I Will Appease Him With the Present
“I will appease him with the present that goeth before me, and afterward I will see his face; peradventure he will accept of me” (Genesis 32:20).
“Would God forgive me if I bought Him that packet of sweeties I saw in Ferguson’s shop-window yesterday?” The speaker was a little lassie of six years; but her question voices the language of many a sinner, as sin presses on the conscience, and he thinks of God.
Little Mary’s mother had gone out and left her in charge of a godly aunt, with instructions to put her to bed at six o’clock. When the hour came her aunt reminded Mary that the hour for retiring had come. The child replied that mother was out, and she would not go to bed. Her aunt rejoined, “Mother’s orders must be obeyed.” Whereupon the little creature replied, “If you put me to bed, I won’t say my prayers.”
“Mother’s orders must be obeyed,” again said her aunt; and accordingly the little one was put to bed, prayerless, as she vowed. The light was turned down, and the young sinner left to her own reflections. In darkness conscience often works, and so it was with Mary, for within half an hour a piteous voice was heard on the stairhead, crying, “Aunt Georgina, Aunt Georgina.”
“What is the matter, darling?” said amity, coming up the stair.
“Oh, Aunty, I know I have been naughty and wicked. Would God forgive me if I bought Him that packet of sweeties I saw in Ferguson’s shop-window yesterday?”
Aunty, who was a sincere Christian, told the child that forgiveness was not to be obtained in that manner, but by confession of her sin and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But really the language of the child here is the expression of the thoughts of many of her elders.
The passage of Scripture which heads this paper voices it thoroughly. Jacob knew he had wronged Esau, and hoped to appease him with the present which he sent before him, when again having to meet his wronged and erstwhile indignant brother.
Man has sinned against God. His conscience tells him that he is a sinner. When alive to this, he naturally wonders what effort on his own part will put things right with God. Something that springs from himself, or is brought by him to God, is usually the suggestion which presents itself to him as the means of rectifying matters with God. To appease Him with a present is really the thought in his mind. With this in view, Luther was found climbing the five hundred steps at the Vatican, hoping to propitiate God, till he remembered, “The just shall live by faith,” and saw that his toil was all in vain. The Indian fakir, who endures the torture of being hung up by a hook in the shoulders under the eye of the sun for hours, hoping thereby to propitiate an offended deity, is in line with little Mary, Jacob, and Martin Luther. But all such efforts are in vain.
It seems indigenous to the human soul to think that there is something we must do to meet the claims of God’s righteousness, and to propitiate His offended majesty. When Naaman was bidden “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean,” he was wroth, and wont away in a rage. “And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it? How much rather then, when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean?” (2 Ki. 5:10, 13). The prophet did not bid him do some great thing. He was told to get his cleansing in a very simple way. He was to do nothing but bury himself out of his own sight and everybody else’s. He did not like that plan. So today God’s way of salvation—simple faith in Jesus and His finished work—is very unacceptable to the sinner, till, driven by the writhings of his conscience, he heeds God’s word, and accepts God’s Son as his own and only Saviour.
The idea of appeasing God by some works of our own is uppermost in the human mind; and we frequently meet with sinners who say they are doing their best, or going to do their best to put matters right.
If my reader be one of this class, let me assure him his efforts are all in vain. When the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross, He said, “It is finished.” The work of atonement was effected. The work of redemption was completed. The work by which God is glorified, sin put away, Satan’s power broken, death annulled, and the bars of the grave broken up, was all finished, and finished for ever. “Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). His suffering alone avails to put sins away.
The gospel of God, of necessity, sets aside the presents and works of man. “We conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28), is a very fine conclusion, which the apostle Paul draws from the fact that God now “justifies freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 4 it distinctly states, “To him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness” (vv. 4-5). Justification, peace, pardon, forgiveness, and salvation, are obtained by faith, without works.
This is very difficult for the legal mind to apprehend. But it is well to bear in mind that God is love; His attitude toward men has been unchanged by man’s sin. It is man who has altered, not God. True, man’s sin has compelled God to sit on the throne of judgment; but He who fills that throne still is love. You have not to appease Him, for He is love. But His righteousness, and His offended majesty in respect to sin, have to be met. This the death of the Lord Jesus Christ alone can effect, and, thank God, has effected.
Reader, if you have never yet rested on the work, and trusted the Person of the Lord Jesus, let me urge you to now do so. As a new year dawns, begin it with God. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” This is God’s way of salvation. Be wise and accept it.
The Gospel Messenger 1903, p. 10