That one can resist the Spirit and grieve Him away and be doomed and damned while yet living, is a Bible teaching, and has been the fate of some down through the centuries. "He, that being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy." Pro_29:1. "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near." Isa_55:6. I relate here some incidents that have come in our own work in the last twenty-five years. These are only a few out of many. Just after I had finished my first year's work as a conference preacher, and had been returned to our circuit, we visited our old home and relatives, as the conference was held near where Mrs. McBride and I were reared.
A Baptist meeting had been in progress for two weeks, and great conviction was on many who had not yielded. I had known the minister from childhood; and as the people all knew me, I was asked to bring the closing message of the meeting. I reluctantly consented. Remembering that "a prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin," I was the more reluctant, but thought that if I did my best it would please the Lord, and so undertook it. The meeting was held under a brush-arbor, and as it was well announced the crowd was large. I cannot recall my text; but a pall settled down over the audience, and conviction was tremendous. About twenty souls had come to the altar when I noticed a young man whom I had known all my life, standing against a large post. He was pale with conviction and trembling like an aspen leaf in an autumn breeze. I felt impelled to go and ask him to come to the altar. Walking down the aisle to him, and taking him by the hand, I said, "Willie, come to the altar and give your heart to God." He was trembling and said, "Not tonight." But I insisted, but he strengthened his resistance, saying, "Not tonight, Ben." I replied, "But, Willie, this might be your last chance! You may be dead and in eternity in a month!" He looked at me sternly, and said, "Now, Ben, do not try to scare me, I am only twenty-four years old, weigh two hundred, am in good health; and do not think that you can scare me." I replied, "I am not trying to scare you," and with tear bedimmed eyes I returned to the altar, and he was left alone. After quite a few were saved at the altar, the meeting closed.
Having taken the management of some business to make some settlements with some parties entangled with a mercantile company, with which I had some relation before I went into the ministry, and being asked to go to Oklahoma and make a settlement for the company, which they had not been able to accomplish, I took Mrs. McBride and went to Durant. We were gone just about a month, and returned to see our people before going to our work on the circuit. When we returned, we met a lady who had been a neighbor to Willie. After we greeted each other, it came into my mind to ask how everybody was. She said, "All have been well except Willie; he died." It almost unnerved me, and of course we wanted to know if he got saved. Then the lady told the sad story of his death. She said, "Ben, I never want to see another unsaved soul die. He was sick only a few days; and as death approached, he realized that he must die. His wife and two babies and his father and mother and some friends were standing around the bed, and he said to all, 'This house is full of devils. Do you not hear the rattling of the chains? They have come to bind my soul and take it to hell. I cannot afford to die!' Fighting for his life, tossing back and forth with a look of despair on his face, in awful agony, he cried, 'I cannot afford to die!' Making the last death struggle, he clutched the board of his bed and died in indescribable torment." Some years after, we related this incident in another state, in a city church; and a man took me home with him and told me the story over, as he was there when Willie died. He said that he asked God not to let him witness the death of another sinner. I asked him if they prayed. He said, "No; no one could pray, it seemed futile to try." How we loved Willie! He was a good, congenial young man, but resisted the Spirit and crossed the dead line.
Some years ago while engaged in a camp meeting in the state of Ohio, one night I gave a message of warning, and showed what sin would do for people here, and how it would result in eternal death to the soul. The Holy Ghost pervaded the very atmosphere, and a solemnity like a fearful pall came over the people, while we were calling penitents and many came to the altar. I felt led to make what I call a "death call;" all bowed their heads in judgment silence to let the Spirit speak to every heart, and then all were to act as if it were the last chance. Only a few more came. I paused a moment to get the mind of the Spirit, and He said to me, "Step out there on the altar bench and tell the people that there is someone here who will be dead and in eternity before another service is held under the tabernacle." There was in the audience a practicing physician, standing down the aisle a little way. He turned pale and looked so convicted that two Christian ladies who were acquainted with him noticed it, and went to him and tried to get him to go to the altar and get right with God. He said to them, "If I were to try to get right, it would cost me all I possess and I would be a pauper tomorrow, and there are things that I cannot make right; I will not go. They insisted; but he absolutely refused to obey the Spirit, and left the service. The meeting closed and all retired, but there was much talk amongst the people about my awful statement, and many conjectures as to what effect it would have on the camp meeting if my prophecy did not come true. This is only one of a very few times in all my life, as a Christian, that I was led to make such a positive statement with reference to a soul, and I said it in tears, and gave the warning. I well knew that it would invite criticism and censure, but I had to obey the Lord. All I could say, was that I knew the Spirit had led me to say it, and though I am far from making such statements ordinarily, yet I have to mind the Lord when I am sure it is of Him. The next morning I was called from the table to the telephone, about eight o'clock. When I asked what was wanted, I was informed that the physician who refused to give his heart to God in that service was dead, and that his soul had gone to meet its God. He went home from that service and, after putting his horse and buggy away, he retired to his room in the hotel where he stayed. He closed his door and locked it, threw himself across the bed and shot himself. When he did not respond to a caller, the proprietor of the hotel broke the door open, to find him cold in death. At the eleven o'clock service the next morning, before I took my text I was requested to announce the funeral of this man. He had crossed the dead line and was in eternity before another service was held under the tabernacle, as had been prophesied. Rev. Joseph E. Bates, who was leading the singing in the camp meeting, and who is still living, remembers it. It does not pay to trifle with God.
I shall never forget one time when I was engaged in a meeting in the State of M__, where the Lord was working mightily. Unusual conviction was on the people, and destinies were being fixed for Heaven or hell, as the case is where the Gospel of power is preached and the Spirit has a clean channel through which to work. The Word of God is a savor of life unto life, or of death unto death. Choices must be made that determine weal or woe. I want to speak of three souls who crossed the dead line in this meeting.
One night when there was tremendous conviction on, a man came and gave me his hand. He was so convicted that I felt he must not go back to his seat, but stay and seek the Lord. He did not want to stay, and I did my best to persuade him to give his heart to God, saying, "My dear Sir, it may be your last chance." He trembled from head to foot, but would not surrender. Before I got out of the community, he sickened one morning at eleven o'clock, and died in awful agony at eleven o'clock that night, a lost soul. When friends tried to get him to look to God for mercy, he said, "The other night when I refused to surrender in Brother McBride's meeting, the Spirit left me and I am lost forever;" and in a few moments his soul went to its eternity of night. The Lord saith, "My spirit shall not always strive with man.
One night a young man by the name of A__, came to the altar. He had been there a few nights seeking, but this time he refused to kneel with us. He was under deep conviction as was evident to all who saw him. His father and mother were very elderly people and deeply concerned about his soul. One stood on either side of him, each trying to persuade him to kneel; but he stouted it out and returned to his seat. He was a single man and took great interest in his parents. He was a conductor on a through freight that ran from P to St. L. He would always take siding for the through passengers to pass his train; if all were on time, he took siding in his home town. While he was waiting for the trains he would run just a few rods from the track to his old home, and chat with his father, mother, and others who might chance to be there. Shortly after the meeting closed he was making his run, and as usual he side-tracked his train, for the passenger to go by, and went over and had a talk with his parents. He had a habit of getting out of the caboose window and walking up the train, waving his lantern, a good-night to father, mother, and neighbors, when signaling his engineer to pull on the main line. This he was doing the night we are speaking of. His parents and others were watching him wave good-night, when suddenly his light disappeared. A fear that something had surely happened, seized those who were watching, as railroad lights seldom ever go out so suddenly. People went from their homes over to the tracks, with lanterns in hand, to see if anything had happened to A . It was found that he had missed his step and fallen between heavily loaded box cars, and the wheels had run over his body and had killed him instantly. His aged parents, seeing that the people were gathering and were not dispersing, feared it might be that their boy was hurt or killed, and proceeded to go slowly (as his father was very feeble) to the scene. When they got there and saw that A__ was killed, it was more than they could bear; they cried, saying, "My God, how can we ever stand it." The grief was unbearable, especially for his father. He swooned away saying, "If A__ had! If A__ had! If A__ had! If A__ had got saved, we might have stood it." He lived a year or two after that, but never fully recovered from the awful shock. At times he would say, "If A__ had! Oh, if A__ had!" These people were good friends of mine and remained so until their death, and the relatives who are still living are good friends of mine. I relate this sad true story to show the reader that it is possible for one to cross the dead line; but hope that the Lord may use it to get others to take warning and not run the risk of losing their souls by saying "No" to the Spirit, or by deferring salvation until tomorrow. The dead line may be right before you; one step may take you over. Heed the warning, and make sure your salvation today!
