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Storming the Battlements
September 16, 1855 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." Jeremiah 5:10 .
We have been talking very freely during this last week of "glorious victories," of "brilliant successes," of "sieges," and of "stormings." We little know what the dread reality is of which we boast. Could our eyes once behold the storming of a city, the sacking of a town, the pillage of the soldiery, the barbarous deeds of fury, when the blood is up and long delay has maddened their souls; could we see the fields saturated with blood, and soaked with gore; could we spend one hour amongst the corpses and the dying; or if we could only let the din of battle, and the noise of the guns reach our ears, we should not so much rejoice, if we had anything of fellow feeling for others as well as for ourselves. The death of an enemy is to me a cause of regret as well as the death of a friend. Are not all my brethren? and doth not Jesus tell me so? Are we not all made of one flesh? and hath not God "made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth?" Let us, then, when we hear of slaughtered enemies, and of thousands that have fallen, cease to rejoice in their death. It would betray a spirit utterly inconsistent with the Christian religion, more akin to Mohamedanism, or to the fierce doctrines of Buddha, but not in the least to be brought into compatibility with the truths of the gospel of the glorious God. And yet with all that, far be it from me to check any gladness which this nation may experience, now that it hopes that the incubus of war may at last be removed. Clap your hands, O Britons! Rejoice, ye sons of Albion! there is hope that your swords may yet be sheathed, that your men shall not be mown down as grass before the scythe; that the desolation of your hearths shall now be staid; that the tyrant shall be humbled; and that peace shall be restored. With this view of it, let our hearts leap for joy, and let us sing unto God who hath gotten us the victory; rejoicing that now earth's wounds may be staunched; that her blood need not flow any longer; and that peace may be established, we trust upon a lasting footing. This, I think, should be the Christian view of it. We should rejoice with the hope of better things; but we should lament over the awful death and terrible carnage; the extent of which we know not yet, but which history shall write amongst the black things. My earnest prayer is, that our brave soldiery may honor themselves as much by moderation in victory, as by endurance of privation, and velour in attack. I have nothing more to say upon that subject whatever, I am now about to turn to a different kind of siege, another kind of sacking of cities. Jerusalem had sinned against God; she had rebelled against the most High, had set up for herself false gods, and bowed before them; and when God threatened her with chastisement, she built around herself strong battlements and bastions. She said "I am safe and secure. What though Jehovah hath gone away, I will trust in the gods of nations. Though the Temple is cast down, yet we will rely upon these bulwarks and strong fortifications that we have erected." "Ah!" says God, "Jerusalem, I will punish thee. Thou art my chosen one, therefore will I chastise thee. I will gather together mighty men, and will speak unto them; I will bid them come unto thee, and they shall visit thee for these things. My soul shall be avenged on such a nation as this." And he calls together the Chaldeans and Babylonians, and says to those fierce men who speak in uncouth language, "Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's." Thus God used wicked men to be his scourge to chastise a still more wicked nation, who were yet the objects of his affection and love. This morning I shall take my text and address it in four ways, to different classes of men. First I think this may be spoken by God of his church. "Go ye up against her," says he to her enemies, "take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's." This may also be spoken to many a Christian. God often bids troubles and enemies go up against Christians to take away their battlements that are not the Lord's. This also may be spoken to the young convert who is trusting in himself, and has not yet been brought low. God says to doubts, and fears, and convictions and to the law, "Go ye up against him: make not a full end; take away his battlements; for they are not the Lord's." And this also shall be spoken at last to the impertinent sinner, who, putting his trust in his own strength, hopes by joining hand with hand, to go unpunished: God shall say, at last, to his angels, "Go ye up against her." He will, however, in the last case, alter the next phrase "make a full end; take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." I. First, then, I shall regard this text as spoken concerning THE CHURCH. God frequently says to the Church's enemies, "Go ye up against her, but make not a full end take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." God's church is very fond of building walls which her God has not sanctioned. She is not content to trust in the arm of God, but she will add thereto some extraneous help which God utterly abhors. "Beautiful for situation the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion, upon the sides of the north, the city of the great king. As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, even so is God round about his people, from henceforth, for evermore." But his people are not content with God's being round about them, they seek some other protection. The church has very often gone to king Jareb for help, or to the world for aid; and then God has said to her enemies, "Go ye up against her, but make not a full end: take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's. She shall not have them. I am her battlement. She is to have none other." 1. The first I may mention is this. The church of God has sometimes sought to make the government its battlements. There was a church anciently in Rome, a holy and pious church of God, whose members worshipped and bowed down before the God of Israel. But a certain wily monarch called Constantine, who believed that should he turn Christian he should thus secure the empire more firmly to himself, and put down sundry other commanders who were helped by the priests in order to gain his own ends and promote his own honor, pretends to see a vision in the skies, and professes to become a Christian, makes himself the head of the church, and leader of the faithful. The church fell into his arms, and then state and church became allied. What was the consequence of the church of Rome becoming allied with the state; Why she has become a corrupt mass of impurity, such a disgrace to the world that the sooner the last vestige of her shall be swept away the better. This was because she built up bulwarks that are not the Lord's, and God has said to her enemies, "Go ye up upon her walls." Yea, her apostacy is now so great, that doubtless, the Judge of all the earth shall make a "full end" of her, and the prophecy of the Apocalypse shall be fulfilled, "Therefore shall her plagues come in one day, death, and mourning and famine, and she shall be utterly burned with fire; for strong is the Lord God who judgeth her." There are true Protestant churches standing now that have made unholy alliances with governments. Christ testified, "My kingdom is not of this world," and yet they have crouched at the feet of kings and monarchs. They have obtained state endowments and grants; and so they have become high, and mighty, and honorable, and they laugh at those pure churches who will not buckle and commit fornication with the kings of the earth, but who stand out for the royal supremacy of the Savior, and look only to Christ as the head of the Church. They apply to us the epithets of "schismatics," "dissenters," and such-like, but I believe that God shall yet say of every state-church, whether it be the Church of England, Ireland, Scotland or of anywhere else, "Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end;" for there are thousands of pious men in her midst, "take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." Even now we see a stir throughout the world to take away these battlements. The holy and pious men in the Church of England have multiplied amazingly during the last few years. It is pleasing to see the great improvement in the Establishment. I think no class of Christians have made more speedy advances in reformation than they have. They have a stirring in their midst, and are saying, "Why should we be under the government any longer?" There are many clergymen who have said, "We have no wish whatever for this union: we would be glad to come away from all state control." I wonder they do not do it, and follow their convictions. They are saying, "take away her battlements, they are not the Lord's," and if they do not take them away themselves, we are advancing by slow degrees, and, by the aid of heaven we will take away their battlements for them one of these fine days, and they will wake and find that church-rates and tithes have ceased; that they must stand or fall themselves; that God's church is strong enough to stand herself without government. It will be a happy day for the Church of England God bless her! I love her when those battlements are taken down, when the last stone of state patronage is thrown down; when the unneeded help of kings and princes shall be refused. Then she will come out a glorious church like a sheep from the washing. She will be the honor of our land, and we who now stand aloof from her will be far more likely to fall into her bosom, for her articles are the very marrow of truth, and many of her sons are the excellent of the earth. Oh, angel, soon blow thy trumpet of war, and give the command! "Go ye up upon her walls, make not a full end." She is one of my churches; "take away her battlements; they are not the Lord's." He has nothing to do with such a battlement, he hates it altogether state alliance is obnoxious to the God of Israel; and when kings shall become real nursing fathers, they will in another mode afford the gold of Sheba, and the free-will offering of their piety. 