Sermon Sunday – Jonathan Edwards – The Eternity of Hell’s Torments

May 12, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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The Eternity of Hell’s Torments

by

Jonathan Edwards

“These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” — Matthew 25:46


  Subject: The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolutely eternal.

In this chapter we have the most particular description of the day of judgment, of any in the whole Bible. Christ here declares that when he shall hereafter sit on the throne of his glory, the righteous and the wicked shall be set before him, and separated one from the other, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. Then we have an account how both will be judged according to their works: how the good works of the one and the evil works of the other will be rehearsed, and how the sentence shall be pronounced accordingly. We are told what the sentence will be on each, and then we have an account of the execution of the sentence on both. In the words of the text is the account of the execution of the sentence on the wicked or the ungodly, concerning which, it is to my purpose to observe two things.

I. The duration of the punishment on which they are here said to enter: it is called everlasting punishment.

II. The time of their entrance on this everlasting punishment, viz. after the day of judgment, when all these things that are of a temporary continuance shall have come to an end and even those of them that are most lasting — the frame of the world itself, the earth which is said to abide forever, the ancient mountains and everlasting hills, [and] the sun, moon, and stars. When the heavens shall have waxed old like a garment and as a vesture shall be changed, then shall be the time when the wicked shall enter on their punishment.

Doctrine. — The misery of the wicked in hell will be absolute ly eternal.

There are two opinions which I mean to oppose in this doctrine. One is that the eternal death with which wicked men are threatened in Scripture, signifies no more than eternal annihilation: that God will punish their wickedness by eternally abolishing their being.

The other opinion which I mean to oppose is that though the punishment of the wicked shall consist in sensible misery, yet it shall not be absolutely eternal, but only of a very long continuance.

Therefore, to establish the doctrine in opposition to these different opinions, I shall undertake to show,

I. That it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

II. That the eternal death which God threatens is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery.

III. That this misery will not only continue for a very long time, but will be absolutely without end.

IV. That various good ends will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.

I. I am to show that it is not contrary to the divine perfections to inflict on wicked men a punishment that is absolutely eternal.

This is the sum of the objections usually made against this doctrine: that it is inconsistent with the justice, and especially with the mercy, of God. And some say [that] if it be strictly just, yet how can we suppose that a merciful God can bear eternally to torment his creatures.

First, I shall briefly show that it is not inconsistent with the justice of God to inflict an eternal punishment. To evince this, I shall use only one argument, viz. that sin is heinous enough to deserve such a punishment, and such a punishment is no more than proportionable to the evil or demerit of sin. If the evil of sin be infinite, as the punishment is, then it is manifest that the punishment is no more than proportionable to the sin punished, and is no more than sin deserves. And if the obligation to love, honor, and obey God be infinite, then sin which is the violation of this obligation, is a violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Again, if God be infinitely worthy of love, honor, and obedience, then our obligation to love, and honor, and obey him is infinitely great. — So that God being infinitely glorious, or infinitely worthy of our love, honor, and obedience, our obligation to love, honor, and obey him (and so to avoid all sin) is infinitely great. Again, our obligation to love, honor, and obey God being infinitely great, sin is the violation of infinite obligation, and so is an infinite evil. Once more, sin being an infinite evil, deserves an infinite punishment. An infinite punishment is no more than it deserves. Therefore such punishment is just, which was the thing to be proved. There is no evading the force of this reasoning, but by denying that God, the sovereign of the universe, is infinitely glorious, which I presume none of my hearers will venture to do.

Second, I am to show that it is not inconsistent with the mercy of God, to inflict an eternal punishment on wicked men. It is an unreasonable and unscriptural notion of the mercy of God, that he is merciful in such a sense that he cannot bear that penal justice should be executed. This is to conceive of the mercy of God as a passion to which his nature is so subject that God is liable to be moved, and affected, and overcome by seeing a creature in misery, so that he cannot bear to see justice executed: which is a most unworthy and absurd notion of the mercy of God, and would, if true, argue great weakness. — It would be a great defect, and not a perfection, in the sovereign and supreme Judge of the world, to be merciful in such a sense that he could not bear to have penal justice executed. It is a very unscriptural notion of the mercy of God. The Scriptures everywhere represent the mercy of God as free and sovereign, and not that the exercises of it are necessary, so that God cannot bear justice should take place. The Scriptures abundantly speak of it as the glory of the divine attribute of mercy, that it is free and sovereign in its exercises, and not that God cannot but deliver sinners from misery. This is a mean and most unworthy idea of the divine mercy.

It is most absurd also as it is contrary to plain fact. For if there be any meaning in the objection, this is supposed in it, that all misery of the creature, whether just or unjust, is in itself contrary to the nature of God. For if his mercy be of such a nature that a very great degree of misery, though just, is contrary to his nature, then it is only to add to the mercy. And then a less degree of misery is contrary to his nature (again to add further to it), and a still less degree of misery is contrary to his nature. And so the mercy of God being infinite, all misery must be contrary to his nature, which we see to be contrary to fact. For we see that God in his providence, does indeed inflict very great calamities on mankind even in this life.

However strong such kind of objections against the eternal misery of the wicked, may seem to the carnal, senseless hearts of men, as though it were against God’s justice and mercy, yet their seeming strength arises from a want of sense of the infinite evil, odiousness, and provocation there is in sin. Hence it seems to us not suitable that any poor creature should be the subject of such misery, because we have no sense of anything abominable and provoking in any creature answerable to it. If we had, then this infinite calamity would not seem unsuitable. For one thing would but appear answerable and proportionable to another, and so the mind would rest in it as fit and suitable, and no more than what is proper to be ordered by the just, holy, and good Governor of the world.

That this is so, we may be convinced by this consideration, viz. that when we hear or read of some horrid instances of cruelty, it may be to some poor innocent child or some holy martyr — and their cruel persecutors, having no regard to their shrieks and cries, only sported themselves with their misery, and would not vouchsafe even to put an end to their lives — we have a sense of the evil of them, and they make a deep impression on our minds. Hence it seems just, every way fit and suitable, that God should inflict a very terrible punishment on persons who have perpetrated such wickedness. It seems no way disagreeable to any perfection of the Judge of the world. We can think of it without being at all shocked. The reason is that we have a sense of the evil of their conduct, and a sense of the proportion there is between the evil or demerit and the punishment.

Just so, if we saw a proportion between the evil of sin and eternal punishment, i.e. if we saw something in wicked men that should appear as hateful to us, as eternal misery appears dreadful (something that should as much stir up indignation and detestation, as eternal misery does terror), all objections against this doctrine would vanish at once. Though now it seem incredible, [and] though when we hear of such a degree and duration of torments as are held forth in this doctrine and think what eternity is, it is ready to seem impossible that such torments should be inflicted on poor feeble creatures by a Creator of infinite mercy. Yet this arises principally from these two causes: 1. It is so contrary to the depraved inclinations of mankind, that they hate to believe it and cannot bear it should be true. 2. They see not the suitableness of eternal punishment to the evil of sin. They see not that it is no more than proportionable to the demerit of sin.

Having thus shown that the eternal punishment of the wicked is not inconsistent with the divine perfections, I shall now proceed to show that it is so far from being inconsistent with the divine perfections, that those perfections evidently require it; i.e. they require that sin should have so great a punishment, either in the person who has committed it, or in a surety. And therefore with respect to those who believe not in a surety, and have no interest in him, the divine perfections require that this punishment should be inflicted on them.

This appears as it is not only not unsuitable that sin should be thus punished, but it is positively suitable, decent, and proper. — If this be made to appear, that it is positively suitable that sin should be thus punished, then it will follow that the perfections of God require it. For certainly the perfections of God require what is proper to be done. The perfection and excellency of God require that to take place which is perfect, excellent, and proper in its own nature. But that sin should be punished eternally is such a thing, which appears by the following considerations.

1. It is suitable that God should infinitely hate sin, and be an infinite enemy to it. Sin, as I have before shown, is an infinite evil, and therefore is infinitely odious and detestable. It is proper that God should hate every evil, and hate it according to its odious and detestable nature. And sin being infinitely evil and odious, it is proper that God should hate it infinitely.

2. If infinite hatred of sin be suitable to the divine character, then the expressions of such hatred are also suitable to this character. Because that which is suitable to be, is suitable to be expressed. That which is lovely in itself, is lovely when it appears. If it be suitable that God should be an infinite enemy to sin, or that he should hate it infinitely, then it is suitable that he should act as such an enemy. If it be suitable that he should hate and have enmity against sin, then it is suitable for him to express that hatred and enmity in that to which hatred and enmity by its own nature tends. But certainly hatred in its own nature tends to opposition, and to set itself against that which is hated, and to procure its evil and not its good, and that in proportion to the hatred. Great hatred naturally tends to the great evil, and infinite hatred to the infinite evil, of its object.

Whence it follows that if it be suitable that there should be infinite hatred of sin in God, as I have shown it is, it is suitable that he should execute an infinite punishment on it. And so the perfections of God require that he should punish sin with an infinite, or which is the same thing with an eternal, punishment.

Thus we see not only the great objection against this doctrine answered, but the truth of the doctrine established by reason. I now proceed further to establish it by considering the remaining particulars under the doctrine.

II. That eternal death or punishment which God threatens to the wicked, is not annihilation, but an abiding sensible punishment or misery. — The truth of this proposition will appear by the following particulars.

First, the Scripture everywhere represents the punishment of the wicked, as implying very extreme pains and sufferings. But a state of annihilation is no state of suffering at all. Persons annihilated have no sense or feeling of pain or pleasure, and much less do they feel that punishment which carries in it an extreme pain or suffering. They no more suffer to eternity than they did suffer from eternity.

Second, it is agreeable both to Scripture and reason to suppose that the wicked shall be punished in such a manner that they shall be sensible of the punishment they are under: that they should be sensible that now God has executed and fulfilled what he threatened, what they disregarded and would not believe. They should know themselves that justice takes place upon them, that God vindicates that majesty which they despised, [and] that God is not so despicable a being as they thought him to be. They should be sensible for what they are punished, while they are under the threatened punishment. It is reasonable that they should be sensible of their own guilt, and should remember their former opportunities and obligations, and should see their own folly and God’s justice. — If the punishment threatened be eternal annihilation, they will never know that it is inflicted. They will never know that God is just in their punishment, or that they have their deserts. And how is this agreeable to the Scriptures, in which God threatens, that he will repay the wicked to his face, Deu. 7:10. And to that in Job 21:19, 20, “God rewardeth him, and he shall know it; his eyes shall see his destruction, and he shall drink of the wrath of the Almighty.” And to that in Eze. 22:21, 22, “Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst thereof. As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the Lord have poured out my fury upon you.” — And how is it agreeable to that expression so often annexed to the threatenings of God’s wrath against wicked men, And ye shall know that I am the Lord?

Third, the Scripture teaches that the wicked will suffer different degrees of torment, according to the different aggravations of their sins. Mat. 5:22, “Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell-fire.” Here Christ teaches us that the torments of wicked men will be different in different persons, according to the different degrees of their guilt. — It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah, for Tyre and Sidon, than for the cities where most of Christ’s mighty works were wrought. — Again, our Lord assures us that he that knows his Lord’s will, and prepares not himself, nor does according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knows not, and commits things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. — These several passages of Scripture infallibly prove that there will be different degrees of punishment in hell, which is utterly inconsistent with the supposition that the punishment consists in annihilation, in which there can be no degrees.

Fourth, the Scriptures are very express and abundant in this matter: that the eternal punishment of the wicked will consist in sensible misery and torment, and not in annihilation. — What is said of Judas is worthy to be observed here, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born;” Mat. 26:24. — This seems plainly to teach us, that the punishment of the wicked is such that their existence, upon the whole, is worse than non-existence. But if their punishment consists merely in annihilation, this is not true. — The wicked, in their punishment, are said to weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth; which implies not only real existence, but life, knowledge, and activity, and that they are in a very sensible and exquisite manner affected with their punishment, Isa. 33:14. Sinners in the state of their punishment are represented to dwell with everlasting burnings. But if they are only turned into nothing, where is the foundation for this representation? It is absurd to say that sinners will dwell with annihilation, for there is no dwelling in the case. It is also absurd to call annihilation a burning, which implies a state of existence, sensibility, and extreme pain: whereas in annihilation there is neither.

It is said that they shall be cast into a lake of fire and brimstone. How can this expression with any propriety be understood to mean a state of annihilation? Yea, they are expressly said to have no rest day nor night, but to be tormented with fire and brimstone forever and ever, Rev. 20:10. But annihilation is a state of rest, a state in which not the least torment can possibly be suffered. The rich man in hell lifted up his eyes being in torment, and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom, and entered into a particular conversation with Abraham: all which proves that he was not annihilated.

The spirits of ungodly men before the resurrection are not in a state of annihilation, but in a state of misery. They are spirits in prison, as the apostle says of them that were drowned in the flood, 1 Pet. 3:19. — And this appears very plainly from the instance of the rich man before mentioned, if we consider him as representing the wicked in their separate state between death and the resurrection. But if the wicked even then are in a state of torment, much more will they be, when they shall come to suffer that which is the proper punishment of their sins.

Annihilation is not so great a calamity but that some men have undoubtedly chosen it, rather than a state of suffering even in this life. This was the case of Job, a good man. But if a good man in this world may suffer that which is worse than annihilation, doubtless the proper punishment of the wicked, in which God means to manifest his peculiar abhorrence of their wickedness, will be a calamity vastly greater still, and therefore cannot be annihilation. That must be a very mean contemptible testimony of God’s wrath towards those who have rebelled against his crown and dignity — broken his laws, and despised both his vengeance and his grace — which is not so great a calamity as some of his true children have suffered in life.

The eternal punishment of the wicked is said to be the second death, as Rev. 20:14, and 21:8. It is doubtless called the second death in reference to the death of the body, and as the death of the body is ordinarily attended with great pain and distress, so the like, or something vastly greater, is implied in calling the eternal punishment of the wicked the second death. And there would be no propriety in calling it so, if it consisted merely in annihilation. And this second death wicked men will suffer, for it cannot be called the second death with respect to any other than men. It cannot be called so with respect to devils, as they die no temporal death, which is the first death. In Rev. 2:11, it is said, “He that overcometh, shall not be hurt of the second death;” implying that all who do not overcome their lusts, but live in sin, shall suffer the second death.

Again, wicked men will suffer the same kind of death with the devils; as in verse 41 of the context, “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Now the punishment of the devil is not annihilation, but torment. He therefore trembles for fear of it. not for fear of being annihilated — he would be glad of that. Where he is afraid of is torment, as appears by Luke 8:28, where he cries out and beseeches Christ that he would not torment him before the time. And it is said, Rev. 20:10, “The devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever.”

It is strange how men will go directly against so plain and full revelations of Scripture, as to suppose notwithstanding all these things, that the eternal punishment threatened against the wicked signifies no more than annihilation.

III. As the future punishment of the wicked consists in sensible misery, so it shall not only continue for a very long time, but shall be absolutely without end.

Of those who have held that the torments of hell are not absolutely eternal, there have been two sorts. Some suppose that in the threatenings of everlasting punishment, the terms used do not necessarily import a proper eternity, but only a very long duration. Others suppose that if they do import a proper eternity, yet we cannot necessarily conclude thence, that God will fulfill his threatenings. — Therefore I shall,

First, show that the threatenings of eternal punishment do very plainly and fully import a proper, absolute eternity, and not merely a long duration. — This appears,

1. Because when the Scripture speaks of the wicked being sentenced to their punishment at the time when all temporal things are come to an end, it then speaks of it as everlasting, as in the text, and elsewhere. It is true that the term forever is not always in Scripture used to signify eternity. Sometimes it means “as long as a man lives.” In this sense it is said that the Hebrew servant, who chose to abide with his master, should have his ear bored and should serve his master forever. Sometimes it means “during the continuance of the state and church of the Jews.” In this sense, several laws, which were peculiar to that church and were to continue in force no longer than that church should last, are called statutes forever. See Exo. 27:21, 28:43, etc. Sometimes it means as long as the world stands. So in Ecc. 1:4, “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever.”

And this last is the longest temporal duration that such a term is ever used to signify. For the duration of the world is the longest of things temporal, as its beginning was the earliest. Therefore when the Scripture speaks of things as being before the foundation of the world, it means that they existed before the beginning of time. So those things which continue after the end of the world, are eternal things. When heaven and earth are shaken and removed, those things that remain will be what cannot be shaken, but will remain forever, Heb. 12:26-27.

But the punishment of the wicked will not only remain after the end of the world, but is called everlasting, as in the text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” So in 2 Thes. 1:9-10, “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; when he shall come to be glorified in his saints,” etc. — Now, what can be meant by a thing being everlasting, after all temporal things are come to an end, but that it is absolutely without end!

2. Such expressions are used to set forth the duration of the punishment of the wicked, as are never used in the scriptures of the New Testament to signify anything but a proper eternity. It is said, not only that the punishment shall be forever, but for ever and ever. Rev. 14:11, “The smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” Rev. 20:10, “Shall be tormented day and night, for ever and ever.” Doubtless the New Testament has some expression to signify a proper eternity, of which it has so often occasion to speak. But it has no higher expression than this: if this do not signify an absolute eternity, there is none that does.

3. The Scripture uses the same way of speaking to set forth the eternity of punishment and the eternity of happiness, yea, the eternity of God himself. Mat. 25:46, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” The words everlasting and eternal, in the original, are the very same. Rev. 22:5, “And they (the saints) shall reign for ever and ever.” And the Scripture has no higher expression to signify the eternity of God himself, than that of his being for ever and ever, as Rev. 4:9, “To him who sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever;” and in the 10th verse, and in Rev. 5:14; 10:6, and 15:7.

Again, the Scripture expresses God’s eternity by this: that it shall be forever, after the world is come to an end, Psa. 102:26-27, “They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.”

4. The Scripture says that wicked men shall not be delivered till they have paid the uttermost farthing of their debt, Mat. 5:26. The last mite, Luke 12:59, i.e. the utmost that is deserved, and all mercy is excluded by this expression. But we have shown that they deserve an infinite, an endless punishment.

5. The Scripture says absolutely that their punishment shall not have an end, Mark 9:44, “Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” Now it will not do to say that the meaning is [that] their worm shall live a great while, or that it shall be a great while before their fire is quenched. If ever the time comes that their worm shall die, if ever there shall be a quenching of the fire at all, then it is not true that their worm dieth not and that the fire is not quenched. For if there be a dying of the worm and a quenching of the fire, let it be at what time it will, nearer or further off, it is equally contrary to such a negation — it dieth not, it is not quenched.

Second, there are others who allow that the expression of the threatenings do denote a proper eternity. But then, they say, it does not certainly follow that the punishment will really be eternal, because God may threaten, and yet not fulfill his threatenings. Though they allow that the threatenings are positive and peremptory, without any reserve, yet they say [that] God is not obliged to fulfill absolute positive threatenings, as he is absolute promises. Because in promises a right is conveyed that the creature to whom the promises are made will claim. But there is no danger of the creature’s claiming any right by a threatening. Therefore I am now to show that what God has positively declared in this matter, does indeed make it certain that it shall be as he has declared. To this end, I shall mention two things:

1. It is evidently contrary to the divine truth, positively to declare anything to be real, whether past, present, or to come, which God at the same time knows is not so. Absolutely threatening that anything shall be, is the same as absolutely declaring that it is to be. For any to suppose that God absolutely declares that anything will be, which be at the same time knows will not be, is blasphemy, if there be any such thing as blasphemy.

Indeed, it is very true that there is no obligation on God, arising from the claim of the creature, as there is in promises. They seem to reckon the wrong way, who suppose the necessity of the execution of the threatening to arise from a proper obligation on God to the creature to execute consequent on his threatening. For indeed the certainty of the execution arises the other way, viz. on the obligation there was on the omniscient God, in threatening, to conform his threatening to what he knew would be future in execution. Though, strictly speaking, God is not properly obliged to the creature to execute because he has threatened, yet he was obliged not absolutely to threaten, if at the same time he knew that he should not or would not fulfill, because this would not have been consistent with his truth. So that from the truth of God there is an inviolable connection between positive threatenings and execution. They who suppose that God positively declared that he would do contrary to what he knew would come to pass, do therein suppose, that he absolutely threatened contrary to what he knew to be truth. And how anyone can speak contrary to what he knows to be truth, in declaring, promising, or threatening, or any other way, consistently with inviolable truth, is inconceivable.

Threatenings are significations of something, and if they are made consistently with truth, they are true significations, or significations of truth, that which shall be. If absolute threatenings are significations of anything, they are significations of the futurity of the things threatened. But if the futurity of the things threatened be not true and real, then how can the threatening be a true signification? And if God, in them, speaks contrary to what he knows, and contrary to what he intends, how he can speak true is inconceivable.

Absolute threatenings are a kind of predictions. And though God is not properly obliged by any claim of ours to fulfill predictions, unless they are of the nature of promises, yet it certainly would be contrary to truth, to predict that such a thing would come to pass, which he knew at the same time would not come to pass. Threatenings are declarations of something future, and they must be declarations of future truth, if they are true declarations. Its being future alters not the case any more than if it were present. It is equally contrary to truth, to declare contrary to what at the same time is known to be truth, whether it be of things past, present, or to come: for all are alike to God.

Beside, we have often declarations in Scripture of the future eternal punishment of the wicked, in the proper form of predictions, and not in the form of threatenings. So in the text, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” So in those frequent assertions of eternal punishment in the Revelation, some of which I have already quoted. The Revelation is a prophecy, and is so called in the book itself. So are those declarations of eternal punishment. — The like declarations we have also in many other places of Scripture.

2. The doctrine of those who teach that it is not certain that God will fulfill those absolute threatenings, is blasphemous another way, and that is, as God, according to their supposition, was obliged to make use of a fallacy to govern the world. They own that it is needful that men should apprehend themselves liable to an eternal punishment, that they might thereby be restrained from sin, and that God has threatened such a punishment, for the very end that they might believe themselves exposed to it. But what an unworthy opinion does this convey of God and his government, of his infinite majesty, and wisdom, and all-sufficiency! — Beside, they suppose that though God has made use of such a fallacy, yet it is not such an one but that they have detected him in it. Though God intended men should believe it to be certain that sinners are liable to an eternal punishment, yet they suppose that they have been so cunning as to find out that it is not certain. And so that God had not laid his design so deep, but that such cunning men as they can discern the cheat and defeat the design, because they have found out that there is no necessary connection between the threatening of eternal punishment, and the execution of that threatening.

Considering these things, is it not greatly to be wondered at, that Archbishop Tillotson, who has made so great a figure among the new-fashioned divines, should advance such an opinion as this?

Before I conclude this head, it may be proper for me to answer an objection or two that may arise in the minds of some.

Objection 1. It may be here said [that] we have instances wherein God has not fulfilled his threatenings: as his threatening to Adam, and in him to mankind, that they should surely die, if they should eat the forbidden fruit. I answer, it is not true that God did not fulfill that threatening. He fulfilled it and will fulfill it in every jot and tittle. When God said, “Thou shalt surely die,” if we respect spiritual death, it was fulfilled in Adam’s person in the day that he ate. For immediately his image, his holy spirit and original righteousness, which was the highest and best life of our first parents, were lost, and they were immediately in a doleful state of spiritual death.

If we respect temporal death, that was also fulfilled. He brought death upon himself and all his posterity, and he virtually suffered that death on that very day on which he ate. His body was brought into a corruptible, mortal, and dying condition, and so it continued till it was dissolved. If we look at all that death which was comprehended in the threatening, it was, properly speaking, fulfilled in Christ. When God said to Adam, “If thou eatest, thou shalt die,” he spoke not only to him, and of him personally, but the words respected mankind, Adam and his race, and doubtless were so understood by him. His offspring were to be looked upon as sinning in him, and so should die with him. The words do as justly allow of an imputation of death as of sin. They are as well consistent with dying in a surety, as with sinning in one. Therefore, the threatening is fulfilled in the death of Christ, the surety.

Objection 2. Another objection may arise from God’s threatening to Nineveh. He threatened, that in forty days Nineveh should be destroyed, which yet he did not fulfill. — I answer, that threatening could justly be looked upon no otherwise than as conditional. It was of the nature of a warning, and not of an absolute denunciation. Why was Jonah sent to the Ninevites, but to give them warning, that they might have opportunity to repent, reform, and avert the approaching destruction? God had no other design or end in sending the prophet to them, but that they might be warned and tried by him, as God warned the Israelites, Judah and Jerusalem, before their destruction. Therefore the prophets, together with their prophecies of approaching destruction, joined earnest exhortations to repent and reform, that it might be averted.

No more could justly be understood to be certainly threatened, than that Nineveh should be destroyed in forty days, continuing as it was. For it was for their wickedness that that destruction was threatened, and so the Ninevites took it. Therefore, when the cause was removed, the effect ceased. It was contrary to God’s known manner, to threaten punishment and destruction for sin in this world absolutely, so that it should come upon the persons threatened unavoidably, let them repent and reform and do what they would; Jer. 18:7, 8, “At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation against whom I have pronounced turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them.” So that all threatenings of this nature had a condition implied in them, according to the known and declared manner of God’s dealing. And the Ninevites did not take it as an absolute sentence of denunciation: if they had, they would have despaired of any benefit by fasting and reformation.

But the threatenings of eternal wrath are positive and absolute. There is nothing in the Word of God from which we can gather any condition. The only opportunity of escaping is in this world. This is the only state of trial, wherein we have any offers of mercy, or place for repentance.

