“And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven. But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”—Matthew 8:11-12.
Yhis is a land where plain speaking is allowed, and where the people are willing to afford a fair hearing to any one who can tell them that which is worth their attention. To-night I am quite certain of an attentive audience, for I know you too well to suppose otherwise. This field, as you are all aware, is private property; and I would just give a suggestion to those who go out in the open air to preach—that it is far better to get into a field, or a plot of unoccupied building-ground, than to block up the roads and stop business; it is moreover, far better to be somewhat under protection, so that we can at once prevent disturbance.
To-night, I shall, I hope, encourage you to seek the road to heaven. I shall also have to utter some very sharp things concerning the end of the lost in the pit of hell. Upon both these subjects I will try and speak, as God helps me. But, I beseech you, as you love your souls, weigh right and wrong this night; see whether what I say be the truth of God. If it be not, reject it utterly, and cast it away; but if it is, at your peril disregard it; for, as you shall answer before God, the great Judge of heaven and earth, it will go ill with you if the words of his servant and of his Scripture be despised.
My text has two parts. The first is very agreeable to my mind, and gives me pleasure; the second is terrible in the extreme; but, since they are both the truth, they must be preached. The first part of my text is, “I say unto you, that many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” The sentence which I call the black, dark, and threatening part is this: “But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
I. Let us take the first part. Here is a most glorious promise. I will read it again: “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.” I like that text, because it tells me what heaven is, and gives me a beautiful picture of it. It says, it is a place where I shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob. O what a sweet thought that is for the working man! He often wipes the hot sweat from his face, and he wonders whether there is a land where he shall have to toil no longer. He scarcely ever eats a mouthful of bread that is not moistened with the sweat of his brow. Often he comes home weary, and flings himself upon his couch, perhaps too tired to sleep. He says, “Oh! is there no land where I can rest? Is there no place where I can sit, and for once let these weary limbs be still? Is there no land where I can be quiet? Yes, thou son of toil and labor,
Go and try my Saviour! Go and try my Saviour! If he cast you away after you have sought him, tell in the pit that Christ would not hear you. But that you shall never be allowed to do. It would dishonor the mercy of the covenant for God to cast away one penitent sinner; and it never shall be while it is written, “Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven.”
II. The second part of my text is heart-breaking. I could preach with great delight to myself from the first part; but here is a dreary task to my soul, because there are gloomy words here. But, as I have told you, what is written in the Bible must be preached, whether it be gloomy or cheerful. There are some ministers who never mention anything about hell. I heard of a minister who once said to his congregation, “If you do not love the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be sent to that place which it is not polite to mention.” He ought not to have been allowed to preach again, I am sure, if he could not use plain words. Now, if I saw that house on fire over there, do you think I would stand and say, “I believe the operation of combustion is proceeding yonder?” No; I would call out, “Fire! fire! and then everybody would know what I meant. So, if the Bible says, “The children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness,” am I to stand here and mince the matter at all? God forbid! We must speak the truth as it is written. It is a terrible truth, for it says, “the children of the kingdom shall be cast out!” Now, who are those children? I will tell you. “The children of the kingdom” are those people who are noted for the externals of piety, but who have nothing of the internals of it. People whom you will see with their Bibles and Hymn Books marching off to chapel as religiously as possible, or going to church as devoutly and demurely as they can, looking as sombre and serious as parish beadles, and fancying that they are quite sure to be saved, though their hearts are not in the matter; nothing but their bodies. These are the persons who are “the children of the kingdom.” They have no grace, no life, no Christ, and they shall be cast into outer darkness.
