THE plan of salvation is simply declared — “Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved.” For you who have violated all the precepts of God, and have disdained His mercy and dared His vengeance, there is yet mercy proclaimed, for “Whosoever calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “For this is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief;” “Whosoever cometh unto Him He will in no wise cast out, for He is able also to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for us.” Now all that God asks of you — and this He gives you — is that you will simply look at His bleeding Dying Son, and trust your souls in the hands of Him whose name alone can save from death and hell. Is it not a marvelous thing, that the proclamation of this gospel does not receive the unanimous consent of men? One would think that as soon as ever this was preached, “That whosoever believeth shall have eternal life,” everyone, “casting away every man his sins and his iniquities,” would lay hold on Jesus Christ, and look alone to His cross. But alas! such is the desperate evil of our nature, such the pernicious depravity of our character, that this message is despised, the invitation to the Gospel feast is rejected, and there are many who are enemies of God by wicked works, enemies to the God who preaches Christ, enemies to Him who sent His Son to give His life a ransom for many. Strange, I say, it is that it should be so, yet nevertheless it is the fact, and hence the necessity for the command — “Compel them to come in.”
You are poor in circumstances, but this is no barrier to the kingdom of heaven, for God hath not exempted from His grace the man who shivers in rags, and who is destitute of bread. In fact, if there be any distinction made, the distinction is on your side, and for your benefit — “Unto you is the word of salvation sent;” “For the poor have the Gospel preached unto them.” You have no faith, you have no virtue, you have no good work, you have no grace, and what is poverty worse still, you have no hope.
Come and welcome to the marriage feast of His love. “Whosoever will, let Him come and take of the waters of life freely.”
You are not only poor, but you are maimed. There was a time when you thought you could work out your own salvation without God’s help, when you could perform good works, attend to ceremonies, and get to heaven by yourselves; but now you are maimed, the sword of the law has cut off your hands, and now you can work no longer; you say, with bitter sorrow — “The best performance of my hands, Dares not appear before Thy throne. ” You have lost all power now to obey the law; you feel that when you would do good, evil is present with you. You are maimed; you have given up, as a forlorn hope, all attempt to save yourself, because you are maimed and your arms are gone. But you are worse off than that, for if you could not work your way to heaven, yet you could walk your way there along the road by faith; but you are maimed in the feet as well as in the hands; you feel that you cannot believe, that you cannot repent, that you cannot obey the stipulations of the Gospel. You feel that you are utterly undone, powerless in every respect to do anything that can be pleasing to God.
Before you am I to lift up the blood-stained banner of the cross, “Whoso calleth upon the name of the Lord shall be saved;” and unto you I cry “Whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life freely.”
There is yet another class. You are halt. You are halting between two opinions. You are sometimes seriously inclined, and at another time worldly gaiety calls you away. What little progress you do make in religion is but a limp. You have a little strength, but that is so little that you make but painful progress. To you also is the word of this salvation sent. Though you halt between two opinions, the Master sends you this message: “How long halt ye between two opinions? if God be God, serve Him; if Baal be God, serve him.” Consider thy ways: set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live. Because I will do this, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel! Halt no longer, but: decide for God and His truth.
And yet I see another class, — the blind. Yes, you that cannot see yourselves, that think yourselves good when you are full of evil, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter, darkness for light and light for darkness. You, blind souls that cannot see your lost estate, that do not believe that sin is so exceedingly sinful as it is, and who will not be persuaded to think that God is a just and righteous God, to you am I sent.
To you too that cannot see the Savior, that see no beauty in Him that you should desire Him; who see no excellence in virtue, no glories in religion, no happiness in serving God, no delight in being His children; to you, also, I speak. “Go into the highways and hedges.” Here we bring in all ranks and conditions of men — my lord upon his horse in the highway, and the woman trudging about her business, the thief waylaying the traveler — all these are in the highway, and they are all to be compelled to come in, and there away in the hedges there lie some poor souls whose refuges of lies are swept away, and who are seeking now to find some little shelter for their weary heads. This is the universal command — compel them to come in.
Well did Melanchthon say, “Old Adam is too strong for young Melanchthon.” As well might a little child seek to compel Sampson, as I seek to lead a sinner to the cross of Christ. Lo, I see the great mountain of human depravity and stolid indifference, but by faith I cry, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.”
