A Voice From Eternity
“And in Hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his linger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.” – Luke 16:23-24
Some time ago, in driving along the road, I Saw a Sign that read like this: Stop! Look! Listen! It meant that there was danger in going heedlessly along the road, paying no attention to the warnings given. In deciding a case, when a man sued a railroad Company for damages, a judge in Pennsylvania said: “The complainant could not recover damages, if he failed to stop, look and listen.”
God, in His Word, throws out the flag of danger, and warns men of the sin in heedlessly going toward Eternity, paying no attention to the Word, the Spirit, and the Providences of God. In this chapter we have an awful warning from the lips of Him who spake as man never spake; from Him who never uttered a useless nor a trifling word. In our text we have the cry of a damned soul; a voice from Hell. The cry of a man who had been favored with privileges, blessed with opportunities, and who, in spite of all that God could do, in spite of Moses and the prophets, had passed out of life to wake up in an eternal Hell. Damned? Yes. In Hell? Yes. On the authority of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world, aye God Himself.
You say you do not believe in a Hell. Do you believe in a Heaven? Yes. On what authority? What other book in all the world tells you of Heaven aside from the Word of God? What scholar, scientist, philosopher, ever discovered there is a Heaven? Name him, if you can — tell us the work in which he first made it known to the world.
You depend upon this old Bible for your knowledge of Heaven — aye, for all your knowledge of Heaven — and the same Book says there is a Hell — “in Hell he lifted up his eyes.” If it is false in one case, it is false in all; if it is true in one case, it is true in all. God cannot lie. This Book is His Word, and in this Word I read: “The wicked shall be turned INTO HELL with all the nations that forget God.” “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” “He that believeth not SHALL BE DAMNED.”
Not that this is God’s choice for man. “He hath not appointed us unto wrath, but unto salvation.” He exhorts men: “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, for He will have mercy, and unto our God for He will abundantly pardon.” “I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, but would rather that all men should turn unto Me and live.” “Turn ye, turn ye, for why will ye die?” “Repent ye, and believe the Gospel.”
Again and again God warns you, and yet you are doing just what this lost soul did. You are neglecting the Word of God. That man had Moses and the prophets, but he heard not them. God says to you Stop! He calls to you by His Word, His Spirit, His Providences. He holds up before you the awful examples of those who perished in their sins, and waked up in Hell in torment, and asks you to Look! He sends the Holy Spirit to talk to you, and Spirit-filled men to preach to you, and asks you again and again to Listen, and yet you heed not!
Some day you will want God’s Word; some day you will ask for a message from it. I knew of a man in Philadelphia, who, after years in a life of sin, came down to his death bed. He had neglected the Word; grieved the Spirit; and was facing Eternity! He asked that his mother’s Bible he brought. It had been neglected those years. He wanted his sister to read the book to him. Only one Bible would do — his mother’s. He would not let them take it off his bed. He would reach out and put his hand on the book, as though there was some virtue in the very touch of its lids. “Hannah,” he would say, “read to me out of mother’s Bible,” — and thus he died. “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be cut off, and that without remedy.”
This text teaches us that death ends all opportunities. All men’s chances end in this life. God crowds it with blood-bought privileges, but death ends them all.
I was preaching in the Methodist Church in Steelton, Pa., when, at the altar call, a woman came forward crying: “O God, give me another chance.” This was a confession that she had had previous chances, and had murdered them. It was a begging cry; a heart-broken plea for just one more chance. God gave it to her and mercifully saved her.
I attended the funeral of a young man about twenty-one years of age. While working in a saw-mill, he had by an accident been hurried into Eternity. As they lowered the body into the grave, the mother of the young man cried out in her anguish: “O God, why did you not give my boy a chance?” That young man was of age. Life had been filled with light and opportunities. He went, suddenly hurried into Eternity where there are no calls to the unsaved; no Gospel; no mourner’s bench; no pleading of the Spirit.
Why do men shrink from death? Because of the pain of dying? Nay. I have gone into battle with men cheering and yelling at the top of their voices, not knowing but that at any moment the fatal bullet might strike, or the shell tear them in pieces, and yet on they went, not fearing death. What men dread is what comes after death. They know hope ends here and mercy ends here. When man crosses the line, he leaves all hope of salvation, all mercy for the impenitent, behind.
