CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 2 December The Heart of the Gospel By Dan Cartwright Gospel, Sin, Repentance 0 Comment The Heart of the Gospel: Sin And Repentance SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret) Chairman, Board of Directors Te Apostle Paul had some harsh words to the church in Galatia for those who would turn away from the Gospel of grace and return to trusting in human works for salvation: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV) Paul clearly defined the message of the gospel to the church in Corinth with these words: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV) Long before Paul was converted and began to preach the gospel and establish churches, John the Baptist laid the groundwork for the coming of Christ: In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV) Jesus began his earthly ministry with these words: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 ESV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV) When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, he commissioned them with these words: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47 ESV) Well, so what? Here's “what”: Who am I, who are we, who name the Name of Christ, to change the message, or omit what Scripture tells us is the core and heart of the gospel message? How dare we presume that a “changed life” is the Gospel? How dare we presume that making Jesus “attractive,” as the one who merely solves all of life's little problems, is spreading the gospel that saves a person from Hell? How dare we presume that love, love, love, without including the issue of sin and repentance, IS even love at all? Who am I if I presume any of the above? Who am I if I don't hold as paramount, and address as of “first importance,” that Jesus died for our SIN, and if I don't speak of the need to REPENT from SIN? I'll tell you who I am — I am a spiritual coward, a disgrace to evangelism, and a traitor to the One who saved me! And at the end of the day, I am still a sinner — a sinner saved by the amazing grace of a sovereign God! The Heart of the Gospel: Sin And Repentance SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret) Chairman, Board of Directors Te Apostle Paul had some harsh words to the church in Galatia for those who would turn away from the Gospel of grace and return to trusting in human works for salvation: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV) Paul clearly defined the message of the gospel to the church in Corinth with these words: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV) Long before Paul was converted and began to preach the gospel and establish churches, John the Baptist laid the groundwork for the coming of Christ: In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV) Jesus began his earthly ministry with these words: From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 ESV) Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV) When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, he commissioned them with these words: Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47 ESV) Well, so what? Here's “what”: Who am I, who are we, who name the Name of Christ, to change the message, or omit what Scripture tells us is the core and heart of the gospel message? How dare we presume that a “changed life” is the Gospel? How dare we presume that making Jesus “attractive,” as the one who merely solves all of life's little problems, is spreading the gospel that saves a person from Hell? How dare we presume that love, love, love, without including the issue of sin and repentance, IS even love at all? Who am I if I presume any of the above? Who am I if I don't hold as paramount, and address as of “first importance,” that Jesus died for our SIN, and if I don't speak of the need to REPENT from SIN? I'll tell you who I am — I am a spiritual coward, a disgrace to evangelism, and a traitor to the One who saved me! And at the end of the day, I am still a sinner — a sinner saved by the amazing grace of a sovereign God! Related Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19 Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ, Part 19 Comers Ofttimes Afraid That Christ Will Not Receive Them OBSERVATION SECOND.—I come now to the second observation propounded to be spoken to, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. I told you that this observation is implied in the text; and I gather it, First, From the largeness and openness of the promise: “I will in no wise cast out.” For had there not been a proneness in us to “fear casting out,” Christ needed not to have, as it were, waylaid our fear, as he doth by this great and strange expression, “In no wise;” “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” There needed not, as I may say, such a promise to be invented by the wisdom of heaven, and worded at such a rate, as it were on purpose to dash in pieces at one blow all the objections of coming sinners, if they were not prone to admit of such objections, to the discouraging of their own souls. For this word, “in no wise,” cutteth the throat of all objections; and it was dropped by the Lord Jesus for that very end; and to help the faith that is mixed with unbelief. And it is, as it were, the sum of all promises; neither can any objection be made upon the unworthiness that thou findest in thee, that this promise will not assoil. But I am a great sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am an old sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am a hard-hearted sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I am a backsliding sinner, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have served Satan all my days, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have sinned against light, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have sinned against mercy, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. But I have no good thing to bring with me, sayest thou. “I will in no wise cast out,” says Christ. Thus I might go on to the end of things, and show you, that still this promise was provided to answer all objections, and doth answer them. But I say, what need it be, if they that are coming to Jesus Christ are not sometimes, yea, oftentimes, heartily afraid, “that Jesus Christ will cast them out?” Second, I will give you now two instances that seem to imply the truth of this observation. In the ninth of Matthew, at the second verse, you read of a man that was sick of the palsy; and he was coming to Jesus Christ, being borne upon a bed by his friends: he also was coming himself, and that upon another account than any of his friends were aware of; even for the pardon of sins, and the salvation of his soul. Now, so soon as ever he was come into the presence of Christ, Christ bids him “be of good cheer.” It seems then, his heart was fainting; but what was the cause of his fainting? Not his bodily infirmity, for the cure of which his friends did bring him to Christ; but the guilt and burden of his sins, for the pardon of which himself did come to him; therefore he proceeds, “Be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” I say, Christ saw him sinking in his mind, about how it would go with his most noble part; and therefore, first, he applies himself to him upon that account. For though his friends had faith enough as to the cure of the body, yet he himself had little enough as to the cure of his soul: therefore Christ takes him up as a man falling down, saying, “Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” That about the Prodigal seems pertinent also to this matter: “When he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father.” Heartily spoken; but how did he perform his promise? I think not so well as he promised to do; and my ground for my thoughts is, because his father, so soon as he was come to him, fell upon his neck and kissed him; implying, methinks, as if the prodigal by this time was dejected in his mind; and therefore his father gives him the most sudden and familiar token of reconciliation. And kisses were of old time often used to remove doubts and fears. Thus Laban and Esau kiss Jacob. Thus Joseph kissed his brethren; and thus also David kissed Absalom (Gen 31:55; 33:1–4; 48:9, 10; 2 Sam 14:33). It is true, as I said, at first setting out, he spake heartily, as sometimes sinners also do in their beginning to come to Jesus Christ; but might not he, yea, in all probability he had, between the first step he took, and the last, by which he accomplished that journey, many a thought, both this way and that; as whether his father would receive him or no? As thus: I said, “I would go to my Father.” But how, if when I come at him he should ask me, Where I have all this while been? What must I say then? Also, if he ask me, What is become of the portion of goods that he gave me? What shall I say then? If he asks me, Who have been my companions? What shall I say then? If he also shall ask me, What hath been my preferment in all the time of my absence from him? What shall I say then? Yea, and if he ask me, Why I came home no sooner? What shall I say then? Thus, I say, might he reason with himself, and being conscious to himself, that he could give but a bad answer to any of these interrogatories, no marvel if he stood in need first of all of a kiss from his father’s lips. For had he answered the first in truth, he must say, I have been a haunter of taverns and ale-houses; and as for my portion, I spent it in riotous living; my companions were whores and drabs; as for my preferment, the highest was, that I became a hog-herd; and as for my not coming home till now, could I have made shift to have staid abroad any longer, I had not lain at thy feet for mercy now. I say, these things considered, and considering, again, how prone poor man is to give way, when truly awakened, to despondings and heart misgivings, no marvel if he did sink in his mind, between the time of his first setting out, and that of his coming to his Father. Third, But, thirdly, methinks I have for the confirmation of this truth the consent of all the saints that are under heaven, to wit, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ, are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. Question. But what should be the reason? I will answer to this question thus: 1. It is not for want of the revealed will of God, that manifesteth grounds for the contrary, for of that there is a sufficiency; yea, the text itself hath laid a sufficient foundation for encouragement, for them that are coming to Jesus Christ. “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” 2. It is not for want of any invitation to come, for that is full and plain. “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt 11:28). 3. Neither is it for want of a manifestation of Christ’s willingness to receive, as those texts above named, with that which follows, declareth, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink” (John 7:37). 4. It is not for want of exceeding great and precious promises to receive them that come. “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:17, 18). 5. It is not for want of solemn oath and engagement to save them that come. “For-because he could swear by no greater, he swear by himself-that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us” (Heb 6:13–18). 6. Neither is it for want of great examples of God’s mercy, that have come to Jesus Christ, of which we read most plentifully in the Word. Therefore, it must be concluded, it is for want of that which follows. What it is that prevents the Coming to Christ First, It is for want of the knowledge of Christ. Thou knowest but little of the grace and kindness that is in the heart of Christ; thou knowest but little of the virtue and merit of his blood; thou knowest but little of the willingness that is in his heart to save thee; and this is the reason of the fear that ariseth in thy heart, and that causeth thee to doubt that Christ will not receive thee. Unbelief is the daughter of Ignorance. Therefore Christ saith, “O fools, and slow of heart to believe” (Luke 24:25). Slowness of heart to believe, flows from thy foolishness in the things of Christ; this is evident to all that are acquainted with themselves, and are seeking after Jesus Christ. The more ignorance, the more unbelief. The more knowledge of Christ, the more faith. “They that know thy name will put their trust in thee” (Psa 9:10). He, therefore, that began to come to Christ but the other day, and hath yet but little knowledge of him, he fears that Christ will not receive him. But he that hath been longer acquainted with him, he “is strong, and hath overcome the wicked one” (1 John 2:13). When Joseph’s brethren came into Egypt to buy corn, it is said, “Joseph knew his brethren, but his brethren knew not him.” What follows? Why, great mistrust of heart about their speeding well; especially, if Joseph did but answer them roughly, calling them spies, and questioning their truth and the like. And observe it, so long as their ignorance about their brother remained with them, whatsoever Joseph did, still they put the worse sense upon it. For instance, Joseph upon a time bids the steward of his house bring them home, to dine with him, to dine even in Joseph’s house. And how is this resented by them? Why, they are afraid. “And the men were afraid, because they were brought unto” their brother “Joseph’s house.” And they said, He seeketh occasion against us, and will fall upon us, and take us for bondmen, and our asses (Gen 42, 43). What! afraid to go to Joseph’s house? He was their brother; he intended to feast them; to feast them, and to feast with them. Ah! but they were ignorant that he was their brother. And so long as their ignorance lasted, so long their fear terrified them. Just thus it is with the sinner that but of late is coming to Jesus Christ. He is ignorant of the love and pity that is in Christ to coming sinners. Therefore he doubts, therefore he fears, therefore his heart misgives him. Coming sinner, Christ inviteth thee to dine and sup with him. He inviteth thee to a banquet of wine, yea, to come into his wine-cellar, and his banner over thee shall be love (Rev 3:20; Song 2:5). But I doubt it, says the sinner: but, it is answered, he calls thee, invites thee to his banquet, flagons, apples; to his wine, and to the juice of his pomegranate. “O, I fear, I doubt, I mistrust, I tremble in expectation of the contrary!” Come out of the man, thou dastardly ignorance! Be not afraid, sinner, only believe; “He that cometh to Christ he will in no wise cast out.” Let the coming sinner, therefore, seek after more of the good knowledge of Jesus Christ. Press after it, seek it as silver, and dig for it as for hid treasure. This will embolden thee; this will make thee wax stronger and stronger. “I know whom I have believed,” I know him, said Paul; and what follows? Why, “and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him, against that day” (2 Tim 1:12). What had Paul committed to Jesus Christ? The answer is, He had committed to him his soul. But why did he commit his soul to him? Why, because he knew him. He knew him to be faithful, to be kind. He knew he would not fail him, nor forsake him; and therefore he laid his soul down at his feet, and committed it to him, to keep against that day. But, Second, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may be also a consequent of thy earnest and strong desires after thy salvation by him. For this I observe, that strong desires to have, are attended with strong fears of missing. What man most sets his heart upon, and what his desires are most after, he ofttimes most fears he shall not obtain. So the man, the ruler of the synagogue, had a great desire that his daughter should live; and that desire was attended with fear, that she should not. Wherefore, Christ saith unto him, “Be not afraid” (Mark 5:36). Suppose a young man should have his heart much set upon a virgin to have her to wife, if ever he fears he shall not obtain her, it is when he begins to love; now, thinks he, somebody will step in betwixt my love and the object of it; either they will find fault with my person, my estate, my conditions, or something! Now thoughts begin to work; she doth not like me, or something. And thus it is with the soul at first coming to Jesus Christ, thou lovest him, and thy love produceth jealousy, and that jealousy ofttimes begets fears. Now thou fearest the sins of thy youth, the sins of thine old age, the sins of thy calling, the sins of thy Christian duties, the sins of thine heart, or something; thou thinkest something or other will alienate the heart and affections of Jesus Christ from thee; thou