"And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." [Luke 17:26-30]
Society today is fast approaching the condition of the world before the flood. As children grow up to youth, and youth to manhood and womanhood, they are becoming full of self-sufficiency, maturing rapidly in the knowledge of evil. Many, through constantly associating with thieves, with the depraved, dissolute, disobedient characters of society, learn to be cunning in avoiding detection, and become experts in deception and fraud. The youth of today are educated in crime by reading the stories which fill the popular publications. Having no regard for the right because it is right, as they read stories of theft, murder, and every other species of crime, they are led to devise means by which they could improve upon the criminals' methods, and escape detection. Foul publications assist in perfecting the education of the youth in the way that leads to perdition. The youth of our cities breathe in the tainted, polluted atmosphere of crime; the evil influence is then communicated to the country, and the whole community becomes contaminated.
Some of the rulers of the earth are not men of moral worth. They have no desire to check the publication of this foul literature which is increasing year by year, and which feeds the passion for crime and evil. Stories of criminal life such as are found in the papers of the day, and so-called revelations of the future, are treated as realities. Revolutions are predicted, and many catch the evil spirit lurking in these representations of future horrors; and they feed upon these things until they are filled with the same spirit, and are led to do even worse, were it possible, than these sensational writers depict. Christ saw the conflict that is approaching, and has sent us word to watch and pray, lest we enter into temptation. He has warned us that "as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. . . . Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed." [Luke 17:26-30]
We are not warned against properly participating in business transactions, but against carrying to excess that which is lawful in itself, against allowing our minds to be so absorbed in earthly things that we shall not discern the important things that concern our eternal interest. We are warned against indulging perverted appetite, against surfeiting and drunkenness. Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Jude describes the condition of our world as we approach the close of earth's history, and lifts the danger-signal, that we may understand the perils of our time.
But even in the corrupt condition in which the society of today is, there are souls capable of better things,--souls represented by Christ under the symbol of "the lost pearl." Christ gave up everything, that he might seek and save that which was lost, that he might recover the pearl that he valued at infinite cost. What are we ready to do to co-operate with him in this work? What sacrifice are we ready to make, that we may find the lost pearl, and place it in the hands of our Saviour? The cities are teeming with iniquity, and Satan suggests that it is impossible to do any good within their borders; and so they are sadly neglected. But there are lost pearls there, whose value you cannot realize until you earnestly seek to find them. There might be one hundred workers where there is but one, who might be seeking diligently, prayerfully, and with intense interest, to find the pearls that are buried in the rubbish of these cities.
How can we find language to express our deep interest, to describe our desire that every soul should awake and go to work in the Master's vineyard? Christ says, "Occupy till I come." [Luke 19:13] It may be but a few years until our life's history shall close; but we must occupy till then. The fiat will go forth, "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: and he that is righteous, let him be righteous still: and he that is holy, let him be holy still," [Revelation 22:11] and then there will be no more occasion to labor for souls. Every case will be decided. Are you carrying no burden for lost souls? Are you not afraid some trust has been committed unto you for which you will be held accountable? Are you sensible of the responsibility imposed by the talents entrusted to you? Have you misused your time, your strength, your influence? The despised privileges, the wasted hours, the neglected duties, are all registered in the books of heaven; and every individual must meet this record in the judgment, just as it stands. Now what are you going to do? Will you heed the admonition, "Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die"? [Revelation 3:2] You may fold your hands saying, "I am only a lay member of the church; it is a hopeless task for me to undertake." But have you yoked up with Christ? are you laboring in his way? O, let it no longer be a source of grief to the heavenly intelligences and to Him who has paid such an infinite price for souls, that you refuse to be channels of light, that you refuse to co-operate with the heavenly agencies for the salvation of souls! But let us "awake out of sleep," [Romans 13:11] and put all our God-given abilities into the work, that it may be written in the books that we are "redeeming the time, because the days are evil." [Ephesians 5:16] If we keep our talents inactive, we lose all ability to make use of them. The mind is a gift of God, designed to be improved and developed, that we may be able to enlighten others; but it may be perverted and misused in doing Satan's work.
