The Ungodly and Their End
Archibald G. Brown, October 11, 1874, East London Tabernacle
"The ungodly are not so — but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous." Psalm 1:4-5
Everything shows up best by contrast, and the most startling effects are those produced by suddenly bringing opposites side by side.
The artist knows this, and therefore seeks to throw just that particular background into his picture which shall make the leading figures of that picture come out most distinctly, and appear to best advantage.
The musician knows it, and therefore, studies to intermingle the most plaintive strains with clarion notes.
And the preacher ought to know it. Be it his to employ the power or contrasts in setting forth the word of God before his hearers. If he is wise he will endeavor to make the darkness of perdition cause the brightness of Heaven to appear all the more lustrous. He will seek to make the blackness of Hell grow gloomier by the force of its contrast with the glory of the saved. It is well, every now and then, to put side by side these things which so differ — the state of the saved with the condition of the unsaved — the glory of being with Christ, with the horror of being with the damned.
Now, you will see that in the psalm from which we have selected this evening's text, we have one of these sudden and striking contrasts introduced. The first few verses are most calm — there is a peculiar serenity about them; they are gentle as 'a pastoral symphony'. It seems to us as though David were like a shepherd in the field as he sings, concerning the godly, 'He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper — the ungodly are not so'!
Sudden change; it is like a flash of lightning glaring before your eyes, when there has been no solitary sign of the brewing of a storm. All in a moment, yes, with the rapidity of a storm in the tropical regions, the quietest of calms is broken into, and the roar of the tempest heard. One moment we see a tree growing by a river's side, its roots well watered, its leaves never withering. We think we can hear the music of the brook as it runs by, and we are just ready to say, 'What an exquisite scene of loveliness!' when without a warning, there is brought before our eyes, not a tree — but dry chaff being swept out of the barn door by a very hurricane, whirled up, and carried out of sight! 'And', says the psalmist, 'that is just what the ungodly are like, for the ungodly are not so as I have described the godly — but they are like the chaff which the wind drives away.'
May God, dear friends, in his great mercy apply this truth to you who are yet without Christ. He is our witness that our only desire is to try and move some of you who have been stolidly indifferent up to the present moment. Our only wish is that many of you who are going to Hell asleep, may be woken up. And though, doubtless, some are already saying, 'We wish the pastor had chosen a different kind of text today', we trust and believe that it shall be proved by God that it is of his selection.
Let us first of all, try and find out the characters intended in our text;
secondly, we will listen to the description that is given of them;
and thirdly, we will remind you of their end.
I. First of all, let us find out the CHARACTERS intended.The ungodly — who are they? I know full well who are uppermost in your minds. I no sooner mentioned the text, and spoke about the doom of the ungodly, than you began to think of the vile and the brutalized characters whose deeds of cruelty make up that shameful list of 'crimes of violence' now appearing in our papers day by day. And side by side with them you doubtless thought of the drunkard, pouring down his throat the liquid fire to better qualify himself for the devil's work. And you thought of brazen-faced harlotry and open immorality and of those who are steeped to the lips in sin — and of those who live, as they say 'for time, and let eternity look after itself'. These are the characters you pictured when we read the word 'ungodly'. Well, you are right, they are ungodly.
But I am certain that all I have mentioned fail to compose one-tenth part of those who are legitimately to be included in the catalogue of the ungodly. Remember this, that a man may be ungodly, without being any of the characters that I have mentioned. An ungodly man is simply a man who tries to get through the world without God. The word is plain enough in its meaning; it is not necessary for a man's life to be a shame and a disgrace, for him to be ungodly. It is not necessary for him to be steeped in all sorts of vice, in order to be without God.
No; all he has to do to earn the title is to leave God out of his love. He may have love for wife and children, love for business, love for friends but as far as God is concerned, he has not an atom of affection. It may be said of his heart, that it is ungodly — there is no God enshrined in its love.
He is ungodly, also, in his thoughts. Not ten, no, not two thoughts a day are consecrated unto God. His business, his every-day affairs — these things, he says, are quite enough to occupy him without his troubling his head about religion.
Look into his character, and you will find that he is ungodly in every part of his life. Inspect all his motives, and you will find that he never does a thing for God's sake. There is no fear of God before his eyes; there is no reverence for God within his heart. He may be gentle, amiable, moral, a good sort of man as far as this world's goodness is concerned. He would be all right, if a man could be all right without God — but he belongs to the ungodly.
