Louis Albert Banks.

The world's childhood; a series of Sunday evening sermons from themes drawn from the first three chapters of Genesis online

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Online LibraryLouis Albert BanksThe world's childhood; a series of Sunday evening sermons from themes drawn from the first three chapters of Genesis → online text (page 1 of 17)
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Pastor of Independence Avenue M. E, Church
Kansas City, Mo.

Author of "Sermons Which Have Won Souls," "Christ and

His Friends," "Paul and His Friends," " David and His

Friends," etc., etc.


New York and London




Printed in the United States of America

Published, September, 1910






This Volume

Is Lovingly Dedicated




I. — The Background of Human Life
II. — A World of Chaos ....
III. — The Creation of Light
IV. — Goodness and Light
V. — Darkness and Light
VI. — Man's Glorious Day
VII. — The Treasures of the Night .
VIII. — Light and Shadow ....
IX. — The Atmosphere of Life .
X. — The Appeal of the Sky
XL — The Birth of Individuality
XII. — The Sea and Its Sailors
XIII. — The Romance of the Fields
XIV. — The Clock of Time
XV. — The Lamps of the Sky
XVI. — Beauty and the Beast .
XVII. — Man Created in God's Image
XVIII.— The Garden of Eden
XIX. — Marriage and the Family .
XX. — Parleying with Temptation

XXL— The First Lie

XXII. — The Lost Paradise
XXIII. — The Sinner Becomes the Tempter
XXIV.— The Dawn of Guilt .
XXV. — Useless Covering for Sin .
XXVI. — The Cowardice of a Guilty Conscience
XXVIL— The Call of God . . . .
XXVIII. — Personal Responsibility
XXIX. — The Conflict of the Centuries
XXX. — The Promised Savior .















^ * In the beginning God. ' ' — Gen. 1 : 1.

A DISTINGUISHED Scotchman once wrote
with his finger, in the corner of his gar-
den, in the soft mold, the letters of his son's
name. He sowed garden-cress in the furrows,
covered up the seed, and smoothed the
ground. Ten days after this the boy came
running to his father, and with astonishment
in his countenance shouted to him that his
name was growing in the garden. The father
laughed at the report, and seemed to disre-
gard it, but the boy insisted on his going to
see what had happened.

*^Yes,'' said the father, with assumed in-
difference, * ^ I see it is so ; but what is there
in this worth notice ? Is it not mere chance ? ' '

**It can not be so,'' said the boy. *' Some-
body must have contrived matters so as to
produce it. ' '



^^Look at yourself/' replied the father,
•'and consider your hands and fingers, your
legs and your feet. Came you hither by

^ ' No, ' ' he answered. * ' Something must have
made me."

*'And who is that something?" asked the

He said, **I don't know."

Then the father drew away the veil from
this great background of human life and told
him that * ' In the beginning God created. ' '


This sentence which we have chosen for
our text is one of the most stupendous utter-
ances ever recorded in human language. The
first time any man gives thoughtful utterance
to it the mind staggers and reels under the
weight of its tremendous meaning. As we
steady ourselves for thought and contempla-
tion, it is as tho we stood up against a great
chain of lofty mountains — mountains so high
and splendid that they form the background
of wide-reaching valleys and far-stretching
plains which draw all their fertility and
beauty from the mountains at our back.


These mountains form the background to
the valley. The valley owes its life to the
mountains. The mountain summits lift their
heads so high that they tap the clouds pass-
ing by on the wings of the wind with mois-
ture gathered in far-off seas and compel
them to disgorge their precious treasures
that they may in turn enrich the valleys and
the plains. These captured treasures issue
forth in springs, and in brooks, and rivers,
moving forth from the deep canons of the
rock-bound hills, and they give life and fer-
tility and support to flocks and herds, and to
\dllages and cities in the plains beyond. So
you may follow up the valleys of human life
across the plains of history and civilization
until you have followed mankind back as far
as you can, and you will come straight up
against this great mountain range and look
into the mystery of the Great White Throne,
and hear this splendid but awful utterance,
**In the beginning God."


