A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 6, 1857, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At The Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
That through death he might destroy the one who had the power of death, that is the devil. (Heb 2:14)
1. In God’s original empire everything was happiness, and joy, and peace. If there is any evil, any suffering and pain, that is not God’s work. God may permit it, overrule it, and draw out of it much good; but the evil does not come of God. He himself stands pure and perfect, the clean fountain from which always gushes out sweet and pure waters. The devil’s reign, on the contrary, contains nothing of good; “the devil sins from the beginning,” and his dominion has been one uniform course of temptation to evil and infliction of misery. Death is a part of Satan’s dominion, he brought sin into the world when he tempted our mother Eve to eat of the forbidden fruit, and with sin he brought also death into the world, with all its train of woes. There had been likely no death, if there had been no devil. If Satan had not tempted, perhaps man would not have revolted, and if he had not revolted he would have lived for ever, without having to undergo the painful change which is caused by death. I think death is the devil’s masterpiece. With the solitary exception of hell, death is certainly the most Satanic mischief that sin has accomplished. Nothing ever delighted the heart of the devil so much as when he found that the threatening would be fulfilled, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die;” and never was his malicious heart so full of hellish joy as when he saw Abel stretched upon the earth, slain by the club of his brother. “Aha!” said Satan, “this is the first of all intelligent creatures that has died. Oh how I rejoice! This is the crowning hour of my dominion. It is true that I have marred the glory of this earth by my guileful temptation; it is true the whole creation groans and travails in pain by reason of the evil that I have brought into it; but this, this is my masterpiece; I have killed man; I have brought death into him, and here lies the first—the first dead man.” Since that time Satan has always gloated over the death of the human race, and he has had some cause for glory, for that death has been universal. All have died. Though they had been wise as Solomon, their wisdom could not spare their head; though they had been virtuous as Moses, yet their virtue could not avert the axe. All have died; and therefore the devil has boasted in his triumph. But he has been defeated twice; only two have entered heaven without dying, but the mass of mankind have had to feel the scythe of death; and he has rejoiced because this, his mightiest work, has had foundations broad as earth, and a summit that reached as high as the virtues of mankind could climb.
2. There is something fearful in death. It is frightful even to the one who has the most of faith. It is only the gildings of death, the after life, the heaven, the harp, the glory, that makes death bearable even to the Christian. Death in itself must always be an unutterably fearful thing to the sons of men. And oh! what ruin does it work! It darkens the windows of the eyes; it pulls down the polished pillars of the divine architecture of the body; it turns the inhabitant, the soul, out of its door, and bids it fly to worlds unknown; and it leaves in place of a living man a corpse whose appearance is so wretched that no one can look upon it without emotions of horror. Now, this is Satan’s delight. He conceives death to be his masterpiece, because of its terror, and because of the ruin which it works. The greater the evil, the better does he delight in it. No doubt he gloats over our sicknesses; he rejoices himself in our sin; but death is to him a theme of as much delight as he can be capable of in his eternal misery. He, as far as he can, shouts for joy when he witnesses how, by one fell deed of his, one piece of treachery, he has swept the world with the besom of destruction, and hurried all men to the tomb.
3. And death is very lovely to the devil for another reason—not only because it is his chief work on earth, but because it gives him the finest opportunity in the world for the display of his malice and his craft. The devil is a coward, the greatest of cowards, as most wicked beings are. He will seldom attack a spiritually healthy Christian; a Christian who has been living near his Master, and is strong in grace, the devil will leave alone, because he knows he will meet his match then; but if he can find a Christian either weak in faith, or weak in body, then he thinks it a fair opportunity for attack.
4. Now when death comes with all its terrors, it is usual for Satan to make a fierce inroad into the soul. Usually with many of the saints, if not in the last article of death, yet some little time before it, there is a ferocious onslaught made by the great enemy of souls. And then he loves death, because death weakens the mind. The approach of death destroys some of the mental power, and takes away from us for a time some of those spirits by which we have been cheered in better days. It makes us lie there, languid, and faint, and weary. “Now is my opportunity,” says the evil one; and he steals in upon us. Hence I believe for this reason he is said to have the power of death; for I cannot conceive that the devil has the power of death in any other sense but this, that it was originated by him, and that he at such time generally displays the most of his malice and of his power. For it is certain my brethren, the devil has not the power over death so as to cause death. All the demons in hell could not take away the life of the smallest infant in the world, and though we lie gasping and sick, so that the physician despairs about us, it is nothing but the fiat of the Almighty that can cause us to die, even in the extremity of our weakness. As far as the cause is concerned, the devil is not the cause of death. We rejoice to believe with Dr. Young, that an angel’s arm cannot hurl us to the grave, even though it is the arm of that fallen archangel Lucifer; and we rejoice to know that afterwards a myriad of angels cannot confine us there. So that neither for the unlocking of the door, nor for the securing of it afterwards, has the devil any power whatever over the Christian in death.
5. Why, there are many people here present who have such a notion of religion that they conceive it to be a thing of happiness and pleasure, and delight, and living near the fountain of all bliss, that is, their God, their path is filled with sunshine, and their eye sparkles with perpetual happiness. They bear the trials of this life manfully as Christians should; they take afflictions from the hand of God with all resignation and patience. Now the devil says, “It is of no use my meddling with that man with doubting thoughts; he is too mighty for me; he is powerful on his knees, and he is powerful with his God.” “Hands off!” says the Christian to the devil then. But when we begin to be weak, when our mind through the influence of the body begins to be depressed, when we have either been starving ourselves by some wicked religious asceticism, or when the rod of God has bruised us, then in our evil plight the foe will attack us. And for this reason the devil loves death, and has the power over it, because it is the time of nature’s extremity, and therefore is the time of the devil’s opportunity.
6. The subject of our discourse this morning is this. Jesus Christ through his death, has destroyed what power the devil has over death. Indeed, and to add a second truth which shall be our second point, he has not only by his death destroyed the power which the devil had over death, but he has destroyed the devil’s power entirely in every respect by the death which he died.
7. I. Let us begin, then, at the beginning. BY THE DEATH OF CHRIST THE DEVIL’S POWER OVER DEATH IS TO THE CHRISTIAN UTTERLY DESTROYED. The devil’s power over death lies in three places, and we must look at it in three aspects. Sometimes the devil has power in death over the Christian, by tempting him to doubt his resurrection, and leading him to look into the black future with the dread of annihilation. We will look at that first, and we will endeavour to show you that by the death of Christ that peculiar form of the devil’s power in death is entirely removed. When the poor spirit lies on the verge of eternity, if faith is weak, and if the eyesight of hope is dim, the Christian will most likely look forward into what? Into a world unknown, and the language of even the infidel sometimes rushes into the lips of the most faithful child of God.
My soul looks down on what?
A dread eternity; a dreary gulf.
You may tell him about the promises; you may try to cheer him by reminding him of the certain revelations of the future; but apart from the death of Christ, I say, even the Christian himself would look forward to death as being a dreary goal, a dark cloudy end to a life of weariness and woe. Where am I speeding? An arrow shot from the bow of God’s creation! Where am I speeding? And the answer comes back, from blank nothingness you came, and you are speeding to the same; there is nothing for you; when you die you are lost. Or if reason has been well tutored it may perhaps reply to him, “Yes, there is another world, but reason can only tell him that it thinks so. It dreams of it; but what that other world shall be, what its tremendous mysteries are, what its gorgeous splendours are, or what its horrible terrors are, reason cannot tell.” And the sting of death would be to such a man, who had no view of immortality in Christ, the thought that he was to be annihilated—not to exist—or if to exist, that he did not know how, or where. But, beloved, by the death of Christ, all this is taken away. If I lie dying, and Satan comes to me and says, “You are to be annihilated, you are now sinking beneath the waves of time, and you shall lie in the caverns of nothingness for ever; your living, leaping spirit, is to cease for ever and not exist.” I reply to him, “No, not so; I have no fear of that; oh Satan, your power to tempt me here fails utterly and entirely. See there my Saviour! He died—he died really and actually, for his heart was pierced; he was buried; he lay in his grave three days; but, oh Devil, he was not annihilated, for he rose again from the tomb on the third day, and in the glories of the resurrection he appeared to many witnesses, and gave infallible proofs that he was risen from the dead. And now, oh Satan, I tell you, you cannot put an end to my existence, for you could not put an end to the existence of my Lord. As the Lord the Saviour rose, so all his followers must. ‘I know that my Redeemer lives,’ and therefore I know that though the ‘worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God.’ You tell me, oh Satan, that I am to be swallowed up, and be a thing of naught, and sink into the bottomless pit of nonentity. I reply to you, you lie. My Saviour was not swallowed up, and yet he died; he died, but could not long be held a prisoner in the tomb. Come, death, and bind me; but you cannot destroy me. Come on, oh grave; open your ghastly mouth, and swallow me up; but I shall burst your bonds another day. When that all glorious morning shall dawn, I, having a dew like the dew of herbs upon me, shall be raised up and shall live in his sight. Because he lives I shall live also.” So, you see, Christ, by being a witness to the fact of the resurrection, has broken the power of the devil in death. In this respect he has prevented him from tempting us to fear annihilation; because, as Christians, we believe that because Christ rose again from the dead, even so those who sleep in Jesus the Lord will bring with him.
