The Bride says, 'Come.'
God, having provided such great and unfading blessings for us, would therefore have us know about them. Christ’s last command to His chosen apostles and to His ministers in every age is, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.”
The home is prepared.
The table is set.
Garments and jewels befitting the occasion are provided for all who come. The welcoming voices which reach us are from the very vestibule of glory. ‘Come: for all things are now ready.” ‘The Spirit and the bride say, Come, and let him that heareth say, Come.“ ‘Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
God’s Holy Spirit who thus strives and pleads with men is He Who makes God’s call effectual to salvation. The free offer of the gospel is therefore a great evangelical treasure since it comes primarily from God, the Holy Spirit, Who, as He invites us, is able to make us obey His own voice.
For this reason God’s messengers should never be scared by “the Armenian ghost” which is supposed to haunt the doctrine of a full and free offer of eternal life to perishing sinners. “Come” is a favourite word with Christ. It should therefore, be a favourite word with us. It is His Word we preach, and it has therefore the same authority on the lips of those whom He sends as on His own. It is a word which God has often and very richly blessed in the conversion of souls.
Let us, in imagination, sit for a moment at a service held in the heart of London many years ago. The famous Metropolitan Tabernacle is, as usual, packed with eager worshippers. During the service hundreds of hankerchiefs touch the tear-filled eyes of those who listen to the famous preacher as he pleads with them to come to God’s gospel feast.
Many hearts are melted down in penitence while new and strangely sweet emotions arise within their spirits. God’s Spirit is truly present. The incomparable voice of the famous preacher rises and falls as he repeats the words: “Compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
Spurgeon used to say that there was not a seat in the tabernacle which the Holy Spirit, at one time or another, had passed by. But this particular sermon stands in a category all by itself. It marked a point where in that sacred building the tide of God’s power had touched new heights.
Many could trace the beginnings of a happy eternity with God to that great sermon. “Compel them to come in:” “All things are now ready:” ‘The marriage of the Lamb is come, and His wife hath made herself ready:” ‘Come Come, Come.” And from many hearts came the genuine but silent response: “I will go.” ‘Lord, I am coming as Thou wantest me to do.”
We have already mentioned the personal nature of God’s love. His call and invitations are personal also. On earth our Lord often ignored the crowd, and addressed His words to some solitary soul who wanted healing from sin and its plagues. It was so with Zacchaeus and Bartimeus, with the woman at the well, and with her who touched the hem of His garment.
The relationship between God and man is awesomely personal. In our ultimate moral and spiritual accountability to God we stand alone. Within the circle of destiny and judgment we stand apart and remote from all other men. Each of us must give an account of himself to God. Both in His judgment upon our lives and in His gracious dealings with us He brings us into isolation. This is what we also discover when God’s call impresses itself savingly upon our spirit. “He calleth them all by name.”
When God’s voice arrested Saul of Tarsus he was no longer one of the troop. “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?“ That voice isolated him and brought him, into the searching light of God’s presence. It was a voice of judgment and of grace. And how personal was his answer: “Lord, what wilt Thou have me do?” The rest of the company had faded out. He was alone with God.
An American traveller once found himself sitting in Spurgeon’s Tabernacle. He was amazed at the vast, eager crowd who had come to hear a sermon. He wondered how one man could command the interest of such an overwhelming multitude. The waiting, excited crowd fascinated him. But when the service began he was entirely captivated by the wonderful voice and the evangelical fervour of the preacher.
His mind was so held by the message that the crowd at last faded out, and he could only see and hear God’s herald who proclaimed the “good news” with such earnestness to the people. But as the sermon proceeded he could only hear another voice. It was the voice of God, speaking to him in His Word. There he sat face to face with the awful realities of eternity, and as if no one existed within the universe but God and himself. It was a voice which drew his heart to the great Saviour Whom Spurgeon proclaimed.
In the Highlands of Ross-shire there is a sheltered hollow near which flows a fern kissed stream, known as “The Burn of Ferintosh.” In this quiet and picturesque dell many people used to gather in other days to hear the gospel.
One day the minister of the parish, the famous Doctor John Macdonald, left his manse with a great burden on his heart. He yearned for the salvation of the lost. When he stood up to give his final address of exhortation to the vast multitude who had assembled at “The Burn” he based his remarks on the words: “Hearken O daughter, and consider, and incline thine ear” (Ps. 45: 10).
These words he dovetailed into the words of our story: “Wilt thou go with this man?” As he went on pleading with the people to “kiss the Son” and to yield to His claims and accept His overtures, the great congregation was deeply moved. Then from among the crowd a voice was heard. It was that of a tall, comely, middle-aged woman who cried, “I will, I will, I will.”
It was then that the place became a Bochim. Many wept out of the depths of their hearts. This was not a passing wave of emotionalism, for many lived in after years to praise God that they were there on that day when God’s Spirit moved their hearts to embrace the Prince of Life. God honoured His Word and promise in the salvation of many. That message God’s Spirit used in opening many hearts to receive the gift of life eternal.
There is another spot in the Scottish Highlands famous for its evangelical associations. It is what is known as “The White Cow’s Bed” in Gairloch, Ross-shire. This green circular hollow, with its ample accommodation for over two thousand people, used to be the scene of great religious gatherings in other days. In that quiet hollow, men like Doctor John Kennedy of Dingwall used to preach the everlasting gospel in all its sweetness and power.
Many years after Doctor Kennedy and his faithful contemporaries were no longer on the scene a young minister was asked to preach in Gairloch. And those who heard his words could see how true he was to the Gospel note and emphasis of those old heralds of God. His name was John Macleod who afterwards became Principal of a theological college in Edinburgh.
John Macleod’s sermon in Gairloch was on the one word “Come.” The centre of his theme was the welcome which God extended in His Word to sinners. Some who listened to his words that day were deeply touched as they recalled the days of old. The message was so true to the great Gospel tradition which had brought such blessings to the land. It assured those who were seeking salvation that Christ’s heart is tender and pitiful toward those who are ignorant and out of the way.
A few years before he died this great scholar and theologian wrote a book. It was on the theology of the Reformed Church and on all the errors and distractions through which it had to survive throughout the years. In this book he deals with the manner in which both an extreme Calvanism and a shallow Arminianism had, in their presentation of the Gospel, lost the ideal balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s personal accountability to God.
And since we are dealing with the Gospel call in this chapter we cannot do better than quote his words. And we ought to take them to heart, for they show the solemn and inescapable relationship in which man stands to God as he is presented with the free offer of salvation in Christ.
“In regard to the claims of God, each of these extremes worked from a common principle which they turned to opposite ends. The Hyper Calvinistic brethren held that there is no worldwide call to Christ sent out to all sinners to whom in the letter the Gospel comes, neither are all bidden to take Him as their Saviour.
On the other hand, they maintained that Christ is held forth or offered as Saviour to those only whom God effectually calls. They reasoned that man, as a bankrupt in spiritual resources, cannot be called upon to do what is out of the compass of his power. He can neither repent nor believe.
So it was out of place to call upon him to do what he cannot do. In this, when we look into it, we find the common Arminian position that man’s responsibility is limited by his ability. The Arminian holds to the presence of a certain ability in those that are called; otherwise sinners could not be called upon to repent and believe the Gospel.
Each side takes up the principle from its own end. They fail together to recognise that the sinner is responsible for his spiritual impotence. It is the fruit of sin; and man’s sin does not destroy nor put out of court God’s right to ask for an obedience alike in service and repentance and faith that His sinful creatures have disabled themselves from yielding to Him. His title to make His demand is entirely and absolutely unimpaired.
He claims but His own when He bids man, made in His likeness and for His glory, serve Him and be the doer of His will as He makes it known. When He calls upon him to repent He but asks what He is entitled to. When He bids the sinner who needs the Saviour receive Him, as His own, He is altogether within His rights in doing so. There is a glorious superiority to man’s reasonings shown by Him who bids the deaf to hear and the blind to look that they may see.
“The obligation to obey God holds, and this makes it our sin not to honour it. It is our sin that we do not repent when we are called upon so to do. It is equally our sin if we do not believe and obey the Gospel when it tells us of our Lord and bids us take Him as our own. This sin is the crowning sin and it decisively marks out the unbeliever as the enemy of Christ the Lord.
Those who give place in their thinking to the defective and erroneous principle that there is nothing to answer for when there is no power to obey, can find no place in their teaching for commending the Gospel except to those who are already under Divine tuition and have learned to some purpose that they are lost sinners.
So the open way that the Gospel sets before the sinner which he may take - and must take - in coming back to God is as good as shut when this type of preaching doles out the Gospel to those only who are alive to their ruined plight.
The note of warning for the unbelieving and the impenitent did not get its own place, and no more did the wooing note that sought to win the sinner to the obedience of faith. The outcome of this kind of preaching was that the eye of the hearer was directed to the hidden man of the heart to the obscuring of the call to look out and away from self to the Saviour.
It is not in self in any shape or form that we can find the fullness or the help or the life that we need. It is in the fullness of the Saviour that there is a supply for all the sinner’s need, and the hearer of the Gospel has to learn to put forth the faith, that goes out to Christ, for all that will meet his need, and that looks away from everyone else as a source of help and hope.
Unbalanced preaching of a closed system thrust to one side the lesson taught by the looking of the dying Israelite to the brazen serpent, though such a look was the one way of cure for him in whose veins the poison of sin was working out death.
In other words, an unduly introspective and one sided presentation of the truth that bears on the enjoyment of God’s favour took the place of the free, if also the one sided, message of the early Reformers. This earlier Reformed message bore witness to Christ in His fullness and freeness, and bade the hearers take Him as their own and live in the happy confidence that He was theirs, and that in Him they had life and salvation.
A kind of preaching that sidetracked the Evangel and fenced and hedged with elaborate restrictions and conditions the enjoyment of Gods free salvation was one that, like Hagar, gendered to bondage.”
These words express the Scriptural genuineness of God’s sincere offer of salvation to all men. They speak of how deeply man’s destiny is involved in the kind of response he gives to God’s welcoming voice. They show that every pillow, which by way of excuse we put under our heads, is taken away.
They teach us also that since God’s call is personal it is never addressed to “them,” but always to “me.” On this point there is an impressive story told about the famous Henry Moorhouse who was once the guest of a wealthy gentleman in America. The story is entitled “Finger Prints To Heaven.”
Let me give it just as it appeared some years ago under this title in an evangelical magazine.
This gentleman had a daughter just advancing into womanhood, and looking forward with bright anticipation to a gay and worldly life. One day she entered the library, and found the evangelist poring over his Bible. Begging pardon for the intrusion, she was about to retire when he looked up and said in his quiet and tender way, “Are you saved?”
She could only reply, “No, Mr. Moorhouse, I am not.” Then came another question, “Would you like to be saved?” She thought for a moment of all that is meant by salvation, and of all that is meant by the lack of salvation, and she frankly answered, “Yes, I wish I were a sincere Christian.”
Then came the third question, asked very solemnly and earnestly, “Would you like to be saved now?” Upon this searching thrust, her head dropped and she began to look into her heart. On one hand wealth and position in society made the world peculiarly attractive; and on the other hand stood the Lord Jesus Christ, who must then and there be received or rejected.
No wonder the struggle in her breast was severe, but as the realities of eternity swept before her vision, she raised her eyes, and calmly, resolutely said, “Yes, I want to be saved now.” The supreme moment in her history was reached, and the evangelist was led by the Holy Spirit to guide her wisely.
He asked her to kneel beside him at the sofa and to read aloud the 53rd Chapter of Isaiah. This she did in tones that became tremulous and broken by sobs. “Read it again,” said Henry, ‘and wherever you find ‘we,’ our’ and ‘us’ put in ‘I,’ my’ and ‘me.’ Read it as if you were pouring out your heart before God.”
The weeping girl again read, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and I hid as it were my face from him; he was despised and I esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne my grief, and carried my sorrows; yet I did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” Here she broke down completely, as the thought of her personal relations to the Lord Jesus in His sufferings for the first time flashed into her mind.
But wiping away her tears, she read on: “He was wounded for my transgressions, He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him; and with His stripes I am healed. I, like a sheep, have gone astray; I have turned to my own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him all of my iniquities.”
She was silent for a moment, and then exclaimed with deep emotion, “Oh, Mr. Moorhouse, is this true?“ “Dear child,” he answered, “does not God say it?“
Again she was silent for a time, but at length looking up, no longer through the tears of bitter grief, but in joy, and adoring gratitude, she said, “Then I am saved, for all my iniquities have been laid on Him.
She arose from her knees with the peace of God that passeth all understanding guarding her heart and mind.
The writer of this story concludes with the words: ‘It is not enough to know that Christ died for many, but to believe in the heart that He died for me in particular. I must see Him by faith hanging from the Cross for my sins, suffering in my stead, taking my place under the curse of God’s broken law, making my atonement with His precious blood for my soul, before I can enter into the gladness of knowing that there is ‘Therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8: 1).
There are many who believe that the Bible is true, that they are sinners, and that Christ is the only Saviour and yet fail to receive salvation because they do not put in “I,” ’my,” and ‘’me’’ while reading sacred Scriptures.”
Not only does the voice of the Bride reach us through the Gospel, as it is written and proclaimed, but we may hear it also in other ways. The well known minister, I. P. Struthers, of Greenock, once interviewed a young woman who desired to sit at the Lord’s table. It happened that some time before then her sister had died, and at her funeral they sang a Psalm.
“She shall be brought unto the King
In robes with needle wrought;
Her fellow-virgins following
Shall unto thee be brought.”
Her beloved sister, she reflected, had passed within the veil. She was now without fault before the throne, and clad in the garments of righteousness, immortality and eternal joy. By God’s grace she also would become a follower of the Lord and of those “who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” God spoke to her heart through the death of a sister and led her to seek and find salvation in His Son.
And so we end, by reminding ourselves that however God’s voice reaches us, our eternal destiny is very deeply involved in whether we truly say Yes or No to His call.