The fear of Hell whips him off some favorite vice!
(Charles Spurgeon, "Flowers from a Puritan's Garden" 1883)
"A wolf may be scared from his prey — yet he keeps his ravenous nature."
He has not lost his taste for lambs — though he was obliged to drop the one which he had seized.
Just so, a sinner may be forced to forego his beloved lust — and yet remain as truly a sinner as before. He may give up his drinking, for fear of losing his job, or dying of disease — but he would be at his liquor again if he dared. The fear of Hell whips him off some favorite vice — and yet his heart pines for it, and in imagination he nourishes it.
In the sight of God, each man is as his heart is!
The muzzled wolf is still a wolf,
the silenced swearer is still profane in heart,
the lewd thinker is still immoral.
Something is done when a wolf is scared, or a transgressor driven out of his evil ways — yet nothing is done which will effectually change the wolf, or renew the ungodly heart. A frightened sinner — is a sinner still. Like the frightened dog, he will return to his vomit! And like the sow that was washed, he will wallow in the mire again as soon as opportunity offers!
"You must be born again!" This is the only effectual cure for sin! While the nature is unchanged — it is but the outside of the cup and platter which is washed.
"Truth in the inward parts" is what God desires, and until that is given, we remain under divine wrath.
Any thief will turn honest under the gallows — and yet if he were set free, he would rob the first house he came to! A scare is not a conversion. A sinner may be frightened into hypocrisy — but he must be wooed by God to repentance and faith. Divine love tames, and divine grace transforms. May the God of all grace deal thus with each of us!