Sermon 1574. I Was Before
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Who was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious." 1 Timothy 1:13.
I AM not going to dwell, at this time, upon the special items of the text as to what Paul was before his conversion becausenone of us have been exactly as he was. We have all gone astray like lost sheep, but each one of us has taken a distinct coursefrom all the rest. You might have to describe your transgressions in very different words from those used by the Apostle becauseyours have been a different form of guilt from his. Paul said of himself that he, "was before a blasphemer and a persecutorand injurious." Saul of Tarsus was a blasphemer. He does not say that he was an unbeliever and an objector, but he uses avery strong word, though not too strong, and says that he was a blasphemer.
He was a down-right, thorough-going blasphemer who also caused others to blaspheme. From blasphemy, which is a sin of thelips, Saul proceeded to persecution, which is a sin of the hands. Hating Christ, he hated His people, too. He was also injurious,which I think Bengel considers to mean that he was a despiser. That eminent critic says, "blasphemy was his sin towards God,persecution was his sin towards the Church and despising was his sin in his own heart." He was injurious-that is, he did allhe could to damage the cause of Christ and, thereby, injured himself. He kicked against the pricks and by doing so injuredhis own conscience. Having sinned thus grievously, Paul makes a full confession of his guilt in order that he may magnifythe Divine Grace which saved, even, the chief of sinners.
Note here, before we come to the special purpose we have in view, that godly men never think or speak lightly of their sins.When they know that they are forgiven, they repent of their iniquities even more heartily than before. They never infer thelightness of sin from the freeness of Grace, but quite the contrary-and you shall find it as one trait in the character ofevery true penitent that he is rather inclined to blacken himself than to whitewash his transgressions. He sometimes speaksof himself in terms which others think must be exaggerated, though to him and, indeed, to God, they are simply true.
You have probably read biographies of John Bunyan in which the biographer says that Bunyan labored under a morbid conscientiousnessand accused himself of a degree of sin of which he was not guilty. Exactly so, in the view of the biographer, but not so inthe view of John Bunyan, who, startled into sensitiveness of conscience, could not find words strong enough to express allhis reprobation of himself. Job once said, "I abhor myself." That is a very strong expression but, when he saw his own sinin the Presence of God, the man of whom the Lord said unto Satan, "There is none like him in the earth, a perfect and an uprightman, one that fears God and eschews evil," the man against whom the devil, himself, could not bring an accusation, yet saysthat when he saw God, the brightness of the Divine Holiness made him so conscious of his sin that he exclaimed, "Now my eyesees You, I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes."
Those who have seen the exceeding sinfulness of sin by the light of the Holy Spirit and who have been made truly penitentare the last persons to speak lightly of evil! They dwell upon their own criminality with many terms to set forth how greatlythey have felt it. We will consider the case of Paul for just a minute or two because it is a type and pattern of the workof God's Grace in other Believers. He tells us in the 16th verse of this chapter, "For this cause I obtained mercy, that inme first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him tolife everlasting." He was a model convert, a typical instance of Divine long-suffering, a pattern and specimen of all whobelieve on Christ and all conversions are, to a large extent, similar to that which transformed the blaspheming, persecuting,despising Saul of Tarsus into the great Apostle of the Gentiles!
Now, notice when he is describing his own past life how he dwells upon it with painful minuteness. He is not speaking beforeGod in private, as Job was in the words we have quoted, else I can conceive that he would paint his sin in still darker colors.But he is answering for himself before king Agrippa, touching the things of which he had been accused by the Jews and youwill see that he puts his offense against Christ and His Church in as strong a light as he very well could. His enemies haveno such accusation to bring against him as that which he voluntarily makes against himself! First, he
says in the 10th verse of the 26th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which we read just now, "Many of the saints did Ishut up in prison."
Those whom he shut up in prison were saints. To imprison the guilty is no fault, but to maltreat and shut up holy men was,indeed, blameworthy. He confessed that they were saints, saintly persons, but he committed them to prison for that very reason,because they were Christians and, therefore, their saintly lives did not protect them from his malice, but made them so muchthe more objects of his cruel hatred. He says that he hunted the saints-and not merely a few of them, but, "Many of the saintsdid I shut up in prison." He lays stress upon the word, "many"-not half-a-dozen here and there-but scores and hundreds sufferedthrough him and his persecuting band. He crowded the prisons with the followers of Jesus Christ! "He that touches you touchesthe apple of His eye," says the Lord of Hosts when addressing captive Zion.
One touch of a saint of God injuriously given will be painful to the Lord-how much more, then, when there are many such touchesand when he whose hand has done the evil deed has to confess-"Many of the saints did I shut up in prison"? We may be quitesure that he did this because they were Christians, for the 9th verse puts it thus, "I verily thought with myself that I oughtto do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth." It was Jesus of Nazareth he was aiming at, though his blowswere directed against His followers. It was because the name of Jesus was named upon these people that they were put in prison!
Now, this is no small sin-to persecute holy men, to imprison many of them and to do so simply because they believed in JesusChrist. The Apostle felt that this put exceeding bitterness into the gall of his transgression-that he had lifted up unholyhands against the members of Christ's body and through them had wounded their ever-glorious Head. More than this, he did notmerely put them in prison, but, he says, "Many of the saints did I shut up in prison." Some persons in prison have had a measureof liberty, as Joseph had, but Saul took care that these Believers should be shut up-that they should have no liberty at all!He put them into the common jails, locked them up and made their feet fast in the stocks, causing them to suffer even as heand his companion, Silas, afterwards did in the prison at Philippi.
Continuing the summary of his evil against the servants of the Lord, he says, "I was not content with their imprisonment,but I was eager for their death. When they were put to death, I gave my voice against them. When the Sanhedrim wanted a voteI, young Saul, was there to give my maiden vote against Stephen or any other saint. If the chief priests wanted a knife tocut the Christians' throats with, there was I ready to do the deed. If they needed one who would drag them away to prisonand to death, there stood I, the eager messenger, only too glad if I might lay hands upon them, believing that I was, thereby,doing God service."
"No," he says, "that is not all. I often punished them in every synagogue and compelled them to blaspheme." This, indeed,was a very horrible part of Saul's sinfulness. To destroy their bodies was bad enough, but to destroy their souls if thatwere possible-to compel them to blaspheme, to speak evil of that name which they confessed to be their joy and their hope-surelythat was the worst form that persecution could assume! He forced them under torture to renounce the Christ whom their heartsloved! As it were, he was not content to kill them, but he must damn them, if it were possible, too. "I compelled them toblaspheme." This was a dreadful sin and Paul mentions it as such. He does not extenuate his crime, nor attempt to find excusesfor his conduct.
And then he adds, once more, that he did all this wickedness with the greatest possible enthusiasm-"And being exceedinglymad against them," like a raging madman in his fits, like a violent maniac who cannot be held in-seized with frenzy, tearingright and left, finding no rest unless he could be harrying and worrying the sheep like a bloody wolf, as he was to the sheepof Christ's flock. "Being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto strange cities." He scattered them farand wide and then sought to get authority that even when they were in exile they might not be beyond his reach!
Saul seems to have grown proficient in the science of persecution and to have become a very master in the cruel art of crushingthe people of God. We do not learn this from James, or John, or any of the other Apostles. Who tells us of all this? Who makesout this long, black catalog of crimes of which the man who committed them might well be ashamed? Why, Paul himself! It isPaul himself that puts it so and I would that, in like manner, the worst character you could have, my Brother, might comefrom your own lips. "Let another man praise you and not your own mouth; a stranger and not your own lips." But, when thereis an accusation that must be made against you, be you the first to make it with tears of repentance before the living God!
I think I have thus, from the example of Paul before Agrippa, justified the expression with which I started-that true penitentsdo not seek to extenuate or diminish the sin which has been forgiven them, but they acknowledge how great it is and set itforth in all its enormity as it appears before their enlightened eyes. Now, I want you, dear Friends, who know the Lord, tofollow me in a very simple way, rather by your emotions than by anything else. I want the text of my sermon to be, "I was."The Apostle tells us what he was-what he was before conversion. Now, I want you to think what you were before the Grace ofGod met with you and changed you.
I do not know that I shall help you much to remember the details of your sin, for pretty near the last time I stood here,I did that when we spoke of Peter from the words-"When he thought thereon, he wept," [Fountain of Repentant Tears-Sermon #2735,Volume 47-Read July 14, 1901-Preached October 24, 1880.] but I want you to see seven very profitable inferences which willarise out of an impartial retrospect of your life before conversion.
I. The first, I think, will be that IF WE THINK OF WHAT WE WERE, IT WILL EXCITE IN US ADORING GRATITUDE. Paul was full ofgratitude, for he thanked Christ Jesus that He counted him faithful, putting him into the ministry. He is so glad of the favorof God that when he comes to the 17th verse he must put down his pen while he sings, "Now unto the King eternal, immortal,invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." If, then, you and I look back upon what we werebefore the Lord saved us, we, too, shall be full of adoring gratitude as we think of even the least of all the favors thatHe has bestowed upon us!
"I am not worthy," said the Patriarch, Jacob, when he was returning to his country at the command of God-"I am not worthyof the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown unto Your servant." And we can, each one, say thesame. Is it not a wonderful thing that you who were-I will not say what-you know what you were and God knows! Isn't it wonderful,I say, that you should be a teacher of others? That you should be permitted to stand up and speak of pardon bought with blood?That you should be allowed to talk of holiness though your lips used to speak of any other theme but that?
Isn't it wonderful that you should be allowed to extol the Christ for whom you had no words of praise a little while ago,for whom, indeed, you had only words of contempt and scorn? Paul was astonished to think that he was put into the ministry!And when I look back upon my own life before I knew the Lord, I am amazed that I should ever stand here, seeing that for solong I refused my Lord's love and put aside His favors and would have none of them! Ah, I did not know what would happen tome one day. Little did I think then that I should ever stand here to-
"Tell to sinners round, What a dear Savior I have found."
But it does fill me with gratitude which makes me bow before God in thankful adoration to think that He should have lookedon me and to know that, "unto me," as well as unto Paul, "is this Grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles theunsearchable riches of Christ."
I ask you, dear Friends, to remember this gratitude in the reception of every blessing. When you enjoy Church privileges;when you come to the Communion Table, think, "Here comes one to sit with the children of God who once was like a dog outsidethe house." When you stand up and praise the Lord, think, "And I, too, am permitted to offer the sacrifice of praise-I, whoonce sang the praises of Bacchus or of Venus-rather than of Christ Jesus!" When you draw near to God in prayer and know thatHe hears you, too-when you have power in prayer and prevail with the Most High and come back with your hands full of blessingsthat have been obtained at the Throne of Grace, you may well say, "What shameful things these hands once did when I renderedmy members instruments of unrighteousness-and now they are loaded down with the bounties of a gracious God!"
Oh, do bless His name! If you do not, the stones in the street will begin to cry out against some of you! Oh, if your heartdoes not leap at the very sound of the name of Jesus, surely you cannot possess a heart at all! Such a change, such a wondrous,matchless change has passed upon you that if you do not praise the Lord today and tomorrow and as long as you have any being,what shall be said of your ungrateful silence? "I was"-I was before-all that I ought not to have been, but Grace has changedme and unto the God of Grace be all the glory! Do not all of you who love the Lord unite with me in this utterance of adoringgratitude?
II. A second very blessed inference (we can only speak briefly upon each one) is that A SENSE OF WHAT WE WERE SHOULD SUSTAININ US VERY DEEP HUMILITY. It did so hn the case of the Apostle Paul and I would refer you to his expression of it in the FirstEpistle to the Corinthians, the 15th chapter and the 9th verse, where he says, "I am
the least of the Apostles, that am not meet to be called an Apostle because I persecuted the church of God." When He was compelledto glory in what he was through the Grace given to him, he said that he supposed he was not a whit behind the very chief Apostles,yet he here says of himself that he was not worthy to be called an Apostle because before his conversion he persecuted thesaints of God!
Now, dear Brothers and Sisters, if we have been a little while converted and have united with the Church of God and the Lordhas given us a little work to do, we may be tempted to think, "Now, I am somebody! Really, I am not now quite the humble dependentthat I used to be. I am getting to be of some service to my Lord and Master and I am of some importance in His Church." Ah,that is the way many Christians get into sad mischief. "Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall."You must always strive against that kind of spirit and one way to avoid it is to remember what you were in your unregeneratestate. There are some who might say, "I am a minister of the Gospel, but I am not worthy to be called a minister because ofthe sins that I committed before my conversion. I am a member of the Church of Christ, but I am scarcely worthy to be calleda member because I was a blasphemer, or a Sabbath-breaker, or profane, unchaste, or dishonest."