When Grant made the attack upon Petersburg, I was lying with Co. F. of the 95th Pennsylvania Regiment, on the ground by the station on the road that ran to City Point. They were bringing the wounded in ambulances to the station, and there they waited until the cars came to take them away. I was very tired, but I could not sleep. A soul was going into Eternity unprepared. In one of the ambulances was a young man wounded unto death, a bullet in his spine. His constant cry was: “O God, have mercy on my soul! O God, have mercy on my soul!” That agonizing cry penetrated far out into the darkness of the night, and drove sleep from our eyes. “O God, have mercy on my soul!” Afraid of the mere act, the pain of dying? — no, no, that soldier boy had gone into battle fearlessly — it was what came after death. O brother, friend, I plead with you do not presume upon the mercy of God. Your eleventh hour went by long ago. The men hired at the eleventh hour were idle because “no man hath hired us.” It was their first opportunity and they accepted it. Your first opportunity has gone forever.
Death ends all successful praying. It is a hopeless task, praying in Eternity. This man lifted up his eyes in Hell and prayed — but he prayed in vain — “have mercy upon me;” “a drop of water to cool this parched tongue,” but there was neither water nor mercy. Prayer is for time — for this life. Men in Eternity may pray: “Rocks and mountains, fall upon us,” but there is no answer. They will seek death, but death will flee from them.
I knew a young man, Harry B_____, who, when exhorted by his mother to seek God, replied: “All I want is five minutes in which to say, ‘God have mercy upon me.'” A few months after that I was sent for to pray with Harry, who was dying. He was propped up in bed unable to breathe when lying down. His wife and sister were on either side fanning him. I said: “Harry, you sent for me. I am here. Shall I pray?” He nodded assent. I knelt in prayer, prayed in a very low tone, and had not prayed one minute when I heard him say in a very labored manner: “Tell George not to pray too long.” His physical agony was so great that he could not endure a word spoken above a whisper. He had five minutes in which to say: “God have mercy upon me,” but not the strength to say it. Life is the time to get prayer answered. If you will not pray now, there is a time coming when you will — and it may be too late.
Look at this young man covenanting with some friends that they would never ask any one to pray for them. They were in a revival service and seeing many others rise for prayer. They, spurred on by the devil, made the covenant. But the scene changes. Years have gone by. Death has laid his hand on one of the number; he asks for some one to pray for him — the very thing he had covenanted with others he would not do. An evangelist of some note for power in prayer is sent for. She enters the room and she hears the dying man cry:– “Pray! Oh, pray! Pray!” She kneels by the bedside, she is indeed gifted in prayer, but, on this occasion, the heavens are brass; her prayers rise no higher than her head. She realizes that God is not pleased and rises from her knees. Still the dying man cries: Pray — pray — pray,” and the mother says: “Oh, do pray — do not leave us — pray once more.” Again she essayed to pray, but there was no unction, no liberty, no prayer. She left that home unable to pray. The last words she heard were those of the dying man, as he cried: “pray — pray — pray!” He was fast sinking, the voice but a whisper, and as he was passing away, loved ones bent over him to hear his last words; they were these: “Pray — pray — pray!”
There is a time to pray, a time when God answers, a time when He will be found. And there is a time when He mocks, and when fear cometh.
The condition of the lost is fixed to all eternity. There is no talk in this chapter of a second probation. A great gulf is fixed. Destiny is fixed. No chance for Heaven after death; they that would pass from hence cannot. Here and now is the place and time to prepare. Probation means opportunity, trial, testing, and death closes probation. As the tree falls, so must it lie. No wonder that this lost soul said, “I am tormented in this flame.” The very knowledge that hope has gone — mercy gone — would breed a despair that would torment eternally. “Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,” implies eternal torment.
Passing through York, Pa., on the train, I saw on a board fence these words: “O Eternity, how long art thou!” When Peary went to the land of eternal snows, knowing the length of the nights, he took with him games, books, theatricals, to enable the men to withstand the long, long night of one hundred and twenty-one times twenty-four hours. When the night began, it was endurable; men read the books, played the games, were interested by the theatricals, but soon they were restless. Oh, this long, long night! Thirty times twenty-four hours of darkness went by and they wondered, “Would the night never end?” — but it was only beginning. Again the books, the games and the theatricals, until all palled upon their hands. Sixty times twenty-four hours of darkness! Men went up on deck, looked out as though they, with straining eyes and longing hearts, would induce the day to come, but the darkness only intensifies. Ninety times twenty-four hours of darkness — and the hospital is filled; men’s minds reel and totter, as they try to withstand the new experience. Officers inquire of surgeons: “Doctor, why is this?” and the only answer is: “It is this long, long night.” One hundred and twenty times twenty-four hours of darkness. Men climb to the masthead looking for the day — and at last, athwart the eastern sky the god of day throws his golden gleams, telling the weary, heartsick men that “the long, long night is past.”
