I was told the other day by a young servant of Christ that he purposed holding some meetings in a certain village where he was informed there were infidels, atheists, and other opponents to Christianity.
I was pleased to hear his proposal, and asked him how he intended to announce his meetings: whether he meant to advertise anti-infidel addresses or what? I had the impression that an advertisement of that kind might appeal to one who had had a college education, who had travelled a good deal and had been thrown into contact with all kinds of men and manners.
But to my great pleasure he replied that he hoped to preach the gospel to them, and asked me if I could suggest anything else.
“THE GOSPEL!” I thought for a moment of the infidels, atheists, and hoc genus omne, who might, out of curiosity, attend his meetings, and what they might expect from the lips of the young preacher. Would it not be well for him to meet them on their own ground, giving argument for argument and reason for reason? No, thought I, that might, of course, be done, and, occasionally, should be done; but, as he had chosen his subject, and had selected “the gospel,” just as young David chose a stone from the brook, I said to him: “That is right, for we read that ‘the gospel … is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes’” (Rom. 1:16). That is where the power of God lies, not in clever arguments, nor in human reasoning, but in the gospel. For, supposing that you succeeded in out-arguing the infidel, and had proved to him the verity of your belief, so that he felt the necessity of abandoning his own line of thought, if that were all you did, you had not got lower down than the region of his brain. You had altered his views and ideas, but you had not reached his conscience or heart. The man was still the same, His will remained unconvinced even though, mentally, he forsook his old ground. More than the mind is needed.
The gospel is not a system of argumentation, nor of “thrust and parry.” It is “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” and, as such, gives no quarter. It demands, and most rightly, the absolute surrender of the enemy. It is “the power of God” even though it may be resisted; but, mark, it is “the power of God unto salvation!” It wounds to heal, and kills to make alive.
The gospel is “good news”—good, not bad. The law was bad because it condemned the transgressor; but this is good because it proposes to bless him freely and fully. Only he must yield!
Yield what? His intellect? No. His mind, his reason, or what?
His will! That lies at the root of all opposition to the gospel and to God. The will is the cradle of a man’s wishes, the seat and birthplace of his every bent and desire.
Get the will right and the man is right. The change from: “I want my own will” to “I desire the will of God” means the greatest of all changes. It is conversion. See it, practically, in the life of any notorious sinner, like Saul of Tarsus in sacred history, or in any one of your circle of acquaintances. His life is completely changed. How? By a total change of will. The will is always king, and how happy for the Christian to seek the “will of God.”
I have never, after fifty years’ experience, heard of anyone being argued into the knowledge of forgiveness of sins, or peace with God; but I have known of many who when they had heard the sweet story of the gospel—the love of God to guilty men, the death of Christ, in its saving value, and the invitation of the Spirit to such as they—had surrendered their stubborn wills, bowed in repentance and submission, and discovered in that gospel the blessed key to peace and pardon and the settlement of all their difficulty.
The gospel assures us that “this is life eternal—to know Thee the only true God and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). And, if so, it clearly supplies the perfect antidote to atheism and infidelity, as well as, thank God, the care of every spiritual woe.
Precious gospel, so little known and so generally despised, did poor guilty man but know thy worth, but know Him who, with His redeeming worth, is thy glorious theme; had he but proved, in simple faith, thy peace-giving power, thy light and sunshine, thy clear assurance, thy perfect suitability to all his deep, soul-disease; had he but heard in power, thy message of mercy, thy boundless grace, thy changeless terms, be his soul tossed by the heaviest storm, or tortured by the blackest of doubts; had he but seen and learned the beauties of Calvary and the glories of that blessed Saviour whom thy words depict, he would quickly discount his own thoughts, atheistic or other, and enthrone in heart and mind thy Theme and Subject—the ever blessed Lord Jesus Christ!
Thousands have done this for their joy in time and eternity.
In selecting “THE GOSPEL” for his subject my young friend was right.