The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:
Solar eclipse is here prophesied to take place about the time of the destruction of ancient Jerusalem. Josephus says that the prophecy was literally fulfilled. Christianity is the sun of our time, and men bare tried, with the vapours of scepticism and the smoke of blasphemy, to turn this sun into darkness. Suppose the archangels of malice and horror should be allowed to extinguish and destroy the sun in the natural heavens. They would take the oceans from other worlds and pour them on this luminary, and the waters go hissing down among the ravines and the caverns, and there is explosion after explosion until there are only a few peaks of fire left in the sun, and these are cooling down and going out until the vast continents of flame are reduced to a small acreage of fire, and that whitens and cools off until there are only a few coals left, and these are whitening and going out until there is not a spark left in all the mountains and valleys and chasms of ashes. An extinguished sun. A dead sun. Let all worlds wail at the stupendous obsequies. Of course, this withdrawal of the solar light and heat throws our earth into a universal chill, and the tropics become the temperate, and the temperate becomes the arctic, and there are frozen rivers, lakes, and oceans. From the arctic and antarctic regions the inhabitants gather in towards the centre and find the equator as the poles. The slain forests are piled up into great bonfires, and around them gather the shivering villages and cities. The wealth of the coal mines is hastily poured into the furnaces and stirred into rage of combustion, but soon the bonfires begin to lower and the furnaces begin to go out, and the natives begin to die. The great volcanoes cease to smoke, and the ice of hailstorms remains unmelted in their craters. All the flowers have breathed their last breath. Child frosted and dead in the cradle. Octogenarian frosted and dead at the hearth. Workman with frozen hands at the hammer or frozen foot on the shuttle. Winter from sea to sea. The earth an ice-floe, grinding against other ice-floes. The archangels of malice and horror have done their work, and now they may take their thrones of glacier and look down upon the ruin they have wrought. What the destruction of the sun in the natural heavens would be to our physical earth, the destruction of Christianity would be to the moral world. The sun turned into darkness. Infidelity in our time is considered a great joke. I propose to take infidelity out of the realm of jocularity into one of tragedy, and show you what these men, if they are successful, will accomplish. It will be —
I. THE COMPLETE AND UNUTTERABLE DEGRADATION OF WOMANHOOD. In all communities where Christianity has been dominant, woman's condition has been ameliorated and improved, and she is honoured in a thousand things, and every gentleman takes off his hat before her. You know that while woman may suffer injustices, she has more of her rights in Christendom than she has anywhere else. Now compare this with woman's condition in lands where Christianity has made little or no advance. The Burmese sell their wives and daughters as so many sheep. The Hindoo Bible makes it an outrage for a woman to listen to music, or look out of the window in the absence of her husband, and gives as a lawful ground for divorce a woman's beginning to eat before her husband has finished his meal! Her birth a misfortune. Her life a torture. Her death a horror. Now compare those two conditions. How far toward this latter condition would woman go if Christian influences were withdrawn? If an object be lifted to a certain point and not fastened there, and the lifting power be withdrawn, how long before that object will fall down to the point from which it started? Christianity has lifted woman up from the very depths of degradation almost to the skies. If that lifting power .be withdrawn she falls back to the depth from which she was raised, not going any lower because there is no lower depth. And yet I have read that notwithstanding all that, there were women present at a meeting in a Brooklyn theatre at which Christianity was outrageously assailed and our Lord blasphemously maligned.
II. THE DEMORALISATION OF SOCIETY. The one idea in the Bible that infidels most hate is the idea of retribution. Take away that idea from society, and it will begin very soon to disintegrate, and take away from the minds of men the fear of hell, and there are a great many of them who would very soon turn this world into a hell. I have heard this brave talk about people fearing nothing of the consequences of sin in the next, world, and I have made up my mind it is merely a coward's whistling to keep his courage up; for when they came to die they shrieked until you could hear them far enough. The mightiest restraints to-day against crime of all sorts are the retributions of eternity. Men know that they can escape the law, but down in the offender's soul there is the realisation of the fact that he cannot escape God. Take this out of the hearts and minds of men, and it would not be long before our great cities became Sodoms.
III. Suppose now these generals of infidelity got the victory, they will first ATTACK THE CHURCHES. Away with those houses of worship. They have been standing there so long deluding the people with consolation in their bereavements and sorrows. Turn the St. Peters and St. Pauls and the temples and tabernacles into club-houses.
IV. Next they SCATTER THE SABBATH-SCHOOLS, filled with bright-eyed, bright-cheeked little ones who are singing songs on Sunday afternoon and getting instruction when they ought to be on the street corners playing marbles or swearing on the commons.
V. THEY DESTROY CHRISTIAN ASYLUMS, the institutions of mercy supported by Christian philanthropies. Never mind the blind eyes and the deaf ears and the crippled limbs and the weakened intellects. Let paralysed old age pick up its own food, and orphans fight their own way, and the half-reformed go back to their evil habits.
VI. They come to THE GREAT PICTURE GALLERIES, and tear down the pictures, for they are Bible pictures — Claude's "Burning Bush," and Rembrandt's "Christ in the Temple," and Paul Veronese's "Marriage in Cana," and Michael Angelo's "Last Judgment." Down with the pictures; they are Bible pictures. And away with the oratorios of Handel and Haydn and Beethoven, for they speak of the Messiah and the Creation, and of Jephthah, and of Samson, and of other Bible heroes.
VII. Now they come to THE GRAVEYARDS. Pull down the sculpture, for it means the resurrection. On, ye great army of infidels where you see "Asleep in Jesus," cut it away, and where you find a marble story of heaven blast it; and where you find over a little child's grave, "Suffer little children to come unto Me," substitute the words "delusion" and "sham"; and where you find an angel in marble strike off the wing; and when you come to a family vault chisel on the door: "Dead and dead for ever." The place of Christian burial turned into a place for the burial of the whole family of Christian graces. Prayer dead. Faith dead. Hope dead. Charity dead. Self-denial dead. Honesty dead. Happiness dead.
VIII. They will attempt TO SCALE HEAVEN. On and on until they blow up the foundations of jasper and the gates of pearl. They charge up the steep. Now they aim for the throne of Him who liveth for ever and ever.
IX. There is only one more height to scale. They assail THE ETERNAL FATHER and they want Him to feel the combined force of human and Satanic spite. A world without a head, a universe without a king. Orphan constellations. Fatherless galaxies. Anarchy supreme. A dethroned Jehovah. An assassinated God. Patricide, Regicide, Deicide. That is what they mean, and what they will have, if they can. Civilisation hurled back into semi-barbarism, and semi-barbarism driven back into Hottentot savagery. The wheel of progress turned the other way, and turned towards the Dark Ages. The sun turned into darkness. Has Christianity received its death-blow? Yes, when the smoke of the city chimney arrests and destroys the noonday sun. Josephus says about the time of the destruction of Jerusalem the sun was "turned into darkness"; but only clouds rolled between the sun and the earth. The sun went right on. At the beginning God said, "Let there be light," and light was, and light is, and light shall be. So Christianity is rolling on, and it is going to warm all nations, and all nations are to bask in its light, and all nations are to be kindled with its joy. Men may shut the window-blinds so they cannot see out, or they may smoke the pipe of speculation until they are shadowed under their own vapouring; but God is a sun.
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come: