It ought never to be forgotten that the great God Himself, when He would instruct men, employs histories and biographies. Our Bible contains doctrines, promises and precepts; but these are not left alone – the whole Book is vivified and illustrated by marvelous records of things said and done by God and by men. He who is taught of God values the sacred histories, and knows that in them there is a special fullness and forcibleness of instruction. Teachers of Scripture cannot do better than instruct their fellows after the manner of the Scriptures.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Teacher of teachers, did not disdain the use of anecdotes. To my mind it seems clear that certain of His parables were facts and, consequently, anecdotes. May not the story of the prodigal son have been a literal truth? Were there not actual instances of an enemy sowing tares among the wheat? May not the rich fool who said, “Take thine ease,” have been a photograph taken from life? Did not Lazarus actually figure on the stage of history?
Certainly the story of those who were crushed by the fall of the tower of Siloam, and the sad tragedy of the Galileans, “whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices,” were matters of current Jewish gossip, and our Lord turned both of them to good account. What He did we need not be ashamed to do. That we may do it with all wisdom and prudence let us seek the guidance of the Divine Spirit which rested upon Him so continually.
The Vestal And The Bracelets
Most men think because God hath blessed them with an estate therefore they are blessed. Alas! God often gives these things in anger. He loads his enemies with gold and silver: as Plutarch reports of Tarpeia, a vestal nun, who bargained with the enemy to betray the Capitol of Rome to them in case she might have the golden bracelets on their left hands, which they promised; and being entered into the Capitol, they threw not only their bracelets but the bucklers, too, upon her, through the weight whereof she was pressed to death. God often lets men have the golden bracelets of worldly substance, the weight whereof sinks them into hell. Oh, let us get our eyes “fixed” and our hearts “united” to God, the Supreme Good. This is to pursue blessedness as in a chase.
Surgeon And Patient
When I was in Belfast I knew a doctor who had a friend, a leading surgeon there, and he told me that the surgeon’s custom was, before performing any operation, to say to the patient, “Take a good look at the wound and then fix your eyes on me, and don’t take them off till I get through the operation.” I thought at the time that was a good illustration. Sinner, take a good look at the wound tonight, and then fix your eyes on Christ and don’t take them off. It is better to look at the remedy than at the wound.
The Mentally Challenged’s Mother
I know a mother who had a mentally challenged child. For the child, she gave up all society – almost everything – and devoted her whole life to him. “And now,” said she, “for fourteen years I have tended my child and loved him, and he does not even know me. Oh, it he is breaking my heart!” Oh, how the Lord must say this of hundreds here! Jesus comes here, and goes from seat to seat asking if there is a place for Him. Oh, will not some of you take Him into your hearts?
Those that used Anecdotes were not story-tellers, but preachers of the Gospel. They did not aim at the entertainment of the people, but at their conversion. Never did they go out of their way to drag in a telling bit which they had been saving up for display, and never could any one say of their illustrations that they were Windows that exclude the light, and passages that lead to nothing.
Do all things in due proportion lest you are presenting the people strings of anecdotes instead of sound doctrines. That would be as evil a thing as if you offered to hungry men flowers instead of bread, and gave to the naked gauze of gossamer instead of woolen cloth.
…Charles H. Surgeon
Taken from Lectures to his Students