Anthony Harrod, an old pensioner, was a slave to drink. He was persuaded to attend a gospel meeting where he was convicted of his sin. John Lawson, an earnest evangelist, hearing of Anthony's condition, visited him and tried to lead him to Christ. Taking his Bible from his pocket, John Lawson slowly read the words: 'God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him'-he stopped, and looking Anthony in the face, said, 'and that means you'—`should not perish, but have everlasting life'—`and that means you'.
Anthony was amazed. He had no idea that God loved him—a drinking, swearing sinner. In fact, he believed it to be impossible that a holy God could love a wretch like him. Bringing his big fist down on the table, he exclaimed, `I don't believe it.'
Lawson was a man of good judgment. Instead of blaming Anthony for discrediting the words of the Scripture, he inquired how long Anthony was in the army. 'Twenty-one years and fourteen days,' was Anthony's reply. Lawson struck the chair with his fist and said, `I don't believe it.'
`Do you think I would tell a lie?' retorted the old man. 'It was twenty-one years and fourteen days.' `I don't believe it,' said Lawson quietly.
`Bring me the parchment,' said Anthony to his wife. The document being produced, Lawson inquired, 'How can you expect me to believe you when you refuse to believe the Word of God?' And once more John Lawson read the life-giving words of John 3. 16, and added 'and that means you'.
The scales were removed from the old pensioner's eyes: the light of the Gospel of Christ streamed into his soul: and he exclaimed, 'I see it all. I believe it. Thank God!'
(John 3. 16; Rom. 10. 9, 10)
"I told you, and ye believed not" ( John 10:25).
The unwillingness of the human heart to rely on the promise of grace in Christ Jesus is well illustrated in the story of an eccentric Irish landlord on whose vast estates dwelt a number of very needy tenants. Upon becoming converted, this wealthy man was anxious to make clear to these people the marvelous provision God had made for their salvation. So he caused to be posted in prominent places on his wide domains, notices to the effect that, on a given day, he would be in his office down by the lodge gates, from ten o'clock in the morning until twelve noon. During that time, he would be prepared to pay the debts of all his tenantry who brought their unpaid bills with them.
For days the notices were the cause of much excitement. People talked of the strange offer and some declared it a hoax. Others were certain "there must be a catch somewhere." A few even thought it indicated that the landlord was going out of his mind, for "who had ever heard of any sane man making such an offer?"
When the announced day came, many of the people could be seen making their way to the office, and as the time approached a great crowd had gathered about the door. Promptly at ten the landlord and his secretary drove to the gate, left the carriage and, without a word to anyone, entered the office and closed the door. Outside a great discussion had begun; it became more vehement every minute. Was there anything to it? Did he really mean it? Would he only make a fool of one who brought the evidence of his indebtedness? Some insisted that it was his actual signature at the foot of the notices, and surely he would not dishonor his name. But an hour passed and no one had gone in to present his claim. If one suggested to someone else to venture, he would be met by the angry response, "I don't owe so very much. I have no need to go in. Let someone else try it first—someone who owes more than I do!" And so the precious moments slipped away.
Finally, when it was nearing twelve o'clock, an aged couple from the farthest bounds of the estate came hobbling along arm in arm; the old man had a bundle of bills clutched tightly in one hand. In quavering tones he inquired. "Is it true, neighbor, that the landlord be paying the debts of all who come today?"
"He ain't paid none yet," said one.
"We think it is just a cruel joke," said another.
The old couple's eyes filled with tears. "Is it all a mistake? We hoped it was true and thought how good it would be to be able to die free of debt."
They were turning disconsolately away, when somebody said, "No one has tried him yet. Why not go in? If he pays your bills, come out quickly and tell us and we'll go in, too."
To this the old folks agreed and timidly opened the door and entered the office, where a cordial welcome awaited them. In answer to their question as to whether the notice was true, the secretary said:
"Do you think the landlord would deceive you? Let me see your bills."
They were all presented, carefully tabulated, and a check made out to cover them. Overwhelmed with gratitude, the old man and his wife arose to leave, but the secretary said:
"Just be seated. You must remain here till the office closes at noon."
They explained that the crowd outside was waiting for verification from them of the strange offer.
But the landlord said, "No, you took me at my word. They must do the same if they want their debts paid."
And so the minutes passed. Outside, the people moved restlessly about, watching the closed door, but none lifted the latch. At high noon the door opened and the old folks came out first.
"Did he keep his word?" the throng asked.
"Yes, neighbors. Here is his check and it's good as gold."
"Why didn't you come out and tell us ?" angrily asked many.
"He said we must wait inside and you must come as we did and take him at his word."
A moment later the landlord and his secretary came out and hurried to the carriage—the crowd pressing about them, holding out hands full of personal bills, and crying, "Won't you do for us as you did for those folks?" But rising in his carriage, the landlord said, "It is too late now. I gave you every opportunity. I would have paid for you all, but you would not believe me."
Then he likened the events of the morning to the way men treat God's offer to free the sinner of all that divine justice has against him. Solemnly he warned them of the folly of passing up so great salvation until the day of grace was over and it was too late to be saved.