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— I am debtor both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the Gospel to you also that are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first and also to the Greek. — Romans 1 :14-16. A THOUGHTFUL Christian man cannot read these words uttered by Paul nearly nineteen hundred years ago without feeling an immediate response to them in his own heart. A minister going to a new field, either for evangelistic work covering a few weeks, or a settled pastorate of many years, instructively selects these words as the best possible to outline the convictions of his heart and the great purpose of his life work. The centuries have come and gone, the world of mankind has passed through great changes and overturnings, but the gospel is unchanged. Its nature and efficacy and power over the souls of men is the same yesterday, today and forever. A few points in this changeless character of the gospel are all we can note in this brief outline. I. Its Power to Make Men Feel in Debt to the Whole World "I am debtor both to Greeks and Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So as much as in me is I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are in Rome." (1) When Paul said, "I am in debt to the Greeks and to the Barbarians" he used language that included all nations and races and tribes of the earth. When he said, "I am in debt
196 THE EW LIVI G PULPIT both to the wise and to the foolish," he declared his sense of obligation to all classes and conditions of men in all the nations and tribes of the earth. They could not be so near or so far away ; so high or so low ; so wise or so ignorant ; so good or so utterly bad, but what Paul was under debt to them and up to the limit of the last moment of his life and the last ounce of his vitality he would pay that debt. Great man! this Paul, the apostle, and one time Saul, the persecutor of all who believed this same gospel. How marvelous the change in the man and how great the zeal with which he put his hand to the new task. How he journeyed by land and by sea; how he wrought and suffered and died in his herculean efforts to pay this debt. Here is the secret of his whole life. Start with this text and you can explain all he ever did and all he ever was. (2) It is a most serious matter to be in debt to one man or ten men or a hundred men. But it is a terrible thing to feel in debt to every man, woman and child in all the world. To feel that not one dollar that you have, not one hour of the day, not one talent with which you are gifted is really your own. All these belong to some one else. They cannot be used for self. You are hopelessly in debt, and as much as in you is the debt must be paid. This feeling of indebtedness the gospel has always produced in devout souls in all ages and lands. Its powder in this direction was never greater than it is today in the year of our Lord 1916. (3) Livingstone felt this debt and in the jungles of far away Africa, from which he could not be coaxed away, he
sought to pay it. At last he could not take another step, his weary feet refused to move. His faithful black companions carried him on to more distant tribes. In the darkness of one certain night Livingstone knew his last hour on this earth had come. "With what little strength he had left he got out of bed and upon his knees an died praying for Africa. There they found him in the morning, dead. (4) Judson was so overpowered with this sense of indebted-
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ness that he sailed for far away Burmah. There in labors and sorrows untold and in the death prison at Ava, Judson gave thirty-seven years of his life. He died and was buried in the ocean from the deck of the ship to which he had been carried in a last effort to prolong his life for a few more days' work of debt paying. (5) In the early days of my ministry I saw G. L. "Wharton and wife start for India. After years of toil they came back, worn and weary, to rest and recuperate for a few days. Again they set their faces towards India. The next time they came back to this country it was known that Mrs. Wharton would never be able to return to India and it seemed impossible for Brother Wharton, in his physical condition, to brave another trip to that far-away land. Could he not say "as much as in me is," I have paid my debt to India. We all thought so. But in his dreams, G. L. Wharton saw the men of India, begging him to come back and help them. He finally said, "I must go back to India. ' ' He bid his loved ones a sad and long farewell and alone and broken in health, we watched G. L. Wharton fade from our vision on his way back to India. He wrought well during the few days God gave him and then died peacefully and was buried amidst the dark-faced people to whom he gave his life in an effort for their salvation. The cable soon brought the message of his death across the ocean to the weeping family here. His letters written home kept coming in after the
cable had announced his death and they seemed like messages from the other world. G. L. Wharton could do no more to pay his debt. (6) But what shall we more say for the time would fail us to even mention the names of a great company in all ages and lands and from all walks of life who have felt their debt to others and to the best of their ability have paid it. Some have been well known and some not known at all; they have filled positions in the eyes of the world or perhaps in humble obscurity have wrought out their days' work. But all of them, like Paul of old, accepting God's gift to them through the gospel of Christ, have in return been made debtors to the world.
