Sermon 2677. Spiritual Religion
INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S-DAY, JUNE 3, 1900.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK, ON A THURSDAY EVENING, EARLY IN THE YEAR 1858.
"It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing." John 6:63.
To a casual reader, it looks as if the meaning of this passage lay upon the very surface, but he who has studied the chaptercarefully has discovered that it is a sentence replete with many difficulties as to the exact interpretation of it. I shallnot, however, waste your time by entering into any critical discussion of it, but shall only try to give you simply what Ibelieve to be the mind of the Spirit, as uttered by the lips of Jesus in this passage. And after I have done that, I shallthen revert to what I shall call the meaning which any person would give to it who is not a diligent and careful student ofScripture. That meaning being true, although not the special Truth of God taught in this passage, I shall briefly enlargeupon it.
"It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing." I suppose there is not a man in the world who could form anyintelligent idea of what a spirit is. It is very easy for persons to define a spirit by saying what it is not, but I questionwhether there is, or ever could be, any man who could form any idea of what it is. We sometimes talk about seeinga spirit-ignorantpersons in ages gone by-and some living now in benighted villages talk about seeing spirits by night. They must know thatsuch talk is a contradiction. Matter can be seen, but a spirit, if it clothed itself in any light substance, could not eventhen be seen-it would only be the substance that would be visible! The spirit itself is a thing which can neither be tasted,handled, seen, nor discerned in any way whatever by our senses, for if it could thus be perceived, there would then be proofpositive that it was not a spirit at all, but that it belonged to the material realm. We divide all things into matter andspirit. And whatever can be recognized by the senses in any way, is matter, depend on it. A spirit is itself a thing too subtleto be either seen or in any other way perceived by the senses, so I repeat what I said just now, that I suppose there is noman living, and that there never will be any man in this mortal state who will be able to accurately define a spirit so asto say what it is, though he may be able to say what it is not.
Now, there is a region where there are spirits dwelling without any bodies being connected with them. It is certain that,in the world to come, in that state which now intervenes between the death of the saints and the day of the resurrection,they are dwelling before the Throne of God in a disembodied state-pure spirits, without any corporeal form whatever. It isquite certain that the saints before the Throne have no semblance of bodily shape whatever. They are pure spirits-beings whosesubstance we cannot imagine-purely immaterial, as they are also immaculate. But, on earth, you can find no such thing as apure spirit. We are all spirits in bodies and, somehow, from the fact that wherever we find souls and spirits, they are alwaysfound in bodies, we are very apt to confuse bodies and spirits together. But let us always understand that bodies and spiritsare distinct things and though it has pleased God, in this world, never to make a spirit without making a house for it todwell in, called the body, yet the body is not the spirit. "It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing."
You will easily perceive the truth of this passage if you will recollect that, in man's body, no one can tell where the lifeis situated. In vain the surgeon lays the body on the table and dissects it-he will find life neither in the brain nor inthe heart. He may cut the body in pieces as he pleases, but he will not find anything that he can lay hold upon, tangibleand real, and say, "That is life." He can see all the effects and evidences of life. He can watch the various parts of thebody
moving. He can behold all the appearances of life which are caused by a supernatural something, but he cannot see life. Thatis altogether beyond his skill and, after all his searching, he must lay down his scalpel and say at once, "There now, thetask is all over. There is a spirit that quickens this body, but in my search after life, this flesh profits me nothing. Imight as well search for a soul within a stone, or within one of the pillars that support this house, as search for a soulwithin mere flesh and blood if I look for something which I can see, which I can lay hold of, or which, by either taste, sight,smelling, or any other sense, I can distinguish and can designate as being a spirit."
