Spurgeon preached this message in response to two disasters that had hit very close to home. On Sunday, August 25, 1861, a nightmarish collision between two trains in the Clayton Tunnel (a 1.5-mile long tunnel between London and Brighton) had claimed 23 lives and severely injured hundreds. Barely more than two weeks later, on Monday, September 2, another train wreck in Kentish Town Fields (in North London) claimed 15 more lives.
A Few Excerpts
Make this world the reaping place, and you have taken the sting out of sin. “Oh,” says the sinner, “if the sorrows men endure here be all the punishment they will have, we will sin greedily.”
Say to them, “No; this is not the world of punishment, but the world of probation; it is not the court of justice, but the land of mercy; it is not the prison of terror, but the house of long-suffering;” and you have opened before their eyes the gates of the future; you have set the judgment-throne before their eyes; you have reminded them of “Come, ye blessed,” and “Depart, ye cursed;” ye have a more reasonable, not to say a more Scriptural, ground of appeal to their consciences and to their hearts.
II. Now to our second point. WHAT USE, THEN, OUGHT WE TO MAKE OF THIS VOICE OF GOD AS HEARD AMIDST THE SHRIEKS AND GROANS OF DYING MEN?
Two uses; first, inquiry, and secondly, warning.
The first inquiry we should put to ourselves is this: “Why may it not be my case that I may very soon and suddenly be cut off? Have I a lease of my life? Have I any special guardianship which ensures me that I shall not suddenly pass the portals of the tomb? Have I received a charter of longevity? Have I been covered with such a coat of armor that I am invulnerable to the arrows of death? Why am not I to die?”
And the next question it should suggest is this:
“Am not I as great a sinner as those who died? Are there not with me, even with me, sins against the Lord my God? If in outward sin others have exceeded me, are not the thoughts of my heart evil? Does not the same law which curses them curse me? I have not continued in all the things that are written in the book of the law to do them. It is as impossible that I should be saved by my works as that they should be. Am not I under the law as well as they by nature, and therefore am not I as well as they under the curse? That question should arise.
Instead of thinking of their sins which would make me proud, I should think of my own which will make me humble.
Instead of speculating upon their guilt, which is no business of mine, I should turn my eyes within and think upon my own transgression, for which I must personally answer before the Most High God.”
Then the next question is, “Have I repented of my sin? I need not be inquiring whether they have or not: have I? Since I am liable to the same calamity, am I prepared to meet it? Have I felt, through the Holy Spirit’s convincing power, the blackness and depravity of my heart? Have I been led to confess before God that I deserve his wrath, and that his displeasure, if it light on me, will be my just due? Do I hate sin? Have I learned to abhor it? Have I, through the Holy Spirit, turned away from it as from a deadly poison, and do I seek now to honor Christ my Master? Am I washed in his blood? Do I bear his likeness? Do I reflect his character? Do I seek to live to his praise? For if not, I am in as great danger as they were, and may quite as suddenly be cut off, and then where am I? I will not ask where are they? And then, again, instead of prying into the future destiny of these unhappy men and women, how much better to inquire into our own destiny and our own state!
God’s voice has rung out of the dark tunnel, — has spoken from the sunset and from the glaring bonfire round which lay the corpses of men and women, and he has said to you, “Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” It is so spoken to you that I hope it may set you inquiring, “Am I prepared? am I ready? am I willing now to face my Judge, and hear the sentence pronounced upon my soul?”
When we have used it thus for inquiry, let me remind you that we ought to use it also for warning. “Ye shall all likewise perish.” “No,” says one, “not likewise. We shall not all be crushed, many of us will die in our beds. We shall not all be burned, many of us will tranquilly close our eyes.” Ay, but the text says, “Ye shall all likewise perish.”
And let me remind you that some of you may perish in the same identical manner. You have no reason to believe that you may not also suddenly be cut off while walking the streets. You may fall dead while eating your meals—how many have perished with the staff of life in their hands! Ye shall be in your bed, and your bed shall suddenly be made your tomb. You shall be strong, hale, hearty, and in health, and either by an accident or by the stoppage of the circulation of your blood, you shall be suddenly hurried before your God. Oh! may sudden death to you be sudden glory!