Soldiers' Epitaphs

Soldiers' Epitaphs poster

Perhaps in the morning His face we shall see—
The Redeemer and Savior of men;
And oh, what a glorious day that will be—
He is coming, is coming again!”

Dear friends, that is the song to sing above the Christian graves today. That is the hope, praise God! Perhaps all our tears of today will be wiped away by tomorrow morning; we may never have to shed another. Glory to God for that blessed hope. He will come into mid-air and catch away His own, His waiting Bride, the regenerated ones, the ones born again from above. Praise God, He is going to march down through the clouds before long and take us to Himself!

Those fine old saints, those old prophets, looked ahead. They saw the services in the temple, the priests killing the lamb, the high priest going in behind the veil where the shekinah glory shone—they saw it as the outline of things to come, saw ahead of their time, to the time when Jesus the Son of God was going to take a human body and walk among men. Folks made fun of them, called them dreamers and fools and all sorts of names, but, bless God, Jesus did come, and He did walk, and He did die—the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. He did break the jaws of death and lead captivity captive, and right down to date He is still doing business on this Earth. He is here tonight after you, my friend. He is here after your heart, to open your eyes to the things that are real, the things that are not seen by natural eyes, but a changed heart can see them better than the things of time and sense.

And those same prophets who talked about His coming to this Earth, as the Lamb of God, looking down the centuries—those same ones wrote about His coming again from the glory to catch away His saints, all His own, and take them to Himself, and then come back with them into this world to reign. God has His plans, and I pray that somehow the Holy Spirit tonight will enable you to hear the tramp, tramp, tramping of the feet of Jesus Christ down through the heavens, and get into the procession with the sons of God.

I wouldn’t trade places tonight with Michael or the angel Gabriel. I would rather be a preacher of the old gospel of Jesus Christ tonight than to be in glory. I would rather have the opportunity of telling you people about Jesus Christ than be up there now, because I want to get you there—and by God’s grace, I will do what I can to get you there.

Salvation doesn’t grown on the outside of your head, or on the inside, but it grows right in your heart. Right where sin grows—that is where Jesus plants Himself—that is where salvation will hit you. Praise God, it will take out your sin and put new life within.

On this Memorial Day the tears have run down many of your cheeks. You were fortunate if you could get to the graves of your loved ones and put some flowers there. There are some mounds tonight that I would love to have visited, but they were too far away. I would like to have stood above some graves and thanked God for those who have gone on before. Thank God for the soldiers of the cross, the followers of the Lamb who have fought their battle and gone on ahead of us. Praise God for the men and women who have stood true to Jesus through the years, and passed it on down to us. Thank God for that man of God, Mr. Moody, who came up out of the common ranks because he had a wonderful salvation and a wonderful Savior. Many of you are here tonight directly because of the life of Mr. Moody. Many of you are here because some other man of God brought the Gospel to you, and you were saved because they fought the battle, they were true to Jesus. It would be lovely to gather at these mounds today and decorate the graves of these soldiers of the cross, these followers of the Lamb, but, praise God, we are not simply raising our songs of praise to men, but to the Christ that did the work for these men. We are not worshipping men, but Jesus, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.

On many tombstones today you will find strange epitaphs. I never will forget the first one I ever read out in the prairie land; a great big old boulder, rolled up on top of a hill. How they ever got it there I don’t know, or how they got a chisel to get the letters into the old rock, but there it was, all hacked and rough. They didn’t know anything about God, didn’t have a verse of Scripture to put on it, didn’t know any fine sentiments to write, but only a poor verse like this, that we read as we rode up along side of it and got off of our horses to look, where the rain and sun had come down upon it:

A hunter lies in death below,
 No more he’ll hunt the buffalo.”

Poor fellow—just chasing buffalo around, and that was the end of it. And over some of your graves some day, unless Jesus has done His work in your heart, might be written something like that: 

A hunter for pleasure lies below,
No more he’ll chase fun to and fro.”

You have been hunting happiness, you have been hunting something the world could not give. The automobiles have been going hither and yon today, men and women have been flying around seeking after something, but tonight when they lie down on their beds they will be dissatisfied. Praise God, you may have something in your heart tonight that will perfectly satisfy you! Jesus can satisfy the longing heart with good things. He can bring salvation to you tonight if you will have Him, He will bring it Himself and put it in your heart.

Oh, what will your epitaph be? What will the writing be on the tombstone that God puts at your grave head? What will His writing be across your life?

On a building in London, where a preacher started out to preach the Gospel but went over into higher criticism and his own learnedness, some men took a ladder and painted high up on the front of the church:

Ichabod—God Has Left Israel.”