IV. I shall mention several good and important ends, which will be obtained by the eternal punishment of the wicked.

First, hereby God vindicates his injured majesty. Wherein sinners cast contempt upon it, and trample it in the dust, God vindicates and honors it and makes it appear, as it is indeed infinite, by showing that it is infinitely dreadful to condemn or offend it.

Second, God glorifies his justice. — The glory of God is the greatest good. It is that which is the chief end of the creation. It is of greater importance than anything else. But this one way wherein God will glorify himself, as in the eternal destruction of ungodly men, he will glorify his justice. Therein he will appear as a just governor of the world. The vindictive justice of God will appear strict, exact, awful, and terrible, and therefore glorious.

Third, God hereby indirectly glorifies his grace on the vessels of mercy. — The saints in heaven will behold the torments of the damned: “the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever.” Isa. 66:24, “And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have trangressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” And in Rev. 14:10 it is said, that they shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb. So they will be tormented in the presence also of the glorified saints.

Hereby the saints will be made the more sensible how great their salvation is. When they shall see how great the misery is from which God has saved them, and how great a difference he has made between their state and the state of others, who were by nature (and perhaps for a time by practice) no more sinful and ill-deserving than any, it will give them a greater sense of the wonderfulness of God’s grace to them. Every time they look upon the damned, it will excite in them a lively and admiring sense of the grace of God, in making them so to differ. This the apostle informs us is one end of the damnation of ungodly men; Rom. 9:22-23, “What if God willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory?” The view of the misery of the damned will double the ardor of the love and gratitude of the saints in heaven.

Fourth, the sight of hell torments will exalt the happiness of the saints forever. It will not only make them more sensible of the greatness and freeness of the grace of God in their happiness, but it will really make their happiness the greater, as it will make them more sensible of their own happiness. It will give them a more lively relish of it: it will make them prize it more. When they see others, who were of the same nature and born under the same circumstances, plunged in such misery, and they so distinguished, O it will make them sensible how happy they are. A sense of the opposite misery, in all cases, greatly increases the relish of any joy or pleasure.

The sight of the wonderful power, the great and dreadful majesty, and awful justice and holiness of God, manifested in the eternal punishment of ungodly men, will make them prize his favor and love vastly the more. And they will be so much the more happy in the enjoyment of it.

APPLICATION

I. From what has been said, we may learn the folly and madness of the greater part of mankind, in that for the sake of present momentary gratification, they run the venture of enduring all these eternal torments. They prefer a small pleasure, or a little wealth, or a little earthly honor and greatness, which can last but for a moment, to an escape from this punishment. If it be true that the torments of hell are eternal, what will it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul, or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? What is there in this world, which is not a trifle and lighter than vanity, in comparison with these eternal things?

How mad are men, who so often hear of these things and pretend to believe them; who can live but a little while (a few years); who do not even expect to live here longer than others of their species ordinarily do; and who yet are careless about what becomes of themselves in another world, where there is no change and no end! How mad are they, when they hear that if they go on in sin, they shall be eternally miserable — that they are not moved by it, but hear it with as much carelessness and coldness as if they were no way concerned in the matter — when they know not but that it may be their case, that they may be suffering these torments before a week is at an end!

How can men be so careless of such a matter as their own eternal and desperate destruction and torment! What a strange stupor and senselessness possesses the hearts of men! How common a thing is it to see men, who are told from Sabbath to Sabbath of eternal misery, and who are as mortal as other men, so careless about it that they seem not to be at all restrained by it from whatever their souls lust after! It is not half so much their care to escape eternal misery, as it is to get money and land, and to be considerable in the world, and to gratify their sense. Their thoughts are much more exercised about these things, and much more of their care and concern is about them. Eternal misery, though they lie every day exposed to it, is a thing neglected, it is but now and then thought of, and then with a great deal of stupidity, and not with concern enough to stir them up to do anything considerable in order to escape it. They are not sensible that it is worth their while to take any considerable pains in order to it. And if they do take pains for a little while, they soon leave off, and something else takes up their thoughts and concern.

Thus you see it among young and old. Multitudes of youth lead a careless life, taking little care about their salvation. So you may see it among persons of middle age, and with many advanced in years, and when they certainly draw near to the grave. — Yet these same persons will seem to acknowledge that the greater part of men go to hell and suffer eternal misery, and this through carelessness about it. However, they will do the same. How strange is it that men can enjoy themselves and be at rest, when they are thus hanging over eternal burnings: at the same time, having no lease of their lives and not knowing how soon the thread by which they hang will break. Nor indeed do they pretend to know. And if it breaks, they are gone: they are lost forever, and there is no remedy! Yet they trouble not themselves much about it, nor will they hearken to those who cry to them, and entreat them to take care for themselves, and labor to get out of that dangerous condition. They are not willing to take so much pains. They choose not to be diverted from amusing themselves with toys and vanities. Thus, well might the wise man say, Ecc. 9:3, “The heart of the sons of men is full of evil. Madness is in their heart while they live; and after that they go to the dead.” — How much wiser are those few, who make it their main business to lay a foundation for eternity, to secure their salvation!

II. I shall improve this subject in a use of exhortation to sinners, to take care to escape these eternal torments. If they be eternal, one would think that would be enough to awaken your concern, and excite your diligence. If the punishment be eternal, it is infinite, as we said before. And therefore no other evil, no death, no temporary torment that ever you heard of, or that you can imagine, is anything in comparison with it, but is as much less and less considerable, not only as a grain of sand is less than the whole universe, but as it is less than the boundless space which encompasses the universe. — Therefore here,

First, be entreated to consider attentively how great and awful a thing eternity is. Although you cannot comprehend it the more by considering, yet you may be made more sensible that it is not a thing to be disregarded. — Do but consider what it is to suffer extreme torment forever and ever: to suffer it day and night from one year to another, from one age to another, and from one thousand ages to another (and so adding age to age, and thousands to thousands), in pain, in wailing and lamenting, groaning and shrieking, and gnashing your teeth — with your souls full of dreadful grief and amazement, [and] with your bodies and every member full of racking torture; without any possibility of getting ease; without any possibility of moving God to pity by your cries; without any possibility of hiding yourselves from him; without any possibility of diverting your thoughts from your pain; without any possibility of obtaining any manner of mitigation, or help, or change for the better.

Second, do but consider how dreadful despair will be in such torment. How dismal will it be, when you are under these racking torments, to know assuredly that you never, never shall be delivered from them. To have no hope: when you shall wish that you might be turned into nothing, but shall have no hope of it; when you shall wish that you might be turned into a toad or a serpent, but shall have no hope of it; when you would rejoice if you might but have any relief; after you shall have endured these torments millions of ages, but shall have no hope of it. After you shall have worn out the age of the sun, moon, and stars, in your dolorous groans and lamentations, without rest day and night, or one minute’s ease, yet you shall have no hope of ever being delivered. After you shall have worn a thousand more such ages, you shall have no hope, but shall know that you are not one whit nearer to the end of your torments. But that still there are the same groans, the same shrieks, the same doleful cries, incessantly to be made by you, and that the smoke of your torment shall still ascend up forever and ever. Your souls, which shall have been agitated with the wrath of God all this while, will still exist to bear more wrath. Your bodies, which shall have been burning all this while in these glowing flames, shall not have been consumed, but will remain to roast through eternity, which will not have been at all shortened by what shall have been past.

You may by considering make yourselves more sensible than you ordinarily are. But it is a little you can conceive of what it is to have no hope in such torments. How sinking would it be to you, to endure such pain as you have felt in this world, without any hopes, and to know that you never should be delivered from it, nor have one minute’s rest! You can now scarcely conceive how doleful that would be. How much more to endure the vast weight of the wrath of God without hope! The more the damned in hell think of the eternity of their torments, the more amazing will it appear to them. And alas, they will not be able to keep it out of their minds! Their tortures will not divert them from it, but will fix their attention to it. O how dreadful will eternity appear to them after they shall have been thinking on it for ages together, and shall have so long an experience of their torments! The damned in hell will have two infinites perpetually to amaze them, and swallow them up: one is an infinite God, whose wrath they will bear, and in whom they will behold their perfect and irreconcilable enemy. The other is the infinite duration of their torment.

If it were possible for the damned in hell to have a comprehensive knowledge of eternity, their sorrow and grief would be infinite in degree. The comprehensive view of so much sorrow, which they must endure, would cause infinite grief for the present. Though they will not have a comprehensive knowledge of it, yet they will doubtless have a vastly more lively and strong apprehension of it than we can have in this world. Their torments will give them an impression of it. — A man in his present state, without any enlargement of his capacity, would have a vastly more lively impression of eternity than he has, if he were only under some pretty sharp pain in some member of his body, and were at the same time assured that he must endure that pain forever. His pain would give him a greater sense of eternity than other men have. How much more will those excruciating torments, which the damned will suffer, have this effect!

Besides, their capacity will probably be enlarged, their understandings will be quicker and stronger in a future state, and God can give them as great a sense and as strong an impression of eternity, as he pleases, to increase their grief and torment. — O be entreated, ye that are in a Christless state and are going on in a way to hell, that are daily exposed to damnation, to consider these things. If you do not, it will surely be but a little while before you will experience them, and then you will know how dreadful it is to despair in hell. And it may be before this year, or this month, or this week, is at an end: before another Sabbath, or ever you shall have opportunity to hear another sermon.

Third, that you may effectually escape these dreadful and awful torments. Be entreated to flee and embrace him who came into the world for the very end of saving sinners from these torments, who has paid the whole debt due to the divine law, and exhausted eternal in temporal sufferings. What great encouragement is it to those of you who are sensible that you are exposed to eternal punishment, that there is a Savior provided, who is able and who freely offers to save you from that punishment, and that in a way which is perfectly consistent with the glory of God: yea, which is more to the glory of God than it would be if you should suffer the eternal punishment of hell. For if you should suffer that punishment you would never pay the whole of the debt. Those who are sent to hell never will have paid the whole of the debt which they owe to God, nor indeed a part which bears any proportion to the whole. They never will have paid a part which bears so great a proportion to the whole, as one mite to ten thousand talents. Justice therefore never can be actually satisfied in your damnation. But it is actually satisfied in Christ. Therefore he is accepted of the Father, and therefore all who believe are accepted and justified in him. Therefore believe in him, come to him, commit your souls to him to be saved by him. In him you shall be safe from the eternal torments of hell. Nor is that all: but through him you shall inherit inconceivable blessedness and glory, which will be of equal duration with the torments of hell. For, as at the last day the wicked shall go away into everlasting punishment, so shall the righteous, or those who trust in Christ, go into life eternal.

Sermon Sunday – J. C. Ryle – Apostolic Fears

May 5, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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 Apostolic Fears

by

J. C. Ryle  (1816-1900)

I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.   Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – J. C. Ryle – Apostolic Fears…

Sermon Sunday – Charles Spurgeon – Preach the Gospel

April 28, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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“For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of; for necessity is laid upon me. Yes, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel.”

1 Corinthians 9:16

THE greatest man of Apostolic times was the Apostle Paul. He was always great in everything. If you consider him as a sinner, he was exceeding sinful. If you regard him as a persecutor, he was exceeding mad against the Christians and persecuted them even unto strange cities. If you take him as a convert, his conversion was the most notable one of which we read, worked by miraculous power and by the direct voice of Jesus speaking from Heaven—“Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” If we take him simply as a Christian, he was an extraordinary one, loving his Master more than others and seeking more than others to exemplify the grace of God in his life. Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – Charles Spurgeon – Preach the Gospel…

Sermon Sunday – Richard Baxter – Directions Against Inordinate Man-pleasing

April 21, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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As in other cases, so in this, iniquity consisteth not simply in the heart’s neglect of God, but in the preferring of some competitor, and prevalence of some object which standeth up for an opposite interest. And so the obeying man before God and against him, and the valuing the favour and approbation of man before or against the approbation of God, and the fearing of man’s censure or displeasure more than God’s, is an idolizing man, or setting him up in the place of God. It turneth our chiefest observance, and care, and labour, and pleasure, and grief into this human fleshly channel, and maketh all that to be but human in our hearts and lives, which (objectively) should be divine. Which is so great and dangerous a sin, partaking of so much impiety, hypocrisy, and pride, as that it deserveth a special place in my directions, and in all watchfulness and consideration to escape it.