8. But now for a more common temptation—another phase of the devil’s power in death. Frequently the devil comes to us in our lifetime, and he tempts us by telling us that our guilt will certainly prevail against us, that the sins of our youth and our former transgressions are still in our bones, and that when we sleep in the grave our sins shall rise up against us “They have many of them,” he says, “gone before you to judgment, and others shall follow after.” When the Christian gets weak, and his heart and his flesh fail him, were it not, I say for the great doctrine of the death of Christ the devil would be able to tempt him thus: “You are about to die. I dare not tell you that there is no future state, for if I do you reply to me, ‘There is, for Christ rose from the dead, and therefore I shall;’ but I will tempt you another way. You have made a fine profession, but I charge you with being a hypocrite. You pretend that you are one of the Lord’s beloved: now look back upon your sins: remember on such-a-day how your rebellious lusts arose, and you were led if not quite to indulge in a transgression, yet to long after it. Remember how often you have provoked him in the wilderness, how frequently you have made his anger wax hot against you.” The devil takes up our diary, and he turns over the page, and with black finger points to our sins; and he reads scornfully, with a leer upon his countenance. “See here saint,” he says. “Saint! Aha! a fine saint you were. There! Sabbath breaking. There! evil thoughts of unbelief. There! departure from the living God.” And he turns over page after page, and he pauses at some very black page, and says, “See here!” And he taunts the Christian with the thing. “Ah!” he says, “David, remember Bathsheba; Lot, remember Sodom and the cave; Noah, remember the vineyard and the drunkenness.” Ah! and it makes even the saint quiver, when sin stares him in the face—when the ghosts of his old sins rise up and stare at him. He is a man that has faith indeed that can look sin in the face, and still say, “The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses me from sin.” But were it not for that blood, were it not for the death of Christ, you can easily conceive what power the devil would have over us in the hour of death, because he would fling all our sins in our teeth just when we came to die. But now see how through death Christ has taken away the devil’s power to do that. We reply to the temptation to sin, “In truth oh Satan you are right; I have rebelled, I will not contradict my conscience and my memory; I admit I have transgressed. Oh Satan, turn to the blackest page of my history, I confess all.
Should he send my soul to hell,
His righteous law approves it well.
