Sermon 486. The Sinner's End
Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 28th, 1862, by
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Until I went into the sanctuary of God; then understood I their end. Surely thou didst set them in slippery places: thoucastedst them down into destruction."-Psalm 73:17, 18.
WANT OF UNDERSTANDING has destroyed many. The dark pit of ignorance has engulfed its thousands. Where the lack of understandinghas not sufficed to slay, it has been able seriously to wound. Lack of understanding upon doctrinal truth, providential dealing,or inward experience, has often caused the people of God a vast amount of perplexity and sorrow, much of which they mighthave avoided had they been more careful to consider and understand the ways of the Lord. My brethren, if our eyes are dim,and our hearts forgetful as to eternal things, we shall be much vexed and tormented in mind, as David was when he understoodnot the sinner's end; for indeed it is a great mystery to ordinary reason to see the ungodly prospering and pampered whilethe righteous are chastened and afflicted. Let us, however, receive a clear understanding with regard to the death, judgment,and condemnation of the proud sinner, then at once our sorrows and suspicions are removed, and petulance gives place to gratitude.See the ox paraded through the streets covered with garlands; who envies its lot when he remembers the axe and the altar?The child may see nothing but the flowers, but from the man of understanding no childish ornament can conceal the victim'smisery.
The best place in which to be instructed with heavenly wisdom is the sanctuary of God. Until David went there he was in amist, but entering its hallowed portals, he stood upon a mountain's summit, and the clouds floated far beneath his feet. Youask me what there could have been in the ancient sanctuary which could have enlightened David as to the end of the wicked.It may be, my brethren, that while he sat before the Lord in prayer, his spirit had such communion with the unseen God, thathe looked into unseen things, and saw, as in an open vision, the ultimate doom of the graceless; or it may be that the hallowedsongs of Israel's congregation foretold the overthrow of the foemen of Jehovah, and stirred the royal soul. Perhaps on thatholy day the priests read in the scanty pages of the then written work some ancient story, such as refreshed the Psalmistin his happier seasons. It may have been that they rehearsed in the ears of the people the years beyond the flood, and theuniversal death which swept a world of sinners to their eternal prisons with a flood of wrath; or it may be that they readconcerning Sodom and Gomorrah, and the fiery shower which utterly consumed the cities of the plain. It is not impossible thatthe theme of meditation led the devout monarch back to the plagues of Egypt, and the day of the Lord's vengeance, when heoverthrew proud Pharaoh and his hosts in the midst of the Red Sea. The book of the wars of the Lord is full of notable records,all revealing most clearly that the right hand of the Lord hath sooner or later dashed in pieces all his enemies.
Possibly when David went into the sanctuary of God the Law was read in his ears. He heard the blessings for obedience, thecurses for rebellion; and as he listened to the thundering anathemas of the law which curses none in vain, it may be thathe said, "Now understand I their end." Certainly a due estimate of the law of God, and the justice which maintains its dignitywill clear up all fears concerning the ultimate escape of the wicked. Such a law and such a judge allow not the slightestsuspicion that sin will always prosper. Moreover, brethren, David could not well go up to the sanctuary without witnessinga sacrifice, and as he saw the knife uplifted and driven into the throat of the victim, and knew that he himself was preservedfrom destruction by the sufferings of a substitute, represented by that lamb, he may have learnt that the wicked, having nosuch sacrifice to trust to, must be led as sheep to the slaughter, and as the bullock is felled by the axe, so must they beutterly destroyed. By some of these means, either by the sight of the sacrifice, or by his own meditations, or by the wordread and the expositions given by prophets or priests in the sanctuary-it was in God's own house that he understood the endof the wicked. I trust, beloved, if you lack understanding in any spiritual matters, you will go up to the house of the Lordto inquire in his temple. The word of God is to us as the Urim and Thummim of the High Priest, prayer asks counsel at thehand of the Lord, and often the lip of the minister is God's oracle to our hearts. If you are vexed at any time because Providenceseems to deal indulgently with the vile, and harshly with you, come ye to the spot where prayer is wont to be made, and whilelearning the justice of God, and the overthrow which he will surely bring upon the impenitent, ye shall go to your housescalmed in mind and disciplined in spirit. May you sing as Dr. Watts puts it-
"I saw the wicked rise, And felt my heart repine, While haughty fools, with scornful eyes, In robes of honor shine. The tumults of my thought Held me in dark suspense, Till to thy house my feet were brought, To learn thy justice thence. Thy word with light and power Did my mistakes amend; I view'd the sinner's life before, But here I learned their end."
This morning we have selected our subject for many ends, but more especially with the anxious desire that we may win soulsfor Christ; that we may see a feast of ingathering at the end of the year; that this may be the best of days to many, thebirthday of many immortal souls. The burden of the Lord weighs down my soul this morning; my heart is filled even to burstingwith an agony of desire that sinners may be saved. O Lord make bare thine arm this day, even this day.
In enlarging upon our solemn subject, first, let us understand the sinner's end; secondly, let us profit by our understandingof it; thirdly, let us, having received this understanding, anxiously and earnestly warn thou whose end this must be exceptthey repent.
I. First, then, gathering up all our powers of mind and thought, LET US ENDEAVOR TO UNDERSTAND THE SINNER'S END. Let me rehearseit in your ears.
The end of the sinner, like the end of every man else in this world, is death. When he dieth, it may be, that he will diegently, for often there are no bands in their death, but their strength is firm. A seared conscience gives a quietude of stupidityjust as a full forgiveness of sin gives a peacefulness of perfect rest. They talk about another world as though they had nodread; they speak of standing before God as though they had no transgression. "Like sheep they are laid in the grave," "Hefell asleep like a child," say his friends; and others exclaim, "He was so happy, that he must be a saint." Ah! this is buttheir apparent end. God knoweth that the dying repose of sinners is but the awful calm which heralds the eternal hurricane.The sun sets in glowing colors, but O the darkness of the black tempestuous night. The waters flash like silver as the souldescends into their bosom, but who shall tell the tenfold horrors which congregate within their dreadful deeps. Frequently,on the other hand, the death of the wicked is not thus peaceful. Not always can the hypocrite play out his game to the end;the mask slips off too soon and conscience tells the truth. Even in this world, with some men, the storm of everlasting wrathbegins to beat upon the soul before it leaves the shelter of the body. Ah, then, the cries, the groans! What dread forebodingsof the unquiet spirits! What visions of judgment! What anxious peerings into the midnight of future banishment and ruin! Ah,then the cravings after a little longer span of life, the clutchings at anything for the bare chance of hope. May your earsbe spared the dreadful outcry of the spirit when it feels itself seized by the hand invisible and dragged downward to itscertain doom. Give me sooner to be shut up in prison for months and years than to stand by dying beds such as I have myselfwitnessed. They have written their memorial on my young heart; the scars of the wounds they gave me are there still. Why thefaces of some men, like mirrors, reflect the flames of hell while yet they live. All this, however, is but of secondary importancecompared with that which follows death. To the ungodly there is awful significance in that verse of the Revelation, "I looked,and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
One woe is past, but there are other woes to come. If death were all, I were not here this morning; for little mattereth itin what style a man dies, if it were not that he shall live again. The sinner's death is the death of all in which he tookdelight. No cups of drunkeness for thee again, no viol, no lute, no sound of music, no more the merry dance, no more the loudlascivious song, no jovial company, no highsounding blasphemies; all these are gone for ever. Dives, thy purple is pluckedfrom off thee, the red games shall be thy mantle. Where now thy fine linen, wherefore is thy nakedness thus revealed to thyshame and contempt? Where now thy delicate tables, O thou who didst fare sumptuously every day? Thy parched lips shall cravein vain the blessed drop to cool thy tongue. Now where are thy riches, thou rich fool? Thy barns are indeed pulled down, butthou needest not build greater, thy corn, thy wine, thine oil have vanished like a dream, and thou art poor indeed, cursedwith a depth of penury such as the dog-licked Lazarus never knew. Death removes every delight from the graceless. It takesaway from his eye, his ear, his hand, his heart, everything which might yield him solace. The cruel Moabites of death shallcut down every fair tree of hope, and fill up with huge stones every well of comfort, and there shall be nothing left forthe spirit but a dreary desert, barren of all joy or hope, which the soul must traverse with weary feet for ever and ever!
