I was travelling on the Birmingham and Derby line some time ago, when a gentleman was speaking, with evident satisfaction, on the wonderful improvement and rapid progress of society. I quietly listened as he boasted of the development of man. At last I said, "You seem to have overlooked one thing." "And what is that, sir?" he said. I replied, "Why, sir, it is this: you forget that this world has yet to answer for the murder and rejection of the Son of God. That is the end of this world's progress." The man appeared struck with surprise, and I thought alarm. I showed him that however man may dream of this world's gradual improvement, God's word speaks out without mistake. Christ distinctly foretold that He would be rejected. (Luke 22:25-30.) For eighteen hundred years this world has treated the mercy of God, in giving Christ, with contempt. I asked him if he thought God would bear this for ever? But my question was quite outside his philosophy. Finite reason knows nothing of the infinite God, but what He Himself reveals. What a revolution took place in that man's thoughts in a moment! He said, "I never thought in that way about the death of Christ." This reminds me of a question a young man once asked me; it was this: "If God knew for certain that men would reject Christ, where was the use in sending the gospel?" "Well," I said, "I will answer by an illustration. Suppose some nation — say America — were to murder the British ambassador; of course that would at once cut off all relations with England. Well, there would be one of two things for it — immediate judgment, or forbearing mercy. England would be just in demanding instant satisfaction. But now, instead of that, though England might well know that such was the inveterate hatred of that nation which had deliberately murdered her ambassador, that the offer of pardon would be rejected with disdain; — yet would there be no meaning, no use, if, instead of demanding immediate satisfaction, she sent the most conciliatory message of reconciliation? Yes, England's character would be manifest to the whole world; and when she ever did proceed to extremities, still her clemency would be acknowledged by all." "Oh," said the young man, "I see the point; the character of God is manifested." "Just so," said I. "And, oh, think of the person of Christ, the Son of God, heaven's ambassador! and is it not even so that men by wicked hands have murdered Him? And God did know that such was man's hatred, that he would reject Him. Yes, and having murdered and rejected Him, talks of progress. God knew it all, and most certainly all relations with God are cut off by the murder of Jesus. It is impossible for God to talk to men about keeping His law that are murderers of His Son. No, no, the whole world stands guilty before God. Surely man cannot be more guilty than the murder and rejection of Christ proves him to be. But, oh! the wonder of all wonders, God did not proceed at once to righteous judgment, but infinite love and grace burst through the very wounds of Christ, and God speaks peace and pardon to black vile man through the very blood of His murdered Son. Yes, He knows man will reject oven this mercy; yes, all men. But out of these very rejecters God is, by the power of the Holy Ghost through the gospel, gathering His church. And is He not glorified in that very world that still rejects Him? Yes! yes! Oh, the longsuffering forbearance, the grace that still beseeches men to be reconciled to God." "Ah!" said the young man, "I never saw how God would be thus glorified in all His ways."
Now, reader, what think you? Just look for a moment at the world, filled with wickedness and violence. Oh! what a scene! and if you look at what bears the name of Christian — nay, it will not bear looking at — I say, do you think God will bear this for ever? He bore long in the days of Noah. But did not the judgment come at last? He bore long with Sodom and Gomorrah, and men made progress; but at last God rained fire and brimstone. Has not Jesus said, "Even thus shall it be when the Son of man cometh?" Why did He say that that day should come as a thief in the night? Why does the scripture say that this solemn event shall come at a time when men are saying, "Peace and safety?" Ah! He well knew that men would believe a lie — yes, that lie of Satan, when he persuades men to say, "The Lord delayeth his coming;" and therefore the word of God, is full of warnings, lest that day should take any of us unawares. The only progress that the scripture reveals is that of increasing iniquity. (See 2 Thess. 2:7, 8; 2 Tim. 3, &c.)
But you ask, "Do not you believe the world will be converted by the preaching of the gospel?" Oh, no, reader, I do not indeed. I just believe what the word of God says, that the world will become so wicked, and the professing church so corrupt, that Christ will come again in judgment. Having first taken up the real church, that is, all the true members of Christ, wherever found, living or sleeping, then that great day of the wrath and vengeance of Almighty God will come. I do believe all that scripture says, too, about the happy state of this earth during the millennium, after Christ has come in judgment.
A preacher, who had long preached the conversion of the world by the gospel, said to me the other day, that nothing had surprised him so much as to find there was not a single passage in the whole Bible to prove that doctrine.
But come, it is time for me to ask you a plain question or two.
Are you ready to meet Christ? Your heart may be set on something. What will that something be worth when Christ appears? The Jews preferred a robber to Christ. Is there some secret sin, pleasure, money, or the world that you prefer to Christ? Oh! my reader, is it possible, are you a wicked rejecter of Christ? If so, the coming of Christ is a terrible day to you. And come it will. Oh! let me tell you, vile as man was in crucifying Jesus, God so loved the world that He gave Him — Jesus so loved that He thus died for our sins. Oh, blessed Jesus! Thou art precious! Can you say so? Have you tasted the sweetness of pardoning love? Do you say, that is what my soul longs to know? My friend, if so, God put that desire into your heart, and Jesus says, "Him that cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Since Jesus has died for your sins, can anything give God so much joy as pardoning them for His sake? When Jesus, alive from the dead, came into the upper room, His heart was so full of joy, that His first words were, "Peace be unto you." What joy Christ has in speaking; may you have joy in hearing those words of life, "Peace be unto you; and he showed them his hands and his side." This is enough for God, and you need no more. By grace ye are saved. My fellow-believer, what a day awaits us — what a change — to be with Jesus, to see Him as He is, and to be like Him! Even so, come Lord Jesus!