A Rotten Rogue

Not long ago, out in the country we stopped to speak to an old man working on the road breaking stones to fill in the holes. After a few remarks, we asked him if he were going to heaven or to hell when he died.
He replied, as we often heard, "To heaven, I hope." "And what cause have you for such a hope?" "Why, 'cause God's merciful," he replied.
"Have you committed any sins?"
"Well," said he, "I suppose I've made mistakes in my time, same as most other folk."
"Have you ever got drunk?" His face told its own history.
"No, not as I knows on; maybe I've took a drop too much, by mistake like, in the hayfield; but I never did it meaning like."
"Oh! Then you never got drunk except by mistake! Have you ever told any lies?"
"Yes," he replied, "I suppose I have, like the rest of 'em."
"And were they mistakes?"
"Well, no, I suppose they wan't," he admitted. "Then how are you going to get forgiveness for them?"
"Oh, I mean to pray when I dies, and then He'll forgive me."
"How old are you?" we asked.
"Seventy-four, come Christmas."
"And do you ever pray to God?"
"No, I can't mind as I do," he said.
"And you think that your prayers will take you to heaven when you die?"
"Yes, I do; I means to pray sometime."
"Now, looking back over the past seventy years of your life—a good long time, mind you!—do you really believe the prayer of a rotten old rogue like you will then take you to heaven? You have neglected God all these years; and do you think your prayers will save you whenever you choose to make them?"
The poor old man turned in a rage and angrily said, "I may be a rogue, but I bain't a rotten one."
He could pray when he pleased, he said, and he meant to, before his time came.
We spoke to him of Christ and His love; of His one offering for sin; of His precious blood without shedding of which is no remission; of the sacrifice of Himself for sinners. Nothing seemed to reach him; rogue he might be, but not a rotten one. Mistakes he had made when tempted and led away by others; but sins he thought very lightly of. He stuck to it, his prayers would save him when he might choose to make them, because God was merciful. At length he asked us if we were sure of heaven; and on our saying: "Yes, perfectly sure," he said, "You bain't rotten then, I suppose."
We assured him that indeed we were not only rogues, but downright rotten ones too, deserving nothing but the wrath of God and eternal punishment. Yet we were sure of God's sovereign love and salvation through Him who gave His only begotten Son to die for sinners—vile, hopeless, helpless, hell-deserving sinners. The old man only shook his head, and repeated, "A rogue, but not rotten. You must pray, and I means to."
May the Lord in His mercy use the word then spoken to him, and awaken and save him ere it be too late.
How many are in just the same state as this poor old stonebreaker-their hearts well-nigh as hard as the stones he was breaking! Living in a professedly Christian land, calling themselves Christians, and yet they are in ignorance, almost heathen ignorance, of the grace of God that brings salvation! Here was an old man of seventy-four, calling his sins mistakes, excusing himself for them by saying he was no worse than others, and sopping his conscience with the promise to pray, when it might please him to do so, sometime before he should die!
Friend, are you deceiving your heart with such errors? Before it is too late, I pray you realize that, to God, sin is sin—He never reckons it mere mistake—and, because it is ever sin before Him, God offers His love, His grace, His mercy, wholly undeserved, to the very vilest sinner, through the finished work of His beloved Son.
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." Rom. 3:2323For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23).