless.  And God Himself can give no richer reward than that.



XV

A GOOD MAN'S HELL--MANASSEH

_Jeremiah 15:4_

"And I will cause them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth
because of Manasseh."  The prophet of the Lord is here fixing the
responsibility for the downfall of Jerusalem.  He says that the wreck
was due in an especial sense to one man.  He makes it very plain that
it was one man's hands that had planted the infernal bomb that was
destined in later years to blast the foundation from under the nation.
"I will cause them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth
because of Manasseh."

Had a jury at that day been impanelled to try this man Manasseh I do
not know whether they would have found him guilty or not.  Possibly
they would.  It is also possible that they would not.  Had they failed
to have done so it would have been because they did not know the facts;
they were not entirely familiar with all the evidence in the case.  But
when God sought the man upon whose shoulders rested the chief
responsibility for the wreck of the nation, He fixed on this man.  When
Manasseh stood on trial before Him, charged with the terrible crime of
blasting a kingdom, he was found guilty.

It was a startling verdict.  It is all the more startling when we
realize that Manasseh in the last years of his life was a good man.  It
was only his earlier years that were spent in sin.  In his old age he
was a saint.  In the last years of his reign he knew God and did all
that he could to undo the evils of an ill-spent yesterday.  But in
spite of the saintliness of the eventide, in spite of his winter-time
goodness, the full influence of his life was not a blessing but a
curse.  It did not make for upbuilding.  It made for terrible downfall
and ruin.

Take a glance at his life's story.  It is full of interest.  Every
young heart in the world should make a study of the life of this man.
How it gives the lie to many of our false and easy conceptions of sin.
How urgent it presses home the truth that the only salvation that can
mean the most is the salvation that grips us from life's earliest
moment to its very last.

Manasseh came to the throne when he was only twelve years of age.  He
had not been long in his position of influence and power till he turned
utterly away from the Lord and began to wallow in every form of sin.
There was no dirty idolatry that he did not practise.  There was no
false belief to which he did not seem willing to give hospitality.
There was scarcely any form of evil of which he was not guilty.

And his career of godlessness was all the more inexcusable because of
the good opportunities that he had.  He was the son of a great and good
father.  His father was Hezekiah.  And Hezekiah was one of the best
kings that Judah ever had.  He was a man of spiritual power.  He was a
man who served as saving salt to his kingdom throughout his entire
reign.  When the Assyrians hung like a threatening storm cloud over his
weak little nation, it was the compelling might of his prayer that
stood as a wall between them and their enemy.  So, Manasseh was the son
of a great saint.

And mark me, it is no small privilege to be the child of a godly father
or of a saintly mother.  If God granted to you to open your baby eyes
to look into other eyes that were "homes of silent prayer," if He sent
you to grow up in a home where the family altar and the saintly life
made Christ real, then He has given you an opportunity unspeakably
great.  And as great as is your opportunity, just so great is your
responsibility.  How hard must be the sentence upon that boy or that
girl who breaks away from such saving and sanctifying influences to go
into the far country.

Not only was the guilt of Manasseh intensified by the fact that he had
a saintly father.  It was intensified further by the fact that he was
repeatedly warned.  Though he turned his back on God and though he gave
himself up to a perfect orgy of wrong doing, God did not forget him and
did not give him up.  He sent to him messenger after messenger to bring
home his guilt and to invite him back to the pardon and peace of his
Father's presence.  But seemingly the more he was warned the deeper he
plunged into sin.

And you who are in sin, you are even more guilty than he, because to
you God has sent warning after warning, rebuke after rebuke.  God has
given you calls and invitations without number.  He has called you
through your conscience.  He has called you through your wretchedness
and restlessness and hunger of heart.  He has called you through your
longing for usefulness.  He has called you through your sorrow and your
pain and your losses.  He has called you through ten thousand mercies.
Oh, believe me, our need to-night is not so much for more light as it
is for courage to live up to the light we have.

Not only was Manasseh guilty because he sinned in spite of the help of
a godly father and in spite of repeated warnings.  His guilt was
deepened yet more because he knew that he did not sin alone.  When he
went away from God he carried a kingdom with him.  The reign of
Hezekiah had been a righteous reign.  With the coming of Manasseh to
the throne there was a violent reaction, akin to that that followed
upon the restoration of Charles II to the throne of England.  You know
how that when Charles came to the throne the court life was changed
into a brothel.  Charles lived in open and notorious adultery, and the
rottenness of the throne led to the rottenness of the kingdom.  Such
was the case here.  Manasseh not only fell but he drew a kingdom after
him.

