By F. A. Hughes
"They … went everywhere preaching the word" Acts 8:4.
"Philip … preached unto Him Jesus … and he went on his way rejoicing" Acts 8:35, 39.
Central Bible Truth Depot Ltd.
50 Grays Inn Road
Religion or Christ?
Travelling — But How?
Rest for the Heavy-laden
Links in a Chain of Blessing
Confirmed! But How?
A Black Sheep Found by The Shepherd
A Happy Railway Journey
A Matter of Taste
"Light at Eventide"
An "Opened" Bible
"There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents" (Luke 15:10). "To the counsellors of peace is joy" (Proverbs 12:20).
In this little work our dearly beloved brother has anticipated the judgment seat in recalling some of those days in his experience when he has seen the Lord generously stooping down to bless the needy sons of men.
It need hardly be said that the challenge of this is unmistakable. What this world needs, we are often reminded, is Christians in boots and not Christians in books. A recent observer has likened the gospel disinterest in this country today to Gideon's second sign viz, the fleece dry and dew all around (Judges 6:39-40). In commending this little volume to the God of all encouragement, our prayer is that it will not only be a refreshing stream to the more casual reader, but also a stimulus to all who, however feebly, seek to bear witness to their soon coming Lord, and enter, into that happiest of all work "catching men" (Luke 5:10). It is a service open to every Christian.
The incidents recorded in this little book are printed with a dual purpose in view. First, that God may in His sovereign mercy use the reading of them to awaken souls to their need of the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour. Secondly, that believers who read them may be awakened to the need of, and strengthened in the pursuit of, personal evangelism, a service which presents boundless opportunities to those whose affections for the Lord and for men energize them to take the service up as helped of God. It is the latter aspect with which this introduction is mainly concerned.
It is a cause for deep thankfulness (and for earnest prayer) that the blessed God so orders that liberty for the gospel testimony obtains so manifestly in this favoured land. In spite of "South Bank" modernism and ecclesiastical apostasy there are still those who are "not ashamed of the gospel of Christ," knowing that it is "the power of God to salvation to every one that believes." We rejoice to know of faithful men who are "ready to preach the gospel" to the many or to the few who attend the various services. We rejoice also as we think of the many thousands who hear the word of the gospel at rallies, over the radio, etc.; truly "the word of God is not bound," and we give to Him our humble and grateful thanks, seeking His support and encouragement wherever "Christ is preached."
But blessed as all this is, there still remains the wonderful opportunity of "personal evangelism." Is it not remarkable that the only man definitely spoken of as an evangelist in the New Testament (Philip) was sent from a sphere of public service to an individual in the desert? (Acts 8).
To enumerate the possibilities and spheres of this most precious service would demand a separate publication, but a few may be noted. There was the Christian woman, elderly and weak in body, who, indignant at hearing an atheist in the open air proclaiming against all that was of God, went up to him and boldly testified to the preciousness of Christ before all who were listening, particularly affecting a young man present. The Christian octogenarian who still delights to "go fishing." He fishes in many places, a favourite one the bus in which he happens to be travelling. A typical conversation is — directed to the man sitting next to him — "I was praying for you this morning." "Praying for me — you do not know me or my name." "No — but I was praying for you. You see I asked God to help me to speak to the man who would sit next to me in the bus — that is you." These and similar incidents, are not for imitation, but for stimulation. I delight to think of my own younger brother, now with Christ, preaching to scores of men in the communication trenches (1914-18) before "zero" hour. His own words to me "I look to see many of those men in heaven."
These may be exceptional incidents, but there are unlimited opportunities in the ordinary circumstances of every-day life. The people in our street; our neighbours! Is not this perhaps the most difficult of all gospel "fields," but how blessedly rewarding if, as moving in communion with the "Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort," we are given to "know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." It is recorded of our blessed Lord in Luke chapter 4 that He preached the glad tidings in the place "where He had been brought up" (Luke 4:16).
There will of necessity be disappointments and rebuffs in this service — we have experienced such occasions — but there are wonderful compensations and joys. We gave a "hitch" during the last war to a middle-aged Pioneer Corps soldier. He was with us but a few minutes, but as he left we asked "Do you know the Lord Jesus?" Quickly came the happy reply — "I have known Him and loved Him for over thirty years." We went on the rest of our journey "rejoicing." Recuperating after an operation I was awakened in the early hours by a new nursing-sister coming into my room. As she went about her duties I said "Sister may I ask are you a Christian?" She looked at me intently and said "Do you mean a nominal Christian or a vital Christian?" That was the best tonic I had in that hospital! Oh! to be VITAL!
But we must refrain. "There be many that say — who will show us any good?" (Psalm 4) "How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! " (Romans 10).
Earnest prayer is desired that the circulation of this booklet may bring glory to our God and honour to the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Religion or Christ?
