by T. DeWitt Talmage (1832-1902)
Old books go out of date. When they were written, they discussed questions which were being discussed; they struck at wrongs which had long ago ceased, or advocated institutions which excite not our interest. Were they books of history, the facts had been gathered from the imperfect mass, better classified and more lucidly presented. Were they books of poetry, they were interlocked with wild mythologies, which have gone up from the face of the earth like mists at sunrise. Were they books of morals, civilization will not sit at the feet of barbarism, neither do we want Sappho, Pythagoras, and Tully to teach us morals. What do the masses of people care now for the pathos of Simonides, or the sarcasm of Menander, or the gracefulness of Philemon, or the wit of Aristophanes? Even the old books we have left, with a few exceptions, have but very little effect upon our times. Books are human; they have a time to be born, they are fondled, they grow in strength, they have a middle-life of usefulness; then comes old age, they totter, and they die.
Many of the national libraries are merely the cemeteries of dead books. Some of them lived flagitious lives, and died deaths of ignominy. Some were virtuous, and accomplished a glorious mission. Some went into the ashes through inquisitorial fires. Some found their funeral pile in sacked and plundered cities. Some were neglected and died as foundlings at the door of science. Ever and anon there comes into your possession an old book, its author forgotten and its usefulness done, and with leathern lips it seems to say: "I wish I were dead." Monuments have been raised over poets and philanthropists. Would that some tall shaft might be erected in honor of the world's buried books. The world's authors would make pilgrimage thereto and poetry and literature, and science, and religion would consecrate it with their tears.
Not so with one old book. It started in the world's infancy. It grew under theocracy and monarchy. It withstood storms of fire. It grew under prophet's mantle and under the fisherman's coat of the aposfrles. In Rome, and Ephesus, and Jerusalem, and Patmos. Tyranny issued edicts against it, and infidelity put out the tongue, and Mohammedanism from its mosques hurled its anathemas, but the old Bible lived. It crossed the British Channel, and was greeted by Wyclif and James I. It crossed the Atlantic and struck Plymouth Rock, until like that of Horeb it gushed with blessedness. Churches and asylums have gathered all along its way, ringing their bells, and stretching out their hands of blessing; and every Sabbath there are ten thousand heralds of the Cross with their hands on this open, grand, free, old English Bible. But it will not have accomplished its mission until it has climbed the icy mountains of Greenland, until it has gone over the granite cliffs of China, until it has thrown its glow amid the Australian mines, until it has scattered its gems among the diamond districts of Brazil, and all thrones shall be gathered into one throne, and all crowns by the fires of revolution shall be melted into one crown, and this Book shall at the very gate of heaven have waved in the ransomed empires not until then will this glorious Bible have accomplished its mission.
In carrying out, then, the idea of my text "The statutes of the Lord are right" I shall show you that the Bible is right in authentication, that it is right in style, that it is right in doctrine, that it is right in its effects. Can you doubt the authenticity of the Scriptures? There is not so much evidence that Walter Scott wrote "The Lady of the Lake," not so much evidence that Shakespeare wrote "Hamlet," not so much evidence that John Milton wrote "Paradise Lost," as there is evidence that the Lord God Almighty, by the hands of the prophets, evangelists, and apostles, wrote this Book. Suppose a book now to be written came in conflict with a great many things, and was written by bad men or impostors, how long would such a book stand? It would be scouted by everybody. And I say, if that Bible had been an imposition if it had not been written by the men who said they wrote it if it had been a mere collection of falsehoods, do you not suppose that it would have been immediately rejected by the people? If Job, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Paul, and Peter, and John were impostors, they would have been scouted by generations and nations.
If that Book has come down through fires of centuries without a scar, it is because there is nothing in it destructible. How near have they come to destroying the Bible? When they began their opposition, there were two or three thousand copies of it. Now there are two hundred million, so far as I can calculate. These Bible truths, notwithstanding all the opposition, have gone into all languages into the philosophic Greek, the flowing Italian, the graceful German, the passionate French, the picturesque Indian, and the exhaustless Anglo-Saxon. Under the painter's pencil, the birth, and the crucifixion, and the resurrection glow on the walls of palaces; or under the engraver's knife speak from the mantel of the mountain cabin; while stones, touched by the sculptor's chisel, start up into preaching apostles and ascending martyrs. Now, do you not suppose, if that Book had been an imposition and a falsehood, it would have gone down under these ceaseless fires of opposition?
Further, suppose that there was a great pestilence going over the earth, and hundreds of thousands of men were dying of that pestilence, and someone should find a medicine that cured ten thousand people, would not everybody acknowledge that that must be a good medicine? Why, someone would say: "Do you deny it? There have been ten thousand people cured by it." I simply state the fact that there have been hundreds of thousands of Christian men and women who say they have felt the truthfulness of that Book, and its power in their souls. It has cured them of the worst leprosy that ever came down on our earth, namely, the leprosy of sin; and if I can point you to multitudes who say they have felt the power of that cure, are you not reasonable enough to acknowledge the fact that there must be some power in the medicine? Will you take the evidence of millions of patients who have been cured; or will you take the evidence of the skeptic who stands aloof and confesses that he never ^took the medicine? The Bible in- timates that there was a city called Petra, built out of solid rock. Infidelity scoffed at it. "Where is your city of Petra?" Buckhardt and Laborde went forth in their explorations, and they came upon that very city. The mountains stand around like giants guarding the tomb where the city is buried. They find a street in that city six miles long, where once flashed imperial pomp, and which echoed with the laughter of light-hearted mirth on its way to the theater. On temples, fashioned out of colored stones some of which have blushed into the crimson of the rose, and some of which have darkened into the blue of the sky, and some of which have paled into the whiteness of the lily aye, on column, and pediment, and entablature, and statuary, God writes the truth of that Bible.
The Bible says that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone. "Absurd." Infidels, year after year, said: "It is positively absurd that they could have been destroyed by brimstone. There is nothing in the elements to cause such a shower of death as that." Lieutenant Lynch I think he was the first man who went out on the discovery, but he has been followed by many others Lieutenant Lynch went out in exploration, and came to the Dead Sea, which, by a convulsion of nature, has overflowed the place where the cities once stood. He sank his fathoming line, and brought up from the bottom of the Dead Sea great masses of sulphur, remnants of that very tempest that swept Sodom and Gomorrah to ruin. Who was right the Bible that announced the destruction of those cities, or the skeptics who for ages scoffed at it?
The Bible says there was a city called Nineveh, and that it was three days' journey around it, and that it should be destroyed by fire and water. "Absurd," cried out hundreds of voices for many years, "no such a city was ever built that it would take you three days' journey to go around. Besides, it could not be destroyed by fire and water; they are antagonistic elements." But Layard, Botta, Bonomi, and Keith go out, and by their explorations they find that city of Nineveh, and they tell us that by their own experiment it is three days' journey around (according to the old estimate of a day's journey), and that it was literally destroyed by fire and by water two an- tagonistic elements a part of the city having been inundated by the river Tigris (the brick material in those times being dried clay instead of burned); while in other parts they find the remains of the fire in heaps of charcoal that have been excavated, and in the calcined slabs of gypsum. Who was right, the Bible or infidelity?
Moses intimated that they had vineyards in Egypt. "Absurd," cried hundreds of voices, "you can't raise grapes in Egypt; or, if you can, it is a very great exception that you can raise them." But the traveler goes down, and in the underground vaults of Eilithya he finds painted on the wall all the process of tending the vines and treading out the grapes. It is all there, familiarly sketched by people who evidently knew all about it, and saw it all about them every day; and in those underground vaults there are vases still incrusted with the settlings of the wine. You see the vine did grow in Egypt, whether it grows there now or not.
Thus you see, while God wrote the Bible, at the same time He wrote this commentary, "The statutes of the Lord are right," on leaves of rock and shell, bound in clasps of metal, lying on mountain tables, and in the jeweled vase of the sea. In authenticity and in genuiness the statutes of the Lord are right.
the Bible is right in style. I know there are a great many people who think it
is merely a collection of genealogical tables and dry facts. That is because they
do not know how to read the Book. You take up the most interesting novel that
was ever written, and if you commence at the four hundredth page today, and tomorrow
at the three hundredth, and the next day at the first page, how much sense or
interest would you gather from it? Yet that is the very process to which the Bible
is subjected every day. An angel from heaven, reading the Bible in that way, could
not understand it. The Bible has a door by which to enter and a door by which
to go out. Genesis is the door to go in and Revelation the door to go out. These
Epistles of Paul the Apostle are merely letters written, folded up, and sent by
postmen to the different churches. Do you read other letters the way you read
Paul's letters? Suppose you get a business letter, and you know that in it there
are important financial propositions, do you read the last page first, and then
one line of the third page, and another of the second, and another of the first?
