“I trample upon impossibilities,” said a celebrated minister of State in the House of Commons one day, when, during a debate on a difficult problem, another member had pronounced the thing to be “impossible.”
This memorable utterance was, I believe, characteristic of the man, and served to indicate the strength of his indomitable purpose, when face to face with the social and political questions of the day.
No doubt, what appears impossible to some in such matters is quite within the range of accomplishment by others possessed of greater resource and power.
But there came a moment in the history of this great man, when despite his colossal strength of will, he found himself engaged in an unequal struggle, and faced with an impossibility that even he could not trample upon.
Death, like a trained wrestler, stepped into the arena of his life, and, seizing him with relentless grip, ruthlessly flung him from the scene of his popularity and applause into the solemn realities of the great forever.
How fittingly, then, might the dying words of Lord B—, another of England’s statesmen, have escaped his lips also, when with his hands covering his face, as if to hide from himself his own defeat in the final struggle, Lord B— said, “I am overwhelmed! I am overwhelmed.”
Such is the creature impossibility to evade the hand of death, for God has said, “There is no one hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death” (Eccl. 8:8).
“I will not die! I will not die,” cried a farmer—an acquaintance of the writer—as he sprang from his bed in a frenzied condition on hearing the doctor’s verdict that he could not last much longer.
But how painfully impotent was his effort to trample upon that impossibility, and how empty was that boast made to appear in the presence of the fact that within a few short hours his poor body was still in death!
Satan’s lie uttered in Eden—“Ye shall not surely die”—is obviously too patent to gain common currency today, though it is true the “Christian Scientist”—falsely so-called—is trying to revive it.
Surely it needs no proving that WE CANNOT STAY ON EARTH for ever! By God’s just decree it is that sin’s penalty is death, for “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Heb. 9:27).
As a sinner, my dear reader, you are under notice to quit; and death may at any moment execute your ejection order, and will neither accept excuses nor receive bribes. Go you MUST, though it may be sadly against the grain to have to do so!
But this is only one part of the appointment. The same sentence which so plainly assures us that we are under notice to quit this world, just as plainly intimates that there is a destiny beyond, an “After this,”—a great “Post-mortem”!
The writer once overheard some medical students discussing their likes and dislikes for the various branches of their work, when one of them remarked, “Above all things I detest the Post-mortems!!” Yes, thought I, I can easily understand that, young man, even if it is only a corrupt body that is in question; but if you are not right with God I think that detestation will be considerably intensified when it dawns upon you that you are under notice to attend a “post-mortem examination” of a corrupt life, and that life your own! (Eph. 4:22; Rom. 14:12; Eccl. 12:14).
It is in the natural recoil from this that men are so ready to embrace Satan’s second deception, viz., “After death you are done with.”
All this flippant, infidel talk of after death annihilation, is a lie, and is but the offspring of a wish to avoid the dread “post-mortem” of a life spent far from God. It is the “after this” that gives death’s arrow its sting and smart. There are a thousand ways in which death may overtake us, but there are only two ways of dying.
You must either “die in your sins” (John 8:21, 24), or “die in the Lord” (Rev. 14:13). The ambition of the great Napoleon was to die in his military boots—like a soldier! A celebrated dignitary of the Church is said to have died in his ecclesiastical robes! What matter such paltry trifles?
Your destiny is the same whether you die at the Communion table, or at the card table, whether in the Church or in the theatre—if you die in your sins.
You may possess wealth, pleasure, and friends, but you will die out of them, i.e., you will leave them behind! Not so your sins. You die in them. You take thein with you to the terminus—and the grave is not that, for where death leaves you the resurrection will find you.
The Lord Jesus made this perfectly plain to the religious unbelievers in His day.
No one could fail to be struck by the solemnity of those words that fell thrice repeated from the Saviour’s lips in John 8, “Ye shall die in your sins”—to which He added those hope-withering words, “Whither I go ye CANNOT come.”
Can you not, dear reader, see couched in that solemn utterance another divinely pronounced “IMPOSSIBILITY”?
Surely if such words convey anything at all, they declare plainly that to reach heaven, whither Christ is gone, is a hopeless impossibility for those who die in their sins.
He who says to His own in John 14:3, “Where I am THERE YE MAY BE also,” says of those who die in their sins, “Whither I go ye CANNOT come.” Thus perishes for ever all hope of heaven for such! Who is there in heaven, earth, or hell that can twist the “cannot” of the Son of God and make it mean “After a time you CAN”?
Mark it well, dear reader. “Die in your sins”—and as the Son of God is true, your hope of heaven is blighted for ever!
To hope for heaven in the face of such a declaration, spoken on such authority, is to hope against hope and expect the impossible to happen.
Nor is this all the truth. Sad as it is to die bereft of all hope of heaven, there is yet another destiny that such cannot fail to reach, and from which there is no escape.
These two destinies are referred to by the Lord Jesus in one solemn verse (Mark 9:45): “It is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched!” Reader, note well those two destinies, one of which must be thine for eternity! “Enter into life” or “Cast into hell,” and that without an alternative, aye, and without alleviation too, for the Lord adds, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched,”—and “never shall be”! (vv. 45-46).
In Luke 16:19-23, the Lord solemnly describes the case of one who reached that awful terminus—“cast into hell.”
He says a certain rich man . . . “died and was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments”!
“Oh, but this is only a parable,” some will protest at once. “There is really no such place as hell, and no such punishment for sin as this.”
Does it not strike you, dear reader, that this is remarkable language for the Lord to use in order to convey to His hearers that there is no hell and no eternal punishment?
The rector of a North-country parish, writing in his parish magazine some time ago, assured his readers that “such punishment for sin can no longer be entertained, being out of accord with the more intelligent and more enlightened idea of the all-comprehending love of God!” This is as false as it is plausible. But what does it mean? If it means anything, it is a slight upon Him who spoke in Luke 16 and Mark 9 of hell’s torments, a fixed gulf, an undying worm, and unquenchable fire as the portion of the lost; since, in this critic’s judgment, those who talk thus are sadly wanting both in intelligence and the knowledge of the love of God.
To hear the Rev. Dr Popular talk, one would imagine that if God had only waited till today, the twentieth-century theologian could have told Him that sin is not nearly as serious as He thought it to be, and that something far less than death and judgment would have met the case. And if God is to maintain His character as a God of love, all thought of hell and its torments must be abolished, and all idea of punishment for sin must be obliterated from the sorrows of Calvary, since such ideas outrage the feelings of the modern and fashionable theologian.
When sin is taken account of by God, other features of His glory come into prominence besides His love. God is not a one-sided Being, all love and no holiness, all mercy and no justice. It is written, “The Lord is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps. 145:17). If in Isaiah 56:5-6, it says, “His arm brought salvation,” it also adds, “His righteousness it sustained him.” (See also Rom. 5:24.)
Was there ever a place where the love of God for the sinner, and His righteous judgment and holy intolerance of sin found a more emphatic expression than at Calvary?—
“Holy claims of justice finding
Full expression in that scene;
Light and love alike are telling
What yon woe and suffering mean.”
Every awful feature of hell had its counterpart in the woes of that dark hour. As at Calvary, so IN HELL! Sin and its curse are there! Sorrows, like sea billows, roll there! God’s wrath and Satan’s rage meet there! Distance, darkness, and death are felt there! And out of their awful depths rings the cry of the God-forsaken one! “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46).
As the shadow of that cross fell upon the Saviour’s spirit, we cannot be surprised that He cried: “Now is my soul troubled. What shall I say? Father, save me from this hour” (John 12:27). Nor, at a later moment, when in Gethsemane, He pleaded, “with strong crying and tears,” “Oh, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!” (Matt. 26:39).
But what happened? Was that prayer answered? Could the Saviour be spared and the sinner saved? Impossible! On to the cross He went in devotion to the Father’s will, and in love to the sinner He drank to its last dreg the cup of judgment, and cried in holy triumph, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
Thus beneath the dread solemnities of that hour, we can read in terrible characters another divine IMPOSSIBILITY. There it was plainly declared to be absolutely impossible for God’s will to be done and our salvation secured apart from Christ exhausting, in His atoning death, that cup of wrath against sin.
Why should it be said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15) if by our religious observances we could save ourselves? Why should it be necessary for Christ to have suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18), if some other way, either here or hereafter, could have been righteously found to do it?
God would certainly have answered Gethsemane’s bitter cry, and spared His Son the curse and judgment of Calvary, had such a way been possible, but it is written, “He spared not his own Son but delivered him up for us all” (Rom. 8:32), who was “delivered for our offences” (Rom. 4:25).
Even Christ risen pronounced its necessity, saying, “Thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead . . . that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name” (Luke 24:46-47).
Nothing, therefore, is more plainly declared in the Word of God than that
IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR A SINNER
To stay on earth for ever (Heb. 9:27; Eccl. 8:8);
To die in his sins and go to heaven (John 8:21);
To be cast into hell and reach heaven at last (Luke 16:26; Mark 9:45); or,
To be saved from the judgment of God except through the atoning death of Christ (Matt. 26:39-42).
With these stern and solemn facts before us, let us urge you to listen no longer to the devil’s lie of “a larger hope,” and despise the sinner’s only hope—“The precious blood of Christ.” Bow at once to God’s righteous sentence against sin, and take prompt advantage of the salvation that is offered you in Christ, for “neither is there salvation in any other.” Put the simple faith of your soul in Him—“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shall be saved”—for without faith IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to please Him (Heb. 11:6).
“Thy death, not mine, O Christ,
Has paid the ransom due;
Ten thousand deaths like mine
Would have been all too few.
To whom save Thee, who can alone
For sin atone, Lord, shall I flee!”
The Gospel Messenger 1910, p. 31