Good News 1
1 Corinthians 15:1
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand.
I do not think there is a word in the English language so little understood as the word gospel. We hear it every day, and we have heard it from our earliest childhood, yet there are many people, and even many Christians, who do not really know what it means. I believe I was a child of God a long time before I really knew. The word gospel means "God's spell," or good spell, or in other words, "good news."
The gospel is good tidings of great joy. No better news ever came out of heaven than the gospel. No better news ever fell upon the ears of the family of man than the gospel. When the angels came down to proclaim the tidings, what did they say to those shepherds on the plains of Bethlehem? "Behold I bring you sad tidings?" No! "Behold, I bring you bad news?" No! "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people; for unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior."
If those shepherds had been like a good many people at the present time, they would have said, "We do not believe it is good news. It is all excitement. These angels want to get up a revival. These angels are trying to excite us. Don't you believe them." That is what Satan is saying now. "Don't you believe the gospel is good news; it will only make you miserable." He knows the moment a man believes good news, he just receives it. And no one who is under the power of the devil really believes that the gospel is good news. But these shepherds believed the message that the angels brought, and their hearts were filled with joy.
If a boy came with a dispatch to someone here, could you not tell by the receiver's looks what kind of a message it was? If it brought good news you would see it in his face in a moment. If it told him that his boy, away in some foreign land, a prodigal son, had come to himself, like the one in the fifteenth chapter of Luke, do you not think that father's face would light up with joy? And if his wife were here, he would not wait till they got home, or till she asked for it, he would pass it over to her, and her face would brighten too, as she shared his joy. But the tidings that the gospel brings are more glorious than that. We are dead in trespasses and sins, and the gospel offers life. We are enemies to God, and the gospel offers reconciliation. The world is in darkness, and the gospel offers light. Because man will not believe the gospel that Christ is the light of the world, the world is dark today. But the moment a man believes, the light from Calvary crosses his path and he walks in an unclouded sun.
I want to tell you why I like the gospel. It is because it has been the very best news I have ever heard. That is just why I like to preach it, because it has done me so much good. No man can ever tell what it has done for him, but I think I can tell what it has undone. It has taken out of my path three of the bitterest enemies I ever had.
There is that terrible enemy mentioned in 1 Corinthians 15, the last enemy, death. The gospel has taken it out of the way. My mind very often rolls back some twenty years now, before I was converted, and I think how dark it used to seem, as I thought of the future. I well remember how I used to look on death as a terrible monster, how he used to throw his dark shadow across my path; how I trembled as I thought of the terrible hour when he should come for me; how I thought I should like to die of some lingering disease, such as consumption, so that I might know when he was coming. It was the custom in our village to toll from the old church bell the age of anyone who died. Death never entered that village and tore away one of the inhabitants, but I counted the tolling of the bell. Some times it was seventy, sometimes eighty; sometimes it would be away down among the teens; sometimes it would toll out the death of someone of my own age. It made a solemn impression upon me. I felt a coward then. I thought of the cold hand of death feeling for the cords of life. I thought of being launched forth to spend my eternity in an unknown land.
As I looked into the grave, and saw the sexton throw the earth on the coffin lid, "Earth to earth; ashes to ashes; dust to dust," it seemed like the death knell to my soul. But that is all changed now. The grave has lost its terror. As I go on towards heaven I can shout, "O death! where is thy sting?" and I hear the answer rolling down from Calvary—"buried in the bosom of the Son of God." He took the sting right out of death for me, and received it into his own bosom. Take a hornet and pluck the sting out; you are not afraid of it after that any more than of a fly. So death has lost its sting. That last enemy has been overcome, and I can look on death as a crushed victim.
