The Careless Threatened
James Smith, 1859
These is a class of people very apt to become careless and indifferent. They stifle convictions and get rid of them. They resist impressions and erase them. They get their consciences calmed and quieted. They put on a profession of religion. They struggle against the light, until it ceases to disturb them—and then sing themselves to sleep. They cry, "Peace, peace," when there is no peace; and take a dead calm to be gospel rest. They assure themselves that all is right—but never had the witness of God's Spirit within them, or the love of God shed abroad in their hearts. It is no very easy thing to disturb or alarm such, for they are at ease in Zion. But a time is coming when God will rouse them up, as it is written, "It shall come to pass at that time, that I will search Jerusalem with candles, and punish the men that are settled on their lees!" Zeph. 1:12.
God intends thoroughly to examine his church. His winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire! He will, with the light of his judgments, or the candle of his word, and by the ministry of his gospel, search out, detect, expose, and punish all that rest in a mere form of religion; who rest in doctrines—but not in Christ; who depend on something of their own, instead of the finished work of Christ; who take their own polluted works, or an enlightened conscience, for the work of the Spirit of God. Who, neglecting self-examination, and never seeking the scrutiny of the soul-searching eye of God—are easily satisfied that all is right, though they never felt the beneficial pangs of conviction, the joy of true conversion, the peace that flows from pardon, or the loathing of self—which proves that God is pacified towards them.
Such hide in a refuge of lies. They cover themselves with a covering which is not of God's Spirit. They lie on a bed which is too short, and try to get warm and comfortable under a covering that is too narrow. (Isaiah 28:20.) Services, sacraments, or false views of truth intoxicate and bewilder them; and they settle down on their lees, and become like Moab, of whom the prophet says, "Moab has been at ease from youth, like wine left on its dregs, not poured from one jar to another— she has not gone into exile. So she tastes as she did, and her aroma is unchanged."
This is a most dangerous state! It is a delusive calm before a storm, which will cause the bark to founder. It is the peace of the grave-yard, which will be disturbed by the sounding of the trumpet. God will come near to such to judgment. Perhaps he may send his gospel, as he has not done before, and it will be preached with life, unction, and power; it will discover their folly, stir up their corruptions, and irritate their souls. They will oppose it, reject it, and very probably vilify and misrepresent it. They will harden themselves in sin, silence an honest conscience within them, and shut their ears against God's testimony without them, until given up to judicial blindness.
Or, they will be visited with fear, trembling, and surprise; and when it is too late, the door being shut—they will discover their need, as the foolish virgins did, who had no oil—but must have it, or be excluded from the marriage feast forever. Then they will make vain efforts to obtain it; or sink into gloomy despondency and despair, and be finally punished with everlasting destruction—-away from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power.
Reader! let us carefully and thoroughly examine ourselves, whether we are in the faith—or not. Let every man, as the apostle directs, prove his own work. If we have a religion, let us be sure that it is divine; that it will stand the great test; that it will secure our admission into glory at last. Whether it is God's religion—or only man's.
A searching time is coming, when with lighted candles, God will search the depths of the soul; and if a work of sanctification is not found there, if the image of Christ is not discovered there, if the divine nature is not there—all else will he rejected! We must be new created. We must be born of the Spirit. We must have Christ living in us. We must possess the Spirit as a hidden spring of water in the soul, springing up unto everlasting life. If we have not, when God comes to search with candles, we shall be detected, exposed, and punished! Punished for deceiving ourselves and others.
Punished for neglecting the great salvation.
Punished for professing what we never possessed.
Punished justly, punished lawfully, punished eternally!
For they shall have judgment without mercy—who trifled with mercy and braved the judgment of God, without a Savior!