Sermon 2914. A Mournful Defection
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1904.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON A LORD'S-DAY EVENING, IN THE YEAR 1877.
"Will you also go away?" John 6:67.
No mischief that ever befalls our Christian communities is more lamentable than that which comes from the defection of themembers. The heaviest sorrow that can wring a pastor's heart is such as comes from the betrayal of his most familiar friend.The direst calamity the Church can dread is not such as will arise from the assault of enemies outside, but from false brethrenand traitors within the camp. My eminent predecessor, Benjamin Keach, though arrested, brought before the magistrates, imprisoned,pilloried and otherwise made to suffer by the Government of the times for the Gospel doctrines that he preached and published,found it easier to brook the rough usage of open foes than to bear the griefs of wounded love, or sustain the shock of outragedconfidence. I should not think his experience was very exceptional. Other saints would have preferred the rotten eggs of thevillagers to the rooted animosities of slanderers. Troy could never be taken by the assaults of the Greeks outside her walls.Only when, by trickery, the enemy had been admitted within the citadel was that brave city compelled to yield. The devil himselfwas not such a subtle foe to Christ as was Judas, when, after the Supper, Satan entered into him. Judas was a friend of Jesus.Jesus addressed him as such. And Judas said, "Hail, Master," and kissed Him. But Judas it was who betrayed Him! That is apicture which may well appall you-that is a peril which may well admonish you.
In all our churches, among the many who enlist, there are some who desert. They continue awhile and then they go back to theworld. The radical reason why they retire is an obvious incongruity. "They went out from us, but they were not of us; forif they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us." The unconverted adherents in our fellowship are no lossto the church when they depart. They are not a real deficit, any more than the scattering of the chaff from the threshingfloor is a detriment to the wheat. Christ keeps the winnowing fan always going. His own preaching constantly sifted His hearers.Some were blown away because they were but chaff. They did not really believe. By the ministry of the Gospel, by the orderof Providence, by all the arrangements of Divine Government, the precious are separated from the vile, the dross is purgedaway from the silver so that the Good Seed and the pure metal may remain and be preserved. The process is always painful.It causes great searching of heart among those who abide faithful-and occasions deep anxiety to gentle spirits of tender,sympathetic mold.
I trust, dear Friends, that you will not think I harbor any ungenerous suspicions of your fidelity because my text containsas pointed and so personal an appeal to your conscience. There is more of pathos than of passion in the question as our Lordputs it-"You will not go away, will you?" He addressed the favored twelve. I put it to myself. I put it to those who are theofficers of the Church. I put it to every member without exception-Will you also go away? But should there be one to whomit is peculiarly applicable, I do not desire to flinch from putting the question most personally to that one-"What? Are yougoing? Do youmean to turn back? Do youmean to go away?"
I. Let us approach the enquiry sideways. "Will you also go away?" "Also" means "as well as other people." WHY DO OTHERS GO?If they have any good reason, perhaps we may see cause to follow their example. Look narrowly, then, at the various causesor excuses for defection. Why do they renounce the religious profession they once espoused? The
fundamental reason is lack of Grace, a lack of true faith, an absence of vital godliness. It is, however, the outward reasonswhich expose the inward apostasy of the heart from Christ of which I am anxious to treat.
Some there are in these days, as there were in our Lord's own day, who depart from Christ because they cannot bear His Doctrine.Our Lord had more explicitly than on any former occasion declared the necessity of the soul's feeding upon Himself. They probablymisunderstood His language, but they certainly took offense at His statements. Hence there were those who said, "This is anhard saying; who can bear it?" So they walked no more with Him.
There are many points and particulars in which the Gospel is offensive to human nature and revolting to the pride of the creature.It was not intended to please man. How can we attribute such a purpose to God? Why should He devise a goal to suit the whimsof our poor fallen human nature? He intended to save men, but He never intended to gratify their depraved tastes. Rather doesHe lay the axe to the root of the tree and cut down human pride. When God's servants are led to set forth some humbling Doctrine,there are those who say, "We will never assent to that." They kick against any Truth of God which clashes with their prejudices.What do you say, Brothers and Sisters, to the claims of the Gospel on your allegiance? Should you discover that God's Wordrebukes your favorite pleasure, or contradicts your cherished convictions, will you forthwith take the huff and go away? No,but if your hearts are right with Christ, you will be prepared to welcome all His teaching and yield obedience to all Hisprecepts. Only prove it to be Christ's teaching and the right-minded professor is ready to receive it. That which is transparenton the face of Scripture he will cordially accept, as he says, "To the Law and to the Testimony: if they speak not accordingto this Word, it is because there is no light in them." As far that which is merely inferred and argued from the general driftof Scripture, the true heart will not be hasty to reject, but patient to investigate, like the Bereans who "were more noblethan the Jews of Thessalonica, in that they searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
Oh, that the Word of Christ may dwell in us richly! God forbid that any of us should ever turn aside, being offended becauseof Him, His blessed Son, His holy example, or His sacred teaching! May we be always ready to believe what He says and promptto do what He commands! Remember, Brothers, that the Gospel commission has three parts to which the minister has to attend.We are to first go and preach the Gospel. " Go you, and disciple all nations." The second part is, "baptizing them." And thethird part is, "teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you." As willing disciples of Jesus, let uspress forward, paying attention to His voice, following in His footsteps, and counting His revealed will as our supreme law.Far be it from us to go back from Him because we are offended at His Doctrine!
Others there are who desert for the sake of gain. Many have been entangled in that snare. Mr. By-Ends originally went on pilgrimagebecause he thought it would pay. There was a silver mine on the road and he purposed to survey it and see whether silver mightnot be obtained there as well as at the golden city beyond. He came, if I remember rightly, of a family that got its livingby the waterman's business, looking one way and pulling another. He was apparently striving for religion, though all the whilehe had his eye on the world. He was for holding with the hare and running with the hounds! So, when he came to a point wherehe must part with one or the other, he considered which would, upon the whole, be the more profitable and gave up that whichappeared to involve loss and self-sacrifice-and kept to that which would, as he called it, "help him in the main chance,"and assist him to get on in the present life. Sincerely do I trust there is no one among us but who despises Mr. By-Ends andall of his class! If you would make money-and there need be nothing sinful in that-do let it be made honestly. Never let richesbe pursued under the pretense of religion! Sell your wares and find a market for your merchandise, but do not sell Christ,nor barter a heavenly birthright for a worthless bribe! Put what goods you please into your shop window, but do not put acanting, hypocritical expression on your face, or "wear a holy look," with a view of turning godliness into gain.
Some leave Christ, and go away, terrified by persecution. Nowadays, it is supposed that there is no such thing, but that isa mistake, for though martyrs are not burned at Smithfield and the Lollards' Tower is a place for show (a memorial of timeslong ago), yet the harassment, the cruelty and the oppression are far enough from being obsolete! Godless husbands play thepart of petty tyrants and will not permit their wives the enjoyment of religion, but make their lives bitter with a gallingbondage! Employers full often wreak malice on servants whose piety towards God is their sole cause of offense. Worse still,there are working men who consider themselves intelligent who cannot allow their fellow workman liberty to go to a place ofworship without sneers and jeers and cruel mocking! In many cases the mirth of the workshop is never louder than when it isturned against a believer in Christ! They count it rare fun to hunt a man who cares
for the salvation of his soul. They call themselves, "Englishmen," but certainly they are no credit to their country! Lookat the base-born, ill-bred cowards-yonder is an atheist-he is raving about his rights because the magistrate will not believehim on his oath! He claims liberty of conscience to be a heathen, but denies his comrade's right to be a Christian! Look atthat little party of British workmen-they belong to the Sabbath Desecration Society. They are petitioning Parliament to openmuseums and theatres on Sundays and at the same time they are hounding to death a poor fellow who prefers going to Chapel!They air their own self-respect by the words they utter, while they betray their self-abasement by the scorn they vent onthose who presume to sing a hymn. They hail the drunkard as a chum and rout the sober man as a fiend! I wonder that thereis not more honorable feeling, more good faith and true fellowship among our skilled workmen than to permit one man beingmade the butt of a whole community!
