Are You Sure You Are Right?
James Smith, 1859
The other day, as a lad was leaving a shop, the shopkeeper called after him, "Are you sure you are right?" I know not what the subject was, to which the man referred — but the inquiry has suggested some very serious thoughts to my mind.
Ah, it is of great importance to be right on many points, and to know that we are right; yes, to be sure that we are right. Many people take things for granted — which need to be proved; and many imagine that they are right — without any good evidence. Hence many are unhappy now — and many, it is to be feared, will be lost forever. Friend, let us not be deceived, let us not be satisfied with slight evidences — but let us make sure that we are right.
THOMAS BROWN has made a profession of religion, and joined himself to a church, and imagines that he is all right. But there is much lightness and levity about him. He seems to love carnal amusements, and appears to feel quite at home in the society of the ungodly. The other night he went to the concert; and has been heard pleading in defense of novel-reading. He thinks, as he says, that we should not needlessly offend the world — but conform ourselves to their ideas of what a Christian ought to be, as near as we can. That the way to win them is to mix with them, and show that we are not gloomy, or unnecessarily precise.
Thomas, Thomas! Are you sure you are right? Your Bible tells you to come out from among them, and be separate from them, and not even touch the unclean thing. Your God says, "Do not love the world, neither the things that are in the world; for if any man loves the world — the love of the Father is not in him." And the Apostle James asks you this question, "Don't you know that the friendship of the world — is enmity with God?" If these portions of God's Word are right, you are wrong.
Thomas Brown, it is to be feared that many are wrong beside you — though they imagine that they are right. Are you sure, my friend, that you possess real religion, as well as profess it? Have you ever had a broken heart for sin? Have you really fled, as a poor lost sinner, to the Savior? Have you obtained peace with God, through faith in the blood of Jesus? Is Christ formed in your heart as the hope of glory? Do you know what union to Christ, and communion with Christ means? Or are you satisfied with a few slight convictions, and a few pleasurable impressions? You profess Christ, Thomas — but do you possess Christ? Your name is in the church book — but is your name in the Lamb's book of life? Are you sure that you are right? The Apostle Peter would admonish you to "make your calling and election sure," or make sure, on good grounds — that you are right; and to so walk as to convince everybody around you that you are right.
SARAH SLATER has just given up her class in the Sunday-school, for though she does not like to confess it, she has got tired of teaching, and would rather take a walk, have a nap, or go out to tea on Sunday afternoons — than be shut up with a group of poor children in a Sunday-school room. Very likely she has made out some more plausible case to silence, if not satisfy, her conscience; but, Sarah, Are you sure that you are right? You still profess to be a servant of Christ. Sunday-school teaching is His work, you voluntarily engaged in it, professedly out of love to His name — are you sure you are right in leaving it? Can you glorify Christ more out of the school — than in it? Can you do more good to your fellow-creatures out of the school — than in it? If not, I am by no means sure that you are right in leaving it. It is very likely that you are quite wrong in doing so.
It may be from pride, from self-love, from laziness, or from some carnal motive that you have withdrawn; and if so, you are decidedly wrong. Let me request you seriously to examine into the matter, closely investigate the case, do not be satisfied with slight grounds — but be quite sure that you are right. The matter will not end where it is, you know, for "every one of us shall give account of himself to God." And as things often look very different, when viewed from a sick bed, or a dying pillow, to what they do in health; so it is very probable that they will look very different to what they do now, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
If you should win but one of those girls for Jesus, she would be a star in your crown forever, and you would eternally rejoice in her salvation by your means. But leaving the school, and giving up your proper work — you may perhaps live a useless life on earth; and if saved, wear a starless crown in Heaven. Sarah, "are you sure that you are right?"
TITUS THOMSON imagines himself called to the ministry, feels persuaded that he has a very useful gift, and is about to give up his secular occupation as soon as ever he can get a call to a small church. True, he has never been very useful when preaching in the villages — but the villagers around where Titus lives are very dull, and cannot appreciate his talents. He has heard of many who have succeeded who have less talent than himself, and he has no doubt at all — but if he can only get a call to the regular ministry — that he shall do well.
Titus, "Are you sure that you are right?" Is it the love of Christ which constrains you? Is it zeal for the glory of God which prompts you? Is it a deep and overwhelming desire to save souls from death which impels you? Is there no selfish motive at the bottom? Have you no idea that the ministry is a very respectable vocation? Have you no wish to be admired in the church, and an influential man in the village, or the town? Have you no eye to ease or profit — or anything less than exalting the Savior?
It is to be feared that many have — and have therefore found the ministry to be burdensome, and the churches have found them to be a burden!
Many young men, at their first conversion, imagine themselves called to the ministry, and think that they are only influenced by pure motives in desiring it — but afterward find out that they had woefully deceived themselves. There are already too many in the ministry without the necessary gifts and graces, without a clear call from God to the work — and therefore have little or no enjoyment in the work, nor are their labors at all successful. When God sends a man — he qualifies him. When God qualifies a man and sends him into the ministry — he opens a door for him. And when a man is admitted by God's providence to the work, being fitted by God's Spirit and grace for the work — God crowns his efforts with success. Knowing this to be the case, we say with all affection to those who think themselves called to the ministry of the Word. Titus, Titus, "are you sure that you are right?"
