Wednesday, January 31, 2024

No Going Back

Israel wanted a king, and they got one. But then they realized it wasn’t everything they thought it would be. We might think the natural response would be, “Ok, we don’t like this as much as we thought, so let’s make the Lord our king again.” But that’s not how this works from God’s perspective. There isn’t an undo button. Israel wanted a king, and they got one.

And this new arrangement entails not only being ruled by a king, but also any and all other sociopolitical realities that go along with it, effectively paving the way for different forms of government in the course of time (oligarchy, democracy, etc). The common thread that ties all such forms of government together is that they represent mankind being ruled by himself rather than God. And this is what we’re stuck with now. There’s no going back to the way it used to be.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Preterism and Futurism: A Short Dialogue

Preterist: One significant problem with the futurist approach to the book of Revelation is that it renders most of the book irrelevant to its original first-century readers.

Futurist: How so?

Preterist: If most of Revelation’s prophecies pertain to events that are still awaiting a future fulfillment to this day, then what real need was there for the original first-century audience to pay much attention to them? Futurism seems to minimize the relevance of the book not only for its original readers, but also for all subsequent generations of Christians which have come and gone through history.

Futurist: That’s a fair point, but your own approach is subject to a similar criticism.

Preterist: How so?

Futurist: As a preterist, you believe most of Revelation’s prophecies were fulfilled during the first century. But could we not suggest, by your standard, that this would render most of the book irrelevant to every subsequent generation, including our own?

Preterist: I see your point, but I would argue that fulfilled prophecies still retain a retroactive sort of relevance to the readers who live after their fulfillment. Fulfilled prophecies reveal the character of God by showing us his faithfulness to do what he said he would do, thus continuing to inspire worship today. We still hear sermons from Isaiah 9 at Christmas time, and we celebrate how God kept his promise to his people through the person and work of Christ.

Futurist: I totally agree with all of that. But I believe we can legitimately utilize a similar kind of nuance to understand the relevance of unfulfilled prophecies. I’ll express it this way: If a fulfilled prophecy can have a retroactive relevance to readers who live after its fulfillment, then why can’t an unfulfilled prophecy have, shall we say, a proactive relevance to readers who live before its fulfillment?

After all, there were hundreds of years between Isaiah’s messianic prophecies and their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus, which means the prophecy’s original hearers did not see its fulfillment with their own eyes. Are we therefore to think that the prophecy was not relevant to them? Of course not. They could still read Isaiah 9, and it was no less to them a worship-inspiring portrait of the character of God, and his purpose to provide salvation for his people. Yes, the ultimate fulfillment was still a future reality that they would not see in their lifetimes. But by no means did that make the prophecy irrelevant to them.

And I believe the same holds true within a futurist approach to Relevation. Even if most of the prophecies are awaiting fulfillment in the future, they are still worship-inspiring portraits of what God will bring to pass through Christ. And every generation of Christians can read them rejoicing in those realities, regardless of whether the fulfillments occur in their lifetime.

Preterist: But doesn’t Revelation say these things would happen soon?

Futurist: You’re changing the subject!

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Authorship of Hebrews: What does Hebrews 2:3 mean?

“How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard” (Hebrews 2:3, ESV).

This verse is commonly cited as a reason to doubt Paul’s authorship of Hebrews. I would say this is probably the most formidable objection to Paul’s authorship, so it’s worth responding to. In truth, I responded to this argument years ago on the blog, but I found myself thinking about it again today, and formulating a different approach to it.

As I see it, the author of Hebrews basically distinguishes two different categories of people in Hebrews 2:3, which could be described as follows:

Category 1: Those who heard the great salvation declared at first by the Lord.
Category 2: Those who did not hear the great salvation declared at first by the Lord.

And the author clearly places himself in category 2.

Doubters of Paul’s authorship often assume category 1 is equivalent to apostleship; and therefore, since the author places himself in category 2, this means the author is not an apostle, and therefore not Paul. But I believe this is too much of a leap. It’s unnecessary to insert the concept of apostleship into the passage, when we can simply interpret the author based on his own words.

Many would still argue (fairly) that Paul would have placed himself in category 1, since he heard from the Lord Jesus directly at his conversion on the Damascus Road. Yet the author does not describe category 1 as “those who heard the message from the Lord,” but as “those who heard the message from the Lord at first.” The phrase “at first” seems important to me. It could also be translated “at the beginning.” I believe it’s reasonable to view category 1 as a reference to the original disciples; in other words, those who were the first to encounter Jesus and sit under the original proclamation of the gospel during his earthly ministry.

And Paul was not part of that original group, but was accepted and approved by them at a later time (Gal. 2:9). Paul himself recognized that his apostleship was an odd case. He was not among those who “at first” heard the message, but rather the Lord appeared to him “last of all, as to one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8).

So it doesn’t at all seem a stretch to me that Paul would have placed himself in category 2, which would nullify this objection to Paul’s authorship of Hebrews.

Other posts I've written related to this topic:

In Truth, God Knows
Against a Pauline Hebrews
Highly Precarious


Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Word and the World

You have the Word, and you have the world. And the Word needs to be applied to the world. How do we become better at applying the Word to the world? One way to do that is by studying the Word. This one is obvious. The degree to which our understanding of the Word is limited, our ability to apply the Word to the world will also be limited.

But there is another way we become better at applying the Word to the world, and that’s by studying the world. This one may be less obvious to some, and may seem more controversial, but it really shouldn’t be in my opinion. The degree to which our understanding of the world is limited, our ability to apply the Word to the world will also be limited.

Suffer an elementary illustration, and think of the Word as paint, and the world as a paint-by-number template. If I don’t have a good view of the template, either because it isn’t printed well, or my vision is blurred or obstructed, then no matter how perfectly-mixed and beautiful the paint is, I will be limited in my ability to apply the paint as it should be.

Know the Word, and know the world. Both of these spheres of knowledge make us better able to apply the Word to the world.