thinkest he sees something in thee, for the sake of which he will refuse thy soul. But be content, a little more knowledge of him will make thee take better heart; thy earnest desires shall not be attended with such burning fears; thou shalt hereafter say, “This is my infirmity” (Psa 77:10). Thou art sick of love, a very sweet disease, and yet every disease has some weakness attending of it: yet I wish this distemper, if it be lawful to call it so, was more epidemical. Die of this disease I would gladly do; it is better than life itself, though it be attended with fears. But thou criest, I cannot obtain: well, be not too hasty in making conclusions. If Jesus Christ had not put his finger in at the hole of the lock, thy bowels would not have been troubled for him (Song 5:4). Mark how the prophet hath it, “They shall walk after the Lord; he shall roar like a lion; when he shall roar, then the children shall tremble from the west, they shall tremble as a bird out of Egypt, and as a dove out of the land of Assyria” (Hosea 11:10, 11). When God roars (as ofttimes the coming soul hears him roar), what man that is coming can do otherwise than tremble? (Amos 3:8). But trembling he comes: “He sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas” (Acts 16:29). Should you ask him that we mentioned but now, How long is it since you began to fear you should miss of this damsel you love so? The answer will be, Ever since I began to love her. But did you not fear it before? No, nor should I fear it now, but that I vehemently love her. Come, sinner, let us apply it: How long is it since thou began to fear that Jesus Christ will not receive thee? Thy answer is, Ever since I began to desire that he would save my soul. I began to fear, when I began to come; and the more my heart burns in desires after him, the more I feel my heart fear I shall not be saved by him. See now, did not I tell thee that thy fears were but the consequence of strong desires? Well, fear not, coming sinner, thousands of coming souls are in thy condition, and yet they will get safe into Christ’s bosom: “Say,” says Christ, “to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not; your God will come and save you” (Isa 35:4; 63:1). Third, Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee may arise from a sense of thine own unworthiness. Thou seest what a poor, sorry, wretched, worthless creature thou art; and seeing this, thou fearest Christ will not receive thee. Alas, sayest thou, I am the vilest of all men; a town-sinner, a ringleading sinner! I am not only a sinner myself, but have made others twofold worse the children of hell also. Besides, now I am under some awakenings and stirrings of mind after salvation, even now I find my heart rebellious, carnal, hard, treacherous, desperate, prone to unbelief, to despair: it forgetteth the Word; it wandereth; it runneth to the ends of the earth. There is not, I am persuaded, one in all the world that hath such a desperate wicked heart as mine is; my soul is careless to do good, but none more earnest to do that which is evil. Can such a one as I am, live in glory? Can a holy, a just, and a righteous God, once think (with honour to his name) of saving such a vile creature as I am? I fear it. Will he show wonders to such a dead dog as I am? I doubt it. I am cast out to the loathing of my person, yea, I loath myself; I stink in mine own nostrils. How can I then be accepted by a holy and sin-abhorring God? (Psa 38:5–7; Eze 11; 20:42, 44). Saved I would be; and who is there that would not, were they in my condition? Indeed, I wonder at the madness and folly of others, when I see them leap and skip so carelessly about the mouth of hell! Bold sinner, how darest thou tempt God, by laughing at the breach of his holy law? But alas! they are not so bad one way, but I am worse another: I wish myself were anybody but myself; and yet here again, I know not what to wish. When I see such as I believe are coming to Jesus Christ, O I bless them! But I am confounded in myself, to see how unlike, as I think, I am to every good man in the world. They can read, hear, pray, remember, repent, be humble, do everything better than so vile a wretch as I. I, vile wretch, am good for nothing but to burn in hell-fire, and when I think of that, I am confounded too! Thus the sense of unworthiness creates and heightens fears in the hearts of them that are coming to Jesus Christ; but indeed it should not; for who needs the physician but the sick? or who did Christ come into the world to save, but the chief of sinners? (Mark 2:17; 1 Tim 1:15). Wherefore, the more thou seest thy sins, the faster fly thou to Jesus Christ. And let the sense of thine own unworthiness prevail with thee yet to go faster. As it is with the man that carrieth his broken arm in a sling to the bone-setter, still as he thinks of his broken arm, and as he feels the pain and anguish, he hastens his pace to the man. And if Satan meets thee, and asketh, Whither goest thou? tell him thou art maimed, and art going to the Lord Jesus. If he objects thine own unworthiness, tell him, That even as the sick seeketh the physician; as he that hath broken bones seeks him that can set them; so thou art going to Jesus Christ for cure and healing for thy sin sick soul. But it ofttimes happeneth to him that flies for his life, he despairs of escaping, and therefore delivers himself up into the hand of the pursuer. But up, up, sinner; be of good cheer, Christ came to save the unworthy ones: be not faithless, but believe. Come away, man, the Lord Jesus calls thee, saying, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Fourth. Thy fear that Christ will not receive thee, may arise from a sense of the exceeding mercy of being saved; sometimes salvation is in the eyes of him that desires so great, so huge, so wonderful a thing, that the very thoughts of the excellency of it, engenders unbelief about obtaining it, in the heart of those that unfeignedly desire it. “Seemeth it to you,” saith David, “a light thing to be a king’s son-in-law?” (1 Sam 18:23). So the thoughts of the greatness and glory of the thing propounded, as heaven, eternal life, eternal glory, to be with God, and Christ, and angels; these are great things, things too good, saith the soul that is little in his own eyes; things too rich, saith the soul that is truly poor in spirit, for me. Besides, the Holy Ghost hath a way to greaten heavenly things to the understanding of the coming sinner; yea, and at the same time to greaten, too, the sin and unworthiness of that sinner. Now the soul staggeringly wonders, saying, What! to be made like angels, like Christ, to live in eternal bliss, joy, and felicity! This is for angels, and for them that can walk like angels! If a prince, a duke, an earl, should send (by the hand of his servant) for some poor, sorry, beggarly scrub, to take her for his master to wife, and the servant should come and say, My lord and master, such an one hath sent me to thee, to take thee to him to wife; he is rich, beautiful, and of excellent qualities; he is loving, meek, humble, well-spoken, &c. What now would this poor, sorry, beggarly creature think? What would she say? or how would she frame an answer? When king David sent to Abigail upon this account, and though she was a rich woman, yet she said, “Behold, let thine handmaid be a servant to wash the feet of the servants of my lord” (1 Sam 25:40, 41). She was confounded, she could not well tell what to say, the offer was so great, beyond what could in reason be expected. But suppose this great person should second his suit, and send to this sorry creature again, what would she say now? Would she not say, You mock me? But what if he affirms that he is in good earnest, and that his lord must have her to wife; yea, suppose he should prevail upon her to credit his message, and to address herself for her journey; yet, behold every thought of her pedigree confounds her; also her sense of want of beauty makes her ashamed; and if she doth but think of being embraced, the unbelief that is mixed with that thought whirls her into tremblings; and now she calls herself fool, for believing the messenger, and thinks not to go; if she thinks of being bold, she blushes; and the least thought that she shall be rejected, when she comes at him, makes her look as if she would give up the ghost. And is it a wonder, then, to see a soul that is drowned in the sense of glory and a sense of its own nothingness, to be confounded in itself, and to fear that the glory apprehended is too great, too good, and too rich, for such an one? That thing, heaven and eternal glory, is so great, and I that would have it, so small, so sorry a creature, that the thoughts of obtaining it confounds me. Thus, I say, doth the greatness of the things desired, quite dash and overthrow the mind of the desirer. O, it is too big! it is too big! it is too great a mercy! But, coming sinner, let me reason with thee. Thou sayest, it is too big, too great. Well, will things that are less satisfy thy soul? Will a less thing than heaven, than glory and eternal life, answer thy desires? No, nothing less; and yet I fear they are too big, and too good for me, ever to obtain. Well, as big and as good as they are, God giveth them to such as thou; they are not too big for God to give; no, not too big to give freely. Be content; let God give like himself; he is that eternal God, and giveth like himself. When kings give, they do not use to give as poor men do. Hence it is said, that Nabal made a feast in his house like the feast of a king; and again, “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto David” (1 Sam 25:36; 2 Sam 24:23). Now, God is a great king, let him give like a king; nay, let him give like himself, and do thou receive like thyself. He hath all, and thou hast nothing. God told his people of old, that he would save them in truth and in righteousness, and that they should return to, and enjoy the land, which before, for their sins, had spewed them out; and then adds, under a supposition of their counting the mercy too good, or too big, “If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech 8:6). As who should say, they are now in captivity, and little in their own eyes; therefore they think the mercy of returning to Canaan is a mercy too marvellously big for them to enjoy; but if it be so in their eyes, it is not so in mine; I will do for them like God, if they will but receive my bounty like sinners. Coming sinner, God can give his heavenly Canaan, and the glory of it, unto thee; yea, none ever had them but as a gift, a free gift. He hath given us his Son, “How shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom 8:32). It was not the worthiness of Abraham, or Moses, or David or Peter, or Paul, but the mercy of God, that made them inheritors of heaven. If God thinks thee worthy, judge not thyself unworthy; but take it, and be thankful. And it is a good sign he intends to give thee, if he hath drawn out thy heart to ask. “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble; thou wilt prepare their heart; thou wilt cause thine ear to hear” (Psa 10:17). When God is said to incline his ear, it implies an intention to bestow the mercy desired. Take it therefore; thy wisdom will be to receive, not sticking at thy own unworthiness. It is said, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth up the beggar from the dunghill, to set them among princes, and to make them inherit the throne of glory.” Again, “He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, and lifteth the needy out of the dunghill, that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people” (1 Sam 2:8; Psa 113:7, 8). You see also when God made a wedding for his Son, he called not the great, nor the rich, nor the mighty; but the poor, the maimed, the halt, and the blind (Matt 12; Luke 14). Fifth. Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from the hideous roaring of the devil, who pursues thee. He that hears him roar, must be a mighty Christian, if he can at that time deliver himself from fear. He is called a roaring lion; and then to allude to that in Isaiah, “If one look” into them, they have “darkness and sorrow, and the light is darkened in the heavens thereof” (1 Peter 5:8; Isa 5:3). [Two of the devil’s objections.]—There are two things among many that Satan useth to roar out after them that are coming to Jesus Christ. 1. That they are not elected. Or, 2. That they have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost. To both these I answer briefly— 1. [Election.]—Touching election, out of which thou fearest thou art excluded. Why, coming sinner, even the text itself affordeth thee help against this doubt, and that by a double argument. (1.) That coming to Christ is by virtue of the gift, promise, and drawing of the Father; but thou art a-coming; therefore God hath given thee, promised thee, and is drawing thee to Jesus Christ. Coming sinner, hold to this; and when Satan beginneth to roar again, answer, But I feel my heart moving after Jesus Christ; but that would not be, if it were not given by promise, and drawing to Christ by the power of the Father. (2.) Jesus Christ hath promised, “That him that cometh to him he will in no wise cast out.” And if he hath said it, will he not make it good, I mean even thy salvation? For, as I have said already, not to cast out, is to receive and admit to the benefit of salvation. If then the Father hath given thee, as is manifest by thy coming; and if Christ will receive thee, thou coming soul, as it is plain he will, because he hath said, “He will in no wise cast out;” then be confident, and let those conclusions, that as naturally flow from the text as light from the sun, or water from the fountain, stay thee. If Satan therefore objecteth, But thou art not elected; answer, But I am coming, Satan, I am coming; and that I could not be, but that the Father draws me; and I am coming to such a Lord Jesus, as will in no wise cast me out. Further, Satan, were I not elect, the Father would not draw me, nor would the Son so graciously open his bosom to me. I am persuaded, that not one of the nonelect shall ever be able to say, no, not in the day of judgment, I did sincerely come to Jesus Christ. Come they may, feignedly, as Judas and Simon Magus did; but that is not our question. Therefore, O thou honest-hearted coming sinner, be not afraid, but come. 2. [Of the sin against the Holy Ghost.]—As to the second part of the objection, about sinning the sin against the Holy Ghost, the same argument overthrows that also. But I will argue thus: (1.) Coming to Christ is by virtue of a special gift of the Father; but the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin; therefore thou that art coming hast not committed that sin. That the Father giveth no such gift to them that have sinned that sin is evident—(a.) Because such have sinned themselves out of God’s favour; “They shall never have forgiveness” (Matt 12:32). But it is a special favour of God to give unto a man, to come to Jesus Christ; because thereby he obtaineth forgiveness. Therefore he that cometh hath not sinned that sin. (b.) They that have sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost, have sinned themselves out of an interest in the sacrifice of Christ’s body and blood; “There remaineth [for such] no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb 10:26). But God giveth not grace to any of them to come to Christ, that have no share in the sacrifice of his body and blood. Therefore, thou that art coming to him, hast not sinned that sin. (2.) Coming to Christ is by the special drawing of the Father; “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44). But the Father draweth not him to Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness by his blood; therefore they that are coming to Jesus Christ have not committed that sin, because he hath allotted them forgiveness by his blood. That the Father cannot draw them to Jesus Christ, for whom he hath not allotted forgiveness of sins, is manifest to sense: for that would be a plain mockery, a flam, neither becoming his wisdom, justice, holiness, nor goodness. (3.