Sermon 1651. A Delusion Dispelled
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Though Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shallbut deliver their own souls by their righteousness." Ezekiel 14:20.
WE are told in the opening verse of this chapter that certain of the elders of Israel came to the Prophet and sat before him.You need not ask who these elders were, or from where they came because it is evident enough they were not a deputation fromthe Jews who were left in Judah and Jerusalem. They were individuals of distinction from among the exiles of Chebar. Thatthey came to enquire of the Prophet of the Lord, we gather from the answer that came to them by the Word of the Lord. Andwe might, also, infer from the matter of the terrible denunciations that were uttered, something, at least, of the mannerof enquiry they proposed. The men were downright hypocrites-they were followers of the false prophets who are exposed in theprevious chapter as seeing vanity and divination-and then saying, "Jehovah says," though Jehovah had not sent them!
Now they come, these elders, to interview the true Prophet of the Lord, and before they have time to state their errand, theWord of the Lord confronts them with a life-like portrait of their own characters. "These men have set up their idols in theirheart, and put up the stumbling block of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them?" For personswho were idolaters at heart to ask counsel of the living God, as if they would learn His will, though they defied His Law,was a most insulting mockery! The thought which seems to have nestled in their breasts and prompted their visit was, afterall, the exposure that Ezekiel has made of the wickedness of the land and of its inhabitants-may it not still be consistentwith the mercy of the Lord to spare the city, as He would have spared the city of Sodom at the intercession of Abraham, forthe sake of the few righteous men that remained in it?
The answer, as you are aware, was an emphatic "No." A reference to the 26th chapter of Leviticus and a rehearsal of the fourjudgments which should work the desolation, stand associated with the protest which is repeated again and again, each time,it seems to us, with more vehement force-"Though Noah, Daniel and Job were in it, as I live, says the Lord God, they shalldeliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness."
Now, my main objective this evening will be to assert, to illustrate and to enforce this one distinct feature in the moralgovernment of God. In all the procedures of Divine judgment, the principle of individual responsibility can never be relaxed.Hence the need of personal piety-the absolute necessity that men and women should pray for themselves- that each one shouldrepent for himself, that each one should believe for himself and that each one should, in his own proper person, be born againby the effectual operation of the Spirit of God!
No proxy in these matters is possible! Sponsors in religion are a wicked superstition-their use degrades the minds of menand profanes the worship of God-they ought to be forever done away with! I charge you, as you love God and your own souls,and the souls of others-sooner die than stand sponsor for child or man, for it is a sin, a mockery, an offense before highHeaven! Every man must take heed to his own soul. "Let each man prove his own work for each man shall bear his own burden,"and every one of us must give an account for himself at the Judgment Seat of Christ. Among the various shifts and schemesfor taking comfort without a satisfactory title, or a plausible reason-the idea adopted by some that the righteousness oftheir friends may be of some use to them-is the most pernicious!
"They are the children of eminently gracious people. Surely," they say, "they cannot be lost!" They are connected with thosewhose name is known and whose memory is fragrant in Christian society. They were born and brought up in a house dedicatedby family prayer! They have been cradled and nurtured in the midst of godliness. They readily believe that those who livein the back slums and have grown up to be wanton and willful, depraved and dishonest, will certainly perish-but can it bethat those who have walked in the paths of morality and observed the ordinances of outward religion should be cast away? Theyscarcely think that it could be consistent with propriety to resist their claims to some discriminating consideration! Thoughthey do not say as much in words, yet they secretly flatter themselves with the idea that the godliness of their ancestryand the scrupulous integrity of their parents will be enough to shelter them from responsibility.
There are others, to mark a lighter shade in self-deception, who indulge a hope that the prayers of their dear ones will beheard for them, although they never pray for themselves. They fall back in time of need upon the belief that, surely theirmother's prayers will be answered on their behalf, or their wife's petitions will bring down a blessing upon them!
They do not embody the notion in words-I wish they did-for if people were to place such thoughts in black and white, theywould never like to acknowledge them! Their folly would be too palpable. They entertain a hazy notion that because they havebeen so often prayed for, a blessing must come to them sooner or later! They will not awaken themselves to seek the mercyof the Lord, or quit their sins and lay hold on Christ to obtain the promise of pardon and peace-they vainly dream that somethingmysterious will happen to them one of these days in answer to good people's prayers. In fact, some of them eagerly ask theprayers of the godly, though they never pray to God for themselves!
My text is a stern rebuke for any who have taken themselves to either of these refuges of lies! I want to sound an alarm anddrive them out of their hiding places. Oh, that God may be pleased to make His own Word effectual to this end! "Though Noah,Daniel and Job were in it as I live, says the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but delivertheir own souls by their righteousness." Now, it cannot be denied that there is great power in godliness and a mighty prevalencein the intercessions of godly people to bring down rich blessings upon men. You are perfectly right in seeking the prayersof Christian friends! Why, even the Apostle Paul said, in the name of all the sacred ministry, "Brethren, pray for us."
You can hardly ask for a choicer favor from the servants of God than that they should pray for you. But certain circumstancesmay entirely neutralize the prayers of the godly. Such circumstances were present in the case of the kingdoms of Israel andJudah in Jeremiah's day. They went on so far in idolatry and all manner of vice that God said that He would not hear Mosesand Samuel, though they stood before Him to plead on their behalf! He told Jeremiah that he might as well cease to weep andpray, for He would never hear him for that people. And here, by Ezekiel, He declares that if so wonderful a trio as Noah,Daniel and Job should join in intercession-He would not regard even them! And just so it is at this hour-if men continue intheir sin-if, after hearing the Gospel, they refuse it.
If they persist in rejecting it; if they stifle conscience; if they silence the voice within. If they perniciously resolveto indulge their lusts and will not repent and turn to God, then the excellence of their friends will rather aggravate, thanmake amends for their guilt-and the prayers of their friends will be so utterly nullified and made of no effect, that nothingbut the dread sentence will avail them-they must perish! They have not personally believed in Christ and accepted Him as theirMediator, therefore they must perish. They have dissipated the last vestige of hope by rejecting the only way of salvationand they must perish! Though they come of a line of saints and in their veins there runs the blood of the faithful, they mustperish! Though they have the tradition of a sound faith handed down from generation to generation, and though the escutcheonthat has descended to them from holy ancestors is free from blot-if they refuse Christ they must perish!
And though they have been born and bred, cradled and cared for where holy hymns make up their lullaby, yet if they give nottheir own hearts to Christ, but set up idols in their hearts-they must perish-perish miserably with their own iniquity upontheir heads. Was not Ishmael the son of Abraham? Yet he came not into the Covenant! Was not Esau the child of Isaac? Yet heobtained not the inheritance! Birth, blood and family count for nothing in this matter. Thus there are two propositions, which,as God shall help me, I will endeavor to set plainly before your eyes. First, the righteousness of the most godly cannot beof use for the ungodly. And, secondly, the prayers of the greatest intercessors cannot help if men persist in their unbelief.
I. First, THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF THE MOST GODLY CANNOT AVAIL FOR THE UNGODLY. We have to prove this and we do so, first, byreferring you to our text, and asking you to read it for yourselves. Mark how the anger of the Lord kindles and how the wordsare launched forth like hot thunderbolts from the lips of the Most High. The statement is clear; the supposition is startling,but the oath that seals the Oracle of Heaven appalls us. A coincidence that was not likely to occur is imagined to put theutmost strain on the delineation and to give language a stress that cannot be surpassed. As a matter of fact, we are toldthat if Noah, Daniel and Job were in the midst of Jerusalem, yet their conjoined virtues would not be of any use to save anybut themselves!
I wish I could help you to realize the picture as it must have flashed before the vision of the Seer. Three saints who werenot contemporaries, for their lives on earth were passed in distant centuries and different circumstances, meet together ina season of terrible emergency. The sacred annals of those days knew no names more illustrious, no stars that shone more brightly,than Noah, Daniel and Job. Their sympathies are all excited, their hearts are in unison and their prayers blend together asthey bow before the Altar. You look, you listen in trembling suspense, as you cast a glance at the miserable inhabitants ofthe doomed city and consider the fate of those captives who are languishing in a land far away. With what measure of acceptancewill those passionate appeals for mercy be heard?
Listen, the verdict comes from the Throne of God! They deliver their own souls by their righteousness and no more! Not oneof them saves so much as his own son or his own daughter by his supplications! What a wail comes up as the inexorable decreeis pronounced! But the echo that lingers longest in my ears is that awful oath- "As I live, says the Lord God." Next to this,I am going to ask you to inspect more narrowly the portraits of these men of God who are presumed
to have stood counsel for the defendants-and to have occasioned so much astonishment because with all their special pleadingthey signally lost their case!
Noah is the very pattern of godly fear! A model of that "fear of the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom," just as Abrahamwas a model of faith and the father of the faithful. Moved with fear, he built an ark for the saving of his house. Heedlessof the ridicule of the many about him, he built a huge ship on dry land. He became a preacher of righteousness, and thoughfew, if any, were converted by that preaching, he persevered for 120 years, obediently doing what God commanded him, for atestimony against the ungodly. Scarcely can we find a better man than this second father of the human race from whom we haveall sprung.
Next to him we have mention made of Daniel. He was alive at the time when Ezekiel wrote-a young man, I suppose, of about 30years of age. It is very singular that he should be sandwiched in, as it were, between Noah and Job- two men of the oldenworld. He must have been highly esteemed in his own generation. Ezekiel, moved by the Holy Spirit, groups him with those whomhistory had canonized. He was a man greatly beloved of God and, no doubt, by his contemporaries, he was very much appreciated.Sterling virtue and an elevation of character above the common standard of a good man would be indispensable to his takingrank as one of so remarkable a triumvirate. And when you think of him-of his integrity in youth when he would not defile himselfwith the king's meat. When you think of his steadfastness in prayer in riper years, when, with his window open toward Jerusalem,he prayed as he had done before, even though by a statute of the realm, the penalty of making supplication to the God of theHebrews was death-what a model of thorough manliness he is!
There is a majesty about Daniel. He is the John of the Old Testament. He is the Seer who saw visions of God like the chosenone of Patmos. The combination of qualities that are embodied in such a man is worth your study. So chivalrous was his senseof duty that he is honored by kings! So holy is he in his conscience, as well as in his habits, that the King of kings revealsto him the secrets of His government! There is none like Daniel! "Yet," says God, "though in addition to Noah, Daniel stoodbefore Me, his righteousness would suffice only for himself and could not be of the least profit to anyone else."
To complete the trio, there is Job, to whom we have Infallible testimony that he was perfect and upright. Satan, himself,could find no fault with his character, though with fiendish malice he insinuated a sinister motive for Job's scrupulous integrity."Does Job serve God for nothing? Have You not set a hedge about him and all that he has? You have blessed the work of hishands and his substance is increased in the land. But put forth Your hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he willcurse You to Your face." You remember that he did not curse God, but he blessed Him and his faith triumphed over his fretfulnesseven on the dunghill of his poverty, when he was covered with sores and filled with anguish! Surely Job is a model of excellence."You have heard of the patience of Job." "My servant Job," was the honorable designation that the Almighty gave him. Moreover,He bestowed on him high praise and a double blessing at the end of his trial.