As all other creatures, so especially man, must be regarded and valued only in a due subordination and subserviency to God. If they be valued otherwise, they are made his enemies, and so are to be hated, and are made the principal engine of the ruin of such as overvalue them. See what the Scripture saith of this sin: Isa. ii. 22, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” Matt. xxiii. 9, “And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father which is in heaven.” ver. 8, “And be not ye called Rabbi, for one is your Master even Christ: but he that is greatest among you shall be your servant” Jer. xx. 15, “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” Psalm cxviii. 6, 8, 9, “The Lord is on my side, I will not fear what man can do unto me. It is better to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man,-yea, in princes.” Job xxxii. 21, 22 “Let me not accept any man’s person, neither let me give flattering titles unto man: for I know not to give flattering titles; in so doing my Maker would soon take me away.” Job xxi. 4, “As for me, is my complaint to man? “Gal. i. 10, “Do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be a servant of Christ.” I Cor. iv. 3, “But with me it is a very small thing to be judged of you, or of man’s judgment.” Luke xiv. 26, “If a man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” “Blessed are ye when man shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven,” Matt. v. Ii-, 12. “Not with eye-service, as men-pleasers,” Eph. vi. 6; Col. iii. 22. I Thess. ii. 4, “So we speak, not as pleasing men but God, who trieth our hearts.” Jude 16, “Having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” This is enough to show you what Scripture saith of this inordinate man-pleasing, or respect to man: and now I shall proceed to direct you to escape it.

Direct. I. Understand well wherein the nature of this sin consisteth, that you may not run into the contrary extreme, but may know which way to bend your opposition. I shall therefore first show you, how far we may and must please men, and how far not.

The Proper Respect We are to Have Towards Men
Consider the Nature of Man in General

Direct II. Remember that the favour and pleasing of man is one of your snares, that would prevail against your pleasing God: therefore watch against the danger of it, as you must do against other earthly things.

Direct. III. Remember how silly a creature man is and that his favour can be no better than himself. The thoughts or words of a mortal worm are matters of no considerable value to us.

Direct. IV. Remember that it is the judgment of God alone, that your life or death for ever doth depend upon; and how little you are concerned in the judgment of man.

The Judgement of God Compared to that of Men

Direct. V. Remember that the judgment of ungodly men, is corrupted and directed by the devil and to be overruled by their censures, or too much to fear them, is to be overruled by the devil, and to be afraid of his censures of. us. And will you honour him so much? Alas! it is he that puts those thoughts into the minds of the ungodly, and those reproachful words into their mouths. To prefer the judgment of a man before God’s, is odious enough, though you did not prefer the devil’s judgment.

Direct. VI. Consider what a slavery you choose, when you thus make yourselves the servants of every man, whose censures you fear, and whose approbation you are ambitious of. I Cor. vii. 23, “Ye are bought with a price. Be not ye the servants of men:” that is, do not needlessly enthral yourselves. What a task have men-pleasers! they have as many masters as beholders! No wonder if it take them off from the service of God; for the “friendship of the world is enmity to God;” and he that will thus be “a friend of the world, is an enemy to God,” James iv. 4. They cannot serve two masters God and the world. You know men will condemn you, if you be true to God: if, therefore, you must needs have the favour of men, you must take it alone without God’s favour. A man-pleaser cannot be true to God, because he is a servant to the enemies of his service; the wind of a man’s mouth will drive him about as the chaff, from any duty, and to any sin. How servile a person is a man-pleaser! How many masters hath he, and how mean ones! It perverteth the course of your hearts and lives, and turneth all from God to this unprofitable way.

Direct. VII. Remember what a pitiful reward you seek. “Verily,” saith our Lord, concerning hypocrites and man-pleasers, “they have their reward,” Matt. vi. 25. O miserable reward! The thought and breath of mortal men, instead of God-instead of heaven; this is their reward! Their happiness will be to lie in hell, and remember that they were well spoken of on earth! and that once they were accounted religious, learned, wise, or honourable! and to remember that they preferred this reward be fore everlasting happiness with Christ! If this be not gain, your labour is all lost, which you lay out in hunting for applause. If this be enough to spend your time for, and to neglect your God for, and to lose your souls for, rejoice then in the hypocrite’s reward.

Direct. VIII. And remember that honour is such a thing as is found sooner by an honest contempt of it, than by an inordinate affection of it, and seeking it. It is a shadow which goeth from you if you follow it, and follows you as fast as you go from it. Whose names are now more honourable upon earth, than those prophets, and apostles, and martyrs, and preachers, and holy, mortified christians, who in their days set lightest by the approbation of the world, and were made the scorn or foot-ball of the times in which they lived? Those that have been satisfied with the approbation of their heavenly Father, who saw them “in secret,” have been “rewarded by him openly.” It is, even in the eyes of rational men, a far greater honour to live to God, above worldly honour, than to seek it. And so much as a man is perceived to affect and seek it, so much he loseth of it: for he is thought to need it, and men perceive that he plays a low and pitiful game, that is so desirous of their applause! As they would contemn a man that should lick up the spittle of every man where he comes, so will they contemn him that liveth on their thoughts and breath, and honour him more that lives on God.

Direct. IX. If nothing else will cure this disease, at least let the impossibility of pleasing men, and attaining your ends, suffice against so fruitless an attempt. And here I shall show you how impossible it is, or, at least, a thing which you cannot reasonably expect.

The Folly of Trying to Please Men

Direct. X. Remember what a life of unquietness and continual vexation you choose, if you place your peace or happiness in the good will or word of man. For having showed you how impossible a task you undertake, it must needs follow that the pursuit of it must be a life of torment. To engage yourselves in so great cares, when you are sure to be disappointed; to make that your end, which you cannot attain; to find that you labour in vain, and daily meet with displeasure instead of the favour you expected; must needs be a very grievous life. You are like one that dwelleth on the top of a mountain, and yet cannot endure the wind to blow upon him; or like him that dwelleth in a wood, and yet is afraid of the shaking of a leaf. You dwell among a world of ulcerated, selfish, contradictory, mutable, unpleasable minds, and yet you cannot endure their displeasure. Are you magistrates? The people will murmur at you, and those that are most incompetent and uncapable will be the forwardest to censure you, and think that they could govern much better than you. Those that bear the necessary burdens of the common safety and defence, will say that you oppress them, and the malefactors that are punished, will say you deal unmercifully by them; and those that have a cause never so unjust, will say you wrong them, if it go not on their side. Are you pastors and teachers? You will seem too rough to one, and too smooth to another; yea, too rough to the same man when by reproof or censure you correct his faults, who censureth you as too smooth and a friend to sinners, when you are to deal in the cause of others. No sermon that you preach is like to be pleasing to all your hearers; nor any of your ministerial works. Are you lawyers? The clients that lost their cause, behind your backs will call you unconscionable, and say you betrayed them; and those that prevailed, will call you covetous, and tell how much money you took of them, and how little you did for it: so that it is no wonder that among the vulgar your profession is the matter of their reproach. Are you physicians? You will be accused as guilty of the death of many that die; and as covetous takers of their money whether the patient die or live; for this is the common talk of the vulgar, except with some few with whom your care has much succeeded. Are you tradesmen? Most men that buy of you are so selfish, that except you will beggar yourselves, they will say you deceive them, and deal unconscionably and sell too dear: little do they mind the necessary maintenance of your families, nor care whether you live or gain by your trading; but if you will wrong yourselves to sell them a good penny-worth, they will say you are very honest men: and yet when you are broken, they will accuse you of imprudence, and defrauding your creditors. You must buy dear and sell cheap, and live by the loss, or else displease.

Direct. XI. Remember still that the pleasing of God is your business in the world, and that in pleasing him your souls may have safety, rest, and full content, though all the world should be displeased with you. God is enough for you; and his approbation and favour is your portion and reward. How sweet and safe is the life of the sincere and upright ones, that study more to be good than to seem good, and think if God accept them that they have enough! O what a mercy is an upright heart! which renounceth the world, and all therein that stands in competition with his God; and taketh God for his God indeed even for his Lord, his Judge, his Portion, and his All: who in temptation remembereth the eye of God, and in all his duty is provoked and ruled by the will and pleasure of his Judge, and regardeth the eye and thoughts of man, but as he would do the presence of a bird or beast, unless as piety, justice, or charity, require him to have respect to man, in due subordination to God: who when men applaud him as a person of excellent holiness and goodness, is fearful and solicitous lest the all-knowing God should think otherwise of him than his applauders: and under all the censures, reproaches, and slanders of man, yea, (though through temptation good men should thus use him,) can live in peace upon the approbation of his God alone; and can rejoice in his justification by his righteous Judge and gracious Redeemer, though the inconsiderable censures of men condemn him. Verily I cannot apprehend, how any other man but this can live a life of true and solid peace and joy. If God’s approbation and favour quiet you not, nothing can rationally quiet you. If the pleasing of him does not satisfy you, though men, though good men, though all men should be displeased with you, I know not how or when you will be satisfied. Yea, if you be above the censures and displeasure of the profane and not also of the godly, (when God will permit them, as Job’s wife and friends, to be your trial,) it will not suffice to an even, contented, quiet life. And here consider

The Advantages of Pleasing God Rather than Men

1. If you seek first to please God and are satisfied therein, you have but one to please instead of multitudes; and a multitude of masters are hardlier pleased than one.
2. And it is one that putteth upon you nothing that is unreasonable, for quantity or quality.
3. And one that is perfectly wise and good, not liable to misunderstand your case and actions.
4. And one that is most holy, and is not pleased in iniquity or dishonesty.
5. And he is one that is impartial and most just, and is no respecter of persons, Acts x. 34.
6. And he is one that is a competent judge, that hath fitness and authority, and is acquainted with your hearts, and every circumstance and reason of your actions.
7. And he is one that perfectly agreeth with himself, and putteth you not upon contradictions or impossibilities.
8. And he is one that is constant and unchangeable; and is not pleased with one thing to-day, and another contrary to-morrow; nor with one person this year, whom he will be weary of the next.
9. And he is one that is merciful, and requireth you not to hurt yourselves to please him: nay, he is pleased with nothing of thine but that which tendeth to thy happiness, and displeased with nothing but that which hurts thyself or others, as a father that is displeased with his children when they defile or hurt themselves.
10. He is gentle, though just, in his censures of thee; judging truly, but not with unjust rigour, nor making your actions worse than they are.
11. He is one that is not subject to the passions of men, which blind their minds, and carry them to injustice.
12. He is one that will not be moved by tale-bearers, whisperers, or false accusers, nor can be perverted by any misinformation.

The Benefits of Seeking to Please God

Consider also the benefits of taking up with the pleasing of God. 1. The pleasing of him is your happiness itself; the matter of pure, and full, and constant comfort, which you may have continually at hand, and no man can take from you. Get this and you have the end of man; nothing can be added to it, but the perfection of the same, which is heaven itself.
2. What abundance of disappointments and vexations will you escape, which tear the very hearts of man-pleasers, and fill their lives with unprofitable sorrows!
3. It will guide and order your cares, and desires, and thoughts, and labours to their right and proper end, and prevent the perverting of them, and spending them in sin and vanity on the creature.
4. It will make your lives not only to be divine but this divine life to be sweet and easy, while you set light by human censures which would create you prejudice and difficulties. When others glory in wit, and wealth, and strength, you would glory in this, that you know the Lord, Jer. ix. 23, 24.
5. As God is above man, thy heart and life is highly ennobled by having so much respect to God, and rejecting inordinate respect to man: this is indeed to walk with God.
6. The sum of all graces is contained in this sincere desire to please thy God, and contentedness in this so far as thou findest it attained. Here is faith, and humility, and love, and, holy desire, and trust and the fear of God joined together. You “sanctify the Lord of hosts himself, and make him your fear, and dread, and sanctuary,” Isa. viii. 13, 14.

7. If human approbation be good for you and worth your having, this is the best way to it; for God hath the disposal of it. “If a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him,” Prov. xvi. 7. God does this by appeasing their wrath, or restraining them from intended evil, or doing us good by that which they intend for hurt.

Signs of Living to Please God

See therefore that you live upon God’s approval as that which you chiefly seek, and will suffice you: which you may discover by these signs.

1. You will be most careful to understand the Scripture, to know what doth please and displease God.
2. You will be more careful in the doing of every duty, to fit it to the pleasing of God than men.
3. You will look to your hearts, and not only to your actions; to your ends, and thoughts, and the inward manner and degree.
4. You will look to secret duties as well as public and to that which men see not, as well as unto that which they see.
5. You will reverence your consciences, and have much to do with them, and will not slight them: when they tell you of God’s displeasure, it will disquiet you; when they tell you of his approval, it will comfort you.
6. Your pleasing men will be charitable for their good, and pious in order to the pleasing of God, and not proud and ambitious for your honour with them, nor impious against the pleasing of God.
7. Whether men be pleased or displeased, or how they judge of you, or what they call you, will seem a small matter to you, as their own interest, in comparison to God’s judgment. You live not on them. You can bear their displeasure, censures, and reproaches, if God be but pleased. These will be your evidences.

Sermon Sunday – George Whitefield – Justification by Christ

April 14, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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Justification by Christ
by
George Whitefield
(1714-1770)

1 Corinthians 6:11, “But ye are justified.” The whole verse is: “And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the Spirit of our God.”

It has been objected by some, who dissent from, nay, I may add, by others also, who actually are friends to the present ecclesiastical establishment, that the ministers of the Church of England preach themselves, and not Christ Jesus the Lord; that they entertain their people with lectures of mere morality, without declaring to them the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ. How well grounded such an objection may be, is not my business to inquire: All I shall say at present to the point is, that whenever such a grand objection is urged against the whole body of the clergy in general, every honest minister of Jesus Christ should do his utmost to cut off all manner of occasion, from those who desire an occasion to take offense at us; that so by hearing us continually sounding forth the word of truth, and declaring with all boldness and assurance of faith, “that there is no other name given under heaven, whereby they can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ,” they may be ashamed of this their same confident boasting against us. Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – George Whitefield – Justification by Christ…

Sermon Sunday – J.C. Philpot – The Master’s Bounty, and the Servant’s Obedience

April 7, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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“Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your word.” Psalm 119:17

What a fund of true and vital experience is contained in Psalm 119! What simplicity and godly sincerity shine through it! What breathings after God’s presence and manifested favor! What desires to live to the glory of God! What fervent pourings out of the Psalmist’s heart, that he might be enabled to keep God’s precepts!

THREE FEATURES especially seem to my mind stamped upon this blessed portion of God’s word. The first is—a deep sense of the Psalmist’s sinfulness and helplessness. “My soul,” he cries, “cleaves to the dust; quicken me according to your word.” (verse 25.) “I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant; for I do not forget your commandments.” (verse 176.) And indeed, what I may call the substratum of the whole Psalm is, “creature weakness and helplessness”. This feeling lies under well-near every petition; and springing out of it, and built upon it, is David’s earnest cry that the Lord would supply his needs. Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – J.C. Philpot – The Master’s Bounty, and the Servant’s Obedience…

Sermon Sunday – Charles Spurgeon – Christ Set Forth As A Propitiation

March 31, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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“Christ Jesus whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood”

Romans 3:25

We commenced the services in this place by the declaration that here Christ shall be preached. Our Brother who followed us expressed his joy that Christ was preached herein. He did rejoice, yes, and would rejoice and our friends must have observed how throughout the other services there has been a most blessed admixture not only of the true spirit of Christ but of pointed and admirable reference to the glories and beauties of His Person. Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – Charles Spurgeon – Christ Set Forth As A Propitiation…

Sermon Sunday – George Whitefield – Christ, the Best Knowledge

March 24, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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The Knowledge of Jesus Christ the best Knowledge

by
George Whitefield
(1714-1770)

1 Corinthians 2:2, “I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

The persons to whom these words were written, were the members of the church of Corinth; who, as appears by the foregoing chapter, were not only divided into different sects, by one saying, “I am of Paul, and another, I am of Apollos;” but also had man amongst them, who were so full of the wisdom of this world, and so wise in their own eyes, that they set at nought the simplicity of the gospel, and accounted the Apostle’s preaching foolishness.

Never had the Apostle more need of the wisdom of the serpent, mingled with the innocency of the dove, than now. What is the sum of all his wisdom? He tells them, in the words of the text, “I determined not to know any thing amongst you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

A resolution this, worthy of the great St. Paul; and no less worthy, no less necessary for every minister, and every disciple of Christ, to make always, even unto the 3end of the world.

In the following discourse, I shall,

FIRST, Explain what is meant by “not knowing any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

SECONDLY, Give some reasons why every Christian should determine not to know any thing else. And

THIRDLY, Conclude with a general exhortation to put this determination into practice.

FIRST, I am to explain what is meant by “not knowing any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

By Jesus Christ, we are to understand the eternal Son of God. He is called Jesus, a Savior, because he was to save us from the guilt and power of our sins; and, like Joshua, by whom he was remarkably typified, to lead God’s spiritual Israel through the wilderness of this world, to the heavenly Canaan, the promised inheritance of the children of God.

He is called CHRICT, which signifies anointed, because he was anointed by the Holy Ghost at his baptism, to be a prophet to instruct, a priest to make an atonement for, and a king to govern and protect his church. And he was crucified, or hung (O stupendous love!) till he was dead upon the cross, that he might become a curse for us: for it is written, “Cursed is every man that hangeth upon a tree.”

The foundation or first cause of his suffering, was our fall in Adam; in whom, as the living oracles of God declare, “We all died;” his sin was imputed to us all. It pleased God, after he had spoken the world into being, to create man after his own divine image, to breathe into him the breath of life, and to place him as our representative in the garden of Eden.

But he being left to his own free will, did eat of the forbidden fruit, notwithstanding God had told him, “The day in which he eat thereof, he should surely die;” and thereby he, with his whole posterity, in whose name he acted, became liable to the wrath of God, and sunk into a spiritual death.

But behold the goodness, as well as the severity of God! For no sooner had man been convicted as a sinner, but lo! A Savior is revealed to him, under the character of the seed of the woman: the merits of whose sacrifice were then immediately to take place, and who should, in the fullness of time, by suffering death, satisfy for the guilt we had contracted; by obeying the whole moral law, work out for us an everlasting righteousness; and by becoming a principle of new life in us, destroy the power of the devil, and thereby restore us to a better state than that in which we were at first created.

This is the plain scriptural account of that mystery of godliness, God manifested in the flesh; and to this our own hearts, unless blinded by the god of this world, cannot but yield an immediate assent.

For, let us but search our own hearts, and ask ourselves, if we could create our own children, whether or not we would not create them with a less mixture of good and evil, than we find in ourselves? Supposing God then only to have our goodness, he could not, at first, make us so sinful, so polluted as we are. But supposing him to be as he is, infinitely good, or goodness itself, then it is absolutely impossible that he should create any thing but what is like himself, perfect, entire, lacking nothing. Man then could not come out of the hands of his Maker, so miserably blind and naked, with such a mixture of the beast and devil, as he finds now in himself, but must have fallen from what he was; and as it does not suit with the goodness and justness of God, to punish the whole race of mankind with these disorders merely for nothing; and since men bring these disorders into the world with them; it follows, that as they could not sin themselves, being yet unborn, some other man’s sin must have been imputed to them; from whence, as from a fountain, all these evils flow.

I know this doctrine of our ORIGINAL SIN, or fall in Adam, is esteemed foolishness by the wise disputer of this world, who will reply, How does it suit the goodness of God, to impute one man’s sin to an innocent posterity? But has it not been proved to a demonstration, that it is so? And therefore, supposing we cannot reconcile it to our shallow comprehensions, that is no argument at all: for if it appears that God has done a thing, we may be sure it is right, whether we can see the reasons for it or not.

But this is entirely cleared up by what was said before, that no sooner was the sin imputed, but a Christ was revealed; and this Christ, this God incarnate, who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, that he might be freed from the guilt of our original sin; who was born of the Virgin Mary, that he might be the seed of the woman only; who suffered under Pontius Pilate, a Gentile governor, to fulfill these prophecies, which signified what death he should die: This same Jesus, who was crucified in weakness, but raised in power, is that divine person, that Emmanuel, that God with us, whom we preach, in whom ye believe, and whom alone the Apostle, in the text, was determined to know.

By which word KNOE, we are not to understand a bare historical knowledge; for to know that Christ was crucified by his enemies at Jerusalem, in this manner only, will do us no more service, than to know that Caesar was butchered by his friends at Rome; but the work KNOW, means to know, so as to approve of him; as when Christ says, “Verily, I know you not;” I know you not, so as to approve of you. It signifies to know him, so as to embrace him in all his offices; to take him to be our prophet, priest, and king; so as to give up ourselves wholly to be instructed, saved, and governed by him. It implies an experimental knowledge of his crucifixion, so as to feel the power of it, and to be crucified unto the world, as the Apostle explains himself in the epistle to the Philippians, where he says, “I count all things but dung and dross, that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.”

This knowledge the Apostle was so swallowed up in, that he was determined not to know any thing else; he was resolved to make that his only study, the governing principle of his life, the point and end in which all his thoughts, words, and actions, should center.

SECONDLY, I pass on to give some reasons why every Christian should, with the Apostle, determine “not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

FIRST, Without this, our persons will not be accepted in the sight of God. “This (and consequently this only) is life eternal, to know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” As also St. Peter says, “There is now no other name given under heaven, whereby we can be saved, but that of Jesus Christ.”

Some, indeed, ma please themselves in knowing the world, others boast themselves in the knowledge of a multitude of languages; but could we speak with the tongue of men and angels, or did we know the number of the stars, and could call them all by their names, yet, without this experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, it would profit us nothing.

The former, indeed, may procure us a little honor, which cometh of man; but the latter only can render us acceptable in the sight of God: for, if we are ignorant of Christ, God will be to us a consuming fire.

Christ is the way, the truth, and the life; “No one cometh to the Father, but through him;” “He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world;” and none ever were, or ever will be received up into glory, but by an experimental application of his merits to their hearts.

We might as well think to rebuild the tower of Babel, or reach heaven with our hands, as to imagine we could enter therein by any other door, than that of the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Other knowledge may make you wise in your own eyes, and puff you up; but this alone edifieth, and maketh wise unto salvation.

As the meanest Christian, if he knows but this, though he know nothing else, will be accepted; so the greatest master in Israel, the most letter- learned teacher, without this, will be rejected. His philosophy is mere nonsense, his wisdom mere foolishness in the sight of God.

The author of the word now before us, was a remarkable instance of this; never, perhaps, was a greater scholar, in all what the world calls fine learning, than he: for he was bred up at the feet of Gamaliel, and profited in the knowledge of books, as well as in the Jewish religion, above many of his equals, as appears by the language, rhetoric, and spirit of his writings; and yet, when he came to know what it was to be a Christian, “He accounted all things but loss, so he might win Christ.” And, though he was now at Corinth, that seat of polite learning, yet he was absolutely determined not to know any thing, or to make nothing his study, but what taught him to know Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Hence then, appears the folly of those who spend their whole lives in heaping up other knowledge; and, instead of searching the scriptures, which testify of Jesus Christ, and are alone able to make them wise unto salvation, disquiet themselves in a pursuit after the knowledge of such things, as when known, concern them no more, than to know that a bird dropped a feather upon one of the Pyrenean mountains.

Hence it is, that so many, who profess themselves wise, because they can dispute of the causes and effects, the moral fitness and unfitness of things, appear mere fools in the things of God; so that when you come to converse with them about the great work of redemption wrought out for us by Jesus Christ, and of his being a propitiation for our sins, a fulfiller of the covenant of works, and a principle of new life to our souls, they are quite ignorant of the whole matter; and prove, to a demonstration, that, with all their learning, they know nothing yet, as they ought to know.

But, alas! how must it surprise a man, when the Most High is about to take away his soul, to think that he has passed for a wise-man, and a learned disputer in this world, and yet is left destitute of that knowledge which alone can make him appear with boldness before the judgment-seat of Jesus Christ? How must it grieve him, in a future state, to see others, whom he despised as illiterate men, because they experimentally knew Christ, and him crucified, exalted to the right-hand of God; and himself, with all his fine accomplishments, because he knew every thing, perhaps, but Christ, thrust down into hell?

Well might the Apostle, in a holy triumph, cry out, “Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world?” For, God will then make foolish the wisdom of this world, and bring to nought the wisdom of those who were so knowing in their own eyes.

I have made this digression from the main point before us, not to condemn or decry human literature, but to show, that it ought to be used only in subordination to divine; and that a Christian, if the Holy Spirit guided the pen of the Apostle, when he wrote this epistle, ought to study no books, but such as lead him to a farther knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

And there is the more reason for this, because of he great mischief the contrary practice has done to the church of God: for, what was it but this learning, or rather this ignorance, that kept so many of the Scribes and Pharisees from the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? And what is it, but this human wisdom, this science, false so called, that blinds the understanding, and corrupts the hearts of so many modern unbelievers, and makes them unwilling to submit to the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus? But,

SECONDLY, Without this knowledge our performances, as well as persons will not be acceptable in the sight of God.

“Through faith,” says the Apostle, that is, through a lively faith in a Mediator to come, “Abel offered a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain.” And it is through a like faith, or an experimental knowledge of the same divine Mediator, that our sacrifices of prayer, praise, and thanksgivings, come up as an incense before he throne of grace.

Two persons may go up to the temple to pray; but he only will return home justified, who, in the language of our collects, sincerely offers up his prayers through Jesus Christ our Lord.

For it is this great atonement, this all-sufficient sacrifice, which alone can give us boldness to approach with our prayers o the Holy of Holies: and he that presumes to go without this, acts Korah’s crime over again; offers unto God strange fire, and, consequently, will be rejected by him.

Farther, as our devotions to God will not, so neither, without this knowledge of Jesus Christ, will our acts of charity to men be accepted by him. For did we give all our goods to feed the poor, and yet were destitute of this knowledge, it would profit us nothing.

This our blessed Lord himself intimates in the 25th of Matthew, where he tells those who had been rich in good works, “That inasmuch as they did it unto one of the least of his brethren, they did it unto him.” From whence we may plainly infer, that it is seeing Christ in his members, and doing good to them out of an experimental knowledge of his love to us, that alone will render our alms-deeds rewardable at the last day.

LASTLY, As neither our acts of piety nor charity, so neither will our civil nor moral actions be acceptable to God, without this experimental knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Our modern pretenders to reason, indeed, set up another principle to act from; they talk, I know not what, Of doing moral an civil duties of life, from the moral fitness and unfitness of things. But such men are blind, however they may pretend to see; and going thus about to establish their own righteousness, are utterly ignorant of the righteousness which is of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

For though we grant that morality is a substantial part of Christianity, and that Christ came not to destroy, or take off the moral law, as a rule of action, but to explain, and so fulfill it; yet we affirm, that our moral and civil actions are now no farther acceptable in the sight of God the Father, than as they proceed from the principle of a new nature, and as experimental knowledge of, or vital faith in his dear Son.

The death of Jesus Christ has turned our whole lives into one continued sacrifice; and whether we eat or drink, whether we pray to God, or do any thing to man, it must all be done out of a love for, and knowledge of him who died and rose again, to render all, even our most ordinary deeds, acceptable in the sight of God.

If we live by this principle, if Christ be the Alpha and Omega of all our actions, then our least are acceptable sacrifices; but if this principle be wanting, our most pompous services avail nothing: we are but spiritual idolater; we sacrifice to our own net; we make an idol of ourselves, by making ourselves, and not Christ, the end of our actions: and, therefore, such actions are so far from being accepted by God, that, according to the language of one of the Articles of our Church, “We doubt not but they have the nature of sin, because they spring not from an experimental faith in, and knowledge of Jesus Christ.”

Were we not fallen creatures, we might then act, perhaps, from other principles; but since we are fallen from God in Adam, and are restored again only by the obedience and death of Jesus Christ, the face of things I entirely changed, and all we think, speak, or do, is only accepted in and through him.

Justly, therefore, may I, in the

THIRD and LAST places, Exhort you to put the Apostle’s resolution in practice, and beseech you, with him to determine, Not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

I say, DETERMINE; for unless you sit down first, and count the cost, and from a well-grounded conviction of the excellency of this ,above all other knowledge whatsoever, resolve to make this your chief study, your only end, your one thing needful, every frivolous temptation will draw you aside from the pursuit after it.

Your friends and carnal acquaintance, and, above all, your grand adversary the devil, will be persuading you to determine not to know any thing, but how to lay up goods for many years, and to get a knowledge and taste of the pomps and vanities of this wicked world; but do you determine not to follow, or be led by them; and the more they persuade you to know other things, the more do you “determine not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” For, this knowledge never faileth; but whether they be riches, they shall fail; whether they be pomps, they shall cease; whether they be vanities, they shall fade away: but the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and him crucified, abideth for ever.

Whatever, therefore, you are ignorant of, be not ignorant of this. If you know Christ, and him crucified, you know enough to make you happy, supposing you know nothing else; and without this, all your other knowledge cannot keep you from being everlastingly miserable.

Value not then, the contempt of friends, which you must necessarily meet with upon your open profession to act according to this determination. For your Master, whose you are, was despised before you; and all that will know nothing else but Jesus Christ, and him crucified, must, in some degree or other, suffer persecution.

It is necessary that offenses should come, to try what is in our hearts, and whether we will be faithful soldiers of Jesus Christ or not.

Dare ye then to confess our blessed Master before men, and to shine as lights in the world, amidst a crooked and perverse generation? Let us not be content with following him afar off; for then we shall, as Peter did, soon deny him; but let us be altogether Christians, and let our speech, and all our actions declare to the world whose disciples we are, and that we have indeed “determined not to know any thing, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.” Then, well will it be with us, and happy, unspeakably happy shall we be, even here; and what is infinitely better, when others that despised us, shall be calling for the mountains to fall on them, and the hills to cover them, we shall be exalted to sit down on the right-hand of God, and shine as the sun in the firmament, in the kingdom of our most adorable Redeemer, for ever and ever.

Sermon Sunday – Johnathan Edwards – Christians a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, A Peculiar People

March 17, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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Christians a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, A Peculiar People

 by

Jonathan Edwards  (1703-1758)

  5 Sermons

“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people;
that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” —
1 Peter 2:9 Continue Reading Sermon Sunday – Johnathan Edwards – Christians a Chosen Generation, a Royal Priesthood, a Holy Nation, A Peculiar People…

Sermon Sunday – Charles Spurgeon – Christ Crucified

March 10, 2013 at 6:30 am | Posted in Sermon Sunday | Leave a comment
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“But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”

1 Corinthians 1:23, 24

WHAT contempt has God poured upon the wisdom of this world! How has He brought it to nothing and made it appear as nothing. He has allowed it to work out its own conclusions and prove its own folly. Men boasted that they were wise. They said that they could find out God to perfection. And in order that their folly might be refuted once and forever, God gave them the opportunity of doing so. He said, “Worldly wisdom, I will try you. You say that you are mighty, that your intellect is vast and comprehensive, that your eye is keen, that you can unravel all secrets—now, behold, I try you—I give you one great problem to solve.

“Here is the universe. Stars make its canopy, fields and flowers adorn it and the floods roll over its surface. My name is written therein—the invisible things of God may be clearly seen in the things which are made. Philosophy, I give you this problem—find Me out. Here are My works—find Me out. Discover in the wondrous world which I have made, the way to worship Me acceptably. I give you space enough to do it—there is data enough. Behold the clouds, the earth and the stars. I give you time enough. I will give you four thousand years and I will not interfere—you shall do as you will with your own world.

“I will give you men in abundance, for I will make great minds and vast, whom you shall call lords of earth. You shall have orators, you shall have philosophers. Find Me out, O reason. Find Me out, O wisdom. Discover My nature, if you can—find Me out unto perfection, if you are able. And if you can not, then shut your mouth forever and then I will teach you that the wisdom of God is wiser than the wisdom of man. Yes that the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” And how did the reason of man work out the problem? How did wisdom perform her feat? Look upon the heathen nations—there you see the result of wisdom’s researches. In the time of Jesus Christ, you might have beheld the earth covered with the slime of pollution—a Sodom on a large scale, corrupt, filthy, depraved, indulging in vices which we dare not mention, reveling in lusts too abominable even for our imagination to dwell upon for a moment.

We find the men prostrating themselves before blocks of wood and stone, adoring ten thousand gods more vicious than themselves. We find, in fact, that reason wrote out her own depravity with a finger covered with blood and filth. That she forever cut herself out from all her glory by the vile deeds she did. She would not worship God. She would not bow down to Him who is “clearly seen,” but she worshipped any creature. The reptile that crawled, the crocodile, the viper, everything might be a god, but not the God of Heaven. Vice might be made into a ceremony, the greatest crime might be exalted into a religion, but true worship she knew nothing of. Poor reason! Poor wisdom! How are you fallen from Heaven! Like Lucifer—you son of the morning you are lost. You have written out your conclusion, but it is a conclusion of consummate folly.

“After that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” Wisdom had had its time and time enough. It had done its all and that was little enough. It had made the world worse than it was before it stepped upon it. And now, says God, “Foolishness shall overcome wisdom. Now ignorance, as you call it, shall sweep away your science. Now, humble, child-like faith shall crumble to the dust all the colossal systems your hands have piled.”

He calls His army. Christ puts His trumpet to His mouth and up come the warriors—clad in fisherman’s garb, with the brogue of the Lake of Galilee—poor humble mariners. Here are the warriors, O wisdom! that are to confound you. These are the heroes who shall overcome your proud philosophers! These men are to plant their standard upon the ruined walls of your strongholds and bid them fall forever. These men and their successors, are to exalt a Gospel in the world which you may laugh at as absurd, which you may sneer at as folly, but which shall be exalted above the hills and shall be glorious even to the highest heavens.

Since that day God has always raised up successors of the Apostles. I claim to be a successor of the Apostles, not by any lineal descent, but because I have the same roll and charter as any Apostle and am as much called to preach the Gospel as Paul himself—if not as much owned in the conversion of sinners—yet in a measure, blessed of God. And, therefore, here I stand, foolish as Paul might be, foolish as Peter, or any of those fisherman, but still with the might of God I grasp the sword of Truth—coming here to “preach Christ and Him crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness. But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Before I enter upon our text, let me very briefly explain what I believe preaching Christ and Him crucified is. My Friends, I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified to give our people a batch of philosophy every Sunday morning and evening and neglect the Truth of this Holy Book. I do not believe it is preaching Christ and Him crucified, to leave out the main cardinal doctrines of the Word of God and preach a religion which is all a mist and a haze, without any definite truths whatever. I take it that man does not preach Christ and Him crucified, who can get through a sermon without mentioning Christ’s name once.

Nor does that man preach Christ and Him crucified who leaves out the Holy Spirit’s work, who never says a word about the Holy Spirit—so that indeed the hearers might say, “We do not so much as know whether there is a Holy Spirit.” And I have my own private opinion that there is no such a thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless you preach what now-a-days is called Calvinism. I have my own ideas and those I always state boldly. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism. Calvinism is the Gospel and nothing else. I do not believe we can preach the Gospel, if we do not preach justification by faith, without works. Nor unless we preach the sovereignty of God in His dispensation of grace. Nor unless we exalt the electing, unchangeable, eternal, immutable, conquering, love of Jehovah.

Nor do I think we can preach the Gospel, unless we base it upon the peculiar redemption which Christ made for His elect and chosen people. Nor can I comprehend a Gospel which lets saints fall away after they are called and suffers the children of God to be burned in the fires of damnation after having believed. Such a Gospel I abhor. The Gospel of the Bible is not such a Gospel as that. We preach Christ and Him crucified in a different fashion and to all gainsayers we reply, “We have not so learned Christ.”

There are three things in the text. First, a Gospel rejected—“Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness.” Secondly, a Gospel triumphant—“unto those which are called, both Jews and Greeks.” And thirdly, a Gospel admired—it is to them who are called “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

I. First, we have here A GOSPEL REJECTED. One would have imagined that when God sent His Gospel to men, all men would meekly listen and humbly receive its truths. We should have thought that God’s ministers had but to proclaim that life is brought to light by the Gospel and that Christ is come to save sinners and every ear would be attentive, every eye would be fixed and every heart would be wide open to receive the Truth. We should have said, judging favorably of our fellow creatures, that there would not exist in the world a monster so vile, so depraved, so polluted, as to put so much as a stone in the way of the progress of Truth.

We could not have conceived such a thing. Yet that conception is the truth. When the Gospel was preached, instead of being accepted and admired, one universal hiss went up to Heaven—men could not bear it—its first Preacher they dragged to the brow of the hill and would have sent Him down headlong—yes, they did more, they nailed Him to the Cross. And there they let Him languish out His dying life in agony such as no man has borne since. All His chosen ministers have been hated and abhorred by worldlings. Instead of being listened to, they have been scoffed at—treated as if they were the offscouring of all things and the very scum of mankind. Look at the holy men in the old times, how they were driven from city to city, persecuted, afflicted, tormented, stoned to death wherever the enemy had power to do so.

Those friends of men, those real philanthropists, who came with hearts big with love, hands full of mercy, lips pregnant with celestial fire and souls that burned with holy influence—those men were treated as if they were spies in the camp—as if they were deserters from the common cause of mankind. They were treated ass if they were enemies and not, as they truly were, the best of friends. Do not suppose, my Friends, that men like the Gospel any better now, than they did then.

There is an idea that you are growing better. I do not believe it. You are growing worse. In many respects men may be better—outwardly better—but the heart within is still the same. The human heart of today dissected would be just like the human heart a thousand years ago—the gall of bitterness within that breast of yours is just as bitter as the gall of bitterness in that of Simon of old. We have in our hearts the same latent opposition to the Truth of God. And therefore we find men even as of old, who scorn the Gospel.

I shall, in speaking of the Gospel rejected, endeavor to point out the two classes of persons who equally despise the Truth. The Jews make it a stumbling block and the Greeks account it foolishness. Now these two very respectable gentlemen—the Jew and the Greek—I am not going to make these ancient individuals the object of my condemnation. But I look upon them as members of a great parliament, representatives of a great constituency and I shall attempt to show that if all the race of Jews were cut off, there would be still a vast number in the world who would answer to the name of Jews, to whom Christ is a stumbling block. And that if Greece were swallowed up by some earthquake and ceased to be a nation, there would still be the Greek unto whom the Gospel would be foolishness. I shall simply introduce the Jew and the Greek. And let them speak a moment to you, in order that you may see the gentlemen who represent you—the representative men. The persons who stand for many of you, who as yet are not called by Divine grace.

The first is the Jew. To him the Gospel is a stumbling block. A respectable man the Jew was in his day. All formal religion was concentrated in his person. He went up to the temple very devoutly. He tithed all he had, even to the mint and the cummin. You would see him fasting twice in the week, with a face all marked with sadness and sorrow. If you looked at him, he had the Law between his eyes. There was the phylactery and the borders of his garments of amazing width, that he might never be supposed to be a Gentile dog—that no one might ever conceive that he was not a Hebrew of pure descent.

He had a holy ancestry. He came of a pious family. A right good man was he. He could not endure those Sadducees at all, who had no religion. He was thoroughly a religious man. He stood up for his synagogue. He would not have that temple on Mount Gerizim. He could not bear the Samaritans, he had no dealings with them. He was a religionist of the first order, a man of the very finest kind. A specimen of a man who is a moralist and who loves the ceremonies of the Law. Accordingly, when he heard about Christ, He asked who Christ was. “The son of a carpenter.” “Ah, The son of a carpenter and His mother’s name was Mary. And His father’s name Joseph.” “That of itself is presumption enough,” said he, “positive proof, in fact, that He cannot be the Messiah.

And what does Christ say? Why He says, “Woe unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. That won’t do. Moreover,” He says, “It is not by the works of the flesh that any man can enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” The Jew tied a double knot in his phylactery at once. He thought he would have the borders of his garment made twice as broad. He bow to the Nazarene? No, no! And if so much as a disciple crossed the street, he thought the place polluted and would not tread in his steps. Do you think he would give up his old father’s religion—the religion which came from Mount Sinai—that old religion that lay in the ark and the overshadowing cherubim? He give that up? Not he! A vile impostor—that is all Christ was in his eyes. He thought, “A stumbling block to me? I cannot hear about it! I will not listen to it.”

Accordingly, he turned a deaf ear to all the Preacher’s eloquence and listened not at all. Farewell, old Jew. You sleep with your fathers and your generation is a wandering race, still walking the earth. Farewell, I have done with you. Alas, poor wretch, that Christ who was your stumbling block, shall be your Judge and on your head shall be that loud curse—“His blood be on us and on our children.” But I am going to find out Mr. Jew here in Exeter Hall—persons who answer to his description—to whom Jesus Christ is a stumbling block.

Let me introduce you to yourselves, some of you. You were of a pious family, too, were you not? Yes. And you have a religion which you love—you love it so far as the chrysalis of it goes, the outside, the covering, the husk. You would not have one rubric altered, nor one of those dear old arches taken down, nor the stained glass removed for all the world. And any man who should say a word against such things, you would set down as a heretic at once. Or, perhaps you do not go to such a place of worship, but you love some plain old meeting house, where your forefathers worshipped, called a dissenting chapel. Ah, it is a beautiful plain place. You love it, you love its ordinances, you love its exterior.

And if anyone spoke against the place, how vexed you would feel. You think that what they do there, they ought to do everywhere. In fact your church is a model one. The place where you go is exactly the sort of place for everybody. And if I were to ask you why you hope to go to Heaven, you would, perhaps, say, “Because I am a Baptist,” or, “Because I am an Episcopalian,” or whatever other sect you belong to. There is yourself. I know Jesus Christ will be a stumbling block to you. What if I come and tell you that all your going to the house of God are good for nothing? What if I tell you that all those many times you have been singing and praying—all mean nothing in the sight of God—because you are a hypocrite and a formalist?

What if I tell you that your heart is not right with God and that unless it is so, all the external is good for nothing? I know what you will say—“I shan’t hear that young man again.” It is a stumbling block. If you had stepped in anywhere where you had heard formalism exalted. If you had been told, “this must you do and this other must you do and then you will be saved,” you would highly approve of it. But how many are there externally religious, with whose characters you could find no fault, but who have never had the regenerating influence of the Holy Spirit? How many are there who never were made to lie prostrate on their face before Calvary’s Cross—who never turned a wishful eye to yonder Savior crucified?

How many are there who never put their trust in Him that was slain for the sons of men? They love a superficial religion, but when a man talks deeper than that, they set it down for cant. You may love all that is external about religion, just as you may love a man for his clothes—caring nothing for the man himself. If so, I know you are one of those who reject the Gospel. You will hear me preach. And while I speak about the externals, you will hear me with attention. And while I plead for morality and argue against drunkenness, or show the heinousness of Sabbath-breaking, all well and good. But if once I say, “Except you be converted and become as little children, you can in no wise enter into the kingdom of God.” If once I tell you that you must be elect of God—that you must be purchased with the Savior’s blood—that you must be converted by the Holy Spirit—you will say, “He is a fanatic! Away with him, away with him! We do not want to hear that any more.” Christ crucified, is to the Jew—the ceremonialist—a stumbling block.

But there is another specimen of this Jew to be found. He is thoroughly orthodox in his sentiments. As for forms and ceremonies, he thinks nothing about them. He goes to a place of worship where he learns sound doctrine. He will hear nothing but what is true. He likes that we should have good works and morality. He is a good man and no man can find fault with him. Here he is, regular in his Sunday pew. In the market he walks before men in all honesty—so you would imagine. Ask him about any doctrine and he can give you a formal discourse upon it. In fact, he could write a treatise upon anything in the Bible and a great many things besides.

He knows almost everything. And here, up in this dark attic of the head, his religion has taken up its abode. He has a better parlor down in his heart, but his religion never goes there—that is shut against it. He has money in there—mammon, worldliness. Or he has something else—self-love, pride. Perhaps he loves to hear experimental preaching. He admires it all. In fact, he loves anything that is sound. But then he has not any sound in himself—or rather, it is all sound and there is no substance. He likes to hear true doctrine. But it never penetrates his inner man. You never see him weep. Preach to him about Christ crucified, a glorious subject and you never see a tear roll down his cheek.

Tell him of the mighty influence of the Holy Spirit—he admires you for it—but he never had the hand of the Holy Spirit on his soul. Tell him about communion with God, plunging into the Godhead’s deepest sea and being lost in its immensity—the man loves to hear—but he never experiences. He has never communed with Christ and accordingly when once you begin to strike home, when you lay him on the table, take out your dissecting knife, begin to cut him up and show him his own heart—let him see what it is by nature and what it must become by grace—the man starts, he cannot stand that. He wants none of that—Christ received in the heart and accepted.

Albeit that he loves it enough in the head, ‘tis to him a stumbling block and he casts it away. Do you see yourselves here, my Friends? Do you see yourselves as others see you? Do you see yourselves as God sees you? For so it is, here are many to whom Christ is as much a stumbling block now as ever He was. O you formalists! I speak to you! O you who have the nutshell, but abhor the kernel! O you who like the trappings and the dress, but care not for that fair virgin who is clothed therewith—O you who admire the paint and the tinsel, but abhor the solid gold, I speak to you! I ask you, does your religion give you solid comfort? Can you stare death in the face with it and say, “I know that my Redeemer lives”? Can you close your eyes at night, singing as your vesper song—

“I to the end must endure,
As sure as the earnest is given”?

Can you bless God for affliction? Can you plunge in furnished as you are and swim through all the floods of trial? Can you march triumphant through the lion’s den, laugh at affliction and bid defiance to Hell? Can you? No! Your Gospel is an effeminate thing. A thing of words and sounds and not of power. Cast it from you, I beseech you—it is not worth your keeping. And when you come before the Throne of God, you will find it will fail you and fail you so that you shall never find another. For lost, ruined, destroyed, you shall find that Christ who is now standing, “a stumbling block,” will be your Judge.

I have found out the Jew and I have now to discover the Greek. He is a person of quite a different exterior to the Jew. As to the phylactery, to him it is all rubbish. And as to the broad-hemmed garment, he despises it. He does not care for the forms of religion. He has an intense aversion, in fact, to broad-brimmed hats, or to everything which looks like outward show. He appreciates eloquence. He admires a smart saying. He loves a quaint expression. He likes to read the last new book. He is a Greek and to him the Gospel is foolishness. The Greek is a gentleman found in most places now-adays—manufactured sometimes in colleges, constantly made in schools, produced everywhere. He is on the exchange. In the market. He keeps a shop. Rides in a carriage.

He is a noble, a gentleman. He is everywhere. Even in court. He is thoroughly wise. Ask him anything and he knows it. Ask for a quotation from any of the old poets, or anyone else and he can give it you. If you are a Mohammedan and plead the claims of your religion, he will hear you very patiently. But if you are a Christian and talk to him of Jesus Christ, “Stop your cant,” he says, “I don’t want to hear anything about that.” This Grecian gentleman believes all philosophy except the true one. He studies all wisdom except the wisdom of God. He seeks all learning except spiritual learning. He loves everything except that which God approves.

He likes everything which man makes and nothing which comes from God. It is foolishness to him, confounded foolishness. You have only to discourse about one doctrine in the Bible and he shuts his ears. He wishes no longer for your company. It is foolishness. I have met this gentleman a great many times. Once when I saw him, he told me he did not believe in any religion at all. And when I said I did and had a hope that when I died I should go to Heaven, he said he dared say it was very comfortable, but he did not believe in religion and that he was sure it was best to live as nature dictated.

Another time he spoke well of all religions and believed they were very good in their place and all true. And he had no doubt that if a man were sincere in any kind of religion, he would be all right at last. I told him I did not think so and that I believed there was but one religion revealed of God—the religion of God’s elect, the religion which is the gift of Jesus.

He then said I was a bigot and wished me good morning. It was to him foolishness. He had nothing to do with me at all. He either liked no religion, or every religion. Another time I held him by the coat button and I discussed with him a little about faith. He said, “It is all very well, I believe that is true Protestant doctrine.” But presently I said something about election and he said, “I don’t like that. Many people have preached that and turned it to bad account.” I then hinted something about free grace, but that he could not endure, it was to him foolishness. He was a polished Greek and thought that if he were not chosen, he ought to be. He never liked that passage—“God has chosen the foolish things of this world to confound the wise and the things which are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”

He thought it was very discreditable to the Bible and when the book was revised, he had no doubt it would be cut out. To such a man—for he is here this morning, very likely come to hear this reed shaken of the wind—I have to say this—Ah, you wise man, full of worldly wisdom. Your wisdom will stand you here, but what will you do in the swellings of Jordan? Philosophy may do well for you to lean upon while you walk through this world. But the river is deep and you will want something more than that. If you have not the arm of the Most High to hold you up in the flood and cheer you with promises, you will sink, Man.

With all your philosophy, you will sink—with all your learning, you shall sink and be washed into that awful ocean of eternal torment, where you shall be forever. Ah, Greeks, it may be foolishness to you, but you shall see the Man, your Judge and then you shall rue the day that ever you said that God’s Gospel was foolishness.

II. Having spoken thus far upon the Gospel rejected, I shall now briefly speak upon the GOSPEL TRIUMPHANT. “Unto us who are called, both Jews and Greeks, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Yonder man rejects the Gospel, despises grace and laughs at it as a delusion. Here is another man who laughed at it, too. But God will fetch him down upon his knees. Christ shall not die for nothing. The Holy Spirit shall not strive in vain. God has said, “My Word shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.” “He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be abundantly satisfied.”

If one sinner is not saved, another shall be. The Jew and the Greek shall never depopulate Heaven. The choirs of glory shall not lose a single songster by all the opposition of Jews and Greeks. For God has said it. Some shall be called. Some shall be saved. Some shall be rescued—

“Perish the virtue, as it ought, abhorred,
And the fool with it, who insults his Lord.
The atonement a Redeemer’s love has worked
Is not for you—the righteous need it not.
See you yon harlot wooing all she meets,
The worn-out nuisance of the public streets,
Herself from morn to night, from night to morn,
Her own abhorrence and as much your scorn.
The gracious shower, unlimited and free,
Shall fall on her when Heaven denies it you.
Of all that wisdom dictates, this the drift,
That man is dead in sin and life a gift.”

If the righteous and good are not saved—if they reject the Gospel—there are others who are to be called, others who shall be rescued, for Christ will not lose the merits of His agonies, or the purchase of His blood. “Unto us who are called.” I received a note this week asking me to explain that word “called”—because in one passage it says, “Many are called but few are chosen,” while in another it appears that all who are called must be chosen. Now, let me observe that there are two calls. As my old friend John Bunyan says, “The hen has two calls, the common cluck, which she gives daily and hourly and the special one which she means for her little chickens.”

So there is a general call, a call made to every man—every man hears it. Many are called by it. You are all called this morning in that sense—but very few are chosen. The other is a special call, the children’s call. You know how the bell sounds over the workshop to call the men to work—that is a general call. A father goes to the door and calls out, “John, it is dinner time!”—that is the special call. Many are called with the general call, but they are not chosen. The special call is for the children only and that is what is meant in the text, “Unto us who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

That call is always a special one. While I stand here and call men, nobody comes. While I preach to sinners universally, no good is done. It is like the sheet lightning you sometimes see on the summer’s evening, beautiful, grand, but who has ever heard of anything being struck by it? But the special call is the forked flash from Heaven. It strikes somewhere, it is the arrow sent in between the joints of the harness. The call which saves is like that of Jesus, when He said, “Mary,” and she said unto Him, “Rabboni.” Do you know anything about that special call my Beloved? Did Jesus ever call you by name? Can you recollect the hour when He whispered your name in your ear, when He said, “Come to me”? If so, you will grant the Truth of what I am going to say next about it—that it is an effectual call.

