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The John Newton Project

No. 11

Rev 19 11 v15


No. 11 [1]

Revelation 19:15

[1st sermon on this text]

And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations:
and he shall rule them with a rod of iron:
and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.
 
Rev 19 11 sword
The sword or Word of Christ never proceedeth out of his mouth in vain; it infallibly prospers in the thing whereto he sends it. [2]  Where he uses it with a purpose of mercy it spares the sinner and only slays his sins; but where it is resisted with obstinacy and perseverance, it will fight against the sinner himself, till it has destroyed him.  They cannot escape his power, nor withdraw from his government.  If they will not submit to his golden sceptre of love, still they must be under his rule, but he will rule them with a rod of iron; though they gnash their teeth, strive, rage and rebel against him, yet it shall be evident to others, and often painfully felt by themselves, that his hand is upon them, and that their opposition is only that of the potsherds of the earth striving with their maker – which must issue in their ruin. [3]  For after he has shown his power over them by ruling them with a rod of iron here, he will tread them to pieces in the fierce winepress of the wrath of God.

The Lord will not lose his glory by any sinner.  Every soul of us must be an everlasting monument either of his goodness or severity, of his delight in mercy, or his infinite abhorrence of sin.  And is it a light matter which?  My text leads to an awful subject, and though I could wish every person concerned in it, if possible were present, and do usually prefer the time when our congregations are largest to speak on such subjects [4] – yet as it now lies in my course, and we have some morning hearers who are seldom present in an afternoon, and yet stand as much in need of a warning word as any – it cannot be unseasonable.  O that I could prevail upon those who have long stood it out against the tender mercies of the Lord, at this time to meditate upon his terrors, so that they may fear him and fall before him, while mercy is to be found! [5]
 
1. Let us first speak of the rod of iron
  How the Lord rules over impenitent and obstinate sinners in the present life.
  1.1 One branch of this rule is by that certain and inseparable connection which he has established between sin and misery.  The fruit of righteousness is peace, and they who live in the fear of God, and under a willing subjection to his word, not only possess a peace of conscience, and a hope which looks with comfort beyond the grave, but are thereby saved from innumerable evils, which they who attempt to cast off his yoke plunge themselves into.  On the contrary the way of transgressors is hard in itself, as well as dreadful on account of the end to which it leads.  Could you see what passes within the sinner's breast, you would see his heart torn to pieces with the clamour and demands, of the various outrageous and inconsistent appetites and passions, which like so many wild beasts are let loose upon him.  Not one of them can be satisfied, much less all, for they are contrary to each other.  The boilings of anger, the gnawings of envy, the mortifications of pride, the thirst of covetousness, these and the like in the inward feelings alone, are sufficient to confirm that word, There is no peace to the wicked. [6]  But consider the effects of unsanctified lusts and appetites, as they break forth to outward view – Who hath wo, contentions and wounds without cause? [7] – the drunkard.  Drunkenness and lewdness, are attended with infamy, disease, the loss of character, substance and even of life.  Such persons often do not live out half the days, which their constitutions before they sold themselves to do wickedly seemed to promise.  Look into their families – where the Lord does not dwell, peace will not inhabit.  In their families how common to see discord and enmity between man and wife, unkind parents, disobedient children, tyrannical masters, treacherous servants.  Thus they live hateful in themselves and hating one another. [8]  If they have seeming prosperity their hard master Satan so works upon their evil tempers, that they have no real comfort in it; every day, every hour almost, puts some new bitterness into their cup.  In trouble they have no resource, no God to go to, no promise to trust in, no relief against their anxieties and fears; either they sink down in sullen, comfortless despondency, or blaspheme God because of their plagues.  In society they are dreaded and avoided by the sober and serious, and can only associate with such as themselves – there indeed they will pretend to be happy – they carouse and make a noise, yet how often does the drink or the Devil, break their intimacies, stir them up to quarrels, broils and mischiefs.  Such is a life of sin.  The Lord rules them with a rod of iron.  They renounce his fear, and he refuses his blessing.
  1.2 He rules them with a rod of iron, by his power over conscience
    They may boast and laugh, but we know the gall and bitterness of their state, for we were in it till the Lord delivered us.  Say what they will we are sure there are seasons when, like him they serve, they believe and tremble. [9]  They cannot always be in company, they cannot always be drunk; though this is the very reason why many are drunk so often, because they cannot bear their sober thoughts – they are then a burden and a terror to themselves.  They feel the iron rod.  How terrible often their dreams, how awful the thoughts which sometimes wake them, or keep them awake in the dead of the night.  What terrors seize them in sickness or when they think of death.  What a death warrant do they often receive in their souls under the preaching of that word which fills other with joy and peace.  Many will not hear, but why?  They will not because they dare not.  I am sure there are some of the brave spirits in this town, that would very gladly change conditions with a dog, and be glad to part with their reason, if they could at the same time get rid of the horrors that haunt their conscience.  Is there such a one here?  O stop – consider – There is yet forgiveness with God.  Your case is not yet desperate except you make it so yourself.  O look to Jesus and cast down your arms; he is able to save to the uttermost. [10]

