Little Studio Films partners with Author David R. Stokes for Hollywood Productions


LOS ANGELES, CA, USA, September 16, 2014  — Little Studio Films is pleased to announce a collaboration with author David R. Stokes. They will be working on promoting for Film and TV adaptations his novel, Camelot’s Cousin, as well as his narrative non-fiction bestseller, The Shooting Salvationist.


Camelot’s Cousin is an espionage thriller set against the backdrop of the Cuban Missile Crisis and other famous events during the Kennedy administration. The discovery of a long-buried journal indicates that one of President Kennedy’s most trusted friends was actually a Soviet mole. Templeton Davis, a scholar and media personality becomes lost in an investigation and travels far and wide in his quest to unravel one of the 20th century’s greatest mysteries.

The Shooting Salvationist, distributed by Random House, is the real-life story of the Reverend Doctor J. Frank Norris. A powerful pastor, publisher, and broadcaster in the 1920s, Norris is the subject of one of the most intriguing and forgotten legal cases in American history after being charged with first-degree murder. Set in a post WWI world, the reader is taken into the courtroom as some of the most prominent legal figures of the day work to determine Norris’ fate.

“I’m thrilled about working with Little Studio Films. Alexia Melocchi has been extremely helpful and has a great gift for encouragement. The very thought that stories that have been buzzing around in my head, and that finally made their way into print, could one day be lived out large on the screen is the stuff dreams are made of. It’s an amazing thing to be able to explore your vision with other visionaries,” said Stokes.

Added producer Alexia Melocchi, “David Stokes is a masterful storyteller. He is able to transport us into historical events of our past with his extensive research on the subjects he writes about and the added emotion of his work and depth of his characters. He is a most welcome addition to our strong roster of best selling authors.”
To learn more about Stokes and his work, please visit his website. To learn more about Little Studio Films, visit them online.

ABOUT DAVID STOKES: David Stokes is an author, ordained minister, broadcaster, and columnist. His works have topped The Wall Street Journal lists and have garnered rave reviews.
ABOUT LITTLE STUDIO FILMS: Little Studio Films is a international company founded by Alexandra Yacovlef and Alexia Melocchi, devoted to discovering and nurturing new, fresh voices in film and television. They offer top services to help each client reach their goals.

Alexia Melocchi



One Monday several years ago, my wife and I traveled to Williamsburg, Virginia. Some friends had graciously offered their condo to us for a few days of relaxation. We had been looking forward to the trip for several weeks—a nice getaway at the end of the summer. The weather was perfect and we toured local sights that day. At dinnertime, we found a nice local eatery—a “home cooking” kind of place. I ordered the fried chicken.

Anytime I get the chance, I order the fried chicken.

But by the time the food came, Karen and I were lost in quiet thought and just picked at the stuff on our plates. It was one of those strange moments when spouses seem to be inside each other’s minds because at the same instant, we both said we felt a strong pull to return to our home in Northern Virginia. There was nothing pressing. Everything back there was covered, but it’s as if we had been in picturesque Williamsburg for a month and were homesick for routine. So, we blew off the getaway, packed our bags, and headed up the road. We arrived home about ten o’clock that night and found ourselves feeling a little silly for having cut such a nice trip so short. There had to be a reason, we thought.

The next morning we understood all too well, as a beautiful September day turned generationally horrific.

It was Tuesday, September 11, 2001.

1527793_10204832251433274_8441809561279703796_nPeople over seventy-five years of age remember where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of a surprise attack on American forces in a faraway place called Pearl Harbor. Those a generation younger likely have the same recollection about November 22, 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. But I imagine no memory quite compares with the images of that September day seared on our souls.

The pages of history are filled with horrific things. Back in the years 1940-1942, Great Britain experienced what we did in 2001 just about every day. Think about that—hundreds of enemy bombers raining death and destruction from the skies every day and eventually every night.

A year or so earlier, as the clouds of war gathered over Europe for the second time in a generation, the Ministry of Information in the United Kingdom developed some slogans for morale building—mantras that leaders felt would help people cope with what was believed to be coming—all-out war. We would call them “affirmations” today. The words were carefully designed for billboards, the walls of buildings, and other venues for public notice.

The first of these said, simply: “Freedom Is In Peril. Defend It With All Your Might.”

The next one was a little more to the point: “Your Courage, Your Cheerfulness, Your Resolution Will Bring Us Victory.”

The third poster in the series was actually never released. It was designed to be part of the public information plastered everywhere if the Germans actually invaded—a big concern at the time. The Nazis were fast advancing across Belgium and France and the threat to England seemed imminent and inevitable. But then, on May 10, 1940, Winston Churchill replaced the ever-wobbly Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister. This change at the top rendered the need for mere paper posters obsolete. They now had all the best slogans in the flesh.

The new premier’s face quickly became the most famous image of the era and his voice its soundtrack. Churchill’s passionate eloquence tapped into the dormant, but indomitable spirit of a battered population.

Legendary newsman, Edward R. Murrow, was famous for his broadcasts from the blitz and the trademark phrase, “This is London.” He reported from rooftops all over the city as bombs fell from the sky. And in many ways, his words helped prepare Americans for battles yet to come. After the war, Murrow remarked that Churchill had “mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”

On June 18, 1940, Churchill addressed the House of Commons, where he had lived out most of his, at times, erratic political career. He talked about how the Battle of Britain was about to begin:

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their Finest Hour.’

On September 11, 2001, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani demonstrated energetic and effective leadership when he seized the moment and guided that most unmanageable of all municipalities through a very dark and difficult time. He was nothing short of an inspiration to the nation.

When Mr. Giuliani reached the point of exhaustion in the early hours of Wednesday, September 12th, he went home and revisited a book he had been reading the previous few nights. It was the full-length biography of Winston Churchill, written by Roy Jenkins. The mayor of New York was reading about how the British Prime Minister had led his country through the Battle of Britain. There is no doubt that Giuliani drew inspiration from Churchill’s powerful example.

So, the third Ministry of Information slogan, having been rendered unnecessary by Churchill’s persona and vocabulary, never made it to billboards in 1940: “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

As far we know, most of the copies of the original poster were destroyed at the end of the war and turned to pulp. But a few survived—hidden for six decades. In 2000, a bookseller from northeast England discovered a copy tucked away among some old books bought at an auction. Eventually, other copies were unearthed in archival collections at the Imperial War Museum and British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London. And, as inexplicably happens every once in a while, the slogan eventually went viral.

