by Sam Jones
(About the author: Samuel Porter Jones was born in 1847 in Chambers County, Alabama. His father, a lawyer, prepared his son for the legal profession, which he entered in early manhood. However, liquor swept him into the depths of debauchery, despite all efforts of his family. Finally, confronted with death at his father's deathbed, Sam cried out for mercy, saying "I'll quit, I'll quit! God be merciful to me, a sinner!"
Immediately following his conversion, he was called by God to preach, and at once applied to the Methodist Episcopal Church for a license to preach and admission to the traveling ministry. Beginning in 1872, he served several preaching circuits in Georgia, during which he gradually began holding evangelistic meetings. His flair for blunt, controversial messages and homespun language brought him large audiences and led to sweeping revivals through the South and beyond. As liquor had been a major stumbling-block for him, it became a favorite target of his sermons. He died in 1906.)
This is a wonderful old book we preachers take our texts from. In the Book of Genesis we read of the creation of the world and the origin of man. God devotes one book to tell me of my origin, and the thousand chapters that follow tell me where I am going. We spend an hour here today on the pathway to the grave. This text belongs legitimately to the conclusion of the sermon. Which is the answer to a question I want to ask you. I want first to ask the question, and I want us to try to answer that question, and then we will let God answer this question; for we ought to be willing that God would answer all questions that pertain to life and salvation.
The question is this: "Why will you continue in sin?" I don't ask why you have come out to this service a sinner. The question plainly stated is not, "Should you remain in sin?" or, "How you are a sinner?" but, "Why will you leave here an impenitent sinner?" And we narrow the question down a little, and we put it in this shape: "Why will you?" I don't mean the one behind you, nor the one in front of you. I mean you. God bless you! This is a very personal matter.
You can't get anybody to die for you; and can't get anybody to stand in your stead on the Day of Judgment and be damned for you. You stand in your own shoes, as if you are the only individual that ever violated a law of God. This is preiminently a personal matter, and we ask you, "Why will you continue in sin another day, another hour, another week?"
Is it because you are ignorant as to the nature of sin? Does any man in this congregation give me as his reason for living today in sin and living on in sin, because he doesn't know what sin is? The world stands convicted at this point.
You let a member of the church do wrong, and you are the first one to see it. You let my foot slip, and you are the first man to see it and talk about it, and your criticisms upon the life of the Christian people are an everlasting demonstration that you know what right is and that you know what wrong is. You know there is a vast difference between the way we look at men in church and out of church. Here is the difference between a member of the church and a man out of church: The member of the church is a white piece of canvas, and if any thing is sprinkled upon him it makes a spot easy to discern. But that old sinner is a black, dingy piece of canvas, and you can just take any thing and rub on him, and it doesn't show at all.
You let me go into a barroom and take a drink of whiskey, and it is wired all over the country, and read in every newspaper at the breakfast table tomorrow morning. You go in and take a drink every morning and nobody notices you. This is the difference between a gentleman and a vagabond. You let me go out on the streets and profane the name of God, and it is flashed across the world, "Jones is in the city, swearing." You can swear every day. Nobody notices you. Nobody expects any better of you for it. That is the difference between a gentleman and a vagabond. I thank God. No gentleman will profane the name of God, and whatever else you lack, I am sorry to say that many of you come that much short of being a gentleman.
Then is there any man that says, "The reason I live in sin is because I don't know what the consequences of a sinful life are"? I know, forsooth, because this nineteenth century is wicked, there is a hell. I heard a minister say once, "that science is going to demonstrate that there is no hell." Said I, "when the delegation comes back I want to be on hand when they report." Science knows as little about hell, and what is in hell, as science knows about the birthplace of God. The biggest fool I know is that fool who gets into the biggest, broadest way to hell, and stops by the way and tries to persuade men there is no hell. The biggest fool is the man who spends his probationary existence in arguing that there is no hell, and then lies down in hell forever, realizing that there is one. You poor dunce, what do you know of what is down there? Did you ever attend a Universalist meeting? I was at a Universalist meeting one day, and that day all the red-nosed drunkards and gamblers and rascals of the town had the front seats and amen corners. All I want to know of a preacher is, who has got the amen corners?
