Sermon 197. The Spies
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, June 6, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"And they brought up an evil report of the land which they had searched unto the children of Israel, saying, The land, throughwhich we have gone to search it, is a land that eateth up the inhabitants thereof; and all the people that we saw in it aremen of a great stature."-Numbers 13:32.
"And Joshua the son of Nun, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, which were of them that searched the land, rent their clothes.And they spake unto all the company of the children of Israel, saying, The land which we passed through to search it, is anexceeding good land."-Numbers 14:6-7.
THE UNBELIEF OF THE CHILDREN of Israel, prompted them to send spies into Canaan. God had told them that it was a good land,and he had promised to drive out their enemies, they ought therefore to have marched forward with all confidence to possessthe promised heritage. Instead of this, they send twelve princes to spy out the land, and "alas, for human nature," ten ofthese were faithless, and only two true to the Lord. Read over the narrative, and mark the ill effect ofthe lying message, and the holy boldness of the true spies.
Now I must take up my parable. The land of Canaan is a picture of religion; I do not think it was ever intended to be a pictureof heaven, for there are no Canaanites in heaven, certainly in heaven there are no sons of Anak, no giants to be driven out,no walled cities, and no kings with chariots of iron. Canaan is, however, a very excellent picture of religion. The childrenof Israel must stand this morning as the representatives of the great mass of mankind. The greatmass of mankind never try for themselves what religion is; they neither search our sacred books, nor taste and try ourreligion. But this is what they do; they consider those who make a profession of religion as spies who have entered the land,and they look upon our character and our conduct as the message which we bring back to them. The ungodly man does not readhis Bible in order to discover whether the religion of Christ is holy and beautiful, no, he reads the living Bible-Christ'schurch-and if the church is inconsistent he condemns the Bible, though the Bible is never to be accountable for the sinsof those who profess to believe it. Ungodly men of course do not come and by repentance and faith make a trial of the loveof Christ; they do not enter into covenant with the Lord Jesus, or else they would soon discover that it is a good land thatfloweth with milk and honey; but instead thereof they stand still, and they say, "Let be, let us see what these Christiansmakeof it. Do they find it to be a happy thing? Does it succor them in their hour of trouble? Does it comfort them in the midst of their trials?" And if they find that our report is a gloomy or an unholy one, they turn aside, and they say,"It is not a good land; we will not enter into it, for its difficulties are great, but its enjoyments are few."
Beloved brethren and friends, to put the parable as simply as I can, I am about to make out every Christian man and womanhere to be a spy who has entered into the good land of religion, and who by his conduct and conversation brings either anevil or a good report of this good land, and either moves the world to murmur at and to despise religion, or else inspiresit with a holy dread of goodness, and something of a longing after a portion therein.
But I shall begin with a word of caution. In the first place I shall notice that the men of the world are not to be excused for their folly in trusting to mere report from other persons. Then secondly, I shall endeavor to describe the evil reporters, the evil spies, which are in the camp; then we will mention some good spies, who bring a good report of the land; and, in conclusion, bring a few weighty reasons to bear upon Christian men, why theyshould act like Caleb and Joshua, and bring up a good report of the land.
I. In the first place, then, THE UNGODLY WORLD ARE NOT TO BE EXCUSED for that, which must nevertheless be admitted to be avery natural matter, namely, that INSTEAD OF INVESTIGATING RELIGION FOR THEMSELVES, THEY USUALLY TRUST TO THE REPRESENTATIONOF OTHERS.
The worldly man looks at a Christian to see whether his religion be joyful. "By this," says he, "shall I know whether there is that in religion which will make a man glad. If I see the professor ofit with a joyous countenance, then I will believe it to be a good thing." But hark, sir! hast thou any right to put it tothat test? Is not God to be counted true, even before we have proved him? And hath he not declared himself, "Blessed is theman unto whom the Lordimputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile?" Doth not the Scripture itself declare that godliness isprofitable, not only for this life, but for that which is to come-that it hath the blessing of two worlds, the blessing ofthis world below the sky and of that upper world above the stars? Would you not know from Scripture if you were to take theBible and read it, that everywhere the Christian is commanded to rejoice, because it is comely for him? "Rejoice in the Lordyerighteous and shout for joy all ye that are upright in heart." "Rejoice evermore." "Rejoice in the Lord always and againI say, rejoice." Remember you have no right to put the joyfulness of religion to any test short of your own experience, foryou are bound to believe God on his naked word. It is not for you to stand still till you can see it to be true. It is yourduty to believe your Maker when he declares that the ways of religion are pleasantness and all her paths are peace.
