Greek: pos hemeis ekpheuxometha (1PFMI) telikautes amelesantes (AAPMPN) soterias etis archen labousa (AAPFSN) laleisthai (PPN) dia tou kuriou, hupo ton akousanton (AAPMPG) eis hemas ebebaiothe, (2SAPI)
Amplified: How shall we escape [appropriate retribution] if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation [as is now offered to us, letting it drift past us forever]? For it was declared at first by the Lord [Himself], and it was confirmed to us and proved to be real and genuine by those who personally heard [Him speak]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
Barclay: how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, a salvation of such a kind that it had its origin in the words of the Lord, and was then guaranteed to us by those who had heard it from his lips, (Westminster Press)
NLT: What makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation that was announced by the Lord Jesus himself? It was passed on to us by those who heard him speak, (NLT - Tyndale House)
Phillips: how shall we escape if we refuse to pay proper attention to the salvation that is offered us today? (Phillips: Touchstone)
Weymouth: how shall we escape if we are indifferent to a salvation as great as that now offered to us? This, after having first of all been announced by the Lord Himself, had its truth made sure to us by those who heard Him
Wuest: how is it possible for us to escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which salvation is of such a character as to have begun to be spoken at the first by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: how shall we escape, having neglected so great salvation? which a beginning receiving --to be spoken through the Lord--by those having heard was confirmed to us
HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE: pôs hêmeis ekpheuxometha: FMI: (He 4:1-note; He 4:11-note He 10:28,29 - note; He 12:25-note; Isaiah 20:6; Ezekiel 17:15,18; Matthew 23:33, Ro 2:3- note; 1Th 5:3- note; 1Pe 4:17-note; 1Pe 4:18-note; Re 6:16-note; Re 6:17-note)
How shall we escape? - Rhetorical! We won't if we miss the "Ark" of His great salvation! How anxious we all become when we are running late to catch a flight! How much more unnerved should those be who are in danger of missing this glorious flight!
See comments by F B Meyer on this verse from The Way into the Holiest - click
The Amplified version accurately phrases this rhetorical question (a question asked merely for effect with no answer expected) as: "How shall we escape [appropriate retribution] if we neglect and refuse to pay attention to such a great salvation [as is now offered to us, letting it drift past us forever]?"
Kenneth Wuest notes that " “How” is from pos which means “how is it possible?” The rhetorical question expresses a denial. There would be no escape. The word “we” in the Greek text is emphatic. The pronoun refers here to the first-century readers of this letter, its Jewish recipients. It is “we” to whom God spoke in One who in character is His Son, and who therefore have much more reason for giving heed."
Adam Clarke - "If they who had fewer privileges than we have, to whom God spoke in divers manners by angels and prophets, fell under the displeasure of their Maker, and were often punished with a sore destruction; how shall we escape wrath to the uttermost if we neglect the salvation provided for us, and proclaimed to us by the Son of God? Their offense was high; ours, indescribably higher."
Albert Barnes - "How shall we escape the just recompense due to transgressors? What way is there of being saved from punishment, if we suffer the great salvation to be neglected, and do not embrace its offers? The sense is, that there is no other way of salvation, and the neglect of this will be followed by certain destruction."
Spurgeon exhorts us to "Let that question ring in our ears, "How shall we escape?" There will be no escape, there can be none if we refuse the Lord Jesus. Do we mean to be lost? Dare we continue to neglect the great salvation?
Escape (1628) (ekpheugo from ek = out, from + pheugo = move quickly from a point; flee; run) means literally to flee out and so to flee out of a place and to escape. To seek safety in flight (Acts 16:27). To become free from danger by avoiding some peril (1 Thess 5:3)
The writer says there is no escape from the terrible consequences. In fact, if we think the consequences were stern for disregarding the Law, how much more catastrophic will the punishment be for ignoring the gospel?
Below are the 8 NT uses of ekpheugo:
Ekpheugo is used 6 times in the LXX, the use in Proverbs paralleling the truth of Hebrews 2:3…
We (hemeis) is an emphatic pronoun in this verse. Hemeis is used only 5x in Hebrews.
