A Caution To The Presumptuous
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, MAY 13, 1855, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
“Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” 1 Corinthians 10:12.
IT is a singular fact, but nevertheless most certain, that the vices are the counterfeits of virtues. Whenever God sends from the mint of heaven a precious coin of genuine metal, Satan will imitate the impress and utter a vile production of no value. God gives love; it is His nature and His essence. Satan also fashions a thing which he calls love, but it is lust. God bestows courage. And it is a good thing to be able to look one’s fellow in the face, fearless of all men in doing our duty. Satan inspires fool hardiness, styles it courage and bids the man rush to the cannon’s mouth for “bubble reputation.” God creates in man holy fear. Satan gives him unbelief and we often mistake the one for the other. So with the best of virtues, the saving grace of faith—when it comes to its perfection it ripens into confidence—and there is nothing so comfortable and so desirable to the Christian as the full assurance of faith. Hence, we find Satan, when he sees this good coin, at once takes the metal of the bottom less pit of hell, imitates the heavenly image and superscription of assurance and palms upon us the vice of presumption!
We are astonished, perhaps, as Calvinistic Christians, to find Paul saying, “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” But we need not be astonished. We have a great right to believe that we stand if we think we stand through the power of God. But we cannot be too confident of the might of the Most High because there is a thing so near akin to true confidence that unless we use the greatest discernment we can not tell the difference. UNHOLY PRESUMPTION—it is against that which I am to speak this morning. Let me not be misunderstood. I shall not utter one word against the strongest faith. I wish all LittleFaiths were Strong Faiths, that all Fearings were made ValiantforTruth and the Readyto Halts, Asahel’s NimbleofFoot—that they might all run in their Master’s work. I speak not against strong faith or full assurance. God gives it to us—it is the holiest, happiest thing that a Christian can have—and there is no state so desirable as that of being able to say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him.” It is not against that I speak. I warn you against that evil thing—a false confidence and presumption which creeps over a Christian like the cold death sleep on the mountaintop—from which, if he is not awakened, as God will see that he shall be, death will be the in evitable consequence. “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
I shall this morning attempt first, to find out the character; secondly, to show the danger, and thirdly, to give the counsel. The character is the man who thinks he stands. The danger is that he may fall, and the coun sel is, “Let him take heed.”
My first business shall be to FIND OUT THE CHARACTER intended by the presumptuous man, the man who thinks he stands. I could find a multitude of such if I might search the wide world over. I could find men in business filled with an arrogant hardihood, who, because they have in one speculation been successful, will wade far out into the stormy sea of this contending life, risk their all—and lose it, too. I might mention others who, presuming upon their health, are spending their years in sin and their lives in iniquity because they think their bones are iron and their nerves, steel, and “all men mortal but themselves.” I might speak of men who will venture into the midst of temptation, confident in their boasted power, exclaiming with selfcomplacency, “Do you think I am so weak as to sin? Oh, no, I shall stand. Give me the glass. I shall never be a drunkard. Give me the song. You will not find me a midnight reveler. I can drink a little and then I can stop.” Such are presumptuous men. But I am not about to find them there. My business, this morning, is with God’s Church! The fanning must begin with the floor, the winnowing must try the wheat. So we are to winnow the Church this morning to discover the presumptuous. We need not go far to find them. There are in every Christian church—men who think they stand, men who vaunt themselves in fancied might and power. They are children of nature finely dressed, but not the living children of the living God. They have not been humbled or broken in spirit, or if they have, they have fostered carnal security until it has grown to a giant and trampled the sweet flower of humility under its foot. They think they stand. I speak now of real Chris tians, who, notwithstanding, have grown presumptuous and indulge in a fleshly security. May my Master awaken such, while in preaching I endeavor to go to the core and root of the matter, for a little while I will expatiate upon the frequent causes of presumption in a Christian.
1. And first, a very common cause is continued worldly prosperity. Moab is settled on his lees, he has not been emptied from vessel to vessel. Give a man wealth. Let his ships continually bring home rich freights. Let the winds and waves appear to be his servants, to bear his vessels across the bosom of the mighty deep. Let his lands yield abundantly. Let the weather be propitious to his crops and the skies smile pleasantly upon his enterprise. Let the bands of Orion be loosed for him. Let the sweet influence of the Pleiades descend upon him. Let uninterrupted success attend him. Let him stand among men as a successful merchant, as a princely Dives, as a man who is heaping up riches to a large extent, who is always prospering—or, if not wealth, let him enjoy continued health. Let him know no sickness.
