These words of Jesus, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” tell what is wrong with every atheist, agnostic or infidel.
The trouble is not that they CANNOT believe, but that they WILL NOT believe. The trouble is not with the intellect, but with the heart, the will.
The truth was wonderfully illustrated with a great meeting which D. L. Moody and Sankey had in East London in 1883 or 1884.
One Monday evening was reserved for an address to atheists, skeptics and freethinkers. Atheists’ clubs, led by Charles Bradlaugh, accepted the challenge and came five thousand strong to fill the building except room reserved for ministers and workers.
The late Mr. George Soltau tells of that wonderful service in these words:
"The service commenced earlier than usual. After the preliminary singing, Mr. Moody asked the men to choose their favorite hymns, which suggestion raised many a laugh, for atheists have no song or hymn.
The meeting got well underway. Mr. Moody spoke from “Their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges” (Deut. 32:31). He poured in a broadside of telling, touching incidents from his own experience of the deathbeds of Christians and atheists, and let the men be the judges as to who had the best foundation on which to rest faith and hope.
Reluctant tears were wrung from many an eye. The great mass of men, with the darkest, most determined defiance of God stamped upon their countenances, faced this running fire attacking them in their most vulnerable points; namely, their hearts and homes.
But when the sermon was ended, one felt inclined to think nothing had been accomplished, for it had not appealed to their intellects, or their reasoning faculties had convinced them of nothing.
At the close Mr. Moody said, “We will rise and sing ‘Only Trust Him,’and while we do so, will the ushers open all the doors so that any man who wants to leave can do so; and after that we will have the usual inquiry meeting for those who desire to be led to the Saviour.” I thought, All will stampede, and we shall only have an empty hall. But instead, the great mass of five thousand men rose, sang and sat down again—not one man vacating his seat!
“I Can’t!” “I Won’t!”
What next? Mr. Moody then said, “I will explain four words: receive, believe, trust, take HIM.” A broad grin pervaded all that sea of faces. After a few words upon “receive,” he made the appeal, “Who will receive Him? Just say, ‘I will.’”
From the men standing round the edge of the hall came some fifty responses, but not one from the mass seated before him. One man growled, “I can’t,” to which Mr. Moody replied, “You have spoken the truth, my man; glad you spoke. Listen, and you will be able to say ‘I can’ before we are through.”
Then he explained the word “believe” and made his second appeal: “Who will say, ‘I will believe Him’?” Again some responded from the fringe of the crowd, till one big fellow, a leading club man, shouted, “I won’t.” Dear Mr. Moody, overcome with tenderness and compassion, burst into broken, tearful words, half sobs, “It is ‘I will’ or ‘I won’t’ for every man in this hall tonight.”
The Atheists Confounded
Then he suddenly turned the whole attention of the meeting to the story of the Prodigal Son,saying, “The battle is in the will, and only there. When the young man said, ‘I will arise,’ the battle was won, for he had yielded his will; and on that point all hangs tonight.
Men, you have your champion there in the middle of the hall, the man who said, ‘I won’t.’ I want every man here who believes that man is right to follow him and to rise and say, ‘I won’t.’” There was perfect silence and stillness; all held their breath, till as no man rose, Moody burst out, “Thank God, no man says, ‘I won’t.’ Now, who’ll say, ‘I will’?”
In an instant the Holy Spirit seemed to have broken loose upon that great crowd of enemies of Jesus Christ, and five hundred men sprang to their feet, their faces raining down with tears, shouting, “I will, I will,” till the whole atmosphere was changed and the battle was won.
Quickly the meeting was closed that personal work might begin. And from that night till the end of the week nearly two thousand men were swung out from the ranks of the foe into the army of the Lord, by the surrender of their wills. They heard His “rise and walk,” and they followed Him.
The permanency of that work was well attested for years afterward, and the clubs never recovered their footing. God swept them away in His mercy and might by the Gospel. (From The Sword Book of Treasures)
Dear sinner who reads this, do not deceive yourself. Your trouble is not in your head, that you cannot believe; but in your heart, that you will not!
This truth needs to be pondered well, for it proves the depravity of the human heart. It proves that men are wicked sinners, alien from God, enemies of God by nature. If men were naturally good, then they would choose to come to Christ, choose to be forgiven, choose to be redeemed. Since they are wicked sinners by choice, they will not come to Jesus that they might have life.
How wicked the human heart that will not take mercy when it is offered, will not accept the salvation purchased at such a price—the blood of God’s own Son!
Surely this is one of the saddest sayings in the Bible, “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.”