Delivered Before the
Student Body of
THE COLLEGE OF THE BIBLE
In 1910 and 1911
JOHN WILLIAM McGARVEY
President, The College of the Bible
THE GOSPEL GUARDIAN COMPANY
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The Beginning and the End
A Grade of Ninety
Why Do You Want To Preach?
Selecting A Subject
The Thief On the Cross
Jesus, Lover of My Soul
The Study and Selection of Hymns
Lord, Teach Us To Pray
Prayer and Premeditation
Paul's Prayer For Two Churches
Paul's Prayers For His Friends
Action In the Pulpit
How To Be Respected
These chapel addresses were delivered to the students of The College of the Bible in the school year 1910-1911, the last year that Brother McGarvey taught. They reflect the mellowed wisdom and kindly tolerance of the years, and are spiced with that delightful touch of humor which was a McGarvey trademark.
When McGarvey died on October 11, 1911, he was the acknowledged leader of the conservative scholarship of the world in the field of Biblical criticism. His technical equipment in this field was second to none; even the liberals and modernists with whom he crossed swords respected his unique talents and his superb ability in both Old Testament and New Testament criticism-particularly the former.
In view of the controversial nature of most of his writings, these chapel addresses are wonderfully revealing. Here was one whom controversy did not sour, and whose kindly humorous comments on college life are all the more significant because of the background from whence they came.
The publishers and the reading public are deeply indebted to Mr. Roscoe M. Pierson, Librarian of the Bosworth Memorial Library of The College of the Bible, for rescuing these chapel talks from obscurity and perhaps permanent loss. Discovering the manuscripts quite by chance in the midst of material about to be cast aside, he recognized both their historical value and their intrinsic worth, and saved them from destruction. All who read this volume will be grateful for their preservation.
- Fanning Yater Tant
Chapel Address -- No. 1
THE BEGINNING AND THE END
Solomon makes the rather striking declaration that "The end of a thing is better than the beginning". This, like many other oriental aphorisms that we find in the Bible, though universal in form, is not so in meaning and application. There are many things of which the beginning is better than the end. Take, for example, the beginning of a bad habit. It begins often with a great deal of pleasure and gratification to him who indulges it, and without much fear or apprehension to the person's friends; but it often ends in disgrace. How much worse, in that case, is the end than the beginning. In business undertakings it is often the case that the enterprise begins with bright prospects before it, everything cheering and hopeful, but ends in disaster, perhaps in bankruptcy. We might specify many other examples. Marriage begins, 0, how hopeful. You cannot find words to express the delights of the young couple when they are first united in matrimony, looking forward with all the skies above them cheering them on. But, how often the end is worse than the beginning, ending in divorce, or suicide, or both, and sometimes in murder. You can scarcely count the number of things in human experience the end of which is worse than the beginning. Often the whole life, beginning with wealth, health, friends and brightest prospects, ends in disgrace.
Often when a thing that is good and wise is under-taken, the question whether the end is to be better than the beginning, is determined by the way the enterprise is conducted; consequently, the wise king adds a qualifying claim to the one I have quoted, saying, "A patient spirit is better than a proud spirit". If a man undertakes anything that is desirable, good and wise, whether its end shall be better than its beginning, depends upon its being accompanied with the proper spirit, a spirit that is patient; and this does not mean a spirit that is lazy and inactive, but one that perseveres in its undertaking-patient in the way of enduring without discouragement all of the hardships through which it must pass in order to accomplish the ends it has in view.
Now, all of you have made a beginning, the beginning of a new college session. Shall the end of this session be better than the beginning? The beginning to most of you is very pleasant. To those who are old students, as we call them, it is a renewal of friendships, the reuniting of fellowship that has been slightly suspended for a time, the renewal of very special enjoyment. There are very few enjoyments in this life equal to these of college students. I remember very well remarking to my roommate as we were walking along the bank of the Buffalo at Bethany, "We are spending the happiest days we will ever know". "Oh", he said, "why do you think so?" "Why, here we are with no cares, no labors or anxieties, but to rise every morning, get our lessons, and recite them. We will never see such a time as this again." I believe that is true. You have entered once more the beginning of a new session in that kind of enjoyment. You may have your little troubles and anxieties, but they are like summer clouds which make very little shadow and quickly pass away. What will be the end of the session? If it ends as you have hoped, and as your friends have been wishing, the end will be far better than the beginning. Better, because it will find your mind loaded with a large amount of valuable information which you will have accumulated during the year, and will find it invigorated, better prepared for future achievements, and you will be looking out from a broader horizon on the affairs of life. How much better the end than the beginning depends upon the patient spirit which Solomon mentions. It will require all of the patience that you can have with the help of your friends and the help of God, to go through the session in such manner as to say with deep satisfaction, "The end is better than the beginning".
And so in regard to the whole college course. The beginning to the young man or young woman on first entering college is usually bright, cheerful and hopeful. Often it is that these bright hopes are dashed to the ground before the first session ends; and before the diploma is gained the undertaking is abandoned, and the person drops back into the kind of life, sometimes bad, sometimes a little useful, sometimes like a drop of water in the sea, the life to which you would have gone if you had never opened the door of the college. Again, that depends upon the patient spirit with which the whole course of study in the college curriculum is pursued from time to time. Of course, you now hope that in this case the end is going to be better than the beginning. I hope so too.
The same is true even of Christian life. How delightful is the Christian's beginning! How naturally he joins with all of his heart in singing that blessed hymn,
"How happy are they who their Saviour obey,
And have laid up their treasures above!
Tongue cannot express the sweet comfort and peace
Of a soul in its earliest love."
Is it possible that the end of that life is going to be better than the beginning? Sometimes it ends in failure for the want of this persevering, patient, spirit of which Solomon speaks, and sometimes we may imagine that inasmuch as death, the most horrible calamity in the minds of most men that can befall a human being, will end the Christian career in this world . . . . we may be tempted at times to think that even in that case the end will be worse than the beginning; but looking at it in the light of the Gospel, we see that death is only the last step in the pilgrim's upward journey to Heaven. So the end, though it be in death, is better than the beginning. How much better was the death of Stephen, though he died under the stones hurled at him by his old friends and neighbors, than any experience he had had in his previous Christian life.
"Sadly we sing, and with tremulous breath,
As we stand by the mystical stream,
In the shadow and by the dark river of death;
Yet death is no more than a dream.
Only a dream; only a dream,
And glory beyond the dark stream!
How peaceful the slumber! How happy the waking!
For death is no more than a dream."
"The end of a thing is better than the beginning."
Note: At the time Brother McGarvey delivered this he himself stood only one year and twelve days this side that "dark river of death." This address was delivered Sept. 24, 1910 and he died Oct. 6, 1911.
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My subject this morning, is, Your Roommate. Nearly all of you have roommates; and I think it well that you do. Some have taken roommates for life. I have nothing for them this morning, though I may have hereafter. I hope they all considered that matter carefully before making the choice, and I hope they may never be disappointed.
Solomon says, "As iron sharpeneth iron (when they are rubbed together, you know) so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend". That, however, depends upon the supposition that both the man and his friend are either iron, or, still better, steel. If you are steel and your friend is lead there will be no sharpening. The apostle Paul says, "Evil company corrupts good manners"-"evil communications" in the old version, but "evil company" in the revised. (English Revised Version of 1884-Editor's note) But if this was true, why were not Paul's own manners corrupted? He was in evil company a large part of his time. So evil, that sometimes they tied him to the whipping post and gave him thirty-nine; sometimes they cast him into prison; sometimes they stoned him; and finally they put him to death. Why didn't that evil company corrupt his good manners? Evidently, because he was stronger in good than they were in evil. He could not be subdued.
Now if your roommate is a new one, a stranger to you, I have no doubt you have been watching him with both eyes. You are wondering what kind of a roommate it is that you have fallen in with. You are watching to see whether he is kind-hearted or fractious; whether he is cleanly or filthy. For if you are like me you would almost as soon sleep with a blacksnake as with a man who does not keep his person clean. You are watching to see whether he will take up his share of the little work that is necessary to keep the room clean, the books in order, and the room cheerful in general. You are watching him with a hawk's eye, and perhaps you have not yet fully made up your mind about him. Don't forget though that he has a room-mate too, and that he is watching you as sharply as you are watching him. It is a mutual thing. And by remembering this, when you find a fault in him you will ask yourself, Is he finding the same kind of a fault in me? And you will resolve that he shall not find it. And thus the two pieces of iron or steel will be sharpening one another, and it will be a very rich and happy experience to both.
So in regard to Paul . . . . Whether you find him good or evil as a man we will call upon you to do as Paul did. If you find him good, you will sharpen him as he is sharpening you. If you find him evil as Paul found so many with whom he came in contact, whether he corrupts your good manners or not will depend upon your strength; whether you are strong enough, not only to resist the evil influence, but also to overcome it, as Paul did with so many whom he turned to the Lord.
My own experience may be a little help to you just here. In my college career I had three roommates. Two of them proved to be gentlemen of the first water, Christian gentlemen. And it is scarcely possible for a man to be a gentleman without being a Christian. I found in them everything that I could hope to find in the way of gentlemanly deportment, companionship and mutual help. And as a result of it I carry a delightful remembrance of them which I think will never end while eternity passes. They both have long since gone to the "kingdom of love where the soul wears its mantle of glory"; but the remembrance of them is a treasure in my mind that helps me now, as it helped me then. They were true steel; and, whether I was iron or steel, they sharpened my countenance, and I trust that I sharpened theirs. That is a blessed experience. There is scarcely anything in the life of a young man more delightful than such companionship.
My other roommate was habitually the best dressed young man in the college. He was a man of elegant manners. He had been reared in an eminent family. He was athletic and greatly admired by the ladies. I had no fault to find with him in our general intercourse in the room. But he turned out to be a thief. He knew that I had received some money in bank bills, as money was sent in those days before the invention of money orders. He knew that I had it put away, and he knew my hiding place. One day I missed it. I hunted everywhere for it but could not, find it, I told my friends of my loss. It came to be the common talk about McGarvey losing his money. A shrewd young man in the next room to ours said to me one day, "Mac, I can tell you where your money is". I said, "Where?" "Pete has it". I said, "What makes you think Pete has it?" He said, "Be-cause I can see it in his face every time anything is said about it." He was so positive about it that I took his suggestion and we went into his trunk, and sure enough we found the very bills that had been sent to me. That was evidence too plain to be doubted. Now the question was, What was to be done. Should I go on being the roommate of a thief? And if it ever came out, as such things will, shall I be known to have roomed a certain length of time knowingly with a thief? And shall the college, if the matter comes to the faculty as it certainly will sooner or later, can the college afford to harbor a thief? If he is expelled it will come to his father and mother.
After advising with one of the professors, my friend and I decided that the best way was to take the money and then confront him with the theft; and that I should do it. He was able to have whipped me: but, relying on the old adage that a thief is a coward, I decided to undertake it. He was out when I went to our room. I sat down and waited for him. When he came in I locked the door, and made the charge. I was relieved to see that he did not get mad and show fight. At first he denied it, but when he saw what the evidence was, he confessed. And 0, the mortification and shame that filled that man's countenance when he learned that he was known to have stolen his roommate's money! I told him that for the sake of his family I would not expose him; that I would keep it a secret as long as I could. I thought here was a case like some that the apostle Paul dealt with; there must be a separation. He must go home that very day-not allow the sun to go down on him in Bethany, for fear that the knowledge of the theft might come to some officer of the law who would have him arrested and tried for the penitentiary. In the second place, on account of his family. If this should come to the knowledge of the faculty and he should be expelled from college for stealing his roommate's money, what a shock it would be his father and mother. He saw the wisdom of my advice and he left college that afternoon. I do not recollect that I have ever heard from him since. I do not know whether he is alive or dead. This is an example in which separation without any compromise was imperative. With the other two a mutual friendship was established, the memory of which will live as long as life shall last and on into eternity. I counsel you, then, every one of you who has a roommate, to cultivate that kind of association one with the other. If you forget all the advice that I shall give you while you are here, and all that Brother Crossfield will give you, remember this, and you will thank God and thank us for trying to put this into your minds, and will congratulate yourselves for putting it into your daily lives.
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My subject this morning is, A Grade of Ninety. No apostle gives encouragement to a personal or selfish ambition. On the contrary, all inspired teachers enjoin humility as a cardinal virtue and teach us that in honor we should prefer one another. Yet the apostle Paul in his greatest epistle says to the brethren, "Take thought for things that are honorable in the sight of all men". Now one of these things is a high grade of scholarship during your college career. That is honorable in the sight of your professors, it is honorable in the sight of your fellow students, and it is honorable in the sight of all now and hereafter who may know of it. It is honorable because it gives proof of faithful, industrious labor, and proof of fair mental capacity. It is honorable when you are through with your college labors, because it also gives promise of success and usefulness in time to come. You can not very easily over-estimate the value of a good grade of scholarship all through your .college course, both for the value of that which secures it, and for the promise it gives through all life to come.
Unfortunately, there are many students in college who have not this ambition, as I may style it. They are not moved greatly by the desire for being honored in the sight of men. They are content to be groundlings. They drag along in a go-easy way, so long as they can without suffering for it, and come out in the end just as it may happen. Now such young men will never amount to anything. They will be groundlings as long as they live. Then take thought for the things that are honorable in the sight of all men, that is that will cause them to honor you and respect you.
These groundlings have curious excuses for thus being 'content to thus drag along. One man will say, "I have not the capacity to succeed in certain studies; they are beyond, or outside of, or apart from my mental capacity". So they try to excuse themselves for getting low grades in these studies and will dodge it entirely if they can. But let some-body else say that; let somebody else say, "That man Jones is a good sort of a fellow, but he has not the capacity to manage the classes he is in", and it will make you as mad as fury. You are not willing for anybody else to make that excuse for you. That shows that you have at least a little ambition. Men who do not desire the esteem and respect of their fellow men, have no respect for themselves; and perhaps society would be better off without them. Never admit that you have not the mental capacity for anything, until you have tried it, and tried it faithfully. Never admit that you can not see as far into a millstone as the man who pecked it.
But what is a man to do if he feels that he is really defective in some line of study? Acknowledge this and give it up? No. He must labor at it with all his might and strength and never give it up. Did you ever dream of fighting with giants? or with wild beasts? I have. But I always awoke before they killed me. Did you ever dream of falling from a great height? I have. But I always awoke before I hit the ground. So, in whatever struggle you make against the giants of learning, don't let them kill you, or dash you down. Wake up before that disaster comes upon you. I often think of one dream that I had when I was a student. Algebra was the great "pons assinorum" to me, especially Quadratic Equations. I remember that one night I struggled alone in my room with a problem of which I could not get the equation, I worked at it until I was worn out and sleepy. I went to bed with my mind all distracted with it. Along toward daylight I dreamed that I was up and at work at it again. In some mysterious way my mind, although I was asleep, continued to work at it, and at last I found the equation; I knew I had it because it met all the conditions of the problem. This excited me so that I awoke; and for fear that I would forget some of the figures before morning, I got out of bed, lit my candle, the only light we had in those days, and wrote the equation on my slate. I then went back to bed and dropped off into a sound sleep. I slept until daylight and awoke refreshed. As soon as I was dressed I took my slate and worked out the problem before breakfast. You don't know how elated I was. I felt like saying, give me another. I felt as if I could work any-thing. I do not mention this to boast of my work, but to show what can be done by application. My mind when severely taxed, would not rest even in my dreams. Labor then after that fashion. Hard as algebra was for me, I never made a failure at the blackboard. One day I would have made a failure but for what appeared an accident. There were two problems in the lesson that day that I could not solve. I had worked hard all the time that I could give to them and had failed. If the professor had called me to the board that day I could not make the statement that I now make, that I never made a failure at the board. Some-how the professor anticipated our trouble, and did not send anybody to the board, but called our attention to the fact that those two problems were not clearly stated. I believe that compilers of algebras make the statements of some problems just as obscure as they can for the purpose of testing the capacity of students and making them work hard. But, during the afternoon of that day a classmate and I went out on the slope of the mountain which rises back of the college, and worked on those problems until nearly sunset. We succeeded, and we went to the class next day feeling elated. Now that is the way to work, and if you work in that way you will not be a failure.
Then again, to attain a grade of ninety or above that, requires not only hard labor and very hard labor on the part of some students, but also constant attendance upon your recitations. Do not stay away from your recitation because you have not learned all the lesson. But go, with-out failure, keeping both eyes and both ears open. Something may drop from the lips of the professor or of some student, that will throw a flood of light on the dark places in the lesson, and give you what you lacked of being pre-pared. Remember this when you are in a difficulty and profit by it.
There is another consideration that I will mention which you must keep in mind while "taking thought for things honorable in the sight of all men: Avoid bad habits. By these I do not mean habits of dissipation only, but all habits that would hinder your best mental labor. Do not eat too much. Do not sit too long at your books without exercise out of doors. Out of doors exercise is necessary to a clear mind. So when, after sitting a long time your book drops out of your hand, jump right up and run out of doors. Do not try to study when you are half asleep.
Now by pursuing this method of work you may attain a grade of ninety or more in all your classes, and you may be sure to be of some account to the world. Guizot, the great French historian and statesman, made this estimate of the students of the universities of Europe. He said that one third of them died prematurely from bad habits contracted while they were students, one third from overwork while they were students, and that the other third governed Europe. That was in Europe. In this country it is a little different. The first and second classes are not so numerous, because faculties take better oversight over their students. In Germany they take none, as in nearly all other European countries. But it is true in this country as in that, that many who are energetic during their college course die early from overwork and from bad habits formed while they are in college. There are some, however, who "take thought of things honorable in the sight of all men," while they are in college, and they are the men who make our laws and write them, who hold high offices in the general government and in the state governments, and who stand at the top in the professions of law and medicine, and in the pulpit; and everywhere else where men are wanted to guide and control their fellowmen. One of the greatest deficiencies in our government today is the lack of such men.. When a man of high attainments is needed for any position it is like hunting for a needle in a haystack to find him. Prepare yourselves then; for "in the harvest there is work td do" and only those will be called upon to do it, who have taken thought for things honorable in the sight of all men.
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A considerable number of you expect to preach tomorrow. What for? It will cost some labor and anxiety on your own part and some trouble to the audience which you expect to come and hear you; and what for? On your own part, what is it for? Just to fill an appointment? Well, that is very important. If a man has an appointment he ought to fill it, especially if he is a preacher. I have felt this duty pressed upon me all my life as a preacher. I recollect that I had an appointment once thirty miles from home and I expected to reach the place on horseback. When Saturday morning arrived the thermometer registered eighteen degrees below zero. Then the question arose whether I ought to risk being frozen by going to that appointment. But I mounted my horse and went. When I was within a half-mile or so of the village I met with a number of brethren who had been gathering ice for their icehouses. They told me that they were not looking for me. I answered, "Whenever I have an appointment, you look for me". That has been the rule of my life, and I mention it so that it may help any of you who have been just a little careless. It is very important to always be prompt in filling your appointments.
But is that all? Is that the only reason you have for expecting to preach tomorrow? If so, for what purpose did you make that appointment? What did you expect to accomplish? and what do you now expect to accomplish by filling that appointment? "Well," perhaps some one will say, "I expect to be a preacher; I expect preaching to be my life work and I want to be practicing on it all I can." But if that is all, why not save trouble and time by practicing in your room? Get as large a mirror as you can and practice before the mirror. You can see then whether your hair is combed and parted just right; you can see if your necktie is on straight; you can watch your gesticulations and see if your hands are in just the right position, and if they go right. And so on. Why not practice before the mirror? Some preachers do that. It is actually the truth that some preachers do that. Or you might do the way brother Jones did. He had an appointment with a church, a country church. He went out on Saturday and put up with a brother. Along in the evening a negro girl was sent to the spring for a bucket of water. She came running in and said "Mister, Mister, there is a crazy man out there in the pasture." They thought it might be some one who had escaped from the asylum. So the whole family, dogs and all, went running out to the pasture. When they got there they found brother Jones practicing his sermon among the trees. Now I don't know but what that is as good a way to practice as on the people.
Perhaps some one will say, "I expect to make preaching my life work and I want to be at it." Why do you expect to make preaching your life work? What is that for? Is it in order that you may have an easy time in life? If that is the case then you are a lazy fellow. And as soon as you get into the work and the people find out that you are in that work just to have an easy time they will not ask you to come and preach for them any more. You say your purpose is to have an easy time in life. An easy time in what way? Not to have to plow corn and dig potatoes? To ride about in a carriage driven by the best people in the community, and wherever you go to have chicken pie for dinner? If that is your purpose, as soon as the people find out they will not kill any more chickens for you. They will set you down to corn bread and bacon and beans.
Well, what is it for? In order that you may get rich? There is not a man in the country green enough to think that is the way to get rich. And if there was a man thinking that he was going to be a preacher in order to get rich, he is too big a fool to be a preacher. And as soon as the people find out that that is even one of your motives for preaching that will be the end of your preaching. There is not a man, woman or child in the country who wants to hear a preacher who is preaching for the money, and that one of his chief aims.
Well, what is it for? That you may become a popular man in your community? You notice that good preachers are popular men. Respectable men love them and nice good women love them, and everybody is ready to welcome him into their homes and to give him the hand of welcome anywhere. If you are preaching for popularity, you may think you can keep people from finding it out. Well, you can't keep people from finding it out, and as soon as they do you will be the most unpopular man in the community.
Well, what is it for? The apostle Paul gave the purpose of the work of the preacher when he wrote to Timothy. He said, "By so doing you will save both yourself and them that hear you." How save himself? Because when a man has reached the conclusion no matter how it came into his mind, that it is his duty to preach and make that his business he will be lost if he does not do it. Just as neglect of duty in any other matter will bring down the wrath of God in the day of judgment. If there is any of you who really and conscientiously believes that God wants you to preach the gospel, do it at the peril of your soul. This means that Timothy and every other man that preaches will save him-self and every other man who believes. at business is it of mine to save other people if I can only save myself ? If you are a good swimmer and should find yourself out in the water by the side of a sinking steamer where people are going down all around you and you should boldly swim to the shore without trying to help anybody, they ought to tumble you back in the ocean when you get there, for you could have saved somebody and you did not. And here we are in the great sea of the world. There are thousands going down. We see them every day. If the preacher does not save some of them, I do not think it is possible for him to be saved himself. What would men and angels think of a man going home to heaven who has been a preacher and has not brought one single soul with him? I think that if you were to take a vote on it all men and angels would vote to send him back. They would say, "He is not fit for our country". Now if that is your purpose in preaching, to "Save yourself and them that hear you", it is a worthy one. Now you are all ready to say that there is no other purpose equal to it. I think that if I should be so fortunate as to find myself in heaven and look around and realize that I am here at last, that I have been able to pass and have obtained the grace of God in the forgiveness of my sins, and here I am in heaven. Now that would be heaven to me. But if, while I am congratulating myself, some Christians whom I knew in the world should come up to me and greet me and say, "The fact that I am here in heaven today is due to you. It is what I heard from what you preached, from the example that you set before me that turned me away from my sins to my savior." Now that would be a higher heaven than the other. And if in addition to that, while I am receiving the congratulations of that brother, the Lord should pass by . . . . and pronounce a blessing upon me, that would be the highest heaven of all. Preach, then, tomorrow and every time you preach so that you may save both yourself and them that hear you. Keep these thoughts in mind.
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Many of you expect to preach tomorrow. What will be your subject? A good many years ago some one on Saturday put this question to brother ______________. He had prepared a sermon on Satan and when he was asked, "Brother _________________ what are you going to preach about tomorrow?, he said, "I am going to give them the devil." Now that seemed pretty rough. Yet that was one phase of Christ's own preaching, and we are to follow Him. He said more about the devil, the eternal judgment and the punishment of the wicked than any one of his apostles, and I rather think he said more than all of them put together, so far as we find their words in the New Testament. How should you determine what to preach, what subject to preach on, tomorrow and all the time hereafter? Perhaps some of you are prepared to answer, "I have but one sermon." Well, the thing is, if that is all and that one is worth preaching, go on and preach it. A man can scarcely preach a sermon that is anything like what a sermon ought to be without doing good. So, if you have only one, don't be afraid to preach that one. And if you have to preach twice before you get another, preach the same sermon twice, but make an improvement on it every time. Once I heard Moses E. Lard, preaching in the old Main Street church, announce a subject on which he had preached five times before to that congregation. He said, "It may surprise you that I have announced to you a subject upon which I have preached five times before, but, if it has taken me twenty years to study and work up this sermon I don't think there is any danger of your learning all that is in it by hearing it only five times." Then he went on and delivered it. I watched the audience, and I think they were as deeply interested in it as though that were the first time they had ever heard it.
But how is a man to determine what subject to preach on, if he has a number of sermons? Shall he say, "Well, a certain one that I have will enable me to show off what little learning I have and I will give them that." That would be to preach yourself instead of preaching Christ. Shall he say, "A certain one that I have will enable me to show off as a preacher better than any of the others. I will give them that tomorrow?" Well, that is doing the same thing. That is to preach yourself instead of preaching Christ. I think that the principle on which we are to determine the selection of the subject depends upon what preaching is for. "To save yourself and those who hear you." That sermon, then, of all that you are able to preach tomorrow, by which you can have the greatest hope of saving somebody in the audience, and thereby save yourself, is the one you ought to preach tomorrow and so every other time you are called upon to preach.
But, what have you got to do in order to save men? Well, you have got to make them believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and repent of their sins. These are two very great undertakings. Which is the greater? There is a very common mistake among preachers in thinking that the great task is to inspire men with faith. But it is easy for men to believe in this country. It is very difficult for a young man or a young woman growing up in this country to become an unbeliever. A good many try it. A good many young men and young women try to shake off all the impression that the gospel has made on their minds and hearts. And they think sometimes that they have accomplished it. But let some disease seize you, death come near, and the grave seem to yawn, what will that infidelity do? In nine cases out of ten it passes away. It is not very difficult for them now to believe. But how about repentance? To bring men to repentance as written in the gospel is the great task at which the Savior himself made a comparative failure. We are told that he upbraided the cities because they repented not and showed that it would be more tolerable in the day of judgement for Sodom and Gomorrah because Sodom and Gomorrah would have repented if they had had the chance of these cities. The skillful general, in invading a city, directs his heaviest artillery against the strongest fortifications of his foe. And so in the most difficult task of the preacher, bringing men to repentance, against that stronghold he should direct his heaviest artillery. To that he should devote his mind, his thoughts and his efforts in the pulpit and in the study and thus save the greater number. The apostle Paul says that the goodness of God leads you to repentance, evidently by the power of a sense of gratitude to God for his goodness. Well, then, any effort that you may make to impress upon men's minds and con-sciences the goodness of God to them individually is one of the means by which to bring them to repentance. We are also told in the Old Testament and in the New that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. That is not as popular a thought in the modern pulpit as it was in the pulpit of generations past. The idea of preaching the fear of God, the terror of the judgement and of hell is becoming unpopular. Not so with the apostles. We are told that God is love and that is true, but it is equally true that God is a consuming fire. He is one thing to the one class and another to the other. Every thing that you can do to make men fear God and to thus turn them to repentance is the best thing and the most important thing in this country in saving their souls. And to neglect that is to neglect the most important thing. The apostle Paul gives his estimation of that when he says to his brethren, "I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God, and I call you to witness that I am free from the blood of all men." Had he withheld anything that would have been profitable to their souls, he considered that he would have been guilty of the blood' of men. I advise you, then, young men, to keep this thought in view. When preaching was my chief business in life, before my whole soul became immersed in teaching, many a time have I wished and prayed above all other things that I asked for the power to bring men to repentance. I felt that that was my greatest weakness, my greatest failure. I could interest men generally. I never had much trouble in that way. I could see that men were paying attention to what I was saying. I often had my eye upon some individual in the audience whom I was trying and praying to bring to repentance, but all in vain. I very well remember a man who moved to the community where I was preaching. He was a very proud man in his feelings and in his family connections. He had married an humble, but most excellent Christian young woman who was a member of the Christian church. He had been so trained that he had a supreme contempt for what was known as the Campbellites. He had been brought up in a Presbyterian family, as I remember. His wife had brought her church letter with her when she moved, but before she got a chance to put it in he got hold of it and hid it. He would not go to church with her. Finally she managed to find where he had hid her letter. And one Sunday when he was gone she came and put in her membership. He was too much of a gentleman to make any fuss or outcry about it, but there they lived without very often darkening the door of the church. Finally she managed to invite me to go with her to supper on Sunday evenings. He was too much of a gentleman to let his wife go off to meeting with the preacher and have to come home by herself. So he would go to church with us. Well I never succeeded in bringing that man to repentance, but in the course of a year or two I heard of his debating on religious questions with men in his store, for he was a merchant, and always taking our side of the argument. This gave me some hope that he might be brought to repentance, but he was still impervious. Months and perhaps years went on and God took hold of him. He loved his wife as well as any man ever did I suppose. She was taken sick and grew worse and worse until she died. A few weeks after her death he was at church and when the invitation was given he came forward weeping vehemently to make the good confession. See how much it took to bring that man to repentance. You may witness in your congregations many a man like that. Do your best with any such man and leave the results to God. But keep this in mind all the time, that there are men in your congregations that will die in their sins and be condemned if you do not bring them to repentance. There are men in the audience outside of the church, men in a miser-able condition. If you would bring home many sheaves with you as we have just sung, keep this in mind and labor to this end in preparing every sermon that you preach.
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The thief on the cross, as we commonly style him, is almost as widely known as Jesus. But no man knows his name or his father's name or any of the details of his career. He is known almost exclusively by the single brief sentence which he uttered in his dying hour. That well known sentence is, "Jesus, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." In the earlier part of the six hours which he hung upon the cross he had united with his fellow thief in reproaching Jesus. They hear the reproaches cast upon him by the multitude and, in the expressive language of our old version, "cast the same in his teeth." And one of them said, "If thou art the Christ, save thyself and us." But the one of whom I speak, after his mind had no doubt run with immense sweep over many things, as a man's mind often does in extreme peril, and after his heart had perhaps passed through some changes of sentiment, called out to the other, saying, "Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss." at an acknowledgment!! How few criminals in the agonies of the gallows or other punishment fully acknowledge, however severe the torture they are suffering, that it is the due reward for their deeds. That was honesty. "This man", he says, "has done nothing amiss". How did he know Jesus had done nothing amiss? He had not heard the trial before Pilate, for he was closely confined in prison when that was going on. How did he know, then, so that he could say in his dying hour that Jesus had done nothing amiss? We must remember that he had not always been in prison. Up to a few days or weeks before, he had been roaming about as a free man, practicing his diabolical business of highway robbery. This led him often, no doubt, to the synagogues and in the open where men went to hear Jesus to find out who in that crowd had money, so that he could rob them on their way home. But while thus engaged he saw the miracles wrought by Jesus and he heard those wonderful speeches made to the multitude, but, like many a sinner of the present day, while his mind was convinced his heart was not moved. But now that eternity was right by him, and the very next step will be right into it, every thing appears very different. And after rebuking his fellow robber that even the fear of God did not keep him in his dying hour from reproaching a fellow sufferer and that wrongfully, he turns to Jesus. I suppose his former life had taken out of him his polish and politeness. So he simply says, "Jesus, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." I think that if I were convicted of highway robbery, and were suffering death either on the cross or on the gallows, I would not want to be remembered. I would ask my friends and kindred to forget my name and my existence. Don't let my grandchildren know who their grandfather was. Never write my name down. Try to forget it. And if I thought of my God and had any request to make of him, I would say, "0 Lord, let me drop into eternal oblivion." Why does this highway robber want to be remembered? and why does he beg Jesus, "remember me"?
He had never conferred any favor upon Jesus, for which he should be remembered. And if Jesus should remember him not, but forget him in the day of final judgment and rewards, possibly he might think there was a chance for his escape. Why didn't he ask Jesus to forget him and let him be left out? His mind seems to have been very active. Perhaps he had been naturally a man of very active brain. And I suppose he meant in that petition, not remember me the robber, but remember me the penitent robber, knowing that he was a penitent robber, and knowing, I suppose, that Jesus knew that he wanted to be remembered as the penitent robber. And how could he perceive that Jesus would yet come in his kingdom, when he sees him very near his last moments on the cross and knows that life will be extinct in a few moments? How did he perceive that Jesus would come in his kingdom? and when?
A very distinguished infidel writer mentions this circumstance and says, if that account is true, which he did not believe, it would represent the dying thief as having more faith than any one of the apostles. For when he was nailed to the cross every one of them gave up hope, and remained in blank despair until the third morning. Well, he did have a faith in Jesus which none of the apostles had. He believed from the evidence that he had seen and heard, that Jesus spoke the absolute truth, and that when he declared that he was going to set up a kingdom, he would do it in spite of death and hell. It would be sure to be done.
But why believe this kingdom was to be set up in some future time after he was dead and buried? In the first place, it was a singular conviction of his mind that Jesus would be able to do anything after he was dead. And what good will his remembering me do after I am dead and gone to hell? A wondrous faith! And yet after all, that request of his is not very different from that which every dying man should make. Jesus, remember me a sinner? If he does I am gone. No matter whether I have been a robber or a genteel sinner, I am gone. But, Jesus, remember me a penitent sinner, and I can hope for an answer similar to that that was given to this dying stranger.
Remember me a penitent sinner. For we have faith that Jesus regards penitent sinners, that he will remember them in mercy, that he will remember them for their everlasting good, blotting out their sins. How strange and singular it was that, when the Lord of glory was put to a cruel death by cruel men on false charges, that two high-way robbers, condemned justly to death and acknowledging their guilt, were crucified one on his right and the other on his left. How striking an illustration of the fact that he came to this world to save sinners is this fact that he was crucified between two thieves and saved one of them. And observe, too, that the answer that Jesus gave to the poor wretch was greater than he had requested him to give. "Remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." He did not know when that was to be. It was in the vague future. But the answer was, as you remember "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." I wish I could have seen the face of that robber after he had heard that sentence. I would love to have seen whether it seemed to remove his pangs or not. I am sure that it did, not only lessen the pangs of his soul, but the pains of his body also. He died in less pain because he felt assured that the last breath on earth would be but the entrance into paradise with Jesus. How strange and unexpected a sight it must have been to men and angels that Jesus when he came up after the conflicts of life here, had a companion with him and that companion was a thief. It seems to me that all heaven must have been astonished at that sight.
But what about the other robber who was as close to Jesus as this one? Jesus had not a word to say to him. No response to any of his reproaches, no comfort for his future. He allowed that man to die alone, and to go, as soon as death overtook him, as all impenitent sinners must go. What a contrast we have here between the penitent and the impenitent. And what an appeal there is here to all of you who know the truth and to many of you who are going to preach the truth, to gather up all the knowledge of God and of all the good things that you can find to get men to repent of their sins, so that if they live they may live penitent sinners and if they die, die penitent sinners.
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In common with many millions of the saints, we love to sing, "Jesus, lover of my soul." But what is there about my soul that Jesus should love it? If it were pure and spotless like the soul of an angel, we would expect him to love it. I am a very partial judge of my own soul; and yet I never carefully look into it without finding fault with it, and sometimes feeling very deeply mortified at the sight. How, then, is it that he who looks with perfect justice and fairness upon everything and every being can love my soul? That is a very serious question. Did the poet not make a mistake in writing this line? I think we can discover at least two reasons for supposing that he did not.
In the first place, real, genuine pity for a being in distress or misfortune partakes of the nature of love: and Jesus certainly pities my soul when he sees how much wretchedness it has to endure, when he sees its lost condition, without God and without hope in the world, but for his love. Really the most pitiable object we can think of is the soul of a man in its natural condition, unredeemed by the blood of Christ. He certainly does pity us, and that is next akin to loving us. He loves us because of our pitiable condition.
Then, I think we can discover another reason. He loves us because of what he hopes and intends to make of us by and by. We are told by the apostle Paul that Jesus "loved the church and gave himself for it", suffered and died for it, is the idea, "that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing." That is what he intends to make out of us. We may fall out with the church. Men often become so disgusted with it as to leave it and hurl anathemas upon it. Not so with Jesus. With all its faults and defects he intends to make out of it a glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing upon the robes which it shall wear. And, I am one member of that church. And if he loves the church in anticipation of what it is to be, what he is to make or it, he may love my soul among others for what he is to make of me as well as through pity for what I am now.
If you go into the workroom of a sculptor you will see him hammering and chiseling on a block of marble which appears to you to be nothing but a block of marble. But take up a hammer and begin to work on it yourself and he will soon push you away. He would almost as soon you would strike him as to strike that block of marble. For he sees in it, instead of that rough block, the form of an angel that he intends to carve out of it. He keeps his mind and his heart on that which is to be developed by his skill and labor and that makes him love that block, and take good care of it. He has had to pay a large sum of money to have it quarried and shipped to where he is working on it. So with our blessed Lord. He sees in your soul and in mine a being yet to be made perfect; and he works on it with his hammer and chisel, cutting away its sins, imperfections and superfluities, that he may show to angels in the coming days the blessed work of his hands. This is the second, I think, and perhaps the chief reason why He loves my soul.
I think the author's hymn, grand as it is, comes short of the reality in the second line. "Let me to thy bosom fly." Why, if he loves your soul, why ask him to let you fly to his bosom? That is the very thing he desires. It is the very thing he is crying out to get you to do. It is not right to ask him to let you do what he is constantly pleading with you to do. Your soul should say, "I will go to Jesus. All the billows of sin and the tempests of passion shall not keep me away. He loves me. He longs for my embrace. I am going to him. I will fly to his bosom." This is the feeling that has to be aroused in sinners before they can come to Jesus and be saved. In your preaching to dying men, do not inspire in them the idea that they must beg and plead with Jesus to let them come. Tell them that Jesus, because he loves their souls, is begging them and pleading with them to come to him. Make them feel that they must go to Jesus in spite of all that hinders them. When you inspire men with that feeling, no long and passionate pleading on your part will be necessary.
In all this hymn, which is considered one of the best in all literature, there is much food for the thought of a dying soul. Brethren, study hymns. In doing so you will fill your mind with the choicest thoughts, the loftiest sentiments, the deepest emotions, and the most soul-stirring love of the men of God of all ages. And thus you may realize, that from day to day, and from year to year, you are coming nearer to what Jesus intends to make of you because he loves you.
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I have said a few words to you on a number of occasions, about the importance of studying hymns and the proper selection of hymns to suit occasions. Sometimes an improper selection of a hymn leads to very deplorable results. I was informed of one instance in which, on a funeral occasion, the selection of the hymns was left to the young man who led the singing. He selected one that started right, but just as the pallbearers started off with the corpse they sang, "Believing we rejoice to see the curse removed." That service ended with more tittering than tears.
In order that you may make appropriate selections you must know your hymn book, not only the first stanza of every hymn that is worth singing, but the whole of it. You must know all those that are worth singing if you would make your selections wisely. The elements of a good hymn may be stated thus:
First, and most important of all, its sentiments must be scriptural. There is a hymn in one of our church hymnals which has been sung a great deal, the second stanza of which confidently looks forward to the time when that old boatman familiar in Greek mythology who used to row people across the river Styx, will safely row the Christian across the river of death. Now that is heathenish, but it is in a Christian hymn book. First, then, let me say again, and emphasize it, See to it that the sentiments of every hymn you select to sing in the church are scriptural.
Second, a good hymn is good poetry. Those of you who have gone pretty well along in the course of English, ought to know what good poetry is. You have been taught what it is. But it will require on your part a good deal of thought and study in addition to what you get from your professor, in order to give you that fine taste which will enable you to see the fine elements of poetry in a hymn. I do not think that there is one of the hymns that have become permanently popular that is not good poetry. Not only is good poetry essential, but there is a sentiment among uncultivated people that demands it. Some hymns acquire popularity and usefulness for a short time by means of the fine music set to them, even though they are only a jingle of rhymes: but they soon pass away.
When, then a hymn is found to contain scripture sentiment and good poetry, in order to be effective as a hymn it must be sung to appropriate music, music that expresses finely the sentiments of the hymn. Now no man can be successful in the selection of hymns to suit occasions from day to day and from week to week, who does not devote a great deal of attention and careful study to hymns. There are hymns which, instead of being good poetry, are nothing but lines of prose with a rhyme at the end of them, and not always good rhyme at that. I will read you a couple of instances of this kind. Number 526 in our hymnal: the second stanza: "Thrice blest is he to whom is given the instinct that can tell That God is on the field, when He is most invisi- - - bell, it ought to be. If it be true as was said a long time ago by some wise man and repeated again and again by others, that, if you will allow a man of good judgement to select the songs of a people, he may care very little who makes their laws, then it can not be a matter of minor importance to select wisely the songs of the church. There are a great many people, and especially children, who obtain their religious sentiments more from the hymns they are taught to sing than from the Scripture which they read or hear from the pulpit. And when sentiments are thus formed, whether just right or just wrong, it is almost impossible in later years to eradicate them. This is another indication of the importance of the careful study of hymns.
