"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He
will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into
the barn, but He
will burn up thechaff with
Wheat or chaff? You
see my question —
for whom do
you think it is meant? Is it for corn merchants and farmers
only, and for none else? If you think so, then you are much
mistaken. It is meant for every man, woman, and child in the
world. And among others, it is meant for you.
The question is drawn from the verse of
Scripture which is now before your eyes. The words of that verse
were spoken by John the Baptist. They are a prophecy about our
Lord Jesus Christ, and a prophecy which has not yet been
fulfilled. They are a prophecy which we shall all see fulfilled
one day, and God alone knows how soon.
Reader, I invite you this day to consider
the great truths which
this verse contains. I invite you to listen to me, while I
unfold them and set them before you in order. Who knows but this
text may prove a word in season to your soul! Who knows but my
question may help to make this day the happiest day in your
life! Listen, before you begin once more your appointed path of
duty. Listen, before you start once more on some round of
business. Listen, before you plunge once more into some course
of useless idleness and folly. Listen to one who loves your
soul, and would sincerely help to save it, or draw it nearer to
Christ. Who knows what a day may bring forth! Who can tell
whether you will live to see tomorrow! Be still, and listen to
me a few minutes, while I show you something out of the Word of
me show you in the first place, the
two great classes into which the world may be divided.
There are only two classes of people in the
world, in the sight of God — and both are mentioned in the text
which begins this tract. There are those who are called the
wheat — and there
are those who are called the
Viewed with the eye of man, the earth
contains many different sorts of inhabitants. Viewed with the
eye of God, it only contains two. Man's eye looks at the outward appearance
— this is all he thinks of. The eye of God looks at the heart —
this is the only part of which He takes any account. And tried
by the state of their hearts, there are but two
which people can be divided — either they are wheat, or
they are chaff.
are the WHEAT in
the world? Listen to me, and I will tell you.
The wheat means all men and women who are believers in
the Lord Jesus Christ — all who are led
by the Holy Spirit —
all who have felt themselves sinners, and fled for refuge
to the salvation offered
in the Gospel — all who love the
Lord Jesus, and live to
the Lord Jesus, and serve the
Lord Jesus — all who have taken Christ for their only
confidence, and the Bible for their only guide, and regard sin
as their deadliest enemy, and look to Heaven as their only home.
All such, of every church, name, nation, people, and tongue — of
every rank, station, condition, and degree — all such are God's
Show me men of this kind of people anywhere,
and I know what they are. I know that they and I may not agree
in all particulars — but I see in them the handiwork of
the King of kings, and I ask no more. I know not whence they
came, and where they found their religion — but I know where
they are going, and that is enough for me. They are the
children of my Father in Heaven. They are part of His wheat.
All such, though sinful, and vile, and
unworthy in their own eyes — are the precious part of mankind.
They are the sons and daughters of God the Father. They are the
delight of God the Son. They are the habitation of God the
Spirit. The Father beholds no iniquity in them — they are the
members of His dear Son's body — in
Him He sees them
— and is well pleased. The Lord Jesus discerns in them, the
fruit of His own travail and work upon the cross — and is well
satisfied. The Holy Spirit regards them as spiritual temples
which He Himself has raised — and rejoices over them. In a word,
they are the wheat of
the earth — God's wheat.
are the CHAFF in
the world? Listen to me once more, and I will tell you this
The chaff means all men and women who have no
saving faith in Christ, and no sanctification of the Spirit —
whoever they may be. Some of them perhaps are infidels — and
some are formal Christians.
Some are sneering Sadducees — and some self-righteous Pharisees.
Some of them make a point of keeping up a kind of 'Sunday
religion' — and others are utterly careless of everything except
their own pleasure and the world. But all alike, who have the
two great marks already mentioned — no
faith and no sanctification —
all such are chaff.
From the atheists Paine
and Voltaire — to the formalchurchman
who can think of nothing but outward ceremonies — to the
unconverted admirer of sermons in the present day — all, all are
standing in one rank before God all, all are chaff!
They bring no glory to God the Father. They
honor not the Son, and so do not honor the Father who sent Him.
They neglect that mighty salvation, which countless millions of
angels admire. They disobey that Word which was graciously
written for their learning. They listen not to the voice of Him
who condescended to leave Heaven and die for their sins. They
pay no tribute of service and affection to
Him who gave them life, and breath, and all things. And
therefore God takes no pleasure in them. He pities them
— but He reckons them no better than chaff!
Yes — you may have rare intellectual gifts,
and high mental attainments — you may sway kingdoms by your
counsel, move millions by your pen, or keep crowds in breathless
attention by your tongue — but if you have never submitted
yourself to the yoke of Christ, and never honored His Gospel by
heartfelt reception of it — then you are nothing but chaff in
His sight. Natural gifts without saving grace, are like a row of ciphers without
an unit before
them; they look big — but they are of no value.
The vilest insect that
crawls in the filth — is a nobler being than you are! It fills
its place in creation, and glorifies its Maker with all its
power — and you do not. You do not honor God with heart, and
will, and intellect, and members, which are all His. You invert
His order and arrangement, and live as if time was of more
importance than eternity, and body better than soul. You dare to
neglect God's greatest gift — His own incarnate Son. You are
cold about that subject which fills all Heaven with hallelujahs.
And so long as this is the case, you belong to the worthless part
of mankind. You are the chaff of
Reader, let this thought be deeply engraved
in your mind, whatever else you forget in this volume. Remember
there are only two
kinds of people
in the world. There are wheat — and there are chaff.
There are many nations in
Europe. Each differs from the rest. Each has its own language,
its own laws, its own peculiar customs. But God's eye divides
Europe into two great parties — the wheat and the chaff.
There are many classes in
England. There are nobles and commoners — farmers and
shopkeepers — masters and servants — rich and poor. But God's
eye only takes account of two orders — the wheat and the chaff.
There are many and various minds in
every congregation that meets for religious worship. There are
some who attend for a mere form —
and some who really desire to meet Christ; some who come there
to please others — and some who come to please God; some who
bring their hearts with
them, and are not soon tired — and some who leave their hearts
behind them, and reckon the whole service as weary
work. But the eye of Jesus only sees two divisions in the
congregation — the wheat and the chaff.
There were millions of visitors to the Great
Exhibition of 1851. From Europe, Asia, Africa, and America —
from North, and South, and East, and West — crowds came together
to see what human skill and industry could do. Children of our
first father Adam's family, who had never seen each other
before, for once met face to face under one roof. But the eye of
the Lord only saw two companies thronging that large palace of
glass — the wheat and the chaff.
Reader, I know well the world dislikes this
way of dividing professing Christians. The world tries hard to
fancy there are three sorts
of people, and nottwo. To be very godly and very strict
does not suit the world — they cannot, will not
be holy. To have no religion at all does not suit the world — as
that would not be respectable. "Thank God," they will say, "we
are not so bad as that!" But to have religion enough to be
respectable — and yet not go into extremes, to be sufficiently
good — and yet not be peculiar — to have a quiet, easy-going,
moderate kind of Christianity, and go comfortably to Heaven
after all — this is the world's favorite idea! There is a third class,
a safe middle class
— the world imagines; and in this middle class — the majority of
men persuade themselves they will be found.
Reader, I denounce this
notion of a middle
class as an
immense and soul-ruining delusion! I warn you strongly not to be
carried away by it. It is as vain an invention as the Pope's purgatory.
It is a refuge of
lies, a castle in the air, a Russian ice-palace, a vast
unreality, an empty dream! This middle class
is a class of Christians no where spoken of in the Bible!
There were two classes in the day of Noah's
flood; those who were inside the
ark — and those who were outside.
There were two classes in the parable of the Gospel net; those
who are called the good fish — and those who are called the bad.
There were two classes in the parable of the ten virgins; those
who are described as wise — and those who are described as
foolish. There were two classes in the account of the judgment
day; the sheep —
and the goats. There were two sides of the throne; the right hand
— and the left.
There were two abodes when
the last sentence has been passed; Heaven — and Hell.
And just so, there are only two classes in
those who are in the state of nature — and those who are in the
state of grace;
those who are in the narrow way — and those who are in the
those who have faith — and those who have no faith;
those who have been converted — and those who have not been
those who are with Christ
— and those who are against Him;
those who gather with
Him — and those who scatter abroad;
those who are wheat —
and those who are chaff.
Into these two classes, the whole world may be divided. Beside
these two classes, there is none.
Reader, dear reader, see now what cause there
is for self-inquiry! Are you among the wheat — or among the
chaff? Neutrality is
impossible. Either you are in one class — or in the other. Which
is it, of the two?
You attend church perhaps. You go to the
Lord's table. You like good people. You can distinguish between
good preaching and bad. You think Popery false, and oppose it
firmly. You think Protestantism true, and support it cordially.
You subscribe to religious societies. You attend religious
meetings. You sometimes read religious books. It is well — it is
all very well. It is good — it is all very good. It is more than
can be said of many. But still, this is not a straightforward
answer to my question: Are you wheat — or are you chaff?
Have you been born again? Are you a new
creature? Have you put off the old man, and put on the new? Have
you ever felt your sins,
and repented of them? Are you looking only
to Christ for pardon and eternal life? Do you love Christ?
Do you serve Christ?
Do you loathe heart-sins, and fight against them? Do you long
for perfect holiness, and follow hard after it? Have you come
out from the world? Do
you delight in the Bible? Do
you wrestle in prayer? Do
you love Christ's people? Do you try to do good to the world?
Are you vile in your own eyes, and willing to take the lowest
place? Are you a Christian in business, and on week days, and by
your own fireside? Oh, think, think, think on these things — and
then perhaps you will be better able to tell the state of your
Reader, I beseech you not to turn away from
my question, however unpleasant it may be. Answer it, though it
may prick your conscience, and cut you to the heart. Answer it,
though it may prove you in the wrong, and expose your fearful
danger. Rest not, rest not, until you know how it is between you
and God! Better a thousand times find out that you are in an
evil case, and repent in time — than live on in uncertainty, and
be lost eternally!
Reader, remember my question. Begin to
meditate on it this very day. Are
you wheat — or chaff?
me show you, in the second place, the
TIME when the two great classes of mankind shall be separated.
The text at the beginning of this tract
foretells a separation.
It says that Christ shall one day do to His professing Church,
what the farmer does to his corn. He shall winnow and sift it.
"He will thoroughly cleanse His threshing floor." And then the
wheat and the chaff shall be divided.
There is no separation yet.
Good and bad are now all mingled together in the visible Church
of Christ. Believers and unbelievers — converted and unconverted
— holy and unholy — all are to be found now among those who call
They sit side by side in our assemblies. They kneel side by side
in our pews. They listen side by side to our sermons. They
sometimes come up side by side to the Lord's table, and receive
the same bread and wine from our hands.
But it shall not always be
so! Christ shall come the second time with His winnowing fork in
His hand. He shall thoroughly purge His Church, even as He
purified the temple. And then the wheat and the chaff shall be separated —
and each go to its own place!
Before Christ comes, separation
is impossible. It
is not in man's power to effect it. There lives not the minister
on earth, who can read the hearts of everyone in his
congregation. About some he
may speak decidedly — he cannot about all.
Who have oil in
their lamps — and who have not; who have grace as well as
profession — and who have profession only, and no grace; who are
children of God — and who of the devil. All these are questions
which, in many cases, we cannot accurately decide.
The winnowing fork is not put into our hands!
sometimes so weak and feeble — that it looks like nature. Nature is
sometimes so plausible and well-dressed — that it looks like
grace. I believe many of us would have said that Judas was
as good as any of the apostles — and yet he proved a traitor! I
believe we would have said that Peter was
a reprobate when he denied his Lord — and yet he repented
immediately, and rose again. We are but fallible men. We know
in part. We
scarcely understand our own hearts. It is no great wonder if we
cannot read the hearts of others.
But it will not always be so. There is One
coming, who never errs in judgment, and is perfect in knowledge.
Jesus shall purge His floor. Jesus shall sift thechaff from
the wheat. I
wait for this. Until then, I will lean to the side of charity in
my judgments. I would rather tolerate much chaff in the Church —
than cast out one grain of wheat! He shall soon come who has His
winnowing fork in His hand — and then the certainty about every
one shall be known.
Before Christ comes, I
do not expect to see a perfect Church. There
cannot be such a thing. The wheat and the chaff, in the present
state of things — will always be found together. I pity those
who leave one Church and join another, because of a few faults
and unsound members. I pity them, because they are fostering
ideals which never can be realized. I pity them, because they
are seeking that which cannot be found. I see chaff everywhere.
I see imperfections and infirmities of
some kind in every church on earth. I believe there are few
tables of the Lord, if any, where all the communicants are
converted. I often see loud-talking
as saints. I often see holy and contrite believers, set down as
having no grace at all. I think that if men are too scrupulous,
they may go fluttering about, like Noah's dove, all their days,
and never find rest.
Reader, do you desire a perfect
Church? You must
wait for the day of Christ's appearing. Then, and not until then
— you will see a glorious Church, having neither spot nor
wrinkle, or any such thing. Then, and not until then — the floor
will be purged.
Before Christ comes, I
do not look for the conversion of the world. How
can it be, if He is to find both wheat and chaff side by side in
the day of His second coming? I believe some Christians expect
that missions will fill the earth with the knowledge of Christ,
and that little by little, sin will disappear, and a state of
perfect holiness gradually glide in. I cannot see with their
eyes! I think they are mistaking God's purposes, and sowing
bitter disappointment for themselves. I expect nothing of the
kind. I see nothing in the Bible, or in the world around me, to
make me expect it. I have never heard of a single parish
entirely converted to God, in England or Scotland — or of
anything like it. And why am I to look for a different result
from the preaching of the Gospel in other lands? I only expect
to see a few raised up as witnesses to Christ in every nation —
some in one place, and some in another. Then I expect the Lord
Jesus will come in glory, with His winnowing fork in His hand.
And when He has purged His floor, and not until then — Hiskingdom will
No separation and no perfection until
Christ comes! This
is my creed. I am not moved when the infidel asks me why all the
world is not converted — if Christianity is really true? I
answer — It was never promised that it would be so in the
present order of things. The Bible tells me that believers will
always be few — that corruptions, and divisions, and heresies,
will always abound — and that when my Lord returns to earth, He
will find plenty of chaff.
No perfection until Christ comes! I
am not disturbed when men say, "Make all the people good
Christians at home, before you send missionaries to the heathen
abroad." I answer, If I am to wait for that — then I will wait
forever. When we have done all at home, the Church will still be
a mixed body
— it will contain some wheat, and much chaff.
But Christ will come again. Sooner or later
there shall be a separation of
the visible Church into two companies — and fearful shall that
separation be! The wheat shall make up one company. The chaff
shall make up another. The one company will be all godly. The
other company will be all ungodly. Each shall be by themselves,
and a great gulf between,
that none can pass.
Blessed indeed shall the righteous be
in that day! They shall shine like stars — no longer obscured
They shall be beautiful as the lily — no longer choked with thorns.
Wretched indeed will the ungodly be!
How corrupt will corruption be — when left without one grain of salt to
season it! How dark will darkness be — when left without one
spark of light! Ah, reader, it is not enough to respect and
admire the Lord's people; you must belong to
them — or you will one day be parted from them forever. There
will be no chaff in Heaven! Many, many are the families, where one will
be taken — and another left.
Who is there now among the readers of these
pages who loves the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity? If I know
anything of the heart of a Christian, your greatest trials are
in the company of worldly people — your greatest joys in the
company of the saints. Yes — there are many weary days, when
your spirit feels broken and crushed by the earthly tone of
all around you — days when you could cry with David, "Woe is me,
that I dwell in Mesech, and have my habitation in the tents of
Kedar." And yet there are hours when your soul is so refreshed
and revived by meeting some of God's dear children, that it
seems like Heaven
on earth. Do I
not speak to your heart? Are not these things true? See then,
how you should long for the time when Christ shall come again.
See how you should pray daily that the Lord would hasten His
kingdom, and say to Him, "Come quickly, Lord Jesus!"
Then, and not until then, shall the church be
a pure unmixed communion. Then, and not until then, the saints
shall all be together, and shall go out from one another's
presence no more. Wait a little. Wait a little. Scorn and
contempt will soon be over. Laughter and ridicule shall soon
have an end. Slander and misrepresentation will soon cease. Your
Savior shall come and plead your cause. And then, as Moses said
to Korah, "The Lord will show who are His!"
"This is certain — when the elect are all
converted, then Christ will come to judgment. As he who rows a
boat, stays until all the passengers are taken into his boat,
and then he rows away; so Christ stays until all the elect are
gathered in, and then He will hasten away to judgment!" — Thomas
Who is there among the readers of these
pages, who knows that his heart is not right in the sight of
God? See how you should fear and tremble at the thought of
Christ's appearing. Alas, indeed, for the man who lives and dies
with nothing better than a cloak
of religion! In
the day when Christ shall purge His floor, you will be shown and
exposed in your true colors! You may deceive ministers, and
friends, and neighbors — but you cannot deceive Christ! Thepaint and varnish of
never stand the fire of
that day. The Lord is a God of knowledge, and by Him actions are
weighed. You will find that the eye which
saw Achan and Gehazi —
has read your secrets, and searched out your hidden things!
You will hear those awful words, "Friend, how did you get in
here — not having a wedding garment?"
Oh, tremble at the thought of the day of
sifting and separation! Surely hypocrisy is
a most losing game! Surely it never is good, to try to deceive
God. Surely it never answers, like Ananias and Sapphira, to pretend to
give God something, and yet to keep back your heart. It all
fails at last! Your joy is but for a moment. Your hopes are no
better than a dream! Oh, tremble, tremble — tremble, and repent!
Reader, think on these things. Remember my
question. Begin to meditate on it this very day. Are you wheat —
me show you, in the third place, the
portion which Christ's people shall receive, when He comes to
purge His threshing floor.
The text at the beginning of this tract tells
us this in good and comfortable words. It tells us that Christ
shall "gather His wheat into His barn."
When the Lord Jesus comes the second time, He
shall collect His believing people into a place of safety.
He will send His angels, and gather them from every quarter. The
sea shall give up the dead that are in it, and the graves the
dead that are in them — and the living shall
Not one poor sinner of mankind who has ever laid hold on Christ
by faith, shall be overlooked in that company. Not
one single grain of wheat shall
be missing, and left outside — when judgments fall upon a wicked
world. There shall be a barn for the wheat of the earth — and
into that barn all the
wheat shall be brought.
Ah, reader, it is a sweet and comfortable
thought, that "the Lord cares for the righteous." But how much the
Lord cares for them, I fear is little known, and dimly seen.
They have their trials, beyond question — and these both many
and great. The flesh is
weak. The world is
full of snares. The cross is
heavy. The way is
narrow. The companions are
few. But still they have strong consolations —
if their eyes were but open to see them. Like Hagar, they have a
well of water near them, even in the wilderness —
though they often do not find it out. Like Mary, they have Jesus
standing by their side —
though often they are not aware of it for very tears.
Bear with me, while I
try to tell you something about Christ's
CARE for poor sinners who believe in Him.
Alas, indeed, that it should be needful! But we live in a day of
weak and feeble statements. The danger of
the state of nature is
feebly exposed. The privileges of
the state of grace are
feebly set forth. Hesitating souls are not encouraged. Disciples
are not established and confirmed. The man outside of Christ is
not rightly alarmed.
The man in Christ is not rightly built up.
The one sleeps on, and seldom has his conscience pricked. The
other creeps and crawls all his days, and never thoroughly
understands the riches
of his inheritance. Truly
this is a sore disease, and one that I would gladly help to
Truly it is a melancholy
thing that the people of God should never go up to Mount Pisgah,
and never know the length and breadth of their possessions. To
be brethren of Christ, and sons of God by adoption, to have full
and perfect forgiveness, and the renewing of the Holy Spirit; to
have a place in the book
of life and a
name on the breast-plate of the Great High Priest in Heaven —
all these are glorious things indeed! But still they are not the whole of
a believer's portion. They are upper springs indeed — but still
there are lower springs beside.
pleasure in His believing people. Though
filthy in their own eyes — they are lovely and honorable in His!
They are altogether beautiful — He sees no
spot in them.
Their weaknesses and shortcomings do
not break off the union between Him and them. He chose them,
knowing all their hearts. He took them for His own, with a
perfect understanding of all their debts, liabilities, and
infirmities — and He will never break His covenant and cast them
off. When they fall, He will raise them again. When they wander,
He will bring them back.
Their prayers are
pleasant to Him. As a father loves the first stammering efforts
of his child to speak — so the Lord loves the poor feeble
petitions of His people. He endorses them with His own mighty
intercession, and gives them power on high.
Their services are
pleasant to Him. As a father delights in the first daisy that
his child picks and brings him — even so the Lord is pleased
with the weak attempts of His people to serve Him. Not a cup
of cold water shall
lose its reward. Not a word spoken
in love shall ever be forgotten. He told the Hebrews of Noah's faith —
but not of his drunkenness;
of Rahab's faith —
but not of her lie.
Oh, reader, it is a blessed thing to be God's wheat!
Lord cares for His believing people in their lives. Their dwelling
place is well
known. The "street called strait," where Paul lodged; the "house
by the sea-side," where Peter prayed — were all familiar to
their Lord. None have such attendants as
they have — angels rejoice when they are born again, angels
minister to them, and angels encamp around them. None have such food —
their bread is given them, and their water sure, and they have
food to eat of which the world knows nothing. None have such company as
they have — the Spirit dwells with them. The Father and the Son
come to them, and make their abode with them. Their steps are
all ordered, from grace to glory.
Those who persecute them — persecute Christ Himself, and those
who hurt them — hurt the apple of the Lord's eye.
Their trials and
temptations are all measured out by a wise Physician — not a
grain of bitterness is
ever mingled in their cup, which is not good for the health of
their souls. Their temptations,
like Job's, are all under God's control — Satan cannot touch a
hair of their head without their Lord's permission, nor even
tempt them above that which they shall be able to bear. "As a
father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has
compassion on those who fear Him." He never afflicts them willingly.
He leads them by the right way.
He withholds nothing that is really for
their good. Come what will, there is always a needs-be.
When they are placed in the furnace —
it is that they may be purified. When they are chastened —
it is that they may become more holy. When they are pruned —
it is to make them more fruitful. When they are transplanted from
place to place — it is that they may bloom more brightly. All
things are continually working
their good. Like the bee, they extract sweetness even out of the
bitterest flowers. Ah, reader, it is a blessed thing to be
Lord cares for His believing people in their deaths. Their times are
all in the Lord's hand. The hairs of
their heads are all numbered, and not one can ever fall to the
ground without their Father. They are kept on
earth until they are ripe and ready for glory — and not one
moment longer. When they have had sun and rain enough, wind and
storm enough, cold and heat enough — when the fruit is perfected
— then, and not until then, the sickle is put in. They are all immortal until
their work is done. There is not a disease that
can loosen the pins of their tabernacle — until the Lord gives
the word. A thousand may fall at their right hand — but there is
not a plague that
can touch them — until the Lord sees fit. There is not a
physician that can keep them alive — when the Lord gives the
word for them to depart. When they come to their death-bed, the
Everlasting Arms are round about them, and makes all their bed
in their sickness. When they die, they die like Moses —
according to the word of the Lord — at the right time, and in
the right way. And when they breathe their last, they fall
asleep in Christ, and are at once carried, like Lazarus, into
Ah, reader, it is a
blessed thing to be Christ's wheat! When the sun of other men is
setting — the sun of the believer is rising. When other men are
laying aside their honors, he is putting his on. Death locks the
door on the unbeliever — and shuts him out from hope. But death
opens the door to the believer — and lets him into Paradise!
the Lord will care for His believing people in the dreadful day
of His appearing. The
flaming fire shall not come near them. The voice of the
Archangel and the trumpet of God shall proclaim no terrors to
their ears. Sleeping or waking, living or dead, moldering in the
coffin, or standing at the post of daily duty — believers shall
be secure and
unmoved. They shall lift up their heads with joy, when they see
redemption drawing near. They shall be changed, and put on their
beautiful garments, in the twinkling of an eye. They shall be
caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Jesus will do nothing to
a sin-laden world — until all His people are safe.
There was an ark for
Noah when the flood began. There was a Zoar for
Lot when the fire fell on Sodom. There was a Pella for
early Christians when Jerusalem was besieged. There was a Zurich for
English Reformers when Popish Mary came to the throne. And there
will be a barn for
all the wheat of the earth in the last day. Ah, reader, it is a
blessed thing to be Christ's wheat!
I often wonder at the miserable faithlessness of
those among us who are believers. Next to the hardness of the
unconverted heart, I call it one
of the greatest wonders in the world. I
wonder that with such mighty reasons for confidence, we can
still be so full of doubts. I marvel, above all things, how any
can deny the doctrine that Christ's people persevere unto the
end, and can imagine that He who loved them so as to die for
them upon the cross — will ever let them be cast away! I cannot
think so. I do not believe the Lord Jesus will ever lose one of
His flock. He will not let Satan pluck away from Him — so much
as one sick lamb. He
will not allow one bone of
His mystical body to be broken. He will not allow one jewel to
fall from His crown. He and His bride have
been once joined in an everlasting covenant, and they shall
never never be put asunder!
The trophies won by earthly conquerors have
often been wrested from them, and carried off — but this shall
never be said of the trophies of Him who triumphed for us on the
cross. "My sheep," He says, "shall never perish."
(John 10:28.) I take my stand on that text. I know not how it
can be evaded. If words have any meaning, the perseverance of
Christ's people is there.
I do not believe when David had rescued the
lamb from the paws of the lion — that he left it weak and
wounded to perish in the wilderness. I cannot believe when the
Lord Jesus has delivered a soul from the snare of the devil —
that He will ever leave that soul to take his chance, and
wrestle on in his own feebleness against sin, the devil, and the
Reader, I would be sure, if you were present
at a shipwreck, and seeing some helpless child tossing on the
waves, were to plunge into the sea, and save him at the risk of
your own life — I would be sure you would not be content with
merely bringing that child safe to shore. You would not lay him
down when you had reached the land, and say, "I will do no more.
He is weak — he is insensible — he is cold — it matters not; I
have done enough. I have delivered him from the waters — he is
not drowned." You would not do this! You would not say so. You
would not treat that child in such a manner. You would lift him
in your arms. You would carry him to the nearest house. You
would try to bring back warmth and animation. You would use
every means to restore health and vigor. You would never leave
him until his recovery was a certain thing.
And can you suppose the Lord Jesus Christ is
less merciful, or less compassionate? Can you think He would
suffer on the cross and die for you, and yet leave it uncertain
whether you would be saved? Can you think He would wrestle with
death and Hell, and go down to the grave for our sakes — and yet
allow our eternal life to hang on such a thread as our poor
Oh, no! He does not do so. He is a perfect
and complete Savior. Those whom He loves — He loves unto the
end. Those whom He washes in His blood — He never leaves nor
forsakes. He puts His fear into their hearts — so that they
shall not depart from Him. Where He begins a work — there He
also finishes. All whom He transplants in His garden enclosed on
earth — He transplants sooner or later into His Heavenly
paradise. All whom He quickens by His Spirit — He will also
bring with Him when He enters His kingdom. There is a barn for every
grain of the
wheat. All shall appear in Heaven with God.
From false faith men
may fall — and fall both finally and foully. I never doubt this.
I see proof of it continually. From true grace — men never do
fall totally. They never did, and they never will. If they
commit sin, like Peter — they shall repent and rise again. If
they err from the right way, like David — they shall be brought
back. It is not any strength or power of their own which
keeps them from apostasy. They are kept because the power, and
love, and promises of the Trinity are all engaged on their side!
The election of
God the Father shall not be fruitless; the redemption and intercession of
God the Son shall not be ineffectual; the love of God the Spirit
shall not be labor in vain. The Lord shall keep the feet of His
saints. They shall all be more than conquerors through Him who
loved them. They shall all conquer, and none die eternally.
Reader, if you have not yet taken up the
cross and become Christ's disciple, you little know what privileges you
are missing. Peace with God now — and glory hereafter; the
Everlasting Arms to keep you along the way — and the barn of
safety in the end; all these are freely offered to you without
money and without price. You may say that Christians have tribulations —
you forget that they have also consolations.
You may say they have peculiar sorrows—
you forget they have also peculiar joys.
You see but half the
Christian life. You see not all. You see the warfare —
but not the food and the wages.
You see the tossing and conflict of the outward part of
Christianity — you see not the hidden treasures which lie deep
within. Like Elisha's servant, you see the enemies of God's
children — but you do not, like Elisha, see the chariots and
horses of fire which protect them. Oh, judge not by outward
appearances! Be sure that the least drop of
the water of life, is better than all the rivers of
the world. Remember the barn and
the crown! Be
wise in time.
Reader, if you feel that you are a weak
disciple, think not that weakness shuts
you out from any of the privileges of which I have been
speaking. Weakfaith is
true faith — and weak grace is
true grace; and both are the gift of Him who never gives in
vain. Fear not, neither be discouraged. Doubt not, neither
despair. Jesus will never break the bruised reed, nor quench the
smoking flax. The babes in
a family are as much loved and thought of as the elder brothers
and sisters. The tender seedlings in
a garden are as diligently looked after as the old trees. The lambs in
the flock are as carefully tended by the good shepherd as the
old sheep. Oh, rest assured it is just the same in Christ's family,
in Christ's garden,
in Christ's flock.
ALL are loved. All are tenderly thought of. All are cared for.
And all shall be found in His barn at last! Reader, think on
these things. Begin to meditate on my question this very day. Are
you wheat — or chaff?
me show you, in the last place, the
portion which remains for all who are not Christ's people.
The text at the beginning of this tract
describes this in words which should make our ears tingle —
Christ shall "burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
When the Lord Jesus Christ comes to purge His
threshing floor — He shall punish all
who are not His disciples with a fearful punishment. All who are
found impenitent and unbelieving — all who have held the truth
in unrighteousness — all who have clung to sin, stuck to the
world, and set their affection on things below — all who are
without Christ. All such shall come to an awful end! Christ
shall "burn up the chaff!"
punishment shall be most
is no pain like that of burning.
Put your finger in the candle flame for a moment, if you doubt
this, and try. Fire is the most destructive and devouring of
all elements. Look into the mouth of a blast furnace — and think
what it would be to be there. Fire is of all elements most
opposed to life. Creatures can live in air, and earth, and water
— but nothing can live in fire! Yet fire is the portion to which
the Christless and unbelieving will come. Christ will "burn up
the chaff with unquenchable fire!"
punishment shall be ETERNAL. Millions
of ages shall pass away, and the fire into which the chaff is
cast, shall still burn
on. That fire
shall never burn low and become dim. The fuel of
that fire shall never waste away and be consumed. It is
Oh, reader, these are sad and painful things
to speak of! I have no pleasure in dwelling on them. I could
rather say with the apostle Paul, "I have great sorrow." But
they are things written for our learning, and it is good to
consider them. They are a part of that Scripture which is all
profitable, and they ought to be heard. As painful as the
subject of Hell is
— it is one about which I dare not, cannot, must not be silent.
Who would desire to speak of Hell-fire — if God had not spoken
of it? When God has spoken of it so plainly — who can safely
hold his peace?
I dare not shut my eyes to the fact, that a
deep-rooted infidelity lurks in men's minds on the subject of
Hell. I see it oozing out in the utter apathy of
some — they eat, and drink, and sleep — as if there was no wrath
to come! I see it creeping forth in the coldness of others about
their neighbors' souls — they show little concern to pluck brands from
the fire. I desire to denounce such infidelity with all my
might. Believing that there are terrors
of the Lord, as well as the recompense of reward — I call
upon all who profess to believe the Bible, to be on their guard.
I know that some do not believe there is any
Hell at all. They think it impossible there can be such a place.
They call it inconsistent with the mercy of God. They say it is
too dreadful an idea to be really true. The devil of course
rejoices in the views of such people. They help his kingdom
mightily. They are preaching up his favorite old doctrine, "You
shall not surely die!"
I know furthermore, that some do not believe
that Hell is eternal.
They tell us it is incredible that a compassionate God will
punish men forever.
He will surely open the prison-doors at last. This also is a
mighty help to the devil's cause. "Take your ease," he whispers
to sinners — "if you do make a mistake, never mind, it is not forever."
I know also that some believe that there is a
Hell — but never allow that anybody is going there! All people
with them are 'good' as soon as they die — all were sincere —
all meant well —
and all, they hope, got to Heaven. Alas, what a common delusion is
this! I can well understand the feeling of the little girl who
asked her mother where all the wicked people
were buried, "for she found no mention on the gravestones of any
except the good."
And I know very well that some believe there
is a Hell — but never like it to be spoken of. It is a subject
that should always be kept back. They see no profit in bringing
it forward, and are rather shocked when it is mentioned. This
also is an immense help to the devil. "Hush, hush!" says Satan,
"say nothing about Hell." The fowler wishes to hear no noise
when he lays his snare.
The wolf would like the shepherd to sleep while
he prowls round the fold. Just so, the devil rejoices when
Christians are silent about
Reader, all these notions are the opinions
of man. What is it to you and I — what man thinks
in religion? Man will not judge us at the last day. Man'sfancies and traditions are
not to be our guide in this life. There is but one point to be
settled — "What says the Word of God?"
Do you believe the
Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell
is real and true. It is as
true as Heaven — as true as justification by faith — as true as
the fact that Christ died upon the cross. There is not a fact or
doctrine which you may not lawfully doubt — if you doubt Hell.
Disbelieve Hell — and you unscrew, unsettle, and unpin
everything in Scripture! You may as well throw your Bible away
at once. From "no Hell" to "no God" there is but a series of steps.
Do you believe the
Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell
will have inhabitants. The
wicked shall certainly be turned into Hell, and all the people
that forget God. These shall go away into everlasting punishment.
The same blessed Savior who now sits on a throne of grace,
will one day sit on a throne of judgment —
and men will see there is such a thing as "the wrath of the
Lamb!" The same lips which now say "Come — come unto Me," will
one day say "Depart from Me, you who are cursed!" Alas, how
awful the thought of being condemned by Christ Himself — judged
by the Savior; sentenced to eternally misery — by the Lamb!
Do you believe the
Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell
will be intense and unutterable woe.
It is vain to talk of all the expressions about being only figures
of speech. The pit, the prison, the worm, the fire, the
thirst, the blackness, the darkness, the weeping, the gnashing
of teeth, the second death — all these may be figures of speech
if you please. But Bible figures mean something,
beyond all question — and here they mean something which man's
mind can never fully conceive. Oh, reader, the miseries of
mind and conscience, are far worse than those of the body! The
whole extent of Hell, the present suffering, the bitter
recollection of the past, the hopeless prospect of the future —
will never be thoroughly known, except by those who go there!
Do you believe the
Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell
is eternal. It must be
eternal, or words have no meaning at all. Forever and ever;
everlasting; unquenchable; never-dying — all these are
expressions used about Hell, and expressions that cannot be explained away.
It must be eternal, or the very foundations of Heaven are cast
down. If Hell has an end — then Heaven has an end too. They both
stand or fall together. It must be, or else every doctrine of
the Gospel is undermined. If a man may escape Hell at length
without faith in Christ, or sanctification of the Spirit — then
sin is no longer an infinite evil, and there was no such great
need for Christ making an atonement.
And where is there
warrant for saying that Hell can ever change a heart, or make it
fit for Heaven? Hell must be eternal, or Hell would cease to be
Hell altogether. Give a man hope —
and he will bear anything. Grant a hope of deliverance, however
distant — and Hell is but a drop of water. Ah, reader, these are
FOREVER is the most
solemn word in the Bible! Alas,
for that day which
shall have no tomorrow! That day when men shall seek death, and
not find it, and shall desire to die — but death shall flee from
them! Who shall dwell with devouring fire! Who shall dwell with
Do you believe the
Bible? Then depend upon it, Hell
is a subject that ought not to be kept back.
It is striking to observe the many texts about it in Scripture.
It is striking to observe that none say so much about it as our
Lord Jesus Christ, that gracious and merciful Savior; and the
apostle John, whose heart seems full of love. Truly it may well
be doubted whether we ministers speak of it as much as we ought.
I cannot forget the words of a dying hearer of Mr. Newton's —
"Sir, you often told me of Christ and salvation; why did you not
oftener remind me of Hell and danger?"
Let others be silent about Hell if they will
— I dare not do so. I see it plainly in Scripture, and I must
speak of it. I fear that thousands are on that broad
way that leads to
it, and I would sincerely arouse them to a sense of the peril before
them. What would you say of the man who saw his neighbor's house
in danger of being burnt down — and never raised the cry of
"Fire!" What ought to be said of us as ministers, if we call
ourselves watchmen for souls, and yet see the fires of Hell
raging in the distance — and never give the alarm? Call it bad taste,
if you like, to speak of Hell. Call it charity to
make things pleasant, and speak smoothly, and soothe men with
constant lullaby of peace. From such notions of taste and charity
— may I ever be
delivered! My notion of charity is
to warn men plainly of danger! My notion of taste in
the ministerial office, is to declare all the counsel of God. If
I never spoke of Hell — I would think I had kept back something
that was profitable — and would look on myself as an
accomplice of the devil.
Reader, I beseech you, in all tender
affection, beware of false views of the subject on which I have
been dwelling. Beware of new and strange doctrines about Hell
and the eternity of
punishment. Beware of manufacturing
a God of your
own: a God who is all mercy — but not just; a God who is all
love — but not holy; a God who has a Heaven for everybody — but
a Hell for none; a God who can allow good and evil to be side by
side in time — but will make no distinction between
good and evil in eternity. Such a God is an idol
of your own imagination! It
is as true an idol as
any snake or crocodile in an Egyptian temple — as true an idol
as was ever molded out of brass or clay! The hands of your own imagination and sentimentality have
made him. He is not the God of the Bible — and beside the God of
the Bible — there is no God at all. Your Heaven would
be no Heaven at all. A Heaven containing all sorts of sinful
people, would be miserable discord indeed. Alas, for the eternity of
such a Heaven! There would be little difference between it and
Hell! Ah, reader, there is a Hell! There is a fire for
the chaff! Take heed, lest you find it out to your cost too
Beware of being wise above that which is
written. Beware of forming fanciful theories of your own, and
then trying to make the Bible square with them. Beware of making
selections from your Bible to suit your taste — refusing, like a
spoiled child, whatever you think bitter — seizing, like a
spoiled child, whatever you think sweet. What is all this but
taking Jehoiakim's penknife? What
does it amount to but telling God, that you, a poor short-lived
worm — know better than He? It will not do! It will not do. You
must take the Bible as it is. You must read it all, and believe
it all. You must come to the reading of it in the spirit of a
little child. Dare not to say, "I believe this verse,
for I like it. I reject that,
for I do not like it. I receive this,
for I can agree with it. I refuse that,
for I cannot reconcile it with my views." Nay! but O man, who
are you that replies against God? By what right do you talk in
this way? Surely it were better to say over every chapter in the
Word, "Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening!" Ah, reader,
if men would do this, they would never deny Hell, the chaff,
and the fire!
Think on these things once more. Meditate upon them. Remember my
question, "Are you wheat — or chaff?"
I have shown you the two
great classes of mankind —
the wheat and the chaff.
I have shown you the separation which
will one day take place.
I have shown you the safety
of the Lord's people.
I have shown you the fearful
portion of the Christless and
I commend these things
to your conscience, as in the sight of God. And now, reader, let
me say four things in CONCLUSION,
and then I am done.
1. Settle it down in your mind, that the
things of which I have been speaking are all
real and true.