It is profoundly true that no man ever sins alone.  Your influence will
not be so wide as that of Manasseh, yet however obscure your life may
be this is true, that it will set in motion influences that will
literally outlast the world.  I have control over my own action before
it is done, but after it is done I seek to control it in vain.  If it
is a fiendish act it laughs its devilish and derisive laughter in my
face and says, "Control me if you can."

Now, there came a time when this great sinner began to pay the penalty
for his sin.  Retribution slipped in by the guards at the door one day
and took the king rudely by the shoulder.  It shook him and shook him
so roughly that his crown fell from his head and his sceptre dropped
from his hand.  Then it dragged him from his throne and dressed him in
chains and sent him a captive into a foreign country.

Retribution, suffering for sin, does not always come as it came to this
king.  It does not always come at once but come it does.  That is as
sure as the fact of God.  There are some shallow souls that fancy that
because sin does not pay off every Saturday night that it does not pay
at all.  But to hold such views is to spit in the face of a most open
and palpable fact.  Manasseh had a fancy that he was a much freer man
than his father had been, far more broad-minded, but he waked one day,
as every man wakes sooner or later, to discover that sin did not mean
freedom, that it only meant slavery.

Now, what effect did this degradation and shame and suffering have on
the king?  Suffering has very opposite influences on different types of
character.  Sometimes it hardens us, it makes us only the more bitter
and rebellious.  But suffering did not have that effect on Manasseh.
It made him think, and it is a tremendously good day when God can get a
man to think.  He thought, I dare say, of his saintly father.  He
thought of his father's God.  This story is another evidence of how all
but impossible it is for a child to break finally away from the saving
influence of a truly good father or truly good mother.

This experience not only made him think but it sent him to his knees in
an agony of prayer.  He came to hate the sin that had been the ruin of
him.  He asked God for forgiveness.  And God did forgive him.  Truly,
"though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."  No
man ever goes so far away from God, no man ever lives in sin so long
but that if he will return to God, God will receive him and will give
him abundant pardon.

Not only did God save this man.  He brought him again to his throne.
And he who had once been a captive in a strange land wore his crown
once more.  And for the remaining years of his life he was a devout
follower of the Lord.  He did his best to undo the evils of the earlier
years of his reign.  He tore down the altars to false gods that he had
builded.  He tried to bring his people back to the new and saving faith
that he had found.  His conversion was genuine and lasting.

But what was the result?  He did not succeed.  He found that it was
easier to lead folks astray than it was to bring them back after he had
led them astray.  He was a good man.  He knew God.  But this was his
hell, that he had to stand in utter helplessness and see his nation
totter to its ruin because of the sins that he had committed.  He was
not even able to save his own home.  His boy became a godless idolater,
as he himself had been during the best years of his life.

So we are brought face to face with this fact.  Repentance will bring
us salvation whenever we repent, but there is one thing that repentance
cannot do.  It cannot save us from the consequences of our sin.  Go out
into the field of life and sow tares for half a century, if you dare.
Even then God will forgive you if you will come in repentance to Him,
but there is one thing that God will not do and cannot do.  He cannot
change the tares that you have sown into wheat.  I may be exceedingly
sorry for my wrong sowing, I will be, but the seed will grow none the
less.

Did it ever occur to you how many faces the Prodigal missed on his way
back home?  Many a splendid young fellow that caroused with him as he
went into the far country did not enjoy the fatted calf with him when
he came back to the peace and plenty of his Father's house.  Some of
them had gone into eternity and others had gone beyond his influence
forever more.

While I was in Huntington a few weeks ago, the pastor for whom I was
preaching told me of a young friend of his who carried his little baby
in to see a noted eye specialist.  The child's eyes were very bad.  The
physician examined them and shook his head.  "Her eyes will never get
better," he said, "but will get worse.  She will be blind before she is
grown."  And the father's face went white and he said, "Doctor, you
know my youth wasn't what it ought to have been.  Can that be the
cause?"  And the doctor said, "You needn't to have told me.  Certainly
it is the cause."  And it was a broken-hearted man that left that
office that day.  And it was a broken-hearted and praying and penitent
man that kissed his child to sleep that night.  Oh, God will forgive
him, but there is one thing that that forgiveness will not include and
that is daylight for his little girl.