Again, these people are the children of pious fathers and mothers. There is nothing touches a man’s heart, mark you, like talking about his mother. I have heard of a swearing sailor, whom nobody could manage, not even the police, who was always making some disturbance wherever he went. Once he went into a place of worship, and no one could keep him still; but a gentleman went up and said to him, “Jack, you had a mother once.” With that the tears ran down his cheeks. He said, “Ha! bless you, sir, I had; and I brought her gray hairs with sorrow to the grave, and a pretty fellow I am to be here to-night.” He then sat down, quite sobered and subdued by the very mention of his mother. Ah, and there are some of you, “children of the kingdom,” who can remember your mothers. Your mother took you on her knee and taught you early to pray; your father tutored you in the ways of godliness. And yet you are here to-night, without grace in you heart—without hope of heaven. You are going downwards towards hell as fast as your feet can carry you. There are some of you who have broken your poor mother’s heart. Oh! if I could tell you what she has suffered for you when you have at night been indulging in you sin. Do you know what your guilt will be, ye “children of the kingdom,” if ye perish after a pious mother’s prayers and tears have fallen upon you? I can conceive of no one entering hell with a worse grace than the man who goes there with drops of his mother’s tears on his head, and with his father’s prayers following him at his heels. Some of you will inevitably endure this doom; some of you, young men and women, shall wake up one day and find yourselves in utter darkness, while your parents shall be up there in heaven, looking down upon you with upbraiding eyes, seeming to say, “What! after all we did for you, all we said, are ye come to this?” “Children of the kingdom!” do not think that a pious mother can save you. Do not think, because your father was a member of such-and-such a church, that his godliness will save you. I can suppose some one standing at heaven’s gate, and demanding, “Let me in! Let me in!” What for? “Because my mother is in there.” Your mother had nothing to do with you. If she was holy, she was holy for herself; if she was evil, she was evil for herself. “But my grandfather prayed for me!” That is no use: did you pray for yourself? “No, I did not.” Then grandfather’s prayers, and grandmother’s prayers, and father’s and mother’s prayers may be piled on the top of one another till they reach the stars, but they never can make a ladder for you to go to heaven by. You must seek God for yourself; or rather, God must seek you. You must have vital experience of godliness in you heart, or else you are lost, even though all your friends were in heaven. That was a dreadful dream which a pious mother once had, and told to her children. She thought the judgment day was come. The great books were opened. They all stood before God. And Jesus Christ said, “Separate the chaff from the wheat; put the goats on the left hand, and the sheep on the right. The mother dreamed that she and her children were standing just in the middle of the great assembly. And the angel came, and said, “I must take the mother, she is a sheep: she must go to the right hand. The children are goats: they must go on the left.” She thought as she went, her children clutched her, and said, “Mother, can we part? Must we be separated?” She then put her arms around them, and seemed to say, “My children, I would, if possible, take you with me.” But in a moment the angel touched her; her cheeks were dried, and now, overcoming natural affection, being rendered supernatural and sublime, resigned to God’s will, she said, “My children, I taught you well, I trained you up, and you forsook the ways of God; and now all I have to say is, Amen to you condemnation.” Thereupon they were snatched away, and she saw them in perpetual torment while she was in heaven. Young man, what will you think, when the last day comes, to hear Christ say, “Depart, ye cursed?” And there will be a voice just behind him, saying, Amen. And, as you inquire whence came the voice, you will find it was your mother. Or, young woman, when thou art cast away into utter darkness, what will you think to hear a voice saying, Amen. And as you look, there sits your father, his lips still moving with the solemn curse. Ah! “children of the kingdom,” the penitent reprobates will enter heaven, many of them; publicans and sinners will get there; repenting drunkards and swearers will be saved; but many of the “children of the kingdom” will be cast out. Oh! to think that you who have been so well trained should be lost, while many of the worse will be saved. It will be the hell of hells for you to look up and see there “poor Jack,” the drunkard, lying in Abraham’s bosom, while you, who have had a pious mother, are cast into hell, simply because you would not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, but put his gospel from you, and lived and died without it! That were the very sting of all, to see ourselves cast away, when the chief of sinners finds salvation.
Now list to me a little while—I will not detain you long—whilst I undertake the doleful task of telling you what is to become of these “children of the kingdom.” Jesus Christ says they are to be “cast into utter darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
First, notice, they are to be cast out. They are not said to go; but, when they come to heaven’s gates, they are to be cast out. As soon as hypocrites arrive at the gates of heaven, Justice will say, “There he comes! there he comes! He spurned a father’s prayers, and mocked a mother’s tears. He has forced his way downward against all the advantages mercy has supplied. And now, there he comes. “Gabriel, take the man.” The angel, binding you hand and foot, holds you one single moment over the mouth of the chasm. He bids you look down—down—down. There is no bottom; and you hear coming up from the abyss, sullen moans, and hollow groans, and screams of tortured ghosts. You quiver, your bones melt like wax, and your marrow quakes within you. Where is now thy might? and where thy boasting and bragging? Ye shriek and cry, ye beg for mercy; but the angel, with one tremendous grasp, seizes you fast, and then hurls you down, with the cry, “Away, away!” And down you go to the pit that is bottomless, and roll for ever downward—downward—downward—ne’er to find a resting-place for the soles of your feet. Ye shall be cast out.