Tuesday, June 13, 2023

“The Power of Prayer and the Pleasure of Praise” | Charles Spurgeon Sermon (Historic Homilies)

 Note: This version of the text contains minor changes I made while recording the sermon. Some of these changes were accidental reading errors, while others were intentional in order to aid understanding.


“The Power of Prayer and the Pleasure of Praise”
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
May 3, 1863

“Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. For our rejoicing in this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” – 2 Corinthians 1:11–12

The apostle Paul had, by singular providences, been delivered from imminent peril in Asia. During the great riot at Ephesus, when Demetrius and his fellow shrine-makers raised a great tumult against him, because they saw that their craft was in danger, Paul’s life was greatly in jeopardy, so that he writes, “We were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life.” The apostle attributes to God alone his singular preservation; and if he referred also to the occasion when he was stoned and left for dead, there is much appropriateness in his blessing, “God which raised the dead.”

The apostle, moreover, argues from the fact that God had thus delivered him in the past, and was still his helper in the present, that he would be with him also in the future. Paul is a master at all arithmetic, his faith was always a ready-reckoner, we here find him computing by the believer’s Rule of Three; he argues from the past to the present, and from the present to things yet to come. The verse preceding our text is a brilliant example of this arriving at a comfortable conclusion by the Rule of Three— “Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us.” Because our God is “ the same yesterday, today, and for ever;” his love in time past is an infallible assurance of his kindness to-day, and an equally certain pledge of his faithfulness on the morrow; whatever our circumstances may be, however perplexed may be our pathway, and however dark our horizon, yet if we argue by the rule of  “he has, he does, he will,” our comfort can never be destroyed.

Courage, then, O you afflicted seed of Israel; if you had a changeable God to deal with, your souls might be full of bitterness, but because he is “the same yesterday, today, and for ever,” every repeated manifestation of his grace should make it more easy for you to rest upon him; every renewed experience of his fidelity should confirm your confidence in his grace. May the most blessed Spirit teach us to grow in holy confidence in our ever-faithful Lord.

Although our apostle thus acknowledged God’s hand, and God’s hand alone, in his deliverance, yet he was not so foolish as to deny or undervalue, the second causes. On the contrary, having first praised the God of all comfort, he now remembers with gratitude the earnest prayers of the many loving intercessors. Gratitude to God must never become an excuse for ingratitude to man. It is true that Jehovah shielded the apostle of the Gentiles, but he did it in answer to prayer: the chosen vessel was not broken by the rod of the wicked, for the outstretched hand of the God of heaven was his defence, but that hand was outstretched because the people of Corinth and the saints of God everywhere had prevailed at the throne of grace by their united supplications. With gratitude those successful pleadings are mentioned in the text, “Ye also helping together by prayer for us,” and he desires the brethren now to unite their praises with his, “that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf,” for he adds that he has a claim upon their love, since he was not as some who were unfaithful to their trust, but his conscience was clear that he had preached the Word simply and with sincerity. 

While speaking upon these topics may the anointing Spirit now descend to make them profitable to us. We shall, first, acknowledge the power of united prayer; secondly, excite you to united praise; and then, in the third place, urge our joyful claim upon you—a claim which is not our’ s alone, but belongs to all ministers of God who in sincerity labour for souls.

I. First, then, dear friends, it is my duty and my privilege this morning to acknowledge the power of united prayer.

It has pleased God to make prayer the abounding and rejoicing river through which most of our choice mercies flow to us. It is the golden key which unlocks the well-stored granaries of our heavenly Joseph. It is written upon each of the mercies of the covenant, “For this will I be inquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” There are mercies which come unsought, for God is found of them that sought not for him; but there are other favours which are only bestowed upon the men who ask, and therefore receive; who seek, and therefore find; who knock, and therefore gain an entrance.

Why God has been pleased to command us to pray at all it is not difficult to discover, for prayer glorifies God, by putting man in the humblest posture of worship. The creature in prayer acknowledges his Creator with reverence, and confesses him to be the giver of every good and perfect gift; the eye is lifted up to behold the glory of the Lord, while the knee is bent to the earth in the lowliness of acknowledged weakness. Though prayer is not the highest mode of adoration, or otherwise it would be continued by the saints in heaven, yet it is the most humble, and so the most fitting, to set forth the glory of the perfect One as it is beheld by imperfect flesh and blood. From the “Our Father,” in which we claim relationship, right on to “the kingdom, and the power, and the glory,” which we ascribe to the only true God, every sentence of prayer honours the Most High. The groans and tears of humble petitioners are as truly acceptable as the continual “Holy, holy, holy,” of the Cherubim and Seraphim; for in their very essence all truthful confessions of personal fault are but a homage paid to the infinite perfections of the Lord of hosts.

More honoured is the Lord by our prayers than by the unceasing smoke of the holy incense of the altar which stood before the veil. Moreover, the act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is no small blessing to such proud beings as we are. If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a suit in forma pauperis, an exposure of secret wounds, a revelation of hidden poverty. While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. I believe that the most healthy state of a Christian is to be always empty, and always depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in Jesus; weak as water personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where he should be, in the very dust.

Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer. Prayer plumes the wings of God’s young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God’s warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm. An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun arises from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians. What if I say that prayer clothes the believer with the attributes of Deity, girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the serenity of the immortal God. I know not what prayer cannot do! I thank you, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice gift of your marvellous lovingkindness. Help us to use it rightly!

As many mercies are conveyed from heaven in the ship of prayer, so there are many choice and special favours which can only be brought to us by the fleets of united prayer. Many are the good things which God will give to his lonely Elijahs and Daniels, but if two of you agree as touching anything that you shall ask, there is no limit to God’s bountiful answers. Peter might never have been brought out of prison if it had not been that prayer was made without ceasing by all the Church for him. Pentecost might never have come if all the disciples had not been “with one accord in one place,” waiting for the descent of the tongues of fire. God is pleased to give many mercies to one pleader, but at times he seems to say—“Ye shall all appear before me and entreat my favour, for I will not see your face, unless even your younger brethren be with you.” Why is this, dear friends? I take it that thus our gracious Lord sets forth his own esteem for the communion of saints. “I believe in the communion of saints” is one article of the great Christian creed, but how few there are who understand it. Oh! there is such a thing as real union among God’s people. We may be called by different names—

“But all the servants of our King
In heaven and earth are one.” 

We cannot afford to lose the help and love of our brethren. Augustine says—“The poor are made for the rich and the rich are made for the poor.” I do not doubt but that strong saints are made for weak saints, and that the weak saints bring special benedictions upon the full-grown believers. There is a fitness in the whole body; each joint owes something to every other, and the whole body is bound together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth. There are certain glands in the human body which the anatomist hardly understands. He can say of the liver, for instance, that it yields a very valuable fluid of the utmost value in the bodily economy, but there are other secretions whose distinct value he cannot ascertain; yet, doubtless, if that gland were removed, the whole body might suffer to a high degree: and so, beloved friends, there may be some believers of whom we may say—“I do not know the use of them; I cannot tell what good that Christian does; yet were that insignificant and apparently useless member removed, the whole body might be made to suffer, the whole frame might become sick and the whole heart faint.” This is probably the reason why many a weighty gift of heaven’s love is only granted to combined petitioning—that we may perceive the use of the whole body, and so may be compelled to recognize the real vital union which divine grace has made and daily maintains among the people of God.

Is it not a happy thought, dear friends, that the very poorest and most obscure Church-member can add something to the body’s strength. We cannot all preach; we cannot all rule; we cannot all give gold and silver, but we can all contribute our prayers. There is no convert, though he be but two or three days old in grace, but can pray. There is no bed-ridden sister in Jesus who cannot pray; there is no sick, aged, imbecile, obscure, illiterate, or penniless believer, who cannot add his supplications to the general stock. This is the Church’s riches. We put boxes at the door that we may receive your offerings to God’s cause—remember there is a spiritual chest within the Church, into which we should all drop our loving intercessions, as into the treasury of the Lord. Even the widow, without her two mites, can give her offering to this treasury.

See, then, dear friends, what union and communion there are among the people of God, since there are certain mercies which are only bestowed when the saints unitedly pray. How we ought to feel this bond of union! How we ought to pray for one another! How, as often as the Church meets together for supplication, should we all make it our bound duty to be there! I wish that some of you who are absent from the prayer-meeting upon any little excuse would reflect how much you rob us all. The prayer-meeting is an invaluable institution, ministering strength to all other meetings and agencies. Are there not many of you who might by a little pinching of your time and pressing of your labours come among us a little oftener? And what if you should lose a customer now and then, do you not think that this loss could be well made up to you by your gains on other days? Or if not so, would not the spiritual profit much more than counterbalance any little temporal loss? “Not forgetting the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is.”

We are now prepared for a further observation. This united prayer should specially be made for the ministers of God. It is for them peculiarly that this public prayer is intended. Paul asks for it— “Brethren, pray for us;” and all God’s ministers to the latest time will ever confess that this is the secret source of their strength. The prayers of the people must be the might of the ministers. Shall I try to show you why the minister more than any other man in the Church needs the earnest prayers of the people? Is not his position the most perilous? Satan’s orders to the hosts of hell are—“Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the ministers of God.” He knows if he can once smite through the heart of one of these, there will be a general confusion, for if the champion be dead, then the people fly. It is around the standard-bearer that the fight is thickest. There the battle-axes ring upon the helmets; there the arrows are bent upon the armour, for the enemy knows that if he can cut down the standard, or cleave the skull of its bearer, he will strike a heavy blow and cause deep discouragement. Press around us, then, you men at arms! Knights of the red cross rally for our defence, for the fight grows hot. We beseech you if you elect us to the office of the ministry, stand fast at our side in our hourly conflicts.

I noticed on returning from Rotterdam, when we were crossing the bar at the mouth of the Maas, where by reason of a neap tide and a bad wind the navigation was exceedingly dangerous, that orders were issued— “All hands on deck!” So I think the life of a minister is so perilous, that I may well cry— “All hands on deck;” every man to prayer; let even the weakest saint become instant in supplication. The minister, standing in such a perilous position, has, moreover, a solemn weight of responsibility resting on him. Every man should be his brother’s keeper in a measure, but woe to the watchmen of God if they be not faithful, for at their hands shall the blood of souls be required; at their door shall God lay the ruin of men if they preach not the gospel fully and faithfully.

There are times when this burden of the Lord weighs upon God’s ministers until they cry out in pain as if their hearts would burst with anguish. I marked the captain as we crossed that bar throwing the lead himself into the sea; and when one asked why he did not let the sailors do it, he said, “At this point, just now, I dare not trust any man but myself to heave the lead, for we have hardly six inches between our ship and the bottom.” And, indeed, we felt the vessel touch once or twice most unpleasantly. So there will come times with every preacher of the gospel, if he be what he should be, when he will be in dread suspense for his hearers, and will not be able to discharge his duty by proxy, but must personally labour for men, not even trusting himself to preach, but calling upon his God for help since he is now overwhelmed with the burden of men’s souls. Oh, do pray for us. If God gives us to you and if you accept the gift most cheerfully, do not so despise both God and us as to leave us penniless and poverty-stricken because your prayers are withheld.

Moreover, the preservation of the minister is one of the most important objects to the Church. You may lose a sailor from the ship, and that is very bad, both for him and for you; but if the pilot should fall over, or the captain should be smitten with sickness, or the helmsman be washed from the wheel, then what is the vessel to do? Therefore, though prayer is to be put up for every other person in the Church, yet for the minister is it to be offered first and foremost, because of the position which he occupies. And then, how much more is asked of him than of you? If you are to keep a private table for individual instruction, he is, as it were, to keep a public table, a feast of good things for all comers; and how shall he do this unless his Master give him rich provisions? You are to shine as a candle in a house: the minister has to be as a lighthouse to be seen far across the deep, and how shall he shine the whole night long unless he be trimmed by his Master, and fresh oil be given him from heaven? His influence is wider than yours: if it be for evil, he shall be a deadly tree, with spreading boughs poisoning all beneath his shadow; but if God make him a star in his right hand, his ray of light shall cheer with its genial influence whole nations and whole periods of time. If there be any truth in all this, I implore you yield us generously and constantly the assistance of your prayers.

