THERE is a great deal of difficulty in treating a subject like this, and turning, stones into “bread,” for a lecture, on account of the vast number of stones there are. Everywhere we meet with stones: stones in the streets, which are paved with them; stones in the fields, which are strewn with them; stones on the sea-shore; stones deep down in the earth; everywhere stones, stones, stones.
Sermons in stones? Why, there are volumes of sermons in stones. Nobody knows where to begin to quarry; and he who is dexterous may bring forth stones enough to build a temple as glorious as that of Solomon:, and yet only use a very small portion of the available material.
You have the whole history of the world in stones. Long before there were human eyes to read it, God had written it in a great stone book. Even now we can only, as it were, guess at the meaning, rather than read with absolute certainty the real history of the old world ere Adam fell in Paradise.
We turn to the great stone book of the history of the world, and we find that once this earth must have been under the influence of mighty fires. We find rock entirely devoid of all signs of life, where everything seems to have passed through a great furnace. Here we find granite that must have been in a liquid state, such was the intense heat. Some have supposed that the world was once all gas, which gradually cooled down and became condensed.
The stone book tells us that in the course of time there came a great change, when water dominated over fire. Then the great seas began their deposits, and new rocks were formed. At first we find only minute traces of life; then traces of life so uncertain that we can scarcely distinguish the animal from the vegetable. So the growth went on, until by-and, by we meet with reptiles, a state in which huge saurians paddled or waded in the oozy waters, and creatures now quite extinct and unknown lived on the earth. This world must have been a strange place then, and very different from what it is now; for everything was below the feet; there were no trees upon its surface.
Next comes the period of ferns and all kinds of plants, which was followed after a time by the period of quadrupeds, when animals like the mammoth and other immense creatures lived upon the earth.
The stone book has preserved traces of all these things, and a very wonderful book it is, and marvelously illustrated too; for in it you have the great teeth of elephants, and side by side with them the tiniest ferns and fishes; and what is even more remarkable, the very raindrops have. been recorded on its pages. He who carefully and thoughtfully studies the history of our world as it is written in the stone book, will be a wiser man and a better man for what he has read therein.
It is not my intention, however, to take you into the: depths of geology, but to take up another book by the same Author as the stone history of the material world, and ask you to run through with me the Biblical History of Stones.
Although the Book does not tell us how early in his life’s history Adam felt the need of angels to bear him up in their hands lest he should dash his foot against a stone; nevertheless, I doubt not, the necessity very soon arose.
Was Abel killed with a stone, or did his brother brain him with a club?
Doubtless both Cain and Abel worked with stone, and their father too; and “builded altars of stones:” it was these altars that first led these brothers to differ. Certain it is that the sons of Cain have been great handlers of stones ever since they “took up stones to stone Him” whose blood “speaketh better things than that of Abel.” f3 Stones are mentioned in connection with that very venturesome building speculation, the Tower of Babel. The builders planned their city and tower that they might not be scattered; but how easily did the Lord bring their scheme to nought! Their big building was such a mere trifle that it is written, “The Lord came down to see it.” It seemed emblematic of the frailty of their work, that they did not build with stones; but “they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar.” They who seek to reach heaven by their own works may well build roughly; for all their work will certainly totter to its fall.
Stones must: have been very familiar things to Abraham. You remember the account of the Lord appearing unto him at Sichem, and that “there builded he an altar unto the Lord.” And again, in the plain of Mamre he dwelt, “and built there an altar unto the Lord.” We may fairly conclude that these altars were of great stones.
There was one stone towards which, we may be sure, the patriarch turned with many a lingering look as he left the relics of his beloved Sarah in the cave of Machpelah. Gustave Dore’ represents Isaac and Ishmael urging him to leave the place where he had buried the wife of his bosom. O ye who have known what it is to be led from the couch of some beloved one, remember that those who are gone before are not lost: they are only housed in the treasury of God, and you shall soon see them again.
That was a memorable stone which Jacob found the first night after leaving his father’s house. Jacob knew something of that feeling of desolation and sadness which you and I experienced when first we went away from home, to take our places as servants or apprentices wherever our lot was cast. Jacob wanted to sleep, but there was no covering for him; yet he found a tent, and, as some old preacher has put it, “he had the heavens for his canopy, the clouds; for his curtains” (though I doubt whether there were any clouds), “and a stone for a pillow,” which stone he also set up for a pillar, and poured oil upon the top of it, and vowed a vow unto God, who had appeared unto him in that place, and made it Bethel, “the house of God.”
Oh, young men! the place of your early difficulties, where obstacles seemed to be all around you, shall, if you put those difficulties into God’s hands, become in very truth a Bethel to you.
