THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
A Farewell Sermon
PREACHED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, APRIL 2, 1851,
BY THE REV. C.G. FINNEY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS
"Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." Acts xx. 26, 27.
I preach from this text, as some of you are aware, at Dr. Campbell's particular request. Much as I have laboured as an Evangelist, and the many times I have been called to part with those amongst whom I have laboured, I have never allowed myself to preach from this text; and when the Doctor asked me to do so this evening, I told him that I did not feel as if I could; there are so many affecting things in it about the Apostle; and I am further loth to preach upon it, lest some should infer that I am in some sense comparing myself with the Apostle, than which nothing is further from my design or desire. In speaking from these words I shall notice- I. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE ASSERTION THAT THE APOSTLE WAS PURE FROM THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN
This will be best explained by a reference to what is said on the same subject and almost in the same words by the prophet Ezekiel, in the third chapter of his prophecy" Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered: but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not,and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; (or because he takes warning,) also thou hast delivered thy soul." Here you see involved the same principle as that of which the Apostle speaks, and it explains what the Apostle meant. You know also that in scripture the blood is said to be the life. Of course this language is figurative: the life of the soul is called its blood; and for the reason that I have just mentioned. To be clear from the blood of men, then, is to be clear of the charge of unfaithfulness to their souls. To be clear from the blood of all men in the sense in which the apostle affirms himself to be so, means that he was not to blame if they should lose their souls: he had discharged his duty to them: if their souls were lost they were answerable for it, not himself. In further remarking upon this passage, I design to notice the three following thoughts-
I. THAT THE SOUL IS OF INFINITE VALUE.
II. THAT IT CANNPOT BE LOST WITHOUT INFINITE GUILT SOMEWHERE; BECAUSE INFINITE RESPONSIBILITY MUST BE INCURRED SOMEWHERE. III. POINT OUT THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH ALL WHO HAVE THIS RESPONSIBILITY MAY BE CLEAR OF THE BLOOD OF THE SOUL.
This is a theme so vast that when an individual gives up his mind to consider and dwell upon it he is completely confounded. It is like eternity: the mind seems to topple in the attempt to grasp it, and become convulsed and agonized in the effort to conceive it. In the Bible the soul is always represented as of great value; and you all know that everything which is really valuable must ever belong to mind; for nothing can be of value except as a means of promoting the welfare and well-being of mind: nothing can be valuable in itself but that which constitutes the well-being of mind. Take all the mind out of the universe, and what is there left of any real value: Joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, all belong to the mind. Especially is this true of all intelligent mind the mind of moral agents; and it is, of course, the souls of moral agents of which I now speak. Of mere brute beasts we have the means of knowing but little; and therefore we cannot say much about them. When we speak of the souls of men, we refer to some things that are believed to be immortal.
Now let me say, the first thought in reference to the value of the soul is this, its eternity of existence it must live forever! When souls have once began to be, they will never cease to be: they will grow older and older, and live onward and onward and onward as long as God shall live! Now think of that! I must not extend my remarks nor longer dwell upon it. But another consideration is, that from the very nature of mind it must be either happy or miserable; and further, that as the mind is so enduring, its enjoyments or sufferings will be continually and everlastingly upon the increase. This must be so as the result of a natural and necessary law. The means of greater happiness or misery will increase. The mind will go on progressing in knowledge, and consequently the power of the mind and its capacity for enjoyment or misery will be forever enlarging. But I must not extend my remarks upon this thought. I have dwelt considerably upon this on a former occasion, when I preached on "the Infinite Value of the Soul," and therefore there is the less need for enlarging upon it now.