So, Brothers and Sisters, this illustration just brings me to the Truth of God that is taught in our text. We are here assembled,at this moment, spirits, souls. Here we are, also, bodies, but these bodies are not ourselves-they are the houses in whichwe live. I question whether there is any man who can define what he, himself, is. The most that any man can say is, "I am.I know I have an existence, but what kind of thing my spirit is, I do not know, I cannot tell. I have no knowledge of whatit is. I feel it. I know it moves my body. I feel its outward manifestations. I am certain of my existence. But what I am,I know not. God alone can say." "I AM THAT I AM," is comprehensible only to God Himself. Man is a being incomprehensible tohimself and though the Lord may allow him to say, "By the Grace of God I am what I am," he cannot tell what he really is-hecannot fully comprehend his own existence!
Understand, then, that, as in our being there is a mystery in our flesh, so religion, the true religion of the blessed God,in order to be made like unto us and to be a something suitable to us, must be a religion of spirit But, because we also havea body, it must have a body in which to clothe itself. I want, if I can, to make this plain to you. And if you do not understandit now, I hope you will before I have done. We are spirits in bodies. Well, then, in order to meet our cases, the great workof God in us must be a spiritual thing! But in order that I may be able to talk about it to you and that you may be able tohear it with your ears, that spiritual thing must be encased in a body. Or else, if it were a purely spiritual thing, I couldnot explain it to you any more than I could explain to you about a spirit, if there were no body in which a spirit could befound, and no body in which I could be able to live to talk about it.
I want to show you this Truth very clearly, because there are some persons who are so busy about that which concerns merelythe body of religion that they altogether forget that religion has also a spirit. I believe that what our Lord Jesus meantin this passage was, "The mere embodiment of religion profits nothing; it is the spirit that quickens." Just as, to use myfigure over again, in order to perform an act the mere flesh and blood and arms and legs profit nothing, it is the spiritthat quickens all the bones and makes the nerves act as they ought to do and the sinews work as they should. And so religionhas its outward form, it has its ceremonies, it has its external and visible developments-its body-but the mere outward bodyof religion is of no use whatever unless the inward and invisible spirit quickens it.
I. To begin, then, I WILL FIRST SHOW YOU THIS TRUTH AS OUR SAVIOR, I THINK, MEANT IT WHEN HE FIRST OF ALL STATED IT.
There were some people, in our Savior's day, who admired Christ merely as a Man. And they thought there was some marvelousefficacy in His flesh and blood. To them He said, using almost the very words of our text, "Even My flesh will profit younothing; it is the spirit that quickens." I must state this Truth of God very cautiously, yet very plainly. When our Saviorwas upon this earth, there were some, I repeat, who admired His Person. You remember how our Savior rebuked the woman whosaid to Him, "Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You"? He would not have people simply admireHis flesh and think so much of His mere Humanity, so He said to her, "More than that, blessed are they who hear the Word ofGod and keep it."
There were some other people who wanted to take the Lord Jesus and make Him a king, but, in effect, He said to them, "My flesh,even if you exalt it to a throne, will profit you nothing. I did not come here that you might bow down and venerate My mereflesh-that you might think the mere admiration of My mortal frame is vital religion. It is the spirit, the Gospel that I cameto preach, that will benefit you. It is not these outward appearances. It is My thoughts, Words and acts which are to blessyou." Hear what the Savior says in the next sentence, "It is not your admiration of My flesh that is of any use to you, forMy flesh profits nothing; it is the spirit that quickens; and if you want to know what is the spirit of My Incarnation, Itell you that the Words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life. It is not your venerating My flesh and blood,it is your reception of My doctrines that will be the heart and soul of the religion that I desire you to possess."