Unconverted, unreconciled, unregenerate men and women, I am to\parCOMPEL YOU TO COME IN. Permit me first of all to accost you in the highways of sin and tell you over again my errand. The King of Heaven sends a gracious invitation to you. He says, “As I live, saith the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but had rather that he should turn unto Me and live:” “Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow.” Permit me to tell you what the King has done for you. He knew your guilt, He foresaw that you would ruin yourself. He knew that His justice would demand your blood, and in order that this difficulty might be escaped, that His justice might have its full due, and that you might yet be saved, Jesus Christ hath died. Will you just for a moment glance at this picture. You see that man there on His knees in the garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood.
You see this next; you see that miserable sufferer tied to a pillar and lashed with terrible scourges, till the shoulder bones are seen like white islands in the midst of a sea of blood. Again you see this third picture; it is the same man hanging on the cross with hands extended, and with feet nailed fast, dying, groaning, bleeding; methought the picture spoke and said, “It is finished.” Now all this hath Jesus Christ of Nazareth done, in order that God might consistently with His justice pardon sin; and the message to you is this — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” That is, trust Him, renounce thy works, and thy ways, and set thine heart alone on this man, who gave Himself for sinners.
Do you turn away? You tell me it is nothing to you; you cannot listen to it; that you will hear me by-and-bye; but you will go your ways and attend to your farm and merchandise. Stop, I was not told merely to tell you and then go about my business. No; I am told to compel you to come in; and permit me to observe that there is one thing I can say — and to which God is my witness — that I am in earnest with you in my desire that you should comply with this command of God.
But do you spurn it? Do you still refuse it? Then I must change my tone a minute. I will not merely tell you the message, and invite you as I do with all earnestness, and sincere affection — I will go further. Sinner, in God’s name I command you to repent and believe. Do you ask me whence my authority? I am an ambassador of heaven. I command you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; not on my own authority, but on the authority of Him who said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature;” and then annexed this solemn sanction, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
But do you turn away and say you will not be commanded? Then again will I change my note. Let me tell thee from my own soul what I know of Him.
I, too, once despised Him. He knocked at the door of my heart and I refused to open it. He came to me, times without number, morning by morning, and night by night; He checked me in my conscience and spoke to me by His Spirit, and when, at last, the thunders of the law prevailed in my conscience, I thought that Christ was cruel and unkind. Oh, I can never forgive myself that I should have thought so ill of Him. But what a loving reception did I have when I went to Him. I thought He would smite me, but His hand was not clenched in anger but opened wide in mercy. I thought full sure that His eyes would dart lightning-flashes of wrath upon me; but, instead thereof, they were full of tears. He fell upon my neck and kissed me; He took off my rags and did clothe me with His righteousness, and caused my soul to sing aloud for joy; while in the house of my heart and in the house of His church there was music and dancing, because His son that He had lost was found, and he that was dead was made alive. I exhort you, then, to look to Jesus Christ and to be lightened. Sinner, you will never regret, — I will be bondsman for my Master that you will never regret it, — you will have no sigh to go back to your state of condemnation; you shall go out of Egypt and shall go into the Promised Land and shall find it flowing with milk and honey. The trials of Christian life you shall find heavy, but you will find grace will make them light. And as for the joys and delights of being a child of God, if I lie you shall charge me with it in days to come. If you will taste and see that the Lord is good, I am not afraid but that you shall find that He is not only good, but better than human lips ever can describe.
I know not what arguments to use with you. I appeal to your own selfinterests.
Would it not be better for you to be reconciled to the God of heaven than to be His enemy? What are you getting by opposing God? Are you the happier for being his enemy? Answer, pleasure seeker: hast thou found delights in that cup? Answer me, self-righteous man: hast thou found rest for the sole of thy foot in all thy works? Oh, thou that goest about to establish thine own righteousness, I charge thee let conscience speak. Hast thou found it to be a happy path? Ah, my friend, “Wherefore dost thou spend thy money for that which is not bread, and thy labor for that which satisfieth not; hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.” I exhort you by everything that is sacred and solemn, everything that is important and eternal, flee for your lives, look not behind you, stay not in all the plain, stay not until you have proved, and found an interest in the blood of Jesus Christ, that blood which cleanseth us from all sin. Are you still cold and indifferent? Will not the blind man permit me to lead him to the feast? Will not the poor mart allow me to walk side-by-side with him? Must I use some stronger words. Must I use some other compulsion to compel you to come in? Ye, from the greyheaded down to the tender age of childhood, if ye lay not hold on Christ, your blood shall be on your own head. If there be power in man to bring his fellow (as there is when man is helped by the Holy Spirit), that power shall be exercised. IENTREAT you, I entreat you stop and consider. Do you know what it is you are rejecting? You are rejecting Christ, your only Savior. “Other foundation can no man lay;” “There is none other name given among men whereby we must be saved.” I cannot bear that ye should do this, for I remember what you are forgetting: the day is coming when you will want a Savior. It is not long ere weary months shall have ended, and your strength begin to decline; your pulse shall fail you, your strength shall depart, and you and the grim monster — death, must face each other.
What will you do in the swelling of Jordan without a Savior? Death-beds are stony things without the Lord Jesus Christ. It is an awful thing to die anyhow; he that hath the best hope, and the most triumphant faith, finds that death is not a thing to laugh at. It is a terrible thing to pass from the seen to the unseen, from the mortal to the immortal, from time to eternity, and you will find it hard to go through the iron gates of death without the sweet wings of angels to conduct you to the portals of the skies. It will be a hard thing to die without Christ. I cannot help thinking of you. I see you acting the suicide and I picture myself standing at your bedside and hearing your cries, and knowing that you are dying without hope. I cannot bear that. I think I am standing by your coffin now, and looking into your claycold face, and saying, “This man despised Christ and neglected the great salvation.” I think what bitter tears I shall weep then, if I think that I have been unfaithful to you, and how those eyes fast closed in death, shall seem to chide me and say, “Minister, you were not in earnest with me; you amused me, you preached to me, but you did not plead with me. You did not know what Paul meant when he said, ‘As though God did beseech you by us we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.’ “ I picture myself standing at the bar of God. As the Lord liveth, the day of judgment is coming. You believe that? You are not an infidel; your conscience would not permit you to doubt the Scripture. Perhaps you may have pretended to do so, but you cannot. You feel there must be a day when God shall judge the world in righteousness. I see you standing in the midst of that throng, and the eye of God is fixed on you. It seems to you that He is not looking anywhere else, but only upon you, and He summons you before Him; and He reads your sins, and He cries, “Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire in hell!” I cannot bear to think of you in that position; it seems as if every hair on my head must stand on end to think of any being damned.
As I must stand before my Judge at last, I feel that I shall not make full proof of my ministry unless I entreat with many tears that ye would be saved, that ye would look unto Jesus Christ and receive His glorious salvation. But does not this avail? Are all our entreaties lost upon you; do you turn a deaf ear? Then again I change my note. Sinner, I have pleaded with you as a man pleadeth with his friend, and were it for my own life I could not speak more earnestly than I do speak concerning yours. And therefore, if ye put away these entreaties I have something else; — I must threaten you. You shall not always have such warnings as these. A day is coming, when hushed shall be the voice of every Gospel minister, at least for you; for your ear shall be cold in death. It shall not be anymore threatening; it shall be the fulfillment of the threatening. There shall be no promise, no proclamations of pardon and of mercy; no peace-speaking blood, but you shall be in the land where the preachings of the Gospel are forbidden because they would be unavailing. I charge you then, listen to this voice that now addresses your conscience; for if not, God shall speak to you in His wrath, and say unto you in His hot displeasure, “I called and ye refused; I stretched out My hand and no man regarded; therefore will I mock at your calamity; I will laugh when your fear cometh.” Sinner, I threaten you again. Remember, it is but a short time you may have to hear these warnings. Come, then, let the threatening have power with you. I do not threaten because I would alarm without cause, but in hopes that threatening may drive you to the place where God hath prepared the feast of the Gospel. Have I exhausted all that I can say? No, I will come to you again. Tell me what it is, that keeps you from Christ. I hear one say, “Oh, sir, it is because I feel myself too guilty.” That cannot be, my friend, that cannot be. “But, sir, I am the chief of sinners.” Friend, you are not. The chief of sinners died and went to heaven many years ago; his name was Saul of Tarsus, afterwards called Paul the apostle. He was the chief of sinners, I know he spoke the truth. “No,” but you say still, “I am too vile.”