Quarles, in his “Divine Fancies,” thus quaintly versifies the wonderful story: — “ON JACOB’ S PILLOW” “The bed, was earth; the raised pillow, stones, Whereon poor Jacob rests his head, his bones; Heav ’n was his canopy; the shades of night Were his drawn curtains, to exclude the light. Poor state for Isaac ’s heir! It seems to me, His cattle found as soft a bed, as he:
Yet God appeared there, his joy, his crown; God is not always seen in beds of down: Oh, if that God small please to make my bed, I care not where I rest my bones, my head:
With Thee, my wants can never prove extreme; With Jacob’s pillow, give me Jacob ’s dream. ” There was another stone very precious to Jacob, the stone which he set up over his beloved Rachel’s grave; the first record, if I mistake not, of a tombstone. How often would his thoughts turn to that place, and his heart go up in thankfulness to Heaven, that he had had her company through life for so many years.
That was a memorable, expression which good old Jacob used when he lay a-dying. In blessing: Joseph he said, “From thence is the shepherd, the stone of Israel,” as his prophetic eye looked forward to the coming of the Redeemer.
When Israel passed through the Red Sea, and the returning waters engulfed the Egyptians, we are told that “They sank into the bottom as a stone.”
And again’ “By the greatness of Thine arm they shall be as still as a stone; till Thy people pass over, O Lord, till the people pass over, which Thou hast purchased.” And so may it be with us when we come to die: let us hope that we shall find the enemy “as still as a stone,” as we sing the praises of our God who triumphs gloriously.
I shall have to show you some very remarkable stones in connection with the wanderings of the children of Israel. It is believed that: these stones mark the place where the people ate the quails. It is noteworthy that, as the Holy Land is more carefully explored and its history investigated, we continue to disinter records which prove the truth of Holy Scripture A man who, living in the present day, avows himself an infidel, must also be a fool; for how can he dare to deny the truth of the Holy Word with such testimony before him?
From the Red Sea and the triumphant song of Moses and the children of Israel, we pass on to Rephidim, where Joshua fought with Amalek in the valley, while Moses stood on the top of the hill with the rod of God in his hand. We read that “it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy, and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.” f14 We may say what we will, but it is true that God does bless all by one. But every man, however much God may have helped him in the past, will grow weary, unless he be upheld by the loving sympathies and earnest prayers of those around him. I thank God for my Aarons and Hurs. I have heard of a minister, some of the members of whose congregation complained to him that his sermons of late had not been so good as aforetime. “Well,” said the good man, ‘there’s but too much truth in the charge; but this is how it is, I ’ve lost my prayer book. ” “But,” said they, “we did not know you used a book for prayers.” “No,” said the minister, “but my prayer-book is in your hearts, and I’ve lost your prayers.” I am sure the quality of a sermon often depends upon the prayers of the congregation.
Passing on to the Book of Joshua, those were memorable stones which Joshua set up “in the midst of Jordan, in the place where the feet of the priests which bare the ark of the covenant stood,” until “all the people were clean passed over.” And even more notable were those, other twelve stones, which were taken by the twelve chosen representatives of the tribes out of the midst of Jordan, from the same spot where the priests’ feet stood firm, and carried to the place on the other side where they lodged that night. “Those twelve stones ….did Joshua pitch in Gilgal, to show where the Israelites entered the promised land.
I shall never forget the memorials I set up when passing through conviction of sin; and I know that all of you remember the twelve stones you set up on the “happy day” when you found the Savior.
Stones were used to slay Achan the traitor in the camp, who took of the spoils of Jericho, “a goodly Babylonish garment, two hundred shekels of silver and a wedge of gold,” and hid them in the earth, and caused the anger of the Lord to be kindled against all the children of Israel. God grant that we may none of us be Achans, and “commit a trespass in the accursed thing.” f16 In the tenth chapter of this same Book of Joshua, we have the: account of Joshua and the men of Israel going to the help of the Gibeonites against the five kings of the Amorites, and how “the Lord cast down great stones from heaven upon them,” as they fled from before Israel. Well, the five kings were “found hid in a cave at Makkedah.” And Joshua commanded the people to “roll great stones upon the mouth of the cave, and set men by it for to keep them” until his return.
Let us take example from this. Perhaps your failing is a bad, hasty temper.
You cannot, maybe, quite get rid of it. You try hard to overcome it, but you have not as yet been able to “hang it up before the Lord.” Well, roll a great stone upon the mouth of the cave. I have heard it said that when you are angry the best thing to do is to “repeat at least a hundred words before you speak.” Another very good way is to hold hot water in your mouth until it gets cold. These are but different ways of rolling great stones upon the mouth of the cave.
About a year or so before his death, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and reminded them of all the Lord’s goodness that He had made to pass before them; and he made a covenant with the people in the name of the Lord; “and took a great stone, and set it up there under an oak, that was by the sanctuary of the Lord. And Joshua said unto all the people, Behold this stone shall be a witness unto us; for it hath heard all the words of the Lord which He spake unto us: it shall be, therefore, a witness unto you, lest ye deny your God.” f18 Thus, even the beam out of the timber, and the stone out of the wall will be witnesses against us if we sin.
I pass on to notice how Abimelech, the wicked son of Gideon, met his death by a stone. Upon the death of his father, he persuaded the men of Shechem to make him king. He immediately put to death all his seventy brothers “upon one stone,” except Jotham, the youngest, who had hidden himself His subjects very soon revolted; and in the warfare that followed, he took the city of Thebez. “But there was a strong tower within the city, and thither fled all they of the city, and shut it to them, and gat them up to the top of the tower. And Abimelech came unto the tower, and fought against it. .And a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech’s head, and all to break his skull.” f19 The inspired record goes on to tell that “he called hastily” to his armorbearer to draw his sword and slay him, that it might not be said a woman slew him. Thus his wickedness returned upon his own head, and his violent dealing upon his own pate. f20 You remember Samuel setting up the stone of Ebenezer, “the stone of help,” recording: the goodness of God. You have, perhaps, heard of the old woman who said she had so many Ebenezers, that they formed a wall on both sides of her all her journey through life. Each of us should be able to say the same. “Hitherto hath the Lord helped us:” it is indeed a great wall of memorials of the loving kindness of God.
Then there is the stone with which David slew Goliath I have here a smooth stone, just such an one as was sent at the head of the giant. I do not say that this is the stone; though I might say so with as much truth as some people employ when they speak of a Church possessing “a feather from the wing of the angel Gabriel,” or say that such “a relic” is “a lock of the Virgin Mary’s hair”; for this stone in my hand was taken out of the same brook from which David took his famous stone.
I would have you note that David used a smooth stone. Why? Because it would fly further and better. We :should always use a smooth stone, though at the same time we must put our trust in God. When one of his followers said to Mahomet, “I am going to let loose my camel in the desert, and trust in God that: I shall find him again,” Mahomet replied, “You should first tie up your camel, and then trust in God.” Yes; so it is: we must trust in God, but we must be careful to “keep our powder dry.”
David was a wise man, I think, to use a sling. Humanly speaking, the giant would have settled him off before David could have got near enough to touch him. He certainly must have been accustomed to the use of a sling [holding up a sling], and herein he showed his wisdom in choosing those weapons in the use of which he was expert. In this let us take pattern from David, and always go to work in a common-sense way, trusting in Providence, who will surely take care of those who walk uprightly.
We must not omit mention of the memorable scene at Mount Carmel, where “Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord.” Nor must we forget the repulse of the Moabites by the Israelites, when “they beat down the cities, and on every good piece of land cast every man his stone, and filled it; and stopped all the wells of water.” f24 Of quite another sort were the stones of which Solomon’s Temple was built. They are called great stones,” and “costly stones,” and “hewn stones.” Those of which the walls were composed were of enormous size. Josephus mentions a length of 40 cubits, or about 60 feet. I believe it is still a problem how they could have been transported from the distant quarries to their place on the summit of Mount Moriah.
That stone “cut out of the mountain without hands,” which “became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth,” which troubled Nebuchadnezzar so much, is another Biblical stone; as is also the stone that had seven eyes, indicating that all eyes are fixed on Christ.
Then there is “the stone which the builders refused, ” but which became “the head stone of the corner.” f28 In connection with this there is a legend which, at any rate, ought: to be true, whether it is or not; for it exemplifies Scripture in a remarkable manner. It is said that when the Temple was being built, every stone was sent from the quarries to the builders accurately marked; so that all they had to do was to put each one into its place. But there was one stone of such a peculiar shape, that the builders could find no place for it. They tried to fit it in everywhere, but always failed. It was often hoisted to the wall, and as often lowered; for no suitable position could be found for it. At last it was cast aside among the rubbish, and it became a byword among the builders. When anything was useless or unsuitable, the workmen used to say that it was “just like that stone among the rubbish.” But it came to pass, when Solomon’s Temple was finished, and the last stone, “the head stone, ” was to be brought forth and hoisted to its place, with shoutings of “Grace, grace, unto it!” for gratias were to be given to the workmen, the: corner stone could nowhere be found; and the workmen had almost made up their minds that it had been forgotten, and not sent with the rest.
At last it was suggested that perhaps it was that odd stone which could not be made to fit in anywhere. So the stone was taken out from among the rubbish, and, lo! “the stone which the builders refused” and rejected, the same became “the head of the corner.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ certainly is to us and to His Church “the head stone of the corner.” “All hail the power of Jesus’ name!”
Some make of our Lord” a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense :” such “shall stumble, and fall, and be broken.” But woe unto the man on whom this stone shall fall, for “it will grind him to powder;” as sometimes a rock falls upon the unwary traveler, crushing him to death. Let the man who provokes Christ to anger remember these words: “On whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.” f30 Frequently in the Evangelists’ accounts of our Lord’s life:, and in other parts of the New Testament, we meet with mention of stones. The Devil said unto our Lord, in the wilderness,” Command that these stones be made bread.” There were stones in that part like cakes of bread; and I think that our Lord referred to just such stones when He said, “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?” f32 The stones might be like bread, but they would be no good to a hungry child.