Vincent commenting on "we" writes that he refers to "We, to whom God has spoken by his Son, and who, therefore, have so much the more reason for giving heed."
Therefore its occurrence here is significant. It probably means "we, in contrast to those who had only the law," though it may be taken to mean "we, with our privileged position." Notice that the disaster that threatens is brought on by nothing more than neglect. It is not necessary to disobey any specific injunction. For had we done nothing when we were offered salvation, we would not have received it. This is the first of a number of warnings to the readers not to surrender their Christian profession, but to make Him their possession (so great a salvation).
IF WE NEGLECT: amelêsantes (AAPMPN):
Wuest - The words “if we neglect” have their primary reference to the Jews of the period in which the writer lived, who had outwardly left the temple sacrifices, had made a profession of Messiah as High Priest, and who under stress of persecution from apostate Judaism, were neglecting attendance upon the means of grace (Heb 10:25), were allowing themselves to drift by New Testament truth, were leaning back towards the First Testament, and were in danger of returning to the temple sacrifices, an act that would constitute the sin known as apostasy, from which there would be no recovery. The writer is trying to keep them from committing that sin.
If we neglect - as someone has said "The tragedy of life is not that it ends so soon, but that we wait so long to begin it." Here is a poem that originally was written by Gloria Pitzer (neglect has been substituted for procrastination)…
Neglect is my sin
Neglect (272) (ameleo from "a" = without + melo = to care for, to show concern, forethought or interest) means literally without care and thus showing no concern. To be careless. To be unconcerned about or to care nothing for something or someone.
The writer warns his readers against being careless, neglectful or unconcerned about the truths he is explaining
Ameleo describes the opposite attitude or response to the parallel verb prosecho (used in Hebrews 2:1) which calls for one to be in a continuous state of readiness to learn of a danger, need, error, etc, and to respond appropriately.
One of the two uses of ameleo in the OT Septuagint depicts Jehovah speaking of His promise of the New Covenant, declaring that it is "not according to the covenant (Mosaic) which I made with their fathers in the day when I took hold of their hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; for they abode not in my covenant, and I disregarded (ameleo) them, saith the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:32) (This is the English translation of the Septuagint and is the translated almost verbatim in Hebrews 8:9 (see below).
Below are the 4 uses of ameleo in NT:
John MacArthur exhorts every reader "Let it not be said of you that you neglected Jesus Christ. History tells us that failure to shoot a rocket at the precise time of night caused the fall of Antwerp, and Holland’s deliverance was delayed for twenty years. Only three hours neglect cost Napoleon the battle of Waterloo. Neglect of Christ’s salvation will cost you eternal blessing, eternal joy, and will bring you damning judgment and eternal punishment. Do not drift past God’s grace. (MacArthur, John: Hebrews. Moody Press)
Spurgeon -Not if we resist it, reject it, despise it, oppose it; but if we neglect it. If a man is in business, it is not necessary that he should commit forgery in order to fail; he can fail by simply neglecting his business. If a man is sick, he need not commit suicide by taking poison; he can do it just as surely by neglecting to take proper medicines. So is it in the things of God, neglect is as ruinous as distinct and open opposition: How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (Exposition on Hebrews 2-3) (Bolding added)
What is the problem if we neglect? Here are a few illustrative (and some very tragic) examples…
SO GREAT A SALVATION: têlikautês sôtêrias: (Heb 5:9; 7:25,26; Isaiah 12:2; 51:5,8; 62:11; Luke 1:69; John 3:16-18; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 1:15; Titus 2:11; Revelation 7:10)
So great (5082) (telikoutos = a strengthened form of telíkos = so great) is a word that makes reference to the size or degree of something and can be translated as "so large" (referring more to size) or as in the current verse "so great" (referring to degree, grade or "rank").
