Sermon 650. Judgment Threatening But Mercy Sparing
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 17, 1865, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Cut it down; why does it use up the ground? But he answered and said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also."
THE comparison of a man to a tree and of human works to fruit is exceedingly common in Scripture because it is most suggestive,natural, and appropriate. As fruit is the production of the tree's life and the end for which the tree exists, so obedienceto the Divine will and holiness unto the Lordshould be the product of man's life and for it he was at first created. When men plant trees in a vineyard, they very naturallyexpect to find fruit on them. And if at the age and season of fruit bearing they find no produce, their natural and justifiableexpectation isdisappointed.
Even thus, speaking after the manner of men, it is natural that the great Maker of all should look for the good fruit of obedienceand love from the men who are the objects of His providential care and be grieved when He meets with no return. Man is verymuch more God's property than a tree canever be the property of the man who plants a vineyard. And as God has spent so much more skill and wisdom in the creationof a man than a farmer can have spent in the mere planting of trees, it becomes the more natural that God should look forfruit from His creature, man. And themore reasonable that His most righteous requirements should not be refused.
Trees that bear no fruit must be cut down. And sinners who bear no repentance, faith and holiness, must die. It is only amatter of time as to whether or not the vineyard shall be cleared of the encumbrance of its barren trees. And it is but amatter of time as to when the world shall be deliveredfrom the burdensome presence of barren souls. It stands to reason that barren trees, which soon become the haunts of allsorts of mischievous creatures, should be a nuisance to the vineyard. Neither can sinners be permitted forever to become thedwelling places of evil spirits andthe dens of iniquity- a thorough riddance must be made of impenitent sinners as well as of rotten trees. There is a timefor felling fruitless trees, and there is an appointed season for hewing down and casting into the fire the useless sinner.
I. We shall not linger on the threshold of our solemn work this morning, for our burden is very heavy and we would be ridof it speedily. We shall address ourselves at once to those persons who are living without God and without Christ, among whommany of my hearers must be numbered. We shall speakto those who are not saved-there are such in the professing Church everywhere. O may the Holy Spirit find them out by ourword and bring them in real earnest to consider their ways.
To all unprofitable, unfruitful sinners, we utter this hard, but needful sentence-TO CUT YOU DOWN WOULD BE MOST REASONABLE.It is right and reasonable to fell barren trees and it is just as right and reasonable that you should be cut down.
1. This will appear in the first place, if we reflect that this is the shortest and the surest way to deal with you. It willcost the least trouble and be most certainly effectual in removing you from the place to which you are an injury rather thana benefit. When the owner of the vineyard says tothe gardener concerning the tree, "Cut it down," the remedy is very sharp, but it is very simple. The felling is soon done,the clearance is thorough-and when another tree is planted the benefit is evident. To dig about the tree, to trench it, tofeed it, to prune it and waterit-all this takes time- requiring care and labor and attention.
And, after all that, the process may fail and love's labor may be lost. To spare is difficult and involves trouble. To cutdown is easy and effectual. Unconverted Hearer, to preach the Gospel to you, to call you to repentance, to entreat, exhort,instruct and warn you is a laborious process andwill probably be unsuccessful, after all. The work will require much thought! Providential agencies must be directed withwisdom! Saints must pray with earnestness! Ministers must plead with tears! The Scriptures must be written and those Scripturesmust be expounded and explained!
All this is more than you have any natural right to expect that God should do with you, when He has in His hands a far simplerremedy by which He may at once ease Himself of His adversary and prevent your being any further offense- He has but to takeaway your breath and permit your body todescend into the grave and your soul into Hell and the vineyard is clear and there is room for another tree.
This sharp, short, simple process is one which commends itself to men in the case of trees. And it is one in which it is athousand wonders that the Lord has not used with you! There will be no more blaspheming God, Sinner, when the axe has laidyou low! There will be no more rejecting the promiseof His mercy! No more violating Sundays! No more despising Scripture when the day of doom arrives! Death shall end all theseabominations forever! We shall no more have to agonize for you in vain. No more shall we weep bitterly because of your hardnessof heart-no longer studyto meet your objections and sigh at your constant oppositions.
The flames of Hell will end all this, to your sad and awful cost. No longer will a long-suffering God be wearied with yoursins and pressed down under the load of your iniquities. He will make short work in righteousness and a clean work, too. Hewill sweep you away with the broom of destructionand your rebellions will end and your iniquities will receive a reward most sure and terrible! Barren fig tree, you willdraw the fatness from the ground no longer and overshadow with evil influence your fellow trees no more! You are become amere waste and worse than a waste.
Sinner, I ask you, is not the readiest plan to be rid of you suggested by the text, "Cut it down"? You yourself would do thuswith a tree! What reason is there why the Lord should not deal thus with you? Do you argue that you are of far greater importancethan a tree? How do you figure this? A treeis far more valuable to you than you can be supposed to be to the infinite God! The gardener would possibly lose somethingby cutting down his tree-but how can you suppose that your ruin would be any damage to the great God?
The man who has many acres of vineyard is not much distressed if one barren vine is cut down, for there are so many more.If God had but one man in His dominions, it might seem to be of importance whether that man were saved or not-but there areso many of our race that your loss will be nomore than the blowing of one atom of sand from the shore, or the removal of one drop from the sea! You yourself could notwell complain of being cut down, for you do not think much of your own soul-you are not concerned about its salvation-youtrifle with its bestinterests!
Why should you expect another to value you at a higher rate than you have set upon yourself? You fling away your soul forpassing joys! You neglect the great salvation! You live in daily disobedience against God, who alone can do you good! Eventhe preaching of the Gospel, that all-powerful engine,seems to have no effect upon you because you despise yourself. Well, man, if God despises you, too, and commands His angelsto cut you down, you cannot complain-it is but reasonable that God should estimate you at your own price and weigh you inyour own balances!
You have wantonly used the axe to yourself on many occasions. Why should not the proper Executioner use it in earnest? Somemen ruin their health by their sins. They wildly dash the axe against their own roots and wound themselves terribly. On yoursoul you are using that axe continually-foryou damage it by sin and seek out folly and the way to damnation-and labor to be lost! You cannot, therefore, complain.The crushing of you will be of no more consequence in this great universe than the killing of some one ant upon the hill.You will never be missed! You maythink greatly of yourself, but you are no more than a mere worm compared with the great universe of God.
Beware, O rebellious, unrepentant Sinner! My love yearns for your salvation, but my reason approves of your ruin! I foreseeit and expect it speedily unless you turn unto the Lord and live.
2. Another reason makes the argument for judgment very powerful, namely, that sufficient space for repentance has alreadybeen given you! If there had been any hope of your repentance, I think many of you would have repented long ago. I do notknow what can be done for some of you more than hasbeen done. You have been dug about-the digging, I suppose, is to loosen the roots of their hold upon the earth. And youhave had affliction, trial and trouble-like the gardener's great spade-to wean you from earth and loosen your hold of carnalthings. You have hadsickness-you have tossed to and fro upon the bed of pain.
You have been in the jaws of death and the horrid teeth seemed above and beneath you, as though they would enclose you forever-butall this has been of no avail. Why should you be stricken any more? You will revolt more and more. Already some of you havebeen smitten until your whole head issick and your whole heart faint, but you will not hear the rod. By the blueness of the wound, says Solomon, the heart ismade better. But in your case it has not been so. Those blue wounds of yours-those great and grievous afflictions-have notbeen sanctified to you, butrather you have gone on offending God and provoking the Most High.
The gardener spoke of feeding as well as of digging and some of you have had plentiful helps towards repentance. The Gospelhas been put close by your roots hundreds of times. You have a Bible in every house. You have had, some of you, the advantageof godly training from your youth up. You havebeen warned again and again and again, sometimes sternly, sometimes affectionately. You have heard the wooing voice of Mercyand the thundering notes of Judgment! But yet, though Jesus Christ's own Gospel has been laid close to your roots, O barrenTree, you are barren still! Whatis the use, then, of sparing you?
Sparing has been tried and it has had no effect-the other remedy is certain-"Cut it down." O God, cut not down the sinner!And yet we dare not say it would be unreasonable, but on the contrary, the most natural result of slighted mercy. O Sinner,you may well say-
"I have long withstood His Grace, Long provoked Him to His face. Would not hearken to His calls, Grieved Him by a thousand falls. Depths of mercy! Can there be Mercy still reserved for me? Can my God His wrath forbear? Me, the chief of sinners spare?"
