What is the Gospel?

 

SalvationL.jpeg

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

 1Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;

 2By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.

 3For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

 4And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures

What must I do to be Saved?

Dr. John R Rice
Dr. John R Rice

What must I do to

be saved?

By Dr. John R. Rice, Evangelist

Here in the simplest, shortest form is put the question to which every man must learn the answer, or spend eternity lost, away from God, suffering the torments of the damned! Thank God, this question is asked and answered in the Word of God so simply that every soul can understand it. There are other questions in God’s Word which affect the soul’s welfare, and many places in the Bible is the plan of salvation made plain, but only one place is this question given word for word, and there, too, we find the answer.Philippi and at midnight they sang and prayed until God broke down all the doors and broke the stocks which held their feet, with a mighty earthquake. The poor jailer, frightened and convicted of his sins, came to these two preachers and asked this question. Read it in Acts 16:29-31:

WHAT MUST I DO?

Paul and Silas were in jail in the city of Philippi and at midnight they sang and prayed until God broke down all the doors and broke the stocks which held their feet, with a mighty earthquake. The poor jailer, frightened and convicted of his sins, came to these two preachers and asked this question. Read it in Acts 16:29-31:

“Then he called for a light and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

“What must I do to be saved?” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”! There is God’s plan of salvation, the only plan He has for every man, woman and child who was ever born into the whole world.

Sinner, there is something you must do if you would be saved. There was hope for this jailer because he saw himself a lost sinner and came trembling to inquire, “What must I do?” Reader, you are a sinner. The Word of God from beginning to end emphasizes that fact. In Isaiah 53:6 we learn:

CHRIST DIED TO SAVE SINNERS, NOT GOOD MEN

Oh, I beg you, see it today! You are a poor, lost sinner, a Hell-bound sinner! Your heart is black. You have hardened your heart, you have resisted the call of God, you have rejected Christ. However good you are in man’s sight, you are a terrible sinner, and unless you turn to Christ you must spend eternity in Hell. A SINNER! That is what you are. Admit it in your own heart, confess it to God. You are a sinner and you need saving worse than you need anything else in the world.

BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST

Here is God’s simple way to be saved. You are a sinner, your heart is wrong, you cannot save yourself, you are already condemned. The thing you are to do then, to be saved, is to simply trust the Lord Jesus with that matter. When you do trust Him, then you have God’s promise, “Thou shalt be saved.”2:19). You can believe that a certain physician is a good doctor without calling him to be your doctor when you are sick. You can believe that a certain man is a good lawyer without taking him as your lawyer to defend your case. You are not just to believe the truth about Jesus; you are to believe on Him, that is, depend upon Him, risk Him, trust Him; and when you do, you are saved.

NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS

Of course, you do not deserve salvation. There is nothing you can do that will make you worthy of it. You cannot be saved by keeping the Ten Commandments, for the Scripture clearly shows that you have not kept them. Romans
3:20 says:9:226:23.

WHAT ABOUT REPENTANCE?

Does not the Bible say that we must repent? Yes, the Bible plainly says that “God … commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30), and again, “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). This was the preaching of John the Baptist, of Jesus, of Peter and of Paul, that men should repent. And certainly repentance is God’s plan of salvation. The trouble here, however, is that men misunderstand what repentance means, and there has grown up an idea that repentance means a period of weeping and mourning over sin, or sorrow for sins. This idea comes from the Douay Version of the Bible which instead of “repent” says “do penance.” So the place of inquiry, where people should be taught the plan of salvation from the Bible, in revival meetings, became “the mourner’s bench” and thousands of people have been taught that God would not hear their prayer nor forgive their sins until they went through a process of sorrow and mourning over their sins!7:10)–the right kind of sorrow leads to immediate repentance, but mourning is not itself repentance.

INSTANT SALVATION!

The jailer did not go through a period of mourning. He was told to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ; he did just that and was saved, and his whole family was saved the same way, immediately, the same hour of the night. Everywhere you look through the New Testament you find that people were saved all at once without any process, without any period of mourning.
In the Bible there are many cases of sinners who prayed like the thief on the cross or the publican in the temple. In fact, Romans 10:13 says:10:13, 14.

HOW TO GET THE CHANGE OF HEART

This simple way of being saved by faith seems so easy, and it is. Some sinner may say, “But I thought one must have a change of heart.” So you must, dear sinner, but that is God’s part. Jesus was talking to Nicodemus when He said, “Ye must be born again,” and in the same chapter He tells Nicodemus how to get the new birth.

HOW SHOULD I FEEL?

“ALL we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned EVERY ONE to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us ALL.”

We have all gone astray! The Lord is not content for sinners to be left believing themselves good. In Romans the third chapter, how positive, how certain is the Word of God that every man, woman and child is a sinner!

“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are ALL under sin; As it is written, There is NONE righteous, NO, NOT ONE: There is NONE that understandeth, there is NONE that seeketh after God. They are ALL gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is NONE that doeth good, NO, NOT ONE”!–Rom. 3:9-12.

