By Elmer Ellsworth Shelhamer
Text: "But Jonah rose up to flee unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord, and went down to Joppa; and he found a ship going to Tarshish: so he paid the fare thereof, and went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Jonah 1:3.
I am to preach to you tonight on the subject: "What it Costs to be Damned." You will notice the text is taken from the book of Jonah. For the benefit of the small minded skeptic, or the broad minded higher critic, let me diverge enough to say that I believe the story of Jonah and the whale. Why? First, because Jesus Christ believed it and referred to it in Matt. 12:40. The story is authentic or Jesus Christ Himself was the greatest deceiver the world ever saw. Secondly, I believe the story, because it is true to human nature. Every one of us has had a similar experience with Jonah, only on a smaller scale. Thirdly, I believe the account because from a physiological standpoint it was a possibility. There has been a great deal of quibbling over the whale. They say his throat is too small to admit of a man. Well, what of it? The Book says, "Now the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah." Jesus called it a "whale." When God Almighty prepares to do a thing, all He needs to do is speak the word and the thing is made to order.
When in London we visited the Museum of Natural Science. Here we saw skeletons of whales, measuring up to sixty-nine feet in length, with each jawbone twenty feet long. Twenty-six tons of oil and twenty-six hundred pounds of whalebone were taken from one. It was so large that six or eight persons could enter at once. I stepped inside and with arms outstretched, could not touch its ribs, and my head did not reach its backbone.
Without doubt, a whale of such dimensions could have held Jonah. The whale's diet consists both of small fish and enormous sea monsters. One of these was on exhibition here, called the "Giant Squid." It was a hideous looking creature with feelers extending from every side. Its round body was nearly eleven feet long and its two tentacular arms were something like thirty-three feet. If the whale could swallow such a monster surely he could take care of the disobedient prophet!
Notice that the account is explicit, for it says that this Jonah was the "son of Amittai." Perhaps this was necessary in order to distinguish him from the numerous other Jonahs who are disobeying the call of God.
By referring to 2 Kings 14:25, we find that Jonah prophesied in the days of King Jeroboam, and warned the king of approaching danger. Now a little later God calls the same prophet to hold a street meeting up and down Main street in Nineveh, a city of about 600,000 inhabitants. This was quite a come down -- for the prophet to walk and cry against that "great city" after having been special adviser to King Jeroboam. He evidently must have been like some preachers today, who would rather preach to a lot of empty seats than to hold a street service and get down among the people. The result was he became self-centered and important, but after he had the application of a sea-weed poultice (chap. 2:5), his head became normal in size and he was ready to obey.
As soon as he struck dry land he heard the voice of God, "the second time, saying, Arise, go unto Nineveh, that great city and preach unto it the preaching that I bid thee." I gather from this statement the thought that God is unchangeable and what is once light is always light. If you had light and convictions ten years ago on tithing, fasting, plainness of dress, Sabbath observance, etc., that light is binding upon you the same today. It is not enough to say you have changed your views and "look at things differently now." Perhaps you do and this may account for the fact that you have less fire, holy unction and burden for souls than formerly. It was a sad day when you laid aside your conscientious scruples. We could get other lessons from the life of Jonah, but we pass on now to the subject" in hand.
Notice the wording of the latter part of the text: "So he paid the fare thereof," then "went down into it, to go with them unto Tarshish from the presence of the Lord." Yes, when one starts away from God he starts downward, and he generally goes with a crowd.
We frequently hear sinners say that it costs too much to be saved, that there is too much to give up; too much restitution to make, and similar excuses. But I want to prove tonight, if God will help me, that it will cost more to be damned than to be saved. It will cost more tears, more sleepless nights, more losses and disappointments in life to have your own way than to let God lead and direct your path.
Jonah "paid the fare," but never reached Tarshish. You can pay the fare, yet never reach the Tarshish of your earthly ambitions. And what will be the price you will have to pay? It may be,
I. Defeat in business.
II. Disrespect of others.
III. Decay of health.
IV. Divine protection forfeited.
I. Defeat in business. Perhaps I am now speaking to those who have suffered loss financially because of sin. In fact most of us have to some extent. I tell you it costs in dollars and cents to live for the devil. Had you not been so proud and self-willed you would not have gotten into that lawsuit back there which has cost you dearly. Had you been kinder and more genial in your ways you would have won instead of lost patronage. Had it not been for that unholy alliance with some man or woman your domestic relations would have been more pleasant, and you would not have been at so much expense. Had that young clerk remained at home at night, improved his mind and studied how to make old people happy, he not only would have retained his virtue, but might have been promoted and by this time owned the business.
Many men have had their noses to the grindstone of poverty, working like slaves and merely making a living, who ought to be connected with some firm or running business for themselves. Why is it? There is only one reason and that reason is SIN. It may have taken one form or another -- intemperance, dishonesty, sensuality, selfishness, extravagance, idleness, sports, or any other form, but remember it was that slimy, poisonous thing we call sin that defeated these capable men and brought them low. Young man, let me urge you to go into partnership with Jesus Christ. It is to your interest in every way. Multitudes, who once had better prospects than you, have made wretched failures simply because they trusted to their own wisdom and sagacity. "The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags."
