Sunday, October 18, 2009
Sermons and Lessons
We invite your prayerful attention to the nineteenth verse of the eleventh chapter of the Book of Proverbs: “As righteousness tendeth to lift, so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.”
When a good man dies he not only goes to heaven, drawn thither by the natural forces of spiritual gravity; by the approval of God and angels, but when a good man dies he goes to heaven by the common consent of every intelligent creature in the world. When a bad man dies he not only goes to hell, drawn thither by the natural forces of spiritual gravity; not only by the approval of God and His angels, but when a bad man dies he goes to hell by the common consent of every man in the world. You have attended the funeral of a doubtful character, and have been to the church he professed to, but did not possess religion, and his pastor on the occasion of the funeral read his text, and, as we say sometimes, “preached him to heaven.” Haven’t you left the church and heard on the sidewalk from saint and sinner about these words: “That preacher outraged every principle of truth; that man is not in heaven; he knows it, we know it, and all know that he has not gone to heaven.” Have you ever left a good man’s funeral, who was known and esteemed of all good men, and have you after hearing the eulogy of the preacher upon his life and character, and the preacher pointed to the sinners and said, “this man has gone to heaven;” and haven’t you heard comment on the way from church, from saint and sinner, who all say “that was a truly good man, and he has gone home to God?” There is no other place in the universe for such a man. When a good man goes to heaven he goes there just on the same principle this book would drop to the floor if I was to turn it loose. When this body of mine, when that body of yours, shall turn your spirit loose, if you be good, your spirit goes to God just as this book would drop to the floor; when a bad man dies his spirit goes to hell just as naturally and inevitably as this book would drop to the floor were I to turn it loose. A good man goes to heaven because he is good, and heaven is the centre of gravity for all that is good; a bad man goes to hell because he is bad - that’s the nature of the whole matter.
Mark my word, brother, a good man is ready and destined for heaven before he dies. We seem to be far beyond the promised land, but heaven lets down low and hovers over the pallet of the good man, and he is in heaven before an angel could come to take him there. A good man goes to heaven because he is good, and a bad man goes to hell because he is bad. The demons of the pit, all of them, could not keep a good man out of heaven when he dies, and all the angels of heaven cannot keep a bad man out of hell when he dies. The natural and inevitable tendency of his nature and being and gravity cursed him in spite of all other forces in the universe. Righteousness tendeth to life” - just as it is true for righteousness to lead to life and the light shines more and more into that perfect day, so the fate of the transgressor is hard and so the wicked shall be turned into hell. We have done good and shall see the resurrection, they that have done evil shall see the resurrection of damnation, and the question is not on general principles of general or effectual difficulties. It is not a question of how much God helps one man or another, but it is a question and the only question connected with it is, what sort of a man he may be? There is but one moral way in the universe of God, and every man in Kentucky is on that way. Heaven is at one end of the road - hell at the other, and the only question is which direction shall you go. A man on his way to hell, if he thinks a minute, and will turn around right on the road he is on, he is in the road to heaven; if he is on the way to heaven and turns around in that way he is in, he is on the road to hell in less than fifteen seconds. It is not a question of what your name is, or what church you may belong to, or how you have been baptized, but of which direction on this road you go. I used to think, when I was a little fellow, and heard it preached that the way to heaven was way over here and the way to hell over there, I didn’t know they were the same road. Every sinner on this campground is on the road to heaven, and every Christian is on the road to hell, tor the way to heaven is the way to hell heaven is at one end and hell at the other. Which way are you going? Is your back on God and your face toward hell? And as long as this is so there are not enough angels in heaven and enough love in the heart of God to keep you out of perdition. As true as the right course will take you to heaven the man that goes the wrong course will go to hell. There is a great deal of discussion in pulpit and literature on the question of sin. Some profess to have found the origin of evil. My God, the question I am interested in, is there any way out of it? I never discuss the question of depravity as to whether personal or total, whether it is in the fall of Adam, or whether inherited, or whether it is progressive. I never discuss this feature. I look every man in the face and know he can be evil, and some are even more greedy than I was in this respect. The natural tendency of life is downward and hellward. That’s true. We see this in the earliest development of childhood. Anger is almost the first expression of a child; covetousness is the next expression of its life, and so on; but whether it is inborn, or whether we are pure at birth - and then depravity is progressive - I have nothing to do with it. By the time you are twelve you are a solid lump of meanness. I found that out. Sin is fearful in this world. If I have been charged with anything, it is exaggeration.
