Sermon 1012. The Unbeliever's Unhappy Condition
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, September 24th, 1871, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"He that believed, not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."-John 3:36.
THIS IS A PART of a discourse by John the Baptist. We have not many sermons by that mighty preacher, but we have just sufficientto prove that he knew how to lay the axe at the root of the tree by preaching the law of God most unflinchingly; and alsothat he knew how to declare the gospel, for no one could have uttered sentences which more clearly contain the way of salvationthan those in the text before us. Indeed, this third chapter of the gospel according to theevangelist John is notable among clear and plain Scriptures-notable for being yet clearer and plainer than almost anyother. John the Baptist was evidently a preacher who knew how to discriminate-a point in which so many fail-he separated betweenthe precious and the vile, and therefore he was as God's mouth to the people. He does not address them as all lost nor asall saved, but he shows the two classes, he keeps up the line of demarcation between him that feareth God and him thatfeareth him not. He plainly declares the privileges of the believer, he saith he hath even now eternal life; and withequal decision he testifies to the sad state of the unbeliever-"he shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."John the Baptist might usefully instruct many professedly Christian preachers. Although he that is least in the kingdom ofheaven is greater than John the Baptist, and ought, therefore, more clearly to bear witness to the truth; yet, there are manywhomuddle the gospel, who teach philosophy, who preach a mingle-mangle, which is neither law nor gospel; and these mightwell go to school to this rough preacher of the wilderness, and learn from him how to cry, "Behold the Lamb of God which takethaway the sin of the world." I desire this morning to take a leaf out of the Baptist's lesson book; I would preach as he didthe gospel of the Lord Jesus, "whose shoes I am not worthy to bear." It is my earnest desire to enjoy the delight of expoundingto you the deep things of God; I feel a profound pleasure in opening up the blessings of the covenant of grace, and bringingforth out of its treasury things new and old. I should be happy to dwell upon the types of the Old Testament, and even totouch upon the prophecies of the New; but, while so many yet remain unsaved, my heart is never content except when I am preachingsimply the gospel of Jesus Christ. My dear unconverted hearers, when I see you brought to Christ, I will then advancebeyond the rudiments of the gospel; but, meanwhile, while hell is gaping wide, and many of you will certainly help tofill it, I cannot turn aside from warning you. I dare not resist the sacred impulse which constrains me to preach over andover again to you the glad tidings of salvation. I shall, like John, continue laying the axe at the root of the trees, andshall not go beyond crying, "Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." As he did, we shall now declare the sad estateof himwho believeth not the Son of God.
This morning, with the burden of the Lord upon us, we shall speak upon the words of the text. Our first point shall be a discoveryof the guilty one, "he that believeth not the Son." Next, we shall consider his offense; it lies in "not believing the Son;" thirdly, we shall lay bare the sinful causes which create this unbelief; and, fourthly, we shall show the terrible result of not believing in the Son: "he shall not see life, but the wrath of Godabideth on him." May the Spirit help us in all.
I. To begin, then, who is THE GUILTY ONE? Who is then unhappy man here spoken of? Is he a person to be met with only oncein a century? Must we search the crowds through and through to find out an individual in this miserable plight? Ah! no; thepersons who are here spoken of are common; they abound even in our holy assemblies; they are to be met with by thousands inour streets. Alas, alas! they form the vast majority of the world's population. Jesus hath come unto hisown and his own have not received him, the Jewish race remain unbelieving; while the Gentiles, to whom he was to be alight, prefer to sit in darkness and reject his brightness. We shall not be talking this morning upon a recondite theme, withonly a remote relation to ourselves, but there are many here of whom we shall be speaking, and we devoutly pray that the wordof God may come with power to their souls.
