The Hardened Heart
Revelation 16:9
And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which has power over these plagues…

They repented not to give him glory. This impenitence is told of in Revelation 9:20, and in this chapter again at vers. 11 and 21. This repeated reference is designed to, as it well may, impress our minds with a fact at once so sinful, so solemn, and so sad. For such impenitence is -

I. A VERY CERTAIN FACT. The late Mr. Kingsley, in his book, 'The Roman and the Teuton,' draws out at length the evidence both of the horrible sufferings and the yet more horrible impenitence of the Roman people in the days of their empire's fall. He refers to these very verses as accurately describing the condition of things in those awful days, when the people of Rome "gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed," etc. (ver. 11). And it is to Rome and her fall that St. John is here alluding. There can hardly be doubt of that. But the sinners at Rome were not the only ones who, in spite of the judgments of God resting upon them, have, nevertheless, hardened their hearts. Who has not known of such things?

II. AND VERY WONDERFUL. We say a burnt child dreads the fire, but it is evident that they who have been "scorched with great heat" (ver. 9) by the righteous wrath of God are yet not afraid to incur that wrath again. Nothing strikes us more than the persistent way in which, in the "day of provocation in the wilderness," the Israelites went on sinning, notwithstanding all that it brought upon them in the way of punishment. There was every reason and motive for them to obey God, and yet they did scarce anything but provoke him. And it is so still.

III. AND VERY AWFUL. "Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone." "Why should ye be stricken any more?" - no good comes of it, punishment does not make any difference. Such are the despairing words of the prophets of God. There are few surer signs of perdition than when a man is hardened in sin and more set in enmity against God by reason of his righteous judgments. What can even God do then? If what is designed to lead us to repentance only drive us into more sin, what hope is there? See those told of here; what a description of unspeakable distress - "gnawing their tongues for pain," but blaspheming God the while and repenting not! "From hardness of heart,... good Lord, deliver us."


1. Times of such distress as are told of here are just the most unfavourable times of all others for that serious, earnest thought which would lead to repentance. Distress distracts the mind, drags it hither and thither, so that it cannot stay itself upon God. To trust to the hour of death to turn unto God is, indeed, to build upon the sand.

2. Resentment against their ill treatment holds their mind more than aught else. Thrice are we told how the men who "gnawed their tongues for pain" blasphemed God. Burning rage against him enwrapped their souls. As if he were to blame, and not they! They explain that difficult verse in the ninetieth psalm, "Who regardeth the power of thy wrath? even according to thy fear, so is thy wrath." It is only they who have a holy fear of God who will regard his wrath; according to the measure of that fear will be the measure of right regard of the wrath of God. Where that fear is not, God's wrath will exasperate, enrage, and harden, but there will be no repentance.

3. They attribute their sufferings to every cause but the true one. How easy it is to do this! how commonly it is done! How men snatch at every suggestion that will help them to lay the blame upon other men or things! It is part of "the deceitfulness of sin" to make men do this. But until a man is led to cry, with him of old, "God be merciful to me, the sinner!" (Luke 18:13), he may groan in agony of body or mind, but he will never turn in heart to God.

4. Sin has such hold on them that they cannot give it up. Yes, deeper than the dread of its punishment is the love of the sin. Once it might have been broken through as easily as the cobweb that stretches across the garden path; but, indulged and indulged, it has become a cable that holds the man in spite of all the storm of God's judgments and the tempest of his wrath. Cries and tears, protestations and prayers, may be extorted from the man through his terror and pain; but they are but surface sounds, and touch not the depth or reality of the man's soul.

5. "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" (Ecclesiastes 8:11). The interval between the sentence and its being carried out is given for repentance; but men have made it a means of greater sin. Such are some of the reasons that explain the seemingly wonderful fact we are considering.

V. AND IT IS FULL OF WARNING. Even torture does not turn a man, nor suffering save. That old and awful puritanic cry to sinners, "Turn or burn!" - a cry which, we believe, never yet turned one heart to God, for it is not the nature of terror to do that - has a yet more dread sequel; that if a man will not now, in "the day of salvation," turn to God, he may burn and yet not turn. Such is the teaching, not of our text alone, but of all experience too. O God, fill our hearts with the fear and love of thee! - S.C.

Parallel Verses
KJV: And men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the name of God, which hath power over these plagues: and they repented not to give him glory.

WEB: People were scorched with great heat, and people blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues. They didn't repent and give him glory.

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