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under the promise of forgiveness and salvation. But it is impossible that he that hath sinned that sin should ever be put under a promise of these. Therefore, he that hath sinned that sin can never have heart to come to Jesus Christ. (4.) Coming to Jesus Christ lays a man under his intercession. “For he ever liveth to make intercession for them that come” (Heb 7:25). Therefore, he that is coming to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned that sin. Christ has forbidden his people to pray for them that have sinned that sin; and, therefore, will not pray for them himself, but he prays for them that come. (5.) He that hath sinned that sin, Christ is to him of no more worth than is a man that is dead; “For he hath crucified to himself the Son of God;” yea, and hath also counted his precious blood as the blood of an unholy thing. (Heb 6; 10) Now, he that hath this low esteem of Christ will never come to him for life; but the coming man has an high esteem of his person, blood, and merits. Therefore, he that is coming has not committed that sin. (6.) If he that has sinned this sin might yet come to Jesus Christ, then must the truth of God be overthrown; which saith in one place, “He hath never forgiveness;” and in another, “I will in no wise cast him out.” Therefore, that he may never have forgiveness, he shall never have heart to come to Jesus Christ. It is impossible that such an one should be renewed, either to or by repentance (Heb 6). Wherefore, never trouble thy head nor heart about this matter; he that cometh to Jesus Christ cannot have sinned against the Holy Ghost. Sixth, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from thine own folly, in inventing, yea, in thy chalking out to God, a way to bring thee home to Jesus Christ. Some souls that are coming to Jesus Christ are great tormentors of themselves upon this account; they conclude, that if their coming to Jesus Christ is right, they must needs be brought home thus and thus. As to instance: 1. Says one, If God be bringing of me to Jesus Christ, then will he load me with the guilt of sin till he makes me roar again. 2. If God be indeed a-bringing me home to Jesus Christ, then must I be assaulted with dreadful temptations of the devil. 3. If God be indeed a-bringing me to Jesus Christ, then, even when I come at him, I shall have wonderful revelations of him. This is the way that some sinners appoint for God; but, perhaps, he will not walk therein; yet will he bring them to Jesus Christ. But now, because they come not the way of their own chalking out, therefore they are at a loss. They look for heavy load and burden; but, perhaps, God gives them a sight of their lost condition, and addeth not that heavy weight and burden. They look for fearful temptations of Satan; but God sees that yet they are not fit for them, nor is the time come that he should be honoured by them in such a condition. They look for great and glorious revelations of Christ, grace, and mercy; but, perhaps, God only takes the yoke from off their jaws, and lays meat before them. And now again they are at a loss, yet a-coming to Jesus Christ; “I drew them,” saith God, “with cords of a man, with bands of love—I took the yoke from off their jaws, and laid meat unto them” (Hosea 11:4). Now, I say, If God brings thee to Christ, and not by the way that thou hast appointed, then thou art at a loss; and for thy being at a loss, thou mayest thank thyself. God hath more ways than thou knowest of to bring a sinner to Jesus Christ; but he will not give thee beforehand an account by which of them he will bring thee to Christ (Isa 40:13; Job 33:13). Sometimes he hath his ways in the whirlwind; but sometimes the Lord is not there (Nahum 1:3; 1 Kings 19:11). If God will deal more gently with thee than with others of his children, grudge not at it; refuse not the waters that go softly, lest he bring upon thee the waters of the rivers, strong and many, even these two smoking firebrand, the devil and guilt of sin (Isa 8:6, 7). He saith to Peter, “Follow me.” And what thunder did Zaccheus hear or see? Zaccheus, “Come down,” said Christ; “and he came down,” says Luke, “and received him joyfully.” But had Peter or Zaccheus made the objection that thou hast made, and directed the Spirit of the Lord as thou hast done, they might have looked long enough before they had found themselves coming to Jesus Christ. Besides, I will tell thee, that the greatness of sense of sin, the hideous roaring of the devil, yea, and abundance of revelations, will not prove that God is bringing thy soul to Jesus Christ; as Balaam, Cain, Judas, and others, can witness. Further, consider that what thou hast not of these things here, thou mayest have another time, and that to thy distraction. Wherefore, instead of being discontent, because thou art not in the fire, because thou hearest not the sound of the trumpet and alarm of war, “Pray that thou enter not into temptation;” yea, come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in that time of need (Psa 88:15; Matt 26:41; Heb 4:16). Poor creature! thou criest, if I were tempted, I could come faster and with more confidence to Christ. Thou sayest thou knowest not what. What says Job? “Withdraw thine hand far from me: and let not thy dread make me afraid. Then call thou, and I will answer: or let me speak, and answer thou me” (Job 13:21, 22). It is not the overheavy load of sin, but the discovery of mercy; not the roaring of the devil, but the drawing of the Father, that makes a man come to Jesus Christ; I myself know all these things. True, sometimes, yea, most an end, they that come to Jesus Christ come the way that thou desirest; the loading, tempted way; but the Lord also leads some by the waters of comfort. If I was to choose when to go a long journey, to wit, whether I would go it in the dead of winter or in the pleasant spring, though, if it was a very profitable journey, as that of coming to Christ is, I would choose to go it through fire and water before I would choose lose the benefit. But, I say, if I might choose the time, I would choose to go it in the pleasant spring, because the way would be more delightsome, the days longer and warmer, the nights shorter and not so cold. And it is observable, that that very argument that thou usest to weaken thy strength in the way, that very argument Christ Jesus useth to encourage his beloved to come to him: “Rise up,” saith he, “my love, my fair one, and come away.” Why? “For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth, the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land; the fig-tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell. Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song 2:10–13). Trouble not thyself, coming sinner. If thou seest thy lost condition by original and actual sin; if thou seest thy need of the spotless righteousness of Jesus Christ; if thou art willing to be found in him, and to take up thy cross and follow him; then pray for a fair wind and good weather, and come away. Stick no longer in a muse and doubt about things, but come away to Jesus Christ. Do it, I say, lest thou tempt God to lay the sorrows of a travailing woman upon thee. Thy folly in this thing may make him do it. Mind what follows: “The sorrows of a travailing woman shall come upon him.” Why? “He is an unwise son; for he should not stay long in the place of the breaking forth of children” (Hosea 13:13). Seventh, Thy fears that Christ will not receive thee may arise from those decays that thou findest in thy soul, even while thou art coming to him. Some, even as they are coming to Jesus Christ, do find themselves grow worse and worse; and this is indeed a sore trial to the poor coming sinner. Fears that we do not run fast enough To explain myself. There is such an one a coming to Jesus Christ who, when at first he began to look out after him, was sensible, affectionate, and broken in spirit; but now is grown dark, senseless, hard-hearted, and inclining to neglect spiritual duties, &c. Besides, he now finds in himself inclinations to unbelief, atheism, blasphemy, and the like; now he finds he cannot tremble at God’s Word, his judgment, nor at the apprehension of hell fire; neither can he, as he thinketh, be sorry for these things. Now, this is a sad dispensation. The man under the sixth head complaineth for want of temptations, but thou hast enough of them; art thou glad of them, tempted, coming sinner? They that never were exercised with them may think it a fine thing to be within the range, but he that is there is ready to sweat blood for sorrow of heart, and to howl for vexation of spirit! This man is in the wilderness among wild beasts. Here he sees a bear, there a lion, yonder a leopard, a wolf, a dragon; devils of all sorts, doubts of all sorts, fears of all sorts, haunt and molest his soul. Here he sees smoke, yea, feels fire and brimstone, scattered upon his secret places. He hears the sound of an horrible tempest. O! my friends, even the Lord Jesus, that knew all things, even he saw no pleasure in temptations, nor did he desire to be with them; wherefore, one text saith, “he was led,” and another, “he was driven,” of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil (Matt 4:1; Mark 1:12). But to return. Thus it happeneth sometimes to them that are coming to Jesus Christ. A sad hap indeed! One would think that he that is flying from wrath to come has little need of such clogs as these. And yet so it is, and woeful experience proves it. The church of old complained that her enemies overtook her between the straits; just between hope and fear, heaven and hell (Lam 1). This man feeleth the infirmity of his flesh, he findeth a proneness in himself to be desperate. Now, he chides with God, flings and tumbles like a wild bull in a net, and still the guilt of all returns upon himself, to the crushing of him to pieces. Yet he feeleth his heart so hard, that he can find, as he thinks, no kind falling under any of his miscarriages. Now, he is a lump of confusion in his own eyes, whose spirit and actions are without order. Temptations serve the Christian as the shepherd’s dog serveth the silly sheep; that is, coming behind the flock, he runs upon it, pulls it down, worries it, wounds it, and grievously bedabbleth it with dirt and wet, in the lowest places of the furrows of the field, and not leaving it until it is half dead, nor then neither, except God rebuke. Here is now room for fears of being cast away. Now I see I am lost, says the sinner. This is not coming to Jesus Christ, says the sinner; such a desperate, hard, and wretched heart as mine is, cannot be a gracious one, saith the sinner. And bid such an one be better, he says, I cannot; no, I cannot. Why temptations assail God’s people Question. But what will you say to a soul in this condition? Answer. I will say, That temptations have attended the best of God’s people. I will say, That temptations come to do us good; and I will say also, That there is a difference betwixt growing worse and worse, and thy seeing more clearly how bad thou art. There is a man of an ill-favored countenance, who hath too high a conceit of his beauty; and, wanting the benefit of a glass, he still stands in his own conceit; at last a limner is sent unto him, who draweth his ill-favored face to the life; now looking thereon, he begins to be convinced that he is not half so handsome as he thought he was. Coming sinner, thy temptations are these painters; they have drawn out thy ill-favored heart to the life, and have set it before thine eyes, and now thou seest how ill-favoured thou art. Hezekiah was a good man, yet when he lay sick, for aught I know, he had somewhat too good an opinion of his heart; and for aught I know also, the Lord might, upon his recovery, leave him to a temptation, that he might better know all that was in his heart. Compare Isaiah 38:1–3, with 2 Chronicles 32:31. Alas! we are sinful out of measure, but see it not to be the full, until an hour of temptation comes. But when it comes, it doth as the painter doth, draweth out our heart to the life: yet the sight of what we are should not keep us from coming to Jesus Christ. There are two ways by which God lets a man into a sight of the naughtiness of his heart; one is, by the light of the Word and Spirit of God; and the other is, by the temptations of the devil. But, by the first, we see our naughtiness one way; and, by the second, another. By the light of the Word and Spirit of God, thou hast a sight of thy naughtiness; and by the light of the sun, thou hast a sight of the spots and defilements that are in thy house or raiment. Which light gives thee to see a necessity of cleansing, but maketh not the blemishes to spread more abominably. But when Satan comes, when he tempts, he puts life and rage into our sins, and turns them, as it were, into so many devils within us. Now, like prisoners, they attempt to break through the prison of our body; they will attempt to get out at our eyes, mouth, ears, any ways, to the scandal of the gospel, and reproach of religion, to the darkening of our evidences, and damning of our souls. But I shall say, as I said before, this hath ofttimes been the lot of God’s people. And, “There hath no temptation overtaken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able” (1 Cor 10:13). See the Book of Job, the Book of Psalms, and that of the Lamentations. And remember further, that Christ himself was tempted to blaspheme, to worship the devil, and to murder himself, (Matt 4; Luke 4); temptations worse than which thou canst hardly be overtaken with. But he was sinless, that is true. And he is thy Saviour, and that is as true! Yea, it is as true also, that by his being tempted, he became the conqueror of the tempter, and a succourer of those that are tempted (Col 2:14, 15; Heb 2:15; 4:15, 16). Question. But what should be the reason that some that are coming to Christ should be so lamentably cast down and buffeted with temptations? Answer. It may be for several causes. 1. Some that are coming to Christ cannot be persuaded, until the temptation comes, that they are so vile as the Scripture saith they are. True, they see so much of their wretchedness as to drive them to Christ. But there is an over and above of wickedness which they see not. Peter little thought that he had had cursing, and swearing, and lying, and an inclination in his heart to deny his Master, before the temptation came; but when that indeed came upon him, then he found it there to his sorrow (John 13:36–38; Mark 14:36–40; 68–72). 2. Some that are coming to Jesus Christ are too much affected with their own graces, and too little taken with Christ’s person; wherefore God, to take them off from doting upon their own jewels, and that they might look more to the person, undertaking, and merits of his Son, plunges them into the ditch by temptations. And this I take to be the meaning of Job, “If I wash myself,” said he, “with snow-water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me” (Job 9:30). Job had been a little too much tampering with his own graces, and setting his excellencies a little too high; as these texts make manifest: Job 33:8–13; 34:5–10, 35:2, 3, 38:1, 2; 40:10–15, 42:3–6. But by that the temptations were ended, you find him better taught. Yea, God doth ofttimes, even for this thing, as it were, take our graces from us, and so leave us almost quite to ourselves and to the tempter, that we may learn not to love the picture more than the person of his Son. See how he dealt with them in the 16th of Ezekiel, and the second of Hosea. 3. Perhaps thou hast been given too much to judge thy brother, to condemn thy brother, because a poor tempted man. And God, to bring down the pride of thy heart, letteth the tempter loose upon thee, that thou also mayst feel thyself weak. For “pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov 16:18). 4. It may be thou hast dealt a little too roughly with those that God hath this way wounded, not considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. And therefore God hath suffered it to come unto thee (Gal 6:1). 5. It may be thou wast given to slumber and sleep, and therefore these temptations were sent to awake thee. You know that Peter’s temptation came upon him after his sleeping; then, instead of watching and praying, then he denied, and denied, and denied his Master (Matt 26). 6. It may be thou hast presumed too far, and stood too much in thine own strength, and therefore is a time of temptation come upon thee. This was also one cause why it came upon Peter—Though all men forsake thee, yet will not I. Ah! that is the way to be tempted indeed (John 13:36–38). 7. It may be God intends to make thee wise, to speak a word in season to others that are afflicted; and therefore he suffereth thee to be tempted. Christ was tempted that he might be able to succour them that are tempted (Heb 2:18). 8. It may be Satan hath dared God to suffer him to tempt thee; promising himself, that if he will but let him do it, thou wilt curse him to his face. Thus he obtained leave against Job; wherefore take heed, tempted soul, lest thou provest the devil’s sayings true (Job 1:11). 