Sermon 475. Self-Delusion
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 19, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able." Luke 13:24.
EVERY wise merchant will occasionally hold a stock-taking, when he will cast up his accounts, examine what he has on hand,and ascertain decisively whether his trade is prosperous or declining. Every man who is wise in the kingdom of Heaven, willdo the same by himself. He will cry, "Search me, O God and try me." And he will frequently set apart special seasons for self-examination,to discover whether things are right between God and his soul. The God whom we worship is a great heart-searcher. Of old His servants knew Him as, "the Lord which searches the heart and tries the reins of the children of men."
We who are called to be the mouth for God unto the people feel ourselves impelled to stir you up in His name to make diligentsearch, for we would not have you come short of the promised rest. We should be unfaithful to your souls if we did not warnyou against deception, and excite you to solemntrial of your state. That which every wise man does, that which God Himself does with you, I may well exhort you to do withyourselves this morning.
may God help you to deal very faithfully with your own hearts. Let the oldest Saint here look well to the fundamentals ofhis piety, for gray heads may cover black hearts. And let not the young Believer, in the first flush of his joyous faith,despise the word of warning, for the greenness ofyouth may be joined to the rottenness of hypocrisy.
1 shall not, this morning, aim to introduce doubts and fears into your minds. No, verily, I rather hope that the rough windsof self-examination may help to drive them away. It is not security, but carnal security, which we would kill. Not confidence,but fleshly confidence, which we wouldoverthrow. Not peace, but false peace which we would destroy. I am sure I am right in taking such a text as this, and indesiring to force it home upon your attention. For Christ, speaking to His own disciples, says, "I say unto YOU."
Notice with great care how He repeats the personal pronoun, you, you, yourselves, some twelve times in a few verses. As ifthis were a matter especially belonging to professors-a subject which ought to come under our immediate notice, not as havingreference to aliens and foreigners from thecommonwealth of Israel, but to us, the professed followers of Jesus.
Let us bow our strength to our solemn work at once. O great Master of assemblies, make our words as goads to the conscience,and fasten them as nails in the memory!
I. Our first remark is this-MANY PROFESSORS ABE DECEIVED. So the text teaches us. It does not say, "a few may be misled,"but "many shall seek to enter in, and shall not be able." That many professors are deceived is clear enough from the languageof Christ Himself, both here and in otherplaces. For instance, "Then shall the kingdom of Heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps and went forthto meet the bridegroom. And five of them were wise and five were foolish."
We hope that in our Churches we have not such a division as this! It were a fearful thing to contemplate only one half assincere, and the other half graceless, having the lamp of profession, without the secret vessel of spiritual life! Yet, soalarming a proportion as five out of ten should makeus search ourselves very carefully, lest we are found among the virgins, and among the virgins having lamps, yes, and amongthose whose lamps are burning-and yet should be cast away as having no oil in our vessels!
Remember how the Master in another parable puts the multitude of the lost clearly before us-"When the Son of Man shall comein His glory and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the Throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gatheredall nations: and He shall separate themone from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats: and He shall set the sheep on His right hand but the goatson the left." Now, by these goats are meant those who are in the flock but are not sheep.
A separation is needed, for they once were mingled. Yes, so mingled that they had a sort of hope, and were able impudentlyto plead-"Lord, when did we see You hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not ministerunto You?" Yet I do not discover in theparable that there were more sheep than goats. I find, at any rate, that the goats did make up a very considerable multitude.And though they expected to receive the benediction with the blessed, He said, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlastingfire, prepared for the devil andhis angels."
Remember, also, another parable of our Savior, where the sower went forth to sow his seed. Here there were three places wherethe seed fell in vain, and only one where it brought forth fruit. And, out of the three where it fell in vain, there weretwo that must be numbered with professors. In theone case it fell where the thorns sprang up and choked it- there was religion but worldliness killed it. In the next, itfell where there was not much depth of earth. And the Master tells us that there are some who hear the Word and with joy receiveit. But when persecutioncomes by-and-by, they are offended, for there was never a deep work in their inner spirit.
Tremble, my Hearers, so many of you as have received the Word with joy and gladness, lest you should be found to have hadno depth of earth and so, by-and-by, the good things which have blossomed and budded in you should perish before the burningsun of persecution.
Nor are these parables so few. I might occupy much of your time by recalling them. But let me remind you that Christ Himselfis compared by Malachi to a refiner. "He shall purify the sons of Levi. He shall be like a refiner's fire and like a fuller'ssoap." Now, of the mass that is put into therefining furnace, how little comes out pure gold or silver? All those who have to deal with metals will tell you that theore and the slag make up, by far, the greater part, and that if they get but a small percentage, they are well rewarded forall their toil and trouble.
The Master says He will bring a third part through the fire, and happy should it be for us, if we are not found among thetwo-thirds that shall be put away like dross. You will remember, too, that Christ compares Himself to a farmer winnowing hiscorn. "Whose fan is in His hand and He willthoroughly purge His floor and gather His wheat into the garner. But He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."Ask the farmer whether the chaff does not make a very considerable part of the unwinnowed mass, and whether it is not mostintimately connected with the wheat.
A large heap, it lies upon the floor-wait till the fan has been used and diligently applied and you shall see the heap diminishedby handfuls, for the chaff has fled, and now only the good grain is left. All these metaphors, and many more, go to warn usthat there are many professors who aredeceived-many that are in Israel, who are not of Israel. Many that are mingled with us, who, like the mixed multitude whichcame up out of Egypt with Moses, shall never enter into the promised land, but shall leave their carcasses to perish in thewilderness.
But, dear Friends, we are not left to inferences, for Holy Scripture gives us facts. Let me recall them to your recollection.Among the Apostles themselves, chosen by Christ, having Christ for their teacher and exemplar, there was a Judas. "I havechosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil." Wereit very reasonable to suppose that our modern Churches have a smaller proportion than this of devilish deceivers? If evenamong Apostles, one in twelve is a liar, deceiving, and being deceived, O Lord, how should
Your people search and try themselves, lest they be found wanting at the last!
Remember, too, that in the early Church, within a few days after the Spirit of God had been poured out, when that Church wasin the overflowing joy of her espousals, there were found two at least who were false to their profession. Ananias and Sapphira"lied unto the Holy Spirit," and fell deadbefore the rebuke of Peter. If, with the Spirit just poured out, there were spots in their solemn feasts. If in the firstglory of the Church's sky there were wandering stars to whom is reserved the blackness and darkness forever, how much morein these days of the Church'sweakness, when we have need enough to cry, "Descend, O sacred fire, descend again. For without You Your Church shall die"?
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles also informs us of an instance of a wonderful success in the city of Samaria. And yeteven here, among the early converts of this revival, there was found an arch-impostor. Philip the Evangelist preaches in Samariaand it is written, "Then Simon Magus believedalso." But you know how false he was. For Peter said, "Your money perish with you, because you have thought that the HolySpirit can be purchased with money." "I perceive that you are in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity."
Well, if in one of the earliest of revivals, when converts were numerous, when miracles abounded, when the whole city wasfull of joy-we still find a Simon Magus-what must we expect now? And, Brethren, I scarcely need to remind you, that with Paulas an overseer of the Church, the casesof deception and apostasy were not few. "All they which are in Asia are turned away from me, among whom are Phygellus andHermogenes." "Demas has forsaken me." "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil."
Hymenaeus and Alexander having made shipwreck of faith, the Apostle says, "Whom I have delivered unto Satan that they maylearn not to blaspheme." Philetus is mentioned, "Who has strayed according to the truth." I say, there were even in such Churchesas the Galatians-men who were accursedbecause they preached another Gospel. And in the Church of Corinth there were found evil ones who had to be cast out ofthe assembly. Moreover, Brethren, you will remember that the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself, gives no flattering character ofthe seven Churches in Asia, though theywere like seven golden candlesticks.
Of the best of them He might say, "I have somewhat against you." Of Sardis it is said, "You have a few names even in Sardiswhich have not defiled their garments." And of Laodicea, you will remember it was, "neither cold nor hot, so that Christ didspew it out of His mouth." Put these thingstogether, and you will see they make up a mass of hypocrisy and deception in the most favorable age of the Church's history.And we therefore think ourselves far from an uncharitable judgment when we expect to find in the Church of today many thatare deceived. But, friends, I neednot argue thus. For we know that there are such, and know it to our shame.
Every now and then a cedar falls in our midst. "Howl fir trees," when the cedars fall. We have seen-who has not, that hashad any experience in the religious world?-we have seen our leaders turn their backs in the day of battle. And our teachersfail to sustain their own character. Ah,and we have the painful conviction that there are others who are not discovered yet, whose sins do not go beforehand untojudgment but follow after, who are nevertheless tainted at the core. There are the many covetous professors who are as graspingand as grinding as if they neverprofessed to be Christians.
And you know that "covetousness is idolatry." There are the many time-serving Christians who hold with the world and withChrist, too. And you know that we cannot serve two masters. There are the many secret sinners among Christians who have theirpetty vices which come not under human observation,and who, because they are thought to be good, write themselves down among the godly. Now we know there is nothing coveredthat shall not be revealed, and woe to them when their secret sins shall be published on the housetops!
Then we have the legal professors who trust to their own works, and shall find that the curse of Sinai shall wither them.And what more shall I say? Have we not many who are not so inconsistent that we could put our finger upon any open sin sufficientto deserve excommunication, but who are guiltyof enormous spiritual wickedness? They are dead, they bring forth no fruit. Their hearts are hard as a millstone with regardto the conversion of sinners.
They have not the faith of God's elect. They do not live by faith. They have not the spirit of Christ, and therefore theyare none of His. God knows we have sought to use all care and diligence in this Church, both to keep out unworthy persons,and to cast out unhallowed livers. But, despite allthat, we cannot but be conscious, and we tell it to you faithfully, that the enemy still continues to sow tares among thewheat. The gold is mixed with the dross, and the wine with wa-ter-for evil men thrust themselves into the heritage of theLord.
When our muster-roll shall be revised at last, how many out of our more than two thousand members will be found to be base-bornpretenders unto godliness! O my Brethren, I implore you by the precious blood of Christ, which was not shed to make you hypocrites,but shed that a sincere people mightshow forth His praise-I beseech you, search and look, lest at the last it be said of you-"Mene, Mene Tekel, you are weighedin the balances and found wanting."
II. We shall now turn to a second point. IT IS NOT SURPRISING THAT THERE ARE FALSE PROFESSORS.
There is an imitation of the externals of godliness which is not easy to detect. Art can carve a statue so that it almostbreathes. And some of us, in looking at very skillful paintings, have mistaken them for realities. In a notable picture inthe Exhibition, you will have noticed an imitation ofsunlight shining under a door so well painted that many go up to it to ascertain if it is not really a gleam from the sun.We know that men can counterfeit coins and notes so well that only the most experienced can detect them.
And in all commercial transactions men are so well aware of the subtlety of their fellows, that they look well lest they aredeceived. The vital mysteries of godliness are mysterious-the inner life cannot be perceived by the carnal eye, and the outerlife of the godly seems to most men to bebut morality carried out with care. And therefore it becomes but a very simple task for a man to make himself look justlike a Christian, so as to deceive the very elect. To learn by heart that which others say from the heart-to get the outlineof a Believer's experience andthen to adapt it skillfully to one's self as our experience-this is a thing so simple that instead of wondering that thereare hypocrites, I often marvel that there are not ten times more!
