IN all worldly things men are always enough awake to understand their own interests.
Men will always be looking out for themselves, and personal and home interests will generally engross the major part of their thoughts. But in religion it is otherwise. In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it.
You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended. If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind; or the need of a Savior, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them.
If in all other matters we like personalities if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for surely every man must give an account for himself at the day of judgment. We must die alone, we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, “Come ye blessed;” or else he must be appalled with the thundering sentence “Depart ye cursed.”
Now, this morning, by Gods help, I shall labor to be personal, and whilst I pray for the rich assistance of the Divine Spirit, I will also ask one thing of each person here present I would ask of every Christian that he would lift up a prayer to God, that the service may be blessed, and I ask of every other person that he will please to understand that I am preaching to him, and at him; and if there be anything that is personal and pertinent to his own case, I beseech him, as for life and death, to let it have its full weight with him, and not begin to think of his neighbor, to whom perhaps it may be even more pertinent, but whose business certainly does not concern him.
If men perish under an unfaithful ministry, and have not been sufficiently warned to escape from the wrath to come, the Christian may pity them, yea, and methinks, even when they stand before the bar of God, although the fact of their not having been warned will not fully excuse them, yet it will go far to diminish their eternal miseries, which otherwise might have fallen upon their heads; for we know it is more tolerable for unwarned Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than it is for any city, or any nation that has had the Gospel proclaimed in its ears.
My brethren, if on the other hand, we have been warned, if our ministers have been faithful, if they have aroused our conscience, and have constantly and earnestly called our attention to the fact of the wrath to come, if we have not attended to their message, if we have despised the voice of God, if we have turned a deaf ear to their earnest exhortations, if we perish, we shall die warned die under the sound of the Gospel, and our damnation must be an unpitied one, for our blood must fall upon our own heads. Permit me then, to try, if I can, to enlarge upon this thought, that the warning has been in the case of many of you, all that could have been needed.
Alas! there are myriads of our fellow creatures who have never been warned by Gods ambassadors, who know not that wrath abideth on them, and who do not yet understand the only way and method of salvation. In your case it is very different. You have heard the Word of God preached to you. You cannot say, when you come before God, “Lord. I knew no better.” There is not a man or a woman within this place who will dare then to plead ignorance. And moreover, you have not only heard with your ears, but some of you have been obliged to hear it in your consciences.
Oh! my hearers, if a man should hear the gospel but once, his blood would be upon his own head for rejecting it, but of how much sorer punishment shall you be thought worthy who have heard it many and many a time. AH! I may well weep, when I think how many sermons you have listened to, many of you, how many times you have been CUT to the heart. A hundred times every year you have gone up to the house of God, and far oftener than that, and you have just added a hundred billets to the eternal pile. A hundred times the trumpet has sounded in your ears, and a hundred times you have turned away to sin again, to despise Christ, to neglect your eternal interests, and to pursue the pleasures and the CONCERNS of this world.
Oh my brethren, to preach the gospel now is to preach in a hopeful period; for “now is the accepted time: now is the day of salvation.” Warn the boatman before he enters the current, and then, if he is swept down the rapids, he destroys himself. Warn the man before he drinks the cup of poison, tell him it is deadly; and then, if he drinks it, his death lies at his own door. And so, let us warn you before you depart, this life; let us preach to you while as yet your bones are full of marrow, and the sinews of your joints are not loosed.
I will just go over one or two of the excuses that people make. Some of them say, “Well, I did not attend to the warning, because I did not believe there was any necessity for it.” Ah! You were told that after death there was a judgment, and you did not believe there was any necessity that you should be prepared for that judgment. You were told that by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified, and that only through Christ CAN sinners be saved; and you did not think there was any necessity for Christ. Well sir, you ought to have thought there was a necessity.
There was enough in reason to have taught you that there was an hereafter; the Book of Gods revelation was plain enough to have taught it to you, and if you have rejected Gods Book, and rejected the voice of reason and of conscience, your blood is on your own head. Your excuse is idle. It is worse than that, it is profane and wicked, and still on your own head be your everlasting torment.
“But,”cries another, “I did not like the trumpet. I did not like the Gospel that was preached.” Says one, “I did not like certain doctrines in the Bible. I thought the minister preached too harsh doctrines sometimes, I did not agree with the Gospel, I thought the Gospel ought to have been altered, and not to have been just what it was.” You did not like the trumpet, did you? Well, but God made the trumpet, God made the Gospel. and inasmuch as ye did not like what God made, it is an idle excuse.