The persons here spoken of are those who believe not the Son of God. Jesus Christ, out of infinite mercy, has come into theworld, has taken upon himself our nature, and in that nature has suffered the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. Byreason of his sufferings, the gospel message is now proclaimed to all men, and they are honestly assured that "whosoever believethin him shall not perish, but have everlasting life." The unhappy persons in this text will notbelieve in Jesus Christ, they reject God's way of mercy; they hear the gospel, but refuse obedience to its command. Letit not be imagined that these individuals are necessarily avowed sceptics, for many of them believe much of revealed truth.They believe the Bible to be the word of God; they believe there is a God; they believe that Jesus Christ is come into theworld as a Savior; they believe most of the doctrines which cluster around the cross. Alas! they may do this, but yet thewrath ofGod abideth on them, if they believe not the Son of God. It may surprise you to learn that many of these persons are verymuch interested in orthodoxy. They believe that they have discovered the truth, and they exceedingly value those discoveries,so that they frequently grow very warm in temper with those who differ from them. They have read much, and they are mattersof argument in the defense of what they consider to be sound doctrine. They cannot endure heresy, and yet sad is the fact,thatbelieving what they do, and knowing so much, they have not believed the Son of God. They believe the doctrine of election,but they have not the faith of God's elect: they swear by final perseverance, but persevere in unbelief. They confess allthe five points of Calvinism, but they have not come to the one most needful point of looking unto Jesus, that they may besaved. They accept in creed the truths that are assuredly believed among us, but they have not received that faithful saying,worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; at any rate, they have not receivedit personally and practically for their souls' salvation.
It must be admitted that not a few of these persons are blameless as to their morals. You could not, with the closest observation,find either dishonesty, falsehood, uncleanness, or malice in their outward life; they are not only free from these blots,but they manifest positive excellences. Much of their character is commendable. They frequently are courteous and compassionate,generous and gentle-minded. Often times, they are so amiable and admirable that, while lookingupon them, we understand how our Lord, in a similar case, loved the young man who asked "what lack I yet?" The one thingneedful they are destitute of, they have not believed in Christ Jesus, and loath as the Savior was to see them perish, yetit cannot be helped, one doom is common to all who believe not; they shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on them.
In many cases these persons are, in addition to their morality, religious persons after a fashion. They would not absent themselvesfrom the usual service of the place of worship. They are most careful to respect the Sabbath, they venerate the Book of God,they use a form of prayer, they join in the songs of the Sanctuary, they sit as God's people sit, and stand as God's peoplestand, but, alas, there is a worm in the center of that fair fruit, they have missed the oneessential thing, which, being omitted, brings certain ruin; they have not believed on the Son of God. Ah, how far a manmay go, and yet, for lack of this one thing the wrath of God may still abide upon him. Beloved of parents who are hopefulof the conversion of their boy, esteemed by Christians who cannot but admire his outward conversation, yet for all that, theyoung man may be under the frown of God, for "God is angry with the wicked every day." The wrath of God abideth on the man,whoeverhe may be, that hath not believed in Jesus.
Now, if our text showed that the wrath of God was resting on the culprits in our jails, most persons would assent to the statement,and none would wonder at it. If our text declared that the wrath of God abides upon persons who live in habitual unchastityand constant violation of all the laws of order and respectability, most men would say "Amen;" but the text is aimed at anothercharacter. It is true that God's wrath does rest upon open sinners; but, oh sirs, this too istree, the wrath of God abideth upon those who boast of their virtues but have not believed in Jesus his Son. They maydwell in palaces; but, if they are not believers, the wrath of God abideth on them. They may sit in the senate house and enjoythe acclamations of the nation; but, if they believe not on the Son, the wrath of God abideth on them. Their names may beenrolled in the peerage, all they may possess countless wealth, but the wrath of God abideth on them. They may be habitualin theircharities, and abundant in external acts of devotion; but, if they have not accepted the appointed Savior, the word ofGod bears witness, that "the wrath of God abideth on them."