God give you Grace to bear such persecutions as these! If they cut you to the quick, may you learn to bear them with equanimityand even to rejoice that you are counted worthy to suffer for the Savior's sake! Some of us have had to "run the gauntlet"for many years. What we have said has been constantly misrepresented. What we have endeavored to do has been misjudged andour motives have been misunderstood. Yet here we are, as happy as anybody out of Heaven! We have not been injured by any orall the calumnies that have been heaped upon us. Our foes would have crushed us, but, blessed be God, He cheered us oftenwhen we were cast down. The Lord give you, in like manner, strength of mind and courage of heart to bear the trial manfully!Then you will care no more for the laughter and the sneers of men than you do for the noise of those migratory birds highoverhead which you hear on an autumn evening as they are making their weary journey to a distant clime. Take heart, Brothersand Sisters! Fear God and face your accusers. True courage grows strong on opposition. Never think of deserting the army ofChrist! Least of all should you play the coward because of the insolence of some ill-mannered bully. Let not your faith bevanquished by such scoffing. Alas, that so many a cowardly spirit has gone away for the sake of carnal ease-and deserted Christ-whenhe has become the drunkard's jest and the derision of fools!
There are some people who forsake true religion out of sheer lightheartedness. I know not how to account for some men's defections.If you take up the list of shipwrecks, you will notice some that have gone down through collisions and others through strikingupon rocks, but sometimes you read of a vessel, "Foundered at sea." How it happened, no, one knows-the owner himself cannotexplain it! There are some professors who, concerning faith, have made shipwreck under such apparently easy circumstances-sofree from trial, so exempt from temptation, that we have not seen anything to awaken anxiety on their behalf-yet all of asudden they have foundered. We are startled and amazed. I remember one who fell into a gross sin, of whom a Brother unwiselysaid, "If that man is not a Christian, I am not." His prayers had certainly been sweet. Many a time they had melted me downbefore the Throne of Grace and yet the life of God could not have been in his soul, for he lived and died in flagrant viceand was impenitent to the last! Such cases I can only attribute to a sort of lightheadedness which can be charmed with a sermonor a play-take a pew at the Chapel or a box at the opera with equal nonchalance and eagerly follow the excitement of the hour,"everything by turns and nothing long." "Unstable as water, they shall not excel."
On the spur of the moment, they profess Christianity, though they do not espouse it. And then, without troubling themselvesto renounce it, they drop off into infidelity. They are soft and malleable enough to be hammered into any shape. Made of wax,they can be molded by any hand that is strong enough to grip them. The Lord have mercy upon any of you who may happen to beof that type! You spring up soon and suddenly you wither. Hardly is the seed sown before the sprout appears! What a wonderfulharvest you promise! But, ah, no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than, because there is no depth of soil, thegreen shoot withers away. Pray God that you may be plowed deep, that the iron pan of rock underneath may be broken right up,that you may have plenty of subsoil and root-hold, that the verdure you produce may be permanent. Lack of principles is deadly,but the lack is far too common. Never cease to pray that you may be rooted and grounded, established and built up in Christso that when the floods come and the winds blow, you may not fall with a great destruction-as that house fell which was builtupon the sand!
But, oh, what multitudes are tempted aside from following Christ and His Church by evil companions! They do not avoid thesociety of the wicked and as a man is known by the company he keeps, we soon discover the direction in which they are drawn.The more intimately we know them, the more readily we perceive their propensities. Have a care, then, with whom you associate.Never confide in those persons of whose principles you have good cause to stand in doubt.
Above all, let me admonish you young people not to be "unequally yoked together." Marriage without the fear of God is a fearfulmistake. Those ill-assorted unions between Believers and unbelievers rob our churches of more members than any other populardelinquency that I know of! Seldom-I might almost say never-do I meet with a woman professing godliness who becomes joinedin wedlock to a man of the world but what she goes away. She ceases to follow Jesus and we hear no more of her. Absorbed inthe pursuits, the pains and the pleasures of the life that now is, she is sucked under the stream and drawn into the vortex.In the romance of her courtship, she glibly said, "I shall win him," but, in the reality of their conjugal bonds, he couldcoolly say, "I have won you." Probably the stronger nature wins the day. In this case, however, a precept of the Gospel isviolated and the penalty of disobedience is incurred. It is much easier for the one who professes religion to give up thefaith, after laying down the Cross, than for another who has no religion to take up the Cross and follow the Savior in whomhe has never yet believed! I counsel you, young man or woman, who contemplate a marriage on the basis of capricious attraction,without reference to the sanctity of the relationship before God, to communicate your intention to your minister and renounceyour membership in the Church before you say your vows! Voluntarily give up all profession of religion! Do not wait to beexcommunicated! Do not sneak away without giving an account of yourself. You had better count the cost and pay the price ofyour own presumption. Should your unwarranted but sanguine hopes succeed and your earnest endeavors to gain the conversionof your helpmeet be successful, that would be an uncovenanted mercy! If God chose to give it to you, it would not even thenexcuse you for tempting Him by your waywardness, or provoking Him to jealousy by your willfulness! There is an express command,"Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers." I appeal to every Christian man or woman who has been converted sincemarriage- Do you not find it exceedingly difficult to keep up your courage when one pulls one way and one another? And doesit not cut you to the quick to think that your union is but temporary-that however dear you may be to each other now, youwill be parted at the Judgment Seat of Christ-parted to meet no more? The Lord make us careful about our associates, aboutthose among whom we stand, by whom we sit, with whom we walk!
