In his dream a man once found himself in a city where there were many splendid and notable buildings—great granite temples of finance, towering structures where great business was transacted; marble halls where a university was housed; spacious palaces of pleasure; and costly and ornate homes. In the midst of these splendid buildings there stood a plain structure, humble and modest in comparison with the mighty buildings which looked down upon it. Men and women were going into and coming out ot that humble structure.
A hundred years passed in the dream, and the man found himself again in the same city, but he could hardly recognize it, for all the great buildings upon which he had looked a hundred years before had disappeared and other and more imposing structures had taken their places. But still in the midst of these great buildings stood the modest frame building, with men and women going in and out, just as he had seen them do a century before.
A thousand years passed, and the man returned to that same city, and again he noted a complete transformation. All buildings that he had seen before had vanished and new buildings with new architecture and new grandeur had taken their places—all except the little frame building, and out of it he saw men and women coming with the light of joy and satisfaction upon their faces. At length he asked some of the citizens what this building might be, and what was the explanation of its remaining unchanged and still frequented after all other buildings had vanished and disappeared? Then he learned the secret of the endurance of that one building: it was the house ot God, where men found the way of life eternal.
It was a beautiful church, built of pine logs, and all within was white and fragrant. The windows, as befitted the grandeur of the scenery in which the church was set, were of plain glass. On the altar between the pulpit and the lectern was a cross. Looking through the great window back of the altar, one saw the pine trees, the cloudless sky, and the towering mountains. The service was a dedication of the little church which was to minister to the people of that mountain community almost two miles above the level of the sea. In other parts of the world churches were being bombed and blasted and torn down. But here was a church which, in the midst of world turmoil and confusion and anguish, had been built by the gifts of followers of Jesus Christ. It was a symbol of the timelessness and perpetuity of Christ's Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven. Leaving the church, one seemed to hear the music of the old hymn:
O where are flings and empires now,
Of old that went and came?
But, Lord, thy Church is praying yet,
A thousand years the same.
Not far from Lake Geneva, out of which it flows, the river Rhone disappears from view; but farther to the south it emerges again in full sweep and power. From age to age the river of God's truth has flowed through the world, sometimes through quiet valleys, sometimes over rocks and rapids—and sometimes, like the Rhone, disappearing altogether, as far as man can judge, but finally emerging again with undiminished sweep and power. An exploration of the river of the gospel fills us with invincible confidence that its course and history are directed of God and that one day the river shall become a flood of righteousness which will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.
In a day of indifference and apostasy in England, Samuel Wesley, the father of John Wesley and Charles, looked forward to a period of restoration and resurrection of spiritual life and power when he said to his son Charles, "Charles, be steady. The Christian faith will surely revive in these kingdoms. You shall see it, though I shall not." Years afterward, forbidden to preach from his father's pulpit, John Wesley, standing on the flat stone of his father's grave, remembered that remark as he preached the gospel to a great multitude.
Yes, out of every eclipse the cause of Christ arises more glorious and resplendent than ever. If the present age seems spiritually dark, if the glory of the Church seems obscured, have faith in God. His gospel shall again shine forth in glory and in power.
From age to age the enemies of the gospel have proclaimed that the Church is dying, that it has lost its hold upon mankind, that ere long its temples will be forsaken. Some years ago two noted unbelievers were passing the beautiful Corinthian-columned Madeleine Church in Paris. It was a Sabbath morning and many worshipers were coming out of the church.
One of these men remarked to the other, "God has a good many callers this morning."
"Yes," replied his companion, "but they are making their last call."
Yet that last call has never been made, and never shall be made; and until all the redeemed shall gather about the throne of the Lamb in heaven, the followers of Christ will "enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name" (Ps. 100:4).
Christians among the soldiers of the Allied armies of World War II who marched into Cologne and saw that majestic cathedral, with its heaven-aspiring towers, standing unhurt and unscarred in the midst of that great desolation, must have thought of the perdurance of the Christian faith and the indestructibility of the Kingdom of God. Theaters, mills, factories, banks, shops, warehouses, schools, universities—all had disappeared. But still the spires of the cathedral pointed heavenward. Things which can be shaken, and ought to be shaken, are shaken down; but the things which cannot be shaken always remain.
The majestic spires of Cologne Cathedral call Germany back to God; and they call America back to God, too.
The Roman soldiers on guard at the crucifixion of Jesus were, according to custom, appropriating to themselves the prisoner's raiment. When they came to his coat they discovered that it was a seamless garment. To rend it into four parts, one for each soldier, would ruin it. For this reason they decided to keep it intact and cast lots for the ownership of it. By so doing, John comments, the soldiers fulfilled the prophecy of the great messianic psalm:
They part my garments among them,
And upon my vesture do they cast lots.
I have no idea who first employed the seamless robe of Christ as a metaphor for the unity of his Church. The first time I ever came upon it was in a prayer of Henry Ward Beecher, where he prayed that the Church might be one again, like the seamless robe of her Lord. All agree that the metaphor is one of the great beauty and appropriateness. The strife of the sects and the wrangling of the parties within the Church of Christ have been angry efforts to tear in pieces the sacred garment of the truth, while the Crucified One looks sadly down upon the miserable conflict between those he died to redeem; and his look of love and sorrow seems to repeat the prayer of the sacramental table, "That they may be one . . . that the world may know that thou didst send me." (John. 17:21)