"I will cause them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth
because of Manasseh."  And Manasseh is good and pure and blood-washed,
but the influences that he set in motion have gone beyond his reach
forever more.  What a fearful fact is this!  I am talking to young men
and women and you have your lives before you.  You may give them to
sin, and you may be saved at the last moment.  That is a possibility,
though it is a slight one.  But such a salvation may mean the wrecking
of many another life.  The only safe way is to repent before you waste
your life.  Repent before you sin.

Do you remember Esau's pathetic story?  He sold his birthright for one
mess of lentils.  Nor was he at all displeased with his bargain.  At
least that was true for a little while, but there came a time when he
was sorry.  There came a time when his foolish bartering broke his
heart.  And the story says that he found no place for repentance though
he sought it diligently and with tears.

That does not mean, of course, that God refused to forgive Esau.  The
moment we turn in penitent surrender to our Lord He will save us and
give us an abundant pardon, however far we may have gone into sin.  God
forgave him when he repented, but there was one thing that his
repentance could not do.  It could not undo the past.  It could not put
him again in the light of the morning of life.  It could not place in
his hands the opportunities of yesterday.  The good that he might have
done and the service that he might have rendered and the crowns that he
might have won had passed beyond the reach of his hand forever.
Repentance saved his soul but it did not save his life.

And what a startling chapter is the story of the sin of David.  David
was a whole-hearted man.  He never did anything by halves.  When he
sinned he sinned with a horrible abandon.  Few men have dirtier pages
in their life's history than that of David's sin against the house of
Uriah.  But as his sin was whole-hearted so also was his repentance.
We can hear his heart-broken cry for pardon across the centuries: "Have
mercy upon me, O God, according to thy loving kindness.  According unto
the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.  Wash
me from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin; for I acknowledge my
transgression and my sin is ever before me."  It is the heart-broken
cry of the penitent who has not one good word to say for himself.  And
God heard his prayer and washed him and made him whiter than snow.

But beyond that God with all His love and tenderness could not go.  He
could not save David from the consequences of his sin.  His bloody and
lustful deed became possessed of a power beyond his control.  "Down!"
he cries to it in helpless horror.  But it will not down.  "Then where
are you going?" he asks, all a-tremble with dread.  And the fiendish
deed answers, "I am going to steal the purity of your daughter Tamar.
I am going to make your son Ammon into a rapist.  I am going to make
your handsome boy Absalom into a murderer."

When I was a boy there was a family living neighbors to us, all of whom
were outside the Church.  But when the children were almost all grown
and the father was an old man he became a Christian.  But instead of
being influential in bringing his children to Christ they seemed only
to be ashamed of him.  He did not seem to have the slightest power to
influence a single one of them for good.  I would not say that he was
not saved, I think he was, but I think his years spent in sin cost him
the salvation of his children.

E. J. Bulgin said that he was holding a meeting some years ago in a
city in Kentucky.  A girl was converted in his meeting.  She was in the
early bloom of young womanhood.  She belonged to a wealthy and
prominent family.  Her mother was not a Christian.  The girl wanted to
join the Church and the mother objected.  The preacher went to see the
mother and prayed with her and plead with her.  She said she wanted her
daughter to have her coming out dance soon and therefore she should not
join the Church.  And the preacher left that home with a heavy heart.

Three years later he was holding a meeting in a neighboring town.  A
long distance call came asking him if he would not come and conduct the
funeral of Nellie, the girl who had not been allowed to join the
Church.  He went.  The undertaker said that it was a request of the
mother that the preacher ride with her and her other daughter to the
cemetery.  The journey was made in silence.  The remains were being
lowered when the mother ordered the undertaker to open the coffin
again.  All the crowd was requested to stand back.  They moved some
fifty feet away.  Then leaning on the preacher's arm the mother showed
him her daughter.  And lying upon her breast was a little armful of
shame.

That was all.  The grave was filled and on the way back home the
penitent and heart-broken mother found Christ.  She said to her
daughter, "Mary, I have found Jesus.  I have found the salvation that I
rejected three years ago."  And Mary answered, "No, Mother, you have
found salvation, it is true.  But it is not the salvation that was
offered to you three years ago.  Your salvation then would have
included the salvation of Nellie.  Now it means only the salvation of
yourself."

