GENERAL WILLIAM BOOTH
On one of my recent journeys, as I gazed from the coach window, I was led into a train of thought concerning the conditions of the multitudes around me. They were living carelessly in the most open and shameless rebellion against God, without a thought for their eternal welfare. As I looked out the window, I seemed to see them all – millions of people all around me – given up to their drink and their pleasure, their dancing and their music, their business and their anxieties, their politics and their troubles. Ignorant – willfully ignorant in many cases – and in other instances knowing all about the truth and not caring at all. But all of them, the whole mass of them, sweeping on and up in their blasphemies and devilries to the throne of God. While my mind was thus engaged, I had a vision.
I saw a dark and stormy ocean. Over it the black clouds hung heavily; through them every now and then vivid lightening flashed and loud thunder rolled, while the winds moaned, and the waves rose and foamed, towered and broke, only to rise and foam, tower and break again.
In that ocean I thought I saw myriads of poor human beings plunging and floating, shouting and shrieking, cursing and struggling and drowning; and as they cursed and screamed, they rose and shrieked again, and then some sank to rise no more.
I saw out of this dark, angry ocean, a mighty rock that rose up with its summit towering high above the black clouds that overhung the stormy sea. All around the base of this rock I saw a vast platform. Onto this platform, I saw with delight a number of the poor struggling, drowning wretches continually climbing out of the angry ocean. And I saw that a few of those, who were already safe on the platform, were helping the poor creatures still in the angry waters to reach the place of safety.
On looking more closely, I found a number of those who had been rescued, industriously working and scheming by ladders, ropes, boats, and other means more effective, to deliver the poor strugglers out of this sea. Here and there were some who actually jumped into the water, regardless of all the consequences, in their passion to “rescue the perishing”. And I hardly know which gladdened me most – the sight of the poor drowning people climbing onto the rocks, reaching the place of safety, or the devotion and self-sacrifice of those whose whole beings were wrapped up in the effort for their deliverance.
As I looked on, I saw that the occupants of that platform were quite a mixed company. That is, they were divided into different “sets” or classes, and they occupied themselves with different pleasures and employments. But only a very few of them seemed to make it their business to get the people out of the sea.
What puzzled me the most was the fact that though all of them had been rescued at one time or another from the ocean, nearly everyone seemed to have forgotten all about it. Anyway, it seemed the memory of its darkness and danger no longer troubled them at all. And what seemed equally strange and perplexing to me was that these people did not even seem to have any are – that is, any agonizing care – about the poor perishing ones who were struggling and drowning right before their very eyes… many of whom were their own husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and even their own children.
Now this astonishing unconcern could not have been the result of ignorance or lack of knowledge, because they lived right there in full sight of it all and event talked about it sometimes. Many even went regularly to hear lectures and sermons in which the awful state of these poor drowning creatures was described.
I have already said that the occupants of this platform were engaged in different pursuits and pastimes. Some of them were absorbed night and day in trading and business in order to make gain, storing up their savings in boxes, safes, and the like.
Many spent their time in amusing themselves with growing flowers on the side of the rock, others in painting pieces of cloth, or in playing music, or in dressing themselves up in different styles and walking about to be admired. Some occupied themselves chiefly in eating and drinking, others were taken up with arguing about the poor drowning creatures that had already been rescued.
But the thing to me that seemed the most amazing was that those on the platform to who He called, who heard His voice and felt they ought to obey it – at least they said they did – those who confessed to love Him much and were in full sympathy with Him in the task He had undertaken – who worshipped Him or who professed to do so – were taken up with their trades and professions, their money saving and pleasures, their families and circles, their religions and arguments about it, and their preparation for going to the mainland, that they did not listen to the cry that came to them from this Wonderful Being who had Himself gone down into the sea. Anyway, it they heard it, they did not heed it. They did not care. And so the multitude went on right before them struggling and shrieking and drowning in the darkness.
Then I saw something that seemed to me even more strange than anything that had gone on before in this strange vision. I saw that some of these people on the platform whom this Wonderful Being had called to, wanting them to come and help Him in His difficult task of saving these perishing creatures, were always praying and crying out to Him to come to them!
Some wanted Him to come and stay with them, and spend His time and strength in making them happier. Others wanted Him to come and take away various doubts and misgivings they had concerning the truth of some letters which He had written them. Some wanted Him to come and make them feel more secure on the rock – so secure that they would be quite sure they should never slip off again into the ocean. Numbers of others wanted Him to make them feel quite certain that they would really get off the rock and onto the mainland someday; because as a matter of fact, it was well know that some had walked so carelessly as to lose their footing and had fallen back again into the stormy waters.
So these people used to meet and get up as high on the rock as they could, and looking toward the mainland (where they thought the Great Being was) they would cry out, “Come, help us! Come, help us!” And all the while He was down (by His Spirit) among the poor struggling, drowning creatures in the angry deep, with His arms around them trying to drag them out, and looking up oh! so longingly, but all in vain to those on the rock, crying to them with His voice all hoarse from calling. “Come to Me! Come and help Me!”
Then I understood it all. It was plain enough. The sea was the ocean of life – the sea of real, actual human existence. That lightning was the gleaming of piercing truth coming from Jehovah’s throne. That thunder was the distant echoing of the wrath of God. Those multitudes of people shrieking, struggling, and agonizing in the stormy sea were the thousands and thousands of poor harlots and harlot-makers, of drunkards and drunkard-makers, of thieves, liars, blasphemers, and ungodly people of every kindred, tongue and nation.
Oh, what a black sea it was! And oh, what multitudes of rich and poor, ignorant and educated were there. They were all so unalike in their outward circumstances and conditions, yet all held by, and holding onto, some iniquity, fascinated by some idol, the slaves of some devilish lust, and ruled by the foul fiend from the bottomless pit!
“All alike in one thing?” No, all alike in two things. Not only the same in their wickedness, but unless rescued, the same in their sinking, sinking… down, down, down . . . to the same terrible doom. That great sheltering rock represented Calvary, the place where Jesus had died for them. And the people on it were those who had been rescued. They way they used their energies, gifts, and time represented the occupations and amusements of those who professed to be saved from sin and hell – followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. The handful of fierce, determined ones, who were risking their own lives in saving the perishing, were true soldiers of the cross of Jesus. That Mighty Being who was calling to them from the midst of the angry waters was the Son of God, “the same yesterday, today, and forever”, who is still struggling and interceding to save the dying multitudes about us from this terrible doom of damnation, and whose voice can be heard above the music, machinery, and noise of life, calling on the rescued to come and help Him save the world.
My friends in Christ, you are rescued from the waters. You are on the rock. He is in the dark sea calling on you to come to Him and help Him. Will you go? Look for yourselves. The surging sea of like crowded with perishing multitudes rolls up to the very spot on which you stand. Leaving the vision, I now come to speak of the fact – a fact that is as real as the Bible, as real as the Christ who hung upon the cross, as real as the judgment day will be, and as real as the heaven and hell that will follow it.
Look! Don’t be deceived by appearances – men and things are not what they seem. All who are not on the rock are in the sea! Look at them from the standpoint of the great white throne, and what a sight you have! Jesus Christ, the Son of God is, through His Spirit, in the midst of this dying multitude, struggling to save them. And He is calling on you to jump into the sea – to go right away to His side and help Him in the holy strife. Will you jump? That is, will you go to His feet and place yourself absolutely at His disposal?
A young Christian once came to me and told me that for some time she had been giving the Lord her profession and prayers and money, but now she wanted to give Him her life. She wanted to go right into the fight. In other words, she wanted to go to His assistance in the sea. As when a man from the shore, seeing another struggling in the water, takes off those outer garments that would hinder his efforts and leaps to the rescue, so will you who still linger on the bank, thinking and singing and praying about the poor perishing souls, lay aside your shame, your pride, your cares about other people’s opinions, your love of ease, and all the selfish loves that have kept you back for so long, and rush to the rescue of this multitude of dying men and women?
