David Hummell Greer.

Visions : Sunday morning sermons at St. Bartholomew's, New York online

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to Me, take and bear the cross, follow after Me,
learn from the cross, to yourself to die, and thus
by dying to yourself to make yourself alive ; not
thus to lose your life, but thus to win your life, and
all the best things in it which it has to give, and
what it means and is."

For what is life ? Is it peace ? Peace : that deep
calm of the soul within, Avhen the tempests rage with-
out, which none of the surface storms of earth can
go deep enough to touch : Then must we learn to die,
to ourselves to die. Take up the cross, says Christ.
What is life? Is it courage? There is no high
and great life without it ; that force which nothing
affrights, which goes right on, never turning from
its path in the straight line of duty. Then must we


learn to die, to ourselves to die. Take up the cross,
says Christ. What is life ? Is it happiness ? [N'ot
happiness Avithout trouble and care, there is no
such happiness; but happiness in spite of trouble
and care, to lighten care, to brighten trouble.
Would we have it ? Then must we learn to die, to
ourselves to die. Take up the cross, says Christ.

AVhat is life ? Is it love ? Love, with a human
sympathy in it, so big, and great, so wide and deep,
that on its heart it bears, like Jesus Christ Himself,
the burden of human sin and the burden of human
sorrow. We need such love in life ; then must we
learn to die, to ourselves to die. Take up the cross,
says Christ, and thus by dying love, and thus by
dying live.

That, my friends, is the way in which to look
upon death. That at least is the way in which I
look upon it. I see it here and now Avorking both
in physical nature and in human nature, as the
faithful friend of both, wounding and hurting at
times as the faithful friend does. And so I think
it will at last prove itself to all, as already it has
proved itself to some who have gained through death
while here a more abundant life. So has it proved
itself to some who are not here, but \vho have gained
through death, somewhere else than here, a more


abundant life. So I think it will at last prove itself
to all, a true and faithful friend. " The mourners
go about the streets, for man goeth to his long-
home." Is that death? Is that the end of it?
No, says the naturalistic creed : no says the Gospel
creed : no says Jesus Christ. " To die is gain," and
what it gains is Life !


Ye shall hiow that I am the Lord^ when I have
opened your graves, — EzEKiEL xxxvii. 13.



In the chapter from which the text is taken, the
prophet sees the vision of dead men raised to life.
The dead men whom he sees are the children of
Israel themselves, who at that particular time are
scattered in foreign lands, fugitives and outcasts,
discouraged and disheartened, without hope, with-
out faith, without God, without life, dead, morally
and spiritually dead, and in their graves. That
was then their condition, their moral and spirit-
ual condition, so the prophet declares. What
therefore they needed was what the prophet said
they would some day experience. And speaking
in the name of Him Whose messenger he was, he
says, " I will open your graves ; I will cause you
to come up out of your graves, and ye shall know
that I am the Lord, when I have opened your

Let us take these words this Easter Day and find
in them our theme — a Kisen Life as a Testimony to
a Risen Lord.

Among the multitude of the figures on the walls
of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Palace at



iome, there is one which, according to the English
art critic, Mr. Addington Symonds, was intended
by its artist to symbolize the spirit of the Italian
Renaissance. It is, he says, the figure of a woman
rising from the tomb, with the grave clothes still
upon her, enshrouding and concealing her eyes,
gathered around her breast, encircled about her limbs,
and impeding thus somewhat the free movement
of her body. Yet she is slowly rising, scarcely con-
scious and only half aAvake, struggling with the
slumbers and the stupors of death, by the quicken-
ing impulse in her of some uplifting power, some
resurrecting power, toward some resurrection life,
Avhich she has not seen as yet, but which thus she
proves to be a resurrection life, veritable and real ;
because it has opened her grave.

