A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, November 4, 1860, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At Exeter Hall, Strand.
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God. (Ps 9:17)
1. Many of God’s ministers have been accused of taking pleasure in preaching upon this terrible subject of “the wrath to come.” Indeed we would be strange beings if so doleful a subject could afford us any comfort. I should count myself to be infinitely less than a man, if it did not cause me more pain in speaking about the impending sentence of condemnation, than it can possibly cause my hearers in the listening to it. God’s ministers, I can assure you, if they feel it to be often their solemn duty, feel it always to be a heavy burden to speak about the terrors of the law. To preach Christ is our delight; to uplift his Cross is the joy of our heart; our Master is our witness, we love to blow the silver trumpet, and we have blown it with all our might. But knowing the terror of the Lord, these solemn things lie upon our conscience, and while it is hard to preach about them, it would be harder still to bear the doom which must rest upon the silent minister; the unfaithful watchman, who did not warn the sinner, and who must, therefore, eternally bear the sinner’s blood upon his head, because he did not warn him. Do not think this morning that I am about to expatiate upon the terrors of the world to come. I shall not do so. I shall only open the subject by making one or two remarks which may, in some measure, shield us from the enmity of those who accuse us of harshness of spirit when we lay bare these predicted woes. You must confess, my dear hearers, that Jesus Christ was the most tender hearted of men; never was there one of so sympathetic a disposition; but not all the prophets put together—though some of them are stern as Elijah, though many of them seemed commissioned expressly to dwell upon terrible things in righteousness—not all of them put together can equal in thunder shocks the sound of that still voice of him, who although he did not cry nor lift up his voice in the street, spoke more of hell and the wrath to come than any who preceded him. The loving lips of Jesus have furnished us with the greatest revelations of God’s vengeance against iniquity. No one ever spoke with such terrible emphasis, no preacher ever used illustrations of such glaring horror, as Jesus Christ the Son of Man did, the friend of tax collectors and sinners. Let me remind you, that the wrath of God and the judgment of the day of the Lord cannot be a trifling matter. How emphatically we are told in Scripture, that it is “a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Upon such a subject we cannot afford to trifle. Besides, the mystery of Calvary indicates to us that sin must deserve at God’s hand a terrible penalty. Did Jesus suffer so bitterly to save men, and will not the unsaved endure bitterness indeed? Must the eternal and holy Son of God, upon whom sin was only an imputed thing—must he bleed and die, and offer up his life, with his soul exceedingly heavy even to death—and is the world to come a thing about which men can afford to slight or idly dream about? Gloomy shadow have already fallen on our path, from which we dismally recoil. You know that sin, even in this world, is a tormentor of unequalled cruelty. How miserable are some men when they are chased by conscience, when the furies of sin have been let loose upon them even in this world! Some of you may know, if you are not given up to hardness of heart, what it is to be conscious of guilt, and to be hunted down in every place, whether you sleep or whether you are awake, with a consciousness of your transgression. Many a man has hurried himself to a premature grave, has sought to end his misery by the knife or by the noose, not because he was enduring hell but only of the present penalty of sin. Then what must be “the wrath to come?”
2. Again, I say, it cannot be a theme at which any except fools would presume to jest, nor can it be such that any of us can afford to disregard of its trumpet tongued warning. That dreaded sentence in our text ought to ring like a death knell in your ears, if you are among the wicked. “The wicked shall be cast into hell”—the drunkard, the swearer, the fornicator, and such like, shall receive their well deserved portion in the bottomless pit. God will not treat them with leniency; he will not wink at their follies; he will not pass over their sins, as though they were only mistakes, or little errors; he will mete out appropriate punishment for such serious offences. But observe the companions of the wicked, those who are to be the sharers with these profane ones in their eternal punishment. They are such as forget God. If I am not mistaken, I am addressing a very large number of those who forget God. It may be I have a few here of the outwardly wicked; let them hear the text in all its fulness; but, doubtless, I have many hundreds who come under the second description—they forget God. Oh, let them feel the full force of such a text as this; they must be companions hereafter with those whom they would not associate with now; they must have the destiny of men, whom, perhaps they now look down upon with contempt; they must be cast into hell with the wicked, with those who are infidels in the sight of God, and immoral among men.