Now, if we had any one of these three men to plead for us, we should look upon him as putting a great weight in the scale.If we had for our next door neighbor, or brother, or father, either of these-if there were any transference of righteousnessfrom one man to another-we should hope to shade ourselves under the wings of Noah, or Daniel, or Job! But here the Lord declaresthat if the whole three were put together, they should not save son or daughter. No, dear Friends, "You must be born again."You must be made righteous, each one for himself, or else if you had all these friends at court, which you have not, theywould be unable to avert the course of justice, or obtain for you the slightest favor! The text puts it plainly-"Though Noah,Daniel and Job were in it as I live, says the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but delivertheir own souls by their righteousness."
This Truth of God may be further substantiated by observing the course of Providence as regards the things of this life. Couldthe merits of friends and parents secure the salvation of their relatives or children, we must expect to see "the son or thedaughter" of a righteous man screened from the full punishment of his own misdeeds. But we have evidence that such is notthe case. Let me give you Scriptural illustrations. Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant. He had a brother, Aaron,not so great a man as himself, but still an eminently holy man. Listen, you that are the sons of gracious men. Aaron had twosons and the father's dignity rested upon them-and they became priests of the Most High God. But, do you know what becameof them? Drinking too much wine-alas, what a snare is that!-they entered into the Holy Place of God with strange fire andthe fire of God consumed Nadab and Abihu, though they were the sons of Aaron! And what did Aaron say about them? We read this,"And Aaron held his peace."
He could say nothing. He had to bow his head before God. He knew that it must be-that if even a child of God's High Priestpollutes the Holy Place, the fire of the Lord must come forth against him. Thus you see that Aaron could not overshadow hisown sons and save them in the day of the Lord's anger. Take another case equally sad. David had a favorite son who becamethe cruel adversary of his own father. In open rebellion Absalom attempted to usurp his throne. Yet even in the tumult ofbattle, the king would have spread the aegis of protection over his own child. "Beware," he said to
his generals, "that none touch the young man Absalom." You remember how he fled from the fray, but fled in vain-a just retributionovertook him. The locks of his hair in which he gloried were caught in the low branches of an oak and there he hung. Then,as you hear David cry, "O Absalom, my son, my son Absalom, my son, my son! Would God I had died for you!" you see that therighteousness of David could not deliver his son Absalom even as to this life.
If you needed other proofs, I would give the instance of Judas, which is greatly to the point, not in the matter of relationship,but in the matter of association. Judas consorted with 11 of the princes of the Church of God, for such I call them, now thatthey have gone up to their thrones. No, more, Judas consorted with the Master Himself and dipped in the same dish with ourRedeemer! Yet, you see, the righteousness of 11 Apostles could not cover Judas. And because he did not believe in Jesus, neitherdid the righteousness of his Master cover him! And so this man perished in his own iniquity. These examples I have given youfrom the Bible. Were I to try and turn over the pages of my recollection, I could give you many miserable proofs that thefather's righteousness does not cover the son. I am afraid I shall touch a very tender string with friends here present who,in their own sons, have sad proof that it is so.
I have seen the preacher of the Gospel whose son was committed to prison. I have known the father to be a minister of Christand his son a ringleader in infidelity, or a chief actor in things too filthy and profane to be mentioned here. Full manya child of godly parents has, in this life, brought himself to beggary, to disgrace, to disease, to death. It is a sad fact,but it is so. There may have been, perhaps, grave fault at home. That I cannot tell-God knows-but so it has been that menwho, to the best of our judgment, were not only godly, but eminently so, have, nevertheless, had the wretched lot to see theirsons and daughters given up to work iniquity with both hands greedily. God save you from such a sorrow, but the recurrenceof these facts goes to show that the most godly man's righteousness cannot be of use, even, for son or daughter. What needis there, however, that I multiply proofs?
The scales of justice must be poised with an equal hand. Partiality is out of the question. God is no respecter of persons.Were it otherwise, personal obedience to the will of God could be dispensed with! There would be in this world a number ofchartered libertines who would plead a mother's godliness or a father's Christian character as a setoff for their own indifferenceor profanity-as if they had a special license to live as they like because their parents were godly. Would you have it soif you could? I would not. I should think it a most dangerous institution. Thank God, His Divine justice has never given immunityto any vice. If a man eats sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. A spendthrift shall rue the course he has run andshall beg bread, even though his father were a saint of the innermost sanctuary.
