Who Pays the Price?
June 16th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
WHO PAYS THE PRICE?
Dr. W. A. Criswell
6-16-63 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the early morning message from the sixth chapter of Isaiah. If you would like to read this beautiful and meaningful call of the prophet of God, turn to Isaiah chapter 6, and we shall read the first eight verses:
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
Above it stood the seraphim: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.
Then flew one of the seraphim unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar:
And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged.
Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.
And the rest of the chapter is a description of the tragic message that the prophet had to bear because of the hardness of heart, and blindness of eye, and deafness of ear, and perverseness of way of the Lord’s people [Isaiah 6:9-10]. And when that was described to the prophet, in consternation and in despair, Isaiah cried, "Lord, how long, how long?" And the Lord answered:
You are to deliver this message and give your life to this ministry until there is not a soul left in the land, and the whole country be utterly desolate, And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a forsaking in the midst of the land.
That would have been a tragic, tragic turn and calling had it not been for the last verse in the chapter, "But there shall be a remnant" [Isaiah 6:13], but there shall be a remnant, there shall be a tenth, there shall be a tithe, there shall be a substance, there shall be a residuum of the people that shall be saved: there shall be a holy seed that God will use to make His name known that shall grow to the glory and praise of His grace and mercy.
God has not utterly abandoned us, nor has He utterly cast us off; but there is a remnant, a tenth of the people, a seed holy unto the Lord, that God will graciously, in mercy and forgiveness, preserve. And it is that promise of a remnant, of a response, that is always the comfort of the minister of Christ, the prophet of the Lord, the preacher of the grace of Jesus. There will always be those who will respond, always.
Somebody came to the inimitable London preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and said, "Your doctrine of the sovereignty of God and the elective purpose of God just takes away all incentive to work and to preach. For if God has all this worked out, He knows who’s going to come, He is known those that are not going to come, then why should we try? We don’t have any incentive. We don’t have any reason for our work. These things are all settled in the sovereignty of God, and why should we preach and visit and work and pray, why?"
And Spurgeon said, "My brother, it is exactly the opposite, exactly the opposite: the doctrine of the holiness, and sovereignty, and elective purpose of God works just the opposite. What I am assured of is this: that when I work, and when I preach, and when I strive, and when I try, I am assured by the elective, sovereign purpose of God that there will be some who will respond."
And that assurance is always ours. This prophet, after he had labored a lifetime, and poured his soul into that ministry, finally wrote in the sixty-sixth chapter of his prophecy and the eighth verse, "For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." And I could not recount the numbers of times I have heard old timers quote that verse in Isaiah 66:8, "When Zion travailed, sons and daughters were born into the kingdom of God," as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children.
Now that has given rise to the subject of the sermon this morning, Who Pays the Price? God cannot bless pulseless hands, undedicated hearts. God cannot use us until we make ourselves useable. But when there is the reply to the call of God, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Lord here am I; send me" [Isaiah 6:8], when there is a reply to that call and need of the Lord, then these blessings inevitably follow: God gives us souls, and the Lord bestows upon us an immeasurable, precious harvest.
Well, who pays the price? It has to begin with the minister, with the pastor, with the preacher. I copied this from an old Puritan divine. Listen to him as he says:
I marvel how I can preach stolidly and coldly, how I can leave men in their lost condition, and that I do not go to them and beseech them for the Lord’s sake, however they take it, and whatever pains or trouble it should cause me. When I come out of my pulpit, I am not accused of want, of ornaments, or eloquence, nor of letting fall an unhandsome word; but my conscious asketh me, ‘How could you speak of life and death with such a heart? How couldest thou preach of heaven and hell in such a careless and sleepy manner?’ Truly, this peal of the conscious doth ring in my ears. O Lord, do that on our own souls, that Thou wouldest use us to do on the souls of others.
[Richard Baxter, circa 1660]
How could I expect lost people to be conscience stricken if my conscience is not stricken? How could I expect these that are lost to feel the weight and burden of sin if I am not convicted of my own sins? How could I expect them to bow before the great High God in tears and in repentance, if I do not bow in the presence of the great High God in tears and in repentance? How could I expect them to be moved if I am not moved? How expect them to be burdened if I am not burdened? How expect them to approach God if I do not approach God? It starts here; right here.
The great, godly man, Dr. Horatius Bonar listened to a minister preach fervently and zealously, vigorously. And after the sermon was delivered, Dr. Bonar went up to the man and said to him, "You love to preach, don’t you?" And the preacher replied, "Yes, indeed, I do." Then Bonar asked him, "But do you love the souls of the men you preach to?" As you look out on any audience, do you think of the burdens they have, and whether they are saved or lost? And do you love the people, not the exercise of the ministry, not standing there before them delivering a message you prepared, but do you love the people themselves? And is it a care to you whether they’re lost or saved, whether they’re in the will of God or out of it, whether they’re blessed of heaven, or whether they walk alone and apart from the presence of God? Is it a concern to you? Preacher, is it?