Ah, my brethren, we do not find fault with the way a man speaks, if we are in a house that is on fire. If the man calls, “Fire! Fire!” we are not particular what note he takes, we do not think what a harsh voice he has got. You would think any one a fool, a confounded fool, who should lie in his bed, to be burned, because be said he did not like the way the man cried, “Fire” Why his business was to have been out of bed and down the stairs at once, as soon as he heard it.
You are so busy with criticising the minister, and his style, and his doctrine, that your own soul perishes. Remember you may get into hell by criticism, but you will never criticise your soul out of it. You may there make the most you can of it. You may be there and say “I did not like the minister I did not like his manner, I did not like his matter;” but all your dislikings will not get one drop of water to cool your burning tongue. nor serve to mitigate the unalleviated torments of that world of agony.
There are many other people who say, “Ah, well, I did none of those things, but I had a notion that the trumpet sound ought to be blown to everybody else, but not to me.” Ah! that is a very common notion.Let each of us recollect that the Gospel has a message to each one of us. What saith the Gospel to thee my hearer? What saith the Word to thee? Forget thy neighbors, and ask this question. Doth it condemn thee? or doth it assure thee of thy. pardon? for recollect, all thou hast to do in the hearing of the Word, is to hear with thine own ears for thine own soul, and it will be idle for any one to say “ I did not think it applied to me,” when we know that it is to be preached to every creature under heaven, and therefore there must be something in it for every creature or else it would not be preached to every creature.
What will you say of the man who has so much to do that he could not get out of the burning house, but was burnt to ashes? What will you say of the man that had so much to do, that when he was dying, he had not time to send for a physician? Why, you will say, then he ought not to have had so much to do. And so it is with religion, the reason why men cannot find time for it is, because they do not like it well enough. If they liked it, they would find time. And besides, what time does it want? What time does it require? Can I not pray to God over my ledger? Can I not snatch a text at my very breakfast, and think over it all day? May I not even when I am busy in the affairs of the world, be thinking of my soul, and casting myself upon a Redeemers blood and atonement? It wants no time. There may be some time required; some time for my private devotions, and for communion with Christ, but when I grow in grace, I shall think it right to have more and more time, the more I can possibly get, the happier I shall be, and I shall never make the excuse that I have no time.
There is no human mind, however capacious, that can ever guess the thought of a soul eternally cast away from God. The wrath to come is as inexpressible as the glory that shall be revealed hereafter.
No preacher was ever so loving as Christ but no man ever spoke so horribly about hell; and yet even when the Savior had said his best and said his worst, he had not told us what are the horrors of a future state.
Have you never seen yourselves what power the mind has over us to make us full of misery? Ah, brethren and sisters, if ye could go to many of our asylums, and to our sick wards ay, and dying beds, too, you might know what acute anguish the mind may feel.
And remember that the mind, as well as the mortal frame, is to endure damnation. Yes, we must not shirk that word, the Scripture saith it, and we must use it. Oh! men and women, except we repent, except we do each of US cry for mercy to him that is able to save, we must perish. All that is meant by that word “hell,” must be realized in me except I be a believer. and so all that is meant by “Depart, ye cursed,” must be thine, unless thou dost turn unto God with full purpose of heart.
The things we preach, and that are taught in Scripture, are matters of solemn certainty. It may be that death is that bourne from which no traveler returns, but it is not true that we know nothing of it. It is as certain as that there are men, and a world in which they live, that there is another world to come, and that if they die impenitent, that world will be to them one of misery.
And mark you there is no chance of escape, die without Christ, and there is no gate out of which you can escape for ever, oh, for ever lost, and not one hope of mercy cast away, and not one outlet for escape, not one solitary chance of ransom. Oh, if there were hope that in the world to come, men might escape, we need not be so earnest; but since once lost, lost for aye once cast away, cast away without hope, without any prospect of a hope, we must be earnest.
And let every man remember that if he perish after having heard the Gospel, he will be his own murderer. Sinner, thou wilt drive the dagger into thine heart thyself. If thou depisest the Gospel, thou art preparing fuel for thine own bed of flames, thou art hammering out the chain for thine own everlasting binding; and when damned, thy mournful reflection will be this: I have damned myself, I cast myself into this pit; for I rejected the Gospel, I despised the message; I trod under foot the Son of Man; I would have none of his rebukes. I despised his Sabbaths: I would not hearken to his exhortations, and now I perish by mine own hand, the miserable suicide of my own soul.
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible