Sermon 755. Alive or Dead-Which?
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, June 16th, 1867, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
"He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life."-1 John 5:12.
LAST Sabbath morning we addressed you upon the gracious operations of the Holy Spirit in the believer, and upon the gloriousfad of his dwelling in the hearts of the regenerate. Now, it frequently happens that when we discourse upon the work of theHoly Spirit, there are certain weak and uninstructed brethren who straightway fall into questionings and despondencies, becausethey in some point or other are unable to discern the work of grace within themselves. That work maybe prospering within them, but through the turmoil of their spirits and the dimness of their mental vision, they do notat once perceive it, and therefore they are distracted and alarmed. There is a consoling doctrine which is intended to yieldcomfort to souls thus afflicted; it is the great truth, that "Whosoever believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ, hath everlastinglife." If they would remember this gospel-declaration, they might also with advantage consider the other spiritual fact, andbyweighing the two truths in their minds, they might receive much permanent blessing; while at the present, by having aneye to one only, they throw themselves off their balance, and make to themselves many sorrows. It is not, however, the easiestthing in the world to preach clearly, with judicious blending, the operations of the Spirit, and the doctrine of completesalvation by faith in Jesus Christ; however clear our utterance, we shall seem sometimes to make one truth entrench upon theother.It is the mark of the Christian minister, who is taught of God, that he rightly divides the Word of truth; but this rightdividing is so far from being an easy thing, that it must be taught us by no less a teacher than God the Holy Spirit. Whenour Lord addressed Nicodemus, he experienced the same difficulty which at this day every watchful minister observes in hishearers; he found that a description of the inner work must be accompanied by the publication of the gospel of faith, or itwouldonly cause bewilderment and depression. Our Lord began, in the third chapter of John's gospel, by telling Nicodemus thathe must be born again, and explaining to him the mysterious character of the new birth. Whereupon Nicodemus was filled withwonder, and unbelievingly exclaimed, "How can these things be?" He does not seem to have made the smallest advance towardsfaith by hearing of the new birth, and therefore on the selfsame occasion our Lord turned aside from the doctrine of regeneration,the inner work, to speak to him of the doctrine of faith, or the work of Christ, which is the object of saving faith.Thus it comes to pass that the very same chapter which has in it that searching passage, "Except a man be born of water andof the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God," contains also these encouraging words, "As Moses lifted up the serpentin the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternallife." From which I gather, my brethren, that those unwise revivalists who perpetually cry up, "Believe and live!" andby their silence, and sometimes by their unguarded remarks, disparage repentance and other works of the Holy Spirit, havenot our Saviour's example for so doing; and on the other hand, those conservative divines who continually cry up inward experience,and preach the work of the Spirit, but forget to publish the gospel message, "He that believeth and is baptized shall besaved," these also have neither example nor precedent from our Lord Jesus Christ or his apostles, but mar the truth byleaving out a portion of it. If we can with all boldness and distinctness declare the inward work which the Holy Ghost accomplishesin the soul by working in us to will and to do of God's good pleasure, and at the same time can tell the sinner most plainlythat the object of his faith is not the work within, but the work which Jesus Christ accomplished upon the cross for him,we shall have dealt faithfully with divine truth, and wisely with our hearer's soul. The faith which brings salvation,looks away from everything that is inward to that which was accomplished and completed by our once slain but now ascendedLord; and yet no man has this faith except as it is wrought in him by the quickening Spirit. If we can preach both these truthsin harmonious proportion, it seems to me that we shall have hit upon that form of Christian teaching which, while it is consistentwith truth, is also healthful to the soul. Having on the previous Sabbath done our best with the one subject, we now seekto give the other its fair prominence.
We have in the text mention made of certain men who are living, and of others who are dead; and, as the two are put together in the text, we shall close by some observations upon the conduct of those who have life towards those who are destitute of it.
I. First, then, CONCERNING THE LIVING.
Our text testifies that "He that hath the Son hath life." Of course, by "life" here is meant not mere existence, or naturallife; for we all have that whether we have the Son of God or no-in the image of the first Adam we are all created living souls,and continue in life until the Lord recalls the breath from our nostrils-but the life here intended is spiritual life, thelife received at the new birth, by which we perceive and enter into the heavenly kingdom, comeunder new and spiritual laws, are moved by new motives, and exist in a new world. The life here meant is the life of Godin the soul, which is given us when we are new created in the image of the second Adam, who was made a quickening spirit;a celestial form of life inwardly perceptible to the person who possesses it, and outwardly discernible to spiritual observersby its holy effects and heavenly fruits. This spiritual life is the sure mark of deliverance from the penal death which thesentence of the law pronounced. Man under the law is condemned, sentence of death is recorded against him; but man undergrace is free from the law, and is not adjudged to death, but lives by virtue of a legal justification, which absolves himfrom guilt, and consequently liberates him from death. These two kinds of life, the life which is given by the judge to theoffender when he is pardoned, and the life which is imparted from the divine Father, the heir of heaven is begotten againunto alively hope-these two lives blend together and ensure for us the life eternal, such as they possess who stand upon the"sea of glass," and tune their tongues to the music of celestial hosts. Eternal life is spiritual life made perfect. If welive by virtue of our pardon and justification, and if, moreover, we live because we are quickened by the Holy Spirit, weshall also live in the glory of the eternal Father, being made in the likeness of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true Godandeternal life. This is the life here intended-life spiritual, life eternal.
By the term "having the Son," we understand possessing the Lord Jesus Christ. There is the finished work of Jesus, and faithappropriates it. We trust in Christ, and Christ becomes ours. As the result of grace in our souls, we chose the Lord Jesusas the ground of our dependence, and then we accept him as the Lord of our hearts, the guide of our actions, and supreme delightof our souls. He that hath the Son, then, is a man who is trusting alone in Jesus, in whom JesusChrist rules and reigns; and such a man is most surely the possessor of spiritual and eternal life at the present moment.It is not said "he shall have life "-he has it, he enjoys it now, he is at this hour quickened spirit; God has breathed into him a new life, by which he is made a partakerof the divine nature, and is one of the seed according to promise, and this life he has by virtue of his having received theSon of God to be his all.
I have thus briefly opened up the words of the text, and having broken the bone, let us now discuss the marrow and fatnessof it. Whoever in this world possesses Christ by faith is most certainly alive unto God by a life eternal. I shall remark,in the first place, that having the Son is good evidence of eternal life, from the fact that faith by which a man receives Christ is in itself a living act. Faith is the hand of the soul, but a deadman cannot stretch outhis icy limbs to take of that which is presented to him. If I, as a guilty, needy sinner, with my empty hand receive thefullness of Christ, I have performed a living act; the hand may quiver with weakness, but life is there. Faith is the eyeof the soul, by which the sin-bitten sinner looks to Christ, lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness; butfrom forth the stony eyes of death no glance of faith can dart. There may be all the organization by which it should look,but iflife be absent the eye cannot see. If, therefore, my eye of faith has looked alone to Jesus, and I depend upon him, Imust be a living soul, that act has proved me to be alive unto God. Looking to Jesus is a very simple act, indeed, it is achildlike act, but still it is a living one: no sight gleams from the eyeballs of death. Faith, again, is the mouth of thesoul; by faith we feed upon Christ. Jesus Christ is digested and inwardly assimilated, so that our soul lives upon him; buta dead mancannot eat. Whoever heard of carcasses gathering to a banquet? There may be the mouth, the teeth, and the palate, andso forth, the organization may be perfect, but the dead man neither tastes the sweet nor relishes the delicious. If, then,I have received Christ Jesus as the bread, which came down from heaven, as the spiritual drink from the rock, I have performedan action which is in itself a clear evidence that I belong to the living in Zion.
Now, my dear friends, perhaps some of you have hardly any other evidence of grace but this, you know that you have receivedChrist; you know that you do look to Jesus and lay hold upon him. Well, then, you could not have done this if you had notobtained eternal life, and the text is evidently true, "He that hath the Son hath life."