No. You begin with "Dear Sir," and end with "Yours truly." Now, here is a letter
written from the throne of God to our lost world; it is full of magnificent hopes
and propositions, and we dip in here and there and we know nothing about it. Besides
that, people read the Bible when they cannot do anything else. It is a dark day,
and they do not feel well, and they do not go to business, and after lounging
about a while they pick up the Bible their mind refuses to enjoy the truth. Or
they come home weary from the store or shop, and they feel, if they do not say,
it is a dull book. While the Bible is to be read on stormy days, and while your
head aches, it is also to be read
am fascinated with the conciseness of this book. Every word is packed full of
truth. Every sentence is double-barreled. Every paragraph is like an old banyan
tree, with a hundred roots and a hundred branches. It is a great arch; pull out
one stone and it all comes down. There has never been a pearl-diver who could
gather up one half of the treasures in any verse. John Halsebach, of Vienna, for
twenty-one years, every Sabbath expounded to his congregation the first chapter
of the bookof Isaiah, and yet did not get through with it. Nine-tenths of all
the good literature of this age is merely the
also amazed at the variety of this Book. Mind you, not contradiction or collision,
but variety. Just as in the song you have the basso and alto, and soprano and
tenor they are not in collision with each other, but come in to make up the harmony
so it is in this Book there are different parts of this great song of redemption.
The prophet comes and takes one part, and the patriarch another part, and the
evangelist another part, and the apostles another part, and yet they all come
into the grand harmony the song of "Moses and the Lamb." If God had inspired men
of the same temperament to write this Book it might have been monotonous; but
David, and Isaiah, and Peter, and Job, and Ezekiel, and Paul, and John, were men
of different temperaments, and so, when God inspired them to write, they wrote
in their own style. God prepared the Book for all classes of people. For instance,
little children would read the Bible, and God knew that, so He allows Matthew
and Luke to write sweet stories about Christ with the doctors of the law, and
Christ at the well, and Christ at the cross, so that any little child can understand
them. Then God knew that the aged people would want to read the Book, and so He
allows Solomon to compact a world of wisdom in that book of Proverbs. God knew
that the historian would want to read it, and so He allows Moses to give the plain
statements of the Pentateuch. God knew that the poet would want to read it, and
so He allows Job to picture the heavens as a curtain; and Isaiah, the mountains
as weighed in a balance, and the waters as held in the hollow of the Omnipotent
hand. And God touched David, until in the latter part of the Psalms, he gathers
a great choir standing in galleries above each other beasts and men in the first
gallery; above them, hills and mountains; above them, fire and hail and tempest;
above them, sun, and moon, and stars of light; and then, on the highest gallery,
arrays the hosts of angels; and then, standing before this great choir, reaching
from the depths of earth to the heights of heaven, like the leader of a great
orchestra, he lifts his hands, crying: "Praise ye the Lord. Let everything that
hath breath praise the Lord," and all earthly creatures in their song, and mountains
with their waving cedars, and tempests in their thunder and rattling hail, and
stars on all their trembling harps of light, and angels on their thrones, respond
in magnificent acclaim: "Praise ye the Lord. Let everything that hath breath praise
the Lord." God knew that the pensive and complaining world would want to read
it, and so he inspires Jeremiah to write: "Oh that my head were waters, and mine
eyes a fountain of tears." God knew that the lovers of the wild, romantic, and
the strange would want to read it, so he lets Ezekiel write of mysterious rolls,
and winged creatures, and flying wheels of fire. God prepared it for all zones
for the arctic and the tropics, as well as for the temperate zone. Cold-blooded
Greenlanders would find much to interest them, and the tanned inhabitants at the
equator would find his passionate nature boil with the vehemence of heavenly truth.
The Arabian would read it on his dromedary, and the Laplander seated on the swift
sled, and the herdman of Holland guarding the cattle in the grass, and the Swiss
girl reclining amid Alpine crags. Oh, when I see that the Bible is suited in style,
exactly suited to all ages, to all conditions, to all lands, I cannot help repeating
the conclusion of my text: "The
I remark again, the Bible is right in its doctrines. Man a sinner, Christ a Saviour the two doctrines. Man must come down his pride, his self-righteousness, his worldliness. Christ, the Anointed, must go up. If U had not been for the setting forth of the atonement, Moses would never have described the creation, prophets would not have predicted, apostles would not have preached. It seems to me as if Jesus, in the Bible, were standing on a platform in a great amphitheater, and as if the prophets were behind Him, throwing light forward on His sacred person; and as if the apostles and evangelists stood before Him, like footlights throwing up their light into His blessed countenance; and then as if all the earth and heaven were the applauding auditory. The Bible speaks of Pisgah and Carmel, and Sinai, but makes all mountains bow down to Calvary. The flocks led over the Judean hills were emblems of "the lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" and the lion leaping out of its lair was an emblem of "the lion of Judah's tribe." I will, in my next breath, recite to you the most wonderful sentence ever written: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." No wonder that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem heaven sympathized with earth, and a wave of joy dashed clear over the battlements and dripped upon the shepherds in the words: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." In my next sentence every word weighs a ton. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Show me any other book with such a doctrine so high, so deep, so vast.
Again, the Bible is right in its effects. I do not care where you put the Bible, it just suits the place. You put it in the hand of a man seriously concerned about his soul. I see people often giving to the serious soul this and that book. It may be very well; but there is no book like the Bible. He reads the commandments, and pleads to the indictment "Guilty." He takes up the Psalms of David and says: "They just describe my feelings. 9 ' He flies to good works. Paul starts htm out of that by the announcement: "A man is not justified by works." He falls back in his discouragement. The Bible starts him up with the sentence: "Remember Lot's wife. Grieve not the Spirit. Flee the wrath to come." Then the man, in despair, begins to cry out: "What shall I do? Where shall I go?" and a voice reaches him, saying: "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Take this Bible, and place it in the hands of men in trouble. Is there anybody here in trouble? Ahl I might better ask, are there any here who have never been in trouble? Put this Bible in the hands of the troubled. You find that as some of the best berries grow on the sharpest thorns, so some of the sweetest consolations of the Gospel grow on the most stinging afflictions. You thought that death had grasped your child. Oh, no. It was only the heavenly Shepherd taking a lamb out of the cold. Christ bent over you as you held the child in your lap and putting His arms gently around the little one said, "Of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Put the Bible in the school. Palsied be the hand that would take the Bible from the college and the school. Educate only a man's head and you make him an infidel. Educate only a man's heart and you make him a fanatic. Educate them both together and you have the noblest work of God. An educated mind without moral principles is a ship without a helm, a rushing train without brakes or reversing rod to control the speed. Put the Bible in the family. There it lies on the table, an unlimited power. Polygamy and unscriptural divorce are prohibited. Parents are kind and faithful, children polite and obedient. Domestic sorrows lessened by being divided, joys increased by being multiplied. Oh, father, oh, mother, take down that long neglected Bible and read it yourselves and let your children read it. Put the Bible on the train and on shipboard, till all parts of this land and all other lands shall have its illumination. This hour there rises the yell of heathen worship and in the face of this day's sun smokes the blood of human sacrifice. Give them the Bible. Unbind that wife from the funeral pyre, for no other sacrifice is needed, since the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin.
I am preaching this sermon because there are so many who would have you believe that the Bible is an outlandish book and obsolete. It is fresher and more intense than any book that yesterday came out of your great publishing houses. Make it your guide in life and your pillow in death.
After the battle of Richmond, a dead soldier was found with his hand lying on an open Bible. The summer insects had eaten the flesh from the hand, but the skeleton finger lay on these words: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me, thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Yes, this book will become in your last days, when you turn away from all other books, a solace for your soul. Perhaps it will be your mother's Bible, perhaps the one given you on your wedding day, its cover now worn out, and its leaves faded with age; but its bright promises will flash upon the opening gates of heaven.
//How precious is the Book divine
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