The world—that is, our physical world, this planet on which we live and our solar universe—will one day come to an end. It had a beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear" (Heb. 11:3). This is the conclusion, not only of faith, but of reason. When men begin to speculate as to possible ways in which the earth might come to an end, there is much difference of opinion. Some tell us that the earth in its rotation, held back by the tides, will gradually slow down until it lies dead and inert, only the corpse of a world. It is said, too, that the sun will withdraw its energies, that its fires will go out and that our planet will become an empire of cold and night. In his The Foundations of Belief Lord Balfour wrote: "After a period long compared to the dimensions of time open to our investigation, the energies of our system will decay. The glory of the sun will be dimmed, and the earth, tideless and inert, will not longer tolerate the race which has for a moment disturbed its solitude."
Wherever men prove traitors to their best selves, wherever Christian disciples forsake Jesus, the reason is the same—the love of this present world.
O world, O world, what a deceiver thou art! How quickly thou canst shrink and fade for us into mere nothingness! In how brief a moment, by one single blow on the head, or a fever in the blood, or a tumult in the heart, we are through with thee forever, and thy vain show is over! Yet how thou dost seduce us with thy flattery and charm us with thy painted face, so that, in our blind infatuation and flaming love for thee, for one little moment more of thine unreal corruptive joys, we gladly sell our souls, forget our God, crucify our Lord afresh, and forego our hopes of eternal happiness!
It is now many years since my friend Kilner was one of the shining lights of London, as he had just been the leading counsel in a well-known society law case concerning a certain celebrated pearl necklace.
`I remember it was about this time that his mother came to me in great distress. She and her only daughter were devoted and prayerful Christians, and had succeeded in persuading my brilliant friend, who was far from the fold, to go one night to the Metropolitan Tabernacle to hear Mr. Moody, who was then holding services in it. He had gone, and thence he went on to his club, and at midnight he returned home and knocked at his mother's bedroom door and told her with great emphasis and in strong language that it was the last religious service he would attend. "Mother," he said, "I love you and Dora, and never hope to do anything else; but I beg of you never to ask me to go to a service. I can't stand the stuff; the world is good enough for me".'
With these words Dr. A. T. Schofield commences his story of 'The West-end Barrister'. The doctor remembered that Kilner had a lovely tenor voice. Dr. Schofield each night used to sit in the gallery at D. L. Moody's meetings singing tenor in the choir, but felt the tenor was very weak. After much prayer he ventured to put the suggestion to Kilner that he come and help to sing the tenor part in his choir.
`Certainly, certainly,' he said; 'I'll come with pleasure if I can be of any help; and if it's not too difficult.'
So they arranged to meet on the following Tuesday night at 8 p.m. on Westminster
Bridge. At the appointed hour Dr. Schofield found his friend waiting for him.
When they got to the Tabernacle, Dr. Schofield said, 'We turn in here."Why, that is the place I was in to hear that American preacher,' he said. `I'm not going in there; not if I know it,' said Kilner.
The doctor persuaded the barrister to accompany him inside, telling him he must come and sing like a bird.
The great building was crammed to the roof, and the doctor knew that somewhere in the building two women were sitting crying to God in their agony for their only son and brother. When the singing began, the neighbouring members of the choir all turned round at the sound of the magnificent tenor voice they thought Dr. Schofield had developed, but soon discovered it was his friend Kilner who sang magnificently, for nothing is more easy to divorce than the heart and the voice. As the choir was composed of born-again Christians, the doctor realised that technically he had no right whatever to introduce Kilner.
When the singing was over, Kilner naturally wanted to go. He was glad to have been of help but he had an appointment.
`Look here, Kilner,' said Dr. Schofield, `I know all about that appointment. What you are really afraid of is the sermon. Well, you needn't be. The fact is, we've another piece coming on at the end, and I'd dearly like you to stay for that.'
`All right, old man,' he said, 'you've got me here and intend to keep me. Anyhow, I'll see you through.' And so he stayed, and Moody began.
Schofield was in agony as he listened to Moody preach what he considered an impossible and hopeless sermon that consisted of a purely imaginary conversation between John the Baptist and Herod the Great on the topics of the day. The plan of salvation and the work of Christ were all introduced, but Schofield wanted the direct Gospel message which none could deliver like Moody. At last the sermon came to an end, and then Kilner's fine tenor was heard once more, and the service was over.
`Come along now,' said Kilner, 'we'll have supper at my club.' Then, seeing a crowd, he whispered, 'Hallo, where are all those people going to?'
`Oh!' said Schofield, `they're going to the after-meeting.'
`Are you going?' Kilner asked.
`Well, I was,' said the doctor. 'At any rate, if you don't mind, you go on, and I'll follow you in half-an-hour.'
But the barrister would have none of that. So they walked together into the crowded hall, and he took a front seat opposite to D. L. Moody. Away in a corner the doctor caught sight of the pale faces of Kilner's mother and sister.
Then the real Moody shone forth. 'Well,' said he, leaning his arms on his desk, `you've heard all about it. Won't you come? Won't you come? We're here for business and want to know which of you will close with the offer of salvation, and take Jesus Christ for his Saviour. Don't be afraid; He is waiting for you. Now, what man has courage to rise and take the Lord Jesus as his Saviour?'
Up got Kilner, the first of any one, and walked across the room to the evangelist. He held out his hand, and said, 'I'll take Him, Mr. Moody.'
So the man of the world, who had said, 'The world is good enough for me,' was brought to know and serve the Lord Jesus Christ Who said, 'Ye are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.' The depth, reality and Divine power of the gospel were afterwards demonstrated for many years by the Christian life of the Society Clubman, George Kilner. Dr. A. T. Schofield never had any idea as to what actually caused the miracle of Kilner's conversion. 'The wind bloweth where it listeth.'
(John 3. 8; 17. 16; Eph. 2. 2)