I am well aware, reader, that you may be such a one as would feel almost insulted by having a gospel book put into your hand. You may consider the preaching of Christ a little antiquated for today, and you may believe yourself beyond the possibility of being affected by the report of a glorified Saviour. I need hardly say that I would fain hope you have over-estimated the impregnable nature of the fortress of your unbelief, and that through the mercy of God you may be found capable of receiving divine impressions. It would be both cowardly and cruel of me did I, when well acquainted with your terrible condition and with the only and sure remedy, turn away from you and leave you to perish, simply because I feared to offend you. As I do not wish to be either cruel or cowardly, I venture to put before you the state in which you are, and to call up a few witnesses, whose veracity you cannot question, to prove the charge.
Your case is this: you are a slave of sin. Do not be angry. Do not throw away this paper. It cannot injure you to hear all that I have to say on the subject. Hear me to the close. I will call the witnesses who will testify to the truth of the charge, and you will not be able to gainsay their testimony. Sin has the mastery over you; you serve it. That is to say, you are a sinner.
The first witness I shall call is your own conscience. It accuses you and makes you a poor coward who can never come out of your hiding-place. You are not peculiar to other people in this; but I am not dealing with other people at present, but with you. Neither God nor man are you ready to meet. You would not care to go over, in the holy presence of God, the details of your life; and the bare idea of that life being manifested and exposed in all its naked reality before your fellow-men would fill you with horror. You are glad your neighbour does not know as much about your inner life as you do yourself, and you do not wish him to know any more than he does. Why is this? Because you are conscious it would not be to your credit. If you were sure that everything you have done, and every thought and every counsel of your heart was just what it ought to be, you would be glad to be manifested before the world, that all might see what an excellent man you are. But you know it is not so, and hence you would desire to hide yourself from the scrutiny both of God and man. This you will not always be able to do.
The second witness I shall call is your neighbour. He puts you down in his mind as a man not to be absolutely trusted. Is it because he does not know you? No, it is because he does. He may think you the most honest and upright man in the whole world, but he refuses to put himself unreservedly into your hands in serious matters. In all his relations and dealings with you, by the way in which he safeguards his own interests, he is always letting you know that you are not all you ought to be. I will not examine this witness as to details. He may speak loudly in your praise and, as men go, consider you a very good man; but this is only as contrasted with others, for he quite believes you might be better than you are. He classes you as a sinner.
The third witness I shall call is death. Men do not pay wages to those who do not serve them, neither does sin. “The wages of sin is death.” This is a terrible witness. You may tell we you do not serve sin, but I see how helpless your plea is, for you are on the way to death. Do not tell me that death is the debt of nature. Do not deceive yourself. You may be able to bear the accusations of conscience, and cover up the utter misery of your condition in your own breast; you may scorn the testimony of your neighbour, knowing he is no better than yourself; but death—grim-visaged, cruel, merciless, horrible, repulsive death—you cannot ignore or despise. It lurks in your path, lying in wait for you, ready to strike at you out of the darkness, to beat through brain and heart, and drive the immortal spirit from its earthly tenement into the blackness of a lost eternity. If it does not force the confession from your living lips, it will proclaim the fact that you have been the servant of sin through your lifeless corpse.
I will not call in the Word of God—you do not accept that—but the witnesses I have invoked and the testimony they give you cannot controvert. Any impartial jury would bring against you a verdict of guilty.
Now cast your eyes about you, and tell me what will meet your deep need. Who will justify you? Who will deliver you from the dominion of sin, so that you may practise righteousness and please God? Do you expect to be let off in the day of manifestation, when God shall bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the hearts? If you are to be let off then, why not in this present life? Why is death not removed? You need righteousness, and you have it not. You need to be placed beyond the reach of death, and how is this to be brought about? God has undertaken to answer these questions, and the answer He gives is CHRIST. God has taken upon Him the character of Saviour, and has approached man in His Son Jesus Christ. He has given Himself a ransom for all. He has been under death for us. He died for our sins, and was buried. In His death God has justified Himself in the sight of the universe with regard to sin. He has let it be seen that He could not pass it over as though it were nothing. He has condemned it in the cross of Christ. He has judged all that man was, but He has done it in the death of another. He has done it in the One who gave Himself for us. And He rose again the third day. God raised Him from the dead on behalf of man; that men might find in Him what they could not find in themselves—righteousness and life. God has done all this in the grace of His heart. I can look up to heaven and see a Saviour for all at the right hand of God. The best man on earth cannot do without Him, and He is available for the worst. Believe in Him, my reader. He will be your justification, and He will deliver you from the dominion of sin. He will lay hold of you by His great power, and guide your feet into the way of peace and righteousness. He calls to you. He would direct you to Himself. He says: “I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love Me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures” (Prov. 8:20-21). Fear not to come to Him. Forgiveness is through Him, and through Him for all. Through Him it is proclaimed to all. Banish from your mind all your hard thoughts of Him. Repent and believe the glad tidings. “To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).