EVERY believer should be an ambassador from heaven. “As My Father hath sent Me,” said the Well-beloved, “even so send I you.” You are sent to gather together the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and, like your Master, to seek and to save that which is lost. I speak solemnly to you who have wept over Jerusalem, and who are proving your true love to souls by your exertions for them, and I remind you that it is a glorious work to seek to save men, and that for its sake you should be willing to put up with the greatest possible inconveniences.
The angels newer hesitated when they were bidden to go to Sodom. They descended without demur and went about their work without delay.
Although the report of Sodom’s detestable iniquity had gone up to heaven, and the Lord would bear no longer with that filthy city, yet, from the purity of heaven, the angels did not hesitate to descend to behold the infamy of Sodom; where God sent them, they failed not to go. “There came two angels to Sodom at even.” What, angels? Did angels come to Sodom? To Sodom, and yet angels? Ay, and none the less angelic because they came to Sodom, but all the more so, because in unquestioning obedience to their Master’s high behests they sought out the elect one and his family, to deliver him and his from impending destruction. However near to Christ you may be, however much your character may be like that of your Lord, you who are called to such service, must never say, “I cannot talk to these people, they are so depraved and debased; I cannot enter that haunt of sin to tell of Jesus; I sicken at the thought; its associations are altogether too revolting to my feelings; but, because you are there wanted, men of God, you must there be found. To whom should the physician go but to the sick, and where can the distributor of the alms of mercy find such a fitting sphere as among those whose spiritual destitution is extreme. Be ye angels of mercy each one of you, and God speed you in your soul-saving work.
As ye have received Christ Jesus into your hearts, so imitate Him in your lives. Let the woman that is a sinner receive of your kindness, for Jesus looked on her with mercy; let the man who has been most mad with wickedness be sought after, for Jesus healed demoniacs; let no type of sin, however terrible, be thought by you to be beneath your pity, or beyond your labor, but seek ye out those who have wandered farthest, and snatch from the flame the firebrands which are already smoking in it.
When you go to lost souls, you must, as these angels did, tell them plainly their condition and their danger. “Up,” said they, “for God will destroy this place.” If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth. The preaching of the wrath of God has come to be sneered at nowadays, and even good people are half-ashamed of it; a maudlin sentimentality about love and goodness has hushed, in great measure, plain gospel expostulations and warnings. But, if we expect souls to be saved, we must declare unflinchingly with all affectionate fidelity, the terrors of the Lord. “Well,” said the Scotch lad, when he listened to the minister who told his congregation that there was no hell, or at any rate only a temporary punishment, “Well,” said he, “I need not come and hear this man any longer, for if it be as he says, it is all right, and religion is of no consequence, and if it be not as he says, then I must not hear him again, because he will deceive me.” “Therefore,” says the apostle, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men.” Let not modern squeamishness prevent plain speaking. Are we to be more gentle than the apostles? Shall we be wiser than the inspired preachers of the word? Until we feel our minds overshadowed with the dread thought of the sinner’s doom we are not in a fit frame for preaching to the unconverted. We shall never persuade men if we are afraid to speak of the judgment and the condemnation of the unrighteous. None so infinitely gracious as our Lord Jesus Christ, yet no preacher ever uttered more faithful words of thunder than He did. It was He who spoke of the place “where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched.” It was He who said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” It was He who spake the parable concerning that man in hell who longed for a drop of water to cool his tongue. We must be as plain as Christ was, as downright in honesty to the souls of men, or we may be called to account for our treachery at the last.
If we flatter our fellows into fond dreams as to the littleness of future punishment, they will eternally detest us for so deluding them, and in the world of woe they will invoke perpetual curses upon us for having prophesied smooth things, and having withheld from them the awful truth.
When we have affectionately and plainly told the sinner that the wages of sin will be death, and that woe will come because of his unbelief, we must go farther, and must in the name of our Lord Jesus, exhort the guilty to escape from the deserved destruction. The angels, though they understood that God had elected Lot to be saved, did not omit a single exhortation or leave the work to itself, as though it were to be done by predestination apart from instrumentality. They said, “Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed.” How impressive is each admonition! What force and eagerness of love gleams in each entreaty! “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” Every word is quick and powerful decisive and to the point. Souls want much earnest expostulation and affectionate exhortation to constrain them to escape from their own ruin. Were they wise, the bare information of their danger would be enough, and the prospect of a happy escape would be sufficient; but they, as they are utterly unwise, as you and I know, for we were once such as they are, they must be urged, persuaded, and entreated to look to the Crucified that they may be saved. We should never have come to Christ unless divine constraint had been laid upon us, neither will they; that constraint usually comes by instrumentality; let us seek to be such instruments. If it had not been for earnest voices that spoke to us, and earnest teachers that beckoned us to come to the cross, we had never come. Let us therefore repay the debt we owe to the Church of God, and seek as much as lieth in us to do unto others as God in His mercy hath done to us. Be active to persuade men with all your powers of reasoning and argument, salting the whole with tears of affection. Do not let any doctrinal notions stand in the way of the freest persuading when you are dealing with the minds of men, for sound doctrine is perfectly reconcilable therewith.
