A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 24, 1871, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 8/14/2011*8/14/2011
He who does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:36)
1. This is a part of a discourse by John the Baptist. We do not have many sermons by that mighty preacher, but we have just sufficient to prove that he knew how to lay the axe at the root of the tree by preaching the law of God most unflinchingly; and also that he knew how to declare the gospel, for no one could have uttered sentences which more clearly contain the way of salvation than those in the text before us. Indeed, this third chapter of the gospel according to the evangelist John is notable among clear and plain Scriptures — notable for being even clearer and more plain than almost any other. John the Baptist was evidently a preacher who knew how to discriminate — a point in which so many fail — he separated the precious from the vile, and therefore he was as God’s mouthpiece to the people. He does not address them as all lost nor as all saved, but he shows the two classes, he keeps up the line of demarcation between those who fear God and those who do not fear him. He plainly declares the privileges of the believer, he says he has eternal life even now; and with equal decision he testifies to the sad state of the unbeliever — “he shall not see life; but the wrath of God remains on him.” John the Baptist might usefully instruct many professedly Christian preachers. Although he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than John the Baptist, and ought, therefore, more clearly to bear witness to the truth; yet, there are many who muddle the gospel, who teach philosophy, who preach a mingle mangle, which is neither law nor gospel; and these might well go to school to this rough preacher of the wilderness, and learn from him how to cry, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” I desire this morning to take a page from the lesson book of John; I wish to preach as he did the gospel of the Lord Jesus, “whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” It is my earnest desire to enjoy the delight of expounding to you the deep things of God; I feel a profound pleasure in opening up the blessings of the covenant of grace, and bringing from its treasury things new and old. I should be happy to dwell upon the types of the Old Testament, and even to touch upon the prophecies of the New; but, while so many still remain unsaved, my heart is never content except when I am preaching simply the gospel of Jesus Christ. My dear unconverted hearers, when I see you brought to Christ, I will then advance beyond the rudiments of the gospel; but, meanwhile, while hell is gaping wide, and many of you will certainly help to fill it, I cannot turn aside from warning you. I dare not resist the sacred impulse which constrains me to preach over and over again to you the glad tidings of salvation. I shall, like John, continue laying the axe at the root of the trees, and shall not go beyond crying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” As he did, we shall now declare the sad estate of him who does not believe the Son of God.
2. This morning, with the burden of the Lord upon us, we shall speak upon the words of the text. Our first point shall be a discovery of the guilty one, “he who does not believe the Son.” Next, we shall consider his offence; it lies in “not believing the Son”; thirdly, we shall lay bare the sinful reasons which create this unbelief; and, fourthly, we shall show the terrible result of not believing in the Son: “he shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” May the Spirit help us in all.
3. I. To begin, then, who is THE GUILTY ONE?
4. Who is that unhappy man here spoken of? Is he a person to be encountered only once in a century? Must we search the crowds through and through to find an individual in this miserable plight? Ah! no; the people who are here spoken of are common; they abound even in our holy assemblies; they are to be found by the thousands in our streets. Alas, alas! they form the vast majority of the world’s population. Jesus has come to his own and his own have not received him, the Jewish people remain unbelieving; while the Gentiles, to whom he was to be a light, prefer to sit in darkness and reject his brightness. We shall not be talking this morning about an abstruse theme, with only a remote relationship to ourselves, but there are many here of whom we shall be speaking, and we devoutly pray that the word of God may come with power to their souls.
5. The people here spoken of are those who do not believe the Son of God. Jesus Christ, out of infinite mercy, has come into the world, has taken upon himself our nature, and in that nature has suffered the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. By reason of his sufferings, the gospel message is now proclaimed to all men, and they are honestly assured that “whoever believes in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” The unhappy people in this text will not believe in Jesus Christ, they reject God’s way of mercy; they hear the gospel, but refuse obedience to its command. Do not let it be imagined that these individuals are necessarily confirmed sceptics, for many of them believe much of the revealed truth. They believe the Bible to be the word of God; they believe there is a God; they believe that Jesus Christ is come into the world as a Saviour; they believe most of the doctrines which cluster around the cross. Alas! they may do this, but yet the wrath of God remains on them, if they do not believe the Son of God. It may surprise you to learn that many of these people are very much interested in orthodoxy. They believe that they have discovered the truth, and they exceedingly value those discoveries, so that they frequently grow very warm in temper with those who differ from them. They have read much, and they are matters of argument in the defence of what they consider to be sound doctrine. They cannot endure heresy, and yet sad is the fact, that believing what they do, and knowing so much, they have not believed the Son of God. They believe the doctrine of election, but they do not have the faith of God’s elect: they swear by final perseverance, but persevere in unbelief. They confess all the five points of Calvinism, but they have not come to the one most needful point of looking to Jesus, so that they may be saved. They accept in creed the truths that are assuredly believed among us, but they have not received that faithful saying, worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; at any rate, they have not received it personally and practically for their souls’ salvation.