Keep Calm and Carry On: There is something attractive and compelling about this short phrase. It’s a reminder that no matter what life throws at us, the best way through is forward. But to the follower of Jesus Christ, this should be more than a momentary psyche up.

It must be rooted in the most profound of relationships and a transcendent and guiding sense of purpose and destiny.

[Excerpted from my book, HOW TO KEEP CALM & CARRY ON: 1st Century Wisdom for 21st Century Living” — available  at AMAZON.COM]


Has the Case of “Jack the Ripper” Been Finally Solved?

[NOTE – SEPTEMBER 7, 2014: There have been many reports in recent days about DNA evidence pointing to the identity of the infamous serial killer known as “Jack the Ripper.” The case has gone unsolved for more than 125 years. Now, reports such as this one at the Huffington Post identify a man named AARON KOMINSKI as the murderer of several women during a span of several weeks in the White Chapel section of London, England’s east end in the fall of 1888. Interestingly, I wrote an article more than a year ago about SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, the lead detective on the case at the time for Scotland Yard. He was also a prolific Bible teacher and writer in Victorian England. In the article, which I’ve republished tonight, I highlight in bold the section dealing with Anderson’s theory about Aaron Kominski. In fact, Anderson — the man I call “God’s Detective”–was convinced of Kominski’s guilt in the case in the immediate aftermath of the investigation. And his theory about the case was published in the Washington Post in 1910, as I mention below. – DRS]


By David R. Stokes

By the late 1880s, the British Empire was at its zenith — culturally, politically, and economically. Its capital, London, was, in effect, the capital of the world. Queen Victoria celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1887, marking 50 years on the throne. She was called the grandmother of Europe in many quarters. The nickname was justified. Her children had married into many of Europe’s royal families.

largeWilliam Gladstone and Robert Cecil (Lord Salisbury) were the strong political rivals of the day, Benjamin Disraeli having died in 1881. Arthur Conan Doyle’s new stories about a detective named Sherlock Holmes were becoming quite popular. H. G. Wells published his first short story in an obscure journal in 1888. A play called “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” was drawing capacity crowds to the Lyceum Theater in Westminster. George Bernard Shaw was trying to make a career as a literary critic. Fourteen-year-old Winston Churchill lived in London then — as did an eighteen-year-old young man from India named Gandhi.

Possibly they were among the readers of The Star — the largest evening circulation newspaper in London on Friday, August 31, 1888. If so, they might have noticed this item on the front page:

Mr. Robert Anderson, who succeeds Assistant Commissioner J Munro at Scotland Yard, is the third son of Matthew Anderson, of Dublin, formerly Crown solicitor for the city and county of Dublin. He is forty-seven years of age, and married in 1873 to Agnes Alexandrina, sister of Ponson by W. Moore, cousin and heir presumptive of the Marquis of Drogheda. Mr. Anderson was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, where he holds the honorary degree LL.D, and entered a student of the Middle Temple in 1860, and was called to the Bar 1870, having previously been called to the Dublin Bar in 1863.


Described as “London’s foremost detective,” Robert Anderson was a tall man of “precise habits and quiet demeanor, and whose face is that of a deep student.” Absent from the announcement in The Star was any reference to Mr. Anderson’s other life and work. He was a devout Christian and the prolific author of several books about the Bible, one of which unlocked a code found in one of the Old Testament’s most cryptic visions.

The timing of the notice in the newspaper that August evening was interesting, for just across the same page was a story headlined, “A Revolting Murder.” It described the horrific discovery of the body of a woman in the Whitechapel area of London’s East End. Her name was Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols. She was the first victim of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper.

Quite a day to begin a new job as “London’s foremost detective.”

Though of Scottish descent, Robert Anderson was born in Dublin, Ireland, on May 29, 1841. His family was active in the Irish Presbyterian Church, and his father, Matthew Anderson, was an important official in the city. He was a Crown Solicitor. It was his job to prepare cases for criminal prosecution. There can be little doubt that the dual themes of Robert’s life were developed early on through his father’s life and influence — theology and criminal law.

coming_princeRobert was very young when an infamous blight turned Ireland’s potato crop — the staple of the nation’s diet — into black, fungus-laden, mush. Due to his father’s secure position and salary, the Andersons were somewhat removed from what was going on in rural areas. As he grew through his teen years, two cultural dynamics influenced Robert’s life and career. First, there was the emergence of the Irish nationalist movement. Britain had done very little to help the suffering people in Ireland during the potato famine, and many were passionate about Ireland becoming an independent nation. The issue became an international concern because more than a million Irish citizens left home to seek better lives in the United States. Irish- Americans who supported Irish independence were known as Fenians — a nomenclature that eventually described all wings of the nationalist movement.

The second cultural matter formative for Robert Anderson was the Great Irish Revival of 1859. This spiritual awakening was driven by prayer meetings and the powerful preaching of men such as Henry Grattan Guinness, grandson of the famous brewer of Irish stout ale. Robert attended several local services at the invitation of his sister. His analytical mind prompted him to listen to the preaching with the ear of a critic, but soon he proclaimed, “In God’s name, I will accept Christ!”

A stellar student, Robert graduated from Trinity College in Dublin in 1862 with a B.A. (eventually receiving the L.L.D. from Trinity in 1875). He studied briefly in France (Boulogne and Paris), before being admitted to the Irish Bar in 1863. But before plunging completely into a career, Anderson joined a team of missionaries and evangelists who traveled from town to town in Ireland preaching the gospel and seeking converts. His work as a lay-preacher fueled his desire to know the Scriptures. He immersed himself in the pages of the Bible and read it with a devoted heart and keen mind. The spadework for the books he eventually wrote about biblical themes was done during this time.

According to his diary, Robert preached not only in churches, but “in schoolrooms, court-houses or jury rooms, in private houses, cottages or barns, once at least in a ballroom, at times in open-air.” He wrote to his sister, “We are living in the pilgrim fashion,” and he recounted stories of God’s work, such as one about a man who “said that a week ago he was the vilest wretch in the country, but now saved.”

The fulltime ministry was not, however, to be Robert Anderson’s permanent path. He would remain passionate about his faith for the rest of his life, but he would do so as a layman. Imitating the biblical character Daniel — a man he wrote much about — Anderson would be a civil servant, involved in matters that were anything but the stuff of gospel meetings.

Largely through the influence of his father, Robert was drawn into Secret Service work. In 1865, Matthew Anderson was prosecuting a number of Fenian members charged with treason. He turned to his sons Samuel and Robert for help with the research side of things. He trusted them with confidential reports and other secret information that crossed his desk.

Nepotism may have been his gateway to the world of secrets, but Robert Anderson quickly demonstrated that he was a natural. One historian wrote of him that he was “able to work with the quiet patience and efficiency of a spider.” The same mind that found the Bible so fascinating — particularly various cryptic prophecies — also found intelligence gathering to be very interesting.

Irish nationalists referred to people like the Anderson family — Irish, but not in sympathy with the Fenians — as “castle rats,” a reference to the iconic Dublin Castle, the seat and emblem of British power in Dublin. But soon Robert became the resident expert on all things Fenian, and he wrote a detailed history of the movement for the authorities. This opened many doors for the young lawyer. His work on the project was known in the highest circles, and eventually Anderson was called to London to join a taskforce of sorts dealing with the Irish threat and political crime in general.

Along the way, Robert Anderson — while working on his writing about biblical themes in his spare time — became involved with the interrogation of Fenian prisoners. From there, it was a small step into the murky world of infiltration and espionage. Soon the man who had preached the gospel in the open air became a spymaster.

Thomas Beach, a.k.a. Henri Le Caron, has been called “the champion spy of the century.” That would be the 19th century. He infiltrated the Fenian movement in America for 21 years. And he reported directly to his handler in the British Secret Service — Robert Anderson.

A good number of Irish-Americans fought in the American Civil War — on both sides. By the end of the conflict in 1865, many of those same soldiers drifted into the Fenian cause. The more aggressive and extreme of the lot conceived a plan to attack British strongholds in Canada. The idea was to hold Canada hostage. This would be accomplished by seizing key cities and centers. If successful, the Fenians would then try to negotiate a trade with the reviled British — swap Canada for Ireland’s independence. Toward this end, there were four Fenian “raids” conducted between 1866 and 1871.

The raids were doomed from the start, not only because the whole scheme was incredibly far-fetched, but also because of the work of spy Henri Le Caron and his handler, Robert Anderson. They made sure the best-laid Fenian plans were betrayed long before implementation.

In 1873, Robert Anderson married Agnes Alexandrina Moore — together they would have five children. Shortly thereafter he began writing books, many of which are still widely read by Bible students today. It was quite remarkable that Anderson could think through and produce so many detailed studies of scriptural issues while immersed in a demanding and intense career. An old college friend wrote to him in 1876, “How on earth have you had time to dive into theology?” But he found the time and spent it well.

The Gospel and its Ministry was published in 1875, dealing with the great themes of grace, faith, repentance, reconciliation, and justification. A bit later he wrote what was likely the most widely read of his books — The Coming Prince. In it he dealt in-depth with prophecies found in the Book of Daniel about an end-time ruler. Probably the most famous — and controversial — part of the book is Anderson’s calculation and solution regarding Daniel’s vision of “seventy-weeks.”

With the help of the Royal Astronomer, Sir George Airy, he fixed the date of the decree by Cyrus for the Jews to “restore and build Jerusalem” at March 14, 445 BC. Anderson calculated 173,880 days — accounting for 69 weeks of years on the lunar calendar — and arrived at April 6, 32 AD as the date Jesus entered Jerusalem, shortly before his crucifixion. The final “week” would be later in history and feature the ungodly work of the Antichrist, “who by the sheer force of transcendent genius will gain a place of undisputed pre-eminence.”

A few years later Anderson wrote Human Destiny, an examination of life after death from a biblical perspective. It thoroughly examined theories such as “universalism” and “conditional mortality.” One contemporary preacher, none other than Charles Haddon Spurgeon, considered this Anderson book to be “the most valuable contribution on the subject.” Later he wrote The Silence of God (which comforted many in Britain during The Great War) and The Bible and Modern Criticism.

In all, he wrote 17 volumes based on biblical issues, as well as three books about his work for the government. His circle of friends included Lord Salisbury (Robert Cecil), William Gladstone, Henry Drummond, James M. Gray, C. I. Scofield, A.C. Dixon, C.H. Spurgeon, E. W. Bullinger, John Nelson Darby, and many others.

Anderson’s work as a spymaster eventually led to an appointment as Irish Agent at the Home Office in London. He moved in influential circles, often in the company of the rich and powerful. He was invited into the “Gossett’s Room” — an elite club usually reserved for members of Parliament. Over the next several years, Robert Anderson, in addition to his work with the Home Office, served as secretary of the Royal Commission on Loss of Life at Sea, secretary of the Prison Commission, and on the Royal Observatory of Edinburgh Commission.

Anderson thought of leaving government service in the early 1880s, possibly to pursue his writing full time. But the rise of Fenian violence in London — including several bombings — kept him connected to secret work. He was involved in the creation of a new intelligence organization called the Special Irish Branch. This role put him in the perfect position at Scotland Yard to step into what would become the most sensational and controversial murder investigation in history.

Robert Anderson’s official title was Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and Chief of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). And he was the man in charge of the big case as fear gripped East London.

Eventually, five women were savagely murdered — the victims of Jack the Ripper (there are many who think there could have been as many as 18). The spree ran from the 31st of August in 1888 through the following November 9th, ending abruptly and mysteriously with the killing of Mary Jane Kelly.

The crimes have never been solved and opinions abound. The list of suspects involves more than 30 names, including a member of the Royal family, author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland), and at least one woman.

Robert Anderson actually believed that the crime had been solved, and over the years he left hints as to the identity of the killer. For example, this item was in the March 21, 1910, edition of the Washington Post:


Sir Robert Anderson, for more than 30 years chief of the criminal investigation department of the British government, and head of the detective bureau at Scotland Yard, has at length raised the veil of mystery which for nearly two decades has enveloped the identity of the perpetrator of those atrocious crimes known as the Whitechapel murders.

Sir Robert establishes the fact that the infamous “Jack the Ripper,” as the unknown slayer had been dubbed by the public, and at whose hands no less than fourteen women of the unfortunate class lost their lives within a circumscribed area of the east end of London, was an alien of the lower, though educated class, hailing from Poland, and a maniac of the most virulent and homicidal type — of a type recorded, by reason of its rarity, in medical treatises, but one with which the world at large is not familiar.

But the most important point of all made by Sir Robert is the fact that once the criminal investigation department was sure that it had in its hands the real perpetrator of the Whitechapel murders it procured from the secretary of state for the home department a warrant committing the man for detention “during the Kings’ pleasure” to the great asylum for the criminally insane at Broadmoor five or six years ago.

The man’s name was Aaron Kozminski. In 2011, “Ripperologist” Robert House wrote a book called Jack the Ripper and the Case for Scotland Yard’s Prime Suspect. In it, he makes the case that Robert Anderson was right, and that Kozminski was indeed the notorious serial killer.

