Sermon 686. Obedience Better Than Sacrifice
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
1 Samuel 15:2.
SAUL had been commanded to utterly slay all the Amalekites and their cattle. Instead of doing so he preserved the king andsuffered his people to take the best of the oxen and of the sheep. When called to account for this he declared that he didit with a view of offering sacrifice to God-butSamuel met him at once with the assurance that such sacrifices were no excuse for an act of direct rebellion. In so doinghe altered his sentence, which is worthy to be printed in letters of gold and to be hung up before the eyes of the presentgeneration: "To obey is better thansacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
I think that in this verse-and here I shall dwell mainly-there is, first, a voice to professing Christians, and then, secondly,to unconverted persons.
I. First, I will speak to you, my Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, you who have made a PROFESSION of your faith in Him.Be it ever in your remembrance, that to obey, to keep strictly in the path of your Savior's command, is better than any outwardform of religion. And to hearken to Hisprecepts with an attentive ear is better than to bring the fat of rams or anything else which you may wish to lay upon Hisaltar. Probably there are some of you here tonight who may be living in the neglect of some known duty. It is no new thingfor Christians to know theirduty-to have their conscience enlightened about it-and yet to neglect it.
If you are failing to keep the least of one of Christ's commands to His disciples, I pray you, Brethren, be disobedient nolonger. I know, for instance, that some of you can see it to be your duty, as Believers, to be baptized. If you did not thinkit to be your duty, I would not bring this text tobear upon you. But if you feel it is right, and you do it not, let me say to you that all the pretensions you make of attachmentto your Master and all the other actions which you may perform, are as nothing compared with the neglect of this! "To obey,"even in the slightest andsmallest thing, "is better than sacrifice," and to hearken diligently to the Lord's commands is better than the fat of rams.
It may be that some of you, though you are professed Christians, are living in the prosecution of some evil trade, and yourconscience has often said, "Get out of it." You are not in the position that a Christian ought to be in-but then you hopethat you will be able to make a littlemoney-and you will retire and do a world of good with it. Ah, God cares nothing for this rams' fat of yours! He asks notfor these sacrifices which you intend to make. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
Perhaps you are in connection with a Christian church in which you may see much that is wrong and you know that you oughtnot to tolerate it, but still you do so. You say, "I have a position of usefulness, and if I come out I shall not be so usefulas I am now." My Brother, your usefulness is butas the fat of rams, and "to obey is better than" it all. The right way for a Christian to walk in is to do what his Masterbids him, leaving all consequences to the Almighty. You have nothing to do with your own usefulness further than to keep yourMaster's commands at all hazardsand under all risks. "I counsel you to keep the King's commandments," and, "whatever He said unto you, do it." Sit at Hisfeet with Mary and learn of Him! And when you rise up from that reverent posture, let it be with the prayer-
"Help me to run in Your commands, 'Tis a delightful road. Nor let my head, nor heart, nor hands, Offend against my God."
Possibly, too, dear Brother, there may be some evil habit in which you are indulging and which you excuse by the reflection,"Well, I am always at the Prayer Meeting. I am constantly at communion, and I give so much of my substance to the supportof the Lord's work." I am glad that you do thesethings, but oh, I pray you give up that sin! I pray you cut it to pieces and cast it away, for if you do not, all your showof sacrifice will be but an abomination! The first thing which God requires of you as His beloved is obedience! And thoughyou should preach with the tongue ofmen and of angels, though you should give your body to be burned and your goods to feed the poor, yet if you do not hearkento your Lord and are not obedient to His will, all besides shall profit you nothing.
It is a blessed thing to be teachable as a little child, and to be willing to be taught of God. But it is a much more blessedthing, still, when one has been taught to go at once and carry out the lesson which the Master has whispered in his ear. Howmany excellent Christians there are whosacrifice a goodly flock of sheep so as to replenish the altar of our God who, nevertheless, are faulty because they obeynot the Word of the Lord? Look at our Missionary Society's list of subscribers, and ask yourself the question, Do all thesehelp the spread of the Gospel byobedience to the precept, "Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature"?