II. Disrespect of others. Sin is disrespectful. It disrespects the claims of God and the rights of humanity, and in return brings upon its victim the disrespect of others. "Evil communications corrupt good manners." I dare say that many of you can look back and see where your ill manners lowered you in the estimation of another. It may have been your own companion, whose affections you worked hard to win. Then, afterwards when irritated over some little affair, with one word you drove a dagger to the heart of the one you loved. You would have given your right arm if you could have recalled the hasty word or unkind look, but the deed was done. It does not pay to treat another disrespectfully, for who knows but that you will need to ask favor of him later on. It may be a little ragged street urchin. Treat him right, for you may be glad to have him recognize you some day. Are you not sorry for a mean, snarling old man or woman wandering about with no friends or money? Would it not be sad if you finally became such? All right, just go on finding fault with mother about your clothes or meals; just go on being blunt and unaccommodating; just keep on lying and acting deceitful. In short, live for self, pamper your feelings, be disagreeable and discourteous to others and you will not be missed much when you die. "A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly." "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches." III. Decay of health. Sin not only affects the mind and manners but the body as well. Multitudes die before their time. Sin kills them. I had a cousin; we played together and he had better prospects for living than had I. But lust killed him at twenty-two years of age. It was said he died of typhoid fever, but this was false. He drank and gave way to licentiousness until he undermined his health; then when fever seized him he did not have enough resistance left to fight his way through. In that remarkable old book, "A Serious Call to a Holy Life," by Win. Law, we read an account of a fashionable lady who was a great church worker. She had three daughters, all frail in health. The eldest died in the twentieth year of her age. Her sickness and death were so mysterious that the doctor suggested a post mortem examination. The grief-stricken mother consented and to their horror and surprise it was found that because of tight lacing the ribs had grown into the poor girl's liver and killed her.
Yes, pride has killed many a girl because fashion decreed she should go bare-headed, bare-armed and next to bare as far down and as far up as the law will permit; then in this semi-nude condition she goes to a ball or theater, or parades the streets, and the result is a cold, consumption and a corpse. This is what it may cost you to turn your back on light and flee from the presence of the Lord.
Sometimes we venture to speak to young men about their souls and we get such answers as these: "I am sowing my wild oats," "I believe in a short life and a merry one." In answer to these excuses let me say that a reaping time always follows the sowing, and in addition, one reaps more than he sows. Remember this, young man! You may say you believe in "a short life and a merry one." Ah! You betrayed yourself. Your excuse implies that the life you are living means a short one. Better say a long life and a happy one. God says, "With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation." Most young men cut their lives short by dissipation and exposure. One night's lying out drinking booze or playing cards may mean five or ten years cut off the end of your life. You may think you are having a "big time" at the races or bawdy house, but wait a few months or years and then see how you feel. Better be sure than sorry. You should get religion in self-defense if nothing more.
Sin is. deceitful. You may not go into open wickedness, but simply give way in your mind and imaginations to vileness. Look out -- rather look in! Every time you feast your eyes or mind upon that which is ignoble, a black-winged sculptor steps up and chisels a line of coarseness and meanness upon your countenance. No wonder we read, "The shew of their countenance doth witness against them; and they declare their sin as Sodom, they hide it not." Here are some things to think about:
"Prof. Peelman, of the University of Bonn, has recently been conducting a series of investigations. Beginning with a profligate woman, he traced the personal records of her children and their descendants for six succeeding generations. There were 834 descendants, and of that number complete records of 709 were obtained. It was discovered that 100 were of illegitimate birth, 162 were professional beggars, 64 of them died in almshouses, 181 women lived lives of open shame, 76 were convicted and imprisoned for crime, and 7 were executed for murder. Prof. Peelman estimates that the descendants of this one woman within one hundred years have cost the state, in support of paupers and punishment of criminals, an average of $12,000 a year.
or a total of $1,200,000." And again:
"Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703. One thousand three hundred and ninety-four of his descendants have been identified, of whom thirteen were presidents of great universities, sixty-five professors in colleges and universities, sixty doctors of medicine, one hundred clergymen and missionaries, seventy-five officers in the army and navy, sixty prominent authors, thirty judges, one vice-president, three United States senators, several governors, members of Congress, framers of state constitutions, mayors of cities, and ministers of foreign courts. Fifteen railroads, many banks, insurance companies, and great industrial enterprises have been indebted to the Edwards family for careful management. Thirty-three American states and several foreign countries and ninety-two American cities and many foreign ones have been beautified by the influence of this family.