I have said that those hymns which have been long popular, and have had strong hold upon the minds and hearts of the people, have, all of them, been characterized by those qualities of a good hymn which I have mentioned. For example, that one which Matthew Arnold pronounces the finest hymn in the English language:
"When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.
Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ, my Lord;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.
See, from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down;
Did e'er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all."
I do not know that Matthew Arnold was correct in thinking that the finest hymn in the English language, but certainly it has in it all the elements of a good hymn. Take as another example that old hymn that should have made the name of its author immortal. Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, who died a few days ago, made her name famous by the composition of one song that has attained the name of The Battle Hymn of the Republic. We have a battle hymn.
Am I a soldier of the cross,
A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?
You all know the rest of it. Then there is another hymn, not sung so often, but equally fine, which might be called the Christian's call to arms.
Soldiers of Christ arise,
And put your armor on,
Strong in the strength which God supplies,
Thro His eternal Son.
Strong in the Lord of Hosts
And in His mighty power,
Who in the strength of Jesus trusts,
Is more than conqueror.
Stand, then, in His great might,
With all His strength endued,
And take to arm you for the fight,
The panoply of God.
Leave no unguarded place,
No weakness of the soul,
Take every virtue, every grace,
And fortify the whole.
That having all things done,
And all your conflicts past,
You may o'ercome through Christ alone
And stand entire at last.
Such hymns as these two arouse all the energy and courage that is in the soul of a man who loves the Lord.
Then, we have our marching hymns; not one, but many; especially that one which we sing so often in this chapel:
"Come we that love the Lord,
And let our joys be known,
Join in the song with sweet accord,
And thus surround the throne,
Let those refuse to sing,
Who never knew our God;
But children of the heavenly king,
May speak their joys abroad.
The hill of Zion yields,
A thousand sacred sweets,
Before we reach the heavenly fields,
Or walk the golden streets.
Then let our songs abound,
And every tear be dry:
We're marching thro Immanuel's ground,
To fairer worlds on high."
That hymn is a fine piece of poetry and it is sung to the music of a very fine march. I wonder that some composer has not taken it in hand and made of it a grand march for a brass band. I think it would be a good thing right now for us to rise and sing it.
But there are times that come over the disciples of Christ quite different from these indicated in these exulting stanzas. They are times of gloom and tears, when we need the tenderest words of divine sympathy. Our hymn writers have not left us without comfort in times like these. at is more consoling than the lines in which we sing our Lord's own invitation to the weary and heavy laden, beginning with the stanza,
"Come unto me when shadows darkly gather,
When the sad heart is weary and distressed
Seeking for comfort from your heavenly Father,
Come unto me, and I will give you rest".
We love to sing of our final triumph over death and the grave, and some of our best hymns are devoted to this inspiring theme. I wish we could bring back into general use that inimitable composition in which the resurrection of our Lord and our own resurrection are so beautifully and triumphantly set forth that it should hold a place, as it once did, in every hymn book:
"The angels that watched round the tomb
Where low the Redeemer was laid,
When deep in mortality's gloom,
He hid for a season his head,
That veiled their fair face while he slept,
And ceased their harps to employ".
(Is there anything more beautiful than this?)
"Have witnessed his rising, and swept
Their chords with the triumphs of joy.
Though dreary the empire of night,
I soon shall emerge from its gloom,
And see immortality's light
Arise on the shades of the tomb.
Then welcome the last rending sighs,
When these aching heart-strings shall break,
When death shall extinguish these eyes,
And moisten with dew the pale cheek.
No terror the prospect begets,
I am not mortality's slave;
The sunbeam of life, as it sets,
Leaves a halo of peace on the grave."
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There is a considerable amount of time devoted to teaching young ministers how to preach, but comparatively little in teaching them how to pray. There is a common impression that prayer is not a subject for instruction, that all that is needful is for one to be filled with warm emotions, and then let the tongue loose and let it run at random. The result of this is, that there is a great deal of praying done which reaches no higher than the ceiling, and a great deal that does not reach that high. It is a waste of breath. Such was not the conception of Jesus and the apostles. We find the apostles coming to Jesus once, after he had concluded a season of prayer and saying to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." This shows that John the Baptist had made prayer a subject of instruction to his disciples. The twelve remembered, doubtless, what John had taught; and not only so, but they remembered what Jesus himself also had taught in the sermon on the mount, that instructive passage in the sixth chapter of Matthew. They knew what John had taught them and they knew the main lesson on the subject which their own master had given; why were they not content with these? Why did they still come to the Master and request him, "Lord, teach us to pray." I do not know why, unless it was from the fact that they observed him devoting more time to prayer than they did, or even than did the hypocrites who stood on the corners of the streets with uplifted hands to pray, and stood in the synagogue to pray while others were seated. They had known him to retire into a mountain alone and pray there all night; and there was not one of them that could do that. On one occasion, you remember, three of them went up into a high mountain with him to pray, and while he continued praying they dropped upon the ground and fell asleep. And later, while he was praying in the terrible agonies of Gethsemane, the same three were there and fell asleep, and he waked, them up three times. It was impossible for them, and I presume to say it has been impossible since for any man to pray all night. Some may imagine that they had done it, but perhaps they had been asleep more than once and forgot it when they reported that they had prayed all night. Evidently the disciples thought that there was a secret in prayer which he had not revealed to them and that he could teach them what it was, so that they could pray as long as he did. What an earnest desire on their part is manifested in this request! They were doubtless very much surprised at his answer. He simply repeated to them that little prayer which he had taught them in the sermon on the mount, commonly called the Lord's prayer, adding to it, however, a parable teaching that they should be importunate in prayer and never cease asking until they had obtained. They must be like the man who came to a neighbor at mid-night, aroused him, and begged him to give him three loaves of bread, as company had come in and he had no bread to set before them. The neighbor answered, I am in bed with my children and can not get up to give it to you. But the other continued importuning him, until at last he arose and gave him all he wished. He did not give them any new secret of prayer by which they could pray a long time, or all night, but only that they should be importunate in prayer. If you examine all the instruction that you will find directly and indirectly given, you will find that Jesus never taught the disciples prayers, although he prayed a long time himself. He never taught his own example in this. There was a secret in his mind and heart which they did not possess and which we do not possess, that made it peculiar to him to remain long in prayer. When we remember who he was and whom he addressed, we sometimes wonder that he ever prayed at all. We have two prayers on record which he taught. One I have already referred to, called the Lord's prayer. Have you ever observed how brief that prayer is in point of time of delivery? Look at your watches while I recite it to you. (Recites the Lord's prayer, not hurriedly, and then says.) Less than one-half minute. Now think of that. I read in addition to the prayer itself, "Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever", which has proven to be an interpolation. If you test what is called the intercessory prayer in the fifteenth chapter of John, which is his longest prayer on record, you will find that you can read in deliberately in three minutes. The apostle Paul quotes in various epistles quite a number of prayers that he made for churches and for individuals. The longest of them is the one in the third chapter of Ephesians, and that can be read very deliberately in less than one and one-half minutes. What a rebuke, now, this is to the long prayers that we have sometimes heard in the pulpit, and the stories that we have read about the number of hours every day noble men of whom we read felt compelled to spend in prayer. There is a story told, and it is repeated by the great Canon Farrar in one of his works, about James, the Lord's brother, that he spent so much time on his knees praying that the skin and flesh became thick and hardened like the knees of a camel. James had too much respect for the teaching of his master to do a thing of that sort. This is a tale gotten up by the monks of the dark ages, a result of their own superstitious practice. I have sometimes gotten so weary in listening to a long prayer in church that I have been tempted to take my seat before it was finished; and I think it would be a good lesson to some long-winded preacher to open his eyes and see the whole congregation sitting reading their hymnals because they got so worn out listening to his long prayer. What is the reason for public prayer in an assembly? Is it not for edification and for the worship of God? It is not for the preacher to express his individual desires, but it is for the edification of the church, and it should be something in which all the audience can unite with him. And if he continues until their knees begin to tremble and their minds begin to wander, there is no edification. On the contrary, they are liable to forget before the end of the long thing, anything edifying that had been said at the beginning. Whenever the audience begins to wish that the man leading in prayer would stop, he has already gone farther than he ought. I think this habit grew out of the idea, that when we get up in church to pray we ought to pray for every-body and everything. It is true that some preachers try to cut that short by asking the Lord to "bless all for whom it is our duty or privilege to pray," but it is better to remember that if the Lord permits you to live you will have a chance to pray again next Sunday. And if you can pray for some of the people and the good things today, then if you live until the next week you may go the rounds; and if you don't live somebody else may take it up in your place.
I have a good deal more to say on this subject, but I must postpone it for future lectures of this kind. In the meantime, think solemnly and reverently on the subject of your prayers.
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The apostle Paul, in addressing the church which he praised most of all, said, "We know not how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself maketh intercession for us with groanings which can not be uttered", or rather "with inarticulate groanings". This ignorance was not absolute. Both he and those to whom he was writing did know to some extent how to pray. They knew from the instruction which Jesus gave on that subject, from what they found in the recorded prayers of accepted men. But they and all deeply earnest Christians found moments when the heart was heavily burdened with longings and desires which they could not find words to express; and I suppose it is to these that the apostle refers when he speaks of "inarticulate groanings".
Such moments, if our prayers were addressed to a man, would be a failure. But, being addressed to God the Spirit of God within us knows what we mean when we can not say what we mean or what we desire; and thus he relieves us of what would otherwise be a very serious infirmity. This fact, however, does not excuse us from making intelligent use of that knowledge which has been imparted to us through the teachings and examples of the sacred Word. The very fact that instruction has been given to us on this subject, implies the duty on our part of reflection and meditation on our prayers, so that we may apply to them the instruction which has been given. We take a good deal of time and hard labor sometimes in premeditating our sermons so as to determine as best we can what we should say on a given occasion to a given audience. If that is true, how much more would it appear that we should premeditate what we should say to God on a given occasion when we are to express to him the wants and aspirations of a whole audience of worshippers. If we do not premeditate our sermons, we are apt to speak a good deal of nonsense. And is it not nonsense to indulge in random talk to the Lord? Are we not likely to do some-what as did the old farmer who prayed, "0 Lord, bless me and my wife, my son John and his wife, us four and no more." If he had premeditated on what he was about to say to the Lord he would never have said what he did. So of that Confederate soldier of whom General Gordon relates that in the time of our civil war was called on to pray in a soldiers' prayer meeting. He said, "0 Lord, we pray thee to help us. We need thy help and we need it badly. We pray thee, 0 Lord, to take a right view of this war and be on our side." If he had premeditated, his prayer would have taken a different shape.
If we offer our prayers in public, or in the prayer meeting, or in the family, without premeditating, without thinking what we should pray for, we shall either fall into the habit of saying over and over and over again on different occasions the same prayer, or else we will offer some foolish prayer. I have known some preachers, and quite a number of elders and deacons who officiate in the prayer meeting, to fall into this habit, so that the young people in the audience learn to repeat the good brother's prayer and laugh about it. Now when a man drops into this habit, he loses the sympathy of the audience and becomes wearisome to them. He has fallen into a habit which makes his own mind inactive. Such prayers may not weary the Lord, but they certainly weary everybody else.
If you were going to meet King George, of England, and knew that you would be expected to talk with him for a time, you would be very much concerned as to what you were going to say to him. You would settle it in your mind how you were going to address him. If you did not you might find yourself saying, "Good morning Mister George. How are Mistress George and the children?" But, if you were going to meet him tomorrow, you would spend the whole of this day thinking what would be the proper thing to say; and you would get advice from others who had spoken to kings. Now,, if you are going to address the great God and father of us all, and to do so in behalf of a large audience of praying people, will you rush right into his presence without premeditating beforehand how you will address him? You would consider yourself unfit to offer a prayer if you did that. Not one of you would be guilty of it. If you would fairly premeditate you would ask yourself, what, on the occasion of tomorrow, would be the most suitable subject on which to address my Lord and Savior? You would consider the wants and wishes and necessities of the congregation. And in that way your prayer would be in harmony with the instructions that have been received in the scripture, and the prayer would be edifying to the audience. All could say Amen. Paul exhorts those who pray in the congregation not to pray in an unknown tongue so that the brethren would not be able to say Amen.
While I was a student in Bethany College, I heard of the prayer offered by an old brother in Western Pennsylvania, not far from the place where General Braddock was defeated and his army almost exterminated by the Indians. While this incident was still fresh in the minds of the people, an old brother who had fallen into the habit of making very long prayers in the family, always mentioned Braddock's defeat. He had a boy who had heard his father pray so much that he knew his prayer by heart. One night the boy had a visitor about his own age, and they kneeled during the prayer close together. The home boy fell asleep and the visitor awakened him. He asked in a whisper, "Has father got to Braddock's defeat yet?" "No." "Well, then I can take another nap." There are a great many prayers that are of this character for the want of premeditation. Have you thought of this? Or have you had a strange kind of feeling that, while it is all right to think through my sermon beforehand, it is rather irreverent to think before-hand through my prayers. What I have said, and what your own minds will suggest, is enough to show you that this want of premeditation is unwise if not irreverent. The most solemn thing that a man can do is to stand before an audience of praying people, with some among them who never pray, there offer the common petitions and supplications of a whole multitude. There is a very heavy responsibility lying on the man who does this. And I do not think you should be any less anxious about what you should pray for and how you should pray for it, than you are about what you should preach and how you should preach it.
