"I have a message from God unto thee."Judges 3:20.
Y MESSAGE IS NOT SHARP and deadly like that of Ehud, who when he had pronounced the words drove at once his dagger into the heart of the tyrant king. That was the sharp message from God to him. Mine is a message not of death but of life. It anything be killed by it, I trust it may be that sin which otherwise would have killed us. Young man, young woman, "I have a message from God unto thee!"
I cannot take you by the button hole and hold you fast, but I should like you to think I am doing so, while I try to chain your ears and engage your hearts. Like the old mariner in Coleridge's rhyme who detained the wedding guest with his story, so would I try to detain you. Not that I have to tell. you any strange legend, or to relate any re-mantic narrative; but with something practical and earnest I would hold you. Here you find yourself with a career just opening up before you, at the age of fifteen or sixteen, or it may be of one-and-twenty, or five-and-twenty. Infancy at least is behind you, and immediately before you there is the sharing of your life. The reflection you have in your mind, if you judge righteously, will be that since God has created you and endowed you with all the faculties you possess, he has a first claim upon you. From your own point of view it is reasonable what the Creator should demand and expect that the creatures he has formed, should answer the ends for which he save them being, and fashioned them as men, for if you construct a machine you expect to get the benefit of your own handicraft, and if after making it you spend money in its maintenance yea expect it to be useful to you. God has made us, and not we ourselves, and we are bound to render service to him. The breath in our nostrils and the pulsing in our veins come to us from an immediate act of God, and, therefore, every second of our lives we ought to live to him, else we do not live honestly. We are raider solemn obligations that our whole life should be spent for him, and to neglect this is to rob God. Young men and women, will you not acknowledge this obligation? As you have any justice in your souls, I charge you to do so. Will you defraud your God? I pray you be not so unjust. You see I am not trifling, I am pleading for God, my message is IMPORTANT, most IMPORTANT.
It may encourage you to accept this duty cheerfully if you remember that the service due to God which he asks of you is by no means injurious to yourself In fact his law, when condensed into a sentence, is just this, "Do thyself no harm." There is not a sin which can by any possibility be really for our benefit, neither is there a divine command, which can be for our hurt. His ways are ways of pleasantness, and all his paths are peace. Though in the pursuit of right we may have to suffer, the trials which are necessitated by doing right are not for a moment comparable to those pangs of conscience and agonies of remorse which are sure to follow upon the heels of doing wrong. Notwithstanding that the road to heaven is rough in places, it is a smoother road take it for all in all than yonder attractive road to hell, which so many choose. You shall find the service of God to be liberty. If ye be men, ye shall be the more manly through being servants of God. If you be happy by nature and constitution, you shall be the happier through being devoted to his service; and if you be somewhat dull and inclined to gloom by nature, you shall find the sweetest alleviation of your constitutional depression in the grateful love and devoted service of the Most High. I have known the Lord and served him now since I was fifteen years of age through his love and mercy, and if he were a bad master I would tell you. I would not lie even for him. But I must bear him witness that it; is sweet to do his bidding, and had I done it more perfectly I had been happier than I am. But as it is, to have given my heart to him, and to have sought his glory has conferred upon my life its highest joy and its deepest satisfaction. May I ask you to think of this, and to keep on thinking about it; until you have come to this conclusion, that God is God, and. you will serve him. I think I hear the good resolve to which you have come. Your heart is yielding to the truth. I hope it is, for the matter is IMPORTANT! MOST IMPORTANT!
But I have other important things to remind you of. One is that you have not to choose how you shall begin life; for you have begun it already. Unconverted as I suppose you now to be, just reflect where the beginning of life has already placed you. You have already broken God's commands. I am not going to raise the question as to at what; time a child is capable of knowing right from wrong, and therefore becomes charged with responsibility. You have passed the period of your childhood, and you have gone through, or are nearly through the days of your youth. You have sinned, you know you have, from childhoods earliest days till now. Now before you can talk about; serving God, remember the past has to be condoned or rather to be atoned for. How is that to be done? I pray you attend to me while in a few words I deliver the glad tidings of forgiveness by Jesus Christ. It is not the first time you have heard this story, but it may be the first time you ever heeded it. Oh, believe it as I tell you it again, practically embrace it, and obey it, and it will give you relief from the guilt of your past transgressions. God was pleased out of infinite mercy to his elect to lay their sins upon Jesus Christ, his Son, their substitute and sacrifice; and Jesus Christ took all that mass of sin up to the cross, and there and then so suffered for it, that the sin he carried has been put away for ever, and now God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. You say to me, "Did he carry my sin? That is the point I want to know." Those for whom Jesus was an effectual substitute are in due time known by their faith. He laid down his life for his sheep, and he has said, "My sheep hear my voice." If you believe on him your sin was laid upon him. To believe on him is to trust him. You have therefore to put; this question to yourself, Am I trusting my whole soul with Jesus Christ, the God-appointed Savior? For, if you are so trusting, then your transgressions were laid on him and are not on you, for they cannot be on two persons at the same time. Your transgressions are alerted for, and have ceased to be, and you are forgiven. It all hinges on thisdo you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Do you rest simply, and alone in him? If so, you are reconciled to God. It seems strange that any of us should hesitate when such a gospel as this is propounded to us. If the Lord asked some great thing of us we might hesitate, but when he says simply, "I ask nothing of thee, young man, but that thou trust in the blood and righteousness of my Son, and even. that trust I will bestow upon thee by the power of the Holy Spirit," 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful, and if we did not know the baseness of the human heart it; would be incredible, that men should start back and. neglect the great salvation. Do not be yourself so unwise, for of all concerns this is the most IMPORTANT.
Do you know also, my dear young friendI seem to throw myself back to the time when I was your age, and I freely speak to you as I would have liked at that time to have been spoken to myselfdo you know that in addition to the sin you have committed there is in you a tendency to sin, as you must have perceived, even though you may not have examined yourself thoroughly. You never require a teacher to lead you into the wrong path, but you do require a kindly word to conduct you aright. You know that you never want an incentive to evil, for your heart goes that way as a stone goes down hill, or as a spark ascends. There is a tendency that way. You have seen that; you must have done so. That tendency must be taken from you. The needle of your soul points now in the wrong direction; it must be magnetized in some such way that it shall point to Jesus, the true pole. Now this can be done. You cannot change your own nature; as well might a stone turn itself into a bird, or a deadly upas into the vine which beareth goodly clusters. But there is one who can do it: it is the Holy Ghost. He can change the whole bent and current of the mind, can remove tendencies to evil, and inspire aspirations after perfection. "Oh," say you, "how I wish he would do this for me!" If you believe in Christ Jesus that work is done, that change of nature has already commenced, for there never was reliance upon Christ yet in an unrenewed heart. Wherever there is simple faith in Jesus Christ, you may rest assured that the first principles of eternal life are already implanted, which will go on to grow, and operate yet more powerfully upon your character. "Oh," says one, "that has taken a heavy weight from my mind: I have been looking for some great mystery!" That is all the mystery. Seeing you have believed in Jesus, you are forgiven: being forgiven, you love God for having forgiven you, and it is clear that you are a changed man, or you would not do that. Because the gospel thus reveals to you the intimate connection between the new birth, and faith, it is above all things IMPORTANT.
So, then, I have brought you this important message, that the Lord is able to meet your fallen, condition,its sin by pardon, its sinful tendencies by renewal; and if this be done there is before you a useful, happy life, and a glorious immortality. Young woman, if you give your heart to Jesus you are safe for time and. eternity. Young man, you have, already thought of insuring your life, may your soul be insured and your character insured; and they will be if you believe in Jesus. He will not surer you. to fall away and perish. "I give," saith he, "unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hands." The salvation which comes by faith is not temporary, but lasting; yea, everlasting. When the Lord once renews a man, he suffers him not to go back like the dog to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire; he turns the dog into a child, the sow into a sheep. Renewed men love purity and holiness, their tastes and desires are altered, and they cannot return to their former ways. Thrice happy is that young heart which entrusts itself to the hand of Christ, for when the evil days come and the keepers of the house do tremble, and the strong men bow themselves, you will have nothing to dread, but will accept the summons to depart with holy calmness and expectant delight. But ah, if there should be no yielding to God, and no faith in Christ, there remains only for you a life of disaster, a death of darkness, and a resurrection to shame, and everlasting contempt. The world's mirage and pleasure's will-o'-the-wisp will deceive for a time, but the sorrow that worketh death will be your portion here, and after death the "for ever!the dreadful for ever!the dreadful for ever of which we will not now speak, and which I pray you may never know by terrible experience. So much, then, concerning the letter which is marked "IMPORTANT."
We shall now pass on to speak of another letterthe same message indeed, but it is marked
I stood a very short time ago by a sick bed, and on it there lay a woman advanced in life, who was gasping heavily for breath. I saw that I had little opportunity for speaking to her about her soul, unless I spoke shortly and quickly to her, as I tried to do. I warned her that she would soon die, and begged her to remember that it would be terrible to pass into another world unprepared. Now you are not gasping as she was; I do not observe any sunken cheeks and glazed eyes, that look like speedy death; but, yet we are all dying men and women, and it becomes us to hear the message of God as such, for persons in hale strength, seeming perfectly well, have on a sudden died, as you know. There is no reason known to you why you may not die while yet these words are under your eye. My message, then, is marked "IMMEDIATE." And immediate first, because, young friend, you have already lingered long enough. As the prophet said, "How long halt ye between two opinions?" You that are the children of godly parents, you have been already a long time turning over these matters. You have sojourned long enough in the dangerous realms of indecision. Oh, immediately may God grant you grace to decide; immediately, I say, because your character is forming at this very moment. I remember a remark of Mr. Ruskin, which I cannot quote in his beautiful language, but the substance is this, that if particles of chaff or dust fall upon the Venice glass while it is being fashioned, you may in vain invoke the north wind to come and blow upon it until it shall become clear and transparent, for the spots will never depart. So with the flaws of youth. The chaff which falls upon the character while yet in process of formation will leave its trace in: after years. In the erection of a building, if there should be any mistake in the upper part of the structure it will discover itself by and by, and probably may be repaired; but who has not seen a faulty public structure in which the difficulty of rectifying faults of construction was extreme, because the fault was in the foundation? A crack here, a settlement there, how it spoils the whole! Young man, your early days are the foundation of your life-character. Young woman, these bright days of yours represent the time when your vessel is being freighted for its future voyage; when your barque is far out to sea you will have to suffer for the errors or defects of her lading. Your youth, dear friends, is a very beautiful thing to be presented to God. God asks for sacrifice the firstlings, a bullock or a ram of a year old; this shows us that the Lord would have our prime of life dedicated to his praise. You will not have another youth: soon it will no; be in your power to offer to God your beauty and freshness. You may be able to give him the ripeness of middle age, but not the beauty of youth, unless you at once attend to the message which is marked "IMMEDIATE." Is there not an exceeding preciousness about youth? They gave out that there was a fountain somewhere in the western main whereof if men would drink it would renew their youth, and straightway a gallant Spaniard, as foolish as gallant, Ponce de Leon, with his flotilla scoured the seas for months to discover the fountain of immortal youth, but never found it. His vain quest only shows how precious a thing man counts it, and God counts it precious too. My young sister, give my Lord and Master the flower of your being while yet it is in the bud. Bring him your first ripe clusters, a basket of summer-fruit sweet unto his taste, for well doth he deserve it. But let it be now, for the bloom will soon be gone, and the dewdrops will have exhaled. Your immediate conversion is the object of our prayers. Your mother never prays for you to be converted in years to come, her prayer is for your immediate salvation; our anxiety always leads us to that desire. Have I the faith to believe that this writing of mine will be made useful to your souls? Well, if I cannot go so far as that, I can say my soul thirsteth, yea even panteth that you may be led to give your hearts to Jesus at this instant. That is our prayer, and if it be your parents' prayer, and your friends' prayer, oh, that the grace of God might hear it, and might hear it at this very moment, while yet the last month of the year is with us.
Dear friend, it is possible that if your heart be not given to Christ; immediately it never will be, for you may not live to have another warning, or to receive another invitation. Remember, yet again, that if you should be converted in after life, it is probable that your conversion will cost you great pain., which it may not now. When the Lord's children come to him early in the morning they generally come to him rejoicing; but if late in the day they come to him (as they do, for sovereign grace will not. lose its own), they frequently come limping and sorely wounded. Oh it is happy, seeking Christ early in the morning. "They that seek me early shall find me," saith he. It is often hard seeking him amid the shades of evening. Sharp affliction is often necessary to men, they will not come to Christ without it; but oh, if we do come without it how much better it is. A gentleman was riding on a coach one day, and the driver observed to him, "You see that off-leader, sir?" "Yes." "Well, when he gets to that white gate over yonder he will shy terribly." What are you going to do with him?" "Why, just before he gets there, I shall give him something to think about;" and so he did, in the form of several sharp cuts of the whip. Many of us have been like the horse and the mule, which have no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle. May you have grace to yield to the influence of gentler means, and it shall be well with you. May his sweet Spirit incline you to do so immediately.
I say "immediately," because if you should be converted afterwards, the sins of your youth will always trouble you. Mahomet in his early days was poisoned by a Jewish maid, who thought that she should do a. good deed if she put; poison into his meat. His life was preserved, but when he lay dying, and was full of pain, he said to those around him, "I can feel the poison still in my veins." Many a saved man has felt the sins of his younger days in his bones. I have heard good men say that when a hymn has been sung, a snatch of an old lascivious song has come up before them; and sights which to the unsullied would have suggested nothing but purity, have awakened in them recollections of unclean acts in early youth which have been a cross and a curse to them. May God grant that we may be led in the paths of righteousness from the earliest period, that we may not have to go down to our grave with regrets.
Beloved young friend, wherever you may be, it is not I that invent that word "IMMEDIATE." It is the gospel's call. "Today if you will hear his voice, harden not your hearts." What God saith ought to have weight with us. "Today," then I pray you, believe in the Lord Jesus. You cannot possibly yield your heart to Christ too soon. Too soon? Too soon? Ah, it is never too soon to be forgiven when you have committed a fault! It is never too soon to have the kiss from the Father's lips when you have offended him, and to hear him say, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love." It is never too soon to be happy; it is never too soon to be safe; it is never too soon to be a child of God; it is never too soon to gain an inheritance in heaven. It is never too soon to put on the armor of the holy war, never too soon to enlist beneath the banner of Jesus, never too soon to be the Lord's for time and for eternity.
Thus I have dwelt upon the immediateness of it. May the urgency be felt, and tend to arouse you.
Let us now devote a few minutes to the consideration of a third form of message. A letter marked O. H. M. S. would command prompt attention.
It may be some very unimportant matter, peradventure it is of no consequence whatever, still one is sure to look directly when the envelope bears these royal words on his face.
Now the message I have to you young people is most distinctly" ON HIS MAJESTY's SERVICE." We want to enlist you in His Majesty's army. One occasionally sees in certain places announcements such as this, "Smart young men wanted for the Guards." Well, I am a recruiting sergeant. My colors are crimson, and I am eager to enlist both young men, and women. I would be glad if I could do a bit of business, and gather up recruits for Christ. Some more aged reader inquires. "Will you not have us old people?" I would be glad enough, but I am not after you just now. The Lord have mercy upon you and save you, but I have just now a message for the young folks. We want them beyond all others to join the ranks of the covenanted warriors of the Lord.
