"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, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?" (Ezekiel 23:11)
God said frequently to his children, "Come, let us reason together." He is a reasonable God, and you are reasonable men in many things, and he challenges you into his presence, and says, "Let us reason together about this. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked." In other words, "I have nothing to do with the death of the wicked." I say there is nothing in the grace of God, and nothing in the blood of Jesus Christ, to save an impenitent man.
These are clear, honest statements of Scriptural truths. There is nothing in the Pacific Railroad's movement of its trains to make you ship your goods over that road if you don't want to ship them that way. There is nothing in the management of the Pacific road that can compel a man to travel over its lines if the man doesn't want to go over them; and we say honestly and emphatically that there is nothing in the atonement of Jesus Christ to save any but the lost; and no man is saved, in a Gospel sense, until he first sees and feels he is lost. When a man feels that he is lost in this sense, thank God he is getting to be found! Your salvation depends on your patient continuance in well-doing.
What is the judgment at last? "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." It isn't, Well commenced. I have known people to begin a great many things well. It isn't, Well carried on. I've known a great many people to carry on an enterprise for years, and then break down. It isn't, Well begun or well carried on, but it is "Well done, well finished, well rounded up, thou good and faithful servant." And now, brother, listen: If you are an earnest, humble Christian, your salvation does not depend so much on what happened in the past, may be, as on what are you going to do from now on?" "If a righteous man forsake his righteousness and commit iniquity, the righteousness he hath done shall be forgotten, and he shall die in his sin." God says to the wicked, "If you forsake your wickedness and do right, you shall live. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked."
I know the question is asked, "If God is omnipotent and is love, then why should any perish?" Brother, we have what we call human will in this world, and that will determines for you where you will go. If you go to hell, it is a matter of choice with you; if you go to heaven, it is likewise a matter of choice. Say, why did God endow man with will, then? Look here, there are some things that are inherent in the nature of the thing. How cometh that engine on the track yonder? Its gauge indicated one hundred and fifty pounds pressure of steam. What do they want with the steam? Why, to pull the train behind the engine. But it may burst the boiler into ten thousand pieces! Yes, but that's the inherent nature of the steam. When you sit in the train, you always feel the powerful pulsations of the majestic engine in front, and that engine has power enough in its nature to blow the boiler into ten thousand pieces.
The powers that God has given you to direct you and move you, these same powers may destroy you for time and eternity. Righteousness is the right use of God's given thing, and sin is the wrong use of God's given thing. If you use a thing wrongly, God is not responsible if you are blown up by it; and the power to do right or wrong is inherent in the nature of man. I suppose they could have made an engine so that its boiler wouldn't burst; but if they did, they'd have to make some other sort of an engine than a steam engine. I've seen caloric engines, but they never get anywhere.
Hear me. God has no pleasure in the death of him that dies! My mother loved me because she had some of the nature of God in her own heart; my wife loves me because some of the nature of God has been poured into her heart. God is love, and the great store-house of God's love is his heart, and we all draw from that store-house; and all the love my wife and my mother and my children have for me has been drawn from the great store- house of the love of God. Did my wife's love save me? Did my mother's love save me from a wicked life? No, sir! No, sir! In that sense, God's love can't save any man, and it never did save any man.
If God's mercy, and God's love, and God's goodness could save a man, then God was guilty of cruelty to send his only begotten Son to suffer on the cross that he might wash away with his blood, our sin. There is no means by which we can be saved except in the name of the only begotten Son of God. The Father sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved. He bridges the chasm between a sinking world and the God that made it; and he was sent not to break down and crush and ruin humanity, but that we might cross over in safety on his atonement into the kingdom of God.
I declare it to be as true as that I read my Bible that there is not a man here tonight but who may be in heaven within a hundred years from today. There isn't a man here tonight but who, if he makes the choice, can be in hell a hundred years from today. Those ten decades will soon be gone, brethren. O, how the time flies! Let's you and I settle it tonight. "By the grace of God, if that be true, I'll be in heaven a hundred years from now." We may be there in ten years; it may be in ten months; it may be in ten days; it may be in ten hours; - we will be in the one place or the other.
To the righteous I say, "Keep on; plow your furrow out; go on through;" but to the wicked I say, "Stop! there's danger and death ahead of you." There's a message for you both tonight! Christian people, hear me, and go on in your way; but, sinners, just stop long enough in your mad, onward rush to hear these truths. "Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die." The turning spoken of here means an actual, business-like turning away from sin, not a mock turning. There's no farce about this thing; it's an actual turning away from sin.
Here's a merchant that's been merchandising ten years, and he's been losing money right along, and now he's almost near to bankruptcy, and he resolves he'll close out his stock on hand, and quit the business and go to farming. There's a business turn about that thing. He doesn't want to go on losing money; he sees he's sinking every year, and he resolves to quit merchandising and go to farming. Turning away from sin is just as actual as is that man turning from merchandising.
It seems to me sometimes that we've got religion diluted down to a sentiment or to a song; but it's an outrage on the glittering, glorious Gospel of the Son of God. It is not a sentiment - it's a sanctified business. It's a business contract binding on you. You do what God tells you to do, and then if God doesn't do what he said he would do, you have an issue that will bankrupt heaven in a minute.
A great many people in this world want their pay before they do their job. There are two bad paymasters - one who pays before the job is done, and the one who never pays at all; and the one that never pays at all is the best one, because if he pays humanity before they do the job, they will tell a thousand lies to get out of it, and never do it at all. Listen! Some of you people want the pay before you do the work! That's your trouble. You say, "If God will bless me, I will do so and so." I guess you will. Who are you that want to dictate the terms to him, and receive all the benefit yourself? God says, "You do so and so and I will do so and so." Do your duty; that's the way. If you will do your duty, you will be religious, and you will be religious if you do your duty. Some people are always troubled to know what the Lord will do for them. Turn and you will be saved, said the Lord. The turning is your duty, and the saving is God's. If you turn and God doesn't save you, then you will have an issue that will overturn the pillars of justice. The turn must be business-like, however. You don't want other people to pay you before you do your duty, and why do you want the Lord to do it? A man doesn't want to pay for a bill of goods until he orders and receives them. You don't want to pay the blacksmith until he shoes your horse. Let's be decent and sensible in our turning to God.
What's the use in forswearing ball-rooms, and then wanting to go back to them? What's the use in giving up cards, and still you're nearly dead to play cards again? I believe in Christian liberty, in a fellow getting religion and doing right. But whenever you get to rubbing up against ball-room and card-rooms and theaters, and such, you make a mistake - you haven't given up anything. I loved to dance and do a hundred things that are wrong, but I have had as much desire to go to hell as to a ball-room since I got religion. I believe in a religion that sets us at liberty, and makes us do the things we love to do, and makes us love the things we ought to do. You can't turn away heartily to heaven, and yet long for the fleshpots of Egypt. I've got into Canaan now, where the grapes and the pomegranates and the figs cluster thick above my head, and I can eat and rejoice. I have had enough of the leeks and onions. It is all choice. I take God's love to my heart, and put it on, and follow his directions.
Now, from ever thing that is wrong, I take my heart, and put it on these things which are right. And a man is never converted until he is converted from the wrong and converted to the right.
God pity you, my brother! Let us go out on one side or the other. Let us take a stand. If it is right to do wrong, let us go on boldly; and if it is right to do right, and stick to God and live for heaven, let us go over on that side.
I heard of a gambler in Louisville who gave himself to God, and joined the Church; and then he went on the streets next day, and when he met his former companions, he said to them, "Goodbye, boys; I will never do those things again; and unless you come into the Church and take a stand with me, I will cut your acquaintance today, and cut it forever." That is what I call taking a stand! And if you want to be religious, take a stand. May the good Lord give these poor sinners grip. That is what we want; the nerve to come up and assert our manhood, and take sides in this great moral issue.
Turn - an actual, hearty turning away from sin. And not only that, but let it be an immediate turning. Be not among these everlasting dilly-dally men, putting off, and putting off.
You can't be in too big a hurry in this great question of preparing for eternity. And, thank God, when a man prepares to die, then he is prepared to live; he is prepared for every good work and word. It is an immediate turning away from sin that is necessary. O, brother, that heart that beats in your bosom is but a muffled drum beating your funeral dirge to the tomb, and you know not when that heart will stop beating. Brother, you have no time to lose - you have no more time to throw away. Whatever else may happen, if you will put in your best licks from this hour until you die, you will find out you just barely made your way safely to the good world.
An immediate turning away from sin! And not only must it be an immediate turning away, but a thorough turning. Brother, there is no use in talking about giving up part. One sin in your life is like one leak in a ship; it will sink your soul before it reaches the other shore; and it is a question not of how many sins have you given up, whether twenty or fifty or a thousand, the one question for eternity is, have you given them all up; and have you emptied them down tonight so that you can say, "There is the last sin of my life, it is given up forever?" Will you do that? O, brother, you can not swim the ocean of time with any sin resting upon you; you can not do it. And you can just as well give your sins up now and give them all up. I know what human nature is. I recollect how I tried to scatter my sins along and give up those I felt I could get along best without. But, brother, I never made any headway until I emptied them all down, and said, "Lord, I will never do another thing that displeases thee."And I said, "If I am damned at last it will be for those sins already committed. I will never commit another."
And it must not only be a thorough giving up, but, brother, hear me once more - it must be an eternal giving up of sin. When General Lee, under the apple tree at Appomattox, handed his sword to General Grant, he said with his whole heart, and said it for his whole army, "We will never take up arms against the old flag again."
I tell you, my fellow-citizens, when a poor sinner goes to the cross and surrenders, let him surrender with the understanding that he lays down his old weapons of rebellion. Let him say: "I do not lay them down for a week, or a month, or a year, but so help me God I will never, never fire that old gun again. I will never handle it anymore. God helping me, I will be true to the flag of the cross from this day until the minute I die."
Now you say, "What is the necessity of my turning?" Do you know, brother, that this nineteenth century is wicked, and more wicked perhaps than the century that preceded it, and that the more wicked and depraved men get, the more they fight this idea of hell? And did you ever see a man that didn't believe in an eternal hell, but that when he came to die he would go there? There is many a fellow in this country who says, "There is no hell," and mark the expression, he won't be in hell more than ten minutes before he jumps up and cries out, "O, what a mistake I made in my doctrine. I didn't have any hell in it, and now I am in hell forever."
Hear me, my brother. Let us open the pages of this Book, and we will see that for the wickedness of man, God drowned this old world. We turn over a little further, and see the burning hail falling on Sodom and Gomorrah. And we turn over a little further, and there are Pharoah and his hosts, horses, chariots, all drowned in the Red Sea. We turn over page after page, and we find a little further along Ananias and Sapphira as they dropped dead in their tracks for lying. We turn over and over until the end, and find that God has been punishing sin for four thousand years.
As I look an all merciful God and loving Father in the face tonight, then I look at myself and say, O, God, if thou has destroyed armies and drowned the world, and sent the burning hail upon cities and destroyed them, and caused the earth to burst open and swallow the wicked; I look at all this and then I ask myself the question, if God will drown worlds and burn cities and destroy armies as he has done in the past, then will God let me go unpunished in the future? And the man who says that God will not punish sin, must fly in the face of the record and of the history of this universe.
And, now, the means of turning. What are the means? "Lord, here I am tonight, a poor sinner. I give up and surrender to the cross. I take the line of duty thou has marked out for me. I give myself to thee from this time on." Brother, sister, won't you turn tonight?
"Sinners, turn! why will you die? God, your Savior, asks you why?"
Won't you turn tonight and be saved forever?Turn! Turn!
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