A New Voyage
The meeting was in progress when Byron and his mother arrived, but the minister had not taken the pulpit. The company of workers consisted of one elderly woman, a middle-aged man, and three younger persons. As they sang, Byron noticed the happy expressions on their faces. They seemed to be singing from the depths of their hearts, and these were the words:
Salvation’s free, glad joy to all
Of Adam’s fallen race;
We’ll tell to all, both far and near,
Of saving, keeping grace.
There’s joy, glad joy,
Now flowing from above;
There’s joy, glad joy,
In the fullness of His love.
From wells of everlasting joy,
Our strength by faith we bring;
The joy that thrills my ransomed soul
Can make the dumb heart sing.
How sweet the soul that’s purged as pure
As gold without alloy!
How peaceful is the flowing stream
Of deep, eternal joy!
I’ll live for Christ through this dark world,
And faithful I will be;
The joy I know that keeps my soul
Shall last eternally.*
How the words thrilled Byron’s soul! That was the experience for which he was longing. Oh, to be able to draw joy from a well that would never run dry—what a privilege! How gladly he would live for Christ and be faithful if only he could have that joy that would last eternally.
When the song service was ended, someone said, “Let us pray.” A number of the congregation knelt beside their seats, and Byron, although he only bowed his head, joined with them as best he could in prayer. After prayer another song was sung, and then the minister, stepping upon the rostrum, opened his Bible and began to preach about Christ’s ministry upon the earth.
It was indeed a wonderful sermon. He recalled to the minds of the people the words of Jesus when He walked and talked in Galilee, and spoke of His simple life. He pictured the Savior’s loving interest in mankind when He fed the hungry people and healed the sick. He rehearsed a part of the wonderful Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus taught His disciples how to join Him in His work. He mentioned the great love of Christ when He stood at the grave of Lazarus and wept. Then he told of the Last Supper in the upper chamber. He related how, after Judas had passed out, Jesus spoke of the sad event that was about to take place and introduced the simple memorial of His death and gave a true emblem of humility by washing the disciples’ feet.
Then, following the Savior across the brook Kedron, he led his hearers on into the lonely Garden of Gethsemane. There he showed them Jesus bowed in prayer, pleading to have the bitter cup taken from Him, if possible, but willing to drink its contents to the dregs, if necessary. Next he pointed out the clamoring mob, a short distance away, awaiting the Savior’s approach, and the Roman soldiers grouped about the foot of the cross. The mangled Savior, pleading with the Father to forgive them, was a beautiful testimony of God’s undying love.
The scene changed, and the congregation were allowed to look in ecstasy as he realized the full meaning of the empty tomb. He seemed to see the risen Lord seated on the throne beside His Father—the place which He occupied before His visit to the earth—and heard Him saying, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
After the discourse there was singing and a few testimonies from the strangers, and Byron was more inspired than ever to make heaven his home. He became anxious to consecrate himself to the Lord, but as no opportunity was given, he returned to his home with the burden of sins still resting upon him.
The following day he could think of little else than the sermon and the happy faces of the strangers that he had looked upon in the chapel. As he thought, a picture of the ocean of life came before him. He could see the crafts floating about upon its surface, and he saw some of the rugged rocks upon which many of these vessels were wrecked. Some of these dangers were entirely hidden beneath the surface of the water, but each was shown on a chart with which all good seamen were familiar. On this chart there was a description of every hidden rock and a course mapped out whereby it could be avoided. Each obstruction that was visible bore a sign whereby its character might be discerned, but many of the signs were dimmed and blurred.
Some of the vessels that were floating carelessly about in the shallow waters, not heeding the instructions upon the chart, he saw torn to pieces and sunken. Others, although not so soon destroyed, were so battered and injured that they were unsafe.
On one of the flags that was floating above a forbidding rock, he saw the motto, “Do As I Please,” and, to his amazement, he discovered, upon examining the chart, that more than half of the hidden dangers were located close around it. There was lying, stealing, hypocrisies, gambling, drunkenness, and many other rocks just beneath the surface of the water. Above another he read, “Worldly Pleasures,” and around and about this he found such evils as he had not even dreamed could exist.
Many other things were pictured before him, but of all the sights in this great body of water, the one that interested him most was that of persons clinging to the parts of wreckage and floating about where the waters were deep and full of sharks and other dangers. Every moment he saw someone hurled down from a portion of a mast, a broken hull, or some other part of a wrecked vessel, to go down shrieking and groaning to his doom.
Byron shuddered as the scene passed before him, and he began looking out away from the shore. Here he discovered a promising ship with beautiful banners and streamers floating from it. Upon the banners he read, “Purity,” “Honesty,” “Kindness,” “Holiness,” and many other mottoes explaining the character of the passengers of the vessel.
The ship, too, he discovered, was not only strong and well-built, but traveled in a direct course and was out in mid-ocean. There it was in no danger of running into the snags which dotted the shallower water, for the water was much too deep for obstructions.
Now and then a lifeboat was lowered, and he saw that it was manned with the most competent sailors on board the ship. Watching them, he saw that although these life-saving crews went in among the snags and hidden rocks, they went only close enough to throw the life-line to those who were in distress. Those who did not realize their danger were simply warned, and the boat passed on to rescue those who were calling for help.
Looking back upon his own life, he saw that he had been stranded upon the hidden rocks near the obstruction “Do As I Please,” and that he was now clinging to a very frail piece of wreckage. His danger was great, but the little company had come to his rescue in time and were throwing to him the life-line.
As he went to the meeting that night, he felt the burden of his sins more keenly than he had ever felt it before, and he was anxious to be rid of them. Night by night the plan of salvation was becoming more and more clear to him. He could see the two great kingdoms so strictly opposite and could discern the antagonism between them. He learned that in the beginning, man was heir to the kingdom of God, but that through lack of appreciation he lost his inheritance. He saw that when people reach the age of accountability, Satan, the cruel taskmaster, disguises himself and with enticing words and methods seeks to induce as many of them as possible to work for him. He saw, too, that it is only through the great love and mercy of God that it is possible for anyone to return, after forsaking the Lord to follow Satan.
He came to understand that heaven, so pure and holy in all its aspects, and so full of bright and happy beings, cannot contain one sinful atom; that man must become pure in heart in this world if he would enter those realms above. He perceived it was only love, infinite love and pity on the part of God, that had prompted Him to send Jesus to complete the plan of salvation, and that Jesus is the only door through which man can ever enter heaven or approach God.
The laws of Satan’s kingdom, have, for a time, the appearance of liberty and freedom. But, as Byron had learned from experience, there is something which keeps the subjects of this kingdom from enjoying themselves for very long. On the other hand, he saw that the laws of heaven afford not only liberty but an inexhaustible supply of happiness as well.
Byron now wanted this liberty more than he had ever desired the freedom that the boys had suggested to him down by the river. He longed to be free so that he might do all he could in return for what Christ had suffered for him. And that he might also redeem his lost character, and, if possible, make his dear mother feel that her efforts to make him a respectable and honorable young man had not been in vain.
The sermon on repentance was deep and heart-searching, and the solemnity that rested upon the congregation was almost painful. When the minister ceased speaking a young man arose and urged the people to heed the words to which they had listened. He also gave them a kind and touching invitation to come forward for prayer. Then the company of workers joined in singing a beautiful song of invitation.
Come home, poor sinner;
Why longer roam,
Thy Savior’s calling,
“Come home, come home!”
Jesus is pleading;
Yes, pleading, pleading
For thee to come;
Come home, poor sinner,
Come home, come home.
He died to save you
Behold what suff’ring!
’Twas all for thee.
Oh, come to Jesus,
Do not delay;
Come, and He’ll save you;
Come while you may.
Oh, come to Jesus;
He’s waiting still
With His salvation,
Thy soul to fill.
Oh, come to Jesus;
How can you stay,
He’s pleading, pleading;
Come, come today.*
Byron was glad for such an opportunity. With his poor, aching heart painfully throbbing in his bosom, he hastened to the front, and there with several others humbled himself in prayer. The minister bowed beside him and explained in a simple manner what it really means to repent and to be truly saved from a sinful life.
“My dear young man,” he said, “you have acknowledged to your friends, by the simple act of humbling yourself in prayer, that you intend to live a new and different life. But you cannot do this in your own strength. God alone can save you and He can help you meet the conditions laid down in His Word. He says, first of all, to repent, and this means to be sorry for all the sins that you have committed.
“Now, there is a kind of sorrow that comes from having your wicked deeds found out, but this is not true repentance. To have godly sorrow is to be troubled and pained because one has violated God’s holy law, brought dishonor to His character and government, and shown ingratitude toward His infinite love and benevolence.
“John the Baptist went about preaching repentance, and Jesus a few years later re-echoed the message of God’s commandment to mankind; the commandment was not given to only a few individuals, but to everyone.”
Turning to his Bible, the minister read Acts 17:30, and then said, “When a person has become truly sorry for his sins he is to call upon God for help, for in Isaiah we read that we are to seek the Lord while He may be found.
“There are, of course, conditions to be met in repentance. When you have become truly sorry for having offended your Creator, you must seek for His pardon. He will be close to you when He sees your sorrow, and you must call upon Him to help you.”
Again he read from his Bible: “ ‘Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.’ (Isaiah 55:6) By this you see that you not only must ‘call’ upon God to save you, but must actually seek His favor. See, this next verse will show you how: ‘Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.’ (Isaiah 55:7)
“To forsake your way is to turn from every evil motive that has prompted you in the past to commit sin and to utterly abandon your old life of sin. You must make an unconditional surrender to God. You must not only acknowledge your sins to Him, but be willing to have them all exposed if necessary.
“Now God commands you to repent. There is no other way. If you want salvation, you must get it according to the rules laid down in the Bible. There are many other scriptures bearing upon this subject. God says, ‘To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart.’ (Psalm 95:7-8; Hebrews 3:8; Hebrews 3:15; Hebrews 4:7)” (Byron thought at once of the voice that had spoken to him down by the river.) “You can apply this promise to yourself, for now is the time for you to hear His voice and to accept His salvation. Here is another: ‘Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.’ (2 Corinthians 6:2) God wants you to yield yourself to Him, right now, to live the remainder of your life for Him and for His glory.
“Do you willingly promise that you will do anything that God may require of you? He will not tell us to do something impossible. He simply asks you to be willing and ready to make your wrongs right wherever you can. This is but just and right, and is one of the fruits worthy of repentance that is spoken of in Luke 3:8, and also in Acts 26:20. ‘He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.’ (Proverbs 28:13)
“Then, too, you must not only be willing to confess your sins and ask forgiveness for them, but forgive all who have wronged you in any way, for ‘if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.’ (Matthew 6:15)”
“All of these things I have done,” Byron said in a low voice when the minister ceased speaking. “I have confessed to God and have gone to those whom I have wronged and have made things right as well as I could. What more can I do?”
“There is still another step,” the minister said very earnestly. “You are well on the way, but you still have a great barrier to remove. Unbelief and disobedience have severed you from God, and you can only win favor with Him again by replacing these with obedience and belief in the gospel. The Bible does not say to ‘believe the gospel and repent,’ but to ‘repent… and believe the gospel,’ (Mark 1:15) and what is meant by the gospel is found in John 3:16: ‘For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ Can you not see God’s love and mercy? Can you not believe that the great sacrifice that He made for sin is for you, too?
“You are changing masters. The power of Satan is broken. You are no longer his servant, but are instead to be subject to a higher, nobler Power than his, if you will but believe. And God is waiting to give you His Holy Spirit to direct and pilot you in all of your undertakings, after you have discovered the secret of believing.”
“I do believe,” Byron said a moment later, and the tone of his voice and expression of his face showed plainly that a change had taken place. He had indeed discovered the secret of salvation. Arising to his feet, he faced the congregation, and in a voice that was clear and distinct and a manner that was happy and free, he spoke of the new life that he expected to live before them in the future. “My dear friends and companions,” he said, “I want to tell you that I have decided to change my course in life. The rest of my days shall be spent in the Lord’s service. I am truly sorry for all that I have ever done to displease Him.”
Byron seemed already to feel a deep joy and satisfaction in the fact that he had made his peace with God and was able to claim an heirship with the Savior. So confident were his words that his old associates looked upon him with awe, and some felt in their hearts a desire to share his happiness.