[The Classic Christian Network] PROPHECY FEATURE: "HELL: Fighting fire w…

Posted: May 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

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PROPHECY FEATURE

 

“HELL: Fighting fire with Fire”

“Due to a Rise in False Teaching on Hell we dedicate this series”

 

The Saint’s Horror At 
the Sinner’s Hell

by Charles H. Spurgeon

A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, 
AUGUST 16TH, 1863, 
BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, 
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON

“Gather not my soul with sinners.” — Psalm 26:9.

WE must all be gathered in due course. When time shall have ripened the 
fruit, it must hang no longer upon the tree, but be gathered into the basket; 
when the summer’s sun has perfectly matured the corn, the sickle must be 
brought forth, and the harvest must be reaped; to everything there is a 
season and an end. There shall be a gathering-time for every one of us. It 
may come to-morrow; it may be deferred another handful of years; it may 
come to us by the long process of consumption or decline; it may advance 
with more rapid footsteps, and we may in a moment be gathered to our 
people. Sooner or later, to use the expressive words of Job, the Almighty 
shall set his heart upon each of us, and gather unto himself our spirit and 
our breath. That gathering rests with God! — the prayer of the Psalmist 
implies it, and many Scriptures affirm it. As Young sings in his Night 
Thoughts —

“An angel’s arm can’t hurl me to the grave.”

Accidents are but God’s arrangements; diseases are his decrees; fevers his 
servants, and plagues his messengers. Our mortality is immortal, till the 
Eternal wills its death. “Return, ye children of men” can be spoken by none 
but our heavenly Father, and when he gives the word, return we must 
without delay. I do not know, my brethren, seeing that our death is certain, 
and remains entirely in the hands of our gracious God, that there is any 
prayer which we need to offer concerning it, except, “Father, into thy 
hands I commit my spirit,” and this brief sentence, “Gather not my soul 
with sinners.” Scarcely can I commend those who plead to be delivered 
from sudden death, for sudden death is sudden glory; hardly can I advise 
you to request a hasty departure; for flesh and blood shrink from speedy 
dissolution. Pray not for long life, nor for an early grave; cheerfully leave 
all these matters to the choice of infinite wisdom, and concentrate all your 
desires upon the one desire of the text. Filled with a holy horror of the hell 
of sinners, let us make most sure our calling to the heaven of the blessed. 
Let the fear of being cast forth with the withered branches increase our 
fruitfulness, and let our horror of the sinner’s character and doom lead us 
to cleave more closely to the Savior of souls.

We will divide our discourse thus: first, the gathering, and here let us 
behold a vision; next, the prayer, and here let us note an example; thirdly, a 
fear, and here let us observe a holy anxiety; and then fourthly, an answer 
yielding a consolation.

I. First, THE GATHERING. Let the man who hath his eyes open behold the 
gathering of sinners, and in the sanctuary of the Lord let him understand 
their end.

There have been many partial gatherings of the ungodly, all ending in 
sudden ruin and overthrow. Turn your eyes hither. Two hundred and fifty 
men have impudently taken censers into their hands, and have dishonored 
the Lord’s chosen servants, Moses and Aaron. Mark well their proud 
revilings of the Lord’s anointed. In the gainsaying of Korah they have all a 
part. The people hasten from their tabernacles, and they stand alone. It is 
but for a moment. See I the earth cleaveth asunder; they go down alive into 
the pit, and the earth closes her mouth upon them. My soul trembleth and 
hideth her face for fear, and my fainting heart groaneth out her desire — 
“Gather not my soul with sinners!”

Look yonder, my brethren, to the city of palm trees surrounded by its 
strong munitions. All the inhabitants are gathered together within it; from 
the top of the walls they mock the feeble band of silent Israelites, who for 
six days have marched round and round their city. The seventh day has 
come, and the rams’ horns give the signal of destruction; the Lord cometh 
forth from his rest, and at the terror of his rebuke the walls of Jericho fall 
flat to the ground. Now where are your boastings, O congregation of the 
wicked? The sword of Israel is bathed in your blood, O accursed sons of 
Canaan. As we hear the shriek of the slaughtered, and mark the smoke of 
the city ascending up to heaven like the flame of Sodom of old, we 
reverently bow the knee unto Jehovah, and cry, “Gather not my soul with 
sinners.”

Leaping over centuries, with weeping we behold the holy city, beautiful for 
situation, once the joy of the whole earth, but now forsaken of her God, 
and beleaguered by her foes. All the Jewish people have come together 
from the four winds of heaven: as the flesh is cast into the caldron, and the 
fire burneth fiercely, so are they gathered together for judgment. Well 
might their rejected Messiah weep over the devoted city as he remembered 
how often he would have gathered her children together as a hen gathereth 
her chickens under her wings, and they would not. Now are they gathered 
in another manner, and the wings of eagles flutter over them, hastening for 
the prey. See yonder the Roman armies, and the mounds which they have 
cast up! Woe unto thee, O city of Zion, for the spoilers know no pity; they 
spare neither young nor old. “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that 
never bare, and the paps which never gave suck;” for the day of the Lord’s 
vengeance is come, and the words of Moses are fulfilled, when he said — 
“The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from afar, from the end of the 
earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not 
understand; a nation of fierce countenance, which shall not regard the 
person of the old, nor shew favor to the young… . And thou shalt eat the 
fruit of thine own body, the flesh of thy sons and of thy daughters, which 
the Lord thy God hath given thee, in the siege, and in the straitness, 
wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee.” Hark! the clarion summons 
the warrior to arms. The veterans of Vespasian and Titus dash to the 
assault. Where art thou now, O city polluted with the murder of prophets, 
and stained with the blood of the prophets’ Lord? Thy walls protect not 
thy sons, they keep not the temple of thy glory. See! A soldier’s ruthless 
hand hurls the red firebrand into the sacred precincts of the temple, and its 
smoke darkens the sky. Can ye walk those mouldering ruins, and behold 
the heaps of ashes mingled with burning flesh, the crimson streams of gore, 
and the deep pools of clotted blood? Can ye linger there where desolation 
holds her reign supreme, and refuse to see the justice of the God of Israel, 
or fail to breathe the humble prayer of the Psalmist, “Gather not my soul 
with sinners?” Wherever the enemies of God are gathered, there we have 
ere long, confusion, and tears, and death. In whatever place sinners may 
hold their counsels, when the Judge of all the earth cometh out against 
them, we soon see an Aceldama — a field of blood.

But, forgetting all these inferior gatherings, illustrious in horror though 
they be, my eye beholds a greater gathering which is proceeding every day 
to its completion. Every day the heavens and the earth hear the voice of 
God, saying, “Gather ye; gather ye my foes together, that I may utterly 
destroy them.” “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day 
that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that 
I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even 
all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my 
jealousy.” As the huntsman, when he goes forth to the battue, encompasses 
the beasts of the forest with an ever-narrowing ring of hunters, that he may 
exterminate them all in one great slaughter, so the God of justice has made 
a ring in his providence round about the sinful sons of men. Within that 
circle of divine power are imprisoned monarchs and peasants, peers and 
paupers; that ring encompasses all nations, polite or barbarous, civilised or 
rude. No impenitent sinner can break through the lines; as well might a 
worm escape from within a circle of flame. Every hour the lines grow 
narrower, and the multitudes of the Lord’s enemies are driven into the 
center where his darts are flying, where his sharp arrows shall pierce them. 
I hear the baying of the dogs of death to-day, hounding the unbelieving to 
their doom. I see the heaps of slain, and mark the terrible arrows as they fly 
with unerring aim. Multitudes of sinners are scattered from the equator to 
the poles, but not one of them is able to escape the avenger’s hand. High 
and haughty princes, boasting their imperial pomp, fall like antlered stags, 
smitten with the shafts of the Almighty; while their valiant warriors, like 
wild boars of the forest, perish upon the point of his glittering spear. The 
vision of the Apocalypse is no mere dream. He whose name is THE WORD 
OF GOD, shall tread the wine-press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty 
God; and meanwhile, the angel standing in the sun crieth with a loud voice 
to all the fowls which fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather 
yourselves together into the supper of the great God: that ye may eat the 
flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and 
the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, 
both free and bond, both small and great.” At the remembrance of all this, 
we may well exclaim with Habakkuk, “When I heard, my belly trembled; 
my lips quivered at the voice: rottenness entered into my bones, and I 
trembled in myself, that I might rest in the day of trouble: when he cometh 
up unto the people, he will cut them in pieces with his troops.” O thou God 
of all grace, I pray thee, by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, in which I trust, 
“Gather not my soul with sinners.” Let that providence which gathereth thy 
people from among men, lay hold on me. Let thine angels who keep watch 
and ward about thy people, keep me from the snare of the fowler, and from 
the destruction which wasteth at noonday.