You will remember that when on one occasion HIS disciples called His attention to the buildings of the Temple, He said unto them, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” f33 That saying of our Lord, — “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” is a very beautiful picture of the power of God, spoken by One who saw the pebbles in the bed of the river, and immediately turned them into an illustration.
Then there was; that memorable stone that lay so heavy on the heart of the women on that early morn ,as they were nearing the sepulcher, and said among themselves, “Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulcher?” But when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away. So with us: our difficulties loom large and insurmountable in the distance, but they vanish as we come nearer to them.
The day cometh when “every man’s work shall be made manifest., it shall be revealed by fire.” If it be wood, hay, or stubble, it shall be burned; for only gold, silver, and precious stones will stand the test.
The New Jerusalem hath foundations of all manner of precious stones, and is all glorious with the riches of God and the splendor of His presence; “and her light is like unto a stone most precious, even like a jasper stone, clear as crystal.” f37 A lecture might be made out of stones in connection with English history; but I have not the time to do this.
Stones lead us back to the days of old, when our countrymen worshipped all kinds of idols and false gods. Their earliest sacrifices seem to have been presented upon altars made of large unhewn stones. The cromlechs or dolmens which are to be seen in Devon, Cornwall, and other parts, are supposed to be such Druidical altars. We know that stones, and series of stones, were set up and. set apart by our forefathers for what was to our Pagan progenitors sacred service. f40 At Kingston-on-Thames you may see the stone on which seven of our Saxon kings were crowned. Then there is the stone in the New Forest near the spot where King Rufus was shot, and the stone taken from Scone in Scotland, whereon the kings were crowned. There are stone steps in Canterbury Cathedral worn in hollows by the knees of pilgrims going up and down for penance. Speaking of Canterbury, I always think they must have been very hard up for saints when they made a man like Thomas a Becket one. Innumerable stone relics of the monastery may be picked up here.
I should be delighted to make “ducks and drakes” of the finest carvings of the finest monastery in the world; for I think we shall never get rid of the crows till we pull down their nests. It was a proud day for us when, all over England, the crosses were pulled down: they set it down to Oliver Cromwell, as usual. I was once taken into a church where, it was said, Oliver Cromwell had knocked off the heads of all the statues. The best way to deal with these things:, when they are defiled by superstition, is to touch them with Cromwell’s hammer. When he saw the twelve Apostles in solid silver, every one said, “Surely, you will reverence these statues: you would not spoil these beautiful things!” Cromwell said, “Yes, I’ll melt them down, and send them about the country doing good.”
People talk about “the good old times.” Well, those “old times” may have been all very well; but how would they like to go back to those “good old times”? In those “good old days,” if people could not pay their rent, or committed some trivial offense, they were made “a foot shorter,” or sometimes even “a head shorter.” I don’t believe in “the good old times,” for Time was never so old as he is now; so let us rejoice in “the good old times” in which we are now living.
When we come to the dissolving views, I shall have to show you quite a series of stone memorials of English history.
GREAT DIAMONDS f44 In the forefront of all stones is the diamond an exceedingly precious stone.
There are only six very large diamonds known in the world: these are called the paragons. I have here some of the largest diamonds — in model, not in reality, I am happy to say; for I am afraid my house would not be very secure if I had the real diamonds in this case. I cannot make them visible to you all, but I will briefly describe each one as I show it.
TheREGENT orPITT diamond, is said to be one of the most beautiful gems ever found. It was brought from India by an English gentleman of the name of Pitt, and sold by him to the Duke of Orleans, Regent of France:. who placed it among the crown jewels of France. It is now  set in the hilt of the sword of state of the Emperor Napoleon.
TheKOH-I-NOOR is not nearly so large as the Regent, but it is of a much more beautiful shape.
TheORLOFF diamond comes next, and a very beautiful one it is.
I have said that there are only six paragons, six of the finest diamonds, and I fear that the Church of God has not many paragons in it. There: are many stones in the Church, and they are all “precious.” “They shall be: mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” It will be a great mercy if you and I can be paragons in the Church. There were seventy disciples elected by Christ; twelve were chosen out of the seventy to follow Him; three out of the twelve were taken apart to be shown the glory of God; but there was only one who was called “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” Let us, therefore, strive to be useful followers of Christ, and let us pray that He may have many paragon jewels who shall shine brightly in His crown for ever.
My next illustration I draw from the hardness of the diamond. The only way to cut a diamond is by a diamond: diamond dust must be used if the gem is to be cut. In like manner, the best way to understand Scripture is by Scripture itself. One of the best commentaries; in the world is that which is “wholly biblical.” Students of the Word, I pray you, study the Bible by the Bible; cut the diamond with the diamond; use the light of God in God’s light: “In Thy light shall we see light.” f50 Diamonds are not all of one shape; in a natural state the crystals are of various forms, and are further altered in the process of cutting: their colors, too, vary greatly. Each stone has its own peculiar character and consequent value: some are more precious, others less so. So is it with the people of God: they are not all alike; but each has his or her particular character, as diamonds have their color, from, and value.
