A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 22, 1861, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Have you not asked those who go by the way? and do you not know their signs, that the wicked are reserved for the day of destruction? they shall be brought out on the day of wrath. Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him for what he has done? (Job 21:29-31)
1. The sermon which I preached two Sundays ago about the accidents, has caused considerable consternation among pious people with weak minds. Their idea that all calamities are judgments, is so inveterate a prejudice, and so favourite a dogma, that our exposure of its absurdity is, in their opinion, eminently calculated to encourage sin and quiet the consciences of offenders. Now, I feel quite at ease in this matter, and am confident that I have done service to our great cause, even though the timid should be alarmed, and the superstitious should be annoyed. Our gracious God and Father has seen fit to give us a whole book of the Bible on the subject; the main point of the Book of Job is to prove that temporal afflictions are not evidences of the Lord’s displeasure, and I beg the modern Bildads and Zophars to reconsider their position, lest they too should be found to be “speaking wickedly for God, and talking deceitfully for him.” (Job 13:7) In my very soul I feel that if evil days shall come upon me, if poverty, desertion, and disease should place me upon Job’s dunghill, I shall point to that sermon with pleasure, and say to those who will tell me that God is angry with me, and has judged me to be unworthy, “Indeed, you do not know what you say, for the judgment is not passed already, nor is this the field of execution; neither disease, nor bereavements, nor poverty, can prove a man to be wicked, nor do they even hint that the chosen are divided from the hearts of Christ.” Oh my beloved friends, settle it in your hearts that men are not to be judged according to their present circumstances, and learn like David to understand their end. It will save you from writing bitter things against yourselves in the time of trouble, and prevent your scanning the works of Providence, and measuring the infinite by line and plummet.
2. It is mainly my business, today, to deal with those who may wickedly continue in sin because their judgment tarries. If the Lord does not in this world visit the ungodly with stripes, this is only the surer evidence that in the world to come there is a solemn retribution for the impenitent. If the affliction which is here accorded to men is not the punishment of sin, we turn to Scripture and discover what that punishment will be, and we are soon informed that it is something far heavier than any calamities which occur in this life,—something infinitely more tremendous than the most disastrous accident, the most shocking mutilation, or the most painful death. I know that there are some in these days who are like those in the time of the royal preacher, of whom he said, “because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.” Should I be addressing some this morning who have found a stupid quiet for their consciences in the fact that God does not usually visit men’s sins upon their heads here, let me ask it to them whether such peace is reasonable. There is a city which has revolted. A great king has threatened them with entire destruction for the revolt. He does not, in hurried passion, send against them a handful of soldiers to inflict instant and petty chastisement, he waits awhile, and marshals all his hosts, until every battalion has been put in array, until every mighty man has girded on his armour. Fools! will you draw consolation from the delay of your destroyer? Will you say, because he has not ridden out against you on the very day of your rebellion that therefore this is a time of revelry and mirth? Indeed, rather, inasmuch as he is gathering his hosts for the battle, let it cause you to tremble, for he shall break down your walls, and give your whole company to the sword. Imagine yourselves voyagers, far out upon the sea. A black cloud darkens in the sky, you say you do not fear the cloud because it is not at present pouring forth the rain flood. But that is the reason why you should fear it, for the cloud is waiting until it grows and spreads, until under the wing of darkness the egg of cloud has been hatched into the black screaming eagle of the storm. See, the clouds are hurrying from east and west, mustering for the strife! Do you not see the sea heaving heavily in sympathy with heaven’s convulsions? Behold how all the dread artillery of heaven is gathering up for one tremendous shock. Fools! do you say you will not fear because the thundercloud has not yet burst, because as yet the breath of wind has not transformed itself into the blast of hurricane? It is gathering, sirs, assembling its forces and accumulating its fury, and the longer that it gathers, the more terrible shall be the moment when it bursts upon your devoted heads. And so today, God’s clouds that float in the sky, the calamities of Providence, are not pouring on you the tempest of wrath; but is this a reason why you should be at peace? Indeed! the clouds are gathering, every sin is adding to the mass, every day of God’s longsuffering is covering heaven in blacker sable, every moment that he spares he only prepares to punish in more tremendous force; and dread and direful shall be the day, when at last omnipotence itself shall come to the assistance of outraged justice, and you shall feel that God is God as much in punishing sin, as in the making of the worlds.
