“If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow and made it ready.”—Psalm 7:12.
IF THE SINNER turn not, God will whet his sword.” So, then, God has a sword, and he will punish man on account of his iniquity. This evil generation hath laboured to take away from God the sword of his justice; they have endeavoured to prove themselves that God will “clear the guilty,” and will by no means “punish iniquity, transgression and sin.”
Perhaps some of the Puritanic fathers may have gone too far, and have given too great a prominence to the terrors of the Lord in their ministry: but the age in which we live has sought to forget those terrors altogether, and if we dare to tell men that God will punish them for their sins, it is charged upon us that want to bully them into religion, and if we faithfully and honestly tell our hearers that sin must bring after it certain destruction, it is said that we are attempting to frighten them into goodness. Now we care not what men mockingly impute to us; we feel it our duty, when men sin, to tell them they shall be punished, and so long as the world will not give up its sin we feel we must not cease our warnings.
But the cry of the age is, that God is merciful, that God is love. Ay; who said he was not? But remember, it is equally true, God is just, severely and inflexibly just. He were not God, if he were not just; he could not be merciful if he were not just, for punishment of the wicked is demanded by the highest mercy to the rest of mankind. Rest assured, however, that he is just, and that the words I am about to read you from God’s Word are true—“The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God;’ “God is angry with the wicked every day;” “If he turn not, he will whet his sword; he hath bent his bow, and made it ready. He hath also prepared for him the instruments of death; he ordaineth his arrows against the persecutors.” Forsooth, because this age is wicked it is to have no hell; and because it is hypocritical it would have but feigned punishment. This doctrine is so prevalent as to make even the ministers of the gospel flinch from their duty in declaring the day of wrath. How few there are who will solemnly tell us of the judgment to come. They preach of God’s love and mercy as they ought to do, and as God has commanded them; but of what avail is it to preach mercy unless they preach also the doom of the wicked? And how shall we hope to effect the purpose of preaching unless we warn men that if they “turn not, he will whet his sword?” I fear that in too many places the doctrine of future punishment is rejected and laughed as a fancy and a chimera; but the day will come when it shall be known to be a reality.
I. In the first place, my hearers, let me endeavour to explain to you the NATURE OF THE TURNING HERE MEANT. It says—“if he turn not he will whet his sword.”
The turning here meant is actual, not fictitious—not that which stops with promises and vows, but that which deals with the real acts life. Ah! my hearer, it is not thy promise of repentance that can save thee; it is not thy vow, it is not thy solemn declaration, it is not the tear that is dried more easily than the dew-drop by the sun, it is not the transient emotion of the heart which constitutes a real turning to God. There must be a true and actual abandonment of sin, and a turning unto righteousness in real act and deed in every-day life.
Repentance to be true, to be evangelical, must be a repentance which really affects our outward conduct.
In the next place, repentance to be sure must be entire. How many will say, “Sir, I will renounce this sin and the other; but there are certain darling lusts which I must keep and hold.” O sirs, In God’s name let me tell you, it is not the giving up of one sin, nor fifty sins, which is true repentance; it is the solemn renunciation of every sin. If thou dost indulge in but one lust, and dost give up every other, that one lust, like one leak in a ship, will sink thy soul.
Think it not sufficient to give up thy outward vices; fancy it not enough to cut off the more corrupt sins of thy life; it is all or none which God demands. The true penitent hates sin in the race, not in the individual—in the mass, not in the particular. All sin must be given up, or else you shall never have Christ: all transgression must be renounced, or else the gates of heaven must be barred against you. Let us remember, then, that for repentance to be sincere it must be entire repentance.
Furthermore; the repentance here described as absolutely necessary is hearty repentance. It is not a mock tear; it is not hanging out the ensigns of grief, whilst you are keeping merriment in your hearts. It is not having an illumination within, and shutting up all the windows by a pretended repentance; it is the putting out of the candles of the heart; it is sorrow of soul which is true repentance.
True repentance is a turning of the heart as well as of the life; it is the giving up of the whole soul to God, to be his for ever and ever; it is a renunciation of the sins of the heart, as well as the crimes of the life. And lastly, upon this point, this repentance must be perpetual. It is not my turning to God during to-day that will be a proof that I am a true convert; it is forsaking of my sin throughout the entire of my life, until I sleep in the grave.