You cannot be viler than the chief of sinners. You must, at least, be second worst. Even supposing you are the worst now alive, you are second worst, for he was chief. But suppose you are the worst, is not that the very reason why you should come to Christ? The worse a man is, the more reason he should go to the hospital or physician. The more poor you are, the more reason you should accept the charity of another. Now, Christ does not want any merits of yours. He gives freely. The worse you are, the more welcome you are. But let me ask you a question: Do you think you will ever get better by stopping away from Christ? If so, you know very little as yet of the way of salvation at all. No, sir, the longer you stay the worse you will grow; your hope will grow weaker, your despair will become stronger; the nail with which Satan has fastened you down will be more firmly clenched, and you will be less hopeful than ever. Come, I beseech you, recollect there is nothing to be gained by delay, but by delay everything may be lost. “But,” cries another, “I feel I cannot believe.” No, my friend, and you never will believe if you look first at your believing. Remember, I am not to invite you to faith, but to invite you to Christ. But you say, “What is the difference?” Why, just this. If you first of all say, “I want to believe a thing,” you never do it. But your first inquiry must be, “What is this thing that I am to believe?” Then will faith come as the consequence of that search. Our first business has not to do with faith, but with Christ.
Come, I beseech you, on Calvary’s mount, and see the cross. Behold the Son of God, He who made the heavens and the earth, dying for your sins.
Look to Him, is there not power in Him to save? Look at His face so full of pity. Is there not love in His heart to prove Him willing to save? Sure sinner, the sight of Christ will help thee to believe. Do not believe first, and then go to Christ, or else thy faith will be a worthless thing; go to Christ without any faith, and cast thyself upon Him, sink or swim. But I hear another cry, “Oh sir, you do not know how often I have been invited, how long I have rejected the Lord.” I do not know, and I do not want to know; all I know is that my Master has sent me, to compel you to come in; so come along with me now. You may have rejected a thousand invitations; don’t make this the thousandth-and-one. You have been up to the house of God, and you have only been Gospel-hardened.
I cannot let you go on such idle excuses as that; if you have lived so many years slighting Christ, there are so many reasons why now you should not slight him. But did I hear you whisper that this was not a convenient time?
Then what must I say to you? When will that convenient time come? Shall it come when you are in hell? Will that time be convenient? Shall it come when you are on your dying bed, and the death-rattle is in your throat — shall it come then? Or when the burning sweat is scalding your brow; and then again, when the cold clammy sweat is there, shall those be convenient times? When pains are racking you, and you are on the borders of the tomb? Remember, I have no authority to ask you to come to Christ tomorrow.
The invitation is, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation,” for the Spirit saith “to-day.” “Come now and let us reason together;” why should you put it off? It may be the last warning you shall ever have. You may never have so earnest a discourse addressed to you. You may not be pleaded with as I would plead with you now. You may go away, and God may say, “He is given unto idols, let him alone.” He shall throw the reins upon your neck; and then, mark — your course is sure, but it is sure damnation and swift destruction.
Is it all in vain? Will you not now come to Christ? Then what more can I do? I have but one more resort, and that shall be tried. I can be permitted to weep for you; I can be allowed to pray for you. You shall scorn the address if you like; you shall laugh at the preacher; you shall call him fanatic if you will; he will not chide you, he will bring no accusation against you to the great Judge. Your offense, so far as he is concerned, is forgiven before it is committed; but you will remember that the message that you are rejecting is a message from One who loves you, and it is given to you also by the lips of one who loves you. You will recollect that you may play your soul away with the devil, that you may listlessly think it a matter of no importance; but there is at least one who is in earnest about your soul. I say again, when words fail us we can give tears — for words and tears are the arms with which Gospel ministers compel men to come in. I heard but the other day of a young man, and his father’s hope was that he would be brought to Christ. He became acquainted, however, with an infidel; and now he neglects his business, and lives in a daily course of sin. I saw his father’s poor wan face; I did not ask him to tell me the story himself, for I felt it was raking up a trouble and opening a sore; I fear, sometimes, that good man’s grey hairs may be brought with sorrow to the grave. Young men, you do not pray for yourselves, but your mothers wrestle for you.
You will not think of your own souls, but your father’s anxiety is exercised for you. I have been at prayer-meetings, when I have heard children of God pray there, and they could not have prayed with more earnestness and more intensity of anguish if they had been each of them seeking their own soul’s salvation. And is it not strange that we should be ready to move heaven and earth for your salvation, and that still you should have no thought for yourself, no regard to eternal things?