NO NEUTRAL GROUND
by C. A. Coates
(1862 - 1945)
Between the British and Spanish territories at Gibraltar there is a quarter of a mile of land which belongs to neither, and is called "neutral ground." It is to be feared that many people think there is a wide piece of "neutral ground" between those who are saved and those who are lost. They dare not say that they are saved, and they will not admit that they are lost. So the devil--old arch-deceiver that he is--cheats them alike out of the blessings of the believer and the opportunities of the sinner.
With all the earnestness of which I am capable I warn you against this delusion. There is no middle class---
NO NEUTRAL GROUND.
Securities are either good or bad, and souls are either saved or lost.
You may be able to say that you are as good as, or better than, most of your neighbours; and it is perhaps your opinion that if you do not get to heaven many others will stand a poor chance. That may be true, but there is an awful possibility that you may find yourself shut out along with them. Suppose you appear before a recruiting sergeant who is enlisting soldiers for the Life Guards. Several young men apply to be enlisted, and while they are waiting for the sergeant to bring his measuring standard they begin to measure themselves by one another. One finds he is half-an-inch taller than another. "I have a better chance than you," he says. He measures himself with another, and finds that he is an inch taller. "Well," says he, "if I don't pass you will stand a poor chance." He goes on until he finds that he is the tallest man in the company. Then the sergeant comes in and sets up his standard, and the tallest man steps briskly up to it. "Pass on," says the sergeant, "you are too little." He was taller than all the others, but he was not up to the standard, and was rejected as a Life Guardsman just as much as the shortest man in the company.
In the third chapter of Romans we read these solemn words, "There is no difference: for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God"; and in the same chapter "all the world" is pronounced "guilty before God." Whatever you are before men, or in comparison with others, you are
"GUILTY BEFORE GOD."
You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. You are not up to the standard.
I have spoken to some hundreds of people about salvation, and I never but once met with a man who was bold enough to say that he had never committed any sins. I did not believe him at the time, and I afterwards heard that he had been in prison for attempting to murder his wife. Now, how many sins do you suppose it would take to keep a man out of heaven? How many sins did Adam and Eve commit before they were driven out of the garden of Eden? Only one. If ONE SIN made them unfit to dwell in the earthly paradise, do you not think that one sin would make a man unfit for the heavenly paradise? "There shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth" (Rev. 21:27). You must be whiter than snow, or never enter there.
I dare say that you do not feel lost.
You are not conscious of being unusually wicked, and you expect to be all right at the last. Let me remind you that it is with God you have to do, and His estimate of you is a true one, for "God is light, and in him is no darkness at all." You may deceive others, and, what is worse, may deceive yourself, but you cannot deceive God. Hence the
FIRST STEP TO BLESSING
is to learn what you are in God's sight, and to accept His estimate of yourself rather than your own. The first utterance of God in creation was "Let there be light," and in the new creation of a soul this is the first act of grace. A dirty man in the dark may think he is clean; so a sinner whose conscience has not been enlightened may be satisfied with himself. But when God says, "Let there be light," a Job cries out, "I am vile"; an Isaiah groans, "Woe is me"; Simon the fisherman confesses, "I am a sinful man, O Lord"; and one like Saul of Tarsus can only call himself "chief of sinners."
In the opening verses of Romans 5 we have a fourfold description of those for whom Christ died:--
"When we were yet without strength;
In due time Christ died for the ungodly" (v. 6).
"While we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (v. 8).
"When we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son" (v. 10).
How wonderfully do "GRACE AND TRUTH" shine together in this Scripture! Here the foul disease and the certain remedy are seen together. Guilt is fully discovered, but it is in the light of grace. Sin appears in connection with love that puts it away. And if our true character is painted in its darkest colours it is that we may know the righes of the grace that seeks our blessing in spite of it all. Do not then, I beseech you, imitate the Pharisees, who "rejected the counsel of God against themselves," and refused to take the guilty sinner's place before Him. For if the light of God's grace does not find you out and expose you in your true character now, depend upon it, the light of God's judgment will find you out by-and-by. Be honest with your own soul and with God, and take home to yourself the solemn truth that you are "without strength," "ungodly," "a sinner" and an "enemy" needing to be reconciled to God.
If you refuse to accept this four-fold description as being true of yourself you thereby shut yourself out from the saving value of Christ's death. It was for those who could by no means save, or help to save themselves, that Christ died; it was for ungodly sinners, yea, for those who were enemies to God in their mind, that He gave His life; and if you are not such an one you have neither part nor lot in the blessings which flow from His death. A lifeboat is for the drowning, a physician is for the sick, and a Saviour is for lost sinners.
Do not make a mistake. You may be decent and moral in your life, fair and upright in your dealings with your fellow-men, a good husband, a dutiful wife, an obedient child, or a faithful servant, and yet be unsaved. You may attend church, chapel, or mission room with the greatest regularity, and yet be among the many who are on the broad road. You may even be a communicant, a church member, a liberal giver to charitable and religious causes, a Sunday school teacher, or a preacher, and at the same time be a lost sinner on the way to death and eternal judgment.
Blame not that honesty of speech which warns you in plain terms of your danger. It is far better to be disturbed from your carnal security in this world than to be damned in the next. Think of
The day speeds on when all that men call great and grand will crumble into dust: "the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burned up . . . and the elements shall melt with fervent heat." At that day you will either have your place, through redemption, in eternal glory, or you will stand before the great white throne to be judged according to your works. You must spend eternity either with God and the myriads redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, or in the lake of fire prepared for the devil and his angels.
And, remember, it will then be too late to escape. In hell there will be no Bible to cast its blessed light upon a pathway of safety; no gospel message will ring through the cheerless vaults; no evangelists will offer pardon; there will be no Christ to save, and no blood to cleanse. Thank God! it is not yet too late, but do not trifle with present grace. You may remember the loss of the vessel called the Central America. She was in a bad state, had sprung a leak and was going down, and she therefore hoisted a signal of distress. A ship came close to her, the captain of which asked, through the trumpet, "What is amiss?" "We are in bad repair, and are going down: lie by till morning," was the answer. But the captain on board the rescue ship said, "Let me take your passengers on board now." "Lie by till morning" was the message which came back. Once again the captain cried, "You had better let me take your passengers on board now." "Lie by till morning" was the reply which sounded through the trumpet. About an hour and a half after, the lights were missing, and though no sound was heard, she and all on board had gone down into the fathomless abyss. Unconverted friend, do not say, "Lie by till morning." Now is the accepted time. To-day you must enter into life; to-morrow the door may be shut.
WHAT MUST I DO TO BE SAVED?
I now address myself to those in whose hearts the above momentous inquiry has arisen. One part of your need, at least, you are already conscious of, viz., the need of pardon for your sins. I should be glad to think that some who will read this book are as anxious to have the knowledge of forgiveness as an elderly lady to whom I once put the question, "Are your sins forgiven?" I shall never forget the wistful look that came into her eyes and the earnest trembling tones of her voice, as she said, "Sir, I would give all that I possess to know that." I found that she had long known her need of pardon, and that she prayed, and read her Bible, and went to church, and was hoping it might be well at last. She knew not the grace of God, nor the value of the precious blood of His Son. Many are in a similar state, and it is to such I now speak.
Let me assure you, at the outset, that pardon for sins cannot be bought with money, or earned by good works, or won by tears and prayers. If you spent all your life in reading the Bible and in prayers; if you wept out the contrition of your heart in an ocean of penitential tears; yea, if you gave all your goods to the poor, and your body to be burned, none of these things would secure the pardon of your sins. Nay, I will go further and say that if you could by some means acquire to yourself the combined merits of all the saints of God who ever lived on earth, there is not value enough in all their holy living and dying to absolve one of your sins.
God's word is plain: "It is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul" (Lev. 17:11). There is, there could be, no pardon without atonement: no remission apart from redemption.
"Without shedding of blood is NO REMISSION" (Hebrews 9:22).
Is it not a solemn and humbling fact that, though we have almost unlimited power to commit sins, we have no power whatever to atone for them when they are committed? This closes the door against all the pride of man, and shuts us up entirely to God.
God Himself is the source of every blessing for lost man, and He wants to forgive you. Listen to some of His words! "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (1 John 4:10). The only-begotten Son of God came into the world heralded by the announcement, "Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins" (Matt. 1:21). In view of what He was about to accomplish that blessed Saviour could say, "This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). He did actually upon the cross
"SUFFER FOR SINS, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet. 3:18);
and His resurrection on the morning of the third day put the seal of God's infinite satisfaction upon His great atoning work. Then as the risen Saviour--the Accomplisher of Redemption--He appeared to His disciples "and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Luke 24:46, 47).
BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD!
God has provided a Lamb; He has found a Ransom. Full atonement has been made, and in divine righteousness you may be pardoned. God is "just and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:2 6). Simple, naked faith in Jesus and His blood will secure you the full and free remission of your sins. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
God is now proclaiming the pardon of sins to every creature under heaven, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Listen to Peter--"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins" (Acts 10:43). Listen to Paul--"Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things" (Acts 13:38, 39). Listen to John--"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God. . . . I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake" (1 John 5:13; 2:12).
Let me beseech you, then, to receive this blood-bought pardon--to believe now on the Lord Jesus Christ, whose "one sacrifice for sins" secures a purged conscience for all who trust Him, and enables God to say in righteousness, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more" (Heb. 10:17). May the language of your heart be--
On the Lamb my soul is resting,
What His love no tongue can say;
All my sins, so great, so many,
In His blood are washed away.
Sweetest rest and peace have filled me,
Sweeter praise than tongue can tell;
God is satisfied with Jesus,
I am satisfied as well.
Conscience now no more condemns me;
For His own most precious blood
Once for all has washed and cleansed me,
Cleansed me in the eyes of God!
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