Safe to Live By

The late Dr. Horace Bushnell, of Hartford, Connecticut, was an American minister of considerable renown, who in middle life was carried away by that species of religious infidelity, which goes by the name of “Modern Thought,” or “New Theology.” This perhaps increased his notoriety, and he became a nattered and belauded man.

But “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27), and the hour of his appointment drew nigh.

A fellow-minister—one who had adhered to the “old, old story” in its Scriptural simplicity— called upon him just before he died, and spent an hour with him. Dr. Bushnell said to him: “Doctor, I greatly fear some things I have said and written about the atonement may prove to be misleading, and do irreparable harm.”

He was lying on his back with his hands clasped over his breast. He lay there with closed eyes, in silence, for some moments, his face indicating great anxiety. Then, opening his eyes, and raising his hands he said:

“O Lord Jesus! Thou knowest that I hope for mercy alone through Thy shed blood.”

The following day he died.

How great a dissolver of theories and infidel speculations is DEATH! With one swift, sure, telling blow it strikes at their very foundations, and lo! they collapse like a house of cards. These ideas about the upward march of humanity; these denials of man’s fallen and essentially sinful condition, of his need of atonement, of the proper deity of Christ; these grand swelling words, which set forth man’s goodness, man’s intellect, man’s progress, are all very well while life still surges with strength in the veins, but let the pulse beat low and heart fail and death approach with stealthy yet invisible tread, and their hollowness and folly are manifested. “The pulpit” may dispense “modern thought” in elegant language, and “the pew” may love to have it so, but that good old gospel of Bible authority—that gospel which was, likely enough, the stay of your dear old mother’s heart—is much safer to die by.

Now, just a few quiet words with you, my reader, if a believer in Modern Thought.

Why should you deceive yourself all through life? Why harp on a string that is sure to break when most the melody is needed? Why skate on treacherous ice which is bound to collapse and land you in the dark and icy waters beneath?

Why not face facts now? You have a conscience—why smother it? You know you are not right with God. You know you do not live up to the standard that you have erected in your own mind as being desirable and correct, and if so you certainly fall far short of the divine standard. You “have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). You know that mere reformation and self-improvement will never meet your case. To make splendid resolutions is one thing—to keep them is quite another.

If you are wise you will take upon your lips such a confession as that of Dr. Bushnell’s upon his death-bed—only long before you come to die. In his confession there are at least three things worthy of note.

(1) He acknowledged Jesus as his Lord.

(2) He confessed himself a sinner needing mercy.

(3) He believed that mercy could reach him through the shed blood of Christ ALONE.

These were the things that exactly suited his case as a dying man, they suit yours just as admirably though as yet you live in health and strength. You need a Lord and Master to control and regulate your life, you need mercy which shall issue in forgiveness, and you need the shed blood of Christ—the eternal efficacy of His sacrificial work—that an eternal forgiveness may be righteously yours. Will you not with heart and lips take Dr. Bushnell’s confession as your own today?

If you still listen to the devil’s lies, you will NOT. Stupified by his drugs, labelled “modern thought,” or “new theology,” you will still dwell in a dreamland of his creation, though the ugly realities as to sin and fallen human nature are proved by hard undeniable facts from every city and hamlet in every nation under heaven.

But if you listen to the gospel you WILL. You will face the ugly realities and admit the hard facts—not of cities or nations merely—but of your own heart and life, and then lifting eyes and hands to heaven you will say:—“O Lord Jesus! Thou knowest that I hope for mercy alone through Thy shed blood;” and thus you will experience that what is safe to die by is safe to live by too.

“By Him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39).

“There’s a fountain that’s open for thee
Go wash and be clean from thy sin;
Not a spot nor a stain shall there be
If but once thou art cleansed therein.”

The Gospel Messenger 1921, p. 41