Furthermore, faith in Jesus is good evidence of life, because of the things, which accompany it. Now, no man ever did cometo Jesus Christ and receive him until he had felt his need of a Saviour: no sickness, no physician: no wound, no surgeon.No soul asks for pardon or obtains it till he has felt that sin is an evil for which pardon is necessary; that is to say,repentance always comes with faith. There must be a loathing of sin and a dread of its consequences, or thereis no faith. Now, as repentance is an evident sign of life, faith in Jesus must involve spiritual life. What if I saythat repentance is like the cry of the new-born babe, which indicates that the child is alive? That cry of "God be mercifulto me a sinner 1" is as sure a sign of life as the song of cherubim before the throne. There could have been no laying holdof Christ without true repentance of sin, which repentance becomes in its turn a clear proof of the possession of the innerlifewhich springs from incorruptible seed, and therefore liveth and abideth for ever.
Where there is faith, again, there is always prayer. Depend upon it, that if Saul of Tarsus cries, "Lord, what wilt thou haveme to do?" it will ere long be said of him," Behold, he prayeth." No soul believes in Jesus Christ without exercising itsfaith and its desires in prayer; but prayer is the breath of the soul, and where there is breath there must be life. Can thedead pray unto God? Shall a dead soul cry out for mercy? No, beloved, the falling of a tear, the upwardglancing of an eye when none but God is near-these may be very weak prayers as men judge them, but they are as much signsof life as Jacob's wrestling at the brook Jabbok, or Elijah's prevailing with God on Carmel's brow. So, then, he that hathan interest in the Lord Jesus, since his faith is attended by repentance and prayer, and many other holy graces, has a multitudeof sure and certain evidences of eternal life within the soul.
So might I say, that the consequences of receiving Christ are also good evidences of heavenly life; for when a man receivesthe Son of God, he obtains a measure of peace and joy; and peace with God and joy in the Holy Ghost are not to be found inthe sepulchres of dead souls. When Ezekiel saw the dry bones in the valley, I do not find that any of them were singing forjoy of heart, or silently musing in unutterable thankfulness. There was a sort of peace in the valley, thehorrible repose of death, the grim silence of the grave; but living, sparkling peace, flowing like a river, those drybones could not know. Job says of the hypocrite, "Will he delight himself in the Almighty?" Joy in God is too wonderful awork of God for mere professors to forge a passable counterfeit of it. Artificial flowers may be very like the real beautiesof the garden, but they lack the joyous perfume and honeyed stores of life, and the bees soon find out the difference: thehoney juiceand the delicate aroma are not to be matched. The like might be said of all the results of faith, which are far too numerousfor me to speak of them in detail this morning, such as purging the conscience from dead works, enlightenment by the Spirit,godly fear, the spirit of adoption, brotherly love, separation from the world, the consecration of life, holy gratitude whichmounts like flame to heaven, and sacred affection which ascends like altar-smoke-none of these can be found in thecharnel-house of fallen humanity; they can only be discovered in the house of life, where God worketh according to hisgood pleasure. He that hath the Son, it is clear, has life, because the act by which he lays hold upon the Son of God, theconcomitants of that act, and the consequences of that act, all infallibly betoken the possession of life eternal.
The possession of the Lord Jesus Christ is the evidence of faith in many ways. It is God's mark upon a living soul. See you yonder battle-field, strewn with men who have fallen in the terrible conflict!many have been slain, many more are wounded, and there they lie in ghastly confusion, the dead all stark and stiff, coveredwith their own crimson, and the wounded faint and bleeding, unable to leave the spot whereon they have fallen. Surgeons havegone over thefield rapidly, ascertaining which are corpses beyond the reach of mercy's healing hand, and which are men faint with lossof blood. Each living man has a paper fastened conspicuously on his breast, and when the soldiers are sent out with the ambulancesto gather up the wounded, they do not themselves need to stay and judge which may be living and which may be dead; they seea mark upon the living, and lifting them up right tenderly they bear them to the hospital, where their wounds may bedressed. Now, faith in the Son is God's infallible mark, which he has set upon every poor wounded sinner whose bleedingheart has received the Lord Jesus; though he faints and feels as lifeless as though he were mortally wounded, yet he mostsurely lives if he believes, for the possession of Jesus is the token which cannot deceive. Faith is God's mark witnessingin unmistakable language-"this soul liveth." Jesus saith, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlastinglife." Tenderly, tenderly, ye ministers of Christ, and ye blood-bought ones who care for the broken-hearted, lift up thiswounded one, bear him away, bind up his wounds with comfortable promises, and restore his ebbing life with precious consolationsfrom the Book of God. Whatever else we cannot see, if a simple trust in Jesus is discernible in a convert, we need feel nosuspicions, but receive him at once as a brother beloved; for this is the Father's will, that every one that seeth the Son,and believeth on him, may have everlasting life.
