Sermon 137. Mercy, Omnipotence, and Justice
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 21, 1857, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked."-Nahum 1:3.
WORKS OF ART require some education in the beholder, before they can be thoroughly appreciated. We do not expect that theuninstructed should at once perceive the varied excellencies of a painting from some master hand; we do not imagine that thesuperlative glories of the harmonies of the prince of song will enrapture the ears of clownish listeners. There must be somethingin the man himself, before he can understand the wonders either of nature or of art. Certainly thisis true of character. By reason of failures in our character and faults in our life, we are not capable of understandingall the separate beauties, and the united perfection of the character of Christ, or of God, his Father. Were we ourselvesas pure as the angels in heaven, were we what our race once was in the garden of Eden, immaculate and perfect, it is quitecertain that we should have a far better and nobler idea of the character of God than we can by possibility attain unto inour fallenstate. But you can not fail to notice, that men, through the alienation of their natures, are continually misrepresentingGod, because they can not appreciate his perfection. Does God at one time withhold his hand from wrath? Lo, they say thatGod hath ceased to judge the world, and looks upon it with listless phlegmatic indifference. Does he at another time punishthe world for sin? They say he is severe and cruel. Men will misunderstand him, because they are imperfect themselves, andare notcapable of admiring the character of God.
Now, this is especially true with regard to certain lights and shadows in the character of God, which he has so marvelouslyblended in the perfection of his nature: that although we can not see the exact point of meeting, yet (if we have been atall enlightened by the Spirit) we are struck with wonder at the sacred harmony. In reading holy Scripture, you can say ofPaul, that he was noted for his zeal-of Peter, that he will ever be memorable for his courage-of John, thathe was noted for his lovingness. But did you ever notice, when you read the history of our Master, Jesus Christ, thatyou never could say he was notable for any one virtue at all? Why was that? It was because the boldness of Peter did so outgrowitself as to throw other virtues into the shade, or else the other virtues were so deficient that they set forth his boldness.The very fact of a man being noted for something is a sure sign that he is not so notable in other things; and it is becauseof the complete perfection of Jesus Christ, that we are not accustomed to say of him that he was eminent for his zeal,or for his love, or for his courage. We say of him that he was a perfect character; but we are not able very easily to perceivewhere the shadows and the lights blended, where the meekness of Christ blended into his courage, and where his lovelinessblended into his boldness in denouncing sin. We are not able to detect the points where they meet; and I believe the morethoroughly we are sanctified, the more it will be a subject of wonder to us how it could be that virtues which seemedso diverse were in so majestic a manner united in one character.
It is just the same of God; and I have been led to make the remarks I have made on my text, because of the two clauses thereofwhich seem to describe contrary attributes. You will notice that there are two things in my text: he is "slow to anger," andyet he "will not at all acquit the wicked." Our character is so imperfect that we can not see the congruity of these two attributes.We are wondering, perhaps, and saying, "How is it he is slow to anger, and yet will notacquit the wicked?" It is because his character is perfect that we do not see where these two things melt into each other-theinfallible righteousness and severity of the ruler of the world, and his loving-kindness, his long-suffering, and his tendermercies. The absence of any one of these things from the character of God would have rendered it imperfect; the presence ofthem all, though we may not see how they can be congruous with each other, stamps the character of God with a perfectionelsewhere unknown.
And now I shall endeavor this morning to set forth these two attributes of God, and the connecting link. "The Lord is slow to anger;" then comes the connecting link, "great in power." I shall have to show you how that "great in power" refers to the sentence foregoing and the sentence succeeding.And then we shall consider the next attribute-"He will not at all acquit the wicked:" an attribute of justice.
I. Let us begin with the first characteristic of God. He is said to be "SLOW TO ANGER." Let me declare the attribute and thentrace it to its source.
God is "slow to anger." When Mercy cometh into the world, she driveth winged steeds; the axles of her chariot-wheels are glowinghot with speed; but when Wrath cometh, it walketh with tardy footsteps; it is not in haste to slay, it is not swift to condemn.God's rod of mercy is ever in his hands outstretched; God's sword of justice is in its scabbard: not rusted in it-it can beeasily withdrawn-but held there by that hand that presses it back into its sheath, crying,"Sleep, O sword, sleep; for I will have mercy upon sinners, and will forgive their transgressions." God hath many oratorsin heaven; some of them speak with swift words. Gabriel, when he cometh down to tell glad tidings, speaketh swiftly; angelichosts, when they descend from glory, fly with wings of lightning, when they proclaim, "Peace on earth, good will toward men;"but the dark angel of Wrath is a slow orator; with many a pause between, where melting Pity joins her languid notes, hespeaks; and when but half his oration is completed he often stays, and withdraws himself from his rostrum, giving wayto Pardon and to Mercy; he having but addressed the people that they might be driven to repentance, and so might receive peacefrom the scepter of God's love.
Brethren, I shall just try to show you now how God is slow to anger.
First I will prove that he is "slow to anger;" because he never smites without first threatening. Men who are passionate and swift in anger give a word and a blow; sometimes the blow first and the word afterward. Oftentimeskings, when subjects have rebelled against them, have crushed them first, and then reasoned with them afterward; they havegiven no time of threatening, no period of repentance; they have allowed no space for turning to their allegiance; theyhave at once crushed them in their hot displeasure, making a full end of them. Not so God: he will not cut down the treethat doth much cumber the ground, until he hath digged about it, and dunged it; he will not at once slay the man whose characteris the most vile; until he has first hewn him by the prophets he will not hew him by judgments; he will warn the sinner erehe condemn him; he will send his prophets, "rising up early and late," giving him "line upon line, and precept upon precept,here a little and there a little." He will not smite the city without warning; Sodom shall not perish, until Lot hathbeen within her. The world shall not be drowned, until eight prophets have been preaching in it, and Noah, the eighth, comethto prophesy of the coming of the Lord. He will not smite Nineveh until he hath sent a Jonah. He will not crush Babylon tillhis prophets have cried through its streets. He will not slay a man until he hath given many warnings, by sicknesses, by thepulpit, by providences, and by consequences. He smites not with a heavy blow at once; he threateneth first. He doth notin grace, as in nature, send lightnings first and thunder afterward; but he sendeth the thunder of his law first, and thelightning of execution follows it. The lictor of divine justice carries his axe bound up in a bundle of rods, for he willnot cut off men, until he has reproved them, that they may repent. He is "slow to anger."
But again: God is also very slow to threaten. Although he will threaten before he condemns, yet he is slow even in his threatening. God's lips move swiftly when he promises,but slowly when he threatens. Long rolls the pealing thunder, slowly roll the drums of heaven, when they sound the death marchof sinners; sweetly floweth the music of the rapid notes which proclaim free grace, and love, and mercy. God is slow to threaten.He will not send a Jonah to Nineveh,until Nineveh has become foul with sin; he will not even tell Sodom it shall be burned with fire, until Sodom has becomea reeking dung-hill, obnoxious to earth as well as heaven; he will not drown the world with a deluge, or even threaten todo it, until the sons of God themselves make unholy alliances and begin to depart from him. He doth not even threaten thesinner by his conscience, until the sinner hath oftentimes sinned. He will often tell the sinner of his sins, often urge himtorepent; but he will not make hell stare him hard in the face, with all its dreadful terror, until much sin has stirredup the lion from his lair, and made God hot with wrath against the iniquities of man. He is slow even to threaten.
But, best of all, when God threatens, how slow he is to sentence the criminal! When he has told them that he will punish unless they repent, how long a space he gives them, in which to turn unto himself!"He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men for naught;" he stayeth his hand; he will not be in hot haste,when he hath threatened them, to execute the sentence upon them. Have you ever observed that scene in the garden of Eden atthe time of thefall? God had threatened Adam that if he sinned he should surely die. Adam sinned: did God make haste to sentence him?'Tis sweetly said, "The Lord God walked in the garden in the cool of the day." Perhaps that fruit was plucked at early morn,mayhap it was plucked at noontide; but God was in no haste to condemn; he waited till the sun was well nigh set, and in thecool of the day came, and as an old expositor has put it very beautifully, when he did come he did not come on wings of wrath,buthe "walked in the garden in the cool of the day." He was in no haste to slay. I think I see him, as he was represented then to Adam,in those glorious days when God walked with man. Methinks I see the wonderful similitude in which the Unseen did vail himself:I see it walking among the trees so slowly-ay, if it were right to give such a picture-beating its breast, and shedding tearsthat it should have to condemn man. At last I hear its doleful voice: "Adam, where art thou? Where hastthou cast thyself, poor Adam? Thou hast cast thyself from my favor; thou hast cast thyself into nakedness and into fear;for thou art hiding thyself Adam, where art thou? I pity thee. Thou thoughtest to be God. Before I condemn thee I will givethee one note of pity. Adam, where art thou?" Yes, the Lord was slow to anger, slow to write the sentence, even though thecommand had been broken, and the threatening was therefore of necessity brought into force. It was so with the flood: he threatenedthe earth, but he would not fully seal the sentence, and stamp it with the seal of heaven, until he had given space forrepentance. Noah must come, and through his hundred and twenty years must preach the word; he must come and testify to anunthinking and an ungodly generation; the ark must be builded, to be a perpetual sermon; there it must be upon its mountain-top,waiting for the floods to float it, that it might be an every-day warning to the ungodly. O heavens, why did ye not at onceopenyour floods? Ye fountains of the great deep, why did ye not burst up in a moment? God said, "I will sweep away the worldwith a flood." why, why did ye not rise? "Because," I hear them saying with gurgling notes, "because, although God had threatened,he was slow to sentence, and he said in himself, 'Haply they may repent; peradventure they may turn from their sin;' and thereforedid he bid us rest and be quiet, for he is slow to anger."
And yet once more: even when the sentence against a sinner is signed and sealed by heaven's broad seal of condemnation, eventhen God is slow to carry it out. The doom of Sodom is sealed; God hath declared it shall be burned with fire. But God is tardy. He stops. He will himselfgo down to Sodom, that he may see the iniquity of it. And when he gets there guilt is rife in the streets. 'Tis night, andthe crew of worse than beasts besiege the door. Does he then lifthis hands? Does he then say, "Rain hell out of heaven, ye skies?" No, he lets them pursue their riot all night, sparesthem to the last moment, and though when the sun was risen the burning hail began to fall, yet was the reprieve as long aspossible. God was not in haste to condemn. God had threatened to root out the Canaanites; he declared that all the childrenof Ammon should be cut off; he had promised Abraham that he would give their land unto his seed for ever, and they were tobe utterlyslain; but he made the children of Israel wait four hundred years in Egypt, and he let these Canaanites live all throughthe days of the patriarchs; and even then, when he led his avenging ones out of Egypt, he stayed them forty years in the wilderness,because he was loth to slay poor Canaan. "Yet," said he, "I will give them space. Though I have stamped their condemnation,though their death warrant has come forth from the court of King's Bench, and must be executed, yet will I reprieve themas long as I can;" and he stops, until at last mercy had had enough, and Jericho's melting ashes and the destruction ofAi betokened that the sword was out of its scabbard, and God had awaked like a mighty man, and like a strong man full of wrath.God is slow to execute the sentence, even when he has declared it.
And ah! my friends, there is a sorrowful thought that has just crossed my mind. There are some men yet alive who are sentencednow. I believe that Scripture bears me out in a dreadful thought which I just wish to hint at. There are some men that arecondemned before they are finally damned; there are some men whose sins go before them unto judgment, who are given over toa seared conscience, concerning whom it may be said that repentance and salvation are impossible. Thereare some few men in the world who are like John Bunyan's man in the iron cage, can never get out. They are like Esau-theyfind no place of repentance, though, unlike him, they do not seek it, for if they sought it they would find it. Many thereare who have sinned "the sin unto death," concerning whom we can not pray; for we are told, "I do not say that ye shall prayfor it." But why, why, why are they not already in the flame? If they be condemned, if mercy has shut its eye forever uponthem,if it never will stretch out its hand, to give them pardon, why, why, why are they not cut down and swept away? BecauseGod saith, "I will not have mercy upon them, but I will let them live a little while longer; though I have condemned themI am loth to carry the sentence out, and will spare them as long as it is right that man should live; I will let them havea long life here, for they will have a fearful eternity of wrath for ever." Yes, let them have their little whirl of pleasure;theirend shall be most fearful. Let them beware, for although God is slow to anger he is sure in it.
If God were not slow to anger, would he not have smitten this huge city of ours, this behemoth city?-would he not have smittenit into a thousand pieces, and blotted out the remembrance of it from the earth? The iniquities of this city are so great,that if God should dig up her very foundations, and cast her into the sea, she well deserveth it. Our streets at night presentspectacles of vice that can not be equaled. Surely there can be no nation and no country that canshow a city so utterly debauched as this great city of London, if our midnight streets are indications of our immorality.You allow in your public places of resort-I mean you-my lords and ladies-you allow things to be said in your hearing, of whichyour modesty ought to be ashamed. Ye can sit in theaters to hear plays at which modesty should blush; I say naught of piety.That the ruder sex should have listened to the obscenities of La Traviata is surely bad enough, but that ladies of thehighest refinement, and the most approved taste, should dishonor themselves by such a patronage of vice is indeed intolerable.Let the sins of the lower theaters escape without your censure, ye gentlemen of England, the lowest bestiality of the nethermosthell of a playhouse can look to your opera-houses for their excuse. I thought that with the pretensions this city makes topiety, for sure, they would not have so far gone, and that after such a warning as they have had from the press itself-apress which is certainly not too religious-they would not so indulge their evil passions. But because the pill is gilded,ye suck down the poison; because the thing is popular, ye patronize it: it is lustful, it is abominable, it is deceitful!Ye take your children to hear what yourselves never ought to listen to. Ye yourselves will sit in gay and grand company, tolisten to things from which your modesty ought to revolt. And I would fain hope it does, although the tide may for a whiledeceiveyou. Ah I God only knoweth the secret wickedness of this great city; it demandeth a loud and a trumpet voice; it needsa prophet to cry aloud, "Sound an alarm, sound an alarm, sound an alarm," in this city; for verily the enemy groweth uponus, the power of the evil one is mighty, and we are fast going to perdition, unless God shall put forth his hand and rollback the black torrent of iniquity that streameth down our streets. But God is slow to anger, and doth still stay his sword.Wrath saidyesterday, "Unsheath thyself, O sword;" and the sword struggled to get free. Mercy put her hand upon the hilt, and said,"Be still!" "Unsheath thyself, O sword!" Again it struggled from its scabbard. Mercy put her hand on it, and said, "Back!"-andit rattled back again. Wrath stamped his foot, and said, "Awake, O sword, awake!" It struggled yet again, till half its bladewas outdrawn; "Back, back!" said Mercy, and with manly push she sent it back rattling into its sheath; and there it sleepsstill, for the Lord is "slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy."
Now I am to trace this attribute of God to its source: why is he slow to anger?
He is slow to anger because he is infinitely good. Good is his name; "good"-God. Good is his nature; because he in slow to anger.
He is slow to anger, again, because he is great. Little things are always swift in anger; great things are not so. The surly cur barks at every passer-by, and bears no insult;the lion would bear a thousand times as much; and the bull sleeps in his pasture, and will bear much, before he lifteth uphis might. The leviathan in the sea, though he makes the deep to be hoary when he is enraged, yet is slow to be stirred up,while the little and puny are always swift inanger. God's greatness is one reason of the slowness of his wrath.
II. But to proceed at once to the link. A great reason why he is slow to anger, is because he is GREAT IN POWER. This is tobe the connecting link between this part of the subject and the last, and therefore I must beg your attention. I say thatthis word great in power connects the first sentence to the last; and it does so in this way. The Lord is slow to anger; and he is slow to anger becausehe is great in power. "How say you so?"-says one. I answer, he that isgreat in power has power over himself; and he that can keep his own temper down, and subdue himself, is greater than hewho rules a city, or can conquer nations. We heard but yesterday, or the day before, mighty displays of God's power in therolling thunder which alarmed us; and when we saw the splendor of his might in the glistening lightning, when be lifted upthe gates of heaven and we saw the brightness thereof, and then he closed them again upon the dusty earth in a moment-eventhen wedid not see any thing but the hidings of his power, compared with the power which he has over himself. When God's powerdoth restrain himself, then it is power indeed, the power to curb power, the power that binds omnipotence in omnipotence surpassed.God is great in power, and therefore doth he keep in his anger. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted, can bearoffenses, because be is strong. The weak mind snaps and snarls at the little; the strong mind bears it like a rock; itmoveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in the spray upon its summit. God markethhis enemies, and yet he moveth not; he standeth still, and letteth them curse him, yet is he not wrathful. If he were lessof a God than he is, if he were less mighty than we know him to be, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of histhunder, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous mines he hathprepared in its lower surface; the flame that burneth there would have consumed us, and we should have been utterly destroyed.We bless God that the greatness of his power is just our protection; he is slow to anger because he is great in power.
And, now, there is no difficulty in showing how this link unites itself with the next part of the text, "He is great in power,and will not at all acquit the wicked." This needs no demonstration in words; I have but to touch the feelings, and you willsee it. The greatness of his power is an assurance, and an assurance that he will not acquit the wicked. Who among you couldwitness the storm on Friday night without having thoughts concerning your own sinfulness stirred inyour bosoms? Men do not think of God the punisher, or Jehovah the avenger, when the sun is shining, and the weather calm; but in times of tempest, whose cheek is not blanched? The Christian oftentimes rejoiceth in it; he can say, "My soul iswell at ease, amid this revelry of earth; I do rejoice in it; it is a day of feasting in my Father's hall, a day of high-feastand carnival in heaven, and I am glad.
"The God that reigns on high,
And thunders when he please,
That rides upon the stormy sky,
And manages the seas,
This awful God is ours,
Our Father and our love,
He shall send down his heavenly powers,
To carry us above."
But the man who is not of an easy conscience will be ill at ease when the timbers of the house are creaking, and the foundationsof the solid earth seem to groan. Ah! who is he then that doth not tremble? Yon lofty tree is riven in half; that lightningflash has smitten its trunk, and there it lies for ever blasted, a monument of what God can do. Who stood there and saw it?Was he a swearer? Did he swear then? Was he a Sabbath-breaker? Did he love his Sabbath-breakingthen? Was he haughty? Did he then despise God? Ah! how he shook then! Saw you not his hair stand on end? Did not his cheekblanch in an instant? Did he not close his eyes and start back in horror when he saw that dreadful spectacle, and thoughtGod would smite him too? Yes, the power of God, when seen in the tempest, on sea or on land, in the earthquake or in the hurricane,is instinctively a proof that he will not acquit the wicked. I know not how to explain the feeling, but it is neverthelessthe truth; majestic displays of omnipotence have an effect upon the mind of convincing even the hardened, that God, whois so powerful, "will not at all acquit the wicked." Thus have I just tried to explain and make bare the link of the chain.
III. The last attribute, and the most terrible one, is, "HE WILL NOT AT ALL ACQUIT THE WICKED." Let me unfold this, firstof all; and then let me, after that, endeavor to trace it also to its scarce, as I did the first attribute.
God "will not acquit the wicked." How prove I this? I prove it thus. Never once has he pardoned an unpunished sin; not inall the years of the Most High, not in all the days of his right hand, has he once blotted out sin without punishment. What!say you, were not those in heaven pardoned? Are there not many transgressors pardoned, and do they not escape without punishment?Has he not said, "I have blotted out thy transgressions like a cloud, and like a thick cloud thineiniquities?" Yes, true, most true, and yet my assertion is true also-not one of all those sins that have been pardonedwere pardoned without punishment. Do you ask me why and how such a thing as that can be the truth? I point you to yon dreadfulsight on Calvary; the punishment which fell not on the forgiven sinner fell there. The cloud of justice was charged with fieryhail; the sinner deserved it; it fell on him; but, for all that, it fell, and spent its fury; it fell there, in that greatreservoir of misery; it fell into the Saviour's heart. The plagues, which need should light on our ingratitude, did notfall on us, but they fell somewhere; and who was it that was plagued? Tell me, Gethsemane; tell me, O Calvary's summit, whowas plagued. The doleful answer comes, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" "My God, my God, why hart thou forsaken me?" It is Jesussuffering all the plagues of sin. Sin is still punished, though the sinner is delivered.
But, you say, this has scarcely proved that he will not acquit the wicked. I hold it has proved it, and proved it clearly.But do ye want any further proof that God will not acquit the wicked? Need I lead you through a long list of terrible wondersthat God has wrought-the wonders of his vengeance? Shall I show you blighted Eden? Shall I let you see a world all drowned-seamonsters whelping and stabling in the palaces of kings? Shall I let you hear the last shriek of thelast drowning man as he falls into the flood and dies, washed by that huge wave from the hill-top? Shall I let you seedeath riding upon the summit of a crested billow, upon a sea that knows no shore, and triumphing because his work is done;his quiver empty, for all men are slain, save where life floats in the midst of death in yonder ark? Need I let you see Sodomwith its terrified inhabitants, when the volcano of almighty wrath spouted fiery hail upon it? Shall I show you the earthopeningits mouth to swallow up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram? Need I take you to the plagues of Egypt? Shall I again repeat the death-shriekof Pharaoh, and the drowning of his host? Surely, ye need not to be told of cities that are in ruins, or of nations that havebeen cut off in a day; ye need not to be told how God has smitten the earth from one side to the other, when he has been wroth,and how he has melted mountains in his hot displeasure. Nay, we have proofs enough in history, proofs enough inScripture, that "he will not at all acquit the wicked." If ye wanted the best proof, however, ye should borrow the blackwings of a miserable imagination, and fly beyond the world, through the dark realm of chaos, on, far on, where those battlementsof fire are gleaming with a horrid light-if through them, with a spirit's safety, ye would fly, and would behold the wormthat never dies, the pit that knows no bottom, and could you there see the fire unquenchable, and listen to the shrieks andwails of men that are banished for ever from God-if, sirs, it were possible for you to hear the sullen groans and hollowmoans, and shrieks of tortured ghosts, then would ye come back to this world, amazed and petrified with horror, and you wouldsay, "Indeed he will not acquit the wicked." You know, hell is the argument of the text; may you never have to prove the textby feeling in yourselves the argument fully carried out, "He will not at all acquit the wicked."
And now we trace this terrible attribute to its source. Why is this ?
We reply, God will not acquit the wicked, because he is good. What! doth goodness demand that sinners shall be punished? It doth. The Judge must condemn the murderer, because he loveshis nation. "I can not let you go free; I can not, and I must not; you would slay others, who belong to this fair commonwealth,if I were to let you go free; no, I must condemn you from the very loveliness of my nature." The kindness of a king demandsthe punishment of those who areguilty. It is not wrathful in the legislature to make severe laws against great sinners; it is but love toward the restthat sin should be restrained. Yon great flood-gates, which keep back the torrent of sin, are painted black, and look righthorrible; like horrid dungeon gates, they affright my spirit; but are they proofs that God is not good? No, sirs; if ye couldopen wide those gates, and let the deluge of sin flow on us, then would you cry "O God, O God! shut-to the gates of punishmentagain, let law again be established, set up the pillars and swing the gates upon their hinges; shut again the gates ofpunishment, that this world may not again be utterly destroyed by men who have become worse than brutes." It needs for verygoodness' sake that sin should be punished, Mercy, with her weeping eyes (for she hath wept for sinners), when she finds theywill not repent, looks more terribly stern in her loveliness than Justice in all his majesty; she drops the white flag fromherhand, and saith-"No; I called, and they refused; I stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; let them die, let themdie;"-and that terrible word from the lip of Mercy's self is harsher thunder than the very damnation of Justice. O, yes, thegoodness of God demands that men should perish, if they will sin.
And again, the justice of God demands it. God is infinitely just, and his justice demands that men should be punished, unless they turn to him with full purpose ofheart. Need I pass through all the attributes of God to prove it? Methinks I need not. We must all of us believe that theGod who is slow to anger and great in power is also sure not to acquit the wicked. And now just a home-thrust or two withyou. What is your state this morning? My friend, man or woman,what is thy state? Canst thou look up to heaven and say, "Though I have sinned greatly I believe Christ was punished inmy stead,
"My faith looks back to see,
The burden he did bear,
When hanging on the cursed,
And knows her guilt was there?"
Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, "My substitute, my refuge, my shield; thou art my rock, my trust; in theedo I confide?" Then, beloved, to you I have nothing to say, except this, Never be afraid when you see God's power; for nowthat you are forgiven and accepted, now that by faith you have fled to Christ for refuge, the power of God need no more terrifyyou, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify his wife or his child. "Nay," saith thewoman, "is he strong? He is strong for me. Is his arm brawney, and are all his sinews fast and strong? Then are they fastand strong for me. While he lives, and wears a shield, he will stretch it over my head; and while his good sword can cleavefoes, it will cleave my foes too, and ransom me." Be of good cheer; fear not his power.
But hast thou never fled to Christ for refuge? Dost thou not believe in the Redeemer? Hast thou never confided thy soul tohis hands? Then, my friends, hear me; in God's name, hear me just a moment. My friend, I would not stand in thy position foran hour, for all the stars twice spelt in gold! For what is thy position? Thou hast sinned, and God will not acquit thee;he will punish thee. He is letting thee live; thou art reprieved. Poor is the life of one that is reprievedwithout a pardon! Thy reprieve will soon run out; thine hour-glass is emptying every day. I see on some of you death hasput his cold hand, and frozen your hair to whiteness. Ye need your staff: it is the only barrier between you and the gravenow; and you are, all of you, old and young, standing on a narrow neck of land, between two boundless seas-that neck of land,that isthmus of life, narrowing every moment, and you, and you, and you, are yet unpardoned. There is a city to be sacked,andyou are in it-soldiers are at the gates; the command is given that every man in the city is to be slaughtered save hewho can give the password. "Sleep on, sleep on; the attack is not to-day; sleep on, sleep on." "But it is to-morrow, sir.""Ay, sleep on, sleep on; it is not till to-morrow; sleep on, procrastinate, procrastinate." "Hark! I hear a rumbling at thegates; the battering-ram is at them; the gates are tottering." "Sleep on, sleep on; the soldiers are not yet at your doors;sleep on,sleep on; ask for no mercy yet; sleep on, sleep on!" "Ay, but I hear the shrill clarion sound; they are in the streets.Hark, to the shrieks of men and women! They are slaughtering them; they fall, they fall, they fall!" "Sleep on; they are notyet at your door." "But hark, they are at the gate; with heavy tramp I hear the soldiers marching up the stairs! "Nay, sleepon, sleep on; they are not yet in your room." "Why, they are there; they have burst open the door that parted you from them,andthere they stand!" "No, sleep on, sleep on; the sword is not yet at your throat; sleep on, sleep on!" It is at your throat,You start with horror. Sleep on, sleep on! But you are gone! "Demon, why toldest thou me to slumber? It would have been wisein me to have escaped the city when first the gates were shaken. Why did I not ask for the password before the troops came?Why, by all that is wise, why did I not rush into the streets, and cry the password when the soldiers were there? Why stoodItill the knife was at my throat? Ay, demon that thou art, be cursed; but I am cursed with thee for ever!" You know theapplication; it is a parable ye can all expound; ye need not that I should tell you that death is after you, that justicemust devour you, that Christ crucified is the only password that can save you; and yet you have not learned it-that with someof you death is nearing, nearing, nearing, and that with all of you he is close at hand! I need not expound how Satan is thedemon,how in hell you shall curse him and curse yourselves because you procrastinated-how, that seeing God was slow to angeryou were slow to repentance-how, because he was great in power, and kept back his anger, therefore you kept back your stepsfrom seeking him; and here you are what you are!
Spirit of God, bless these words to some souls that they may be saved! May some sinners be brought to the Saviour's feet,and cry for mercy! We ask it for Jesus, sake. Amen.