Sermon 1517. For the Candid and Thoughtful
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
'And when Jesus saw' ['saw him,' so it should be] 'that he answered discreetly, he said unto him, Thou art not far from thekingdom of God.'Mark 12:34.
THIS MAN BEGAN with Christ as a foe, and he ended as a friend. It does not quite appear from Mark, but it is plainly statedby Matthew, that the scribe asked a question of the Savior 'tempting him.' He was, therefore, an enemy. Put the mildest senseyou like on the word 'tempt' and it will retain the idea of an unfriendly testing; yet nothing could be more hearty in theend than the verdict with which he commended our Lord's answer, 'Well, Master, thou hast said thetruth.' Our Lord Jesus Christ has an almighty power over men's minds; he possesses irresistible charms by which he turnsadversaries into advocates. He has a secret key which fits the wards of human hearts, and he can open that which seems tobe the most securely closed against him. 'Never man spake like this man,' for in his voice, even in his humiliation, therewere traces of the eternal fiat which of old spake the primeval midnight into noon.
It strikes me that this scribe was half-hearted in the work of tempting our Lord, even at the first. I should imagine himto have been a very superior man amongst his fellows, a man of greater light and discernment than the rest, and of greaterability in statement and discussion. Possibly for this cause his brother scribes selected him, and put him forward to askthe testing questions. Now, it will sometimes happen that a man is thrust forward by others to do what hewould never have thought of doing of his own accord, and quite unwillingly he acts as the mouthpiece of a set of peoplewhom he half despises. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a ready reader of human hearts, and he very soon discovers whether what aman does is being done of himself or whether he is acted upon by a power behind. He discerns the difference between the maliciousadversary and the less guilty victim of circumstances. These words of mine may be reaching persons who have opposed a religiousmovement, or fought against a gracious truth, not because they themselves would have done so if they had been left alone,but others have egged them on and made use of them, and thus they have been drawn or driven into a false position. The peoplewhom they have been accustomed to lead have led them: it is too often the fate of leaders. The circle of which they have beenthe center and the head has imprisoned its own apparent master, and made him captive, so that he fights against that whichinhis heart he half suspects to be right. If, even now, he could be set free from his surroundings he would side with theright. Friend, my blessed Master can read your heart, and understand the pressure under which you are acting. I pray thatas he reads your inmost soul he may see what of good there remaineth among the evil, and deliver you out of the false anddangerous position into which you have drifted. Jesus can set you right, my friend'can take you away from the entanglementsof yoursurroundings, sever you from those who are making a tool of you, but who are at the same time sinking you down to theirown level: can bring you to be his own friend, and lift you up to his own standard, so that you too shall be the championof everything that is good and true, and shall go forward with him as your Master, bearing his cross, and looking to wearhis crown.
Although the scribe in the narrative before us appeared first under the aspect of an antagonist, and tried to tempt our Lord,yet before long the great Teacher had put him into such a mental condition that he said of him, 'Thou art not far from thekingdom of God.' At this time I shall first notice the commendation which is here expressed; and then, in the second place, I shall dwell for a little while upon the question which is here suggested'suggested, Ithink, by no idle curiosity, but very naturally suggested: Did this man, who was so near to the kingdom, actually enterit, or did he not?
I. May the Holy Spirit instruct and impress us while, first, we consider the COMMENDATION EXPRESSED:'THOU art not far fromthe kingdom of God.' I am not going to use this text after the usual fashion. It has been made the heading of a catalogueof characters who are supposed to be not far from the kingdom of God. It is a very proper thing to address hopeful persons,and to give descriptions of conditions about which there is much that is cheering, and yet much to createanxiety; but the text itself does not deal with many cases, but with one whom Jesus judged to be not far from the kingdomof God, of whom it gives us such information that we see why he was thus spoken of. It speaks of one particular individual:'Thou art not far from the kingdom of God'; and it tells us that Jesus said this because he saw that he answered discreetly. Wemay infer without fear of mistake that any man who would answer as this man answered is not far from the kingdom ofGod. Let us read his answer: 'Master, thou hast said the truth; for there is one God, and there is none other but he;and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, andto love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices.'