But the scene changes: we see no longer the assembling of the multitudes 
in the great valley of the shadow of death, but we track them further, till 
we find ourselves on the threshold of the abode of spirits. Ye have seen the 
prisoners in their cells, waiting for their trial at the next assize. The strong 
hand of law has laid them in durance, where they await the summons to 
appear before the judge. I pray you note the company, and before the 
trumpet announces the judge, see what a strange gathering the prison-house 
contains. Do you mark them? There is the murderer, with blood-red 
hand; there is he who smote his fellow to his wounding; yonder lies the 
wretch who perjured himself before God; and here the man who pilfered 
his neighbour’s goods. However they differed from one another before, 
they are on a level in rank in this house of detention, and they all await one 
common gaol-delivery. It is no pleasant sight to visit these cells before the 
assize comes on; crime, although as yet uncondemned, is no comfortable 
vision. But what of earthly prisons? My heart sees a sight far more terrible 

“Look down, my soul, on hell’s domains, 
That world of agony and pains! 
What crowds are now associate there, 
Of widely different character. 
What wretched ghosts are met below, 
Some once so great, so little now; 
So gay, so sad, so rich, so poor; 
Now scorn’d by those they scorn’d before.”

Multitudes are gathered together in the state where souls abide until their 
final doom is pronounced both on their bodies and on their souls; a place of 
misery where not a drop of water cools their parched tongue; a state of 
doubt, and terror, and suspense; a place from which consolation is 
banished, where the “wrath to come,” perpetually afflicts them. There in 
captivity abide the formalist, the hypocrite, the profane, the licentious, the 
abandoned, those who despised God, and hated Christ, and turned away 
from the glory of his cross; there they are gathered, tens of thousands of 
them, at this day, waiting till the great assize shall sit. O God, “gather not 
my soul with sinners,” but let me be gathered with those whose spirits wait 
beneath the altar for their redemption, to wit, the resurrection of their 
bodies. Gather me with those who cry day and night until God avenge his 
own elect. Gather me with the multitude of spirits who wait the coming of 
the Son of God from heaven, that their bliss may be complete.

But now, my eye, prophetic in the light of Scripture, sees another 
gathering. The trumpet has sounded, the prison doors are loosed, and the 
gates of death give way. They come, bodies and souls; souls from the place 
of waiting in the pit of hell; and bodies from their graves, from ocean, and 
from earth; from all the four winds of heaven, bodies and souls come 
together, and there they stand — an exceeding great army. This time it is 
not in the valley of suspense; but “multitudes, multitudes in the valley of 
decision.” “And the Lord shall utter his voice before his army; for his camp 
is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the 
Lord is great and very terrible: and who can abide it?” “Assemble 
yourselves, and come, all ye heathen, and gather yourselves together round 
about: thither cause thy mighty ones to come down, O Lord. Let the 
heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there 
will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the 
harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; 
for their wickedness is great.” “And I saw a great white throne, and him 
that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and 
there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, 
stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was 
opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those 
things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the 
sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the 
dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to 
their works… And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was 
cast into the lake of fire.” Oh! well may you and I pray that we may have a 
part in the first resurrection; upon such the second death hath no power. 
Grant us, O Lord, that we may not be with the wicked, the rest of the 
dead, who rise not until after a thousand years are finished; but give thou 
us a portion among those whose iniquities are blotted out, who have not 
received the mark of the beast in their foreheads, who therefore live and 
reign with Christ a thousand years. (Revelation 20:4.) May we be gathered 
with the harvest of the Lord, when he that sits on the cloud shall reap it 
with his golden sickle; but this gathering of which my text speaks is not the 
harvest of the righteous, but the vintage of the wicked; when “the angel 
which had power over fire” shall cry, “Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and 
gather the clusters of the vine of the earth: for her grapes are fully ripe.” 
How dreadful that great wine-press of divine wrath which shall be trodden 
without the city, and how terrible that flow of blood, like a mighty stream 
of wine, so deep that it ran even unto the horses’ bridles by the space of a 
thousand and six hundred furlongs. “Gather not my soul with sinners,” O 
God, in that tremendous day.

I need not stop to paint, for colors equal to its terrors I have none, that 
dreadful place where the last gathering shall be held; that great synagogue 
of Satan, the place appointed for unbelievers, and prepared for the devil 
and his angels; where “sullen moans and hollow groans, and shrieks of 
tortured ghosts” shall be their only music; where weeping, wailing, and 
gnashing of teeth shall be their perpetual occupation; where joy is a 
stranger, and hope unknown; where death itself would be a friend. No, I 
will not attempt to describe what our Savior veiled in words like these, 
“These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” “Where their worm 
dieth not, and their fire is not quenched.” “Outer darkness, where shall be 
wailing and gnashing of teeth.” We drop the curtain, hoping that you have 
seen enough to make you pray, “Gather not my soul with sinners.” Dear 
brethren, when we recollect that that last gathering will be a perfect one, 
that there will be no sinner left with the saints; that, on the other hand, no 
saint will remain with sinners, when we recollect that it will be a final one, 
no re-distribution will ever be made, and that it will entail an everlasting 
separation, a great gulf being fixed, which none can cross, it remains for us 
to be solemnly anxious to be found on the right hand, and to put up, with 
vehemence, this prayer — “O Lord, gather not my soul with sinners.”

II. Having thus shown the vision of the gathering, let me, with deep 
solemnity, conduct your minds for a little time to THE PRAYER ITSELF. I am
sure we are all agreed about it, every one of us. Balaam, if he be here this 
morning, differs not from me. The worst and most abandoned wretch on 
earth agrees with David in this. Sinners do not wish to be gathered with 
sinners. Balaam’s prayer is, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let 
my last end be like his,” which only differs in words from David’s petition, 
“Gather not my soul with sinners.” But then the reasons of the one prayer 
are very different in different persons. We would all like to be saved from 
hell, but then there is a difference in the reasons why we would so be 
delivered. The same prayer may be uttered by different lips; in the one it 
may be heard and accepted as spiritual prayer, and in the other it may be 
but the natural excitement produced by a selfish desire to avoid misery.