3. Now, this morning, I shall first endeavour, as God’s servant, to charge this sin upon the consciences of men; secondly, to unmask the real reasons for this forgetfulness of God; thirdly, to refute such excuses as any heart may make; and then, come lovingly and earnestly to persuade you to repent of this sin.
4. I. First, let me CHARGE THIS SIN UPON YOU.
5. I do not now wish to preach to you in the mass, but to each man as an individual. You can each judge in your own conscience how much of what I say is applicable to you. If the fear of God and the love of Jesus is in your hearts, these accusations do not belong to you; occupy yourself with earnestly praying that the Word may go where the reproof is needed; that the arrow may reach its mark. You who have faith in Christ, lift up your souls and pray, “Oh Lord, send home your arrow into the heart that is forgetful of you.”
6. Sinner! I charge you with forgetting God, for I am sure you forget his infinite majesty. Do you know what it is to be overawed with a sense of the glory of God? Have you ever thought of him, before whom the angels veil their faces with their wings, and solemnly cry, “Holy, holy, Lord God of hosts.” Why, you know very well, that the glory of God is to you as much a mere matter of speculation, as the glory of some great eastern prince. Just as you are never affected with the splendour of the Persian Court, so you are just as little subdued and overawed by the splendour of the King of heaven. Do you not walk around this world as though God had no throne, or as if the throne of the universe was entirely vacant? You give no songs to him; you offer no prayers before him; you have made no confession of your littleness to him, and you have ascribed to him no songs of praise for his greatness. You are unconscious of his majesty; the thought never strikes you; it never humbles you, never casts you down. If now and then, when you behold the starry heavens, you are a little subdued by the power which the mighty works of God will certainly have upon your intellect—if sometimes in the midst of thunder and lightning your spirit bows before the awful majesty of God; these are only as fits and starts in the slumber of your habitual forgetfulness; this is not your abiding condition of soul, it is only a spasm; the spirit of your heart is not adoration of his majesty, but forgetfulness of his glory.
7. Remember, too, oh sinner, that you have forgotten God in his mercies. Day after day you have fed at the table of his bounty; he has supplied your means of livelihood, and you have lacked nothing; but how seldom have you ever thought of thanking him. You have ascribed your wealth to your own prudence; your worth to your own industry. If you have a god at all, that god is your strong self. You thank yourself for the clothes that are upon your back, and for the food which cheers your spirit; and all this while you do not know that the breath in your nostrils comes from him; that without him there would be no marrow in your bones—no power in your nerves—without him you would fall back to your mother dust, and crumble to the earth which brought you forth. Why, you do not praise him! You have songs for your lusts, but none for your God. You have praise for your earthly friends, and thanks for those who help you here; but he is as much forgotten by you as he is by the beasts that perish. You do not call your family around you, you do not say to your little ones, “Come, bless your father’s God.” You do not lift holy hands over your table, thanking God for every mercy that is on it; but you live as though these things came to you by chance. God is not in all your thoughts; and though he draws your curtain every night, and sheds light upon you every day: though it is his earth upon which you tread; his air of which you breath; his water of which you must drink—yet he is as much forgotten by you as though he were dead, and had ceased to be.
8. Consider how constantly you forget his laws. When there is an action proposed to you, how seldom do you pause and say, “Is this right in the sight of God?” You are careful about the laws of men, but the laws of God are waste paper to you. You would not cheat your neighbour; you would not rob your companion; but how often will men rob God! Men who are scrupulously honest in giving to man his due, and in “rendering to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s,” do not give, “to God that which is God’s.” Man is proud and self-willed; he loves to be his own master and to have his own way, and he cries, “Let me break his bands asunder, and cast away his cords from me.” He finds that the easiest way to do this, is to ignore the fact that God ever made laws—or that he is the world’s moral governor—or that he will reward and punish. So the sinner goes on in his iniquity; God is not in all his thoughts. I charge this upon many, many of you now present. Look at your own heart, and see if the accusation is not just. Surely many of you must plead guilty to it. You forget his majesty, as though he were not “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” You forget his mercies, as though he were not the giver of every good and perfect gift; and you forget his laws, as though he had no right to your service—as though his service was not freedom, and obedience to his laws a delight. The wicked forget God.