The Bible does not argue concerning the
existence of God, but in its first utterance it
presents the fact of God as the key to the uni-


verse and as the key to human history.
Joseph Parker once said: *M have a great
and cunningly contrived lock called the uni-
verse, and the question is how to open it. I
can not tell. It is a grand lock, and I should
like to open it. The Bible says, ^I can give
you the key of that lock.' Then I say, 'You
are a bold book, and boldness is an attribute
of truth.' Do I stop there and say I believe
there is a key because I have read a book
which says there is one? No. I say to the
book, whatever its name may be, 'Where is
the key?' When the Bible says, 'The key is
God, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent,
righteous, merciful, holy, just, brighter than
the light, more patient than motherhood,
more pitiful than fatherhood, full of compas-
sion, and most long suffering,' I take the
key, I press it into the lock, wholly and
easily — what do I do? I kiss the Book, I
love it, I call it God's Book, I meditate there-
in day and night. Have you a better reason ?
Let me have it: I will try it exactly in the
same way — only it must cover all the ground,
it must be available night and day, it must
not be subject to climatic changes, it must
not succumb to atmospheric effects, it must


keep time on the Alps, and keep time in the
valleys. ' '


Now the greatest conception and the most
important which the mind of man can enter-
tain is the kind of God which the Bible
brings as a key to open the lock of the uni-
verse in which we live. All our religious life,
all our religious experience, indeed, all our
civilization must be dictated by our concep-
tion of God. Men have often made gods of
their own imaginings. Eobert Browning, in
his unique poem, ^'Caliban upon Setebos,**
turns preacher and gives a remarkable ser-
mon, and fearing lest some careless reader
might not be sure of his meaning, he printed
the words of the psalmist as a text above it,
**Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such
an one as thyself." The poet-preacher takes
Caliban, Shakespeare's grotesque monster,
and pictures him rolling and wallowing in
the slime of a cave on an island, thinking
and talking to himself about God. In the
heat of the noon, Caliban wallows in the
mud, while Prospero and Miranda sleep. He,
not drudging at their task, as he glee-


fully thinks, talks to himself about '^that
other/' of whom his dam Sycorax had told
him, the god Setebos — a god of the Patago-
nians. Caliban thinks Setebos dwells in the
cold of the moon; hates the cold of the
moon, but can not live away from it ; and out
of very weariness, envy, listlessness, or
sport, made all things — made Caliban him-
self. Caliban considers what he would do if
he had the power and thinks of Setebos as
doing the same. Suppose Caliban could
make a live bird out of clay, a bird that
could fly; he would break its leg oif if he
wanted to, or give it more legs. And Setebos
does absolutely as he likes, too, knows no
law but his own caprice and is entirely gov-
erned by caprice in his actions toward the
things he has made, neither loving nor ha-
ting. Just as Caliban does with the crabs.
He watches them going down to the sea, lets
twenty pass him, and stones the twenty-first ;
throws a worm to one, two worms to another.
**As it likes me each time, I do; so does he.''
But Caliban thinks also what he would do if
the creature he had made grew proud of its
doings, for he thinks Setebos is able to make
things with powers he (Setebos) himself does


not possess. Caliban has made a rude musical
instrument. Suppose it were to grow proud
of the poor music it made, and thought to
claim credit for it. ^^I make the cry my
maker can not make with his great round
mouth. He must blow through mine!'' He
imagines the reed saying, ^ ' Well, then, would
not Caliban smash it with his footT' And
of course Setebos does just the same — de-
stroys his own work out of resentment and

But Setebos, he thinks, has a particular
spite against poor Caliban, just as, on the
other hand, he favors Prospero. No reason ;
just caprice of the god. Caliban has built
a trap for the turtles, and a wave comes and
sweeps it away — the work of six months gone
in a moment. And Setebos has sent down
a ball of fire to kill him ; it struck where half
an hour before he had been sleeping in the
shade. Still in his monstrous mind he justi-
fies the god. Above all things, he himself
must be free to do as he likes. He knows
and can imagine no rule to guide conduct
excepting caprice. And Setebos must do
as he likes also. Caliban can understand
that the thing which would seem most hate-


ful to Setebos would be the supposition that
he is bound to act uniformly or consistently.