But oh fiend, let me tell you my sins were numbered on the scapegoat’s head of old. Go, oh Satan, to Calvary’s cross, and see my Substitute bleeding there, Behold, my sins are not mine; they are laid on his eternal shoulders, and he has cast them from his own shoulders into the depths of the sea. Away with you, hellhound! Would you worry me? Go and satisfy yourself with a sight of that Man, who entered the gloomy dungeons of death, and slept awhile there, and then tore the bars away, and led captivity captive, as a proof that he was justified by God the Father. and that I also am justified in him.” Oh! yes, this is the way that Christ’s death destroys the power of the devil. We can tell the devil that we do not care for him, for all our sins are passed away, covered in the thick cloud, and shall not be brought against us any more for ever. “Ah!” said an aged saint once who had been much taunted by Satan, “at last I got rid of my temptations, sir, and I enjoyed much peace.” “How did you do it?” said a Christian friend who visited him. “I showed him blood, sir; I showed him the blood of Christ.” That is a thing the devil cannot endure. You may tell the devil, “Oh! but I prayed so many times.” He will scoff at your prayers. You may tell him, “Ah! but I was a preacher.” He will laugh in your face, and tell you that you preached your own damnation. You may tell him you had some good works, and he will lift them up and say, “these are your good works—filthy rags: no one would have them as a gift.” You may tell him, “Ah! but I have repented.” He will sneer at your repentance. You may tell him what you like, he will sneer at you, until at last you say,
Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
And it is all over with the devil then; there is nothing now that he can do, for the death of Christ has destroyed the power that the devil has over us to tempt us on account of our guilt. “The sting of death is sin:” our Jesus took the sting away, and now death is harmless to us, because it is not succeeded by damnation.
9. Once more, you may suppose a Christian who has firm confidence in a future state. The evil one has another temptation for him. “It may be very true,” he says, “that you are to live for ever and that your sins have been pardoned; but you have so far found it very hard work to persevere, and now you are about to die you will be sure to fail. When you have had troubles you know you have been half inclined to go back again to Egypt. Why, the little hornets that you have met have worried you, and now this death is the prince of dragons; it will be all over with you now. You know that when you used to go through a cart rut you were crying for fear of being drowned: what will you do now that you have entered into the swellings of Jordan?” “Ah!” says the devil, “you were afraid of the lions when they were chained: what will you do with this unchained lion? How will you fair now? When you were a strong man and had marrow in your bones, and your sinews were full of strength, even then you trembled at me: now I shall have you, when I get you in your dying time and your strength fails, and if I once get a grip on you
That desperate tug your soul shall feel,
Through bars of brass and triple steel.
Ah! you will then be overcome.” And sometimes the poor faint hearted Christian thinks that is true; I shall surely fall one day by the hand of the enemy. Up springs the Arminian divine, and says, “That is a very proper sort of feeling, my friend; God often does desert his children and cast them away.” To which we reply, “You lie, Arminian; shut your mouth, God never did desert his children, neither can he, nor will he.”
10. And having answered the Arminian we turn to answer the devil, and we say to him, “Oh fiend, you tempt us to think that you will conquer us; remember Satan, that the strength that has preserved us against you have not been our own; the arm that has delivered us has not been this arm of flesh and blood, else we would have been long since overcome. Look there, fiend, at him who is Omnipotent: his Almightiness is the power that preserves us to the end; and, therefore, though we are ever so weak, when we are weak then we are strong, and in our last hour of peril we shall yet overcome you.”
11. But please notice, that this answer springs and arises from Christ’s death. Let us just picture a scene. When the Lord Jesus came down to earth, Satan knew his errand. He knew that the Lord Jesus was the Son of God, and when he saw him an infant in the manger, he thought if he could kill him and get him in the bonds of death what a fine thing it would be! So he stirred up the spirit of Herod to kill him; but Herod missed his mark. And many a time Satan tried to put the personal existence of Christ in danger, so that he might get Christ to die. Poor fool as he was, he did not know that when Christ died he would bruise the devil’s head. Once, you remember, when Christ was in the synagogue, the devil stirred up the people, and made them angry; and he thought, “Oh! what a glorious thing it would be if I could kill this man; then there would be an end of him, and I would reign supreme for ever.” So he made the people to take him to the brow of the hill, and he gloated over the thought that now surely he would be cast down headlong. But Christ escaped. He tried to starve him, he tried to drown him; he was in the desert without food, and he was on the sea in a storm; but there was no starving or drowning him, and Satan no doubt panted for his blood and longed that he should die. At last the day arrived; it was telegraphed to the court of hell that at last Christ would die. They rung their bells with hellish mirth and joy. “He will die now,” he said, “Judas has taken the thirty pieces of silver. Let those Scribes and Pharisees get him, they will no more let him go than the spider will a poor unfortunate fly. He is safe enough now.” And the devil laughed for very glee, when he saw the Saviour stand before Pilate’s bar. And when it was said, “Let him be crucified,” then his joy scarcely knew any bounds, except that bound which his own misery must always set to it. As far as he could, he revelled in what was to him a delightful thought, that the Lord of glory was about to die. In death, as Christ was seen by angels, he was seen by demons too; and that dreary march from Pilate’s palace to the cross was one which demons saw with extraordinary interest. And when they saw him on the cross, there stood the exulting fiend, smiling to himself. “Ah! I have the King of Glory now in my dominions; I have the power of death, and I have the power over the Lord Jesus.” He exerted that power, until the Lord Jesus had to cry out in bitter anguish, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” But ah! how short lived was the hellish victory! How brief was the Satanic triumph! He died; and “It is finished!” shook the gates of hell. Down from the cross the conqueror leaped, pursued the fiend with thunderbolts of wrath; swift to the shades of hell the fiend did flee, and swift descending went the conqueror after him; and we may conceive him exclaiming—
Traitor! this bolt shall find and pierce you through,
Though under hell’s profoundest wave you dive,
To find a sheltering grave.
