“A Splendid Impossibility”
It was at the close of one of those “Limp Sydney days,” proverbial among the people of the Commonwealth, that a young Australian strolled leisurely into a Bible and Tract Depot in that city, as though the hot and humid atmosphere had robbed him of his usual energy.
His ostensible object was to purchase a book, though he could not exactly say what kind. Putting a few questions to him, it became evident that his desire for a book was considerably outweighed by another and a deeper one. There was a double object in his visit, and he had a story to tell.
At first our questions were answered quite casually, and with an apparent indifference. Presently a question of a more personal character was put, that drew from him the remark—“I think this living the Christian life may be all right as an ideal, but I have come to the conclusion that it is a splendid impossibility.
“You have come to that conclusion, have you? How did you arrive at that?” we asked. “You surely have been giving these matters some consideration. Do you mind giving us a little more detail?”
His careless air had now gone, and he began to speak with considerable emotion, his eyes now and again being suffused with tears. Occasionally there would be a tone of bitterness and reproach in his words, that he should have been so evidently misled, and thus so sorely disappointed, in spite of the genuineness of his desire to be right.
Briefly his story was this. He had attended some popular revival services, during which, conviction that he was not right with God deepened upon him; but what was he to do?
Presently, the usual “appeal for decisions” was made, and among those who stood up at that invitation was our young friend, when some would-be helper asked him if he really wanted to “live a different life,” he very sincerely replied in the affirmative. “Then why not decide for Christ now, and here?” he was asked.
Earnestly he replied, “I will,” though he knew nothing of what it really meant. Accordingly, he was numbered among those who had “come to a decision.”
He continued, “The feelings I had that night soon passed, but I was determined to stick to my resolution to do my best ‘to live the Christian life,’ as it is called; but now it all seems to be a hollow sham, and I a fool for ever attempting it, for I am more wretched today than I ever was, and I am going to give it all up.”
He had clearly reached a crisis in his life, but it became evident that it was another case of “Man’s extremity” proving to be “God’s opportunity.”
We may be certain that Satan was not going to give him up, without a struggle, and so he lost no time in taking advantage of his disappointment.
Aggressive young infidels had plied him, and cornered him with their specious and flippant arguments, and assured him that the whole thing was nothing more than religious emotion which would soon pass off. “Now,” he said, “I feel that they are nearer the mark than I have been.”
“What did you expect your decision for Christ was going to do for you, in the way of getting right with God?” we asked.
“Oh I well; I thought that by doing this God would forgive me, and I could begin again with a clean slate.”
“Have you got a clean slate now?”
“Oh! no, indeed!”
“Of course, you have not. If God’s forgiveness or, as you term it, ‘A clean slate,’ could be obtained by your living a different life, then the death of Christ was not necessary. Sin is a more serious matter than that. Sin carries with it the sentence of death. ‘Death [is] passed upon all men, for that all have sinned’ (Rom. 5:12). Good resolutions for the future will never lift that sentence from you. ‘But God commendeth His love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom. 5:8).”
This is alas! no isolated case, and it may be typical of your own, dear reader. If this is so, then by way of illustration let us change the scene from an Evangelistic meeting to a Criminal court.
Suppose you are standing before the Judge, having just been sentenced to death. Asking for permission to speak you say, “My Lord, I wish to say that I am exceedingly sorry for my past, and I have decided to alter my life for the future, and I will earnestly endeavour to live a good life.”
What would the Judge say, think you? Something like this, surely, “Your resolution for the future cannot lift from you the sentence of death under which you stand. Practically you have no future, for when you step down from that dock the world will be no more for you. You had only one life, and that life is gone—forfeited by your crime.”
“Oh!” you say, “surely my case is not parallel with that?”
Alas! dear reader, it is exactly that. Sin is not the trifle that men think it is. It may be an ugly word in the Bible, but it is also an ugly fact in your history that carries with it a still more ugly sentence—Death! “The soul that sinneth, it shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). God has graciously stayed the execution of that sentence to give you space for repentance. “The Lord . . . is long-suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
“But am I not to decide for Christ?” you ask.
Certainly: but your first decision must be against yourself: that is, you must turn to God with contrition, and own that His sentence is justly resting on you, and that no alteration of your future life can lift that sentence. That is what God means by coming to repentance, and that is just the decision that thrills heaven, and fills the heart of God with joy. “There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth” (Luke 15:10).
Now comes your “decision for Christ”: that is, you decide to abandon all your own efforts, and simply and fully trust in Christ and His finished work—His precious blood, which alone can cleanse you from all your sins, and make you right with God. With all the earnestness we are capable of we would urge you to lose no time, dear reader, make that great decision and secure that blessing today. Loiter and you may lose it for ever.
The Gospel Messenger, 1926