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The Penalty

By Charles H. Stalker


      Message Delivered at Perth, Evening Meeting, February 26th, 1919

      "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy, under two or three witnesses. Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who had trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace?"

      This is a sad message, because it has in it a final word to a human soul. There is something I do not like about last words, there is something I do not like about "good-byes" when one is about to leave a place. There is always an inexpressible something about these words. The words do not exactly mean what you want to say, and looks cannot convey what you feel, and the handshake -- there is not enough in it. After a few days in a place -- I am nearly always in strange places -- an interest in souls takes hold of me. How many times between the trips to Perth have I experienced that interest of soul.

      Many times, at vigils, in nights of prayer, I have thought of Perth. I did not know that I should ever come back to deliver the message, but I do know that never before have we had so much of the presence and power of God in the meetings. I know the Holy Ghost has been faithful to every heart. I know He has carried the light to you. I know these meetings will be talked over in heaven and they will be talked over in hell. The interests at stake are truly great, and we have on our hearts a great responsibility.

      There is nothing so sad on this earth as the loss of the soul. Did you think the meeting was over when it closed last night? No, that meeting had no end. It had no end for me. I went to my room, got down on my knees and there stayed most of the night. God was talking to me about lost souls, souls who are going td damnation. Somebody went out of this room last night, and they went out never to return. Nothing appeals to me like the loss of a soul, I can hardly bear it, for when I see a vision of lost souls, I reflect that the people who live without God, die without God. In the meeting last night some stood in grave danger. Do not misunderstand me when I say that a funeral prayer, breathed when you are doomed and on your deathbed is a very slim plank.

      People who live without God must die without God. Many a time I have been sent for when it is too late. I am willing to go, but I have no desire to go. I will be honest with you and say so. I have been called to see too many people die who could have had, but did not have, the faith to get hold of God. I go because I have a heart of sympathy, because they expect me to go, but I do not like it. That is not the time to seek God.

      Look through the whole Bible and God says, "Seek first," "Seek first," "Seek first." "Today, if you will hear His voice." It is the same all the way through. You cannot find in that Bible from cover to cover, the advice, "Seek last." It is not there. Yet thousands of people are building their hopes of salvation on the fact that they prayed a little prayer or sang a little song. Yes! Five cents worth of medicine will make people sing and pray, but it took the blood of Calvary to save a soul.

      Now consider how mercy is illustrated. Think of what mercy means. Think of how it touches every door, every window, everywhere, and it comes down to every heart and to every tongue.

      My Bible says, "If thou shalt confess ... thou shalt be saved," and yet people go on without it and go down to the dust and ashes of a misspent life.

      The great tragedy of it all is that too many do not realize that every man and woman who dies without mercy breaks a sacred law. Every law has its penalty. There could be no protection of property if there were no punishment for the breaking of the law. There is a penalty, as all know, for breaking the law of the land, and there is a penalty for infringement of the law of Moses: "He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses." Mercy was there, but they died without mercy. Think how long mercy has been extended to you, think of your having had that Bible all the years you have lived. Think of the number of times you have heard about the blood, then think of the 'times you have gone in forgetfulness of God. It is an awful thing to live without God, because those who live without God die without God.

      I could stand here until the morning and tell you the names of people who have lived without God and they have died without Him. They have died without mercy. They had a Bible in the house, but they did not read it, they knew they had a God in heaven, but they did not pray to Him. They knew the blood was shed for them on Calvary, but they paid no attention. They resisted and died without mercy. People should consider, and consider profoundly, that it would be better for them to live in poverty, without any of the "good things?" of the world, without many friends, than to be without God. Of all the things that touch my heart, the sharpest is that people who know so much die ignorant of God. They do not realize it.

      According to the Bible the Mosaic law was laid down with a penalty attached to it, and when it was broken those who broke it had to die. Yet, the fulfillment of the law only meant acceptance of mercy. Mercy, which instead of being difficult to find, is offered at your very door step, mercy which came to your room, mercy which was at your own fireside, mercy which has been hanging on your very bedposts, and facing you every day in the street. I say it is an awful thing to live for years and then to die without mercy, to spend eternity in hell, asking for a drop of water. There is something strange about a person who lives without God. The longer you live without Him the harder it is for you to find Him. I am sorry to say that I know old, middle aged, and young people who seem to have very little chance of ever knowing Him, they have rejected Him so much.

      Everything is so extreme in these days that people are hardly moved by anything. That, however by no means prevents the penalty of the law from being inflicted. How cold the final word of the law is. Regardless of sympathy, regardless of appeal, regardless of request. I have thought I have felt its cold hand many a time when it has taken hold of people and held them as prisoners. When I visit the penitentiary and witness there some two thousand men, and see the cold, iron hand of the law on them, I say, "These men should be in their homes, supporting their families and helping others, instead of wasting their time under the protection of the law." The law was given for the protection of the commonwealth, the law was for the people, and these prisoners had broken it and they had to suffer the penalty. They might have enjoyed the privileges and opportunities of their homes, but they were deprived of such blessings. If you want to know something of the law of God, look at the laws of the land. The latter are for the protection of the commonwealth, and if they are broken, the person responsible must pay the penalty. You see, now, how people keep themselves from the protection and preservation of God Almighty.

      A young man committed a crime and was brought to our penitentiary. He was placed in confinement after being tried. He was placed in the death cell, awaiting the hour of electrocution. His father and mother, both aged people, became very anxious about him, for he was their only support, and they were left in such sorrow and loneliness, that at last, much against their will to travel, they took the trip and came to Columbus. Though unacquainted with anyone, they trudged about until they found their way to the Governor. After a little delay, they met him in his chamber, and pleaded with him, saying, "We have come asking mercy on behalf of our only son." They told him about the young man and added, "Governor Harman, if you had an only son, your only support, and he was in this condition, you would certainly come and ask for mercy. You are a father, and have a father's heart." The Governor replied, "Your son has committed a crime and broken the law. He has been examined and given every consideration which the law can give. You have come too late." He continued, "When I became Governor of Ohio, I said, with my hand on the Bible, that I would protect and preserve the commonwealth and all its interests. I took the oath and the people expressed their confidence by making me Governor here. Your son has been convicted of a crime, and is in the death cell awaiting the hour of electrocution. You cannot appeal to me as a father, you must appeal to me as the Governor. Then if you do that there is no mercy for your son.

      The parents, with tears running down their faces, took the train for their humble home. One morning shortly after, it appeared in the paper that a few moments before midnight the young man had been taken from his cell to the chair and in an instant paid the penalty for his crime.

      That seems cold, but it is for the protection of the commonwealth. That young man kept himself from mercy and died without mercy, and the appeals to the Governor and the tears of the parents were of no avail.

      How many, like him, cut themselves off from God, and think not of mercy until the hour of death? As we are told, those who merely despised Moses' law died without mercy. It does not say they committed any crime, they simply despised, and the text says, "Of how much sorer punishment shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God?" One would think that would be enough for those who say they do not believe in punishment or the infliction of a penalty for sin.

      Recently I was in the Mission field. A poor washerwoman came to the meeting and God spoke to her heart. She was very poor, her dress was hardly fit to be in a public place. She had the responsibilities of a home, too, and could scarcely make ends meet. However, at the close of the meeting she came and handed me some money. She said that on one occasion she had charged too much for the washing, and she would rather give it back than meet it at the Judgment. The Holy Ghost was faithful, and restitution had to be made. This case illustrates that you can do things under the law of the land that you cannot do under the law of God.

      Now, the point which should be emphasized is this: While the blessing of God is as lavish as it undoubtedly is, it must also be remembered that His punishment is in the same degree. While heaven is such a holy place, hell is certainly an awful one. Holiness is so wonderful and sin surely is terrible and tragical. It is so all the way through. The punishment for the rejection of the Holy Ghost is going to be terrible. The punishment for the rejection of God was the destruction of the world by the flood. The punishment for the rejection of Jesus Christ has made the name of the Jew a by-word for twenty centuries. The Jews were scattered to the four winds. It was an awful thing to reject Jesus Christ, and it is an awful thing to reject the Holy Ghost. Did the Jews reject Christ more intelligently than the Gentiles are rejecting the Holy Ghost today? I cannot believe it, but I do believe that the rejection of the Holy Ghost must end in awful punishment. If people would put forth half the effort to receive as they do to resist, they would quickly be filled with all the fulness of God.

      I have been asked by critics, "Do you like to preach this way? " Yes, because I believe it is the truth, and God honors the truth. I do not give you the Greek reading of it, I give you the Bible just as it stands. If the penalty for rejection in the antedeluvian world was destruction, how much more worthy of punishment are those who, with all the light and opportunity of these days, turn their backs on salvation. Today the responsibility is increased. I ask your consideration of this before it is too late. If God has made a heaven for a holy people, He has made also a hell for bad people. Yes, there is a heaven and there is a hell. There is punishment under God's law as well as under any other law. I am glad that the so-called reason of Ingersoll, Voltaire, Tom Payne, and Russell has not been able to change it.

      Compare God's light with the light offered by the infidel. When God said, "Let there be light," it was for the poor, the rich, and for everyone. And it is not measured as is your gas and electricity by a man with a little meter, but it is as free as air. God can fill every nook, every corner, street, doorway, and window pane. That is the way He does things. I have seen people saved in an instant and God seemed to drop something right down in their souls. The difficulties disappeared when they were sanctified wholly. If you get this blessing some persons may turn against you and say they do not like you, but you can say, "Praise the Lord." They may say they do not like your doctrine, but you can say, "Amen." If they hit you it would not hurt, you would not even feel angry. If they sat on you, you would not cry out; you hardly know of those things, so much has God done for you.

      But wait until He starts the punishment. I believe as much in eternal punishment as I do in eternal bliss, and when the Holy Ghost says there is to be sore punishment, it is enough to make people tremble. Never was there a time when carnality, intellectuality, formality, and refinement were so combined as they are today to oppose the Holy Ghost. Still, wherever there is a hungry heart, a needy soul, to it we say, "Whosoever will may come." Need I warn more against the rejection of the Holy Ghost. I would rather a man's tongue cleaved to the roof of his mouth, than hear it used against Holiness or the Holy Ghost.

      It does not matter what you say about me, but I cannot bear to hear anyone say a word against the Holy Ghost. He waits for an entrance into your heart, He will come and take the supremacy. When He has destroyed sin from your heart, He will make you a channel of blessing to others. You can let your soul become a desert or a flower garden, but if the latter, the flowers of divine grace, planted in your own soul, will be watered by your own glad tears and will become fragrant in a life of spiritual joy.

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