Sermon 915. Sinners Bound with the Cords of Sin
Delivered on Lord's-Day Morning, February 13th, 1870, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins."-Proverbs 5:22.
THE first sentence has reference to a net, in which birds or beasts are taken. The ungodly man first of all finds sin to bea bait, and, charmed by its apparent pleasantness he indulges in it, and then he becomes entangled in its meshes so that hecannot escape. That which first attracted the sinner, afterwards detains him. Evil habits are soon formed, the soul readilybecomes accustomed to evil, and then, even if the man should have lingering thoughts of better things,and form frail resolutions to amend, his iniquities hold him captive like a bird in the fowler's snare. You have seenthe foolish fly descend into the sweet which is spread to destroy him, he sips, and sips again, and by-and-by he plunges boldlyin to feast himself greedily: when satisfied, he attempts to fly, but the sweet holds him by the feet and clogs his wings;he is a victim, and the more he struggles the more surely is he held. Even so is it with the sins of ungodly men, they areatfirst a tempting bait, and afterwards a snare. Having sinned, they become so bewitched with sin, that the scriptural statementis no exaggeration: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomedto do evil."
The first sentence of the text also may have reference to an arrest by an officer of law. The transgressor's own sins shalltake him, shall seize him; they bear a warrant for arresting him, they shall judge him, they shall even execute him. Sin,which at the first bringeth to man a specious pleasure, ere long turneth into bitterness, remorse, and fear. Sin is a dragon,with eyes like stars, but it carrieth a deadly sting in its tail. The cup of sin, with rainbow bubbles onits brim, is black with deep damnation in its dregs. O that men would consider this, and turn from their delusions. Tobring torment to the guilty, there is little need that God should, literally in the world to come, pile up Tophet with itswood and much smoke, nor even that the pit should be digged for the ungodly in order to make them miserable; sin shall ofitself bring forth death. Leave a man to his own sins, and hell itself surrounds him; only suffer a sinner to do what he wills,and togive his lusts unbridled headway, and you have secured him boundless misery; only allow the seething caldron of his corruptionsto boil at its own pleasure, and the man must inevitably become a vessel filled with sorrow. Be assured that sin is the rootof bitterness. Gild the pill as you may, iniquity is death. Sweet is an unholy morsel in the mouth, but it will be wormwoodin the bowels. Let but man heartily believe this, and surely he will not so readily be led astray. "Surely in vain is thenet spread in the sight of any bird," and shall man be more foolish than the fowls of the air? will he wilfully pursuehis own destruction? will he wrong his own soul? Sin, then, becomes first a net to hold the sinner by the force of customand habit, and afterwards, a sheriffs officer to arrest him, and to scourge him with its inevitable results.
The second sentence of our text speaks of the sinner being holden with cords, and a parable may be readily fashioned out ofthe expression. The lifelong occupation of the ungodly man is to twist ropes of sin. All his sins are as so much twine andcord out of which ropes may be made. His thoughts and his imaginations are so much raw material, and while he thinks of evil,while he contrives transgression, while he lusts after filthiness, while he follows after evil devices,while with head, and hand, and heart he pursues eagerly after mischief, he is still twisting evermore the cords of sinwhich are afterwards to bind him. The binding meant is that of a culprit pinioned for execution. Iniquity pinions a man, disableshim from delivering himself from its power, enchains his soul, and inflicts a bondage on the spirit far worse than chainingof the body. Sin cripples all desires after holiness, damps every aspiration after goodness, and thus, fettering the man handand foot, delivers him over to the executioner, which executioner shall be the wrath of God, but also sin itself, in thenatural consequences which in every case must flow from it. Samson could burst asunder green withes and new ropes, but whenat last his darling sin had bound him to his Delilah, that bond he could not snap, though it cost him his eyes. Make a man'swill a prisoner, and he is a captive indeed. Determined independence of spirit walks at freedom in a tyrant's Bastille, anddefies a despot's hosts; but a mind enslaved by sin builds its own dungeon, forges its own fetters, and rivets on itschains. It is slavery indeed when the iron enters into the soul. Who would not scorn to make himself a slave to his baserpassions? and yet the mass of men are such-the cords of their sins bind them.