And then, again, the Graces-the real Graces within-even they are very easy to counterfeit. There is a repentance that needsto be repented of-and yet it approaches as near as possible to true repentance. Does repentance make men hate sin? They whohave a false repentance maydetest some crimes. Does repentance make men resolve that they will not sin? So will this false repentance. For Balaam said,"If Barak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I will not go beyond the word of the Lord."
Does true repentance make men humble themselves? So does false repentance. For Ahab humbled himself before God, and yet heperished. There is a line of distinction so fine that an eagle's eye has not seen it, and only God Himself, and the soul whichis enlightened with His Spirit, can tell whetherthis repentance is genuine or not. And as for faith, how easy it is to counterfeit this! Even in Christ's day there wasa faith which worked miracles, but did not save the soul. And Paul tells us that if we had a faith which could remove mountains,yet if we had not charity, itwould profit us nothing.
I know it, that a man may say that he is saved by faith without works. And his faith may give him comfort, his faith helphim in trials, it may make him forsake some sins, and yet it may not be the faith which looks alone to Christ and so savesthe soul. To imitate these things, to so cunning andwell-practiced a counterfeiter as Satan, is no great difficulty.
Dear Friends, let us remember, too, that there are so many things which help a man to deceive himself. He himself is naturallydisposed to be very partial. "Let well enough alone," is a proverb which most men have learned. Very few men care to lookat the worst of their own state. They would rathersay, "Peace, peace," than think too harshly of themselves. What man ever gave himself a bad character? Or if he did, whatman could not abundantly excuse himself for having such a character?
Then there is the devil who never wants us to be too careful, for heedlessness is one of the nets in which he takes his prey.He will whisper in the ear, "It is all well," and so beguile the simple soul to its sure ruin. Beside that, there are theinconsistencies of true Christians. Self and Satanwill always use these. "Why, you are as good as old So-and-So." Or, "David sinned, therefore you may be a saint and sin.Lot fell, therefore you may fall and be a saint." And so, what with the flesh, what with the sins of true Christians, andwhat with the devil, it is easy for aman to fall asleep in carnal security, dreaming about Heaven, and never having his dream broken till he lifts up his eyesin Hell.
Beloved, I must add to this point, that I marvel not that so many are deceived, when I see the careless way in which you dealwith religion. When men have to do with their estates, they are very careful-they retain a lawyer to go back over the title-deedsperhaps for two or three hundredyears. In trade they will hurry here and there to attend to their commercial engagements. They would not launch into speculations,nor would they run great risks.
But the soul, the poor soul-how men play with it as a toy and despise it as if it were worthless earth! Two or three minutesin the morning, when they first roll out of bed. Two or three odd minutes in the evening, when they are nearly asleep-theends of the day given to theirsouls-and all the best part given to the body! And then, the Sunday! How carelessly spent by most people! With what indifferencedo you lend your ears too often to the preaching of the Word! It is an old song. You have heard it so many times. Heaven hasbecome a trifle to you.Hell is almost a jest. Eternity a notion, and death but a bugbear.
Alas, alas! It is a marvel that there are not more deceived. The wonder is that any find the gate-that any discover eternallife-when we are so, so mad, so foolish, so insane, as to trifle where we ought to be awfully in earnest, and to play andtoy where the whole heart is all toolittle to be given to a work of such dread, such everlasting importance! God help us, since it is so easy to be deceived,to search and watch, and look and test, that we are not found castaways at the last!
III. But now for a third point and that is a very solemn one, namely, that THIS DELUSION MAY CONTINUE
THROUGHOUT LIFE, even to the very last moment. And probably the first minutes of our life in the next world may be tincturedwith the same delusion.
Strange to think so, and yet some Scriptures seem to hint as much. Let me tell you one or two parables which Christ has used,which prove that this delusion may last long. There are the Tares and the Wheat-"Let both grow together until the harvest."It appears that the time of division doesnot arrive until the reapers, who are the angels, gather together first the tares and bind them in bundles to burn. So,you see, you may stand in a professing state through your whole threescore years and ten, and you may be carried to your grave,followed by a train of devout men,who make great lamentation over you.