198 THE EW LIVI G PULPIT II. It Commands the Unqualified Confidence of Its Advocates "I am not ashamed of the gospel. As much as in me is, 1 am ready to preach the gospel to you also." (1) The gospel is always abreast of the age in which a man lives. It keeps pace with the ongoing centuries. In all of our advancement the world never gets beyond this ancient gospel. We have no occasion to hunt up some new message. At night I love to go out and look at the orth Star. Wherever I am it gives me my bearings. I may travel far on fast trains, but I never get beyond the orth Star. It keeps up with the through limited train on which I ride. My fathers looked at this wonderful star in their day and found it abreast of them. My children and children's children will take their bearings from this same unchanging heavenly sentinel. How good it is to have some things that never change in the midst of all the changes of time. How fortunate the man who pins his faith to some eternal verities and uses them as landmarks or range lights.
(2) If I live until next July, I will have finished thirty-five years in the active ministry as a settled pastor. In this more than a third of a century I have gone into many pulpits in various States, as a regular minister or evangelist or temporary supply. I have had the pleasure of preaching from the country crossroads church and little schoolhouse up to the center of the great cities. ever have I gone to any people save with Paul's declaration on my lips or in my heart — "I am not ashamed of the gospel. So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you also." How true this is today of ten thousand times ten thousand men all round the world. To be sure, now and then, some one will step out from this great company of souls loyal to the gospel, and declare the world needs a new message. He will proclaim that he has found something better and more up to date and more in demand than Paul's gospel. Dr. Talma ge was a lover of dogs. He once owned a very valuable dog who had a mania for gnaw-
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ing old dry bones. The good doctor would find this dog out on the lawn grinding away on some old bone that he had found and carried home. Talma ge was afraid the dog would spoil his beautiful white teeth or starve to death on that bone. He would take it away from the dog and throw it away over in the alley, call the dog in the house and give him a piece of nice porterhouse beefsteak. After awhile, missing the dog again, he would go out to look for him. There he was out on the front lawn with that same old bone under his paw. He had looked it up and brought it back. He would look up at Talmage with one intelligent eye as much as to say, "You don't know how much satisfaction I get out of gnawing this old dry bone. It is my dog nature." Watch the men who leave the gospel of Christ for more modern messages. They are feeding on dry bones. If that is all
they have they will starve to death. I note with pleasure that my good friend, B. Fay Mills, has come to himself, repented of his follies and has gone to preaching the gospel of Christ again. He once preached it with great power. How many of us listened to him years ago until our hearts burned within us. After a time he forsook this ancient message for human philosophy and "science falsely so-called. " Here in Detroit I heard him speak of "the damnable doctrine of the atonement." I went away from that address to weep and mourn over my good friend Mills. But he has come to himself again and is back in his Father's house where there is "bread enough and to spare." Praise God for a soul saved. (3) This never-changing power and efficacy of the gospel was in the mind of Christ when he gave the great commission. Said Jesus, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." There he left his followers without any other message or even the hint of anything more to come. They might have asked him, "Master, how long shall we preach this one message before you give us something new? Shall we preach it one hundred years? That is a long time, Lord. A new generation will then be preaching to an entirely
200 THE EW LIVI G PULPIT new world. Shall it be preached five hundred years? Who can think of one message enduring so long? A thousand years? Things which happened that long ago seem a myth or a fable. When will you give the world something new and up to date?" But the Lord had nothing more to give. The gospel was the final message. (4) Paul felt this truth of the great commission when he wrote to the Galatians. "But though we or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be accursed." It may
be well to have a wholesome respect for this curse. In Paul's esteem neither man nor angel would escape it. What think you as your mind goes back over history. Were these idle words or were they prophetic? Frank Green of Kent, Ohio, was for many years the corresponding secretary of the American Christian Missionary Society. He traveled all over the United States in the interest of Home Missions. One day, far down in the Southland he was entertained in the hospitable home of a generous hearted Christian man who had fought in the Southern army during the four years' war between the orth and the South. This Southern gentleman and one time soldier, carried an empty sleeve as token of his valor. In the quiet of his home he told this experience. Along with many of his young friends he enlisted early in the war and after some preparatory drill the company was loaded on a train and started for the distant battlefield where the fight was already on in full swing. One day the engine broke down and while being repaired the soldier boys were allowed to get off and rest themselves. They were near a little country church in the South. It was Sunday and the house was filled with worshipers. The minister dismissed the congregation that all might go out and see the soldier boys. The commander drew the men up in military ranks and the people from the church walked up and down the lines, shook hands with every soldier and bid them God speed to victory. An old lady, bent with the weight of years and staff in hand, walked down the line and shook hands
