The subject for the evening has been announced as Preparedness. I might well speak to you to-night concerning preparedness for the nation, but I have a greater subject than that. I have something of greater importance to say. My subject deals with time and eternity, and the preparation we must make in time for eternity. You will find my text in the Book of Amos 4:12: "Prepare to meet thy God."
Before you sleep this evening I wish that you would open your Bibles. I would like you to start with the first words— "In the beginning, God!" This is the right starting point for a man's faith. Forget God, and there is disaster ahead. Build your plans without God and the storms will overtake you. Try to build character without God and defeat is certain. "In the beginning, God!" Now turn to the last Book in the Bible, to Revelation 20:12: "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." Start with the one and end with the other, and this is the story of God's dealings with His people. We see Him as Creator. We behold Him as the ruler of nations. We see Him as the judge of His ancient people. We behold Him as the father of Jesus Christ. We hear Him crying out through the lips of His Son to a wicked generation. At last we see Him seated upon the Throne. Time is being finished. The Books are being opened, and the dead, small and great, are standing before God. I wish I could give you a right conception of God. I think your faces would whiten and your lips tremble. Stop for a moment and think about Him. He holds the winds in His hands, yet last night you took His name in vain. In the hollow of His hand the seas beat and throb, yet today you blasphemed Him. He has showered His love upon you ever since you came into the world, yet you have resisted Him. Prepare to meet thy God. Prepare to meet Him, because He is God.
We read in the Old Testament— "the fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." Only a fool could say that. Think of the old argument of cause and effect. I see effects all about me, and I must go back to the great "First Cause." Then there is the old argument of design. I see design everywhere in this world. The seasons coming and going. Stars moving in their courses. The world turning on its axis. How suggestive all this is. The sun rising and setting with such precision that the scientists can tell you days, weeks, months, and years ahead, the exact moment of rising and setting. Who has done all this? The little flower that lifts its head at your feet, how perfectly formed it is, The bird that flies above your head, with the colours of the rainbow in its wings. What artist has done this? Then there is the old argument suggested by the longing of our natures for God. If you go to the savages of dark lands, where heathenism reigns, and the savage in his blindness bows down to wood and stone, — why does he do this? Because he longs for something greater than himself. Then look at these enlightened times. The aspiration takes better shape. The longing grows to a higher kind. I know that this longing in my soul for God and eternal life was placed there by Himself. Just as the fin of the fish is the prophecy of the water in which it swims, as the wing of the bird is the prophecy of the air in which it moves, — so I know that this longing in my soul is an unanswerable argument for his existence. I know, and so do you, that God is. Prepare to meet thy God.
The closest fixed star is so far away that if you had an airship and should attempt to reach the star, you would require ages and ages of time. If you should pay but a small amount of money per mile for your passage, it would take millions upon millions of dollars. Yet men say there is no God. The sun sends down its light, and has been sending light and heat and warmth through all the years and ages past. When we estimate the distance of the sun and the length of time that light takes to travel, can you say that this is all by chance? No! Hear me! Prepare to meet thy God.
God is all powerful. I can take a cannonball in my hand and throw it a little distance. Some of these strong young fellows from the college would far surpass me. Driving through the streets one day, a friend said to me: "Did you see that policeman?" "Well, what about him?" I answered. "He is the champion thrower of the hammer in all the world," said my friend. "It was he who came out first in the last Olympian contest." But God took not only our world, but countless worlds like it and tossed them into space as I might blow a bubble. He is omnipotent.
He knows everything. You may deceive me. I know men fairly well, but you could deceive me. You cannot deceive God. One of these days you will face Him. One of these days your record will face you. One of these days you must answer before God for a misspent life. He knows you through and through.
God is everywhere. Listen while I read this Scripture: "Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me." You cannot get away from God.
One day, in one of the schools of Chicago, a gentleman wanted to illustrate a point. He drew an eye on the blackboard. It was so perfectly drawn, that the children in different parts of the room thought that the eye was looking straight at them. The School Board insisted that the eye should be erased. The children were becoming nervous. Men trample God's love beneath their feet and go their own way in life. There is one verse of the Bible that they forget. It is this: "Thou God seest me." He saw you yesterday, or last night, in your sin. What He saw was written in a book. Men are always making records. I saw in the British Museum a piece of stone the size of my book. They told me that it was six thousand years old at least. Right in the center of it there was the print of a bird's foot. When the stone was soft, six thousand years ago, the bird put its foot there and left an imprint. Six thousand years of record! So I cry out to you, young men and older men, business and professional men, men from the shops, women of society, prepare to meet thy God. You have been guilty of adultery, you of drunkenness, you of something else. "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God, and the books were opened." Because they will be opened,— prepare to meet thy God.
God has equipped us all with capital. He gave you your mind. He gave you your hands, your will, your heart. He gave you your feet, your lips, your eyes. You must give an account. Have your eyes looked upon that which is evil? Has your heart held thoughts that were impure? Has your mind been in rebellion against Him? Have your hands pushed down instead of lifted up? To what houses have your feet taken you? Prepare — prepare to meet thy God. I ask you to prepare because you may meet Him sooner than you think. I have no desire to frighten anyone, but I would do even that if it were the only way. I do not wish to appeal to your emotions, but I would do that if it were the only way. Perhaps you may soon face Him. You may meet Him before tomorrow morning. How do you know that you can keep an engagement at nine o'clock tomorrow morning? There is a doctor of repute beside you. Turn and whisper to him. How about it, Doctor, nine o'clock in the morning? I know what his answer will be. He will say: Only God knows. When you close your eyes in sleep tonight your vitality will drop, and drop, and drop, until at last it will reach the lowest point. Then it will rise again until the day is born and you awake — unless God should touch you with His finger. I don't understand why men stay away from God. I don't understand you young college men. There has never been a day since colleges were established when trained intellects were at such a premium. Trained minds and strong characters can do more today than ever before, Yet business men, professional men, and students, too, plunge into sin. Tomorrow, is eternity.
I stood at the foot of my pulpit and a man came to me and said: "I wish that you might have such perfect health as I have. Never in my life have I had a headache, never a pain, never have I called a doctor for myself." I was his minister. A few months after, my telephone bell summoned me to his house. An excited voice said: "Hurry, Hurry." I went, to find his daughter alone with him, the rest of the family had gone away. Her father had risen saying that he must keep an early business appointment. "Meet me in the breakfast room," he said. In fifteen minutes she was there, but her father was not. She climbed the stairway to his room and found him seated in his chair with a newspaper on his knees, head back, eyes shut. Never an ache or a pain! Never a doctor! Fifteen minutes' warning! Dead! But yon young men say: How old was he? Past sixty. We were seated in a hotel in Australia and were resting for the evening, when a quick knock came at the door. I took a cable from the boy, and got the code book and deciphered this: "Charles died today. Sick two days." He was dead. My nephew. A promising athlete, trained in a military school. Never sick a day in his life. Not a man in the college could surpass him in physical strength. Gone in two days. Prepare to meet thy God.
There is only one way to be prepared. Science has a fine ministry in the world, but it does not get you ready for eternity. Philosophy is interesting as a study. It is wonderful in its teachings, but it stops this side of eternity. Infidelity seems to be all right when your health is fine, your friends many, and your family circle unbroken, but when your heart aches, and your baby dies, and you get a telegram saying: Mother is dead, or — Father has gone, — then all the infidelity in the world will mock you.
Let me say a word to you men. I want to say that if you turn away from God's only means of preparation, you miss the best for this life. There is only one way to prepare. What is it? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ! Turn from your sins! Accept Him! A friend of mine was going to preach in a country village. One of the officers of the church met him, and, as they walked along an old-fashioned board walk, my friend stopped and said: "What is that?" There came from the window of a house near the board walk an agonizing cry of a man. As they listened, they heard the voice say: "Oh, Jesus, can't you help me? " The church officer said: "The man who lives there is dying, and he has rejected God all his life. He has led scores of our boys and girls away from the faith of their fathers. He is dying in infidelity." And the cry came again: "Oh, Jesus, can't you, help me?" Every minister in the community was trying to help him. Many of the Christians were interested in him. He could not find the way. The last thing they heard him say was the sentence: "Oh, Jesus, can't you, can't you? " Prepare to meet thy God.
I do not want you to think that God is other than just, or that He is other than loving. It is true that ever since you came into the world He has been seeking you. Jesus Christ came all the way to Calvary for you. He is seeking you now. Listen! He is seeking you now. Don't reject him. Hear this text again: "I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God." Driving swiftly down the streets of one of our western cities, a man lost control of his horses. A courageous man, springing from the sidewalk, brought the horses to a standstill and saved a man's life. By a strange coincidence the man whose life was saved was charged with murder. The trial judge was the man who had saved him. Later the trial came on. The lawyers had made their pleas. The judge had charged the jury. They had reached a verdict, and just as the judge turned to speak to him, the prisoner arose and said: "Your honour, I don't think you know me." The judge said: "Answer my question. Have you anything to say why a sentence of death should not be passed upon you?" Stretching out his arms, the prisoner said again: "I don't think you remember me. I am the man you saved. Don't you remember? Have mercy! Have mercy!" The judge leaned forward with tears on his cheeks and said: "Yes, I do remember you. I have known you ever since you came before me, but then I was your saviour, now I am your judge. I must sentence you to die." And today He is your Saviour, tears in His eyes, blood upon His brow, scourges upon His back, agony in His heart, saying: " Turn ye, Turn ye, for why will you die."
I had read the funeral service in a beautiful home, when the undertaker came to the door and said: "Will all the friends kindly retire. The members of the family are coming in." The daughter of the home came in leading her father. The mother was lying in the coffin. The old man bent forward and said to the wife who had journeyed with him all the years: "Good-bye. I will soon see you." The daughter said it after him, and two or three of the boys said it. The eldest boy was a drunkard. He stood inside the door with the hot tears running down his cheeks. I walked over to him and said: "Tom, come and say goodbye to your mother." Partly from weakness, and partly because he was under the influence of drink, he staggered forward. But I never heard a boy cry like that. Such sobs as came from his heart! Over and over he kept saying: " Mother, Mother! His sister stepped forward and said: "Tom, don't take on so. Mother has gone to Heaven, and you will soon see her." He threw one arm around my shoulder and the other around hers, and cried out: "Oh, my God! I am not going. I am not going."
Prepare to meet thy God. Acknowledge your sins. Accept Him as your Saviour. Confess Him before men. Follow Him faithfully. One day you will meet God, and will hear His welcome — "Well-done."
From Evangelistic Sermons by J. Wilbur Chapman. New York: Fleming H. Revell Company, ©1922.
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