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The Warning Neglected
November 29, 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning; his blood shall be upon him." (Ezekiel 33:5 )
In all worldly things, men are always enough awake to understand their own interests. There is scarce a merchant who reads the paper, who does not read it in some way or other, with a view to his own personal concerns. If he finds that by the rise or fall of the markets, he will be either a gainer or loser, that part of the day's news will be the most important to him. In politics, in everything, in fact, that concerns temporal affairs, personal interest usually leads the van. Men will always be looking out for themselves, and personal and home interests will generally engross the major part of their thoughts. But in religion, it is otherwise. In religion men love far rather to believe abstract doctrines, and to talk of general truths, than the searching inquiries which examine their own personal interest in it. You will hear many men admire the preacher who deals in generalities, but when he comes to press home searching questions, by-and-by they are offended. If we stand and declare general facts, such as the universal sinnership of mankind, or the need of a Saviour, they will give an assent to our doctrine, and possibly they may retire greatly delighted with the discourse, because it has not affected them; but how often will our audience gnash their teeth, and go away in a rage, because, like the Pharisees with Jesus, they perceive, concerning a faithful minister, that he spoke of them. And yet, my brethren, how foolish this is. If in all other matters we like personalities if in everything else we look to our own concerns, how much more should we do so in religion? for, surely, every man must give an account for himself, at the day of judgment. We must die alone; we must rise at the day of resurrection one by one, and each one for himself must appear before the bar of God; and each one must either have said to him, as an individual, "Come ye blessed;" or else, he must be appalled with the thundering sentence, "Depart, ye cursed." If there were such a thing as national salvation; if it could be possible that we could be saved in the gross and in the bulk, that so, like the sheaves of corn, the few weeds that may grow with the stubble, would be gathered in for the sake of the wheat, then, indeed, it might not be so foolish for us to neglect our own personal interests; but if the sheep must, every one of them, pass under the hand of him that telleth them, if every man must stand in his own person before God, to be tried for his own acts by everything that is rational, by everything that conscience would dictate, and self-interest would command, let us each of us look to our own selves, that we be not deceived, and that we find not ourselves, at last, miserably cast away. Now, this morning, by God's help, I shall labor to be personal, and whilst I pray for the rich assistance of the Divine Spirit, I will also ask one thing of each person here present I would ask of every Christian that he would lift up a prayer to God, that the service may be blessed; and I ask of every other person that he will please to understand that I am preaching to him, and at him; and if there be anything that is personal and pertinent to his own case, I beseech him, as for life and death, to let it have its full weight with him, and not begin to think of his neighbor, to whom perhaps it may be even more pertinent, but whose business certainly does not concern him. The text is a solemn one "He heard the sound of the trumpet, and took not warning: his blood shall be upon him." The first head is this the warning was all that could be desired "he heard the sound of the trumpet." Secondly, the excuses for not attending to the startling warning are all of them both frivolous and wicked: and therefore, in the third place, the consequences of inattention must be terrible, because man's blood must then be on his own head. I. First, then, THE WARNING WAS ALL THAT COULD BE DESIRED. When in time of war an army is attacked in the night, and cut off and destroyed whilst asleep, if it were impossible for them to be aware of the attack, and if they had made all diligence in placing their sentinels, but nevertheless the foe were so wary as to destroy them, we should weep; we should attach no blame to any one, but should deeply regret, and should give to that host our fullest pity. But if, on the other hand, they had posted their sentinels, and the sentinels were wide awake, and gave to the sleepy soldiers every warning that could be desired, but nevertheless, the army were cut off, although we might for common humanity regret the loss thereof, yet at the same time we should be obliged to say, if they were foolish enough to sleep when the sentinels had warned them; if they folded their arms in presumptuous sloth, after they had sufficient and timely notice of the progress of their blood-thirsty enemy, then in their dying, we cannot pity them: their blood must rest upon their own heads. So, it is with you. If men perish under an unfaithful ministry, and have not been sufficiently warned to escape from the wrath to come, the Christian may pity them, yea, and methinks, even when they stand before the bar of God, although the fact of their not having been warned will not fully excuse them, yet it will go far to diminish their eternal miseries, which otherwise might have fallen upon their heads; for we know it is more tolerable for unwarned Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than it is for any city, or any nation that has had the Gospel proclaimed in its ears. My brethren, if on the other hand, we have been warned, if our ministers have been faithful, if they have aroused our conscience, and have constantly and earnestly called our attention to the fact of the wrath to come, if we have not attended to their message, if we have despised the voice of God, if we have turned a deaf ear to their earnest exhortation, if we perish, we shall die warned die under the sound of the Gospel, and our damnation must be an unpitied one, for our blood must fall upon out own heads. Permit me then, to try, if I can, to enlarge upon this thought, that the warning has been, in the case of many of you, all that could have been needed. In the first place, the warnings of the ministry have been to most of you warnings that have been heard "He heard the sound of the trumpet." In far off lands, the trumpet sound of warning is not heard. Alas! there are myriads of our fellow-creatures who have never been warned by God's embassadors, who know not that wrath abideth on them, and who do not yet understand the only way and method of salvation. In your case it is very different. You have heard the Word of God preached to you. You cannot say, when you come before God, "Lord, I knew no better." There is not a man or a woman within this place who will dare then to plead ignorance. And moreover, you have not only heard with your ears, but some of you have been obliged to hear it in your consciences. I have before me many of my hearers whom I have had the pleasure of seeing now for some years. It has not been once, or twice, but many a time, I have seen the tear guttering their cheeks when I have spoken earnestly, faithfully, and affectionately to you. I have seen your whole soul moved within you; and yet, to my sorrow, you are now what you were: your goodness has been as the early cloud, and as the morning dew that passeth away. You have heard the Gospel. You wept under it, and you loved the sound of it, and you came again, and wept again, and many marveled that you did weep, but the greatest marvel was, that after having wept so well, you wiped away your tears so easily. Oh, yes, God is my witness, there are some of you not an inch nearer heaven, but ye have sealed your own damnation doubly sure, unless ye repent: for ye have heard the Gospel, ye have despised prophesyings, ye have rejected the counsel of God against yourself; and, therefore, when you shall die, ye must die pitied by your friends, but at the same time with your blood on your own heads. The trumpet was not only heard, but, more than that, its warning was understood. When the man, supposed in the text, heard the trumpet, he understood by it that the enemy was at hand, and yet he took not warning. Now, my brethren, in your case, the sound of the Gospel warning has been understood. A thousand faults your minister may have, but there is one fault from which he is entirely frees and that is, he in free from all attempts to use fine language in the expression of his thoughts; ye are all my witnesses, that if there be a Saxon word, or a homely phrase, a sentence that is rough and market-like, that will tell you the truth, I always use that first. I can say solemnly, as in the sight of God, that I never went out of my pulpit, except with the firm belief, that whatever might have happened, I was perfectly understood. I had sought, at least, so to gather wise words, that no man might mistake my meaning; gnash his teeth he might, but he could not say, "The preacher was misty and cloudy, talking to me of metaphysics, beyond my comprehension; he has been obliged to say, "Well, I know what he meant, he spoke plainly enough to me." Well, sirs, then if it be so, and if ye have heard warnings that ye could understand, so much the more guilty are ye, if ye are living this day in rejection of them. If I have preached to you in a style above comprehension, then on my head must be your blood, because I ought to have made you understand; but if I come down to men of low estate, and pick even vulgar phrases to suit common people, then if you understood the warning, and if ye then risked it, mark you, my hands are clean of your blood. If ye be damned, I am innocent of your damnation, for I have told you plainly, that except ye repent, ye must perish, and that except ye put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, there is for you no hope of salvation. Again, this trumpet sound was startling. The trumpet's sound is ever considered to be the most startling in the world. 