Sermon 1173. "I Thought"
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MAY 17, 1874,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I thought." 2 Kings 5:11.
OUR great object in preaching today will be the conversion of sinners. There is a great deal else to be done- Believers needbuilding up, comforting and quickening-but while myriads of men remain careless until they are swept away into Perdition,it becomes us to lend our strength to the most necessary work of winning souls for Jesus. Therefore, again this morning, Ishall leave the 99 in the wilderness and go after that which has gone astray, pleading earnestly with God that He will blessmy pleading with men so that while I discourse with them concerning their folly in rejecting the Savior, His Spirit may discoursewith them, also, and lead them to flee to Jesus for eternal life!
At the outset, however, we will have a few words for Believers. Preconceptions of what ought to be the Lord's mode of actionare very injurious, even to those who have true faith in God-and yet they are very frequently indulged. We map out beforehandthe path of Providence and the method of mercy, forgetting that the Lord's way is in the sea, His path in the great watersand His footsteps are not known. When the Lord does not choose to act according to our notions we start back and cry, half-indignantly,"I thought He would surely act otherwise." This folly is seen in Believers, sometimes, in reference to their way to Heaven.
They are like the children of Israel when they came out of Egypt. There is a straight road to Canaan-why are they not allowedto take it? Instead of a direct march onward they are led round about with ever-varying experiences. Their course is by turnsprogressive, retrograde and standing still-to the right and to the left, forward and retreat. Does not Providence often perplexyou and run counter, not only to your wishes, but to your deliberate judgment? That which for many reasons seems to be thebest does not happen to you, while that which appears to be distressingly injurious overtakes you! Your forecasts do not cometrue, your daydreams are not realized, your schemes for life are not carried out. You cannot understand why!
Why is it that you are kept in poverty when you could have made such good use of riches? How is it you are laid aside justwhen you could have been most useful? Why have talents been denied to you when you feel you would have used them with suchdiligence and fidelity? How is it that others, who waste away life, are endowed with 10 talents, while you who are industriousand zealous have scarcely one? You have ventured to propose such inquiries, but you have not been able to answer them. Itis as well that you should not, for our business is not the solution of problems, but the performance of precepts. Let uscease from our own wisdom and leave all arrangements in the hand of our heavenly Father. Our thoughts are vanity, His thoughtsare precious.
The like fault will arise in connection with our prayers. We pray believingly and an answer comes, for believing prayer neverfails, but the answer comes in an unexpected fashion and not at all as we thought! We prayed God to bless our family, and,lo, our wife is taken away, or our child sickens! We besought the Lord to make us more spiritual and He has sent a severeaffliction to grieve us-
"I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love and every Grace,
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek more earnestly His face.
I hoped that in some favored hour
At once He'd answer my request,
And by His love's constraining power
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart
And let the angry powers of Hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yes, more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggra vate my woe.
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds and laid me low.
'Lord, why is this?'I trembling cried.
'Will You pursue Your worm to death?'
''Tis in this way,' the Lord replied,
'I answer prayer for Grace and faith.'" "I thought," you say, "but oh, how different from my thoughts!" Yes, but how muchbetter than your thoughts! You shall find that the Lord is doing for you exceeding abundantly above all that you asked oreven thought! God is enriching you by your poverty. He is healing you by your sickness and drawing you nearer to Himself bydriving you further away from creature confidence.
Often and often we fail to see God's gracious answers to prayer because we make up our minds as to the way in which they willcome. We refuse letters from Heaven because they are sent in black-bordered envelopes. We thought our Lord would send us breadand meat by angels, but instead, He sent it by ravens. When we see the Lord's hand in unexpected ways, we are apt to say,half in disappointment, "I thought it would have been otherwise." Perhaps we have carried these preconceptions of ours stillfurther-for we have actually thought beforehand that God would not bless us at all! He has been graciously designing our goodby affliction and we have written bitter things both against Him and against ourselves, for we have thought that He had utterlyforsaken us. We have cried with Jacob, "Joseph is not, Simeon is not, and you will take Benjamin away. All these things areagainst me!"
