posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Future Punishment a Fearful Thing," a Sunday-morning sermon preached at the Metropolitan Tabernacle on 25 March 1866.
read in a newspaper yesterday the notes of a sermon preached by a certain Congregational preacher in London, a sermon which I must confess did not altogether so much startle me as it would have done if I had not known the gentleman's antecedents; but it did startle me when I read these words.
I will quote a few sentences:
If I dwelt upon this doctrine Sunday after Sunday in this place of worship, and induced you to believe that people who have lived and died impenitent are thrown into a state of condemnation and misery,I say if I believed that, how could I fail to feel for you or find rest to my spirit until I grasped every one of you and beseeched you to consider how terrible is your destiny, and how awful your danger! Are we not giving up ourselves to all sorts of pleasures and entertainments? When the work of the day is over, do we not try to obtain some sort of relaxation among the drama, the theater, the cards, and all kinds of social delights, to direct our thoughts from the terrible, piercing realities which are every day and every hour wearing out our lives? How dare you if spirits of men are going into everlasting damnation every instant that you breathe, if you believe that every breath you draw there is some soul damned for ever, some poor human being which has lost its way and come into utter misery? Are you to be playing games, are you to be going to concerts and sitting in front of stages and theatrical entertainments and finding your pleasures and recreations there? If you do, you are like demons; if you can look on and see unnumbered millions of your fellow creatures perishing for ever, and if you can live and enjoy yourselves, you deserve to perish for ever.
And then he goes on to say that if we can go to comfortable places of worship and sit there contentedly, and spend our lives in making money and live for nothing else, then we are false to our profession of belief in this doctrine, and he denounces the inconsistency, and adds:
If I believe that doctrine I dare not preach here; I do not know where I dare preach, but somewhere under the open sky where I should be able to say that human beings are being lost. If this doctrine of everlasting damnation be true, how ought you to labor to save souls from everlasting death! you ought never to think of anything else, but declare it from the house-tops, and never enjoy yourselves or make more money or sit quietly in chapel, you ought to wander over all the earth and bring spirits back again to the God who will damn them if they do not come unto him.
Now when I read all this, I thought, It is even so, the doctrine of eternal punishment should thus act upon us, and for this very reason it ought to be preached and insisted upon: one would not have been surprised to hear the preacher proceed to press the doctrine in order to produce just such hatred of frivolity and worldliness, and just such zeal and fervor, but who is not horrified to find that the next sentence is
I really believe that the doctrine of everlasting damnation is a blasphemy against God! I believe it to be demoralising to the spirit of a man, and subversive of all the laws of humanity; I believe that the doctrine of Atheism would be better.
After first of all showing how we ought to live if that doctrine be true, and very properly showing its influence in promoting zeal and fervor, this misguided man declares that Atheism would be better than a doctrine so practically useful. No answer is needed beyond his own words. Surely that doctrine is not so very demoralising which would make ministers and hearers earnest to win souls, would keep them from vain amusements, and make them give up mere money-making, and pleasure-seeking and self-comfort, and drive them into earnest, passionate weeping, longing and labor for men that they might be saved. I pray God that such teachers may have a better mind, and that all of us may be kept faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit, working to win men because "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."