DANIEL FULLER, poor fellow, has often a dejected countenance, is much exercised with doubts and fears, and does not like to hear of people being too much on the mount in prayer. He knows he is not often there. Indeed he does not expect to be. With such corruptions in his heart, with such trials in his family, and meeting, as he does, with so many trying things in the world — it is not to be expected that he is to wear a smile very often — or be found singing on the heights of Zion frequently. Indeed, if he can only maintain a slight hope in Jesus, be enabled to drag on slowly in the King's highway, and creep into Heaven at last — it is all that he thinks he ought to look for.
Friend, Daniel, "Are you sure that you are right?" Does not your Bible tell you to rejoice in the Lord always? Does not the Psalmist say, "They shall sing in the ways of the Lord?" Did not primitive Christians rejoice even in tribulation? Why should you doubt, Daniel? Is not the work of Christ a finished work, and was not that work wrought for you? Does not the blood of Jesus cleanse from all sin — and is not the fountain open for you? Are not the promises of God exceeding great and very precious, and are not those promises made to you? Has not the Lord told you, that as your day — so shall your strength be; and that his grace is sufficient for you? Yes, does not the Lord assure you that all things work together for your good? And are you not warranted to draw the conclusion which Paul did, "He who spared not his own Son — but delivered him up for us all — how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Daniel, Daniel, your doubts are groundless, your fears have no foundation, your gloom is no credit to religion, and what you imagine to be humility — is but secret unbelief. You ought to be happy after what Christ has done for you. You ought to rejoice, seeing the great things that God has promised you. You ought at least always to be hopeful, after all the mercy which the Lord has shown you. Let me then once more put the question to you, and whenever tempted to droop, despond, and doubt — imagine you hear the Lord himself saying to you, "Daniel, are you sure that you are right?"
JONATHAN GREENWAY has listened to the reasoning of infidels, doubts the truth of God's Word, and has given up attending at God's house. He has become wiser in his own conceit, than seven men that can render a reason. He is not to be frightened by tales about Hell-fire — not he. He has no patience with so much religion. Indeed he does not believe in what is commonly called religion at all. It is all very well for people to preach — they make a pretty good living of it; and lots of others, he is persuaded, are only religious for what they can get. He has been held in apron-strings long enough — but he does not intend to be held so any longer. He will manfully assert his independence, and act just according to his own will.
Jonathan, "Are you sure that you are right?" Some of the wisest, the best, and most learned men have believed the Bible — and have acted upon it. Some of the poorest, most tried, and most illiterate of men have believed the Bible — and have been made holy and happy by it. Yes, the Bible has stood the test of ages, it has been examined by the greatest minds, and has been proved to be true by some of all classes, under all circumstances. Martyrs have bled for it. Sufferers have rejoiced in it. The dying have triumphed over death by believing it.
It has had in all ages, a host of witnesses who could attest its truth. The learned have written out the external evidences of its authenticity and inspiration; and the unlearned — but godly Christian, has ever carried the internal evidence of its truth, purity, and power in his heart. It is worth your while, friend, to think again before you reject the Bible, discard the Savior entirely, and render your salvation impossible. These are very solemn words, which you may yet prove to be true in eternity, "He who believes not — shall be damned!" I trust, that through God's mercy you never may, and, therefore, I say to you once more with deep affection, "Jonathan, Jonathan, are you sure that you are right?"
SUSAN BROWN says she does not intend to be depressed, she is for a short life and a merry one. Give her a good dance, or a jolly party, or a lively song to sing dull care away — and you may keep religion to yourself. She has no idea of young people ruining themselves, and losing all the pleasures of life. Religion may perhaps be all very well for the old folks — but she doesn't like to see them have too much of it. No, no, the best thing she knows, is to live and be jolly.
Susan, "Are you sure that you are right?" Many have died at your young age — and you may die soon, suddenly. And if you should, death will remove you from this world — but where will it land you? There is a dreadful Hell, and there is a glorious Heaven — and to one of these eternal destinies, death will introduce you. Into Heaven it cannot, unless you are prepared for it; and, therefore, as there is no other alternative — into Hell it must.
But if it should, how will your present conduct appear to you — when you are in Hell? Will the memory of the song, the dance, the jovial party — alleviate the pains of Hell? Will you not think that you have paid dearly for them — when you find that you are to be tormented forever in Hell? One passage of Scripture just meets your case; it is addressed to young men — but is just as applicable to young women, "Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see; BUT know that for all these things — God will bring you to judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9
Then you must give an account of why you preferred dancing — to praying; singing foolish songs — to praising God your Maker; and preferred the pleasures of sin, which are but for a season — to the joys of Heaven, which are forever and ever.
How will you be able to face the God — whom you have so insulted?
How can you stand before the Savior — whom you have so despised?
How will you bear to be mixed up with devils and lost souls, and hear the Lord Jesus say to you and them, "Depart from me, you who are cursed — into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!"
Susan Brown, Susan Brown! "Are you sure that you are right?" Look into the matter at once, for it is quite time; and if upon examination you conclude that you are right — then by all means go on in your present course. But if upon investigation, you discover that you are wrong — then "Seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. Forsake, O forsake your present way, and turn unto the Lord — and he will have mercy upon you, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon you."
However, whatever you do — be sure that you are right. If now you discover that you are wrong, you may correct your mistake; but by and by, it will be too late. The door of mercy will be shut. God will be favorable no more. The accepted time will be over. Then all will be vast, never-ending eternity. Then every one's destiny will be fixed — and fixed forever. The wicked will be turned into Hell — and the righteous will go into life eternal. True believers will find themselves all right; but the sinner will find himself all wrong. O make sure work, make sure work — for it is forever! forever!