9. It may be thy graces must be tried in the fire, that that rust that cleaveth to them may be taken away, and themselves proved, both before angels and devils, to be far better than of gold that perisheth; it may be also, that thy graces are to receive special praises, and honour, and glory, at the coming of the Lord Jesus to judgment, for all the exploits that thou hast acted by them against hell, and its infernal crew, in the day of thy temptation (1 Peter 1:6, 7). 10. It may be God would have others learn by thy sighs, groans, and complaints, under temptation, to beware of those sins for the sake of which thou art at present delivered to the tormentors. But to conclude this, put the worst to the worst—and then things will be bad enough—suppose that thou art to this day without the grace of God, yet thou art but a miserable creature, a sinner, that hath need of a blessed Saviour; and the text presents thee with one as good and kind as heart can wish; who also for thy encouragement saith, “And him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Application of Observation Second To come, therefore, to a word of application. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this teacheth us these things— 1. That faith and doubting may at the same time have their residence in the same soul. “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” (Matt 14:31). He saith not, O thou of no faith! but, O thou of little faith! because he had a little faith in the midst of his many doubts. The same is true even of many that are coming to Jesus Christ. They come, and fear they come not, and doubt they come not. When they look upon the promise, or a word of encouragement by faith, then they come; but when they look upon themselves, or the difficulties that lie before them, then they doubt. “Bid me come,” said Peter; “Come,” said Christ. So he went down out of the ship to go to Jesus, but his hap was to go to him upon the water; there was the trial. So it is with the poor desiring soul. Bid me come, says the sinner; Come, says Christ, and I will in no wise cast thee out. So he comes, but his hap is to come upon the water, upon drowning difficulties; if, therefore, the wind of temptations blow, the waves of doubts and fears will presently arise, and this coming sinner will begin to sink, if he has but little faith. But you shall find here in Peter’s little faith, a twofold act; to wit, coming and crying. Little faith cannot come all the way without crying. So long as its holy boldness lasts, so long it can come with peace; but when it is so, it can come no further, it will go the rest of the way with crying. Peter went as far as his little faith would carry him: he also cried as far as his little faith would help, “Lord, save me, I perish!” And so with coming and crying he was kept from sinking, though he had but a little faith. “Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” 2. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them? Then this shows us a reason of that dejection, and those castings down, that very often we perceive to be in them that are coming to Jesus Christ. Why, it is because they are afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive them. The poor world they mock us, because we are a dejected people; I mean, because we are sometimes so: but they do not know the cause of our dejection. Could we be persuaded, even then, when we are dejected, that Jesus Christ would indeed receive us, it would make us fly over their heads, and would put more gladness into our hearts than in the time in which their corn, wine, and oil increases (Psa 4:6, 7). But, 3. It is so, That they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them. Then this shows that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are an awakened, sensible, considering people. For fear cometh from sense, and consideration of things. They are sensible of sin, sensible of the curse due thereto; they are also sensible of the glorious majesty of God, and of what a blessed, blessed thing it is to be received of Jesus Christ. The glory of heaven, and the evil of sin, these things they consider, and are sensible of. “When I remember, I am afraid.” “When I consider, I am afraid” (Job 21:6; 23:15). These things dash their spirits, being awake and sensible. Were they dead, like other men, they would not be afflicted with fear as they are. For dead men fear not, feel not, care not, but the living and sensible man, he it is that is ofttimes heartily afraid that Jesus Christ will not receive him. I say, the dead and senseless are not distressed. They presume; they are groundlessly confident. Who so bold as blind Bayard? These indeed should fear and be afraid, because they are not coming to Jesus Christ. O! the hell, the fire, the pit, the wrath of God, and torment of hell, that are prepared for poor neglecting sinners! “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?” (Heb 3:3). But they want sense of things, and so cannot fear. 4. Is it so, that they that are coming to Jesus Christ are ofttimes heartily afraid that he will not receive them? Then this should teach old Christians to pity and pray for young comers. You know the heart of a stranger; for you yourselves were strangers in the land of Egypt. You know the fears, and doubts, and terrors, that take hold of them; for that they sometimes took hold of you. Wherefore pity them, pray for them, encourage them; they need all this: guilt hath overtaken them, fears of the wrath of God hath overtaken them. Perhaps they are within the sight of hell-fire; and the fear of going thither is burning hot within their hearts. You may know, how strangely Satan is suggesting his devilish doubts unto them, if possible he may sink and drown them with the multitude and weight of them. Old Christians, mend up the path for them, take the stumblingblocks out of the way; lest that which is feeble and weak be turned aside, but let it rather be healed (Heb 12). Bunyan, J. (2006). Come and Welcome, to Jesus Christ (Vol. 1, pp. 271–273). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) Spring in the Heart Spring in the Heart "Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof."—Psalm 65:10. THOUGH other seasons excel in fulness, spring must always bear the palm for freshness and beauty. We thank God when the harvest hours draw near, and the golden grain invites the sickle, but we ought equally to thank him for the rougher days of spring, for these prepare the harvest. April showers are mothers of the sweet May flowers, and the wet and cold of winter are the parents of the splendour of summer. God blesses the springing thereof, or else it could not be said, "Thou crownest the year with thy goodness." There is as much necessity for divine benediction in spring as for heavenly bounty in summer; and, therefore, we should praise God all the year round. Spiritual spring is a very blessed season in a church. Then we see youthful piety developed, and on every hand we hear the joyful cry of those who say, "We have found the Lord." Our sons are springing up as the grass and as willows by the watercourses. We hold up our hands in glad astonishment and cry, "Who are these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows?" In the revival days of a Church, when God is blessing her with many conversions, she has great cause to rejoice in God and to sing, "Thou blessest the springing thereof." I intend to take the text in reference to individual cases. There is a time of springing of grace, when it is just in its bud, just breaking through the dull cold earth of unregenerate nature. I desire to talk a little about that, and concerning the blessing which the Lord grants to the green blade of new-born godliness, to those who are beginning to hope in the Lord. I. First, I shall have a little to say about the work previous to the springing thereof. It appears from the text that there is work for God alone to do before the springing comes, and we know that there is work for God to do through us as well. There is work for us to do. Before there can be a springing up in the soul of any, there must be ploughing, harrowing, and sowing. There must be a ploughing, and we do not expect that as soon as ever we plough we shall reap the sheaves. Blessed be God, in many cases, the reaper overtakes the ploughman, but we must not always expect it. In some hearts God is long in preparing the soul by conviction: the law with its ten black horses drags the ploughshare of conviction up and down the soul till there is no one part of it left unfurrowed. Conviction goes deeper than any plough to the very core and centre of the spirit, till the spirit is wounded. The ploughers make deep furrows indeed when God puts his hand to the work: the soil of the heart is broken in pieces in the presence of the Most High. Then comes the sowing. Before there can be a springing up it is certain that there must be something put into the ground, so that after the preacher has used the plough of the law, he applies to his Master for the seed-basket of the gospel. Gospel promises, gospel doctrines, especially a clear exposition of free grace and the atonement, these are the handfuls of corn which we scatter broadcast. Some of the grain falls on the highway, and is lost; but other handfuls fall where the plough has been, and there abide. Then comes the harrowing work. We do not expect to sow seed and then leave it: the gospel has to be prayed over. The prayer of the preacher and the prayer of the Church make up God’s harrow to rake in the seed after it is scattered, and so it is covered up within the clods of the soul, and is hidden in the heart of the hearer. Now there is a reason why I dwell upon this, namely, that I may exhort my dear brethren who have not seen success, not to give up the work but to hope that they have been doing the ploughing, and sowing, and harrowing work, and that the harvest is to come. I mention this for yet another reason, and that is, by way of warning to those who expect to have a harvest without this preparatory work. I do not believe that much good will come from attempts at sudden revivals made without previous prayerful labour. A revival to be permanent must be a matter of growth, and the result of much holy effort, longing, pleading, and watching. The servant of God is to preach the gospel whether men are prepared for it or not; but in order to large success, depend upon it there is a preparedness necessary amongst the hearers. Upon some hearts warm earnest preaching drops like an unusual thing which startles but does not convince; while in other congregations, where good gospel preaching has long been the rule, and much prayer has been offered, the words fall into the hearers’ souls and bring forth speedy fruit. We must not expect to have results without work. There is no hope of a church having an extensive revival in its midst unless there is continued and importunate waiting upon God, together with earnest labouring, intense anxiety, and hopeful expectation. But there is also a work to be done which is beyond our power. After ploughing, sowing, and harrowing, there must come the shower from heaven. "Thou visitest the earth and waterest it," says the Psalmist. In vain are all our efforts unless God shall bless us with the rain of his Holy Spirit’s influence. O Holy Spirit! thou, and thou alone, workest wonders in the human heart, and thou comest from the Father and the Son to do the Father’s purposes, and to glorify the Son. Three effects are spoken of. First, we are told he waters the ridges. As the ridges of the field become well saturated through and through with the abundant rain, so God sends his Holy Spirit till the whole heart of man is moved and influenced by his divine operations. The understanding is enlightened, the conscience is quickened, the will is controlled, the affections are inflamed; all these powers, which I may call the ridges of the heart, come under the divine working. It is ours to deal with men as men, and bring to bear upon them gospel truth, and to set before them motives that are suitable to move rational creatures; but, after all, it is the rain from on high which alone can water the ridges: there is no hope of the heart being savingly affected except by divine operations. Next, it is added, "Thou settlest the furrows," by which some think it is meant that the furrows are drenched with water. Others think there is an allusion here to the beating down of the earth by heavy rain till the ridges become flat, and by the soaking of the water are settled into a more compact mass. Certain it is that the influences of God’s Spirit have a humbling and settling effect upon a man. He was unsettled once like the earth that is dry and crumbly, and blown about and carried away with every wind of doctrine; but as the earth when soaked with wet is compacted and knit together, so the heart becomes solid and serious under the power of the Spirit. As the high parts of the ridge are beaten down into the furrows, so, the lofty ideas, the grand schemes, and carnal boastings of the heart begin to level down, when the Holy Spirit comes to work upon the soul. Genuine humility is a very gracious fruit of the Spirit. To be broken in heart is the best means of preparing the soul for Jesus. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Brethren, always be thankful when you see high thoughts of man brought down; this settling the furrows is a very gracious preparatory work of grace. Yet again, it is added, "Thou makest it soft with showers." Man’s heart is naturally hardened against the gospel; like the Eastern soil, it is hard as iron if there be no gracious rain. How sweetly and effectively does the Spirit of God soften the mau through and through! He is no longer towards the Word what he used to be: he feels everything, whereas once he felt nothing. The rock flows with water; the heart is dissolved in tenderness, the eyes are melted into tears. All this is God’s work. I have said already that God works through us, but still it is God’s immediate work to send down the rain of his grace from on high. Perhaps he is at work upon some of you, though as yet there is no springing up of spiritual life in your souls. Though your condition is still a sad one, we will hope for you that ere long there shall be seen the living seed of grace sending up its tender green shoot above the soil, and may the Lord bless the springing thereof. II. In the second place, let us deliver a brief description of the springing thereof. After the operations of the Holy Spirit have been quietly going on for a certain season as pleaseth the great Master and Husbandman, then there are signs of grace. Remember the apostle’s words, "First the blade, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear." Some of our friends are greatly disturbed because they cannot see the full corn in the ear in themselves. They suppose that, if they were the subjects of a divine work they would be precisely like certain advanced Christians with whom it is their privilege to commune, or of whom they may have read in biographies. Beloved, this is a very great mistake. When first grace enters the heart, it is not a great tree covering with its shadow whole acres, but it is the least of all seeds, like a grain of mustard seed. When it first rises upon the soul, it is not the sun shining at high noon, but it is the first dim ray of dawn. Are you so simple as to expect the harvest before you have passed through the springing-time? I shall hope that by a very brief description of the earliest stage of Christian experience you may be led to say, "I have gone as far as that," and then I hope you may be able to take the comfort of the text to yourselves: "Thou blessest the springing thereof." What then is the springing up of piety in the heart? We think it is first seen in sincerely earnest desires after salvation. The man is not saved, in his own apprehension, but he longs to be. That which was once a matter of indifference is now a subject of intense concern. Once he despised Christians, and thought them needlessly earnest; he thought religion a mere trifle, and he looked upon the things of time and sense as the only substantial matters; but now how changed he is! He envies the meanest Christian, and would change places with the poorest believer if he might but be able to read his title clear to mansions in the skies. Now worldly things have lost dominion over him, and spiritual things are uppermost. Once with the unthinking many, he cried, "Who will show us any good?" but now he cries, "Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me." Once it was the corn and the wine to which he looked for comfort, but now he looks to God alone. His rock of refuge must be God, for he finds no comfort elsewhere. His holy desires, which