Here is what might have been written of him or his, had he not been enlisted on the side of right:
Max Jukes was born in 1720 -- seventeen years after the birth of Mr. Edwards. His descendants have been identified as follows: Three hundred and ten found homes in almshouses, three hundred died of want in childhood, four hundred and forty were viciously diseased, fifty notorious for immorality, seven murderers, many habitual thieves, one hundred and thirty convicted more or less often for crime. Not one of this man's descendants ever contributed anything in either wealth or character to the public weal; but on the contrary, each one is declared to have cost the public over $1,000, or all of them a grand total of $1,250,000." Once more:
"A woman of criminal tendencies, who died in 1827, had given birth to several children, all of whom inherited her criminal traits. By following the records of her offspring from generation to generation, it has been found that, up to May, 1902, no less than seven hundred of them had been convicted of criminal offenses, and that thirty-seven had been executed for committing murder. The offspring of this one woman had, up to that date, cost the government about three million dollars for court trials and executions. And all this crime with costs resulted from one woman's thought, multiplied in her offspring."
Scientists tell us that the blood undergoes a chemical change every time one gives way to anger or jealousy. It is a known fact that mothers have thrown their children into convulsions and actually killed them by nursing them immediately after being greatly excited or angered. It is also a fact that a man whose body is permeated with nicotine often becomes the parent of an inebriate. Great God, if this be true, no one is fit to live, much less become responsible for another life, until he is made partaker of the Divine nature!
I once knew a woman who with her husband felt the call of God to preach, but rebelled because she disliked to move from place to place. In order to smother her own convictions and hinder her husband, she prayed that she might become a mother. Her request was granted and for about thirty years she lived "at one place" caring day and night for a helpless, slobbering idiot.
Yes, disobedience costs in dollars and cents, it costs friendships, it costs good health and long life. In fact, sin spells disease, disappointment and despair. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
IV. Divine protection forfeited here and hereafter. It is worth a great deal to have the protection of God through life, but it is worth more to be able to say with the Psalmist, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me." Yes, religion is a good thing to die by and if so it ought to be a good thing during the changing scenes of life. It is an awful thing to be exposed to the wrath of God. Perhaps I am preaching right now to those who are constantly in fear and dread. Even while sitting here you may be restless and agitated. What about? Because you are fighting against God. Because you know you are not walking in past light and doing your whole duty. It may be a call to preach, as in the case of Jonah. Or it may be that while you were in great danger or a loved one was near death you promised God and your own conscience that you would obey. But you have lied to the Holy Ghost and taken something back that was laid upon the altar of God. No wonder you feel guilty. No wonder you cannot look up and claim His protection for your property, your child and yourself. And unless you repent, this is only the "beginning of sorrows." If you feel like this now, what will you do when the lightnings of God's wrath are let loose? Even now the bloodhounds of justice are tugging at the throne to get loose and take vengeance upon your guilty soul.
Some years ago my wife and some other ladies were holding a meeting in Corning, Iowa. One day the city was terrified when on the far western horizon there appeared a strange funnel-shaped cloud swinging back and forth like the pendulum of a clock. As it came across the prairie, it twisted large trees off as though they were rye-straws. Houses were demolished, box cars tumbled about like toys, while boards, shingles and fence posts blackened the air. What was it? A western cyclone in all its fury. Business men and weak-kneed skeptics began to pray and plead for protection. How about these Christian workers? Two of them were walking home from the post office, feeling secure in God, when a large man (who was a Catholic) slipped up, and walking close behind them said, "I never opposed you good people as others have." What was he trying to do? Find a little comfort and protection in time of danger by getting close to these holy women.
O friend, when the storms of Eternity begin to blow and the terrors of impending doom seize men's souls, then you will want a place of refuge. Then you would be willing to give worlds to exchange places with those whom you have mocked and ridiculed. When the sky rolls back like a scroll and Jesus, with ten thousand angels comes riding upon the clouds with power and great glory, every eye will be riveted upon the King of kings and Lord of lords. The saints and redeemed of all ages will look placid and restful as they rise to meet their victorious Lord. But how about you, Christ rejecter? Methinks I see unsaved children and loved ones who put off the day of their salvation! What are they doing? With blanched and petrified looks they are first seeking a place of refuge, then again, trying to get the attention of some lovely saint, if perchance he may have some influence with the Judge severe. But there is no bribing now. Every one has forgotten all others and is busily taken up with the all important thought, Where shall I hide? How can I escape the wrath of God? O sinner, what will you do in that day? It may soon be upon us. The signs of the times indicate it. Will you not break away now from every influence that hinders you? It may he you will have to break away from the very ones sitting by your side, but you must go the heavenly way single and alone with Jesus. You dare not wait for others, you cannot go with a crowd. Do not parley. The door will soon be shut! The blackness of Eternity's night may be settling down yonder. Flee for thy life; tarry not in all the plain. You may find refuge tonight in the Rock of Ages, in the wounds of your crucified Lord! Will you do so? He waits now to receive you.
"Vain man, thy fond pursuits forbear;
Repent, thine end is nigh:
Death, at the farthest can't be far:
Oh, think before thou die.
"Reflect, thou hast a soul to save;
Thy sins how high they mount
What are thy hopes beyond the grave?
How stands that dark account?
"Death enters, and there's no defense;
His time, there's none can tell;
He'll in a moment call thee hence,
To heaven, or down to hell.
"Thy flesh (perhaps thy greatest care)
Shall into dust consume;
But, ah, destruction stops not there:
Sin kills beyond the tomb."