(34 – The Rope from Above. “Gospel Messenger” Series) (12pp)
Some years since, I was passing early one morning, down one of the main thoroughfares of Edinburgh, when I noticed numbers of people hastening rapidly in the direction in which I was going. The cause of the unusual stir I had no need to enquire, for just then, the road made a bend, and full in view was a large crowd gathered before a house on fire. Sheets of flame leapt out of the windows, and dense volumes of smoke were rolling forth from the first floor.
Technically speaking, the burning house, itself the centre of a Row, was a “1st Flat'' and, fortunately or not as the case may have been, the tenants were out at the time. For the sakeof my readers who are not acquainted with the "Flat" system of building houses, I may say that the house in question and two above it, entered from the street by a stair common to them all—each house having its own door opening into the stair at various levels. This being so, ingress to, or egress from flats No. 2 and 3 can only be had by passing the door of No. 1, which really answers to the drawing room floor of an ordinary house—the ground floor being usually, as in this case, a shop.
Drawing near the scene, I saw, at a glance what was the state of matters. Neither Fire Engine, Fire Escape, Fire Man nor Fire Ladder were as yet at hand, while at the open windows of flat No. 2, stood two females—an aged woman and her daughter. Their dishevelled state, and general attire told that from their slumber, they had been awakened by the cry of "Fire," only to find the floor beneath their feet in flames—their house filled with choking smoke, and the common stairs by which they sought escape, a miniature crater through which it were hopeless to attempt to pass.
Baulked in their efforts to leave by the stairs at the windows, they now appeared in company, uttering distressing shrieks of fright, and imploring help from the populace beneath. A fearful agony was on the face of each as they cried and looked in vain for help from below. True, the help of Fire-men and ladders had been sought, but they were long in coming. At such a time, each moment seems an age!
It was a touching sight, as side by side they stood—themselves utterly helpless—while the devouring flame below seemed only to mock their agony, and with lurid blaze ever and anon leapt madly forth and up from the window directly beneath them, as though it would gladly devour them where they stood or drive them back to suffocation. The breeze was fresh, and the snow-white hair of the terror stricken mother was waving wildly in the air, a strange contrast to the black smoke and lambent flames around. All together, it was a weird and painful sight.
Just then a cheer rang forth from the crowd, and, looking higher than the women, I saw that some kindly workmen had, by another common stairs, managed to get on to the roof, carrying with them a slender rope. To fasten it round a stack of chimneys—fortunately in a direct line behind the open window—was the work of a minute or two, and then, giving the rope a coil, and a well directed fling over the eaves of the house, right down in front of the terrified and now surprised women (for they expected no help from above) fell, their only way of escape. Loud hurrahs greeted the providers of this way of salvation, while cries of "Lay hold of the Rope"—"Come down by the Rope'' indicated plainly to the unfortunate pair what they were expected to do. A way of escape having been provided by others, they were expected, and urged at once to avail themselves of it. How right, and how simple this judgment; do you not agree with it Reader?
Quick as thought, I saw the women lay hold of the rope; but now the question arose, who should go first—in other words, who had faith to trust this slender means of safety. From where I stood, I could note an altercation as to who should first avail herself of it, and some minutes I think must have elapsed—while encouraging and hastening words rose thickly from below. "Make haste"—"Don't waste time"—You may safely trust it'' &c. &c. At length, the mother gained her point; she was stout and heavy—it might not sustain her—the daughter was thin and fragile—she might safely trust it. A mother's love, I doubt not, was under and behind all—a love only eclipsed by a Saviour's. The daughter took the rope in both her hands and got on to the window sill. The crowd held its breath. The rope was pulled on first to see if it held on above. All right. The 35 or 40 feet beneath was looked at. The rope was long enough. She is convinced of the points—it is long enough, and it is strong enough, and yet she lingers. I saw the reason why; when just about to launch away, doubts and fears evidently rose, and by the heels of her boots she clung to the raised sill. This lasted a moment, and then, with instinctive love, the mother gave her a push, and fairly forth she swung.
Descending too rapidly her hands "fired," and, while still some distance from the ground, she let go the rope and fell. Fearing this event, some strong men had gathered underneath, and into their arms she tumbled, receiving no harm whatever. The mother, encouraged by her child's success, and learning by her fall not to be too hasty in her descent, now committed herself to the trusty rope, and hand under hand slowly coming down, was soon by her daughter's side, right thankful for the rope from above.
At the time, and since, I have often thought how this scene illustrates the state of man as a sinner, and the dealings of God with him in grace. Man has sinned, and his sin has placed him in a position of imminent danger. "All have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. iii. 23). This word includes you and me, dear Reader. Further: "The wages of sin is death'' (Rom. vi. 23). And again, God speaks thus: "It is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. ix. 27). As to what this judgment is which overtakes the dead, we are left in no doubt whatever. Hear God's testimony, "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened, and another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works . . . And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire'' (Rev. xx. 12, 15).
Here we are told the final doom of the dead. They have no life suited to God. "Dead in sins" delineates their time condition. "Eternal life, the gift of God,'' they cared not then to accept; hence their eternal condition corresponds to their time state. Solemn truth! The actions of life bring forth fruit for eternity. Read what follows: "But the fearful, i.e., (cowards—those who are afraid or ashamed to trust and confess Christ), and unbelieving (those who are avowed infidels and scoffers, though outwardly moral and well-behaved—and is it not notable that these two classes should head the list?) and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death'' (Rev. xxi. 8). I know men scoff at these solemn words of God. This does not make them less real or terrible, but only manifests the folly of the human heart, which refuses to believe God's testimony as to its present guilty and godless state, and future equally godless condition for eternity, and despises the way of salvation which God in His grace has provided.
The women I have written of were in as much danger while asleep and unconscious of it, as when fully alive to their critical state. Is your case different, O unsaved Reader? Not one whit.
But perhaps you bow to God's Word, and seeing your guilt and sin, tremble in view of ''judgment to come.'' It is well with you if so, and better still if you are willing to take God's way of salvation. He it is who alone can save. He has, so to speak, let down a rope from above, long and strong enough to meet any and every sinner's case, no matter how many or heavy his sins may be. Christ is God's way of escape from the lake of fire, and if you would escape the due reward of your deeds, my Friend, you must trust to Him.
"Lay hold of the rope," said the crowd, preaching a suited gospel to the women. ''Lay hold of Christ," say I. "This is My beloved Son, hear Him," says God the Father. "I am the way, the truth, and the life. Come unto me," says Jesus. ''Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world . . . He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him,'' says John the Baptist. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," say Paul and Silas. "Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God" says Peter, the fisherman. ''Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins'' says John, the Evangelist. "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes, we are healed " says Isaiah, the Prophet. "Blessed are all they that put their trust in him" says David, the Psalmist-king. What a cloud of witnesses to His worth! He has come down to save—it has all come from His own side—and is it not strange that sinners will not trust Him?
Dear Reader, if you still have your heels hooked on to some window sill of feelings or hesitancy, oh, let me give you the push just now that shall cause you simply and sweetly to trust the Lord Jesus.
Fear not that you will fall. He will hold you up—the rope will not break, and His grasp of you when once you commit yourself to Him—will never unloose; and He will land you in glory as the fruit of His work on the Cross for you.
“The Gospel Messenger” 1887