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with all the soldiers and then stepping back some little distance addressed them. "Boys, do you know where yon are going?" The fire of prophecy seemed to come to her. She straightened herself up and threw off the weight of the years as best she could and answered her own question. "Boys, you are going to fight against the old flag of your country and the old flag will wave in triumph over this land when you
are all dead and in your graves." The old lady, staff in hand, went back into the little church. The engine was now ready, the soldiers boarded the train, shouted goodby to their newly-found friends and were off for the battle front. The soldiers talked over the "old woman's prophecy," as they called it. Some laughed it to scorn, and some were serious. "But," said the Southern gentleman, with the empty sleeve, "I never could forget the old lady's words. 'Boys, you are going to fight against the old flag and the old flag will wave in triumph over this land when you are all dead and in your graves.' At night in my tent, or out on the lonely picket line, or on the bloody field I never could get rid of that prophecy. A day came when I was cut down and lay out on the field swept by shot and shell, and I thought of it then. Finally we surrendered and stacked our arms, and went back to our fair Southland so ruthlessly swept by war and the old flag still waves in triumph over our country and I am glad of it. The old woman's prophecy is true." Paul looked far out into the future when he wrote the Galatian letter. (5) Why can we not improve upon the gospel and find a better preachment than this ancient but ever new gospel. Probably for the same reason that we cannot improve upon the sun in the heavens. The same God is the Creator of the sun and the author of the gospel. The sun is no more perfect for its mission than is the gospel in its great work of salvation. We are just as certain the gospel will endure until its mission is complete as we have faith that the sun in the heavens will shine on as long as God's plans for humanity need it. Perfection is a characteristic of all of God's work.
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III. In Its Saving Power "It is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth." (1) When Paul wrote to the Greeks he spoke of the wisdom of God, but when he wrote to the Romans he emphasized the power of God. The Greeks boasted of their culture and wisdom. They were a classical people. This was a race of philosophers and artists and sculptors. The Romans emphasized power. Their armies marched forth to conquer the earth. Their ships darkened the seas. They built paved highways which radiated out from the golden milestone in the Forum to the ends of the earth. In the vision of Daniel this was the iron kingdom that beat in pieces all other kingdoms. How natural then are Paul's words- to the Romans: "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation. ' ' (2) Paul said, "I am coming to Rome to bring the power of God. This is a phase of power unknown to you Romans. You have long lifted up your eyes to Mt. Olympus and the gods who are supposed to dwell there. Your proud emperor will no doubt scorn my message, your trained legions will march out to battle with little thought of my gospel. But this is the message of that kingdom which the God of heaven is to set up and which is to destroy all other kingdoms and fill the earth and stand forever. (3) The Rome of Paul's day, the eternal city built upon her seven hills and from her throne of beauty ruling the world, perished long ago. She lies buried beneath the dust and ashes of more than a thousand years. Her proud emperors have gone the way of all the earth. Her invincible armies are as dead and powerless as the autumn leaves of the forest. Her ships have all rotted down upon the seas. She lives only on the pages of history. But the gospel of Christ is still the power of God unto salvation. The gospel is as young as ever. It is clothed upon
with immortal youth. Its conquests are in every land and on
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every shore. Its message is now printed in all the languages and dialects of all the earth. The American Bible Society alone prints every year six times as many copies of the gospel as the sum total of all the novels of every name in the world. Its missionaries are now in every land and the peoples who once bowed down to stocks and stones are singing praises to God because of his wonderful salvation through the gospel of Christ, Men and women long controlled by the devil, demons of drink and wrecks of humanity have found this gospel the power of God to break their fetters and set them free. What marvelous things our eyes have seen in this civilized land and what tales our missionaries bring back of victories among the heathen. Eaces of people so low down in the scale of humanity that we are prone to class with animals yield to the uplifting power of the gospel and stand forth as examples of redeeming grace. Truth is stranger than fiction. o mythological stories can compare in wonders with the every-day victories of the gospel. Praise God for these marvelous results !
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