The Two Brothers
James Smith, 1856
Thomas Ford is one of those young men whom the Lord has called by his grace, and made happy in the knowledge of Christ. He was once as fond of carnal pleasure as any young man in the city, and enjoyed sin as much as any one can enjoy it. Was there a party or a dance — he was sure to be there! And often in the tap-room of 'The Red Lion' he raised the loud laugh, and sang the merry song. The company of Thomas Ford was much sought after, and by many enjoyed.
But he left his native home to reside in a distant town. Here he was led to hear the gospel, and that gospel was made the power of God unto his salvation. The preacher testified of "repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." He felt that he must repent — or perish; that he must believe in the Lord Jesus Christ — or be eternally undone. He thought of his past life — and felt condemned. He looked into his heart, saw corruption there — and was persuaded that he was lost. His spirits sunk. His gaiety left him. He sought to be alone. He read his Bible. He bowed his knees in private prayer. He cried to God for mercy. He pleaded hard for the forgiveness of his past sins.
For some time his heart remained hard, and his eye refused a tear. Oh, how he longed to weep before God — but he could not. How he tried to bow his soul in submission of God's sovereignty — but he could not. At length one day, as he was musing over his lost state, and condoling with himself, the words flowed into his mind, "Christ has once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God." His attention was riveted; the scenes of Gethsemane and Calvary passed before the eye of his mind; and it was as if a voice whispered to him, "For you, he suffered; and for you, he died!"
Immediately his hard heart gave way, tears began to flow, love to Jesus sprung up, and he realized that he was a pardoned man. Now he felt truly sorry for his sins; now he cast his soul on the Lord Jesus Christ. He understood what repentance unto life meant, and what faith in our Lord Jesus Christ is. His hard heart was broken. His rebellious will gave way. Repentance was easy. Faith seemed almost natural. He really enjoyed weeping over his sins, and at the cross of his crucified Lord. He trusted his soul in the hands of Jesus alone, to be saved fully, freely, and eternally! He mourned for sin, exercised confidence in Christ, and was at peace with God.
The heart of Thomas Ford was now filled with love to Jesus, and he felt intense desire to be useful to his fellow-sinners, especially to his own relatives, and the inhabitants of his native town, many of whom he had either led into sin, or confirmed in their evil courses. With this view, he visited them, spoke to them, told them his own happy experience, and fully expected they would believe and live. But some laughed at him, some made sport of what he said, some avoided him, some thought he was going mad; while some heard all he said — but felt nothing.
Among the latter was his brother William, a good-natured, good-tempered sort of fellow, who would assent to anything that was reasonable — and yet continue to go on in his old course. At length, when Thomas was about to leave, as he bade his friends farewell, he took his brother William by the hand, and with deep emotion said, "William, prepare to meet God!" William appeared touched, and as he squeezed the hand of his brother said, "There is nothing like Christ."
William returned to his house, thought for a little while of what Thomas had said — and then sank down into his former state. In that state he still remains — careless, indifferent, and unconcerned. If anyone talks to him of the gospel, he never opposes — but assents to all that is said, exciting hope — only to disappoint it. He professes to approve the good — but evidently prefers the bad. Thus he lives without prayer, though he occasionally attends public worship, and now and then reads a chapter in the Bible. But as to repentance toward God, or faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, he remains an entire stranger to them. Thomas writes to him, sends him Christian tracts, and sometimes has hope for him; but "hope deferred makes the heart sick."
Oh, how many there are like William Ford! Go where we will — we find them. They will not openly reject the gospel — nor do they heartily receive it. They do not controvert the truth — nor sincerely embrace it. They assent to everything — but are not savingly affected by anything. These seem to be some of the most hopeless characters — for you can make no impression on them.
Reader, do you not know some such? If you are an observer of human nature, I have no doubt that you do. Are you one yourself? Do you, like William Ford, seem to approve of the gospel, acquiesce in all that is said to you by the Lord's people — and yet remain without deep, heartfelt sorrow for sin? If so, let me beseech you to consider the words of our blessed Lord, "Except you repent — you shall all likewise perish." How many of such have perished — and what multitudes are in danger of perishing now!
What is it for a soul to perish? Is it not to be cut off from God, to be banished into eternal torments, and to be deprived of hope forever? Yes, yes it is! Oh, if your soul should perish! But it will — except you repent. Jesus has twice affirmed it in one chapter, and if you live and die impenitent — you will prove the truth of it. Do you hear of Christ — and yet live without faith in Christ? If so, salvation to you is an impossibility, for Jesus has said, "Whoever does not believe — shall be damned!" Can these words be more certain? "Shall be damned!" Can words be more plain? "Whoever does not believe — shall be damned!" What can be more awful? and yet what is more true?
Oh beware of the easy, unconcerned state into which William Ford has sunk! There are multitudes in that state besides him, and to such the words of our Lord and Savior are applicable, "Truly, I say unto you, publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before these." You have a little space left, a little more time is given you, and given you for what? That you may flee from the wrath to come. That you may enter in at the strait gate. That you may receive God's unspeakable gift. That you may labor for the food which endures unto everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give unto you. But if you trifle with God's mercy, if you despise your own soul, if you allow the time of your visitation to pass unimproved — how will you face death and eternity? How will you meet God? What will you say when he shall punish you forever? Let me affectionately beseech you, at parting, to consider seriously one scriptural question. Oh, that God would apply it to your soul: "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?" How, oh, how will you escape? You cannot, you cannot; you will be lost forever! Run, then, to the Lord at once; seek mercy while mercy is to be found; nor ever rest, until you realize that you are "saved in the Lord, with an everlasting salvation."