'Tis that which shall be used on the resurrection morning to startle the myriads of sleepers, and make them rise from their tombs. Ay, and ye have had a startling ministry. Ye have sat, some of you, under ministers that might have made the devil himself tremble, so earnest have they been; and they have made you tremble sometimes, so much, that you could not sleep. The hair of your head was well nigh moved to stand upright. They spake as though they never might speak again: as dying men to dying men. They spoke as if they had been in hell, and knew the vengeance of the Almighty, and anon, they spoke as if they had entered into the heart of Jesus, and read his love to sinners. They had brows of brass; they knew not how to flinch. They laid your iniquity bare before your face, and with rough language that was unmistakable, they made you feel that there was a man there who told you all things that ever you did. They so declared it, that you could not help feeling under it. You always retained a veneration for that minister, because you felt that he at least was honest with you; and you have sometimes thought that you would even go and hear him again, because there at least your soul was moved, and you were made to hear the truth. Yes, you have had a startling ministry, some of you. Then, sirs, if ye have heard the cry of fire, if ye are burned in your beds, your charred ashes shall not accuse me. If I have warned you that he that believeth not must be damned, if you are damned, your miserable souls shall not accuse me. If I have startled you sometimes from your slumbers, and made your balls and your pleasure parties uneasy, because I have sometimes warned you of these things, then sirs, if after all you put away these warnings, and you reject these counsels, you will be obliged to say, "My blood is on my own head." In many of your cases the warning has been very frequent. If the man heard the trumpet sound once and did not regard it, possibly we might excuse him; but how many of my audience have heard the trumpet sound of the gospel very frequently. There you are, young man. You have had many years of a pious mother's teaching, many years of a pious minister's exhortations. Wagon loads of sermons have been exhausted upon you. You have had many sharp providences, many terrible sicknesses. Often when the death-bell has tolled for your friend, your conscience has been aroused. To you warnings are not unusual things; they are very common. Oh! my hearers, if a man should hear the gospel but once, his blood would be upon his own head for rejecting it; but of how much sorer punishment shall you be thought worthy who have heard it many and many a time. Ah! I may well creep, when I think how many sermons you have listened to, many of you, how many times you have been cut to the heart. A hundred times every year you have gone up to the house of God, and far oftener than that, and you have just added a hundred billets to the eternal pile. A hundred times the trumpet has sounded in your ears, and a hundred times you have turned away to sin again, to despise Christ, to neglect your eternal interests, and to pursue the pleasures and the concerns of this world. Oh! how mad is this, how mad! Oh, sirs, if a man had but once poured out his heart before you concerning your eternal interests, and if he had spoken to you earnestly, and you had rejected his message, then, even then, ye had been guilty. But what shall we say to you upon whom the shafts of the Almighty have been exhausted? Oh, what shall be done unto this barren ground that hath been watered with shower after shower, and that hath been quickened with sunshine after sunshine? What shall be done unto him who being often rebuked, still hardeneth his neck? Shall he not be suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy, and shall it not then be said, "His blood lieth at his own door, his guilt is on his own head?" And I would just have you recollect one thing more. This warning that you have had so often has come to you in time. "Ah," said an infidel once, "God never regards man. If there be a God, he would never take notice of men." Said a Christian minister, who was sitting opposite to him in the carriage, "The day may come, sir, when you will learn the truth of what you have just said. "I do not understand your allusion, sir," said he. "Well, sir, the day may come, when you may call, and he will refuse; when you may stretch out your hands and he will not regard you, but as he has said in the book of Proverbs, so will he do, 'Because I called, and ye refused; because I stretched out my hands, and no man regarded, I also will mock at your calamity, I will laugh when your fear cometh.'" But oh, sirs, your warning has not come too late. You are not warned on a sick bed, at the eleventh hour, when there is but a bare possibility of salvation, but you are warned in time, you are warned to-day, you have been warned for these many years that are now past. If God should send a preacher to the damned in hell, that were an unnecessary addition to their misery. Surely, if one could go and preach the gospel through the fields of Gehenna, and tell them of a Saviour they had despised, and of a gospel that is now beyond their reach, that were taunting poor souls with a vain attempt to increase their unutterable woe; but O my brethren, to preach the gospel now is to preach in a hopeful period; for "now is the accepted time: now is the day of salvation." Warn the boatman before he enters the current, and then, if he is swept down the rapids, he destroys himself. Warn the man before he drinks the cup of poison, tell him it is deadly: and then, if he drinks it, his death lies at his own door. And so, let us warn you before you depart this life; let us preach to you while as yet your bones are full of marrow, and the sinews of your joints are not loosed. We have then warned you in time, and so much the more shall your guilt be increased, because the warning was timely; it was frequent, it was earnest, it was appropriate, it was arousing, it was continually given to you, and yet you sought not to escape from the wrath to come. And so even this morning would I say to you, if ye perish, my skirts are white of your blood; if ye are damned, it is not for want of calling after, nor for want of praying for, nor for want of weeping over. Your blood must be on your own heads; for the warning is all that is needed. II. And now we come to the second point. MEN MAKE EXCUSES WHY THEY DO NOT ATTEND TO THE GOSPEL WARNING, BUT THESE EXCUSES ARE ALL FRIVOLOUS AND WICKED. I will just go over one or two of the excuses that people make. Some of them say, "Well, I did not attend to the warning because I did not believe there was any necessity for it." Ah! You were told that after death there was a judgment, and you did not believe there was any necessity that you should be prepared for that judgment. You were told that by the works of the law there shall no flesh living be justified, and that only through Christ can sinners be saved; and you did not think there was any necessity for Christ. Well, sir, you ought to have thought there was a necessity. You know there was a necessity in your inner consciousness. You talked very large things when you stood up as an unbeliever, a professed unbeliever: but you know there was a still small voice that while you spake belied your tongue. You are well aware that in the silent watches of the night you have often trembled; in a storm at sea you have been on your knees to pray to a God whom on the land you have laughed at; and when you have been sick nigh unto death, you have said, "Lord, have mercy upon me;" and so you have prayed, that you have believed it after all. But if you did not believe it, you ought to have believed it. There was enough in reason to have taught you that there was an hereafter; the Book of God's revelation was plain enough to have taught it to you, and if you have rejected God's Book, and rejected the voice of reason and of conscience, your blood is on your own head. Your excuse is idle. It is worse than that, it is profane and wicked, and still on your own head be your everlasting torment. "But," cries another, "I did not like the trumpet. I did not like the Gospel that was preached." Says one, "I did not like certain doctrines in the Bible. I thought the minister preached too harsh doctrines sometimes, I did not agree with the Gospel; I thought the Gospel ought to have been altered, and not to have been just what it was." You did not like the trumpet, did you? Well, but God made the trumpet, God made the Gospel; and inasmuch as ye did not like what God made, it is an idle excuse. What was that to you what the trumpet was, so long as it warned you? And surely, if it had been time of war, and you had heard a trumpet sounded to warn you of the coming of the enemy, you would not have sat still, and said, "now I believe that is a brass trumpet, I would like to have had it made of silver." No, but the sound would have been enough for you, and up you would have been to escape from the danger. And so it must be now with you. It is an idle presence that you did not like it. You ought to have liked it, for God made the Gospel what it is. But you say, "I did not like the man that blew it." Well, if you did not like one messenger of God, there are many in this city. Could you not find one you did like? You did not like one man's manner; it was too theatrical; you did not like another's: it was too doctrinal; you did not like another's: it was too practical there are plenty of them, you may take which you do like, but if God has sent the men, and told them how to blow, and if they blow to the best of their ability, it is all in vain for you to reject their warnings, because they do not blow the way you like. Ah, my brethren, we do not find fault with the way a man speaks, if we are in a house that is on fire. If the man calls, "Fire! Fire!" we are not particular what note he takes, we do not think what a harsh voice he has got. You would think any one a fool, who should lie in his bed, to be burned, because he said he did not like the way the man cried, "Fire." Why his business was to have been out of bed and down the stairs at once, as soon as he heard it. But another says, "I did not like the man himself; I did not like the minister; I did not like the man that blew the trumpet; I could hear him preach very well, but I had a personal dislike to him, and so I did not take any notice of what the trumpet said." Verily, God will say to thee at last, "Thou fool, what hadst thou to do with that man; to his own master he stands or falls; thy business was with thyself." What would you think of a man? A man has fallen overboard from a ship, and when he is drowning, some sailor throws him a rope, and there it is. Well, he says, in the first place, "I do not like that rope; I don't think that rope was made at the best manufactory; there is some tar on it too, I do not like it; and in the next place, I do not like that sailor that threw the rope over, I am sure he is not a kind-hearted man, I do not like the look of him at all;" and then comes a gurgle and a groan, and down he is in the bottom of the sea; and when he was drowned, they said, that it served him right, if he would not lay hold of the rope, but would be making such foolish and absurd objections, when it was a matter of life and death. Then on his own head be his blood. And so shall it be with you at last. You are so busy with criticising the minister, and his style, and his doctrine, that your own soul perishes. Remember you may get into hell by criticism, but you will never criticise your soul out of it. You may there make the most you can of. it. You may be there and say, "I did not like the minister, I did not like his manner, I did not like his matter;" but all your dislikings will not get one drop of water to cool your burning tongue, nor serve to mitigate the unalleviated torments of that world of agony. There are many other people who say, "Ah, well, I did none of those things, but I had a notion that the trumpet sound ought to be blown to everybody else, but not to me." Ah! that is a very common notion. "All men think all men mortal, but themselves," said a good poet; and all men think all men need the Gospel, but not themselves. Let each of us recollect that the Gospel has a message to each one of us. What saith the Gospel to thee my hearer ? What saith the Word to thee? Forget thy neighbors, and ask this question. Doth it condemn thee? or doth it assure thee of thy pardon? for recollect, all thou hast to do in the hearing of the Word, is to hear with thine own ears for thine own soul, and it will be idle for any one to say "I did not think it applied to me," when we know that it is to be preached to every creature under heaven, and therefore there must be something in it for every creature or else it would not be preached to every creature. Well, says another, "But I was so busy, I had so much to do, that I could not possibly attend to my soul's concerns. What will you say of the man who had so much to do that he could not get out of the burning house, but was burnt to ashes? What will you say of the man that had so much to do, that when he was dying, he had not time to send for a physician? Why, you will say, then he ought not to have so much to do. And if any man in the world has a business which causes him to lose his own soul for want of time, let him lay this question to his heart, "What shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" But it is false it is false men have got time. It is the want of will, not want of way. You have time, sir, have you not, despite all your business, to spend in pleasure? You have time to read your newspaper have you no time to read your Bible? You have time to sing a song have you no time to pray a prayer? Why, you know when farmer Brown met farmer Smith in the market one day, he said to him, "Farmer Smith, I can't think how it is you find time for hunting. Why, man, what with sowing and mowing and reaping and plowing, and all that, my time is so fully occupied on my farm, and I have no time for hunting." "Ah," said he, "Brown, if you liked hunting as much as I do, if you could not find time, you'd make it." And so it is with religion, the reason why men can not find time for it is, because they do not like it well enough. If they liked it, they would find time. And besides, what time does it want? What time does it require? Can I not pray to God over my ledger? Can I not snatch a text at my very breakfast, and think over it all day? May I not even when I am busy in the affairs of the world, be thinking of my soul, and casting myself upon a Redeemer's blood and atonement? It wants no time. There may be some time required; some time for my private devotions, and for communion with Christ, but when I grow in grace, I shall think it right to have more and more time, the more I can possibly get, the happier I shall be, and I shall never make the excuse that I have no time. "Well," says another, "but I thought I had time enough, you do not want me, sir, to be religious in my youth, do you? I am a lad, and may I not have a little frolic and sow my wild oats as well as anybody else?" Well yes, yes; but at the same time the best place for pleasure that I know of, is where a Christian lives; the finest happiness in all the world is the happiness of a child of God. You may have your pleasures oh, yes! you shall have them doubled and trebled, if you are a Christian. You shall not have things that worldlings call pleasures, but you shall have some that are a thousand times better. But only look at that sorrowful picture. There, far away in the dark gulf of woe, lies a young man, and he cries, "Ah! I meant to have repented when I was out of my apprenticeship, and I died before my time was up." "Ah!" says another by his side, "and I thought, whilst I was a journeyman, that when I came to be a master, I would then think of the things of Christ, but I died before I had got money enough to start for myself." And then a merchant behind wails with bitter woe, and says, "Ah! I thought I would be religious when I had got enough to retire on, and live in the country; then I should have time to think of God, when I had got all my children married out, and my concerns settled about me, but here I am shut up in hell; and now what are all my delays worth, and what is all the time I gained for all the paltry pleasures in the world? Now I have lost my soul over them." We experience great vexation if we are unpunctual in many places; but we can not conceive what must be the horror and dismay of men who find themselves too late in the next world! Ah! friends, if I knew there was one here who said, "I shall repent next Wednesday," I would have him feel in a dreadful state till that Wednesday came; for what if he should die? Oh! what if he should die? Would his promise of a Wednesday's repentance save him from a Tuesday damnation? Ah, these are all idle excuses. Men make not such when their bodily life is concerned. Would God that we were wise, that we would not make such pitiful pretences to apology, when our soul, our own soul, is the matter at stake. If they take not warning, whatever their excuse, their blood must be upon their own head. III. And now, I come most solemnly to conclude with all the power of earnestness; the warning has been sufficient, the excuse for not attending to it has been proved profane; then the last thought is "HIS BLOOD SHALL BE ON HIS OWN HEAD." Briefly thus he shall perish; he shall perish certainly; he shall perish inexcusably. He shall perish. And what does that mean? There is no human mind, however capacious, that can ever guess the thought of a soul eternally cast away from God. The wrath to come is as inexpressible as the glory that shall be revealed hereafter. Our Saviour labored for words with which to express the horrors of a future state of the ungodly. You remember he talked of worms that die not, and fires that are never quenched, of a pit without a bottom, of weeping, and wailing and gnashing of teeth in the outer darkness. No preacher was ever so loving as Christ, but no man ever spoke so horribly about hell; and yet even when the Saviour had said his best and said his worst, he had not told us what are the horrors of a future state. Ye have seen sicknesses, ye have heard the shrieks of men and women when their pangs have been upon them. We, at least, have stood by the bed-sides even of some dear to us, and we have seen to what an extent agony may be carried in the human body, but none of us know how much the body is capable of suffering. Certainly the body will have to suffer forever "He is able to cast both body and soul into hell." We have heard of exquisite torments, but we have never dreamt of any like unto this. Again, we have seen something of the miseries of the soul. Have we never marked the man that we used to know in our childhood who was depressed in spirits. All that ever could be done for him never could evoke a smile from him never did the light of cheerfulness light up his eye he was mournfully depressed. Ay, and it was my unhappy lot to live with one who was not only depressed in spirits, but whose mind had gone so far amiss, that it did brood fancies so mournful and dismal, that the very sight of him was enough to turn the sunlight of summer into the very darkness of a dreary winter. He had nothing to say but dark, groaning words. His thoughts always had a sombre appearance about them. It was midnight in his soul a darkness that might be felt. Have you never seen yourselves what power the mind has over us to make us full of misery? Ah, brethren and sisters, if ye could go to many of our asylums, and to our sick wards ay, and dying beds, too, you may know what acute anguish the mind may feel. And remember that the mind, as well as the mortal frame, is to endure damnation. Yes, we must not shirk that word, the Scripture saith it, and we must use it. Oh! men and women, except we repent, except we do each of us cry for mercy to him that is able to save, we must perish. All that is meant by that word "hell" must be realized in me, except I be a believer; and so all that is meant by "Depart, ye cursed," must be thine, unless thou dost turn unto God with full purpose of heart. But again, he that turneth not at the rebuke of the minister shall die, and he shall die certainly. This is not a matter of perhaps or chance. The things we preach, and that are taught in Scripture, are matters of solemn certainty. It may be that death is that bourne from which no traveller returns, but it is not true that we know nothing of it. It is as certain as that there are men, and a world in which they live, that there is another world to come, and that if they die impenitent, that world will be to them one of misery. And mark you there is no chance of escape, die without Christ, and there is no gate out of which you can escape forever, oh, forever lost, and not one hope of mercy cast away, and not one outlet for escape, not one solitary chance of ransom. Oh, if there were hope that in the world to come, men might escape, we need not be so earnest; but since once lost, lost for aye once cast away, cast away without hope, without any prospect of a hope, we must be earnest. Oh, my God, when I remember that I have to-day some here present who in all probability must be dead before next Sabbath, I must be earnest. Out of so large an assembly, the chances are that we shall not all of us be found pilgrims in this world within another seven days. It is not only possible, but probable, that some one out of this vast audience will have been launched upon a world unknown. Shall it be myself, and shall I sail to the port of bliss, or must I sail over fiery waves forever, lost, shipwrecked, stranded, on the rocks of woe? Soul, which shall it be with thee? It may be thou shalt die, my gray-headed hearer, or thou young lad, thou boy, thou mayest die I know not which, nor can we tell God only knoweth. Then let each one ask himself Am I prepared, should I be called to die? Yes, you may die where you are, on the benches where you are sitting you may now die and whither would you go? for recollect that whither ye go, ye go forever. Oh! eternity eternity eternity must I climb thy topless steeps forever, and never reach the summit, and must my path be ever misery or joy. Oh! eternity, thou depth without a bottom, thou sea without a shore, must I sail over thy boundless waves forever in one undeviating track and must I either plough through seas of bliss, or else be driven by the stormy winds of vengeance, over gulfs of misery? "Then what am I?" "My soul awake and an impartial survey take." Am I prepared? Am I prepared? Am I prepared? For, prepared or not, death admits of no delay, and if he is at my door, he will take me where I must go forever, prepared or not. Now, the last thing is, the sinner will perish he will perish certainly, but, last of all, he will perish without excuse his blood shall be on his own head. When a man is bankrupt, if he can say, "It is not through reckless trading it has been entirely through the dishonesty of one I trusted that I am what I am;" he takes some consolation, and he says, "I can not help it." But oh, my hearers, if you make bankrupts of your own souls, after you have been warned, then your own eternal bankruptcy shall lie at your own door. Should never so great a misfortune come upon us, if we can trace it to the providence of God, we bear it cheerfully; but if we have inflicted it upon ourselves, then how fearful is it! And let every man remember that if he perish after having heard the Gospel, he will be his own murderer. Sinner, thou wilt drive the dagger into thine heart thyself. If thou despisest the Gospel, thou art preparing fuel for thine own bed of flames, thou art hammering out the chain for thine own everlasting binding; and when damned, thy mournful reflection will be this: I have damned myself, I cast myself into this pit; for I rejected the Gospel; I despised the message; I trod under foot the Son of Man; I would have none of his rebukes; I despised his Sabbaths; I would not hearken to his exhortations, and now I perish by mine own hand, the miserable suicide of my own soul." And now a sweet reflection strikes me. A good writer says, "There are, doubtless, spots in the world that would be barren forever, if we recollected what had happened there." Says he, "I was once in St. Paul's cathedral, just under the dome, and a friend just touched me gently and said, 'Do you see that little chisel mark? and I said 'Yes.' He said, 'That is where a man threw himself down, and there he fell, and was dashed to atoms.'" The writer says, "We all started aside from that little spot, where a fellow-creature's blood had been shed. It seemed an awful place when we remembered that." Now, there is many a street, there is many a way-side, there is many a house of God, where men have taken the last decision, and damned their own souls. I doubt not, there are some here this morning, standing or sitting, to whom the voice of conscience says, "Decide for God," and now Satan and the evil heart together are saying, "Reject the message; laugh it off; forget it: take a ticket for the theater to-morrow: do not let this man alarm us: it is his very profession to talk to us like this; let us go away, and laugh it off; and let us spend the rest of this day in merriment." Yes, that is the last warning thou wilt ever have. It is so with some of you. There are some of you that will this hour decide to damn yourselves, and you will look forever throughout eternity, to that place under the gallery, and you will say, "Alas! woe was the day I heard that man, I was half impressed almost he persuaded me to be a Christian, but I decided for hell." And that will be a solemn spot to angels where you are standing, or where you are sitting, for angels will say to one another, "Stand aside; that is a spot where a man ruined his own soul for ever and ever. But the sweet thought is, that there are some places just the reverse. Why, you are sitting, my friend, this morning, on a spot where some three weeks ago one sat who was converted to God; and that place where you are sitting you ought to venerate, for in that place there sat one who was one of the chiefest of sinners like yourself, and there the Gospel message met him. And far back there, behind the door, many a soul has been brought to Christ. Many a piece of good news have I heard from some in yonder upper gallery. "I could not see your face, sir, all the sermon through, but the arrow of the Lord found its way round the corner, and reached my heart notwithstanding that, and I was saved." Ah, well, may God so bless this place, that every seat of it this day may be solemnized by his own grace, and a spot to be remembered in your future history by reason of the beginning of your blessedness, the dawn of your salvation. "Believe on the Lord Jesus, and be baptized, and thou shalt be saved." This is the gospel we are told to preach to every creature "He that believeth, and is immersed, shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned."