Allow him with braced nerve and brilliant eyes to march through the world and live happily. Give him the buoyant spirit. Let him have the song perpetually on his lips and his eyes are always sparkling with joy—the happy, happy man who laughs at care and cries, “Begone, dull care, I pray you be gone from me.” I say the consequence of such a state to a man, let him be the best Christian who ever breathed—will be presumption! And he will say, “I stand.” “In my prosperity,” says David, “I said, I shall never be moved!” And we are not much better than David, nor half as good. If God should always rock us in the cradle of prosperity—if we were always dandled on the knees of fortune—if we had not some stain on the alabaster pillar, if there were not a few clouds in the sky, some specks in our sunshine—if we had not some bitter drops in the wine of this life, we would become intoxicated with pleasure, we would dream, “We stand.” And stand we would, but it would be upon a pinnacle. Stand we might, but like the man asleep upon the mast, each moment we would be in jeopardy!
We bless God, then, for our afflictions! We thank Him for our depressions of spirit. We extol His name for the losses of our property. For we feel that had it not so happened to us, had He not chastened us every morning and vexed us every evening, we might have become too secure. Continued worldly prosperity is a fiery trial. If it is so with any of you, apply this proverb to your own state, “As the fining pot for silver, and the furnace for gold—so is a man to his praise.”
Again, light thoughts of sin will engender presumption. When we are first converted, our conscience is so very tender that we are afraid of the slightest sin. I have known young converts almost afraid to proceed a step lest they should put their feet in the wrong direction. They will ask advice of their minister and difficult cases of moral principles will they bring before us, such as we hardly know how to answer. They have a holy timidity, a godly fear lest they should offend God. But alas, very soon the fine bloom upon these first ripe fruits is removed by the rough handling of the surrounding world! The sensitive plant of young piety turns into a willow in after life, too pliant, too easily yielding. It is sadly true that even a Christian will grow by degrees so callous that the sin which once startled him and made his blood run cold does not alarm him in the least. I can speak from my own experience. When first I heard an oath, I stood aghast and knew not where to hide myself. Yet now I can hear an imprecation or blasphemy against God and though a shudder still runs through my veins, there is not that solemn feeling, that intense anguish which I felt when first I heard such evil utterances. By degrees we get familiar with sin. The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds. The men who work in those huge vessels, the hammering of which causes immense noise, cannot, at first, sleep, for the continual din in their ears; but, byandby they, when they are used to it, think nothing of it; an so it is with sin. First, a little sin does startle us; soon we say, “Is it not a little one,” like Lot did of Zoar? Then there comes another, larger and then another, until by degrees we begin to regard it as but a little ill.
And then you know, there comes an unholy presumption and we think we stand. “We have not fallen,” we say, “we only did such a little thing. We have not gone astray. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main. We might have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it was consistent.” So we palliate sin. We throw a gloss over it, we try to hide it. Christian, beware! When you think lightly of sin, you have become presumptuous! Take heed, lest you should fall. Sin—a little thing? Is it not a poison? Who knows its deadliness? Sin—a little thing? Do not the little foxes spoil the vines? Sin—a little thing? Does not the tiny coral insect build a rock that wrecks a navy? Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones? Sin—a little thing? It girded His head with thorns that now is crowned with glory! Sin—a little thing? It made Him suffer anguish, bitterness and woe till He endured, “All that incarnate God could bear, with strength enough and none to spare.”
It is not a little thing, sirs! Could you weigh it in the scales of eternity, you would fly from it as from a serpent and abhor the least appearance of evil. But alas, loose thoughts of sin often beget a presumptuous spirit— and we think we stand!