In verses 22 and 23 it is stated again that “there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” That is the reason Jesus said to Nicodemus in the third chapter of John, “Marvel not that I said unto thee, YE MUST BE BORN AGAIN.” And a little later in the same chapter, verse 18, He said that the man who has not believed in Jesus is already condemned.

Certainly these Scriptures must make it clear to every man who believes the Word of God that he is a sinner, and until he has believed in Christ and has been saved, he is a lost sinner and needs saving. The heart is wrong, and only God can make that right. Then if you want to be saved, you must admit in your own heart, “I am a sinner. I am lost and need to be saved.” No one ever was saved without coming for salvation as a sinner.

If you have settled in your heart that matter, then you are ready to learn God’s answer to your question, “What must I do to be saved?”

I do not mean that you are simply to believe that there is a God or that there is a Saviour. Devils believe that and tremble (James

“Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his own sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

The same thing is told in Galatians 3:11 which says:

“But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.”

Many, many Scriptures repeat again and again that there is no salvation through human goodness.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”–Titus 3:5.

“FOR BY GRACE ARE YE SAVED THROUGH FAITH; AND THAT NOT OF YOURSELVES; IT IS THE GIFT OF GOD: NOT OF WORKS, LEST ANY MAN SHOULD BOAST.”–Eph. 2:8, 9.

We had as well admit, then, that no man deserves saving and no man can save himself. Salvation must be free or the sinner could never get it. In fact, it takes blood to pay for sin, for the Scripture says:

“Without Shedding of Blood Is No Remission”–Hebrews

“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.”–Rom. 5:6.

“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”–Isa. 53:6.

Peter tells us that all of us are bought by the blood of Christ:

“Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”–1 Peter 1:18, 19.

Every lamb, bullock, heifer, goat, turtle dove and pigeon offered in the Old Testament times on the altar pictured this: that man, a guilty sinner, must have some innocent one to shed his blood to pay for one man’s sins. Jesus died for our sins, and, thank God, salvation is bought for every man in the world, if he will have it, as the free gift of God.

“For the wages of sin is death; but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”–Rom.

Dear sinner, remember that church membership will not save you. If you have been baptized that cannot save you. Baptism does not save, does not keep anybody saved. It is only an act of duty for those who have already found Christ as their Saviour. A moral life or lodge membership or good citizenship–these must all fail to bring salvation, for it is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us” (Titus 3:5). Don’t depend, then, on what you do, but on what Jesus did and promises to do for you.

Do not misunderstand me. God is anxious for you to have a penitent, broken heart over your sins. You have gone away from God. You have trampled under foot the blood of Jesus Christ, wasted years of your life which you can never live over again. You have served your father, the Devil. There is plenty for you to weep over, and I am not surprised if you feel deep shame and sorrow in your heart that you have so mistreated the God who made you and the Saviour who died for you. I am not surprised if you cannot keep back the tears! But what I want you to know is that tears or no tears, however much sorrow you may have in your heart, or not have, those things do not save you.

You ought to be sorry for your sins and ashamed of them. “Godly sorrow worketh repentance” (2 Corinthians

“Could my tears forever flow, Could my zeal no respite know, These for sin cold not atone; Thou must save, and Thou alone.”

To repent literally means to have a change of mind or spirit toward God and toward sin. It means to turn from your sins, earnestly, with all your heart, and trust in Jesus Christ to save you. You can see, then, how the man who believes in Christ repents and the man who repents believes in Christ. The jailer repented when he turned form sin to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Zacchaeus, up a tree, trusted Jesus and made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully (Luke 19:6-9). Jesus said,

“This day is salvation come to this house.” When Peter told Cornelius and his assembled household that they could be saved

by believing, immediately “while Peter yet spake these words,” the Scripture says, the Holy Spirit came on them and they were happily saved (Acts 10:44-48). The thief on the cross, wicked sinner that he was, who a few minutes before had been railing at Jesus, was saved immediately when he inquired of Jesus (Luke 23:42, 43). In the first chapter of John, verses 35 to 49, we see where Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip and Nathanael were all converted, one by one, immediately by faith in Christ. There is no record of any person in Bible times who was ever told to wait, or mourn, or weep over his sins before trusting Jesus and being saved! One who believes in Christ has repented. Repentance and faith are the same thing put in different words, and neither requires a long period of time, nor a process of mourning and sorrow.

Salvation is instantaneous. All that keeps you today from being saved is the wickedness of your heart that holds on to sin and will not run to Jesus to trust in Him for salvation. I beg you, turn in shame and sorrow from your sins this minute, and trust in Christ and be saved!

CAN ONE BE SAVED WITHOUT PRAYER?

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Many people believe that a sinner cannot be saved without a period of prayer, without consciously calling on God. However, the Bible does not say that a sinner must pray in order to be saved. In fact, immediately following the verse in Romans 10:13 is an explanation which shows that calling on God is an evidence of faith in the heart and that it is really faith which settles the matter. Read it again.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?”–Rom.

