Sermon 530. The Chief Of Sinners
A SERMON DELIVERED BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Timothy 1:15.
WHO among all the Scriptural writers can compare with Paul in the fullness of his testimony to the Grace of God? Upon theDoctrines of Grace, upon the experience of Divine Grace, upon everything that has to do with the exceeding abundant Graceof God through our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul is themighty master and the great teacher. If it were right to look at him from an exclusively human point of view and speak ofhis genius rather than his inspiration, I might say of him that so mighty, so clear, so eloquent a teacher of the Truth ofGod has never existed since the daysof our Lord Jesus Christ.
Though Augustine was a particularly bright star and Calvin in after generations rivaled, if he did not even excel Augustine,Paul far excels both in the brilliance with which he exhibits every quality of Grace and Grace in everything that has a goodquality. Or, to use another figure, Paul towersaloft above them all in the great mountain range, lofty though full many of their summits are. One reason for his clearnessabout Divine Grace was that he was himself a very pattern and model of its power. In him God had expressly, as much as inany other man, and perhaps more,shown forth the super-abundant power of His love in passing by transgression, iniquity and sin-and in making the very manwho had been a ringleader of mischief, to become the leader of the hosts of the Lord.
Paul calls himself in our text the chief of sinners. It is possible that he literally exceeded every other sinner, dared moreand sunk deeper in crime than any of his fellows among the sons of men. If so, let no man that lives despair of mercy. Ifthe gate of Heaven is wide enough for the chief ofsinners to go through, then there must in that respect be room enough for those who must be less than the chief, who, thoughvery great, yet cannot be quite so great as he. I say, though I hardly think so, that it is just possible that, taking certaincircumstances intoconsideration, Paul really was in such sense the very chief of sinners. And yet I hardly think so, because he himself, inanother place, calls himself less than the least of all saints, which was the modest apprehension of one who in another placeaffirmed that he was not a whitbehind the very chief of the Apostles.
Might it not, then, rather have been that his deep view of his own sinfulness and his clear sense of his guilt made him considerhimself to be the chief of sinners, though, probably, there have been tens of thousands even greater than he? Tonight my businessis to find out the chiefs of sinners andendeavor to describe them. And then, to enquire how it is that so often the very chiefs of sinners are saved.
I. First, dear Friends, as Saul hunted out Believers, I have, tonight, TO TRY AND HUNT OUT THE CHIEFS OF SINNERS. Now whoare they? They come under various characters and may be classified in different lists. We will begin with those who directlyoppose themselves to God and to His Christ. Theseare chiefs among sinners. Paul did join their ranks. He set himself determinately against the name of Christ and thoughtwith himself that he ought to do very much against that name.
Now those who directly attack the Person of God come, first, under the head of blasphemers. Paul says he was such. He had,no doubt, used expressions quite as strong as those sometimes used by unbelieving Jews when they are much irritated by Christians.He had said some foul things about theImpostor crucified upon Mount Calvary-things, perhaps, more vile than he ever cared to remember-much less to repeat. Hehad been exceedingly mad, and when men are mad they say exceedingly mad things. He had been a blasphemer, and a blasphemerchallenges the vengeance ofthe Almighty with no common effrontery.
Have I one here whose mouth is foul with oaths? Has there strayed into this House of Prayer tonight one who has cursed Godand dared in his angry moments to lift his puny hand of rebellion and curse the Most High God? Have I the misfortune-no, Iwill not call it so-have I the hopefulprivilege of talking to one who has spoken against Jesus of Nazareth and who is determined to quench His religion, or tooppose it to the utmost of his power? Is it so?
Then indeed, Friend, you are one of the chief of sinners, and I am glad that you are here, that I may tell you that thereis mercy even for such as you are. For "all manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men." No matter how often orhow foully you have cursed the Most High and damnedyourself, He will not damn you if you will turn from the error of your ways and seek mercy through the blood of Him whomyou have despised.
Others come under the same class. For instance, we must here put the infidel, for although his words may not take the formof blasphemy, yet the very thought that there is no God is blasphemy. And he that dares to vent that thought is not only afool, but one of the chief of sinners. And so youhave tried to stultify your conscience and to silence its monitions by pretending to believe that there is no God! You havetried to rake up the stale arguments of Tom Paine and of Voltaire and you have chuckled when one who called himself a bishopof God's heritage dared to ventsome strong things against the Book of His Divine inspiration.
