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Title: The Art of Illustration
Author: Spurgeon, Charles Haddon
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.

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  Copyright, 1894,


The lectures in this volume were originally delivered to the students of
the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England. It is
the first of his unfinished books to be published, and one to which he
had himself given the title, "The Art of Illustration."

Of the five lectures included in this volume, the first two were revised
during Mr. Spurgeon's lifetime. Two were partially revised by him before
being redelivered to a later company of students than those who had
heard them for the first time.

The remaining lecture was printed substantially as it was taken by the
reporter; only such verbal corrections having been made as were
absolutely necessary to insure accuracy of statement. Mr. Spurgeon has
said of his lectures to his students: "I am as much at home with my
young brethren as in the bosom of my family, and therefore speak
without restraint. I do not offer that which has cost me nothing, for I
have done my best, and taken abundant pains. Therefore, with clear
conscience, I place my work at the service of my brethren, especially
hoping to have a careful reading from young preachers, whose profiting
has been my principal aim."

     W. B. K.




  ILLUSTRATIONS IN PREACHING                                  7


  ANECDOTES FROM THE PULPIT                                  32









The topic now before us is the use of illustrations in our sermons.
Perhaps we shall best subserve our purpose by working out an
illustration in the present address; for there is no better way of
teaching the art of pottery than by making a pot. Quaint Thomas Fuller
says, "Reasons are the pillars of the fabric of a sermon; but
similitudes are the windows which give the best lights." The comparison
is happy and suggestive, and we will build up our discourse under its

The chief reason for the construction of windows in a house is, as
Fuller says, _to let in light_. Parables, similes, and metaphors have
that effect; and hence we use them to _illustrate_ our subject, or, in
other words, to "_brighten it with light_," for that is Dr. Johnson's
literal rendering of the word _illustrate_. Often when didactic speech
fails to enlighten our hearers we may make them see our meaning by
opening a window and letting in the pleasant light of analogy. Our
Saviour, who is the light of the world, took care to fill his speech
with similitudes, so that the common people heard him gladly; his
example stamps with high authority the practice of illuminating heavenly
instruction with comparisons and similes. To every preacher of
righteousness as well as to Noah, wisdom gives the command, "A window
shalt thou make in the ark." You may build up laborious definitions and
explanations and yet leave your hearers in the dark as to your meaning;
but a thoroughly suitable metaphor will wonderfully clear the sense. The
pictures in an illustrated paper give us a far better idea of the
scenery which they represent than could be conveyed to us by the best
descriptive letterpress; and it is much the same with scriptural
teaching: abstract truth comes before us so much more vividly when a
concrete example is given, or the doctrine itself is clothed in
figurative language. There should, if possible, be at least one good
metaphor in the shortest address; as Ezekiel, in his vision of the
temple, saw that even to the little chambers there were windows suitable
to their size. If we are faithful to the spirit of the gospel we labor
to make things plain: it is our study to be simple and to be understood
by the most illiterate of our hearers; let us, then, set forth many a
metaphor and parable before the people. He wrote wisely who said, "The
world below me is a glass in which I may see the world above. The works
of God are the shepherd's calendar and the plowman's alphabet." Having
nothing to conceal, we have no ambition to be obscure. Lycophron
declared that he would hang himself upon a tree if he found a person who
could understand his poem entitled "The Prophecy of Cassandra." Happily
no one arose to drive him to such a misuse of timber. We think we could
find brethren in the ministry who might safely run the same risk in
connection with their sermons. Still have we among us those who are like
Heraclitus, who was called "the Dark Doctor" because his language was
beyond all comprehension. Certain mystical discourses are so dense that
if light were admitted into them it would be extinguished like a torch
in the Grotta del Cane: they are made up of the palpably obscure and the
inexplicably involved, and all hope of understanding them may be
abandoned. This style of oratory we do not cultivate. We are of the same
mind as Joshua Shute, who said: "That sermon has most learning in it
that has most plainness. Hence it is that a great scholar was wont to
say, 'Lord, give me learning enough, that I may preach plain enough.'"

Windows greatly add to the pleasure and agreeableness of a habitation,
and so do _illustrations make a sermon pleasurable and interesting_. A
building without windows would be a prison rather than a house, for it
would be quite dark, and no one would care to take it upon lease; and,
in the same way, a discourse without a parable is prosy and dull, and
involves a grievous weariness of the flesh. The preacher in Solomon's
Ecclesiastes "sought to find out acceptable words," or, as the Hebrew
has it, "words of delight": surely, figures and comparisons are
delectable to our hearers. Let us not deny them the salt of parable with
the meat of doctrine. Our congregations hear us with pleasure when we
give them a fair measure of imagery: when an anecdote is being told they
rest, take breath, and give play to their imaginations, and thus prepare
themselves for the sterner work which lies before them in listening to
our profounder expositions. Riding in a third-class carriage some years
ago in the eastern counties, we had been for a long time without a lamp;
and when a traveler lighted a candle, it was pleasant to see how all
eyes turned that way, and rejoiced in the light: such is frequently the
effect of an apt simile in the midst of a sermon; it lights up the whole
matter, and gladdens every heart. Even the little children open their
eyes and ears, and a smile brightens up their faces as we tell a story;
for they, too, rejoice in the light which streams in through our
windows. We dare say they often wish that the sermon were all
illustrations, even as the boy desired to have a cake made all of plums;
but that must not be: there is a happy medium, and we must keep to it by
making our discourse pleasant hearing, but not a mere pastime. No reason
exists why the preaching of the gospel should be a miserable operation
either to the speaker or to the hearer. Pleasantly profitable let all
our sermons be. A house must not have thick walls without openings,
neither must a discourse be all made up of solid slabs of doctrine
without a window of comparison or a lattice of poetry; if so, our
hearers will gradually forsake us, and prefer to stay at home and read
their favorite authors, whose lively tropes and vivid images afford more
pleasure to their minds.

Every architect will tell you that he looks upon his windows as _an
opportunity for introducing ornament into his design_. A pile may be
massive, but it cannot be pleasing if it is not broken up with windows
and other details. The palace of the popes at Avignon is an immense
structure; but the external windows are so few that it has all the
aspect of a colossal prison, and suggests nothing of what a palace
should be. Sermons need to be broken up, varied, decorated, and
enlivened; and nothing can do this so well as the introduction of types,
emblems, and instances. Of course, ornament is not the main point to be
considered; but still many little excellences go to make up perfection,
and this is one of the many, and therefore it should not be overlooked.
When Wisdom built her house she hewed out her seven pillars, for glory
and for beauty, as well as for the support of the structure; and shall
we think that any rough hovel is good enough for the beauty of holiness
to dwell in? Certainly a gracious discourse is none the better for being
bereft of every grace of language. Meretricious ornament we deprecate,
but an appropriate beauty of speech we cultivate. Truth is a king's
daughter, and her raiment should be of wrought gold; her house is a
palace, and it should be adorned with "windows of agate and gates of

_Illustrations tend to enliven an audience and quicken attention._
Windows, when they will open--which, alas! is not often the case in our
places of worship--are a great blessing by refreshing and reviving the
audience with a little pure air, and arousing the poor mortals who are
rendered sleepy by the stagnant atmosphere. A window should, according
to its name, be a wind-door, through which a breath of air may visit the
audience; even so, an original figure, a noble image, a quaint
comparison, a rich allegory, should open upon our hearers a breeze of
happy thought, which will pass over them like life-giving breath,
arousing them from their apathy, and quickening their faculties to
receive the truth. Those who are accustomed to the soporific
sermonizings of certain dignified divines would marvel greatly if they
could see the enthusiasm and lively delight with which congregations
listen to speech through which there flows a quiet current of happy,
natural illustration. Arid as a desert are many volumes of discourses
which are to be met with upon the booksellers' dust-covered shelves; but
if in the course of a thousand paragraphs they contain a single simile,
it is as an oasis in the Sahara, and serves to keep the reader's soul
alive. In fashioning a discourse think little of the bookworm, which
will be sure of its portion of meat however dry your doctrine, but have
pity upon those hungering ones immediately around you who must find life
through your sermon or they will never find it at all. If some of your
hearers sleep on they will of necessity wake up in eternal perdition,
for they hear no other helpful voice.

While we thus commend illustrations for necessary uses, it must be
remembered that they are not the strength of a sermon any more than a
window is the strength of a house; and for this reason, among others,
_they should not be too numerous_. Too many openings for light may
seriously detract from the stability of a building. We have known
sermons so full of metaphors that they became weak, and we had almost
said _crazy_, structures. Sermons must not be nosegays of flowers, but
sheaves of wheat. Very beautiful sermons are generally very useless
ones. To aim at elegance is to court failure. It is possible to have too
much of a good thing: a glass house is not the most comfortable of
abodes, and besides other objectionable qualities it has the great fault
of being sadly tempting to stone-throwers. When a critical adversary
attacks our metaphors he generally makes short work of them. To friendly
minds images are arguments, but to opponents they are opportunities for
attack; the enemy climbs up by the window. Comparisons are swords with
two edges which cut both ways; and frequently what seems a sharp and
telling illustration may be wittily turned against you, so as to cause
a laugh at your expense: therefore do not rely upon your metaphors and
parables. Even a second-rate man may defend himself from a superior mind
if he can dexterously turn his assailant's gun upon himself. Here is an
instance which concerns myself, and I give it for that reason, since
these lectures have all along been autobiographical. I give a cutting
from one of our religious papers: "Mr. Beecher was neatly tripped up in
'The Sword and the Trowel.' In his 'Lectures on Preaching' he asserts
that Mr. Spurgeon has succeeded 'in spite of his Calvinism'; adding the
remark that 'the camel does not travel any better, nor is it any more
useful, because of the hump on its back.' The illustration is not a
felicitous one, for Mr. Spurgeon thus retorts: 'Naturalists assure us
the camel's hump is of great importance in the eyes of the Arabs, who
judge of the condition of their beasts by the size, shape, and firmness
of their humps. The camel feeds upon his hump when he traverses the
wilderness, so that in proportion as the animal travels over the sandy
wastes, and suffers from privation and fatigue, the mass diminishes; and
he is not fit for a long journey till the hump has regained its
proportions. Calvinism, then, is the spiritual meat which enables a man
to labor on in the ways of Christian service; and, though ridiculed as
a hump by those who are only lookers-on, those who traverse the weary
paths of a wilderness experience know too well its value to be willing
to part with it, even if a Beecher's splendid talents could be given in

Illustrate, by all means, but do not let the sermon be all
illustrations, or it will be only suitable for an assembly of
simpletons. A volume is all the better for engravings, but a scrap-book
which is all woodcuts is usually intended for the use of little
children. Our house should be built up with the substantial masonry of
doctrine, upon the deep foundation of inspiration; its pillars should be
of solid scriptural argument, and every stone of truth should be
carefully laid in its place; and then the windows should be ranged in
due order, "three rows" if we will: "light against light," like the
house of the forest of Lebanon. But a house is not erected for the sake
of the windows, nor may a sermon be arranged with the view of fitting in
a favorite apologue. A window is merely a convenience subordinate to the
entire design, and so is the best illustration. We shall be foolish
indeed if we compose a discourse to display a metaphor; as foolish as if
an architect should build a cathedral with the view of exhibiting a
stained-glass window. We are not sent into the world to build a Crystal
Palace in which to set out works of art and elegancies of fashion; but
as wise master-builders we are to edify a spiritual house for the divine
inhabiting. Our building is intended to last, and is meant for every-day
use, and hence it must not be all crystal and color. We miss our way
altogether, as gospel ministers, if we aim at flash and finery.

It is impossible to lay down a rule as to how much adornment shall be
found in each discourse: every man must judge for himself in that
matter. True taste in dress could not be readily defined, yet every one
knows what it is; and there is a literary and spiritual taste which
should be displayed in the measuring out of tropes and figures in every
public speech. "_Ne quid nimis_" is a good caution: do not be too eager
to garnish and adorn. Some men seem never to have enough of metaphors:
each one of their sentences must be a flower. They compass sea and land
to find a fresh piece of colored glass for their windows, and they break
down the walls of their discourses to let in superfluous ornaments, till
their productions rather resemble a fantastic grotto than a house to
dwell in. They are grievously in error if they think that thus they
manifest their own wisdom, or benefit their hearers. I could almost
wish for a return of the window-tax if it would check these poetical
brethren. The law, I believe, allowed eight windows free from duty, and
we might also exempt "a few, that is eight" metaphors from criticism;
but more than that ought to pay heavily. Flowers upon the table at a
banquet are well enough; but as nobody can live upon bouquets, they will
become objects of contempt if they are set before us in lieu of
substantial viands. The difference between a little salt with your meat
and being compelled to empty the salt-cellar is clear to all; and we
could wish that those who pour out so many symbols, emblems, figures,
and devices would remember that nausea in oratory is not more agreeable
than in food. Enough is as good as a feast; and too many pretty things
may be a greater evil than none at all.

It is a suggestive fact that the tendency to abound in metaphor and
illustration becomes weaker as men grow older and wiser. Perhaps this
may, in a measure, be ascribed to the decay of their imagination; but it
also occurs at the same time as the ripening of their understanding.
Some may have to use fewer figures of necessity, because they do not
come to them as aforetime; but this is not always the case. I know that
men who still possess great facility in imagery find it less needful to
employ that faculty now than in their earlier days, for they have the
ear of the people, and they are solemnly resolved to fill that ear with
instruction as condensed as they can make it. When you begin with a
people who have not heard the gospel, and whose attention you have to
win, you can hardly go too far in the use of figure and metaphor. Our
Lord Jesus Christ used very much of it; indeed, "without a parable spake
he not unto them"; because they were not educated up to the point at
which they could profitably hear pure didactic truth. It is noticeable
that after the Holy Ghost had been given, fewer parables were used, and
the saints were more plainly taught of God. When Paul spoke or wrote to
the churches in his epistles he employed few parables, because he
addressed those who were advanced in grace and willing to learn. As
Christian minds made progress the style of their teachers became less
figurative, and more plainly doctrinal. We seldom see engravings in the
classics of the college; these are reserved for the spelling-books of
the dame-school. This should teach us wisdom, and suggest that we are to
be bound by no hard and fast rules, but should use more or less of any
mode of teaching according to our own condition and that of our people.

_Illustrations should really cast light upon the subject in hand_,
otherwise they are sham windows, and all shams are an abomination. When
the window-tax was still in force many people in country houses closed
half their lights by plastering them up, and then they had the plaster
painted to look like panes; so that there was still the appearance of a
window, though no sunlight could enter. Well do I remember the dark
rooms in my grandfather's parsonage, and my wonder that men should have
to pay for the light of the sun. Blind windows are fit emblems of
illustrations which illustrate nothing, and need themselves to be
explained. Grandiloquence is never more characteristic than in its
figures; there it disports itself in a very carnival of bombast. We
could quote several fine specimens of sublime spread-eagleism and
magnificent nonsense.

A piece of high-flown oratory sheds light upon nothing, and does not in
the faintest degree enable us to understand the reasons. The object of
language of this kind is not to instruct the hearer, but to dazzle him,
and, if possible, to impress him with the idea that his minister is a
wonderful orator. He who condescends to use clap-trap of any kind
deserves to be debarred the pulpit for the term of his natural life. Let
your figures of speech really represent and explain your meaning, or
else they are dumb idols, which ought not to be set up in the house of
the Lord.

       *       *       *       *       *

It may be well to note that _illustrations should not be too prominent_,
or, to pursue our figure, they should not be painted windows, attracting
attention to themselves rather than letting in the clear light of day. I
am not pronouncing any judgment upon windows adorned with "glass of
various colors which shine like meadows decked in the flowers of
spring"; I am looking only to my illustration. Our figures are meant not
so much to be seen as to be seen through. If you take the hearer's mind
away from the subject by exciting his admiration of your own skill in
imagery, you are doing evil rather than good. I saw in one of our
exhibitions a portrait of a king; but the artist had surrounded his
majesty with a bower of flowers so exquisitely painted that every one's
eye was taken away from the royal figure. All the resources of the
painter's art had been lavished upon the accessories, and the result was
that the portrait, which should have been all in all, had fallen into a
secondary place. This was surely an error in portrait-painting, even
though it might be a success in art. We have to set forth Christ before
the people, "evidently crucified among them," and the loveliest emblem
or the most charming image which calls the mind away from our divine
subject is to be conscientiously forsworn. Jesus must be all in all: his
gospel must be the beginning and end of all our discoursing; parable and
poesy must be under his feet, and eloquence must wait upon him as his
servant. Never by any possibility must the minister's speech become a
rival to his subject; that were to dishonor Christ, and not to glorify
him. Hence the caution that the illustrations be not too conspicuous.

Out of this last observation comes the further remark that
_illustrations are best when they are natural and grow out of the
subject_. They should be like those well-arranged windows which are
evidently part of the plan of a structure, and not inserted as an
afterthought, or for mere adornment. The cathedral of Milan inspires my
mind with extreme admiration; it always appears to me as if it must have
grown out of the earth like a colossal tree, or rather like a forest of
marble. From its base to its loftiest pinnacle every detail is a natural
outgrowth, a portion of a well-developed whole, essential to the main
idea; indeed, part and parcel of it. Such should a sermon be; its
exordium, divisions, arguments, appeals, and metaphors should all spring
out of itself; nothing should be out of living relation to the rest; it
should seem as if nothing could be added without being an excrescence,
and nothing taken away without inflicting damage. There should be
flowers in a sermon, but the bulk of them should be the flowers of the
soil; not dainty exotics, evidently imported with much care from a
distant land, but the natural upspringing of a life natural to the holy
ground on which the preacher stands. Figures of speech should be
congruous with the matter of the discourse; a rose upon an oak would be
out of place, and a lily springing from a poplar would be unnatural:
everything should be of a piece and have a manifest relationship to the
rest. Occasionally a little barbaric splendor may be allowed, after the
manner of Thomas Adams and Jeremy Taylor and other masters in Israel,
who adorn truth with rare gems and gold of Ophir, fetched from far. Yet
I would have you note what Dr. Hamilton says of Taylor, for it is a
warning to those who aim at winning the ear of the multitude: "Thoughts,
epithets, incidents, images came trooping round with irrepressible
profusion, and they were all so apt and beautiful that it was hard to
send any of them away. And so he tried to find a place and use for
all--for 'flowers and wings of butterflies,' as well as 'wheat'; and if
he could not fabricate links of his logical chain out of 'the little
rings of the vine' and 'the locks of a new-weaned boy,' he could at
least decorate his subject with exquisite adornments. The passages from
his loved Austin and Chrysostom, and not less beloved Seneca and
Plutarch, the scholar knows how to pardon. The squirrel is not more
tempted to carry nuts to his hoard than the bookish author is tempted to
transfer to his own pages fine passages from his favorite authors. Alas!
he little knows how flat and meaningless they are to those who have not
traversed the same walks, and shared the delight with which he found
great spoil. To him each polished shell recalls its autumnal tale of
woods, and groves, and sunshine showering through the yellow leaves; but
to the quaint collection 'the general public' very much prefer a pint of
filberts from a huckster's barrow." No illustrations are half so telling
as those which are taken from familiar objects. Many fair flowers grow
in foreign lands, but those are dearest to the heart which bloom at our
own cottage door.

_Elaboration into minute points is not commendable_ when we are using
figures. The best light comes in through the clearest glass: too much
paint keeps out the sun. God's altar of old was to be made of earth, or
of unhewn stone, "for," said the Word, "if thou lift up thy tool upon
it, thou hast polluted it" (Ex. xx. 25). A labored, artificial style,
upon which the graver's tool has left abundant marks, is more consistent
with human pleadings in courts of law, or in the forum, or in the
senate, than with prophetic utterances delivered in the name of God and
for the promotion of his glory. Our Lord's parables were as simple as
tales for children, and as naturally beautiful as the lilies which
sprang up in the valleys where he taught the people. He borrowed no
legend from the Talmud, nor fairy tale from Persia, neither fetched he
his emblems from beyond the sea; but he dwelt among his own people, and
talked of common things in homely style, as never man spake before, and
yet as any observant man should speak. His parables were like himself
and his surroundings, and were never strained, fantastic, pedantic, or
artificial. Let us imitate him, for we shall never find a model more
complete, or more suitable for the present age. Opening our eyes, we
shall discover abundant imagery all around. As it is written, "The word
is nigh thee," so also is the analogy of that word near at hand:

  "All things around me, whate'er they be,
   That I meet as the chance may come.
   Have a voice and a speech in them all--
   Birds that hover and bees that hum;
   The beast of the field or the stall;
   The trees, leaves, rushes, and grasses;
   The rivulet running away;
   The bird of the air as it passes,
   Or the mountains that motionless stay;
   And yet those immovable masses
   Keep changing, as dreams do, all day." [1]

  [1] Slightly altered from "Fables in Song," by Robert Lord Lytton.

There will be little need to borrow from the recondite mysteries of
human art, nor to go deep into the theories of science; for in nature
golden illustrations lie upon the surface, and the purest is that which
is uppermost and most readily discerned. Of natural history in all its
branches we may well say, "The gold of that land is good": the
illustrations furnished by every-day phenomena seen by the plowman and
the wagoner are the very best which earth can yield. An illustration is
not like a prophet, for it has most honor in its own country; and those
who have oftenest seen the object are those who are most gratified by
the figure drawn from it.

I trust that it is scarcely necessary to add that _illustrations must
never be low or mean_. They may not be high-flown, but they should
always be in good taste. They may be homely, and yet chastely beautiful;
but rough and coarse they should never be. A house is dishonored by
having dirty windows, cobwebbed and begrimed, patched with brown paper,
or stuffed up with rags: such windows are the insignia of a hovel rather
than a house. About our illustrations there must never be even the
slightest trace of anything that would shock the most delicate modesty.
We like not that window out of which Jezebel is looking. Like the bells
upon the horses, our lightest expressions must be holiness unto the
Lord. Of that which suggests the groveling and the base we may say with
the Apostle, "Let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints."
All our windows should open toward Jerusalem, and none toward Sodom. We
will gather our flowers always and only from Emmanuel's land, and Jesus
himself shall be their savor and sweetness, so that when he lingers at
the lattice to hear us speak of himself he may say, "Thy lips, O my
spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue."
That which grows beyond the border of purity and good repute must never
be bound up in our garlands, nor placed among the decorations of our
discourses. That which would be exceedingly clever and telling in a
stump orator's speech, or in a cheap-jack's harangue, would be
disgusting from a minister of the gospel. Time was when we could have
found far too many specimens of censurable coarseness, but it would be
ungenerous to mention them now that such things are on all hands

Gentlemen, take care that your windows are not broken, or even cracked:
in other words, _guard against confused metaphors and limping
illustrations_. Sir Boyle Roche is generally credited with some of the
finest specimens of metaphorical conglomerate. We should imagine that
the passage is mythical in which he is represented as saying, "I smell a
rat; I see it floating in the air; I'll nip it in the bud." Minor
blunderings are frequent enough in the speech of our own countrymen. An
excellent temperance advocate exclaimed, "Comrades, let us be up and
doing! Let us take our axes on our shoulders, and plow the waste places
till the good ship Temperance sails gaily over the land." We well
remember, years ago, hearing a fervent Irish clergyman exclaim,
"Garibaldi, sir, he is far too great a man to play second fiddle to
such a wretched luminary as Victor Emmanuel." It was at a public
meeting, and therefore we were bound to be proper; but it would have
been a great relief to our soul if we might have indulged in a hearty
laugh at the spectacle of Garibaldi with a fiddle, playing to a
luminary; for a certain nursery rhyme jingled in our ears, and sorely
tried our gravity. A poetic friend thus encouragingly addresses us:

  "March on, however rough the road,
     Though foes obstruct thy way,
   Deaf to _the barking curs that would_
     _Ensnare thy feet astray_."

The other evening a brother expressed his desire that we might "all be
winners of souls, and bring the Lord's blood-bought jewels to cast their
crowns at his feet." The words had such a pious ring about them that the
audience did not observe the fractured state of the expression. One of
your own number hoped "that every student might be enabled to sound the
gospel trumpet with such a clear and certain sound _that the blind might
see_." Perhaps he meant that they should open their eyes with
astonishment at the terrific blast; but the figure would have been more
congruous if he had said "that the deaf should hear." A Scotch writer,
in referring to a proposal to use an organ in divine service, says:
"Nothing will _stem this avalanche_ of will-worship and gross sin but
the _falling back on the Word of God_."

The _Daily News_, in reviewing a book written by an eminent minister,
complained that his metaphors were apt to be a little unmanageable, as
when he spoke of something which had remained a secret until a strangely
potent key was inserted among the hidden wards of the parental heart,
and a rude wrench flung wide the floodgates and set free the imprisoned
stream. However, there is no wonder that ordinary mortals commit
blunders in figurative speech, when even his late Infallible Holiness
Pius IX. said of Mr. Gladstone that he "had suddenly come forward like a
viper assailing the bark of St. Peter." A viper assailing a bark is
rather too much for the most accommodating imagination, although some
minds are ready for any marvels.

One of those reviews which reckon themselves to be the cream of the
cream took pains to inform us that the Dean of Chichester, being the
select preacher at St. Mary's, Oxford, "seized the opportunity to smite
the Ritualists hip and thigh, _with great volubility and vivacity_."
Samson smote his foes with a great slaughter; but language is flexible.