Does the surging sea look dark and dangerous? Unquestionably it is so. There is no doubt that the leap for you, as for everyone who takes it, means difficulty and scorn and suffering. For you it may mean more than this. It may mean death. He who beckons you from the sea, however, knows what it will mean – and knowing, He still calls to you and bids you come.
You must do it! You cannot hold back. You have enjoyed yourself in Christianity long enough. You have had pleasant feelings, pleasant songs, pleasant meetings, pleasant prospects. There has been much of human happiness, much clapping of hands and shouting of praises – vey much of heaven on earth.
Now then, go to God and tell Him you are prepared as much as necessary to turn your back upon it all, and that you are willing to spend the rest of your days struggling in the midst of these perishing multitudes, whatever it may cost you.
You must do it. With the light that has now broken in upon your mind, and the call that is now sounding in your ears, and the beckoning hands that are now before your eyes, you have no alternative. To go down among the perishing crowds is your duty. Your happiness from now on will consist in sharing their misery, your ease in sharing their pain, your crown in helping them to bear their cross, and your heaven in going into the very jaws of hell to rescue them.
Now, what will you do?
What a hypocritical nation America has become. We have developed a culture that loves violence while simultaneously condemning it. Violence permeates the very fabric of our nation and the entertainment industry is one of its primary propagators. What hypocrisy! The celebrities that act out the violence Americans are obsessed with often claim to be proponents of nonviolence. What about the citizenry itself? Though they may state with political correctness that violence is wrong, they have, so to speak, an umbilical cord attached to the secular media that feeds them the violence and moral decadence they crave. If we did not love violence then the entertainment industry would not be producing such evil.
This fallen world is an incubator of rebellion against the Lord and His kingdom. We have created a spiritual and moral environment that has caused us to grow numb to the culture of violence we made. Yes, this includes the church. Christians must shoulder the greater guilt in creating this problem because we should be the guardians of truth and biblical morality. To our shame, we have become proponents of evil. A vast number of Christians support the culture of violence with their time and money. Just look in the average self-proclaimed Christian’s video cabinet, examine their cable bill, peruse their video games or search their computer’s history for the internet porn they watch. It will not take long to find just a few ways that supposedly “good” people actively advance evil.
The news media loves to exploit acts of violence for their own profit and we Americans just love to be exploited. In those cases of violence that the media uses to capture the attention of the nation our consciences may be awakened to a small degree. These news blitzes excite the feeble sympathies of our hearts or may enrage our thoughts to some kind of anemic response. Yet a few days after the tragedy we once again fall asleep to the evils we have breed of our own free will. Of course, we foolishly trust that our elected officials will run with the political tide created by the most recent media feeding frenzy. Out of self-love and self-preservation these mercenary politicians pass laws in the heat of the moment that, more often than not, do more harm than good.
The culture of violence in which we find ourselves today had its origin in Adam’s sin. In the Garden of Eden violence was nonexistent. Scripture records that the first act of violence was the sacrifice Adam and Eve offered up to God as atonement for their sin (Genesis 3:21). From that point on violence became an integral part of this fallen world. Every act of violence this world has ever known or will experience is the consequence of Adam and Eve’s deliberate act of rebellion against God. What they set in motion we now continue through our own conscious acts of breaking God commands. The wages of sin always produces death and separation from God (Genesis 2:17; Ezekiel 18:4, 20; Romans 6:23).
The violence that mankind perpetrates one upon one another is inspired by hell. At times, the evil people inflict upon others is so heinous that our minds cannot fathom the horror nor words express the depths of their malevolence. It seems like devils inspired with hellish hatred motivate weak people to abuse, mutilate and ruin the very creatures God created His own image.
Through the authority of Scripture we can say that mankind created violence, not God. However, in our present situation the Lord uses violence to advance His kingdom. Now please do not misunderstand me here. The violence God uses is diametrically opposed to that which came through the Adam’s rebellion. Terrorism, murder, natural war and all the other expressions of violence and hatred are not part of God’s kingdom.
Jesus taught the correct means by which violence is used to advance the Kingdom of Heaven, “And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force” (NKJV; Mt. 11:12). The violence the Savior refers to incorporates two ideas. First, it speaks of people entering Christ’s kingdom. The Lord relentlessly labors to bring people to the place where they comprehend their desperate need of salvation and are willing to flee into Christ’s loving embrace. When they reach that imperative condition to salvation they will violently (forcefully) strive to enter the kingdom of God at any cost. The Lord, through His infinitely astounding abilities, uses the evil we created, practice and promote to drive us to Himself. The greatest example of this is demonstrated when God, who did not create violence, allowed the most horrendous act of violence to be preformed against Himself—crucifixion. Why did He allow this? So that mankind could be saved from the eternal violence of hell.
The second way that the Lord uses violence to advance His kingdom deals with the way true disciples are called to aggressively expand the Kingdom of God. This is accomplished in the same manner that Jesus advanced the Kingdom of God when He walked this earth, through the laying down of His life. Let me use a story Duncan Campbell told about a soldier during WWI to illustrate this point. During an attack at Passchendaele Ridge, Belgium, Campbell stated, “I saw on my right a young 42nd Highlander. He was wounded in his arm and trying to tear the tail of his shirt to bind it. Another soldier in front of us lay wounded beckoning for help. I heard that 42nd Highlander say, ‘I’m sure that’s Jock!’ I saw him spring to his feet with that wounded arm lying beside him as he climbed out of the trench saying, ‘Yes, that’s poor Jock and I’ll save him or die in the attempt.’” In like manner, through the love of God we are to lay siege to people, families, communities and nations until we see them saved or die in the attempt to rescue them. That is what Jesus was talking about—aggressive, loving evangelism.
There is a violence ordained of God. Not the heartless brutality that flows out of hell through susceptible humans, but that which our Lord and Master modeled. This is a high calling, the obligation placed upon the shoulders of every true believer to be like Jesus in both life and death. What does this privilege of infinitesimal value include, even demand? That out of love for Christ we lay down our wealth, reputations, comforts and lives for His glory and the salvation of the lost.
Walter Henley, a former White House staff member that turned pastor said it this way: “Militant love is life attacking death, light coming against darkness, truth colliding with lies. . . . Militant Islam, for example, may call for the death of the ‘infidel,’ and may issue death warrants against its enemies, but Jesus of Nazareth will not allow His followers to call down the fire . . . His militant love will minister healing, deliverance and hope. Jesus shows that militant love does not inflict suffering on others, but is willing to receive it on itself for the sake of others. Militant love does not nail its enemies to the cross, but goes to the cross on behalf of the enemy. . . . Militant love does aggressive acts of kindness towards those who would cause it hurt. It washes the feet of those who would betray it.”
True love demands that we respond to the desperate needs of others that are within our ability to meet. How can we say we love family, friends and community while remaining indifferent to the reality that the majority of people we know are rushing to a literal hell? How can we say we are part of a kingdom whose Lord and King was crucified so we could be saved and be senseless about the multitudes of perishing immortal souls? And how can we live in the selfish pursuit of pleasure while hell grows larger by the second? The existence of hell demands our response.
Violence rages around us, incessant and unmerciful. We cannot get away from it. Try to run if you will, but the violence of hell will only pursue you. Either stand and fight or cower and hide. To the one is a victor’s crown, to the other shame and disgrace. But if you think that you can act like the proverbial ostrich that sticks its head in the sand know that the vicious predators of hell which are seeking to devour your mother and father, children and siblings, friends and acquaintances are also coming after you. This moment, this day and age demands that God’s people respond to the violence of hell with the good, holy and compassionate violence of God’s love operating through His genuine followers even if it costs us our reputations, comforts, wealth or lives.
Glenn Meldrum has been a national evangelist since 1997. Prior to his calling as an evangelist he pastored for 15 years. He is ordained and holds an M.A. in theology and church history from Ashland Theological Seminary. Visit www.ihpministry.com for articles, sermons, books and information on Glenn Meldrum and In His Presence Ministries.