You know in your heart that there is a God! Your conscience tells you that He is a just God. You expect to be punished foryour sins. That start the other night when you were alone, that cold shiver when someone spoke of death-all these prove thatyour infidelity is not so stout and brave athing as you have dreamed it was. A poor, craven, cowardly thing it is, that turns pale at a sickbed and flies, with cowardpaleness on its cheek, when once it thinks of judgment to come.
Oh, if you are here, you Atheist, you Deist, you disbeliever in Christ Jesus, you are one of the chief of sinners and I amglad you are here!-That I may tell you that a God of Love waits to embrace you and that He still declares this to be true-thatHe is able to save to the uttermostall them that come unto God by Him! Fling down your weapons, Man! You cannot fight the Most High! End this unequal quarrel.Have neither truce nor parley, but consider how you may be at peace with Him. The hand of His love is stretched out to acceptthe hand of your submission. Oh,be you reconciled to God through the death of His Son!
And here I ought to include those who hold views derogatory of the Deity and the Person of Christ. Faithfulness to you, myHearers, compels me to put down the Socinian. I will not call him Unitarian, for we all hold the unity of the Godhead. Trinitarians,but Unitarians are we still. Far otherwisethe Socinian and the Arian-I put them down here-the men who say that Christ is not God, that the Redeemer of the world wasbut the son of Mary, that He who walked the waters of the deep, chained the winds, cast out evil spirits and made even Hadesstartle with His voicewhen the soul of Lazarus came back-that He was but a Prophet, a creature, a mere man!
Surely, Sir, you are one of the chief of sinners to have talked thus of Him who is "very God of very God," the express imageof His Father's Person! But even to you is Jesus gracious, and He bids you still believe in Him. You shall bow the knee toHim one day and worship Him, for, "at the name ofJesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Bow your knee, NOW,and kiss the Son lest He be angry and you perish from the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. He bids you come toHim, then will He blot out your sinslike a cloud and like a thick cloud your iniquities. The chiefs of sinners, we are sure, are found among those who directlyattack the Person of Jehovah's Christ, yet even to these is the Gospel of salvation sent.
Another group of princes and peers in the realm of evil may be described as those who attack Christ's people and who seekto pervert them from the right way. This sin pressed heavily upon the conscience of Paul. He had not only put them in prison,which was bad enough, but he had taken the saintsinto the synagogue and probably they had been beaten before the assembly and compelled to blaspheme. You, perhaps, knowwhat that means-compel them to blaspheme. The Roman way of doing it was to say, "Curse Christ." Often did the Roman Emperorcommand the martyrs to curseChrist.
And you remember Polycarp's answer?-"How can I curse Him? Sixty years have I known Him. He never did me a displeasure andI cannot and I will not curse Him." Then the whip was applied, or the hand was held over burning coals, or the flesh was pinchedwith hot irons. And then the question wasput again-"Will you curse Christ now?" Paul says that he, though probably using milder means, compelled the professors ofChrist's faith to blaspheme. And there may be some such here-the husband who persecutes his wife for Christ's sake. The fatherwho charges his child,upon his obedience, never to go to the sanctuary of the Lord again.
The master who plagues his servant, mocks and jeers and can never be content except when he is saying hard things againsthim. Have I not many here who still practice the device of cruel mocking? You abhor Christ and His people. You fight againstGod in His little ones. Beware! Beware! For this isa high sin! Nothing puts a man on his mettle like meddling with his children, "Touch me, if you will," the father says,"if you are a man, smite me if you dare." But touch his children, and the blood is in his cheeks and the mettle is up andthere is no knowing what a man will dowhen he sees the offspring of his own heart ill-treated.
So God will avenge His own elect that cry day and night unto Him, though He bears long with them. To you who thus rank withthe chiefs of sinners, I say that Paul the persecutor "obtained mercy," and so may you! "This is a faithful saying and worthyof all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came intothe world to save sinners, of whom" persecutors rank among the chief.
There is another group whom you will all allow to be of the chiefs of sinners-those who have sinned foully in the world'sesteem-violating the instincts of nature and outraging the common sense of morality and decency. It scarcely needs that Ishould mention the harlot that infests thestreets and pollutes society. Or that worse wretch, the whoremonger, who first leads her astray. I speak plain words, suchas I find in Scripture. Such God shall judge when He comes at the last day, for this temptation is a deep ditch and the abhorredof the Lord shall fall into it.This crying sin of our land needs to be sternly rebuked. Other sins are without the body, but this pollutes both body andsoul and often sends down to generations yet unborn a horrid curse-at the very thought of which the soul is sick!