And further than this, Caliban must not
seem happy. Setebos would be jealous.
Whenever he feels happy and content he
must do his best to seem wretched. He hates
the god, but he dares not let his hatred ap-
pear; no, he must fawn upon him, praise
him, grovel before him.

The finish of the poem is fine. A raven
flies across Caliban's line of vision and he
immediately falls into great fear. To his
morbid imagination the raven has been lis-
tening, a winged policeman of the god Sete-
bos, ajid he cries aloud in terror :

There scuds his raven that has told him all !

It was foors play, this prattling! Ha! the wind

Shoulders the pillared dust, death's house o' the move,

And fast invading fires begin! white blaze —

A tree's head snaps — and there, there, there, there, there,

His thunder follows! Fool to gibe at him!

Lo! 'lieth flat and loveth Setebos!

'Maketh his teeth meet through his upper lip.

Will let those quails fly, will not eat this month

One little mess of whelks, so he may 'scape!

And so through promises of self -punishment


and self-denial Caliban hopes to deceive
Setebos, the god whom he imagines to be
altogether such a creature as himself.

Now this picture of the poet is very true
to life. Through generation after genera-
tion, multitudes of men have looked into the
clouded mirror of their own consciousness
and taken for God a sort of monstrous dis-
torted image of themselves. But the God
whom the Bible brings to us as the key to
the universe is a moral God, who lays a
moral claim upon me — a claim not only on
my mind and admiration, but upon my heart
and my affections. A God not only great
and wise, but who sends Jesus Christ to me,
wearing my flesh, sharing my grief, tempted
in all points like as I am, to teach me to say
^^Our Father, which art in heaven.*' As one
of the greatest of English preachers once
said : ' * If Christ taught one thing more clear-
ly than another, it was that man should be
brought face to face with God, and that noth-
ing was grand in character except what grew
out of the love and fear of God.'' God! —
God! — that is the great theme of Jesus
Christ. The splendor of God is on every
page, in every parable, in every promise;


and no righteousness that is merely etiquette,
social propriety, good-breeding, will stand
the test of the final judgment held in the
presence of God who created us, who has
loved us with infinite love, and given us
Christ to reveal God to us, and to save us.
from all our sins.

Do not misunderstand me. It is a grand
thing for a man to be moral, whatever may
be the cause or basis of that morality, but
the only morality which can be relied upon
must be based upon deep and lasting faith in
God as the moral Ruler and Father of man-

In South Africa they sometimes come
across yellow diamonds. Mind you, they are
diamonds, and not pebbles. They are really
diamonds, but no king would ever put one of
them into his crown. And there is many a
man and many a woman to-day who is a
yellow diamond. Their morality is on the
surface. The morality of society, the moral-
ity of etiquette, but they have not been trans-
formed in the mind and spirit, and they do
not walk in the love and fear of God, and,
therefore, God will never know them in the
day when He makes up His jewels.


I long above everything else to arouse you
to a keen sense of your own responsibility
to God. I would that you could see, with
eyes made clear by the Holy Spirit, the real
wickedness of your sin against God. It might
fill you with terror, it might fill your eyes
with tears, but it would be the beginning of
joy greater than you have ever known. On
that dark night when Peter had denied his
Lord, when the cock crew and Peter saw his
sin, he went out and wept bitterly, but it was
the beginning of nobler and happier things
for Peter. Oh, that I might rouse you to
that true and real repentance of sin that
would cause you, like Peter, to choose for life
and death, for time and eternity, to stand for
righteousness and for God! that I might
awaken you to sing with the poet:

If life is always a warfare

Between the right and the wrong,

And good is fighting with evil
For ages and eons long —

Fighting with eager cohorts,
With banners pierced and torn,

Shining with sudden splendor,
Wet with the dew of morn, —


If all the forces of heaven,
And all the forces of sin,

Are met in the infinite struggle
The souls of the world to win, —

If God 's is the awful battle

Where the darkling legions ride —

Hasten to sword and to saddle!
Lord, let me fight on Thy sidel


"And the earth was without form, and void; and
darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the
Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." —
Gen. 1:2.

IT is almost impossible to picture the world
at this stage in its history. Imagination
has little to play upon. It is a world before
day. Darkness covers the earth, and there is
no luminary to light up its desolation. The
mountains with their picturesque forms, and
the valleys with their fertile possibilities, had
not yet risen into being. The great clock of
time, with its dial plate of day and night,
marked by sun and moon and stars, had not
yet been set up in the hall of the universe.
It was a moving world, yet dead. It
had life, yet nothing lived. It was
a chaotic mass full of infinite possi-
bilities, but hopeless save that it was in the
hands of the God who created it. If there
had been a man at that time with eyes to
peer through the darkness on that heaving



mass of matter, he could not have dreamed
of the world, which was to be developed out
of such a begimiing. Only God, all-powerful,
all-wise, and infinitely good, could have
wrought that divine transformation.

Now this chaos of the world before dawn
is not unlike the conditions of the sinning
soul which has lost the control over the will
and become the prey of warring passions
and evil habits. Many a man conscious of
this chaotic condition in his own heart and
life has been ready to cry out in the spirit
of Paul's agonizing appeal: ^^0 wretched
man that I am! Who shall deliver me from
the body of this death!'' Many a man try-
ing to do right, yet powerless in his own
strength, weakened as he is by yielding to
sin, has been ready to exclaim: **Why this
strange persistent failure? Why this tre-
mor at the heart! Why is the hand still
put out to pluck that which we know to be
forbidden? Why do the feet turn again
down the paths which lead to death? Again
it is the old cause — the thing that T ought to


do, I do not ; the thing that I would not, that
I do. Why can not I do what I want? I,
who mean well, yet fail in every determina-
tion for righteousness! I am somehow
guilty, I am the secret of the whole trouble ;
I, in my nerveless will, with my perilous im-
agination, with my clouded conscience, with
my hasty thoughts, I somehow explain the
continued failure. Back to myself I turn in
an agony of self-detection. My soul is a
chaos of conflicting passions and desires.
Oh, miserable man that I am ! Oh, my God,
it is I that have sinned against Thee and
done this evil in Thy sight.'*


There is no hope for this chaos of soul
unless there comes order out of chaos through
the mercy of God. I have been reading re-
cently a very interesting letter from a Japa-
nese soldier, who says that about ten years
ago, while out walking, hearing the sound of
singing, he entered a Christian church in
which a number of men and women were
singing hymns. He remained and listened to
a sermon on God, but he would not believe


in a foreign god. He went again and again
for several years. The sermons had no effect
on him, and the missionary was unable to
make him understand anything. So he passed
those days as a man with no religion, and
for two years preceding the war between
Japan and Eussia he even ceased going to
church. Early in the war he was ordered to
the front. He had then about his body twenty
charms, receievd from as many shrines, for
his protection. He was ordered to join the
Port Arthur besieging army, and partici-
pated in many battles. In every battle he
saw many of his comrades fall, fully proving
the worthlessness of the charms they had car-
ried. Uneasiness came into his heart. He
began to be aware of the foolishness of wor-
shiping idols. Many questions arose in his
mind. *^If I die, where will my soul goT'
'^Will it have to wander about, finding no-
where to settle? Or is there some fixt place
to which it is destined to go?'' In this way
he passed three months in a distrest con-
dition of mind. One day he was sent near to
the enemy as a sentry. The sun set and a
dark night came on. Silence prevailed all
around him, only broken by the occasional


reports of guns. Loneliness increased the
anxiety of his heart, and he thought of home.
Then suddenly, as suddenly as the vision
came to Paul on the way to Damascus, at
midnight instead of midday, the Holy Spirit
brought to this lonely soldier's mind and
heart a full interpretation and revelation of
all that Christian missionary had preached
to him, and he realized that there was a liv-
ing and a true God, the Creator of the world,
who protects us and is rich in love, and will
give us what we need if we ask Him with

For the first time in his life, the soldier
turned his face upward to heaven and prayed
to God. The answer was immediate. He at
once regained courage, for he could feel that
God was protecting him at all times and
wherever he might be. And so order came
out of chaos in his heart, and perfect peace
reigned. Since then he has been growing
wonderfully in a knowledge of Christ and in
the graces of the Christian life. The soldier
closes his most remarkable letter with this
striking paragraph : * ^ I do not covet worldly
treasures any more, but those given by Him,
which shall neither rust nor be lost. Jesus


promised us that He would be with us till
the end of the world, and so I will not shrink
from any duty. I am protected by His hands,
and am working for the sake of the Gospel.
Jesus is calling to sinners all the time, and it
is our duty to make the people know this
call. Tho the path is rugged, I shall pass
over it with ease when the Lord is with me.
I thank God day and night, and have no
anxiety nor fear.''


The hope of the chaotic world, and the
hope of the sinning soul, is all in the brood-
ing Spirit of God seeking to bring order out
of chaos, to bring life out of death, light out
of darkness, and beauty out of barrenness
and ruin. It was God's Spirit brooding over
the formless world that put the sun in the
heavens, that filled the world with warmth
and light, that made the earth green with
herbage, that caused forests to grow upon
the hillsides, with birds to sing in them, and
planted flowers to exhale their perfume


in the valleys.^ So God's Spirit broods
over the heart of man that has fallen
into darkness and chaos through sin. As a
mother broods over her child, so the Spirit of
God broods over the soul that has sinned,
seeking to dispel the darkness and to bring
back again life and light and beauty. When
the Spirit of God brooded over the world of
chaos, no human eye, had there been one to
look upon it, could have seen anything beau-
tiful or lovable in it. But God saw the pos-
sibilities that were there, when once there
had been lavished upon it His infinite skill
and loving care. So in the poor sinning
soul, which seems all ugly and repulsive to
the human eye, God sees that which His love
and skill can bring forth, and continues to
brood over the wrecked and broken man,
oftentimes when all others have lost hope.
Dr. W. J. Dawson said in one of his recent
sermons that there is a buried magnificence
in many a man of whom you think ill, and
have reason to think ill, just as yonder, out
in the vast desert of the East, but a little
way down beneath the dust, the blown sand,
the drift of centuries, there often lies a city
with all its temples, its palaces, its marbles.


and its paintings, perfect and complete. For
centuries many men rode to and fro across
the desert, and the great caravans passed
from East to West, and no one saw anything
more than the desert and the drifted sand
there. Yet all the time there is the hidden
city; and some day there comes one who
knows, and he begins to dig, and there comes
to light a poem that was hidden, a picture
that was covered up. So in many a man
there is a hidden poem, there is a hidden
picture, there is buried splendor. Indeed,
we ought not to say in many a man — it is in
every man — and the brooding Spirit of God
is seeking to uncover it and bring it forth to
life and power.


Now, my friends, it is possible for a
man or a woman to thwart the Spirit of God.
We are not merely soil. Tho God broods over
us ever so tenderly, and Christ comes seek-
ing admission into our hearts that He may
execute the gracious mission of the Holy


Spirit, He will not break down the door into
our souls. When Sir Noel Paton painted his
great picture of Christ wearing the crown of
thorns, standing outside the door, knocking,
he invited a very dear friend to come to his
studio and look at the picture before it was
put on exhibition. His friend gazed for a
few moments on the beautiful figure of the
Christ at the rude door, and then exclaimed
in amazement, * * Paton, you have made a ter-
rible mistake here.'* **What mistake have I
mader* said the artist. '*Why, you have
painted a door without a handle. ' ' * * That is
not a mistake,'' replied Paton. **That door
has no handle on the outside. It is inside."
I am sure there are some of you here who
need to learn that lesson now. You have
been waiting, it may be, for some tidal wave
of sentiment or emotion, something you could
not resist, to sweep you off your feet and
into the kingdom of God. Salvation will
never come to you in that way. The door-
knob is on the inside of your heart. ** Whoso-
ever will" may open the door and give wel-
come to the Savior. Christ stands there
knocking. How strongly Harriet Beecher
Stowe has drawn the picture in her poem :


Knocking, knocking, ever knocking!
Who is there?

'Tis a pilgrim, strange and kingly,
Never such was seen before.
Ah, sweet soul, for such a wonder
Undo the door.

No, that door is hard to open,
Hinges rusty, latch is broken;
Bid Him go!

Wherefore, with that knocking dreary.

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Online LibraryLouis Albert BanksThe world's childhood; a series of Sunday evening sermons from themes drawn from the first three chapters of Genesis → online text (page 1 of 17)