To knock was now unnecessary; the cottage-door stood open; the visit was expected, and I was welcome. But thus it had not always been. Once that door was closed; and the knock, though repeated, had failed to evoke a response, and I had moved away in quest of doors and hearts that might be open. Now all was changed; and taking the open door as an index to an opened heart, I confidently entered the clean little house, and soon found myself seated at the long table which stood in front of the window, and on which there lay a Bible ready for me to use and explain, according to the need of the two, who sat beside me, eager to hear the Word of life.
The Spirit of God had been working in their souls, had created a feeling of insecurity, had shown that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags,” had produced deep conviction of sin, and a profound desire for mercy. Blessed and all important work—the sine-qua-non of divine life in the soul—the pre-requisite of vital Christianity, without which there cannot possibly be pardon, peace, or glory. “Except ye repent,” said the Lord Jesus Christ, “ye shall all likewise perish,” and this matter of full, honest, thorough self-judgment is the badge, stamp, and token of divine life within.
Let me enforce this truth; let me call your most serious and attentive consideration, dear reader, to this fact, that the knowledge of God pre-supposes judgment of self. Think not that because you may be morally better than your neighbours, you can therefore slip the truth of repentance. They “have sinned,” and, so have you! They have “come short of the glory of God,” and so have you! Their hearts are “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked,” and so is yours! Be not offended by this classification, nor deem me mistaken in your case. Four words in the third chapter of Romans settle it beyond all controversy—“There is no difference.” This is the conclusion of the Spirit of God Himself. Humbling, sweeping, unsparing it is, but fearfully true.
In the sight of man there may be, and certainly there is, a difference, but in that of God there is absolutely none! “For” He adds, “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (May I refer you to the case of Nicodemus in John 3—the case of Paul in Philippians 3, and 1 Timothy 1—the case of the prophet Isaiah in his sixth chapter, and that of Job in chapter 40.) To convince of sin is the primary work of the Spirit of God; such conviction leads to repentance; and the best of men by human reckoning must learn and own that they stand on the same spiritual level as the worst, by the divine. This lesson had been learned by the two inmates of the cottage. They had found that their morality and good character were of no value in the matter of salvation—nay, that their good works were only “splendid sins” in the sight of a thrice holy God, and the consciousness of this made them long for mercy—sheer sovereign mercy, at His gracious hands.
What a moment for the carrier of good news! “John,” I said, “Is all well at last? Are the clouds departed?” “No sir!” said he. This was evident from the poor sad face of the speaker. He felt his burden of unpardoned sins, and like many others awaited a changed feeling. He thought that peace was the result of an inward experience, instead of that of the cross of Christ. A common mistake. Peace was made by the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20), made there once and for ever to the satisfaction of all the claims of divine righteousness, and is now had and enjoyed by faith, and not feeling. “Being justified by faith we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1).
Albeit, there surely is the feeling of inexpressible gratitude as the consequence of deliverance by the finished work of Christ. But it is faith in Christ and not feeling in myself that gives me peace with God. How the soul must be driven from refuge to refuge till it rests on Christ alone! “Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”
“John,” again I said, “does the Lord except you? Does He shut you out from that blessed statement? Would He cast you out if you came to Him?” After a pause of deep meditation John made answer—“No, He would not cast me out.” “Then will you come to Him? will you trust Him now?” Another pause, and then slowly and solemnly, “I will.” Enough! Each refuge abandoned, each shelter vacated, Christ alone, according to the authority of His precious word, was trusted, and the longed-for peace enjoyed through the simple act of trusting Him. I turned the open Bible back to Psalm 2, and read, “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him,” and that verse I marked as the sheet anchor of the faith of this new-born soul. Sweet anchorage! “The wind blows where it lists, so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
This wonderful transition took place in the hearing, and under the observation of the young wife to whom now I turned, and as I looked, I saw the tear of anxiety moisten her eye. And no wonder. To witness a miracle—and such is every true conversion—to see, in the calm presence of God, under the operation of the word and Spirit, a soul “pass from death unto life,” and yet feel that one has no part in such an experience, is enough to make one weep. And she wept. No doubt the thought of the eternal separation that might and would occur, did she remain unconverted, added its own weight at this awfully solemn crisis. But the moment had come for her conversion too. Oh, the grace that binds hearts together in time as well as in eternity. I turned to Revelation 3:20, a passage which I felt quite free to use in such a case. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and sup with him, and he with me.”
“Who speaks these words?” I asked.
“Jesus,” she replied.
“Where does He stand?”
“At the door of my heart.”
“What is He doing?”
“He is knocking.”
“What does He say?”
“‘If any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.’”
“Do you hear His voice?”
“Will you open the door of your heart, and make Him welcome?”
“That is, you trust Him alone?”
“Now I gave your husband Psalm 2, you shall have a similar passage from Jeremiah 17:7, ‘Blessed is the man that trusts in the Lord.’” Glorious declaration! Blessedness is the portion of that man who “trusts in the Lord!” And in order to find how far there was intelligence in the word of God, I said to her, “Can you tell me what he has who believes on the Son of God?”
“Everlasting life,” was the answer.
“Then do you believe on the Son of God?”
“And what have you got?”
And the tears, and the weeping, and the burden, and the sins all were gone together.
“When last I called, your cottage door was closed, I knocked and knocked again, and wearied of waiting I passed away. Not so did the Lord. He stood and continued knocking at your heart until this day. On the present occasion, when I came, I found the door open; I entered, and was made welcome. And so in His patient love has the Lord at last found the door of your heart open, and has come in to sup with you, and you with Him. What a guest; and how infinitely worthy of a life of complete surrender to Him, after all His deep eternal love to us.”
Reader, would you not know this blessedness? Will you not welcome this patient Saviour, who for long has knocked, in various ways, at your door? The last knock will sound one day; and the retrospect of your obduracy will be the bitterest ingredient in the cup of your endless sorrow.