Providence Sermon Illustrations

Providence Sermon Illustrations

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At thirty-two years of age William Cowper passed through a great crisis in his life. He tried to end his life by taking laudanum. Then he hired a coach and was driven to the Thames, intending to throw himself into the river; but some power seemed to restrain him. The next morning he fell upon a knife, but the blade broke and his life was saved. He then tried to hang himself, and was cut down unconscious but still alive. Then one morning, in a moment of strange cheerfulness, he took up his Bible and read a verse in the Letter to the Romans. In a moment he received strength to believe, and rejoiced in the forgiving power of God. Some years later, after he had passed through a rich Christian experience and had written many beautiful hymns, Cowper sat down one day and summed up his faith in God's dealings with him, and with other men, in the great hymn on divine providence:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his soverign will.

Over the desk of Dr. E. C. Norton, for many years professor of Greek at Pomona College, California, there hung a curious decoration. Framed under glass were he burned fragments of a cuff, carefully pasted together upon a piece of cardboard. During his senior year at college Norton was hitching a team to a tree when lightning struck the tree and killed both the horses, felling him to the ground and burning his arm and hand so that for a time they were paralyzed. Commenting on that narrow escape, he said, "I guess the Lord must have had something for me to do."

The framed fragments of the cuff on the wall of his office were a constant reminder that God had something for him to do.

Columbus, on his way back to Italy disheartened and discouraged, leading his boy by the hand, stopped one day at a convent not far from Granada and asked for a drink of water. The monk who gave him a drink and heard his story was the man who intervened on his behalf with Queen Isabella, and out of that request for a glass of water came the discovery of America.

John Calvin on his way to Italy, the regular road being closed because of the war between France and Italy, had to pass through Geneva; and there he met Farrel, who with fiery eloquence demanded that he stay at Geneva and lead the work of God there.

Abraham Lincoln, rummaging in a barrel of rubbish that someone had left in his store at Salem, came upon a copy of Blackstone's Commentaries; and of that chance discovery were awakened the ambitions and desires which were to play so great a part in American history.

George Whitefield, greatest of all preachers, employed as a drawer in the Bell Inn, was unable to get along with his brother's wife; and that led him to give up his employment and go to Bristol, and then, step by step, to Oxford, and
then to his apostolic career in the ministry. Whitefield used to say that the difference he had with his brother's wife was God's way of forcing him out of the public business and calling him from drawing wine for drunkards to draw water out of the wells of Salvation for the refreshment of his spiritual Israel."

Only a cradle of bulrushes, daubed with slime and pitch—yet never did loving maternal hands put more of a mother's soul and a mother's heart into the making of a cradle for its little occupant. By night she carried the babe and his cradle down to the river Nile. Never was a child more tenderly laid in his cradle than was Moses that night by the hand of his faithful mother. When the rising sun made it dangerous for her to linger longer, she gave her babe a last kiss, took a last look at him, and then went back to the city, leaving Miriam, the sister, to watch and see what might happen.

How much of the world's hope was vested in that frail cradle rocking there in the waters of the Nile, with the infant looking up at the lotus flowers which bent over it! Only that ark of bulrushes between the child and the river, only the lotus flowers along the banks to screen him from the murderous hand of Pharaoh! And yet the child was safe, because he represented the great purpose and plan of God.

The true attitude toward life, together with the hopelessness and inadequacy of any other view of life, is well set forth in Wordsworth's poem "The Excursion." The Wanderer and the Poet meet in a lonely glen an aged hermit. The Solitary tells them the cause of his melancholy and distaste for life. Full of life's joys and hopes, he had brought his young bride to a cottage in this glen. For a time it was always summer. Then came two children, upon whom rested all the parents' hopes and joys. Then came the sudden change in their souls' weather. First the daughter died, then the son—and then the mother, his beloved wife.

From the first paroxysm of his grief the Solitary was roused by the outbreak of the French Revolution; and in the great ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity he sought to forget his sorrow. But with the excesses of the Revolution he found that he had worshiped liberty and, as Brutus did with virtue, had found it but a shade. Next he sought relief and new engagement in the great republic of the West—America.

But there, too, he was disappointed, and found only "big passions strutting on a petty stage." Westward he took his way to the wild and virgin forests. But instead of the pure archetype of human greatness he found the savage, "squalid, vengeful, and impure." In disgust he came back to his English glen, without hope; and he is now patiently, yet listlessly, waiting for the stream of his life to find the unfathomable gulf of the grave.

To this indictment of life and hope the Wanderer thus responds:

One adequate support
For the calamities of mortal life
Exists—one only; an assured belief
That the procession of our fate, howe'er
Sad or disturbed, is ordered by a Being
Of infinite benevolence and power;
Whose everlasting purposes embrace
All accidents, converting them to good.—
The darts of anguish fix not where the seat
Of suffering hath been thoroughly fortified
By acquiescence in the Will supreme.

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