The Grace of God to the Collier with the Broken Back.
A few weeks ago we were sent for to Elsecar, to see a collier who had met with a serious accident. His back was broken: and it was thought he had but a very short time to live. We had about eight miles to drive to see him, and therefore time to realize the serious importance of speaking to one just about to enter upon eternity. We called on a friend who had been to see him, but who found him suffering so much, that he could not bear even to hear the Word of God read to him. After a few sentences as to his terrible accident, we said, “You have only a very short time to live.” “No,” he said, “I am quite aware of it.” We looked at him, and said, “You may indeed have only a very short time to live, and you will never make your peace with God. No, never!” Suddenly the man looked greatly alarmed. We solemnly repeated the words. “You will never make your peace with God. You have been a great sinner before God and you never can make your peace with God. If you had a thousand years to live, you never could make your peace with God.” Just look at that man with a broken back. The sins of a lifetime behind; eternity before him; and the impossibility of making his peace with God!
Do you say it was enough to drive him to despair? It was. Thank God it did. If you had heard that groan, not only a broken back, but a broken heart crushed beneath the sense of sin; and the sudden despair of never being able to make his peace with God. Death and judgment were before him. Oh! reader, you may never have given such a groan: such tears of despair may have never run down your cheeks. You think there is time enough yet. You have no such gloomy thoughts. Oh dear no: you are not so bad: you have no doubt you will be able to make your peace with God. At least you hope so, don’t you?
What we said to him, we solemnly say to you. You will never, no never, make your peace with God. No! until you despair of doing it, you are not in a fit state to hear the glad tidings, that peace has been made, as it is written, by the blood of the cross.
The imploring looks of poor Eaden, for that is his name, seemed to say, what can you mean? He might well be surprised at this plain speaking; for do you know, reader, how often the dying are deceived by those who visit them? They tell them to make their peace with God, some by repentance: some by prayers. Repentance and prayers are blessed accompaniments of salvation. But put them both together, and they would be a plank, far too short to reach across the wide gulf that separates man from God. Something more than man could do must be done. We waited a little while. He then felt in some measure the meaning of that word, lost: a lost sinner, who cannot make his peace with God: of course if he can, he is not lost. If he awakes to the truth, a sinner before God, then he knows he is lost.
Such was the condition of the collier, with the broken back.
We now turned to the Word of God and quietly read, “And having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by Him I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled.” (Col. 1:21.) “For He is our peace . . . and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” (Eph. 2:13-17.) We said, thus you see, that which you cannot possibly do has been done long ago. Jesus must needs suffer. Nothing but His precious blood could atone for sins, and make peace with God. Yes, He made peace by the blood of His cross; and now God sends peace to you. This is the only true ground of peace. Believing God that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification; we are accounted righteous. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 4:24, 25; 5:1.) Yes, on the cross Jesus said, “It is finished.” Now He says “Peace unto you.” Ah, it is giving up all thoughts of making our peace with God; and accepting the peace made by the blood of the cross of Christ.
A friend with us who often visits the dying colliers, now said, “Yes, it is giving up everything of self, and trusting Christ, resting in what He has done without a bit of our own.” And looking kindly at him he said, “Could you walk upstairs if you wanted?” He was laid in the little parlour downstairs. “Walk upstairs!” he said, and placing his hand on the middle of his body, he sorrowfully added, “Walk upstairs, why I am dead up to here.” (Such was the case as to all sensation, or feeling, as the spinal cord was broken.) “Well,” said my friend, showing him a pair of strong arms; “I could just put my arms under you, and carry you upstairs, like a child, and lay you on the bed. You would have to make no effort of your own: but just give yourself up into my arms. Now do you see it? It is just giving yourself up like that to Christ. Leaving yourself entirely in His hands.”
At that moment, we believe, he passed from death unto life, from looking at self to Christ; from trying to make his peace with God; to resting for ever, in that peace made by his precious Saviour long ago. Resting in Jesus, what a contrast to human effort and works! God, who opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things spoken unto her, opened also the heart of this man with a broken back, to attend to the Word of God spoken to him.
