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Verse 31. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. There may be an allusion here to the request of David to "fall into the hands of the Lord, and not into the hands of men," when it was submitted to him for the sin of numbering the people, whether he would choose seven years of famine, or flee three months before his enemies, or have three days of pestilence, 2 Sa 24. He preferred "to fall into the hands of the Lord," and God smote seventy thousand men by the pestilence. The idea here is, that to fall into the hands of the Lord, after having despised his mercy and rejected his salvation, would be terrific; and the fear of this should deter from the commission of the dreadful crime. The phrase "living God" is used in the Scripture in opposition to idols. God always lives; his power is Capable of being always exerted. He is not like the idols of wood or stone which have no life, and which are not to be dreaded, but he always lives. It is the more fearful to fall into his hands because he will live for ever. A man who inflicts punishment will die, and the punishment will come to an end; but God will never cease to exist, and the punishment which he is capable of inflicting to-day he will be capable of inflicting for ever and ever. To fall into his hands, therefore, for the purpose of punishment—which is the idea here—is fearful,

(1.) because he has all power, and can inflict just what punishment he pleases;

(2) because he is strictly just, and will inflict the punishment which ought to be inflicted;

(3) because he lives for ever, and can carry on his purpose of punishment to eternal ages; and

(4) because the actual inflictions of punishment which have occurred show what is to be dreaded. So it was on the old world; on the cities of the plain; on Babylon, Idumea, Capernaum, and Jerusalem; and so it is in the world of woe—the eternal abodes of despair, where the worm never dies. All men must, in one sense, fall into his hands. They must appear before him. They must be brought to his bar when they die. How unspeakably important it is, then, now to to embrace his offers of salvation, that we may not fall into his hands as a righteous avenging Judge, and sink beneath his uplifted arm for ever!

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