Judgment near at Hand!

Charles Simeon, 1759-1836

(You will find it helpful to listen to the audio, as you read the text below.)

Deuteronomy 32:32-35
"Their vine comes from the vine of Sodom and from the fields of Gomorrah. Their grapes are filled with poison, and their clusters with bitterness. Their wine is the venom of serpents, the deadly poison of cobras. "Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in My vaults? It is Mine to avenge! I will repay! In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them!"

Tenderness and fidelity are by no means incompatible. Nothing could exceed the tenderness of our blessed Lord, who wept over those who were just about to imbrue their hands in his blood. Yet, when occasion called for it, he spoke with great severity, "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the damnation of Hell! Matthew 23:33."

In like manner, Jehovah, in the chapter before us, while he declares that "a fire was kindled in his anger against his people, and that it should burn to the lowest Hell, verse 22," takes up this lamentation over them, "If only they were wise and would understand this and discern what their end will be, verse 29."

But as, notwithstanding all his remonstrances, they still continued to bring forth nothing but "grapes of gall and clusters of Gomorrah," he warns them, that their iniquities were remembered by him in order to a future judgment, and that their merited calamities were near at hand.

But to us, also, are the words no less applicable than to them; for we, also, are a disobedient people, and have but too much reason to expect the judgments of God upon us. I observe, then,

I. That our sins are treasured up before God in order to a future judgment.

This is stated to us in way of appeal, "Have I not kept this in reserve and sealed it in my vaults? Deuteronomy 32:34." We cannot doubt but that God notes all our wickedness, and "records it in the book of his remembrance, Malachi 3:16." Of this Job was well convinced, when he said, "My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and you sew up my iniquity, Job 14:17." Alas, what a mass of iniquity is there contained!

Call to mind the sins of early infancy—for not one of them is overlooked by God.

Then view the evils of childhood and of youth; alas, how numerous! even as the sands upon the sea-shore for multitude.

Then go on to the period of maturer age, when, instead of improving our enlarged faculties in the service of our God, we have debased them the more in the service of sin and Satan.

Go on to the present hour. Take all the actions, words, and thoughts of every successive day, and test them by the standard of God's holy Law; and then see what loads of guilt we have contracted, and what volumes of indictment are ready at any hour to be brought forth against us; especially if we bear in remembrance our impenitence, which so greatly provokes God to anger; and our contempt of his Gospel, that stupendous effort of his love and mercy for the saving of our souls from death!

If we reflect on these, I say, we cannot but see what a fearful account we have to give to our offended God. How soon we shall have "filled up the measure of our iniquities," God alone knows. But this accumulation of our guilt none of us can deny; and this certainty of retribution none of us can doubt.

In addition to this, I must say,

II. That the appointed time for giving up our account is hastening on apace.

"Our foot," we are told, "shall slide in due time, and the day of our calamity is at hand!" Truly "we are set in slippery places; and are liable to be cast down into destruction in a moment! Psalm 73:18-19." Persons walking upon the ice, or on the glaciers of mountainous countries, feel the force of this observation, and endeavor to guard with all possible care against their danger. But we do not see our danger, notwithstanding it is in fact not less imminent than theirs!

Millions of dangers encompass us around; and numerous instances occur of people summoned into eternity without a moment's warning! The time for every man's death is fixed by God; and how near it may be at hand, no one can reckon. But the instant it is arrived, whether we are prepared or unprepared, away we are hurried to the judgment-seat of Christ; and, if unprepared, we are cast into the very depths of Hell!

I know that people are ready to say, "But God is merciful." True, but I answer, that "To him belongs vengeance also;" yes, and this is as essential to his character as mercy. Hence, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, my text is cited with peculiar emphasis, "We know him who has said: Vengeance belongs unto me; I will recompense! says the Lord." And to this it is added, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God! Hebrews 10:30-31."

Now, I ask: Shall this perfection of the Deity be dispensed with, in order to give us safety in our sins? It cannot be! A hatred of sin, and a determination to punish it, are essential to the nature of Jehovah; and he can as soon cease to exist, as he can cease to act worthy of his proper character.

You cannot but know, brethren, that multitudes are hurried daily into the presence of their God, without any regard to their state of preparation to meet him; and there is no reason why you should not be taken just as they were. "They were saying, 'Peace and safety!' And then came sudden destruction upon them, as travail upon a woman with child, 1 Thessalonians 5:3." And the more secure you are in your own apprehension, the more reason there is to fear that you shall be called away in like manner, and that, "that solemn day shall overtake you" as a thief! 1 Thessalonians 5:4."

This consideration is very particularly urged upon you by the Prophet Hosea, "The guilt of Ephraim is stored up, his sins are kept on record. Pains as of a woman in childbirth come to him!

Hosea 13:12." It matters not whether you are young or old, or whether in health or sickness, "the Judge stands at the door!" and at the instant ordained by him, into his presence must you go, to "give an account of all that you have ever done, whether it is good or evil."

And truth compels me to declare,

III. That it is owing to the forbearance of God alone that every one of us has not long since fallen into Hell!

Who among us has not deserved the wrath of God? Who among us may not call to mind some moment, when God, so to speak, might have cut us off to display in us his righteous indignation? And if he had summoned us hence, who could have withstood his mandate, or prolonged his life one single hour? We have been in the hands of God, hanging, as it were, over the bottomless pit, and suspended only by a single thread, which, if let loose or cut, would have conveyed us at once to everlasting misery! And many times has God been tempted, so to speak, to let go of his hold; but our blessed Savior has interceded for us, and prevailed to obtain for us a respite from our destined misery, if by any means we might be led to avert it by penitence and faith in him. All has been ready for our ruin long ago: "Topheth has long been prepared; it has been made ready for the king. Its fire pit has been made deep and wide, with an abundance of fire and wood; the breath of the LORD, like a stream of burning sulfur, sets it ablaze! Isaiah 30:33." Yes, the unquenchable fire has long since been kindled, and nothing has prevented our ruin but the forbearance of our God, who, in the midst of all our provocations, has yet waited to be gracious unto us! It is to his sovereign grace alone we owe it, that we are not at this instant in the condition of millions, who never lived so long as we, or sinned so much against God as we, and were altogether as likely to live as we. But "others have been taken—and we are left," if perhaps we may yet repent of our sins, and flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.

I cannot conclude this solemn subject without addressing a few words,

1. To those who are yet indulging in carnal security.

What have you been doing all your days, but "treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath! Romans 2:5." You do not plan to go to Hell, I know. Neither did those who are already in Hell! They planned, each in his own way, to do something that might bring them to Heaven. One intended to repent, another to amend, another perhaps to embrace the Gospel. But death seized them before they had found time to carry their designs into effect.

Just so, you also design to get into the way that leads to Heaven. But tell me: When did you form this plan? Long ago it floated carelessly upon your mind; and here have you been, years and years, without ever carrying it into effect. Tell me, then, I beg you, when do you intend to carry it into effect? As to any serious purpose and endeavor, it is still as far off as at any period of your lives; and therefore there is reason to fear that your good designs will terminate, as those of millions do, in utter miscarriage; and that in you will be verified what the Psalmist has said, "Upon the wicked, God will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and a horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup! Psalm 11:6."

You may be assured that God will not always bear with you; that, on the contrary, "your judgment lingers not, and your damnation slumbers not! 2 Peter 2:3." "The axe at this very moment lies at the root of the tree," ready to cut you down! Luke 3:9; and God alone knows whether another offer of mercy shall be ever made to you. "O that you may know, every one of you, in this your day, the things that belong unto your peace! Luke 19:42." "Today, brethren, while it is called today, harden not your hearts;" but "seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near, Isaiah 55:6." "This day, for every one of you, may be the day of salvation! 2 Corinthians 6:2;" what tomorrow may be, none can tell. I pray God, it may not prove to you, as no doubt it will to many, "the day of wrath," the day of everlasting damnation!

2. To those who are desirous of preparing for death and judgment.

I am happy to declare unto you, that, however numerous or heinous your sins may have been, they may all this very day be "blotted out of the book of God's remembrance!" Yes, be "blotted out as a morning cloud! Isaiah 43:25," never more to be seen, never to be remembered against you in judgment, Hebrews 8:12. "The blood of Jesus Christ, we are told, will cleanse from all sin, 1 John 1:7;" so that "though your sins have been as scarlet or as crimson, they shall in one instant become as white as snow! Isaiah 1:18."

Yes, brethren, if "vengeance belongs unto God," so does mercy also. "With the LORD is unfailing love, and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins!

Psalm 130:7-8." Take courage, then; and from the very forbearance you have already experienced, assure yourselves that "God is full of compassion, slow to anger, and of great kindness;" and that if only you come to him in his Son's name, you shall never perish, but shall have eternal life!