The Lord encourages the sinner to pray, and the Lord hears and answers the sinner’s prayer, if that sinner trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation when he prays. He heard the prayer of the thief on the cross, of the publican in the temple, of blind Bartimaeus. But the Scripture says, “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed?” Certainly every one who is to be saved must believe. Prayer is evidence of faith. No matter how long one prays, if he does not trust in Christ, he can never be saved. If he trusts in Christ without conscious prayer, then he is saved already. There is just one plan of salvation and just one step a sinner must take to secure it. That step is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ!

Same way we preachers have left the impression on this poor world of sinners that God is hardhearted and that it takes many tears and loud cries and long periods of sorrow before He will hear and save the sinner. We have left the impression that God does not care whether sinners are saved or not, and that sinners must some way touch the heart of God and get Him ready to forgive. What a slander on a good and holy God who “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Man’s sins are already paid for, God’s wrath is already turned away from any sinner who wants to be saved. Both the Father and the Son are a million times more anxious to save every sinner than the sinner can be to get saved! Thank God, I do not have to beg God to forgive my sins. He will do it the minute I am willing to trust it with Him.

“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.”–John 3:16.

The change in your heart, sinner, is God’s part and you may be sure He will attend to that. Your part is to simply believe in Him. Whatever else is necessary in your eternal salvation, the Lord attends to when you trust in Him, or believe in Him.

Some do not want to claim Christ as Saviour until they have the mysterious feeling that they want. Do not let the Devil deceive you here. I believe in heartfelt religion, and thank God for the joy which He gives to me day by day.
Some people have an idea that the change of heart is a matter of feeling. But the Bible nowhere tells how one must feel before he is saved, nor does it anywhere say how you feel after you are saved. In fact, people do not feel the same. Feeling varies with the person saved.

WHAT ABOUT PUBLIC CONFESSION?

Every person who is saved ought to publicly confess Christ. Matthew 10:32 and Romans 10:9 plainly teach that God will claim as His child any of us who will claim Christ as our Saviour, but we simply confess with the mouth what we have already trusted in our hearts. Concerning that very matter Romans 10:10 says:1:12 to as many as receive Jesus. But you could not come to Christ without trusting Him, and John 1:12 shows that receiving Jesus is the same as believing on His name.10:43.13:39.16:30, 31.5:31). He is the Great Physician and will heal your soul instantly if you will trust Him. As you would trust a doctor, submit to his treatment, depend on him for results, so trust Jesus today about your soul. To be sure, human doctors fail many times. Their results at best are gradual, and so no doctor is a perfect picture of Jesus. The doctor can work no miracles, but Jesus can, and the change that is needed in that poor, wicked heart, He will make immediately, instantly, without any further effort on your part, when you trust Him!

JESUS IS OUR LAWYER

If you had committed a crime and were thrown in jail, probably the first thing you would do would be to send for some lawyer in whom you had confidence and trust him with the entire matter of your defense. In God’s sight you are a criminal, condemned already and with the wrath of God upon you day by day. But God has provided somebody to take the part of us poor sinners, criminals before the bar of God’s justice, and Jesus is that lawyer, for the Scripture says:

A young man and young woman stand together, side by side, before the preacher. The preacher says, “You will join right hands.” Then to the young man he says, “Do you take this young woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to love her and cherish her until death do you part?” He answers, “I do.” To the young woman the preacher says: “Do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband until death do you part?” She answers, “I do.” Then the preacher says: “I pronounce you man and wife,” and they are married in the sight of God and man.

MAKE IT SURE–CLAIM HIM TODAY!

The way is plain and you can be saved this moment if you will.10:10).

Some cry when they are saved, some laugh, and a few shout aloud the praises of God. One is no more saved than the other.

What you want, dear sinner, is salvation, and you should be satisfied to feel any way that will please the Lord, just so He forgives your sins.

Be sure you notice another fact, too, and that is that you cannot feel right until you get right. Rejoicing does not come before you trust the Lord. One does not feel the result of medicine before he takes it. The Children of Israel in the wilderness, bitten by fiery serpents and at the point of death, were not healed and did not feel healed until they looked to the brass serpent on the pole (Num. 21:6-9). People are not saved by feeling; they are saved by trusting in Christ. The prodigal son, away from home in the hog pen, decided to arise and go to his father, but he did not feel good. He was without shoes, clothed in rags, without the ring of sonship, without any evidence of his father’s forgiveness, perishing with hunger! Yet he arose and came to his father, not by feeling, but by faith in his father. Thank God, his father received him, like God receives every sinner who will come. And when the prodigal boy sat down at his father’s table, with shoes of the gospel of peace, clothed in the garments of righteousness of Christ, with the ring of sonship on his finger, eating the fatted calf at the right hand of the father, happy in his love, then he has plenty of feeling. Feeling comes after salvation. Leave the feeling with the Lord and come to the Saviour by faith today.

