Choke Damp

Choke Damp


The care of this world . . . chokes the word (Matthew 13:22).

Purpose of the Illustration

  1. To point out that the insidious influences of the world choke the seed of Gods' Word which He implants in Christians' hearts, unless Christians protect them­selves carefully by prayer and a life of trust.

  2. To show that a sin, seemingly powerless and in­significant, has a deadening effect upon the spiritual life.


  1. A china pitcher.

  2. A glass tumbler.

  3. A small piece of candle.

  4. Matches to light the candle.


  1. Three tablespoonfuls of soda.

  2. Three tablespoonfuls of vinegar, or

  3. A small piece of dry ice.

Method of Procedure

  1. Put the soda into the small pitcher.

  2. Pour the vinegar over the soda.

  3. In case dry ice is available place this in the pitcher instead of the soda and vinegar; the results are the same, for the gas produced is identical.

  4. Cover the pitcher as tightly as possible.

  5. Place the lighted candle in the tumbler.

  6. Remove the cover from the pitcher.

  7. Pour the gas in the pitcher into the tumbler as though it were a liquid. The gas will be invisible, and hence the audience will think you are not pouring anything on the candle.

Chemical Reaction

  1. The vinegar and soda or the evaporating dry ice, produce carbon dioxide.

  2. The gas is heavy and goes to the bottom of the pitcher where it will remain for a long time.

  3. The gas can literally be poured out of the pitcher onto the candle, though it cannot be seen.

  4. As soon as the gas comes into contact with the candle, the flame will go out. You cannot see the gas but you can see the effects of it.

This is the deadly "choke damp" or gas which miners often encounter in their work and which kills them in a short time.


  1. Dry ke should not be handled except with tongs or some other type of instrument which keeps it from contact with the flesh.

  2. The amount of gas generated is insufficient to do any particular damage, and hence should not be feared.

  3. To make this experiment effective, you must time your pouring of the gas upon the candle to that part of your talk where the application will be the most telling.

There are gaseous mixtures which cannot be seen nor detected by ordinary methods and are destructive beyond measure. I want to show you—set out your apparatus—the powerful effects of something you cannot see, but which is able to kill men by thousands.

You have heard of choke damp have you not? It is a dreaded gas which collects in mines, and thus excludes all oxygen from the space it occupies. The miners, once they are under the effects of it, die almost immediately. Proceed with your experiment. This choke damp, the terror of miners, cannot be measured by ordinary methods nor are miners always able to detect its presence. If they breathe it, their death is certain, unless they are given oxygen immediately, for the carbon dioxide has crowded out all oxygen from the atmosphere.

Our spiritual natures meet similar dangers. These are habits, apparently harmless, which spell death to them. Put the soda into the pitcher. But when we come under their influence or they become a part of our life, they destroy our spiritual power and alienate us from God.

Pour the vinegar over the soda, or if you use dry ice put it in the pitcher. I am using ordinary soda and vinegar (or dry ice). They are harmless in themselves, but the combination they produce is harmful enough to have snuffed out the lives of countless men through the ages. We call the chemical produced by these two common substances carbon dioxide.

Place the lighted candle in the glass. This lighted candle represents a Christian, for Christ said, "Ye are the light of the world." It is our duty as Christians to keep the light shining all the time but when we do certain things our light is gradually put out. This leaves our corner of the world in darkness, and with no means by which sinners can be pointed to the Cross, wherein there is salvation, the forgiveness of sins and redemption.

Let me tell you a story of a lighted soul. There was a missionary by the name of James Hannington, who decided that he wanted to be Christ's light in Africa. He offered himself to the mission board of his church—the Church of England—and went to the land he loved. Within a year he became sick and was forced to return to the homeland. In his heart he longed for the true light to be sent to the heathen he had been forced to leave. He prayed and called upon God to restore his health and to permit him to take his light to the dark continent again.

There was no light of the Gospel, there were no shin­ing lights of Christians in the area where he had been working; but the holy flame burned brightly in James Hannington's soul.

Within a short time he was restored and he returned to Africa at once. One day, not long after his arrival, the chief sent for him. As James entered the chief's hut, he was struck from behind by a stone club and murdered.

"Tragic"! cried England. But the light of James' soul had burned so brightly that when he died thirty of England's finest young Christian youths dedicated themselves to the work he had started. And today, so great and holy was the light of their lives, one of the worlds' greatest churches, seating five to eight thousand natives, is built upon the spot where James Hannington was murdered.

His was the true light. But I want to show you what happens when Christians unconsciously let the influences of the world—the love of pleasure, the desire for fame, the longing for riches—slip into their daily lives. These influences may not be evil in themselves but they are powerful enough to keep even devoted Christians from the church and to ruin their prayer lives.

If you will look in this pitcher, you will not see anything. Apparently it is empty. Call someone from the audience and have him investigate. There is nothing in the pitcher, is there? Just so the things of life that crowd the spiritual affairs into the background are invisible and yet they drive the true light away. Pour the invisible gas from the pitcher over the candle.

Watch the light go out. See it sputter! And now it is gone—extinguished by the invisible gas produced by the reaction of vinegar upon soda (or the gas thrown off by the dry ice).

The candle's light could not live in the atmosphere, from which the air had been excluded, where that car­bon dioxide existed. The candle needs oxygen, but it cannot breathe carbon dioxide and live.

In the same way, a Christian's light cannot burn in an evil atmosphere. A Christian's light shines only when he is free from the choke damp of the world. You cannot be a brilliantly lighted Christian if you do not separate yourself from evil influences.

The tragedy of it is that sin can be very subtle. A Christian may associate with worldly people, and without realizing it, look more and more tolerantly on sinful practices. He comes nearer the dividing line between right and wrong living. He forgets to read the Bible, to nourish his prayer life by daily seasons of meditation and worship, and finally the spiritual light in the soul goes out.

If you want to be a Christian light like James Hannington, live where Christ's presence can be near you all the time. Do not draw near the precipice of wrong­doing. Look to Jesus in prayer. Set daily periods for worship. Attend church regularly and take a part in Christian activities. Then your light will flame brilliantly and  steadily.

Now I am going to show you another experience Christians may have. Create more gas in the pitcher, and light another candle. By degrees pour in just enough gas to make the candle sputter. Just a little carbon dioxide of the world's influence and power is sufficient to make a brilliantly lighted Christian sputter and flicker. More of this influence would cause his light to die out. But if he removes himself from evil influences—revive the flame by pouring the gas out—his light will again burn brightly. It will continue to burn if he keeps away from sin and stays close to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Keep the light of your soul burning brilliantly. Do not let the world's choke damp destroy your heart's illumination. Be a shining beacon for Christ and the world will be drawn to your Master.

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