2704. “Flee From The Wrath To Come”

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“Flee From The Wrath To Come”

No. 2704-46:577. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, October 23, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, December 9, 1900.

Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? {Mt 3:7}

Who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us. {Heb 6:18}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 893, “Strong Consolation” 884}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1294, “Anchor, The” 1285}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1352, “Strong Consolation for the Lord’s Refugees” 1343}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2704, “Flee From the Wrath to Come” 2705}
   Exposition on Heb 6 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2492, “Paul’s Persuasion” 2493 @@ "Exposition"}

1. We will first consider the question of John the Baptist: “When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, ‘Oh generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’ ” I have no doubt that the Pharisees and Sadducees were very much surprised to hear John addressing them in that way; for men who wish to win disciples, ordinarily adopt milder language than that, and choose more attractive themes, for they fear that they will drive their hearers from them if they are too personal, and speak too sharply. There is not much danger of that nowadays, for the current notion abroad now is that gospel ministers can sew with silk without using a sharp needle; and that, instead of piercing men with the sword of the Spirit, they should show them only its hilt; let them see the bright diamonds on the scabbard, but never let them feel the sharpness of the two-edged blade. They should always comfort, and console, and cheer, but never allude to the terror of the Lord.

2. That appears to be the common interpretation of our commission; but John the Baptist was of quite another mind. There came to a him a Pharisee, a very religious man, one who observed all the details of external worship, and was very careful even about trifles, a firm believer in the resurrection, and in angels and spirits, and in all that was written in the Book of the law, and also in all the traditions of his fathers, a man who was overdone with external religiousness, a Ritualist of the first order, who felt that, if there was a righteous man in the world, he certainly was that one. He must have been greatly taken back when John talked to him about the wrath of God, and plainly told him that that wrath was as much for him as for other people. Those phylacteries and the broad borders of his garment, of which he was so proud, would not screen him from the anger of God against injustice and transgression; but, just like any common sinner, he would need to “flee from the wrath to come.” I daresay that the Sadducee was equally taken back by John’s stern language. He, too, was a religious man, but he combined with his religion greater thoughtfulness than the Pharisee did; — at least, so he said. He did not believe in traditions, he was too large-minded to care about the little details and externals of religion. He observed the law of Moses, but he clung rather to its letter than to its spirit, and he did not accept all that was revealed, for he denied that there was such a thing as an angel or a spirit. He was a Broad-Churchman a man of liberal ideas, fully abreast of the age. He professed to be a Hebrew of the Hebrews; yet, at the same time, the yoke of religion rested very lightly on his shoulders. Still, he was not irreligious; yet here is John the Baptist talking to him, as well as to the Pharisee, about “the wrath to come.” They would both have liked to have a little argument with him, but he talked to them about fleeing from the wrath to come. They would both have been pleased to discuss with him some theological questions, and to bring up the differences between their two sects, just to hear how John would handle them, and to let them see which way he would lean. But he did not waste a moment over the matters in dispute between Pharisees and Sadducees; the one point he had to deal with was the one of which he would have spoken to a congregation of tax collectors and prostitutes, and he spoke of it in just the same way to these nominally religious people. They must “flee from the wrath to come”; or else, as surely as they were living men, that wrath would come on them, and they would perish under it. So John just kept to that one topic; he laid the axe to the root of the trees as he warned these hypocritical professors to escape for their lives, otherwise they would perish in the common destruction which will overwhelm all ungodly men. This was not the style of preaching that John’s hearers liked; but John did not think of that. He did not come to say what men wished him to say, but to discharge the burden of the Lord, and to speak out plainly what was best for men’s eternal and immortal interests. He spoke, therefore, first, concerning the wrath of God; and, next, he spoke concerning the way of escape from that wrath.

3. Those shall be our two topics also. First, the tremendous peril: “the wrath to come”; and, secondly, the means of escape: “Flee from the wrath to come.”

4. I. First, dear friends, let us think of THE TREMENDOUS PERIL which overtakes all men who do not escape from it.

5. That tremendous peril is the wrath of God. There is a wrath of God, which rests on every ungodly man. Whether men like that truth or not, it is written, “God is angry with the wicked every day”; and, also, “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God”; and yet again, “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God rests on him.”