9. And oh how often do you forget his presence too! In the midst of a crowd, everyone of you are conscious of the presence of man, but perhaps this very moment you are ignoring the fact that God is here. In your shop tomorrow how carefully you will take heed that your conduct is circumspect if the eye of your fellow man is observing you. But before the presence of God, with the Eternal eye upon you, you can presume to practise the paltry tricks of trade, or to do that which you would not have revealed to mortals for all the world; careful to shut the door, and draw the curtain, and hide yourselves in secret from men; strangely forgetting that when the curtain is drawn and the door is shut, God is still there. No walls can shut him out; no darkness can conceal the deed from his eye; he is everywhere and sees us in all things. Why, my hearers, we are all guilty in this respect in some measure; we forget the actual presence and the overlooking eye of God. We talk as we dare not talk if we were thinking that he heard us. We act as we would not act if we were conscious that God was there. We indulge in thoughts which we should cast out if we could only always remember the abiding presence of God, the Judge of the whole earth. Forgetting God is so common a sin, that the believer himself needs to repent of it, and ask to have it forgiven, while the unbeliever may solemnly confess this to be his crying sin, a piece of guilt in respect to which he dares not to profess innocence—God is not in all, perhaps not in any of your thoughts.
10. And, oh sinner! how forgetful you have been of God’s justice! How seldom do you set before your eyes—
The pomp of that tremendous day,
When he with clouds shall come.
You sin as though sin were a thing of today, and would not be thought of tomorrow. You go to your follies and your pleasures as though God had no book of remembrance in which to write down your sins, and no tablets of brass on which to engrave, as with an iron pen, all your iniquities. Why, if sin would only be a mistake; if iniquity never could be punished; if hell had been reduced to a few dying embers, if the throne of God would be shaken; if the balances would be dashed from his hand; if his sword had grown blunt, men could not be more callous, or more careless than they are now. What is it except forgetfulness of God who has sworn that he will by no means clear the guilty; what is it except obliviousness of the fact that God avenges and that he will surely give to every transgression its just recompence of reward—what is it except this that leads men to sin with both hands greedily, and to go on in their iniquities as quietly and as peaceably as though they were serving God with all their hearts, and hoping to stand before him accepted in their own righteousness? If a heathen were to come and walk among us would he ever suspect us of having a God at all? In the old days of the Spaniards, when the Spaniards had invaded Mexico, a large number of Indians had fled to Cuba for shelter. One of them, the chief of the tribe, gathering together his companions, assured them that the Spaniards’ god was gold, and having a chest of it, he thought that it would be best for them to propitiate the Spaniards’ god so that they might be no more subject to the Spaniards’ cruelty; they accordingly offered sacrifice before this box of gold, and danced around it until they had wearied themselves, and then fearing the presence of so great a god in their midst, they cast it into the depths of the sea, so that it might not in the future disturb them even if they had made a mistake in their prayers. Sensible heathens those! very sensible heathens indeed! for surely, if they should walk through London among many men, they might make the same mistake, and it should be a very small mistake too, since it would be so close to the truth. Their wealth, their substance, their worldly business, as if it was painted on their retina—always before their eyes, but the God to whom they build their temples, being behind their backs, is utterly and entirely forgotten! Why, sirs, if God should be taken away—if there should be no God—it would be only a very little loss to some of you; you would not be like Micah of old, who, when the sons of Dan stole his seraphim, ran after them crying, “They have taken away my gods.” No surely, you do not love the true God as much as he loved the false one. If God was taken away you might clap your hands for very joy, for you would say, “He was never a person whom I esteemed; I never had any reverence for him; I can do better without a God than I could do with one, I can feel vastly more comfortable in my course of life without God to pry into all my ways, weigh all my actions, and declare that he will reward me at last a recompence for all my sins.” I charge then upon your consciences this guilt, that you belong to the number of those who forget God. If it is not so with you, thank God and rejoice before him; but if you do forget God, let this great trumpet sound in your ears like the trump of the day of doom, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.”