he had years ago, were like smoke from the chimney, soon blown away; but now his longings are permanent, though not always operative to the same degree. At times these desires amount to a hungering and a thirsting after righteousness, and yet he is not satisfied with these desires, but wishes for a still more anxious longing after heavenly things. These desires are among the first springings of divine life in the soul. "The springing thereof" shows itself next in prayer. It is prayer now. Once it was the mocking of God with holy sounds unattended by the heart; but now, though the prayer is such that he would not like a human ear to hear him, yet God approves it, for it is the talking of a spirit to a Spirit, and not the muttering of lips to an unknown God. His prayers, perhaps, are not very long: they do not amount to more than this, "Oh!" "Ah!" "Would to God!" "Lord have mercy upon me, a sinner!" and such-like short ejaculations; but, then, they are prayers. "Behold he prayeth," does not refer to a long prayer; it is quite as sure a proof of spiritual life within, if it only refers to a sigh or to a tear. These "groanings that cannot be uttered," are amongst "the springings thereof." There will also be manifest a hearty love for the means of grace, and the house of God. The Bible, long unread, which was thought to be of little more use than an old almanack, is now treated with great consideration; and though the reader finds little in it that comforts him just now, and much that alarms him, yet he feels that it is the book for him, and he turns to its pages with hope. When he goes up to God’s house, he listens eagerly, hoping that there may be a message for him. Before, he attended worship as a sort of pious necessity incumbent upon all respectable people; but now he goes up to God’s house that he may find the Saviour. Once there was no more religion in him than in the door which turns upon its hinges; but now he enters the house praying, "Lord, meet with my soul," and if he gets no blessing, he goes away sighing, "O that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat." This is one of the blessed signs of "the springing thereof." Yet more cheering is another, namely, that the soul in this state has faith in Jesus Christ, at least in some degree. It is not a faith which brings great joy and peace, but still it is a faith which keeps the heart from despair, and prevents its sinking under a sense of sin. I have known the time when I do not believe any man living could see faith in me, and when I could scarcely perceive any in myself, and yet I was bold to say, with Peter, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee." What man cannot see, Christ can see. Many people have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are so much engaged in looking at it that they do not see it. If they would look to Christ and not to their own faith, they would not only see Christ but see their own faith too; but they measure their faith, and it seems so little when they contrast it with the faith of full-grown Christians, that they fear it is not faith at all. Oh, little one, if thou hast faith enough to receive Christ, remember the promise, "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." Poor simple, weak-hearted, and troubled one, look to Jesus and answer, Can such a Saviour suffer in vain? Can such an atonement be offered in vain? Canst thou trust him, and yet be cast away? It cannot be. It never was in the Saviour’s heart to shake off one that did cling to his arm. However feeble the faith he blesses "the springing thereof." The difficulty arises partly from misapprehension and partly from want of confidence in God. I say misapprehension: now if like some Londoners you had never seen corn when it is green, you would cry out, "What! Do you say that yonder green stuff is wheat?" "Yes," the farmer says, "that is wheat." You look at it again and you reply, "Why, man alive, that is nothing but grass. You do not mean to tell me that this grassy stuff will ever produce a loaf of bread such as I see in the baker’s window; I cannot conceive it." No, you could not conceive it, but when you get accustomed to it, it is not at all wonderful to see the wheat go through certain stages; first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full corn in the ear. Some of you have never seen growing grace, and do not know anything about it. When you are newly converted you meet with Christians who are like ripe golden ears, and you say, "I am not like them." True, you are no more like them than that grassy stuff in the furrows is like full-grown wheat; but you will grow like them one of these days. You must expect to go through the blade period before you get to the ear period, and in the ear period you will have doubts whether you will ever come to the full corn in the ear; but you will arrive at perfection in due time. Thank God that you are in Christ at all. Whether I have much faith or little faith, whether I can do much for Christ or little for Christ is not the first question; I am saved, not on account of what I am, but on account of what Jesus Christ is; and if I am trusting to him, however little in Israel I may be, I am as safe as the brightest of the saints. I have said, however, that mixed with misapprehension there is a great deal of unbelief. I cannot put it all down to an ignorance that may be forgiven: for there is sinful unbelief too. O sinner, why do you not trust Jesus Christ? Poor quickened, awakened conscience, God gives you his word that he who trusts in Christ is not condemned, and yet you are afraid that you are condemned! This is to give God the lie! Be ashamed and confounded that you should ever have been guilty of doubting the veracity of God. All your other sins do not grieve Christ so much as the sin of thinking that he is unwilling to forgive you, or the sin of suspecting that if you trust him he will cast you away. Do not slander his gracious character. Do not cast a slur upon the generosity of his tender heart. He saith, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Come in the faith of his promise, and he will receive you just now. I have thus given some description of "the springing thereof." III. Thirdly, according to the text, there is one who sees this springing. Thou, Lord—thou blessest the springing thereof. I wish that some of us had quicker eyes to see the beginning of grace in the souls of men; for want of this we let slip many opportunities of helping the weaklings. If a woman had the charge of a number of children that were not her own, I do not suppose she would notice all the incipient stages of disease; but when a mother nurses her own dear children, as soon as ever upon the cheek or in the eye there is a token of approaching sickness, she perceives it at once. I wish we had just as quick an eye, because just as tender a heart, towards precious souls. I do not doubt that many young people are weeks and even months in distress, who need not be, if you who know the Lord were a little more watchful to help them in the time of their sorrow. Shepherds are up all night at lambing time to catch up the lambs as soon as they are born, and take them in and nurse them; and we, who ought to be shepherds for God, should be looking out for all the lambs, especially at seasons when there are many born into God’s great fold, for tender nursing is wanted in the first stages of the new life. God, however, when his servants do not see "the springing thereof," sees it all. Now, you silent, retired spirits, who dare not speak to father or mother, or brother or sister, this text ought to be a sweet morsel to you. "Thou blessest the springing thereof," which proves that God sees you and your newborn grace. The Lord sees the first sign of penitence. Though you only say to yourself, "I will arise, and go to my Father," your Father hears you. Though it is nothing but a desire, your Father registers it. "Thou puttest my tears into thy bottle. Are they not in thy book?" He is watching your return; he runs to meet you, and puts his arms about you, and kisses you with the kisses of his accepting love. O soul, be encouraged with that thought, that up in the chamber or down by the hedge, or wherever it is that thou hast sought secrecy, God is there. Dwell on the thought, "Thou God seest me." That is a precious text,—"All my desire is before thee;" and here is another sweet one, "The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him, in them that hope in his mercy." He can see you when you only hope in his mercy, and he takes pleasure in you if you have only begun to fear him. Here is a third choice word, "Thou wilt perfect that which concerneth me." Have you a concern about these things? Is it a matter of soul-concern with you to be reconciled to God, and to have an interest in Jesu’s precious blood? It is only "the springing thereof," but he blesses it. It is written, "A bruised reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench, till he bring forth judgment unto victory." There shall be victory for you, even before the judgment-seat of God, though as yet you are only like the flax that smokes and gives no light, or like the reed that is broken, and yields no music. God sees the first springing of grace. IV. A few words upon a fourth point: what a misery it would be, if it were possible, to have this springing without God’s blessing! The text says, "Thou blessest the springing thereof." We must, just a moment, by way of contrast, think of how the springing would have been without the blessing. Suppose we were to see a revival amongst us without God’s blessing. It is my conviction that there are revivals which are not of God at all, but are produced by excitement merely. If there be no blessing from the Lord, it will be all a delusion, a bubble blown up into the air for a moment, and then gone to nothing. We shall only see the people stirred, to become the more dull and dead afterwards; and this is a great mischief to the church. In the individual heart, if there should be a springing up without God’s blessing, there would be no good in it. Suppose you have good desires, but no blessing on these desires, they will only tantalize and worry you; and then, after a time, they will be gone, and you will be more impervious than you were before to religious convictions; for, if religious desires are not of God’s sending, but are caused by excitement, they will probably prevent your giving a serious hearing to the Word of God in times to come. If convictions do not soften they will certainly harden. To what extremities have some been driven who have had springings of a certain sort which have not led them to Christ! Some have been crushed by despair. They tell us that religion crowds the madhouse: it is not true; but there is no doubt whatever that religiousness of a certain kind has driven many a man out of his mind. The poor souls have felt their wound but have not seen the balm. They have not known Jesus. They have had a sense of sin and nothing more. They have not fled for refuge to the hope which God has set before them. Marvel not if men do go mad when they refuse the Saviour. It may come as a judicial visitation of God upon those men who, when in great distress of mind, will not fly to Christ. I believe it is with some just this—you must either fly to Jesus, or else your burden will become heavier and heavier until your spirit will utterly fail. This is not the fault of religion, it is the fault of those who will not accept the remedy which religion presents. A springing up of desires without God’s blessing would be an awful thing, but we thank him that we are not left in such a case. V. And now I have to dwell upon the comforting thought that God does bless "the springing thereof." I wish to deal with you who are tender and troubled; I want to show that God does bless your springing. He does it in many ways. Frequently he does it by the cordials which he brings. You have a few very sweet moments: you cannot say that you are Christ’s, but at times the bells of your heart ring very sweetly at the mention of his name. The means of grace are very precious to you. When you gather to the Lord’s worship you feel a holy calm, and you go away from the service wishing that there were seven Sundays in the week instead of one. By the blessing of God the Word has just suited your case, as if the Lord had sent his servants on purpose to you: you lay aside your crutches for awhile, and you begin to run. Though these things have been sadly transient, they are tokens for good. On the other hand, if you have had none of these comforts, or few of them, and the means of grace have not been consolations to you, I want you to look upon that as a blessing. It may be the greatest blessing that God can give us to take away all comforts on the road, in order to quicken our running towards the end. When a man is flying to the City of Refuge to be protected from the man-slayer, it may be an act of great consideration to stay him for a moment that he may quench his thirst and run more swiftly afterwards; but perhaps, in a case of imminent peril, it may be the kindest thing neither to give him anything to eat or to drink, nor invite him to stop for a moment, in order that he may fly with undiminished speed to the place of safety. The Lord may be blessing you in the uneasiness which you feel. Inasmuch as you cannot say that you are in Christ, it may be the greatest blessing which heaven can give to take away every other blessing from you, in order that you may be compelled to fly to the Lord. You perhaps have a little of your self-righteousness left, and while it is so you cannot get joy and comfort. The royal robe which Jesus gives will never shine brilliantly upon us till every rag of our own goodness is gone. Perhaps you are not empty enough, and God will never fill you with Christ till you are. Fear often drives men to faith. Have you never heard of a person walking in the fields into whose bosom a bird has flown because pursued by the hawk? Poor timid thing, it would not have ventured there had not a greater fear compelled it. All this may be so with you; your fears may be sent to drive you more swiftly and more closely to the Saviour, and if so, I see in these present sorrows the signs that God is blessing "the springing thereof." In looking back upon my own "springing" I sometimes think God blessed me then in a lovelier way than now. Though I would not willingly return to that early stage of my spiritual life, yet there were many joys about it. An apple tree when loaded with apples is a very comely sight; but give me, for beauty, the apple tree in bloom. The whole world does not present a more lovely sight than an apple blossom. Now, a full-grown Christian laden with fruit is a comely sight, but still there is a peculiar loveliness about the young Christian. Let me tell you what that blessedness is; you have probably now a greater horror of sin than professors who have known the Lord for years; they might wish that they felt your tenderness of conscience. You have now a graver sense of duty, and a more solemn fear of the neglect of it than some who are further advanced. You have also a greater zeal than many: you are now doing your first works for God, and burning with your first love; nothing is too hot or too heavy for you: I pray that you may never decline, but always advance. And now to close. I think there are three lessons for us to learn. First, let older saints be very gentle and kind to young believers. God blesses the springing thereof—mind that you do the same. Do not throw cold water upon young desires: do not snuff out young believers with hard questions. While they are babes and need the milk of the Word, do not be choking them with your strong meat; they will eat strong meat by-and-by, but not just yet. Remember, Jacob would not overdrive the lambs; be equally prudent. Teach and instruct them, but let it be with gentleness and tenderness, not as their superiors, but as nursing fathers for Christ’s sake. God, you see, blesses the springing thereof—may he bless it through you! The next thing I have to say is, fulfil the duty of gratitude. Beloved, if God blesses the springing thereof we ought to be grateful for a little grace. If you have only seen the first shoot peeping up through the mould be thankful, and you shall see the green blade waving in the breeze; be thankful for the ankle-deep verdure and you shall soon see the commencement of the ear; be thankful for the first green ears and you shall see the flowering of the wheat, and by-and-by its ripening, and the joyous harvest. The last lesson is one of encouragement. If God blesses "the springing thereof," dear beginners, what will he not do for you in after days? If he gives you such a meal when you break your fast, what dainties will be on your table when he says to you, "Come and dine"; and what a banquet will he furnish at the supper of the Lamb! O troubled one! let the storms which howl and the snows which fall, and the wintry blasts that nip your springing, all be forgotten in this one consoling thought, that God blesses your springing, and whom God blesses none can curse. Over your head, dear, desiring, pleading, languishing soul, the Lord of heaven and earth pronounces the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Take that blessing and rejoice in it evermore. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Purity of Heart Purity of Heart Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. S. Matthew 5:8. Trinity College Chapel, 3rd Sunday after Easter, 1870. An eminent living writer on ethical and kindred subjects, viewing the matter from without, complains of the misuse which Christians make of the moral teaching of the New Testament. He urges with great cogency that it was ‘not announced or intended, as a complete doctrine of morals;’ that ‘the Gospel always refers to a pre-existing morality and confines its precepts to the particulars in which that morality was to be corrected or superseded by a wider and higher.’ He therefore condemns that exclusiveness, which refuses to accept any moral lessons except such as are enforced by the letter of the Evangelic or Apostolic writings. ‘They contain and were meant to contain,’ he repeats, ‘only a part of the truth; many essential elements of the highest morality are among the things which are not provided for, nor intended to be provided for, in the recorded deliverances of the Founder of Christianity.’ I think that few who have thought over the subject will deny that this statement contains an important truth, though they would wish that the form of expression were somewhat modified. Certainly our Lord and His Apostles do assume an existing code of morals, more or less imperfect. They could hardly have done otherwise. So far as this code satisfied the demands of the highest truth, they held it unnecessary to dwell at length on lessons which were already adequately taught. It was to those points in which it failed, in which any code built merely upon the requirements of society must necessarily fail, that the first teachers of Christianity chiefly directed their attention. And if we would truly understand their meaning, we must place ourselves in their position, we must assume what they assumed, and not attempt to build up their superstructure without any regard to the foundation on which it was laid. To take an instance of this; the duty to the State, as the writer, whom I have already quoted, observes, and as is well known, ‘held a disproportionate place’ in the ethical teaching of the ancients—so large a place indeed as to be even dangerous to the moral growth of the individual. It is no wonder therefore if our Lord and His Apostles say but little on this subject. What they do say however, shows, as clearly as words can show, that they recognised in all their fulness the claims of public order on the subject. The restlessness of the Jews in Judæa found no countenance in the teaching of our Lord; the restlessness of the Judaic Christians in Rome was denounced in the language of the Apostle of the Gentiles. ‘Render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and to God the things that are God’s’—this is the answer given in the one case. ‘Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers: the powers that be, are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation’—this is the strong rebuke administered in the other. If therefore politics, strictly so called, do not occupy any space in the sayings of our Lord or in the writings of the Apostles, it is not because their claims are ignored, but because it was rather the ethical function of the Gospel to deepen the foundations, and enforce the sanctions, of morality generally; and only so far to deal with individual elements, as there was some great and signal deficiency in the existing moral standard. The remark, to which I referred at the commencement, appears to me to be of great importance; and it is the more weighty, because, though having a high apologetic value, it proceeds not from a Christian apologist, but from an external observer, who criticises the ethics of the Gospel with at least a dispassionate freedom. The fact is that in applying the ethical teaching of the Gospel to ourselves, and indeed throughout the whole domain of Christian practice, we must give free scope to our Christian consciousness. In other words, for regulating the details of our conduct, we must refer to our moral faculty, as refined and heightened by the teaching of the Gospel; we must not expect to find a special precept to meet every special occasion. We must trust to the promise of the Spirit, which Christ has given to His disciples. The pregnant maxim of S. Paul, penetrating as it does into every province in which human judgment can exercise itself, is nowhere more important than here: ‘The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.’ Act on the literal sense of one of our Lord’s precepts delivered in this Sermon on the Mount, from which my text is taken, ‘Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain,’ on all occasions, and you will bring confusion on yourself; but receive such precepts as they were intended to be received, as parables or types of the right temper of mind, as corrective of the self-assertion, on which human morality can put no adequate check, which it even tends to foster—in short, take the kernel and not the husk of the precept—and you will produce harmony in your moral being. I spoke of duties to the State as being assumed rather than enforced in the moral teaching of the New Testament. But it is obvious that this principle of tacit assumption may be and must be applied much further. There are many other valuable elements of morality, on which the Gospel does not lay any special stress, simply because the teaching of common life enforces these with sufficient distinctness, and they therefore do not need such external support. There are some virtues, which a man learns to practise in self-defence. There are others, which society exacts as a condition of membership, having learnt by experience that it cannot hold together without their general recognition. Of the first kind are courage, self-reliance, the assertion of one’s own rights, the sense of personal dignity. In these respects the danger is generally on the side of excess rather than of defect; the tendency is to mere self-will, mere self-assertion, to a stubborn resistance and disregard of the feelings, the weaknesses, the claims of others. Of the second kind is honesty, which, though antagonistic to a man’s natural selfishness, is yet imposed upon him by the imperious law of the community in which he moves and on which he is dependent. Such virtues as these the Gospel does not ignore. On the contrary, it assumes them as the simplest elements of a moral life. And no denunciations are more severe, than those uttered by our Lord against the religious leaders of the people, who notwithstanding their lofty pretensions had not yet mastered these first lessons of morality. But it is not on such points that its efforts are concentrated. The rough teaching of common life would supply what was needed here. The pressure of social constraint would exercise a discipline, the more effective, because constant and inexorable in its demands. This class of virtues society could understand and could enforce. But beyond and above these lies a whole region of moral life, on which social restraint, whether as law or as public opinion, or in any other form, exercises no effective control at all. And it is just here that the Gospel interposes to supplement and to superadd. If you analyse the ethical teaching of the Sermon on the Mount, you will find that it is almost wholly addressed to supplying this defect. Its moral aim may be said to be twofold; first, to inculcate the value of motive as distinct from the outward act, the realisation; in short, to teach that for the individual himself the goodness or the badness of his conduct is wholly independent of its actual effects, and springs from the inward intention, and from this alone; and, secondly, to emphasize the importance of certain moral elements, to which no appreciable place was assigned in the prevailing ethical code of the day, and which were, and ever are, in imminent danger of being trampled under foot in the race of life, unless borne up by some higher sanction—such as humility, forgiveness, patient endurance, sympathy with poverty and weakness, and the like. Thus the Sermon on the Mount is preeminently corrective and supplementary in its ethical teaching. It is necessarily so. It was addressed, not to the dregs of society, who needed to be instructed in the first principles of morality, but to the disciples, who certainly accepted and practised the best moral teaching of the day, who were destined to be the salt of the earth, and who therefore must aim at a more perfect standard. And, if you turn to the Beatitudes, you will find that they, one and all, refer to those moral qualities, of which as a rule society takes no cognisance, and to which it offers no rewards, either because it deals only with external acts and cannot reach motives, or because these qualities in themselves are the reverse of obtrusive, and do not press their claims or clamour for recognition. It is on those who suffer patiently and unrepiningly for the right, on those who are gentle or forgiving towards others, on those who are forgetful and depreciatory of self, on those whose study it is to cleanse and purify their hearts, with whom the pursuit of righteousness is a passion, who hunger and thirst after it, impelled as it were by a strong inward craving to follow it on its own account, and regardless of any advantages in the way of reputation, or of influence, which it may accidentally bestow—it is on these, and such as these, that the blessing is pronounced. Of these Beatitudes, the one which I have taken for my text most strikingly illustrates what has been said. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’ It is just here that social morality is signally defective. It will enter its protest against the more flagrant violations of this duty, because they tend to disturb social order, and to introduce confusion into common life. But of purity, in and for itself, it shows in many ways that it takes little or no cognisance. It shows this by the uneven measure of justice which it deals out to the two sexes, by the stern inexorable punishment of such sins in the one, and the almost complete impunity which it offers to the other. It shows it by its worship of the memory of some famous character, brilliant perhaps in literature or in politics, but profligate in life. It shows it by its lavish favours bestowed on some social idol of the day, whose only claim is a winning manner or a brilliant address, whose life is utterly and hopelessly corrupt, in whose heart impurity has gathered around it other demons hateful as itself, selfishness, cruelty, deceit, meanness in all its forms (for impurity always will seek such alliances for protection and sympathy), whose conduct has degraded and ruined many an individual soul, and by their ruin steeped whole households in misery. Of purity of heart social morality does not and cannot take any account. For purity of conduct indeed it professes a formal respect; but not here does it bestow its favours and its rewards. And in fact no reward, which the world has in its power to bestow, would be at all adequate to meet the case. Material advantages—wealth, pleasure, renown, popularity, influence—these are its best and choicest gifts. But purity of heart seeks not these. Purity of heart breathes another atmosphere, lives in another world, exercises other faculties, pursues other aims. And commensurate with its aims is its reward—not a substantial reward as men regard substantial, but yet very real, because alone satisfying, alone lasting, alone independent of time and circumstance. To the pure in heart, it is given to stand face to face before the Eternal Presence—the veil which shrouds Him from the common eye being withdrawn, and the ineffable glory, which none besides may see, streaming upon them with undimmed splendour. Theirs is the indwelling of the Spirit, that doth prefer Before all temples the upright heart and pure. To them is vouchsafed in their journey through life the presence of the Holy Thing moving with them night and day. In the strength of this presence they ride onward Shattering all evil customs everywhere; until they reach their goal and Heaven receives them into its glory; and they are crowned as kings Far in the spiritual city. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’ And will not even the limited experience of many here witness that such a quest so rewarded is no mere poetical fiction, no idle play of the imagination, but an eminently deep religious truth, of great practical moment to us all? Have you not felt, that according as you have allowed any sullying influence to stain your heart, and to dim its purity, just in the same degree your spiritual vision has become clouded over, the scales have thickened upon it, and the Eternal Presence has withdrawn Himself in a veil of mist, and you have looked in vain and have not found, and your greatest, truest joy and comfort and hope has vanished from you? Was it deceit? Was it selfishness? Was it pride? Was it impurity in a stricter sense, indulgence in tainted thoughts or indulgence in forbidden deeds? Cannot you trace the process, if you will give it a moment’s reflection, how the cloud gathered and darkened, till the light is wholly shut out, except that now and then in your clearer moments it flashes in upon you with a painful brightness, piercing through the screen of clouds and revealing to you the depth of your degradation and loss? Or on the other hand can you not bear witness, how each stedfast determination to put away the accursed thing, each renewed effort to cleanse and purify your heart, has brought with it a fresh accession of light, has given you a keener vision of the spiritual world, has removed a film from your eye and a load from your spirit, has brought you joy and lightness of heart, because it has placed you nearer to God and to the glory of His presence? And, if this is so; if this intimate knowledge of the highest truths is vouchsafed, not to acute powers of reasoning, not to vast stores of information, not to critical sagacity or theological attainments, not to poetical genius or scientific culture, not to any or to all of these, but to purity of heart alone, then surely this should be the one paramount aim of our lives, which we should pursue with the unswerving zeal and enthusiasm of a master passion. If the task is great, the reward is great also. A stern and rigorous self-discipline is the first condition of success. This indeed is not a fashionable doctrine. It is the fashion of the day to assert the claims of individual liberty in extravagant terms, and yet to ignore, or almost ignore, self-discipline, self-renunciation, without which the liberty of the individual becomes intolerable to himself and to society. Remember that the most perfect self-command is the truest freedom; that the Apostle of Liberty himself sets the example of keeping his body in subjection. Do not therefore be led away by any commonplaces about liberty; but assert your legitimate command over yourself and keep it. The discipline which you enforce upon yourself is a thousand times more effective, than the discipline imposed from without. Provide yourself with healthy occupations. With healthy recreations for the body, if you will; but, still more, with healthy studies and ideas for the mind; and, above all, with healthy affections and sympathies for the heart. Seek what is healthy in all things: seek what is fresh and simple and transparently pure and guileless. Avoid all taint of corruptness. Experience has taught you how difficult it is to dislodge a corrupt idea from your heart, when it has once found a place there; how will it recur again and again, even though your better nature revolts against it and you give it no encouragement. There is a fatal vitality about such elements of corruptness. You can recall what is noble and elevating only with an effort; what is sullied and degrading will present itself unbidden to your thought. The law of the moral world is analogous to the law of the physical. Disease spreads apace by contact; health has no such spontaneous power of diffusing itself. Therefore it is of vital importance to shun any tainting influence, as a plague-spot: to shun it in your intellectual studies, and to shun it in your social life. To cultivate self-control, to give yourself healthy employment, and to avoid corrupting associations—these three are conditions of success in the great quest to which you have bound yourself. But another still remains. Cultivate your spiritual faculties by prayer and meditation. The higher parts of our nature, because the most subtle, are also the most sensitive. If our intellectual capacities become enfeebled and ultimately paralyzed by neglect or misuse, much more our spiritual. Here again I appeal to your own experience. Can you not bear witness how very soon carelessness and indifference in spiritual matters tells upon your spiritual nature, how very soon a torpor creeps over it, if you neglect your daily prayers, or if you go through your religious duties in a perfunctory, heartless way; how very soon your whole view of things changes, and you begin tacitly to ignore the importance of spiritual life, perhaps half-consciously to argue with yourself that it may be a mere delusion, an idle fancy, after all? It is just because our spiritual nature is so highly wrought, that it will not suffer any trifling or any neglect. A true instinct leads the poet to represent his pure and blameless knight as laying his lance against the chapel door, and entering and kneeling in prayer, when he starts on the quest which is rewarded with the Eternal Vision of Glory. Do this, and you will not fail. You will dedicate to God the sacrifice which pleases Him best—the freewill offering of the freshness and purity of early manhood: and He in turn will vouchsafe to you the one blessing which is the fulfilment of your truest aspirations, the crown of human bliss—the vision of Himself in unclouded glory. ‘Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.’ Lightfoot, J. B. (1890). Cambridge Sermons. London; New York: MacMillan and Co. (Public Domain) The Incarnation, The Heart of the Gospel The Incarnation, The Heart of the Gospel GOD had made many visits to men before Christ’s Incarnation, but the most wonderful visit of all was when He came to tarry here, some three and thirty years, to work out our salvation. What but “tender mercy”, hearty mercy, intense mercy, could bring the great God to visit us so closely that He actually assumed our nature? Kings may, for various reasons, visit their subjects; but they do not think of taking upon themselves their poverty, their sickness, or their sorrow. They could not if they would, and they would not if they could; but our Divine Lord, when He came hither, took upon Him our flesh. O children, the Lord so visited you as to become a Babe, and then a Child, who dwelt with His parents, and was subject unto them, and grew in stature, as you must do! O working-men, the Lord so visited you as to become the carpenter’s Son, and to know all about your toil, and your weariness, ay, even to hunger and faintness! O sons of men, Jesus Christ has so visited you that He has assumed your nature, and taken your sicknesses, and borne your infirmities, and your iniquities, too! This was a kind of visit such as none could have thought of making save our infinitely tender and merciful Savior. Christ Jesus, the God-man, is our next of kin, a Brother born for adversity. In all our affliction He is afflicted; He is tenderness itself toward us. He did not come to earth just to pay us a passing visit, but He dwelt among us in this world of sin and sorrow. This great Prince entered our abode—what if I call it this hut and hovel?—wherein our poor humanity finds its home for a season. This little planet of ours was made to burn with a superior light among its sister stars while the Creator sojourned here in human form. He trod the acres of Samaria, and traversed the hills and vales of Judæa. “He went about doing good.” He mingled among men with scarcely any reservation. Although, through His purity, He was separate from sinners as to His character, yet He was the visitor of all men. He was found eating bread with a Pharisee, which perhaps is a more wonderful thing than when He received sinners, and ate with them. A fallen woman was not too far gone in sin for Him to sit on the kerb of the well, and talk to her; nor were any of the poor and ignorant too mean for Him to care for them. His visit to us was of the most intimate kind. He disdained no man’s lowliness; He turned aside from no man, however sinful he might be. But remember that He visited us, not merely to look upon us, and to talk with us, and to teach us, and set us a high and Divine example; but He so visited us that He took upon Himself our condemnation, that He might deliver us from it. He was made a curse for us, as it is written, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” He took our debts upon Him that He might pay them, minting His own heart to create the coinage. He gave Himself for us, which is more than if I said, “He gave His blood and His life for us;” His own self He gave for us. So graciously did He visit us that He took away with Him our ill, and left only good behind. He did not come into our nature, and yet keep Himself reserved from all the consequences of our sin; nor come into our world, and yet maintain a status superior to that of the usual denizens of it; but He came to be a man among men, and to bear all that train of woes which had fallen upon human nature through its departure from the ways of God. Our Lord so visited us as to become our Surety, our Substitute, our Ransom. He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows, and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. This was wonderful tender mercy on His part; it excels all human conception and language. If, for the first time, you had heard of the visit of the incarnate God to this world, you would be struck with a wonder which would last throughout all eternity, that God Himself should really condescend to such a deed as this. This is the heart of the Gospel, the incomparable fact of the Incarnation of the Son of God, His dwelling upon the earth, and His presentation of Himself as a sacrifice unto God. Since God has visited us, not in the form of a judge executing vengeance, nor as an angel with a flaming sword, but in the gentle person of that lowliest of the lowly, who said, “Suffer the little children to come unto Me,” we are herein made to see the tender mercy of our God. Nothing could be more gracious than the Divine appearance upon earth of the Man of sorrows. Spurgeon, C. H. (2009). Christ’s Incarnation: The foundation of Christianity (pp. 86–89). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software. (Public Domain) The Parable of the Sower The Parable of the Sower "And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: a sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."—Luke 8:4–8. IN our country, when a sower goes forth to his work, he generally enters into an enclosed field, and scatters the seed from his basket along every ridge and furrow; but in the East, the corn-growing country, hard by a small town, is usually an open area. It is divided into different properties, but there are no visible divisions, except the ancient landmarks, or perhaps ridges of stones. Through these open lands there are footpaths, the most frequented being called the highways. You must not imagine these highways to be like our macadamized roads; they are merely paths, trodden tolerably hard. Here and there you notice bye-ways, along which travellers who wish to avoid the public road may journey with a little more safety when the main road is infested with robbers: hasty travellers also strike out short cuts for themselves, and so open fresh tracks for others. When the sower goes forth to sow he finds a plot of ground scratched over with the primitive Eastern plough; he aims at scattering his seed there most plentifully; but a path runs through the centre of his field, and unless he is willing to leave a broad headland, he must throw a handful upon it. Yonder, a rock crops out in the midst of the ploughed land, and the seed falls on its shallow soil. Here is a corner full of the roots of nettles and thistles, and he flings a little here; the corn and the nettles come up together, and the thorns being the stronger soon choke the seed, so that it brings forth no fruit unto perfection. The recollection that the Bible was written in the East, and that its metaphors and allusions must be explained to us by Eastern travellers, will often help us to understand a passage far better than if we think of English customs. The preacher of the gospel is like the sower. He does not make his seed; it is given him by his divine Master. No man could create the smallest grain that ever grew upon the earth, much less the celestial seed of eternal life. The minister goes to his Master in secret, and asks him to teach him his gospel, and thus he fills his basket with the good seed of the kingdom. He then goes forth in his Master’s name and scatters precious truth. If he knew where the best soil was to be found, perhaps he might limit himself to that which had been prepared by the plough of conviction; but not knowing men’s hearts, it is his business to preach the gospel to every creature—to throw a handful on the hardened heart, and another on the mind which is overgrown with the cares and pleasures of the world. He has to leave the seed in the care of the Lord who gave it to him, for he is not responsible for the harvest, he is only accountable for the care and industry with which he does his work. If no single ear should ever make glad the reaper, the sower will be rewarded by his Master if he had planted the right seed with careful hand. If it were not for this fact with what despairing agony should we utter the cry of Esaias, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" Our duty is not measured by the character of our hearers, but by the command of our God. We are bound to preach the gospel, whether men will hear, or whether they will forbear. It is ours to sow beside all waters. Let men’s hearts be what they may the minister must preach the gospel to them; he must sow the seed on the rock as well as in the furrow, on the highway as well as in the ploughed field. I shall now address myself to the four classes of hearers mentioned in our Lord’s parable. We have, first of all, those who are represented by the way-side, those who are "hearers only"; then those represented by the stony-ground; these are transiently impressed, but the word produces no lasting fruit; then, those among thorns, on whom a good impression is produced, but the cares of this life, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the pleasures of the world choke the seed; and, lastly, that small class—God be pleased to multiply it exceedingly—that small class of good-ground hearers, in whom the Word brings forth abundant fruit. I. First of all, I address myself to those hearts which are like the way-side—"Some fell by the way-side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it." Many of you do not go to the place of worship desiring a blessing. You do not intend to worship God, or to be affected by anything that you hear. You are like the highway, which was never intended to be a cornfield. If a single grain of truth should fall into your heart and grow it would be as great a wonder as for corn to grow up in the street. If the seed shall be dexterously scattered, some of it will fall upon you, and rest for a while upon your thoughts. ’Tis true you will not understand it; but, nevertheless, if it be placed before you in an interesting style, you will talk about it till some more congenial entertainment shall attract you. Even this slender benefit is brief, for in a little season you will forget all that you have heard. Would to God we could hope that our words would tarry with you, but we cannot hope it, for the soil of your heart is so hard beaten by continual traffic, that there is no hope of the seed finding a living root-hold. Satan is constantly passing over your heart with his company of blasphemies, lusts, lies, and vanities. The chariots of pride roll along it, and the feet of greedy mammon tread it till it is hard as adamant. Alas! for the good seed, it finds not a moment’s respite; crowds pass and repass; in fact, your soul is an exchange, across which continually hurry the busy feet of those who make merchandise of the souls of men. You are buying and selling, but you little think that you are selling the truth, and that you are buying your soul’s destruction. You have no time, you say, to think of religion. No, the road of your heart is such a crowded thoroughfare, that there is no room for the wheat to spring up. If it did begin to germinate, some rough foot would crush the green blade ere it could come to perfection. The seed has occasionally lain long enough to begin to sprout, but just then a new place of amusement has been opened, and you have entered there, and as with an iron heel, the germ of life that was in the seed was crushed out. Corn could not grow in Cornhill or Cheapside, however excellent the seed might be: your heart is just like those crowded thoroughfares; for so many cares and sins throng it, and so many proud, vain, evil, rebellious thoughts against God pass through it, that the seed of truth cannot grow. We have looked at this hard road-side, let us now describe what becomes of the good word, when it falls upon such a heart. It would have grown if it had fallen on right soil, but it has dropped into the wrong place, and it remains as dry as when it fell from the sower’s hand. The word of the gospel lies upon the surface of such a heart, but never enters it. Like the snow, which sometimes falls upon our streets, drops upon the wet pavement, melts, and is gone at once, so is it with this man. The word has not time to quicken in his soul: it lies there an instant, but it never strikes root, or takes the slightest effect. Why do men come to hear if the word never enters their hearts? That has often puzzled us. Some hearers would not be absent on the Sunday on any account; they are delighted to come up with us to worship, but yet the tear never trickles down their cheek, their soul never mounts up to heaven on the wings of praise, nor do they truly join in our confessions of sin. They do not think of the wrath to come, nor of the future state of their souls. Their heart is as iron; the minister might as well speak to a heap of stones as preach to them. What brings these senseless sinners here? Surely we are as hopeful of converting lions and leopards as these untamed, insensible hearts. Oh feeling! thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason! Do these people come to our assemblies because it is respectable to attend a place of worship? Or is it that their coming helps to make them comfortable in their sins? If they stopped away conscience would prick them; but they come hither that they may flatter themselves with the notion that they are religious. Oh! my hearers, your case is one that might make an angel weep! How sad to have the sun of the gospel shining on your faces, and yet to have blind eyes that never see the light. The music of heaven is lost upon you, for you have no ears to hear. You can catch the turn of a phrase, you can appreciate the poetry of an illustration, but the hidden meaning, the divine life you do not perceive. You sit at the marriage-feast, but you eat not of the dainties; the bells of heaven ring with joy over ransomed spirits, but you live unransomed, without God, and without Christ. Though we plead with you, and pray for you, and weep over you, you still remain as hardened, as careless, and as thoughtless as ever you were. May God have mercy on you, and break up your hard hearts, that his word may abide in you. We have not, however, completed the picture. The passage tells us that the fowls of the air devoured the seed. Is there here a way-side hearer? Perhaps he did not mean to hear this sermon, and when he has heard it he will be asked by one of the wicked to come into company. He will go with the tempter, and the good seed will be devoured by the fowls of the air. Plenty of evil ones are ready to take away the gospel from the heart. The devil himself, that prince of the air, is eager at any time to snatch away a good thought. And then the devil is not alone—he has legions of helpers. He can set a man’s wife, children, friends, enemies, customers, or creditors, to eat up the good seed, and they will do it effectually. Oh, sorrow