The Grace Of God To A Roman Catholic Priest
As I walked on the platform of the railway station at Shipley, I noticed a priest with a very swollen face. I felt greatly interested in him, and felt assured I had to speak a word from God to his soul. We waited a considerable time, passed and re-passed each other; and yet I had not courage to speak to him.
At length the train arrived from Bradford. He stepped into one carriage, and I into another. Thus we travelled, until the train reached Leeds.
Again there was delay. We passed and re-passed; but not a word did I speak. A fellow-priest was waiting for him. I took my seat. He now walked from end to end of the train, not a seat could he find but the one next to me. He stepped into the carriage, and sat down by my side, his companion remaining on the step outside.
I learnt from their conversation that my fellow-traveller was going to Sheffield, to undergo an operation of no ordinary character. I still felt a lack of courage to speak. We travelled in silence until we reached the station for Barnsley. Here all the passengers in our compartment left us. We were alone.
I then inquired if the large swelling on the cheek arose from anything wrong with the teeth. He explained very fully to me the nature of the case. It was a formation of bone on the cheek-bone. He had had the best possible advice, and was told he could not live more than two years, unless he submitted to the painful operation of having the bone removed; and that he was going to Sheffield to undergo the operation the very next day.
He then described to me how the difficult operation would have to be performed. I said, “And if you do well, how long do you expect to be confined to bed?” “Well,” said he, “I shall not be allowed to speak for seven or ten days, and shall no doubt have to lie in bed as many weeks. The thought of it feels very strange, for, with the exception of restless nights, I am, as you see, quite well and strong.” I then said, “And if you die under the operation, what then?” He looked surprised, and said, “My dear sir, I have been so occupied with the operation, I really have not given that one serious thought.” I saw God was awakening his soul to the awful thought of a never-ending eternity. I said, “I will give you one text of Scripture that was made a great blessing to a friend of mine in Sheffield, who was bed-ridden for months; and I feel sure, whether you die under the operation, or lie in bed some months, this scripture will be made a comfort to you.” This is it, quoting from the Roman Catholic translation:
“Amen, amen, I say unto you, that he who heareth My word, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath life everlasting; and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24). “Is not that very clear and wonderful? 'Hath life everlasting;' ‘cometh not into judgment;' 'is passed from death unto life?'”
At the first moment, this seemed too good to be true. He said, “Yes, if we hear Christ, and if we keep His commandments, and serve Him faithfully we shall then have life everlasting.” “No, no,” I said, “that is adding a great deal to the words of Christ. All that will come after as fruit; but, on the Amen of Christ, if we hear His words, and believe God that sent Him, we have at this moment life everlasting.”
“Yes,” he said, “I see it.”
“And now, as to judgment, as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment, so we are assured, Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many; and so, when He comes the second time, it is not for judgment on sin, but for salvation to them that look for Him.
“And notice the infinite value of that one sacrifice of Himself once, in contrast with the many offerings under the law, which could never take away sins. This blessed Man, the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘having offered one sacrifice for sins, forever sitteth on the right hand of God. For by one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified.' And God the Holy Ghost testifies, ‘And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more.' (See Heb. 9, 10) Oh, yes; amen, amen, it is most certain, if we hear the words of Jesus, and believe God that sent Him, life everlasting we have, and into judgment for our sins we shall never come. How can we, when God says He will remember them no more?”
Oh, if you had seen that face light up with joy! God opened his heart to receive the testimony of Christ. In a few minutes we must part, yet knit together for eternity. Had I known him for fifty years, I could not have felt more intense affection for him. Nay, it was the love of God shed abroad in our hearts.
I said, “Now tell me, if you die under the operation, are you afraid?” I was both surprised and delighted to hear his reply: “Whether the Lord shall come first, and I go to meet Him, or I die, I am ready to go and be with Him!” I had not spoken one word on the coming of Christ, save the reference to Heb. 9:28. The train was drawing up at Masbro': we shook hands, with the deep, real joy of those who have passed from death unto life. “Good-bye!” “Good-bye! The Lord be with you in the painful operation! Adieu!” I saw him no more. The operation was too painful to describe. A few Christians had prayer for him, the same evening, at Rotherham. His suffering was very great; and in a week or eight days from the day I met him he fell asleep. He was absent from the body, present with the Lord. I did not even know his name, but I shall meet him in that supreme moment when we awake in the likeness of our risen Lord.
Can you say, reader, that you have life everlasting? Have you been brought to receive the words of Christ? Do you believe God who sent Him, His own eternal Son, to bear our sins in His own body on the tree? Has He not died, the one all-sufficient, because infinite, sacrifice for sin? Oh! have you peace with God by the blood of Jesus? The moment we believe God, all is true to us. Life everlasting we have; Jesus says it. Into judgment we shall not come; Jesus says it. We are passed from death unto life; Jesus says it. Do you hear Him? Do not add a word. It is not, if you do this or that, then you may hope to have everlasting life. Those who are thus doing works for salvation never lead a holy life; that is, they never walk according to God's word. It is only those who are born of God, who have eternal life, who have the Holy Ghost dwelling in them, that love God, because He hath first loved them.
Oh, precious words of Jesus “Amen, amen, I say unto you, that he who heareth My word, and believeth Him that sent Me, hath life everlasting, and cometh not into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.”
One who lives near where the operation took place met Dr. H., who took part in it, and said, “Oh, Dr. H., I have a friend greatly interested in the priest you operated on; he wishes to know about the state of his soul at his departure.” Dr. H.'s reply was, “I never saw so happy a death-bed scene.”
Truly the wind bloweth where it listeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand. My Father who gave them Me is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father's hand.”
That priest with the swollen face was one of Christ's sheep. The Father had given him to Christ. The Shepherd had died for that sheep, and now the moment came when he must hear His voice. Eternal life was given to him.
Very beautiful it is to see a sheep of Christ in that moment when the ear is opened to hear the voice of Christ. The ear of the thief was opened on the day of his death; the ear of the priest eight days before. Has that voice, that word, ever entered my reader's soul? This may be the day of your death, or it may be eight days before. It is only a question of time. Hark, He says, “I give, I give unto them eternal life.” “And let him that is athirst come; and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”
O Jew or Gentile, Romanist or Protestant, “WHOSOEVER WILL, let him take the water of life freely!” Surpassing grace! Lord, make us more like Thyself! Dear reader, are you still a stranger to Christ? To this day have you been reading the Scriptures as you would read a newspaper? Have you never heard the voice of Christ? Remember the love of Christ to this Catholic priest. The moment he heard the voice of Jesus in the Word, he passed from death unto life; life everlasting he had, and into judgment he shall never come. What joy, what peace, what assurance of salvation, on the authority of Thy precious word, Lord Jesus! Here our souls rest, ‘without the shadow of a doubt.