Henry Ward Beecher.

A treasury of illustration online

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happens to meet ; he must set it by
the Sun of Righteousness,

1262. Practical Use of Christ. —
When I need a surgeon to deliver me
from the effects of some injury, if he
comes accredited as a skillful man in
his profession, I do not ask where he
graduated, how he got his skill, or
anything of that kind : I take him for
his services, and his known skill is the
ground on which I take him. If I
were lost in a forest, and I came across
an old trapper who said, " I have
lived here for forty years, and I can
lead you out of these woods," I should
instantly accept him as my guide,
without any further knowledge of him
or of his life, because I was lost, and
here was a man that I presumptively
knew could save me. But when we
need Christ do we go to him day by
day for that which we need, and for
which he offers him.self ?

1263. Experience Fashions Our
Ideal of Christ. — The interior and sub-
jective Christ must be wrought out by
life. Our thoughts must live with him
in all moods and experiences. As the
vine, clasping the living tree, creeps
along its branches, roots itself in the
crevices of the bark, and forms itself
upon its shape, so in all the various re-
lations of life our thought of Christ,
following our experiences, should
fashion and form itself.

1264. The Personal Saviour. — As
the outer world reveals to a poet what
it does not to the practical man ; as

love reveals affections to some that
others, who are of a slender well of
love, never know ; so the measure of a
man's own nature will determine very
much the magnitude, the richness and
the power of the vision of Christ,
which he carries out. Every man
may have, according to the limit of
his nature, a personal Saviour, and
know it, rejoice in it, and live by it.

1265. Power of Christ. — How well
things ripen if the sun will only shine :
but when the sun is laggard ; when, in
June, the eastern winds prevail, and
there are dribbling, grumbling show-
ers, the strawberries will not hasten ;
they swell, and are vapid or sour.
Yet as soon as the sun wakes up, and
drives away the clouds, and comes
forth, pouring the effulgence of its
beams on all below, out of its light
and heat come sugar, color and fra-
grant odors. Then the strawberries
ripen, and all the region round about
matures. Without the sun, a few
things could be ripened in the green-
house ; but you cannot have a green-
house for all the world. A few men
could be ripened in the synagogue, or
in the Temple ; but now the Sun of
Righteousness has arisen upon all the
earth, and whosoever in any nation
will fear God, and do justly, and love
mercy, is living by faith of God, which
is faith of Jesus Christ.

1266. The Soul's Image of Christ. —
The perfect interpreter, the great
schoolmaster of the soul, is the imagi-
nation, which the New Testament
calls, as applied to religious things,
invisible qualities and beings, " faith."
There are a thousand ideas that may
be called fancies, like bubbles that
come up for a moment and burst.
Though they had a picture in them
that no art could copy, they have
burst and are gone. Men in musings
and religious feelings in life may have



ten thousand that will not abide, and
may seem to the uncritical or over-
critical judgment (which is just the
same) mere foolishness ; but they are
necessary parts of that gradual proc-
ess by which you come to your sub-
stantial thought of the Christ.

1267. Jesus the Polar Star. — As the
oppressed were wont, not many years
ago, to seek liberty in the night, be-
holding the star in the north, not
knowing what it was, nor how it was
made, but following it, so may we
look away to the light that shines in
Jesus, not seeking to analyze it, nor to
know all that is in it, nor to ascertain
what it means, but following it to
spiritual life and to liberty.

1268. Christ's Mediatorship. — In
foreign courts we have ministers and
ambassadors to intercede for us. They
are mediators ; they are intercessors.
There is an unacquaintance, a strange-
ness, in foreign courts, of the affairs of
another people, either from attending
to their own business, or some other
cause, and hence the necessity of our
sending ambassadors to them. But
it cannot be supposed that there is any
such ignorance of our affairs in the
mind of God. You must drop all
such idea of the intercessorship of
Christ as that he is one to convey in-
formation, to adjust facts, or to make
things clearer in the divine mind than
they were already. His mediatorship
affects us, not God.

1269. Gratitude to Christ. — If a poor
child should meet me in the street with
a broken and withered flower, I should
see the child's heart, not the condition
of the flower, and should thank the
child, and should feel a strange fra-
grance, not from the flower itself, but
from the thought that he wanted to do
me a kindness ; and the poorer he was,
the more I should feel it, and be touched
by the tenderness of the offering.