6. But this wrath is in abeyance for a time; and, consequently, men do not think much either of the wrath that now is, or of “the wrath to come.” It will not, however, always be in abeyance. The sluices of the great deep will be pulled up, and the awful torrents will come leaping out, and will utterly overwhelm all who are exposed to their fury. This “wrath to come” will in part fall on men at death, but more fully at the day of judgment, and it will continue to flow over them for ever and ever. This “wrath to come” is that of which John spoke, and of which we will now think for a while.

7. I remark, first, that this “wrath to come” is absolutely just and necessary. If there is a God, he cannot let sin go unpunished. If he is really God, and the Judge of all the earth, he must have an utter abhorrence of all evil. It cannot be possible that he should think the same of the honest and the dishonest, of the chaste and the unchaste, of the sober and the drunkard, of the truthful and the lying, of the gracious and the dissolute. Such a god as that would be one whom men might rightly despise; but the true God, if we understand properly what he is, must hold all sin in detestation. All evil must be utterly abhorrent to his pure and holy soul; and it is not only because he can do it, but because he must do it, that he will, one of these days, let loose the fury of his wrath against sin. Just as it is necessary, in the very nature of things, that there should be certain laws to govern his creation, so it is equally necessary, in the very nature of things, that sin should be punished, and that every transgression and disobedience should receive a just punishment. This is the inevitable consequence of sin; there is nothing arbitrary about such a result. It is fixed, in the very nature of things, that “for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment”; and for every sinful action, they must appear before the judgment bar of God. Do not think, when we speak about the wrath of God, that we picture God to you as a tyrant. We merely tell you that this is only the nature of things, — that just as if you take poison, it will kill you; or if you indulge in drunkenness, or if you take almost any form of disease, it will bring pain and mischief to you, — so, sin must bring on you the wrath of God, it cannot be otherwise. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of God’s law can pass away until all is fulfilled, and one part of that law requires that he should punish all transgression, iniquity, and sin.

8. And if now, for a time, the full revelation of that anger is delayed, I beseech you, men and brethren, do not therefore trifle with it. The longer God’s arm is lifted up, the more terrible will be the blow when at last he strikes. To sin against the patience and longsuffering of Almighty God, is to sin with a vengeance. You do, as it were, defiantly put your finger into the very eye of God when you know that he sees you sin, and yet you go on sinning because he does not immediately take vengeance on you for all your evil works. It is in great love that he restrains his wrath, for he is “slow to anger, and plentiful in mercy.” But just as a torrent, that is dammed up for a while, gathers force and strength, and every hour in which it is kept back it gets to be more irresistible, so it must be with “the wrath to come” when at last it comes on you. If it has waited for some of you for seventy, or sixty, or fifty, or even for twenty years, it will come as an overwhelming flood when at length it bursts the barriers which at present hold it back. Do not trifle, therefore, with that longsuffering of God which may be blest to your salvation.

9. Nor is “the wrath to come” any the less certain because it is delayed. Because sentence is not at once given against an evil work, therefore men say, “We need not trouble ourselves. ‘How does God know? and is there knowledge in the Most High?’ Behold, he winks at our iniquities; he considers them as mere trifles. No harm will come to us because of them.” But, sirs, if you are prepared to throw away the Bible, I can understand a little that you should talk like that; but if you really believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God, you know what the consequences of your sin must be. Concerning the wicked, it is written, “If he does not turn, he will whet his sword; he has bent his bow, and made it ready. He has also prepared for him the instruments of death.” Even if you are so foolish as to cast away your Bibles, yet, unless you think yourselves to be mere dogs and cattle that shall rot back into the ground from where you came, and be gone for ever, you must expect that there will be another state of existence in which right shall be vindicated and wrong shall be punished. It seems to lie on the very conscience of man, in the unwritten code of intuitive knowledge, or of knowledge handed down from father to son, that there must come a time in which God will surely bring every secret thing to light, and visit with judgment the proud and the high-handed oppressor, and vindicate the rights of men and the rights of his own throne. It must be so; and if the wrath delays for a while, it is none the less certain.