In this same meeting many souls had been saved and sanctified wholly, and there was great opposition created against holiness. The wife of the richest man in this little town became indignant against holiness, because quite a few of her best friends had embraced the experience. Her husband also was bitter, and had gone to the extreme, inviting people to let them alone, and telling those whom they once counted as their best friends that they did not want any old sanctified folks to come to their place, and that they should stay away. As the weeks passed by, they became more bitter and bold in their opposition. We knew them very well as we had gotten acquainted with them when we first went to the town, two years before. I got this story from a friend of theirs who lived near them. He said, "One morning the lady was sweeping the front porch of her beautiful home. She was fighting holiness, and saying bitter things against the work that was going on in the place (holiness work) to one of her neighbors who was there, when suddenly she dropped the broom, and fell to the floor. The visitor screamed and alarmed the neighbors and then ran to the phone and called the husband from his place of business. The friends gathered quickly, and Mr. G___ came running to his home to find his wife cold in death. "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him, but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Mat_12:32. I know personally, that this woman and her husband both had said many things in contempt about the Holy Ghost. She crossed the dead line and was destroyed suddenly, and that without remedy; and the last we heard of him he was still fighting holiness. We are aware that mercy endures a long time; but we also know that mercy ceases and that one can cross the dead line, if he continues to resist the Spirit's pleading. Dear reader, if you are not saved or sanctified, if you are not a Christian, flee to Jesus now.
In the month of August, 1918, in the State of K___ we were in a camp meeting where great crowds were gathering, and the Lord was working marvelously in our midst, and many souls were finding Christ in pardon and sanctification. One night I was preaching to two thousand people on the horrors of a lost soul, and I became so lost in my message that I ran down through the audience, and looked back, describing a soul lost in hell being chased by demons through the dark domain. I was crying, "Lost! Lost! Lost!" There was a stillness over the people, and some were running to the altar. A man about fifty-five years old, with his hair all streaked with gray, who had been a church member for thirty years, but had never been converted, was sitting on the end of a seat; and as I passed him, the Spirit said to him, "That is your photograph in eternity if you do not go to the altar and get saved." He ran trembling with fear and fell at the altar and wept and prayed until 11 o'clock; but he did not get through, and left for his home five miles away. Conviction deepened and instead of retiring to sleep, he prayed all night, and about 5 o'clock in the morning was gloriously converted. Rev. A. S. Clark, of Winfield, Kansas, was leading the singing, and he and I were in the preachers' cottage preparing to go to breakfast, when this man came riding at good speed on his mule, up to the camp ground. Alighting, he ran into our cottage, and shouted, "Thank God, I am saved and I came over here to have a praise service with you!" We all had a great time that morning. After breakfast, Mr. H__, returned to his home and brought his wife, daughter, and son to the camp meeting on Saturday. They were all unsaved. The daughter was about eighteen and the son about twenty-one. He seated them on the third seat back in the audience. Great streams of salvation were flowing, and conviction was tense. After I had delivered the morning message, he went to his family and invited them to the altar to get saved. Others who were deeply interested in them went also and invited them. The mother and the daughter yielded to the Spirit, went to the altar, and were beautifully converted; but the son, pale with conviction, would not yield. At the night service he was urged to yield by his loved ones and friends, but he stubbornly refused. On Sunday the mother and the daughter were sanctified wholly. That night the camp meeting closed with a great sweep of victory.
