Real Salvation and Whole-hearted Service

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 7



"The haft shall sweep away the refuge of lies." — Isa. Kxviii. 17.

Every man needs a refuge. Every one of us needs a refuge from four things — the accusations of our own conscience, the power of sin, the displeasure of God, and the wrath to come. Almost every man has something that he is trusting in as a refuge. The trouble is not that men have no refuge, but that they have a false one, what our text characterises as a refuge of lies. God announced to Israel through His servant Isaiah, and announces to us to-night, that there is a day coming for testing the refuges of men, and in that day of testing the hail will sweep away the refuge of lies. Is your refuge a true one or a false one? Is it a refuge that will stand the test of the hour that is coming, or is it a refuge that will go down in a day of storm? Can we tell? We can with absolute certainty.

There are four common-sense tests that you can apply to every hope, that will show clearly whether it is a true hope or a refuge of lies. Those four tests are: First, a true refuge must be one that meets the highest demand of our own conscience. If it does not meet the highest demand of our own conscience, it is not a refuge from the accusations of our own conscience, neither is it a refuge from the displeasure of God, for if our own heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart and knoweth all things. In the second place, it must be one, trust in which is making you a better man. If that refuge in which you are trusting is not making you a better man from day to day, it is not a refuge from the power of sin, neither is it a refuge from the wrath to come; for you may rest assured that any hope that does not save you from the power of sin in the life that now is can never save you from the consequences of sin in the life which is to come. In the third place, it must stand the test of the dying hour. A refuge that only comforts you when you are well and strong, but will fail in that dread hour when you are face to face with death, God, and eternity, is absolutely valueless. Fourth, it must be a refuge that will stand the test of the judgment day. Unless it stands that great test it is absolutely worthless. Suppose you had a friend who was under indictment for murder, and you went down to see him in the jail before his trial. You find him in a very cheerful frame of mind, and you say to him, " I thought you were under indictment for murder." And he replies, " I am." " I thought the trial was near." "It is." "Well, you seem to be very cheerful for a man who is under indictment for murder, and whose trial is very near." " Oh, I am, and the reason is this, I have an answer to make when the trial comes on." " What is your answer? Will it satisfy the judge and jury?" "No, I don't think it will, but it satisfies me." "Why, man," you say, " you don't try the case. Your answer is no good unless it will satisfy the judge and jury." You say you have a refuge that satisfies you. Will it satisfy God? that's the question. Will it in the judgment day satisfy God?