Thus, having introduced to you the truth which this verse teaches, namely, the captivating, enslaving power of sin, I shalladvance to our first point of consideration. This is a solution to a great mystery; but then, secondly, it is itself a greater mystery; and when we have considered these two matters it will be time for us to note what is the practical conclusion from this line of thought.
I. First, then, the doctrine of the text, that iniquity entraps the wicked as in a net, and binds them as with cords is ASOLUTION OF A GREAT MYSTERY.
When you and I first began to do good by telling out the gospel, we labored under the delusion that as soon as our neighborsheard of the blessed way of salvation they would joyfully receive it, and be saved in crowds. We have long ago seen that pleasantdelusion dispelled; we find that our position is that of the serpent-charmer with the deaf adder, charm we ever so wisely,men will not hear so as to receive the truth. Like the ardent reformer, we have found out that oldAdam is too strong for young Melancthon. We now perceive that for a sinner to receive the gospel involves a work of gracethat shall change his heart and renew his nature. Yet none the less is it a great mystery that it should be so. It is oneof the prodigies of the god of this world that he makes men love sin, and abide in indifference as if they were fully contentto be lost. It is a marvel of marvels that man should be so base as to reject Christ, and abide in wilful and wicked unbelief.Iwill try and set forth this mystery, in the way in which, I dare say, it has struck many an honest hearted worker forJesus Christ.
Is it not a mysterious thing that men should be content to abide in a state of imminent peril? Every unconverted man is already condemned. Our Lord has said it: "He that believeth not is condemned already, because hehath not believed on the Son of God." Every unregenerate man is not only liable to the wrath of God in the future, but thewrath of God abideth on him. It is on him now, it always will remain upon him; as long as he is what he is, it abideth onhim. Andyet in this state men do not start, they are not amazed or alarmed, they are not even anxious. Sabbath after Sabbath theyare reminded of their unhappy position: it makes us unhappy to think they should be in such a state, but they are strangely at ease. The sword of vengeance hangs over them bya single hair, yet sit they at their banquets, and they laugh and sport as though there were no God, no wrath to come, nocertainty of appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ. See a numberof persons in a train that has broken down. The guard has only to intimate that another train is approaching, and thatit may perhaps dash into the carriages and mangle the passengers; he has only to give half a hint, and see how the carriagedoors fly open, how the travelers rush up the embankment, each one so eager for his own preservation as to forget his fellow's.Yet here are men and women by hundreds and thousands, with the fast-rushing train of divine vengeance close behind them; theymay almost hear the sound of its thundering wheels, and, lo, they sit in all quietness, exposed to present peril and indanger of a speedy and overwhelming destruction. "'Tis strange. 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful." Here is a mystery indeed,that can only be understood in the light of the fact that these foolish beings are taken by their sing, and bound by the cordsof their iniquities.
Be it ever remembered that before very long these unconverted men and women, many of whom are present this morning, will be in a stale whose wretchedness it is not possible for language fully to express. Within four-and-twenty hours their spirits may be summoned before the bar of God; and, according to this book, which partiallyuplifts the veil of the future, the very least punishment that can fall upon an unconverted soul will cause it "weeping, andwailing, andgnashing of teeth." All they had endured, of whom it is written, that they wept and gnashed their teeth, was to be shutout into outer darkness, nothing more; no stripes had then fallen, they had not yet been shut up in the prison-house of hell,only the gate of heaven was shut, only the light of glory was hid; and straightway there was weeping, and wailing, and gnashingof teeth. What, then, will be the woe of the lost when positive punishment is inflicted? As for what they will endure whohave beard the gospel, but have wilfully rejected it, we have some faint notion from the Master's words: "It shall bemore tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them." We know that it is a fearful thing to fall intothe hands of the living God, for "our God is a consuming fire." From this platform there rings full often that question, "Howshall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?" And yet for all this, men are willing to pass on through time into eternityregardless of the escape which God provides, turning aside from the only salvation which can rescue them from enduring"the blackness of darkness for ever." O reason, art thou utterly fled? Is every sinner altogether brutish? If we should meetwith a man condemned to die, and tell him that pardon was to be had, would he hear us with indifference? Would he abide inthe condemned cell and use no means for obtaining the boon of life and liberty? Yes, there awaits the sinner a more awfuldoom, anda more terrible sentence, and we are sent to publish a sure pardon from the God of heaven; and yet thousands upon thousandsgive us no deep heartfelt attention, but turn aside and perish in their sins. O that my head were waters, and mine eyes afountain of tears, that I might weep for the folly of the race to which I belong, and mourn over the destruction of my fellowmen!
It often strikes us with wonder that men do not receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, when we recollect that the gospel is so plain. If it were a great mystery one might excuse the illiterate from attending to it. If the plan of salvation could only be discoveredby the attentive perusal of a long series of volumes, and if it required a classical training and a thorough education, whythen the multitude of the poor and needy, whose time is taken up with earning theirbread, might have same excuse; but there is under heaven no truth more plain than this, "He that believeth on the LordJesus hath everlasting life;" "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." To believe-that is, simply to trust Christ.How plain! There is no road, though it ran straight as an arrow, that can be more plain than this. Legible only by the lightthey give, but all so legible that be who runs may read, stand these soul-quickening words, "Believe and live." Trust Christand your sins are forgiven; you are saved. This is so plain a precept, that I may call it a very A B C for infants, yetmen receive it not. Are they not indeed holden by the cords of their sins when they refuse to obey?
Moreover, brethren, there is a wonderful attractiveness in the gospel. If the gospel could possibly be a revelation of horrors piled on horrors, if there were something in it utterly inconsistentwith reason, or something that shocked all the sensitive affections of our better part, we might excuse mankind, but the gospelis just this: man is lost, but God becomes man to save him, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost."Out of infinite loveto his enemies the Son of God took upon himself human flesh, that he might suffer in the room and stead of men what theyought to have suffered. The doctrine of substitution, while it wondrously magnifies the grace of God and satisfies the justiceof God, methinks ought to strike you all with love because of the disinterested affection which it reveals on Jesus Christ'spart. O King of Glory, dost thou bleed for me? O Prince of Life, canst thou lie shrouded in the grave for me? Doth God stoopfrom his glory to be spat upon by sinful lips? Doth he stoop from the splendor of heaven to be "despised and rejectedof men," that men may be saved? Why, it ought to win every human ear, it ought to entrance every human heart. Was ever lovelike this? Go ye to your poets, and see if they have ever imagined anything nobler than the love of Christ the Son of Godfor the dying sons of men! Go to your philosophers, and see if in all their maxims they have ever taught a diviner philosophythan thatof Christ's life, or ever have imagined in their pictures of what men ought to be, an heroic love like that which Christin very deed displayed! We lift before you no gory banner that might sicken your hearts; we bring before you no rattling chainsof a tyrant's domination; but we lift up Jesus crucified, and "Love" is written on the banner that is waved in the forefrontof our hosts; we bid you yield to the gentle sway of love, and not to the tyranny of terror. Alas! men must be bound, indeed,and fettered fast by an accursed love to sin, or else the divine attractions of a crucified Redeemer would win their hearts.
Consider, my friends, you who love the souls of your fellow men, how marvellous it is that men should not receive the gospelwhen the commandment of the gospel is not burdensome! Methinks if it had been written that no man should enter heaven except by the way of martyrdom, it had been wisdom for everyone of us to give our bodies to be burned, or to be stretched upon the rack; yea, if there had been no path to escape fromthe wrath of God, but to be flayed alivewith Bartholomew, enduring present but exquisite torture, it would have been but a cheap price for an escape from wrath,and an entrance into heaven. But I find in God's word prescribed as the way of salvation, no such physical agonies. No austeritiesare commanded; not even the milder law which governed the Pharisee when he "fasted thrice in the week." Only this is written-"Believein the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" and the precept of the Christian's life is, "Love thy Godwith all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." Most pleasant duties these of love! What more sweet? What more delightfulthan to permit the soul to flow out in streams of affection? The ways of true religion are not irksome, her ways are pleasantness,and all her paths are peace. What, heaven given for believing? What, heaven's gate opened only for knocking, and boons allpriceless bestowed for nothing but the asking? Yet they will not ask, they will not knock. Alas, my God, what creaturesare men! Alas, O sin, what monsters hast thou made mankind, that they will forget their own interests, and wrong theirown souls!
Further, it is clear that men must be fast held by the bondage of their sins when we recollect that, according to the confession of the most of them, the pleasures of sin are by no means great. I have heard them say themselves that they have been satiated after a short season of indulgence We know how true the wordis, "Who hath woe? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine." No form ofsin has ever been discoveredyet that has yielded satisfaction. You shall look at those who have had all that heart could wish, and have without restraintindulged their passions, and you shall find them to be in their latter end amongst the most wretched rather than the mostsatisfied of mankind. Yet for these pleasures-I think I degrade the word when I call them pleasures-for these pleasures theyare willing to pawn their souls and risk everlasting woe; and all this while, be it remembered, to add to the wonder,there are pleasures to be found in godliness; they do not deny this, they cannot without belying their own observation.We who are at least as honest as they are, bear our testimony that we never knew what true happiness was till we gave ourhearts to Christ; but since then our peace has been like a river. We have had our afflictions, we have suffered grievous bodilypain, we have endured mental depression, we have been heavily burdened, we have borne many trials; but we can say-
"We would not change our blest estate
For all the world calls good or great."
"Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" We can set our seal to this experimentally. See ye then, my brethren, thesepoor souls will prefer the pleasures that mock them to the pleasures that alone can satisfy. If we had to die like dogs, itwould be worth while to be a Christian. If there were no hereafter, and our only consideration were who should enjoy thislife the best, it would be the wisest thing to be a servant of God and a soldier of the cross. I say not itwould ensure our being rich, I say not it would ensure our being respected, I say not it would ensure our walking smoothlyand free from outward trouble; but I do say that because of "the secret something which sweetens all," because of the profoundserenity which true religion brings, the Christian life out-masters every other, and there is none to be compared therewith.But think ye for awhile what the ungodly man's life is! I can only compare it to that famous diabolical invention of theInquisition of ancient times. They had as a fatal punishment for heretics, what they called the "Virgin's Kiss." Therestood in a long corridor the image of the Virgin. She outstretched her arms to receive her heretic child; she looked fair,and her dress was adorned with gold and tinsel, but as soon as the poor victim came into her arms the machinery within beganto work, and the arms closed and pressed the wretch closer and closer to her bosom, which was set with knives, and daggers,andlancets, and razors, and everything that could cut and tear him, till he was ground to pieces in the horrible embrace;and such is the ungodly man's life. It standeth like a fair virgin, and with witching smile it seems to say, "Come to my bosom,no place so warm and blissful as this;" and then anon it begins to fold its arms of habit about the sinner, and he sins againand again, brings misery into his body, perhaps, if he fall into some form of sin, stings his soul, makes his thoughts a caseof knives to torture him, and grinds him to powder beneath the force of his own iniquities. Men perceive this, and darenot deny it; and yet into this virgin's bosom they still thrust themselves, and reap the deep damnation that iniquity musteverywhere involve. Alas, alas, my God!
And now, once more, this terrible mystery, which is only solved by men's being held by their sins, has this added to it, thatall the while in the case of most of you now present, all that I have said is believed, and a great deal of it is felt. I mean this: if I were talking with persons who did not believe they had a soul, or believe in the judgment to come, or believein the penalty of sin, or believe in the reward of righteousness, I should see some reason whythey rejected the great salvation; but the most of you who attend this house of prayer-I think I might say all-have scarcelyever had a doubt about these things. You would be very much horrified if any one would insinuate that you did not believethe Bible to be the word of God. You have a little Pharisaism in your soul, that you think you are not as scoffers are, norinfidels. I own you are not, but I grieve to say I think you are more inconsistent than they. If these things be a fiction,well, sirs, your course is rational; but if these things be realities, what shall I say for you when I plead with Godon your behalf? What excuse can I make for you? If you profess to believe these things, act as though you believe them; ifyou do not, practically act so. Why do you profess to own them as the truth? The case is worse, for you not only believe thesething's to be true, but some of you have felt their power. You have gone home from this place, and you could not help it,you havesought your chamber and bowed your knee in prayer; such prayer as it was, for, alas! your goodness has been like the morningcloud and the early dew. I know some of you who have had to break off some of your sins, for your conscience would not letyou rest in them. Yet you are unbelievers still, still you are undecided, still you are unsaved, and at this moment, if yoursoul were required of you, nothing would be in prospect but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. Omyhearer, you whose conscience has been at times awakened, in whom the arrows of the great King have found a lodging place,in whom they are rankling still, yield, I pray thee, yield to the divine thrusts, and give up thy contrite spirit to thy Redeemer'shands. But if thou do not, what shall I say to thee? The kingdom of God has been thrust from you by yourselves. Be sure ofthis, it has come near you, and in coming near it has involved solemn responsibilities which I pray you may not have tofeel the weight of in the world to come.