One of the great difficulties I have in preparing these addresses is to find time to condense them into the allotted time. Socrates, the Greek orator, at one time spoke much longer than he was in the habit of speaking. And one of his friends asked him why he spoke so long. He answered, "I didn't have time to make it any shorter." He didn't have time to reflect upon what he was going to say, and make it so mature as to be brief. You will find this difficulty in your own experience. You rise with nothing particular on your mind that you want to say, and you keep on stalking until everybody wishes you would quit. And so with respect to your prayers. One is often called on to lead in prayers very unexpectedly. You have no time to reflect what you should pray for before beginning. On such occasions you have this relief: You know that there are certain spiritual wants and aspirations that are common to all worshippers, and if you present any of these you will not have gone amiss in respect to the present audience. When you enter an assembly in which it is probable that you will be called on to lead in prayer, begin at once to reflect on the prayer appropriate to the occasion, and offer it in silence.
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I have undertaken to set forth before you the apostle Paul as a man of prayer. We have studied Paul in various aspects of his character and career, but perhaps we have never taken up a special study of his example as a man of prayer.
In the brief address last given I called your attention to his habit of prayer and to some special examples that are recorded historically by Luke without giving the words that he uttered. I propose now to call attention to some that are mentioned by him himself. Of course we find these in his epistles, and more of them in the first epistle to the Thessalonians than in any of his longer epistles. You remember that he had been scourged and imprisoned in Philippi and treated shamefully, as he afterwards expressed it. He went to Thessalonica, about 100 miles west and there in the course of three weeks, or including three Sabbath days spent in the synagogue he reasoned with the people setting forth that the Christ must needs suffer death and come forth from the dead, and that the Jesus whom he proclaimed unto them was the Christ. The result of his labor in those three sabbaths and perhaps the twelve intervening days was that some of the Jews of Thessalonica, a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and of the chief women not a few, believed. This remarkable success excited the jealousy of those Jews who believed not. And, being in a foreign city, where they had to be very careful how they conducted themselves, they were afraid to do any violence openly; so they stirred up the people by slander and lies of the basest kind. Taking to themselves certain "vile fellows of the baser sort," they assaulted the house of Jason who had been entertaining Paul and Silas : but not finding them there for some cause which is not explained, they took Jason and certain other brethren and dragged them before the rulers of the city, crying, "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also; whom Jason hath received : and these all act contrary to the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, one Jesus." Now that charge put before magistrates who knew nothing caused a persecution of the subject, caused a persecution at once against the whole church. They dragged this man Jason before the magistrates and put him under bonds to keep the peace. In the meantime the brethren had sent- Paul and Silas away by night. It is a humiliating thing for a man of sensitive feelings to have to leave a place between two days. It is generally the way in which thieves and robbers and criminals in general leave the places of their crimes. You remember that he went down to Berea where he had great success until some of these foreign Jews followed him there and stirred up trouble. He went from there to Athens where he stayed quite a while and where he had good success. From there he went to Corinth where he remained about eighteen months.
Now on leaving Thessalonica he left the church which they had planted there under the persecution that followed the trouble stirred up by those foreign Jews. In writing to them afterwards he said, "You have heard what things the church in Jerusalem suffered at the hands of the Jews," and he draws a parallel between their own sufferings and those which caused the church at Jerusalem to be dispersed. A report of this reached him at Athens, and he said, "I have desired again and again to come to you, but Satan hindered." It is a remarkable declaration-that the devil hindered him from returning to Thessalonica. I presume that it was because the devil kept up that persecution and would have stirred up the people to greater violence and cruelty if Paul had gone back there. So, not daring to do this, on account of the evil it would bring upon the disciples, he sent Timothy back there and he remained in Athens until Timothy returned. Timothy went to "establish them and strengthen them in the faith and comfort them". Now that brings us the subject of his prayer.
In the beginning of the epistle he says, "We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; remembering without ceasing your work of faith and labor of love and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." This shows that in all of his prayers he made mention of that body of disciples, with thanks to God always for you all making mention of you in our prayers"; showing that in every prayer that he offered he had remembrance of that church. What an earnest, devoted man he was. How deep his sympathies for his brethren in their suffering. And how earnestly he plead with God on their behalf. Here is an example for every preacher. It does good, or else the inspired apostle would not have engaged in it. If you know of a single disciple who is suffering at the hands of the enemies of God, there is an example for you. He tells them, farther on, what he particularly prayed for when he was remembering them in his prayers and giving thanks to God for them. "Now may our God and father himself direct our way to you and remove Satan out of the place where he is hindering us from coming to you. And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men." That "all men" included those persecuting Jews; and his prayer is, that the disciples may abound and increase in love not only toward one another, but toward "all men", including those who were persecuting them. "Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus, direct our way unto you: and the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we also do toward you; to the end he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all of his saints". The expression, "All of his saints" includes those who had departed to where Jesus is. And as the word saints means holy ones, he probably refers to the coming of the holy angels; and his prayer is that the Thessalonian saints may be established in holiness.
Then he has another prayer for them which he mentions. "And the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved entire, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." He next shows his faith in prayer, not only in his own prayers, but in those of others, by adding, "Brethren, pray for us." What was the use of their praying for him? There was a use for it. There was something good in it. He expected as a result of their praying for him that blessings would come to him which. he would not otherwise receive.
I will next call your attention to his prayer for another church which had been established by other hands than his. He tells the Romans that he had had for many years a longing desire to visit them and be among them. I expect some of you young preachers would like to go to New York City, or to Boston, or over to Chicago, to serve some great church with its great building, its great organ and choir, and great men sitting there to hear you. Well, why? Curious ambition, or what motive? Certainly the apostle Paul's desire to visit Rome was not of that kind. He tells them that he has desired to visit them for many years in order that he may impart to them some spiritual gift; not in order that he might say, as some now do, I have preached in Rome, or Boston, or New York, or Chicago, but that he might impart unto them some spiritual gift, and that he might enjoy for a time their fellowship and that they might enjoy his. Now that is a pure and noble purpose. When he said I am not ashamed of the gospel, and I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome, he does not mean that he is such a good preacher that he is not ashamed to preach in Rome; but he says, "I am a debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome."
But notice his prayer in regard to them. "For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son, how unceasingly I make mention of you, always in my prayers making request, if by any means now at length I may be prospered by the will of God to come unto you." Notice that. "I make mention of you always in my prayers." Not praying God's blessing, as sometimes is said, upon all for whom it is our duty or privilege to pray, the world over; but mentioning unceasingly the church of Rome; not because they were in the midst of any great persecution, but because, situated where they were, their fame as disciples of Christ had spread abroad over the whole earth. "First, I thank. my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is proclaimed throughout the whole world." Everywhere this church had become known and was spoken of. Their faith was published. He thanks God for that and then he, unceasingly in all of his prayers, prays God that he may come to them and impart to them some gift of the Spirit. That was constant.
These prayers were offered in Corinth, where he labored for eighteen months.
There is another noble expression of the apostle at the close of this epistle-a doxology. "Now to him that is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery which hath been kept in silence through times eternal, but now is manifested and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the eternal God, is made known unto all the nations unto obedience of faith : to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen."
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In my last address I called your attention to Paul's prayers for two churches-that at Thessalonica, which suffered severer persecution than any other of the churches that he planted; and the one at Rome, whose fame for faith and obedience had spread throughout the Roman empire. He prayed for these most fervently, mentioning both of them in every prayer. The same is true of the church at Philippi and the church at Corinth. We have his own words for his constant remembrance of these four churches in every prayer, naming them and offering, doubtless, for each such supplications as he knew they most needed. We have no right to suppose that these were the only churches of which he constantly made mention in his prayers. There was Berea, and Ephesus, and some others. He was a man of prayer, then, upon whom was laid the care of all the churches, mentioning all these congregations to the Lord in all his prayers. He was worthy of being entrusted with the "care of all the churches". And he who is worthy to be given the care of a single church can not too earnestly and too often pray for it.
But Paul did not confine this constant remembrance of others to congregations. He extended it also to individuals. He says to Timothy, "I thank God, whom I serve from my forefathers in a pure conscience, how unceasing is my remembrance of thee in my supplications, night and day longing to see thee, remembering thy tears, that I may be filled with joy:" He had left Timothy in a flood of tears when he last parted from him and those tears were constantly on his mind, and with that constant memory went up his petitions for that young man. And so in regard to Philemon, a man whom he had never seen so far as the record goes, but of whom he had heard much. He says, "I thank my God always, making mention of thee in my prayers, hearing of thy love and of the faith which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all the saints;" Such a man as that he could not forget when he bowed his knees before God in prayer. Thus we see the mind and heart and memory of this praying man, loaded with the wants, the dangers, the necessities of a large number of persons. For if he prayed thus for Timothy and Philemon, what about Priscilla and Aquila, who once laid down their necks to save his life; or Epaphroditus, or any other of the heroes of the faith whom he loved with all his heart. and who were bound to him by cords of steel? Thus he prayed for the churches with which he was connected, and for individual saints both male and female whom he had known who were his fellow-servants, and whose names were written in the Book of Life. Not only so, but he did not falter in that precept which was taught in the sermon on the Mount-"Love your enemies." His own countrymen had caused his expulsion from Antioch and Iconium; and more recently from Thessalonica which he had to leave by night. They had also on five occasions stripped him of his garments and given him thirty-nine lashes on his naked back. If there ever was a people whom a man might hate, and whom any one of us would hate, it was the Jews in their dealings with Paul. But in the epistle to the Romans he makes a statement which would be unthinkable with common men, "I have great heaviness and unceasing sorrow in my heart: for I could wish myself accursed from. Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." If he had said, "I have unceasing wrath in my heart," it would not have surprised us; and in the same epistle he says "My heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved." Brethren, who is it in the church today that thus prays for those who hate him? He goes farther than even this. "I could even wish myself accursed from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh:" He did not say, I wish it, but I could wish it. I think if he had said, I do wish it, he would have done wrong. I cannot think of myself as wishing my-self accursed from Christ for anyone, however near he might be related to me. It is possible that when he said he could wish this, he would have failed had he been put to the test. But those expressions show a devotional and self sacrificing spirit almost equal to that of the Christ himself.
When Paul reached the end of his pilgrimage you would naturally expect to read there some splendid prayers, but not a word of it. When he was ready to lay down his neck that the sharp sword of the executioner might sever his head from his body, he did not spend his last hours in prayer. He had reached the point where prayer is turned to praise, faith to sight and hope to full fruition. He says to Timothy, "The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing' So instead of spending his last hours in prayer, calling on faithful men to pray around his bed and comfort as we in our weakness often do, he left this world with a shout of triumph.
This now is the way in which this man of God passed through trials and sufferings at the hands of men, often at hands of those who should have been his friends, and gave up his life in the service of the master. I commend his character and his meditation for your imitation. The more earnest your prayers for others, the more pleasing you will be in the sight of God. It is singular that in the record of his prayers you find him recording only one which he offered for his own personal welfare.
He had been so exalted by revelations from heaven, that it was necessary for him to receive an affliction which would be humiliating. He calls it a thorn in the flesh, an emissary of Satan to buffet him. To buffet means to smite you in the face. What could be more irritating than to have an enemy stand by you and frequently smite you in the face? And what could be more humiliating in the presence of others looking on? He says, Three times I have prayed God to remove this from me. That prayer was never answered. Paul says, "He said to me, My grace shall be sufficient for you." Instead of taking it away God gave him grace to bear it. And we are to suppose that he had to endure it to the day of his death He learned, however, to say, "When I am weak, then I am strong." And in this connection he makes a statement that is as incredible as that about the Jews. "I take pleasure in weaknesses, in injuries, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake:" God gave him in answer to that prayer, not the relief for which he petitioned, but that strange feeling which relieves those who reach it by prayer from the pain of suffering and the shame of affliction, so that he no longer felt humiliated as he once did, but on the contrary, he says, "I take pleasure." What a strange pleasure! He took pleasure in afflictions which he had prayed God three times to relieve him from without being relieved. How great a soul was that! How unconquerable the spirit. How devoted to God, to Christ and to humanity ! Let him be your example next to the example of your Lord and Savior.
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My subject this morning is lying. Let nobody charge that I have selected this subject because it is especially appropriate to my audience. I do not think any of you will ever lie unless you get caught in a very tight place.
Lying is, and has been for a long time, one of the most common sins of humanity; so much so, that David said in one of his psalms, "I said in my haste that all men are liars", and some wag added to it that when he got out of his haste he ought to have said the same thing. But there has been a great deal of improvement since then, especially in some portions of the world.
In heathen countries and in some Christian countries lying is not considered very base. I recollect that the dragoman we had on my trip through Palestine would lie at any time and was not the least ashamed of it. He would tell us some big lie and when we caught him in it he would not blush or apologize. He called himself a Syrian Christian.
Even preachers have been known to be liars. I remember one very unique illustration of this. While I was still living in Missouri a preacher from Kentucky began to move about there and make some reputation. Another preacher stated that he was a common liar. He heard of it and immediately brought charges against his accuser before a board of elders. At the appointed time he came with his saddlepocket full of documents in his own defense and made it appear that he had been grossly slandered. It happened that Raccoon John Smith was in town and was invited to meet with these elders. After the accused had gotten through reading his many documents, he said, "Brethren, here is Bro. John Smith. I am willing for him to tell you what kind of a man I am. He has known me for many years." John Smith arose and said, "Well, Brother Wiley, I never heard any of the brethren speak any harm of you, except that you would lie. They said that you did not lie to do anybody any harm, but just for the love of it". That was the last appeal. He took up his documents and went his way in peace.
There are various kinds of lies. The worst kind is malicious lying, as when a man tells a lie for the purpose of injuring another's reputation, property or by causing unjust punishment to be inflicted; that is undoubtedly the worst kind of lying, the motive of malice being the worst part of it. It was lies of that kind that were told against Jesus, by witnesses that had been suborned; and afterwards the same kind of suborned witnesses told the same kind of lies against Stephen and had him stoned to death. You remember also that Naboth was stoned to death by Jezebel's order upon the testimony of liars who had been suborned. This is the kind of lying that is specified in the seventh commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor." And the punishment under the only civil law that God ever gave to a nation was very severe. A man falsely testifying against his neighbor was punished with the same penalty that would have been inflicted upon the neighbor had he been found guilty, whether stripes or fines or death. If a man falsely charged his neighbor with a crime for which the penalty was death, then this false witness was put to death. And I can but think that this was a very just law. And that statute as in many other instances shows that the law of Moses was in many ways in advance of the laws of the United States. Now, if a man is convicted of having testified falsely, he is fined; and if he has any money the fine is collected, and if not he goes Scott free. Sometimes, in an aggravated case, he is sent to the penitentiary for a few months. The law of Moses dealt more justly with liars than does the law of this country.
