IN Baltimore, a few years ago, we held a number of meetings for men. I am very fond of this hymn; and we used to let the choir sing the chorus over and over again, till all could sing it.
|Oh, word of words the sweetest,
Oh, word in which there lie
All promise, all fulfillment,
And end of mystery!
Lamenting or rejoicing,
With doubt or terror nigh,
I hear the 'Come!' of Jesus,
And to His cross I fly.
Come! oh, come to me!
Come! oh, come to me!
Come! oh, come to Me!
O soul! why shouldst thou wander
From such a loving Friend?
Cling closer, closer to Him,
Stay with Him to the end
Alas! I am so helpless,
So very full of sin;
For I am ever wandering,
And coming back again.
Oh, each time draw me nearer,
That soon the 'Come!' may be
Nought but a gentle whisper
To one close, close to Thee;
Then, over sea and mountain,
Far from, or near, my home,
I'll take Thy hand and follow,
At that sweet whisper, 'Come!'|
There was a man in one of the meetings who had been brought there against his will; he had come through some personal influence brought to bear upon him. When he got to the meeting, they were singing the chorus of this hymn --
|Come! come! come!|
He said afterwards he thought he never saw so many fools together in his life before. The idea of a number of men standing there singing, |Come! come! come!| When he started home he could not get this little word out of his head; it kept coming back all the time. He went into a saloon, and ordered some whiskey, thinking to drown it. But he could not; it still kept coming back. He went into another saloon, and drank some more whiskey; but the words kept ringing in his ears: |Come! come! come!| He said to himself, |What a fool I am for allowing myself to be troubled in this way!| He went to a third saloon; had another glass, and finally got home.
He went off to bed, but could not sleep; it seemed as if the very pillow kept whispering the word, |Come! Come!| He began to be angry with himself: |What a fool I was for ever going to that meeting at all!| When he got up he took the little hymn book, found the hymn, and read it over. |What nonsense!| he said to himself; |the idea of a rational man being disturbed by that hymn.| He set fire to the hymn book; but he could not burn up the little word |Come!| |Heaven and earth shall pass away: but My word shall not pass away.|
He declared he would never go to another of the meetings; but the next night he came again. When he got there, strange to say, they were singing the same hymn. |There is that miserable old hymn again,| he said; |what a fool I am for coming!| I tell you, when the Spirit of God lays hold of a man, he does a good many things he did not intend to do. To make a long story short, that man rose in a meeting of young converts, and told the story that I have now told you. Pulling out the little hymn book for he had bought another copy and opening it at this hymn, he said: |I think this hymn is the sweetest and the best in the English language. God blessed it to the saving of my soul.| And yet this was the very hymn he had despised.
I want to take up this little word |Come!| Sometimes people forget the text of a sermon; but this text will be short enough for any one to remember. Let me ring out a chime of Gospel bells, every one of which says, |Come!| The first bell I will ring is,
COME AND HEAR!
|Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.| |Incline your ear,| God says. You have sometimes seen a man who is a little deaf, and cannot catch every word, put his hand up to his ear and lean forward. I have seen a man sometimes put up both hands to his ears, as if he were determined to catch every word. I like to see that. This is the figure that the prophet uses when he says on God's behalf, |Incline your ear.|
Man lost spiritual life and communion with his Maker by listening to the voice of the tempter, instead of the voice of God. We get life again by listening to the voice of God. The Word of God gives life. |The words that I speak unto you,| says Christ, |they are spirit, and they are life.| So, what people need is -- to incline their ear, and hear. It is a great thing when the Gospel preacher gets the ear of a congregation -- I mean the inner ear. For a man has not only two ears in his head; he has also what we may call the outer ear, and the inner ear -- the ear of the soul. You may speak to the outward ear, and not reach the ear of the soul at all. Many in these days are like the |foolish people| to whom the prophet Jeremiah spoke: |Which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not.| There are many in every congregation whose attention I am not able to secure for five minutes together. Almost any little thing will divert their minds. We need to give heed to the words of the Lord: |He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.|
You remember when Peter was sent to Cornelius, he was to speak to him words whereby he and his house were to be saved. If you are to be saved, it must be by listening to the Word of God. Here is the promise: |Hear; and your soul shall live.|
There was an architect in Chicago who was converted. In giving his testimony, he said he had been in the habit of attending church for a great many years, but he could not say that he had really heard a sermon all the time. He said that when the minister gave out the text and began to preach, he used to settle himself in the corner of the pew and work out the plans of some building. He could not tell how many plans he had prepared while the minister was preaching. He was the architect for one or two companies; and he used to do all his planning in that way. You see, Satan came in between him and the preacher, and caught away the good seed of the Word. I have often preached to people, and have been perfectly amazed to find they could hardly tell one solitary word of the sermon; even the text had completely gone from them.