These blunders are to be quoted by the page: I have given enough to let
you see how readily the pitchers of metaphor may be cracked, and
rendered unfit to carry our meaning. The ablest speaker may occasionally
err in this direction; it is not a very serious matter, and yet, like a
dead fly, it may spoil sweet ointment. A few brethren of my acquaintance
are always off the lines; they muddle up every figure they touch, and as
soon as they approach a metaphor we look for an accident. It might be
wisdom on their part to shun all figures of speech till they know how to
use them; for it is a great pity when illustrations are so confused as
both to darken the sense and create diversion. Muddled metaphors are
muddles indeed; let us give the people good illustrations or none at



It is pretty generally admitted that sermons may wisely be adorned with
a fair share of illustrations; but anecdotes used to that end are still
regarded by the prudes of the pulpit with a measure of suspicion. They
will come down low enough to quote an emblem, they will deign to use
poetic imagery; but they cannot stoop to tell a simple, homely story.
They would probably say in confidence to their younger brethren, "Beware
how you lower yourselves and your sacred office by repeating anecdotes,
which are best appreciated by the vulgar and uneducated." We would not
retort by exhorting all men to abound in stories, for there ought to be
discrimination. It is freely admitted that there are useful and
admirable styles of oratory which would be disfigured by a rustic tale;
and there are honored brethren whose genius would never allow them to
relate a story, for it would not appear suitable to their mode of
thought. Upon these we would not even by implication hint at a censure;
but when we are dealing with others who seem to be somewhat, and are not
what they seem, we feel no tenderness; nay, we are even moved to assail
their stilted greatness. If they sneer at anecdotes, we smile at _them_
and their sneers, and wish them more sense and less starch. Affectation
of intellectual superiority and love of rhetorical splendor have
prevented many from setting forth gospel truth in the easiest imaginable
manner, namely, by analogies drawn from common events. Because they
could not condescend to men of low estate, they have refrained from
repeating incidents which would have accurately explained their meaning.
Fearing to be thought vulgar, they have lost golden opportunities. As
well might David have refused to sling one of the smooth stones at
Goliath's brow because he found it in a common brook.

From individuals so lofty in their ideas nothing is likely to flow down
to the masses of the people but a glacial eloquence--a river of ice.
Dignity is a most poor and despicable consideration unless it be the
dignity of turning many to righteousness; and yet divines who have had
scarcely enough of real dignity to save themselves from contempt have
swollen "huge as high Olympus" through the affectation of it. A young
gentleman, after delivering an elaborate discourse, was told that not
more than five or six in the congregation had been able to understand
him. This he accepted as a tribute to his genius; but I take leave to
place him in the same class with another person who was accustomed to
shake his head in the most profound manner, that he might make his
prelections the more impressive; and this had some effect with the
groundlings, until a shrewd Christian woman made the remark that he did
shake his head certainly, but that _there was nothing in it_. Those who
are too refined to be simple need to be refined again. Luther has well
put it in his "Table Talk": "Cursed are all preachers that in the church
aim at high and hard things; and neglecting the saving health of the
poor unlearned people, seek their own honor and praise, and therefore
try to please one or two great persons. _When I preach I sink myself
deep down._" It may be superfluous to remind you of the oft-quoted
passage from George Herbert's "Country Parson," and yet I cannot omit
it, because it is so much to my mind: "The Parson also serves himself of
the judgments of God, as of those of ancient times, so especially of the
late ones; and those most which are nearest to his parish; for people
are very attentive at such discourses, and think it behooves them to be
so when God is so near them, and even over their heads. Sometimes he
tells them stories and sayings of others, according as his text invites
him; for them also men heed, and remember better than exhortations;
which, though earnest, yet often die with the sermon, especially with
country people, which are thick and heavy, and hard to raise to a point
of zeal and fervency, and need a mountain of fire to kindle them, but
stories and sayings they will well remember."

It ought never to be forgotten that the great God himself, when he would
instruct men, employs histories and biographies. Our Bible contains
doctrines, promises, and precepts; but these are not left alone--the
whole book is vivified and illustrated by marvelous records of things
said and done by God and by men. He who is taught of God values the
sacred histories, and knows that in them there is a special fulness and
forcibleness of instruction. Teachers of Scripture cannot do better than
instruct their fellows after the manner of the Scriptures.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the great teacher of teachers, did not disdain
the use of anecdotes. To my mind it seems clear that certain of his
parables were facts and, consequently, anecdotes. May not the story of
the Prodigal Son have been a literal truth? Were there not actual
instances of an enemy sowing tares among the wheat? May not the rich
fool who said, "Take thine ease," have been a photograph taken from
life? Did not Dives and Lazarus actually figure on the stage of history?
Certainly the story of those who were crushed by the fall of the tower
of Siloam, and the sad tragedy of the Galileans, "whose blood Pilate had
mingled with their sacrifices," were matters of current Jewish gossip,
and our Lord turned both of them to good account. What HE did we need
not be ashamed to do. That we may do it with all wisdom and prudence let
us seek the guidance of the Divine Spirit which rested upon him so

I shall make up this present address by quoting the examples of great
preachers, beginning with the era of the Reformation, and following on
without any very rigid chronological order down to our own day. Examples
are more powerful than precepts; hence I quote them.

First, let me mention that grand old preacher, _Hugh Latimer_, the most
English of all our divines, and one whose influence over our land was
undoubtedly most powerful. Southey says, "Latimer more than any other
man promoted the Reformation by his preaching;" and in this he echoes
the more important utterance of Ridley, who wrote from his prison, "I do
think that the Lord hath placed old father Latimer to be his
standard-bearer in our age and country against his mortal foe,
Antichrist." If you have read any of his sermons, you must have been
struck with the number of his quaint stories, seasoned with a homely
humor which smacks of that Leicestershire farmhouse wherein he was
brought up by a father who did yeoman's service, and a mother who milked
thirty kine. No doubt we may attribute to these stories the breaking
down of pews by the overwhelming rush of the people to hear him, and the
general interest which his sermons excited. More of such, preaching, and
we should have less fear of the return of popery. The common people
heard him gladly, and his lively anecdotes accounted for much of their
eager attention. A few of these narratives one could hardly repeat, for
the taste of our age has happily improved in delicacy; but others are
most admirable and instructive. Here are two of them:

     THE FRIAR'S MAN AND THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.--I will tell you now a
     pretty story of a friar, to refresh you withal. A limiter of the
     Gray Friars in the time of his limitation preached many times, and
     had but one sermon at all times; which sermon was of the Ten
     Commandments. And because this friar had preached this sermon so
     often, one that heard it before told the friar's servant that his
     master was called "Friar John Ten Commandments"; wherefore the
     servant showed the friar his master thereof, and advised him to
     preach of some other matters; for it grieved the servant to hear
     his master derided. Now, the friar made answer saying, "Belike,
     then, thou canst say the Ten Commandments well, seeing thou hast
     heard them so many a time." "Yea," said the servant, "I warrant
     you." "Let me hear them," saith the master. Then he began: "Pride,
     covetousness, lechery," and so numbered the deadly sins for the Ten
     Commandments. And so there be many at this time which be weary of
     the old gospel. They would fain hear some new things, they think
     themselves so perfect in the old, when they be no more skilful than
     this servant was in his Ten Commandments.

     SAINT ANTHONY AND THE COBBLER.--We read a pretty story of Saint
     Anthony, which, being in the wilderness, led there a very hard and
     straight life, insomuch as none at that time did the like, to whom
     came a voice from heaven saying, "Anthony, thou art not so perfect
     as is a cobbler that dwelleth at Alexandria." Anthony hearing this
     rose up forthwith and took his staff and went till he came to
     Alexandria, where he found the cobbler. The cobbler was astonished
     to see so reverend a father to come into his house. Then Anthony
     said unto him, "Come and tell me thy whole conversation and how
     thou spendest thy time." "Sir," said the cobbler, "as for me, good
     works I have none, for my life is but simple and slender. I am but
     a poor cobbler. In the morning when I arise I pray for the whole
     city wherein I dwell, especially for all such neighbors and poor
     friends as I have. After, I set me at my labor, where I spend the
     whole day in getting of my living, and keep me from all falsehood,
     for I hate nothing so much as I do deceitfulness. Wherefore, when I
     make to any man a promise I keep it and do it truly, and so spend
     my time poorly with my wife and children, whom I teach and
     instruct, as far as my wit will serve me, to fear and dread God.
     This is the sum of my simple life."

     In this story you see how God loveth those that follow their
     vocation and live uprightly without any falsehood in their dealing.
     This Anthony was a great and holy man, yet this cobbler was as much
     esteemed before God as he.

Let us take a long leap of about a century, and we come to _Jeremy
Taylor_, another bishop, whom I mention immediately after _Latimer_
because he is apparently such a contrast to that homely divine, while
yet in very truth he has a measure of likeness to him as to the point
now in hand. They both rejoiced in figure and metaphor, and equally
delighted in incident and narrative. True, the one would talk of John
and William, and the other of Anexagoras and Scipio; but actual scenes
were the delight of each. In this respect Jeremy Taylor may be said to
be Latimer turned into Latin. Jeremy Taylor is as full of classical
allusions as a king's palace is full of rare treasures, and his language
is of the lofty order which more becomes a patrician audience than a
popular assembly; but when you come to the essence of things, you see
that if Latimer is homely, so also Taylor narrates incidents which are
_homely to him_; but his home is among philosophers of Greece and
senators of Rome. This being understood, we venture to say that no one
used more anecdotes than this splendid poet-preacher. His biographer
truly says: "It would be hard to point out a branch of learning or of
scientific pursuit to which he does not occasionally allude; or any
author of eminence, either ancient or modern, with whom he does not
evince himself acquainted. He more than once refers to obscure stories
in ancient writers, as if they were of necessity as familiar to all his
readers as to himself; as, for instance, he talks of 'poor Attillius
Aviola,' and again of 'the Libyan lion that brake loose into his
wilderness and killed two Roman boys.'" In all this he is eminently
select and classical, and therefore I the more freely introduce him
here; for there can be no reason why our anecdotes should all be rustic;
we, too, may rifle the treasures of antiquity, and make the heathen
contribute to the gospel, even as Hiram of Tyre served under Solomon's
direction for the building of the temple of the Lord.

I am no admirer of Taylor's style in other respects, and his teaching
seems to be at times semi-popish; but in this place I have only to deal
with him upon one particular, and of that matter he is an admirable
example. He lavishes classic stories even as an Asiatic queen bedecks
herself with countless pearls. Out of a sermon I extract the following,
which may suffice for our purpose:

     STUDENTS PROGRESSING BACKWARD.--Menedemus was wont to say "that the
     young boys that went to Athens the first year were wise men, the
     second year philosophers, the third orators, and the fourth were
     but plebeians, and understood nothing but their own ignorance." And
     just so it happens to some in the progresses of religion. At first
     they are violent and active, and then they satiate all the
     appetites of religion; and that which is left is that they were
     soon weary and sat down in displeasure, and return to the world and
     dwell in the business of pride or money; and by this time they
     understand that their religion is declined, and passed from the
     heats and follies of youth to the coldness and infirmities of old

     DIOGENES AND THE YOUNG MAN.--Diogenes once spied a young man coming
     out of a tavern or place of entertainment, who, perceiving himself
     observed by the philosopher, with some confusion stepped back
     again, that he might, if possible, preserve his fame with that
     severe person. But Diogenes told him, "_Quanto magis intraveris,
     tanto magis eris in caupona_" ("The more you go back the longer you
     are in the place where you are ashamed to be seen"). He that
     conceals his sin still retains that which he counts his shame and

No examples will have greater weight with you than those taken from
among the Puritans, in whose steps it is our desire to walk, though,
alas! we follow with feeble feet. Certain of them abounded in anecdotes
and stories. _Thomas Brooks_ is a signal instance of the wise and
wealthy use of holy fancy. I put him first, because I reckon him to be
the first in the special art which is now under consideration. He hath
dust of gold; for even in the margins of his books there are sentences
of exceeding preciousness, and hints at classic stories. His style is
clear and full; he never so exceeds in illustration as to lose sight of
his doctrine. His floods of metaphor never drown his meaning, but float
it upon their surface. If you have never read his works I almost envy
you the joy of entering for the first time upon his "Unsearchable
Riches," trying his "Precious Remedies," tasting his "Apples of Gold,"
communing with his "Mute Christian," and enjoying his other masterly
writings. Let me give you a taste of his quality in the way of
anecdotes. Here are two brief ones; but he so abounds with them that you
may readily cull scores of better ones for yourselves.

     MR. WELCH WEEPING.--A soul under special manifestations of love
     weeps that it can love Christ no more. Mr. Welch, a Suffolk
     minister, weeping at table, and being asked the reason of it,
     answered it was because he could love Christ no more. The true
     lovers of Christ can never rise high enough in their love to
     Christ. They count a little love to be no love, great love to be
     but little, strong love to be but weak, and the highest love to be
     infinitely below the worth of Christ, the beauty and glory of
     Christ, the fulness, sweetness, and goodness of Christ. The top of
     their misery in this life is that they love so little though they
     are so much beloved.

     SUBMISSIVE SILENCE.--Such was the silence of Philip the Second,
     King of Spain, that when his Invincible Armada, that had been three
     years a-fitting, was lost, he gave command that all over Spain they
     should give thanks to God and the saints that it was no more

_Thomas Adams_, the Conforming Puritan, whose sermons are full of rugged
force and profound meaning, never hesitated to insert a story when he
felt that it would enforce his teaching. His starting-point is ever some
Biblical sentence, or scriptural history; and this he works out with
much elaboration, bringing to it all the treasures of his mind. As
Stowell says, "Fables, anecdotes, classical poetry, gems from the
fathers and other old writers, are scattered over almost every page."
His anecdotes are usually rough-and-ready ones, and might be compared to
those of Latimer, only they are not so genial; their humor is generally
grim and caustic. The following may serve as fair specimens:

     THE HUSBAND AND HIS WITTY WIFE.--The husband told his wife that he
     had one ill quality--he was given to be angry without cause. She
     wittily replied that she would keep him from that fault, for she
     would give him cause enough. It is the folly of some that they will
     be offended without cause, to whom the world promises that they
     shall have causes enough--"In the world ye shall have tribulation."

     THE SERVANT AT THE SERMON.--It is ordinary with many to commend the
     lecture to others' ears, but few commend it to their own hearts. It
     is morally true what the _Christian Tell-Truth_ relates: A servant
     coming from church praiseth the sermon to his master. He asks him
     what was the text. "Nay," quoth the servant, "it was begun before I
     came in." "What, then, was his conclusion?" He answered, "I came
     out before it was done." "But what said he in the midst?" "Indeed I
     was asleep in the midst." Many crowd to get into the church, but
     make no room for the sermon to get into them.

_William Gurnall_, the author of "The Christian in Complete Armor," must
surely have been a relater of pertinent stories in his sermons, since
even in his set and solid writings they occur. Perhaps I need not have
made the distinction between his writings and his preaching, for it
appears from the preface that his "Christian in Complete Armor" was
preached before it was printed. In vivid imagery every page of his
famous book abounds, and whenever this is the case we are sure to light
upon short narratives and striking incidents. He is as profuse in
illustration as either Brooks, Watson, or Swinnock. Happy Lavenham, to
have been served by such a pastor! By the way, this "Complete Armor" is
beyond all others a preacher's book: I should think that more discourses
have been suggested by it than by any other uninspired volume. I have
often resorted to it when my own fire has been burning low, and I have
seldom failed to find a glowing coal upon Gurnall's hearth. John Newton
said that if he might read only one book beside the Bible, he would
choose "The Christian in Complete Armor," and Cecil was of much the same
opinion. J. C. Ryle has said of it, "You will often find in a line and a
half some great truth, put so concisely, and yet so fully, that you
really marvel how so much thought could be got into so few words." One
or two stories from the early part of his great work must suffice for
our purpose.

     BIRD SAFE IN A MAN'S BOSOM.--A heathen could say when a bird
     (feared by a hawk) flew into his bosom, "I will not betray thee
     unto thine enemy, seeing thou comest for sanctuary unto me." How
     much less will God yield up a soul unto its enemy when it takes
     sanctuary in his name, saying, "Lord, I am hunted with such a
     temptation, dogged with such a lust; either thou must pardon it, or
     I am damned; mortify it, or I shall be a slave to it; take me into
     the bosom of thy love for Christ's sake; castle me in the arms of
     thy everlasting strength. It is in thy power to save me from or
     give me up into the hands of my enemy. I have no confidence in
     myself or any other. Into thy hands I commit my cause, my life,
     and rely on thee." This dependence of a soul undoubtedly will
     awaken the almighty power of God for such a one's defense. He hath
     sworn the greatest oath that can come out of his blessed lips, even
     by himself, that such as "flee for refuge" to hope in him shall
     have "strong consolation" (Heb. vi. 17, 18).

     THE PRINCE WITH HIS FAMILY IN DANGER.--Suppose a king's son should
     get out of a besieged city where he hath left his wife and
     children, whom he loves as his own soul, and these all ready to die
     by sword or famine, if supply come not the sooner. Could this
     prince, when arrived at his father's house, please himself with the
     delights of the court and forget the distress of his family? or
     rather would he not come post to his father, having their cries and
     groans always in his ears, and before he ate or drank do his errand
     to his father, and entreat him if he ever loved him that he would
     send all the force of his kingdom to raise the siege rather than
     any of his dear relations should perish? Surely, sirs, though
     Christ be in the top of his preferment and out of the storm in
     regard of his own person, yet his children, left behind in the
     midst of sin's, Satan's, and the world's batteries, are in his
     heart, and shall not be forgotten a moment by him. The care he
     takes in our business appeared in the speedy despatch he made of
     his spirit to his apostles' supply, which, as soon almost as he was
     warm in his seat at his Father's right hand, he sent, to the
     incomparable comfort of his apostles and us that to this day--yea,
     to the end of the world--do or shall believe on him.

_John Flavel_ was greatest in metaphor and allegory; but in the matter
of anecdote his preaching is a fine example. It was said of his ministry
that he who was unaffected by it must either have had a very soft head
or a very hard heart. He had a fund of striking incidents, and a faculty
of happy illustration, and as he was a man in whose manner cheerfulness
was blended with solemnity, he was popular in the highest degree both at
home and abroad. He sought out words which might suit the sailors of
Dartmouth and farmers of Devon, and therefore he has left behind him his
"Navigation Spiritualized," and his "Husbandry Spiritualized," a legacy
for each of the two orders of men who plow the sea and the land. He was
a man worth making a pilgrimage to hear. What a crime it was to silence
his heaven-touched lips by the abominable Act of Uniformity! Instead of
quoting several passages from his sermons, each one containing an
anecdote, I have thought it as well to give a mass of stories as we find
them in his prelections upon

     PROVIDENCE IN CONVERSION.--A scrap of paper accidentally coming to
     view hath been used as an occasion of conversion. This was the case
     of a minister of Wales who had two livings but took little care of
     either. He, being at a fair, bought something at a peddler's
     standing, and rent off a leaf of Mr. Perkins' catechism to wrap it
     in, and reading a line or two of it, God sent it home so as it did
     the work.

     The marriage of a godly man into a carnal family hath been ordered
     by Providence for the conversion and salvation of many therein.
     Thus we read in the life of that renowned English worthy, Mr. John
     Bruen, that in his second match it was agreed that he should have
     one year's diet in his mother-in-law's house. During his abode
     there that year, saith Mr. Clark, the Lord was pleased by his means
     graciously to work upon her soul, as also upon his wife's sister
     and half-sister, their brothers, Mr. William and Mr. Thomas Fox,
     with one or two of the servants in that family.

     Not only the reading of a book or hearing of a minister, but--which
     is most remarkable--the very mistake or forgetfulness of a minister
     hath been improved by Providence for this end and purpose.
     Augustine, once preaching to his congregation, forgot the argument
     which he first proposed, and fell upon the errors of the Manichees
     beside his first intention, by which discourse he converted one
     Firmus, his auditor, who fell down at his feet weeping and
     confessing he had lived a Manichee many years. Another I knew who,
     going to preach, took up another Bible than that he had designed,
     in which, not only missing his notes but the chapter also in which
     his text lay, was put to some loss thereby. But after a short pause
     he resolved to speak about any other Scripture that might be
     presented to him, and accordingly read the text, "The Lord is not
     slack concerning his promise" (2 Pet. iii. 9); and though he had
     nothing prepared, yet the Lord helped him to speak both
     methodically and pertinently from it, by which discourse a gracious
     change was wrought upon one in the congregation, who hath since
     given good evidence of a sound conversion, and acknowledged this
     sermon to be the first and only means thereof.

_George Swinnock_, for some years chaplain to Hampden, had the gift of
illustration largely developed, as his works prove. Some of his similes
are far-fetched, and the growth of knowledge has rendered certain of
them obsolete; but they served his purpose, and made his teaching
attractive. After deducting all his fancies, which in the present age
would be judged to be strained, there remains "a rare amount of
sanctified wit and wisdom"; and sparkling here and there we spy out a
few telling stories, mostly of classic origin.

     THE PRAYER OF PAULINUS.--It was the speech of Paulinus when his
     city was taken by the barbarians, "_Domine, ne excrucier ob aurum
     et argentum_" ("Lord, let me not be troubled for my silver and gold
     which I have lost, for thou art all things"). As Noah, when the
     whole world was overwhelmed with water, had a fair epitome of it in
     the ark, having all sorts of beasts and fowls there, so he that in
     a deluge hath God to be his God hath the original of all mercies.
     He who enjoyeth the ocean may rejoice, though some drops are taken
     from him.

     QUEEN ELIZABETH AND THE MILKMAID.--Queen Elizabeth envied the
     milkmaid when she was in prison, but had she known the glorious
     reign which she was to have for forty-four years she would not have
     repined at the poor happiness of so mean a person. Christians are
     too prone to envy the husks which wandering sinners fill themselves
     with here below; but would they set before them their glorious
     hopes of a heaven, how they must reign with Christ forever and
     ever, they would see little reason for their repining.

     THE BELIEVING CHILD.--I have read a story of a little child about
     eight or nine years old, that, being extremely pinched with hunger,
     looked one day pitifully necessitous on her mother, and said,
     "Mother, do you think that God will starve us?" The mother
     answered, "No, child; he will not." The child replied, "But if he
     do, yet we must love him and serve him." Here was language that
     spake a well-grown Christian. For, indeed, God brings us to want
     and misery to try us whether we love him for his own sake or for
     our own sakes, for those excellencies that are in him or for those
     mercies we have from him, to see whether we will say with the cynic
     to Antisthenes, "_Nullus tam durus erit baculus_," etc. ("There
     should be no cudgel so crabbed as to beat me from thee").

_Thomas Watson_ was one of the many Puritan preachers who won the
popular ear by their frequent illustrations. In the clear flowing stream
of his teaching we find pearls of anecdote very frequently. No one ever
grew weary under such pleasant yet weighty discourse as that which we
find in his "Beatitudes." Let two quotations serve to show his skill:

     THE VESTAL AND THE BRACELETS.--Most men think because God hath
     blessed them with an estate therefore they are blessed. Alas! God
     often gives these things in anger. He loads his enemies with gold
     and silver: as Plutarch reports of Tarpeia, a Vestal nun, who
     bargained with the enemy to betray the Capitol of Rome to them in
     case she might have the golden bracelets on their left hands, which
     they promised; and being entered into the Capitol, they threw not
     only their bracelets but their bucklers, too, upon her, through the
     weight whereof she was pressed to death. God often lets men have
     the golden bracelets of worldly substance, the weight whereof
     sinks them into hell. Oh, let us, _superna anhelare_, get our eyes
     "fixed" and our hearts "united" to God the supreme good. This is to
     pursue blessedness as in a chase.

     HEDGEHOG AND CONIES.--The Fabulist tells a story of the hedgehog
     that came to the cony-burrows in stormy weather and desired harbor,
     promising that he would be a quiet guest; but when once he had
     gotten entertainment he did set up his prickles, and did never
     leave till he had thrust the poor conies out of their burrows. So
     covetousness, though it hath many fair pleas to insinuate and wind
     itself into the heart, yet as soon as you have let it in, this
     thorn will never cease pricking till it hath choked all good
     beginnings and thrust all religion out of your hearts.

I think this must suffice to represent the men of the Puritanic period,
who added to their profound theology and varied learning a zeal to be
understood, and a skill in setting forth truth by the help of every-day
occurrences. The age which followed them was barren of spiritual life,
and was afflicted by a race of rhetorical divines, whose words had
little connection with _the Word_ of life. The scanty thought of the
Queen Anne dignitaries needed no aid of metaphor or parable: there was
nothing to explain to the people; the utmost endeavor of these divines
was to hide the nakedness of their discourses with the fig-leaves of
Latinized verbiage. Living preaching was gone, spiritual life was gone,
and consequently a pulpit was set up which had no voice for the common
people; no voice, indeed, for anybody except the mere formalist, who is
content if decorum be observed and respectability maintained. Of course,
our notion of making truth clear by stories did not suit the dignified
death of the period, and it was only when the dry bones began to be
stirred that the popular method was again brought to the front.

The illustrious _George Whitefield_ stands, with Wesley, at the head of
that noble army who led the Revival of the last century. It is not at
this present any part of my plan to speak of his matchless eloquence,
unquenchable earnestness, and incessant labor; but it is quite according
to the run of my lecture to remind you of his own saying, "I use market
language." He employed pure, good, flowing English; but he was as simple
as if he spoke to children. Although by no means abounding in
illustration, yet he always employed it when needed, and he narrated
incidents with great power of action and emphasis. His stories were so
told that they thrilled the people: they saw as well as heard, for each
word had its proper gesture. One reason why he could be understood at so
great a distance was the fact that the eye helped the ear. As specimens
of his anecdotes I have selected two, which follow:

     THE TWO CHAPLAINS.--You cannot do without the grace of God when you
     come to die. There was a nobleman that kept a deistical chaplain
     and his lady a Christian one. When he was dying he says to his
     chaplain, "I liked you very well when I was in health, but it is my
     lady's chaplain I must have when I am sick."