A third reason is often low thoughts of the value of religion. We, none of us, value religion enough. Religious furor, as it is called, is laughed at everywhere. But I do not believe there is such a thing as religious furor at all. If a man could be so enthusiastic as to give his body to be burned at the stake—pour out his drops of blood and turn each drop into a life—and then let that life be slaughtered in perpetual martyrdom—he would not love his God too much! Oh, no, when we think that this world is but a narrow space, that time will soon be gone and we shall be in the forever of eternity. When we consider we must be either in hell or in heaven throughout a neverending state of immortality, how, sirs, can we love too much? How can we set too high a value on the im mortal soul? Can we ask too great a price for heaven? Can we think we do too much to serve that God who gave Himself for our sins?
Ah, no! And yet my friends, most of us do not sufficiently regard the value of religion. We cannot, any of us, estimate the soul rightly. We have nothing with which to compare it. Gold is sordid dust, diamonds are but small lumps of congealed air that can be made to melt away. We have nothing with which to compare the soul—therefore we cannot tell its value. It is because we do not know this, that we presume. Does the miser who loves his gold let it be scattered on the floor that his servant may steal it? Does he not hide it in some secret place where no eyes shall behold it? Day after day, night after night, he counts out his treasure because he loves it. Does the mother trust her baby by the riverside? Does she not, in her sleep, think of it? And when it is sick, will she leave it to the care of some poor nurse who may allow it to die? Oh, no! What we love, we will not wantonly throw away. What we esteem most precious, we will guard with the most anxious care!
So, if Christians knew the value of their souls, if they estimated religion at its proper rate, they never would presume. But low thoughts of Christ, low thoughts of God, mean thoughts of our souls’ eternal state— these things tend to make us carelessly secure. Take heed, therefore, of low ideas of the gospel, lest you be overtaken by the evil one!
But again, this presumption often springs from ignorance of what we are and where we stand. Many Christians have not yet learned what they are. It is true, the first teaching of God is to show us our own state but we do not know that thoroughly till many years after we have known Jesus Christ. The fountains of the great deep within our hearts are not broken up all at once.
The corruption of our soul is not developed in an hour. “Son of man,” said the angel of Ezekiel, “I will show you the abominations of Israel.” He then took him in at one door where he saw abominable things and stood aghast. “Son of man, I will show you greater abominations than these.” Then he takes him into another chamber and Ezekiel says, “Surely I have now seen the worst.” “No,” says the angel, “I will show you greater things than these.” So, all our lifelong the Holy Spirit reveals to us the horrid abomination of our hearts! I know there are some here who do not think anything about it—they think they are goodhearted creatures. Good hearts, have you? Good hearts? Jeremiah had a better heart than you, yet he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?” No, the black lesson cannot be learned in a night.
God alone knows the evil of the heart. And Young says, “God spares all eyes but His own that awful sight—the vision of a human heart.” If we could but see it, we would stand aghast. It is ignorance of this that makes us presume. We say, “I have a good nature, I have a good disposition. I have none of those hot and angry passions that some have, I can stand secure. I have not that dry, tinder heart that is on fire in a moment. My passions are weakened, my powers for evil are somewhat taken down and I may stand safely.” Ah, you little know that it is when you talk like this that you presume, O worm of the dust! You are not yet free from an evil nature, for sin and corruption re main in the heart even of the regenerate. And it is strangely true, though it appears a paradox, as Ralph Erskine said, that a Christian sometimes thinks himself—
“To good and evil bent and both a devil and a saint.”
There is such corruption in a Christian that while he is a saint in his life and justified through Christ, he seems a devil sometimes in imagination and a demon in the wishes and corruptions of his soul. Take heed, Christian, you have need to be upon the watch tower. You have a heart of unbelief—therefore watch both night and day!
But to finish this delineation of a presumptuous man. Pride is the most pregnant cause of presumption. In all its various shapes it is the fountain of carnal security. Sometimes it is pride of talent. God has endowed a man with gifts. He is able to stand before the multitude or to write for the many. He has a discerning mind, he has a judgment and such like things. Then he says, “As for the ignorant, those who have no talent, they may fall. My brother ought to take care—but look at me. How am I wrapped in grandeur!” And thus in his selfsatisfaction he thinks he stands. Ah, those are the men who fall! How many that flamed like comets in the sky of the religious world have rushed into space and been quenched in darkness! How many a man who has stood like a prophet before his fellows and who would exclaim as he wrapped himself in his conceit, “I, only I am alive. I am the only prophet of God.” And yet that only prophet fell! His lamp was quenched and his light put out in darkness. How many have boasted of their might and dignity and have said, “I have built this mighty Babylon,” but then they thought they stood and they fell at once. “Let him that thinks he stands,” with the proudest talents, “take heed lest he fall.” Others have the pride of grace.
That is a curious fact. But there is such a thing as being proud of grace. A man says, “I have great faith, I shall not fall. Poor LittleFaith may, but I never shall.” “I have fervent love,” says another man, “I can stand, there is no danger of my going astray. As for my brother over there, he is so cold and slow, he will fall, I dare say.” Says another, “I have a most burning hope of heaven and that hope will triumph. It will purge my soul from sense and sin, as Christ the Lord is pure. I am safe.” He who boasts of grace, has little grace to boast of! But there are some who do, who think their graces shall keep them, knowing not that the stream must flow constantly from the fountainhead, otherwise the bed of the brook shall soon be dry and you shall see the pebbles at the bottom. If a continuous stream of oil comes not to the lamp, though it burn brightly, today, it shall smoke tomorrow and noxious will be the scent. Take heed that you nei ther glory in your talents nor in your graces!
Many are still worse. They think they shall not fall because of their privileges. “I take the sacrament, I have been baptized in an orthodox manner, as written in God’s word. I attend suchandsuch a ministry. I am well fed. I am fat and flourishing in the courts of my God. If I were one of those starved creatures who hear a false gospel. I might possibly sin, but oh, our minister is the model of perfection! We are constantly fed and made fat—surely we shall stand.” Thus in the complacency of their privileges they run down others, exclaiming, “My mountain stands firm, I shall never be moved.” Take heed, presumption, take heed!
Pride comes before a fall—and a haughty spirit is the usher of destruction. Take heed, watch your footsteps, for where pride creeps in it is the worm at the root of the gourd, causing it to wither and die. “Let him that thinks he stands,” because of pride of talent, or grace, or privilege, “take heed lest he fall.”
I hope I have touched some here. I trust the lancet has been sharp. I have taken the scalpel and I hope I have discovered something. O you presumptuous ones! I speak to you and I shall do so while next I warn you of your danger.
I shall be more brief on the second point—THE DANGER. He who thinks he stands is in danger of a fall. The true Christian cannot possibly suffer a final fall, but he is very much disposed to a foul fall. Though the Christian shall not stumble so as to destroy his life, he may break his limbs. Though God has given His angels charge over him—to keep him in all his ways—yet there is no commission to keep him when he goes astray. And when he is astray he may thrust himself through with many sorrows.
I must now try and give you the reason why a man who thinks he stands is more exposed to the danger of falling than any other.
First, because such a man in the midst of temptation will be sure to be more or less careless. Make a man believe he is very strong and what will he do? The fight is thickening around him. Yet he has his sword in his scabbard. “Oh,” he says, “my arm is nimble and strong. I can draw it out and strike home.” So perhaps he lies down in the field, or slothfully sleeps in his tent. “For,” he says, “when I hear enemies approaching, such is my prowess and such my might that I can mow them down by thousands. You sentinels watch the weak! Go to the ReadytoHalts and the Fearings and awaken them. But I am a giant. And let me once get this old Toledo blade in my hand, it will cut through body and soul. Whenever I meet my enemies I shall be more than conqueror.” The man is careless in battle. He lifts up his helmet, as it is said Goliath did and then a stone pierces his forehead. He throws away his shield and then an arrow penetrates his flesh. He will put his sword into his scabbard—then the enemy smites him—and he is ill prepared to resist. The man who thinks he is strong, is off his guard. He is not ready to ward off the strokes of the evil one—and then the poison enters his soul.
Again, the man who thinks he stands will not be careful to keep out of the way of temptation, but rather will run into it. I remember seeing a man who was going to a place of worldly amusement—he was a professor of religion—and I called to him, “What are you doing there, Elijah?” “Why do you ask me such a question as that?” he asked. I said, “What are you doing here, Elijah? Are you going in there?” “Yes,” he replied, with some sort of blush, “but I can do that with impunity.” “I could not,” I said, “If I were there, I know I would commit sin. I would not care what people said about it—I always do as I like, as far as I believe it to be right. I leave the saying to anybody who likes to talk about me. But this is a place of danger and I could not go there with impunity.” “Ah,” he said, “I can. I have been, before, and I have had some sweet thoughts there. I find it enlarges the intellect. You are narrowminded. You do not get these good things. It is a rich treat I assure you.
