Real Salvation and Whole-hearted Service

By R. A. Torrey

Chapter 12

 

THE FEAR OF MAN BRINGETH A SNARE

"The fear of man bringeth a snare, but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe."— Prov. xxix. 25.

Two ways — one of ruin, the other of salvation. The fear of man bringeth a snare — ruin! ruin! — but whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe — the way of salvation, trust in Jehovah. Even if you do not believe another verse in the Bible, you know that verse is true. Every man here, I don't care how much of an infidel he may be, knows that the fear of man bringeth a snare. How many people there are in Birmingham to-night who have been snared by the fear of man! How many a young woman has come to Birmingham from a country village an innocent, guileless, pure, upright girl, but loving gaiety; and coming to Birmingham she has sought gaiety where a poor girl is likely to seek it, in the theatre, in the dance hall, but meaning no ill. And one night as she returns from a dance with a young man in whom she had become interested, and who has been kind to her, he makes advances that the modesty of the girl resents. She colours up. She is indignant. He laughs at her, " Oh," he says, " you don't understand. I don't mean anything wrong. Every one does this in the city. You know city life is gayer than country life. You don't understand— that is all." He laughs at the girl, and she permits what she at first resented. A few nights afterwards he goes a little farther. Again she is indignant, and again he laughs at her, and laughs her out of her puritanical scruples, as he calls them. Then he goes farther, and to-night that girl is on the street ruined, dishonoured, belonging to the wretchedest class that lives — an outcast woman. The fear of man, the fear of some one's ridicule, has brought a snare that has landed that girl in the slums.

How many a young man has come to Birmingham. He knew enough about life to know that any use of intoxicating liquor is dangerous in the day in which you and I live. His father and mother brought him up to the habits of temperance and total abstinence, and he is resolved in coming to the city and its perils that he will never visit a public-house; that he will never drink even a glass of beer or wine. But one night he is out with his new friends to some entertainment. After the entertainment is over they propose going to a public-house just for one glass of beer. " No," he says, " I never drink; it is perilous to drink. I was brought up a total abstainer, and I intend to remain a total abstainer till the day of my death." They laugh at him. " Oh," they say, " be a man. Nobody but milksops are total abstainers. If you are going to amount to anything in Birmingham you must take an occasional glass of beer. Of course, we don't want you to go to excess. We don't believe in intemperance, but one glass of beer won't hurt you. Come, be a man." He takes his first glass of beer. It rouses the demon that is in him. That leads to another, and another, and another, and many another, and to-night that young fellow is a bloated, ruined, penniless drunkard on the streets of Birmingham. The fear of man has brought a snare that has ruined for time and eternity.

I received a few weeks ago from a friend one of the saddest letters I ever received. It was a letter from his brother's wife. This brother of my friend was a very brilliant man, a man of the greatest promise, of extraordinary promise; but he got to drinking. He found that the drink was fastening itself upon him, and he broke off and became a total abstainer. He had occasion to go to London to visit one of your best known men, a man that everybody in this building knows by name. That man was in the way of promoting him to great honour. When he visited this man, this man offered him a glass of wine at his table. He didn't dare offend his powerful friend by refusing the glass of wine. He thought, "It is only one glass." He took it. He was mad. He rushed from that house, went to a public house, and then to another, and for days his friends did not know where he was. They sent detectives on his track, who found him helplessly drunk in one of the lowest dens in London, and he has been drinking from that day to this. The broken-hearted wife wrote my friend, his brother — " He is crazy. He has gone and ruined his family; his home is broken up; all our prospects are blighted; he is lost; he is mad." The fear of man brought a snare.

How many a young fellow has come to this city who was too much of a man to gamble — for no man who gambles is much of a man in that direction — too much of a man to gamble, but he likes an occasional innocent game of cards. One night he is playing cards with his friends, and some one suggests that they just put up a three-penny bit to make it interesting. That is all. "Oh," they say, "we don't care for the money, but it is just to lend interest to the game." " No," he says; " I never gamble. I think gambling is stealing." He is right, for gambling is stealing. No self-respecting man will gamble, for no self-respecting man wants another man's money. I don^t see how a man who has taken another man's money by gambling can look in the looking-glass. I should think he would be ashamed to look himself in the face. He says, " No; gambling is rank dishonesty; I never gamble." " Oh," they say, " it is not gambling; it is just for a little amusement. You better go home and go to Sunday School. Go and sit with your mother." And they laugh him into his first game of cards for money. The gambler's passion — a harder passion to overcome than the appetite for drink ever was — seizes him, and to-night he is behind prison bars, because he gambled until he took his employer's money to gamble with. The fear of man has brought a snare that has landed him in prison.

Again, the fear of man ensnares Christians into a denial of their Lord. It did Peter. Oh, thank" God, the time came when Peter threw his fear to the winds, and stood before the very men that condemned Jesus to die, and confessed his Lord, and rebuked their sin. But this night, after he has just told his Lord that though all forsake Him, he never will, there before the servant-girl that accuses him of being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth, he says, " I don't know the man." Then a few moments after he repeats his denial, and an hour after, with oaths and cursings, frightened by what a servant-girl may do or say, he denies his Lord. Many of you are doing the same every day. Down in your office, or shop, or your factory, or your mill, Jesus Christ is ridiculed. Hard things are said about the Bible; the name of the Lord that died upon the cross of Calvary for you is taken in blasphemy, and you are not man enough, you are not woman enough, to stand up and to say, " I am a Christian. I believe in that Christ whom you are ridiculing. I believe in that Bible you are laughing at." You are afraid to be laughed at, and the fear of man has ensnared you into a denial of the Lord that died on the cross for you.

Again, the fear of man ensnares professed Christians into a guilty compromise with the world. How many professed Christians in Birmingham are doing things in family life, in social life, in business life, that you know are wrong. Your best moral judgment condemns you for them every time you do them, but you say, " Well, everybody does them. I will be considered odd if I don't do them. I will be ostracised from my set." A Christian man in America, living in one of the suburbs of Chicago, where there is a great deal of the form of godliness, but very little of the real power thereof, said to me about his daughter, " My daughter is practically ostracised in this suburb because she Won't dance, play cards, or go to the theatre." Thank God, she was woman enough, young girl though she was, to be willing to be ostracised rather than compromise. A lot of you are not. You would rather not go to the theatre — you don't feel happy there. You would rather not play cards. You know the peril of it. You know how many a family card-party has been the door through which a son has become a gambler. You would rather not dance. Your better self is shocked, as the modesty of every intelligent thinking woman must be shocked, at what you see in every ballroom — a familiarity of contact permitted between the sexes that is nowhere else permitted in decent society. You know it. You are shocked at it. You don't enjoy it, but you are not brave enough to stand for modesty, purity, and God. The fear of man has entangled you in a snare which has robbed you by your compromise of every bit of real power for Jesus Christ.

Again, the fear of man ensnares Christians into a guilty silence and inactivity. There are many of you here every evening we have a meeting who, when the invitation is given out for Christians to go to work and speak to the unsaved, want to do it. Oh, you would like to help some one to Christ. What a joy it would be to you; but you say, " Suppose I talk to somebody and they don't like it; suppose they laugh at me; suppose they say some hard things to me," and the fear of man, here in the meeting and out of the meeting, in your home, in your shop, in your hotel, everywhere you go, is shutting your mouth and robbing you of the transcendent joy of leading others to Jesus Christ. Well, friends, suppose they do laugh at you. They spat in your Master's face. They won't spit in yours. They struck Him with their fists. They probably won't strike you. They nailed Him to the cross. Are you not willing to be laughed at for a Master like that? I believe that the fear of man on the part of professed Christians ' in Birmingham, keeping them back from giving their testimony for Christ, and working to bring others to Christ, is doing far more to hinder the work of God than any other cause in this city to-day. Men are being saved by the thousands, but if you Christians would throw your fear to the winds, and here in this hall, and on the streets, in the shops, homes, hotels, would have the boldness to witness and work for your Master, they would be saved by the tens of thousands.

Again, the fear of man ensnares those who are not Christians into the rejection of Jesus Christ. There are hundreds of men and women here every night who would like to be Christians. They see the joy of it. They see the Christian life is beyond a peradventure the better life for the life that now is, as well as for the life that is to come, but they are afraid that if they accept Christ somebody will ridicule them, and the fear of man is shutting them out of the acceptance of Jesus Christ. I believe that more people are kept from accepting Christ every night here by the fear of what some one will say or do than by any other cause. If we could get rid of this fear I believe there would be five hundred or a thousand saved every night instead of two hundred or three hundred.

Again, the fear of man ensnares those, who really think they have accepted Christ, into not making a public confession of Christ. Now Jesus says distinctly, " Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I also confess before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven" (Matt. x. 32, 33). Paul says distinctly, " With the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation " (Rom. x. 10). And yet a host of you men and women are trying to be Christians and never stand up to say so. You don't admit that it is the fear of man that keeps you from doing it. Oh, no! you say, " I don't believe in this publicity. I don't believe in this standing-up business. I believe in doing things more quietly. I don't believe in excitement." You give a thousand and one reasons, but, men, if you were honest with yourselves, as you will have to be honest with God some day, and told the truth, you would say, " It is because I am afraid to do it." When we were in Edinburgh a fine-looking young fellow came to me one day and said, " I am a cad." I said, "What is the matter? " He said, " I thought I accepted Christ here the other night, and I have not been man enough to tell another man in the office what I have done. I am a cad." Well, he was. So are you. You professed to take Jesus Christ. You told somebody so quietly, but to this day you have not told the other men in your office, in your home, in your hotel, in your shop. The fear of man has sealed your mouth and made you an arrant coward, and robbed you of all the joy that there is in an out-and-out Christian experience.

Again, the fear of man ensnares those who start out in the Christian life from going on in it, because somebody says some discouraging thing. One night when we were in a Scotch town two young men both professed to accept Christ. The pastor of one of them sat on the platform. He went to his pastor and told him what he had done, and his pastor encouraged him. The other man's pastor was one of these convivial pastors, a man whose chief function is to serve as a figure-head at big feasts and encourage the fast men of the town by drinking their wine and joining in their tastes. If there is any man on earth for whom I am tempted to have utter contempt it is a convivial minister, the minister whose chief function is to adorn big suppers and to drink rich men's wines. I would rather be a publican, a rum-seller any day, than a preacher of that kind. I have more respect for a good straight-out rum-seller than that kind of a preacher. This man was that kind of a preacher. He had occasionally been seen on the streets when he needed the whole sidewalk. This young man went to his preacher and told him what he had done. His preacher said, " Don't you believe a word they are saying up there." He discouraged him. Oh, the man that calls himself a minister of the Gospel and dares to discourage a young convert in the first glimmerings of a new life, if there is a deeper spot in hell than any other it is for the man that bears the name of minister and dares to discourage the young convert in his first aspirations toward God. Well, this man did, and the poor young fellow was discouraged quite entirely. Not excusable; still, a minister of the Gospel had laughed at him, and snared him into wretched backsliding, and it may be into hell. Oh, men and women starting out in the Christian life, no matter who approves or disproves, you are right. Go on in spite of everybody.

Again, the fear of man ensnares people to their eternal ruin. Oh, many men and women lie in Christless graves to-night, and will pass a Christless eternity, because the fear of man kept them from the acceptance of Christ. When I am home in Chicago, if I have a night off, I often run out to another city to help ministers. One night I ran across the line about twenty miles from Chicago into the city of Hammond, Indiana. After speaking I gave out the invitation, and among those who were moved by the Spirit of God was a young woman. She rose to her feet and started to come to the front. The young man who sat beside her touched her arm. He was engaged to marry her. He said, "Don't go to-night. If you will wait for a few days I may go with you." For fear of offending her fianc she sat down. I went back the next week to speak in the opera-house. At the close of the meeting two young women came and said, " Oh, Mr. Torrey, just as soon as you can get away from the opera-house come with us. There is a young lady who was going to start for the front the other night, but the young man to whom she is engaged asked her to wait. She did wait, and now she has erysipelas. It has gone to her brain and she is dying. She probably won't live until morning. Come to see her just as soon as you can get away from the opera-house." I hurried along from the opera-house. I entered her home, went into the room where the poor girl lay a-dying, face all painted black with iodine, hardly recognisable as the same person, but perfectly conscious. I urged her then and there to take Christ. " No," she said, " I was about to start the last time you were here," and she told me the same story, and she said, " I didn't start then. I am dying; I can't start now." I pled with her. I besought her. I knew it was her last hour. I did everything, but she would not yield, and when I passed out of that room of awful darkness a young man in the hallway grasped me by the hand, took me into a cold dark room, and though I could not see him I could feel he was shaking like a leaf. " Oh," he said, " Mr. Torrey, I am engaged to marry that girl. When you spoke here last week we were both at the meeting. When you gave out the invitation she started for the front. I said, ' No, don't go, if you wait for me a few days I may go with you. She didn't go, and now she is dying without Christ. She is lost, and I am to blame. I am to blame." Oh, men and women, in this hall to-night the Spirit of God is moving through this building with mighty power. Many of you are on the verge of a decision for Christ. Don't let the fear of man frighten you out of taking your stand to-night.

The other part of the text I have scarcely time for. "Whoso putteth his trust in the Lord shall be safe." He will be safe from all danger of yielding to sin and temptation. If you trust God temptation has no power. A man cannot yield to temptation without distrusting God. Every act of sin is an -act of distrust of God. He that trusts God will do right though the heavens fall. I know a man in business in America. This man was unfortunate in business, lost about everything he had, had to sell -off everything in order to pay his honest debts. He kept from failing; he paid all his debts, but it left him practically penniless. Then an opening came for him as fireman on an engine. He came to me -and said, " What shall I do? I have wanted to be an engine-driver for years. They say they will promote me quickly, but if I take this post on a switch engine I must work on the Sabbath. What shall I do? " I said, " Well, you will have to decide for yourself, but if you can't do it with a clear conscience, you can't afford to do it." He said, " I can't do it with a clear conscience." He refused the position, though he did not know what he was to do to support himself and his wife and family of three or four children. A day or two after that he got a position at only a dollar a day — only four shillings — which is very small wages in America. In a few days he got a position at $75 (15) per month, and to-day he is head book-keeper of one of the biggest mercantile establishments in the Northwest, with a big salary, and constantly getting presents from the firm — all because he trusted God.

When I was home this summer I found that there had been converted in my absence a young Jewish woman; a very brilliant woman in the work that she had to do — a very talented woman — but having to work for her living to support the family. After she was converted she was full of love to Christ, as Jews generally are when they are converted. She went out of the place where she worked, a very large establishment — all you business men would know the firm by name, if I should name it — and she commenced talking of Christ to the other employees. Some of them did not like it, and they went to the head of the firm and said, " Miss So-and-So is constantly talking to us about Christ. We don't like it." They called her in and said, " We have no objection to Christianity, no objection to your being a Christian. It is a good thing, but you must not talk it around this establishment." " Very well," she said, "I won't work where I can't take Christ with me and talk for my Master." She had a family to support, an aged mother and other members of the family, and did not know where she was going — just converted from Judaism to Christianity. "Well, then," they said, "you will have to lose your position." " Very well," she said, " I will give up my position before I will be disloyal to Jesus Christ." " Very well," they said, " go back to your work." She went back to work. At the end of the week she got a letter from the firm. She said, " Here is my discharge," and she tore it open. The head of the establishment said, " We have a place of very large responsibility, with a much larger salary than you are getting. We think you are the woman for the place, and we offer it to you." They saw she could be trusted. Business men are looking for men and women whom they can trust.

Again, whoso trusteth in the Lord will be safe from danger of every kind. As we read in Rom. viii. 31: "If God be for us, who can be against us? " Oh, men will persecute you. Yes, they will ridicule you. They will do all they can to harm you. Jesus says in John xv. 20: " If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you." They will, but it won't do you any harm. Some people are frightened to death at being persecuted. Why, friends, it is one of the greatest privileges on earth for converts to be persecuted for Jesus Christ. What does Jesus say in Matt. v. 11, 12: "Blessed are ye when men shall revile you and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice " — not cry, not whine — " rejoice and be exceeding glad, for great is your reward in heaven." When we were in Ballarat in Australia there was an organised gang to break up our meeting. I had said some pretty plain things about dancing, like some I have said here to-night, and I had been invited to go to a " decent dance." I went, and it broke up the dance. They were ashamed to dance, and it broke up the club, and they never had but one dance after it. They regretted one invitation that they sent, anyhow. Well, the dancing element were pretty badly excited. If we could stop several hundred of you society people from dancing here in Birmingham, there would be a high time. I hope we have just such a high time. Well, this crowd organised to break up the meetings got away off in the far gallery. The very first night when they came there to break up the meetings the power of God came down, and the two ringleaders walked right up from that rear gallery the whole length of the hall, came down to the front, turned round, and said, " We accept Jesus Christ." The next day some friends of the ringleader of the two met him on the street, and knocked him down and pounded him to make him swear. But God had taken all the swearing out of him, and instead of swearing he wrote one of the most beautiful letters — not to me, but to a friend of his, who sent it to me — one of the most beautiful letters I ever saw in my life, about the joy of suffering for Jesus' sake. Men, they may persecute you. They may pound you, they may hound you, but they can't hurt you if you are right with God,

Once more, the man that trusts in the Lord is eternally safe. Jesus says in John x. 28, 29: "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand." If you trust in the Lord, God the Father Almighty's hand is underneath you and is round about you; Christ the Son's hand is over you and round about you, and there you are, in between the Almighty hand of God the Father and God the Son, and all the devils in hell can't get you.

Men, throw away your fear of man to-night. In place of it put trust in Jehovah. You compromising Christians throw away your compromise. Be out and out for God, clean, straight Christians for God. Throw away your guilty silence. Go to work to-night to bring others to Christ, and keep it up to-morrow, and the next day, and the next day. Throw away your guilty silence about unpopular truth, and declare the whole counsel of God, even though they say you are not up to date, because you tell the truth. And men and women who are rejecting Christ, throw away your fear, fear not what anybody says, but stand up and come right down to the front, accept Christ, and confess Him before the world to-night.

In the early days of Mr. Moody's work in Chicago there was a man in constant attendance at the services in the Tabernacle. He seemed for a long time to be on the point of decision for Christ. At last Mr. Moody went to him, and urged him very strongly to decide at once. He replied that he could not come out as a Christian. That there was a man with whom he was associated who would ridicule him, and he could not endure his ridicule. As Mr. Moody time after time kept urging upon him a decision, the man at last became irritated and ceased attending the church. Some months after, when the man had quite dropped out of sight, Mr. Moody received a very urgent call to go and see the man at once. He found him very ill, apparently dying, and in great anxiety about his soul. He was shown the way of life, and professed to accept Christ, and his soul seemed at rest. To every one's surprise, he took a turn for the better, and full recovery seemed sure. Mr. Moody called upon him, and found him sitting out of doors in the sunshine. "Now," said Mr. Moody, "that you have accepted Christ, and God has raised you up, you will certainly come out at once, and confess Him as soon as you are able to come to the Tabernacle." To Mr. Moody's astonishment the man replied, " No, not now. I don't dare come out in Chicago, but I am intending soon to remove to Michigan, and as soon as I get over there I will come out publicly and take my stand on the side of Christ." Mr. Moody told him that Christ could keep him in Chicago as well as in Michigan, but the man's fear of his friend held him back, and he refused to take his stand in Chicago. Mr. Moody left him greatly disappointed. Just one week from that day the man's wife called upon Mr. Moody and besought him to come at once and see her husband, that he had suffered a relapse, was worse than ever, and that a council of physicians: had agreed that there was no possibility of recovery. "Did he send for me to come?" asked Mr. Moody. " No; he says that he is lost, that there is no hope for him. He does not wish to see you or speak to you, but I cannot let him die in this way. You must come." Mr. Moody hastened to the house, and found the man in a state of utter despair. To all Mr. Moody's pleas for him to take Christ then and there he would reply that it was too late, that he was lost, that he had thrown away his day of opportunity, and that he could not be saved now. Mr. Moody said, " I will pray for you." " No," said the man, " don't pray for me. It is no use, I am lost. Pray for my wife and children. They need your prayers." Mr. Moody knelt down by his side and prayed, but the heavens above his head seemed brass. His own prayers did not seem to go higher than his head. He could not get hold of God for this man's salvation. When he arose the man said, " There, Mr. Moody, I knew that prayer would do no good, I am lost." With a heavy heart Mr. Moody left the house. All the afternoon the man kept repeating, " The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and I am not saved " (Jer. viii. 20). All the afternoon he kept repeating this text. Just as the sun was setting behind the western prairies the man passed away. In his last moment they heard him whispering, and leaning over to catch his words they heard him murmuring, "The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and J am not saved." Another soul went out into eternity unprepared, snared into eternal perdition by the fear of man. Oh, men and women, I beseech of you, throw away your fear of man, and put your trust in the Lord and be saved to-night.