I proceed to say in the next place, by way of elaborating a little the thought just now presented, that the soul when it once begins to exist will go on enjoying or suffering forever and ever, and that its capacity for enjoyment or suffering also increases with its duration; and its capacity at any time in a future state will be full of either the one set of feelings or the other. And further, it is easy to see that the period must arrive when each individual shall be either enjoying or suffering more than would fill the conceptions of all finite creatures. If you could unite in one mind all the intellect of the universe at this moment excepting only that of God himself it would not be capable of either the joy or the suffering that may be predicated of any single mind at some period in the future. Indeed such a mind would fall infinitely short of realizing that of which every soul at some point of eternity will be capable. Every individual in this house now, the youngest child or the weakest mind, will have to live forever, after the elements shall have been melted by the fire, and the universe have rolled together as a scroll and passed away with a great noise; and the time, therefore, must come when each of you, whatever your grasp of mind now will be able to look back upon the lengthened ages which you shall have lived, the vast number of circles which shall have rolled away, and remember all your sorrows and your joys, and be able to say, Ah! I have enjoyed, or suffered, as the case may be, in my personal experience more than all the creatures of God has ever suffered or enjoyed before I was born, or before I came to this place. And when he has said that, he will be infinitely short of the truth.The period will arrive when the youngest child in this congregation will be able to say, I am older now than was any creature of God when I was born; aye! than were the aggregate age of all the intelligences of God's universe when I first began to be, and infinitely more experienced now than they all were then. Yes, and I have received more favours, mercy, and grace from God now, than they all had received when I first started into existence. And they all have been progressing and receiving additional favours just as I have. They are as far ahead of me now as they were then, for God has not confined his favours to me. The period will arrive when the last admitted inhabitant of heaven will be able to say, I know more of God now than they all knew when I came here; I am older now than they all were then. My single cup of knowledge will not hold more than at that time all theirs combined that indeed which runs over the side of mine would have filled theirs. But what have you said even when you have said this? Behind there lies an eternity still; you may roll on the waves of the ocean in that direction forever, for there is neither shore nor bound; neither height, nor depth, nor bottom; infinity is on every side!
How many hundreds of years has Paul been in heaven, and with him associated his spiritual children, those who were converted under his ministry! At some period in eternity the youngest child now alive, or ever will live, who gets to heaven, will be able to say, I now know a thousand times more about God and heaven than Paul did when he was upon earth, or than all the church of God combined knew at that time. (But after all, this is only a very faint conception of eternity and the progress of the mind in a future state.) Draw out the thought to any possible or conceivable extent: let any computation be made: let your mind stretch itself to its utmost tension, and what then? Why you have only just set your foot on the threshold of eternity: you are no nearer to the end than when you made the first step. The joy of heaven is always and absolutely perfect: the soul will be continually and forever rising and rising nearer to God, but there will never be any approaching to a close in anything there, seeing that everything is absolutely infinite!Now turn it over and look at the other side. Think if an individual who goes on sinning, and sinning, just as if there was no such place as hell! There was a first time when you consented to sin, and there was a first pang of conscience in your little mind, and a tear gathered in your little eye. Could anybody have looked into your little heart, and beheld that twinge of your little mind,and seen that heavy sigh, could it have been supposed that you would ever sin again? Ah! But you have repeated it again and again, and on you have gone until now! Just think then for a moment of that individual going into eternity! Then all restraint is taken away. The pleasures of sin too are all cut off; and all good influences have died away forever. He has received all his good gifts and good things. He abused God's mercy, rejected God's gospel, grieved God's Spirit, done despite to the Spirit of grace, and went on in sin; and now, therefore, he is sinning with increasing vigour rushing on in sin! Ah! think of the many sorrows, the many agonizings, the many hours of remorse that the sinner has to endure even here; but then, in a future world, when conscience will do its duty perfectly, when there is no diverting the attention from his true condition; when he cannot shut his eyes to the truth; what will be his agony and remorse then? When he feels that his soul is lost, and lost forever? He cannot repent of his sins then. No! but he goes on sinning still.Sinner, if you be numbered with the lost, the period in that awful eternity will arrive when you will have sinned more than all the devils in hell have sinned up to the present hour! All the devils in that world have not yet created such a source of misery, as at some period you will have done if you are lost! Nay! All the devils, and all the wicked men who have left our world to be their companions in woe, have not in the aggregate committed as many sins as you will be able to claim as your own. The period must arrive when to attempt to number your sins would be an inexpressible source of the deepest agony. Who can count them? Who can compute them? What but an infinite mind could look at them without being so overcome as to wail out in the agonies of despair? if the mind was not infinitely holy.
There is no real believing in immortality, taking it as a truth into the mind, and contemplating it from any point of view, without an individual feeling as if his nerves were on fire with such convictions as these. But I must not enlarge upon this, or I should keep you here all night. I proceed in the next place to show II. That no soul of such infinite value can be lost without somebody incurring an infinite amount of responsibility and guilt.