All that death can get now is this old Adam, and I do not care how quickly I get rid of it. I shall get a glorified body, a resurrection body, a body much better than this. Suppose death should come stealing up into this pulpit, and lay his icy hand upon my heart, and it should cease to throb, I should rise to the better world to be present with the King. The gospel has made an enemy a friend. What a glorious thought, that when you die you but sink into the arms of Jesus, to be borne to the land of everlasting rest! "To die," the apostle says, "is gain." I can imagine when they laid our Lord in Joseph's tomb one might have seen death sitting over that sepulchre, saying, "I have him, he is my victim. He said he was the resurrection and the life. Now I hold him in my cold embrace. They thought he was never going to die; but see him now. He has had to pay tribute to me." Never! The glorious morning comes, the Son of man bursts asunder the bands of death, and rises, a Conqueror, from the grave. "Because I live," he shouts, "ye shall live also." Yes, ye shall live also—is it not good news? Ah, my friends, there is no bad news about a gospel which makes it so sweet to live, so sweet to die.
Another terrible enemy that troubled me was sin. What a terrible hour I thought it would be, when my sins from childhood, every secret thought, every evil desire, everything done in the dark, should be brought to the light, and spread out before an assembled universe! Thank God, these thoughts are gone. The gospel tells me my sins are all put away in Christ. Out of love to me he has taken all my sins and cast them behind his back. That is a safe place for them. God never turns back; he always marches on. He will never see your sins if they are behind his back—that is one of his own illustrations. Satan has to get behind God to find them. How far away are they, and can they ever come back again? "As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us." Not some of them; he takes them all away. You may pile up your sins till they rise like a dark mountain, and then multiply them by ten thousand for those you cannot think of; and after you have tried to enumerate all the sins you have ever committed, just let me bring one verse in, and that mountain will melt away: "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin."
In Ireland, some time ago, a teacher asked a little boy if there was anything God could not do; and the little fellow said, "Yes; he cannot see my sins through the blood of Christ." That is just what he cannot do. The blood covers them. Is it not good news that you can get rid of sin? You come to Christ a sinner, and if you receive his gospel your sins are taken away. You are invited to do this; nay, he entreats you to do it. You are invited to make an exchange; to get rid of all your sins, and to take Christ and his righteousness in the place of them. Is not that good news?
There is another enemy which used to trouble me a good deal—judgment. I used to look forward to the terrible day when I should be summoned before God. I could not tell whether I should hear the voice of Christ saying, "Depart from me, ye cursed," or whether it would be, "Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." And I thought that till he stood before the great white throne no man could tell whether he was to be on the right hand or the left. But the gospel tells me that is already settled: "There is now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." "Verily, verily"—and when you see that word in Scripture, you may know there is something very important coming—"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."
Well, now, I am not coming into judgment for sin. It is no open question. God's word has settled it. Christ was judged for me, and died in my stead, and I go free. He that believeth hath—h-a-t-h, hath. Is not that good news? A man prayed for me the other day that I might obtain eternal life at last. I could not have said "Amen" to that, if he meant it in the sense that I obtained eternal life nineteen years ago, when I was converted. What is the gift of God, if it is not eternal life? And what makes the gospel such good news? Is it not that it offers eternal life to every poor sinner who will take it? If an angel came straight from the throne of God, and proclaimed that God had sent him here to offer us any one thing we might ask—that each one should have his own petition granted—what would be your cry? There would be but one response, and the cry would make heaven ring: "Eternal life! Eternal life!" Everything else would float away into nothingness. It is life we want, life we value most. Let a man worth a million dollars be on a wrecked vessel, and if he could just save his life for six months by giving that million, he would give it in an instant. But the gospel is not a six months' gift.