With care let us investigate this reply, and see how far it might be our own language. The first point in which our Saviorsaw that the scribe was not far from the kingdom of God was this, that he possessed candour, and possessed so much of it that he rose superior to party considerations. He was a scribe, and naturally he took the sideof the scribes and pharisees, but still he was not so much a scribe and pharisee that he would follow them against the truth.Hekept himself open to conviction, and as soon as the Savior had given a fitting answer to the question, he did not, asother pharisees would have done, sneer at him, and continue still to pick fresh holes in his coat, but, like a candid man,he said, 'Well, master, thou hast answered rightly'; and thus he did, as it were, separate himself from the unjust and bigotedparty for whom he had been the temporary spokesman. He did not avow himself to be a disciple of Christ, yet he gave the greatTeacher his due, and said of him what he felt bound to say, namely, that he had answered rightly. Now, my brethren, thereis always some hope of a man who is candid, and there is more hope still of one who, being placed by circumstances amongstthe bigoted and prejudiced, nevertheless breaks away from bondage, keeps a conscience, preserves his eye from total blindness,is willing to see light if light is to be had, and is anxious to know the truth if the truth can be brought before him. Itgives me great delight to meet with such persons, even though they confess that they are of a sceptical turn of mind,when it is clear that they are ready to yield to evidence, and are not mere cavillers. Time is wasted upon men who have madeup their minds, or who have no minds to make up, but enquirers are worth trouble, and those who will admit right and truthwhen they see it are among the most hopeful of hearers. We do not wish people to open their mouths and shut their eyes andswalloweverything that we may like to give them, yet the mouth ought to be open, or at least willing to be opened, as well asthe eye, or oar service at the gospel feast will be a weary task. When hearers are willing to receive the truth as well asto examine what they hear, they are in a good state. They will not only 'prove all things,' which a great many will do, butthey are ready also to 'hold fast that which is good,' which some will not do: among such persons was the scribe.
I will suppose that I am addressing one who has been brought up under a system which makes little of Christ. Perhaps yourform of religion makes much of the priest, and of sacraments, but it does not say much of the atonement of the Lord JesusChrist. There are faiths which make more of human things than of our divine Savior, the blessed Redeemer of sinners, and itmay be that you profess one of these. Or you may have hitherto lived under a religion which makes much ofyour good works, and doings, and feelings, and so on. It may be that the Lord will enable you to rise superior to theinfluence of creeds, of education, and of association, and to say, 'I only wish to know God's way of salvation. My desireis to be guided by what the Lord has revealed. I am prepared to accept whatever is plainly taught in the Word of God, evenshould it reverse all my former beliefs, and deprive me of my most cherished consolations. With sincere heart I ask enlightenmentfromthe divine Spirit.' Now, when we meet with a man of that kind, and see him hearing the gospel, we may say of him, 'Thouart not far from the kingdom of God.' These are the kind of people who feel the force of truth, and are converted to the faithof Jesus, these straightforward people, these hearty lovers of that which is good. The Savior called some men, 'honest andgood ground,' and they were such even before the seed of the word fell upon them. Of course, even this natural openness andsincerity of character is God's gift, but assuredly these are the people upon whom the heavenly work takes most effect.Your tricksters, shufflers, players, make-believes, and men without principle or heart, are seldom converted. I speak fromwide observation. I have seen scores of blustering blasphemers, who were downright in their profanity, brought to Jesus' feet,but I do not remember seeing a deceitful person brought there. Your deeply lying character'I will not say that it is beyondthepower of grace to save him, but I will say this, it is the rarest thing under heaven for a man who has long been a liarever to be converted. I will say nothing in the praise of human nature, nor give any reason for the absolutely free electionof grace, but still I notice that for the most part there is a sort of honest openness and freedom from trickery about thosewhom the Lord calls to himself. I notice that characteristic in the first fishermen apostles, who were no doubt ignorant andweak, but they were as transparent as glass, and as free from guile as Nathanael. Even in their follies, and their sins,and their blunders they were always open-hearted, and so, in general, are those upon whom the Lord looks with an eye of love.Tricksters come in like Judas, but they go out again, for they are not of us. They experience no change from their associationwith godliness, or from their knowledge of truth, but would pick the purse of Christ himself, and sell their Redeemer forpieces of silver. Far otherwise is it with a man of candid and thorough spirit, for he is glad to receive the gospel,and it soon displays its gracious power in him. We may say of the candid man as Christ did of this scribe, 'Thou art not farfrom the kingdom of God.'