Moreover, the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ becomes a clear evidence of life, because, indeed, it is in some sense thesource, fountain, and nourishment of life. Here is a hand, "Is it alive?" Many questions may be asked about it which willbe unsatisfactory as evidence of life. "Has it a delicate complexion? Are the fingers well fashioned?" The answers may be,as you please, yes or no, and yet life may be present or absent. "Is it adorned wit gold rings, set withemeralds or diamonds? Or, does it wear an elegant, well-fitting glove?" The answer may be whichever you please; none ofthose things will at all effect the life of the hand, It may be white as ivory, or brown as autumn leaves; it may be cladin mailed gauntlet, or soiled with stains of blood, and yet it may be either clay cold in death or warm with life. But hereis a question which cuts at the main point, "Is the hand vitally connected with a living head?" If it be so, then the conclusionisinevitable, that the hand is most surely alive. Now, faith by which we receive the Son of God, is the grace which vitallyunites the members with Christ, their living Head; and where there is a vital union with the Son of God, there must be life.While the branch is vitally in the stem, it will have life; if it is not always bearing fruit, yet it always has life in itself,because it is in union with the living stem; and thus, beloved, the fact of having the Son becomes an evidence of life,because it is the source of life.
In another aspect of it, having the Son is not only the source of life, but the result of life. When the great doors wereopened of the Black Hole in Calcutta, and the pure air went streaming in, there were many lungs which did not receive thatair, for the simple reason that the most of those who had been so barbarously confined were dead, and to them the fresh oxygenhad come too late; but there were a few which gladly and at once received the breath of heaven, and suchas were still alive walked forth from amidst the corpses into the open air. Now, when a man receives Jesus into his soulas life from the dead, his faith is the sure indicator of a spiritual and mysterious life within him, in the power of whichhe is able to receive the Lord. Jesus is freely preached to you, his grace is free as the air, but the dead do not breathethat air-those who breathe it are, beyond all doubt, alive. Christ is presented to you in the preaching of the gospel as freelyas the water from the drinking fountain at the corner of the street; but the dead man drinketh not, his lips care notfor the flowing crystal He who drinks is evidently alive. The reception of Jesus Christ is the sure result of a heavenly lifepalpitating within the soul Thus you see the evidence is good, from several points of the compass; looking at the soul's businessfrom several ways, faith still becomes with equal clearness a witness that the man who has it possesses the divine lifewithin him.
Let me further remark, that the possession of the Lord Jesus Christ by faith is sufficient evidence of eternal life. "I do not know," says one, "when I was converted." My dear friend, have you the Son of God? Do you trust in Jesus Christ?That is quite enough. If thou canst from the heart say, "I trust Jesus Christ," though thou hast no spiritual biography worthrecording, thou hast life. Many aged persons have either forgotten their birthdays, or have lost theregister, and cannot tell exactly how old they are; but that does not at all prove that they are not alive; so your notknowing precisely when you were converted, is no evidence that you are not saved. No doubt, it is very comfortable to be ableto refer to a distinct date and place when the great change took place, but in many instances, there could be no such referencemade, because the change was extremely gradual. In some parts of the world the sun rises on a sudden, and sets just asquickly; but here, in England, we enjoy those delightful twilight's which herald the morning and foreshadow the night.With many converts, there is a long twilight of soul, in which they are not all darkness, but certainly not all light; theycan scarcely tell where the darkness ended and where the light began. Dear friends, do not worry yourselves about the almanacof grace; care more about its present reality and less about its past history. "He that hath the Son of God, hath life;" thoughhemay not know when he laid hold upon the Son of God, yet if he hath him now, he has no need to harbour the raven of mistrust.
