The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible


The Scarlet Thread Through The Bible

December 31st, 1995 @ 10:50 AM

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.
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Dr. W. A. Criswell

Leviticus 17:11

12-31-95    10:50 a.m.


So what I pray for is you all just be comfortable now.  Be seated in comfort and listen with your head as well as with your heart.  And we are going to preach clear through the Bible beginning at Genesis and closing climactically in the Revelation.  And I have a text for the whole message in Leviticus chapter 17 verse 11:

For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given

it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls:

for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.

[Leviticus 17:11]

And using that as a background text we are going to speak of The Scarlet Thread through the Bible—the blood of atonement from beginning to end.

Back yonder in the millennial years of along ago, years beyond number, the Lord God in heaven created the heavens and the earth [Genesis 1:1].  And if God did it, He did it beautifully, perfectly, gloriously.  And in the creation, not only the material heaven above us and this planet beneath us, but God also created the myriads—that is the word in the Bible—the myriads, the uncounted throngs and multitudes of angels, those heavenly hosts that surround the throne of Almighty God [Psalm 148:1-5].

And in that creation was Lucifer; that means “the son of the morning” [Isaiah 14:12].  He is called in the Bible “the covering cherub” [Ezekiel 28:14, 16].  In that creation of those myriads of angels in glory, He had created Lucifer, beautiful beyond description and gifted as only God could bestow heavenly remembrances upon him.

Wonderful!  Everything is just unthinkably glorious, except that when Lucifer became conscious of his exalted position, and his personal beauty, and the illimitable power that had been bequeathed to him, he became vain, and glorious, and falsely ambitious, and covetous [Ezekiel 28:12-17], and Lucifer thought to be God [Isaiah 14:14].  Of all of the things that could have developed, that sin entered into his heart and life.  And wherever sin enters, it always brings disaster, destruction.

So according to the twelfth chapter of the Book of the Revelation there was war in heaven.  Satan—Lucifer—and his angels, who became minions, warred against the Almighty God and His Son, who became known to us as Christ Jesus.  And one-third of all of those angels in glory followed Lucifer [Revelation 12:4].  And because they lost that confrontation, they were cast out, Lucifer and his angels [Revelation 12:7-9].  And when Lucifer fell the entire universe fell.  It fell into ruin.  And the second verse of the first chapter of Genesis describes this planet, this world in which we live, as without form, and darkness upon the face of the deep [Genesis 1:2].

Then God chose to do another miraculous thing.  The Lord chose to recreate this world, and He did so in that first chapter of Genesis.  In six days He made everything beautiful again; perfect [Genesis 1:3-25].  And at the end of the sixth day, having looked at His marvelous creation and calling it good, the Lord said to Himself in His heart, “These rocks and these mountains and these seas cannot talk to Me.  They cannot think My thoughts.  They cannot respond in love to Me.  I will create a somebody like Me, in My image; and they can be with Me as friends and companions and associates.”  So the Lord created the man in His own image, and in the image of God He created both of them, male and female [Genesis 1:26-27], in order that they might walk with Him, and talk with Him, and love Him, and be a companion by His side.

Wonderful!  Beautiful!  But in the middle of the garden there was a tree.  And the Lord interdicted the fruit of that tree lest they be like Lucifer had been, wise in their own eyes and covetous [Genesis 2:17].  So Satan came into the garden of Eden where the Lord had placed the man and his wife, beautiful.  In the cursing of Satan he became a serpent, but he was beautiful to begin with.  And he could talk to the woman, and he enticed her to take of the forbidden fruit.  And when Adam saw that his wife had partaken of the forbidden fruit, rather than live by himself he also ate of that tree, that he might die with his wife rather than live without her [Genesis 3:1-6].

And when the two had partaken of the interdicted fruit they looked at themselves, and their eyes were opened, and they were naked, and they were conscious of their sin and of their shame.  So they took fig leaves and sewed them together to cover their sin and their shame and their nakedness [Genesis 3:7].

The Lord God came walking into the garden in the cool of the day to associate with His sweet likenesses, and He could not find them.  And He lifted up His voice and said, “Adam?  Adam?  Adam, where art thou?”  [Genesis 3:8-9].

And Adam replied, “We are here, but we are naked and ashamed!  And we have hid ourselves” [Genesis 3:10].

And the Lord said, “Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit?” [Genesis 3:11].

“Yes” [Genesis 3:12].

And when the Lord looked upon them, He looked upon those fig leaves to cover their shame and sin and nakedness, and the Lord said, “Not enough.”  And God took one of the innocent animals He had created in the garden, and He slew that animal and poured out its blood on the ground, and the earth drank it up.  And with a coat of skins He covered the nakedness and shame of our first parents [Genesis 3:21].  And that is the beginning of the scarlet thread through the Bible; the pouring out of blood of atonement, of covering.

So the Lord sent and expelled our first parents from that beautiful garden.  And at the gate of the garden He placed cherubim with swords that flashed every way to keep the tree of life [Genesis 3:22-24].

And at an altar there, Abel came to the presence of God; and to that altar he brought a lamb in sacrifice—the scarlet thread through the Bible—and poured out its blood upon the earth.  And Cain hated him for what he had done that so pleased God.  And Cain slew Abel his brother, and the earth drank it up; the scarlet thread through the Bible [Genesis 4:1-9].

So the continuation of the generations, and we come finally to Noah.  And God looked down on the earth, and God looked at those generations.  And the Lord said, “It is enough.  I will judge and destroy this earth.”  But Noah, righteous Noah, found grace in His sight [Genesis 6:5-8].  And the Lord God said to Noah, “Make you an ark [Genesis 6:14], and make it big enough to contain two of the unclean and seven of the clean animals of the earth.  And you and your family enter the ark, for I am going to destroy this earth by water” [Genesis 6:19-22, 7:1-4].

And God did an unbelievable thing.  This earth had a canopy over it, and the whole earth was like a tropical garden.  Geology, all of those things that pertain to fossils and rocks, you look at them in the north.  Look at them in the south.  Look at them in the Arctic.  Look at them in the Antarctic, all over this earth it was just the same.  It was beautiful.  And there was a canopy over this globe, and the earth was watered by dew—by dew, by dew that fell down from that beautiful canopy [Genesis 2:5-6].

They had never seen rain.  It had never rained in this earth.  And the Lord punctured that canopy.  He tore it apart, and it fell down upon the earth in rain.  And the earth was covered in a vast, illimitable flood, and all of living life was drowned except Noah in the ark [Genesis 7:10-8:19].  And when Noah came out of the ark he built an altar and shed the blood of one of those innocent animals; the scarlet thread through the Bible [Genesis 8:20].

So God said to Abraham, “The three-day journey to Mt. Moriah, a mount I will show thee of, you make the journey; and there you sacrifice on the altar your son Isaac, the boy that you love.  Offer him on the altar on that mount as a sacrifice to Me” [Genesis 22:1-2].  So Abraham took his boy Isaac, a teenager then, and they made the three-day journey and saw the mount Moriah.  And on that mount Abraham built an altar, and bound his boy, and laid him on the altar, and raised that dagger to plunge it into his heart [Genesis 22:3-10].

And when he raised his arm to take the life of the boy, an angel called out and stopped his arm. “Wait.  Wait.  Wait.”  And the angel pointed out a ram with his horns caught in the thicket.  And the angel said, “Offer that in place of your boy” [Genesis 22:11-13].  And Abraham took that ram and slew it and poured out his blood; the scarlet thread through the Bible, and poured out its blood and saved the life of his boy [Genesis 22:13].  And God said to Abraham, “I was just testing to see whether you love Me more than you love anything else in this earth” [Genesis 22:15-16]; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

And God said to Moses:

Let each of the families take a lamb and pour out its blood in a basin.  And take the blood and place it—in the form of a cross—on the lintel and on the doorpost on each side.  For this night the angel of death will pass over,  and when he sees the blood he will spare the home and the house where the blood in the cross is seen.  And all the other homes will experience a tragic entrance of death.