Of all sins, young man, young woman, take care that you stand aloof from this! Pass not by the house of the strange womanif you love your life, for her gates lead down to death, even to the chambers of the damned! Yet, glory be to Divine Grace!There is mercy, mercy for such-and multitudesof these chiefs of sinners have become as the very brightest stars in Heaven-snatched by the strong arm of Jesus from themiry clay and out of that horrible pit. They are now clothed and in their right mind, they have gone to sit at the feet ofJesus, to sing of redeeminglove.
There was that Mary, that Mary whom Jesus had forgiven. Well might she love much! And many a loving spirit do I know, andthere are some very dear to God's Church here, who love their Lord, and often shame some of us who stand more prominent thanthey who once drank deep of that bitter cup and oncewent to the very depths of that sin. Publish it in your streets! Tell it wherever you meet with the most loathsome and mostdefiled! Jesus is able to save to the uttermost! He was the friend of publicans and sinners. "This man receives sinners,"is Jesus Christ's motto. Other menreject the sinner. They turn aside from her-woe unto her if she come between the wind and their nobility. But "this Manreceives sinners"-receives them to His heart and to His bosom-to His Kingdom and to His Throne. You chiefs of sinners, rejoicethat if youbelieve in Jesus there is mercy for you!
And surely I may find another class of the chiefs of sinners among those who have become not only adepts themselves, but thetutors to others in the school of evil. Satan has a university and there are many who have fairly won their diplomas as first-classprofessors there. They have learned to sinwith a high hand and with an outstretched arm-until they not only sin themselves-but delight in the sins of others. Havewe not seen the old drunkard and how he gloats when he sees another man won to the army of the bestial! Have you not seenthe eyes of some base olddemon in a country village twinkle when he sees that fair-haired boy for the first time pander to the infamous customs inwhich he has long reveled?
Have we not known some of those foul-mouthed masters of all baseness whose very talk is enough to make a whole parish sickwith the pestilence of vice-men that you had better go over hedge and ditch seventy miles than meet! There are such. You haveseen them, I dare say. And, mark you, whenthat being is a woman, if anything, it is then worse! The softer sex, usually by far more apt to teach, instills the secretvice of evil and wraps it up in insidious enchantments, by reason of which many a strong man has fallen when Delilah has beenhis charmed tutor in sin! I maynot, oh, I hope I may not have one such being within earshot now.
Yet , it is possible, amidst the thousands that this house now contains, but what there must be some of you who roll sin underyour tongue as a sweet morsel and talk of it with a gusto till you tickle the fancies of others-and lead them into defilementswhich otherwise they never might havetouched. You artfully conceal the book while putting the bait in the young man's way and thrusting the knowledge of newvices upon those who should have shunned them! Oh, you are the chief of sinners with a vengeance, and you shall be hung uplike Haman upon the lofty gallowsforever if you repent not!
Yet, O Sovereign Grace! How can I tell Your heights? O sea of Love, how can I ever fathom Your depths! There is even mercyproclaimed for such. Turn, turn, why will you die, O house of Israel? Why will you perish?-
"While the lamp holds out to burn The vilest sinner may return."
I find no exception in the offer of mercy. All are included in the invitation of welcome, "Whosoever will, let him come andtake of the water of life freely." "Though your sins are as scarlet they shall be as wool, though they are red like crimsonthey shall be whiter than snow." Here is a full, afree, a perfect and a complete pardon for all your past offenses.
Though I have not yet finished the list, I would rather change the note for a minute. I have another class of the chiefs ofsinners to find out. I, myself, belong to them, and I therefore speak with feeling. In this section we include those who havehad much light and yet have sinned against it.They who have been taught better, who have had a knowledge of the way of the Truth of God and yet have turned aside to crookedpaths. To have been nursed upon the lap of piety and dandled upon the knee of Christian affection is no small privilege. Tobe lighted to one's cradle bythe lamps of the sanctuary, and to be hushed to sleep with a lullaby in which the name of Jesus comes as a sweet refrain-thisinvolves an awful responsibility.
