He Being Dead Yet Speaketh
February 14th, 1960 @ 10:50 AM
HE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-14-60 10:50 a.m.
You who are listening on the radio are sharing with us the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the eleven o’clock morning message entitled He Being Dead Yet Speaketh. In our preaching through the Bible, we are in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews, and the title of the sermon is the text itself, Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.”
The president of a great railway system died. The funeral service was held at two o’clock on a weekday afternoon. At that exact moment, every train came to a dead stop. Every wheel ceased to turn. Every workman dropped his tools. Every clerk turned from his files. For three minutes, the entire vast railway system came to a complete stop; all except the influence of the man in the casket. For the influence of the man never stopped, not even for the three minutes of silent pause observed by the great railway system. For the influence of a man never ceases through all of the eternities that are to come; personality never dies and influence never perishes. A body dies; dust to dust, ashes to ashes, earth to earth. The house of clay is buried away, but the soul of a man—the spark, the fire, the flame in his heart—never dies, and every soul made in the image of God has an imperishable influence through all of the ages and the eternities that are to come. The scientists say that when we drop a pebble in the vast ocean, it ripples to the farthest shore and waves against the tiniest isles of the uttermost seas. The scientists say that by the lifting of your hand you disturb and stir all of the ether waves between us and the stars. It is so with the soul and the life of a man. As Tennyson wrote:
Our echoes roll from soul to soul
And grow for ever and for ever.
[fro “The Splendor Falls,” Alfred Lord Tennyson].
A man does not die when his body is laid away. “By faith Abel, . . . and by that faith he being dead yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4]. The language of his life is still heard, and the influence of his righteous faith is still felt. How many thousands of years ago Abel lived, no man knows; but “he being dead yet speaketh.” A man does not die when his body is laid away. The influence of Plato and of Aristotle and of Alexander the Great in the Graeco world are still felt in this modern day. The influence of Julius and Augustus Caesar and of Caesar Constantine in the Roman world is felt today. The influence of Buddha and of Confucius and of Zoroaster are still felt in the Oriental world today. The influence of Alfred, king of England, of George Washington, the first president of the United States, of Bolivar, the liberator of South America, is felt today. The ruthless and revolutionary lives of Karl Marx, of [Georges] Sorel, of Lenin and of Stalin is felt today. And the cruel and merciless lives of Bismarck and of Nietzsche and of Hitler is a cloud of despair over the destiny of the Germanic people today. A man does not die when his body is laid away. “By faith Abel, . . . and by it he being dead yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4].
The influence of the life of a man lives for good or for evil. For evil. Isn’t it strange that God has so shaped us and interrelated us and made us all interdependent that the influence of the evil of a man grows and continues for generations and for generations. I went to school in the high school with a fine, tall, young fellow, out of a most well-to-do home. And when I went to Baylor, he and I were down there together as freshman enrolled in the school. We were in the same Sunday school class together. We were friends. We shared the activities of the high school together. And when we went to Baylor, we shared the activities of the university there. To our amazement, to a wonderment of the soul, that young fellow turned to infidelity and to atheism and to blasphemy. It was an astounding thing, an amazing thing! I could hardly believe my ears when I would hear him speak. I could hardly believe what I saw as he made the great change to infidelity in his life. Some of us in a very devout group at school prayed for my friend. And upon an evening, we went to see him to talk to him about his denial of the faith that he knew as a boy. When I went into the room where he was, he was seated there at his study desk, reading a copy of Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. Infidel Tom Paine wrote that infidel book in the latter part of the seventeen hundreds. Infidel Tom Paine had been dead for one hundred and thirty years when I went to see my friend to talk and to pray with him about his denial of the Christian faith. The influence of the life of the infidel had reached through the generations and through the years and had tainted and touched the soul of my boyhood—my boyhood friend a hundred and thirty years down through the vista of the corridors of time.
It shall be an amazing and an astonishing thing, the interest that men receive upon the principle of an invested evil life. And the overwhelming, astonishing part of how God has allowed that thing to continue lies in the fact that even though a man may repent and even though a man may be forgiven, yet the influence of the evil choice and deeds of his life lives throughout the coming and following generations. Nathan the prophet was sent by the Lord God to speak to David and said, God hath put away thy sin, but “the sword shall never leave thy house” [2 Samuel 12:10]. And through the generations and the generations, the story of the family of David is a story of murder, and of rape, and of bloodshed, and of violence. Manasseh, the evil king of Judah, who ruled longer than any other monarch—reigned fifty-five years [2 Kings 21:1]—the most wicked of all of the kings of Judah [2 Kings 21:11], God forgave his sin and Manasseh in repentance returned to God [2 Chronicles 33:12-13]. But the evil of Manasseh’s wicked reign was so pervasive and its influence so lasting until, Jeremiah the prophet said under the power of the Spirit of God, that God destroyed Israel, Judah, the temple, the house of God, and the land of the people of the Lord [Jeremiah 15:4]. God destroyed it by the hand of the Babylonian Nebuchadnezzar because of the evil of the wicked reign of Manasseh [2 Kings 23:26]. Tom Paine is said to have said when he lay dying, “Gather up every copy of my Age of Reason and burn it!” He might as well have said, “Gather up the four winds of the earth and imprison them.” A man does not die when his body is laid away. The deeds of his life for evil have an echo, an overtone, and they grow through the generations and the generations. “He being dead yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4].
How wonderful it is, how blessedly precious to remember that if the evil of a man’s life brings forth fruit and tares and curses and perdition in the overtones of all of the future years, how wonderful to remember the call to heart that the devotion of a man’s life, the faith of a man’s soul, the purity and holiness and prayerfulness and godliness, all of these things for good, influence the generations that follow. And in the worth and nobility and excellence and virtue of our life, we live again and again, and through the years that unfold. On Dwight L. Moody’s tomb are written these words from 1 John [2:17]: “He that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” Moody still lives. The great pastor of this church, Dr. George W. Truett, shepherd of this flock for seven and forty years, still lives. The great, inimitable, devoted evangelist of Jesus, Lee R. Scarborough, still lives. Spurgeon, the incomparable Baptist preacher of London, is as alive today in a thousand voices and in a hundred books as he was in the height of his homiletic glory in the metropolitan pulpit in London. John Wesley, George Whitefield, John Calvin, John Knox, John Wycliffe still live in a thousand pulpits every Lord’s Day of every week. But how much more could I speak of the humble, of the lowly, of the devout whose names you never heard, whose lives outside of a small circle was never described, and yet they, being dead, yet speak. The influence of their lives lives in our hearts and in the hearts of God’s children for ever.
This young man, Clark, comes from Alexandria, Virginia, where he is an assistant pastor and minister of education in the First Baptist Church there. Close by the beautiful city and the beautiful church in which he helps to direct the life of the people of the Lord is the famous military cemetery of America. In Arlington National Cemetery is our monument to the Unknown Soldier, as impressive a vista that a man could ever look upon, to stand there on the side of that beautiful hill before that marble sarcophagus. An American soldier—back and forth, day and night—marching in honor, in deference, in remembrance of the American men who have placed walls of steel and of blood around our homeland. Inscribed on the marble sarcophagus are these memorable words: “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” Of how many lowly and humble and unknown could God write those words over the tomb of our fallen comrades in the faith: “Here rests in honored glory a humble follower of Jesus whose name the world has forgot.” “Here rests in honored glory a Christian mother known but to God.” “Here rests in honored glory a Christian father known but to God.” The generations that he has influenced have even forgotten her name and his name, but the devotion and the life and the faith of the fallen disciple of Jesus lives forever. He being dead—he being dead yet speaketh [Hebrews 11:14]. On far-flung mission fields, I have read the names of I do not know how many missionaries. I never heard of them. In the years and generations past, since they have invested their lives in a faraway land, even the memory of their life and their names have been lost in the oblivion of time. But they are known to God, and the influence of their lives lives for ever and for ever; they being dead yet speak. And the humble, the lowly of the Lord, that have performed great miracles of devotion and of service and of testimony, we never see it on the pages of written history, we never read it in the courses of the human story in school or in college, but God writes it in His Book of Life, and at the great ultimate end time, when He unravels the scheme of the influence of His children in the earth, there shall it appear what the man has done as it echoed through the centuries and the generations that followed after.
This will be just a little piece of a tiny illustration of the influence of a life that is devoted unto God. A woman—a woman, whose name has been forgotten, a devout, humble Christian woman gave a tract one day to a very bad man named Richard Baxter. He was an incomparable English theologian. He died about 1690 or 91—that long ago. He read the tract, and that bad man was converted. Then Baxter wrote a book entitled The Call of the Unconverted, which brought a multitude to God, among them Phillip Doddridge, who was a marvelous English preacher who died about 1750 or something like that. And Doddridge in turn wrote a book, The Rise and Progress of Religion, which brought tens of thousands into the kingdom, among them Wilbur Wilberforce, the tremendous English statesman who brought the death knell to the English slave trade. Wilberforce wrote a book, A Practical View of Christianity, which was translated into many languages and which brought multitudes to Christ, among them being Lee Richmond, a great English editor and scholar and author who died in the early 1800s, who wrote a tract entitled The Dairyman’s Daughter, which was used of God for the conversion of uncounted multitudes. And so the influence from the generations through these centuries grows and grows, all of it from a woman whose name has been forgotten, who gave a tract of our Lord one day to a very bad man. We do not know, we do not realize; it lies in the hands of God. But God never lets fall to the ground the humblest, sweetest effort made in His name and for His sake [Hebrews 6:10].
Do you know the name of the mission worker in the Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago? Do you know the name of the mission worker who won Billy Sunday to Jesus on a street in Chicago? Very few know the name of that humble Sunday school teacher who went into the shoe store off of Scully Square and won a young fellow named D. L. Moody to Jesus. I cannot remember the name, though I have read it, of the Moravian preacher who won Charles and John Wesley and George Whitefield to Jesus.
When I was in Nashville holding a revival meeting in the First Baptist Church there, the pastor said, “Would you like to see your old friend, John L. Hill?”
I said, “I would love to see that man of God.” So ill, but he knew me, seems that he did. I asked him, “What are you doing?” Lying there with his mind gone and his body wasting away; “What are you doing, Dr. Hill?”
He said, “I am just lying here counting the red panels and the white.”
I wondered what he meant? Does the stairway to glory have red panels and white—red for the blood of the Lamb, white for the robes of the saints? I do not know—counting the red panels and the white.
Did you ever hear that man in his glory, in his prime? He said one day in an address, he said, “Today”—this is a long time ago—“today I had a letter from a little sweet school teacher.” He said, “I especially treasured it because it was that sweet, little humble schoolteacher that won me to Jesus when I was a lad.” He said, “We had a class over behind the organ in the tiny little church. And she taught a little class of boys of which I was one. And that little humble teacher won me to Jesus.” And then he spoke words, as only Dr. Hill could speak them, of appreciation and love and gratitude for the worth and nobility of that humble little school teacher.
Think in your life. Maybe the world did not know them. On no scroll of faith would their names be found. But did you have a godly father? Did you have a sweet, Christian mother? Did you have a devout, praying friend? The influence of that life never dies. It lives in you, and from you it colors those who know you. And beyond them, it grows, and reaches out, and frames, and molds, and touches, and guides, and blesses, and keeps for ever and for ever; he being dead yet speaketh [Hebrews 11:4]. And that is why, my dear fellow people, that is why the great theological truth revealed in the Word of God: you do not receive your reward until the end of time [2 Corinthians 5:10]. You do not receive your crown until Jesus comes again [2 Timothy 4:8]. For a man does not die when his body is laid away, but his life influences, and his deeds continue, and his soul has a reverberation through the years and the centuries and the generations that are yet to come. And that is why in the Holy Scriptures, “When the Son of Man shall come in His glory . . . there shall be gathered before Him the nations of the earth: and. . . .He shall say to these on His right hand, Come—come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world: for I was hungry . . . I was thirsty . . . I was a stranger . . . I was naked . . . I was in prison. . . . you fed and clothed and ministered unto and visited Me. And these shall say they never thought of the rolls of glory. It never entered their minds that someday they would be singled out before the universe and the angels. They shall say, Why, Lord, we never saw Thee hungry and thirsty and poor and naked. Then shall the King answer, Verily—truly, I say unto you, when you did it to one of the least of these, ye did it unto Me [Matthew 25:31-40].” It never dies—the cup of cold water, the visit by the bedside, the humble prayer of intercession, the knocking at the door, the simple word of testimony in Jesus, the handing out of a tract, the teaching of a small class of little girls or boys, the faithful attendance upon the services of God, the clasp warm of a hand, the word of encouragement that moves a soul toward Jesus; these abide forever. “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it”—after ten thousand years—“and by it he being dead yet speaketh” [Hebrews 11:4]. Oh; that somehow in the goodness and mercy and grace of God, our lives might count for the most for Him!
Now, while we sing our invitation, in this balcony round, somebody you, give his heart in faith and in trust to Jesus, would you come? Down one of these stairways, would you come and give the pastor your hand? On this lower floor, this great throng of people, somebody you, put your life in the hands of God, would you come and stand by me? Is there a family you to put your life with us in the church? As God shall say the word and open the door, would you come? It is still early. We are still on the radio. If somebody you, driving a car down the highway or sitting in a living room at home, has heard; if one of you has heard the message and today would give your heart to Jesus, driving off the road to bow your head, or in the living room, trusting Christ as Savior, as God shall say the word and lead the way, would you make it today? Would you make it now? Surely, in so vast a throng, there are many this morning to come. Many to come. Should you come? Should you give your heart to the Lord? Should you put your life with us in the church? While we sing this song and while we make the appeal, on the first note of the first stanza, would you make it now? “Here I come, here I am,” while we stand and while we sing.
HE BEING DEAD YET SPEAKETH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-14-60I. Influence never dies
A. Funeral service of railroad president
B. Personality of a man never dies and influence never perishes
C. Men don’t die when their bodies are laid away(Hebrews 11:4)II. Influence for evil
A. My friend at Baylor influenced by Tom Paine’s Age of Reason
B. Remarkable that though a man may repent and be forgiven, the influence of His evil choices and deeds lives through the following generations
1. David(2 Samuel 12:10)
2. Manasseh(Jeremiah 15:4)III. Influence for good
A. Dwight L. Moody’s tomb (1 John 2:17)
B. No less blessed, those who have toiled in oblivion
1. Arlington National Cemetery – Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
2. Devout woman who gave a tract to man named Richard Baxter
C. Humble people of beautiful life influence
2. Humble Sunday school teacher won D. L. Moody to Jesus
3. Moravian preacher won Charles and John Wesley and George Whitefield to Jesus
4. My visit to John. L. Hill
D. The rewards of the Lord at the end of time(Matthew 25:31-40)