william bell riley sermons
VAGARIES and VERITIES
Sunday Nights in Soul-Winning.
William Bell Riley
Pastor of First Baptist Church, Minneapolis.
Author or “The Seven Churches of Asia,” “Fads and
Fanaticisms,” “’The Gospel in Jonah,” etc.
“This, I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets.”—Acts, 24:14.
Minneapolis Hall, Black & Co., Printers.
william bell riley sermons Contents PREFACE. 3 I. Atheism: or, The fool’s material philosophy. 4 II. Anarchism: or, Defiance of Constituted Authority. 14 III. Agnosticism: or, The knowing Man’s Negations. 26 IV. Liberalism: or, The Speculations of the Uninspired. 35 V. Mammonism: or, The Mad Race for Money. 47 VI. Formalism: or, The Church’s friendly foe. 58 VII. Supernaturalism: or, The Miracle Ancient and Modern. 72 VIII. Eddyism: or, Science and Health vs. Thee Scripture. 86 IX. Dowieism: or, Divine Healing and Doing Business. 101 X. Simpsonism: or, The four fold Gospel. 115 XI. Keswickism: or, Sanctity the Secret of Success. 127 XII. Perfectionism: or, The failure to practice one’s preaching. 144 XIII. Conservatism: or, Back to our Bibles. 157 XIV. Dogmatism: or, A Plea for Positive Preaching. 170 william bell riley sermons
To My Beloved People
Whose loyalty to God’s truth makes the preaching of the whole Gospel an increasing delight
william bell riley sermons
PREFACE This Volume is given to the Public, in printed form, for the identical reasons that obtained in the original preparation and delivery of the discourses. First, and of least importance, is the natural preference of having the Public know the Author’s exact thoughts on these controverted subjects, as distinguished from misleading reports which have received wide circulation. Of far greater consequence is the opinion of competent auditors that these addresses will appeal, by simplicity of statement, to that great majority of men who, though unfamiliar with the language of the University, are yet the stable and saving element of Society. But over and above the foregoing, is the hope that this series may accomplish for its readers what it seems to have compassed for its auditors. The Author’s church has yet to contribute one member to Christian Science Churches, or to the movements that represent allied vagaries, many of which are making alarming progress in Minneapolis; while his best Bible students, who See clearly that God answers prayer for the sick, that the enduement of the Spirit is the secret of all soul-progress, and that the promised return of our Lord is “the blessed hope” of the Church, have not found it necessary to quit their denomination, and join some band of “come-outers” in order to enjoy “the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” These discourses—when spoken—were blessed to the salvation of souls. Our prayer is, that the printed words may be equally blessed. W. B. RILEY. Minneapolis; January, 1903. william bell riley sermons
I. Atheism: or, The fool’s material philosophy. William Bell Riley sermons
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt; they have done abominable works; there is none that doeth good.” Psalms 14:1. Tis present, is a series of subjects to which God, in His Word, has given attention; and it may be argued, therefore, that they are worthy the interest of men. It is doubtful if, of them all, there is one of such transcendent importance as that voiced by the text of this evening:—“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” No greater question has ever engaged the mind of man, or can, than this same question of the existence of God. It is the most important of all, because all depend upon it. If God is, then the universe is accounted for; if God is, then the origin of man is an open secret; if God is, then the mysteries of life may find solution. True, there are those who say “God is not;” and who would, if it were possible, dethrone Him and orphan the universe. But, as the great Dr. Gordon said:—“No power or might of man can sweep the stars from the sky, or blot the sun from the heavens, or efface the splendid landscape.” “But,” as he continued, “one wound in the eye can destroy the sight and make all those things as though they were not. There is such thing as the eclipse of faith, unbelief filming the soul, so that time and space become a great blank; vacant,- lifeless, meaningless.” Such is true of the man who hath put out his own eyes, preferring darkness; and it is of such an one our text speaks,—“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” It is not my purpose this evening either to defend the character of Jehovah or argue His existence. There is no need, for both His existence and character are evident to those whose eyes are opened. But there is need that men and women, touched by the least scepticism, should see the great facts referred to in our text, and turn back from their doubts ere they are landed in the atheism which denies God and gropes in the blackness of darkness. There are three supreme suggestions in this text to which I want to call your attention, and upon which I want to lay emphasis. william bell riley sermons
I.THE FOLLY OF ATHEISM.
“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” I have been interested in tracing this term “fool” to see what kind of people are described by the word. I find the dictionary giving at least three meanings to this word: First: A fool is one lacking in wisdom. That is the common use of the word. The man who attempts to do business in the marts of trade but has no sense of values, and no ability at bartering, wanting wisdom in those things, is soon considered “a fool” by the smart fellows of that profession. The man who enters school and attempts studies to make egregious failure in them all, is likely to be spoken of as “foolish.” The man who dreams of great enterprises and builds air-castles and follows some jack-o-lantern into a quagmire is reckoned “a fool.” But the word is weakly employed in these instances as compared with the use to which the text puts it. Mr. Spurgeon tells of the folly of a drunkard, who, staggering into his room one night, found there a candle which had been lighted for him; but, in his drunkenness, he was seeing double and there seemed to be two candles and he said, “I will blow out one.” He puffed away at it until it went out and lo he was in the dark. But the man whose folly leads him to deny God has removed out of his universe its only luminary and shrouded his soul with heavy night. Such a lack of wisdom is not excusable for no man need to be so deficient. It is written in the Word, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and it shall be given him.” “The wisdom that is from above, is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated,” and because of this, the lack of wisdom is wickedness. A second meaning assigned to this word “fool” makes it refer to one who is weak-minded; so that the text might be rendered, “The weak-minded hath said in his heart there is no God.” There are not a few young men in the land who think infidelity is only another name for smartness; that atheism is a synonym for intellectuality. They proudly imagine that the greater intellects of the world have been unbelievers; and their every imagination is the product of mental weakness, or else of ignorance. Truly, as Henry Van Dyke, in his “sermons to Young Men” says, “Faith is power. Nothing truly great has ever been done in any department of the world’s work without faith. Think of the faith of our explorers and discoverers—Columbus who found the new world; the Pilgrim fathers who planted it with life; Livingstone who opened a new continent to civilization. Think of the faith of our men of science—Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Farraday, Henry. Think of the faith of the reformers—Wyclif, Luther, Knox. Think of the faith of the martyrs—Polycarp, Huss, Savanrola, the Covenanters of Scotland, the Hugenots of France.” One might call all the great names of the past and nine-tenths of them would be men who believed in God; and in the presence of that galaxy of the great, atheism would be compelled to confess that its patrons had been men of inferior minds and of wretched morals. What writer has excelled Shakespeare? What poet surpassed Milton? What warrior Napoleon? What reformer Luther? What orator Robert Hall? What statesman Gladstone? And yet, every one of these assented, in the fullest measure, to the opening sentence of Scripture—“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Ah, young men, don’t let Satan fill you with the conceit that atheism is intellectual; but with shamed faces, on account of the folly of scepticism, hide yourself under the shadows of these great and renowned names, and unite your small voice with their thunder tones saying: “God is.” Again, the term “fool” refers to one whose moral nature is withered. Ainsworth calls attention to the meaning of the word “Nabal” which is the Hebrew here employed, and says, “It has the signification of fading, dying, or falling away, as a withered leaf or flower. It is a title given to the foolish man as having lost the juice and sap of wisdom, reason, honesty and godliness.” Trapp speaks of the atheist of our text as that “sapless fellow, that carcass of a man, that walking sepulchre of himself, in whom all religion and right reason is withered and wasted, dried up and decayed.” There can be little question that the man who denies God is sick in soul, and his very illness of moral nature accounts in some measure for his atheism. Mr. Moody speaks of an Eastern shepherd who declared to a traveller that his sheep knew his voice, and that no stranger could deceive them. This traveller put on the shepherd’s frock and turban and took his staff and went to the flock. He imitated, as best he could, the shepherd’s voice in calling them, but they only ran away from him. Then he inquired of the shepherd, if, under no circumstances, they would follow a stranger, and the shepherd admitted that if a sheep was sick, it would go after any one that called to it. And I want to tell you, young men, that your disposition to follow the sceptic, to go after the atheist, is an evidence, in itself, that your soul is sick, even unto death, that your moral nature is withering up and falling into such decay that as God looks upon you He says, “The fool,” for “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” The next suggestion of the text is: william bell riley sermons
