“He preached unto them Jesus and the resurrection. And when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked: and others said, We will hear thee again of this matter. So Paul departed from among them. Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them . . . After these things Paul departed from Athens” (Acts 17:18, 33-34; 18:1).
When Paul preached at Athens his audience was split into three sections at the close:—Mockers—“some mocked;” Procrastinators—“others said, We will hear thee again of this matter;” and Believers—“howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed.”
What a solemn effect of hearing the Word of God! But as it was then, so often is it now. How many times, my reader, have you heard the Word of God this year? How has it left you? Have you heard of Jesus and the resurrection only to mock? What profound folly! It is written that “fools make a mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9), which indicates terrible levity of heart, but to mock at grace, the Son of God, the blessed Saviour Jesus, and the wondrous tale that His resurrection involves, reveals the deep, irreparable ruin of man, and the profound moral darkness of his soul. Reader, are a mocker? Let me add that you are not the only one who can mock. Terribly solemn, and equally true, is the testimony of God to you, as to a moment in your future history. Listen to it, O mocker, I beseech you—“Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof; I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you” (Prov. 1:24-27). What a turning of the tables! What a moment for the mocker! No pen can describe it. God forbid that any reader of The Gospel Messenger should ever know its meaning.
But let us turn to the Procrastinator. What better is his fate? This is a man who believes everything in his head, and nothing with his heart. “We will hear thee again” is his motto. He hears, is impressed, perhaps weeps, gets uncomfortable, feels the Gospel is true, knows he is not right, not ready to die, or meet the Lord if He came; but loving the world, and the things that are in it, he defers decision for Christ to some future day. Thus did some of the Athenians. “We will hear thee again,” said they, but they did not, for “after these things Paul departed from Athens,” and they lost their golden opportunity of salvation. So said Felix—“Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” Poor man! It never came that we know. True, he sent for Paul again and again, but only because “he hoped also that money should have been given him of Paul.” Fancy being the imitator of such a man! His faith is in “a convenient season” that never came; his hope in money which he never got. But just such is the Procrastinator of today. False faith and fruitless hopes mark him. Of course, Procrastinator, you hope to be saved. So did every man that is now in hell for eternity. Some one has said it is paved with hopes; but you see hope is not faith, simple, real faith in Christ, which always brings immediate blessing. Oh! my friend, if you have been procrastinating, let me urge you to do so no longer. “Now is the day of salvation, now is the accepted time.” God’s Gospel is always “today.” The devil’s is always “tomorrow.” We will hear thee again,” say you. Are you sure? Have you a lease of life? No. Tomorrow may find you in eternity. Where will you spend it?
But Paul preached not in vain, for “certain men clave unto him, and believed,” and fain would I hope—in fact, thank God, I know—that The Gospel Messenger has not been going out this year in vain. Certain have believed. Are you among the number? If so, make no secret of it. Hoist your colours, confess the Lord simply. Dionysius and Damaris will not blush in eternity, or ever regret that they boldly came out for Christ in a day of opposition to His name.
They believed the Gospel, and identified themselves fully with the Lord’s servant. To them “Jesus and the resurrection” were life-giving sounds. To those who heard and believed they meant that Jesus had died, His death had blotted out their sins, and delivered them from coming judgment, and His resurrection was the divine and certain proof that Satan’s power was broken, and every claim of God against them surely and eternally settled.
They believed. It is a very simple testimony. They believed God, they believed His Word, His love, His Son, and they were not ashamed to take their place boldly with the believers.
No sweeter name could man on earth have than that he is a believer in Jesus. It involves everything, comprehends all the blessings of the Gospel. The believer may not know all at once what these blessings are, but they are his nevertheless. He is forgiven, he is pardoned, he is saved, he is ransomed, he is sheltered from judgment, and secured from wrath. He is a child of God, an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ. He receives the Holy Ghost, becomes a member of Christ’s body, and will soon share in all His exaltation and glory.
And now, my reader, which of these three classes are you in? As you drop this paper you must be in one or other of them. Oh! let it be the third, the believers. Let not 1886 pass away, and leave you as it found you, an unbeliever. Be persuaded. Come to Jesus now. He will receive, and bless you. His blood has been shed. It cleanses from all sin. None are too bad, too guilty for Him. Only trust Him. Cast yourself simply on Him, and then you will for ever escape the possibility of dying in your sins, and being cast into hell for eternity. Nay, more, the moment you simply confide in Him, bow to His blessed name, and believe in Him, and Him alone, you will be saved, will receive the Comforter, the Holy Ghost; and will be entitled to say, and say with joy and assurance, I am a believer.
And what is the prospect of the believer? It is the coming of the Lord for His people. “Unto them that look for him, shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation.” Glorious prospect! We shall see the Saviour face to face. We shall be with Him, and like Him for ever. His heart of love will be deeply and eternally satisfied, when He has His loved and ransomed ones with Him. Will not our hearts be satisfied? Aye, and that for ever. Sin, sorrow, care, trial, toil, tears, every fruit of the first man’s fall will be for ever left behind, and in the unhindered enjoyment of Jesus’ love, our eternity will roll along in ceaseless worship of, and happiest fellowship with, God. Who then would not like to be A BELIEVER?
The Gospel Messenger 1886, p. 328