Sermon 780. The Secret Spot
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, NOVEMBER 10, 1867, by
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Their spot is not the spot of His children.."- Deuteronomy 32:5.
THERE are frequently great difficulties in identifying the persons of men even when they have been distinctly seen. Our policecourts have given us, during the last few weeks, most serious evidence that men may be utterly deceived as to the identityof individuals. They may be prepared, and honestly, I believe, to take an oath that such-and-such a person is the man whomthey saw discharging firearms or throwing stones, and yet that person may have been many miles away. A slight change of dress,another color in the necktie or a different shape of the hat-or some trifling alteration of the hair may throw a witness entirelyoff his guard.
It was said to be almost dangerous for persons of a certain height, and of a certain color of hair, to be passing the policecourts lest they should be arrested, and marched in with others to be identified by witnesses who were extremely anxious toidentify somebody or other. This fact seems very clearly established-that the judgment of men, even with regard to the identityof their fellow creatures-is very far from being infallible.
Turning to the moral universe, identity there is far more difficult to be made out, for both the moral and religious worldswarm with pretenders. You cannot know for certain who among your acquaintances is a Christian and who is not. This is knownto God and may be revealed to each man for himself. But deception is so easy and is nowadays practiced in so masterly a mannerthat I know it is difficult to know a son of God from a son of Belial. You may sit down and commune with an Apostle and findhe is a Judas! You may walk side by side with one who seemed to be a Simon Peter and prove him to be a Simon Magus. Yes, whatis worse, you may be deceived about yourself, and whereas you may have thought your body to be a temple of the Holy Spirit,you may suddenly discover it to have been made a den of thieves.
Yet this is a very important matter, for if men are not right and cannot clear their consciences that they are right, theylive in a state of perpetual unrest-never at any moment possessing safety. We ought to know-we should never be at peace tillwe do know-whether we are the children of God or not. And since the outward aspect so often deceives, and visible signs arenot to be relied upon, it becomes imperative upon us that we should search deep, and look for signs that will not deceiveus-prying into the very core and marrow of our being-till we have resolved the weighty question, whether we are the childrenof God or the heirs of wrath.
You see the text talks about certain secret spots. These are tokens in which men cannot so readily deceive as to their identity.The mother will be able to tell whether this is her child or not by the spot which is known to none but herself. The pretendermay be very like her child-the voice may be the voice of Jacob, and the hands may not be dissimilar and he may be able torelate many things concerning his youth which it would seem that none but the real child could know-but the mother remembersthat there was a secret spot. And if that is not there she turns the pretender aside. But if she discovers that private token,she knows the claimant to be her child.
I want, this morning, for us to remember that there are secret marks upon every Christian, and if we have not the spot ofGod's child, too, it will little avail us how fairly in our outward garb and manner we may conform ourselves to the membersof the heavenly family. We have before us a whole host of persons who profess to be the children of the Most High. They areexceedingly confident because they come before us in the garments of God's people. But their robes do not deceive us. Immediatelywe tell them that we cannot judge by the outward appearance, for a religious profession is very easily procured. The verybrightest colors may be flaunted and a man's garments may be outwardly spotless and fair to the eye, and yet for all thathe may be the basest of pretenders.
None wash their hands more often than the Pharisees, and yet they are sepulchers full of rottenness. None say longer prayersthan the Scribes, and yet none more ready to devour widows' houses. The outward garb of religion is no crite-
rion by which to judge a man in an age so full of deception as the present-which has been fitly called the era of shams. Ifa devout exterior will not satisfy us, these professors address us in the language of piety. They use the holy speech whichis thought decorous among the people of God. But we straightway tell them that albeit if we lived with them, we have no doubttheir speech would betray them when the old brogue of Babylon would come out unawares, yet still their outward public speechcan be no rule of judgment to us, for those often talk loudest who know least.
The bell rings men to Church but says no prayers itself. There may be the sign of the angel hanging over the inn door butthe devil may be the landlord within. That sepulcher which is most whitewashed may be most full of dead men's bones. Shouldboth garb and language fail to convince us, those who would make a fair show in the flesh point us to their actions, and,"In this" they say, "surely we cannot deceive, for 'by their fruits you shall know them.'" We confess that it is even so-wecan only judge men by their fruits and we are not allowed by God's Word to judge any further.
But men must judge themselves other than by merely outward acts-they must examine their motives and the design and scope bywhich those acts were dictated and directed. Otherwise they may only possess that superficial morality which is deceptivebecause it springs not from the depths of the heart, but is a mere stagnant pool and not the clear crystal living water wellingup from the inmost soul of the man. Men may be externally washed, but not internally quickened. They may be covered with theflowers of righteousness, but those flowers may have no root, and by-and-by may wither away because the heart is not rightin the sight of God.
Sirs, we will not be content, this morning, with examining your clothes, nor listening to your speech, nor even with touchingyour hands-for all these signs may deceive you, if they do not deceive us. We ask you to come with us into the stripping roomand let us search for the spots, the secret spots, without which you cannot know to a certainty that you are the true childrenof the living God. This morning, as we may be helped by God the Holy Spirit, in solemn downright earnest we mean if we can,first of all, to take you to the examination of the secret spots. Secondly, to make a declaration from God's Word of whatthe true spot is. Thirdly, to discriminate among men as to those public and defiling spots which, alas, are to be found inall of us. And, then, fourthly, an exhortation upon the whole subject.
I. First, then, at the mention of private spots which are to be the insignia of the regenerate, there are thousands who say,"We do not shirk that examination. Truly the signs of saints are in us! Are others Israelites? So are we. We bear in our bodiesthe marks of the Lord Jesus-we challenge an investigation."
Be it so, then! LET US COMMENCE A MINUTE EXAMINATION. I am not now to deal with anything that is public. We are not speaking,now, about actions or words, but concerning those secret things which men have judged to be infallible marks of their beingsaved. Here is a friend before us, and as he lays bare his heart he indicates to us the spot which he thinks proclaims himto be a child of God. I will describe it. This man has embraced sound doctrine. He has managed by some means to become thoroughlyCalvinistic.
He holds the doctrine of Election in all its length and breadth. He would fight to the last moment of life for any one ofthe five points of the Calvinistic confession. You cannot find a man more determinedly orthodox. He abhors all teaching whichhe judges to be uncertain in its soundness. And within his heart he believes that he is therefore saved. "Surely," whispershis vain heart, "surely a man with such a sound creed cannot be cast into Hell!" He delights to hear the preacher deal a heavyblow at Arminians, or Ritualists, or any other people who differ from him because he feels, then, that the privilege whichhe has monopolized in his own conceit is thus defended and preserved from all intruders. "Ah," he says, "I am saved. I havereceived the Truth of God and hold it with all my might."
Everywhere he goes his whole talk is of his favorite Shibboleth, "The Truth of God! The Truth! The Truth!" Not that the aforesaidTruth has ever renewed his nature! Not that it has ever changed his moral character! Not that it has at all made him a betterhusband or a kinder father! Not that it influences him in trade! Not that you could perceive any sanctifying effect proceedingfrom his creed if you lived with him! But still, this is it-orthodoxy, thorough orthodoxy, holding the Truth of God and holdingit firmly, too, and denouncing all others-this is his balm of Gilead to heal all disease! This is his crown of rejoicing inlife and his passport to the skies!
Now, Sir, we do not hesitate to say concerning you that, although you will not be pleased with us for it, that your spot isnot the spot of the children of God! It is a good thing to be sound in the faith, but that virtue may belong to the vilestsinner out of Hell. There have been some men who have been orthodox to the core and yet they have been detestable hypocrites,and not one atom better, as their outward life has shown. No form of doctrine, however Scriptural, can ever
save the soul if it is only received by the head and does not work in its mighty energy upon the heart. "You must be bornagain," are the Savior's words. And unless you are born again your carnal nature may hold the Truth of God in the letter withoutdiscerning its spirit. And while the Truth shall be dishonored by being so held, you yourself shall not be benefited thereby.
But here is another waiting to be searched. He also believes that he has discovered in himself the spot of God's child. Itis this-not so common a spot, I believe, in this congregation as in some-a knowledge of inward corruption. "Ah," says one,"I know that I am an heir of Heaven because I am aware of the sinfulness of my nature. I know my heart to be horridly depraved.I believe my nature to be detestable and vile, and sometimes I am the subject of frightful blasphemous thoughts and have inclinationstowards the most horrible iniquities. Surely I am a quickened child of God or I should not have so vivid a conviction of indwellingsin! I should not feel that I was so bad as I am if I had not been first of all quickened and awakened!"
Now, believe me, there are thousands who are under the delusion that this spot is the spot of God's children! But let me assurethem very affectionately that it is no such thing. God's children do have a sense of sin. They groan because of the body ofthis death. They daily lament the plague of their own heart-but a full persuasion of their own sinfulness may be found inthousands who are not God's children! It is a preposterous assumption that for a man to know himself to be a sinner proveshim to be a saint! Let me ask the physician whether a sense of sickness proves a man to be cured. Let me ask a drowning manwhether a sense of sinking proves that he is rescued! Let me ask a bankrupt debtor whether a sense of being penniless provesthat he is rich.
You know better! Common sense teaches you better! It is not a discovery of your sin that will save you, but hearty faith inthe Savior! And if you have not gone further than a mere conviction of sin-which may be nothing but a legal conviction anda natural alarm at the awful punishment of sin-if you have not gone further than mere alarm or remorse you have not the spotwhich marks you out to be a child of God. You may be a Judas crying, "I have sinned," and you may even hang yourself throughterror of conscience, and be none the less, but rather all the more, a son of perdition! A cutting Truth is this, but it mustbe told, lest any be misled.
I see before me at the door of the stripping room a third class of persons who say, "Surely we have this spot, for we arefull of confidence that we are saved! We believe that we are saved-firmly believe it. We are not among those sinful peoplewho indulge in doubts and fears. We know that we are saved. We have known it for years and we have never had a doubt aboutit. If ever a question is raised, 'Do I love the Lord or not? Am I His or am I not?' we throw the question out-we believeit to come from Satan to mar our peace and spoil our comfort. Self-examination we have long ago given up as an unnecessarydisturbing of the peace of our spirits. We have made up our minds that we are saved and it gives us great peace to believethat we are."
Yes, but, my Hearers, such a spot is not the spot of God's children, for after this fashion the foolish cry, "Peace, peace,where there is no peace." Remember how easy it is to daub with untempered mortar-how readily you may build upon a sandy foundationand how the superstructure may be run up with marvelous speed if you build with wood, hay, and stubble-much more a fair showmay you make with perishable materials than if you waited till you had gold and silver, and precious stones, slowly to buildthe edifice. But remember that for you to believe that you are saved does not prove that you are saved! The poor lunatic inBedlam believes himself to be a king, but no man owns his sovereignty!
Your undisturbed conscience may be no evidence of Divine Grace, but rather a token of reprobation, for there are some whohave received a strong delusion to believe a lie that they maybe damned. They are fooled by Satan into the delusion that theyare the people of God, whereas they are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity. Hope is our anchor, but whatis the use of an anchor if it has nothing to lay hold upon? "I hope," said one, when he heard of his neighbor's death, "Ihope he is all right." And yet he knew that he died drunk!
Now, if that man had said, "I wish that there may have been found a way by which it is possible for him to be saved," I couldunderstand it. But to say "I hope," where there was no ground and foundation for hope, was to speak as the foolish speak!You and I ought not to have a hope which will not bear the test. Oh, instead of shirking self-examination, practice it daily!Ask for the strong wind from the wilderness to come and smite the four corners of your house, for if it is built upon a rockit will not fall. But, oh, if it is but a sand-built house, it will be far better that it should come down now
than that you should dwell in it for awhile with groundless comfort and find it fall about your ears to all eternity! No,the self-confident assumption that you are saved is not the spot of God's children.
Frequently I meet with others who will say, "We certainly have the private mark of gracious souls, for we are so happy! Wehave such happy feelings when we are worshipping God. We feel so delighted with going up to the assemblies of God's people.Sometimes at the Prayer Meeting we get so happy and excited we hardly know what to do! And when we sing those delightful revivaltunes we feel so exceedingly blessed." Now this may or may not be from the Spirit of God. God's children are made glad inthe House of Prayer, but remember, others are made glad beside God's children-for doubtless there have been thousands whohave received the Word with joy, as our Savior tells us-who are like the seed sown on stony ground which sprang up rapidlybecause it had no depth of earth, but afterwards when the sun had risen, it withered away.
Beware of being stony-ground hearers, and above all, let me say to you, beware of placing the slightest dependence upon yourattitude and feelings. The most desponding feelings do not prove that your soul is in peril, for some of those who beforeGod were surest of Heaven have been the least assured of it in their own feelings. The highest and most rapturous feelingsof delight do not prove us to be the children of God. Some have had no fear in their death, and their strength has been firm.They have not been in trouble as other men, neither have they been plagued like other men and yet for all that their end hasbeen destruction! Moab was settled upon his lees and was not emptied from vessel to vessel, but how terrible was his end!Never, therefore, put any dependence upon your attitude and feelings-let them be what they may. Go deeper than the froth offeeling-search in the depths of principle for the priceless pearl of infallible evidence. This spot is not the spot of God'schildren.
There are others, and many, too, who will say, "But at least we can bring a mark which is not to be counterfeited, a sureand certain mark of conversion! There was a happy day when we experienced most extraordinary things." As soon as some peopleof an excitable temperament begin to narrate their treasured story of marvels you may anticipate that they are going to tellyou that they heard a voice, or saw a vision, or were impressed with this, or saw that-all which may be true or may be imaginationaccording to the truthfulness and common sense of the speaker. And all this may have a connection with their being saved,for there is no doubt that many have been impressed in dreams and I will even venture to say by visions and voices.
Many men's first religious thoughts have been awakened in them by strange impressions, and, therefore, these things are notto be laughed at. Whether they are freaks of the imagination or not I care not, so long as men's minds are aroused the modematters but little. But if anybody shall say that the experience of singular impressions or remarkable emotions proves mento be Believers I must most gravely and solemnly disagree! Alas, there have been thousands who profess to have seen angelswho are now with devils! And I do not doubt there are tens of thousands who have fought with devils who are now with angelsof light! It is not what you see with these eyes, nor hear with these ears, nor feel with flesh and blood-our religion isspiritual, and is spiritually discerned-not a thing of rhapsody, excitement, and imagination but a matter of sober thoughtand meditation. And if you have not something more than a mere day or night of singularities to look back upon, your evidencesof Divine Grace are worthless.
I do delight to look back upon the day when I was converted to God. Many of you do and I hope you always will look back uponthat happy hour with pleasure when you first turned to the Lord. But I have known what it is to feel that if I had no reasonto believe that I was saved except the remembrance what I felt that day, I should have no solid ground at all. The fact is,Brothers and Sisters, the spot of God's children is not a thing of yesterday, but an abiding and continual token. The truespot is far more than any memory of the past, as I shall show you. And if you have not that, you may have all that you canimagine or invent, but God will repudiate you at the last, saying, "I know you not from where you are. Depart from Me, allyou workers of iniquity."
II. We now come to the second head. WHAT IS THE TRUE SECRET SPOT WHICH INFALLIBLY IDENTIFIES
THE CHILD OF GOD? Beloved, it were vain presumption and blasphemous arrogance for me to set myself up as able to tell youthis of my own judgment. But God's Word reveals it to us and therefore we may tread surely where we have Revelation to beour guide.
Now, we are told in the Gospel according to John, concerning our Lord-"As many as received Him, to them gave He power [orprivilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name." Here it is, then! If I have re-
ceived Christ Jesus into my heart, then I am a child of God! That reception is described in the second clause as a believingon the name of Jesus Christ. If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ's name-that is, simply from my heart trust myself with thecrucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member of the family of the Most High! Whatever else I may not have, if I havethis I have the privilege to become a child of God. But if I have not this, I may have all the other spots I have been speakingof this morning-which may seem to some to be very great beauty spots-but they are not the spots of the children of God.
To strengthen the text we have already given you, let us remind you of another: "Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ,is born of God." That is, whoever takes Jesus to be to him his anointed Priest, anointed to offer sacrifice of atonement forhim, such a soul is born of God. He who takes this man or that to be his priest, or sets up to offer sacrifice for himselfis no child of God, be he what he may. But he who takes the Most High Lord, once slain, but now ever living, to be an anointedPriest unto him may conclude at once that he has the spot of God's child upon him. Our Lord Jesus puts it in another way."My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me." Here is the matter in a nutshell!
Christ appears as a Shepherd to His own sheep, not to others. As soon as He appears, His own sheep perceive Him. They trustHim. They are prepared to follow Him. He knows them and they know Him-there is a mutual knowledge. He guides them, and theyfollow Him-there is a constant connection between them. If to put this Truth of God positively is not enough, let me remindyou how our Savior puts it negatively. When the Jews were rioting around Him, instead of listening to His earnest voice, Heturned to them and said, "You believe not, because you are not of My sheep, as I said unto you." As much as to say, it isbecause I have not chosen you, and My Divine Grace has never looked upon you. It is because the Divine life has never throbbedin your bosoms that you do not believe on Me. If you had the life of God, and were God's children, you would accept Me atonce. This is the one mark, the sure mark, the only infallible mark-a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer!
My dear Friends, I doubt not many will say, "That is very simple." My reply is, "Glory be to God. It is simple!" The moresimple the plan of salvation the more evidently it is of God. Are we not told that Babylon, the mother of harlots, has writtenupon her brow, "Mystery"?-mystery is the mark of the Roman Catholic faith-and the sure symbol of Antichrist. That Gospel whichis so plain that he who runs may read it-that the wayfaring man, though a fool-need not err therein! This Gospel which ispreached unto the poor. This Gospel which may be understood even by a child-this is the Gospel, the glorious Gospel of theblessed God which is committed to our trust! What says the Apostle? "Seeing then," he says, "that we have such hope, we usegreat plainness of speech."
Here is the root of the matter and if you trust Jesus Christ with all your heart-if you rely upon Him to save you, and ifyour reliance is such that it touches your heart and makes you love the Man who shed great drops of blood for you. If yourfaith is such that it operates upon your moral character, constraining you no longer to be an enemy to your good and generousGod-then you are saved, for you have the spot of God's child! But "without faith it is impossible to please God." I tell yousolemnly that all your generosity, your almsgiving, your Sabbath keeping, your repentance, your prayers, your tears-all arenothing without faith in Christ! Go heap them up till they make a pyramid as great as that which casts its mighty shadow fardown the Libyan desert-but they are as nothing, things of nothing!
All human excellencies, without faith, will fly as chaff before the wind when the hour of trial shall come. If trusted in,they are as smoke in the nostrils of the Most High because they rival the Cross of Christ. Go humbly to the Cross! Look upto Him who suffered there. Rely on Him and you shall live! But gad you about as you may to this shrine and to that, and scourgeyourselves and deny yourselves this and that, and practice all the austerities you please-you shall be further, still, fromGod than at the first, if you despise the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Going about to establish their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness which is of Godby faith and therefore their spot is not the spot of God's children. But coming simply to Jesus and resting alone in Him theyhave glorified God, and they are themselves proved to be the children of the Most High.
III. I shall now, in the third place, turn to another view of the subject which concerns THE DISCRIMINATION OF DEFILING SPOTS.The term "spot," as used in the text, will not be read usually as we have read it this morning. It will, no doubt, to mostreaders suggest the idea of sin, and very properly so-then the text would run thus: the sin of the people mentioned here isnot the sin of God's people.
There is a difference between their guilt and the offenses of the Lord's chosen. This brings me to the point-there is a discriminationto be made, even as to sinful spots. When God's children are mired and bespattered with filth, still there is a differencebetween them and others. An unhappy thing it is-we cannot mourn too much over it-that evil remains even in the hearts of theregenerate, and that the much fine gold sometimes becomes dim and the glory departs. God's people are a holy people, but theyare not a perfect people.
They aspire after perfection, but they have not yet attained it. Sometimes, alas, they fall. We believe they never fall finallynor totally-but they often fall sorrowfully and foully. But yet the ungodly may not take comfort from the sins of God's peoplefor their spots are not the spots of God's children. Let us very briefly-we cannot enter into the subject in full this morning-showthat there is a difference between the sin of God's people and the sin of others. God forbid that you should imagine thatI wish to excuse the sins of Believers!
In some views, when a Believer sins, his sin is worse than that of other men because he offends against greater light andknowledge. He revolts against greater love and mercy. He flies in the teeth of his profession. He does despite, in a measure,to the Cross of Christ, and he brings grievous dishonor upon the name of Jesus whom he professes to serve! Believers cannotsin cheaply. The very least speck on a Christian is more plainly seen than the foulest blot on the ungodly, just as a whitedress shows the dirt the clearer. The more clean the paper, the sooner is the mark perceived-but if the paper is black, theremay be many marks and stains and yet they may not be perceptible.
God forbid that we should palliate, excuse, or extenuate the faults of God's people! Sin is a horrible thing and it is aboveall things detestable when it lurks in a child of God! Yet the sins of God's people do differ from the sins of other men inmany important respects. They do not sin with deliberation and with cool determination-meaning to sin-and sinning for itsown sake. The ungodly man knows a thing to be wrong and therefore does it. He plans it upon his bed. He takes counsel withhimself when he shall enjoy this pleasure or indulge that lust-knowing at the same time that the pleasure is evil, and thelust is iniquity.
The Believer possibly falls into the same sin as the unbeliever, yet not through evil aforethought, but through force of astrong and violent temptation. Had he paused awhile he would have despised the evil and turned from it with hatred. But therecame upon him a sudden a rush of diabolical power, and he seemed borne away by it to his own intense grief- a grief whichmakes him go with broken bones for many a year afterwards. We do not sin willfully nor deliberately. We do not love the wayof transgression-blessed be God, we could not run in it with all our heart-for if we saw the evil distinctly before us assuch, our spirit, in calm consideration, would recoil from the mere shadow of it.
The child of God does not sin with the pleasure and gusto of other men. When the sheep stumbles, as it may do, into the mire,it is up again and on. But if the swine should fall there, it rolls over and wallows as in its element. A sinner in his sinsis a bird in the air, but the Believer in sin is like the fish that leaps for awhile into the air but must be back again ordie. Sin cannot be satisfactory to an immortal spirit regenerated by the Holy Spirit-it is poison to it and very soon thatpoison must be thrown out of the system-for the living child of God cannot endure sin to fester within him. If you sin, you"have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." But if you sin and love sin, then you are the servant of sin,and not the child of God.
Again, the child of God cannot look back upon sin with any kind of complacency. The ungodly man has this spot that after thesin he even boasts of it! He will tell others that he enjoyed himself greatly in his wicked sport and he will gloat over itssweetness, turning the morsel over and over, and rolling it under his tongue like an epicure delighting in a dainty dish."Ah," he says, "how sweet it is!" As for its being contrary to God it makes it all the sweeter to him, or else, "God is notin all his thoughts."
But no man of God ever sins without smarting. Very soon conscience wakes, and, as the Word of God puts it, "David's heartsmote him." It is a horrible knock that the heart gives when it begins to smite! All the men in the world may say what theyplease so long as my heart does not speak against me. But when conscience says, "It is true. You did it and you have playedthe fool exceedingly," then a man hangs his head and retires into the shades to hide himself awhile, for he is ashamed. Ifyou can sin and not weep over it, you are an heir of Hell! If you can go into sin and afterwards feel satisfied to have doneso, you are on the road to destruction! If there are no pricks of conscience, no inward torments, no bleeding wounds-if youhave no throbs and heaves of a bosom that cannot rest-if your soul never feels filled with wormwood and gall when you knowyou have done evil-you are no child of God!
But if your sins plague you and your soul abhors them, and takes them with weeping to the Cross of Jesus, then the sins whichyou hate shall never destroy you. That which you loathe shall not be brought against you to condemn you. This shall be setdown to the account of your Surety and not to you, seeing that He was delivered for your offenses and is raised again foryour justification. The child of God also has this difference in his spots from others-when he knows the spot, and is ledto repent of it-it makes him more careful in the future, especially in that respect in which he has erred.
Have you not seen him afraid to put one foot before another for fear he should do wrong? He had a fall the other day and hegoes very tenderly, very softly. He is almost afraid to open his mouth now, because he spoke so unadvisedly the other day.His prayer is, "Lord, open my lips! I dare not open them." He used to be very fast and confident, but notice him now-he hasa broken spirit and speaks with bated breath. He does not hold his head up loftily as he used to do. He thanks God that heis forgiven, feels that he has peace, and he blesses God for it-but he is jealous of himself with holy jealousy. You willnot find him mingling with that company which led him astray. He is a burnt child and dreads the fire.
You will see him much more precise with himself than he used to be. He used to be precise with other men and lax with himself-nowit is different-he can make excuses for others, but he makes none for himself. His heart now pants to be eminent for thatvery Grace in which he failed and he gives particular attention to keep watch and ward over that part of the wall throughwhich the invader found entrance. But I need not enlarge. You who are the children of God must have noticed a difference betweenyour sins now and your sins as they once were. And you cannot but observe, day by day, if you look within, that Divine Gracehas made a change even in those sins in which our evil nature exercises most dominion.
But, Beloved, the best thing we can do is to keep as far away from evil as possible! We have no right to say, "I may be achild of God and yet do so-and-so." No! The heir of Heaven does not desire to approach the appearance of evil. I am much afraidfor some of you who are asking, "Is this wrong, and that wrong?" Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question! Bequite sure about it or leave it alone. Know you not that inspired Word, "Whatever is not of faith is sin"? That is, whateveryou cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right is sin to you! Though the deed may be right to other people, ifyou have any doubt about it yourself it is evil to you. God grant, dear Friends, that we may not be "conformed to the world,"but be "transformed by the renewing of our minds."
If I knew that there was a leper colony anywhere in the country, I do not think I should want to build my house near it. Ishould not send for the physician and say, "Sir, how far do you think the effect of pestilence might spread? I should liketo get as near as I could without actually catching the disease." "No, no!" You say, "if there is a plot of land to be boughtwhere there is no disease in the neighborhood, there let my tent be pitched. It is best to dwell far off from evil." O mayGod separate us from evil in this world, as we hope to be separated from it in the world to come! There will be a great gulffixed between it and us in the next world-may there be a wide demarcation now.
IV. My close is AN EXHORTATION, an exhortation to myself and to you to make sure work for eternity, and to make it clear toyour own consciences that you are, indeed, the children of God. Ah, my dear Hearers, it is not possible for me to be earnestenough in this matter! I wish I had a tongue like the pen of a ready writer, that I might speak to you with power this morning.Yet, perhaps, feebleness of words may give but the greater power in spirit if God the Holy Spirit will press upon the conscienceof you all the need and duty of an earnest heart-searching self-examination.
A famous case is now pending in which a person claims to be the son of a deceased baronet. Whether he is or not I supposewill, before long, be decided by the highest authorities. Meanwhile the case is pending-a very weighty case for him-for uponthe decision will hang his possession or non-possession of vast estates and enormous property. Now, in your case, you, manyof you, profess to be the children of God-and Heaven hangs upon the question of the truthfulness of your profession.
Heaven? No, there is a dread alternative-Heaven or Hell must hang upon the truth or the falsehood of your profession! Yes,moreover about those two things there is flung a golden chain of eternity, making each of them more weighty than they otherwisewould be. A child of God? Then your portion is eternal life! An heir of wrath, even as others? Then your heritage will beeternal death!
For a moment conceive that you are passing into the next world. What will be the trepidation of your spirit if it is thena matter of question? With what alarm will you await the decisive ordeal? "Shall I ascend on wings of joy up to the realmswhere angels dwell? Or must I sink with devils as the companions of my woe, to dwell forever in Hell?" What hor-
ror to have that question still unanswered! Is it uncertain now, my Hearer? Is it uncertain now, whether you are a child ofGod or not? Is it uncertain whether your spot is the spot of God's children? Then let not an hour pass over your head tillyou have said, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me,and lead me in the way everlasting!"
Trifle not here, I plead with you! If you must trifle anywhere, let it be about some secondary matter-your health, if youwill-or the title deeds of your estates. But your souls! Your never-dying souls and their eternal destinies? I beseech yoube in earnest here, for you will be in earnest soon-earnestly praising God in Heaven-or earnestly moaning out your never-endingdolor in the pit where hope can never come! God grant us wisdom, then, since so much hangs upon it, not to play the fool bytaking things at second hand but to search to the very roots and foundations of the matter to know whether we are saved ornot.
This duty is much more easy to explain than to enforce, and more easy to enforce than to practice. We all shun it. The preachernaturally says to himself, "Have you not preached to others? You may surely excuse yourself." The old member of the Churchwho has long maintained an honorable outward profession whispers to himself, or Satan whispers to him, "You are an old experiencedChristian, why need you go back to the beginning and do your first works?" The young professor in the heyday of his zeal sayswithin himself, "I know that it is right with me." But ah, I pray you remember, he who takes things too quickly as being whathe desires them to be will be deceived in the end. "The heart is deceitful above all things," says the Prophet, "and desperatelywicked," and will you not believe it?
Examine it and cross-examine it, for it is a lying witness! Believe it to be dishonest and try to prove it so! And if haplyyou should be unable, then what a comfort to you! But to believe your heart to be honest and sound-why this is to begin wherethe fool does-at the wrong end of the chapter! Suspect yourself and go to Christ this morning as a sinner. Doubt yourself,and go to Jesus. Never doubt Him. Confess yourself now to be undone and ruined if it is so, but go to Him who is still theSavior able to save to the uttermost.
Still guilty, still lost, still defiled-go, still to the "fountain filled with blood!" Go, still, to the open-handed Savior,and ask Him to press you to His bosom and to save you now! This is the quick way, the sure way, the blessed way of findingout the secret spot-to go at once to Christ! If I never came before, O bleeding Savior, now I come, and if I have often comeand put my trust in You, I come again-accept a guilty sinner who casts himself alone on You, and save him for Your mercy'ssake. Amen.