Thomas De Witt Talmage (January 7, 1832 – April 12, 1902) was a preacher and clergyman in the United States who held pastorates in the Reformed Church in America and Presbyterian Church. He was one of the most prominent religious leaders in the United States during the mid- to late-19th century, equaled as a pulpit orator perhaps only by Henry Ward Beecher. He also preached to crowds in England. During the 1860s and 70s.
During the last years of his life, Dr. Talmage ceased preaching and devoted himself to editing, writing, and lecturing. Each week he was said to have preached to audiences of 8,000 people, and for many years his sermons were published regularly in more than 3,000 journals, through which he was said to reach 25,000,000 readers.
The Finger of God
Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.” – Exodus 8:19.
Pharaoh was sulking in his marble throne room at Memphis. Plague after plague had come, and sometimes the Egyptian monarch was disposed to do better, but at the lifting of each plague, he was as bad as before. The necromancers of the palace, however, were compelled to recognize the divine movement, and after one of the most exasperating plagues of all the series, they cried out in the words of my text: “This is the finger of God,” not the first nor the last time when bad people said a good thing.
We all recognize the hand of God, and know it is a mighty hand. You have seen a man keep two or three rubber balls flying in the air, catching and pitching them so that none of them fell to the floor, and do this for several minutes, and you have admired his dexterity; but have you thought how the hand of God keeps thousands and thousands of round worlds vastly larger than our world flying for centuries without letting one fall? Wondrous power and skill of God’s hand! My text leads me to speak of less than a fifth of the divine hand. “This is the finger of God.” Only in two other places does the Bible refer to this division of the Omnipotent hand. The rocks on Mount Sinai are basalt and very hard stone. Do you imagine it was a chisel that cut the ten commandments in that basalt? No, in Exodus we read that the tables of stone were “written with the finger of God.” Christ says that he cast out devils with “the finger of God.” The only instance that Christ wrote a word, he wrote not with a pen on parchment, but with his finger on the ground. Yet, though so seldom reference is made in the Bible to a part of God’s hand, if you and I keep our eyes open and our heart right, we will be compelled often to cry out, “This is the finger of God.”
Now, God, in the dear old Book, says to us innumerable things by the way of direction. He plainly tells us the way to go. But in every exigency of our life, if we will only look, we will find a providential gesture and a providential pointing, so that we may confidently say, “This is the finger of God.”
Do you know what made the great revival of 1857, when more people were converted to God, probably, than in any year since Christ was born? It was the defalcations (embezzlements) and bankruptcies which swept American prosperity so flat that it could fall no flatter. It is only through clouds and darkness and whirlwind of disaster such men can see the finger of God.
St. Felix escaped martyrdom by crawling through a hole in the wall across which the spiders immediately afterward wove a web. His persecutors saw the hole in the wall, but the spiders’ web put them off the track. A boy was lost by his drunken father, and could not for years find his way home. Nearly grown, he went into a Fulton street prayer-meeting and asked for prayers that he might find his parents. His mother was in the room, and rose, and recognized her long-lost son. Do you say that these things “only happened so?” Tell that to those who do not believe in a God and have no faith in the Bible. Do not tell it to me. I said to an aged minister of much experience, “All the events of my life seem to have been divinely connected. Do you suppose it is so in all lives?” He answered, “Yes, but most people do not notice the divine leadings.” I stand here to say from my own experience that the safest thing in all the world to do is to trust the Lord. I never had a misfortune, or a persecution, or a trial, or a disappointment, however excruciating at the time, that God did not make turn out for my good. My one wish is to follow the divine leading. I want to watch the finger of God.
But notice that this finger of God, almost always and in almost everything, points forward and not backward. All the way through the Bible, the lamb and pigeon on the altar, the pillar of fire poised above the wilderness, peace offering, sin offering, trespass offering, fingers of Joseph and Isaac and Joshua and David and Isaiah and Micah and Ezekiel, all together made the one finger of God pointing to the human, the divine, the gracious, the glorious, the omnipotent, the gentle, the pardoning and suffering and atoning Christ. And now the same finger of God is pointing the world upward to the same Redeemer and forward to the time of his universal domination. My hearers, get out of the habit of looking back and looking down and look up and look forward. It is useful once in awhile to look back, but you had better, for the most part of the time, stop reminiscence and begin anticipation. We have, most of us, hardly begun yet. If we love the Lord and trust him—and you may all love him and trust him from this moment on—we no more understand the good things ahead of us than a child at school studying his A B C can understand what that has to do with his reading John Ruskin’s “Seven Lamps of Architecture,” or Dante’s “Divina Commedia.” Look ahead! The finger of God points forward.
Look ahead! Look at the finest house on earth and know that you will have a finer one in heaven. Look up the healthiest person you can find, and know you will yet be healthier. Look up the one who has the best eyesight of any one you have ever heard of, and know you will have better vision. Listen to the sweetest prima donna that ever trod the platform, and know that in heaven you will lift a more enrapturing song than ever enchanted earthly auditorium.
I expect to see nothing to equal it until you and I see heaven. All heaven aglow and all heaven a-ring, not in the sunset, but in the sunrise. Voices of our own kindred mingling with the doxologies of empires. Organs of eternal worship responding to the trumpets that have wakened the dead. Nations in white. Centuries in coronation. Anthems like the voice of many waters. Circle of martyrs. Circle of apostles. Circle of prophets. Thrones of cherubim. Thrones of seraphim. Throne of archangel. Throne of Christ. Throne of God. Thrones! Thrones! Thrones! The ringer of God points that way. Stop not until you reach that place. Through the atoning Christ, all I speak of and more may be yours and mine. Do you not now hear the chime of the bells of that metropolis of the universe? Do you not see the shimmering of the towers?