And yet, though laid in the grave like a sheep, the worm may devour you, and you may wake in the morning to shame and everlastingcontempt. The separation may never occur, so far as the Church on earth is concerned. It may go on till the angelic revisersshall correct the list and cut you off whoare not of God.
Another parable-the Draw Net repeats the same warning, "The kingdom of Heaven is like unto a net that is cast into the seaand gathers of every kind." When does the division come? Not till they have drawn the net to land. Then they put the goodinto vessels, and throw the bad away. So nottill the land comes-that is, till eternity has begun, shall be the great division. And some of you may remain in the netof the Church till it is pulled ashore at the Day of Judgment, and we may some of us be expecting to find you in the vessels-andyet you will bethrown away. Or we may expect ourselves to be there and yet ourselves may be thrown away.
I refer you again to another parable, where the same Truth of God is taught but, perhaps, even more forcibly. A great kingmade a supper, and it is said, "When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:and he said unto him, Friend, how came you inhere?" Here was a man who remained in the kingdom, that is in the visible Church-till the king came in to see the guests-thatis until Christ comes to judge the quick and dead. Then was he cast out, but not till then.
Many postpone all trial of themselves as to their possession of the righteousness of Christ to the last moment. No, some manageto defer it, with all the miserable discoveries which it brings, until the grave is past, and the great assize is held, butfurther the lie cannot be played-furtherthe examination cannot be deferred. When Jesus comes, it will be impossible for any to remain ignorant of their true state,for that day will pour a flood of light into the dark corners of the dark hearts and reveal the most secret of all secretthings.
Solemn reflection! Solemn reflection for every man and woman here who has made a profession of godliness! You may he sittingat the table, and you may continue to sit there without any of your fellow guests taking any exception to you. But when theKing comes in, whose eyes can read the secrets ofall hearts, He will say, "How came you in here, not having on a wedding garment?" Then will your nakedness and defilementstartle you from your fancied security!
Speechless confusion shall cover you. Your heart shall find no excuse, the sentence shall bear justice on its forefront. "Bindhim hand and foot." Let resistance and escape be made impossible. "Cast him into outer darkness," for he shunned the light."There shall be weeping and gnashing ofteeth"-fit doom for one who would not weep nor search his soul.
Sundry other parables utter same warning notes, but I shall quote only one more and that is, the Unprofitable Servant. Hewas a servant, and remained so. And he had the impudence to present himself among the other servants to receive the reward.Yes, and when he had no reward, he had theimpertinence to argue with his Master and to claim that he had done his best with his Lord's money. You may have a talent-and,oh, how many of you have-which you are burying in the earth.
And you may never be upbraided by your fellow servants. But when He comes, you may, with brazen face, go up to ask for yourreward but He shall say, "Take the unprofitable servant!" And you know what the doom of such must be. Therefore, from Christ'sown language, we have the most satisfactory andsolemn cause to believe that the delusion of many may continue even to the last. The blindness of the self-deceiver maycontinue until he finds himself in the tenfold night of eternal perdition.
But we need not go to Scripture for a proof of this, for we know that it is so ourselves. We have not an exact way of testingmen's states-it were foolish to pretend to infallibility-but there are times when one can form a very accurate guess, thedoor of man's heart now and then standson the jar. Deathbeds tell tales. It is not every man who has the hardihood to dance with death, and wear a mask upon thebrink of the grave. Ah, how many there are who go through the first and the second gate, but they cannot open the iron gatethat leads into the City.
I have seen some that could brave it out when in life, who have made a sorry figure in the article of death. It is a gloomything to hear a high professor, after all his boastings, compelled to condemn himself out of his own mouth-"I have been ahypocrite, I have sat at the Lord's Table, andI have drunk the cup of devils, too. I was respected, when I was not respectable. I was accepted among Saints, when I wasa foul villain the whole while."
Some men have had to hang in chains before their execution. Some wretches lift up their eyes before they are actually in torment.But there have been others, more stolid still, who have gone right through the iron gate, with perfect quietness and calmness.And when we have heard their friends say,"Oh, he died such an easy death!" we have remembered that passage concerning the wicked, "There are no bands in their death-buttheir strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men, neither are they plagued like other men."
This is the mark of the wicked, not of the righteous. O that sullen quietude, that dead calm, in which some men float intoanother world! How wretched that awful peace which heralds the overwhelming tempest and hurricane! Have I not watched thespirits of unregenerate professors, and seen theghastly horror of the dread suspense which they labored to conceal. Not that their lives were inconsistent, but they hadno spiritual life-no care for souls, no love for Christ, no private prayer, no secret fellowship with Him. And now, at last,they have no triumph, and nocomfort of the Spirit.
When their time has come to die, they have talked as glibly as any, and they have closed their eyes as peacefully as any,but, like Dives, "In Hell they have lifted up their eyes, being in torment," and found their delusion dissipated, when, alas,it was too late. I warn you, dear Hearers, thatdelusion may continue for even fifty, sixty, or seventy years. You may say, "It is all well with my soul," and have neitherdoubt nor fear the whole time-and yet you may turn out rotten at the last.
The glorious Dreamer has sketched the end of the false professor. I quote his words, that you may see the scene before youreyes. "Now while I was gazing upon all these things, I turned my head to look back and saw Ignorance come up to the riverside.But he soon got over, and that without thatdifficulty which the other two men met with. For it happened that there was then in that place, one Vainhope, a ferryman,that with his boat helped him over. So he, as the others I saw, did ascend the hill, to come up to the gate, only he camealone. Neither did any men meet himwith the least encouragement.
"When he was come up to the gate, he looked up to the writing that was above, and then began to knock, supposing that entranceshould have been quickly administered to him. But he was asked by the men that looked over the top of the gate, Where didyou come from? And what do you want? He answered.I have eaten and drank in the presence of the King, and He has taught in our streets. Then they asked him for his certificate,that they might go in and show it to the King. So he fumbled in his bosom for one and found none.
"Then said they, Have you none? But the man answered never a word. So they told the King, but He would not come down to seehim but commanded the two Shining Ones that conducted Christian and Hopeful to the city, to go out and take Ignorance andbind him hand and foot and take him away. Then theytook him up and carried him through the air to the door that I saw in the side of the hill and put him in there. Then Isaw that there was a way to Hell, even from the gates of Heaven, as well as from the City of Destruction."
IV. The next point is this-that this delusion, even to the last, MAY SEEM TO HAVE THE MOST EXCELLENT ARGUMENTS TO SUPPORTIT. I shall prove this from Scripture. A man may be a deceiver, and he may accomplish his task all the more readily becausehe can say, "I have made, and I have maintaineda very respectable profession in the Church. I do not know that I have ever tarnished my character. I believe I am lookedupon by most people as a pattern and example."
Yes, this may be all correct, and yet you may be shut out at the last. Remember that the five foolish virgins were virgins.They had not forfeited the chastity of their character, but were of such good repute as to have virtuous companions, and tohave allowance to meet the honored bridegroom. Theyhad lamps. Mark that. I do not find that they threw them away. Those lamps were burning, too, for a long time. And theyhad some oil, mark, or else the lamps could not have burned so long.
But they had not the oil in the vessel, though they had the oil in the lamp. Here was the fatal blunder. So the man may say,"Well, I am all right. The lamp burns. Does it not burn as well as yours? You, you say have other oil in your vessel. Thatdoes not matter. I have as much oil in my lamp asyou. Mine shines as brightly. I am careful with it. And if I sleep, you sleep too-so that I have as decent a professionas you have." And yet, for all this, God may at the last rend you in pieces, and there shall be none to deliver you. How oftenis the candle of the wickedput out, and his beauty utterly consumed.
Again, some may bring a very careful outward observance of religion as an excellent argument, and think the conclusion tobe drawn is very satisfactory. "Lord, we have eaten and drank in Your presence and You have preached in our streets." Youhave been baptized. You are always at the Lord's Table.Your pew always sees you in it whenever the doors are opened. All this is very proper and right. But it may all help tomake you more easily deceived. You may conclude that you must be right because of this. And yet, the Master may say, "I neverknew you."
If means of Divine Grace could raise men to Heaven, Capernaum would not have been cast down to Hell. If attendance at thetemple could save the soul, then Caiaphas would be in Glory. If hearing the Word would be enough, then Herod would be in Heaven.O Brethren, more than this you must have, or youwill miss everlasting life! Further, you may even go the length of manifesting much religious activity, and you may concludefrom this that it must be all right with you-as those did who said, "In Your name we have done many wonderful works."
We may have been preachers and have converted our hundreds and attracted our thousands. We may have been Sunday school teachersand led our little ones to Christ. We may have been missionaries, whose names have been applauded at the public meeting. But,for all that, we may be found castaways atthe last. For it is not the doing of mighty works, but vital union with Christ by real faith, which shall be the point thatshall decide the question.
O Friends, your preaching, praying, almsgiving, tract distributing-unless Divine Grace is in you-only help you in your delusion,and make it the more difficult to arouse you from it. The more diligent in service the self-deceiver becomes, the more strongis the net in which his foot istaken. Every duty performed may be but another fetter to bind our souls if we are graceless professors. O that I could awakenyou, you desperately bewitched and stupefied deceivers!
Dear Friends, even the righteousness of God may furnish us with a plea if we choose our own delusions, and from every holything we may fetch apologies. We may say, "Religion is very hard. God is very strict and severe. Nobody can carry it out ashe should. Therefore it will be well with me." Justas he said, "Lord, I knew that you were an austere man, gathering where you had not scattered seed, and reaping where youhad not sown." And so, knowing that we are not what we should be, we may keep up our delusion by the excuse that there arevery few who are, and that God is ahard master.
And so we may go on, keeping our eyes fast shut, till the flames of Hell shall wake us up to sleep and dream no more. I knowsome who will even make it an excuse that they did not know what religion required of them, and they will plead ignorance."It is true," they will say, "I have not done as Ishould, but I did not know about it." Just as they did on the left hand. "When saw we You hungry and fed You not, or thirsty,and gave You no drink?" "I did not know," says the man, "that Christ was on earth. I knew there was a parcel of poor peopleabout that many despised andcalled fanatics. I did not suppose that feeding them would have been feeding Christ. I did not know Christ."
"No," says Christ, "and I do not know you. Depart from Me, you workers of iniquity, for I never knew you." Ah, Beloved, ifyou will be deceived, it is the easiest task in the world to accomplish your purpose. Any fool can delude himself. It needsno wise, and persevering, and patient man to inventa method by which to drag his soul into a damnable delusion. This can be done by sitting still. If you would be saved, youmust "strive to enter in at the narrow gate." But if you would be damned, there is no striving wanted. It is only a littlematter of neglect, and the whole isdone. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation?"
V. And now to the last point-this delusion may last through life and be sustained by many specious arguments but IT MUST ALLBE DISPELLED. Ah, if this pretty dreaming could last forever-if the man could have hope forever- then I need not be earnestwith you this morning. But sinceit must be dispelled, hear me! Hear me, Men and Brethren, while briefly I utter a few solemn warnings!
Remember, Professor, you will then be all alone. There will be no minister to comfort you-no deacons and Church members tosay you have maintained a good profession. You will have then to look at your own acts, your own faith, and your own life,in the solemn privacy of eternity. And then youwill give the right verdict, if you do not now. Then, too, your conscience will be awake. You would give a thousand worldsif you could make it sleep then, for conscience is "the worm" of Hell and it "dies not."
It is the fire that can never be quenched.
Then you will not be able to satisfy conscience with pretences, nor with promises. It will gnaw and bite and devour and vexyou. The fury of its fire will consume once and for all your proud conceits, and comfortable fancies. Then, too, your mindshall be more sensitive than it is now. Now youthink little of Hell or Heaven, time or eternity. But then those words will stick like daggers in you. You will feel, then,that the soul was of importance-no, that it was all-important.
You will then be made to feel those themes which now only enter your ears and are forgotten. There will be no cups in whichto drown your thoughts, no theatres in which to dissipate your melancholy, no gay company in which to laugh or talk away theimpressions of the Sunday. There will be nochance, then, of laughing at the minister, or pacifying your conscience about these things. But your sensitive soul, woundedin every point, shall be made to cry aloud, and never shall its cries cease, for then you shall be lost, lost, lost forever!
Then your knowledge shall increase, and you shall know what you know not now, and all you know shall only make your follyappear the more folly, because when there was hope you despised it, and when Christ was preached to you, you were contentwith the counterfeit, and despised the reality. Buthear me-hear me once again, Man! Then God shall deal with you. Now it is only my poor voice. It is only my feeble utterancethat goes to your heart today, and you will forget it all. Or perhaps you do not feel it now. But when God deals with you,it will be another thing.
Oh, if I were a Baxter, I would preach my sermon out in tears and weep over you proud and high Professors that will not searchand examine yourselves whether you are in the faith! But if I cannot get at you, God will. Those eyes of fire shall shed alight into the dark corners of your soul. Thatfinger shall find out the leprous spots which now you have so well concealed. His hand shall rip open your breast, to lookat your heart, and expose it to the assembled universe. As sure as God shall deal with you, so would I have you surely dealwith God. Make sure work foreternity. Pull it down, pull it down, if it is built on the sand! Consume it, consume it, if it is "wood, hay, stubble,"and cry to God this day that you may build upon the Rock and use nothing but "gold, silver and precious stones," that yourbuilding may abide the fire.
Sinners! A word to you. If the Professor, "if the righteous scarcely are saved," where will you appear? Drunkard, surely youshall drink the cup of wrath! Swearer! Surely you shall have your "damns" and your "anathemas" replayed into your soul abundantly!Thief! You shall find that you have stolenyour own soul! Harlot! Whoremonger! You shall find at the last that God abhors you, and He will cast you from His Presence.I say, if even the best living of men need thus to search and try, and if many of them shall be shut out, careless Sinners,what must then, become of you?
And you timid ones-you timid Christians! I have not preached this to alarm you. Let me bid you, however-fly to Jesus againthis morning. If there is all this ado, when we come to sift and try, would it not be better for you and me to cling to theCross again, with, "Just as I am, Itrust You, Jesus-I trust You alone." For oh, remember, none can perish that are clinging to the Cross!
But, proud Professors! The last word must still be for you. You may soar, yes, like Icarus, with wings of wax, but the higheryou fly, the more terrible will be your fall. And what will become of you? Think of what has become of others like you, nowin Hell! What would they give for your Sabbathsover again? What would they give to be here, that they might hear one faithful sermon-that they might repent and escapefrom the wrath of God? Think, while you are here, how they are cursing themselves to think that they threw away the goldenhour and lost the opportunity! Howthey gnaw their tongues, while they say, "I came from the table of God to the place of fiends. I came from the pulpit intoHell. I descended from Mount Zion to the very depths of Hades. I was brought from Jerusalem to Tophet."
And this is to be your lot, proud Professor! Unless you repent. What do you say, Man? Are you willing to make your bed inHell, after having talked of leaning your head on Jesus' bosom? What? Will you dwell with everlasting burnings, after havingsung of everlasting love? What? Must you be drivenfrom His Presence, when you have boasted of being justified by His righteousness, and washed in His blood? It must be so,Professor. It must be so, unless God helps you to make true work, and real work, and sure work of it by the Holy Spirit.
"Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. For he that believes and is baptized shall be saved. He that believesnot shall be damned."