I had been reading a very solemn prediction of the state of things which should exist in our own day—viz. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts, shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Tim. 4:3-4)—When, within an hour, I received a letter from a diligent servant of Christ, who spends much time in seeking the good of souls in a large provincial city. He wrote in reference to the treatment which the Gospel receives around him and said: “In the Gospel the heavens above seem brass.”
I understood what he meant, but felt that he had put the “brass” in the wrong place. It may be that, to all appearance, the showers of blessing for which he prays and waits are slow to come; that he, and many more, are deeply exercised and humbled on that account; yet it is certain that the fault does not lie in the heavens above. It may be that unbelief and deep-seated indifference on our own part hinder the gracious showers which we so long to see. We should therefore lay the blame, first of all, at our own doors; but, humbly admitting this, let us remember the awful prediction quoted above. Three facts are stated:
First: “They will not endure sound doctrine.”
Second: “They shall heap to themselves teachers.”
Third: “They shall turn away their ears from the truth.”
And these three facts are followed by a terribly solemn conclusion: “They shall be turned unto fables.” Let us remember all this.
Let us honestly condemn ourselves for our wretched carelessness, unbelief, lack of true love for the souls of others, and for the pride that keeps us from going to the highways and hedges—anywhere—after the lost and guilty.
Let us place eternity more distinctly before our eyes, and let us bathe our cold hearts in the depths of divine love for a perishing world. Let us get far more into the spirit of the heavens above—that home of love, and pity, and pardon, and grace for guilty men—all that and much more.
But let us know the times and the character of our day, and the power of Satan, and the seductions of a pleasure-seeking age, and the damning delusions of a mere form of godliness, from which every trace of divine power is absent, and then let us understand the meaning of that appalling verdict: “They shall be turned unto fables.”
Oh! the ingenuity of the mind of man to invent religious fables. “Many inventions—from Cain’s worthless offering to the dread moment when the Son of Man sits upon the throne of His glory and pronounces their doom—on whom? The abandoned? Nay, on the self-righteous followers of Cain, on those who, before that very throne, have the effrontery to say: “Lord, when saw we Thee an hungered, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto Thee?”
Before that bar they plead their own merit, only to hear the verdict: “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41).
Cain was the inventor of the whole system of self-righteousness, and his followers pursue it to the throne of the Son of Man. Ears which turn from the truth and refuse to listen to the speech of Abel, and to find shelter in “the blood of the Lamb,” must be turned unto fables.
Solemn secret is this, but it is, alas! an explanation, to a large extent, of the brazen condition of Christendom. Conscience is seared as with a hot iron.
What then, shall we give up the work of the Gospel? Far otherwise, for the very next verse to the prediction quoted says, “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist”—carry the good news all the same, go on—“preach the Word,” “be instant in season, out of season” (meaning when the ear is averted), “make full proof of thy ministry.”
The heavens above are not brass, nor, after all, is the ear absolutely closed. Men may yet discover that fables are follies, and turn, sore and heart-sick, to the truth which alone can save and satisfy.
Until we find ourselves (historically) in the end of the Book of the Revelation, we may well make use of its lovely language and earnestly cry: “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
Until all hope is over, until the door be finally closed, until the last “It is done” be sounded, we may and must persist in repeating the golden invitation of Heaven, “come”! “COME,” and that in spite of every difficulty, and in the bright hope and expectation of the unwearied activity of the grace of our blessed God.