By John M. Krebs
"There shall be weeping..." -Matthew 22:13
The following message is by John M. Krebs, which comes from a book entitled The New York Pulpit in the Revival of 1858. It is a representation of the kind of preaching that once brought repentance and revival to America during the Third Great Awakening. J. Edwin Orr said of The Third Great Awakening; "it was no man's monument. 'It has been rightly said that many who lived during the revival of 1857-58 regarded it as the greatest work of grace the world had seen since the times of the apostles.'" The revival of 1858 was preceded by two great motivators, tribulation and prayer. "It was a time of intense political excitement." The issue of slavery was already dividing the nation and setting the stage for the Civil War. Spiritual decline and disillusionment plagued the Church within, as a result of spurious and false predictions concerning the date of Christ's return. The revival was also preceded by a period of unprecedented financial prosperity followed by a sudden bank panic and collapse. HUMBLED and UNITED by adversity, thousands took time to pray 'till finally the fire of God fell.
Among the most attractive benefits of the happiness of Heaven, is this - that there the Lord shall wipe away all tears from the faces of His people - that there shall be no more weeping. This is an interest to every heart. This world is a vale of tears. Every habitation of man, every personal history, furnishes scenes that serve, by contrast to illustrate the happiness and glory of Heaven, from which all sorrow and sighing flee away, and where the days of mourning are ended. But this is not to be the portion of all! The Scriptures restrict it to one certain description of persons. These are the just made perfect; the heirs of the righteousness of faith; those who once, indeed, were children of wrath, even as others, but who are washed, and sanctified, and justified, in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
All who fail of this character, shall also fail to inherit this blessedness. On the day of final trial, they shall be condemned to "destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power." The punishment they suffer is described. It is to be burned with "everlasting fire;" it is to be gnawed by the "undying worm;" it is to endure the bitter pains of "eternal death." This is the portion of all workers of iniquity, who refuse to part with their sins; who, for the sake of the darling right hand of transgression and the right eye of lust, are to be cast into hell-fire. The punishment of the lost is spoken of in connection with "weeping," and "wailing," and "gnashing of teeth." This is the portion of the disappointed and disinherited children of the Kingdom, - of the tares; - and of all those who have no interest in Christ, unwashed, unsanctified, unjustified, unarrayed in His righteousness. It is through weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that they vent their sorrow and despair. It will commence at the very bar of God. The wrath is in the soul of the sinner. He comes to that bar in the speechlessness of conscious guilt, and with a "fearful looking for judgment and fiery indignation." With consternation, he hears his doom. He turns away upon his dreary road to the prison-house. But, like a criminal convicted in the dock, he sinks under the verdict and the sentence and bursts forth, at once, in the lamenting expressions of his bitter and terrible distress.
"Wailing" is lamentation with wringing of hands and outcry. It bursts forth upon the public ear. And it has about it, something of the aspect of woe. These manifestations of grief are obvious and dreadful. Yet, perhaps, these images may not affect us so forcibly as the "weeping" which is to be the expression of distress in that day. There is an aspect of refinement, something unobtrusive in "weeping," as contrasted with "wailing and gnashing of teeth." It is a more silent, subdued grief; but deep and bitter indeed; the manifestation of overwhelming and hopeless sorrow.
Who of us is not familiar with the causes of weeping; rather, who is not familiar with weeping itself? And who knows not from his own experience, how effective and grateful is the relief in the shedding of tears? There is even a luxury in them. And there is the weeping of love and repentance, when the full heart of contrition looks on Christ whom we have pierced, and feels the joy of pardoned sin. Like the weeping woman in the house of Simon, who showered her tears upon the feet of Jesus, and wiped them with the hairs of her head; or like Peter, when he had denied his Lord, he went out and wept bitterly.
But it is not of such weeping that our text speaks. These may all be gracious tears; the weeping that endures for a night, to be followed by the joy of the morning. But that which is described in the premonition before us is the weeping that lasts forever. It has its springs in a despairing heart; its stream bursts forth from a heart rent with anguish, and flows on unending. It is unavailing as Esau's when he sold his birthright. It may be with subdued sorrow, that would hide itself in solitude; but the desolate soul turns away from the face of the Judge, and from the face of the crowd, and searches out for itself some secluded spot where it may nourish its hopeless grief with never ceasing tears. This is the portion of their cup, who suffer banishment in that day.
There is the certain consciousness of complete disappointment and utter loss. Perhaps the sufferers never thought of being excluded from Heaven, as a real and possible event. Deceiving themselves with vain hopes, willfully ignorant of the truth of God, unmindful of the wrath to come, and with no effort to flee from it, they felt safe. But this delusion can comfort them no longer. Their hopes of escaping are swept away like the spider's web, and they are confounded by their own experience of the realities of death and eternal judgment. Let us sketch some of the characters that are doomed to this woeful disappointment.
1) The worker of iniquity, who defied the law of God as an unreasonable restraint, and rejected the warning of retribution, as the dream of fanaticism, is now confronted with that law, and made to feel that the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness of men. He feels he has no other portion than that which has been prepared for the unbelievers, murderers, whoremongers, idolaters, and ALL liars, who have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimestone; which is the second death.
2) The worldly one who gave himself up to the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; who deemed this barren earth sufficient bliss, and pursued all its pleasure, - and who perchance expected that after such a frivolous and sensual existence here, he would enter into HEAVEN. He now finds himself alive and conscious - but it is in HELL, in the midst of torment. He is met with the rebuke, that in his lifetime he received his good things, he is justly left to his proper and chosen reward. Torn away from the world to which he bound himself, his idol and his portion lost, his gods gone, his riches fled, his joys worn out, his honors faded.
3) The man who indulged a hope of mercy, such as the gospel never published - who would not repent. Who had read the gospel backward, and thought that the blood of the cross by its mere overflow had quenched the fires of perdition; and so, insulted that atonement and dishonored and degraded Christ, by making Him the minister of sin. He comforted himself with the thought that God would be merciful at the last, to all men without exception. He too finds out the guilt and ruin of this enormous mistake. He now witnesses the justice and mercy that he insulted, a mercy, he professed to trust in.
What has sin cost? Hear them, while they review their bargain and estimate their purchase. To avoid tears of repentance and tribulations for Christ's sake in the earth, I have purchased eternal indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish; and the tears I am now shedding - ah! They shall flow forever from my weeping eyes! I have gotten my portion - I have obtained my reward - my damnation is come! Ah! how bitter will it be to reflect, "This is the portion I have chosen for myself!"
Let US weep now, that we may not weep then. Not for our earthly sorrows, but for our sins. Not with the sorrows, but for our sins. Not with the sorrow of the world that worketh death, but with that godly repentance which is unto life - those tears of contrition which are shed at the cross of our dying and atoning Lord. Fall at His feet, and plead His compassion; and His smile shall light your face with gladness. Go to Him, now, like that weeping sinner who approached Him in the house of Simon at Capernaum, when with throbbing, bursting heart, she pressed her lips to His feet, washing them with her tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.