John 3:16

Some time ago, in a dream of the night, I thought that with a friend I was visiting some Yorkshire villages, distributing gospel tracts and talking with the people in their cottage homes. At the door of one of these cottages there stood a group of women chatting together in the glorious sunshine of a summer afternoon. We gave a book to each of them, and stayed awhile to speak of God and their souls and eternity. They listened quietly until I quoted to them those splendid words, "FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE." Then one of them laughed, scornfully and loud, and said, "The old text again." Her companions joined in the laughter, and I awoke with the derisive sounds ringing in mine ears.

Then I thought to myself: Yes, that is the way that the most wonderful announcement from God, brought into this world by the most glorious Person who ever came into it, is being treated by many to whom it was brought. It is an oft-told story, "the old text," and treated as a fable. But why should it be treated with contempt or indifference? Are the messengers in anywise to blame for this? It were well that this question were seriously and prayerfully considered by all who aspire to tell this good news to others.

We must not cease to tell it because men cease to be interested in it, for it is God's message to them. A message of deliverance for the perishing and of life for the dead. We, who have believed it, must proclaim it constantly, earnestly, and without tiring, for it is God's best for men at their worst, their only hope for this life and the next. But, as we tell it we must be in the spirit of it; ten thousand times better that we hold our peace for ever, than that we take up these glowing words as though they were ordinary words, or treat the subject of them without the soul being profoundly moved by it. It is right to be careful as to our doctrine, but our danger lies in being correct and cold. When the love of God to a guilty world is our theme, it must burn in our souls as a fire. The bearer of such a message must be like Elihu, who said, "I am full of matter, the spirit within me constrains me. Behold my belly is as wine which has no vent; it is ready to burst like new bottles. I will speak, that I may be refreshed: I will open my lips and answer" (Job 32:18). This state of heart can only be produced by musing in the presence of God, for it was "while I was musing the fire burned: my heart was hot within me: then spake I with my tongue" (Ps. 39:3).

And what a subject for our meditation: the love of God to guilty men, love that yearned for the self-willed sinner on the downward road, and sent the Only-begotten to demonstrate that love in saving power; sent Him into the thorny path, to taste all the sorrows of it; sent Him not for honour nor the praise of men — for "shame was His kingdom, and reproach His glory;" sent Him to suffering, ignominy, and death.

"Thieves, and a CULPRIT crucified between them, all men forsaking Him — and THAT WAS THOU!"

Only thus could love's story be told, but thus it was told fully and victoriously by Jesus on the cross, told to the everlasting defeat of the devil, told to the eternal salvation of men, told to the infinite glory of God who is the source of it all.

It is by the Holy Spirit of God alone that our souls can rightly follow that path of sorrow, and that way of love. He alone can conduct our thoughts to God the source of it, who "loved" and "gave." He alone can carry us along the way of it down to the death of the Only-begotten Son, when the powers of darkness were overthrown, sin's full penalty borne, and every claim of divine justice satisfied. He alone can give to us a true conception of the results of this wonderful love in "everlasting life" for "whosoever believes in Him."

The Holy Spirit alone can enable us to tell out the story again as it should be told. Enticing words of man's wisdom can only spoil it, but if told "in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power" it must be effectual in winning men from perdition, and in bringing them to God.

No less a theme than this is given to us — the love of God, the sacrifice of His beloved Son, and everlasting life for men. It is God's message for the world, and it does not lose its value or its force because men despise it, even as they despised "His only begotten Son" when He was in the world.

May God the Holy Spirit arouse us to the incomparable blessedness of it, that we may so use "the old text" and tell the wonderful story that many who have hitherto treated it with indifference may believe.