A second point is, perhaps, even more clear. This man also possessed spiritual knowledge. It is a great error to suppose that ignorance can do anybody any good. There is a religion which prefers to have ignorantpeople to deal with, but we have learned the truth of what Solomon said: 'That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good.'To be ignorant of the law of God is to be far off from the kingdom; and to be ignorant of the gospel is also to be in a measurefaroff from the kingdom: but this man knew the law, and knew it well. He had a spiritual appreciation of its range, meaning,and spirituality. Notice how he puts it: he puts it well. He says, 'To love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding,and with all the soul, and with all the strength,'this is the first commandment.' Here we see, first, that he mentions sincere love, in the words 'to love him with all the heart.' God is to be loved, not in name, not with lip language,not with mere pretense, but with the heart. God requireth by his law the hearty obedience of his creatures. Next, thescribe puts it, 'With all thy understanding '; that is, God deserves and demands the intelligent love of his creatures. He does not ask blind love of them: he desires them to know something of him, and of his works, andof his claims upon them, so as to love him because he deserves their affection. The understanding must justify and impel theaffections. Then, he puts it,'with all thy soul '; that is, with the emotional nature. Love God with feeling'not coolly, but with the whole force of your feeling. Love him with your soul, for soul love is thesoul of love. And then he adds, 'and with all thy strength '; that is to say, intensity is to be thrown into our love to God. We are to serve him with our might, and throw all our whole energy into his worship.Thus he gives us, under four heads, a description of the kind of love which the law of Godrequires of us'sincere'with all thy heart'; intelligent'with all thy understanding'; emotional'with all thy soul'; intenseand energetic'with all thy strength.' This the scribe knew, and it was most valuable knowledge. Beloved, when a man beginsintelligently to grasp the doctrines of the law and the gospel, when we perceive that he is no stranger to divine things,but that he can give a reason for his beliefs, and can state them to others, although we dare not conclude because of thisknowledge that such a man is actually in the kingdom of God, we may safely conclude that he is not far from it. Give uscandor, and let that candour be attended with enlightenment, and we are sure that the possessor of these things is not farfrom the kingdom of God.