2. But there are other churches that are making battlements for themselves. These are to be found amongst us as well as other denominations. There are churches who make battlements out of the wealth of their members. It is a respectable congregation, a most respectable church, the members are most of them wealthy. They say, within themselves, "We are a strong and wealthy church; there is nothing can hurt us; we can stand fast." You will find wherever that idea possesses the mind, prayer-meetings will be ill attended; they do not think it necessary to pray much to keep up the cause. "If a five pound note is wanted," says a brother, "we can give it." They do not think it necessary to have a preacher to bring together the multitude, they are strong enough in themselves. They are a glorious corporation of quiet personages; they like to hear a drawing-room preacher; they would think it beneath their dignity to enjoy anything which the populace could understand; that would be a degradation to their high and honorable position. We know some churches now it would be invidious to point the finger at them where wealth and rank are reckoned to be the first thing. Now, we do love to have wealth and rank in our own midst, we always thank God when we have brought among us men who can do something for the cause of truth; we bless God when we see Zaecheus, who had abundance of gold and silver, giving some of his gifts to the poor of the Lord's family, we like to see the princes and kings bringing presents and bowing before the King of all the earth; but if any church bows before the golden calf, there will go forth the mandate, "Go ye up upon her walls; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." And down the church will come God shall humble it; he will bring it down from its high position; he will say, "Though thou sittest on the rocks, and buildest thy house amongst the stars of heaven; even thence will I pluck thee down and this right hand shall reach thee." God will not have his church relying on man and putting trust in princes. "Cursed shall be such-a-one," he says, "he shall be like a heath in the desert, he shall not see when good cometh; his leaf shall wither and he shall bring forth no fruit unto perfection." 3. There are some other churches relying upon learning and erudition. The learning of their ministers seems to be a great fort, bastion, and castle. They say for instance "What do these uneducated and unrefined preachers? Of what use are they. We like men of sound argument, men who give a large amount of biblical criticism, who can decide this, that, and the other." They rely upon their minister; he is their tower of strength; he is their all in all. He happens to be a learned man. They say, "What is the use for any one to oppose him? See the amount of his learning! Why his enemies would be cut in pieces, because he is so mighty and learned." Never let it be said that I have despised learning or true knowledge. Let us have as much as we can. We thank God when men of learning are brought into the church, when God renders then useful. But the church now-a-days is beginning to trust too much to learning, relying too much on philosophy, and upon the understanding of man instead of the Word of God. I do believe a large proportion of professing Christians have their faith in the word of man, and not in the word of God. They say, "Such-and-such a divine said so; that so-and-so beautifully explained that passage, and it must be right." But whatever church shall do this, God will say, "Go ye up upon her walls; make not a full end; take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's." 4. But I think that the worst battlement the churches have now, is an earthwork of great and extreme caution. It is held to be improper that certain obnoxious truths in the Bible should be preached; sundry reasons are given why they should be withheld. One is, because it tends to discourage men from coming to Christ. Another is, because certain persons will be offended on account of these rough edges of the gospel. Some would say, "O keep them back! You need not preach such and such a doctrine. Why preach distinguishing grace? Why divine sovereignty? Why election? why perseverance? why effectual calling? These are calculated to offend the people, they cannot endure such truths." If you tell them about the love of Christ, and the vast mercy of God, and such like it will always be pleasing and satisfying; but you must never preach deep searching law-work, you must not be cutting at the heart and sending the lancet into the soul that would be dangerous. Hence most churches are shielding themselves behind an ignominious bulwark of extreme caution. You never hear their ministers spoken against; they are quite safe behind the screen you will be very much puzzled to tell what are the real doctrinal views of our modern divines. I believe you will pick up in some poor humble chapel more doctrinal knowledge in half an hour, than in some of your larger chapels in half a century. God's church must be brought once more to rely upon the pure truth, upon the simple gospel, the unalloyed doctrines of the grace of God. O may this church never have any bulwark but the promises of God! May he be her strength and shield! May his Aegis be o'er our head and be our constant guard! May we never depart from the simplicity of the faith! And whether men hear, or whether they forbear, may we say
"Should all the forms that men devise Assault my soul with treach'rous art I'll call them vanities and lies And bind the gospel to my heart."
II. We shall now address the text to THE CHRISTIAN THE REAL CHILD OF GOD. The true believer, also, has a proneness to do as the church does to build up sundry "battlements," which "are not the Lord's," and to put his hope, his confidence, and his affection in something else, besides the word of the God of Israel. 1. The first thing, dearly beloved brethren, whereof we often make a fortress wherein to hide, is the love of the creature. The Christians' happiness should be in God, and God alone. He should be able to say, "All my springs are in thee. From thee, and thee alone, I ever draw my bliss." Christ in his person, his grace, his offices, his mercy, ought to be our only joy, and our glory should be that." Christ is all." But beloved, we are too much inclined by nature to hew out for ourselves broken cisterns that hold no water. There is a drop or two of comfort somewhere in the bottom of the leaky pitcher, and until it is dried up, we do not believe it is broken at all. We trust in that sooner than in the fountain of living waters. Now whenever any of us foolishly make a battlement of the creature, God will say to afflictions "Go ye up against her: take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's." There is a father he has a son. That son is as dear to him as his own flesh and blood. Let him take heed lest that child become too much his darling, lest he sets him in the place of the Most High God, and makes an idol of him for as sure as ever he does, God, by affliction, will say to the enemy, "Go up against him: take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's." There is a husband. He coats upon his wife, as he should do. The Scripture telleth us, that a man cannot love his wife too much: "Husbands love you wives, as Christ also loves the Church" and that is infinitely. Yet this man has proceeded to a foolish fondness and idolatry. God says, "Go ye up against him make not a full end; take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's." We fix our love and affection on some dear friend of ours, and there is our hope and trust. God says, "What though ye take counsel together, ye have not taken counsel of me, and therefore, I will take away your trust. What though ye have walked in piety, ye have not walked with me as ye should. Go ye up against her, O death! go ye against her, O affliction! Take away that battlement, it is not the Lord's. Ye shall live on me ye shall not feed, like Ephraim, on the wind. Ye shall lean on my arm; ye shall not trust in the staff