After you are saved, you will get peace and joy out of following the Lord in baptism, reading His Word, winning souls and otherwise pleasing Him. You need to go to the Lord again and again day by day for the joy of a Christian life. But thank God that salvation is settled once and for all when you simply depend upon Christ as your Saviour.

“For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”

To claim Christ as your Saviour simply proves that you trust Him in the heart. Likewise with all other promises in the Bible about how to be saved. “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” says John 6:37; and salvation is promised in John

Dear sinner, do not make this a difficult matter. There is one simple step between you and Jesus. When you trust Him, everything else is settled, and you have repented, you have come to Christ, you have received Him, you have done everything necessary to be saved. Take the answer in Acts 16:31 at face value: “BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THOU SHALT BE SAVED”! In dozens of Scriptures all through the Bible salvation is promised to those that believe. Read carefully the following Scriptures and see that again and again, many, many times, God has promised all any poor sinner would ever need when he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ.

“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that BELIEVE on his name.”–John 1:12.

“And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 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.”–John 3:14-16.

“He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that BELIEVETH not is condemned already, because he hath not BELIEVED in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”–John 3:18.

“He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that BELIEVETH not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”–John 3:36.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and BELIEVETH on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”–John 5:24.

“And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and BELIEVETH on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”–John 6:40.

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that BELIEVETH on me hath everlasting life.”–John 6:47.

“To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever BELIEVETH in him shall receive remission of sins.”–Acts

“And by him all that BELIEVE are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.”–Acts

Read again the Scripture we started with:

“What must I do to be saved?”

“BELIEVE on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”–Acts

Trust Jesus, the Great Physician

If you were sick and about to die, and there was some good doctor whom you could trust, would you not risk him to take your case, give you the necessary treatment, and with God’s help get you well? Then just like that, trust in Christ, depend on Him for your salvation, and turn it over to Him today. With the same kind of faith that will call in a doctor and risk him for your body, you can call in the Lord Jesus Christ and risk Him to forgive your sins and save your poor lost soul! He said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Luke

“If any man sin, we have an advocate [or lawyer] with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for our’s only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”–1 John 2:1, 2.

Jesus will not only be your lawyer to defend your case; He has already paid the penalty and you may safely trust Him to have you immediately pardoned and justified! Why not simply risk Jesus as you would risk a good lawyer? Jesus is better than any lawyer, of course, and you do not have to pay Him a fee, and He never fails.

A WEDDING

What a simple picture of salvation! Jesus is the bridegroom and we who trust Him are to be His bride. Already Jesus has loved you and has long urged you to accept His love. Jesus invites you to accept His love. Jesus invites you to believe in Him right now and be saved and so become a part of His bride. Will you not right now with the same simple faith of that young woman who takes a husband, accept Jesus as your Saviour and say to Him, “I do.”?

Surely it has become plain, dear lost sinner, that it is your own fault if you are lost! Do you hate Jesus Christ? Will you hold on to your sin and go to Hell for your stubbornness? Nothing in the world could show your wickedness like postponing this matter. You can be saved right now, this minute. I beg you, do it now. Turn your whole heart from sin to trust in Christ. Choose for Heaven against Hell, choose for Christ against Satan. Do not let Satan deceive you any longer. If you delay, it may result in a hardened heart, a wasted life and a tortured soul in Hell! And if you are not saved, when God has made the way so plain and paid the price for your sins, then you have no one to blame but yourself. Will you trust Jesus Christ today and be saved?

“Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”–Proverb 27:1.

“Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”–2 Corinthians 6:2.

“Today if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts.”–Heb. 3:7, 8.

God has given you this heartbeat, this breath, this moment in order to trust Christ, but there is no promise of another. I beg you do it right now, and then claim Him as your Saviour.

One who trusts Jesus Christ as personal Saviour should publicly claim Him before men. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans

After trusting Jesus Christ you should join a church and be baptized. I hope you will find a good Bible-believing church and attend faithfully.

This message by Dr. John R. Rice has circled the globe in multi-millions of copies and in many languages. I had the honor of working with Dr. Rice the last eight years of his life. When he asked me to join him in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, he suggested, among the duties I would undertake, that I write promotional articles for his tract, “What Must I Do to be Saved?” When I asked if there were testimonies available that I might read from those who had been saved through this powerful message, his faithful assistant, Miss Viola Walden, showed me several file cabinets stacked side-by-side filled with thousands of such testimonies. More arrived each day that I was there—some ten years. –Ron English

Should We Love Our Enemies?

OUTLIVED MY ENEMIES
Read Matthew 5:43-48 By Michael Guido, The Sower

Matthew 5:43-48
43-Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. 44-But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45-That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. 46-For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47-And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48-Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

A reporter asked a man, “How old are you?”

“Ninety,” the man replied, “and I don’t have an enemy in the world.”

“Beautiful,” said the reporter. “What’s your secret?”

“I outlived them all,” he explained.