They say Sam Jones speaks in hyperbole and Jones exaggerates; they charge me with that frequently. I will tell you what I will do: I will go to some homes in Kentucky, and some graveyards in Kentucky where the poor drunkards are buried, and I defv earth and hell to exaggerate the picture. Will words paint anything darker and more fearful than that? Things have happened in Lexington in the last ten years that I have referred to; are they exaggerated? Take that husband in his downward course and see him as he progresses in his ruin, he loses all his self-respect, his love for his wife, and then see the wife’s feet gradually being brought to the grave day by day, and see the wife’s heart as the blood trickles from it drop by drop, hour after hour, until its last crimson drop is ex¬hausted, and she sinks into the grave, and the little children brought to shame, and desolation and want, and see that whole family, and when you have, bring it and throw its shadows into one picture before your eyes - a ruined man, a ruined soul, a broken-hearted wife and beggared children, and hope blasted forever. Is there a word painter in the universe of God who can exaggerate that picture? The only difference between the man who has done that and you, brother, is that he has gone a little further than you. You have the same disease, and unless it is arrested in its course you will reach the same point before long. I have been very strong in my denunciations of some things, and I denounce a thing in proportion as I see it is an evil; as I see it ruin humanity I denounce it in that proportion. I have said in the pulpit that no one but an infernal scoundrel would sell, and no one but an infernal fool would drink whiskey. “That is strong language,” they say, “you ought not to say it.” The liquor dealers at Chattanooga said: “Damn it, he insults a man to his face!” and has he cussed about promiscuously about what I said in the pulpit, and I have been cussed about as much as I have been discussed, too. I told them, too, the next time they heard me to meet me the next morning, and go down a certain street with me until we arrived at the desolate home and see that pallid woman, and see themselves what a horrid wreck their trade has made of a once happy home. See the wrecked fireside, the wretched children on the floor, and then ask that woman who was her father and how was she raised, whom she married and what has become of her husband, and then place your ear to her heart and hear the blood dripping, dripping from it, and then see the besotted form and bleared eyes of tile bloated man lying drunk on the floor in the back room, and then say if I exaggerate. A man in Tennessee wrote me the other day about as follows: “Jones, I understand you have offered $500 reward to any man who will take oath before a Justice of the Peace and sign his name that he doesn’t want to go to heaven, and if you will write me, I’ll meet you and take the oath, and get the money.” I would be a fool to offer $500 for such a man and such an oath. I can get them all over this country for a dollar, and some even for fifty cents, and some would sell out for nothing and board themselves. Look at the picture! Of course I never made such a proposition. A fellow saw it in the newspapers! and the only thing I have against them is that everything they publish is true. That’s the only objection I have in the world. You can bank on anything you see in the newspapers, that is Southern news¬papers. That’s a horrid picture there, isn’t it? A man offers to sell his soul for $500, and sign, seal and deliver the instrument. My God! what farce is this? Every man that sells whiskey and every man that makes whiskey in this country is after the very same thing for which that fellow wanted to take an oath for $500. The worst enemy of God and the race, and the best Mend of the devil is the man who makes whiskey. “They are generous,” you say. Well, they ought to be. They will make a pauper out of a husband, widows out of wives, and send a man to hell, and then this generous whiskey dealer will send his widow a sack of flour! Ain’t that generous? Ain’t that nice? Don’t you think ft’s the kindest thing you ever heard of in your lift? They will take your members, and de¬bauch them, and damn them and help pay you to preach!
My God, what sort of kindness is that? Let me tell you another thing. I have a good deal to say about the fellow who drinks whiskey, for the other fellows are rascals, while you are fools of the first water. Yes, you are. Aye, hear that? I’ve been thar; I know what I am talking about; nobody but a fool will touch it. No, there’s a bigger fool than that, and that’s the woman who will stir a toddy for her husband. [Laughter.]
Whenever you don’t like my talk you can back out. A man is a fool that drinks whiskey. Yes, he is, too. In Gainesville, Ga., a few weeks ago the jailer walked into the jail one morn¬ing, and a man woke up and looking around said, “Where am I?” “You are in jail.” “In Jail?” “Yes.” “What for?” “For murder.” “For murder?” “Yes.” “Who have I killed?” “Your wife and sister.” “My God, is that so? Tell them I don’t want a judge, don’t want a jury, don’t want a trial; take me out and hang me to the first tree you can find.” It looks like a fellow is a fool that will tamper with such stuff. Things are happening every day in Kentucky that is a demonstration of the fact
that a fellow who drinks whiskey is a fool of the first water. Yes, he is.