On a plane, riding across this continent one time, I was with a little group of our Baptist leaders who had grown up in the halcyon days of Dr. L. R. Scarborough, for so many years the head of our seminary in Fort Worth. And just reminiscing about him, there came to my mind this thing that I heard him say in a sermon, and I think repeated by that inimitable preacher and soulwinner of Jesus, many, many times. He said that in the days of the First World War, preaching in one of the far away states from Texas, there came up to him after his sermon a man and his wife, and introduced themselves. They asked him were he not from Fort Worth, Texas. And the preacher replied, "Yes," he was president of the seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Then she turned to her husband and said, "Oh, husband! The camp in which our son is training for the army is located close to that city, and remember, and remember, our son in that camp is lost, he’s not a Christian," saying those things to her husband and the preacher listening. Then the mother turned back to the preacher and said, "Oh, preacher! When you go back to Fort Worth, could it be that you could seek out our boy and lead him to Christ, win him to Jesus?"
You know how most any man like that is; he’s busy, and he’s head of the seminary, and the camp is outside of the city, and it would take time to find the boy and to seek him out. Well, you can understand that; the natural reluctance and hesitancy of the preacher. And when he hesitated and when he didn’t quite respond, she looked into his face so searchingly and said, "Oh, preacher! Do you care for lost souls? Do you care for lost souls?" And Dr. Scarborough said there was something about the way she asked the question that cut him to the soul. He said – and this is the beautiful part of his sermon – he said he’d written books about winning people to Jesus, and in his pastorate he had thought he had tried to win his people, to get lost souls to Jesus, and he had been head of the seminary and had built there what he called "a chair of fire," a department of evangelism, trying to encourage young ministers to win people to Jesus. But he said when that mother asked him, "Preacher, do you love lost souls?" he said he never felt so far short of the high calling of his ministry in Christ Jesus before in his life.
And if that question were asked you, what would you say? Well, let’s just look at us. And if we were honest in our appraisal, here are some things all of us, including the preacher, all of us would have to admit. First: there is a natural inclination on our part to be at ease in Zion [Amos 6:1, 4-6]; our inclinations run that way, "Why should I be disturbed? And why should I make any special effort? This nice easy chair, and this television, and this radio program, and these outings that we have planned, and these picnics, and these visits, and these journeys, why should I put myself out for anybody else; why should I?" It is so easy, this other way – just forget it, just forget it – we are at ease in Zion, and don’t bother us; don’t bother us."
All right, a second thing about us: we are engrossed with things, just things, things. Just name them ad infinitum. Emerson one time said, "Things are in the saddle and they ride mankind." One time Philip of Spain, the king, was asked, "Did you see the eclipse yesterday?" And he said, "No, I was so busy with things down here I forgot to look up." That’s the way with us. Things – why, you can just ride them all day long. It was this thing, and this thing, and this thing, and this thing. Then in the afternoon it was this thing and this thing. And then in the evening it was this thing and this thing. And we are consumed in things. I verily believe that no small part of the feverish activity of our American life lies because of the spiritual sterility and emptiness of our souls. We have to fill them with things and things, and especially is it true concerning our entertainment. We have to be entertained or we lose our minds. And who takes time for the things of God? All of us.
All right, another thing about us, a third thing about us: it is a rare soul that will open his heart to a burden from God, "Don’t want to be burdened, don’t want to agonize, don’t want to pour my soul out in prayer, just don’t, just don’t."
I sometimes wonder if the Lord were to visit us, or if Peter were to be raised from the dead, or if Paul were to come into this auditorium, and he sit down, and he look at us, I wonder would they recognize us? They were so fervent, and we are so cold. They were so zealous, and we are so indifferent. They agonized in prayer, pouring their hearts out unto God. I could not imagine our having a prayer meeting and any sizeable number of our people attend it. I could not conceive of it. Least of all could I conceive of members of our church shutting the door and agonizing in prayer before God like Jesus did in the passage I had you read, "When His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground" [Luke 22:44]. That is as foreign to us as any myth in Greek drama that you ever read. We are just not that way. We are not that kind. We don’t enter into those great grapplings between our soul and God. Now, take one of them. The apostle Paul:
I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ, that my soul were damned in hell, forever lost, I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,these Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises: Whose are the fathers, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came; for them I could wish myself accursed, for them, my people after the flesh.
We have people after the flesh, these are our people. They speak our language. They live on our streets. They breathe the same air we breathe. But could you imagine among us a passion like that? "O Lord, for their sakes I could wish, if it would save them, that my own soul were lost in perdition forever" [Romans 9:3].
Turn the next page, and he begins the next chapter in the same way, "Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for my people is, that they might be saved" [Romans 10:1]. And so the main spring of his life, and the fountain of his soul, is an intercession unto God, "O Lord, that my people might be saved, that they might come to know Christ, whom to know aright is life eternal."
I want you to know that the passion of these Christians, the love of souls on the part of these Christians, moved that pagan Roman Empire. That was the first time they had ever seen men filled with love and passion for souls; they’d never seen that before. Now they had seen men eaten up with many, many, many different things. They had seen Julius Caesar, whose very life was consumed with love of power. They had seen Cato, whose very life was consumed with love of the traditions of the Roman Republic. They had seen Cicero, whose life was consumed with love of praise and the honor of men. They had seen Mark Antony, whose life was swept away in lust and love of pleasure. They had seen Lepidus, whose life was consumed with the love of money and acquisition of wealth. But they never had seen anyone whose life was consumed with the love of lost men until they looked upon those first century Christians – and oh, the power God gave them, and the unusual favor and blessing of the Lord God of heaven upon them!
And we are persuaded it’s no different now than it was then; the same Lord looks down upon His people, and the same Christ has offered His grace, and His presence, and His working help by the side of His people [Matthew 28:19-20]. All God needs is just a people like this people, and the same Lord bestows the same reward, and the same blessings, and the same moving Spirit, and the same holy Presence; it’s just the same [John 16:7-15]. Until God withdraws His Spirit, until God takes His people out of the earth [1 Thessalonians 2:7], we have that same open door that they possessed in the days of the New Testament.
I have been reading, I have been reading in these days in preparation for our revival, I have been reading of these outpourings of the Spirit of the Lord upon His people. Oh! What God does just any time, anywhere, among any people, upon anyone, just all the time, world without end, wherever God has people like that. All of you, have you not heard of George Whitefield? George Whitefield? John Newton said, "I don’t know who is the second greatest preacher in the world, but I know who without doubt is the greatest: George Whitefield!"
When Benjamin Franklin went to hear him, he resolved he was not going to give a penny, not one; when the great preacher made an appeal for his orphan’s home in Georgia, and Benjamin Franklin says, "As I listened to him preach, I resolved to give my pennies. Then as he continued to preach, I resolved to give my silver. And when he got through preaching, I put into the collection plate all the money, gold, silver, and pennies that I had." Francis Hopkinson, the brilliant lawyer and satirist said, "I left my money at home, just in order not to be persuaded to answer the appeal of the preacher." But he said by the time George Whitefield got through speaking, he borrowed from his neighbor in order to put in the collection plate for the preacher. That unusual endowment was not alone.
What the great English actor David Garrick said when he heard George Whitefield preach, he said, "Why, that man could pronounce the word ‘Mesopotamia’ and bring an audience to tears." It was not alone, it was not alone; the marvelous endowments of heaven upon the matchless preacher. But the secret, the source, the fountain of that poured out life that so moved these two continents of Europe and America to God, that was found in the almost illimitable love and passion of the man for lost souls. He wept when he preached, he wept when he prayed, he wept when he made appeal.
Dr. Cooper, pastor of one of those churches in Boston, Dr. Cooper said, "When George Whitefield got through preaching on the Boston Commons, sometimes having audiences of more than thirty thousand people, when he got through preaching on Boston Commons," the preacher said, the pastor said, "I had more inquiries of convicted souls asking the way to God in one week than I had in all of the years of the ministry in this church put together." Ah, these men, these men! And when we think of ourselves in comparison with those men, O Lord, I marvel how I can preach stolidly and coldly:
How I can leave men in their lost condition, that I do not go to them and beseech them for the Lord’s sake, however they take it, or whatever pain or trouble it should cause me. I am accused by my conscience, ‘How could you speak of life and death with such a heart? How couldest thou preach of heaven and hell in such a careless and sleepy manner? This peal of the conscience doth ring in my ears. O Lord, do that on our own souls, that Thou wouldest use us to do on the souls of others.
[Richard Baxter, circa 1660]
When Whitefield died – and I intended this morning to speak of that unusual, unusual man of God, preaching his last breath – he was asthmatic, gasping for breath, preaching with his last breath, until a candle burned down to its socket. And when the candle went out, he went to his room and closed the door, lay down and died. And on his cenotaph they carved the picture of a heart burning upward to God, like the coat of arms of John Calvin: a hand lifting up a burning heart unto God. O Lord! I’m not even worthy to speak the names of these men.
"And I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I, Lord; send me" [Isaiah 6:8]. Here am I, Lord; use me. Here am I, Lord; bless me. I’ll go. I’ll pay the price. You will see days your eyes have never looked upon in your life if there could be this spirit of dedication, usableness, as we bow before God. The Lord grant it to me, to us, to our congregation, to our people. Here am I, Lord; send me, use me.
Now we sing our song of appeal; somebody this morning to put his life in the fellowship of God’s house, somebody this morning to take Jesus as his Savior, as the Spirit of the Lord shall open the door and lead in the way, in this balcony round, on this lower floor, into the aisle, down here to the front, "Here I come, pastor, and here I am. I give you my hand, I give my heart to the Lord." "This is my wife and these are our children; we are all coming this morning." As the Spirit of the Lord shall lay upon your soul this appeal, would you come and stand by me? Make it now, while we stand and while we pray.