9867612Anderson retired from public life in 1901 and was knighted. He would be known ever after as Sir Robert Anderson. He spent his remaining days preaching and writing, advancing the cause of Christ and paying special attention to biblical prophecy and the second coming of Christ. He remained a keen student of current events and international affairs, always viewing them through the prism of God’s Word.

Interestingly, Anderson himself seemed to wax prophetic when he wrote these words in the 1890s: “History repeats itself, and if there be any element of periodicity in the political diseases by which nations are afflicted, Europe will pass through another crisis and it is impossible to foretell how far kingdoms may become consolidated and boundaries changed.”

He lived to see that great crisis — The Great War — but not long enough to witness the full measure of consolidated kingdoms and shifted boundaries. A few days after the armistice, Robert Anderson, as did millions of others around that time, succumbed to Spanish Influenza. He died on November 15, 1918.


David R. Stokes is an author, broadcaster, columnist, and Senior Pastor of Fair Oaks Church in Fairfax, VA. His personal website is


During his farewell remarks in the White House East Room on August 9, 1974, President Richard Milhous Nixon told the truth.

Nixon_FarewellNixon remains a controversial and tarnished historical figure. But his impact on America was significant. Only Franklin Roosevelt’s name appeared on as many national ballots (five). His presidency, though now remembered by many for the way it ended, was actually filled with great achievement and success in many ways. Nixon was a brilliant visionary.

But he also had a weakness.

It was a failure to tell the truth that became Nixon’s undoing. The highly publicized tapes of what he thought would remain private conversations revealed that shortcoming. Nixon really did have enemies, but he later acknowledged that he was the one who gave them the sword to use with relish.

Forty years ago this weekend, I was a few days away from beginning my first year of college and was finishing up a summer job at a Taylor, Michigan menswear store. I asked my boss if I could leave a bit early on August 8th, and he asked me why. I told him that I wanted to watch the President’s speech. I made it home just as the living room clock chimed nine times. The image of President Nixon came on the screen, and he began: “Good evening. This is the 37th time I have spoken to you from this office.”

My mother was crying. Mom and Dad were Nixon people since voting for him when he was Vice President under Eisenhower. I was an “Alex P. Keaton” type of kid who often defended Nixon to my high school teachers. Fortunately for me, the summer of 1974 began and school was out by the time I finally realized that Watergate indeed involved Nixon, saving me from a litany of condescending voices saying, “I told you so.”

However my interest in Nixon, his work and legacy, did not end when he waved, flashed a victory sign, and got into Marine One on the White House lawn. I wrote about him in graduate school, and years later had the privilege of writing some for his library in Yorba Linda, as well as doing some of the voice-over work that continues to be used in a few exhibits there.

As we note the 40th anniversary of Nixon’s resignation, I think it’s what the man said to his staff and other assembled guests that continues to resonate with me. It was an unusual address for someone who was a master at extemporaneous speaking.

Among the gifts and passions possessed by the 37th President of the United States was a love for the English language. He was a wordsmith and actually quite good at it, in spite of the fact that his White House staff included a stable of excellent speechwriters. Not since Woodrow Wilson had a president been so involved in writing his own speeches. And Nixon never used a teleprompter.

When Nixon spoke that Friday morning, just after signing his resignation letter for Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, there were about 300 people in the East Room. I watched it on television, along with millions of others.

His remarks were at times rambling and mawkish. His tone wasn’t defiant like when speaking in 1962 after losing the race for Governor in California, when he talked about not having him to “kick around” anymore. But it was somewhat painful to watch.

After talking about mountains, valleys, young people, his “Old Man,” and his saintly mother, Mr. Nixon shared words that are worth remembering no matter what our lot in life. They were likely among the most self-aware words Nixon ever uttered in public:

Remember, always give your best. Never get discouraged. Never be petty. Always remember, others may hate you. But those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.” [Emphasis added]

In a very real sense, Richard Nixon explained Watergate in that moment. He was a man with the capacity for greatness, one of the smartest men ever to hold the nation’s highest office. But he wrestled with a very common problem: Unresolved anger.

I could be wrong, but I wonder if that day, as Nixon was talking about his Quaker mother, he wasn’t remembering something she had most certainly taught her gifted son. It was what Jesus said:

“But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” [Matthew 5:44]

The Revolutions of July

[My article appears at today — DRS]

On July 14, 1789, Thomas Jefferson was serving as America’s Ambassador to France. The author of the Declaration of Independence in another July, thirteen-years earlier, was an eyewitness to the political unrest leading to the storming of a political prison called The Bastille. Though the fortress housed only seven inmates at the moment, including four forgers, it remains the iconic symbol of beginning of The French Revolution.

Charles_Thévenin,_The_Storming_of_the_Bastille_on_14_July_1789,_ca._1793Our Constitution had been ratified a year earlier, and George Washington had recently been inaugurated as our first President, so there was great interest in America about what was going on in France 225 years ago. After all, the French had been extremely helpful to us during our successful struggle to, as Jefferson phrased it, “dissolve the political bands” that connected us to the British monarchy. Americans were therefore understandably sympathetic with a movement against monarchial tyranny in France.The American and French Revolutions are linked in history largely because of chronology, but they were vastly different affairs. One led to a new birth of freedom—the other to terror and tyranny, becoming the prototype for unspeakable horrors to come.

Most Americans are familiar with a phrase from John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address on January 20, 1961—that whole “Ask not…” thing. But I think the most important thing JFK said that day was this:

And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God. We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. [Emphasis added]

But what is happening in our nation right now may resemble what happened in France in 1789 more than what happened in Philadelphia in 1776. For many Americans, especially those on the left, the cry of “Liberty – Equality – Fraternity” is much more resonant than the one about “Life – Liberty – and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

It is in the parsing of those vitally important words that we find the keys to understanding where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. One revolution was about individual rights and dreams. The other was about “the people” as a group and the highest virtue being “the greater good.”

When Thomas Jefferson wrote about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”in the Declaration of Independence, he was borrowing from 17th century English philosopher John Locke who wrote about “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.” Jefferson’s use of this language was clearly designed to describe the rights of individual people to live free, be free, and pursue their dreams in a free marketplace. Those thoughts were very much present in that Philadelphia birthing room.

The French Revolution, on the other hand—though similar to what happened here in America, in the sense of changing things and breaking free from an old order—had little to do with individual rights.

It was all about collectivism.