There you see in the money gift the sacrifice, but better far to have obedience. Both ought to be joined together. But ofthe two, better is the act of obedience than of giving! Noah's sacrifice sent up a sweet savor before God, but in God's sightthe obedience which led him to build the ark andenter in with his family was far more precious-and for this his name is written among the champions of faith and handeddown to us as a word of honor and renown. Moreover, Brethren, to obey is better than sacrifice in the matter of caring forthe sick and needy of all classes.We rejoice in the number of hospitals which adorn our cities. These are the princely trophies of the power of our holy religion.
To these we triumphantly point as among the ripe fruits of that Christianity which is for the healing of the nations, chieflyin a spiritual, but also in the physical aspect of man's diseased and miserable state. There are no nobler words in our languagethan those inscribed on so manywalls-"Supported by voluntary contributions." We glory in them! Rome's monuments, Grecian trophies, Egyptian's mighty tombsand Assyria's huge monoliths are dwarfed into petty exhibitions of human pride and vanity before the sublime majesty of theseexhibitions of a God-givenlove to our fellow men!
But all these homes of mercy and healing become evils to ourselves, though they are blessings to the distressed, if we contributeof our wealth to their financial support and neglect personally to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, tofeed the hungry, to care for the sick, and donot, like the Master, go about doing good. Give as God has given to you, but remember God acts as well as gives. "Go youand do likewise." Sacrifice, but also obey! A cup of cold water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple, and in obedienceto the Lord, is a golden deedvalued by our heavenly Master above all price-more precious in His sight than silver-yes, than much fine gold.
I put this very earnestly to the members of this church, and, indeed, to all of you who hope that you are followers of Christ:Is there anything that you are neglecting? Is there any sin in which you are indulging? Is there any voice of conscience towhich you have turned a deaf ear? Is there onepassage of Scripture which you dare not look in the face because you are living in neglect of it? Then let Samuel's voicecome to you and set you seeking for more Divine Grace, for "to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fatof rams."
II. But my main business tonight is with the UNCONVERTED-and may the Master give us Grace to deal with them affectionately,faithfully, and earnestly! My Hearer, in the first place, God has given to you in the Gospel dispensation a command. It isa command in the obeying of which there iseternal life, and the neglect of which will be and must be your everlasting ruin! That command is this: "Believe on theLord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved."
The Gospel does not come to you as the Law does, and say, "Do this and you shall live." It speaks as in the language of Isaiahthe Prophet, and says, "Hearken diligently unto Me. Hear, and your souls shall live." It tells you that whoever believes thatJesus is the Christ, is born of God, and itbids the heralds of the Cross go out and cry, "He that believe and is baptized shall be saved. He that believe not shallbe damned."
To use the expressive language of the beloved Apostle John, "This is His commandment, that we should believe on the name ofHis Son Jesus Christ." To believe is to trust-to trust with your whole heart-and whoever trusts in the Lord Jesus Christ withhis whole heart has the promise ofeternal life. No, if that act is sincere, it is the result of eternal life already given! God, the just One, must punishsin, therefore He must punish you-but Jesus Christ became Man and stood and smarted in the sinner's place-that whoever trustsin Him might neithersmart nor suffer because God punished Christ in the place of every man who comes to Christ and rests upon Him. To trustin Jesus, therefore, is God's first and great commandment of salvation.
Now, listen, Sinner! God commands you to keep this and surely He has a right to do so. If He wills to save, He has a sovereignright to choose His own way of saving! If a man gives to the poor he may do so as he wills, whether he gives at this dooror at that, or through the window-and so Godis pleased to use the door of simple faith as the only door through which to bestow mercy on the sons of men. And not onlyhas He a right to choose this way, but it is the only way that would suit you! If God determined to save none but those whokept His Law, what would become ofyou? If He only gave Divine Grace to the holy and to the good, where would you be?
But the way of faith suits, and readily suits, one who has broken God's commandments. Though a sinner is dying, though hemay be on the cross like the dying thief, yet, as the way of salvation is but a looking at Christ, there is hope for him evenin the last extremity that he may still be able tolook and live! Why should you kick against God's way when it is the best to suit you-when none can be more suitable-nonemore simple? He has chosen it because it is a way which honors His dear Son.
Your trusting Jesus gives glory to Jesus and therefore God delights in your faith. And, besides, it brings a blessing to yourown soul. To trust in Christ is in itself a blessing. It is humbling, but it is comforting. It empties you, but it fills you.It strips you, but it clothes you. Faith has adouble action like a two-edged sword. It kills pride but at the same time it heals the wound it gave by giving to the sinnertrust in Jesus. To trust Jesus is the best conceivable way I can imagine by which a sinner can be reconciled unto God throughthe blood of the great Redeemer.I pray you, therefore, be not angry because God is gracious. Be not rebellious when the still small voice says, "Look, Sinner,look to Him who died upon the tree, and by that look you shall live."
Now, this first point being clear, that God has given a command, the second remark is that the most of men, instead of obeyingGod, want to bring him sacrifices. They suppose that their own way of salvation is much better than any that the Almightycan have devised and therefore they offer theirfat of rams. This takes different forms, but it is always the same principle. One man says, "Well now, I will give up mypleasures. You shall not see me at the ballroom. You shall not catch me at the theater. I will forsake the music hall. Youshall not discover me in low company. Iwill give up all the things that my heart calls good-will not that save me?"
No, it will not. When you have made all this sacrifice all I shall, or can say of it is, "To obey is better than sacrifice.""Well, but suppose I begin to attend a place of worship? Suppose I go very regularly, and as often as the doors are open?Suppose I go to early matins, and to the eveningsong? Suppose I attend every day in the week where the bell is always going? Suppose I come to the sacrament and am baptized?Supposing I go through with the thing, and give myself thoroughly up to all outward observances-will not all this save me?"No, nor will it even helpyou to being saved! These things will no more save you than husks will fill your hungry belly. It is not the husks you need,you need the kernels, and so, poor Soul, you do not need external ceremonies-you need the inward substance and you will neverget that except bytrusting Jesus Christ!
There was a time when doctrine was far more highly valued than is now the case with some Christians. You will often meet withthose who seem to value men by their contributions to Church funds rather than by their soundness in the faith. Now, if Iam to judge men at all, I prize the man whohearkens to God's voice far more than the one who can bring the "fat of rams" to the altar of God's House. A rich hereticI would reject and put from me, while the poor but obedient God-fearing disciple I would welcome with all my heart. An earever open to listen to God's voice, aheart ever soft to receive the impress of God's teaching-these are far more precious than a handful of silver and gold,and a mouth promising large things. For "to hearken is better than the fat of rams."
All the costly gifts cast into the treasury are valuable chiefly as representing an inner spirit of devotion and of self-consecration.They may exist as outward acts without the living spirit which gives them value in God's eyes. We need, therefore, to cultivatethe soul-and to see that thatsacred spirit of devout submission dwells within us which dwelt in Him-who not only sacrificed Himself on the Cross, beingobedient unto death, but ever lived in that state of heart which was embodied in His prayer, "Nevertheless, not My will butYours be done."
Would the washing of the windows of a house make the inhabitants clean? Does the painting and ornamenting of the exteriorof a mansion make the dwellers in it healthier or holier men? We read of devils entering into a clean swept and garnishedhouse, and the last end of that man was worse than thefirst! All the outward cleansing is but the gilding of the bars of the cage full of unclean birds-the whitewashing of sepulchersfull of rottenness and dead men's bones. Washing the outside of a box will leave all the clothes inside as foul as ever. Remember,therefore, thatall that you can do in the way of outward religion is nothing but the sacrifice of the fat of rams-and "to obey is betterthan sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
"Yes," says another, "but suppose I punish myself a good deal for all that I have done? I will abstain from this. I will denymyself that. I will mortify myself in this passion. I will give up that evil." Friend, if you have any evil give it up, butwhen you have done so do not rely upon that, forthis you ought to have done, and not to have left the other undone! God's command is, "Believe," and if you should go aboutto sacrifice your lusts till they are bleeding like a hecatomb of bullocks upon the altar, yet I must say to you, as Samuelsternly said to Saul, "To obey isbetter than to sacrifice, and to hearken to the Gospel message is better than all this fat of rams."
