I Won't Be Forced!
James Smith, 1859
"Well, John, were you hearing the gospel yesterday?"
"No, I work hard all the week, and I like to enjoy myself a bit on Sundays."
"Enjoy yourself; but do you think there is no enjoyment in religion?"
"I don't know, I never found any, and I have no mind to try. I like to have my liberty."
"Liberty, John; but don't you know that the God who made you placed you under a law — and that you are bound to obey that law? Now, that law requires you to love God, to worship Him, and to please Him in everything you do."
"Well, if it does, I am sure I have never troubled myself much about it, nor do I feel disposed to do so."
"This is a very sad confession, John, nor can you possibly justify such conduct. You acknowledge by what you say, that your whole life has been a life of sin; and God's Word says, "the soul that sins — it shall die." Not only shall the body die — but the soul shall die. That is, it shall be separated from God, excluded from Heaven, and be shut up in Hell with devils and damned souls!"
"That would be very terrible; but then, God is merciful — and he will not be hard with a poor working man."
"True, God is merciful, and to prove this, he gave his own Son to live and to die for sinners, so that he may justly pardon them, when they apply to him for forgiveness. And not only so — but he has sent his gospel, to inform such sinners as you are, that he is ready to forgive, and waits to be gracious; and if you believe his Word, trust in what his beloved Son has done, and apply to him for pardon — then your sins will be forgiven, and your soul saved. Now tell me, John, was it not great love in God, not to spare his Son — that he may spare sinners; and to send a message to sinners, who cared nothing about him, offering sinners a pardon and everlasting life? And ought you not very gladly to receive that message, and apply for that pardon immediately?"
"I see what you are at — but I won't be forced against my will, depend upon it. If I think it right to be religious — I will; and if I don't think it right — I won't! I'll act for myself."
"I have no wish to force you, John, I only want to convince you of what is right, and to set before you God's great love. But if God has given you a law — and you will break it; and if God offers you a pardon — and you won't have it; can you then complain — if God punishes you as an obstinate sinner?
You say you will not be forced, and depend upon it God won't force you; if he saves you — he will save you as a man, and not as a brute beast. You must see your lost state as a sinner, and believe in God's love to sinners, and doing so, come to the Lord Jesus in simple faith, and be saved by him. If you do not — then there is but one alternative, you must be lost, and lost forever. O, John, Hell is a dreadful place — to be damned is a terrible doom — and then it is forever! Yes, the worm that torments you — will never die; and the fire that punishes you — will never be quenched. Oh, that I could convince you of your danger, lead you to Jesus, and see you happy in his salvation!"
"Your wishes are all very good, and I have no doubt you mean well — but I must act for myself, I don't intend to be frightened, nor do I intend to be forced; so goodbye."
"Good bye, John; I am glad I have spoken to you, I shall now pray for you, nor do I despair of seeing you a humble, happy Christian yet."