And oh, how many leave Christ for the sake of sensual enjoyments! I will not enlarge upon this. Certain, however, is it thatthe pleasures of sin for a season fascinate their minds till they sacrifice their souls at the shrine of sordid vanity. Fora merry dance, a wanton amusement, or a transient joy that would not bear reflection, they have renounced the pleasures thatnever pall, the immortal hopes that never fail and turned their backs upon that blessed Savior who gives and feeds the tastefor unspeakable joy, for joy full of glory!
In our pastoral oversight of such a huge Church as this, we have painful evidence that considerable numbers gradually growcold. The elders' reports on the absentees reiterate the vain excuses for non-attendance. One has so many children. The distanceis too great for another. When they joined the Church, their family was just as large and the distance was just the same!But the household cares become more irksome when the concern for religion begins to flag-and the fatigue of travelling increaseswhen their zeal for the House of God falters. The elders fear they are growing cold. No actual transgression can we detect,but there is a gradual declension over which we grieve. I dread that cold-heartedness-it steals so insensibly yet so surelyover the entire frame. I do not say that it is worse than open sin. It cannot be. Yet it is more insidious. A flagrant delinquencywould startle one as a fit does a patient, but a slow process of backsliding may steal like paralysis over a person withoutawakening suspicion. Like the sleep which comes over men in the frozen regions-if they yield to it they will never wake again.You must be awakened or else this inactivity will surely end in death! "Gray hairs are here and there upon him, yet he knowsnot." Is it so with any of you, dear Friends? Are you going aside by slow degrees? He that loses his substance little by littlepresently becomes a bankrupt-and painful is the discovery when the end is precipitated! How miserable must a spiritual bankruptcybe to him who wastes by degrees his heavenly estate, if he ever had any! No words can describe it. God preserve us from sucha catastrophe!
Some have turned aside who allege so through change of circumstances. They were with us when their means of livelihood werecompetent, if not affluent. From reverses in business they have sunk in their social position. Hence they do not like to comeinto fellowship with us as they were known to do. Now, from my inmost soul I can say if any of our members become poor, I,for one, do not think one atom the less of them, or hold them in less esteem, however impoverished they may become! Do nottell me that you have no fit clothes to come in, for any clothes that you have paid for are creditable. If you have not paidfor them, I cannot make excuses for you. Be honest. Silk or fustian need not shame you, but for fineness or fashion I shouldcertainly blame you! I am always glad to see Brothers and Sisters sitting here, as I
sometimes do, in their smock-frocks. One good friend is rather conspicuous in that line. The wholesome whiteness of his ruralgarb is rather attractive. If he has paid for it, he is a far more respectable man than anyone that has run into debt fora suit of broadcloth that he cannot pay for! And I rejoice to think that I am not merely expressing my own feeling, but thatwhich is shared by the whole community! We all delight to see our poor Brothers and Sisters. If there are any of you sufferingfrom a sensitiveness of your own, or a suspicion of our reflections, the sooner you get rid of such foolish pride the happieryou will be! You want to be thought respectable? Don't you know that a man is respectable for his character, not for the moneyhe has in his pocket?
Others forsake Christ when they become rich and increased in goods. They did not scorn the little conventicle when they wereplain plodding people, but since fortune has smiled on them and they have moved their residence from a terrace to a mansion-andthey have taken to keep a carriage-they feel bound to move in another circle. To their parish church, or to some Ritualisticchurch in their neighborhood, they go once on the Sunday. They patronize the place by their presence. They show themselvesamong the elite of that locality! They bow, and bend, and face about to the East as though they had been born to the manner!They are too respectable to go into the little Baptist Chapel. They receive visitors in the afternoon, dine late and dissipateSabbatic hours in the frivolous pretence of showing off their gentility. Well, I think their departure is not to be lamented.When gone, they are certainly no loss to anybody. We sigh for them as we would for Judas or Demas. They have fallen foul ofwhat they thought their good fortune, but of what has proved to be their ruin! Those who have true principles, when they risein the world, see more reason why they should use their wealth and their influence in aiding a good cause. Principle wouldprevail over policy to the end of their lives if in their hearts they believed the Truth of God as it is in Jesus. It wereno dishonor to a prince to go and sit down side by side with a pauper, were they both true followers of Jesus Christ!
In old times, when our grandfathers sought refuge in caves and dens of the earth, they met the high and the low, the bondand the free. Or when, in earlier ages, the Christians gathered in the catacombs, men out of Caesar's household- now a chief,then a senator, then a prince of the blood-came and sat down in those caverns, lighted with the dim candle, to listen whilesome unshod but Heaven-taught man declared the Gospel of Jesus with the power of the Holy Spirit! That they were illiterate,I am quite sure, for, on looking over the monuments that are found in the catacombs, it is rare to find one inscription thatis thoroughly well spelt. Though it is evident enough that the early Christians were an uneducated company of men, yet thosethat were great and noble, learned and polished, did not disdain to join with them- nor will they in any age if the Lightof Heaven shines and the love of God burns in their hearts!
Unsound doctrine induces many to apostatize. There is always plenty of that about. Deceivers will beguile the weak. Some havebeen turned aside by modern doubt-and positive infidelity has its partisans. They begin cautiously by reading works with aview to answer scientific or intellectual skepticism. They read a little more and dive a little deeper into the turbid streambecause they feel well able to stand against the insidious influence! They go on till at last they are staggered. They donot repair to them who could help them out, but they continue to flounder on till, at last, they have lost their footing andhe that said he was a Believer has ended in stark atheism-discrediting even the evidence of the existence of God! Oh, thatthose who are well taught would be content with Gospel teaching! Why should you be so unwise as to go through pools of foulteaching merely because you think it easy to cleanse yourself of its pollution? Such trifling is dangerous! When you beginto read a book and find it pernicious, put it aside. Someone may upbraid you for not reading it all through, but why shouldyou?
If I have a roast on my table of which the smell and the taste at once convince me that it is putrid and unwholesome, shouldI show discretion by eating the whole of it before giving my judgment that it is not fit for food? One mouthful is quite enough-andone sentence of some books ought to suffice for a sensible man to reject the whole mass! Let those who can relish such meatfeed on it, but I have a taste for better food. Keep to the study of the Word of God. If it is your duty to expose those evils,encounter them bravely with prayer to God to help you. But if not, as a humble Believer in Jesus, what business have you totaste and test such noxious fare when it is exposed in the market?
Can you doubt that there are some who turn aside from Christ and His people through sheer laziness. They have nothing whateverto do-and what must a Christian be who has no part in the service of Christ? Nothing to do for Jesus? A drone in the hive!I do not wonder that you go away. My wonder is that the bees do not drive you out. On the other hand, I fear others have goneaside through having been too busy-they have been so occupied that they have neg-
lected to feed their own souls. I am always pleased to see our dear Brothers and Sisters diligent in the service of Christ.I am glad to miss many of you on the Lord's-Day evening when I know how well you are engaged. I could spare a few more ofyou if you were intent upon teaching the young, or exhorting those who are out of the way. But I earnestly admonish you neverto be negligent of your own souls while you are vigilant for the souls of others! If you do not get nourished with the Breadof Life yourselves, you cannot grow in Grace! This caution, I am fully persuaded, is not uncalled for. There are some whoget so absorbed in Christian work that they never listen to the Word. They hardly ever read. They only talk. This is sorrywork. If you do not take in, you cannot give out. If your own soul is starved, you cannot be strong for the Lord's service.Get at least one good spiritual meal in the day. Then spend all the strength you have for God and rely on Him for frequentrenewals. Keep up the fire within and add fresh fuel to give a more fervent heat. See to it that you are not losing communionwith Christ while you think you are getting conversions to Christ. That is a peril you good people must not play with! Itis far too serious. But I will not continue in this strain. It is painful to me, if not to you.
