Through War Clouds To God
“Until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts.”
The above phrase is taken from 2 Peter 1: 19, and it is to this phrase that we will direct our attention; but to get the proper setting, let me quote the entire verse: “We have a more sure word of prophecy, whereunto ye do well to take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts.”
The war has not only brought dark clouds of heart sorrow, but clouds of doubt to men’s minds concerning God and His character. One great poem recently written cries out in even agnostic complaint, “Where is the God of Israel?” It is a bitter arraignment of God. It is short-sighted of course, as are all bitter cries of spoilt children, who have gotten themselves into trouble, and then scold and yell for help.
In this darkness and bitterness of groping, Peter says we will do well to take heed to what God has spoken ahead of time as a warning and a reason for coming darkness. He says, to look at this warning word of prophecy is like working by a lamp that shines in a dark place. He infers that daylight is coming, and the wise will use the light that shines in a dark place until sun-up. He says to look to God’s Word “until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts.” Here is another added light, namely, “The day star.” This day star is Jesus Christ, and He may arise in our hearts, and abide with us, until God’s great Sun-up day comes and all mystery is over.
Peter here talks about the coming of the day as if he were a shepherd and had watched through the night for the first signs of day. Those who have lived in the open, and toiled or watched through the night, know that the night is darkest just before dawn; that against the darkness, suddenly there appear streaks of light, heralding the oncoming sun, and then into the haze of these streaks of dawn, arises the morning star, a sure sign of the close coming of the sun, and daylight all around.
Watch The Streaks
In the darkness of doubt settling on many a heart today, in the groping about immortality, it will be wise to take heed to the streaks of light that flash across your sky. If you follow them closely they point you to the sun: that is, they lead you to God.
There comes a time in a man’s life, or a nation’s life, when the heart is going to swing to extremes. We are either going to swing during this war a long way into naturalism and materialism, or swing back and hook up with God. There is no middle ground now. It is too late for any kind of a middle position to be taken.
Mr. Harry Lauder, in the Hippodrome in New York, gave his testimony recently, and told of his conversion. He said when he found out his son was dead on the field of battle, he went to hunt for his body, and the little grave with the cross over it, to try to fix the grave in some permanent way. There were only three things that a man could do, he thought, in such an hour—to end it all and join his son, or turn to liquor and drown his sorrow, or turn to God. He said, “I chose the last, I chose to turn to God.”
In these crisis hours men are going to say, “I don’t care, let come what will,” or turn madly unto pleasure, unto that which gratifies and satisfies and delights the senses, or, on the other hand, face it like men and women ought to face it, and come to God.
We are living in a dark day—living in a day when men’s views have changed about home life, when they are trying to throw off every yoke. Also their views have changed about their religious life. Men have come out of their religious homes believing in heaven, have gone to college, and thrown away their early ideas of God. Through philosophy and arguments, in connection with what some professor might have stated, they have thrown off the yoke of the old religion, and refused to believe in heaven with its golden streets, refused to believe in a hell with hellfire, refused to believe that the Bible was the authentic Word of God, and their boyhood faith slipped away and there was nothing vital substituted. They may not have fully disbelieved in it, but believed more in pleasure than ever before. New delightful avenues of pleasure were open before them, and they proceeded to take them. In order to take them, conscience must be appeased, and conscience can only be appeased by some sort of logic that will tell you you are doing right when you know you are doing wrong. They had to fix up their philosophy and logic to appease their consciences. Many never believed in dances until they went to college. Many never believed in going to shows, but they soon went. Even into denominational schools the theater and dance has found its way. “Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God” is the order with the on-coming generation.