     NEVER SATISFIED.--My dear hearers, there is not a single soul of
     you all that is satisfied in your station. Is not the language of
     your hearts when apprentices. We think we shall do very well when
     journeymen; when journeymen, that we shall do very well when
     masters; when single, that we shall do well when married? And, to
     be sure, you think you shall do well when you keep a carriage. I
     have heard of one who began low. He first wanted a house; then,
     says he, "I want two, then four, then six." And when he had them he
     said, "I think I want nothing else." "Yes," says his friend, "you
     will soon want another thing; that is a hearse-and-six to carry you
     to your grave." And that made him tremble.

Fearing that the quotation of any more examples might prove tedious, I
would only remind you that such men as Berridge, Rowland Hill, Matthew
Wilks, Christmas Evans, William Jay, and others who have but lately
departed from us, owed much of their attractiveness to the way in which
they aroused their audiences, and flashed truth into their faces by
well-chosen anecdotes. Time calls upon me to have done, and how can I
come to a better close than by mentioning one living man, who, above
all others, has in two continents stirred the masses of the people? I
refer to D. L. Moody. This admirable brother has a great aversion to the
printing of his sermons; and well he may have, for he is incessantly
preaching, and has no time allowed him for the preparation of fresh
discourses; and therefore it would be great unwisdom on his part to
print at once those addresses with which he is working through a
campaign. We hope, however, that when he has done with a sermon he will
never suffer it to die out, but give it to the church and to the world
through the press. Our esteemed brother has a lively, telling style, and
he thinks it wise frequently to fasten a nail with the hammer of
anecdote. Here are three extracts from the little book entitled "Arrows
and Anecdotes by D. L. Moody."

     THE IDIOT'S MOTHER.--I know a mother who has an idiot child. For it
     she gave up all society--almost everything--and devoted her whole
     life to it. "And now," said she, "for fourteen years I have tended
     it and loved it, and it does not even know me. Oh, it is breaking
     my heart!" Oh, how the Lord must say this of hundreds here! Jesus
     comes here, and goes from seat to seat asking if there is a place
     for him. Oh, will not some of you take him into your hearts?

     SURGEON AND PATIENT.--When I was in Belfast I knew a doctor who had
     a friend, a leading surgeon there, and he told me that the
     surgeon's custom was, before performing any operation, to say to
     the patient, "Take a good look at the wound and then fix your eyes
     on me, and don't take them off till I get through the operation." I
     thought at the time that was a good illustration. Sinner, take a
     good look at the wound to-night, and then fix your eyes on Christ
     and don't take them off. It is better to look at the remedy than at
     the wound.

     THE ROLL-CALL.--A soldier lay on his dying couch during our last
     war, and they heard him say, "Here!" They asked him what he wanted,
     and he put up his hand and said, "Hush! They are calling the roll
     of heaven, and I am answering to my name." And presently he
     whispered, "Here!" and he was gone.

I will weary you no longer. You may safely do what the most useful of
men have done before you. Copy them not only in their use of
illustration, but in their wisely keeping it in subservience to their
design. They were not story-tellers, but preachers of the gospel; they
did not aim at the entertainment of the people, but at their conversion.
Never did they go out of their way to drag in a telling bit which they
had been saving up for display, and never could any one say of their
illustrations that they were

  Windows that exclude the light,
  And passages that lead to nothing.

Keep you the due proportion of things lest I do worse than lose my
labor, by becoming the cause of your presenting to the people strings
of anecdotes instead of sound doctrines, for that would be as evil a
thing as if you offered to hungry men flowers instead of bread, and gave
to the naked gauze of gossamer instead of woolen cloth.



The uses of anecdotes and illustrations are manifold; but we may reduce
them to seven, so far as our present purposes are concerned, not for a
moment imagining that this will be a complete list.

We use them, first, _to interest the mind and secure the attention of
our hearers_. We cannot endure a sleepy audience. To us, a slumbering
man is no man. Sydney Smith observed that, although Eve was taken out of
the side of Adam while he was asleep, it was not possible to remove sin
from men's hearts in that manner. We do not agree with Hodge, the hedger
and ditcher, who remarked to a Christian man with whom he was talking,
"I loikes Sunday, I does; I loikes Sunday." "And what makes you like
Sunday?" "Cause, you see, it's a day of rest: I goes down to the old
church, I gets into a pew, and puts my legs up, and I thinks o'
nothin'." It is to be feared that in town as well as in country this
thinking of nothing is a very usual thing. But your regard for the
sacred day, and the ministry to which you are called, and the worshiping
assembly, will not allow you to give your people the chance of thinking
of nothing. You want to arouse every faculty in them to receive the Word
of God, that it may be a blessing to them.

We want to win attention at the commencement of the service, and to hold
it till the close. With this aim, many methods may be tried; but
possibly none will succeed better than the introduction of an
interesting story. This sets Hodge listening, and although he will miss
the fresh air of the fields, and begin to feel drowsy in your stuffy
chapel, another tale will stir him to renewed attention. If he hears
some narrative in connection with his village or county, you will have
him "all there," and you may then hope to do him good.

The anecdote in the sermon answers the purpose of an engraving in a
book. Everybody knows that people are attracted by volumes with pictures
in them; and that, when a child gets a book, although it may pass over
the letterpress without observation, it is quite sure to pause over the
woodcuts. Let us not be too great to use a method which many have found
successful. We must have attention. In some audiences we cannot get it
if we begin with solid instruction; they are not desirous of being
taught, and consequently they are not in a condition to receive the
truth if we set it before them nakedly. Now for a bunch of flowers to
attract these people to our table, for afterward we can feed them with
the food they so much need. Just as the Salvation Army goes trumpeting
and drumming through the streets to draw the people into the barracks,
so may an earnest man spend the first few minutes with an unprepared
congregation in waking the folks up, and enticing them to enter the
inner chamber of the truth. Even this awakening prelude must have in it
that which is worthy of the occasion; but if it is not up to your usual
average in weight of doctrine, it may not only be excused, but
commended, if it prepares the audience to receive that which is to
follow. Ground-bait may catch no fish; but it answers its purpose if it
brings them near the bait and the hook.

A congregation which has been well instructed, and is mainly made up of
established believers, will not need to be addressed in the same style
as an audience gathered fresh from the world, or a meeting of dull,
formal church-goers. Your common sense will teach you to suit your
manner to your audience. It is possible to maintain profound and
long-continued attention without the use of an illustration; I have
frequently done so in the Tabernacle when it has been mainly filled with
church-members; but when my own people are away, and strangers fill
their places, I bring out all my store of stories, similes, and

I have sometimes told anecdotes in the pulpit, and very delicate and
particular people have expressed their regret and horror that I should
say such things; but when I have found that God has blessed some of the
illustrations I have used, I have often thought of the story of the man
with a halberd, who was attacked by a nobleman's dog, and, of course, in
defending himself, he killed the animal. The nobleman was very angry,
and asked the man how he dared to kill the dog; and the man replied that
if he had not killed it the dog would have bitten him and torn him in
pieces. "Well," said the nobleman, "but you should not have struck it on
the head with the halberd; why did you not hit it with the handle?" "My
lord," answered the man, "so I would if it had tried to bite me with its
tail." So, when I have to deal with sin, some people say, "Why don't you
address it delicately? Why don't you speak to it in courtly language?"
And I answer, "So I would if it would bite me with its tail; but as
long as ever I find that it deals roughly with me, I will deal roughly
with it; and any kind of weapon that will help to slay the monster, I
shall not find unfitted to my hand."

We cannot afford in these days to lose any opportunity of getting hold
of the public ear. We must use every occasion that comes in our way, and
every tool that is likely to help us in our work; and we must rouse up
all our faculties, and put forth all our energies, if that by any means
we may get the people to heed that which they are so slow to regard, the
great story of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come. We shall
need to read much, and to study hard, or else we shall not be able to
influence our day and generation for good. I believe that the greatest
industry is necessary to make a thoroughly efficient preacher, and the
best natural ability, too; and it is my firm conviction that, when you
have the best natural ability, you must supplement it with the greatest
imaginable industry, if you are really to do much service for God among
this crooked and perverse generation.

The fool in Scotland who got into the pulpit before the preacher arrived
was requested by the minister to come down. "Nay, nay," answered the
man, "you come up, too, for it will take both of us to move this
stiff-necked generation." It will certainly take all the wisdom that we
can obtain to move the people among whom our lot is cast; and if we do
not use every lawful means of interesting the minds of our hearers, we
shall find that they will be like a certain other congregation, in which
the people were all asleep except one poor idiot. The minister woke them
up, and tried to reprove them by saying, "There, you were all asleep
except poor Jock the idiot;" but his rebuke was cut short by Jock, who
exclaimed, "And if I had not been an idiot, I should have been asleep

I will leave the moral of that well-known story to speak for itself, and
will pass on to my second point, which is, that the use of anecdotes and
illustrations _renders our preaching lifelike and vivid_. This is a most
important matter. Of all things that we have to avoid, one of the most
essential is that of giving our people the idea, when we are preaching,
that we are acting a part. Everything theatrical in the pulpit, either
in tone, manner, or anything else, I loathe from my very soul. Just go
into the pulpit and talk to the people as you would in the kitchen, or
the drawing-room, and say what you have to tell them in your ordinary
tone of voice. Let me conjure you, by everything that is good, to throw
away all stilted styles of speech, and anything approaching affectation.
Nothing can succeed with the masses except naturalness and simplicity.
Why, some ministers cannot even give out a hymn in a natural manner!
"Let us sing to the praise and glory of God" (spoken in the tone that is
sometimes heard in churches or chapels)--who would ever think of
speaking like that at the tea-table? "I shall be greatly obliged if you
will kindly give me another cup of tea" (spoken in the same unnatural
way)--you would never think of giving any tea to a man who talked like
that; and if we preach in that stupid style, the people will not believe
what we say; they will think it is our business, our occupation, and
that we are doing the whole thing in a professional manner. We must
shake off professionalism of every kind, as Paul shook off the viper
into the fire; and we must speak as God has ordained that we should
speak, and not by any strange, out-of-the-way, new-fangled method of
pulpit oratory.

Our Lord's teaching was amazingly lifelike and vivid; it was the setting
out of truth before the eye, not as a flat picture, but as in a
stereoscope, making it stand up, with all its lines and angles of
beauty in lifelike reality. That was a fine living sermon when he took a
little child, and set him in the midst of the disciples; and that was
another powerful discourse when he preached about abstaining from
carking cares, and stooped down and plucked a lily (as I suppose he did)
and said, "Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil
not, neither do they spin." I can readily suppose that some ravens were
flying just over his head, and that he pointed to them, and said,
"Consider the ravens; for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have
storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them." There was a lifelikeness;
you see, a vividness, about the whole thing. We cannot always literally
imitate our Lord, as we have mostly to preach in places of worship. It
is a blessing that we have so many houses of prayer, and I thank God
that there are so many of them springing up all around us; yet I should
praise the Lord still more if half the ministers who preach in our
various buildings were made to turn out of them, and to speak for their
Master in the highways and byways, and anywhere that the people would go
to listen to them. We are to go out into all the world, and preach the
gospel to every creature--not to stop in our chapels waiting for every
creature to come in to hear what we have to say. A sportsman who should
sit at his parlor window, with his gun loaded all ready for shooting
partridges, would probably not make up a very heavy bag of game. No; he
must put on his buskins, and tramp off over the fields, and then he will
get a shot at the birds he is seeking. So must we do, brethren; we must
always have our buskins ready for field work, and be ever on the watch
for opportunities of going out among the souls of men, that we may bring
them back as trophies of the power of the gospel we have to proclaim.

It might not be wise for us to try to make our sermons lifelike and
vivid in the style in which quaint old Matthew Wilks sometimes did; as
when, one Sabbath morning, he took into the pulpit a little box, and
after a while, opened it, and displayed to the congregation a small pair
of scales, and then, turning over the leaves of the Bible with great
deliberation, held up the balances, and announced as his text, "Thou art
weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." I think, however, that
was puerile rather than powerful. I like Matthew Wilks better when, on
another occasion, his text being, "See that ye walk circumspectly," he
commenced by saying, "Did you ever see a tom-cat walking on the top of
a high wall that was covered with bits of broken glass bottles? If so,
you had just then an accurate illustration of what is meant by the
injunction, 'See that ye walk circumspectly.'" There is the case, too,
of good "Father Taylor," who, preaching in the streets in one of the
towns of California, stood on the top of a whisky-barrel. By way of
illustration, he stamped his foot on the cask and said, "This barrel is
like man's heart, full of evil stuff; and there are some people who say
that if sin is within you, it may just as well come out." "No," said the
speaker, "it is not so; now here is this whisky that is in the barrel
under my foot: it is a bad thing; it is a damnable thing; it is a
devilish thing; but as long as it is kept tightly bunged up in the
barrel, it certainly will not do the hurt that it will if it is taken
over to the liquor-bar, and sold out to the drunkards of the
neighborhood, sending them home to beat their wives or kill their
children. So, if you keep your sins in your own heart, they will be evil
and devilish, and God will damn you for them; but they will not do so
much hurt to other people, at any rate, as if they are seen in public."
Stamping his foot again on the barrel, the preacher said, "Suppose you
try to pass this cask over the boundaries of the country, and the
custom-house officer comes and demands the duty upon its contents. You
say that you will not let any of the whisky get out; but the officer
tells you that he cannot allow it to pass. So, if it were possible for
us to abstain from outward sin, yet, since the heart is full of all
manner of evil, it would be impossible for us to pass the frontiers of
heaven, and to be found in that holy and happy place." That I thought to
be somewhat of a lifelike illustration, and a capital way of teaching
truth, although I should not like always to have a whisky-barrel for a
pulpit, for fear the head might fall in, and I might fall in, too.

I should not recommend any of you to be so lifelike in your ministry as
that notable French priest, who, addressing his congregation, said, "As
to the Magdalenes and those who commit the sins of the flesh, such
persons are very common; they abound even in this church; and I am going
to throw this mass-book at a woman who is a Magdalene," whereupon all
the women in the place bent down their heads. So the priest said, "No,
surely you are not all Magdalenes; I hardly thought that was the case;
but you see how your sin finds you out!" Nor should I even recommend you
to follow the example of the clergyman, who, when a collection was to be
made for lighting and warming the church, after he had preached some
time, blew out the candles on both sides of the pulpit, saying that the
collection was for the lights and the fires, and he did not require any
light, for he did not read his sermon, "but," he added, "when Roger
gives out the psalm presently, you will want a light to see your books;
so the candles are for yourselves. And as for the stove, I do not need
its heat, for my exercise in preaching is sufficient to keep me warm;
therefore you see that the collection is wholly for yourselves on this
occasion. Nobody can say that the clergy are collecting for themselves
this time, for on this Sunday it is wholly for your own selves." I
thought the man was a fool for making such remarks, though I find that
his conduct has been referred to as being a very excellent instance of
boldness in preaching.

There is a story told about myself, which, like very many of the tales
told about me, is a _story_ in two senses. It is said that in order to
show the way in which men backslide, I once slid down the banisters of
the pulpit. I only mention this, in passing, because it is a remarkable
fact that, at the time the story was told, my pulpit was fixed in the
wall, and there was no banister, so that the reverend fool (which he
would have been if he had done what people said) could not have
performed the antic if he had been inclined to attempt it. But the
anecdote, although it is not true, serves all the purposes of the
lifelikeness I have tried to describe.

You probably recollect the instance of Whitefield depicting the blind
man, with his dog, walking on the brink of a precipice, and his foot
almost slipping over the edge. The preacher's description was so
graphic, and the illustration so vivid and lifelike, that Lord
Chesterfield sprang up and exclaimed, "Good God, he's gone!" but
Whitefield answered, "No, my lord, he is not quite gone; let us hope
that he may yet be saved." Then he went on to speak of the blind man as
being led by his reason, which is only like a dog, showing that a man
led only by reason is ready to fall into hell. How vividly one would see
the love of money set forth in the story told by our venerable friend,
Mr. Rogers, of a man who, when he lay a-dying, would put his money in
his mouth because he loved it so and wanted to take some of it with him!
How strikingly is the non-utility of worldly wealth, as a comfort to us
in our last days, brought before us by the narrative in which good
Jeremiah Burroughes speaks of a miser who had his money-bags laid near
his hand on his dying-bed! He kept taking them up, and saying, "Must I
leave you? Must I leave you? Have I lived all these years for you, and
now must I leave you?" And so he died. There is a tale told of another,
who had many pains in his death, and especially the great pain of a
disturbed conscience. He also had his money-bags brought, one by one,
with his mortgages, and bonds, and deeds, and putting them near his
heart, he sighed, and said, "These won't do; these won't do; these won't
do; take them away! What poor things they all are when I most need
comfort in my dying moments!"

How distinctly love to Christ is brought out in the story of John
Lambert, fastened to the stake, and burning to death, yet clapping his
hands as he was burning, and crying out, "None but Christ! None but
Christ!" until his nether extremities were burned, and he fell from the
chains into the fire, still exclaiming in the midst of the flames, "None
but Christ! None but Christ!" How clearly the truth stands out before
you when you hear such stories as these! You can realize it almost as
well as if the incident happened before your eyes. How well you can see
the folly of misunderstanding between Christians in Mr. Jay's story of
two men who were walking from opposite directions on a foggy night!
Each saw what he thought was a terrible monster moving toward him, and
making his heart beat with terror; as they came nearer to each other,
they found that the dreadful monsters were brothers. So, men of
different denominations are often afraid of one another; but when they
get close to each other, and know each other's hearts, they find out
that they are brethren after all. The story of the negro and his master
well illustrates the need of beginning at the beginning in heavenly
things, and not meddling with the deeper points of our holy religion
till we have learned its elements thoroughly. A poor negro was laboring
hard to bring his master to a knowledge of the truth, and was urging him
to exercise faith in Christ, when he excused himself because he could
not understand the doctrine of election. "Ah! Massa," said the negro,
"don't you know what comes before de Epistle to de Romans? You must read
de Book de right way; de doctrine ob election is in Romans, and dere is
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, first. You are only in Matthew yet; dat
is about repentance; and when you get to John, you will read where de
Lord Jesus Christ said dat God so loved de world, dat he gave his only
begotten Son, dat whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but hab
everlasting life." So, brethren, you can say to your hearers, "You will
do better by reading the four Gospels first than by beginning to read in
Romans; first study Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and then you can go
on to the Epistles."

But I must not keep on giving you illustrations, because so many will
suggest themselves. I have given you sufficient to show that they do
make our preaching vivid and lifelike; therefore, the more you have of
them, the better. At the same time, gentlemen, I must warn you against
the danger of having too many anecdotes in any one sermon. You ought,
perhaps, to have a dish of salad on the table; but if you ask your
friends to dinner, and give them nothing but salad, they will not fare
very well, and will not care to come to your house again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Thirdly, anecdotes and illustrations may be used _to explain either
doctrines or duties to dull understandings_. They may, in fact, be the
very best form of exposition. A preacher should instance, and
illustrate, and exemplify his subject, so that his hearers may have real
acquaintance with the matter he is bringing before them. If a man
attempted to give me a description of a piece of machinery, he would
possibly fail to make me comprehend what it was like; but if he will
have the goodness to let me see a drawing of the various sections, and
then of the whole machine, I will, somehow or other, by hook or by
crook, make out how it works. The pictorial representation of a thing is
always a much more powerful means of instruction than any mere verbal
description ever could be. It is just in this way that anecdotes and
illustrations are so helpful to our hearers. For instance, take this
anecdote as illustrating the text, "Thou, when thou prayest, enter into
thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which
is in secret." A little boy used to go up into a hay-loft to pray; but
he found that, sometimes, persons came up and disturbed him; therefore,
the next time he climbed into the loft, he pulled the ladder up after
him. Telling this story, you might explain how the boy thus entered into
his closet and shut the door. The meaning is not so much the literal
entrance into a closet, or the shutting of the door, as the getting away
from earthly sources of distraction, pulling up the ladder after us, and
keeping out anything that might come in to hinder our secret devotions.
I wish we could always pull the ladder up after us when we retire for
private prayer; but many things try to climb that ladder. The devil
himself will come up to disturb us if he can; and he can get into the
hay-loft without any ladder.

What a capital exposition of the fifth commandment was that which was
given by Corporal Trim, when he was asked, "What dost thou mean by
honoring thy father and thy mother?" and he answered, "Please, your
honor, it is allowing them a shilling a week out of my pay when they
grow old." That was an admirable explanation of the meaning of the text.
Then, if you are trying to show how we are to be doers of the Word, and
not hearers only, there is a story of a woman who, when asked by the
minister what he had said on Sunday, replied that she did not remember
the sermon; but it had touched her conscience, for when she got home she
burned her bushel, which was short measure. There is another story which
also goes to show that the gospel may be useful even to hearers who
forget what they have heard. A woman is called upon by her minister on
the Monday, and he finds her washing wool in a sieve, holding it under
the pump. He asks her, "How did you enjoy last Sabbath's discourses?"
and she says that they did her much good. "Well, what was the text?" She
does not recollect. "What was the subject?" "Ah, sir, it is quite gone
from me!" says the poor woman. Does she remember any of the remarks
that were made? No, they are all gone. "Well, then, Mary," says the
minister, "it could not have done you much good." Oh! but it had done
her a great deal of good; and she explained it to him by saying, "I will
tell you, sir, how it is; I put this wool in the sieve under the pump, I
pump on it, and all the water runs through the sieve, but then it washes
the wool. So it is with your sermon; it comes into my heart, and then it
runs right through my poor memory, which is like a sieve, but it washes
em clean, sir." You might talk for a long while about the cleansing and
sanctifying power of the Word, and it would not make such an impression
upon your hearers as that simple story would.

What finer exposition of the text, "Weep with them that weep," can you
have than this pretty anecdote? "Mother," said little Annie, "I cannot
make out why poor Widow Brown likes me to go in to see her; she says I
do comfort her so; but, mother, I cannot say anything to comfort her,
and as soon as she begins crying, I put my arms round her neck, and I
cry too, and she says that that comforts her." And so it does; that is
the very essence of the comfort, the sympathy, the fellow-feeling that
moved the little girl to weep with the weeping widow. Mr. Hervey thus
illustrates the great truth of the different appearance of sin to the
eye of God and the eye of man. He says that you may take a small insect,
and with the tiniest needle make a puncture in it so minute that you can
scarcely see it with the naked eye; but when you look at it through a
microscope, you see an enormous rent, out of which there flows a purple
stream, making the creature seem to you as though it had been smitten
with the ax that killeth an ox. It is but a defect of our vision that we
cannot see things correctly; but the microscope reveals them as they
really are. Thus you may explain to your hearers how God's microscopic
eye sees sin in its true aspects. Suppose that you wanted to set forth
the character of Caleb, who followed the Lord fully; it would greatly
help many of your people if you said that the name Caleb signifies a
dog, and then showed how a dog follows his master. There is his owner on
horseback, riding along the miry roads; but the dog keeps as close to
him as he can, no matter how much mud and dirt are splashed upon him,
and not heeding the kicks he might get from the horse's heels. Even so
should we follow the Lord. If you wish to exemplify the shortness of
time, you might bring in the poor seamstress, with her little piece of
candle, stitching away to get her work done before the light went out.

Many preachers find the greatest difficulty in getting suitable
metaphors to set forth simple faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is a
capital anecdote of an idiot who was asked by the minister, who was
trying to instruct him, whether he had a soul. To the utter
consternation of his kind teacher, he replied, "No, I have no soul." The
preacher said he was greatly surprised, after he had been taught for
years, that he did not know better than that; but the poor fellow thus
explained himself, "I had a soul once, but I lost it; and Jesus Christ
came and found it, and now I let him keep it, for it is his, it does not
belong to me any longer." That is a fine picture of the way of salvation
by simple faith in the substitution of the Lord Jesus Christ; and the
smallest child in the congregation might be able to understand it
through the story of the poor idiot.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fourthly, _there is a kind of reasoning in anecdotes and illustrations_,
which is very clear to illogical minds; and many of our hearers,
unfortunately, have such minds, yet they can understand illustrative
instances and stubborn facts. Truthful anecdotes are facts, and facts
are stubborn things. Instances, when sufficiently multiplied, as we know
by the inductive philosophy, prove a point. Two instances may not prove
it; but twenty may prove it to a demonstration. Take the very important
matter of answers to prayer. You can prove that God answers prayer by
quoting anecdote after anecdote, that you know to be authentic, of
instances in which God has really heard and answered prayer. Take that
capital little book by Mr. Prime on the "Power of Prayer"; there I
believe you have the truth upon this subject demonstrated as clearly as
you could have it in any proposition in Euclid. I think that, if such a
number of facts could be instanced in connection with any question
relating to geology or astronomy, the point would be regarded as
settled. The writer brings such abundant proofs of God's having heard
prayer, that even men who reject inspiration ought, at least, to
acknowledge that this is a marvelous phenomenon for which they cannot
account by any other explanation than the one which proclaims that there
is a God who sitteth in heaven, and who hath respect unto the cry of his
people upon the earth.