God is in a three fold sense the owner of every one of these souls. First, he created them all. Secondly, he preserved them all, and thirdly, he redeemed them all, by the precious blood of Christ. They cost him an infinite price, and he will not see them lost without making inquisition for blood. By a word he gave existence to the material universe. He can speak, and by the energy of his own word, world rises upon world, and system upon system, and by the same means he can people them all; but thus he could not redeem sinners. They, having sinned, were spiritually dead, and incurred the penalty of the Divine law; and to save them from the destruction thus impending was a different work to that of creation, and could not be performed by the going forth of his fiat. To redeem these souls was a work that cost him an infinite price. To ordain these laws by which they came into existence, was comparatively a trifling performance although that required the power of a God but to redeem you, sinner, to purchase you back, to relieve you from the penalty of the Divine law; to make an atonement that God might be just and yet save you cost an infinite price! God's beloved and only Son! for more than thirty years endured intense suffering, labour, persecution, and misrepresentation for you, and finally, your redemption cost him his life. Ah! under the charge of blasphemy the Son of God must die for you and for me! God, for man gave his son, his only son, his well beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. the Son of God must die! What a sacrifice!It was infinite! Think brethren, of the immense self-denial to which heaven was subjected! Think of that work which, shall I say, the family of the Divine Trinity; what shall I say? the glory of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, combined to carry on with the greatest self-denial; and all this to save the soul! What a testimony is this to its value! We learn here God's opinion of the value of the soul. Think what self-denial on the part of the Father, that he could consent to fit off his only and well beloved Son as a missionary to this world. What must the inhabitants of heaven have thought of it? What a scene must there have been in heaven when the Son of the Eternal Father was fitted off as a missionary to save this dying world!
We talk about missionaries to the heathen, and the self-denial which they have to practice, and we get up meetings when they are going to sail for distant climes, that we may manifest our sympathy and mingle our tears with theirs, sing hymns to God, and pray together and give them our blessings and our prayers; and all this is highly proper; but what must have been the state of things when it was announced in heaven that the Son of God was going as a missionary to this world to save us rebels by his blood! There must have been tears of grief and also of inexpressible joy at what was going forward, sympathy for the inhabitants of this world, astonishment at the love of God, and wonder at the undertaking of the Son of God. The whole scheme, when it was first published in heaven, must have filled every part of that world with unutterable joy and sympathy. O, how many millions of hearts were united in sympathy with this wonderful mission which the Son of God had undertaken.
Now mark! God has committed to each of you one of these immortal souls; and made provision for its eternal life, although it was doomed to die, and he has enjoined it upon each one to take care of his soul. He asks you, "what will you give in exchange for your soul?" "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" In every way he expresses his own idea of the infinite value of the soul. He has charged every man to look to make it his first business to secure it from eternal death. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" and those who do this he promises shall lose nothing by it" And all other things shall be added unto you;" everything else that you need shall be thrown in, if you will only be careful not to lose your soul! "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." This is the charge that is given to every man! This is the solemn charge that is given to every woman! I commit to you an immortal soul; take care you do not lose it! I prize it infinitely. I have given my Son to die for it. I love it with an everlasting love!But I cannot save it without your concurrence; I must have your consent; I must have your heart;I must have your sympathy. Take care that you do not lose it; but it is impossible, from the nature of the case, to save it without your consent. Take care that you set about its salvation! Let this be your first, your great, your perpetual concern the saving of your soul. O take care of this soul!
But again: it is not only an infinite gift which an individual has received in charge in respect of his own soul; but all those receiving the gift have a charge given with respect to the souls around them. Ministers, especially, have received this charge. "Son of man," says God, to every one of them, mark what I say, "I have set thee a watchman to the house of Israel; hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked man thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul."
Again: he has given a solemn charge to the church at large on this subject, and of course to each individual member of the church, not only to regard his own soul, but to watch, take care, remember, pray for, warn, and exhort, and labour for the souls of those around him. Christian parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, and all classes of Christians are to take care of their own souls, and also of the souls of those around them. "What I say unto one I say unto all, Watch."
Again: God has also laid a charge upon all men to love their neighbours as themselves, to care for the souls of their neighbours as they would for their own. Every wicked man is bound to love God, to love the soul of his neighbour, and to love his own soul; and not to neglect his own soul nor the souls of those under his influence. But I must pass in the next place to notice in a few words
III. The conditions upon which all who have this responsibility may be clear of the blood of the soul.
And let me say, it is perfectly plain that we cannot be clear of the blood of souls unless we have done what we wisely and properly could to prevent their being lost. Of course, if we live in sin ourselves, we are guilty of our own blood; and if we do not do our duty by others we are not clear of their blood. It may be useful to advert, for a moment, to the different classes of duty, which arise out of, and attaches to the various relations in which men stand. Ministers, for instance, are public teachers, and as such they must be "instant in season and out of season;" they must preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; they must lay themselves on the altar and not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. They must not keep back anything that is profitable to their hearers; they must select such truths as they think most needful to be known, and faithfully declare them, and seek zealously to apply them to the hearts and consciences of those to whom they minister; and further, they must live in such a manner as to show that in their own hearts they believe what they preach. They must not think that they will be clear from the blood of souls, merely because they publish the truth with their lips; they must preach also in their temper and life; they must be true and serious teachers in everything. Church officers, deacons, and others, also ought to consider their responsibility: let them remember that it is great; and that they can be clear from the blood of souls only by living in such a manner as to be what they ought to be in every relation which they sustain.
Next, take parents; see what great responsibilities they have. Only think. They are exerting a greater influence over their children than all the world beside, and as a natural result, they will do more for or against the souls of their children than all other beings in the world. They begin the work of life or death, so far as influence is concerned; they also carry it on and ripen it; and if their children are lost, because they have neglected to do their duty, their hands are red to the elbows with their children's blood! Think of that! See that mother's hand. What! has she been murdering her children? What is she about? She lives not, prays not, labours not for the salvation of her children! O, mother! What are you about?
There is not time, of course, to descend into all the relations of life, and show how responsibility attaches itself to them all; but let what I have said be suggestive. You may apply it to Sabbath school teachers, missionaries, brothers and sisters, young converts, and older Christians for each one sustains peculiar responsibilities; and no one can be guiltless of the blood of souls who does not do his duty, whatever it may be, who does not labour faithfully, as God shall give him an opportunity, and in the spirit and with the power which God offers to clothe him with, for the salvation of the souls of men.
Once more: of course it is expected of ministers that they shall warn, exhort, and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine.
But having dwelt this much upon the three leading thoughts, I must proceed to make some remarks.
First, to have a clear conscience in respect of this great matter is of inestimable value. Now, for example, what an infinite consolation it must be to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to know that nothing which could have been wisely and benevolently done for the salvation of men was omitted that everything which could be done for this great end by an infinite and enlightened benevolence was done, nothing omitted; so that when God sees the sufferings of the wicked of the whole universe, when he looks at them and pours his eye over them, and listens to their terrible wailings, just think of the consolation he will have in being able to say, I am clear of their blood! I am clear! I call the universe to record that I am clear!
Why, I suppose this to be one of the great objects of the general judgment, that God, if I may use such an expression may clear up his character, and vindicate his conduct in the presence of the entire universe; and bring all created intelligence to pronounce sentence of deserved damnation upon the wicked. At the present, we cannot pronounce upon God's conduct any further than the law of our own intelligent consciousness affirms that he must be right, as so far as he has condescended to explain himself to us; but mark! the time is coming when he will reveal everything to us; every transaction of the divine government shall be disclosed; at a period when suns and moons have ceased to rise and set; and days and years, as we number them, have ceased to cycle away; when men shall have ceased to grow, and their eyes are not dim with age, for they have ceased to die, and are immortal; then the time shall come to consider the whole matter. And God possesses the means, for this infinite mind has recorded all the facts; and thus he will bring into perfect remembrance the transactions of the entire universe from first to last. Then doubtless, he will explain the reasons for his own conduct, and show the design he had in the creation, and in all the providential arrangements of his government; then every mouth shall be stopped, not one will be able to say a single word more of the impropriety of anything that God has done, and the whole world will become guilty before God: everything that he has done will receive the unanimous consent of the entire universe: they will declare that he is infinitely far from the least fault in all this matter, when he has placed everything in such a light, that there can be no doubt of his perfect wisdom and benevolence. Then he will know that they know, as he now knows, and will eternally know, that he has done all that infinite love, and power, and wisdom could do to save those immortal souls that he regarded as of such infinite value.
Again: suppose God's conscience condemns him, that he knows he has done that which his own infinite mind must pronounce wrong and unbecoming in himself to do, who does not know that such a thought would fill his infinite mind with sorrow and remorse all through eternity, rolling onward and onward and onward, through a life of accumulating misery. Suppose, we say, that he could accuse himself of any error, or wrong, or oversight, or anything that he should have attended to, or could have done wisely, but did not do, for the salvation of souls why, it would fill his own mind with a pang that would really make it an infinite hell!
But there will be no such thing. Right over against this the eternal consciousness of being clear will fill his infinite mind with satisfaction. When the universe look upon the ten thousand millions of murdered souls yea, more than can ever by computed that shall stand revealed at the day of judgment, the question will be asked, Who has committed these murders? God says, I AM CLEAR! The Father says, I AM CLEAR! The Holy Ghost says, I AM CLEAR! Now then, inquisition must be made for blood. Who has been guilty of this deed? What deeds of death are here? What dreadful things have been done? Who are the guilty parties?
Once more: Paul said to those to whom he had preached, that they knew very well, from their own observation, that he was clear of their blood; and he called upon them again to make a record of the fact that he might take it with him and use it at the solemn judgment, and confront them with it before the throne of God; and thus prove by their own testimony that he was clear from the blood of them all. What consolation this is for a faithful minister. Again: it must be a dreadful thing on the other hand for an unfaithful minister to meet his people in the day of judgment! Indeed it is a dreadful thing for such a minister to leave a people amongst whom he has been labouring. Suppose he leaves them with conscious misgivings, or direct accusations, you have been an unfaithful minister, you have been seeking your own popularity for his conscience may perhaps accuse him of that you have laboured for filthy lucre, you have been indolent, you have truckled to the most false and pernicious sentiments; in short, you have not rightly represented God and his gospel, and have concealed the truth lest it should give offence to men. Suppose conscience speaks thus. You have sought to create a reputation for yourself; but you have not laboured for the conversion of souls! Ah! you will soon have to die, and they also will depart into eternity to whom you have ministered. How do you expect to meet these souls in the solemn judgment? You will have to meet them face to face. What a meeting that will be. Yes, we shall meet again; we shall meet at the bar of God, and see him face to face. What will be the object of our meeting at that awful tribunal? Why, for God to tell the universe that he has done everything that he wisely could for the salvation of your souls; and you to give an account of the manner in which you have received or rejected his offers of mercy!Now we are all going on, and will shortly appear before the great white throne, on which shall sit the Judge in terrible majesty, with the heavens and the earth all fleeing from his presence; then the books shall be opened; yea, and all the dead shall be judged out of those books; and the sea shall give up its dead. Never was I at sea but these words have come with solemn emphasis to my mind, and I expect that in a few days, when I am on the mighty waters, they will recur to me again. "The sea shall give up the dead that is in it, and death and hell shall give up the dead that is in them." Ah! that will be a solemn time for ministers, for hearers, for parents, for children, for old and young: yes, it will be a solemn time for all, for saints and sinners both. Ah! we must each give an account of himself to God. What a responsibility is this.
I was a pastor for eighteen years, and I have laboured a great deal as an Evangelist; hundreds, nay thousands, therefore, who have sat under my ministry have gone before me into the eternal world; I shall follow them, and a great mass of others will follow me; and by and by we shall all be congregated. And what then? I know that it is one thing to talk, and another thing to walk right up with open face before God, and take his judgment in the matter. All secrets will then be laid open, the deepest intentions of the mind will be brought out and exhibited; every motive of my heart, and every sermon that I have preached, will be closely scanned and scrutinized. The truth upon every point will be brought up, and the whole universe will hear it. Ah, that will be a solemn time for me, for mark! scores of thousands in America and in Great Britain, will either have to face me down or I them. Think of that! I am not going to say all that Paul said.
But once more: it must be an awful thing for congregations to meet their ministers, those who have had pastors, or heard only occasional preaching. Brethren, think of it. I have often thought that of all the relations existing in this world, that of pastor and people is the most solemn; for God will surely make inquisition for blood: he must require this at someone's hand; and it will be a solemn time for the pastor if he is to blame. No soul will be lost without the inquiry being made, Who has done this deed? Who has shed this blood? Who has filled the world of hell with mourning, lamentation, and woe? The cry will resound, loud and withering, WHO HAS DONE IT? As I have said, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost will say, we have not done it. The faithful in all ages will say, we have not done it. Who then has been guilty of this dreadful and accursed deed? I will tell you who. First, the sinner has done it himself; secondly, unfaithful ministers have done it; unfaithful deacons, elders, and leading members in the church have done it; unfaithful parents have done it; unfaithful children have done it; unfaithful brothers and sisters have done it; unfaithful Sabbath school teachers have done it; in short, all unfaithful men have done it; they are red with the blood of souls. You may know that they have been guilty of murder for the blood of their victims is upon their garments. Cast your eyes upon them and behold they are red from head to foot with the blood of men! All can see that they have done it; every man is covered with his neighbour's blood. See that man! his hands are imbued in the blood of his own soul, the souls of his children, or of his flock, and all those to whom he has been unfaithful. Oh, brethren, I say again, just think of it! See that murderer standing over his victim, his weapons reeking in blood; he is caught in the very act of murder; he cannot deny it, for blood is upon him.
But see the unfaithful minister in the day of judgment, he comes on to his trial, but he cannot look up. Those who sat under his ministry have caught sight of him, and they say to each other that is our minister; you remember his pretty tastes, his dazzling oratory, his graceful amblings, and his captivating blandishments; you remember about his pretty sermons, and you recollect how afraid he was to say hell, or let us know there was such a place; you recollect how he trimmed and truckled, how opposed to this thing and that thing, because it was not genteel, and was against all reform or progress in religion do you remember all that: well that was our minister; see him looking down: he is speaking, what does he say? What does he say? See the eye of the judge looking through and through that unfaithful minister, that man who pretended to preach the gospel, and dealt deceitfully with souls. How much guilt there is upon him! What an awful thing that must be! How dreadful his position.
But once more: I have sometimes in my own experience had great searchings of heart on this matter, lest I should have preached myself instead of the gospel. Thousands of times when I have pressed myself close up, I have had fear lest the blood of souls was upon me. When I have heard that this man and that man was gone, who had sat under my ministry, I have often asked myself, Have I done my duty by that man? was I faithful? or was I indolent and unfaithful? Did I shun to declare the whole counsel of God? I have often thought of this also and I say it, not boastfully as you know, that I could say so far as I know myself I had never kept back what I thought the people wanted most to know; that I never kept back what I believed the people most needed to be told, because I was either afraid of them on the one hand or any other motive on the other. I never had courage to keep back the truth. When people have said sometimes, how dare you preach this thing and the other, I have told them that I had not courage to disobey God, and rush to the solemn judgment with the blood of souls on my hands. Indeed I have no such courage! Whom should I fear, God or man. How much faith must a man have if he cannot walk right up and tell the sinner the truth of God to his face. And if he cannot do this, how can he walk right up the face of God and then give an account of himself to the great searcher of hearts! He who is more afraid of men, than of God, must be an infidel.
Once more: I have already intimated, that in the judgment, sinners will find themselves without excuse; and as in the case of Ezekiel, their blood will be upon their own head; but that is not all: it is also true that there may be moral guilt in not doing our duty, in not warning, praying, and labouring for our neighbours as we ought. I have also spoken of faithless ministers meeting their people at the day of judgment, and the disposition they will have to curse him. I have sometimes wondered if their strong feelings of hate will find vent; whether there will be an audible expression of them. For example, whether at the judgment the multitude whom the unfaithful minister has misled will be permitted to give audible vent to the natural feelings of indignation that burn within their breasts; whether they will be allowed to curse him. They will be wicked enough and have reason enough, but will they be allowed to curse him. They have more reason to curse him, perhaps, than all the world beside. More reason to say, O thou most accursed and wicked man, did you not trifle with my soul; did I not look up to you as my religious teacher; did I not yield myself up to your guidance; and did you not deceive me with lies, and by keeping from me the truth, by which I might have been saved and all here been well? Such feeling will exist; but will the judge permit them to find audible expression? If so, is it too much to suppose that they will hiss, and groan, and curse, while they weep and gnash their teeth! The same thing will doubtless also be true of parents.
But let me turn over this picture, and look upon another. What a meeting it will be when all the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the prophets, Elijah, and Elisha, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and all the minor prophets, and all the apostles, and faithful ministers of a later time, shall assemble in heaven! I have often thought of that wonderful convention which took place when the Saviour was upon earth the most wonderful, perhaps that ever occurred in this world. You remember the history of the event.Christ took Peter, James, and John with him up into a mountain and was transfigured before them,and there appeared Moses and Elijah the two great representatives of the old dispensation. There was Moses, by whom came the law; and Elijah, who represented the whole race of prophets, in conference with the head of the church triumphant, about the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem, and the three representatives of the church militant. What a scene of wonder was that! We are told that the glory was so intense that the apostles were quite overcome, and Peter said, "It is good for us to be here; let us build three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." They were so near heaven, so filled with awe and delight, that they know not what they said.
Now just think for a moment how it will be by and by. Moses, for example, has been dead for thousands of years, and has long since become surrounded by a multitude who have found their way to heaven through his direct instruction, or by means of his writings which have been handed down from generation to generation; and all the saints will doubtless know Moses when they get there, of whom they have heard so much, as well as of the patriarch Abraham, and of the apostles and prophets; and when the newly arrived saint shall have a little time, after gazing at the wonders and glories of the place, he will look around for these ancient worthies, and perhaps shake them by the hand, and weep tears of gratitude and joy upon their necks.
Whitfield, who once stood in the pulpit in which I now stand, and the multitudes who heard his voice sitting in those pews in which you now sit, will meet in heaven. Think of that! How many thousands are gone that once saw and heard him; and they now find themselves again united in that blessed world. they are still rational and intelligent, and able to mingle their hearts and their joys; and the time will come when the whole church of God, pastors and people, will be gathered home to glory. O, how fast they are going. Why, since I have been in London I have heard of the departure of the Rev. Dr. Pye Smith,* together with this man and that man, names with which I have been familiar even in America. And so we are all following on, fathers, mothers, ministers, brothers, sisters, all are going. How many of this congregation have taken their flight since I have been here! Just look around. Of how many have I heard it said, they are gone, they are gone! We shall all be gone presently; and that very soon. But what a glorious thought that when we meet in that world of light and joy, the heavenly Jerusalem, it will be to part no more at all. Those of us who shall have our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, we shall meet to say farewell or adieu no more.
When I read to you at the commencement of this service the chapter from which the text is taken,I omitted the last three verses, which I will read now:" And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him,sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. Andthey accompanied him into the ship." What a beautiful parting: how deeply affecting. But I must not detain you. I have only to say this before I sit down; and to be sure I would do it with all humility, may I not ask you who have been my hearers since I have been in London, as a matter of justice to record tonight this fact, that according to my ability, I have dealt faithfully with your souls. I challenge you now to record this fact, for I am sure that you bear this testimony in your own consciences, will you bear it in mind at the solemn judgment, that so far as I have had ability I have kept nothing back that you needed to know. I do not say this boastfully: God will judge between us.
But some I fear I shall leave in their sins after all. Remember, I shall meet even you again. Do let me ask if you have yet begun the great work of preparing for the judgment. Have you not begun it yet? You have heard most solemn appeals and warnings; let me ask you once more, will you think? will you act? My dear hearers, will you rid me of all responsibility by saying, yes, yes, if I perish, it is not your fault, you have done your work faithfully, you have not daubed with untempered mortar, and I consent that the fact should be recorded in the solemn judgment that you are clear.
But I want not only to be able to feel the conviction of this in my own conscience, but that my record should be on high. I know it is vain for me to seek to justify myself, unless it is recorded in heaven that I have dealt faithfully with you. I trust I have. I shall see most of you probably no more, till we meet in the judgment; and oh, what a meeting that will be!
It is not my custom to preach farewell sermons, but when I have done my work to tear myself away, and leave the great Judge to seal up the record that shall be opened at the last day. Now all I have to say is this the last leaf connected with my ministry, and your hearing, in this place, is now to be folded and put away amongst the files of eternity to be exhibited when you and I shall stand before God in perfect light, with no self-excusing, no false pleas, we shall all be naked, honest, and open there. And now, sinner, may I beg of God to search my own heart and prepare me for that scene and to prepare you for it too. May I be allowed this once to call heaven and earth to record upon your souls, that in my weakness, and so far as I have had ability, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, the gospel and the law, the rule of life, and opened, so far as I have been able, the gate of mercy, and shown you the heart of Jesus. Will you accept it? I must not add another word.