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The Open Grave

By Charles H. Stalker

      Message Delivered at Leicester, Easter Sunday Morning, April 20th, 1919

      "He is not here, for he is risen. Come, see the place where the Lord lay."

      This was the time of the greatest disappointment that ever Came to man. There had been expectation and anticipation, there had been burden and there had been blessing, and after the tension and the strain, they Came to the grave and found it was empty. It was the greatest disappointment they had ever had.

      We find that God has a plan and a purpose, and He carries it out. This is the only open grave that everyone has had an interest in There are family graves, and there are graves that a community is interested in, but this grave was of interest to all. There has never been a grave like it, and there never will be. There has never been a grave with which so much is connected.

      We must remember that it required the same faith to follow Jesus then as it does now, all His followers expressed the same faith. A great many people think it was child's play to follow Him and hear His messages when He walked on this earth, but it took the same faith then to leave father, mother, sisters, and brothers. There are some who think they had an easy time of it, but it meant just as much sacrifice and faith as it does today. I believe that the strain was intense, especially/ after He was taken from the cross to the grave, an His followers must have felt lonesome. They came early to the grave. It shows how eager they were, and what an interest they had. And when they came, these were the words that they heard, "He is not here, He is risen." "You need not take our word, come and see where the Lord lay." They came expecting a closed grave, they Came expecting the soldiers, the seal, and the stone, and to hear this announcement made was a real disappointment to them. He had told them before, He had warned them, but the words had a different meaning now.

      We come to celebrate the laying of the foundation stone of Christianity, and that is the resurrection. Thank God, He is risen, and He lives again.

      Now the devil had done his supreme work in the burial of the Son of God. He had placed the stone there, and the seal, and the soldiers, but God raised Him from the dead. After the devil had done his worst, and fixed everything up, God can use His little finger and thwart the plan of the devil and produce Holiness. You cannot smother Holiness, you cannot bury Holiness, it will crawl out on the other side of the grave and sing

      "Is not this the land of Beulah,
      Where the sun is always bright?"

      You can put it in a closed place, but it will come out; you can put a heavy stone upon it, but this movement will go on. Let the people who are looking on see the dust that you cause to fly up in the road as you move on with God.

      Now, I can see another thing in this message. They did not receive what they expected, but they got what they needed. They got the message of the resurrection, and that is the message of new life. That is the message that has to be carried to this lost world. When a man or woman is saved from sin and filled with the Holy Ghost, all they have to do is to take this resurrection message to this world. This message brings vitality, reality, and victory. You can take it to the ends of the earth. That is your opportunity and the responsibility is resting upon you at this hour.

      They expected a closed grave, but it was open, it is the only open grave there is in the world. Every other grave is covered, and covered by law, but this is open. That is of special significance. If it had been closed, there would have been no hope for humanity, there would have been no comfort in the hour of death, there would have been no message from the Bible, there would have been no sermon for the preacher, and no Holy Ghost for the believer. But it is open, thank God! Let us walk carefully this morning, that we might see what there is for lost humanity. I believe that God will show us something that we can carry and that we can tell. I believe we can leave this meeting this morning with a message that is worth living for and dying for. Until you are willing to die for it, it has no power, no purpose, and no plan.

      The thought of God in living is one thing, but the message that I have in my hand this morning was brought by the martyrs' death and by the sacrifice of people who have seen more with their eyes closed, and have heard more than the people of this world. It is useless for you to start in to see how you feel, start in with your life and for life, to live with this message and die with this message. You can give your life voluntarily. The law compelled men to go and fight, you have to pay your tax, you have to do many things, but God never compels a man to do anything.

      The sweetest sacrifice that God or man has looked upon has been given willingly and gladly without any reservation. It was given because people had a vision, and because they saw Calvary.

      Once in a while I have wished I could compel people, when I have seen the possibilities that lie before them, but after all the sweetest part of it is that the red road of martyrdom has been trodden willingly and gladly by holy men and women. There has been no bondage, no iron shackles, and it stands today, after twenty centuries of opposition from hell's artillery. Give yourself willingly and gladly, and your reward is sure. There is nothing touches me like the life that has been abandoned to the Holy Ghost, and there is nothing that is so precious in the eyes of God.

