And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
~ Matthew 24:3
Also, thou son of man, thus saith the Lord GOD unto the land of Israel; An end, the end is come upon the four corners of the land. Now is the end come upon thee, and I will send mine anger upon thee, and will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense upon thee all thine abominations. And mine eye shall not spare thee, neither will I have pity: but I will recompense thy ways upon thee, and thine abominations shall be in the midst of thee: and ye shall know that I am the LORD. Thus saith the Lord GOD; An evil, an only evil, behold, is come. An end is come, the end is come: it watcheth for thee; behold, it is come. The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near, and not the sounding again of the mountains. Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee, and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations. And mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity: I will recompense thee according to thy ways and thine abominations that are in the midst of thee; and ye shall know that I am the LORD that smiteth. Behold the day, behold, it is come: the morning is gone forth; the rod hath blossomed, pride hath budded. Violence is risen up into a rod of wickedness: none of them shall remain, nor of their multitude, nor of any of theirs: neither shall there be wailing for them. The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. For the seller shall not return to that which is sold, although they were yet alive: for the vision is touching the whole multitude thereof, which shall not return; neither shall any strengthen himself in the iniquity of his life. They have blown the trumpet, even to make all ready; but none goeth to the battle: for my wrath is upon all the multitude thereof.
~ Ezekiel 7:2-14
For yet a little while, and he that shall come will come, and will not tarry. Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door.
~ Hebrews 10:37, James 5:9
But the end of all things is at hand: be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer.
~ 1 Peter 4:7
Tokens of Perdition, by Edward Griffin.
Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
—Mat. xxiv. 32, 33
Our Saviour had been foretelling the signs which should precede his coming in the destruction of Jerusalem and his coming at the end of the world. As the tender branch and early leaves of the fig tree betoken the approach of summer, so these predicted harbingers would betoken, in their seasons, the judgment upon Jerusalem and the judgment of the great day. Corresponding with these two judgments are two which every wicked man must meet; one at death and the other at the second coming of Christ: and corresponding with these signs are the symptoms which are found on individual sinners of these approaching judgments. There are certain appearances in relation to particular men which may be plainly set down as Tokens of Perdition; which as manifestly forebode destruction as early fig leaves foretell approaching summer. The summer may be prevented by a special interposition of God, and so may this destruction.
In general it may be observed that a state of impenitence and unbelief is a portentous symptom of approaching ruin; much in the same way that the condemnation and imprisonment of a criminal are signs of his approaching execution. Every unbeliever is now under sentence of death, and is imprisoned in the body to await the day of execution. “He that believeth not is condemned already.” This, one would think, is a state sufficiently alarming to rouse every impenitent sinner not actually distracted. But there are still more fearful symptoms, which may be emphatically styled The Tokens of Perdition. Some of these I will endeavour to select and arrange. And O may that Spirit whose province it is to convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment, apply them to your hearts! The day of judgment is before us all, —is just at the door. We shall soon be translated from earthly temples to one of the two great apartments of eternity. Everlasting ages of happiness or misery are before us all. And while our destiny lingers, we are permitted to meet once more in the house of God, to confer together on these amazing revolutions of ages. We are met in an assembly which will be reviewed from that world with unspeakable interest after yonder sun has ceased to shine. By all the anxiety of one who must shortly meet you at the bar of Christ,–by all the tenderness of a pastor who wishes to spend eternal years with you in love and happiness, I entreat you to lend me your whole attention.
The first token of perdition which I shall mention is vicious habits; such as profane swearing, drunkenness, uncleanness, associating with loose company and the like. This is the broad road to perdition. These habits bespeak one already far advanced in the course to ruin. They prove a conscience seared as with a hot iron. They are alarming symptoms of a soul abandoned of God. They are the most perfect process that could be invented to harden the heart and to grieve the spirit away forever. They remove the sinner to the greatest possible distance from all the means instituted for his salvation. They betoken a rapid approach to that moment when the measure of his iniquity shall be full, and are every hour bringing him more directly under that fearful sentence, The wicked “shall not live out half their days.” They are the best chosen means to provoke the wrath of heaven, and to seal and hasten and aggravate the sinner’s ruin. That is a course from which few return. It is rare that a person settled in these habits gives evidence of becoming a real christian. Where one does this, millions proceed from bad to worse until they plunge into eternal death. The commencement of such a course therefore, shows as strong a probability of perdition, as the commencement of a consumption does of death. They are gone, eternally gone, unless they are plucked as brands from the burning.