It is commonly believed that in Heaven we shall all see ;alike, because it is written, “They shall see eye to eye;” but this does not mean “all alike.” It means that, as in a great walled city, with so many watchmen on guard, that they would be able to see one another, and on the approach of a foe spread the alarm all around; so in Heaven we shall “see eye to eye.” It is not possible that we should be all alike in Heaven; for we can never become infinite, and without that there must be. diversity.
One believer rejoices in one view of the Word of God, and another in another. Perhaps you, my dear friend, are a ruby, while another is an emerald; this Christian is an opal, and that one a jasper. This diversity will tend to make Heaven more glorious, and the breastplate of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, more resplendent. Diamond dust is very precious: you might very soon make a fortune if you were allowed only the sweepings from the lapidary’s wheel in large workshops. TheKOH-I-NOR, was originally much larger than it now is, but was reduced in cutting.
The odds and ends of time are precious: little spaces of time, like the intervals between dinner and class, or when waiting at a railway station, are, like the dust of the diamond, all precious. How many chances have been wasted of doing good service for ,our Lord and Master because we have not seized the passing moments, “gathering up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”
Diamond dust is like truth: no matter how small the truth is, it is worth dying for. Everything that is true is essential. True, every truth is not essential to salvation; but all truth is essential to something. Sweep up the diamond dust, then; treasure it, for it is very precious.
Now what is a diamond? Suppose it is one worth two hundred thousand pounds — and some of those I have mentioned are said to be worth more than that — yet it is nothing but a little solidified gas. This diamond may fitly represent the whole world, with all its pomp’s, and vanities, and pleasures, and glories. Puff! it’s gone into thin air; death turns; it all to gas.
Set your affections on those things which time cannot destroy, which eternity cannot impair.
There is a very beautiful story connected with the “SANCY” or “DE SANCY” diamond, which is said to be worth about eighty thousand pounds. It is a comparatively small stone; and if I were stupid enough to wear such ornaments, I could wear it on my finger, if set in a ring.
This stone was sent on one occasion by the Baron de Sancy, to whom it belonged, to his king, who was in ‘want of cash, and had proposed getting a loan of f 40,000. The diamond was to be the security; in fact, to put it plainly, it was “to be left at the pawnbroker’s.”
The Baron gave the stone to a trusty servant to take to the king. The servant disappeared, and people suspected that he had gone off with the diamond; but his master declared that he knew his servant too well to believe such a thing possible.
After some time the servant’s body was found, a little way from the road: he had been murdered and robbed. The Baron commanded that his clothes should be carefully searched for the missing diamond; but it could not be. found. He then ordered that he should be cut open, and the diamond was found in his body. He had swallowed the gem, which he had been unable in any other way to conceal from the robbers.
We should carry the truth of God within ourselves, in our hearts; so that if we were dissected, there would be found the truth of God in our innermost being. You remember that the Psalmist said, “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” f53 As I have already said, the “REGENT” diamond was; in the hilt of the sword of that unregretted gentleman, Napoleon I I am sure a greater blessing than his departure from this life could scarcely be conceived. He forgot to take his sword with him when he was defeated at Waterloo, and the sword was taken by the Prussians, and now belongs to the Prussians, who are, no doubt, at this very time  looking after a descendant of that gentleman who first handled it. Give me the treasure that my foeman can never take from me.
Our Queen’s, crown is a beautiful emblem of the stability and pureness of her reign. From almost all the crowns of the potentates of Europe stones have from time to time been taken out, and counterfeits inserted in their place, the original stones being turned into cash. But in Her Majesty’s crown there is not one false gem. It is so with the King of kings: not one false professor will be found among the elect on the last great day of account, but only those who are really precious in His sight.
Of all the projects of modern engineers, the most wonderful, in my judgment, is that of the tunnel through the heart of Mont Cenis. To bore through an Alp for a distance of more than seven and a half English miles is a labor far exceeding the fabled exploits of Hercules. Hannibal and Napoleon rendered themselves famous by crossing the Alps; but what shall be said of the genius which forced a passage through them? One great achievement was the invention of the perforating machinery; for it requires to be powerful enough to make its way through rocks harder than granite: iron and steel are ineffectual in this case. A thousand years might have been spent in vain attempts to bore and blast this rock with the ordinary means; but the difficulty has been overcome; the tooth which can eat into the mountain has been discovered. For the ordinary boring machinery, engines are employed in which the steel teeth are replaced by diamonds. Black diamonds set in a ring bite into the rocks and open the way for the blasting powder. Hardness does the work. The diamonds, of course, are small, but they are hard, and therefore they will not yield; the mountain is compelled to give way before them. Resolution wins the battle.
This is like a well-instructed, persevering Christian man, who finds difficulties lie thick in his path. He has learned that however hard a thing may be, a hard resolution will cut through it. He therefore keeps on, and on, and on, till at last he overcomes the difficulty. I believe it was the President of the United States, when he was at the head of the army, who, in reply to the inquiry, “How are you getting on in the war?” said, “Well, we are keeping on, pegging away.” And so the Christian should keep on “pegging away.” The “peggers-away” are the men who do the work, after all; a little bit to-day, and to-morrow, and so on, and on, and on; “never say die, “but keep at it, and you will bore through a difficulty as hard as Mont Cenis.