I find that in the original, the word for “helping together,” implies very earnest work. Some people’s prayers have no work in them; but the only prayer which prevails with God is a real working-man’s prayer—where the petitioner, like a Samson, shakes the gates of mercy, and labours to pull them up rather than be denied an entrance. We do not want finger-end prayers, which only touch the burden, we need shoulder-prayers, which bear a load of earnestness and are not to be denied their desire. We do not want those dainty run-away knocks at the door of mercy, which professors give when they show off at prayer-meetings, but we ask for the knocking of a man who means to have, and means to stop at mercy’s gate till it opens and all his need shall be supplied. The energetic, vehement violence of the man who is not to be denied, but intends to carry heaven by storm until he wins his heart’s desire—this is the prayer which ministers covet of their people.

Melancthon, it is said, derived great comfort from the information that certain poor weavers, women and children, had met together to pray for the Reformation. Yes, Melancthon, there was solid ground for comfort here. Depend on it, it was not Luther only, but the thousands of poor persons who sung psalms at the plough-tail, and the hundreds of serving men and women who offered supplications, that made the Reformation what it was. We are told of Paulus Phagius, a celebrated Hebrew scholar, very useful in introducing the Reformation into this country, that one of his frequent requests of his younger scholars, was that they would continue in prayer, so that God might be pleased to pour out a blessing in answer to them.

Have I not said a hundred times, that all the blessing that God has given us here, all the increase to our Church, has been due, under God, to your earnest, fervent supplications? There have been heaven-moving seasons both in this house and at New Park Street. We have had times when we have felt we could die sooner than not be heard; when we carried our Church on our bosom as a mother carrieth her child; when we felt a yearning and a travailing in birth for the souls of men. “What hath God wrought?” we may truly say, when we see our Church daily increasing, and the multitudes still hanging upon our lips to listen to the Word. Shall we now cease from our prayers? Shall we now say unto the Great High Priest, “It is enough?” Shall we now pluck the glowing coals from the altar and quench the burning incense? Shall we now refuse to bring the morning and evening lambs of prayer and praise to the sacrifice? O children of Ephraim, being armed and carrying bows, will you turn your backs in the day of battle? The flood is divided before you; the Jordan is driven back; will you refuse to march through the depths? God, even your God, goes up before you; the shout of a King is heard in the midst of your hosts; will you now be recreant and refuse to go up and possess the land? Will you now lose your first love? Shall “Ichabod” be written upon the forefront of this tabernacle? Shall it be said that God has forsaken you? Shall the day come in which the daughters of Philistia shall rejoice and the sons of Syria shall triumph?

If not, to your knees again, with all the force of prayer! If not, to your vehement supplications once more! If not, if you would not see good blighted and evil triumphant, clasp hands again, and in the name of him who ever liveth to intercede, once more be prevalent in prayer that the blessing may again descend. “Ye also helping together by prayer for us.” 

II. We must now excite you to praise

Praise should always follow answered prayer; the mist of earth’s gratitude should rise as the sun of heaven’s love warms the ground. Has the Lord been gracious to you, and inclined his ear to the voice of your supplication? Then praise him as long as you live. Deny not a song to him who has answered your prayer and given you the desire of your heart. To be silent over God’s mercies is to incur the guilt of shocking ingratitude, and ingratitude is one of the worst of crimes.

I trust, dear friends, you will not act as basely as the nine lepers, who after they had been healed of their leprosy, returned not to give thanks unto the healing Lord. To forget to praise God, is to refuse to benefit ourselves, for praise, like prayer, is exceedingly useful to the spiritual man. It is a high and healthful exercise. To dance, like David, before the Lord, is to quicken the blood in the veins and make the pulse beat at a healthier rate. Praise gives to us a great feast, like that of Solomon, who gave to every man a good piece of flesh and a flagon of wine. Praise is the most heavenly of Christian duties. The angels pray not, but they cease not to praise both day and night. To bless God for mercies received is to benefit our fellow-men; “the humble shall hear thereof and be glad.” Others who have been in like circumstances, shall take comfort if we can say, “Oh! magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together; this poor man cried, and the Lord heard him.” Tongue-tied Christians are a sad dishonour to the Church. We have some such, some whom the devil has gagged, and the loudest music they ever make is when they are champing the bit of their silence. I wish, my brethren, that in all such cases the tongue of the mute may sing.

To go a step further here. As praise is good and pleasant, blessing man and glorifying God, united praise has a very special commendation. United praise is like music in concert. The sound of one instrument is exceeding sweet, but when hundreds of instruments, both wind and stringed, are all combined, then the orchestra sends forth a noble volume of harmony. The praise of one Christian is accepted before God like a grain of incense; but the praise of many is like a censer full of frankincense smoking up before the Lord. Combined praise is an anticipation of heaven, for in that general assembly they altogether with one heart and voice praise the Lord.

“Ten thousand thousand are their tongues,
But all their joys are one.”

Public praise is very agreeable to the Christian himself. How many burdens has it removed; I am sure when I hear the shout of praise in this house it warms my heart. It is at times a little too slow for my taste, and I must urge you to quicken your pace, that the rolling waves of majestic praise may display their full force, yet with all drawbacks, to my heart there is no music like yours. My Dutch friends praise the Lord so very slowly that one might very well go to sleep, lulled by their lengthened strains. Even there, however, the many voices make a grand harmony of praise. I love to hear God’s people sing when they really do sing, not when it is a drawling out somewhere between harmony and discord. O for a sacred song, a shout of lofty praise in which every man’s soul beats the time, and every man’s tongue sounds the tune, and each singer feels a high ambition to excel his fellow in gratitude and love. There is something exceedingly delightful in the union of true hearts in the worship of God, and when these hearts are expressed in song, how sweet the charming sounds. I think we ought to have a praise-meeting once a week. We have a prayer meeting every Monday, and a prayer-meeting every Saturday, and a prayer-meeting every morning, but why do we not have a praise-meeting? Surely seasons should be set apart for services made up of praise from beginning to end. Let us try the plan at once.

