Decision Day Sermon by J. H. O. Smith Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, lie will keep my word: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. — John 14: 23. Behold, I stand at the door and knock: If any man hear my voice and open the door I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. — Rev. 3: 20. Now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salva- tion.— 2 Cor. 6 : 2.
SIX hundred and eighty times the word ”come”
occurs in the Bible. Each ”come” is a prayer
from God to man. Over and over again God repeats
His invitation, and times without number multitudes
have stood in the valley of decision.
On a great decision day in Israel one man turned
the tide toward God and right. Joshua was a man of
mighty deeds and few words. “When he did speak he
made an appeal and a statement that thrilled the
nation like the blast of a trumpet. ” Choose you this
day whom ye will serve ; whether the gods which your
fathers served that were beyond the river, or the gods
of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for
me and my house we will serve the Lord.” And the
people said: “We also will serve ” Jehovah, for he is
our God.” Men of decision live in history and live
in the hearts of men.
Elijah at Mt. Carmel challenged the multitude,
”How long go ye limping between the two sides? If
Jehovah be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow
him.” The echoes of the battle-cry of these men will
reverberate until the
“Stars grow old,
The sun grows cold,
And the leaves of the judgment book unfold.”
“Once to every man and nation
Comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood,
For the good or evil side.
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah,
Offers each the bloom or blight.
And the choice goes by forever
Twixt that darkness and that light. ‘ ‘
Each of us must decide for himself whether he will
accept or reject Christ’s invitation to follow Him into
the exalted service of God and our fellow-men.
Whatever may be said by great men about conver-
sion and the turning-points in life, we all do one of two
things: We either promise God that with His help we
will live as He would have us live, or we defy our
Saviour and say to Him, ”We will not have you to
reign over us. ”The minister, the officers, the members
of the church, the sinner, all are answering Christ’s
invitation in one of these ways.
Oh, the tragedy of the might-have-beens in the
church of God! There are professing Christians who
would say, were they to tell the truth,
”I live for myself, I think for myself,
For myself and none beside;
Just as if Jesus had never lived,
As if He had never died.”
You spend your time making a living instead of making
a life, and some day you will cross the dead-line of
the soul, and God will say of you as He said of
Ephraim, ”He is joined to his idols, let him alone.”
The sun and stars move in exact obedience to the
will of God. They have no other choice. But you can
look God in the face and say, ”I will,” or ”I will
not.” You can answer with the “yes” of heaven or
the ”no” of hell, but do not forget that it must be
the one or the other.
Some of us are like the little girl who, when asked
which she would rather be, the rich man or Lazarus,
replied : ‘ ‘ I would rather be the rich man in this world
and Lazarus in the next.” Poor child! I wonder if
she learned that from her father. The rich man chose
riches, fine raiment and sumptuous living. What he
had, what he ate and what he wore was all there was
of him. When he died there were no pockets in his
shroud, he could not take his riches with him. He had
closed the skylight and taken up his abode in the
basement. A man of great wealth died in New York,
and some one, when asked what he left, replied: ”He
left it all.” My friends, you can not serve God and
mammon. This decision day is the time to take stock
of yourselves, and go through your life purposes with
Christ said to the church at Sardis, “Thou hast a
name that thou livest, and thou art dead.” “She that
giveth herself to pleasure is dead while she liveth.”
A man need not shoot himself to commit suicide. Ask
those of the dead who lived only to eat, drink, dress,
dance and accumulate wealth, to lift the turf from
their moldering bones and stand forth as witnesses.
They will say, “God told the truth when He called
the man a fool who thought a soul could be satisfied
with the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and
the vainglory of life” But some church-members
would not be persuaded to give up their worldly life
though one should rise from the dead. *’If we sin
wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of
the truth, there remaineth no more a sacrifice for sins,
but a certain fearful expectation of judgment and a
fierceness of fire which shall devour the adversaries”
”The time is come for judgment to begin at the house
of God.” ”And if the righteous is scarcely saved,
where shall the ungodly and sinner appear?” ”To-day
if ye shall hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”
”There is a time, we know not when,
A point, we know not whore.
Which marks the destiny of men
To glory or despair.
”There is a line by us unseen
That crosses every path.
The hidden boundary between
God’s patience and His wrath. ”
”He that is not with me is against me,” said Jesus.
”The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God
is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord,” said Paul.
“How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salva
tion?” It is for you to decide now. God says, “Now.”
The tempter says, “Not now.” Will you say “now”
with God, or “not now” with the enemy of your soul?