A colored man once said that a good many of his congregation would be lost because they were too generous. He saw that the people looked rather surprised; so he said, |Perhaps you think I have made a mistake; and that I ought to have said you will be lost because you are not generous enough. That is not so; I meant just what I said. You give away too many sermons. You hear them, as it were, for other people.| So there are a good many now hearing me who are listening for those behind them: they say the message is a very good one for neighbor So-and-so; and they pass it over their shoulders, till it gets clear out at the door. You laugh; but you know it is so. Listen! |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.|
The next note in this peal of bells I wish to ring out is --
COME AND SEE!
Scripture not only uses the ear, but the eye, in illustrating the way of salvation. When a man both hears and sees a thing, he remembers it twice as long as if he only heard it. You remember what Philip said to Nathanael: |Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, we have found Him of whom Moses in the Law, and the Prophets, did write -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.| Philip was a wise winner of souls. He brought his friend to Christ. Nathanael had one interview with the son of God; he became His disciple and never left Him. If Philip had gone on discussing the matter with him, and had tried to prove that some good thing could come out of Nazareth, he might have never been a disciple at all.
After all, we do not gain much by discussion. Let objectors or inquirers only get one personal interview with the Son of God; that will scatter all their darkness, all their prejudice, and all their unbelief. The moment that Philip succeeded in getting Nathanael to Christ, the work was done.
So we say to you, |Come and see!| I thought, when I was converted, that my friends had been very unfaithful to me, because they had not told me about Christ. I thought I would have all my friends converted inside of twenty-four hours; and I was quite disappointed when they did not at once see Christ to be the Lily of the Valley, and the Rose of Sharon, and the Bright and Morning Star. I wondered why it was. No doubt many of those who hear me now have had that experience; you thought when you saw Christ in all His beauty that you could soon make your friends see Him in the same light.
But we need to learn that God alone can do it. If there is a skeptic now hearing me, I want to say that one personal interview with the Son of God will scatter all your infidelity and atheism. One night, in the inquiry-room, I met the wife of an atheist, who had been brought to God at one of our meetings. She was converted at the same time. She had brought two of her daughters to the meeting, desiring that they too should know Christ. I said to the mother: |How is it with your skepticism now?| |Oh,| said she, |it is all gone.| When Christ gets into the heart, atheism must go out; if a man will only come and take one trustful, loving look at the Saviour, there will be no desire to leave Him again.
A gentleman was walking down the street in Baltimore, a few years ago. It was near Christmas-time, and many of the shop-windows were filled with Christmas presents, toys, etc. As this gentleman passed along, he saw three little girls standing before a shop window, and he heard two of them trying to describe to the third the things that were in the window. It aroused his attention, and he wondered what it could mean. He went back, and found that the middle one was blind -- she had never been able to see -- and her two sisters were endeavoring to tell her how the things looked. The gentleman stood beside them for some time, and listened; he said it was most interesting to hear them trying to describe the different articles to the blind child -- they found it a difficult task. As he told me, I said to myself, |That is just my position in trying to tell other men about Christ: I may talk about Him; and yet they see no beauty in Him that they should desire Him. But if they will only come to Him, He will open their eyes and reveal Himself to them in all His loveliness and grace.|
Looking at it from the outside, there was not much beauty in the Tabernacle that Moses erected in the desert. It was covered on the outside with badgers' skins -- and there was not much beauty in them. If you were to pass into the inside, then you would find out the beauty of the coverings. So the sinner sees no beauty in Christ till he comes to Him -- then he can see it.
You have looked at the windows of a grand church erected at the cost of many thousands of dollars. From the outside they did not seem very beautiful; but get inside, when the rays of the sun are striking upon the stained glass, and you begin to understand what others have told you of their magnificence. So it is when you have come into personal contact with Christ; you find Him to be the very Friend you need. Therefore we extend to all the sweet Gospel invitation |Come and see!|
Let me now ring out the third bell --
COME AND DRINK!
|Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters: and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat: yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.| If you will come and drink at this fountain, Christ says you shall never thirst again. He has promised to quench your thirst. |If any man thirst,| He says, |let him come unto Me and drink.|
I thank God for those words: |If any man.| That does not mean merely a select few respectable people; it takes in all -- every drunkard, every harlot, every thief, every self-righteous Pharisee.
|If any man thirst.| How this world is thirsting for something that will satisfy! What fills the places of amusement -- the dance houses, the music halls, and the theaters, night after night? Men and women are thirsting for something they have not got. The moment a man turns his back upon God, he begins to thirst; and that thirst will never be quenched until he returns to |the fountain of living waters.| As the prophet Jeremiah tells us, we have forsaken the fountain of living waters, and hewn out for ourselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. There is a thirst this world can never quench: the more we drink of its pleasures, the thirstier we become. We cry out for more and more; and we are all the while being dragged down lower and lower. But there is |a fountain opened to the House of David . . . for sin and for uncleanness.| Let us press up to it, and drink and live.
