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The Saint's Horror At
the Sinner's Hell

by Charles H. Spurgeon

AUGUST 16TH, 1863,

“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

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 conversation with an outh. There is another,
perhaps a man elevated above the situation which his education fits him to
occupy, who, in his conversation utters the most abominable and atrocious
language, and the others laugh at him. Before many minutes you will steal
out of the room, for you cannot endure it. What must it be to be shut in
with such persons for ever? On board a steam-boat, it may be, you fall into
the middle of a little knot who are talking on some infidel subject in a
manner far from palatable to you. Have you not wished yourself on shore,
and have you not walked to the other end of the boat to be out of their
way? I know you have felt that kind of thing. Your blood has chilled;
horror has taken hold upon you, because of the wicked who keep not
God’s law. If such has been your experience, you can well understand the
reason of the Psalmist’s prayer, for much of such torment you could not

Moreover, I do not know any class of sinners whose company a Christian
would desire. I should not like to live with the most precise of hypocrites.
What ugly company to keep! You cannot trust them anywhere — always
hollow — always ready to deceive and to betray you. I would not choose
to live with formalists, self-righteous people, because whenever they begin
to talk about themselves and their own good deeds, they do, as it were,
throw dirt upon the righteousness of Christ, which is our boast, and that is
ill company for a Christian. The believer triumphs in the free grace of God,
the power of the Holy Spirit, and the efficacy of the blood of Jesus, but the
self-righteous man speaks only of his Church-goings and his Chapel-
goings, his fastings and his almsgivings, and the like. We cannot agree with
the self-truster; we could almost as well associate with the profane as we
could with the self righteous. As for blasphemers, we could not endure
them a moment. Would you not as soon be shut up in a tiger’s den, as with
a cursing, swearing, thievish profligate? Who can endure the company of
either a Voltaire or a Manning? Find out the miserly, the mean, the
sneaking, the grasping — who likes to be with them? The angry, the
petulant, who never try to check the unholy passion, one is always glad to
be away from such folks; you are afraid lest you should be held responsible
for their mad actions, and therefore if you must be with them, you are
always ill at ease. With no sort of sinners can the child of God be hail-fellow.
Lambs and wolves, doves and hawks, devils and angels, are not fit
companions; and so through what little trial the righteous have had, they
have learned that there is no sort of sinners that they would like to be shut
up with for ever.

But then, we have other reasons. We know that when impenitent sinners
are gathered at the last their characters will be the same. They were filthy
here, they will be filthy still. Here on earth their sin was in the bud; in hell it
will be full-blown. If they were bad here they will be worse there. Here
they were restrained by providence, by company, by custom — there, there
will be no restraints, and hell will be a world of sinners at large, a land of
outlaws, a place where every man shall follow out his own heart’s most
horrible inclinations. Who would wish to be with them? Then again, the
place where they will be gathered alarms us — the pit of hell, the abode of
misery and wrath for ever — who would be gathered there? Then, their
occupation. They spend their time in cursing God; in inventing and venting
fresh blasphemies. They go from bad to worse; climbing down the awful
ladder of detestable depravity. Who would wish to be with them?
Remember too, their sufferings; the pain of body and of soul they know,
when God has cast both body and soul into hell. Who would wish to be
with them? Recollect too, that they are banished for ever from God, and
God is our sun, therefore they are in darkness; God is our life, therefore
they are worse than dead; God is our joy, therefore they are wretched in
the extreme. Why! this would be hell, if there were no other hell to a
Christian, to be banished from his God. Moreover, they are denied the joys
of Christ’s society. No Savior’s love for them, no blissful communion at
his right hand, no living fountains of water to which the Lamb shall lead
them. O my God, when I think of what the sinner is, and where he is, and
how he must be there for ever, shut out from thee, my soul may well pray
with anguish that prayer, “Gather not my soul with sinners.”

“Thou lovely chief of all my joys,
Thou sovereign of my heart!
How could I bear to hear thy voice
Pronounce the sound ‘Depart?’
Oh wretched state of deep despair,
To see my God remove,
And fix my doleful station where
I must not taste his love.
Jesus, I throw my arms around,
And hang upon thy breast;
Without a gracious smile from thee
My spirit cannot rest.”

III. But I am afraid I weary you, and therefore, dear friends, let me take
you very briefly to the third point. There is in our text A FEAR, as if a
whisper awakened the Psalmist’s ear to trembling, “Perhaps, after all, you
may be gathered with the wicked.”

Now, that fear, although marred by unbelief, springs, in the main, from
holy anxiety. Do you not think that some of us may well be the subjects of
it? This holy anxiety may well arise if we recollect our past sin. Before we
were converted we lived as others lived. The lusts of the flesh were ours.
We indulged our members, we permitted sin to reign in our mortal bodies
without restraint, and there will be times to the pardoned man, even though
he has faith in Christ, when he will begin to think — “What if after all those
sins should be remembered, and I should be left out of the catalogue of the
saved?” Then again he recollects his present backwardness; and as the little
apple on the tree, so sour and unripe, when it sees the crabs gathered is
half afraid it may be gathered with them, so is he, with so little grace, so
little love, he is afraid he shall be gathered with the ungodly. He recollects
his own unfruitfulness, and as he sees the woodman going round the
orchard, knocking off first this rotten bough, and then cutting off that other
decayed branch, he thinks there is so little fruit on him, that perhaps he may
be cut off too; and so, what with his past sin, his present backsliding, and
unfruitfulness, he is half afraid he may yet have to suffer the doom of the
wicked. And then, looking forward to the future, he recollects his own
weakness and the many temptations that beset him, and he fears that he
may fall after all, and become a prey to the enemy. With all these things
before him, I wonder not that the poor plant, set yonder in the garden, is
half afraid that it may be pulled up with the weeds and burned on yonder
blazing fire in the corner of the garden. “Gather not my soul with sinners.”
What man is there among you who has not need sometimes to tremble for
himself? If any of you can say you are always confident, it is more than I
can say. I would to God I could always know myself saved and accepted in
Christ, but there are times when a sense of sin within, and present evil and
prevailing corruptions make the preacher feel that he is in jeopardy, and
compel him to pray, as he does sometimes now, in fear and trembling, “O
God, gather not my soul with sinners.”

IV. And here comes in, to conclude, THE ANSWER TO THIS PRAYER,
which is a word of consolation.

Brother, if you have prayed this prayer, and if your character be rightly
described in the Psalm before us, be not afraid that you ever shall be
gathered with sinners. Have you the two things that David had — the
outward walking in integrity, and the inward trusting in the Lord? Do you
endeavor to make your outward conduct and conversation conformable to
the example of Christ? Would you scorn to be dishonest toward men, or to
be undevout toward God? At the same time, are you resting upon Jesus
Christ’s sacrifice, and can you compass the altar of God with humble hope?
If so, then rest assured, with the wicked you never shall be gathered, for
there are one or two things which render that calamity impossible.

The first is this, that the rule of the gathering is like to like. “Gather ye
together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them” — all the
tares together — “but gather the wheat into my barn.” It is not “Make a
mixture of them; throw them together in a heap; put the corn and the tares
in my garner.” Oh, no: “Tares in bundles; wheat in sheaves.” If then, thou
art like God’s people, thou shalt be with God’s people; if thou hast their
life within, their character without; if thou restest on their Savior; if thou
lovest their God; if thou hast a longing towards their holiness, thou shalt be
gathered with them — like to like.

There is another rule: those who have been our proper comrades here are
to be our companions hereafter. God will be pleased to send us where we
wish to go in this life; that is to say, if in this life I have loved the haunt of
the sinner, if I have made the theater my sanctuary, if I have made the
drinking house my abode of pleasure, if I have found my solace with the
gambler, and my comfort with the debauchee, if I have lived merely for
business and for this world, and never for the next, then I shall go with my
companions; I shall be sent where I used to go; being let go, I shall go to
my own company among the lost. But, on the other hand, if I have loved
God’s house; if I can say with the Psalmist, “I have loved the habitation of
thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth;” if the excellent of
the earth have been my companions, and the chosen of God have been my
brethren, I shall not be separated from them; I shall have the same company
in heaven that I have had on earth; if I have walked with God here, I shall
reign with God there; if I have suffered with Christ here, I shall reign with
Christ hereafter. That is another thing which prevents your being gathered
with the wicked.

Again, you cannot be gathered with the wicked, for you are too dearly
bought. Christ bought you with blood, and he will not cast you into the
fire. It is a doctrine we never can hold, that Christ redeemed with his
precious blood any that are damned in hell. We cannot conceive it possible
that Christ should have stood their sponsor in suffering, and yet they
should be punished too; that he should pay the debt, and then they should
have to pay it also.

And again, you are loved too much. God the Eternal Father has loved you
long and well, and proved that to you by his great gift and by his daily
consideration and care of you; and it is not, therefore, possible that he
should permit you, the darling of his heart, the child of his desire, a
member of the mystical body of his only beloved Son, to perish for ever in

Again that new nature within you will not let you be gathered with sinners.
What does your new nature do — what must it do? It must love God.
What! love God and be in hell! Your new nature must pray. What! pray in
the pit! Your new nature must praise the God that created it. What! sing
songs to the Divine Being amidst the howling of the damned! Impossible!
If thou hast a new heart and a right spirit; if thy soul clings with both its
hands to the cross of Christ; if thou lovest Jesus and longest to be like him,
thou mayst have this fear, but it is a groundless one, for thou shalt never be
gathered with sinners, but thy feet shall stand in the congregation of the
righteous in the day when the wicked are cast away for ever.

I had hoped this morning so to have handled my text, that mayhap God
might bless it to the sinner, and who can tell it may be so? Sinner, if it be a
dreadful thing to be gathered with thee, what a frightful thing thy gathering
must be! My dear hearer, careless and thoughtless, this morning I have no
fervid words with which to awake you; no earnest tones with which to
startle you; but still, from my soul I do entreat you consider, that if it be a
subject of horror to us to dwell with you for ever, it must be an awffil thing
to be a sinner. And wilt thou be a sinner any longer? Wilt thou abide where
thou now art? Alas! thou canst not save thyself; thou art hopelessly ruined;
thou hast lost all power as well as all virtue; thou art as a dead thing, as a
potter’s vessel that is broken to shivers with a rod of iron. But there is one
who can save thee, even Jesus, and his saving voice to thee this morning is,
“Believe in me, and thou shalt be saved.” To believe in him, is to believe
that he can save thee, and therefore to trust. Dost thou not believe that of
him who is God? Canst thou not believe that of him whose ways are not as
thy ways, whose grace is boundless, and whose love is free! Wilt thou now
believe that Christ can save thee, and that he will save thee? — and wilt
thou now trust thyself to him to save thee? Say in thy heart, “Here, Lord, I
give my soul up to thee to save it; I believe thou wilt and thou canst. Thy
nature and thy name are love, and I trust thy name, I believe in thy
goodness, I repose in thee.” Sinner, you are saved; God has saved you. No
soul ever so believed in Christ and yet was left unpardoned. Go thy way; be
of good cheer, “Thy sins which are many, are all forgiven thee.” Rejoice
thou in him evermore, for thou shalt never be gathered with sinners. May
God give his blessing to you now, for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen.

Archived by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
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