Pleading and Encouragement
August 17, 1884 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" Ezekiel 18:23 . "For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." Ezekiel 18:32 . "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked: but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" Ezekiel 33:11 .
Sin having a through possession of the human heart, entrenches itself within the soul, as one who has taken a stronghold speedily attends to the repairing of the breaches, and the strengthening of the walls, lest haply he should be dislodged. Among the most subtle devices of sin to keep the soul under its power, and prevent the man's turning to God, is the slandering of the Most High by misrepresenting his character. As dust blinds the eye, so does sin prevent the sinner from seeing God aright. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God"; but the wicked only see what they think to be God, and that, alas, is an image as unlike to God as possible! They say, for instance, that God is unmerciful, whereas he delighteth in mercy. The unfaithful servant in the parable was quite sure about it, and said most positively, "I knew that thou wast an austere man:" whereas the nature of God is as opposite to overbearing and exaction as light is from darkness. When men once get this false idea of God into their minds they become hardened in heart: believing that it is useless to turn to God, they go on in their sine with greater determination. Either they conceive that God is implacable, or that he is indifferent to human prayers, or that if he should hear them yet he is not in the least likely to grant a favorable answer. Men darkly dream that God will not attend to the guilty and the miserable when they cry to him; that their prayers are not good enough for him: that he expects so much from his creatures that they cannot even pray so as to please him; that, in fact, he seeketh a quarrel against us, and is a taskmaster who will grind all he can out of us. Being themselves slow to forgive, they judge it to be highly unlikely that the Lord will pardon such sins as theirs. As they will not smile on the poor or the fallen, they conceive that the Lord will never receive unworthy ones into his favor. Thus they belie the Host High: they make him who is the best of Kings to be a tyrant; him who is the dearest of friends they regard as an enemy; and him whose very name is love they look upon as the embodiment of hate. This is one of Satan's most mischievous, devices to prevent repentance. As in the old times of plague they fastened up the house-door, and marked a red cross upon it, and thus the inhabitants of that dwelling were sealed unto death, even so the devil writes upon the man's door the words, "no hope," and then the sick soul determines to die, and refuses admission to the Physician. No man sins more unreservedly than he who sins in desperation, believing that there is no pardon for him from God. An assault where the watchword is "No quarter" usually provokes a terrible defense. The pirate who is hopeless of pardon becomes reckless in his deeds of blood. Many a burglar in the old time actually went on to murder without remorse, because he thought he might as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb. When a man believes that there is no hope for him in the right way, he determines that he will get what he can out of the wrong way; and if he cannot please God, he will, at least, please himself. If he must go to hell, he will be as merry as he can on the road, and, as he puts it, he will "die game." All this comes of a mistaken view of God. Do you not see the likeness between sin and falsehood? They are twin brothers. Holiness is truth, but sin is a lie, and the mother of lies. Sin brings forth falsehood, and then falsehood nourishes sin. Especially in this fashion doth falsehood maintain sin, by calumniating the God of love. He is a God ready to pardon, and by no means hard to be moved to forgiveness; why do men stand off from confessing their wrong, and finding mercy? He is not a God who taketh pleasure in the miseries of men; why do they think so ill of him? His ear is not dull to the cry of sorrow, his heart is not slow to compassionate distress; on the contrary, he waiteth to be gracious, "his mercy endureth for ever," he delighteth in mercy; why will men run from him? God is love immeasurable, love constant, boundless, endless.
"Who is a pardoning God like thee? Or who hath grace so rich and free?"
Part of our business as ministers of Christ is to bear witness to the loving-kindness of the Lord against the falsehood with which sin dishonors his goodness. I desire to do so this morning, and to do it in right down earnest, in the hope that those of you who are convinced of sin may this day be able to rest in the mercy of God, even that exceeding mercy which he has revealed in Jesus Christ, his Son. I have been very much struck with several letters which I have this week received from deeply-wounded souls. God is at work among us with the sword of conviction. I have felt a great degree of joy in receiving these letters; painful as they are to their writers, they are very hopeful to me. I am sorry that any persons should be near despair, and should continue in that condition; but anything is better than indifference. I am not sorry to see souls shut up in the prison of the law, for I hope they will soon come out of the prison-house into the full liberty of faith in Christ. I must confess my preference for these old-fashioned forms of conviction: it is my judgment that they produce better and more stable believers than the modern superficial methods. I am glad to see the Holy Spirit overturning, throwing down, digging out the foundations, and making you like cleared ground, that he may build upon you temples for his praise. How earnestly do I pray that the Lord may make of these convinced ones champions for the doctrines of free grace, comforters for his mourners, and consecrated servants of his kingdom! I look for large harvests from this deep subsoil ploughing. The Lord grant it, for his name's sake! I can see in several who have written to me that their main idea is erroneous, that they have fallen into a wrong notion about God: they do not conceive of him as the good and gracious God which he really is. This error I am eager to correct. Listen to me, ye mourners. I desire to tell you nothing but sober truth. God forbid that I should misrepresent God for your comfort! Job asked his friends, "Will ye talk deceitfully for God? "and my answer to that question is, "Never." I would not utter what I believed to be falsehood concerning the Lord, even though the evil one offered me the bait of saving all mankind thereby. I have noticed in certain Revival Meetings a wretched lowering of the truth upon many points in order to afford encouragement to men; but all such sophistry ends in utter failure. Comfort based upon the suppression of truth is worse than useless. Lasting consolation must come to sinners from the sure truth of God; or else in the day when they most want it their hopes will depart from them, as the giving up of the ghost. I will therefore speak to you the truth in its simplicity concerning the blessed God, whose servant I am. I beseech you no longer to persevere in your slander of his infinite love. Oh, you that feel your sin, and dare not put your trust in your forgiving God, I pray you to learn of him, and know him aright, for then shall that text be fulfilled in you, "They that know thy name will put their trust in thee." May the Holy Spirit come now in all his brightness, that you may see God in his own light! As for me, I feel my duty to be one in which nothing can avail me but that same Spirit. Chrysostom used to wonder that any minister could be saved, seeing our responsibilities are so great; I am entirely of his mind. Pray for me that I may be faithful to men's souls. Notice, that in each one of my texts the Lord declares that he has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but in each following passage the statement is stronger. The Lord puts it first as a matter of question. As if he were surprised that such a thing should be laid to his door, he appeals to man's own reason, and asks, "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?" Oh, souls, can you really think that God desires your damnation? Can you be so demented as soberly to believe such a calumny? Will such a theory hold water for a single minute? After all the goodness of God to multitudes of rebellious men, can you allow such a dark thought to linger near your mind, that God can have pleasure in men's being sinners, and ultimately destroying themselves by their iniquities? Your own common-sense must teach you that the good God is grieved to see men sin, that he would be glad to see men of a better mind, and that it is sad work to him to punish the finally obstinate and impenitent. He cries most plaintively "Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate." He puts it here as a question of wonderment, that men should so grossly malign him as to think that the God of love could have any pleasure in men's perishing by their sins. But then, in the next place, in our second text, God makes a positive assertion. Knowing the human heart, he foresaw that a question would not be enough to end this matter, for man would say, "He only asked the question, but he did not give a plain and positive statement to the contrary." He gives us that clear assurance in our second text: "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord God: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye." When the Lord speaks he is to be believed, for he is God that cannot lie. We know that this speech of his is authentic; it comes to us by an inspired prophet, concerning whose call by God we entertain no doubt whatever. Let us, then, believe it heartily. If I were to state this as my own opinion, you might do as you pleased about believing it; but since God saith this, then we claim of you all, as God's creatures, that you believe your Creator, and that this statement be never questioned again. "Where the word of a king is, there is power," power, I trust, to silence all further debate upon the willingness of God to save. But still, as if to end for ever the strange and ghastly supposition that God takes delight in human destruction, my third text seals the truth with the solemn oath of the Eternal. He lifts his hand to heaven, and swears; and because he can swear by no greater he swears by himself, not by his temple, nor by his throne therein, nor by his angels, nor by anything outside of himself; but he sweareth by his own life. Jehovah that liveth for ever and ever saith, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." The man who dares to doubt the oath of God will be guilty of an arrogant presumption which I would not like to impute to one of you. Shall God be perjured? I tremble at having even suggested such a thing; and yet if you do not believe the Lord's own oath you will not only have made him a liar, but you will have denied the value of his oath when he swears by his own life. What he thus affirms must be tree; let us bow before it, and never entertain a doubt about it. Most miserable of all men that breathe must they be who will dare to attack the veracity of God, when God to confirm their confidence doth put himself upon an oath. Let us hear the voice of the Lord in its majesty, like a peal of distant thunder, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." I invite your earnest consideration of this utterance thus given in the form of a question, an assertion, and a solemn oath. I. And I notice, first, the assertion that GOD FINDS NO PLEASURE IN A SINNER'S DEATH.
Really I feel ashamed to have to answer the cruel libel which is here suggested; yet it is the English of many a man's doubts. He dares not come to God and trust him because he darkly dreams that God is a terrible being who does not wish to save him, who is unwilling to forgive him, unwilling to receive him into his favor. He suspects that God finds some kind of terrible delight in a soul's damnation. That cannot be. I need not disprove the falsehood. God swears to the contrary, and the falsehood vanishes like smoke. I will only bring forward certain evidence by which you who are still under the deadly influence of the falsehood may be delivered. First, consider the great paucity of God's judgments among the sons of men. There are people who are always talking of judgments, but they are in error. If a theater is burnt down, or if a boat is upset on the Sabbath, they cry "Behold a judgment!" Yet churches and meetinghouses are burned, and missionaries are drowned when upon the Lord's own business. It is wrong to set down everything that happens as a judgment, for in so doing you will fall into the error of Job's friends, and condemn the innocent. The fact is there are but few acts of divine providence to individuals which can definitely be declared to be judgments. There are such things, but they are wonderfully rare in this life, considering the way in which the Lord is daily provoked by presumption and blasphemy. It was a judgment when Pharaoh's hosts were drowned in the Red Sea; that was a judgment when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram went down alive into the pit. There were judgments later on in the church of God when Ananias and Sapphira fell dead for lying against the Holy Ghost, and when Elymas the sorcerer was blinded for opposing Paul. Still, these are few; and in later days the authentic instances are equally rare. Does not the Lord himself say that "judgment is his strange work"? Among his own people there is a constant judgment of fatherly discipline, but the outer world is left to the gentle regime of mercy. This is the age of patience and long-suffering. If God had taken any pleasure in the death of the wicked, some of you who are now present would long ago have gone down to hell; but he hath not dealt with you after your sins, nor rewarded you according to your iniquities. If God were constantly dealing out judgment for lying, how many who are now here would by this time have received their portion in the burning lake! If judgments for Sabbath-breaking had been commonly dealt out, this city of London would have been destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah. But God reserveth his wrath till the day of wrath, for a while he winketh at man's obstinacy, for this is not the place of judgment, but of forbearance and hope. The fewness of visible deeds of judgment upon ungodly men in this life proves that God takes no delight in them. And then, secondly, the length of God's long-suffering before the Day of Judgment itself comes proves how he wills not the death of men. The Lord spares many guilty men throughout three-score years and ten, bearing with their ill-manners in a way which ought to excite our loving gratitude. Youthful folly is succeeded by manhood's deliberate fault, and that, by the persistence of mature years, and yet the Lord remains patient! Some of you have rejected Christ after having heard the gospel for many years; you have stifled your conscience when it has cried against you, and you have done despite to the Spirit of God. You have rebelled against the light, and have committed greater and yet greater sin, but God has not cut you down. If he had found pleasure in your death, would he have suffered you to live so long? You have cumbered the ground, not two or three years, as the barren fig-tree did, but two or three scores of years you have stood fruitless in the vineyard of God; and yet he spares you! Some have gone beyond all this, for they have provoked God by their open unbelief, and by their abomin able speeches against himself, his Son, and his people. They have tried to thrust their finger into the eye of God, they have spit in the face of the Well-beloved, and persecuted him in the person of his people. Yet the Lord has not killed them out of hand, as he might justly have done. Have you not heard his sword stirring in its scabbard? It would have leaped forth from its sheath if mercy had not thrust it back, and pleaded, "O thou sword of the Lord, rest and be quiet!" It is only because his compassions fail not that you are favored with the loving invitations of the gospel. Only because of his infinite patience doth grace still wrestle with human sin and unbelief. Let us each one cry
"Lord, and am I yet alive, Not in torments, not in hell! Still doth thy good Spirit strive With the chief of sinners dwell? Tell it unto sinners, tell, I am, I am out of hell!"