As I said about united prayer, that it should be offered specially for ministers, so should united praise often take the same aspect, the whole company should praise and bless God for the mercy rendered to the Church through its pastors. Hear how our apostle puts it again—“That for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many on our behalf.” Brethren, we ought to praise God for good ministers that they live, for when they die much of their work dies with them. It is astonishing how a reformation will press on while Luther and Calvin live, and how it will cease as soon as the reformers die. The spirits of good men are immortal only in a sense. The Churches of God in this age are like the Israelites in the times of the judges, when the judges died they went after graven images again. And it is so now.

While God spares the man the Church prospers, but when the man dies the zeal which he blew to a flame smoulders among the ashes. In nine cases out of ten, if not in ninety-nine out of every hundred, the prosperity of a Church rests on the minister’s life. God so ordains it to humble us. There should be gratitude, then, for spared life; but there should be great gratitude for preserved character, for oh! when a minister falls, what a disgrace it is! Why, when you read in the police-reports the sad case of the Rev. Mr.——, who chose to call himself a Baptist minister, everybody says. “What a shocking thing! what a bad set the Baptists must be.” Now, any fool in the world may call himself a Baptist minister. Our liberty is so complete that no law or order exists. Any man who can get a dozen to hear him, is a minister at least to them; therefore you cannot suppose but what there will be some hypocrites who will take the name in order to get some sort of reputation. If the true minister be kept, and made to hold fast his integrity, there should be constant gratitude to God on his behalf.

If the minister be kept well supplied with goodly matter; if he be like a springing well; if God give him to bring out of his treasury things both new and old to feed his people, there should be hearty thanks. And if he be kept sound, if he go not aside to philosophy on the one hand, nor to a narrowness of doctrine on the other, there should be thanksgiving there. If God give to the masses the will to hear him, and above all, if souls be converted, and saints be edified, there should be never-ceasing honour and praise to God.

Ah! I am talking now about what you all know, and you just nod your heads to it, and think there is not much in it, but if you were made to live in Holland for a little time you would soon appreciate these remarks. While travelling there, I stayed in houses with godly men, men of God with whom I could hold sweet communion, who cannot attend what was once their place of worship. Why not? “ Sir,” they say, “ can I go to a place of worship when the most of the ministers deny every word of Scripture; not those of the Reformed Church only, but of every sect in Holland; how can I listen to the traitors who swear to the Calvinistic or Lutheran articles, and then go into the pulpit and deny the reality of the resurrection, or assert that the ascension of Jesus is a mere spiritual parable?” I find that in the Netherlands they are fifty years in advance of us in infidelity. We shall soon catch up with them if gentlemen of a certain school I know of are suffered to multiply. The Dutch divines have taken great strides in Neologianism, till now the people love the truth, and there are multitudes that are willing to hear it, but these are compelled absolutely to refuse to go to church at all, lest by any means they should give countenance to the heretical and false doctrines which are preached to them every Sabbath-day. Ah! if God were once to take away from England the ministers who preach the gospel boldly and plainly, you would cry to God to give you the candlestick back again. We may indeed say of England—

“With all thy faults I love thee still.”

We have a colonial bishop who avows his unbelief ; we have a few men of all denominations who are quietly sliding from the truth; but thank God they are nothing as yet; they are but as a drop in a bucket compared to the Churches of Christ, and those among us who are not quite as Calvinistic as we might wish, I thank God, never dispute the inspiration of Scripture, nor doubt the great truth of justification by faith. We have still preserved amongst us men that are faithful to God, and preach the whole truth as it is in Jesus. Be thankful for your ministers, I say again, for if you were placed where some believers are, you would cry out to your God—”Lord, send us back thy prophets; send us a famine of bread or a famine of water, but send us not a famine of the Word of God!”

I ask for myself this morning, as your minister, your thanksgivings to be mingled with mine in praising God for the help which he has vouchsafed to me in the very arduous work of the last fortnight. Praise be to God for the acceptance which he gave me in that country among all ranks of the people. I speak to his praise, and not to mine, for this has been a vow with me; that if God will give me a harvest, I will not have an ear of corn of it, but he shall have it all. I found in all the places where I went great multitudes of people; crowds who could not understand the preacher, but who wanted to see his face, because God had blessed his translated sermons to their souls ; multitudes who gave me the grip of brotherly kindness, and, with tears in their eyes, invoked, in the Dutch language, every blessing upon my head.

I hoped to preach to some fifties and hundreds, and instead of that there were so many that the great cathedrals were not too large. This surprised me and made me glad, and caused me to rejoice in God, and I ask you to rejoice with me. I thank God for the acceptance which he gave me among all ranks of the people. While the poor crowded to shake hands, till they almost pulled me in pieces, it pleased God to move the heart of the Queen of Holland to send for me, and for an hour and a quarter I was privileged to talk with her concerning the things which make for our peace. I sought no interview with her, but it was her own wish; and then I lifted up my soul to God that I might talk of nothing but Christ, and might preach to her of nothing but Jesus; and so it pleased the Master to help me, and I left that very amiable lady, not having shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.

Gratified was I, indeed, to find myself received cordially by all denominations, so that on the Saturday at Amsterdam I preached in the Mennonite Church in the morning, and at the Old Dutch Reformed Church in the evening; and next Sunday morning in the English Presbyterian Church, and then again in the evening in the Dutch Free Church; sometimes in the great cathedrals, as in the Dom Kirk, at Utrecht, and in Peter’s Kirk, at Leyden, not having the poor only, but the nobility and the gentry of the land, who of course could understand English better than most of the poor, who have had no opportunity of learning it.

I felt while going from town to town the Master helping me continually to preach. I never knew such elasticity of spirit, such bounding of heart in my life before; and I come back, not wearied and tired, though preaching twice every day, but fuller of strength and vigour than when I first set out. I give God the glory for the many souls I have heard of who have been converted through the reading of the printed sermons, and for the loving blessings of those who followed us to the water’s edge with many tears, saying to us—“Do thy diligence to come again before winter,” and urging us once more to preach the word in that land. There may be mingled with this some touch of egotism; the Lord knoweth whether it be so or not, but I am not conscious of it. I do praise and bless his name, that in a land where there is so much philosophy, he has helped me to preach the truth so simply, that I never uttered a word as a mere doctrinalist, but I preached Christ, and nothing but Christ. Rejoice with me, my dear brethren. I must have you rejoice in it, or if you will not, I must rejoice alone, but my loaf of praise is too great for me to eat it all. 

III. And now we come to a close. I have to urge the joyful claims which the apostle gives in the twelfth verse, as a reason why there should be prayer and praise.

“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” Ah! after all, a man’s comfort must come, next to the finished salvation of God, from the testimony of his own conscience, and to a minister what a testimony it is that he has preached the gospel in simplicity, to which there are two senses: preached it not with doublemindedness—saying one thing and meaning another; preached it, not as watermen row, looking one way and pulling another, but preached it meaning what he said, having a single heart, desiring God’s glory and the salvation of men. And what a blessing to have preached it simply, that is to say, without hard words, without polished phrases, never studying elocutionary graces, never straining after oratorical embellishments. How accursed must be the life of a man who profanes the pulpit to the dignity of eloquence; how desperate will be his deathbed, when he remembers that he made an exhibition of his powers of speech rather than of the solid things which make for the winning of souls. That conscience may well be easy that can speak of having dealt with God’s truth in simplicity.

The apostle says, also, that he had preached it with sincerity, that is, he had preached it meaning it, feeling it, preached it so that none could accuse him of being false. The Greek word has something in it of sunlight, and he is the true minister of God who preaches what he would wish to have hung up in the sunlight, or who has the sunlight shining right through him. I am afraid we are none of us like white glass, most of us are coloured a little, but he is happy who seeks to get rid of the colouring matter as much as possible, so that the light of the gospel may shine perfectly straight, clear as it comes from the Sun of Righteousness, through him.

Paul had preached with simplicity and sincerity. And he adds, “Not with fleshly wisdom.” Oh! what stories have I heard of what fleshly wisdom will do, and I have learned a lesson during the last fortnight which I wish that England would learn. There are three schools of theological error over yonder, and each one leaps over the back of its fellow, some of them holding that all the facts of Scripture are only myths, others of them saying that there are some good things in the Bible, though there are a great many mistakes, and others going further still, and flinging the whole Bible away altogether as to its inspiration, though they still preach it, and still lean on it, saying that they do that merely for the edification of the vulgar, merely holding it up for the sake of the masses, though I ought to add merely to get their living as well. Sad! sad! sad! that the Church has gone to such a length as that—the Old Dutch Reformed Church, the very mirror of Calvinism, standing fast and firm in its creeds to all the doctrines we love, and yet gone astray to latitudinarian and licentious liberty.

Oh! how earnestly should we decry fleshly wisdom! I am afraid, dear friends, sometimes that some of you when you hear a minister, you like him to put it pretty well, and you find fault unless he shows some degree of talent. I wonder whether that is not a sin? I am half inclined to think it is. I sometimes think whether we ought not to look less every day to talent, and more and more to the matter of the gospel that is preached; whether if a man be blessed with elocutionary power we may perhaps be more profited by him—whether that is not a weakness, whether we had not better go back to the days of fishermen once again, and give men no sort of education whatever, but just send them to preach the truth simply, rather than go the length they are now going, giving men, I know not what, of all sorts of learning that is of no earthly use to them, but which only helps them to pervert the simplicity of God. I love that word in my text—“Not with fleshly wisdom.”

And now I lay my claim, as my conscience bears me witness—I lay my claim to this boasting of our apostle. I have preached God’s gospel in simplicity; I do not know how I can preach it more simply, nor can I more honestly declare it. I have preached it sincerely—the Searcher of all hearts knows that; and I have not preached it with fleshly wisdom, and that for one excellent reason—that I have not any, and have been compelled to keep to the simple testimony of the Lord. But if I have done aught, it has been done by the grace of God. If any success has been achieved, it has been grace that has done it all. “And more especially to you-ward;” for though our word has gone forth to many lands, and our testimony belts the globe, yet “more especially to you-ward.” You have we warned; you have we entreated; you have we exhorted; with you have we pleaded; over you have we wept; for you we have prayed; to some of you we have been a spiritual parent in Christ; to many of you as a nursing father; to many of you as a teacher and an edifier in the gospel; and we hope to all of you a sincere friend in Christ Jesus.

Therefore do I claim your prayers—yours more than any other people’s; and though there will be not a few who will remember us in their supplications, I do conjure you, inasmuch as it has been “especially to you-ward,” let us specially have your prayers. Some will say that it is unkind even for me to suppose that you do not pray. Well, I do not so suppose it out of unkindness, but there may be some who forget—some who forget to plead. Oh! do pray for us still! The whole congregation is not saved yet. There are some that hear us that are not yet converted. Plead with God for their sakes. There are some hard hearts unbroken; ask God to make the hammer strike; and while there are some still unmelted, pray God to make the word like a fire. This great London needs to bestirred from end to end. Pray for all your ministers, that God may make them mighty. The Church needs more still of the loud voice of God to wake it from its sleep. Ask God to bless all his sent servants. Plead with him with divine energy, that so his kingdom may come, and his will may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

O that you all believed in Jesus; for until you do, you cannot pray nor praise! O that you all believed in Jesus! Remember, this is the only way of salvation. Trust Jesus, for he that believes on him is not condemned, but he that believes not is condemned already, because he believes not on the Son of God. Trust Jesus and you shall be saved. May Christ accept you now, for his own love’s sake. Amen.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

“The War of Truth” | Charles Spurgeon Sermon (Historic Homilies)

Note: This version of the text contains minor changes I made while recording the sermon. Some of these changes were accidental reading errors, while others were intentional in order to aid understanding.

“The War Of Truth”
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
January 11, 1857

“And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men and go out, fight with Amalek; tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand.” – Exodus 17:9

The children of Israel were led out of Egypt with a strong hand and an out-stretched arm. They were conducted into the vast howling wilderness, where there were few, if any, permanent abodes of men. For some time they pursued their march in solitude, discovering wells and traces of a nomadic population, but not meeting with any to disturb their loneliness. But it appears that then, as now, there were wandering tribes who, like the Bedouin Arabs, wandered to and fro through that very country which the people of Israel were now treading with their feet. These people, excited by the hope of spoil, fell suddenly upon the rear of the children of Israel, smote the hindmost of them in a most cowardly manner, took their spoil, and then swiftly decamped. Gathering strength and courage from this successful foray, they then dared to attack the whole host of Israel, which at that time must have amounted to two or three millions of souls, who had been brought out of Egypt and fed by miracle in the wilderness. This time Israel was not to be surprised; for Moses had said unto Joshua—“Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand;” pleading with God, in order that every blow struck with the sword might be made doubly powerful by the mighty assistance of God.

We are told that a great victory was achieved; the Amalekites were put to the rout, and because of their unprovoked attack upon the children of Israel, they were condemned to extermination; for we find it written thus:—“Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: for I will utterly put out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. And Moses built an altar, and called the name of it Jehovah-nissi. For he said, Because the Lord hath sworn that the Lord will have war with Amalek from generation to generation.”

Now, beloved, this scene of warfare is not recorded in Scripture as an interesting circumstance to amuse the lover of history, but it is written for our edification; for we remember the text which says—“Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our profit.” There is some profit to be derived from this—and we believe a peculiar profit, too, since God was pleased to make this the first writing commanded by Divine authority as a record for generations to come. We think that the journeys of the children of Israel furnish us with many emblems of the journey of God’s church through the world; and we believe, that this fight with Amalek is a metaphor and an emblem of that constant and daily fight which all God’s people must carry on with sins without and sins within. This morning I shall more particularly confine myself to sin without; I shall speak of the great battle which at the present moment is being waged for God and for his truth, against the enemies of the Cross of Christ. I shall endeavour, first, to make a few remarks upon the war itself, then to review the authorised method of warfare, which is twofold—hard blows and hard prayers, and then I shall finish by stirring up God’s church to great and earnest diligence in the warfare for God and for his truth.

I. First, then, we shall make some remarks upon the great warfare which we think is typified by the contest between the children of Israel and Amalek.

First of all, note that this crusade, this sacred, holy war of which I speak, is not with men, but with Satan and with error. “We wrestle not with flesh and blood.” Christian men are not at war with any man that walks the earth. We are at war with infidelity, but the persons of infidels we love and pray for; we are at warfare with any heresy, but we have no enmity against heretics; we are opposed to, and cry war to the knife with everything that opposes God and his truth: but towards every man we would still endeavour to carry out the holy maxim, “Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you.” The Christian soldier has no gun and no sword, for he fights not with men. It is with “spiritual wickedness in high places” that he fights, and with other principalities and powers instead of those that sit on thrones and hold sceptres in their hands.

I have marked, however, that some Christian men—and it is a feeling to which all of us are prone—are very apt to make Christ’s war a war of flesh and blood, instead of a war with wrong and spiritual wickedness. Have you never noticed in religious controversies how men will fall foul of each other, and make personal remarks and abuse each other? What is that but forgetting what Christ’s war is? We are not fighting against men; we are fighting for men rather than against them. We are fighting for God and his truth against error and against sin; but not against men. Woe, woe, to the Christian who forgets this sacred canon of warfare. Touch not the persons of men, but smite their sin with a stout heart and with a strong arm. Slay both the little ones and the great; let nothing be spared that is against God and his truth; but we have no war with the persons of poor mistaken men. Rome we hate even as we abhor hell, yet for her followers we ever pray. Idolatry and infidelity we fiercely denounce, but the men who debase themselves by either of them are the objects not of wrath, but pity. We fight not against the men, but against the things which we consider in God’s sight to be wrong.

Let us always make that distinction, otherwise the conflict with Christ’s church will be degraded into a mere battle of brute force and garments rolled in blood; and so the world will again be an Aceldama—a field of blood. It is this mistake which has nailed martyrs to the stake and cast confessors into prison, because their opponents could not distinguish between the imaginary error and the man. While they spoke stoutly against the seeming error; in their ignorant bigotry they felt that they must also persecute the man, which they need not and ought not to have done. I will never be afraid to speak out my mind with all the Saxon words I can get together, and I am not afraid of saying hard things against the devil, and against what the devil teaches; but with every man in the wide world I am friends, nor is there one living with whom I am at enmity for a moment any more than with the babe that has just been brought into the world. We must hate error, we must abhor falsehood; but we must not hate men, for God’s warfare is against sin. May God help us always to make that distinction.

But now let us observe that the warfare which the Christian carries on, may be said for his encouragement, to be a most righteous warfare. In every other conflict in which men have engaged, there have been two opinions, some have said the war was right, and some have said it was wrong; but in regard to the sacred war in which all believers have been engaged, there has been only one opinion among right-minded men. When the ancient priest stirred up the Crusaders to the fight, he made them shout Deus vult—God wills it. And we may far more truly say the same. A war against falsehood, a war against sin, is God’s war; it is a war which commends itself to every Christian man, seeing he is quite certain that he has the seal of God’s approval when he goes to wage war against God’s enemies. Beloved, we have no doubt whatever, when we lift up our voices like a trumpet against sin, that our warfare is justified by the eternal laws of justice. Would to God that every war had so just and true an excuse as the war which God wages with Amalek—with sin in the world!