But it’s not a matter of outliving your enemies; it’s outloving them. The Bible says, “Love your enemies.”

No matter what a person may do to you, don’t allow yourself to desire anything but his highest good. Is he cruel to you? Be kind to him. Does he hate you? Love him.

This love isn’t something of the head but of the heart. When you become a Christian,  the Lord fills your heart with His love.

Give in to the Lord, won’t you?

Prayer: Father, constrain us to love Thee and others as Thou dost love us – willingly and wholeheartedly: in Thy name. Amen.


Life Church

Have you discovered www.lCraig Groeschelifechurch.tv?   Craig Groeschel started this church in 1996 and now ministers through some 13 campuses via satellite broadcasts.  There are a number of congregations that have freely associated their church body with this unusual collection of churches.  I watched on Fox television this week (April 23,2009) as this church presented Dave Ramsey to over 6000 congregations connected to Life Church.tv and Fox Business Network nationwide (worldwide).  Remarkable undertaking and it all started in Edmond, Oklahoma.  Another remarkable thing about this church is their generosity.  The pastor freely gives their ministry resources to other congregations.  He wants to be a blessing to your church.  I urge you to visit www.lifechurch.tv and register.  Then explore their site.  You will discover hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of graphics, sermon material and resources without a dime of cost to you or your church.

Why Marry Her?

The Choice of a Wife

by T. DeWitt Talmage (1832-1902)

“Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” – Judges 14:3

Samson is here asking consent of his father and mother to marriage with one whom they thought was unfit for him. He was wise in asking their counsel, but unwise in rejecting it. Captivated with her looks, the big son wanted to marry a daughter of one of the hostile families, a deceitful, hypocritical, whining and saturnine creature, who afterward made him a world of trouble till she quit him forever.

In my text, his parents forbade the banns, practically saying, “When there are so many honest and beautiful maidens of your own country, are you so hard put to for a lifetime partner than you propose conjugality with this foreign flirt? Is there such a dearth of lilies in our Israelite gardens that you must wear on your heart a Philistine thistle? Do you take a crabapple because there are no pomegranates? Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?”

Beautiful Jewesses!

Excuseless was he for such a choice in a land and amid a race celebrated for female loveliness and moral worth, a land and a race of which self-denying Abigail, and heroic Deborah, and dazzling Miriam, and pious Esther, and glorious Ruth, and Mary – who hugged to her heart the blessed Lord – were only magnificent specimens. The midnight folded in their hair, the lakes of liquid beauty in their eye, the gracefulness of spring morning in their posture and gait were only typical of the greater brilliance and glory of their soul.

Likewise excuseless is any man in our time who makes lifelong alliance with anyone who, because of her disposition, or heredity, or habits, or intellectual vanity, or moral twistification, may be said to be of the Philistines.

Modern Female Loveliness!

The world never owned such opulence of womanly character, or such splendor of womanly manners, or multitudinous instances of wifely, motherly, daughterly, sisterly devotion, as it owns today. I have not words to express my admiration for good womanhood. Woman is not only man’s equal, but in affectional and religious nature, which is the best part of us, she is seventy-five per cent his superior.

Yea, during the last twenty years, through the increased opportunity opened for female education, the women of the country are better educated than the majority of men; and if they continue to advance in mentality at the present ratio, before long the majority of men will have difficulty in finding in the opposite sex enough ignorance to make appropriate consort.

If I am under a delusion as to the abundance of good womanhood abroad, consequent upon my surroundings since the hour I entered this life until now, I hope the delusion will last until I embark from this planet. So you will understand, if I say something that seems severe, I am neither cynical nor disgruntled.

No Need to Marry a Fool!

There are, in almost every farmhouse in the country, in almost every home of the great cities, conscientious women, worshipful women, self-sacrificing women, holy women, innumerable Marys, sitting at the feet of Christ; innumerable mothers, helping to feed Christ in the person of His suffering disciples; a thousand capped and spectacled grandmothers Lois, bending over Bibles whose precepts they have followed from early girlhood; and tens of thousands of young women that are dawning upon us from school and seminary, that are going to bless the world with good and happy homes that shall eclipse all their predecessors, a fact that will be acknowledged by all men except those who are struck through with moral decay from toe to cranium. More inexcusable than the Samson of the text is that man who, amid all this unparalleled munificence of womanhood, marries a fool.

But some of you are abroad suffering from such disaster, and to halt others of you from going over the same precipice, I cry out in the words of my text: “Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?”

Marriage Not for All!

That marriage is the destination of the human race is a mistake that I want to correct before I go further. There are multitudes who never will marry, and still greater multitudes who are not fit to marry. In Great Britain today there are nine hundred and forty-eight thousand more women than men, and that, I understand, is, about the ratio in America. By mathematical and inexorable law, you see, millions of women will never marry.

The supply for matrimony is greater than the demand, the first lesson of which is that every woman ought to prepare to take care of herself if need be. Then there are thousands of men who have no right to marry, because they have become so corrupt of character that their offer of marriage is an insult to any good woman. Society will have to be toned up and corrected on this subject, so that it shall realize that if a woman who has sacrificed her honor is unfitted for marriage, so is any man who has ever sacrificed his purity.

