The Alarm and Inquiry!
James Smith, 1855
"The sinners in Zion are terrified! Trembling grips the godless! Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Isaiah 33:14
These 'sinners in Zion' represent the Church of God. The inhabitants of Zion were professors of religion. Likewise, many profess the Christian religion — who are not really Christians. They are strangers to the new birth. They have never passed from death unto life. Their opinions perhaps are changed — but their hearts remain just as they were. Their lives may be moral — but their hearts are not spiritual. They are enemies to God — though they profess to be his friends. They are rebels against the government of Jesus — while they profess to be his loyal subjects.
They are sinners in the most solemn place — and under peculiarly aggravating circumstances! Surrounded with gospel light — they go on in darkness. Commending the Savior with their lips — they withhold from him the heart. By professing Christ — they cry, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" But by living in sin — they cry, "Crucify him, crucify him!" They are not struggling with sin — but sternly attached to sin! It is not weakness which is the cause of their conduct — but wickedness. They are hypocrites — that is, they wear a mask. They pretend to be what they well know they are not. With their mouths they show much love to Christ — but their hearts go after their lusts!
Reader, it is a dreadful thing . . .
to be a hypocrite;
to be found among the Lord's people, while not really of them;
to profess Christ, and not to possess Christ!
You may deceive men — but you cannot deceive God. A mere profession may do when in health and strength — but it will not do for sickness and death. You may be bold and fearless now — but when God shall unmask you, and expose the nakedness of your soul — then you will be afraid, fearfulness and trembling will seize upon you suddenly. If you are indulging in any known sin, under a profession of religion — you are a 'sinner in Zion' — and your state is most dangerous!
The time is coming, when the 'sinners in Zion' shall be afraid. God has threatened them. He has threatened them with his sorest judgments. He is true and faithful to his word. His nature is unchangeable. You may change — but he cannot. His wrath is eternal — for it is his just displeasure against sin, it is his righteous opposition to the sinner. He hates all sin. But he especially hates deception. Hypocrisy is odious in his sight. He has pronounced the most dreadful woes against all such. They will not find any mercy at his hands — if they persevere in their hypocrisy.
They are generally afraid of trials — but how will they meet death? And if they are afraid of death, how will they stand in the judgment? How will they be able to lift up their faces before him, whose eyes are as a flame of fire, who has been witness to all their hypocrisy, and who hates all the workers of iniquity!
Hypocrites are generally bold, conceited, confident, and daring — while things go smooth with them; but fearfulness will surprise them — -when death seizes upon them, or God calls them to appear before him in judgment. The Lord Jesus is coming. He is coming in power and great glory. He is coming to judge the world in righteousness. He is coming to render to every man according to his works. In the prospect of that day he proposes the most solemn QUESTIONS:
"Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire?" The element of fire is opposed to our nature. It inflicts the most dreadful pains. It is used by the Lord to represent the punishment that is to be inflicted upon all ungodly people. It is not merely fire — but consuming fire. Fire in its strength. Fire raging as it does when well fed with fuel. O how dreadful to be tormented in that flame! To be surrounded by that fierce, scorching, destructive element! Sinner! think of devouring fire, a lake of devouring fire — it is the due desert of your sins!
"Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Then, there are everlasting burnings! There is a fire that never shall be quenched! There are torments that shall never, never, never end! Yes, while God lives to punish, while the cause of punishment remains — the sinner must be punished! The torments of Hell will not purify. The lost are never sanctified by their sufferings in Hell. They will sin yet more and more — and justice requires that punishment should continue to be inflicted.
Impenitent sinners are to dwell with everlasting burnings. Hell is to be their unchangeable residence, their eternal portion. O what a dwelling! What a doom! What a destiny! And yet it is just — strictly just!
Let us then press home the question upon our consciences: "Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Can a question be more solemn? Is it not necessary? Ought it not to alarm us? Can we be justified in postponing the consideration of it, even for one hour? For one moment?
My reader, are you a mere professor? Are you surrounded by such? God directs you to put the question to your own conscience, and to your fellows, "Who of us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who of us can dwell with everlasting burnings?" Ah! What if you should! What if your profession should end in this doom! What if your hope should prove like the spider's web? What if while you cry, "Peace and safety!" — that sudden destruction should come upon you? It may! It is possible. Is it probable? Search and look. Examine your heart. Examine impartially. Examine thoroughly. A mistake here is fearful, it is fatal, it may be irremediable.
Deceitful and deceiving professor — ponder these solemn questions. They are especially addressed to you. Every false covering will soon be stripped off. Your heart and your life will be laid bare — by the holy, sin-hating, sin-punishing God! We must sound the alarm! We would alarm you to prevent your ruin! We would be faithful — that you may be saved. Take heed that you do not eternally perish! Take heed that you do not persevere in hypocrisy — until it is too late. Do not even dream of redemption from the devouring fire, when once in it — or of the everlasting burnings being quenched! That is the greatest folly. It is an invention of the father of lies, to deceive your souls, and secure your damnation!
Now, you are under the reign of mercy; now, you are within sight of the cross; now, while the gospel invites you — confess your folly, deplore your criminality, sue for pardon, seek for sanctifying grace, and escape, escape, escape from the devouring fire! Flee, flee, flee from the everlasting burnings!!! But if you persevere in sin, if you continue to practice hypocrisy, I solemnly warn you, that you shall surely perish! Hell will be opened to meet you at your death, the fierce flames of damnation will curl around you, the doors of the horrid prison of despair will close upon you — and you will be lost, lost, lost forever!
Your destruction will be your own act and deed — the effect of the course you have chosen, of the line of conduct you have pursued. Repent then and turn to God, so your iniquity shall not be your ruin. For, if you do not repent — it surely will. It deserves Hell. It demands punishment. It appeals to the justice of God, and its appeal will be regarded. A just God must punish the impenitent sinner. Hear then, the warning voice! Flee from the wrath to come. Hasten and escape from the consuming fire — from the everlasting burnings! Flee, flee for refuge, and lay hold of the hope set before you in the gospel. Life and death are set before you, therefore choose life that you may live — live and be happy forever!
Now hear the words of God, O man,
"Sinners among you all who can
With everlasting burnings dwell?
The wicked shall be cast to Hell!"
Hell is that woeful, dreadful place,
Where Jesus never shows his face;
Where sinners with devils must remain,
In hopeless horrors, endless pain!
God's wrath, without his mercy's there,
Wrath without mercy, who can bear?
How hot the fire, how huge the load,
Your sufferings show, O Son of God.
O man, let goodness make you melt.
Consider what the Lord has felt;
Repent, and to your Savior turn,
Who died that you may never burn!
But if the Savior you despise,
And trust in vanity and lies;
Your doom is fixed — that doom is Hell,
You must with endless burnings dwell!
Tempests of angry fire will roll,
And beat upon your naked soul!
Then fly, at once, to Jesus fly,
And on his perfect work rely.
His arms are open to receive,
All who in his dear name believe;
He loves to pardon, waits to bless
With all the riches of his grace!