A third point is more remarkable still, because it is to be feared that hundreds of professed Christians are nothing likeso near to the kingdom of heaven as this man was. This scribe knew the superiority of an inward religion over that which is external, for he declares, To love him with all thy heart is more than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.' Thousands at this hourare publicly teaching us that the principal point of religion is that you shall be duly andproperly baptized and confirmed, and shall reverently and properly receive the sacrament. They lay stress upon your receivingbefore you have your breakfast, and upon the breaker of the sacred bread having been duly touched on the head by a bishop,and I do not know what else of mere outward circumstance. Books have been written about how the service is to be performed,and how it is not to be performed, and a great noise has been made about a piece of bread which was brought before a courtoflaw. I believe a very great dignitary has been so weak as to certify that this baked dough has been 'reverently consumed':and yet this is not a heathen country, nor are we worshippers of fetishes! Great importance is attached to the style of garment,which should be worn by priests on Holy Monday, or Good Friday. Colours vary according to the almanack, and the age of themoon. I must confess I need all my gravity when I think of copes, and girdles, and surplices, and gowns being matters ofserious discussion. Surely these poor dupes of superstition are far, very far, from the kingdom of God, which is not meatand drink, nor clothing, nor posture, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Their whole line of thought isalien to the mind of God, who is a spirit, and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. In the whole business of exhibitionalreligion what is there to content the soul? What can there be in it to please God? If our God were a royal puppet I couldconceive of his being pleased with ceremonial; or if he were like the heathens' idiotic deities I could understand thatmummeries, masquerades, postures, processions, robes, and round-robins might please him; but seeing that he is God, the onlywise, be it far from me to dream of such a thing. Such child's play can scarce be borne with by full-grown men, but for thatglorious mind that filleth all immensity to be thought to be particular about the cut and color of a vestment seems to meto belittle short of blasphemy. When the thing was typical of truth yet to be revealed, it was important; but now that thetrue light has risen, and the shadows have departed, no such explanation is possible. Can it really be true that courts oflaw and assemblies of the church discuss the question of men's turning to the east or to the west when they pray? Is it thoughtto be of some consequence how men shall turn, and twist, and bend? What god is this that they serve? What being is this thattheyadore? Certainly not Jehovah, the God of heaven, whom we worship, for he 'dwelleth not in temples made with hands,' thatis to say, of this building; and he hath abolished all rubrics save this:'they that worship him must worship him in spiritand in truth.' Only spiritual worship is worship, and only as the heart adores does God accept the homage which is offeredto him. This scribe knew that even whole burnt offerings, though God had ordained them, and they were therefore right, andsacrifices, though the law had settled them, and they were therefore due, were nothing when compared with loving God withall the heart and with all the soul. He expresses this most plainly that 'to love God with all the heart is more than allwhole burnt offerings and sacrifices.' And see how broadly he puts it''All whole burnt offerings and sacrifices' put together. If they could slay all the bullocks upon a thousand hills, and set Lebanon'sself on fire, making it one huge altar uponwhich the holocaust should smoke, and even if they should pour out rivers of oil, and side by side with it ran streamsof blood of fat beasts, yet all would be nothing. Who hath required this at their hands? The Lord's demands are not of thissort. 'Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not.' What God asks is that we should love him first of all, and our neighboras ourselves. Now, a man who has come so far as to shake off the superstition of confidence in external worship is not farfrom thekingdom of God. He who knows that if saved it will be by a spiritual change, and not by going to a place of worship, notby repeating prayers, not by joining a church, not by being baptized, not by taking the sacrament, knows more than many; andhe who also knows that loving God with all his heart is an absolutely needful evidence of his being a child of God, and longsto feel that love, is not far from the kingdom. A sense of the value and necessity of spiritual religion is a most hopefulsign. I do not say that it is a sure sign of saving grace; but I am sure it is a token of being very near the kingdom.Oh that the man would take the one step which is now needed by turning his knowledge into practice! Oh that he would believewith all his heart, and live!
Another point is manifest in this man's confession; he saw very plainly the supremacy of God over the whole of our manhood. It was clear to him that there was but one God, and that man was made on purpose to be one and undivided in his service.He perceived that man should love, honor, and serve that one God with all his heart, with all his heart, with all his understanding,with all his soul, and with all his strength. Do you know that, dear friend? Come now, ifyou are not a saved man, I will ask you'do you recognize this to be true, that it is your bounden duty to serve your Godwith all your heart and understanding, and soul, and strength? Do you admit this? If you do, and if you are an honest man,you are not far from the kingdom of God, because honest men earnestly endeavor to pay their debts, and when they find thatthey cannot, they are distressed. If you are in distress of mind because you cannot meet your obligations to God, then youare notfar from the kingdom. I rejoice in your discovery of shortcoming, failure, and inability, for these lie near that heartypenitence which is the sister of saving faith, and the sure herald of joy and peace. When a man feels his own inability todo as he ought, when he trembles before the law which, nevertheless, he honors and admits to be just and right, then he isnot far from self-renunciation, and from accepting that matchless righteousness which Jesus Christ has come to bring. Aconsciousness of the supremacy of the sovereignty of God over us, so that he ought to have every thought, every breath,every pulse, is the work of the Spirit, who thereby convinces us of sin, and it is a sweet sign of dawn in the once darkenedsoul. Admit that God ought to be heartily loved, and you are not far from loving him; feel that you are guilty for not loving,and the seeds of love are in your heart.