of these broken reeds. Ye shall set your affections on things above, and not on things on earth. For I will blast the Joy of earth. I will send a blight upon your fair harvest. I will make the clouds obscure your sun, and you shall cry unto me, 'O God, thou art my trust, my sun, my hope, my all.'" Oh, what a mercy it is that he does not make a "full end," beloved! It may seem to be an end sometimes, but it is not a full end. There may be an end of our hopes, an end of our faith, an end of our confidence at times, but it is not a full end. There is a little hope left; there is just a drop of oil in the cruse, there is the handful of meal in the barrel: it is not the full end yet. Though he has taken away many joys, and blasted many hopes, though many of our fair flowers have been blighted, he has left something. One star will twinkle in the sky, one faint lamp glimmers from yonder distant cottage thou art not quite lost, O wanderer of the night. He has not made a full end; but he may do, unless we come to him. 2. Once more. Many of us are too prone to make battlements out of our past experience, and to rely upon that instead of confiding in Jesus Christ. There is a sort of self-complacency which reviews the past, and says, "there I fought Apollyon there I climbed the hill Diffidently; there I waded through the Slough of Despond." The next thought is, "And what a fine fellow am I! I have done all this. Why, there is nothing can hurt me. No, no! If I have done all this, I can do everything else that is to be accomplished. Am I not a great soldier? Shall any make me afraid? No; I have confidence in my own prowess, for my own arm hath won many a victory. Surely I shall never be moved." Such a man cannot but think lightly of the present. He does not want communion with Christ every day. No, he lives on the past. He does not care to have further manifestations of Jesus. He does not want fresh evidence. He looks at the old musty evidences. He makes past grace the bread of his soul, instead of using it as a seasoning to sweeten his meal. What does God say whenever his people do not want him; but live on what they used to have of him, and are content with the love he once gave them? "Ah! I will take away your battlements." He calls out to doubts and fears "Go ye up upon his walls; take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's." 3. Then, again, we sometimes get trusting too much to evidence, and good works. Ralph Erskine did not say amiss when he remarked, "I have got more hurt by my good works than my bad ones." That seems something like Antinomianism, but it is true; we find it so by experience. "My bad works," said Erskine, "Always drove me to the Savior for mercy; my good works often kept me from him, and I began to trust in myself." Is it not so with us? We often get a pleasing opinion of ourselves: we are preaching so many times a week, we attend so many prayer meetings; we are doing good in the Sabbath-school; we are valuable deacons; important members of the church; we are giving away so much in charity; and we say, "Surely I am a child of God I must be. I am an heir of heaven. Look at me! See what robes I wear. Have I not indeed a righteousness about me that proves me to be a child of God?" Then we begin to trust in ourselves, and say, "Surely I cannot be moved, my mountain standeth firm and fast." Do your know what is the usual rule of heaven when we thus boast? Why the command is given to the foe "Go ye up against him, make not a full end: take away his battlements; for they are not the Lord's." And what is the consequence? Why, perhaps God suffers us to fall into sin, and down goes self-sufficiency. Many a Christian owes his falls to a presumptuous confidence in his graces. I conceive that outward sin is not more abhorbed by one God than this most wicked sin of reliance on ourselves. May none of you ever learn your own weakness by reading a black book of your own backslidings. More to be desired is the other method of God when he sends the light of the Spirit into the heart, and developes our corruption; Satan comes roaring there, conscience begins calling out, "Man you are not perfect." All the corruptions burst up like a volcano that had slept for a little moment. We are taken into the dark chambers of imagery; we look at ourselves, and say, "Where are my battlements gone?" We go to the hill-top again, and see the battlements are all gone. We go by the side of the city they are all departed. Then we go again to Christ, and say,
"I, the chief of sinners am, Jesus died for me."
"Nothing in my hands I bring; Simply to thy cross I cling."
Heaven smiles again, for now the heart is right, and the soul is in the most fitting position. Take care of your graces, Christians! III. Now to bring the text to the young CONVERT, to the man in that state of our religious history which we call conversion to God. All men by nature build battlements for themselves to hide behind. Our father Adam gave us as a portion of our inheritance when we were born, high battlements, very high ones; and we are so fond of them that it is hard to part them. There are different lines of them; multiplied walls of fortifications; and when Christ comes to storm the heart, to carry the city by storm, to take it for himself, there is an over-turning of all these different walls which protect the city. 1. In the forefront of the city of Mansoul, frowns the wall of carelessness an erection of Satanic masonry. It is made of black granite, and mortal art cannot injure it. Bring law, like a huge pickaxe, to break it: you cannot knock a single ship off. Fire your shells at it: send against it all the hot cannon balls that any of the ten great mortars of the commandments can fire, and you cannot move it in the least. Bring the great battering ram of powerful preaching against it; speak with a voice that might wake the dead and make almost Satan tremble: the man sits careless and hardened. At last a gracious God cries out "Take away her battlements, they are not the Lord's." And at a glance down crumbles the battlement. The careless man becomes tender-hearted, the soul that was hard as iron has become soft as wax; the man who once could laugh at gospel warnings, and despise the preaching of the minister, now sits down and trembles at every word. The Lord is in the whirlwind: now he is in the fire, yea, he is in the still small voice. Everything is heard now, for God has taken away the first battlement the battlement of a hard heart and a careless life. Some of you have got as far as that, God has taken that away. I know many of you by the tears that glisten on your cheeks those precious diamonds of heaven testify that you are not careless. 2. The first wall is surmounted, but the city is not yet taken: the Christian minister, under the hand of God, has to storm the next wall that is the wall of self-righteousness. Many poor sermons get their brains knocked out in the attack; many of them are bayonetted by prejudice, in trying to storm that bastion. Thousands of good sermons are spent all in vain in trying to make it totter and shake, especially among you good moral people, children of pious parents, and godly relations. How strong that wall is with you! It does not seem to be made of separate stones, but it is all one great solid rock. You guilty you depraved you fallen. Yes, you believe it, and you pay a compliment to Scripture in so doing; but you do not feel it. You are the humble ones that stoop down as needs you must, because you cannot sit upright; but you are not the humble ones who stoop willingly and feel that you are less than nothing. You say so; you call yourself a beggar, but you know that you are "rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing," in your own opinion. How hard it is to storm this wall! it must be carried at the point of the bayonet of faithful warning; there is no taking it except by boldly climbing up with the shout of "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." We have to use very rough words to get your self-righteousness down. Ay! and when we think it is nearly overthrown, it is soon piled up again in the night; the devil's sappers and miners are soon out to repair all the breaches. We thought we had carried you by storm, and proved you to be lost and ruined ones; but you take heart and say, "I am not so bad as I seem; I think I am yet very good." We have by the grace of God, to carry that wall before we can get at your hearts. 