The Accepted Time – J. Wilbur Chapman (historic sermon 1859-1917)
Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2
My text is familiar — II Corinthians 6:2 — “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” This text is generally made use of in appeals to those who are not Christians, but if you will read the verses preceding and following the text, you will see that it is an appeal as well to those who are already Christians. Let me say in the beginning that salvation has been provided by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. This is an old-fashioned statement to make, but I am an old-fashioned preacher. It is the sacrificial death of Christ that brings salvation to man. Salvation is a very broad and inclusive word. It means for one thing that we are justified. If you realized the meaning of this word justification, you would shout. It means to stand before God as if you had never sinned. It means to have every sin put away. It means to stand in God’s sight with your life as clean and white as the pages of this Book. Also it means redemption. I want you to catch a vision of the marvelous thing that is yours when you accept Jesus Christ. “We are redeemed, not with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”
I was standing the other day in Tiffany’s, in New York, and I overheard a woman asking to see some pearls. The salesman placed on the counter some wonderful pearls. I heard him say that the price was $17,000. When I looked at them, they seemed overwhelmingly splendid. This sum represented Tiffany’s estimate of the value of the pearls. You may say that your life is not worth very much, but I tell you that you are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. I tell you that in the sight of God you are worth more than all the gold in the hills, all the diamonds in the fields. Salvation! It is a wonderful word. It means forgiveness. I wonder if we truly appreciate what divine forgiveness is. Suppose you do me an injury, and I say that I will forgive it. I mean it, too. But you meet me five years hence, and you find me still thinking about the injury. I have forgiven, but I have not forgotten. One of the most wonderful things written in God’s Book — it makes my heart burn and brings tears to my eyes when I read it — is that when God forgives, he forgets. He puts my sins behind His back, casts them into the depths of the sea, hurls them as far as the east is from the west. I am a quiet man, not much given to shouting. I like very well what one of the papers said the other day, that when I wanted to make a special emphasis, I lowered my voice instead of raising it. But it seems to me that I want to shout to-night as I am telling you about salvation. Salvation means redemption. It means justification. It means divine forgiveness and forgetfulness of sin. When I read my text in the light of this statement, it grows wonderful. Behold, now is the day of salvation.
What does the text really mean? It means that now is the day to present salvation to others. Now is the day to tell them about it. To-day is the day to announce it to your children, to tell it to your classmates. Now is the day when a business man should speak to his employees and tell them about salvation. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
If you study God’s ways, you will notice that He is always planning, by His providential arrangements, to bring within the reach of our influence people whom we may turn to Christ. Keep your eyes open and see. Keep your ears unstopped and hear. You will meet a man in the street, you will travel with a man on the train, and God has sent him to you. Someone will visit in your home, or be in your employ. God is bringing him within your reach. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”
Do you remember when the Government sent astronomers to Africa to witness the transit of Venus? These men were especially chosen and commissioned to watch for the wonderful spectacle in the heavens. There will be a critical moment, and they must watch. What if they had been listless and careless? What if one of them had been reading a book? What if another of them had been star-gazing without an instrument? Everyone must have his eye at the glass watching for the moment. Who knows but that the critical moment is here to win hundreds of people to Christ. I have been a member of a certain club in New York for years. One Sunday I went there for dinner. I had been preaching in one of the churches. One of the strong business men of the city came in, and when we met I asked him where he had been. “I have been to church, he replied. “Where?” and he told me. One of the best known men in the country was the minister. I noticed that the man was deeply impressed, and I said to him: “You must have liked the sermon.” His lips trembled and I saw tears on his cheek, although he is not an emotional man. Then he said: “When Dr. B. closed his sermon, if he had asked, is there a man here who will come down and accept Christ, I would have risen in the audience and walked down the length of the church, and taken my stand for Christ. My heart went like a trip-hammer. But the invitation was not given.” There are critical moments in the history of souls, and we must be watching for these moments.
“Behold, now is the day of salvation.”
If I knew how you could become rich and prosperous, I would certainly tell you about it. It is a strange thing that when we know how men may become Christians, and have their sins forgiven, our lips are so often sealed. It is easy to talk about almost everything under the sun, but when we begin to talk about Christ, a strange expression comes into our faces and our voices take on a forced tone. I am preaching to myself about this, as well as to my brother ministers and to all the Christians. Why do we not talk naturally and urgently about Christ?
