Sermon 685. Heedlessness In Religion
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 15, 1866, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But Jehu took no heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sinsof Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin."
2 Kings 10:31.
JEHU was raised up by God to be a great reformer in the kingdom of Israel. No sooner did he receive his commission than hewas at his work with a daring and a perseverance never excelled. He was commanded to cut off the whole house of Ahab, andthe task was a very congenial one-he slew rightand left and spared none. Unlike Saul with the Amalekites, who spared Agag and the best of the cattle, Jehu utterly exterminatedthe race whom God had doomed. When full vengeance had been worked upon Jezebel and all Ahab's brood, he scarcely paused bythe way to congratulate himselfand say to Jehonadab, "Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord," but proceeded at once to gather together all the priestsof Baal and to annihilate them at a blow.
He was a thorough root-and-branch reformer in this matter and cut off the Baalites without remorse and without exception.He was not one of those who of old were cursed for doing the work of God deceitfully, holding back their hands from blood.He made a thorough and clean sweep of the abominationsof Baal worship and accomplished the work for which he was raised up with the most wonderful thoroughness and zeal. But-oh,that but-how unhappily does it mar everything! While he was thus ready and earnest in a work which suited his furious taste,he had no true hearttoward God! While he was a destroyer of Baal he was not a servant of Jehovah-he was an iconoclast of the very first order,breaking idols right and left-but he was no builder up of the house of the Lord!
He did not yield his mind reverently and obediently to the worship of Israel's God. Neither did he care to know His mind andLaw. He followed a sort of animal impulse which drove him forward in opposition to Baal and to Ahab's race, but he knew nothingof that spiritual force which would have ledhim to enquire, "What more would God have me to do?" His actions as God's executioner were right enough, but his heart waswrong. He was impulsive and impetuous and drove furiously when the work was to his mind, but, had no heart to other servicefor Jehovah.
Having overthrown the worship of Baal, he almost immediately established another form of idolatry in its stead and bade thenation prostrate itself before the calves of Bethel. Hating one sin, he loved another, and thus proved that the fear of theMost High did not reign in his breast. He wasmerely a hired servant and received the throne as his wages. A child of God he never was-he did God's work, as did the lionwho slew the wicked Prophet-but he still remained a lion.
Anxious care to know and serve God did not suit Jehu's headstrong disposition. He was all flash and dash, but careful, humbleobedience he knew nothing of. Do not suppose that this rash heedless Jehu was a man alone and without a companion-he was,alas, only one of a very numerous class! Ihave selected the text because of an impression upon my own heart that the Jehus are increasing in our land and that therewill be found thoughtless professors in this congregation to whom this text may cause great searching of heart. I only trustthat such may really be led toexamine themselves and use fitting tests to discover whether they are truly Believers in the great God of Israel, or areonly hasty, inconsiderate, unrenewed imitators of Jehu.
The fault of heedlessness of God's will which is mentioned in the text is a very terrible one-fatal to all our professionsof genuine piety-and all hopes of entering into eternal life. While I speak upon the holy caution and earnest heed which thetext suggests, may the Holy Spiritenable us all to search ourselves-whether we have received from the Lord by faith in Jesus a renewed heart which is anxiousto know and to do the will of the Lord-or are mere creatures of impulse, picking and choosing as to our Lord's commands andobeying or disobeyingaccording as the circumstances of the hour may influence our thoughtless spirit.
In the first place this morning we shall have to speak upon heedlessness in religion, showing the one peculiar point in whichit mainly discovers itself. Then we shall proceed to testify, secondly, that in this point heedlessness in religion is fatal.We shall then, thirdly, go on to show theusefulness of holy care and heedfulness. And we shall close by endeavoring to exhort you to practice that heedfulness beforeyou leave this House of Prayer.
I. First, may the Holy Spirit enable us to SHOW THE POINT IN WHICH HEEDLESSNESS MOST OF ALL DISPLAYS ITSELF. Jehu took noheed to what? He took great heed to kill Ahab's family! He took great heed to totally destroy Baal's worshippers. But he tookno heed to walk in the Law of the Lord God ofIsrael with all his heart. This is the point in which a great many flaming professors show their want of vital godliness-theyexercise no holy circumspection and show no anxiety to walk in the Law of the Lord their God with all their heart-which theywould be verydesirous of doing if they were saved men.