II. Now I want briefly to answer a second enquiry-WHAT BECOMES OF THOSE WHO TURN ASIDE?
Well, if they are God's children, I will tell you what becomes of them, for I have seen it scores of times. Though they goaside, they are not happy. They cannot rest, for they are miserable even when they try to be cheerful. After a while theybegin to remember their first Husband, for it was better with them, then, than now. They return, but there are scores andscores who, to say nothing of the shame they have to carry with them to their grave, are never afterwards the men they werebefore. They have to take a second place among their comrades. And even should Sovereign Grace so wonderfully bless theirpainful experience that they are fully restored, they can never mention the past without bitter regret. Their by-path is servingothers' as a beacon-they will say to young people, "Never do as we have done! Nothing but mischief comes of it."
In the vast majority of cases, however, they are not the Lord's people. So this is what comes of it. Those who prove traitorsto a profession they once made are the hardest people in the world to impress. Doubtless some of you, when you lived in thecountry, used to always be punctual at your usual place of worship. But since you have come to London, where your absencefrom any sanctuary is unnoticed, you rarely enter the courts of the Lord's House, nor would you have been here tonight butfor some special inducement-some country cousin or some particular friend having brought you. Though unknown to me, God scansyour path. Well, here you are, and yet it may be too little profit. You have had counsels and cautions in such profusion thatit is like pouring oil down a slab of marble to admonish you. May God of His Omnipotent Mercy break your stone heart or therewill be no hope for you! Such people frequently lose all conscience. They can go a great deal further in talking against religionthan anybody else! They will sometimes venture to say they know so much about it that they could expose it. Their boasts andtheir threats are alike useless, but as boys whistle while they walk through the churchyard to keep their courage up, so dotheir vain talk and their senseless stories betray their stifled fear! They speak contemptuously of God while they justifythemselves in a course for which their own conscience upbraids them. They go back-alas, some of them, to prove themselvesthe most abandoned sinners in the world! There could not have been a Judas to betray Christ had he not been first distinguishedas a disciple who ventured to kiss his Master. You must pick from among the Apostles to find an apostate! As the ringleadersin riotous transgression, when converted, often make the best revivalist preachers, so those that seem to be the most loyalsubjects of Christ, when they become renegades, prove to be the bitterest foes and the blackest sinners!
Painful reminiscences rush over one's mind. Standing here, now, in the midst of a great Church, I call to mind things thathave harrowed up my soul. God grant I may not see the likes of them again! They go away! Ah, me! Full many of them go awayto die in blank despair. Did you ever read the life of Francis Spira? If you want to sleep tonight, do not take up that memoir.Did you ever read the life of John Child, a Baptist minister of about 200 years ago? Mr. Keach gives it in one of his works.He was a man who knew the Truth of God and, to a great extent, had felt its power, but he went aside from it and before hecame to die, his expressions were too terrible to listen to. The remorse and despair of his spirit chafed everyone away. Atlast he laid violent hands upon himself.
For any man to eat bread at the Lord's Table, to drink of the cup of blessing, to mingle with the saints, join in their prayersand their hymns, professing to be a disciple of Christ-and then to go back and walk no more with Him-is to venture on a courseof no ordinary danger! When his conscience is again awakened, how he wishes that he had never been
born! Could he annihilate his anguish-smitten soul to terminate his existence might be accounted wise. But that is impossible.The relief he seeks he cannot find when he takes the dreadful leap from suffering here, to an aggravated form of misery hereafter-tenthousand times worse to endure! He seals his doom and makes his own damnation sure as he raises against himself a murderinghand!
Do I address anyone here who is bereft of every ray of hope and shivering on the brink of despair? To him I say- While thereis life, there is hope! Jesus Christ can forgive you! Return to Him! He can wash you in His blood. He can make you clean,though your sin is as scarlet. But, oh, do not trifle, make no delay! Tarry no longer in your present condition else maybeyou will fill up the measure of your iniquities before you are aware and you may taste, even in this world, some beginningof the wrath to come! If not rescued as a trophy of Grace right speedily, you may become a monument of God's wrath-a beaconto deter others from daring to turn aside! I speak solemnly. I cannot help it. So intensely do I feel the terror of that woeand so confident am I that some of you are making light of it, that I would go down on my knees and entreat you with tearsto repent of what you are doing. You have got on the inclined place and you are going down, down, down! Your feet are evennow on the slippery places from which multitudes have been cast down into destruction! How they are brought into desolationas in a moment! The Lord make haste to deliver you! May He stretch out His hand and rescue you! I can only call out to you.You seem to have got where I cannot reach you. Do not venture a footstep further on that dangerous road! Look to Jesus, lookto Jesus! He can redeem your life from the Pit by His Sovereign Grace-but He alone can do it! Then, as a wandering sheep broughtback to the fold, you shall adore His name.
III. My third enquiry is-WHY SHOULD WE NOT GO AWAY AS THEY HAVE?
Were we left to ourselves, I cannot tell you any reason why we should not go as they have. Nor, indeed, could I tell you whythe best man here should not be the worst before tomorrow morning if the Grace of God left him. John Bradford, you know, ashe saw the poor criminals taken away to Tyburn to be executed, used to say, "There goes John Bradford but for the Grace ofGod." And everyone of us might say the same. To abide with Christ, however, is our only security and we trust we shall neverdepart from Him. But how can we make sure of this? The great thing is to have a real foundation on Christ to begin with-genuinefaith, vital godliness. The foundation is the first matter to be attended to in building a house. With a bad foundation, therecannot be a substantial house. You require a firm bottom, a sound groundwork before you proceed to the superstructure. Dopray God that if your religion is a sham, you may find it out now. Unless your hearts are deeply plowed with genuine repentanceand unless you are thoroughly rooted and grounded in the faith, you may have some cause to suspect the reality of your conversionand the verity of the Holy Spirit's operation in you. May the Lord work in you a good beginning and then you may rely uponit, He will carry it on to the day of Jesus Christ!
Then remember, dear Brothers and Sisters, if you would be preserved from falling, you must be schooled in humility and keepvery low before the Lord. When you are half-an-inch above the ground, you are that half-inch too high! Your safety is to benothing. Trust Christ, but do not trust yourself. Rely on the Spirit of God, but do not rely on anything that is in yourself-no,not on a Grace you have received, or on a gift you possess. Those do not slide who walk humbly with God. They are always safewhose entire dependence is upon the dear Redeemer. Be jealous of your obedience. Be circumspect. Be careful. Take heed toyourselves-your walk and conversation cannot be too cautious. Many are lost through being too remiss, but none through beingtoo scrupulous. The statutes of the Lord are so right that you cannot neglect them without diverging from the path of rectitude.Watch and pray. God help you to watch, or else you will get drowsy. Never neglect prayer. That is at the root of every defection.Retrogression commonly begins at the closet. To restrain prayer is to deaden the very pulse of life. "Watch unto prayer."
And, dear Friends, shun the company which has led other people astray. Parley not with those whose jokes are profane. Stayright away from them. It is not for you to be seen standing, much less to be found sitting down with men of loose mannersand lewd talk. They can do you no good, but the evil they can bring upon you would not be easy to estimate! You may have heardthe story-but it is so good it bears repeating-of the lady who advertised for a coachman and was waited upon by three candidatesfor the situation. She put to the first one this question-"I want a really good coachman to drive my pair of horses and, therefore,I ask you how near you can drive to danger and yet be safe?" "Well," he said, "I could drive very near, indeed! I could gowithin a foot of a precipice without fear of any accident so long as I
held the reins." She dismissed him with the remark that he would not do. To the next one who came she put the same question."How near could you drive to danger?" Being determined to get the job, he said, "I could drive within a hair's breadth andyet skillfully avoid any mishap." "You will not do," she said. When the third one came in, his mind was cast in another mold,so on the question being put to him, "How near could you drive to danger?" he said, "Madam, I never tried. It has always beena rule with me to drive as far from danger as I possibly can." The lady hired him at once! In like manner I believe that theman who is careful to run no risks and to refrain from all equivocal conduct, having the fear of God in his heart, is mostto be relied upon! If you are really built upon the Rock of Ages, you may meet the question without dismay, "Will you alsogo away?" and you can reply without presumption, "No, Lord, I cannot and I will not leave You, for to whom should I go? Youhave the words of eternal life." So be it. "And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly. And I pray God your whole spiritand soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calls you, who alsowill do it." Amen.