But it is thought by some if they should add to all this a good deal of generosity, surely they will be saved. "Suppose Igive money to the poor, build a lot of alms-houses and help to build a church? Suppose I am generous even beyond my means,will not this help me?" Sinner, why do you ask such aquestion? God has set before you a door-an open door- and over it is written, "Believe and live"! And yet you go about andwander abroad to find another door! What is all your gold worth, Man? Why, Heaven is paved with it! All the gold you havewould not buy a singleslab of the eternal pavement, and do you think to enter there by way of your poor giving?
If God were hungry He would not tell you, for His are the cattle on a thousand hills, and His are the mines of silver, andthe sparkling ores of gold. The diamond, and the topaz, and the chrysolite are all His own, and His eyes see them hidden intheir secret veins and lodes! Do you think to bribethe Eternal with your paltry purse? Oh, do you understand that "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than thefat of rams"?
"Yes, but," says the sinner, "if I could add to all this a great deal of confidence in those good men who are recognized bythe world as priests? Suppose I put myself into their bonds? I would not go to the Roman Catholics, for I do not like themmuch, but supposing I go to theEpiscopalians-they have priests, too, and sprinkle children with holy water, and bury the reprobate dead, in 'sure and certainhope of a glorious resurrection to everlasting life'-could not they do something for me? Or suppose I go to some Dissentingminister, and putmyself under his care, cannot he help me?"
No, Sir, there is nothing in us that can help you one jot. We hate the very thought of being priests! I would sooner be adevil than be a priest with the exception of being what all Christians are-priests unto God. Let me justify that strong remark-ofall pretensions on earth there isnone so detestable as the pretense of being able to bestow Divine Grace upon men and of standing between their souls andGod! Beloved, we are your servants for Christ's sake, but as for any priestly authority to give Grace to you, we shake offthe imputation as Paul shook off theviper from his hand into the fire.
We speak to men of our own kith and kin, we talk to you out of warm earnest hearts, but we can only say to you, "Do not trustin us, for you will be fools if you do. Do not trust in any man, for though you might make a sacrifice of your reason by sodoing, yet remember that 'to obey is better thansacrifice.' " God demands of you not submission to your fellow men, whoever they may be-He requires of you not to listento the pealing of organs, not to attend gorgeous ceremonies where the smoke of incense goes up in gaudy palaces dedicatedto His service. He requiresthis-that you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and then He tells you that you shall live. Trust the Savior and you shallnot perish, neither shall any pluck you out of His hand! But if you refuse this way of salvation, then there is none otherpresented to you and you mustperish in your sins. "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
And now I have to show that it is so. Men are always setting up these ways of salvation of their own, and they will run anywheresooner than come to Christ and do as God tells them! Let me show how to obey is better than sacrifice, and how to hearkenis better than the fat of rams. It is better initself. It shows that you are more humble. There are persons in the world who say that to trust Christ to save us from sinis not to be humble. Now, is it not always humility on the part of a child to do exactly what its parent tells it withoutasking any questions? I think it isso.
Some poor Papists go down on their knees and even lick the dust to do penance, and they think that this is being humble! Now,suppose one of your children has offended you, and you say to him, "Come, my Dear, I freely forgive you. Come and give mea kiss, and it is all over." He shakes his head,and says, "No, Father, I cannot kiss you." And he runs upstairs and shuts himself up. You knock at the door, and say, "Come,my Child, come and kiss me, and it is all forgiven." But he shakes his head and says, "No, never!" He shuts himself up thereall alone, and he thinks he isdoing more to put away your anger by so doing than by obeying your command!
You say to him solemnly, "My Child, I will chasten you again for disobedience if you do not come and accept the forgivenesswhich I offer to you if you will but kiss me." The child sullenly says, "No, Father, I will do something else that is morehumbling." And then you feel in your soul that thatis an unhumbled child or else he would at once do what his father told him-without thinking whether it would be a humiliatingthing or not! It would be a humbling thing because his father told him to do it, and if he were a right-minded child he woulddo it from a spirit ofobedience.
Now, you may think it very humble on your part to need to feel a great deal of conviction and to shed a great many tears,and to pray a great many prayers-but the most lowly thing you can do is to perform what the Master tells you. "Trust Me,"He said, "do not go over there to weep-cometo Me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Do not stand at the swine's trough saying, "Iwill not arise and go to my Father, for I am not fit to go till I have suffered a great deal more." Hear the voice which bidsyou say, "I will arise and go unto myFather. And what I have to say I will say unto him. And if I have to weep I will weep with my head in his bosom, while Ireceive the kisses of his love."
Come, poor Sinner, do not set up your proud humility in the teeth of God, but since He bids you look and live, oh, give upyour prayers and even your tears, and your repenting, and your convictions-have done with them all as grounds of confidence-andlook to Jesus Christ, and to JesusChrist alone!
But in the next place, it is really a more holy thing. There are some soldiers here tonight. Now suppose one of these receivedorders from the commanding officer to keep guard at such-and-such a door. All of a sudden he thinks to himself, "I am veryfond of our commander and I should like to dosomething for him." He puts his musket against the wall and starts out to find a shop where he can buy a bunch of flowers.He is away from his post all the while, of course, and when he comes back he is discovered to have been away from the postof duty.
He says, "Here is the bunch of flowers I went to get." But I hear his officer say, "To obey is better than that-we cannotallow you-military discipline would not permit it-to run off at every whim and wish of yours and neglect your duty, for whoknows what mischief might ensue?"The man, however much you might admire what he was doing, would certainly be made to learn by military law that "To obeyis better than sacrifice." It is a holier and a better thing to do one's duty than to make duties for one's self and thenset about them.
Now, does it not seem a very pretty thing when a man puts on a very handsome-looking gown with a yellow cross down his back,and something else in pink, and I know not what colors, and ministers in a place decorated with flowers? And where there aresuch sweet things-incense smoking fromsilver censers and choristers all in white-is not that man serving God? When he preaches he does not say to the people,"Believe and live," but begins to talk about "the blessed sacrament of the altar," or some other such stuff? Is he not servingGod when he does this? I willappeal to this old Book.
Where inside these leaves and covers is there a word about burning this smoking incense? When did Christ ever say anythingabout it? Where have we anything about that decorated font, or about that pulpit that looks so very glorious? Why, the manhas been making up a spiritual pantomime for himselfand he has left out altogether the soul of the matter. He has left out Christ ! Therefore he has NOT done his work! He hasdone twenty other things-I dare say very sincerely and with a very pure desire-but after all he needs to be made to learnthe meaning of thispassage, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams."
And better than smoking incense, and flowers, and gilded crosses, and chasubles, and albs, and dalmatics, and all such thingsas could possibly be brought together, if he had God's Word for it, it would be right, but without God's Word it is a mereinvention of man to which God can have no regard.It is a more holy thing to do what God bids you than to do what you yourselves invent. When I have done with what I haveinvented, however pretty it may be, however venerable it may seem, yet what does it come to? Suppose I worship God in oneof those smart robes-is my worshipa bit the better? Suppose I should go home tonight and spend the night on my knees and think that by that means I shouldsatisfy God? What should I have done but made my knees ache?
Supposing I had filled this place with incense-what should I have done but probably have made you cough? Suppose I had decoratedmyself and this place-some of you might have been pleased-but what connection on earth can there be between flowers and holiness,or between gilding andmillinery and glorifying God? If our God were like some of the fabled deities of Greece and Rome He might be delighted withthese pretty things, but our God is in the heavens, and when He does show His splendor He scatters stars broadcast acrossthe sky with both His hands-sowhat are all your prettinesses to Him? What is your swelling music and all your pretty things to Him who built the heavensand piled the earth with all its rugged splendor of forest, and mountain, and stream? "To obey is better than sacrifice, andto hearken than the fat of rams."
But while I remark upon these things, let me also say that to obey the precept, "Believe and live," is certainly a great dealmore effectual to the soul's salvation than all the sacrifice and all the fat of rams which you can offer. Let me give youa picture by way of illustration. Naaman was aleper. He desired healing. The Prophet said to him, "Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and you shall be clean." Now Naamanthought to himself, "I dare say, wash? Does he think me to be some filthy wretch who needs washing? He says I must wash seventimes! Does he really think thatI have not washed for so long that it will take seven washings to get me clean?
"He says I must wash! What a simple thing! I have washed every day, and it has done me no good. He says I must wash in Jordan!Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Jordan? Why cannot I wash in them and be clean?"This is just what some of you say aboutbelieving. You say, "Well, but sacraments-there must be something in them! Believing in Christ-why it is such a simple thing!I am such a respectable person. This is a very good religion to preach to thieves and so on, but surely you forget that Ihave a great many goodworks of my own-cannot I think of them? You say I must trust in Christ as though you thought nothing of my good works."
Well, you are near the mark, Sir. I do not think anything of them! I would not give a penny for a wagon load of them! Thewhole of them are just what Paul calls them-"refuse." He says, "I count them but dung that I may win Christ, and be foundin Him." All your best works are but so muchrubbish to be carted out of the way, and if you trust in them they will be your ruin! All we say to you is, "BELIEVE ANDLIVE."
Now Naaman was in a great rage and he went away, but his servant said to him, "My Father, if the Prophet had bid you do somegreat thing would you not have done it? Much rather, then, will you not do what he tells you when he says, Wash and he clean?"Now, if my Master were to say to you tonight,"Walk to the city of York barefoot and you shall be saved," if you believed it, the most of you would start off tonight!But when the message is, "Believe and live," oh, that is too simple! What? Just trust Christ and be saved on the spot?! Why,it cannot be, you think! If we badeyou do some great thing you would do it, but you refuse to do so simple a thing as to believe.
But if Naaman had gone to Abana and Pharpar he would not have been healed. And if he had sought out all the physicians inSyria and paid away all his money, he would have been white with leprosy still. There was nothing but washing in Jordan thatwould heal him. And so with you, Sinner-youmay go and do fifty thousand things but you will never get your sins forgiven! And you never, never shall have a hope ofHeaven unless you will obey this one precept- "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." But if you do this you shall find that "toobey is better than sacrifice"indeed, and "to hearken" than all "the fat of rams."
But now we must close with a remark which we have made over and over again during this discourse, namely, that by not obeyingand not hearkening to the Gospel, Sinner, you must perish. I know that some think it rather hard that there should be nothingfor them but ruin if they will not believe inJesus Christ. But if you will think for a minute you will see that it is just and reasonable. I suppose there is no wayfor a man to keep his strength up except by eating. If you were to say, "I shall never eat, I will not take refreshment,"you might go to Madeira, or travel to allthe climates, (supposing you lived long enough!) but you would most certainly find that no climate and no exercise wouldavail to keep you alive if you refused to eat!
And would you then say, "Well, it is a hard thing that I should die because I refused to eat"? It is not an unjust thing thatif you are such a fool as not to eat, you must die. It is precisely so with believing. "Believe, and you are saved." If youwill not believe, it is no hard thing that youshould be damned! It would be harder if it were not to be the case! There is a man who is thirsty, and there stands beforehim a fountain. "No," he says, "I will never touch a drop of moisture as long as I live. Cannot I get my thirst quenched insome other way?" We tell him, no, hemust drink or die. He says, "I will never drink, but it is a hard thing that I must therefore die, a very hard thing." No,it is not, poor Simpleton! It is nothing but an inevitable law of nature. You must drink or die. Why play the fool at sucha cost as that? Drink, Man, drink!And so with Christ. There is the way of salvation-and you must trust Christ or perish-and there is nothing hard in it thatyou should perish if you do not.