Legal repentance is a fear of damning: evangelical repentance is a fear of sinning. Legal repentance makes us fear the wrath of God; evangelical repentance makes us fear the cause of that wrath, even sin. When a man repents with that grace of repentance which God the Spirits works in him, he repents not of the punishment which is to follow the deed, but of the deed itself; and he feels that if there were not pit digged for the wicked, if there were no ever-gnawing worm, and no fire unquenchable, he would still hate sin. It is such repentance as this which every one of you must have, or else you will be lost. It must be a hatred of sin. Do not suppose, that because when you come to die you will be afraid of eternal torment, therefore that will be repentance. Every thief is afraid of the prison; but he will steal to-morrow if you set him free. Most men who have committed murder tremble at the sight of the gallows-tree, but they would do the deed again could they live. It is not the hatred of the punishment that is repentance; it is the hatred of the deed itself. Do you feel that you have such a repentance as that? If not, these thundering words must be preached to you again,—“If he turn not, he will whet his sword.”
But one more hint here. When a man is possessed of true and evangelical repentance—I mean the gospel repentance which saves the soul—he not only hates sin for its own sake, but loathes it so extremely and utterly that he feels that no repentance of his own can avail to wash it out, and he acknowledges that it is only by an act of sovereign grace that his sin can be washed away.
Now, if any of you suppose that you repent of your sins, and yet imagine that by a course of holy living you can blot them out—if you suppose that by walking uprightly in future you can obliterate your past transgressions—you have not yet truly repented;
And now the second point; it is a yet more terrible one to dwell upon, and if I consulted my own feelings I should not mention it; but we must not consider our feelings in the work of ministry, any more than we should if we were physicians of men’s bodies. We must sometimes use the knife, where we feel that mortification would ensue without it. We must frequently make sharp gashes into men’s consciences, in the hope that the Holy Spirit will bring them to life. We assert, then, that there is a NECESSITY that God should whet his sword and punish men, if they will not turn. Earnest Baxter used to say, “Sinner! turn or burn; it is thine only alternative: TURN OR BURN!” And it is so. We think we can show you why men must turn, or else they must burn.
First we cannot suppose the God of the Bible could suffer sin to be unpunished. Some may suppose it; they may dream their intellects into a state of intoxication, so as to suppose a God apart from justice; but no man whose reason is sound and whose mind is in a healthy condition can imagine a God without justice. To suppose him all love, and no justice, were to undeify him, and make him no longer God; he were not capable of ruling this world if he had not justice in his heart.
But to imagine that there shall be no punishment for sin, and that man can be saved without repentance, is to fly in the face of all the Scriptures.
But why need I go far to bring arguments to bear on you, my hearers? Your own consciences tell you that God must punish sin. You may laugh at me, and say that you have no such belief. I do not say you have but I say that your conscience tells you so, and conscience has more power over men than what they think to be their belief.
O sirs! ye may think that the fire of hell is indeed a fiction, and that the flames of the nethermost pit are put popish dreams; but if ye are believers in the Bible ye must believe that it cannot be so.
Most seriously I say, I do not believe any man can repent with evangelical repentance of himself. You ask me then to what purpose is the sermon I have endeavoured to preach, proving the necessity of repentance? Allow me to make the sermon of some purpose, under God, by its conclusion. Sinner! thou art so desperately set on sin, that I have no hope thou wilt ever turn from it of thyself. But listen! He who died on Calvary is exalted on high “to give repentance and remission of sin.” Dost thou this morning feel that thou art a sinner? If so, ask of Christ to give thee repentance, for he can work repentance in thine heart by his Spirit, though thou canst not work it there thyself. He can make thee repent, though thou canst not make thyself repent. If thou feelest thy need of repentance, I will not now say to thee “repent,” for I believe there are certain acts that must precede a sense of repentance. I should advise you to go to your houses, and if you feel that you have sinned, and yet cannot sufficiently repent of your transgressions, bow your knees before God and confess your sins: tell him you cannot repent as you would; tell him your heart is hard; tell him it is as cold as ice. You can do that if God has made you feel your need of a Saviour. Then if it should be laid to your heart to endeavour to seek after repentance, I will tell you the best way to find it.© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible