Strength and Beauty
sermon preached by Dr. Jack Hyles
Now notice the 96th Psalm, verse 6, “Honour and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
I. Strange Combinations
Strange companions are these walking together in the 96th Psalm, “Honour and majesty are before Him.” Think for a moment how seldom you see honour fellowshipping with majesty. In political offices, people of high estate who have majesty so seldom have honour. When we think of honour, we do not think of majesty. When we think of majesty, we seldom think of honour.
In the Word of God there are several such pairs that are seldom seen together. For example, the Apostle Paul speaks about “zeal and knowledge.” How rare it is to find in the same package both zeal and knowledge! Somebody has said, “Scholarship and fire seldom walk together.” How wonderful it is to find some scholar who has the fire of God in his soul. As he secures his education and training and gains his scholarship, he keeps the same zeal and fire of his youth.
There is still another pair that seldom walks together. It is said of Jesus in John 1:14, that He was “full of grace and truth.” Did you ever stop to think how difficult it is to mingle grace and truth? Dr. Slade, you are a great defender of the faith. You and I know what it is to fight the battles for the truth. Have you noticed about the time you get enough of the truth, you lose your grace? Just about the time that I get courageous enough, I get mean. Do you have that problem, Dr. Fletcher? About the time I take the stand that I ought to take for this blessed old Book, I find myself losing my warmth and love. I have truth, but not grace. So I work on my grace, and I become a sweet, gentle preacher. Then I find I have lost the truth; I want to join the National Council of Churches! (Ha) The honest truth is, these seldom go together.
Now here is another pair, just as rarely found together as grace and truth, or majesty and honour, or zeal and knowledge. “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” What a strange combination! The Psalmist looks at the temple and lists two qualities he sees that seldom travel together. The entire Psalm, I think, is a picture of the Psalmist looking at the temple, the center of all Jewish life. As he looks at the temple, he says, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” We think of the strength, with its solidity, and find it difficult to associate with it grace and loveliness. When we think of strength, we think of someone who has few manners or little ethics. We oftentimes disassociate anything lovely with anything strong. Conversely, when we think of the beautiful we think of it as fragile and delicate. We hardly ever think of anything beautiful being strong. I am advocating this evening strength AND beauty, honour AND majesty; zeal AND knowledge, grace AND truth. I am saying that I do not believe one need sacrifice grace to have truth; one need not sacrifice honour to have majesty; one need not sacrifice zeal to have knowledge; and one need not sacrifice beauty to have strength or strength to have beauty. The Psalmist looks at the strength of the marble pillars and sees the undergirdings of the temple and the strength of the pillars, and then he looks at the exquisite carvings and says, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” I look around this lovely building tonight, and I see the strength of this building and the delicate carving and beauty contained therein, and I say with the Psalmist, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
II. Strength and Beauty in the Temple
The Psalmist looked at the great porch upheld by the two famous pillars of bronze, cast by the most skillful workers, and on the top of the pillars was lily work. How beautiful! Realizing the strength of these two bronze pillars of the porch and viewing the delicate, dainty needlework at the top, the Psalmist said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
The Psalmist looked at the massive stones and cedars of Lebanon. Then as he compared them to the delicate carvings of cherubim, he said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” He looked at the immense stone foundations, and at the same time, at the interior overlaid with pure gold, and said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” He looked at the immense size of the temple, and then at the figures of cherubim, palm trees, and flowers and said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” He looked at the beautiful architecture and the strength upholding the great massive building. At the same time he noticed precious stones gleaming midst the gold, and said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” He looked at the high walls and compared them to the woven tapestry that was hanging on every side. As he saw the strength of the walls and the beauty and loveliness of the tapestry, he said, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.”
Now all of this is to say this: We face a generation that does not compare strength and beauty. We face a generation that says, “You must be strong, you must stand, you must fight, you must not yield, you must not give.” On the other side, we see there are other people who believe in the arts, who believe in the beauty of nature, who believe in beauty as opposed to strength. What is wrong with fundamentalists having strength AND beauty? What is wrong with fundamentalists having zeal AND knowledge? I was in Canada, in your capital city, preaching at a series of holy week services for the local Fundamental Evangelical Ministerial Association and the churches that they pastored. A pastor who was up in years came to me and said, “Dr. Hyles, I admire you; I admire your zeal. When I was a young man I, too, chose between zeal and depth.” That spoke volumes to me! He said, “When I was a young man, I looked on one side, and I saw the depth of teaching the Word of God, and exposing the Scriptures. On the other side, I saw those who had zeal; they passed out tracts, and they had fervor and fire and zeal, and I decided I would choose to be deep instead of zealous.”
I said, “My dear sir, if you will forgive me for being a little bit rude and a little bit unkind, I would like to say, if I could have talked to you for five minutes back then, I could have saved you from having to make that decision.”