Is it possible some may affect to deny all this, and be ready to say, I find nothing of this.  I take a pleasure in my way.  I have a healthy body, money in my pocket, and can sleep sound upon my bed.  I feel none of your qualms of conscience, and though the saints and good folks care as little for me as I do for them, yet I am very well and happy with such acquaintance as I like best.  As to hereafter I do not think of it, but I am determined to live now.  In answer to this I observe:
    Rev 19 11 hardness
  1.3 That the amazing hardness and blindness of heart, to which some sinners are given up, so that they are proof against judgments and mercies, warnings and invitations, is another and the most awful effect of that iron rod with which the Lord rules his enemies.  Pharaoh could say as positively as you, Who is the Lord that I should obey him? [11]  But what does God say – For this cause I raised thee up, to show in thee my power. [12]  The Lord hardened his heart, not by putting sin into him, but by withdrawing his influence and leaving him to himself.  This is the sorest judgment a sinner can receive on this side [of] hell, and I am afraid indeed lest there are some amongst us in this state.  I will venture to say, however, you were not always thus; you laboured hard, you resisted the light of truth and stifled many a conviction, before you came to this pass.  You fought against the Spirit of God, and wo be to you, if he is gone, gone forever, and will strive with you no more.  O that you may yet feel, yet hear; you are upon the very brink of ruin.  To a person thus disposed I know not what to say, but O let me warn others, who are not yet quite past feeling lest you fall into the same unbelief.  If under the light of the Gospel you can sin wilfully, wantonly and without check, you are upon the very edge of the unpardonable sin.  If the word of God is, as you would wish, a fable, you may laugh securely on.  But if it be true you have reason to lay to heart what follows.
 
2. The hour is coming when this neglected, despised Saviour will tread the winepress of the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God.  How striking the image, how strong the expressions.  He will gather sinners in a heap – he will put them as grapes in the winepress, he will tread them to pieces with the great weight of his indignation.  He has said it – he has sworn it.  If he be God he will not deny himself.  If he be Almighty, and the putting forth his Almighty power can ruin you he will not spare.  Think of the wrath of an Almighty God, of the fierceness of that wrath.  Was one drop of it now to fall upon your heart, it would fill you with astonishment and madness, so that the whole creation could afford you no comfort.  The sins you have committed, the aggravations of them, the sense of the displeasure you have awakened, the warnings you have slighted, the mercies you have abused, the Saviour whom you have crucified afresh – O can your heart endure and your hands be strong in that day!  Come, once more I set before you in his name Life or Death – Gospel peace or Eternal war.  If you will seek the Lord he is near; if you will call upon him, he is gracious. [13]  If not, look to yourselves.  Ruin is at your door and I am clear of your blood.  If the Lord arise, and testify his displeasure against some daring sinner, by some signal stroke, which shall make the ears of them that hear it tingle, take notice beforehand, I have not desired the evil day – but my soul trembles lest it should be so.
  Rev 19 11 debtors
  O believers, what debtors are we to grace. [14]  It might have been thus with us; we are no better by nature than others.  The Lord help us to live to the praise of him who has bought us with his blood and saved us from so great a death.

  
Endnotes:
 
[1] This week had brought encouragement. After breakfasting with Scott, Newton wrote: ‘Thou hast answered my desires and exceeded my expectations in him; how gradually yet how clearly hast thou taught him thy Gospel truth! and hast favoured him with a single eye to seek thee and thy truth above all. I hope to see him (if my life be spared) eminent in knowledge, powers and usefulness among thy servants. What an honour and mercy should I esteem it, to be any way instrumental in this good work. May all the praise be thine!’ His Moravian friend Foster-Barham was staying for the weekend and would have attended all the services. On Sunday 16 November 1777, the day of this second sermon on Revelation 19:15, he recorded in his diary: ‘I praise thee for a comfortable day. I changed the sermon in course on Revelation 19 from morning to afternoon, as the subject was awful, and seemed suited to the largest congregation. My mind seemed impressed with it the other day, when I was drawing a sketch and I wrote more upon it than I usually do. Yet in the delivery I was rather encumbered and straightened. It is well that when I seem to expect most, I should find myself most at a loss, that I may learn, my sufficient[sufficiency] is wholly in thee, and that without thy gracious influence, my preparations are nothing worth. Yet I think thou didst help me to speak pertinently. O command thy blessing, and let me never speak in vain. The evening hymn was upon a subject nearly concerning myself. I am guilty of idolatry, and thou mightest justly deprived me of my idols, but thou art gracious.’ Hymn No. 287: ‘The golden calf’, Exodus 32:4,31, When Israel heard the fiery law, Olney Hymns, Book 1, Hymn 18. See here for the week’s diary quotes and a link to his hymn in manuscript form.
[2] Isaiah 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
[3] Isaiah 45:9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
[4] ‘when our congregations are largest ‘, i.e.in the afternoons – but see Endnote 1: when writing his notes he assumed he would continue the series in the morning, but obviously changed his mind for this sermon and moved it to the afternoon.
[5] But see Endnotes 1 and 4, as the timing of this sermon was changed.
[6] Isaiah 48:22 and 57:21 There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.
[7] Proverbs 23:29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
[8] Newton is speaking from the heart here – one of the most apt descriptions he could find to describe himself before his conversion was Titus 3:3 For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.– cf his Narrative: ‘Had you seen me; sir, then go, pensive and solitary, in the dead of night, to wash my one shirt upon the rocks, and afterwards put it on wet, that it might dry upon my back, while I slept; had you seen me so poor a figure, that when a ship's boat came to the island, shame often constrained me to hide myself in the woods from the sight of strangers: especially had you known that my conduct, principles, and heart, were still darker than my outward condition; how little would you have imagined, that one who so fully answered to the description of the apostle, hateful, and hating one another, was reserved to be so peculiar an instance of the providential care and exuberant goodness of God!’
[9] James 2:19 Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.
[10] Hebrews 7:25 Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
[11] Exodus 5:2 And Pharaoh said, Who is the Lord, that I should obey his voice to let Israel go? I know not the Lord, neither will I let Israel go.
[12] Exodus 9:16 And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.
[13] Isaiah 55:6,7 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
[14] Newton is quoting one of his favourite hymns, Come thou fount of every blessing, by Robert Robinson (1735-1790)
v3 O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I'm constrained to be.
Let thy grace, Lord, like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love.
Take my heart, Lord, take and seal it,
Seal it from thy courts above.


Acknowledgements:
Cowper & Newton Museum, Olney

Marylynn Rouse, 09/08/2016


Article printed from johnnewton.org at 16:23 on 23 January 2020