WHY WILL YE DIE?
Ezck. xxxiii. 11. Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die 1
The ministers of the gospel are sent to endeavor to arouse their fellow-men to a sense of their danger, and to win them to God. We are to tell, in simple but solemn language, all that we know about God, and Christ, and heaven, and hell; to rebuke, to warn, and to invite, by all the means that God may put in our power in order to save them. We are to throw ourselves in the paths of sinners; and to attempt to stay their goings as they travel down to death. If they will die, our duty is plain. It is to be found throwing obstacles in their way as they go to ruin; addressing ourselves to their reason and their conscience; reminding them of death and the judgment; and appealing to them by all that is inviting in heaven, and fearful in future wo, not to go down to the place of despair, to be the everlasting enemies of God. We have no choice here. We must warn them as if they were to die; we must speak to them as if they were in danger of eternal ruin.
Who are they who are thus to be addressed? They are the wicked:—the wicked, as the Bible uses that term —the impenitent, and the unbelieving, and the violators of the law of God, of every age, and character, and complexion. The Bible makes but two grand divisions among men—as there will be but two at the day of judgment—the righteous and the wicked; they who serve God, and they who serve him not. In the one class are the redeemed, the renewed, the praying, the pure, the friends of Jesus; in the other they who are unrenewed, unsanctified, and unforgiven ; they who do not pray, and who do not love the Redeemer, and who have not a wellfounded hope of heaven—be they profane, and sensual, and corrupt; be they proud and haughty; or be they amiable and externally moral; or be they accomplished and winning in their manners. I say the externally moral, the accomplished, the winning in their manners. I say it, because the Bible classes them there. I know of no promise to them of salvation because they are such; I see no statement that one man is to be saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and another by accomplishment, and freedom from gross vices. A heart exceedingly wicked may reside beneath a most attractive outward mien. Fascinating manners are not faith in Jesus Christ; nor is amiableness the love of God. There are but two classes among you to-day—the righteous and the wicked. There are but two paths that are trod by mortals—the narrow way, and the broad way. There are but two places to be occupied at the judgment—the right, and the left hand of the Judge. There are but two worlds which are to receive us all at last—heaven and hell. There are no Elysian fields which you may traverse for whom the Christian's heaven would be too-holy and pure ; or where you might.possess and exhibit your amiableness and accomplishments apart from, the grossly vile in the future world. There is a line which divides the human race, and which will divide it forever. On one side are (he lovers of God, and on the other are the wicked; and that portion of the latter class who are present here to-day I desire to address, and to say to you, "Why will ye die?"
Death means here eternal death. For -why, or how can God address mortal men, and ask them why they should die and be laid in their graves? They cannot help it. He has himself said> " Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." "It is appointed unto men once to die,"—and "There is no escape in that war." To ask us ' why we should die,' and be consigned to the grave, and moulder back to dust, as if we could avoid it, would be to tantalize and mock us—and God would not, could not do it. But to ask us why we will persevere and go down to hell, when we might be saved; why we would dwell with devouring fire, when we might dwell amid the glories of heaven, is a question worthy of a God, and is fit to be deeply pondered by every traveller to eternity.
I shall endeavor to enforce that question. I shall ad dress this part of my audience, with the earnest prayer that they may hear this question of their Maker to-day; and with a regard to my account to my Maker, and to your good, I shall submit to you now a few propositions sustained by my text, and designed to set its meaning before you.
I. It is the unalterable purpose of God that the wicked shall turn or die. In confirmation of this proposition, I refer you to the text. There it is of necessity implied that it is the solemn purpose of God that the wicked shall turn or die. He would not expostulate with them in this solemn manner if there were no danger, and if no such purpose were formed. It is not the manner of our Maker to assume earnestness when it is uncalled for; or to use words that are unmeaning; or to make appeals that are designed needlessly to alarm men. He does not trifle with the creatures which he has made. He does not hold up imaginary objects of dread. When God places himself in our path; when he lifts up the voice of solemn warning and remonstrance; when he tells of danger, it is no imaginary scene. It is no.work of the fancy. It is real. The highest proof of the reality and certainty of danger and guilt, is for God to speak of them as if they,were so.
Many persons profess to hold that all men will be saved. Many men feel that in some indefinable way sinners may yet escape future wrath. Many feel, and desire -to feel, that there is no danger, and that all that is said of eternal death is the work of-fancy and of fiction. It is not unnatural to dread to think on it—for it is fitted to produce alarm and pain; and it is not unnatural to wish that there were no danger, and no death, and no hell. But look at this subject, and see if your Maker's earnestness and his solemn warning furnish no proof that there is danger. You. feel, or think, or hope that there is no danger of eternal death, and that alarm is needless. Tell me, then, what is the meaning of the solemn address in the text. Would God—the ever blessed and benevolent God, speak of death, when there was none, and of hell which had no existence? Would he say, 'Why rush into those flames?' when there are no flames ?' Why go into that pestilential region?' when there is no pestilence? * Why go on till you fall down that precipice?' when there is no precipice ?' Why tread that region of death?' when there is no death? No. God does not thus speak to men. And when he asks them why they will die; when he entreats them to turn lest they die, it is full proof that unless they repent they must die. There can be no stronger proof of this. And without any impropriety of imagination, or any improper use of Scripture language, God may be regarded to-day as present in this house, and as looking over this congregation, and into each heart— and onward to the world of death—and saying to each one, "Why will you die?" He throws himself in the path of the-wicked, and by this question assures them that unless they turn they must die. He speaks to the wicked and the thoughtless—to you the gay, and the insensible, and the unconverted, in your path to hell, and puts the solemn question to-day, "Why will ye die?" Tell me, would he use this language if you were in no danger? Would he use it if he knew that all men were to be saved?
The text does not stand alone. If any man doubts that it is the unalterable purpose of God that the wicked shall turn or die, lethim open at pleasure any part of the Bible. "Verily, verily," said the Redeemer, "except a man be born again, he shall not see the kingdom of God." "Except ye be converted, and become 'as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned." "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." "The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." "These shall go away into everlasting punishment." There is no ambiguity here. There is no wish to hide a painful doctrine. There is no concealment. If it be so that there is a world of death, and that the wicked go there, they do not go unapprized of it. They are told what to expect, and what is before them.
The purpose of God on this point has been expressed in every variety of way in the Bible, and in the events of his Providence. In the Bible—by solemn assurance; by warning; by entreaty; by remonstrance ; by appeals; by threatening; by the description of the dying and the dead who have gone down to hell. In his Providence— by the cutting off of the wicked; by his judgments on the old world, and on the cities of the plain, "Set forth as an example suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." In his Providence now. Every pain is designed to admonish us. Every hour- of siekness; every funeral procession; every open grave reminds us of it. The earth is full of the warnings and of the monuments of his displeasure against sin, and of the assurances that unless the guilty turn it is his unalterable purpose that they shall die. There is no relaxing, no misgiving on the part of God. Six thousand years have made no change in his purpose; and it is as true now as it was in the old world, and in the time of Ezekiel, that unless the wicked turn they shall die.
If I had time, I think I could vindicate this doctrine; at least I could show that the .objections against it are unfounded. But I have no time to do it now, and it is not necessary. What I wish to show is, that it is the unchangeable purpose of God that the wicked must turn or perish. The passages of scripture to which I have referred demonstrate, it. They would not, they could not stand in a revelation which meant to teach that there was no danger. Language has no terrors more explicit, and none more solemn than these. Here stand these passages— full of solemn truth, and solemn warning—from age to age, to meet the caviller and the despiser of this generation on his way to hell—and then to meet the caviller and the despiser of the next generation on his way to hell—and thus to warn each successive generation that it is the unalterable law of God that the wicked shall turn or die.
Human opinions and human feelings have no bearing on this doctrine. They do not, they cannot affect it. The Bible travels on from age to age bearing the same fearful doctrine, and is unchanged in its warnings and appeals. Some of each generation listen, are admonished, and saved;—the rest pass on and die. Human opinion does not alter facts. Human opinion does not remove deathbeds, and graves, and sorrows; nor will it remove and annihilate the world of wo. Facts stand unaffected by the changes of human belief; and fearful events roll on just as though men expected them. Nine-tenths of all the dead expected not to die at the time when in fact they have died, and more than half now listen to no admonition that death will ever come. They who have died had an expectation that they would live many years. But death came. He was not stayed by their belief or unbelief. He came steadily on. Each day he took a stride towards them—and step by step he advanced, so that they could not retreat or evade him till he was near enough to strike, and they fell. And so though the living will not hear, death comes to them. And so the doom of the sinner rolls on. Each day, each hour, each moment, it draws near. Whether he believes it or not makes no difference in the fact. It comes. It will not recede. In spite of all attempts to reason, or to forget it, the time comes; and at the appointed time the sinner dies.
Cavil and ridicule do not affect this. There is no power in a joke to put away convulsions, and fevers, and groans. The laugh and the song close no grave, and put back none of the sorrows of the second death. The dwellers in Pompeii could not put back the fires of the volcano by derision; nor would the mockery of the inhabitants of Sodom have stayed the sheets of flame that came from heaven. The scoffing sinner dies, and is lost just like others; the young man that has learned to cavil and deride religion, dies just like others. No cavil has yet changed a fact; none has ever stayed the arrow of death.
This is plain. But will not God make allowance for insensibility on this subject? Will he not pity, and spare, and save him who has no feeling, and no desire to be saved? I answer, No. It is not the fault of God that the sinner does not feel. It is not because he has revealed no truth fitted to make men feel. It is not because the truth is not plain enough. I ask you, is not the ground of your complaint—not that it is not plain enough —but that it is too plain? Is not that the feeling which you have to-day? Has not God revealed truth enough to affect the heart, and to make it feel? You are insensible, you say, to your condition. How has this been produced? By God ?—/ answer. "By resisting his appeals; slighting his warnings; grieving his Spirit; refusing to listen to his messengers. You have sought it, and loved it, and would allow nothing to rouse you from it. You have made up your mind on the subject—and now will you blame-God? You may close your eyes to the frightful precipice of which a friend warns you, but will you say that you might not have seen the danger? God is not to blame when men are blind to their own interests. He has told you what you are—a lost sinner. He has told you what is before you—death. He has apprized you when it will come—soon. He has lifted the veil from the eternal world and shown to you his throne, and his judgment-bar, and the world of wo. And now, I ask, who is to blame if the sinner is unmoved and unconcerned? If, with the proof of guilt which God has furnished; and the solemn warning in the Bible before you; and the exhibition of the death of Jesus for your sins, you are unmoved, will you blame God? What other truths could you ask, or expect to impress the mind? There are no other, no higher truths than these. Heaven has no other, than to offer its eternal bliss to mortals. Hell has no other, than to threaten its eternal woes. The grave has no other, than to assure you that you must all sleep and moulder there. God has no higher truth than to declare his conviction of the guilt and danger of man; to proclaim his love by the gift of his Son to die; to offer himself as the portion of the soul, and his heaven as-our home; and to invite as a Father, and to threaten as a God, to induce us to return to himself. If the sinner is insensible, he has none to blame but himself; if he dies, he dies with the assurance often made to him—made to him till he was weary of it—that it was the unalterable purpose of God that the wicked should turn or die.
II. My second proposition is, that there is danger that the wicked will die the second death. In proof of this, hear these remarks. If there were no danger of it, God would not address you in the language of the text; and in the similar language with which the Bible abounds. He does not assume earnestness where there is ho danger; he does not warn men with increasing importunity, unless he sees the danger deepen. Need I pause to prove further that there is such danger? Need I Stop to show in what it lies? A sinner never takes a step which is not on the crumbling verge of a precipice, from which, if he falls, he falls to rise no more. A man who may die at any moment, and who is unprepared to die, is in danger of hell each step that he takes. A soul that is insensible and unmoved— which no appeal reaches, and no voice alarms, is in danger of ruin. A man who lives for himself, and not for God, is in danger of death eternal, and may at any moment be cut off from life and hope. There are obstacles which lie between each impenitent man and heaven, and there are strong probabilities that these - obstacles will never be surmounted, and that the soul will be lost. I wish to show you some of these obstacles, and to represent to you the probability that they will never be overcome, but that they will always stand in the way of your salvation. The insensibility of the sinner is one proof of the danger of losing the soul, and that danger lies in the difficulty of arousing the mind to think of its own salvation, and the unwillingness of the heart to feel its own guilt and danger. A man may be made to feel when he is in danger of bankruptcy, though he may shut his eyes long to the truth. A man may be made to feel that he is in danger of dying, when disease has seized upon him, and his frame is wasting away. The eyes may shed tears over a novel, or at an exhibition of a tragedy, or in scenes of real grief. The heart is susceptible to the appeals of friendship, and gratitude, and love, and feels deeply at the prospect of the loss of reputation or property. Scenes of imaginary grief draw forth tears, but there are no tears to shed at the cross of Christ. The danger of death sometimes alarms, but there is no feeling of danger at the prospect of losing the soul. There appeals are made in vain. The eye weeps not, and the heart feels not. There are no tears to shed, and there is no power to create concern. The unconverted heart of man is a hard rock:—no persuasion, no entreaty, no command, no remonstrance, no glowing description of heaven, no fearful denunciation of eternal wo, moves or affects it. Its insensibility, in the circumstances in which we are placed, is the most mysterious and wonderful fact in the universe, of which we have any knowledge, and all philosophy fails to account for it.
Now, the danger of which I am speaking is this. It is, that this state of things will continue—and continue until it be too late. I argue it and urge it, because you mean it shall, and intend that nothing shall arouse you; because it continues till death in such a majority of cases just like your own; because you have succeeded in continuing it so long, and have learned the unhappy art of warding off all appeals, and of resisting all approaches to the soul; .because you have already resisted, perhaps, as solemn appeals as can ever be made to you; and because you may have gone far over your little journey of life, and may be near its close. He who has successfully resisted the appeals of the gospel, and the providence, and the Spirit of God for twenty, thirty, or forty years, and whose mind is now unmoved, has the prospect of being able to resist them,until life shall close, and of dying in the same insensibility in which he lives. What, my hearer, will ever rouse you? Is there any new law to be promulgated from some fearful Sinai, clothed in blackness and tempest? Is there to be some new incarnation of God, to appeal to you by more fearful wonders than those of Calvary? Is there to be some new heaven revealed, more glorious, more rich, more inviting, more lovely, to win you? Is there to be a hell disclosed of more awful horror, and of longer burnings? Oh, no, none of these things. You have.all to rouse you which you can.ever have. Death; the grave; the cross; heaven; hell: all—all appeal to you, and call upon you to turn and live. What,.let me ask, is to rouse you? Do you expect to be aroused when you reach a more favorable time of life? With many, many of you, the most favorable time is passed already, and you were unmoved.
Do you expect to be aroused by some alarming dispensation of Providence, and some more solemn call to repentance? You, perhaps, who have seen a child die, and heard God speak from his bed and his grave to you in vain; you who have been stretched on a bed of pain, and compelled to look into eternity, yet unmoved; you who have walked through scenes of calamity where God was, and where you refused to hear his voice, do you expect that affliction will awaken you? Do you wait that God should send his Spirit into your hearts, and arouse you? You who have often grieved that Spirit, and who know that with your present desires you would resist and oppose him again, do you look and long for those heavenly influences? Do you wait for others to lead the way to God, and expect to go with them? Tell me, how many of your friends1 have become Christians, and left you unwilling to follow them? Do you wait for a miracle to convert you—for some supernatural influence to bear you to heaven against your own will? Then / tell you, you wait in vain. For this you may wait till "seas shall waste, and skies in smoke decay." There are no such influences. The heart must yield, or there is no salvation. The hard heart must feel, and repent, and become willing that God should reign, or there is no salvation. There are no insensible and unwilling saints in heaven. AU there rejoice in the Privilege of salvation, and have wept, and sighed, and groaned over sin, and have prayed for pardon. The truth, my hearer, is, that you do not love religion; and the danger is, that this state of things will remain till you die: ,
I have spoken of insensibility as a source of danger. I might have told you of other dangers. Young man— your ambition is endangering your soul. Your love of gain is estranging you from God. Your pride is a source of danger to you. Your youthful passions; your unholy companions; your amusements; your loose and unsettled principles; your sceptical thoughts; your intention to delay this subject; your love of self; your nearness to the grave; your exposure to death—all endanger your salvation. The allurements of the world; the arts of a cunning and subtle foe ; the deceitfulness of your own hearts; the propensity to delay, all endanger your salvation. They meet you every where; every day ;—in your hearts; in the world; in your feelings;—and it is for reasons such as these that God addresses you in the language of the text, and asks you why you will die? He sees the danger; he knows it; he loves your soul; and he points you to the perils of your way. Look at these facts. I ask if you are not in danger? I ask if there is not a fearful probability that your souls will be lost? I ask if there is not reason to fear that you will be unmoved by all the appeals of the gospel $ that you will hear unconcerned all the thunders of the law; that you will tread on in the path of sin unconcerned;—that, in one word, while you live you will live without God, and when you die you will die without God, and when you go to eternity you will make the awful plunge "in the dark" without God? You will remember that these difficulties are your own. God is not responsible for them. He has not made them. Your indifference to religion; your love of the world; your love of ease; your love of sin, are all your own. Your own heart cherishes them; and so dearly you love them that nothing will induce you to abandon them..
•III. My third general proposition is, that the kind of death referred to in the text is such as to make earnestness of remonstrance proper. If it were not, God would not use this strong language. If it were a trifle, an affair of a moment, or a day; if it were temporary pain or distress, he would not remonstrate in this manner. When does he remonstrate with us about exposing ourselves to sickness Or temporal death? But when God uses this language, he sees all that can be seen in the sinner's doom. His omniscient eye is on the grave, and on hell; and seeing all, he asks, why, why will ye die? He sees what you do not, and cannot see; and seeing all, he speaks as a Father and a Friend, and asks, why, why will ye die? Could you see it as he sees it, or as even man on earth may be made to see it, you would cease to wonder at the earnestness of the question.
What is the death referred to in the text? What is death at all? What is eternal death ?—for the one is the faint emblem and image—and, alas! often the forerunner of the other. We know something—yet little—of death. We see to-day a lovely and vigorous youth, flushed with hope, and full of cheerfulness and joy—the pride of his friends, and the hope of the community. His eye is radiant with genius; his cheek blooms with the rose of health; his frame is manly and commanding; his step is elastic and joyous; his heart is bounding with hope. He comes to lend to the social circle the enchantment of his conversation and his wit; and he looks onward to health, and honor, and long life. There is not a crown so brilliant in the grasp of ambition that he does not aspire to it; there is not a field of honor which he does not hope to tread. To-morrow that elastic foot-tread ceases to be heard in the cheerful circle. That voice is hushed. The fire has departed from that eye; and the color from that cheek; and that large heart has ceased to beat, and the gushing blood has ceased to flow; and all that ambition, and hope, and wit, and humor, and gaiety have fled;—and there is left—what? A mass of moulded clay —now like the marble—cold, but more perishable; a moulded form, but with a peculiarity of feature, a chilliness, a fixedness, a solemnity, a repulsiveness, that we see, but cannot describe—and that nature nowhere else reveals but among the dead. Is this death ?—Who shall tell us what it is; or what that spirit felt when it fled— driven by the grim king away from the clay tenement? This is death—the death of the body—but it is but the image of death. The true death—the real death, is the death of the soul. It is when the soul is severed from its God, and from hope, and peace, and joy; when it lives—without life; survives—only to suffer;—is cut off from its high destiny—and driven away from him who is the Resurrection And The Life. Religion is life; and heaven is life; and hell is existence without life—continued being, where the soul is held in existence only to continue to die. This Is Death. To be seen, it must be seen beyond the grave—in hell.
What is that death? Why should we dread it? Hear him speak who saw it all, and who knew it all. "The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth." There, according to him, the sufferer, shall lift up the eyes, " being in torment," and ask in vain for a single "drop of water" to cool the tongue; there " the- worm dieth not, and the fire shall not be quenched"; there shall be "everlasting punishment"; there shall be "outer darkness"; there shall be the execution of the sentence, "Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." I have used only the words of the meek, and mild, and benevolent Redeemer—the most tender, and kind, and merciful of all who have dwelt on the earth, and who used such expressions as these, "How can ye escape the damnation of hell?" as if they became no other lips but his. He never concealed this danger. He never spake or acted as if it did not exist. He sought to save men as if the danger were real. He was just as serious, and solemn, and-tender, as if He felt that every man was in danger of it. And he told men when he lived, and he tells you now, just what the sinner has to expect. He felt that men were in danger, or he would never have left the heavens to save them. And was it any common or any imaginary danger that would lead him from heaven to the manger, to the cross, to the tomb?
I know not what eternal death is. I can tell you some things. It is far away from heaven—those blissful plains where eternal joy dwells. It is far from hope—hope that here "comes to all." It is the abode of all the abandoned, and profane, and vile—the collected guilt and wretchedness of this world. It is a place where no sanctuary like this opens its doors and invites to heaven; where no- Sabbath returns to bless the soul; where no message of mercy comes to the suffering and the sad. It is a world unblessed like this with the work of redemption. On no second Calvary there is a Redeemer offered for sin; and from no tomb there does he rise to life to bless the sufferers with the offer, and to furnish the pledge of heaven. No Spirit strives there to reclaim the lost; and on no zephyr there is the message of mercy borne, whispering peace. No God meets the desponding there with promises and hopes; and from no eye there is the tear of sorrow ever wiped away. There is no such friend as Jesus; no voice of mercy; no day-star of hope; no father, mother, daughter, pastor, angel, to sympathize; no one to breathe for the lost the prayer for pardon; no great Intercessor to bear the cry for mercy up to the throne of God. It is death—lingering, long, interminable death—the dying sorrow prolonged-from age to age; onward—onward toward eternity—ever lingering, never ending.
It is eternal. So said he who is the faithful and true witness, and who cannot lie. They " go away into everlasting punishment." This settles the question; and if you go there, you go with your eyes open. He deceives no one. He would undeceive all. I use scripture language. I have no power—no heart to attempt to portray these scenes. They are not topics for declamation. For of whom are these things spoken? Of the dwellers in distant worlds? Of those whom we have not seen? Alas! of many, many of the wicked in this house. How many now in despair may have occupied the seats which you now occupy—not suffered now to go and tell their brethren lest they also come into that place of torment! Oh, they are spoken of our kindred and friends—of wives, and husbands, and parents, and school-companions, and teachers, and pupils, who are out of Christ. They are spoken of those to whom we are bound by every tender tie, and to whom the heart is drawn by all the gushing sympathy of love; but are they less in danger on that account? 0, is there no danger? Suppose a voice from heaven should be heard in this house, and saying to the living here, "The day is coming in which all that are in their graves shall hear the voice of the Son of man, and shall eome forth, they that have done evil to the resurrection of damnation"; "the wicked shall be turned into hell"; "except ye repent, ye shall all perish"; is there a heart here that would not feel that there was danger? Should a hand be seen writing on these walls the names of all those here who are in danger of hell, how solemn would be this house! With what anxiety would you trace the record made! How anxiously would you look to see if your name was begun—was recorded—was fixed there! How deep the anguish of the soul! How deep, perhaps, the groans that would be heard in every part of this house!
IV. My fourth and concluding proposition is, that eter
nal death is not necessary, and may be avoided. If it were necessary and inevitable, your Maker would not expostulate with you, and ask "Why will ye die?" By a solemn oath—the most solemn—the only one that the Creator can make—by himself—his own life—his existence—he declares that he has no pleasure in your death.
Nor does this solemn declaration stand alone. Open any page of the Bible, and you may find the same assurance every where. In every way in which we can conceive or desire, he has given the solemn assurance to men that if they die, it will not be because his ear is deaf to the cry of penitence, or his eye not compassionate to the returning prodigal, or because there is no provision for their salvation. What mean your spared lives, if he would have pleasure in your death? Why have you not been cut down long since in your sins? What mean the sorrows of the Redeemer in Gethsemane and on Calvary, if God wished your death? Why was a Saviour given to die? What mean the invitations of that Redeemer to all—to all to come and live? Why do I hear his kind voice meeting the sighs of the broken-hearted and the contrite, and saying, "Come unto me, All ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest?" Why his invitation, wide as the world, "Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely"? Why your serious thoughts; your tender feelings; your convictions of sin; your desires of heaven—produced by the Holy Ghost—if God would have pleasure in your ruin? Why this message of mercy sent again to your souls, if God wished your death?
No, my hearers, I assure you that God wishes not your death. Had he desired it, instead of being to-day in this peaceful sanctuary, you would have been lifting up your eyes in the world of despair. He desires not your death. The Redeemer desires not your death. There is not an angel of light that desires your death. There is not one among the spirits of the just made perfect in heaven—be it departed father, mother, sister, child, that desires your death. There is not a pious friend among the living that desires your death. There is not one holy being throughout the universe, from Him that sitteth on the throne to the humblest member of the Christian church, that does not desire your salvation.
Then why will you die? Why should you die? Why neglect the subject till you perish forever? I ask with earnestness and with affection, why, why will you die? What reason can be given why you should perish, while others are saved? Is it because God is unwilling? That would be a reason if it were so, but look at his solemn oath in the text. Is it because the Lord Jesus did not die for you? That would be a reason if it were so, but hear the solemn declaration of the scriptures: "He tasted death for every man"? Hear his own words, that the "Son of man would be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life." Is it because Christ is unwilling that you should be saved? That would be a reason, but hear him say, "Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Is it because there is no room in heaven; because it is limited, and is full ; because there are no harps there that your hand might strike? That would be a reason, but hear the Redeemer say, "And yet there is room." Is it because you cannot come; because there are mountains of difficulties which you cannot overcome; because your sins are so great that they cannot be pardoned? That would be a reason; but hear the everblessed God, "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be white as wool." Is it because the pleasures, and honours, and wealth of this world will be an equivalent for eternal sorrows; because there will be gain in enjoying these though you perish at last? That might have some show of reason, but what will you be profited "if you gain the whole world .and lose your own soul"?
Then, why will you die? Why grieve away the Spirit of God? Why trample beneath your feet the blood of the Saviour? Why go down to death? Aged man, why exhaust the last drop of mercy as you totter over the tomb, and sigh out the remains of your earthly being in the prayer, 'O God! depart from me, I desire not the knowledge of thy ways?' Man of middle age, why tread on in the neglect of religion, in the path which thousands have trod—the path that leads to death—devoting yourself to this world, only to reap immortal wo? Ye young; ye vigorous; ye full of hope, and hilarity, and ambition, why spend the spring-time of being amidst youthful pleasures in the neglect of God, and why should you die forever? Ye gay, ye guilty, ye thoughtless, ye anxious, ye aged, and ye young, your Maker meets you now, and asks you,,' Why will ye die?' 0, that this question might be written in letters of living light in every gay assembly where you forget God; in the room where you sleep; and over your path every day as you go down to death! Why will ye die? why will ye die? why will ye die? Why go away from the cross? Why turn your backs on heaven? Why be miserable forever? Why linger on to all eternity in that immortal pain which never ceases—in the horrors of that death which never dies?