“Well,” he said, “I am not the hollering type. I just expound the Scriptures and expose the Word of God.”
I said, “All right, if I had talked to you, I would have reminded you that you could read the Scriptures, then stop and say, ‘Glory to God!’ and then read the next verse.
Now, I am simply saying this: Why should there be a choice for a young man to make? Could not a young man have the zeal of youth and the wisdom of age? Could not a young man have a compassion for souls and a zeal for the Word of God and the work of God, and at the same time, experience what it is to know the Scriptures and teach the Word of God? I commend to you, and I recommend to you that you consider strength and beauty.
So the Psalmist looked at the sanctuary, at the beloved temple, and as he examined the strength on one side, and the loveliness on the other, the strong pillars with their lily work at the top, the strong sides, the walls, with their exquisite carvings and interior covered with gold, the Psalmist shouted, “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary!”
III. Strength and Beauty in Our Ministry
Now there is a temple today. In 1968 there is another temple. It does not stand in Jerusalem on the site of Solomon’s temple; it sits in this auditorium this evening. This temple of today will be walking the halls in this Seminary, sitting in the chairs provided by the Alumni, studying at the feet of you professors, for this temple of today is the body of the Christian. If you check the New Testament very carefully, especially Paul’s writings, you will find that the temple of today is the body of the believer. Now this body, this temple, should have in it both strength and beauty. Maybe there is some young preacher in the student body who this evening is trying to decide what he ought to be—a Bible teacher or an evangelistic, compassionate preacher. I commend to you: Be
both! Have both strength AND beauty. Have both grace AND truth. Have both honour AND majesty. Do not trade one for the other, or the other for the one, but rather combine in your ministry the depth of the Word of God and the zeal that God would want you to have in the propagation of that blessed Word.
I heard a beautiful story about Dr. George W. Truett, who served for many years as Pastor of the great First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas. (I think he served for over forty years in Dallas, my home town.) One day he was in his study preparing his message for the next Lord’s Day. His little five-year-old granddaughter was bothering him, as most five-year-old granddaughters do well. “Grandfather, I want a drink,” she said. As most grandfathers do, he spoiled his granddaughter. He got her a drink. He sat down to study his sermon, when suddenly, just a few moments afterwards, she said, “Grandfather, I am thirsty again, may I have a drink?” He got up again and gave her a drink. In just a matter of five minutes she said, “Grandfather, may I have a drink, please?”
(That reminds me of a little girl who said, “Daddy, may I have a drink?” He said, “If you ask me for a drink one more time, I am going to get up and spank you.” She said, “Daddy, when you get up to spank me, would you bring me a drink, please?”)
Dr. Truett got her a drink, and then he said, “Honey, leave Grandfather alone. I am busy. I have to preach Sunday and I need to be alone.” So he happened to think—there was a jigsaw puzzle of a map of the world in his office. Dr. Truett got the box that contained the puzzle, and he said, “Honey, do you like jigsaw puzzles?”
She nodded her head.
He asked, “Would you like to put a jigsaw puzzle together?”
She said she would. Dr. Truett put her in the outer office, gave her the jigsaw puzzle, the map of the world. He thought, “That will take care of a five-year-old for awhile.”
Five minutes passed, and she said, “Granddaddy, I am through with the puzzle, and I want a drink.”
“Yes, I am through.”
Dr. Truett said, “How could it be that you could get the world all fixed up? You do not know where all the countries are.” He walked to the outer office, and sure enough, every country was in place. She had taken hundreds of pieces and put them perfectly together in five minutes. Dr. Truett said, “How did you do it?”
She said, “It was easy, Granddaddy. On the back side was a picture of a man’s face. I didn’t work on the world. I worked on the man. When I got the man right, the world took care of itself.”
That is what you need to work on, my young friend. Great societies and poverty programs may or may not be well and good, but those will be unnecessary when preachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ return to preaching the Gospel to men. The need of our day is to reach men. As Dr. Slade said awhile ago, we need men! If only we had the intelligence and sense of that little girl, who at five said, “I worked on the man, and the world took care of itself.”
Faculty members, those who lead these students, I commission you not to use these students to build a school, but use your school to build these students. It is so easy to use patients to build a hospital, or use members to build a church, or use students to build a school, but our job is to use buildings, faculty, trustees, administration, books, and all the rest of it to invest in the lives of individuals, that they may have grace and truth, honour and majesty, zeal and knowledge, strength and beauty.
