Sermon 651. A Sermon From A Rush
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 24, 1865, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Can the rush grow up without a marsh? Can the reeds grow without water? While it is yet green and not cut down, it withersbefore any other plant. So are the paths of all that forget God. And the hypocrite's hope shall perish."
ISAAC walked in the fields at eventide to meditate. I commend him for his occupation. Meditation is exceedingly profitableto the mind. If we talked less, read less, and meditated more we should be wiser men. I commend him for the season which hechose for that occupation-ateventide-when the business of the day was over and the general stillness of nature was in harmony with the quiet of hissoul. I also commend him for the place which he selected-the wide expanse of nature-the field.
Wise men can readily find a thousand subjects for contemplation abroad in the open country. Our four-square room is not verysuggestive. But when a man walks in the fields, having the Lord in his heart and his whole mental faculties directed towardsheavenly things, all things aid him in hispleasing occupation. If we look above to the sun, moon and stars, all these remind us of the grandeur of God and make usask ourselves, "What is man, that the Lord should be mindful of him, or the son of man, that Jehovah should visit him?"
If we look below, the green meadows, or golden cornfields all proclaim Divine care and bounty. There is not a bird that sings,nor a grasshopper that chirps in the grass which does not urge us to praise and magnify the name of the Most High-while theplants, from the hyssop on the wall to thecedar which spreads its boughs so gloriously on Lebanon- exhibit to observant eyes the wisdom of the great Creator of allthings. The murmuring brook talks to the listening ear in hallowed whispers of Him whose cloudy Throne supplies its stream.And the air, as it sighs amidthe trees, tells in mysterious accents of the great unseen but ever-active Spirit of the living God.
The great book of Nature only needs to be turned over by a reverent hand and to be read by an attentive eye to be found tobe only second in teaching to the Book of Revelation. He who would have us forget to study the fair creation of God is foolish.He would have us neglect one book by a greatAuthor in order that we may the better comprehend another from the same hand. The pages of Inspiration reveal God far moreclearly than the fields of creation-but having once obtained the light of God, the Holy Spirit, we can then enter the worldof nature which has becomeconsecrated to our best devotions and find that "in His temple does everyone speak of His Glory."
Down by the river's bank let us go, like Pharaoh's daughter, and perhaps among the rushes we shall find a subject for thoughtof which we may say, as she did of Moses, "I drew it out of the water." The reed, as it waves in yonder marsh, has a wordof warning and whoever has ears to hear, let himhear. I claim your attention for a preacher who is not often heard-lend him your ears and when any shall ask you, "Whatdid you go out to see?" you need not blush to answer, "A reed shaken by the wind."
The rush shall, this morning, by God's Grace, teach us a lesson of self-examination. Bildad, the Shuhite, points it out tous as the picture of a hypocrite-so, going to our work at once we shall have three things to talk about this morning. Thehypocrite's religion-first, what is itlike? Secondly, what it lives on. And thirdly, what will become of it?
I. First, then, THE HYPOCRITE'S PROFESSION-WHAT IS IT LIKE? It is here compared to a rush growing in the mire and a reed flourishingin the water. This comparison has several points in it.
1. In the first place, hypocritical religion may be compared to the rush for the rapidity with which it grows. True conversionsare often very sudden-as, for example, the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus and the conversion of the Philippianjailer when suddenly startled out of hissleep and made to cry, "What must I do to be saved?" But the after-growth of Christians is not quite so rapid and uninterrupted-seasonsof deep depression chill their joy. Hours of furious temptation make a dreadful onslaught upon their quiet.
They cannot always rejoice. Their life is checkered. They are emptied from vessel to vessel and are acquainted with grief.True Christians are very much like oaks which take years to reach their maturity-many March winds blow through them beforethey are well rooted. And oftentimes tempestand flood and drought and hurricane exercise their tremendous powers upon them.
Not so the hypocrite-once having made a profession of being converted, things generally go very smoothly with him. "Becausethey have no changes, therefore they fear not God." They are strangers to lamentations over inbred corruption. When Believerstalk of a warfare within, they areastonished! If we groan out, "O wretched man that I am- who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" these gentlemensay, "What bad people these Christians must be, to talk in that way! What black hearts they must have! And how inconsistentfor them to claim to bechildren of God!"
The hypocrite can always pray well and sing well. He meets no hindrances in coming to the Mercy Seat, has no groans to minglewith his formal songs. The backs of living men ache under their loads, but a steam-engine having no living sensibilities knowsno pains. A horse may stumble from weariness,but a locomotive, never! Even so, the mechanical professor goes on and on and on at an even rate-when living souls enjoyno such perfect equanimity.
Strong temptations do not grieve the mere professor. The devil does not care to molest him-he knows he is sure of him andso he lets him very much alone. The Pharisee's house stood very firmly though it was built on sand-and it neither shook norstirred till the flood came. It was asfirm to all human appearance as if it had been founded on the Rock of Ages. When the trial-hour came-then the destructionwas terribly complete-but meanwhile its foundations were dug without labor and its timbers were set up without trouble.
It is an ill sign, dear Friend, if you never have to search your heart with deep anxiety lest you should be deceived. To havesuch strong faith that you never waver is one thing-but to be filled with such strong presumption that you never examine yourselfis quite another. "Tush!" says thisman, "I can do all things. I can run and not be weary! I can walk and not faint! I do not understand these sighings of Little-Faith,and limping of Ready-to-Halt. I cannot understand all this noise about conflict within-I am peaceable and quiet always." Yes,so it may be.Alas, many have heard the voice, "Peace, peace, where there is no peace."
So, like the rush by the river, the hypocrite grows up suddenly and flourishingly in Divine things, to all appearances, andfinds it easy work to be green and fair in the ways of the Lord.
2. The rush is of all plants one of the most hollow and unsubstantial. It looks stout enough to be wielded as a staff, buthe that leans upon it shall most certainly fall. It is a water-loving thing and it partakes of the nature of that on whichit feeds-it is unstable as water and it doesnot excel. It has a fine appearance, but it is of no service whatever where stability is needed.
So is it with the hypocrite! He is fair enough on the outside, but there is no solid faith in Christ Jesus in him-no realrepentance on account of sin-no vital union to Christ Jesus. He can pray, but not in secret, and the essence and soul of prayerhe never knew. He has never wrestledwith the angel, never sighed and cried unto God and been "heard in that he feared." He has a pretended confidence, but thatconfidence never was founded and bottomed on the finished work of Jesus Christ.
He was never emptied of self, never brought down to feel that all his own doing, and willing, and power are less than nothingand vanity. If there had been a deep repentance, and a real confidence, and a true life in Jesus, then he had not been thehypocrite that he now is. Oh, dear Friends, whileI speak upon these things, I have over my spirit the overshadowing of a great gloom. What if some of us should be foundto have been as unsubstantial as the rush by the river when God comes to judge the world?
What? When you need a hope to bear you up in the hour of death-what if it should snap beneath you? You high professors! Youancient members and revered Church officers! You eloquent preachers of the Word-what if all your profession should, like thebaseless fabric of a vision, passaway? You have been drinking of the cup of the Lord. You have been feasting at His sacramental table. You have talked agreat deal of rich experiences. You have boasted of the Divine Graces which you think the Spirit of God has given you-butwhat if it should all be adelusion? What if you should have fostered in your soul self-deception and should now be traversing the way of darknesswhile you dream that you are in the way of light?
May the Lord search us and give us that true, solid, substantial, real, strong-hearted faith in Christ which will stand thetest! The reed is hollow and has no heart-and the hypocrite has none either-and lack of heart is fatal, indeed. When the Romanseer killed the victim to take anomen from the innards, he always considered it to be the worst sign of all if no heart was found, or if the heart was shriveled."Their heart is divided," said Hosea, "now shall they be found wanting."
God abhors the sacrifice where the heart is not found. Sirs, if you cannot give God your hearts, do not mock Him with solemnsounds upon thoughtless tongues! If you do not mean your godliness, do not profess it! Above all things, abhor mere profession.Jonathan Edwards tells us that in the greatrevival in America there were conversions of all sorts of people-from harlots upwards, but not one single conversion, hesaid-of ungodly professors. Those seemed to have been the only persons upon whom the Spirit of God did not descend. Beware,then, of having theoutward form of religion and being hollow and heartless like the rush, for then your case is desperate, indeed.
3. A third comparison very naturally suggests itself, namely, that the hypocrite is very like the rush for its bending properties.When the rough wind comes howling over the marsh, the rush has made up its mind that it will hold its place at all hazards.So if the wind blows from the north, hebends to the south and the blast sweeps over him. And if the wind blows from the south, he bends to the north and the galehas no effect upon him. Only grant the rush one thing-that he may keep his place-and he will cheerfully bow to all the rest.
The hypocrite will yield to good influences if he is in good society. "Oh yes, certainly, certainly, sing, pray, anythingyou like." With equal readiness he will yield to evil influences if he happens to be in connection with them. "Oh, yes, singa song, talk wantonness, run into gay society,attend the theater, take a turn with the dice! Certainly, if you wish it! 'When we are at Rome we do as Rome does.' "
Anything to oblige anybody is his motto. He is an omnivorous feeder and like the swine can eat the vegetable of propriety,or the flesh of iniquity. One form of doctrine is preached to him-very well, he would not wish to contend against it for amoment! It is contradicted by the next preacherhe hears-and really, there is a great deal to be said on the other side-so he holds with hare and hounds, too. He is allfor heat when the weather is hot and quite as much for cold when it is the season. He can freeze and melt and boil, all inan hour-just as hefinds it pays best to be solid or liquid. If it is most respectable to call a thing black, well, then, it is black! If itwill pay better to call it white, well, then, it is not so very black-in fact it is rather white, or white altogether if youlike to call it so!
The gross example of the Vicar of Bray comes at once to one's mind. He had been a papist under Henry VIII, then a Protestantunder a Protestant reign-then a papist under Mary-then again a Protestant under Elizabeth. And he declared he had always beenconsistent with his principle, forhis principle was to continue the Vicar of Bray! Some there are who are evidently consistent in this particular and in theidea that they will make things as easy for themselves as they can-and will get as much profit as they can-either by truthor lies.
Do you not know some? They have not an atom of that stern stuff of which martyrs are made in the whole of their composition.They love that modern goddess, Charity. When Diana went down Charity went up. And she is as detestable a goddess as ever Dianawas. Give me a man who will be all things toall men to win souls, if it is not a matter of princi-ple-but give me the man who, when it comes to be a matter of rightand wrong, would rather die than deny his faith- who could burn, but could not for a moment conceal his sentiments, much lesslay them aside until amore convenient season.
True godliness, such as will save the soul, must not be the mere bark, but the heart, the sap, the essence of a man's being-itmust run right through and through, so that he cannot live without it. That religion which you do not carry with you everyday and which is not the dearest object forwhich you live is not worth picking up from a dunghill! Beloved, we must be ready to die for Christ or we shall have nojoy in the fact that Christ died for us.
4. Yet again the bulrush has been used in Scripture as a picture of a hypocrite from its habit of hanging down its head. "Isit to hang your head like a bulrush?" asks the Prophet, speaking to some who kept a hypocritical fast. Pretended Christiansseem to think that to hang down the head is thevery index of deep piety. To look piously miserable. To speak in a wretched tone of voice. To be constantly lamenting thewickedness of the times and bewailing the badness of the harvests and the wickedness of our legislature.
To see nothing anywhere but what is vile, deceptive and abominable is thought to be the trademark of superfine godliness.It is the mark of a hypocrite to wear always a sad countenance-Job says of the hypocrite, "Will he delight himself in theAlmighty?" And the answer that he expected was,"No, it is altogether impossible!" A real hypocrite finds no satisfaction in his religion. He goes through with it becausehe thinks he must. He walks to his place of worship with his books under his arm just as a culprit might be supposed to walkup the gallows stairs. And when hegets to a place of worship he is very proper in all his demeanor-very proper, indeed, but he is never joyous.