6. It must be admitted that not a few of these people are blameless with respect to their morals. You could not, with the closest observation, find either dishonesty, falsehood, uncleanness, or malice in their outward life; they are not only free from these blemishes, but they reveal positive excellencies. Much of their character is commendable. They frequently are courteous and compassionate, generous and gentle minded. Often, they are so amiable and admirable that, while looking upon them, we understand how our Lord, in a similar case, loved the young man who asked, “What do I still lack?” They are destitute of the one needful thing, they have not believed in Christ Jesus, and loath as the Saviour was to see them perish, yet it cannot be helped, one doom is common to all who do not believe; they shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on them.
7. In many cases these people are, in addition to their morality, religious people after a fashion. They would not absent themselves from the usual service of the place of worship. They are most careful to respect the Sabbath, they venerate the Book of God, they use a form of prayer, they join in the songs of the Sanctuary, they sit as God’s people sit, and stand as God’s people stand, but, alas, there is a worm in the centre of that fair fruit, they have missed the one essential thing, which, being omitted, brings certain ruin; they have not believed on the Son of God. Ah, how far a man may go, and yet, for lack of this one thing, the wrath of God may still remain upon him. Beloved by parents who are hopeful of the conversion of their boy, esteemed by Christians who can only admire his outward conduct, yet for all that, the young man may be under the frown of God, for “God is angry with the wicked every day.” The wrath of God remains on the man, whoever he may be, who has not believed in Jesus.
8. Now, if our text showed that the wrath of God was resting on the culprits in our jails, most people would assent to the statement, and no one would wonder about it. If our text declared that the wrath of God remains upon people who live in habitual unchastity and constant violation of all the laws of order and respectability, most men would say “Amen”; but the text is aimed at another character. It is true that God’s wrath does rest upon open sinners; but, oh sirs, this too is true, the wrath of God remains upon those who boast of their virtues but have not believed in Jesus his Son. They may live in palaces; but, if they are not believers, the wrath of God remains on them. They may sit in the senate house and enjoy the acclamations of the nation; but, if they do not believe on the Son, the wrath of God remains on them. Their names may be enrolled in the peerage, although they may possess countless wealth, but still the wrath of God remains on them. They may be habitual in their charities, and abundant in external acts of devotion; but, if they have not accepted the appointed Saviour, the word of God bears witness, that “the wrath of God remains on them.”
9. II. Now let us, with our hearts awakened by God’s Spirit, try to think upon THEIR OFFENCE.
10. What is this particular sin which entails the wrath of God upon these people? It is that they have not believed the Son of God. What does that amount to? It amounts to this, first of all, that they refuse to accept the mercy of God. God made a law, and his creatures were bound to respect and obey it. We rejected it, and turned aside from it. It was a great display of the heart’s hatred, but it was not in some respects so thoroughly and intensely wicked a display of enmity towards God as when we reject the gospel of grace. God has not now presented the law but the gospel to us, and he has said: “My creatures, you have broken my law, you have acted very vilely towards me. I must punish for sin, otherwise I would not be God, and I cannot set aside my justice; but I have devised a way by which, without any violation to any of my attributes, I can have mercy upon you. I am ready to forgive the past, and to restore you to more than your lost position, so that you shall be my sons and my daughters. My only command to you is, believe in my Son. If this command is obeyed, all the blessings of my new covenant shall be yours. Trust him, and follow him; for, behold, I give him as a leader and commander to the people. Accept him as making atonement by his substitution, and obey him.” Now, to reject the law of God shows an evil heart of unbelief; but who shall say what a depth of rebellion must dwell in that heart which refuses not only the yoke of God but even the gift of God. The provision of a Saviour for lost men is the free gift of God, by it all our needs are supplied, all our evils are removed, peace on earth is secured for us, and glory for ever with God: the rejection of this gift cannot be an insignificant sin. The all seeing One, when he beholds men spurning the supreme gift of his love, can only regard such rejection as the worst proof of the hatred of their hearts against himself. When the Holy Spirit comes to convict men of sin, the special sin which he brings to light is thus described: “Of sin, because they do not believe on me.” Not because the heathen were licentious in their habits, barbarians in their ways, and bloodthirsty in their spirit. No: “Of sin, because they do not believe on me.” Condemnation has come upon men, but what is the condemnation? “That light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil.” Remember, also, that expressive text: “He who does not believe is condemned already”; and what is he condemned for? “Because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
11. Let me remark, further, that in the rejection of divine mercy as presented in Christ, the unbeliever has displayed an intense venom against God, for observe how it is. He must either receive the mercy of God in Christ, or he must be condemned — there is no other alternative. He must trust Christ whom God has made to be the propitiation for sin, or else he must be driven from the presence of God into eternal punishment. The unbeliever in effect says, “I had sooner be damned than I would accept God’s mercy in Christ.” Can we conceive a grosser insult to the infinite compassion of the great Father? Suppose a man has injured another, grossly insulted him, and that repeatedly, and yet the injured person, finding the man at last brought into a wretched and miserable state, goes to him, and simply out of kindness to him, says, “I freely forgive you all the wrong you ever did to me, and I am ready to relieve your poverty, and to help you in your distress.” Suppose the other replies, “No, I would sooner rot than take anything from you”; would you not have in such a resolve a clear proof of the intense enmity that existed in his heart? And so when a man says, and everyone of you unbelievers do practically say so, “I would sooner lie for ever in hell than honour Christ by trusting him,” this is a very plain proof of his hatred of God and his Christ. Unbelievers hate God. Let me ask, “Why do you hate him?” He keeps the breath within your nostrils; he it is who gives you food and clothing, and sends fruitful seasons. For which of these good things do you hate him? You hate him because he is good. Ah, then, it must be because you yourself are evil, and your heart is very far removed from righteousness. May God grant that this great and crying sin may be clearly set before your eyes by the light of the Eternal Spirit, and may you repent of it, and turn from your unbelief, and live today.
But yet further, the unbeliever touches God in a very tender place by
his unbelief. No doubt, it was to the great Maker a joyous thing to
fashion this world, but there are no expressions of joy concerning it
at all equal to the joy of God in the matter of human redemption. We
would be guarded when we speak of him; but, as far as we can tell,
the gift of his dear Son to men, and the whole scheme of redemption,
is the masterwork even of God himself. He is infinite in power, and
wisdom, and love; his ways are as high above our ways as the heavens
are above the earth; but Scripture, I think, will warrant me in
That in the grace which rescued man
His brightest form of glory shines;
Here on the cross ’tis fairest writ,
In precious blood and crimson lines.
Now, the man who says, “There is no God” is a fool, but he who denies God the glory of redemption, in addition to his folly, has robbed the Lord of the choicest jewel of his regalia, and aimed a deadly blow at the divine honour. I may say of him who despises the great salvation, that, in despising Christ, he touches the apple of God’s eye. “This is my beloved Son,” says God, “hear him.” Out of heaven he says it, and yet men plug their ears and say, “We will not have him.” Indeed, they become angry with the cross, and turn away from God’s salvation. Do you think that God will always tolerate this? The times of your ignorance he has winked at, but “now he commands all men everywhere to repent.” Will you resist his love; his love that has been so inventive in ingenious plans by which to bless the sons of men? Shall his choicest work be utterly condemned by you? If so, it is little wonder that it is written, “The wrath of God remains on him.”