Heart, you may be saved at another time.  Many a father is saved after
he has wrecked his boys.  This mother was saved after she had destroyed
her daughter.  Manasseh was saved after he had ruined his kingdom.  But
I submit to you that it is not the largest salvation.  It is a
salvation that may yet leave you with a burning hell in your own heart,
the hell of the memory of evil you can never undo, and wrongs you can
never right, and of lost men and women, led away from God by your
influence that you can never lead back again.

Therefore, because of these startling and palpable facts, I come to you
with this oft-repeated word of our Lord upon my lips: "Now is the
accepted time.  To-day is the day of salvation."  Seek not to make
religion into a fire escape.  Give God your life now and in so doing
you will both save yourself and those who are influenced by you.
"Therefore, choose you this day whom you will serve."



XVI

A SHREWD FOOL--THE RICH FARMER

_Luke 12:16-21_

"And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich
man brought forth plentifully: and he thought within himself, saying,
What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits?  And
he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns and build greater
and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods.  And I will say to
my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine
ease, eat, drink, and be merry.  But God said unto him, Thou fool, this
night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things
be, which thou hast provided?  So is he that layeth up treasure for
himself, and is not rich toward God."

I count with confidence on your interest in this sermon.  You will be
interested, in the first place, because the picture that our Lord has
given us in this wonderful story is the picture of a real man.  This
farmer is no wax figure.  He is no bloodless nonentity.  He is
altogether human stuff.  And we are interested in real folks.

Then we are interested in this man, in the second place, because he is
successful.  We are naturally interested in the people who make good.
If you go out on the street to-morrow and start to tell your friends
how you failed, the chances are that they will turn their backs upon
you to listen to the man, with triumph in his face and victory in his
voice, who is telling how he succeeded.  We are great success
worshippers.  And the man who wins the prizes of life interests us very
keenly.

But there is a shock for us in the story.  The Master calls our shrewd
hero a fool.  "Thou fool."  That is a harsh and jarring word.  It
insults us.  It shakes its fist in our faces.  It cuts us like a whip.
It offends us.  We do not like the ugly name in the least.

"Thou fool."  Our Master frowns upon our using such language at all.
He will not trust us with such a sharp sword.  He will not suffer us to
hurl such a thunderbolt.  He forbids us, under a terrible penalty, to
call our brother a fool.  And yet He calls this keen and successful
farmer a fool.  And He doesn't do so lightly and flippantly, but there
seems to ring through it scorn and indignation--positive anger, anger
that is all the more terrible because it is the anger of love.

Why did the Master call this man a fool?  He did not get the idea from
the man himself.  This well-to-do farmer would never have spoken of
himself in that way.  He regarded himself as altogether fit and
mentally well furnished.  Nor did the Master get His idea from the
man's neighbors.  They looked upon this man with admiration.  There may
have been a bit of envy mingled with their admiration, but they
certainly did not regard him as a fool.  They no more did so than we
regard the man that is like him as a fool to-day.

Why then did the Master label him with this ugly name?  It was not
because he had a prejudice against him.  Jesus was no soured
misanthrope.  He was no snarling cynic.  He did not resent a man just
because he had made a success.  He was not an I. W. W. growling over
real or fancied wrongs.  No, the reason that Jesus called him a fool is
because no other name would exactly fit him.

It is well, however, that the Master labeled this picture.  Had He not
done so you and I might have been tempted to put the wrong label on it.
We might have labeled it "The Wise Man," or some such fine name.  But
had we done so it would have been a colossal blunder.  Had we done so I
am persuaded that the very fiends would have howled with derisive
laughter.  For when we see this man as he really is, when we see him
through the eyes of Him who sees things clearly, then we realize that
there is only one name that will exactly fit him.  Then we know that
that one name is the short ugly one by which he is called--"Fool."

But why is he a fool?  In what does his foolishness consist?  Certainly
it does not consist in the fact that he has made a success.  He is not
a fool simply because he is rich.  The Bible is a tremendously
reasonable book.  It is the very climax of sanity.  It is the acme of
good common sense.  It never rails against rich men simply because they
are rich.  It no more does that than it lauds poor men because they are
poor.  It frankly recognizes the danger incident to the possession of
riches.  It makes plain the fact that the rich man is a greatly tempted
man.  But never is he condemned simply because he is rich.

