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On this page I will be featuring different books and / or sermons throughout the year, that will help to strengthen us on our Spiritual journey.

 The Minister in These Times

The year 1890

by

C. H. SPURGEON
(1834-1892)

Preface

 

This sermon was one of the Presidential Addresses at the Annual Conferences of the Pastors' College. Spurgeon always regarded the Conference as one of the most important in the whole year; and he devoted much time, and thought, and care, and prayer, to the preparation of his messages to the hundreds of pastors and students who were gathered together from all parts of the country and from around the world. Surrounded by his sons in the faith, many of whom were his own spiritual children, and all of whom delighted to call him President, leader, brother, friend, he spoke with a freedom and a frankness which could never be excelled, nor hardly equaled, in any other gathering; and the messages themselves supply abundant evidence of the solemn responsibility which he felt in speaking to such an audience, and of the faithfulness with which he discharged that responsibility. Though there is here the special, personal appeal to his own men, the subjects dealt with concern the whole Christian ministry at home and abroad, using the term "ministry" in its widest sense as applying to all servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. The clergy and ministers of all denominations, home and foreign missionaries, open-air preachers, Sunday-school and Bible-class teachers, tract-distributors, and Christians of all ranks will here find much that will help them to exercise that "all-around ministry" of which Spurgeon himself was so earnest an advocate and so bright an example.

Note: The complete series of messages from the Presidential Addresses at the Annual Conferences of the Pastors' College, from 1872 to 1890 are available in a book entitled, An All-Around Ministry: Addresses to Ministers and Students, that can be purchased from Pilgrim Publications (http://members.aol.com/pilgrimpub/chswork1.htm ).  The entire book can also be read online at: http://www.spurgeon.org/misc/aarm.htm  


 The Minister in These Times

Beloved Brethren, I desire, on this occasion, to say something that will be suitable for the times. I have never, according to the current phrase, preached to the times, but yet I would speak for the times, believing that a timely word now may bless all times to come. The times impress me in so many ways, that I must touch briefly upon a wide range of matters, instead of confining myself to one subject. Accept from me "here a little, and there a little," instead of speaking mainly on one subject.

I. First, let us reflect upon OUR LORD'S RELATIONSHIP TO US.

Here we have many points which must be boldly maintained in our preaching. Be assured that we cannot be right in the rest of our ministry, unless we think rightly of Our Lord Jesus. In forming a system of astronomy, where do you put the sun? If you are not clear on that cardinal matter, your system will be a failure. It really doesn't matter too much where you place Jupiter or Mars, but you must be precise where you place the Sun. Likewise, it is critical where Christ is in your theological system. Where does He stand in your thoughts? Where is Jesus in reference to yourself, and your work, and those you minister too?

There are many aspects under which we must regard our Divine Lord, but I must always give the greatest prominence to His saving character as Christ our Sacrifice and Sin-bearer.

If ever there was a time when we should be clear, pronounced, and vehement upon this point, it is now. Today the banner of the cross must lead the way. We cannot afford to put the atonement on the shelf as a truth to be taken for granted, and left among the curiosities of unpractical belief. We cannot now afford to use orthodox words and phrases on this subject as one might repeat the language of a liturgy; we must live and intensely believe the truth ourselves, and we must enforce it with the full energy of our lives. The vital truth of our Lord's atonement, (His redemptive life and death), must be preached often, clearly, and with emphasis; and, if is it not, then we have not correctly understood Christ, neither will we be able to successfully teach about Him. To attempt to preach Christ without His cross is to betray Him with a kiss.

I observe that certain persons claim to believe in the atonement, but they will not say what they mean by it. It may be possible that they don't really understand it; and, possibly, no real faith in it? Every man has a theory of what he knows; at least, he can give a statement of what he understands. We have heard of the men of Athens, and of their altar erected "to the unknown God": in England, we have philosophical people who believe in an unknown atonement. We believe in this way, they "worship in ignorance." Robertson, of Brighton, was orthodox compared with many in this age; but one said of him that he taught that our Lord did something or other, which in some way or other was more or less connected with our salvation. Flimsy as that was, it is better than the doctrine of this hour. Some now think it is absurd to believe that what was done at Calvary, centuries ago, can have any relation to the sins of today. Others, who speak not quite so wildly, still deny that our sins could be laid on the Lord Jesus, and that His righteousness could be imputed to us; this, they say, would be wrong and unethical. The ethical side of the atonement is frequently held, and beautifully and strikingly shown to the people; but we are not satisfied with this one-sided view of the great subject. Whatever the shadow of the atonement may be - by which we mean its ethical influence - we believe that there was a substance in the atonement; and if that substance is removed, the shadow is gone also.

We have no home-made theory; but our solemn witness is, that "He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree" [1 Peter 2:24]. Even if it is called wrong and unethical, as some have boldly asserted, we yet believe that, "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God" [2 Corinthians 5:21].  "The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him, for "The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all" [Isaiah 53:5-6]. It would do all of us good to look through the texts, in the Old and New Testaments, which refer to this fundamental truth; they are many, and definite. If we use language in its natural sense, we cannot get away from the assured belief that the Scripture teaches us to come to God through Jesus Christ, believing that He took our sin upon Himself, and suffered on its account, that He might render to God's right and honorable government an acceptable payment for the dishonor which man's rebellion had put on it. Through His blood, there is forgiveness; and because He died in our place, for our sins to the satisfaction of the Father, our guilt is done away with, and the believer is "accepted in the Beloved."

Those who set aside the atonement as a satisfaction for sin, also murder the doctrine of justification by faith. There is a common element which is the essence of both doctrines; so that, if you deny the one, you destroy the other. Modern religious thought is nothing but an attempt to bring back the legal system of salvation by works. Our battle is the same as that which Luther fought at the Reformation. If you go to the very ground and root of it, grace is taken away, and human merit is substituted. The gracious act of God in pardoning sin is excluded, and human effort is made to be everything, both for past sin and future hope. Every man and woman is now set up as their own savior, and the atonement is put on the shelf as a religious fraud. I will not foul my mouth with the unworthy phrases which have been used in reference to the substitutionary work of our Lord Jesus Christ; but it is a painful grief of the heart to note how these evil things are tolerated by men whom we respect.

We will not cease, dear brothers, in our ministry, to preach most definitely and decidedly the atoning sacrifice; and I will tell you why I must do so. I personally don't have a shadow of a hope of salvation from any other means: I am lost if Jesus is not my Substitute. I have been driven into a corner by a pressing sense of my own personal sin, and have been made to despair of ever doing or being anything that would offend our Holy God. I must have a perfect and Divine righteousness, yet it is beyond my own power to create it. I find it in Christ: I read in the Bible that it will become mine by faith, and by faith I receive it. My conscience tells me that I must render to God's justice a payment for the dishonor that I have done to His law, and I cannot find anything which bears the appearance of such a payment until I look to Christ Jesus. Don't I remember when I first looked to Him, and was enlightened? Don't I remember how often I have gone as a sinner to my Savior's feet, and again looked at His wounds, and believed over again unto eternal life, feeling the old joy of my salvation return to my soul? Brethren, I cannot preach anything else, for I know nothing else. New doctrines and creeds may or may not be true; but I am sure of the truth of this doctrine.

If anybody here is preaching the atonement, but doesn't truly like it, I dare not advise him to stop preaching it, but the words tremble on my lips. I am firmly persuaded that the unwilling or cold-hearted preacher of any doctrine is its worst enemy. In the long run it comes to this, that the wounds to the truth given by its false friends are worse than those given it by foes. If you do not love the cross deep in your heart, you had better leave it alone. I can truly say that I preach the atonement with all my heart. Some seem to think that we poor souls, who are from the old Puritan school, are confined by harsh doctrines, from which we would gladly escape. They believe that we have to constantly check for any rebellion in the ranks, in order to preserve the tyranny of our strict doctrinal system. John Calvin is supposed to ride us like a nightmare, and we are the lead dogs' living under his lash. Brethren, it is just the opposite. Little do these slanderers know of our happiness and peace. If they feel more joy in preaching than we do, their happiness is great; but, from their tone and style, I would greatly question it. Observers will have noticed that the joyous element is missing from their many pulpits. The preacher doesn't enjoy his own sermons, and seldom speaks of having been in the Spirit while he was preaching. He likes to preach for twenty minutes a great deal better than for forty. Nobody enjoys their modern doctrines, for there is nothing to enjoy. No, my brothers; let our opponents dismiss from their minds all pity for our enslaved condition under the old gospel. We are the free men, whom the Lord makes free, and everyone else are slaves. I would like to rise up from my death bed, during the last five minutes of my life, to bear witness to the Divine sacrifice and the sin-atoning blood. I would then repeat those words which speak the truth of substitution most positively, even though I may shock my hearers; for how could I regret that, for in Heaven my first words will be to ascribe my salvation to my Master's blood, my last act on earth will be to shock His enemies by a testimony to the same fact.

Next, we believe that Christ Jesus is the only Mediator and High Priest.

And this makes us look with indignation upon the claims of superstition. We still have in England, what we thought, in our earlier days, had become extinct, namely, the gospel of priestcraft - the priestcraft of the old Roman Catholic Church. There are men among us today who claim to be priests in a sense other than that in which all believers are, declared in the Bible, to be priests unto God. According to this delusion, our Lord Jesus is not, in Himself, an all-sufficient Mediator; that is to say, He may go the entire distance towards God the Father; but, between sinful man and the Lord Christ, there is a gap which can only be filled by a partner in an imaginary apostolical succession. Of course, the sacraments of their churches, duly administered by the priests, are described as certain conduits of grace. We still hear their words of blasphemy, "Baptism, wherein I was made a member of Christ, a child of God, and an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven." In priestly hands, bread and wine are claimed to undergo a miraculous change, very much like the Roman Catholic Church's false doctrine of Transubstantiation. Sacraments are magnified, because they are administered by priests, and thus they are nothing but a footstool on which the priest can mount himself a little higher. The church, the altar, the priest, these are all elevated beyond measure; yet these are not our Lord Jesus, but rivals to His Divine priesthood. We hear it asserted, and the poor people in the pews are continually taught it, that anyone who undertakes to teach the gospel, though he can prove his doctrine from the Bible, and may have an evident blessing resting on his ministry, is to be denounced as a rebel and a nonconformist, unless he has been ordained by the Episcopal Church. To celebrate the Lord's Supper  together as believers in the Lord Jesus, is not allowed to ordinary Christians; and if they dare to do so, they are guilty of division - an awful crime, which would seem to be several degrees worse than adultery or murder. You might be forgiven of the sin of fornication, and still have access to the sacraments, but separation from the Episcopal Church, if persevered in, puts you beyond hope.

Brethren, let us earnestly protests against this revived superstition. Let us tolerate nothing between the soul and Christ. It may be that, in London, that you have failed to notice this priestly assumption; but many brethren in this room see it before their eyes every day, and feel its iron hand laid upon the poor people living around them.  Wherever they go, they find claims put forth which uplift a certain class of men into the office of priest, whose blessing is indispensable. Sinners may not come to Christ directly, on their own account; the way to salvation is set forth as being by the appointed priest. Earnestly protest against this error. Even when it is accompanied by some gospel teaching, it is deadly.

We must be zealous to have no amount of involvement in this false notion of priestcraft. My brethren, please don't act like priests. It is very possible to give yourselves the airs of authority like a religious hierarchy, even though you are nothing more than simple pastors. There is a style of dress - the vanity of it is not praiseworthy. There is a style of language - the imitation of it is not commendable. There is an assumption of superiority, looking down on the common people as mere laity; this piece of pretentiousness is ridiculous. Avoid the way of certain Episcopal priests who seem intent on making their people feel that a minister is a dignified individual and that the rest of the members of the church are something less and must give him their obedience. Say what we like about all believers in Christ being a generation of priests, we still find vain fellows among us who would believe that they possess a special mystic position. Our position, as pastors, deserves to be respected, and will be if properly carried out; but I have observed that some who are very anxious to magnify their position and calling, really try to magnify themselves. Yet, as the position is elevated, the man has gone down. One has wondered how so small a man has obtained to so great an office. I heard, yesterday, a question to which I have not yet found a satisfactory answer; it was this: "Which is worse, the man who can preach and won't preach, or the man who can't preach and will preach?" We have, I fear, some of the latter sort among us; but if they suppose that the mere fact of their being chosen to a pastorate has endowed them with special powers, they deceive themselves.

Let me say, very softly and gently, that there are little things among ourselves which must be carefully looked after, or we will have the influence of Ritualism and priesthood working among us. In our revival services, it might be good to vary our procedures. Sometimes close that inquiry-room. I have my fears about that institution if it is used permanently, and as an inevitable part of the services. It may be a very wise thing to invite persons, who are under conviction of soul, to come apart from the rest of the congregation, and have a conversation with godly people that might help; but if you should ever see, that the idea is taking hold, that there is something to be obtained in that private room, that we call the inquiry-room, which is not immediately available in the church pew, or in some other private place, or that God is more available in one place over another to hear the repentant sinner, then destroy that notion at once. We must not go back to the old way of altars and confessionals, and have Roman Catholic deception and nonsense restored in a different form. If we make men and women think that conversation with the pastor or with our helpers in the inquiry-room is essential to their faith in Christ, we are taking the direct route for priestcraft. In the gospel, the sinner and the Savior are to come together, with no one between. Speak very clearly on this point, saying something like,  "You, sinner, sitting where you are, believing on the Lord Jesus Christ, will have eternal life. Do not wait until you enter into an inquiry-room.  Do not think it's essential to confer with me. Do not suppose that I have the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, or that these godly men and women associated with me can tell you any other gospel than this, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" [John 3:36]. 

In the next place, let us see to it that we set forth our Lord Jesus Christ as the Infallible Teacher, through His inspired Word.

I don't understand a loyalty to Christ which is accompanied by indifference to His words. How can we show Him reverence, if His own words and those of His apostles are treated with disrespect? Unless we receive Christ's words, we cannot receive Christ; and unless we receive His apostles' words, we do not receive Christ; for John said, "Whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood" [1 John 4:6]. We must love and reverence all the teachings of our Lord, for if we don't, then we are building our houses on the sand. It is as important to know Christ as the truth, as it is to know Christ as the way and the life. Some preachers seem to think more of the life than of the truth; for when I warn them that the enemy has poisoned the children's bread with their false doctrines, they answer, "Dear brother, we are sorry to hear it; and, to counteract the evil, we will open the window, and give the children fresh air." Yes, open the window, and give them fresh air, by all means. You can't do a better thing, but, at the same time, this you ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone. Arrest the poisoners, and open the windows, too. While men go on preaching false doctrine, you may talk as much as you will about deepening their spiritual life, but you will fail in it. While you do one good thing, do not neglect another. Instead of saying that the life is more important, or the truth is more important, or the way is more important, let us be united in the firm belief that they are each one equally important, and that one cannot be well sustained and thoroughly carried out without the rest.

Some quit the teaching of Christ out of sheer depravity, and childish love of novelty and innovation. To Christians that are young in Christ, false doctrine comes as a childhood disease, a sort of inevitable spiritual measles. I wish them well with the sickness, and I trust it will leave no permanent scars or damage. With deep anxiety, I have watched over minds infected with this raging epidemic; and I have rejoiced as I have seen the rash of unbelief come out beautifully, and have heard the patient say, "Thank the Lord, I will never go back to that any more." Still, it is a pity that so many would find it needful to pass through the polluted way which has injured others. They remind me of a certain worldly lady, to whom her minister, remarking about her great showiness, said, "Solomon has said, ‘Vanity of vanities; all is vanity.'" "Yes," she replied, "I know what Solomon has said; but he found it out by his own personal experience, and I would like to do the same." She was no Solomon, assuredly; for they who have wisdom will profit by the experience of others. If you have seen others go abroad to become rich, and come home destitute, prudence would suggest that you needn't go too.

Some fall into doubt about God's Word through an inward dishonesty. Certain men start new doctrines because something is rotten within them, and out of rottenness fungus grows. You may have read Pliny's "Natural History." If you haven't read it, you needn't do so, for the history is not very true, but mythical. Pliny tells us that, when the elephant goes to a pool of water, and sees himself in it, he is moved with such disgust at his own ugliness, that he quickly stirs the water, and makes it muddy, that he may not see himself. Such an elephant never lived; but I have seen men who have done something just like that. Holy Scripture has not agreed with them - Such and such doctrines do not suit their tastes, so they must be misrepresented, or denied. An unregenerate heart lies at the bottom of "modern thought." Men delight in false doctrines because they never understood true doctrines by the renewal of their minds.

I don't doubt that some have added to or modified Christ's teachings, and Christ's gospel, from a desire to do more good. Things are allowed to be said and done at revivals which nobody could defend. Do you notice, at the present time, the way the gospel is presented? I am not criticizing anyone in particular, but I continually hear of the exhortation, "Give your heart to Christ! Give your heart to Christ!" The exhortation is good, but don't allow it to replace the gospel, that says: "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" [Acts 16:31]. In the Sunday school, the teaching often is, "Dear children, love Jesus." Now, this is not the gospel either. The love of Jesus comes as a fruit, but the gospel is, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." If we think that we will do more good by substituting another exhortation for the gospel command, we will find ourselves in serious trouble. If, for a moment, our improvements to the gospel seem to produce a larger result than the old gospel, it will be the growth of mushrooms, it may even be the growth of toadstools; but it is not the growth of trees from the Lord. Let us keep close to Christ as our infallible Teacher in these days of peril, and be extremely jealous of the truth, or else we may be duped, as the Roman General Pompeii tricked certain cities that would not admit his troops. He said to them, "I don't ask you to provide lodging for my armies; but here are a few sick and wounded men, for whom I ask that you will allow them to rest among you." But when the invalids were within the walls, they opened the gates, and the inhabitants were easily subdued. Keep out the little errors for which sympathy is asked; or, if not, you will be captured before you are aware of the attack. Stand firm in the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints, and let no man spoil you by philosophy and vain deceit.

Next, brethren, we must continue to insist that Christ is the only Ruler in the Church.

We have systems of religion today in which the whole organization is an invention of man; we cannot find any biblical support for them.  We have those in the religious community who attempt to prove that their system was sanctioned by our Lord and His apostles. This has been the case for so long a period that we have been obliged to tolerate all kinds of things; but to tolerate is not the same thing as to approve and imitate. We should, in our own churches, follow apostolic precedent, and follow the rule of Christ in all things. No esteemed and honored name is sufficient authority for ignoring Holy Scripture, "To the law and to the testimony!" [Isaiah 8:20]. If a doctrine or a ceremony is not in the Bible, then it is not for you or for me. Our sole authority is the Word of the Lord-the Word of God.

It will be even worse if we dare to make omissions in the known rules of Christ. I am sorry that there are disputes in the Church concerning baptism and the Lord's Supper; but it is not a debatable point in the Church of the Living Christ whether baptism and the Lord's Supper are to be practiced at all. How, then, can these ordinances be set aside by those who admit that they are Scriptural? I heard one person say, "If Jesus were here now, He would see the evil that has come from those two ordinances, and He would set them aside." We cannot endure such a comment. Surely, we are not those who revise of the teachings of our Lord. Haven't you in your congregations, good people, who will say, "Yes, sir, I know that believers' baptism is in the Word; I am quite clear about that; but I have never yet been baptized"? Have you impressed upon that person's mind the willful disobedience involved in such neglect? It is not the case of a person who says, "I don't see such an ordinance commanded in the Word of God;" that would be a sin of ignorance. But he says, "It is there," yet he neglects it, and boasts that he can be saved without it. Don't be in a hurry to confirm that statement, for it may turn out that the man who says, "I believe in Jesus," and then willfully refuses to keep His known commandments, is not really saved at all. Assuredly, such a man is not saved from willful disobedience. What sort of faith is that which does not operate by love, but sets up its own will in opposition to the clear teaching of Christ? We must protest against all tampering with the law of the great Head and Master of the Church. I mention the point of baptism merely as an example. We must be vigilant and obedient on every other point of sacred rule. Christ is Lord as well as Savior. Jesus is not One to be trifled with, or to have His words shuffled like a pack of cards.

You may also ignore the commands of your Lord in another way. A pastor is going to decide on his course of action concerning a very important Christian matter; but he first wants to know the opinion of those who give considerable sums of money to the church. If any one of you does this, I will cry out to you, "Who is your master? Judas with his bag, in the corner or the Christ whom he kisses with a traitor's kiss?" Be true and bold in all things that are godly. If we don't then Christ Jesus is not our Ruler. Refuse the bribe, though it be a secret one, and give up everything for the truth, if need be.

Our Lord also stands before us as our example and pattern.

We preach the grace of God, and the blood of Christ; but if any believe that we don't preach Christ as an example, they know nothing of our ministry; for we insist that faith must obey her Savior's will as well as trust His grace. We have had some among us, who have said, "It was a good sermon, except for the application to our lives-the duties we have to perform." Oh, it may be possible that we present the teaching in such a way that we raise the suspicion that we are legalistic in spirit; this we must carefully avoid. We must preach Christ as the perfect example and pattern that the saints must long to be conformed to. Men and women must have the spirit of Christ, or they are lost. There is no Heaven to be found in the term justification, apart from a spiritual work within the soul - a change of heart, and a renewal of the mind.

Lastly, I trust that we will always hold Christ as Lord and God.

Whatever else He is, He is Lord and God to us. Therefore He is to be spoken of and thought of with the deepest reverence of soul. The spirit that trifles with the Word of God, and the things of Christ, is almost more vicious than the action which comes out of it. I have read many things which I have shuddered at; but I have shuddered much more at the state of mind into which a man must have come to be able to write such things. Let us cultivate the highest reverence for our Divine Lord, and the surest confidence in His power, and in His ultimate victory. Trust in His guiding hand which keeps us on course. Have no shadow of a doubt that His wisdom and power will cause all things to end well. Go, therefore, and speak in His Name. When you have finished stating a doctrine, command your listeners, in the Name of Jesus, to believe it. Be bold enough for that. As the apostles commanded crippled men to stand, and even dead men to live, so, in the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, command sinners to turn to Him, and to live. He who gives you faith will keep His own word.

II. Now, let us turn serious attention to the subject OF OUR POSITION TOWARDS OUR LORD.

The position of the Christian minister towards Christ is a theme on which one might speak in many ways, and for many days, and yet barely do more than touch the fringe of it.

The most striking view of it comes before us in meditating on the fact, that, as Jesus stood in our behalf on the cross, we also stand in His behalf on earth.

To our listeners we can truly say, "We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God" [2 Corinthians 5:20].  Our Lord Jesus lays His pierced hands on our shoulders, and He says, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." [John 20:21]. We are commissioned to plead for Christ, even as He is commissioned to plead for us. We do whatever necessary to point that sick and uneducated woman to Christ's blood of reconciliation. For Him we stand in the pulpit, and speak of sin, and righteousness, and judgment to come. In His place we cry, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" [John 1:29].   

Beloved brethren, do we always feel that we are not only laboring for Christ, but in His place? Could we truly declare that our sermons were preached as the direct agent of Christ-just as if Christ preached it Himself? Can we expect our own conscience to cry out against us if we were to make such a claim for those messages? Some of our listeners would think, if they didn't say so, "If that sermon is exactly what Christ would have preached, there is an awful amount that seems to be missing from what it would have been had Jesus spoken on His own account." Of course, there would necessarily be a lot of Divine authority and ability missing; but there should be nothing missing as to truthful and earnest purpose.

