Guest Writer Thomas DeWitt Talmage
“God has made of one blood all nations of men” (Acts 17:26).
Some have supposed that God originally made an Asiatic Adam, a European Adam, an African Adam, and an American Adam [which theory would destroy the Federal headship of Adam], but that theory is entirely overthrown by my text, which says that all nations are blood relatives, having sprang from one and the same stock. A difference in climate makes much of the difference in national temper.
An American goes to Europe and stays there a long while, and finds his pulse moderating and his temper becoming calmer. The air on this side the ocean is more tonic than on the other side. An American breathes more oxygen than a European. A European coming to America finds a great change taking place in himself. He walks with more rapid strides, and finds his voice becoming keener and shriller. The Englishman who walks in London Strand at the rate of three miles an hour, coming to America and residing for a long while here, walks Broadway at the rate of four miles an hour. Much of the difference between an American and a European, between an Asiatic and an African, is atmospheric. The lack of the warm sunlight pales the Greenlander. The full dash of the sunlight darkens the African.
Then, ignorance or intelligence makes its impression on the physical organism—in the one case ignorance flattening the skull, as with the Egyptian; in the other case intelligence building up the great dome of the forehead, as with the German. Then the style of god that the nation worships decides how much it shall be elevated or debased, so that those nations that worship reptiles are themselves only a superior form of reptile, while those nations that worship the natural sun in the heavens are the noblest style of barbaric people.
But whatever be the difference of physiognomy, and whatever the difference of temperament, the physiologist tells us that after careful analysis he finds that the plasma and the disk in the human blood have the same characteristics [which is the reason we can do blood transfusions]. In other words, the science of the day confirms the truth of my text that “God has made of one blood all nations of men.”
I have thought, my friends, it might be profitable this morning if I gave you some of the impressions I received when, through your indulgence, I took a leave of absence and visited Europe.
THE STRUGGLE FOR BREAD
First, I observe that the majority of people in all lands are in a mighty struggle for bread. While in nearly all lands there are only a few cases of actual starvation reported, there is a vast population in every country I visited who have a limited supply of food, or such food as is needed to sustain physical vigor. This struggle in some lands is becoming more agonizing, while here and there it is lightened.
I have joy in reporting that Ireland, of whose sufferings we have heard so much, has far better prospects than I have seen there in previous visits. In 1879, coming home from that land, I prophesied the famine that must come, and did come, to the deluged fields of that country. This year the crops are large, and both parties—those who like the English government and those who don’t—are expecting relief.
I said to one of the intelligent men of Ireland, “Tell me in a few words what are the sufferings of Ireland, and what is the land relief enactment?”
He replied, “I will tell you. Suppose I am a landlord and you a tenant. You rent from me a place for £10 a year. You improve it. You turn it from a bog into a garden. You put a house on it. After a while I, the landlord, come around, and I say to my agent: ‘How much rent is this man paying?’ He answers, ‘£10.’ ‘Is that all? Put his rent up to £20.’ The tenant goes on improving his property; and after a while I come around and I say to my agent, ‘How much rent is this man paying?’ He says, ‘£20.’ ‘Put his rent up to £25.’ The tenant protests and says, ‘I can’t pay it.’ Then I, the landlord, say, ‘Pay it or get out.’ And the tenant is helpless and vacates; and the property in its improved condition reverts to the landlord. Now, to stop that outrage the Land Act (1881) comes in and appoints commissioners who will see that if the tenant is turned out, he will receive the difference of value between the farm as he received it and the farm as he surrenders it. Moreover, the government loans money to the tenant, so that he may buy the property outright if the landlord will sell.”
Mighty advancement toward the righting of a great wrong! But there and in all lands, not excepting our own, there is a far-reaching distress. Let those who broke their fast this morning, and those who will dine today, remember those who are in want, and by prayer and practical beneficence do all they can to alleviate worldwide hunger.
THE BROTHERHOOD OF MAN
Another impression was—indeed the impression carried with me all the summer—the thought already suggested, the brotherhood of man. The fact is that the differences are so small between nations that they may be said to be all alike. Though I spent the most of the summer in silence, I spoke a few times and to people of different nations, and how soon I noticed that they were very much alike! If a man knows how to play the piano, it does not make any difference whether he finds it in New Orleans, San Francisco, Boston, St Petersburg, Moscow, or Madras; it has so many keys, and he puts his fingers right on them.
And the human heart is a divine instrument, with just so many keys. You strike some of them, and there is joy; you strike some of them, and there is sorrow. Plied by the same motives, uplifted by the same success, depressed by the same griefs. The cabmen of London have the same characteristics as the cabmen of New York, and are as modest and retiring. The gold and silver drive Piccadilly and the Boulevards as they drive Wall Street. If there be a great political excitement in Europe, the Bourse in Paris howls as loudly as ever did the American gold-room.
The same grief that we saw in our country in 1864 you may find now in the military hospitals of England containing the wounded and sick from the Egyptian wars. The same widowhood and orphanage that sat down in despair after the battles of Shiloh and South Mountain poured their grief in the Shannon, the Clyde, the Dee, and the Thames.
