One of Dr. Talmage’s Greatest Sermons. It reads like it was prepared for Time Magazine, or Reader’s Digest. Don’t pass this one up.
By T. DeWitt Talmage
Far back in the ‘history of heaven, there came a period when its most illustrious citizen was about to absent Himself. He was not going to sail from beach to beach; we have often done that. He was not going to put out from one hemisphere to another hemisphere; many of us have done that. He was to sail from world to world, the spaces unexplored and the immensities untraveled. No world has ever hailed heaven, and heaven has never hailed any other world. I think that the windows and the balconies were thronged, and that the pearly beach was crowded with those who had come to see Him sail out of the harbor of light into the ocean beyond.
Out and out and out, and on and on and on, and down and down and down He sped, until one night, with only one to greet Him when He arrived, His disembarkation so unpretending, so quiet, that it was not known on earth until the excitement in the crowd gave intimation to the Bethlehem rustics that something grand and glorious had happened.
Who comes there? From what port did He sail? Why was this the place Of His destination? I question the shepherds. I question the angels. I have found out. He is an exile.
The world has had plenty of exiles. Abraham, an exile from Baran; John, an exile from Ephesus; Koszcliusko, an exile from Poland; Mazzini, an exile from Rome; Emmet, an exile from Ireland; Victor Hugo, an exile from France; Kossuth, an exile from Hungaria. But this one of whom I write had such resounding farewell and came into such chilling reception–not even a hostler went out with his lantern to light Him in–that He is more to be celebrated than any other expatriated exile of earth or heaven.
First, I remark that Christ was an imperial exile. He got down off a throne. He took off a tiara. He closed a palace gate behind Him. His family were princes and princesses. Vashti was turned out of the throne, room by Ahasuerus. David was dethroned by Absalom’s infamy., The five kings were hurled into a cavern by Joshua’s courage. Some of the Henrys of England and some of the Louis of France were jostled on their thrones by discontented subjects. But Christ was never more honored, or more popular, or more loved than the day He left heaven.
Exiles have suffered severely, but Christ turned Himself out from throne room into sheep pen and down from the top to the bottom. He was not pushed off. He was not manacled for foreign transportation. He was not put out because they no more wanted Him in celestial domain, but by choice, departing and descending into an exile five times as long as that of Napoleon at St. Helena, and a thousand times worse; the one exile suffering for that he had destroyed nations, the other exile suffering because
HE CAME TO SAVE THE WORLD.
An imperial exile King eternal! “Blessing and, honor and glory and power be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne.”
But I go further and tell you He was an exile on a barren island.
This world is one of the smallest islands of light in the ocean of immensity. Other stellar kingdoms are many thousand times larger than this. Christ came to this small Patmos of a world. When exiles are sent out they are generally sent to regions that are sandy, or cold, or hot-some Dry Tortugas of disagreeableness. Christ came as an exile, a Royal Exile
to a world scorched with heat, and bitter with cold, to deserts, simoom—swept, to a howling wilderness. It was the back-door yard, seemingly, of the universe.
Yea, Christ came to the poorest part of this barren island of a world-Asia Minor, with its intense summers, unfit for the residence of a foreigner, and in the rainy season unfit for the residence of a native. Christ came not to such a land as America, or England, or France, or Germany, but to a land one-third of the year drowned, another third of the year burned up, and only one third of the year just tolerable. Oh! it was a barren island of a world. Barren enough for Christ, for it gave such small worship and such inadequate affection, and such little gratitude. Imperial exile on the barren island of a world.
I go further, and tell you that He was an exile in a hostile country. France was never so much against Germany as this earth was against Christ. It took Him in through the door of a stable. It thrust Him out at the point of a spear. The Roman government against Him with every weapon of its arms, and every decision of its courts, and every beak of its war eagles. For years after His arrival the only question was how best to put Him out. Herod hated Him, the High Priests hated Him, the Pharisees hated Him, Judas Iscariot hated Him, the dying thief hated Him. The whole earth seemingly turned into a detective to watch His steps. And yet He faced this ferocity.
Notice that most of Christ’s wounds were in front. Some scourging on the shoulders, but most of Christ’s wounds in front. He was not on retreat when He expired. Face to face with the world’s ferocity. Face to face with the world’s sin. Face to face with the world’s woe. His eye on the raging countenances of His foaming antagonists when He expired. When the cavalry officer roweled his steed so that he might come nearer up and see the tortured visage of the suffering exile, Christ saw it. When the spear was thrust at His side, and when the hammer was lifted for His feet, and when the reed was raised to strike deeper down the spikes of thorn, Christ watched the whole procedure.
When His hands were fastened to the cross, they were wide open still with benediction. Mind you, His head was not fastened; He could look to the right, and He could look to the left, and He could look up, and He could look down. He saw when the spikes had been driven home, and the round, hard iron heads were in the palms of His hands. He saw them as plainly as you ever saw anything in the palms of your hands. No ether, no chloroform, no merciful anesthetic to dull or stupefy,- but, wide awake, He saw the obscuration of the heavens, the unbalancing of the rocks, the countenances quivering with rage, and the cachinnation diabolic.
Oh! it was a hostile as well as a barren island of a world. I go further, and tell you that this exile was far from home. It is ninety five million miles from here to the sun, and all astronomers agree in saying that our solar system is only one of the smaller wheels of the great machinery of the universe turning around some one great center, the center so far distant that it is beyond all imagination and calculation; and if, as some think, that great center in the distance is heaven, Christ came far from home when He came here.
Have you ever thought of the homesickness of Christ? You know what homesickness is when you have been only a few weeks absent from the domestic circle. Christ was thirty three years away from home. You feel homesickness when you are a hundred or a thousand miles away from the domestic circle. Christ was more millions of miles away from home than you can count if all your life you did nothing but count. You know what it is to be homesick even amid pleasant surroundings, but Christ slept in huts, and He was athirst, and He was a hungered, and He was on the way from being born in another man’s barn to being buried in another man’s grave.
I have read how the Swiss, when they are far away from their native country, at the sound of their national air get so homesick that they fall into melancholy, and sometimes they die under the homesickness. But oh! the homesickness of Christ. Poverty homesick for celestial riches. Persecution, homesick for hosanna. Weariness homesick for rest. Homesick for angelic and archangelic companionship. Homesick to get out of the night and the storm and the world’s execration. Homesickness will make a week seem as long as a month, and it seems to me that the three decades of Christ’s residence on earth must have seemed to Him almost interminable. You have often tried to measure the other pangs of Christ, but you have never tried to measure the magnitude and ponderosity of a Savior’s homesickness.
I take a step further and tell you that Christ was in an exile which He knew would end in assassination.
Holman Hunt, the master painter, has a picture in which he represents Jesus Christ in the Nazarene carpenter shop. Around Him are the saws, the hammers, the axes, the drills of carpentry. The picture represents Christ, as rising from the carpenter’s working bench and wearily stretching out his arms as one will after being in a contracted or uncomfortable posture, arid, the light of that picture is so arranged that the arms of Christ, wearily stretched forth, together with His body, throw on the wall
THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS.
Oh! reader, that shadow was on everything in Christ’s lifetime. Shadow of a cross on the Bethlehem swaddling clothes. Shadow of a cross on the river over which the three fugitives fled into Egypt. Shadow of a cross on Lake Galilee as Christ walked its mosaic floor of opal and emerald and crystal. Shadow of a cross on the road to Emmaus. Shadow of a cross on the brook Kedron, and on the temple, and on the side of Olivet. Shadow of a cross on sunrise and sunset. Constantine, marching with his army, saw just once a cross in the sky, but Christ saw the cross all the time.
On a rough journey we cheer ourselves with the fact that it will end in warm hospitality; but Christ knew that His rough path would end at a defoliaged tree with out one leaf and with only two branches, bearing fruit of such bitterness as no human lips had ever tasted. Oh! what an exile-starting in an infancy without any cradle, and ending in assassination. Thirst without any water. Day without any sunlight. The doom of a desperado for more than angelic excellence. For what that expatriation and the exile? Worldly good sometimes comes from worldly evil.