Nor is this all. Let us understand their end yet farther. No sooner is the sinner dead than he stands before the bar of Godin his disembodied state. That impure spirit is set before the blazing eye of God. Its deeds are well known to itself; itneeds no opening of the great books as yet. A motion of the eternal finger bids it go its way. Whither can it go? It darenot climb to heaven; there is but one road open: it sinks to its appointed place. The expectation of future torment plaguesthe soul with a self-kindled hell, conscience becomes a never-dying, ever-gnawing worm. Conscience, I say, crieth in the soulsof men, "Now where art thou? Thou art lost, and this thy lost estate thou hast brought upon thyself. Thou art not yet judged"says conscience; "yet thou art lost, for when those books are opened, thou knowest that their records will condemn thee."Memory wakes up and confirms the voice of conscience "'Tis true," she saith, "'tis true." Now the soul remembers its thousandfaults and crimes. The judgment also shakes off its slumber, holds up its scales, and reminds the man that conscience clamoursnot amiss. Hope has been smitten down, but all the fears are living and full of vigor; like serpents with a hundred heads,they sting the heart through and through. The heart bowed down with unnumbered dreads moaneth within itself: "The awful trumpetwill soon sound, my body will rise; I must suffer both in body and in soul for all my wrong-doings, there is no hope for me,no hope for me. Would God I had listened when I was warned! Ah! would to God that I had turned at the faithful rebuke, thatwhen Jesus Christ was presented to me in the Gospel I had believed on him! But no, I despised my own salvation. I chose thefleeting pleasures of time, and for that poor price I have earned eternal ruin. I chose rather to drown my conscience thanto let it lead me to glory. I turned my back upon the right, and now here I am, waiting like a prisoner in a condemned celltill the great assize shall come and I shall stand before the Judge."
Let us go on to consider their end. The day of days, that dreadful day has come. The millennial rest is over, the righteoushave had their thousand years of glory upon earth. Hark! the dread trumpet, louder than a thousand thunders, startles deathand hell. Its awful sound shakes both earth and heaven; every tomb is rent and emptied. From the teeming womb of earth, thatfruitful mother of mankind, up start multitudes upon multitudes of bodies, as though they were new-born; lo, from Hades comethe spirits of the lost ones-and they each enter into the body in which once it sinned, while the righteous sit upon theirthrones of glory, their transformed bodies made like unto the glorious body of Christ Jesus the Lord from heaven. The voiceof the trumpet waxes exceeding loud and long, the sea has given up her dead, from tongues of fire, from lion's jaws, and fromcorruption's worm, all mortal flesh has been restored, atom to atom, bone to bone, at the fiat of Omnipotence all bodies arerefashioned. And now the great white throne is set with pomp of angels. Every eye beholds it. The great books are open, andall men hear the rustling of their awful leaves. The finger of the hand that once was crucified turns leaf after leaf, andnames of men are sounded forth-to glory, to destruction-"Come ye blessed;" "Depart ye cursed:"-these are the final arbitersof glory or of ruin. And now where art thou, sinner, for thy turn is come? Thy sins are read and published! Shame consumesthee. Thy proud face now mantles with a thousand blushes. Thou wouldst cover thyself, but thou canst not, and, most of all,thou art afraid of the face of him who to-day looks on thee with eyes of pity, but then with glances of fiery wrath, the faceof Jesus, the face of the Lamb, the dying Lamb, then enthroned in judgment. Oh how ashamed thou wilt be to think thou hastdespised him, to think that though he died for sinners, thou didst scorn and scoff him, didst malign his followers and slanderhis religion! How piteously wilt thou crave a veil of granite to hide thy shameful face from him. "Rocks hide me! Mountainsfall upon me! Hide me from the face of him that sits upon the throne." But it must not-it must not be.
"Where now, oh, where shall sinners seek For shelter in the general wreck? Shall falling rocks be o'er them thrown? See rocks, like snow, dissolving down."
O, sinner, this is but the beginning of the end, for now thy sentence is read out, thy doom pronounced, hell opens her widejaws, and thou fallest to destruction. Where art thou now? Body and soul re-married in an everlasting union, having sinnedtogether must now suffer together, and that for ever. I cannot picture it; imagination's deepest dye paints not this tenfoldnight. I cannot pourtray the anguish which both soul and body must endure-each nerve a road for the hot feet of pain to travelon, each mental power a blazing furnace heated seven times hotter with raging flames of misery. Oh, my God, deliver us fromever knowing this in our own persons!
Let us now pause and review the matter. It behoves us to remember concerning the sinner's latter end, that it is absolutelycertain. The same "word" which says, "he that believeth shall be saved," makes it also equally certain and clear that "hethat believeth not shall be damned." If God be true, then must sinners suffer. If sinners suffer not, then saints have noglory, our faith is vain, Christ's death was vain, and we may as well abide comfortably in our sins. Sinner, whatever philosophymay urge with its syllogisms, whatever scepticism may declare with her laughter and sneers, it is absolutely certain that,dying as thou art, the wrath of God shall come upon thee to the uttermost. If there were but a thousandth part of a fear thatyou or I might perish, it were wisdom to fly to Christ; but when it is not a "perhaps" or a "peradventure," but an absolutecertainty that he who rejects Christ must be lost for ever, I do conjure you, if ye be rational men, see to it, and set yourhouses in order, for God will surely smite, though he tarry never so long. Though for ninety years thou avoid the arrows ofhis bow, his bolt will in due time find thee, and pierce thee through, and where art thou then?
And as it is certain, so let us recollect that to the sinner it is often sudden. In such an hour as he thinketh not, to himthe Son of man cometh. As pain upon a woman in travail, as the whirlwind on the traveler, as the eagle on his prey, so suddenlycometh death. Buying and selling, marrying and giving in marriage, chambering and full of wantonness, the ungodly man saith,"Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee;" but as the frost often cometh whenthe buds are swelling ready for the spring and nips them on a sudden how often doth the frost of death nip all the hopefulhappiness of ungodly men and it withers once for all. Hast thou a lease of thy life? Lives there a man who can insure thatthou shalt breathe another hour? Let but thy blood freeze in its channels; let but thy breath stop for a moment, and whereart thou? A spider's web is a strong cable when compared with the thread on which moral life depends. We have told you a thousandtimes, till the saying has become so trite that you smile when we repeat it, that life is frail, and yet ye live O men, asthough your bones were brass, and your flesh were adamant, and your lives like the years of the Eternal God. As breaks thedream of the sleeper, as flies the cloud before the wind, as melts the foam from the breaker, as dies the meteor from thesky, so suddenly shall the sinner's joys pass from him for ever, and who shall measure the greatness of his amazement?
Remember, O sons of men, how terrible is the end of the ungodly. You think it easy for me to talk of death and damnation now,and it is not very difficult for you to hear; but when you and I shall come to die, ah! then every word we have uttered shallhave a weightier meaning than this dull hour can gather from it. Imagine the sinner dying. Weeping friends are about him;he tosses to and fro upon yon weary couch. The strong man is bowed down. The last struggle is come. Friends watch the glazingof the eyes; they wipe the clammy sweat from the brow. At last they say, "He is gone! He is gone!" Oh, my brethren, what amazementmust seize upon the unsanctified spirit then! Ah, if his spirit could then speak, it would say, "It is all true that I waswont to hear. I spoke ill of the minister, the last sabbath in the year, for trying to frighten us, as I said, but he didnot speak half so earnestly as he ought to have done. Oh, I wonder he did not fall down upon his and pray me to repent, buteven if he had, I should have rejected his entreaties. Oh, if I had known! If I had known! If I had known all this; if I couldhave believed it; if I had not been such a fool as to doubt God's word and think it all a tale to frighten children with.Oh, if I had known all this! but now I am lost! lost! lost for ever!" I think I hear that spirit's wail of utter dismay, asit exclaims, "Yes, it has come; the thing whereof I was told it has all come to pass. Fixed is my everlasting state; no offersof mercy now; no blood of sprinkling now; no silver trumpet of the gospel now; no invitations to a loving Savior's bosom now!His terrors have broken me in pieces, and as a leaf is driven with the whirlwind, so am I driven I know not whither; but thisI know, I am lost, lost, lost beyond all hope." Horrible is the sinner's end. I shudder while thus briefly I talk of it. O,believer, take heed that thou understandest this well.
Do not fail to remember that the horror of the sinner's end will consist very much in the reflection that he will lose heaven.Is that a little? The harps of angels, the company of the redeemed, the smile of God, the society of Christ-is this a trifle-tolose the saint's best rest, that heritage for which martyrs wade through rivers of blood, that portion which Jesus thoughtit worth while to die that he might purchase. They lose all this, and then they earn in exchange the pains of hell, whichare more desperate than tongue can tell. Consider a moment! He that indicts the punishment is God. What blows must He strike!He did but put out his finger and he cut Rahab and wounded the dragon in the Red Sea. What will it be when stroke after strokeshall fall from his heavy hand? Oh Omnipotence, Omnipotence, how dreadful are thy blows! Sinner, see and tremble; God himselfcomes out in battle against you? Why the arrows of a man, when they stick in your conscience, are very sharp, but what willthe arrows of God be! How will they drink your blood and infuse poison into your veins. Even now, when you feel a little sicknessyou are afraid to die, and when you hear a heart-searching sermon, it makes you melancholy. But what will it be when God inthunderdressed, comes out against thee and his fire consumes thee like the stubble. Will God punish thee? O sinner, what punishmentmust that be which he inflicts? I tremble for thee. Flee, I pray thee, to the cross of Christ, where shelter is prepared.
Remember, moreover, it will be a God without mercy, who will then dash thee in pieces. He is all mercy to thee to-day, O sinner.In the wooing words of the Gospel he bids thee live, and in his name I tell thee as God lives he willeth not thy death, butwould rather thou shouldest turn unto him and live; but if thou wilt not live; if thou wilt be his enemy; if thou wilt runupon the point of his spear, then he will be even with thee in the day when mercy reigns in heaven, and justice holds itssolitary court in hell. O that ye were wise, and would believe in Jesus to the salvation of your souls!
I would have you know, O ye who choose your own destructions, that ye shall suffer universally. Now, if our head ache, orif our heart be palpitating, or a member be in pain, there are other parts of the body which are at ease; but then, everypower of body and of mind shall suffer at one time. All the chords of man's nature shall vibrate with the discord of desolation.Then shall suffering be unceasing. Here we have a pause in our pain, the fever has its rests, paroxysms of agony have theirseasons of quiet; but there in hell the gnashing of teeth shall be unceasing, the worm's gnawings shall know no cessation;on, on for ever-for ever a hot race of misery.
Then, worst of all, it shall be without end. When ten thousand years have run their course, thou shalt be no nearer to theend than at first. When millions have been piled on millions, still the wrath shall be to come-to come, as much as if therehad been no wrath at all. Ah! these are dreadful things to talk of, and you who hear or read my sermons know that I am falselyaccused when men say that I dwell often upon this dreadful theme, but I feel as if there is no hope for some of you, unlessI thunder at you. I know that often God has broken some hearts with an alarming sermon, who might never have been won by aninviting and wooing discourse. My experience goes to show that the great hammer of God breaks many hearts, and some of mymore terrible sermons have been even more useful than those in which I lifted up the cross and tenderly pleaded with men.Both must be used, sometimes the love which draws, and anon the vengeance which drives. Oh, my hearers, I cannot bear thethought that you should be lost! As I meditate, I have a vision of some of you passing away from this world, and will youcurse me? Will you curse me as you go down to the pit? Will you accuse me, "You were not faithful with me. Pastor, you didnot warn me; minister, you did not strive with me?" No, by the help of my Lord, through whose grace I am called to the workof this ministry, I must, I will be clear of your blood. You shall not make your bed in hell without knowing what an uneasyresting place ye choose. Ye shall hear the warning. It shall ring in your ears. Who among us shall dwell with everlastingfire? Who among us shall abide with the eternal burnings?" I do assure you a true love speaks to you in every harsh word Iutter, a love that cares too much for you to flatter you, a love which must tell you these things without mitigating themin any degree, lest ye perish through my trifling. "He that believeth not shall be damned." "Turn ye, turn ye, why will yedie?" Why will ye reject your mercies? God help you by his Holy Spirit to understand your latter end and lay hold on Jesusnow.
II. This brings us to our second remark-If we have understood the sinner's end, LET US NOW PROFIT BY IT. How can we do this?
We can profit by it, first, by never envying the ungodly again. If at any time we feel with the Psalmist that we cannot understandhow it is that the enemies of God enjoy the sweets of life, let us cease at once from such questionings, because we remembertheir latter end. Let David's confession warn us-
"Lord, what a thoughtless wretch was I To mourn, and murmur, and repine, To see the wicked placed on high, In pride and robes of honor shine! But oh, their end! their dreadful end! Thy sanctuary taught me so: On slippery rocks I see them stand, And fiery billows roll below, Now let them boast how tall they rise, I'll never envy them again; There they may stand with haughty eyes, Till they plunge deep in endless pain."
If the sinnner's end be so terrible, how grateful ought we to be, if we have been plucked from these devouring names! Brothersand sisters, what was there in us why God should have mercy on us? Can we ascribe the fact that we have been washed from sinin Jesu's blood, and made to choose the way of righteousness-can we ascribe this to anything but grace-free, rich, sovereigngrace? Come then, let us with our tears for others mingle joyous gratitude to God for that eternal love which has deliveredour souls from death, our eyes trom tears, and our feet from falling. Above all let us prize the sufferings of Christ beyondall cost. Oh, blessed cross, which has lifted us up from hell. Oh, dear wounds, which have become gates of heaven to us. Canwe refuse to love that Son of man-that Son of God? Will we not to-day, at the foot of his dear cross, give ourselves to himanew, and ask him to bestow on us more grace, that we may live more to his honor, and spend and be spent in his service? Savedfrom hell, I must love thee, Jesus; and while life and being last, I must live and be prepared to die for thee.
Again, beloved friends, how such a subject as this should lead you that profess to be followers of Christ to make your callingand election sure! If the end of the impenitent be so dreadful, let nothing content us but certainties with regard to ourown escape from this woe. Have you any doubts this morning? Have no peace of mind till those doubts are all solved. Is thereany question upon your spirit as to whether you have real faith in the living Savior? If so, rest not, I pray you, till inprayer and humble faith you have renewed your vows and come afresh to Christ. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith;prove yourselves; build on the rock; make sure work for eternity, lest it should happen after all, that you have been deceived.Oh, if it should turn out so. Alas! alas! alas! for you to have been so near to heaven and yet to be cast down to hell.
Now this subject should teach Christians to be in earnest about the salvation of others. If heaven were a trifle we need notbe zealous for the salvation of men. If the punishment of sin were some slight pain we need not exercise ourselves diligentlyto deliver men from it; but oh, if "eternity" be a solemn word, and if the wrath to come be terrible to bear, how should webe instant in season and out of season, striving to win others from the flames! What have you done this year, some of you?I fear me, brother Christians, some of you have done very little. Blessed be God, there are many earnest hearts among you;you are not all asleep; there are some of you who strive with both your hands to do your Master's work, but even you are notas earnest as you should be. The preacher puts himself here in the list, mournfully confessing that he does not preach ashe desires to preach. Oh, had I the tears and cries of Baxter, or the fervent seraphic zeal of Whitfield, my soul were wellcontent, but, alas! we preach coldly upon burning themes and carelessly upon matters which ought to make our hearts like flamesof fire. But I say, brethren, are there not men and women here, members of this Church, doing nothing for Christ; no soulsaved this year by you, Christ unhonoured by you; no gems placed in his crown? What have ye been living for, ye cumber-ground?Wherefore stand ye in the Church, ye fruitless trees? God make you-oh ye that do little for him-to humble yourselves beforehim, and to begin the next year with this determination, that knowing the terrors of the Lord, you will persuade men, andlabor, and strive to bring sinners to the cross of Christ.
III. But we must leave that point of instruction and come to our last and pleading point, and that is very earnestly to WARNTHOSE WHOSE END THIS MUST BE EXCEPT THEY REPENT.
And who are they? Please to remember we are not speaking now of people in the street, of drunkards, and harlots, and profaneswearers, and such like-we know that their damnation is sure and just-but, alas, I need not look far. If I glance along theseseats and look into faces upon which my eye rests every Sabbath day, there are some of you, some of you who are unconvertedstill. You are not immoral but you are unregenerated; you are not unamiable but you are ungracious, you are not far from thekingdom, but you are not in the kingdom. It is your end I speak of now, yours ye sons of godly mothers, yours ye daughtersof holy parents-your end, unless God give you repentance. I want you to see where you are standing to-day. "Surely thou didstset them in slippery places." If it has ever been your lot to tread the glaciers of the Alps you will have seen upon thatmighty river of ice, huge wave-like mountains of crystal, and deep fissures of unknown depth, and of an intensely blue color.If condemned to stand on one of these icy eminences with a yawning crevasse at its base, our peril would be extreme. Sinnerit is on such slippery place you stand, only the danger is far greater than my metaphor sets forth.
Your standing is smooth; pleasure attends you; yours are not the rough ways of penitence and contrition-sin's road is smooth-butah how slippery from its very smoothness. O be warned, you must fall sooner or later, stand as firmly as you may. Sinner youmay fall now, at once. The mountain yields beneath your feet, the slippery ice is melting every moment. Look down and learnyour speedy doom. Yonder yawning gulf must soon receive you, while we look after you with hopeless tears. Our prayers cannotfollow you; from your slippery standing place you fall and you are gone for ever. Death makes the place where you stand slippery,for it dissolves your life every hour. Time makes it slippery, for every instant it cuts the ground from under your feet.The vanities which you enjoy make your place slippery, for they are all like ice which shall melt before the sun. You haveno foot-hold, sinner, you have no sure hope, no confidence. It is a melting thing you trust to. If you are depending on whatyou mean to do-that is no foot-hold. If you get peace from what you have felt or from what you have done-that is no foot-hold.It is a slippery place you stand in. I read yesterday of the hunter of the chamois springing from crag to crag after the gamehe had wounded. The creature leapt down many a frowning precipice, but the hunter fearlessly followed as best he could. Atlast in his hot haste he found himself slipping down a shelving rock. The stone crumbled away as it came in contact with histhickly-nailed shoes, which he tried to dig into the rock to stop his descent. He strove to seize on every little inequality,regardless of the sharp edges; but as his fingers, bent convulsively like talons, scraped the stone, it crumbled off as thoughit had been baked clay, tearing the skin like ribands from his fingers and cutting into his flesh. Having let go his longpole, he heard it slipping down behind him, its iron point changing as it went; and then it flew over the ledge bounding intothe depths below. In a moment he must follow, for with all his endeavors he is unable to stop himself. His companion lookson in speechless horror. But heaven intervenes. Just as he expects to go over the brink, one foot is arrested in its descentby a slight inequality. He hardly dares to move lest the motion might break his foot-hold, but gently turning his head tosee how far he is from the brink, he perceives that his foot has stopped not a couple of inches from the edge of the rock;those two inches further and destruction had been his lot.
Ungodly man, in this mirror see thyself, you are sliding down a slippery place, you have neither foot-hold, nor hand-hold.All your hopes crumble beneath your weight. The Lord alone knows how near you are to your eternal ruin. Perhaps this morningyou are scarce two inches from the edge of the precipice. Your drunken companion who died a few days ago, has just now goneover the edge. Did you not hear him falling-and you yourself are about to perish. Good God! the man is almost gone! Oh thatI could stay you in your downward course. The Lord alone can do it, but he works by means. Turn round and gaze upon your pastlife; behold the wrath of God which must come on account of it. You are sliding down the slippery places to a fearful end,but the angel of mercy calls you, and the hand of love can save you. Hear how Jesus pleads with thee. "Put thy hand in mine,"he says; "thou art lost, man, but I can save thee now." Poor wretch! wilt thou not do it. Then art thou lost. Oh whereforewilt thou not, when love and tenderness would woo thee, wherefore wilt thou not put thy trust in him. He is able and willingto save thee, even now. Believe in Jesus, and though thou art now in slippery places thy feet shall soon be set upon a rockof safety. I know not how it is, the more earnestly I long to speak, and the more passionately I would set forth the dangerof ungodly men, the more my tongue refuses. These weighty burdens of the Lord are not to be entrusted it seems to the powerof oratory. I must stammer and groan them out to you. I must in short sentences tell out my message and leave it with you.I have the solemn conviction this morning that there are scores and hundreds of you who are on the road to hell. You knowyou are. If conscience speaks truly to you, you know you have never sought Christ, you have never put your trust in him, youare still what you always were, ungodly, unconverted. Is this a trifle? Oh, I ask you, I put it to your own judgments, isthis a thing of which you ought to think carelessly? I pray you let your hearts speak. Is it not time that some of you beganto think of these things? Nine years ago we had some hopes of you, those hopes have been disappointed up till now. As eachyear rolls round you promise yourself that the next shall be different; but there has been no change yet. May we not fearthat you will continue entangled in the great net of procrastination until at last you will have eternally to regret thatyou kept deferring, and deferring, and deferring, till it was too late. The way of salvation is not hard to comprehend; itis no great mystery, it is simply "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Trust Christ with thy soul andhe will save it. I know you will not do this unless the Holy Spirit constrains you, but this does not remove your responsibility.If you reject this great salvation you deserve to perish. When it is laid so clearly before you, if you refuse it, no eyecan pity you among all the thousands in hell or all the millions in heaven.
"How they deserve the deepest hell Who slight the joys above; What chains of vengeance must they feel Who break the cords of love."
May I ask all Christian people to join in prayer for the ungodly. When I cannot plead as a preacher, I bless God I can pleadas an intercessor. Let us spend, all of us, a little time this afternoon in private intercession. May I ask it of you as agreat favor-occupy a little time this afternoon, each child of God, in praying for the unconverted among us. Conversion workdoes go on; there are many always coming to be united to the Church, but we want more; and we shall have more, if we prayfor more.
Make this afternoon a travailing time, and if we travail in birth God will give us the spiritual seed. It is to the Holy Spiritwe must look for all true regeneration and conversion, therefore let us pray for the descent of his influence, and dependupon his omnipotence and the great work must and shall be done. Could I address you in the tones of an angel, yet I couldnot have more to say than this, "Sinner, fly to Christ. I am glad I am weak, for now the Master's power shall be the betterseen. Lord, do thou the sinner turn, and make him feel the danger of his state, and find in Christ a ransom and a rescue,and to thy name be glory.-Amen.