Ah ! when Christ takes his own
heart, broken, wounded, bleeding, his
sacrifice and his love, and brings it to
us, and makes it a present ; when out
of his own misery, out of his own
degradation, and out of his own
suffering, he proposes to lift us up into
everlasting bounty and benefit, is
there no requital, are there no thanks,
is there no gratitude due?

1270, Fashioned by Christ. — If you
were to ask an exquisite vase, " Where
did you come from?" if it could
speak it would reply, " From a bank
of clay." " What were you there? "
" A formless handful of dirt." " How
came you to be what you are ? " "It
was by the taste of him that fashioned
me that I grew to this form. He saw
me when I was but a handful of clay,
and he put me on a revolving wheel,
and he laid his hands upon me, and
they moved to thoughts beautiful, and
I, whirling and wrought upon by his
skill, gradually grew to these graceful
lines. It was his hand that laid the
pigments on. It was his hand that
put me in the fiery furnace which
burned in these colors till they never
can be taken out again. By the taste
of my artist-master I am what I am."

Christ, as revealed to me, is one
who took me from the dirt, and put
me on the whirling wheel of his provi-
dence, and laid his gracious hands
upon me, and so fashioned me that
by and by I shall be able to say, " I^y
the grace of the Lover I am what I

1 27 1. Knowledge of Christ. — Tell
me that it is an impossible thing for a
man to love the Lord Jesus Christ,
who is invisible ! You might as well,
if I were now to go forth beneath tlie
glorious sun, and its rays were to fall
down through the air upon me and
about me on every side, tell me there
was no sun ! Councils of owls and



bats may come to me, under the name
of pliilosoplicrs, and say, " Do you
not tliink tliat all these which you are
talking about — rays of the sun, flow-
ers, singing-birds, curling smoke, and
the like — are a delusion ? We have
lived almost as long as you have, and
we have consulted the oldest owls and
bats, and we do not believe in those
things." Yet, I know, — whatever men
may say, in the low places and the
high places of life, — I know that there
is such a thing as loving Jesus Christ
as a friend, as a brother ; and that
there is no other love that is so sweet,
so deep, so lasting, so wondrous, as
that which the soul can bear towards

1272. "As a Hen Gathereth Her
Chickens," — I have on my farm one
hen that has twenty chickens, and
several that have from twelve to fifteen
each. All together, I have some two
hundred chickens running about up
there ; and I have seen the brooding
process in all its stages. Simply as a
feature of natural history, it is ex-
tremely interesting ; but it is interest-
ing to me also because it reminds me
of the words of Christ which I have
quoted. I like to look at those things
which God has laid his hand on in the
Bible, and stained through with famil-
iar truths.

The hen diligently hunts after food
for her little flock ; and if as she
scratches, she sees a most tempting
worm, it is not for her, but for her
chickens. She forgets herself in car-
ing for them. The moment they be-
gin to be tired, she seems to know it,
and seeks a corner where the wind
does not blow, and settles down, ex-
panding her wings. And one after
another the little wretches come run-
ning to her and nestle under her. And
then come their little peeps, and her
cooing. It is the very spirit of domes-

ticity that the scene exhibits. And I
never see it that I am not reminded
of the tenderness and love which
Christ manifested towards his enemies
— towards those that he knew were
about to shed his blood, when he said,
" How often would I have gathered
thy children together, even as a hen
gathereth her chickens under her
wings, and ye would not ! "

1273. " Through Jesus Christ, Our
Lord." — As after a storm-tossed voy-
age, when more favoring winds spring
up, and the keel quickly threads the
channel, and the vessel rushes in, and
casts anchor in the tranquil bay of
New York, and there swings like a
cradle, and all thank God that the
trouble is past, and that they are at
home at length, so I tossed long, suf-
fering much, in reading God's revel-
ation in nature, and God's revelation
in his holy Word, and comparing
them, as I sought to do, with all the
fundamental elements of knowledge.
It was not until after suffering long
that I entered into the spirit of the
eighth chapter of Romans and my
ship was at anchor.

1274. The Peaceful Presence of
Jesus. — When one who is thoroughly
agreeable, genial, and affectionate,
comes to our house, and enters in, it
makes no more disturbance than a
fine thread makes in going through a
fine cambric needle. It does not in-
terrupt the course of things any more
than the sunlight does in coming in at
the window, any more than the dawn
of the morning does, which carries no
disturbance where it goes. There are
friends that come and go, bringing
and leaving a fragrant, blessed joyful-
ness. And such is Jesus, whose com-
ing brings peace.

1275. Salvation Through Christ. —
Do you suppose the ferryboats are
jealous of your crossing the river in



any other way than by them ? When
you have tried to jump, or wade, or
swim, or make a bridge of your own,
I think you will be quite willing to go
by the ferryboats. And do you sup-
pose that God is jealous of your com-
ing to him in any other way than by
faith in Jesus Christ ? He will not in-
sist upon your coming in that way, if
you have power to come in any other.
If by your own will you can control
your passions, and force the fire of
purity through the passages of your
soul ; if you have that in you by
which, when you go forth and engage
in the affairs of life, you can do right,
and that continually, he will not ob-
ject to your relying upon yourself.
But if you find that you cannot with-
stand the forces that are arrayed
against you ; if, having tried again
and again to triumph by your own
strength, you say, "The work of re-
generating my character is greater
than I can perform alone," then look
up! Christ be thanked for being our
Pilot : a pilot goes to steer for those
that cannot steer for themselves.
Christ be thanked for being our Cap-
tain : a captain goes to lead those that
cannot do without a leader.

1276. The Captain of Our Salva-
tion. — Our Leader ! Oh, how men
fight under a great leader ! When
some Wellington, or some Sherman,
or some Grant comes to the front, how
men's hearts go out in courage, and
how they say, " Now, it is worth our
while to be soldiers!" With what
alacrity they obey him, going where
they are sent, and doing what they are
commanded to do ! And they are in-
spired by the thought that they will
be participators of his glory — for what
the army does that is noble glorifies
the general, and what the general does
that is noble glorifies the lowest soldier
in the army.

Now, our Captain has been made
perfect through suffering. He knows
every experience to which we are li-
able, having passed through the vari-
ous phases of earthly life ; and now
he has risen to the source of power
above, to the headquarters of men in
this warring condition, where he sits
at the right hand of God ; and he is
our Leader.

1277. Love-Tokens to Christ. —
There comes a letter to a maiden in
her father's dwelling ; and, on open-
ing it, she finds simply a little sprig of
forget-me-not. It has come from a
great distance. She knows who sent
it. To him she has given all that she
has to give — life and love : and in him
her whole future is bound up. There
is nothing in it but a bit of paper, and
this little sprig of dry forget-me-not.
That is all, — and that is enough.

If I can pluck the smallest leaf, if I
can lift up and send before Christ the
poorest creature that lives, as a love-
token, he will know it ; I know that
he will know it ; and great is my
happiness that I am able thus to show
my love for him.

1278. The Ever-Present Christ. —
When a friend, much beloved, comes
to you and asks a favor, if it be within
your power you will grant it. And
when you are afar off, and a letter
comes to you in his known and fa-
miliar hand, asking the same favor, it
is as if he himself were at your side.

Strange power ! mysterious incan-
tation ! When you take that sheet of
paper, with those lines crossing it,
what portraits instantly shine out!
You see the face of the mother, or the
father, or the brother, or the sister, or
the lover. While you read the letter,
you do not seem to be looking at the
written words half so much as into the
face of the one that wrote them !
You see the eye, the changing ex-



pressions, or some one expression
which the mind loves to Unger upon.
You call up not only the face and the
form, but much of the past history.
And while reading the request, how
much beside does the mute paper ad-
dress to your imagination !

If Christ were to come to his dis-
ciples in person, that would be occa-
sion for their watching. But the word
of Christ is with us, the cause of
Christ is with us, and that is as if he
himself were with us.