O you men and women who know how to pray! Never get up from your knees until you have implored God in behalf of the 1.4 billion of the race like yourselves, finding life a tremendous struggle! For who knows but that as the sun today draws up drops of water from the Caspian Sea, from the Black Sea, from the Amazon River, and from the Mississippi River, and after a while distills the rain, and these raindrops fall on the fields—who knows but that “the sun of righteousness” (Malachi 4:2) may draw up the tears of your sympathy and then rain them down in distillation of comfort over all the world?
Who is that poor man carried on a stretcher to the Afghan ambulance? He is your brother. If in the Pantheon at Paris you smite your hand against the wall among the tombs of the dead, you will hear a strange echo coming from all parts of the Pantheon. And I suppose it is so arranged that every stroke of sorrow among the tombs of bereavement ought to have loud, long, and oft-repeated echoes of sympathy all around the world.
Oh, what a beautiful theory it is—and it is a Christian theory—that Englishman, Scotchman, Irishman, Norwegian, Frenchman, Italian, Russian, are all akin! “Of one blood all nations of men.”
That is a beautiful inscription that I saw a few days ago over the door in Edinburgh, Scotland, the door of the house where John Knox used to live. It is getting somewhat dim now, but there is the inscription, fit for the door of any household—Luve God abuve al and yi nychtbour as yi self [“Love God above all, and your neighbor as yourself” (cf Matthew 22:37-39)].
THE BEAUTY OF THE BIBLE
I was also impressed, in journeying on the other side the sea, with the difference the Bible makes in countries. The two places in Europe that are the most moral today and that have the least crime are Scotland and Wales. They have by statistics, as you may find, fewer thefts, fewer arsons, fewer murders. What is the reason? A bad book can hardly live in Wales. The Bible crowds it out. I was told by one of the first literary men in Wales: “There is not a bad book in the Welsh language.” He said, “Bad books come down from London, but they cannot live here.” It is the Bible that is dominant in Wales.
And then in Scotland just open your Bible to give out your text, and there is a rustling all over the house almost startling to an American. What is it? The people opening their Bibles to find the text, looking at the context, picking out the referenced passages, seeing whether you make right quotation. Scotland and Wales: Bible-reading people. That accounts for it. A man, a city, a nation that reads God’s Word must be virtuous. That Book is the foe of all wrongdoing. What makes Edinburgh better than Constantinople? The Bible.
Oh, I am afraid in America we are allowing the Good Book to be covered up with other good books! We have our ever-welcome morning and evening newspapers, and we have our good books on all subjects—geology, botany, physiology, theology—good books, beautiful books, and so many good books that we have not time to read the Bible. Oh, my friends, it is not a matter of great importance that you have a family Bible on the center table in your parlor! Better have one pocket New Testament, the passages marked, the leaves turned down, the binding worn smooth with much usage, than fifty pictorial family Bibles too handsome to read!
Oh, let us take a whisk broom and brush the dust off our Bibles! Do you want poetry? Go and hear Job describe the warhorse (Job 39:19), or David tell how the mountains skipped like rams and the hills like lambs (Psalm 114:4). Do you want logic? Go and hear Paul reason until your brain aches under the spell of his mighty intellect (cf Romans and Galatians). Do you want history? Go and see Moses put into a few pages stupendous information that Herodotus, Thucydides, and Prescott never preached after (cf Deuteronomy). Above all, if you want to find how a nation struck down by sin can rise to happiness and to heaven, read of that blood that can wash away the pollution of a world (Revelation 1:5).
There is one passage in the Bible of vast tonnage: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Oh, may God fill this country with Bibles and help the people to read them!
THE SUPREMACY OF CHRIST
I was also impressed in my transatlantic journeys with the wonderful power that Christ holds among the nations. The great name in Europe today is not Victoria, not Marquis of Salisbury, not William the Emperor, not Bismarck; the great name in Europe today is Christ. You find the crucifix on the gatepost, you find it in the hay field, you find it at the entrance of the manor, you find it by the side of the road.
The greatest pictures in all the galleries of Italy, Germany, France, England, and Scotland are Bible pictures.
What were the subjects of Raphael‘s great paintings? The Transfiguration, The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, The Charge to Peter, The Holy Family, The Massacre of the Innocents, Moses at the Burning Bush, The Nativity, Michael the Archangel, and the four or five exquisite Madonnas.
What are Tintoretto‘s great pictures? Fall of Adam, Cain and Abel, The Plague of the Fiery Serpent, Paradise, Agony in the Garden, The Temptation, The Adoration of the Magi, The Communication, Baptism, Massacre of the Innocents, The Flight Into Egypt, The Crucifixion, The Madonna.
What are Titian‘s great pictures? The Flagellation of Christ, The Supper at Emmaus, The Death of Abel, The Assumption, The Entombment, Faith, The Madonna.
What are Michelangelo‘s great pictures? The Annunciation, The Spirits in Prison, At the Feet of Christ, The Infant Christ, The Crucifixion, The Last Judgement.
What are Paul Veronese‘s great pictures? Queen of Sheba, The Marriage in Cana, Magdalene Washing the Feet of Christ, The Holy Family.
Who has not heard of Da Vinci‘s Last Supper? Who has not heard of Turner‘s Pools of Solomon? Who has not heard of Claude‘s Marriage of Isaac and Rebekah? Who has not heard of Dürer‘s Dragon of the Apocalypse?
The mightiest picture on this planet is Rubens‘ Scourging of Christ. Another, Rubens’ Descent From the Cross, is one of the most remarkable pictures I ever saw.
One afternoon in Antwerp, Belgium, a man stood in the cathedral completely absorbed in Descent From the Cross when, after others had left, the janitor came to him and said, “It is time to close the cathedral for the night. I wish you would leave.”
So real was the painting, so mesmerizing was the scene, that the man turned to him and said, “No, no, not yet. Wait till they take Him down!”
The painter’s pencil loves to sketch the face of Christ. The sculptor’s chisel loves to present the form of Christ. Organs love to roll forth the sorrows of Christ.
When you go to London, visit the Doré picture gallery. I went and sat down before Christ Leaving the Prætorium. At first I was disappointed. I said, “There isn’t enough majesty in that countenance, not enough tenderness in that eye.” But as I sat and looked at the picture, it grew on me until I was overwhelmed with its power, and I staggered with emotion as I went out into the fresh air. “Oh, for that Christ I must live, and for that Christ I must be willing to die!” Make that Christ your personal friend, my sister, my brother.
You may never go to Milan to see Da Vinci’s Last Supper; but, better than that, you can have Christ come and sup with you (Revelation 3:20). You may never get to Antwerp to see Rubens’ Descent of Christ from the Cross, but you can have Christ come down from the mountain of His suffering into your heart and abide there forever. Oh, you must have Him!
We are all so diseased with sin that we want that which hurts us, and we won’t have that which cures us. The best thing for you and for me to do today is to get down on our bended knees before God and say, “O Almighty Son of God, I am blind! I want to see. My arms are palsied. I want to take hold of Your cross. Have mercy on me, O Lord Jesus!”
Why will you live on husks when you may sit down to this bread of heaven (John 6:32-35)? Oh, with such a God, with such a Christ, with such a Holy Spirit, and with such an immortal nature, wake up!
THE TRIUMPH OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
Once more, I was impressed greatly on the other side the sea with the wonderful triumph of the Christian faith. The tide is rising, the tide of moral and spiritual prosperity in the world. I think that any man who keeps his eyes open, traveling in foreign lands, will come to that conclusion. More Bibles than ever before, more churches, more consecrated men and women, more people ready to be martyrs now than ever before, if need be.
So, instead of there being, as people sometimes say, less spirit of martyrdom now than ever before, I believe where there was once one martyr, now there would be a thousand martyrs if the fires were kindled—men ready to go through flood and fire for Christ’s sake! Oh, the signs are promising! The world is on the way to millennial brightness. Someday, all art, all invention, all literature, and all commerce will be the Lord’s.
These ships that you see going up and down New York harbor are to be brought into the service of God. All those ships I saw at Liverpool, at Southampton, and at Glasgow, are to be brought into the service of Christ. What is that passage, “Ships of Tarshish shall bring presents” (cf Psalm 72:10)? That is what it means.
Oh, what a goodly fleet when the vessels of the sea come into the service of God! No gun frowning through the portholes, no pike hung in the gangway, nothing from cutwater [forward prow] to taffrail [stern rail] to suggest atrocity. Those ships will come from all parts of the seas. Great flocks of ships that never met on the high sea but in wrath, will cry, “Ship ahoy!” and drop down beside each other in calmness, the flags of Emmanuel streaming from the topgallants [square-rigged sail above topmast].
The old slaver, with decks scrubbed, washed, glistened, and burnished—the old slaver will wheel into line, the Chinese junk, the Venetian gondola [canal boat], and the miners’ and the pirates’ corvette [warship], will fall into line, equipped, readorned, beautified: only the small craft of this grand flotilla that will float out for the Truth—a flotilla mightier than the armada of Xerxes moving in the pomp and pride of Persian insolence; mightier than the Carthaginian navy rushing with forty thousand oarsmen on the Roman galleys, the life of nations dashed out against the gunwales.
Rise, O Sea! Shine, O Heavens! Greet this squadron of light and victory! On the glistening decks are the feet of them that bring good tidings. Songs of heaven float among the rigging. Crowd on all the canvas. Line-of-battle ship and merchantmen wheel into the way. It is noon. Strike eight bells [nautical time]. From all the squadron the sailors’ songs arise. “Surely the isles shall wait for you, and the ships of Tarshish to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of the Lord your God, and the Holy One of Israel” (Isaiah 60:9).
“O clap your hands, shout to God with the voice of triumph, for God is the King of all the earth” (Psalm 47:1, 2).
Copyright © 2014 Alexandra Lee
Photo Credit: Mott Street Chinatown, New York City
Featured for this series are photographs of old New York.
*Adapted from “All The World Akin,” Thomas DeWitt Talmage [1832-1902], New Tabernacle Sermons Vol I (New York: George Munro, 1886). Quotes, scriptural locations, photos, links, emendations added.