13. I must, still further, unveil this matter by saying that the unbeliever perpetrates an offence against every person of the blessed Trinity. He may think that his not believing is a very small business, but, indeed, it is a barbed shaft shot against the Deity. Take the persons of the blessed Trinity, beginning with the Son of God who is most closely related to us. It is to me the most surprising thing I ever heard of that “the word was made flesh and lived among us.” I do not wonder that in Hindustan the missionaries often encounter this remark: “It is too good to be true that God ever took upon himself the nature of such a thing as man!” Yet, more wonderful does it seem to be that, when Christ became man, he took all the sorrows and infirmity of man, and, in addition, was made to bear the sin of many. The most extraordinary of all facts is this: that the infinitely Holy should be “numbered with the transgressors,” and, in the words of Isaiah, should “bear their iniquities.” The Lord has made him, who knew no sin, to be made sin for us. Wonder of wonders! It is amazing beyond all degree that he who distributes crowns and thrones should hang on a tree and die, the just for the unjust, bearing the punishment due to sinners for guilt. Now, knowing this, as most of you do, and yet refusing to believe, in effect you say, “I do not believe that the incarnate God can save.” “Oh no,” you reply, “we sincerely believe that he can save.” Then, it must be that you feel, “I believe he can, but I will not have him to save me.” Where I excuse you in the first place, I must bring the accusation more heavily in the second. You answer that “you do not say you will not believe him.” Why do you then remain in unbelief? The fact is you do not trust him; you do not obey him. I ask you to account for the fact. “May I believe him?” one says. Have we not told you ten thousand times over that whoever will may take the water of life freely. If there is any barrier it is not with God, it is not with Christ, it is with your own sinful heart. You are welcome to the Saviour now, and if you trust him now he is yours for ever. But oh, unbeliever, it appears to be nothing to you that Christ has died. His wounds do not attract you. His groans for his enemies have no music in them for you. You turn your back upon the incarnate God who bleeds for men, and in so doing you exclude yourselves from all hope, judging yourselves unworthy of eternal life.
14. Furthermore, the wilful rejection of Christ is also an insult to God the Father. “He who does not believe has made God a liar, because he has not believed the record that God gave of his Son.” God has himself often borne testimony about his dear Son. “God the Father has sent him to be a propitiation for our sins.” In rejecting Christ, you reject God’s testimony and God’s gift. It is a direct assault upon the truthfulness and lovingkindness of the gracious Father, when you trample on or cast aside his priceless, peerless gift of love.
15. And, as for the blessed Spirit, it is his office here below to bear witness to Christ. In the Christian ministry, daily the Holy Spirit cries to the sons of men to come to Jesus. He has striven in the hearts of many of you, given you a measure of conviction of sin, and a degree of knowledge of the glory of Christ, but you have repressed it, you have laboured to your utmost to do despite to the Spirit of God. Believe me, this is no slight sin. An unbeliever is an enemy to God the Father, to God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Against the blessed Trinity in Unity, oh unbeliever, your sin is a standing insult: you are now insulting God to his face by continuing to be an unbeliever.
16. And, I must add, that there is also in unbelief an insult against every attribute of God. The unbeliever in effect declares, “If the justice of God is seen in laying the punishment of sin upon Christ — I do not care for his justice, I will bear my own punishment.” The sinner seems to say, “God is merciful in the gift of Christ to suffer in our place — I do not need his mercy, I can do without it. Others may be guilty, and they may trust in the Redeemer, but I do not feel such guilt and I will not sue for pardon.” Unbelievers attack the wisdom of God, for, whereas the wisdom of God is in its fulness revealed in the gift of Jesus, they say, “It is a dogma, unphilosophical, and worn out.” They consider the wisdom of God to be foolishness, and thus cast a slight upon another of the divine attributes. I might in detail mention every one of the attributes and prerogatives of God, and prove that your rejection of the Saviour is an insult to every one of them, and to God himself: but the theme is too sad for us to continue upon it, and, therefore, let us pass to another phase of the subject, though I fear it will be equally grievous.
17. III. Thirdly, let us consider THE REASONS FOR THIS UNBELIEF.
18. In a great many, unbelief may be ascribed to a careless ignorance of the way of salvation. Now, I should not wonder if many of you imagine that, if you do not understand the gospel, you are therefore quite excused for not believing it. But, sirs, it is not so. You are placed in this world, not as heathens in the centre of Africa, but in enlightened England, where you live in the full blaze of the gospel day. There are places of worship all around you, which you can attend without difficulty. The book of God is very cheap; you have it in your houses; you can all read it or hear it read. Is it so, then, that the King has been pleased to reveal himself to you, and tell you the way of salvation, and yet you, at the age of twenty, thirty, or forty, do not know the way of salvation? What, do you mean, sir? What can you mean? Has God been pleased to reveal himself in Scripture, and tell you how to escape from hell and flee to heaven, and yet have you been too idle to enquire into that way? Dare you say to God, “I do not think that it is worth my while to learn what you have revealed, neither do I care to know about the gift which you have bestowed on men.” How can you think that such ignorance is an excuse for your sin? What could be a more gross aggravation of it? If you do not know, you ought to know; if you have not learned the gospel message, you might have learned it, for there are, some of us whose language it is not difficult for even the most illiterate to understand, and who would, if we caught ourselves using a hard word, retract it, and put it into little syllables, so that not even a child’s intellect need be perplexed by our language. Salvation’s way is plain in the book; those words, “Believe and live,” are in this Christian England almost as legible and as universally to be seen as though they were printed on the sky. It is well known news that trust in the Lord Jesus saves the soul. But, if you still say you have not known all this, then I reply, “Dear sir, do try to know it.” Go to the Scriptures, study them, see what is there. Hear, also, the gospel, for it is written, “Incline your ear to come to me; hear, and your soul shall live.” “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” For your soul’s sake I charge you, do not be ignorant any longer of what you must know, or else you must perish.
19. In some others, the cause is indifference. They do not think the matter to be of any very great consequence. They are aware that they are not quite right, but they have a notion that somehow or other they will get right at last; and, meanwhile, it does not trouble them. Oh man, I urge you as your fellow creature let me speak a word of expostulation to you. God declares that his wrath remains upon you as an unbeliever, and do you call that nothing? God says, “I am angry with you,” and you say to him, “I do not care, it is of very little importance to me. The rise or fall of the stock market is of much more consequence than whether God is angry with me or not. My dinner being cooked to perfection concerns me a great deal more than whether the infinite God loves me or hates me.” That is the plain English of your conduct, and I ask it of you whether there can be a higher impertinence against your Creator, or a more dire form of arrogant revolt against the eternal Ruler. If it does not trouble you that God is angry with you, it ought to trouble you; and it troubles me that it does not trouble you. We have heard of people guilty of murder, whose behaviour during the trial has been cool and self-possessed. The coolness with which they pleaded “not guilty” has all been bravado along with the hardness of heart which led them to the bloody deed. He who is capable of great crime is also incapable of shame concerning it. A man who is able to take pleasure and be at ease while God is angry with him shows that his heart is harder than steel.
In certain cases, the root of this unbelief lies in another
direction. It is fed by pride. The person who is guilty of it
does not believe that he needs a Saviour. His notion is that he will
do his very best, attend the church or the meeting house very
regularly, subscribe occasionally or frequently, and go to heaven
partly by what he does, and partly by the merits of Christ. So that
not believing in Christ is not a matter of any great consequence with
him, because he is not naked, and poor, and miserable; but he is
rich, and increased in goods in spiritual things. To be saved by
faith is a religion for prostitutes, and drunkards, and thieves; but
for respectable people such as he is, who have kept the law from
their youth up, he does not see any particular need of laying hold
upon Christ. Such conduct reminds me of the words of Cowper: —
Perish the virtue, as it ought, abhorr’d,
And the fool with it that insults his Lord.
21. God believed it to be necessary, in order to save man, that the Redeemer should die; yet you self-righteous ones evidently think that death to be a superfluity: for if a man could save himself, why did the Lord descend and die to save him? If there is a way to heaven by respectability and morality without Christ, what is the good of Christ? It is utterly useless to have an expiator and a meditator, if men are so good that they do not require them. You tell God to his face that he lies to you, that you are not so sinful as he would persuade you, that you do not need a substitute and sacrifice as he says you do. Oh, sirs, this pride of yours is an arrogant rebellion against God. Look at your fine actions, you who are so good — your motives are base, your pride over what you have done has defiled, with black fingers, all your actions. In as much as you prefer your way to God’s way, and prefer your righteousness to God’s righteousness, the wrath of God remains on you.