There was repentance, and there was prayer, but not to make his peace with God. When Israel had sinned against the Lord, and were bitten by fiery serpents, there was suffering and pain; but the suffering and pain did not heal them. The brazen serpent must be lifted up. “And it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten a man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Num. 21:9.) And Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:14.) Has He not been lifted up on the accursed tree? Has He not made propitiation for sins? Has He not made peace through the blood of the cross? Hasn’t He who cannot lie, said, “It is finished”? Yes, He has died the just for the unjust to bring us to God. He has been (believers can say), “delivered for our iniquities.” He has been raised from among the dead for our justification. Believing God, we are justified from all things; and have peace with God. We have not to make our peace with God, we have peace with God; not through anything we have done, or can do, but through Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is, by faith, believing God: for God has raised Him from the dead, who bare our sins in His own body on the tree. And God says “all that believe are justified from all things.” Oh blessed certainty, God says it. “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
What a difference there is between having peace with God, and trying to make peace! The judge makes a terrible mistake, when he tells the poor trembling criminal, as he passes sentence of death upon him, that he has only a few days to live; he strongly recommends him to use those few days, in making his peace with God. It would be far better to tell him the truth. Better say, “You are proved guilty: yea have only a fortnight to live; and you can never make your peace with God. No, never. There is no escape from endless woe for you, but accepting the free forgiveness of God, through Jesus Christ the Lord.” Or, you see that poor soldier, just about to be slain by the pursuing enemy. He was fast asleep, and knew not his danger. Suddenly he awakes to his real condition. He seeks to escape for dear life: but there is a deep, dark, rapid river before him. He is told by one to make haste, and make a bridge; to use his utmost efforts. The least delay, and he is a dead man. True, he has two short planks, but both put together are still far too short to reach across that fearfully dark stream. “My friend,” says another, “You can never make a bridge across that wide and dark stream: you have neither materials, nor power, to make a bridge.” The poor soldier’s heart sinks in despair, and in a moment realizes his lost condition. “Oh,” says his friend, “I am thankful you now own the true state of things. Cheer up, friend, I have good news: there is a new bridge there you have never seen; and anxious, awakened soul, that bridge is Christ!”
But why suppose an illustration? Whether you have a broken back or not: or whether you are under the sentence of death convicted by your country’s jury, (and this tract will be read by such,) whether you are laid on a sick bed, and have but a few days to live, how many there are in this very condition! Or, whether you are in health. Yet, if unsaved, what are the facts of your case? Are you not like the poor soldier asleep, spiritually shutting your eyes to this fact, that all the world, Jews or Gentiles, are under sentence of death, found guilty, and under judgment? “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Read Rom. 3:19-26.
If not a believer, then mark those words of Jesus, “He that believeth not is condemned already.” If all the world are guilty before God, then you are, for you are clearly a part of the world. You may shut your eyes to these facts a little longer, but not long; compared with eternity you have but a few days at most to live. Oh, may God by this little paper awaken you to the real facts of your case. You cannot deny you are guilty; not only of a life of sins, as we said to dear Eaden; you have been a sinful man, and you cannot make your peace with God. Yea, you may even have despised the bridge, and spent long years trying to fasten your own planks together. Have you not? Works for salvation will do very well for men to preach and boast about in this world; but you must go out of it. May be you have only a few hours to live. Now look across that dark stream of death: and after death! How are you going to cross? How are you going to meet the Judge? There is no escape but one — only one bridge there. Satan and all your sins behind: death and judgment before. Don’t talk of making your own bridge. Don’t talk of making your peace with God. Would not this be to despise the work of God, the Designer; and Maker of that only bridge? Oh, are you awake? Do you own your guilty condition? Your lost and helpless state, in sin and death? Do not mistake: God must have the truth owned. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Can you now give all up into the hands of Christ? — to be carried to heaven like a little child. Do you see the bridge that you never saw before? Not our making our peace with God; but peace made by the blood of Jesus. Simple rest in Jesus. Those arms will never fail: that bridge will never give way. It will bear your weight, nay, He has been made sin for us. He has borne the full weight of the judgment due to us. May you without an effort trust Him. Do you say, “I do believe God sent Jesus to bear our sins on the tree. I do believe God has raised Him from the dead. I do believe peace is made by His blood. I do utterly renounce all thought of making my peace with God. But how am I to know personally for myself that I have life eternal, and shall not come into condemnation, for my sins?” We point you to the bridge. And now we will tell you a wonderful thing: Jesus has said it, on purpose for your everlasting comfort. These are His own words to you — “Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24.)
Perhaps you never saw this before. Now is this true that you hear the words of Jesus: that you believe God that sent Him? Then do you see not only the bridge; but you have crossed it. You have everlasting life, you shall not come into condemnation. You have crossed the bridge, you have passed from death unto life. Must it be so? Jesus says it.
Just a few words more as to dear Eaden with the broken back. He still lives, as we write this. A monument of sovereign grace. Helpless as to the poor body. His little children around his bed. It grieves my heart to say there is frequently no provision for the need of these great sufferers; but God has lifted him up, superior to all circumstances. Filled with joy in Christ — waiting His will; and waiting His return from heaven. The following lines have been a source of great enjoyment to him. And with these words we must close our short paper on the Grace of God to the Collier with the Broken Back.
Fast now wears the weary night,
The night of sin and sorrow;
Soon shall break in glory bright
The long expected morrow.
Wake, awake, and sleep no more,
Farewell to the long, long night;
Turn from earth, and upward soar,
Watch to see the glory bright!
Brighter far than midday sun,
Sudden as the flash of light.
Hark the sound, the victory’s won,
Millions rise in glory bright!
Not a spot of sin is there;
All are clothed in purest white;
Now they meet Him in the air,
Meet their Lord in glory bright!
Set on thrones, with crowns of gold,
What a rapturous, wondrous sight!
How shall all Thy praise be told? —
Jesus, come in glory bright!
We, shall see Thee as Thou art,
We shall know, in heavenly light,
All Thy love, and never part;
Come, dear Lord, in glory bright!