Flee The Wrath To Come - J.C. Ryle

The devil's old delusion - Ye shall not surely die (Gen. 3:4)
(J. C. Ryle, "The Gospel of Luke" 1858)
John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance...And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire!" Luke 3
We have, in these verses, a specimen of John the Baptist's ministry. It is a portion of Scripture which should always be specially interesting to a Christian mind.
We should first mark the holy boldness with which John addresses the multitudes who came to his baptism. He speaks to them as a "generation of vipers!" He saw the rottenness and hypocrisy of the profession that the crowd around him were making, and uses language descriptive of their case.
His head was not turned by popularity.
He did not care who was offended by his words.
The spiritual disease of those before him was desperate, and of long standing, and he knew that desperate diseases need strong remedies.
Well would it be for the Church of Christ, if it possessed more plain speaking ministers, like John the Baptist, in these latter days.
A morbid dislike to strong language; an excessive fear of giving offence; a constant flinching from directness and plain speaking, are, unhappily, too much the characteristics of the modern Christian pulpit.
Uncharitable language is no doubt always to be deprecated. But there is no charity in flattering unconverted people, by abstaining from any mention of their vices, or in applying smooth epithets to damnable sins!
There are two texts which are too much forgotten by Christian preachers. In one it is written,
"Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you!" In the other it is written, "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ." (Luke 6:26; Gal. 1:10)
We should mark, also, how plainly John speaks to his hearers about HELL and danger!
He tells them that there is a "wrath to come."
He speaks of "the ax" of God's judgments, and of unfruitful trees being "thrown into the fire!"
The subject of HELL is always offensive to human nature. The minister who dwells much upon it, must expect to find himself regarded as . . . barbaric, violent, unfeeling, and narrow minded.
Men love to hear "smooth things," and to be told of peace, and not of danger. (Isaiah. 30:10)
But the subject of hell is one that ought not to be kept back, if we desire to do good to souls.
It is one that our Lord Jesus Christ brought forward frequently in His public teachings. That loving Savior, who spoke so graciously of the way to heaven, has also used the plainest language about the way to hell.
Let us beware of being wise above that which is written, and more charitable than Scripture itself. Let the language of John the Baptist be deeply engraved in our hearts. Let us never be ashamed to avow our firm belief, that there is a "wrath to come" for the impenitent, and that it is possible for a man to be lost, as well as to be saved.
To be silent on the subject is dreadful treachery to men's souls. It only encourages them to persevere in wickedness, and fosters in their minds the devil's old delusion, "Ye shall not surely die!"
That minister is surely our best friend who tells us honestly of danger, and warns us, like John the Baptist, to "flee from the wrath to come."
Never will a man flee until he sees there is real cause to be afraid. Never will he seek heaven until be is convinced that there is risk of his falling into hell.
The religion in which there is no mention of hell, is not the religion of John the Baptist, and of our Lord Jesus, and His apostles.
'So that ye were examples to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia...and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.' 1 Thes. 1:7,9,10

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