I do believe that many never see the great
truths of religion in this light. I firmly believe that many
never listen to the things they hear from ministers as
realities. They regard it all, like Gallio, as a matter of names
and words, and nothing more — a huge shadow — a religious
play-acting — a vast sham! Macaulay's History of England,
Dicken's last Novel, the latest news from France, India,
Australia, California, or New York — all these are things they
realize. They feel interested and excited about them. But as to
the Bible, and Heaven, and the kingdom of Christ, and the
judgment day — these are subjects that they hear unmoved. They
do not really believe
Reader, if you have unhappily got into this
frame of mind, I charge you to cast it off forever. Whether you
mean to hear or forbear, awaken to a thorough conviction that
the things I have brought before you are real and true. The wheat,
the chaff, the separation,
the barn, the fire —
all these are great realities; as real as the sun in in the sky
— as real as the paper which your eyes behold. For my part, I
believe in Heaven — and I believe in Hell. I believe in a coming
judgment. I believe in a day of sifting.
I am not ashamed to say so. I believe them all, and therefore I
write as I do. Oh, reader, take a friend's advice, live as
if these things were true!
Settle it down in your mind, that the things of which I write concern
are your business, your affair, and your concern. Many, I am am
sure, never look on religion as a matter that concerns themselves.
They attend on its outward part,
as a decent and proper fashion.
They hear sermons. They read religious books. They have their
children christened. But all the time they never ask themselves,
"What is all this to me?"
They sit in our churches like spectators in
a theater, or court of law. They read our writings as if they
were reading a report of an interesting trial, or of some event
far away. But they do not say to themselves, "I
am the man!"
Reader, if you have this kind of feeling,
depend upon it — it will never do. There must be an end of all
this, if ever you are to be saved. You are
the man I write to, whoever you may be who reads these pages. I
write not specially to the rich. I write not specially to the
poor. I write to everybody who will read, whatever his rank may
be. It is on your soul's account that I am pleading, and not
another's. You are spoken of in the text that begins this tract.
You are this very day either among the wheat — or among the
chaff. Your portion will one day either be the barn — or the
fire. Oh, that men were wise, and would lay these things to
heart! Oh, that they would not trifle, dally, linger, live on as half-and-half Christians,
meaning well — but never acting boldly, and at last awake when
it is too late!
3. Settle it down in your mind, that if you
are willing to be one of the wheat of the earth —
the Lord Jesus Christ is willing to receive you.
Does any man suppose that Jesus is not
willing to see His barn filled? Do you think He does not desire
to bring many sons to glory? Oh, you little know the depth of
His mercy and compassion — if you can think such a thought! He
wept over unbelieving Jerusalem. He mourns over the impenitent
and the thoughtless in the present day. He sends you invitations
by my mouth this hour. He invites you to hear and live, to
forsake the way of the foolish, and to go in the paths of
understanding. "As I live," He says, "I have no pleasure in the
death of him who dies. Turn! Turn! Why will you die?"
Oh, reader, if you never came to Christ for
eternal life before — come to Him this very day! Come to Him
with the penitent's prayer for mercy and grace. Come to Him
without delay. Come to Him while the subject of these pages is
still fresh on your mind. Come to Him before another sun rises
on the earth, and let the morning find you a new creature.
If you are determined to have the
world, and the things of the world — its pleasures and its
rewards — its follies and its sins — if you must have your own
way, and cannot give up anything for Christ and your soul — if
this is your case, there is but one end before you. I fairly warn you,
I plainly tell you— you will sooner or later come to the
But if any man is willing to be saved, the
Lord Jesus Christ stands ready to save him. "Come unto Me," He
says, "weary soul — and I will give you rest. Come, guilty and
sinful soul — and I will give you free pardon. Come, lost and
ruined soul — and I will give you eternal life."
Oh, reader, let this message be a word in
season. Arise and call upon the Lord! Let the angels of God
rejoice over one more saved soul. Let the courts of Heaven hear
the good tidings that one more lost
sheep is found!
4. Settle it down in your mind, that
if you have committed your soul to Christ — Christ
will never allow that soul to perish.
Arms are round
about you. Lean back in them, and know your safety. The same hand that
was nailed to the cross — is holding you! The same wisdom that
framed the Heavens and the earth — is engaged to maintain your
cause. The same power that
saved Israel from Egyptian bondage — is on your side. The same love that
bore with and carried Israel from Egypt to Canaan — is pledged
to keep you. Ah, reader, they are well kept — whom Christ keeps!
Our faith may repose calmly on such a bed,
Take comfort, doubting believer. Why are you
cast down? The love of
Jesus is no summer-day fountain — no man ever yet saw its
bottom. The compassion of
Jesus is a fire that never yet burned low; the cold, grey ashes
of that fire have never yet been seen. Take comfort. In your heart you
may find little cause for rejoicing — but you may always rejoice
in the Lord.
You say that your faith
is so small. But
where is it said that none shall be saved except their faith is
great? And after all, "Who gave you any faith at all?" The very
fact that you have any faith, is a token for good.
You say that your sins
are so many. But
where is the sin, or heap of sins — which the blood of Jesus
cannot wash away? And after all, "Who told you you had any sins?
That feeling never came from yourself." Blessed indeed is that
one, who really knows and feels that he is a sinner.
Take comfort, I say once more, if you have
really come to Christ. Take comfort, and know your privileges.
Cast every care on
Jesus. Tell every need to
Jesus. Roll every burden on
Jesus — your sins, unbelief, doubts, fears, anxieties — lay them
all on Christ! He loves to see you doing so. He loves to be
employed as your High Priest. He loves to be trusted. He loves
to see His people ceasing from the vain effort to carry their
burdens for themselves.
I commend these things to your notice. Only
be among Christ's wheat now
— and then, in the great day of separation,
as sure as the Bible is true — you shall be in Christ's barn forever!