The truth of the matter is that riches in themselves are counted
neither good nor bad, neither moral nor immoral.  The Bible recognizes
money as a real force.  What is done with this force depends upon the
one who controls it.  Money is condensed energy.  It is pent-up power.
It is lassoed lightning.  It is a Niagara that I can hold in my hand
and put into my pocket.  It is a present day Aladdin's lamp.  If I
possess this lamp a million genii stand ready to do my bidding.
Whatever service I demand, that will they do, whether that service look
toward the making of men or the wrecking of men.

In case I live for self they are able to assist me in all my selfish
enterprises.  They can provide a winter palace in the city and a summer
palace in the mountains or down by the sea.  They can adorn my walls
with the choicest of paintings.  They can put the finest of carpets
upon my floors.  They can make possible tours abroad and private boxes
at the theatre.  They can search the treasure houses of the world and
bring to me their rarest jewels.  They can give me a place among the
select four hundred, with whole columns about myself in the society
page of the Metropolitan Daily.

Even this is not all.  If I, their master, am so minded, these powerful
genii will defeat for me the ends of justice.  They will override the
constitution.  They will enable me to put a stain upon the very flag of
my own country.  They will make it possible for me at times to
disregard the rights of others.  When occasion demands they may even
purchase at my desire the honor of manhood and the virtue of womanhood.

On the other hand, if I am a good man, I may set these genii to the
doing of tasks great and worthwhile.  I may command them to give
clothing to the naked and food to the hungry.  I can order them to
build better schools for the education of the world.  I can compel them
to build better churches for the worship of God.  I can send them with
a chance in their hands for the unfortunate and the handicapped.  I can
make it impossible for one to say of that bright lad:--

  "But knowledge to his eyes her ample scroll,
    Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll.
  Chill penury suppressed his noble rage,
    And froze the genial current of the soul."


In fact there is no high task that man is called upon to perform but
that these mighty genii can be of assistance.  They can help "to heal
the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and
recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are
bruised."  They can even make their master friends who will one day
receive him into everlasting habitations.

  "Dug from the mountain side, washed in the glen,
    Servant am I of the Master of men.
  Earn me, I bless you; steal me, I curse you;
    Grip me and hold me, a fiend shall possess you.
  Lie for me, die for me, covet me, take me,
    Angel or devil, I am what you make me."


Nor was this man a fool because he had accumulated his money
dishonestly.  The man who does accumulate money dishonestly is a fool.
So says the prophet Jeremiah and every clear thinking man must agree
with him.  There is a way of getting money that makes money a curse
rather than a blessing.  There is a way of getting money that makes the
very eagle upon it to turn vulture to tear at your heart.

But this man had not made his money after that fashion.  He had never
run a saloon nor a gambling house nor a sweatshop.  There is no hint
that he had failed to pay an adequate wage to his laborers.  James
calls upon the rich men of his day to weep and howl because they were
guilty in this respect.  But no such charge as this is laid against
this man.  Nor had he robbed the widow or the fatherless.  "An orphan's
curse will drag to hell a spirit from on high," but no such curse was
on this man.

How had he made his money?  He had made it in a way that is considered
the most honest and upright that is possible.  He had made his money
farming.  Listen: "The ground of a certain rich man brought forth
plentifully."  The ground.  It smacks of cleanliness, honesty,
uprightness.

"The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully."  And when
I read that I am back on the old farm again.  As I read it there comes
before me a vision of my boyhood's home.  I see the old white house
under the hill.  I see the sturdy apple trees in front of it and the
forest of beech, oak and chestnut stretching away in the distance back
of it.  I can hear the lowing of the cattle and the neighing of the
horses and the crowing of the cock in the barnyard.  I can hear the
call of the bob white to his mate, and the song of the catbird in the
thicket at the end of the row.  I can feel the caress of the fresh
upturned sod upon my bare feet.  I can catch the fragrance of the new
mown hay.  I can see myself coming home in the gloaming "as the day
fades into golden and then into gray and then into deep blue of the
night sky with its myriad of stars that blossom at twilight's early
hour like lilies on the tomb of day."  And when I come home I come to a
night of restful sleep because I have come from a clean day's work.
No, this man was not a fool because he had gotten his money
dishonestly.  He had made it honestly, every dollar of it.

