“Until the Curtain Drops”
It was a bright Sunday afternoon in the month of August when a train drew up at the railway station of Conway in North Wales. As it came to a standstill, it brought a specially engaged saloon carriage immediately opposite to where we were standing.
It was at once evident that the occupants of this saloon were a party of theatricals, travelling to the place of their next appointment.
The first thought that flashed into our mind was, Do these young people ever get a chance of hearing the gospel? Perhaps some of them are the children of praying parents, and the very next “appointment” to which they are unconsciously travelling may be death itself, for “It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
Instinctively we felt in our pockets for a few gospel books, but alas! could only find one.
There was no time to lose, so quickly mounting the step of the carriage, we said, “Ladies and gentlemen! We hoped to have been able to give you each a little book to read on your journey, but we are sorry to find that we have only one; but you are welcome to it. Who will have it?”
Promptly a young man stepped forward, and said, “I’ll have it, sir.” He took it, and, instantly raising his hat, stood in the middle of the car, and with dramatic voice, and low bow, made in true theatrical style, said, “Ladies and gentlemen! public reading!” This was greeted with an all-round titter.
Turning to the little book, he paused; but after a momentary hesitation, he read the title, “Soul-Exchange.” Here he made another significant little halt, as though memory were at work, and then he proceeded to read. Let us reproduce as far as our memory will serve, the gist of part of what he read that day.
Think of him as he read, “Give me your soul, and I’ll give you drink, says Satan. ‘Done’ says the drunkard, and for strong drink he barters his precious soul.
“Give me your soul, and I’ll give you the theatre, the races and the cards, with jolly company. ‘Done’ says the pleasure lover, and for the theatre, the race course, the card table, and boon companions he barters his precious soul.”
These words, sprung upon them so suddenly and unexpectedly, seemed to grip every one of them, reader and listeners alike. We shall not readily forget the almost magical effect of those few words on that gay company. The reader himself, for the moment, forgot his dramatic art, and for the rest, laughter had given place to serious looks, and frivolity to sober listening. God only knows the sequel to that “public reading.”
As the train drew slowly away from the platform we could not help lifting our heart with thankfulness to God, not only for making our one little book go round the whole company, but, for allowing us to witness what we had that day; and we prayed that this evident “arrest” might lead to “conviction,” and conviction to a sound and solid conversion of some of that gay party.
“Why tell us all this?” you may say. “We are not theatricals, and we have no links with that frivolous crowd.”
Ah! that is where you make a mistake, dear friend. Between you and them are many links of strong and striking resemblance.
Like them, you, too, have a soul. Their foe Satan, is your foe. He has the same dark design against you as against them, and we would fain put you on your guard. His ways may differ, his tactics may change, but his object is always the same, and that the soul’s eternal and irretrievable ruin. Oh! be warned.
“Give me your soul” says he, “and you shall please yourself, and get full measure of this world’s pleasure.” How very nice!
“A short life and a merry one for me,” said a gay and thoughtless young man the other day. “Well, yes,” was the reply, “you will certainly get a short life if you don’t get a merry one.” “But,” he persisted, “I believe what the old song says, ‘Life is but a pleasant dream.’”
“Yes, that may be true too, but don’t forget, after every dream comes a waking. What about the waking?”
It was just a small piece of newspaper picked up from the street, but it was large enough to contain a brief but very significant critique of a theatrical play that was attracting large crowds at the time.
It ran thus:—“The Governor [the title of the Play] has a power that holds the audience spellbound, until the curtain drops.”
Yes, thought we, this is also true, alas! of another Governor. Satan the god and prince of this age appears to have a similar power, and for a similar time—‘until the curtain drops’ on the drama of this short life, even if it has been a merry one. There his power ends and the waking begins.
In Luke 16:22-23, the Lord Jesus supplies us with the solemn sequel. With faithful hand He draws aside the fallen curtain, and says “The rich man . . . died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments.” Thus ends the “pleasant dream” of the short and merry life of the pleasure-loving and God-forgetting. A lost soul, a fixed gulf, and a never-ending hell!
“Awake! Awake! O sinner wake,
And count the fearful cost
Of trifling with thy precious soul,
Until that soul be lost.
Awake! Awake! and turn to God,
Believe on Christ and live,
Awake from thy slumber,
Thy fleeting days number,
Awake! O sinner wake!”
The atoning work, the precious blood of that Holy Sufferer on Calvary, is surely enough to proclaim the value He puts on that soul, that men would exchange for a trifle.
Lift up your eyes, and “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). Hear Him say once again, “Look unto Me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is none else” (Isa. 45:22).
Trifle no longer, for
Fast to its close speeds the day of God’s grace,
Then will begin thy despair,
Hopeless despair, endless despair!
Lose not thy soul for earth’s vanities lighter than air.
The Gospel Messenger, 1921, p. 133