THE WAY TO GOD
And How to Find It
IT IS DANGEROUS for those who are seeking salvation to lean upon the experience of other people. Many are waiting for a repetition of the experience of their grandfather or grandmother. I had a friend who was converted in a field; and he thinks the whole town ought to go down into that meadow and be converted. Another was converted under a bridge; and he thinks that if any inquirer were to go there he would find the Lord. The best thing for the anxious is to go right to the Word of God. If there are any persons in the world to whom the Word ought to be very precious it is those who are asking how to be saved.
For instance a man may say, "I have no strength." Let him turn to Romans 5:6.
It is because we have no strength that we need Christ. He has come to give strength
to the weak.
Another may say, "I cannot see." Christ says,
He came, not only to give light, but
Another may say, "I do not think a man can be saved all at once." A person holding that view was in the Inquiry-room one night; and I drew his attention to Romans 6:23.
How long does it take to accept a gift? There must be a moment when you have it
not, and another when you have it- a moment when it is another's, and the next when
it is yours. It does not take six months to get eternal life. It may however in some
cases be like the mustard seed, very small at the commencement. Some people are converted
so gradually that, like the morning light, it is impossible to tell when the dawn
began; while, with others, it is like the flashing of a meteor and the truth bursts
upon them suddenly.
I would not go across the street to prove when I was converted; but what is important is for me to know that I really have been.
It may be that a child has been so carefully trained that it is impossible to tell when the new birth began; but there must have been a moment when the change took place, and when he became a partaker of the Divine nature.
Some people do not believe in SUDDEN CONVERSION. But I will challenge anyone to show a conversion in the New Testament that was not instantaneous.
Nothing could be more sudden than that.
Zaccheus, the publican, sought to see Jesus; and because he was little of stature he climbed up a tree. When Jesus came to the place He looked up and saw him, and said,
His conversion must have taken place somewhere between the branch and the ground. We are told that he received Jesus joyfully, and said,
Very few in these days could say that in proof of their conversion.
The whole house of Cornelius was converted suddenly; for as Peter preached Christ to him and his company the Holy Ghost fell on them, and they were baptized (Acts 10).
On the day of Pentecost three thousand gladly received the Word. They were not only converted, but they were baptized the same day (Acts 2).
And when Philip talked to the eunuch, as they went on their way, the eunuch said to Philip,
Nothing hindered. And Philip said,
You will find all through Scripture that conversions were sudden and instantaneous.
A man has been in the habit of stealing money from his employer. Suppose he has taken $1,000 in twelve months; should we tell him to take $500 the next year, and less the next year, and the next, until in five years the sum taken would be only $50? That would be upon the same principle as gradual conversion.
If such a person were brought before the court and pardoned, because he could not change his mode of life all at once, it would be considered a very strange proceeding.
How to Stop Stealing
But the Bible says,
It is "right about face!" Suppose a person is in the habit of cursing
one hundred times a day: should we advise him not to utter more than ninety oaths
the following day, and eighty the next day; so that in the course of time he would
get rid of the habit?
God's Word commands that we do not curse.
Suppose another man is in the habit of getting drunk and beating his wife twice a month; if he only did so once a month, and then only once in six months, that would be, upon the same ground, as reasonable as gradual conversion. Suppose Ananias had been sent to Paul, when he was on his way to Damascus breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples, and casting them into prison, to tell him not to kill so many as he intended; and to let enmity die out of his heart, gradually, but not all at once. Suppose he had been told that it would not do to stop breathing out threatenings and slaughter, and to commence preaching Christ all at once, because the philosophers would say that the change was so sudden it would not hold out; this would be the same kind of reasoning as is used by those who do not believe in instantaneous conversion.
Afraid That They Will Not Hold Out
Then another class say that they are afraid that they will not hold out. This is a numerous and a very hopeful class. I like to see a man distrust himself. It is a good thing to get such to look to God, and to remember that it is not he who holds God, but that it is God who holds him. Some want to get hold of Christ; but the thing is to get Christ to take hold of you in answer to prayer. Let such read Psalm 121:
Someone calls that the traveler's psalm. It is a beautiful psalm for those of
us who are pilgrims through this world; and one with which we should be well acquainted.