"I need something more than religion now!" These were the arresting words of a sergeant in the Canadian Air Force to whom we had given a "lift" on our journey home from East Anglia towards the close of the Second World War. We had spent a few happy days with Christians in a Cambridgeshire town, meeting together for the reading of God's precious Word — a Word which is not subject to change, but which "abides ever."
As our young friend got into the car he at once said — "Have you heard the news?" We had to confess that our knowledge of "the news" was some days old! He then related to us, in almost breathless terms, details of how the Americans had dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan, giving to us a most vivid account of the scene of carnage and death which followed. Looking at us with an expression full of concern he continued — "I am a Roman Catholic, and I believe that to be the best religion in the world, BUT I need something more than religion now!"
"Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth" (Luke 21:26), is the language of God's unalterable, faithful word. This scripture refers to calamities of a future day, but looking back on the terrible incident which had disturbed our Air Force friend, we see how man has unleashed powers for destruction which are rapidly getting beyond his control, the fear and dread of which nothing seems to stem.
We were ourselves deeply concerned to hear such news, but even so could say to our friend that we were thankful indeed to hear him say "I need something more than religion now." Astonished at such a reply he asked — "What is there that we can depend upon when such things happen?" It was our joy to tell him that, whilst God's Word said very little indeed about religion, the same Word was full of references to a blessed Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Creator of all things, the "Upholder of all things by the word of His power" (Hebrews 1:3). No one could sensibly seek to belittle the mighty power for destruction which men had now discovered; but in this blessed Person there resides an infinitely greater power for salvation. "He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by Him" (Hebrews 7:25). He came down to this earth in lowly grace, going Himself into death in order "that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Rising from the dead, having broken its power, and brought deliverance to those who were held in bondage by its fear, He again said "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).
But more than this, infinitely more, He has brought to men the knowledge of God's eternal love — a love which longs that all who read this simple story "should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). He is presented now as a Saviour, and as accepting Him as such, and confessing Him as Lord, we are safe for time and for eternity. Listen to the words of a man who had proved the reality of Christ as Saviour and Lord — "I am persuaded, that neither death … nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). Will you not seek refuge in this glorious Saviour today?
"Safety is of the LORD" (Proverbs 21:31).
Travelling — But How?
Some years ago I was returning home after spending a happy week-end with believers in the North of Scotland. Accompanying me for part of the journey was a young man who lived near Glasgow. For certain reasons I had taken a first class return ticket, but as my young friend was travelling third class I got into a compartment with him.
Changing at Aberdeen we boarded the south-bound express and found our fellow travellers to be a middle-aged man, a young, rather fashionable girl, a middle-aged woman and a teenage girl. The young Christian sat between the fashionably dressed girl and myself. Almost before we had cleared the platform the ticket inspector appeared, and taking my ticket first, said in a voice heard by all, "There is plenty of room first class, sir." I told him I would revert to that class when I left my friend at Perth. After the inspector had left the compartment the girl next to my friend leaned forward and remarked "It is evident that you do not come from Aberdeen. If you did you would not pay first class and travel third." Then she added "You might pay third and travel first." Immediately the man opposite to her said "That would raise the question of conscience!" Looking across at him I said "Conscience is a word not often heard today. Where did you get it from?" He replied "From the Bible," and in answer to my further question as to why he read the Bible he said "Because it tells me of my Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ." "Thank God," I replied, "He is my Saviour, too." The young man next to me then said "And He is my Saviour, too." Quietly I said, "Three men and three ladies, the men have all owned that Jesus is their Saviour. I wonder where the ladies stand?" The young teenage girl responded at once, "He is my Saviour, too, we are all Christians in my home."
Quietly I remarked, "We are in the majority now." After a pause, and evidently with some embarrassment, the middle-aged lady said "I too know the Lord as my Saviour, although I am afraid I have perhaps grown a little cold, but, yes, He is my Saviour.
Again I spoke, in an atmosphere which had become very tense, "That leaves one. I would not like to be the only one who does not love the Lord Jesus, because the Scripture says, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha" (accursed at His coming). The young girl, who incidentally had started the conversation, leaned over and said, "I cannot say that I love the Lord; I have never heard these things before." We spoke to her of the Saviour, and of His love, the value of His blood and the salvation He had made available to all who would trust Him as Saviour and Lord.
Is the reader of this simple story travelling without Christ as Saviour? The wheels of destiny, as the wheels of that train, are carrying us quickly to our journey's end. Will that end be the happy portion which belongs to those who "love our Lord Jesus Christ," or will it be the gloom of a lost eternity? The scripture we have referred to speaks of the return of Christ to this scene, prior to which He will have taken everyone who loves Him to be with Himself for ever. Had He come (as well He might at any moment) during that train journey that girl would have been left alone in that compartment — without one person to speak to her of the Saviour's love! These things are not fables, they are urgent realities! Again we would ask "Are you travelling along life's journey with the knowledge of Jesus as your own personal Saviour?" If not, will you turn to Him now — just now!
Rest for the Heavy-Laden
It was a beautiful summer evening in a well-known watering place in Wales. On the sea-front stood a large crowd of people listening intently to an aged servant of God who, with his heart full of love for Christ and for souls, was telling out the glorious Gospel of God, the only way of salvation by Christ and His finished work of redemption. When he paused the people appeared loth to pass on; so he urged a Christian young man, who was with him, to speak.
Tremblingly, and with an earnest prayer to God for help, the youth stepped forward into the centre of the crowd, but no word came to his mind. Greatly distressed that he was facing the people and yet had no message to deliver, he again secretly implored the Lord to enable him to speak for Him. For a few moments there was no indication given him, but suddenly the words of the Lord Jesus came before him — COME UNTO ME, ALL YE THAT LABOUR AND ARE HEAVY-LADEN, AND I WILL GIVE YOU REST (Matthew 11:28). Nothing else came to his mind, so he again quoted the verse with increased earnestness. Still with no other message he repeated these words again and again, until after reciting this wonderful verse ten or eleven times he slipped back, somewhat ashamed that he had not been able to do more than this. His aged friend closed with a few words upon the tender invitation given by the Lord Jesus to needy souls, and the crowd dispersed.
At that moment a girl of about eighteen years of age approached the speaker with evident emotion and told them a most touching story. Brought up in comfort, she had been suddenly rendered homeless and penniless as the result of her father's dishonesty in his employment. Now forced to earn her living she had obtained a situation and was due to commence her duties the following day. She had arrived in the town that evening in order to be at her post early the next morning, and was feeling thoroughly miserable and broken-hearted as she wandered towards the sea-front in a listless, disinterested way. Suddenly she heard a voice in the distance faintly saying — "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden," but the remainder she could not hear. The words arrested her, and again she heard them — "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden." It was louder this time and she was able to hear the remaining words — "and I will give you rest." Heavy-laden! But who could give her rest? Those words, repeated many times, were now deeply impressed upon her broken heart, for all the time she had been walking towards the speaker and the voice had become more audible. She then saw the crowd and listened to the sweet appealing words of the aged man as he took up the story and preached JESUS to her arrested conscience and troubled heart. With joy she accepted the message and opened her heart to the Person of whom it spoke — the Lord Jesus, the Saviour of sinners. Her face now indicated the joy of her heart as she went on her way rejoicing.
Her path as a Christian was a short one, for within a year she passed into the presence of the Saviour who saved her that night as a poor distressed girl, and filled her heart with "joy unspeakable and full of glory." Before she was taken Home to be with the Lord Jesus, however, she sent a touching message to the young speaker whose gospel appeal had been blessed to her soul.
Thank God, that in this world of sorrow, sin and death, this gracious message of the gospel is still going forth! There has been no withdrawing of the power nor of the grace behind these words — "Come unto Me, ALL ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
Years pass, world conditions change, circumstances alter, but still there are weary and heavy-laden hearts who need rest. No invention or skill of man has found an abiding remedy for those who are bowed down under pressure, but this invitation is still being given by Jesus, who is the Eternal God and who in love was once here as the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." No sorrow of the human heart is misunderstood by Him! In the depth of His love He went to Calvary to settle the great question of sin which is the root of all sorrow and sadness, and now He is available as Saviour to "whosoever will." Will you come to Him NOW? Listen once again to His gracious words, "Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest."
Links in a Chain of Blessing
It was one of England's darkest moments! Her armies had retreated from the Continent; France had fallen, and the local Authorities were busily engaged in removing road signs and everything else that could be of help to an invading force.
My wife and I were returning by car from the large Midland city of Birmingham, where we had attended a meeting for prayer and study of the Scriptures. On the outskirts of the city we picked up two young R.A.F. boys who had "thumbed" a lift. As they sat in the back of the car one of them suddenly said, "Things look very black, sir." I replied, "That depends very much upon which way one is looking." He then said; "I don't think it is military skill that has given Hitler his victories; I think he owes much to "fifth-columnists," and I hope there are none of them in this country, because we do not want to see the best army in the world spoiled and defeated in that way, do we?" I said, "Yes, I think you have a point there, my boy; but tell me, which army are you referring to as the 'best army in the world'?" He replied, "the British Army, of course, don't you think so, too?" As I replied, "No I don't," I watched through the driving mirror his look of absolute consternation, and the same look upon the face of the other boy, who was in fact his brother.
As they exchanged startled glances (I think they must have taken me for a "fifth-columnist") one of them asked, "Which is the best army in the world then?" Speaking very quietly and gently I said, "The best army in the world is the one the Apostle Paul was thinking of when he wrote to a young man named Timothy, exhorting him to be a "good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3)." "Oh, yes sir, that's right! We say our prayers, don't we — ?" His brother said, "We have had boots thrown at us for saying our prayers!"
"Good for you," I replied, "but why do you say your prayers?" It was a surprising question; surprising to myself, certainly to my wife and to the two boys also. "Everyone should say their prayers, sir, shouldn't they?" "Indeed they should, but why do you say your prayers?"
After a pause I continued, "I think I can tell you why you say your prayers; you have a praying mother at home!" It was a "bow at a venture" ("in simplicity" — margin reading of 1 Kings 22:34), but the arrow went home. "Indeed we have, sir!" As I brought the car to a standstill all our eyes were filled with tears. The "saying prayers" and the "boot throwing" were things of a somewhat distant past; the Bibles given by a godly mother were neglected ("at the bottom of my kit") — but as we spoke together of the preciousness of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, affections were revived and the two boys left us with a determination that the prayers of a godly mother should be fully answered.
Why do I tell this simple, true story? For two reasons — first, there may be some boy or girl away from the influence of a godly home, the atmosphere of which has been largely forgotten. They have often heard of the preciousness of Christ and of His saving work on Calvary's cross, but have never yielded themselves to Him in reality. If such read these words, will you turn to Him NOW? He has been waiting for you, and watching over you; He died to save you. Is He not worthy of your trust?
At the end of 1915, I lay for some weeks in a hospital ward in which there were men who had been badly injured. Many topics were discussed from bed to bed as the evenings drew on, but before "lights out" all who could sing joined in a simple hymn. It was, "There's not a Friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one!" How many of those men sang the words from the heart I cannot tell, but there was something very touching about men who had been strong and well, some of whom were now approaching death, joining with those of us who did know the Saviour in the singing of that simple verse. There are moral as also physical dangers in the world, and you need a Friend! There is no Friend in the whole world to compare with Jesus! Powerful, loving, constant, full of understanding and sympathy. Make Him your Saviour NOW.
Secondly, there may be praying mothers (and fathers) who will read this. Continue in prayer; "effectual fervent prayer … avails much." The eye of the Saviour is upon the one whom you speak to Him of. He has His own wonderful way and His own exact time in which those prayers shall be answered. The words of the poet are very true —
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform.
It was a pleasantly warm day and my wife and I were enjoying a rest on a promenade seat at Weston-Super-Mare. The new bridge between England and Wales had recently been opened for general use. Soon an aged man (he told us he was over ninety) came up with a shuffling gait, evidently glad to find a vacant seat.
After a few general remarks he ventured the opinion that the new bridge was one of the most useful additions to road transport in recent years. Personally he appreciated his being able to get across so easily to the beautiful town in which we were at the moment. His son had driven him over for the afternoon, and whilst the old gentleman rested, the younger folk were enjoying a walk along the front.
We discussed the new bridge and its advantages for some little while, and then looking at the old gentleman I said "I suppose you had no doubt about the bridge being able to carry you safely over?" "None at all," he replied, "it's a good, well-built bridge." Quite evidently he had faith in the bridge doing what it was constructed for. Then I quietly said — "Do you know anything which is able to carry us safely from earth to heaven?"
I was not prepared for his reaction to that simple question which was asked in sincere desire for his blessing. He rose to his feet remarking that he had never done any harm to anyone and what was more he did not believe in carrying his religion on his sleeve. He shuffled away and I could only pray that the old man had more solid ground under his feet than his words indicated.
As I spoke of that which could carry us safely from earth to heaven I had no thought whatever of good works nor yet of religion; it is remarkable how very few times the word "religion" is to be found in the Bible. On the other hand the Bible is full of references to the Lord Jesus Christ, He who said "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). He came from heaven to earth, and in infinite love went to the cross of Calvary, that by His death He might open the way to the blessings of heaven for all who would confess Him as Saviour and Lord. As the old man was prepared to trust himself to the bridge, believing that the work was good and reliable, so must we place our trust in Christ and His finished work. "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation (it can be relied upon completely), that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). "Christ also has once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18). "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). The hymn writer has put the truth into very simple language —
"There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin;
He only could unlock the gate
Of Heav'n, and let us in."
It was not our aged friend's skill or effort that provided the way over for him; he gladly availed himself of the finished work of others. Will you not avail yourself of the complete salvation which the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus has provided? If you pass from this world without the knowledge of Christ as Saviour (and there is no other) you will find the Lord's words in Luke 16 to be true — "a great gulf fixed" — over which there is no bridge — no passing from one side to the other — either an eternity with Christ in glory, or the timeless despair of the lake of fire. Hear once more the precious words of the Saviour Himself —
"Verily, verily, I say to you, he that hears My word, and believes on Him that sent Me, has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death to life." John 5:24.
