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CHARLES H. SPURGEON
majestic idea of Providence, that all things are ordered according to the will of one great Supreme Being, and work together for good. I might enlarge upon its honesty, since it tells the faults of its writers; its unity, since it never belies itself; its master simplicity, that he who runs may read it ; and I might mention a hundred more things, which would all prove to a demonstration that the book is of God. But I come not here to prove it. I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so; and there is never any necessity for Christian ministers to make a point of bringing forth infidel arguments in order to answer them.
There may be some one here to-night who has come without faith, a man of reason, a free-thinker. With him I have no argument at all. I profess not to stand here as a controversialist, but as a preacher of the things I know and feel. But too, have been like him.
There was an evil hour when once I slipped the anchor of my faith ; I cut the cable of my belief; I no longer moored myself hard by the coasts of revelation ; I allowed myself to drift before the wind ; I said to Reason, " Be thou my captain ;" I said to my own brain, “Be thou my rudder ; and I started on my mad voyage. Thank God it is all over now ; but I will tell you its brief history. It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of free-thought. I went on, and as I went the skies began to darken ; but to make up for that deficiency, the waters were brilliant with coruscations of brilliancy. I saw sparks flying upwards that pleased me, and I thought, “If this be free-thought, it is a happy thing.” My thoughts seemed gems, and I scattered stars with both my hands. But anon, instead of these coruscations of glory, I saw grim fiends, fierce and horrible, start up from the waters, and as I dashed on they gnashed their teeth and grinned upon me; they seized the prow of my ship, and dragged me on, while I, in part, gloried at the rapidity of my motion, but yet shuddered at the terrific rate with which I passed the old landmarks of my faith. As I hurried forward with an awful speed, I began to doubt my very existence ; I doubted if there were a world, I doubted if there were such a thing as myself. I went to the very verge of the dreary realms of unbelief. I went to the very bottom of the sea of infidelity. I doubted everything.
But here the Devil foiled himself; for the very extravagance of the doubt proved its absurdity. Just when I saw the bottom of that sea, there came a voice which said, “ And can this doubt be true ?” At this very thought I awoke. I started from that death-dream, which God knows might have damned my soul and ruined this my body, if I had not awoke.
JOSEPH PARKER (1830-1902)
FAMOUS PULPIT ORATOR
ROM stonemason to the most popular pulpit in England is the
record of one who was heard and read by more of the world's
people than any other man of the Nineteenth Century.
Joseph Parker was the son of a stonemason, born in 1830, educated through his own efforts, with but small assistance from his parents. When scarcely out of his teens he showed great talent as a public speaker in religious meetings. He read and studied at odd moments the works of the great British Orators, which laid the foundation for his future brilliant career. Upon entering the ministry, he rapidly sprang into prominence, and became the pastor of the Temple Church, London, from which his fame spread the world over.
[This example of pulpit oratory shows the practical nature of Joseph Parker's sermons. They appealed to the multitude, and his pointed criticism and just indignation against popular errors bore fruit in many lives, in making them better and nobler.]
Frivolousness will ruin
life. No frivolousness succeeds in any great enterprise. No frivolous man succeeds in business of a commercial kind. Business is not a trick or an amusement, it is hard work, hard study, daily consideration, incessant planning, wakefulness that ought never to go to sleep. If so for a corruptible crown, what for an incorruptible? The danger is that we make light of the Gospel because of our disregard for the manner in which it is spoken. Were we anxious about the vital matter, we should not care how it was uttered. All mere study of manner, and way of putting familiar truth, is an accommodation to the frivolity of the age.
When we are told to make our services more interesting, our music more lively, our preaching more animated, we are but
told to stoop to the frivolity of the time, that we may entrap a truant attention and arrest a wandering mind. Given an anxious people, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, knocking at the church door, saying, “Open to me the gates of righteousness, I will enter in and be glad; this is the day the Lord hath made,” we need not study any mechanical arrangements, or urge ourselves to any unusual animation of manner; the urgency of our desire, the purity and nobleness of our sym: pathy, would supply all the conditions required by the God of the feast, for the pouring out of heaven's best wine and the preparation of all the fatlings of the heavens for the satisfaction of our hunger. God makes all the universe contribute to the soul's growth. “My oxen and my fatlings are killed and ready, therefore come to the marriage.” He keeps back nothing from the soul, He plucks the highest grapes in the vineyards of heaven for the soul, He seeks out the goodliest and choicest of His possessions and treasures that the soul may be satisfied ; He has kept back nothing ; last of all He sent His Son, saying, “ They will reverence my Son." In that fact, see the symbol of all that can be crowded into the suggestions that God withholds no good thing that can minister to the soul's development, and the soul's growth in truth and love and grace.
Nor does the human condition in relation to the divine offer conclude itself under the limitation of mere frivolity. Light-mindedness in this matter does not complete itself. “The remnant took his servants and entreated them spitefully, and slew them,” This is true frivolity. Frivolity is followed by rebellion, blasphemy, high crime and misdemeanor before the eye of heaven. You who laugh to-day may slay to-morrow, we who do make but gibes and sneers in relation to the Gospel offers now, will by and by sit with the scornful and in deliberate blasphemy mock the King of the feast. Easy is the descent towards this pit of rebellion, hardheartedness, and utter defiance of divine goodness. To defy the goodthere might be some courage of a wild kind in defying power, in setting oneself in defiant attitude against thunderbolts, but to defy goodness, to mock an offer of hospitality, to scorn the call to a divine delight-let a man once become frivolous in that direction, and the whole substance of his character will be depleted of everything that can be ennobled, and it will speedily sink to irremediable viciousness and baseness. Call it not a light thing to laugh at sacred words, and religious opportunities and engagements; it may seem at the time to be of small account, but it is an indication of character, it is the beginning of a descent which multiplies its own momentum, and he who but laughs fluently and lightly to-day at the preacher's earnestness, may in an immeasurably short space of time be reckoned with the scorners, and be the chief companion of fools.
Orators of the French Revolution
EVER within the history of mankind has there
been a more unbridled outburst of human pas
sion than in the great Revolution that overturned the feudal establishment of France, putting an end to a long era of cruelty and oppression. Terrible as was the Revolution, the sum of misery it occasioned was inconsiderable as compared with that caused by the system of which it was the legitimate termination. The former was dramatically centred within a few years; the latter had pursued its slow course through many centuries. We can well comprehend the fiery vehemence of the oratory to which the Revolution gave rise. In the veins of the orators burned the same intense flame of hatred which was shown in the frightful excesses of the people. First and greatest of them, Mirabeau,-a member of the titled class, but a democrat in grain,-poured forth his thoughts in a torrent of fiery eloquence that has rarely been equaled. Vehemence was his forte, and his verbal blows fell as sudden and swift as the knife of the guillotine upon the necks of its victims. Those who followed him were of the same type. Danton, with his sledge-hammer sentences; Vergniaud, with his more polished but equally implacable speeches; Marat, in whom thirst for blood permeated his very words; Robespierre, uttering platitudes about God and the hereafter while his hands are reeking with the blood of his late friends and asso. ciates. The Revolution was a phenomenal event, and its orators were not the least of its phenomena.
GABRIEL HONORE RIQUETTI, COUNT DE
THE DEMOSTHENES OF FRANCE
MAN man of passion, of youthful vices, of disorderly habits, of dangerous intrigues, rebellious at once against father and
State, Mirabeau might have died unknown to fame had not the States General of 1789 given him an opportunity for the display of his remarkable eloquence, and the exertion of his gigantic energy against the system of oppression and injustice which had so long afflicted France. It was with difficulty that he obtained an election to that body, but once there, “He trod the tribune with the supreme authority of a master and the imperial air of a king.” One of his critics says: "He was a man who, by his qualities no less than by the singularity of his fortune, is destined to take his place in history by the side of the Demosthenes, the Gracchi, and the other kindred spirits of an antiquity whose gigantic characteristics he so frequently reproduced." Vehement and imperious in temper, irresistible in his command over an audience, he swayed the States-General at his will, and had he lived the Revolution might have taken quite another form than that hideous one by which it made itself execrable.
As concerns the oratory of Mirabeau, Carlyle says, “ His short and pithy sentences became the watchwords of the Revolution; his gestures were commands, his motions were coups d'etat.” Macaulay thus compares him with Chatham, England's most famous orator : “Sudden bursts which seemed to be the effect of inspiration, short sentences which came like lightning, dazzling, burning, striking down everything before them, in these chiefly lay the oratorical power both of Chatham and Mirabeau.
There have been far greater speakers and far greater statesmen than either of them ; but we doubt