10. I feel quite staggered as I try to speak of this “wrath to come” because, when it does come, it can be something very terrible because divinity enters into the essence of it. The wrath of man is sometimes very terrible; but what must the wrath of God be? Oh sirs, I have tried, these many years, humbly yet earnestly to preach the love of God, and I have never yet reached the height of that great argument, for his love is boundless; but so are all his other attributes; and if you consider any one of them, you must say, “It is high, I cannot attain to it.” But the just indignation of God against sin must be commensurate with his absolute purity. That man, who trifles with right and wrong, and thinks that these are mere arbitrary terms, has no indignation when he sees wrong done; but God, who is infinitely pure and holy, cannot — it is not possible that he should — look on sin without an awful abhorrence. “Oh!” he says, by the mouth of his servant Jeremiah, “do not do this abominable thing that I hate.” He is not indifferent to sin, but he hates it, and he pleads with men not to do it because it is so abominable and so hateful in his sight.

11. What will “the wrath to come,” be? If God only touches a man, as it were, with only his little finger, the strongest must fail and fall at once, the mightiest can scarcely open his eyes, and the seal of death is speedily imprinted on his brow. But what will it be when the hand of God shall begin to plague the ungodly, when he shall pour out all the vials of his wrath on them, and crush them with the bosses {a} of his buckler? What will be their portion when he says, “Ah, I will rid myself of my adversaries, and take vengeance on my enemies?” Think, too, what must be the meaning of that terrible passage, — let me repeat it to you slowly and solemnly, — “Now consider this, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces, and there is no one to deliver.”

12. So I have faithfully tried to describe for you “the wrath to come.” Now listen to me for a few minutes, and let me have your impartial judgments, while I speak still further on this important theme. Who do you think are the more honest men, — those who tell you plainly what the Scriptures say concerning this wrath of God, or those who smooth it over, or deny it altogether? I will not judge them; before the Judge of quick and dead let those appear who dare to be apologists for sin, and to diminish the dread thought of God’s anger against it. But I might, without any breach of Christian charity, be permitted to suspect the honesty of those who use flattering words to please and deceive their hearers; but I could not suspect the honesty of those who preach an unpalatable truth which grieves themselves as much as it is distasteful to those who hear it.

13. Let me also ask you which style of preaching has the greater moral effect on you? Will you be likely to go and sin after you have heard of God’s anger against it, or will you more readily commit iniquity when you have it smoothed over, and you are told that it is only a little thing, of which God takes no account? I was in the cabin of a vessel, one day, with a brother minister who was disputing with me on the non-eternity of future punishment; and a friend came in, and said, “What are you discussing down here? The scenery is beautiful, come up on deck, and admire it.” So I said to him, “This is the question in dispute, whether the punishment of sin is eternal, or not.” “Well,” he said, “we cannot have any theological discussion just now”; but, turning to my opponent, he said, “Do not go on deck, and talk to my sailors about any of your rubbish. They are bad enough as they are; but if you tell them what I heard you say just now, they will swear and drink worse than ever.” Then, turning to me, he said, “You may talk to the men as much as you like; you will do them good, and not harm by telling them that God will certainly punish their sin.” Now, there is common sense in that argument of my friend; you know that there is. What is most likely to do good, and to repress sin, is most likely to be right; but what gives me latitude to offend my conscience, leads me to suspect whether it could ever have come from God at all, and makes me seriously doubt whether it can be true.

14. And what, sirs, will be the consequence if it should turn out that we are mistaken when we preach to you concerning the wrath of God? What losers will those of us be who have fled to Christ for refuge? But suppose it should turn out that we are right, where will you be who have despised the wrath of God? We have two strings to our bow; but, to my mind, you have none at all. I would not like to lie down on my death-bed in the hope that death would be an eternal sleep; that would be a miserable hope even if it could ever be fulfilled. I would not like to risk my destiny in the world to come on the prospect of being annihilated because I was an unbeliever. It would be a wretched thing to hope for; but what if even that poor hope should fail me? Where should I be then? But I can go with confidence before my God, and say to him, “Whatever your wrath may be, — I know that it must be terrible to the nth degree, — but no matter what it is, I will not risk it; and even if it would not harm me, yet I would not make you angry, oh God, by sinning against you; and if there were no punishment for sin but the loss of your love, if there were nothing but the loss of heaven, the loss of having failed to please you, my God, I would consider that loss to be tremendous and terrible. Let me be reconciled to you, my Maker. Tell me how you can be just, and yet forgive the guilt? To you I flee; oh, save me from the wrath to come!”

15. So I have set before; you, as best I can, the tremendous peril.

16. II. Now, in the second place, I want, just for a few minutes, to tell you about THE MEANS OF ESCAPE. John said to the Pharisees and Sadducees, “Who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come?”

17. By this question, he seemed to imply that there is no way of deliverance from “the wrath to come” but by flight. Sinner, you cannot endure the wrath of God. If your ribs were granite, and your nerves were steel, you could not endure the wrath of the Almighty; indeed, not even for a moment. If a man had the toothache, how dreadful it would seem to him to have to bear that pain for twelve months for certain, even if he knew that there would be an end to it then; but what must the anger of God be when he comes to deal with our entire manhood, and to punish our sin for ever and ever? We cannot bear it; we must flee from it. What does this mean?

18. It means, first, immediate action. You must escape, man. If you remain where you are now, you will certainly perish. You are in the City of Destruction which is to be overwhelmed with the fiery flood of “the wrath to come.” You must be in earnest to escape from it before judgment is executed on the place, and all who are in it; you must, “flee from the wrath to come.”

19. Fleeing means, not only immediate action, but swift action. He who flees for his life does not creep and crawl; he runs at his utmost speed, and he wishes that he could ride on the wings of the wind. No pace that he can reach is fast enough for him. Oh, if God the Holy Spirit will make you, whom I am now addressing, feel your imminent danger, you will want to flee to Christ with the swiftness of the lightning flash; you will not be satisfied to linger as you are even for another hour. What if that gallery should fall down around your ears? What if God should strike the house while you are still in your sins? What if, in walking home, you should walk into your graves? What if your beds should become your tombs? It may be so with any one of you, so there is no time to linger or delay. Hurry is the word for you; God sends it to you, and says, “Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts; behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

20. To flee means also to go straight to your object. A man who flees for his life does not want any circuitous, round-about roads, he takes short cuts, he goes over hill and dale so that he may get where he wants to be in the shortest possible amount of time. So straight to Jesus is the only direction for you just now. Some people will recommend books for you to read which I am certain you cannot understand, for no living soul can; or perhaps you may meet people who want to explain to you some wondrous mystery. Listen to them, if you like, at the day of judgment, when the great business of your salvation is over; but just now you do not have any time for mysteries, you have no time for puzzlements, you have no time to be confused and confounded; the one thing you have to do is to go straight to Jesus, straight to Jesus. You are a sinner, and he is the only Saviour for sinners; so, trust him, may God help you to trust him, and so to find immediate salvation! It is a straight road to Christ. The plan of salvation is not a thing that is hard to understand. “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life”; and he shall never come into condemnation; for he has passed from death to life. There is the gospel in a nutshell; lay hold on it, and live by it. You do not have any time for anything else, and you have no need of anything else; so flee, “flee from the wrath to come.”

21. Notice how John the Baptist explained to those Pharisees and Sadducees the way in which they had to flee. He told them, first, that they must repent. There is no going to heaven by following the road to hell. There is no finding pardon while continuing in sin. Depend on it, Mr. Drunkard, you will not be forgiven for your drunkenness if you still go on with your drinking. Do not let the man who is unchaste imagine that he can go on with his sin and yet be forgiven. Do not let the thief dream that there is any pardon for him unless he quits his evil course, and tries to make such restitution as he can to those whom he has wronged.