Here is a family, and while they were poor they served God, got up on Sunday and went to church as a family; but after a while when they got their auto, they thought that church was a kind of nice thing, but they were a little different then than other people. Money has made a big difference, a certain brand of successful ones have grown up in our country, taking us from the ordinary things of home life, out into restaurant life and theater life and pleasure life, soon to be a stranger to the things of God and church life. Sunday was laughed at, the Sabbath Day was considered like every other day. This crowd could quote Scripture to their own liking, “‘The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath,’ so we will go out in the country and take our lunch.” They said grace over their lunch the first time, and thought that would appease their conscience and make it look religious, and after a while they dropped grace and everything else and just had lunch and pleasure. At first they thought they would come back for the night meeting, and not have the morning service, but after a while they put the string on the night and pulled that out, and went on into the night hours as pleasure dictated.
Yes, it is a dark hour. Many, many reasons could be stated, showing how and why men have come into unbelief and thus into darkness. But we are here concerned about the way out of darkness. Let us look even through possible doubts for a streak of light, and see where these streaks lead us.
First Streak—“Doing My Best”
You say, “I cannot get any ground for my feet, but am going to do the best I know how, live the best I can here, and if there is a God I think He will take care of me whatever happens to come.” You would be surprised how many men there are in the world who have that as a religion. They say, “I will simply do the best I can and let the rest go. Everyone has a different opinion, and there are so many religions, I don’t know which to pick. I will do the best I can, and whatever comes I will take it and meet it with a stiff upper lip, and do my duty.”
You have no more religion than a horse, if that is all you have. I had a horse that could “skin” you a thousand ways. He would do his duty, and never kick nor bite. I had a little pinto that would do that, and never missed his duty, and if you are going to heaven on that you will meet my horse in the same kind of a heaven. There is no difference between the two, except this, that the horse does really do all his duty.
That is pretty poor ground for an intelligent being, with spirit, soul and body and the powers of intellect—a poor religion if you cannot go any further than that. Yet that is the darkness in which some men find themselves. But let’s see even if in this darkness there is not a streak of light. If a man goes ahead saying, “I believe in doing my duty,” then he believes in a reward, because if he did not believe in a reward he would not even do his duty. Duty always implies a reward, and if you are living a life for the reward that you are to get, you believe in a future life. If you believe in duty you believe in a reward, for duty must have its reward, otherwise there is no necessity for duty.
Well, you don’t get all the reward in this life, so if you expect to get your reward, you believe there is a God, and you believe in justice. You believe if you do your duty there is going to be justice and a reward. Then there must be a judgment.
If you stop to think, you will find out you believe more than you thought you did. Did you believe in duty? Then you believe in a reward, and therefore in judgment. You would not believe for a moment that the dirty heart of Nero is going into the same future with the martyrs. You know if there is a God in heaven at all, that Nero is going to get a different reward than the Christian martyrs got. There must be a place of justice. Men do not get the reward of their sin here. One man seems to get some reward, and alongside of him travels a man with a heart as black as hell, and yet he lives on the fat of the land, with a wife that loves him and children that seem to be obedient, and none of the heartaches of life seem to come to him, and he is snatched out with a little disease that seems to have no agony with it. Some place you believe justice will be meted out to him. Justice says, “There must be such a thing as immortality. There must be a settling up place.” Now the first streak of dawnhas come into your life and you say, “There is such a thing as immortality.”
The Second Streak—Fear
There must be a reckoning time or men would go insane. If the Kaiser were going to be allowed to get by with no justice meted out to him, or be allowed to go out into annihilation with the sufferers, and they both be on the same footing, men would see red, and blood and insanity would mix.
No! At the base of our reasoning and thinking powers, we believe in a judgment day that is coming. This little streak of dawn throws itself out and makes men say, “I am getting hold of some solid ground. It is not all hodgepodge, I see a little streak of light,” and so they look for the second streak.
You have always been a strong, brave man or woman, saying, “I will go ahead,” but all of a sudden through these war days fear has come over you, a new sense which you never had before. You begin to be afraid of death. The minute a man admits a judgment he looks differently at death than before. When a man thinks he jumps off the springboard and it is all over and he is in oblivion, he don’t care much about death; but when a man says, “There is immortality out there, and there is justice,” then he begins to fear, and “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.”
Now you are beginning to get a little more light than you had before, and you begin to reason better and say to yourself, “There is something out there—I am not through yet when I run my little gamut of a few score years I am not through. All my days are looked at by God, and He has to keep His books straight. He has to keep the books on the Kaiser and on the sufferers.” You have more faith in your heart than you thought you had. There is plenty there, if you will stop your crazy thinking and look at the streaks of light that begin to appear.
Fear comes to you. You don’t say, “I am afraid to die,” but you say, “It means something to die. It is not ending it all, it is commencing. I am shaping things now‚ forever.” You realize it and draw back from it as you never did before, and you begin to fear—but not for yourself. Maybe some great businessman, who used to put on his plug hat, and take his gold-headed cane and walk down Michigan Boulevard, and go to hear some noted divine lecture on some outlandish topic that wouldn’t touch his conscience, is now a little bit nettled because the preacher hasn’t talked to him about heaven, about immortality. The preacher this morning maybe is talking about little things, and this man’s heart is stirred. He is a new man. He takes off that plug hat and shoves that cane down under the seat, and looks at the preacher, since the war is on, in a way he never looked before. Why?
He has two boys at the front, and he says to that preacher, “I want to see those two fellows again if I have any chance. Is there such a thing as immortality? What about this soul business?”
That man isn’t afraid to die, but is afraid to have his own boys die. A man may not fear things himself, who will tremble when these come to his children. I might face anything in the world gladly, with my lips shut and teeth set, but would hate to have my children come up against it.
But he has a new fear, and whispers, “Will we ever see them again? Mother, why doesn’t he tell us about that?”
That is a new streak, a new sign and he should thank God for it. Many an old heart that used to pay no attention, is watching the papers with a new sense, hoping that there might be such a thing as someone slipping a little testament to his boy, and someone getting the Gospel to them. Mothers will write to their boys as they never wrote them before. They used to write about Tom, Dick and Harry and the parties, but now they will write about God.
The old couple go back into the house from church, the old man and mother, and sit there at dinner. He carves the chicken, the maid passes it to her, and she sits and looks up at him, and he looks back, and she says, “Father, aren’t you eating?” “No.”
They push the plates back. The next course comes, neither one eats. They go into the parlor and look at each other. She goes to play the victrola, and sees the prints of fingers on it, and won’t let the maid rub the prints off. It is the print of the boys’ fingers on it.
They find themselves coming from different ends of the hall into the boys’ room, and she sits in one corner and he in the other, looking at the boys’ things. There is the closet as they left it, and there are the ties on the rack, and other things about. The home is empty. Not a sound from cellar to garret, and they say, “Oh, it is different now. Oh, God, is there any place of unity? Is this the end of it all?”
My God, we are going to have some real thinking before this war is over. There will be some people that won’t laugh at hell and heaven and immortality. Yes, hearts will turn to one extreme or the other. Either they will say, “Forget it,” and plunge into pleasure, as thousands have in London and some of our American cities, or begin to consider the things of God.
They are thinking more about immortality in America today than ever before, and in every land the world around, because death is about us. The book that has the greatest call today in the New York public library is entitled: “Is Death the End?”
This old father might go to his library and pull out the volumes, and he might pull out the works of some noted scientist that wrote against immortality, but he could pull out William James, who knew as much as the rest, and he would tell how he believed in it; and William Osler, knowing as much as other scientists, on just as high a plane and with a brilliant intellect, believes in immortality. He might pull down Keppler and find out he believed in it, and Sir Oliver Lodge, and find out that he accepted it.
While the man might have loved in his younger days to philosophize against immortality, now, while the darkness is on, he finds out that while one shelf might be covered with intellectual men’s books laughing immortality out of court, on the other hand, he can pull down just as many others in favor of immortality.
