The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his Son Jesus; whom you delivered up…
In the days of George Stephenson some scientists proved conclusively that a rail-train could never be driven by steam power; but the rushing expresses have made all the world witnesses of the splendid achievement. It was proved conclusively that a steamer could never cross the Atlantic; but the work was done, and the passengers on the Cunard and the Inman Lines are witnesses. There went up a guffaw of laughter from some of the wise men at Professor Morse's proposition to make lightning his errand-boy, and it was proved conclusively that the thing could never be done; but now the news of the wide world, put in your hands every morning and night, has made all nations witnesses. In the time of Christ it was proved conclusively that it was impossible for a man to rise from the dead. The disciples took the witness-stand to prove to be true what the wiseacres of the day had proved to be impossible. Now let me play the sceptic for a moment. There is no God, for I have never seen Him with my physical eyesight. Your Bible is a pack of contradictions. There never was a miracle. Your religion is an imposition on the credulity of the ages. There is a suppressed feeling which would like to cry out in behalf of the truth of our glorious Christianity. "We are witnesses!" If this world is ever brought to God, it will not be through argument, but through testimony. You might cover the whole earth with learned treatises in defence of religion — you would not convert a soul. In order to have faith we must have testimony, and if five hundred men get up and tell me that they have felt the religion of Jesus Christ a joy, an inspiration, I am bound as a fair-minded man to accept their testimony. I want to put before you three propositions, the truth of which I think you will attest with overwhelming unanimity.
I. "We are witnesses" THAT THE RELIGION OF CHRIST IS ABLE TO CONVERT A SOUL. You say conversion is only an imaginary thing. We know better. People laughed at the missionaries in Madagascar because they preached ten years without one convert; but there are thirty-three thousand converts in Madagascar to-day. People laughed at Dr. Judson because he kept on preaching five years without a single convert; but there are twenty thousand Baptist Christians in Burmah to-day. People laughed at Dr. Morrison for preaching seven years without a single conversion; but there are fifteen thousand Christians in China to-day. People laughed at the missionaries for preaching at Tahiti and in Bengal years without a single conversion; yet in all those lands there are multitudes of Christians to-day. But why go so far to find evidence? "We are witnesses." We were so proud that no man could have humbled us; we were so hard that no earthly power could have melted us. But one day a power seized us, from which we tried to wrench ourselves, but could not. It flung us on our knees, and when we arose we were as much changed as Gourgis the heathen. He went into prayer-meeting with a dagger and a gun, but the next day was found crying: "Oh, my great sins! Oh, my great Saviour!" For eleven years be preached the gospel of Christ to his fellow-mountaineers, and the last words on his dying lips were, "Free grace! Oh, it was free grace!" There is a man who was for ten years a hard drinker. The dreadful appetite had sent down its roots until they were interlinked with the vitals of body, mind, and soul; but he has not taken any stimulants for two years. What did that? Not temperance societies. Not prohibition laws, Not moral suasion. Conversion did it, "Why," said one upon whom the great change had come, "sir, I feel just as though I were somebody else!" There is a sea captain who swore all the way from New York to Havana, and from Havana to San Francisco, and when he was in port he was worse than when he was on the sea. What power was it that washed his tongue clean of profanities, and made him sing to the glory of God? Conversion. There are thousands who are no more what they once were than a water-lily is nightshade, or a morning lark a vulture, or day night.
II. "We are witnesses" THAT THE GOSPEL HAS THE POWER TO COMFORT. When a man has trouble the world says: "Now get your mind off this; go out and breathe the fresh air! plunge deeper into business." What poor advice. Get your mind off of it I when everything reminds you of what you have lost. They might as well advise you to stop thinking. Take a walk in the fresh air I Why, along that very road your dead wife once accompanied you. Go deeper into business! Why, she was associated with all your ambition, and since she has gone you have no ambition left. And yet you have been comforted. How was it done? Did Christ come to you and say: "Get your mind off this," etc. No. There was a minute when He came to you, and He breathed something into your soul that gave peace, so that you could take out the photograph of the departed one and say: "It is all right; she is better off; I would not call her back." There are Christian parents who are willing to testify to the power of this gospel to comfort. Your son had just graduated and was going into business, and the Lord took him. Or your daughter had just left the school, and you thought she was going to be a useful woman and of long life, but the Lord took her. Or the little child came home with the hot fever that stopped not for the agonised prayer, or for the skilful physician. What has enabled you to stand all the trial? "Oh," you say, "I threw myself at the feet of a sympathising Saviour, and when I was too weak to pray, or to look up, He breathed into me a peace that I think must be the foretaste of that heaven where there is neither tear, nor a farewell, nor a grave." Is there power in this gospel to soothe the heart? There comes up an answer from comforted widowhood, and orphanage, and childlessness, saying —
III. "We are witnesses" THAT RELIGION HAS POWER TO GIVE COMPOSURE IN THE LAST MOMENT. We are very apt when we want to bring illustrations of dying triumph to go back to some distinguished personage — to a John Knox, or a Harriett Newell. Such illustrations are of no use to me to-night. I want you for witnesses. I want to know whether you have seen or heard anything that makes you believe that the religion of Christ gives composure in the final hour? "Oh yes," you say; "I saw my father and mother depart." How did they seem to act? Were they very much frightened? Did they take hold of this world with both hands as though they did not want to give it up? "Oh, no," you say; "she had a kind word for us all, and there were a few mementos distributed among the children, and then she told us how kind we must be to our father in his loneliness, and then she kissed us good-bye and went asleep as calmly as a child in a cradle." What made her so composed? Natural courage? "No," you say, "mother was very nervous; it was because she was so good." Here are people who say, "I saw a Christian brother die, and he triumphed." And some one else, "I saw a Christian sister die, and she triumphed." Conclusion: You see I have not put before you to-night anything like guess-work, but affidavits of the best men and women, living and dead. Two witnesses in court will establish a fact. Here are not two witnesses, but millions. If ten men should come to you when you are sick and say they had the same sickness, and took a certain medicine and it cured them, you would probably take it. Now, suppose ten other men should come up and say, "We don't believe there is anything in that medicine." "Well," I say, "have you ever tried it?" "No, I never tried it, but I don't believe there is anything in it." Of course you discredit their testimony. The sceptic may come and say, "There is no power in your religion." "Have you ever tried it?" "No, no." "Then avaunt!"
(T. De Witt Talmage, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified his Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let him go.