David's Question Improved
James Smith, 1865
"What have I done? What is my crime?" 1 Samuel 20:1
Saul sought David's life. David was alarmed and concerned for his safety. Conscious of his innocence, he appeals to Jonathan, and asks the king's son, "What have I done? What is my crime?" In David's case there was good reason for this; but there is a class of sinners who, when the threatenings of God are set before them, when they are told that their present course will terminate in Hell, with a good deal of self — sufficiency, ask, "What have I done? What is my crime? What is so very bad? What have I done that can provoke a good and gracious God? What have I done that can deserve so dreadful a doom of Hell and eternal torments? Why should I be sent to Hell? What, I have lived a moral life! I have been strictly honest! I have attended a place of worship regularly. I have said my prayers with a good deal of punctuality! Me — go to Hell? Who, then, can go to Heaven? What have I done?"
You have done the very worst thing that you could do! You have sinned against God! You have broken His holy law. That law requires you to be holy — perfectly holy. It requires that you should aim at your Creator's glory in everything you do. It requires that self should never be your end in anything. It requires that your motives, thoughts, purposes, plans, words, and actions — should be all for God's honor. It requires that there must be no lust, covetousness, wrath, envy, evil speaking, or irregularity of feeling, desire, or conduct. All must be by God's rule, and flow spontaneously from the heart — or there is sin.
Man was created capable of this, and God still requires it at our hands. If God's law is violated — then God is insulted, punishment is merited, and the sinner is doomed to misery and despair. Thus the law teaches us what God requires, demands exact conformity to its precepts, and threatens all who break any of its commands with eternal death. This is all that the law can do. You are under the law by nature, and as you cannot pretend to absolute perfection, all that the law can do for you is to condemn, and leave you in despair. You, have, therefore, done the worst thing that you could do, and are in the worst position that you can be in, outside of Hell.
But, perhaps, in addition to this, you have rejected God's message of mercy sent to you in the everlasting gospel. The gospel comes to you as a sinner. It comes to you directly from the heart of God. It comes to you in a state of condemnation. It comes to tell you that there is mercy in God's heart — that he finds no pleasure in punishing sinners — that he has devised a way by which sinners may be saved — a way in which the law will get all its due, and the law-breakers be delivered from its tremendous sentence. It comes to tell you that God has given his own, his only beloved Son, to be a substitute and sacrifice for sinners. That he has lived to obey the precepts of the law, and died to pay its awful penalty. That he is both able and willing to save all who come unto God by him. That he simply requires you to believe his message, trust in his atonement, confess your crimes, and consecrate yourself to his service. In so doing, he pledges his word and honor to save you. To deliver you from Hell with all its horrors, from sin with all its consequences — and to reconcile you to his Father, and entitle you to Heaven, and prepare you to shine among the ranks of the blessed ones above.
Now, have you received this gospel into your heart? Have you sincerely believed it? Have you acted upon it? Do you renounce all other ground of dependence — but Jesus and his precious blood? Do you venture your soul upon this sacrifice alone? Are you heartily sorry for your sins? Do you confess them before God with grief? Do you break off from your old habits, associates, and courses — and consecrate yourself to the service and honor of Jesus? If not, it is in vain for you to ask, "What have I done?" or, "Why should I go to Hell?"
Why, you have not only broken God's law — but you have refused a pardon from his grace! God has sent you a pardon, which was procured at no less a cost than the labor, sufferings, and death of his dear Son — and you have refused it. You did not believe the message. You would not accept the blessing. God told you that you must believe in Jesus; live upon Jesus; be made like Jesus — or be damned. But you would not believe Him, for you have encouraged a hope of going to Heaven — in direct opposition to God's plan, and thus you have made God a liar!
You have said by your conduct, "I do not believe God. I shall not go to Hell — though I go on in my old course. I shall go to Heaven — even though I am not born again by the Spirit of God. What have I done that I should not?" Oh, sinner, sinner, your case is awful! Your state is most dangerous. You are on the very brink of Hell — and yet you do not believe it! The blue flames of the eternal pit almost flash in your face — and yet you cry "Peace, peace!" May the Lord arouse you from your fearful state!