Sermon 3450. Dangerous Lingering
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, MARCH 18, 1915.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"He lingered." Genesis 19:16.
LOT was highly favored. In the midst of a general destruction, angels were sent to take care of him. He had received a warningwhich many had not heard-and he had felt the terror that warning would excite-while some who had heard the tidings littleheeded their imminent moment. Lot stood in the condition of one who knew that he must leave the city, for it was about tobe destroyed. He intended to leave it. He was just about to take his departure, but, nevertheless, hesitated a little, halteda while, avoided hurry, protracted his stay with some attachment to the place where he had dwelt, and so, in the face of danger,he hesitated. Being slow to move when fully aware that judgment was swift to overtake, "He lingered." I believe Lot to bein this respect the exact counterpart of a great many hearers of the Gospel. They understand at least its threats. They knowsomething about the way of escape. They have resolved to follow that way and they intend to do so very soon. Yet for a longtime they have halted on the verge of decision, almost persuaded to be Christians. Strong as their resolution to become followersof the Savior seems to be, unhappily they stop short, they linger in their old condition-halting between two opinions. Tosuch persons I propose to address a few words of exhortation this evening. First of all, to expostulate with you personallyupon personal matters. Then to speak to you about others, for I have the full conviction that the man who lingers puts othersin danger as well as himself, just as Lot's lingering was hazardous to his daughters and to his wife. And lastly, to commendthe means which I trust God will use tonight, similar to those which He used with Lot, that some angelic hand or some Providentialforce may lay hold upon the lingerer, that he may be brought out from the City of Destruction and made to flee for help toChrist the Lord. I must begin by speaking to-
I. THE PERSON WHO IS LINGERING.
I would like to be looked upon, just now, less as a preacher than as a friend who is talking to the lingering one, the onealmost decided-talking to him in the most familiar tones, but, at the same time, with the most earnest purpose. There arecertain thoughts which have been, and are still fermenting in my soul. I have heard that a conclave was held in pandemonium.In the lower regions Satan had called together all the devils who showed him allegiance and he said to them, "I want one ofyou to go forth as a lying spirit from this place to deceive many. The Gospel is being faithfully preached and men are beingwon to Christ, my rival. Spirits of the infernal pit, I desire your help that this Gospel may not spread further! I pausewhile each one of you, my liege servants, shall tell me of the devices you will use to prevent men from fleeing to Christ.His device that shall seem wisest to my subtlety shall be most fully employed among the sons of men." Then one spoke and said,"O Prince of the infernal pit, I will go forth and tell men that there is no God, no Heaven, no Hell, no hereafter." But thearch-fiend said, "It is in vain! The Gospel has already gone so far with the men of whom I am now thinking, that this wouldnot be of use. They know there is a God-they are sure of it. The testimony which has been borne in the world has brought somuch Light into it that they cannot close their eyes to the fact-your device, though admirable, will not succeed." Then uprose another, and he said, "I shall insinuate doubts as to the authenticity of Scripture. I shall belie the teachings of theDoctrines of the Word of God, and so shall I keep them from Christ." But again the leader of that conclave objected that thiswould scarcely suffice, for the multitude had so heard the Gospel. And those whose conversion he was most anxious to preventwere so conversant with its historical facts, that they could not seriously question them. Neither could they live in systematicdoubt who had been schooled in positive belief. There were many devices, but I will tell you which most of all struck Satan,which he determined to use most among the
sons of men. It was this-one foul spirit said, "I will not insinuate doubts about the existence of God or the truth of Scripture.I know it would not be of any use. But this thing I will do-I will tell men that, though these things are true and important,there is no hurry about them, there is time enough and to spare-that they may wait a little till there is a more convenientseason, and then shall they attend to them." Now the subtlety of Satan was pleased with this, and he said, "Servant, go yourway! You have invented the net in which the fowler shall take more birds then in any other. Good speed to your enterprise.This deadly poison will destroy innumerable souls!"
Feeling this to be the case, it shall be my earnest endeavor to tear that net to pieces and to expose this poison, that nonemay be entangled unawares and perish unwarned!