22. There must be repentance, then, and that repentance must be practical. Note how John put it: “Produce therefore fruits suitable for repentance,” — evidences of true amendment of life. It is no use whining and crying, and going into the enquiry rooms with a lie in your right hand, and then going home to swear and drink, or to break the Sabbath, and to live as you like, and all the while hoping to enter heaven. No, sin and you must part, or else Christ and you can never keep company. You remember that message that John Bunyan thought he heard when he was playing at tip-cat {b} on the Sunday on the village green. He suddenly stood still with the stick in his hand, for he thought he heard a voice saying to him, “Will you leave your sins, and go to heaven, or have your sins, and go to hell?” That is the alternative which both the law and the gospel put before men. “Flee from the wrath to come”; but there is no fleeing from wrath except by repentance of sin, and by fruits suitable for repentance, evidences of a real change of heart and life.

23. Then John went on to say to the Pharisees and Sadducees that they must give up all the false hopes which they had cherished: “Do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our forefather.’ ” Those Pharisees said, in deed, if not in word, “It really does not matter though we do act like a hypocrite, for Abraham is our forefather”; and the Sadducees said, in effect, “Though we are unbelievers, it is of little consequence, for Abraham is our forefather.” “No,” answered John, “you must abandon all such false hopes as that.” And if any of you, dear friends, have said, “We shall be all right, because we are regular church people”; or if you have said, “We are all right, for we are Baptists, we are Methodists, we are Presbyterians; our father and mother, and our grandfather and grandmother were good Christian people.” Ah, yes! and so may your great grandfather and great grandmother have been, but your pedigree will avail you nothing unless you personally leave your sins, and lay hold on Christ as your Saviour. Nor is there anything else on which you can depend for salvation. Your baptism, your church-going, your chapel-going, your eating of the Lord’s supper, your saying of collects, {c} your family prayers, your giving of your guineas, everything of your own put together will all be less than nothing, and vanity, if you trust in it. You must flee away from all such false hopes as that, and get a better hope, even that of which my second text speaks: “That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us.”

24. John the Baptist did not tell his hearers all this, for he did not come to preach the gospel to them. He came to preach the law, but he did sufficiently indicate where they must go, for he said to them, “There stands one among you, whom you do not know.” “He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire.” It is to him, even to Jesus, that you must flee; if you would be saved, you must be among those who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before you. That is the real refuge for sinners, — the laying hold on Christ, the getting a faith-grip on Jesus as the one atoning sacrifice, the looking to him with tearful but believing eyes, and saying, “Jesus, Son of God, I trust in you; I put myself into your hands, and leave myself there, so that you may deliver me from ‘the wrath to come.’ ”

25. Please, brothers and sisters, wherever you are, you who think you are so good, be anxious to get rid of all that imagined goodness of yours. I beseech you, if you have any self-righteousness about you, to ask God to strip it off you at once, I should like you to feel as that man did, who had a forged bank-note and some counterfeit coin in his possession. When the policeman came to his house, he was anxious not to have any of it near him; so, shake off your self-righteousness. You will be as surely damned by your righteousness, if you trust in it, as you will by your unrighteousness. Christ alone, the gift of the free grace of God, this is the gate of heaven; but all self-satisfaction, all boasting, all exaltation of yourself above your fellow men, is mischievous and ruinous, and will surely be deadly to your spirit for ever.

26. How does Christ deliver us from “the wrath to come?” Why, by putting himself into our place, and putting us into his place. Oh, this blessed plan of salvation by substitution, — that Christ should take a poor, guilty sinner, and set him up there in the place of acceptance and joy at the right hand of God, and that, in order to be able to do so, Christ should say, “Here comes the great flood of almighty wrath; I will stand just where it is coming, and let it flow over me” And you know that it did overflow him until he sweat, as it were, great drops of blood, and more, until he cried aloud, “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” and still more, until he cried, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.

    He bore, that you might never bear,
       His Father’s righteous ire; —

and so, suffering in your place, and putting you into the place of acceptance which he himself so well deserves to occupy, he saves you from “the wrath to come.”

