Heaven and Hell
By Charles Spurgeon
And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. , 12)
This is a land where plain speaking is allowed, and where the people are willing to afford a fair hearing to any one who can tell them that which is worth their attention. Tonight I am quite certain of an attentive audience, for I know you too well to suppose otherwise. This field, as you are all aware, is private property. And I would just give a suggestion to those who go out in the open air to preach—that it is far better to get into a field or a plot of unoccupied building ground, than to block up the roads and stop business; it is moreover far better to be somewhere under protection, so that we can at once prevent disturbance.
Tonight, I shall, I hope, encourage you to seek the road to heaven. I shall also have to utter some very sharp things concerning the end of the lost in the pit of hell. Upon both these subjects I will try and speak, as God helps me. But I beseech you, as you love your souls, weigh right and wrong this night; see whether what I say be the truth of God. If it be not, reject it utterly, and cast it away; but if it is, at your peril disregard it; for as you shall answer before God, the great Judge of heaven and earth, it will go ill with you if the words of his servant and of his Scripture be despised.
My text has two parts. The first is very agreeable to my mind, and gives me pleasure; the second is terrible in the extreme; but since they are both the truth, they must be preached. The first part of my text is, “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” The sentence which I call the black, dark, and threatening part is this: “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
Let us take the first part. Here is a most glorious promise. I will read it again—“Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” I like that text, because it tells me what heaven is, and gives me a beautiful picture of it. It says, it is a place where I shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. O what a sweet thought that is for the working-man. He often wipes the hot sweat from his face, and he wonders whether there is a land where he shall have to toil no longer. He scarcely ever eats a mouthful of bread that is not moistened with the sweat of his brow. Often he comes home weary, and flings himself upon his couch, perhaps too tired to sleep. He says, “Oh! is there no land where I can rest? Is there no place where I can sit, and for once let these weary limbs be still? Is there no land where I can be quiet?” Yes, thou son of toil and labor,
There is a happy land
Far, far, away—
where toil and labor are unknown. Beyond yon blue welkin there a city fair and bright, its walls are jasper, and its light is brighter than the sun. There “the weary are at rest, and the wicked cease from troubling.” Immortal spirits are yonder, who never wipe sweat from their brow, for “they sow not, neither do they reap;” they have not to toil and labor.
There on a green and flow’ry mount
Their wearied souls shall sit:
And with transporting joys recount
The labors of their feet.
To my mind, one of the best views of heaven is that it is a land of rest—especially to the working-man. Those who have not to work hard, think they will love heaven as a place of service. That is very true. But to the workingman, to the man who toils with his brain or with his hands, it must ever be a sweet thought that there is a land where we shall rest. Soon, this voice will never be strained again: soon, these lungs will never have to exert themselves beyond their power; soon, this brain shall not be racked for thought; but I shall sit at the banquet-table of God; yea, I shall recline on the bosom of Abraham, and be at ease for ever. Oh! weary sons and daughters of Adam, you will not have to drive the ploughshare into the unthankful soil in heaven, you will not need to rise to daily toils before the sun has risen, and labor still when the sun hath long ago gone to his rest; but ye shall be still, ye shall be quiet, ye shall rest yourselves, for all are rich in heaven, all are happy there, all are peaceful. Toil, trouble, travail, and labor are words that cannot be spelled in heaven; they have no such things there, for they always rest.
The Heavenly Company
And mark the good company they sit with. They are to “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.” Some people think that in heaven we shall know nobody. But our text declares here, that we “shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.” Then I am sure that we shall be aware that they are Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. I have heard of a good woman, who asked her husband, when she was dying, “My dear, do you think you will know me when you and I get to heaven?” “Shall I know you?” he said, “why, I have always known you while I have been here, and do you think I shall be a greater fool when I get to heaven?” I think it was a very good answer. If we have known one another here, we shall know one another there. I have dear departed friends up there, and it is always a sweet thought to me, that when I shall put my foot, as I hope I may, upon the threshold of heaven, there will come my sisters and brothers to clasp me by the hand, and say, “Yes, thou lovedst one, and thou art here.”
Dear relatives that have been separated, you will meet again in heaven. One of you has lost a mother—she is gone above; and if you follow the track of Jesus, you shall meet her there. Methinks I see yet another coming to meet you at the door of paradise; and though the ties of natural affection may be in a measure forgotten—I may be allowed to use a figure—how blessed would she be as she turned to God, and said, “Here I am, and the children that thou hast given me.” We shall recognize our friends—husband, you will know your wife again. Mother, you will know those dear babes of yours—you marked their features when they lay panting and gasping for breath. You know how ye hung over their graves when the cold sod was sprinkled over them, and it was said, “Earth to earth, dust to dust, and ashes to ashes.” But ye shall hear those loved voices again; ye shall hear those sweet voices once more; ye shall yet know that those whom ye loved have been loved by God.
Would not that be a dreary heaven for us to inhabit, where we should be alike unknowing and unknown? I would not care to go to such a heaven as that. I believe that heaven is a fellowship of the saints, and that we shall know one another there. I have often thought I should love to see Isaiah; and, as soon as I get to heaven, methinks, I would ask for him, because he spoke more of Jesus Christ than all the rest. I am sure I should want to find out George Whitefield—he who so continually preached to the people, and wore himself out with a more than seraphic zeal. O yes! we shall have choice company in heaven when we get there. There will be no distinction of learned and unlearned, clergy and laity, but we shall walk freely one among another; we shall feel that we are brethren; we shall “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob.”
I have heard of a lady who was visited by a minister on her deathbed, and she said to him, “I want to ask you one question, now I am about to die.” “Well,” said the minister, “what is it?” “Oh!” said she, in a very affected way, “I want to know if there are two places in heaven, because I could not bear that Betsy in the kitchen should be in heaven along with me, she is so unrefined.” The minister turned round and said, “O, don’t trouble yourself about that, madam. There is no fear of that; for until you get rid of your accursed pride, you will never enter heaven at all.” We must all get rid of our pride. We must come down and stand on an equality in the sight of God, and see in every man a brother, before we can hope to be found in glory. Ay, we bless God, we thank him that will set down no separate table for one and for another. The Jew and the Gentile will sit down together. The great and the small shall feed in the same pasture, and we shall “sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
But my text hath a yet greater depth of sweetness, for it says, that “many shall come and shall sit down.” Some narrow-minded bigots think that heaven will be a very small place, where there will be a very few people, who went to their chapel or their church. I confess, I have no wish for a very small heaven, and love to read in the Scriptures that there are many mansions in my Father’s house. How often do I hear people say, “Ah! strait is the gate and narrow is the way, and few there be that find it. There will be very few in heaven; there will be most lost.” My friend I differ from you. Do you think that Christ will let the devil beat him? that he will let the devil have more in hell than there will be in heaven? No: it is impossible. For then Satan would laugh at Christ. There will be more in heaven than there are among the lost. God says, that “there will be a number that no man can number who will be saved;” but he never says that there will be a number that no man can number that will be lost. There will be a host beyond all count who will get into heaven.
What glad tidings for you and for me! for if there are so many to be saved why should not I be saved? why should not you? why should not yon man, over there in the crowd, say, “Cannot I be one among the multitude?” And may not that poor woman there take heart, and say, “Well, if there were but half-a-dozen saved, I might fear that I should not be one; but since many are to come, why should not I also be saved?” Cheer up, disconsolate! Cheer up, son of mourning, child of sorrow, there is hope for thee still! I can never know that any man is past God’s grace. There be a few that have sinned that sin that is unto death and God gives them up; but the vast host of mankind are yet within the reach of sovereign mercy—“And many of them shall come from the east, and from the west, and shall sit down in the kingdom of heaven.”
Look at my text
again, and you will see where these people come from. They are to “come from
the east and west.” The Jews said that they would all come from
But I do not think this text is to be understood so much geographically as spiritually. When it says that they “shall come from the east and west,” I think it does not refer to nations particularly, but to different kinds of people. Now, “the east and the west” signify those who are the very furthest off from religion; yet many of them will be saved and get to heaven. There is a class of persons who will always be looked upon as hopeless. Many a time have I heard a man or woman say of such a one, “He cannot be saved: he is too abandoned. What is he good for? Ask him to go to a place of worship—he was drunk on Saturday night. What would be the use of reasoning with him? There is no hope for him. He is a hardened fellow. See what he has done these many years. What good will it be to speak to him?”
Now, hear this, ye who think your fellows worse than yourselves—ye who condemn others, whereas ye are often just as guilty: Jesus Christ says “many shall come from the east and west.” There will be many in heaven that were drunkards once. I believe, among that blood-bought throng, there are many who reeled in and out the tavern half their lifetime. But by the power of divine grace they were able to dash the liquor cup to the ground. They renounced the riot of intoxication—fled away from it—and served God. Yes! There will be many in heaven who were drunkards on earth. There will be many harlots: some of the most abandoned will be found there.