3. It was a fable of the old Jewish rabbis, that when the angel Gabriel flew he used both wings, because he always came with good tidings; but that when Michael flew, bearing God’s sword to strike through the loins of kings, he always flew with one wing. But Michael arrives as surely at his destined goal as Gabriel himself. The feet of the avenging deities may seem to be shod with lead for tardiness, and their tread may be as noiseless as wool, but they are as sure as the feet of mercy. I know, when God comes to bless, the axles of his chariot are hot with speed, and his steeds are white with foam, and when he comes to curse he travels slowly, with many a sigh, for he does not wish the death of any, but had rather “that he should turn to him and live;” but remember, in judgment he comes in all his might, and he shall be found to be not less a God when he strikes than when he gives the kisses of his lips, and lifts the pardoned sinner into acceptance and favour.
4. We shall now deal with the sorrowful topic of the punishment of sin in the world to come. I have preached less upon this subject than almost upon any other, and yet always is it thrown in our teeth that we delight to dwell upon these horrors. I never come to this subject without the deepest distress of heart, and God alone shall know how many tears it costs these eyes when I have to deal out as God’s faithful ambassador the thunders of his law. I delight to preach about Calvary, divine love, and unsearchable grace. But this theme is to me the burden of the Lord; we must not, we dare not keep it back; fidelity to conscience, truthfulness to God, love for the souls of men, constrains us to make this a part of our ministry, not keeping back any part of the price.
5. I you divide the discourse this morning into three parts. First, I shall speak about the punishment of sin, by way of affirmation, or prove that it must be so; secondly, by way of explanation, of what kind and nature this punishment must be; and then, thirdly, by way of expostulation, pleading with those who are still in the land of mercy, so that they would listen to the voice of wisdom, and God’s grace may turn them from the error of their ways.
6. I. First, then, by way of affirmation—THERE MUST BE A PUNISHMENT FOR SIN.
Job says, that this is a truth so written upon the very nature of man, that even those who go by the way, the ignorant traveller and wayfarer, does not dare for a moment deny that such is the case. “Have you not asked those who go by the way? and do you not know their signs?” And truly it is so. If there is one intuitive truth which man perceives without need of argument, it is that sin deserves to be punished, and since sin in not punished here, it follows that the punishment must be endured in the world to come.
7. Let us, however, very briefly, review the argument. Sin must be punished from the very nature of God. God is; if God is God, he must be just. You can no more separate the idea of justice from the idea of God, than you can omniscience, or omnipresence, or omnipotence. To suppose of a God who was not omnipotent, is to make a supposition which is contradictory in its terms; for the term “God” includes that thought. And to suppose an unjust God, is to imagine an absurdity,—you have used, I repeat it, contradictory terms;—justice is included in the very thought of God. See how the oppressed always recognise this. The slave who has long been trampled under the feet of a tyrannical master, with his back fresh from the gory lash, lifts up his eye to God the avenger, for he feels instinctively that God must be just. Nations who have made appeals to arms, but have been subdued again to serfdom, at last in their despair cry out to God, for this is the bottom of man’s thoughts, and the one which is sure to come forth when pain has emptied out his lighter notions, that God does execute righteousness and judgment “for all that are oppressed.” So, too, when man would affirm a thing to be true he calls upon God to be his witness, because in his innermost nature he feels that God will be a just and impartial witness. If he did not think so, it would be ridiculous to call upon God to witness to his testimony. Notice how the tearful eye, the groaning mind, the bursting heart, all turn instinctively to the Judge of all the earth. Man feels that God must be just. But how just? How just, if crowned heads that do injustice shall go unpunished? How just, if the adulterer, the thief, the liar, and the hypocrite who are unpunished here, should go unpunished in the world to come? Where is your justice, God, if this world is all there is? We say, “Alas for love if, you were all and nothing beyond, oh earth!” and we may add, alas, for justice too; for where could it live, where could it dwell, unless there would be a world to come, in which God will right the wrongs, and avenge himself upon all who have trampled on his laws.
8. Not only does his very nature show this, but those acts of God, which are recorded in Revelation, prove incontestably that he will by no means spare the guilty. There have been judgments. I am not now appealing to the perverse conceit and opinions of men of poor judgment, but to the inspired chronicles, for I will quote those judgments alone which the Word of God calls such. Adam sinned. It was only eating the forbidden fruit; Eden was blasted, Adam was exiled. The world sinned; they ate, they drank, they married, and were given in marriage; they forgot the Most High. The fountains of the great deep gave forth their floods; the cisterns of heaven emptied out their cataracts. All the world was drowned; and the last shriek of the strong swimmer, yielding at last to universal death, proclaimed to us that God is just. Look across to the cities of the plain. When they had completely given themselves up to unnatural lusts, God rained fire and brimstone out of heaven upon Sodom and Gomorrha. And when he did so, what did he do but write in letters of fire this word—“God is just, he furiously avenges and terribly punishes sin.” Behold, too, Pharaoh and all his hosts drowned in the Red Sea. For what purpose was Pharaoh raised up except that God might show forth his power in him—might prove to the world that there were vessels of wrath, and that God knew how to fill them to the brim, and break them as with a rod of iron. Look to Palestina, and behold its kings put to death by the sword of the Lord and his servant Joshua. Why is a land stained in blood? It means this, that the people had offended much against heaven; and God, that man might have some glimpses of his terrible justice, declared that he would root out the nations of Canaan, and would have war with Amalek from generation to generation. It is impossible to reconcile Old Testament history with the effeminate notion of modern views of divinity, that God is only a universal Father, but not a governor and a judge. If these gentlemen will quietly read some of those awful passages in the Old Testament, they cannot—unless they should deny the inspiration of the passage, or attempt to tone down its meaning—they can only confess that they see there far less a loving parent than a God dressed in arms, of whom we may say, “The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name. Your right hand, oh Lord, your right hand, oh Lord, has dashed in pieces your enemies.” A God without justice is what this modern church is seeking after. These new doctrines would fashion a deity destitute of those sublime attributes, which keep the world in awe, and command for him the reverence of his creatures.
9. This brings me to my third argument. Not only do the nature and the acts of God prove that he will punish sin, but the very necessities of the world demand it. Imagine the opposite. Put in all our Christian pulpits men who should teach to sinners that there is no punishment for sin. Let them say to them, “What you suffer here is to be looked upon as God’s judgment on your offence; but there is no world to come in which your sins will be visited upon your heads.” Friends, you may at once advise the government to multiply the number of our jails tenfold. If there is no punishment for sin in another world, if it is so light and trifling an offence that the little sufferings of this life are sufficient atonement for it, then you have thrown open the floodgates which have so far dammed up the overflowing floods; you will soon see society swept from its moorings, there will be no possibility that men will seek to be honest, when they find that honesty or dishonesty are terms which have only a trifling difference between them. If sin is so slight a thing, men will think virtue to be a slight thing too, and if there is so little punishment for crime, they will soon think that there can be very little reason for virtue, and where will our commonwealths and society be? The best lawgivers, however amiably disposed they may be, find that they must back up their laws with penalties. A state which should be founded upon laws without penalties could not last a week, or if it lasted, you would find that while the laws would be disregarded there would be more death and more suffering than there had been before. When was the guillotine most at work, except when there was loudest boast of liberty, and men’s living lawlessly. When would there be the most of murder, but when there should no more be heard the threat of condemnation, and when they who were assassins might be permitted to go abroad untouched. There must be punishment for the world’s own good, to say nothing of the nature of God, which for its dignity and holiness necessarily demands that very offence and transgression should receive its just recompence of reward.
10. But further, I affirm the punishment of sin from the atonement of Christ. Friends, if there is no necessity that sin should be punished, why did Jesus die? Why, Father, did you send your only begotten and well beloved Son, and lay upon him the iniquities of us all? Was he needed for an example? He might have been our example without dying, in fact if this were all, virtue, crowned and glorified, might have been quite as noble an incentive to goodness, as virtue mocked and crucified. He was needed so that he might take our sins, and having taken our sins, it became absolutely necessary that Jesus Christ should die. In the death of Christ, if sin must not necessarily be punished, I see nothing except the death of a martyr, like James, or Peter, or Polycarp, the death of a man murdered for being better than his fellows. And why do we make this fuss and noise about salvation by the death of Christ if that is all? Why has the Christian church existed to be a false witness, to testify to a fiction? Why has her blood been shed these many centuries, to maintain that the blood of Jesus Christ takes away the sin of the world, if the sin could he taken away without punishment? The wounds of Christ have no meaning, his precious blood has no value, his thorn crowned head is not worthy of worship, nor is his death worthy of daily ministry, unless it is that he suffered “the just for the unjust to bring us to God;” God in Christ punished the sins of his people; and if he did it in Christ, unpardoned sinner, rest assured he will do it in you. If the imputed sins of Christ brought him the agonies of Gethsemane, what will your sins bring you? If guilt that was not his own brought him an exceeding heaviness, “even to death,” what will your sins bring you, sins remember which are your own? “He who did not spare his own Son” will never spare rebels. He who did not spare his Son a single lash or a single stroke, will certainly make no exemption in your favour, if you live and die impenitent and reject the gospel of Christ.
11. Besides, my dear friends, permit me to say that those who think that sin is not to be punished, are generally the worst of men. Men hate hell for the reason that murderers hate the gallows. The miscreant Youngman,1 who was executed on the top of that jail, informed the chaplain that he objected on principle to all capital punishment, an objection natural enough when it was his own inevitable doom. Those who dissent from the doctrine of divine justice, are interested in forming that opinion; the wish is father to the thought, they would have their sin unpunished, they hope it may be, and then they say it will be. You will not hear a thief’s objection to a policeman; you do not imagine that a criminal’s objection to a judge is very valid, and the sinner’s objection to hell lies only here, that he will not repent, and he therefore fears the dread certainty that he shall be punished. Besides even these worst of men, who pretend not to believe, do believe. Their fears betray the secret conviction of their consciences, and on their deathbeds, or in a storm, whenever they have thought they were about to see with their own eyes the stern realities of eternity, their fears have proved them to be as strong believers as those who profess the faith. Infidelity is not honest. It may profess to be, but it is not. I think that our judges are right in not accepting the oath of an infidel. It is not possible that he should be honest in the notion that there is no God. When God is around him in every leaf, in every tree, and in every star in the sky; it is not possible that a man should be honest when he calls himself an atheist. Nor do we believe that any man can speak the dictates of his innermost heart, when he says that sin will never be punished, and that he may sin with impunity. His conscience gives him the lie, he knows it must be so, and that God will visit his offences upon his head.
12. I shall not enlarge further, except to say in gathering up the thoughts, impenitent sinner, be sure of this; there shall not be a sin of yours fall to the ground unremembered, “For every idle word that you shall speak God will bring you into judgment,” how much more for every blasphemous word and for every rebellious act. Do not wrap yourself up in the delusive thought that sin will escape unpunished. Even if it should be so, then the Christian is as well off as you are, but since righteousness will be laid to the line, and judgment to the plummet, what will become of you? Be wise before it is too late. Believe today what you will find out to be a fact before long. God has revealed it to you, his revelation has tokens and signs which prove its divine origin. Believe what he has revealed; do not say in your heart “I never will believe there is a hell unless one should come from it.” Do you not see, that if one should come from it then you would not believe at all, because you would say, “If one person came from hell, then another may, and I may myself.” It would take away all your dread of future punishment if any spirit should come back from it, and therefore it is better for you that you should not have that evidence given to you. Yet I think the shrieks of dying sinners, the cries which some of you have heard coming up from the deathbeds of blasphemers, ought to be enough evidence that there is a world to come of which we speak, and that there are terrors of the law which are happily concealed today from your eyes and from your ears, but which you may soon know, and know far better than the best words can teach you, by your own feelings, by your own everlasting despair, and banishment from God.