upon sorrow, that heavenly seed should become devil’s meat; that God’s corn should feed foul birds! O my hearers, if you have heard the gospel from your youth, what waggon-loads of sermons have been wasted on you! In your younger days, you heard old Dr. So-and-so, and the dear old man was wont to pray for his hearers till his eyes were red with tears! Do you recollect those many Sundays when you said to yourself, "Let me go to my chamber and fall on my knees and pray"? But you did not: the fowls of the air ate up the seed, and you went on to sin as you had sinned before. Since then, by some strange impulse, you are very rarely absent from God’s house; but now the seed of the gospel falls into your soul as if it dropped upon an iron floor, and nothing comes of it. The law may be thundered at you; you do not sneer at it, but it never affects you. Jesus Christ may be lifted up; his dear wounds may be exhibited; his streaming blood may flow before your very eyes, and you may be bidden with all earnestness to look to him and live; but it is as if one should sow the sea-shore. What shall I do for you? Shall I stand here and rain tears upon this hard highway? Alas! my tears will not break it up; it is trodden too hard for that. Shall I bring the gospel plough? Alas! the ploughshare will not enter ground so solid. What shall we do? O God, thou knowest how to melt the hardest heart with the precious blood of Jesus. Do it now, we beseech thee, and thus magnify thy grace, by causing the good seed to live, and to produce a heavenly harvest. II. I shall now turn to the second class of hearers:—"And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture." You can easily picture to yourselves that piece of rock in the midst of the field thinly veiled with soil; and of course the seed falls there as it does everywhere else. It springs up, it hastens to grow, it withers, it dies. None but those who love the souls of men can tell what hopes, what joys, and what bitter disappointments these stony places have caused us. We have a class of hearers whose hearts are hard, and yet they are apparently the softest and most impressible of men. While other men see nothing in the sermon, these men weep. Whether you preach the terrors of the law or the love of Calvary, they are alike stirred in their souls, and the liveliest impressions are apparently produced. Such may be listening now. They have resolved, but they have procrastinated. They are not the sturdy enemies of God who clothe themselves in steel, but they seem to bare their breasts, and lay them open to the minister. Rejoiced in heart, we shoot our arrows there, and they appear to penetrate; but, alas, a secret armour blunts every dart, and no wound is felt. The parable speaks of this character thus—"Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth." Or as another passage explains it: "And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; and have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended." Have we not thousands of hearers who receive the word with joy? They have no deep convictions, but they leap into Christ on a sudden, and profess an instantaneous faith in him, and that faith has all the appearance of being genuine. When we look at it, the seed has really sprouted. There is a kind of life in it, there is apparently a green blade. We thank God that a sinner is brought back, a soul is born to God. But our joy is premature: they sprang up on a sudden, and received the word with joy, because they had no depth of earth, and the self-same cause which hastened their reception of the seed also causes them, when the sun is risen with his fervent heat, to wither away. These men we see every day in the week. They come to join the church; they tell us a story of how they heard us preach on such-and-such an occasion, and, oh, the word was so blessed to them, they never felt so happy in their lives! "Oh, sir, I thought I must leap from my seat when I heard about a precious Christ, and I believed on him there and then; I am sure I did." We question them as to whether they were ever convinced of sin. They think they were; but one thing they know, they feel a great pleasure in religion. We put it to them, "Do you think you will hold on?" They are confident that they shall. They hate the things they once loved, they are sure they do. Everything has become new to them. And all this is on a sudden. We enquire when the good work began. We find it began when it ended, that is to say, there was no previous work, no ploughing of the soil, but on a sudden they sprang from death to life, as if a field should be covered with wheat by magic. Perhaps we receive them into the church; but in a week or two they are not so regular as they used to be. We gently reprove them, and they explain that they meet with such opposition in religion, that they are obliged to yield a little. Another month and we lose them altogether. The reason is that they have been laughed at or exposed to a little opposition, and they have gone back. And what, think you, are the feelings of the minister? He is like the husbandman, who sees his field all green and flourishing, but at night a frost nips every shoot, and his hoped-for gains are gone. The minister goes to his chamber, and casts himself on his face before God, and cries, "I have been deceived; my converts are fickle, their religion has withered as the green herb." In the ancient story Orpheus is said to have had such skill upon the lyre, that he made the oaks and stones to dance around him. It is a poetical fiction, and yet hath it sometimes happened to the minister, that not only have the godly rejoiced, but men, like oaks and stones, have danced from their places. Alas! they have been oaks and stones still. Hushed is the lyre. The oak returns to its rooting-place, and the stone casts itself heavily to the earth. The sinner, who, like Saul, was among the prophets, goes back to plan mischief against the Most High. If it is bad to be a wayside hearer, I cannot think it is much better to be like the rock. This second class of hearers certainly gives us more joy than the first. A certain company always comes round a new minister; and I have often thought it is an act of God’s kindness that he allows these people to gather at the first, while the minister is young, and has but few to stand by him: these persons are easily moved, and if the minister preaches earnestly they feel it, and they love him, and rally round him, much to his comfort. But time, that proves all things, proves them. They seemed to be made of true metal; but when they are put into the fire to be tested, they are consumed in the furnace. Some of the shallow kind are here now. I have looked at you when I have been preaching, and I have often thought, "That man one of these days will come out from the world, I am sure he will." I have thanked God for him. Alas, he is the same as ever. Years and years have we sowed him in vain, and it is to be feared it will be so to the end, for he is without depth, and without the moisture of the Spirit. Shall it be so? Must I stand over the mouth of your open sepulchre, and think, "Here lies a shoot which never became an ear, a man in whom grace struggled but never reigned, who gave some hopeful spasms of life and then subsided into eternal death"? God save you! Oh! may the Spirit deal with you effectually, and may you, even you, yet bring forth fruit unto God, that Jesus may have a reward for his sufferings. III. I shall briefly treat of the third class, and may the Spirit of God assist me to deal faithfully with you. "And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it." Now, this was good soil. The two first characters were bad: the wayside was not the proper place, the rock was not a congenial situation for the growth of any plant; but this is good soil, for it grows thorns. Wherever a thistle will spring up and flourish, there would wheat flourish too. This was fat, fertile soil; it was no marvel therefore that the husbandman dealt largely there, and threw handful after handful upon that corner of the field. See how happy he is when in a month or two he visits the spot. The seed has sprung up. True, there’s a suspicious little plant down there of about the same size as the wheat. "Oh!" he thinks, "that’s not much, the corn will out-grow that. When it is stronger it will choke these few thistles that have unfortunately mixed with it." Ay, Mr. Husbandman, you do not understand the force of evil, or you would not thus dream! He comes again, and the seed has grown, there is even the corn in the ear; but the thistles, the thorns, and the briars have become intertwisted with one another, and the poor wheat can hardly get a ray of sunshine. It is so choked with thorns every way, that it looks quite yellow: the plant is starved. Still it perseveres in growing, and it does seem as if it would bring forth a little fruit. Alas, it never comes to anything. With it the reaper never fills his arm. We have this class very largely among us. These hear the word and understand what they hear. They take the truth home; they think it over; they even go the length of making a profession of religion. The wheat seems to spring and ear; it will soon come to perfection. Be in no hurry, these men and women have a great deal to see after; they have the cares of a large concern; their establishment employs so many hundred hands; do not be deceived as to their godliness—they have no time for it. They will tell you that they must live; that they cannot neglect this world; that they must anyhow look out for the present, and as for the future, they will render it all due attention by-and-by. They continue to attend gospel-preaching, and the poor little stunted blade of religion keeps on growing after a fashion. Meanwhile they have grown rich, they come to the place of worship in a carriage, they have all that heart can wish. Ah! now the seed will grow, will it not? No, no. They have no cares now; the shop is given up, they live in the country; they have not to ask, "Where shall the money come from to meet the next bill?" or "how shall they be able to provide for an increasing family." Now they have too much instead of too little, for they have riches, and they are too wealthy to be gracious. "But," says one, "they might spend their riches for God." Certainly they might, but they do not, for riches are deceitful. They have to entertain much company, and chime in with the world, and so Christ and his church are left in the lurch. Yes, but they begin to spend their riches, and they have surely got over that difficulty, for they give largely to the cause of Christ, and they are munificent in charity; the little blade will grow, will it not? No, for now behold the thorns of pleasure. Their liberality to others involves liberality to themselves; their pleasures, amusements, and vanities choke the wheat of true religion: the good grains of gospel truth cannot grow because they have to attend that musical party, that ball, and that soirée, and so they cannot think of the things of God. I know several specimens of this class. I knew one, high in court circles, who has confessed to me that he wished he were poor, for then he might enter the kingdom of heaven. He has said to me, "Ah! sir, these politics, these politics, I wish I were rid of them, they are eating the life out of my heart; I cannot serve God as I would." I know of another, overloaded with riches, who has said to me, "Ah! sir, it is an awful thing to be rich; one cannot keep close to the Saviour with all this earth about him." Ah! my dear readers, I will not ask for you that God may lay you on a bed of sickness, that he may strip you of all your wealth, and bring you to beggary; but, oh, if he were to do it, and you were to save your souls, it would be the best bargain you could ever make. If those mighty ones who now complain that the thorns choke the seed could give up all their riches and pleasures, if they that fare sumptuously every day could take the place of Lazarus at the gate, it were a happy change for them if their souls might be saved. A man may be honourable and rich, and yet go to heaven; but it will be hard work, for "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven." God does make some rich men enter the kingdom of heaven, but hard is their struggle. Steady, young man, steady! Hurry not to climb to wealth! It is a place where many heads are turned. Do not ask God to make you popular; they that have popularity are wearied by it. Cry with Agur—"Give me neither poverty nor riches." God give me to tread the golden mean, and may I ever have in my heart that good seed, which shall bring forth fruit a hundredfold to his own glory. IV. I now close with the last character, namely, the good ground. Of the good soil, as you will mark, we have but one in four. Will one in four of our hearers, with well-prepared heart, receive the Word? The ground is described as "good": not that it was good by nature, but it had been made good by grace. God had ploughed it; he had stirred it up with the plough of conviction, and there it lay in ridge and furrow as it should lie. When the gospel was preached, the heart received it, for the man said, "That is just the blessing I want. Mercy is what a needy sinner requires." So that the preaching of the gospel was the thing to give comfort to this disturbed and ploughed soil. Down fell the seed to take good root. In some cases it produced fervency of love, largeness of heart, devotedness of purpose of a noble kind, like seed which produces a hundredfold. The man became a mighty servant for God, he spent himself and was spent. He took his place in the vanguard of Christ’s army, stood in the hottest of the battle, and did deeds of daring which few could accomplish—the seed produced a hundredfold. It fell into another heart of like character;—the man could not do the most, but still he did much. He gave himself to God, and in his business he had a word to say for his Lord; in his daily walk he quietly adorned the doctrine of God his Saviour,—he brought forth sixty-fold. Then it fell on another, whose abilities and talents were but small; he could not be a star, but he would be a glow-worm; he could not do as the greatest, but he was content to do something, however humble. The seed had brought forth in him tenfold, perhaps twentyfold. How many are there of this sort here? Is there one who prays within himself, "God be merciful to me a sinner"? The seed has fallen in the right spot. Soul, thy prayer shall be heard. God never sets a man longing for mercy without intending to give it. Does another whisper, "Oh that I might be saved"? Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou, even thou, shalt be saved. Hast thou been the chief of sinners? Trust Christ, and thy enormous sins shall vanish as the millstone sinks beneath the flood. Is there no one here that will trust the Saviour? Can it be possible that the Spirit is entirely absent? that he is not moving in one soul? not begetting life in one spirit? We will pray that he may now descend, that the word may not be in vain. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Who Controls Your Heart? WHO CONTROLS YOUR HEART? Thoughts to Ponder by Doris February Fourteenth is known as Valentine's Day in the United States, and is a special day to remember the people we love. Men love to give chocolates and flowers to their wives and sweethearts. Cakes and cookies are baked to resemble hearts! Hopefully this romantic day of the year isn't the only time we remember to recognize loved ones with gifts! Do we think only with our hearts? The heart is the chief organ of our physical life. It is a hollow, muscular organ with its rhythmic contraction, and is like a pump maintaining the circulation of blood in our bodies. We see the importance of the heart in Leviticus 17:14-- "the life of every creature is its blood." The Scripture encourages us to guard our hearts: Proverbs 4:23-- "Above all else guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." The heart is the very center and core of our life, the real self! Character is determined by our motives, and motives are a matter of the heart--what we choose to do. Proverbs 14:30-- "A heart at peace gives life to the body." Do we allow God to control our hearts each day of the year? We can plan our way, but God determines our steps. Proverbs 21:2 —- "All a man's way seem right to him, but the Lord weighs the heart." Proverbs 16:9 — "The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps." Proverbs 3:5 and 6 — "Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths." Thought to Ponder: Are you allowing God to control your heart and direct your steps? Comments are closed.