There is something getting under his feet, and he says, “It is not all contradicted anyhow. I have no more right to swing to that than to this.” The evidence begins to come, and he begins to sit up and say, “My God, I have not examined all the evidence.”
Listen to one of the most noted scientists [John Fiske] saying, “The materialistic assumption that the life of the soul ends with the life of the body is perhaps the most colossal instance of baseless assumption that is known in the history of philosophy.” In other words, it is absolutely baseless assumption for men not to believe in immortality.
Third Streak—An Intelligence
Now a man comes who has contradicted God, and thought of Him as an unknown quantity, always putting a question mark after God. The old theories come back in his dark hour, and he says to himself, “There is an intelligence behind it all.” You cannot make him believe that that little watch that ticks in his pocket was a little piece of gold and iron, and it jumped in and organized itself. He says, “There was an intelligence that caused it to be.”
He sees an automobile broken down before his dwelling, and a man is underneath fixing the old dead machine that will not move, but finally because of a touch of intelligence, he puts together the little mechanical combinations, swings into the seat, and off goes the machine. The man says, “There is an intelligence behind that machine and behind the organized universe.” Another streak comes into the darkness, namely, a God, an intelligence behind the universe. He is beginning to have a hope and to boast of his belief that there is intelligence, or God behind it all.
Even if he started in with protoplasm and came on up a scale of life—even if he should believe this kind of a theory, intelligence must have marked the way up, the moving hand of God must have been behind it. That which has no intelligence cannot create intelligence. The universe must have a God behind it to create an intelligence called man.
God is an intelligence, running this old world, and He does not throw it together. It swings around the sun and comes back on the clock’s tick in regular motion. It is ordered, it is directed. Ordering and directing are the work of intelligence.
Now it is a new world to the doubter. His boyhood’s God begins to come back to him, and the world begins to shape itself under his feet. The noise and rattle and claptrap of the insane thinking of our day, has put itself outside his heart, and his heart begins to burn a little more toward God, and his feet begin to get on something more solid.
The Fourth Streak—Personality
As he looks into the mirror he says, “You cannot believe in personality,” and remembers the old example they used to have in college, the janitor, a bright fellow; but before they got out of college he had lost his reason, a driveling idiot, and they would give him a nickel or dime, and had to take care of him, for he was not able to take care of himself. Like an insane maniac he choked over his food, and they said, “He was a personality, but his personality has run out.”
He had thought that was a splendid argument, that personality went out, and, like the body dies, the soul dies, and the personality dies; but now he gets out an old volume, and there is the example of the master violinist. The student bids the old master goodbye, to go out himself to play. He carries with him the memory of the master’s old violin, that wonderful violin so wonderful in its tone quality. One day, years afterward, the pupil returns to visit his old master. He comes into the studio. It is empty. On the shelf is the old violin, cracked and warped. No one could play on it.
He cries as he throws himself on the sofa. “He is gone, my master is gone. Music, his lovely music, will never be heard again.” He starts! He stands! He listens! Music, wonderful music, is coming from the next room. It is the master’s touch. He knows it. He rushes into the room, and into the arms of his old master. “The old violin may be ruined but the master is still alive and has another violin, boy,” says the master to the pupil.
Yes, the old violin, our body, may fall into decay, these nerves pop as violin strings, these hands become broken bows, but they never were the master. Behind all this is the soul, the personality. I handle this body—not the body handles me. I say when it goes, “It does not lead. I direct this mind when I choose, it does not direct me. Yes, I will not decay and be no more. I forever will exist somewhere.”
Comes an inevitable question then, “What shall I do if this be true? I have sinned against God, and have blasphemed God, and have left God out of the question. I have not ordered my life for God.” He sits as an old man and says, “I have taken my way.”
He turns to the Scripture after long years, and looks, and it says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned everyone to his own way,” and, oh, how he cries out his heart to God, like any sinner would, “Lord, Thou art God, and I will have to live somewhere forever. What of the sin that is between myself and yourself? What of the reckoning? Where am I running? I believe in justice and in a reward. What will be my reward? Oh, God, Thou hast the right to throw me off. I have refused to be connected with Thee.”
