Sermon 524. The Saint'S Horror At The Sinner'S Hell
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, AUGUST 16, 1863, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Gather not my soul with sinners." Psalm 269
WE must all be gathered in due course. When time shall have ripened the fruit, it must hang no longer upon the tree, but begathered into the basket. When the summer's sun has perfectly matured the corn, the sickle must be brought forth and the harvestmust be reaped. To everything there is a season and an end. There shall be a gathering time for every one of us. It may cometomorrow. It may be deferred another handful of years. It may come to us by the long process of consumption or decline. Itmay advance with more rapid footsteps, and we may in a moment be gathered to our people. Sooner or later, to use the expressive words of Job, the Almighty shall set His heart upon each of us and gather unto Himselfour spirit and our breath. That gathering rests with God! The prayer of the Psalmist implies it and many Scriptures affirmit. As Young sings in his Night Thoughts- "An angel's arm can't hurl me to the grave." Accidents are but God's arrangements. Diseases are His decrees-fevers His servants,and plagues His messengers. Our mortality is immortal, till the Eternal wills its death. "Return, you children of men" canbe spoken by none but our heavenly Father, and when He gives the word, return we must without delay. I do not know, my Brothers and Sisters, seeing that our death is certain, and remains entirely in the hands of our graciousGod, that there is any prayer which we need to offer concerning it, except, "Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit."And this brief sentence, "Gather not my soul with sinners." Scarcely can I commend those who plead to be delivered from suddendeath, for sudden death is sudden Glory! Hardly can I advise you to request a hasty departure. For flesh and blood shrinkfrom speedy dissolution. Pray not for long life, nor for an early grave-cheerfully leave all these matters to the choice ofinfinite Wisdom, and concentrate all your desires upon the one desire of the text. Filled with a holy horror of the Hell of sinners, let us make most sure of our calling to the Heaven of the blessed. Letthe fear of being cast forth with the withered branches increase our fruitfulness, and let our horror of the sinner's characterand doom lead us to cleave more closely to the Savior of souls. We will divide our discourse thus-first, the gathering, and here let us behold a vision. Next, the prayer, and here letus note an example. Thirdly, a fear, and here let us observe a holy anxiety. And then fourthly, an answer yielding a consolation. I. First, THE GATHERING. Let the man who has his eyes open behold the gathering of sinners, and in the sanctuary of theLord let him understand their end. There have been many partial gatherings of the ungodly, all ending in sudden ruin and overthrow.Turn your eyes here. Two hundred and fifty men have impudently taken censers into their hands and have dishonored the Lord'schosen servants, Moses and Aaron. Mark well their proud reviling of the Lord's Anointed. In the gainsaying of Korah they allhave a part. The people hasten from their tabernacles and they stand alone. It is but for a moment. Look! The earth cleavesasunder. They go down alive into the pit and the earth closes her mouth upon them. My soul trembles and hides her face forfear-and my fainting heart groans out her desire-"Gather not my soul with sinners"! Look yonder, my Brothers and Sisters, to the city of palm trees surrounded by its strong munitions. All the inhabitantsare gathered together within it. From the top of the walls they mock the feeble band of silent Israelites, who for six dayshave marched round and round their city. The seventh day has come and the rams' horns give the signal of destruction. TheLord comes forth from His rest, and at the terror of His rebuke the walls of Jericho fall flat to the ground. Now where areyour boastings, O congregation of the wicked? The sword of Israel is bathed in your blood, O accursed sons of Canaan. As we hear the shriek of the slaughtered and mark the smoke of the city ascending up to Heaven like the flames ofSodom of old, we reverently bow the knee unto Jehovah and cry, "Gather not my soul with sinners."
Leaping over centuries-with weeping we behold the Holy City, beautiful for situation-once the joy of the whole earth, butnow forsaken of her God-and beleaguered by her foes. All the Jewish people have come together from the four winds of Heaven-asthe flesh is cast into thecaldron and the fire burns fiercely, so are they gathered together for judgment. Well might their rejected Messiah weepover the devoted city as He remembered how often He would have gathered her children together as a hen gathers her chickensunder her wings and they would not. Noware they gathered in another manner-and the wings of vultures flutter over them, hastening for the prey.
See yonder the Roman armies and the mounds which they have cast up! Woe unto you, O city of Zion-for the spoilers know nopity. They spare neither young nor old. "Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gavesuck." For the day of the Lord's vengeance iscome and the words of Moses are fulfilled, when he said-"The Lord shall bring a nation against you from afar, from the endof the earth, as swift as the eagle flies. A nation whose tongue you shall not understand. A nation of fierce countenance,which shall not regard theperson of the old, nor show favor to the young.
"And you shall eat the fruit of your own body, the flesh of your sons and of your daughters, which the Lord your God has givenyou, in the siege and in the desperate straits, wherewith your enemies shall distress you." Hark! The clarion summons thewarrior to arms. The veterans of Vespasian andTitus dash to the assault. Where are you now, O city polluted with the murder of Prophets, and stained with the blood ofthe Prophets' Lord? Your walls protect not your sons, they keep not the temple of your glory. Look! A soldier's ruthless handhurls the red firebrand into thesacred precincts of the Temple, and its smoke darkens the sky!
Can you walk those smoldering ruins and behold the heaps of ashes mingled with burning flesh-the crimson streams of gore-andthe deep pools of clotted blood? Can you linger there where desolation holds her reign supreme and refuse to see the justiceof the God of Israel, or fail tobreathe the humble prayer of the Psalmist, "Gather not my soul with sinners"? Wherever the enemies of God are gathered,there we have, before long, confusion and tears and death in whatever place sinners may hold their counsels. When the Judgeof all the earth comes out againstthem, we soon see an Aceldama-a field of blood.
But, forgetting all these inferior gatherings, illustrious in horror though they are, my eyes behold a greater gathering whichis proceeding every day to its completion. Every day the heavens and the earth hear the voice of God, saying, "Gather you,gather you My foes together, that I may utterlydestroy them." "Therefore wait you upon Me, says the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determinationis to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them My indignation, even all My fierce anger: forall the earth shall be devoured withthe fire of My jealousy."
As the huntsman, when he goes forth to the battle, encompasses the beasts of the forest with an ever narrowing ring of hunters-thathe may exterminate them all in one great slaughter-so the God of Justice has made a ring in His Providence round about thesinful sons of men. Within thatcircle of Divine power are imprisoned monarchs and peasants, peers and paupers. That ring encompasses all nations, politeor barbarous, civilized or rude. No impenitent sinner can break through the lines. As well might a worm escape from withina circle of flame. Every hour thelines grow narrower, and the multitudes of the Lord's enemies are driven into the center where His darts are flying, whereHis sharp arrows shall pierce them.
I hear the baying of the dogs of Death today, hounding the unbelieving to their doom. I see the heaps of slain, and mark theterrible arrows as they fly with unerring aim. Multitudes of sinners are scattered from the equator to the poles, but notone of them is able to escape the Avenger's hand.High and haughty princes, boasting their imperial pomp, fall like antlered stags, smitten with the shafts of the Almighty.Their valiant warriors, like wild boars of the forest, perish upon the point of His glittering spear.
The vision of the Apocalypse is no mere dream. He whose name is THE WORD OF GOD, shall tread the winepress of the fiercenessand wrath of Almighty God. And meanwhile, the angel standing in the sun cries with a loud voice to all the fowls which flyin the midst of Heaven, "Come and gather yourselvestogether into the supper of the great God: that you may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the fleshof mighty men: and the flesh of horses and of them that sit on them: and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both smalland great."
At the remembrance of all this, we may well exclaim with Habakkuk, "When I heard, my belly trembled. My lips quivered at thevoice: rottenness entered into my bones and I trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when He comes upunto the people, He will cut them in pieces withHis troops." O God of all Grace, I pray You, by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus in which I trust, "Gather not my soul withsinners." Let that Providence which gathers Your people from among men, lay hold on me. Let Your angels who keep watch andward about Your people, keep me fromthe snare of the fowler and from the destruction which wastes at noonday.
But the scene changes-we see no longer the assembling of the multitudes in the great valley of the shadow of death-we trackthem further till we find ourselves on the threshold of the abode of spirits. You have seen the prisoners in their cells,waiting for their trial at the nextassize. The strong hand of Law has laid them in durance, where they await the summons to appear before the judge. I prayyou note the company and before the trumpet announces the judge, see what a strange gathering the prison contains. Do youmark them? There is the murderer, withblood-red hands. There is he who smote his fellow to his wounding. Yonder lies the wretch who perjured himself before God.
And here the man who pilfered his neighbor's goods. However they differed from one another before, they are on a level inrank in this house of detention-and they all await one common jail delivery. It is no pleasant sight to visit these cellsbefore the assize comes on. Crime, although asyet not condemned, is no comfortable vision. But what of earthly prisons? My heart sees a sight far more terrible-
"Look down, my soul, on Hell's domains, That world of agony and pains! What crowds are now associated there, Of widely differentcharacter. What wretched ghosts are met below, Some once so great, so little no w; So gay, so sad, so rich, so poor; Now scornedby those they scorned before."
Multitudes are gathered together in the state where souls abide until their final doom is pronounced, both on their bodiesand on their souls. It is a place of misery where not a drop of water cools their parched tongue. A state of doubt and terrorand suspense-a place from which consolationis banished, where the "wrath to come" perpetually afflicts them. There in captivity abide the formalist, the hypocrite,the profane, the licentious, the abandoned, those who despised God and hated Christ and turned away from the glory of HisCross. There they are gathered, tens ofthousands of them, at this day, waiting till the great assize shall sit. O God, "gather not my soul with sinners," but letme be gathered with those whose spirits wait beneath the altar for their redemption, to wit, the resurrection of their bodies.Gather me with those who cry dayand night until God avenges His own elect. Gather me with the multitude of spirits who wait the coming of the Son of Godfrom Heaven, that their bliss may be complete.
But now, my eyes, prophetic in the light of Scripture, see another gathering. The trumpet has sounded, the prison doors areloosed and the gates of death give way. They come, bodies and souls-souls from the place of waiting in the pit of Hell. Andbodies from their graves, from ocean and fromearth-from all the four winds of Heaven, bodies and souls come together and there they stand-an exceeding great army. Thistime it is not in the valley of suspense. But "multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision'" "And the Lord shall utterHis voice before Hisarmy. For His camp is very great: for He is strong that executes His word: for the day of the Lord is great and very terrible:and who can abide it?"
"Assemble yourselves and come, all you heathen, and gather yourselves together round about: there cause Your mighty ones tocome down, O Lord. Let the heathen be wakened and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge allthe heathen round about. Put in the sickle, for theharvest is ripe: come, get you down. For the press is full, the vats overflow; for their wickedness is great." "And I sawa great white throne and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the Heaven fled away. And there was found no placefor them. And I saw the dead, smalland great, stand before God. And the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And thedead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it. And death and Hell delivered up the dead which were in them. And they werejudged, every man according to their works. And whoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake offire." Oh, well may you and I pray that we may havea part in the first resurrection-upon such the sec- ond death has no power. Grant us, O Lord, that we may not be with thewicked, the rest of the dead, who rise not until after a thousand years are finished. But give us a portion among those whoseiniquities are blotted out,who have not received the mark of the beast in their foreheads, who therefore live and reign with Christ a thousand years(Rev. 20:4).
May we be gathered with the harvest of the Lord, when He that sits on the cloud shall reap it with His golden sickle. Butthis gathering of which my text speaks is not the harvest of the righteous. It is the vintage of the wicked. When "the angelwhich had power over fire" shall cry, "Thrust inYour sharp sickle and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth: for her grapes are fully ripe." How dreadful that greatwinepress of Divine Wrath which shall be trod without the city, and how terrible that flow of blood, like a mighty streamof wine, so deep that it ran evenunto the horses' bridles by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs. "Gather not my soul with sinners," O God,in that terrible day.
I need not stop to paint-for colors equal to its terrors I have none-that dreadful place where the last gathering shall beheld. That great synagogue of Satan, the place appointed for unbelievers and prepared for the devil and his angels. Where"sullen moans and hollow groans andshrieks of tortured ghosts" shall be their only music. Where weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth shall be their perpetualoccupation. Where joy is a stranger and hope unknown. Where death itself would be a friend. No, I will not attempt to describewhat our Savior veiled in wordslike these, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." "Where their worm dies not, and their fire is not quenched.""Outer darkness, where shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." We drop the curtain, hoping that you have seen enough to makeyou pray, "Gather not my soulwith sinners."