Once more only. Although this hopeful scribe recognized the value of spiritual religion, and the need of heart-work, and ofthe heart being wholly given to God, yet he did not despise outward religion so far as it was commanded of God. He says that to love God is better than whole burnt offerings and sacrifices; which was an admission that these things weregood in their places. He was no rejecter of ceremonies which are commanded, because of the superstition ofwill-worshippers who invent ceremonies. We are not to give up the baptism of believers because of the unscriptural riteof infant sprinkling, nor to forsake the Lord's Supper because of the popish mass. Ordinances of God are good in their places,and what is to be dreaded is the perversion of them by thrusting them into the place of better and more important matters.Thus the scribe showed a well-balanced mind all round, and proved himself not far from the kingdom of God.
My dear friend, are you prepared to lay hold of truth wherever you find it? Are you prepared to break away from party tiesand family prejudices? Are you prepared to believe that the inward and spiritual part of religion is infinitely superior tothe external part of it, be it right or be it wrong? Do you also admit the divine supremacy of God, and his right to you inall respects? And are you willing to take ordinances, such as he has ordained, in their place, and not outof it? Then, if all these things be in you, your character resembles that of this scribe of whom Jesus said, 'Thou artnot far from the kingdom of God.' I am right glad to meet with you, for you are not far from submitting to the divine authority,since you are already found admitting its right to you. I trust you are not far from entering into the realm of spiritualreligion, for you already value it. You are not far from the privilege of being wholly renewed in heart, since you see theneedof it. How glad I am that you should be now listening to the gospel! Happier still shall I be if God shall help me tosay the right word to you at this good hour. The Lord send it!
II. Our second point is THE QUESTION SUGGESTED'this man came so near to the kingdom: did he ever enter it? We do not know. If anybody were to assert that he did not I should be ready to question his statement. If anybody were todeclare that he did I should at once demand his authority for the assertion. We receive no information from the Scriptures,and it is always better where the word of God is silent to be silent ourselves. We should also observe another verygood rule if you have to judge of a man's state, and know but little of it, always judge it favourably. Judges usuallygive a prisoner the benefit of the doubt; and when a man is not a prisoner, when he has come so far towards grace as thisscribe, let us at any rate hope that he did enter into the kingdom.
I see no reason why he should not have done so; and that is my first answer to the question. He should have done so. Having come so far there were many doors by which, God'sSpirit being with him, he might have entered into the kingdom; I mean doors of thought, by which the Holy Spirit would readilyhave led his candid mind into the faith of Christ. I will show you one. There was in after years another scribe, a rabbi'youwill recollect his name'who said, 'I consentunto the law, that it is good; but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing meinto captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of thisdeath? I thank God, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' You see the process of thought. It is a very simple one. This scribe seesthe law of God to be a spiritual law, demanding the obedience of his heart, his understanding, his soul, and his strength.Ifhe had thought awhile he would, as a candid man, have said, 'I have not kept this law. What is more, I cannot keep it.If I try to keep it I find a something within me against which I struggle, but which, nevertheless, brings me into captivityto another law'a law of selfishness, a law of sin.' Then, as a man anxious to be right, he would have said, 'How can I bedelivered? Oh that I might be set free to keep the law of God! I cannot abide in this bondage. I ought to keep this law, Ishallnever be happy till I do love God with all my heart, for he ought to be so loved, and I perceive that there can be noheaven to a heart which does not love God intensely, for this is one of the essentials of peace and rest. How can I get atit?' In such a condition as that, if he had heard the sweet invitation of our Lord, 'Come unto me, all ye that labor and areheavy laden, and I will give you rest,' would he not have leaped at the sound? Do you not see the simple doorway for sucha man asthat to become a Christian? He had come so far that surely he should come a little farther. Let us trust that he did.At any rate, if any of you have come so far, may God's sweet Spirit lead you to take those other steps, and to enter intothe kingdom, submitting to the sweet sovereignty of the Prince Immanuel, whose scepter is of silver, and whose servitude isan honor and a delight to all his subjects.
That is one door; now follow with me another track. Suppose this man had really loved God with all his heart, and understanding,and soul, and strength'I will not say perfectly, for that would be supposing an impossibility, but supposing that he had trulyand sincerely loved God, he could not have been an hour in the company of the Lord Jesus without feeling the deepest unionof heart to him. Would he not have exclaimed, 'This man, too, loves God with all his heart'? Hemust have perceived it, for the zeal which Christ had for the Father was immeasurable; it flashed in every gleam of hiseye, it tinctured every word that fell from his lips. Jesus lived for God, and glorified the Father with all his heart andsoul, and any person who truly loved God would soon have perceived that fact. 'Ah!' he would have exclaimed, 'here is onewho loves God better than I do; here is one who honors God more than I do; here is one who is more consecrated, more devoted,moregodlike than I am.' By that door he would have been led to admiration of Jesus, to communion with him, and ultimatelyto belief in him as the Messiah. Let us hope that the scribe was so led, for the way is plain enough. At any rate, if Godin his grace has led any man here to love the Father, I am persuaded that he will love the Son; for he that loveth him thatbegat, loveth him also that is begotten of him. My hearer, thou art certainly not far from the kingdom of God if thou hastcome so faras to love God, even though thou knowest little as yet of his only begotten Son. God help you to take that one other step.
Here is another door. You notice that he said that to love God was more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices. Now, supposethat with that in his mind, he had sat down, and said, 'This loving God is the main thing; why, then, is the law encumberedwith burnt offerings and sacrifices? If they really are inferior to the moral precepts, and especially to the spiritual precepts,why are they there at all?' Then methinks he would have seen that they must be there for aspiritual purpose. And suppose he had begun to try and read the meaning of the paschal lamb, or of the daily lamb, orof the sin-offering, why, methinks, if he turned to that blessed fifty-third chapter of Isaiah, and began to read it in orderto understand the sacrifices of the old law, it would have happened to him as it did to the eunuch when Philip opened to himthe Scriptures'he would have seen Jesus in them all. He must have seen him. And if you, dear friend, have come to see therightplace of gospel ordinances through candidly searching out their meaning, you have seen that their whole teaching is ChristJesus, the sacrifice for sin. There is nothing in the two great gospel ordinances but Christ. Christ's sufferings, death,burial, and resurrection set forth in baptism: Christ's death set forth until he come at the communion table'life given usby our Savior's death, and life sustained by the same means. Jesus is the body of the ordinances of the Old Testament, andthe soulof those of the New. If you are but candid enough to desire to push through the veil, and get at the real meaning of everyoutward ordinance, you will see Jesus ere long.