I’ll tell you another thing - nine-tenths of the sin in Kentucky is made by whiskey. Every one of your gambling houses is founded on your bars; all your licentiousness floats upon the river that flows from the worms of the still. With the country debauched with whiskey what do you? Sin! Sin! It is sin that hurts the race, and sin that damns the race, and we have sin enough. I never meet a staggering drunkard but I look him in the face and say, “Poor fellow, sin has wrecked you.” I never see a woman, a pallid, wretched woman, walking the streets of a city, but I say, “Poor woman, poor, blighted, ruined creature, sin has doomed you forever!” And I want to say right here that it is not right or human, for when a woman falls she is lost forever. Our country is degraded, and the reason I fight whiskey is because whiskey is my enemy, and I am going to fight for these wives, mothers and children as long as God will let me stay above ground. Yes, I am in full range of all the guns in this Blue Grass region. [Laughter.] I will tell you, from the worms of the stills in Kentucky there is not as much water flows down yonder Kentucky river as you pour out on this world in whiskey. It is not only throwing its awful arms around your own State, but it is trying to grasp other States around you, and send them to hell and perdition with you. Yes, it is time you are awakened.
Sometimes a state reaches that point where, that if a man is not for whiskey and the whiskey party, you need not talk about running him. God bless you, you cannot be elected for Governor, Judge or Member of the Legislature now unless you are of the whiskey crowd. God pity the unfortunate wretch that floats upon this river, that’s all I have to say about him. I will declare before God, and write it in letters of blood on every gate-post in this country, a man has to submit to debauchery of soul and body now to become a Democrat. I hardly care to say I’m a Democrat. We are Democrats because we say we don’t want niggers settled on us. The niggers are not on the side of whiskey always. I never had a nigger to do me harm in my life, but whiskey was the cause of it. No nigger ever made my poor wife sick and drove the roses out of her cheeks and made my little child almost a pauper. No, no nigger ever did that for me. If it is niggers or whiskey, knock your whiskey in the head and give me niggers every crack.
That’s the only difference between the Republican Party and the Democrats, one is for niggers and the other for whiskey. I believe I’ll join the Republicans.
Sin? I’ll take no sin into my life, into my politics, into my family, into our world; let’s away with it. * * *
“He that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.” I am practical, in one sense at least, and I always purpose to be practical. I am determined on one thing, and I don’t care whether anybody agrees with me or not. I don’t care if every person here goes off and calls me a fool and a fanatic. We’ll meet in judgment and discuss that in the future. I don’t care what your opinion of what I say is, and whether you endorse it or not, you are going to understand and see it. You can call Sam Jones a tool all you want to, and say you will never hear him preach again, but if I never preach the gospel again I’m going to give you the naked truth today. Take me down here and pitch me off the bluff, and as I fall you will say there goes that little tallow-faced fellow that told the truth while he was here.
“He that pursueth evil” pursueth it to the death of his conscience. That’s what’s the matter in this country, conscience has been stabbed to death. A man who sins deliberately against his conscience stabs his conscience, and it will breathe its last some of these days and be dead forever.
Sam Jones gave as an illustration of conscience, a man who joins the church, and yet, after a time, falls back into his old sins, and who, knowing he has not done right, feels it in his conscience, and it troubles him, until his conscience becomes so sin-hardened that nothing can affect it. A man joins the church, and next week is at the races. I have said it, and say it again, I love a fine horse next to a woman. I cannot help outloving a woman above everything else in this country, and next to a woman I love a good horse - I like a grand horse - I can’t help it. There is that magnificent blooded horse out there; I cannot help but admire him, and I would go to every fair in this country to look at him if it was not for one thing, and that’s that low down, trifling, pusillanimous fellow who says to everything you do or he does, “I bet you.” I have a contempt for those cusses, and it’s that sort that keeps me away from such places. I love blooded horses, but God help me, I’ll never get on a horse and ride him to a race. I want that understood. There’s many a Kentuckian gone to hell on a blooded horse, mark what I tell you. This little body sneers about a fair and I have a pronounced and supreme contempt for him.
Talk to me about no harm in these things. That old member of the church who will walk out of a grocery, and wipe his mouth, and say: “No harm in a dram.” There is harm, but your conscience is dead! dead! dead! And I want to say right here, that if any of you are a member of any church and drink whiskey, you are a hypocrite of the deepest dye. An old Methodist demijohn. All old Baptist jug. All old Presbyterian decanter, half full all the time, and every time your poor wife wants to go to church, she has to stick her arm in the handle of an old demijohn and walk with that. I have a contempt for you - you old hog.
Lexington wants me, but he’ll have to excuse me, as this sort of talk won’t do for Lexington. If I do go there I tell you when I turn some of you lose you will hit ground a running. Conscience! conscience! dead! dead! all over this country. You may just as well be dead as without a conscience. Thev say they drink whiskey and dance and play cards because it’s in the fashion. If that’s the fashion, God bless you, I’m going to try to live out of it. I wish you preachers would say amen right there. Don’t let anybody hear you—that’s right.
Sam Jones then scathingly denounced the church people, who, being in control in certain cities, grant a license to sell whiskey and create devilment at so much per month - factories for making drunkards and ruining homes. Don‘t give them a license - close them up.