Faith is sufficient evidence, even in the absence of any great knowledge. I would to God that we were all taught in the word,and could enter into the doctrines which are food for strong men in Christ, but yet then we should know very little of election;though the difference between sanctification and justification might seem too high for us to comprehend, yet if we have theSon of God we have life. No doubt there have been some who have entered heaven who were littlebetter than half-witted, and yet, through simple faith in Jesus, they were as surely saved as a Newton or a Locke, who,with all their understanding and all their philosophy, could not rest upon a better foundation than the merit of that condescendingRedeemer upon whom the poorest fool in the kingdom may depend with safety. If thou hast Christ, learn as much as thou canst;seek to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ; but if thine understanding be dull, donot tremble as though thy soul depended upon thy knowledge, for "He that hath the Son hath life," however ignorant hemay be.
So, again, it may be that you have never passed through any special horrors and alarms. When some pilgrims come to the wicketgate, the Slough of Despond pours forth its filth, and the black dog howls at them as they knock at mercy's door, but manyothers are brought to Jesus gently, being carried like lambs in his bosom. Many of Christ's flowers bloom in sheltered spots,and feel not the frosts of sharp temptation. Jesus has bands of love to draw with, as well as ascourge of small cords to draw with. Many gentle spirits are led to find their all in the Christ of God, and yet theyknow very little of the depths of their inward depravity, and less still of the evil suggestions of Satan. My dear friends,do not let this distress you, I was about to say, even be thankful for it. Have you looked to Jesus Christ have you dependedalone in him? That is, for the present, sufficient evidence without anything else. "He that hath the Son of God hath life."
Methinks I hear some one say, "Ah! but I have been reading the biography of such-and-such a good man, and I find him frequentlyin the seventh heaven of communion, so full of joy and rapture. Oh, that I knew something about that!', Well, I wish you did.I would have you covet earnestly the best gifts. But, my dear friend, you must not think that because you have not enjoyedthese raptures, therefore you are not saved. Many go to heaven with very little comfort on the road.I do not commend them for their want of comfort; but I do advise you, instead of loading to singular experiences as aground of confidence, look to the bleeding Saviour, and rest alone in him, for if you have him you have eternal life. To compareourselves among ourselves is not wise. Experiences greatly differ. All Israelites are of the loins of Jacob, but all are notof the tribe of Judah. I do not doubt that the physiognomies of all the Jewish tribes differed; yet still the great type offather Jacob could be seen in the face of every Jew. So the spiritual physiognomies of all the children of God will differ,for there are diversities of operations; but notwithstanding, there is a unity of spirit which cannot be broken. Beloved,have you the Son of God? If so, you have life; and even if that life should be somewhat sickly, which is not desirable, yetit will help to make it stronger if you distinctly know that it is the life eternal. When a man's life becomes feeble, itwouldbe of no service to him to doubt whether it is life at all; but it helps him much to know that it is the life of God,and is therefore sure to be victorious over death and hell, and though it be but a spark, it is such a spark that all thedevils in hell cannot tread it but, and all the waters of affliction cannot quench it. If thou hast the Son, poor feeble tremblingone, thou hast a life which will co-exist with the life of God; a life which "neither things present, nor things to come,norheight, nor depth, nor any other creature," shall be able to destroy; because they cannot separate thee from the LordJesus; and because he lives thou shalt live also.
It is a great mercy that having the Son is abiding evidence. "He that hath the Son hath life." I know what it is to see every other evidence I ever gloried in go drifting down the stream far out of sight. It isfrequently my inward experience to see sin and unworthiness marked upon everything I have ever done for God. As far as hehas done any good thing by me or in me, it lives; but oftentimes as I look back upon my years of ministry, and see multitudesofsermons, and prayers, and other efforts, I have thought of them all as being less than nothing and vanity, tainted, andmarred, and spoiled by my personal imperfections. I could not depend on the whole of them to make so much as a feather weighttowards my salvation. When you begin to doubt your inward graces, and to judge all your past life, and find it wanting, itis sweet even then to say, "One thing I know, I rest in Jesus. Whatever else may be false, this is clearly true-
'Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee.'"
Job says that the poor man clings to the rock for shelter, and that poor man is blessed who remains in that position, evermoreclinging to that Rock of his salvation.
"For ever here my rest shall be,
Close to thy wounded side;
This all my trust and all my plea,
For me the Saviour died."
I suppose, dear friends, that your experience, like mine, leads you to lean less on self and more upon the Lord. You sometimescome out in full feather, all glorious to behold, and you shine like a full developed and advanced saint; but how soon yourmountain moves, for the Lord hides his face! a moulting season sets in, and soon all your plumes and honors are trailed inthe mire, and you hasten to hide yourself from your own sight, for you feel utterly ashamed. It is veryprobable that at such a time you have a much truer opinion of yourself than in your prosperity-you are much nearer themark when you despise yourself than when you find somewhat wherein to glory. It is unspeakably precious in hours of discouragement,then, to fly straight away to Jesus, with the contrite cry of-
"Just as I am-without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd'st me come to thee.
O Lamb of God, I come."
I have heard of persons boasting that they had outgrown that hymn, but I know 1 never shall. I must be content still to cometo Jesus with no qualification for mercy except that which my sin and misery may give me in the eyes of his free grace. Itis a thousand mercies that, although clouds may obscure other evidences, they cannot prevent our coming to the great propitiation,and casting ourselves upon its cleansing power.
Dear friends, I may close this first head by saying, that having the Son is infallible evidence of life. "He that hath the Son hath life." It is not said that he may, perhaps, have it, or that some who have the Son have life, but there is no exception tothe rule. As sure as God's word is true, "He that hath the Son hath life," be he who he may, or what he may. This graciousassurance includes those of you who labor in the depths of poverty, you who are inthe furnace of affliction, you returning backsliders who still hang on Christ, you believers under a cloud, you who mournyour many shortcomings: by faith you dare to rest in Jesus, and you have therefore passed from death unto life. Be of goodcheer, beloved, drink of the well of hope, and in joyful confidence in the Lord, press forward in your heavenward pilgrimage.
II. Now a word CONCERNING THE DEAD.
"He that hath not the Son of God hath not life"-that is, he hath not spiritual life, sentence of death is recorded againsthim in the book of God. His natural life is spared him in this 'world, but he is condemned already, and is in the eye of thelaw dead while he lives. Think of that, some of you, for these words refer to you. The unbeliever has no spiritual life; heneither laments his soul's need, nor rejoices that it may be supplied; he lives without prayer, and heknows nothing of secret fellowship with God, because he has no inward life to produce these priceless things, consequently,he will have no eternal life; he will exist for ever, but his existence will be a protracted death-of life he would not taste;he will have none of the joys of paradise, no sight of God's face; he will not swell the song of eternal happiness, nor drinkof the river of ever-flowing bliss. He is a walking corpse, a moving carcass, a body in which death holds the place oflife. He hath not the Son of God-that is, he has never trusted in Jesus to save him, and never submitted himself to theguidance and governing of the King in Zion.
Now observe that the not having the Son of God is clear evidence of the absence of spiritual life; for the man who has nottrusted in Jesus has made God a liar. Shall pure spiritual life make God a liar? Shall he receive life from God who persistsin denying God's testimony? How shall God blot out his sentence of condemnation while the criminal remains such an enemy tohis own Creator as to count him a liar? The history of his unbelief proves that be is not a spirituallyliving man, for up till now he has chosen darkness, which is the lit dwelling-place of death, and has loved corruption,which is the fruit of the grave. Would the spiritually quickened have done this? He has quenched his conscience; he has donedespite to the Spirit of grace; he has preferred sin to righteousness, and the pleasures of this world to the joys' of heaven;he has seen no beauty in Christ, no suitability in his salvation: the man must be blind, he must be devoid of all spiritualsense-in fact, he must be dead, or he would not have acted so.