I recollect great complaint being made against a sermon of mine, “Compel them to come in,” in which I spake with much tenderness for souls. That sermon was said to be Armenian and unsound. It is a small matter to me to be judged of men’s judgment, for my Master set His seal on that message; I never preached a sermon by which so many souls were won to God, as our church meetings can testify; and all over the world, where the sermon has been scattered, sinners have been saved through its instrumentality, and, therefore, if it be vile to exhort sinners, I purpose to be viler still. I am as firm a believer in the doctrines of grace as any man living, and a true Calvinist after the order of John Calvin himself; but if it be thought an evil thing to bid the sinner lay hold on eternal life, I will be yet more evil in this respect, and herein imitate my Lord and His apostles, who, though they taught that salvation is of grace, and grace alone, feared not to speak to men as rational beings and responsible agents, and bid them “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” and “labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” Cling to the great truth of electing love and divine sovereignty, but let not these bind you in fetters when, in the power of the Holy Ghost, you become fishers of men.
Where words suffice not, as they frequently will not, you must adopt other modes of pressure. The angel took them by the hand. I have much faith under God in close dealings with men; personal entreaties, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do wonders. To grasp a man’s hand while you speak with him may be wise and helpful, for sometimes, if you can get one by the hand and show your anxiety by pleading with him, God will bless it. it is well to cast your words, as men drop pebbles into a well, right down into the depth of the soul, quietly, solemnly, when the man is alone. Often is such a means effectual where the preacher with his sermon has labored in vain. If you cannot win men by words, you must say to yourself, “What can I do?” and go to the Lord with the same inquiry. By the pertinacity of your earnestness you must trouble them into thoughtfulness. As by continual coming the woman wearied the unjust judge, so do you by your continual anxiety and perseverance weary them in their sins till they will fain give you a little heed in order, if possible, to be rid of you, if for nothing else. If you cannot reach them because they will not read the Bible, yet you can thrust a good book in their way, which may say to them what you cannot say; you can write them a letter, short but earnest, and tell them how you feel; you can continue in prayer for them; you can stir up the arm of God, and beseech the Most High to come to the rescue. There have been cases in which, when everything else has failed, a tear, a tear of disappointed love, has done the work. I think it was Mr. Knill who, one day, when distributing tracts amongst the soldiers, was met by a man who cursed him, and said to his fellow soldiers, “Make a ring round him, and I will stop his tract distributing once for all,” and then he uttered such fearful oaths and curses that Knill, who could not escape, burst into a flood of tears. Years afterwards, when he was preaching in the streets, a grenadier came up and said, “Mr. Knill, do you know me?” “No, I do not,” said he, “I don’t know that I ever saw you.” “Do you recollect the soldier who said, ‘Make a ring round him and stop his tract-distributing,’ and do you recollect what you did?” “No, I do not.” “Why, you broke into tears, and when I got home those tears melted my heart, for I saw you were so in earnest, that I fell ashamed of myself, and now I preach myself that same Jesus whom once I despised.” Oh that you might have such a strong love for perishing sinners that you will put up with their rebuffs and rebukes, and say to them, “Strike me if you will, but hear me; ridicule me, but still I will plead with you; cast me under your feet as though I were the off-scouring of all things, but at any rate, I will not let you perish, if it be in my power to warn you of your danger.”
We ought to remember that we are the messengers of God’s mercy to the sons of men. “The Lord being merciful unto him.” The angels had not come to Lot of themselves; they were the embodiment and outward display of God’s mercy. Christians in the world should view themselves as manifestations of God’s mercy to sinners, instruments of grace, servants of the Holy Spirit. Now mercy is a nimble attribute. Justice lingers; it is shod with lead, but the feet of mercy are winged. Mercy delights to perform its office. So should it be with us a delight to do good to men. God can save men without instruments, but He very seldom does it. His usual rule is to work by means. Oh that the mercy of God would work mightily by us! Let us remember, as we mingle with society, that God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. If angels were sent upon this ministry, surely they would be incessantly active; they would fly with all their might from place to place to do the Lord’s will; shall we who are honored in this be less active than they? As much as lieth in us, let us redeem the time, because the days are evil; let us be instant in season and out of season, let us sow beside all waters, and let it be our earnest endeavor to make full proof of our service, whatever that service may be, that at last it may be said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”