II. Now let us, with our hearts awakened by God's Spirit, try to think upon THEIR OFFENCE.
What is this peculiar sin which entails the wrath of God upon these people? It is that they have not believed the Son of God.What does that amount to? It amounts to this, first of all, that they refuse to accept the mercy of God. God made a law, andhis creatures were bound to respect and obey it. We rejected it, and turned aside from it. It was a great display of the heart'shatred, but it was not in some respects so thoroughly and intensely wicked a manifestation ofenmity to God as when we reject the gospel of grace. God has now presented not the law but the gospel to us, and he hassaid: "My creatures, you have broken my law, you have acted very vilely towards me. I must punish for sin, else I were notGod, and I cannot lay aside my justice; but I have devised a way by which, without any injury to any of my attributes, I canhave mercy upon you. I am ready to forgive the past, and to restore you to more than your lost position, so that you shallbe mysons and my daughters. My only command to you is, believe in my Son. If this command be obeyed, all the blessings of mynew covenant shall be yours. Trust him, and follow him; for, behold, I give him as a leader and commander to the people. Accepthim as making atonement by his substitution, and obey him." Now, to reject the law of God shows an evil heart of unbelief;but who shall say what a depth of rebellion must dwell in that heart which refuses not only the yoke of God but even the giftofGod. The provision of a Savior for lost men is the free gift of God, by it all our wants are supplied, all our evils areremoved, peace on earth is secured to us, and glory for ever with God: the rejection of this gift cannot be a small sin. Theall-seeing One, when he beholds men spurning the supreme gift of his love, cannot but regard such rejection as the worst proofof the hatred of their hearts against himself. When the Holy Spirit comes to convince men of sin, the especial sin which hebrings to light is thus described: "Of sin, because they believed not on me." Not because the heathen were licentiousin their habits, barbarians in their ways, and bloodthirsty in their spirit. No: "Of sin, because they believe not on me."Condemnation has come upon men, but what is the condemnation? "That light is come into the world, and men love darkness ratherthan light, because their deeds are evil." Remember, also, that expressive text: "He that believeth not is condemned already;"andwhat is he condemned for! "Because he hath not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God."
Let me remark, further, that in the rejection of divine mercy as presented in Christ, the unbeliever has displayed an intensevenom against God, for observe how it is. He must either receive the mercy of God in Christ, or he must be condemned-thereis no other alternative. He must trust Christ whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin, or else he must be drivenfrom the presence of God into eternal punishment. The unbeliever in effect says, "I had sooner bedamned than I would accept God's mercy in Christ." Can we conceive a grosser insult to the infinite compassion of thegreat Father? Suppose a man has injured another, grossly insulted him, and that repeatedly, and yet the injured person, findingthe man at last brought into a wretched and miserable state, goes to him, and simply out of kindness to him, says, "I freelyforgive you all the wrong you ever did me, and I am ready to relieve your poverty, and to succor you in your distress." Supposethe other replies, "No, I would sooner rot than take anything from you;" would not you have in such a resolve a clearproof of the intense enmity that existed in his heart? And so when a man saith, and everyone of you unbelievers do practicallysay so, "I would sooner lie for ever in hell than honor Christ by trusting him," this is a very plain proof of his hatredof God and his Christ. Unbelievers hate God. Let me ask for what do you hate him? He keeps the breath within your nostrils;he it isthat gives you food and rainment, and sends fruitful seasons. For which of these good things do you hate him? You hatehim because he is good. Ah, then, it must be because you yourself are evil, and your heart very far removed from righteousness.May God grant that this great and crying sin may be clearly set before your eyes by the light of the Eternal Spirit, and mayyou repent of it, and turn from your unbelief, and live this day.
But yet further, the unbeliever touches God in a very tender place by his unbelief. No doubt, it was to the great Maker ajoyous thing to fashion this world, but there are no expressions of joy concerning it at all equal to the joy of God in thematter of human redemption. We would be guarded when we speak of him; but, as far as we can tell, the gift of his dear Sonto men, and the whole scheme of redemption, is the master work even of God himself. He is infinite in POWER,and wisdom, and love; his ways are as high above our ways as the heavens are above the earth; but Scripture, I think,will warrant me in saying-
"That in the grace which rescued man
His brightest form of glory shines;
Here on the cross 'tis fairest writ,
In precious blood and crimson lines."
Now, the man who saith, "There is no God" is a fool, but he who denies God the glory of redemption, in addition to his folly,has robbed the Lord of the choicest jewel of his regalia, and aimed a deadly blow at the divine honor. I may say of him whodespises the great salvation, that, in despising Christ, he touches the apple of God's eye. "This is my beloved Son," saithGod, "hear ye him." Out of heaven he saith it, and yet men stop their ears and say, "We will not havehim." Nay, they wax wrath against the cross, and turn away from God's salvation. Do you think that God will always bearthis? The times of your ignorance he hath winked at, but "now commandeth all men every where to repent." Will ye stand outagainst his love? His love that has been so inventive in ingenious plans by which to bless the sons of men? Shall his choicestwork be utterly contemned by you? If so, it is little wonder that it is written, "The wrath of God abideth on him."
I must, still further, unveil this matter by saying that the unbeliever perpetrates an offense against every person of theblessed Trinity. He may think that his not believing is a very small business, but, indeed, it is a barbed shaft shot againstthe Deity. Take the Persons of the blessed Trinity, beginning with the Son of God who comes to us most nearly. It is to methe most surprising thing I ever heard of that "the word was made flesh and dwelt among us." I do notwonder that in Hindostan the missionaries are often met with this remark: "It is too good to be true that God ever tookupon himself the nature of such a thing as man!" Yet, more wonderful does it seem to be that, when Christ became man, he tookall the sorrows and infirmity of man, and, in addition, was made to bear the sin of many. The most extraordinary of all factsis this: that the infinitely Holy should be "numbered with the transgressors," and, in the words of Esaias, should "bear theiriniquities." The Lord hath made him, who knew no sin, to be made sin for us. Wonder of wonders! It is beyond all degreeamazing that he who distributes crowns and thrones should hang on a tree and die, the just for the unjust, bearing the punishmentdue to sinners for guilt. Now, knowing this, as most of you do, and yet refusing to believe, you do, in effect, say, "I donot believe that the incarnate God can save." "Oh no," you reply, "we sincerely believe that he can save." Then, it must bethat you feel, "I believe he can, but I will not have him to save me." Wherein I excuse you in the first place, I mustbring the accusation more heavily in the second. You answer that "you do not say you will not believe him." Why do you thenremain in unbelief? The fact is you do not trust him; you do not obey him. I pray you account for the fact. "May I believehim?" saith one. Have we not told you ten thousand times over that whosoever will may take the water of life freely. If therebe anybarrier it is not with God, it is not with Christ, it is with your own sinful heart. You are welcome to the Savior now,and if you trust him now he is yours for ever. But oh, unbeliever, it appears to be nothing to you that Christ has died. Hiswounds attract you not. His groans for his enemies have no music in them to you. You turn your back upon the incarnate Godwho bleeds for men, and in so doing you shut yourselves out of hope, judging yourselves unworthy of eternal life.
Furthermore, the wilful rejection of Christ is also an insult to God the Father. "He that believeth not hath made God a liar,because he hath not believed the record that God gave of his Son." God has himself often borne testimony to his dear Son."Him hath God the Father set forth to be a propitiation for our Sins." In rejecting Christ, you reject God's testimony andGod's gift. It is a direct assault upon the truthfulness and lovingkindness of the gracious Father, whenyou trample on or cast aside his priceless, peerless gift of love.
