An Oriental king once summoned into his presence his three sons and set before them three sealed urns—one of gold, the other of amber, and the third of clay. The king bade his eldest son to choose among these three urns that which appeared to him to contain the greatest treasures. The eldest son chose the vessel of gold, on which was written the word "Empire." He opened it and found it full of blood. The second chose the vase of amber, whereon was written the word "Glory"; and when he opened it he found it full of the ashes of men who had made a great name in the world. The third son chose the vessel of clay, and on the bottom of this vessel was inscribed the name of God. The wise men at the king's court voted that the third vessel weighed the most, because a single letter of the name of God weighed more than all the rest of the universe
There is a legend of St. Theresa that she once saw an angel holding in one hand a curtain and in the other a shell filled with water. When she asked the angel what these were for, he answered that the curtain was to hide heaven and the shell filled with water to put out the flames of hell, so that men would choose and praise God for himself.
That is what Christ invites us to do in the first petition of the Lord's Prayer. It is the keynote of all that follows. Before the prayers for the necessities of our life, and for deliverance from sin, and for others, is the great petition that God's name shall be hallowed.
At Princeton there is a tradition about Aaron Burr: how one night, when the college was shaken by a revival, he shut himself in his room, saying that before the night was over he would decide the matter of his relationship to God. Late at night the students living near him heard his shutters thrown open and a loud exclamation, "Good-by, God!"
The echo of this cry is heard in many quarters today, and with more or less enthusiasm. Those of us who are of the household of faith are reluctant to admit the sweep and range of the present anti-Christian movement. It proceeds under two forms: first, open and avowed atheistic propaganda, or the worship of No-God; second, and much more dangerous and subtle, the cowardly compromise with unbelief on the part of religious leaders of our day.
In 1847 Frederick Douglas, the eloquent fugitive slave, was addressing an antislavery convention just over the Ohio line at Salem. His own sufferings and those of his people, and the slow progress that the great reform was making, had somewhat depressed him; and a certain bitterness was manifest in the speech which he was making. In the midst of that speech he was suddenly interrupted by sojourner Truth, the aged Negress, who was a unique and powerful figure in the antislavery crusade, who cried out, "Frederick, Frederick, is God dead?"
No, God is not dead! God was not dead in the days of Gideon; he is not dead in our day; and blessed are they to whom is given the instinct to tell that God is on the field when he is most invisible!
For the special benefit of young men or young women who may have been listening to the present-day gospel of revolt and of self-expression, this quote which Thomas Wentworth Higginson once wrote to his son is a wonderful reminder: "He can think as he pleases about religion; but he has got to live with other people, and he cannot get rid of God. The world and we are all made so, and the boy who sees it clearly and lives accordingly is best off."
The richest man in the world, Croesus, once asked the wisest man in the world, Thales, What is God? The philosopher asked for a day in which to deliberate, and then for anodier, and then for another, and another, and another—and at length confessed that he was not able to answer, that the longer he deliberated, the more difficult it was for him to frame an answer.
The fiery Tertullian, the early Church Father, eagerly seized upon this incident and said it was an example of the world's ignorance of God outside of Christ. "There," he exclaimed, "is the wisest man in the world, and he cannot tell you who God is. But the most ignorant mechanic among the Christians knows God, and is able to make him known unto others."
The world knows something of Charlotte Bronte and her famous Jane Eyre; not so much of another of the sisters, Emily, the author of a powerful book, Wuthering Heights. The promise of this book was not fulfilled, for death cut short Emily's career. When the family opened her desk after her death and looked over the papers—those papers always impressive because written by a hand that is now forever still—they found no begun or half-finished novel, but a poem which is fit monument to the woman's heroic spirit. One of the stanzas runs thus:
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere.
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
Oh God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in Thee!
One of the most interesting of London's ancient cemeteries is Bunhill Fields. There rests the dust of Charles Wesley, Isaac Watts, and Daniel Defoe, the author of Robinson Crusoe. The cemetery is sometimes spoken of as the "Westminster Abbey of Nonconformity."
Directly across from this ancient graveyard is the chapel of John Wesley, and the house in which he lived and died, and the monument which has been reared to his memory. Just before his death on March 2, 1791, John Wesley opened his eyes and exclaimed in a strong, clear voice, "The best of all is, God is with us!" Yes, best of all, and last of all, God is with us.
A great French thinker said, "I think, therefore I am." His argument was that he must exist, else he could not have drought of himself. In the same way we are justified in our faith concerning God. The idea of God is certainly in the minds of men throughout the world today, and has been in the minds of man throughout all ages. The question is, How did this idea of God arise? We must choose between two answers. One is that man's cogitation and meditation resulted in the idea of a God. The other is that God exists, and that his existence accounts for the idea of God in man's mind. Certainly the latter answer is rational and simple. Some have said that clever priests invented the idea of God to further their selfish ends. But where did those priests get such an idea? Others have pointed out the low and gross conceptions of God which prevail arnong heathen people, or among the pagans of antiquity. But where did the heathen and the pagan get their idea of God, even such base and low thought of God? Others there are who vehemently assert that there is no God. But even the man who asserts that he is an infidel is an argument for the existence of God, for before he could deny that there is a God he had to have the idea of a God in his mind.