Again, you say you will test the holiness of Christ's religion by the holiness of Christ's people. You have no right, I reply, to put the question to any such testas that. The proper test that you ought to use is to try it yourselves-to "taste and see that the Lord is good." By tastingand seeing you will prove his goodness, and by the same process you must prove the holiness of his gospel. Your business isto seek Christ crucified for yourselves, not to take therepresentation of another man concerning the power of grace to subdue corruption and to sanctify the heart. Your businessis yourselves to enter into its valleys end pluck its grapes; yourselves to climb its hills and see its inhabitants. Inasmuchas God has given you a Bible, he intended you to read it, and not to be content with reading men. There is his Holy Spirit; you are not to be content with feelings that rise through the conversation of others, your onlypower to know truereligion is, by having that Spirit operating upon your own heart, that you may yourself know what is the power of religion.You have no right to judge religion from anything extra or external from itself. And if you despise it before you have triedit yourself, you must stand confessed in this world as a fool, and in the next world as a criminal. And yet this is so withmost men. If you hear a man rail at the Bible, you can usually conclude that he never reads it. And you may be quite certainif you hear a man speak against religion, that he never knew what religion was. True religion, when once it takes possessionof the heart, never allows a man to quarrel with it. That man will call Christ his best friend who knows Christ at all. Wehave found many who have despised the enjoyments of this world, but we never found one who turned from religion with disgustor with satiety, after having once enjoyed it. No, remember my hearers, if you take your religion from other people, and areled by the example of professors to discard religion, you are nevertheless guilty of your own blood. For God has not leftyou to the uncertain chart of men's characters; he has given you his own Word; a more sure word and testimony, whereunto youdo well if ye take heed.
It will be in vain for you to say at the day of judgment, "Such and such a man was inconsistent, therefore I despised religion."Your excuse will then be discovered to be idle, for you shall have to Confess, that in other respects, you did not take anotherman's opinion. In business, in the cares of this life, you were independent enough; in your political opinions you did notpin your faith to any man's coat; and, therefore, it shall be said of you at last, you had enoughindependence of mind to steer your own course even against the example of others, in business, in politics, and such likethings; you certainly had enough of mental vigor, if you had chosen to have done so, to have stood out against the inconsistencyof professors, anal to have searched for yourselves. If all Christ's church were inconsistent, so long as there is a Bibleupon earth, you could have no excuse in the day of judgment; for Christ was not inconsistent, and you are not asked to followChrist's followers-you are asked to follow Christ himself. Until then you can find a flaw in his character, a mistake in his conduct, you have no right to fling the inconsistency of his followers in the teeth of Christ, nor to turn from him becausehis disciples forsake him and flee. To their own Master they stand or fall; they must bear their own burden, and you mustbear yours too. "Every man shall bear his own burden," saith Scripture, "for we must all appear before thejudgment seat of Christ, to give an account for the things which we have done in the body, whether they be good, or whetherthey be evil" You will not be accountable for another man's sins, but for your own; and if another man by his sin has broughtreproach upon Christ, still it shall be no excuse for you if you do not follow him wholly, in the midst of an evil generation.
II. With that, by way of caveat and guard, I shall now bring forth THE BAD SPIES. I wish that the men mentioned in the text,had been the only spies who have brought an evil report: it would have been a great mercy if the plague that killed them,had killed all the rest of the same sort; but alas! the breed, I am afraid, will never be extinct, and as long as the worldendureth, there will be some professors who bring up an evil report of the land.
But now let me bring forth the evil spies. Remember, these spies are to be judged, not by what they say, but by what they do; for to a worldling, words are nothing-acts are everything. The reports that we bring of our religion are not the reports of the pulpit, not the reports that we utterwith our lips, but the report of our daily life, speaking in our own houses, and the every day business of life.