I should have said, there are two sets of these diamond drills at work, one on each side of the mountain, working towards each other. It puzzles one somewhat to make out how they are going to meet after all. If they do so, it will be a mark of great skill on the part of the engineers.
It is a grand thing when two Christians are engaged in the same good work, one at one end, and the other at the other; for they will surely meet soon, and celebrate their victory over every obstacle.
To the earnest Christian nothing is impossible, God being his helper. If his work be difficult, he only becomes the more resolute. With a diviner ardor, and a more concentrated mind, enterprises are accomplished which before baffled every effort. The more severe the self-denial, the more intense must be our love to Christ; the more obdurate the hearts of men, the greater our zeal for their salvation. “There is nothing so hard,” said Bernard, “but it may be cut by a harder.” May our faith and love be the diamonds with which rocks shall be pierced, and a highway made through the mountains and hills for the Lord our God.
You have seen a brook with steppingstones across. There is one stone here, and another there, and a third farther on near the other side. If you are not careful how you step from one to the other, it is very likely you may get wet-footed and even splashed with mud in crossing.
There was once a row of stepping-stones in a brook, and one dull day in November one of them was heard to murmur, — “We :are very unfortunate to be in this spot, all in the water, wet and miserable.” “Ah, well,” said his neighbor, “there’s one consolation; we always manage to keep our heads above water, and that’s a great deal more than many can do this bad weather.” “But,” said the first speaker, “I should like to be great in the world.” “Why so?” replied the other. “For my part, I’m glad to think that we’ve made many folks happy when they have crossed the brook by our help: they’re always glad that they have got over without getting their feet wet.” So the steppingstone complained no more, and the water went merrily rippling on, sending up for them a song of gratitude to God.
Stones, again, are used as boundary marks of countries, towns, and parishes. Have you ever been present at the “beating of the bounds,” and were you one of the small boys whose services were in request on that occasion? If so, you will remember it to this present moment. It used to be the custom to bump the small boys of the local charity-school against each and every boundary-stone and post in the parish. Then if any doubt or ,question should arise in after-years as to the boundaries of the parish, any one of the bumped bound-beaters would be able to bear witness and say, “I speak from experience, and am certain that so-and-so is the boundary.”
It is a good old custom to teach children the Catechism: bump them against it again and again. Never mind whether it is interesting or not; bump them so that they may never forget it.
Farmer Jones has a field on his farm which joins Farmer Smith’s “twenty acres” on one side. If the one grows peas on his side, and the other grows wheat, they will know the bounds by the cultivation of the ground. It seems to me that the boundaries of theology will be better marked by practical working than by anything else. Stone-breaking often furnishes us with illustrations. A minister once stopped by the roadside where a man was breaking stones. “Ah, my friend,” said the minister “you get through your work more quickly than I do with mine; for, you must know, I’m in the: same line of business that you are.” The man looked up and said, “I see what you mean, sir. You are trying and trying to break stony hearts, and I am breaking these stones one after another. I think the reason you don’t succeed is because you don’t go to work as I do.” “How’s that?” asked the minister. “‘Why,” said the man, “you see, sir, I go down on my knees to Break these stones.” Yes, the poor stone-breaker was right: the only way to break hard hearts is to go down on our knees, and intercede with God for them.
Some stone-breakers are of a very different kind. I mean those gentlemen who go out with a little hammer and a bag, searching for geological specimens. They climb about among the rocks, and chip away at them, knocking off little bits here and there, quite enjoying the work; and, at the same time, the man from the workhouse sits breaking his heap of stones, and doesn’t think it at all an enjoyable occupation. There is all the difference in the world between doing what you are obliged to do, and doing what you choose to do. Some persons engage in Christian work because if they did not do so, “Mrs. Grundy” would talk; others do it because it is to them delightsome work to serve the Lord.
What different opinions people have about things! I have heard a story of a geologist traveling in Scotland, hunting for specimens. He was quite an enthusiast; and as he explored and examined the various strata, he would knock off a piece here and a piece there, and then examine it, and put it into his bag, saying, “I believe that’s just such a specimen as is described in ‘Lyell’s Principles of Geology’.” Well, he had filled his bag after a good deal of pleasant toil; and as it was rather heavy, he got a Highlander to carry it on for him to the station. Sandy was lazy and the bag was heavy; so he opened the bag and looked inside. Seeing they were only a few bits of stones and lumps of rock, he shot them all out by the roadside, and walked on with the empty bag. He knew there was a newly-macadamized piece of road near the station, and when he got there he just filled up the bag with road-stones. The geologist’s state of mind, When he looked into the bag, “may be better imagined than described.”