If a man indulges foul passions, he shall suffer for it in his own body, let his father be as gracious as he may. If a manputs his finger into the fire, it will burn him. If he tempts the flood in time of danger, it will drown him. You may groanto think he was the child of so good a man, but the laws of Nature are not to be trifled with. If you act contrary to them,they will be contrary to you. Relationship, which is but an accidental circumstance, is not to be confused with religion.That the righteousness of one man could compensate for the recklessness of another man is a monstrous conceit. What if I am,as I thank God I am, the son of His handmaid? I dare not to presume on that! What if my father is a minister of the Gospel?What if my grandfather preached the Gospel? I thank God that such Grace was given to them, but there is nothing in that uponwhich I dare presume! I think the meanest pride in all the world is the pride of ancestry, for how on earth can a man haveany credit due to him for a contingency which never could be at his own disposal? It must be a matter of God's own dispensationand if he has received it, why does he glory as though he had not received it?
To suppose that Grace comes with ancestry would be a supposition exactly opposite to the declaration of the Spirit of Godby John, where he says of the godly, "which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man,but of God." There must be a birth by the Spirit of God, or the first birth will be nothing whatever to our advantage. Howeverwell-born at first, you must be born again! If the righteousness of one man could excuse the unrighteousness of another man,then the great principle of responsibility would be reversed. You and I, who were born in the midst of Christian associations,are responsible for the Light of God which we receive. If we sin, we cannot sin so cheaply as others. If a man transgressesagainst the holy example of parents, he scores seven for every sin to what another would have done who had been trained upunder vicious surroundings. Assuredly he is not a less sinner, but a greater sinner who, being born in the midst of godliness,ventures to depart from the good way, transgress the sacred precepts, and refuse the Savior!
That is the principle of Scripture-to whom much is given, of him much shall be required-and we have to say daily to you childrenof the godly, that if you fall, your exaltation by your privileges will cause you a more awful fall than the fall of others.We say to such as you, "Woe unto you, Bethsaida; woe unto you, Chorazin; woe unto you, Capernaum! You have seen the mightyworks of Christ, which, if others had seen, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes, and if you repent not, woe untoyou!" Such is the teaching of the Word of God. But the opposite hypothesis that the goodness of one individual can compensatefor the badness of another is utterly hollow, not to say grossly vicious! Painful though it is, dear Friends, I must carrythe assertion a step further.
The righteousness of good men has not availed to save their relatives from the terrors of the world to come. Instances ofthis come uncalled for to our recollection. Begin at the beginning. There is Cain. Who is his brother? Abel. Abel is a manwhose faith is acceptable with God. Does that save Cain? No, he was of that Wicked One and slew his brother. And why did heslay him? Because his own works were evil and his brother's righteous. Cain, where are you tonight? Are you sitting here anddo you dream that your brother, Abel, now with God, can, by any means, bless you? That must not be. Dispel the delusion! Theopening chapter of history refutes it. The first two sons that were born to Adam depart from earth in different directions.
Look, again, at Ishmael. His father, Abraham, the father of the faithful, said, "O that Ishmael might live before You!" YetIshmael becomes the very type of the children of nature who do not inherit the blessing that belongs to the children of promise!Look at Esau, born at the same birth with Jacob, children of a godly father, yet we read of Esau that he was a profane person.The godliness of holy Isaac does not save Esau! Look at Hophni and Phinehas, priests of God by office, but sons of Belialby character! Their father Eli, with all his faults, was a man who feared God. Yet as for these sons of his, they died intheir sins, from which no sacrifice nor offering could purge them! Look at Jehoram-his father, Jehoshaphat, was a truly graciousman-though, alas, he turned aside, joined with Ahab and married his son to the daughter of that woman, Jezebel!