3. Thus the double rampart is passed, but another still opposes our progress Christ's warriors know it by the name of self-suficiency. "Ah!" says the man, "I see I am a lost and ruined sinner my hope has deceived me; but I have another wall I can make myself better. I can build and repair." So he begins piling up the wall, and sits down behind it. He makes the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. He thinks faith is a kind of work, and that we are saved for it. He imagines we are to believe and repent, and that we thus earn salvation. He denies that faith and repentance are God's gifts only, and sits down behind his self-sufficiency, thinking, "I can do all that," Oh! blessed day when God directs his shots against that. I know I hugged that old idea a long while with my "cans," "cans," "cans;" but I found my "cans "would hold no water, and suffered all I put in to run out. There came an election sermon; but that did not please me. There came a law sermon, showing me my powerlessness; but I did not believe it; I thought it was the whim of some old experimental Christian, some dogma of ancient times that would not suit men now. Then there came another sermon, concerning death and sin; but I did not believe I was dead, for I knew I was alive enough, and could repent, and set myself right by-and-bye. Then there came a strong exhortation sermon; but I felt I could set my house in order when I liked, that I could do it next Tuesday week as well as I could do it at once. So did I continually trust in my self-sufficiency. At last, however, when God really brought me to myself, he sent one great shot which shivered it all, and, lo, I found myself utterly defenceless. I thought I was more than mighty angels, and could accomplish all things, then I found myself less than nothing. So also every truly convinced sinner finds that repentance and faith must come from God, that reliance must be placed alone on the Most High; and instead of looking to himself, he is forced to cast himself at the feet of sovereign mercy. I trust, with many of you, that two of the walls have been broken down; and, now, may God in his grace break down the other, and say to his ministers, "Go ye up upon their walls: take away their battlements; for they are not the Lord's." Perhaps there are some here who have had their battlements taken away lately, and they think God is about to destroy them. You think you must perish, that you have no goodness, no hope, no help nothing but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation. Now, hear ye the last words, "make not a full end." God would make a "full end" of you if he did not take away your battlements, for you would then die inside the walls of self-sufficiency; but he says, "make not a full end." Rely, then, upon his power and grace, for he will not destroy thee. IV. Now, lastly, I must take this passage as it respects the UNGODLY AND THE SINNER AT LAST. How many there shall be at the last great day who will sit down very comfortably behind certain battlements that they have builded! There is one man a monarch: "I am irresponsible," says he, "who shall ever bring anything to my charge? I am an autocrat: I give no account of my matters." Oh! he will find out at last, that God is Master of emperors, and Judge of Princes; when his battlements shall be taken away. Another says, "Cannot I do as I like with my own? What if God did make me, I shall not serve him. I shall follow my own will. I have in my own nature everything that is good, and I shall do as my nature dictates. I shall trust in that, and if there be a higher power, he will exonerate me, because I only followed my nature." But he will find his hopes to be visionary and his reason' to be foolish, when God shall say, "The soul that sinneth it shall die:" and when his thundering voice shall pronounce the sentence "Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire." Again, there is a company of men joined hand in hand, and they think they will resist the Eternal yea, they have a plan for subverting the kingdom of Christ. They say, "We are wise and mighty. We have fortified ourselves. We have made a covenant with death and a league with hell," Ah! they little think what will become of their battlements at the last great day, when they shall see them crumble and fall. With what fear and alarm will they then cry: "Rocks, hide us! Mountains, on us fall!" What will they do when God's wrath goes forth as a fire in the day of his fierce anger, when he shall melt their hopes and make them pass away, when he shall blast all their joys and compel them to stand naked before his presence? Then I picture to myself, in the day of judgment, a band of men who have said on earth, "We will trust in God's mercy. We do not believe in these religions at all: God is merciful, and we will trust in mercy." Now, suppose what is impossible, because their delusion will be dissipated at death suppose them, in the dread day of account, to be crouching in the fortress of uncovenanted mercy. The judge opens his eyes upon their city, and says, "Angels! go ye up upon their walls; make a full end; take away their battlements, they are not the Lord's." Then the angels go, and demolish every stone of the bulwarks. They utterly cut off all hope of mercy. Each time they lay on the blow they cry "without holiness no man shall see the Lord! Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins! Ye are saved by grace through faith, but ye trusted in naked mercy, ye shall not have it but ye shall have naked justice and nothing else." Then there is another party who have built a castle of rites and ceremonies. On one side they have a huge piece of granite called "Baptism," and on another they have the "Lord's Supper;" and in the middle they have "Confirmation." They think what a glorious castle they have builded. "We be lost? We paid tithe of mint, cummin, and anise. We paid tithes of all we possessed. We know that grace is in ceremonies." Out comes the Almighty, and with one word blasts their castle, simply saying "Take away their battlements, for they are not the Lord's." Ungodly men and women! what will ye do at last without battlements, without a rock to hide yourselves, without a wall behind which to conceal yourselves, when the storm of the Terrible One shall be as a blast against the wall? How shall ye stand when your hopes shall melt like airy dreams, like visions of the night that pass away when one awaketh? What will ye do when he despises your image, and when all your hopes are utterly gone? The Christian man can go away with the reflection that his battlements can never be taken away, because they are the Lord's. We rely upon the electing love of Jehovah Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; we trust in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, the Everlasting Son; we depend wholly upon the merits, blood, and righteousness of Jehovah-Tsidkenu the Lord our righteousness; we are confiding in the Holy Spirit. We confess that we are nothing of ourselves that it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. We do not acknowledge one scrap of the creature in our salvation nor one atom of self; we rely entirely upon covenant love, upon covenant mercy, covenant oaths, covenant faithfulness, covenant immutability, and resting on these, we know our battlements cannot be taken away. Oh, Christian! with these walls surrounded thou makest laugh at all thy foes. Can the devil touch thee now? he shall only look upon thee and despair. Can doubts and fears take away our battlements? No: they stand fast and firm, and our poor fears are but as straws dashed against the wall by the wind; for, "though we believe not, yet he abideth faithful," and not all the temptations of a sinful world, or our own carnal hearts, can separate us from the Savior's love. We have a city, the walls of which are mighty, the foundations of which are eternal; we have a God who says, "I the Lord do keep her, and do water her every moment, lest any hurt her, I will keep her day and night." Trust Christian, here, salvation shall God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Surrounded with these, thou mayest smile at all thy foes. But take heed you add nothing to them, for if ye do, the message will be, Take away the battlements, they are not the Lord's."
BELOVED FRIENDS AND KINDRED IN CHRIST,
The days seem like weeks and the weeks seem like months since I went up to the house of the Lord. My heart and my flesh are crying out for the assembly of the saints. Oh how I long to hear once more the solemn shout of the festal throng who with the voice of joy and praise keep holy day!
I am slowly rallying. My great struggle now is with weakness. I feel as if my frail bark had weathered a heavy storm which has made every timber creak. Do not attribute this illness to my having laboured too hard for my Master. For his dear sake, I would that I may yet be able to labour more. Such toils as might be hardly noticed in the ramp for the service of one's country, would excite astonishment in the church for the service of our God.
And now, I entreat you for love's sake to continue in prayer for me. When ye find access to God, remember me. Mind it is not by the words of your mouth, nor yet by the cravings of your heart, but it is by the precious blood of Christ ye must draw nigh to God. And when ye find his sweet presence and are bedewed with his holy anointing, then pour out your souls before him, and make mention of me in your supplications.
Yours to love and serve in the Gospel, C. H. SPURGEON, Tuesday Evening, 26th October, 1858.
God's Barriers Against Man's Sin
November 16th, 1856 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Fear ye not me? saith the Lord; will ye not tremble at my presence, which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they roar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone." Jeremiah 5:22-23 .
The majesty of God, as displayed in creation and providence, ought to stir up our hearts in adoring wonder and melt them down in willing obedience to his commands. The Almighty power of Jehovah, so clearly manifest in the works if his hands, should constrain us, his creatures, to fear his name and prostrate ourselves in humble reverence before his throne. When we know that the sea, however tempestuous, is entirely submissive to the behests of God; that when he saith, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further," it dares not encroach "the pride of its waves is stayed." When we know that God bridles the tempest, though "nature rocks beneath his tread," and curbs the boisterous storm he ought to be feared verily, he is a God before whom it is no dishonour for us to bow ourselves in the very dust. The contemplation of the marvellous works which he doth upon "the great and wide sea," where he tosseth the waves to and fro, and yet keepeth them in their ordained courses, should draw forth our devoutest emotions, and I could almost say, inspire us with homage. Great art thou, O Lord God; greatly art thou to be praised; let the world which thou hast made, and all that therein is, declare thy glory! I can scarcely conceive a heart so callous that it feels no awe, or a human mind so dull and destitute of understanding, as fairly to view the tokens of God's omnipotent power, and then turn aside without some sense of the fitness of obedience. One might think the impression would be spontaneous in every breast, and if not, only let reason do her office, and by slower process every mind should yet be convinced. Let your eyes behold the stars; God alone can tell their numbers, yet he calls them all by names; by him they are marshalled in their spheres, and travel through the aerial universe just as he gives them charge; they are all his servants, who with cheerful haste perform the bidding of their Lord. You see how the stormy wind and tempest like slaves obey his will; and you know that the great pulse of ocean throbs and vibrates with its ebb and flow entirely under his control. Have these great things of God, these wondrous works of his, no lesson to teach us? Do they not while declaring his glory reveal our duty? Our poets, both the sacred and the uninspired, have feigned consciousness to those inanimate agents that they might the more truthfully represent their honourable service. But if because we are rational and intelligent beings, we withhold our allegiance from our rightful Sovereign, then our privileges are a curse, and our glory is a shame. Alas, then the instincts of men very often guide them to act by impulse more wisely than they commonly do by a settled conviction. Where is the man that will not bend the knee in time of tempest? Where is the man that does not acknowledge God when he hears the terrible voice of his deep-toned thunder, and sees with alarm the shafts of his lightning fly abroad, cleaving the thick darkness of the atmosphere? In times of plague, famine, and pestilence, men are prone to take refuge in religion they will make confession, like Pharaoh, when he said, "I have sinned this time: the lord is righteous, and I and my people are wicked;" but like him, when "the rain, and the hail, and the thunders have ceased," when the plagues are removed, then they sin yet more, and their hearts are hardened. Hence their sin becomes exceeding sinful, since they sin against truths which even nature itself teaches us are most just. We might learn, even without the written oracles of Scripture, that we ought to obey God, if our foolish hearts were not so darkened; thus unbelief of the Almighty Creator is a crime of the first magnitude. If it were a petty Sovereign against whom ye rebelled, it might be pardonable; if he were a man like yourselves, ye might expect that your faults would easily find forgiveness; but since he is the God who reigns alone where clouds and darkness are round about him, the God to whom all nature is obedient, and whose high behests are obeyed both in heaven and in hell, it becomes a crime, the terrible character of which words cannot pourtray, that you should ever sin against a God so marvellously great. The greatness of God enhances the greatness of our sin. I believe this is one lesson which the prophet intended to teach us by the text. He asks us in the name of God, or rather, God asks us through him "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?"
But while it is a lesson, I do not think it is the lesson of the text. There is something else which we are to learn from it. God here contrasts the obedience of the strong, the mighty the untamed sea, with the rebellious character of his own people. "The sea," saith he, "obeys me; it never breaks its boundary; it never leapeth from its channel; it obeys me in all its movements. But man, poor puny man, the little creature whom I could crush as the moth, will not be obedient to me. The sea obeys me from shore to shore, without reluctance, and its ebbing floods, as they retire from its bed, each of them says to me, in the voices of the pebbles, 'O Lord, we are obedient to thee, for thou art our master.' But my people," says God, "are a revolting and a rebellious people; they go astray from me." And is it not, my brethren, a marvellous thing, that the whole earth is obedient to God, save man? Even the mighty Leviathan, who maketh the deep to be hoary, sinneth not against God, but his course is ordered according to his Almighty Master's decree. Stars, those wondrous masses of light, are easily directed by the very wish of God; clouds, though they seem erratic in their movement, have God for their pilot; "he maketh the clouds his chariot;" and the winds, though they seem restive beyond control, yet do they blow, or cease to blow just as God willeth. In heaven, on earth, even in the lower regions, I had almost said, we could scarcely find such a disobedience as that which is practised by man; at least, in heaven, there is a cheerful obedience; and in hell there is constrained submission to God, while on earth man makes the base exception, he is continually revolting and rebelling against his Maker.
Still there is another thought in the text, and this I shall endeavour to dilate upon. Let us read it again. "Fear ye not me? saith the Lord: will ye not tremble at my presence?" now here is the pith of the matter "which have placed the sand for the bound of the sea by a perpetual decree, that it cannot pass it: and though the waves thereof toss themselves, yet can they not prevail; though they soar, yet can they not pass over it? But this people hath a revolting and a rebellious heart; they are revolted and gone." "The sea," says God, "is not only obedient, but it is rendered obedient by the restraint merely of sand." It is not the rock of adamant that restrains the sea one half so easily as just that little belt of sand and shingle which preserves the dry land from the inundations of the ocean. "The sea obeys me, and has for its only check the sand; and yet," says he, "my people, though they have restraints the strongest that reason could imagine, are a revolting and a rebellious people, and scarcely can my commands, my promises, my love, my judgment, my providence or my word restrain them from sin."
That is the point we shall dwell upon this morning. The sea is easily restrained by a belt of sand; but we, notwithstanding all the restraints of God, are a people bent on revolting from him.
The doctrine of the text, seems to me to be this that without supernatural means God can make all creatures obedient save man; but man is so disobedient in his heart, that only some supernatural agency can make him obedient to God, while the simple agency of sand can restrain the sea, without any stupendous effort of divine power more than he ordinarily puts out in nature: he can not thus make man obedient to his will.
Now, my brethren, let us look back into history, and see if it has not been so. What has been a greater problem, if we may so speak concerning the Divine mind, than that of restraining men from sin? How many restraints God has put upon man! Adam is in the garden, pure and holy; he has restraints that one would think strong enough to prevent his committing a sin so contemptible and apparently unprofitable as that by which he fell. He is to have the whole garden in perpetuity, if he will not eat of that tree of life; his God will walk with him, and make him his friend; moreover, in the cool of the day, he shall hold converse with angels, and with the Lord, the Master of angels; and yet he dares eat of that holy fruit which God had set forth not to be touched by man. Then he must die. One would think it was enough, to promise reward for obedience, and punishment for sin; but no, the check fails. Man, left to his own free will, touches the fruit, and he falls. Man cannot be restrained, even in his purity, so easily as the mighty sea. Since that time, mark what God has done by way of restraint. The world has become corrupt it is altogether covered with iniquity. Forth comes a prophet. Enoch prophesies of the coming of the Lord, declaring that he sees him coming with ten thousand of his saints to judge the world. That world goes on, as profane and unheeding as before. Another prophet is raised up, and cries, "Yet a little while, and this earth shall be drowned in a flood of water." Do men cease from sin? No; profligacy, crime, iniquities of the vilest class, are as prevalent as before. Man rushes on to his destruction; the deluge comes and destroys all but a favoured few. The new family goes out to people the earth: will not the world now be clean and holy? Wait a little, and ye shall see. One of these men will do a deed which shall render him a curse for ever, and his son Canaan shall in after years inherit his father's curse. Not long after that you see Sodom and Gomorrah devoured with fire which God rains out of heaven. But what of this? What though in later years Pharaoh and his chariots are drowned in the Red sea? What though Sennacherib and his hosts perish at midnight by the blast of an archangel? What though the world reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, being drunken with the wine of God's wrath? What though the earth be scarred and burned by war? What though it be deluged with floods? What though it be oppressed with famines, pestilences, and diseases? She still goes on in the same manner; at this hour the world is a sinful, rebellious world, and until God shall work a work in our day, such as we shall scarce believe, though a man tell it to us, the world shall never be pure and holy. The sea is restrained by sand; we admire the beautiful poetic fact; but man, being naturally more ungovernable than the storm and more impetuous than the ocean, is not to be tamed; he will not bend his neck to the Lord, nor will he be obedient to the God of the whole earth.