There is another kind of lies that might be called harmless. That is, they do no harm and are not intended to do any harm to anybody else. They are much more common than malicious lies. They are very common with some people, one of whom would be very much insulted if you were to call him a liar. He would knock your teeth down your throat if he could. There is nothing more insulting to the average man than to be called a liar, and yet this kind of lying is very common, so common that people make easy names for it. They call such lies, fibs, or white lies, or something of that sort to make light of them. The biggest lie of this kind that I have ever heard of was told by a man who said once he crossed the Atlantic Ocean and just as the ship got out of the harbor a man jumped overboard and swam beside the ship all the way to Liverpool. It seems that he and another man had made a wager to see which could tell the biggest lie. The other man spoke up and said, "Did you see that, sir?" "Yes Sir, I saw it with my own eyes." "Well, I am glad you did, for I am the man who did the swimming." I don't know which one got the wager. Now those two men did not intend to harm anyone with those two big lies. It was all for fun, and yet as big a lie as you could think of. A lie is a lie, whether told for fun, or for malice, or just for the love of telling it.
Then there is another kind of lies that might be styled selfish lies, lies told for the benefit of the one who tells them. This is the kind of lies told by people engaged in trading, and especially horse-trading. It is commonly thought that horse-traders are the biggest liars in the world. I do not know whether they excel some men who sell you goods over the counter. And sometimes those who are buying are as guilty as those who are selling. This is the kind of lie that Ananias and Saphira told. That was a selfish lie. It was in order that they might keep a part of that money and at the same time have credit for giving all of it. You know the result. God took them in hand. They dropped dead at the apostles' feet, Ananias first and then Saphira. He was the starter of the club that now bears his name. It is very common now for a man who is guilty of this kind of lying to be charged with belonging to the Ananias club. But any man who is guilty of anything that he is ashamed of and lies to hide it, is guilty of this kind of lying as well as he who lies to make money. And it is nearly always the case that a person that will do a mean thing will lie to hide it. And then he will tell another to hide that one and another to hide that and another to hide that and so on, and they seldom get to the truth except when forced to confess it. at about these men that .commit murder? They are arraigned before the magistrate and they plead not guilty, swearing that they are not. Then they go to the Circuit Court and there they swear they are not guilty. They employ the best legal talent to argue that they are not guilty, and hire false witnesses to testify in their favor to convince the jury that they are not guilty. And when they are convicted and sentenced to death they send for the priest or a half-witted preacher to come and pray with them until they get religion. Then on the scaffold they hold out their example to young men and warn them; and claim to be ready to die; and call upon their friends to meet them in heaven. This kind of lying is the result of cowardice. A man is afraid for it to be known what he has done, and through a mean, sneaking cowardice lies about it. That is not the worst kind of lying, but it is mean and sneaking. A sheep-killing dog would not be guilty of it if he understood these matters. Now what the Law of Christ says about liars you read in Rev. 21:8 "But for the fearful, and unbelieving and abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and sorcerers, and idolators, and all liars," the only one in the list which is emphasized, "their part shall be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; which is the second death." There is where Christ places liars, without discriminating the different kinds of lies that they tell. All liars, whatever kind of lies they tell shall have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone.
While none of you may be liars, of course you are not and I hope you never will be, still it is very important for you as preachers of the gospel to know how to treat this sin in the presence of the people so as to give all the young people and all the old, a high ideal of truthfulness, and to build up a body of people who are strong in the truth. The apostle Paul exhorts us to put on the whole armor of God, and the very first thing in that armor is to be "girded about the loins with truth". The man who never lies, the man who always speaks the truth, and who has resolved that, whatever comes, he will speak the truth, is not afraid. He can stand up before the accusing world and never have a fear of what man may do to him.
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My subject this morning is Poor Preachers. You will observe at once that the expression is ambiguous. It may mean men who do poor preaching, or it may mean preachers who are poor men. For the former class I have very little respect, because they could all do better preaching if they would. But the latter class includes nearly all preachers. It is true that the Bishop of Durham, of the established church of England, is said to have a fixed income of $80,000.00 a year; but the average salary of a preacher in the United States is set down as $583.00, quite a difference. You remember that when John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus to inquire of him, "Art thou he that should come, or look we for another?" he replied, "Go and tell what you see. The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them," closing up the list with the statement that the gospel is preached to the poor. He could just as truly have added, if he had seen fit, that it was also preached by the poor. He himself was poor in this world's goods, for you know that on one occasion he said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." And the men whom he sent out to preach were all poor men. Peter and John were going up to the temple one day and met a beggar at the Beautiful gate, who was a cripple and who reached his hand for a pittance. Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none," not even enough to give a pittance to a poor beggar. But after attracting his attention very forcibly, he said, "Such as I have I give thee." Then he raised him up and told him to stand up and walk, which he did.
Some twenty-five or thirty years ago when we had about two hundred preachers in the state of Kentucky, I took pains to find out in regard to those whom I did not know personally how many of them were the sons of wealthy men, not millionaires, but such men as pass in rural sections as rich men. Out of all that number there were only two that were rich men's sons, one in a hundred. That tells the story in regard to Kentucky. On another occasion when chapel was more largely attended than it is today I called upon all students whose expenses at college were being paid by their parents to stand, and out of nearly a hundred only nine stood up. That showed that not only was the preaching done by the poor, but it was the sons of the poor that were preparing to be the next generation of preachers. This has been the case all the way back to the beginning. So we can say of this as the Episcopalians so often say in their prayerbook of another subject, "As it was from the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."
The question has often been raised, whether this is well or ill in the history of preaching, and the position has been taken by a great many writers in this country when contemplating the fact that fewer young men are preparing for the ministry than formerly, that the cause is the prospect of poverty awaiting those who intend to be preachers. Young men, it is said, are not willing to take the risk of poverty and that keeps them out of the ministry. Now I do not know to what extent this is true, but to the extent that it is true, I regard it as a blessing to the church and to the world rather than a curse. Any young man who declines preparing himself for the ministry for this reason is not fit to enter upon it. And to the extent that the anticipation of poverty keeps men out of the ministry it keeps out those who would be an incumbrance, a dead weight, and a disadvantage. They are not fit to go into the pulpit who are controlled by this consideration. This consideration proves a blessing to the church in keeping out of the ministry those who would only be an incumbrance. It also enables the church to gather the best material to make preachers of men who have the spirit that animated the Lord and the apostles, who were not going into the ministry for the purpose of earthly gain or for any kind of selfish consideration, but for the love of Christ and fallen, wretched humanity. If the ministry that we have were made up more largely of men of the latter description the church would be stronger than it is today. And if it could easily cast out of itself all those of the other class, the reduction in numbers would be an increase in power. Sometimes young men at college preparing for the ministry feel the burden of poverty pretty keenly. Rising early in the morning and going out for a two or three miles walk without breakfast to deliver the daily paper, is not an easy task. And a great many other things which students do to work their way are burdensome, and in many instances no doubt become discouraging. Young men with weak wills and less devotion than is desirable faint under it and give up the task. But those who are thus burdened not only have a great many examples and patterns in the New Testament to lift up their hearts, but they are sure at last of the love and respect of God and men, and of the privilege of doing great good in the world. Then let us bear bravely on. We can be like the old woman who was bed-ridden for many years and yet was always cheerful. When asked how she bore up so well, she said, "Well, you don't know how much comfort I have derived from that blessed passage which reads "Grin and bear it." (Laughter). So take the old woman's text. Whenever you are inclined to discouragement just say to yourself, "Grin and bear it." That will strengthen you. And by this means you will see that such a struggle develops character; it strengthens a man's purpose; it makes him more and more dependent upon the Lord; and makes him throw himself more and more on the good providence of God. It is making out of him the very kind of a man that he hopes to be bye and bye, although he did not bargain to go through with it. It is a blessing, then, in keeping out of the pulpit unfit men and bringing into it men who will be ready to discharge its high obligations.
And do not think that you are alone in these experiences. You will find them wherever you find men preparing for the ministry. I received a letter just the other day from a young man within one year of graduation who tells me he has made his own expenses thus far partly by waiting on the table of a dental college, and partly by washing spittoons. And one of the most distinguished preachers of the present day, who occupies the pulpit formerly occupied by Henry Ward Beecher, worked his way through college as the janitor. How many of you would like that place? How many of you would be willing to change places with Will or George? Many of the greatest and most useful men have come up through great tribulation to the position which they now occupy. Then, go on with your work. Do not give it up. Go on with your studies until you have completed them. Resolve, that, with the help of God, you will never be the man to do poor preaching, but that you will always be a poor man to do the best preaching of which you are capable.
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I purpose to speak this morning on Action in the Pulpit. It is not my purpose to trespass upon the ground occupied by the professors of Homiletics and Vocal Expression, but unfortunately too many of our students go out of college and go to preaching without taking these two courses. And then, those who do take those courses frequently need to be reminded again and again of the things learned from the professors and the text book. As the prophet said long ago, "Line upon line, line upon line; precept upon precept, precept upon precept," here a little and there a little, we still have to do a great deal of repeating in order to beat things into the minds of some people. You have all heard more than once what Demosthenes said about this matter. On being asked what was the first thing in oratory, he said, "Action". "What is the second thing?" "Action". "What is the third?" "Action".
But do not be mistaken and think that Demosthenes meant that action was all, that action without thought is oratory. We know from the contents of his great addresses that he meant this: when you appear before an audience with a speech in your head, from this point forward everything depends on action, including the voice as well as the hands. What would the grandest speech that he ever delivered have amounted to, if he had stood up before a Greek audience and held it in his hands, or laid it on the table and read it to them? He knew very well that such a speech as that would never arouse the people to war against Phillip. The bema on which he spoke is still preserved in Athens; it is a solid block of stone with nothing on which to lay a book or a manuscript. Having then, the thought, the first and the second and the third thing with him was action.
Neither did Demosthenes mean to affirm that every kind of action a man might indulge in is first or second or third in oratory but appropriate action. Action that is appropriate to the thoughts which the orator desired to drive home to the minds and hearts of his hearers; for this is the value, of action in the pulpit or on the rostrum.
Jesus was an orator. The highest type of oratory ever heard on earth was his. Unlike Demosthenes, he did not depend on action. He took his seat on the side of the mountain with the multitude stretched out before him. Or he sat in a boat at the edge of the water and spoke to the multitude stretched out before him on the shore. But Jesus had words to speak so far superior to any that Demosthenes or any other orator ever offered, that he depended upon them for the effect of his speeches; and it was not in vain.
The apostle Paul, so far as we have learned from Luke, indulged in little action when speaking; but that action had a telling effect. When he stood before a strange audience in Antioch of Pisidia, having been called out of the audience by the ruler of the synagogue, who said to him and Barnabas, "Brethren, if ye have any word of exhortation for the people, say on," he stood up in the midst of the audience and "beckoned with his hand" before he uttered a word. Every man knew what that gesture meant. They knew that the stranger had something to say to them that he thought worth hearing, so they listened. And once when a mob had taken him, and was beating him, and would have killed him, he was rescued by Lysias the chief captain and his band of soldiers; and was being taken into the castle. When he came up on the stairs leading into the castle, he begged the officer to allow him to speak to the people. They were crying out, "Away with such a man from the earth." The officer allowed him to speak and Paul "beckoned with his hand". That looks like a very simple act, and it was. But there was something about that simple action that quelled that mob in a moment; and in the language of Luke, "There was a great silence." Then he made them a speech. A man who would get up before an audience in the present day and make no more gesticulation than that, would scarcely be considered an orator. But it had its effect and it might have it again.
There was another thing in the oratory of Paul so striking that it impressed Luke and he wrote it down. When Sergius Paulus was listening with great interest to Paul's preaching and Bar-Jesus contradicted with great vehemence what he was saying, Luke says that Paul "fastened his eyes" upon the man. And that action, which would scarcely be called an action, was accompanied by the words, "0 full of all guile and all villainy, thou son of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord ?" No doubt that fastening the eyes upon him drove home the words in a fashion that no motion of the hands or arms could have effected.
And again, when standing before the Sanhedrin whither he was brought by Lysias, he was there as a man accused of things worthy of death. The mob said, "Away with such a man from the earth." Very naturally the Roman officer expected him to have a down-cast countenance like a man guilty of wrong doing. There was silence for awhile, and not a man rose up to accuse him. He, though the accused, had to begin the proceedings. "Looking steadfastly on the council", he said, "Men and brethren, I have lived before God in all good conscience to this day." That was bold. That was not the language of one who was guilty of wrong doing. He wore the calm, majestic, beaming face of an innocent man. How pusillanimous and contemptuous was the reply made by the chief priest: "Some of you who are standing near him, Smite him on the mouth." It was done; yet with that calm face still beaming upon them he said, "God shall smite thee, thou whited wall. Sittest thou to judge me according to the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?" And the chief captain saw the Jewish court torn all to pieces by the power of the man charged with things worthy of death. I wish I could have seen Paul's face. There was something in the cast of his eye and the expression of his countenance that was well calculated to overawe the wrong doers.
These are the only two characteristics of his action that are recorded, but these are enough to show mastery, self-reliance, and an overpowering force of character and manner. The best method I know of for a young man to acquire suitable action in the pulpit, or for an old man, for that matter, is to first find the faults of which you are guilty and correct them. The action that is left will be natural and effective like the actions of children at play.