So did Michael Angelo, according to the critic
to whom I have referred, symbolize his age. So it
seems to me, with equal truth and pertinency, if
not indeed with more, might we also symbolize that
other great new birth, that other great awakening
in the Apostolic age ; Avhen all over the Pagan world
the spectacle was seen of men and women beginning
to rise, coming up out of their tombs, their moral and
spiritual tombs, Avith the grave clothes still upon
them of the old Pagan thoughts, the old Pagan cus-


toms ; yet gradually casting them off, and slowly
rising and moving toward, and reaching more and
more some higher form of life, more beautiful,
more free, some resurrection life. Thus revealing
to us in that early, and remarkable Apostolic age,
a great moral renaissance, a great moral revival,
than Avhich in all the history of the world before
there never had been a greater, never one so great ;
a great moral revival, not sentimental and emo-
tional and passing away, but real, radical, en-
during, in conduct, in character, in life, like a
beautiful golden morning dawn breaking over the
Avorld, and changing the face of the world.

It is a matter of history ; you can read it. What
brought it about ? The preaching of the gospel of
a risen Jesus Christ. How ? The men and women
living then, or the great majority of them, had
not seen Him rise; neither had they seen Him
after He had risen. How then did they know it ?
What was their assurance, their evidence, their
proof ? The testimony of others ? That by itself,
no matter how clear and strong and indubitable,
Avould not have been enough to persuade and con-
vince them. How then 'were they persuaded?
How then were they convinced? Because the
risen Lord, AVliom others said they had seen, had


proved Himself to be a risen Lord to them. The
testimony of others; they had it in themselves,
more personal, more direct, and was thus by them
confirmed. The fact that He had risen was thus
by them attested, was thus by them evinced, be-
cause He had opened their graves, their moral and
spiritual graves, had brought them out of their
graves, and they knew that He was the Lord, the
risen Lord, when He had opened their graves.
That was the testimony which the}^ had, and which
they gave, in that early age ; the testimony of a
risen life to a risen Lord.

That is the testimon}^ whicli has been given since
by other and later ages, the testimony of a new
life coming up out of its grave, its moral and
spiritual grave ; not all at once and fuU}^, but
slowly and gradually, with the grave clothes still
wrapped around it, adhering and clinging to it,
and thus impeding someAvhat its upward movement
and course ; and sometimes dragging it down and
back into its again Pagan grave.

Looking back over the history of the Christian
civilization that is what we see, from the beginning
until now ; a slowly and gradually rising moral and
spiritual life, coming up out of its tomb, and
then at times dropping back into its old tomb

THE yisio:s^ of life. 189

again, its old Pagan tomb, with the old Pagan
hardness and Pagan deadness in it. Just as the
buried summer beauty, the buried summer bloom
in the cold and wintry earth, when touched
and quickened by the breath of the resurrecting
Spring, begins to rise, not fully, not all at once, but
gradually, with the old wintry grave clothes of cold
and frost and snow, the wintry winding sheet, the
wintry shroud of death, adhering and clinging to it,
and wrapping it about ; as though for a time there
had come winter again. So in the gradual rise and
progress of the Christian civilization, every now
and then a great outburst of Paganism has ap-
peared, like winter in the spring, with the old
Pagan ideas, with the old Pagan passions, thus ob-
scuring, and destroying, or seeming to destroy, the
Christian civilization, like the coming back of the
old Pagan winter again.

Looking back, I say, over the history of the
Christian civilization, something like that is Avhat
we see at times. Something like that is what we
see in some of the nations now, a great outburst of
Paganism in them, with the old Pagan strifes and
passions, with the old Pagan ideas of national su-
premacy and greatness, as though a Christian na-
tion were of the first and highest class — not because


it has the highest Christian ideals, toward Avhich
its people, rich and poor aspire. No ; but simply
because it has, the greatest standing armies, the
greatest floating navies, the greatest physical equip-
ment, the greatest physical armament, of soldiers
and ships and guns.

It sometimes seems, my friends, as though our
modern Christian civilization were not Christian at
all, as measured by the standard of Him, the story of
Whose risen and victorious life created the Chris-
tian civilization, and gave the first ennobling and
quickening impulse to it ; as though, I say, our
Christian civilization were not Christian at all, but
simply the old Pagan civilization rehabilitated and
revived, or with a great deal at least of the old
Paganism in it, breaking out in it and seeming to
destroy it. Just as the wintry frost, the wintry
cold and snow, breaking out in the spring, seems
to kill the spring. And yet after all it is not so. Xo
winter's frost ever killed a spring. It may have
hindered and dehiyed it, but it has not killed it, nor
prevented the coming out at last of the exuberant
summer life in all that varied richness of beauty
and of bloom, Avhich, for the assuring of our hearts,
Ave have gathered around us in this Church to-day.
And so no outlnirst of Paganism lias ever killed the


growing Christian civilization, and it never can or
will. Civilization will cast it off, and come up
again out of its grave.

