Guest Writer Thomas DeWitt Talmage
“His windows being open and his chamber toward Jerusalem” (Daniel 6:10).
The scoundrelly princes of Persia, urged on by political jealousy against Daniel, succeeded in getting a law passed that anyone who prayed to God would be put under the paws and teeth of the lions, who were lashing themselves in rage and hunger up and down the stone cage, or putting their lower jaws on the ground, bellowing till the earth trembled. But the leonine threat did not hinder the devotion of Daniel, the Coeur de Lion of the ages.
His enemies might as well have passed a law that the sun should not draw water, that the south wind should not sweep across a garden of magnolias, or that God should be abolished. They could not scare him with the red-hot furnace, and they could not scare him with the lions. As soon as Daniel heard of this enactment, he left his office of Secretary of State, with its upholstery of crimson and gold, came down the white marble steps, and went to his own house. He opened his window, pushed back the shutters, pulled the curtain aside so that he could look toward the sacred city of Jerusalem; and then prayed.
I suppose the people in the street gather under and before his window, and say, “Just see that man defying the law; he ought to be arrested.” And the constable rushes to the police headquarters and reports that Daniel is on his knees at the wide-open window.
“You are my prisoner,” says the officer of the law, dropping a heavy hand on the shoulder of the kneeling Daniel.
As the constables open the door of the cavern to thrust in their prisoner, they see the glaring eyes of the monsters. But Daniel becomes the first lion-tamer, and they lick his hand and fawn at his feet, and that night he sleeps with the shaggy mane of a wild beast for his pillow, while the king that night, sleepless in the palace, has on him the paw and teeth of a lion he cannot tame—the lion of a remorseful conscience.
What a picture it would be for some artist! Darius, in the early dusk of morning, not waiting for footmen or chariot, hastening to the den, all flushed and nervous and in dishabille [night clothes], looking through the crevices of the cage to see what has become of his prime minister!
“What, no sound!” he says. “Daniel is surely devoured, and the lions are sleeping after their horrid meal, the bones of the poor man scattered across the floor of the cavern.” With trembling voice Darius calls out, “Daniel!”
No answer, for the prophet is yet in profound slumber. But a lion, more easily awakened, advances, and, with hot breath blown through the crevice, seems angrily to demand the cause of this interruption, and then another wild beast lifts his mane from under Daniel’s head, and the prophet, waking up, comes forth to report himself unhurt and well.
JERUSALEM: THE NATIVE LAND
But our text stands us at Daniel’s window, open toward Jerusalem. Why that direction? Jerusalem was his native land, and all the pomp of his Babylonian successes could not make him forget it. He came to Babylon from Jerusalem at eighteen years of age; and he never returned for a visit, though he lived to be eighty-five years. Yet, when he wanted to arouse the deepest emotions and grandest aspirations of his heart, he had his window open toward his native Jerusalem.
There are many of you today who understand that without any exposition. This is becoming a nation of foreigners. They have come into all occupations and professions. They sit in all churches. It may be twenty years ago since you got your naturalization papers, and you may be thoroughly Americanized; but you can’t forget the land of your birth, and your warmest sympathies go out toward it. Your windows are open toward Jerusalem. Your father and mother are buried there. It may have been a humble home in which you were born, but your memory often plays around it, and you hope someday to go and see it—the hill, the tree, the brook, the house, the place so sacred, the door from which you started off with parental blessing to make your own way in the world.
Only God knows how sometimes you have longed to see the familiar places of your childhood, and how in awful crises of life you would like to have caught a glimpse of the old, wrinkled face that bent over you as you lay on the gentle lap twenty or forty or fifty years ago. You may have on this side of the sea risen in fortune, and, like Daniel, have become great, and may have come into prosperities which you never could have reached if you had stayed there; and you may have many windows to your house—bay-windows, and sky-light-windows, and windows of conservatory, and windows on all sides—but you have at least one window open toward Jerusalem.
When the foreign steamer comes to the wharf, you see the long line of sailors, with shouldered mailbags, coming down the planks, carrying as many letters as you might suppose would be enough for a year’s correspondence, and this repeated again and again during the week.
Multitudes of them are letters from home, and at all the post offices of the land people will go to the window and anxiously ask for them, hundreds of thousands of persons finding that window of foreign mails the open window toward Jerusalem. Messages say, “When are you coming home to see us? Brother has gone into the army. Sister is dead. Father and mother are getting very feeble. We are having a great struggle to get on here. Would you advise us to come to you, or will you come to us? All join in love, and hope to meet you, if not in this world, then in a better. Good-bye.”
Yes, yes; in all these cities, on the flowering western prairies, on the slopes of the Pacific, in the Sierras, on the banks of the lagoon, and on the ranches of Texas an uncounted multitude, this hour, stand, sit, and kneel with their windows open toward Jerusalem. Some of them played on the heather of the Scottish hills. Some of them were driven out by Irish famine. Some of them, in early life, drilled in the German army. Some of them were accustomed at Lyons, Marseilles, or Paris to see on the street Victor Hugo and Gambetta.
Some chased the chamois [European antelope] among the Alpine precipices. Some plucked the ripe clusters from Italian vineyard. Some lifted their faces under the midnight sun of Norway. It is no dishonor to our land that they remember the place of their nativity. Miscreants would they be if, while they have some of their windows open to take in the free air of America and the sunlight of an atmosphere no kingly despot has ever breathed, they forgot sometime to open the window toward Jerusalem.
No wonder that the son of the Swiss, when far away from home, hearing the national air of his country sung, is overcome with homesickness. You have the example of the heroic Daniel of my text for keeping early memories fresh. Forget not the old folk at home. Write often. And if you have surplus of means and they are poor, make practical contribution. Rejoice that America is bound to all the world by ties of sanguinity [blood] as is no other nation. Who can doubt but it is appointed for the evangelization of other lands? What a stirring, melting, gospelizing theory that all the doors of other nations are open toward us, while our windows are open toward them!
JERUSALEM: THE SACRED LAND
Daniel, in the text, kept this port-hole of his domestic fortress unclosed because Jerusalem was the capital of sacred influences. There had smoked the sacrifice. There was the Holy of Holies. There was the Ark of the Covenant. There stood the Temple. We are all tempted to keep our windows open on the opposite side, toward the world, that we may see, hear, and appropriate its advantages. What does the world say? What does the world think? What does the world do? Worshipers of the world instead of worshipers of God. Windows open toward Babylon. Windows open toward Corinth. Windows open toward Athens. Windows open toward Sodom. Windows open toward the flats, instead of windows open toward the hills.
Sad mistake, for this world as a god is like something I saw the other day in the museum of Strasburg, Germany—the figure of a virgin in wood and iron. The victim in olden time was brought there, and this figure would open its arms to receive him; and, once infolded, the figure closed with a hundred knives and lances on him, and then let him drop 180 feet sheer down. So the world first embraces its idolaters, then closes on them with many tortures, and then lets them drop forever down. The highest honor the world could confer was to make a man Roman emperor; but, out of 63 emperors, only six died peacefully in their beds.
The dominion of this world over multitudes is illustrated by the names of coins of many countries. They have their pieces of money they call sovereigns and half-sovereigns, crowns and half-crowns, Napoleons and half-Napoleons, Fredericks and double Fredericks, ducats, and Isabellinos, all of which names mean not so much usefulness as dominion. Most of our windows are open toward the exchange, toward the salon of fashion, toward the god of this world.
In olden times the length of the English yard was fixed by the length of the arm of King Henry I, and we are apt to measure things by a variable standard and by the human arm that in the great crises of life can give us no help. We need, like Daniel, to open our window toward God and faith.
But mark you, that good lion-tamer is not standing at the window, but kneeling, while he looks out. Most photographs are taken of those in standing or sitting posture. I now remember but one picture of a man kneeling, and that was David Livingstone, who in the cause of God and civilization sacrificed himself. In the heart of Africa his servant, Majwara, found him in the tent by the light of a candle, stuck on the top of a box, his head in his hands on the pillow, dead on his knees.
But here is a great lion-tamer, living under the dash of the light, and his hair disheveled of the breeze, praying. The fact is that a man can see farther on his knees than standing on tiptoe. Jerusalem was about 550 statute miles from Babylon, and the vast Arabian Desert shifted its sands between them. Yet through that open window Daniel saw Jerusalem, saw everything in-between the land of his birth and the land of his captivity, saw beyond, saw time, saw eternity, saw earth, and saw heaven.
Would you like to see the way through your sins to pardon, through your troubles to comfort, through temptation to rescue, through dire sickness to immortal health, through night to day, through things terrestrial to things celestial? You will not see them till you take Daniel’s posture. There is no cap of bone to the joints of the fingers, no cap of bone to the joints of the elbow, but there is a cap of bone to the knees, made so because the God of the body is the God of the soul, and He made special provision for those who want to pray. Physiological structure joins with spiritual necessity in bidding us pray, pray, pray.
In olden time the Earl of Westmoreland said he had no need to pray, because he had enough pious tenants on his estate to pray for him; but all the prayers of the church universal amount to nothing unless, like Daniel, we pray for ourselves. O men and women, bounded on one side by Shadrach’s red-hot furnace, and the other side by devouring lions, learn the secret of courage and deliverance by looking at that Babylonian window open toward the southwest!
“Oh,” you say, “that is the direction of the Arabian Desert!” Yes, but on the other side of the desert is God, is Christ, is Jerusalem, is heaven.
The Brussels lace is superior to all other lace, so beautiful, so multiform, so expensive—400 francs a pound. All the world seeks it. Do you know how it is made? The spinning is done in a dark room, the only light admitted through a small aperture [portal], and that light falling directly on the pattern. And the finest specimens of Christian character I have ever seen or ever expect to see are those found in the lives of those whose windows have been darkened by bereavement and misfortune save one, but under that one window of prayer the interlacing of divine workmanship went on until it was fit to deck a throne, a celestial embroidery that angels admired and God approved.
JERUSALEM: THE HEAVENLY LAND
But it is another Jerusalem toward which we now need to open our windows. The exiled evangelist of Ephesus [John the Revelator] saw it one day as the surf of the Icarian sea foamed and splashed over the boulders at his feet. His vision reminded me of a wedding day when the bride, by sister and maid, was having garlands twisted for her hair and jewels strung for her neck just before she put her betrothed hand into the hand of her affianced. “I, John, saw the Holy City, New Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). Toward that bridal Jerusalem are our windows opened?
We would do well to think more of heaven. It is not a mere annex of earth. It is not a desolate outpost. As Jerusalem was the capital of Judah, Babylon the capital of the Babylonian monarchy, London the capital of Great Britain, and Washington the capital of our own republic, so the New Jerusalem is the capital of the universe. The King lives there, with the royal family of the redeemed, and there is a congress of many nations and the parliament of all the worlds.
Yea, as Daniel had kindred in Jerusalem of whom he often thought, though he had left home when a young man—perhaps father, mother, brothers, and sisters still living—and was homesick to see them—they who belonged to the high circles of royalty, Daniel himself having royal blood in his veins—so we have in the New Jerusalem a great many kindred. So we are sometimes homesick to see them. And they too are princes and princesses; in them too is royal blood. So we do well to keep our windows open toward their eternal residence.
It is a joy for us to believe that while we are interested in them, they are interested in us. Much thought of heaven makes one heavenly. The airs that blow through that open window are charged with life, and sweep up to us aromas from gardens that never wither, under skies that never cloud, in a springtime that never ends. Compared with it all other heavens are dead failures.
Homer’s heaven was an elysium that he describes as a plain at the end of the earth or beneath, with no snow nor rainfall, the sun never goes down, and Rhadamanthus, the justest of men, rules. Hesiod’s heaven is what he calls the islands of the blessed, in the middle of the ocean, three times a year blooming with most exquisite flowers; and the air is tinted with purple, while games, music, and horse races occupy the time.
The Scandinavian’s heaven was the hall of Walhalla, where the god Odin gave unending wine-suppers to earthly heroes and heroines.
The Muslim’s heaven passes its disciples in over the bridge Al-Sirat, which is finer than a hair and sharper than a sword; and then they are let loose into a riot of everlasting sensuality.
The American aborigines look forward to a heaven of illimitable [endless] hunting ground, where partridge, deer, and wild duck are more than plentiful, where the hounds are never off the scent, and where the guns are never misfiring.
But the geographer has followed the earth round, and found no Homer’s elysium. Voyagers have traversed the deep in all directions, and found no Hesiod’s islands of the blessed. The Muslim’s celestial debauchery and the Indian’s eternal hunting ground for vast multitudes have no charm.
But here rolls in the Bible heaven. No more sea—that is, no wide separation. No more night—that is, no insomnia. No more tears—that is, no heartbreak. No more pain—that is, dismissal of lancet, bitter draught, and miasma [odor]; banishment of neuralgias, catalepsies [seizures], and consumptions. All colors in the wall except gloomy black; all the music in the major key, because celebrative and jubilant. River crystalline, gate crystalline, and skies crystalline, because everything is clear and without doubt.
White robes, and that means sinlessness. Vials full of aromas, and that means pure regalement of the senses. Rainbow, and that means the storm is over. Marriage supper, and that means gladdest festivity. Twelve manner of fruit, and that means luscious and unending variety. Harp, trumpet, grand march, anthem, amen, and hallelujah in the same orchestra. Choral meeting solo, and overture [introduction] meeting antiphon [line], and strophe [stanza] joining dithyramb [choral hymn], as they roll into the ocean of doxologies. And you and I may have all that, and have it forever through Christ, if we will let Him with the blood of one wounded hand rub out our sin, and with the other wounded hand swing open the shining portals.
Day and night keep your window open toward that Jerusalem. Sing about it. Pray about it. Think about it. Talk about it. Dream about it. Do not be inconsolable about your friends who have gone on ahead. Do not worry if something in your heart indicates that you are not far off from its ecstasies. Do not think that when a Christian dies he stops, for he goes on.
An ingenious man has taken the heavenly furlongs as mentioned in Revelation, and has calculated that there will be in heaven 100 rooms 16 feet square for each ascending soul, though this world should lose a 100 million yearly. But all the rooms of heaven will be ours, for they are family rooms; and as no room in your house is too good for your children, so all the rooms of all the palaces of the heavenly Jerusalem will be free to God’s children. Even the throne room will not be denied. You may run up the steps of the throne, put your hand on the side of the throne, and sit down beside the King according to the promise: “To him who overcomes will I grant to sit with Me in My throne” (Revelation 3:21).
JERUSALEM: THE VICTORIOUS LAND
But you cannot go in except as conquerors.
Many years ago the Turks and Christians were in battle. The Christians were defeated, and with their commander Stephen fled toward a fortress where his mother was staying. When she saw her son and his army in disgraceful retreat, she had the gates of the fortress shut, then from the top of the battlement cried out to her son, “You cannot enter here except as conqueror!”
Then Stephen rallied his forces, resumed the battle, and gained the day, 20,000 Christians driving back 200,000 Turks.
For those who are defeated in the battle with sin, death, and hell, there will be nothing but shame and contempt; but for those who gain the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ, the gates of the New Jerusalem will hoist, and there will be an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord, toward which you do well to keep your windows open.
“If you are a Christian, you are not a citizen of this world trying to get to heaven; you are a citizen of heaven making your way through this world.” ~Vance Havner
Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee
Photo Credit: College of the City of New York
Featured for this series are photographs of old New York.
*Adapted from “Windows Toward Jerusalem,” Thomas DeWitt Talmage [1832-1902], New Tabernacle Sermons Vol I (New York: George Munro, 1886). Quotes, scriptural locations, photos, links, emendations added.