Oh, how sweet then to see the Morning Star come up. The other lights have been streaks, but now comes Jesus on the dark scene, the Morning Star, the Lily of the Valley, the bleeding Savior, to put away sin, that awful chasm between man and God, and reconcile men to God. The once doubting man can throw his arms around the feet of Jesus and say, “Thy blood is all my plea, it puts sin all away.”
Jesus is the answer to every argument which we have been going over. He Himself goes back over every step that we have taken, and He Himself is its answer. In every case He, a person, is the answer. If it is duty, He can enable us to do our duty toward God. And what is our duty? “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy mind and with all thy strength.” We have sinned because we have not done it. Created by God, but turning our back on Him we have gone our own way.
What is the duty of man, but that he might become the tabernacle of the living God? Nobody can bring this about but Jesus, and Paul cries out, “Christ in me the hope of glory.” He fulfills my duty, for love is the fulfilling of the law, and Jesus comes to be loved within me. Fear? Thank God, Jesus comes to remove the fear of death, the fear of hell, the fear of the judgment, and we have now passed from death into life, by His precious blood.
Thank God, Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
The old home is broken down, the little ones have gone, father and mother have slipped away, but “I go to prepare a place for you; and if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto myself, that where I am, there ye may be also.” Thank God, there is a great big reception coming. Are you to be in that because the blood of Jesus Christ has cleansed you? Beloved, into every philosophy that you can bring up, into every argument, Jesus steps and says, “I am the answer to that argument, I am the resurrection and the life.”
Jesus doesn’t wait until the end to be that, but puts His hand out to Thomas and says, “Thomas, touch immortality. This corruption has put on incorruption.” He stood among them and ate fish and honey on the seashore after His death. He talked to them before the multitude, and His blessed feet left the ground while they watched and He is yonder in the Glory.
Oh, hope of hopes is Christ Jesus. If a person has all the boiled down philosophy of a lifetime of thinking, Jesus Himself is the wonderful, wonderful answer. Intelligence? He knew it all. You say that God is intelligence? Jesus walked as God. He saw Nathanael coming to Him and pointing His finger at him said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed in whom is no guile.”
“Whence did you know me?” says Nathanael.
“Before Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” Nathanael knew He was God, for no human eye had seen him under that fig tree.
“Zacchaeus, come down from the tree.”
“How did Jesus know his name?” “He needed not that any should teach him.”
Oh, the intelligence of the universe was wrapped up in Him—Jesus, as He walked among men. He knew their hearts. He was not only an intelligence behind the universe, but that intelligence, thank God, walked on this Earth. Oh, praise God, it is not speculation, it is revelation now.
If you are not a believer in Jesus Christ today, God pity you.
He is the Morning Star. The streaks of dawn only indicated His coming; but He is the Morning Star, He is the personality, He is the One who never had a beginning, Who is now and never will end. Hallelujah. And we are to partake of Him.
My friends, it is a wonderful thing to be able to take eternal life. We had a beginning, but Jesus did not, and when we were put into God through His precious blood, and became a new creature in Christ Jesus, we were like a little twig that was grafted into a lovely old apple tree. The little year-old-twig can partake of the old strength and roots and all that the tree has been in its lifetime. Just so, when we were grafted into God through the blood of Jesus Christ, we became a partaker of the divine nature, of His eternal life, of His personality, from everlasting to everlasting. We are saved, eternally saved, in the heart of God by the blood and life of Jesus Christ.
Oh, if any men and women had cause for rejoicing in these dark days, we have. This Morning Star, this same One, this personality, this intelligence, this death and sin-conquering One is ours against all the dark background of human unhappiness and human sin, and fear of war and wreckage. Then in the darkness follow the streaks “until the day dawn and the day star arise in your hearts.”