Why? Because they bring fresh energy into the church. This is much to be desired. A young man, all aglow with youthful ardor and spiritual life, coming into a church sets us all aflame. Everybody wakes up when he begins to pray. Any church in which there is a large preponderance of persons who have passed middle age is likely to be very respectable and excellent, and to possess many of the virtues, perhaps all, but it is not very likely to be consumed with zeal. I seldom hear of persons over sixty setting the Thames on fire. At that mature age people have not, as a rule, any strong proclivities for fervent excitement, and they are of opinion that the Thames had better be let atone. The elders seldom exhibit the enterprise of youth, their business is to take the Conservative side of questions. They are valuable to the church, and cannot be spared, but the church wants some of the fire of youth, sanctified by grace, and made into genuine zeal for the kingdom of Christ. We want you, beloved youths, because the older soldiers are going off the field, and others of us will soon have to think of ourselves as in the same category. Nobody in our army ever retires on half-pay; blessed be God they shall have their full joy, even when they can do but little, and they have the pledge of a fall heaven hereafter. Still many have been taken away from us, and our ranks are thinned. Oh for recruits to fill up the vacancies! Good women, earnest matrons who were serving in the schools, and in the classes; good men who were preaching in the streets, and doing good in all ways, are falling asleep. Young men and women, step forward and fill the places of your fathers and mothers! We cannot have a better stock; none could be more welcome than your fathers' sons and daughters.
Young men are valuable when converted, for by God's grace how much they may do while yet young. Do you know that John Calvin wrote his famous "Institutes"a most wonderful production for thought if not for accuracybefore he was twenty-seven years of age? Though Martin Luther did a grand work after he was five-and-forty years old, it is something to say of Calvin, the clearer of the two, that he had commenced his work and wrought wonders when he was seven-and-twenty. Many a Christian man has won his hundreds and some even thousands for Christ before attaining that age. There is power in youth, let it then be consecrated to HIS MAJESTY'S SERVICE.
I am eagerly desirous that many of you should be converted, because your influence will tell against the truth and the cause of God if you are not, salved. A young man died in New York some time ago whose last expression was this, "For God's sake gather up all my influence and bury it with me!" That was impossible. He might be penitent for his wrong doing, but his evil influence was gone forth and could never be stayed. He had perverted many. His brilliant talk had led some into skepticism, and his immoralities had plunged others into vice; and this mischief could not be undone. Every man bring bears in his hand a box. Take off the lid (and it must be taken off, and from it will either stream the seeds of the disease of sin, or a sacred perfume of grace bearing healing for the nations. Our influence will either, under God, be a channel by which his grace works among the sons of men, or else, if let alone, it will become the means by which Satan destroys multitudes.
What shall I say to you with regard to this service of the Lord Jesus Christ? I will write this inquiryWho is on the Lord's side? Who? Young people, if you have believed, and are on his side, come forward and say so. Take up Christ's yoke early; make a profession of your saith even in your first days, and to life's latest hour you shall never have cause to regret either that Jesus blessed you, or that you lived for him. You shall love him better every day, and the more your days multiply the more will you rejoice in your Lord. And now the last thing was the letter marked
Is it for you? Registered letters are only for those they are sent to. This letter is directed to the young man who has by grace believed. Here is another addressed to the young woman who has trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ. I will show you the contents: "I have loved thee"thee Marythee Johnthee William"I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with loving-kindness have I drawn thee. I have loved thee and giver: myself for thee." Catch the words: "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in the day when I make up my jewels." That is; for you, young believer, for yourself, all for yourself. Take it; to yourself. Wear these gems, for the Lord presents them to you. You are his chosen; you are his redeemed. He will be with you for ever, and you shall be with him for ever. "What, all these mine?" says one; "I have only lately believed in him." They are just as much yours as if you had believed in him seventy years ago, for the possessions of the covenant as much belong to the babe in grace of an hour old as to the man who has fulfilled his threescore years and ten in the ways of the Lord. Take that registered letter, rejoice in the sure promises of the God of grace, and may God the Holy Spirit open them up to you, and give you to see that they are all yours, since you are Christ's and Christ is God's.
Farewell, my message is ended as far as I am concerned, what have you to say to it?