The subject before us is one that needs stressing in these days. The great majority of our pulpits are silent upon it, and the fact that it has so little place in modern preaching is one of the signs of the times, one of the many evidences that the Apostasy must be near at hand. It is true that there are not a few who are praying for a world-wide Revival—but it appears to the writer, that it would be more timely, and more scriptural, for prayer to be made to the Lord of the harvest—that He would raise up and thrust forth laborers who would fearlessly and faithfully preach those truths which are calculated to bring about a revival.
While it is true that all genuine revivals come from God—yet He is not capricious in the sending of them. We are sure that God never relinquishes His sovereign rights to own and to bless—where and as He pleases. But we also believe that here, as everywhere, there is a direct connection between cause and effect—and a revival is the effect of a previous cause. A revival, like a genuine conversion, is wrought by God by means of the Word—the Word applied by the Holy Spirit, of course. Therefore, there is something more needed (on our part) than prayer—the Word of God must have a place, a prominent place, the prominent place. Without the Word and prayer—there will be no Revival, whatever excitement and activities of the emotions there may be.
It is the deepening conviction of the writer, that what is most needed today, is a wide proclamation of those truths which are the least acceptable to the flesh.
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of
the character of God—
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of
the condition of the natural man—
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of the alarming danger which sinners are in—the indescribably awful doom which awaits them, the fact that if they follow only a little further their present course, they shall most certainly suffer the due penalty of their iniquities!
What is needed today, is a scriptural setting forth of
the nature of that dreadful punishment which awaits the lost—
It is because of these convictions, that by pen as well as by voice, we are seeking to raise the alarm. It may be thought that what we have said in the above paragraph stands in need of qualification. We can imagine some of our readers saying, Such truths as these may be needed by the lost—but surely you do not wish to be understood as saying that these subjects ought to be pressed upon the Lord's people! But that is exactly what we do mean and do say. Re-read the Epistles, dear friends, and note what place each of these subjects has in them! It is just because these truths have been withheld so much from public ministry to the saints, that we now find so many backboneless, sentimental, lop-sided Christians in our assemblies. A clearer vision of the awe-inspiring attributes of God—would banish much of our levity and irreverence. A better understanding of our depravity by nature—would humble us, and make us see our deep need of using the appointed means of grace. A facing of the alarming danger of the lost sinner—would cause us to "consider our ways" and make us more diligent to make our "calling and election sure." A realization of the unspeakable misery which awaits the lost (and which each of us fully merited) would immeasurably deepen our gratitude, and bring us to thank God more fervently—that we have been snatched as brands from the burning and delivered from the wrath to come! It would also make us far more earnest in our prayers as we supplicate God on behalf of the unsaved.
Moreover, scriptural and searching addresses along these lines would, in some cases at least, lay hold of those who have a form of godliness but who deny the power thereof. They would have some effect on that vast company of professors who are "at ease in Zion." They would, if God were depended upon, arouse the indifferent, and cause some who are now careless and unconcerned to cry, "What must I do to be saved?" Remember that the ground must be plowed—before it is ready to be sowed: and the truths mentioned above are needed to prepare the way for the Gospel.
Concerning the eternal punishment of the wicked there are few, it seems, who realize the vital importance of a ringing testimony to this truth—and fewer still who apprehend the deep seriousness of what is involved in a denial of it. The importance of a clear witness to this doctrine may be seen by noting what a prominent place it holds in the Scriptures; and contrariwise, the seriousness of denying it is evidenced by the fact that such denial is a rejection of God's truth.
The need of giving this solemn subject a prominent place in our witness is apparent, for it is our bounden duty to warn sinners of their fearful peril—and bid them flee from the wrath to come! To remain silent is criminal; to substitute anything for it—is to set before the wicked a false hope. The great importance of expounding this doctrine, freely and frequently, also appears in that, excepting the Cross of Christ, nothing else so manifests the heinousness of sin, whereas every modification of eternal punishment, only serves to minimize the evil of sin.
The final portion of the wicked will be beyond the creature's power of resistance. "Whoever falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder!" (Matthew 21:44). There are many who now say, "If at the end I find myself in Hell, I will bear it as well as I can;" as if by strength of will and firmness of mind they shall, in measure at least, be able to support themselves. But alas! Their resolutions will count for nothing.
It is common with men in this world to shun calamities—but if they find this is impossible, they set themselves to bear it: they fortify their spirits and resolve to support themselves under it as well as they can. They muster up all their courage and resolution in the determination to keep their hearts from sinking. But it will be utterly vain for sinners to do this in the Lake of Fire. What would it help a worm which was about to be crushed by some great rock, to collect its strength and endeavor to set itself to bear up against its weight, and so seek to prevent itself from being crushed? Much less will a poor damned soul be able to support itself under the weight of the wrath of Almighty God! No matter how much the sinner may now harden himself, in order to endure the pains of Hell, the first moment he shall feel the flames, his heart will melt like wax before the furnace, "Can your heart endure—or can your hands be strong, in the days that I shall deal with you? I the Lord have spoken it, and will do it" (Ezekiel 22:14).
If such then be the case with impenitent sinners, that they can neither escape their punishment, nor deliver themselves from it, nor bear up under it—what will become of them?
"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear his threshing floor, gathering His wheat into the barn—and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" Matthew 3:12
"They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!" Matthew 13:42
"Then He will also say to those on the left—Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!" Matthew 25:41
"If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell—where the fire never goes out!" Mark 9:43
"He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!" Luke 3:17
"I am in agony in this fire!" Luke 16:24
"Those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire!" Jude 1:7
"To help your conception of what hell is—imagine yourself to be cast into a fiery oven—or into the midst of a great furnace, where your pain would be as much greater than that occasioned by accidentally touching a coal of fire—as the heat is greater. Imagine also, that your body were to lie there for a quarter of an hour, full of fire, as full as a bright coal of fire, all the while full of quick sense. What horror would you feel at the entrance of such a furnace! And how long would that quarter of an hour seem to you! If it were to be measured by the hour-glass, how long would the glass seem to be running! And after you had endured it for one minute, how unbearable would it be to you—to think that you had yet to endure the other fourteen minutes!
"But what would be the effect on your soul—if you knew you must lie there enduring that torment, to the full for twenty-four hours! And how much greater would be the effect, if you knew you must endure it for a whole year! And how vastly greater still, if you knew you must endure it for a thousand years! O then, how would your heart sink, if you thought, if you knew—that you must bear it forever and ever! That there would be no end—that after millions of millions of ages, your torment would be no nearer to an end, than it ever was; and that you would never, never be delivered!
"But your torment in Hell will be immeasurably greater than this illustration represents! How then will the heart of a poor creature sink under it! How utterly inexpressible and inconceivable, must the sinking of the soul be in such a case! (Jonathan Edwards)
"If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15
Such, in brief, is the portion awaiting the lost—
And let us remember in Whose Word these solemn statements
are found! They are found in the Word of Him who is faithful—and therefore
has He written in plain and positive language so that none need be deceived!
They are found in the Word of Him who cannot lie, and therefore He has not
employed the language of exaggeration. They are found in the Word of Him who
says what He means—and means what He says; and therefore the writer, for
one, dares do nothing else than receive them at their face value. We turn
1. In the Scriptural doctrine of hell—we learn how the character and Throne of God will be vindicated.What can be too severe a judgment, upon those who have despised so great a Being as the Almighty? If he who is guilty of treason against an earthly government deserves to lose his life—what punishment can be great enough for one who has preferred his own pleasure, before the will and glory of a God who is infinitely good? To despise infinite excellence — merits infinite misery. God has commanded the sinner to repent, He has courted him with overtures of grace, He has bountifully supplied his every need, and He has presented before him the Son of His love—His choicest treasure —and yet men persist in their wicked course. No possible ground, then, will the sinner have to appeal against the sentence of the Judge of all the earth, seeing that He not only offered mercy toward him—but also bore with him in so much patience—when He might justly have smitten him down upon the first crime he ever committed, and thrown him to Hell upon the first refusal of his offered grace.
That God shall punish every rebel against Himself, is required by the very perfections of His high sovereignty. It is but proper, that He should display His governmental supremacy. The creature has dared to assert its independency: the subject has risen up in arms against his King; therefore, the right of God's throne must be vindicated, "Now I know that the Lord is greater than all other gods, for he did this to those who had treated Israel arrogantly" (Exodus 18:11). When Pharaoh dared to pit himself against Jehovah, God manifested His authority by destroying him at the Red Sea. Another king He turned into a beast, to make him know that the Most High rules in the kingdom of men. So, when the history of this world is wound up, God will make a full and final manifestation of His sovereign majesty. Though He now endures (not "loves") with much patience, the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction; it is that, in the coming Day, He may "show His wrath and make His power known" (Romans 9:22).
2. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—serves to expose the folly and madness of the greater part of mankind, in that for the sake of present momentary gratification, they run the serious risk of enduring all these eternal torments!They prefer a small pleasure—or a little wealth—or a little earthly honor and fame (which lasts but "for a season")—to an escape from the Lake of Fire. If it is true that the torments of Hell are everlasting, what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? How mad men are—who hear and read of these things and pretend to believe them, who are alive but a little while, a few short years at most, and yet who are careless about what becomes of themselves in the next world, where there is neither change nor end! How mad are they who hear that if they go on in sin, they shall be eternally miserable—and yet are not moved—but hear it with as much indifference as if they were not concerned in the matter at all! And yet for all they know to the contrary, they may be in fiery torments before another week is at an end!
How sad to note that this unconcern is shared by the great majority of our fellows. Age makes little difference. The young are occupied with pleasures, the middle-aged with worldly advancement, the aged with their attainments or lack of them. With the young—it is the lust of the flesh; with the middle-aged—it is the lust of the eyes; with the aged—it is the pride of life, which banishes from their minds all serious thoughts of the life to come. "The hearts of men, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live—and afterward they join the dead!" (Ecclesiastes 9:3). O the blinding power of sin! O the deceitfulness of riches! O the perversity of the human heart! Nothing so reveals these things—as the incredible sight of men and women enjoying themselves and being at rest, while they are suspended over the eternal burning by the frail thread of mortality, which may be snapped at any moment!
3. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—ought to make every unsaved reader to tremble, as he scans these pages.These things are no mere abstractions—but dread realities, as countless thousands have already discovered to their bitter cost! They may not seem real to you now—but in a short time at most—should you continue to reject the Christ of God—they will be your portion! You, too, shall lift up your eyes in Hell, and behold the saints in heaven. You, too, shall crave a drop of water to alleviate your fearful agony; but it will be in vain. You, too, shall cry for mercy; but then it will be too late. O unsaved reader, we beg you not to throw this aside and seek to dismiss the subject from your thoughts. That is how thousands before you have acted, and the very memory of their folly only accentuates their misery. Far better had you been made wretched now for a time—than that you should weep and wail and gnash your teeth forever! Far better that you have your present false peace broken—than that you should be a stranger to real peace for all eternity.
"Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish." Whoever you are, whether young or old, whether rich or poor, whether religious or profane—if you are in a Christless state, then this is what awaits you at the end of your present course. This, this is the Hell over which you now hang, and into which you are ready to drop this very moment. It is vain for you to flatter yourself with hopes that you shall avoid it—or to say in your heart, "Perhaps it may not be—perhaps things have been represented worse than they really are." These things are according to the Word of Truth, and if you will not be convinced by that Word when presented to you by men in the name of God—then God Himself will yet undertake to prove to you, that these things are so!
Do not think it strange, that God should deal so severely with you—or that the wrath you shall suffer shall be so great. For great as it is, it is no greater than the mercy which you now despise. The love of God, His marvelous grace in sending His own Son to die for sinners—is every whit as great and astonishing as this inexpressible wrath. You have refused to accept Christ as the Savior from the wrath to come, you have despised God's dying love—why then should you not suffer wrath as great as that grace and love which you have rejected? Does it still seem incredible that God should so harden His heart against a poor sinner—as to bear down upon him with infinite power and merciless wrath? Then pause and ask, Is it any greater—than it is for me to harden my heart against Him, against infinite mercy, against the Son of His love?
O dear friends, face this question of Christ Himself, "How can you escape the damnation of Hell?" (Matthew 23:33). There is only one way of escape, and that is to flee to the Savior. If you would not fall into the hands of the living God, then cast yourself into the arms of the Christ who died, "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him" (Psalm 2:12).
4. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—ought to make every professing Christian diligently examine himself.Weigh carefully, the tremendously solemn issues which turn on whether or not you have really passed from death unto life. You cannot afford to be uncertain. There is far too much at stake. Remember that you are prejudiced in your own favor. Remember that you have a treacherous heart. Remember that the Devil is the great Deceiver of souls. Remember that "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Proverbs 14:12). Remember it is written that "Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:22-23).
There are many who now wear the guise of saints, who appear like saints, and their state, both in their own eyes and that of their neighbors is satisfactory. And yet they have on only sheep's clothing; at heart—they are wolves. But no disguise can deceive the Judge of all. His eyes are as a flame of fire—they search the hearts and try the thoughts of men.