I have heard of some persons who have had objections to labor for the
conversion of their children, on the ground that God would save his own
without any effort on our part. I remember making one man wince who held
this view, by telling him of a father who would never teach his child to
pray, or have him instructed even as to the meaning of prayer. He
thought it was wrong, and that such work ought to be left to God's Holy
Spirit. The boy fell down and broke his leg, and had to have it taken
off; and all the while the surgeon was amputating it the boy was cursing
and swearing in the most frightful manner. The good surgeon said to the
father, "You see, you would not teach your boy to pray, but the devil
evidently had no objection to teach him to swear." That is the mischief
of it; if we do not try our best to bring our children to Christ, there
is another who will do his worst to drag them down to hell. A mother
once said to her sick son, who was about to die, and was in a dreadful
state of mind, "My boy, I am sorry you are in such trouble; I am sure I
never taught you any hurt." "No, mother," he answered, "but you never
taught me any good; and therefore there was room for all sorts of evil
to get into me." All these stories will be to many people the very best
kind of argument that you could possibly use with them. You bring to
them facts, and these facts reach their conscience, even though it is
embedded in several inches of callousness.

I do not know of any reasoning that would explain the need of submission
to the will of God better than the telling of the story, which Mr.
Gilpin gives us in his Life, of his being called in to pray with a woman
whose boy was very ill. The good man asked that God would, if it were
his will, restore the dear child to life and health, when the mother
interrupted him, and said, "No, I cannot agree to such a prayer as that;
I cannot put it in that shape; it must be God's will to restore him. I
cannot bear that my child should die; pray that he may live whether it
is God's will or not." He answered, "Woman, I cannot pray that prayer,
but it is answered; your child will recover, but you will live to rue
the day that you made such a request." Twenty years after, there was a
woman carried away in a fainting fit from under a drop at Tyburn, for
her son had lived long enough to bring himself to the gallows by his
crimes. The mother's wicked prayer had been heard, and God had answered
it. So, if you want to prove the power of the gospel, do not go on
expending words to no purpose, but tell the stories of cases you have
met with that illustrate the truth you are enforcing, for such anecdotes
will convince your hearers as no other kind of reasoning can. I think
that is clear enough to every one of you.

Anecdotes are useful, also, because they often appeal very forcibly to
human nature. In order to rebuke those who profane the Sabbath, tell the
story of the gentleman who had seven sovereigns, and who met with a poor
fellow, to whom he gave six out of the seven, and then the wicked wretch
turned round and robbed him of the seventh. How clearly that sets forth
the ingratitude of our sinful race in depriving God of that one day out
of the seven which he has set apart for his own service! This story
appeals to nature, too. Two or three boys come round one of their
companions, and they say to him, "Let us go and get some cherries out of
your father's garden." "No," he replies, "I cannot steal, and my father
does not wish those cherries to be picked." "Oh, but then your father is
so kind, and he never beats you!" "Ah, I know that is true!" answers the
boy, "and that is the very reason why I would not steal his cherries."
This would show that the grace and goodness of God do not lead his
children to licentiousness; but, on the contrary, they restrain them
from sin. This story, also, appeals to human nature, and shows that the
fathers of the church are not always to be depended upon as fountains
of authority. A nobleman had heard of a certain very old man, who lived
in a village, and he sought out and found him, and ascertained that he
was seventy years of age. He was talking with him, supposing him to be
the oldest inhabitant, when the man said, "Oh, no, sir, I am not the
oldest; I am not the father of the village; there is an older one--my
father--who is still alive." So, I have heard of some who have said that
they turned away from "the fathers" of the church to the very old
fathers, that is, away from what are commonly called "the patristic
fathers," back to the apostles, who are the true fathers and
grandfathers of the Christian Church.

Sometimes anecdotes have force in them on account of their appealing to
the sense of the ludicrous. Of course, I must be very careful here, for
it is a sort of tradition of the fathers that it is wrong to laugh on
Sundays. The eleventh commandment is, that we are to love one another,
and then, according to some people, the twelfth is, "Thou shalt pull a
long face on Sunday." I must confess that I would rather hear people
laugh than I would see them asleep in the house of God; and I would
rather get the truth into them through the medium of ridicule than I
would have the truth neglected, or leave the people to perish through
lack of reception of the truth. I do believe in my heart that there may
be as much holiness in a laugh as in a cry; and that, sometimes, to
laugh is the better thing of the two, for I may weep, and be murmuring,
and repining, and thinking all sorts of bitter thoughts against God;
while, at another time, I may laugh the laugh of sarcasm against sin,
and so evince a holy earnestness in the defense of the truth. I do not
know why ridicule is to be given up to Satan as a weapon to be used
against us, and not to be employed by us as a weapon against him. I will
venture to affirm that the Reformation owed almost as much to the sense
of the ridiculous in human nature as to anything else, and that those
humorous squibs and caricatures that were issued by the friends of
Luther, did more to open the eyes of Germany to the abominations of the
priesthood than the more solid and ponderous arguments against Romanism.
I know no reason why we should not, on suitable occasions, try the same
style of reasoning. "It is a dangerous weapon," it will be said, "and
many men will cut their fingers with it." Well, that is their own
lookout; but I do not know why we should be so particular about their
cutting their fingers, if they can, at the same time, cut the throat of
sin, and do serious damage to the great adversary of souls.

Here is a story that I should not mind telling on a Sunday for the
benefit of certain people who are good at hearing sermons and attending
prayer-meetings, but who are very bad hands at business. They never work
on Sundays because they never work on any day of the week; they forget
that part of the commandment which says, "Six days shalt thou labor,"
which is just as binding as the other part, "The seventh day is the
sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work." To these
people who never labor because they are so heavenly-minded, I would tell
the story of a certain monk, who entered a monastery, but who would not
work in the fields, or the garden, or at making clothes, or anything
else, because, as he told the superior, he was a spiritually-minded
monk. He wondered, when the dinner-hour approached, that there came to
him no summons from the refectory. So he went down to the prior, and
said, "Don't the brethren eat here? Are you not going to have any
dinner?" The prior said, "We do, because we are carnal; but you are so
spiritual that you do not work, and therefore you do not require to eat;
that is why we did not call you. The law of this monastery is, that if
any man will not work, neither shall he eat."

That is a good story of the boy in Italy who had his Testament seized,
and who said to the _gendarme_, "Why do you seize this book? Is it a bad
book?" "Yes," was the answer. "Are you sure the book is bad?" he
inquired; and again the reply was, "Yes." "Then why do you not seize the
Author of it if it is a bad book?" That was a fine piece of sarcasm at
those who had a hatred of the Scriptures, and yet professed to have love
to Christ. That is another good story of our friend the Irishman, who,
when he was asked by the priest what warrant an ignorant man such as he
was had for reading the Bible, said, "Truth, but I have a
search-warrant; for it says, 'Search the Scriptures; for in them ye
think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.'"

This story would not be amiss, I think, as a sort of ridiculous argument
showing what power the gospel ought to have over the human mind. Dr.
Moffat tells us of a certain Kaffir, who came to him one day, saying
that the New Testament, which the missionary had given him a week
before, had spoiled his dog. The man said that his dog had been a very
good hunting-dog, but that he had torn the Testament to pieces, and
eaten it up, and now he was quite spoiled. "Never mind," said Dr.
Moffat, "I will give you another Testament." "Oh!" said the man, "it is
not that that troubles me, I do not mind the dog spoiling the book, for
I could buy another; but the book has spoiled the dog." "How is that?"
inquired the missionary; and the Kaffir replied, "The dog will be of no
use to me now, because he has eaten the Word of God, and that will make
him love his enemies, so that he will be of no good for hunting." The
man supposed that not even a dog could receive the New Testament without
being sweetened in temper thereby; that is, in truth, what ought to be
the case with all who feed upon the gospel of Christ. I should not
hesitate to tell that story after Dr. Moffat, and I should, of course,
use it to show that, when a man has received the truth as it is in
Jesus, there ought to be a great change in him, and he ought never to be
of any use to his old master again.

When the priests were trying to pervert the natives of Tahiti to
Romanism, they had a fine picture which they hoped would convince the
people of the excellence of the Church of Rome. There were certain dead
logs of wood: whom were they to represent? They were the heretics, who
were to go into the fire. And who were these small branches of the
tree? They were the faithful. Who were the larger ones? They were the
priests. And who were the next? They were the cardinals. And who was the
trunk of the tree? Oh, that was the pope! And the root, whom did that
set forth? Oh, the root was Jesus Christ! So the poor natives said,
"Well, we do not know anything about the trunk or the branches; but we
have got the root, and we mean to stick to that, and not give it up." If
we have the root, if we have Christ, we may laugh to scorn all the
pretensions and delusions of men.

These stories may make us laugh, but they may also smite error right
through the heart, and lay it dead; and they may, therefore, lawfully be
used as weapons with which we may go forth to fight the Lord's battles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Fifthly, another use of anecdotes and illustrations lies in the fact
that _they help the memory to grasp the truth_. There is a story
told--though I will not vouch for the truth of it--of a certain
countryman, who had been persuaded by some one that all Londoners were
thieves; and, therefore, on coming to London for the first time, he
tried to secure his watch by putting it into his waistcoat pocket, and
then covering it all over with fish-hooks. "Now," he thought, "if any
gentleman tries to get my watch, he will remember it." The story says
that, as he was walking along, he desired to know the time himself, and
put his own hand into his pocket, forgetting all about the fish-hooks.
The effect produced upon him can better be imagined than described. Now,
it seems to me that a sermon should always be like that countryman's
pocket, full of fish-hooks, so that, if anybody comes in to listen to
it, he will get some forget-me-not, some remembrancer, fastened in his
ear, and, it may be, in his heart and conscience. Let him drop in just
at the end of the discourse, there should be something at the close that
will strike and stick. As when we walk in our farmer friends' fields
there are certain burrs that are sure to cling to our clothes; and, rush
as we may, some of the relics of the fields remain upon our garments; so
there ought to be some burr in every sermon that will stick to those who
hear it.

What do you remember best in the discourses you heard years ago? I will
venture to say that it is some anecdote that the preacher related. It
may possibly be some pithy sentence; but it is more probable that it is
some striking story which was told in the course of the sermon. Rowland
Hill, a little while before he died, was visiting an old friend, who
said to him, "Mr. Hill, it is now sixty-five years since I first heard
you preach; but I remember your text, and a part of your sermon."
"Well," asked the preacher, "what part of the sermon do you recollect?"
His friend answered, "You said that some people, when they went to hear
a sermon, were very squeamish about the delivery of the preacher. Then
you said, 'Supposing you went to hear the will of one of your relatives
read, and you were expecting a legacy from him; you would hardly think
of criticizing the manner in which the lawyer read the will; but you
would be all attention to hear whether anything was left to you, and if
so, how much; and that is the way to hear the gospel.'" Now, the man
would not have recollected that for sixty-five years if Mr. Hill had not
put the matter in that illustrative form. If he had said, "Dear friends,
you must listen to the gospel for its own sake, and not merely for the
charms of the preacher's oratory, or those delightful soaring periods
which gratify your ears," if he had put it in the very pretty manner in
which some people can do the thing, I will be bound to say that the man
would have remembered it as long as a duck recollects the last time it
went into the water, and no longer; for it would have been so common to
have spoken in that way; but putting the truth in the striking manner
that he did, it was remembered for sixty-five years.

A gentleman related the following anecdote, which just answers the
purpose I have in view, so I will pass it on to you. He said: "When I
was a boy, I used to hear the story of a tailor who lived to a great
age, and became very wealthy, so that he was an object of envy to all
who knew him. His life, as all lives will, drew to a close; but before
he passed away, feeling some desire to benefit the members of his craft,
he gave out word that, on a certain day, he would be happy to
communicate to all the tailors of the neighborhood the secret by which
they might become wealthy. A great number of knights of the thimble
came, and while they waited in anxious silence to hear the important
revelation, he was raised up in his bed, and with his expiring breath
uttered this short sentence, _'Always put a knot in your thread_.'" That
is why I recommend you, brethren, to use anecdotes and illustrations,
because they put knots in the thread of your discourse. What is the use
of pulling the end of your thread through the material on which you are
working? Yet, has it not been the case with very many of the sermons to
which we have listened, or the discourses we have ourselves delivered?
The bulk of what we have heard has just gone through our minds without
leaving any lasting impression, and all we recollect is some anecdote
that was told by the preacher.

There is an authenticated case of a man being converted by a sermon
eighty-five years after he had heard it preached. Mr. Flavel, at the
close of a discourse, instead of pronouncing the usual benediction,
stood up, and said, "How can I dismiss you with a blessing, for many of
you are 'Anathema Maranatha,' because you love not the Lord Jesus
Christ?" A lad of fifteen heard that remarkable utterance; and
eighty-five years afterward, sitting under a hedge, the whole scene came
vividly before him as if it had been but the day before; and it pleased
God to bless Mr. Flavel's words to his conversion, and he lived three
years longer to bear good testimony that he had felt the power of the
truth in his heart.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sixthly, anecdotes and illustrations are useful because _they frequently
arouse the feelings_. They will not do this, however, if you tell the
same stories over and over again ever so many times. I recollect, when I
first heard that wonderful story about "There is another man," I cried a
good deal over it. Poor soul, just rescued, half-dead, with only a few
rags on him, and yet he said, "There is another man," needing to be
saved. The second time I heard the story, I liked it, but I did not
think it was quite so new as at first; and the third time I heard it, I
thought that I never wanted to hear it again. I do not know how many
times I have heard it since; but I can always tell when it is coming
out. The brother draws himself up, and looks wonderfully solemn, and in
a sepulchral tone says, "There is another man," and I think to myself,
"Yes, and I wish there had not been," for I have heard that story till I
am sick and tired of it. Even a good anecdote may get so hackneyed that
there is no force in it, and no use in retailing it any longer.

Still, a live illustration is better for appealing to the feelings of an
audience than any amount of description could possibly be. What we want
in these times is not to listen to long prelections upon some dry
subject, but to hear something practical, something matter-of-fact, that
comes home to our every-day reasoning; and when we get this then our
hearts are soon stirred.

I have no doubt that the sight of a death-bed would move men much more
than that admirable work called "Drelincourt on Death," a book which, I
should think, nobody has ever been able to read through. There may have
been instances of persons who have attempted it; but I believe that,
long before they have reached the latter end, they have been in a state
of asphyxia or coma, and have been obliged to be rubbed with hot
flannels; and the book has had to be removed to a distance before they
could recover. If you have not read "Drelincourt on Death," I believe I
know what you have read--that is, the ghost story that is stitched in at
the end of the book. The work would not sell, the whole impression was
upon the shelves of the bookseller, when Defoe wrote the fiction
entitled, "A True Relation of the Apparition of Mrs. Veal, after her
Death, to Mrs. Bargrave," in which "Drelincourt on Death" is recommended
by the apparition as the best book on the subject. This story had not a
vestige or shadow of truth in it, it was all a piece of imagination; but
it was put in at the end of the book, and then the whole edition was
speedily cleared out, and more were wanted. It may be something like
that very often with your sermons; only you must tell the people of what
has actually occurred, and so you will retain their attention and reach
their hearts.

Many have been moved to self-sacrifice by the story of the Moravians in
South Africa who saw a large inclosed space of ground, in which there
were persons rotting away with leprosy, some without arms and some
without legs; and these Moravians could not preach to the poor lepers
without going in there themselves for life to rot with them, and they
did so. Two more of the same noble band of brethren sold themselves into
slavery in the West Indies, in order that they might be allowed to
preach to the slaves. When you can give such instances as these of
missionary disinterestedness and devotedness, it will do more to arouse
a spirit of enthusiasm for foreign missions than all your closely
reasoned arguments could possibly do.

Who has not heard and felt the force of the story of the two miners,
when the fuse was burning, and only one could escape, and the Christian
man cried out to his unconverted companion, "Escape for your life,
because, if you die, you are lost; but if I die, it is all right with
me; so you go."

The fool's plan, too, I have sometimes used as a striking illustration.
There was a little boat which got wrecked, and the man in it was trying
to swim to shore, but the current was too strong for him. After he had
been drowned an hour, a man said, "I could have saved him;" and when
they asked him how he could have saved him, he described a plan that
seemed to be most excellent and feasible, by which the man might, no
doubt, have been saved; but then, unfortunately, by that time he was
drowned! So, there are some who are always wise just too late, some who
may have to say to themselves, when such and such a one is gone the way
of all living, "What might I not have done for him if I had but taken
him in time?" Brethren, let that anecdote be a reminder to us all that
we should seek to be wise in winning souls before it is too late to
rescue them from everlasting destruction.

       *       *       *       *       *

Seventhly, and lastly, anecdotes and illustrations are exceedingly
useful because _they catch the ear of the utterly careless_. Something
is wanted in every sermon for this class of people; and an anecdote is
well calculated to catch the ear of the thoughtless and the ungodly. We
really desire their salvation, and we would bait our trap in any way
possible by which we might catch them for Christ. We cannot expect our
young people to come and listen to learned doctrinal disquisitions that
are not at all embellished with anything that interests their immature
minds. Nay, even grown-up people, after the toils of the week, some of
them busy till early on the Sunday morning, cannot be expected to attend
to long prosaic discourses which are not broken by a single anecdote.

Oh, dear, dear, dear! How I do pity those unpractical brethren who do
not seem to know to whom they are preaching! "Ah," said a brother once,
"whenever I preach, I do not know where to look, and so I look up at the
ventilator!" Now, there is not anybody up in the ventilator; there
cannot be supposed to be anybody there, unless the angels of heaven are
listening there to hear the words of truth. A minister should not preach
_before_ the people, but he should preach right _at_ them; let him look
straight at them; if he can, let him search them through and through,
and take stock of them, as it were, and see what they are like, and then
suit his message to them.

I have often seen some poor fellow standing in the aisle at the
Tabernacle. Why, he looks just like a sparrow that has got into a church
and cannot get out again! He cannot make out what sort of service it is;
he begins to count how many people sit in the front row in the gallery,
and all kinds of ideas pass through his mind. Now I want to attract his
attention; how shall I do it? If I quote a text of Scripture, he may
not know what it means, and may not be interested in it. Shall I put a
bit of Latin into the sermon, or quote the original Hebrew or Greek of
my text? That will not do for such a man. What shall I do? Ah, I know a
story that will, I believe, just fit him! Out it comes, and the man does
not look up at the gallery any more; but he is wondering whatever the
preacher is at. Something is said that so exactly suits his case that he
begins to ask himself who has been telling the minister about him, and
he thinks, "Why, I know; my wife comes to hear this man sometimes, so
she has been telling him all about me!" Then he feels curious to hear
more, and while he is looking up at the preacher, and listening to the
truth that is being proclaimed, the first gleam of light on divine
things dawns upon him; but if we had kept on with our regular discourse,
and had not gone out of our way, what might have become of that man I
cannot tell. "They say I ramble," said Rowland Hill, in a sermon I have
been reading this afternoon; "they say I ramble, but it is because you
ramble, and I am obliged to ramble after you. They say I do not stick to
my subject; but, thank God, I always stick to my object, which is, the
winning of your souls, and bringing you to the cross of Jesus Christ!"

Mr. Bertram aptly illustrates the way in which men are engrossed in
worldly cares by telling the story of the captain of a whaling ship,
whom he tried to interest in the things of God, and who said, "It is no
use, sir; your conversation will not have any effect upon me. I cannot
hear what you are saying, or understand the subject you are talking
about. I left my home to try to catch whales; I have been a year and
nine months looking for whales, sir, and I have not caught a whale yet.
I have been plowing the deep in search of whales; when I go to bed I
dream of whales; and when I get up in the morning, I wonder if there
will be any whales caught that day; there is a whale in my heart, sir, a
whale in my brain, and it is of no use for you to talk to me about
anything else but whales." So, your people have their business in their
heads and in their hearts; they want to make a fortune and retire; or
else they have a family of children to bring up, and Susan must be
married, and John must be got into a situation, and it is no use for you
to talk to them about the things of God unless you can drive away the
whales that keep floundering and splashing about.

There is a merchant, perhaps, who has just thought of some bad bill; or
another has looked across the building and noticed a piece of ribbon of
a particular color, and he thinks, "Yes, I ought to have had a larger
stock of that kind of thing, I see that it is getting fashionable!" or
it may be that one of the hearers has caught sight of his neighbor, and
he thinks he must pay him a visit on the morrow; and so people's
thoughts are occupied with all sorts of subjects besides that of which
the preacher is speaking. You ask me how I know that this is the case.
Well, I know because I have been guilty of the same offense myself; I
find this occur when I am listening to another brother preaching. I do
not think, when I am preaching, that I get on very well; but sometimes,
when I go into the country, and take the morning and evening services,
and then hear some one else in the afternoon, I think, "Well, really,
when I was up there, I thought I was a stick: but _now_! I only wish I
had my turn again!" Now, this is very wrong, to let such thoughts come
into our minds; but, as we are all very apt to wander, the preacher
should carry anecdotes and illustrations into the pulpit, and use them
as nails to fasten the people's attention to the subject of his sermon.

Mr. Paxton Hood once said in a lecture that I heard him deliver, "Some
preachers expect too much of their hearers; they take a number of
truths into the pulpit as a man might carry up a box of nails; and then,
supposing the congregation to be posts, they take out a nail, and expect
it to get into the post by itself. Now, that is not the way to do it.
You must take your nail, hold it up against the post, hammer it in, and
then clinch it on the other side; and then it is that you may expect the
great Master of assemblies to fasten the nails so that they will not
fall out." We must try thus to get the truth into the people, for it
will never get in of itself; and we must remember that the hearts of our
hearers are not open, like a church door, so that the truth may go in,
and take its place, and sit upon its throne to be worshiped there. No,
we have often to break open the doors with great effort, and to thrust
the truth into places where it will not at first be a welcome guest, but
where, afterward, the better it is known, the more it will be loved.

Illustrations and anecdotes will greatly help to make a way for the
truth to enter; and they will do it by catching the ear of the careless
and the inattentive. We must try to be like Mr. Whitefield, of whom a
shipbuilder said, "When I have been to hear anybody else preach, I have
always been able to lay down a ship from stem to stern; but when I
listen to Mr. Whitefield, I cannot even lay the keel." And another, a
weaver, said, "I have often, when I have been in church, calculated how
many looms the place would hold; but when I listen to that man, I forget
my weaving altogether." You must endeavor, brethren, to make your people
forget matters relating to this world by interweaving the whole of
divine truth with the passing things of every day, and this you will do
by a judicious use of anecdotes and illustrations.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now, gentlemen, these seven reasons--that they interest the mind and
secure the attention of our hearers, that they render the teaching vivid
and lifelike, that they explain some difficult passages to dull
understandings, that they help the reasoning faculties of certain minds,
that they aid the memory, that they arouse the feelings, and that they
catch the ear of the careless--have reconciled me for many a day to the
use of anecdotes and illustrations, and I think it is very likely that
they will reconcile you to the use of them, too.

At the same time, I must repeat what I before said: we must take care
that we do not let our anecdotes and illustrations be like empty casks
that carry nothing. We must not have it truthfully said of our sermons,
as was said by a certain lady who, after having heard a clergyman
preach, was asked what she thought of the sermon, and whether there was
not much spirit in it. "Oh, yes!" she replied, "it was all spirit; there
was no body to it at all." There must be some "body" in every discourse,
some really sound doctrine, some suitable instruction for our hearers to
carry home; not merely stories to amuse them, but solid truth to be
received in the heart, and wrought out in the life. If this be so with
your sermons, my dear brethren, I shall not have spoken to you in vain
upon the uses of anecdotes and illustrations.



Dear brethren: After my last lecture to you, upon the uses of anecdotes
and illustrations, you are probably quite ready to employ them in your
discourses; but some of you may ask, "Where can we get them?" At the
very beginning of this afternoon's talk, let me say that _nobody need
make anecdotes_ in order to interest a congregation. I have heard of one
who called to see a minister on a Friday, and he was told by the servant
that her master could not be seen, for he was up in his study "making
anecdotes." That kind of work will not do for a Christian minister. I
would also bid you beware of the many common anecdotes, which are often
repeated, but which I half suspect could not be proved to be matters of
fact. Whenever I have the slightest suspicion about the truth of a
story, I drop it at once; and I think that every one else should do the
same. So long as the anecdotes are current, and are generally believed,
and provided they can be used for a profitable purpose, I believe they
may be told, without any affirmation as to their truthfulness being made
in a court of justice; but the moment any doubt comes across the mind of
the preacher as to whether the tale is at least founded on fact, I think
he had better look for something else, for he has the whole world to go
to as a storehouse of illustration.

       *       *       *       *       *

If you want to interest your congregation, and keep up their attention,
you can find anecdotes and illustrations in many channels, like golden
grains glistening among the mountain streams. For instance, there is
_current history_. You may take up the daily newspaper, and find
illustrations there. In my little book, "The Bible and the Newspaper," I
have given specimens of how this may be done; and when I was preparing
the present lecture, I took up a newspaper to see if I could find an
illustration in it, and I soon found one. There was an account of a man
at Wandsworth, who was discovered, with a gun and a dog, trespassing on
some gentleman's preserves, and he said that he was only looking for
mushrooms! Can you imagine what the gun and the dog had to do with
mushrooms? However, the keeper felt in the man's pocket, and laying
hold of something soft, asked, "What is this!" "Oh," said the poacher,
"it is only a rabbit!" When it was suggested to him that the creature's
ears were too long for a rabbit, he said that it was only a leveret,
whereas it proved to be a very fine and plump hare. The man then said
that he had found the hare lying near some mushrooms, but his intention
was to get the mushrooms only! Now, that is a capital illustration. As
soon as ever you lay hold of a man, and begin to accuse him of sin, he
says, "Sin, sir! Oh, dear, no! I was only doing a very proper thing,
just what I have a perfect right to do; I was looking for mushrooms; I
was not poaching!" You press him a little more closely, and try to bring
him to conviction of sin; and then he says, "Well, perhaps it was hardly
the thing, it may have been a little amiss; but it was only a rabbit!"
When the man cannot any longer deny that he is guilty of sin, he says
that it was only a very little one; and it is long before you can get
him to admit that sin is exceeding sinful; indeed, no human power can
ever produce genuine conviction in the heart of a single sinner; it must
be the work of the Holy Spirit.

I also read in the same newspaper of a calamitous shipwreck caused
through the lack of lights. You could easily turn that incident to
account by using it to illustrate the destruction of souls through the
want of a knowledge of Christ. I have no doubt, if you were to take up
any of this morning's daily papers, you would very readily find an
abundance of illustrations. Mr. Newman Hall, in addressing us once, said
that every Christian minister ought to read regularly his Bible and _The
Times_ newspaper. I should imagine from the usual mode of his address
that he does so himself. Whether you read that particular paper or any
other, you should somehow keep yourselves well stored with illustrations
taken from the ordinary transactions going on round about you. I pity
even a Sunday-school teacher, much more a minister of the gospel, who
could not make use of such incidents as the terrible burning of the
church at Santiago, the great fire at London Bridge, the entrance into
London of the Princess Alexandra, the taking of the census; and, indeed,
anything that attracts public attention. There is in all these events an
illustration, a simile, an allegory, which may point a moral and adorn a

       *       *       *       *       *

You may sometimes adapt _local history_ to the illustration of your
subject. When a minister is preaching in any particular district he
will often find it best to catch the ears of the people, and engross
their attention, by relating some anecdote that relates to the place
where they live. Whenever I can, I get the histories of various
counties; for, having to go into all sorts of country towns and villages
to preach, I find that there is a great deal of useful material to be
dug out of even dull, dry, topographical books. They begin, perhaps,
with the name of John Smith, laborer, the man who keeps the parish
register, and winds up the parish clock, and makes mouse-traps, and
catches rats, and does fifty other useful things; but if you have the
patience to read on, you will find much information that you could get
nowhere else, and you will probably meet with many incidents and
anecdotes that you can use as illustrations of the truth you are seeking
to set forth.

Preaching at Winslow, in Buckinghamshire, it would not be at all amiss
to introduce the incident of good Benjamin Keach, the pastor of the
Baptist church in that town, standing in the pillory in the market-place
in the year 1664, "for writing, printing, and publishing a schismatical
book entitled, 'The Child's Instructor; or, a New and Easy Primmer.'" I
do not think, however, that if I were preaching at Wapping I should
call the people "_Wapping_ sinners," as Rowland Hill is said to have
done, when he told them that "Christ could save old sinners, great
sinners, yea, even Wapping sinners!" At Craven Chapel it would be most
appropriate to tell the story of Lord Craven, who was packing up his
goods to go into the country at the time of the Great Plague of London,
when his servant said to him, "My lord, does your God live only in the
country?" "No," replied Lord Craven, "he is here as well as there."
"Well, then," said the servant, "if I were your lordship, I think I
would stop here; you will be as safe in the city as in the country;" and
Lord Craven did stop there, relying upon the good providence of God.

       *       *       *       *       *

Besides this, brethren, you have the marvelous storehouse of _ancient
and modern history_--Roman, Greek, and English--with which, of course,
you are seeking to become well acquainted. Who can possibly read the old
classic tales without feeling his soul on fire? As you rise from their
perusal, you will not merely be familiar with the events which happened
in "the brave days of old," but you will have learned many lessons that
may be of service in your preaching to-day. For instance, there is the
story of Phidias and the statue of the god which he had carved. After
he had finished it, he had chiseled in the corner, in small letters, the
word "Phidias," and it was objected that the statue could not be
worshiped as a god, nor considered sacred, while it bore the sculptor's
name. It was even seriously questioned whether Phidias should not be
stoned to death because he had so desecrated the statue. How could he
dare, they asked, to put his own name on the image of a god? So, some of
us are very apt to want to put our little names down at the bottom of
any work which we have done for God, that we may be remembered, whereas
we ought rather to upbraid ourselves for wishing to have any of the
credit of that which God the Holy Ghost enables us to do.

Then there is that other story of an ancient sculptor, who was about to
put the image of a god into a heathen temple, although he had not
finished that portion of the statue which was to be embedded in the
wall. The priest demurred, and declared that the statue was not
completed. The sculptor said, "That part of the god will never be seen,
for it will be built into the wall." "The gods can see in the wall,"
answered the priest. In like manner, the most private parts of our
life--those secret matters that can never reach the human eye--are
still under the ken of the Almighty, and ought to be attended to with
the greatest care. It is not sufficient for us to maintain our public
reputation among our fellow-creatures, for our God can see in the wall;
he notices our coldness in the closet of communion, and he perceives our
faults and failures in the family.

Trying once to set forth how the Lord Jesus Christ delights in his
people because they are his own handiwork, I found a classic story of
Cyrus extremely useful. When showing a foreign ambassador round his
garden, Cyrus said to him, "You cannot possibly take such an interest in
these flowers and trees as I do, for I laid out the whole garden myself,
and every plant here I planted with my own hand. I have watered them,
and I have seen them grow, I have been a husbandman to them, and
therefore I love them far better than you can." So, the Lord Jesus
Christ loves the fair garden of his church, because he laid it all out,
and planted it with his own gracious hand, and he has watched over every
plant, and nourished and cherished it.

The days of the Crusaders are a peculiarly rich period for noble stories
that will make good illustrations. We read that the soldiers of Godfrey
de Bouillon, when they came within sight of the city of Jerusalem, were
so charmed with the view that they fell on their faces, and then rose to
their feet, and clapped their hands, and made the mountains ring with
their shouts of joy. Thus, when we get within sight of the New
Jerusalem, our happy home on high, whose name is ever dear to us, we
will make our dying-chamber ring with hallelujahs, and even the angels
shall hear our songs of praise and thanksgiving. It is also recorded,
concerning this same Godfrey, that, when he had entered Jerusalem at the
head of his victorious army, he refused to wear the crown with which his
soldiers wanted to deck his brow. "For," said he, "why should I wear a
crown of gold in the city where my Lord wore a crown of thorns!" This is
a good lesson for us to learn for ourselves, and to teach to our people.
In the world where Christ was despised and rejected of men, it would be
unseemly for a Christian to be seeking to win earthly honors, or
ambitiously hunting after fame. The disciple must not think of being
above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord.

Then you might easily make an illustration out of that romantic story,
which may or may not be true, of Queen Eleanor sucking the poison out of
her husband's wounded arm. Many of us, I trust, would be willing, as it
were, to suck out all the slander and venom from the arm of Christ's
church, and to bear any amount of suffering ourselves, so long as the
church itself might escape and live. Would not any one of you, my
brethren, gladly put his lips to the envenomed wounds of the church
to-day, and suffer even unto death, sooner than let the doctrines of
Christ be impugned, and the cause of God be dishonored?

       *       *       *       *       *

What a fine field of illustration lies open to you in _religious
history_! It is difficult to tell where to begin digging in this mine of
precious treasure. The story of Luther and the Jew might be used to set
forth the evil of sin, and how to avoid it. A Jew was seeking an
opportunity of stabbing the Reformer; but Luther received a portrait of
the would-be murderer, so that, wherever he went, he was on his guard
against the assassin. Using this fact himself as an illustration, Luther
said: "God knows that there are sins that would destroy us, and he has
therefore given us portraits of them in his Word, so that, wherever we
see them, we may say, 'That is a sin that would stab me; I must beware
of that evil thing, and keep out of its way.'"

Stout Hugh Latimer, in that famous story of an incident in his trial
before several bishops, brings out very clearly the omnipresence and
omniscience of God, and the care that we ought to exercise in the
presence of One who can read our most secret thoughts and imaginations.
He says: "I was once in examination before five or six bishops, where I
had much trouble; thrice every week I came to examinations, and many
traps and snares were laid to get something.... At last I was brought
forth to be examined in a chamber hung with arras, where I was wont to
be examined; but now at this time the chamber was somewhat altered. For
whereas, before, there was wont always to be a fire in the chimney, now
the fire was taken away, and arras hung over the chimney, and the table
stood near the fireplace. There was, among the bishops who examined me,
one with whom I had been very familiar, and took him for my great
friend, an aged man, and he sat next to the table's end. Then, among all
other questions, he put forth a very subtle and crafty one, and such a
one, indeed, as I could not think so great danger in. And when I should
make answer, 'I pray you, Mr. Latimer,' said one, 'speak out; I am very
thick of hearing, and there may be many that sit far off.' I marveled at
this, that I was bid to speak out, and began to suspect, and give an
ear to the chimney; and there I heard a pen writing in the chimney
behind the cloth. They had appointed one there to write all mine
answers, for they made sure that I should not start from them; and there
was no starting from them. God was my good Lord, and gave me answer,
else I could never have escaped." Preaching, some years afterward,
Latimer himself told the story, and applied the illustration. "My
hearer," said he, "there is a recording pen always at work behind the
arras, taking down all thou sayest, and noting all thou doest: therefore
be thou careful that thy words and acts are worthy of record in God's
Book of Remembrance."

You might aptly illustrate the doctrine of God's special providential
care of his servants by relating the story of John Knox, who, one
evening, refused to sit in his usual seat, though he did not know any
particular reason for so acting. No one was allowed to occupy that
chair, and during the evening a shot came in through the window, and
struck a candlestick that stood immediately opposite where John Knox
would have been sitting if he had taken his accustomed place. There is
also the case of the godly minister, who, in escaping from his
persecutors, went into a hay-loft, and hid himself in the hay. The
soldiers went into the place, pricking and thrusting with their swords
and bayonets, and the good man even felt the cold steel touch the sole
of his foot, and the scratch which was made remained for years: yet his
enemies did not discover him. Afterward a hen came and laid an egg every
day hard by the place where he was hidden, and so he was sustained as
well as preserved until it was safe for him to leave his hiding-place.
It was either the same minister, or one of his persecuted brethren, who
was providentially protected by such a humble agent as a spider. This is
the story as I have read it: "Receiving friendly warning of an intended
attempt to apprehend him, and finding men were on his track, he took
refuge in a malt-house, and crept into the empty kiln, where he lay
down. Immediately after, he saw a spider lower itself across the narrow
entrance by which he had got in, thus fixing the first line of what was
soon wrought into a large and beautiful web. The weaver and the web,
placed directly between him and the light, were very conspicuous. He was
so much struck with the skill and diligence of the spider, and so much
absorbed in watching her work, that he forgot his own danger. By the
time the network was completed, crossing and re-crossing the mouth of
the kiln in every direction, his pursuers came into the malt-house to
search for him. He noted their steps, and listened to their cruel words
while they looked about. Then they came close to the kiln, and he
overheard one say to another, 'It's no use to look in _there_; the old
villain can never be there: _look at that spider's web; he could never
have got in there without breaking it_.' Without further search they
went to seek elsewhere, and he escaped safely out of their hands."

There is another story I have somewhere met with, of a prisoner, during
the American war, who was put into a cell in which there was a little
slit, through which a soldier's eye always watched him day and night.
Whatever the prisoner did, whether he ate, or drank, or slept, the
sentinel's eye was perpetually gazing at him; and the thought of it, he
said, was perfectly dreadful to him, it almost drove him mad; he could
not bear the idea of having that man's eye always scrutinizing him. He
could scarcely sleep; his very breathing became a misery, because, turn
which way he would, he could never escape from the gaze of that
soldier's eye. That story might be used as an illustration of the fact
that God's omniscient eye is always looking at every one of us.

I remember making two or three of my congregation speak out pretty
loudly by telling them this story, which I read in a tract. I suppose it
may be true; I receive it as reliable, and I wish I could tell it as it
is printed. A Christian minister, residing near the backwoods, took a
walk one evening for silent meditation. He went much farther than he
intended, and, missing the track, wandered away into the woods. He kept
on, endeavoring to find the road to his home; but failed to do so. He
was afraid that he would have to spend the night in some tree; but
suddenly, as he was going forward, he saw the glimmer of lights in the
distance, and therefore pressed on, hoping to find shelter in a friendly
cottage. A strange sight met his gaze; a meeting was being held in a
clearing in the middle of the woods, the place being lit up with blazing
pine-torches. He thought, "Well, here are some Christian people met to
worship God; I am glad that what I thought was an awkward mistake in
losing my way has brought me here; I may, perhaps, both do good and get

To his horror, however, he found that it was an atheistical gathering,
and that the speakers were venting their blasphemous thoughts against
God with very great boldness and determination. The minister sat down
full of grief. A young man declared that he did not believe in the
existence of God, and dared Jehovah to destroy him then and there if
there was such a God. The good man's heart was meditating how he ought
to reply, but his tongue seemed to cleave to the roof of his mouth; and
the infidel orator sat down amid loud acclamations of admiration and
approval. Our friend did not wish to be a craven, or to hold back in the
day of battle, and therefore he was almost inclined to rise and speak,
when a hale, burly man, who had passed the meridian of life, but who was
still exceedingly vigorous, and seemed a strong, muscular clearer of the
backwoods, rose and said, "I should like to speak if you will give me a
hearing. I am not going to say anything about the topic which has been
discussed by the orator who has just sat down; I am only going to tell
you a fact: will you hear me?" "Yes, yes," they shouted; it was a free
discussion, so they would hear him, especially as he was not going to
controvert. "A week ago," he began, "I was working up yonder, on the
river's bank, felling trees. You know the rapids down below. Well, while
I was at my employment, at some little distance from them, I heard cries
and shrieks, mingled with prayers to God for help. I ran down to the
water's edge, for I guessed what was the matter. There I saw a young
man, who could not manage his boat; the current was getting the mastery
of him, and he was drifting down the stream, and ere long, unless some
one had interposed, he would most certainly have been swept over the
falls, and carried down to a dreadful death. I saw that young man kneel
down in the boat, and pray to the Most High God, by the love of Christ,
and by his precious blood, to save him. He confessed that he had been an
infidel; but said that, if he might but be delivered this once, he would
declare his belief in God. I at once sprang into the river. My arms are
not very weak, I think, though they are not so strong as they used to
be. I managed to get into the boat, turned her round, brought her to the
shore, and so I saved that young man's life; and that young man is the
one who has just sat down, and who has been denying the existence of
God, and daring the Most High to destroy him!" Of course I used that
story to show that it was an easy thing to brag and boast about holding
infidel sentiments in a place of safety; but that, when men come into
peril of their lives, then they talk in a very different fashion.

There is a capital story, which exemplifies the need of going up to the
house of God, not merely to listen to the preacher, but to seek the
Lord. A certain lady had gone to the communion in a Scotch church, and
had greatly enjoyed the service. When she reached her home, she inquired
who the preacher was, and she was informed that it was Mr. Ebenezer
Erskine. The lady said that she would go again, the next Sabbath, to
hear him. She went, but she was not profited in the least; the sermon
did not seem to have any unction or power about it. She went to Mr.
Erskine, and told him of her experience at the two services. "Ah,
madam," said he, "the first Sabbath you came to meet the Lord Jesus
Christ, and you had a blessing; but the second Sabbath you came to hear
Ebenezer Erskine, and you had no blessing, and you had no right to
expect any." You see, brethren, a preacher might talk to the people, in
general terms, about coming to worship God, and not merely to hear the
minister, yet no effect might be produced by his words, for there might
not be anything sufficiently striking to remain in the memory; but after
such an anecdote as this one about Mr. Erskine and the lady, who could
forget the lesson that was intended to be taught?

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, now, supposing that you have exhausted all the illustrations to be
found in current history, in local history, in ancient and modern
history, and in religious history--which I do not think you will do
unless you are yourselves exhausted--you may then turn to _natural
history_, where you will find illustrations and anecdotes in great
abundance; and you need never feel any qualms of conscience about using
the facts of nature to illustrate the truths of Scripture, because there
is a sound philosophy to support the use of such illustrations. It is a
fact that can easily be accounted for, that people will more readily
receive the truth of revelation if you link it with some kindred truth
in natural history, or anything that is visible to the eye, than if you
give them a bare statement of the doctrine itself. Besides, there is
this important fact that must not be forgotten: the God who is the
Author of revelation is also the Author of creation, and providence, and
history, and everything else from which you ought to draw your
illustrations. When you use natural history to illustrate the
Scriptures, you are only explaining one of God's books by another volume
that he has written.

It is just as if you had before you two works by one author, who had, in
the first place, written a book for children; and then, in the second
place, had prepared a volume of more profound instruction for persons
of riper years and higher culture. At times, when you found obscure and
difficult passages in the work meant for the more advanced scholars, you
would refer to the little book which was intended for the younger folk,
and you would say, "We know that this means so-and-so, because that is
how the matter is explained in the book for beginners." So creation,
providence, and history are all books which God has written for those to
read who have eyes, written for those who have ears to hear his voice in
them, written even for carnal men to read, that they may see something
of God therein. But the other glorious Book is written for you who are
taught of God, and made spiritual and holy. Oftentimes, by turning to
the primer, you will get something out of that simple narrative which
will elucidate and illustrate the more difficult classic, for that is
what the Word of God is to you.

There is a certain type of thought which God has followed in all things.
What he made with his Word has a similarity to the Word itself by which
he made it; and the visible is the symbol of the invisible, because the
same thought of God runs through it all. There is a touch of the divine
finger in all that God has made; so that the things which are apparent
to our senses have certain resemblances to the things which do not
appear. That which can be seen, and tasted, and touched, and handled is
meant to be to us the outward and visible sign of a something which we
find in the Word of God, and in our spiritual experience, which is the
inward and the spiritual grace; so that there is nothing forced and
unnatural in bringing nature to illustrate grace; it was ordained of God
for that very purpose. Range over the whole of creation for your
similes; do not confine yourself to any particular branch of natural
history. The congregation of one very learned doctor complained that he
gave them spiders continuously by way of illustration. It would be
better to give the people a spider or two occasionally, and then to vary
the instruction by stories, and anecdotes, and similes, and metaphors
drawn from geology, astronomy, botany, or any of the other sciences
which will help to shed a side-light upon the Scriptures.

If you keep your eyes open, you will not see even a dog following his
master, nor a mouse peeping up from his hole, nor will you hear even a
gentle scratching behind the wainscot without getting something to weave
into your sermons if your faculties are all on the alert. When you go
home to-night, and sit by your fireside, you ought not to be able to
take up your domestic cat without finding that which will furnish you
with an illustration. How soft are pussy's pads, and yet, in a moment,
if she is angered, how sharp will be her claws! How like to temptation,
soft and gentle when first it cometh to us, but how deadly, how damnable
the wounds it causeth ere long!

I recollect using, with very considerable effect in a sermon, an
incident that occurred in my own garden. There was a dog which was in
the habit of coming through the fence and scratching in my flower beds,
to the manifest spoiling of the gardener's toil and temper. Walking in
the garden one Saturday afternoon, and preparing my sermon for the
following day, I saw the four-footed creature--rather a scurvy specimen,
by the by--and having a walking-stick in my hand, I threw it at him with
all my might, at the same time giving him some good advice about going
home. Now, what should my canine friend do but turn round, pick up the
stick in his mouth, and bring it, and lay it down at my feet, wagging
his tail all the while in expectation of my thanks and kind words? Of
course, you do not suppose that I kicked him, or threw the stick at him
any more. I felt quite ashamed of myself, and I told him that he was
welcome to stay as long as he liked, and to come as often as he pleased.
There was an instance of the power of non-resistance, submission,
patience, and trust, in overcoming even righteous anger. I used that
illustration in preaching the next day, and I did not feel that I had at
all degraded myself by telling the story.

Most of us have read Alphonse Karr's book, "A Tour Round my Garden." Why
does not somebody write "A Tour Round my Dining-Table," or, "A Tour
Round my Kitchen"? I believe a most interesting volume of the kind might
be written by any man who had his eyes open to see the analogies of
nature. I remember that, one day, when I lived in Cambridge, I wanted a
sermon very badly; and I could not fix upon a subject, when, all at
once, I noticed a number of birds on the slates of the opposite house.
As I looked closely at them, I saw that there was a canary, which had
escaped from somebody's house, and a lot of sparrows had surrounded it,
and kept pecking at it. There was my text at once: "Mine heritage is
unto me as a speckled bird, the birds round about are against her."

       *       *       *       *       *

Once more, brethren, if you cannot find illustrations in natural
history, or any of the other histories I have mentioned, _find them
anywhere_. Anything that occurs around you, if you have but brains in
your head, will be of service to you; but if you are really to interest
and profit your congregations, you will need to keep your eyes open, and
to use all the powers with which the Lord has endowed you. If you do so,
you will find that, in simply walking through the streets, something or
other will suggest a passage of Scripture, or will help you, when you
have chosen your text, to open it up to the people so as really to
arrest their attention, and convey the truth to their minds and hearts.

For instance, the snow to-day covered all the ground, and the black soil
looked fair and white. It is thus with some men under transient
reformations; they look as holy, and as heavenly, and as pure as though
they were saints; but when the sun of trial arises, and a little heat of
temptation cometh upon them, how soon do they reveal their true
blackness, and all their surface goodliness melteth away!

The whole world is hung round by God with pictures; and the preacher has
only to take them down, one by one, and hold them up before his
congregation, and he will be sure to enlist their interest in the
subject he is seeking to illustrate. But he must have his own eyes
open, or he will not see these pictures. Solomon said, "The wise man's
eyes are in his head," and addressing such a man, he wrote, "Let thine
eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee."
Why does he speak of seeing with the eyelids? I think he means that the
eyelids are to shut in what the eyes have perceived. You know that there
is all the difference in the world between a man with eyes and one with
no eyes. One sits down by a stream, and sees much to interest and
instruct him; but another, at the same place, is like the gentleman of
whom Wordsworth wrote:

  A primrose by a river's brim
  A yellow primrose was to him,
      And it was nothing more.

If you find any difficulty in illustrating your subject, I should
strongly recommend you to _try to teach children_ whenever you can get
an opportunity of doing so. I do not know a better way of schooling your
own mind to the use of illustrations than frequently to take a class in
the Sunday-school, or to give addresses to the scholars as often as you
can; because, if you do not illustrate _there_, you will have your
lesson or your address illustrated for you very strikingly. You will
find that the children will do it by their general worry and
inattention, or by their talk and play. I used to have a class of boys
when I was a Sunday-school teacher, and if I was ever a little dull,
they began to make wheels of themselves, twisting round on the forms on
which they sat. That was a very plain intimation to me that I must give
them an illustration or an anecdote; and I learned to tell stories
partly by being obliged to tell them. One boy whom I had in the class
used to say to me, "This is very dull, teacher; can't you pitch us a
yarn?" Of course he was a naughty boy, and you may suppose that he went
to the bad when he grew up, though I am not at all sure that he did; but
I used to try and pitch him the yarn that he wanted in order to get his
attention again. And I dare say that some of our hearers, if they were
allowed to speak out during the sermon, would ask us to pitch them a
yarn--that is, to give them something to interest them. I believe that
one of the best things you can do to teach either the old or the young
is to give them plenty of anecdotes and illustrations.

       *       *       *       *       *

I think it would be very useful to some of you who are not yet adepts at
the art of illustration if you were to _read hooks in which there is an
abundance of metaphor, simile, and emblem_. I am not going fully into
that subject on this occasion, because this lecture is only preliminary
to the next two that I hope to deliver, in which I will try to give you
a list of cyclopedias of anecdotes and illustrations, and books of
fables, emblems, and parables; but I advise you to study such works as
Gurnall's "Christian in Complete Armor," or Matthew Henry's
"Commentary," with the distinct view of noticing all the illustrations,
emblems, metaphors, and similes that you can find. I should even select
_non_-comparisons; I like Keach's "Metaphors," where he points out the
disparity between the type and the Antitype. Sometimes, the contrasts
between different persons or objects will be as instructive as their

When you have read the book once, and tried to mark all the figures, go
through it again, and note all the illustrations you missed in your
first reading. You will probably have missed many; and you will be
surprised to find that there are _illustrations even in the words
themselves_. How frequently a word is itself a picture! Some of the most
expressive words that are found in human language are like rich gems,
which have passed before your eye very often, but you have not had time
to handle or to value them. In your second examination of the book, you
will notice, perhaps, what eluded you the first time, and you will find
many illustrations which are merely hinted at, instead of being given at
length. Do as I have recommended with a great many books. Get copies
that you can afford to mark with a colored pencil, so that you will be
sure to see the illustrations readily; or put them down in one of your

I am sure that those brethren who begin early to keep a record of such
things act wisely. The commonplace-books of the old Puritans were
invaluable to them. They would never have been able to have compiled
such marvelous works as they did if they had not been careful in
collecting and arranging their matter under different heads; and thus,
all that they had ever read upon any subject was embalmed and preserved,
and they could readily refer to any point that they might require, and
refresh their memories and verify their quotations. Some of us, who are
very busy, may be excused from that task; we must do the best we can;
but some of you, who go to smaller charges, in the country especially,
ought to keep a commonplace-book, or else I am afraid you will get to be
very commonplace yourselves.

Your selection of similes, metaphors, parables, and emblems will not be
complete unless you also _search the Scriptures to find the
illustrations that are recorded there_. Biblical allusions are the most
effective methods of illustrating and enforcing the truths of the
gospel; and the preacher who is familiar with his Bible will never be at
a loss for an instance of that which "is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness." The Lord
must have meant us thus to use his Word, otherwise he would not have
given us, in the Old Testament, such a number of types and symbols of
truths, to be afterward more fully revealed under the gospel

Such a collection of illustrations as I have suggested will come very
handy to you in future days, and you will be reminded, by the
comparisons and figures used by others, to make comparisons and figures
for yourself. Familiarity with anything makes us _au fait_ at it; we can
learn to do almost anything by practice. I suppose that I could, by
degrees, learn to make a tub if I spent my time with a man engaged in
that business. I should know how to put the staves and the hoops if I
stayed long enough in the cooper's yard; and I have no doubt that any of
you could learn anything you desired provided you had sufficient time
and opportunity. So, if you search for illustrations, you will learn to
make them for yourselves.

       *       *       *       *       *

That brings me to my last point. I began this lecture by warning you
against the practice of making anecdotes; I close it by advising you
often to _set yourself the task of making illustrations_. Try to make
comparisons from the things round about you. I think it would be well,
sometimes, to shut the door of your study, and say to yourself, "I will
not go out of this room until I have made at least half a dozen good
illustrations." The Chinese say that the intellect lies in the stomach,
and that the affections are there too. I think they are right on the
latter point, because, you know, if you are ever very fond of
anybody--your wife, for instance--you say that you could eat her; and
you also say that such and such a person is very sweet. So, too, the
intellect may lie in the stomach; and consequently, when you have been
shut in for two or three hours, and begin to want your dinner or tea,
you may be quickened into the making of the six illustrations I have
mentioned as a minimum. Your study would be a veritable prison if you
could not make as many useful comparisons as that from the different
objects in the room. I should say that a prison itself would furnish
suggestions for making many metaphors. I do not wish you to go to prison
for that purpose; but if you ever do get there, you ought to be able to
learn how to preach in an interesting manner upon such a passage as
this--"Bring my soul out of prison;" or this, "He was there in the
prison. But the Lord was with Joseph."

If you cannot get your brains to work in the house, you might take a
walk, and say to yourself, "I will wander over the fields, or I will get
into the garden, or I will stroll in the wood, and see if I cannot find
some illustration or other." You might even go and look in at a
shop-window, and see if there are not some illustrations to be
discovered there. Or you might stand still a little while, and hear what
people say as they go by; or stop where there is a little knot of
idlers, and try to hear what they are talking about, and see what symbol
you can make out of it. You should also spend as much time as you can
visiting the sick; that will be a most profitable thing to do, for in
that sacred service you will have many opportunities of getting
illustrations from the tried children of God as you hear their varied
experiences. It is wonderful what pages of a new cyclopedia of
illustrative teaching you might find written out with indelible ink if
you went visiting the sick, or even in talking with children. Many of
them will say things that you will be able to quote with good effect in
your sermons. At any rate, do make up your mind that you will attract
and interest the people by the way in which you set the gospel before
them. Half the battle lies in making the attempt, in coming to this
determined resolution, "God helping me, I will teach the people by
parables, by similes, by illustrations, by anything that will be helpful
to them; and I will seek to be a thoroughly interesting preacher of the

I earnestly hope you will practise the art of making illustrations. I
will try to prepare a little set of exercises for you to do week by
week. I shall give you some subject and some object, between which there
is a likeness; and I shall get you to try to see the resemblance, and to
find out what comparisons can be instituted between them. I shall also,
if I can, give you some subject without an object, and then say to you,
"Illustrate that; tell us, for instance, what virtue is like." Or,
sometimes, I may give you the object without the subject, thus--"A
diamond; how will you use that as an illustration?" Then, sometimes, I
may give you neither the subject nor the object, but just say, "Bring
me an illustration." I think we might, in this way, make a set of
exercises which would be very useful to you all.

The way to get a mind worth having is to get one well stored with things
worth keeping. Of course, the man who has the most illustrations in his
head will be the one who will use the most illustrations in his
discourses. There are some preachers who have the bump of illustration
fully developed; they are sure to illustrate their subject, they cannot
help it. There are some men who always see "likes"; they catch a
comparison long before others see it. If any of you say that you are not
good at illustrating, I reply, "My brother, you must try to grow horns
if you have not any on your head." You may never be able to develop any
vast amount of imagination or fancy if you do not possess it at the
first--just as it is hard to make a cheese out of a millstone--but by
diligent attention to this matter you may improve upon what you now are.
I do believe that some fellows have a depression in their craniums where
there ought to be a bump. I knew a young man, who tried hard to get into
this college; but he never saw how to join things together unless he
tied them by their tails. He brought out a book; and when I read it, I
found at once that it was full of my stories and illustrations; that is
to say, every illustration or story in the book was one that I had used,
but there was not one of them that was related as it ought to have been.
This man had so told the story that it was not there at all; the very
point which I had brought out he had carefully omitted, and every bit of
it was told correctly except the one thing that was the essence of the
whole. Of course, I was glad that I did not have that brother in the
college; he might have been an ornament to us by his deficiencies, but
we can do without such ornaments, indeed, we have had enough of them

Finally, dear brethren, do try with all your might to get the power to
see a parable, a simile, an illustration, wherever it is to be seen; for
to a great extent this is one of the most important qualifications of
the man who is to be a public speaker, and especially of the man who is
to be an efficient preacher of the gospel of Christ. If the Lord Jesus
made such frequent use of parables, it must be right for us to do the




I propose, brethren, if I am able to do it--and I am somewhat dubious
upon that point--to give you a set of lectures at intervals upon THE
student for the Christian ministry ought to know at least something of
every science; he should intermeddle with every form of knowledge that
may be useful in his life's work. God has made all things that are in
the world to be our teachers, and there is something to be learned from
every one of them; and as he would never be a thorough student who did
not attend all classes at which he was expected to be present, so he who
does not learn from all things that God has made will never gather all
the food that his soul needs, nor will he be likely to attain to that
perfection of mental manhood which will enable him to be a fully
equipped teacher of others.

       *       *       *       *       *

I shall commence with the science of ASTRONOMY; and you will, at the
beginning, understand that I am not going to deliver an astronomical
lecture, nor to mention all the grand facts and details of that
fascinating science; but I intend simply to use _astronomy as one of the
many fields of illustration that the Lord has provided for us_. Let me
say, however, that the science itself is one which ought to receive much
attention from all of us. It relates to many of the greatest wonders in
nature, and its effect upon the mind is truly marvelous. The themes on
which astronomy discourses are so grand, the wonders disclosed by the
telescope are so sublime, that, very often, minds that have been unable
to receive knowledge through other channels have become remarkably
receptive while they have been studying this science. There is an
instance of a brother who was one of the students in this college, and
who seemed to be a dreadful dolt; we really thought he never would learn
anything, and that we should have to give him up in despair. But I
introduced to him a little book called "The Young Astronomer"; and he
afterward said that, as he read it, he felt just as if something had
cracked inside his head, or as if some string had been snapped. He had
laid hold of such enlarged thoughts that I believe his cranium did
actually experience an expansion which it ought to have undergone in his
childhood, and which it did undergo by the marvelous force of the
thoughts suggested by the study of even the elements of astronomical

This science ought to be the special delight of ministers of the gospel,
for surely it brings us into closer connection with God than almost any
other science does. It has been said that an undevout astronomer is mad.
I should say that an undevout man of any sort is mad--with the worst
form of madness; but, certainly, he who has become acquainted with the
stars in the heavens, and who yet has not found out the great Father of
lights, the Lord who made them all, must be stricken with a dire
madness. Notwithstanding all his learning, he must be afflicted with a
mental incapacity which places him almost below the level of the beasts
that perish.

Kepler, the great mathematical astronomer, who has so well explained
many of the laws which govern the universe, closes one of his books--his
"Harmonics"--with this reverent and devout expression of his feelings:
"I give thee thanks, Lord and Creator, that thou hast given me joy
through thy creation; for I have been ravished with the work of thy
hands. I have revealed unto mankind the glory of thy works, as far as my
limited spirit could conceive their infinitude. Should I have brought
forward anything that is unworthy of thee, or should I have sought my
own fame, be graciously pleased to forgive me." And you know how the
mighty Newton, a very prince among the sons of men, was continually
driven to his knees as he looked upward to the skies, and discovered
fresh wonders in the starry heavens. Therefore, the science which tends
to bring men to bow in humility before the Lord should always be a
favorite study with us whose business it is to inculcate reverence for
God in all who come under our influence.

       *       *       *       *       *

The science of astronomy would never have become available to us in many
of its remarkable details if it had not been for the discovery or
invention of the _telescope_. Truth is great, but it does not savingly
affect us till we become personally acquainted with it. The knowledge of
the gospel, as it is revealed to us in the Word of God, makes it true to
us; and oftentimes the Bible is to us what the telescope is to the
astronomer. The Scriptures do not make the truth; but they reveal it in
a way in which our poor, feeble intellect, when enlightened by the Holy
Spirit, is able to behold and comprehend it.

From a book[2] to which I am indebted for many quotations in this
lecture, I learn that the telescope was discovered in this singular
manner: "A maker of spectacles at Middleburg stumbled upon the discovery
owing to his children directing his attention to the enlarged appearance
of the weathercock of a church, as accidentally seen through two
spectacle-glasses, held between the fingers some distance apart. This
was one of childhood's inadvertent acts; and seldom has there been a
parallel example of mighty results springing out of such a trivial
circumstance. It is strange to reflect upon the playful pranks of
boyhood being connected in their issue, and at no distant date, with
enlarging the known bounds of the planetary system, resolving the nebula
of Orion, and revealing the richness of the firmament." In a similar
way, a simple incident has often been the means of revealing to men the
wonders of divine grace. What a certain individual only meant to be
trifling with divine things, God has overruled for his soul's salvation.
He stepped in to hear a sermon as he might have gone to the theater to
see a play; but God's Spirit carried the truth to his heart, and
revealed to him the deep things of the kingdom, and his own personal
interest in them.

  [2] "The Heavens and the Earth," by Thomas Milner, M. A., F. R. G. S.

I think that incident of the discovery of the telescope might be
usefully employed as an illustration of the connection between little
causes and great results, showing how the providence of God is
continually making small things to be the means of bringing about
wonderful and important revolutions. It may often happen that what seems
to us to be a matter of pure accident, with nothing at all notable about
it, may really have the effect of changing the entire current of our
life, and it may be influential also in turning the lives of many others
in quite a new direction.

When once the telescope had been discovered, then the numbers and
position and movements of the stars became increasingly visible, until
at the present time we are able to study the wonders of the stellar sky,
and continually to learn more and more of the marvels that are there
displayed by the hand of God. The telescope has revealed to us much more
of the sun, and the moon, and the stars than we could ever have
discovered without its aid. Dr. Livingstone, on account of his
frequently using the sextant when he was traveling in Africa, was spoken
of by the natives as the white man who could bring down the sun, and
carry it under his arm. That is what the telescope has done for us, and
that is what faith in the gospel has done for us in the spiritual
heavens; it has brought down to us the Father, the Son, and the Holy
Spirit, and given us the high eternal things to be our present
possession and our perpetual joy.

Thus, you see, the telescope itself may be made to furnish us with many
valuable illustrations. We may also turn to good account the lessons to
be learned by the study of the stars for the purpose of navigation. The
mariner, crossing the trackless sea, by taking astronomical
observations, can steer himself with accuracy to his desired haven.
Captain Basil Hall tells us, in the book I have previously mentioned,
that "he once sailed from San Blas, on the West Coast of Mexico; and,
after a voyage of eight thousand miles, occupying eighty-nine days, he
arrived off Rio de Janeiro, having in this interval passed through the
Pacific Ocean, rounded Cape Horn, and crossed the South Atlantic,
without making land, or seeing a single sail except an American whaler.
When within a week's sail of Rio, he set seriously about determining, by
lunar observations, the position of his ship, and then steered his
course by those common principles of navigation which may be safely
employed for short distances between one known station and another.
Having arrived within what he considered, from his computations, fifteen
or twenty miles of the coast, he hove to, at four o'clock in the
morning, to await the break of day, and then bore up, proceeding
cautiously on account of a thick fog. As this cleared away, the crew had
the satisfaction of seeing the great Sugar-Loaf Rock, which stands on
one side of the harbor's mouth, so nearly right ahead that they had not
to alter their course above a point in order to hit the entrance of the
port. This was the first land they had seen for nearly three months,
after crossing so many seas, and being set backward and forward by
innumerable currents and foul winds. The effect upon all on board was
electric; and, giving way to their admiration, the sailors greeted the
commander with a hearty cheer."

In a similar manner, we also sail by guidance from the heavenly bodies,
and we have for a long season no sight of land, and sometimes do not
even see a passing sail; and yet, if we take our observations correctly,
and follow the track which they point out, we shall have the great
blessing, when we are about to finish our voyage, of seeing, not the
great Sugar-Loaf Rock, but the Fair Haven of Glory right straight before
us. We shall not have to alter our course even a single point; and, as
we sail into the heavenly harbor, what songs of joy will we raise, not
in glorification of our own skill, but in praise of the wondrous Captain
and Pilot who has guided us over life's stormy sea, and enabled us to
sail in safety even where we could not see our way!

Kepler makes a wise remark, when speaking about the mathematical system
by which the course of a star could be predicted. After describing the
result of his observations, and declaring his firm belief that the will
of the Lord is the supreme power in the laws of nature, he says: "But if
there be any man who is too dull to receive this science, I advise that,
leaving the school of astronomy, he follow his own path, and desist from
this wandering through the universe; and, lifting up his natural eyes,
with which he alone can see, pour himself out in his own heart, in
praise of God the Creator; being certain that he gives no less worship
to God than the astronomer, to whom God has given to see more clearly
with his inward eye, and who, for what he has himself discovered, both
can and will glorify God."

That is, I think, a very beautiful illustration of what you may say to
any poor illiterate man in your congregation: "Well, my friend, if you
cannot comprehend this system of theology which I have explained to you,
if these doctrines seem to you to be utterly incomprehensible, if you
cannot follow me in my criticism upon the Greek text, if you cannot
quite catch the poetical idea that I tried to give you just now, which
is so charming to my own mind, nevertheless, if you know no more than
that your Bible is true, that you yourself are a sinner, and that Jesus
Christ is your Saviour, go on your way, and worship and adore, and think
of God as you are able to do. Never mind about the astronomers, and the
telescopes, and the stars, and the sun, and the moon; worship the Lord
in your own fashion. Altogether apart from my theological knowledge, and
my explanation of the doctrines revealed in the Scriptures, the Bible
itself, and the precious truth you have received into your own soul,
through the teaching of the Holy Spirit, will be quite enough to make
you an acceptable worshiper of the Most High God."

I suppose you are all aware that among the old systems of astronomy was
one which placed the earth in the center, and made the sun, and the
moon, and the stars revolve around it. "Its three fundamental principles
were the immobility of the earth, its central position, and the daily
revolution of all the heavenly bodies around it in circular orbits."

Now, in a similar fashion, there is a way of making a system of theology
of which man is the center, by which it is implied that Christ and his
atoning sacrifice are only made for man's sake, and that the Holy Spirit
is merely a great Worker on man's behalf, and that even the great and
glorious Father is to be viewed simply as existing for the sake of
making man happy. Well, that may be the system of theology adopted by
some; but, brethren, we must not fall into that error, for, just as the
earth is not the center of the universe, so man is not the grandest of
all beings. God has been pleased highly to exalt man; but we must
remember how the psalmist speaks of him: "When I consider thy heavens,
the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou has
ordained; what is man, that thou art mindful of him; and the son of man,
that thou visitest him?" In another place, David says, "Lord, what is
man, that thou takest knowledge of him! or the son of man, that thou
makest account of him! Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow
that passeth away." Man cannot be the center of the theological
universe; he is altogether too insignificant a being to occupy such a
position, and the scheme of redemption must exist for some other end
than that of merely making man happy, or even of making him holy. The
salvation of man must surely be first of all for the glory of God; and
you have discovered the right form of Christian doctrine when you have
found the system that has God in the center, ruling and controlling
according to the good pleasure of his will. Do not dwarf man so as to
make it appear that God has no care for him; for if you do that, you
slander God. Give to man the position that God has assigned to him; by
doing so, you will have a system of theology in which all the truths of
revelation and experience will move in glorious order and harmony around
the great central orb, the Divine Sovereign Ruler of the universe, God
over all, blessed forever.

You may, however, any one of you, make another mistake by imagining
yourself to be the center of a system. That foolish notion is a good
illustration, I think. There are some men whose fundamental principles
are, first of all, their own immobility: what they are, they always are
to be, and they are right, and no one can stir them; secondly, their
position is central, for them suns rise and set, and moons do wax and
wane. For them their wives exist; for them their children are born; for
them everything is placed where it appears in God's universe; and they
judge all things according to this one rule, "How will it benefit _me_?"
That is the beginning and the end of their grand system, and they expect
the daily revolution, if not of all the heavenly bodies, certainly of
all the earthly bodies around them. The sun, the moon, and the eleven
stars are to make obeisance to them. Well, brethren, that is an exploded
theory so far as the earth is concerned, and there is no truth in such a
notion with reference to ourselves. We may cherish the erroneous idea;
but the general public will not, and the sooner the grace of God expels
it from us, the better, so that we may take our proper position in a far
higher system than any of which we can ever be the center.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Sun, then, not the earth, is the center of the solar system; which
system, mark you, is probably only one little insignificant corner of
the universe, although it includes such a vast space that if I could
give you the actual figures you would not be able to form the slightest
idea of what they really represented. Yet that tremendous system,
compared with the whole of God's universe, may be only like a single
grain of dust on the sea-shore, and there may be myriads upon myriads of
systems, some of which are made up of innumerable systems as large as
ours, and the great sun himself may only be a planet revolving round a
greater sun, and this world only a little satellite to the sun, never
yet observed by the astronomers who, it may be, live in that remoter sun
still farther off. It is a marvelous universe that God has made; and
however much of it we may have seen, we must never imagine that we have
discovered more than a very small portion of the worlds upon worlds that
God has created.

The earth, and all the planets, and all the solid matter of the
universe, are controlled, as you know, by the force of attraction. We
are kept in our place in the world, in going round the sun, by two
forces, the one called centripetal, which draws us toward the sun, and
the other called centrifugal, which is generally illustrated by the
tendency of drops of water on a trundled mop to fly off at a tangent
from the circle they are describing.

Now, I believe that, in like manner, there are two forces which are ever
at work upon all of us, the one which draws us toward God, and the
other which drives us away from him, and we are thus kept in the circle
of life; but, for my part, I shall be very glad when I can pass out of
that circle, and get away from the influence of the centrifugal force. I
believe that, the moment I do so--as soon as ever the attraction which
draws me away from God is gone--I shall be with him in heaven; that I do
not doubt. Directly one or other of the two forces which influence human
life shall be exhausted, we shall have either to drift away into the
far-off space, through the centrifugal force--which God forbid!--or else
we shall fly at once into the central orb, by the centripetal force, and
the sooner that glorious end of life comes, the better will it be for
us. With Augustine, I would say, "All things are drawn to their own
center. Be thou the Center of my heart, O God, my Light, my only Love!"

The sun himself is an enormous body; he has been measured, but I think I
will not burden you with the figures, since they will convey to you no
adequate idea of his actual size. Suffice it to say that, if the earth
and the moon were put inside the sun, there would be abundance of room
for them to go on revolving in their orbits just as they are now doing;
and there would be no fear of their knocking against that external
crust of the sun which would represent to them the heavens.

It takes about eight minutes for light to reach us from the sun. We may
judge of the pace at which that light comes when we reflect that a
cannon-ball, rushing with the swiftest possible velocity, would take
seven years to get there, and that a train, traveling at the rate of
thirty miles an hour, and never stopping for refreshments, would require
more than three hundred and fifty years before it would reach the
terminus. You may thus form some slight idea of the distance that we are
from the sun; and this, I think, furnishes us with a good illustration
of faith. There is no man who can know, except by faith, that the sun
exists. That he did exist eight minutes ago, I know, for here is a ray
of light that has just come from him, and told me that; but I cannot be
sure that he is existing at this moment. There are some of the fixed
stars, that are at such a vast distance from the earth, that a ray of
light from them takes hundreds of years to reach us; and, for aught we
know, they may have been extinct long ago. Yet we still put them down in
our chart of the heavens, and we can only keep them there by faith, for
as, "through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word
of God," so it is only by faith that we can know that any of them now
exist. When we come to examine the matter closely, we find that our
eyesight, and all our faculties and senses, are not sufficient to give
us positive conviction with regard to these heavenly bodies; and
therefore we still have to exercise faith; so is it to a high degree in
spiritual affairs, we walk by faith, not by sight.

That the sun has spots upon his face, is a fact which everybody notices.
Just so; and if you are suns, and are never so bright, yet if you have
any spots upon you, you will find that people will be very quick to
notice them, and to call attention to them. There is often much more
talk about the sun's spots than there is about his luminous surface;
and, after the same fashion, more will be said about any spots and
imperfections that men may discover in our character than about any
excellences that they may see in us. It was for some time asserted that
there were no spots or specks whatever on the sun. Many astronomers,
with the aid of the telescope, as well as without it, discovered these
blemishes and patches on the face of the sun; but they were assured by
men who ought to have known--namely, by the reverend fathers of the
church, that it was impossible that there could be anything of the
kind. The book I have previously quoted says: "Upon Scheiner, a German
Jesuit, reporting the evidence of his senses to his provincial superior,
the latter positively refused to believe him. 'I have read,' said he,
'Aristotle's writings from end to end many times, and I can assure you
that I have nowhere found in them anything similar to what you mention.
Go, my son, and tranquilize yourself: be assured that what you take for
spots in the sun are the faults of your glasses, or of your eyes.'" So,
brethren, we know the force of bigotry, and how men will not see what is
perfectly plain to us, and how, even when facts are brought before them,
they cannot be made to believe in them, but will attribute them to
anything but that which is the real truth. I am afraid that the Word of
God itself has often been treated just in that way. Truths that are
positively and plainly revealed there are stoutly denied, because they
do not happen to fit in with the preconceived theories of unbelievers.

There have been a great many attempts to explain what the spots upon the
sun really are. One theory is, that the solar orb is surrounded by a
luminous atmosphere, and that the spots are open spaces in that
atmosphere through which we see the solid surface of the sun. I cannot
see any reason why that theory should not be the truth; and, if it be
so, it seems to me to explain the first chapter of Genesis, where we are
told that God created the light on the first day, though he did not make
the sun until the fourth day. Did he not make the light first, and then
take the sun, which otherwise might have been a dark world, and put the
light on it as a luminous atmosphere? The two things certainly might
very well fit in with each other; and if these spots are really openings
in the luminous atmosphere through which we see the dark surface of the
sun, they are admirable illustrations of the spots that men see in us.
We are clothed with holiness as with a garment of light; but every now
and then there is a rift through which observers can see down into the
dark body of natural depravity that still is in the very best of us.

It is a dangerous thing to look at the sun with unprotected eyes. Some
have ventured to look at it with glasses that have no coloring in them,
and they have been struck blind. There have been several instances of
persons who have inadvertently neglected to use a proper kind of glass
before turning the telescope to the sun, and so have been blinded. This
is an illustration of our need of a Mediator, and of how necessary it is
to see God through the medium of Christ Jesus our Lord; else might the
excessive glory of the Deity utterly destroy the faculty of seeing God
at all.

The effect of the sun upon the earth, I shall not dwell upon now, as
that may rather concern another branch of science than astronomy. It
will suffice to say that living plants will sometimes grow without the
sun, as you may have seen them in a dark cellar; but how blanched they
are when existing under such circumstances! What must have been the
pleasure with which Humboldt entered into the great subterranean cave
called the Cueva del Guacharo, in the district of Caraccas! It is a
cavern inhabited by nocturnal, fruit-eating birds, and this was what the
great naturalist saw: "Seeds, carried in by the birds to their young,
and dropped, had sprung up, producing tall, blanched, spectral stalks,
covered with half-formed leaves; but it was impossible to recognize the
species from the change in form, color, and aspect, which the absence of
light had occasioned. The native Indians gazed upon these traces of
imperfect organization with mingled curiosity and fear, as if they were
pale and disfigured phantoms banished from the face of the earth."

So, brethren, think what you and I would be without the light of God's
countenance. Picture a church growing, as some churches do grow, without
any light from heaven, a cavern full of strange birds and blanched
vegetation. What a terrible place for any one to visit! There is a cave
of that sort at Rome, and there are others in various parts of the
earth; but woe unto those who go to live in such dismal dens!

What a wonderful effect the light of God's countenance has upon men who
have the divine life in them, but who have been living in the dark!
Travelers tell us that, in the vast forests of the Amazon and the
Orinoco, you may sometimes see, on a grand scale, the influence of light
in the coloring of the plants when the leaf-buds are developing. One
says: "Clouds and rain sometimes obscure the atmosphere for several days
together, and during this time the buds expand themselves into leaves.
But these leaves have a pallid hue till the sun appears, when, in a few
hours of clear sky and splendid sunshine, their color is changed to a
vivid green. It has been related that, during twenty days of dark dull
weather, the sun not once making his appearance, the leaves were
expanded to their full size, but were almost white. One forenoon the sun
began to shine in full brightness, when the color of the forest changed
so rapidly that its progress might be marked. By the middle of the
afternoon, the whole, for many miles, presented the usual summer dress."

That is a beautiful illustration, it seems to me, that does not want any
opening up; you can all make the application of it to the Lord Jesus for
yourselves. As Dr. Watts sings--

  In the darkest shades if he appear,
    My dawning is begun;
  He is my soul's sweet morning star,
    And he my rising sun.