God pity you living in sin. What is to become of you? Let this Book speak out, and this is the only book that says any thing of the other side of the tomb. I will keep to this Book until you find us something better, for this book says that "the wicked shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God." I believe in a bottomless hell, and I believe that the wicked shall be turned into hell. I do believe that the righteous have hope after death, and eternal life is the legitimate end of a good man. I mean to say that God will not punish a single person except he fly in the face of the required law laid down on every page of this book. And if you will tell me how long sin will last, I will tell you how long hell will last.
"It is not because I am ignorant of the nature or consequences of sin that I continue in it," may be your reply to my question. Then what is it? Are you indifferent to the results? O, how many men meet truth without a tremor in their muscles. When a man reaches this point, when you can't move him with truth, he is immovable.
You say, "I know what preachers think of me, and neighbors think of me as indifferent, but down in my heart I think and feel more than anybody has discovered. I have gone home from church with my Christian wife, her arm in mine, and I have heard my soul beat with conviction, but I would never have my wife hear it. No, sir; it is not indifference. I look as if I were, but I am not."
Then we ask, Is it recklessness? Is it because you know the truth and will dare the truth? Is it that? Recklessness is a poor thing in any world. O, how reckless some men are.
You say, "I know wrong is wrong, but I won't heed it. I curse publicly. I drink openly. I sin with a high hand." God pity you! If I were going to sin I would crawl off in some dark corner and never let my example be seen to lead on any others. How reckless poor humanity is at times concerning the truth! It hurries on to the edge of the precipice, and stands and shudders but a moment, then makes a leap, from which there is no recovering forever.
"No, sir, it is not recklessness!"
Then I ask: Is it because you are satisfied in your present condition? Thank God, no man was ever satisfied with himself as a sinner. Twenty-five years of the gall of bitterness and the bonds of iniquity have persuaded me that no man would ever be satisfied with himself as a sinner. Like the rough sea, you have no rest. You are devoid of peace within your breast. Thank God, he will not let a sinner lie down and sleep on his way to hell.
"No, sir, I am not satisfied with myself."
Then we will ask again, is it because of your lack of consideration? I know sometimes a man will look at a thing and then look off. Do you know what barrooms are for, and billiard tables, and cards? They are tricks of the devil to keep your mind off of yourself. Sometimes men get conviction of the Divine Spirit and they will go and dance it off; drink and swear and gamble it off. God pity a man who has convictions and will dance and curse them away.
"It is not because I am satisfied with my present condition. It is not because I won't think. I have thought, but doubts arise about these things."
Is it because you are leading a sort of compromise life? Do you say, I am going to be religious after a while? There is not a lost spirit in hell that has not said the same thing. You are going to be religious tomorrow. All that is within you, between you and eternal despair, is your heart that beats, and if that heart stops beating you are gone forever. "No," you say, "it is not because I am leading a compromise life."
Is it because a spiritual apathy has taken possession of you? O, how men sleep over their eternal interests! A man sleeping on the edge of a precipice, and he may go over forever! The wife of Mr. Rodgers, of Marietta, Georgia, was indisposed one morning. He sent a servant down the street for quinine, and when he returned with it, his wife took the prescription, mixed it and swallowed it. She then went to the door and said, "Husband, that was not quinine I took just now." He ran hurriedly to the drug store. "What is that you sent my wife?" And the doctor answered, "I have sent enough morphine to your house to kill a dozen person. I did it by mistake."
He ran back and got another physician and they went to his house and commenced to administer emetics. A death-like stupor came over her, and she turned to her husband and said: "Please, let me go to sleep." "Oh, no, if you go to sleep you will not awaken this side of eternity." They walked her up and down the floor, threw cold water on her face and continued to administer emetics. Again the death-like stupor seized her and she said: "Please, let me go to sleep five minutes." "Oh, wife, if you sleep five minutes you will never waken again." And they worked and wearied until four hours passed away, and then the doctor said, "Now we have saved her."
I have seen thousands with that death-like stupor upon them, and they say, "Just let me sleep these last precious verses through," and as the last note dies away they are asleep and when they awake they will open their eyes in hell. God pity a man that will sleep his eternal interest away.
In Ecclesiastes, chapter eight, eleventh verse, is the logic of damnation. Because sentences are not speedily executed; because justice does not crush you down immediately, are you to go on to ruin?
Don't put it off any longer, until you are gray-headed. Choose you this day whom you will serve.