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Words: Daniel Webster Whittle (b. Nov. 22, 1840; d. Mar. 4, 1901)
Music: Charles Clinton Case (b. June 6, 1843; d. Dec. 1, 1918)
Note: Daniel Whittle fought in the American Civil War, gaining the rank of major. After the war, Major Whittle engaged in an evangelistic ministry, and also wrote many gospel songs. This gospel song provides a simple invitation to trust in Christ as Saviour. Whether “Will you not, my brother, come?” was used with a sense of the generic, as the Bible often does (e.g. Jas. 1:2), or whether it was originally designed for a men’s gathering, I do not know. If it bothers you, you might substitute “O sinner,” or “O seeker.”
When I taught at a Bible college, some years ago, a running gag developed that brought out a certain creativity in the students. If one were late for class, he would place an explanatory note on the podium. The latecomer could surely be excused, if temporarily “abducted by aliens,” or engaged in “fighting off a shark attack” on the way to class.
It was all in fun, but excuses have a darker side. Evangelist Billy Sunday, in his blunt way, called an excuse “the skin of a reason stuffed with a lie.” Often it involves blaming someone or something else for our failure to act appropriately. Or it’s a plea to be exempted from fulfilling a legitimate responsibility.
As human beings, our penchant for doing this began early. When the Lord confronted our first parents, after they had disobeyed Him, Adam tried to blame Eve–and God too (“the woman You gave me,” Gen. 3:12), and Eve blamed Satan who had appeared to them in the guise of a serpent (vs. 13), but God held them all accountable for their actions.
Much later, when Moses was absent from the camp of Israel, the people approached his brother Aaron and asked him to make them a new god to worship. On his return, Moses demanded an explanation for the idol. Aaron’s bizarre response seems intended to make what had happened sound like a mere accident. “I said to them, ‘Whoever has any gold [jewelry], let them break it off.’ So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out” (Exod. 31:24).
Excuses sometimes come into play today, when the Christian gospel is proclaimed. Paul explains the essence of the good news: “I declare to you the gospel…that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (I Cor. 15:1, 3). On the cross, the Lord Jesus paid our debt of sin. Now, each one of us is called to acknowledge our sinfulness, and trust in Him for salvation, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16).
The Bible is also clear that when the invitation to trust Christ as Saviour is issued, it calls for a personal response. “Behold, now is the accepted time [the time of God’s gracious welcome]; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2). But when Paul warned the Roman governor Felix about judgment to come, his response was, “Go away for now; when I have a convenient time I will call for you” (Acts 24:25).
Possibly we could express Felix’s excuse as, “I’m too busy to deal with this now.” But that argument is fatally flawed. After all, what business could possibly be more important that dealing with the destiny of one’s eternal soul. And anyway, what guarantee do we have of other opportunities and more convenient times up ahead?
Some claim they are too good to need saving. But God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Others claim they are too bad to be saved, but the Bible assures us that “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I Jn. 1:7). The invitation to accept the gift of salvation is for all.
One of Whittle’s songs, an 1891 hymn of invitation asks a penetrating question: “Why not now?” If you have heard the gospel and realize your need, if you understand what the Lord has done for you through the cross, why not trust in Him now? The song says:
CH-1) While we pray and while we plead,
While you see your soul’s deep need,
While our Father calls you home,
Will you not, my brother, come?
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
Why not now? Why not now?
Why not come to Jesus now?
CH-3) You have wandered far away;
Do not risk another day;
Do not turn from God your face,
But today accept His grace.
CH-4) In the world you’ve failed to find
Aught of peace for troubled mind;
Come to Christ, on Him believe,
Peace and joy you shall receive.
1) What excuses have you heard (or made yourself) for not obeying God’s Word?
2) What answer could you give to such excuses?