Now I am going to apply these four common-sense tests to some of the refuges of lies in which men are trusting to-day. The first refuge of lies is trust in our own morality, our own goodness, our own character. How many men and women there are who when you approach them on the subject of becoming Christians reply, " No, I don't feel any need of Christ. I am trusting in my own character, in my own daily life. I don't claim to be perfect. Of course, I am not faultless, but I believe that the good in my life will more than counterbalance the evil, and I am trusting in my own good deeds." Let us apply the tests. Does your goodness meet the highest demand of your conscience? Be honest now. In all my talking with moralists, and I have talked with a great many, I have never met in all my life but two men who, when I drove the question home, maintained that their own goodness came up to the highest demand of their own conscience. I have met two. You say that they must have been remarkably good men. No, they had remarkably poor consciences. One of them was a Jew I once met in crossing the Atlantic Ocean. I started to talk to him one day about becoming a Christian, and he said to me, " I feel no need of a Saviour." I said, " Do you mean to tell me that you have never sinned? " " Never," he said. " Never fallen below the highest demand of your own conscience? " " Never." " Never done anything that you regretted afterwards? " " Never." " Well," you say, " he must have been a good man indeed." No; far from it. He was so mean that before we reached New York city he was the most unpopular man on the steamer. Apply the second test: Is trust in your own goodness making you a better man? As you go on day after day talking about your own morality and trusting in it, do you find, as you grow older, that you are growing more unselfish, more kind, more considerate of others, more helpful, more humble? I have known a great many men who trusted in their own morality; I have never known a single one of them who, as he grew older, grew gentler, sweeter, kinder, more considerate of others, more helpful to his fellow-men. Every one I have known as he grew older has grown more cross, censorious, self-centred, proud. Apply the third test: Will it stand the test of the dying hour? How often it does not. How many a man, who in days of health and strength has boasted of his own goodness, when he comes to lie on his dying bed has wished that he had a living faith in Christ. In one of my pastorates was perhaps the most self-righteous man I ever knew intimately. He had no use for the church, no use for the Bible, no use for Jesus Christ, no use for ministers, and perhaps least of all for me, against whom he had a particular grudge, because of something I had once done that he misunderstood, but he was perfectly confident that he was the best man in all the community. In process of time a cancer appeared on that man's scalp; it spread and ate its way through the scalp until it reached the skull. Then little by little it ate its way through the skull until there was only a thin film of skull between the cancer and the brain. You could see the throbbing beneath the thin film of skull. He knew he must die, and in that hour he said, "Send for Mr. Torrey. I must speak to him." I hurried to his home at once, sat down beside his bed, and he said, " Oh, Mr. Torrey, tell me how to be saved. Tell me how to become a Christian." I took my Bible and I explained to him just as simply as I knew how what to do to be saved, and I think I can explain it pretty simply. But somehow or other he could not grasp it. Hour after hour I sat with him. When night came I said to his wife and family, " You have sat up with him night after night. You are tired. You go to bed, and I will sit up with him all night to-night and minister to him." They gave me instructions what to do and retired for the night. All night long I sat by him, except when now and then I had to go out into the other room to get something for him to eat or drink. Every time when I came back into the room where he was lying over in the corner there came one constant groan from that corner, and it was this, " Oh, I wish I was a Christian! Oh, I wish I was a Christian! Oh, I wish I was a Christian!" And so the man died. Will it stand the test of the judgment day? When you stand face to face with God and that awful, piercing, all-seeing, holy eye looks you through and through, the eye of the One who knows all your past, not only your overt acts but your covert thoughts, every hidden imagination, will you look up into His face and say, " O God, Thou holy One, Thou all-seeing One, Thou knowest me through and through, and I stand here to-day confident that my own righteousness will pass with Thee "? Never! If you fancy that you will, go alone with God to-night and kneel down even now and look up into God's face and try to tell Him that. You can tell me that, but I don't believe that even you have the brazen effrontery to look up into the face of God even now and try and tell Him that. Apply one more test; will it stand the test of the Word of God? We know that it will not. We are told in Gal. iii. 10, "As many as are of the works of the law — who are trying to be saved by their own doings — are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them." And we are told in Rom. iii. 20, " By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified in His sight."

The second refuge of lies is trust in other people's badness. Some people make their boast in their own goodness; others make their boast in the badness of others. How often when you go to a man and urge him to come to Christ, he says, " No, I don't pretend to be very good, but I am just as good as a lot of other folks, just as good as a great many of your church members." Let us try that. Does that meet the highest demand of your own conscience? When conscience comes with its imperious demands, does it satisfy your conscience to say "Well I am not very good but I am as good as somebody else? " If it does, you must have a mighty mean conscience. Is trust in other people's badness making you a better man? I have known a great many people who talked much of other people's badness, but I have yet to find the first man or woman who was made better by the process. Show me a man who is always talking about the faults of others and I will show you a man who is rotten at the heart every time. Show me a man that calls every other man a thief, and I will show you a man you can't trust with your pocket-book. Show me a man who thinks every other man is impure, and I will show you an adulterer. Show me a man or woman who is always talking about others' faults, and I will show you a man or woman, without exception, that you can't trust. It never fails. In one of my pastorates in my Bible class I had a woman — I came near saying a lady — who was in business — notoriously dishonest in business. One day she said to me in my Bible class, " Brother Torrey" — oh, she did love the " brother " — " Brother Torrey, don't you think that everybody in business is dishonest?" I looked at her and replied: " Mrs. Mac," — she was Scotch; never mind the rest of it — " when anybody in business accuses everybody in business of being dishonest, they convict at least one person." And she was mad! But why should she be mad? I only told her the truth. I made a statement like this in my own church once in an American city — not where I am now: " Show me a person who is always talking about the faults of others and I will show you a person rotten at the heart." At the close a lady in my church came to me and said, " I didn't like something you said this morning." I said, " What was that? " "You said, ' Show you a man or woman that was always talking of the faults of others and you would show them a man or woman rotten to the heart every time.' " I said, " Yes, I said that, and I meant it too." " Well," she said, " there is Miss So-and-So, you must admit she is always talking about the faults of others." I had to admit it. " Now," she said, " you would not say she was bad." Well, I didn't say it, but, if I had told that lady, the fact was that on that very day I had told that woman that she could never sing in our choir again, because of awful rottenness in her life that had been brought to my view, with which I had charged her, and which she had confessed. Men and women, if you* know a man or woman who is always talking about the faults of others, don't you trust them. Third, Will it stand the test of the dying hour? Oh, never. This very woman to whom I have already referred who asked the question in the Bible class, the time came for her to die. The physician had done his best. He went into the room and said to her, " Mrs. Mac, it is my duty to tell you I can do no more, neither can any other physician. You must die." And she shrieked, " Doctor, I can't die! I won't die! I am not ready to die. Doctor, I can't die! " But she did die, and so will you, and in that hour you will not think about the faults of others; the faults of one person will fill the whole horizon, and those are your own faults. Will it stand the test of the judgment day? Face to face with God who knows you, will you look up into His face and say, " I have never been good, but I am just as good as others? " Never! In that day, God tells us distinctly in Rom. xiv. 12, " Every one of us shall give account of himself to God."

The third refuge of lies — universalism, the belief that God is too good to condemn anyone, that there is no hell, no future punishment for sin. How common a refuge that is to-day, and perhaps no more common anywhere than in Birmingham. People meet you everywhere when you urge them to come to Christ with the answer, " I believe in the mercy of God, I believe in the goodness of God, I believe God is love and too good to condemn anyone, I believe there is no hell, no future punishment.'' Let us apply the tests. Does that satisfy the demands of your own conscience? When your conscience points out your sin and demands a change in your life, does it satisfy your conscience to say, " Yes, I know my life is not just right, but God is love, therefore I am going right on trampling His laws under foot, because He is so good and so loving." Is that the kind of conscience you have? If I had that kind of conscience I would trade it off just as quick as I could. Look here. Here is a boy who has been very ill. He has a loving mother, who loves him enough to die for him if necessary. Through long days of illness she will not even have a hired nurse, but watches by his bedside till she takes his complaint and breaks down, and now he is up and around, but she is at the very verge of death. She calls him and his sister into the room and says, " Children, I am very low. I may not live the day out, but I want you to go out into the garden into the bright sunshine and enjoy this beautiful day for awhile; but, Johnnie, when you get out there you will find some roses in bloom that are very choice. I am saving them for a special purpose. Please don't pluck them, Johnnie." They go out, and no sooner do they reach the garden than Johnnie begins at once to pluck every one of those roses. Mary says to him, " Johnnie, what are you doing? Did you not hear what mother said, that we were not to pull the roses? " " Oh, yes, Mary, I heard her; but Mary, you know how mother loves us. You know how good she is. You know how she watched over me through my illness, how she would not even have a trained nurse, but watched over me herself, and now she is ill to-day because she loved me so and watched over me so tenderly. Mary, that is the reason I am disobeying her, because she loved me so." What would you say of a boy like that? But you contemptible and ungrateful men and women are making God's infinite love that gave His Son to die on the cross of Calvary for you an excuse for trampling His laws under foot. Shame on you! Don't you ever do it again!

Will your universalism stand the test of the dying hour? A great deal of the universalism of the day does not. Dr. Ichabod Spencer, one of the most celebrated pastors America ever had, has written a book called " Pastoral Sketches," telling incidents from his pastoral work — one of the most valuable books that a minister can possess. One of the sketches is as follows: There were in his Brooklyn congregation two ladies, both married ladies, one the mother-in-law of the other. The husband of neither of them was a Christian. One day the husband of the younger, the son of the older, was taken suddenly and seriously ill. They saw that the illness might result in death, and they sent for Dr. Ichabod Spencer. When Dr. Spencer came into the room this young fellow was tossing upon a bed of sickness. Dr. Spencer hurried to his side and tried to present to him the consolation of the Gospel. He said, " Dr. Spencer, I can't listen to you. I have heard it over and over again. I would not listen to it in times of health and strength. I am now very ill. I am dying, will die soon. I can't repent in this my last hour. I can't do it." And he tossed and groaned in agony upon the bed. His father was walking up and down the room in great excitement. Finally, he turned to the bed and said, " My son, there is nothing for you to be so anxious about. You have not been a bad boy, and there is no hell. You have nothing to fear." That dying son turned to his father and said, " Father, you have deceived me all through my life. If I had listened to mother instead of to you I would not have been here now. She tried to get me to go to church and Sunday School, but you took me off fishing and pleasure-seeking on the Sabbath. You told me that there was no hell, and I believed you. You have deceived me up to this time, but, father, you can't deceive me any longer. I am dying and going to hell, and my blood is upon your soul." Then he turned his face to the wall and died. Fathers, you who are upsetting the teaching of godly wives, the day is coming when your sons will curse you. Will your universalism stand the test of the dying hour?

Is it making you a better man? Much of the universalism of the day don't. Oh, with how many universalism is simply an excuse for sin! In how many of our churches to-day the world is sweeping in like a flood! All separation is gone, and professed Christians are running after the world, the flesh, and the devil, because they have accepted the eternal hope nonsense which is robbing the Church of its devotion and its beauty, and making the Church so like the world that you can't tell the two apart. This universalistic nonsense is simply an excuse for sin — to make men easy in a life of sin, and in giving up their separation unto God. Face it squarely — is your universalism making you better men?

Again, will it stand the test of the judgment day? When you go up to meet God face to face, will you look into the face of God and say, " O God, I know my life has not been right, but I thought that Thou wast a God of love. I thought Thou wast too good to punish sin. I did not think there was any hell, so I trampled Thy laws under foot?" Will you do it? You know you won't.

The next refuge of lies — infidelity. How many a man is trying to find comfort to-night in infidelity. Let us apply the tests. Does your infidelity meet the highest demand of your own conscience? When conscience points out your sin and demands a new life does it satisfy your conscience to say, " Well, I don't believe in the Bible, I don't believe in God. I don't believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Does that satisfy your conscience? If it does, you are not fit to be called a human being. Is your infidelity making you a better man? I have known a great many infidels. My ministry has been largely a ministry to sceptics, agnostics, and infidels. I have had their confidence, and I have yet to meet the first infidel that was made better by infidelity. I have known men whose characters have been undermined by infidelity — countless men. Oh, I have had young men come to me with breaking hearts, with saddest confessions of immorality and of ruin, and I have had them say to me time and again, " The first step was listening to Colonel Ingersoll," or some other infidel lecturer, or reading an infidel book. I tell you, men, you young men especially, who are trifling with infidelity, you are undermining the foundations of sound character. Infidelity is sowing the world with wickedness. In my own church one night in Chicago, to which a good many infidels come, one of them said to me, " We come over here to hear you. You don't spare us, but we like men to stand up to the rack. That is the reason we come." There are always a lot of them every Sunday. Thank God, a great many of them get converted, so we like to see them coming. They are very friendly and very kind. When we left Chicago, I think the person that came nearest to breaking into tears was the wife of one of the most notorious infidels in Chicago. She was an infidel herself, or trying to be. But now for my story.

One night in my church in Chicago I said, " I would like to put this thing to the test. I would like to ask every man in this congregation to-night who has been saved from drunkenness by Jesus Christ and the Bible to stand up," and all over that building about two hundred men stood up as having been saved from drunkenness by the Bible and Christ. I said, " That will do. Now I am going to be fair. I would like to ask every man in this audience who has been saved from drunkenness or any other definite sin by infidelity in any form to stand up." I thought that no one had risen, but finally as I looked over that great crowd, away off underneath the gallery I saw one man standing — a poor, seedy-looking negro, the only man in the audience who had been saved from drunkenness or other positive sin by infidelity, and he was drunk at the time. But he had sense enough to come to Christ at the. close of the meeting. Men, face facts. Infidelity makes nobody a better man. Will it stand the test of the dying hour? How often it fails. A friend of mine who was in the Northern army in the Civil War said that in the same company with him was a man who was a very loud-spoken infidel, who loved to talk much in the camp. On the second day of the battle of Pittsburg Landing he said to the boys in the morning, "Boys, it seems just as if I was going to be shot to-day." " Oh," they said, " nonsense. It is nothing but superstition. You are not going to be shot." " Well," he said, " I feel very strange. I feel as if I was going to be shot." At last they were lined up waiting for the word of command. " Forward, march! Up they went up the hill, and just as they reached the crest of the hill a volley came from the enemy's guns. At the very first volley a bullet pierced this man near the heart, and as he fell back into the arms of the comrade back of him he threw his hands in the air and cried as they carried him to the rear, " O God, just give me time to repent." It only took one bullet to take the infidelity out of that man. It would take less than that to take the nonsense out of most of you.

Will it stand the test of the judgment day? Will you go up into God's presence and be ready to say, " O God, my answer is this: I was an infidel, I was an agnostic, I was a sceptic, I was an atheist, I was a materialist, I was a positivist," or this, that, or the other? Do you think you will? I will tell you how to put it to the test. Go alone to-night, get down on your knees and try to tell Him. Oh, you can talk nonsense to your fellow-men. But when you go to talk to God it will take the nonsense out of you. One night I went down into the audience to speak to individuals after a meeting like this. I went down to a man who sat in the last opera chair. I said to him, " Are you a Christian? " " No," he said, " I should say not. I am an infidel." I said, " What do you mean? " " Well," he said, " I don't believe in the Divinity of Christ." I said, " You don't believe in the Divinity of Christ? " " No," he said, " I don't." " Well," I said, *' let us kneel right down now and tell God so." And he turned pale. You go and tell God what you would like to tell me.

