THE SCOFFER SILENCED
C. H. Spurgeon
Â“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.” Ps. 14, I.
Let me tell you a story. I have told it before; but it is a striking one, and sets out in a true light how easily men will be brought, in times of danger, to believe in a God, and a God of justice too, though they have denied Him before.
In the backwoods of Canada there resided a good minister who one evening went out to meditate, as Isaac did, in the fields. He soon found himself on the borders of a forest which he entered and walked along a track which had been trodden before him: musing, musing still, until at last the shadows of twilight gathered around him and he began to think how he should spend a night in a forest. He trembled at the idea of remaining there with the poor shelter of a tree into which he would be compelled to climb. On a sudden he saw a light in the distance among the trees and, imagining that it might be from the window of some cottage where he would find a hospitable retreat, he hastened to it and, to his surprise, saw a space cleared and trees laid down to make a platform, and upon it a speaker addressing a multitude. He thought to himself, “I have stumbled on a company of people, who in this dark forest have assembled to worship God, and some minister is preaching to them, at this late hour of the evening, concerning the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” But, to his surprise and horror, when he came nearer, he found a young man declaiming against God, daring the Almighty to do his worst with him, speaking terrible things in wrath against the justice of the Most High, and venturing most bold and awful assertions concerning his own disbelief in a future state! It was altogether a singular scene; it was lighted up by pine-knots, which cast a glare here and there, while the thick darkness in other places still reigned. The people were intent on listening to the orator; and when he sat down, thunders of applause were given to him, each one seeming to emulate the other in his praise. The minister thought, “I must not let this pass; I must rise and speak; the honour of my God and His cause demands it.” But he feared to speak, for he knew not what to say, having come there suddenly; he would have ventured had not something else occured.
A man of middle height, hale and strong, rose. Leaning on a staff, he said, “My friends, I have a word to speak to you tonight. I
am not about to refute any of the arguments of the orator; I shall not criticize his style; I shall say nothing concerning what I believe to be the blasphemies he has uttered; but I shall simply relate to you a fact, and, after I have done that you shall draw your own conclusions. Yesterday I walked by the side of yonder river; I saw on its floods a young man in a boat. The boat was unmanageable; it was going fast towards the rapids; he could not use the oars and I saw that he was not capable of bringing the boat to the shore. I saw that young man wring his hands in agony: by-and-by he gave up the attempt to save his life, kneeled down and cried with desperate earnestness, ‘O God! save my soul! If my body cannot be saved, save my soul!’ I heard him confess that he had been a blasphemer; I heard him vow that if his life was spared he would never be such again; I heard him implore the mercy of heaven for Jesus Christ’s sake, and earnestly pleaded that he might be washed in His blood. These arms saved that young man from the flood; I plunged in, brought the boat to shore, and saved his life. That same young man has just now addressed you, and cursed his Maker. What say you to this, sirs?” The speaker sat down.
You may guess what a shudder ran through the young man himself, and how the audience in one moment changed their notes, and saw that, after all, whilst it was a fine thing to brag and bravado against Almighty God on dry land, and when danger was distant, it was not quite so grand to think ill of Him when near the verge of the grave. We believe there is enough conscience in every man to convince him that God must punish him for his sin, and that in every heart the words of Scripture will find an echo Â— “If he turn not, he will whet his sword.” “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh.”