And, as for the blessed Spirit, it is his office here below to bear witness to Christ. In the Christian ministry, daily theHoly Spirit cries to the sons of men to come to Jesus. He has striven in the hearts of many of you, given you a measure ofconviction of sin, and a degree of knowledge of the glory of Christ, but you have repressed it, you have labored to your utmostto do despite to the Spirit of God. Believe me, this is no slight sin. An unbeliever is an enemy toGod the Father, to God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Against the blessed Trinity in Unity, O unbeliever, your sin isa standing insult: you are now to God's face insulting him, by continuing an unbeliever.
And, I must add, that there is also in unbelief an insult against every attribute of God. The unbeliever in effect declares,"If the justice of God is seen in laying the punishment of sin upon Christ-I do not care for his justice, I will bear my ownpunishment." The sinner seems to say, "God is merciful in the gift of Christ to suffer in our stead-I do not want his mercy,I can do without it. Others may be guilty, and they may trust in the Redeemer, but I do not feelsuch guilt and I will not sue for pardon." Unbelievers attack the wisdom of God, for, whereas the wisdom of God is inits fullness revealed in the gift of Jesus, they say, "It is a dogma, unphilosophical, and worn-out." They count the wisdomof God to be foolishness, and thus cast a slight upon another of the divine attributes. I might in detail mention every oneof the attributes and prerogatives of God, and prove that your nonacceptance of the Savior is an insult to every one of them,and toGod himself: but the theme is too sad for us to continue upon it, and, therefore, let us pass to another phase of thesubject, though I fear it will be equally grievous.
III. Thirdly, let us consider THE CAUSES OF THIS UNBELIEF.
In a great many, unbelief may be ascribed to a careless ignorance of the way of salvation. Now, I should not wonder if many of you imagine that, if you do not understand the gospel, you aretherefore quite excused for not believing it. But, sirs, it is not so. You are placed in this world, not as heathens in thecenter of Africa, but in enlightened England, where you live in the full blaze of gospel day. There are places of worshipall around you, which you canwithout difficulty attend. The book of God is very cheap; you have it in your houses; you can all read it or hear it read.Is it so, then, that the king has been pleased to reveal himself to you, and tell you the way to salvation, and yet you, atthe age of twenty, thirty, or forty, do not know the way of salvation? What, do you mean, sir? What can you mean? Has Godbeen pleased to reveal himself in Scripture, and tell you how to escape from hell and fly to heaven, and yet have you beentooidle to inquire into that way? Dare you say to God, "I do not think it worth my while to learn what thou hast revealed,neither do I care to know of the gift which thou hast bestowed on men." How can you think that such ignorance is an excusefor your sin? What could be a more gross aggravation of it? If you do not know, you ought to know; if you have not learnedthe gospel message, you might have learned it, for there are, some of us whose language it is not difficult for even the mostilliterate to understand, and who would, if we caught ourselves using a hard word, retract it, and put it into littlesyllables, so that not even a child's intellect need be perplexed by our language. Salvation's way is plain in the book; thosewords, "Believe and live," are in this Christian England almost as legible and as universally to be seen as though they wereprinted on the sky. That trust in the Lord Jesus saves the soul is well-known news. But, if you still say you have not knownallthis, then I reply, "Dear sir, do try to know it. Go to the Scriptures, study them, see what is there. Hear, also, thegospel, for it is written, "Incline your ear to come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live." Faith cometh by hearing, andhearing by the word of God." For your soul's sake I charge you, be no longer ignorant of that which you must know, or elsemust perish.
