Truthful, Reliable Illustrations
[EDITORIAL NOTE. THE MINISTRY greatly appreciates this article submitted by a most careful scholar, Richard Ruhling. The writer is doing our ministry a kind turn. Let us read this article thoughtfully, profiting by its wise suggestions. The Advent minis try should be recognized for its dependability in the field of facts and truth. R. A. A.]
The apostle Paul gave counsel to Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." 2 Tim. 2:15. I feel confident that the expression "rightly dividing the word of truth" includes also the use of illustrations. Every minister as a public speaker will try to use as many fitting illustrations in his sermons as are needed. These usually clarify the point presented so it may be better understood. He should be sure that the illustrations he is using are absolutely accurate. We have come to a day in scholarship when this is under close scrutiny. Ministers should always be credited for accuracy.
Who among us has not heard a story told quite differently from the original? I might list here some stories related in at least five or six different ways. This fails to make a good impression, especially when the repetitions are only a few days apart. It leads people to think that other truths presented are equally distorted.
Some years ago I prepared a manuscript in which I wanted to use the statement supposedly made by Voltaire, "I will prove to the world that one man is able to tear down what twelve persons have built up." At the time I tried to locate that statement, but was unable to do so. Upon the advice of a friend I wrote to a Voltaire expert at the Berlin University, and in reply he informed me that this statement could not be found in any of Voltaire's writings or in any of his biographies. It might have been made verbally to someone, who quoted it to another. Since this is always unreliable, of course I did not continue making this statement.
One other illustration of this practice may lend emphasis to the point; it is often used in Christian literature and heard in public meetings that of the "Open Grave of Hannover." It is usually stated that the truth of the resurrection has been forcibly illustrated by the following incident, a typical narration:
In the city of Hannover, Germany, there is a grave known as "the open grave." It is the grave of an infidel German woman, a prominent per son who died over one hundred years ago. At her desire the grave was covered with a marble block, surmounting large stones bound together with clasps of iron, and capped with the inscription, "This grave, purchased for eternity, must never be opened." But how feeble are all such devices! The Jews had confidence that the grave of Christ was made secure by a Roman seal and a Roman guard; but yet an angel, clothed with resurrection power, rolled away the stone, and Jesus came forth. So with this grave in Hannover; it happened, providentially perhaps, that a birch seed fell into a crevice between the massive stones. Soon it sent forth a tender sprout, and a tiny root found its way down between the ponderous stones. Slowly and imperceptibly, but with irresistible power, the young birch tree grew, until at last its roots burst the bands of stone.
The truth, however, is this: The monument is a gigantic block of sandstone, rather clumsily erected on two steps. At the top of the block is a chiseled shroud on which the words can be read, "Henriette Juliane Caroline von R., born von Willich, born at Nienburg, January 19, 1756, and died April 15, 1782." (She was twenty-six years old.) Continuing to read the inscription, "She gave birth to three sons of heaven. She trod life's path here as she is tread ing it up there, and was privileged to hasten to her Fatherland."
On the reverse side of the tombstone the following words can be read: "Separation is the fate of mankind. To be left alone early is the greatest bitterness. Twilight will be the remain der of life, death the dawning of morning, eter nal light to meet again. Georg Ernest von R."
In one of the stony steps the following words are chiseled: "This burial lot was purchased for eternity [permanency]. It is not permitted ever to be opened." The caretaker of the cemetery explained these words "not permitted ever to be opened" as meaning that it cannot be ordered changed or re-used, because it was bought for permanency. It is customary in almost every city in Germany to re-use the graves after some decades; in some cities every fifty years. Only those with permanent care cannot be reopened and re-used.
The above inscription has nothing to do with the faith or belief of the deceased; otherwise it would contradict other statements. It is clear that this woman was not an atheist and that she and her husband had no intention of demonstrating that there was no resurrection or eternal life. But her husband did believe that her three sons were destined for heaven, and according to the belief of the Lutheran Church, that experience followed death immediately.
Now, what is true is that a seed from a birch tree had fallen into that grave, and that in time a small tree had grown. It was Quite large when it died in 1918. Since then, I have been informed, another tree has been planted on that same grave so as to keep it an object of interest.
We need not discard this still appropriate illustration. If a small tree is able to burst a tomb covered with large stones, and bound together with clasps of iron, then what can Christ do, who has all power in heaven and earth? The point is merely one of accuracy, for never should one refer to the woman who is buried there as an infidel who wanted to demonstrate that there is no resurrection, and that this birch tree was an answer to her unbelief.
The Elijah Message (Sermon Outline)
H. T. ANDERSON: Minister, Georgia-Cumberland Conference
Because the Elijah message to the world is due, Christians should become acquainted with its significance. The enemy of truth has sought to pervert this message with false interpretation. Many now believe that Elijah in person will appear before the. end of the world. It is possible to be deceived on this doctrine. (Matt. 24:23, 24.) What does the Bible teach?
I. ELIJAH Is TO BE SENT TO EARTH AGAIN. Mal. 4:5, 6.
1. To appear before the Second Advent.
2. It is time for him to appear.
II. WILL HE RETURN i.\ PERSON?
1. He was expected to return before Christ's First Advent. Matt. 17:10-12.
2. The prophecy was fulfilled in John. Matt. 17:13.
a. John denied he was Elijah in person. John 1:21.
b. Claimed he was a "voice" a message. John 1:23.
3. John's message made him the Elijah for his day. Matt. 11:14.
4. His message was to prepare a people for Christ's First Advent. Luke 1:16, 17.
III. How CAN WE RECOGNIZE THE ELIJAH OF OUR DAY?
1. We are to look for a message similar to Elijah's.
a. Elijah's message given in lime of apostasy. 2 Kings 17:16.
b. It was an appeal to return lo God's commandments. 2 Kings 17:13.
c. Pointed out national trouble. 1 Kings 18:17, 18.
d. A message of decision. 1 Kings 18:21.
2. Same conditions prevail in world today. Rev. 11:18, 19.
3. Cod's reform message for today. Rev. 14:6-12.
IV. ELIJAH MESSAGE Is DEVELOPING THE REMNANT CHURCH. Revelation 14; Joel 2:32.
1. A heaven-born message sent of God. Rev. 14:6.
2. The message concerns God as Creator. Verse 7.
3. It calls for individual decision. Verse 9.
4. It produces commandment keepers. Verse 14.
5. Like John's message, precedes coming of Christ. Verses 14, 15.
"If ye will receive it, this is Elias, which was for to come." Matt. 11:14.