Confirmed! But How?
On a Monday morning several years ago a young girl on my staff asked me "Would I be right in thinking I saw your son at the gospel meeting in Birmingham town hall last Saturday?" I assured her that it probably was so, and then added: "Are you interested in such things?" Immediately she replied, "Yes — I am a Christian, I gave my heart to Christ a few years ago." Replying to my question as to whether her parents were Christians also she said they were nominally so, being members of the village church. She then went on to explain how she herself had become truly converted to God. Her mother had suggested that it was time she became confirmed, and acting on this suggestion, she approached her Vicar asking if she might be accepted as a candidate for confirmation. He replied "Yes, indeed Miss —, but may I ask — am I to confirm you in your sins or free of them?" He then pointed out that as sinners we all needed a Saviour — for "all have sinned." Highly indignant at being classed "a sinner" she left him and returned home — but a voice seemed to say to her — "did you never do anything for which you need forgiveness?" She returned to the Vicarage and in a further conversation with her godly Vicar she was led to own her need as a sinner and found rest and joy in the salvation which the Lord Jesus procured through His victory of Calvary, and which He alone could give — for "neither is there salvation in any other : for there is NONE other Name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
In the joy of her own knowledge of the Saviour, P— was desirous that others should know Him too; she soon became interested in a class of girls, and later had the joy of seeing several of them brought to Christ as their personal Saviour at an Evangelistic Campaign. P— is now married to an earnest young Christian and although I have had no direct contact with her for several years, occasional news is to the effect that she still continues happily to serve her Lord.
From a church-going family; well-educated — marked by moral integrity and uprightness, there came a moment when our young friend realised that none of these things, good and commendable as they were, could in themselves fit her for the presence of a holy God. Religious observances and practices, valuable in the sight of men, cannot atone for the soul or give the enjoyment of peace with God.
"For by grace are ye saved through faith … not of works lest any man should boast" (Ephesians 2). The grace of God has been witnessed in all its fulness in the death and rising again of our Lord Jesus Christ, He who shed His precious blood on the Cross of Calvary — that precious blood which in God's sight "cleanses from all sin."
Dear reader, in what are you trusting? If in your own good works, your endeavour to keep the requirements of ordinances, your moral uprightness, then listen to God's own Word.
"Therefore by the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His (God's) sight … for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." If the scripture stopped there how hopeless our position would be, but it most blessedly continues :
"Being justified (completely cleared) freely by His (God's) grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3).
There is no other way of salvation; no other ground of forgiveness; but forgiveness full and free, salvation perfect and complete, is the portion of every one who, confessing Jesus as Lord, knows Him to be their own personal Saviour and Friend.
A Black Sheep Found by the Shepherd
Several years ago I was walking one evening with a business colleague from Leicester Square Underground Station to the London Hotel at which we were staying. Passing a side street I heard a man's voice speaking of the preciousness of the Name of Jesus. A small crowd had gathered near to the speaker — a young man who was evidently rejoicing in the knowledge of Christ as his own Saviour. The last words I heard him say gave abundant testimony to this, as he concluded "I have said all I wish to; if anyone else can speak well of my Saviour I hope he will." He put on his hat and walked off through the crowd; who he was I do not know, for I had no chance of speaking to him, but his concluding words were a challenge which I could not resist. My colleague walked on, and saying I would see him in the hotel later, I took off my hat, walked into the ring formed by the little crowd — and looking round on them wondered what I could say!
I found myself looking into the faces of young men and women who were bent on seeking what pleasure the world could give them, but I did not see any evidence of satisfaction! What message could reach those restless hearts? Suddenly a verse of a hymn learned as a child came into my mind — and although it seemed an almost foolish thing to do in the circumstances, I commenced by saying "I would like to tell you the story of how a young man found Christ through the message of a verse learned at his mother's knee. He was brought up in a Christian home — but in his late teens he "kicked over the traces," joined the Army and early in the 1914-18 war found himself in Flanders. Badly wounded and left for dead he awakened in the night to find himself lying amidst men slain in the battle, with no living person near — and he was afraid. Trying to pray he knew not what to say, and then suddenly there came to his memory the words his dear mother had taught him as a child —
"Jesus, tender Shepherd hear me,
Bless Thy little lamb tonight;
Through the darkness be Thou near me,
Keep me safe till morning light."
Falling into unconsciousness he was found alive the next morning by a stretcher party and eventually recovered sufficiently to be able to write to his mother — "Mother, the little lamb had become a big black sheep — but the Shepherd has found him and saved him, and when I come home we will thank Him together." (Let me add, I was not that young man.)