22. Perhaps I have not hit the reason of your unbelief, therefore let me speak once more. In many love for sin rather than any boasted self-righteousness keeps them from the Saviour. They do not believe in Jesus, not because they have any doubt about the truths of Christianity, but because they have an enslaving love for their favourite sin. “Why,” one says, “if I were to believe in Christ, of course, I must obey him — to trust and to obey go together. Then I could not be the drunkard I am, I could not do business as I do, I could not practise secret licentiousness, I could not frequent the haunts of the ungodly, where laughter is occasioned by sin, and mirth by blasphemy. I cannot give up my darling sins.” Perhaps, this sinner hopes that one day, when he cannot any longer enjoy his sin, he will slyly sneak out of it, and try to cheat the devil of his soul; but, meanwhile, he prefers the pleasures of sin to obedience to God, and unbelief to acceptance of his salvation. Oh sweet sin! Oh bitter sin! How you are murdering the souls of men! Just as certain serpents before they strike their prey fix their eyes upon it and fascinate it, and then at last devour it, so sin fascinates the foolish sons of Adam; they are charmed with it, and perish for it. It yields only a momentary joy, and its wage is eternal misery, yet men are still enamoured by it. The ways of the strange woman, and the paths of uncleanness lead most plainly to the chambers of death, yet men are attracted to it like moths by the blaze of the candle, and so they are destroyed. Alas! that men wantonly dash against the rocks of dangerous lusts, and perish wilfully beneath the enchantment of sin. It is a sad pity to prefer a prostitute to the eternal God, to prefer a few pence made by dishonesty to heaven itself, to prefer the gratification of the belly to the love of the Creator, and the joy of being reconciled and saved. It was a dire insult to God when Israel set up a golden calf, and said, “These are your gods, oh Israel.” Shall the image of an ox that eats grass supplant the living God? He who had strewn the earth with manna, had made Sinai to smoke with his presence, and the whole wilderness to tremble beneath his marchings, is he to be thrust aside by the image of a bull that has horns and hoofs? Will men prefer molten metal to the infinitely holy and glorious Jehovah? But, surely, the preference of a lust instead of God is an even greater insult: to obey our passions rather than his will, and to prefer sin to his mercy; this is the crime of crimes. May God deliver us from it, for his mercy’s sake.
23. IV. We have heavy tidings in the last point of my discourse, THE TERRIBLE RESULT of unbelief. “He shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”
24. “The wrath of God!” No words can ever fully explain this expression. Holy Whitfield, when he was preaching, would often hold up his hands, and, with tears streaming down his eyes, would exclaim, “Oh, the wrath to come! the wrath to come!” Then he would pause because his emotions checked his utterance. The wrath of God! I confess I feel uneasy if anyone is angry with me, and yet one can bear the anger of foolish, hot tempered people with some equanimity. But the wrath of God is the anger of one who is never angry without a reason, one who is very patient and longsuffering. It takes much to bring the choler into Jehovah’s face, yet he is angry with unbelievers. He is never angry with anything because it is feeble and little, but only because it is wrong. His anger is only his holiness set on fire. He cannot tolerate sin; who would wish that he should? What right minded man would desire God to be pleased with evil? That would be to make a devil of God. Because he is God, he must be angry with sin wherever it is. This makes the sting of it, that his wrath is just and holy anger. It is the anger, remember, of an Omnipotent Being, who can crush us as easily as a moth. It is the anger of an Infinite Being, and therefore infinite anger, the heights and depths and breadths and lengths of which no man can measure. Only the incarnate God ever fully knew the power of God’s anger. It is beyond all conception, yet the anger rests on you my hearer. Alas, for you, if you are an unbeliever, for this is your state before God. It is no fiction of mine, but the word of inspired truth: “the wrath of God remains on him.”
25. Then notice the next word, it “remains,” this is to say, it is upon you now. He is angry with you at this moment, — and always. You go to sleep with an angry God gazing into your face, you wake up in the morning, and if your eye were not dim, you would perceive his frowning countenance. He is angry with you, even when you are singing his praises, for you mock him with solemn sounds, upon a thoughtless tongue; angry with you on your knees, for you only pretend to pray, you utter words without heart. As long as you are not a believer, he must be angry with you every moment. “God is angry with the wicked every day.”
26. That the text says it remains, and the present tense takes a long sweep, for it always will remain on you. But may you not, perhaps, escape from it, by ceasing to exist? The text precludes such an idea. Although it says, that you “shall not see life,” it teaches that God’s wrath is upon you, so that the absence of life is not annihilation. Spiritual life belongs only to believers; you are now without that life, yet you exist, and wrath remains on you, and so it ever must be. While you shall not see life, you shall exist in eternal death, for the wrath of God cannot remain on a non-existent creature. You shall not see life, but you shall feel wrath to the uttermost. It is horror enough that wrath should be on you now, it is horror upon horrors, and hell upon hell, that it shall be upon you for ever.
