A Sermon Delivered by MATILDA W. ATKINSON, at Long Beach Friends' Church, CA, Date Unknown.
The Friends Chronicle, Vol. I, No. 17 (August 12, 1905.)

This is The Quaker Homiletics Online Anthology, Part Four: The 20th Century

Psalm 138:2--Thou has magnified thy word above all thy name.

The psalmist is going to praise God with his whole heart, so he says, and worship toward His holy temple, and praise His name for His loving kindness and truth. And as the though of the teaching of His truth comes to mind he exclaims, "for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name." Since God has magnified His word so wonderfully, why may not we also make much of it? It might be preached more. Many preachers take themes and subjects not particularly found in the scriptures and lecture upon them. Some take a verse from the Bible and then proceed to tell their own views and opinions, but why not put more of the scripture into the sermon and clothe the message and Bible texts and illustrations and references? I heard a pastor in Oakland, Cal, a D.D., remark at the close of the Chapman union meetings that he had found the people were more hungry for the gospel than they were for literature. Certainly they are. Souls must have soul food. Literature, be it ever so acceptable in its own nature, is not food for the soul. The world of God is. Give us bread or we perish. It might be read more. "Of the making of many books there is no end." Papers, magazines and periodicals abound. The country is surfeited with reading matter. That awful menace to the spiritual life of a Christian, the Sunday newspaper, is finding its way into so many homes. All these claim time and interest and leave the Bible on a shelf or "snowed under" by piles of literature. Friend, where is you Bible? How often does it claim your mind's attention or your heart's interest? If you read it once a week you do better than the majority of professing Christians. If you read it once a day you are in a class that is small in numbers but rich in blessing. If you study and search it to find its teachings and comfort, it is going to influence your thoughts, and conversation and living. Let me urge you to read it more than any other book. If your are about to read some one has written about the scriptures, either its doctrine, teaching or history, be sure to read the scripture itself first, very carefully, over and over, and then as you read the book or article the scripture will help you to understand what the man in the book is trying to say. Most people have some difficulty in expressing themselves clearly. God is able to say just what He wishes to, in very direct language, and He can throw light upon the mistiness of man's explanations; therefore read the Word itself diligently and often and you will become learned and able to understand some of the writings and teachings of men. I know this sounds like irony, but it is so clear and self-evident as a truth, that I choose to put in it the form that will recur to your mind some day when books have succeed in confusing your thoughts. Turn then to the Book and be taught and comforted. How very much responsibility rests upon many teachers and preachers for confusing people's minds in regard to doctrines. If your mind is not clear or satisfied, simply turn to the Word and read and listen. A reverent mind and heart will hear God speaking, see Jesus working, and feel the Holy Spirit witnessing and revealing the truth. I have been unusually impressed of late with the power of the Word in the hands of the Holy Spirit. At a certain meeting, some friends and relatives gathered around a man and urged him to seek Christ. He refused, saying that he had no conviction and could not come. After faithfully exhorting him and clearly witnessing of their own salvation they parted from him promising to pray for conviction to come to him. He was present at the meeting the following afternoon and came at once upon invitation to the alter, saying that he was almost to miserable to live. After praying he began to look for feeling and was disappointed in not finding a great change in himself. Many talked with him and still he continued sad and disappointed. When there was a pause and everybody ceased trying to make him accept their advice, a worker placed an open Bible on the alter before him requesting him to read aloud three times I John 1:9.* He did it and being led by a few questions to acknowledge that it was God's word to his seeking soul, looked about him and said, "Friends, I've got to acknowledge that it is done after all, for God says so in His word." At the sound of the shout of victory and relief of hearts, he smiled and a feeling took possession of him that he was safe and happy. God has truly magnified His word. It is truly above testimony of man and is more reliable than our feelings. The witness of the Holy Spirit is in the written Word of God and is never opposed to it in assurance or doctrine, If you have a "witness" of any kind that contradicts the Word, beware of it, for God will not own it as His and there may be eternal danger in it for you soul.

There are such clear, plain statements in this Word in regard to what we must know and believe and accept. In Ezek. 18:2o, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." This is not an arbitrary statement that God once made and is not obliged to enforce almost against His feelings in some cases, as you might infer from the way people occasionally argue, but the law was eternally settled before the declaration was made. Facts may outlive the utterances of them. They exist before they are published. It is one of the beautiful things about the gospel that God's heart wrote both the words and the music of the angel's song before it was rendered by the heavenly choir to the audience of Judean shepherds. He sang it first and taught them how. John 3:16 was known by the Lord Jesus way back "before the foundation of the world," and he uttered in Nicodemus ears the sound of words that declared truth of eternal standing. I love the word of God. As I read it I seem to be dipping into the mysteries of a great and glorious past whose unfolding ages will reveal much more when we can bear a fuller manifestation. And I look longingly, although it seems to be to good to be true for such as I, upon Rev. 3:20 and 21. "Behold I stand at the door and knock." He has come down even unto me. "If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him and sup with him, and he with me." Part of the time He will be the Guest and let me entertain Him with worship, praise and thanksgiving, and anon He will be my Host and show me beautiful and pleasant things and teach me of the glory and greatness of my inheritance. "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in His throne." How it makes one's heart thrill and glow and settle unto a steadfast determination to overcome at any cost, all that must be overcome in order to let Him carry out His own desires for us. His Word is sure. Treasure it up in your heart. Fight off the enemy of your souls at every turn with what "is written." Read it, love it; believe it and obey it; know it, if you can know nothing else. If you must choose between the study of the Word and the reading of modern thought, choose the Word of God and magnify it above all else.

*If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.