When the good old Patriarch stood up in the chariot and felt Joseph's warm kiss upon his cheek, he might have said, "I thoughtthat all things were against me, but now I see that I misjudged my God. He sent my Joseph here to provide for me and for myhousehold in the days of famine. And He fetched my Simeon and my Benjamin away, that it might be all the more easy for meto come down to the place where my sons had been before me. The Lord has dealt well with His servant, but I thought not so."Dear Brothers and Sisters, leave off these forecasts, for blind unbelief is sure to err-the trade of a Prophet does not suitmany of God's servants. We look into the telescope, for we are curious to peer into the future, and having breathed upon theglass with anxious breath, we cry out in dismay, "I see nothing but clouds and darkness before me!"
Yet our pictures of the dreadful future dissolve into the realities of boundless goodness as we see goodness and mercy followingus all the days of our lives! We blush for our unbelief, for we had said in our heart, "I shall one day perish by the enemy'shand." May God save us from that cruel, "I thought," which torments us and belies our God! On the other hand, we sometimesmake flattering forecasts of the future which are equally untrue. "In my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. Lord,by Your favor You have made my mountain to stand strong." That was David's thought. Everybody else might be tossed to andfro, but he would be calm and confident. No doubt others might be in trouble and in doubt, but his faith was so firm and hisposition so well established that he feared no change or commotion. He was too strong to tremble at the assaults from whichothers fled away discomfited.
Now listen to the sequel-"You did hide Your face, and I was troubled." Like any other man, he feared and his firm mountainturned out to be only a rolling cloud which fled before the blast. The man who was so brave asked for the wings of a doveso he might take his flight. Beloved, we must give up this prophesying of our own greatness-it is a mere bag of wind! It isthe very worst form of judging what is to be and what ought to be. Things are in better hands than ours! We have enough todo to obey the Lord's commands without setting up to be managers of Providence. Let Him plan and let us trust! Walk as inHis sight, resigned to His will, and you shall rejoice all your days. But if you begin to map out a course for yourselves,to be your own guides and providers, your way will be both rough and dangerous-and your heart will be wounded with many sorrows.
So far, then, I have spoken a lesson to Believers. I must now turn to the unconverted, and in so doing, I ask every Christian'sprayer that a blessing may attend my words. Preconceived notions of the way of salvation are great
hindrances to the very existence in the minds of the unconverted. It is our business from Lord's Day to Lord's Day, yes, everyday,to tell the sinner that, "he that believes and is baptized shall be saved." As clearly as words can put it, we repeat it tenthousand times-that to trust in Jesus is the only way of salvation, for Jesus has offered a great and acceptable Atonementbefore God for the sins of men-and whoever will come to Him and rest upon His Atonement has eternal life. We are met, at once,with opposition and men turn upon their heels and reject our message because it is not what they thought it would be.
To wash in Jordan and be clean is not according to their notion. Or they expected some more difficult, mysterious, and showyway of salvation. "Behold, I thought," they say, and they go their way, either in a rage, or else in utter carelessness. Come,Friend, let me get you by the buttonhole and talk with you upon this matter-and may the Lord make both of us wise! First,how could you expect to find out the way of salvation by your own thoughts? There are a great many things which men can discover.The inventiveness of the human mind about earthly things appears to have scarcely any limit. But, with regard to heavenlythings, the natural man has not the faculty of discerning and never did make a discovery yet, and never will. Whatever isknown of God is made known by God.
Upon the face of Nature the existence of God is written, but we look in vain for any indication of a plan of salvation. Jesus,alone, is the Savior-how can you imagine that His way of saving can be known to men except as He has revealed it? I will askyou a question. Suppose you were sick of a mysterious and fatal disorder, and a skillful physician was recommended to you-wouldyou expect to foresee that physician's mode of action? Would you go to him and then hesitate to accept his advice becauseit was contrary to what you had supposed it would be? If so, I can only say that you must be very foolish to go to a physicianat all! Why not heal yourself?
Your case is complicated and here is a surgeon who, by long experience and wonderful skill, has acquired power to deal withyour disorder. Do you insist upon it that he shall only operate as you approve? Is he to use knife, lances, bands and splintsat your dictation? If so, you had better dispense with him and call in a nurse who has never studied the art, but is quiteable to do your bidding, for you are surgeon to yourself! Unconverted Friend, your case is one in which you cannot help yourself-nonebut Jesus can save you! How can you expect to invent for yourself a plan of salvation? You are bid to become Christ's disciple-doyou expect to know more than your Master? Are you to teach Him, or is He to teach you?
