A Fearful Confession!
James Smith, 1864
I was reading the other day of a Christian man, who went to visit a poor creature who was suffering on the borders of eternity, and he asked him, "Do you think that Christ can save you?" He replied, "I believe he can — but I will not ask him."
There is something very dreadful in this reply, because it displays such rebellion and enmity against the Lord Jesus. The sinner was perishing — he was within a few steps of the burning lake, where he must suffer the just wrath of God for ever; there was one who could save him, and but one; he knew this — and yet he deliberately said, "I will not ask him."
How very few would have the hardihood to say this with the mouth — and yet how many, how very many say it by their conduct. They admit that they need salvation, that the Lord Jesus Christ can save them — and yet they will not ask him. They know that they must die, that they may die suddenly and soon, that if Jesus does not save them, they are lost for ever — yet they will not ask him. They hope to be saved some time and some how, and they hope that the Lord Jesus will save them — but they will not ask him.
Reader, how is it with you? You must live. You must live forever, for your soul can never die. You must live in glorious happiness — or in dreadful suffering. Your state in eternity depends on your course in time. If you perish — it will be for your sins. If you are saved — it will be by God's free grace. If you are saved by grace — it must be by the Lord Jesus Christ, for there is no other name under Heaven, given among men, whereby we can be saved. Salvation is by the Lord Jesus Christ exclusively.
He is able to save, for he has made an atonement for sin, he has satisfied the claims of justice, he has honored the law of God, and has removed every impediment out of the way of our access to God and acceptance with God.
He is willing to save, and saving sinners gratifies the love of his benevolent heart. There is not a sinner to be found, who can say, that he applied — and the Lord Jesus refused to save him.
But there are thousands in Hell at this moment, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire, who believed that he could save them — but they would not ask him. Is not this a fearful thought? Is it not a striking proof of the truth of the Apostle's statement, "the carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be!"
There are thousands upon earth also displaying the same opposition to God. Many of them sit under the preaching of the gospel, appear to pay close attention to the preacher, and talk about religion, sermons, preachers, and religious people — they know that Jesus can save them, they admit that they need salvation — and yet they never ask him!
Now what I want to get at is this: Do you believe that the Lord Jesus can save you? Are you willing to be saved by him? Have you asked him to save you? When did you begin to do so? Why did you begin to do so? How did you ask him? Are you now saved by him? Few questions can be more important than these. Will you seriously and solemnly attend to them for a few moments? I see not how you can be better employed.
When did you, for the first time, go upon your knees, feeling that you were a poor, lost sinner; sensible that if you are not saved by the Lord Jesus, you must perish forever — and ask him as a great favor, of his mere mercy, to save you? Can you recollect the time when, the place where, and the circumstances under which you did so? Or, is there no such period in your history? Is there no spot on God's earth where you bowed the knee to seek salvation from the wrath to come? If there is not, your case is sad, very sad. To have lived so long, in the midst of so many dangers and diseases, exposed to death every moment, knowing that death is introductory to judgment — and yet never to have bowed the knee to seek the pardon of sin, and ask the Son of God to save you — is sufficient evidence that you are in a most fearful state.
But if you have asked for salvation, Why did you seek it at the hands of Jesus? Was it because he is appointed of God to save, because he is the one great sacrifice for sin, because only he can save you — and honor the law and government of God in doing so? Did you see that there was salvation in none other? That he was just suited to your case? That he was worthy of your trust and confidence? That you must be saved by him — or perish everlastingly? If with a burden of guilt on your conscience, if with sin staring you in the face, if with the fear of Hell working in your soul, if from a secret power operating in your heart — you have asked the Lord Jesus to save you — happy are you, for he will never refuse you.
But how did you ask him? Did you feel at a loss for words? Did you sigh, groan, and cry in secret before him? Did you persevere in your application though beset with fears, tempted to doubt, and often ready to conclude that your petition would be refused? Did your heart go with your words when you could use any, or with your sighs and groans when you could not? Did you plead like a criminal for pardon, a hungry man for food, or a condemned malefactor for his life? Did you feel that you must have salvation — or perish, and therefore could not give up?
Did you search the Scriptures to see what the Lord had said for your encouragement there, and then go and plead each word of encouragement before him again? Are you saved by him? Have you any assurance of your sins being pardoned? Have you ever been able to call God your Father, to feel that his anger is turned away from you, and to bless him for sending his Son into the world to save sinners? Do you know what it is for the Spirit of God to bear witness with your spirit — that you are a child of God?
Are you walking with God, and looking upon death as going home to be forever with God?
Or, to return to our starting point, are you one who can say, "I know that Christ can save me;" but who must add, "I have never asked him?" This is sad, very sad — but it would be still worse if you were to say with the poor creature whose words led to these remarks, "I will not ask him." Not ask him — then do you not deserve to perish? If salvation is to be had for asking for, for seeking, and you will not ask or seek — can you complain if the Lord should say, "Then take your own course, have your own choice — and perish in your obstinacy and enmity!"
But perhaps you are ready to exclaim, "God forbid that I should ever say that!" But suppose you do not say it — and yet act as though you did, where is the difference? The lips may not utter the words — but the heart is under the influence of the idea, for the life is but the exposition of the thoughts and purposes of the heart. O my dear friend, think, think of going to Hell, and languishing forever there under the terrible but just wrath of a holy God, and to be tormented to all eternity by devils and lost souls, who pointing to you say, "He knew that Christ could save him — but he would not ask him!" and for conscience eternally to echo, "he would not ask him!"