27. I used to think that, if I once proclaimed this wondrous story of “free grace and dying love,” everyone would believe it; but I have long since learned that so hard is the heart of man, that he will sooner be damned than be saved by Christ. Well, you must make your choice, sirs, you must make your choice for yourselves; only do me this one favour, when you have made your choice, do not blame me for having tried to persuade you to act more wisely than I fear your choice will be. I sometimes tremble as I think of the account I have to turn in concerning the many thousands who crowd this place to listen to my voice. What if my Master should say to me, at the last, “You flattered them; you tried to run with the times; you did not dare to preach to them the old-fashioned gospel, and to tell them of hell, and of judgment, and of atonement by blood?” No, my Master, you will never be able to say that to me. With all my faults, and infirmities, and imperfections, I have sought to declare your truth, as far as I knew it, to the sons of men. Therefore, my hearers, I shake my skirts free of your blood. If any one of you shall reject Christ, I will have nothing to do with your damnation. Be spiritual suicides if you wish; but I will not be your soul-murderer, nor act like Saul wished his armour-bearer to do when he told him to thrust him through with the sword. I implore you to “flee from the wrath to come.” Escape by leaving your sins, and laying hold on Jesus; and do it this very moment, for you may never have another opportunity to do it. May the Lord, by his infinite mercy, grant you grace to trust in Jesus! Amen and Amen.

{a} Bosses: The convex projection in the centre of a shield or buckler. OED. {b} Tip-Cat: A game in which the wooden cat or tip-cat which is a short piece of wood tapering at both ends, is struck or “tipped” at one end with a stick so as to spring up, and then knocked to a distance by the same player. OED. {c} Collect: Liturgical. A name given to ‘a comparatively short prayer, more or less condensed in form, and aiming at a single point, or at two points closely connected with each other’, one or more of which, according to the occasion and season, have been used in the public worship of the Western Church from an early date. Applied particularly to the prayer, which varies with the day, week, or octave, said before the Epistle in the Mass or Eucharistic service, and in the Anglican service also in Morning and Evening Prayer, called for distinction the collect of the day. OED.

Expositions By C. H. Spurgeon {Mt 3; 11:20-30 Re 7:9-17}

3:1,2. In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

His was a preparatory ministry; his work was to prepare men’s minds for Christ; and never is the heart of man so ready to receive Christ as when it is in a state of repentance. When it is weary of sin, then Christ comes in, and is welcomed by the soul conscious of its guilt, tired of it, and longing to be rid of it.

3, 4. For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his path straight.’ ” And John himself had his clothing of camel’s hair, and a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey.

Everything about him was impressive, and everything was suitable to the message he had to deliver. He was so dressed as to be noticed at once as a man of ascetic habit, he was not the chaplain of a prince, otherwise he would have been clothed in soft clothing. He was not one who had a gentle message to deliver, otherwise he would not have gone into the wilderness, and summoned the people to come away from their vocations to listen to him. He was the rough pioneer to prepare the way for the King.

5, 6. Then Jerusalem and all Judea, and all the region all around Jordan, went out to him and were baptized by him in Jordan, confessing their sins.

That was his baptism, — a baptism of repentance, and of confession, preparatory to the coming of the Master. See what power there was in John because God was with him. I do not know that he had any remarkable eloquence. Certainly, some things about him were rather repulsive than attractive. But when God is with a man, the people must listen to him. Jerusalem must pour her thousands out of her gates, and the rural districts must yield their hundreds; for if God speaks, no matter by whom, he will have human ears to listen to his voice.

7, 8. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said to them, “Oh generation of vipers, who has warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Produce therefore fruits suitable for repentance:

Answerable to your repentance, congruous with it, arising out of it, and truly proving its reality.

9, 10. And do not think to say within yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our forefather’: for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. And now also the axe is laid to the root of the trees:

No mere pruning and trimming work did John come to do; he was the handler of a sharp axe that was to fell every worthless tree.

10. Therefore every tree which does not produce good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

It is not enough to hew it down. Into the fire it must go; and John does not mince his words about the matter, he clearly speaks the message of his Master.