      After dealing with the people of all classes and color and all climes, I have a real conviction that few abandon themselves to the Holy Ghost entirely and eternally, when they do, they scarcely ever lose their experience. I do not say it is an impossibility. This emotional and mental conception of Holiness is damnable, but the heart reality and the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire is the divine preparation for a life of sacrifice and service. If you are going in with any other motive, you had better turn back at once. Make your choice. Very few people touch the supernatural, and unless some of you here this morning get a vision, there is something up the road that you will not be ready to meet. In this atmosphere of faith and prayer you can have something from heaven that will defeat all hell and spread Holiness. Thank God, He is able to do it.

      I was down in Central America, and we had some meetings in a tabernacle. I do not know how it was made, but much had been done there and God had greatly blessed. After the morning meeting, I went to a tree and gathered some bananas and had my lunch. When I had finished, a man and woman came to me and asked if I would go with them, and I consented. We walked along, passed the colored meeting house -- they were praying and singing in there. We went on down the road and into a field. Away over the field there was some barbed wire round a little plot of ground, and there was a stone that had been white-washed and placed at the head. This is the story

      Their little girl had died a few weeks before out in that lonely spot. They nailed some rough boards together and the man took the silk lining out of his hat and made a little pillow for the head. They took a little clean dress and placed it on the dead child and then they placed a smooth box lid over it and nailed it down. They took that little precious one out in the field and dug with their own hands a little hole in the ground and deposited that rough box to wait for the resurrection morning. Why could they do that? The father says he is willing to lie on that side and the mother says she is willing to lie on this side when her work is done. Why could they do that? Why could they close that grave in that informal way? Because of that Open grave. There was not a regret, there was nothing but a tear to stray down the face with a smile on the top of it. No wonder the angels stand on tip toe and look down to see what God has put in the heart of fallen humanity. If His grave had been closed they would have had no hope, but it is open and they had perfect confidence and a living hope.

      You can talk about other things and you can offer your arguments, but you could not stand in a place like that without feeling that nothing but the supernatural could have produced that faith. The message that we have this morning is not a local one, it is for the world and the world is dying for it. It will be lost for ever if it does not get it. What is there in life unless you take life to others? What is there in a selfish life? There is simply nothing in it.

      I was in China and spoke to some missionaries on Sunday morning. The next day one of them came to me. He had been in China for a number of years and he said he had been saved and knew he was a child of God, but he did not have what I had been speaking about the day before. I told him that was no sign that he could not have it if he would pay the price. He said, "Let us take a walk." and so we walked out into the cemetery. They never dig graves in China, they make the mounds on the top of the ground. We walked round until we came to rather a large mound and we knelt down. He said, "I felt yesterday that I must have the Holy Ghost, and I want Him now." He had taken a medical course, graduated with high honors, had been very successful in his work, had a burden for the lost, but had never received the Holy Ghost. He knelt by that dead Chinaman's grave and received the Holy Ghost. When he and his wife came back to our home, he said that the step he took in receiving the Holy Ghost had meant more to him than all he had ever done before. God had wonderfully blessed and used him.

      Now you can carry a burden until that burden carries you. He had a greater burden than ever after he received the Holy Ghost, and just spent his life out there. We had a cable the other day. He had gone out and had been so burdened and had had such poor food that his strength was gone. He had slipped off to heaven and to rest. There is a grave out there not far from where he received the Holy Ghost.

      While I was praying this morning the Holy Ghost gave me an inspiration and I believe I will see that grave. Others may not be willing to go, but I must. The vision of a lost world staggers and stuns me. I have enjoyed this tenderness and this worship, these touches are heavenly, holy, and inspiring, but, beloved, we cannot stay to enjoy ourselves. We cannot stop with our friends always. The Holy Ghost wants somebody this morning to step out with Him and never have a grave in England. I believe there are people here this morning who will never have their friends to attend their funeral if they follow the Holy Ghost. We have little two-by-four plans, and we are expecting to have a funeral and go to heaven, but before we consider getting to heaven let us consider carrying this message to a lost world. Before we consider our funeral let us consider our farewell; before we consider enjoying ourselves let us consider the honor of taking this message to the people who have never heard it, and our funeral will be all right.