Remember what you were and let your spiritual advancements never lead you to unspiritual pride and self-conceit for, "everyonethat is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord." I have heard of a good man in Germany who used to rescue poor, destituteboys from the streets and he always had them photographed in their rags and filth just as he found them. And then, years afterwards,when they were clothed and washed and educated and their characters began to develop, if they grew proud he would show themwhat they were and try to teach them what they would have likely been it had not been for his charity. If you are inclinedto lift up your head and boast what a great man you are, now-just look at the likeness of what you were before the Lord madeyou a new creature in Christ Jesus!
Oh, who can tell what that likeness would have been but for the interpositions of Divine Grace? I think you would say whatthe Scotsman said to Rowland Hill when he called to see the good man in his study. He sat and looked at him. And Rowland Hill'sface, you know, if you have seen his portrait, is one to be remembered-there is a peculiar comic look about it. So the Scotsmansaid, in answer to the question, "What are you looking at?" "I have been studying the lines of your face." "And what do youmake out of them?" said Mr. Hill. "Why, that if the Grace of God had not made you a Christian, you would have been one ofthe worst fellows that ever lived." "Ah!" said Mr. Hill, "you have hit the mark this time!"
I should not wonder, too, if some of us, when we look in the mirror, were to see somebody there that would have been a verydeep-dyed sinner if it had not been for the change of heart which Sovereign Grace has worked. This ought to keep us very humbleand very lowly before God. I invite you, Friends, to think this over and when you feel yourselves beginning to swell a little,let the bladder of your foolish and wicked pride be pricked with the needle of conscience as you remember what you used tobe and you will be all the better for letting some of the gas escape! Come back as speedily as you can to your fine shape,for what are you, after all? If you are anything that is good, or right, or pleasing in the eyes of the Lord, you must stillsay, "By the Grace of God I am what I am."-
"All that I was, my sin, my guilt,
My death, was all my own.
All that I am, I owe to You,
My gracious God, alone.
The evil of my former state
Was mine and only mine.
The good in which I now rejoice
Is Thine and only Thine."
Well, those are two of the inferences which result from looking back at what you were-the retrospect excites gratitude andsustains humility.
III. The next is this-THE REMEMBRANCE OF OUR FORMER CONDITION SHOULD RENEW IN US GENUINE REPENTANCE. When we look back uponwhat we used to be before the Lord met with us, it should breed in us a perpetual repentance. There are some who seem to thinkthat we only repent of sin when we are first converted. Do not be deluded by any such false notion! When you leave off repenting,you have left off living! You are not living for God as you ought to do unless you daily repent. Remember that we are notsaved by a single act of faith which terminates the moment we receive the assurance of the Divine forgiveness, but by a faithwhich continues as long as we live and,
therefore, as long as we have any faith we must have repentance, too, for these are twin Graces-faith with a bright eye, likeRachel, who was beautiful and well-favored-and repentance, tender-eyed, like Leah, but with a lovely eye for all that.
"Repentance," says one, "why, I thought that was a bitter thing that was taken away when we believed!" No, it is a sweet thing-Icould wish to repent in Heaven, though I suppose I shall not. We cannot carry the tear of penitence in our eyes into Heaven-itwill be the only thing we might regret to leave behind. Surely we shall be sorry, even there, for having grieved our God.Even there, I think, we shall repent, but certainly as long as we are here we must daily repent of sin! Yes, and repent ofthe sin that is forgiven-repent more because it is forgiven than we did when we had any doubts about its being pardoned-
"My sins, my sins, my Savior! How sad on You they fall, Seen through Your gentle patience, I tenfold feel them all. I knowthey are forgiven, But still their pain to me Is all the grief and anguish They laid, my Lord, on Thee."
Smite on your breasts while you think that it was necessary that Christ should die that you might be delivered from sin andits penalty and power-and as your love increases, let your sorrow abound that such a Lord should have needed to be crucifiedfor you.
Oh, Sin, as Christ becomes more lovely, you become more hateful and as our soul learns more of the beauty of holiness, itperceives more of your ugliness and so continually loathes you more and more! If you want to draw up the sluices of repentance,sit down and remember what you were by nature and would have remained if Grace had not intervened! So, then, it shall be goodfor you to say, "I was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious," or to use any other expression that shall accuratelydescribe you, if it leads you, like Peter, to go out and weep bitterly true tears of repentance.
IV. And now, fourthly, (we have but a word on each inference, you see)-THE RETROSPECT OF OUR PAST
LIVES SHOULD KINDLE IN US FERVENT LOVE to the Lord who has redeemed us. You remember Christ went into
the house of one of the Pharisees who had a measure of respect for Him-this was Simon who desired Him to eat with him. Butwhen He entered in, Simon treated Him as a common guest and offered Him none of the delicate attentions which men give tochoice friends or to superiors. Christ took no note of this, nor had He need to do so, for there was another who stole intothat room who did for Him all that Simon ought to have done and more than Simon could have done!
"A woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabasterbox of ointment and stood at His feet behind Him weeping." She stood behind the couch upon which He was reclining and lether tears fall down upon His blessed flesh till she had washed His feet with them and then, unbraiding the luxurious tressesof her hair, she wiped those holy feet with them! Her love, her humility, her adoration and her penitence were all minglingas she kissed His feet and anointed them with the ointment which she had brought. Our Lord explained why this woman had performedthis extraordinary action. He said it was because she had been forgiven much.
Now, rest assured that there is no exception to this rule-that those who are conscious of having had much forgiven are thosewho will love Christ much! I do not say-I almost wish I could-that love is always in proportion to the amount of sin forgiven,but I do say that it is in proportion to the consciousness of sin forgiven. A man may be a less sinner than another, but hemay be more conscious of his sin and he will be the man who will love Christ more. Oh, do not forget what you were, lest youshould become unmindful of your obligation to Jesus! You are saints, now, but you were not always so. You can talk to othersof Christ, now, but you could not once have done it. You can wrestle with the Angel of God in prayer and prevail, now, butonce you were more familiar with the devil than you were with the Angel!
At this moment your heart bears witness to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit-it is not long ago that the Prince of the powerof the air worked within you and the Holy Spirit was not there at all! I beseech you, therefore, forget not this, lest youforget to love Him who has worked this wondrous change in you! I think there is nothing better than to retain a vivid senseof conversion in order to retain a vivid sense of love. Do not be afraid of loving Christ too much. I see the cold
carping criticism of this age objects to any expressions of love to Christ which we use in our hymns because it says thatthey are sensuous. My only answer to such talk is-God give us more of such blessed sensuousness!
I think that instead of diminishing these utterances it will be a token of growth in Grace when they are more abundant-notif they become so common as to be hypocritical. Then they would be sickening, but as long as they are true and honest, I,for one, would say to you who love the Lord, go on and sing-
"Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on His gentle breast."
Go on and sing-
"Jesus, I love Your charming name, 'Tis music to my ear."
Hesitate not to say-
"You, dear Redeemer, dying Lamb, We love to hear of You"
and if it shall please you and the Spirit shall move you, even say, like the spouse in the song, "Let Him kiss me with thekisses of His mouth: for Your love is better than wine." The starveling religion of the present day, not content with tearingaway the doctrinal flesh from the spiritual body, is now seeking to drag out the very heart of religion and to reduce Christianexperience to nothing but a chilly doubting of everything! Let this be far from you! Believe something and love something,for to believe is to live, and to love is to be in health.
Oh for more love arising out of a deep, intense sense of what we once were and of the change which Christ has worked in us!"But," says one, "I do not know that any great change has been worked in me." No and there are some who tell us that we donot need any. There are certain Paedobaptists preaching, nowadays, that most children of pious parents do not need conversion.We have long had the Church of England teaching us baptismal regeneration-now we have some Nonconformists trying to persuadeus that no regeneration at all is needed! This a new kind of doctrine that I know nothing of and that the Word of God knowsnothing of and it will not do for us! It will eat out the very life of Christianity if it is believed.
Pious ancestors could not save one of you-even if your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers and great-grandfathersand great-grandmothers and great-great-great-great-grandfathers and great-great-great-great-grandmothers-as far back as everyou like-had been all saints, nevertheless, their faith could not be of any use to you! You must be born, "not of blood, norof the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." "You must be born again" is as true of one child as of another-astrue of you as it was of me and as true of me as of the thief confined in prison today.
But some of us have been changed-we are washed, we are sanctified, we are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by theSpirit of our God. It has been a real work of Divine Grace-the turning of us upside down, the reversing of the course of Nature,a turning of night into day, a turning of the powers of our spirit from the dominion of Satan to the dominion of Christ-andwe must and will, therefore, love Him who has worked in us such a wondrous transformation!
V. Well now, fifthly, REMEMBERING WHAT WE WERE, ARDENT ZEAL SHOULD BE AWAKENED IN US.
Look at Paul. He says, "I was before a blasphemer and a persecutor and injurious." What then? Why, now that he has becomea follower of Christ, he cannot do too much! He put many saints in prison-now he goes into many prisons, himself. He huntedthem even to strange cities-and now he goes into all manner of strange cities, himself. He dragged them before tribunals andnow he, himself goes and stands before Roman proconsuls and before the Roman emperor, himself! Paul can never do too muchfor Christ because he had done so much for Satan!
I remember one who lived four or five miles away from a place of worship who used to say, "You old legs, it is no use beingtired, for you have got to carry me. You used to take me to the place of amusement when I served the devil and you shall carryme, now, to the House of God that I may worship and serve Him." When sometimes he had an uneasy seat, he used to say, "Itis no use grumbling, old bones, you will have to sit here, or else you will have to stand. Years ago you put up with all kindsof inconveniences when I went to the theater, or some other evil place when I served Satan-and you must now be content todo the same now for a better Master and a nobler service."
I think some of us might take a lesson from that old man and say to ourselves, "Come, Covetousness, you are not going to hinderme from serving the Lord. I used to be liberal to the devil and I do not intend, now, to be stingy with God." If ever I amtempted in that fashion, I will give twice as much as I had thought of doing, so as to spite the devil, for
he shall not have his way with me! Some, when they serve Satan, go as if they rode a racehorse and whip and spur to get infirst. How they will destroy body and soul in the service of the Evil One! But if a Christian gets a little lively they say,"Oh, dear me, dear me, he is excited! He is fanatical! He has grown enthusiastic!"
Why should he not be in earnest? The devil's servants are enthusiastic and why should not the servants of Christ be the same?Black Prince, Black Prince, are you served by heroes and shall Christ be served by dolts? Oh, let it not be so, my Brothersand Sisters! Surely if anything can wake up all the powers of our nature; if anything can make a lame man leap as a hart;if anything can make a palpitating, trembling heart to be bold and brave for Christ, it should be the love which Christ hasshown in looking upon such as we were and changing us by His Grace! "Ah, but you must not do too much," says one. Did youever know anybody who did?
If anybody ever does too much for Christ, let us rail off a piece in the cemetery that we may bury him in it. That grave willnever be needed-it will be empty till Christ comes! "Ah, but you may have too many irons in the fire." It depends upon thesize of the fire! Get your fire well hot-I mean get your heart well hot and your nature in a blaze-then put all the ironsyou can ever get, into it! Keep them all at a white heat if possible. Blow away and let the flames be very vehement. Oh, tolive for God a life of ecstatic zeal even if it were only for a short space of time! It were better than to have a hundredyears of bare existence in which one went crawling along like a snail, leaving slime behind and nothing else. It were betterfar than driveling out, as oftentimes we do-
"Our souls can neither fly nor go To reach eternal joys." The love of Christ to us, then, suggests great zeal in His service.
VI. Now, sixthly, I am sure that another inference that should be drawn from it is this-If we remember what we were and howDivine Grace has changed us, IT OUGHT TO MAKE US VERY HOPEFUL ABOUT OTHER PEOPLE. Paul was, for he says, "This is a faithfulsaying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. Howbeit forthis cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering for a pattern to them whichshould hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting." Well, Friend, are you saved? Then anybody can be! You never ought todespair of the salvation of anyone, for you know yourself and feel yourself to have been the most undeserving of men-and yetGod's Grace has made you love Him. Well, then, that Grace can light on anybody. Already it has fallen on the most unlikelyspot possible!
Now, from this moment on, never indulge the idea that it is useless to attempt to benefit any of your fellow men. I remember-indeed,I have often met with persons who tell me of being asked, "Why did you not ask So-and-So to attend a place of worship?" "Askhim? Oh, I never thought of him." "Why not?" "I did not think it was any use." It is a very amazing thing that those are thekind of people who, if you get them to hear the Word of God, are generally con-verted-the people you think it is no use tobring! Men who have been accustomed to speak very disrespectfully of religious things, when once brought under the sound ofthe Truth of God, are often the first to receive a blessing! Those are the kind of fellows to seek, for there is some hopeof reaching men who are in such need of the Gospel we have to proclaim. You know there is virgin soil there, so it is thevery place to sow the good Seed of the kingdom.
There is good fishing in a pond that never was fished before and here is a man who, at any rate, is not Gospel-hardened-hehas not got used to the sound of the Word so as to take no notice of anything that is said. Bring him in! He is the very manwe want-bring him in! "But he is a swearer." Well, but if you were a swearer before your conversion, you ought never to sayanything about that. "Oh, but he is a very hardened man." Yes, but if you were converted, notwithstanding what you were, youought never to make that objection against anyone. "Oh, but he is such a low-bred man." Well, there are plenty of us who cannotboast much about our aristocratic descent! "Oh, but," says one, "he is such a proud man, such a haughty man." Or, "He is arich man. He is a purse-proud man." Yes, but there are others like he who have been brought in and while that man has sinnedin one way, you have sinned in another-and if the Grace of God met your six, it can meet his half-dozen!
Depend upon it, God meant us to be hopeful about other people when He saved us. See that man coming out of the hospital? Hehas had pretty nearly all the diseases you ever heard of and yet he has been cured. He is not the man to say, "It is no usegoing in there. You will get no good by putting yourself under the treatment of that doctor." On the contrary, whenever hemeets with anybody who is suffering, he says, "You go and try the physician that healed me. If you can get a bed under hiscare; if you can come under his notice, you are almost certain to get cured-your maladies cannot be worse than mine and hemet my case exactly and he can meet yours." He is the man who will advertise Christ and will
proclaim His fame the whole world over-who has tasted that He is gracious and has proven, in his own case, the convertingpower of the Holy Spirit!
Oh, I pray you, dear Friend, despair of nobody! You who go with your tracts, go into the worst houses! You who talk in theworkhouses to those who are, perhaps, as gladly gone as any-who find them dying in the infirmary and rejecting the Word ofGod as you speak it, yet keep on! Keep on! "Never say die" concerning anyone! Since the Lord has saved you, the Grace of Godcan save anybody, however far he may have sunk in sin! It can reach even to the very vilest of the sons of men.
VII. The last inference is that WHAT GOD HAS DONE FOR US SHOULD CONFIRM OUR CONFIDENCE FOR OURSELVES-our confidence, not inourselves, but in God who will perfect that which He has begun in us. There is not half as much Grace necessary to bring youto Heaven if you are a Believer as you have had, already, to bring you where you are! You have got to be perfected, but rememberthat it was the very first step that had the difficulty in it. It always reminds me of the legend of St. Denis who pickedup his head after it was cut off and walked, I think, 40 leagues with it. But a wit said that there was no trouble about walking40 leagues-the difficulty all lay in the first step!
So it did and so all the difficulty of the walk of faith lies in the first step-that first coming of a dead heart to life!That first bringing of a reprobate soul-a carnal mind that is enmity against God-into friendship with God. Well, that hasbeen done! That first great work has been worked in you by God the Holy Spirit and now you can say with the Apostle, "If,when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved byHis life."
Do you think the Lord ever converts a man with a view of showing him His Light that he may go back, again, into the thickdarkness, forever? Does He drop a spark of heavenly light into our souls that it may go out, never to be rekindled? Does Hecome and teach us to eat heavenly bread and drink the Water of Life and then leave us to starve or die of thirst? Does Hemake us members of Christ's body and then allow us to rot and decay? Has He brought us thus far to put us to shame? Has Hegiven me a heart that cries after Him and pines for Him! Has He given me a sighing after perfection, an inward hunger aftereverything that is holy and true and does He mean, after all, to desert me? It cannot be-
"His love in time past forbids me to think
He'll leave me at last in trouble to sink.
That gracious conversion I ha ve in review,
Confirms His good pleasure to help me quite through." So let us go on our way rejoicing that it shall be even so with eachone of us. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-Acts 26:1 Timothy 1:11-17. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-30, 233, 235.