There are many, nowadays, who would be greatly disgusted with me if I did not admit them to be Christians-and yet they takeno heed to know God's will. Many professors never gave themselves an hour's study of the Scriptures with a serious desireto ascertain God's way of salvation, and God'srule for a Believer's behavior in the Church and in the world. Multitudes of so-called Christians nowadays do not read theirBibles. My Hearers, do you? I would not malign modern Christendom, but I am persuaded that crowds of professors treat theBook of God with very wickedneglect. We frequently meet with mistakes which are so absurd that no habitual students of the Word of God could have falleninto them.
So many of you take your religion second hand-you borrow it from the preacher-you copy it from your grandmothers. You followcustom as your guide, and not the voice of God. You do not search the Book of the Lord to discover whether these things areso or not. Why, great multitudes ofpeople go blundering on like Jehu, supposing that they must be right! The uncomfortable but very prudent thought that perhapsall may be wrong has never occurred to them, and a resort to the "Law and to the Testimony" appears to them to be altogethersuperfluous.
Now, my dear Friends, I do not see how a servant can be thought to be faithful who is utterly careless as to his master'swill. Solemnly I believe that some professors do not wish to know their Lord's will too thoroughly-there are certain dutieswhose performance would be unpleasant andtherefore they do not want to have their consciences too much enlightened upon the subject! They shun the Light lest theyshould stand reproved. Brothers and Sisters, if I am afraid of the Light of God, let me rest assured that for some evil reasonI have good cause to be afraid ofit!
If my doctrinal opinions or my daily actions are such that I dare not put them into the scale of God's Word and give thema thorough pondering, I have reason to suspect that I shall be found wanting at the last. Oh that every one of us would diligentlyseek with humble and obedient spirit to sit atJesus' feet and learn of Him! "Lord, what would You have me to do?" is the cry of the regenerate soul! Carnal religionistsgo driving on with headlong inconsiderateness, but spiritual minds pause, and ponder, and enquire-and all with the one aim-tobe sound in thestatutes of the Lord.
Furthermore, I am afraid that there are some who, if they take any care to know, do not take heed to practice the Lord's will.If they think at all, they come to the conclusion that certain commands are grievous-so they postpone all practical attentionto them. They claim to be obedient inprinciple but not in practice! Whereas a man who professes to hold a principle which he does not practice is a person withoutany principle whatever except a shockingly bad one! My dear Friends, if I am truly the Lord's servant, I shall feel that Imust make haste and delay not inall things to walk according to His will, and though mournfully conscious of many infirmities and imperfections, yet atany rate I shall heartily desire to practice what I know.
Beware, dear Friends, of letting the head grow at a great rate while the arm is shriveled. Knowledge involves a responsibilitywhich will end in many stripes for disobedience. It is treason for a commander to be well-versed in military tactics and tobe great in arms, and yet to refuse to defendhis country and suffer the empire to go to ruin! Practical Christianity, alone, is true Christianity! The Lord give us such!May we sit down and solemnly say to ourselves, "What is that which I know to be God's will which I have neglected to perform?Lord help me to attend to itnow." Dear Friends, we are saved by Divine Grace alone, and when saved we become obedient children and are no longer asthoughtless Jehu.
But further, there are some who both know the will of God and practice it after a fashion-but they do not practice it as havingDivine authority about it. In submitting ourselves especially to the ordinances of the Christian religion, we bring a vainoblation if we merely submit to thembecause of custom or because of the authority of the church. We must bow to each command of this Book because it is God'scommand-our course of life must not he guided by the impression that such-and-such a thing is respectable-but by the consciousnessthat we are theservants of the Most High and that whatever He said unto us, it is our privilege to perform.
We ought to pray that we may run in the way of God's commandments, but in addition to that, that we may be moved to run inthat way because it is the way of God's commandments. To obey mechanically is scarcely becoming in the servant of so greatand gracious a God! It has been well observed thatthe early Christians did as much speak of obedience to Christ as of devotion to Him which is far higher than obedience.Consecration to Jesus should be the ruling passion of our soul. Beloved, let the word of Jesus be an irresistible force withus! Let us follow because Jesus leads.
That was a mighty cry which was once profaned to purposes of fanaticism under the preaching of Peter the Hermit, "Deus vult,""God wills it." It sounded through Christendom! It made monarchs exchange their crowns for helmets! It made the artisan throwdown his hammer to grasp the spear! It changedmen's plowshares into swords, and their pruning hooks into spears-and they rushed to die in Palestine under the dominantidea of clearing that holy land from Pagan intrusion. Oh that such an impulse would go through Christendom again for a higherand a nobler purpose, "Deusvult!" The Lord wills it!
Let truth banish error! Let superstition yield to the Gospel! Let forms and ceremonies fly before the doctrines of Free Grace!Let every knee bow at the name of Jesus, because "Deus vult!" Let the Crucified be everywhere adored, for God wills it! Ifthis force shall not move all Christendom, at anyrate let it influence our own hearts and may we take heed to God's commandments because they express His will. It is addedonce more in the text that the heedlessness of Jehu showed itself in his not giving heed to all the Law of the Lord God ofIsrael with all his heart. Shall Iimpeach the present age? No, but still might the impeachment well be against it that the most of us do not serve God withall our hearts.
Oh the ardor with which men pursue after fortunes! Oh the rages with which they covet wealth! Oh the power of that force whichimpels the man of science to spend his life in toilsome research! Why should not a rage of a nobler kind seize us? Why shouldwe not be equally devoted to the Master'scause? The half-heartedness of the most of us is that which prevents our glorifying Christ. We preach, but not as dyingmen to dying men! We pray, but not as Jacob wrestled with the Angel. We give, but not as bounteous givers. We seek to livein holiness, but not with thatenthusiasm which becomes the Cross of Christ.
Dear Friends, we fear that the text has a bearing upon us all-but there are some to whom it is almost a sentence of death-forthough they know God's will and do it in a measure, yet they do not attend to it with their hearts. Remember, you may conscientiouslycarry out whatever youbelieve to be God's will externally, but unless the heart gives its obedience you have no evidence of being the subjectof Divine Grace. It is the heart which Grace wins and which God claims-and till the heart is yielded nothing is yielded. Youmay be baptized and re-baptized.You may come to the communion as often as you will. You may sit in your pew and you may hear, no, you may preach and evengive your body to be burned-but if your heart does not give itself to God, if you love Him not, if you feel no attachmentto His Person-all that youhave done is merely the natural effect of excitement or free will, and not the work of Divine Grace.
When the heart cleaves to God, when the soul is fixed upon Him-when we throw our whole being into every act of service-thenit is that we are distinguished as the quickened, called, elect-the people of God who rejoice in Christ Jesus and have noconfidence in the flesh! Thus Ihave tried to set forth where the mischief lay in the matter of Jehu-that he did not care to know the whole of God's will.If he knew it, he did not study to practice it-he did not yield obedience because it was God's will, and never yielded hiswhole heart to the loveof God.
Observe, before we leave this point, that Jehu was very angry at other people's sins. That we may be, too, and yet never bedelivered from our own. It is a very fine sight to see a man work himself up into a furor against drunkenness- he himselfnever having been guilty of it. It is true thatall the indignation which he pours upon it, it well deserves, for is it not an infamous sin, the great net of the devilin which he catches multitudes? But I may be a very earnest temperance man and hate drunkenness most fiercely but I may bea child of the devil notwithstanding allthat. I may be very furious against adultery, or theft, or immorality of some other kind which I do not happen to practicemyself, yet my own sins may cry out against me!
It is not possible to justify my own sins by denouncing those of others! It is a very cheap sort of virtue, that, bullyingother people's vices. The easiest thing in all the world is to be constantly denouncing popular faults-but to wring the neckof one of my own bosom sins is a harder workby far-and a much better sign of conversion. To be earnest against the sin of others may be praiseworthy, but it is no signof Divine Grace in the heart-natural men have been some of the greatest leaders in this matter. To loathe my own sin, to humblemyself on accountof my own personal faults and to endeavor, in the sight of God, to renounce every false way is a work of something morethan human nature.
Will you also notice Jehu was very bitter against one sin. The very mention of the name of Baal brought the blood into hisface. There are persons in the world who cannot bear some one sin to which they have aversion-they love to hammer away againstit-their whole soul takes fire at themention of it. This is all very well. But, unless you hate all sin-unless you hate, especially, the besetting sin whichis most congenial to your own nature-you need to be converted. Christ does not make some things new, but all things new, andHe does not teach us tocut off one lust and to indulge another. A clean sweep must, by God's Grace, be made of the love of all sin.