"But what of this fact?" you say "we know it is true; we do not doubt it." Stay awhile; I am now coming to deal with your hearts and consciences; and may the Holy Spirit help me in doing so! I shall divide, as God would divide them, saints and sinners.
First of all, ye saints, I have a word to say to you. I want you to look at this as a doctrine not more evident in the history of mankind at large, than abundantly verified in your own case. Come, now, I want to ask of you this morning, whether it cannot be said of you truly "The sea is bound by sand; but I am one of those people who are bent on revolting from God, neither can any of his restraints keep me from sin." Let us review, for a few moments, the various restraints which God has put upon his people to keep them from sins which, nevertheless, are altogether ineffectual, without the accompanying power of irresistible grace.
First, then, remember there is a restraint of gratitude which, to the lowly regenerated heart, must necessarily form a very strong motive to obedience. I can conceive of nothing that ought so much to prompt me to obedience as the thought that I owe so much to God. O heir of heaven! thou canst look back to eternity and see thy name in life's fair book set down; thou canst sing of electing love; thou dost believe that a covenant was made with Christ in thy behalf, and that thy salvation was made secure in that moment when the hands of the Eternal Son grasped the stylus and signed his name as the representative of all the elect. Thou believest that on Calvary thy sins were all atoned for; thou hast in thy soul the conviction that thy sins, past, present, and to come, were all numbered on the scape-goat's head of old, and carried away for ever; thou believest that neither death nor hell can ever divide thee from thy Saviour's breast; thou knowest that there is laid up for thee a crown of life which fadeth not away, and thine expectant soul anticipates that with branches of palms in thine hands, with crowns of gold on thine head, and streets of gold beneath thy feet, thou shalt be happy for ever. Thou believest thyself to be one of the favoured of heaven, a special object of divine solicitation; thou thinkest that all things work together for thy good, yea, thou art persuaded that everything in providence has a special regard to thee, and to thy favoured brethren. I ask thee, O saint, is not this a bond strong enough to keep thee from sin? If it were not for the desperate unstableness of thy heart, wouldst thou not be restrained from sin by this? Is not thy sin exceeding sinful, because it is sin against electing love, against redeeming peace, against all-surpassing mercy, against matchless affection, against shoreless grace, against spotless love? Ah! sin has reached its climax, when it dares to sin against such love as this. O Christian! thine affection to thy Lord and Master should restrain thee from iniquity. And is it not a fearful proof of the terrible character of thine heart, of thine heart even now, for still thou hast evil remaining in it, that all the ties of gratitude are still incapable of keeping thee from unholiness. The sins of yesterday rise to thy memory now. Oh! look back on them. Do they not tell thee that thou dost sin most ungratefully? O saint! didst thou not yesterday use thy Master's name in vain, and not thy Master's only, but thy Father's name? Hadst thou not yesterday an unbelieving heart? Wast thou not petulant when girded with favours that ought to make a living man unwilling to complain? Wast thou not, when God hath forgiven thee ten thousand talents, angry with thy neighbour, who owed thee a hundred pence? Ah Christian! thou art not yet free from sin, nor wilt thou be, until thou hast washed thy garments in death's black stream, and then thou shalt be holy, as holy as the glorified and pure and spotless, even as the angels around the throne, but not till then. I ask thee, O saint, viewing thy sins as sins against love and mercy, against covenant promises, covenant oaths, covenant engagements, ay, and covenant fulfilments, is not thy sin a desperate thing, and art not thou thyself a rebellious and revolting being, seeing that thou canst not be restrained by such a barrier of adamant as thy soul acknowledges?
Next notice, that the saint has not only this barrier against sin, but many others. He has the whole of God's Word given him by way of warning; its pages he is accustomed to read; he reads there, that if he break the statutes and keep not the commandments of the Lord, his Father will visit his transgressions with a rod, and his iniquity with stripes. He has before him in God's Word abundant examples. He finds a David going with broken bones to his grave after his sin; he finds a Samson shorn of his locks, and with his eyes put out; he sees proof upon proof that sin will find a man out; that the backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways. Abundant warnings there are for the child of God, not of saints who have perished, for we have none such on record in Scripture, and none ever shall finally perish but we have many warnings of great and grievous damages sustained by God's own children when they have sailed out of their proper course. And yet, O Christian, against all warning and against all precept thou darest to sin. Oh! art thou not a rebellious creature, and mayest thou not this morning humble thyself at the thought of the greatness of thine iniquity?
Again: the saint sins against his own experience, When he looks back upon his past life he finds that sin has always been a loss to him; he has never found any profit, but has always lost by it. He remembers such and such a transgression; it appeared sweet to him at the time, but oh! it made his Master withdraw his presence and hide his face. The saint can look back on the time when sin hung like a mill-stone round his neck, and he felt the terrible flame of remorse burning in his soul, and knew how evil a thing and bitter it is to sin against God. And yet the saint sins. Now, if the unconverted man sins, he does not sin against his own experience, for he has not had that true heartfelt experience that renders sin exceeding sinful. But every time thou sinnest, O grey-headed saint, thou sinnest with a vengeance, for thou hast had all through thy life so much proof of what sin has been to thee. Thou hast not been deceived about it, for thou hast felt its bitterness in thy bowels: and when thou sippest the accursed draught thou art infatuated indeed, because thou sinnest against experience. Ay, and the youngest of the saints, have you not been made to taste the bitterness of sin? I know you have, if you are saints! and will you go and dip your fingers in the nauseous cup? Will you put the poisoned goblet to your lips again? Yes, you will; but because you do so in the teeth of your experience, it ought to make you weep, that you should be such desperate rebels against such a loving God, who has put not merely a barrier of sand, but a barrier of tried steel to keep in your lusts, and yet they will break forth; verily ye are a rebellious and revolting people.
Then again, God guards all his children with providence, in order to keep them from sin. I could tell you, even from the little experience I have had of spiritual things, many cases in which I feel I have been kept from sin by Divine providence. There have been seasons when the strong hand of sin has appeared for a while to get the mastery over us, and we have been dragged along by some strong inherent lust, which we were prone to practise before our regeneracy. We were intoxicated with the lust, we remember how pleasurable it was to us in the days of our iniquity, how we revelled in it, till we were on a sudden dragged to the very edge of the precipice, and we looked down; our brain reeled, we could not stand; and do we not remember how just then some striking providence came in our way, and saved us, or else we should have been excommunicated from the church for violating the rules of propriety. Ah! strange things happen to some of us; strange things have happened to some of you. It was only a providence which on some sad and solemn occasion, to which you never look back without regret, saved you from sin which would have been a scab on your character. Bless God for that! But remember, notwithstanding the girdlings of his providence, how many times you have offended; and let the frequency of your sin remind you that you must indeed be a rebellious creature. Though he has afflicted you, you have sinned; though he has given you chastisement, you have sinned; though he has put you in the furnace. yet the dross has not departed from you. Oh! how corrupt your hearts are, and how prone you are still to wander, notwithstanding all the barriers God has given you to encompass you!
Yet, once more let me remind you, beloved, that the ordinances of God's house are all intended to be checks to sin. He girds us by the worship of the sanctuary; he girds us by the remembrance of our holy baptism; and all else that is connected with Christianity is intended to check us from sin. And great are the effects which these produce; yet all are insufficient, without the preserving grace of God, given to us day by day. Let us think, beloved, too, that God has given to us a tender conscience, more tender than the conscience of worldly men, because he has given us living consciences, whereas theirs are often seared and dead. And yet, against this living conscience, against the warnings of the Spirit, against precept, against promise, against experience, against the honour of God, and against the gratitude they owe him, the saints of God have dared to sin, and they must confess before him that they are rebellious, and have revolted from him. Bow down your heads with shame while ye consider your ways, and then lift up your hearts, Christians, in adoring love, that he has kept you when your feet were making haste to hell, where you would have gone, but for his preserving grace. Shall not this long suffering of your God, this tender compassion, be your theme every day
"While life, and thought, and being last, Or immortality endures?"
Will you not pray, that God should not cast you away, nor take his Holy Spirit from you, though you are a rebellious creature, and though you have revolted against him?
This is for the saints; and now may the Spirit help me, while I strive to apply it to sinners! Sinner, I have solemn things to say to thee this morning; lend me for a few minutes thy very closest attention; I will speak to thee as though this were the last message I should ever deliver in thine ear. I have asked my God, that I may so speak to thee, O sinner, that if I win not thy heart I may at least be free from thy blood; and that if I am not able to convince thee of thy sin, I may at any rate make thee without excuse in that day "when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel." Come, then, sinner; in the first place, I bid thee consider thy guilt. Thou hast heard what I have said. The mighty ocean is kept in obedience by God, and restrained within its channel by simple sand; and thou, a pitiful worm, the creature of a day, the ephemera of an hour, thou art a rebel against God. The sea obeys him; thou dost not. Consider, I beseech thee, how many restraints God has put on thee: he has not checked thy lusts with sand but with beetling cliffs; and yet thou hast burst through every bound in the violence of thy transgressions. Perhaps he has checked thy soul by the remembrance of thy guilt. Thou hast this morning felt thyself a despiser of God; or if not a despiser, thou art a mere hearer, and hast no part nor lot in this matter. Dost thou not remember thy sins in the face of thy mother's counsels and thy father's strong admonitions? Do they never check thee? Dost thou never think thou seest a mother's tears coming after thee? Hast thou never heard a father's prayer for thee? When thou hast been spending thy nights in dissipation, and hast gone home late to thy bed, hast thou never thought thou hast seen thy father's spirit at thy bed side, offering one more prayer for an Absalom, his son, or for an Ishmael, his rebellious child? Consider what thou hast learned, child! Baptized with a mother's tears, almost immersed in them; thou wast early taught to know something of God; when thou didst go from thy mother's knees, thou wentest to those of a pious teacher; thou wast trained in a Sabbath school, or at any rate thou wast taught to read the Bible. Thou knowest the threatenings of God; it is no new tale to thee, when I warn thee that sinners must be condemned; it is no new story when I tell thee that saints shall wear the starry crown; thou knowest all that. Consider, then, how great is thy guilt; thou hast sinned against light and knowledge; thou art not the Hottentot sinner, who sins in darkness, but thou art a sinner before high heaven, in the full light of day; thou hast not sinned ignorantly, thou hast done it when thou knewest better; and when thou comest to he lost, thou shalt have an additional doom, because thou didst know thy duty, but thou didst it not. I charge that home upon thee, I charge it solemnly upon thy conscience; is it true, or is it not? Some of you have had other things. Don't you remember, some little time ago, when sickness was rife, you were stretched on your bed? One night you will never forget; sickness had got strong hold of you, and the strong man bowed himself. Do you not remember what a sight you had then of the regions of the damned; not with your eyes, but with your conscience? You thought you heard their shrieks; you thought you would be amongst them yourself soon. Methinks I see you; you turned your face to the wall, and you cried, "O God, if thou wilt save my life, I will give myself to thee!" Perhaps it was an accident; thou didst fear that death was very near; the terrors of death laid hold of thee, and thou didst cry, "Oh! God, let me but reach home in safety, and my bended knees and my tears pouring in torrents, shall prove that I am sincere in the vow I make." But didst thou perform that vow? Nay, thou hast sinned against God; thy broken vows have gone before thee to judgment. Dost thou think it a little thing to make a promise to thy fellow creature and break it? It may be so in thine estimation, but not so in that of honest men. But dost thou think it a little thing to promise to thy Maker, and to break thy promise? There is no light penalty for sinning against the Almighty God; it will cost thee thy soul, man, and thy soul's blood for ever, if thou goest on in this fashion. Vow and pay, or if thou payest not, vow not; for God shall visit those vows upon thee, in the day when he maketh inquisition for blood, and destroyeth thy soul. Thou hast been guarded thus; remember that thou hast had extraordinary deliverances, the disease did not kill thee; thy broken bones were healed; thou didst not die; when the jaws of death were uplifted, they did not close upon thee: here thou art still. Thy life is spared.
Oh! my dear hearers, some of you are the worst; you have regularly sat in these pews God is my witness, how earnestly I have longed for you all in the bowels of Christ. I have not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God to you. If I had been a time-server, and kept back part of the truth, much more honour would I have received from men than I have received; but I have cleared my conscience, I trust, from your blood. How many times have I seen men and women cry, the hot tears falling down their cheeks in quick succession? and expected that I should have seen a change in some of your lives. But how many of you there are, who have gone on sinning against warnings, which, I am sure, though they may have been excelled in eloquence, have never been exceeded in heartiness! Do you think it a little thing to sin against God's ambassador? It is no little sin: every time we sin against the warnings we have received, we sin so much the more heinously. But there are some I had hope for you, but ye have gone back to the ways of perdition; I have cried, "Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" But I have been obliged to go to my Master with that exclamation, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Woe unto thee, Bethsaida; it were better for thee that thou hadst been Tyre and Sidon than that thou shouldst have been left in the midst of privileges, if thou shouldst perish at last! Woe unto you, hearers of New Park Street! Woe unto you that listen not to the voice of the minister here! If ye perish beneath our warnings, ye shall perish in a horrible manner! Woe unto thee, Capernaum! thou art exalted unto heaven, but thou shalt be cast down to hell." Woe unto thee, young woman! thou hast had a pious mother, and thou hast had many warnings. Woe unto thee, young man! thou hast been a profligate youth; thou hast been brought to this house of prayer from thine infancy, and thou art sitting there even now; often does thy conscience prick thee; often thy heart hast told thee that thou art wrong; and yet thou art still unchanged! Woe unto thee! Woe unto thee! And yet will I cry unto my God, that he would avert that woe and pardon thee; that he would not let thee die, but bring thee unto himself, lest now ye perish in your sins. Ye sinners! God has a controversy with you; he tames the sea, but ye will not be tamed; nothing but his marvellous grace exerted in you will ever check you in your lusts. You have sinned against warnings and reproofs, against providences, mercies, and judgments, and still ye sin.
Oh! my hearers, when you sin, you do not sin so cheaply as others; for when you sin, you sin in the very teeth of hell. There is not a man or woman in this place, I am sure, who, when he or she sins, does not know that hell is the inevitable consequence! Sirs, ye do not sin in the dark. When God shall give you the wages of your iniquity, you shall not be able to say, "O God, I did not know this would be the pay for my labour." When thou didst sow tares, thou couldst not expect that thou shouldst reap wheat; thou knowest "that they who sow carnal things, shall reap carnal things;" thou art sowing to the flesh, but not with the hope that thou wilt reap salvation; for thou knowest that "he who soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption." Sinner, it is a dreadful thing to sin, when God puts hell before thee! What! sin when he has given out his threatening? Sin! while Sinai is thundering, while hell is blazing? Ay, that is to sin indeed. But how many of you, may dear hearers, have sinned like this. I would to God, that he would turn this house into a Bochim, that you might weep over your guilt. It is the hardest thing in the world to make men believe their guilt. If we could once get them to do that, we should find that Christ would reveal to them his salvation. I cannot with my poor voice and my weak utterance, even bring you to think that it is Christ Jesus in the ministry of his Spirit who can give you a true and real sense of your sin. Hath he done so? Hath he blessed my words to any of you? Do any of you feel your sins? Do any of you know that you are rebellious? Do you say, from this time forth you will mend your ways? Sirs, let me tell you, you cannot do that. Are you better than the mightiest of men? The best of men are but men at the best, and they are convinced that they cannot tame their own turbulent passions. God saith that the sea can be tamed with sand; but the heart of man cannot be restrained, it is still revolting. Dost thou think thou canst do that, which God saith is impossible? Dost thou suppose thyself stronger than God Almighty? What! canst thou change thine own heart, when God declares that we must he born again from above, or else we cannot see the kingdom of heaven? Others have tried to do it, but they cannot. I beseech thee, do not try to do it with thine own strength. I am glad thou knowest thy guilt; but O do not increase that guilt, by seeking to wash it out in the foul stream of thine own resolutions. Go and tell God that thou knowest thy sin, and confess it before him, and ask him to create in thee a clean heart, and renew in thee a right spirit. Tell him thou knowest that thou art rebellious, and thou art sure that thou always wilt be, unless he change thy heart; and I beseech thee, rest not satisfied until thou hast a new heart. My hearer, be not content with Baptism; be not content with the Lord's Supper; be not content with shutting up your shop on Sunday; be not content with leaving off drunkenness; be not content with giving up swearing. Remember, you may do all that, and be damned. It is a new heart and a right spirit you want; begin with that, and when you have that, all the rest will come right. Bethink thee, my hearer; thou mayest varnish and gild thyself, but thou canst never change thyself. Thou mayest moralise, but thou canst never spiritualise thy heart. But just bethink thee. Thou art this morning lost; and just think of this, thou canst do nothing whatever to save thyself. Let that thought rise in thy soul, and lay thee very low; and when thou goest to God, cry, "O Lord, do what I cannot do; save me, O my God, for thy mercy's sake."
My dear hearers, have I spoken harshly to you, or wilt ye rather take it in love? Ye who have sinned thus terribly against God, do ye feel it? Well, I have no grace to offer to thee, I have no Christ to offer to thee, but I have Christ to preach to thee. Oh! what shall I say? This: you are a sinner. "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, even the chief." Art thou a sinner? Then he came to save thee. Oh! joyful sound. I am ready to leap in the pulpit for very joy, to have this to preach to thee. I can clap my hands with ecstacy of heart, that I am allowed again to tell thee "It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." Let me tell you that when he came into this world he was nailed to the cross, and that there he expired in desperate griefs and agony; and there he shrieked, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" There the blood ran from his hands and feet, and because he suffered he is able to forgive. Sinner, dost thou believe that? Thou art black; dost thou believe, in the face of thy blackness, that Christ's blood can make thee white? What sayest thou, sinner? God has convinced thee of thy sin; art thou willing to be saved in God's way this morning? If thou art willing, thou shalt be saved. It is written, "Whosoever will, let him come." Art thou thirsty this morning? come hither and drink. Art thou hungry? come and eat. Art thou dying? come and live. My Master bids me tell you, all you who feel your sins, that you are forgiven; all you who know your transgressions, he bids me tell you this: " I, even I, am he that blotteth out your transgressions, for my name's sake." Hast thou been an adulterer, hast thou been a whore-monger, a thief, a drunkard, a Sabbath-breaker, a swearer? I find no exception in this proclamation; "Whosoever will, let him come." I find no exception in this; "Him that cometh I will in nowise cast out." Dost thou know thy guilt? then I do not ask thee what thy guilt is. Though thou wert the vilest creature, again, I tell thee, if thou knowest thy guilt, Christ will forgive thee. Believe it, and thou art saved.
And now will ye go away and forget all this? Some of you have wept this morning. No wonder; the wonder is that we do not all weep, until we find ourselves saved! You will go away to-morrow to your farms and to your merchandize, to your shops, and to your offices; and the impression that may have been produced on you this Sabbath morning will pass away like the morning cloud. My hearers, I would not weep, though you should call me all the names you can think of, but I wilt weep because you will not weep for yourselves. Sinners, why will ye be damned? Is it a pleasant thing to revolt in the flames of hell? Sirs, what profit is there in your death! What! is it an honorable thing to rebel against God? Is it an honor to stand and be the scorn of God's universe? Dost thou say thou shalt not die; yet thou wilt put it off a little while? Sinner, thou wilt never have a more convenient season; if to-day is inconvenient, to-morrow will be more so. Put it off to-day, wipe away the tears from your eyes, and the day may come when you would give a million worlds for a tear, but you shall not be able to get one. Many a man has had a soft heart; it has passed away, and in after years he has said, "Oh, that I could but shed a tear!" O God! make thy word like a hammer this morning, that it may break the rocky heart in pieces! Ye who know your sins, as God's ambassador, I beseech you, "be ye reconciled unto God." "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." Remember, once lost, ye are lost for ever; but if ye are once saved, ye are certainly saved for ever. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," said Paul of old; Jesus himself hath said "He that believeth and is haptised shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." I will not finish with a curse. "He that believeth shall be saved." God give you all an interest in that eternal blessing, for the Lord Jesus' sake!
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Jeremiah 5". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany