Read 1 Cor. xv. 1
I shall take for my text the one word "gospel." I do not think there is a word in the English language that is so little understood in this Christian land of England as this very word "gospel." We have heard it from our earliest childhood up. There is not a day, and with many of us not an hour during the day, but that we hear the word "gospel." And yet, I say, a partaker of the gospel is a long time before he really knows the meaning of the word. It means "good tidings." I think it would do us good sometimes to get a dictionary and hunt up the meaning of some of the words we use so often; some of those Bible words, such as "gospel" and "Christ." I think it would change our ideas. I think this would be a very joyful meeting to-night, if every one really believed that the gospel is good news. Let a man or a boy bring a despatch into this audience and hand it to any one here, and if that brings good news you can see it immediately in the man's face; his face lights up when he opens the despatch. You can see he really believes it. And if it is really good news, if it brings him the tidings of a long-lost boy coming home, why, if his wife is sitting next to him, he passes the despatch to her; he wants her to have knowledge of it too. He does not wait for her to ask for it; he does not wait till they get home. So when I preach, those who really believe the gospel, if I am near enough to look into their eyes, I see their faces light up and they look remarkably sharp; but those who do not believe it put on a long face, and look as if you had brought them a death-warrant, or invited them to attend a funeral.
THE BEST NEWS IN THE WORLD.
No better news ever came out of heaven than the gospel. No better news ever fell upon the ears of the family of man than the gospel. Hark! hear those shepherds talking to one another after the angels had gone away. They believed the message, and they were full of joy. You can see them on the way now to Bethlehem. They said, "Let us go and see what has taken place." And what was the message that the angels brought to those shepherds? "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour." Now, if those shepherds had been like a good many people at the present time, they would have said, "We do not believe it is good news. It is all excitement. Those angels want to get up a revival. Those angels are trying to excite us. Don't you believe them." That is what Satan is saying now. "Don't you believe the gospel is good news." Because he knows the moment a man believes good news, he just receives it. I never saw a man in all my life that did not like good news. And every man and woman that is under the power of the devil does not believe the gospel is good news. The moment you are out from under his power and influence then you believe it. May God grant that the gospel may sink deep into your hearts, and that you may believe it and be saved.
It is the best news that ever came to this sin-cursed world. It means "Good spell," or, in other words, "God's spell." We are dead in trespasses and sin, and God wants us to be reconciled. It is a gospel of reconciliation, and God is shouting from the heights of glory, "Oh, ye men, I am reconciled, now be ye reconciled!" We have glorious news to tell you--God is reconciled and beseeches his subjects to be reconciled. The great apostle says, "We beseech you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God." The moment a man believes the gospel, down goes his arm of rebellion, and the unequal controversy is over. A light from Calvary crosses his path, and he can walk in unclouded sun, if he will. It is the privilege of every man and woman in this vast assembly from this hour to walk in unclouded sun if they will. What has brought darkness into the world? Darkness came because of sin, and the man who does not believe the gospel is blinded by the god of this world. Now I want to tell you why I like the gospel. It is because it has been the very best news I have ever heard. That is just the reason I like to preach it. Because it has done me so much good. I do not think a man can preach the gospel until he believes it himself. A man must know it down deep in his own heart before he can tell it out; and then he tells it out but very poorly at the best.
We are very poor ambassadors and messengers; but never mind the messenger, take hold of the message--that is what you want. If a boy brought me good news to-night, I would not care about the look of the boy; I would not care whether he was black or white, learned or unlearned. The message is what would do me good. A great many look at the messenger instead of the message. Never mind the messenger. My friends, get hold of the message to-night. The gospel is what saves, and what I want now is that you may believe the gospel now.
CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS.
Paul says in this fifteenth chapter of the 1st of Corinthians what the gospel is. He says, "I declare unto you the gospel." And the first thing he states in the declaration to these Corinthians is this: "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." That was the old-fashioned gospel. I hope we never will get away from it. I don't want anything but that old, old story. Some people have itching ears for something new. Bear in mind there is no new gospel. Christ died for our sins. If He did not, how are we going to get rid of them? Would you insult the Almighty by offering the fruits of this frail body to atone for sin? If Christ did not die for our sins, what is going to become of our souls? And then he goes on to tell that Christ was buried, and that Christ rose again.