There is another road by which the scribe might have been led to the Savior. Think again. Suppose that he had continued toglow and burn with love to God. As that love grew the understanding would also become enlightened with it, and the soul wouldrise towards God. You know why that would be. It must be because the Holy Spirit was in the man, for no man loveth God orstriveth to love God, with all his heart, and understanding, and soul, and strength, without there beingin secret and unknown to him a divine power at the back impelling him in that direction. Now, do you think that the HolySpirit would thus work in the man and not reveal Christ to him for his salvation? I cannot believe it. I am persuaded that,coming as that man did under the gospel of Christ, he would be by his candour, by his love of God, by the influence of thedivine Spirit, in such a state of mind that, as when sparks fall upon dry tinder they ignite at once, so would the words ofJesusfall upon a mind prepared of the Spirit of God. That scribe was, therefore, not far from the kingdom of God. I do hopethat there are some such hearts present at this hour. Some of you, I trust, can say, 'Oh that I had Christ! I would give myeyes for him.' If you mean that, why do you not have him? He is to be had for nothing. 'Oh,' says another, 'I would die ifI might have him and be saved.' Why not live, and be saved? 'Oh, but I would give anything.' Why not leave off the idea ofgiving,and take freely what Jesus presents to you? But yet that very desire of yours'that longing of yours'proves that you arenot far from the kingdom of God. My heart's desire is that as you have come so far you may now yield yourselves up to Jesus.That is the way of salvation: have done with self-salvation and let Jesus save you. When a man is in the water, if he kicksand struggles he will drown, but if he lies still he will float. When another comes to help, if he will be passive he willbesaved, but all that he can do will hinder his deliverance. Be passive in the hands of Christ till he gives you life tobe active with. Be nothing, and let him be everything. Trust him wholly and alone. Drop into his arms, and let him bear theweight of your sins and sorrows, and it shall not be said of you any longer that you are not far from the kingdom of God,but it shall be sung on earth and in heaven'He has returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of souls, glory be to God!'
Still, as I have said, there is the dark supposition that perhaps the scribe never did enter the kingdom. He may have been so near to the kingdom, and yet he may have lacked the one thing needful. If it were so, it was a grievousfact; and all we can now do is to profit by it. What could have been the reason why he did not enter the kingdom? I cannottell, we know so little of him; but if we might infer from the little we do know, I should suppose that if he did notenter it was from the unworthy motive of being swayed by his fellow-men. We judged that when he came to Christ to putthe question, he came not of his own mind and motion. We began by thinking that he seemed half-hearted in his opposition,and that so he the more readily turned from a questioner into a candid admirer. It is, however, just possible that, beingthe spokesman for others, he had grown fond of taking the lead; and if he did not really enter the kingdom, it may have beenbecause hewould have lost his place in the front rank of scribe and pharisee, and this was too great a price to pay for truth andrighteousness. I have known a man deeply impressed with religious things, and feeling his way aright; but a little companyof half a dozen whom he met in the evening, of whom he was the leading spirit, have sufficed to hold him in bondage. Theyinvite him to come again; they miss his genial society, his jest, his song, his merry talk. He cannot face it out, and tellthem thathe has a call elsewhere, a call to nobler things. He has not the resolute will to lead them in another direction, anddreads even to make the attempt. He wants to be the leading man; and so he gives up what his conscience suggests to him ratherthan not be the leader of men whom in his heart he must know to be unworthy of such a homage. In his own mind he thinks themfools; but, still, he is afraid that they should think him so, and therefore he becomes a greater and more guilty foolthan they. Oh. that fear of men, that fear of men! You may meet with here and there a man of the better sort who beginsto feel, 'Yes, there is the light there: light worth having.' He breaks away from his party, and its surroundings, and fora while is eager for the truth, which he has half discovered; but he fears the cold shoulder which society would give him,dreads the jeer of 'Sir John,' and the sneer of 'My Lord.' The half-opened eye is closed with saddest determination from fearotother children of darkness, who would mock at its better sight. This is a sight which might make an angel weep. Jesusis sold, but not for so much as clinked in the hand of Judas; he is bartered for a fool's smile, and for the company of thevain and frivolous. Ah me, that ever the sun should behold so dread a sight! Multitudes who know the truth, and are not farfrom the kingdom of God, nevertheless, never enter it, because of the fear of man, the love of approbation, the horror ofbeinglaughed at and jested at. With such vile fetters immortal souls are bound for execution, and held back from everlastingblessedness. There is something very beautiful about many a young man of enquiring mind, and if you could transplant him,and set him in another soil, you might make something of him; but not in that shop, where all his fellows would make him thebutt of their mirth if he were really a Christian, not in that work-room, where all the artisans would swear and chaff ifhe werebut to avow his half-formed convictions. Want of courage, want of self-denial, is that fatal flaw which ruins what elsehad been a gem in the Redeemer's crown. All brave hearts mournfully pronounce that he is justly lost who is not bold enoughto own his Savior, and the truth.