The next token of perdition which I shall mention is a resort to infidelity or universalism to relieve the mind from presentiments of a judgment to come. None are capable of thus running away from the light of truth and taking shelter in impenetrable darkness, but those who for the present are abandoned of God. We read of some who are given over to a “strong delusion” to “believe a lie that they” may “be damned.” Such a plunge into darkness shows a resolute determination to hide one’s self from the light. And when men have thus immured themselves in cells which exclude the light of heaven, no motives to seek salvation can reach them. Now and then one of their number is reclaimed by the invincible grace of God; but by far the greater part, (judging from the outward indications of character,) die in their sins. The first approach to these cardinal errors therefore, betrays as violent symptoms of eternal destruction, as the first attack of a raging fever does of approaching death. Much the same may be said of a denial of the proper divinity of Christ, and a denial of total depravity and regeneration. These, as they tend with all their influence to prevent a change of heart and faith in a divine Redeemer, tend as directly to destruction as a determined abstinence from food does to death. The next token of perdition which I shall mention is that display of character which betrays a false hope and a false profession. I believe there is no instance recorded in the Bible of a sinner’s being rescued from a false hope, unless it was founded on the belief of a false religion. In the short period which I have had to make my observations, I recollect very few instances of persons apparently renewed after they had settled down for years upon a false hope, and with that hope had joined the church.
Indeed I remember but one. We read of tares; we read of foolish virgins; but we never read of their conversion. A false hope, fortified by a false profession, is the most effectual battery against the artillery of the Gospel. The truths of the divine word are turned off to others. Speaking after the manner of men, I would rather undertake to convince ten infidels, than to demolish one false hope intrenched behind the pale of the Church. It is easy to shake the hope of the humble christian, who has learned the deceitfulness of his own heart, and is always prone to distrust himself; but to tear away the confidence of one who, instead of making God his hope, makes hope his god, this is a task too mighty for an arm of flesh. A thousand to one that hypocrites in the Church will die hypocrites still. This being the case, every display of character which bespeaks a false hope and a false profession must be numbered among the strong tokens of perdition; such as hatred of the truth; hatred of pungent, searching, soul-humbling preaching; unwillingness to see displayed those parts of the divine character and government which are most grating to the carnal heart; a proud, worldly spirit, that refuses to come out from the world and take up the cross and lean on God, and in religious intercourse, to adopt the simplicity and humility of a little child. All these, when found predominant in a profession, must be put down as strong tokens of perdition.
Another token of perdition is the approach of age without religion. So far as man can judge by outward conduct and professions, collected and compared from generation to generation, we have reason to believe that the greater part of the elect are called in under the age of twenty, and that few are called in after the middle of life, and next to none in advanced age. As then a man approaches to thirty, and reaches on to forty in an unregenerated state, the tokens of perdition are thickening upon him every year; and by the time he has arrived at fifty, they are as thick as the hairs of his head. In estimating the chances of one who has reached the middle of life in a state of unregeneracy, we must ask what proportion of the last generation who had lived to that age in sin, ever gave evidence of being born again. Did one in ten? Did one in fifty? Did one in a hundred? These questions, fairly examined, would disclose dangers clustering around fifty, around forty, and even around thirty, which I am afraid to number: but should they be numbered by a messenger from heaven, every sinner in the middle of life would, I believe, start and tremble little less than at the judgment of the great day.
Another token of perdition is a state of carnal security. If men were asleep in a burning house and all attempts to awaken them had failed, you would think them violently exposed. When you see men lying under a sentence of death, of death eternal, —wafted on to judgment by the silent tide of time, and fast asleep, what can you expect for them but inevitable destruction? By far the greater part of those who in past ages were caught in this state of slumber, apparently never awoke till they awoke in eternity. From all we see around us, we know that the longer they sleep the sounder they sleep. The man therefore who is now sunk in carnal security, is much more likely to sink lower and lower till he dies, than ever to awake. At least there is not a single symptom in his favour. We know it is God’s method, when he intends to bring a sinner home, first to rouse him to anxious exertion. But this man shows no sign of such an influence upon him. God has gone to others and let him alone, and has given no intimation that he will ever return to him. There is not one symptom that this man is ever to be saved. Other men take the kingdom of heaven by violence, but this man is fast asleep. So much is to be done and he has never yet roused to his work. When is this mighty task to be performed! When are the world, the flesh, and the devil to be subdued 2 Months and years are passing away, and the man has never yet begun his work. Death and judgment are at the door, and the man is fast asleep, and is sinking deeper and deeper in slumber. If this is not a token of perdition, where will you find one this side of perdition itself?
Connected with this are two or three other to kens worthy of a distinct enumeration. Among these may be reckoned a satisfaction with worldly good, a resting in the creature for enjoyment, a contentment with the world for a portion. No sooner had the rich worldling said, “Soul, take thine ease; thou hast much goods laid up for many years;” than the word came, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee.” Another of these symptoms is a loose and presumptuous confidence in God’s mercy: not the confidence of a universalist, but a sort of general, indefinite reliance on divine mercy which shields the soul from fear while slumbering over its guilt. This is one of those strong links which bind the soul to death. Another of these symptoms is an increase in hardness as men increase in years. When men find that they can attend funerals and hear sermons with less solemnity than they formerly did, that they can neglect duty with less compunction,-they may write it down that they have spent all their lives in growing more and more ripe for ruin. And what can be a more fearful token of perdition?
Another token of perdition is the profanation of the sabbath and the neglect of the means of grace. The profanation of the sabbath in its more flagrant forms, might indeed have been numbered among those vicious habits which form the very vestibule of perdition. No one vice is more destructive; uniting in it the sin of high-handed disobedience, and the folly of casting away all the means of salvation. The men who wholly neglect the sanctuary and spend the day in riding or in sports, are about as far gone on the road to perdition as the culprits in your dungeons. But there is a class of more decent people, who, though not so certainly lost, still bear upon them this token of perdition. The solemn consecration of all the hours of the sabbath to hearing, reading, meditation, and prayer, comprehends the use of the greater part of the means of salvation; and if this part is omitted the rest will mostly be neglected. And if means are neglected, the soul will be lost. If means are not generally and solemnly and thoroughly used, it is in vain to appear now and then in the house of God; the soul must still be lost. Those then who attend at the hours of public worship, but spend the rest of the day in reading newspapers, talking about the world, making visits or posting their books, bear about them evident tokens of perdition. They show that their attendance in the sanctuary had no influence on their minds, and that they are at least as bad as though they had staid at home. Those also who visit the house of God but once a day, and spend the rest of the time in sleep or amusements or in doing nothing, bear still more evident tokens of perdition. Their absence in the afternoon proves that the morning attendance did them no good, and that they are in no better but in a worse case than those who have no means at all. Not widely different are the remarks to be made on those who come to the house of God to sleep. Two observations will comprehend the circumstances of their case. The first is, that they show full well that means have hitherto done them no good. The second is, that means are never likely to benefit them in future. If ever the arrows of truth reach their hearts, it is likely to be in the sanctuary: but how can the arrows of truth reach them while they sleep? The hours which they spend in the house of God may be called the crisis of their fate; and that crisis they sleep away. Good men may have occasional infirmities of this nature, but I speak of those who have formed this indecency into a habit, and as regularly sleep as they appear in the sanctuary. I have attempted to look on all sides of the position I am about to advance, and I utter it with the most serious deliberation: these people must break this habit or lose their souls. The habit then, while it lasts, is a fearful token of perdition.
There is one token which falls under this general class to which I wish to draw your particular attention. I mean the neglect of prayer. Who does not see that this is the direct course to perdition? Since the days of Adam, who that could pronounce the name of God ever went to heaven without prayer? Who can think of receiving eternal life if he will not so much as ask for it? Who can think himself prepared to enjoy the presence of God, while driven from prayer by aversion to that very presence? Who can expect to receive an infinite gift from that God whom he thus hates and disobeys? Continuing thus, he is lost as sure as there is a God in heaven. The man then who neglects prayer, is covered from head to foot with the tokens of perdition.