He burst asunder the bands of death. Death could not hold Him. I can imagine, when they laid Him in Joseph's sepulchre, if our eyes could have been there, we should have seen Death sitting over that sepulchre, saying, "I have Him; He is my victim. He said He was the resurrection and the life. Now I have hold of Him in my cold embrace. Look at Him. There He is; He has had to pay tribute to me. Some thought He was never going to die. Some thought I would not get Him. But He is mine." But look again. The glorious morning comes, and the Son of man bursts asunder the bands of death, and came out of the sepulchre. We do not worship a dead God, but a Saviour who still lives. Yes, He rose from the grave; and then they saw Him ascend. That is what Paul calls the gospel. Not only Christ's death and burial, but His ascension into heaven. He went up and took His seat at the right hand of God, and He will come back again. The gospel consists of five things: Christ's death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coming again; for "I will come again," said He. Thanks be to God, He is coming back by and by. He will come and take the kingdom; He will sway His sceptre from the rivers to the ends of the earth. A little while and He shall rule and reign. Let us lift up our heads and rejoice that the time of our redemption draweth near.
Let us get back to the simple gospel--Christ died for our sins. We must know Christ at Calvary first, as
as our Redeemer; and the moment we accept of Him as our Saviour and our Redeemer, then it is that we become partakers of the gospel. The moment I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ as my substitute, as my Saviour, that moment I get light and peace. I know some people say, "Oh, it is not Christ's death, it is Christ's life. Do not be preaching so much about the death of Christ, preach about His life." My friends, that never will save any one. Paul says, "I declare unto you the gospel. Christ died"--not Christ lived--"Christ died for our sins," "who His own self bare our sins in His own body on the tree." Now, when I accept of Christ as my Saviour, as my Substitute, then I am justified from all things which I could not be by the law of Moses.
The reason I like the gospel is, that it has taken out of my path the worst enemies I ever had. My mind rolls back to twenty years ago, before I was converted, and I think very often how dark it used to seem at times as I thought of the future. There was death--what a terrible enemy it seemed! I was brought up in a little village in New England. It was the custom there when a person was buried to toll out the age of the man at his funeral. I used to count the strokes of the bell. Death never entered that village and tore away one of the inhabitants but I always used to count the tolling of the bell. Sometimes it would be away up to seventy, or between seventy and eighty; beyond the life allotted to man, when man seemed living on borrowed time when cut off. Sometimes it would be clear down in the teens, and childhood, and death would take away one of my own age. It used to make a solemn impression on me; I used to be a great coward. When it comes to death, some men say, "I do not fear it." I feared it, and felt terribly afraid when I thought of the cold hand of death feeling for the cords of life, and being launched out to eternity, to go to an unknown world. I used to have terrible thoughts of God; but they are all gone now. Death has lost its sting. And as I go on through the world I can shout now, when the bell is tolling, "O death, where is thy sting?" And I hear a voice come rolling down from Calvary, "Buried in the bosom of the Son of God." He robbed death of its sting; He took the sting of death into His own bosom. If you take a wasp, and just take the sting out of that wasp, you will not be afraid of it any more than you would of a little fly. The sting has been taken out. And you need not be afraid of death if you are in Christ. Christ died for your sin. The penalty, the wages of sin is death. Christ received the wages on Calvary, and therefore there is no condemnation. All that death can get now is this old Adam. I do not care how quickly I get rid of it. I will get a better body, a resurrected body, a glorified body, a body much better than this. Yes, my friends, "To die," says the apostle, "is gain."
THE FEAR OF DEATH.
If a man is in Christ, let death come. Suppose death should come stealing up into this pulpit, and should lay his cold, icy hand upon my heart, and it should cease to throb; I should rise to another world, and should be present with the King. I should be absent from the body, but present with the Lord. That is not bad news. There is no use in trying to conceal it, death is an enemy to a man's rest. What a glorious thought to think that when you die you will sink into the arms of Jesus, and that He will carry you away to yon world of light. A little while longer here, a few more tears, and then you can gain an unbroken rest in yon world of light. The gospel turns that enemy into a friend, and you even shout for death. Well, then, I used to go and look into the cold, silent grave, and I used to think of that terrible hour when I would have to be laid down in the grave, and this body would be eaten up with the worm. But now the grave has lost its terror and gloom; I can go and look down into the grave and shout over it, and cry out, "O grave, where is thy victory?" And I hear a shout coming up from the grave; it is the shout of the Conqueror, of Him who has been down and measured the depth of it, of my Lord and Saviour: "Because I live, ye shall live also." Yes, the grave has lost its victory. The grave has no terror to the man in Christ Jesus. The gospel takes that enemy out of the way.