And seize him he did—chained him to his chariot wheel; dragged him up the steeps of glory; angels shouting all the while, “He has led captivity captive, and received gifts for men.” Now, devil, you said you would overcome me, when I came to die. Satan I defy you, and laugh you to scorn! My Master overcame you, and I shall overcome you yet. You say you will overcome the saint, do you? You could not overcome the saint’s Master, and you will not overcome him. You once thought you had conquered Jesus: you were bitterly deceived. Ah! Satan, you may think you shall overcome the little faith and the faint heart; but you are wondrously mistaken—for we shall assuredly tread Satan under our feet shortly; and even in our last extremity, with fearful odds against us, we shall be “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
12. You see that thus, my brethren, Christ’s death has taken away from Satan the advantage which he has over the saint in the hour of death; so that we may joyfully descend the shelving banks of Jordan, or may even, if God calls us to a sudden death, glide from its abrupt cliffs, for Christ is with us, and to die is gain.
13. II. But now, I want just a moment or two, while I try to show you that not only has Christ by his death taken away the devil’s power in death; but HE HAS TAKEN AWAY THE DEVIL’S POWER EVERYWHERE ELSE OVER A CHRISTIAN. “He has destroyed,” or overcome, “the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
14. Death was the devil’s chief entrenchment: Christ bearded the lion in his den, and fought him in his own territory; and when he took death from him, and dismantled that once impregnable fortress, he took away from him not only that, but every other advantage that he had over the saint. And now Satan is a conquered foe, not only in the hour of death, but in every other hour and in every other place. He is an enemy, both cruel and mighty; but he is a foe who quakes and quails when a Christian gets into combat with him; for he knows that though the fight may waver for a little while in the scale, the balance of victory must fall on the side of the saint, because Christ by his death destroyed the devil’s power.