As I spoke the crowd grew larger and pressed nearer to me; I felt the Lord Himself was speaking. Quietly I said — "Perhaps some of you have learned that verse at your mother's knee; that Shepherd is still seeking you, however far you may have wandered away." Little more was said, but as I closed in a short prayer several of those young folk came to me; some with tears in their eyes, and some with apparent sincere promises to return to the mothers they had left. The day to come will manifest any real work of God which may have accrued.
You, my dear reader, need that Shepherd too! You may not be so black a sheep as the young soldier was, nor even as I believe some of those young men and women were, but — face the question plainly — "all have sinned." All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way," (Isaiah 53). Is not that true? If the word of God had nothing more to say we would all be hopelessly lost; we could never find our way back to God. But the verse continues so blessedly — listen to it, they are the words of God Himself to you and to me — "and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all." Will you take up that Bible of yours and read this wonderful chapter — Isaiah 53? You will see without any doubt who the "Him" referred to is. It is Jesus! The Word of God makes this quite
clear and without any possibility of contradiction in Acts 8:35. As the Ethiopian asked who the prophet Isaiah was referring to Philip the evangelist "preached unto him Jesus."
Listen once more to the words of this precious Saviour "I am the good Shepherd: the good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." This Shepherd died for you; He is seeking for you. He found His sheep on the battle-fields of France; He has found countless others, too; will you not, wherever you may be at this moment, yield to His love, proving as our soldier friend did, that the darkest moment can be radiant with His precious saving love, and every subsequent step of life's pathway lighted with the joy of His presence and grace.
A Happy Railway Journey
Towards the end of the second world war I had occasion to travel by train from the Midlands over the cross-country route to Andover Junction. Entering the dimly lighted carriage I found every compartment except one to be empty. The exception was at the extreme end of the carriage and was occupied by several officers of the U.S. Army. I chose a non-smoking compartment and settled down to what I thought would be a quiet journey of several hours.
A few minutes before the train left a tall American soldier entered the compartment. After some conversation regarding the cigar he was smoking he threw it out of the window and lay down at full length on the seat opposite to myself. As he did so he exclaimed "I don't want a compartment to myself, I intend to stay here with you." I then noticed that he was somewhat intoxicated and to say I was a little afraid is a very mild statement.
After a while he looked at me and said "I am staying with you because I want to go to sleep and I am afraid of missing my station at Ludgershall," (a town near to which were some Army camps). "I want you to wake me up." He had previously ascertained that I was traveling beyond that point. He then ventured the remark that he had overstayed his leave in Birmingham and had apparently spent his time in very questionable surroundings. Becoming very talkative he went on to say that he hoped to return to the States very soon and was afraid his mother and father (of whom he spoke quite tenderly) would be greatly disappointed if the Army Authorities punished him by cancelling his leave.
Then quite unexpectedly he sat up and said with some sadness — "You may not believe it, sir, but before I joined the Army I did none of the bad things I am doing now — and it would break my parents' hearts to see me as I am." Asking his age I found it to be exactly that of my own son, and my heart went out to him. I did not interrupt, and continuing he said, "I have spent all I had in a week of wickedness and I've got nothing out of it." Looking earnestly at him I replied : "That is where I differ from you. I will tell you three things you have got from your week of evil." Vehemently he retorted — striking his fist into the palm of his other hand, "I tell you I've got nothing out of it."
Very quietly I said "Yes — three things.
First — you have an uneasy conscience — your own words as to your parents prove that.
Secondly — you have a vitiated body; and then after a pause I added,
"and you have an unsatisfied heart."
Staring hard at me he said "You are dead right."
He was quite sober by this time, and as the train travelled on it was a joy to speak to him of One who could deal with all that sin had brought in. Evidently his parents were godly folk — and perhaps at that very moment were praying for their boy; when I spoke to him of the Saviour he said "My parents talk like that." The preciousness of the blood of Christ, God's complete answer to guilt and sins; the cleansing power of the Word of God — the blessedness of the whole "spirit, soul and body" being preserved blameless by the sanctifying power of the God of peace, were some of the things spoken of in that railway carriage. Sleep was out of the question — and ere long that sin-soiled G.I. was on his knees confessing his parents' Lord as his. Tears ran down his face as we rejoiced together — proving afresh the truth of God's holy Word that the gospel — (yet feebly presented) was still "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes." It needed a dynamic power to break the three-fold cord of an uneasy conscience, a sin-stained body, and an unsatisfied heart, but, thank God, the gospel is just that — it is God's dynamic power unto salvation.
That "power unto salvation" is available to all — the writer has proved it; it is the only power that can deliver the reader from the chains of sin and guilt, however strong or otherwise these chains may be. This so-called old fashioned gospel, scoffed at by men, has stood the test of time and circumstances. Thousands are rejoicing in its delivering power. Will you not put God's word to the test NOW? There is complete freedom from the bondage of sin to be found in Christ, but there is also the blessedness of a heart completely satisfied in the knowledge of that precious Saviour, and the possibility of a life of purity as the Holy Spirit of God makes the Word of God Himself a living reality to those who know Jesus as Saviour and Lord.
