Sermon 632. Consider Before You Fight
A SERMON PREACHED BY C. H. SPURGEON AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"What king, going to make war against another king, sits not down first and consults whether he is able with ten thousandto meet him that comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegationand desires conditions of peace." Luke 14:31,32.
EVERY sensible man endeavors to adapt his purposes to his strengths. He does not begin to build a house which he will notbe able to finish, nor commence a war which he cannot hope to fight through. The religion of Christ is the most reasonableone in the world and Jesus Christ never desires tohave any disciples who shall blindly follow Him without counting the cost. We always esteem it to be a happy thing whenwe can get men to sit down and consider. The most of you are so full of other thoughts and so occupied with the world-everrunning here and there about yourordinary business-that we cannot get you to think, or calmly sit down and soberly look at things in the light of eternityand weigh them deliberately as you ought.
And yet it is only reasonable that the Master should ask you to do for Him, with regard to your spiritual matters, what youwill admit that every sensible man does continually in his business! You are poor traders if you never count your stock. Youare likely to be, before long, in bankruptcy courtif there is no periodical examination of accounts. And so Christ would have you sit down, sometimes, and take stock as towhere you are, and what you are. And then figure up by some sort of arithmetic by which you may come to a truthful calculation,what you are able to do and notto do. And what, therefore, it is reasonable and unreasonable for you to undertake and where your position ought and whereit ought not to be.
I especially invite, this evening, those who are unconverted in this assembly to some few thoughts upon the war in which theyare engaged with God. I am hoping that perhaps if they consider a little upon it, they will send a delegation and desire peace.When I have spoken upon that, there will besome, perhaps, who will he running away with the idea that they will at once be at peace with God and make war with Satan.But I shall want to pin them down a moment and make them estimate their chances of victory in such a war as that and see whetherthey are able to meet the BlackPrince of Darkness in their own strength.
We will try, if we can, to make it tonight the subject of a little homely talk about our souls and a little earnest personalconsideration about our future.
I. First, then, THERE ARE SOME HERE WHO ARE NOT THE FRIENDS OF GOD, and in this case he that is not with Him is against Him.If you cannot look up to God and say, "My Father," and feel that your heart beats true to Him, then remember it is a factthat you are His enemy. If you could have what youwish there would be no God. If it were in your power you would never trouble yourself again with thoughts of Him. You wouldlike to live, you say, as you wish, and I know how you would wish to live. It would be anyway but as God commands.
Now, as you are engaged in antagonism with Him, just think awhile-Can you expect to succeed? Are you likely to win the day?You have entered into a conflict with His Law-you do not intend to keep it. With His day, you do not regard it. You are thusat war with God! Now, is it likelythat you will be successful? Is there a chance for you? If there is, why then, perhaps, it may be as well to go on. If youcan conquer GOD, if the battlements of Glory may yet see the flag of sin waved triumphant there, why, Man, then try it!
There will be at least an ambition worthy of Satan who desired sooner to reign in Hell than to be ruled by Heaven! But isthere any hope for you? Let me put a few things before you which may, perhaps, make you think the conflict too unequal andthus lead you to abandon the thought at once. Think ofGod's stupendous power! What is there which He cannot do? We see but little of God's power comparatively in our land. Nowand then there comes a crash of thunder in a storm and we look up with amazement when He sets the heavens on blaze with Hislightning.
But go and do business on the deep waters. Let your vessel fly before the howling hurricane! Mark how every staunch timberseems to crack as though it were but match board and the steady mast goes by the board and snaps and is broken to shivers.Mark what God does when He stirs up the great deepand seems to bring Heaven down and lift the earth up till the elements mingle in a common mass of tempest!
Then go to the Alps and listen to the thunder of the avalanche. Stand amazed as you look down some grim precipice, or peerwith awe-struck wonder into the blue mysteries of a crevasse! See the leaping waterfalls and mark those frozen seas, the glaciers,as they come sweeping down the mountain side.Stay awhile till a storm shall gather there and Alp shall talk to Alp and those white prophetic heads shall seem to bowwhile the wings of tempest cover them! There you may learn something of the power of God amidst the crash of Nature.
If you could have stood by the side of Dr. Woolfe, when rising early one morning, he went out of Aleppo and upon turning hishead saw that Aleppo was no more! It had been, in a single moment, swallowed up by an earthquake! Then again you might seewhat God can do. But why need I feebly recapitulatewhat you all know so well? Think of what that Book records of His deeds of prowess when He unloosed the depths and badethe fountains of the great deep be broken up-and the whole world that then was-was covered with water!