Well, first, I produce a man who brings up an evil report of the land, and you will see at once that he does so, for he is of a dull and heavy spirit. If he preaches, he takes this text-"Through much tribulation we must inherit the kingdom." Somehow or other, he never mentionsGod's people, without calling them God's tried children. As for joy in the Lord, he looks upon it with suspicion. "Lord, what a wretched land is this!" is the very heightof poetry tohim. He could sing that always. He is always in the valley, where the mists are hovering: he never climbs the mountain'sbrow, to stand above the tempests of this life. He was gloomy before be made a profession of religion-since then he has becomemore gloomy still. See him at home. Ask the children what they think of their father's religion. they think they could wishtheir father was anything except religious. "Father will not let us laugh," they say; "he pulls the blinds down on theSunday; he tries to make us as dark and miserable as he can on the Sabbath day;" he thinks it his duty as a strict Sabbatarian,to make the Sabbath the greatest day of bondage out of the whole seven. Ask his wife what she thinks of religion: she says,"I do not know much about it myself, but I wish my husband were be little more cheerful." "Nay, but is it his religion thatmakes him miserable?" "I do not know what it is," she says, "but I know when he is most miserable, he is generally mostreligious." Hear him pray: when he is on his knees he gives a long list of his trials and troubles; but he never saysat the end, "More are they that are for us than all they that are against us." He usually dwells upon the valley of Baca,and about crying so much that he makes it a well. He never goes on to say, "They go from strength to strength, every one ofthem in Zion appeared before God." No, it is just the black part of the story. If you want to see this brother in perfection,you mustsee him when he is talking to a young convert. The young man is full of joy and gladness, for he has found the Saviour,and, like a young fledgling that has just taken wing, he delights to fly about in the sunshine, and chirp merrily in the joyof his faith. "Ah!" says the old Christian, "the black ox has not trodden on your toes yet; you will have more troubles thanyou dream of." Old Mr.Timorous was a friend of mine: did you ever hear what he said to Christian, when he met him on his journey?I will tell you the same. "The lions; the lions! the lions!" he cries; however says "The lions are chained." "The giants!the giants! the giants!" he exclaims. He never saith, "He carrieth the lambs in his bosom, and gently leadeth those that arewith young." He takes always the dreary side of the question, bringing up an ill report of the land. And, do you know, someof these people are so proud of their in report, that they form themselves into a little knot, and they cannot hear any preacherexcept his face he of an extreme length, and except he has studied the dictionary to find all the most lugubrious terms,and except he appear unto men to fast, just like the Pharisees of old. Now, I do not hesitate to say that these men are evilspies. Far be it from us to mask the great fact that religion does entail tribulation, and that a Christian, like everybodyelse, must expect in this world to have trouble, for man is born to it as the sparks fly upward; but it is as false as Godistrue, that religion makes men miserable. So sure as God is good, his religion is good. and as God is good to all, andhis tender mercies are over all his works, religion is an atmosphere in which those tender mercies play, and the sea in whichhis lovingkindness swims. Oh, come, ye dreary professors, take away those storm-clouds, and wreathe a few rainbows on yourbrow. Come, now, anoint your head and wash your face, that you appear not unto men to fast; take those harps from the willows;downwith them, and now try if your unaccustomed fingers cannot make them alive with melody. And if you will not do it, andcannot do it, permit me to bear my testimony. I can say, concerning Christ's religion, if I had to die like a dog, and hadno hope whatever of immortality, if I wanted to lead a happy life, let me serve my God with all my heart; let me be a followerof Jesus and walk in his footsteps, for never was there a truer word spoken than that of Solomon, "Her ways are ways ofpleasantness, and all her paths are peace." It is a land that floweth with milk and honey; there are clusters even onearth too heavy for one man to carry; there are fruits that have been found so rich that even angel lips have never been sweetenedwith more luscious wine; there are joys to be had here so fair that even cates ambrosial and the nectared wine of Paradisecan scarce excel the sweets of satisfaction that are to be found in the earthly banquets of the Lord.
Perhaps, however, this poor man that I have just sent off is to be pitied. Not so the next one, for he is a rascal indeed.See him! he comes forward as Mr. Meekface, making a great profession of religion. How he mouths the hymns! When he standsup to pray, with what a spiritual kind of voice he prays. Nothing carnal about his voice! He is among the Christian peoplea great leader. He can preach sermons by the yard. He can dissect doctrines by the hour. There is not ametaphysical point in all our theology that he does not understand,
"He can a hair divide,
Betwixt the west and north-west side."
His understanding is, in his own opinion, infinite; and he makes very boastful pretensions to piety. Everybody says when theysee him in his good frames in chapel or elsewhere, "What a dear good man he is!" You follow him to business. He will not swear,but he will lie. He won't out-and-out rob, but he will cheat. He will not curse a man to his face, but he will do worse-hewill speak ill of him behind his back. You watch him! He, if he could find a drunkard in thestreet, would upbraid him, and talk to him so proudly against the sin of intoxication, but he himself very seldom knowshis own way upstairs to bed; only that is in a quiet way, therefore nobody sees it, and he is thought to be a very reputablemember of society. Don't you know any such people? I hope you do not; but I have met with them. There is a great stock ofthem still living; men that make grand professions, and their lives are as much opposed to their professions, as hell is opposedtoheaven. Now what does the world say of religion when they see these people? They say at once, "Well, if this be religion,we had better have none of it." Says the business man, "I could not do what So-and-so does, it is true, I could not sing outof his hymn book, but I could not keep his cash book." We have known many men say; "I could not make so long a prayer as So-and-so,and could not make out my invoices in the dishonest way he does." We have met with worldly men who are far more honestas tradesman and professional men than persons who make a profession of religion. And we have known on the other hand,men who have made the greatest profession, indulging in all kinds of evil. Horrible shall he that man's fate, who thus ruinsother men's souls by bringing up a bad report of the land. But, oh! I beseech you, my hearers, if any of you have seen suchprofessors, let the righteous stand out to-day, like Joshua and Caleb of old; let the Church stand before you and rend itsgarments, while it entreats you not to believe the lying and slanderous reports of such men. For, indeed, religion isholy; as Christ is holy, even so do his people desire to be holy. And the grace of God which bringeth salvation is pure andpeaceful; it produces in men things that are holy and of good report, things that magnify God, and that make human natureappear glorious. But scarcely do I need to tell you that, in your own circle while you have met with hypocrites, you havemet with menwhom you could not doubt. Yes, you have sometimes seen even in your evil company, a man who was like an angel; you havefelt as Satan did when Abdiel, the faithful among the faithless, stood forth, and would not turn a rebel to his God.
"Abashed the devil stood, and felt how awful goodness was"
I beseech you therefore, do not believe the ill report of the hypocrite, and the unholy man.
But there is a third class of professors who bring up a bad report of the land. And this I am afraid will affect us all insome measure we must all plead guilty to it. The Christian man, although he endeavors uniformly to walk according to the lawof Christ, finds still another law in his members warring against the law of his mind, and consequently there are times whenhis witness is not consistent. Sometimes this witness is, "The Gospel is holy" for he is holy himself.But, alas with the very best of men, there are times when our witness contradicts our faith. When you see an angry Christian-andsuch a thing may be seen-and when you meet with a Christian who is proud, and such a thing has been known, when you catcha Christian overtaken in a fault, as you may sometimes do, then his testimony is not consistent. He contradicts then whathe has at other times declared by his acts.
And here, I say again, I fear that all of us must plead guilty. We have sometimes by our actions put in words which seem toconflict with the general testimony of our lives. Oh! brothers and sisters, do not believe all that you see in us, and ifsometimes you see a Christian man betrayed into a hasty or a wrong expression, do not set it down to our religion, set itdown to our poor fallen humanity. If sometimes you should catch us overtaken by a fault, and we trust itshall be rarely enough you so see us, abuse us, but do not abuse our Master: say what you will concerning us, but do not, we beseech you, impute it to our religion, for saints are sinners still, and the most holy men have still tosay, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." But we do beseech you, when the madness of sindeludes us, do not believe the maunderings of our madness, but have regard to the general testimony of our lives, and that,wetrust, you will find to be consistent with the gospel of Christ. I could bear to be abused, but I should not like to have the Master abused. I would rather have it believed that I was nota Christian at all, than allow any one to say that any faults I have were caused by my religion. No, Christ is holy; the gospelis pure and spotless. If at any time we seem to contradict that witness, do not believe us, I beseech you, but look into thematter for yourselves, for indeed it is a goodland, a land which floweth with milk and honey.