We must plead with men and women in Christ's place; and that will prevent favoritism. We will not give all our thoughts to the wealthy and educated few; but, as Jesus did, we will care for the many. James the fifth of Scotland was known as "the poor man's king," because every peasant, who desired it, could get an audience with him. Oh may the Lord make us the poor person's preachers! For how else can we be preaching in Christ's place? In His ministry, the poor had the gospel preached to them. If there is one of our flock more sick, more poor, more uneducated than another, let us, for the Lord's sake, seek them first. Let us assume no dignity on our part, but feel at one with the hopeless, the poor, the fallen, even as Jesus did.

If we are to stand in Christ's place, we will not bully, but tenderly persuade. We will have true sympathy, and thus we will plead with sinners with tears in our eyes, as though their ruin were our misery, and their salvation would be our bliss. We will weep over them, because Jesus would have done so; and we will be tolerant with them, because of His Divine patience. We will watch for opportunities, and use them with perseverance; for Jesus would have done so. We will deal with our listeners as a shepherd with his lost sheep, and we will never rest till we have brought them home on our shoulders rejoicing; for so it was with our Lord.

This position of ours, in Christ's place, is a grave responsibility; we will need a lot of grace to bear its weight. Behave yourselves, Christian brothers, for you bear a great Name. Do not disgrace the Name of the holy Jesus. What a cruel wrong to our Lord Jesus, for a harsh, or proud, or idle minister to claim that he is acting in the place of Christ! God forgive the wrong: it is a very wicked one. If you claim to speak for Christ, then what type of persons should you be? May God help you to be a worthy ambassador of the Lord Jesus as you carry out His missions.

Therefore, brethren, we must love sinners for Christ's sake.

Are there not a great many in your congregation whom you could not love for any other reason? Could the Lord Jesus Christ ever have loved you for your goodness? He loved you and me for a reason which He found in His own heart; and in the same way we must love our listeners, for reasons which are not so much in them as in our own hearts. He "loved me, and gave Himself for me;" and if He now says to me, "Love others, and give yourself for them," will I not do it? Every angry temper must be done away with. The wicked, the superficial, the bitter, the indifferent, and even the spiteful must share our love. We must love them to Jesus. Our mission on earth is to perpetuate the love of the Savior.

Further, your relation to Christ is of such a nature that you are to "fill up in your flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ's afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church."  [Colossians 1:24]

 

His atoning sufferings are finished and none of us can add anything to that. But those sufferings by which men and women are won to Christ are far from being finished. All the martyrs have bled and died to keep the truth alive for us so that by the truth men and women may still be brought to Jesus. Every sufferer who bears pain, or slander, or loss, or personal unkindness for Christ's sake, is filling up that amount of suffering which is necessary to bring together the whole body of Christ, and the building up of His elect Church. "Oh!" cries one minister, "I have been shamefully treated." Yes, and men worthier than you have been even more mistreated. Don't bother to look among your fellow soldiers for equals in suffering: consider how your Lord "endured such opposition from sinful men" [Hebrews 12:3].

When Alexander led his men into Persia, and they had to cut through a literal mountain of ice and snow, they were ready to turn back, and then Alexander got off his horse, and took an ice-axe in his hand, and went forward, often up to his waist in snow, splitting the blocks of ice, and leading the way. Then his army of men felt that they could cut through the world with Alexander in front of them. With Christ your Lord leading the way by His agonies on the cross, won't you follow where He leads, and endure the strain, and hard work, and suffering, for the salvation of those whom He has redeemed by His blood? Nothing is more moving in our prayer-meetings than the prayers of those who have endured times of great suffering. Through suffering comes blessing. When our Lord plans to give us the richest of wine, so our times of celebrations may be full of gladness, what does He do? He says, "Fill the water jars with water." We must be filled with suffering to the brim. We must have as much of it as we can hold, and then He will someday say, "Now draw some out" [John 2:8]. This was the first of His miracles; and we rejoice that it was not only done at Cana in Galilee, but it is still being done today in this country.

Don't you think that we all make mistakes as to what we would consider a blessing to be? In the matter of faith-healing, health is set before us as if it were the great thing to be desired above all other things. Is that true? I venture to say that the greatest earthly blessing that God can give to any of us is health, with the exception of sickness. Sickness has frequently been of more use to the saints of God than health has. If some men, that I know of, could only be favored with a month of painful arthritis, it would, by God's grace, mellow them in a wonderful way. Surely, they need something better to preach than what they now give their people; and, possibly, they would learn it during a time of suffering. I would not wish for any man to suffer a long time of sickness; and pain; but now and then I might ask for a brief period of suffering for them. A sick wife, a fresh grave, poverty, slander, depression, might teach lessons that can't be learned anywhere else. Trials drive us to the realities of our Christianity. You may feed on chaff until you have real work to do, or real grief to bear; but then you want the old corn of the land, and you must have it, or else you will faint and fail in your work.

Our afflictions come to us as blessings, though they frown like curses. I have heard of one who was generous, but extremely eccentric. Then a man, who was deep in debt, passed by his door, and the rich man knew that the poor man was very troubled about his debt. One day, this eccentric man of wealth, generous as he was, was so cruel as to throw a heavy bag at the poor debtor, as he again walked by. The man was hurt by the flying bag, and looked around to see what it was. He couldn't see the man who had inflicted the injury. He picked up the bag. He heard the metallic sound of coins, and when he opened the bag, he found enough money to pay his debt, and he heard a voice saying, "It is yours to keep." He never filed charges against that man for the assault; but thanked him for the gift.

Oftentimes Providence, with a rough hand, has thrown numerous benefits and blessings our way in the form of a trial of our faith, which is much more precious than gold. Blessed be the Lord, our temporary bruise is soon forgotten, but the spiritual blessing abides forever. In any case, the cause of our Lord Jesus Christ is our cause, and we are linked with Him in a fellowship which cannot be broken, whatever it may involve. We have counted the cost, and we can say, "From now on let no man trouble me. I am the branded slave of Jesus, and my ear is pierced for Him."

Furthermore, brethren, our position towards our Lord will become most practical when we realize what He has done for us.

I don't think that we always clearly perceive what the Lord has actually accomplished on our behalf. We say, "We are poor, but Christ makes us rich." Why don't we say, "We are rich, for Christ has made us rich!" Our poverty has passed away, and we have become rich in Christ. Brethren, He has called us "out of darkness into his wonderful light" [1 Peter 2:9]. We are likely, when we preach from this text, to greatly expand upon the darkness of our previous unsaved souls and the world around us; but wouldn't it also be good to preach more fully on the "wonderful light"? Haven't we had the experience of the "wonderful light" which would help us to preach about it? Why do we make it so very vivid when we preach the words of the Apostle Paul, "When I am weak"? Can't we equally dwell upon the next words, "then am I strong"? Our Lord's blessings are realities, and not fantasies; let us treat them as such. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled;" [Matthew 5:6] why spend all the time on the hunger and the thirst? Are we not filled? If not, Lord, fill us! But if we are filled, let us feel and preach the sweetness of the Heavenly bread, and commend it with glad hearts to our listeners. Brothers, let us preach on the bright side of our religion, and not always be harping on what we are in ourselves. "The darkness is passing and the true light is already shining" [1 John 2:8]. We are now in Christ Jesus. We were everything evil, but we are washed, cleansed, and sanctified. Oh, for the rich enjoyment of the present blessings of the covenant! Oh, for grace to speak as we have received! As Abraham's servant took care to talk mainly of his master's riches, and to show the precious gifts which he had brought with him from his master's house, so let us, in the same manner, try to win hearts for our great Lord, by showing who He is, and what He has, and what we personally know about Him.

I think, in addition, that we will do well to stand for Christ as those who are conscious of His power and His presence.

Brethren, our Lord is with us. The best of all is that He is absolutely and undeniably with us. If we are with Jesus, and preach His truth, then Jesus is most assuredly with us; for He said, "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" [Matthew 28:20]. That promise was not a pretty piece of poetry: it is true that He is with us at this very hour. Let us believe it, and act accordingly. If we don't always feel His brightness, let us, like the flowers, turn towards the sun. When the sun is not shining, the flowers know where most of the light is to be found, and their faces turn that way.  Let us also turn towards the sun. When we get into the pulpit, let us look towards Christ and lean towards Christ. What a wondrous place the pulpit is when Jesus is there! In the study, when we sit down, and begin to rub our foreheads, and anxiously ask ourselves, "What will we preach about?" let us turn towards our Lord, and pray with our window open towards His cross and His throne. May we always feel an influence drawing us towards Christ when the Bible is open before us! If it is so, our weakness will completely vanish, for we will remember His strength.

