THE NEED OF THE HOUR

Oswald J. Smith

“Where there is no vision the people perish” (Proverbs xxix. 18).  How true!  Multitudes there are who throng our cities on every side who are perishing simply because we have no vision.  Christless masses for whom Jesus died may never hear God’s message of salvation unless we get a vision.  Our great centres of population for which we are responsible do not know the Gospel of God’s grace because we, His followers, are without a vision.  What are we going to do about it?  When, oh when, will we get the burden and become conscious of our responsibility?  True indeed is the verdict, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

Snug in our little nest, comfortable amid our surroundings, satisfied with our handful of overfed followers, we hold our services, preach our sermons and seem to have no care, no thought, for the perishing multitudes around us.  Yet God never told sinners to come to us.  He told us to go to them.  Why then do we blame them for not coming in when the real blame is ours for not going out?  God help us.  “Where there is no vision the people perish.”

The world goes out into the open to attract attention.  Theatres are built on the most prominent corners and brightly lighted, where the church, only too often, selects a back street, puts up a small building, installs dull lighting, and then wonders why the people do not attend.  “The children of this world are wiser than the children of light.”  Every city needs a large, centrally located evangelistic work, brightly illuminated, easily accessible, capable of attracting the passerby, and with a real live, evangelistic programme, a programme geared to arouse the indifferent, awaken sinners and point them heavenward.  Without such a vision, the people are bound to perish.

All that is needed to bring to pass such a God-given vision is faith, or should I say, faith and pains.  Faith and pains will do anything.  A God-given vision, a God-given faith, plus pains; namely, hard, sacrificial work, will accomplish the apparently impossible.  Carey’s motto sums it all up.  “Expect great things from God; attempt great things for God.”  You cannot expect great things from God until you attempt great things for God.  Get God’s vision and then work it out.  “All things are possible to him that believeth.”  “With God all things are possible.”  “Have faith in God.”

We are living in days of awful apostasy.  In my journeys through Europe, and more recently across Canada and the United States, I have been burdened regarding the religious situation and outlook as never before.  The professing church, as prophesied, is fast becoming apostate.  Many are turning from the faith.  This means that the entire world has now become one vast mission field.  The message is almost as much needed here at home as it is abroad.  Thousands of regular church goers never hear the Gospel.

In many pulpits today, such statements as these are heard and that from ordained ministers of the Gospel:  “I no longer preach the entire acceptance of the Bible.  I do not preach the heaven and hell of the Bible and I do not know any worthwhile preachers who do.  My education forbids my acceptance of the miracles of the Bible.  I do not believe in the doctrine of salvation by blood.  Thank God, I am not saved by the blood of anyone.  Salvation by blood is the gospel of the butcher’s shop.”   In view of such statements, is it not time that the true servants of God cried aloud and proclaimed once again the mighty soul-transforming truths of the old Book?

General Booth wrote “In Darkest England.”  God has been impressing upon my heart that terrible statement, “Behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people” (Isaiah lx. 2).  This is true today, not only in the foreign field but here at home as well. People on every side are in almost total darkness, so far as God’s salvation is concerned.  Only here and there do we find a pulpit where the Gospel is preached, the new birth emphasized, salvation made plain and an invitation given.  Altar services and inquiry rooms are seldom in evidence.   Services are becoming more and more formalistic.  In many churches the minister preaches as though everyone in his audience was already saved and bound for heaven, yet in every congregation there are those who have never been born again.

Oh, for the preaching of Bunyan, Baxter, Aileen, Edwards, Wesley, Whitfield and Finney; preaching that made sinners tremble and cry aloud under a fearful burden of sin and guilt.   May the Lord raise up such men again, men who, realizing the awful seriousness and responsibility of their calling, and laying aside all minor subjects, will fearlessly proclaim the great fundamentals of the Faith, that in these closing days of the age a clear and unmistakable testimony may be given.  There is no other preaching, no other message, worth the time and effort.

Everywhere there are some who are faithful.  Praise God for that.  I am not classing all alike.  I am speaking only of the general condition, and in proof of what I say, I herewith submit the following startling statement which speaks for itself:   “It is reported that not a single convert was made last year in 11,394 churches in the United States.  The official year books of the Presbyterian, Northern Baptist and Methodist Episcopal Churches show that 3,269 Presbyterian churches failed to secure a convert and that 500 of the others had only one convert each.”  This, my friends, is one of the most startling signs of the times that we have yet noted.   Our churches are becoming social centres.  What a challenge to those of us who believe in the necessity of the new birth.

Too much time is given to religious controversy.  Why should we be on the defensive?   Controversy has never been profitable.  The truths of the Bible do not need to be defended; they only need to be proclaimed.  The Bible will defend itself.  It will survive long after its critics are dead and gone.  We need a positive message.   It was because of controversy in North Africa that the light went out, and it will happen here too, unless we change our methods.

Oh then, let us keep to our one great task of getting out the Gospel both at home and abroad.  Let us work together in the unity of the Spirit.  If we cannot agree on anything else, we can agree on evangelism.  We all believe that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation.  Then let us preach it.  Atheists have never been convinced by argument.

“No Attack!  No Defence!”  has always been my motto and it has stood me in good stead.  I know of no better and I would strongly recommend that every minister make it his.

We are living, according to the Scripture, in the Laodicean days of the church.   Therefore, the church itself must be evangelized.  There must be a new call to separation from the world and whole-hearted devotion to Jesus Christ.  How anyone who has been born again can remain in a church that is nothing more than a club, is beyond me.   Compromise is always condemned in God’s Word.  The darkness must be dispelled.  How else can we meet the fearful apostasy of the day.  In unity there is strength.

The enemy is upon us.  The storm is gathering and is about to break.  Nothing but the preaching of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit can stem the tide.   Then let us evangelize.  Let us go where the people are, and, with the best Gospel music, the best testimonies and the best messages, let us attract the Christless masses.  Let us plan a bright, evangelistic programme and win them to our Saviour.

Did you ever read Prov. xxiv. 11, 12?  Searching words, these.  Look at them if you will:  “If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and those that are ready to be slain; if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it? and He that keepeth thy soul, doth not He know it? and shall not He render to every man according to his works?”

What a striking statement! Who can read it and not be convicted?  If men are threatened with death and we fail to warn them, we are to blame.  We may plead ignorance.  We may say that we did not know it.  It will avail us nothing.   We can know.  We can find out the need.  Such an excuse, God will not accept.  We must sound the alarm.  We must tell them of their danger.  And if we don’t, we are guilty of their death.

This, my brethren, is the need of the hour.  May God give us the vision, lest the people perish and we be held responsible.

[Excerpt from The Passion For Souls. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, Ltd., 1952].

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