III. Thus I have brought forth the evil spies who bring up a bad report. and now, thank God we have some GOOD SPIES too. Butwe will let them speak. Come Joshua and Caleb, we want your testimony; though you are dead and gone, you have left childrenbehind you; and they, still grieved as you were at the evil report, rend their clothes, but they boldly stand to it that theland they have passed through is an exceeding good land.
One of the best spies I have ever met with is an aged Christian. I remember to have heard him stand up and tell what he thought of religion. He was a blind old man, who for twenty yearshad not seen the light of the sun. His grey locks hung from his brow, and floated over his shoulders. He stood up at the tableof the Lord, and thus addressed us:-"Brethren and sisters, I shall soon be taken from you; in a few more months I shall gatherup my feet upon my bed, andsleep with my fathers. I have not the tongue of the learned nor the mind of the eloquent but I desire before I go, tobear one public testimony to my God. Fifty and six years have I served him, and I have never found him once unfaithful. Ican say 'Surely goodness and mercy have followed us all the days of my life, and not one good thing hath failed of all theLord God has promised.' " And there stood that old man, tottering into his tomb, deprived of the light of heaven naturally,and yethaving the light of heaven in a better sense shining into his soul; and though he could not look upon us, yet did he turnhimself, and seemed to say, "Young people, trust God in early life, for I have not to regret that I sought him too soon. Ihave only to mourn that so many of my years ran to waste." There is nothing that more tends to strengthen the faith of theyoung believer than to hear the veteran Christian, covered with scars from the battle testifying that the service of his Masterisa happy service, and that if he could have served any other master he would not have done so, for his service was pleasantand his wages everlasting joy.
Take the testimony of the sufferer. "Behold that fragile form of delicate transparent beauty, whose light-blue eye and hectic cheek are lit by the bale-firesof decline, all droopingly she lieth, as a dew-laden lily, her flaxen tresses, rashly luxuriant, dank with unhealthy moisture."I have seen her when her eyes were sunk, when she could scarce be lifted out of the bed, when the frame was wearied of life;and I have seen her quite complacent, as she took her Biblefrom beneath her pillow and read, "Yea, though I pass through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil, forthou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table for me in the presence of mine enemies." Ihave sat down and spoken to her, and have said to her, "Well, you have been in this sad place these many months. Do you findreligion cheers you now?" "Oh, Sir," she has said, "what could I do without it? I cannot leave this bed; but it has been tome acouch of joy, where Christ has spread a banquet. He has made my bed in all my sickness. he has put his left hand undermy head, and his right hand has embraced me; he has given me joy in my sorrows, and has prepared me to face death with a calmand unflinching countenance." Such a case bears witness to the Master. Like that of the gray-headed saint, it is an excellentreport of this good land.
But we need not look to sick beds and to grey heads for the only witness. We know a Christian merchant; he is immersed inthe cares of this life, and yet he always finds time to prepare for a world that is to come. He has as much business as anyman in the city, and yet family prayer is never neglected. And perhaps you find him serving the office of civic magistrate-aswas the case in one instance-and yet even on the day of banquet, he rises from his chair, in orderthat family worship may still be kept up in his house. He is known in business as one who is willing to help little tradesmen.He likes good securities, as other people do; but he will sometimes run a risk to help a rising man. When you go to him, youfind him a sharp man of business, he is not to be taken in; but at the same time you will find him a man that will not takeyou in. You may trust him. Whatever the transaction may be, you have no need to look over the invoice if he has hadanything to do with it. There will be no mistake there; or if there be a mistake, it will be palpably a mistake, and immediatelyconfessed with the greatest possible sorrow, for he is upright in his dealings. There has come sometimes in his case an unhappycrisis, and when houses were tumbling, and bankrupts were as common as leaves upon the trees he was not disturbed and distractedlike other men, for his confidence was in his God, and his trust in the God of Jacob. He had some anxiety, but hehad more faith. and when his prosperity returned to him, he dedicated part of his substance unto the Lord, not in a noisyway, so that it might appear in a report that So-and-so gave a hundred a year to a society, but he gave five hundred and nobodyknew of it. Men said of him in the Exchange and in the Market, "If there is a Christian, it is that man." When they saw him,they said, "There is something in religion. We have watched him; we have never found him trip or turn aside. We have alwaysfound him the same upright character, fearing his God, and fearing no man." Such a man brings up a good report of theland. I may talk here Sunday after Sunday, and every day in the week elsewhere, but I cannot preach in so forcible a way asyou can, who by your actions are preaching to the world. Ah! and I cannot preach so well as those who are servants, who bytheir holy action in the midst of trial and difficulty have an opportunity to show what grace can do in the heart. Those aregoodspies who bring up a good report of the land.
And, my sisters, let me say a word to you. It is possible for you, too, to bring up a good report; not by neglecting yourhouseholds in order to attend to visiting societies. Let visiting societies be attended to. God be thanked for them, for theyare among the best institutions of our times. But I have known some people who would have been a great deal better employedin scrubbing their dressers, and seeing their servants wash up the tea things, than going out visitingthe sick from house to house; for their house has run to riot, and their families have been quite out of order, becausethe wife, like a foolish woman, was plucking everything down at home, while trying to do good abroad. We have known many truesisters of mercy, who are really blessed among women, and God shall bless them abundantly. We have known others who very seldomgo out visiting the sick, but they are at home ordering their household. We have known an ungodly husband converted by agodly wife. I remember to have heard an instance of a man who had a wife of so excellent a disposition, that though hewas a worldly, gay man, he used to boast in his gay company that he had got the best wife on earth. Said he, "You cannot puther into a passion. I go home late at night, in all sorts of trim, but she always receives me meekly, and I feel ashamed ofmyself every time I see her, for her holiness rebukes me. You may put her to any test you like, you will find her the bestofwomen." "Well," said they, "let us all go to supper with you to-night." They did. In they rushed. She did not hint therewas nothing in the house, though there was very little; but she and her maid set to with all their might, although it waspast twelve o'clock, and very soon had supper, and she waited on them with all the grace of a duchess, seeming as glad tosee them as if they were her friends, and had come at the most opportune time. And they began to tell how it was they hadcome, andasked her how it was she could bear it so patiently. She said, "God has given me a husband. I was not converted beforeI was married, but ever since I was converted, my first endeavor has been to bring my husband to know Jesus. and I am sure,"said she, "he will never be brought to do so except by kindness." Her husband, through these words, after the company hadgone, confessed how wrong he had acted to her; his heart was touched; next Sabbath he went to the house of God with her, andtheybecame a happy couple, rejoicing in the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts. She was a good spy, and brought a goodreport of the land. I doubt not there are many women whose names will never be heard of on earth who will receive the Master'scommendation at last, "She hath done what she could;" and when you have done what you can for Christ, by holy, patient, quietmeekness, you are good spies; you have brought a good report of the land.
And you servants, you can do the same. A religious servant girl ought to be the best servant anywhere. A religious shoeblackought to black shoes better than anybody else. If there be a religious man who is set to clean knives, he ought to take carethat he does not take the edge off. You know the negroes' piety in America is such, that a religious negro is worth many dollarsmore than another and always sells well; so that the masters like them to get religious becausethey are the men that do not rebel, but submit meekly and patiently, and the men who, finding themselves slaves, muchas they may hate their position, yet regard one to be their master who is higher than all, and "not with eye service as menpleasers, but with singleness of heart," they endeavor to serve God.
IV. And now I want to press with all my might upon every professing Christian here, THE GREAT NECESSITY OF BRINGING OUT AUNIFORMLY GOOD TESTIMONY CONCERNING RELIGION. Brethren, I feel persuaded if Christ were here to-day, there are some of uswho love him so well that we would turn our own cheek to the smiter, rather than he should be smitten. One of Napoleon's officersloved him so well that when a cannon ball was likely to smite the emperor, he threw himself in the way,in order that he might die as a sacrifice for his master. Oh Christian, you would do the same, I think. If Christ werehere you would run between him and insult, yea, between him and death. Well, then, I am sure you would not wantonly exposeChrist; but remember, every unguarded word you use, every inconsistent act puts a slur on Christ. The world, you know, doesnot find fault with you-they lay it all to your Master. If you make a slip to-morrow they will not say, "That is John Smith'shumannature;" they will say, "That is John Smith's religion." They know better, but they will be sure to say it; they willbe sure they put all the mischief at the door of Christ. Now, if you could bear the blame yourself you might bear it manfully;but do not allow Christ to bear the blame-do not suffer his escutcheon to be tarnished-do not permit his banner to be trampledin the dust.
Then there is another consideration. You must remember, if you do wrong the world will be quite sure to notice you. The worldcarries two bags: in the bag at the back they put all the Christian's virtues-in the bag in front they put all our mistakesand sins. They never think of looking at the virtues of holy men; all the courage of martyrs and all the fidelity of confessors,and all the holiness of saints, is nothing to them; but our iniquities are ever before them.Please to recollect, that wherever you are as a Christian, the eyes of the world are upon you; the Argus eyes of an evilgeneration follow you everywhere. If a church is blind the world is not. It is a common proverb, "As sound asleep as a church,"and a very true one, for most churches are sound asleep; but it would be a great falsehood if anyone were to say, "As soundasleep as the world," for the world is never asleep. Sleeping is left to the church. And remember, too, that the world alwayswears magnifying glasses to look at Christians' faults. If a man trips who makes no profession, oh! it is nothing-younever hear of it; let a minister do it, let a Christian professor do it, and then comes out the magnifying glass. It is nothingin anybody else, but it is a great sin in us. There are two codes of morality in the world, and it is very right there shouldbe. If we make profession to be God's children, and to have God's grace in our hearts, it is no more wrong in the world toexpect more of us than of others than it is for a gardener to expect his plants to grow more quickly on a hot-bed andunder a glass-shade than he would out of doors in the cold frost. If we have more privileges, and more culture, and make moreprofession, we ought to live up to them, and the world is quite right in expecting us to do so.
There is another consideration I must offer you before I have done. Recollect if you do not bring a good testimony for yourreligion, an evil testimony will defeat a great deal of good. All the saints in a church but one may be faithful to Christ,and the world will not honor the church for it; but let one professor in that church turn aside to sin, and you will hearof it for many a day. It is even so in nature. Take the days in the year. The sun rises and shines upon us,and we do not note it; all things continue as they were: the stars smile sweetly by night, and the day and night rollon in quiet: but there comes one day, a day of thunder and lightning, a day of earthquake and storm, and it is put on therolls of our history that such-and-such a remarkable day occurred at such-and-such a time. Why not note the good day? Butso it is. The world will only note the evil. You may cross through a country, and you will notice a hundred fair rivers, likesilverstreams threaded with emeralds running through the pastures, who hears the sound of their waters, as they flow gentlyto the sea? But there is one precipitous rock, and a waterfall dashes there; you may hear that half a mile off. We never hearanything about the river St. Lawrence, in all its lengths and breadths, it is only the falls of Niagara that we hear of. Andso the Christian may flow on in a steady course of life, unseen, unheard; but you are sure to hear of him, if he makes a fall.Bewatchful, therefore; your Master cometh. Be watchful: the enemy is at hand even now. O may the Holy Spirit sanctify youwholly, that you may abound in every good work, to the glory of God!
As for you who fear not God, remember, if Christians do sin, that shall not be an excuse for you. Suppose a man you are dealingwith says to you, "I cheated you, but I did not make any profession of being honest." You would tell him he was a confirmedrogue. Or if a man were taken before a magistrate, and were to say, "You need not put me in a prison, I never made a professionof being anything but a thief. I never said I would not break into people's chambers and get attheir plate baskets!" The magistrate would say, "You speak honestly, but you are by your own confession a great rogue,and I will transport you for life, and you shall never have a ticket of leave." It will be of no use for you at the last day,to say that you never made a profession of wanting to go to heaven or to escape hell, of leaving sin and trusting in Christ.If you never made a profession of serving God, you may rest assured he will have short work with you. You have made noprofession. O there is no judgment required. Depart! Thou didst make no profession of loving me, and now thou shalt haveno posesssion of my glory. Depart, accursed, into everlasting fire. May the Lord deliver us from that, for Jesus' sake.