When you are meditating about your great struggle against sin, and are reflecting on the forces that help you resist it, don't forget to remember Jesus. You decide to do a tally of the amount of help you have in your struggle against sin, and so you have even listed yourself as a strength to resist sin, but that amounts to zero. Now you list your deacons, but they are nothing, too-another zero to add. You have listed all your praying friends and coworkers, and so on; but the total sum is still zero. You despair and cry out, "I have nothing, nothing, and nothing to help me in my struggle against sin." But have you forgotten the Infinite One? If you put Him after all these zeros, like a figure in decimals, you reduce the Holy One to the ten thousandth! Each zero set before THE HOLY ONE robs Him of glory, and diminishes Him. But if HE is put first, before the zeros, what a great sum you have! This is not a trick; it is sound arithmetic. Go and test it, and see if it does not turn out to be mathematically true in the spirit world. Powerless as we are alone, our Lord is with us.

Some preachers evidently don't believe that the Lord is with their gospel, because, in order to attract and save sinners, they add to the gospel the inventions of men. They believe that simple gospel preaching must be supplemented. One day a servant girl was very busy catching and killing flies. Her mistress said to her, "What are you doing?" She answered, "You see, ma'am, we have bought some flypaper, and we must have the flies caught on it; and since they don't go on by themselves, I am catching them myself and sticking them on it." I wouldn't care for that way of catching flies. If the gospel must be a failure unless we attract the people by some extraneous method, then something is wrong. If the flypaper does not attract the flies, and hold them, we may as well burn the flypaper. If your gospel cannot bring the people to hear you, and if, when they come, your gospel will not impress and convert them, well, then, give it up. Open a coffee-shop; but don't call your useless talk the blessed gospel. If you are not conscious of a supernatural power and presence with the Word of the Lord, leave it alone. A man said to me once, "You told a dead sinner to believe." I pleaded guilty, but told him I would do it again. He said, "I couldn't do it, I would feel that it was of no use to do so." I answered, "Possibly, it might be of no use for you to do it, for you don't have the necessary faith; but, as I believe that God commands me to do so, I thus deliver the message in the Name of the Lord, and the dead sinners believe and live." I don't trust in the dead sinner's power to live, but in the power of the gospel to make him live. Now, if your gospel does not have the power of the Holy Spirit in it, you cannot preach it with confidence, and you are tempted to give a performance to attract the people, that Christ crucified does not draw. If you are depending on a vocal concert, and orchestras, and drama, you are disgracing the religion which you pretend to honor.  Let me say that again, if you are depending on a vocal concert, and orchestras, and drama, you are disgracing the religion which you pretend to honor. 

Once more, dear friends, our position towards our Lord is that of waiting for His coming.

I don't know how much most of you feel about the blessed truth of the Second Coming; but I trust that many of you believe it, and are excited by faith in it. That great hope is gaining ground among lovers of Evangelical doctrine. At first, ministers seemed half-afraid of this great truth, because of the fanaticism which is supposed to grow out of it. Certain charlatans also do great harm by pretending to know the day and the hour when the Lord will come. Times and seasons we don't know; but the Lord will come. He is on His way even now, for He says, "I am coming quickly." Our Lord may come very soon; certain signs raise our hopes very high. The love of many grows cold, and the devil is twice as busy; and this is a very good sign. When you see a farmer beginning to restore the land to it's original condition, by burning the gates, and removing the hedges, and tearing down the barns, and so on, you say, "That fellow's lease has run out on the land." Satan has great wrath when he knows that his time is short. In the case of the demon possessed child, we read, "Even while the boy was coming [towards Jesus], the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion" [Luke 9:42]. The demon knew that he was about to be cast out, so he did his worst. The thick cloud of wickedness today only brings on that darkest part of the night which precedes the dawn of day. When "the misery of God's people in Egypt was great because of their slave drivers" [Exodus 3:7], Moses appears; and the same is true of our still greater Deliverer. Let us take courage, and be of good heart; for while we lift Christ on high, and glorify His Name, He is on the way to defend His covenant, and utterly to defeat His foes.

III. Now for two or three words to finish with, upon OUR POSITION INDIVIDUALLY.

Let me say to you, brethren, be self-contained.

 

I pray to God that we would have among us more men that were full of spiritual and mental vitality. The need of our day is preachers who personally know the gospel, who have had a personal experience of its power, who have tested it as silver is tested in a furnace, and who set such a high value on it, that they would sooner part with life than give it up. We have too many in our pulpits who will preach right if they are led properly, and who are sure to swim in the right direction if the current is strong enough to carry them with it; these are all very well when the wind blows from the right quarter, but they are of little use in stormy weather. At this hour, there is a call for men who can struggle against the flood, and swim up stream. We need heroes who would just as soon go alone, if necessary, as march with a thousand comrades. We need men who can think on their own. They have thought out the truth; and, having gone to God about it, and felt the power of it in their own souls, they are not about to be moved from the hope of their calling. They are pillars in the house of our God, abiding, in their places; and not mere caterpillars, crawling after something to eat. We need captains for the good ship who know their longitude and latitude, and can tell from where they came, and to what port they are steering towards. Our Commander needs warriors true as steel for this hour of conflict.

"You that are men, now serve Him

Against countless foes."

A man is now more precious than pure gold. To be dependent on the judgment of friends or foes in these days is to be but half a man. Let us stand before the living God in our integrity, and seek no support from societies or individuals. What is your state today? I fear that there are still very few that are totally dependant on God. We have members of our churches who don't know a good sermon till they have consulted that dear old gentleman who is in their mind a prophet. Some ministers have no opinion till they have checked with their fellow ministers." They must watch which way the leading sheep go before they know which way to go; for they neither hear nor know the Master's voice. O brothers, you will need the Spirit within your own soul; for the right path runs through a lonely land, and if you dare not travel alone, you will never reach the Celestial City!

In the next place, we must learn, in these times, to be selective in our friendships and fellowships.

When a man is right, let him not compromise himself by association with those who are not clear in their standing. Why be drawn down by holding on to the ship which is sinking? Continual association with those who have no sympathy with the great truths of the gospel, is running into perpetual danger. For my part, I find association with persons of loose views a thing too painful for me. Worldly-minded men are wretched company for spiritual minds. Men with new views, loose habits, and unspiritual talk, are quite uncomfortable to me as acquaintances; especially when they pretend to be very orthodox, and yet believe nothing of the old faith. Clear yourselves of all connections which bring your own faithfulness into question. Don't talk about separation from that which is evil, and then remain in fellowship with it. Be as chaste in your friendships and fellowships as in your own persons, or evil will come of it.

Furthermore, be sanctified in life.

I cannot say that word with too much emphasis. I would drive that nail home. Be holy, for you serve a holy God. If you were searching for a present to give to a prince, you would not get him a lame horse to ride on; you would not offer him a book that has missing pages, nor give him a gold watch that doesn't work.

 

No, the best of the best you would give to one whom you honored and loved. Give your very best to your Lord. Seek to be at your best whenever you serve Him. Pray and ask Him to make you perfect in every good work to do His will, and then present yourself to Him a living sacrifice. Let none of us preach a sermon, and have to feel afterwards, "I could have done better than that, but it was good enough for this congregation."

On a Wednesday evening service, with no more than half-a-dozen present, and mainly old women, do your utmost. Our richest fruit is poor enough. Never, oh never give your second-best. Always give the very first and fullest that you can produce for Christ; let your whole life be the most honorable and the most splendid effort of which you are capable. I said, last night, that the minister who can do more, and does not do it, is a sluggard. It is true. We must do all that we can do, and do it in our most skillful way, or we are lazy. He has come up to Christ's

mark, who can truly say that he can do no more, and that, if he could do anything more, he would do it immediately. How few of us could conscientiously claim to have come so far!

Be diligent in action.

Put all your irons into the fire. Use every faculty for Jesus. Be wide-awake to watch for opportunities, and quick to seize them. Believe that the smallest sphere of influence has in it or around it glorious openings for enlargement. In a very small village, infinite results may be realized. If one place is evangelized, strike out for another; and always keep moving your fences, to enclose a little more and a little more. Never be content with what you are doing, while there is still so much land to be possessed. May you feed your flocks as pastors, and increase them by being evangelists! In this respect, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. We must use every bit of energy, and have an adventurous and industrious spirit in these days, that we may checkmate the incessant activities of the prince of darkness.

Lastly, I desire to send you away with this in your ear, yes, with this in your heart, be confident in spirit.

We are not going to show the sign of cowardice, nor even to tolerate a trembling thought. Years ago, they used to charge me vehemently with being too flippant and humorous; but of late the charge has shifted, and I am reviled as despondent, ill-humored, and gloomy. I conceive that I am innocent of such charges. I protest that I am quite a cheerful person. If I have undergone so great a reformation of manners as to have swung around from cheerfulness to gloom, it is something that I am not in the least aware of. I cannot endorse the statement that I have lost my tendency to humor, for I feel very much the other way; and were I not careful, I would become hilarious.

I have received a bit of pity lately because I am in opposition to so many; but the pity may be spared, or handed over to those on the other side. Years ago, when I preached a sermon against Baptismal Regeneration, my venerable friend, Dr. Steane, said to me, "You have gotten yourself into hot water." I replied, "No; I don't feel the water is hot. The truth is just the opposite. I am cool enough; I am only the stoker, and other folks are in the hot water, which I am doing my best to make so hot that they will be glad to get out of it." We don't wish to fight; but if we do, we hope that the pity will be needed by those with whom we contend. The hot water does not come near to me, nor even does a breath of steam blow in my eyes. I am content with that which must inevitably come to the man who seriously protests; that is to say, I am content to be criticized, misunderstood, and misrepresented. The cost was counted long ago, and the estimate was so liberal that there is no fear of its being exceeded. "I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day" [2 Timothy 1:12].

 

There is no room for fear; at least, I see none while we hold firm to the truth. You never met an old sailor, down by the sea, who was in trouble because the tide had been ebbing out for hours. No! He waits confidently for the tide to turn, and it comes in due time. Right now if you were stand on the shore you would note that the rocks have been uncovered during the last half-hour, for the tide is going out, and if the sea continues to ebb out for weeks, there will be no water in the English Channel, and the French will be able to walk over to our shores. Nobody talks in that childish way, for such an ebb will never come. Nor will we speak as though the gospel would be defeated and eternal truth driven out of the land. We serve an almighty Master. Once an Italian leader, when asked what he would do if his foes attacked him, replied, "Sir, if I stamp my foot, all Italy will swarm with soldiers." Thus he boasted; but it is no boast to say that, if our Lord stamps His foot, He can win for Himself all the nations of the earth against heathenism, and Islam, and Agnosticism, and Modern-thought, and every other foul error. Who is he that can harm us if we follow Jesus? How can His cause be defeated? At the command of Jesus, converts will flock to His truth as numerous as the sands of the sea. Is it not written, "Your troops will be willing on your day of battle. Arrayed in holy majesty, from the womb of the dawn you will receive the dew of your youth."? [Psalm 110:3]. Therefore, be of good courage, and go on your way singing, -

"The winds of hell have blown,

The world its hate has shown,

Yet it is not overthrown.

Hallelujah for the Cross!

It will never suffer loss!"


The Lord of hosts is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge. Amen.

 

 

 

 

"Corrie Ten Boom and The Rapture". [From a letter Corrie wrote in 1974]

"The world is deathly ill.  It is dying.  The Great Physician has already signed the death certificate.  Yet there is still a great work for Christians to do.  They are to be streams of living water, channels of mercy to those who are still in the world.  It is possible for them to do this because they are overcomers.

Christians are ambassadors for Christ.  They are representatives from Heaven to this dying world.  And because of our presence here, things will change.

My sister, Betsy, and I were in the Nazi concentration camp at Ravensbruck because we committed the crime of loving Jews.  Seven hundred of us from Holland, France, Russia, Poland and Belgium were herded into a room built for two hundred.  As far as I knew, Betsy and I were the only two representatives of Heaven in that room.

We may have been the Lord's only representatives in that place of hatred, yet because of our presence there, things changed.  Jesus said, "In the world you shall have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  We too, are to be overcomers - bringing the light of Jesus into a world filled with darkness and hate.

Sometimes I get frightened as I read the Bible, and as I look in this world and see all of the tribulation and persecution promised by the Bible coming true.  Now I can tell you, though, if you too are afraid, that I have just read the last pages.  I can now come to shouting "Hallelujah! Hallelujah!" for I have found where it is written that Jesus said,

"He that overcometh shall inherit all things: 
and I will be His God,
and he shall be My son."

This is the future and hope of this world. Not that the world will survive - but that we shall be overcomers in the midst of a dying world.

Betsy and I, in the concentration camp, prayed that God would heal Betsy who was so weak and sick.
"Yes, the Lord will heal me,", Betsy said with confidence.
She died the next day and I could not understand it. They laid her thin body on the concrete floor along with all the other corpses of the women who died that day.

It was hard for me to understand, to believe that God had a purpose for all that.  Yet because of Betsy's death, today I am traveling all over the world telling people about Jesus.

There are some among us teaching there will be no tribulation, that the Christians will be able to escape all this. These are the false teachers that Jesus was warning us to expect in the latter days.  Most of them have little knowledge of what is already going on across the world. I have been in countries where the saints are already suffering terrible persecution.

In China, the Christians were told, "Don't worry, before the tribulation comes you will be translated - raptured." Then came a terrible persecution.  Millions of Christians were tortured to death. Later I heard a Bishop from China say, sadly,

"We have failed.
We should have made the people strong for persecution,
rather than telling them Jesus would come first.
Tell the people how to be strong in times of persecution,
how to stand when the tribulation comes,
- to stand and not faint."

I feel I have a divine mandate to go and tell the people of this world that it is possible to be strong in the Lord Jesus Christ. We are in training for the tribulation, but more than sixty percent of the Body of Christ across the world has already entered into the tribulation. There is no way to escape it.
We are next.

Since I have already gone through prison for Jesus' sake, and since I met the Bishop in China, now every time I read a good Bible text I think, "Hey, I can use that in the time of tribulation."  Then I write it down and learn it by heart.

When I was in the concentration camp, a camp where only twenty percent of the women came out alive, we tried to cheer each other up by saying, "Nothing could be any worse than today." But we would find the next day was even worse.  During this time a Bible verse that I had committed to memory gave me great hope and joy.

"If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye;
for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you;
on their part evil is spoken of,
but on your part He is glorified."
(I Peter 3:14)

I found myself saying, "Hallelujah!
Because I am suffering, Jesus is glorified!"

In America, the churches sing, "Let the congregation escape tribulation", but in China and Africa the tribulation has already arrived. This last year alone more than two hundred thousand Christians were martyred in Africa. Now things like that never get into the newspapers because they cause bad political relations. But I know. I have been there. We need to think about that when we sit down in our nice houses with our nice clothes to eat our steak dinners. Many, many members of the Body of Christ are being tortured to death at this very moment, yet we continue right on as though we are all going to escape the tribulation.

Several years ago I was in Africa in a nation where a new government had come into power. The first night I was there some of the Christians were commanded to come to the police station to register. When they arrived they were arrested and that same night they were executed. The next day the same thing happened with other Christians. The third day it was the same. All the Christians in the district were being systematically murdered.

The fourth day, I was to speak in a little church. The people came, but they were filled with fear and tension. All during the service they were looking at each other, their eyes asking, "Will this one I am sitting beside be the next one killed? Will I be the next one?"

The room was hot and stuffy with insects that came through the screenless windows and swirled around the naked bulbs over the bare wooden benches. I told them a story out of my childhood.