Telikoutos is used only four times in the NT and not in the Septuagint (non-apocryphal):
The tragic truth is that Hell is full of people who never actively opposed "the Way, the Truth and the Life", but who simply neglected the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. The truth is that one may know the truth and even "believe" the truth, in the sense of intellectually acknowledging its truthfulness. They are aware of the good news of salvation provided in Jesus Christ, but are not willing to genuinely place their faith in Christ. Beloved, although some might argue this point, there is a merely intellectual belief that does not lead to salvation (e.g., read about those Jews who believed in Jesus in John 8:30ff but who were ready to stone Him by the end of this chapter, John 8:59! Was their belief unto salvation? Even Charles Ryrie says their belief was "likely only a profession". Their actions hardly demonstrate it and Jesus Himself said their "father" was the devil - John 8:44!). So they drift past the call of God into eternal damnation. This tragedy makes these verses extremely important and urgent.
Albert Barnes - "It is not merely if we commit great sins. Not, if we are murderers, adulterers, thieves, infidels, atheists, scoffers. It is, if we merely “neglect” this salvation - if we do not embrace it - if we suffer it to pass unimproved. “Neglect” is enough to ruin a man. A man who is in business need not commit forgery or robbery to ruin himself; he has only to “neglect” his business, and his ruin is certain. A man who is lying on a bed of sickness, need not cut his throat to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” the means of restoration, and he will be ruined. A man floating in a skiff above Niagara, need not move an oar or make an effort to destroy himself; he has only to “neglect” using the oar at the proper time, and he will certainly be carried over the cataract. Most of the calamities of life are caused by simple “neglect.” By neglect of education children grow up in ignorance; by neglect a farm grows up to weeds and briars; by neglect a house goes to decay; by neglect of sowing, a man will have no harvest; by neglect of reaping, the harvest would rot in the fields. No worldly interest can prosper where there is neglect; and why may it not be so in religion? There is nothing in earthly affairs that is valuable that will not be ruined if it is not attended to - and why may it not be so with the concerns of the soul? Let no one infer, therefore, that because he is not a drunkard, or an adulterer, or a murderer, that, therefore, he will be saved. Such an inference would be as irrational as it would be for a man to infer that because he is not a murderer his farm will produce a harvest, or that because he is not an adulterer therefore his merchandise will take care of itself. Salvation would be worth nothing if it cost no effort - and there will be no salvation where no effort is put forth." (Barnes, A: Notes on the New Testament)
Wuest - The word “salvation” refers to salvation itself, not to the teaching concerning it.
Salvation (4991) (soteria from soter = Savior in turn from sozo = save, rescue, deliver) (Click here or here for in depth discussion of the related terms soter and sozo) describes the rescue or deliverance from danger, destruction and peril.
Salvation is a broader term in Greek than we often think of in English. Other concepts that are inherent in soteria include restoration to a state of safety, soundness, health and well being as well as preservation from danger of destruction.
Soteria is found 45 times in the NT (Luke 4x; John; Acts 6x; Romans 5x; 2 Corinthians 3x; Ephesians; Philippians 3x; 1 Thessalonians 2x; 2 Thessalonians; 2 Timothy 2x; Hebrews 7x; 1 Peter 4x; 2 Peter; Jude; Revelation 3x) and is translated in the NAS as: deliverance, 2; preservation, 1; salvation, 42. Note that soteria “salvation” is found seven times in Hebrews, more than in any other New Testament book.
The idea of salvation is that the power of God rescues people from the penalty of sin, which is spiritual death which is followed by eternal separation from the presence of His Glory. Salvation delivers the believer from the power of sin (see discussion on Romans 6-8 beginning at Romans 6:1-3)
Salvation carried tremendous meaning in Paul’s day, the most basic being “deliverance,” and it was applied to personal and national deliverance. The emperor was looked on as a "savior" as was the physician who healed you of illness.
It is interesting that Collin's (secular) dictionary defines "salvation" as
In short, this "so great a salvation" is not just escape from the penalty of sin but includes the ideas of safety, deliverance from slavery and preservation from danger or destruction.