If you could discover the way to Heaven for yourself, why has the Lord given you the Bible? That Inspired volume is a superfluityif your thoughts are to appoint the way of salvation. And what need is there of the Holy Spirit to reveal the Truth of Godand lead us into it, if, after all, our thoughts are to be the rule? Oh, Sirs, your arrogance-for I dare not call it less-makesyou claim to be equal to the Physician of souls, to be beyond the need of Revelation and superior to the assistance of theHoly Spirit! Retract, I pray you, and leave a position which involves such blasphemies! I will ask every awakened sinner herewho has been settling in his thoughts what the plan of salvation ought to be, what peace his thoughts have brought to him?How far have your inventions brought you?
They have led you to physicians of no value! They have caused you to spend your money for that which is not bread and yourlabor for that which satisfies not. You have leaned upon reeds and trusted in shadows! Kindling a fire with your own fuel,you have, for a moment, rejoiced in the sparks, but before long you have had to lie down in sorrow. I have passed throughyour state of mind. I tried full many an invention, but upon them all was written, "Vanity of vanities." Self was at the bottomof all-in some form or other I looked to self-and I looked in vain! I was like a man in a bog, who, the more he struggles,the more he sinks. Or like a prisoner upon the treadmill who rises no higher, but only wearies himself by his climbing.
No good can result from efforts made apart from faith in Jesus. However earnest and sincere we may be, we must fail in oursearch if we do not seek God's way. Would it not be wise, after so many bitter disappointments, to leave your own inventions?If they have done you no good, depend upon it, they never will! You had better humble yourself as a little child and learnfrom God what the plan of salvation is, and then obediently accept it. Come, poor Soul, in humble obedience read the sacredroll of Inspiration and say, "O Lord, show me what You would have me to do." Then will light break in upon you and peace shallfollow! Faith in Jesus is God's way-it will be the height of folly to set up a method of your own in competition with Him!
Let me now ask you a second question, or a series of questions. Should the plan of salvation be arranged according to yourwill and judgment? You are a sinner and need pardon. Your nature is depraved and needs renewing. Should the plan of forgivingand regenerating you be shaped to please your tastes and whims? Should the great Lord of mercy wait upon you and consult youas to how He shall work out your salvation? As a reasonable man I beg you to tell me-has not the Lord an absolute right todispense His favors as He pleases? Shall He not do as He wills with His own? You yourself, perhaps, are a man of generousspirit, and you relieve the poor. But suppose a poor man should dictate to you how he should be helped and in what shape youshould bestow your charity-would you listen to him for a moment? "No," you would say, "I am not bound to give you anything.If I give, I give freely, but I am not going to be bound by rules which you may choose to make."
Beggars must not be choosers. Now, you, O unsaved one, are a beggar needing alms from God. Do you intend to dictate to theHost on high how and in what manner He shall give His salvation to you? Act not so foolishly! As a reasonable man, renouncesuch an idea! I claim for God not only that He has a Sovereign right to make His own plan of salvation, but that He is infinitelywiser than you are! Had He left it to you to devise a scheme of mercy, it would have been most unfortunate for you. God knowsmore about man than man knows about himself. And the great designs of God are much more far-reaching than the expectationsor desires of man, even when he is most desirous to be blessed. I do not hesitate to say that the most intelligent Christianwould have been content with far less than God is accustomed to give, and that if the arrangements of Divine Grace had beenleft to us, they would have borne but very stunted proportions compared with the present dimensions of the plan of DivineGrace.
Surely it is best to leave it with God who will surpass all that we could desire or devise. Why should you be thinking ofways to be saved, when the mind of God, which is infinite as well in love as in wisdom, has already arranged a scheme so muchsuperior? Furthermore, do you not think that if the plan of mercy were left to your choosing, you would become very self-conceited?If you had the sketching of the system of salvation and it were well done and fully accomplished, you would say, "My methodswere admirable! Am I not wise? Did I not arrange it well?" You would be proud as Lucifer and when you got to Heaven, savedon your own system, you would have ground for glorying and many a note upon those golden harps would be dedicated to the gloryof your own skill-and very few enough be consecrated to your Redeemer.
Now, an arrangement which would increase our self-conceit would be fatal to salvation, for self-conceit is a part of the sinfrom which we need to be saved! Salvation is the destruction of sin-a system which would foster self-conceit and self-confidenceis evidently unadapted to the end in view. Therefore, since your own plan could not save you, bow your hearts to the methodof Divine Grace and live! Moreover, consider, O man, you who desire to sketch for yourself the road to Heaven, do you notsee how you derogate from the Glory of God? Did the Lord ask your judgment when He made the heavens? When He dug the channelsof the deep? When He poured out the water floods? When He balanced the clouds? When He set the stars in their places? Withwhom did He take counsel? Who instructed Him?
Who was with Him to stretch the line or hold the plummet? He, Himself, in the old creation, made all things by His infinitewisdom. Do you think that He needs your aid in the new? In the work of redemption did He ask your help or take your counselwhen He made the Covenant of Grace and fixed it by firm decree? Did you stand in the winepress, side by side with the Redeemer,in the day when His garments were red with blood? Have you contributed to the ransom price which He redeemed His people fromgoing down into the Pit? Creation and redemption have been, up to now, works of God, alone-and has the Lord, now, a need ofyou? Has He called you into His counsels, that you may guide Him as to the application of redemption? Dare you pluck Jehovahby the sleeve and tell Him what He ought to do in order to save a guilty worm like you? Must He need ask you how He shalldeal with you?
O man, it will not do! The supposition cannot be endured! You must leave the Lord to save you as He wills-and as His planis that of simple faith-it is wickedness to set up another! Renounce your proud conceit! If you would be saved, renounce itand humbly come and say, "Speak, Lord, for Your servant hears." Here is His message of life to your souls- "Incline your ear,and come unto Me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an Everlasting Covenant with you, even the sure merciesof David." Now, if you have determined what the plan of salvation ought to be, I ask you, next, by what rule are you ableto preconceive that plan? You refuse to be told what that plan really is because you think you know beforehand.
Now by what rule have you judged? I will tell you in one word. The most of sinners conceive the plan of salvation to be whatthey wish it to be. They thought-but their wish is father to their thought. Naaman with his chariots and his horses wantedthe obsequious homage of the Prophet and therefore he thought, "Surely he will come out to me." Men love to be flattered.They need a plan of salvation which will gratify their self-esteem and enable them to show what dignity there is in humannature! They think that man should be treated like an emperor in disguise-and mercy should be bestowed on him as if it werea reward for merit! As they wish it to be, so they believe it is. Gentlemen of the modern school of thought think out whatGod ought to be, like the German who evolved a camel out of his own consciousness and was very disgusted when he found thatit had a hump.
They make a god as they imagine he ought to be and deify the creature of their addled brains. And then they turn to the Biblefor passages which may be twisted to support their ideas-instead of coming to the Book to learn what is in it-and acceptingits every teaching as the Truth of God. They bring their notions to the Bible and try to mold it to their views. In this spiritmen believe the road to Heaven to be what they wish it to be, but it is not so. But you assure me that you have conceivedthe way of salvation according to your understanding. Well, then, you have conceived it wrongly for certain-for what is yourunderstanding compared with the understanding of God?
A little child has asked a favor of his father. His father knows it to be difficult to grant it, but he has, at great expenseand skill, arranged it. And, now, is the way in which it is to be accomplished to be according to the child's understanding?No, I say it must be according to the father's understanding, for that is more able to lead the way. And besides, the fatheris the benefactor. In your case, is your understanding to be the guide, or God's? I will suppose you to be a person of considerableeducation, far above the common level. But yet I would have you remember that, "as high as the heavens are above the earth,so high are God's thoughts above your thoughts, and His ways above your ways." Why, then, should you wish to measure the dealingsof the Most High by so short a line as your own?
Have done with this folly! "Well," you say, "but I have received my ideas from my parents." Well, then, who were your parents?That is a very great point in such a case. Who were they and were they saved? Suppose your parents were lost, is that a reasonwhy you should be? Nobody here who has a blind father would consider it his duty to put his eyes out by way of honoring hisparents! If a man were born of a crippled parent and God blessed him with all his limbs and faculties, he would not considerhimself obliged to limp, or use a crutch, or twist his foot. We have an old proverb that if a man were born in a stable heneed not be a horse-nor should a man be of a false religion because of his family connections. If our parents were mistaken,that is no reason why we should be. We regret it for their sakes, but with the Word of God in our hands we do not intend tofollow them any further than they were led by God.
A certain heathen warrior was about to profess to be a Christian. Standing with one leg in the waters of baptism, he turnedto the missionary and inquired, "Where are my sires? Where are the chiefs of my line who worshipped Woden and Thor? Wherehave they gone? Are they in Heaven?" "No," said the missionary, "we fear not." "Ah, then," he said, "I will not leave thehouse of my fathers," and so he drew back his foot from the font. Many are of his mind, if I may call it mind at all! It isa certain animal instinct of the same nature as that which makes sheep follow each other when they go astray. God save usfrom this evil fashion! A man cannot inherit religion. It is not a thing to be bequeathed like old clothes or family china.Search the Scriptures for yourselves! Go to God the Holy Spirit for enlightenment and follow where that enlightenment leads-evento Jesus the Savior!
Never dream of keeping to a false religion because it is that of your family or your nation-for by that rule we ought, atthis moment, to be worshipping with the Druids in the oak groves. If we are bound to follow the religion of our forefathers,missionaries are great criminals and there must be dozens of true religions instead of only one. On this principle Naamanought never to have gone to wash in Jordan-he ought to have stuck to Abana and to Pharpar, as his fathers had done beforehim-and have remained a leper all his days. "Well," you say, "my idea of how I ought to be saved is gathered from what I haveread and observed. I cannot submit to be saved by simple trust in Jesus, for I have been reading the biography of a good manand I want to feel just as he felt. Moreover, I noticed how my cousin was troubled in mind and I observed that she had a veryremarkable dream. And, besides, she obtained very extraordinary joys-and unless I have some of these I shall never believe."
But, my dear Friend, do you think that God is tied down to give to each penitent the same line of experience? Is a masterartist bound to paint always the same picture? May there be no variations in form and tint? In man's work there is
always a degree of monotony-even the most versatile genius has its own peculiar line of things. But God is never monotonous!There is a wonderful variety in all that He does and this is very conspicuous in conversions, for these are masterpieces ofHis Spirit. Do not, therefore, settle how you ought to be brought to Christ, as if that were a stereotyped affair, for theLord does as He wills. "Yes," says one, "but I judge by the general current of society and the opinions that I meet in everydaylife. I am a man of the world and I form my opinion from men of the world." Then, for certain, you form a wrong opinion, forthe mind of the world never was the mind of God and never will be!
"You are of God, little children," says John, "and the whole world lies in the Wicked One." To form your opinion of what lightis by sojourning in darkness is ridiculous. To fashion a notion of liberty from the prison, or to describe life by observationsmade in a morgue would be absurd! Your every method of salvation by preconceived thought is wrong, therefore cease from suchthoughts, I pray you. I have another question. How would it be, supposing your thoughts were the fact? Let us examine thematter. You have thought, perhaps, that you ought to be saved by undergoing a ceremony. You have believed that the sprinklingof water on your face, or the eating of a wafer and the drinking of a little wine would procure the forgiveness of your sins.Suppose it were so?
It would be a calamity, for it would give pardon without penitence, forgiveness without a change of heart. Can any moral resultbe produced by an ecclesiastical performance? Has the world ever seen persons rendered more honest or more spiritually-mindedby the contact of priestly hands? External operations do not affect the moral nature! That is a fact which we can prove byinnumerable instances and there is not one instance of an opposite character. If they will bring a man who is really improvedby priestly operations, whether aqueous, alimentary, unctuous, or saline, we will listen to them-but no such fact is forthcoming.It would be a very unfortunate thing for you, my dear Friends, if, by external operation, guilt could be removed-because itis clear that your evil heart would remain and, therefore, you would still have no communion with God and no fitness for Heaven.
You must be born again! You must believe in Jesus! These are the necessities of your nature if you are to be happy. Heavenwould not be Heaven to you if you were baptized, confirmed and took all the sacraments which Rome could give you, for theywould not change your nature-and that change is a prime necessity which cannot be dispensed with. True faith in Jesus worksby love and purifies the soul-that is the Lord's way-accept it and forsake your own thoughts! You wish, perhaps, to be savedby good works-self-righteousness is your thought. Alas, if this were the way it would be an impossible way for you, for youcannot perform good works! If you can, why have you sinned at all? What would be your motive if you attempted good works?Why, to save yourself, would it not? With selfishness as their motive, your works would be defiled at the fountainhead!
Besides, all that you can do is already due to God and, therefore, it cannot make up for the past. You must be saved by theGrace of God and then good works will come from you, but never will you have any to spare. When you have done all, you willstill be an unprofitable servant and a debtor to Sovereign Grace. Perhaps you think that God might as well pardon you at onceand have done with it-that is your plan. Suppose He did so. Suppose that He, at once, blotted your sin from His book and thatwas the end of it? What peace would that give you? What security for the future? A God who could pardon without justice might,one of these days, condemn without reason! He who could set aside His Law so as not to execute His threats, might one dayset aside His Gospel so as not to fulfill His promise. It is a grand ground of peace for us that God is never unjust in orderto be gracious. He saves sinners, but not till He has laid their sin upon Christ and is both just, and yet the Justifier ofHim that believes. Your plan of pardon without an expiation would not work. It would not give confidence to you and it wouldcertainly dishonor the Character of the Most High.
But you have thought that if you are to be saved, you must of necessity experience great horrors, as many have done. You haveread of John Bunyan and others passing through the Slough of Despond and you have set it down as a fact that you ought towallow there, also. But why, Beloved? How does this tend to salvation? Is doubting the mercy of God a good and useful thing?Truly, some who are brought to Jesus are long in coming, but if He pleases to lead you by a long way, why complain? Is notthe Gospel way the best way? Believe and live-is not that enough? Why, if the terrors did come upon you, they could not helpyou, or if they did, you would trust in your despair and this would be a false way.
"Then," you say, "I stipulate for raptures and excitements. If I have these, I will believe." Joy will come after believing-itis a gift of God with which He rewards faith. If the Lord required joy and rapture of you, you could no more render them thanif the way of works were still in vogue. "Jesus only" is your hope, why demand more? Now I come
to the point. I have looked at what you would like salvation to be-and I have told you what it is. I will ask you this question-Whatin it do you object? Do you object to being saved simply by faith? Because it appears to you to be too mysterious? Mysterious?It is the essence of simplicity! You make it mysterious by refusing to understand it and not believing it to be so plain."Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." To believe is to trust-and whoever trusts in the atoning bloodis saved. Where is the mystery?
Then men turn round and say, "Then it seems like nothing at all." But Jesus says, "This is the work of God, that you believeon Him whom He has sent." It is the work which God works, the grandest of all works, to believe in Jesus Christ! Do you countit as nothing, when God has elected it to be the grand means of renewing the heart by the Holy Spirit? Faith is the springwhich moves all our nature. He who believes learns to love and, learning to love, he is changed from sin to holiness. "Yes,but this believing makes a man into a mere child." Is that an objection? Then I give you no reply but the words of the LordHimself-"Except you be converted and become as little children, you shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of Heaven."
"Oh," says another, "it throws the whole thing so open, if whoever believes in Jesus is saved." And do you want it closed?Do you crave a monopoly for yourself and your little coterie? Oh, Sir, God thinks not as you do! And when your heart is enlargedyou will be ashamed of having made such a remark! "Well, but I do not like salvation by Grace alone, for it implies so muchagainst me. I feel as Naaman did when the Prophet said, 'Wash and be clean.' What do I need washing for? Am I dirty? Do youinsinuate that this leprosy of mine comes because I have not bathed often enough? I am insulted by you." Men regard the Gospelas insulting their dignity and therefore they turn away from it. They talk in this fashion-"What? Believe and live! Is thatall? That way of salvation would suit a harlot or a drunk, but I am just, upright, honorable. Simply look to Christ as thedying thief did on the tree? Such a religion suits a thief, but it does not suit me."
So you would like to have one way to Heaven for yourself and people of quality, and a back gate to let in the guilty? Thereis no such arrangement, Sir, and I trust you will not be so foolish as to be lost because your pride cannot be gratified."Ah," says another, "it does not give a man anything that he can be proud of. It does not make him do anything, or be anythingthat he can talk about to his neighbors. 'Only believe, and you shall be saved.' Why, the most common boy in the street mightunderstand that, and practice it, too. I have graduated at a university. I am a man of natural endowments and great attainments-amI to be put on the same level as a shoe-black?" Well, if that is your line of argument, my answer is-"not many great men,not many mighty are chosen," and when you reject the Gospel, you neither disappoint Christ nor His people-we knew you woulddo so.
I sometimes feel inclined to answer people in the manner in which I replied to a caviler not long ago. He did not understandthis, nor understand that, nor understand the other and at last I said to him, "Sir, I do not suppose you ever will understandit." "Why not?" he asked. "Because," I said, "God reveals these things to His own elect and not to the wise and prudent."This view of the case he did not like, but I believed it would do him more good than entering into further controversy withhim. Men profess to be puzzled with this and that when the truth is that their hearts are alienated from God. When the heartis set right and they are sincere inquirers, they will feel that the plan of salvation by Divine Grace is most suitable, mostwise and most acceptable.
When God the Holy Spirit once makes a man feel himself to be a lost, undone, ill-deserving, Hell-deserving sinner, he seizesupon the Gospel of Free Grace as a hungry man grasps a loaf of bread! May God bring men to feel themselves sinners and theywill quibble at the Gospel no more. In conclusion. You thought that the Gospel ought to be such-and-such and now you are annoyedbecause you are told that the whole plan lies in believing. Let me ask you, then, Do you mean to be damned for the sake ofa whim? Come, I will not mince the matter. Do you mean to lose Heaven and be cast into Hell forever for the sake of your proudfancies? For, oh, Sir, I assure you, in God's name, His plan will not alter for you! If the Lord should alter His Gospel foryou, then He must alter it for another, and another-and it would be as shifting as quicksand. There it is! Take it of leaveit, but alter it, you cannot. "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved" is always true. And the other side of thequestion is true, too-"He that believes not shall be damned."
Remember, also, that however much you may dislike it today, it will be quite as unpleasant tomorrow. If there is at presentsome sharp, stripping and humbling work about it, it always will strip and always humble you if ever you receive it. To besaved by Grace alone will be as hard to your pride in 10 years' time as it is now-perhaps harder, because your
heart will have grown harder and your stomach even more haughty against the Lord God of Hosts. Surely, Sir, if you are lostbecause you will not have salvation in God's way, you will get small comfort from your meditations when you lie in Hell. Whenyou are shut in the eternal prison, you will reflect that you are there because you thought God ought to save you in anotherway. Then you will say to yourself, "I would not take His mercy freely. I would not fall down at Jesus' feet and simply trustHim. I wanted to feel, or do, or be something. I would not give up self and its foolish confidences-and here I am."
Surely you will gnaw your tongue in anguish that you have been cast away for such an unreasonable reason! If others ask youhow you came there, it will be a strange answer that you will have to give them. "I," says one, "I am here because I loveddrink." Another says, "I am here, for I was lustful and debauched." "Ah," you say, "I was neither the one nor the other. Iwas kept from such sins, but I am lost simply because when I heard the plan of salvation, I had made up my mind what it oughtto be and I stuck to my prejudices. I would not go to the Bible to search. I thought I knew as well as the Book and as wellas the Holy Spirit, and I am lost." My dear Hearers, I do not ask you to believe anything I say because I say it. Fling itto the winds if it has no better authority than mine! But if it is God's Word, I charge you, on your soul's peril, do notreject it!
We shall face each other at the last tremendous day and if I have told you honestly the plan of salvation, I am clear of yourblood. But if, having heard it, you reject it because it does not suit your preconceived ideas, then, Sirs, your doom willlie at your own door. Provoke it not! Yield to the Master's bidding! May His Holy Spirit sweetly incline you and He shallhave praise. There it is. Jesus died instead of sinners. He suffered God's wrath in the place of the guilty and, "Whoeverbelieves in Him has everlasting life." Other foundation can no man lay. There is not another name under Heaven among men wherebyyou can be saved! The worst of all is, you will say, "We do not reject it, but we mean to think of it tomorrow."
That has been the cry of some of you for 50 years! The bell will toll for your funerals before your tomorrow comes! Do notrun this frightful risk. If to believe and to be saved would incapacitate you from your daily calling, or rob you of a singlehonorable joy, I might see sense in your procrastination. But since to be saved will make you fit for this life and fill yourcup to the brim with joy, in addition to preparing you for the life to come, I charge you, by the living God, "kiss the Sonlest He is angry and you perish from the way, while His wrath is kindled but a little." The Lord bless you for Jesus' sake.Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-2 Kings 5. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-34 (VS. I), 560, 583.