The accidental glance of a sharp blade from a razor-grinder’s wheel put out the eye of Gambetta and excited sympathies which gained him an education and started him on a career that made his name more majestic among Frenchmen than any other name in the last twenty years. Hawthorne, turned out of the office of collector, at Salem, went home in despair. His wife touched him on the shoulder and said, ” Now is the time to write your book,” and his famous “Scarlet Letter” was the brilliant consequences. Worldly good sometimes comes from worldly evil. Then be not unbelieving when I tell you that from
THE GREATEST CRIME OF ALL ETERNITY AND OF THE
the murder of the Son of God, there shall come results – which shall eclipse all the grandeurs of eternity past and eternity to come. Christ, an exile from heaven, opening the way for the deportation toward heaven and to heaven of all those who will accept the proffer. Atonement, a ship large enough to take all the passengers that will come aboard it. Jesus Christ the Righteous is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.
For this royal exile I bespeak the love and service of all the exiles reading this, and, in one sense or the other, that includes all of us. The gates of this continent have been so widely opened that there are here many voluntary exiles from other lands.
Some of my readers are Scotchmen. Bonnie Scotland! Dear old kirk! Some of your ancestors sleeping in Greyfriars churchyard, or by the deep lochs filled out of the pitchers of heaven, or under the heather sometimes so deep of color it makes one think of the blood of the Covenanters who signed their names for Christ, dipping their pens into the veins of their own arms opened for that purpose. How every fiber of your nature thrills as I mention the names of Robert Bruce, and the Campbells, and Cochrane. I bespeak for this royal exile the love and the service of all Scotch exiles.
Some of my readers are Englishmen. Your ancestry served the Lord. Have I not read of the sufferings of the Haymarket? And have I not seen Oxford, the very spot where Ridley and Latimer mounted the red chariot? Some of your ancestors heard George Whitefield thunder, or heard Charles Wesley sing, or heard John Bunyan tell his dream of the celestial city; and the cathedrals under the shadow of which some of you were born had in their grandest organ roll the name of the Messiah. I bespeak for the royal exile of my sermon the love and the service of all English exiles.
Yes, some came from the island of distress, over which Hunger, on a throne of human skeletons, sat queen. An island not bounded as geographers tell us, but-as every philanthropist knows-bounded on the north and on the south and the east and the west by woe, which no human politics can alleviate, and only Almighty God can assuage. Land of Goldsmith’s rhythm, and Sheridan’s wit, and O’Connell’s eloquence, and Edmund Burke’s statesmanship. Yet you cannot think of it today without having your eyes blinded with emotion, for there your ancestors sleep in graves, some of which they entered for lack of bread. For this royal exile of my sermon I bespeak the love and the service of all Irish exiles.
Yes, some who are reading this are from Germany, the land of Luther; and some are from Italy, the land of Garibaldi; and some are from France, the land of John Calvin, one of the three mightiest of the glorious Reformation. Some are descendants of the Puritans, and they were exiles; and some are descendants of the Huguenots, and they were exiles; and some are descendants of the Holland refugees, and they were exiles. Some were born on the banks of the Yazoo or the Savannah, and you are now living in another latitude. Some on the banks of the Kennebec, or at the foot of the Green Mountains. Some on the prairies of the West, or the tablelands.
Oh! how many of us far away from home. All of us are exiles. This is not our home.
HEAVEN IS OUR HOME.
Oh! I am so glad when the royal exile went back, He left the gate ajar, or left it wide open. “Going home!” That is the dying exclamation of the majority of Christians. I have seen many Christians die. I think nine out of ten of them in the last moment say, ” Going home.” Going home out of banishment and sin and sorrow and sadness. Going home to join in the hilarities of our parents and our dear children who have already departed. Going home to Christ. Going home to God. Going home to stay. Where are your loved ones that died in Christ? You pity them. Ah, they ought to pity you! You are an exile far from home. They are home! Oh! what a time it will be to you who have accepted Christ as your Savior, when the gatekeeper of heaven shall say:
“Take off that rough sandal; the journey’s ended. Put down that saber; the battle’s won. Put off that iron coat of mail, and put on the robe of the conqueror.”
At that gate of triumph I leave you, God having given you the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.