Psalm lxxiii. 20.
OU may go to hell asleep, but you cannot go to heaven asleep," says one who mourned over the deep delusion of unconverted men. The river Niagara flows on very smoothly, though swiftly, when it is near the cataract; it is perhaps nowhere so smooth as just before plunging over the rocks. Often, often is it thus with the sinner's life and end. No summer day was ever fairer, yet no night ever came on so sudden and so dark. "Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave" (Job xvi. 7-13). Theirs has been a life with little care and much mirth. But sickness comes; fever is on them, and companions keep aloof; then come stupor, restlessness, death! Where is the soul? "Oh, he was well resigned!" says some one, afraid lest the possibility of being lost ahould even bo hinted at. But what was the foundation of this resignation,—this supposed peace? What if this peace was only the sultry calm before the thunder 1 Was it not conscience asleep 1 For many die thus, and have a terrible awakening. The Word of God has said of such men, "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment / They are utterly consumed with terrors. As a dream when one awalceth" (Ps. Ixxiii. 20). Life's dreams are over; the stern reality has come.
1. Their Dreams Are Over. God has awoke them, and they cast their eyes around. Where are they now 1 That lurid gleam is not the dawn! These forms are not friends! They essay to go forth, but it is in vain; they are like Samson when his strength was gone. They have come to that time of which it is written, "He died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes" (Luke xvi. 22).
They used to have their dreams about an Eternal World. They thought all said about it was mere words. This present world was all. But now they see too surely that there is another world; it was that this present world was an unreal one, and has melted away as snow. They are in a world where there is nothing of earth; none of its pursuits, none of its business, none of its sport, or mirth, or pleasure. No streets, no markets, no cities here! There is no sleep here; no time marked by hours; no bell to announce morn or even. "Time shall be no more." Earth is over. Like Napoleon at St. Helena, when from the rocky height he looked out on boundless ocean,—no armies now, no marshals to receive command, no kings or kingdoms here. O poor soul!" The fashion of the world has passed away."
They used to have their dreams about Sin. They fancied it was a fiction, nothing real. Stolen waters were sweet, and forbidden fruit to be desired. But the dream is over. They see that sin is awfully real! the smallest sin has in it the sentence: "Thou shalt die." Every sin appears now a mighty mountain overhanging the soul, crushing out of it all hope, and overwhelming it with curse and wrath. They see, they feel the sting of sin; it has begun to inflict the wounds which none can ever heal. "The wages of sin is death" (Romans vi. 23). What a meaning there is in that saying now! That death is no dream.
They used to have their dreams about Hell. They said it was nowhere; they scoffingly proclaimed that the idea of it was only a device of some who wished to terrify their fellows. They were sure that God had never kindled any such fire, and would never doom any soul to any such prison. But they have been rudely awakened out of their dream. They see hell now. There it is, stretching out on every side. They will never forget the gates that shut upon them as they entered, precluding every hope of escape. O dreadful darkness! tormenting devils! unfeeling company? Now and then, it may be, some of the lost cry one to the other, "How long ; " and one to the other utters the terrible response, "For ever and for ever 1" They find now there is a real hell, and that it has everlasting pains, and thirst such as a man sometimes felt on earth when he would have given kingdoms for one drop of water; and above all, that it has remorse, and fear, and every form of misery, ceaselessly sweeping through their soul, as the wild winds used to do over earth's sea when it could not rest. Christ's threefold utterance is true, "Their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched" (Mark ix. 44, 46, 48). The infinite God in very truth has poured out vials of wrath on sinners.
They used to have their dreams about God. They were sure it would be found that God was too merciful to send even one soul into misery. They were sure He was not what some few people asserted that the Bible said He was, a God who punished eveiy violation of His holy law, and insisted on satisfaction being found by the sinner ere He would receive him into heaven. But they have been, alas! suddenly awakened out of this dream, and lo! yonder is the Judge, and the Great White Throne on which they read the writing, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord." "He will by no means clear the guilty." Ah ! they find God was speaking only the truth when He sent messengers to tell them, that "into His presence should enter nothing that defileth." They find He keeps to that solemn word spoken to the sinner on earth about Jesus; "He that believeth shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned."
Yes! as a dream "when one awaketh /" There is another world. There is reality in sin. There is an eternal hell. God is not only loving and gracious, but just, holy, and true to His word. It is said that once, somewhere in the Mediterranean, many years ago, a captain with his ship had come upon a sunken rock, and barely escaped. On coming home he told the Admiralty of his discovery, and had the spot put down in the chart: but one present scoffed at the discovery as a mere imagination, and declared that he would ere long sail his vessel over that fictitious rock! In order to carry his boast into action, he did set sail, and coming near the spot, with the chart spread out, called the ship's company to stand with him and be witnesses of his exposure of the delusion. In a quarter of an hour they would be on the rock, if it existed: so the captain stood with watch in hand, and when at last the fifteen minutes had passed, shouted out, "I told you it was a mere dream; we have passed the spot, and there is nothing!" But scarcely had he uttered the words, when a harsh, grating sound was heard, and the vessel struck; the keel had grazed the rock; the rock was there; it was no dream! Pale with vexation, and unable to face the men who had heard his vain boasting, he leapt into the sea, and buried his shame in the waves. Even thus, deluded soul, shall thy vain fancies be dispelled, "How are they brought into desolation as in a moment! they are utterly consumed with terrors! as a dream when one awaketh." The words of 'God are no dream.
2. Their Desolation Has Come. They are stripped
of everything they ever enjoyed, everything of earth;
as with us, one carried to prison is carefully stripped
of his dress, and of all that was his. It is in all respects
o utter "desolation." No rest is left for them, for "they rest not day nor night," while "the weary" (the believer who was so often made wearied by their ways) has entered on his eternal Sabbath. In vain do partial friends say at his grave, " He is at his rest;" the lost soul has been stripped of it all for ever.
They are beyond conception lonely and "desolate." No companionship there furnishes relief to that awful solitude; the five brethren of the rich man (Luke xvi. 20), when they come to join him, are like fuel flung on the fire. No one there breathes sympathy; no one speaks of pity! no advocate pleads even once on their behalf. They risked all, and have lost all.
Think of one doomed to perpetual imprisonment, thrust down into the deep, dark dungeon of some great fortress, and left to die and rot there, forsaken and forgotten. At times, the man may hear overhead the sound of happy voices, and unmistakeable intimation that others are enjoying light and life to the full. All this, by contrast, just adds to the intensity of his insupportable loneliness. He has been dropt out of the memory of his fellow-men. But all this is a mere hint of the inconceivable midnight of gloom and lonely desolation wrapt up in the terrible words of the prophet Jeremiah (xxiii. 39), when telling us that the Judge declares, "Behold I, even I, will utterly forget you!" They are left in the prison that shall never be opened,—left alone, unnoticed for ever, uncared for, forgotten by God! Surely this is "desolation." Heaven and hope are out of sight for ever, for even God refuses now to bestow one thought upon the sentenced soul.
"O that men were wise, that they would understand this, and consider their latter end" (Deut. xxxii. 29). At any rate, shall God's children not act like men awake, who see others asleep on the slope of a precipice 1 Men of God, do you not care whether or not these dreamers sleep on? A word from you might be blessed to arouse them, and break in upon their dreams. If you have reason to fear that some whom you once knew are already lost, all the more hasten to rescue those whom you can. Seek by ail means to save some. God the Holy Ghost awakens men; but He loves to use their fellowmen as His instruments.
Awake! awake! Sleeping world, awake! We tell of great realities. It is no dream that soothes our conscience and fills our heart. No, it is that greatest of all facts, that most solid of all truths, " God so loved the world, tliat He game His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish,"—no, not perish,—but have everlasting life" (John iii. 16). God, the eternal Son, came down into our world, in our nature; lived, suffered, and died, "the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God ;" and on the resurrection morning the Father sealed His work as all complete. Whoever receives this Saviour enters the family of God at once (John i. 12). Thousands upon thousands have in their own experience proved the reality and greatness of this salvation. They tell you that it is no dream that Christ the Saviour meets the cravings of the heart and conscience. It is no dream that Christ is "altogether lovely." It is no dream (they all accord in testifying) that " he who cometh to Him shall never hunger, and he that belicveth on Him shall never thirst" (John vi. 35).
Lose no time, for the Lord is coming quickly to take vengeance on all who obey not the gospel (2 Thess. i. 8). Come and prove for yourself all we say. You shall have "joy and peace in believing" (Romans xv. 13). and never more be in danger of the "desolation" and appalling surprise of those who live upon their dreams. Come and try the Fountain open for sin. Come and Teason with Him who shews you how scarlet sins become white as snow (Is. i. 18). Come and hear that most substantial and most satisfying of all truths,— "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. i. 15). "By Him, whosoever believeth is justified from all things" (Acts xxiii. 39.) Christ believed in is peace to the soul, and true peace is no dream.