The Cross of Christ
My friends, there is one spot on earth where the fear of death, of sin, and of judgment need never trouble us, the only safe spot on earth where the sinner can stand—Calvary. Out in our western country, in the autumn, when men go hunting, and there has not been any rain for months, sometimes the prairie grass catches fire. Sometimes, when the wind is strong, the flames may be seen rolling along, twenty feet high, destroying man and beast in their onward rush. When the frontiersmen see what is coming, what do they do to escape? They know they cannot run as fast as the fire can run. Not the fleetest horse can escape it. They just take a match and light the grass around them. The flames sweep onwards; they take their stand in the burnt district, and are safe. They hear the flames roar as they come along; they see death bearing down upon them with resistless fury, but they do not fear. They do not even tremble as the ocean of flame surges around them, for over the place where they stand the fire has already passed, and there is no danger. There is nothing for the fire to burn. And there is one spot on earth that God has swept over. Eighteen hundred years ago the storm burst on Calvary, and the Son of God took it into his own bosom, and now, if we take our stand by the Cross, we are safe for time and for eternity.
Sinner, would you be safe tonight? Would you be free from the condemnation of the sins that are past, from the power of the temptations that are to come? Then take your stand on the Rock of Ages. Let death, let the grave, let the judgment come, the victory is Christ's and yours through him. Oh, will you not receive this gospel tonight—this wonderful message?
True Freedom in Christ
Some people, when the gospel is preached, put on a long face, as if they had to attend a funeral, or witness an execution or hear some dry lecture or sermon. It was my privilege to go into Richmond with General Grant's army. I had not been long there before it was announced that the Negroes were going to have a jubilee meeting. These people were just coming into liberty; their chains were falling off, and they were just awakening to the fact that they were free. I thought it would be a great event, and I went down to the African Church, one of the largest in the South, and found it crowded. One of the Negro chaplains of a northern regiment had offered to speak. I have heard many eloquent men in Europe and in America, but I do not think I ever heard eloquence such as I heard that day. He said, "Mothers! You rejoice today; you are for ever free! That little child has been torn from your embrace, and sold off to some distant state for the last time. Your hearts are never to be broken again in that way; you are free." The women clapped their hands and shouted at the top of their voices. "Glory, glory to God." It was good news to them, and they believed it. It filled them full of joy. Then he turned to the young men, and said, "Young men! You rejoice today; you have heard the crack of the slave-driver's whip for the last time; your posterity shall be free; young men rejoice today, you are for ever free!" And they clapped their hands, and shouted, "Glory to God!" They believed the good tidings. "Young maidens!" He said, "you rejoice today. You have been put on the auction block and sold for the last time; you are free—forever free!" They believed it, and lifting up their voices, shouted, "Glory be to God!" I never was in such a meeting. They believed that it was good news to them.
My friends, I bring you even better tidings than that. No man or woman ever had such a mean, wicked, cruel master as those that are serving Satan. Do I speak to a man who is a slave to strong drink? Christ can give you strength to hurl the cup from you, and make you a sober man, a loving husband, a kind father. Yes, poor wife of the drunkard, he gives you good news; your husband may become a sober man again. And you, poor sinner, you who have been so rebellious and wayward, the gospel brings a message of forgiveness to you. God wants you to be reconciled to him. "Be ye reconciled unto God." It is his message to you—a message of friendship.
A Story of Reconciliation
There was an Englishman who had an only son; and only sons are sometimes spoiled and ruined. This boy became very headstrong, and very often he and his father had trouble. One day they had a quarrel, and the father was very angry, and so was the son; and the father said he wished the boy would leave home and never come back. The boy said he would go, and would not come into his father's house again till he sent for him. The father said he would never send for him. Well, away went the boy. But though the father gave up on the boy, the mother did not, for there is no love on earth so strong as a mother's love. A great many things may separate a man and his wife; a great many things may separate a father from a son; but there is nothing in the wide world that can ever separate a true mother from her child.
Well, the mother began to write, and plead with the boy to write to his father first, and he would forgive him; but the boy said, "I will never go home till father asks me." Then she plead with the father, but the father said, "No, I will never ask him." At last the mother came down to her sick-bed, brokenhearted, and when she was given up by the physicians to die, the husband, anxious to gratify her last wish, wanted to know if there was nothing he could do for her before she died. The mother gave him a look; he well knew what it meant. Then she said, "Yes, there is one thing you can do. You can send for my boy. That is the only wish on earth you can gratify. If you do not pity him and love him when I am dead and gone, who will?" "Well," said the father, "I will send word to him that you want to see him." "No," she said, "you know he will not come for me. If ever I see him you must send for him." At last the father went to his office and wrote a dispatch in his own name, asking the boy to come home. As soon as he got the invitation from his father he started off to see his dying mother. When he opened the door to go in he found his mother dying, and his father by the bedside. The father heard the door open, and saw the boy, but instead of going to meet him he went to another part of the room, and refused to speak to him. His mother seized his hand—how she had longed to press it! She kissed him, and then said, "Now, my son, just speak to your father. You speak first, and it will all be over." But the boy said, "No mother, I will not speak to him until he speaks to me."
She took her husband's hand in one hand and the boy's in the other, and spent her dying moments in trying to bring about a reconciliation. Then just as she was expiring—she could not speak—so she put the hand of the wayward boy into the hand of the father, and passed away! The boy looked at the mother, and the father at the wife, and at last the father's heart broke, and he opened his arms, and took that boy to his bosom, and by that body they were reconciled. Sinner, that is only a faint type, a poor illustration, because God is not angry with you. I bring you tonight to the dead body of Christ. I ask you to look at the wounds in his hands and feet, and the wound in his side. And I ask you, "Will you not be reconciled?" When he left heaven, he went down into the manger that he might get hold of the vilest sinner, and put the hand of the wayward prodigal into that of the Father, and he died that you and I might be reconciled. If you take my advice you will not sleep tonight until you are reconciled. "Be ye reconciled to God." Oh, this gospel of reconciliation! My friends, is it not a glad gospel?
You need not ask, "For whom is this good news?" It is for yourself. If you would like Christ's own word for it, come with me to that scene in Jerusalem where the disciples are bidding him farewell. Calvary with all its horrors is behind him; Gethsemane is over, and Pilate's judgment hall is in the past. He has passed the grave, and is about to take his place at the right hand of the Father. Around him stands his little band of disciples, the little church he was to leave behind him to be his witnesses. The hour of parting has come, and he has some "last words" for them. Is he thinking about himself in these closing moments? Is he thinking about the throne that is waiting him, and the Father's smile that will welcome him to heaven? Is he going over in memory the scenes of the past; or is he thinking of the friends who have followed him so far, who will miss him so much when he is gone? No, he is thinking about you.
You imagined he would think of those who loved him? No, sinner, he thought of you then. He thought of his enemies, those who shunned him, those who despised him, those who killed him. He thought of those who would hate him, of those who would have none of his gospel, of those who would say it was too good to be true, of those who would make excuse that he never died for them. And then turning to his disciples, his heart bursting with compassion, he gave his farewell charge: "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature."
I can imagine Peter saying, "Lord, do you really mean that we shall preach the gospel to every creature?" "Yes, Peter." "Shall we go back to Jerusalem and preach the gospel to those Jerusalem sinners who murdered you?" "Yes, Peter, go back and tarry there until you are endued with power from on high. Offer the gospel to them first. Go search out that man who spat in my face; tell him I forgive him; there is nothing in my heart but love for him. Go, search out the man who put that cruel crown of thorns on my brow; tell him I will have a crown ready for him in my kingdom, if he will accept salvation; there shall not be a thorn in it, and he shall wear it for ever and ever in the kingdom of his Redeemer. Find out that man who took the reed from my hand, and smote my head, driving the thorns deeper into my brow. If he will accept salvation as a gift, I will give him a scepter, and with it he shall hold sway over the nations of the earth. Yes, I will allow him to sit with me upon my throne. Go, seek that man who struck me with the palm of his hand; find him and preach the gospel to him; tell him that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin, and my blood was shed for him freely." Yes, I can imagine him saying, "Go, seek out that poor soldier who drove the spear into my side; tell him that there is a nearer way to my heart than that. Tell him that I forgive him freely; and tell him I will make him a soldier of the cross, and my banner over him shall be love."
The Gospel Is for Everyone
I thank God that the gospel is to be preached to every creature. I thank God the commission is so free. There is no one so far gone, but the grace of God can reach him; no one so desperate but that he can forgive him. Yes, I thank God I can preach the gospel to the man or the woman who is as dark as hell itself. I thank God for the "whosoevers" of the invitations of Christ. "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life," and "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
I heard of a woman once who thought there was no promise in the Bible for her, they were all for other people. One day she got a letter, and when she opened it, found it was not for her at all, but for some other woman of the same name. It led her to ask herself, "If I should find some promise in the Bible directed to me, how should I know that it meant me, and not some other woman?" But she found out that she must simply take God at his word, and include herself among the "whosoevers" and the "every creatures" to whom the gospel is freely preached. I know that word "whosoever" means every man, every woman, every child in this wide world. It means that boy down there, that gray-haired man, that maiden in the blush of youth, that young man breaking a mother's heart, that drunkard steeped in misery and sin. O my friends, will you not believe this good news? Will you not receive this wonderful gospel of Christ? Will you not believe, poor sinner, that it means you? Will you say it is too good to be true?
The State Prison
I was in Ohio a few years ago, and was invited to preach in the state prison. Eleven hundred convicts were brought into the chapel, and all sat in front of me. After I had got through the preaching, the chaplain said to me: "Mr. Moody, I want to tell you of a scene which occurred in this room. A few years ago, our commissioners went to the governor of the state, and got him to promise that he would pardon five men for good behavior. The governor consented, with this understanding—that the record was to be kept secret, and that at the end of six months the five men highest on the roll should receive a pardon, regardless of who or what they were. At the end of six months the prisoners were all brought into the chapel; the commissioners came up, and the president stood up on the platform, and putting his hand in his pocket, brought out some papers, and said, 'I hold in my hand pardons for five men.' " The chaplain told me he never witnessed anything on earth like it. Every man was as still as death; many were deadly pale, and the suspense was awful; it seemed as if every heart had ceased to beat. The commissioner went on to tell them how they had got the pardon; but the chaplain interrupted him. "Before you make your speech, read out the names. This suspense is awful." So he read out the first name, "Reuben Johnson will come and get his pardon"; and he held it out, but none came forward. He said to the governor, "Are all the prisoners here?" The governor told him they were all there. Then he said again, "Reuben Johnson will come and get his pardon. It is signed and sealed by the governor. He is a free man." Not one moved. The chaplain told me he looked right down where Reuben was; he was well known; he had been nineteen years at the prison, and many were looking round to see him spring to his feet. But he himself was looking round to see the fortunate man who had got his pardon. Finally the chaplain caught his eye and said, "Reuben, you are the man." Reuben turned round and looked behind him to see where Reuben was. The chaplain said the second time, "Reuben, you are the man"; and the second time he looked round, thinking it must be some other Reuben.
So often we do not believe the gospel is for us. We think it is too good, and pass it over our shoulders to the next person. But you are the person tonight.
The chaplain could see where Reuben was, and he had to say three times, "Reuben, come and get your pardon." At last the truth began to steal over the old man; he got up and came along down the hall, trembling from head to foot, and when he got the pardon he looked at it, and went back to his seat, and buried his face in his hands, and wept. When the prisoners got into the ranks to go back to the cells, Reuben got into the ranks too, and the chaplain had to call to him, "Reuben, get out of the ranks; you are a free man, you are no longer a prisoner." And Reuben stepped out of the ranks. He was free!
Reuben's pardon was for good character and good behavior. But God gives out pardons for those of us who have not got any character, who have been very, very bad. He offers a pardon to every sinner on earth if he will take it. I do not care who he is or what he is like. He may be the greatest libertine that ever walked the streets, or the greatest drunkard who ever lived, or a thief, or a vagabond; but I come tonight with glad tidings—the glorious gospel is for every creature, it is for you.