Nor was he a fool because he set about thoughtfully to save what he had
made.  The Bible sets no premium upon wastefulness.  God lets us know
that to waste anything of value is not only foolish but wicked.  What
was the sin of the Prodigal Son?  It was this, that he "wasted his
substance with riotous living."  He spent his treasure without getting
any adequate return.

That is the tragedy of a great number of us.  I do not charge you with
outrageous and disgraceful wickedness.  But it is true that you are not
investing your life in the highest possible way.  You are squandering
yourself on things of secondary value.  And to you God is speaking as
he spoke centuries ago: "Wherefore do you spend your money for that
which is not meat and your labor for that which satisfieth not?"  You
have no right to waste yourself and you have just as little right to
waste your money which represents a part of yourself.

No, the foolishness of this man was not in the fact that he sought to
save what he had made.  That is right.  That is sensible.  To do
otherwise is at once wicked and little.  Big things do not waste.  This
is a big world on which we live but it has never lost one single drop
of water nor one single grain of sand since God flung it into space.
And even Jesus Christ himself, the Lord of the universe, commanded His
disciples after He had fed the multitude, to gather up the fragments
that nothing be lost.

Why then, I repeat, does Christ call this man a fool?  His foolishness
lay fundamentally in the fact that he was a practical atheist.  He had
absolutely no sense of God.  He lived as if the fact of God were an
absolute lie.  I do not think for a moment that he claimed to be an
atheist.  I have no doubt that he was altogether orthodox.  I have no
doubt that he went to the synagogue or to the temple every Sabbath day.
But practically he was an utter atheist.  And what is true of him is
equally true of many another man who stands up every Sunday in Church
to recite his creed.

How do we know that he is an atheist?  We know it by hearing him think.
Listen: "He thought within himself."  Now then we are going to get to
see this man as he really is.  You can't always tell what a man is by
the way he looks.  He may look like the flower, but be the serpent
under it.  He may smile and smile, as Hamlet tells us, and be a
villain.  You can't always tell what he is by what he says.  He may
speak high sentiments to which his heart is a stranger.  Nor can you
tell him by what he does.  He may "do his alms" simply to be seen of
men.  But if you can get in behind the scenes and see him think, then
you will know him.  Tell me, man, what you think within yourself and I
will tell you what you are.  For, "As a man thinketh in his heart, so
is he."

Now, what did this man think?  "He thought within himself, saying, What
shall _I_ do for _I_ have no room where to bestow _My_ goods and _My_
fruits?  And he said, This will _I_ do.  _I_ will pull down _My_ barns
and build greater, and there will _I_ bestow all _My_ goods and _My_
fruits."  Now we see him.  When he thought, he had not one single
thought of God.  God was as completely ignored as if He had no
existence at all.  This was the very fountain source of his
foolishness.  He reckoned without God, and the man who reckons without
God is a fool.

Look now how this fatal foolishness casts its blight over his entire
character.  Reckoning without God, of course, he has no sense of Divine
ownership.  Quite naturally, therefore, he thinks because he possesses
a farm, he owns a farm.  Possession and ownership mean exactly the same
thing to a man who begins by ignoring God.  When you hear this man talk
you find that the only pronouns he has in his vocabulary are "I," "My"
and "Mine."  He knows only the grammar of atheism.  He is acquainted
only with the vocabulary of the fool.  "His" and "Ours" and "Yours" are
not found in the fool's vocabulary.

Faith, on the other hand, makes large use of the word "His."  It
recognizes the fact that "the earth is the Lord's and the fullness
thereof."  It believes in the big truth: "Ye are not your own.  You are
bought with a price."  Faith, taking God into consideration, wisely
reckons that you are His and that all that you possess is His.  It does
not concede to you the ownership of anything.  And for any man anywhere
to-day to claim that because he possesses a farm or a bank or a brain,
that, therefore, he owns it is to talk not the language of a wise man
but the language of a fool.

This farmer's reckoning without God not only led him to confuse
possession and ownership.  It also robbed him of his gratitude.  Crops
were abundant.  The farmer has prospered wonderfully.  But leaving God
out of his thinking there is no one for this farmer to thank for his
success but himself.  He never thought of taking hold of his sluggish
soul and shaking it into wakefulness with this wise word, "Bless the
Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits."  He did not concede
the Lord any part in it.

There are many men just like him to-day.  I was pastor in a small town
some years ago.  There was in that town only one rich man.  He had made
the money that he possessed, and they called him a self-made man.  One
day a certain preacher, not myself, went to him to ask him for a
donation for some charity.  He began by reminding this man of wealth
how the Lord had blessed him.  And what was the reply?  It was about
the meanest I ever heard.  He said, "I know the Lord has blessed me,
but I was there."