And in many ways, the French Revolution is the ancestor of all totalitarian systems to follow. Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Lenin, and all other political gangsters were heirs of Robespierre, and later Napoleon. Those tyrannical manifestations were not misguided aberrations—distortions of something that started out good (as in, “Lenin was cool, too bad Stalin messed it all up”)—the seeds of the horror were present at the beginning. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 18th century Enlightenment philosopher, wrote about volonté générale or “general will,” and the Jacobins, followed by others, ran with it. In their thinking, “the will of the people” could only be expressed by enlightened leaders.

Yes, our revolution indeed drew a measure of strength from the Enlightenment, but it was of the earlier Lockean variety. America’s use of Enlightenment concepts was tempered by something else; something that set it apart from what happened in France—a spiritual foundation.

Vive la revolution – Vive la difference.

The French not only declared war on the monarchy, they also attacked Christianity, replacing it with a religion of the state and introducing the worship of secularism. Sound familiar?

In America, it was very different. I am not one of those who spends a lot of time trying to prove the Christian bona fides of every founding father, but I do believe that the influence of what was called The Great Awakening, which ended about twenty years before the shot heard around the world was fired, was still very much a part of our national fabric.

And another such movement, often referred to as the Second Great Awakening, began while the French were unsuccessfully trying to figure out how to be free. To ignore those religious and cultural movements in America is to miss an important piece of the puzzle. The very concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity sound nice and make for great propaganda. But in the end, without virtue born of something deeper and greater, even the best rhetoric is mocked by what actually happens when human nature runs amuck. This is why all totalitarian regimes like to call their realms things like The People’s Republic of China, or Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or The People’s Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

We need to beware of those who share our vocabulary but use a different dictionary.

The reason it has all worked and endured so well in this land is because we are a nation “under God.” There, I said it. There is no real liberty without that. All attempts at actual freedom end up moving toward tyranny without some sense of higher purpose and power. I believe firmly in the separation of church and state. But minus positive religious influence, a nation cannot long remain free.

C. S. Lewis said it very well in The Screwtape Letters 70 years ago:

Hidden in the heart of this striving for Liberty there was also a deep hatred of personal freedom. That invaluable man Rousseau first revealed it. In his perfect democracy, only the state religion is permitted, slavery is restored, and the individual is told that he has really willed (though he didn’t know it) whatever the Government tells him to do. From that starting point, via Hegel (another indispensable propagandist on our side), we easily contrived both the Nazi and the Communist state. Even in England we were pretty successful. I heard the other day that in that country a man could not, without a permit, cut down his own tree with his own axe, make it into planks with his own saw, and use the planks to build a tool shed in his own garden.

Sound familiar?



D-Day in Poetry and Prayer


Nearly one hundred years ago, the late poet Robert Frost penned the famous lines: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” His metaphor has endured as testament to the importance of making choices based on factors other than superficiality and popularity.

Shortly after Frost’s death in 1963, President John F. Kennedy traveled to Amherst College in Massachusetts, where Frost had taught for many years, to deliver a eulogy about the famous wordsmith he had invited to participate in his inauguration. That day, Kennedy shared a line that, like Frost’s about those fabled two roads, has since morphed into something beyond its original intent and focus. In my opinion, it was one of the best things Kennedy ever said: “A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers.”

Next to ingratitude, forgetfulness is the most serious indicator of cultural decline…


The Minister’s Fainting Fits – By C.H. Spurgeon

[Charles Haddon Spurgeon is remembered as the prince of preachers. His influence in Victorian England was unsurpassed. But Spurgeon had a secret–well, it wasn’t really a big secret, and was, in fact, well known. He battled depression. The kind of depression unique to ministers in his day–and ours. About once a year I revisit two of Spurgeon’s lectures. This one is as timely today as it was in 1870 — DRS]


As it is recorded that David, in the heat of battle, waxed faint, so may it be written of all the servants of the Lord. Fits of depression come over the most of us. Usually cheerful as we may be, we must at intervals be cast down. The strong are not always vigorous, the wise not always ready, the brave not always courageous, and the joyous not always happy. There maybe here and there men of iron, to whom wear and tear work no perceptible detriment, but surely the rust frets even these; and as for ordinary men, the Lord knows, and makes them to know, that they are but dust. Knowing by most painful experience what deep depression of spirit means, being visited therewith at seasons by no means few or far between, I thought it might be consolatory to some of my brethren if I gave my thoughts thereon, that younger men might not fancy that some strange thing had happened to them when they became for a season possessed by melancholy; and that sadder men might know that one upon whom the sun has shone right joyously did not always walk in the light.

It is not necessary by quotations from the biographies of eminent ministers to prove that seasons of fearful prostration have fallen to the lot of most, if not all of them. The life of Luther might suffice to give a thousand instances, and he was by no means of the weaker sort. His great spirit was often in the seventh heaven of exultation, and as frequently on the borders of despair. His very death-bed was not free from tempests, and he sobbed himself into his last sleep like a great wearied child. Instead of multiplying Gases, let us dwell upon the reasons why these things are permitted why it is that the children of light sometimes walk in the thick darkness; why the heralds of the daybreak find themselves at times in tenfold night.

Is it not first that they are men? Being men, they are compassed with infirmity, and heirs of sorrow. Well said the wise man in the Apocrypha, (Ecclus xl. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5-8) “Great travail is created for all men, and a heavy yoke on the sons of Adam, from the day that they go out of their mother’s womb unto that day that they return to the mother of all things—namely, their thoughts and fear of their hearts, and their imagination of things that they wail for, and the day of death. From him that sitteth in the glorious throne, to him that sitteth beneath in the earth and ashes; from him that is clothed in blue silk, and weareth a crown, to him that is clothed in simple linen—wrath, envy, trouble, and unquietness, and fear of death and rigour, and such things come to both man and beast, but sevenfold to the ungodly.” Grace guards us from much of this, but because we have not more of grace we still suffer even from ills preventible. Even under the economy of redemption it is most clear that we are to endure infirmities, otherwise there were no need of the promised Spirit to help us in them. It is of need be that we are sometimes in heaviness. Good men are promised tribulation in this world, and ministers may expect a larger share than others, that they may learn sympathy with the Lord’s suffering people, and so may be fitting shepherds of an ailing flock. Disembodied spirits might have been sent to proclaim the word, but they could not have entered into the feelings of those who, being in this body, do groan, being burdened; angels might have been ordained evangelists, but their celestial attributes would have disqualified them from having compassion on the ignorant; men of marble might have been fashioned, but their impassive natures would have been a sarcasm upon our feebleness, and a mockery of our wants. Men, and men subject to human passions, the all-wise God has chosen to be his vessels of grace; hence these tears, hence these perplexities and castings down.