11, 12. I indeed baptize you with water to repentance: but he who comes after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

See the humility of the true servant of Christ. He is not willing even to exercise the office of a slave, and to carry his Master’s sandals, or to unloose the latchet of them. And who among us is worthy to occupy even the lowest office for Christ? There is an honour about it that far transcends any worthiness of ours. To serve him at all, is honour indeed. But, brethren, fix your eyes on Christ, and remember what a baptism it is into which he baptizes us; — not with water, but into the Holy Spirit and into fire. Can we bear it? Can we endure the fire? It will only burn up what ought to be burned; and happy is he to whom God has imparted that eternal life which can never be consumed.

13, 14. Then Jesus comes from Galilee to Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. But John forbad him, saying, “I have need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

This is one of the most striking proofs that the ordinance of baptism is not to be neglected by any of Christ’s followers, for even he who, in himself, could have had no need for it, — who is himself the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit and with fire, yet comes to the baptizer in water, and asks to be immersed.

15. And Jesus answering said to him, “Allow it to be so now for so it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness.”

Nothing that pertains to righteousness must be neglected; the little as well as the great must be observed.

15-17. Then he permitted him. And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up immediately out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him: and lo a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

This doctrine of repentance was preached by the Master as well as by the servant. Turn to the 11th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, and let us read a few verses, beginning at the 20th.

11:20. Then he began to upbraid the cities where most of his mighty works were done, because they did not repent:

They listened; sometimes, they applauded; but they did not repent; and there is nothing really accomplished until men have repented. In vain we have preached until men are brought to repent; so the Master said: —

21, 22. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works, which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment, than for you.

Listen to that, you gospel-hardened sinners, you who have heard, and heard, and heard, but have not repented. See how great your sin is, for you have rejected what others would have received if it had been presented to them. See how your guilt accumulates, and its punishment also.

23, 24. And you, Capernaum, which is exalted to heaven, shall be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in you, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.”

Sodom! — that is the blackest place of all. Ah, me! will that verse ever fall, like a millstone, on any one of my hearers, to grind him to powder, because you heard the gospel, and rejected it, intending always to receive it, but never receiving it at all? From such a doom, may God in mercy deliver you!

25-30. At that time Jesus answered and said, “I thank you, oh Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight. All things are delivered to me by my Father, and no man knows the Son, but the Father; neither does any man know the Father, except the Son, and he to whomever the Son will reveal him. Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Just by way of contrast to what I am going to say in my sermon, let us read a few verses in Revelation 7.

7:9. After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and languages, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, —

Our numbering can go a very long way, what, therefore, must be the countless hosts of the redeemed who are to be “a great multitude, which no man could number?” And what an infinite variety there will be among them, since they shall not only be “of all nations,” but out of those nations they shall be of all “kindreds, and people, and languages,” — that is, all kinds and conditions of men, from every nation, and from every age from the first century down to the last. Christ’s immeasurable redemption price must bring to him a great reward. Isaiah long ago foretold that “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied”; and it is no little result that will satisfy him for such travail of soul as he endured.

This great multitude “stood before the throne, and before the Lamb,” —

9. Clothed with white robes, —

To show their purity, their victory, and their entrance into the marriage state, for such was the colour usually worn on such occasions. “Clothed with white robes,” to show that they had entered into their rest, so that their garments were no longer soiled through their toil. They have reached their everlasting Sabbath, their weekday service is over for ever.

9-11. And palm branches in their hands; and cried with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” And all the angels stood around the throne, and around the elders and the four beasts, and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,

The angels form the outer ring. The elders, who represent the Church of the redeemed, are nearer to the throne of God than even the holy angels are. Nearest to God in heaven are those who have been redeemed from among men. How high a dignity — how noble an estate — awaits us eventually! But, all, both saved men and unfallen angels, “fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God,” —

12-17. Saying “Amen: Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be to our God for ever and ever. Amen.” And one of the elders answered, saying to me, “Who are these who are arrayed in white robes? and where did they come from?” And I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are those who came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple: and he who sits on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun strike them, nor any heat. For the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.”

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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