To turn to serious matters: how easy some people think it is to imitate a Christian character, and indeed it may appear so; but in the end nothing will be hid: the mask will be torn off.
Now I take up the sling and the stone again, for a very different illustration. It is said that slings were first used in the Balearic Isles. The little boys in the Majorcas — I suppose they were Minorcas then — used to have their breakfasts put up on a beam, and they had a sling and a stone given them; and if they could not knock over their food, they had to go without. You do not need to be told that this capital practice soon made them very expert in the use of the sling.
The best: way to make your boys men is not to cuddle and coddle them, but to make them work. That is a grand old rule in the Bible, — “that if any man would not work, neither should he eat.” f58 I have a little implement here which the juniors ought to regard with veneration. This is a tinder-box, a rather complicated apparatus, used by our ancestors to produce a light. You have to scorch or burn some rag, which is then tinder; this is to be the nidus of the spark to be developed into flame. Now strike the steel with the flint, till you get a spark, and then gently blow upon it till you get a good lot of sparks. Then apply your brimstone match, and there you have your light.
Many a young- man looks as dull as that flint when he comes to the College; but by rubbing against the steel of tutors, he emits beautiful sparks. When you get a spark of grace, encourage it; blow on it gently, following the example of Him “Who ’ll never quench the smoking flax, f59 But raise it to a flame. ” A few years ago, having to pass near Knaresborough, I went to see the celebrated “Dropping Well.” [Here the lecturer held up what was to all appearance a solid piece of limestone.] This stone in the shape of a bird’s nest illustrates what is going on every day at Knaresborough and other places. I asked the persons in attendance to put a bird’s nest under the drip of the water at one of these places, and there it is, turned into solid stone.
Drip, drip, drip; the water of the petrifying well fell upon it, and turned it to stone.
I was shown a great number and variety of petrified articles. Not only birds’ nests, but birds, and shoes, and hats, and even stockings, have been turned to stone under the continual dropping of the water.
Even so have I known men get under the drip of the “dropping well” of the world, and they have become quite changed characters: they do no good; they are turned to stone. The only way of preventing the action of this terrible “dropping well,” is to live near to God, and have much communion with Him.
Here is a piece of asbestos. This substance, as you know, may be put in the fire, but can never be consumed. The Romans used to make tablecloths of this singular mineral; and then all they had to do, after using them, was to throw them into the fire, and they came out beautifully white and clean. So, the Christian shall not be consumed, but only purified, by the fires of affliction.
We have all seen milestones set up by the roadside in the country to mark the distances.
Once upon a time, a coach which very often passed a certain milestone stopped and said, “Aren’t you tired of standing there so long?” The milestone retorted, “Aren’t you tired of running about so much?” “But,” said the coach, “you see nothing of life, while I run about and see all that’s going on.” “Well,” said the other, “you couldn’t move unless you were drawn. All your movements are owing to a power stronger than your own.
Besides, I have heard that coaches get: robbed sometimes, or overturned. I am quite content to be a milestone, usefully employed in pointing out to travelers their whereabouts;, and how far they are from their journey’s end.”
Here is a piece of mosaic, made up of very many minute pieces of differently-colored stones. There are divers sorts of Christians, and very various are their gifts, graces, and spheres of service: if they were only ranged as they should be, what glorious mosaics they would make!
Here is a whetstone, used, as you know, to sharpen scythes. In the olden times they used to present a whetstone to a man who was reputed a great liar. “Why?” say you. It was supposed that he must have used his wits so much in the last lie he told, that they would require sharpening up a little.
May we always keep to the truth, and never want a whetstone for our wits.
I never heard but one lie that I liked. “Now, Pat,” said a man of very doubtful character, to an Irishman, “if you can tell me the very biggest lie you ever told in your life, I’ll give you sixpence.” “Sir,” replied Pat, “you’re a gentleman and a Christian!”
I think that this whetstone is very like Mr. Rogers. The scythes that come into the College often get blunt, because they have a deal of mowing to do; and I like to hear Mr. Rogers sharpening them up. Tink-a-tink, tinka- tink: you know the sound of the scythe against the stone.
We are most of us familiar with this friend of our youth [holding up an ordinary school slate ]. It reminds me that in childhood I used it for various purposes; sometimes for drawing upon. Alas! the people of that time were very obtuse; my talent was not appreciated: so it was necessary for me after drawing an object to write its name underneath, thus, “This is a horse,” “This is a house,” and so on; a fact not without suggestiveness.
I have met some good people who, refusing to be called Baptists, or Methodists, or Episcopalians, label themselves “Christians.” This would seem to cast a reflection upon other denominations to whom the name “: Christian” is common. Moreover, it does not inspire confidence in those so styling themselves. If I were to see a man approaching me labeled conspicuously, “This is an honest man,” I should at once button up my pockets.