In addition, this "so great a salvation" includes the idea of what is often referred to as the Three Tenses of Salvation (justification = past tense salvation = deliverance from sin's penalty, sanctification = present tense salvation = deliverance from sin's power and glorification = future tense salvation = deliverance from sin's presence). It follows that the discerning student will check the context to determine which of the three "tenses" a given use of soteria is referring to.
Mankind has continually looked for salvation of one kind or another. Greek philosophy had turned inward and begun to focus on changing man’s inner life through moral reform and self-discipline. The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus called his lecture room “the hospital for sick souls.” Epicurus called his teaching “the medicine of salvation.” Seneca taught that all men were looking ad salutem (“toward salvation”) and that men are overwhelmingly conscious of their weakness and insufficiency in necessary things and that we therefore need “a hand let down to lift us up”. Seneca was not far from the truth as Scripture testifies
Salvation through Christ is God’s powerful hand extended down to lost souls to lift them up.
In context of Hebrews 1, this great salvation has first of all such a great Savior, Who has completed the purification for our sins (which deserved death) & has furnished us with His ministering angels to help those who will inherit salvation. This salvation was first spoken thru the Lord Jesus (it not so clearly spoken in the OT)
Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament entry has the following interesting description of the word group ("salvation") as it was used in secular Greek. As you read through these various uses, see if you can identify any spiritual parallels (you will be intrigued I think)…
AFTER IT WAS AT FIRST SPOKEN THROUGH THE LORD: hetis arche labousa (AAPFSN) laleisthai (PPN) dia tou kuriou: (Heb 1:2; Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14; Luke 24:19; Acts 2:22)
Spurgeon - They could not trifle with the angels’ message without receiving just punishment from God. Much less, then, can we trifle with Christ’s gospel. We have not au angelic saviour; but God himself, in the person of his Son, has deigned to be the Mediator of the new covenant. Therefore, let us see to it that we do not trifle with these things.
This Greek sentence is difficult to translate into intelligible English but reads literally something like "having received a beginning to be spoken" or "having begun to be spoken." Apparently this was a common Greek (Koiné) idiom (or language peculiar to the first century Greeks but difficult to translate into another language).
John Calvin writes a pithy note reminding us that…
Lord (kurios) Jesus is Lord and He is superior to angels. The Lord Jesus Christ was and is God's full revelation and He is the source of this new and superior revelation.
IT WAS CONFIRMED TO US: hupo ton akousanton eis hemas ebebaiothe (3SAPI): (Mark 16:15-19; Luke 1:2; 24:47,48; John 15:27; Acts 1:22; 10:40-42)
Confirmed (950) (bebaioo from bébaios = sure, fixed, standing firm on the feet, steadfast, maintaining firmness or solidity. In classical Greek from the 5th cent. B.C. bebaios acquires the meaning of firm, durable, unshakeable, sure, reliable, certain; and in the legal sphere, valid, legal <> bebaios is derived from baino = fit to tread on = having a firm foundation) is a verb which means to make sure or certain, to prove valid or reliable or to verify and (in legal language) to guarantee.
The writer is saying that the word of this great salvation is put beyond doubt. It is guaranteed. It has been made firm and reliable so as to warrant security and inspire confidence. It produces an inner solidity.
One of the two LXX uses of bebaioo in a prayer by the psalmist parallels the use in Hebrews 2:3:
Bebaioo was used in secular Greek as a legal technical term meaning "to designate properly guaranteed security". Its use in a legal sense therefore gives it great force here, indicating that there cannot be the slightest doubt about the salvation offered. The main point then is that this is truth that can be trusted without hesitation or reservation.
The 8 NT uses of bebaioo…
Marvin Vincent says that this means that…
Spurgeon was fully convinced of the truth of God's word writing that…
The writer conveys to his readers the truth that one can stake their eternal destiny on the Word spoken through Jesus.
Have you dear reader received the Word of truth implanted which is able to save your soul from eternal destruction? If not, then please do not be careless and neglect this great salvation another day. It is as true today as when Paul spoke it to the Philippian jailer that if you
"Believe in the Lord Jesus…
BY THOSE WHO HEARD: hupo tôn akousantôn:
Heard (191) (akouo) means not just to hear sounds per se but implies hearing with attention or hearing so to speak with the "ear of one's mind". “To hear” implies “to obey.”
The words of the gospel of salvation were first spoken by Christ, then confirmed in writing by His apostles and thus there was only one generation between Jesus and the writer.
Paul for example got his message directly from Christ as he recorded in his letter to the Galatians writing that…
Hebrews 1:3-4 can be depicted as follows:
The writer perceives that under the pressure some were “going with the flow”—they were drifting away. They had not rejected Christ outright, but they were, in fact, ignoring Him. Their anchors, so to speak, were up, and they did not even realize they were moving away on the deceptive tides.
Ryrie feels that Hebrews 2:2-4 presents a contrast between law and grace (Hebrews 2:2 referring to the Mosaic Law): "The revelation of grace in contrast to law came through the Lord ("For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ." John 1:17) and was confirmed to the writer and readers of Hebrews by those who heard Him and by God, Who authenticated it by signs and wonders." (The Ryrie Study Bible)
|R A Torrey has the following message from Hebrews 2:3
A Question that Should Startle Every Man Who is Not a Christian
“How shall we escape,
I have a text to-night which I believe God has given me for this hour, a text that ought to startle every man and woman in this building who has not accepted the Gospel of Christ. You will find it in Hebrews 2:3: “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” I wish that that text would burn itself into the heart of every man and woman in this house who is out of Christ, “How shall I escape if I neglect so great salvation?” I wish that every man and woman that may go away from this place to-night without definitely having received Christ as their Saviour and Lord and Master would hear it ringing in their ears as they go down the street, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” I wish that every one that may lie down to sleep to-night without a definite assurance of sins forgiven through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and of acceptance before God in Him, would hear it all through the night, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” Our text sets forth the folly and guilt of neglecting the salvation that God has sent to us in and through His Son Jesus Christ, and that is my subject to-night. My sermon is all in the text—the folly and guilt of neglecting the salvation that God the Father has sent through His Son and in His Son Jesus Christ.
You notice I say not merely the folly but the guilt. There is many a man who thinks that perhaps it may be a foolish thing not to accept Christ, and admits the folly of it, but he has never realized the guilt of it. But I shall endeavour to show you to-night in the unfolding of this text that it is not merely an egregiously foolish thing, but that it is an appalling wicked thing to neglect this salvation.
I. The Greatness of the Salvation
We see the folly and guilt of neglecting this salvation, in the first place, by a consideration of the greatness of the salvation. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”
1. We see the greatness of the salvation first of all in the way in which the salvation was given.
God sent His Son, His only Son, down into the world to proclaim this salvation. As we read in the preceding chapter, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners, spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; who, being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Have you ever thought of it in the light of the context, that when God, in infinite condescension, the great and infinitely holy God, sent down His own Son to proclaim pardon to the vilest sinner, if you and I neglect this salvation we are pouring contempt upon the Son of God, and upon the Father that sent Him? If God had spoken this salvation by the lips only of inspired prophets, it would have a right to demand our attention. If God had gone above prophets, and had spoken this salvation by the lips of angels sent down from Heaven, it would have a still greater right to demand our attention. But when God, in His infinite condescension, sent not merely prophets or angels, but sent His own Son, the only begotten one, the express image of His person, God manifest in the flesh, to proclaim this salvation, and you and I do not heed it, we are guilty of the most appalling presumption and defiance of God. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses,” but how much sorer punishment you and I shall receive if we neglect this greater salvation.
2. In the second place, the greatness of this salvation is seen in the way in which it was purchased.
This is a costly salvation. It was purchased by the shed blood, by the outpoured life of the incarnate Son of God. Ah, friends, when God in wondrous love went to that extent that He sacrificed His very best, when God went to that extent that He gave His own and only Son to die on the cross at Calvary, that He might purchase your salvation and mine, if you and I neglect so great salvation we are pouring contempt on the precious blood of the Son of God. “He that despised Moses’ law died without mercy under two or three witnesses,” but how much greater punishment shall he merit who tramples under foot the Son of God, and counts the blood of the covenant wherewith He was sanctified an unholy thing, and insults the Spirit of Grace (Hebrews 10:28, 29).
3. Again, the greatness of this salvation is seen in the third place by a consideration of what it brings.
It brings pardon for all our sins, it brings deliverance from sin, it brings union with the Son of God in His resurrection life, it brings adoption into the family of God, it brings an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that fadeth not away, laid up in store in Heaven for us, who are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. When you think that God has put at our disposal in Jesus Christ all His wealth, and is ready to make us heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ, who can measure the guilt of neglecting and of turning a deaf ear to this wonderful salvation? Suppose that on his coronation day King Edward had ridden down to the East End of London, and seeing some wretched little boy on the street, clad in rags, with filthy face and hands, his great heart of love had gone out to that wretched boy, and he had stopped the royal carriage and said, “Bring that boy here,” and they had brought the boy, and he had said, “I want to take you out of your poverty, out of your squalor and rags and wretched home; I am going to take you to the royal palace and adopt you as my son.” Then suppose the boy had turned and said, “Go along, I don’t want to be adopted as your son; I would rather have my wretched crust of bread, I would rather have my rags and filthy home than live in your old palace; I don’t want to go to be your son.”
But when the great King of Glory, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the great Eternal Son of God comes to you and me, in our filth and rags and sin, and wants to take us out of our filth and sin and rags of unrighteousness, and says, “I want to adopt you into my family and make you an heir of God and a joint-heir with Me,” there are some of you men and women in this building to-night who, by your actions, are saying, “Go away with your salvation, go away with your adoption into the family of God; I would rather have the crust of the world’s pleasure and the rags of my sin than all the royal apparel of righteousness and glory which you offer me.” Oh, the daring, damning guilt of any man or woman who neglects so great salvation!
II. The Only Salvation
A second thought which the text suggests is that our folly is great in neglecting this great salvation because it is the only salvation that is open to us. As Peter puts it in Acts 4:12: “There is none other name under Heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” It is salvation in Christ, or it is no salvation at all. A man is in a burning building. If there were one way of escape by a fire-escape, and another by a great broad stairway, he would have a perfect right to neglect the fire-escape for the easier escape by the stairway. But suppose there was no way of escape but the fire-escape, how great would be his folly in neglecting it. Men and women, you are in a burning building, in a doomed world. There is just one way of escape; that is by Christ. In Christ any one can be saved; out of Christ no one shall be saved. By Christ, or not at all. There is a class of men to-day who say, “Give up your Bible, give up your Christ of the Bible,” and we turn to them and say, “What have you got to give us in place of our Bible; what have you got to give us in place of the Christ of our Bible?” Now we know by personal experience that the Bible and Christ bring forgiveness of sins and peace of heart, for they have brought them to us. We know that they bring deliverance from sin’s power, for they have brought it to us. We know that they bring joy unspeakable and full of glory, for they have brought it to us. We know that they bring pardon and a firm assurance of eternal life, for they have brought them to us. We know that Christ makes us sons of God, and if sons, then heirs of God, and joint heirs with Himself. What have you got that will bring us the same, that will bring us pardon and peace and set us free from the power of sin? What have you got that will bring us joy unspeakable and full of glory? What have you got that will bring us the assurance of eternal life? Have you anything? No, you have not. Well, then, please, we are not quite so great fools as to give up a book and a Saviour that bring us all these for nothing. Salvation in Christ, or salvation not at all. Point me to one saved man in London that was not saved by Christ. I have been away round this round earth. I have been in every latitude and almost every longitude, north and south; I have talked with all kinds of people, of all races and all classes, but I have never yet found a saved man, who had a glad assurance of salvation and practical deliverance from sin’s power, that was not saved by Jesus Christ; neither has anybody else.
III. To Miss Salvation All that is Necessary is Merely to Neglect It
In the third place, this text teaches us that to miss this salvation, and to bring upon ourselves the just and awful displeasure of a holy God for our light and contemptuous treatment of a salvation so wonderful, given and purchased at so great a cost, all that is necessary is simply to neglect it. “How shall we escape if we neglect—just neglect, so great salvation?” In order to bring upon your head the awful displeasure of God, and to be lost forever, it is not necessary that you go into any outrageous immoralities; it is not necessary that you should be an arrant and blatant blasphemer; it is not necessary that you should abuse churches and preachers of the Gospel; it is not necessary that you should even positively refuse to accept Jesus Christ; all that is necessary is that you simply neglect. More people are lost in Christian lands by neglecting than in any other way. There are millions in England to-day who are going through life neglecting, drifting into their graves neglecting, drifting into eternity neglecting, drifting into hell neglecting. That is all that is necessary to be lost. Here is a dying man, there stands a table by the dying man’s bedside, within easy reach, and standing on that table there is a tumbler in which there is a medicine that has power to save the dying man’s life. The man has strength enough to put out his hand and take the tumbler and drink the medicine. Now what is all that is necessary for that man to be saved? All that is necessary is simply for him to put out his hand and take the tumbler and drink the medicine. What is all that is necessary for that man to be lost and die? It is not necessary that he should cut his throat or blow out his brains; it is not necessary that he should throw the medicine out of the window; it is not necessary that he should assault or insult the doctor or the nurse; it is not necessary that he should positively refuse to take the medicine; all that is necessary for that man to die is to neglect to take the medicine.
Men and women out of Christ, you are dying. Eternal death is at work in your souls to-night, but on that table, in that Book, in the Christ of that Book, there is a medicine that will save you, and save you to-night if you will take it. The medicine is within the reach of anybody in this building. Christ is nearer to you than the man or woman that sits next to you in that pew. All you have to do to-night to be saved is to put out your hand and take Christ. “To as many as received Him to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” What is all that is necessary to you to perish eternally? Not to commit moral suicide; not to commit to-night some awful act of immorality; not to get up and curse Christ and the Bible; not loudly to proclaim that you are an infidel; not to refuse blatantly to take Christ; all that is necessary for you to be lost is simply to neglect. Here is a boat on the Niagara River, away above the Falls, towards Lake Erie, where there is scarcely any current. A man sits in the boat, being carried on very slowly by the gentle current. There is a good pair of oars in the boat, and the man could take them and pull up the river towards the lake, or to either bank, if he liked; but the man sits there and is carried on, almost imperceptibly at first, and then faster and faster, until, before he knows it, he is in the swift current just upon the rapids, and he is being carried on towards the Falls. The oars are no good to him now, the current is too swift; he could not save himself if he would—but on the shore there are men who have seen his peril; they have run along the bank and have thrown a line good and strong. It falls right into the boat, at the man’s very feet. What is all that the man has to do to be saved? All he has to do is to lay hold of the rope and they will pull him ashore, as has been done more than once on that river. What is all that he has to do to be lost? It is not necessary that he should take up the oars and pull with the current; it is not necessary that he should throw the oars overboard; it is not necessary that he himself should jump into the river; all that is necessary is simply for him to neglect to lay hold of the rope that lies before him, and the swift current of the river will carry him on to absolutely certain death over the cataract.
Men and women, that is a picture of every man and woman in this building out of Christ. You are in a boat in a perilous stream, being carried towards the cataract of eternal perdition. There is no man who has the power to take the oars in his own strength and pull against that awful current; there is no man on earth who can save himself; but God has seen your peril, and, in the Gospel of His Son, has thrown out a rope. It has fallen at your feet to-night; all you have to do is to lay hold, and He will pull you safely on to the glorious shore. But what is all that you have to do to be lost? It is not necessary that you should jump into the current or pull with the stream, or refuse to accept Christ. All that is necessary is that you simply neglect and that awful current that you are already in will sweep you over the cataract to eternal death and ruin.
Some one put a little card into my hand one day, a short, narrow card, and on the one side were these words, “What must I do to be saved?” Underneath was written God’s answer in Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” Then it said “Over,” and I turned it over. On the other side of the card was this question, “What must I do to be lost?” and there was the answer in just one word: “Nothing.” “Nothing!” You don’t have to do anything to be lost. You are lost already; if you do not do something, and do it quickly, you will be lost forever. “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” To sum it all up, friends, all that is necessary to be lost to-night, all that is necessary to bring upon our heads the awful wrath of God for our light and contemptuous treatment of a Gospel proclaimed by the lips of His own Son and purchased by the atoning death of His own Son, all that is necessary is simply to neglect.
Years ago in Minneapolis, the leading paper was the Minneapolis Tribune, published in a magnificent six or seven-story building, the finest newspaper building at that time in the Northwest. I had occasion very frequently to go into the upper stories of that building to see editorial friends. There was one great defect in that great building which I had never noticed. The defect was this, that the stairway went right round the elevator shaft, so that if a fire broke out in the elevator shaft escape by the stairway was cut off as well. There was, however, a fire-escape outside. That very thing happened. There broke out a fire in the elevator shaft, and it commenced to sweep up the shaft, story by story, cutting off escape by the elevator and cutting off escape by the stairway as well. But they had a brave elevator boy, who went up a number of times until he got a large number of men down from the upper stories, and almost all the rest escaped by the fire-escape outside the building. But away up in the sixth story there was a man, a despatcher for the Associated Press, which is the largest news-gathering agency in the United States. He was urged to escape, but he refused to move. There he sat by his instrument, telegraphing to all parts of the country that the building was on fire. He could have gone out of the building by the fire-escape, and across the road to an instrument there, and could have done just as well; but, like a typical newspaper man, he wanted to do something sensational, and so there he sat telegraphing the news. There had been a similar case above Johnstown in the time of the Johnstown flood, when the dam of the river was breaking. A woman sat in a telegraph office at the bottom of the dam telegraphing down to the people at Johnstown that the dam was breaking and that they had better flee for their lives. But she sat there, because duty required her, until the dam burst, and she was swept down in the flood. This man, however, sat there quite unnecessarily, merely because of his desire for notoriety. “I am in the Tribune building,” he telegraphed, “in the sixth story, and the building is on fire. The fire has now reached the second story; I am in the sixth.” In a little while he sent another message: “The fire has now reached the third story.” Soon he telegraphed: “The fire has reached the fourth story; I am in the sixth.” Soon again the message went over the wires: “The fire has reached the fifth story; I am in the sixth.” Then he thought it was about time to leave; but, in order to do this, he had to cross the hallway to a window to reach the fire-escape. He went to his door and opened it, and, to his dismay, found that the fire had not only reached the fifth story, but the sixth story, and that the hallway was full of smoke and flame, which, the moment he opened the door, swept into the room. He shut the door quickly. What was he to do? The stairway, the elevator and the fire-escape were all cut off; but he was a brave man, and he went to the window and threw it up. Down below stood a great crowd, six stories down. There was no means of catching him if he jumped, and he stood there on the window sill, not knowing what to do. But presently he looked up. Above his head was a long wire guy-rope that passed from the Tribune building to the roof of a building across an opening. Below him was a chasm six stories deep, but he caught hold of the guy-rope and began to go hand-over-hand across that chasm. The people down in the street looked on in breathless suspense. On and on he went, and then he stopped. The people below could hardly breathe. Would he let go? No. On and on he went, and again he stopped, and again the crowd below gasped, but only for a moment. His strength was gone; he was now obliged to let go, and down he came tumbling through those six stories of space, crushed into a shapeless mass below. All through mere unnecessary neglect!
Men and women, you are in a burning building to-night, you are in a doomed world; but, thank God, there is a way of escape, and one way only, in Christ Jesus. No one knows how long that way will be left open. But, I beg of you, do not neglect it, and then when it is too late lay hold on some poor guy-rope of human philosophy, and go a little way, and then let go and plunge, not six stories down, but on and on and on through the awful unfathomable depths of the gulf of eternal despair. Men and women, turn to Christ to-night! “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?”