The sinfulness of mankind manifests itself in the many reasons and excuses as to why men and women choose to reject the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, the Word of God leaves man without any excuse. In this excellent article, Dr. James H. Brookes provides the answers to five common excuses.
“I Do Not Feel That I Am A Sinner.”
Well, you are a sinner whether you feel it or not, and you are called to deal, not with a question of feeling, but of fact. Many a man has been fatally ill without feeling his danger, but his lack of feeling did not arrest for one moment the progress of disease and death. It is the most terrible count in the indictment brought against those who were “alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness (or hardness) of their heart” that they were “past feeling” (Ephesians 4:18-19). Your insensibility, therefore, is no excuse for continued indigerence to the peril of your soul, but an aggravation of your guilt.
“Sin is the transgression of the law”; that is, sin is lawlessness. It is the spirit of insubordination to the law of God, as that law is summed up in the words of our Savior: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Judged by this law, you have sinned every second of your existence, so that if you have lived thirty years, you are already charged with more than nine hundred millions of sins. Your very nature is sinful, and if you could see yourself in the light of God’s presence, you would exclaim as Job did, “Behold, I am vile” (Job 40:4); you would cry out as Isaiah did, “Woe is me! for I am undone” (Isaiah 6:5). In addition to the unnumbered sins committed against God’s law, and flowing from a corrupt source, you are justly answerable for the crowning and damning sin of unbelief. The Lord Jesus Christ says, “He that believeth not is condemned (or judged) already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18); and again He says, the Holy Spirit will reprove “of sin, because they believe not on Me” (John 16:9). While, therefore, you continue in unbelief, you are guilty of the sin of sins.
“I Do Not Know That He Will Save Me Personally”
He says, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Does not this “whosoever” include you, and is it not far better than the mention of your name? There may be some other person in the world who has precisely the same name, and therefore if your name had been uttered by the Lord Jesus, you could not have been certain that you were the one in view. But whosoever certainly embraces you within the limits of its generous and gracious offer. Suppose that in the recent frightful famine in China a great storehouse had been filled with provisions, and over the entrance the words had been written, “Whosoever will may be freely supplied”—would it not have been madness if the starving people had refused to apply for relief because their names were not publicly announced? Suppose you were in the state’s prison for crime, with a thousand other convicts, and the proclamation were issued, “Whosoever will confess his guilt shall be pardoned”—would you argue that forgiveness could not be intended for you?
Come, dear, dying sinner, this is a very simple thing. The Lord Jesus offers to save you, even if you are the chief of sinners; and why not believe Him, why not trust Him, why not take Him at His word, without waiting to turn over a new leaf in the same old book of your life, without waiting to turn over another leaf of this book, without waiting one moment? “To Him (Jesus Christ) give all the prophets witness, that through His name whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43); and then comes the next promise: “Whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, that will I do” (John 14:13). Whosoever is on the outside of the door, whatsoever on the inside. “Whosoever” shows that salvation is free, “whatsoever” that it is full.
If you are afraid that you are not one of the elect, just remember that you have nothing whatever to do with election, until you are saved. It is the children’s bread. Over the door at the entrance into life is written for the sinner, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17); but once the entrance is made by faith, you find written above the wall over the table for the saint, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee” (Jeremiah 31:3).
“I Do Not Feel That I Am Saved”
Here again, it is not a question of feeling but of fact. Of course if you know upon the sure testimony of God’s Word that you are saved, you will feel glad and grateful; but you are not saved on account of your feeling nor as the result of feeling. The word feeling occurs but twice in the entire Bible, and in neither place is it used in the sense in which it is now constantly employed. Once it is said of the Lord Jesus, “We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities” (Hebrews 4:15), and the other passage, “past feeling,” has just been quoted (Eph. 4:19). Those who are troubled about feeling do not perceive that they have fallen into two very serious mistakes.
The first is that they are unconsciously seeking to find a Savior in their feelings instead of finding Him in Christ; and the second is that they are exactly reversing the process and order of salvation and feeling, as laid down in the Bible. To use a common expression, they are putting the cart before the horse. You do not feel good and then believe; you first believe and then feel good. If you receive sorrowful tidings by letter or by telegram or by word of mouth, the first act of the mind is to believe the announcement, and the second act of the mind and the heart is grief. If you hear good news, you do not first feel joyful or wait to scrutinize and analyze your emotions; you first believe, without thinking of your feeling, and let feeling take care of itself. So when you hear the gospel, do not think of feeling; think only of Christ. And if you accept as true the testimony that He has put away your sin by the sacrifice of Himself, the feeling will follow.