Now, I know why you would not wish to be gathered with sinners — those 
of you who are ungodly and impenitent — you dread the fire, the flames 
which no abatement know; you dread the wrath, the suffering, you dread 
the horrors of that world to come. Not so with the Christian, these he 
dreads as all men must, but he has a higher and a better reason for not 
wishing to be gathered with sinners. I tell you, sirs, if sinners could be 
gathered into heaven with their present character, the Christian’s prayer 
would be what it now is — “Gather not my soul with sinners.” If sin 
entailed happiness; if rebellion against God could give bliss, even then the 
Christian would scorn the happiness and avoid the bliss which sin affords; 
for his objection is not so much to hell, as to sinners themselves; his desire 
is to avoid the contamination and distraction of their company. Many of 
you will say, “Now I dislike the company of sinners;” indeed, most moral 
people dislike the society of a certain class of sinners. I suppose there is 
scarcely one here to-day who would wish to be found in the den of the 
burglar, where the conversation is concerning plunder and violence; you 
would not probably feel very easy in the haunt of the harlot, where 
licentious tongues utter flippantly lascivious words. You shun the house of 
the strange woman. The pothouse is not a favourite resort for you. You 
would not feel very much at ease at the bar of the gin palace; you would 
say of each of these — “This is no joy to me.” Even those of you who are 
not renewed by Christ, despise vice when she walks abroad naked. I fear 
me ye cannot say as much when she puts on her silver slippers, and wraps 
about her shoulders her scarlet mantle. Sin in rags is not popular. Vice in 
sores and squalor tempts no one. In the grosser shapes, men hate the very 
fiend whom they love when it is refined and delicate in its form. I want to 
know whether you can say, “Gather not my soul with sinners,” when you 
see the ungodly in their highdays and holidays? Do you not envy the 
fraudulent merchant counting his gold; his purse heavy with his gains, 
while he himself by his craft is beyond all challenge by the law? Do you not 
envy the giddy revellers, spending the night in the merry dance, laughing, 
making merry with wine, and smiling with thoughts of lust? Yonder 
voluptuary, entering the abode where virtue never finds a place, and 
indulging in pleasures unworthy to be named in this hallowed house, does 
he never excite your envy? I ask you, when you see the pleasures, the 
bright side, the honors, the emoluments, the gains, the merriments of sin, 
do ye then say, “Gather not my soul with sinners?” There is a class of 
sinners that some would wish to be gathered with, those easy souls who go 
on so swimmingly. They never have any trouble; conscience never pricks 
them; business never goes wrong with them; they have no bands in their 
life, no bonds in their death; they are not in trouble as other men, neither 
are they plagued like other men. They are like the green bay tree, which 
spreads on every side, until its boughs cover whole acres with their shade. 
These are the men who prosper in the world, they increase in riches. Can 
we say when we look at these, when we gaze upon the bright side of the 
wicked, “Gather not my soul with sinners?” Remember, if we cannot do so 
without reservation, we really cannot pray the prayer at all; we ought to 
alter it, and put it, “Gather not my soul with openly reprobate sinners;” and 
then mark you, as there is only one place for all sorts of sinners, moral or 
immoral, apparently holy or profane, your prayer cannot be heard, for if 
you are gathered with sinners at all — with the best of sinners — you must 
be gathered with the worst of sinners too. I know, children of God, ye can 
offer the prayer as it stands, and say, “In all their glory and their pomp; in 
all their wealth, their peace, and their comfort, my soul abhors them, and I 
earnestly beseech thee, O Lord, by the blood of Jesus, ‘Gather not my soul 
with sinners.’”

Brethren, why does the Christian pray this prayer? He prays it, first of all, 
because as far as his acquaintance goes with sinners, even now he does 
not wish for their company. The company of sinners in this world to the 
saint is a cause of uneasiness. We cannot be with them and feel ourselves 
perfectly at home. “My soul is among lions, even among them that are set 
on fire of hell.” “Rid me from strange children.” We are vexed with their 
conversation, even as Lot was with the language of the men of Sodom. We 
lay an embargo upon them, they cannot act as they would in our society, 
and they lay a restraint upon us, we cannot act as we would when we are 
with them. We feel an hindrance in our holy duties through dwelling in the 
tents of Kedar. When we would talk of God, we cannot in the midst of 
company to whom the very name of Jesus is a theme for jest. How can we 
well engage in family devotions when more than half the family are given 
up to the world? How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land? You 
who sojourn in Mesech, you know how great a grief it is, what a damper it 
is to your spirituality, what a serious hindrance it is to your growth in 
grace. Besides, the company tempts believers to sin. Who can keep his 
garment pure when he travels with black companions? If I am condemned 
to walk continually in the midst of thorns and briars, it is strange if I do not 
mar my garments. Often our nearest friends get a hold upon our hearts, and 
then, being enemies to God, they lead us to do things which we otherwise 
would never have dreamed of doing.

The company of the sinner is to the Christian a matter of real loss in 
another respect, for when God comes to punish a nation, the Christian has 
to suffer with the sinners of that nation. National judgments fall as well 
upon the holy as upon the profane, and hence, through being mingled with 
the ungodly of this world, the Christian is a sufferer by famine, war, or 
pestilence. Well may he, from the little taste he has known of their 
company, cry “Gather not my soul with sinners.” Why, brethren, I will put 
you for a moment to the test — you shall be in the commercial room of an 
inn — you are on a journey, and you sit down to attend to your own 
business, or to await the train. Now, if two or three fast men come into the 
room, and they begin venting their filth and blasphemy, how do you feel? 
You do not wish to hear; you wish you were deaf. One of them cannot 
speak without larding his co

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