Then we begin to put on all sorts of beauty, as the leaves are painted
by the rays of the sun. We owe every atom of color that there is in any
of our virtues, and every trace of flavor that there is in any of our
fruits, to those bright sunbeams that come streaming down to us from the
Sun of Righteousness, who carries many other blessings besides healing
beneath his wings.

The effect of the sun upon vegetation can be observed among the flowers
in your own garden. Notice how they turn to him whenever they can; the
sunflower, for instance, follows the sun's course as if he were himself
the sun's son, and lovingly looked up to his father's face. He is very
much like a sun in appearance, and I think that is because he is so
fond of turning to the sun. The innumerable leaves of a clover field
bend toward the sun; and all plants, more or less, pay deference to the
sunlight to which they are so deeply indebted. Even the plants in the
hothouse, you can observe, do not grow in that direction you would
expect them to do if they wanted warmth, that is, toward the stovepipe,
whence the heat comes, nor even to the spot where most air is admitted;
but they will always, if they possibly can, send out their branches and
their flowers toward the sun. That is how we ought to grow toward the
Sun of Righteousness; it is for our soul's health that we should turn
our faces toward the Sun, as Daniel prayed with his windows open toward
Jerusalem. Where Jesus is, there is our Sun; toward him let us
constantly incline our whole being.

Not very long ago I met with the following remarkable instance of the
power of rays of light transmitted from the sun: some divers were
working at Plymouth Breakwater; they were down in the diving-bell,
thirty feet below the surface of the water; but a convex glass, in the
upper part of the bell, concentrated the sun's rays full upon them, and
burned their caps. As I read this story, I thought it was a capital
illustration of the power there is in the gospel of our Lord Jesus
Christ. Some of our hearers are fully thirty feet under the waters of
sin, if they are not even deeper down than that; but, by the grace of
God, we will yet make them feel the blessed burning power of the truths
we preach, even if we do not succeed in setting them all on fire with
this powerful glass. Perhaps, when you were a boy, you had a
burning-glass, and when you were out with a friend who did not know what
you had in your pocket, while he was sitting very quietly by your side,
you took out your glass, and held it for a few seconds over the back of
his hand until he felt something rather hot just there. I like the man
who, in preaching, concentrates the rays of the gospel on a sinner till
he burns him. Do not scatter the beams of light; you can turn the glass
so as to diffuse the rays instead of concentrating them; but the best
way of preaching is to focus Jesus Christ, the Sun of Righteousness,
right on a sinner's heart. It is the best way in the world to get at
him; and if he is thirty feet under the water, this burning-glass will
enable you to reach him; only mind that you do not use your own candle
instead of the Sun, for that will not answer the same purpose.

Sometimes the sun suffers eclipse, as you know. The moon intrudes
between us and the sun, and then we cannot see the great orb of day. I
suppose we have all seen one total eclipse, and we may see another. It
is a very interesting sight; but it appears to me that people take a
great deal more notice of the sun when he is eclipsed than they do when
he is shining clearly. They do not stand looking at him, day after day,
when he is pouring forth his bright beams in unclouded glory; but as
soon as ever he is eclipsed, then they are out in their thousands, with
their glasses, and every little boy in the street has a fragment of
smoked glass through which he watches the eclipse of the sun.

Thus, brethren, I do not believe that our Lord Jesus Christ ever
receives so much attention from men as when he is set forth as the
suffering Saviour, evidently crucified among them. When the great
eclipse passed over the Sun of Righteousness, then all eyes were fixed
upon him, and well they might be. Do not fail to tell your hearers
continually about that awful eclipse on Calvary; but mind that you also
tell them all the effects of that eclipse, and that there will be no
repetition of that stupendous event.

  Lo! the sun's eclipse is o'er;
  Lo! he sets in blood no more.

Speaking of eclipses reminds me that there is, in the book I have
mentioned, a striking description of one given by a correspondent who
wrote to the astronomer Halley. He took his stand at Haradow Hill, close
to the east end of the avenue of Stonehenge, a very capital place for
observation, and there he watched the eclipse. He says of it: "We were
now enveloped in a total and palpable darkness, if I may be allowed the
expression. It came on rapidly, but I watched so attentively that I
could perceive its progress. It came upon us like a great black cloak
thrown over us, or like a curtain drawn from that side. The horses we
held by the bridle seemed deeply struck by it, and pressed closely to us
with marks of extreme surprise. As well as I could perceive, the
countenances of my friends wore a horrible aspect. It was not without an
involuntary exclamation of wonder that I looked around me at this
moment. It was the most awful sight I had ever beheld in my life."

So, I suppose, it must be in the spiritual realm. When the Sun of this
great world suffered eclipse, then were all men in darkness; and when
any dishonor comes upon the cross of Christ, or upon Christ himself,
then is each Christian himself in darkness of a horrible kind. He
cannot be in the light if his Lord and Master is in the shade.

One observer describes what he saw in Austria, where, it appears, all
the people made the eclipse a time for keeping holiday, and turned out
together on the plain with various modes of observing the wonderful
sight. This writer says: "The phenomenon, in its magnificence, had
triumphed over the petulance of youth, over the levity which some
persons assume as a sign of superiority, over the noisy indifference of
which soldiers usually make profession. A profound stillness also
reigned in the air; the birds had ceased to sing." The more curious
thing is that, in London, after an eclipse, when the cocks found that
the sun shone out again, they all began crowing as though they joyfully
thought that the daylight had broken through the gloom of night.

Yet this wonderful phenomenon does not appear to have always attracted
the attention of all persons who might have witnessed it. History says
that, at one time, there was a battle being fought, I think, in Greece,
and, during its progress, there came on a total eclipse of the sun; but
the warriors went on fighting all the same, indeed, they never noticed
the extraordinary occurrence. That shows us how strong passions may
make us forget surrounding circumstances, and it also teaches us how a
man's engagements on earth may make him oblivious of all that is
transpiring in the heavens. We read, just now, of how those horses, that
were standing idly on Salisbury Plain, trembled during the eclipse; but
another writer tells us that the horses in Italy, that were busily
occupied in drawing the carriages, do not appear to have taken the
slightest notice of the phenomenon, but to have gone on their way the
same as usual. Thus, the engagements of a worldly man are often so
engrossing in their character that they prevent him from feeling those
emotions which are felt by other men whose minds are more at liberty to
meditate upon them.

I met with a very pretty story concerning an eclipse, which you will
probably like to hear. A poor little girl, belonging to the commune of
Sièyes, in the Lower Alps, was tending her flock on the mountain-side at
six o'clock on a bright summer morning. The sun had risen, and was
dissipating the vapors of the night, and every one thought that there
would be a glorious, unclouded day; but gradually the light darkened
until the sun had wholly disappeared, and a black orb took the place of
the glowing disk, while the air became chill, and a mysterious gloom
pervaded the whole region. The little child was so terrified by the
circumstance, which was certainly unusual, that she began to weep, and
cried out loudly for help. Her parents, and other friends, who came at
her call, did not know anything about an eclipse, so they were also
astounded and alarmed; but they tried to comfort her as best they could.
After a short time, the darkness passed away from the face of the sun,
and it shone out as before, and then the little girl cried aloud, in the
_patois_ of the district, "O beautiful sun!" and well she might. When I
read the story, I thought that, when my heart had suffered eclipse, and
the presence of Christ had gone for a while, and then had come back
again, how beautiful the Sun seemed to me, even more bright and fair
than before the temporary darkness. Jesus seemed to shine on me with a
brighter light than ever before, and my soul cried out in an ecstasy of
delight, "O beautiful Sun of Righteousness!"

That story must, I think, close our illustrations derived from the sun;
for we want also to learn all we can from his planets, and if we intend
to pay a visit to them all, we shall have to travel far, and to travel
fast, too.

The nearest planet that revolves around the sun is MERCURY, which is
about 37,000,000 miles from the great luminary. Mercury, therefore,
receives a far greater allowance of light and heat from the sun than
comes to us upon the earth. It is believed that, even at the poles of
Mercury, water would always boil; that is to say, if the planet is
constituted at all as this world is. None of us could possibly live
there; but that is no reason why other people should not, for God could
make some of his creatures to live in the fire just as well as he could
make others to live out of it. I have no doubt that, if there are
inhabitants there, they enjoy the heat. In a spiritual sense, at any
rate, we know that men who live near to Jesus dwell in the divine flame
of love.

Mercury is a comparatively small planet; its diameter is about 2960
miles, while that of the earth is 7975. Mercury rushes round the sun in
eighty-eight days, traveling at the rate of nearly 110,000 miles in an
hour, while the earth traverses only 65,000 miles in the same time.
Fancy crossing the Atlantic in about two or three minutes! It is an
instance of the wisdom of God that Mercury appears to be the densest of
the planets. You see, that part of a machine in which there is the most
rapid whirl, and the greatest wear and tear, ought to be made of the
strongest material; and Mercury is made very strong in order to bear the
enormous strain of its swift motion, and the great heat to which it is

This is an illustration of how God fits every man for his place; if he
means me to be Mercury--the messenger of the gods, as the ancients
called him--and to travel swiftly, he will give me a strength
proportioned to my day. In the formation of every planet, adapting it to
its peculiar position, there is a wonderful proof of the power and
forethought of God; and in a similar manner does he fit human beings for
the sphere they are each called to occupy.

I like to see in Mercury a picture of the child of God who is full of
grace. Mercury is always near the sun; indeed, so near that it is itself
very seldom seen. I think Copernicus said that he never did see it,
although he had long watched for it with great care, and he deeply
regretted that he had to die without having ever seen this planet.
Others have observed it, and it has been quite a treat for them to be
able to watch its revolutions.

Mercury is usually lost in the rays of the sun; and that is where you
and I ought to be, so close to Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, in our
life and in our preaching, that the people who are trying to observe
our movements can scarcely see us at all. Paul's motto must be
ours--"Not I, but Christ."

Mercury, also, in consequence of being so near the sun, is apparently
the least understood of any of the planets. It has, perhaps, given more
trouble to the astronomers than any other member of the heavenly family;
they have paid great attention to it, and tried to find out all about
it; but they have had a very difficult task, for it is generally lost in
the solar glory, and never seen in a dark portion of the heavens. So, I
believe, brethren, that the nearer we live to Christ, the greater
mystery shall we be to all mankind. The more we are lost in his
brightness, the less will they be able to understand us.

If we were always what we should be, men would see in us an illustration
of the text, "Ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God."
Like Mercury, we ought also to be so active in our appointed orbit that
we should not give observers time to watch us in any one position; and
next, we should be so absorbed in the glory of Christ's presence, that
they would not be able to perceive us.

When Mercury is seen from the earth, it is never visible in its
brightness, for its face is always turned toward the sun. I am afraid
that, whenever any of us are seen very much, we usually appear only as
black spots; when the preacher is very prominent in a sermon, there is
always a darkness. I like gospel preaching to be all Christ, the Sun of
Righteousness, and no black spot at all; nothing of ourselves, but all
of the Lord Jesus. If there are any inhabitants of Mercury, the sun must
appear to them four or five times as large as he does to us; the
brightness would be insufferable to our eyes. It would be a very
splendid sight if one could gaze upon it; and thus, the nearer you get
to Christ, the more you see of him, and the more he grows in your

       *       *       *       *       *

The next planet to Mercury is VENUS; it is about 66,000,000 miles from
the sun, and is a little smaller than the earth, its diameter being 7510
miles, compared with our 7975. Venus goes round the sun in 225 days,
traveling at the rate of 80,000 miles an hour. When the Copernican
system of astronomy was fairly launched upon the world, one of the
objections to it was stated thus: "It is clear that Venus does not go
round the sun, because, if it does, it must present the same aspect as
the moon--namely, it must sometimes be a crescent, at other times a
half-moon, or it must assume the form known as _gibbous_, and sometimes
it must appear as a complete circle. But," said the objector, pointing
to Venus, "she is always the same size; look at her, she is not at all
like the moon." This was a difficulty that some of the earlier
astronomers could not explain; but when Galileo was able to turn his
newly made telescope to the planet, what did he discover? Why, that
Venus does pass through similar phases to those of the moon! We cannot
always see the whole of it enlightened, yet I suppose it is true that
the light of Venus always appears about the same to us. You will
perceive in a moment why that is; when the planet's face is turned
toward us, it is at the greatest distance from the earth; consequently,
the light that reaches us is no more than when it is closer, but has its
face at least partly turned away from us. To my mind, the two facts are
perfectly reconcilable; and so is it, I believe, with some of the
doctrines of grace that perplex certain people. They say, "How do you
make these two things agree?" I reply, "I do not know that I am bound to
prove how they agree. If God had told me I would tell you; but as he has
not done so, I must leave the matter where the Bible leaves it." I may
not have discovered the explanation of any apparent difference between
the two truths, and yet, for all that, the two things may be perfectly
consistent with each other.

Venus is both the morning star and "the star of the evening, beautiful
star." It has been called Lucifer, and Phosphorus, the light-bringer,
and also Hesperus, the vesper star. You perhaps remember how Milton, in
"Paradise Lost," refers to this double character and office of Venus:

  Fairest of stars! last in the train of night,
  If better thou belong not to the dawn;
  Sure pledge of day, that crown'st the smiling morn
  With thy bright circlet: praise him in thy sphere,
  While day arises, that sweet hour of prime.

Our Lord Jesus Christ calls himself "the bright and morning star."
Whenever he comes into the soul, he is the sure harbinger of that
everlasting light which shall go no more down forever. Now that Jesus,
the Sun of Righteousness, has gone from the gaze of man, you and I must
be like evening stars, keeping as close as we can to the great central
Sun, and letting the world know what Jesus was like by our resemblance
to him. Did he not say to his disciples, "Ye are the light of the

       *       *       *       *       *

The next little planet that goes round the sun is THE EARTH. Its
distance from the sun varies from about ninety-two to ninety-five
millions of miles. Do not be discouraged, gentlemen, in your hopes of
reaching the sun, because you are nothing like so far away as the
inhabitants of Saturn; if there are any residents there, they are about
ten times as far from the sun as we are. Still, I do not suppose you
will ever take a seat in Sol's fiery chariot; at least not in your
present embodied state; it is far too warm a place for you to be at home
there. The earth is somewhat larger than Venus, and it takes much longer
to go round the sun; it is twelve months on its journey, or, speaking
exactly, 365 days, 6 hours, 9 minutes, and 10 seconds. This world is a
slow-going concern; and I am afraid it is less to the glory of God than
any other world that he has made. I have not seen it from a distance;
but I should suspect that it never shines anything like so brightly as
Venus; for, through sin, a cloud of darkness has enveloped it. I suppose
that, in the millennial days, the curtain will be drawn back, and a
light will be thrown upon the earth, and that it will then shine to the
glory of God like its sister stars that have never lost their pristine
brightness. I think there have been some curtains drawn up already;
every sermon, full of Christ, that we preach, rolls away some of the
mists and fogs from the surface of the planet; at any rate, morally and
spiritually, if not naturally.

Still, brethren, though the earth travels slowly, when compared with
Mercury and Venus, yet, as Galileo said, it does move, and at a pretty
good rate, too. I dare say, if you were to walk for twenty minutes, and
you knew nothing about the speed at which the earth is traveling, you
would be surprised if I assured you that you had in that short space of
time gone more than 20,000 miles; but it would be a fact. This book,
which has already given us much useful information, says: "It is a truly
astonishing thought that, 'awake, asleep, at home, abroad,' we are
constantly carried round with the terrestrial mass, at the rate of
eleven miles a minute, and are, at the same time, traveling with it in
space with a velocity of sixty-six thousand miles an hour. Thus, during
the twenty minutes consumed in walking a mile from our thresholds, we
are silently conveyed more than twenty thousand miles from one portion
of space to another; and, during a night of eight hours' rest, or
tossing to and fro, we are unconsciously translated through an extent
equal to twice the distance of the lunar world."

We do not take any notice of this movement, and so it is that little
things, which are near and tangible, often seem more notable than great
things which are more remote. This world impresses many men with far
greater force than the world to come has ever done, because they look
only upon the things that are seen and temporal. "But," perhaps you say,
"we do not feel ourselves moving." No, but you are moving, although you
are not conscious of it. So, I think that, sometimes, when a believer in
Christ does not feel himself advancing in divine things, he need not
fret on that account; I am not certain that those who imagine themselves
to be growing spiritually are really doing so. Perhaps they are only
growing a cancer somewhere; and its deadly fibers make them fancy there
is a growth within them. Alas! so there is; but it is a growth unto

When a man thinks that he is a full-grown Christian, he reminds me of a
poor boy whom I used to see. He had such a splendid head for his body
that he had often to lay it on a pillow, for it was too weighty for his
shoulders to carry, and his mother told me that, when he tried to stand
up, he often tumbled down, over-balanced by his heavy head. There are
some people who appear to grow very fast, but they have water on the
brain, and are out of due proportion; but he who truly grows in grace
does not say, "Dear me! I can feel that I am growing; bless the Lord!
Let's sing a hymn, 'I'm a-growing! I'm a-growing!'" I have sometimes
felt that I was growing smaller, brethren; I think that is very
possible, and a good thing, too. If we are very great in our own
estimation, it is because we have a number of cancers, or foul
gatherings, that need to be lanced, so as to let out the bad matter that
causes us to boast of our bigness.

It is a good thing that we do not feel ourselves moving, for, as I
before reminded you, we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet I know that we
are moving, and I am persuaded that I shall return, as nearly as the
earth's revolution permits, to this exact spot this day twelve-month. If
they are looking down at me from Saturn, they will spy me out somewhere
near this same place, unless the Lord should come in the meantime, or he
should call me up to be with him.

If we did feel the world move, it would probably be because there was
some obstruction in the heavenly road; but we go on so softly, and
gently, and quietly that we do not perceive it. I believe that growth in
grace is very much after the same fashion. A babe grows, and yet does
not know that he grows; the seed unconsciously grows in the earth, and
so we are developing in the divine life until we come to the fulness of
the stature of men in Christ Jesus.

       *       *       *       *       *

Waiting upon the earth is THE MOON. In addition to her duty as one of
the planets revolving round the sun, she has the task of attending upon
the earth, doing much useful service for it, and at night lighting it
with her great reflector-lamp, according to the allowance of oil she has
available for shedding her beams upon us. The moon also operates upon
the earth by her powers of attraction; and as the water is the more
mobile part of our planet, the moon draws it toward herself, so making
the tides; and those tides help to keep the whole world in healthful
motion; they are a sort of life-blood to it.

The moon undergoes eclipse, sometimes very frequently, and a great deal
more often than the sun; and this phenomenon has occasioned much terror.
Among some tribes, an eclipse of the moon is an occasion for the
greatest possible grief. Sir R. Schomberg thus describes a total lunar
eclipse in San Domingo: "I stood alone upon the flat roof of the house
which I inhabited, watching the progress of the eclipse. I pictured in
imagination the lively and extraordinary scene which I once witnessed
in the interior of Guiana, among the untutored and superstitious
Indians, how they rushed out of their huts when the first news of the
eclipse came, gibbered in their tongue, and, with violent
gesticulations, threw up their clenched fists toward the moon. When, as
on this occasion, the disk was perfectly eclipsed, they broke out in
moanings, and sullenly squatted upon the ground, hiding their faces
between their hands. The females remained, during this strange scene,
within their huts. When, shining like a sparkling diamond, the first
portion of the moon, that had disencumbered itself from the shadow,
became visible, all eyes were turned toward it. They spoke to each other
with subdued voices; but their observations became louder and louder,
and they quitted their stooping position as the light increased. When
the bright disk announced that the monster which wanted to stifle the
Queen of Night had been overcome, the great joy of the Indians was
expressed in that peculiar whoop which, in the stillness of the night,
may be heard for a great distance."

Want of faith causes the most extraordinary fear, and produces the most
ridiculous action. A man who believes that the moon, though temporarily
hidden, will shine forth again, looks upon an eclipse as a curious
phenomenon worthy of his attention, and full of interest; but the man
who really fears that God is blowing out the light of the moon, and that
he shall never see its bright rays any more, feels in a state of
terrible distress. Perhaps he will act as the Hindus and some of the
Africans do during an eclipse: they beat old drums, and blow bullocks'
horns, and make all manner of frightful noises, to cause the dragon who
is supposed to have swallowed the moon to vomit it up again. That is
their theory of an eclipse, and they act accordingly; but once know the
truth, and know especially the glorious truth that "all things work
together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called
according to his purpose," and we shall not be afraid of any dragon
swallowing the moon, nor of anything else that the fears of men have
made them imagine. If we are ignorant of the truth, every event that
occurs, which may be readily enough accounted for from God's point of
view, may cause the utmost terror, and drive us, perhaps, into the
wildest follies.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next planet to the earth is MARS; fiery Mars, generally shining with
a ruddy light. It used to be thought that the color of Mars's "blood-red
shield" was caused by the absorption of the solar rays; but this idea
has been refuted, and it is now believed to be due to the color of its
soil. According to the former idea, an angry man, who is like Mars, the
god of war, must be one who has absorbed all other colors for his own
use, and only shows the red rays to others; while the more modern
notion, that the soil of the planet gives it its distinctive color,
teaches us that, where there is a fiery nature, there will be a warlike
exhibition of it unless it is restrained by grace. Mars is about
140,000,000 miles from the sun; it is much smaller than our earth, its
equatorial diameter being 4363 miles. Traveling at the rate of 53,600
miles an hour, it takes 687 days to complete its revolution round the

       *       *       *       *       *

Between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter there is a wide zone, in which,
for many centuries, no planets were visible; but the astronomers said
within themselves, "There must surely be something or other between Mars
and Jupiter." They could not find any great planets; but as telescopes
became larger and more powerful, they observed that there was a great
number of ASTEROIDS or PLANETOIDS, as some term them. I do not know how
many there are, for they are like some of our brethren's families, they
are daily increasing. Some hundreds of them have already been
discovered; and by the aid of telescopic photography, we may expect to
hear of the finding of many more. The first asteroid was identified on
the first day of the present century, and was named Ceres. Many of them
have been called by female mythological names, I suppose because they
are the smaller planets, and it is considered gallant to give them
ladies' names. They appear to vary from about 20 to 200 miles in
diameter; and many have thought that they are the fragments of some
planet that once revolved between Mars and Jupiter, but that has been
blown up, and gone to pieces in a general wreck.

Those meteoric stones, which sometimes fall to the earth, but which much
more frequently, at certain seasons of the year, are seen shooting
across the midnight sky, may also be fragments of the aforesaid world
which has perished. At all events, since the fathers fell asleep, all
things have not continued as they were; there have been changes in the
starry world to let men know that other changes will yet come. These
blocks of meteoric matter are flying through space, and when they get
within the range of our atmosphere, there is an opposing medium, they
have to drive through it at an enormous rapidity, and so they become
burning hot, and thus they become visible. And, in like manner, I
believe that there are plenty of good men in the world who are invisible
till they get to be opposed, and being opposed, and having the love of
God driving them on with tremendous momentum, they become red-hot with
holy fervor, they overcome all opposition, and then they become visible
to the eye of mankind. For my part, I rather like to pass through an
opposing medium. I think that we all want to travel in that kind of
atmosphere just to give us the sacred friction that will fully develop
the powers with which we have been intrusted. If God has given us force,
it is not at all a bad thing for us to be put where there is opposition,
because we shall not be stopped by it, but shall by that very process be
made to shine all the brighter as lights in the world.

       *       *       *       *       *

Beyond the space which is occupied by the asteroids is the magnificent
planet, JUPITER, the brightest star which we see, except Venus; and yet
he is very, very far away. His mean distance from the sun is about
475,000,000 miles; that is, more than five times as far off as we are.
Even here, we are so far away that we do not often see the sun; but
Jupiter is five times as far from the sun, and it takes him 4333 days,
or nearly twelve of our years, to go round the great luminary,
traveling at a speed of 27,180 miles an hour. The reason why Jupiter is
so bright is, partly, because of his great size, for he is nearly 90,000
miles in diameter, while the earth is less than 8,000, and it may be
partly because he is better constituted for reflecting, or else, at that
distance, his magnitude would not avail him. And brethren, if you and I
are put in difficult positions, where we seem to be unable to shine to
the glory of God, we must ask the Lord specially to constitute us so
that we can better reflect his brightness, and so produce as good an
effect as our brethren who are placed in more favorable positions.

Jupiter is attended by four moons.[3] These satellites were discovered
soon after the invention of the telescope; yet there were several
persons who would not believe in their existence, and one of our
excellent friends, the Jesuits, of course, was strongest in his
determination that he never would, by any process, be convinced of that
which others knew to be a fact. He was asked to look through a telescope
in order to see that it was really so; but he declined because he said
that, perhaps, if he did so, he would be obliged to believe it; and as
he had no desire to do so, he refused to look. Are there not some who
act thus toward the truths of revelation? Some time after, the Jesuit
fell under the anger of good Kepler, and being convinced that he was in
the wrong, he went to the astronomer and begged his pardon. Kepler told
him that he would forgive him, but he would have to inflict a penance
upon him. "What will it be?" he inquired. "Why," said Kepler, "you must
look through that telescope." That was the direst punishment the Jesuit
could possibly receive; for, when he looked through the instrument, he
was obliged to say that he did see what he had formerly denied, and he
was obliged to express his conviction of the truth of the astronomer's
teaching. So, sometimes, to make a man see the truth is a very severe
penalty to him. If he does not want to see it, it is a good thing to
compel him to look at it. There are a great many brethren, who are not
Jesuits, and who yet are not anxious to know the whole truth; but I hope
that you and I, brethren, will always desire to learn all that the Lord
has revealed in his Word.

  [3] In 1892 a fifth satellite was discovered through the great
  telescope at the Lick Observatory in California.

This was the argument of Sizzi, an astronomer of some note, who tried to
prove that Jupiter's moons could not exist. I wonder whether you can see
the flaw in it: "There are seven windows given to animals in the
domicile of the head, through which the air is admitted to the
tabernacle of the body, to enlighten, to warm, and to nourish it; which
windows are the principal parts of the microcosm, or little world, two
nostrils, two eyes, two ears, and one mouth. So, in the heavens, as in a
microcosm, or great world, there are two favorable stars, Jupiter and
Venus; two unpropitious, Mars and Saturn; two luminaries, the sun and
the moon; and Mercury alone undecided and indifferent, from which, and
from many other phenomena of nature, such as the seven metals, etc.,
which it were tedious to enumerate, we gather that the number of planets
is necessarily seven. Moreover, the satellites are invisible to the
naked eye, and therefore can exercise no influence over the earth, and
therefore would be useless, and therefore do not exist. Besides, as well
the Jews and other ancient nations, as modern Europeans, have adopted
the division of the week into seven days, and have named them from the
seven planets. Now, if we increase the number of the planets, this whole
system falls to the ground."

I think, brethren, that I have heard the same kind of argument advanced
many times with reference to spiritual matters; that is, an argument
from theory against fact; but facts will always overturn theories all
the world over, only that, sometimes, it takes a good while before the
facts can be absolutely proved.

It is a singular thing, and another instance of the power and wisdom of
God, that though the satellites of Jupiter are constantly being
eclipsed, as is natural enough from their rapid revolutions around him,
yet they are never all eclipsed at one time. One moon may be eclipsed,
and perhaps another, or even three out of the four; but there is always
one left shining; and, in like manner, God never takes away all the
comfort of his people at once, there is always some ray of light to
cheer them.

There is a great deal more to be learned from Jupiter; but having
introduced you to him, I will leave you to examine him for yourselves,
and to get all you can out of him.

       *       *       *       *       *

Far, far beyond Jupiter is SATURN. That respectable planet has been very
much slandered, but I am happy to inform you that he does not deserve
such treatment. He is nearly 900,000,000 miles from the sun. I wonder
whether any brother here, with a large mind, has any idea of what a
million is; I do not suppose that he has, and I am sure that I have not.
It takes a vast deal of thinking to comprehend what a million means; but
to realize what is meant by a million miles is altogether beyond one's
mental grasp. A million pins would be something enormous; but a million
miles! And here we are talking of nine hundred millions of miles; well,
I give up all thought of understanding what that is so long as I am in
this finite state. Why, when you speak of nine hundred millions, you
might as well say nine hundred billions at once; for the one term is
almost as incomprehensible as the other; and yet, please to recollect
that this vast space is to our great God only a mere hand's-breadth
compared with the immeasurable universe that he has created.

I said that Saturn had been greatly slandered, and so he has. You know
that we have, in our English language, the word "saturnine," as a very
uncomplimentary description of certain individuals. When a man is
praised for being very hearty and genial, he is said to be jovial, in
allusion to Jove, or Jupiter, the brightly shining planet; but a person
of an opposite temperament is called saturnine, because it is supposed
that Saturn is a dull planet, dreadfully dreary, and that his influences
are malignant and baneful. If you have read some of the astrological
books which I have had the pleasure of studying, you have there been
told that, if you had been born under the influence of Saturn, you
might almost as well have been born under the influence of Satan, for it
will come to about the same thing in the end. He is supposed to be a
very slow sort of individual, his symbol is the hieroglyphic of lead;
but he is really a very light and buoyant personage. His diameter is
about nine times as great as that of the earth, and while in volume he
is equal to 746 worlds as large as ours, his weight is equal to only 92
such globes. The densities of the planets appear to diminish according
to their distance from the sun, not in regular proportion, but still
very largely so; and there seems to be no reason why those which are
most remote, and travel slowly, should be made so dense as those which
are nearer the central orb, and revolve more quickly around him.

This useful volume, from which I have already given you several
extracts, says: "Instead, therefore, of sinking like lead in the mighty
waters, he would float upon the liquid, if an ocean could be found
sufficiently capacious to receive him. John Goad, the well-known
astro-meteorologist, declared the planet not to be such a 'plumbeous,
blue-nosed fellow' as all antiquity had believed and the world still
supposed. But it was the work of others to prove it. For six thousand
years or so Saturn concealed his personal features, interesting family,
and strange appurtenances--the magnificent out-buildings of his
house--from the knowledge of mankind. But he was caught at last by a
little tube, pointed at him from a slope of the Apennines, the holder of
which, in invading his privacy, cared not to ask leave, and deemed it no
intrusion." When that "little tube" was turned upon him he was found to
be a most beautiful planet, one of the most varied and most marvelous of
all the planetary worlds.

Take that as an illustration of the falseness of slander, and of how
some persons are very much bemired and bespattered because people do not
know them. This planet, which was so despised, turned out to be a very
beautiful object indeed; and, instead of being very dull, and what the
word saturnine usually means, he is bright and glorious. Saturn also has
no less than eight satellites to attend him; and, in addition, he has
three magnificent rings, of which Tennyson has sung:

  Still as, while Saturn whirls, his steadfast shade
  Sleeps on his luminous rings.

Saturn has only about a hundredth part of the light from the sun as
compared with what we receive; and yet, I suppose, the atmosphere might
be so arranged that he might have as much solar light as we have; but
even if the atmosphere is of the same kind as ours, Saturn would still
have as much light as we have in an ordinary London fog. I am speaking,
of course, of the light from the sun; but then we cannot tell what
illuminating power the Lord may have put in the planet himself; and
beside that, he has his eight moons, and his three shining rings, which
have a brilliance that we cannot either imagine or describe. What must
it be to see a marvelous arch of light rising to a height of 37,570
miles above the planet, and having the enormous span of 170,000 miles!
If you were at the equator of Saturn, you would only see the rings as a
narrow band of light; but if you could journey toward the poles, you
would see above you a tremendous arch, blazing with light, like some of
the vast reflectors that you see hung up in large buildings where they
cannot get sufficient sunlight. The reflector helps to gather up the
rays of light, and throw them where they are needed; and I have no doubt
that these rings act like reflectors to Saturn. It must be a wonderful
world to live in if there are inhabitants there; they get compensations
which fully make up for their disadvantages in being so far away from
the sun. So is it in the spiritual world, what the Lord withholds in
one direction he makes up in another; and those who are far removed from
the means of grace and Christian privileges have an inward light and
joy, which others, with greater apparent advantages, might almost envy.

       *       *       *       *       *

Journeying again in the heavens, far, far beyond Saturn, we come to
URANUS, or HERSCHEL, as it is sometimes called, after the astronomer who
discovered it in 1781. The mean distance of Uranus from the sun is
believed to be about 1,754,000,000 miles; I give you the figures, but
neither you nor I can have the slightest conception of the distance they
represent. To an observer standing on Uranus, the sun would probably
appear only as a faraway speck of light; yet the planet revolves around
the sun at about 15,000 miles an hour, and occupies about eighty-four of
our years in completing one journey. Uranus is said to be equal in
volume to seventy-three or seventy-four earths, and to be attended by
four moons. I do not know much about Uranus, therefore I do not intend
to say much about him.

That may serve as an illustration of the lesson that a man had better
say as little as possible concerning anything of which he knows only a
little; and that is a lesson which many people need to learn. For
instance, there are probably more works on the Book of Revelation than
upon any other part of the Scriptures, and, with the exception of just a
few, they are not worth the paper on which they are printed. Then, next
to the Book of Revelation, in this respect, is the Book of Daniel; and
because it is so difficult to explain, many men have written upon it,
but as a rule the result of their writing has been that they have only
confuted and contradicted one another. Let us, brethren, preach what we
know, and say nothing of that of which we are ignorant.

       *       *       *       *       *

We have gone a long way, in imagination, in traveling to the planet
Uranus; but we have not yet completed our afternoon's journey. It was
observed by certain astronomers that the orbit of Uranus sometimes
deviated from the course they had marked in their chart of the heavens;
and this convinced them that there was another planetary body, not then
discovered, which was exerting an unseen but powerful influence upon

This fact, that these huge worlds, with so many millions of miles of
space between them, do retard or accelerate one another's movements, is
to me a beautiful illustration of the influence that you and I have upon
our fellowmen. Whether consciously or unconsciously, we either impede a
man's progress in the path that leads to God, or else we quicken his
march along the heavenward way. "None of us liveth to himself."

The astronomers came to the conclusion that there must be another
planet, previously unknown to them, that was disturbing the motion of
Uranus. Unknown to each other, an Englishman, Mr. Adams, of Cambridge,
and a Frenchman, M. Leverrier, set to work to find out the position in
which they expected the heavenly body to be discovered, and their
calculations brought them to almost identical results. When the
telescopes were pointed to that part of the heavens where the
mathematical astronomers believed the planet would be found, it was at
once discovered, shining with a pale and yellow light, and we now know
it by the name of NEPTUNE.

The volume before me thus speaks of the two methods of finding a planet,
the one worker using the most powerful telescope, and the other making
mathematical calculations: "To detect a planet by the eye, or to track
it to its place by the mind, are acts as incommensurable as those of
muscular and intellectual power. Recumbent on his easy-chair, the
practical astronomer has but to look through the cleft in his revolving
cupola in order to trace the pilgrim star in its course; or, by the
application of magnifying power, to expand its tiny disk, and thus
transfer it from among its sidereal companions to the planetary domains.
The physical astronomer, on the contrary, has no such auxiliaries: he
calculates at noon, when the stars disappear under a meridian sun; he
computes at midnight, when clouds and darkness shroud the heavens; and
from within that cerebral dome which has no opening heavenward, and no
instrument but the eye of reason, he sees in the disturbing agencies of
an unseen planet, upon a planet by him equally unseen, the existence of
the disturbing agent, and from the nature and amount of its action he
computes its magnitude and indicates its place."

What a grand thing is reason! Far above the mere senses, and then faith
is high above reason; only, in the case of the mathematical astronomer
of whom we are thinking, reason was a kind of faith. He argued: "God's
laws are so-and-so and so-and-so. This planet Uranus is being disturbed,
some other planet must have disturbed it, so I will search and find out
where he is;" and when his intricate calculations were completed, he put
his finger on Neptune as readily as a detective lays his hand on a
burglar, and a great deal sooner; indeed, it seems to me that it is
often easier to find a star than to catch a thief.

Neptune had long been shining before he was discovered and named; and
you and I, brethren, may remain unknown for years, and possibly the
world may never discover us; but I trust that our influence, like that
of Neptune, will be felt and recognized, whether we are seen of men or
only shine in solitary splendor to the glory of God.

       *       *       *       *       *

Well, we have traveled in thought as far as Neptune, which is about
2,748,000,000 miles from the sun; and, standing there, we look over into
space, and there are myriads, and myriads, and myriads of miles in which
there appear to be no more planets belonging to the solar system. There
may be others that have not been discovered yet; but, as far as we know,
beyond Neptune there is a great gulf fixed.

There are, however, what I may call "leapers" in the system, which,
without the use of a pole, are able to cross this gulf; they are THE
COMETS. These comets are, as a rule, so thin--a mere filmy mass of
vapor--that when they come flashing into our system, and rushing out
again, as they do, they never disturb the motion of a planet. And there
are some terrestrial comets about, that I know, that go to various
towns, and blaze away for a time; but they have no power to disturb the
planets revolving there in their regular course. The power of a man does
not consist in rushing to and fro, like a comet, but in steadily shining
year after year, like a fixed star. The astronomer Halley says: "If you
were to condense a comet down to the thickness of the ordinary
atmosphere, it would not fill a square inch of space." So thin is a
comet that you might look through five thousand miles of it, and see
just as easily as if it were not there. It is well to be transparent,
brethren; but I hope you will be more substantial than most of the
comets of which we have heard.

Comets come with great regularity, though they seem to be very
irregular. Halley prophesied that the comet of 1682, of which little had
been previously known, would return at regular intervals of about
seventy-five years. He knew that he would not live to see its
reappearance; but he expressed the hope that when it did return his
prophecy might be remembered. Various astronomers were looking out for
it, and they hoped it might arrive at the time foretold, because,
otherwise, ignorant people would not believe in astronomy. But the comet
came back all right; so their minds were set at rest, and Halley's
prediction was verified.

Among the stories concerning comet-watching, there is one that contains
an illustration and a lesson also. "Messier, who had acquired the name
of 'the comet-hunter,' from the number he discovered, was particularly
anxious upon the occasion. Of great simplicity of character, his zeal
after comets was often displayed in the oddest manner. While attending
the death-bed of his wife, and necessarily absent from his observatory,
the discovery of one was snatched from him by Montaigne de Limoges. This
was a grievous blow. A visitor began to offer him consolation on account
of his recent bereavement, when Messier, thinking only of the comet,
answered, 'I had discovered twelve; alas, to be robbed of the thirteenth
by that Montaigne!' But instantly recollecting himself, he exclaimed,
'Ah! cette pauvre femme!' and went on deploring wife and comet
together." He evidently lived so much in the heavens that he forgot his
wife; and if science can sometimes carry a man away from all the trials
of this mortal life, surely our heavenly life ought to lift us up above
all the distractions and cares that afflict us.

The return of a comet is frequently announced with great certainty. This
paragraph appeared in a newspaper: "On the whole, it may be considered
as tolerably certain that the comet will become visible in every part of
Europe about the latter end of August, or the beginning of September
next. It will most probably be distinguishable by the naked eye, like a
star of the first magnitude, but with a duller light than that of a
planet, and surrounded with a pale nebulosity, which will slightly
impair its splendor. On the night of the 7th of October the comet will
approach the well-known constellation of the Great Bear; and between
that and the 11th it will pass directly through the seven conspicuous
stars of that constellation. Toward the close of November the comet will
plunge among the rays of the sun and disappear, and not issue from them,
on the other side, until the end of December. This prospectus of the
movements of a body, invisible at the time, millions of miles away, is
nearly as definite as the early advertisements of coaching between
London and Edinburgh. Let us now place the observations of the eye
alongside the anticipations of science, and we shall find that science
has proved almost absolutely correct."

Just think of the calculations, gentlemen, that were necessary; for,
though a comet does not interfere with the course of a planet, a planet
interferes very considerably with the course of a comet; so that, in
their calculations, the astronomers had to recollect the track in which
the comet would have to travel. Thinking of him as a way-worn traveler,
we remember that he will have to go by Neptune's bright abode, and
Neptune will be sure to give him a cup of tea; then he will journey on
as far as Uranus, and put up for the night there; in the morning he will
pay an early visit to Saturn, and he will stay there for breakfast; he
will dine with Jupiter; by and by he will reach Mars, and there will be
sure to be a row there; and he will be glad when he gets to Venus, and,
of course, he will be detained by her charms. You will, therefore, very
readily see, gentlemen, that the calculations as to the return of a
comet are extremely difficult, and yet the astronomers do estimate the
time to a nicety. This science is a very marvelous one, not only for
what it reveals, but for the talent which it brings out, and the lessons
it continually teaches us about the wonderful works of our great Father.

We have done with the solar system, and even with those interlopers
which come to us every now and then from far remote systems, for a
comet, I suppose, is only seen for a month, or a week, and then
sometimes does not reappear for hundreds of years. Where have they gone
all that while? Well, they have gone somewhere, and they are serving the
purpose of the God who made them, I dare say; but, for my own part, I
would not like to be a comet in God's system. I would like to have my
fixed place, and keep on shining for the Lord there. I have lived in
London for a good many years, and I have seen many comets come and go
during that time. Oh, the great lights I have seen rush by! They have
gone off into some unknown sphere, as comets usually do. I have
generally noticed that, when men are going to do so much more than
everybody else, and they are so amazingly pompous over it, their history
is usually pretty accurately described by that simple simile of going up
like a rocket and coming down like a stick.

       *       *       *       *       *

I do not know whether you can, in imagination, lean over the battlements
of this little solar system, and see what there is beyond it. Do not
narrow your minds, gentlemen, to a few hundred millions of miles! If you
look out for a long way indeed, you will begin to see a star. I should
only be uttering meaningless words if I told you its distance from us;
yet there are others, of those that we are able to see, that are almost
immeasurably farther away. They have taken a deal of trouble to send us
a ray of light such a vast distance, to inform us that they are getting
on very well, and that, though they are at such a distance from us, they
still enjoy themselves as best they can in our absence.

These stars, as the common people look at them, seem to be scattered
about in the heavens, as we say, "anyhow." I always admire that charming
variety; and I am thankful to God that he has not set the stars in
straight lines, like rows of street-lamps. Only think, brethren, how it
would be if we looked up at night, and saw the stars all arranged in
rows, like pins on a paper! Bless the Lord, it is not so! He just took a
handful of bright worlds, and scattered them about the sky, and they
dropped into most beautiful positions, so that people say, "There is the
Great Bear;" and, "That is Charles's Wain," and every countryman knows
the Reaping-hook. Have you not seen it, brethren? Others say, "That is
the Virgin, and that is the Ram, and that is the Bull," and so on.

I think that naming of the various constellations is very like a good
deal of mystical preaching that there is nowadays. The preachers say,
"That is so-and-so, and that is so-and-so." Well, perhaps it is so; but
I do not see it. You may imagine anything you like in the constellations
of the heavens. I have pictured a fortress in the fire, and watched it
being built up, and seen little soldiers come and pull it all down. You
can see anything in the fire, and in the sky, and in the Bible, if you
like to look for it in that way; you do not see it in reality, it is
only a freak of your imagination. There are no bulls and bears in the
heavens. There may be a virgin, but she is not to be worshiped as the
Romanists teach. I hope you all know the pole-star; you ought also to
know the pointers; they point to the pole-star, and that is just what we
ought to do, to direct the poor slaves of sin and Satan to the true Star
of liberty, our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Then there are the Pleiades; almost anybody can tell you where they are.
They are a cluster of apparently little stars, but they are intensely
bright. They teach me that, if I am a very little man, I must try to be
very bright; if I cannot be like Aldebaran, or some of the brightest
gems of the sky, I must be as bright as I can in my own particular
sphere, and be as useful there as if I were a star of the first
magnitude. Then, on the other side of the globe, they look up to the
Southern Cross. I dare say one of our brethren from Australia will give
you a private lecture upon that constellation. It is very beautiful to
think of the Cross being the guide of the mariner; it is the best guide
any one can have, either this side of the tropics or the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Besides the stars, there are vast luminous bodies which are called
NEBULÆ. In some parts of the heavens there are enormous masses of
light-matter; they were supposed by some to be the material out of which
worlds were made. These were the lumps of mortar, out of which,
according to the old atheistic theory, worlds grew by some singular
process of evolution; but when Herschel turned his telescope upon them,
he very soon put the nose of that theory out of joint, for he discovered
that these nebulæ were simply enormous masses of stars, such myriads
upon myriads of miles away that, to our sight, they looked just like a
little dust of light.

       *       *       *       *       *

There are many wonderful things to be learned about the stars, to which
I hope you will give your earnest attention as you have the opportunity.
Among the rest is this fact, that some stars have ceased to be visible
to us. Tycho Brahé said that on one occasion he found a number of
villagers looking up at the sky; and on asking them why they were gazing
at the heavens, they told him that a new star had suddenly appeared. It
shone brightly for a few months, and then vanished. Many times a starry
world has seemed to turn red, as if it were on fire; it has apparently
burned, and blazed away, and then disappeared. Kepler, writing
concerning such a phenomenon, says: "What it may portend is hard to
determine; and thus much only is certain, that it comes to tell mankind
either nothing at all, or high and weighty news, quite beyond human
sense and understanding." In allusion to the opinions of some, who
explained the novel object by the Epicurean doctrine of a fortuitous
combination of atoms, he remarks, with characteristic oddity, yet good
sense, "I will tell these disputants--my opponents--not my opinion, but
my wife's. Yesterday, when weary with writing, and my mind quite dusty
with considering these atoms, I was called to supper, and a salad that I
had asked for was set before me. 'It seems, then,' said I aloud, 'that
if pewter dishes, leaves of lettuce, grains of salt, drops of water,
vinegar, and oil, and slices of egg, had been flying about in the air
from all eternity, it might at last happen, by chance, that there would
come a salad.' 'Yes,' says my wife, 'but not one so nice or well
dressed as this which I have made for you.'"

So I should think; and if the fortuitous combination of atoms could not
make a salad, it is not very likely that they could make a world. I once
asked a man who said that the world was a fortuitous concourse of atoms,
"Have you ever chanced to have no money, and to be away where you knew
nobody who would give you a dinner?" He replied, "Yes, I have." "Well,
then," said I, "did it ever happen to you that a fortuitous concourse of
atoms made a leg of mutton for you, with some nice boiled turnips, and
caper sauce, for your dinner?" "No," he said, "it has not." "Well," I
answered, "a leg of mutton, at any rate, even with turnips and caper
sauce included, is an easier thing to make than one of these worlds,
like Jupiter or Venus."

We are told, in the Word of God, that one star differeth from another
star in glory; yet one that is small may give more light to us than a
larger star which is farther away. Some stars are what is called
variable, they appear larger at one time than another. Algol, in the
head of Medusa, is of this kind. We are told that "the star, at the
brightest, appears of the second magnitude, and remains so for about two
days, fourteen hours. Its light then diminishes, and so rapidly that in
three and a half hours it is reduced to the fourth magnitude. It wears
this aspect rather more than fifteen minutes, then increases, and in
three and a half hours more resumes its former appearance." I am afraid
that many of us are variable stars; if we do sometimes wax dim, it will
be well if we regain our brightness as quickly as Algol does. Then there
are thousands of double stars. I hope that you will each get a wife who
will always shine with you, and never eclipse you, for a double star may
be very bright at one time, and sometimes be eclipsed altogether. There
are also triple stars, or systems, and quadruple systems, and there are,
in some cases, hundreds or thousands all spinning round one another, and
around their central luminaries. Wonderful combinations of glory and
beauty may be seen in the stellar sky; and some of these stars are red,
some blue, some yellow; all the colors of the rainbow are represented in
them. It would be very wonderful to live in one of them, and to look
across the sky, and see all the glories of the heavens that God has
made. On the whole, however, for the present, I am quite content to
abide upon this little planet, especially as I am not able to change it
for another home, until God so wills it.

SUNDAY-SCHOOL AS AN INSTITUTION, What Shall We Do With The.--By George
Lansing Taylor, D. D. Fourth edition. Square 16mo, cloth, 30 cents.
Paper, 20 cents.

THE CENTRAL METHODIST says: "This is the clearest and most vigorous
protestation of the whole Sunday-School question in a nutshell we have
seen. It is a work that ought to be in the hands of all preachers, since
its practical treatment of the difficulties of our present system, and
the proper remedy to be applied make it valuable to them."

PREACHER'S MAGAZINE, THE.--Edited by Revs. Mark Guy Pearse and Arthur E.
Gregory. Published Monthly, $1.50 per year. Single copy, 15 cents. No
free samples. Bound volumes, net $2.50. Cloth covers, for binding net,
35 cents.

REV. C. H. SPURGEON says: "This unpretentious magazine is as good as the
very best of its homiletical compeers. It goes straight to the point,
making no big pretences of learning and eloquence, it goes in for
practical suggestions, which will be really useful to men who are
laboring to win souls. Although we are by this time able to run alone,
and make sermons without the aid of homiletics, yet we like such
magazines as these, and feel helped by looking them through. Each number
is a capital return for the money."

GREAT THOUGHTS OF THE BIBLE.--By Rev. John Reid. 12mo. cloth, 318 pp.

The author has just gone far enough in the subject not to be tiresome,
believing that compact thought is the want of the hour.

THE NEW YORK CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE says: "It is a book that has come to
stay because there are elements of power in it."

THE CHRISTIAN AT WORK says: "It is a book which will not only add to the
intelligence of the Christian, but invigorate and strengthen him in the
performance of all Christian duties."

NATURE AND THE BIBLE; A Course of Lectures on the Morse Foundation of
the Union Theological Seminary.--By J. W. Dawson, LL. D. 12mo. cloth,
258 pp. Illustrated. $1.75.

THE INTERIOR says: "Professor Dawson discusses his topic from the
various standpoints of a student of nature, not from the single
standpoint which has mostly been occupied by theologians. The book is
not a _partisan_ publication. It will be found by those opposed to be
perfectly candid and fair, admitting difficulties in their full force,
and not seeking to evade, misinterpret, or exaggerate any fact or

12mo. cloth, 344 pp. $1.50.

The book is worthy all commendation for the extensive research shown by
the author and the presentation of the three cardinal topics: The Deity
of Christ, the Atonement, and Endless Punishment.

THE WESTERN CHRISTIAN ADVOCATE says: "A book that should be in every
minister's library. The doctor's style is singularly pure and candid,
and the diction and dignity, scholarship and research is manifest in
every page."

GOSPEL OF COMMON SENSE, THE, As contained In the Canonical Epistle of
James--By Charles F. Deems, D. D., LL. D. 12mo. cloth, 320 pp. $1.50.

JOSEPH COOK says: "Dr. Deems eminent common sense never appeared more
profitable than in his fresh, incisive and most timely discussion of St.
James' Epistle as the Gospel of Common Sense. The book is at once
popular and scholarly, broad and deep, radical and conservative."

THEODORE L. CUYLER, D. D. says: "The style of the book is racy and most
readable. It ought to be read at every fireside in the land. May the
Holy Spirit attend and bless the circulation of this capital volume."

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