Now Consider, Ye who Scorn the Lamb

I had the dubious honour of a prison tour this week. I visited the segregation wing, where no inmate could enjoy another’s company, but would sit in a cell by himself most of the day. The wing was subterranean, the few windows high up and at the external ground level. On the corridor ceiling into which the cell doors opened, someone had attached a long picture of blue sky and clouds, stretching its length. Whether this was to restore some sense of sanity to the inmates and the warders charged with securing them, I do not know. Perhaps it was a cruel reminder of what they were missing, and more so in that deep down place of additional punishment.

Although some feel that British prisons are somewhat soft, my experience suggests otherwise. They are dreadful, if only partial, pictures of hell; convicted felons concentrated into a secure place, with no or limited interaction with the free world beyond. Hell is so dreadful a prospect that some are persuaded to dismiss it as metaphor or myth. Even if one can deny the literal fire and brimstone (which I dare not), the prospect of eternal incarceration with all that is evil, is a terrible prospect, especially knowing the gracious restoration and redemption that was freely available. Seeing those wretched faces pressed against the slit-like windows of those heavy doors is melancholic for any visitor. Knowing that one is to face the Judge who so readily might have been one’s Saviour must be the most galling and bitter of all human experiences. Eighteenth-century Baptist minister Joseph Swain wrote about this in his hymn Lo! He Comes:

Lo! he comes, arrayed in vengeance,

Riding down the heavenly road;

Floods of fury roll before him;

Who can meet an angry God?

Tremble, sinners;

Who can stand before his rod?


Now, despisers, look and wonder!

Hear the dreadful sound, “Depart!”

Rattling like a peal of thunder,

Through each guilty rebel’s heart!

Lost for ever!

Hope and sinners here must part.


[Still they hear the dreadful sentence;

Hell resounds the dreadful roar;

While their heart-strings rend with anguish,

Trembling on the burning shore;

Justice seals it;

Down they sink to rise no more.


How they shrink with horror, viewing

Hell’s deep caverns opening wide;

Guilty thoughts, like ghosts, pursuing,

Plunge them down the rolling tide!

Now consider,

Ye who scorn the Lamb that died.]

We speak not of hell lest it offend our neighbours and deem childish our faith. Yet this does not alter the dreadful place’s horrible existence. Thankfully, Swain remembers that for the Christian, the coming of the Lord Jesus a second time is an occasion of spiritual ecstasy:

Lo! he comes in glory shining;

Saints, arise and meet your King!

“Glorious Captain of Salvation,

Welcome, welcome,” hear them sing!

Shouts of triumph

Make the heavens with echoes ring.


Hark! ten thousand harps resounding!

Formed in bright and grand array;

See the glorious armies rising,

While their Captain leads the way;

Heaven before them,

Opens an eternal day.


- Gadsby’s Hymns, No 495

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