Coming back, then, to the purpose with which I started, earnestly and personally to speak to the lingerer, I would like toask you, my beloved Friend, if this matter about which you are still hesitating is not of vital importance to you?It concernsyour soul, yourself, your true self! It deals with your destiny, your impending, your eternal destiny! You are immortal-youacknowledge a deathless principle within you-and you are conscious that you shall live forever in happiness or woe. Do youthink you ought to put off all preparation for the future that awaits you? If I knew that someone was about to defraud youof your estate, and that unless you were diligent about it you would lose all your property, I think I would say to you, "Bestiryourself!" If I knew that some deadly disease had begun to prey on your constitution and that, if neglected, it would soongain an ascendancy with which it were hard to grapple, I think I would say, "Go to the physician. Do not delay, for bodilyhealth is very precious." But, dear Friend, if your estate is precious, much more your soul! And if the health of this poorclay ought to be looked to, much more the welfare of your soul-the welfare of your soul forever! Do you not think, if anythingshould be postponed, it should be something of less importance? Was not Christ right when He said, "Seek, first, the Kingdomof God and His righteousness"? Does not your reason agree that He was right in putting that first? I shall not need to arguewith you. I speak as to a man who has his wits about him. Is it not so? Suppose you look to getting on in the world, first-youmay die and be lost before you have got on! Suppose the taking of a degree at the university should be your first concern-thatwould be a poor recompense. The honors of learning could not mitigate the terrors of judgment! Do you not feel now (if youwill let your better nature speak) that the very first thing a man should see to should be this-to be reconciled to God andbe all right with Him for eternity?
I will then ask you another question-is there anything so very pleasant in a state of enmity to God, that you should wishto remain in it? Why should Lot want to linger in Sodom? He had often been vexed there. The very night, before, he had hishouse beset with rioters! Why should he want to linger? Have you found any great comfort in being undecided? Is there anythingvery fascinating in remaining hesitant and halting between two opinions? Dear Friend, if your condition is at all like whatmine was before I believed in Jesus, I know you would be glad enough to get out of it! Oh, how earnest I was, sometimes, inseeking Christ! Oh, how wretched I was at other times that I could not find Him! Then, again, I was stupidly senseless aboutDivine things, and my self-upbraiding would not let me be at peace. It is a most unhappy condition to be in-to have Lightenough to know that you are in the dark and no more-to have just enough Grace to feel that you have not the Grace that cansave you-to be enough awakened to feel that if you remain as you are, you must perish forever! I do not see anything in thishesitating condition that should allure you to keep in it any longer than you can help. Beloved Friends, have you ever seriouslyweighed-if not I will ask you to do so-the solemnity of the destruction which must come upon you if you are not decidedlya Believer in Christ and, on the other hand, the unspeakable glory and bliss which will belong to you if you are led to trustin Jesus and are saved?
I can scarcely give you the details of a little incident in Russian history which might illustrate the emergency. The Czarhad died suddenly and in the dead of night one of the counselors of the empire came to the Princess Elizabeth and said toher, 'You must come at once and take possession of the crown." She hesitated, for there were difficulties in the way, andshe did not desire the position. But he said, "Now sit down, Princess, for a minute," Then he drew her two pictures. One wasthe picture of herself and the Count thrown into prison, racked with tortures, and presently both brought out to die beneaththe axe. "That," he said, "you can have if you like." The other picture was of herself with the imperial crown of all of Russiaon her brow, and all the princes bowing before her, and all the nation doing her homage. "That," said he, "is the other sideof the question. But, tonight, your Majesty must choose which it shall be." With the two pictures vividly depicted beforeher mind's eye, she did not hesitate long, but cast in her choice for the crown. Now I would
gladly paint for you two such pictures, only I lack the skill. You will either sink forever down in deeper and yet deeperwoe, filled with remorse because you brought it all upon yourself, or else, if you decide for Christ and rest in Him, youshall enter the bliss of those who forever and forever without admixture of grief enjoy happiness before the Throne of God!To my mind there ought to be no halting as to the choice. It should be made. I pray God's Holy Spirit to help you to makeit tonight! On this winged hour, eternity is hung. The choice of this night may be the cooling of the wax which now is soft.Once cooled, it will bear the impress throughout eternity! God grant it may be a resolve for Christ, for His cause, for HisCross, for His crown!
I would like still, dear Friend, to hold you by the button which I laid hold of just now, and to say to you, What is it thathas kept you waiting so long?Did I not meet you some years ago in the street, and you said to me, "Sir, I have been a hearerof yours for many years." And I said, "Oh, yes, and when did you join the Church?" And you said, "Ah, I have never done that."And I asked, "Why not?" And you were honest enough to say, "Because I am afraid I should be very much out of place there,for I am not a Believer in Christ." Do you recollect how I squeezed your hand and said, "Ah, I hope it will not be long beforeyou give your heart to the Lord," and you said, "Well, I hope so, too"? It is a good long while now-and you have been gettinggray since then. I dare say if I saw you tonight and put the same question to you, you would make the same reply! And in tenyears, time, if you and I live, we shall be still relatively in the same position- I still pleading, and you still saying-"yes,yes, yes, it is very right." No, no, I answer, it is very wrong, that consenting without complying, not doing what the Gospelbids you do, yielding and resisting, as it were, by turns. Repenting and then forgetting. "Forgetting?" Yes, forgetting, andforgetting, till these delays will cast you into irrevocable ruin! What is it you are waiting on, my Friend? Is there somesin you cannot give up? What sin is worth being damned for? If there is one, keep on with it. I defy you to defend your negligence!Put it to this test-if there is any supposable delight that is worth the endurance of eternal wrath, pursue that delight,however sensual it may be, with avidity! But if there is not, do not play the fool or act the madman! Do I hear you pleadignorance? I would make some excuse for you, if I thought the plea was just and true, but suppose for a minute that it isso? Then, dear Friend, ought not you to begin to search the Scriptures? Should not you be making intensely earnest enquiriesthat you might know the certainty of these things? For the soul to be without knowledge is not good. But if you are perishingfor lack of knowledge, there certainly is no reason why you should! Many of us would only be too delighted if we might tellyou still more fully what is the way of salvation. "Well, but it is inconvenient just now!" Are you promising yourself a morefavorable opportunity? Let me ask you, Do you imagine you will be any better off tomorrow than you are today? Do you thinkin ten years' time you will be more likely to lay hold on Christ than you are now? I do not think you will. Have you everseen sponges that have been turned into flints? Well, that is a slow process-it takes a long time. The same process, however,is gradually happening to you. Every year you are getting more flinty. The drip, drip, drip of this world's care and sin ispetrifying you! You are getting stony. It strikes me the best time to repent in is this moment-and the very best season inwhich to fly to Jesus is now! Before yet the clock has ticked again, your heart will have grown more callous. It certainlydoes not soften. When will there be any influence more potent than there is now to help you? The Spirit of God is ready now.Do you need more than His power? The blood of Christ is a full Atonement for sin. Do you need anything more than that foryour salvation? Do you expect Christ to come down again on earth to save you? Do you need any promise fuller than that whichthe Bible has in it now, or any invitation more gracious than that which the Gospel gives to you now-"Today is the acceptedtime: today is the day of salvation." I pray you, my lingering Friend, linger no longer! Oh, how I wish I could put my handsin yours and lead you to the Savior! But I cannot. I will, however, pray Him to lead you this very night!
"I will think of it," you say. No, that is the very thing I do not want you to do! I want you to believe in Jesus now, andnot talk about thinking of it tomorrow. In your seat, if you will rest in Jesus, and trust your soul in His hands, you aresaved this very moment! It is an instantaneous work-
"The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives, Salvation in full throughHis blood!" Oh, that you would exercise that simple faith, now, and not talk about thinking of it tomorrow, for tomorrow,tomorrow, tomorrow, alas, tomorrow never comes! It is in no calendar, except the almanac of fools! Each day to the wise
man is today as it comes. The fool wastes today, and so wastes all his life. O Lingerer, I beseech you, think now of the longtime you have lingered. It may well suffice you-it has surely been long enough, and I would say to you, in the words of oneof old, "How long halt you between two opinions?" And quote the saying of yet another, "Choose you this day whom you willserve." And may God the Holy Spirit guide the choice, and He shall have the praise! Now I need to speak a little upon anothertopic.
II. I REMIND THE LINGERER THAT WHILE HE LINGERS, HE ENDANGERS THE SOULS OF OTHER PEOPLE.
When Lot went to his sons-in-law and told them that the city was to be destroyed, "he was to them as one that mocked." Howwould they say to him, "Go to, old dotard! Do you think we believe you? The sky is clear and blue, and the sun has risen-dotyou think we believe your nonsense about fire and brimstone coming out of Heaven? We don't believe you." When Lot lingered,he was defeating his own purpose and doing the worst imaginable thing, if he wanted to convince his sons-in-law that he spokethe truth, for while he lingered, they would say, "The old fool does not believe it, himself, for if he did believe it, hewould pack up and hasten away! No, he would take his daughters by the hand and lead than out of the city at once." A littlehesitancy in the conduct of a man who said that he believed a dreadful judgment was imminent would be sufficient to give themumbrage-quite reason enough to make them say, "He does not believe, himself, what he tells us." Have not some of you spokenseriously to others about the value of their souls, though you are not saved? Did you try the other day to rebuke a swearer?I am glad you did. You are a member of a Temperance Association and you do what you can to stop drunkenness. I am glad youdo. You will not allow sin to pass unrebuked in your presence. But, listen, Man, with what face do you reprove others whileyou are not decided yourself? Where is your consistency? If they should turn round on you and say, "If there is anything reliablein the Grace of God, why are you not reconciled to Him? If there is anything desirable in religion, why do you not walk accordingto its precepts? If Christ is a Savior, why do you not yield to Him and obey His ordinances?" I know not what answer you couldgive! I cannot imagine any response but a blush that should betoken your shame and confusion of face!
The mischief that Lot did to his daughters was yet more aggravated, for all the while he was hesitating, they were sure tohesitate, too. He was keeping them waiting. They were in jeopardy as well as himself. How many comrades, young Man, you mighthave instructed in the faith before now had you been yourself decided? It is a happy circumstance when a young married couplebecome converted to God before their little ones are able to imitate a bad example. I thank God for a father whom I know andhonor-that of his children there is only one that can recollect the time when the evening was spent in playing cards-and thatone recollects the night when the cards were all thrown into the fire and burnt! Only one of his children recollects whenthe Sabbath was known to be spent in quiet walks and pleasant recreations, but not in public worship or private devotion.He recollects the rearing of the family altar, when prayer was made a household institution. He can well remember the earnestentreaties made that the father's sin might not be visited upon the children. Oh, happy circumstance! Had the parents beenconverted later in life, the ill example might never have been wiped out! The converted father might have found that the childrendid not emulate the good example of his regenerate state, but did rather imitate him in the negligence and sinfulness of hisnatural unrenewed life. When you, who are parents, habitually demur and hesitate, do you not think that other members of yourfamily will hesitate, too? I have noticed it frequently, where there is a man or a woman knowing the Truth of God in a measure,but not decided. It almost always happens that when the husband or the wife is in the same condition, the moment the fathergets savingly converted, the wife comes and avows her faith. Not infrequently the children follow suit! It only needed somehow,in God's Providence, the decision of the head of the household! This has led the others to decision. It becomes, therefore,a very mournful reflection that there should be men and women lingering upon the brink of the grave who are helping othersto linger- their example being the means of keeping others in a state of perilous hazard! You must know, many of you, thatit is so with you! Therefore, I shall leave the Truth to weigh upon your conscience, hoping it will stir you up to decision.
Let me venture to make one other observation here. I should not wonder if, perhaps, the death of Lot's wife might partly beattributed to Lot, himself If you think that this is a severe reflection, I would remind you that she must have seen her husbandhesitate. She was a woman far lower down in the scale than he was-when, therefore, she saw him lingering, it was no wonderif that contagious example led her to look back. Perhaps among the regrets of Lot throughout the rest of his life, there wouldbe this one, "I did not hurry myself out of that city as I should. I was in no hurry. I tar-
ried, and lingered, and paused. I had almost to be dragged out by the angels' hands." And this, it may be, led Lot's wifeto look back with lingering-and then to be turned into a pillar of salt. O undecided Man! I would not like you to feel thatthe blood of your wife was on your skirts. O undecided Father! I would dread to have you think, in years to come, "The lossof my children's souls was due to my procrastination." Alas, it may be so-it may be so! Therefore now, with a Brother's earnestaffection, let me come to you and say, "You intend to believe. You have resolved to be a Christian. You are no Atheist, andno scoffer. You are not hardened and rebellious-your heart is soft and tender and ready for these things-then yield it now,yield it up completely this night to that dear hand that once was crucified! That hand shall mold you according to its ownwill. Thus says the Spirit of God to you tonight, Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved, for, "he thatbelieves and is baptized shall be saved." He that believes not-though he may have resolved to believe, if he dies believingnot-must be damned! Our last word was to be this-
III. LET US PRAY FOR THE LINGERERS, that they may by some means be hastened. I do not expect to see angels come walking downthese aisles, or threading their way through these pews tonight. But I do trust that a messenger from God will come, notwithstandingthat. Sometimes lingerers have been quickened and decided by their own reflections being blessed to them by the Holy Spirit.A very simple observation was once the means of deciding a man. He was a mechanic and a man of a mathematical turn of mind.He had attended a meeting. The meeting was held in an upper room, and going below the stairs, his attention was attractedby the beam that had supported the people, and he said to himself, "What a weight there must have been upon that!" Just atthat very minute, into his mind there flashed, "And what a weight there is resting upon you!" How that thought followed theother, I cannot tell, but as he turned it over, it did seem to him that he had a weight of sin enough to crush him-that hecould not bear up under such a weight as that- and that his soul would come down in ruin like many a building whose beamshave not been strong enough and have, at last, given way. I mind not what form the thought may take-I only pray that somesuch thought may come home and decide you!
Occasionally, a good man has been the means of suggesting the deciding thought. A smith was blowing his bellows in a smithyone day, when the saintly McCheyne stepped into the smithy for a shelter from a shower of rain. As the smith was blowing thecoals and they were at a great heat, he simply said to him, "What does that fire make you think of?" He never gave an answer-andMcCheyne went his way. It made the smith think of the wrath to come, and it made him flee from it, too! We cannot tell whatmay be, in the gracious Providence of God, the means of bringing you to decision. He that used an angel's hand with Lot, canuse a well-timed observation with you. Therefore I urge all Christian people to use every opportunity and study to seasontheir conversation with Divine Grace! Sow beside all waters, for you know not which may prosper-this or that. Sometimes menhave been decided by the deaths of their relatives or their friends. "I may be the next," has been suggested to them. Whenthe dear child has been buried, it has made the afflicted father reflect that he shall never meet it in Heaven unless he mendshis ways. So, too, the bereaved mother, in the bitterness of her heart, has sought a Savior in the hope that she might meether baby, again, in the better land. Such things are good. They are blessed deaths that bring eternal life to the survivors!These little ones well spend their lives in winging their flight to Paradise and showing us the way. But surely, dear Friend,you don't require a distressing visitation to decide you! I trust your heart will be given to Christ without the dire necessitythat you should lose those you love on earth.
Occasionally, and very occasionally, persons have been decided by personal sickness. Some, but oh, how few, have witnessedthe good confession in the hour of death. A soldier in the army of the Potomac, of whom I somewhere read, was taken to therear to die. He was badly wounded. He was also suffering from fever. Someone had told him, just before the fever came on,of a soldier found asleep at his post who was condemned to die. The poor fellow, in his delirium, imagining that he was thatsoldier, cried out to the doctor who was attending him, "Sir, I am to be shot tomorrow morning, and as I wish to have allright, I want you to send for the chaplain at once. I need to see him." The doctor, to calm his fears, said. "No, no, youare not to be shot tomorrow morning. It's a mistake." "Oh, but I am," he said, "I know I shall." "But I will be here," saidthe doctor, "and if anyone comes to touch you, I will have him arrested. I will take care you shall not die." "Is it so, Doctor?"he said, in calmer accents, "then you need not send for the chaplain. I shall not need him just yet." So the truth came outthat fear, not faith, animated him, though it was but spoken in a feverish fit. How many men, if they thought they were goingto die, would say, "Oh, yes, let all be said and done that it is right to say and do!" But persuade them that they are likelyto live a little longer, they will wait and adjourn their faith while they can calm their fear. Not very often is the decisiongenuine which men arrive at under the stress of that fear which comes of impending dissolution. May God's spirit deepen insome here present their sense of sin! May your crimes sting you. May you feel your guilt. May you hate yourselves becauseof your transgressions. May you be distressed because of your ingratitude, your disobedience, your unbelief! Then you willlong to get rid of this horrible evil, this enmity against God! May you feel tonight what a mischievous thing it is for thecreature to be at variance with his Creator, for man to be out of order with his God! What a shameful thing it is for themost favored of creatures to be unfriendly to the Sovereign that favors him! What an incredible thing it is, that while theox knows its owner and the ass its master's crib, man, the object of Divine Love, should not know his Lord, his Friend, hisBenefactor! Oh, may you give no rest to your eyes or slumber to your eyelids till you have opened your mouth to profess thename of the Lord and fled for refuge to take hold of His righteousness and strength! Oh, that you might be too agitated tosleep till you have confessed your sin into the ear of the Great Elder Brother, and sought pardon from your God through Christyour Savior. There is forgiveness, there is mercy to be had-to be had now! Whoever believes in Christ Jesus shall be saved!Believing is trusting, relying in simple but sincere dependence. May His Grace enable you to cast yourselves upon His mercyand credit His promise in this good hour, so you shall be this night enrolled among the saved, and He shall have all the praise!The Lord grant it, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: LUKE 15:1-24.
Verse 1. Then drew near unto Him all the publicans and sinners to hear Him. The attraction of His love brought them into theinner circle. Had He been a self-exalting Pharisee, they would have stood as far off as they could if they listened to Himat all! But the Savior spoke so gently, so earnestly, with such evident love in His heart, that "then drew near unto Him thepublicans and sinners to hear Him."
2. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This Man receives sinners and eats with them. The thunder and lightningof their ange could not turn the milk of His human kindness, but rather did it take an opportunity from their bitter speechto speak all the more sweetly to those who gathered near to Him.
3. And He spoke this parable unto them, saying. And then we read three parables-yet are they one. As you have sometimes seena picture in three panels, so this is one picture in three panels, in which we see three views of lost sinners and the threeDivine Persons of the ever blessed Trinity in unity seeking men-saving men.
4-7. What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness,andgo after that which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And whenhe comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep whichwas lost Isay unto you, that likewise joy shall be in Heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and ninejust persons which need no repentance. A very complete answer to the murmuring Pharisees. Where should the shepherd be butlooking after the lost sheep? Is not that one of his first businesses-to seek after that which is gone astray? Does he notderive from it his highest joy? All the sheep that remain at home do not afford him so intense a delight as that one wandererthat his love has sought, and that his power has rescued. So Jesus Christ seems to say, taking them on their own ground, "YouPharisees are like sheep that never went astray. That is your own view of yourselves. You can never afford Me so much pleasureas these poor publicans and sinners that have wandered. When I shall find them, I shall have special joy over them. Why shouldI look after you? Am I not, first of all, called to look after the lost sheep of the house of Israel?" And thus He answeredtheir complaints.
8-10. Or what woman, having tenpieces of silver, if she loses onepiece, does not light a candle, andsweep the house, and seekdiligently till she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and her neighbors together, saying, Rejoicewith me: for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise. I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angelsof God over one sinner that repents. A second blow for them. "These souls of publicans and sinners are as precious as yours.If you are like pieces of money, so are they. I need not sit and look at you," says Christ, "like the miser, who counts hishoard which he has in the box, but I do what the woman did who had lost the piece. She could afford to leave the rest laidby in her purse, but she spent all her strength, her eyesight-all her diligent labor upon that one piece."
Here we have the work of the Holy Spirit-only the Holy Spirit works through the Church, who is the woman. It is her businessto light a candle-to carry the light of the Gospel. It is her business to sweep the house-often to stir up the dust by thebosom of the Law. It is hers to seek diligently in every corner and cranny in the deserted and filthy places after that preciouspiece of money which has not lost a penny worth of its value through having rolled away into the mouse hole or lost itselfamong the cobwebs. She has to seek until she finds it. Christian diligence is not to stop short of conversion. We are notto try to bring men to Christ, but literally to bring them by the power of His Eternal Spirit. And when the Church finds herpiece of money, she, too, has her merry-making. She calls together her friends and rejoices, and the Holy Spirit delightsto view His own work in and through His Church.
11. And he said.And here comes the grandest of the three parables-that which sets forth the Eternal Father's love. 11, 12.A certain man had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falls tome. And he divided unto them his living. He was not content to remain and share everything with his father. The other onewould have wished his father to keep all that he had, only too delighted to be a guest in his father's house, but no, "Giveme-let me have it myself-let me be independent-let me have something to call my own." Human nature-poor human nature! It isnot the true spirit of a child. Very ungenerous, ungrateful. Why did the father divide the living between them, but that itis God's why to allow men to go as they will?
13. And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wastedhis substance with riotous living.He could not have done that at home. His father's eyes would have been a check upon him.Man wants to get away from God because he wants to do wrong. At the bottom of all infidelity there lies a love of sin. Menquarrel with Divine Truth because that Truth quarrels with them.
14. And when he had spent all For there is an end to all carnal joy. Man can only go a certain length. When he has got tothe bottom of the cup, it will not spring up like a fountain and fill itself again. "When he had spent all."
14. There arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want Just when he needed all his money, then provisionswere dearer than ever. When he had nothing to buy with, everything grew dear. He never had been, while he lived with his father,and never would have been, if he had stayed there. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." "He began to be in want."
15. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country. And he sent him into his fields to feed swine. There wasa kindness in that, but it was a degrading kindness. "The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." He sent him into his fieldsto feed swine! A Jew, who could not bear the unclean animals-and he must feed swine! When a man gets discontented with theworld, the devil and his friends generally suggest that he should do something worse than he has ever done before. They givehim some gay amusement-some fouler sin than he has ever plunged into. They tell him that there is no hope and, therefore,he may have all his fling and go the whole length of his tether. "He sent him into his field to feed swine."
16. And he would gladly have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat-So he could not earn his bread, and hecould not get it by charity. To what a state of destitution was he brought. But of all destitution in the world, the destitutionof a sinner who has, at last, grown sick of his sin and cannot find comfort anywhere else, is about the worst. The old nestis pulled down and you have not got another. The pleasures of the world have fooled you. The joys and delights of ungodlysociety pall upon your taste and you want no more of them, but yet you do not know of any other delight or any other joy-anddare not hope that there can be another joy for you!
16, 17. And no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself-He had been out of his mind all the while. He had been besidehimself with sin. "When he came to himself."
17. He said, How many hired servants of my father's have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger? "Still his child,though. Still he is my father, and I know that there is bread enough for me. Why do I not get it? How sad that I should starve,when in my father's house there is so much." What a motive that is to a poor hungry soul to go to God, namely, that God hasso much-so much that He feeds His servants till they cannot eat it all! They have bread enough and to spare. Why should Hischild, then, though a wanderer, die of hunger in a foreign land?
18-20. I will arise andgo to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and before you, and amno more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of your hired servants. And he arose, and came to his fa-ther.It wasa mercy for him it did not end in resolution. He came to matter of fact.
20. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissedhim.Then did he come to his father, or did his father come to him? Well, I think it was both, but still, chiefly that thefather came to him. "When he was yet a great way of"-he had not gone half the distance-his father ran the bigger half of theway. He saw him! He had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him!
21. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in your sight, and am no more worthy to be calledyour son. He was going on to say, I dare say, "Make me one of your hired servants," but his father kissed him on the mouth,and he never prayed that prayer. It was not a Gospel prayer, and would not do, and so he stifled it with love! It was goodas far as he did go.
22-24. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, andshoes on his feet and bring here the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this, my son, was dead, andis alive again; he was lost and is found. And they began to be merry. Full of joy, intense joy, overflowing joy, sparklingjoy! I love that old Saxon word, "merry." Some are frightened at it. I heard somebody the other day account it quite wickedto say, "A merry Christmas." Oh, that we had merry days all the year round, especially if we could make merry with such merrimentas this! Do begin to be merry.