11. II. Now I want to UNMASK THE REASONS FOR THIS FORGETFULNESS OF GOD.
12. Sinner, you who forget God, I tell you that the reason for your forgetfulness of him is as great a sin as the forgetfulness itself, for in the first place, you do not remember him because the thought of him makes you afraid. You know that you have offended him; you are conscious that you cannot meet him with joy and peace, and, therefore, you are like Adam, when he hid himself among the trees of the garden, and God needed to cry to you, “Adam, where are you?” If you had not sinned, nothing would give you greater delight than the companionship of God as the Father from whom you did derive your being. And if your sin should now be washed away, and your heart renewed by the Spirit, instead of dreading the thought of God it would be full of delight to you; you would say “As the hart pants after the water brooks, so my soul pants after you, oh God; when shall I come and appear before God?” It is your sin that makes you dread the presence of your Judge. He who knows that he is innocent, though he may lay in jail, longs for the day when his case is tried before the court and if he hears the trumpet in the street proclaiming that the judge has come, he is glad, for he says—“Now I shall have deliverance;” but the guilty man always dreads the eye of the judge. But is this wise on your part? Remember, while you forget him he does not forget you. You may cover your head, but you cannot escape by merely hiding from yourself the thought of your doom. The foolish ostrich when driven by the hunter buries its head in the sand and imagines it is safe, whereas it is all the more certain to meet with death. It is so with you; you shut your eyes upon a doom which is certain. It would be very wise if you would only open your eyes. It would be the most prudent act that you could do, instead of shunning your God to sit down solemnly and think about him. Let his justice impress your heart; let his mercy encourage you to seek his face, and his love, working in your spirit, shall renew your soul. Forgetfulness of God is profound folly, but remembrance of God is to the soul her highest wisdom. You dread God, oh sinner! and consequently you forget him.
13. Besides, the thought of God is irksome to you. It affords you no joy. If I were to make you sit down for ten minutes, and think of nothing but God, you would impatiently look at the clock until the ten minutes were passed. Even now, though I speak in earnest, you would rather that I was speaking upon some other theme. Your heart revolts. You say, “Why should I think of God? It will not make my heart dance within me, nor my eyes sparkle.” And why? Because you do not love God; we seek the company of those whom we love, and if you did love God, you would like to hear about him, your spirit would long to get nearer and nearer to him, and your desire would be to be like him, and at last to see him face to face. You do not love God. It is a solemn charge to bring against you; but as long as you forget him, I cannot help accusing you.
14. Yet another sin underlies the fact that you do not like to have God in your thoughts. Your real reason is because you find that thinking of God, and going on in sin, are two things that are incompatible with one another. You say, “I cannot go to the theatre and carry God in my heart with me there. I cannot sit down at the pub with the profane, and have a thought of God’s presence with me there. It is not easy for me to go to any haunt of vice or sin, and still carry with me the memory of the Omniscient eye.” No, sinner, dishonest in business, you know you could not practise the arts of your trade, if you always kept God before your eyes. You are conscious that the two things will not suit each other. You are quite certain that these are two principles that will no more mix than fire and water, or light and darkness. So you prefer your sins before God; you love the lusts of the flesh, and its delights, the sins of this world, and its reward, better than you love him who made you, and who, if you love him, will take you up to live with himself for ever. Sin once hated, God is loved; but sin loved, God is abhorred. When a man knows that he has been stealing something, and has a parcel of goods on him which is not his own, he will take care not to go on the same side of the street with the policeman. And when a man has been doing something wrong, he is quite certain not to go near his God, for he does not wish to be discovered, he does not desire to be detected. He is like Adam in his nakedness, he would sew fig leaves together, and run from the presence of God, because he knows that he is naked, and cannot stand before his Maker’s face.
15. These are solemn considerations. Let them sink deep into your heart. Do not steel your conscience against them. If they are true let them have full weight with you, and who knows while I thus speak this way that the arrows of conviction may be piercing your heart? And what are they? Are they not gracious weapons by which God slays us first, in order that he may afterwards renew us with the divine life.
16. III. Oh that I could SLAY EVERY EXCUSE WHICH ANY OF YOU MAY BRING FOR FORGETFULNESS OF GOD!
17. “But,” you say, “is not a man excusable for forgetting God if he has not had enough in early youth to impress God upon his memory?” Ah, sir, then some among you in this respect are inexcusable indeed. You can remember that one of the first sounds your ear ever heard was the name of Jesus. One of the first sights your infant eye ever beheld was your mother, with her lips moving in silent prayer while tears were falling upon your infant brow; she was praying then that you might be dedicated to God. Do you remember that family altar which was held each morning, when the big Bible was opened and your father read from holy scripture the words of truth! Have you forgotten the prayers which he then asked on your behalf, when he said, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you! Oh Lord, save the family of your servant. May they all be bound up in the bundle of life with the seal of the Lord my God.” Have you forgotten your mother’s personal appeal to you? the Bible in which she wrote your name with that prayer—and you little knew how well she meant that prayer—that prayer in the beginning of the book, that you might know him whom that Bible had revealed? Have you forgotten that earnest charge your father gave you when you first came to London to be become an apprentice, or to take a position in some large shop—how he beseeched you by the living God not to be led astray? not to fall into sin? And now grey hairs are on your head, and your children are grown up too, and, perhaps, the grandchild may sit upon your knee, but your fathers prayers have not faded from your memory; nor have your mother’s tears been utterly forgotten. I say, if you do not remember God, you cannot plead the excuse of the heathen, even if they are without excuse—for God is to be seen in the visible world—you are without any cloak for your sin, for you have had the name, the person, the being of God represented to you by those who could best reach your heart, and best engage your attention. If some of you—and I may be speaking to such—if some of you have ceased to attend the house of God—if you have given up even the outward observances of religion, at least let this be on your mind—that in the last great day you cannot look your father in the face and say, “Sire, you who brought me forth, my blood is on your head;” nor can you look on her who bore you, and say to her—“Woman, I curse the breast on which I hung, because the heart beneath it yielded no sympathy for my eternal state, and never beat with anxious prayers that I might be saved.” I strip you of this excuse; what other have you now to make?
18. Or, may be, you tell me that to think of God always and not to forget him is very hard. So be it, but let me ask you—have you ever made the attempt?—have you ever tried to think about God? No; you know that instead of it you have often tried to thrust the thought out of mind; and when it has come into your heart you have looked upon it as an intruder, and you have either said to it with the politeness of Felix, “Go your way for this time, when I have a more convenient time I will send for you;” or else with the harshness but honesty of Ahab you have said, “Have you found me, oh my enemy?” You know very well that you do not check yourself in the middle of a speech with the thought—“But I am forgetting God;” you do not correct yourself in the very centre of an action and turn from it because you are conscious that you are permitting the Word of God to slip from your memory. No sir, you have tried to remember a thousand things, but you never tried to remember your God. You make memoranda of your business; take out from your pocket that little ivory appointment book now, and see how the engagements for the next week are listed there so that they may not be forgotten. Do you ever make any such memoranda with regard to God? Did you ever say to your soul, “My soul, be steadfast, and abide close and firmly near to God this week?” Did you ever charge your spirit, saying, “Keep the Lord always before you, and set him at your right hand?” Whatever you have tried to do, you have never even made the attempt to think about God. How do you know then that it is hard work? And if it is hard, what excuse is it for you when you have not even made the attempt? But, further, you tell me that you cannot: but even if you could not, you are still guilty, for I ask you this: “Did you ever weep because you had forgotten God?” Though you have found it hard to remember him, the least thing you could have done would be to have been sorry because you could not do it. Did you ever charge your eyes to weep because you have forgotten him who gives them light? Did you ever bid your heart dissolve with anguish because it would not cling to him who made it beat? Oh no, sirs, you know that sin is sweet to you, and forgetfulness of God is a dainty morsel to you, and you roll it under your tongue. Oh! if it were bitter to you, then indeed, you would soon be cured of it. If once forgetfulness of God became a burden and a plague, then you would seek grace so that you might escape from it. But instead of that, it sits so sweetly upon your shoulder, it is not like a chain of iron but rather like a chain of gold; it is not like a yoke, but like a pleasant burden which you are too glad to carry. I charge this against you, that you do wilfully and wickedly forget the Lord your God; for if it were not wilful and wicked you would repent, and be sorry that you had forgotten him.
19. Oh sirs! vain are your excuses, while in forgetting God you have indeed to strain yourselves and divert your attention to do it. If you would only let his creation speak to you it would make you remember him. There is not a star in the sky which would not look out of heaven and whisper to you—“Man, remember him who lives above the skies.” There is not a blade of grass in the meadows which would not speak to you and say, “Consider, consider the God who has made you as the grass, and before whom you must soon wither away.” Oh! if you would only hear, the very mountains and the hills would break out before you—preaching to you about their God; and the very trees of the field would clap their hands in adoration. Besides, go to your own house—look into the eye of your child; sit down to your table; eat your bread and that which God has added to it; go to your bed and dream; wake up and find yourself alive, and see if all these things do not tell you about God. Why God’s name is printed in every place you go, God’s name is written on the very streets along which you walk. Does he not fill heaven and earth, and is he not everywhere. Surely if you forget him you are without excuse.
20. Moreover what warnings some of you have had! You have been at sea, and the timbers of the ship have creaked, and she seemed to be like an egg shell in a giant’s hand; and then you thought you would never forget God again. When the thunderclap made you deaf for a moment with horror, and the lightning flash seemed to blind you with dismay, you thought then that you could never forget God. Remember too, that little room and the fever; think of the street you live on, and the cholera as it stopped at door after door and it passed you by. Think, I pray you, of the many times you have been exposed to instant or sudden death, and say,—has not God spoken to you, not only once but twice? Has consumption begun its deadly work with you, fair maid? It is God’s solemn voice to you—“Prepare to meet your God.” Has some disease taken a deep root in your body, oh strong man! Has the physician warned you that it may carry you off very suddenly? Has he said, your heart is so diseased that you may fall dead in the streets? God has spoken to you. Shall the Eternal find you turning a deaf ear? Oh! no, I beseech you now, however much you have forgotten him—forget all the world and think of him now. Better to have no memory and no thought for the most important things of time, than to give all your attention to this present world of shadows, and to forget the world of substances, and the God who gives it solemnity. God bless my words, and take your excuses away from you, and tear them in pieces before your eyes.
21. IV. May God now give you a heart to listen while I seek to PERSUADE YOU TO REPENT. This is my closing task.
22. You who have forgotten God! you are standing self-condemned and convicted this morning! I have two arguments to ply you with—two great truths which I would drive home upon your conscience; but, alas! it is not I who can do it. Only God the Holy Spirit can bless the Word.
23. Well, forgetter of God, I would first plead with you by the terror of the law; “Knowing, therefore, the terrors of the law, we persuade men.” You will soon be forced to remember God; you shall lie upon your deathbed, and the thought of a God so long neglected, whose gospel has been rejected, whose Son has been defied, shall then be as gall to you. The remembrance which might be sweet to you now, shall be as gravel in your mouth then, to break your teeth. You shall lie upon your bed and toss from side to side with a pain which medicine cannot cure. You shall know anguish to which even sleep itself can give no respite. I have seen many such cases and the sight has been fearful,—men whom nothing could pacify, whose pain drugs could not allay, whose peace utterly departed, their bodies and souls seemed as if they were torn in pieces by lions—as if they were set on fire from hell before their time. Nor will you be able to forget him on the day of judgment, when your soul shall come up from the place of its separate existence, when your body shall rise up from the grave, and the two shall be reunited. You will see the Lord, whom you have despised, sitting upon a throne of glory, and what would you give if you could shut your eyes then, or if you had never shut your eyes upon him before. How will you say, “Oh that I had now a time of respite; oh that mercy could again be proclaimed to me; that there was still found some minister of Christ, some open Bible, some sanctuary, some time for repentance, some pleading terms, some praying ground on which I might yet stand hopefully before my God!” But, no! all through the time of the preparation of that judgment, the trumpet waxing exceedingly loud and long, shall ring destruction in your ears, the black darkness shall blot out hope from you, and the ever flashing lightnings shall slay your pride and your pretensions, and when the sentence is pronounced, when Christ has discharged the awful volleys of his wrath against you, you will not be able to forget him then. In hell the thought of God shall be as a dagger in your soul—a viper nestling in your bosom, poisoning the fountains of your life, and sending hot venom through all your veins. “Son, remember!” That was the cry of Abraham from heaven, and doubtlessly an awful cry to the rich man in hell:—“Son, remember!” It is the voice of mercy today. “Son, remember!”—it shall be the voice of judgment tomorrow. Son, remember! Son, remember! Son, remember the neglected invitations; son, remember the warnings despised; son, remember that solemn Sabbath day, when the minister preached,
As though he ne’er might preach again,
A dying man to dying men.
“Son, remember” the open Word of God, remember your mother’s prayers, your father’s exhortations. Son, remember your oaths, your blasphemies, your sins, your follies, your laughing at the Word, your despising of Christ. It will tear your heart asunder only to look back, with that always ringing in your ears—“Son remember, son remember.” I beseech you then, by the terrors of the law, to repent of this great sin of having forgotten God. Oh, Spirit of God, grant repentance now! Will you make your bed in hell, will you abide with everlasting burnings? I beg of you do not be so foolhardy, there are other ways of being a fool besides damning your soul. Come, dress in motley attire, paint your face and play the clown if you must be a fool, but do not damn your soul to prove yourself full of folly; dash your head against a wall; spend your money for that which is not bread; hurl your wallet into the sea, but do not destroy yourself. Is there no happiness in this world except the happiness of bequeathing eternal torment on your soul? Oh, could I plead with you as my heart longs to do; could I speak to you as my Master would speak if he were here this morning, surely I might reach your hearts. Ah, but unless the sacred Spirit is here, vain are the most earnest entreaties, vain the sternest attacks against the barricades and bulwarks of a hard and iron heart. Oh, Lord, turn the sinner, and by the terrors of the law drive him to yourself!
24. But now to use perhaps a more forceful argument. God send it home.
25. By the mercies of God, sinner, I urge you to forget him no more. He is not a hard taskmaster, or an austere God. His own words are, “As I live says the Lord, I have no pleasure in the death of him who dies, but had rather that he should turn to me and live.” He is stern—justly so. He is severe—he must be so; to be judge of all the earth he must do right. But this is the day of grace, this is the time of mercy. You are not shut up in hell; the gates of the grave have not yet enclosed you; the iron door is not bolted fast yet. There is hope—hope even for the negligent; hope for the despiser of Christ. And let me tell you—that hope lies not in anything that is in you, but in Christ Jesus. “Whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” “Whoever seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” If you shall come to senses this morning as the prodigal did in the midst of the swine, and if you shall say—“I will arise and go to my Father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son;’” then, sinner, God will rejoice to see you come to him. He will have eyes of mercy for you to see you afar off; he will have feet of mercy to run and meet you; he will have arms of mercy to receive you; he will have kisses of mercy to cheer you; he will have depths of mercy to wash you; garments of mercy in which to clothe you; jewels of mercy with which to adorn you; and feasts of mercy and music of mercy to make you glad. If I had made my father angry with me today, if I had left his house voluntarily, and spent his substance, I might be afraid to come back to my father’s house. “Lo,” I might say, “he will never forgive me; I fear he is a stern man.” But if a messenger should come from him and say to me, “Young man, your father’s heart yearns to press you to his bosom, he does not wish you to be a stranger to him any longer. He asked me tell you to come to him just as you are—rags and ulcers, sores and filth—just as you are” Why I think I can say that the sight of my father’s messenger, especially if it were my own brother, with tears in his eyes should say to me, “Brother, come back, come back, our father still loves you. I was like you once, and father received me—come, and he will do the same for you.” I think I would put my unreluctant hand into his, and say, “My brother, I will go with you to my father’s house, and I will fall upon my knees and confess my folly and my fault, and—
Perhaps he will admit my plea;
Perhaps will hear my prayer?”
