Skip to content ↓

Great God, Is Life Such an Uncertain Thing?


In the late 1800s, there were few American preachers who were better-known than De Witt Talmage (who spend most of his ministry at Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn, New York). He was known as an orator and was perhaps second only to Henry Ward Beecher when it came to his ability to hold a crowd at rapt attention. Logos recently released a collection of 500 of his sermons and I’ve been enjoying reading my way through them. This excerpt, one of many in which he expresses concern for the souls of his listeners, recently caught my attention:

There are some who gave me a farewell shake of the hand when I went off two months ago who are not here today. Where are they? When in the closing service I opened my hymn-book and found the place, they opened their hymn-book and found the same place. I open my book today; they do not open theirs.

Great God, is life such an uncertain thing? If I bear a little too hard with my right foot on the earth, does it break through into the grave? Is this world which swings at the speed of thousands of miles an hour around about the sun going with tenfold more speed towards the judgment day? Oh, I am overborne with the thought, and in the confusion I cry to one and I cry to the other; “O time! O eternity! O the dead! O the judgment day! O Jesus! O God!”

But catching at the last apostrophe, I feel that I have something to hold on to; for “in God is thy refuge, and underneath thee are the everlasting arms.” And exhausted with my failure to save myself, I throw my whole weight of body, mind, and soul on this Divine promise, as a weary child throws itself into the arms of its mother; as a wounded soldier throws himself on the hospital pillow; as a pursued man throws himself into the refuge: for “in God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

I can speak no more for the gladness. Oh for a flood of tears with which to express the joy of this eternal rescue!

Note: If you decide to dabble in Talmage’s sermons, I’d recommend beginning with volume 3 rather than 1 or 2. By my assessment, the collection begins with some of his weakest sermons and only later turns to some of the strongest.

  • What Is the Best Thing In Life?

    What Is the Best Thing In Life?

    Any time we consider the spiritual disciplines, or means of grace, it is crucial that we remember not only the great purpose of these habits but also the great blessing they represent. We were made to know God and to be known by God. We were made in the image of God to have a…

  • A La Carte Collection cover image

    Weekend A La Carte (March 2)

    A La Carte: The only way out of our desperate hypocrisy / Are Evangelicals too hard on men? / 9 healthy ways to respond to criticism / Is God disappointed with me? / 4 snapshots of dispensationalism today / Logos and Kindle deals / and more.

  • Free Stuff Fridays (Help The Persecuted)

    This weeks giveaway is sponsored by Help The Persecuted. Help The Persecuted rescues, restores, and rebuilds the lives of persecuted believers in the Islamic World through spiritual support and tangible help. Every week, they send out an email with specific, real-time prayer requests of persecuted believers to their global Prayer Network. You can join the…

  • A La Carte Friday 2

    A La Carte (March 1)

    A La Carte: Rumblings of revival among Gen Z / Addition by subtraction / Seeing red / Burying the talents of the Great Rewarder / Inviting evaluation of your preaching / Book and Kindle deals / and more.

  • New and Notable Books

    New and Notable Christian Books for February 2024

    February is typically a solid month for book releases, and this February was no exception. As the month drew to its close, I sorted through the many (many!) books that came my way this month and arrived at this list of new and notables. In each case, I’ve provided the editorial description to give you…

  • A La Carte Thursday 1

    A La Carte (February 29)

    A La Carte: Is it ever right to lie? / When the “perfect” fit isn’t / An open letter to Christians who doubt / When a baby is a disease / The long view of preaching / and more.