You remember the story of Whitefield’s once saying that there would be some in heaven who were “the devil’s castaways”; some that the devil would hardly think good enough for him, and yet whom Christ would save. Lady Huntingdon once gently hinted that such language was not quite proper. But just at the time there happened to be heard come a ring at the bell and Whitefield went down stairs. Afterwards he came up and said, “Your ladyship, what do you think a poor woman had to say to me just now? She was a sad profligate and she said, ‘O, Mr. Whitefield, when you were preaching you told us that Christ would take in the devil’s castaways and I am one of them,’ ” and that was the means of her salvation.
ever check us from preaching to the lowest of the low? I have been accused of
getting all the rabble of
Oh! what would you think if you were to see the difference between some that are in heaven and some that shall be there! there might be found one whose hair hangs across his eyes, his locks are matted, he looks horrible, his bloated eyes start from his face, he grins almost like an idiot, he has drunk away his very brain until life seems to have departed so far as sense and being are concerned; yet I would tell you, “that man is capable of salvation”—and in a few years I might say “look up yonder;” see you that bright star? discern you that man with a crown of pure gold upon his head? do you notice that being clad in robes of sapphire and in garments of light? That is the selfsame man who sat there a poor benighted, almost idiotic being; yet sovereign grace and mercy have saved him! There are none, except those as I have said before, who have sinned the unpardonable sin, who are beyond God’s mercy—fetch me out the worst, and still I would preach the gospel to them; fetch me out the vilest, still I would preach to them, because I recollect my master said, “Go ye out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that my house may be filled.” “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
They Shall Come
There is one more word I must notice before I have done with this sweet portion—that is the word “shall.” Oh! I love God’s “shalls” and “wills.” There is nothing comparable to them. Let a man say “shall,” what is it good for? “I will,” says man, and he never performs; “I shall,” says he, and he breaks his promise. But it is never so with God’s “shalls.” If he says, “shall,” it shall be; when he says, “will,” it will be. Now he has said here, “many shall come.” The devil says, “they shall not come;” but “they shall come.” Their sins say, “you can’t come;” God says, you “shall come.” You, yourselves, say, “we won’t come;” God says, “you shall come.”
Yes! there are some here who are laughing at salvation, who can scoff at Christ, and mock at the gospel; but I tell you some of you shall come yet. “What!” you say, “can God make me become a Christian?” I tell you yes, for herein rests the power of the gospel. It does not ask your consent; but it gets it. It does not say, will you have it, but it makes you willing in the day of God’s power. Not against your will, but it makes you willing. It shows you its value, and then you fall in love with it, and straightway you run after it and have it. Many people have said, “we will not have anything to do with religion,” yet they have been converted.
I have heard of a man who once went to chapel to hear the singing, and as soon as the minister began to preach, he put his fingers in his ears and would not listen. But by-and-by some tiny insect settled on his face, so that he was obliged to take one finger out of his ear to brush it away. Just then the minister said, “he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” The man listened; and God met with him at that moment to his soul’s conversion. He went out a new man, a changed character. He who came in to laugh retired to pray; he who came in to mock went out to bend his knee in penitence: he who entered to spend an idle hour went home to spend an hour in devotion with his God. The sinner became a saint; the profligate became a penitent.
Who knows that there may not be some like that here? The gospel wants not your consent, it gets it. It knocks the enmity out of your heart. You say “I do not want to be saved;” Christ says you shall be. He makes your will turn round, and then you cry, “Lord, save, or I perish.” Ah, might heaven exclaim, “I knew I would make you say that;” and then he rejoices over you because he has changed your will and made you willing in the day of his power. If Jesus Christ were to stand on this platform tonight, what would many people do with him? “O!” say some, “we would make him a king.” I do not believe it. They would crucify him again if they had the opportunity. If he were to come and say, “Here I am, I love you, will you be saved by me?” Not one of you would consent if you were left to your will. If he should look upon you with those eyes, before whose power the lion would have crouched, if he spoke with that voice which poured forth a cataract of eloquence like a stream of nectar rolling down from the cliffs above, not a single person would come to be his disciple; no, it wants the power of the Spirit to make men come to Jesus Christ.
He himself said, “No man can come to me except the Father who hath sent me draw him.” Ah! we want that; and here we have it. They shall come! They shall come! ye may laugh, ye may despise us; but Jesus Christ shall not die for nothing. If some of you reject him there are some that will not. If there are some that are not saved, others shall be. Christ shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. Some think that Christ died and yet that some for whom he died will be lost. I never could understand that doctrine. If Jesus my surety bore my griefs and carried my sorrows, I believe myself to be as secure as the angels in heaven. God cannot ask payment twice. If Christ paid my debt shall I have to pay it again? No.
Free from sin I walk at large,
The Saviour’s blood’s my full discharge;
At his dear feet content I lay,
A sinner saved, and homage pay.
They shall come! They shall come! And nought in heaven, nor on earth, nor in hell, can stop them from coming.
And now, thou chief of sinners, list one moment while I call thee to Jesus. There is one person here tonight who thinks himself the worst soul that ever lived. There is one who says to himself, “I do not deserve to be called to Christ I am sure!” Soul! I call thee! thou lost, most wretched outcast, this night, by authority given me of God, I call thee to come to my Savior. Some time ago, when I went into the County Court to see what they were doing, I heard a man’s name called out, and immediately the man said, “Make way! make way! they call me!” And up he came. Now, I call the chief of sinners tonight, and let him say, “Make way! Make way doubts! Make way fears! Make way sins! Christ calls me! And if Christ calls me, that is enough!”
I’ll to his gracious feet approach
Whose sceptre mercy gives;
Perhaps he may command my touch!
And then the suppliant lives.
I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must for ever die.
But, should I die with mercy sought,
When I the King have tried,
That were to die, (delightful thought!)
As sinner never died.
Go and try my Savior! Go and try my Savior! If he casts you away after you have sought him, tell it in the pit that Christ would not hear you. But that you shall never be allowed to do. It would dishonor the mercy of the covenant, for God to cast away one penitent sinner; and it never shall be while it is written “many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
The second part of my text is heart-breaking. I could preach with great delight to myself from the first part; but here is a dreary task to my soul, because there are gloomy words here. But, as I have told you, what is written in the Bible must be preached whether it be gloomy or cheerful. There are some ministers who never mention anything about hell. I heard of a minister who once said to his congregation—“If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ you will be sent to that place which it is not polite to mention.” He ought not to have been allowed to preach again, I am sure, if he could not use plain words. Now, if I saw that house on fire over there, do you think I would stand and say, “I believe the operation of combustion is proceeding yonder!” No; I would call out, “Fire! Fire!” and then everybody would know what I meant.
Children of the Kingdom Cast Out
So, if the Bible says, “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness,” am I to stand here and mince the matter at all? God forbid. We must speak the truth as it is written. It is a terrible truth, for it says, “the children of the kingdom shall be cast out!” Now, who are those children? I will tell you—“The children of the kingdom” are those people who are noted for the externals of piety, but who have nothing of the internals of it. People whom you will see with their Bibles and Hymn Books marching off to chapel as religiously as possible, or going to church as devoutly and demurely as they can, looking as somber and serious as parish beadles, and fancying that they are quite sure to be saved, though their heart is not in the matter, nothing but their bodies. These are the persons who are “the children of the kingdom.” They have no grace, no life, no Christ, and they shall be cast into outer darkness.
Again, these people are the children of pious fathers and mothers. There is nothing touches a man’s heart, mark you, like talking about his mother. I have heard of a swearing sailor, whom nobody could manage, not even the police, who was always making some disturbance wherever he went. Once he went into a place of worship, and no one could keep him still; but a gentleman went up and said to him, “Jack, you had a mother once.” With that the tears ran down his cheeks. He said, “Ha! bless you, sir, I had; and I brought her grey hairs with sorrow to the grave, and a pretty fellow I am to be here tonight.” He then sat down, quite sobered and subdued by the very mention of his mother.
Ah! and there are some of you “children of the kingdom” who can remember your mothers. Your mother took you on her knee and taught you early to pray: your father tutored you in the ways of godliness. And yet you are here tonight without grace in your heart—without hope of heaven. You are going downwards towards hell as fast as your feet can carry you. There are some of you who have broken your poor mother’s heart. Oh! if I could tell you what she has suffered for you when you have at night been indulging in your sin. Do you know what your guilt will be, ye “children of the kingdom,” if ye perish after a pious mother’s prayers and tears have fallen upon you? I can conceive of no one entering hell with a worse grace than the man who goes there with drops of his mother’s tears on his head, and with his father’s prayers following him at his heels.