Once more, Jehu did obey God up to a certain point. It happened to be a profitable thing to him to exterminate the old royalhouse of Ahab because it would confirm himself upon his own throne. But anything beyond that did not pay, and therefore Jehudid not touch it. Some virtues pay well andprudent people go in for them at once. These remunerative graces are very much admired-but poverty-stricken virtues havefew patrons. If it had paid Jehu better to save Ahab, he would have been slow to kill him. And when it answered his purposeto set up the golden calves hehad no scruples in doing so.
Many men turn aside from religion when their interest would be compromised. If I see two men walking together I cannot tellwho is the master of the dog that is behind, but I shall discover directly. One of them will turn to the right and the otherto the left-now I shall know who is themaster of the dog, for when it comes to the turning point the dog will go with its master and leave the stranger. You cannotalways tell whether it is God or Mammon that a man is serving when virtue is profitable-but when it comes to the turning pointand the man has to be aloser for Christ in what he gives up for Christ's sake-then sincerity is tried! Turning points are places where we may judgeourselves, for they are the only true criteria of our real character.
II. HEEDLESSNESS IN THE POINT INDICATED IS FATAL. It is fatal because it manifests that sin is not hated.
A particular form of sin is abhorred, but since another is indulged it is evident that there is no hate towards sin itself.Jehu would have said, "I hate idolatry. See how I have broken the image of Baal!" Yes, but see how you have set up the goldencalves. It was not hatred of idolatry, per se andin itself, but hatred to that particular form of it which consisted in the worship of Baal. So you do not hate sin if youonly hate some one sin.
All iniquity will be distasteful in your sight if God the Holy Spirit has really made you to loathe iniquity. If I say toa person, "I will not receive you into my house when you come dressed in such a coat," but if I open the door to him whenhe has on another suit which is more respectable, it isevident that my objection was not to the person but to his clothes. If a man will not cheat when the transaction is opento the world but will do so in a more secret way, or in a kind of adulteration which is winked at in the trade, the man doesnot hate cheating-he only hatesthat kind of it which is sure to be found out-he likes the thing itself very well.
Some sinners say they hate sin. Not at all! Sin in its essence is pleasing enough-it is only a glaring shape of it which theydislike. Heedlessness indicates that self is not subdued. You say that you have given up a certain sin, but you will not attendto such-and-such a command ofChrist-what does this prove? Why, that the great I is still predominating! Self is never subdued unless it is subdued inall matters. Unless I can say, "Lord, I delight to do all Your will, and I long to be thoroughly conformed to it in all respects,"self is not subdued. Thatis a proud spirit which says, "I shall do this but not that." A servant is not to pick and choose as to his duties-he thenbecomes the master-he has arrogated to himself a position to which he has no right if he makes any selection whatever in whathis master bids himdo. Self is unhumbled and the soul is unrenewed, however high the pretensions, unless the man is willing to submit to Christin everything.
Again, your faith is not a living faith. We are saved by faith in Christ, and not by our works, but if, my dear Friend, youcan harbor and pamper any one sin, and delight in it, you have not the faith of God's elect. If, my Brother, there is someknown command of God against which you set yourself,and say, "Though I know it to be the command of Christ, yet I shall not obey it," you are not acting consistently with theobedience of faith-for Faith must obey her Master's will as well as trust His Grace.
I know that what I am saying is not very pleasant to certain of you-but we are not sent to preach pleasant things to you-weare to deliver the healthful Truth of God. I pray it may be sanctified to my own soul and to yours also. You do not wish tobe deceived, any of you. I am sure themost earnest Christian here is the man who is most willing to search himself. Better for us to have our eyes opened herethan to go dreaming on and find out our mistake in Hell. The Lord give us never to be afraid of a cutting Truth of God nora cutting sermon-but rather toinvite a heart-searching minister to deal faithfully with us! Beloved, I pray you to remember your spirit cannot have beenhumbled, and your faith cannot be a living faith if it makes exceptions with regard to the Master's will and kicks at thisor that! You do really, in fact,rebel against God Himself when you rebel against His will.
And again, a presumptuous want of care as to serving God is very dishonoring to the Most High. This kind of harem scarem religion,this hit or miss godliness, this do the thing that anybody else does, but never stop to look at it, has in it a sad lack oftrue reverence to God. True reverence to Godmakes me stop every now and then and say, "Is this my Master's will?" It makes me go to the Record to see whether I am comportingmyself according to the Master's orders. It brings me to a solemn position of enquiry where I have to look on the right handand on the left, and say,"Am I really right here? Am I serving myself or my God? Am I now under a Divine impulse, or only subject to my own humanpassion?"
If you do not thus pause, I do not think you have a proper regard for the Most High. If one of us should be sent as an ambassadorfrom the Queen on some important business, when we received our orders we should be very diligent to know what they were.And I can suppose our putting our hand into ourbosom, for we would be sure to keep the document there close to our heart, taking it out often and looking at it to knowexactly what was to be done. I am sure we would say, "If I should make a mistake here it shall be through want of power-itshall not be through deficiencyof care and caution."
Dear Hearers, we ought not to be serving God blunderingly! We ought not to rush into His service and rush out again withoutsetting our hearts toward Him. The Lord does not require of us to serve Him with half our heads or half our hearts-the serviceof God is worthy of all the light which myunderstanding can give me. I would not only serve Him with my heart having a good motive, but feeling that He bought myhead with His precious blood I would try to obey Him with my understanding, saying to Him, "Lord, teach me what You wouldhave me to do, and how You would have meto do it." Jesus deserves our whole man in the most educated state-and the true Christian will not be satisfied to giveto Jesus merely passion, and impulse, and excitement-he will put himself under the instruction of the great Teacher, and say,"Lord, teach me Yourstatutes, that I may run in the way of Your commandments."
Once more, after all, dear Friends, if we are heedless in the service of God and will not think it worth our while to findout or to do our Master's will, is there not grave cause for suspicion that the very heart of our religion is rotten? Do notthink me harsh, but I must again press it uponyou-it is the easiest thing in the world, Beloved, for you and for me to think that we are converted and to get into thenotion that we have enjoyed such-and-such experiences. It is very easy for some to say they are Christians, but it will notbe found so easy to be one.
Hear the words of Paul: "If the righteous are scarcely saved." "For strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads untolife eternal." Now, if I wickedly in my soul say that I will not desire to know my Lord's will, or if I know it but will notyield it obedience-if I practice it I willdo it lightly without giving my soul to it. What worse heart can any mere worldling have than this? How can corrupt naturebe more thoroughly discovered? Of the two I think I would sooner see you lay down your profession than hold it with a reserve.It were better for you to beostensibly the enemies of God than to be nominally His friends only up to a certain point! God save us from the shadow ofhypocrisy!
I am conscious that I have been touching some sore points here, for with a great many even in our own churches, let alonethose who are in the Church of England and so on, it really is not with them a question as to what the Lord would have themto do. Some are guided by their familyconnections-"Why do I do so-and-so? Well, you see it is a thing I was brought up to do." The same theory would render allthe heathen heathens forever, and every man would go down to Hell whose father went there!
Many persons receive their religion as they received their names-they got their names when they were unconscious, and theyobtained their religion, or rather irreligion, at the same time. I do not believe I am bound to do what my grandmother did.She was, I doubt not, an admirable woman andhas gone to Heaven. But I do not believe God put the brains that were to guide me into her head. I think He put my understandingand my brains into my head, and that under the guidance of His Holy Spirit I am, myself, to search this Bible. God did notput the Bible into my father'shands that He might construct certain notions which should bind his son-He placed the Bible in each Christian's own handsthat he might come there and say, "Lord, what would You have me to do?"
It is a very ill reason to give for a practice, "I do so-and-so because my family did the same before me," and it is a worsereason, if possible, to say, "We do it because you see it is a general thing, and a respectable thing." The general thingis the wrong thing in nine cases out of ten!Christ's Church is not so predominant yet anywhere as that the general thing shall ever become the right thing. It is follyto be singular, except when to be singular is to be right-and that happens to be very, very often, indeed.
Some, on the other hand, who do not follow tradition, follow mere excitement. They happen to be what they now are as professorsbecause they were persuaded into it by an eloquent teacher-they were excited, and they did so. Besides, they did it, theysay, from a good motive which is certainlybetter than no excuse at all. But my doing wrong from a good motive does not make the wrong right, especially when I mighthave enlightened myself and have found out what was the right. If I persistently shut up my Bible and say, "Now I shall dowhatever I think to be right," I amlike a person who at night puts out his lantern and cries, "Now I shall walk whichever way I think to be right." If he tumblesinto a ditch, it will be very little consolation that he followed his best judgment. Why did he not follow the light whichhe had about him?
Some professing Christians also give themselves up to their taste. They believe a doctrine because they like it, or they followa practice because they think it is very appropriate, or perhaps pretty. As if taste could be any better than a mere Will-o'-the-wispas a guide in religion! It is notpossible for me to be a servant of God at all while I set up my own whims to be my rule of action. Beloved, there are manyothers whose religion is one constant piece of thoughtlessness-they never consider at all-and though this matter may not strikeyou as important, Iam persuaded the message I am delivering is needed by the great mass of Christians.
Do not serve God thoughtlessly. Do not come to any devout exercises merely because it is the time and season for them, buttake heed, weigh the matter, see what you are doing-do not rush into God's Presence, do not worship because others do so,but take heed and consider-and then,deliberately in God's strength, whether others do so or not, perform the Lord's will with your whole heart.
III. I will now come to the third point, and that is that CAREFUL THOUGHT WITH REGARD TO ALL GOD'S
WILL IS MOST USEFUL. Because in the first place, a man who gives heed to walk in all the Lord's will with all his heart provesthat he has the true serving spirit. He has become a servant, for his eyes were up to God as the eyes of the handmaiden towardsher mistress. He has the true child-likespirit, for he says to his Father, "Father, tell me what You would have me do and be."
He has the true believing spirit, for he no longer walks by the sight of his eyes and the will of the flesh, but desires tobe conformed to the mind of the invisible God. And he has evidently a humbled spirit, since he puts his own will in subjectionto Divine Grace-to the will of God. Hisdesire is-"Not my will, but Yours be done." Cultivate, Beloved, cultivate carefulness with regard to God's will for you,because it will be to you one of the best and clearest evidences that Divine Grace reigns in your heart!
In the next place, this heedfulness is precious because it will prevent much evil. There are scores of things which are nowdone that never would be done again if Christians would only think. If we could once get a thoughtful believing church, weshould not be long without having a reformed church.Beloved, it was because Luther was led by God to proclaim that doctrine of justification by faith that we received the Reformation.Do not think there was nobody in the world who believed that when Luther preached it-there were thousands of holy men andwomen who had trustedin Christ and were trusting in Christ-but they did not see the necessity of proclaiming on the housetops that Truth of Godwhich in secret they lived upon!
It was only when Luther made them think whether they ought to be in communion with a church which denies this vital point-itwas only then that they dreamed of coming out from the old Romish church and began to declare more boldly the Truth as itis in Jesus. You will be saved all sorts oftroubles in Providence, if, like David, you will stay awhile, and say, "Bring here the ephod." If instead of running righton without looking, you will say, "Lord, where does the cloud lead me? Where does the finger of Providence direct me?" Youwill be saved many bitter tears, andyour path will be more happy and pleasant to yourself.
A heedful spirit, moreover, finds out God's will. God's will is not such a mystery as some would have us think! This is sucha Book that he who wills to understand it, by God's Grace, shall understand. Come here in spirit, willing to know, and youwill know. Come here with a desire to do what Godwould have you do, and you shall soon be well taught. You need not submit to a priest, nor allow the judgment of anotherto domineer over your intellect-
"This is the judge that ends the strife, Where wit and reason fail, My guide to everlasting life Through all this gloomy vale."
A heedful spirit is particularly needful to certain persons. A man with a quick spirit like Jehu ought to be the more heedful.Some Brothers and Sisters are born with a passionate disposition. Certain men are readily subject to impulses. Those of uswho are cool and calculating will probably noterr here-but the more impulsive brethren should look well to this duty of taking heed to the whole of God's will or else,before they know it, they may be the dupes of imposters.
Under the notion of duty you may run into all sorts of mischief. If men would go to God about every matter, they would nottalk so many crude things nor do so many absurd things as they now do. How necessary this heedfulness is to the preacher!If he does not take care what he publishes he will domuch more mischief than he will do good. How heedful you Sunday school teachers, and you that are teachers of any sort shouldbe! If you do not look to your actions, you may have good motives but your example will not be very good.
How necessary this is to the parent! Because if the parent falls into an error, his children will imitate him in his vicesfar sooner than his virtues. How needful is this in certain positions! You who work with ungodly men-you who are thrown intoworldly company-how heedful should yoube! You will never be right unless you are watchful. "What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch." Watchfulness will be sureto take this turn of an anxious desire to give heed to all the Lord's will. Would I have you precise? "Yes," said a Puritan,"I am precise, for I serve aprecise God."
Would I have you careful and jealous? Ah, you serve a jealous God! There is no fear in this age that I can draw this stringtoo tightly. Laxity is, alas, too much the common practice. Oh, Beloved, may we come back again, not to the gloom of Puritanism,but still to the rigidity of its obedience, toits stern tenacity of all its convictions and its determination sooner to die than to yield the very least point of thewill of God! If we had more of this the Church would be much more blessed than it is.
Let me say once more that this heedful spirit will be a great blessing to you Christians because of that which it will leadto. If I do not take heed to do the Lord's will, I shall soon miss the society of Jesus. Christ walks most closely with thosewho walk most closely with the Divine will. If Iset up an idol in my heart I cannot expect Jesus Christ to come and talk familiarly with me, and sup with me in the presenceof that idol! If I am knowingly, or even through a willful ignorance, unknowingly doing that which He does not approve of,I cannot expect His smile.
We are not saved by works, we repeat it, but still much of our communion with Christ does depend upon the hearty sincerityof our obedience. "If you keep My commandments you shall abide in My love, even as I have kept My Father's Commandments, andabide in His love." May the Holy Spirit bring us,then, for all these reasons, into a heedful and careful spirit!
IV. We must finish by trying to urge you TO PRACTICE CARE AT ONCE. And I would appeal to all present in these few words-DearFriends, may I ask you all to answer to yourselves this question, "Is my hope which I possess at the present moment trulyplaced where all true hope must be?"
Are you giving heed in the matter of your hope to walk according to the Commandment? What is the Commandment? This is theCommandment-that you believe on Jesus Christ whom He has sent. No question can be more important than this! Are you restingand depending upon Jesus Christ alone, and withall your heart? If not, you may as well give up all pretensions to godliness for you have not got any if you have not begunon this foundation. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid."
Come, there can be no exceptions here! That excellent disposition, that charitable action, that devout ceremony-all that isnothing at all unless you begin by disclaiming all good works and all human merits-and come to rest upon the Lord Jesus andupon His finished work andrighteousness. Now, that is the first question to begin with. Christian, if you can get over that, and say, "Yes, blessedbe God, I do in that respect walk according to the Commandment," then next I want you, Christian, to answer this-"Is thereanything in which you are nowindulging which you know to be wrong, or which you might know to be wrong if you took the trouble to search?"
Then I charge you, by your allegiance to Christ, give it up now! One leak sinks a ship, and one sin really harbored will bea proof that the Grace of God is not in you. You may fall into one sin, no, fall into fifty sins and yet be a Christian-butyou cannot live in one sin, and love one sinand be a Christian-it is indispensably necessary to vital godliness that all sin should be the subject of your heart's disapproval.What about this? My dear Brothers and Sisters saved in Christ-is there any one command of your Master which you have neglected?
I shall give no hints about what it may happen to be, for it may be a different one in every case. But is there one thingthat you might do for Christ which you have not done? Is there one service which you might render to your Master which youhave not rendered? Then I charge you, as you hope tobe found approved in the day of judgment, and by the sincerity of your attachment to your Lord, see that that one thingis done, and done at once with all your heart! How I wish that I had the power to press home this matter!
I feel as if I had one of the largest subjects to handle and had the very smallest power to bring it home. Beloved, do notlet us be among those that have the name to live and are dead-and who prove that they are dead by lacking the heart whichclings to God! I know you cannot be perfect inlife, but you must be desirous to be perfect. You cannot give up every sin, practically, I know. Through infirmity we fallinto some sin or another-but the heart must give up every sin, or else it is a rotten heart in which God does not dwell! Andthe heart must be obedient toevery command or else it is not a heart in which Jesus Christ has come to reign.
The Lord purge the inside, and the outside will soon be right enough. May He make clean the inside of the cup and the platter,then the exterior will be cleansed, too. And may the Lord grant that this work be seen to at once! As for you professors whohave felt this sermon cut you, may it cutyou-may it kill your hopes! May it drive you to self-despair, and may it lead you to Christ!
And when you come to Christ and trust in Him, then I know you will cry-
"Loved of my God, for Him again With love intense I'd burn! Chosen of Him before time began, I choose Him in return."
God bless this sermon of admonition, and make it profitable to every hearer, and His shall be the praise. Amen.