Church Sermon Illustrations

Church Sermon Illustrations

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In the Apocalypse of St. John we have a magnificent prediction and prefiguration of an age-long conflict. A woman, clothed with the sun and with a crown of twelve stars on her head, is about to give birth to a child. Before the woman stands a dragon, waiting to devour the child as soon as it is born. But the woman flees into the wilderness where she has a place prepared of God. The very powers of nature helped the woman in her escape from the dragon: the wings of a great eagle carry her into the wilderness, and the earth swallows up the flood which the dragon casts out of his mouth.

A strange picture, you say; and yet it is natural history of good and evil. It is a conflict which appears and reappears in the age-long drama of man's history. Always waits the dragon—and yet the child is always miraculously preserved.

Shortly before the great prophet of Florence—Savonarola—was burned at the stake, he said, "If you ask me in general as to the issue of this trouble, I reply, Victory. If you ask me in a particular sense, I reply, Death; for the Master who wields the hammer, when he has used it, throws it away. So he did with Jeremiah, whom he caused to be stoned at the end of his ministry. But Rome will not put out this fire; and if this be put out, God will light another."

On his way to Greece in his campaign against Pompey, Caesar tried to calm the fears of the sailors in the storm by the impious words, "Remember you carry Caesar and his fortunes." But in the case of Christ that is true. The Church carries Christ and his redeeming fortunes; therefore no storm can overwhelm it. The whole Church of Christ was present one night in a little ship tossed by the sea—present in the person of Peter and James and John and Matthew, Bartholmew, and the rest of the disciples. If they had gone down, the Church would have been lost, for these were the men chosen by Christ to found it; but the Church did not go down, it did not sink, for Christ was with it.

The old Reformed churches of Europe, and some of their successors in this country, with scriptural and historical appropriateness chose for their motto a phrase referring to the burning bush—"Nevertheless, it was not consumed" (Exod. 3:2). That is the sentence with which you must conclude every chapter of the history of the church. After every fire of false teaching, of schism, of persecution, of corruption and apostasy, that is the record: "Nevertheless, it was not consumed."

"The gates of hell shall not prevail." (Matt. 16:18.) "Watchman, what of the night?" (Isa. 21:11.) When in the fifth century Rome was sacked by the Goths under their king, Alaric, and eleven centuries of progress and civilization seemed to be going down into darkness, the heathen—and some faithless Christians—attributed these disasters to Christianity and supposed that they were the prelude to the destruction of the whole world. The great Augustine, however, sat down to write his famous work, The City of God, picturing the sublime city of the Christian Church which rises out of the ruins of the civilizations of this world, survives all disasters and catastrophes, and one day will bring the Kingdom of Everlasting Justice and Righteousness and Peace. It is our privilege, it is our high heritage, to have the faith to see that Kingdom—to see it even in this darkest hour of the world's history, for it was the eternal Son of God, the King of all kingdoms, the blessed and only Potentate, Lord of lords, and King of kings, who said, "Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

Opposition to the progress of the kingdom is often ludicrously futile. It is said that years ago some Indians of the northwestern plains were determined to resist the invasion of the railroad in their vicinity. They did all in their power to prevent the making of the road, but, defeated in that, they resolved to obstruct the passage of the trains that ran over it. Learning when a swift express was due, some hundred doughty Indians prepared for the encounter. They secured a cable-like rope which they believed capable of standing any shock or strain, and ranging themselves fifty on a side, stretched it across the track in front of the oncoming monster. The engine paid no attention to the rope, but the air was presently filled with Indians. Organized opposition to Christianity is always in the end as ridiculous and useless.

Only Christians

John Wesley once was much troubled in regard to the disposition of various sects, and the chances of each in reference to future happiness or punishment. A dream one night transported him in its uncertain wanderings to the gates of hell.

"Are there any Roman Catholics here?" asked thoughtful Wesley.
"Yes," was the reply.
"Any Presbyterians?"
"Yes," was again the answer.
"Any Congregationalists?"
"Any Methodists?" by way of a clincher, asked the pious Wesley.
"Yes," was the answer, to his great indignation.

In the mystic way of dreams, there was a sudden transition, and he stood at the gates of heaven. Improving his opportunity, he again inquired:

"Are there any Roman Catholics here?"
"No," we replied.
"Any Presbyterians?"
"Any Congregationalists?" "Any Methodists?"
"Well, then," he asked, lost in wonder, "who are they inside?"
"Christians!" was the jubilant answer. Light and Liberty.

Don't Disturb

Sometimes I have thought that the most unappreciated man on earth is a Pullman porter who must go down that mahogany lane in early morning to awaken passengers who are in no mood to be aroused. But this business of arousing people is a thankless job whether it apply to a Pullman porter at 6 a.m. or to a minister of the Gospel at 11 a.m. Too many Christians come to church on Sunday to rest at ease in Zion, and across their faces one seems to see as upon hotel room-doors, "Please Do Not Disturb!"Revelation.

Glittering Formalities

A chill winter has settled over the church. Instead of melting penitence, the tears of other days have frozen into icicles; and are hanging about the sanctuary — cold glittering formalities tak­ing the place of that holy tenderness which pleads with God, with strong crying, and warns men night and day with tears.Selected.

Through all the storms and convulsions of time the gospel survives, the Church lives on. It is because there is something in the Church that is imperishable and indestructible, something built to the music of faith, "and therefore never built at all, and therefore built forever."

Chateaubriand somewhere speaks of Christanity as the most glorious rainbow that ever smiled upon our troubled world. So after the storm of war Christian faith will again build its iridescent ladder of hope upon the bloodstained earth.

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