The Wailing of Risca!
By Charles Spurgeon
December 9, 1860, at Exeter Hall
[Editor's note: In this sermon, Spurgeon is referring to the underground explosion in the Risca Coal Pit which killed 142 coal miners.]
"Disaster follows disaster — the whole land lies in ruins! In an instant my tents are destroyed — my shelter in a moment." Jeremiah 4:20
The sorrow of the weeping prophet was exceedingly heavy when he uttered these words of bitter lamentation.
In the same way, a great and present burden from the Lord is weighing so heavily upon our hearts this morning, that we cannot spare so much as a moment for sympathy with the griefs of past ages. God has visited our land, and his strokes have been exceeding hard. We are constrained to take up a wailing, and cry aloud, "Disaster follows disaster — the whole land lies in ruins! In an instant my tents are destroyed — my shelter in a moment."
There is a spot in South Wales which has frequently yielded me a quiet and delightful retreat. Beautiful for situation, surrounded by lofty mountains, pierced by romantic valleys — the breathing of its air refreshes the body, and the sight of the eyes makes glad the heart. I have climbed its hills, I have seen the ever widening landscape, the mountains of Wales, the plains of England, and the seas sparkling afar. I have descended the hills and marked the mist creeping up the side of the hills and covering the woods in clouds.
I have mingled with its godly men and women in that area, and worshiped God in their assemblies. These lips have ministered the Word in that once happy valley. I have been fired with the glorious enthusiasm of the people, when they have listened to the Word. Well does my soul remember one night, which I shall never forget in time or in eternity — when, crowded together in the place of worship, hearty Welsh miners responded to my every word with their "Hallelujahs" encouraging me to preach the Gospel, and crying "Glory to God" while the message was proclaimed. I remember how they constrained me, and kept me well near to midnight, preaching three sermons, one after another, almost without rest, for they loved to listen to the gospel. God was present with us, and many a time has the baptismal pool been stirred since then by the fruit of that night's labor.
Nor shall I ever forget when standing in the open air beneath God's blue sky, I addressed a mighty gathering within a short distance of that spot — when the Spirit of God was poured upon us, and men and women were swayed to and fro under the heavenly message, as the grain is moved in waves by the summer winds. Great was our joy that day, when the people met together in thousands, and with songs and praises separated to their homes, talking of what they had heard.
But now our visitation of that neighborhood must ever be mingled with sorrow. How has God been pleased to smite down strong men, and to take away the young men upon a sudden! "Disaster follows disaster — the whole land lies in ruins! In an instant my tents are destroyed — my shelter in a moment." Oh! valley of Risca, I take up a lamentation for you — the Lord has dealt sorely with you. Behold, and see if there be sorrow in any valley like unto your sorrow which has come upon you. The angel of death has emptied out his quiver upon you — the awful reaper has gathered full sheaves to himself, from your beautiful valley.
You all know the story — it scarcely needs that I should tell it to you. Last Saturday some two hundred miners descended in health and strength to their usual work in the affections of the earth. They had not been working long, their wives and their children had risen, and their little ones had gone to their schools — when suddenly there was heard a noise at the mouth of the pit. It was an explosion — all knew what it meant. Men's hearts failed them, for well they prophesied the horror which would soon reveal itself. They wait awhile, the foul gas must first be scattered; brave men with their lives in their hands descend into the pit, and when they are able to see with the dim miner's lamp, the light falls upon corpse after corpse. A few, a handful are brought up alive, and scarcely alive — but yet, thank God, with enough of the vital spark remaining, to be again kindled to a flame. But the great mass of those strong men have felt the grip of death! Some of them were brought up to the top with their faces burned and scarred, with their bodies disfigured by the fire — but many are discovered whose faces looked as if they sweetly slept, so that it was scarcely possible to believe that they really could be dead — so quietly had the spirit left the habitation of clay.
Can you picture to yourselves the scene? The great fires lit around the pit, flaming both night and day, the thick mist, the pouring rain drenching the whole of the valley. Do you see the women as they come clustering round the pit, shrieking for their sons, and their husbands, and their fathers. Do you hear that shrill scream as yonder woman has just discovered the partner of her soul! There you mark another bending over the form of her two stalwart sons — now alas taken from her forever!
Do you mark the misery that sits upon the face of some who have not found their sons, or their fathers, or their husbands, or their brothers — and who know not where they are, and feel a thousand deaths themselves, because they feel convinced that their precious ones have died — though their corpses cannot be found?
The misery in that valley is past description. Those who have witnessed it, fail to be able to picture it. As the cry of Egypt in the night when the destroying angel went through all the land and smote the firstborn; as the wail of Rachel when she could not be comforted for her children, because they were not — such has been the howling, the weeping, the lamentation of that fair but desolate valley!
My friends, this judgment has a voice to us! The scarcely buried bodies of those men which lie around us in vision — each have a sorrowful lesson! The cry of the widow, and of the childless mother, shall come up into our ears today! O Lord, may it so arouse us that we may hear, and fear, and tremble, and turn unto you — that this dread calamity may be to us the means of our salvation; or if already saved, the means of stirring us up more earnestly to seek the salvation of our fellow men.
There are three points upon which I shall try to address you this morning, though I feel inadequate to such a task.
First, I shall say something upon sudden bereavements.
Then, I shall dwell awhile upon the fact of sudden death.
Lastly, we will say but a little, for we know but little — of the sudden exchange which sudden death shall bring both to saints and sinners!
I. Our first sorrowful theme is SUDDEN BEREAVEMENTS.
Alas! alas! How soon may we be childless! How soon may we be widowed of the dearest objects of our affections! O Lord, you have shown to us this day — how soon you can blast our gourds and wither all the fruits of our vineyard. The dearest ones, the partners of our blood — how soon can death proclaim a divorce between us and our children — the offspring of our loins. How soon you can lay them beneath the green sod.
We have not a single relative, who may not become to us within the next moment, a fountain of grief. All who are dear and precious to us — are only here by God's mere good pleasure. What would we be today — if it were not for those whom we love, and who love us? What would our house be, without its little prattlers? What would our home be, without the wife of our bosom? What would our daily business be, without our associates and friends to cheer us in our trials?
Ah! this would be a sad world indeed, if the ties of kindred, of affection, and of friendship — all be snapped! And yet it is such a world that they must be sundered — and may be divided at any moment!
From the fact that sudden bereavements are possible — not only to miners and to women whose husbands are upon the sea, but to us also — I would that we would learn profitable lessons.
First let us learn to have a loose hold on our dearest friends that we have on earth. Let us love them — love them we may, love them we should — but let us always learn to love them as dying things. Oh, do not build your nest on any of these trees — for they are all marked for the axe!
"Do not set your affections on things on earth," for the things of earth must leave you, and then what will you do when your joy is emptied, and the golden bowl which held your mirth shall be dashed to pieces?
Love Jesus first and foremost; and when you love others, still do not love them as though they were immortal. Do not love clay — as though it were undying. Do not love dust — as though it were eternal. So hold your friend — that you shall not wonder when he vanishes from you. So view the your beloved family — that you will not be amazed when they glide into the land of spirits. See the disease of mortality on every cheek, and write not Eternal upon the creature of an hour!
Take care that you put all your dear ones into God's hand. You have put your soul there — put them there as well. You can trust him for temporals for yourself — trust your precious jewels with him. Feel that they are not your own — but that they are God's loans to you — loans which may be recalled at any moment.
Your possessions are never so safe, as when you are willing to resign them — and you are never so rich, as when you put all you have into the hand of God. You shall find it greatly mitigate the sorrow of bereavements, if before bereavement you shall have learned to every day surrender all the things that are dearest to you, into the keeping of your gracious God.
Further, then, you who are blessed with wife and children, and friends — take care that you thank God for them. Sing a song of praise, to God who has blessed you so much than others. You are not a widow, but there are many that wear the widow's weeds — and why is it not your lot? You are not bereaved of your spouse — but there are many whose heart is rent in twain by such a calamity — why is it not your portion as well? Tomorrow you do not have to follow your little ones to their narrow graves — early flowers that did but bud and never ripened, withering alas! too soon. Oh! by the sorrow which you would feel if they were taken away — I exhort you to thank God for them while you have them.
We sorrow much when our precious gifts are taken away — but we fail to thank God that he spared them to us so long. Oh! Do not be ungrateful, lest you provoke the Lord to smite the mercies which you do not value. Sing unto the Lord, sing unto his name. Give unto him the thanksgiving which he deserves for his sparing favors which he has manifested towards you in your household.
And then permit me to remind you that if these sudden bereavements may come, and there may be a dark chamber in any house in a moment, and the coffin may be in any one of our homes — then let us so act towards our kinsfolk and relatives, as though we knew they were soon about to die.
Young man — so treat your hoary father as you would behave towards him, if you knew he would die tomorrow. When you shall follow him to the grave, amidst all your tears for his loss — let there not be one tear of sorrow because of your ill behavior to him.
You godly fathers and mothers, to you I have a special message — your children are committed to your care; they are growing up, and what if after they are grown up, they should plunge into sin and die at last impenitent! Oh, let not the fierce regret sting you like an adder: "Oh that I had prayed for my children! Oh that I had taught them the Gospel before they departed."
I beg you so live — that when you stand over your child's dead body you may never hear a voice coming up from that clay, "Father, your negligence was my destruction! Mother, your lack of prayer was the instrument of my damnation!" But so live, that when you hear the funeral knell — even for a neighbor — that you may be able to say, "Poor soul, whether he is gone to Heaven or to Hell — I know that I am clear of is blood." And with double earnestness be it so with your children.
"Yes," says one "I have thought of teaching my children more of Christ, and being more earnest in prayer for them bye-and-bye" — but what if they should die tomorrow?
"Yes," says the wife, "I have thought of speaking to my ungodly husband, and trying to induce him to attend the house of God with me — but I was afraid he would only laugh at me, so I put it off for a month or two."
Ah! what if he dies before you have cleared your conscience of him? Oh, my brothers and sisters in Christ, if sinners will be damned — at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies! If they will perish — at least let them perish with our arms around their knees, imploring them to repent, and not madly to destroy themselves. If Hell must be filled — then at least let it not be filled because of our lack of exertions. Let not one go that dreadful place, unwarned and unprayed for!
In the light, then, of sudden bereavements, let not another hour pass over your head, when you have reached home, before you have freed your conscience of the blood of your children's souls. Gather them together around you this afternoon, and say to them, "My dear children, I have learned today that you may die; I knew it before — but I have had it impressed upon my mind by a solemn incident. My dear children, I cannot help telling you, that as you must die — I am anxious that God's Holy Spirit would graciously lead you to repent of sin and seek a Savior." And then, when you have told them the way to salvation in simple terms, put your arms about their necks, and bid the little ones kneel down and pray, "O God! upon their young hearts, stamp the image of yourself. As they are in the image of the earthy, so make them in the image of the heavenly, that at the last I may be able to say: Here am I, and the children you have given me."
II. The second head of my discourse this morning was to be, SUDDEN DEATH, AS WE VIEW IT MORE PARTICULARLY IN RELATION TO OURSELVES.
The miners of Risca had no more idea of dying that Saturday morning than you or I have — nor did there seem much likelihood that they would. They had gone up and down the pit, some of them, many thousands of times in their lives. It is true that some had perished there — but then, how very many had gone up and down and had not perished. Nay, they had grown so fearless of danger, that some of them even thrust themselves into it, and in defiance of every regulation for the preservation of human life, they were bold and careless, and would gratify a selfish indulgence — when a spark might have caused the destruction of them all.
We will not say that it was any negligence that caused this accident — God forbid that we should lay anything to the charge of those who have now departed, and have to answer before their God — but, at any rate, it is sure that men who have most to do with danger are generally the most callous, and those who are most exposed are usually utterly careless about the very danger which others see, but which they will not see themselves. Any warning you or I might have given them would have been thought unnecessary, if not impertinent. "Why need I be so careful? I have done this fifty times before. Why may I not do it again?"
But as in a moment, although there was no lightning flash, no earthquake, no opening of a pit to swallow them up — quick in a moment the gas explodes and they stand before the Eternal God! It was but the twinkling of an eye, even as though the last trumpet had sounded (and indeed it did sound as far as they were concerned), and down fell the lifeless corpse, and the spirit returned to God who made it.
In the same way, you and I are in danger as well. We are not in the pit in the midst of explosive air, but there are a thousand gates to death! How many there are who have fallen dead in the streets? How many sitting in their own homes? I stayed but a week or two ago with an excellent Christian man, who was then in the halest and most hearty health. I was startled indeed when I heard immediately after that he had come home — and sitting down in his chair, he shut his eyes and died. These things are common, and in such a city as ours we cannot go down a street without hearing of some such visitation.
Well, our turn must come. Perhaps we shall die falling asleep in our beds after long sickness — but probably we shall be suddenly called in such an hour as we think not to face the realities of eternity. Well, if it is so — if there are a thousand gates to death — if all means and any means may be sufficient to stop the current of our life — if really, after all, spiders' webs and bubbles are more substantial things than human life — if we are but a vapor, or a smoking candle which soon expires in darkness — what then?
Why, first, I say, let us all look upon ourselves as dying men — let us not reckon on tomorrow. Oh! let us not procrastinate, for taken in Satan's great net of procrastination we may wait, and wait, and wait, until time is gone and the great knell of eternity shall toll our death. Today is your only time. O mortal men, the present moment is the only moment you may call your own — and oh! how swift its wings! This hour is yours — yesterday is gone — tomorrow is with God, and may never come. "Today if you hear his voice — harden not your hearts."
Many have had their first spiritual impressions, from thoughts of death — and hence it is that Satan never likes to let a man think of the grave. I know a family in which the maid was told upon her entering her office, that she was never to mention the subject of death to the children. They were never to know even that children might die. I did not marvel when I knew the infidelity of the head of the household. What better atmosphere for an infidel to breathe in — than where the blast of death is never felt? Infidels ought to be immortal. They ought to live in a world where they can never die — for their infidelity will never be able to pass the stream of Jordan.
There are infidels on earth — but there are none in Heaven, and none in Hell. They are convinced — convinced by solemn facts — convinced that there is a God — while they are crushed beneath his vengeance, and made to tremble at his eternal power. But I pray you, sirs, do not be such fools as to live as though your bones were iron and your ribs were brass! Let us not be such madmen as to run as though there were no bounds to our race! Let us not play away our precious days, as though days were common as sands on a sea shore.
That hour-glass yonder contains all the sands of your life. Do you see them running? How swiftly do they empty out! With some of you, the most of the sands are in the bottom bulb of the glass — and there are only a few to go trickling through the narrow passageway of its days. Ah! and that glass shall never be turned over again — it shall never run a second time for you. Let it once run out — and you will die. Oh! live as though you meant to die. Live as though you knew you might die tomorrow. Think as though you might die now — and act this very hour as though I could utter the mandate of death, and summon you to pass through the portals of the tomb!
And then take care, you who do know Christ — not only live as though you meant to die, but live while you live. Oh what a work we have to do — and how short the time to do it! Millions of men are yet unconverted — and have nothing but our feeble voice to hear the Gospel! My soul, shall you ever condemn yourself in your dying moments for having preached too often or too earnestly? No, never. You may rebuke your soul, but you can never bemoan your excessive gospel industry.
Minister of Christ! in your dying hour it will never be a theme of reproach to you, that you preached ten times in the week, that you stood up every day to preach Christ, and that you so preached that you spent yourself, and wasted your body with weakness. No, it will be our dull sermons that will haunt us on our dying beds, our tearless preaching, our long studyings, when we might have preached better had we come away and preached without them; our huntings after popularity, by gathering together fine words, instead of coming right up, and saying to the people, "Men and women, you are dying, escape for your life and fly to Christ!" — preaching to them in red-hot simple words of the wrath to come and of the love of Christ.
Oh! there are some of you members of our churches, who are living, but what are you living for? Surely you are not living to get money — that is the worldling's object. Are you living merely to please yourselves? Why that is but the beast's delight. Oh! how few there are of the members of our churches who really live for God with all their might. Do we give to God — as much as we give to our own pleasures? Do we give Christ's service as much time — as we give to many of our trifling amusements?
Why, we have professional men of education, men of excellent training and ability — who when they once get into a church, feel that they could be very active anywhere else, but as Christians they have nothing to do. They can be energetic in their social clubs — but in the church their energies are dormant.
Ah! my dear hearers, you who love the Savior — when we shall come before Christ in Heaven, if there can be a regret, it will be that we did not do more for Christ while we were here on earth. I think as we fall down before his feet and worship him, if we could know a sorrow, it would be because we did not bring him in more jewels for his crown — did not give more to his cause, and did not labor more that the lost sheep might be restored. Live while you live; while it is called today — work, for the night comes wherein no man can work.
And let us learn never to do anything which we would not wish to be found doing, if we were to die. We are sometimes asked by young people whether they may go to the theater, whether they may dance, or whether they may do this or that. You may do anything which you would not be ashamed to be doing — when Christ shall come. You may do anything which you would not blush to be found doing — if the hand of death should smite you. But if you would dread to die in any spot — do not go there! If you would not wish to enter the presence of your God with such-and-such a word upon your lip — do not utter that word. If there would be a thought that would be unfitting to the judgment-day — then seek not to think that thought. So act that you may feel you can take your shroud with you wherever you go.
Happy is he who dies in his pulpit. Blessed is the man that dies in his daily business, for he is found with his loins girt about him serving his Master. But, oh, unhappy must he be to whom death comes as an intruder — and finds him engaged in that which he will blush to have ever touched, when God shall appear in judgment.
Everlasting King — do not permit death to intrude upon an ill-spent hour, but find me enrapt in holy meditation; hymning my great Creator; proclaiming the love of Jesus, or lifting up my heart in prayer for myself and my fellow-sinners. Let me but serve my God — and then, Death, I do not care when you may come — come when you will. But if I might choose, come to me while I am yearning after souls; come to me when the cry of inviting love is on my lip, and when I am weeping over the souls of men. Come to me, then, that men may say, "He ceased at once to work, and live."
But I may talk thus about sudden death and the likelihood of it. But ah! sirs, I cannot stir your hearts — for I cannot stir my own as I would. The fact that so many die each day has very little force for us — because it is so trite an event, and we have heard of it so many times. We look down the catalogue of deaths — but our dying never comes home to us. All men persist in thinking all men mortal, but themselves.
If there were a great monster in the city of London, which every day ate ten of the inhabitants alive — we would be dreadfully miserable, especially if we never knew when it would be our turn to be eaten!
If we were certain that it would eat all in London by-and-bye, but would only eat ten in a day — we would all tremble as we passed by the huge monster's den, and say, "When will it be my time?" This would cast a cloud over the whole metropolis, blacker than its usual fog.
But here is a monster, DEATH, which devours its hundreds at its meal. With its iron tongue, the funeral knell keeps crying out for more! Its greedy and insatiable throat is never filled — its teeth are never blunted — and its ravenous hunger is never satisfied.
And here we are, and though it will be our turn by-and-bye to be devoured of this great monster — yet how little do we think about it!
All men persist in thinking all men mortal, but themselves.
One reason I think is, because we so seldom visit the dying. I stood once by the side of a poor boy whom I had taught as a Sunday-school teacher; he had received very little good training at home, and though he was but a lad of seventeen, he became a drunkard and drank himself to death at one debauch. I saw him, and talked to him, and tried to point him to the Savior, and heard at last the death-rattle in his throat.
As I went downstairs, I thought everybody a fool for doing anything except preparing to die. I began to look upon the men who drove the carts in the street, the men who were busy at their shops, and those who were selling their wares — as all being foolish for doing anything except their eternal business, and myself most of all foolish for not pointing dying sinners to a living Christ, and inviting them to trust in his precious blood. And yet in an hour or so — all things took their usual shape, and I began to think that I was not dying after all, and I could go away and be as heartless as before. I could begin to think that men were after all wise in thinking of this world — and not the next. I mean not that I really thought so — but I acted as if I thought so — the impression of the dying-bed was so soon obliterated.
If you could see all die, who die — then perhaps the impression would be different. I would liken men to a company of South Sea Islanders, whose canoe being disabled, floated upon a raft, and they were attacked by sharks; they disappeared one by one, until but three or four were left. Can you conceive the despair which would settle upon the countenances of these few? If they knew God — do you not think they would then indeed call on him?
And in what respect, except that death was more apparent to them — were they different from us? Man after man is being taken away from us by the devouring monster. Friends and kinsfolk have been snatched into the deep, and some of us remain upon the edge of the raft. Gray-haired man — you may be the next that is carried away!
"We are to the margin come,
And soon expect to die""
God help us so to live in the expectation of death, that Christ may be glorified in us, whether we sleep or wake — and that we may be able to say, "For me to live is Christ, to die is gain."
III. I shall detain you but a few minutes longer, while I dwell upon the third theme, which is, THAT SUDDEN EXCHANGE WHICH A SUDDEN DEATH WILL CAUSE.
You see yonder Christian man, he is full of a thousand fears, he is afraid even of his interest in Christ, he is troubled spiritually, and vexed with temporal cares. You see him cast down and exceeding troubled, his faith but very weak; he steps outside your door, and there meets him a messenger from God, who smites him to the heart, and he is dead!
Can you conceive the change? Death has cured him of his fears, and his tears are wiped away once for all from his eyes! To his surprise, he stands where he feared he would never be, in the midst of the redeemed of God, in the general assembly and church of the first-born.
See yonder man, he can scarcely walk, he has a hundred pains in his body, he says he is more tried and pained than any man. Death puts his skeleton hand upon him, and he dies. How marvelous the change! No aches now, no casting down of spirit. He then is supremely blessed, the decrepit has become perfect, the weak has become strong, the trembling one has become a David, and David has become as the angel of the Lord. Harken to the song which pours from the lips of him who just now groaned; look at the celestial smile which lights the features of the man just now racked with pain and tormented with anguish!
Was ever a change so surprising, so marvelous? When I think of it — I could almost long for it to come to myself this morning; to go from the thousand eyes of you that look upon me — to look into the eyes of Christ; and to go from your songs — to the songs of spirits before the throne; to leave the Sabbath work on earth — for an eternal Sabbath of rest; to go from unbelieving hearts, from Christians who need to be cheered and sinners to be convinced — to be with those who need no preaching, but who in one eternal song, sing "Hallelujah to God and the Lamb!"
I can imagine that when a man dies thus suddenly, that one of the first emotions he experiences in the next world will be surprise. I can conceive that the spirit knows not where it is. It is like a man waking up from a dream. He looks about him. Oh, that glory! how resplendent you throne! He listens to harps of gold, and he can scarce believe it true. "I, the chief of sinners — and yet in Heaven? I, a doubting one — and yet in paradise?"
And then when he is conscious that he is really in Heaven — oh! what overwhelming joy! How is the spirit flooded with delight, covered over with it, scarcely able to enjoy it because it seems to be all but crushed beneath the eternal weight of glory!
And next, when the spirit has power to recover itself, and open its eyes from the blindness caused by this dazzling light, and to think — when its thoughts have recovered themselves from the sudden effect of a tremendous flood of bliss — the next emotion will be gratitude. See how that believer, five minutes ago a mourner — now takes his crown from off his head, and with transporting joy and gratitude, bows before his Savior's throne. Hear how he sings — was ever song like that, the first song he ever sang that had the fullness of Paradise and perfection in it, "Unto him who loved me and washed me from my sins in his blood! Unto him be eternal glory!" And how he repeats it, and repeats it again, and looks round to cherubim and seraphim, and begs them to assist him in his song, until all the harps of Heaven re-taught the melody of gratitude, re-tuned by the one faithful heart, send up another hallelujah, and yet another, and another — while the floods of harmony surround the eternal throne of God!
But what must be the change to the unconverted man? His joys are over forever. His death is the death of his happiness! His funeral is the funeral of his mirth! He has just risen from his cups of wine — and he has another cup to drain, which is full of bitterness and wrath. He has just listened to the merry sound of the harp and the violin — and now an eternal dirge greets his ears, mixed with the doleful chorus of the shrieks of damned souls!
What horror and surprise shall seize upon him! "Good God," he says, "I thought it was not so — but lo, it is so! What the minister said to me is true — the things I would not believe, are at last really so." When the poor soul shall find itself in the hands of angry fiends, and lifts up his eyes in Hell, being in torments so hot, so feverish, so thirsty, that it shall seem in that first moment as though it had been athirst for a million years, what will be his surprise! "And am I," he will say, "really here? I was in the streets of London but a minute ago; I was singing a mirthful song but an instant before — and here am I in Hell! What! so soon damned! The sentence of God is like a lightning-flash, which instantaneously destroys all of my joys! I am really here in Hell!"
And when the soul has convinced itself that it is actually in Hell — can you imagine next the overwhelming horror that will roll over it. It, too, will be stunned with a mighty flood, not with a flood of glory — but with a flood of anger, of wrath, of divine justice. Oh! how the spirit is tormented now — tormented beyond thought. And then at last, when the wave recedes a moment, and there is a pause — what black despair shall then seize upon the spirit!
Have you ever seen men die without a hope? I read but yesterday a case of a young woman who had procrastinated many times, and at last she was told by the physician that within nine hours she would be a corpse. Then, when death really became a matter of fact to her, she rose up in the bed upon which she had been laid by the sudden stroke of God, and she prayed — prayed until she fell back fainting, and her lips were livid and her cheek was pale, while she cried, "God be merciful to me a sinner!"
Friends talked to her, consoled and comforted her, and bade her trust in Christ; but she said, "It is of no use for you to comfort me — no, it is too late! I made a fatal resolve some months ago that I would again enjoy the world, and that resolve destroyed my soul." And then she rose up in bed again, with eyes starting from their sockets, and prayed again until she was breathless, and groaned and cried, and fell down again in a faint. And so she did, until with ghastly look — an awful look of horror — as though she felt the anguish of another world, she expired!
Now if such is the remorse of a spirit before it feels the wrath of God — if the first drops are sufficient thus to destroy all hope and beat in pieces all our boastings — then what will the eternal Hell be — what will the everlasting flood of divine wrath be, when once it is poured our? Sodom and Gomorrah! Why all their fiery hail from Heaven shall be nothing, compared with the eternal fire that must fall upon the sinner!
Do you think I love to speak on such a theme as this? My soul trembles while she thinks of it! No, I would sooner preach of other things by far, but it is needful that men may be awakened. Oh! I implore you, men and brethren, you who know not God, and are still condemned, because you believe not in Christ — I beg you to think of these things. Oh that I had Richard Baxter's heart — that I could weep over sinners as he did; but my soul feels as true an anguish for your souls as ever Baxter felt. Oh that you would be saved! My eyes ache; my brow is full of fire now, because I cannot preach as I wanted to preach to you. Oh that God would take up the work and send that truth right home to your heart!
"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ — and you shall be saved."
Spirit of God, convince of sin, and bring the heart to Christ, and may we all without exception see your face in joy and glory, and praise you, world without end! Amen.