'I had as lief not be, as live to be
In awe of such a thing as I myself.'
Afraid of another man! Am I then myself a man? Or am I but the mere mockery of manhood? Oh, sirs, let your manhood come tothe rescue. God grant you grace to say, 'What can it matter to me what men say as long as I am right?' They cannot break boneswith their jests; and if they did, there have been Christians who have not only suffered the breaking of their bones, butthe burning of their whole bodies for Christ's sake sooner than deny his sacred claims. What did Jesussay? 'He that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.' He who, to gain the whole world, would keep back a solitarytruth, is a huge loser for his pains. He is mean and base, and not worthy to be numbered amongst those who follow the Lambwhithersoever he goeth. Oh! if I speak to one who hesitates, let me remind him that, however it may look to-night to be adaring step to be decided for Christ, it will look very differently soon when the great trumpet shall sound, and ring o'erearth andsea, and the dead shall rise, and the judgment-seat shall be set, and the great white throne shall be unveiled. Then itwill be seen to be a far more desperate daring to deny the Lord even to save life itself. What will the cowards do in thatday who, to please men, forsook their Lord? What will they do who suppressed truth and stifled conscience when the Shepherdbegins to divide the goats and the sheep from each other? Ay, what will they do who find themselves driven with the goats,thoughonce they half decided to be numbered with the sheep? They were near the fold, but never entered. What will they feelwhen he shall say, 'Depart! Depart! I know you not. You knew not me in the day of my humiliation. You were ashamed of me inthe world. You blushed at. my name. You covered up what was in your conscience in order to avoid man's laughter and rebuke.You knew not me, and now I know not you. Depart! Depart!' In proportion to the light against which you have shut your eyeswill beyour horror when that light shall blind you into eternal night. In proportion to the violence which you have done to yourconsciences will be the terror which your awakened consciences will work in you. In proportion to the nearness of the kingdomwithin which you came shall be the dreadful distance to which you will be driven.
I was thinking that, if the Lord were to pay men in their own coin, what an awful thing it would be if those who are now notfar from the kingdom were told by the Lord, 'You shall stay there for ever. You, who heard the gospel, and did not acceptit, must stop where you are.' Halt, sir! not a step more! Close to the gates of heaven'you stop there! To hear its music forever, and to gnash your teeth for ever, because you cannot join in it! To hear the songs of therighteous, while you wail for ever! To know the brightness of bliss, but to be yourself in the black darkness for ever!To be within an inch of heaven, and yet in hell! The living water flowing at your feet, and yet your tongue for ever parched!The bread of life nigh at hand, and yet you cannot eat! Oh, think of it! Eternally not far from the kingdom! If you wouldnot wish to be so, oh, be not out of Christ another minute! May God's Spirit enable you to leap right away from your undecidedcondition into living faith and loving obedience to Christ.
'So near to the Kingdom! yet what dost thou lack?
So near to the Kingdom! what keepeth thee back?
Renounce every idol, tho' dear it may be,
And come to the Savior now pleading with thee.'
LETTER FROM MR. SPURGEON.
DEAR FRIENDS,'Nothing remains to report to you but my hope of being in my own pulpit on Feb. 8. I beg you to join with mein thanks to the healing Lord for this restoration. The Lord bringeth down to the grave and raiseth up again, and to him bepraise for ever.
It would be a great favor to me personally, and a means of good to many, if the readers of the sermons would aid in increasingtheir circulation. They are already very widely scattered, but if twice the number could be sent abroad we might look fordouble fruit. After standing the test of twenty-five years the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit may be pardoned if it asks thosewho profit by the sermons to introduce them to others.
May future discourses be more full of unction and power, and so may you, dear readers, reap a harvest from my pains and sicknesses.
Yours ever heartily,
Menton, January 22, 1879.