27. And notice that it must be so, because you reject the only thing that can heal you. As George Herbert says, “Whom oils and balsams kill, what salve can cure?” If Christ himself has become a savour of death to death to you, because you reject him, how can you be saved? There is only one door, and if you close it by your unbelief, how can you enter heaven? There is one healing medicine, and, if you refuse to take it, what remains except death? There is one water of life, but you refuse to drink it; then you must thirst for ever. You put from you, voluntarily, the one and only Redeemer; how then shall you be ransomed? Shall Christ die again, and in another state be offered to you once more? Oh sirs, you would reject him then as you reject him now. But there remains no more sacrifice for sin. On the cross, God’s mercy towards the sons of men was fully revealed, and will you reject God’s ultimatum of grace; his last appeal to you. If so, it is at your own peril: Christ being raised from the dead, dies no more; he shall come again, but without a sin offering for the salvation of his people.
28. Remember, sirs, that the wrath of God will produce no saving or softening effect. It has been suggested that a sinner, after suffering God’s wrath for awhile, may repent, and so escape from it. But our observation and experience prove that the wrath of God never yet softened anyone’s heart, and we believe it never will: those who are suffering divine wrath will go on to harden, and harden, and harden, the more they suffer, the more they will hate: the more they are punished, the more they will sin. The wrath of God remaining on you will produce no good results for you, but rather you shall go from evil to evil, farther and farther from the presence of God.
29. The reason why the wrath of God remains on an unbeliever is partly because all his other sins remain on him. There is no sin that shall damn the man who believes, and nothing can save the man who will not believe. God removes all sin the moment we believe; but while we do not believe, new cords fasten our transgressions upon us. The sin of Judah is written as with an iron pen, and engraved with a point of a diamond. Nothing can release you from guilt while your heart remains at enmity with Jesus Christ your Lord.
30. Remember that God has never taken an oath, that I know of, against any class of people, except unbelievers. “To whom did he sware that they should not enter into his rest, except to those who did not believe?” God never will forgive continued unbelief because his word binds him not to do so. Does he swear an oath, and shall he go back on it? It cannot be. Oh that you might have grace to relinquish your unbelief, and accept the gospel, and be saved.
31. Now, I hear someone object, “You tell us that certain people are under the wrath of God, but they are very prosperous.” I reply that that bull will be slaughtered. Yet it is being fattened. And your prosperity, oh ungodly man, is only a fattening of you for the slaughter of justice. Indeed, but you say, “They are very merry, and some of those who are forgiven are very sad.” Mercy lets them be merry while they may. We have heard of men who, when driven to Tyburn in a cart, could drink and laugh as they went to the gallows. It only proved what bad men they were. And so, whereas the guilty can still take comfort, it only proves their guiltiness.
32. Let me ask what ought to be your thoughts concerning these solemn truths which I have delivered to you? I know what my thoughts were; they made me go to my bed unhappy. They made me very grateful because I hope I have believed in Jesus Christ; yet they startled me in the night, and mad me wake up this morning with a load upon me. I come here to say to you, must it be so that you will always remain unbelievers, and remain under the wrath of God? If it must be so, and the dread conclusion seems forced upon me, at any rate, do look it in the face, do consider it. If you are resolved to be damned, know what you are doing. Take council and consider. Oh sirs, it cannot need an argument to convince you that it is a most wretched thing to be under the wrath of God now. You cannot need any argument to show that it must be a blessed thing to be forgiven — you must see that. It is not your reason that needs convincing, it is your heart that needs renewing.
The whole gospel lies in this nutshell. Come, you guilty one, just as
you are, and rest yourself upon the finished work of the Saviour, and
take him to be yours for ever. Trust Jesus now. In your present
position it may be done. God’s Holy Spirit blessing your mind, you
may at this moment say, “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.” You may
now confide in Jesus, and some who came in here unforgiven, may make
the angels sing because they go down those steps as saved souls,
whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. God
knows one thing, that if I knew by what study and what skill I could
learn to preach the gospel in order to affect your hearts I would
spare no expense or pains. For the present, I have intended simply to
warn you, not with adornment of speech, lest the power should be the
power of man; and now I leave my message, and commit it to him who
shall judge the quick and the dead. But know this, if you do not
receive the Son, I shall be a swift witness against you. May God
grant it is not to be so, for his mercy’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Hebrews 2:14-3:19]
(See Spurgeon_Sermons “Publications” 3566 @@ "Sword And the Trowel")