Think of what He did at the Red Sea when the depths stood upright as an heap for a time while His people went through andwhen afterwards, with eager joy, the floods clasped their hands and buried His enemies in the deep, never to rise again! Letsuch names as Og, king of Bashan, Sihon, king of theAmorites and Sennacherib, the mighty, rise before your recollection and mark what God has done! Who has ever dashed uponthe bosses of His buckler without being wounded? What iron has He not broken? What spear has He not shivered?
Millions came against Him, but by the blast of the breath of His nostrils they fell, or they flew like the chaff before thewind! Let the sea roar but the rocks stand still and hurl off the waves in flakes of foam-and so does God when His foes aremost enraged and passionate. He that sits inthe heavens does laugh. The Lord does have them in derision. And He breaks them in pieces without a stroke of His hand oreven the glance of His eyes. Think, Sinner! Think of Him with whom you contend!
Have you an arm like God's? Can you thunder with a voice like His? Can you stamp with your foot and shake the mountains? Canyou touch the hills and make them smoke? Can you say to the sea, "Be stirred to your depths," or can you call to the windsand bid the steeds of tempest be unloosed? If youcannot, then think of the battle! Attempt to do no more but get back to your bed and there commune with your heart and makeyour peace with Him against whom you can not hope to contend successfully.
Think, again, O rebellious Man-you have to deal not only with almighty, but with an ever encompassing power! Please thinkhow much you are in God's power tonight as it regards your temporal position. You are prospering in business-but the tideof prosperity may be turned in a wayunknown to you. God has a thousand ways of stripping those whom He before seemed to clothe most lavishly. You dote uponthat wife of yours-she may be struck before your eyes and waste with consumption or decline, or, more rapidly still, she maybe taken from you at a stroke!And then where is your joy?
Those children, those happy prattlers who make your hearth glad -could you hold them for a moment if God should call backtheir spirits? If He said, "Return, children of men," your prayers, the physician, your love-what could all these avail you?You have but to buy the coffin and theshroud and the grave and bury your dead out of your sight. God can sweep away all if He wills, and leave you penniless,childless, a widower, without comfort in the world. I would not contend with Him who has so many ways to wound me! I am vulnerableat so many points and He knowshow to pierce me to the quick in them all.
I will, therefore, make Him my friend rather than my foe. I had better not fight with Him who has the key of the castle andof the front gate and of the iron gate and who can storm every position along my bastion whenever He shall please. Think,again, how much you are personally in His hands! Youare strong, you say-you will do a day's work with any man. There are few can lift a load more readily than you can, perhaps,and yet one second would be enough to paralyze every limb!
Your faculties are clear. You can write with clearness-no one can see through an intricate account more rapidly than you can,or find out a secret more speedily. And yet one tick of that clock is time enough to reduce either you or me to a drivelingidiot, or to a raving madman. A mysterioushand falls on that brain and cools it so that there is no longer the light of intellect within it-or else an awful breathfans its flame till it burns like Nebuchadnezzar's furnace and the soul walks within it a martyr-doomed to live in the midstof fire!
Think of this-not many yards from here there stands in Bedlam an awful proof of what the Providence of God can do in one momentwith those who seemed the most sane, the most witty, and the most able of men. And you have not to go far in either direction,before, at the gate of some hospital,you will find how soon the body may become very, very low, even to the dust, if God but wills it. I would not, O Sinner,I would not have God other than my friend, while I am thus helplessly in His control!
If the moth is in my hand and I can crush it at my will and pleasure, surely if that moth had wit and sense, it would notprovoke me to anger nor seek to bring down my plagues upon it! But, if it could, it would seek to nestle near my heart, thatI, so able to crush it, might use my power for itsprotection and might make what wit I have to be its wisdom for its shelter and defense. It is well, also, to remember themighty army of the Lord of Hosts and that you live amidst the creatures of God who are all ready to do His bidding.
As the children of Israel journeyed in the wilderness, they were preserved by God from many foes and innumerable dangers whichlurked around waiting to destroy them. Once God gave the fiery serpents permission to assault the host and what death andterror immediately filled the camp! They must haveseen, then, that it was no small thing to be at variance with God, when He had so many allies waiting to do His bidding.How clearly this was shown in the plagues of Egypt, when frogs, locusts and lice, hail and fire, plague and death floodedthe ill-fated land-but only whenbeckoned on by the uplifted finger of God!
He can still call to His help the forces of creation. The stars in their courses fought against Sisera and God can still makeall things work for evil as well as good if He is pleased to command them. When Herod fought with God he was consumed by wormsand died-and God has still a countlessarmy of servants who do His commandments, hearkening to the voice of His word. You had better wait awhile and think howyou can meet them. Are your friends as numerous? Can you muster an army like God's? Is the muster roll of your hosts likeHis?
Consider the heavens, for He marshals yon starry multitude and calls them all by name! Because He is great in strength, notone fails. Be wise and enter into covenant with Him through blood and rush not on to certain defeat by seeking to outrivalGod. Remember, moreover, what is the extent of God'swisdom and that His foolishness is greater than your highest knowledge. A good general is worth more than a regiment ofmen. When Stonewall Jackson was killed, his enemies and friends alike felt that his death was more than the loss of ten thousandmen.
Our Iron Duke, when alive, was a strength to our army beyond all calculation. Now mark the skill and infinite wisdom of theGod who leads the army of the skies. All light and knowledge are His. He is the Ancient of Days and His experience runs backto all eternity. You are but of yesterday and knownothing. His plans are beyond your conception, and He knows the way you take. He is far above your thoughts and ever outof your sight-but He can see you through and through and knows you better than you know yourself. Do not show your folly byweighing your wisdom against Hisin the scales, or by expecting to outshine Him so as to triumph over Him. Poor moth rushing into the flame, you will beconsumed amidst the pity of good men and the derision of evil ones.
Yet there is another matter I want you to remember-you that are the enemies of God-you have a conscience. You have not gotrid of it yet. You have a thief in that candle of the Lord, it is true, but still it is a light. It is not put out. And Godhas ways of making it to become aterrible plague to you, if you do not accept it as a friend. Conscience is meant to be man's armor bearer, beneath whoseshield he may fight the battles of the right. But if you make it your enemy, then conscience often places a sword in sucha way as to cut and wound you severely.
You have a conscience and that is a very awkward thing for a man to have who is an enemy of God. If I were God's enemy I shouldprefer having no monitor to call my attention to the holy Character and righteous Law of the Most High. I should be glad toget rid of every particle of moral sense. Butyou have consciences and most of you are not yet dead to all feeling of guilt and shame. You cannot, therefore, sin so cheaplyas others. And if you do for the present manage to put Mr. Conscience down, yet since he is still in you, the time will comewhen you will find his voicegrow louder! And there will be a terror in that voice which will make it a terror for you to sleep and hard for you to goabout your daily business with your accustomed regularity.
Those men who serve God most faithfully find that their conscience, when it can accuse them of anything wrong- though it istheir best friend-is no very pleasant companion. It is said that David's heart smote him. I would sooner have anybody smiteme than my own heart, for it strikeswith so hard a blow and hits the place where one may most tenderly feel it. And it will be so with you unless you get your"conscience seared with a hot iron." I am afraid there will come a time when you will not rest in your beds nor be able tofind peace or satisfaction anywhere.I think therefore, if I had a friend of God inside my heart, I would not like to fight with God so long as he continuedwithin me. Oh, that you would be at peace with Him, "and thereby good shall come unto you."
One other reflection-for I must not keep you thinking on this point long-it is this. Remember you must die, and thereforeit is a pity to be at enmity with God. You may put it off and say, "I shall not die yet." But you do not know. How can youtell? It is possible that you may dietomorrow. But suppose that you live for the next twenty or thirty years? What is that? I am only thirty years of age andyet I confess that I never thought time so short as I feel it to be now. When we were children we thought twelve months wasa great length of time. When we weretwenty, a year seemed to be a very respectable period.
But now it flies and some of my friends here whose hair is turning grey will tell you that whether it is fifty, sixty, orseventy years, it all seems but a mere dream-a snap of the fingers-it is gone so soon! Well, just push through a little intervalof time, then you must die. My dearFriend, will it not be a very dreadful thing to die when you are at war with God? If you could fight this out forever undersuch circumstances as those in which you now are, I could not then commend the struggle. But since it must come to such anawful pause! Since there must bethat death rattle in your throat! Since there must be that clammy sweat upon your brow-O you will need some better businessthan to be carrying arms against the God of Heaven in your dying moments!
They that have God for their friend yet find death no very pleasant task. But what will you find it, who will have to strikeyourselves in every blow that you are aiming against the Most High, whom you have made and continue to make your enemy? Hereis this, too, to think of-there is a futurestate. When you die, you have to live again! We know very little about that next state and I do not intend to say much aboutit tonight. You are launched without your body, an unclothed spirit, into a world which you have never seen. Will you findcompanions there, or will you bealone? Where will it be? What sort of place will it be like?
I should not choose to enter upon the realm of spirits without having God to be my friend. It would be a dreadful thing toget into that mysterious unknown country having nothing to take with me across its boundary except this-an inveterate enmityto the King that reigns supreme in it! If Imust cross the border and go into a land I have never trod, I would like, at least, to carry a passport with me-or to beable to say, "I am a friend of the King that reigns here." But to go there as God's enemy-how terrible it must be!
Besides, let me say, you cannot hope to succeed-all experience is against you. There never was one yet that either in thisstate or the next has fought with God and conquered. And you will not be the first, for they who contend with God all cometo this one conclusion-"He comes forth inHis strength and His enemies are given like stubble to the fire and like wax to the flame. He lifts up His voice and theymelt away. He looks at them and that one flash of fire withers them forever. And out of the bottomless pit of despair theyweep and wail the piteous but uselessregret that their harvest is past and their summer is ended and they are not saved. For they have spent their strength againsttheir God and so have brought themselves where ruin is eternal and hope can never come."
Oh that you would send a delegation and be at peace! I think I hear some say, "Well, we wish to give up the contest-but whatis to be done so as to be at peace with God?" I ask, Have you got an ambassador to go to God for you? That is the first thing.He cannot look at you. Jesus Christ isthe Ambassador between God and man-can you commit your case into His hands? Will you do so? If so, your case will go well.God cannot deny Him any request. He has a right to all He ever asks the Father to give and the Father is always well-pleasedin Him and delights to grantHim whatever He desires.
That Savior is willing to plead your cause. He waits to be gracious. I am sent to tell you the good news of His love and mercy-towarn you of the certain doom which awaits all who turn from Christ-and to bid you and every sin-sick rebel to come at once,just as you are, to the footstoolof mercy. And I can pledge the honor of God, (as being Christ's ambassador for this purpose), that if you come, He willin no wise cast you out. And the terms of peace are very brief. They are these-give up the traitors. There can be no peacebetween you and God while youharbor sin. Give them up and be willing to renounce every sin of every sort and kind, for one harbored traitor will preventGod concluding peace with you.
Sinner, what do you say? Is it hard to give up your sin? Does that condition strike you as unreasonable? Out with the knife,man, and cut the throat of every iniquity! Why, there is no sin for which it is worth your while to be damned! A little riotingand chambering and wantonness-is thatworth Hell fire forever? What? To have your giddy amusements for an hour or two-is this a due recompense for an eternityof fire unmitigated by a drop of water? I pray you, be reasonable. Barter not away your soul for trifles! Pawn not eternityfor the mere fictions of aninstant. God give you Grace, Sinner, to not kick at that condition, but at once cast out your enemies and gods and thenlay hold on Christ, on Jesus Christ alone and let Him stand as Ambassador for you. You can not fight it out. Let peace bemade. Oh may it be made tonight, throughthe blood of Jesus Christ, God's dear Son.
Then next, confess that you deserve the King's wrath. Bow that head-put the rope about your neck as though you felt you deservedthat the executioner should lead you forth. Pray to God for pardon and cry, "God be merciful to me, a sinner!" And then clingto the skirts of that appointedSavior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who on yonder bloody tree made expiation for the sins of God's enemies that they might therebybecome God's friends. God demands of you a confession of your guilt. He will be honored by your humbling yourself before Him.Your sin has aimed at His Gloryand now He will glorify Himself by your repentance.
It were only just on His part if He spurned you away and cast you out into the pit which has no bottom. But He has said thatwhoever confesses his sin shall obtain forgiveness. Go, therefore, in the spirit of the publican-smite upon your breast andsay, "God be merciful to me a sinner."Confess that you deserve Hell but ask for Heaven and you shall not plead in vain. Only honor God's justice and appeal toHis mercy through the Lord Jesus Christ. This, surely, is not much for God to expect at your hands!
If you will not submit, what can you say when God shall crush you? You refuse to bend the knee and to bow the head-what willyou do when God shall trample on you in His fury and tread on you in His hot displeasure? You must, therefore, now in theaccepted time, while it is still the day ofmercy, seek His face and with weeping and supplication, "take with you words and turn unto the Lord and He will have mercyupon you. And to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
II. And now we turn the subject so as to look at THE SECOND CONTEST, IN WHICH I TRUST MANY ARE ANXIOUS TO BE ENGAGED. Someyoung spirit that has been touched with a sense of its own condition, and somewhat aroused, may be saying, "I will be God'senemy no longer-I will be His friend." Bowingthe knee, that heart cries, "Oh God, reconcile me unto Yourself by the death of Your dear Son. I throw down all my weapons.I confess my guilt. I plead for mercy. For Jesus' sake vouchsafe it to me." "But," says that soul, "if I am the friend ofGod, I must be the foe of Satan andfrom this day I pledge myself to fight forever with Satan till I get the victory and am free from sin."
My dear Friend, I want you to stop. I do not wish you to make peace with the Evil One, but I want you to consider what youare doing. There are a few things I would whisper in your ear, and one is that sin is sweet. The uppermost drops of sin'scup glitter and sparkle. There is pleasure in sin of acertain sort and for a certain season. It is a poisoned sweet-it is but a temporary delusion-but still the world does promisefair things. Its gingerbread is gilt and though it wears nothing but tinsel and a little gold-leaf now and then, yet it doeslook very much likegold.
Can you? Can you resist sin, when it seems so charming? The next time the cup is brought to you-you know the flavor of it-oh,it is rich! Can you turn away? Are you certain that you will be able to dash it from your lips? Ah, Man, you will find itdifferent, when the trial comes, towhat it is now that you are sitting in the Tabernacle and resolving to get rid of the temptation and that you will do right!
Remember, again, you may be enticed by friends who will be very persuasive. You can give up sin just now, but you do not knowwho may be the tempter at some future time. If she should allure you, who has tempted so well before! If she-she should speak!She! The very word has awakened yourrecollection-if she should speak as she alone can speak and look as only she can look-can you then resist and stand back?That witching voice, that fascinating eye! Oh how many souls have been damned for what men call love! Oh that they had buta little true love ofthemselves and others, and would not thus pander to the Prince of Hell!
But alas, alas, while the cup itself looks sweet, there is to be added to it the hand that holds it out. It is not so easyto contend with Satan when he employs the service of someone whom you esteem highly and love with all your heart. Rememberthe case of Solomon whose wisdom was marvelous, butwho was enticed by his wives and fell a prey into the hands of the Evil One. It needs a spirit like the Master's to be ableto say, "Get you behind me, Satan," to the tempter, when he has the appearance of one of your best loved friends.
The devil is a crafty being and if he cannot force the door, he will try and get the key which fits the lock and, by the meansof our most tender love and affections, will make a way for himself into our hearts! You will find it no easy task, therefore,to contend with him. Then again, remember,Man, there is habit. Can you, all of a sudden, give up your sins and fight Satan? Do not tell me that you can! Can the Ethiopianchange his skin, or the leopard his spots? If so, then he that is accustomed to do evil may learn to do well.
If you had never sinned as you have sinned, there were not this difficulty with you. But he that has gone day after day andyear after year into sin is not so easily turned from it. As well hope to make Niagara leap up instead of down as make humannature flow back to virtue instead of goingdownward to sin! You do not know yourself. Habit is an iron bond and he that is once enveloped in it may pull and strainbut he will tear away his flesh sooner than break the links of that dread chain.
We have seen men who, convinced of the error of their ways, have sought to turn from them without asking the help of God.For a time they have made some little progress in appearance, but it has only been like the retreating of the waves at therising of the tide. Their evil habits have returnedupon them with a rush and have covered them deeper than before. Read the parable of our Lord concerning the unclean spiritwhich went out of the man and roamed through dry places, seeking rest but finding none. Finally it said, "I will return tothe place from where I went out." Itcame back and found it swept and garnished and then took to it seven other evil spirits, more wicked than itself. So thelast end of that man was worse than the first.
Thus it is with those who enter upon the work of saving themselves without looking up by faith to God for His needed help.Satan will triumph over you. You are like the fly in the coils of the spider's web-the more it struggles, the more it willbe encompassed. You must cry for help as youare quite unable of yourself to escape from the snares of the Wicked One. He has you bound fast, hand and foot-and you willnever break his cords nor be able to cast his bands from you. You have not seven locks of strength like Samson! You will certainlybe overcome.
Again, you think you will give up sin, but ridicule is very unpleasant and when the finger comes to be pointed at you andthey say, "Ah, so you have set up for a saint, I see!" When they put it as only they can put it, in such a sharp, cutting,grating manner! When it is wrapped up so wittily in anepigram that is told all round the shop against you! And when, moreover, there is some weakness of yours, some giddy weakness-andthey know how to hook your attempt at saintship to your weakness-and they bandy that all round and there are fifty laughingfaces at you, canyou stand that?
Yes, it is a very pretty thing for you to come here on Sundays and say what you will do-but it is different to do it on Mondays.To be laughed at is not really, to a sensible man, anything very terrible. I think you have only to get used to it and thenyou will just as much expect to hearpeople laugh at you as to hear birds singing when you walk out in the morning! But at first it is a very sharp trial-a trialof "cruel mocking." And many who have been going to fight Satan have drawn back, for they found they could not stand it.
When the Jews were rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem after their return from captivity, one of the most severe tests of theirzeal and devotion was the laughter of their enemies who came and looked on and said, "What are these feeble Jews doing? Eventhat which they build, if a fox goes up it, heshall break down their stone wall." The words of their foes were more cutting than swords and keenly did they feel in theirspirits the derision of the scoffers. It is as painful now for the sensitive spirit as it was of old, but you must not bedaunted. Heaven is worth buying, eventhough it should cost a life heaped full of stinging words and malicious sayings from a deriding and taunting world.
Did not Christ Himself show us how to endure this trial? See His foes gathered around Him when He hung dying on the Cross.They laugh at Him even there-"He saved others, Himself He cannot save," they said as they wagged their heads and mocked alikeHis dignity and His woe. "If You are theChrist, come down from the Cross and we will believe on You." These sayings must have been more bitter to His spirit thanthe wormwood mingled with gall was to His lips. You must follow Christ here, also, if you would contend, as He did, with Satan.
Then count the cost. Can you drink His cup and be baptized with His baptism? And yet further, let me say to you, you thatare for going to Heaven so zealously-gain is a very pretty thing, a very pleasant affair. Who does not like to make money?You know if you can be religious and grow richat the same time, that will just suit some of you! Oh yes, the two going together-that will be admirable! You will killtwo birds with one stone. Mr. By-Ends said, "Now, if a man, by being religious can get a good wife who has a considerablesum of money. And if by beingreligious he gets a good shop and many customers, why," says he, "then religion is a good thing! To get a good wife is agood thing and to get customers-that is another good thing, and so," he says, "the whole is a good thing put together."
But he that knows Mr. By-Ends knows that he is an old rogue, notwithstanding that he puts it prettily. I have known him. Heis a member of this Church, I am sorry to say. I never went into a Church where he was not a member. I have tried to turnhim out and did once, but there was another one ofthe family left inside and however many you may expel there are sure to be more of that breed remaining. But there sometimescomes a pinch with Mr. By-Ends. Now if you should find that shutting up your shop on Sundays should ruin your business, well,what then? Could you stand it?
Now there are some of you that try it every now and then when you get spasmodically godly, but it does not pay you, you find.And so you begin once more to open shop on the Lord's Day. Some of you Sunday traders discover that it gets a little hot andstrong for you when you come to the Tabernacleoccasionally and you shut up for a season, but soon you say, "Well, people must live." Yes, and people must die and peoplemust be damned, too, if they try to live by breaking God's Laws!
Remember that it will not pay to be religious, some people fancy. We have heard of a man saying, "I cannot afford to keepa conscience-it is too expensive an article for me." Ah, but keep in mind the saying of the Lord, "What shall it profit aman if he gain the whole world and lose his ownsoul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" There is such a thing as being, "Penny wise and pound foolish."And there is such a thing, also, as being, "worldly wise and eternally foolish." Think of this, then, for the trial will cometo you in the shape of yellow goldand it will be hard to keep yourself from the glittering bait which the god of this world will lay before you.
I am putting these things to you so that you may calculate whether you can carry on the war against the devil with all thesefearful odds against you. If I were a recruiting sergeant I should not do this. He puts the shilling into the country lad'shand and the lad may say fifty things. "Oh nevermind," says the gallant soldier, "you know, it is all glory, nothing but glory. There, I will just tie these ribbons roundyour hat. There are some long strips of glory to begin with and then all your days it will be just glory, glory forever. Andyou will die a general and beburied at Westminster Abbey and they will play the 'Dead March in Saul,' and all that kind of thing."
Now I cannot thus deceive or try to cheat men to enlist under the banner of the Cross. I do not desire to raise objectionsto it. All I want of you is to count the cost, lest you should be like he who began to build without being able to finish.That is the misery of so many. I advise you, if youare about to declare war with Satan, to see whether you are able to carry it out and win the victory. "Well," says one,"it is hard to be saved." Nobody ever thought it was not, I hope. What does Peter say? "If the righteous are scarcely saved,where shall the ungodly and the sinnerappear?"
"It is hard to be saved," you say. Whoever said it was not? But it is not hard to be saved if a man is willing to be receivedaccording to the plan which God has appointed. If Christ undertakes it, then it is done! My counsel to those of you who areconsidering making war with Satan is to rememberthat it is too much for you, and therefore do not attempt it in your own strength.
Beware of this. I know Satan will tempt you, first of all, to believe that you need no Savior. Then if you are not convincedof this but are disquieted because of sin, he suggests that you can save yourself. He speaks of Abana and Pharpar, riversof Damascus which flow close by your own door. Hesays, "Wash in these home streams and be clean. Stay where you are and help yourself." But if you listen to the words ofthe seducer of souls you are lost and undone forever! Can the man born blind see to operate upon his own scale-covered eyesso as to give himself sight? Can thecrippled man run away from his lameness and outrun the feebleness of his feet? Can the dead man exert himself to make thelife-tide flow once more in his veins and flush his cheek anew with the glow of health?
Can he call back his departed spirit from the shades of the unseen world and make it reoccupy its decaying habitation andbid the marks of the mighty consumer be gone and leave no trace of Death's conquest behind to remind the returning inhabitantthat the palace had been occupied by the ruthlessspoiler? We answer, no. A mighty finger must touch and open the eyes. An Omnipotent arm must lift up the paralyzed and impotentman into strength and power. And most evidently, if life is to be secured, the voice of God alone can speak the word whichshall make the dead live.
On this point we wish to be clearly understood. You will never, of yourself, successfully resist sin so as to escape its thralldom-muchless can you remove its guilt! The cancer is in your blood and you can never get it out. The black deed is done and it iswritten, "The soul that sins shalldie." Oh, then at once ask help of Him who alone can save you from the wrath to come! Remember, poor feeble one, nothingis too hard for God and therefore ask almighty strength to come to your rescue.
It is true you cannot contend with your besetting sins-your passions, your corruptions of whatever sort they may be-are muchtoo strong for you! Old Adam is too mighty for you with your best intentions. But there is a strong One, whose hand, oncepierced, is always ready and at theservice of every sinner who would have Satan cast out. There is One "mighty to save" who can come to the rescue and do foryou what you cannot do for yourself! Oh that you had Christ tonight, so that at once you might cry to Him, "Jesus, save me!I see the fight is too great for me,I cannot drive out my sins, I cannot fight my way to Heaven! Come and help me, Lord Jesus! I put myself into Your hands!Wash me in Your blood! Fill me with Your Spirit! Save me with Your great salvation, and let me be with You where You are!"
"No man can save himself," says one. Yet the case is very much like that of the master who sent his Negro servant with a letter.The Negro was rather lazy and came back with it. "Why did you not deliver it?" "I could not." "Could not deliver it?" "No,Master." "Why not?" "A deep river, Sir, verydeep river, I could not get across." "A deep river?" he said. "Yes." "Is not there a ferryman there?" "Do not know, Sir.If there was, he was on the other side." "Did you call across, 'Boat, ahoy!' " "No, Sir." "Why then, you rascal," said he," what does it matter? It is no excuse.It is true, you could not get across the river, but then there was one there who could take you and you never cried to him."
And so it is in your case. You say, "I cannot save myself." Quite true. But there is One who can, and you have never criedto Him. Mark you-if you cry to Him-if your heart says, "Oh, Savior, come and save me!" And if your spirit rests in Him-deepas that river of your sincertainly is, He knows how to bear you safely through it and land you on the other shore. May He do that with each of you.With God all things are possible, though with man it is impossible. May the blessing of the Most High rest upon us this nightfor Jesus' sake. Amen.