Sermon 323. Vile Ingratitude!

(No. 323)

Delivered on Sabbath Evening, May 27th, 1860, by the


At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

"Again the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Son of man, cause Jerusalem to know her abominations."-Ezekiel 16:1-2.

AND HOW THINK YOU did the prophet proceed in order to accomplish the solemn commission which had been thus intrusted to him?Did he begin by reminding the people of the law which was delivered to Moses on the top of Sinai? Did he picture to them theexceeding fearfulness and quaking of the leader of Israel's host when he received that stony law in the midst of thundersand lightnings? Or did he, do you think, proceed to point out to them the doom which must inevitablybefall them, because they had broken the divine law, and violated God's holy statutes? No, my brethren; if he had beenabout to show to the then unprivileged gentiles their iniquity, he might have proceeded on legal grounds; he was now howeverabout to deal with Jerusalem, the highly-favoured city, and here he does not bring to their mind the law; he does not begindealing out law-thunders to them at all; he fetches obligations as his arguments to convince them of sin from the grace ofGod, rather than from the law of God. And, my brethren, as I am about this evening to address you who profess to be followers of the Son of God, and whoby faith have "fled for refuge to the hope set before you in the gospel,"-as my business is to convince you of sin, I shallnot begin by taking you to Sinai,-I shall not attempt to show you what the law is, and what that penalty is which devolvesupon every man that breaks it; but, feeling that you are not under the law, but undergrace, I shall draw arguments from the grace of God, from his gospel, from the favour which he has shown to you-argumentsmore powerful than any which can be fetched from the law, to show you the greatness of your sin, and the abomination of anyiniquity which you have committed against the Lord your God. I shall take Ezekiel's method as my model, and proceed to copyit thus:-First, let us consider the abomination of our sin, aggravated as it is by the remembrance of what we were whenthe Lord first looked upon us; secondly, let us see our sins in another light-in the light of what the Lord has made us since those happy days; and then, let us proceed to notice what our sins have themselves been; and we shall have, I think, three great lamps which may cast a terrible light on the great wickedness of our sins.

I. First, then, let us consider our iniquities-I mean those committed since conversion, those committed yesterday, and theday before, and to-day-and let us see their sinfulness in the light of what we were when the Lord first looked upon us. Inthe words of the prophet Ezekiel, observe what was our "birth and our nativity." He says of us, "Thy birth and thy nativityis of the land of Canan. Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite." Now, Canaan, as youknow, was a cursed one, and the land of Canaan here meant, refers to the cursed people whom God utterly gave up to bedestroyed with the sword, that not one of them might escape. Mark it, our nativity and our birth were of the land of the curse."Thy father was an Amorite, and thy mother an Hittite." Though when the Lord is speaking of his people as they are in covenantwith him, he tells them that their father was Abraham, whom he did choose, and their mother was Sarah whom he loved; yet whenhe speaks of their natural estate, he compares their parentage to that mixed offspring of an Amorite father and a Hittitemother. Ay, and what was our parentage, men and brethren? Let us look back and wonder. Surely our father Adam's wickednesswas in us. Our early childhood began to discover the latent sparks of our sin. Scarcely do we remember the time when theywere sparks, so early were they fanned into a flame. When any of you look back to your father's house, to the place from whichGodcalled you, you may be constrained to wonder, for I know there are many members of this church here present who are theonly ones out of a family who were ever called to know the Lord. Your father, perhaps, lived and died a drunkard. You canlook back to the two or three that you remember of your ancestors, and they have been "without God and without hope, strangersto the commonwealth of Israel." Then what was there in you or in your father's house that God should set his love on you?Indeed,as for those of us who have been blessed with pious parents, we have nothing to boast of our ancestry, for we all were"born in sin and shapen in iniquity."

Hath the Lord loved us, though there was nothing in our birth or parentage to invite regard or merit esteem? Then surely everysin that we commit now, is aggravated by that sovereign choice, that infinite compassion that doated upon us, though our birthwas vile, and our original base. Didst thou take me from the dunghill, O my God, and do I sin against thee? Didst thou takethe beggar in his rags and lift him up to make him sit among thy sons and daughters, the veryblood-royal of heaven? And has that beggar afterwards become a rebel against thee? Oh sin, thou art an accursed thingindeed! When I think of that grace which has thus honored the dishonorable, exalted the mean things of this world, and savedcreatures that were the offscouring of creation, how I blush for the ingratitude that can forget such tender obligations,and do despite to such extraordinary unmerited goodness!

Further, the prophet goes on to say that not only their parentage was base, but their condition was dangerous in the extreme.That which was absolutely necessary for the life of an infant had in this case been utterly neglected. The babe had been castaway as though it were useless, and its life unworthy of preservation. Offspring deserted, having none to tend it or carefor its welfare, may perhaps awaken the lowest, the most contemptuous kind of pity. Was not that justour condition when the Lord looked upon us? We had not been severed from the old natural stock of Adam; there had beenno water used to wash us from our natural pollution, or to make our conscience supple, our neck pliant, or our knees bendbefore the power of grace. We had not been swaddled or cared for. There was everything in our condition that would tend todestruction, but nothing in us that would tend upwards towards God. Yet there we were, dying, nay dead, rotten, corrupted,soabominable that it might well be said, "Bury this dead one out, of my sight," when Jehovah passed by and he said untous, "live." Oh! some of you can remember how you were steeped up to the very neck in lust. Pardon me, brethren, when I alludeto these things that you may be led to see your present sins in the light of the mercy which has blotted out your past iniquities.It is not long since with some of you that oaths larded your conversation daily, you could scarcely speak without blasphemy;as for others of us who were preserved from open sin, how base were we! The recollection of our youthful iniquity crushesus to the very earth. When we think how we despised the training we received, could laugh at a mother's prayers and contemnall the earnest tender exhortations which a godly parent's heart afforded to us, we could hide ourselves in dust and ashesand never indulge another thought of self-satisfaction. Yet though sovereign mercy has put all these sins away; though lovehascovered all these iniquities, and though everlasting kindness has washed away all this filth, we have gone on to sin.We have gone on to sin-thank God not to sin as we did before, not so greedily, not as the ox drinketh down water;-still wehave transgressed, and that in the light of mercy, which has "blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud,thy sins. Our sins, since redemption was revealed to our souls, are abominations indeed! If I had known, O mybrethren, in that hour when Christ took away my sin-if I had known what an untoward disposition I had then to show, andwhat broken vows I should have now to reflect upon, I do not think I could have borne the revelation. If some of us who arehere present, rejoicing in covenant love and mercy, could have a clear view of all the sins we have committed since conversion,of all the sins we shall commit till we land in heaven, I question whether our senses might not reel under the terriblediscovery of what base things we are. I am sure if any man had told me that my heart would ever grow cold, that I shouldever forget my Lord and Master, and get worldly-if an angel from heaven had told me these things, in the day when I firstsaw his face and looked and loved and lived, I should have said, "Is thy servant a dog that I should do this thing?" WhenI sat down and viewed the flowing of his precious blood and knew that my sins were put away, I thought I should never sinagainsthim any more. I dreamed, and was it only a dream, that I should spend and be spent in his service; that no toil wouldbe too hard, no sacrifice too great. And here we find ourselves flinching, and drawing back, and finding excuses for leavinghis service; nay, worse than that, smiting the face of our best Friend and grieving his Holy Spirit, and often causing himto hide his face from us by reason of our sin. Well might Moses say, "I beseech thee, O Lord, show me not my wretchedness."

One thing else appears designed to represent our sins as blacker still. It appears from the fifth verse, that this child,this Jewish nation, when God loved it had none other to love it. "None eye pitied thee, to do any of these unto thee, to havecompassion on thee; but thou wast cast out in the open field to the loathing of thy person in the day that thou wast born."Do any of you know what it is to be cast out to the loathing of your person? We will not say that ourcharacter had become such that we were loathed by others, but well we remember the time when we loathed ourselves; whenwe could say with John Banyan that we wished we had been a dog or a toad sooner than have been a man, because we felt ourselvesso vile in having sinned against God. Oh! I can recollect the season when my fondest wish was that I had never been born,because I so sinned against God. The sight of my iniquity was such, that horror took hold of me and amazement of soul overwhelmedme. I was indeed cast out to my own loathing if not to the loathing of others; and indeed it is no wonder if a man, whenhe has his eyes opened, loathes himself, for there is nothing so loathsome as an unregenerate heart-a heart that is like aden of unclean birds full of all manner of filthiness and ravenousness. The greatest abomination that ever existed physicallyis not to be compared with the moral abominations that dwell in the unrenewed heart. It is a miniature hell, it is pandemoniumin embryo; you have but to let it grow, and the vileness which is in the human heart by nature would soon make a hellif there were no hell; and yet, my brethren, when we were loathed, when even our person was loathed, he loved us. Great GodI how couldst thou love that which we ourselves hated? Oh! 'tis grace, 'tis grace, 'tis grace indeed! Where is free-will,my brethren; where is free-will? There is no such thing. "Nomen est sine re," said Martin Luther, it is a name for nothing. Whenwe think of what we were; the thought of merit vanishes; it at once refutes itself the moment we look it in the face.It was grace-free, rich, unconstrained, sovereign grace which looked on us. I am sure if there be any who think there wassome good thing in them that invited God's attention, or led him to look upon them, I can only say I know there was nothingof the sort in me; there was everything to hate, nothing to desire; everything to detest, nothing to delight in; much thathe mightspend his hatred on, but nothing which could command his affection or his love; still he loved us, still he loved us,and yet-O ye heavens be astonished-yet we have sinned against him since then, we have forgotten him, we have doubted him,we have grown cold towards him; we have loved self at times better than we have loved our Redeemer, and have sacrificed toour own idols and made gods of our own flesh and self-conceit, instead of giving him all the glory and the honor for everand forever.

This is putting sin in a gospel light. I pray you, brethren, if my speech be feeble and I cannot make the light shine on thesethings, spend a little season, as you can, in retirement when you are at home, look at your sins in the light of the mercywhich looked on you when you were thus dead, and lost, and hopelessly ruined. And surely the blush will mantle on your cheek,and you will bow your knee with many a tear, and cry, "Lord have mercy upon me! O, my, Father castnot away thy child! forgive a child that spurned his Father's love! forgive a wife who has played the harlot against adivine husband! pardon a soul that has been traitorous to its own Lord,-to him who is its life, its joy, its all! "

II. We must now pass on to another point. We have to think of what the Lord has done for us since the time he first lovedus. I have made a mistake, brethren; I have made a mistake. "The time when he first loved us," did I say ! Why, before alltime, when there was no day but the unrising unsetting day of eternity, a beginning that knew no beginning, years that hadno date. He loved his people then. I meant to refer rather to THE TIME WHEN HE BEGAN TO MANIFEST HIS LOVE TOUS PERSONALLY AND INDIVIDUALLY. Well then, observe, that one of the chief things he did to us was to spread his skirtover us, and cover our nakedness. He washed us with the water of regeneration, yea, and truly washed away the stain of ournatural sanguinity. Oh, that day, that day of days, as the days of heaven upon earth, when our eyes looked to Christ and werelightened, when the burden rolled from off our back! Oh, that hour, that earliest of all our gracious remembrances, that firstofall dates, when we began to live, when we stepped down into that bath of atoning blood and came out of it fairer thanany queen, more glorious than the daughters of men, white as alabaster, pure as crystal, like the driven snow without spotor blemish! That day we never can forget, for it always rises to our recollection the moment we begin to speak about pardon-theday of our own pardon, of our own forgiveness. The galley-slave may forget the hour when he ceased to tug the oar. The poorchattel of his master may forget the time when he escaped from the accursed slave-holder's grasp, and became a freeman.The sick man may forget the day when, after being long worn with pain till he was emaciated and at the gates of death, theblood began to leap in his veins, and the glow of health began to invigorate his frame. The culprit who lay shivering beneaththe heads-man's axe may forget the hour when suddenly his pardon was granted and his life was spared. But if all these shouldconsign to oblivion their surprising joys, the pardoned soul can never, never, never forget. Unless reason should loseher seat, the quickened soul can never cease to remember the time when, Jesus said to it, "Live." Oh! and has Jesus pardonedall our sins and have we sinned still? Has he washed me, and have I defiled myself again? Did he shed his blood to cleanseme and have I returned again to my natural depravity? Oh, these are abominations indeed! I have heard some say that the sinsofbelievers are but trifles. Ah! my brethren, I do think if there be any difference, the sins of disciples of Christ area thousand times worse than the sins of unbelievers, because they sin against a gospel of love, a covenant of mercy; againstsweet experience and against precious promises. The sinner may kick against the pricks, that is bad enough; but to kick againstthe wounds of Christ, is worse still. Yet that is what you and I have done. We have sinned since the dear hour that cleansedour guilt away.

Nor did the gracious things we have mentioned exhaust the lovingkindness of the Lord. When he had washed us, according tothe ninth verse, he anointed us with oil. Yes, and that has been repeated many and many a time. "Thou hast anointed my headwith oil." He gave us the oil of his grace; our faces were like priests, and we went up to his tabernacle rejoicing. Haveye received the Spirit, my brethren? Oh, think how great an honour that God should dwell in man. Thecenturion said he was not worthy that Christ should come under the roof of his house, and yet the Holy Spirit has notmerely come under your roof but has come into your heart; there he dwells and there he reigns. Yet, my dear brethren, yetyou have sinned. With God's oil on your head you have sinned. With the Holy Ghost in your heart you have sinned. Ah! if anyman carried God within him, would he go and sin? Shall the body that is the temple of the Holy Ghost be desecrated? Yet thathas beenthe case with us. We have had God within us, and yet we have sinned. Marvel of marvels! He that would defile the housein which the king lived, would certainly be guilty of high insult; but he who defiles the temple in which the Holy Ghost resides-whatshall be said of him? This is what we have done. O Lord, have mercy upon thy people! Now we see our abomination in this clearlight, we beseech thee pardon it, for Jesu's sake!

But further, we find that he not only washed us, he not only anointed us with oil; but he clothed us, and clothed us sumptuously.The rich man in the parable of Jesus was clothed in scarlet, but we are better robed than he, for we are clothed in broidered-work."Jesus spent his life to work my robe of righteousness." His sufferings were so many stitches when he made the broidered-workof my righteousness. "I clothed thee also with broidered work, and shod thee withbadgers' skin." Our shoes have been as iron and brass, and as our day, so has our strength been. We have had always gracehitherto sufficient for us. "And I girded thee about with fine linen,"-the righteousness of saints. He has given to us thevirtues of the Holy Spirit, the robe of sanctification; and then he has covered us with silk, even with that all-gloriousrobe of righteousness "woven from the top throughout without seam," in which all his people stand arrayed. There never wasany onedressed so well as God's people. Outwardly they may wear fustian and calico; they may come up to the house of God dressedin the garb of poverty, but they have robes which men cannot see, though such as angels can see and admire. A saint's wardrobewould be a matchless thing to look at if we could but see it with the eyes of our understanding illuminated. Have you everbeen taken to see the wardrobes of some great personages,-their multiplied garments-the robes which they wore in state? Youhave wondered at their lavish expenditure; but see your own, see those shoes, that girding of fine linen, and that coveringof silk. Why, all the wealth of mankind could not buy an ell of that stuff; they could not procure a hem, much less the entirerobe with which the righteous are adorned and made glorious. And yet they have turned aside and sinned. What should you thinkof a bishop in his lawn sleeves defiling himself with outcasts in the street? What would think you of a king with a crownon his head going to break the laws of his kingdom? What would you think if a monarch should invest us with all the insigniaof nobility, and we should afterwards violate the high orders conferred upon us while adorned with the robes of state? Thisis just what you and I have done. We have had all these costly robes and glorious garments, and then we have gone and sinnedagainst our God. O ingratitude of the vilest sort! Where are there words to denounce it? What language can fully express it?

We have but time to notice each one of these briefly; we have not only received clothing, but ornaments. "I have decked thee also with ornaments, and put bracelets upon thy hands and a chain on thy neck, and I put a jewel on thyforehead and earrings in thy ears, and a beautiful crown upon thy head." Just like a loving husband, not content with givinghis wife an ornament, he gives her many. And the Lord, you see, gives to his Church all the ornaments she canpossibly desire. There are ornaments for her ears, a crown for her head, bracelets for her hands, and a chain for herneck. We cannot be more glorious; Christ has given the Church so much, she could not have more. He could not bestow upon herthat which is more beautiful, more precious, or more costly. She has all she can receive. The Lord Jesus has bestowed allhis wealth, and all heaven's wealth upon his Church, and you and I are the inheritors and wearers of these precious ornaments.He hasgiven to us jewels in our ears-a hearing ear; he has given us the jewel in our forehead-a holy courage for his name; hehas given us a crown upon our head-a garland crown of lovingkindness and tender mercy; he has given us bracelets upon ourhands, that whatsoever we touch may be graced, that our conduct may be beautiful and lovely, an ornament to the professionwhich we have espoused; and he has been pleased to put a chain about our necks, that we may ever be known to be right noblepersonages-noble of rank, exalted of station. Nevertheless, in the face of all these, we have sinned against him.

Dear friends, it may seem like repetition when I go over the list of these mercies, but I cannot help it. I should like everyone of these to be as a trumpet in your ear to wake you up to look at your sins, and as a dagger in the heart of your prideto stab it and make it die. By these mercies of God, I adjure you, do hate your sins; by these lovingkindnesses, these favours,immense, innumerable, unsearchable, by these covenant gifts, every one of them more precious, thana world of diamonds, I beseech you hate the sins that have grieved your gracious Lord; and made his Spirit mourn. To seemy sins in the lurid light of Sinai were bad enough, but to see them in the mellow radiance of his countenance and in thelight that is shed from the cross of my dying Master, this is to see sin in all its blackness and all its heinousness. Never,dear brethren, tamper with sin; never have anything to do with those who think sin is little because grace is great. Shun,Ibeseech you, any man who comforts his heart with the hope that the crimes of God's children are mere trifles. No; thoughthere be precious blood to wash it all away, yet sin is an awful thing. Though there be covenant promises to keep the believersecure, yet sin is a damning thing. Though there be eternal love which will not execute the divine anger upon us, yet sinis a thrice-cursed thing. In fact, I would strain language to find an epithet for that sin which dares to nestle in the heartof a man whom God has loved and chosen. I know that there is a tendency among some ministers-I will not say to whom Iallude; you may readily guess-who preach a gospel which does seem as if it tolerated iniquity. Oh, come not into their secret,I pray you. Better for you, though it were one of the worst things that could be, if you were to endorse Arminianism, ratherthan Antinomianism. Of the two devils I think the white devil is the least devilish. As Rowland Hill said,-"The one is awhite devil and the other a black one." They are both devils, I doubt not, but still one is more fearful in its characterthan the other. Have nothing to do with that horrible spirit which has done more to destroy sound doctrine in our churchesthan anything else. Arguments will never break Antinomianism down. We are not afraid to meet our antagonists in fair and openbattle. The ill lives of some who call themselves Calvinists, and are no more Calvinists than they are Jews, have broughtthatdoctrine into great disrepute, and we often have flung in our faces the wickedness of some professors, and the rash, notto say wicked teaching of some of our preachers, as a reason why our brethren should be accounted worthy of all scorn. Themore gracious God is, the more holy you should be; the more love he manifests to you, the more love should you reflect tohim.

III. And now, I shall close by noticing in the third place, WHAT OUR SINS REALLY HAVE BEEN. We will not enter into particulars,we have each one, a different way. It were idle therefore for me to think of describing the sins of such an assembly as thepresent. The germs, the vileness, the essence of our own sin, has lain in this-that we have given to sin and to idols thingsthat belong unto God. "Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which Ihad given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them, and tookest thy broidered garmentsand coveredst them, and thou hast set mine oil and mine incense before them. My meat also which I gave thee, fine flour, and oil, and honey, wherewith I fed thee, thou hast even set it before them for a sweet savour." I have done this-let me make confession for myself, andthen I admonish you each one apply the case to yourselves. It has been a happySabbath day, my soul has enjoyed personal fellowship with Christ: I have gone up in the pulpit and had liberty of speech,and power has attended the words; there has been manifestly the Holy Spirit in the midst of his Church; I have, gone home,had access to God in prayer, and enjoyed again communion with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. I go forth once moreto unfold the things of the gospel, and with delight to my own soul, have I heard afterwards of saints who have been refreshed,and sinners converted. This was like "fine flour, and honey and oil" that God had given to me. What did he give it mefor? Why, that I might offer it to him, and give him all the glory. And do you know, I have caught myself saying, "Ah, youhave done well to-day; you are growing in grace, and living near to God." What! am I offering God's blessings before the shrineof my abominable pride? Am I making an offering to Moloch, and bringing the very gifts and love-tokens of my Father, to belaidupon the altar of my own pride? This is abominable indeed! This is so vile that no language can execrate it sufficiently.To offer my own work is bad enough, but to offer God's grace to idols, to spend his mercies in the gratification of my flesh-tolook upon my own self as having done it, to sacrifice to my own conceit, to make an oblution to self of that which God hasgiven me-this is atrocious enough to make a man fall very humbly before God, to feel the bitterness of his sin, and askfor pardon.

You have transgressed in like manner, I dare say. When you pray at a prayer meeting, the devil insinuates the thought, andyou entertain it, "What a fine fellow I am!" You may detect yourself when you are talking to a friend of some good thingsGod has done, or when you go home and tell your wife lovingly the tale of your labour, there is a little demon of pride atthe bottom of your heart. You like to take credit to yourself for the good things you have done. I amspeaking of you all; there is no exception here. Does not a little bit of the old man creep out, just as when Jehu said,"Come see my zeal for the Lord." Now what is that but taking God's fine meal, and oil, and honey, and offering them to yourselves?It there should be an innocent man, one who pleads "not guilty" upon this matter he can get up and go out if he likes; butI am sure you will all sit still, at least, all who know your own hearts. Your own experience will compel you to say-" Imust confess it before God." But have you not noticed that there are other ways besides this? Sometimes a man has anothergod besides pride. That god may be his sloth. He does not want to do much; he reads in the Bible that there is a finishedrighteousness, that the covenant of grace is complete. Have you never detected yourself, when inclined to be dilatory in spiritualthings, leaning on the oar of the covenant, instead of pulling at it, and saying, "Well, these things are true, but thereisno great need for me to stir myself." Ah! you have been quietly nestling down to sleep, even under the influence of thesweet wine of the covenant of grace. It is sad that it should be so. It would be bad enough if we had picked up an excusefrom our own logic; but instead of that, we have gone to God's book to feign apologies for our idleness. Was not that takinghis mercies and sacrificing them to false deities? Sometimes it is even worse. God gives to his people riches, and they offerthembefore the shrine of their covetousness. He gives them talent, and they prostitute it to the service of their ambition.He gives them judgment, and they pander to their own advancement, and seek not the interest of his kingdom. He gives theminfluence; that influence they use for their own aggrandisement, and not for his honour. What is this but parallel to takinghis gold, and his jewels, and hanging them upon the neck of Ashtaroth. Ah! let us take care when we think of our sins, thatwe setthem in this light. It is taking God's mercies to lavish them upon his enemies. Now, if you were to make me a presentof some token of your regard, I think it would be the meanest and most ungracious thing in the world I could do to take itover to your enemy, and say, "There, I come to pay my respects." To pay my respects to your foe with that which had been thetoken of your favour! There are two kings at enmity with one another-two powers that have been at battle, and one of themhas arebellious subject, who is caught in the very act of treason, and condemned to die. The king very graciously pardons him,and then munificently endows him. "There," says he, "I give you a thousand crown-pieces;" and that man takes the bounty, anddevotes it to increasing the resources of the king's enemies. Now, that were a treason and baseness too vile to be committedby worldly men. Alas then! that is what you have done. You have bestowed on God's enemies what God gave to you as a love token.Oh, men and brethren, let us bow ourselves in dust and ashes before God; let us turn pride out to-night if we can; butit will be hard work. Let us try, in the strength of the Spirit, that we may at least put our foot on its neck, and as wecome to the Lord's table, may we have a joy for pardoned guilt, but may we mourn that we have pierced the Lord, and mournmost that we continue to pierce him still, and sometimes put him to an open shame by our disregard for his laws.

The Lord bless this to his people; and as for those who are unconverted, let them recollect that if the righteous have causeto weep, and if the sins of the saint be abominable, what must be the iniquity of that man who goeth on still in his sinsand repenteth not! The Lord grant to such, grace to repent, and pardon, for Jesus' sake.