A Matter of Taste
In the war years I found it wise to avoid train journeys via London, and so on my periodical trips to East Anglia I chose the route from Birmingham across the Eastern Countries. On the occasion in mind I was, as often, alone in the carriage until joined, at an intermediate station, by two extremely pleasant U.S.A. officers.
After a short while one of them turned to me and asked "Does this train go direct to London?" Replying that it did not do so, I explained at what station they should change. He then said "We have never been in London; could you tell us what places of interest we could fit into a long week-end?" "Of course," I replied, "that is a matter of taste. Tell me what you are interested in and I may be able to help you." They were interested in art and it was not difficult to give them the necessary directions. The conversation continued and eventually one of them asked "Do you go often to London, sir?" "Yes — fairly often." "What places of interest attract you?" was the next question, to which I answered "That again is a matter of taste." Quite obviously that drew the enquiry "May we ask what your tastes are?" "Well, I sometimes have business to do there, but more often I attend a gathering of Christians where we read and speak of God's Word together."
It was evident that this remark aroused no antagonism, on the contrary a free and happy conversation on eternal things ensued, unfortunately shortened by the fact that they were approaching the station at which they must change trains. I handed them a few small articles of some artistic merit — the production of the Company with which I was associated — together with a booklet or two in which the way of salvation was made clear. I also gave my address card to one of them. As they left me I could only commend them to God — two fine young fellows, hoping that some small seed sown might produce results in blessing.
Many months afterwards I received a letter from America written by a Lieutenant S — who reminded me of the conversation we had enjoyed together on that journey. It appears that very soon after our contact they were drafted to France and were soon in the firing line. His comments were that in the presence of danger and death he had drawn comfort from the One of whom the booklets spoke. For some time we corresponded at intervals, but during the Korean war I lost contact with him. I trust the work was real and that he had really committed himself to the Saviour of whom we spoke; that he had tasted something of the grace and love that brought the precious Saviour — our Lord Jesus Christ, from the heavenly glory to die on Calvary that we might know the blessedness of sins forgiven.
May I enquire of the reader "What are your tastes?" Many and varied are the pleasures and attractions of this world, some quite respectable and harmless in themselves, but do they really satisfy? Do they help us to face the crises and dangers of life? His interest in art, interesting as that doubtless was, was not that from which our American friend drew comfort on the battle field. No — it was "the One of whom the booklets spoke." That One is the Lord Jesus Christ — He who died on Calvary that, cleared from sin and guilt, we may be free to enjoy the endless pleasures which He, as risen from the dead, delights to give freely to those who know Him as Saviour and Lord.
For centuries countless thousands of men and women, rich and poor, learned and unlearned, with different ambitions and differing tastes, have one blessed thing in common — they have found in the Lord Jesus a real living Friend, ever able to fill and satisfy the heart. Will you make room for Him in your life.
"Light at Eventide"
Several years ago I spent a few days in a small Gloucestershire town where meetings for the reading of God's word were being held. One evening the Christian lady in whose house I was staying told me of an old man in an adjoining village who appeared to be very near to his last day on earth. Calling at his cottage I found him sitting in a chair near to the fire, obviously very ill indeed.
After a few minutes of general conversation I ventured to enquire as to how he stood in relation to God and to the life after death. Immediately, and in no uncertain terms, he insisted that he had nothing to fear, and raising the large stick which he had in his hand, he struck the floor saying "I have kept the law of God all my life, no man can do more." Nothing I could say seemed to have the slightest effect; time after time he repeated the words, accompanied on every occasion by a thud on the floor with his walking stick. At last I left the cottage saddened in heart, the sadness to be increased by the subsequent knowledge that the old man had lived anything but an exemplary life!
The next morning over breakfast my hostess told me that the old man had been asking after me several times during the night. Encouraged by this and seeking help from the Lord I went at once to see him again, taking with me my son, at that time quite a little chap. Greeting him warmly I remarked that I understood he had been asking for me, and, waiting for his reply, I was intensely disappointed to see the same action with the stick and to hear the words so many times repeated the day before — "I have kept the law of God all my life."
