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- The Water of Life and Other Sermons - 6/29 -

so righteousness is to cause its life.

'When ye were the servants of sin,' he says to the Romans, 'what fruit had ye in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.'

This is St. Paul's opinion. And we shall do well to believe it, and to learn from it, this day, and all days.

The wages of sin and the end of sin is death. Not the punishment of sin; but something much worse. The wages of sin, and the end of sin.

And how is that worse news? My friends, every sinner knows so well in his heart that it is worse news, more terrible news, for him, that he tries to persuade himself that death is only the arbitrary punishment of his sin; or, quite as often, that the punishment of his sin is not even death, but eternal torment in the next life.

And why? Because, as long as he can believe that death, or hell, are only punishments arbitrarily fixed by God against his sins, he can hope that God will let him off the punishment. Die, he knows he must, because all men die; and so he makes up his mind to that: but being sent to hell after he dies, is so very terrible a punishment, that he cannot believe that God will be so hard on him as that. No; he will get off, and be forgiven at last somehow, for surely God will not condemn him to hell. And so he finds it very convenient and comfortable to believe in hell, just because he does not believe that he is going there, whoever else may be.

But, it is a very terrible, heartrending thought, for a man to find out that what he will receive is not punishment, but wages; not punishment but the end of the very road which he is travelling on. That the wages of sin, and the end of sin, to which it must lead, are death; that every time he sins he is earning those wages, deserving them, meriting them, and therefore receiving them by the just laws of the world of God. That does torment him, that does terrify him, if he will look steadfastly at the broad plain fact--You need not dream of being let off, respited, reprieved, pardoned in any way. The thing cannot be done. It is contrary to the laws of God and of God's universe. It is as impossible as that fire should not burn, or water run up hill. It is not a question of arbitrary punishment, which may be arbitrarily remitted; but of wages, which you needs must take, weekly, daily, and hourly; and those wages are death: a question of travelling on a certain road, whereon, if you travel it long enough, you must come to the end of it; and the end is death. Your sins are killing you by inches; all day long they are sowing in you the seeds of disease and death. Every sin which you commit with your body shortens your bodily life. Every sin you commit with your mind, every act of stupidity, folly, wilful ignorance, helps to destroy your mind, and leave you dull, silly, devoid of right reason. Every sin you commit with your spirit, each sin of passion and temper, envy and malice, pride and vanity, injustice and cruelty, extravagance and self-indulgence, helps to destroy your spiritual life, and leave you bad, more and more unable to do the right and avoid the wrong, more and more unable to discern right from wrong; and that last is spiritual death, the eternal death of your moral being. There are three parts in you--body, mind, and spirit; and every sin you commit helps to kill one of these three, and, in many cases, to kill all three together.

So, sinner, dream not of escaping punishment at the last. You are being punished now, for you are punishing yourself; and you will continue to be punished for ever, for you will be punishing yourself for ever, as long as you go on doing wrong, and breaking the laws which God has appointed for body, mind and spirit. You can see that a drunkard is killing himself, body and mind, by drink. You see that he knows that, poor wretch, as well as you. He knows that every time he gets drunk he is cutting so much off his life; and yet he cannot help it. He knows that drink is poison, and yet he goes back to his poison.

Then know, habitual sinner, that you are like that drunkard. That every bad habit in which you indulge is shortening the life of some of your faculties, and that God Himself cannot save you from the doom which you are earning, deserving, and working out for yourself every day and every hour.

Oh how men hate that message!--the message that the true wrath of God, necessary, inevitable, is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness of men. How they writhe under it! How they shut their ears to it, and cry to their preachers, 'No! Tell us of any wrath of God but that! Tell us rather of the torments of the damned, of a frowning God, of absolute decrees to destruction, of the reprobation of millions before they are born; any doctrine, however fearful and horrible: because we don't quite believe it, but only think that we ought to believe it. Yes, tell us anything rather than that news, which cuts at the root of all our pride, of all our comfort, and all our superstition--the news that we cannot escape the consequences of our own actions; that there are no back stairs up which we may be smuggled into heaven; that as we sow, so we shall reap; that we are filled with the fruits of our own devices; every man his own poisoner, every man his own executioner, every man his own suicide; that hell begins in this life, and death begins before we die: --do not say that: because we cannot help believing it; for our own consciousness and our own experience tell us it is true.' No wonder that the preacher who tells men that is hated, is called a Rationalist, a Pantheist, a heretic, and what not, just because he does set forth such a living God, such a justice of God, such a wrath of God as would make the sinner tremble, if he believed in it, not merely once in a way, when he hears a stirring sermon about the endless torments: but all day long, going out and coming in, lying on his bed and walking by the way, always haunted by the shadow of himself, knowing that he is bearing about in him the perpetually growing death of sin.

And still more painful would this message be to the sinner, if he had any kindly feeling for others; and, thank God, there are few who have not that. For St. Paul's message to him is, that the wages of his sin is death, not merely to himself, but to others--to his family and children above all. So St. Paul declares in what he says of his doctrine of original or birth sin, by which, as the Article says, every man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth against the spirit.

St. Paul's doctrine is simple and explicit. Death, he says, reigned over Adam's children, even over those who had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression; agreeing with Moses, who declares God to be one who visits the sins of the fathers on the children, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate Him. But how the sinner will shrink from this message--and shrink the more, the more feeling he is, the less he is wrapped up in selfishness. Yes, that message gives us such a view of the sinfulness of sin as none other can. It tells us why God hates sin with so unextinguishable a hatred, just because He is a God of Love. It is not that man's sin injures God, insults God, as the heathen fancy. Who is God, that man can stir Him up to pride, or wound or disturb His everlasting calm, His self-sufficient perfectness? 'God is tempted of no man,' says St. James. No. God hates sin. He loves all, and sin harms all; and the sinner may be a torment and a curse, not only to himself, not only to those around him, but to children yet unborn.

This is bad news; and yet sinners must hear it. They must hear it not only put into words by Moses, or by St. Paul, or by any other inspired writer; but they must hear it, likewise, in that perpetual voice of God which we call facts.

Let the sinner who wishes to know what original sin means, and how actual sin in one man breeds original sin in his descendants, look at the world around him, and see. Let him see how St. Paul's doctrine and the doctrine of the Ten Commandments are proved true by experience and by fact: how the past, and how the present likewise, show us whole families, whole tribes, whole aristocracies, whole nations, dwindling down to imbecility, misery, and destruction, because the sins of the fathers are visited on the children.

Physicians, who see children born diseased; born stupid, or even idiotic; born thwart-natured, or passionate, or false, or dishonest, or brutal,--they know well what original sin means, though they call it by their own name of hereditary tendencies. And they know, too, how the sins of a parent, or of a grand parent, or even a great- grandparent, are visited on the children to the third and fourth generation; and they say 'It is a law of nature:' and so it is. But the laws of nature are the laws of God who made her: and His law is the same law by which death reigns even over those who have not sinned after the likeness of Adam; the law by which (even though if Christ be in us, the spirit is life, because of righteousness) the body, nevertheless, is dead, because of sin.

Parents, parents, who hear my words, beware--if not for your own sakes, at least for the sake of your children, and your children's children--lest the wages of your sin should be their death.

And by this time, surely, some of you will be asking, 'What has he said? That there is no escape; that there is no forgiveness?'

None whatsoever, my friends, though you were to cry to heaven for ever and ever, save the one old escape of which you hear in the church every Sunday morning: 'When the wicked man turneth away from his wickedness that he hath committed, and doeth that which is lawful and right, he shall save his soul alive.'

What, does not the blood of Christ cleanse us from all sin?

Yes, from all sin. But not, necessarily, from the wages of all sin.

Judge for yourselves, my friends, again. Listen to the voice of God revealed in facts. If you, being a drunkard, have injured your constitution by drink, and then are converted, and repent, and turn to God with your whole soul, and become, as you may, if you will, a truly penitent, good, and therefore sober man,--will that cure the disease of your body? It will certainly palliate and ease it: because, instead of being drunken, you will have become sober: but still you will have shortened your days by your past sins; and, in so far, even though the Lord has put away your sin its wages still remain, as death.

So it is, my friends, if you will only believe it, or rather see it with your own eyes, with every sin, and every sort of sin.

You will see, if you look, that the Article speaks exact truth when it says, that the infection of nature doth remain, even in those that are regenerate. It says that of original sin: but it is equally true of actual sin.

Would to God that all men would but believe this, and give up the too common and too dangerous notion, that it is no matter if they go on

The Water of Life and Other Sermons - 6/29

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