A Word of Warning!

Matthew Henry

It is no time to dally and trifle, and speak softly—when precious souls are at stake, and their eternal condition is so nearly concerned. We cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we persuade men. The blood of your soul would lie at our door, if we should not give you warning. But what shall I say? Shall I tell you, that:

1. The God with whom we have to do is a holy, righteous, all-seeing God. That which makes sinners secure is their mistake concerning this. They think of the Almighty as if he were easily deceived—and altogether such a one as themselves. Thus they cheat themselves. But be not deceived—know that God's eye is always upon you. He is fully acquainted with all your secret sins. He hates every sin—and to all who are impenitent, he is a consuming fire! He is too wise to be deceived. He is true to his threatenings.

2. Your precious, immortal soul must shortly appear before God in judgment, to be determined by a righteous doom to an unchangeable condition. You have a jewel in your hands of inestimable value. It is your soul, your precious eternal soul. It is not a trifle, but your own eternal soul; and once lost, it is irrecoverably lost! The gain of all the world cannot compensate it. This soul, at the best, is in a very hazardous state. It is in great danger. You are on a trial for your eternal destiny!

3. If you live and die in a graceless, unsanctified state, as surely as God is in Heaven, you will be to eternity in Hell! Though you make a great profession; though you attain a high reputation among men; though you prophesy in Christ's name; though you excel in gifts; though you abound in usefulness; yet all this, without a living principle of grace in your heart—will never bring you to Heaven.

True grace and holiness are quite different things than what the world imagines them to be. True religion consists in humility and self-denial, and the reigning love of God and contempt of the world. He is the true Christian, who is one inwardly.

4. There are thousands in Hell who, when alive in the world, thought themselves safe. Multitudes have been deceived with dross, which they imagined was gold. They have thought they were rich, when they were not so. There is a generation of such. We have reason then to be jealous of a cheat, in that in which so many have been cheated before us. This should startle us. Take heed lest while you sleep as others did—you perish as they did. How secure was the rich man in the midst of his prosperity! But God called him a fool.

5. The unsanctified heart may have a false peace, while yet it is the devil's palace—and while he, as a strong man armed, keeps it. It would startle you to think of belonging to the devil, of being under his power, of being led captive by him, of being his slave. You would be startled if the devil were to appear to you; but he is as really working in the children of disobedience, as if he appeared to them. When you are going on in a sinful way, and yet say that you will have peace at last—it is the devil that tells you so—you are in the midst of enemies.

6. While you are asleep in carnal security, your damnation does not slumber! The Judge stands before the door. Death is at hand; perhaps within a few days, a few hours death will overtake you. You would be startled, though you put far off the evil day, if I could assure you that you would live but one more year. Will it not awaken you, that I cannot assure you, nor can you assure yourself, that you shall live one more day? The veil of flesh is easily and quickly rent, and then appears the solemn scene of eternity—eternity! Have you not seen many, who were as likely to live as yourself, snatched away by death? How startling was the declaration: "This night your soul shall be required of you!"

A criminal who is condemned to die tomorrow, cannot forget it—the thought fills him while eating, drinking, or sleeping. And can we forget the amazing doom, the amazing sight, the amazing gulf that we are just upon the brink of—just ready to step into?

7. As the tree falls, so it lies—and so it will lie to eternity. As death leaves us—judgment finds us. The doom is irreversible, the sentence is irrevocable, the condition on the other side death is unchangeable. A gulf will be fixed. It is too late to repent in the grave. Up and bestir yourself, for you have only a little inch of time in which to prepare for eternity.

But let me direct you. When a man asleep is roused a little, he is, in some measure, capable of advice. Know then, generally, what you must do. Sleep no longer—prepare to meet death!

1. Suspect yourself as to your spiritual state; self-suspicion is the first step towards awakening. What if, after all, my faith should be non-saving—and my hope, mere presumption? What reason have I to be so very confident? May I not be deceived? Many who eat bread with Christ, yet lift up the heel against him. The disciples, when our Lord intimated that one of them should betray him, began to say unto him, one by one, "Is it I?" Do not, in a matter of such great importance, take your eternal destiny for granted.

2. See and be convinced of the miserable state you are in while out of Christ. You are not the more safe, for feeling secure. Look about you; consider the genuineness of your spiritual state. See yourself wretched and miserable, a child of wrath. Be sensible of the guilt of sin that lies upon you, and the power of sin that rules in you. You are under the power of Satan. You are exposed to the curse of God. There is a short space between you and Hell. And is this a condition for a man to sleep in?

3. Stir up yourself to a due concern about your soul, and your eternal welfare. Inquire as they did when awake, who are mentioned by the prophet Micah, 'With what shall I come before the Lord?' Inquire as those new converts in the Acts of the Apostles, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?' Inquire as the jailer did, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?'

There begins to be some hope for people when they look about them as men concerned for their eternal welfare. Here I am now—but where must I be to eternity? If I should die tonight, and go to judgment—then what would become of my precious soul? That is the holy fear which is the beginning of wisdom.

Seek unto Jesus Christ for life and light, and Christ shall give you light. We must go to him by an active faith, and consent to the gospel proposal of salvation by him. Say: Where shall I go, but to Christ? Sense of danger should drive us to him with all speed. We are never truly awake—until by faith we have 'put on the Lord Jesus Christ.'

4. Set yourself with all diligence to do the work for which you were sent into the world. Awake to righteousness. Up, and be doing. Your work is great; your journey is long; your enemies are many; your opposition is powerful; your strength is small; your time is short and uncertain. Son, go work today in the vineyard. Do you not see how it is grown over with thorns?

5. Strike while the iron is hot! Take heed of delays. They have ruined thousands. 'Yet a little sleep,' said the ancient slumberers. Men are roused and disturbed a little, but they only turn and go to sleep again, and so become conviction-proof—they can sleep in the midst of a thousand calls. Take heed of ignoring conviction; it is bad freezing again, after a thaw. Let not this call be lost after all the rest. What effect it will have I know not, but I have delivered my soul.