When the earthquake struck Kingston, Jamaica, in January last, a Christian man was busily engaged in his workshop off one of the narrow lanes. As the building began to rock violently, and he realized that this was no slight tremor, such as all there were accustomed to, but a mighty convulsion of nature, he shared in the common impulse to rush out of the building into the street.
Springing to his feet he made for the door, only to catch his foot in something and sprawl upon the floor. The convulsion was now at its height, and looking up he saw daylight between the rocking walls and the roof. This nerved him to fresh effort; he was struggling to his feet when a falling brick hit him full on the head, nearly stunning him, badly cutting him, and altogether frustrating his purposed escape.
But that brick was aimed by a divine hand!
Before he finally got to his feet the earthquake was over, and the building did not utterly collapse upon him. Gazing into the street, what a sight met his eyes! Walls had fallen down into the narrow lane in all directions. When the dust subsided, nothing could be seen save mounds of debris. The crash of a thousand buildings had died away into the silence of death.
Within the few square yards outside the door of that workshop six men were killed. He would have made a seventh: had he but achieved his purpose. He did not do so, thanks to a brick, which was but the servant of an almighty God of love, who
“. . . Everywhere has sway,
And all things serve His might.”
Smitten, but saved, fitly summarizes this eventful chapter in the life of our Jamaican friend; and not only so, those word equally describe an even more eventful chapter in the spiritual history of untold thousands.
Their conversion chapter, I mean.
Some of us, it is true, were converted quietly enough. Like Lydia, of whom we read in Acts 16, our hearts “the Lord opened,” so that we “attended unto” the things brought before us in the gospel, and thus we believed; others are more like the jailer of whom the same chapter speaks; and a blow of some sort has to be struck to frustrate their foolish purposes and gain their ear.
When a sinner’s ear is opened, and the distant roar of impending judgment falls upon it, his impulse is to rush somewhere, to do something to escape the threatened disaster. One commences diligent church-going, with its attendant confirmation and sacrament-taking. Another puts aside pipe and novel, and makes for the prayer-meeting. A third goes in quite a different direction, rushing into the whirl of pleasure in its many forms, and there attempting to drown all serious thought. Yet another commences a course of reformation and attempted self-improvement, vainly hoping thus to reach safety and peace.
We know not, reader, whether you have been awakened to your need; nor, if you have, do we know whither you have turned for refuge. But we want to lovingly warn you that all these refuges to which natural impulse leads us to flee are misleading and dangerous. Works, efforts, prayers, reformations, and a thousand things of that sort, are no shelter at all from judgment, and by turning to them for forgiveness and shelter, you are but rushing right into disaster and death, and not fleeing from them, as you fondly imagine.
Then it is that God’s mercy acts in its own matchless way. An unexpected slip, a stunning blow, and we are saved.
Some are hit by the “brick” of “bereavement” Death comes along. A loved one is torn from their embrace. There is an empty chair at the table, and an aching void in the heart. This “brick” has a marvellous way of knocking scepticism out of the heads and hearts of people who are fleeing to it for refuge.
Others are smitten by “financial loss.” Business collapses, banks fail, and the once wealthy find themselves almost penniless. The friends of their prosperous days coldly forsake them, and they exchange the pleasures of affluence for the grinding days of poverty. This is the “brick” which, aimed from above, often reaches and blesses the pleasure-loving man of the world.
Then, too, “sickness” comes and smites many. Activity is stopped. The whirl of busy life gives place to the quietness of a bed of pain. This has worked good with thousands. Then, “He openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction” (Job 33:16). In quiet they learn the worthlessness of their own efforts, and where true peace can be found.
“The approach of death” is another brick. It hits very hard, and sometimes checks the career of men who have been terribly wilful and blinded.
Be, however, assured of this: the hand that smites is moved by a heart of infinite love. God does not desire to break you, but to bless you by bringing you down flat in the dust before Him.
To bring you down. That is it. Though in the surface details of conversion there is infinite variety, in its bed-rock principles it is always the same. “Make haste and come down” was the word of Jesus to Zaccheus (Luke 19:5). It is equally His word to you.
I verily believe that each one who reads these lines has some time or other been smitten. Possibly you have misinterpreted it, looking upon it as a proof that God is hard and against you, instead of seeing that it was done in love and for your salvation, thereby proving that He is for you. Anyway, our question is, Did it bring you down? and if so, Are you saved?
If only, you, a poor sinner, lie prostrate in the dust, you would get a view of the gospel not to be obtained anywhere else. You would see the grace of God, the work of Christ finished and accepted, and hear the unutterable witness of the Holy Ghost. “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17).
Such words as these would become light and life to your soul.
“This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief” (1 Tim. 1:15).
“God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).
“To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
And then in after days you will look back, and with adoring gratitude bless the Hand that smote the blow that led to your eternal salvation.
Tidings of Light and Peace 1907, p. 147