I remember after one of the great battles in the War we were coming down the Tennessee River with a company of wounded men. It was in the spring of the year, and the water was not clear. You know that the cry of a wounded man is: |Water! water!| especially in a hot country. I remember taking a glass of the muddy water to one of these men. Although he was very thirsty, he only drank a little of it. He handed the glass back to me, and as he did so, he said, |Oh for a draught of water from my father's well!| Are there any thirsty ones here? Come and drink of the fountain opened in Christ; your longing will be satisfied, and you will never thirst again. It will be in you |a well of water springing up into everlasting life.| Water rises to its own level; and as this water has come down from the throne of God, it will carry us back to the presence of God. Come, O ye thirsty ones, stoop down and drink, and live! You are all invited: come along! When Moses took his rod and struck the flinty rock in the wilderness, out of it there came a pure crystal stream of water, which flowed or through that dry and barren land. All that the poor thirsty Israelites had to do was to stoop and drink. It was free to all. So the grace of God is free to all. God invites you to come and take it: will you come?
I remember being in a large city where I noticed that the people resorted to a favorite well in one of the parks. I said to a man one day, |Does the well never run dry?| The man was drinking of the water out of the well; and as he stopped drinking, he smacked his lips, and said: |They have never been able to pump it dry yet. They tried it a few years ago. They put the fire engines to work, and tried all they could to pump the well dry; but they found there was a river flowing right under the city.| Thank God, the well of salvation never gets dry, though the saints of God have been drinking from it for six thousand years! Abel, Enoch Noah, Abraham. Moses, Elijah, the Apostles all have drunk from it; and they are now up yonder, where they are drinking of the stream that flows from the throne of God. |They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.|
Let me ring another Gospel bell:
COME AND DINE!
My brother, my sister -- are you hungry? Then come along and dine. Some people are afraid of being converted, because they think they will not hold out. Mr. Rainsford once said, |If the Lord gives us eternal life, He will surely give us all that is needful to preserve it.| He not only gives life; but He gives us our daily bread to feed that life.
After the Saviour had risen from the dead, He had not appeared to His disciples for some days. Peter said to the others, |I go a fishing.| Seven of them started off in their boats. They toiled all night but caught nothing. In the grey of the morning, they saw a Stranger on the shore. He addressed them and said |Children, have ye any meat?| They told Him they had not. |Cast the net on the right side of the ship; and ye shall find.| I can imagine they said to each other, |What good is that going to do? We have been fishing here all night, and have got nothing? The idea that there should be fish on one side of the boat, and not on the other!| However, they obeyed the command; and they had such a haul that there was no room for the fish in the boat. Then one of them said, |It is the Lord.| When he heard that, Peter sprang right into the sea, and swam to the shore; and the others pulled the boat to land.
When they reached the shore the Master said, |Come and dine.| What a meal that must have been. There was the Lord of Glory feeding His disciples. If He could set a table for His people in the wilderness, and feed three millions of Israelites for forty years, can He not give us our daily bread? I do not mean only the bread that perisheth; but the Bread that cometh from above. If He feeds the birds of the air, surely He will feed His children made in His own image! If He numbers the very hairs of our head, He will take care to supply all our temporal wants.
Not only so: He will give us the Bread of Life for the nourishment of the soul -- the life that the world knows nothing of -- if we will but go to Him. |I am the Bread of Life,| He says. As we feed on Him by faith, we get strength. Let our thoughts rest upon Him; and He will lift us above ourselves, and above the world, and satisfy our utmost desires.
Another Gospel bell is --
COME AND REST!
Dear friend, do you not need rest? There is a restlessness all over the world to-day. Men are sighing and struggling after rest. The cry of the world is, |Where can rest be found?| The rich man that we read of in the parable pulled down his barns, that he might build greater; and said to his soul, |Take thine ease.| He thought he was going to find rest in wealth; but he was disappointed. That night his soul was summoned away. No; there is no rest in wealth or pleasure.
Others think they will succeed in drowning their sorrows and troubles by indulging in drink; but that will only increase them. |There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked:| they are like the troubled sea that cannot rest. We sometimes talk of the ocean as being as calm as a sea of glass; but it is never at rest: and here we have a faithful picture of the wicked man and woman.
O weary soul, hear the sweet voice that comes ringing down through the ages: |Come unto me, all ye that labor, and are heavy-laden; and I will give you rest.| Thank God, He does not sell it! If He did, some of us are so poor we could not buy; but we can all take a gift. That little boy there knows how to take a gift; that old man, living on borrowed time, and almost on the verge of another world, knows how to take a gift. The gift Jesus wants to bestow is rest: Rest for time, and rest for eternity. Every weary soul may have this rest if he will. But you must come to Christ and get it. Nowhere else can this rest be found. If you go to the world with your cares, your troubles, and your anxieties, all it can do is to put a few more on the top of them. The world is a poor place to go to for sympathy. As some one has said: |If you roll your burdens anywhere but on Christ, they will roll back on you with more weight than ever. Cast them on Christ; and He will carry them for you.|
Here is another bell --
COME AND REASON!
Perhaps there are some infidels reading this. They are fond of saying to us, |Come and reason.| But I want to draw their attention to the verses that go before this one in the first chapter of Isaiah. The trouble with a good many skeptics is this -- they take a sentence here and there from Scripture without reference to the context. Let us see what this passage says: |When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers I will not hear: your hands are full of blood. Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.|
Then we have the gracious invitation, |Come now, and let us reason together.| Do you think God is going to reason with a man whose hands are dripping with blood, and before he asks forgiveness and mercy? Will God reason with a man living in rebellion against Him? Nay. But if we turn from and confess our sin, then He will reason with us, and pardon us. |Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow: though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.|
But if a man persists in his rebellion against God, there is no invitation to him to come and reason, and receive pardon. If I have been justly condemned to death by the law of the State, and am waiting the execution of my sentence, I am not in a position to reason with the governor. If he chooses to send me a free pardon, the first thing I have to do is to accept it; then he may allow me to come into his presence. But we must bear in mind that God is above our reason. When man fell, his reason became perverted; and he was not in a position to reason with God. |If any man willeth to do His will he shall know of the teaching.| We must be willing to forsake our sins. |Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon,| The moment a man is willing to part with his sins, God meets him in grace and offers him peace and pardon.
The next bell I would like to sound out is --
COME TO THE MARRIAGE!
|Behold, I have prepared my dinner: . . . all things are ready; come unto the marriage.| Who would not feel highly honored if they were invited to some fine residence, to the wedding of one of the members of the President's family? I can imagine you would feel rather proud of having received such an invitation. You would want all your friends to know it.
Probably you may never get such an invitation. But I have a far grander invitation for you here than that. I cannot speak for others; but if I know my own heart, I would rather be torn to pieces to-night, limb from limb, and die in the glorious hope of being at the marriage-supper of the Lamb, than live in this world a thousand years and miss that appointment at the last. |Blessed is he that is called to the marriage-supper of the Lamb.| It will be a fearful thing for any of us to see Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob taking their place in the kingdom of God, and be ourselves thrust out.
This is no myth, my friends; it is a real invitation. Every man and woman is invited. All things are now ready. The feast has been prepared at great expense. You may spurn the grace, and the gift of God; but you must bear in mind that it cost God a good deal before He could provide this feast. When He gave Christ He gave the richest jewel that heaven had. And now He sends out the invitation. He commands His servants to go into the highways, and hedges, and lanes, and compel them to come in, that His house may be full. Who will come? You say you are not fit to come? If the President invited you to the White House, and the invitation said you were to come just as you were; and if the sentinel at the gate stopped you because you did not wear a dress suit, what would you do? Would you not show him the document signed in the name of the President? Then he would stand aside and let you pass. So, my friend, if you can prove to me that you are a sinner, I can prove to you that you are invited to this Gospel feast -- to this marriage supper of the Lamb.
Let me ring out another bell in this Gospel chime --
|COME, INHERIT THE KINGDOM!|
|Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand, Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.| A kingdom! -- think of that! Think of a poor man in this world, struggling with poverty and want, invited to become possessor of a kingdom! It is no fiction; it is described as |an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time.| We are called to be kings and priests: that is a high calling. Surely no one who hears me intends to miss that kingdom! Christ said, |Seek ye first the Kingdom of God.| Those who inherit it shall go no more out.