I suggest as the first fault, that of the posture which you assume before the audience. Do not stand flat on both feet alike, (Speaker here assumed the faulty position described). That is the weakest attitude a man can assume. If a man should strike you in that attitude, he would knock you over with a touch. Do not appear as though you were not sure where you stand; but stand in an easy, natural position. Your body will then be free, and you can use the hands and arms naturally.
Perhaps I might mention as the second correction, don't keep your hands in your pockets while speaking. Keep your hands out of your pockets. How often you see a man in the pulpit (Illustrates). Then he thinks he ought to make a gesture (Illustrates, taking his hands out of his pockets and swinging them in a gesture, then nervously fumbling them back into pockets.) (Laughter) How many times I have seen that!
Now you will find, if you have already gotten into that habit, that the best way to break it up, is to break it up everywhere else. At home, in your room, out in company, and especially before ladies, do not cram your hands down in your pockets. Do not come in on a cold day and get up to the fireplace and (Illustrates, cramming hands in pockets). That is about as awkward a thing as you can do. And if the habit is so fastly fixed upon you that you can't break it up, have somebody to sew those pockets up, or put some tight buttons on them. I guess that strikes a good many. Well, I hope you will feel it.
Then do not indulge in studied gesticulation. I have seen young gents when they were delivering a memorized speech, coming to a place where they thought they ought to make a gesture. (Here the speaker stiffly brought his right hand to the center of his body, raised it very precisely along the median line of the body to about the height of the chin, then pushed it slowly off in a direction to the right, forward and upward, closely following the whole movement with his eyes.) (Great laughter) That smells of the looking-glass, and is, I was going to say, very disgusting to an intelligent hearer.
Then, do not indulge in violent gesticulation. How often you see a man, (Here the speaker went through with several rounds of the pugilistic demonstrations often seen in the pulpit and on the platform) or with his Bible, (Here the speaker illustrated the violent and nervous handling of the Bible). Now that does not mean anything. I saw during our Educational Congress here, a man using this kind of gesticulation (Illustrates). He kept that up for half an hour. And what did it mean? Was he aiming to drive home some thought? I could not see it.
Then do not indulge in anything like laziness. Do not lean on the pulpit this way (Illustrates) or this way (Illustrates). I was very much surprised when I was teaching Homiletics, before Prof. Jefferson came, to find that though the author of our text book specified such faults as lying on the pulpit, when I heard him preach afterwards, this is what he did. (Illustrates by lying on the pulpit). (Much laughter). That looks as if you were lazy, as if you had not gotten stirred up any by the thoughts you are uttering to stir up others.
I close with this. If you want to see gesticulation in as near perfection as you will ever see it, watch little children three or four years of age, engaged in animated conversation. And if you do any imitating, imitate them rather than full grown men.
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There are certain considerations in regard to repentance, which it is exceedingly important for us to keep in mind. Among all the conditions of pardon and eternal life, it is the most difficult to bring about. When you look through the record of the Savior's earthly ministry, you find that he induced a great many to believe in Him-so many that, in the latter part of his career, it is said by one Apostle, "many of the chief rulers believed, yet they did not confess him for fear of the Pharisees, lest they be excluded from the Synagogue." These chief rulers were probably the rulers of the Synagogue, but the Pharisees had a large majority in nearly all of the synagogues. and could easily exclude their rulers when they desired to do so. But when you search for those who repented under the Lord's preaching, you will find but few. If you can point out any failure in His personal ministry, it was the failure to bring men who heard him to repentance. Consequently, we find that when he was about to leave Galilee, he upbraided the cities in which most of his mighty works had been wrought, because they repented not. "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida ! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon which were done in you, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes."
His inability to bring those who saw most and heard most of His ministry to repentance, is a startling fact. And so it is with preachers today, the world over. When you go out preaching among the people of this country, you will not find it very difficult to induce your hearers to believe the truth concerning Christ, and, when they are prepared in mind and heart for baptism, you will not find it at all difficult to persuade them to submit to that. Even in the dead of winter, when thick ice must be removed in order to immerse them. You will find no difficulty, provided they have repented and desire to obey the Lord; but how difficult it is to induce men to repent! Sinners outside the church and sinners inside the church cling to their sins, and it appears impossible in many instances to bring them to repentance.
As regards faith, the majority of sinners in this country find it very difficult to be infidels when they try to be. You meet with many a man who claims to be an infidel and seems to take pride in it; but if you watch him closely for a long time, you will find that he is merely trying to be an infidel, and this is demonstrated by the fact that when great danger, or great sorrow, or death comes close to him, the infidelity passes away, and the man who had scoffed at the idea of religion turns pale, and trembles, and calls upon some earnest Christian to kneel at his bed-side and pray for him. That occurence is almost as common as the claim of infidelity. If, then, when you are addressing your congregation, you make a desperate effort to induce them to believe, very likely the majority of them are saying to you, "I believe as firmly as you do; and you are wasting your time trying to induce me to believe." I recollect when I once felt that way myself. When a youth, I often listened to an old Presbyterian preacher, whom I very highly esteemed, who believed in justification by faith alone, and often insisted that as soon as you believe that Jesus Christ is your personal Saviour your sins are all gone-you are happy in the Lord. I said to myself, and I said to my companions. "I believe just as firmly as that old .brother does, but it has not had such an effect on me. He is certainly mistaken". But when you come to an effort to induce men to repent of their sins, there you stagger, in a multitude of cases from week to week and from year to year with the same hearers before you. Why is this? I suppose it is accounted for by two considerations. First, the pleasures of sin-the pleasures that certain sins bring to the sinner dance before his eyes while he hears you, and being unwilling to give up these pleasures, he refuses to repent. Second, repentance has to do with the will, the stubborn will of a man, and a man's will is backed up by his pride. His pride and his self-will together stand against you and enable him to cast off all of the appeals that you make. So he lives on in impenitence.
When preaching was my work, I thought to myself many times, and I think I said it many a time to others, that of all the gifts which I crave, if I had my wish, the first would be that I might have the power to bring men to repentance by my preaching. These being the facts of the case, what should we preach? What should we make the subjects of our addresses to the ungodly? A military man in battle brings his heaviest artillery to bear against that which is the strongest part of the enemy's defense. It is idle to bring the light artillery to bear against the strongest fortification. The great battleships which men are now constructing with the twelve inch balls that they hurl are employed against these vessels that are covered over with iron twelve inches thick and against the strongest of fortified walls. The preacher, too, should level his heaviest artillery, his strongest appeals, against that part of the fort of his enemy, that is comparable to the thickest armor of fort and battleship. at is that but impenitence? I am afraid that many preachers make a mistake here. There are some who seem to plan their sermons to gather up the greatest amount of oratorical beauty which they can array, with the aim chiefly in their mind of pleasing their audiences, that they can go away delighted with the preacher. That is a very foolish idea. One of the Kings of France, Louis XV, I believe, who was a very wicked man, had two court preachers, both of them very eminent men. He was asked one day which of them he preferred to hear, or rather, what was his estimate of the two preachers. He answered, "When I hear such a one (naming him), I am left thinking, what a wonderful man that is. When I hear the other, I am left thinking what a miserable sinner I am." "Which of the two do you prefer?" Wicked man as he was, he said, "I prefer the latter, because he makes me feel like being a better man. The other makes me admire him, the latter makes me despise myself." Oh, what a difference between the two preachers! One exerting all of his powers to make his hearers feel their sinfulness. Now, make your choice.
But, seeing that it is so difficult to induce men to repent, perhaps you would like for me to suggest you some-thing about the way to succeed. I wish I could tell you a way by which you could always succeed. It has been a great failure in my own life as a preacher. I have been perhaps unusually successful in convincing my hearers of the truth of what I had to present to them, but I have made a failure in trying to bring them to repentance. I suggest that, inasmuch as the Apostle Paul tells us that the goodness of God brings men to repentance, you struggle in your sermons to bring to bear every fact exhibiting the goodness of God to bad men, if, perchance, through the gratitude that you stir in their hearts you may induce them to repent. And inasmuch as Jesus in his appeal to the cities in which he had done his great works, warned them of the examples of Nineveh and Sodom, to bring them to repentance, his method must be wise, although it may fail. Gather out of the Scriptures as you study them, gather together in your memory, everything that you find there, every fact, every precept, which properly considered, ought to cause men to repent. Then, bring these to bear upon them with all of the power you have: but, in preparing your sermons, do not forget to prepare them for those to whom you speak and the difficulties in their way. Have this in your mind while you are trying to decide what subject you will take and how you will treat and frame every sentence and every line of thought with a view to effecting this great triumph. Thus you will be able to save some.
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Paul said to Timothy, "Let no man despise thy youth." To despise the youth of a preacher means, I think, to disregard his preaching because he is a young man. And that is no uncommon thing in the experience of preachers at the present day. There is a great demand among the churches for young preachers with many, because it requires less money to support them. But very often the young preacher finds that he is despised on account of his youth. It shows itself chiefly when the young man proposes some changes or improvements in the church which the older men and women have not been accustomed to, and they turn upon him and say, "Why you are a young man just out of college, and do you presume to teach us?" Or the young preacher finds it necessary in discharging his duty toward God to rebuke some of the abuses that ought to have been rebuked before; then they despise his youth. The young people, when he urges upon them the importance of propriety and sobriety, say, "Why you are no older than we are. If it were some older preacher we would listen to him." And thus, in various ways, the young preacher finds himself despised on account of his youth.
The question naturally arises, inasmuch as young men can not at once make themselves older, what is a young preacher to do? If he is told to let no man despise his youth, his answer naturally is, How in the world can I avoid it? Well, Paul gives Timothy a recipe for that: "Be thou an example to them that believe". Well, in what way shall I be an example to the believers? In what particulars? Paul points out five of the particulars which he seems to think sufficient to accomplish the purpose. "Be an example in word, in manner of life, in faith, in love, in purity."
How to be an example in word. Does this refer merely to the preached word? Of course that must be included, because that is the most important word that the young preacher, or an old one either, ever speaks. Be an example in that respect, so that whatever you say in the pulpit, no man can despise. Be a good example for others to follow who stand to speak to the congregation. Of course it is to be free from thoughtlessness, frivolity and worldliness, and from everything that would detract from effectiveness in making men better and wiser.
"In manner of life." That refers to conduct. To conduct, not only in public and in the congregation but in society. "Manner of life"! That includes nearly everything that the young preacher does except when he is asleep. If his manner of life is such as to be an example to the believers, one that they ought to imitate, they can not despise him in that particular.
The next item is faith. "Be an example in faith." Suppose the young preacher indicates by word or action that his faith is shaky, his faith in the Bible, his faith in Christ, his faith in the things that are revealed in the Holy Scriptures. Suppose it is discovered by the congregation, that his faith in anything of importance from Genesis to Revelation is very doubtful. Then all thoughtful persons, old and young, will despise his youth. They will say, This young fellow they have set up to lead us and be an example to us, and help us on in the way we should go, while he is wobbling like a lame man on that straight and narrow path himself.
Then, next to faith, the apostle says love. Be an example in love. Of course that refers primarily to the love of God, secondly to the love of the brethren, and the sisters, love of all good persons, and also to the love of sinners whom he is trying in love and earnestness to save from their sins.
There is another kind of love, however, that I think was scarcely included in Paul's intention in writing to Timothy. In those days you know that what we call "love affairs" among young people were scarcely known. The father and the mother of the two parties managed all those arrangements themselves, without trusting to the immature judgment of the young people. They could not trust a young man to pick out his wife, nor a girl to decide between her suitors. There was too much responsibility in the rearing of children and in the discharge of the duties of married life to be left to the judgment of the young people. But that is included in the word love, and we may safely conclude that the apostle would have a young preacher to be an example to the believers in his love affairs. He must not be a flirt. If he happens to be popular with the other sex, he must not allow his popularity to lead him into flirting. That is dishonest and mean. He cannot be an example before the younger people of the church if they find him to be a man of that kind. He must be an example in these things, in honesty and sincerity, as he loves God, that he may benefit and save the people.
Then he also says, "an example in purity." That word, unlimited, means purity in thought, words, conversation, action; so that the man throughout his whole being is a pure man.
Now the young preacher who makes himself an example to the believers in these five particulars, is an admirable young man. No man is going to despise him on account of his youth. Every man and every woman who considers him sees in him an example for themselves to follow, instead of an inexperienced young man for them to despise and look down upon. I can not think of any other way to keep people from despising your youth.
Now, brethren, everyone of you will be exposed to the danger which Paul apprehended that Timothy might incur, and for which he gave this warning. How are you going to meet it? Will you bristle up when the old folks begin to criticize you, and say, These old people never have been to college and I have? I have been to the Bible college, and I know, and I know too that they don't know. What effect will that have? The very opposite. And when the young people begin to criticize him, what will he say? Will he say, I know I am not older than they are, but I know a good deal more than they do? I am here to "give it to them" and I am going to give it to them! If so, he may keep on giving it to them until at the end of his engagement with that church, they let him go. They despised his youth. But if a man is an example to the believers in these five particulars, such a thing as that can never occur. Such a man is prized very highly by the believers; and they are thanking God for sending him to them. And they are constantly predicting what a great man he is going to be when he gets older. And that young man, instead of becoming discouraged because he is young, is conscious of the fact that he is getting older every day, and consequently all these troubles about being young pass away. I bespeak for that young man as he grows older an ever increasing love and respect from his people.
Laying aside the matter of your success as a preacher, this is the way to get to heaven. This is the way to live a life that will be praised of men when it is ended, that will have the approval of good men while you are living it, that will have the final approval of God.
Now, brethren, let me impress upon you with all the emphasis I can command the words, "Let no man despise thy youth, but be an example to them that believe in manner of life, in faith, in love, in purity."