Dear Brothers and Sisters, when we recollect that that last gathering will be a perfect one. That there will be no sinnerleft with the saints-that, on the other hand, no saint will remain with sinners. When we recollect that it will be a finalone-no redistribution will ever be madeand that it will entail an everlasting separation-a great gulf being fixed, which none can cross, it remains for us to besolemnly anxious to be found on the right hand and to put up, with vehemence, this prayer-"O Lord, gather not my soul withsinners."
II. Having thus shown the vision of the gathering, let me, with deep solemnity, conduct your minds for a little time to THEPRAYER ITSELF. I am sure we are all agreed about it, everyone of us. Balaam, if he is here this morning, differs not fromme. The worst and most abandoned wretch on earthagrees with David in this. Sinners do not wish to be gathered with sinners. Balaam's prayer is, "Let me die the death ofthe righteous, and let my last end be like his," which only differs in words from David's petition, "Gather not my soul withsinners."
But then the reasons of the one prayer are very different in different persons. We would all like to be saved from Hell, butthen there is a difference in the reasons why we would so be delivered. The same prayer may be uttered by different lips.In the one it may be heard and accepted as spiritualprayer, and in the other it may be but the natural excitement produced by a selfish desire to avoid misery. I know why youwould not wish to be gathered with sinners-those of you who are ungodly and impenitent-you dread the fire, the flames whichnever end. You dread thewrath, the suffering. You dread the horrors of that world to come.
Not so with the Christian. These he dreads as all men must, but he has a higher and a better reason for not wishing to begathered with sinners. I tell you, Sirs, if sinners could be gathered into Heaven with their present character, the Christian'sprayer would be what it now is-"Gather notmy soul with sinners." If sin entailed happiness. If rebellion against God could give bliss, even then the Christian wouldscorn the happiness and avoid the bliss which sin affords. His objection is not so much to Hell, as to sinners themselves.His desire is to avoid thecontamination and distraction of their company.
Many of you will say, "Now I dislike the company of sinners." Indeed, most moral people dislike the society of a certain classof sinners. I suppose there is scarcely one here today who would wish to be found in the den of the burglar, where the conversationis concerning plunder and violence. Youwould not probably feel very easy in the haunt of the harlot, where licentious tongues utter flippantly lascivious words.You shun the house of the strange woman. The pothouse is not a favorite resort for you. You would not feel very much at easeat the bar of the gin palace. Youwould say of each of these-"This is no joy to me."
Even those of you who are not renewed by Christ despise vice when she walks abroad naked. I fear you cannot say as much whenshe puts on her silver slippers, and wraps about her shoulders her scarlet mantle. Sin in rags is not popular. Vice in soresand squalor tempts no one in the grosser shapes.Men hate the very fiend whom they love when it is refined and delicate in its form. I want to know whether you can say,"Gather not my soul with sinners," when you see the ungodly in their high days and holidays? Do you not envy the fraudulentmerchant counting his gold-hispurse heavy with his gains, while he himself by his craft is beyond all challenge by the Law?
Do you not envy the giddy revelers spending the night in the merry dance, laughing, making merry with wine and smiling withthoughts of lust? Yonder voluptuary, entering the abode where virtue never finds a place, and indulging in pleasures unworthyto be named in this hallowed house-does heever excite your envy? I ask you, when you see the pleasures, the bright side, the honors, the emoluments, the gains, themerriments of sin, do you then say, "Gather not my soul with sinners"? There is a class of sinners that some would wish tobe gathered with-those easysouls who go on so swimmingly. They never have any trouble. Conscience never pricks them. Business never goes wrong withthem. They have no bands in their life, no bonds in their death.
They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men. They are like the green bay tree which spreadson every side until its boughs cover whole acres with their shade. These are the men who prosper in the world, they increasein riches. Can we say, when we look at these,when we gaze upon the bright side of the wicked, "Gather not my soul with sinners"? Remember, if we cannot do so withoutreservation, we really cannot pray the prayer at all. We ought to alter it and put it, "Gather not my soul with openly reprobatesinners." And then mark you, asthere is only one place for all sorts of sinners, moral or immoral, apparently holy or profane, your prayer cannot be heard,for if you are gathered with sinners at all-with the best of sinners-you must be gathered with the worst of sinners, too.
I know, children of God, you can offer the prayer as it stands and say, "In all their glory and their pomp. In all their wealth,their peace and their comfort, my soul abhors them, and I earnestly beseech You, O Lord, by the blood of Jesus, 'Gather notmy soul with sinners.' "
Brethren, why does the Christian pray this prayer? He prays it, first of all, because as far as his acquaintance goes withsinners, even now he does not wish for their company. The company of sinners in this world to the saint is a cause of uneasiness.We cannot be with them and feel ourselvesperfectly at home. "My soul is among lions, even among them that are set on fire of Hell." "Rid me from strange children."We are vexed with their conversation, even as Lot was with the language of the men of Sodom. We lay an embargo upon them-theycannot act as they would inour society-and they lay a restraint upon us. We cannot act as we would when we are with them.
We feel an hindrance in our holy duties through dwelling in the tents of Kedar. When we would talk of God, we cannot in themidst of company to whom the very name of Jesus is a theme for jest. How can we well engage in family devotions when morethan half the family are given up to the world? Howcan we sing the Lord's song in a strange land? You who sojourn in Mesech, you know how great a grief it is, what a damperit is to your spirituality, what a serious hindrance it is to your growth in Divine Grace. Besides, the company tempts Believersto sin. Who can keep his garmentpure when he travels with sinful companions? If I am condemned to walk continually in the midst of thorns and briars, itis strange if I do not mar my garments. Often our nearest friends get a hold upon our hearts and then, being enemies to God,they lead us to do things which weotherwise would never have dreamed of doing.
The company of the sinner is to the Christian a matter of real loss in another respect, for when God comes to punish a nation,the Christian has to suffer with the sinners of that nation. National judgments fall as well upon the holy as upon the profane,and therefore, through being mingled withthe ungodly of this world, the Christian is a sufferer by famine, war, or pestilence. Well may he, from the little tastehe has known of their company, cry, "Gather not my soul with sinners."
Why, Brothers and Sisters, I will put you for a moment to the test-you shall be in the commercial room of an inn-you are ona journey and you sit down to attend to your own business, or to await the train. Now, if two or three fast men come intothe room and they begin venting theirfilth and blasphemy, how do you feel? You do not wish to hear. You wish you were deaf. One of them cannot speak withoutlarding his conversation with an oath. There is another, perhaps a man elevated above the situation which his education fitshim to occupy, who, in hisconversation utters the most abominable and atrocious language and the others laugh at him.
Before many minutes you will steal out of the room, for you cannot endure it. What must it be to be shut in with such personsforever? On board a steamboat, it may be, you fall into the middle of a little knot who are talking on some infidel subjectin a manner far from palatable to you. Have younot wished yourself on shore, and have you not walked to the other end of the boat to be out of their way? I know you havefelt that kind of thing. Your blood has chilled. Horror has taken hold upon you because of the wicked who keep not God's Law.If such has been your experience,you can well understand the reason of the Psalmist's prayer, for much of such torment you could not bear.
Moreover, I do not know any class of sinners whose company a Christian would desire. I should not like to live with the mostprecise of hypocrites. What ugly company to keep! You cannot trust them anywhere-always hollow-always ready to deceive andto betray you. I would not choose tolive with formalists, self-righteous people, because whenever they begin to talk about themselves and their own good deeds,they do, as it were, throw dirt upon the righteousness of Christ, which is our boast-and that is ill company for a Christian.The Believer triumphs inthe free Grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and the efficacy of the blood of Jesus.
But the self-righteous man speaks only of his Church attendance or his going to Chapel, his fasting, his almsgivings and thelike. We cannot agree with the person who relies on his self-trust. We could almost as well associate with the profane aswe could with the self-righteous. As forblasphemers, we could not endure them a moment. Would you not as soon be shut up in a tiger's den as with a cursing, swearing,thievish profligate? Who can endure the company of either a Voltaire or a Manning? Find out the miserly, the mean, the sneaking,the grasping-wholikes to be with them?
Who wants to be with the angry, the petulant who never try to check the unholy passion-one is always glad to be away fromsuch folks. You are afraid lest you should be held responsible for their mad actions, and therefore if you must be with them,you are always ill at ease. With no sort ofsinners can the child of God be a fellow. Lambs and wolves, doves and hawks, devils and angels are not fit companions. Andso through what little trial the righteous have had, they have learned that there is no sort of sinners that they would liketo be shut up with forever.
But then, we have other reasons. We know that when impenitent sinners are gathered at the last, their characters will be thesame. They were filthy here, they will be filthy still. Here on earth their sin was in the bud-in Hell it will be fullblown.If they were bad here, they will be worsethere. Here they were restrained by Providence, by company, by custom-there, there will be no restraints. Hell will be aworld of sinners at large, a land of outlaws, a place where every man shall follow out his own heart's most horrible inclinations.Who would wish to be withthem?
Then again, the place where they will be gathered alarms us-the pit of Hell, the abode of misery and wrath for-ever-who wouldbe gathered there? Then, their occupation. They spend their time in cursing God-in inventing and venting fresh blasphemies.They go from bad toworse-climbing down the awful ladder of detestable depravity. Who would wish to be with them? Remember too, their sufferings.The pain of body and of soul they know, when God has cast both body and soul into Hell. Who would wish to be with them? Remember,too, that they arebanished forever from God and God is our sun, therefore they are in darkness. God is our life, therefore they are worsethan dead. God is our joy, therefore they are wretched to the extreme.
Why, this would be Hell, if there were no other Hell to a Christian-to be banished from his God. Moreover, they are deniedthe joys of Christ's society. No Savior's love for them, no blissful communion at His right hand, no living fountains of waterto which the Lamb shall lead them. O myGod, when I think of what the sinner is, and where he is, and how he must be there forever, shut out from You, my soul maywell pray with anguish that prayer, "Gather not my soul with sinners."-
"You lovely chief of all my joys, You sovereign of my heart! How could I bear to hear Your voice Pronounce the sound 'Depart'?Oh wretched state of deep despair, To see my God remove, And fix my doleful station where I must not taste His love. Jesus,I throw my arms around, And hang upon Yourbreast; Without a gracious smile from You My spirit cannot rest."
III. But I am afraid I weary you and therefore, dear Friends, let me take you very briefly to the third point. There is inour text A FEAR, as if a whisper awakened the Psalmist's ear to trembling, "Perhaps, after all, you may be gathered with thewicked."
Now, that fear, although marred by unbelief, springs, in the main, from holy anxiety. Do you not think that some of us maywell be the subjects of it? This holy anxiety may well arise if we recollect our past sins. Before we were converted we livedas others lived. The lusts of the flesh were ours.We indulged our members. We permitted sin to reign in our mortal bodies without restraint. And there will be times to thepardoned man, even though he has faith in Christ, when he will begin to think-"What if, after all, those sins should be rememberedand I should be left outof the catalogue of the saved?"
Then again he recollects his present backwardness. And as the little apple on the tree, so sour and unripe, when it sees thecrabs gathered, is half afraid it may be gathered with them, so is he. With so little Grace, so little love, he is afraidhe shall be gathered with the ungodly. He recollectshis own unfruitfulness and as he sees the woodman going round the orchard, knocking off first this rotten bough, and thencutting off that other decayed branch, he thinks there is so little fruit on him that perhaps he may be cut off, too. Andso, what with his past sins, hispresent backsliding and unfruitful-ness, he is half afraid he may yet have to suffer the doom of the wicked.
And then, looking forward to the future, he recollects his own weakness and the many temptations that beset him. And he fearsthat he may fall, after all, and become a prey to the enemy. With all these things before him, I wonder not that the poorplant, set yonder in the garden, is half afraidthat it may be pulled up with the weeds and burned on yonder blazing fire in the corner of the garden. "Gather not my soulwith sinners."
What man is there among you who has not need, sometimes, to tremble for himself? If any of you can say you are always confident,it is more than I can say. I would to God I could always know myself saved and accepted in Christ, but there are times whena sense of sin within, present evil, andprevailing corruptions make the preacher feel that he is in jeopardy and compel him to pray, as he does sometimes now, infear and trembling, "O God, gather not my soul with sinners."
IV. And here comes in, to conclude, THE ANSWER TO THIS PRAYER, which is a word of consolation. Brothers and Sisters, if youhave prayed this prayer, and if your character is rightly described in the Psalm before us, be not afraid that you ever shallbe gathered with sinners. Have you the two thingsthat David had-the outward walking in integrity and the inward trusting in the Lord? Do you endeavor to make your outwardconduct and conversation conformable to the example of Christ? Would you scorn to be dishonest toward men, or to be undevouttoward God? At the same time,are you resting upon Jesus Christ's sacrifice, and can you compass the altar of God with humble hope? If so, then rest assuredwith the wicked you never shall be gathered, for there are one or two things which render that calamity impossible.
The first is this, that the rule of the gathering is like to like. "Gather you together first the tares and bind them in bundlesto burn them"-all the tares together-"but gather the wheat into My barn." It is not, "Make a mixture of them. Throw them togetherin a heap-put the cornand the tares in My garner." Oh, no-"Tares in bundles. Wheat in sheaves." If then, you are like God's people, you shallbe with God's people. If you have their life within, their character without. If you rest on their Savior. If you love theirGod. If you have a longingtowards their holiness, you shall be gathered with them-like to like.
There is another rule-those who have been our proper comrades here are to be our companions hereafter. God will be pleasedto send us where we wish to go in this life. That is to say, if in this life I have loved the haunt of the sinner. If I havemade the theater my sanctuary. If I have madethe drinking house my abode of pleasure and have found my solace with the gambler, and my comfort with the debauched. IfI have lived merely for business and for this world, and never for the next, then I shall go with my companions. I shall besent where I used to go-beinglet go, I shall go to my own company among the lost.
But on the other hand, if I have loved God's House. If I can say with the Psalmist, "I have loved the habitation of Your Houseand the place where Your honor dwells." If the excellent of the earth have been my companions, and the chosen of God havebeen my Brothers and Sisters, I shall not beseparated from them. I shall have the same company in Heaven that I have had on earth. If I have walked with God here, Ishall reign with God there. If I have suffered with
Christ here, I shall reign with Christ hereafter. That is another thing which prevents your being gathered with the wicked.
Again, you cannot be gathered with the wicked, for you are too dearly bought. Christ bought you with His blood and He willnot cast you into the fire. It is a doctrine we never can hold, that Christ redeemed with His precious blood any that aredamned in Hell. We cannot conceive it possible thatChrist should have stood their Sponsor in suffering and yet they should be punished, too. That He should pay the debt andthen they should have to pay it also.
And again, you are loved too much. God the Eternal Father has loved you long and well, and proved that to you by His greatgift and by His daily consideration and care of you. And it is not, therefore, possible that He should permit you, the darlingof His heart, the child of His desire, a memberof the mystical body of His only Beloved Son, to perish forever in Tophet.
Again that new nature within you will not let you be gathered with sinners. What does your new nature do-what must it do?It must love God. What? Love God and be in Hell? Your new nature must pray. What? Pray in the pit? Your new nature must praisethe God that created it. What? Sing songs tothe Divine Being amidst the howling of the damned? Impossible! If you have a new heart and a right spirit. If your soulclings with both its hands to the Cross of Christ. If you love Jesus and long to be like He is, you may have this fear, butit is a groundless one-for youshall never be gathered with sinners! Your feet shall stand in the congregation of the righteous in the day when the wickedare cast away forever.
I had hoped, this morning, so to have handled my text that perhaps God might bless it to the sinner-and who can tell it maybe so? Sinner, if it is a dreadful thing to be gathered with you, what a frightful thing your gathering must be! My dear carelessand thoughtless Hearer, this morning Ihave no burning words with which to awake you. I have no earnest tones with which to startle you. But still, from my soulI do entreat you consider that if it is a subject of horror to us to dwell with you forever, it must be an awful thing tobe a sinner. And will you be a sinnerany longer? Will you abide where you now are?
Alas, you cannot save yourself. You are hopelessly ruined-you have lost all power as well as all virtue. You are as a deadthing, as a potter's vessel that is broken to shivers with a rod of iron. But there is one who can save you, even Jesus. AndHis saving voice to you this morning is,"Believe in Me and you shall be saved." To believe in Him is to believe that He can save you, and therefore to trust Him.Do you not believe that of Him who is God? Can you not believe that of Him whose ways are not as your ways, whose Grace isboundless, and whose love is free!Will you now believe that Christ can save you and that He will save you?-and will you now trust yourself to Him to saveyou?
Say in your heart, "Here, Lord, I give my soul up to You to save it. I believe You will and You can. Your nature and Yourname are love, and I trust Your name. I believe in Your goodness. I repose in You." Sinner, you are saved! God has saved you.No soul ever so believed in Christ and yet was leftunpardoned. Go your way. Be of good cheer, "Your sins which are many, are all forgiven you." Rejoice in Him evermore, foryou shall never be gathered with sinners. May God give His blessing to you now, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.