The second chapter of 2 Peter presents the true condition of the world at this time, and the third chapter is full of warnings and counsel for the followers of Christ. 1 Peter 1:1-11 also contains the very instruction that we need. Shall we heed these admonitions of the Lord?
The Lord Jesus has a special work for his believing, commandment-keeping people to do. He desires that we should be faithful laborers together with God in the salvation of sinners. The servants of Jesus Christ, who know the truth and the power of the grace of God, have an extensive and important mission to fulfil; and every soul is held responsible for the proper exercise of the talents entrusted to him. We are justified by faith, but judged by the character of our works. In the parable, before the nobleman went away, he "called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, and to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability." [Matthew 25:14-15] There is not one human being to whom is not committed some talent, not one but has a work to do for the Lord. Not one is to be excused. Not one is to remain in idleness; but every man is required to do his best; the talents entrusted to him are to be used in consecrated service for the Master. Each member of the family of God is a responsible agent, and all should donate gifts to carry forward his work. From the humblest to the most exalted in privilege and position, both in the church and in the world, a strict account of the entrusted talents will be required, with the improvement which they are sure to make if put to use in the Lord's service. It is practise that enables us to use our abilities to the best advantage. Investments are to be made in such a way as to accomplish the greatest good for the cause, and to increase the revenue of the Lord's treasury. This need not apply solely to money investments, but to the improvement of our capabilities and opportunities as well. The Lord has given to every man his work, and expects returns proportionate to the ability of each. All are expected to perform their duty intelligently, so that the amount entrusted to them shall be doubled by the use they make of it. The fidelity of every human agent is to be tested and tried, and the destiny of the worker is determined by the faithful improvement, or by the lack of improvement, of his talents, according to the amount returned. Christ has paid the penalty, the wages of sin; he has shed his own precious blood to redeem the world from eternal ruin. If we always bear this in mind, we shall understand that there is no excuse for our remaining in ignorance.
The invitation of Christ is, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you," [Matthew 11:28-29] engage with me to save all who will believe on him whom the Father hath sent. Shall we bear the yoke with Christ? shall we be co-laborers with him? Listen to what he says, "My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." [Matthew 11:30] Those who barricade the soul, refuse the invitation to the gospel feast; those who hoard up their talents to rust, unemployed, unimproved, must not think that such action in any way relieves them from responsibility; for God holds us responsible for the good we might do if we took up the yoke with Christ, lifting his burdens, learning more of his meekness and lowliness of heart day by day. The interest continues to accumulate on buried talents; and instead of decreasing our responsibility, the burying of our talent only increases and intensifies it. Let the human agent consider the solemn fact that the day of reckoning is just before us, and that we are daily deciding what our eternal destiny shall be. The Master examines every individual case, dealing personally with the talents entrusted by him. O solemn day of reckoning!--that day which will bring paleness to many faces,-- that day in which the words shall be spoken to many, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." [Daniel 5:27] It will be an awful thing to be found "wanting" [Daniel 5:27] when the book of accounts is opened in that great day. "And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell [the graves of those who persisted in transgression and sin until death overtook them] delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire." [Revelation 20:11-15] Upon the decisions reached in that day depends the future, eternal interest of every soul. We shall have unspeakable joy, or unutterable woe and misery, the horrors of despair. O how Jesus will love to recompense every true worker! Every faithfully performed duty will receive his blessing. It is then that he pronounces the benediction, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord." [Matthew 25:21] What is the joy of our Lord? "For the joy that was set before him" [Hebrews 12:2] he "endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." "We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)" [Hebrews 12:2; 2 Corinthians 6:1-2] Truth, precious truth, is not to be hidden in our hearts. "A city set on a hill cannot be hid." [Matthew 5:14]
When we consider that Christ died for the ungodly while they were yet sinners, we are led to realize how willing and even anxious he is to bless us, that we may be a blessing to others. This is the word which he sends unto us: "Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ; that in everything ye are enriched by him, in all utterance, and in all knowledge; even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you; so that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." [1 Corinthians 1:3-7]