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It is my purpose to devote the last two addresses of this session to an account of the two men represented by the first two portraits above our rostrum.
These portraits were not hung there merely to ornament the room, although they are somewhat more ornamental than the bare walls would be, but for the purpose of imparting important lessons to the students of our college.
Our college, brief as its career has been, has outworn two presidents and pretty nearly finished the third. The lives of these two men are sources of great inspiration for good, such as is needed to stimulate the minds of young men preparing to preach the Word. Robert Milligan was a native of the North of Ireland, the Protestant portion of Ireland, that portion in which my own father was born and brought up. His ancestors were Scotch, as his name indicates, and from them he received the Scotch Presbyterian faith in which he was educated. His father moved to this country when he was a child and settled in North East Ohio, which was then almost a wilderness. The farmers had great difficulty and toil in clearing their lands of the heavy growth of timber. Robert, when he was a boy, was brought up to that kind of work. He was characteristically industrious and enthusiastic, and into everything that he did he threw all his strength. To such a disposition this hard work of clearing lands proved too much, and enfeebled his constitution for life. He was educated in a private school taught by a distinguished graduate of Edinburgh University. Then having reached his majority, and having become a communicant in his father's church, he looked out for work to do. He had chosen teaching as his profession and he found employment in it here in Bourbon county; in the little village of Flat Rock.
In teaching, he had young men in his classes from our brotherhood, who have now as they had then the prevailing numbers in Bourbon county. These young men, knowing him to be a Presbyterian, and being better instructed in the word or God than Presbyterians in general, threw before him a great many puzzling questions about the Scriptures, and especially about baptism. His strict conscientiousness and his desire to know the truth and to espouse it, led him, under these questions of the boys, to undertake the reexamination of all the grounds of his faith and his baptism; and as is true of hundreds of other such men, he was convinced by his careful research of his own Good Book that he ought to be immersed and unite with the Disciples, which he did.
After teaching thus for two years at Flat Rock, he started to go to Yale, to extend his own education, but in passing through Washington, Pennsylvania, where he had some friends, he was importuned by them to stay there and graduate in Washington College. The main inducement for him to stay there, was the fact that there was a little congregation of Disciples about a mile from town who were very much in need of a leader and teacher. So they besought him to stay with them and they prevailed. This opportunity for usefulness was a far stronger inducement to him than the greater education at the more famous institution.
Such was his success as a student, that the very next year after his graduation, he was given a professorship which he held for twelve years. Then was exhibited another mark of his conscientiousness. He learned that it was the will of those who had charge of the college to put it under the Presbyterian Synod. That was done in order to make it strictly a Presbyterian college. He was not willing to remain in a college the owners of which wanted it to be strictly Presbyterian, while he was not of that faith himself. He offered his resignation. He was urged to remain and assured that his change of view made no difference. But it made a difference with him, and he did not stay. He differed from many preachers and teachers, who when they get into a good place stay there at the cost of any kind of a strife or division.
He was now offered a professorship in the Indiana University, located at Bloomington. He accepted it. There he lived for two years. But Indiana at that time, in its early settlement, was full of malaria. Chills and fever prevailed very greatly and in some places fatally. The ill health of his family constrained him to resign.
He then accepted a chair that he had been offered repeatedly in Bethany College. Alexander Campbell had heard of him and formed his acquaintance. He esteemed him very highly from the first; and when he knew him well, he longed for his assistance in the management of the students of Bethany College. Finally he prevailed. When he came to Bethany there was what we might call a revolution. He instituted a system of work for the religious good of the students, such as had never been known before in that institution. All the students admired Alexander Campbell and wondered at his greatness; but in a little while every one learned to love Professor Milligan. He was their friend. He was their companion as much as his duties would permit.
He had labored there for five years when Kentucky University having arisen into prominence and looking about for a president, selected him. They selected him for the name he had won by his work in Bethany College. It was very hard for them to get him to accept the presidency, but he finally did and moved to Harrodsburg, The same kind of work was done here as a president as had been done there as a professor. Then when the University was moved to this city, he came with it. When The College of the Bible was organized, in its very beginning he was chosen as president. Nobody thought of anyone else.
In the year 1875 he breathed his last. Every virtue and every grace which he had exhibited in his previous life was here exhibited more fully. No student ever spent a year in The College of the Bible or in the College of Arts, that did not have a passionate love for President Milligan.
As a scholar he was not eminent, but his scholarship was such that with the earnest care and diligence with which he entered into every question he was required to handle, he was accurate and sure. As a preacher he was not brilliant nor oratorical, but always deeply impressive. As a teacher he was one of the most successful. He was clear in his utterances and required the members of his classes to be clear in theirs. He never fell into the fault of many teachers, of doing the talking in the classroom himself when it was time for the students to do it. When a young man stood up to recite to him he had to depend upon himself to get through; or else, when he could not get through without help, with a very kind word and a nod, "That will do, my brother" he had to sit down. And very few students ever passed through his classes without having a reasonably thorough knowledge of the subject.
His chief distinction was as a man, a Christian man, a man with every virtue and every grace that adorns a Christian character. It was this characteristic, or these, that made him almost the idol of those whom he instructed. Who can estimate the value of the work of such a man as that, though he died, as we may say, prematurely at 61 years of age. How many souls he started in the right path! How many crude minds he filled with vital truth and with correct knowledge, and sent out into the great field of work to sow the seeds of righteousness and eternal life. No man can count the number of these. When I think of him personally, I remember him as one of the warmest friends I ever had on earth. I think of him now as one of the best friends I now have in heaven. If it were in his power to do me any good during the remainder of my sojourn here, I know he would do it. But 'twere vain for me to call on him for it, seeing there is one greater than he who has it in his power to do what he will for his servants, and he promises to do the very best for me that is possible.
Brethren, keep the characters and careers of such men before you. One of the characteristics of a Christian, as Paul defines it, is to be "a lover of good men". Be lovers of good men. That makes you seek to imitate them.
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The second portrait above, as you all know, represents the second president of this college. Physically, he was the contrast of Robert Milligan. An Englishman by birth, he grew up with the solid frame and muscle of a typical Englishman. A carpenter by trade, from his boyhood, his diligent work at that trade hardened the muscles which nature gave him, so that he was a model of strength.
When he was in college on one occasion a proud, aristocratic and mischievous student, while at the breakfast table, hurled a biscuit, a hard biscuit, at the poor man who was the waiter, and hit him a severe blow on the cheek. The poor fellow walked up to him and slapped his jaw. That was a terrible outrage, for a servant boy to strike an aristocratic boarder. The latter jumped up and ran after the fellow as he went out at the kitchen door, and a lot of his comrades followed him like a mob. Bob Graham, as they called him, was sitting at the far end of the table, next to the kitchen door. He saw the whole affair and just as these men drew near he jumped up, clenched his fists and shouted, "Stand back, gentlemen! Fair play! One at a time!" None of them wanted to come in contact with those fists; so they went quietly back to their seats at the table. That was Robert Graham when he was a young man. And the idea of fair play, "a square deal", and justice to all, high and low, characterized him as long as he lived. He was very popular with the students, and this incident did not make him any less so.
He told me more than once that he had never taken any exercise for health. He took plenty of it when he was a carpenter, he thought to do him all his life. He told me this on seeing how diligently I had to work to keep my body strong. He also said to me, knowing how frequently I was sick, that he fully expected to outlive me several years. He died five years younger than I am now. Such is the uncertainty of life.
It was his skill and industry as a carpenter in early life and until after he was married, that led him to become a scholar and a preacher. Mr. Campbell needed the services of a good carpenter at Bethany. This young man was recommended very highly by some brethren, and he sent for him. He was so well pleased with him in every way, that he advised him to give up his carpenter's trade, come to college, and become a preacher. Mr. Campbell was the editor and publisher of the only hymn book of our people at that time, and he devoted the profits of this publication to the education of young men for the ministry. By this means he enabled Robert Graham to accept his advice.
Robert took his place among the best of the students. He was still there and in his senior year when I went to Bethany. It was the custom then in Bethany, on account of the scarcity of professors, to assign some of the freshman classes to a few of the choicest of the graduating class. They worked, of course, without compensation, but with a good deal of benefit to themselves. I was at first put under him in my Latin, and he was one of the best teachers I have ever had. A. R. Benton, since then the eminent scholar's teacher of Indianapolis, was my professor in Greek.
When Brother Graham graduated Mr. Campbell sent him out on a collecting tour through the Southwest. A great many people had become indebted to him for the Millenial Harbinger, for hymn books, and other things. So he sent Robert Graham through Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and some portions of Texas to hunt up these debtors, and to preach the gospel as he went. He traveled on horseback.
This tour led him to observe the state of society and the prospects of the people in those thinly settled regions. He decided to locate at Fayetteville and build a college. He did so. In erecting the building he himself was the architect and the superintendent of the work. It was very strange to those farmers and rough mechanics to see a college man working as a carpenter, excelling them all in skill. And when heavy timbers were to be carried on hand-spikes, they were amazed to see this college man holding the hand-spike against the men among them. So he won popularity, finished his college, and had a large patronage. In the meantime he was not neglecting the spiritual wants of the people. He traveled far and wide on horseback through the forests and over the mountains, to reach distant appointments, where at a stand built in the forest, for the audiences would be too large for any of the log school-houses or meeting-houses, he would preach, usually protracting his sermon from one and one-half to two hours, and sometimes exceeding two hours. Notwithstanding that, some of the brethren would come to him and say, "I rode twenty (often thirty or forty) miles to hear you preach today, and it does not seem to me to pay to ride so far to hear so short a sermon. Then, after meeting he would ride home, often riding far into the night, in order to be in his place at the college next morning when the bell rang.
So he worked until the civil war came on. Then, his college in the confusion of the time was burned down, and the young men whom he might have expected to come to his college were all enlisted in the army. So he saw that his work in Arkansas was done. Through some friends he was invited to come to Cincinnati, and he came to preach to one of our leading congregations there. After laboring there for a short time he moved to Harrodsburg as a professor in Kentucky University. Not long after that he was called to San Francisco. A few brethren there, anticipating that there would be built the great metropolis which it has since become, wanted to organize a church that would grow with the city. He went and preached for what was called then and is called now the First Christian church in San Francisco. It was not large and never has grown very large. The work was very hard and discouraging, but he struggled with it heroically until he was called back to be president of the College of Arts of this institution. There were no railroads then across the Rocky Mountains and no one dreamed that there ever would be. The journey was made by the ocean and in sailing vessels. He remained president of the College of Arts until Hamilton College was organized, when he was made president of that, and served it faithfully until he was called to the presidency of The College of the Bible after the death of Robert Milligan. He was an untiring worker, ready to go without his dinner any day when there was pressing work to be done. He showed such interest in the work at all times that he won the high praises of the board of Curators and of all connected with the institution.
Finally, old age with its infirmities began to come upon him. When he was seventy-five years of age he resigned the presidency, retaining his professorship. Another year or two of labor compelled him to resign his professorship. He went to Pittsburg to visit a friend, and from there the news came of his death. His remains were brought here and laid away in God's land out there where there is a host of good men and women sleeping until the resurrection morning.
I was sick in bed when he died, with a very severe attack of La Grippe and the doctor and my family and friends kept the news from me. He was brought here, Brother Loos preached his funeral and he was buried before I knew anything about it. My friends feared that if I should learn of his death it would be to me in my feebleness like the last feather on the camel's back. I knew nothing of it until a day or two after his burial, when some one carelessly left the daily paper lying on my bed. I reached after it and thought I would see what was going on. The very first thing my eye fell upon was the account of the death of President Graham. I was not so shocked as my friends feared; for I had expected it. He had not only a strong body, but a strong voice. He could make the remotest man in those vast crowds in the forests of Arkansas hear him. When he let that voice out to the full measure it rumbled almost like distant thunder. His thoughts were good, his language fine, his power as a preacher eminent. He was an excellent teacher in every department which he undertook to teach.
Two characteristics of his life stood out very admirably, his economy and his liberality. One day he showed me a little ten cent memorandum book which he drew out of his pocket and said, "I can trace every dime that has come into my hands for years by my little memorandums and tell where it came from and where it went. I was very much astonished, for one of the hardest things for me to do, has ever been to keep a memorandum of expenses with any degree of satisfaction. Most of men who are that close and exact about their money matters are penurious, but he was very far from being so. On leaving San Francisco when he had paid all the passage expenses of his family he had about three hundred dollars in gold that he had saved up. He handed it to the treasurer of the church and told him to use it for the good of the church. When he got home one dollar (or fifty cents, I have forgotten which) was all that he had left. When he left Arkansas in the midst of the Civil War, the college having burned down, he had no property. He needed some money however, to get away from there. He went to some of the wealthy brethren and asked them to loan him enough for his purpose without security, for he had nothing to give as security. They let him have all he wanted, and he came to Cincinnati. When he was president of Hamilton College he corresponded with these brethren in regard to the payment of this money. The government had issued the paper money called "greenbacks" and had made this legal tender, in payment of all debts; and "greenbacks" were so much below par at that time that it took one dollar and eighty cents to buy one dollar in gold. These brethren told him that he might pay his debts to them in greenbacks and they would be satisfied. He said, "No brethren, I will not pay in green-backs. The money I borrowed from you was worth one hundred cents on the dollar and I will pay you back in the same kind of money." And he stuck to that, although they urged him to take advantage of the greenbacks, and paid every cent of it in gold. Now that was the characteristic in business of the man who was the second president of this college.
Brethren, when I look forward to the future I always wonder what is to be the future of The College of the Bible. I always recollect with thankfulness the prayers of these two men. They are a great consolation. In the Old Testament how often after David had died and gone, it is said under the reign of wicked kings, that Jehovah spared the people for David's sake. And I am sure that for Robert Milligan's and Robert Graham's sake, God will spare The College of the Bible a long time, even if it should begin to prove unworthy.
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