But listen — Hell is one eternal night. No star to penetrate its worse than Egyptian darkness; a night without a star — a night which no day shall ever follow — no sun arise to disperse its gloom. The lost soul may long for light, but light never comes. Soul cries to soul: “How long? How long?” and devils damned, in Hellish glee answer: “Forever and forever!” The “pendulum of Eternity’s horologe over the gates of darkness vibrates through all eons and says ‘Forever and forever! Forever and forever! Forever and forever!’ Its sounding bell strikes off the centuries, the ages, the cycles. The appalling monotony of its pendulum, going — going — going — repeating still: ‘Forever and forever! Forever and forever! Forever and forever!” O Eternity, God has wound up thy clock and it will never run down, and its tickings and beatings are heard by all the lost ‘Forever and forever! Forever and forever!'” No end to the suffering; no end to the pain; dying and yet never dead; praying for death, seeking for death, but death fleeing from them; shut up in the bottomless pit with death, and yet unable to die!
I was called to see a dying sinner. His friends said: “Mr. Kulp, he don’t want to see you, but we want you to go.” He was suffering intensely with a cancer consuming his vitals. As it ate its way deeper and deeper, causing the most excruciating agony, he said: “They won’t let me have a knife, or I would soon end this.” To him, in the midst of that awful agony, suicide seemed to offer relief, but listen! there is no such thing as suicide in Hell. Its death is an eternal dying.
Lost souls know this life is the time to repent. “If one went unto them from the dead, they would repent.” When it is too late he agrees with the Word of God, “Now is the accepted time; Now is the day of salvation.”
If lost souls could send messengers with messages to their kinfolk in this world, the burden would be that of the Word: “Repent now and believe the Gospel.” They recognize the fact when it is too late that repentance is necessary to keep a soul out of Hell. “Lest they also come to this place of torment.” Hell is repentance too late. God’s Word teaches men in this life, from Genesis to Revelation, “Repent.” The Holy Spirit urges, “Repent.” Jesus preached, “Repent.” On the Day of Pentecost the message was, “Repent, and be ye converted.” Almost the last message in the Word contains this sentence: “I gave her space to repent and she repented not.” The very lost in Hell would urge the necessity of repentance upon the unbelieving, procrastinating, God-defying, Christ-rejecting sinners of today.
I was invited to visit an insane asylum and, in company with my friend, I went. I walked the first and second floors and saw patients who were recovering, some who were perfectly harmless, and in whom it would be difficult to detect any mental disorder. Then we went on to an upper floor, into “the disturbed ward” of the asylum. We were admitted after the doctor unlocked the door, and entering, the door was again locked. Such a sight was there! Men with high cheek bones, sunken eyes, disheveled hair, long fingers, bony hands. They came near us, put out their hands to touch us, peered into our faces. When the time came to pass out, I was glad. I was never in the disturbed ward of an insane asylum before and I will never go again. But, friends, Hell is the disturbed ward of the Universe. Devils damned, the false prophet, the beast, all drunkards, murderers, liars, adulterers, dogs, sorcerers, whoremongers, idolaters and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie, have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone forever and ever, and that intensified as the cycles roll on, by the panorama of the past rolling before them — mercies, opportunities, family circles, altars, Gospel sermons, revival services, mourners’ benches, praying friends, an open Bible, the Spirit’s pleadings, an interceding Christ-all neglected, all rejected, all gone by, and gone never to return! “Appointed unto salvation,” “but, ye would not.” God called, ye refused. God stretched out His arm, but ye paid no regard. Sinai warned — its thunders rolled — ye would not hear. Now the weeping, now the wailing, now the gnashing of teeth, now the death that never, never dies!
“While God invites how blest the day,
How sweet the Gospel’s solemn sound;
Come, sinner, haste — oh, haste away,
While yet a pardoning God is found.”