Yet another bell --
|COME UP HITHER!|
In the Revelation we find that the two witnesses were called up to heaven when their testimony was ended. So if we are faithful in the service of our King, we shall by and by hear a voice saying, |Come up hither!| There is going to be a separation one day. The man who has been persecuting his godly wife will some day find her missing. That drunkard who beats his children because they have been taught the way into the Kingdom of God, will miss them some day. They will be taken up out of the darkness, and away from the persecution, up into the presence of God. When the voice of God saying, |Come up hither| is heard, calling His children home, there will be a grand jubilee. That glorious day will soon dawn. |Lift up your heads, for the time of your redemption draweth nigh.|
One more bell to complete the chime --
|WHOSOEVER WILL, LET HIM COME!|
It is the last time that the word |Come| appears in the Bible; and it occurs there over one thousand nine hundred times. We find it away back in Genesis, |Come, thou and all thy house, into the ark|; and it goes right along through Scripture. Prophets, apostles, and preachers, have been ringing it out all through the ages. Now the record is about to be closed, and Christ tells John to put in one more invitation. After the Lord had been in glory for about sixty years, perhaps He saw some poor man stumbling over one of the apostles' letters about the doctrine of election. So He came to John in Patmos, and John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day. Christ said to His disciple, |Write these things to the Churches.| I can imagine John's pen moved very easily and very swiftly that day; for the hand of his Lord was upon him. The Master said to him, |Before you close up the Book, put in one more invitation; and make it so broad that the whole world shall know they are included, and not a single one may feel that he is left out.| John began to write |The Spirit and the Bride say, Come,| that is, the Spirit and the Church; |and let him that heareth say, Come!| If you have heard and received the message yourself, pass it on to those near you; your religion is not a very real thing if it does not affect some one else. We have to get rid of this idea that the world is going to be reached by ministers alone. All those who have drunk of the cup of salvation must pass it around.
|Let him that is athirst, come.| But there are some so deaf that they cannot hear; others are not thirsty enough or they think they are not. I have seen men in our after-meetings with two streams of tears running down their cheeks; and yet they said the trouble with them was that they were not anxious enough. They were anxious to be anxious. Probably Christ saw that men would say they did not feel thirsty; so He told the apostle to make the invitation still broader. So the last invitation let down into a thirsty world is this: |Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.|
Thank God for those words |Whosoever will!| Who will come and take it? That is the question. You have the power to accept or to reject the invitation. A man in one meeting once was honest enough to say |I won't.| If I had it in my power I would bring this whole audience to a decision now, either for or against. I hope many now reading these words will say, |I will!| If God says we can, all the devils in hell cannot stop us. All the infidels in the world cannot prevent us. That little boy, that little girl, can say, |I will!| If it were necessary, God would send down a legion of angels to help you; but He has given you the power, and you can accept Christ this very minute if you are really in earnest.
Let me say that it is the easiest thing in the world to become a Christian, and it is also the most difficult. You will say: |That is a contradiction, a paradox.| I will illustrate what I mean. A little nephew of mine in Chicago, a few years ago, took my Bible and threw it down on the floor. His mother said, |Charlie, pick up Uncle's Bible.| The little fellow said he would not, |Charlie, do you know what that word means?| She soon found out that he did, and that he was not going to pick up the Book. His will had come right up against his mother's will. I began to be quite interested in the struggle; I knew if she did not break his will, he would some day break her heart. She repeated, |Charlie, go and pick up Uncle's Bible, and put it on the table.| The little fellow said he could not do it. |I will punish you if you do not.| He saw a strange look in her eye, and the matter began to get serious. He did not want to be punished, and he knew his mother would punish him if he did not lift the Bible. So he straightened every bone and muscle in him, and he said he could not do it. I really believe the little fellow had reasoned himself into the belief that he could not do it.
His mother knew he was only deceiving himself; so she kept him right to the point. At last he went down, put both his arms around the Book, and tugged away at it; but he still said he could not do it. The truth was he did not want to. He got up again without lifting it. The mother said, |Charlie, I am not going to talk to you any more. This matter has to be settled; pick up that Book, or I will punish you.| At last she broke his will, and then he found it as easy as it is for me to turn my hand. He picked up the Bible, and laid it on the table. So it is with the sinner; if you are really willing to take the Water of Life, you can do it.
|I heard the voice of Jesus say,
'Come unto Me, and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down,
Thy head upon My breast.'
I came to Jesus as I was --
Weary, and worn, and sad,
I found in Him a resting-place,
And He has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
'Behold, I freely give
The living water -- thirsty one,
Stoop down, and drink, and live.'
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in Him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
'I am this dark world's Light:
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
And all thy day be bright.'
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that Light of life I'll walk
Till traveling days are done.|
Dr. H. Bonar