For a number of years following the close of the World War it was my privilege to preach in the famous old Tent Evangel in New York City for a limited period every summer. This was a testimony carried on under the direction of Dr. George W. McPherson, backed by a committee of Christian business-men, designed to give the people of Manhattan a nightly gospel service during the hot months, when many of the churches either closed altogether or discontinued the evening meetings. It was a cheering sight to see 1500 to 2000, or even more, gathered night after night under the canvas top, listening to the gospel of the grace of God as proclaimed by well-known evangelists and outstanding pastors from all parts of the American and other continents. Of these I was one of the least.
It was through the good offices of a group of Christian brethren, who were deeply interested in the evangelization of the great metropolis, that I was first invited to come over from California for a month's meetings, after which I was asked to go year after year.
One could tell of many who were brought to a saving knowledge of Christ in those days. But of these one man stands out as a clear-cut testimony to the power of the Word of God to speak to heart and conscience and reveal the glories of Christ as the Son of God, through whose merits salvation is offered to sinful men.
I had just come down from the platform at the close of the meeting one evening, when a man came forward and in a rather nervous, jerky manner exclaimed, "I'd give a lot to believe what you have preached tonight. I know you folks get a lot of comfort and peace out of it, that I know nothing of. But I cannot take it in. I am an agnostic. But I will say this — If you could prove to me that Jesus Christ is the Son of God I would trust Him as my Saviour and give my life to Him. I admire the character of Jesus immensely, but I cannot accept His Deity. What proof have you that He is more than man? — that He is the divine Son of God?" "Are you in dead earnest about this?" I inquired. "Do you promise faithfully to follow Him if convinced He is the Son of God?"
"Yes. I am not afraid to make that promise. But how can you prove any such thing?"
"I cannot prove it," I replied. "It is the work of the Holy Spirit of God to do that. He came to reveal the things of Christ to the honest heart. But if I show you how you may find out for yourself if Jesus is the Son of God, will you yield yourself to Him and follow Him?"
"Yes, I will, if you show me how I may know it for certain."
Opening my Bible at John 20:30,31, I read, "And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through His name."
I pointed out the tremendous challenge of these verses. The author declares that this Gospel of John was written expressly to show that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Therefore, if anyone is perplexed as to this, let him read this Gospel, with open mind, desiring to know the truth, and he may know for himself whether its claims for Jesus are true.
"Now," I said, "will you do this? Take this Gospel of John I am giving you. Get down before God and lift your heart to Him. Tell Him you want to know the truth about Jesus Christ and the way of life. Ask Him to reveal to you, as you read this book if Jesus Christ is really His Son. Tell Him you are a sinner and that you desire to be saved. Tell Him you will take Christ as your Saviour if He shows you He is the Son of God."
He exclaimed, "There is no use doing that. I do not believe in prayer. I never prayed in my life. I am not even sure there is a God, and I have no way of knowing that the Bible is authentic."
I pointed out that he was begging the question. I challenged him with being "yellow." He had asked for proof. I told him how he might obtain it and he refused to follow instructions. He was not an honest seeker or he would at least give my plan a trial.
He exclaimed, "I guess you are right after all. I ought to be willing to test it since I have asked you to show me how I may know whether this thing is true or not. I'll give it a trial."
And so he went away, and I did not know that I would ever see him on earth again. But as I went to my room I lifted my heart to God, beseeching Him to lead this needy soul to the saving knowledge of His beloved Son.
I think it was three years later that I was conducting evangelistic meetings in the same big tent. As I stepped down to greet friends from the audience, a bright-faced man came forward with a big seven by nine Bible under his arm, and exclaimed, "Do you remember me?" I was at a loss for a moment, then replied, "I seem to recall your face, but cannot remember your name."
"I am the man who told you I would be a Christian if I could believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and you set me to reading the Gospel of John."
Even this did not bring all back to my mind, for I have asked many other unbelievers to do the same thing. But when he reminded me that I had told him he was "yellow" if he would not face the issue fairly and give God a chance through His own Word to settle the question, it all came back to my mind.
" I do recollect our conversation. Did you make the test? And, if so, what happened?"
Then he told me that he had begun the careful reading of the Gospel, asking God if He really existed and if Jesus Christ was His Son, to make it clear. Night after night he read in the little book — not lengthy portions, but a few verses, pondering each expression carefully. I think he told me he had not finished the sixth chapter before the truth of the Deity of Christ and His divine Sonship burst upon his soul with crystal clearness.
I fell on my knees and cried, 'Lord, I know Thou art the Son of God, and I take Thee as my Saviour."' And the joy of the Lord filled his soul as he rested on the revelation given by inspiration, a revelation that he could no longer refuse to acknowledge as the very Word of the living God.
I found that he had become an active Christian, was identified with a group of believers in church-fellowship, and was teaching several men's Bible classes, meeting in fire department houses in various parts of the city. His radiant face told the story of a heart that had found a satisfying portion in Christ and a constant joy in seeking to make Him known to others.
The Holy Scriptures are God-breathed. They are living and energetic, and can be depended upon to do their own work if men are but willing to search them with honest hearts, ready to act on the truth when the Holy Spirit reveals it.
From Random Reminiscences From Fifty Years of Ministry by H. A. Ironside. New York: Loizeaux Bros., 1939.
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