I plead with you all to join hands with me and unite your faith with mine. Let us go out and talk to men urgently, and tell them that “now is the accepted time.” I never mean to preach unkindly to anyone. I would not preach unkindly to you if you were a sinner. I do not expect to preach with fists clenched. I remember a lesson that I learned when I was preaching before the professors in the theological seminary. The text of my sermon was: “What lack I yet?” No doubt I was very severe. When I had finished, one of the old professors, a very kind man, said gently to me: “Brother Chapman, you will never win your way in the ministry like that. Don’t preach that way. Double up your fists at men and they will double up their fists at you.” I mean to speak kindly; nevertheless, I shall speak directly and sharply. I may say some things that will make you cringe. I shall say some things that will uncover hidden sins, but I promise you this, that I shall say them with a warm heart and sometimes with a sob.
May I pause to say to the ministers that we are apt to forget that our principal business is winning souls. We think that we must build up the saints. Ministers must be on the watch for the critical moment: for the accepted time in the history of souls. Alas, for any minister who is not watching thus. When we were in Scotland, I had a little time at my disposal, and I used it in reading the lives of Scotch ministers of different denominations. I read the life of Thomas Chalmers. One day Chalmers went to visit a man past eighty. He knew that he was not a Christian. He sat and talked with him a long time with never a word about his soul. In the night there came to Dr. Chalmers a hurried message telling him that the man was dead. He hurried away to the home. This is what he says: “I made my way to the house and walked up and down the room with tears. I asked the man’s family to forgive me, and then I went out and walked in the woods until morning came. Oh, my God, if I had only been true.”
A man came into my study in Albany and said to me: “Will you come and talk to a young man who is dying?” On the way the man said to me: The young man is dying of consumption, and you must not speak to him about death.” I sat by his bed and talked to him for some time. We talked about music, in which he was interested. We discussed politics. Then the visit ended, and I said good-bye. I can feel his cold hand in mine even to this moment. As I walked to the door and looked back, I caught a glimpse of his white face and deep-set eyes. They searched me through and through. I went home, but early the next morning I went back to the sick man’s house. I was just entering his bedroom when someone said to me: “He died yesterday, an hour after you were here.” I would give anything if I had spoken to him. I do not know whether he died in the faith or not. “Now is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation.” Anyone of us ministers would feel complimented if men should say: He is like Paul. Would not that be wonderful? I would like to resemble Paul in this. It is said that he went from house to house saying to men and women: “I beseech you to be reconciled to God.” It is said that when he wrote he stained his manuscript with his tears. If some of us should begin to do that and should go from house to house, and from man to man, saying: “Behold, now is the accepted time,” how long do you think it would be before this city would be stirred? It is a pity that parents forget that this is the “day of salvation” for their children. There are men and women here who would do anything for their children. There is not anything that you would not give them, education, books, travel. But let me ask you, how many of you parents here to-night have spoken to your children about Jesus Christ ? You say the minister will win them, or the Sunday School teacher, or the evangelist. I would be ashamed if I thought anybody in this world had more influence with my children than I. It is a dreadful thing to rear children and never try to win them to Jesus Christ.
There trudged along a Scotch highway years ago a little, old-fashioned mother. By her side was her boy. The boy was going out into the world. At last the mother stopped. She could go no farther. “Robert,” she said,” promise me something?” “What?” asked the boy. “Promise me something?” said the mother again. The boy was as Scotch as his mother, and he said: “You will have to tell me before I will promise.” She said: “Robert, it is something you can easily do. Promise your mother?” He looked into her face and said: “Very well, mother, I will do anything you wish.” She clasped her hands behind his head and pulled his face down close to hers, and said: “Robert, you are going out into a wicked world. Begin every day with God. Close every day with God.” Then she kissed him, and Robert Moffat says that that kiss made him a missionary. And Joseph Parker says that when Robert Moffat was added to the Kingdom of God, a whole continent was added with him. There are critical times in the history of souls.” “Now is the accepted time; now is the day of salvation.” If you are a father, go home this evening and speak to your boy. If your own life has been inconsistent, tell your boy so. You will win him to Christ. The influence of a father upon a boy is wonderful. Fathers and mothers, why don’t you win your children to Christ? You Christian workers, how you let opportunity slip! An opportunity missed is a tragedy in one’s life.
When we were in Belfast, Ireland, I said in one of the afternoon meetings — everybody who was converted in ’57 and ’59 stand up. A great many white-haired people arose. Afterwards a man came to the inquiry room and rose for prayer. He said: “I was converted in ’57, and I had two years of great joy in the Christian life. One night God came to me and said: Go and speak to such a one, twelve miles away. I did not go. He called again, and I did not go. In a day or so, a letter came to me telling me that the man was dead. He died unsaved.” There was an agonizing expression in the man’s face as he told his story. It was a picture of sadness that no artist could have painted. With trembling lips, he said: “All these years since that time, I have had a great sorrow in my soul.” I saw him drop on his knees and heard him sob like a little child. “Now is the accepted time.”
In Peoria, Illinois, a man said to Mr. Wm. Reynolds: “Mr. Reynolds, why have you not asked me to be a Christian? Did you know I was not a Christian? “Mr. Reynolds replied: “Yes, I knew you were not a Christian.” “Well,” said the man, “did you care?” “Yes, I have cared all the time I have known you.” “Why, then, did you not ask me,” said the man. “Well,” said Mr. Reynolds, “if you will come to my office now, I will spend the rest of the day with you.” Then the man smiled and said: “I was converted yesterday.” He told the story of how he was converted. He entered a train in Chicago, and took the only unoccupied seat in the car. Just as the train was pulling out, a burly sort of a man entered and sat alongside him. He dropped his traveling bag, and took out a book and began to read. It was the Bible. After a while he closed the Bible and looked out of the window, and said: “What a wonderful day.” The other man replied, “Very wonderful.” Then the big man saw the harvests in the fields, and said to his companion: “You have fine harvests out here.” “Yes” was the reply, “very wonderful.” Then he added: “Is not God good to give such harvests as these?” There was no reply. “Why, are not you a Christian?” said the big man. “No, sir,” was the reply. “Why, how could you not be a Christian? Read this.” And with this he opened his Bible and began to read him some verses. Presently he said to him: “Why don’t you bow your head on the back of the seat in front, and let me pray with you?” Telling his story, the man said: “Before I knew it my head was bowed and his arm was around me. When I lifted my head, I was a saved man. The train stopped at a station, and the man started out. He was almost gone, and I remembered that I did not know his name. I rushed to the car door, and put my hands to my lips and shouted — ‘What is your name?’ He looked over his shoulder and said one word — ‘Moody.”‘
It is said of Mr. Moody that he never let a day go by without speaking to somebody about Christ. He went to bed one night and could not sleep. Twenty minutes after eleven, and still no sleep. A quarter to twelve, and he was still awake. He had not kept his promise. He arose and dressed himself, and rushed out of the house. As he turned the corner he ran into a man who said something that I cannot repeat in public. Mr. Moody shouted out to him: “Are you a Christian?” The man said: “None of your business.” Mr. Moody said: “Why, yes, it is my business.” The man squared himself up and said: “If it is your business, then I know your name. Your name is D. L. Moody.” It was a marvelous thing that a man could be so true to Christ, so loyal to his Master, that a man who met him in the dark knew who he was when he spoke about the Savior.
I do not know whether I shall ever preach again. I must speak this text to you, with the greatest emphasis of which I am capable. “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Why don’t you take Him? Tell me, friends, why don’t you take Him? Why don’t you accept my Savior? An old woman walked down the steps of a Boston police station and caught her heel and fell. They put her in the patrol wagon and took her to the hospital. A doctor, bending over her, said: “She will not live.” She heard him say it, and spoke: “In the little package I brought to the hospital you will find a picture. It is a picture of my boy. He ran away from home in Colorado, and I sold my property and have searched for him everywhere. I have been going to police stations and hospitals, but I have not found him. I want to leave this picture with you. If you should see my precious boy, tell him that there were two in this world who never gave him up.” The doctor bent over her and said: “Nurse, she is going.” Then the nurse stooped down and said: “Mother, tell me the names of the two so that I may tell him.” She lifted her face, lighted already with the light of heaven, and said in a whisper: “Tell him that God and his mother never gave him up.” Then she was gone.
My God whose love fills this Book; my God who gave His Son to die, has not given you up yet. Your sweet old mother, your dear father, your wife, your friends, your minister, none of them have given you up. Let us pray.
Blessed God, our Father, in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior, we pray for everybody here who is unsaved. We pray especially for those who have said: I want you to pray for me. Oh, God, help them all and bless them. Do not let any of us be indifferent to the opportunities sent us of God. Bless all the ministers and workers. May there fall upon us such a blessing as we have never known before. Graciously use us these days, in Jesus’ name. Amen.