Therefore, let each take earnest heed that he is not deceived. Compare yourself with the Word of God—for that is the rule by which you will be tried. Test your works, for it is by those, that your heart will be made manifest. Inquire whether you are really living a Christian life; whether or not the fear of God is upon you; whether or not you are mortifying your members which are upon the earth; whether or nor you are "denying ungodliness and worldly lusts," and whether you are living "soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world," for it is thus that "grace" teaches the saints to live. Cry unto God earnestly and frequently, that He will reveal you to yourself, and reveal to you whether you are building upon the Rock—or upon the sand. Make the Psalmist's prayer yours, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life." (Psalm 139:23-24). God will search you hereafter, and make fully manifest what you are, both to yourself and to others. Let each of us, then, humbly request Him to search us now. We have urgent need of Divine help in this matter, for our heart is "deceitful above all things—and desperately wicked."
5. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—should cause those who really enjoy the full assurance of faith to praise God with a loud voice.To each of you we say—God has given you wonderful cause for gratitude and thanksgiving. You, too, justly deserved to suffer the full weight of the wrath of a sin-hating and sin-avenging God! It is not long ago—since you loved darkness rather than light! It is only a short time—since you turned a deaf ear to both God's commands and entreaties. It is only a few years at most—since you despised and rejected His beloved Son! What marvelous grace was it—that snatched you as a brand from the burning! What wondrous love was it—that delivered you from the wrath to come! What matchless mercy was it—that changed you from a child of Hell (Matthew 23:15) to a child of God! O how you should praise the Father for having ever set His love upon you. How you should praise the Son for having died to save you from the Lake of Fire! How you should praise the blessed Spirit for having quickened you into newness of life! And how your appreciation ought now to be expressed—in a life that is glorifying to the triune God. How diligently ought you to seek to learn what is well-pleasing in His sight. How earnestly should you seek His will. How quick should you be to run in the way of His commandments. Let your life correspond with the praises of your lips! "For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins!" Colossians 1:13-14
6. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—ought to stir up all of God's people to a deepened sense of their duty.Fellow-Christian, have you no obligations toward your godless neighbors? If God has made clear these solemn truths to you—does it not deepen your responsibility toward the unsaved? If you have no love for souls, it is greatly to be feared that your own soul is in imminent danger. If you can witness, unmoved, men and women hurrying down the broad road which leads to destruction, then it is seriously to be doubted if you have within you the Spirit of that One who wept over Jerusalem.
It is true you have no power of your own to save a soul from death—but are you faithfully giving out that Word which is the instrument which God uses to bring souls from death unto life? Are you supplicating God as you ought, and depending on Him to bless your efforts to point the lost to the Lamb of God? Are you as fervent as you should be in your cries to God on behalf of the lost? Alas, must you not join the writer as he hangs his head in shame? Is there not reason for each of us to ask God to give us a clearer vision of that indescribably awful portion which awaits every Christ rejecter, and to enable us to act consistent such a vision!
7. The Scriptural doctrine of hell—will yet be the occasion of profoundest praise to God.Whatever difficulties the eternal punishment of the wicked may present to us now—and it is freely granted that it is difficult for our reason to grasp it—and that of necessity, for we are incapable of discerning the infinite malignity of sin, and therefore unable to see what punishment it really deserves—yet, in the Day to come it will be far otherwise. When we behold God's righteous dealings with His enemies, when we hear the sentences being given according to their works, when we see how justly and thoroughly they deserve merciless wrath, and stand by as they are cast into the Lake of Fire, so far from shrinking back in horror—our hearts will give vent to gladsome praise. Just as of old, the overthrow of God's enemies at the Red Sea, caused His people to burst forth in worshipful song, so in the coming Day we shall be moved to rejoicing when we witness the final display of God's holiness and justice in the overthrow and punishment of all who have defied Him! Remember that in the destruction of the wicked God will be glorified—and this it is, which will be the occasion of the rejoicing of His people. Not only will God be "clear" when He judges (Psalm 51:4)—but His perfections will be magnified in the sentences pronounced.
"After this, I heard the sound of a vast crowd in heaven shouting, "Hallelujah! Salvation is from our God. Glory and power belong to him alone. His judgments are just and true. He has punished the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and he has avenged the murder of his servants." Again and again their voices rang, "Hallelujah! The smoke from her ascends forever and forever!" Revelation 19:1-3