For nations, as for individuals, a new and
higher Christian life is coming. No winter's frost
and snow, no cold Pagan blast, can prevent its com-
ing. It will come ; it is coming. The world will
rise ; it is rising ; with the grave clothes about it to
be sure of the old Pagan practices, and the old
Pagan virtues rather than the Christian virtues ; and
the old Pagan conformities, and the old Pagan be-
liefs, or rather the old Pagan unbeliefs, doubts,
questions, misgivings, uncertainties ; yes, with the
grave clothes round about it. Yet it is slowly ris-
ing, scarcely conscious and only half awake, strug-
gling with the stupors of death ; but it is rising, by the
quickening impulse in it of that uplifting power, of
that ideal righteousness once seen upon the earth,
and of which it is said that death did not destroy
it ; by the quickening impulse in it of the risen Jesus
Christ, ennobling men, purifying men and making
them alive, and more and more alive, opening their
graves, their moral and spiritual graves, causing
them to come up out of their graves. Then will
the men of this generation know that He is the
Lord, the risen Lord: and doubt and question will


go. They will know that He is the Lord, not
merely by historical inquiry and research, or philo-
sophic and scientific investigation, but in addition
to that — when He has opened their graves.

That is the way in which the Christian world
has verified the risen Jesus Christ, arid in which
it will continue to do so. That is the way, my
friends, in which you and I, in our personal lives,
can verify the risen Jesus Christ. AYe do not and
cannot see the risen Jesus Christ. Even if we did,
if that were the only sign or symbol which Ave had,
it would not be enough, and we would soon some-
how persuade ourselves that we had been mistaken
in what we thought we saw. Neither would the
testimony of others be enough, for we would easily
persuade ourselves that they had been mistaken in
what they thought they saw. But Avhen, through
the power of a faith in the risen Jesus Christ we
rise, out of our worldliness, our low ideals in life,
Avhen we rise to a higher and purer life, with
higher and purer aims and thoughts and feelings
and ambitions, when He has opened our graves,
then Ave shall knoAV that He is the Lord.

Yes, our graA^es. We have tliem. The grave in
Avhich our personal loA'^e lies buried ; the love that
was on earth our solace and our peace, Avhose light


shone upon our path, to guide us on our way, to
sweeten the bitterest cup, to ease the heaviest bur-
den, to brighten the darkest day, but now gone out,
and perished, buried in the grave; our grave it is.
Oh ! has it gone forever ? Then how harsh, how hard,
how cruel, how unfair. But the risen Jesus Christ
has given new lease to love, has opened the grave,
and we know that He is the Lord. Our graves, in
which you and I and all of us in a little while shall
ourselves be buried, with all our struggling efforts
toward righteousness and duty and truth, with all
those earnest longings and aspirations in us, which,
though limited now by the horizons of the earth,
yet seem to be ever struggling toward some risen
life above it, some ideal life beyond it, as though
they belonged to it ; yet mocking us, cheating us
and deceiving us, and destined at last to perish. But
the risen Jesus Christ has given new lease to life,
has opened the grave and shown us that human life
goes on. And He is our Lord, because He has given
us that everlasting hope.

The graves of our buried ideals, which Ave older
men and women are apt to lose and bury as we get
on in life ; the graves of our buried experiences, of
our buried hopes, of our buried loves and lives,
Jesus Christ has opened them. Is not that strong


assurance, reasonable assurance that He is the risen
Lord ? If you please to call it so, is it not philosophic
and scientific assurance that He is the risen Lord ?
Doesn't it work well ? Has it not always worked
well when it has been allowed to Avork? Has He
not opened the graves, and lifted up human life on
earth ? Then, fill the Churches to-day with beauty
and with bloom ; let the arches and the vaults echo
and reecho with the sublimest strains of music, all
too inadequate, Avliich the genius of man has in-
spired ; all of them uniting in one great choral
voice, and saying and singing this Easter Day, " O,
Earth, Earth, Earth, hear the Avords of the Lord,
Who has opened for you your graves ! "


If I ma'ke my hed in hell, lehold, Thoio art there!
-Psalm cxxxix. 8.



It is one of the fundamental teachings both of
philosophy and theology, not only that God is, hut
that He is everywhere. No matter where Ave go,
in fact or in fancy, physically or imaginatively, we
cannot go from Him. He is immanent in the
world, says Philosophy ; He is omnipresent, says
Theology ; the meaning of which the Psalmist has
poetically expressed when he says, ••' Whither shall
I flee from Thy spirit ? If I take the wings of the
morning and remain in the utmost part of the sea,
even there Thy hand shall hold me. If I say, per-
adventure the darkness shall cover me, my night
shall be turned into day. If I climb up into heaven
Thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, behold.
Thou art there ! " He seems to exhaust the uni-
verse, as he apprehends it, its breadths, and depths,
and heights, its darkness and its light, and finds
God everywhere, in heaven, and in hell !

I will ask you this morning to consider this last
finding of God upon the part of the Psalmist. Put-
ting the matter topically, I will call my subject
this, " The Fact and the Fate of Hell."



Clergymen, and others, who are supposed to
make a special study of religion, are sometimes
asked the question, whether they believe, in these
enlightened days, in the existence of a hell. How
that question is in all cases answered I do not
of course know. I only know hoAV I would answer
the question myself, if one should think it ^vortli
while to put such a question to me. Without any
hesitation I would make reply, "I do believe in
hell ! " And, if I were asked further the reason of
my belief, I would make reply again, that "I be-
lieve in the existence of a hell because I believe in
the existence of a God ! "

That may seem at first like a curious, if not an
illogical and inconsequential reason. But think a
moment. If God is, then righteousness is ; and if
God is ever}" where, then righteousness is every-
Avhere ; not indeed of necessity everywhere obeyed,
but everywhere prescribed as a law to be obeyed.
As the law of physical gravity is everywhere pre-
scribed as a law to be obeyed, so is the law of
righteousness everywhere prescribed as a law to be
obeyed. If in any case, or in any place, in the uni-
verse, this world, or another, that law is disobeyed,
sinned against and broken, the consequence is loss,
injury, disaster, serious loss and disaster, very seri-


ous loss, personal loss and disaster ; very personal
loss. And that personal loss is hell !

" The sinner," says the Bible, " shall be turned
into hell " ; by which I understand, not that he is
sent off into some kind of circumvallated enclosure
which is designated " Hell," but that he himself
shall be turned into hell, that he himself shall be
made it, that he himself shall become it. So that
wherever he goes, on the face of the earth, or the
face of the universe, hell goes ; wherever he lodges,
hell lodges ; wherever he is, hell is. He is not
merely in it ; he is it ! Xor does it follow either
that he is it any the less because he finds for a time
a certain pleasure in it. That is the reason he is it,
because it is for a time a source of pleasure to him.
Hell is a pleasure, of course, a certain kind of pleas-
ure, or there would not be any hell, but it is not a
kind that lasts. There is sting in the pleasure, and
the sting stings ; with poison in its sting, and blight,
and ruin, and loss, and disease, and corruption, and
death !

That is what sin is ; and that is what hell is ; or
that is what follows sin, everywhere in the universe,
because everywhere in the universe God is, pre-
scribing everywhere that law of righteousness in it,
which none of His moral creatures can sin against


or break, witliout being turned into, and made to
become, hell !

Sin, therefore, my friends, is not a thing to
trifle with. It is not a thing to play with. It is
not a thing to laugh with. It is not a thing to
laugh at. There is nothing amusing in sin, for the
end thereof is hell, is always hell. Sin is not a
thing to be lightly regarded by us ; for sin is hell,
or becomes hell, with the sting and the poison of
hell, than Avliich there is no other sting so sharp,
no other poison so deadly !

And yet, how often to-day is it lightly regarded
by us. By the literature of the day, or much of it
at least, whose boasted photographic realism, de-
picting things that are, is but another and synony-
mous term for a pornographic realism, depicting
things that are, indeed, but things that ought not
to be ; things that are filthy and vile. Is it not a
significant fact, that in perhaps the most popular
novel of this decade, sin is represented not as liei-
nousness, but simply as unsophisticatedness, as the
more or less innocent ignorance of established social
convention ; and that the principal character in it,
from which the book receives its name, if not im-
moral is unmoral, and destitute apparently for the
greater part of her life of any moral sense ?


By the physical science of to-day sin is lightly
regarded; and is represented by it as the conse-
quence simply of birth, or the consequence simply
of environment, or the consequence perhaps of
both. And people sin to-day, in New York, and
elsewhere, because, born as they are, and also where
they are, by forces without and within, of vicinage
and heredity which they cannot control, they seem
to be almost foreordained to sin ; and, as far indeed
as they are concerned, to sin is not sinful.

By people themselves to-day, or many of them
at least, sin is lightly regarded. I do not mean by
those who openly and brazenly sin and without
apparently any conscience in their sinning. I mean
those of a better sort, who have a conscience in re-
gard to sin, and who never for a moment expect that
they themselves will commit the sinful things which
they think about at times. But they think about
them, they talk about them, they read about them,
in newspapers and books, they let them come into
their speech, they let them come into their heart,
they let them come into their mind; they think
about them. And thotights, deliberately enter-
tained, as some wise person has said, are the begin-
nings of actions. Coming once, they come again ;
they strengthen, they develop, they grow. Some


day they issue forth in such persons, from the in-
visible into the visible ; and before almost they
knoAV it, they have made their bed in hell !

For, no matter how much at first men may trifle
with sin, play Avitli it, amuse themselves with it,
palliate and excuse it, or lightly esteem and regard
it, they find sooner or later that sin is hell, and that
hell indeed is a fact !

JS'ow, having said this much about the fact of
hell, let me go on to say a little about the fate of

Because God everywhere is, hell is. For the
same reason precisely, because God everywhere is,
there must surely come a day when it shall be said
of hell that it is not. For if God everywhere is,
He is Avhere the sinner is. And no matter what
the hell into which for a time he may turn himself
and become, God is with him in it. And if God is
with him in it, God at last, because He is God, will
win and conquer in it.

Yes, hell is, the Bible says. Sin is hell. The
sinner is hell. Wherever he is, hell is, says the
Bible ; and philosophy and experience confirm it.

But hell is, with two doors, one into and the
other out of it, with both of them open and free.
And those who enter by one shall exit by the other.


and from it at last escape ; for God is with them in
it. Yes, hell is ; like a furnace of fire it is, figura-
tively, of course ; yet really. Like an everlasting
furnace of fire, burning in the universe, burning al-
ways, burning those who sin, or who through sin
are in it, but who indeed shall not be always in it,
for God is with them in it. For everywhere is God,
His voice speaking to men, His spirit pleading with
men, His power working with men ; immanent in
them all, present with them all. His righteous law
at last prevailing over all.

Everywhere is God. Nowhere is He not. In
the heights, in the depths, nowhere is He not.
And even though, as the Psalmist says, I make my
bed in hell, behold. Thou art there !

That, as I interpret it, is the message of the
Bible, or of the Christian religion to men. Hell in-
deed is a fact. Sin is hell ; the sinner is hell.
And no matter where he sins, in N^ew York, or in
some other place, or how he sins, or why, whether
because of heredity, or whether because of environ-
ment — that may be the reason of the sin, but it
does not change the fact ; as that may be the
reason of his bodily plague and disease, heredity
and environment, but it does not change the fact —
he sins, and sin is hell ! And yet, no matter where


he sins, in this world, or some other, or Avhy and
how he sins ; with the power of God working in
him, he may at last cease from sin, and from the
hell go free. Yes, and he shall go free. The right-
eousness that makes his sin a hell shall deliver him
from his hell. For that righteousness is love, a
punishing love, a chastening love, a cleansing love,
but a never-forsaking love. And love will conquer
every sin and every hell destroy.

Hence, we read of Him Who was and is the ex-
pression of that everlasting righteousness of love ;
that He descended into hell ; the deep, dark, invis-
ible under- world, to preach the gospel of love to the
spirits there confined. He descended into hell !
Love always descends into hell. It can't help it.

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