Here, then, stands the riddle, that man is so set against God and his Christ that he never will accept eternal salvation untilthe Holy Spirit, by a supernatural work, overcomes his will and turns the current of his affections; and why is this? Theanswer lies in the text, because his own iniquities have taken him, and he is holden with the cords of his sin. For this reasonhe will not come unto Christ that he may have life; for this reason he cannot come, except theFather which hath sent Christ draw him.
II. But now, secondly, I pass on to observe that though this is the solution of one mystery, IT IS IN ITSELF A GREATER MYSTERY.
It is a terrible mystery that man should be so great a fool, so mad a creature as to be held by cords apparently so feebleas the cords of his own sins. To be bound by reason is honorable; to be hold by compulsion, if you cannot resist it, is atleast not discreditable; but to be held simply by sin, by sin and nothing else, is a bondage which is disgraceful to the humanname. It lowers man to the last degree, to think that be should want no fetter to hold him but thefetter of his own evil lusts and desires. Let us just think of one or two cords, and you will see this.
One reason why men receive not Christ and are not saved, is because they are hampered by the sin of forgetting God. Think of that for a minute. Men forget God altogether. The commission of many a sin has been prevented by the presence ofa child. In the presence of a fellow creature, ordinarily a man will feel himself under some degree of restraint. Yet thateye which never sleeps, the eye of the eternal God, exercises no restraint on the most of men. If there werea child in that chamber thou wouldst respect it-but God being there thou canst sin with impunity. If thy mother or thyfather were there thou wouldst not dare offend, but God who made thee and whose will can crush thee, thy lawful sovereign,thou takest no more account of him than though he were a dog, yea, not so much as that. Oh, strange thing that men shouldthus act! And yet with many it is not because of the difficulty of thinking of God. Men of study, for instance, if they areconsideringthe works of God, must be led up to thoughts of God. Galen was converted from being an atheist while in the process ofdissecting the human body; he could not but see the finger of God in the nerves and sinews, and all the rest of the wonderfulembroidery of the human frame. There is not an emmet or an infusorial animalcule beneath the microscope but what as plainlyas tongue can speak, saith, "Mortal, think of God who made thee and me." Some men travel daily over scenes that naturallysuggestthe Creator; they go down to the sea in ships, and do business on great waters, where they must see the works of the Lord,and yet they even manage to become the most boisterous blasphemers against the sacred majesty of the Most High, in his verytemple where everything speaks of his glory. But you will tell me perhaps, some of you, that you are not engaged in such pursuits.I reply, I know it. Many of you have to labor with your hands for your daily bread, in occupations requiring but littlemental exercise. So much the more guilty then are you that when your mind is not necessarily taken up with other things,you still divert it from all thoughts of God. The working man often find is it very possible to spend his leisure hours inpolitics, and to amuse his working hours by meditating upon schemes more or less rational concerning the government of hiscountry, and will he dare to tell me therefore that he could not during that time think of God? There is an aversion to Godin yourheart, my brother, or else it would not be that from Monday morning to Saturday night you forget him altogether. Evenwhen sitting here you find it by no means a pleasant thing to be reminded of your God, and yet if I brought up the recollectionof your mother, perhaps in heaven, the topic would not be displeasing to you. What owe you to your mother compared with whatyou owe to your God? If I spoke to you of some dear friend who has assisted you in times of distress, you would be pleasedthatI had touched upon such a chord; and may I not talk with you concerning your God, and ask you why do you forget him? Haveyou good thoughts for all but the best? Have you kind thoughts of gratitude for every friend but the best friend that mancan have? My God! my God! why do men treat thee thus? Brightest, fairest, best, kindest, and most tender, and yet forgottenby the objects of thy care!