13. II. I turn now to the second portion of the discourse: THE NATURE OF THIS PUNISHMENT by way of explanation.
14. How will God punish sin? The text says, “The wicked is reserved to the day of destruction, they shall be brought forth to the day of wrath.” The old Puritan preachers, such men as Alleyne, who wrote the “Alarm,” and others of his class—always gave a very gross picture of the world to come. They could never represent it except by brimstone flames, and dancing fiends, and similar horrors. They were conscientious in the drawing of the picture, and to them the terrors of the Lord were gross, corporeal, unscriptural ideas of hell, but rather let us feel that it is a great mystery, concerning which we must rather follow Scripture than imagination. The first punishment which will be executed upon man for his sins, will be punishment to his soul. The soul leaves the body; the body is here enclosed in the coffin, rotting in the tomb; the disembodied spirit will appear before its God. It will then know at once what its future destination shall be. The great assize will not then have been held, the Judge will not have officially pronounced the sentence, but the soul anticipating the sentence will anticipate its execution. Memory will begin to reflect upon past sins, past mercies unimproved, past opportunities neglected, and past offences which have long been forgotten. Then the conscience will begin to thunder. “You did this wantonly,” says Conscience. “You did it against light and knowledge, you despised Christ, you neglected the day of mercy, you have committed suicide, you have destroyed yourself.” Then the fears will come in, the fears of the day of judgment, when the body shall be reunited with the soul. And those fears will sting the man with thoughts like these. “What will you say when he comes to judge you? How will you bear the eyes of him who shall read you through and through? Now you know that what was preached to you on earth is true. You are no infidel now. Now the truth is not kept out of your soul by the dulness of your fleshly body; you see, you know it. What will become of you when earth shall pass away and heaven shall shake, and hell shall gape to receive its prey?” So the spirit shall be virtually in hell before the body goes there. This shall be the first punishment of sin.
15. Then, when the predestined day shall have come, the trumpet of the archangel shall ring through the air—the trumpet this time of the second resurrection—for the dead in Christ shall have already risen, and have reigned with Christ upon the earth. Then the clarion note rings that wakes the dead. They rise up, and the soul returns to its old house, the body. Then it receives its sentence. It is brought forth, as the text says, “to the day of wrath,”—it had been reserved in chains before, in blackness and darkness, it is now brought forth to receive the sentence, so that the body may begin its hell. Then, notice, beyond a doubt, for we cannot understand Scripture, and especially the words of Christ without it, the body shall have pains suitable for its offences. Your members were servants of your lusts, they shall be partakers of the wages of your soul; the feet that carried you in the paths of sin, shall tread the fiery road; the eyes which gazed with lustful glance, shall now be made to weep the scalding tear; the teeth which ministered to your gluttony, shall now gnash for pain; the tongues which talked so exceeding proudly against God, shall be “tormented in this flame.” There shall be certainly a punishment for the body as well as for the soul, for what else did Christ mean when he said, “Fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell.” I shall not enlarge upon what sort of punishment this will be, suffice for me to say, that whatever it is, it will be just. The sinner in hell shall not endure one iota more than he deserves; he shall have the due reward of his deeds—no more. God is not unjust to punish men arbitrarily,—I know of no arbitrary condemnation. There is no such thing as sovereign damnation; it will be justice—inflexible, I grant you, but yet not such as shall pass the bounds of due and just desert. God will give to man only the harvest of his own deeds. He sowed the wind, and he shall reap the whirlwind. You shall not have the consolation in hell of saying that you did not deserve it, for in hell you will be made to feel, “I brought this on myself, I destroyed myself; it is true I am in pain, but I am the father of my own pains; I planted the tree which yields the bitter fruit, I dug around it and I watered it, I did the work, I laboured, and this is my wages;” and you will have to feel there and then, that in every pang that rends the heart God is infinitely just. And then, whatever the pain may be, we know that while it is just, it will be terrible. Whose are those awful words, “He shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire?” Is this the language of Moses? No, of Christ. It is a remarkable fact, that the most frightful descriptions of punishment of another world are from the lips of the Saviour. Had Peter spoken them, you would have said Peter was harsh in spirit. It was the Master who spoke them. He who wept over Jerusalem said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment;” he spoke of “burning up the chaff;” he spoke of “binding hand and foot and giving them up to the tormentors.” In the entire scope of revelation there are no words so grim and terrible in their awful suggestiveness, as the words of him “who went around doing good,” and wept and cried, “Come to me, and all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