Our Savior was, however, led to make these remarks from the fact that the ignorant Jews, when Jesus talked about eating Hisflesh and drinking His blood, really thought that He meant that they were to turn cannibals and eat Him up. You may well smileat so ridiculous an idea, yet you know that the idea is still prevalent in the Church of Rome. The Romish priest solemnlyassures us that the people who eat the bread and drink the wine, or the stuff he calls bread and wine, do actually act thepart of cannibals and eat the body of Christ and drink His blood. You say to him, "You mean, my dear Sir, that they do itin a figure, spiritually." "No," he says, "I do not. I mean to say that after I have pronounced certain words over that bread,it becomes Christ's flesh. And after I have said a certain prayer over that wine, it becomes His actual blood." "Well," wereply to him, "it is very singular, and you certainly cannot expect us to believe you while God allows our heads to be occupiedby brains! But even if we do believe you, my dear Sir, we refer you to this passage which says, 'It is the Spirit that quickens;the flesh profits nothing.' You tell the people that they do actually and really receive the body and blood of Christ. Supposethey do-it is no earthly use to them! And even if they could carnally bite the flesh with their teeth and drink the blooddown their throats, it would be of no more use to them than the eating of the flesh and blood of any other man. It could beof no service whatever to them, for Christ Himself denounces the error of transubstantiation and declares that even His fleshprofits nothing! It is only the spirit, the spiritual receiving of that flesh and blood, that can be of any use whatever."
While I am referring to this point, allow me to say just a few more words upon it, for Popery prevails in this day, and thedoctrine that the bread and wine are turned into the body and blood of Christ is the bulwark of Popery. Dr. Carson, of Coleraine,son of Dr. Carson the eminent Baptist, has challenged Dr. Cahill in a remarkable way. He has challenged Dr. Cahill to provethat he can turn the bread and wine used in the sacrament into Christ's body and blood. He offers to give Dr. Cahill a hundredpounds if he will let him make a wafer for him and, if Dr. Cahill will then put it on his own tongue and swallow it in Mr.Carson's presence, "if the Doctor is not dead in an hour," says Dr. Carson, "I'll give him a hundred pounds." "No," says someone,"that is not fair." "Oh, but if he can turn it into the body and blood of Christ, it cannot hurt him, whatever it may contain.""But would you make it of poison, then?" "Yes, the deadliest I could find." "Would you give him poison?" "I would not giveit to him-he would swallow it himself-he would do it of his own voluntary choice." Of course Dr. Cahill will not submit tothat test! He knows that he cannot turn the wafer and the wine into the body and blood of Christ-if he could, Dr. Carson saysit would not hurt him, for the body and blood of Christ would poison no one.
But some wise Romanist says, "That is not a fair test. Dr. Cahill does not pretend to turn poison into the body and bloodof Christ-it is only pure bread and wine that can thus be manipulated." "Very well," says Dr. Carson, "I'll try him anotherway. I will let him choose a youth from seven or eight Catholic boys. He shall take a quart of wine and turn this wine, inhis own peculiar way, into the blood of Christ. The boy shall drink the quart of wine and if he is not drunk in six hours,I will pay the hundred pounds." "Now," says Dr. Carson, "if that liquid is really the blood of Christ, it will not make himdrunk! He might drink a barrel of it and it would not make him intoxicated." But Dr. Cahill dares not accept such a trialas that, for it would very soon be found that the so-called "consecrated" wine would make the boy intoxicated as quickly asany other wine would! Therefore it cannot be turned, even by the great Doctor, himself, into the blood of Christ. [We assumeDr. Cahill is a priest.]
The fact is, the lie is so foolish, the delusion is so absurd, that any child of a reasonable age would as soon think of believingthe cock and bull story which we used to read in our childish days, about what the bull said, and what the cock said, to beactual truth, as to imagine it to be a literal fact that any priest, or any man in the world, could ever turn bread and wineinto flesh and blood! But even if they could, hear again the words of our text-"It is the spirit that quickens; the fleshprofits nothing." So, then, after all, the Roman Catholic "sacrament," if it is actually a cannibal's feast upon the bodyand blood of Christ, is of no earthly use! But that Divinely-appointed ordinance wherein we do spiritually receive the fleshand blood of Jesus and, in a spiritual way hold communion with Him, is that alone which quickens!
This brings me to the Truth of God that I want you, dear Friends, especially to understand. As Christ Jesus in His flesh wasthe embodiment of His own doctrine, and yet not His flesh, but the spirit of His doctrine quickens souls, so the outward formsand ceremonies which Christ has made to be the body to contain the spirit of His Truth, are of no earthly use at all unlessthe Spirit of God is in them!
Take, for instance, the ordinance of Believers' Baptism-there are the pool and the water. That pool and that water are, soto speak, the flesh and blood of dedication. The right observance of that holy ordinance signifies that we do solemnly devoteourselves to the Lord Jesus. Suppose, however, our hearts are in a wrong condition, or that we are not converted persons-supposethere is no influence of the Spirit resting upon us during the act of Baptism? Then the act of Baptism is like the flesh apartfrom the spirit-it is a dead thing, it profits nothing because it is without the soul. We come, the next Sabbath, to the Lord'sTable-there is the bread broken by God's servant. There is the wine reverently handed round by the deacons of the Church andit is sipped by the communicants. But, mark you, however devoutly the whole service is performed, unless the Spirit of theliving God breathes through the Divine ordinance, "the flesh"-that is, the mere embodiment of communion-will profit you nothing!You might sit at a thousand communion tables and you might be baptized in a myriad pools-but all this would not avail onejot or tittle for your salvation unless you had the Spirit of God to quicken you!
No, to go further, it is not these two outward ordinances only that need the Spirit in them-it is so in everything else. Youhave sometimes read, dear Friends, of some eminent Christians who grew to have much fellowship with Christ by prayer. Perhapsyou imbibed the idea that if you were to go home and spend as many hours in your closet as they did, you would get as muchprofit by it-but not thinking about the Holy Spirit, you simply devote yourself to private prayer as you might to any manualexercise-with a hope of profiting by the exercise. I tell you, you might be on your knees till your knees were worn bare andyou might be in your closet till the steam of your devotion ran down the walls, but unless the Spirit of the Lord was in thatcloset with you, the mere fleshly exercise of praying would no more avail and profit you than if you had been chanting songsto the moon, or standing in the street to sell your goods!
Another hears that a certain person has been very much blessed by reading a text of Scripture. "Oh," he says, "has that textbeen blessed to such an one? Then I'll go and read the same passage." You think that if you do the same as he does, you willbe equally blessed and you are marvelously surprised that when you read the passage, it does you no good. It made his spiritleap for joy. It filled his soul with the wine of the Kingdom of God, but to you it is like a dry well, or an empty bottle.Why is this? The mere letter, in which the promise is revealed, profits you nothing-it is the spirit of the promise, it isthe life of the Holy Spirit running through the veins of the promise that alone can profit you! You hear that another manmeditates on God's Law day and night and becomes like a tree planted by the rivers of water. You say, "I will take care that,every morning, I will read a chapter out of the Scriptures and that, every night, I will read twochap-ters." There are certainpeople who think that if they read a good passage out of the Bible, they have done a great deal. In that kind of spirit, theymight just as well read a portion out of Hudibras, for they just read it straight through, without thinking or understandingit.
Many of our ministers think that in the public service they must read a certain quantity of Scriptures and they take, perhaps,three long chapters out of Ezekiel-and not a soul in the congregation knows the meaning of what they are reading! If theywere to read a Dutch sermon in an English chapel, it would do the hearers just about as much good, for no one understandswhat they read. Instead of reading, as Ezra did, and expounding the meaning to the people, they must go on over hedge andditch-one continual steeple-chase! Instead of stopping to crack the shells and give the kernels of Truth to the people, theyread right on, without attempting to give any explanation of the passage. To such persons, we would simply say, "Your Biblereading is but the flesh, it is of no use to you, 'it is the spirit that quickens.' The mere flesh, the outward fashion andform of Bible reading will not profit anybody. One sentence of the Bible prayed over and bedewed with the Spirit, and madealive, though it is only a short sentence of six words, will profit you more than a hundred chapters without the Spirit, becausethey are 'flesh'-dead! But the one verse with the Spirit is the thing that quickens."
I do not know whether I have as yet brought out the full meaning of the text, but I want to let everyone understand that itis not the mere outward embodiment of our religion that saves the soul and that profits us-it is the inner spirit of the thingthat does us good. Mark, I would not find fault with any of these forms, any more than I would find fault with our bodiesbecause they are not spirits. Our bodies are good things for our spirits to live in and the forms of religion are good thingsfor the spirit of religion to live in-but the form without the spirit, though it is the most decorous, and apparently themost devout that can be presented to God, can be of no use for our soul's eternal profit and ultimate salvation. "It is thespirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing."
Now, my dear Friend, Mr. So-and-So, if you will just take out your pencil and cast up your accounts for all the years of yourlife, the sum of them all will come to very little if what I say is true. "I think," you say, "I am a tolerably good sortof man. I have a few faults, but just look at what I have done! I have been to Chapel twice every Sunday almost since I wasa boy-I don't know that I missed once, except when I was ill-that has been very good of me, and no mistake. I always readthe Bible every morning. I always have family prayer-that is very good of me. Another item to be reckoned to my account-Isay my prayers when I go to bed at night, and when I get up in the morning. I very frequently go to Prayer Meetings. I don'tthink anyone can reasonably find fault with me. Really, I think I do everything to make me a truly religious man."
Ah, and did you put at the end of it, "Lord, I thank You that I am not as other men are-unjust, extortioners," and so on,or even like that poor fellow, a Sabbath-breaker, whom you saw going the opposite way as you were coming to your usual placeof worship? It is a pity you didn't finish it up in that fashion-but if you did not in words, you finished it up so in yourheart! I pray God to show you that all these beautiful things of yours are good for nothing! There are your Chapel-goings-allflesh! There are your Bible readings-all flesh! There are your family prayers-all flesh! There are your good works and excellences-allflesh! You have never received the Spirit of the living God-you dare not say that you have. Well, then, all these things willprofit you nothing whatever.
"It is the spirit that quickens," you know, my dear Sir-and let me speak very pointedly-you know that you never enter intothe spirit of the things of which you have been speaking. Though you go to your church or chapel regularly, yet you know thatyou might very often just as well be at home, for when the worshippers sing, you do not sing with all your heart-and whenthe minister preaches, it is seldom there is much that touches you, unless it is what you call "a good intellectual discourse,"which happens to please you-and you believe it just because it agrees with your views. You know that, into the inward soul,marrow and heart of devotion, you have never yet learned to penetrate. Your devotion is like a certain ox which was slainas a sacrifice in the time of siege in Rome, and was said to forecast evil because, when the sorcerer slew it, he declaredthat he could not find a heart anywhere. He looked through all the entrails, but no heart could he discover and, therefore,the Romans declared that their city must be destroyed. It was an omen of ill fortune, they said, when the sacrifice had noheart in it.
It is just the same with you. You have done all these things and there has been as much reality in what you have done as therewas devotion in the poor fool's windmill, when he tied a prayer to it and put it up in the garden-every time it blew round,he counted that as one more prayer. There was as much heart in your prayer as there was in his windmill- that is to say, noneat all! Go on no longer with this useless round of performances, I implore you. I would not have you give up the performances,but seek the spirit that can make them true and acceptable in God's sight. Stop awhile and ask God to give you that inwardspirit that quickens, for that is what is needed-"the flesh profits nothing."
But I must also speak to you who are the children of God, and I must ask you-How often do you forget this all-important Truthof God? I know it is not likely that I would leave my chamber any morning without prayer. But, oh, Brothers and Sisters, Ihave often left it without having the spirit of prayer! I should not like to pass a day without reading the Scriptures, butI am afraid it is very often the mere "flesh" of formal reading and not the spirit breathing in the Word. And how often isour conscience satisfied with the mere form without the spirit? Now, if we were what we ought to be, we would never be contentwith the form unless we could also see the spirit in it.
Mother, would you be content to have at home a child who was dead? Suppose someone should say to you, "Why, this child isjust as good a child as ever it was! Look at it! It has not lost a leg, or an arm, or any part of its body!" "Ah, but," youwould say, "it is dead." "Oh," says one, "there is no great difference. It looks as beautiful, now, as ever it did." "Ah,"says the poor mother, "but there is a vast deal of difference between what it was when it was alive, and what it is now itis dead." Just transfer that idea to your poor dead prayers, your poor dead Bible readings, your poor dead sacraments, yourpoor dead goings to chapel and all that! Ah, how many of our sacrifices are just poor dead things when we bring them to theLord! They have died in the night and then we come and offer them before God! How frequently do we satisfy our consciencewith having "the flesh"-the embodiment of the sacrifice-and yet, all the while, we forget the spirit! But let us rememberthat God only looks for the life. He does not trouble about the body and we ought, in all we do for him, to take care, firstof all, that the spirit is there and then we may rest quite sure that the flesh and blood of the devotion will take care ofthemselves.
II. This, I believe, is the true meaning of the passage. But the common rendering of it, if anyone reads it without noticingthe context, would be, "Why, that means, 'It is the Spirit that quickens.' That is to say, 'IT IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THAT QUICKENS;THE FLESH PROFITS NOTHING.'"
Our friend will excuse me when I say that it cannot mean that. You notice that the "s" in the word, "spirit," in the texthas not a capital letter. If it meant the Holy Spirit, it would be so marked, to separate it from the spirit to which I havejust referred-the inward spirit, the life of a thing. This word, "spirit," here does not mean the Holy Spirit. Still, almostevery ordinary reader would make that mistake and say, "It is the Holy Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing." Well,it is a mistake that will not do him any hurt, because if it does not say so here, it does say so somewhere else! And if itis not true in this one particular text, it is true all over the Bible! And it is true in a Christian's experience, so thata man may make a great many worse mistakes than that. Well, then, let us for once make that mistake, and then let us get theTruth of God out of it-"It is the Holy Spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing"-
"Can anything beneath a power Divine
The stubborn will subdue?
'Tis Yours, Eternal Spirit, Yours
To form the heart anew.
'Tis Yours the passions to recall,
And upwards bid them rise
And make the scales of error fall
From Reason's darkened eyes.
To chase the shades of death away,
And bid the sinner live-
A beam of Heaven, a vital ray-
'Tis Yours alone to give."
How often have I thought, when I have been preaching, "There is a young woman in the gallery and down there in that area isa young man-how interested they look during the sermon!" I have met with them, I have admired their characters. They havehad an amiable carriage and deportment. There has been much in them that everybody would tell others to imitate and emulate.I have said, "Ah, I shall soon have them added to the Church-there is so much that is good about them, it will be such aneasy transition for them-they are so moral and so excellent, surely it will be very easy for them to take a step into theKingdom of Heaven." I don't say that I have said so much as that in words to my heart, but that has been about what I havethought. Well, there has been a very different sort of fellow, a strange looking object, certainly, who came running intothe Chapel one Thursday evening, towards the end of the service. He was not even washed, nor in any way prepared for Divineworship-he only came to hear something that would make him laugh, as he thought. I did not expect to have him converted, butthe next time I sat to see enquirers, in he came-cleaned and brushed up-but I recognized him, for all that, and I said tohim, "Didn't you come into the Chapel, one Thursday night, after you had been hammering and tinkering away somewhere? I thoughtyou looked a strange customer, certainly." "Yes," he said, "and the Lord met with me that night!"
Now, I sat many and many a time to see enquirers, but I did not see the young man or the young woman come. Why was this? TheLord meant to teach His servant that "the flesh profits nothing." That man seemed to me far from God, but that young man andthat young woman seemed very near. But the Lord said to me, "I will let you learn that all their morality and all their goodnessdid not put them near the Kingdom of Heaven, or help towards their salvation. I could save one as well as the other, and ifI chose to show My Sovereignty, I might even let publicans and harlots enter the Kingdom of Heaven before those who, becomingproud of their morality, would not stoop before Me."
Have you not, sometimes, met with a person of such a peculiar character that you have said, "Is it not a pity someone cannottalk with that man?" I often have notes of this sort. A father writes to me, "I wish you could get hold of my son. He is avery interesting young man. If you were to put the Truth before him to suit his turn of mind, he would be sure to lay holdof it, for if you knew how he was mentally constituted, you would say at once there was a peculiar adaptation in his mindfor the reception of the Gospel." Well, I have been told that a dozen times, but I never found it true even once! "The fleshprofits nothing." No peculiar adaptation of mind is any more susceptible of Gospel influences than another. Dead sinners areall dead and all dead alike! Some may be black and some may be white-some may be well washed and
dressed, and some may have all the mire and filth of sensuality about them-but they are all dead! And when converting Gracecomes to deal with them, it finds as much for its exercise in the one case as in the other. It finds as much to help it inthe one heart as in the other-that is to say, it finds nothing to help it at all. It brings all that is helpful within itself-itkindles its own fire with its own torch! It blows the fire with its own breath and asks for nothing in the sinner, be he whohe may!
Then, again, we have sometimes said, "If such-and-such a man were converted, dear me, what a shining Christian he would make!He is a man of brilliant talents, of great intellectual power and of extensive fortune. Oh, if he were but converted, whata jubilee it would be to the Church of God! How much he would do for Christ!" Well, do you know, I have always found out thatthese fine people who, when they were converted, were to be something extraordinary-if they have been converted and we havegot them-have not turned out to be quite so great after all! I knew a minister once, who, with great joy and gladness, baptizeda man. It was on a New-Year's Day and I remember with what self-congratulation he said, "The Lord has sent me one of the bestNew-Year's gifts I ever had." And he looked upon that man and said, "Ah, this is a Brother! He is a great gain to the Church.He is a man of such active spirit, of such an excellent turn of mind and he is everything that could be desired." Well, Ihave just happened to live long enough to see that man tear the church apart and drive the minister out of his pulpit! Andhe is still alive-a thorn in the side of that church and a huge prickly bramble that they would be glad enough to eradicate-butthey have not the power to do that. No, the Lord will show us that "the flesh profits nothing." "You may have him," says theLord, "if he is such a fine fellow, take him. You will find he will not be much good to you, after all. I will let you knowthat 'the flesh profits nothing.' 'It is the Spirit alone that quickens.'"
On the other hand, we have seen some come whose "flesh" could not help them. They were the poor, the mean, the illiterate,the despised-and we have seen the Grace of God blaze up in their hearts to an intense degree of fervor! And we have seen themstand confident and strong, notwithstanding the nothingness of the flesh. And then we have said, "Verily, O God, it is marveloushow, when the flesh is weak, Your Grace is strong." And we have heard an answer from "the excellent glow," which said, "Ah,the flesh profits nothing; it is the Spirit that quickens."
Now, I do not believe that there is any form of our flesh, nor any act of our flesh, nor anything that our flesh can do, orattempt to do, or think of, or suggest, that can in any way assist in the great spiritual work of our salvation. It is theSpirit alone that quickens, and you will find, till you die, that "the flesh profits nothing," and profits no one except thedevil. It often profits him, but in God's ways. And in God's holy Gospel, you will always find the flesh lusting against theSpirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. You will have to feel this Truth, that the flesh at its best estate profits nothing."It is the Spirit that quickens."
Now, my Brothers and Sisters, in conclusion, I will ask you this question-Have you received the influences of the Holy Spirit?And have those influences led you to worship God, who is a Spirit, "in spirit and in truth?" For, if not, though some mayput you in the cradle of ceremonies and rock you to sleep, I will not be one of them! Although men may tell you you are rightenough because you are outwardly so religious, because you are no Sabbath-breaker, no swearer, no drunkard, I warn you thatunless you are born again from above, you cannot see the Kingdom of God! And when drunks, harlots and all manner of ungodlypersons shall be driven from the Presence of God, you, also, shall share their fate, for you are dead in trespasses and sins,even as they are! If you would ever enter Heaven, you must be quickened by the Holy Spirit. No more shall I say, but earnestlyentreat the Spirit of the blessed God to impress upon your hearts this solemn thought and lead you to renounce the works ofthe flesh-and put your trust in Him "who is the Savior of all men, especially of those that believe." May the Lord's mercyrest upon you all, for Jesus' sake! Amen.