"I was there."  And what he meant by that was that in reality the Lord
had had nothing to do with it.  "I did it all myself.  In fact, if the
Lord hadn't made the world I would.  So there is not a thing for which
I ought to be thankful."  Now, the man who has no gratitude is a fool.
He is a fool because the right sort of thinking always leads to
thanking.  The only kind of thinking that does not do so is the
thinking of the practical atheist, and the practical atheist is a fool.

Then this farmer had no sense of obligation.  This, too, is a natural
outcome of his reckoning without God.  Here is a man who is looking out
on this same world upon which the farmer is looking, and he says, "I am
a debtor both to the Greek and to the barbarian, both to the wise and
to the unwise."  The reason Paul says that is because he believes in
God.  God has blessed him and saved him with a wonderful salvation.
Because of that fact he feels himself under infinite obligation to
preach the Gospel that has saved himself.  But this man, this fool, has
only himself to thank for his prosperity.  Therefore he has a right to
use his wealth as he pleases.  The man who has no sense of obligation,
the man who tells you that he has a right to do as he pleases with his
possessions is proclaiming to you not a new rule of ethics.  He is
simply telling you in unmistakable language that he is a fool.

This man showed himself a fool, last of all, by the confidence that he
placed in things.  Ignoring God he sought to find a substitute for God
in abundant crops.  He undertook to treat his soul as he would treat
his sheep and his goats.  Here he was, an immortal man.  Here he was,
destined to live when this old world has been a wreck for billions of
years.  And what provision does he make for himself?  The same that he
makes for his horses and his oxen and his asses.  Of course, as one has
pointed out, it was not foolish for him to make some provision for the
few years he might live here.  He was a fool for refusing to make
provision for the eternity that he must live.

"Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many days.  Eat, drink and be
merry."  Did ever you hear words that were more stamped with moral
idiocy?  You can see from them that his soul has not fared well up to
this time.  You can easily tell from these words that his moral nature
has been starved and stunted.  We can easily tell that all his gettings
have not satisfied him in the past.  And yet he is vainly expecting
satisfaction in the future.  Now it is obvious that the man who forgets
God, who turns aside to the worship of things, plays the fool.

So you see why the Master calls this shrewd farmer a fool.  He began by
reckoning without God.  He virtually said in his heart, "There is no
God."  He went wrong in the very center of his nature.  This put the
blight of moral imbecility on his whole life.  He turned to his
possessions and sought to satisfy his soul with them.  He received them
without gratitude and held them without any sense of obligation, for he
thought to possess was to own.

Now the Master, lest we should pull our skirts about us and thank God
that we are not as this man, forces the truth home upon our own hearts.
"So," He says, "is he that layeth up treasure for himself and is not
rich toward God."  That is, just the same kind of fool and just as big
a fool is that man to-day who reckons without God and lives only for
himself.  If you are living your life in selfishness, however
respectable that selfishness may be, you are just the same kind of fool
and just as great a fool as is this rich man of the story.

Now the tragedy of this story, I take it, is that the foolishness of
this farmer was self-chosen.  His riches might have been a blessing to
him here and a blessing through all eternity.  In spite of the fact
that he was rich in this world's goods he might also have been, in the
truest sense, rich toward God.  In fact, he might have been richer
toward God with his wealth than without it.  With it he might have
exercised a far larger usefulness than he could have done without it.
But he chose to ignore God and to rob himself and thus brand himself a
fool now and evermore.

Don't forget that you and I may make the same tragic wreck of our
lives.  The only way to avoid doing so is to go right where this man
went wrong.  There is a sure road to spiritual enrichment.  "Though he
were rich, yet for our sakes he became poor that we, through his
poverty, might be rich."  This wealth is no fabled bag of gold at the
end of the rainbow.  I can so direct you to this treasure that you will
be sure to find it.  This is the road: "Yield yourselves unto God."
That is your first duty.  That is your highest wisdom.  Recognize God
as owner of yourself.  Recognize God as the owner of all that you have.
Give all to Him and He will give all to you.  "For He that spared not
His own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with him
also freely give us all things."  To have that treasure is to be rich
forever more.  To be thus rich is to be eternally wise.



THE END





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