II. THE FOUNTAIN OF ATHEISM.
“The fool hath said in his heart.” Ah, that is the fountain—the “heart.” You remember that Christ Himself said, “Out of the heart of man proceed evil thoughts—adulteries, fornication, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these things come from within and defile the man.” Atheism, then, is not the conclusion of reason. The man who reaches the conclusion of this text— “There is no God”—never does it by logical processes. He must shut his eyes to the heaven above, and to the earth beneath, and, like a mole, see neither sun, moon, nor stars; for to look upon these is to be led into the Psalmist’s utterance: “The heavens declare the glory of God, the firmament showeth his handiwork.” Nicholson relates, that the celebrated astronomer Kircher, having an acquaintance who denied the existence of God, took the following method to convince him of his error: He procured a very hand some globe, or representation of the starry heavens, which he placed in a corner of the room to attract his friend’s observation, who, when he came, asked, whence it came, and to., whom it belonged. ‘Not to me,’ said Kircher, ‘nor was it ever made by any person, but came here by mere chance.’ ‘That,’ replied his sceptical friend, ‘is absolutely impossible; you surely jest.’ Kircher, however, seriously persisting in his essertion, took occasion to reason with his friend on his own atheistical principles. ‘You will not believe,’ said he, ‘that this small body originated in mere chance, and yet you would contend that those heavenly bodies, of which it is but a faint resemblance, came into existence without order or design.’ Pursuing this train of reasoning, his friend was at first confounded, next convinced, and cordially confessed the absurdity of denying the existence of a God.
“There is no God, the fool in secret said;
There is no God that rules o’er earth or sky.
Tear off the band that binds the wretch’s head,
That God may burst upon his faithless eye!
Is there no God?—The stars in myriads spread,
If he look up, the blasphemy deny;
While his own features, in the mirror read,
Reflect the image of Divinity.
Is there no God?—The stream that silver flows,
The air he breathes, the ground he treads, the trees,
The flowers,, the grass, the sands, each wind that blows,
All speak of God; throughout, one voice agrees,
And, eloquent, his dread existence shows;
“Blind to thyself, ah! see him, fool, in these!”
Revelation is in nowise responsible for atheism. There are unbelievers who would like to impress the public that they have reached the conclusion of our text by the study of-the book called the Bible. You rarely meet a sceptic but he makes a great show of his knowledge of the Scriptures. He would have you think that our text ought to be changed so as to read: “The wise man, by a study of the Bible, is led to atheism.” But the world must wait for the ages to come to bring forth an atheist who is a good Bible student. Sceptics of the past have been most wretched Bible scholars. They have rather proceeded on the ground that because they were sceptics they should not be expected to study the Scriptures; because they were atheists they should not be expected to give careful consideration to Christianity, as if an unlearned child should say, “I am ignorant, therefore I should not be expected to go to school. I do not believe in arithmetic, geometry, calculus, therefore, I have a right to decry their conclusions without investigation of their claims.” The biographer of Thomas Paine excused Paine’s blunders in his criticisms on the Bible by saying, “At the time he wrote the first part of “The Age of Reason” he was without a Bible, and could not procure one.” Then, don’t you think he had better been silent? And I say to you, young men, every criticism of the Word of God comes with poor grace from him who seldom, or never studies that same word. If you mean to be sceptical, go about it intelligently; get down your Bible, rub the dust from the covers and read five chapters a day for the next year, and see what will be the result. When Gilbert West wanted to show the impossibility of the resurrection of Christ, he set himself to a study of the Divine record, and when Lord Littleton wanted to demonstrate the unlikelihood of Paul’s conversion, he turned to the Bible for a more perfect knowledge of the report of that event; and when Lew Wallace wanted to write a book in proof of the humanity of Jesus, he searched the Scriptures, and the result for each of these men was the same. Gilbert West came out of his investigations a converted man, believing that God had raised His Son from the dead; Lord Littleton finished his studies accepting not only the conversion but the inspiration of Saint Paul; while Lew Wallace found in the sacred record convincing proof that Christ was not alone human but unquestionably divine. Atheism is the preference of a perverted heart. “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” Long ago Jeremiah wrote:—“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” The great reason many men do not believe is because they don’t want to believe. When Galileo invented the telescope he invited one of his opponents to look through the instrument at Jupiter’s moons. “No, no,” said the man, “if I should see them, how then could I maintain my opinions against your philosophy.” The evil heart wants to cry down the voice of conscience. Sinful affections and lusts of that unregenerate organ would gladly be rid of that God who is the great moral Governor, the Patron of rectitude, and the Punisher of iniquity. John Foster tells of three young men who, having committed a grave crime, heard the family with whom they were lodging, engaged in evening prayers; and immediately they fell to discussing whether there was a God or a hereafter, and the three agreed in denying both—a conclusion which they afterward acknowledged themselves to have reached solely on the ground that they wished it were so. Ah, beloved, let us not forget that neither Reason nor Revelation leads to atheism, but that a perverted heart will affirm as a fact that which it well knows to be false, because it prefers to have it so. Every such affirmation emphasizes the truth of our text—“The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” The last suggestion of the text to which I call your attention is this: william bell riley sermons
III. THE FRUITS OF ATHEISM.
“They are all corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none that doeth good.” Corruption is the first consequence of atheism. “As he thinketh in his heart so is he.” Krummacher says:—“Unbelief is the occasion of all sin and the very bond of iniquity. It does nothing but darken and destroy. It makes the world a moral desert where no divine footsteps are heard, where no angels ascend and descend, where no living hand adorns the fields, feeds the fowls of heaven, or regulates events. Thus it makes nature—the garden of God—a mere automaton; and the history of Providence a fortuitous succession of events; a man, a creature of accidents, and prayer a useless ceremony. It annihilates even the vestiges of heaven that still remain upon the earth, and stops the way to every higher region.” Abominable works are also fruits of atheism. The man who denies the existence of God is a dangerous member of society. To him there can be no such a thing as right and wrong, seeing that there is no great judge to determine between them. Our criminals, as a class, are atheistic. Voltaire perfectly understood the outworking of his philosophy. One day when D’Alembert and Condorcet were dining with him, they proposed to converse of atheism; but Voltaire stopped them at once saying:—“Wait, till my servants have withdrawn; I do not wish to have my throat cut tonight.” Altamont said of his atheism, “My principles have poisoned my friend. My extravagance has beggared my boy; my unkindness has murdered my wife; and is there another Hell? Oh, thou blasphemed, yet most indulgent Lord God, Hell is a refuge, if it hides me from thy frown.” But, as Paul said to the Corinthians, so I want to say to the unbeliever here present tonight, “I can show unto you a more excellent way” out of infidelity, out of atheism, back to God the Father, back to the enfolding arms, back to the blessed bosom of Him whose name is ‘Love.’ That is the way of Christ who died that unbelievers, infidels, and atheists might be redeemed; and who, out of His great grace hath said, “Him that cometh to me, I will in nowise cast out.” Ah, Christ is the cure for Atheism. To the men who have wanted in wisdom, to those who have poorly employed the wisdom given, to those whose moral natures are withered and in decay, God sends his Gospel of Salvation, and out of the rubbish of wretched philosophies, and out of the dirt heaps of doubts, and out of dust of scepticism. He will save, if only we are willing. A writer tells the story of that portrait of Dante which was painted upon the walls of the Bargello at Florence. For many years it was supposed that the picture had utterly perished. Men had heard of it, but no one living had ever seen it. But at last an artist came whose purpose to find it was fixed. He went into the place where tradition said it had been painted. The room was used as a storehouse for lumber and straw; the walls were covered with dirty whitewash; he had heaps of rubbish carried away. Patiently and carefully he removed the white-wash from the wall. Lines and colors, long hidden, began to appear and at last the lofty, noble face of the great poet looked out again upon the world of light. But, young men and women, I come to tell you of a possibility more wonderful, and of a discovery more beautiful. The image of God, which was once yours, and which you have effaced from the heart by lumbering it up with sin and scepticism, by covering it over with filthy white-wash of hypocrisy, that divine likeness, the Holy Ghost is ready to restore tonight, if only you will let Him. He is present now pleading for that privilege. He wants to remove the sins; He wants to take away the scepticism; He wants to remove the white-wash of hypocrisy; He wants to make clean that inner temple made by the most high God, and meant for the indwelling of His Son; He wants to restore the divine image long lost, and if you will let Him, He will restore it tonight, and form in you “Christ Jesus, the hope of Glory; whom we preach, warning every man and teaching every man, in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” william bell riley sermons