There is no resisting it. When God calls with His special call, there is no keeping back. Ah, I know I laughed at religion. I despised, I abhorred it. But that call! Oh, I would not come. But Jesus said, “you shall come. All that the Father gives to Me shall come.” “Lord, I will not.” “But you shall,” said Christ. And I have gone up to God’s house sometimes almost with a resolution that I would not listen, but listen I must. Oh, how the Word came into my soul! Was there a power of resistance? No. I was thrown down—each bone seemed to be broken. I was saved by effectual grace. I appeal to your experience, my Friends. When God took you in hand, could you withstand Him? You stood against your minister times enough. Sickness did not break you down—disease did not bring you to God’s feet. Eloquence did not convince you—but when God put His hand to the work, ah, then what a change!

Like Saul, with his horses going to Damascus, that voice from Heaven said, “I am Jesus whom you persecute. Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” There was no going further then. That was an effectual call. Like that, again, which Jesus gave to Zaccheus, when he was up in the tree—stepping under the tree, He said, “Zaccheus, come down, today I must abide at your house.” Zaccheus, was taken in the net, he heard his own name. The call sank into his soul. He could not stay up in the tree, for an Almighty impulse drew him down. And I could tell you some singular instances of persons going to the house of God and having their characters described, to perfection, so that they have said, “He is describing me! He is describing me!”

Just as I might say to that young man here who stole his master’s gloves yesterday, that Jesus calls him to repentance. It may be that there is such a person here. And when the call comes to a peculiar character, it generally comes with a special power. God gives his ministers a brush and shows them how to use it in painting life-like portraits. And thus the sinner hears the special call. I cannot give the special call—God alone can give it and I leave it with Him. Some must be called. Jew and Greek may laugh, but still there are some who are called, both Jews and Greeks.

Then to close up this second point—it is a great mercy that many a Jew has been made to drop his self-righteousness; many a legalist has been made to drop his legalism and come to Christ. Many a Greek has bowed his genius at the Throne of God’s Gospel. We have a few such. As Cowper says—

“We boast some rich ones whom the Gospel sways,
And one who wears a coronet and prays.
Like gleanings of an olive tree they show,
Here and there one upon the topmost bough.”

III. Now we come to our third point, A GOSPEL ADMIRED. Unto us who are called of God, it is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Now, Beloved, this must be a matter of pure experience between your souls and God. If you are called of God this morning, you will know it. I know there are times when a Christian has to say—

“Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought;
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I His, or am I not?”

But if a man never in his life knew himself to be a Christian, he never was a Christian. If he never had a moment of confidence, when he could say, “Now I know in whom I have believed,” I think I do not utter a harsh thing when I say that that man could not have been born again. For I do not understand how a man can be born again and not know it. I do not understand how a man can be killed and then made alive again and not know it—how a man can pass from death unto life and not know it—how a man can be brought out of darkness into marvelous light without knowing it.

I am sure I know it, when I shout out my old verse—

“Now free from sin, I walk at large,
My Savior’s blood’s my full discharge.
At His dear feet content I lay,
A sinner saved and homage pay.”

There are moments when the eyes glisten with joy. And we can say, “We are persuaded, confident, certain.” I do not wish to distress anyone who is under doubt. Often gloomy doubts will prevail. There are seasons when you fear you have not been called—when you doubt your interest in Christ. Ah, what a mercy it is that it is not your hold of Christ that saves you, but His hold of you! What a sweet fact that it is not how you grasp His hand, but His grasp of yours, that saves you. Yet I think you ought to know sometime or other, whether you are called of God. If so, you will follow me in the next part of my discourse which is a matter of pure experience—unto us who are saved, it is “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

The Gospel is to the true Believer a thing of power. It is Christ, the power of God. Yes, there is a power in God’s Gospel beyond all description. Once, I, like Mazeppa, bound on the wild horse of my lust, bound hand and foot, incapable of resistance, was galloping on with Hell’s wolves behind me, howling for my body and my soul, as their just and lawful prey. There came a mighty Hand which stopped that wild horse, cut my bands, set me down and brought me into liberty. Is there power, Sir? Yes, there is power and he who has felt it must acknowledge it. There was a time when I lived in the strong old castle of my sins and rested in my works. There came a trumpeter to the door and bade me open it. I with anger chided him from the porch and said he never should enter.

There came a goodly personage, with loving countenance. His hands were marked with scars, where nails were driven and His feet had nail prints, too. He rifted up His Cross, using it as a hammer. At the first blow the gate of my prejudice shook. At the second it trembled more. At the third down it fell and in He came. And He said, “Arise and stand upon your feet, for I have loved you with an everlasting love.” A thing of power! Ah, it is a thing of power. I have felt it here, in this heart. I have the witness of the Spirit within and know it is a thing of might, because it has conquered me. It has bowed me down—

“His free grace alone, from the first to the last,
Has won my affection and held my soul fast.”

The Gospel to the Christian is a thing of power. What is it that makes the young man devote himself as a missionary to the cause of God—to leave father and mother—and go into distant lands? It is a thing of power that does it—it is the Gospel. What is it that empowers yonder minister, in the midst of the cholera, to climb up that creaking staircase and stand by the bed of some dying creature who has that dire disease? It must be a thing of power which leads him to risk his life. It is love of the Cross of Christ which bids him do it. What is that which enables one man to stand up before a multitude of his fellows, all unprepared he may be, but determined that he will speak nothing but Christ and Him crucified? What is it that enables him to cry, like the warhorse of Job in battle, Aha, and move glorious in might? It is a thing of power that does it—it is Christ crucified.

And what emboldens that timid female to walk down that dark lane in the wet evening, that she may go and sit beside the victim of a contagious fever? What strengthens her to go through that den of thieves and pass by the profligate and profane? What influences her to enter into that charnel-house of death and there sit down and whisper words of comfort? Does gold make her do it? They are too poor to give her gold. Does fame make her do it? She shall never be known, nor written among the mighty women of this earth. What makes her do it? Is it love of merit? No. She knows she has no desert before high Heaven. What impels her to it? It is the power of the Gospel on her heart. It is the Cross of Christ. She loves it and she therefore says—

“Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.”

But I behold another scene. A martyr is hurried to the stake. The executioners are around him. The crowds are mocking, but he is marching steadily on. See, they bind him with a chain around his middle, to the stake. They heap fire wood all about him—the flame is lighted up—listen to His words—“Bless the Lord, O my soul and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” The flames are kindling round his legs. The fire is burning him even to the bone! See him lift up his hands and say, “I know that my Redeemer lives and though the fire devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see the Lord.” Behold him clutch the stake and kiss it as if he loved it. Listen, as he says, “For every chain of iron that man girds me with, God shall give me a chain of gold. For all this fire wood and this ignominy and shame, He shall increase the weight of my eternal glory.”

See, all the under parts of His body are consumed—still he lives in the torture. At last he bows himself and the upper part of his body falls over. And as he falls you hear him say, “Into Your hands I commend my spirit.” What wondrous magic was on him, Sirs? What made that men strong? What helped him to bear that cruelty? What made him stand unmoved in the flames? It was the thing of power. It was the Cross of Jesus crucified. For “unto us who are saved it is the power of God.”

But behold another scene far different. There is no crowd there. It is a silent room. There is a poor pallet, a lonely bed—a physician standing by. There is a young girl. Her face is blanched by consumption—long has the worm eaten her cheek and though sometimes the flush came, it was the death-flush of the deceitful Destroyer. There she lies, weak pale, wan, worn, dying—yet behold a smile upon her face, as if she had seen an angel. She speaks and there is music in her voice. Joan of Arc of old was not half so mighty as that girl. She is wrestling with dragons on her deathbed—but see her composure and hear her dying sonnet—

“Jesus! lover of my soul,
Let me to Your bosom fly,
While the billows near me roll,
While the tempest still is high!
Hide me, O my Savior! hide
Till the storm of life is past!
Safe into the haven guide;
Oh, receive my soul at last!”

And with a smile she shuts her eyes on earth and opens them in Heaven. What enables her to die like that? It is the power of God unto salvation. It is the Cross. It is Jesus crucified.

I have little time to discourse upon the other point and be it far from me to weary you by a lengthened and prosy sermon, but we must glance at the other statement—Christ is, to the called ones, the wisdom of God, as well as the power of God. To a Believer, the Gospel is the perfection of wisdom and if it appear not so to the ungodly, it is because of the perversion of judgment consequent on their depravity.

An idea has long possessed the public mind that a religious man can scarcely be a wise man. It has been the custom to talk of infidels, atheists and deists as men of deep thought and comprehensive intellect. And to tremble for the Christian controversialist, as if he must surely fall by the hand of the enemy. But this is purely a mistake. For the Gospel is the sum of wisdom, an epitome of knowledge, a treasure house of Truth and a Revelation of mysterious secrets. In it we see how justice and mercy may be married. Here we behold inexorable Law entirely satisfied and sovereign love bearing away the sinner in triumph. Our meditation upon it enlarges the mind. And as it opens to our soul in successive flashes of glory, we stand astonished at the profound wisdom manifest in it.

Ah, dear Friends! If you seek wisdom, you shall see it displayed in all its greatness. Not in the balancing of the clouds, nor the firmness of earth’s foundations—not in the measured march of the armies of the sky, nor in the perpetual motion of the waves of the sea. Not in vegetation with all its fairy forms of beauty. Nor in the animal with its marvelous tissue of nerve, vein and sinew—nor even in man—that last and loftiest work of the Creator. But turn aside and see this great sight! An incarnate God upon the Cross! A Substitute atoning for mortal guilt! A Sacrifice satisfying the vengeance of Heaven—and delivering the rebellious sinner! Here is essential wisdom enthroned, crowned, glorified. Admire this wisdom, you men of earth. And if you are not blind—even you who glory in your learning. If you will only bend your heads in reverence you will have to admit that all your skill could not have devised a Gospel at once so just to God, so safe to man.

Remember, my Friends, that while the Gospel is in itself wisdom, it also confers wisdom on its students. She teaches young men wisdom and discretion and gives understanding to the simple. A man who is a believing admirer and a hearty lover of the Truth, as it is in Jesus, is in a right place to follow with advantage any other branch of science. I confess I have a shelf in my head for everything now. Whatever I read I know where to put it. Whatever I learn I know where to stow it away. Once when I read books, I put all my knowledge together in glorious confusion. But ever since I have known Christ, I have put Christ in the center as my sun and each science revolves round it like a planet, while minor sciences are satellites to these planets.

Christ is to me the wisdom of God. I can learn everything now. The science of Christ crucified is the most excellent of sciences—she is to me the wisdom of God. Oh, young man, build your studio on Calvary! There raise your observatory and scan by faith the lofty things of nature. Take a hermit’s cell in the garden of Gethsemane and bathe your brow with the waters of Siloa. Let the Bible be your standard classic—your last appeal in matters of contention. Let its light be your illumination and you shall become more wise than Plato—more truly learned than the seven sages of antiquity.

And now, my dear Friends, solemnly and earnestly, as in the sight of God, I appeal to you. You are gathered here this morning, I know, from different motives. Some of you have come from curiosity. Others of you are my regular hearers. Some have come from one place and some from another. What have you heard me say this morning? I have told you of two classes of persons who reject Christ. The religionist who has a religion of form and nothing else. And the man of the world, who calls our Gospel foolishness. Now put your hand upon your heart and ask yourself this morning, “Am I one of these?” If you are, then walk the earth in all your pride. Then go as you came in. But know that for all this, the Lord shall bring you into judgment—know you that your joys and delights shall vanish like a dream, “and, like the baseless fabric of a vision,” be swept away forever.

Know this, moreover, O Man, that one day in the halls of Satan, down in Hell, I perhaps may see you among those myriad spirits who revolve forever in a perpetual circle with their hands upon their hearts. If your hand be transparent and your flesh transparent, I shall look through your hand and flesh and see your heart within. And how shall I see it? Set in a case of fire—in a case of fire! And there you shall revolve forever, with the worm gnawing within your heart, which shall never die—a case of fire around your never-dying, ever-tortured heart. Good God! Let not these men still reject and despise Christ. But let this be the time when they shall be called.

To the rest of you who are called, I need say nothing. The longer you live, the more powerful will you find the Gospel to be. The more deeply Christ-taught you are, the more you live under the constant influence of the Holy Spirit. The more you will know the Gospel to be a thing of power, the more also will you understand it to be a thing of wisdom. May every blessing rest upon you. And may God come up with us in the evening—

“Let men or angels dig the mines
Where nature’s golden treasure shines.
Brought near the doctrine of the Cross,
All nature’s gold appears but dross.
Should vile blasphemers with disdain
Pronounce the Truths of Jesus vain,
We’ll meet the scandal and the shame.
And sing and triumph in His name.”

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