IV. Strength Comes First
Now I want you to notice this. In the first place, the Psalmist said, “strength.” He did not say, “beauty and strength,” for beauty without strength is worse than strength without beauty. The first thing he said was ‘Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” It’s better to be strong than ornamental. Do not do wrong rightly; do right wrongly if you have to make the choice. I would rather do right rightly. If I could, I would like to take the Word of God, Dr. Slade, and stand on it, and say, “I believe it, I will fight for it, I will die for it,” and do it with beauty, grace, love, kindness, meekness, and humility.” If I had to choose between being contankerous and hard to get along with and standing for the truth, and being sweet and kind in denying the faith, I would ten thousand times rather stand on this Bible wrongly, than stand off this Bible rightly. Strength comes first!
Gharacter is more important than talent, for character will seek talent, and talent of times will flee character. True character, when it is instilled in the lives of young people, will find the talent necessary to perform a task. Oftentimes excessive talent makes one think he needs not character, and so he runs from character and loses the thing that he needs the most, when character is far more vital to success than his talent.
I have often made this little statement: I do not care who hates me because of my position, but I do not want anybody to hate me because of my disposition. Now, if I had to choose, however, between the right position and the right disposition, I would choose the right position. I am simply saying, strength and beauty should adorn every Christian, but the first thing that ought to adorn us is strength, character, and standing for the truth, the Bible, Christ, and soul winning.
I recall a Texas farmer whose boy went off to college. Nobody had ever been to college from that area. Everybody was impressed because one of their own farm boys had gone off to college. Well, the boy came home from college the first time, and the dad was ploughing in the field. The neighbor at the next farm said, “Hey, Zekel How did your young’un do in college this year?”
He said, “You’d never believe it. Why, it used to be when my boy ploughed a row with the mule, he would look at the mule and say, ‘Whoa, Reb, turn and giddap.’ Do you know what he says now? He says, ‘Halt, Rebecca! Pivot and proceed!’ ”
Now, I think it is best to say, “Halt, Rebecca! Pivot and proceed!” but I think it is better to get Rebecca turned around than to know how to speak good English. Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. used to say, “I would rather a fellow say ‘I seen’ that seen something, than say ‘I have seen’ who ain’t seen nothing.”
V. Strength and Beauty in Creation
I suggest to you, and I recommend to you, that you get all the Christian grace, charm, ethics, and principles you can, that you adorn the Gospel of the grace of God, but let me say before you do get the polish, you be sure you get the merchandise. You be sure you have the strength before you work on the beauty. You decide you believe the Bible is the Word of God! Every word of it, every page of it, and every line of the Bible is inspired by God. You live for it, die for it, live by it, die by it, stand for Christ, stand for the Bible, have no patience with error, stand for the truth that is in the faith; and once you get that, then you can look at the next word, which is beauty. “Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.” Someone has said, “Never mind about the beautiful; give us the useful and the durable.” Let that one look at the yellow gold of the grain field, the emerald green of the meadow, the silver white of the lake, the purest blue of the sky, the fresh green of the spring,
the snowy white of the winter, the glory of the sunset, the sevenfold beauty of the rainbow, the towering mountains with their ceaseless lights and shadows. Let him look at God’s creation; the strength of a mountain range, and yet the beauty that is incomparable, strength and beauty. God has a wonderful way of adding the beauty to the strong. Look at a tree sometime. Look at the strong, durable, sturdy trunk of that tree; then at autumn time, look at the fading of the leaves and the foliage, and notice how God blends the strong and the beautiful in the same tree. Look sometime at a hill. Look sometime at a river—the beautiful flowing river with its strength, power, and potential.
Once you have gained the strength may you then add beauty. Once you have become a fundamental believer with the zeal of God and the power of the Holy Spirit, then add love, grace, gentleness, kindness, and all the Christian graces, but be sure the strength is there first.
VI. Strength and Beauty in Character
Faculty members, out there waiting to come here, is a young lad. He is a farm boy. He is spiritual and he is strong. He has strength, but his English is atrocious. He hangs his gerunds, splits his infinitives, dangles his participles. He comes to you. He has strength, he has character, but he needs beauty. I charge you:
Give him beauty, but don’t tamper with his strength.
When I was a young preacher, I had two sermons: One was on cigarettes and the other was on movies. I would preach to my little church on cigarettes on Sunday morning and on movies on Sunday night. I wanted to be varied in my subjects, and so I preached the next Sunday on movies in the morning and cigarettes at night. I guess I was the crudest preacher that ever came off the East Texas sand hills, but I had conviction. I believed this Book was the Word of God, and I believed that Jesus Christ was God’s Son. I knew I was born again, and I belonged to Jesus Christ. I knew right was right and wrong was wrong. I knew black was black and white was white, and I was dedicated not to make it gray. I thank God for my teachers and helpers and those who prayed for me and tried to lend a little bit of beauty along with it. Still my beauty fades oftentimes when compared to my conviction. I thank God for those teachers who gave me a few of the graces and taught me you could hold a teacup on your knee, do it properly, and still be a fundamentalist. I thank God for
those that tried to make something out ot me, and taugnt me that proper English could robe fundamentalism. I thank God for those who helped me and taught me that a person could say, “Good morning,” and smile and still be a fundamentalist. You do not have to trip old men when they walk across the street to be a fundamentalist. I thank God for those people that taught me that love, grace, beauty, honour, and majesty are important. At the same time, they did not tamper with the strength.
Faculty, out yonder waiting to come before you some day is a high school lad. He is intelligent, and he is spiritual. He is gentle and he is kind. He has love and he has charm, but he needs intestinal fortitude. He needs strength. He has the beauty. Don’t steal his beauty. Let him keep his kindness, let him keep his gentleness, let him keep his goodness, but when he comes here, instill in his heart strength for the Word of God and the work of God.
Out yonder is someone who will be before you, a young lady. She is lovely and talented, but she needs conviction. She comes to you to get it. Out yonder there is a preacher lad who has conviction and potential, but he needs love. Don’t cast him aside. Add love to his conviction, add kindness to his courage, and make him full of strength and beauty.
As I look to you students this evening, most of you are far younger than I. As I look in your eyes and think about the po-tential for the future, I exhort you to earn a degree while you are in Toronto Baptist Seminary. We shall call it the S.A.B. degree:
Strength and Beauty! As you walk across this platform and receive the diploma for which you are working, as you walk out the doors, take off your caps and gowns, go out to your place of service, may people know you are someone of strength. May they always say, “There is a man who believes the Bible; there is a man who has convictions for which he would live and die,” but at the same time, “There is a gentleman; there is a man who pays his debts, and pays them on time, there is a man who has the love of Christ in his heart, there is a man who walks with God, there is a man who has strength and beauty.”
Maybe it is like the Quaker who kindly said, before he killed a man, “I would not hurt thee, nor harm thee, nor lift up my hand to do thee wrong, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot.”
Dr. Frank Norris said of Dr. John Rice, “He is the kindest, gentlest man that ever scuttled a ship or slit a throat.” There ought to be some of that in God’s people. There ought to be that as we teach our students.
Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Ye soldiers of the cross;
Lift high His royal banner,
It must not suffer loss.
From victory unto victory
His army shall He lead
Till every foe is vanquished
And Christ is Lord indeed.
As you stand for the truth, may you have grace, and as you seek grace, may you never leave the truth. As you have strength, may you have beauty; but as you add beauty, may you never lose your strength. As you have zeal, may you have knowledge; but may your knowledge never dampen your zeal. As you have majesty, have honour; but may your honour never take your majesty, nor your majesty rob your honour. May it be said of you that you are simply “Strength and Beauty.”
That is what this old world needs tonight. The world is dying for the Gospel of Christ and preachers to preach that Gospel. It does not take a brilliant person long to find that we are in dire need of the Moodys, Sundays, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles G. Finneys. It does not take this old world long to find that we need some Wesleys and some Spurgeons. It does not take this world long to find that we need some George Whitefields, some Sam Joneses with their strength, some R. A. Torreys with their culture and refinement and yet spiritual zeal.
Dr. John Rice, as a young preacher, went to the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, one afternoon to hear the famous Gypsy Smith. At that time, Gypsy Smith was in his heyday and in demand all across America and all across the world. He spoke on soul winning. He said, “We ought to take every advantage to witness to others about the Saviour.” Then he said, “We ought to leave this building this afternoon to cover this town with the Gospel of Christ.”
Dr. John Rice said, “Dear Lord, when I leave this building, I am going to witness to the first person I see.” The service was ended, the benediction pronounced. Out the back door went this young preacher, John Rice, in his early days. Around the corner from the First Baptist Church of Dallas, was a taxicab, with the driver standing beside his cab. ‘Taxi?” he said.
Dr. Rice said, “No, I do not want a taxi, but I want to ask you a question, ‘Sir, are you a Christian?’ -.
The cab driver moistened his eyes and quivered his lips as he said, “Yes, I am.”
Dr. Rice said, “Good. When did you become a Christian?”
The taxi driver said, “Just a minute ago. A Gypsy fellow walked out the speakers’ door and led me to the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Emerson wrote the following:
So nigh is grandeur to our dust,
So near is God to man,
When Duty whispers low, “Thou must,”
The youth replies, “I can.”
Oh, for revival of fundamentalism! Oh, for revival of old-f ashioned hell-fire and brimstone preaching of “Ye must be born again” with the altar call, the mourner’s bench, the sawdust trail, and sinners repenting; and the old-fashioned Gospel of Christ where hundreds are saved, buildings are filled, the power of God comes, people repent, mourners mourn, folks turn to God, and we have real, genuine, old-fashioned revival back in America and in our country! But—it will come only when we have Christian people who mix genuine grace with the blessed truth.
May God give us, may God give me and you a knowledge burning with zeal, a majesty built on honour, a grace founded by truth, and a beauty built with strength.