15. Satan, my brethren, may get much power over you tomorrow, by tempting you to indulge in the lusts of the flesh, or in the pride of life; he may come to you and say, “Do such-and-such a thing that would be dishonest, and I will make you rich; indulge in such-and-such a pleasure, and I will make you happy; come,” says Satan, “yield to my blandishments; I will give you wine to quaff that shall be richer than ever came from the wine vats of Holy Scripture; I will give you bread to eat that you never knew of. Eat the tempting fruit; it is sweet; it will make you like a god.” “Ah!” says the Christian, “but Satan, my Master died when he had fought with you, and therefore I will have nothing to do with you. If you killed my Lord, you will kill me too if you can, and therefore away with you! but inasmuch as you lay down silver for me, and tell me I can have it if I do wrong, lo, Satan, I can cover your silver with gold, and have ten times as much to spare afterwards. You say I shall become rich if I sin. No, but the treasures of Christ are greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt. Why, Satan, if you were to bring me a crown, and say, ‘There! you shall have that if you will sin.’ I would say, ‘Poor crown! Why, Satan, I have a better one than that laid up in heaven; I could not sin for that, that is a bribe too paltry.” Then he brings in his bags of gold; and he says, “Now, Christian, sin for them.” The Christian says, “Why fiend, that stuff is not worth my looking at; I have an inheritance in a city where the streets are paved with solid gold; and, therefore, what are these poor chinking bits to me? Take them back!” He brings in loveliness, and he tempts us by it; but we say to him, “Why, devil, what are you up to? What is that loveliness to me? My eyes have seen the King in his beauty and the land that is very far off; and by faith I know that I shall go where beauty’s self, even in her perfection, is excelled—where I shall see my Saviour, who is ‘the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.’ That is no temptation for me! Christ has died, and I count all these things but dross, that I may win Christ and be found in him.” So that you see, even in temptation, the death of Christ has destroyed the devil’s power
16. “You will not yield, will you?” says the devil. “You cannot be tempted! Ah! well,” he says, “if you cannot be drawn aside, I will pull you aside. What are you, that you should stand against me? A poor puny man! Why, I have made angels fall, and I am not afraid of you. Come on!” And he puts his foot to our foot, and with his dragon yell he frightens the echoes until they dare not reply. He lifts his blazing sword, and thinks to strike us to the ground. You know, my brethren, what the shield is that must catch the blow. It is the shield of faith in Christ who died for us. He hurls his darts, but his darts do not hurt, for lo, we catch them also on this all powerful shield, Christ and his cross. So that, let his insinuations be ever so direful, the death of Christ has destroyed the devil’s power either to tempt or to destroy. He may be allowed to attempt either the one or the other, but he can be successful in neither. The death of Christ has “destroyed the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil.”
17. Some people say they do not believe in a devil. Well, I have only to tell them I do not believe in them; because if they really knew themselves they would very soon find a devil. But it is quite possible that they have very little evidence of there being any devil; for you know the devil never wastes his time. He comes up a street, and he sees a man engaged in business, hoarding, covetous, grasping. He has a widow’s house in his throat; he has just swallowed the last acre of a poor orphan’s lands. “Oh,” says the devil, “drive by, I shall not stop there; he does not need me; he will go to hell easily enough.” He goes to the next house: there is a man there, a drunkard, spending his time in riotousness: he marches by, and says, “There is no need for me here; why should I trouble my own dear friends? Why should I meddle with those whom I am sure to have at last? There’s no need to tempt them.” He finds a poor saint upon his knees, exercising only very little power in prayer. “Oh!” says the devil, “I shall not have this creature at last; I will just howl at him now.” There is a poor sinner just returning from his evil ways and crying, “I have sinned and done evil in your sight; Lord, have mercy upon me.” “Losing a subject,” says Satan; “I will have him; I am not going to lose my subjects like this.” So he worries him. The reason why you do not believe there is a devil, very likely is, that the devil very seldom comes to you because you are so safe that he does not take any trouble to look after you, and you have not seen him, because you are too bad for him to care about, and he says, “Oh no, there is no need for me to waste time to tempt that man; it would be carrying coals to Newcastle to tempt him, for he is as bad as he can be, and therefore let him alone.” But when a man lives near to God, or when a man’s conscience begins to be aroused, then Satan cries, “To arms! to arms! to arms!” For two good reasons: first, because he wants to worry him, and secondly, because he wants to destroy him. Well, we bless God that though the devil may direct his utmost scorn and craft and malice against the Christian, the Christian is safe behind the rock Christ Jesus, and may rest secure.
18. And now, in conclusion, allow a word or two of comfort to the people of God, and a warning to those who do not know him.
19. Oh children of God! death has lost its sting, because the devil’s power over it is destroyed. Then cease to fear dying. You know what death is: look him in the face, and tell him you are not afraid of him. Ask grace from God, that by an intimate knowledge and a firm belief of your Master’s death, you may be strengthened for that dread hour. And mark me, if you so live, you may be able to think of death with pleasure, and to welcome it when it comes with intense delight. It is sweet to die: to lie upon the breast of Christ, and have one’s soul kissed out of one’s body by the lips of divine affection. And you who have lost friends, or that may be bereaved, do not sorrow as those who have no hope; for remember the power of the devil is taken away. What a sweet thought the death of Christ brings to us concerning those who are departed! They are gone, my brethren; but do you know how far they have gone? The distance between the glorified spirits in heaven and the militant saints on earth seems great; but it is not so. We are not far from home.