God can do what He has done before. He kept Joseph in Egypt; Moses before Pharaoh; Daniel in Babylon; and enabled Elijah to stand before Ahab in that dark day. And I am thankful that these I have mentioned were men of like passions with ourselves. It was God who made them so great. What man wants is to look to God. Real true faith is man's weakness leaning on God's strength. When man has no strength, if he leans on God he becomes powerful. The trouble is that we have too much strength and confidence in ourselves.
Again in Hebrews 6:17-20.
Fear of Not "Holding Out"
Now these are precious verses to those who are afraid of falling, who fear that they will not hold out. It is God's work to hold. It is the Shepherd's business to keep the sheep. Who ever heard of the sheep going to bring back the shepherd? People have an idea that they have to keep themselves and Christ too. It is a false idea. It is the work of the Shepherd to look after them, and to take care of those who trust Him. And He has promised to do it. I once heard that when a sea captain was dying he said, "Glory to God; the anchor holds." He trusted in Christ. His anchor had taken hold of the solid rock. An Irishman said, on one occasion, that "he trembled; but the Rock never did." We want to get sure footing. In 2 Timothy 1:12 Paul says:
That was Paul's persuasion.
During the late war of the rebellion, one of the chaplains, going through the hospitals, came to a man who was dying. Finding that he was a Christian, he asked to what persuasion he belonged, and was told "Paul's persuasion."
"Is he a Methodist?" he asked; for the Methodists all claim Paul.
"Is he a Presbyterian?" for the Presbyterians lay special claim to Paul.
"No," was the answer.
"Does he belong to the Episcopal Church?" for all the Episcopalian brethren contend that they have a claim to the Chief Apostle.
"No," he was not an Episcopalian.
"Then, to what persuasion does he belong?"
"I 'am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.'"
It is a grand persuasion; and it gave the dying soldier rest in a dying hour.
Let those who fear that they will not hold out turn to the 24th verse of the Epistle of Jude:
Then look at Isaiah 41:10:
Then see verse 13:
It Is God Who Keeps
Now if God has got hold of my right hand in His, cannot He hold me and keep me?
Has not God the power to keep? The great God who made heaven and earth can keep a
poor sinner like you and like me if we trust Him. To refrain from feeling confidence
in God for fear of falling- would be like a man who refused a pardon for fear that
he should get into prison again; or a drowning man who refused to be rescued, for
fear of falling into the water again.
Many men look forth at the Christian life, and fear that they will not have sufficient strength to hold out to the end. They forget the promise that
It reminds me of the pendulum to the clock which grew disheartened at the thought of having to travel so many thousands of miles; but when it reflected that the distance was to be accomplished by "tick, tick, tick," it took fresh courage to go its daily journey. So it is the special privilege of the Christian to commit himself to the keeping of his heavenly Father and to trust Him day by day. It is a comforting thing to know that the Lord will not begin the good work without also finishing it.
Two Classes of Skeptics
There are two kinds of skeptics- one class with honest difficulties; and another class who delight only in discussion. I used to think that this latter class would always be a thorn in my flesh; but they do not prick me now. I expect to find them right along the journey. Men of this stamp used to hang around Christ to entangle Him in His talk. They come into our meetings to hold a discussion. To all such I would commend Paul's advice to Timothy:
Unlearned questions! Many young converts make a woeful mistake. They think they are to defend the whole Bible. I knew very little of the Bible when I was first converted; and I thought that I had to defend it from beginning to end against all comers; but a Boston infidel got hold of me, floored all my arguments at once, and discouraged me. But I have got over that now. There are many things in the Word of God that I do not profess to understand.
There are many things which were dark and mysterious five years ago, on which I have since had a flood of light; and I expect to be finding out something fresh about God throughout eternity. I make a point of not discussing disputed passages of Scripture. An old divine has said that some people, if they want to eat fish, commence by picking the bones. I leave such things till I have light on them. I am not bound to explain what I do not comprehend.
and these I take, and eat and feed upon, in order to get spiritual strength.
Then there is a little sound advice in Titus 3:9.
But now here comes an honest skeptic. With him I would deal as tenderly as a mother
with her sick child. I have no sympathy with those people who, because a man is skeptical,
cast him off and will have nothing to do with him.
I was in an Inquiry-meeting, some time ago, and I handed over to a Christian lady, whom I had known some time, one who was skeptical. On looking round soon after I noticed the inquirer marching out of the hall. I asked, "Why have you let her go?" "Oh, she is a skeptic!" was the reply. I ran to the door and got her to stop, and introduced her to another Christian worker who spent over an hour in conversation and prayer with her.
He visited her and her husband; and in the course of a week, that intelligent lady cast off her skepticism and came out an active Christian. It took time, tact, and prayer; but if a person of this class is honest we ought to deal with such an one as the Master would have us.
Here are a few passages for doubting inquirers:
If a man is not willing to do the will of God he will not know the doctrine. There
is no class of skeptics who are ignorant of the fact that God desires them to give
up sin; and if a man is willing to turn from sin and take the light and thank Him
for what He does give, and not expect to have light on the whole Bible all at once,
he will get more light day by day; make progress step by step; and be led right out
of darkness into the clear light of heaven.
In Daniel 12:10 we are told:
Now God will never reveal His secrets to His enemies. Never! And if a man persists in living in sin he will not know the doctrines of God.
And in John 15:15 we read:
When you become friends of Christ you will know His secrets. The Lord said,
Now those who resemble God are most likely to understand God. If a man is not willing to turn from sin he will not know God's will, nor will God reveal His secrets to him. But if a man is willing to turn from sin he will be surprised to see how the light will come in!
Why the Bible Was "Dry"
I remember one night when the Bible was the driest and darkest book in the universe to me. The next day it became entirely different. I thought I had the key to it. I had been born of the Spirit. But before I knew anything of the mind of God I had to give up my sin. I believe God meets every soul on the spot of self-surrender, when they are willing to let Him guide and lead. The trouble with many skeptics is their self-conceit. They know more than the Almighty! And they do not come in a teachable spirit. But the moment a man comes in a receptive spirit he is blessed; for
CHAPTER 5. Back to Top
A Divine Saviour
"Thou art THE CHRIST, the Son of the living God" -Matthew 16:16; John 6:69.
WE MEET with a certain class of inquirers who do not believe in the Divinity of
Christ. There are many passages that will give light on this subject.
In 1 Corinthians 15:47, we are told:
In 1 John 5:20:
Again in John 17:3:
And then, in Mark 14:60:
What Brought Me to Believe in the Divinity of Christ
What brought me to believe in the Divinity of Christ was this: I did not know where to place Christ, or what to do with Him, if He were not divine. When I was a boy I thought that He was a good man like Moses, Joseph, or Abraham. I even thought that He was the best man who had ever lived on the earth. But I found that Christ had a higher claim. He claimed to be God-Man; to be divine; to have come from heaven. He said:
I could not understand this; and I was driven to the conclusion- and I challenge any candid man to deny the inference, or meet the argument- that Jesus Christ is either an impostor or deceiver, or He is the God-Man, God manifest in the flesh. And for these reasons. The first commandment is,
Look at the millions throughout Christendom who worship Jesus Christ as God. If
Christ be not God this is idolatry. We are all guilty of breaking the first commandment,
if Jesus Christ were mere man- if He were a created being, and not what He claims
Some people, who do not admit His divinity, say that He was the best man who ever lived; but if He were not Divine, for that very reason He ought not to be reckoned a good man, for He laid claim to an honor and dignity to which these very people declare He had no right or title. That would rank Him as a deceiver.
Others say that He thought He was divine, but that He was deceived. As if Jesus Christ were carried away by a delusion and deception, and thought that He was more than He was! I could not conceive of a lower idea of Jesus Christ than that. This would not only make Him out an impostor; but that He was out of His mind, and that He did not know who He was, or where He came from. Now if Jesus Christ was not what He claimed to be, the Saviour of the world; and if He did not come from heaven- He was a gross deceiver.
But how can anyone read the life of Jesus Christ and make Him out a deceiver? A man has generally some motive for being an impostor. What was Christ's motive? He knew that the course He was pursuing would conduct Him to the cross; that His name would be cast out as vile; and that many of His followers would be called upon to lay down their lives for His sake. Nearly every one of the apostles was a martyr; and they were considered as off-scouring and refuse in the midst of the people. If a man is an impostor, he has a motive at the back of his hypocrisy. But what was Christ's object? The record is that He "went about doing good" (Acts 10:38). This is not the work of an imposter. Do not let the enemy of your soul deceive you.
In John 5:21-23 we read:
How It Works Out
Now, notice: by the Jewish law if a man were a blasphemer he was to be put to death; and supposing Christ to be merely human if this be not blasphemy I do not know where you will find it.
That is downright blasphemy if Christ be not divine. If Moses, or Elijah, or Elisha,
or any other mortal had said, "You must honor me as you honor God;" and
had put himself on a level with God, it would have been downright blasphemy.
The Jews put Christ to death because they said that He was not what He claimed to be. It was on that testimony He was put under oath. The high priest said:
And when the Jews came round Him and said,
Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him (John 10:24-33). They said they
did not want to hear more, for that was blasphemy. It was for declaring Himself to
be the Son of God that He was condemned and put to death (Matthew 26:63-66).
Now if Jesus Christ was mere man the Jews did right, according to their law, in putting Him to death. In Leviticus 24:16 we read:
This law obliged them to put to death everyone who blasphemed. It was making the statement that He was divine that cost Him His life; and by the Mosaic law He ought to have suffered the death penalty. In John 16:15 Christ says,
How could He be merely a good man and use language as that?
No doubt has ever entered my mind on the point since I was converted.
One Good Proof
A notorious sinner was once asked how he could prove the divinity of Christ. His
answer was, "Why, He has saved me; and that is a pretty good proof, is it not?"
An infidel on one occasion said to me, "I have been studying the life of John the Baptist, Mr. Moody. Why don't you preach him? He was a greater character than Christ. You would do a greater work."
I said to him, "My friend, you preach John the Baptist; and I will follow you and preach Christ: and we will see who will do the most good."
"You will do the most good," he said, "because the people are so superstitious." Ah! John was beheaded; and his disciples begged his body and buried it. But Christ has risen from the dead;
Christ Is Risen
Our Christ LIVES. Many people have not found out that Christ has risen from the grave. They worship a dead Saviour, like Mary, who said,
That is the trouble with those who doubt the divinity of our Lord.
Then look at Matthew 18:20.
"THERE AM I." Well now, if He is a mere
man, how can He be there? All these are strong passages.
Again in Matthew 28:18.
Could He be a mere man and talk in that way?
Then again in Matthew 28:20.
If He were mere man how could He be with us? Yet He says,
Then again in Mark 2:7-9.
Some men will meet you and say, "Did not Elisha also raise the dead?" Notice that in the rare instances in which men have raised the dead they did it by the power of God. They called on God to do it. But when Christ was on earth He did not call upon the Father to bring the dead to life. When He went to the house of Jairus He said,
He had power to impart life. When they were carrying the young man out of Nain, He had compassion on the widowed mother and came and touched the bier and said,
He spake; and the dead arose.
And when He raised Lazarus He called with a loud voice,
And Lazarus heard, and came forth.
Someone has said, it was a good thing that Lazarus was mentioned by name, or all the dead within the sound of Christ's voice would immediately have risen.
In John 5:25 Jesus says:
What blasphemy would this have been, had He not been divine! The proof is overwhelming, if you will but examine the Word of God.
Worship Accepted By Christ
And then another thing- No good man except Jesus Christ has ever allowed anybody to worship Him. When this was done He never rebuked the worshipper. In John 9:38 we read that when the blind man was found by Christ he said,
The Lord did not rebuke him.
Then again, Revelation 22:6-9 runs thus:
We see here, that even that angel would not allow John to worship him. Even an
angel from heaven! And if Gabriel came down here from the presence of God it would
be a sin to worship him or any seraph, or any cherub, or Michael, or any archangel.
"WORSHIP GOD!" And if Jesus Christ were not God manifest in the flesh we are guilty of idolatry in worshipping Him. In Matthew 14:33 we read:
He did not rebuke them.
And in Matthew 8:2 we also read:
In Matthew 15:25:
There are many other passages; but I give these as sufficient in my opinion to
prove beyond any doubt the Divinity of our Lord.
In Acts 14 we are told the heathen of Lystra came with garlands and would have done sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas because they had cured an impotent man; but the evangelists rent their clothes and told these Lystrans that they were but men, and not to be worshipped; as if it were a great sin. And if Jesus Christ is a mere man, we are all guilty of a great sin in worshipping Him.
But if He is, as we believe, the only-begotten and well-beloved Son of God, let us yield to His claims upon us; let us rest on His all-atoning work, and go forth to serve Him all the days of our life.
CHAPTER 6. Back to Top
Repentance and Restitution
"God commandeth all men everywhere to repent" -Acts 17:30.
REPENTANCE is one of the fundamental doctrines of the Bible. Yet I believe it is one of those truths that many people little understand at the present day. There are more people today in the mist and the darkness about Repentance, Regeneration, the Atonement, and such-like fundamental truths, than perhaps on any other doctrines. Yet from our earliest years we have heard about them. If I were to ask for a definition of Repentance, a great many would give a very strange and false idea of it.
When Is A Man Prepared to Receive the Gospel?
A man is not prepared to believe or to receive the Gospel, unless he is ready to repent of his sins and turn from them. Until John the Baptist met Christ, he had but one text,
But if he had continued to say this, and had stopped there without pointing the
people to Christ the Lamb of God, he would not have accomplished much.
When Christ came, He took up the same wilderness cry,
And when our Lord sent out His disciples, it was with the same message,
After He had been glorified, and when the Holy Ghost came down, we find Peter on the day of Pentecost raising the same cry, "Repent!" It was this preaching- Repent, and believe the Gospel- that wrought such marvelous results then (Acts 2:38-47). And we find that, when Paul went to Athens, he uttered the same cry,
Before I speak of what Repentance is, let me briefly say what it is not.
Repentance is not fear. Many people have confounded the two. They think they
have to be alarmed and terrified; and they are waiting for some kind of fear to come
down upon them. But multitudes become alarmed who do not really repent. You have
heard of men at sea during a terrible storm. Perhaps they had been very profane men;
but when the danger came they suddenly grew quiet, and began to cry to God for mercy.
Yet you would not say they repented. When the storm had passed away, they went on
swearing the same as before. You might think that the king of Egypt repented when
God sent the terrible plagues upon him and his land. But it was not repentance at
all. The moment God's hand was removed Pharaoh's heart was harder than ever. He did
not turn from a single sin; he was the same man. So that there was no true repentance
Often, when death comes into a family, it looks as if the event would be sanctified to the conversion of all who are in the house. Yet in six months' time all may be forgotten. Some who read this have passed through that experience. When God's hand was heavy upon them, it looked as if they were going to repent; but the trial has been removed- and, lo, and behold, the impression has all gone.
Repentance Is Not Feeling
Then again, repentance is not feeling. I find a great many people are waiting
for a certain kind of feeling to come. They would like to turn to God; but think
they cannot do it until this feeling comes. When I was at Baltimore I used to preach
every Sunday in the Penitentiary to nine hundred convicts. There was hardly a man
there who did not feel miserable enough- they had plenty of feeling. For the first
week or ten days of their imprisonment many of them cried half the time. Yet, when
they were released, most of them would go right back to their old ways. The truth
was, that they felt very bad because they had got caught; that was all. So you have
seen a man in the time of trial show a good deal of feeling, but very often it is
only because he has got into trouble; not because he has committed sin, or because
his conscience tells him he has done evil in the sight of God. It seems as if the
trial were going to result in true repentance; but the feeling too often passes away.
Once again, repentance is not fasting and afflicting the body. A man may fast for weeks and months and years, and yet not repent of one sin. Neither is it remorse. Judas had terrible remorse- enough to make him go and hang himself; but that was not repentance. I believe if he had gone to his Lord, fallen on his face, and confessed his sin he would have been forgiven. Instead of this he went to the priests, and then put an end to his life. A man may do all sorts of penance- but there is no true repentance in that. Put that down in your mind. You cannot meet the claims of God by offering the fruit of your body for the sin of your soul. Away with such a delusion!
Repentance is not conviction of sin. That may sound strange to some. I have seen men under such deep conviction of sin that they could not sleep at night; they could not enjoy a single meal. They went on for months in this state and yet they were not converted; they did not truly repent. Do not confound conviction of sin with repentance.
Neither Is Praying Repentance
That too, may sound strange. Many people, when they become anxious about their
soul's salvation, say, "I will pray, and read the Bible;" and they think
that will bring about the desired effect. But it will not do it. You may read the
Bible and cry to God a great deal, and yet never repent. Many people cry loudly to
God, and yet do not repent.
Another thing: it is not breaking off someone's sin. A great many people make that mistake. A man who has been a drunkard signs the pledge, and stops drinking. Breaking off one sin is not repentance. Forsaking one vice is like breaking off one limb of a tree, when the whole tree has to come down. A profane man stops swearing; very good: but if he does not break off from every sin it is not repentance- it is not the work of God in the soul. When God works He hews down the whole tree. He wants to have a man turn from every sin. Supposing I am in a vessel out at sea, and I find the ship leaks in three or four places. I may go and stop up one hole; yet down goes the vessel. Or suppose I am wounded in three or four places, and I get a remedy for one wound: if the other two or three wounds are neglected, my life will soon be gone. True Repentance is not merely breaking off this or that particular sin.
What, Then, Is Repentance?
Well then, you will ask, what is repentance? I will give you a good definition: it is "right about face!" In the Irish language the word "repentance" means even more than "right about face!" It implies that a man who has been walking in one direction has not only faced about, but is actually walking in an exactly contrary direction.
A man may have little feeling or much feeling; but if he does not turn away from sin, God will not have mercy on him. Repentance has also been described as "a change of mind." For instance, there is the parable told by Christ:
After he had said "I will not," he thought over it, and changed his mind. Perhaps he may have said to himself, "I did not speak very respectfully to my father. He asked me to go and work, and I told him I would not go. I think I was wrong." But suppose he had only said this, and still had not gone, he would not have repented. He was not only convinced that he was wrong; but he went off into the fields, hoeing, or mowing, or whatever it was. That is Christ's definition of repentance. If a man says, "By the grace of God I will forsake my sin, and do His will," that is repentance- a turning right about.
Can A Man at Once Repent?
Certainly he can. It does not take a long while to turn around. It does not take
a man six months to change his mind. There was a vessel that went down some time
ago on the Newfoundland coast. As she was bearing towards the shore, there was a
moment when the captain could have given orders to reverse the engines and turn back.
If the engines had been reversed then, the ship would have been saved. But there
was a moment when it was too late. So there is a moment, I believe, in every man's
life when he can halt and say, "By the grace of God I will go no further towards
death and ruin. I repent of my sins and turn from them." You may say you have
not got feeling enough; but if you are convinced that you are on the wrong road,
turn right about, and say, "I will no longer go on in the way of rebellion and
sin as I have done."
Just then, when you are willing to turn towards God, salvation may be yours.
I find that every case of conversion recorded in the Bible was instantaneous. Repentance and faith came very suddenly. The moment a man made up his mind, God gave him the power. God does not ask any man to do what he has not the power to do. He would not
if they were not able to do so. Man has no one to blame but himself if he does not repent and believe the Gospel.
A Conversion Described
One of the leading ministers of the Gospel in Ohio wrote me a letter some time ago describing his conversion; it very forcibly illustrates this point of instantaneous decision, He says:-
Many people are waiting, they cannot exactly tell for what, but for some sort
of miraculous feeling to come stealing over them- some mysterious kind of faith.
I was speaking to a man some years ago, and he always had one answer to give me.
For five years I tried to win him to Christ, and every year he said, "It has
not 'struck me' yet."
"Man, what do you mean? What has not struck you?"
"Well," he said, "I am not going to become a Christian until it strikes me; and it has not struck me yet. I do not see it in the way you see it."
"But don't you know you are a sinner?"
"Yes, I know I am a sinner."
"Well, don't you know that God wants to have mercy on you- that there is forgiveness with God? He wants you to repent and come to Him."
"Yes, I know that; but it has not struck me yet"
He always fell back on that. Poor man! he went down to his grave in a state of indecision. Sixty long years God gave him to repent; and all he had to say at the end of those years was that it "had not struck him yet!"
Waiting for Some Strange Feeling
Is any reader waiting for some strange feeling- you do not know what? Nowhere
in the Bible is a man told to wait. God is commanding you now to repent.
Do you think God can forgive a man when he does not want to be forgiven? Would he be happy if God forgave him in this state of mind? Why, if a man went into the kingdom of God without repentance, heaven would be hell to him. Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people. If your boy has done wrong, and will not repent, you cannot forgive him. You would be doing him an injustice. Suppose he goes to your desk, and steals $10, and squanders it. When you come home your servant tells you what your boy has done. You ask if it is true, and he denies it. But at last you have certain proof. Even when he finds he cannot deny it any longer, he will not confess the sin, but says he will do it again the first chance he gets. Would you say to him, "Well, I forgive you," and leave the matter there? No! Yet people say that God is going to save all men, whether they repent or not: drunkards, thieves, harlots, whoremongers, it makes no difference. "God is so merciful," they say. Dear friends, do not be deceived by the god of this world. Where there is true repentance and a turning from sin unto God, He will meet and bless you; but He never blesses until there is sincere repentance.
David Made A Woeful Mistake
David made a woeful mistake in this respect with his rebellious son, Absalom.
He could not have done his son a greater injustice than to forgive him when his heart
was unchanged. There could be no true reconciliation between them when there was
no repentance. But God does not make these mistakes. David got into trouble on account
of his error of judgment. His son soon drove his father from the throne.
Speaking on repentance, Dr. Brooks, of St. Louis, well remarks.
How to Tell if Repentance Is Genuine
Another thing. If there is true repentance it will bring forth fruit. If we have
done wrong to anyone we should never ask God to forgive us, until we are willing
to make restitution. If I have done anyman a great injustice and can make it good,
I need not ask God to forgive me until I am willing to make it good. Suppose I have
taken something that does not belong to me. I have no right to expect forgiveness
until I make restitution.
I remember preaching in one of our large cities, when a fine-looking man came up to me at the close. He was in great distress of mind. "The fact is," he said, "I am a defaulter. I have taken money that belonged to my employers. How can I become a Christian without restoring it?"
"Have you got the money?"
He told me he had not got it all. He had taken about $1,500, and he still had about $900. He said, "Could I not take that money and go into business, and make enough to pay them back?"
I told him that was a delusion of Satan; that he could not expect to prosper on stolen money; that he should restore all he had, and go and ask his employers to have mercy upon him and forgive him.
"But they will put me in prison," he said: "cannot you give me any help?"
"No, you must restore the money before you can expect to get any help from God."
"It is pretty hard," he said.
"Yes, it is hard; but the great mistake was in doing the wrong at first."
His burden became so heavy that it got to be insupportable. He handed me the money- $950 and some cents- and asked me to take it back to his employers. The next evening the two employers and myself met in a side room of the church. I laid the money down, and informed them it was from one of their employees. I told them the story, and said he wanted mercy from them, not justice. The tears trickled down the cheeks of these two men, and they said, "Forgive him? Yes, we will be glad to forgive him." I went downstairs and brought him up. After he had confessed his guilt and had been forgiven, we all got down on our knees and had a blessed prayer-meeting. God met us and blessed us there.
Getting Right with the Government
There was a friend of mine, who some time ago, had come to Christ and wished to
consecrate himself and his wealth to God. He had formerly had transactions with the
government, and had taken advantage of it. This thing came up when he was converted,
and his conscience troubled him. He said, "I want to consecrate my wealth; but
it seems as if God will not take it." He had a terrible struggle; his conscience
kept rising up and smiting him. At last he drew a check for $1,500 and sent it to
the United States Treasury. He told me he received such a blessing when he had done
it. That was bringing forth "fruits meet for repentance" (Matthew 3:8). I believe a great many men are crying to God for
light; and they are not getting it because they are not honest.
I was once preaching, and a man came to me who was only thirty-two years old, but whose hair was very gray. He said, "I want you to notice that my hair is gray, and I am only thirty-two years old. For twelve years I have carried a great burden."
"Well," I said, "what is it?"
He looked around as if afraid someone would hear him. "Well," he answered, "my father died and left my mother with the county newspaper, and left her only that. That was all she had. After he died the paper began to waste away; and I saw my mother was fast sinking into a state of need. The building and the paper were insured for a thousand dollars, and when I was twenty years old I set fire to the building, and obtained the thousand dollars, and gave it to my mother. For twelve years that sin has been haunting me. I have tried to drown it by indulgence in pleasure and sin; I have cursed God; I have gone into infidelity; I have tried to make out that the Bible is not true; I have done everything I could- but all these years I have been tormented."
I said, "There is a way out of that."
He inquired "How?"
I said, "Make restitution. Let us sit down and calculate the interest, and then you pay the Company the money."
It would have done you good to see that man's face light up when he found there was mercy for him. He said he would be glad to pay back the money and interest if he could only be forgiven.
There are men today who are in darkness and bondage because they are not willing to turn from their sins and confess them; and I do not know how a man can hope to be forgiven if he is not willing to confess his sin.
Now Is the Only Day of Mercy
Bear in mind that now is the only day of mercy you will ever have. You
can repent now, and have the awful record blotted out. God waits to forgive you;
He is seeking to bring you to Himself. But I think the Bible teaches clearly that
there is no repentance after this life. There are some who tell you of the
possibility of repentance in the grave; but I do not find that in Scriptures. I have
looked my Bible over very carefully, and I cannot find that a man will have another
opportunity of being saved.
Why should he ask for any more time? You have time enough to repent now. You can turn from your sins this moment if you will. God says:
Christ said He
Are you a sinner? Then the call to repent is addressed to you. Take your place in the dust at the Saviour's feet, and acknowledge your guilt. Say, like the publican of old,
and see how quickly He will pardon and bless you. He will even justify you and
reckon you as righteous, by virtue of the righteousness of Him who bore your sins
in His own body on the Cross.
There are some perhaps who think themselves righteous; and that, therefore, there is no need for them to repent and believe the Gospel. They are like the Pharisee in the parable, who thanked God that he was not as other men- "extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican" (Luke 18:11); and who went on to say, "I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all I possess" (Luke 18:12). What is the judgment about such self-righteous persons?
Let no one say he does not need to repent. Let each one take his true place- that of a sinner; then God will lift him up to the place of forgiveness and justification.
Wherever God sees true repentance in the heart He meets that soul.
CHAPTERS 1-3 on page 1 ---New Window
CHAPTERS 4-6 on page 2 (this page)
CHAPTERS 7-9 on page 3 ---New Window
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