Furthermore, remember the perfection of the character of God as the moral Ruler of the Universe. He is the Judge of all, and he must do right. Now, if a judge upon the bench were known to take delight in the punishment of offenders, he ought to be removed at once, for it would be clear that he was thoroughly unfit for his office. A man who would take pleasure in hanging, or imprisoning, would be of the foul breed of Judge Jeffreys, and other monsters, from whom I trust our bench is for ever purged. But if I heard it said that a judge never pronounced the sentence of death without tears, that when he came home from the court, and remembered that some had been banished for life by the sentences which he had been bound to deliver, he sat in a moody, unhappy state all the evening, I should say, "Yes, that is the kind of person to be a judge." Aversion to punishment is necessary to justice in a judge. Such an one is God, who taketh no pleasure either in sin, or in the punishment which is the consequence of sin; he hates both sin and its consequence, and only comes at last to heavy blows with men when everything else has failed. When the sinner must be condemned, or else the foundations of society would be out of course, then he delivers the terrible sentence, but even then it is with unfeigned reluctance, and he cries, "How can I give thee up?" The Great Judge of all seems to descend from the glory of his judgment-seat, and show his more familiar face to you in the text, as in effect he cries, "I have judged, and I have condemned, and I have punished; but, as I live, I find no pleasure in all this, my pleasure comes when men turn unto me and live." If any further thoughts were necessary to correct your misbelief, I would mention the graciousness of his work in saving those who turn from their evil ways. The care which the Most High has taken to produce repentance, the alacrity with which he accepts it, and the abounding love manifested to returning prodigals, are all evidences indisputable that God finds no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but in their salvation. To prevent the death of the wicked the Lord devised a plan of salvation before all worlds; and those who accept that plan find that the Lord has provided for them a Substitute in the person of his own dear Son, who is indeed his own self, and that in his person God himself has borne the penalty due to sin, that thus the law might be solemnly honored, and the divine justice vindicated. The Lord has gone up to the tree, and bled his life away thereon, that God might be just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus: does not this prove his delight in salvation? The Holy Spirit comes on purpose to renew the heart, and take the stone away from it, that men may become tender and penitent does not this show that God delights to save? The whole resources of the Godhead go forth with spontaneous delight for the salvation of those who turn from their sin. Yea, they go forth before men turn, to turn them that they may be turned. God is even found of them that sought him not, and he sends his grace to those who cried not after it. As if God were indignant that such a charge should be laid against him that he delighteth in the death of any, he preferred to die himself upon the tree rather than let a world of sinners sink to hell. To prove the desire of God that men should live, his Son abode for thirty years and more on this poor earth as a man among men, and his Holy Spirit has dwelt in men for all these centuries, bearing all the provocations of an erring and ungrateful people. God has proved himself in multitudes of ways to be not the Destroyer, but the Preserver of men. "He that is our God is the God of salvation." "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord." Thus would I try to vindicate the ways of God to men. When men are to be tried for their lives, if their friends are able to do so, they come to them in prison, and say, "It is a very hopeful thing for you that it is not Judge So-and-So, who is terribly severe; you are to be tried before the kindest man on the bench." Many a prisoner has plucked up courage at such news; and oh, poor sinner, you who dare not trust God, let me chide you into hope by reminding you that Love sits embodied on the throne of judgment this day; and that he who must and will condemn you, if you turn not from your sins, nevertheless will find no pleasure in that condemnation, but will be loth to make bare the axe of execution. Will you not turn to him and live? Do not his compassions beckon you to make a full surrender, and find grace in his sight? II. But now, secondly, GOD FINDS NO ALTERNATIVE BUT THAT MEN MUST TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS, OR DIE.
"I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." It is one or the other: turn or burn. God, with all his love to men, cannot discover any third course: men cannot keep their sins and yet be saved. The sin must die or the sinner must die. Be it known to you, first, that when God proclaims mercy to men upon this condition, that they turn from their ways, this proclamation is issued out of pure grace. As a matter of bare right, repentance does not bring mercy with it. Does a murderer receive pardon because he regrets his deed? Does a thief escape from prison because at last he comes to be sorry that he was not honest? Repentance makes no available amends for the evil which is done; the evil still remains, and the punishment must be executed. It is of grace, then, that I am permitted to say, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways." It is because at the back of it there is a great sacrifice; it is through an all-sufficient atone ment that repentance becomes acceptable. The Son of God has bled and died, and made expiation for sin; and now he is exalted on high, to give repentance and remission of sins. To-day the word of the Lord is, "Repent ye, and believe the gospel." "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." This is not according to the law, which gives no space for repentance, but it is a pure matter of grace. God saves you, not because of any merit in your turning, but because he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he has decreed to save all who turn from the paths of evil. Note, next, that if there be no repentance men must be punished, for on any other theory there is an end of moral government. The worst thing that could happen to a world of men would be for God to say "I retract my law; I will neither reward virtue, nor punish iniquity; do as you like." Then the earth would be a hell indeed. The greatest enemy to civil government among men is the man who preaches universal salvation, salvation apart from a change of heart and life. Such teachers are a danger to national order, they remove the foundation of the commonwealth. They practically say, "Do just as you like; it may make a slight difference to you for a little while, but it will soon be over, and villains and saints will share an equal heaven." Such talk is damnable! I can say no less. If there is to be a government at all, it is necessary that sin should not go unpunished; leniency to the dishonest is cruelty to those whom they injure. To save the murderer is to kill the innocent. It were an evil day for heaven and earth if it could once be proven that God would reward the depraved in the same way as the sanctified: then would the foundation be removed, and what would the righteous do? A God who was not just would be a poor Ruler of the universe. Yes, my hearers, sin must be punished; you must turn from it or die, because sin is its own punishment. When we talk to you of the fire that never can be quenched, and the worm that dieth not, we are supposed to mean those literal things, but indeed these are figures, figures representing something more terrible than themselves: the fire is the burning of a furious rebellion in the soul, and the worm is the torture of a never-dying conscience. Sin is hell. Within the bowels of disobedience there lieth a world of misery. God has so constituted us, and rightly so, that we cannot long be evil and happy; we must, if we go wrong, ultimately become wretched; and the more wrong we are, and the longer we continue in that wrong, the more assuredly are we heaping up sorrow for ourselves throughout eternity. Holiness and right produce happiness, but iniquity and wrong must, by a necessity of nature which never can be changed, produce tribulation and anguish. It must be so. Even the omnipotence of God cannot make an impenitent sinner happy. You must turn from sin, or turn to misery; you must either renounce your sins, or else renounce all hope of a blissful eternity. You cannot be married to Christ and heaven until you are divorced from sin and self. I believe that every man's conscience bears witness to this if it be at all honest. There are consciences of a very curious kind about at this time abortions, and not true consciences at all. I find men deliberately acting upon crooked policy, and yet they talk of truth and holiness. Yet every conscience that is not drunken with the mixed wine of pride and unbelief, will tell a man that when he does evil he cannot expect to be approved; that if he neglects to do good he cannot expect to have the same reward as if he had done the good, that, in fact, there must be, in the nature of things, a penally attached to crime. Conscience says as much as that, and now God himself, who taketh no pleasure in the death of the wicked, puts it to you, you must repent or perish. If you go on in your evil ways, you must be lost. There must be a turning from sin, or the Most High God can never look upon you with favor. Do you hear this? Oh, that you would let it sink into your heart, and work repentance in you! III. This leads me on to the third point, which is a joyful one: GOD FINDS PLEASURE IN MEN'S TURNING FROM SIN.