Moreover, most of us are in some way or other unsound physically. Here and there we meet with an old man who could not remember that ever he was laid aside for a day; but the great mass of us labour under some form or other of infirmity, either in body or mind. Certain bodily maladies, especially those connected with the digestive organs, the liver, and the spleen, are time fruitful fountains of despondency; and, let a man strive as he may against their influence, there will be hours and circumstances in which they will for awhile overcome him. As to mental maladies, is any man altogether sane? Are we not all a little off the balance? Some minds appear to have a gloomy tinge essential to their very individuality; of them it may be said, “Melancholy marked them for her own;” fine minds withal, and ruled by noblest principles, but yet most prone to forget the silver lining, and to remember only the cloud. Such men may sing with the old poet (Thomas Washbourne.)

 “Our hearts are broke, our harps unstringed be,
Our only music’s sighs and groans,
Our songs are to the tune of lachrymœ,
We’re fretted all to skin and bones.”

These infirmities may be no detriment to a man’s career of special usefulness; they may even have been imposed upon him by divine wisdom as necessary qualifications for his peculiar course of service. Some plants owe their medicinal qualities to the marsh in which they grow; others to the shades in which alone they flourish. There are precious fruits put forth by the moon as well as by the sun. Boats need ballast as well as sail; a drag on the carriage-wheel is no hindrance when the road runs downhill. Pain has, probably, in some cases developed genius; hunting out the soul which otherwise might have slept like a lion in its den. Had it not been for the broken wing, some might have lost themselves in the clouds, some even of those choice doves who now bear the olive-branch in their mouths and show the way to the ark. But where in body and mind there are predisposing causes to lowness of spirit, it is no marvel if in dark moments the heart succumbs to them; the wonder in many cases is—and if inner lives could be written, men would see it so—how some ministers keep at their work at all, and still wear a smile upon their countenances. Grace has its triumphs still, and patience has its martyrs; martyrs none the less to be honoured because the flames kindle about their spirits rather than their bodies, and their burning is unseen of human eyes. The ministries of Jeremiahs are as acceptable as those of Isaiahs, and even the sullen Jonah is a true prophet of the Lord, as Nineveh felt full well. Despise not the lame, for it is written that they take the prey; but honour those who, being faint, are yet pursuing. The tender-eyed Leah was more fruitful than the beautiful Rachel, and the griefs of Hannah were more divine than the boastings of Peninnah. “Blessed are they that mourn,” said the Man of Sorrows, and let none account them otherwise when their tears are salted with grace. We have the treasure of the gospel in earthen vessels, and if there be a flaw in the vessel here and there, let none wonder.

Our work, when earnestly undertaken, lays us open to attacks in the direction of depression. Who can bear the weight of souls without sometimes sinking to the dust? Passionate longings after men’s conversion, if not fully satisfied (and when are they?), consume the soul with anxiety and disappointment. To see the hopeful turn aside, the godly grow cold, professors abusing their privileges, and sinners waxing more bold in sin—are not these sights enough to crush us to the earth? The kingdom comes not as we would, the reverend name is not hallowed as we desire, and for this we must weep. How can we be otherwise than sorrowful, while men believe not our report, and the divine arm is not revealed? All mental work tends to weary and to depress, for much study is a weariness of the flesh; but ours is more than mental work—it is heart work, the labour of our inmost soul. How often, on Lord’s-day evenings, do we feel as if life were completely washed out of us! After pouring out our souls over our congregations, we feel like empty earthen pitchers which a child might break. Probably, if we were more like Paul, and watched for souls at a nobler rate, we should know more of what it is to be eaten up by the zeal of the Lord’s house. It is our duty and our privilege to exhaust our lives for Jesus. We are not to be living specimens of men in fine preservation, but living sacrifices, whose lot is to be consumed; we are to spend and to be spent, not to lay ourselves up in lavender, and nurse our flesh. Such soul-travail as that of a faithful minister will bring on occasional seasons of exhaustion, when heart and flesh will fail. Moses’ hands grew heavy in intercession, and Paul cried out, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Even John the Baptist is thought to have had his fainting fits, and the apostles were once amazed, and were sore afraid.

Our position in the church will also conduce to this. A minister fully equipped for his work, will usually be a spirit by himself, above, beyond, and apart from others. The most loving of his people cannot enter into his peculiar thoughts, cares, and temptations. In the ranks, men walk shoulder to shoulder, with many comrades, but as the officer rises in rank, men of his standing are fewer in number. There are many soldiers, few captains, fewer colonels, but only one commander-in-chief. So, in our churches, the man whom the Lord raises as a leader becomes, in the same degree in which he is a superior man, a solitary man. The mountain-tops stand solemnly apart, and talk only with God as he visits their terrible solitudes. Men of God who rise above their fellows into nearer communion with heavenly things, in their weaker moments feel the lack of human sympathy. Like their Lord in Gethsemane, they look in vain for comfort to the disciples sleeping around them; they are shocked at the apathy of their little band of brethren, and return to their secret agony with all the heavier burden pressing upon them, because they have found their dearest companions slumbering. No one knows, but he who has endured it, the solitude of a soul which has outstripped its fellows in zeal for the Lord of hosts: it dares not reveal itself, lest men count it mad; it cannot conceal itself, for a fire burns within its bones: only before the Lord does it find rest. Our Lord’s sending out his disciples by two and two manifested that he knew what was in men; but for such a man as Paul, it seems to me that no helpmeet was found; Barnabas, or Silas, or Luke, were hills too low to hold high converse with such a Himalayan summit as the apostle of the Gentiles. This loneliness, which if I mistake not is felt by many of my brethren, is a fertile source of depression; and our ministers, fraternal meetings, and the cultivation of holy intercourse with kindred minds will, with God’s blessing, help us greatly to escape the snare.

There can be little doubt that sedentary habits have a tendency to create despondency in some constitutions. Burton, in his “Anatomy of Melancholy,” has a chapter upon this cause of sadness; and, quoting from one of the myriad authors whom he lays under contribution, he says—”Students are negligent of their bodies. Other men look to their tools; a painter will wash his pencils; a smith will look to his hammer, anvil, forge; a husbandman will mend his plough-irons, and grind his hatchet if it be dull; a falconer or huntsman will have an especial care of his hawks, hounds, horses, dogs, &c.; a musician will string and unstring his lute; only scholars neglect that instrument (their brain and spirits I mean) which they daily use. Well saith Lucan, “See thou twist not the rope so hard that it break.” To sit long in one posture, poring over a book, or driving a quill, is in itself a taxing of nature; but add to this a badly-ventilated chamber, a body which has long been without muscular exercise, and a heart burdened with many cares, and we have all the elements for preparing a seething cauldron of despair, especially in the dim months of fog—

 “When a blanket wraps the day,
When the rotten woodland drips,
And the leaf is stamped in clay.”