Let me tell you that for a hearer of the gospel not to believe on the Son of God must be, in the judgment of angels, a veryastounding crime. How they must marvel when they see that God was made flesh to redeem the sons of men, and yet men do notbelieve in the incarnate Saviour! The "faithful saying, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners," is not dependedupon by tens of thousands; though it is worthy of all acceptation," yet the mass of mankind give it noacceptation. What must angels think of such men? They no doubt understand the reason of it, that the mind is so pervertedand corrupt that manhood is nothing better than a reeking sepulcher. Unbelief of the gospel is the great damning sin of man;the not laying hold of Jesus is the sin of sins-it is like Jeroboam, of whom we read that he sinned and made Israel to sin.It is the egg in which all manner of mischief lies. Not believing in Jesus Christ is the condemnation emphatically."This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light."
Recollect, my dear hearers, if you have never received Christ, that this is overwhelming evidence that you are dead in sin.You have been sprinkled in your infancy; you have been confirmed, perhaps you have been immersed, possibly you have joinedthe church; but if you have not the Son of God, all those outward things have not the weight of a grain of sand in the scale."Oh! but," you may say, "I have been assured on good authority that 'I was made a member of Christ, achild of God, and an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven,' in my baptism!" You were so assured upon the authority of abook which has deceived many, and will, I fear, deceive tens of thousands more. It is not true that you are an inheritor ofheaven, if you have not Christ. If thou hast believed in Christ thou hast life, but if thou hast not the Son of God thou hastno heavenly life; and let all the priests that ever lived assure thee of thy being a child of God by thy baptism, I tell themflatto their faces that they lie in their throats, and that some of them know they do. The Word of God is to be taken andnot theirs, and that word saith, "He that hath not the Son hath not life." Out on these false priests and their infant sprinklingtoo-what have they to do to pretend to be the servants of God when they are deceivers of souls? No outward ceremonies, thoughthey be multiplied ten thousand-fold, and rendered gorgeous by all the pomp and glory of the world; nay, even though Godhimself should command them, could even give to thee spiritual life. Thou must have Christ, for he is the life of thesoul, and without him thou art dead in sin. "Oh! but," perhaps you may say, "I have aways lived a chaste, upright, moral life;I have been attentive to religious duties; I could allege many particulars which might go to prove that I live unto God."Ay, but all thy particulars, however well they might be alleged, would prove nothing in the teeth of such a text as this,"He thathath not the Son of God hath not life." I tell thee, moralist, what thou art; thou art a corpse well washed and decentlylaid out, daintily robed in fair white linen, sprinkled plenteously with sweet perfumes, and wrapped in myrrh, and cassia,and aloes, with flowers wreathed about thy brow, and thy bosom bedecked by the hand of affection with sweetly blushing roses;but thou hast no life, and therefore thy destiny is the grave, corruption is thine heritage, and thy place of abode is fixed,"where their worm dieth not, and the fire not quenened," for, "He that believeth not shall be damned." With all his excellenciesand moralities, with all his baptisms and his sacraments, "He that believeth not shall be damned." There is no middle place,no specially reserved and superior abodes for these noble and virtuous unbelievers. If they have not believed, they shallbe bound up in bundles with the rest, for God has appointed to unbelievers their portion with liars, and thieves, andwhoremongers, and drunkards, and idolaters. Beware, ye unbelievers, for your unbelief will be to the Judge himself, atthe great assize, and to the attendant angels most condemning evidence against you. "Take him away; Christ has not known him,and he has not known Christ; he had not the Son, and he shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him."
Now, if such things were spoken concerning some people in Africa or New Zealand, you ought to be concerned about these miserablesouls, though they are so far away; but they are spoken about some of you: some of you are dead. Is not this terrible? Oh,if by some touch of an angel's wand our bodies should all become as our souls are, how many corpses would fill these aisles,and crowd these pews! John once wished for Gaius, that his body might prosper and be in health evenas his soul prospered. Now, suppose our bodies were to prosper just as our souls do! Why, there would sit in one placea living woman, and side by side with her a dead husband; further on, a living child, and then a dead grey headed grandsire.Oh! what a sight this place would be! We should hasten to gather up our skirts, those of us who are alive, and say, "Let usbegone! How can we sit side by side with corpses?" The effect would be startling to the last degree, and yet, most probably,thespiritual fact does not disturb us at all; we know it to be true, but we take it as a matter of course, and we go ourway with scarce a prayer for our poor dead neighbors.
III. I close the sermon by a few observations CONCERNING THE LIVING AS THEY DWELL AMONG THE DEAD. As the living are constrainedto live among the dead, as the children of God are mixed up by Providence with the heirs of wrath, what manner of personsought they to be?
In the first place, let us take care that we do not become contaminated by the corruption of the dead. You who have the Sonof God, mind that you are not injured by those who have not the Son. We have heard of such accidents when the anatomist hasbeen making an examination of a dead body: he has been prying with his scalpel among the bones, and nerves, and sinews, andperhaps he has pricked his finger, and the dead matter has infected his blood, and death has been swiftand sure. Now, I have heard of some professed Christians, wanting to see, they said, the ways of the ungodly, going intolow places of amusement, to spy out the land, to judge for themselves. Such conduct is dangerous and worse. My dear friends,I never found it necessary, in my ministry, to do anything of the kind, and yet I think I have had no small success in winningsouls. I must confess, I should feel very much afraid to go into hell, to put my head between the lion's Jaws, for the sakeoflooking down his throat. I should think I was guilty of a gross presumption if I went into the company of the lewd andthe profane to see what they were doing. I should fear that perhaps it might turn out that I was only a mere professor, andso should taint myself with the dead matter of the sin of those with whom I mingled, and perish in my iniquity. "Come outfrom among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing I" The resort of the ungodly is not theplace foryou. "Let the dead bury their dead, but as for thee," said Christ, "follow thou me."
If we must in this life, in a measure, mingle with the dead, let us take care that we never suffer the supremacy of the deadto be acknowledged over the living. It would be a strange thing if the dead were to rule the living: the dead must be laidinto their coffins, and put away in their narrow cells according as the living may decree. Yet sometimes I have seen the deadhave the dominion of this world; that is to say, they have set the fashion, and living Christians havefollowed. The carnal world has said, "This is the way of trade!" and the Christian man has replied, "I will follow thecustom." Christian, this must not be. "Ay, but," saith one, "I must do as others do, for you know we must live." This alsois not true, for there is no necessity for our living; there is a very great necessity for our dying sooner than living, ifwe cannot live without doing wrong. O Christian, you must never endure that corruption should conquer grace. By God's grace,if youget at all under the power of custom, you must cry out, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me?" You must wrestletill you conquer, and cry, "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
What I think we should do towards dead souls is this-we should pity them. When the early Christians dwelt in the catacombs,where they could not go about without seeing graves, they must have had strange thoughts arising in their minds. Now, my brethren,you are in a similar plight, you cannot walk through London without thinking," The most of these I meet with are dead in sin."Some of these dead souls live in your own house; they are your own children, your ownservants. When you go out to work, you have to stand at the same bench with spiritually dead men. You cannot turn asidefrom your daily labor to enter the house of God but what you meet the dead even there. Ought not this to make us pray forthem: "Eternal Spirit, quicken them! They cannot have life unless they have the Son of God. O bring them to receive the Sonof God"? Beloved, in connection with such prayer, be diligent to deliver the quickening message. The quickening message is,"Believe,and live." "Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God." Ought you not, you living ones, to be perpetuallyrepeating the great life-word, depending upon the Holy Spirit to put energy into it. Do, I pray you, seek to win souls, andfrom this day separating yourselves from the world as to its maxims and its customs, plunge into the very thick of it whereinyou can serve your Master, plucking brands from the burning, and winning souls from going down to the pit.
May the Lord bless this simple word this morning, for his name's sake. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-1 John 5.