If men were far away from God, and it were a topic abstruse and altogether beyond reach, something might be said. But imaginea fish that despised the ocean and yet lived in it, a man who should be unconscious of the air he breathes! "In him we liveand move and have our being; we are also his offspring." He sends the frost, and he will send the spring; he sends the seed-timeand the harvest, and every shower that drops with plenty comes from him, and every wind that blowswith health speeds forth from his mouth. Wherefore then is he to be forgotten when everything reminds you of him? Thisis a sin, a cruel sin, a cursed sin, a sin indeed that binds men hard and fast, that they will not come to Christ that theymay have life; but it is strange, it is beyond all miracles a miracle, that such a folly as this should hold men from comingto Christ.
Another sin binds all unregenerate hearts; it is the sin of not loving the Christ of God. I am not about to charge any personhere with such sins as adultery, or theft, or blasphemy, but I will venture to say that this is a sin masterly and gigantic,which towers as high as any other-the sin of not loving the Christ of God. Think a minute. Here is one who came into the worldout of pure love, for no motive but mercy, with nothing to gain, but though he was rich, yet forour sakes he became poor; why then is he not loved? The other day there rode through these streets a true hero, a bravebold man who set his country free, and I do remember how I heard your shouts in yonder street, and you thronged to look intothe lion-like face of Italy's liberator. I blame you not, I longed to do the same myself, he well deserved your shouts andyour loudest praises. But what had he done compared with what the Christ of God has done in actually laying down his lifeto redeemmen from bondage, yielding up himself to the accursed death of the cross that man might be saved through him? Where areyour acclamations, sirs, for this greater Hero? Where are the laurels that you cast at his feet? Is it nothing to you, isit nothing to you, all ye that pass by, is it nothing to you that Jesus should die? Such a character, so inexpressibly lovely,and yet despised! Such a salvation, so inexpressibly precious, and yet rejected! Oh, mystery of iniquity! indeed, the depthsofsin are almost as fathomless as the depths of God, and the transgressions of the wicked all but as infinite in infamyas God is infinite in love.
I might also speak of sins against the Holy Ghost that men commit, in that they live and even die without reverential thoughtsof him or care about him; but I shall speak of one sin, and that is the mystery that men should be held by the sin of neglecting their souls. You meet with a person who neglects his body, you call him fool, if, knowing that there is a disease, he will not seek aremedy. If, suffering, from some fatal malady, he never attempts to find a cure,you think the man is fit only for a lunatic asylum. But a person who neglects his soul, be is but one of so numerous aclass, that we overlook the madness. Your body will soon die, it is but as it were the garment of yourself and will be wornout; but you yourself are better than your body as a man is better than the dress he wears. Why spend you then all thoughtsabout this present life and give none to the life to come?
It has long been a mystery who was the man in the iron mask. We believe that the mystery was solved some years ago, by theconjecture that he was the twin brother of Louis XIV., King of France, who, fearful lest he might have his throne disturbedby his twin brother, whose features were extremely like his own, encased his face in a mask of iron and shut him up in theBastille for life. Your body and your soul are twin brothers. Your body, as though it were jealous of yoursoul, encases it as in an iron mask of spiritual ignorance, lest its true lineaments, its immortal lineage should be discovered,and shuts it up within the Bastille of sin, lest getting liberty and discovering its royalty, it should win the mastery overthe baser nature. But what a wretch was that Louis XIV., to do such a thing to his own brother! How brutal, how worse thanthe beasts that perish! But, sir, what art thou if thou doest thus to thine own soul, merely that thy body may besatisfied, and thy earthly nature may have a present gratification? O sirs, be not so unkind, so cruel to yourselves.But yet this sin of living for the mouth and living for the eye, this sin of living for what ye shall eat and what ye shalldrink, and wherewithal ye shall be clothed, this sin of living by the clock within the narrow limits of the time that ticksby the pendulum, this sin of living as if this earth were all and there were nought beyond-this is the sin that holds thisCity ofLondon, and holds the world, and binds it like a martyr to the stake to perish, unless it be set free.
Generally, however, there also lies some distinct form of actual sin at the bottom of most men's impenitence. I will not attemptto make a guess, my dear hearer, as to what it may be that keeps thee from Christ, but without difficulty I could, I think,state what these sins generally are. Some men would fain be saved, but they would not like to tale up the cross and be despisedas Christians. Some would fain follow Christ, but they will not give up their self-righteouspride; they want to have a part of the glory of salvation. Some men have a temper, which they do not intend to try torestrain. Others have a secret sin, too sweet for them to give it up; it is like a right arm, and they cannot come to thecutting of it off. Some enjoy company which is attractive, but destructive, and from that company they cannot fly. Men oneway or another are held fast like birds with birdlime, till the fowler comes and takes them to their destruction. O that theywere wise,for then they might be awakened out of this folly! But this still remaineth the mystery of mysteries, that those sinsabsurd and deadly, bind men as with cords, and hold them fast like a bull in a net.
THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER IS THIS, a message sinner to thee, and saint, to thee.
Sinner, to thee. Thou art held fast by thy sins, and I fear me much thou wilt be held so till thou perish, perish everlastingly.Man, does not this concern you? I lay last night by the hour together on my bed awake, tossing with a burden on my heart,and I tell thee that only burden that I had was thy soul. I cannot endure it, man, that thou shouldst be cast into the "lakethat burneth with fire and brimstone." I believe that book as thou dost; believing it, I am alarmedat the prospect which awaits the unconverted. The more I look into the subject of the world to come, the more I am impressedthat all those who would lessen our ideas of the judgment that God will bring upon the wicked, are waging war against Godand against virtue and the best interests of men. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Do nottry it, my friend, I pray thee do not try it. Run not this risk, this certainty of endless misery, I beseech thee, dare itnot!What sayest thou, "What then should I do?" I venture to reply in the words of one of old, "Break off thy sins by righteousness,for it is time to seek the Lord." But thou repliest, "How can I break them off? they are like cords and bonds." Ah, soul,here is another part of thy misery, that thou hast destroyed thyself, but thou canst not save thyself; thou hast woven thenet, thou hast made it fast and firm, but thou canst not tear it in pieces. Bat there is One who can, there is One upon whomthe Spirit of the Lord descended that he might loose the prisoner. There is a heart that feels for thee in heaven, andthere is One mighty to save, who can rescue thee. Breathe that prayer, "O set me free, thou Liberator of captive souls;" breathethe prayer now, and believe that he can deliver thee, and thou shalt yet, captive as thou art, go free, and this shall bethy ransom price, his precious blood; and this shall be the privilege of thy ransomed life, to love and praise him who hathredeemed thee from going down into the pit.
But I said the conclusion of the whole matter had something to do with the child of God. It has this to do with him. Dearbrother and sister in Christ, by the love you bear to your fellow sinners, never help to make the bonds of their sins strongerthan they are-you will do so if you are inconsistent. They will say, "Why, such a one professes to be a saved man, and yetsee how he lives!" Will you make excuses for sinners? It was said of Judah, by the prophet, that shehad become a comfort to Sodom and Gomorrah. O never do this; never let the ungodly have to say, "There is nothing in it;it is all a lie; it is all a mere pretense; we may as well continue in sin, for see how these Christians act!" No, brethren,they have bonds enough without your tightening them or adding to them.
In the next place, never cease to warn sinners. Do not stand by and see them die without lifting up a warning note. A houseon fire, and you see it as you go to your morning's labor, and yet never lift up the cry of "Fire!" a man perishing, and yetno tears for him! Can it be so? At the foot of Mr. Richard Knill's likeness I notice these words, "Brethren, the heathen areperishing, will you let them perish?" I would like to have each of you apply to your own conscience thequestion, "Sinners are perishing, will you let them perish without giving them at least, a warning of what the resultof sin must be?" My brethren, I earnestly entreat you who know the gospel to tell it out to others. It is God's way of cuttingthe bonds which confine men's souls; be instant, in season and out of season, in publishing the good news of liberty to thecaptives through the redeeming Christ.
And lastly, as you and I cannot set these captives free, let us look to him who can. O let our prayers go up and let our tearsdrop down for sinners. Let it come to an agony, for I am persuaded we shall never get much from God by way of conversion tillwe feel we must have it, until our soul breaketh for the longing that it hath for the salvation of souls: when your cry islike that of Rachel, "Give me children or I die I" you shall not long be spiritually barren. When youmust have converts, or your heart will break, God will hear you and send you an answer. The Lord bless you! May none ofyou be held by the cords of your sins, but may ye be bound with cords to the horns of God's altar as a happy and willing sacrificeto him that loved you. The Lord bless you for Jesus' sake.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Proverbs 3.