And where are you to be cast to? Ye are to be cast “into outer darkness;” ye are to be put in the place where there will be no hope. For, by “light,” in Scripture, we understand “hope;” and you are to be put “into outer darkness,” where there is no light—no hope. Is there a man here who has no hope? I cannot suppose such a person. One of you, perhaps, says, “I am thirty pounds in debt, and shall be sold up by-and-by; but I have a hope that I may get a loan, and so escape my difficulty.” Says another, “My business is ruined, but things may take a turn yet—I have a hope.” Says another, “I am in great distress, but I hope that God will provide for me.” Another says, “I am fifty pounds in debt; I am sorry for it; but I will set these strong hands to work, and do my best to get out of it.” One of you thinks a friend is dying, but you have a hope that, perhaps, the fever may take a turn—that he may yet live. But, in hell, there is no hope. They have not even the hope of dying—the hope of being annihilated. They are for ever—for ever—for ever—lost! On every chain in hell, there is written “for ever.” In the fires, there blaze out the words, “for ever.” Up above their heads, they read “for ever.” Their eyes are galled, and their hearts are pained with the thought that it is “for ever.” Oh! if I could tell you to-night that hell would one day be burned out, and that those who were lost might be saved, there would be a jubilee in hell at the very thought of it. But it cannot be—it is “for ever” they are “cast into utter darkness.”
But I want to get over this as quickly as I can; for who can bear to talk thus to his fellow-creatures? What is it that the lost are doing? They are “weeping and gnashing their teeth.” Do you gnash you teeth now? You would not do it except you were in pain and agony. Well, in hell there is always gnashing of teeth. And do you know why? There is one gnashing his teeth at his companion, and mutters, “I was led into hell by you; you led me astray, you taught me to drink the first time.” And the other gnashes his teeth and says, “What if I did? You made me worse than I should have been in after times.” There is a child who looks at her mother, and says, “Mother, you trained me up to vice.” And the mother gnashes her teeth again at the child, and says, “I have no pity for you, for you excelled me in it, and led me into deeper sin.” Fathers gnash their teeth at their sons, and sons at their fathers. And, methinks, if there are any who will have to gnash their teeth more than others, it will be seducers, when they see those whom they have led from the paths of virtue, and hear them saying, “Ah! we are glad you are in hell with us, you deserve it, for you led us here.” Have any of you, to-night, upon your consciences the fact that you have led others to the pit? O, may sovereign grace forgive you. “We have gone astray like lost sheep,” said David. Now a lost sheep never goes astray alone, if it is one of a flock. I lately read of a sheep that leaped over the parapet of a bridge, and was followed by every one of the flock. So, if one man goes astray, he leads others with him. Some of you will have to account for others’ sins when you get to hell, as well as your own. Oh, what “weeping and gnashing of teeth” there will be in that pit!
Now shut the black book. Who wants to say any more about it? I have warned you solemnly. I have told you of the wrath to come. The evening darkens, and the sun is setting. Ah! and the evenings darken with some of you. I can see gray-headed men here. Are your gray hairs a crown of glory, or a fool’s cap to you? Are you on the very verge of heaven, or are you tottering on the brink of your grave, and sinking down to perdition?
Let me warn you, gray-headed men; your evening is coming. O, poor, tottering gray-head, wilt thou take the last step into the pit? Let a young child step before thee, and beg thee to consider. There is thy staff—it has nothing of earth to rest upon: and now, ere thou diest, bethink thyself this night; let seventy years of sin start up; let the ghosts of thy forgotten transgressions march before thine eyes. What wilt thou do with seventy wasted years to answer for—with seventy years of criminality to bring before God? God give thee grace this night to repent and to put thy trust in Jesus.
