James Smith, 1856
The sovereignty of Divine grace, and the freeness of God's mercy — often shine forth very conspicuously, in the salvation of poor sinners. I have met with a case lately, the outline of which I will give, as illustrating my statement.
Henry Thompson was brought up in a Sunday school — but when he went out into the world, all the good impressions he had received there wore off, and falling into the company of infidel companions, he embraced their infidel notions. This naturally led him deeper into sin. He was a drunkard, a swearer, in a word — a profane person. He went on in this course until he became reckless; he squandered his earnings at the alehouse, and sunk as low as he well could. His last drunken bout was in company with a soldier, who shortly after, suddenly dropped down and died.
In consequence of riotous conduct, Thompson spent most of one Lord's-day in the Police Station, where, in consequence of the wretchedness he felt, he planned self-destruction, and made all the arrangements necessary in his own mind to carry his horrid purpose into execution. But, to his surprise, before he could accomplish his purpose, someone bailed him out, and his purpose was frustrated. But his wretchedness was such, that life had become a burden, and therefore he was determined to put an end to his existence. Another plan was formed, and different means fixed upon to terminate a wretched life. But the Lord again interfered. A Christian man whom he hated, and whom he thought hated him, met with him, spoke to him, diverted him from his purpose, took him to his own home, read to him, and at length induced him to bow his stubborn knees at the throne of grace, where prayer was made for him.
He returned to his own home in the evening, as unhappy as he well could be, and at length sunk down into black despair. In this state he remained until the following Lord's-day morning, when his friend called upon him, and said, "I have brought you something to read," handing him a gospel tract. He took it, and when his friend left him, and as he opened the paper, a question met his eye headed, "Can I be saved?" He was struck. It was the very question he wanted to have answered. Never did thirsty traveler make more haste to reach the spring of water, or the hungry beggar to eat the offered food — than poor Henry did to peruse this article.
He read with intense interest until he came to these
"But I imagine I hear you say, 'I have been such a great sinner.'
He is able to save to the uttermost!
'But my sins are so numerous, and they rise up between
God and my soul.'
He says, 'I, even I, am he who blots out your sins a cloud, and your iniquities as a thick cloud.'
'But my sins are of such an aggravated nature, of so deep
If they were a thousand fold more than they are — if they were ten thousand times more aggravated still — the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.'"
As he read this last sentence, hope sprung up in his mind. The darkness began to disperse. The horrors of despair fled. He felt tranquillized. He finished the piece, and went on his knees. He could pray. He was a new creature. That night he came to the house of God, and felt such an interest in the worship and Word of God as he had never felt before. He enjoyed peace. His former practices were forsaken. His old connections were broken off. New associations were formed. The service of God became his delight. The people of God were his companions. The prayer-meetings were especially prized by him; and as he had done much for Satan — he now began to try to do something for God.
Toward the end of the year his health failed — but God was with him. On new year's morning he was so far recovered as to be able to meet with the Lord's people at the early prayer-meeting, and that was to him a prayer-meeting indeed! He went home from service, thirsting for closer communion with God. He retired to pray alone, and while in prayer the Lord manifested himself, in a way of which he had before formed no conception. He was overwhelmed with a sense of the Divine presence. Heaven seemed to be let down into his heart. He was melted. He was overwhelmed with the presence of God. Now he understood that text, "He who believes has the witness in himself."
He was in a new world. Old things were passed away, and behold all things were become new. The lion — is turned into a lamb. The wretched infidel — is now a happy believer. The man to whom life was a burden — is now enjoying the blessings of this life, and the prospects of that which is to come. He has turned his back upon the world. He has publicly professed his faith in Christ. He has a place at the Lord's table, and a name among the Lord's people. He may now be seen distributing tracts in the town, or accompanying the village preacher on his errands of mercy, to tell the poor villagers of a Savior's love. He is ready to every good work, and like the eunuch of old, he goes on his way rejoicing.
Reader, how sovereign is the grace of God: one was taken and the other left! The soldier died in his sins — but to Henry was given repentance unto life. If grace had not been sovereign, both would have been left. If mercy had not been free, Henry would never have obtained it. Sovereignty always takes the side of mercy. It is always the sinner's friend. Sovereignty never sent a soul to Hell, or punished a sinner upon earth. It is justice that does this. If man quarrels with God at all, it should be with his justice. But to wish God not to be just, or not to do justly — is to desire to transform him into a monster of iniquity.
Reader, are you a converted man? If so, you can only trace your conversion to the sovereign grace of God. You did not deserve to be converted. You had no claim upon God to convert you. He did so of pure grace; and in doing so, he displayed the excellency of his nature and disposition.
Reader, are you an unconverted sinner? An openly profane sinner? Are you a drunken, swearing infidel? Are you sunk so low, that life is a burden to you? Does Satan whisper that there is no hope, and tempt you to self-destruction? Believe him not! Yield not to his solicitations! Mercy is free. It is free for the vilest sinners! It is free for you. The mercy that Henry Thompson found — you may find. God is plenteous in mercy unto all who call upon him, therefore if you call upon him he has plenty of mercy for you.
No case can be desperate while the Divine testimony is, "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin." The greatest sin you can commit now, is to reject Christ, to refuse the mercy of God, and give yourself up either to sin or despair. God is willing to pardon you, Christ is ready to save you, the Spirit lovingly speaks to you, the servants of God plead with you, and all in Heaven are ready to welcome you. There is nothing in God's heart, there is nothing in God's Word — to discourage you. "All things are ready!" Come to the Savior. Come, and your heart shall be made happy. Come, and your nature shall be made holy. Come, and Heaven shall be your own!