Let a man be naturally as blithe as a bird, he will hardly be able to bear up year after year against such a suicidal process; he will make his study a prison and his books the warders of a gaol, while nature lies outside his window calling him to health and beckoning him to joy. He who forgets the humming of the bees among the heather, the cooing of the wood-pigeons in the forest, the song of birds in the woods, the rippling of rills among the rushes, and the sighing of the wind among the pines, needs not wonder if his heart forgets to sing and his soul grows heavy. A day’s breathing of fresh air upon the hills, or a few hours, ramble in the beech woods? umbrageous calm, would sweep the cobwebs out of the brain of scores of our toiling ministers who are now but half alive. A mouthful of sea air, or a stiff walk in the wind’s face, would not give grace to the soul, but it would yield oxygen to the body, which is next best.

 “Heaviest the heart is in a heavy air,
Ev’ry wind that rises blows away despair.”

The ferns and the rabbits, the streams and the trouts, the fir trees and the squirrels, the primroses and the violets, the farm-yard, the new-mown hay, and the fragrant hops—these are the best medicine for hypochondriacs, the surest tonics for the declining, the best refreshments for the weary. For lack of opportunity, or inclination, these great remedies are neglected, and the student becomes a self-immolated victim.

The times most favourable to fits of depression, so far as I have experienced, may be summed up in a brief catalogue. First among them I must mention the hour of great success. When at last a long-cherished desire is fulfilled, when God has been glorified greatly by our means, and a great triumph achieved, then we are apt to faint. It might be imagined that amid special favours our soul would soar to heights of ecstacy, and rejoice with joy unspeakable, but it is generally the reverse. The Lord seldom exposes his warriors to the perils of exultation over victory; he knows that few of them can endure such a test, and therefore dashes their cup with bitterness. See Elias after the fire has fallen from heaven, after Baal’s priests have been slaughtered and the rain has deluged the barren land For him no notes of self-complacent music, no strutting like a conqueror in robes of triumph; he flees from Jezebel, and feeling the revulsion of his intense excitement, he prays that he may die, lie who must never see death, yearns after the rest of the grave, even as Caesar, the world’s monarch, in his moments of pain cried like a sick girl. Poor human nature cannot bear such strains as heavenly triumphs bring to it; there must come a reaction. Excess of joy or excitement must be paid for by subsequent depressions. While the trial lasts, the strength is equal to the emergency; but when it is over, natural weakness claims the right to show itself. Secretly sustained, Jacob can wrestle all night, but he must limp in the morning when the contest is over, lest he boast himself beyond measure. Paul may be caught up to the third heaven, and hear unspeakable things, but a thorn in time flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet him, must be the inevitable sequel. Men cannot bear unalloyed happiness; even good men are not yet fit to have “their brows with laurel and with myrtle bound,” without enduring secret humiliation to keep them in their proper place. Whirled from off our feet by a revival, carried aloft by popularity, exalted by success in soul-winning, we should be as the chaff which the wind driveth away, were it not that the gracious discipline of mercy breaks the ships of our vainglory with a strong east wind, and casts us shipwrecked, naked and forlorn, upon the Rock of Ages.

Before any great achievement, some measure of the same depression is very usual. Surveying the difficulties before us, our hearts sink within us. The sons of Anak stalk before us, and we are as grasshoppers in our own sight in their presence. The cities of Canaan are walled up to heaven, and who are we that we should hope to capture them? We are ready to cast down our weapons and take to our heels. Nineveh is a great city, and we would flee unto Tarshish sooner than encounter its noisy crowds. Already we look for a ship which may bear us quietly away from the terrible scene, and only a dread of tempest restrains our recreant footsteps. Such was my experience when I first became a pastor in London. My success appalled me; and the thought of the career which it seemed to open up, so far from elating me, cast me into the lowest depth, out of which I uttered my miserere and found no room for a gloria in excelsis. Who was I that I should continue to lead so great a multitude? I would betake me to my village obscurity, or emigrate to America, and find a solitary nest in the backwoods, where I might be sufficient for the things which would be demanded of me. It was just then that the curtain was rising upon my life-work, and I dreaded what it might reveal. I hope I was not faithless, but I was timorous and filled with a sense of my own unfitness. I dreaded the work which a gracious providence had prepared for me. I felt myself a mere child, and trembled as I heard the voice which said, “Arise, and thresh the mountains, and make them as chaff.” This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry; the cloud is black before it breaks, and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy. Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist, heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use. Immersion in suffering has preceded the baptism of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while his servant keepeth the sheep and waits in solitary awe. The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn. The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven: their soul is melted because of trouble before he bringeth them to their desired haven.

In the midst of a long stretch of unbroken labour, the same affliction may be looked for. The bow cannot be always bent without fear of breaking. Repose is as needful to the mind as sleep to the body. Our Sabbaths are our days of toil, and if we do not rest upon some other day we shall break down. Even the earth must lie fallow and have her Sabbaths, and so must we. Hence the wisdom and compassion of our Lord, when he said to his disciples, “Let us go into the desert and rest awhile.” What! when the people are fainting? When the multitudes are like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd? Does Jesus talk of rest? When Scribes and Pharisees, like grievous wolves, are rending the flock, does he take his followers on an excursion into a quiet resting place? Does some red-hot zealot denounce such atrocious forgetfulness of present and pressing demands? Let him rave in his folly. The Master knows better than to exhaust his servants and quench the light of Israel. Rest time is not waste time. It is economy to gather fresh strength. Look at the mower in the summer a day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets. He pauses in his labour, is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with “rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink.” Is that idle music? is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him. Even thus a little pause prepares the mind for greater service in the good cause. Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service. To tug the oar from day to day, hike a galley-slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill-streams go on and on for ever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals. Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission? Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintry months; and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigour or grow prematurely old. It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. In the long run, we shall do more by sometimes doing less. On, on, on for ever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure. Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for awhile, but learn from the experience of others the necessity and duty of taking timely rest.