"When I was a little girl, " I said, "I went to my father and said,
"Daddy, I am afraid that I will never be strong enough to be a martyr for Jesus Christ."
"Tell me," said Father,
"When you take a train trip to Amsterdam,
when do I give you the money for the ticket?
Three weeks before?"

"No, Daddy, you give me the money for the ticket just before we get on the train."

"That is right," my father said, "and so it is with God's strength.
Our Father in Heaven knows when you will need the strength to be a martyr for Jesus Christ.
He will supply all you need - just in time..."

My African friends were nodding and smiling. Suddenly a spirit of joy descended upon that church and the people began singing,

" In the sweet, by and by,
we shall meet on that beautiful shore."

Later that week, half the congregation of that church was executed. I heard later that the other half was killed some months ago.

But I must tell you something. I was so happy that the Lord used me to encourage these people, for unlike many of their leaders, I had the word of God. I had been to the Bible and discovered that Jesus said He had not only overcome the world, but to all those who remained faithful to the end, He would give a crown of life.

How can we get ready for the persecution?

First we need to feed on the Word of God, digest it, make it a part of our being. This will mean disciplined Bible study each day as we not only memorize long passages of scripture, but put the principles to work in our lives.

Next we need to develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Not just the Jesus of yesterday, the Jesus of History,
but the life-changing Jesus of today who is still alive
and sitting at the right hand of God.

We must be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is no optional command of the Bible, it is absolutely necessary. Those earthly disciples could never have stood up under the persecution of the Jews and Romans had they not waited for Pentecost. Each of us needs our own personal Pentecost, the baptism of the Holy Spirit. We will never be able to stand in the tribulation without it.

In the coming persecution we must be ready to help each other and encourage each other.
But we must not wait until the tribulation comes before starting.
The fruit of the Spirit should be the dominant force of every Christian's life.

Many are fearful of the coming tribulation, they want to run. I, too, am a little bit afraid when I think that after all my eighty years, including the horrible Nazi concentration camp, that I might have to go through the tribulation also.
But then I read the Bible and I am glad.

When I am weak, then I shall be strong, the Bible says. Betsy and I were prisoners for the Lord, we were so weak, but we got power because the Holy Spirit was on us. That mighty inner strengthening of the Holy Spirit helped us through. No, you will not be strong in yourself when the tribulation comes. Rather, you will be strong in the power of Him who will not forsake you. For seventy-six years I have known the Lord Jesus and not once has He ever left me, or let me down.

"Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him", (Job 13:15)

for I know that to all who overcome,
He shall give the crown of life.
Hallelujah!"

- Corrie Ten Boom - 1974

 

 

The Separation of the Righteous from the Wicked!

William Nicholson, 1862
 

"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left!" Matthew 25:31-33

There are three important days in the existence of man:
the day of his birth,
the day of his death, and
the day when he shall be judged.

At the day of his birth he commences an immortal existence; he enters on a career which will be lengthened out through an endless eternity.

At the day of his death, his seed-time, his probation, and all his works shall end; his body shall return to the dust, and his soul pass into the world of spirits.

At the day of judgment, all his thoughts, motives, and actions, will be scrutinized by the great Arbiter of life and death, and the character of them will decide his everlasting destiny. "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad!" 2 Corinthians 5:10
 

I. The Great and Solemn Convention. "All the nations will be gathered before him!"

Observe:

1. The time when this convention shall take place. "When the Son of man shall come in his glory."

The day of judgment - the grand assize of the world - the day when the present dispensation shall close - when time shall stop, and eternity begin. The day of rapture to the holy - but the day of overwhelming terror to the ungodly.

2. The grand appearance of the Judge.

He will be invested with all the prerogatives necessary for judging the world. The Majesty of Christ in this respect will be sublimely conspicuous. "He shall come in his glory."

Here he appeared once as the "Son of man," in human flesh, suffered contempt, laceration, and death from man. He suffered from the time of becoming the "Babe of Bethlehem," until, as the "Man of sorrows," he was made perfect through sufferings on the cross.

But now, O how changed! He now comes as the Son of God. "He shall come in his glory" - the glory of the Godhead and the glory of the Mediator combined. He will take the clouds for his chariot; he will come "in the clouds with power and great glory." Matthew 24:30.

Compared with his power - the power of all earthly monarchs is but the power of the moth! And compared with his glory - the splendor of regal pomp is but the glimmering light of the glow-worm!

He shall come with the glory of Omnipotence. That power which he employed to create the universe - he shall bring with him to punish his foes.

He shall come with all the glory of his perfections shining brighter than ten thousand suns. With the glory of his spotless and exalted humanity, and with all the glorious majesty of his divinity. Psalm 50:3, 4, 6.

The attendants at his coming will be glorious. "And all the holy angels with him." An innumerable multitude of celestial spirits will grace his train, and perform his will.

This appearance will be judicial. "Then he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory." May form some idea of this glorious throne by referring to Ezekiel 1:26-28; Isaiah 6:1-4; Daniel 7:9-10.

The nations of the earth shall be gathered before him, or his bar. It will be a judicial throne.

3. The Assembly. "All the nations will be gathered before him!" What a vast assembly!

(1.) They will be raised from the dead, preparatory to the final separation. John 5:28, 29.

The earth and the ocean "will give up the dead which are in them."

Every grave will open, its dust be reanimated, and living forms be seen rising from its dark chambers, over all the surface of the globe.

The sea also, which has engulfed its myriads, shall give up its dead.

And those still alive will undergo, substantially, the same great change as those who have been dead, and both will be invested with incorruptible and immortal bodies. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, the globe will be re-peopled, and the whole family of Adam, with their progenitor at their head, will stand up together, to be conducted to the bar of Christ, who will then be recognized as "God the Judge of all."

(2.) This convention, or gathering, will be effected by the ministration of angels. See Matthew 13:41; 24:31; Mark 13:27. They will be irresistibly gathered. All resistance will be vain. All attempts at concealment will be futile. Job 34:22; Amos 9:2.

(3.) This convention will be numerous. "All the nations will be gathered before him!"

There will be characters of all descriptions:
real Christians,
mere professors,
formalists,
hypocrites,
the profane,
the licentious,
self-deceivers,
infidels,
blasphemers,
atheists.

There will be people of all ages:
youth,
manhood,
old age.

There will be inhabitants of every nation, kindred, and tongue:
those privileged with the Gospel;
those who have despised and neglected it.

Yes, "all nations," all the inhabitants of the world, from Adam to his last-born son, shall be gathered before the throne!

'Tis here all meet!
The shivering Icelander - and sunburnt Moor;
Men of all climes that never met before,
And of all creeds - the Jew, the Turk, the Christian;
Here the proud prince, and favorite - yet prouder,
His sovereign's keeper, and the people's scourge,
The hard oppressor - and the slave oppressed:
The warrior stern, who fought on fields of blood
To gain an empty fame. The wily statesman,
The unjust judge, must stand before the bar!
The widow and the orphan will be there.
The just, the good - the worthless, and profane,
The downright pauper - and perfectly well-bred,
The fool, the churl, the scoundrel, and the base-
The people of all nations must stand there!

How vast the concourse then to be assembled! "All the nations will be gathered before him!" There is something overwhelming in gazing on large and assembled multitudes. A peculiar sensation must be excited in witnessing a numerous army, equipped and ready for battle. How appropriate the language of the prophet Joel! (3:12-15)

Dr. Dick makes a calculation as to the probable number of the beings who shall stand at the bar of judgment at the last day. The following paragraph is an abridgment of his calculation:

Suppose the earth, at an average, has always been as populous as it is now, and that it contains 8 hundred millions inhabitants, and if we reckon 32 years for a generation, at the end of which period the whole human race is renewed; it will follow that 146 billion, 200 million, of human beings have existed since the creation, reckoning 5846 years from Adam to the present time. Had mankind never died, there would have been nearly 183 times the present number of the earth's inhabitants now in existence. If we suppose that before the close of time as many human beings will be brought into existence, as have already existed in past time, there will be found at the general resurrection, 292,400,000,000 - or 292 billion, 400 million, of mankind.