Perhaps that will be painted over your life. God doesn’t dwell in that temple of yours. Listen, my friend: Can it be true, that with a body made by God, a soul that must live forever, a spirit that can know its God, yet, God will have to write across it at the last, “Lost; Lost. Forever Lost”—and you could know God forever. Oh, let Jesus cleanse you from sin tonight and come into that heart of yours and give you life and light and joy. My friends, you will know when the thing is done—you won’t have to be told. You know when your heart is made perfectly happy. You can’t bluff a human heart. You know that I have told you the truth; that I have been true to you and tried to get Jesus into your heart. You cannot bluff a heart. You cannot bluff a human stomach very well. You may feed it a while on some of the riff-raff of the earth called food, but the stomach knows it is not satisfied. I might take that sweet little baby of mine and put some water in its mouth and try to make it drink water and be satisfied. It might take a sip of water and say, “That is pretty good—but come through with something else, please!” It has enough sense to know when its stomach is full, anyhow.

Your soul knows when it is satisfied. Will this be written on your tombstone: “Filled and satisfied.” Filled and satisfied. Please write that on mine. I thank God that my soul has been satisfied in Jesus. I am satisfied—I am more than satisfied—I am tickled to death! I don’t know what to do with all I have on hand! I tell you, friends, it is good. It is not physical, and you know it. I have given a demonstration of that here in this Tabernacle. If any fellow ought to be tired, I ought to be, but, bless God, it isn’t a question of physical, isn’t a question of strength, isn’t a question of emotion; it is Jesus, blessed Jesus, in your heart—living there—and if He doesn’t live in your heart tonight, oh, friends, get Him there. Come as you ought to, a rebel and a sinner, and let His blood cleanse you tonight! Then He will write over your tombstone: “Whiter than snow.” They try to make all the tombstones white, but you may have a white monument and a black heart down underneath. Only the blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse you from sin.

Listen to the epitaphs of some of the soldiers of the Bible. There is old Abel, way back next to his father, Adam, yet, God could write over him this epitaph: “Abel—brought of the firstlings of his flock and the fact thereof.”

He brought of the firstlings of his flock.” There is a great deal of Gospel in that story. That is Abel’s epitaph; that is the thing that carried Abel through. Cain went to hell and Abel went to glory because Abel brought the sacrifice that God asked him to bring.

My friends, the greatest enemy of the Gospel today is the church member hypocrite. I mean this: There are so many people today who are joining a church and have never been born again, and they go out into a community and people say of them: “Now, there is a Chrsitian. He does so and so.”

That isn’t a Christian. He is not a Christian unless he has been born again. He can no more be a Christian unless he has been washed in the precious blood of Jesus and the spirit witnessed to his heart than you could be my brother or my sister unless you had been born of my father and mother. We could adopt you into the family, but that doesn’t make you my relation, and, thank God, He doesn’t by a legal act adopt us and put us into heaven, by the blood of His precious holy Son He cleanses us from our sins and puts His life into our hearts, and His Spirit witnesses with our spirits that we are the children of God. Oh, we have so many Christians who haven’t a testimony, who have no life in them; they are just tied on. Somebody said: “Come into the church,” and they came into the church and somebody tied them on, but they are not a living branch of that wonderful vine, Jesus Christ.

God began to teach faith in Jesus Christ way back in the Garden of Eden. Jesus was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the Earth. God told Abel to bring a lamb, without spot, without blemish, the firstling of his flock, just as Jesus was a firstling, the firstborn of the Virgin Mary, the first-begotten of the Father, and with that holy combination that God made He spilt out His blood to pay the price for the sin of mankind.

God knows why a human body wrapped about the Son of God went unto death and broke death. I wasn’t there when it was done, but, praise God, I know what He gave me, did business in my soul when it went in there, and it will do business in yours, and break you from the world and take the sin out of your life. He will put Himself there and witness with your spirit that you are a child of God. I don’t care if you have been dragged up in the church from the cradle roll until you are a deacon, my Bible tells me that this work must be done by the blood of Jesus Christ, and you must depend for your salvation on the merit of Jesus’ death—His death—HIS DEATH—and His resurrection.

Abel, looking down the centuries to the coming of the Son of God, brought of the firstling of his flock and said, “Here it is, a sacrifice, to be killed.” His father and mother had told him of how God had taken the fig leaves off and had slain just such a sacrifice to cover their guilt—had put on a coat of skin after blood had been shed, to cover it. Listen: Nothing will make you white in the sight of God but the blood of His own Son. You have no merit, you have no standing but that of a sinner, doomed for hell, in the presence of God. Listen: Your heart is wicked, desperately wicked, in the sight of God. God said that—I did not say it—the heart of a man is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things. There is not a snake in the grass that can come within a million worlds of being as deceitful as a human heart. There isn’t a fox that runs across the deserts or sneaks around the chicken coops as deceitful as a human heart, and you, with that kind of a heart in you, will have to have something done to you before you ever come into glory. Bless God, I am going to trot right down with my head low, and say I was a sinner—and then raise it up and say, “Praise God, I am clean in the blood of Jesus.” It is no theory—it is a know-so salvation.

And Abel had it. What has the fat got to do with it? He said “he brought of the firstling of his flock and of the fat thereof.” Superabundant life—not just skinny enough to get along and live, but he brought the fat along with it. Jesus’ joy—that is what the fat is always typical of—joy. My friend, Stone, the butcher, will tell you that if people know anything about meat they will take some of the fat along with it. I am a good cook, and I know. I am at the best end of the cooking, anyhow—at the eating end. And some of you folks are trying to live on a dry-bone salvation when God wanted you to have some fat on it, some joy in it. Keep on—believe on—pray on, until the joy comes into your heart. Stick at it until you can sing:

Oh happy day—that fixed my choice.”

Will you come as a sinner? I don’t want to give you an invitation simply to acknowledge the name of Jesus. I want you to come as a sinner and acknowledge your sin and your lost condition and see that the blood of Jesus Christ is God’s way of saving you. Then we can write on your tombstone—and God will write your name down on the Lamb’s Book of Life and that is better than any tombstone—that you brought of the offering of God and presented it to God and said: “I came not in the merits of this poor, wicked heart of mine, but in the merits of your precious Son, who came in a body like mine and did your will and died and broke the power of death—in His name I come.” And God will whisper back to your heart: “And in His name I accept you.” Then you are a real son.

Jesus said to Nicodemus: “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

Have you been born again? If you are dead in earnest, God will witness to your heart, and you will have a testimony. You will not be making any guess about it. You know what they tell a witness to say on the stand. The lawyer will say: “At such and such an hour, did you see so and so?”

Well, Mr. So-and-so said to me that he did.”

That is not evidence—none of that. Did you see so and so?” says the lawyer.

Well, my mother said”—

That doesn’t make any difference,” the lawyer yells.

Well, but she is a good woman.”

That doesn’t make any difference. Did you see so and so?” He wants evidence.

Well, my father said”—

That doesn’t make any difference. What did YOU see? What did YOU know?” cries the lawyer again.

And he looks up and says, “Well, I guess I only know what they told me.” 

Then you don’t know anything. You are dismissed.”

Some of you are in here tonight, and say, “Well, but the preacher said”—“Somebody said that this was so and that was so”—

I don’t care what they said. What do YOU know? God will deal with you, my brother. God will deal with you, my sister. You are the one who did the sinning. You know when God put His finger on your life and told you you were a sinner. You may know. You—you—YOU!

If I say to you, “There is a spring down here three blocks,” and you walk down two blocks and stop there, and say, “Well, he said there was a spring down there.”

Have you been to the spring?” someone asks.

Well, no, but he told us it was down there.”

You go down just one more block and find the spring—and then you come back and stand at the same corner and somebody comes along and says: “Is there a spring down there?”

There sure is!” 

Is the water good?”

Fine!”

Well, but you are a block away.”

Yes, sir, but I have been there, and I KNOW.”

Oh, my friend, you can sit there and speculate about it all you please, but if you will follow God down these aisles tonight you can go back to your seat then and say, “Thank God, it is so.” God help you to take salvation tonight. Then we can write an epitaph over your tombstone like Abel’s, and your soul will grow fat and grow in grace as the days go by.

My little baby has all the elements of the woman she is going to be. God put them into her when she was born. I myself, and you, were a little baby like that, but the plans and specifications for our development were all wrapped up in that bundle of flesh when it came crying into this world. When Jesus Christ speaks peace to your soul and the blood has done its work, all that is going to be forever and forever through eternity is all wrapped up in the Christ you have taken as yours. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he shall appear we shall be like Him.” We are a queer looking crowd, maybe, but bless God, we have something on the inside that is going to break forth one of these days.

Here is another epitaph, written for Noah: “Noah did all that his Lord commanded him.” Noah had sense enough to build an ark for the saving of his household—just as God commanded him. You may laugh at death, you may escape it now—and some of you have come dangerously near and you got by, but you were mighty serious when you got down close to it, weren’t you? But, God help you to wake up, my friends, and see that there is going to be a Memorial Day for every one of you. Every one of you will be put into that little black shroud; every one of you is going to be put into that grave.