What right have you, oh masculine beast whose life has been loose, to take under your care the spotlessness of a virgin reared in the sanctity of a respectable home? Will a buzzard dare to court a dove?

The First Step

But the majority of you will marry, and have a right to marry. As your religious teacher I wish to say to these men, in the choice of a wife, first of all seek divine direction! About thirty-five years ago, when Martin Farquhar Tupper, the English poet, urged men to prayer before they decided upon matrimonial association, people laughed. And some of them have lived to laugh on the other side of their mouth.

Eminent Blunderers

The need of divine direction I argue from the fact that so many men – and some of them strong and wise – have wrecked their lives at this juncture. Witness Samson and this woman of Timnath! Witness Socrates, pecked of the historical Xantippe! Witness Job, whose wife had nothing to prescribe for his carbuncles but allopathic doses of profanity! Witness Ananias, a liar, who might perhaps have been cured by a truthful spouse, yet marrying as great a liar as himself, Sapphira! Witness John Wesley, one of the best men that ever lived, united to one of the most outrageous and scandalous of women, who sat in City Road Chapel, making mouths at him while he preached!

Witness the once connubial wretchedness of John Ruskin, the great art essayist, and Frederick W. Robertson, the great preacher! Witness a thousand hells on earth kindled by unworthy wives, termagants that scold like a March northeaster; female spendthrifts that put their husbands into fraudulent schemes to get money enough to meet the lavishment of domestic expenditure; opium-using women – about four hundred thousand of them in the United States – who will have the drug even though it should cause the eternal damnation of the whole household; heartless and overbearing, and namby-pamby and unreasonable women, yet married – married perhaps to good men! These are the women who build the low clubhouses, where the husbands and sons go because they can’t stand it at home. On this sea of matrimony, where so many have been wrecked, am I not right in advising divine pilotage?

Numerous Pitfalls

Especially is devout supplication needed because of the fact that society is so full of artificialities that men are deceived as to whom they are marrying, and no one but the Lord knows. After the dressmaker, and the milliner, and the jeweler, and the hair-adjuster, and the dancing master, and the cosmetic art have completed their work, how is an unsophisticated man to decipher the physiological hieroglyphics, and make accurate judgment of who it is to whom he offers hand and heart?

This is what makes so many recreant husbands. They make an honorable marriage contract, but the goods delivered are so different from the sample by which they bargained. They were simply swindled and they backed out. They mistook Jezebel for Longfellow’s Evangeline, and Lucretia Borgia for Martha Washington.

Aye, as the Indian chief boasts of the scalps he has taken, so there are in society today many coquettes who boast of the masculine hearts they have captured. And these women, though they may live amid richest upholstery, are not so honorable as the cyprians of the street, for these advertise their infamy, while the former profess heaven while they mean hell.

There is so much counterfeit womanhood abroad it is no wonder that some cannot tell the genuine coin from the base. Do you not realize you need divine guidance when I remind you that mistake is possible in this important affair, and, if made, is irrevocable?

A Mistake Irreparable

The worst predicament possible is to be unhappily yoked together. You see, it is impossible to break the yoke. The more you pull apart, the more galling the yoke. The minister might bring you up again and in your presence read the marriage ceremony backward, might put you on the opposite sides of the altar from where you were when you were united, might take the ring off of the finger, might rend the wedding veil asunder, might tear out the marriage leaf from the family Bible record, but all that would fail to un-marry you.

It is better not to make the mistake than to attempt its correction. But men and women do not reveal all their characteristics until after marriage, and how are you to avoid committing the fatal blunder? There is only one Being in the universe who can tell you whom to choose, and that is the Lord of Paradise. He made Eve for Adam, and Adam for Eve, and both for each other. Adam had not a large group of women from whom to select his wife, but it is fortunate, judging from some mistakes which she afterward made, that it was Eve or nothing.

There is in all the world some one who was made for you, as certainly as Eve was made for Adam. All sorts of mistakes occur because Eve was made out of a rib from Adam’s side. Nobody knows which of his twenty-four ribs was taken for the nucleus. If you depend entirely upon yourself in the selection of a wife, there are twenty-three possibilities to one that you will select the wrong rib.

By the fate of Ahab, whose wife induced him to steal; by the fate of Maspeth, whose wife pushed him into massacre; by the fate of James Ferguson, the philosopher, whose wife entered the room while he was lecturing and willfully upset his astronomical apparatus, so that he turned to the audience and said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I have the misfortune to be married to this woman”; by the fate of Bulwer, the novelist, whose wife’s temper was so incompatible that he furnished her a beautiful house near London and withdrew from her company, leaving her with the dozen dogs whom she entertained as pets; by the fate of John Milton, who married a termagant after he was blind, and when some one called her a rose, the poet said: “I am no judge of flowers, but it may be so, for I feel the thorns daily”; by the fate of an Englishman whose wife was so determined to dance on his grave that he was buried in the sea; by the fate of a village minister whom I knew, whose wife threw a cup of hot tea across the table because they differed in sentiment – by all these scenes of disquietude and domestic calamity, we implore you to be cautious and prayerful before you enter upon the connubial state, which decides whether a man shall have two heavens or two hells, a heaven here and Heaven forever, or a hell now and a Hell hereafter.

Noble Wives

By the bliss of Pliny, whose wife, when her husband was pleading in court, had messengers coming and. going to inform her what impression he was making. By the joy of Grotius, whose wife delivered him from prison under the pretence of having books carried out lest they be injurious to his health, she sending out her husband unobserved in one of the bookcases. By the good fortune of Roland, in Louis’ time, whose wife translated and composed for her husband, while Secretary of the Interior – talented, heroic, wonderful Madame Roland. By the happiness of many a man who has made the intelligent choice of one capable of being prime counselor and companion in brightness and in grief.

Yes, pray to Almighty God morning, noon, and night that at the right time and in the right way He will send you a good, honest, loving, sympathetic wife. Or, if she is not sent to you, that you may be sent to her.

Avoid Matchmakers

At this point let me warn you not to let a question of this importance be settled by the celebrated matchmakers flourishing in almost every community. Depend upon your own judgment, divinely illumined. These brokers in matrimony are ever planning how they can unite impecunious innocence to an heiress, or celibate woman to millionaire or marquis, and that in many cases makes life an unhappiness. How can any human being, who knows neither of the two parties as God knows them, and who is ignorant of the future, give such direction as you require at such a crisis?

Take the advice of the earthly matchmaker instead of the divine guidance, and you may some day be led to use the words of Solomon, whose experience in home life was as melancholy as it was multitudinous. One day his palace with its great wide rooms and great wide doors and great wide hall was too small for him and the loud tongue of a woman belaboring him about some of his neglects, and he retreated to the housetop to get relief from the lingual bombardment. And while there he saw a poor man on one corner of the roof with a mattress for his only furniture, and the open sky his only covering. And Solomon envies him and cries out, “It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” And one day during the rainy season the water leaked through the roof of the palace and began to drop in a pail or pan set there to catch it. And at one side of him all day long the water went drop! drop! drop! while on the other side a female companion quarrelling about this, and quarrelling about that, the acrimonious and petulant words falling on his ear in ceaseless pelting: drop! drop! drop! And he seized his pen and wrote, “A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike.” If Solomon had been as prayerful at the beginning of his life as he was at the close, how much domestic infelicity he, would have avoided!

But prayer about this will amount to nothing unless you pray soon enough. Wait until you are fascinated and the equilibrium of your soul is disturbed by a magnetic and exquisite presence, and then you will answer your own prayers, and you will mistake your own infatuation for the voice of God.

Avoid Scoffers

If you have this prayerful spirit you will surely avoid all female scoffers at the Christian religion; and there are quite a number of them in all communities. It must be told that, though the only influence that keeps woman from being estimated and treated as a slave – aye, as a brute and a beast of burden – is Christianity, since where it is not dominant she is so treated. Yet there are women who will so far forget themselves and forget their God that they will go and hear lecturers malign Christianity and scoff at the most sacred things of the soul. A good woman, over-persuaded by her husband, may go once to hear such a tirade against the Christian religion, not fully knowing what she is going to hear; but she will not go twice.

A woman, not a Christian, but a respecter of religion, said to me, “I was persuaded by my husband to go and hear an infidel lecturer once, but going home, I said to him: ‘My dear husband, I would not go again – though my declinature should result in our divorcement forever.” And the woman was right.

If after all that Christ and Christianity have done for a woman, she can go again and again to hear such assaults, she is an awful creature, and you had better not come near such a reeking lepress. She needs to be washed, and for three weeks to be soaked in carbolic acid, and for a whole year, fumigated, before she is fit for decent society. A woman must have regard for the Christian religion or she is a bad woman and unworthy of being your companion in a life charged with such stupendous solemnity and vicissitudes.

Two Essential Qualities

Oh, man, what you want in a wife is not a butterfly of the sunshine, not a giggling nonentity, not a painted doll, not a gossiping gadabout, not a mixture of artificialities which leave you in doubt as to where the humbug ends and the woman begins, but an earnest soul, one that cannot only laugh when you laugh, but weep when you weep.

There will be wide, deep graves in your path of life, and you will both want steadying when you come to the verge of them, I tell you! When your fortune fails you will want some one to talk of treasures in Heaven, and not charge upon you with a bitter, “I told you so.”

As far as I can analyze it, sincerity and earnestness are the foundation of all worthy wifehood. Get that, and you get all. Fail to get that, and you get nothing but what you will wish you never had got.