I will go further, and venture to assert that a man may be most moral, and yet most ungodly. While vile immorality has slain its thousands; a godless morality has slain its tens of thousands! And for one that is dragged down to perdition by the mill-stone of vice, there are hundreds who are taken in the meshes of the net of a Christless virtue. A man may be honest in all his transactions, pure in his language, chaste in his thoughts, an honorable man in all his business dealings — just the very one you would like to trade with — his word may be his bond, and all his actions fair — and yet come under the designation of ungodly. It is with him, simply morality, skin deep; there has been nothing of regeneration within, without which it is impossible for a man to enter into the kingdom.
We will go one step further, and say that a man may be most religiously active, and yet be ungodly. I can conceive of a man being a most talented preacher — and yet being ungodly. It may be that he has a natural liking and gift for speaking, and he may, perhaps, take a very great deal of interest in the increase of a denomination and the outward mechanism of a church — but for all that he is totally devoid of the life of God within his soul.
It is possible for a man to be an enthusiast in committee work — to be a constant worker in the outward details of church life — yes to be a very bigot in maintaining a creed, and yet be ungodly. Oh, pass the question round, I pray you, you who have made profession of the Lord Jesus Christ for years. Have you got something more than the mere name to live? Are you yet — (oh, can it be?) — ungodly, though a professing Christian — ungodly though once immersed in the name of Christ — ungodly, though your life is almost a pattern for the very best of Christians? The question is, have you God or not? For my text is not about the immoral, the profane, or the criminal — but about those who, whatever else they have, possess not God.
II. Now, listen to the DESCRIPTION given of them. What are these ungodly ones like? Well, you will find that they are the very opposite of all that a godly man is. You have simply to take the picture of the saved man, and then, after every particular, write, 'The ungodly are NOT so.'
I think it were difficult to find a more solemn or more dreadful description of the ungodly man, than given by this short negative sentence. There is not a thing you can say about a godly man, as such — but what you can add, 'The ungodly are not so.' Let us see, then, what is taught in the passage.
Look at the first word of this psalm. It is a grand one for an introduction — a word full of all comfort. It is that word 'blessed.' What a precious preface to the description of the child of God! It stands like a herald in the forefront. The Christian is 'blessed' — but 'the ungodly are not so'.
The godly man is blessed every way. His person is — I care not how plain, how unattractive, or even how deformed he may be. It matters not how poor or threadbare the clothing that covers him. Wherever he goes, round about him — but unseen by the worldlings, there is this atmosphere of blessing. Being blessed himself; he carries a blessing with him. It never departs. Whether he is awake or asleep, resting on him, as dew upon the grass in early morning, is the blessing of God that makes rich. It abides on all his provisions, whether it be the stalled ox — or the dry crust. The godly cannot partake of a solitary meal but that they have the Lord's blessing resting on their fare. Yes, more, they have God's blessing even on their trials, taking all the sting out of them.
But 'the ungodly are not so'. No blessing rests either on their persons, their provisions, their homes, or their lives. Why, sirs, if you were to realize this fact, it would be enough to send you down on your knees in the pew at this moment, and cry to God, for his mercy's sake, to make you one of the godly!
'The ungodly are not so.' They live a life devoid of divine blessing. Their bodies may be healthy and pampered — but they are not blessed. They may be arrayed in purple and fine linen, as the rich man of old — and yet have no robe of blessing. They may have all that heart can wish — yet be unblessed. Their laugh is laughter under the curse of God. The levity of their speech, that runs like water from their lips — oh, what a mockery it seems! They are joking with the shadow of damnation over their heads, and they let fly their gibes and quips, and make furious merriment, while 'a sword' — a sword is furbished, and it hangs suspended by a hair over their heads! The curse of God is out upon them, and upon all they have.
Oh, do you say, that is a strong speech? It is not I who said it. These lips would never dare to make such an assertion, unless it were warranted by the divine word. Listen, 'Cursed is everyone that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.' And 'He who believes not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.'
Oh, dear friend, sad though it may be — it is true! If you are not a converted man or a converted woman, you are living with God's curse like a black thunder cloud hanging over you, and it is only through his matchless mercy that the lightning has not flashed forth from it long before this, and struck you down to Hell! God is delaying his judgment, in order to lengthen out the time for mercy to be found.
Yes, the godly are blessed; blessed when they fall asleep. All unconscious as they may be of their own existence, the angels watch their slumbers, for God gives to his beloved sleep. But 'the ungodly are not so'.
Young man, will you dare to go to sleep tonight with God's curse for your coverlet? Can you dare to enter into that strange world which is so near akin to death itself, with the thought that when you fall asleep you sleep not like the godly, for they rest beneath the blessing — and you beneath God's execration.
More than this, you will find, if you look into the psalm, that the godly are like trees planted. Here is the picture of a Christian. I care not whether he is high, low, rich, poor, sick, or well — in any case he is like a tree planted by the rivers of water; the roots of which are ever drinking in supplies of luxuriant life. A Christian is an evergreen — his joys in Christ last, though all his other pleasures be taken from him.
But 'the ungodly are not so'. If you want to know what kind of trees they are, turn to the Epistle of Jude, and read the 12th verse, and there you will find the contrast. 'Trees plucked up by the roots, twice dead, whose fruit withers.' The ungodly have no root, and no one thanks them for the withering fruit they yield; an accursed fruit that only sets the children's teeth on edge.
Put the godly man into ever so trying circumstances, and he will triumph, for though the frosts may nip his boughs — his roots find nourishment from hidden springs. But, oh, poor godless soul, what have you to fly to when the winter of adversity grasps your every bough with icy hand? Nothing. For you are not as the godly.
You see it were easy to talk a long time thus, showing you that no matter what may be said of the godly, it may be added, 'the ungodly are not so'. I will only mention two or three points, and I will thank God heartily if you who are unsaved are led to lay hold of them, and think them out at your leisure when you reach your homes.
The godly are saved with an everlasting salvation — but 'the ungodly are not so'. They are unsaved, lost, dead even while they live; under sentence of damnation.
The godly are forgiven — there is no charge against them on the Lord's sheet. They have all their iniquities entirely blotted out — but 'the ungodly are not so'. Have you ever thought, dear friend, that there is not a solitary sin of your entire life yet forgiven? Oh, man, have you lived twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years, and is it true that not a solitary sin you have ever committed during all these years has been pardoned — but rests as an accumulated load upon your head tonight? Dreadful indeed is your condition, passing all description in its horror!
And, thanks be unto the Lord, the godly are conquerors over death. They know they have to die just as much as the unsaved — but does that thought affright them? No, I think the temptation is more often the other way: they are sometimes in a hurry to depart and be with Christ. So far from fearing death, they look it in the face and say, 'When you are ready to take me — I am ready to go with you!'
But 'the ungodly are not so'. Do you doubt it? Answer me this question, sir, honestly, How would you feel if you had to die tonight? If the message came to you, 'Set your house in order, for before twelve o'clock this night you shall be gone!' — how would you take the sentence? Tell the godly man that, and although he might shed some tears on leaving loved ones, he could receive the message without trepidation and say, 'I have a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is better by far!' 'The ungodly are not so.' There is their description.
III. Now just for the few remaining moments I want to remind you of their END.May the Lord himself strike right home. What is to be the end of these ungodly ones? 'They shall be like the chaff which the wind drives away, for the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment.'
First of all, then, you see, there will be SEPARATION from the righteous. What is the chaff? The chaff is simply the husk that grows on the same stalk as the true grain. They have grown up together, the same sun has shone on both; the same rain has fallen on both. Nay, the husk has been the very cradle of the seed. But at last when the wheat has been reaped and the flail is brought down on it — the grain and the chaff are separated forever.
Oh, there will be some fearful separations on that great day!
Father, you know your daughter is a godly girl, and you have lived for her — you have literally been the husk round about her. How you have shielded her; how you have worked for her; and when you have felt weary and tired what comfort you have derived from the thought, 'Well, I am doing it for her.' Yes, poor father — but with all that natural affection, you are only the husk while she is the grain, and the wind shall drive you away from her. There will be — unless sovereign grace saves you — an eternal separation! The wheat shall be gathered into the garner — and the chaff whirled into everlasting destruction!
You young ones who are present, have you ever thought that you will have to be eternally absent from a godly mother — unless her Savior becomes yours? Young man, young woman present, you live, do you, for your mother? Well, I honor you for that, for no one can love a mother too well. Tell me, then, can you bear the thought of mother going to Heaven — and you to Hell? Can you endure the idea of never seeing her again when once death steps in? You may seek to cling to her — but you shall not be able, for you are like the chaff which the wind drives away.
Oh, what separations there will be then! The Lord knows that sometimes this thought comes overpoweringly upon our own hearts on a Sunday night. We lie down to rest — but sleep flies, and in thought we see you again, gathered all around us as you are tonight; and from the bottom of our heart we cry, 'Lord, we love them all — may we meet them all in the glory?' But I know that if many of you die as you are, I shall see you standing at the left hand, and I shall hear the sentence of banishment pronounced on you, and shall have to bear witness against you, and say 'Amen' to your condemnation!
We shall not be taken to Heaven in pews-full, or saved as gatherings. It is an individual matter, and though you may have worshiped here ever so regularly, yes, become closely linked with us — closely as the chaff is to the grain on the same stalk — the moment shall come when there shall be a final, an eternal separation, 'for the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment!'
Notice too how sweeping and irresistible the ruin. What can a feather-weight of chaff do against the rushing wind? You talk big swelling words now, do you, you, young man? You have had skeptical ideas put into your head. You are beginning to talk blasphemously against God and nurturing infidel thoughts within your mind. How soon will these be driven out of you in the day when he says to you, 'Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity!' Luke 13:27
What will your theories, your fallacies, your doubtings, your excuses, your bold sayings — be worth then? You may scoff and jeer in the tabernacle on a Sunday night — it does not need much courage to do that! But when once the Lion of Judah is roused, and you have to meet — not a dying Lamb but the angry Lamb — what will you say to him? Do you feel you are equally matched with omnipotence? Surely not! Then what will you do against the hurricane of Jehovah's wrath? Just as much as chaff can do against the hurricane, and no more.
'The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind drives away.' WHEN? Why, in the judgment, for the ungodly 'shall not stand in the judgment'. Can you imagine that day, and the whole of tonight's congregation, as but a drop in the ocean, gathered there? And now the testing time comes, and there sweeps by a wind more mighty than that which swept past the prophet of Horeb. That was an awful wind, for I read that when it swept by it rent the rocks; but in this great day there shall be a mightier wind than that. It shall come sweeping around the eternal throne, and everything that is not God-built shall be carried away in a moment.
I wonder how our modern theologians will be then? Ah, sir, you who have talked about the 'universal fatherhood of God' — deal with the hurricane now! You who have sneered at those who, as you said, 'preached damnation'. What have you to say about damnation now? You considered that God was too kind, and too loving, and too merciful ever to punish sinners. Where are your delicate ideas now? Oh, how your fine imaginations will be swept away, as if they had never been! How all these modern dreams will shrivel up before the hot blast of God's angry, 'Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels!'
And then with these imaginations shall go all excuses. You are a good hand at making them now; I know you could tell me in a minute a 'good' reason for your not being a Christian. Either you have too much business, or you have too little; or you have not time enough to think about these things, or you mean to think about them soon. Yes, how about excuses in that day? How that great wind will catch them all from your lips, and before you have time to give God one of your paltry lies, you with them will be swept with the speed of a hurricane into endless perdition!
There will be only one thing that will stand that mighty tempest, and that will be the soul that rests upon the rock, Christ Jesus. When all false props have gone — when all other dependencies have been swept away, then shall stand immovable the man who flew for refuge to the Savior. Even then, when the hurricane rends the rocks, and sweeps away the chaff these lines shall be found most gloriously true:
Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who ought to my charge shall lay,
While by that blood absolved I am,
From sin's tremendous curse and shame!
The chaff is to be driven away. WHERE? Now, I beg you mark this answer. Do let the edge of it be removed by your saying — 'Oh, that is what Mr. Brown says!' It is not. You ask me, do you, the question — 'WHERE is the chaff going?' I will let Jesus Christ himself give you the answer. You will find it at your leisure in the 3rd of Matthew; and the 12th verse; and if, after this, any of you are damned — then I am clear of your blood. Where is the chaff going to? The answer is this: 'And he shall burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!' You may sneer at it, if you like, and you may reject, and may scoff, and go home and say — 'We had a brimstone sermon tonight.' Say what you will — but remember that God has said — 'The chaff shall be burnt up with unquenchable fire!'
Oh, do you think that a heart that has got any feeling in it takes any delight in preaching these things? Do you think that it is any luxury to have to stand before a company like this and tell them that they will be eternally lost? Do you think it is any treat to our heart to have to talk these things? God is our witness, that it is the very reverse; but it is not for me to come here and tickle your ears week by week, and select that which I think may please you most. I tell you, if you are unconverted, you are among the ungodly — and at the last day you shall be carried away like the chaff, and be burnt up with unquenchable fire!
And now, for your soul's sake, flee from the wrath to come! If Hell is a reality — shun it. If Heaven be a reality — seek it. If God's threatenings are true — fear them. If Christ's invitations be genuine — accept them. And, as a sinner, cast yourself into the arms of him who is willing to save you tonight — but whose wrath you cannot bear. 'Today is the day of salvation. Now is the accepted time.' Oh, get to Christ quickly, lest the storm break upon your path, and stop you! Get into the arms of the Savior tonight, lest tomorrow you should be with the chaff which the wind drives away to eternal perdition!
May God in his mercy save you, every one, for Christ's sake. Amen.