No man can go to Hell over a mother's tears without accumulated vengeance. No son can rebel against a father's affectionateand tearful admonitions without perishing ten times more frightfully than as if he had never been thus privileged. Ah, myHearers, alas, alas, for the hardness of yourhearts-there are many such here now. I would charitably suppose that very few of you belong to the other classes I havebeen speaking of, but the great mass of you who are unconverted belong to this class. Do you remember young Man, how yourmother put her arms around yourneck and wooed you to turn to Christ?
Do you remember that little Bible when you first went to school and that verse she inscribed as a motto-she watered it withher tears as she wrote it. Do you recollect those letters she addressed to you? She is now in Heaven, is she? Then let thembe the more sacred to your recollection. Anddo you remember that Sunday school teacher? Was he not a father to you? Was not that excellent woman who used to entreatyou to turn from the error of your ways a very mother to you in Israel? Do you not remember, young Woman, some of you, theearnest exhortations that my belovedSister, Mrs. Bartlett, has addressed to you?
If ever there was a woman that could, under God, move the heart and soul, she is that woman. And yet, there are some of youthat listen to her voice and yet you are unconverted! You have the light shining upon your eyes and yet they are sightlessstill! You live in the land of mercy, where its bellsummons you to come to its assembly of Divine Grace, but you will still not come! You have the light, but you shut youreyes against it! Remember, young Man, young Woman, when you sin you sin with seven-fold atrocity, because you know better!No-seventy sins are rolled intoone in your sin of daring deliberate willfulness.
Within that egg of sin there sleeps the seed of your greater damnation because you know the right and yet you choose the evil.Have I not now the privilege of speaking to some whose old familiar associations are awakened up by these feeble glances atyour life story? Do you not feel just now as ifyou were kneeling down again in that little room and heard the native accents of your mother's prayer, while your lips hardlyrefrain from repeating afresh the words of your own prayer which she taught your lips to frame before she put you to yourrest? Do you not remember it? Anddo you not remember sometimes when your conscience was awakened and your heart was almost broken, and your soul said, "Icould almost be a Christian," but you excused yourself with a frivolous delay-"Go your way for this time. When I have a moreconvenient season I will sendfor you"?
But, alas, that convenient season has never yet come. And your conscience grows seared. Drugged with the opiates of sin, yougrow less and less tender of the affectionate appeal. Woe will be the day of your visitation, for it shall be cloudy indeed,unless you turn at the voice of reproof. But evento you, O chief of sinners, is the word of this salvation sent.
There are those, too, who sit under an earnest ministry and yet go on in sin-they surely belong to the class of chief sinners.O, my Hearers, how I would to God that I could be as earnest with you as I want to be! The Lord knows there are times whenI am not in the pulpit, when I feel that Icould weep you to a Savior. But sometimes when standing here, the influence of this mighty throng seems rather to distractme than to bring my whole soul into play. And yet, the Lord knows how earnestly I long for you in the heart of the Lord JesusChrist. I have not shunned todeclare unto you the whole counsel of God as far as I have known it. I know I have failed in knowledge, but never in honesty.
Yet I know there are some of you who come here and yet you live in sin. The world says, "So-and-So goes to Spurgeon's Tabernacle,"and they expect you to be better for going there. And yet they say, "Ah, how they drink!" or, "Hear how they will swear!"Where are you? You used to have your shop openon the Sunday morning, but it is shut now. I am glad you have got as far as that. Still, let me tell you, you only compoundyour sin and make a covenant with Hell, if you outwardly pay respect to the Sabbath and secretly indulge in other profanities.Drunkenness may destroy youwithout Sabbath-breaking. It is not giving up one sin, it is giving up the whole.
It is not the barter of one sin for another to quiet your conscience, which will satisfy justice or rescue you from destruction.Man, there must be a divorce between you and your sins! Not a mere separation for a season, but a clear divorce. Cut off theright arm! Pluck out the right eye and castthem from you, or else you cannot enter into eternal life. Are there not some of you who have for years listened to my ministryand yet you are none the better? And some of you are rather the worse, I fear. You are getting Gospel-hardened by it all.
Well, by God's Grace, there is mercy for you, too! You are the chief of sinners, but the red flag is not run up yet- the whiteflag still floats mast-high-the flag of invitation-the flag of love-the flag of mercy. Come to it! Come to Jesus now. Youmay never have anotherinvitation. Soon may this tongue be cold in death, or your ears may be deaf forever, like clay-cold marble. Turn you, atthis rebuke, for if after being often reproved, you harden your necks, you shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy.To you, even to the chief ofsinners, is the word of this salvation sent!
Drawing the bow at a venture, there is another class I would single out-those who are gifted from their childhood with a tenderconscience. There are men who seem to be born without a conscience. So hard and dull of impression are they that if they haveany faculty of distinguishing betweengood and evil, it is as though they had eyes and saw not, and ears but they hear not. And does it ever speak, the voiceis so weak, you can never hear it. But there are those, on the other hand, who have naturally a quick understanding, a delicatesensitiveness, a ready perceptionof right and wrong, a strong and vigorous conscience. They never do sin without being aware of what they are doing and theyare troubled and pestered, as they say, about it.
They cannot sleep at night after they have been committing any serious breach of propriety. Even when they are walking thestreets, or when they are busy, they are quickly startled at the recoil of their own transgressions. Oftentimes there is acertain uneasiness and fretfulness which comes overthem because they are conscious that they are not pursuing the right course. Now, if you are gifted with this tender conscienceand yet you constantly violate it and directly act in the face of your own convictions, you are the chief of sinners. Butstill, still Paul, the chief ofsinners, found mercy-and so may you!
And again-if you have had warning in sickness and especially if on your sick bed you have vowed unto the Lord that you wouldturn to Him, then you are covenant-breakers, you that violate vows made to the Most High-you must also be put among the firstand foremost of transgressors. Whenthe cholera was here some nine years ago, you vowed that if God would spare you, things should be different. He did spareyou, but things are no better now than they were before. When the fever prostrated you, what promises you made and where arethey now? You have lied unto theEternal God! Is it little for you that you should have promised and not have paid-have vowed unto Him and not performed?Now, Sinner, you are a liar, as well as anything besides. You are a rogue, a dishonest one against God, with Whom the compactwas made. But the invitationis still freely tendered unto you-come unto the Lord Jesus Christ and believe in Him-and you shall be made whole.
The chiefs of sinners comprises so numerous a body. I believe everyone of us must be included in the list in some shape orother. I know this-if ever you and I are saved-if God shall give us very great mercy, we shall feel that we were the greatestsinners. When Paul saw how kindly hisMaster treated him, it seemed to break his heart-"What? Did I ever curse that Christ who has blessed me? He that is so richin loving kindness, did I ever spurn Him?" Verily, now, I think I have had the blackest sight of sin when I have had the brightestsight of mercy. Whenmy dear Lord and Master has privileged me, by allowing me to come near Him in prayer, and I have felt His love shed abroadin my heart-then it is that I have felt as if I could bring imprecations upon myself for ever having been a traitor to Him.
What? Could I spit in Your face, my Redeemer and my Lord? Could I ever crown Your head with thorns, which now it shall bemy life's task to crown with jewels? What? Did You love me so? Did You forgive me so and could I ever speak against You? Itis great mercy that sets forth our great sin, for weonly come to reckon ourselves the chief of sinners when we see the great love of God. So then, without amplifying any longer,I will put the invitation thus-whoever among you have sinned against the Most High, you are all on a level, and the invitationof mercy is put to you,each and all, and this is the Gospel-"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, he that believes not shall be damned."May you be led to believe and to profess your faith according to God's way.
II. Well, now, but a few minutes remain to me and I will endeavor to be brief while I try to answer the question, WHY ARETHESE WHO ARE PROVERBIALLY THE CHIEF OF SINNERS ARE VERY FREQUENTLY SAVED?
One reason is to illustrate Divine Sovereignty. There is no jewel of His crown of which God is more jealous than His Sovereignty."I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Now, when He savesthe harlot, when He calls the persecutor bySovereign Grace, then all men see that this is the finger of God and that He dispenses His love and kindness according tothe purposes of His own absolute and uncontrollable will. He chooses the chief of sinners that He may show to all men thatHe will take the base things of theworld and the things which are not, and things which are despised, to bring to nothing the things that are-that no fleshmay glory in His Presence.
Another reason is that He may show His great power. Oh, how Hell is made angry when some great champion falls! When theirGoliaths are brought down, how the Philistines take to their heels! How Heaven rings with songs when some chief of sinnersbecomes a trophy of the Divine power! And how mentalk, with glib tongues, of the great and mighty deeds of God, when the drunkard and the swearer and the prostitute arewashed and made saints! What a noise it made at Elstow, when they said at the public-house on the green-"You know John Bunyan?""Oh, yes, we know him! Youmean the fellow that was always first at a game of tip-cat-he that could always drink the longest! Oh, yes, we know him."
"Well, do you know, he was preaching over at Bedford yesterday." "What?" says one, "preaching at Bedford? I would as soonhave thought of the devil preaching as John Bunyan! What a wonderful thing the Gospel must be, to change such a man as that!"And yet it was true! John Bunyan, who frequentedthe ale-house, who knew more about the county jail and more about the Celestial City that is on the other side the floodthan most men of his times. It shows the power and the Sovereignty of God when such men are saved.
And next, how it shows His Grace! When I have sometimes sat to see enquirers I have seen a number come in one after the otherthat have been born and brought up in the midst of piety and I have blessed God for them. But, by-and-by there has come inone whose tale has been terrible to tell and itwas not easily told-except with many sighs and sobs and tears. But when it was disclosed, there have sat two weeping together-Iscarcely know which wept more-he who wept because of Divine Grace illustrated in him or the other because he saw in anotherthe DivineGrace which he had tasted for himself.
Oh, when great sinners tell out their tales, they are so straightforward, so explicit! There is no muddle about it, no questionsabout when they were converted, or how, but there they are. They say-"Ah, Sir, it must be Divine! Such a change has been workedin me that nothing could have thusturned the lion to a lamb, the raven to a dove, but the Grace of God." In great sinners, then, the Grace of God is madeconspicuous.
Again-great sinners are very frequently called by God for the purpose of attracting others. You know that when some greattransgressor finds mercy, straightway many hearts say-"Ah, then there is mercy for me." I am glad, I am very glad that therewas a Manasseh, that there was David,that there was a Saul of Tarsus, and I am glad they are in the Bible. The wicked cut the stories out and they laugh at usand say, "These are your saints?" Ah, we can bear that, while we can say-"No, this is what they were by nature, but they weresaved, for all that, by thedistinguishing Grace of God, who saves men through faith and not by their works."
Now, I believe that that case of David has been a solace to thousands, if not to millions. The hurt he did in his lifetimewas certainly very great-but the incalculable benefit which has flown to the universal Church from the penitential Psalms-putsaltogether into the shade the damagewhich the fall of David did to the Church in his own time. Not that there is less shame to the sinner, but that there ismore glory to the Savior where sin abounded in the first instance and
Divine Grace did much more abound in the sequel. We can well bear this spot, for the sake of the light which comes from thesun.
Sinners! All of you! If you would put yourselves among the little ones, if your lives have never been grossly vile (I am gladif they have not)-let the fact that the great sinner enters and is washed, attract you. I have heard it said of the elephant,that sometimes before he crosses a bridgehe puts his trunk and perhaps one foot, upon it. He wants to know if it is quite safe, for he is not going to trust hisbulky body to things that were built only for horses and men. Well, after he has tried it, if he finds it strong enough, awayhe goes and his great carcass iscarried right across the stream.
Now, suppose you and I sat on the other side and said we were afraid the bridge would not bear us! Why, how absurd our unbeliefwould be! So when you see a great elephantine sinner, like the Apostle Paul, go lumbering over the bridge of mercy and nota timber creaks and the bridge does not evenstrain under the load-why then, methinks you may come rushing in a crowd and say-"It will bear us, if it will bear him-itwill carry us across, if it can take the chief of sinners to Heaven!"
And then, dear Friends, the saving of the chiefs of sinners is useful, because, when they are saved they generally make themost fiery zealots against sin. Have we not a proverb that, "The burnt child dreads the fire"? I noticed my host, on one preachingexcursion, particularly anxious about mycandle. Now, as everybody ought to know how careful I am, I was a little surprised and I put the question to him why heshould be so wonderfully particular. "I had my house burned down once, Sir," said he. That explained it all. No man is somuch afraid of fire as he, and they whohave been in sin and know the mischief of it, protest against it the most loudly.
They can speak experimentally. They talk of what they have tasted and handled to their own smart and ruin! Oh, what revengethere seems to be in the Apostle's heart against his sin! He seems to bring out the great battle-axes and weapons of war againstit-and wherever he can see sin he smitesright and left-anywhere. Persecution, death, martyrdom-all these are nothing to him if he can but get a blow at sin. Healways seems to have the gun charged to the muzzle and no devil comes in his way but what he has a shot at him. There areno ramparts or hellishbulwarks but what Paul thinks he must take them, whether they are in Asia, or Italy, or Spain. This great knight-errantof the Cross is everywhere the great antagonist of sin, and so must those always be who are saved out of great iniquity.
And then, again, they always make the most zealous saints. I have said and it will come true, though I am no prophet nor theson of a prophet-I have said that the Lord will deliver this city and deliver this age, not by ministers from col-leges-notby the sons of gentlemen or theinheritors of titles. But He will yet shake London and bring about a religious revival with the men who will come from St.Giles's and from White Chapel-from the slums, and from the dens and kens of infamy. God will take such men by-and-by, andHe is beginning to work italready.
There are one or two names that will come to your recollection-illustrious names in connection with the preaching in theatres-Godwill raise up more such and you shall see that when human wisdom and creature devices have done their utmost to make the Churchof God the dull lethargicthing it now is, God, in the plenitude of His might will raise up some who have tasted that He is gracious and have drunkdeeply of the cup of His love that will turn the world upside down. It is all an idle and a wicked tale that our places ofworship in the City of London cannotbe supported. I see them building new places in the suburbs and leaving the City itself destitute of the means of DivineGrace.
Were the right men found, the Churches in the City of London might be as crowded as those in the suburbs. Only put into theirpulpits men who know the guilt of sin and who know that Gospel in which is revealed the righteousness of God-men who knowand preach Christ-then the effect wouldbe palpable. Give us the men who do not talk as botanists might do upon botany, when they had not seen a flower, or as somemight speak of various lands who have never traveled a league. But give us men who know experimentally those things that theylabor to teach and let theirtongues be set on fire of the Holy Spirit, and you shall then see London as full of the glory of the Lord as was Jerusalemof old.
May this come to pass! May it begin to come to pass tonight! May the Lord find out, as He moves among this mass, some stray,strange being that has given himself up to desperation, to work mischief with both his hands-and may He say to him tonight,"I have need of you and I will have you."Oh, mighty Grace, do it tonight! He will have you, Man! Your will must be subdued. Your pride must come down. That proudtemper of yours shall yield. "I am your Master. I made you. I bought you with My blood, and do you think I will lose you?I am mighty to save, do you think thatyou can overcome Me? I came forth on purpose to redeem you! Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" O that the Lord wouldspeak thus personally to some individual now!
And now I have done when I have just put this before you. My Hearers, here is life and death. If you despise Christ, thereis death for you. If you turn aside from the love and mercy which streams from the wounds of Jesus, the angry God shall findyou in your sin and cut you in pieces and there isnone that can deliver you. If you go on in your sin, you will soon meet with death. But a few Sundays ago we had to markhow sudden death thinned our ranks. Sometimes it is a working man. There was one, you know, some weeks ago, who lost his lifein building the great bridge atBlackfriars, who was often a hearer here.
There is scarcely a day passes but we hear of someone gone out of this great assembly. We are going one after another. Thepastor may go soon, but perhaps before he goes he may see many of you carried to your graves-he cannot tell. But, oh, whywill you remain without God and without Christ?If you had a lease of your lives you might go on in sin until the lease was out. But even then you would be foolish to beenemies to God and enemies to yourselves so long. But as you may die today, God help you to repent tonight.
On the other hand, I set mercy before you-no man can say he has not been invited-no soul can say that I did not set the gateopen wide enough! You are without excuse in the Day of Judgment. When the trumpet peals through Heaven and earth and awakesthe slumbering dead-when Christshall come in the clouds to judge the earth, I must give an account of the Gospel I have preached to you tonight. I wouldto God I could preach it better, but I cannot. You know what it is. You are without excuse. You have been invited. You havebeen entreated.
You have been bid to come to the marriage supper. All things are ready. The oxen and the fatlings are killed-come to the supper.You that are in the highways and hedges, we would compel you to come in, that God's House may be filled. Come. "The Spiritand the bride say, Come. And let him thathears say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whoever will, let him take the water of life freely."
But if you come not, I must be a swift witness against you at the last. I am clear of your blood. I am clear of the bloodof you all. God save you, for Christ's sake. Amen.