Suppose the Lord Jesus should appear to you personally and visibly while you are reading this page and say in gentle tones, “Thy sins are forgiven thee” (Luke 5:20); would this satisfy you? Would you believe Him, without waiting for feeling? But if you want to be saved, He is saying it as truly and sincerely as if you could hear His voice; and why not believe Him? To the sinful woman at His feet, who did not even pray, He said, “Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace” (Luke 7:50), and she knew that she was saved, not by her feeling, but by the word of the Savior. He did not say, “Thy faith and thy feeling” or “thy faith and thy tears,” but “thy faith” alone hath saved thee; and believing what He said, she went away comforted and glad.
“I Cannot Pray As I Ought To”
There again you show that you are trying to frame a Savior out of your prayers and that you are not trusting in Christ as the only Savior. Is not your inability to pray one of your sins, and does not the blood of Jesus Christ cleanse from all sin, that sin among the rest? If you could pray with the fixedness of mind, the adoration, the reverence, the gratitude, the submission you ought to feel, you would conclude that your excellent prayers had saved you; and hence an intelligent Christian likes to hear a troubled sinner say, “I can’t pray as I ought.” Neither the Lord Jesus, nor the Holy Ghost by the inspired apostles, ever told those who were dead in trespasses and sins to pray in order to be saved, but everywhere the word is “believe and live” and then “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Prayer, if it means anything, or amounts to anything, is the utterance of a living soul, the breathing of a child’s desires to our heavenly Father; but “we are the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”—not by faith and prayer but by faith alone. Even the children of God say, “We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercessions for us with groanings which cannot be uttered” (Romans 8:26), and it is sweet to learn that although the burdened heart of a child can only groan, yet the groan is prayer when dictated by the Holy Spirit. Not only so, but in answering these groans God is but answering the desires of His own heart, for “He that searcheth the hearts (that is, the Lord Jesus Christ) knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).
A lady complained bitterly to a servant of the Lord that she could not pray. Without telling her his purpose, he gradually led her mind away from herself to the infinite grace and finished work of Christ on behalf of prayerless sinners. Her thoughts were at last fixed upon Him to the exclusion of every other object, and suddenly she cried out while her face beamed with joy, “Oh! I can’t pray, but I know that Jesus loves me.” She had been trying for twenty years to be saved by praying, and she found at last that Christ saves and not prayer. “Without faith it is impossible to please [God]” (Hebrews 11:6), and “whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). No one who tells you that you must pray to make God merciful can tell you how long you must pray.
“I Fear I Cannot Hold Out”
Well you may fear it, and not only fear, but know it. If your final salvation depends on your holding out or holding on, you will most certainly be lost. Two ministers were conducting a meeting together, and at its close one of them said, “I picked up a Dublin tract on a railroad train the other day and read it with great interest and profit, although it teaches a doctrine I don’t believe.” “What is the doctrine?” asked his friend. “The doctrine of the perseverance of the saints,” he answered. “Neither do I believe it,” was the reply. “Is it possible?” exclaimed the first; “I thought you were decided in your belief of it.” “No, I am not. I once believed it, but since I have come to know more about the saints, and especially about myself, I believe all of us would go to the devil if left to ourselves; but I believe very firmly in the perseverance of the Lord.” And they shook hands to show their fellowship in this truth.
A servant of Christ was walking down the aisle of a crowded meetinghouse and said to a pleasant looking man sitting at the end of a pew, “Are you a Christian?” “Yes,” he answered, “thank God I have a hold on Christ.” “Thank God, I have something better than that,” was the reply. “What have you better than that?” inquired the gentleman. “Thank God, Christ has a hold on me,” the response. “All that the Father giveth Me,” Jesus says, “shall come to Me; and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). This does not merely mean that He will not repel the sinner who comes to Him, but once in Him, that sinner can never be cast out.
We are “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). We do not keep ourselves, but we are kept, and kept by the power of God. Is that power sufficient to keep us? “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (John 10:27-28). It is a poor witticism to say that we may slip through His fingers. If no one on earth or in hell can pluck us out of His hand, is He so careless that He will allow us to slip through His fingers? We are graven upon the palms of His hands, we are in the hand, and the hand itself, “members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30). If the feeblest believer could be lost, there would be a mutilated Christ forever in heaven, and a dissatisfied Christ.