In the name of God our Father, I plead with you. I have been as vile as any of you, but I know I am forgiven. I bear him witness he has blotted out my sins; he will do the same for you. Is there no brother here who will say, “I will go with you to Jesus; at his cross I will bow, and at my Father’s face offer my prayer?”
26. Two little parables by way of further encouragement, and I am finished. There may be one here who says, “Sir, I do not know how to pray; I do not know how to find my way to Christ, for I have learned the language of sin so well that I cannot speak the language of grace.” Oh! but sinner, if you only know what it is you want, and have a desire to find it, you shall find it. I compare you to a woman whom I met last Friday. We were walking up the lane near where I live, and there was a poor woman, who accosted us. She spoke in French. This poor soul had some children at Guildford; she wanted directions to that place, but did not know a single word of English. She had knocked at the doors of all the gentlemen’s houses down the lane, and of course the servants could do nothing for her, for they could not understand a word she said. So she went from one place to another, and at last she did not know what would become of her. She had some thirty miles to walk, she did not mind that, but then, she did not know which way to go; so I suppose she had made up her mind she would ask everyone. All she knew was, she had written on a piece of paper, the word “Guildford,” and she held it up and began to ask in French the road. She had met with someone who could tell her the path, and she expressed her distress beautifully. She said she felt like a poor little bird who was hunted down, and did not know how to find her way to the nest. She poured a thousand blessings on us when we told her the way. And I thought—how much this is like the sinner when he wants to find the way to heaven. All he knows is, he wants Christ. That is all he knows; but where to get to him and how to find him, he does not know; and he knocks at one door and then at another door; and perhaps the minister at the place of worship, does not understand the language of human sympathy. He cannot understand the sinner’s need, for there are many servants in my Master’s house, I am sorry to say, who do not understand the language of a sinner’s cry. Oh! sinner, you shall surely find Christ though you do not know how to find him. He will say to you, “Whom do you seek?” and you will say,—“I seek Jesus,” and he will say,—“I who speak to you am he.” I am much mistaken this morning, if he who speaks in your heart is not the very Jesus whom you seek. His speaking in your heart is a token of his love. Trust him, believe in him, and you shall be saved.
27. There is a story told concerning Thomas á Becket—a story connected with his parentage. His father was a Saxon gentleman, who went into the crusades, and was taken prisoner by the Saracens. While a prisoner among the Saracens, a Turkish lady fell in love with him, and when he was set free and returned to England, she had an opportunity of escaping from her father’s house—took ship, and came to England. But she did not know where to find him whom she loved. All she knew about him was, that his name was Gilbert. She determined to go through all the streets of England, crying out the name of Gilbert, until she had found him. She came to London first, and passing every street people were surprised to see an eastern maiden, attired in her eastern dress, crying, “Gilbert, Gilbert, Gilbert.” And so she passed from town to town, until one day as she pronounced the name, the ear for which it was intended caught the sound, and they became happy and blessed.
28. And so, sinner, today you know little perhaps about religion, but you know the name of Jesus. Take up the cry and go today, and as you go along the streets, say in your heart, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” and when you are in your bedroom say it still, “Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!” continue your cry, and it shall reach the ear for whom it is meant. If your relatives laugh, say, “Ah, I did not call for you;” if your friends say that you are mad, reply, “Ah, it may seem so; the riddle is always foolish until you know the meaning of it.” But if you should cry, “Jesus,” until Jesus shall answer you, oh happy shall it be! There shall be a marriage between him and your soul, and you with him shall sit down at the marriage supper in the glory of the Father, and live with him for ever and ever. God add his own blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.