I would go if I were you.” “No,” I said, “it would be dangerous for me—from what I hear, the name of Jesus is profaned there. And there is much said that is altogether contrary to the religion we believe. The persons who go there are none of the best and it will surely be said that birds of a feather flock together.” “Ah, well,” he replied, “perhaps you young men had better stay away. I am a strong man, I can go.” And off he went to the place of amusement. That man, sirs, was an apple of Sodom! He was a professor of religion. I guessed there was something rotten at the core from that very fact. And I found it so by experience, for the man was a downright sensualist even then. He wore a mask, he was a hypocrite and had none of the grace of God in his heart. Presumptuous men will say they can go into sin—they are so full of moral strength. But when a man tells you he is so good, always read his words backwards and understand him to mean that he is as bad as he can be. The selfconfident man is in danger of falling because he will even run into temptation in the confidence that he is strong and able to make his escape!
Another reason is that these strong men sometimes will not use the means of grace, and therefore, they fall. There are some persons here, who, very likely, never attend a place of worship. They do not profess to be religious and I am sure they would be astonished if I were to tell them that I know some professedly religious people, accepted in some church es as being true children of God, who yet make it a habit of staying away from the house of God. They conceive they are so advanced that they do not need it. You smile at such a thing as that. They boast such deep experience within. They have a volume of sweet sermons at home and they will stop and read them. They need not go to the house of God, for they are fat and flourishing. They conceit themselves that they have received food enough seven years ago, to last them the next ten years!
They imagine that old food will feed their souls now. These are your presumptuous men. They are not to be found at the Lord’s Table, eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ in the holy emblems of bread and wine. You do not see them in their closets. You do not find them searching the Scriptures with holy curiosity. They think they stand—they shall never be moved—they fancy that means are intended for weaker Christians. And leaving those means, they fall. They will not have the shoe to put upon the foot and, therefore, the flint cuts them. They will not put on the armor and, therefore, the enemy wounds them—sometimes wellnearun to death! In this deep quagmire of neglect of the means, many a haughty professor has been smothered.
Once more, the man who is selfconfident runs a fearful hazard, be cause God’s Spirit always leaves the proud. The gracious Spirit delights to dwell in low places. The Holy Dove came to Jordan. We read not that it ever rested on Bashan. The man upon the white horse rode among the myrtle trees—not among the cedars. The myrtle trees grew at the foot of the mountains; the cedars on the summit! God loves humility; he who walks with fear and trembling, fearing lest he should go astray—that man the Spirit loves. But when once pride creeps in and the man declares, “Now I am in no danger,” away goes the Dove. It flies to heaven and will have nothing to do with him. Proud souls, you quench the Spirit. You arrogant men, you grieve the Holy Spirit. He leaves every heart where pride dwells—that evil spirit of Lucifer He abhors. He will not rest with it. He will not tarry in its company. Here is your greatest danger, you proud ones—that the Spirit leaves those who deny their entire dependence on Him.
The third point is THE COUNSEL. I have been expounding the text—now I want to enforce it. I would, if my Lord would allow me, speak home to your souls and so picture the danger of a presumptuous man, that I would make you all cry out to heaven that sooner might you die than presume. That sooner might you be found among those who lie prostrate at the foot of Christ, trembling all their lives, than among those who think they stand and, therefore, fall! Christian, the counsel of Scripture is—“Take heed.”
First, take heed, because so many have fallen. My brothers and sisters, could I take you into the wards of that hospital where lie sick and wounded Christians, I could make you tremble. I would show you one, who, by a sin that occupied him not a single moment, is so sorely broken that his life is one continued scene of misery. I could show you another one, a brilliant genius, who served his God with energy who is now—not a priest of the devil it is true, but almost that—sitting down in despair because of his sin. I could point you to another person who once stood in the church, pious and consistent, but who now comes up to the same house of prayer as if he were ashamed of himself. He sits in some remote corner and is no longer treated with the kindness he formerly received— the brothers and sisters, themselves, being suspicious because he so greatly deceived them and brought such dishonor upon the cause of Christ. Oh, do you know the sad pain which those who fall, endure? Could you tell how many have fallen (and have not perished, it is true), but still have dragged themselves along in misery throughout their entire existence, I am sure you would take heed. Come with me to the foot of the mountain of presumption.
