Why are you indifferent to that which is of vastly greater importance than plagues like coronavirus — your eternal salvation?
Please God, the worst of Corvid-19 may be over. The death rate is falling; in many countries lockdown is being eased – hopefully soon in Britain where at the time of writing over 30,000 people have died. But there is a deadening plague which continues and by its very nature is ignored – spiritual apathy. How many millions have it – and those of us who have a living relationship with the Lord, how many of us just acquiesce?
This is an abridged version of a paper by Charles Coates[i]. It is undated, but indications are that it was in the late 1930’s. Britain had come through the great depression and things were pretty good. There were worrying developments in Germany, but they were not causing problems in Britain. Chamberlain had a meeting with Hitler, signed a treaty and said, ‘It’s peace in our time’ (See 2 Kings 2:19). How can you make peace with an evil man? Yesterday we celebrated the 75th anniversary of VE Day. Coates was taken to be with the Lord five months after VE Day; I was born four weeks after that day.
It has been estimated that over seventy-five per cent of the inhabitants of this country have no concern about the salvation of their souls. They are not atheists or infidels, nor do they make any profession of being saved; they are simply indifferent to the whole matter. If the thought of having to do with God comes into their minds, they solace themselves by a comparison of their own state with that of their fellows, and they conclude that as they are not worse than others, and perhaps better than many, there is no reason why they should have any concern as to their spiritual state. Any occasional alarm is speedily stilled by the thought that God is merciful — a sentiment which in the mind of an indifferent sinner means that he likes to think of God as One whose judgment of sin is not much more severe than his own. It is to this large body of people, and to each individual in it, that the following plain words are addressed.
Then why so indifferent to that which is of vastly greater importance than all these things put together — your eternal salvation? A friendly voice asks you the question which once rang on the startled ear of Jonah — ‘What meanest thou, O sleeper?’ (Jonah 1:6).
Beware! The signals of Holy Scripture are all against you, and another warning reaches you now as you speed along to eternity. ‘When they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them … and they shall not escape’ (1 Thessalonians 5: 3).
In the year of the Great Plague (1665) 90,000 persons died in London. With the earliest symptoms of the disease all indifference fled. Many went mad with terror and ran screaming through the grass-grown deserted streets, as if to escape from the pursuit of death. Have you no symptoms that might justly fill your conscience with alarm? ‘The thought of foolishness is sin’ (Proverbs 24:9). ‘To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin’ (James 4:17). ‘God shall judge the secrets of men’ (Romans 2:16). The plague of sin is in your heart; your members are yielded as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin; and the end of these things is death. Have you never been astounded at the evil thoughts of your own heart? or are you so thoroughly accustomed to them as to be ‘abominable and filthy’, and to drink ‘iniquity like water’? (Job 15: 16). In any case it is high time for indifference to be thrown off as a dangerous and deadly thing.
Sad, sad, that bitter wail — ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved’ (Jeremiah 8:20).
‘God now commandeth all men everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17: 30).
‘God … will have all men to be saved’ (1 Timothy 2: 4). It is at an infinite cost that God has secured for Himself in righteousness the title of SAVIOUR GOD. The Son has been given; Jesus has died; and the whole universe can see at the cross of Christ that God is neither indifferent to sin, nor to the need of His poor creature who has fallen under its power. Then let indifference be banished from your heart. Turn in true repentance to God, and receive by faith the Lord Jesus Christ as your Saviour. For your life hangs on a thread; the record of your sins is on high; and the blackest midnight is brighter than the darkness of a Christless grave. ‘If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved’ (Romans 10: 9).
If 75% of Britons were not concerned about salvation in the 1930’s. What is the percentage of spiritual apathy now?
What word is going out to people? Are they hearing the gospel? We don’t hear much, but then almost all the media is secular, liberal and anti-Christian. But concerned Christians are speaking out. They see the gospel under attack, and they are not afraid to say so. Of course, I have not seen or read every message, but a surprisingly large group of voices are from within the Church of England – even from bishops and members of the Synod. Others are from evangelicals – Baptists and Free Church. What I don’t see are similar messages from charismatics and community churches. Like Sardis (Protestantism) – ‘Thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead’ (Revelation 3:1) – concerned with form, liturgy, organisation and outward works. I have just listened to a well-known American preacher[ii]. describing the Church of Scotland as an ecclesiastical corpse. Thank God that in Sardis there were a few genuine Christians who had not defiled their garments.
We hear platitudes. Yes, by all means talk about the love of God. But first lay the conviction of the need of man – lost, sinful and deserving eternal judgment. Met by the One who died – not just a sacrifice for our sins, but to settle the whole question, knowing that man in the flesh cannot please God.
Some preacher pointed out – Preachers say ‘Chose for Jesus and pray’ – No! ‘Cry to Jesus in faith and repent’. ‘There is joy is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth’ (Luke 15:10).
More Christians worshiped, prayed, and shared Scripture online in the past week than ever before, as COVID-19 precautions shut down in-person church gatherings across the US and around the globe. – When God Closes a Church Door, He Opens a Browser Window – Christianity Today 15 March 2020
In the thick of COVID-19 concerns, Bible publishing companies report increased sales . . . yndale reports that engagement on its New Living Translations Facebook page – home to Bible verse memes – has tripled since last March and is up 72% from just last month. LifeWay Christian Resources also saw an increase in sales of 62 percent last week compared to the previous year. “We believe this is no accident, as people often go to the Bible as a source of hope in times of crisis and uncertainty,” said Ben Mandrell, LifeWay CEO. “People draw hope from Scripture because in it they see a God who is with us during our suffering – Christian Headlines 8 April 2020
Christian Zoom Meetings
In these very unusual times, we cannot gather together normally. But the Lord
loves His church and will not let His sheep go unfed. My wife and I have found blessing in attending ‘Zoom meetings’. They cannot be regarded as formally constituted assembly occasions according to 1 Cor 14:23 – ‘The whole church be come together into one place’ – (of course, due to the breakdown it can only be a few Christians gathering in the light of the whole). We enjoy bible readings with up to 20 screens, or larger scale preachings. Many recipients of this letter attend a preaching of the gospel (16:30 BST Lord’s Days) arranged by some in Warrenpoint, Northern Ireland where last week about 120 screens (maybe 300 persons) streamed in, and we were able to see one another over several pages. Some we had not seen for a few years, from the UK and Continental Europe, North America and even Australia and New Zealand. Also audio only – Preachers Corner, arranged by some in Worthing, Sussex (18:00 BST Lords Day. If you are interested in the ‘Zoom meetings, please send me a private email (email@example.com).
I trust you have found these thoughts encouraging – and comforting. May you be kept well, and free of Covid 19.