[Exodus 12:3-7, 22]

So Moses that night and all the families of Israel took an innocent lamb and poured out its blood—the scarlet thread through the Bible—and took that blood and placed it on the doorposts and on the lintel in the form of a cross; there and there.  And when the death angel passed over that night, when he saw the blood he passed over [Exodus 12:23].  And thereafter that holy day, called the Day of Atonement, was sacred in the life of Israel, even today called Yom Kippur; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

So Joshua said to Rahab:

In the city of Jericho the Lord will make the walls of the city fall down; and the people are under the judgment of God.  But if you will put a scarlet thread in the window, when the earthquakes destroy the walls of the city, and God commands the army of Israel to annihilate the wicked inhabitants—when they see the scarlet thread, you will be saved.

[Joshua 2:18-19]

So Rahab placed the scarlet thread in the window [Joshua 2:21].  And when the judgment of God fell upon the walls of the city, and the angel directed the army to destroy the wicked inhabitants, they saw the scarlet thread, and Rahab and her family were marvelously, beautifully saved [Joshua 6:17-25].

Thus it is that the day came when God said to David, “Because of your sin of disobedience I will judge the kingdom of Israel.”  And from Beersheba clear up to Dan thousands and thousands and thousands of Israelites were slain [2 Samuel 24:15].  They died at the hand of the Lord; a judgment from God.  And David fell down before the Lord God and said “O God, this is my sin.  O God, spare these dear, dear people” [2 Samuel 24:17].  And the Lord said to David, “You go to Mt. Moriah.”  Have you heard that before in the day of Abraham? [Genesis 22:2-13].  “You go to Mt. Moriah, and there you build an altar unto Me and make intercession in behalf of the people” [2 Samuel 24:18].

So David went to Mt. Moriah.  It was owned by Araunah who made of it a threshing floor.  And David told Araunah what God had told him to do; to buy it and to build there an altar of atonement and intercession, that the people might be saved.  And Araunah said to his king “O king!  Not so; I give it to you.  I give you the oxen for sacrifice, and I give you the instruments of wood for the fire.  You take it as a gift from me” [2 Samuel 24:21-23].

And David replied saying, “Not so.  I will not offer unto God that which doth cost me nothing; I will buy it from thee for a price.”  And David bought it and built there the altar and offered the sacrifice unto God [2 Samuel 24:24-25].

Sweet people, I can’t forget that.  That has stayed in my soul for the years and the years.  I could not come to church without an offering.  I can’t do it.  We have church here three times a Sunday.  And one time, wouldn’t that be enough?  No, not for me.  Anytime we come to church I bring an offering!  And compared to the whole year, I make it a sacrificial offering.  “I will not offer unto God that which doth cost me nothing.”  And I think God will bless a people, as He has blessed me if you will remember what you offer to God, let it be at a cost.  Bless you in it.

So having built that altar on Mt. Moriah, God said to David, “There you erect the temple of sacrifice and of atonement.”  Then David the king gathered the material from the ends of the earth, all in abundance and abounding, in order to erect a tabernacle, a sanctuary, a temple for the Lord God [1 Chronicles 22:1-4].

But the Lord said to David, “David, you are a man of blood yourself.  You are a man of murder.  You can’t build the temple, but your son is called to do so” [1 Chronicles 28:2-6].  So David gathered all of the material, and his son Solomon erected that glorious, incomparable house of the Lord [2 Chronicles 3:1].  And there the people were commanded to bring their sacrifice of blood; and that is the one place in the earth that God said you are to bring the sacrifice, there on Mt. Moriah in the temple of the Lord [Deuteronomy 12:5-7].

Then thereafter through all of those years that followed, the prophets, called of the Lord God to deliver the message of heaven itself, the prophet lifted up his voice and from one side of that prophetic Book to the other, they raise their voices in glorious anticipation and prophecy of the coming of the glorious Messiah.

And I—I tell you, I have the hardest time realizing such truth as I find in the Book.  For example, seven hundred fifty years before Christ, seven hundred fifty years before the Lord, you would have thought Isaiah was standing by the cross as he speaks of the atoning death of our Lord:

He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised

for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon

Him; and with His stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every

one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon Him the

iniquity of us all.

[Isaiah 53:5-6]

Seven hundred fifty years before Calvary.  And the prophet Zechariah:

What are these wounds in Your hands?  And where did

they come from?  And the Lord replied, These are the

wounds that I have received in the house of My people.

[Zechariah 13:6]

Ah!  Hundreds and hundreds of years before Calvary, the prophecies of the coming of our Savior; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

Then finally, and upon a day, the Lord from heaven came down to assume flesh, and body, and life that we share in this earth.  There is a famous book, most famous, called The Quest for the Historical Jesus, written by Albert Schweitzer, about the most brilliant of all the higher critics in Germany.  The thesis of the book is very simply stated.  Albert Schweitzer said Jesus came into this earth to build the kingdom of God, the physical kingdom of God, and when He failed in achieving it He died in disappointment and despair and dejection.

Now that’s possibly the most brilliant book of the higher critical school.  It could not be further from the truth!  Jesus came into this world for one purpose only, and that was to die for our sins according to the Scriptures, to make atonement for our souls [1 Timothy 1:15].  And the scarlet thread through the Bible; when our Lord came into this earth, He came in blood.  Herod slew all of the babies two years old and under [Matthew 2:16], and our Lord began His ministry in blood.

Dear me, dear me, dear me!  When He stood at the tomb of Lazarus He said, “And I, if I be lifted up, if I be raised on a cross, I will draw all men unto Me” [John 12:32].  And when beautiful and precious Mary anointed His feet with the ointment, the apostles found fault, criticized, “Why was it not sold for a great amount of money?”  And the Lord said, “Leave her alone.  She hath anointed Me for My death and for My burial” [Matthew 26:6-12].

And when the apostles ascended into the upper room and sat down, our Lord after humbling Himself took bread and broke it. “Take, eat; this is My body, which is broken for you” [1 Corinthians 11:24].  And the Lord took the cup, and they all shared it.  And the Lord said, “This is My blood which is shed for you” [Matthew 26:28]; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

And that night, that night the soldiers came and arrested our Savior.  And they subjected Him to indescribable contempt.  They spit upon Him.  They tore out His beard [Isaiah 50:6].  They slapped Him with their hands.  They took off His clothes.  They beat Him until He became like a bloody pulp [Matthew 27:27-31].  And last of all they nailed Him to a tree [Matthew 27:32-50]. Great God in heaven! The scarlet thread through the Bible,  the atoning death of our Lord.

And He wears those scars in heaven today.  When you see the Lord you will see the wound where the Roman soldier thrust that spear into His heart [John 19:34].  And you will see the prints of the nails in His hands.  Did not Thomas say, “I do not believe that He is raised from the dead, nor will I believe until I put my hand into the wound in His side and put my fingers into the nail prints in His hands” [John 20:24-25]?

And the following Sunday night the Lord appeared to the apostles in that upper room.  And He turned to Thomas and said, “Thomas, come hither, and put your hand in My side, and put your fingers in the wounds in My hands, and be not faithless, but believing.”  And Thomas, “O my Lord and my God” [John 20:26-28].  That is the precious Savior that the disciples saw and the wonderful Lord we’re going to see in heaven.  We’ll recognize Him by His wounds; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

And after the glorious cross [Matthew 27:32-50], and the resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], and the Great Commission [Matthew 28:18-20], the apostles of Christ and the disciples of the Lord preached the gospel to the world.  And they sealed it in their blood; every apostle was slain, every one of them.  And it began with Stephen: standing before those people who had slain the Lord, he lifted up the glorious atoning grace of God in that sacrifice.  And they took Stephen in fury and stoned him to death!  And his blood was poured out on the ground [Acts 7:54-60].  That is the beginning of the gospel of the Son of God.

And Simon Peter, after the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost said, “You with wicked hands have taken the Son of God and have slain Him and crucified Him” [Acts 2:23].  “But there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” [Acts 4:12].  And the gospel message, blessed of the Holy Spirit of God, began to change the hearts of men by the thousands.  One of the most remarkable things in the earth, there those people who had crucified the Lord by the thousands were now worshiping in His name and praising God for the gift of salvation.

So one of those persecutors, named Saul of Tarsus, on the way to Damascus to hale into prison and possibly to death those that called upon that name, was stopped.  And the Lord Himself appeared to that awful persecutor and murderer.  And he confessed his sin and wrong, and accepted the Lord as his Savior [Acts 9:1-18].  And he who persecuted the saints of God became an exponent and an apostle of the truth that he once destroyed [Acts 9:19-22].  And Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle, and in that Holy Book, the scarlet thread through the Bible, is the record of his sermons and the beautiful, marvelous, inspired epistles that he wrote.  And in those epistles, what is the theme that the apostle is presenting to the churches to whom he ascribes the letter?  It is the atoning death of Jesus Christ!

Romans, the Book of Romans chapter 5, “God commendeth His love toward you in that He gave His Son as an atonement for your sins” [Romans 5:8].  And the next verse: “and to you who love Him, His blood is justification” [Romans 5:9].

Turn to the next one, addressed to the church at Corinth.  In chapter 15, “My brethren, I make known unto you, I declare unto you, I describe for you the gospel wherein ye are saved; how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” [1 Corinthians 15:1-3].

And the next one, the Book of Galatians, the last chapter, chapter 6: “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world” [Galatians 6:14].

And the next one, the Book of Ephesians: “My brethren, we who sometimes were far off are now made nigh by the blood of the cross” [Ephesians 2:13]; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

Then Hebrews, out of which you read this morning, I think written by Apollos, that Greek scholar and dedicated convert to the faith.  Apollos writes, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22].  Our hope for glory lies in the forgiveness of our sins because of the atoning death of our Savior in our behalf.  Then the Book of James, prayerfully in the faith, pleading for those to be saved in the gracious atoning death of our Lord, and the healing of our broken bodies through Him [James 5:14-15].

Then Peter, 1 and 2 Peter, 1 Peter chapter 1: “We are saved not by corruptible things such as silver and gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ our Lord” [1 Peter 1:18-19].  And his second chapter in that first epistle: “He assumed in His body our sins and He nailed them, paid for them on the tree” [1 Peter 2:24].

Then we come to the Book of John’s epistles; 1 John chapter 2, “He is the expiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but for the sins of the whole world” [1 John 2:2].  Expiation: to make friendly, to overlook, to forgive.  We don’t stand in the presence of God now under the judgment of the Almighty, bound for damnation and hell.  We stand now in the presence of God as He intended in the garden of Eden: “My friend, My companion, My sweet and devoted convert.”  Acceptable to the Lord; He is the great expiation of all of the wrong that we’ve ever done.  We stand now in the presence of God forgiven.

And that is the theme of the great Apocalypse.  What is the text?  Revelation 1 chapter and verse 5: “Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His blood; to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen” [Revelation 1:5-6].

And in the fifth chapter of that Apocalypse:

And I saw the throne of God in heaven and the Lord God.  And in His hand was a book sealed with seven seals.

And a great and mighty angel lifted up his voice and said, Who is worthy to break the seals and to open the book and to look thereon?

And not in heaven above or in the earth around or in the earth beneath was there one found who was able and worthy to break the seals, and to look upon the book.

[Revelation 5:1-3]

Your name is in that book.  That book is the Book of Life, and it has in it the names of all of the saved, the saints of God [Revelation 3:5].  Not one could be found to break the seals or to open the book.

And John bowed and wept [Revelation 5:4], “Great God, what shall we do?  All of us, lost and damned forever.”  And an angel put his hand on John and said, “Weep not: behold the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David hath prevailed to break the seals, and to open the book, and to read thereof” [Revelation 5:5].

And John lifts up his eyes to look.  And what does he see?  Does he see a King in all of His glory, the Lion of the tribe of Judah?  No.  What he sees is “a Lamb as it had been slain.”  He sees a Lamb.  And the Lamb takes the book and breaks the seals, the seven seals, and opens the pages and looks thereon [Revelation 5:6-8].

And when He does, the great throng of those who are saved, whose names are written in the Book of Life, they cry and say,

Worthy art Thou to take the book, and to break the seals, and to look thereon; for Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by Thy blood out of every nation, and tribe, and language under sun;

And hast made us kings and priests of the Lord, and we shall reign with Him forever.

[Revelation 5:9-10]

And I turn the page to chapter 7, and there I see “a vast multitude that no man could number.  And I asked the angel, Who are these and whence do they come?  And the angel replies, These are they who have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” [Revelation 7:9-14].

I am in that book.   My name is in that book, and I am one of those standing in the multitude whose garments have been washed and made white in the blood of the Lamb.  And you are in that book.  And you are in that multitude washed in the blood of the Lamb.  O God, and what shall I say?  And what shall I do?  The atoning death of our dear Lord has made it possible for me to be with Him and you in heaven some glorious and triumphant day, saved by the blood of the Crucified One.

All praise to the Father.  All praise to the Son.

All praise to the Spirit the great Three in One.

Praise God saved by the blood of the Crucified One.

All glory to God.  All glory to God.

My sins are forgiven and my guilt is all gone

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One.

[adapted from, “Saved By the Blood,” S.J. Henderson]


The scarlet thread through the Bible.

And I have time to close with a personal testimony.  So being reared in a little town of about three hundred people, in a little white cracker box of a church house, the preacher holding the revival meeting stayed in our home.  And at night around the table he would talk to me about the Lord.

I asked the teacher at the school if I could be dismissed to attend the morning service.  She acquiesced.  And it just happened to be that, when I went to the church house, I sat right back of my sainted mother.  And when the preacher had preached his sermon and made appeal, they were singing:

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day

And there may I though vile as he,

Wash all my sins away.

[“There Is A Fountain Filled With Blood,” William Cowper]

And my mother, while they were singing that song, turned around and said to me, “Son, today would you give your heart to the Lord Jesus?  Would you let Jesus come into your heart?”

And I said, with many tears, “Yes, mother.  Yes.”  And I stepped out in the aisle and couldn’t even see the preacher for crying.

You know, that’s one of the strangest things, from that day until this, the gospel message, the atoning grace of the Lord, brings tears to my eyes.  I cannot preach the Lord Jesus without crying.  I cannot do it.  I prayed to God, “Lord, take these tears away from me.”  And the Lord has said “No.  No, that’s you.  That’s you.”  So I just cry and praise the Lord, how good He is and will be unto me.

So may I close?  I come to the end of the Apocalypse, and how gloriously does it close!  Revelation 22, verses 17 and [20]:

And the Spirit and bride say, Come.  And let him who

hears say, Come.  And let him that is athirst come.

And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. . .

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely, surely I come quickly.  Amen.  Even so, come, Lord Jesus.

[Revelation 22:17, 20]

If I know in my heart, I’m ready.  Any day any time, so come, blessed Jesus; the scarlet thread through the Bible.

Now sweet choir; you want to come up here, Jed?  I want you all sing that song “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood.”  I want you to sing it.  And while the choir sings that song and the orchestra and organ play, a somebody you, to give your heart to the Lord Jesus, to open your heart and invite Him to be your Savior, I want you leave your seat wherever you are, in the balcony, on this lower floor, and come down here and kneel with me.  A somebody you, to put your life in our dear church, “Preacher, I want to be baptized in obedience to that Great Commission and command” [Matthew 28:19].  Or, “I want to put my letter here.”  Or, “I want to be just added to the congregation.”  Wherever you are, come and kneel here at this altar.  Or to answer a call of the Holy Spirit in your heart, just leave your seat, maybe you and your family, and come and kneel down here, and I want to pray with you.  As the choir sings its hymn, “There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood,” anybody you, answering the call of God in your heart, come and kneel here at the altar, and we’ll pray together.  Come, and welcome—anyone.