Many of the old gospel wells that our fathers dug have been filled up by modern Philistines. They have thrown in their skepticisms and their philosophies, until the well is almost filled up and it is nigh impossible to get one drop of the clear water. These men tell us that you ought to put the Bible on the same shelf with the Koran and the old Persian Manuscripts, and to read it with the same spirit. There is not a day but somebody comes along and drops a brick or a stone or a carcass in this old gospel well.
We are told that all the world wants is development, forgetful of the fact that without the gospel the world always develops downward, and that if you should take the religion of Christ out of this world, in one hundred years it would develop into the “five points” of the universe. Yet there are a great many men and there are a great many rostrums whose whole work it is to fill up these Christian wells.
You will not think it strange, then, if the Isaac who speaks to you this morning tries to dig open some of the old wells made by Abraham, his father, nor will you be surprised if he calls them by the same old names.
Bring your shovels and pickaxes, and we will dig out a well–the well of Gospel Invitation. I suppose you have noticed that religious address in this day, for the most part, has gone into the abstract and essayic. You know the word “sinner” is almost dropped out of the Christian vocabulary. It is not thought polite to use that word now. It is Methodistic or old-fashioned. If you want to tell men that they are sinners, you must say they are spiritually erratic, or have moral deficits, or they have not had a proper spiritual development. I have not heard in twenty years that old hymn, “Come, ye sinners, poor and needy.”
In the first place, they are not sinners, and in the second place they are neither poor nor needy! I have heard “Christian” men in prayer meetings and elsewhere talk as though there were no very great radical change before a man becomes a Christian. All he has got to do is to stop swearing, clear his throat a few times, take a good wash, and he is ready for heaven!
My friends, if every man has not gone astray, and if the whole race is not plunged in sin and ruin, then that Bible is the greatest fraud ever enacted, for, from beginning to end, it sets forth that they are.
Now, my brothers and sisters, if a man must be born again in order to see the kingdom of God, and if a man is absolutely ruined unless Christ check his course, why not proclaim it? There must be an infinite and radical change in every man’s heart, or he cannot come within ten thousand miles of heaven. There must be an earthquake in his soul, shaking down his sins, and there must be the trumpet-blast of Christ’s resurrection bringing him up from the depths of sin and darkness into the glorious life of the gospel.
Do you know why more men do not come to Christ? It is because men are not invited that they do not come. You get a general invitation from your friend, “Come around some time to my house and dine with me.” You do not go. But he says, “Come around today at four o’clock and bring your family and we’ll dine together.” And you say, “I will come.” And you go. The world feels it is a general invitation to come around sometime and sit at the great gospel feast. Men do not come because they are not specially invited. It is because you do not take hold of them and say, “My brother, come to Christ. Come now–come now!”
How was it that in the days of Daniel Baker and Truman Osborne and Nettleton so many thousands came to Jesus? Because those good men did nothing else but invite them to come. They spent their lifetime in uttering invitations, and they did not mince matters either! Where did John Bunyan’s pilgrim start from? Did he start from some easy, quiet, cozy place? No. You know where he started from–the city of destruction, where every sinner starts from.
Do you know what Livingstone, the Scotch minister, was preaching about in Scotland when three hundred souls under one sermon came to Christ? He was preaching about the human heart as unclean, and hard, and stony. Do you know what George Whitefield was preaching about in his first sermon, when fifteen souls saw the salvation of God? It was this: “Ye must be born again.” Do you know what is the last subject he ever preached upon? “Flee the wrath to come.”
Oh! that the Lord God would come into our pulpits and prayer meetings and Christian circles and bring us from our fine rhetoric and profound metaphysics, and our elegant hair-splitting, to the old-fashioned well of gospel invitation.
There are enough sinners in this house this morning, if they should come to God, to make joy enough in heaven to keep jubilee a thousand years. Why not come? Have you never had a special invitation to come? If not, I give it now. You, you, you, come now to Jesus! Why do you try to cover up that cancer with a piece of court-plaster, when Christ, the Surgeon, with His scalpel, would take it all away, and it would never come again? Do you know that your nature is all wrong unless it has been changed by the grace of God? Do you not know that God cannot be pleased with you, my dear brother, in your present state? Do you know that your sinful condition excites the wrath of God? “God is angry with the wicked every day.” Do you not know that you have made war upon God? Do you not know that you have plunged your spear into the Saviour’s side and that you have broken His heart?
Oh, your sins! I press them on your attention–the sins of your lifetime. What a record for a death pillow! What data for the Judgment Day! What a cup of gall for your lips! Look at all the sins of your childhood and riper years, with their forked tongues, and adder stings, and deathless poignancy, unless Jesus with His heel shall crush the serpents. You have sinned against your God. How can you go to the good place, the pure place, your heart unpardoned?
T. DeWitt Talmage