Smile on Sundays? Shocking! What? Enjoy anything like mirth at any time! Awful! Now you understand all about this. There aresome things which you must handle very tenderly because they will break if you don't. A man, dressed in shoddy garments, walksvery demurely for fear the rubbish should tear.But good broadcloth allows us liberty of action without fear of such an accident. Gingerbread religionists may only be lookedat in their somber aspects-genuine Believers are not ashamed to be viewed even when their cheerfulness is at its full.
A person who has bought a pair of shoes made of brown paper must mincingly tread with delicate steps. But he who, accordingto Scripture, is shod with iron and brass may, with manly gait, march on and even leap for joy without fear! I love Christianpreciseness of action, but I abhor hypocriticaldecorum and formalistic exactness of worship. I would advocate holy cheerfulness-a Christian freedom which lets the wholeman show itself-a freedom of sorrowing when it is the time for sorrow and a freedom of rejoicing when it is the time for rejoicing!
That constrained, stiffly starched religion which some people think such a great deal of is nothing but the bulrush religionof the hypocrite and the Pharisee-and the sooner we throw it out the better. The man whose heart is right with God does notstop to say, "How will this look?" His hearttells him, as he reads the Word, that such a course is right and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit he follows it. Rightwith him is delight. He knows that evil is not denied to him as though he were debarred from pleasure, but that it is onlykept from him as a tender parentwould keep poison from a child. Our life is the life of liberty. And we find, of true religion, that "Her ways are waysof pleasantness and all her paths are peace."
5. Once more-the rush is well taken as an emblem of the mere professor from its bearing no fruit. Nobody would expect to findfigs on a bulrush, or grapes of Eshcol on a reed. So it is with the hypocrite-he brings forth no fruit. The hypocrite getsas far as this-"I do not drink.I do not swear. I do not cheat. I do not lie. I do not break the Sabbath." His religion is all negative. And when it comesto anything positive he fails. What have you ever done for Christ? You may look at the whole of the hypocrite's life and ityields nothing.
Perhaps he has given a guinea or two to a charity. Yes-but did he give it to God? He has been kind to the poor. Did he lookat the poor as being God's poor and care for them because God cares for them? Did he do it for God? Throughout the whole lifeof the hypocrite there is nothing in whichhe really serves God. What? Not when he has made that long prayer? He did it either to satisfy his conscience or to pleasethose who were listening to him. Did he really pray to God and do it for God's Glory and in order that he might have fellowshipwith God?
If so, he is no hypocrite-but the hypocrite proper-though he has left off many wrong things, yet he has not advanced so faras to bring forth fruit meet for repentance. He has not run in the way of holiness. He has not sought after the image of Christ.He does not delight in communionwith Christ. He has no faith, no joy, no hope, no conformity to the Spirit of the Master. He lacks fruit and therefore heis as the rush and not as a plant of the Lord's right hand planting.
I will not stay further to work out this parallel-only if any words have seemed to strike you-let them strike you. If therehas been a sentence in what I have said that suited my own case, I do desire to feel its power. The worst is that some ofyou who are most sincere will be troubledwhen you search yourselves, when we do not want you to be. And others who are really hypocrites are the very last personsto think they are. When our young members come to me in such trouble, crying, "Sir, I am afraid I am a hypocrite," I alwaysthink, "/believe you are not, or elseyou would not be afraid of it."
But those who are never afraid-who have just written it down as a matter of fact that all is well with them-should listento the word of the Prophet, "Strangers have devoured his strength and he knows it not: yes, gray hairs are here and thereupon him, yet he knows not." The worm maybe in the center of the apple when the cheek of the fruit is still beautiful to look upon. God save us from hypocrisy andgrant us Grace to see ourselves in a true light!
II. Secondly, we have to consider WHAT IT IS THAT THE HYPOCRITE'S RELIGION LIVES ON. "Can the rush grow up without a marsh?Can the reeds grow without water?" The rush is entirely dependent upon the ooze in which it is planted. If there should comea season of drought and the water should fail fromthe marsh, the rush would more speedily die than any other plant. "While it is yet green and not cut down, it withers beforeany other plant." The Hebrew name for the rush signifies a plant that is always drinking. And so the rush lives perpetuallyby sucking and drinking inmoisture.
This is the case of the hypocrite. The hypocrite cannot live without something that shall foster his apparent piety. Let meshow you some of this mire and water upon which the hypocrite lives. Some people's religion cannot live without excitement-revivalservices, earnest preachers andzealous Prayer Meetings keep them green. But the earnest minister dies, or goes to another part of the country. The Churchis not quite so earnest as it was and what then? Where are your converts?
Oh, how many there are who are hot-house plants-while the temperature is kept up to a certain point they flourish and bringforth flowers, if not fruits! But take them out into the open air. Give them one or two nights' frost of persecution and whereare they? My dear Hearers, beware of thatgodliness which depends upon excitement for its life! I do not speak against religious excitement-men get excited over politics,and science, and trade-why should they not be excited about the far weightier things of religion?
But still, though you may indulge yourself with it, sometimes, do not let it be your element. I am afraid that many Churcheshave been revived and revived till they have become like big bubbles full of wind and now they have almost vanished into thinair! The grace which man gives, man can takeaway. If your piety has sprung up like a mushroom, it will be about as frail. Doubtless many are converted at revivals whorun well and hold out. And then their conversion is the work of the Spirit of God.
But there are as many, I fear, of another kind! They get delirious with excitement-they fancy that they have repented, dreamthat they have believed-and then imagine themselves to be the children of God! They may go on in such a delusion perhaps yearafter year. Beware! Beware! Somehypocrites can no more live without excitement than the rush can live without water! Dear Hearers, pray that you may belike the palm tree, which even in the desert still continues green and brings forth its fruit in the year of drought.
Many mere professors live upon encouragement. You are the child of godly parents-those parents naturally look with great delightupon the first signs of Divine Grace in you and they encourage and foster, as they should do, everything that is good. Oryou belong to a class such as some ofthose most blessed classes which meet here, presided over by tender, loving spirits-and whenever you have a little difficultyyou can run to these kind helpers. Whenever any fresh temptation arises you find strength in their warning and counsel.
This is a very great privilege. I wish that in all Churches we would practice the text, "Encourage him," more and more. Weought to comfort the feeble-minded and support the weak. But, dear Friends, beware of the piety which depends upon encouragement.You will have to go, perhaps, where you willbe frowned at and scowled at, where the head of the household, instead of encouraging prayer, will refuse you either theroom or the time for engaging in it. You may meet with hard words, bitter sneers, and cruel mockery because you profess tobe a Christian. Oh, get Grace whichwill stand that fiery trial! God give you a Grace that will be independent of human helpers because it hangs upon the barearm of God Himself!
Some, too, we know, whose religion is sustained by example. It may be the custom in the circle in which you move to attenda place of worship-no, more-it has come to be the fashion to join the Church and make a profession of religion. Well, exampleis a good thing. When I was crossingthe Humber from Hull to New Holland the other day, a steamer came in with sheep on board and there was some difficulty ingetting them from the boat to the pier. The butcher first dragged one sheep over the drawbridge and then the others came alongreadily enough. Example is a goodthing-one true sheep of Christ may lead the rest in the way of Truth and obedience.
But a religion which depends entirely on other people must obviously go to ruin when subjected to the temptation of an evilexample. Why, if you simply join the Church because other young people do it, or profess such-and-such a faith because ithappens to be the prevailing doctrine in the districtwhere you reside-why, then, your religion will depend on the locality! And when you move somewhere else, your religion willmove off, too, or you from it. Young man, avoid this feeble sort of piety. Be a man who can be singular when to be singularis to be right.
If the whole world shall run headlong down the broad road, be it yours to thread your way through the crowd against the currentalong the uphill way of life. The dead fish floats down the stream, the live fish goes against it. Show your life by shunningunholy example. Furthermore, a hypocrite'sreligion is often very much supported by the profit that he makes by it. Mr. By-Ends joined the Church because, he said,he should get a good wife by making a profession of religion.
Besides, Mr. By-Ends kept a shop and went to a place of worship because, he said, the people would have to buy goods somewhere-andif they saw him at their place-very likely they would come to his shop and so his religion would help his trade. Thus he arguedthat there were three goodthings-a profession of religion, a good wife and a good trade as well. Suppose, Mr. By-Ends, that your religion involvedyour missing the supposed good wife, and losing the good customers, what about it then? "Why, then," says he, "I'm very sorry,but really we must look tothe main chance. We must not commit ourselves too far."
That is Mr. By-Ends' way ofjudging. He does not look upon the things of God as the main choice. They are means to an end-thatis all. I fear there is much of this everywhere. You will know best, any of you, how far you are affected by it. I am surethere are few, if any of you, who can besuspected of coming here to gain trade, for the thing does not answer in such a city as London. But in country towns thisoperates marvelously. You can have the Dissenting trade if you go to meeting, or you can have the Church trade if you go tothe steeple-house.
Well, worshippers of the golden calf, do you know what Christ will do with you if you are found in His temple when He comes?That scourge of small cords will be on your backs! "Take these things from here," He will say, as He sees your tables andyour doves and your shekels. "My Father's houseshall be called a House of Prayer-you have made it a den of thieves." The rush will grow where there is plenty of mire,plenty of profit for religion-but dry up the gains and where would some people's religion be? Pray with all your might againstthis loathsomedisgusting sin of making a pretension to godliness merely for the sake of getting something by it.
Yet, doubtless, there are crowds who do this. With certain persons their godliness rests very much upon their prosperity."Does Job serve God for nothing?" was the wicked question of Satan concerning that upright man. And of many it might be askedwith justice, for they love God after a fashionbecause He prospers them. But if things went ill with them they would give up all faith in God. I remember two who joinedthis Church. I remember them with sorrow. I faintly hope good things of them, but I frequently fear the worst.
They joined this Church when things were going very well. But almost from that very time they had a succession of losses andthey imputed this to their having made a profession of religion. And so they gave up outward religious duties. Whether theydid that out of a scrupulous honesty, I scarcelycan tell. Or whether it really was this-that they could not receive evil at the hand of God as well as good-I do not know.I am inclined to fear it was the latter. There are some who quarrel with the most High. If they can clearly see that sincethe time of theirsupposed conversion, the world has gone prosperously with them, then they will love God in their poor carnal way. But ifit has been nothing but adversity then they are astonished and think God is not kind with them.
Do you know that the promise of the old Covenant was prosperity, but the promise of the new Covenant is adversity? Listento this text-"Every branch in Me that bears not fruit He takes away and every branch that bears fruit"-what? "Hepurges it,that it may bring forth more fruit"! Ifyou bring forth fruit you will have to endure affliction! "Alas," says one, "that is a terrible prospect!" Ah, but, Beloved,this affliction works out such comfortable fruit that the Christian, who is the subject of it, has learned to rejoice in tribulations-becauseas histribulations abound so his consolation abounds by Christ Jesus!
Rest assured if you are a godly man, you will be no stranger to the rod. Trials must and will befall. But do not let me misleadanybody into the idea of praying for trouble! I have heard of one who did so-he only did it but once-many trials made himwiser! The true-born child knows howto bear the rod, but he will not ask for it-if he asked for it he would be very silly-and it would be of no service to him.You will have it sooner or later! And though it may be months and years will roll very quietly with you, yet there will bedays of darkness and youought to rejoice that there are such, for in these you will be weaned from earth and made ready for Heaven! You will bedelivered from your clinging to the present and made to long, and pine and sigh for the things which are not seen but eternal,so soon to be revealed to you.
To conclude this point. The hypocrite is very much affected by the respectability of the religion which he avows. John Bunyan'spithy way of putting it is, "Many walk with religion when she wears her silver slippers." But they forsake her if she goesbarefoot. May I ask you this question? Whatwould you do if to follow Christ were penal according to the laws of the land? If you had to live under perpetual jeopardyof life for reading the Word-would you hide it as the saints of God did, behind the wainscot or under the floor-and read itdown in the cellar or upin the attic at spare moments?
Could you come forward in the day of trial as those did in Pliny's time and say, "I am a Christian"? Do you think that likepoor Tomkins, when Bonner held his finger over the candle to let him see what it was like, you could still say you could burnbut you could not turn? Could you stand as someof the martyrs did at the stake, telling those who looked on that if they did not clap their hands at the last they mightknow their religion was not true, and so at the very last, when their poor fingers were all on fire, they would still liftthem up and wave their hands to andfro, and cry out, "None but Christ! None but Christ!"?
Do you think you would have the Grace to suffer for Christ Jesus? You may say, "I fear I should not." My dear Friends, thatfear is a very natural one. But mark you, if you can bear the ordinary trials of the day, the constant trials of the world,and take them before God and exhibit Christianpatience under them, you may hope that as a Believer in Christ you would have more Grace given you when the trials becamemore severe. And so you would be able to pass through them as the saints of old did!
But mark you, if the present trials and troubles of the day are too much for you and you cannot exhibit Christian patienceunder them, I am compelled to ask you in the language of Jeremiah, "If you have run with the footmen and they have weariedyou, how will you contend with horses? And if in theland of peace wherein you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the swelling of Jordan?" This may help us totry ourselves.
III. We have a third point to close with and that is, WHAT BECOMES OF THE HYPOCRYTE'S HOPE? "While it is yet green and notcut down, it withers before any other plant. So are the paths of all that forget God. And the hypocrite's hope shall perish.Long before the Lord comes to cut the hypocritedown it often happens that he dries up for want of the mire on which he lives. The excitement, the encouragement, the example,the profit, the respectability, the prosperity upon which he lived fail him and he fails, too.
Alas, how dolefully is this the case in all Christian Churches! Little have we had to mourn over defections during the yearsof our ministry. But we have had some sorrowful, very sorrowful cases, and I doubt not we shall have more. "Lord, is it I?""Lord, is it I?" is a question that may be passedround among professing Christians. I fear that there are those here this morning who one day will deny the Lord that boughtthem and crucify the Son of God afresh and put Him to an open shame.
"Oh," says one, "it cannot be me." Do not be too sure, Friend, do not be too sure! If I could come in Prophetic spirit tosome of you who will do this and look you in the face and tell you what you will do, you would say like Hazael, "Is your servanta dog that he should do this thing?" And Ishould have to settle my countenance until I became ashamed and look at you yet again and say, "You are no dog and yet youwill play the dog and return to your vomit and become yet again what once you were, only with this aggravation, that you willhave sinned against light andagainst knowledge, against sacred influences and professed enjoyments of Divine love."
You have cleansed the house. You have swept it. You have garnished it and the evil spirit is gone. But if the Holy Spirithas not driven him out-if this has not been a work of power on the part of God-that evil spirit will come back and he willtake unto himself seven other spirits morewicked than himself and they shall enter in and dwell there and your last end will be worse than the first! Better not tohave known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to be turned back again.
The worst of men are those traitors who leave the army of Truth to side with the foe. I believe in the doctrine of the finalperseverance of every true child of God-but there are in all our Churches certain spurious pretenders who will not hold ontheir way-who will blaze and sparklefor a season and then they will go out in darkness. They are "wandering stars, for whom is reserved the blackness of darknessforever." Better far make no pretension of having come to Christ and of having been born again, unless through Divine Graceyou shall hold fast to the end!Remember the back door to Hell! Remember the back door to Hell!
There is a public entrance for the open sinner-but there is a back door for the professed saint. There is a back door forthe hoary-headed professor who has lived many years in apparent sincerity but who has been a liar before God. There is a backdoor for the preacher who can talk fast andloudly, but who does not, in his own heart, know the Truth of God he is preaching. There is a back door to Hell for Churchmembers who are amiable and excellent in many respects, but who have not really looked unto the Lord Jesus Christ and foundtrue salvation in Him. God grantthat this may wake some who otherwise would sleep themselves into perdition!
Yet again, where the rush still continues green because it has mire and water enough on which to feed, another result happens,namely, that before long the sickle is used to cut it down. So must it be with you, Professor, if you shall keep up a greenprofession all your days. Yet if you areheartless, spongy, soft, yielding, unfruitful like the rush-you will be cut down and sorrowful will be the day when, witha blaze, you shall be consumed! Oh, to be cut down at the last! Death, I hope, Beloved, will be to many of you the seasonof your greatest joy!
You will climb to Pisgah's top with weary footsteps, but when once there, the vision of the landscape will make amends forall the toil. The brooks, and hills, and valleys will flow with milk and honey! And your delighted eyes shall gaze upon yourportion-your eternal heritage! But oh, howdifferent will be our lot, if instead of this, "Tekel" shall be written upon us at the last because we are found wanting!
"O my God! My God! Have You forsaken me? Am I, after all, mistaken? Have I played the hypocrite and must I take the mask offnow? Have I covered over the cancer? Have I worn a golden cloth over my leprous forehead and must it be torn away? And mustI stand the mockery of devils and the laughter ofall worlds? What? Have I drunk of Your cup? Have I eaten with You in the streets and must I hear You say, 'I never knewyou, depart from Me you worker of iniquity'? Oh, must it be?"
Then how hard will be the bed on which I die! How stuffed with thorns that pillow! How tortured and anguished my poor brokenheart, when every prop is knocked away and the house comes tumbling down about my ears! When every drop of comfort is driedup and even here the thirsty spirit lacks a dropof cordial to afford it comfort! O my dear Hearers, by the eternal God I do beseech you-seek a genuine religion! Do notput off self-examination! I dare not put it off on my own account and I pray you do not postpone it on yours. If I have notsaid a word to comfort and tocheer you this morning, forgive that lack of service, for my aim is to drive at this one thing-it will in the end be thebest and most comforting to you all if you will set to work now and with diligence to try yourselves-whether you are in thefaith.
Cry to God to aid you in this! You cannot do it well yourself, for, "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperatelywicked, who can know it?" O Cry to Him-"Search me, O God and know my heart, try me and know my ways." Time is flying-set aboutthe business before it is gone!Death is coming on-search yourselves before the darkness thickens into midnight gloom. The Judgment Day will soon arrive!The King will sit upon the Great White Throne. Oh, before He judges you, judge yourselves, that you be not judged!
The division will soon take place between the goats and the sheep. O, seek to be under Christ, the heavenly Shepherd now,that you are not banished from His Presence at the last. What more can I say? It is not your body that is at stake-it is notyour estates that are in jeopardy-yoursoul, your undying SOUL-destined to Heaven's glories or to Hell's miseries are now in question! Search yourselves, searchyourselves and God Almighty search you, too!
Ah, there are some of you who have no need to search. Without any trial you know yourselves to be on the wrong side. And thereare others of you who, when you have searched, will still be afraid that you are wrong. Ah, well, whatever we are, or mayhave been, remember Jesus came into the world toseek and to save that which was lost. "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came intothe world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." Looking to that thorn-crowned head, those dear hands and feet nailed to thetree, that blessed heart allexposed by the soldier's spear-looking there, looking there only, looking there NOW-we find salvation!
Believers, you have looked before. But if that is a matter of question, look now. "Look unto Me and be you saved, all youends of the earth." Repeat that glance which gave you comfort. There is life still in a look at that Crucified One. Thereis life at this moment for you. Jesus! Your people lookto You again! Lover of our souls! Accept us! Oh, you who never looked before, He reigns in Glory, mighty to save! He givesrepentance and remission of sins!
Only trust Him with your soul. Have done with all your works, your willings, your prayers, your tears, your everything asa ground of confidence, and trust in HIM who died for sinners and you "shall never perish, neither shall any pluck you outof His hands." The Lord grant we may be found right atlast for Jesus' sake! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Psalm 139.