Some of you will inevitably endure this doom, some of you young men and women shall wake up one day and find yourselves in outer darkness, while your parents shall be up there in heaven, looking down upon you with upbraiding eyes, seeming to say, “What! after all we did for you, all we said, are ye come to this?” “Children of the kingdom!” do not think that a pious mother can save you. Do not think because your father was a member of such-and-such a church that his godliness will save you. I can suppose some one standing at heaven’s gate and demanding, “Let me in! Let me in!” What for? “Because my mother is in there.” Your mother had nothing to do with you. If she was holy, she was holy for herself; if she was evil, she was evil for herself. “But my grandfather prayed for me.” That is no use: Did you pray for yourself? “No; I did not.” Then grandfathers’ prayers and grandmothers’ prayers, and fathers’ and mothers’ prayers, may be piled on the top of one another till they reach the stars, but they never can make a ladder for you to go to heaven by. You must seek God for yourself; or rather God must seek you. You must have vital experience of godliness in your heart, or else you are lost, even though all your friends were in heaven.
That was a dreadful dream which a pious mother once had, and told to her children. She thought the judgment-day was come. The great books were opened. They all stood before God. And Jesus Christ said, “Separate the chaff from the wheat; put the goats on the left hand, and the sheep on the right.” The mother dreamed that she and her children were standing just in the middle of the great assembly. And the angel came, and said, “I must take the mother: she is a sheep: she must go to the right hand. The children are goats: they must go on the left.” She thought as she went her children clutched her, and said, “Mother, can we part? Must we be separated?” She then put her arms around them, and seemed to say, “My children, I would, if possible, take you with me.” But in a moment the angel touched her: her cheeks were dried, and, now, overcoming natural affection, being rendered supernatural and sublime, resigned to God’s will, she said, “My children, I taught you well, I trained you up, and you forsook the ways of God, and now all I have to say is, Amen to your condemnation.” Thereupon they were snatched away, and she saw them in perpetual torment, while she was in heaven.
Young man, what will you think, when the last day comes, to hear Christ say, “Depart, ye cursed!” And there will be a voice just behind him, saying, Amen. And as you inquire whence came the voice, you will find it was your mother. Or, young woman, when thou art cast away into outer darkness, what will you think to hear a voice saying, Amen. And as you look, there sits your father, his lips still moving with the solemn curse. “Ah! children of the kingdom,” the penitent reprobates will enter heaven, many of them; publicans and sinners will get there; repenting drunkards and swearers will be saved; but many of “the children of the kingdom” will be cast out. Oh! to think that you who have been so well trained should be lost, while many of the worse will be saved. It will be the hell of hell for you to look up and see there “poor Jack” the drunkard lying in Abraham’s bosom, while you who have had a pious mother are cast into hell, simply because you would not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but put his gospel from you, and lived and died without it! That were the very sting of all, to see ourselves cast away, when the chief of sinners finds salvation.
They Shall Be Cast Out
Now list to me a little while—I will not detain you long—whilst I undertake the doleful task of telling you what is to become of these “children of the kingdom.” Jesus Christ says, they are to be “cast into outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
First, notice, they are to be cast out. They are not said to go; but when they come to heaven’s gates they are to be cast out. As soon as hypocrites arrive at the gates of heaven, Justice will say, “There he comes! there he comes! he spurned a father’s prayers, and mocked a mother’s tears. He has forced his way downward against all the advantages mercy has supplied. And now, there he comes. Gabriel, take the man.” The angel binding you hand and foot, holds you one single moment over the mouth of the chasm. He bids you look down—down—down. There is no bottom: and you hear coming up from the abyss, “sullen moans, and hollow groans, and shrieks of tortured ghosts.” You quiver, your bones melt like wax, and your marrow quakes within you. Where is now thy might? and where thy boasting and bragging? Ye shriek and cry, ye beg for mercy; but the angel with one tremendous grasp, seizes you fast, and then hurls you down, with the cry, “Away, away!” And down you go to the pit that is bottomless, and roll for ever downward—downward—downward—ne’er to find a resting-place for the sole of your foot. Ye shall be cast out.
And where are you to be cast to? Ye are to be cast “into outer darkness;” ye are to be put in the place where there will be no hope. For, by “light,” in Scripture, we understand “hope”; and you are to be put “into outer darkness,” where there is no light—no hope. Is there a man here who has no hope? I cannot suppose such a person. One of you, perhaps, says, “I am thirty pounds in debt, and shall be sold up by-and-by; but I have a hope that I may get a loan, and so escape my difficulty.” Says another, “My business is ruined, but things may take a turn yet—I have a hope.” Says another, “I am in great distress, but I hope that God will provide for me.” Another says, “I am fifty pounds in debt; I am sorry for it: but I will set these strong hands to work, and do my best to get out of it.” One of you thinks a friend is dying; but you have a hope that perhaps the fever may take a turn—that he may yet live.
But, in hell, there is no hope. They have not even the hope of dying—the hope of being annihilated. They are for ever—for ever—for ever—lost! On every chain in hell, there is written “for ever.” In the fires, there, blaze out the words, “for ever.” Up above their heads, they read, “for ever.” Their eyes are galled, and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is “for ever.” Oh! if I could tell you tonight that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it. But it cannot be—it is “for ever” they are “cast into outer darkness.”
But I want to get over this as quickly as I can, for who can bear to talk thus to his fellow creatures? What is it that the lost are doing? They are “weeping and gnashing their teeth.” Do you gnash your teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth. And do you know why? There is one gnashing his teeth at his companion, and mutters—“I was led into hell by you; you led me astray, you taught me to drink the first time.” And the other gnashes his teeth and says, “What if I did, you made me worse than I should have been in after times.” There is a child who looks at her mother, and says, “Mother, you trained me up to vice.” And the mother gnashes her teeth again at the child, and says, “I have no pity for you, for you excelled me in it and led me into deeper sin.” Fathers gnash their teeth at their sons, and sons at their fathers.
And, methinks, if there are any who will have to gnash their teeth more than others, it will be seducers, when they see those whom they have led from the paths of virtue, and hear them saying, “Ah! we are glad you are in hell with us, you deserve it, for you led us here.” Have any of you, tonight, upon your consciences the fact that you have led others to the pit? O may sovereign grace forgive you. “We have gone astray like lost sheep,” said David. Now, a lost sheep never goes astray alone if it is one of a flock. I lately read of a sheep that leaped over the parapet of a bridge, and was followed by every one of the flock. So if one man goes astray he leads others with him. Some of you will have to account for others’ sins when you get to hell, as well as your own. Oh, what “weeping and gnashing of teeth” there will be in that pit!
A Final Warning and Plea
Now shut the black book. Who wants to say any more about it? I have warned you solemnly. I have told you of the wrath to come! The evening darkens, and the sun is setting. Ah! and the evenings darken with some of you. I can see gray-headed men here. Are your gray hairs a crown of glory or a fool’s cap to you? Are you on the very verge of heaven, or are you tottering on the brink of your grave, and sinking down to perdition?
Let me warn you, gray-headed men; your evening is coming. O poor tottering gray-head, wilt thou take the last step into the pit? Let a young child step before thee and beg thee to consider. There is thy staff—it has nothing of earth to rest upon; and now, ere thou diest, bethink thyself this night; let seventy years of sin start up; let the ghosts of thy forgotten transgressions march before thine eyes. What wilt thou do with seventy wasted years to answer for, with seventy years of criminality to bring before God? God give thee grace this night to repent and to put thy trust in Jesus.
And you middle-aged men are not safe: the evening lowers with you too; you may soon die. A few mornings ago, I was roused early from my bed, by the request that I would hasten to see a dying man. I hurried off with all speed to see the poor creature; but when I reached the house he was dead—a corpse. As I stood in the room, I thought, “Ah! that man little thought he should die so soon.” There were his wife and children and friends—they little thought he should die, for he was hale, strong, and hearty but a few days before. None of you have a lease of your lives. If you have, where is it? Go and see if you have it anywhere in your chests at home. No! ye may die tomorrow. Let me therefore warn you by the mercy of God; let me speak to you as a brother may speak; for I love you, you know I do, and would press the matter home to your hearts. Oh to be amongst the many who shall be accepted in Christ—how blessed that will be! And God has said that whosoever shall call on his name shall be saved: he casts out none that come unto him through Christ.
And now, ye youths and maidens, one word with you. Perhaps ye think that religion is not for you. “Let us be happy,” say you: “let us be merry and joyous.” How long, young man, how long? “Till I am twenty-one.” Are you sure that you will live till then? Let me tell you one thing. If you do live till that time, if you have no heart for God now, you will have none then. Men do not get better if left alone. It is with them as with a garden: if you let it alone, and permit weeds to grow, you will not expect to find it better in six months—but worse. Ah! men talk as if they could repent when they like. It is the work of God to give us repentance. Some even say, “I shall turn to God on such-and-such a day.” Ah! If you felt aright, you would say, “I must run to God, and ask him to give me repentance now; lest I should die before I have found Jesus Christ my Savior.”
Now one word in conclusion. I have told you of heaven and hell; what is the way, then, to escape from hell and to be found in heaven? I will not tell you my old tale again to-night. I recollect when I told it you before, a good friend in the crowd said, “Tell us something fresh old fellow.” Now really in preaching ten times a week, we cannot always say things fresh. You have heard John Gough, and you know he tells his tales over again. I have nothing but the old gospel. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” There is nothing here of works. It does not say “He who is a good man shall be saved,” but “he who believes and is baptized.”
Well, what is it to believe? It is to put your trust entirely upon Jesus. Poor Peter once believed, and Jesus Christ said to him, “Come on, Peter, walk to me on the water.” Peter went stepping along on the tops of the waves without sinking; but when he looked at the waves, he began to tremble, and down he went. Now, poor sinner, Christ says, “Come on; walk on in your sins; come to me;” and if you do, he will give you power. If you believe on Christ, you will be able to walk over your sins—to tread upon them, and overcome them.
I can remember the time when my sins first stared me in the face. I thought myself the most accursed of all men. I had not committed any very great open transgressions against God; but I recollected that I had been well trained and tutored, and I thought my sins were thus greater than other people’s. I cried to God to have mercy, but I feared that he would not pardon me. Month after month I cried to God, but he did not hear me, and I knew not what it was to be saved. Sometimes I was so weary of the world that I desired to die: but then I recollected that there was a worse world after this, and that it would be an ill matter to rush before my Maker unprepared. At times I wickedly thought God a most heartless tyrant, because he did not answer my prayer; and then, at others, I thought, “I deserve his displeasure; if he sends me to hell, he will be just.”
But I remember the hour when I stepped into a place of worship, and saw a tall thin man step into the pulpit: I have never seen him from that day, and probably never shall, till we meet in heaven. He opened the Bible, and read, with a feeble voice, “Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside him there is none else.” Ah! thought I, I am one of the ends of the earth; and then, turning round, and fixing his gaze on me, as if he knew me, the minister said, “Look, look, look.” Why, I thought I had a great deal to do, but I found it was only to look. I thought I had a garment to spin out for myself: but I found that if I looked, Christ would give me a garment.
Look, sinner, that is to be saved. Look unto him all ye ends of the earth, and be saved. This is what the Jews did, when Moses held up the brazen serpent. He said, “Look!” and they looked. The serpents might be twisting round them, and they might be nearly dead; but they simply looked, and the moment they looked, the serpents dropped off, and they were healed. Look to Jesus, sinner. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good.” There is a hymn we often sing, but which I do not think is quite right, it says,
Venture on him, venture wholly;
Let no other trust intrude.
Now, it is no venture to trust in Christ, not in the least. He who trusts in Christ is quite secure. I recollect that when dear John Hyatt was dying, Matthew Wilks said to him, in his usual tone, “Well, John, could you trust your soul in the hands of Jesus Christ now?” “Yes,” said he, “a million! a million souls!” I am sure that every Christian that has ever trusted in Christ can say, “Amen” to that. Trust in him; he will never deceive you. My blessed Master will never cast you away.
I cannot speak much longer, and I have only to thank you for your kindness. I never saw so large a number so still and quiet. I really think, after all the hard things that have been said, that the English people know who loves them, and that they will stand by the man who stands by them. I thank every one of you, and above all, I beg you, if there be reason or sense in what I have said, bethink yourselves of what you are, and may the blessed Spirit reveal to you your state! May he show you that you are dead, that you are lost, ruined. May he make you feel what a dreadful thing it would be to sink into hell! May he point you to heaven! May he take you as the angel did of old, and put his hand upon you, and say, “Flee! flee! flee! Look to the mountain; look not behind thee; stay not in all the plain.” And may we all meet in heaven at last; and there we shall be happy for ever.
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