My little boy was sitting on the floor playing with a small toy, and as I looked at him I realized that to reach the conscience and heart of an obviously dying man I must speak to him as simply as I would to my boy. I told him that nothing we had done or could do, availed for salvation. We had all sinned — done what was wrong in God's sight, and God must punish sin. If we had to bear the punishment we should be sent away from the presence of God for ever. But God Himself had provided a way — the only way — in which we could be forgiven and have our sins washed away. God's own Son — the Lord Jesus Christ — had come from heaven to earth. He was sinless, spotless and holy, and He alone could be our Saviour. His Name was to be "JESUS, for He shall save His people from their sins." To do this He must pay the penalty of sin, which is death; and so He died on Calvary's cross — the "Just for the unjust." He shed His precious blood, and it is "the blood of Jesus Christ (God's Son) which cleanses us from all sin." God offers us salvation through faith in Christ, ceasing from our own efforts to keep the law, and putting our trust in that finished work which He did on the cross; owning Him as our Saviour and Lord. "Neither is there salvation in any other."
To this simple relating of the "old, old story of Jesus and His love" the old man listened without a word or a movement. Then, suddenly, he raised his stick! Was I to hear the same words again? — "I have etc. etc." But NO! bringing the stick down to the floor with a bang, and with tears streaming down his rugged face, he said "I've got it; I've got it!" "What have you got?" I asked. "It comes to me in words I heard from my old mother —
I'm a poor sinner,
and nothing at all;
But Jesus Christ
is my all in all."
The note of reality in his voice was unmistakable, and we rejoiced together. After some further conversation and a short prayer we left the cottage, thanking God for His long-suffering and sovereign mercy. A few days afterwards the old man was taken to be with the One he trusted in that day, but in the meanwhile he had given testimony that the work in his soul was real.
Do you know this Saviour as your "all in all" — or are you trusting to your own works? — perhaps more respectable "works" than those of the old man we have referred to, but in God's sight they are of no account for the salvation of your precious soul. The following verses of a hymn which the writer has valued and enjoyed and proved the truth of for over sixty years contain the simple, yet truly important facts, of the gospel message. May they find an echo in your heart too!
"Precious, precious Blood of Jesus Shed on Calvary,
Shed for rebels, shed for sinners, Shed for me.
Though thy sins are red like crimson, Deep in scarlet glow,
Jesus' precious blood can make them White as snow."
An "Opened" Bible
Returning by train from London one evening accompanied by a fellow-Christian, we took our seats in a saloon coach. In the opposite seats were two young men, one of whom took a Bible from his pocket and placed it on the table in front of him. He then commenced to read an evangelical paper.
After some minutes had elapsed, and the train had started on its journey, he looked over the top of his paper and his eyes met mine. I looked at the Bible and said to him, "Excuse me, sir, but do you know of a better kind of Bible than the one on this table?" "A better one?" he replied, to which I answered, "Yes, a better one." "Do you mean a better translation?" he then enquired. "No," I replied, "just a better Bible." Looking at me searchingly he said "I am afraid I do not understand you," and then added, "If you know of a better Bible perhaps you will tell me what it is." "Yes," I replied, "the Bible the Ethiopian eunuch had in the desert is the kind I refer to; it was an opened Bible (Acts 8); the one on the table is closed." Immediately a bright smile came over his face, and we were very soon conversing together upon the value of an opened Bible, a conversation in which my Christian friend happily joined. It was apparent that all three of us had found Him of whom the Bible speaks — the Lord Jesus Christ — and that He was our Saviour.
What a wonderful possession — an opened Bible! There are many homes in this greatly favoured land in which Bibles are to be found, but alas, how many are rarely, if ever, opened!
Do you, my friend, know the value of an opened Bible? It contains the precious unfolding of God's thoughts regarding His own beloved Son, and the greatness of His love toward us, which has been expressed in the Lord Jesus. Paul could speak of Timothy that "from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." What value lies in this precious book, even for a child!
The Lord Jesus Himself could speak to two on a journey of the scriptures, showing in them those blessed "things concerning Himself." What a sweet story is unfolded for us! His precious life, His holy words, His love taking Him into death, the death of Calvary, His marvellous rising again in resurrection, His ascension to glory, and His coming again to take everyone who loves Him to be with Him for ever!
The fourth person at the table, a young man, was unknown to us all. After some time I turned to him and said, "I hope our conversation does not weary you." "On the contrary," he at once replied, "I am deeply interested. It is obvious to me that you gentlemen have something I have not." He had tried, as he said, "various religions," including some of the modern phases, but was unsatisfied.
"Tell me," he said with real earnestness, "how can I be saved?" and then added, "please be quick, I get out at Barnet." The train was already slackening pace, and we had no time to say much to him. The One who is the grand theme of the Bible was the only One to whom we could direct him. As he rose from his seat I repeated Paul's words to one in urgent need and who sought for light, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."
Dear reader, what of you? The scriptures give us the speaking of God. He speaks with authority, and we cannot afford to treat what He says with indifference. If we look into the scriptures we find, too, that God speaks with the utmost tenderness and love, speaking of the preciousness of Jesus and the value of His blood, bringing to us the greatness of that "salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."