One more refuge of lies— religion. You say, " What! religion! You don't mean what you say." I mean every word. I say religion is just as much a refuge of lies as morality, or other people's badness, or universalism, or infidelity. Religion never saved anybody. It is one thing to trust in religion; it is something entirely different to trust in a living Christ. How many men are making their boast in their religion. You go to people and they say, " Oh, I am very religious. I go to church. I say my prayers every morning and night. I read my Bible. I go to communion. I have been baptized. I have been confirmed. I give a tenth of my income to the poor. I am very religious." Well, you can do every bit of that and go straight to hell. Others say, " I make my confession on Saturday and attend mass on Sunday; I say ever so many Paternosters and Ave Marias; I count my beads and sprinkle myself with holy water." You can do it all and go straight to hell. Religion never saved anybody. Apply the tests; is your religion making you a better man or woman? A great deal of religion don't make men or women one bit better. There are some people who say prayers, read the Bible, go to church, talk in meetings, are very prominent in the Church, and they will lie as fast as anybody. Many people who do all these things will go around slandering their neighbours. Many men who are very religious and very prominent in the Church — I don't know whether it is so in your town or not, for I don't know your town — men who are very prominent oftentimes in the Church will cut you as wide open in a business deal as any man in town. Many a man who is religious treats his servants like brutes and oppresses his employees. Many a man who is religious turns a deaf ear to the cry of the widow and the orphan, unless it is going to get into the papers that he gave them something. Many a man is very religious and a perfect scoundrel. I met a man in this country — never mind what city — he seemed to be a most religious man. I met him one Sabbath morning. He said, "lam going to conduct a meeting," and he had dressed himself to make himself look as much like a preacher as he could. He made his employees gather together at a certain hour every day for prayer, and he held religious service with them every Sunday so that they would not have to go to church. I was told the wages that this pious humbug was paying the girls that worked for him. They were starvation wages. I saw the girls, and they were the palest, most pinched crowd of girls I have seen in all England, and man after man told me of how he tried to get the better of them in deals. That kind of religion will send a man to the deepest hell there is. In the second place, will your religion stand the test of the dying hour? A great deal of religion don't. A great many very active religious people are as badly scared as anybody when they come to die. Oh, how I have heard them groan and sigh and weep in the dying hour. Their hollow religion doesn't stand the test of that great crisis.

Will it stand the test of the judgment day? Mere religion will not, for what says the Lord Jesus Christ Himself in Matt. vii. 22, 23: " Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name, and in Thy name have cast out devils, and in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you. Depart from Me ye that work iniquity." Religion is a refuge of lies, and if that is what you are trusting in you are lost for ever unless you get something better.

Well, someone will say, Is there no true refuge? There is. It is found in the verse before my text. God says, " Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation; he that believeth shall not make haste." That sure foundation stone is Jesus Christ. " Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. iii. 11). I said a few moments ago that it is one thing to trust in religion and something entirely different to trust in a crucified and risen Christ with a living faith. Will that refuge stand the test of our own conscience? It will, thank God. When my conscience points to my sin, I have an answer that satisfies it, and that answer is " Jesus," who bore my sins in His own body on the cross. Will it make men better men? Yes. A living faith in a crucified and living Christ will make every man who has it more and more like Christ every day of his life, and if you have a faith that is not making you like Christ you have not a real faith. Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Son of God overcometh the world (1 John v. 4, 5). If the world is overcoming you, you have not a living, saving faith in the Son of God. Will it stand the test of the dying hour? Thank God, yes. How often have I gone to a dying bed and looked men and women, and children too, in the face and said to them, " My brother, my sister, your time is short. Before morning breaks you will have passed into the great beyond." And with a calm, triumphant, and ecstatic voice they said, " I know it; I am ready to go." The gladdest scenes I have ever seen on earth have been deathbed scenes of true Christians — scenes of triumph and glory. One day at the close of my Bible class in Chicago the president of the class came up to me and said, " Pomeroy " — one of the members of my class — " is dying round the corner of consumption. I don't think he will live until morning. I know you are busy, but can't you go and see him? " I said, " Certainly, Fred." I went around and found him propped up with pillows. I said to him, " Mr. Pomeroy, they tell me you can't live through the night." " Oh," he said, " I know it." I said, " Are you afraid to die? " " Afraid? " he said, " afraid to die? No, I shall be glad to depart and be with Christ." How often I have seen it.

Will it stand the test of the judgment day? Yes. If it be God's will — I say it reverently and thoughtfully — if it be the will of God, I am willing to face God to-night in judgment. You say, " What, have you never sinned? " Alas! I have. Thank God, you will never know how deeply I have sinned. But when God asks for an answer I will say one word — " Jesus," — and that will satisfy God. It already satisfies me. Men and women, the hail shall sweep away every refuge of lies. Throw them all away to-night and come to Christ, and be ready for life, ready for death, ready for eternity.