[COUNTING TO A BILLION. What is a billion? The reply is very simple: a million times a million. This is quickly written, and quicker still pronounced. But no man is able to count it. You count 160 or 170 a minute; even suppose that you count as fast as 200, then an hour will produce 12,000; a day 288,000; and a year, or 365 days, 105,120,000.
Let us suppose now, that Adam at the beginning of his existence had begun to count, had continued to do so, and was counting still - he would not even now, according to the usually supposed age of our globe, have counted enough. For to count a billion, he would require 9512 years, 34 days, 5 hours, 20 minutes, according to the above rule. Now supposing we were to allow the poor counter twelve hours daily for rest, eating, and sleeping - he would need 19,024 years, 69 days, 10 hours, 40 minutes!]

Oh think of this vast convention of immortal beings, compared with which the armies of Waterloo, or those of Xerxes, are but a speck! Think of them all before the throne of the Son of Man, ready to be separated and judged!
 

II. The Momentous Separation and Its Consequences. "And he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left!"

1. He will separate them into two classes - the righteous and the wicked, saints and sinners. "And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not!" Malachi 3:18

These two classes are figuratively represented . . .
  the righteous--and the wicked,
  saved saints--and lost sinners,
  the pure grain--and the chaff,
  the wheat--and the tares,
  the sheep--and the goats.

This latter emblem is very expressive.

Sheep, which have ever been considered as the emblems of mildness, simplicity, patience, and gentleness - represent the genuine disciples of Christ.

Goats, which are naturally quarrelsome, lascivious, and excessively ill-scented, were considered as the symbols of riotous, profane, and impure men. They here represent all who have lived and died in their sins. "I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats!" Ezekiel 34:17

SEPARATION implies previous union, or at least association. So the righteous and the wicked necessarily mingle together in this world, through secular engagements, family and relative ties, citizenship, etc. - but they shall be separated then. The wicked, actuated by impure motives, now often break through the sacred inclosure of the Church, having only the mask of profession; but then the goats shall be separated from the sheep - the mere pretender from the Israelite indeed.

2. This separation will be exact. Though the multitude will be so vast - yet the character of each will be detected with the greatest precision. Every thought, desire, motive, and action will be known to the infallible Judge. What less than omnipotence and omniscience can effect such a separation of the whole human species!

There will be no mistake of character.

3. This separation will be complete and just. There will be no partiality. He will make the separation in righteousness, according to his perfect law of equity. Isaiah 11:4, 5; Acts 17:31.

"Be not deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows - that shall he reap!"

The judgment will be so complete, that all will acknowledge the justice displayed in the separation.

To the righteous, the separation will harmonize with their renewed and glorified natures.

To the wicked it will appear as the consequences of their willful rebellion. On earth they could not from the heart associate with the godly and engage in their services, and the same aversion will exist at the judgment-day, and they will therefore feel that they ought to be separated.

4. This separation will be to many most surprising, degrading, and mortifying!

Then the proud and wealthy will be humbled and brought down. Men of talent and genius, "wise men after the flesh," who received the applause of the multitude, will descend from their pinnacle of glory - to contempt and infamy, and see the poor despised Christian infinitely exalted above them!

Kings and princes, who were here flattered and idolized by their courtiers, and feared by the millions whom they governed with cruel and despotic sway - will then find their power and splendor, the pride of distinction, and the incense of homage, forever fled - and themselves degraded lower than the poorest slave who trembled under their frown, was in this world; while probably that poor wretch was saved, and has now cast off his degradation, and risen to distinction and glory inexpressible.

Then the warrior, the conqueror, the spoiler, the murderer of men, and the plunderer of a world - will find himself poorer than the poorest, himself conquered by his own fears and terrors, despised, powerless, sunk, and miserable beyond conception!

Then the self-righteous will find his foundation to be baseless, and incapable of sustaining his deathless spirit amid the fiery ordeal. He may have boasted loudly of his works here - high may be his hopes, but he and the hypocrite, shall find their expectations dispersed like a vapor!

What mortification will the miser feel when he finds his gold so worthless!

What will the worldly objects and pursuits of the ambitious appear then!

How will the votary of of this world, and the lover of pleasure, find themselves undeceived then!

How will they who have rejected Christ, or denied God's existence, open their eyes in astonishment! What surprise when they gaze on him, and hear him say, "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them - bring them here and kill them in front of me!" Luke 19:27

Then there will be "weeping and gnashing of teeth," such as the world never saw, when the rich, the splendid, the refined, and the noble - behold the Christian pauper, the beggar, and the slave, ready to "sit down in the kingdom of God, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - and themselves thrust out!"

5. This separation will, in many cases, be awfully affecting.

What a distinction will then be made in families! Then some parents will ascend to glory everlasting, accompanied, in some cases, by one, two, three, or even by the whole offspring. But, awful thought! some will be accompanied by none!

Some parents themselves will be left behind, and with failing eyes, and bursting hearts, will follow their children rising to the heavens, and bidding them an everlasting farewell.

Brothers and sisters, mutually and tenderly beloved here, will then be parted asunder to meet no more. Those who have believed will be borne on angels' wings to the celestial temple; while those who have believed not will descend to the abodes of the lost.

Lover and friend, husband and wife, who have associated here most affectionately, and endearingly, will find themselves then separated forever!

It will be the case too with ministers and their hearers, with pastors and their flocks.

6. This separation will be eternal. They shall be divided - and never come together again. Great has been the concern when a friend has left his home for foreign service. Long may have been his tarrying away from his friends, but the hope of his return has cheered their hearts, and their friend has returned at last to calm all their anxiety.

But this separation will be forever! There will be no return from perdition; none from paradise, to any common center where parted friends may be reunited.

This separation is not for one, two, or more years, but forever! There will be an impassable gulf fixed. Luke 16:26.

"That word 'forever' breaks the heart!" Thomas Watson
 

APPLICATION.

1. What is your state now? As some must then be separated to the right hand, and others to the left - what side do you occupy now?

2. Reconciliation to God through Christ, is the only preparation for the last day.

8. Woe unto the Christ-rejecters and undecided!

"It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment!" Hebrews 9:27

 

 

 

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)

Enfield, Connecticut
July 8, 1741

Their foot shall slide in due time. Deuteronomy 32:35

In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God's wonderful works towards them, remained (as vers 28.) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. -- The expression I have chosen for my text, their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

  1. That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction."
  2. It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18,19. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!"
  3. Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.
  4. That the reason why they are not fallen already and do not fall now is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then, at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. -- "There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." -- By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment. -- The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations.

  1. There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his hands. -- He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defence from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?
  2. They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "Cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back.
  3. They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18. "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23. "Ye are from beneath:" And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.
  4. They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

  1. The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:12. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
  2. There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea, Isa. 57:20. For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.
  3. It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.
  4. Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men's own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Eccles. 2:16. "How dieth the wise man? even as the fool."
  5. All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell, ever to be the subjects of misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself -- I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief -- Death outwitted me: God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction came upon me."

  1. God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.

So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of; all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

Application

The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ. -- That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of; there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.

You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God's enemies. God's creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are the black clouds of God's wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff on the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. -- And consider here more particularly,

  1. Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Prov. 20:2. "The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul." The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4,5. "And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him."
  2. It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isa. 59:18. "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries." So Isa. 66:15. "For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." And in many other places. So, Rev. 19:15, we read of "the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God." The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful that must be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "the fierceness and wrath of almighty God." As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezek. 8:18. "Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet I will not hear them." Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only "laugh and mock," Prov. 1:25,26,etc.

How awful are those words, Isa. 63:3, which are the words of the great God. "I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment." It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, viz. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation. If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

  1. The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Rom. 9:22. "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isa. 33:12-14. "And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites," etc.

Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isa. 66:23,24. "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh."

  1. It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of! If we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before tomorrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day's opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?

Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generality persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God's mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God. -- And you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. -- And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now hearken to the loud calls of God's word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favour to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men's hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great out-pouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles' days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God's Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation. Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."