And, ah me, how many a young man is ruined by some such perilous alliance! For money, for business, or for social positionthey are wedded to the ungodly. Some of you sell your daughters to the devil that they may make a respectable match, whenyou know that this unequal yoking is forbidden by Gospel precept! I am ashamed of Christian people who lend their countenanceto this breach of the Lord's Commandment! In this world there is a blight on such unions and in the world to come-well, overthat you would wish to draw the veil. The life of Jehoram was evil. His death was painful and premature. His end was withouthope, yet he was a son of Jehoshaphat who did that which was right in the sight of the Lord!
How tenaciously men will cling to the idea that godly ancestors can help them is illustrated from that parable of our Lordin which He tells us of the rich man who lifted up his eyes in Hell and cried, "Father Abraham." As a descendant of Abraham,he looked for pity and relief, even in the place of torment! Ah, but he failed to obtain a drop of water to cool his tongueby that plea. Take the warning to yourselves, Sirs, I beseech you! It does not matter of whom you may be descendants-theycannot relieve the pains of Hell for you! Unless you, yourselves, have personal faith and a personal renewal of heart, thoughyou had Noah, Daniel and Job to take your part-"As I live, says the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter;they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness."
II. Now I come to our second proposition. THE PRAYERS OF THE GREATEST INTERCESSORS CANNOT
AVAIL IF MEN PERSIST IN THEIR UNBELIEF. God forbid that I should discourage any of you from praying for your parents, yourchildren and your friends. Let us never leave off praying for them. But if any man in this place is sitting comfortably inhis seat, saying, "My wife prays for me; my mother prays for me; my children pray for me. It will be all right with me-theirprayers will suffice for me-without any penitence or faith on my part," I should like to touch him on the shoulder and whisperin his ear these words, "Though Noah, Daniel and Job were the intercessors, they could deliver none but their own souls."
Noah was undoubtedly a man of prayer. Still, there was not a single person saved by Noah's prayers except those that wentinto the ark. And if God would give to us, His people, everything that we ask for, yet we would not ask Him to save you ifyou will not believe in Christ. If you set up your idols in your heart and keep the stumbling block of your lust before youreyes, we cannot, we dare not pray for you that you may be saved contrary to the Gospel! Daniel was mighty in prayer, but allthat his prayers ever did could not save Israel from the fatal results of the follies to which they clung. Jerusalem was destroyed,notwithstanding the prayers of Daniel, and the Jews are scattered among all lands, notwithstanding that the holy Prophet pleadedfor the prosperity of Zion. We can only pray according to the will of God and our prayers must be that you may be saved inthe Lord's own appointed way-we cannot ask Him to change His way for you.
Job prayed for his friends and his friends were forgiven. But, note it well, not without a sacrifice. They had to bring sevenbullocks and seven rams and offer up for themselves a burnt offering before the prayer of Job on their behalf was heard. Ifyou will bring a sacrifice for yourselves-if you will present Christ as your Sacrifice-then will our prayers go with yoursand you shall be blessed. Had they offered no sacrifice, Job's prayers could not have availed for them. You must believe inJesus with a faith distinctly your own. Were the whole Church on earth to lift up one continuous prayer and persevere in itfrom generation to generation, it could not save one unbelieving man! While he remains in unbelief, the wrath of God abideson him. If you buoy yourself up with a deceitful hope that it is different, you will presently sink down in blank despair.
What a man of prayer Moses was when he held back God's hand till the Lord cried, "Let Me alone, that I may destroy them."But Moses besought the Lord God with urgent prayer and he prevailed. Yet even Moses did not avert the
sentence pronounced on the generation which he had brought out of Egypt. Their carcasses all fell in the wilderness, saveJoshua and Caleb. Nor could these two righteous men preserve one single person beyond themselves. All the intercession ofMoses could not save an unbelieving generation. Because they believed not, they all died. As for Samuel, you will rememberhow he mourned for Saul, whom God had put away, till God said to him, "How long will you mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejectedhim?" He had to give it up and go and anoint David. The prayers of the devout Prophet could not save the disobedient king!
Oh, how this should take any of you off from a vain confidence in the prayers of others and lead you to pray for yourselves!And look to Christ for yourselves! A parent's prayers are a sad pretext for a child's presumption. Striving together in prayer,saint with saint, there is a mighty power. But what a strife is that when the soul we seek is struggling to be free from allrestraint only to plunge deeper into sin! Remember, beloved Friends, that all the prayers of godly men put together cannotalter the rule of the Kingdom of God. And what is the rule of the Kingdom of God? Here is one of the rules, "Except you areconverted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven." Suppose Noah and Daniel and Job,and Moses and Samuel and Jeremiah-those six-should pray God to let a man go to Heaven without being born from above and renewedby the Spirit of God? Would that be of any use? Do you think the constitution of the Kingdom of Heaven would be altered fortheir asking? Oh no! The will of God is not affected by the whims of men.
Well, here is another rule of the kingdom, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; he that believes not shall bedamned." Now if Noah, Job and Daniel were all to pray that this statute might be repealed and a resolution more consonantwith the caprice of mortal men should be substituted in its place, do you think the appeal would be allowed? Surely our criesto God must not be complaints of His decrees! Our petitions must be submissive to His Word, not subversive of His wisdom!He will not change the ordinances of His Kingdom because men are stubborn! Like the laws of the Medes and Persians, His decreescan never be altered! They stand fast forever and they exclude forever from Heaven those who abide in unbelief.
No, Sirs, if you are not reconciled to God, you cannot have fellowship with Him! If you are not made meet to be partakersof the inheritance, you cannot enter into the enjoyment of it! In the atmosphere of Heaven you could not breathe, for withoutholiness no man can see God! If you believe not in Jesus Christ, you must die in your sins! Remember that all the prayersof godly men cannot alter the nature of sin and if they cannot alter the nature of sin, then they that continue in it mustperish! If we were to hold a Prayer Meeting to prevent a person from being burnt who would put his hand into the fire, wouldthat be of any use? If a man who cannot swim will persist in leaping into the river, what is the use of my asking you allto pray God to preserve his life? If a man puts a bottle of acid to his lips and drinks it, what is the use of our comingtogether to pray that his life may be spared when the deadly poison is destroying it? If he drives a dagger into his heart,he must die, unless God is pleased to reverse that order, which, according to the poet, "is Heaven's first law."
There is a way of salvation-"Believe in Jesus Christ and live"-if you will not have that, where are you, my Friend? Are yousuch a fool as to sit there and say, "I shall be saved by my wife's prayers"? Your wife's prayers will rather seal your doom!They will rise up in judgment against you! That you were so much prayed for implies that you were admonished and entreatedat a most loving rate. You will not be able to say, "No man cares for my soul." A mother's prayers will ring in your earsand excite remorse when repentance is no more possible. The cries of the lost will be more terrible than the recollectionof her tears and agony for you. Oh, remember this! Sin is fire and it must burn! Sin is Hell and it must torment the man whocontinues in it! There is no help for it. Pray as much as ever we like, if you do not get out of sin, you cannot get out ofdestruction! If you do not find pardon through our Lord Jesus you must be punished!
Moreover, the prayers of good men cannot alter the conditions of the eternal future, so long as the present abides the same.This must be palpable to any sane judgment. The palace of luxury and time prison of penal servitude are but faint picturesof Heaven and Hell. What is Heaven? The abode of perfect spirits washed in the blood of the Lamb. The right of admission,how can it be obtained? There are qualifications that cannot be dispensed with. And there are disqualifications that cannotbe denied. As British subjects, we have a right of petition to our Queen. But of what use would that be, if with a requirednumber of signatures, we could ask her Majesty to confer the Victoria Cross on a burglar? Or how can you suppose that Godwill receive a rebel amongst His loyal courtiers? It cannot be!
And what is the meaning or purpose of Hell but this-that he that will have sin must have sorrow? He that will hate God mustbe miserable. There is no law more immutable than, "to be good is to be happy," and to be bad is sooner or later to be wretched.It must be so. Trust not, therefore, to the prayers of others, but come to Christ for yourselves, that you may be cleansedfrom sin and made right for Heaven. Perhaps you say, "Sir, I did not think prayer would suffice to effect a change in my circumstanceswithout a corresponding change in myself, but I thought that, somehow, by prayer, I should be compelled to believe and torepent."
Compelled to believe and to repent? Well, Man, what sort of repentance and faith must that be which comes of compulsion? Surelythat man's heart is not sincere who says, "I hope to go to Heaven, though it is against my own inclination." You would gladlybe made to hate sin against your will? That is strange! Are you to be made to love righteousness against your own liking?I have heard of fathers saying that their daughters should marry So-and-So, but I defy them to make them love those with whomthey have no feeling. No, these matters are far too delicate to be managed by coercion. It cannot be!
Neither does the Holy Spirit, Himself, employ force to compel those who are unwilling. He has a power that is quite congruouswith the freedom of the will by which He sweetly turns the mind and will by blessed argument and illumination. By enlighteningthe understanding, He controls the will. But, believe me, you will never be lugged into Heaven by your ears! You will neverbe strapped down and carried to Heaven as we see drunken women carried to the stationhouse on a stretcher. Have you ever fanciedthat such would be the case? Has such an absurd idea ever entered into your head, that somehow or other, without your everseeking it, you will be taken up by some celestial surgery and chloroformed into Glory?
It will not be so. Turn to this Book and see. How did the prodigal get to his father's house? Did his father asphyxiate himand make him insensible and then strap him down and carry him there? Not at all. But first he was hungry and he tried to fillhis belly with the husks, but he could not. And he became more hungry, still, and then he said, "I will arise, and go untomy father," and he went to his father. Yes, it was all of Grace, but still he arose and came unto his father. It was all ofeternal love, but he did leave the swine and seek his home. It was of infinite pity, but he did think and he did will to go!And, what is more, he did go to his father's house. He did all that and then, when he was a great way off, his father methim!
Now, believe me, though I always preach free, rich, Sovereign Grace with all my heart, I never understood and never shallunderstand that God treats us like logs of wood and blocks of marble, and cleaves or chips us about as if we had no life,or will, or intelligence! It is not so and only fools think in such a fashion! You are men, not dumb driven cattle! You willnot be saved like asses, but like men! You will not be saved like horses and mules and cats, but like men and women who canthink! You will have to think and you will have to hate your sin-and you will have to cry for mercy and you will have to believein Christ-and if you do not, you will perish! All the prayers that have ever been poured out can be of no use to save youexcept through your being brought to trust your Savior, hate your sin and become obedient to His will.
Do you believe this, dear Friends? It may be that out of this large congregation there are only a few to whom these statementsare particularly appropriate, but I thought that I would leave the 99 sheep in the wilderness-there are plenty of sweet grassesfor you in the quiet places of the Word of God-and I would go after some that have gone astray in this direction, for I longto find you. Oh that the blessed Spirit would convince you of your sin and lead you to say, "I have played the fool. I havebeen trusting to a privilege which I ought to have used for another purpose. Now, I will seek God and I will yield to theblessed Gospel and put my trust in Jesus." Remember, there is a righteousness which you can have-the righteousness of JesusChrist which can cover you. Though Noah and Daniel and Job cannot deliver you, Jesus can!
There is an intercession that can be heard for you-the intercession of One that lives and was dead-and now makes intercessionfor men and is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him. Come unto God by Him and His intercession isyours and shall be your health! And His righteousness is yours and shall be your covering! God grant it for the dear Redeemer'ssake. Amen and amen.