SIN PUT AWAY.
Again, I thought all my sins would be blazed out before the great white throne; that every sin committed in childhood and in secret, and every secret thought, and every evil desire, would be blazed out before the assembled universe; that every thing done in the dark would be brought to light. But, thanks be to God, the gospel tells me my sins are all put away in Christ. Out of love to my soul, He has taken all my sins and cast them behind His back. That is a safe place to have sin, behind God's back. God never turns back; He always marches on. He will never see your sins if they are behind His back. That is one of His own illustrations. Out of love to my soul, He has taken all my sins upon Him; not a part. He takes them all out of the way. There is no condemnation to him that is in Christ Jesus. You may just pile up your sins till they rise up like a dark mountain, and then multiply them by ten thousand for those you cannot think of; and after you have tried to enumerate all the sins you have ever committed, just let me bring one verse in, and then that mountain will melt away--"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin." The blood covers the sin.
WHAT GOD CANNOT DO.
In Ireland, some time ago, a teacher asked a little boy if there was anything that God could not do, and the little fellow said, "Yes; He cannot see my sins through the blood of Christ." That is just what He cannot do. The blood covers them.
Is it not good news to get rid of your sin? You come here a sinner, and if you believe the gospel your sins are taken away. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." You shall be justified from all things, which you could not be by the law of Moses. By believing, or by receiving the gospel, Christ becomes yours. Only think, young man, you are invited to accept of the gospel, you are invited to make an exchange--to get rid of all your sins, and to take Christ in the place of them. Is not that wonderful? What a foolish young man you will be not to make the bargain. The Lord says, "I will take your sins, and give you Myself in the place of them." But a great many say, "No"; and just hug the sin to their bosom. May God help you to come up, sinner, to-night, and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your way, your truth, and your life.
There is another name which used to haunt me a good deal--
THE GREAT JUDGMENT-DAY.
I used to think that was a terrible day when I should be summoned before God, and could not tell till then whether I should have a seat on His right hand or on His left. Until I stood before the great white throne of judgment I could not tell whether I should hear the voice of God saying, "Depart from Me, ye cursed," or whether God would say, "Enter thou into the joy of the Lord." But the gospel tells me that question is already settled--"There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Listen to this verse--"Verily, verily"--and when you see that word "Verily, verily" in Scripture, you may know there is something very important coming; it means, "Mind what I tell you," or, "Truly, truly"--"Truly, truly, I say unto you, He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath [h-a-t-h, hath] everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation [that means, into judgment]; but is passed from death unto life." Well, now, I am not coming into judgment for sin. The question has been settled, because Christ was judged for me, and died in my stead, and I go free. Is not that good news?
I heard of a man praying the other day that I might lay hold of eternal life. I could not have said Amen to that. I laid hold of eternal life twenty years ago when I was converted. What is the gift of God if it is not eternal life? And that is what God wants to give to every one in this hall to-night, and it is the greatest gift that can be bestowed on any one down here in this dark world. If an angel came straight from the throne of God on to this platform, and proclaimed to this vast assembly that God had sent him here to offer to this audience any one thing they might ask, that each one should have his own petition granted, what would be the cry in this audience? There would be but one cry coming up from you, and the shout would make heaven ring--"Eternal life! eternal life!" Everything would float away into the dim past. There is not anything a man values more than his life. Let a man worth a million sterling be on a wrecked vessel, and if he could just save his life for six months by giving that million, he would give it in an instant. The gift of God is eternal life; and is it not one of the greatest marvels that we have to stand and plead, and pray men to take this gift. May God help you to take it now. Do not listen to Satan any longer. Reach out the hand of faith and take it now. Young man, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Trust Him to save you now, and then there will be no condemnation. Death will have lost his sting, the grave and its victory will be safe out of the way, and the judgment will be past for you. Believe the gospel. Lay hold of eternal life while God is offering it to you. Be reconciled to-night. Take your stand hard by the cross, and you are saved for time and eternity. I am told that at Rome, if you go up a few steps on your hands and knees, that is nine years out of purgatory. If you take one step now you are out of purgatory for time and eternity. You used to have two steps into glory--out of self into Christ, out of Christ into glory. But there is a shorter way now with only one step--out of self into glory, and you are saved. May God help you to take the step now! Flee, my friends, to-night to Calvary, and get under the shadow of the cross.
THE FIRE ON THE PRAIRIE.
Out in our western country, in the autumn, when men go hunting, and there has not been for months any rain, sometimes the prairie grass catches fire, and there comes up a very strong wind, and the flames just roll along twenty feet high over that western desert, and go at the rate of thirty or forty miles an hour, consuming man and beast. When the hunters see it coming, what do they do? They know they cannot run as fast as the fire can run. Not the fleetest horse can escape from that fire. They just take a match and light the grass around them, and let the flames sweep, and then they get into the burnt district and stand safe. They hear the flames roar as they come along, they see death coming towards them, but they do not fear, they do not tremble, because the fire has swept over the place where they are, and there is no danger. There is nothing for the fire to burn. There is one mountain peak that the wrath of God has swept over--that is, Mount Calvary, and that fire spent its fury upon the bosom of the Son of God. Take your stand here by the cross, and you will be safe for time and eternity. Escape for your life; flee to yon mountain, and you are saved this very minute. Oh, may God bring you to Calvary under the shadow of the cross now! Then let death and the grave come. You will shout, "Glory to God in the highest." We will laugh at death and glory in the grave, and just know this, that we are safe, sheltered by the precious blood of the Lamb. There is no condemnation to him that is in Christ Jesus.
God is coming down and beseeching you to take the pardon. Every man and woman here has broken the law, and he that has broken the least of the laws is guilty of all. I am sure I am not talking to one man or woman in this audience to-night who can say they have not broken the law.
"NOW AND TO-MORROW."
You have all sinned and come short of the glory of God, but God comes, and says, "I will pardon you. Come now, and let us reason together." "Now" is one of the words of the Bible the devil is afraid of. He says, "Do not be in a hurry; there is plenty of time; do not be saved now." He knows the influence of that word "now." "To-morrow" is the devil's word. The Lord's word is "now." God says, "Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Scarlet and crimson are two fast colours; you cannot get the colour out without destroying the garment. God says, "Though your sins be as scarlet and crimson, I will make them as wool and snow. I will do it." That is the way God reasons. He puts the pardon in the face of the sinner the first thing. That is a queer way of reasoning, but God's thoughts are not our thoughts; and so, my friends, if you want to be saved, the Lord says He will pardon you.
THE GOVERNOR IN THE CONDEMNED CELL.
A few years ago, when Pennsylvania had a Christian governor, there was a young man down in one of the counties who was arrested for murder. He was brought before the court, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. His friends thought there would be no trouble in getting a reprieve or pardon. Because the governor was a Christian man, they thought he would not sign the death-warrant. But he signed it. They called on the governor, and begged of him to pardon the young man. But the governor said, "No, the law must take its course, and the man must die." I think the mother of the young man called on the governor and pleaded with him, but the governor stood firm, and said, "No, the man must die." A few days before the man was executed, the governor took the train to the county where the man was imprisoned. He went to the sheriff of the county, and said to him, "I wish you to take me to that man's cell, and leave me alone with him a little while, and do not tell him who I am till I am gone." The governor went to the prison, and talked to the young man about his soul, and told him that although he was condemned by man to be executed, God would have mercy upon him and save him, if he would accept pardon from God. He preached Christ, and told him how Christ came to seek and to save sinners; and having explained as he best knew how the plan of salvation, he got down and prayed, and after praying he shook hands with him and bade him farewell. Some time after the sheriff passed by the condemned man's cell, and he called him to the door of the cell, and said, "Who was that man that talked and prayed with me so kindly?" The sheriff said, "That was Governor Pollock." The man turned deathly pale, and he threw up both his hands, and said, "Was that Governor Pollock? was that kind-hearted man the governor? Oh, sheriff, why did you not tell me? If I had known that was the governor, I would have fallen at his feet and asked for pardon; I would have pleaded for pardon and for my life. Oh, sir, the governor has been here, and I did not know it."
Sinner, I have got good news to tell you. There is one greater than the governor here to-night, and He wants to pardon every one. He does not want you to go away condemned. He wants to bring you from under condemnation; to pardon every soul. Will you have the pardon, or will you despise the gift of God? Will you despise the mercy of God? Oh, this night, while God is beseeching you to be reconciled, let me join with your praying mother, with your praying father, with your godly minister, with your Sabbath-school teacher, and all your praying friends; let me join my voice with theirs to plead with you to-night to be reconciled. Make up your mind now, while I am speaking, that you will not cross your threshold until you are reconciled, and there will be joy in heaven to-night over your decision. Oh, may God bring hundreds to a decision to-night!
An Englishman told me some time ago a little story of reconciliation, which illustrates this truth. We want to preach the gospel of reconciliation; the good news that God is reconciled. God does not say He can do, but that He has done it. You must accept what He has done. The story is this: There was an Englishman who had an only son; and only sons are often petted, and humoured, and ruined. This boy became very headstrong, and very often he and his father had trouble. One day they had a quarrel, and the father was very angry, and so was the son; and the father said he wished the boy would leave home and never come back. The boy said he would go, and would not come into his father's house again till he sent for him. The father said he would never send for him. Well, away went the boy. But when a father gives up a boy, a mother does not. You mothers will understand that, but the fathers may not. You know there is no love on earth so strong as a mother's love. A great many things may separate a man and his wife; a great many things may separate a father from a son; but there is nothing in the wide world that can ever separate a true mother from her child. To be sure, there are some mothers that have drunk so much liquor that they have drunk up all their affection. But I am talking about a true mother; and she would not cast off her boy.
A MOTHER'S AFFECTION.
Well, this mother began to write and plead to the boy to write to his father first, and his father would forgive him; but the boy said, "I will never go home till father asks me." She pleaded with the father, but the father said, "No, I will never ask him."
At last the mother was brought down to her sickbed, broken-hearted, and when she was given up by the physicians to die, the husband, anxious to gratify her last wish, wanted to know if there was not anything he could do for her before she died. The mother gave him a look; he well knew what it meant. Then she said, "Yes, there is one thing you can do, you can send for my boy. That is the only wish on earth you can gratify. If you do not pity him and love him when I am dead and gone, who will?" "Well," said the father, "I will send word to him that you want to see him." "No," she says, "you know he will not come for me. If ever I see him you must send for him." At last the father went to his office and wrote a despatch in his own name, asking the boy to come home. As soon as he got the invitation from his father, he started off to see his dying mother. When he opened the door to go in he found his mother dying and his father by the bedside. The father heard the door open, and saw the boy, but instead of going to meet him he went to another part of the room, and refused to speak to him. His mother seized his hand--how she had longed to press it! She kissed him, and then said, "Now, my son, just speak to your father. You speak first, and it will all be over." But the boy said, "No, mother, I will not speak to him until he speaks to me." She took her husband's hand in one hand and the boy's in the other, and spent her dying moments and strength in trying to bring about a reconciliation. Just as she was expiring she could not speak, so she put the hand of the wayward boy into the hand of the father, and passed away. The boy looked at the mother, and the father at the wife; and at last the father's heart broke, and he opened his arms, and took that boy to his bosom, and by that body they were reconciled. Sinner, that is only a faint type, a poor illustration, because God is not angry with you. God gives you Christ, and I bring you to-night to the dead body of Christ. I ask you to look at the wounds in His hands and feet, and the wound in His side. My friends, gaze upon His five wounds. And I ask you, "Will you not be reconciled?" When He left heaven, He went clear down to the manger that He might get hold of the vilest sinner, and put the hand of the wayward prodigal into that of the Father, and He died that you and I might be reconciled. If you take my advice, you will not go out of this hall to-night until you are reconciled. "Be ye reconciled." Oh, this gospel of reconciliation! My friends, come home to-night. Your Father wants you to come. Say as the prodigal did of old, "I will arise and go to my father," and there will be joy in heaven.