Noah had sense enough to build the ark for the saving of his house, and he ran them all in, and the flood came, but they went up, and up, above the waves. I don’t know why it is, but I know there is a certain law connected with specific gravities that makes a piece of board float above the water. I know that a sinless life made Jesus Christ victor over death, and I know tonight from the life within that He rose conqueror over it! Noah had sense enough to believe God, and he rode the waves. The Lord blesses simple folks. The Lord tells us to “condescend to men of low estate.” When the simple man or woman just takes God at His word, God will save them. God never asks anybody to diagnose a life-belt. He never asks them to cut a hole in it and see whether there is cork or gas on the inside of it, but He puts sense enough into everybody’s cranium to grab one when he saw it coming over the waves. I tell you we are living in the most damnable age the world has ever known, because we are arguing about this wonderful life-belt God has thrown out from the glory.

To the folks ‘round about him, Noah was a fool, and they would come along and tap on their heads while Noah was tapping on the ark—but his taps on the ark sent him over the waves and their taps on their heads sent them to hell.

Elijah had an epitaph: “I have done all these things according to thy word.” You do not have to speculate, to worry about how the thing is coming out, you can simply do what God’s Word tells you to do, and the Word of God will keep you alive. I don’t know how it is that a little toothless baby after a while develops teeth when it needs them. Little by little it begins to stuff things into its mouth, and you put into its hand the little curly spoon and when you are not looking it will grab with its hand and stuff food in. It knows where to put it, alright—it doesn’t stick it into its ear. My friends, you may be awkward about it, but if you just reach out the soul-hand you will find the life in Christ Jesus.

One year out in the western country something struck the cattle ranch. The cattle were poor and the ranchers were not getting results at all through the winter. And they found out that they had some old hay that didn’t do the work. A man came along one day and he said: “I tell you, that hay is too dry; there is some killing dust in it. Just change your hay and you will find the cattle will be all right.” So they changed the hay and got some from another farm, and before long the cattle were all right, just as he said.

Friends, the greatest proof in the world of the truth of this Book is that when you trust God according to the promises about Christ Jesus, the peace of God and life from above comes into your soul. It is the food. We have proved it, thank God.

So Elijah “did all these things according to God’s word”—That was this old warrior’s epitaph. Elijah didn’t have any tombstone. If you were to hunt for it you would never find it, for as he was walking along one day with God, separated a little bit from Elisha, his understudy, the chariots of God and the horsemen were seen and heard and God took him up to heaven in a whirl-wind. No tombstone for him! You have to go there where the whirl-wind went around, and see it going around, to find Elijah’s epitaph. You can afford to mind God according to His word, my friend, for nobody will ever call you a dead one. They will say: “He died, but he went to heaven like a whirl-wind.”

And this is the last epitaph—Paul’s epitaph: Galatians 1:16. “I conferred not with flesh and blood.” My friend, I am afraid that on some of your tombstones it will be written that you conferred with flesh and blood. You have a marvelous opportunity of finding God; you have this wonderful salvation offered, yet you will say: “I have heard it tonight, Mr. Rader; I see it is real. I had a mother who had it, a father who had it”— And why don’t you have it? Because you will sit right there and confer with flesh and blood: “How will this thing affect my business? If I step out for Jesus, how will it affect my family? I wonder how my wife will take it? How will my husband take it? How will the girls take it? How will the folks down in the store take it? I wonder if it will cheat me out of any pleasure in the world?” Oh, some of you will confer with flesh and blood and swap eternal life for a few flesh joys and comforts.

When Paul saw Jesus Christ, he said: “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He didn’t wait until the next day. “Immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood.” He didn’t turn around to old Dick and Harry and Bill and the other boys and say, “Boys, what do you think of that? Do you think that was Jesus?” Oh, he saw Him. He did just what God told him to do. He went down where God told him to, so the man could pray over him, and received the Holy Spirit, and his eyes were opened; and God could teach him and take him out into Arabia to prepare him for his work. Immediately—immediately—IMMEDIATELY—I wouldn’t ask anybody, I wouldn’t stop for anything—I would just break out that aisle tonight and come.

Friends, sin is hell. Sin is death. There is no way in the world to escape it but through Jesus. He’s standing alive in the door of Death, its keys in His hands. What other hope is there of ever coming through it? Won’t you come down that aisle tonight and say, “I will come as a sinner and let Jesus cleanse me from my sin?” Are you too proud to do it? Too proud—when sin has been in your life? God help you to see the awfulness of what sin is! Oh, wake up tonight to the sin that is in your heart. God cannot look upon it, and not judge it. He has judged it in the death of His Son. Believe it now.

Can you see He has judged and put away sin and offers you His life? If you can see it, do not confer with flesh and blood; they’ll drag you to hell; but come immediately. Then we can write on your tombstone:

My sins not in part but the whole,
Are nailed to the cross and
I bear them no more.
It is well; it is well with my soul.”

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