Choice is above heredity. Scientists tell us that
heredity is a tremendous power in the world. We
inherit tendencies from our ancestors which too often
control our lives. “The fathers have eaten sour
grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge/’
A young man in Chicago sowed his wild oats.
Later he married a lovely girl. A deformed boy came
into their home. They took him to a celebrated phy-
sician in Europe, who straightened the limbs, and
restored the boy to health. He became a drunkard
and later killed his father and mother. All three
reaped a harvest of death from the early dissolute life
of the father. The devil has a mortgage on many
children when they are born. The iniquity of the
fathers is visited upon the children to the third and
But, I say, choice is above heredity. If we inherit
a bad temper, it is not necessary to cultivate it, but
with the help of God it can be controlled. If we have
inherited a thirst for drink, we need not become drunk-
ards. If we have a tendency to accumulate money, it
is not necessary to enter the ranks of profiteers or
short-loan sharks. Christ recognized the tremendous
power of heredity, and provided that we may be born
again. The Saviour said to Nicodemus, ‘^Ye must be
bom anew.’^ Nicodemus was descended from a race
of illustrious ancestors, who were proud of their blood.
”We are Abraham’s children.” ””We were bom
free.” Nicodemus belonged to the aristocracy of his
race and time, but a new heredity was necessary for
even the proudest Jew. Christ is always scientific ; that
is, He knows what is in man, and He knows that blue
blood and family pride alone can not save, and that
all alike must be born from above. Then God is our
Father and His heredity is perfect.
Each for himself must decide whether or not he
will be bom into the family of God. Scientists agree
that character is not hereditary. Choice determines
character and character determines destiny.
Choice is above environment. Sociologists tell us
that if we know the heredity and environment of an
individual, we can determine his present and future
character. It is said that an angel from heaven would
not be proof against bad company. “Evil communica-
tions corrupt good manners.” Good parents are care-
ful about the associates of their children. The Chris-
tian father and mother keep their children in the Bible
school, and in various services of the church, and see
to it that they are in the company of those who are
learning lessons that Christ alone can teach. How
often ambitious parents choose as associates for their
children the ‘^exclusive set,” where dancing to jazz
music in low-and-behold gowns is the chief accomplish-
ment, and where the ” turkey trot” and ” bunny hug,”
and other beastly imitations of beast or fowl, constitute
the ”grace-producing and refining uplift” of ”high
society. ‘ ‘
In Job we have this language: “What then shall I
do when God riseth up? And when he visiteth, what
shall I answer him?” And Paul says: “We shall all
stand before the judgment-seat of God. For it is
written. As I live, saith the Lord, to me every knee
shall bow, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
What will we answer God on that day? If you are
a child, will you say, “I am not old enough”? At
twelve years of age Jesus said, ‘ ‘ Know ye not that I
must be about my Father’s business?”
Or will you say, “There are mysteries in the Bible
that I do not understand”? The Bible will be full of
things you do not understand so long as you do not
live according to those that you do understand. “And
even if our gospel be veiled, it is veiled in them that
perish: whom the god of this world hath blinded.” .
Or will you say, ” There are so many denomina-
tions, teaching so many ways of salvation, that I do
not know what to do to be saved”? The New Testa-
ment knows nothing about denominationalism. Christ
prayed that His followers might be one, as He and
His Father are one, that the world might believe.
Before you is the open Bible. In a few hours you
can read the life of our Lord in the four Gospels,
” written that you might believe that Jesus is the
Christ, the Son of God: and that believing you might
have life through his name.” The Acts of the Apostles
is a book of conversions telling just what the sinner
must do to be saved. “When you stand before God you
can not say that the Saviour and the inspired apostles
did not make plain the conditions of salvation.
Or will you answer God that hypocrites in the
church caused your neglect? I wonder! Then I pre-
sume you would refuse to be a soldier in a great cause
if cowards happened to enlist? You would refuse to
ride in safety from a wrecked vessel if hypocrites
sought to escape in the same life-boat.
Will you answer that you did not obey the gospel
because you were unworthy ? Our Saviour came to save
sinners. He came to save the unworthy, to seek and to
save the lost.
Will you say, ”I could not believe that Jesus is
the Son of God”? ”He that believeth on the Son of
God hath the witness in him: he that believeth not
God hath made him a liar ; because he hath not believed
in the witness that God hath borne concerning his
Will you say you had not time enough to consider
these great questions ? How long do you require to decide
whether you will do right or wrong? be good or bad?
accept or refuse God’s invitation? serve God or the
devil? go to heaven or to hell?