16. And we know, again that this punishment will be eternal. This is the very pith of it. There would be no hell, if it were not eternal, for the hope of an end would be the end of fear. If there could be an end to hell at any time, there would be an end to it at once, for no man would feel that desperate despair, if there would be a hope that it should come to a close. But it is eternity, eternity, eternity, that makes punishment hell. This is the bell which tolls the funeral of every hope—eternity, eternity, eternity. To sail across a sea of fire for ever, never reaching a haven; to sink, but never reach the bottom, or to rise to heights of greater agony, and never reach the summit. Oh, brethren, brethren, it is not the wrath of God in this world that you have so much to fear, the wrath to come, the wrath to come. And it is not the wrath that the soul shall be filled with when it has been there a thousand years, it is the wrath to come. They will go on sinning and God will go on averaging, they will go on blaspheming and they shall go on gnawing their tongues, they shall go on hating God and they shall go on feeling his anger, they shall go from bad to worse in character, and doubtlessly from bad to worse in agony. Oh God, help us to escape from this awful thing—the wrath, the wrath to come!
17. III. I close now by offering SOME FEW WORDS OF EXPOSTULATION.
18. You will kindly look at the last verse of our text. He says “Who shall declare his way to his face? and who shall repay him for what he has done?” (Job 21:31) Now there are many men who think they shall come off scot free, because in this life there are none who will dare to mention their sins to their face. The covetous man is very seldom rebuked for his covetousness. If a man lives an unclean life, he does not usually read books which would prick his conscience. If a man acts dishonourably in his business, if another should tell him about it, he would be exceedingly insulted. It is true a faithful minister will often make men feel uneasy in their sins, for he will be led by God’s direction to give such a description of the offences and of the punishment, that he will make sinners tremble in their shoes. But still are there not some among you here today who can sin with both your hands, and there is no Elijah to say, “You are the man.” You have no one to meet you in Naboth’s vineyard, and say to you, “Have you killed and taken possession?” There is perhaps hardly a “still small voice:” there used to be one. The agonizing face of your wife when first you had forsaken the way of virtue; the ghastly look of your mother as you were bringing down her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, the sorrowful gaze of your little children when their father first became a drunkard, these were still voices to you, but they are hushed now. When God gives you up, then indeed your damnation does not slumber. But remember, however cheaply you can sin now, God will not fear insulting you; he will bring your sins to your remembrance, and there shall be no consideration for your dignity. He will not consult your feelings, he will not look upon you as a great one; he will bring your sins to remembrance in no courtly phrases and in no polished terms. You shall find that the lips of Justice do not know how to make distinctions between you and the basest menial whom you once despised. Now, if a man should speak your character it would be libelous; but when God speaks it, you shall not threaten him. What, do you think that he will fear and tremble before you? Who are you, oh man, that the lips of the Eternal God should be silent about you? Who are you that he should fail to paint your character in black or crimson hues? He will convict you to your face, and you shall be utterly unable to plead “not guilty” for your sins. And then the text says “Who shall repay him?” Ah! there is no hand which dares to repay you now; so far you have gone unpunished. No law can touch you, you say; ah! but there is a divine law which overrides the law that is human; and if the arm of human justice is too short, the arm of God is as long as it is strong, and he will reach you, and to the last jot and tittle pay you your due reward. You shall not escape, even in the slightest degree. No pleas and prayers, no tears and excuses, shall have any avail with him, but until justice shall have had its uttermost farthing, you shall by no means come out from there.