Read the passage again: "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live." Among the highest of the divine joys is the pleasure of seeing a sinner turn from evil. God delights in those first thoughts which men have towards himself, when being careless heretofore they on a sudden begin to reflect upon their ways, and consider their condition before God. He looks with pleasure upon you who have aforetime been wild and thoughtless, who at last meditate upon Eternity, and weigh the future of sin and judgment. When you listen to that inviting word, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near," God is pleased to observe your attention. When you begin to feel, "I am sorry for my sin; oh, that I had never committed it!" he hears your sigh. When your heart is sick of sin, when you loathe all evil, and feel that though you cannot get away from it, yet you would if you could, then he looks down on you with pitying eye. When there is a new will springing up in your heart, by his good grace, a will to obey and believe, then also the Father smiles. When he hears within you a moaning and a sighing after the Father's house and the Father's bosom; you cannot see him, but he is behind the wall listening to you. His hand is secretly putting your tears into his bottle, and his heart is feeling compassion for you. "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in those that hope in his mercy." Mark that last character: the man has only a little hope, but the Lord taketh pleasure in him. When yet the good work is only in the twilight, God is as pleased with it as watchmen are pleased with the first beams of morning light, a, he is more glad than they that watch for the morning. When at last you come to prayer, and begin to cry, "God be merciful to me a sinner," God is well pleased; for here he sees clear signs that you are coming to yourself and to him. His Spirit saith, "Behold, he prayeth!" and he takes this as a token for good. When you unfeignedly forsake sin God sees you do it, and he is so glad that his holy angels spy out his joy. I am sure that God watches the struggles of those who endeavor to escape from old habits and evil ways. When you try to conquer vile thoughts, when at the end of the day you sit down and cry over the day's failures because you did not get as well through the day as you hoped to do, the Lord observes your desires and your lamentations. Just as a mother tenderly watches her child when it begins to walk, and smiles as she sees it toddling from chair to chair, and puts out her finger to help it, so doth God take pleasure in your early attempts after holiness, your longings to overcome sin, your sighings and cryings to be delivered from the bondage of corruption. God saith, "I taught Ephraim to go, taking them by their arms," and in the same way he is teaching you. I will tell you what pleases him most of all, and that is when you come to his dear Son, and say, "Lord, something tells me that there is no hope for me, but I do not believe that voice. I read in thy word that thou wilt cast out none that come unto thee, and lo, I come! I am the biggest sinner that ever did come, but Lord, I believe thy promise; I am as unworthy as the devil himself, but Lord, thou dost not ask for worthiness, but only for childlike confidence. Cast me not away I rest in thee." "Without faith it is impossible to please God," but it gives God a divine pleasure to see the first grain of mustard seed of faith in a poor, turning sinner's heart. Oh, I wish you would think of this, you that keep on condemning yourselves! When you write me those letters, full of self-condemnation, you please me; and if you please me, I am sure you much more please God, who is so much more tender than ever I can be, though I would fain try and humbly imitate him. How I wish I could bring you to trust my Lord this morning, and end those cruel doubts and fears!
"Artful doubts and reasonings be Nailed with Jesus to the tree."
God's great convincing argument is his dying, bleeding Son. Oh, ye chief of sinners, turn to him, and God will have pleasure in your turning! Do you not know that all these thoughts towards him are breathed into you by his Spirit? All those regrets for sin, those desires after holiness, and specially those trustings in Christ, those hopings in his mercy, are all his work: they would never have been found in your soul if the Spirit had not put them there. If I saw a fair flower growing on a dunghill, I should conclude that a gardener had been there some day or other, and had cast seed upon the heap. And when I see your soul commencing to pray, and hope, and trust, I say to myself, "God is there. The Holy Spirit has been at work there, or else there would not have been even that feeble trusting, and that faint hoping." Wherefore, be of good courage, you are drawing near to a gracious God. During the rest of your life, when you go on fighting with sin, and when you consecrate yourself to Jesus, when you wash your Savior's feet with your tears, and wipe them with the hairs of your head with the Magdalen, or when you break your alabaster-box of myrrh, and pour it on the Master's head with Mary, the Lord hath great pleasure in you for Jesus' sake. He taketh no pleasure in the groans and cries of hell, but in the repentance of sinners he hath joy. The fires of Gehenna give him no delight, but penitents smiting on their breasts, and believers beholding Christ with tearful eyes, are a royal spectacle to him. It must be so, he swears it, and it must be true. Cease your quibbling, and believe unto eternal life. IV. Lastly, since he hath pleasure in men's turning to him, GOD THEREFORE EXHORTS TO IT, AND ADDS AN ARGUMENT. "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" He perceives his poor creature standing with his back to him, looking to idols, looking to sinful pleasures, looking towards the city of destruction, and what does God say to him? He says, "Turn!" It is a very plain direction, is it not? "Turn," or "Right about face!" That is all. "I thought," saith one, "I was to feel so much anguish and so much agony." I should not wonder if you do feel it, but all that God says is, "Turn." You now face the wrong way; "Turn," and face the right way. That turning is true repentance. A changed life is of the essence of repentance, and that must spring from a changed heart, from a changed desire, from a changed will. God saith, "Turn ye." Oh, that you would hear and obey! Notice how he puts it in the present tense "Turn ye, turn ye," not to-morrow, but now. Nobody will be saved to-morrow: all who are saved, are saved to-day. "Now is the accepted time." "Turn ye." Oh, by the infinite mercy of God, who will enable you to turn, I do pray you to turn from every evil, from every self-confidence, unto God. No turning but turning to God is worth having. If the Lord turn you, you will turn to himself, and to confidence alone in him, and to his service and his fear. "Turn ye, turn ye." See, the Lord puts it twice. He must mean your good by these repeated directions. Suppose my man-servant was crossing yonder river, and I saw that he would soon be out of his depth, and so in great danger; suppose I cried out to him, "Stop! stop! If you go another inch you will be drowned. Turn back! Turn back!" Will anybody dare to say, "Mr. Spurgeon would feel pleasure if that man were drowned"? It would be a cruel cut. What a liar the man must be who would hint such a thing when I am urging my servant to turn and save his life! Would God plead with us to escape unless he honestly desired that we should escape? I know not. Every sinner may be sure that God takes no pleasure in his death when he pleads with him in these unrivalled words, "Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?" There is what the old divines used to call an ingemination, an inward groaning, a reduplication of pleading in these words, "Turn ye, turn ye." He pleads each time with more of emphasis. Will you not hear? Then he finishes up with asking men to find a reason why they should die. There ought to be a weighty reason to induce a man to die. "Why will ye die?" This is an unanswerable question in reference to death eternal. Is there anything to be desired in eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power? Can there be any gain in losing your own soul? Can there be any profit in going away into everlasting punishment? Can there possibly be anything to be wished for and desired in being cast into hell, where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched. O souls, be not unreasonable! Do not neglect this great salvation. It must be the most awful thing in all the world to die in your sins; why do you choose it? Do you desire shipwreck? Why hug that rocky shore, and tempt destruction? Will you eat the poisoned dainties of sin because they are sugared with a little present pleasure? In the end, the gall of bitterness will fill your bowels. I am no flatterer: I dare not be, for I love you, and would persuade you to turn unto the Lord. There is a flower which always turns to the sun; oh, that you would in the same manner turn to God! Why turn away from him? "WHY?" is a little word, but how much it takes to answer its demands! WHY do you continue in sin? Why do you refuse to believe your Savior? Why will you provoke God? WHY will you die? Turn round and say, "Oh, God, I cannot bear to perish everlastingly, and therefore I cannot endure to live in sin. May thy rich grace help me!" Oh, that you would trust in the Lord Jesus! Repose in him, and in his finished work, and all is well. Did I hear you say, "I will pray about it"? Better trust at once. Pray as much as you like after you have trusted, but what is the good of unbelieving prayers? "I will talk with a godly man after the service." I charge you first trust in Jesus. Go home alone, trusting in Jesus. "I should like to go into the enquiry-room." I dare say you would, but we are not willing to pander to popular superstition. We fear that in those rooms men are warmed into a fictitious confidence. Very few of the supposed converts of enquiry-rooms turn out well. Go to your God at once, even where you now are. Cast yourself on Christ, now, at once; ere you stir an inch! In God's name I charge you, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, for "he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned."
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Ezekiel 33". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany