From Laughter to Terror

Without the slightest warning the awful catastrophe fell upon the gay and godless city of San Francisco. An eye-witness writes: “The day before had been an ideal Californian day, clear and bright, with bracing breezes and a glowing sunset. The night following was like quiet sleep. Hundreds of hacks and automobiles whirled the people to the Opera House to hear Caruso sing in ‘Carmen.’ The great theatre was packed with the wealth of the Golden West. After the opera the hotels and restaurants were crowded with joyous opera parties, which were not long finished before shrieks of terror were heard where there had been laughter, while the very scenes of merriment were obliterated by ruin and fire.”

Is there no message to you in this voice of the earthquake and fire? Is San Francisco specially wicked that such a dramatic ruin should have overtaken it?

Similar questions were asked of the Lord when in His day the tower of Siloam fell; killing eighteen people under its ruins. Were they sinners above all that dwelt in Jerusalem?

The Lord made answer, “Nay; but except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5).

From this we gather that the fate of San Francisco is a call to you for repentance. The unrepentant sinner will assuredly perish, and by that is not meant “annihilation,” or ceasing to exist, like the beasts of the field, but the eternal doom of the lost in the lake of fire. Repent! Repent!! Repent!!! is the voice of earthquake and fire to you; nay, the very voice of God Himself in urgent tones.

When will men think of their future—not the future of tomorrow, or next week, or next year, but of ETERNITY? Oh! the folly of a man toiling and moiling to obtain a competency for an old age he may never reach, whilst making no provision for the great forever which may be as near him as it was to the people of San Francisco on that beautiful day of “bracing breezes and glowing sunset.” What a startling thought that you may be as near your eternity as that!

We read that 200,000 were rendered homeless by earthquake and fire. But if you reach eternity unsaved you will be homeless FOR EVER. “Outer darkness” is no home. The lake of fire is a poor gain for earth’s follies and soul-indifference.

The distress of the homeless was soon alleviated, for the United States Government appropriated £200,000 for their relief, and millionaires like Rockefeller and Carnegie, and rich corporations donated large sums. But in a lost eternity there will be no relief—there the worm never dies and the fire is not quenched.

The fire brigade chief died in the vain attempt to stop the irresistible march of the conflagration that followed the earthquake. His death put an end to his power to help the living.

May I be permitted to draw your attention, reader, to the death of the Son of God? It was not His living, but His dying that made Him all-powerful to save. He came to this earth to die, “the Just for the unjust.” By His very dying He broke the hitherto irresistible march of sin and death. He is now the Victor, crowned on high, and He offers shelter, pardon, salvation, and forgiveness to all who stand in need of Him. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43). Hear the invitation from His own lips, “Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
But once let the golden day of opportunity go by, and His death will be in vain for you. Here and now is the hour of forgiveness.

“There are no pardons in the tomb,

And brief is mercy’s day.”

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).

As I write, 300,000 are starving. One man was shot for washing his hands with the precious drinking water. Rich and poor are alike without food. Money is of no value. What a reversal of things! “The almighty dollar” to be no more potent than the ashes left by the fire!

In eternity rich and poor will be alike, and money of no value. Even here all are on one common platform before God, and money is powerless to buy His favour. He does not judge by the size of the house in which we live or the style we keep up, but He has respect to the man of a broken and contrite spirit. He gives pardon to the king upon his throne and the beggar in the workhouse alike upon the condition that they will come empty-handed and needy, and receive the forgiveness which is alone to be had through Christ, who gave Himself a ransom for all.

Oh! be warned while mercy may be yours. “Prepare to meet thy God.” Time quickly passes. Life is so uncertain. Eternity draws nigh. God waits to pardon. The blood of Christ still avails, “Now is the accepted time.” Trust Him now. Do not delay.

Gospel Tidings Annual 1906, p. 69