1279. Convincing Beauty of the
Christ-Life. — The grandest sight on
this earth is not the march of the all-
conquering storm whose cloudy bat-
tahons go rushing through the sound-
ing heavens ; the most beautiful thing
on earth is not the garden which
opens and sends forth from its censers
fragrance ; it is not the stateliness of
the tree which you sit under through
the long summer's day ; those are not
the most beautiful things on earth that
art carves out of stone. The beauty
of the soul, that lies in its secret cham-
bers ; the rich, deep, just and loving
natures — these are the beautiful things
of this world. There is nothmg so
beautiful as Christ in men ; and when
one begins to reflect the nature of
Christ in his life, religion needs no
apology ; there is no call for argu-

1280. Our Need, Christ's Motive. —
Do I, when I open my house as a
refuge for orphans, require that they
should be perfectly clean before
I take them in ? No ; the dirtiest
ones I take first. Do I require that
they should be well clothed ? No ;
their very rags are their invitation.
The reason I take them in is because
I am benevolent, and they are needy.
And the reason that Christ accepts us
is because he loves us, and we are in
need of his loving-kindness.

1 281. The Divinity of Christ. —
Men want to know whether Christ is
divine, and they test him as a chemist
would test the quality of any sub-
stance. They, as it were, take a pair
of scales, and throw one text on this
side, and one in that side ; and then
they throw another on this side, and
another in that side ; and then they
say, " If I had one more text for this
side, I think divinity would weigh
down the other side." And they hunt
for another text. And so they try to
estimate the divinity of Christ as
though it were a ponderable element.
But it is not magnitude that is divinity.
That which is distinctive, that which
crowns universal sovereignty, is the
crown of love. That which we see in
the Lord Jesus Christ specialized for
the wants of this world, was not that
which made him different from the
Father, but was simply a manifesta-
tion of the Father — a section, an
hour, as it were, let down, — one single
transaction, as an exposition of what
is going on in heaven from eternity
to eternity, by a Love which legislates,
and works, and serves.

1282. Forgiving and Punishing. —
" Do you mean to say, then, that the
moment a man has done you a wrong
you are to fly to his neck? " Oh, no,
not necessarily. It may be that the
manifestation of this feeling would be
the worst thing for the person. It
may be that the spirit of love will in-
spire you to take a course of discipline.
But that which actuates you must not
be the hardness of conscience. It
certainly must not be combativeness,
with the monkey-cap of conscience on
it. It must not be hatred. It must
not be revenge. Nobody has a right
to chastise till he is in a forgiving
frame of mind ; till he is conscious
that his heart is full and surcharged
with that same love which made Christ



die for sinners while yet they were his

1283. Preaching Christ Imperfectly.
— Christian truth is so divine that the
smallest part of it is radiant of
heavenly light. One may stand be-
fore an ample glass, long and broad,
which reflects the whole figure, and
the whole room, giving every part in
proportion and in relation. Break
that mirror into a thousand fragments,
and each one of these pieces will give
back to you your face ; and though the
amplitude of view and the relations
of objects are gone, yet the smallest
fragment, in its nature and uses, is a
mirror still, and you can see your
face withal. A full presentation
of Christ reflects men, time, and im-
mortality ; but let error shatter the
celestial glass, and its fragments, re-
duced in value, do in part some of
that work which the whole did ; and
they are precious.

1284. Christ the Door. — There be
some who teach us that the earthly
Church, composed of human beings,
surrounded with human devices, hu-
man ordinances, human govern-
ments, human systems, is the Door.
Never! Never! Christ is the Door.
No organization can take his place.
None can represent him, even. We
may make use of the Church as we
make use of a hotel when we are
traveling home to see father and
mother ; but no landlord of any hotel
shall tell me that he is my father, or
my mother, or that his hotel is my
home. Churches are God's hotels,
where travelers put up for the night,
as it were, and then speed on their
way home. Christ is the one Door.
All that pass through that Door are
of the one church, and belong to him.

1285. Christ in You. — Everybody
should have a candle burning in the
window of his soul-house, that those

who go by may know that he is a
child of light. Every heart should be
illumined by Christ in it, the hope of
glory. This is the most powerful
Christ that can be preached to men.

1286. Outward and Inward Life.

It is recorded that in the Medieval
day or even later, in Europe, while
the Jews were subject to great per-
secutions and oppressions and rob-
beries, they lived a squalid outward
life, but a palatial life in hidden
quarters. You might follow one of
them with old gaberdine, stained and
spotted, and with all the squalor of
beggary upon him, through by-ways
foul to the feet and oft'ensive to every
sense ; and through some narrow lane
coming to an archway you might turn
in, as it were, to the entrance of a
stable. Yet a side door opens out of
it into an ill-conditioned hall, pestifer-
ous in odor ; and ascending the steps
you come to a secret passage, when,
opening the door you are blinded with
the brilliance that bursts on you.
You are in the palace of a prince.
The walls are covered with adorn-
ments, and the rarest stuffs hang in
tapestry. The dishes that bespread
the table are of silver and gold, and
the household who hasten to receive
the home-coming parent and to strip
off his outward insignia, are them-
selves arrayed hke king's children.
There is a great difference between
the outward man and the home man.
But this difference is scarcely
greater than that which is in Paul.
Outwardly naked, buffeted, with no
certain dwelling-place, working for his
living, reviled, as the filth of all things,
tlie offscouring of the earth ; inwardly,
living gloriously by the Christ living
in him. This concentrated life of
Christ in him changed his identity.

1287. Coming to Christ. — To come
to Christ is not like coming to a mag-



istrate, in whom the personahty is hid
behind the official duty . A magistrate
represents to you the abstraction of
justice and authority, and not personal
attributes. He that comes to Christ
comes to a person, a friend, a re-
deemer, a lover ; and comes to him
not as he would come to an argument
or a philosophical system, or as he
would come to an abstract embodi-
ment of justice, as a magistrate. He
comes as to a companion.

1288. God's Incarnation in Christ
not Strange. — That a father should
send his children away from home to
school is not strange ; and that God
should have created a household, and,
as it were, sent them into this school-
house world to learn, is not strange.
That a father should go to see his
children while they are at school, is
not strange ; and that God, aside from
the ordinary visitations of Providence,
should make himself personally known
to his earthly children, is not strange.
That a father, for the sake of his chil-
dren, should undergo toils, and pains,
and labors, and sufiferings, and put
life and name itself in peril, yea, and
sacrifice them, is not strange, but
raises him into the category of heroes ;
and that God, the Father of all, the
great Lover and Teacher of all, should
put burdens on himself, that he should
be visible before us both to represent
his own love, and to teach us the way
of duty, that he should suffer, and
bear, and forbear, and that he should
lay down life itself, is not strange.

1289. The Atonement. — To illu-
strate my own view of the atonement
in contradistinction to the Church
view, as it may be called, I can find
no other illustration that is comparable
for a moment to parentage. The
power of a soul to rear, to teach, to
forgive, to wait for or to restrain, to
deny, to punish that which it loves

best of all the world, and for the sake
of love — I don't know any other
source from which I can illustrate this
glorious fact better than from father-
hood and motherhood. I don't know
what else is needed. Is any concep-
tion grander than a revelation of a
God doing by the universe what a
glorious mother is doing by her child ?

1290. Human Side of Atonement.
— While you are looking at the heav-
ens to-night, if the clouds should break
so as to show one star, all the rays of
light that come to you will be the an-
titheses of other rays that go in the op-
posite direction ; and you will see
those that fall towards you, and will
not see those that fall away from you.

Now, it may unquestionably be true
that the suffering and the death of
Christ had a work to perform in the
other direction — towards the divine
government, towards the spirit land ;
we accept it as a mere statement. We
neither probe it nor much understand
it. But the other part of the truth,
which is abundantly expounded and
applied over and over again, and
brought to our comprehension and
sympathy — namely, that Christ's suf-
fering and death were a manifestation
of God's nature and feeling towards
us — this we can understand. And
this part of the atoning work of the
Lord Jesus Christ is our part,

1291. Gratitude to Jesus. — Oh, how
beautiful a thing is sensitive and hon-
orable gratitude ! There are men
wlio cannot hear the name of Arnold
of Rugby spoken without tears, to this
day, though he has been dead for a
score of years. Thomas Hughes,
who has just gone home to England,
is one of them.

There are persons who know that if
they had not been taken by Jesus at
just such a time, into friendliness and
love, and been snared in the golden-



meshed web of divine sympathy, and
been rescued, they would have been
utterly destroyed. And in regard to

Online LibraryHenry Ward BeecherA treasury of illustration → online text (page 39 of 94)