3. Sinner, I argue your case somewhat harshly, you think. Ah, Man, would God I could make you think me harsh if you wouldbut have pity on your own soul! For my harshness is only apparent, not real, and your carelessness for your soul is real harshness,for you care not for your own soul but treatit as a thing to be cast away and its ruin to be laughed at, as though it were contemptible.
And all this while there has been no sign of improvement whatever in you. If there had been some little fruit. If some tearsof repentance had been flowing from your eyes. If there had been some seeking after Christ. If your heart had been a littlesoftened. If you had but a little faith in Jesus,though it were but as a grain of mustard seed, then there were, indeed, reasons for sparing you! But, sorrowful to add,your sparing has had an ill effect upon you. Because God has not punished you, therefore you have waxed wanton and bold! Youhave said, "Does God know? Is thereknowledge in the Most High?"
You think that He is altogether such an One as you are and that He will never bring you into judgment. You fancy that Hissword is rusted into the scabbard and His arm waxed short. Strange madness of evil that you should pervert the long-sufferingwhich calls you to repentance into a reason forrunning to greater lengths of sin! What? When Jehovah spares you that you may turn to Him-shall that very sparing make youlift up the foot of your rebellion and spurn Him? It has done so. Up to this time you have grown hardened instead of softened.You have grown older, butyou are no wiser, except it be with Satan's subtlety to be more wise in sin.
The Gospel has not now the effect it once had on you. This voice could make your soul shiver and your very blood chill inits veins, but it cannot do so now. These eyes have sometimes looked on you and seemed as though they flashed with fire-butnow they are dull as lead to you. Once, when wespoke to you of the wrath to come, the tears would flow-there were some tears of gentle pity for your own soul. But ah,it is not so with you now! You will go your way and our most earnest tones will seem but as the whistling wind and our mostimportunate entreaties as achild's playful song.
O God, it is reasonable, indeed, that You should lift up that sharp axe of Yours and say, "Cut it down." I think I could abundantlyjustify the severity of God, if now He were to use it, when I thus perceive that all His sparing has had no effect but tomake you worse! When I perceive that,notwithstanding these years of waiting, there are no tokens of improvement in you, if He says, "Cut it down," Justice andReason say, "yes, Lord, it is well it should be so."
4. But there are other reasons why, "Cut it down," is most reasonable, when we consider the Owner and the other trees. Firstof all, here is a tree which brings forth no fruit whatever and therefore is of no service. It is like money badly investedbringing in no interest. It is a dead loss to theowner. What is the use of keeping it? The dead tree is neither useful nor ornamental-it can yield no service and affordno pleasure. Cut it down, by all means!
And even so with you, Sinner! What is the use of you? You are of use to your children, to your family. In business you maybe of some service to the world-but, then, the world did not make you! And your children and your family- they did not createyou. God has made you. God has plantedyou. God is your proprietor-you have done nothing for God. Even in coming up to His House today, you did not come with anydesire to honor Him. And tomorrow, if you should chance to give something to the poor, it will not be because they are God's,nor out of love to Him. Youneither pray to God, nor praise God, nor live for God.
You live for anything, for everything, for nothing, sooner than live for the God that made you. Then what is the good of youto God? All His other creatures praise Him. There is not a spider spinning its web from leaf to leaf but does His bidding."The ox knows his owner and the ass his master'scrib," but you do not know. Would you keep a horse that never did you service? Would you have a dog in your house that neverlicked your hand or fawned upon you, or did your will? You would say, "What is the good of this? A servant in my house tofeed upon my bread, to be clothedwith my bounty, and yet never to obey me but to live in constant reckless disregard of my most reasonable commands!"
You would say to such a servant, "Get out! You are no servant of mine." Well might the Lord say this to you! All these yearspreserving Goodness has winked at the past. Longsuffering has borne with your follies and your faults-but it cannot be soforever, for reason demands that a uselessthing should not always stand and-"Cut it down," is the natural inference from the uselessness of your life.
Nor is this all. While you have been thus living without yielding anything, you have been a very costly tree. The tree inthe vineyard does not cost much except to dig about it and to feed it and to prune it. There is, of course, the expense ofthe gardener who has to watch over it, but this isvery little. You may let the barren tree stand, for it is no great expense. But see what it costs to keep you! You haveto be daily fed. The breath in your nostrils must come from God every moment. There has to be an emanation from Omnipotenceat every single tick of that clock, orelse you would not live.