A very foolish man had at his doorstep an awkward stone that people were always falling over. So, being grieved at this, he set a lantern on the stone to draw attention to the obstacle. Do you see any connection between that stone and the Church Catechism? The Catechism tells us that people are “born again” in baptism, and a great many other things that are not true; but the Evangelical clergy put a lantern upon the stone, and say, “Yes; it does say that white’s black; but it does not mean quite that; there’s a different construction to be put on the words.” That is how they talk. If the man had used a little common-sense, and dug the stone up, and cast the stumbling-block out of the way, he could have used the, lantern to far better purpose. And so these, Evangelical clergymen could better employ their time in rooting out the evil than in apologizing for it.
An illustration might be drawn from the use of plaster all over London. I am always glad to see the stucco come off; for then it shows that, after all, the house was only built of brick, though it was a good imitation of :stone.
This age is an age of stucco; everywhere men are trying to make things look like what they are not. Stones are often a blessing to the land. I have heard that in one of our English counties some of the farmers cleared all the stones from their land, and they had worse crops that year in consequence.
A very small stone is not a small thing when it is in your boot; and so a very small evil may injure our traveling to heaven.
There are stones on the Alps which contain gold; but: in such minute quantities that it would not be worth the labor needed to turn it to account.
You have, perhaps, heard the story of the block of stone that had a friend called the chisel. The stone complained, “You use me very badly, my friend.” “No,” said the chisel, “I only do as I am bid.” “Ah!” sighed the stone, “I do wish you would leave me alone.” The chisel began, by the aid of the hammer, to cut away at the stone, which again complained. “Why,” said the chisel, “don’t you know what’s to become of you?” “I wish,” said the stone, “I was like that beautiful statue over there in the corner; it is beautifully carved, and rests there quite quiet and peaceful, while I am being constantly ill-used.” “True,” replied the chisel;” but you should know that it has passed through the same process that you are now undergoing.
You cannot be at rest like that statue until you are properly prepared; and the very kindest thing I can do for you is to be unkind, and cut and carve you about as much as possible.” When the chisel had done it, work, and the block of stone had thus become transformed into a beautiful statue, it was very grateful to its friend the chisel for all it had done. I do not think this fable needs any comment.
Once upon a time there lay side by side, in a jeweler’s window, a diamond and a ruby. The ruby said to the diamond, “How lovely you are! You seem to flash light like the sun.” “Ah,” said the diamond, “but it is the art that is spent upon me that causes all these beauties.” “Well,” said the ruby, “I cannot see any beauty in myself; I cannot reflect light as you do.” “Brother,” replied the diamond, “I have been looking at you with admiration and envy, and wishing that I had your beautiful color, and lamenting how pale I seemed beside you.” In the jeweler’s mind there had been some doubts whether these were valuable stones; but there was no doubt about the matter after hearing that conversation.
The last use to which a stone can be put is as a tombstone. If any one puts a gravestone over us, the less said about us the better: our name, our birth, our death, and a godly text; but no fulsome flattery. Some gravestones have very much flattery on them, and the sooner the epitaphs are illegible the better. “Where do they bury all the bad people, father?” asked the boy in the churchyard; “they are all good people here.”
In the churchyard of Horsleydown, Cumberland, there is a monument to a man and his wife, “which is an instance,” says Mrs. Stone, in her “God’s Acre,” of the extent to which irreverence may be carried. It is a shocking production, certainly; but though shocking ! For a man’s wife, it might be put over some of us in spirit if not in letter. I’ll read it to you. HERE LIE THE BODIES OF THOMAS BOND & MARYHIS WIFE.
She was temperate, chaste, and charitable, BUT She was proud, peevish, and passionate.
She was an affectionate wife and a tender mother, BUT Her husband and child whom she loved Seldom saw her countenance without a disgusting frown, Whilst she received visitors whom she despised with an endearing smile.
Her behavior was discreet towards strangers, BUT Imprudent in her family.
Abroad her conduct was influenced by good breeding; BUT At home by ill-temper.
She was a professed enemy to flattery, And was seldom known to praise or commend; BUT The talents in which she principally excelled Were difference of opinion, and discovering flaws and imperfections.
She was an admirable economist, And without prodigality Dispensed plenty to every person in her family; BUT Would sacrifice their eyes to a farthing candle.
She sometimes made her husband happy with her good qualities; BUT Much more frequently miserable with her many failing’s; Insomuch that in thirty years’ cohabitation he often lamented That, maugre all her virtues, He had not on the whole enjoyed two years of Matrimonial Comfort. AT LENGTH, Finding that she had lost the affection of her husband, As well as the regard of her neighbors, Family disputes having been. divulged by servants, She died of vexation, July 26, 1768, Aged 48 years.
Her worn-out husband survived her four months and two days, And departed this life Nov. 28, 1768, In the 54th year of his age.
William Bond, brother to the deceased, erected this stone, As a weekly monitor to the surviving wives of the parish, That they may avoid the infamy Of having their memories handed to posterity With a patchwork character.
I think that Mr. William Bond ought to be ashamed of himself. At the same time, I think a good many of us might have “buts” in our memorials. It should be our effort to get rid of the “buts.” Nevertheless, I wish all blessing to “Newington Butts. ”