Will you write out your decision, look at it intently,
and say, ”I will stand by it in the day of judgment”?
Will you say to the Saviour as Felix said, ”Go thy
way for this time: at a more convenient season I will
call for thee”? That convenient season never came.
To-morrow is the day on which the idle man promises
to work, the day on which the fool declares that he
will repent. ”To-morrow! That phantom of days ! That
frail ghost forever disembodied! Unwilling fingers
point to thee. Thirsty souls will follow thee like the
mirage of the desert, until they fall upon the burning
sands of the wasted day.” Every day’s delay is one
more for which to repent, and one less in which to
work for God. Slighted opportunities never return.
The road of by and by leads to the house of never.
We all have influence, even the humblest of us, and
none can tell how far-reaching it may be. Some of the
most outstanding Christian men and women of the
world have been led to Christ directly or indirectly by
some obscure person of whom the world has never
heard. In Chicago, one Sunday morning, a beautiful,
eight-year-old girl came forward, and later brought her
father and mother. More than twenty others were led
to Christ by those parents during the meeting.
I was holding a meeting in our old home church.
A little boy, the only child of parents who were not
Christians, made the good confession. That night his
father and mother heard his voice after they thought
he was asleep. They listened. He was praying for
them that they might become Christians. Finally the
mother said, “Abner, what shall we do about it?”
He replied, “Well answer his prayer at the first
opportunity. ” The next night they confessed their
faith in Christ and became a power for good in that
community. If a child can exercise so much influ-
ence, what can the rest of us accomplish?
The greatest tragedy is not that men drink or
gamble or do a thousand things that are wrong, but
that they are leaving unlived the life that God in-
tended them to live and leaving undone the work He
has for them to do. Sin is the most terrible thing
in this world of men, women and children, but Jesus
made the conditions of salvation so plain that all can
understand. Read the offer of salvation in Christ’s
”Great Commission ‘^ (Matt 28:19, 20; Mark 16:16;
Luke 24 : 45-47 ; John 20 : 21-23) . God saves. We ac-
cept by believing in the Son of God, repenting of our
sins, confessing Christ as Lord, and being baptized
in obedience to Him. Upon complying with these
terms, Christ promises forgiveness and the Holy Spirit
as a gift.
If you would be a Christian, go to work at it. If
it is your full purpose to live a Christian life and
reach heaven at last, God has arranged it so that you
can not fail. Your heavenly Father would line up
every angel in heaven around your soul, if necessary,
to protect you while in the discharge of your duty.
All the devils in hell can not defeat you if you com-
mit your soul to the Saviour. All the angels in
heaven can not save you unless you choose to be saved.
There is the utmost danger in delay. I have a
friend who was a soldier in the Civil War. He and
his chum enlisted, and the night before they were to
go away they attended a meeting in the church of
which their families were members. When the invita-
tion was given, my friend’s chum said, ” George, let
us go forward and make the good confession and be
baptized before we go away.” He said, ”No, I want
to be free” In an awful battle George’s chum fell.
As my friend bent over his dying comrade, he caught
these pitiful words, ”Oh, George, if I had only
obeyed my Saviour!”
What a world of wonder is a human soul! A
world created by God Himself with its oceans of emo-
tion and tides of destiny urged on by winds from
heaven or hell. When we listen to the voice of the
Master of wind and wave, as He says, ”Peace, be
still” the stars of heaven are mirrored in blue tran-
quility. But when we refuse to listen, the storms lash
the billows to fury. The soul is a world with moun-
tains of volcanic fire and laughing valleys of sweet
content; selfish arctic regions wrapped in snow, and
tropics of passion where sleep wild beasts of prey.
It is a world of battlefields and graves, Gethsemanes,
Calvaries and mountains of ascension. It is a world
of sin and sorrow, life and death, war and worship,
a world over which God and Satan wage unceasing
and relentless warfare while it decides who shall con-
quer. When this invitation closes, will the angels
rejoice over your repentance and your firm resolve to
put a heroic life into the service of God and human-
ity, or will demons shout over a soul that has heard
the invitation of God, of Christ, of the Holy Spirit
and the church, and has answered “Not now”?
The simple path of duty leads straight from your
heart to the gates ajar.
“Let youth in the beauty of bloom come,
Let man in the pride of his noon come,
Let age on the verge of the tomb come,
Let none in their pride stay away.”