In October, following, the influenza struck the country, sweeping millions into eternity on short notice. When the camp meeting in 1919 came on in August, we returned to the camp for our fifth time. Mrs. McBride was with me this time and well remembers the story told by Brother H___; besides there are many others who know the sad story. On the first Sunday morning of the camp meeting, in the love feast or testimony meeting, Brother H___ arose and said, "Friends, I was wonderfully converted here at the camp meeting last summer, and I have not knowingly sinned this year, although I am not sanctified. I have had a "heap" of trouble this year. Last October the influenza struck my home, and my wife was taken with it and in forty-eight hours she was dying. I stood by her bedside, and just before she died, she said, 'Papa, I want to thank you for taking me to the old C camp meeting last August where I got saved and sanctified. Now I am going to Heaven, and I am so happy;' and she died. In another day or two the influenza seized my daughter, and in forty-eight hours she asked someone to call me to her bedside. I went to her. She said, 'Papa, I am dying, and going to Heaven, and I wanted to thank you before going for taking me to the camp meeting so I could get saved and sanctified;' and she died in glorious triumph." Then he stopped a moment, and sobbed like a child of seven summers; then in sobs finished the story. He said, "I hate to say it, but my neighbors all know it. My son was suddenly seized with the influenza, and in another forty-eight hours died without hope. He had no testimony, and died without God as far as we know. I cannot help it," he said between sobs, "I have done my best. But," he said, "I am so thankful for this old camp ground, and I am going to get sanctified." He was beautifully sanctified that day, and the Comforter came in to comfort him in his sorrow. This young man could have been saved, for his mother and sister sat by his side and the same Spirit dealt with all alike; but they yielded, went to the altar, and are in Heaven; he refused, crossed the dead line, and lost his soul.
Several years ago, while engaged in a camp meeting in the South, we had some wonderful times of salvation, and great crowds came to hear the Gospel. I can see them now as they came in automobiles, mule wagons, ox wagons, buggies, on foot, and on horseback, through the woods and over the red hills, and through white sands to the big shingle tabernacle. Praying could be heard out in the woods and shouts under the tabernacle, and the Lord walked over the camp ground to smite sin heavily. I shall never forget this meeting if I should live a thousand years; in fact, I will remember it in eternity. One night toward the close of the camp meeting, I preached from these words, "The end of the age is at hand." Rev_22:10. At the conclusion, I was describing the clock of the soul's probation, comparing it with the clock of probation of time, or this age. I said that just as the clock hands of time's probation in this age reach their highest number and the eve of eternity sets in, and this probationary age is forever closed; so when the hands of your soul's clock of probation reach their highest number, the death knell will be struck, and the eve of your eternity will set in. It was one of those times when God pulls an extra train of salvation through, and gives folks an extraordinary chance to board the train for Heaven; a time when it means much not to take advantage of the opportunity. As I closed the sermon, I took out my watch and as my eyes fell on the hands, it was just five minutes past nine o'clock, I felt led to say, "There may be some soul here tonight, the hands on the clock of whose soul's probation may have reached eleven fifty-nine, and this may be the last chance for you; and if you say 'NO' to the Spirit, you may hear my voice in hell's dark night a million years from now, if it could be measured by time's measurement, saying, 'Five minutes past nine, and I am lost! Five minutes past nine, and I am lost!' " I repeated this sentence several times; it seemed that I could not get past it. Many came to the altar, and there was such praying as one seldom hears, and some were getting through. Suddenly a lady sprang to her feet and came running down the aisle towards the altar, screaming and wringing her hands, saying, "FIVE MINUTES PAST NINE, AND I AM LOST." At every step she paused a moment, and ran around the platform, and down the other aisle, and back to the altar crying, "FIVE MINUTES PAST NINE, AND I AM LOST!" She then stopped long enough to tell her story. She said, "When you were making the call and said that some one might hear your voice in eternity a million years from now, saying, 'Five minutes past nine, and I am lost,' the Spirit said to me, 'Now is your time.' But I refused. And the Spirit persuaded, saying, 'Now is your chance.' I said, 'I will not go tonight,' and the Spirit left me and I am lost!" She ran out into the darkness, crying, "Five minutes past nine, and I am lost! Five minutes past nine, and I am lost!" The last time I heard her, she said in a voice that was dying in the distance, "Five minutes past nine, and I am lost!" Years have come and gone, and I have not heard from her, nor do I expect to see her until we meet at the Judgment bar of God. But no doubt, she crossed the dead line that night when she would not obey the Spirit.