      When I was back of the plow the Holy Ghost came and He said, "If you will honor me I will take care of you." I have hardly thought of going to heaven since. I have never thought of my funeral since. Heaven is all right, but there is something bigger than a mansion, and that is to have people rise up and call you blessed when you enter the pearly gates. Let the Holy Ghost come in and plan for you, He is faithful.

      Now in this open grave we see salvation for every sinner, in this open grave we see Holiness for every believer. There is victory for everyone who is defeated, there are riches for all who are poor, there is the supply for every need of humanity for time and eternity. We would never have seen it if the covering had not been taken off, we would never have seen it if the epitaph and the tombstone had been there, but Christ walked out the other end of the tomb and He took from the grave its terror. I never think of the grave with a bottom to it. I never think of the grave dug as deep as a spade can dig it, I never think of it with a bottom five or six feet down, I think of a bottomless grave. If a man dies in sin his grave has no bottom to it, and if he dies saved from sin and sanctified wholly his grave has no bottom. Christ went down in the grave and took the keys of death and went to hell and announced in the regions of the damned that the thing was finished. Then He went to heaven and He is there today.

      It is an open grave and everybody can look in it. You do not have to go through the priest, you do not have to go through the plan or the arrangement of man, thank God, you can go yourself and look in that open grave, and find in it everything you need.

      I want to thank God this morning for this open grave. Every other grave is closed by law, and rightly so, but this grave will never be closed. The devil tried to close it, he tried to put the epitaph and the tombstone, but he could not do it. It is not only an open grave but it is an empty grave. All the sin of humanity can be put in that grave, and the disappointments of humanity can be put in it, and the failures, and all the devil has brought to the human heart can be put in that grave. You can put carnality in and get Holiness out. You can put in failure and take out faith. There never was such a grave. You could go to other graves and only take out a few bones or a casket, but you can put into this grave all that you want to be rid of and take out everything that you need for time and eternity. We have been thinking and talking about our need, let us talk about our supply; we have been talking about the calamity, let us talk about the victory; we have been talking about carnality, let us talk about the baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire, the positive side that gives real deliverance.

      I see the millions of the earth coming to that grave and they can get out of it everything they need. "He is not here, He is risen." There are some people who say they cannot do anything, but, beloved, you can do all that God wants you to do after you have received the Holy Ghost I look over the few years of service that God has given me, and I say it for the glory of God, I would not go back to the spot where I was for anything.

      Little did I dream that the plan of God was such as it is. I believe there are people here this morning for whom God has a plan as high as heaven and as boundless as eternity. It comes by the baptism of the Holy Ghost and by walking in the light. I will not choose, but let the Holy Ghost choose Whom He will. You cannot afford to miss the thought of God, if you miss it you miss everything. Will those things last for which you are giving your life? Everything He gives will last for ever. I do not want you to go out feeling you cannot do this or the other, I want you to go out knowing you can, and there are not enough devils in hell or infidels on earth to close the door of your "cannery." If you are going to see how you feel, stay where you are; if you want to know how things will work out, stay at home; but if you are going with the Holy Ghost, "All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose." It is a sad thing, but there are many people who know too much for God to use them. God never uses you in the place and the way that you tell Him to use you. I have seen places in this country -- I would like to see others, but I have not seen a place for which I have not had faith. I believe a great deal more could be done than has been done. This resurrection message has to be carried to this lost world.

      The great need of the hour is for a message of faith and the Holy Ghost. The need is so apparent and so impressive that no other message will meet it. It is not a question now of what others are going to do and say, but it is a question whether you are going to walk in the light and honor the Holy Ghost. It is individual obedience that brings victory. I am doing things all the time that people said I ought not to do. I do those things more than those things which they tell me to do, because I know so many people look at the outside and the environments. God wants us to look at things with our eyes shut, He wants us to see things with the eye of faith. "The just shall live by faith."

      There was a man down in sin and serving the devil, he was tramping about in our country, and one day he was standing by a box car where they were unloading oranges. He stood by the side of it eating an orange, and a man stepped up from the other side and said, "What are you doing here? And he said, "I am eating some fruit." The man said, "God has something better for you than to be waiting around here eating fruit, come with me." And he took him to his home. He said to his wife, "Wife, I have brought a friend of mine and we are going to have some prayer. You can find plenty of friends if you begin on that crowd. It is a little hard on pride, but it is a good thing to kill some folk. They prayed with him and of course he got through. They gave him something to eat and some money. Just think of it, away down in Florida, eating an orange, taken to a home and prayed through. He walked from Florida to Chicago and went to a Holiness meeting. It was a great change, you know. Some of you think it is a great change from a refrigerator to an incubator. They told him he could be baptized with the Holy Ghost and with fire, and he believed it and received the Holy Ghost. When we were on a trip round the world we were in his home. God called him as a missionary, and people listened to his message in a foreign country. Only a tramp. If God could do that for that man, He ought to do something tremendous with you people. You cannot afford to miss His plan.

      This meeting is not over tonight, it ought to tell in thousands of lives, and it ought to be more valuable to you in ten years time. Go out to live a holy life and God will honor it with fruit.

      I am glad this morning that they were disappointed and they found the grave was opened, and I am glad that the Holy Ghost came to abide for ever. He is able to keep us for ever. There are latent powers and possibilities in this meeting this morning, and blood in the veins of those who hear me that should be given to God. It is possible for this company to plant Holiness in every part of this country as easily as you can walk. God is able. I see the opportunity and the victory before you, because the Holy Ghost is a reality. Those of you who have grieved Him and lost out in your soul, and are not where you once were, I would have you make a covenant with God that shall never be broken. God will help you.

      When I took the precious girl who is now my wife, and we went to the altar to be united in the bonds of holy matrimony, and Brother Rees gave the word that made us husband and wife, the vow was made to end with death. Other vows are made and they all end at death, but when we enter into a covenant with God, the Holy Ghost comes to abide for ever. Death is passed and when He mentions it, He says, "Oh grave, where is thy victory? Oh death, where is thy sting? " It is an everlasting covenant. Let friends turn to foes, let sorrows hang over your head, let the future he black with persecution, let the heavens be brass and the earth bars of iron, but if you will go with God and the blood and the Bible, there is no power in earth or hell that can stop the flame of holy fire which you can take to this lost world. Death is a little toy when you come to deal with God. Sorrow is wiped away by the angel's wing, and the Holy Ghost comes to take charge of that tenement of clay, that man with his limitations, that body with its weakness, and that soul with its possibilities. He says, "That man has abandoned himself to Me, I will take him through the fiery furnace and through the lion's den, and I will never leave him or forsake him." When the death sweat stands on your brow there is One who will be with you, and it will be the sweetest of all hours. There will be One when you do not have a friend, and when you do not know which way to turn. I am so glad the Holy Ghost ever found His way to my poor hungry heart, and He is more to me this morning than He used to be in a month. He whispers sweetly that everything is all right. Time is going over the ragged edges of eternity, and the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

      Some have expressed their gratitude for my coming with a handshake. Some of you appreciate the messages God has allowed me to give, but do not think a handshake is enough. If you want to express your gratitude for any message you have received, -- it is because the Holy Ghost came to my heart -- you can do it by carrying this message to everybody on this earth who has not heard it. I am glad for your handshake, I am glad you appreciate the message, that is all right. But, beloved, that is a small thing compared with taking this message.

      I am so glad He came, and if you have not received Him, let Him come in this morning. Do not go out into the sunshine this resurrection morning, and do not allow the silent stars to shine over your head until you have made a covenant with God and abandoned yourself to the Holy Ghost, making a pledge that everybody on this earth must have this message, and God will take you through.

      Let us bow our heads in prayer.

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