And you, middle-aged men, are not safe; the evening lowers with you, too; you may soon die. A few mornings ago, I was roused early from my bed, by the request that I would hasten to see a dying man. I hurried off with all speed to see the poor creature; but when I reached the house, he was dead—a corpse. As I stood in the room I thought, “Ah! that man little thought he should die so soon.” There were his wife and children, and friends—they little thought he would die; for he was hale, strong, and hearty but a few days before. None of you have a lease of your lives. If you have, where is it? Go and see if you have it anywhere in your chest at home. No! ye may die to-morrow. Let me therefore warn you by the mercy of God; let me speak to you as a brother may speak; for I love you, you know I do, and would press the matter home to your hearts. Oh, to be amongst the many who shall be accepted in Christ—how blessed that will be! and God has said that whosoever shall call on his name shall be saved: he casts out none that come unto him through Christ.
And now, ye youths and maidens, one word with you. Perhaps you think that religion is not for you. “Let us be happy,” say you: “let us be merry and joyous.” How long, young man, how long? “Till I am twenty-one.” Are you sure that you will live till then? Let me tell you one thing. If you do live till that time, if you have no heart for God now, you will have none then. Men do not get better if left alone. It is with them as with the garden: if you let it alone, and permit weeds to grow, you will not expect to find it better in six months—but worse. Ah! men talk as if they could repent when they like. It is the work of God to give us repentance. Some even say, “I shall turn to God on such-and-such a day. Ah! if you felt aright, you would say, “I must run to God, and ask him to give me repentance now, lest I should die before I have found Jesus Christ, my Saviour.”
Now, one word in conclusion. I have told you of heaven and hell; what is the way, then, to escape from hell and to be found in heaven? I will not tell you my old tale again to-night. I recollect when I told it you before, a good friend in the crowd said, “Tell us something fresh, old fellow.” Now really, in preaching ten times a week, we cannot always say things fresh. You have heard John Gough, and you know he tells his tales over again. I have nothing but the old gospel. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” There is nothing here of works. It does not say, “He who is a good man shall be saved,” but “he who believes and is baptized.” Well, what is it to believe? It is to put your trust entirely upon Jesus. Poor Peter once believed, and Jesus Christ said to him, “Come on, Peter, walk to me on the water.” Peter went stepping along on the tops of the waves without sinking; but when he looked at the waves, he began to tremble, and down he went. Now, poor sinner, Christ says, “Come on; walk on your sins; come to me; and if you do, he will give you power. If you believe on Christ, you will be able to walk over your sins—to tread upon them and overcome them. I can remember the time when my sins first stared me in the face. I thought myself the most accursed of all men. I had not committed any very great open transgressions against God; but I recollected that I had been well trained and tutored, and I thought my sins were thus greater than other people’s. I cried to God to have mercy; and I feared that he would not pardon me. Month after month, I cried to God, and he did not hear me, and I knew not what it was to be saved. Sometimes I was so weary of the world that I desired to die; but then I recollected that there was a worse world after this, and that it would be an ill matter to rush before my Maker unprepared. At times I wickedly thought God a most heartless tyrant, because he did not answer my prayer; and then, at others, I thought, “I deserve his displeasure; if he sends me to hell, he will be just.” But I remember the hour when I stepped into a little place of worship, and saw a tall, thin man step into the pulpit: I have never seen him from that day, and probably never shall, till we meet in heaven. He opened the Bible and read, with a feeble voice, “Look unto me, and be ye saved all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and beside me there is none else.” Ah, thought I, I am one of the ends of the earth; and then turning round, and fixing his gaze on me, as if he knew me, the minister said, “Look, look, look.” Why, I thought I had a great deal to do, but I found it was only to look. I thought I had a garment to spin out for myself; but I found that if I looked, Christ would give me a garment. Look, sinner, that is to be saved. Look unto him, all ye ends of the earth, and be saved. That is what the Jews did, when Moses held up the brazen serpent. He said, “Look!” and they looked. The serpent might be twisting round them, and they might be nearly dead; but they simply looked, and the moment they looked, the serpent dropped off, and they were healed. Look to Jesus, sinner. “None but Jesus can do helpless sinners good.” There is a hymn we often sing, but which I do not think is quite right. It says,
P.S. This sermon was watered by many prayers of the faithful in Zion. The preacher did not intend it for publication, but seeing that it is now in print, he will not apologize for its faulty composition or rambling style; but instead thereof, he would beg the prayers of his readers, that this feeble sermon may more exalt the honour of God, by the salvation of many who shall read it. “The excellency of the power is of God, and not of man.”