One crushing stroke has sometimes laid the minister very low. The brother most relied upon becomes a traitor. Judas lifts up his heel against the man who trusted him, and the preacher?s heart for the moment fails him. We are all too apt to look to an arm of flesh, and from that propensity many of our sorrows arise. Equally overwhelming is the blow when an honoured and beloved member yields to temptation, and disgraces the holy name with which lie was named. Anything is better than this. This makes the preacher long for a lodge in some vast wilderness, where he may hide his head for ever, and hear no more the blasphemous jeers of the ungodly. Ten years of toil do not take so much life out of us as we lose in a few hours by Ahithophel the traitor, or Demas the apostate. Strife, also, and division, and slander, and foolish censures, have often laid holy men prostrate, and made them go “as with a sword in their bones.” Hard words wound some delicate minds very keenly. Many of the best of ministers, from the very spirituality of their character, are exceedingly sensitive—too sensitive for such a world as this. “A kick that scarce would move a horse would kill a sound divine.” By experience the soul is hardened to the rough blows which are inevitable in our warfare; but at first these things utterly stagger us, and send us to our homes wrapped in a horror of great darkness. The trials of a true minister are not few, and such as are caused by ungrateful professors are harder to bear than the coarsest attacks of avowed enemies. Let no man who looks for ease of mind and seeks the quietude of life enter the ministry; if he does so he will flee from it in disgust.

To the lot of few does it fall to pass through such a horror of great darkness as that which fell upon me after the deplorable accident at the Surrey Music Hall. I was pressed beyond measure and out of bounds with an enormous weight of misery. The tumult, the panic, the deaths, were day and night before me, anti made life a burden. Then I sang in my sorrow—

 “The tumult of my thoughts
Doth but increase my woe,
My spirit languisheth, my heart
Is desolate and low.”

From that dream of horror I was awakened in a moment by the gracious application to my soul of the text, “Him hath God the Father exalted.” The fact that Jesus is still great, let his servants suffer as they may, piloted me back to calm reason and peace. Should so terrible a calamity overtake any of my brethren, let them both patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God.

When troubles multiply, and discouragements follow each other in long succession, like Job’s messengers, then, too, amid the perturbation of soul occasioned by evil tidings, despondency despoils the heart of all its peace. Constant dropping wears away stones, and the bravest minds feel the fret of repeated afflictions. If a scanty cupboard is rendered a severer trial by the sickness of a wife or the loss of a child, and if ungenerous remarks of hearers are followed by the opposition of deacons and the coolness of members, then, like Jacob, we are apt to cry, “All these things are against me.” When David returned to Ziklag and found the city burned, goods stolen, wives carried off, and his troops ready to stone him, we read, “he encouraged himself in his God;” and well was it for him that he could do so, for he would then have fainted if he had not believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Accumulated distresses increase each other’s weight; they play into each other’s hands, and, like bands of robbers, ruthlessly destroy our comfort. Wave upon wave is severe work for the strongest swimmer. The place where two seas meet strains the most seaworthy keel. If there were a regulated pause between the buffetings of adversity, the spirit would stand prepared; but when they come suddenly and heavily, like the battering of great hailstones, the pilgrim may well be amazed. The last ounce breaks the camel’s back, and when that last ounce is laid upon us, what wonder if we for awhile are ready to give up the ghost!

This evil will also come upon us, we know not why, and then it is all the more difficult to drive it away. Causeless depression is not to he reasoned with, nor can David’s harp charm it away by sweet discoursings. As well fight with the mist as with this shapeless, undefinable, yet all-beclouding hopelessness. One affords himself no pity when in this case, because it seems so unreasonable, and even sinful to be troubled without manifest cause; and yet troubled the man is, even in the very depths of his spirit. If those who laugh at such melancholy did but feel the grief of it for one hour, their laughter would he sobered into compassion. Resolution might, perhaps, shake it off, but where are we to find the resolution when the whole man is unstrung? The physician and the divine may unite their skill in such cases, and both find their hands full, and more than full. The iron bolt which so mysteriously fastens the door of hope and holds our spirits in gloomy prison, needs a heavenly hand to push it back; and when that hand is seen we cry with the apostle, “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” 2 Cor. i. 3, 4. It is the God of all consolation who can—

 “With sweet oblivious antidote
Cleanse our poor bosoms of that perilous stuff
Which weighs upon the heart.”

Simon sinks till Jesus takes him by the hand. The devil within rends and tears the poor child till time word of authority commands him to come out of him. When we are ridden with horrible fears, and weighed down with an intolerable incubus, we need but the Sun of Righteousness to rise, and the evils generated of our darkness are driven away; but nothing short of this will chase away time nightmare of the soul. Timothy Rogers, the author of a treatise on Melancholy, and Simon Browne, the writer of some remarkably sweet hymns, proved in their own cases how unavailing is the help of man if the Lord withdraw the light from the soul.

If it be enquired why the Valley of the Shadow of Death must so often be traversed by the servants of King Jesus, the answer is not far to find. All this is promotive of the Lord’s mode of working, which is summed up in these words—”Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” Instruments shall be used, but their intrinsic weakness shall be clearly manifested; there shall be no division of the glory, no diminishing the honour due to the Great Worker. The man shall be emptied of self, and then filled with the Holy Ghost. In his own apprehension he shall be like a sere leaf driven of the tempest, and then shall be strengthened into a brazen wall against the enemies of truth. To hide pride from the worker is the great difficulty. Uninterrupted success and unfading joy in it would be more than our weak heads could bear. Our wine must needs be mixed with water, lest it turn our brains. My witness is, that those who are honoured of their Lord in public, have usually to endure a secret chastening, or to carry a peculiar cross, lest by any means they exalt themselves, and fall into the snare of the devil. How constantly the Lord calls Ezekiel “Son of man”! Amid his soarings into the superlative splendours, just when with eye undimmed he is strengthened to gaze into the excellent glory, the word “Son of man” falls on his ears, sobering the heart which else might have been intoxicated with the honour conferred upon it. Such humbling but salutary messages our depressions whisper in our ears; they tell us in a manner not to be mistaken that we are but men, frail, feeble, apt to faint.

By all the castings down of his servants God is glorified, for they are led to magnify him when again he sets them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields him praise. They speak all time more sweetly of his faithfulness, and are the more firmly established in his love. Such mature men as sonic elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them. Glory be to God for the furnace, the hammer, and the file. Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.

The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy’s foot be on your neck, expect to rise amid overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day—ay, by the hour. Put no trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone, and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all your might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your own emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way, but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue, with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith?s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watch-tower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of our God, to trust under THE SHADOW OF HIS WINGS.