We were in a meeting in Providence, R. I., in the year 1920, the last of January and the first part of February, and God was in our services in great power to convict, convert, and sanctify. All was seemingly going well until the second Friday night when final decisions were to be made. The altar was being lined when the janitor of the church, who was backslidden under awful conviction, was arrested by the Spirit. We had formed his acquaintance and had been praying for his return to God, and also a large number of saints had been praying. The song evangelist, who had known him for many years and who wanted to see him return to Christ, left the platform and invited him forward. His friend insisted, but the man refused to come. The pastor of the church, Rev. D__, who is one of my good friends, and was a good friend of the janitor at that time, and would have given anything to see him get back to God, went and labored with him, too. I did not see either of them go to him and, feeling impelled to go and invite him, I went to him; and putting my arm around his neck and pulling him to my heart, I said, "Brother K__, I love you, but the Lord loves you more than I. Brother K__ I want to see you saved, but the Lord wants to see you saved more than I. Come to the altar and surrender." He thanked me for my interest, but told me that he would not go then. I insisted, but seeing that he was becoming indignant, I said, "I will pray for you." I started back to the altar, and he started toward the door. Brother D___ overtook him, and said to him, "Do not leave the house, you may never be here again." He looked at Brother D___ defiantly, and said, "Sir, I will take the chance." He was seemingly in the best of health, comparatively young, and stalwart, a good man without salvation. He took pneumonia influenza before morning, and at nine o'clock Saturday morning was hurried away to the hospital. On Sunday the pastor of the church received a phone message that he was on the "danger list," and asked that we pray for him. Monday he was growing worse; and on Tuesday afternoon, on our way to the service, Brother D___ and I went to the hospital to see him. He was in such a state of mind that we could not talk to him with any degree of satisfaction. When we tried to talk to him about Jesus or salvation, it so distressed him that the nurse refused to let us say very much, or to pray for him; in fact we had no spirit to pray a prayer of faith for him; it was too dark. His suffering was indescribable. How sad it made us both! As we left, we said one to the other, "God save us from seeing anyone die without hope in Jesus." At 9 o'clock that night, his soul crossed the line of worlds, and went into the presence of God, unprepared. In the meantime, one of his little children had died, and we had a double funeral in the home of his parents. I assisted Brother D___ by preaching the funeral sermon; but by request, in order not to add any more grief to the already grief-stricken wife, father, mother, relatives and friends, we did not refer to the deceased. We preached the Gospel, and tried to persuade the living to prepare for death. This is one of the most unpleasant tasks that I have ever had to perform as a minister, and I trust that I shall not have to preach the funeral of another lost soul! Poor soul, he took the chance, gambled with death, lost the game, and crossed the dead line! We have seen enough of like incidents in the past twenty years to make a large book if they were recorded. If you are unsaved remember, dear soul, that every step you take, and every time you say "NO" to mercy's call, you are approaching the DEAD LINE!