Charlie Peace was a criminal. Laws of God or man curbed him not. Finally the law caught up with him and he was condemned to death. On the fatal morning in Armley Jail, Leeds, England, he was taken on the death-walk. Before him went the prison chaplain, routinely and sleepily reading some Bible verses. The criminal touched the preacher and asked what he was reading. “The Consolations of Religion,” was the reply. Charlie Peace was shocked at the way he professionally read about hell. Could a man be so unmoved under the very shadow of the scaffold as to lead a fellow-human there and yet, dry-eyed, read of a pit that has no bottom into which this fellow must fall? Could this preacher believe the words that there is an eternal fire that never consumes its victims, and yet slide over the phrase without a tremor? Is a man human at all who can say with no tears, “You will be eternally dying and yet never know the relief that death brings”? All this was too much for Charlie Peace. So he preached. Listen to his on-the-eve-of-hell sermon.
“Sir,” addressing the preacher, “if I believed what you and the church of God say that you believe, even if England were covered with broken glass from coast to coast, I would walk over it, if need be, on hands and knees and think it worth while living, just to save one soul from an eternal hell like that!”*
I saw a great white throne, and him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away. There was found no place for them. I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne. Books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works. The sea gave up the dead who were in it. Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them. They were judged, each one according to his works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. If anyone was not found written in the book of life, he was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
“I still, from my armchair, preach in great revivals. I still vision hundreds walking the aisles to accept Christ. I still feel hot tears for the lost . . . . I want no Christmas without a burden for lost souls, a message for sinners, a heart to bring in the lost. May food be tasteless, music a discord, Christmas a farce if I forget the dying millions; if this fire in my bones does not still flame. Not till I die or not till Jesus comes will I ever be eased from this burden, these tears, this toil to save souls.” -John R. Rice, age 85
(Part of a 1980 Christmas letter dictated few days before his death)**
*Leonard Ravenhill. Why Revival Tarries, (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1959), p. 32.
**Curtis Hutson, ed., Great Preaching on Soul Winning, (Murfreesboro, TN: Sword of the Lord Publishers), preface.
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