James Smith, 1856
There is a great lack of decision at the present day. Many people are impressed, convinced, and concerned — but they are not decided. They have not yielded themselves unto God. They have not presented their hearts to Jesus. They go far — but not far enough; the consequence is, they are not happy. They misrepresent true religion. People take them for religious people; they see that they are not at ease; and therefore say, "These religious people are not happier than we are." The fact is, they are not truly religious. To be truly religious, is to be brought back to God by his own grace, and to be united to him by his own Spirit. Now if a man is really reconciled to God, and realizes union with him — he cannot be long unhappy. He may be tempted and tried, he may pass through a sea of troubles — but there is still a well-spring of happiness in his heart, and he sometimes sings for joy even in the midst of his troubles, just as Paul and Silas did in the prison at Philippi. The water that Jesus gives to those who believe in him, remains in them a well of living water, springing up into everlasting life. And this water refreshes, revives, and comforts them in all their afflictions, temptations, and trials. Without this, the principal thing in religion is lacking, and profession is like a body without a soul. There must be decision, or there can be no solid peace, settled rest, or Heavenly joy.
William Thomas was long an undecided character. He was constant in his attendance at the means of grace. He regularly read his Bible. He could not neglect prayer. And at length he began to teach in the Sunday school. He was generally respected, and many of the Lord's people hoped he had "the root of the matter" in him. But he was not happy. He always felt embarrassed when in company with Christians, if they were talking on experimental subjects. He was afraid lest they should ask him as to the state of his heart. He knew that all was not right, and he did not like to say so. When he heard the brethren pray, the conviction often flashed into his mind that he came short of the mark. When he heard a sermon on experimental religion, he was uneasy, for he was conscious of a deficiency.
Under these circumstances he could not be happy, and yet he went on in this way for a long time. He had too much religion, heartily to join with the world and enjoy its follies; and not religion enough, to unite with the Church, and enjoy its holy pleasures. He was a borderer, hanging between the world and the church; he dare not join with the former, and he could not join with the latter.
It is to be feared that there are many like William Thomas, who know the Master's will — and do it not; halting between two opinions, they neither enjoy carnal nor spiritual pleasures.
On one occasion William heard a sermon from his minister from the following words, "I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you!" This sunk into his heart and made him very uneasy, and he determined he would come to a point; but after a bit he sunk back into his old state.
He was aroused from this state by a discourse on these words, "How long do you mate us to doubt?" This searched his heart, stirred up his soul, and he felt as if he must make the surrender. But no! he was tempted to procrastinate. Many plausible excuses were presented to his mind, and once more he yielded.
At length the long looked for time came; a sermon from these words brought him to a point, "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices!" He saw clearly the love of God in preparing, presenting, and wishing poor sinners to embrace a free salvation. He saw his hardness of heart, ingratitude, and danger of continually standing aloof. And the words "So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices!" sounded like a death knell in his soul.
His conviction of sin, especially of unbelief in neglecting the great salvation — was deep and vivid. His folly in putting off the concerns of his soul, and living in an undecided state, as he had done — filled him with confusion and alarm. And now what could he do? He must yield — or perish! He must submit — or be eternally undone. His heart was full. His soul trembled within him. He hastened from the house of God, and burst into a flood of tears. He confessed his sin. He condemned his folly. He cried for mercy. He laid his soul at God's feet without a condition. He was willing to be saved in God's way. He felt no objection to God's sovereignty. He saw his holiness in the law, and his grace in the gospel. He cried, "Lord, take my heart. Take it just as it is. Take it and fill it with your grace, occupy it as your home, and save it so that you will be glorified in doing it." He accepted of Christ as God's free gift. He embraced the promise. He felt peace. His heart overflowed with joy. He shed tears of sorrow for his sin — and tears of joy for a free salvation. When he looked at the cross, and saw Jesus dying, his heart felt as if it would break; but when he looked up, and saw Jesus seated at the right hand of God, his joy was unspeakable. Never had he felt such sorrow, or enjoyed such happiness before.
It was the turning-point of his life. He was now prepared to put on a profession of Christ, to unite with the Lord's people, and, like one of old, "he went on his way rejoicing." He could now speak of heart-work. He knew what passing from death unto life meant. He could joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ, having received the atonement. He spoke of religion with confidence, and commended the Lord Jesus Christ to others, as he only can, who has "tasted that the Lord is gracious."
Friend, are you decided for God? Have you yielded the heart to God, and received the Lord Jesus, as William Thomas did? Be assured of this, that you will never realize a solid peace, or taste the sweets of spiritual joy — until you do. An undecided state must be a unhappy state. It is a state which God hates, which the Lord Jesus Christ loathes. He says, "I wish that you were either hot or cold." Be one thing — or the other. Choose the world — or Christ. Serve God — or mammon.
Every sensible person respects a decided man; but who can respect the undecided, especially when indecision is indulged in for years? As there can be no happiness now without decision, so there can be no comfort in sickness, or peace in death, or joy beyond the grave. We must be brought to a point — or we are eternally undone. God will not always be trifled with. The sentence will pass on the undecided hearer of the Gospel pronounced on the fruitless fig-tree, "Cut it down, why allow it to take up the ground?"
Let me beseech you, therefore, to consider seriously, and decide wisely and instantly; yield up your heart to God at once, unreservedly, and forever. Decision for Christ issues in union to Christ, leads to a profession of Christ, and is crowned by an introduction into the glory, honor, and happiness of Christ. Decide, then, decide for Christ at once! no longer delay!