One gentle sigh the spirit breaks,
We scarce can say ‘tis gone,
Before the ransomed spirit takes
Its station near the throne.
20. We measure distance by time. We are apt to say that a certain place is so many hours from us. If it is a hundred miles off and there is no road we think it is a long way; if there is a road, we think we can be there in no time, But how near must we say heaven is? For it is just one sigh and we get there. Why, my brethren, our departed friends are only in the upper room, as it were, of the same house; they have not gone far off; they are upstairs, and we are down below. Yes, more as the poet says,
Ten thousands to their endless home,
This solemn moment fly,
And we are to the margin come,
And soon expect to die.
And then he describes them.
“Part of the host have crossed the flood.”
There they are, on the other side of the banks. Here is another part, deep in the stream. Here we are we on the margin, just about to step down. They are all one army; there is not one gap, right down from Abel to the one who is now departing; and they shall always be one, until the pearly gates are shut for ever, and they are all secure.
E’en now by faith we clasp our hands
With those that went before,
And greet the blood besprinkled bands
Upon the eternal shore.
21.And now I close by saying this word to the sinner. Oh you who do not know God, you who do not believe in Christ, death is to you a horrible thing. I need not tell you that; for your own conscience tells you that. Why, man, you may laugh sometimes at religion; but in your own solitary moments it is no laughing thing. The greatest braggarts in the world are always the greatest cowards. If I hear a man saying, “Oh, I am not afraid of dying, I do not care about your religion,” he does not deceive me; I know all about that. He says that to cover up his fears, when he is alone at night. You should see how white his cheek is if a leaf falls against the window! When there is lightning in the air you should look at him. “Oh that flash!” he says. Or if he is a strong man perhaps he does not say a word, but he feels such horror all the time the storm is on. Not like the Christian man: not like the man who has courage. Why, I love the lightnings; God’s thunder is my delight; I never feel so well as when there is a tremendous thunder and lightning storm. Then I feel as if I could mount up, and my whole heart sings. I love then to sing—
This awful God is mine,
My Father and my love,
He shall send down his heavenly powers
To carry me above.
Yes, you are afraid of dying I know; and what I shall say to you is this—You have good need to be afraid of dying, and you have good need to be afraid of dying now. Because you have escaped many times you think you shall never die. Suppose we should take a man and tie him to that pillar, and a good marksman should take bow and arrows and shoot at him. Well, one arrow might glance and strike someone sitting on his right, and another might glance and strike someone that is on his left; one might go above his head, and another beneath his feet, but you cannot suppose that man would laugh and mock, when the arrows were flying past his ears, and if he was quite certain that it only took a good marksman to aim at him, and he would be shot, then, my friends, you cannot conceive how he would tell you what terror he would experience. But certainly there would be no laughter. He would not say, “Oh! I shall not die, see, the man has been shooting all these others.” No, the risk of dying would be enough to steady him, and the thought that that marksman had an eye so true and a hand so steady that he had only to pull the string, and the arrow would certainly reach his heart, would be enough at least to sober him, and keep him always watchful; for in a moment, when he is unaware that arrow might fly. Now, that is you today, God puts the arrow to the string: your neighbour is dead on the right, and another on the left; the arrow will come to you soon, it might have come before, if God willed it. Oh, do not mock at death, and do not despise eternity, but begin to think whether you are prepared for death, lest death should come and find you unprepared. And remember, death will make no delays for you. You have postponed the time of thought: death will not be postponed to suit you; but when you die, there will be no hour allowed for you in which then to turn to God. Death comes with its first blow; damnation comes afterwards, without the hope of reprieve. “He who believes and is immersed shall be saved; he who does not believe shall be damned.” Thus do we preach the Gospel of God to you as God would have us do. “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature.” “Go and teach all nations, immersing them in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Behold, I tell you, faith in Jesus is the soul’s only escape; profession of that in immersion is God’s own way of professing faith before men. The Lord help you to obey him in the two great Gospel commandments, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.