See there the maimed and writhing forms of many who once soared with eagles’ wings in the airy regions of self confidence, yet there they lie with their bones broken and their peace destroyed. There lies one who has immortal life within him. See how full of pain he appears. And he looks like a mass of helpless matter. He is alive, it is true, but just barely alive. You know not how some of those enter heaven who are saved, “so as by fire.” One man walks to heaven. He keeps consistent. God is with him and he is happy all his journey through. Another says, “I am strong, I shall not fall.” He runs aside to pluck a flower.
He sees something which the devil has laid in his way. He is caught, first, in this sin and then in that trap. And when he comes near the river, instead of finding before him that stream of nectar of which the dying Christian drinks, he sees fire through which he has to pass, blazing upon the surface of the water! The river is on fire and as he enters it, he is scorched and burned. The hand of God is lifted up saying, “Come on, come on.” But as he dips his foot in the stream, he finds the fire kindling around him and though the hand clutches him by the hair of the head and drags him through, he stands upon the shore of heaven and cries, “I am a monument of divine mercy, for I have been saved so as by fire.” Oh, do you want to be saved by fire, Christians? Would you not rather enter heaven singing songs of praises? Would you not glorify Him on earth and then give your last testimony with, “Victory, victory, victory, unto Him that loved us”? Would you not rather shut your eyes on earth and open them in heaven? If you would do so, presume not! “Let him that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
2. Once more, my brothers and sisters, take heed, because a fall will so much damage the cause of Christ. Nothing has hurt religion onehalf, or one thousandth part, so much as the fall of God’s people. Ah, when a true Believer sins, how will the world point at him. “That man was a deacon, but he knows how to charge exorbitantly. That man was a professor, but he can cheat as well as his neighbors. That man is a minister and he lives in sin.” Oh, when the mighty fall—it is, “rejoice fir tree, for the cedar has fallen”—how does the world exult! They chuckle over our sins, they rejoice over our faults. They fly around us and if they can see one point where we are vulnerable, how they will say, “See these holy people are no better than they should be.” Because there is one hypocrite, men set down all the rest the same. I heard one man say, a little while ago, that he did not believe there was a true Christian living because he had found out so many hypocrites. I reminded him that there could be no hypocrites if there were no genuine ones. No one would try to forge bank notes if there were no genuine ones. No one would think of passing a bad sovereign if there were no sterling coin. So the fact of their being some hypocrites proves that there are some genuine characters. But let those who are so, take heed. Let them always, in their conduct, have the ring of true gold.
Let your conversation be such as to become the gospel of Christ—lest by any means the enemy get the advantage over us and slander the name of Jesus. And especially is this incumbent upon the members of our own denomination, for it is often said that the doctrines we believe have a tendency to lead us to sin. I have heard it asserted most positively that those high doctrines which we love and which we find in the Scriptures, are licentious ones! I do not know who has the hardihood to make that assertion when they consider that the holiest of men have been believers in them. I ask the man who dares to say that Calvinism is a licentious religion, what he thinks of the character of Augustine, or Calvin, or Whitefield who, in successive ages, were the great exponents of the system of grace! Or what will he say of those Puritans whose works are full of them? Had a man been an Arminian in those days, he would have been accounted the vilest heretic breathing! But now we are looked upon as the heretics and they the orthodox! We have gone back to the old school, we can trace our descent from the apostles. It is that vein of free grace running through the sermonizing of Baptists which has saved us as a denomination.
Were it not for that, we would not stand where we are. We can run a golden link from here up to Jesus Christ Himself through a holy succession of mighty fathers who all held these glorious truths! And we can say to them, where will you find holier and better men in the world? We are not ashamed to say of ourselves that however much we may be maligned and slandered, you will not find a people who will live closer to God than those who believe that they are saved, not by their works, but by free grace alone. But, oh, you Believers in free grace, be careful. Our enemies hate the doctrine. And if one falls, “Ah there,” they say, “see the tendency of your principles?” No, we might reply, see what is the tendency of your doctrine! The exception in our case proves the rule is true, that after all, our gospel does lead us to holiness. Of all men, those have the most selfless piety, the most sublime reverence, the most ardent devotion who believe that they are saved by grace, without works, through faith and that not of themselves, it is the gift of God! Christian take heed, lest by any means Christ should be crucified afresh and should be put unto an open shame.
And now, what more can I say? Oh you, my beloved, you, my brothers and sisters, think not that you stand, lest you should fall. Oh you fellow heirs of everlasting life and glory—we are marching along through this weary pilgrimage. And I, whom God has called to preach to you, would turn affectionately to you little ones and say, take heed lest you fall. My brothers and sisters, stumble not. There lies the sin, there the snare. I am come to gather the stones out of the road and take away the stumbling blocks. But what can I do unless, with due care and caution, you yourselves walk guardedly? Oh, my brothers and sisters, be much more in prayer than ever. Spend more time in pious adoration. Read the Scriptures more earnestly and constantly. Watch your lives more carefully. Live nearer to God. Take the best examples for your pattern. Let your conversation be fragrant of heaven. Let your hearts be perfumed with affection for men’s souls. So live that men may take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus and have learned of Him. And when that hap py day shall come when He whom you love shall say, “Come up higher,” let it be your happiness to hear Him say, “Come My beloved, you have fought a good fight, you have finished your course and henceforth there is laid up for you a crown of righteousness that fades not away.” On, Christian, proceed with care and caution! On with holy fear and trembling!
On yet, with faith and confidence, for you shall not fall. Read the next verse of this very chapter—“He will not allow you to be tempted above that which you are able to bear, but will, with the temptation, also make a way to escape.”
But I have some here, perhaps, who may never hear my voice again. And I will not let my congregation go, God helping me, without telling them the way of salvation. Sirs, there are some of you who know you have not believed in Christ. If you were to die, where you now sit you have no hope that you would rise among the glorified in bliss. How many are there here who, if their hearts could speak, must testify that they are without God, without Christ, and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel? Oh, let me tell you, then, what you must do to be saved. Does your heart beat high? Do you grieve over your sins? Do you repent of your iniquities? Will you turn unto the living God? If so, this is the way of salvation—“Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.”
I cannot reverse my Master’s order—He says, “believes,” and then, “baptized.” And He tells me that, “He that believes not shall be damned.” Oh, my Hearers, your works cannot save you! Though I have spoken to Christians and exhorted them to live in good works, I talk not so to you. I ask you not to get the flower before you have the seed. I will not bid you get the roof of your house before you lay the foundation! Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. Whoever here will now cast himself as a guilty worm, flat on Jesus—whoever will throw himself into the arms of Everlasting Love—that man or woman shall be accepted! They shall go through that door justified and forgiven, with their souls as safe as if they were in heaven, without the danger of ever being lost. All this is through belief in Christ!
Surely you need no argument. If I thought you did, I would use it. I would stand and weep till you came to Christ if I thought I was strong enough to fetch a soul to Jesus. If I thought that moral persuasion could win you, I would go round to each of your seats and beg of you in God’s name to repent. But since I cannot do that, I have done my duty when I have prophesied to the dry bones. Remember, we shall meet again. I boast of neither eloquence nor talent and I cannot understand why you come here. I only speak right on and tell you what I feel. But mark me— when we meet before God’s bar—however ill I may have spoken, I shall be able to say that I said to you, “Believe on the name of Jesus and you shall be saved.” Why will you die, O house of Israel? Is hell so sweet, is everlasting torment so much to be desired that therefore you can let go of the glories of heaven, the bliss of eternity? Men, are you to live forever? Or, are you to die like brutes? “Live!” you say. Well, then, are you not desirous to live in a state of bliss? Oh may God grant you grace to turn to Him with full purpose of heart! Come, guilty sinner, come! God help you to come and I shall be well repaid if but one soul is added to the visible fold of Jesus through anything I may have said. Amen.