19. And now, sinner, why will you dare the wrath of God? Why will you run this fearful risk? Why will you make your bed in hell? Why will you dwell in everlasting burnings? Is it wise, or are you mad, and is your reason gone? Have I preached to you a bugbear and a fable?—if so, go your way and sin. But oh! if it is true—and it must be, unless you are prepared to reject that precious book and the very name of Christian—if it is true! Soul, I admonish you let me feel for you, if you will not feel for yourself. Why dash yourself upon the point of Jehovah’s javelin? Why destroy yourself against the bosses of his buckler? What can there be that makes you so in love with ruin? Why will you hug the grave, and embrace destruction? Soul, again I say, are you mad?—are you mad?—are you mad? May the Lord teach you reason, and may he help you to flee to the only refuge where a sinner may find mercy.
20. I shall close when I have tried to show the way of Mercy. I have read in the old Histories of England, that Edward II, one of our kings, was exceedingly enraged against one of his courtiers; when he was out hunting one day, he threatened the courtier with the severest punishment. There was a river between them at the time, and the courtier thinking that he was perfectly safe, ventured to offer some jeering remark toward the king—telling him that at any rate he would not be likely to chastise him until he got to him. The king feeling his anger hot within him, told him that the water should not long divide them, leaped into the middle of the stream, and with some difficulty gained the other side. The courtier in great alarm fled in terror, and the king pursued him with might and main, spurring his horse to the utmost. Nor did his anger cease; he carried his drawn sword in his hand with the intention of killing him. At last the courtier, seeing that there was no hope for any escape, knelt down upon the grass, and laying bare his neck, said, “I heartily deserve to die; mercy, King! mercy!” He put back his sword into the scabbard in a moment, and said, “While you tried to escape from me I was determined to destroy you, but when I see you humble at my feet I freely forgive you.” Even so it is with the King of heaven. Sinners, you say there is this life between you and God; ah! but how soon will the white horse of Justice pass the stream, and then flee, flee as you may today, he will surely overtake you. He is now swift to destroy, it is your responsibility to fall on your knees to make confession of your sin and say, “I deserve your wrath, Great King, I deserve your wrath;” and if to this you are enabled to add the plea of the precious blood of Christ, the sword of Justice will return into its scabbard, and he will say, “I am just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.” For Jesus died, and inasmuch as Jesus Christ has died, Justice is satisfied on the account of all believers. Go your way, your sins which are many are all forgiven you. “What must I do to saved?” one says. This is all you have to do, and this the Holy Spirit will work in you. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ with all your heart.” “What is that?” you say. “I believe him to be divine; I believe that he is able to save.” That will not save you, there must be something more than that. “What then?” “Believe in him,”—carry out practically your belief that he is able to save by trusting yourself in his hands. To exhibit again an old picture which has often been used, there is a child in a burning house, hanging from the upper window. A strong man stands beneath and offers to catch him, if he will but drop from that hot window sill to which he still clings. “Drop, my child,” he says, “I will catch you.” The child believes the strength of his preserver; that does not save him. He trusts in the strength, he lets go his hold and falls, is caught and is preserved; that is faith. Let go of your hold of your good works, your good thoughts, and all else, and tried in Christ. He never yet let one soul dash itself to earth, that did not fall into his hands. Oh! for grace for everyone of us to say in the words of Watts,—
A guilty, weak, and helpless worm,
On Christ’s kind arms I fall;
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all.
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