Beauty and Benediction

Don’t make the mistake that the man of the text made in letting his eye settle the question in which coolest judgment directed by divine wisdom are all-important. He who has no reason for his wifely choice except a pretty face is like a man who should buy a farm because of the dahlias in the front dooryard. Beauty is a talent, and when God gives it He intends it as a benediction upon a woman’s face.

When the good Princess of Wales dismounted from the rail train last summer, and I saw her radiant face, I could understand what they told me the day before, that, when at the great military hospital where are now the wounded and the sick from the Egyptian and other wars, the Princess passed through, all the sick were cheered at her coming. And those who could be roused neither by doctor nor nurse from their stupor, would get up on their elbows to look at her, and wan and wasted lips prayed an audible prayer, “God bless the Princess of Wales! Doesn’t she look beautiful?”

But how uncertain is the tarrying of beauty in a human countenance! Explosion of a kerosene lamp turns it into scarification, and a scoundrel with one dash of vitriol may dispel it. Or Time will drive his chariot wheels across that bright face, cutting it up in deep ruts and gullies. But there is an eternal beauty on the face of some women, whom a rough and ungallant world may criticize as homely; and though their features may contradict all the laws of Lavater on physiognomy, yet they have graces of soul that will keep them attractive for time and glorious through all eternity.

There are two or three circumstances in which the plainest wife is a queen of beauty to her husband, whatever her stature or profile. By financial panic or betrayal of business partner, the man goes down, and returning to his home that evening he says, “I am ruined; I am in disgrace forever; I care not whether I live or die.” It is an agitated story he is telling in the household that winter night. He says, “The furniture must go. The house must go. The social position must go,” and from being sought for obsequiously they must be cold-shouldered everywhere.

After he ceases talking, and the wife has heard all in silence, she says, “Is that all? Why, you had nothing when I married you, and you have only come back to where you started. If you think that my happiness and that of the children depend on these trappings, you do not know me, though we have lived together thirty years. God is not dead, and the National Bank of Heaven has not suspended payment and, if you don’t mind, I don’t care a cent. What little we need of food and raiment the rest of our lives we can get, and I don’t propose to sit down and mope and groan. Mary, hand me that darning-needle. I declare! I have forgotten to set the rising for those cakes!” And while she is busy at it he hears her humming Newton’s old hymn, “Tomorrow.”

“It can bring with it nothing

But He will bear us through;

Who gives the lilies clothing

Will clothe His people too;

Beneath the spreading heavens

No creature but is fed;

And He who feeds the ravens

Will give His children bread.

“Though vine nor fig-tree either

Their wonted fruit should bear,

Though all the fields should wither

Nor flocks nor herds be there;

Yet God the same abiding,

His praise shall tune my voice;

For while in Him confiding

I cannot but rejoice.”

The husband looks up in amazement, and says, “Well, well; you are the greatest woman I ever saw. I thought you would faint dead away when I told you.” And as he looks at her, all the glories of physiognomy in the Court of Louis XV on the modern fashion plates are tame as compared with the superhuman splendors of that woman’s face. Joan of Arc, Marie Antoinette, and La Belle Hamilton, the enchantment of the court of Charles II, are nowhere.

A Wife’s Death

There is another time when the p1ainest wife is a queen of beauty to her husband. She has done the work of life. She has reared her children for God and Heaven, and though some of them may be a little wild they will yet come back, for God has promised. She is dying, and her husband stands by. They think over all the years of their companionship, the weddings and the burials, the ups and the downs, the successes and the failures. They talk over the goodness of God and His faithfulness to children’s children.

She has no fear about going. The Lord has sustained her so many years she would not dare to distrust Him now. The lips of both of them tremble as they say good-bye and encourage each other about an early meeting in a better world. The breath is feebler and feebler, and stops. Are you sure of it? Just hold that mirror at the mouth, and see if there is any vapor gathering on the surface. Gone! As one of the neighbors takes the old man by the arm and gently says, “Come, you had better go into the next room and rest.” But he says, “Wait a moment; I must take one more look at that face and at those hands!”

Beautiful! Beautiful!

My friends, I hope you do not call that death. That is an autumnal sunset. That is a crystalline river pouring into a crystal sea. That is the solo of human life overpowered by hallelujah chorus. That is a queen’s coronation. That is Heaven. That is the way my father stood at eighty-two, seeing my mother depart at seventy-nine. Perhaps so your father and mother went. I wonder if we shall die as well?

This message taken from the pages of The Biblical Evangelist and used by permission.  September-October 2005.

W. A. Criswell Honors Father Buckner

Dr. Criswell
Dr. Criswell

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Click on above link. Once you have it will open in a new window.  Click again on that new link in the new window for audio.  It is one of the most spiritual messages you will ever hear given by the former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas.  He honors the memory of the Buckner family, the founders of the famous orphanage that bears their name.

You will notice once you have arrived at the page where the audio plays you will then be on the remarkable page where you can access many of Dr. Criswell’s sermons in audio, video & text.  This is a treasure trove of spiritual riches that will bless you beyond compare.  Enjoy!