Deu_32:34-35. Is not this laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures? To me belongeth vengeance and recompence: their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.
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: “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell [Note: Mat_23:33.]?” In like manner, Jehovah, in the chapter before us, whilst he declares that “a fire was kindled in his anger against his people, and that it should burn to the lowest hell [Note: ver. 22.],” takes up this lamentation over them: “O that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end! How should one chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight, except their Rock had sold them, and the Lord had shut them up? For their rock is not as our Rock, even our enemies themselves being judges [Note: ver. 29–31].” But as, notwithstanding all his remonstrances, they still continued to bring forth nothing but “grapes of gall and clusters of Gomorrha,” 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,
That our sins are treasured up before God in order to a future judgment—
[This is stated to us in way of appeal: “Is not your iniquity laid up in store with me, and sealed up among my treasures?” We cannot doubt but that God notes all our wickedness, and “records it in the book of his remembrance [Note: Mal_3:16.].” Of this Job was well convinced, when he said, “My transgression is sealed up in a bag, and thou sewest up mine iniquity [Note: Job_14:17.].” And oh! 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 try 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,
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 [Note: Psa_73:18-19.].” Persons walking upon the ice, or on the glaciers of mountainous countries, feel the force of this observation, and endeavour to guard with all possible care against their danger. But we see not our danger, notwithstanding it is in fact not less imminent than theirs. Millions of dangers encompass us around; and numerous instances occur of persons summoned into eternity without a moment’s warning. The time for every man’s departure is fixed by God: and how near it may be at hand, no one can divine. But the instant it is arrived, whether we be 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 persons are ready to say, “But God is merciful.” True; but I answer, that “To him belongeth vengeance also;” yea, 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 that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me: I will recompense, saith the Lord.” And to this it is added, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God [Note: Heb_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. An 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 [Note: 1Th_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 awful day shall overtake you “as a thief [Note: 1Th_5:4.].” This consideration is very particularly urged upon you by the Prophet Hosea: “The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin is hid. The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him [Note: Hos_13:12-13.].” It matters not whether you be young or old, or whether in health or sickness, “the Judge standeth 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 be good or evil.”]
And truth compels me to declare,
That it is owing to the forbearance of God alone that every one of us has not long since fallen into hell—
[Who amongst us has not deserved the wrath of God? Who amongst us may not call to mind some moment, when God, so to speak, might have cut us off to advantage, 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 transmitted us at once to everlasting misery. And many times has God been tempted, so to speak, to let go his hold: but our blessed Saviour 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. “Tophet has been prepared: it has been made deep and large: the pile thereof is fire and much wood; and the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, hath kindled it [Note: Isa_30:33.]:” yes, the unquenchable fire has long since been kindled, and those cruel spirits, who have been our tempters, have long been waiting to become our tormentors. 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 peradventure we may yet repent us of our sins, and flee for refuge to the hope that is set before us.]
I cannot conclude this awful subject without addressing a few words,
To those who are yet indulging in security—
[What have you been doing all your days, but “treasuring up wrath against the day of wrath [Note: Rom_2:5.]?” You do not design to go to hell, I know: neither did they who are already there. They designed, 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, ere they had found leisure to carry their designs into effect And you also design to get into the way that leads to heaven. But tell me, When did you form this design? You know not the time when it did not in a careless way float upon your mind: and here have you been, years and years, without ever carrying it into effect. Tell me, then, I pray you, when do you intend to carry it into effect? As to any serious purpose and endeavour, 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 abortion: and that in you will be verified what the Psalmist has said, “Upon the wicked, God will rain snares, fire and brimstone, and an horrible tempest; this shall be the portion of their cup [Note: Psa_11:6.].” You may be assured, that God will not always bear with you: that, on the contrary, “your judgment lingereth not, and your damnation slumbereth not [Note: 2Pe_2:3.].” “The axe at this very moment lieth at the root of the tree,” ready to cut you down [Note: Luk_3:9.]: and God alone knows whether another offer of mercy shall be ever made you. “O that you may know, every one of you, in this your day, the things that belong unto your peace [Note: Luk_19:42.]!” “To-day, Brethren, while it is called to-day, harden not your hearts:” but “seek ye the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near [Note: Isa_55:6.].” “This day, for every one of you, may be the day of salvation [Note: 2Co_6:2.]:” what to-morrow 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.]
To those who are desirous of preparing for death and judgment—
[Happy am I 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;” yea, be “blotted out as a morning cloud [Note: Isa_43:25.],” never more to be seen, never to be remembered against you in judgment [Note: Heb_8:12.]. “The blood of Jesus Christ, we are told, will cleanse from all sin [Note: 1Jn_1:7.];” so that “though your sins have been as scarlet or as crimson, they shall in one instant become white as snow [Note: Isa_1:18.].” Yes, Brethren, if “vengeance belongeth unto God,” so does mercy also: “with him is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption, so that he will redeem Israel from all his sins [Note: Psa_130:7-8.].” Take courage, then; and from the very forbearance you have 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.]