Another token of perdition is a contention against the truth and a demand of the prophets to prophesy smooth things. If there is any thing which can instrumentally save lost sinners, it is the plain simple truth as it lies in God’s word, without varnish or disguise. If men will not allow this to be presented to them in all its length and breadth, they will not allow themselves to be saved. They lock in its scabbard the only sword that can pierce their hearts. They refuse to be approached with the only antidote to the poison which corrodes their veins. If they can succeed; if they can convince ministers that it is better to obey men than God; if they can find preachers more influenced by selfishness than pity; then indeed they will have their desire and inherit the death they seek. At any rate this is a most portentous symptom. When the disheartened patient refuses to take medicine, or anything but poison, why he must die. When men firmly resolve that they will not have the whole naked truth, and authoritatively demand smoother things, it looks like a desperate purpose; it looks like a determination to take the plunge. It bears upon its forehead the broad, burnished mark of perdition.
Another token of perdition is the rejection of many calls. It has been said from heaven, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man;” and, “He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.” The man then who has long sat under the sound of the Gospel without obeying the truth, bears about him an evident token of perdition. The man who has often been called by affliction, and still holds out against God, shows an evident token of perdition. . But of all men, the man who in former months or years was awakened by the divine Spirit and has relapsed into stupidity, bears the strongest token of perdition. For I read, “It is impossible for those who were once enlightened,—and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the world to come, if they shall fall away, to renew them again unto repentance.” “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation which shall devour the adversaries.” Before he received that special call, me thinks a voice said, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none; cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground!” And another voice said, “Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it and dung it; and if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” That experiment was made; that special cultivation was applied in the very motions of the Spirit which he resisted; and now perhaps he is sealed over, like the fig tree by the way side, to perpetual barrenness, and left to grow drier and drier to feed a fiercer flame; resigned by mercy itself into the hands of justice, with this sentence, “Then—thou shalt cut it down.” Of all men this man bears the strongest marks of being abandoned to perdition. Although I have enumerated these tokens distinctly, I am aware that in many instances they cluster. Half a dozen of them may be found on the same man; all may be found on some. Let us see how many of them my impenitent hearers can find upon themselves. Vicious habits, lingering notions of infidelity or universalism or other soothing errors, indications of false hopes and false professions,—unsanctified age, carnal security,–a satisfaction with worldly good, a loose, presumptuous confidence in divine mercy, increasing hardness, profanation of the Sabbath, neglect of God’s house or attendance half a day, sleeping at church,-neglect of prayer, contention against the truth and a demand for smooth preaching, the rejection of many calls, and lastly, a relapse into stupidity after being awakened by the Spirit of God. If to bear one of these tokens is so alarming, how ought a man to feel who finds upon himself the greater part of them all! My dear hearer, how many of these marks of death do you find upon yourself? Can you not now see that for a long time “gray hairs” have been here and there upon you and you knew it not? One of these marks is more alarming than that which was stamped upon Cain. In what language then shall I address the man on whom six or eight of them cluster? If I saw upon you six or eight of the most decisive symptoms of approaching death, I should give you up for lost: must I do it now! Your danger is doubtless unspeakable. It is impossible not to see that the chances are far greater against you than for you. I know that the power and mercy of God are great: that furnishes a gleam of hope; but then we have not been accustomed to see that power exerted in many instances equally alarming. What God will do we cannot tell; but when we consider your case in itself we almost despair. Six or eight decisive tokens of perdition clustering on the same person, and that person asleep! Is he distracted or is he dead? Had I an angel’s voice I could not paint the madness. Going on to the bar of God; going on to meet omnipotent purity, to meet all the justice and power in the universe! going on under guilt enough to sink a world, and under an actual sentence of death! going on under six or eight of the most formidable tokens of perdition’ Struck with death, with eternal death already, and six or eight of its most decisive symptoms upon you, and you asleep! I leave you there as a monument for affected angels to gaze at, to tremble over, and weep.