The complicated machinery of the human body needs to be tended and kept in order by the great Master Craftsman, or else beforelong the cogs would cease to act upon one another and the wheels would be broken and the whole machine would be put out ofgear. Your body is a mass of thousands ofstrings-and fails if one is gone. The good harpist must watch with sedulous care to prevent the strings from snapping.
You cost God much patience, much bounty, much skill, much power. Why should He spare you? What is there in you that He shouldgo on with you in this manner? You would not spare the gnat that was always stinging you, buzzing in your face and every momentinsulting you. If it cost you much of yourpoor gold to spare that poor gnat's life, you would not be long about it-you would crush it! And oh, it is a marvel thatJehovah does not deal thus with you, for you are more impertinent than that gnat could be! Sinner, if you were in God's placeand were as ill-treated byyour creature as the Lord is by you, would you lavish love and goodness upon him to receive hardness of heart and rebellionin return? Assuredly not! Judge, then, whether it is not right that the Lord should say, "Cut it down."
But there is a worse consideration, namely, that all this while you have been filling up space which somebody might have beenfilling to the glory of God. Where that barren tree stands there might have been a tree loaded with fruit. You are using upthe ground, as the text says, that is, doingnothing but just being a cumbersome nuisance. If another mother had those children, she would pray for them and weep overthem and teach them of Christ-but you do no such thing. If another man had that money it would be laid out for God's glory-butyou lay it out foryour own pleasure and forget the God who gave it to you!
If another had sat in that seat which you occupy, it may be that he had long ago repented in sackcloth and ashes! But you,like the men of Capernaum, have been hardened, instead of being softened under the Gospel. It may be, man of influence, ifanother had stood where you have stood in the world'sjudgment, he would have led hundreds in the path of right-but you, standing there, have done no such thing! Oh, if anotherhad your gifts, young man, he would not be making a company laugh at the tavern, but pleading with all his might for Jesus!If another had but your giftsof utterance he would be spending in prayer and teaching what you now spend in fun and frolic to make amusement for fools.
Oh, if another had that time to live in, he would live in earnest for his Master. If that young saint, just going throughthe flood, had your health and vigor, how would he spend and be spent! I recollect a minister of Christ who had but one talent,but much heart. I remember hearing him pray thisprayer-"O God, I wish I had ten talents, that I might serve You better." When I think of some that have them and do notserve my Master with them, I am inclined to pray,
"Lord take away their ten talents and trust me with them if You will, for I do desire to have something more to lay out forYou."
Take heed, O my dear, but sinful Hearer, lest the Lord remove you suddenly and fill up your place with one who will be obedientto His will. Moreover and to make bad worse even to the worst degree-all this while ungodly men are spreading an evil influence.Thinking over the two lines of theverse we have been singing, I felt a horror of great darkness as I realized fully their solemn truthfulness with regardto some of you-
"I have shed His precious blood, Trampled on the Son of God. Filled with pains unspeakable I who yet am not in Hell."
Well may the question arise-"Why to me this waste of love?" It is so apparently a waste of long-suffering and mercy that sometransgressors should be spared at all, that they may well marvel. Look at it, and I think you will see it very clearly-thevery fact that God does not punish sinon the spot is mischievously interpreted. Men in all ages have drawn a wicked inference from the patience of the great Judge.The Preacher, in Ecclesiastes, says, "Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heartof the sons of men is fully set inthem to do evil." "Why," you say, "So-and-So drinks and swears and he has lived to be a hale, hearty old man. He has plungedinto all sorts of folly and wickedness. He was a thief and everything bad besides, and yet he prospers in the world and growsrich. Instead of God sinking himdown at once to Hell, He has favored him and fattened him as a bullock in rich pasture. "Oh," the worldling says, "thereis no justice in God. He does not punish sin."
The very fact that you are spared, O Sinner, is doing mischief in the world. Do you see that? Your mere existence in thisworld is to others an inducement to continue in sin! While you are spared, others look at you and say, "God has not punishedhim." Therefore they infer that He will not punishsin at all. Moreover, how many there are of you whose example is fearfully contagious-whose lips and lives combine to leadyour associates astray from God? In this dreadful disease which has ravaged our fields and destroyed the cattle, farmers havebeen advised as soon as everthe cow is attacked with the disease, to kill it on the spot and bury it five feet deep out of the way.
Let us reflect that the murrain of sin is much more pestilential and more certain to kill than this murrain among the cattleand therefore stern Justice cries, "Let the sinner be at once sent where He cannot increase the plague of iniquity- it isof no use sparing him-he grows nobetter. All the means used only make him worse and meanwhile we must look to the welfare of others, lest he perish not alonein his iniquity. He teaches his children to swear! He makes others worldly! The whole current of his life is to incite mento rebel against God-let hisdesperate course be stopped at once. The leprosy is upon him and all that he touches he pollutes-for high sanitary reasons,therefore, he must be removed."
It is better that one die than that many should be smitten and therefore the highest consideration for the good of mankindin general renders it necessary that the mandate should go forth, "Cut it down."
II. The second most solemn work is to remind you, O impenitent Sinner, that FOR GOD TO HAVE SPARED YOU
SO LONG IS A VERY WONDERFUL THING. That the infinitely just and holy God should have spared you, unconverted man, unconvertedwoman, up till now, is no small timing but a matter for adoring wonder. Let me show you this. Consider, negatively, God isnot sparing you because He is insensible towardsyour sins-He is angry with the wicked every day. If the Lord could be indifferent towards sin and could bring His holy mindto treat it as a mere trifle, then it would be no wonder that He should let the transgressor live.
But He cannot endure iniquity-all the day long His anger smokes and burns towards evil and yet He holds back the thunderboltand does not smite the guilty. If you had been angry for half-an-hour, you would have come to hard words or blows. But hereis the Judge of all the earth angry everyday for twenty, thirty, forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, or eighty years with some of you and yet He has not destroyed you!It is not because the offense is at a distance and therefore far from His observant eyes. No-your sins are like smoke in Hisnose-your iniquitiesprovoke Him to His face! You touch the apple of His eye and yet, for all that, though this accursed thing called sin intrudesinto His Presence every instant, yet still He has spared you until now!
Mark, Sinner, He has spared you not because He was unable to have destroyed you. He might have bid the tiles fall from theroof, or the fever might have killed you in the street. The air might have refused to heave your lungs, or the blood mighthave ceased its circulation in your veins. The gatesto death are many. The quiver of Judgment is full of sharp arrows. The Lord has but to will it and your soul is requiredof you. He said to the foolish rich man, "This night your soul shall be required of you," and he never saw the morning. AndHe might as easily have sent the samesad message to you, and what then?
As I have said before, this great patience is not manifested towards your sinful soul because the Lord is at all dependentupon you-your living will not increase and your dying will not diminish His Glory! You will be no more missed than one sereleaf is missed in a forest, or one dewdrop ina thousand leagues of grass. Judgment needs but a word to work its utmost vengeance and you are so provoking that the marvelis that Divine severity has spared you so long! Admire and wonder at this long-suffering. Remember that this wonder is increasedwhen you think of the fruitHe deserved to have had of you. A God so good and so gracious ought to have been loved by you. He has treated you so welland given you such capacities for pleasure that He ought to have had some service of you.
You are not to God what the ox is to its owner-you give to the ox but his grass or his straw and you have done with him. ButGod gives to you not only your daily food, but your very life-you are wholly dependent upon Him! Nothing can be so much yoursas you are God's. You ought to haveserved Him, to have delighted in that service, to spend and to have been spent for your Lord! He asks no more of you thanHe ought to have had and yet He asks you to love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul, your strength-this wasHis first and greatcommandment-and this you have constantly, persistently broken.
Oh, think, then, when you have given to God such a bad return, when He ought to have received so much better- think, I prayyou, how you must have provoked Him! And ah, my Hearers! I have to touch upon a very solemn part of the business now whenI notice again that some, perhaps here present,have been guilty of very God-provoking sins. Some offenses provoke God much more than others-I believe that cursing does,for it is wanton insolence by which nothing can be gained. It is altogether a gratuitous piece of insult. To swear, to imprecatethe curse of God uponone's limbs and souls, is an unnecessary, superfluous sin.
There cannot be any pleasure in pronouncing oaths any more than in uttering any other form of words. It is just because manwill hate his Maker and will provoke Him, that he does this. O Sinner, did you ever ask God to damn you and are you not astonishedthat He has not done it? Did you ever desirethat the blast should come upon you and do you not marvel that He has not long ago swept you where His wrath would witheryou forever? Swearing is a sin that provokes the Most High! O Sinner, abhor this most detestable of vices!
Infidelity, and how many are guilty of that? How provoking to God for a man to deny His very existence! Standing up and breathingGod's air and living upon God's life and yet saying that there is no God? An insignificant worm dares challenge the Almightyto prove His Godhead and existence by atremendous act of justice. This is a God-provoking sin. So again is persecution. There may be some here present who havepersecuted wife and child because of their following Christ. "He that touches you touches the apple of My eye," says God.Beware, Sinner-you will not touchthe Lord's eye long without feeling His heavy hand!
If any man injures your children, the blood is in your cheek at once! If you are a father you feel that you will show yourselfstrong in their defense-even so the heavenly Father will avenge His own elect. Therefore, take heed lest you persevere inthis Heaven-provoking sin. And slander,too-lying against God's servants-inventing and spreading wicked tales against those who walk in God's fear. This is anotherevil which awakens the anger of God and stirs up righteous fury against the man who is guilty of it. Beware! Beware!
Filthiness, filthiness of body and of life, will also provoke the Most Holy One. This once brought Hell out of Heaven uponSodom! God sent down fire and brimstone because of the lusts of the flesh that made Sodom to stink in His nostrils. The harlotand the adulterer and the fornicator shall knowthat they sin not without provoking God very terribly. And let me add here among these God-provoking sins there is thatquenching of conscience of which some of you have been guilty. Ah, my dear Hearers, there are not many of you to whom I spokeunder these first heads, for I knowthat very few of you would indulge in these grosser sins!
But there are some of you quite as bad in another sense, for you know the right and choose the wrong! You hear of Christ anddo not give your hearts to Him. We had hoped of some of you that long before this we should have seen you walking in the Lord'sfear. But you are still strangers to Christ.You must have had hard work to do this. You must have had a terrible tug with conscience, some of you! I know you have beenstifling many a holy desire and when the Spirit of
God has been striving with you, you have been so desperately set on mischief that still you have gone on in the error of yourways.
Now these sins provoke God. I do not believe that I stand in this pulpit and plead with you in God's name and then go backand tell my Master that you have rejected His warnings without God's being angry with your hardness of heart and stiff necks.I know if we send an Ambassador to a foreign courtto try and make peace and he honestly and earnestly lays down proper stipulations for peace, if they are rejected, you willsoon find the newspapers and public opinion ringing with indignation. "Why," they say, "will not the men have peace when theterms are so reasonable? Get outthe iron-dads, let them have war-war to the knife. If they will not yield to what is reasonable, thus let us dress ourselvesin thunder and go forth across the sea."
And what do you think? Shall God be always provoked? Shall mercy be preached to you in vain forever? Shall Christ be presentedand always rejected and will you continue to be His enemies and shall He never proclaim war against your souls? It is a marvel!It is a wonder that these God-provoking sinshave so long been borne with, and that you are not yet cut down!
III. And now, WHAT IS THE REASON FOR ALL THIS LONG-SUFFERING? Why is it that this tree has not been cut down? The answer isbecause there is One who pleads for sinners. I have shown you, and some of you will think I have shown you with very greatseverity, too, how reasonable it is that you shouldbe cut down. I wish you felt it, for if you felt how reasonable it was that God should send you to Hell, then you wouldbegin to tremble and there would be some hope for you!
I can assure you I have trembled for you when I have thought how rational, how just-no, it would seem to me, how necessaryit was that some of you should be lost-it has made me tremble for you, and I would to God you would tremble for yourselves!But what has been the secret cause thatyou have been kept alive? The answer is Jesus Christ has pleaded for you! The crucified Savior has interfered for you! Andyou ask me, "Why?" I answer, because Jesus Christ has an interest in you all. We do not believe in general redemption, butwe believe in every word of thisprecious Bible-and there are many passages in the Scripture which seem to show that Christ's death had an universal bearingupon the sons of men.
We are told that He tasted death for every man. What does that mean? Does it mean that Jesus Christ died to save every man?I do not believe it does, for it seems to me that everything which Christ intended to accomplish by the act of His death Hemust accomplish or else He will be defeated, whichis not supposable. Those whom Christ died to save I believe He will save effectually, through His substitutionary sacrifice.But did He in any other sense die for the rest of mankind?
He did. Nothing can be much more plain in Scripture, it seems to me, than that all sinners are spared as the result of JesusChrist' death. And this is the sense in which men are said to trample on the blood of Jesus Christ. We read of some who deniedthe Lord that bought them. No one who is boughtwith blood for eternal salvation ever tramples on that blood-but Jesus Christ has shed His blood for the reprieve of menthat they may be spared-and those who turn God's sparing mercy into an occasion for fresh sin do trample on the blood of JesusChrist. You can holdthat doctrine without holding universal redemption, or without at all contradicting that undoubted Truth of God that Jesuslaid down His life for His sheep and that where He suffered He suffered not in vain.
Now, Sinner, whether you know it or not, you are indebted to Him that did hang upon the tree for the breath that is now inyou. You had not been on praying ground and pleading terms with God this morning if it had not been for that dear sufferingOne. Our text represents the gardener as only askingto have it spared-but Jesus Christ did something more than ask-He pleaded, not with His mouth only, but with pierced handsand pierced feet, and pierced side. And those prevailing pleas have moved the heart of God, and you are yet spared. May Ispeak to you, then? Ifyour life had been spared, when you were condemned to die, by my intervention-suppose such a case-would you despise me?
If I had power at the Court and when you were condemned to die, had gone in and pleaded for you and you had been reprieved-yearafter year would you hate me? Would you speak against me? Would you rail at my character? Would you find fault with my friends?I know you better-you wouldlove me! You would be grateful for the sparing of your life. O Sinner, I would you would treat the Lord Jesus as you wouldtreat man! I would you would think of the Lord Jesus Christ as you would think of your fellow man who had delivered you fromdeath!
You are not in Hell where you would have been if He had not come in and pleaded for you. I do beseech you, think of the miseryof lost souls and recollect that you would have been in such a woeful case yourself this morning if He had not lifted up thathand once pierced for human sin. There, there,where the flames can no abatement know, where a drop of water is a gift too great to be received-there, where hope is excludedand despair sits upon a throne of iron, binding captive souls in everlasting bands-where "Forever!" is written on the fireand "Forever!" isprinted on the chain and "Forever! Forever! Forever!" rings out as the awful death-knell of everything like hope and rest-thereyou would have been this morning-this morning-if sparing Grace had not prevented!
Where are your companions, your old companions? You sat in the pothouse with them. They are in Hell, but you are not. Whenyou were younger you sinned with them and they are lost, but you are not. Why this difference? Why are they cast away andyou spared? I can only ascribe it to the graciouslong-suffering of Jehovah. O, I pray you look at Him who spared you and weep and mourn for your sins! May the Spirit ofGod come down on you this morning and draw you to the foot of His dear Cross! And as you see the blood which has spared yourblood and the death which has made youlive until now, I do trust that the Divine Spirit may make you fall down and say, "O Jesus, how can I offend You? How canI stand out against You? Accept me and save me for Your mercy's sake."
While I have thus spoken of the general interest which Christ has in you all, I have good hope that Christ has a special interestin some of you! I hope that He has specially redeemed you from among men and bought you not with silver and gold, but withHis own precious blood, having loved you withan everlasting love. I trust He intends with the bands of His kindness to draw you this morning. "Oh," says one, "I cannotthink that such can be the case!" But suppose you were to find out before long that you were chosen of God and dear to Christand were to be a jewel in Hiscrown for-ever-what would you say, then, of yourself?
"I would mourn that I could ever have hated Him that loved me so well! Oh, that I could ever have stood out against Him thatwas determined to save me! What a fool I was to quarrel with Him who had paid my price and chosen me by His Grace and takenme to be married unto Himself forever!"
I tell you that God will forgive you, but you will never forgive yourselves for having stood out and resisted so long. Oh,may eternal Mercy, which has not yet said, "Cut it down," now dig about you and feed you that you may bring forth fruit-andthen it shall be all to the praise of Himwhose precious blood has saved us from eternal wrath. May God bless these feeble words of mine. He knows how I meant them-howI meant to speak them, how I meant to have wept over you, how I wanted that my soul should heave with passionate desire foryour conversion-butif there have been no such outward manifestations, yet I pray God that the Truth itself may be irresistible and may He getto Himself the victory and His shall be the praise, forevermore. Amen.