In some others, the cause is indifference. They do not think the matter to be of any very great consequence. They are aware that they are not quite right, but theyhave a notion that somehow or other they will get right at last; and, meanwhile, it does not trouble them. Oh man, I praythee as thy fellow creature let me speak with thee a word of expostulation. God declares that his wrath abides upon you asan unbeliever, and do you call that nothing? God says, "I amangry with you," and you say to him, "I do not care, it is of very small importance to me. The rise or fall of the consolsis of much more consequence than whether God is angry with me or not. My dinner being done to a turn concerns me a great dealmore than whether the infinite God loves me or hates me." That is the English of your conduct, and I put it to you whetherthere can be a higher impertinence against your Creator, or a direr form of arrogant revolt against the eternal Ruler. Ifitdoes not trouble you that God is angry with you, it ought to trouble you; and it troubles me that it does not trouble you. We have heard of persons guilty of murder, whose behavior during the trial has been cool and self-possessed. The coolnesswith which they pleaded "not guilty" has been all of a piece with the hardness of tears which led them to the bloody deed.He who is capable of great crime is also incapable of shame concerning it. A man who is able to take pleasure and beat ease while God is angry with him shows that his heart is harder than steel.
In certain cases, the root of this unbelief lies in another direction. It is fed by pride. The person who is guilty of it does not believe that he needs a Savior. His notion is that he will do his very best, attendthe church or the meeting-house very regularly, subscribe occasionally or frequently, and go to heaven partly by what he does,and partly by the merits of Christ. So that not believing in Christ is not a matter of any great consequence with him, becausehe is not naked, and poor, and miserable; but he is rich, and increased in goods in spiritual things. To be saved by faithis a religion for harlots, and drunkards, and thieves; but for respectable persons such as he is, who have kept the law fromtheir youth up, he does not see any particular need of laying hold upon Christ. Such conduct reminds me of the words of Cowper:-
"Perish the virtue, as it ought, abhorr'd,
And the fool with it that insults his Lord."
God believed it needful, in order to save man, that the Redeemer should die; yet you self-righteous ones evidently think thatdeath a superfluity: for if a man could save himself, why did the Lord descend and die to save him? If there be a way to heavenby respectability and morality without Christ, what is the good of Christ? It is utterly useless to have an expiator and ameditator, if men are so good that they do not require them. You tell God to his face that he liesunto you, that you are not so sinful as he would persuade you, that you do not need a substitute and sacrifice as he saysyou do. Oh, sirs, this pride of yours is an arrogant rebellion against God. Look at your fine actions, you that are so good-yourmotives are base, your pride over what you have done has defiled, with black fingers, all your acts. In as much as you preferyour way to God's way, and prefer your righteousness to God's righteousness, the wrath of God abideth on you.
Perhaps I have not hit the reason of your unbelief, therefore let me speak once more. In many love of sin rather than any boasted self-righteousness keeps them from the Savior. They do not believe in Jesus, not because they haveany doubt about the truths of Christianity, but because they have an enslaving love for their favourite sin. "Why," saithone, "if I were to believe in Christ, of course, I must obey him-to trust and to obey go together. Then I could notbe the drunkard I am, I could not trade as I do, I could not practice secret licentiousness, I could not frequent thehaunts of the ungodly, where laughter is occasioned by sin, and mirth by blasphemy. I cannot give up these my darling sins."Perhaps, this sinner hopes that one day, when he cannot any longer enjoy his sin, he will meanly sneak out of it, and tryto cheat the devil of his soul; but, meanwhile, he prefers the pleasures of sin to obedience to God, and unbelief to acceptanceof hissalvation. O sweet sin! O bitter sin! How art thou murdering the souls of men! As certain serpents before they striketheir prey fix their eyes upon it and fascinate it, and then at last devour it, so does sin fascinate the foolish sons ofAdam; they are charmed with it, and perish for it. It yields but a momentary joy, and the wage thereof is eternal misery,yet are men enamoured of it. The ways of the strange woman, and the paths of uncleanness lead most plainly to the chambersof death, yetare men attracted thereto as moths by the blaze of the candle, and so are they destroyed. Alas! that men wantonly dashagainst the rocks of dangerous lasts, and perish wilfully beneath the enchantment of sin. Sad pity it is to prefer a harlotto the eternal God, to prefer a few pence made by dishonesty to heaven itself, to prefer the gratification of the belly tothe love of the Creator, and the joy of being reconciled and saved. It was a dire insult to God when Israel set up a goldencalf, andsaid, "These be thy gods, O Israel." Shall the image of an ox that eateth grass supplant the living God! He that had strewnthe earth with manna, had made Sinai to smoke with his presence, and the whole wilderness to tremble beneath his marchings,is he to be thrust aside by the image of a bullock that hath horns and hoofs? Will men prefer molten metal to the infinitelyholy and glorious Jehovah? But, surely, the preference of a lust to God is a greater insult still: to obey our passions ratherthan his will, and to prefer sin to his mercy; this is the crime of crimes. May God deliver us from it, for his mercy'ssake.
IV. We have heavy tidings in the last head of my discourse, THE TERRIBLE RESULT of unbelief. "He shall not see life, but thewrath of God abideth on him." "The wrath of God!" No words can ever fully explain this expression. Holy Whitfield, when hewas preaching, would often hold up his hands, and, with tears streaming down his eyes, would exclaim, "Oh, the wrath to come!the wrath to come!" Then would he pause because his emotions checked his utterance. The wrath of God! Iconfess I feel uneasy if anybody is angry with me, and yet one can bear the auger of foolish, hot-tempered persons withsome equanimity. But the wrath of God is the anger of one who is never angry without a cause, one who is very patient andlong suffering. It takes much to bring the choler into Jehovah's face, yet is he wroth with unbelievers. He is never wrothwith anything because it is feeble and little, but only because it is wrong. His anger is only his holiness set on fire. Hecannotbear sin; who would wish that he should? What right-minded man would desire God to be pleased with evil? That were tomake a devil of God. Because he is God, he must be angry with sin wherever it is. This makes the sting of it, that his wrathis just and holy anger. It is the anger, remember, of an Omnipotent Being, who can crush us as easily as a moth. It is theanger of an Infinite Being, and therefore infinite anger, the heights and depths and breadths and lengths of which no mancanmeasure. Only the incarnate God ever fully knew the power of God's anger. It is beyond all conception, yet the anger restson you my hearer. Alas, for you, if you are an unbeliever, for this is your state before God. It is no fiction of mine, butthe word of inspired truth: "the wrath of God abideth on him."
Then notice the next word, it "abideth," this is to say, it is upon you now. He is angry with you at this moment,-and always. You go to sleep with an angry God gazinginto your face, you wake in the morning, and if your eye were not dim, you would perceive his frowning countenance. He isangry with you, even when you are singing his praises, for you mock him with solemn sounds, upon a thoughtless tongue; angrywith you on your knees, for you only pretend to pray,you utter words without heart. As long as you are not a believer, he must be angry with you every moment. "God is angrywith the wicked every day."
That the text saith it abideth, and the present tense takes a long sweep, for it always will abide on you. But may you not,perhaps, escape from it, by ceasing to exist? The test precludes such an idea. Although it says, that you "shall not see life,"it teaches that God's wrath is upon you, so that the absence of life is not annihilation. Spiritual life belongs only to believers;you are now without that life, yet you exist, and wrath abides on you, and so it ever mustbe. While you shall not see life, you shall exist in eternal death, for the wrath of God cannot abide on a non-existentcreature. You shall not see life, but you shall feel wrath to the uttermost. It is horror enough that wrath should be on younow, it is horror upon horrors, and hell upon hell, that it shall be upon you for ever.
And notice that it must be so, because you reject the only thing that can heal you. As George Herbert says, "Whom oils andbalsams kill, what salve can cure?" If Christ himself has become a savor of death unto death unto you, because you rejecthim, how can you be saved? There is but one door, and if you close it by your unbelief, how can you enter heaven? There isone healing medicine, and, if you refuse to take it, what remains but death? There is one water of life, butyou refuse to drink it; then must you thirst for ever. You put from you, voluntarily, the one only Redeemer; how thenshall you be ransomed? Shall Christ die again, and in another state be offered to you once more? O sirs, you would rejecthim then as you reject him now. But there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin. On the cross, God's mercy to the sons of menwas fully revealed, and will you reject God's ultimatum of grace; his last appeal to you. If so, it is at your own peril:Christ beingraised from the dead, dieth no more; he shall come again, but without a sin offering unto the salvation of his people.
Remember, sirs, that the wrath of God will produce no saving or softening effect. It has been suggested that a sinner, aftersuffering God's wrath awhile, may repent, and so escape from it. But our observation and experience prove that the wrath ofGod never softened anybody's heart yet, and we believe it never will: those who are suffering divine wrath will go on to harden,and harden, and harden, the more they suffer, the more they will hate: the more they are punished,the more will they sin. The wrath of God abiding on you will produce no good results to you, but rather you shall go fromevil to evil, further and further from the presence of God.
The reason why the wrath of God abides on an unbeliever is partly because all his other sins remain on him. There is no sinthat shall damn the man who believes, and nothing can save the man who will not believe. God removes all sin the moment webelieve; but while we believe not, fresh cords fasten upon us our transgressions. The sin of Judah is written as with an ironpen, and graven with a point of a diamond. Nothing can release you from guilt while your heart remainsat enmity with Jesus Christ your Lord.
Remember that God has never taken an oath, that I know of, against any class of persons, except unbelievers. "To whom swarehe that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not?" Continued unbelief God never will forgive, becausehis word binds him not to do so. Doth he swear an oath, and shall he go back from it? It cannot be. O that you might havegrace to relinquish your unbelief, and close in with the gospel, and be saved.
Now, I hear some one object, "You tell us that certain people are under the wrath of God, but they are very prosperous." Ireply, that yonder bullock will be slaughtered. Yet it is being fattened. And your prosperity, O ungodly man, is but a fatteningof you for the slaughter of justice. Ay, but you say, "They are very merry, and some of those who are forgiven are very sad."Mercy lets them be merry while they may. We have heard of men who, when driven to Tyburn in a cart,could drink and laugh as they went to the gallows. It only proved what bad men they were. And so, whereas the guilty canyet take comfort, it only proves their guiltiness.
Let me ask what ought to be your thoughts concerning these solemn truths which I have delivered to you? I know what my thoughtswere; they made me go to my bed unhappy. They made me very grateful because I hope I have believed in Jesus Christ; yet theymade me start in the night, and wake this morning with a load upon me. I come here to say to you, must it be so that you willalways remain unbelievers, and abide under the wrath of God? If it must be so, and the dreadconclusion seems forced upon me, at any rate, do look it in the face, do consider it. If you are resolved to be damned,know what you are at. Take advise and consider. O sirs, it cannot need an argument to convince you that it is a most wretchedthing to be now under the wrath of God. You cannot want any argument to show that it must be a blessed thing to be forgiven-youmust see that. It is not your reason that wants convincing, it is, your heart that wants renewing.
The whole gospel lies in this nutshell. Come, thou guilty one, just as thou art, and rest thyself upon the finished work ofthe Savior, and take him to be thine for ever. Trust Jesus now. In your present position it may be done. God's Holy Spiritblessing your mind, you may at this moment say, "Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief." You may now confide in Jesus,and some who came in here unforgiven, may make the angels sing because they go down yonder steps savedsouls, whose transgressions are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. God knoweth one thing, that if I knew by what studyand what art I could learn to preach the gospel so as to affect your hearts I would spare no cost or pains. For the present,I have aimed simply to warn you, not with adornment of speech, lest the power should be the power of man; and now I leavemy message, and commit it to him who shall judge the quick and the dead. But this know, if ye receive not the Son, I shallbe aswift witness against you. God grant it be not so, for his mercy's sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Hebrews 2:14-18; Hebrews 3.