Here is a man out at sea. He has a chart, and that chart, if well studied, will, with the help of the compass, guide him tohis journey's end. The polestar gleams out amidst the clouds, and that, too, will help him. "No," he says, "I will have nothingto do with your stars. I do not believe in theNorth Pole. I shall not attend to that little thing inside the box. One needle is as good as another needle. I do not believein your rubbish and I will have nothing to do with it. It is only a lot of nonsense got up by people on purpose to make money,and I will have nothing to dowith it." The man does not get to shore anywhere-he drifts about, but never reaches port-and he says it is a very hard thing,a very hard thing.
I do not think so. So some of you say, "Well, I am not going to read your Bible. I am not going to listen to your talk aboutJesus Christ. I do not believe in such things." You will be damned, then, Sir! "That's very hard," you say. No, it is not!It is not more so than the fact that if you rejectthe compass and the polestar you will not get to your journey's end. There is no help for it-it must be so-you say you willhave nothing to do with these things, and you pooh-pooh them. You will find it a very hard thing to laugh these matters downwhen you come to die,when the cold, clammy sweat must be wiped from your brow, and your heart beats against your ribs as if it wanted to getout and get away to God.
Oh Soul, you will find then that these Sundays, and these services, and this preaching, and this old Book are something moreand better than you thought they were! And you will wonder that you were so simple as to neglect them, the only guides tosalvation. And above all, that you neglected Christ,that Polestar which alone shines aloft to guide the mariner to the port of peace.
Now, where do you live tonight? You live, perhaps, on the other side of London Bridge, and you have to get over there tonightas you go home. But while you have been sitting here you have got a fancy into your head that you do not believe in bridges,and you do not believe in boats, and you do notbelieve in water. You say, "I am not going over any of your bridges! Do not tell me-I shall not get into any of your boats.If there is a river I am not going over it. I do not believe in crossing rivers." You go along and you come to the bridge,but you will not cross it.There is a boat, but you will not get into it. There is the river, and you say you will not cross that anyway, and yet youthink it is very hard that you cannot get home.
Now I think you must have got something that has over-balanced your reasoning powers, for you would not think it so hard ifyou were in your senses. If a man will not do the thing that is necessary to a certain end, I do not see how he can expectto gain that end. You have taken poison and thephysician brings an antidote, and says, "Take it quickly, or you will die. But if you take it quickly I will guarantee thatthe poison will be neutralized." But you say, "No, Doctor, I do not believe it. Let everything take its course-let every tubstand on its ownbottom-I will have nothing to do with you, Doctor." "Well, sir, you will die, and when the coroner's inquest is held onyour body, the verdict will be, 'Served him right!' "
So will it be with you if, having heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you say, "Oh, pooh-pooh! I am too much of a commonsenseman to have anything to do with that, and I shall not attend to it." Then, when you perish, the verdict given by your conscience,which will sit upon the King's quest at last,will be a verdict of "Felode-se"-"he destroyed himself." So says the old Book-"O Israel, you have destroyed yourself!" Butwhen I quote that text I must not stop there, for the next line is, "but in Me is your help found."
Oh, my dear Hearer, what a mercy it is that there is help in God! There is help in God for you! There is help in God for theworst of you! I cannot tell who there may be here tonight. There may be some who have sinned very greatly, but there is helplaid upon One who is "mighty to save." Where areyou, big Sinner? Here is a great Savior able to put all your sins away! Have you grown gray in wickedness? Ah, my Mastercan put away seventy years of sin by a moment's application of His precious blood! See him bleeding on the Cross in agoniesso great that angels might have weptto gaze upon Him?-
"See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down? Did ever such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
There must be merit in such mighty agonies! If you trust in the merits of that precious blood you shall one day be with Himin Paradise. God give you Divine Grace to trust Jesus, to trust Jesus now, and then we shall meet again where they sing, "UntoHim that loved us, and washed us from our sinsin His own blood, be glory forever and ever. Amen."
"Behold the Lamb of God! Behold, believe and live! Behold His all-atoning blood, And life receive. Look from yourself to Him, Behold Him on the tree! Though the eye of faith be dim He looks on you. That meek, that languid eye, Turns from Himself away, Invites the trembling sinner near, And bids him stay. Stay with Him near the tree. Stay with Him near the tomb. Stay till the risen Lord you see. Stay 'till He comes."