Let us recollect again, that it is a war of the greatest importance. In other wars it is sometimes said—“Britons! fight for your hearths and your homes, for your wives and for your children—fight and repel the foe!” But in this war it is not merely for our hearths and for our homes, for our wives and for our children, but it is for something more than this. It is not against them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but it is a fight for souls, for eternity, against those who would plunge man into eternal perdition, a fight for God, for the deliverance of men’s souls from wrath to come. It is a war which ought, indeed, to be commenced, to be followed up, and carried out in spirit, by the whole army of God’s elect, seeing that no war can be more important. The instrumental salvation of men is above all things the highest object to which we can attain, and the routing of the foes of truth is a victory beyond all things to be desired. Religion must be the foundation of every blessing which society can hope to enjoy. Little as men think it, religion has much to do with our liberty, our happiness, and our comfort. England would not have been what it now is, if it had not been for her religion; in that hour when she shall forsake her God, her glory shall have fallen, and “Ichabod” shall be written upon her banners.

In that day when the Gospel shall be silenced, when our ministers shall cease to preach; when the Bible shall be chained; in that day—God forbid it should ever come to pass—in that day, England may write herself among the dead, for she has fallen, since God has forsaken her, seeing she has cast off her allegiance to him. Christian men, in this fight for right, you are fighting for your nation, for your liberties, your happiness and your peace; for unless religion, the religion of heaven be maintained, these will most certainly be destroyed.

Let us reflect, in the next place, that we are fighting with insidious and very powerful foes, in this great warfare for God and Christ. Let me again make the remark, that while speaking of certain characters, I am not speaking of the men, but of their errors. At this time we have peculiar difficulties in the great contest for truth—peculiar, because very few appreciate them. We have enemies of all classes, and all of them far wider awake than we are. The infidel has his eyes wide open, he is spreading his doctrines everywhere; and while we think—good easy men—that full surely our greatness is a-ripening, that frost is nipping many of our fair shoots, and unless we awaken, God help us! In almost every place infidelity seems to have a great away; not the bold bragging infidelity of Tom Payne, but a more polite and moderate infidelity; not that which slayeth religion with a bludgeon, but that which seeks to poison it with a small dose of poison, and goes its way, and says still it has not hurt public morals. Everywhere this is increasing; I fear that the great mass of our population are imbued with an infidel spirit.

Then we have more to fear than some of us suppose from Rome; not from Rome openly; from that we have little to fear; God has given to the people of England such a bold Protestant spirit, that any open innovation from the Pope of Rome would be instantly repelled; but I mean the Romanism that has crept into the Church of England under the name of Puseyism. Everywhere that has increased; they are beginning to light candles on the altar, which is only a prelude to those greater lights with which they would consume our Protestantism. Oh! that there were men who would unmask them!

We have much to fear from them; but I would not care one whit for that if it were not for something which is even worse. We have to deal with a spirit, I know not how to denominate it, unless I call it a spirit of moderatism in the pulpits of protestant churches. Men have begun to rub off the rough edges of truth, to give up the doctrines of Luther and Zwingle, and Calvin, and to endeavour to accommodate them to polished tastes. You might go into a Roman Catholic chapel now-a-days, and hear as good a sermon from a Popish priest as you hear in many cases from a Protestant minister, because he does not touch disputed points, or bring out the angular parts of our Protestant religion. Mark, too, in the great majority of our books what a dislike there is to sound doctrine! the writers seem to fancy that truth is of no more value than error; that as for the doctrines we preach, it cannot matter what they are; still holding that

“He can’t be wrong whose life is in the right.”

There is creeping into the pulpits of Baptists and every other denomination, a lethargy and coldness, and with that a sort of nullification of all truth. While they for the most part preach but little notable error, yet the truth itself is uttered in so minute a form that no one detects it, and in so ambiguous a style, that no one is struck with it. So far as man can do it, God’s arrows are blunted, and the edge of his sword is turned in the day of battle. Men do not hear the truth as they used to. The velvet mouth is succeeding to the velvet cushion, and the organ is the only thing in the building which giveth forth a certain sound.

From all such things, “good Lord deliver us!” May heaven put an end to all this moderatism; we want out-and-out truth in these perilous days; we want a man just now to speak as God tells him, and care for nobody. Oh! if we had some of the old Scotch preachers! Those Scotch preachers made kings tremble; they were no men’s servants; they were very lords, wherever they went, because each of them said, “God has given me a message; my brow is like adamant against men; I will speak what God bids me.” Like Micah, they said, “As the Lord my God liveth, whatsoever my God saith unto me, that will I speak.” Heroes of the truth, soldiers of Christ awake! Even now there are enemies. Think not that the fight is over; the great warfare of truth waxes more hot and fierce than ever. Oh! soldiers of Christ! take your swords from your scabbards! stand up for God and for his truth again, lest a free grace gospel should be forgotten.

Let me just say, once more, concerning this war, that it is one that is to be of perpetual duration. Let us recollect, my beloved, that this war between right and wrong must be continued, and never must cease until truth has the victory. If you suppose that our forefathers did enough for truth and for God, that you may be idle, you have made a great mistake. Until that day when the might with the right, and the right with the might shall be, we must never sheathe our swords; until that happy hour when Christ shall reign, when he shall be Master of all lands, when “swords shall be beaten into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks,” and men shall not learn war any more; until that day the conflict is to be kept up.

Let no man think we are in such a position that we have no need for watchfulness: terrible as the war has been before, it is as terrible now, though in another manner. We have not now to resist unto blood, striving against sin, but we have need of as stern a power of resistance as ever was possessed by martyrs and confessors in days gone by. Brethren, we must awake; the army must be aroused, the soldiers of the Lord must be quickened to a consciousness of their position. Now, now, we blow the trumpet; rush to the fight you slumbering soldiers! Up, up, up! Let your banners wave, and let your swords be taken from your scabbards; it is a day of fight—a day of war and contention.

I cannot, however, conclude this section of my discourse without remarking that it is not merely error in religion with which we have to fight, but error in practice. Oh! beloved this world is a wicked world still, and London is an abominable city still. We have a fine gloss everywhere—a fair exterior, but, alas, within the hidden parts sin is still dominant. This is the great city of pretence, the gaudy house of sham, the foul home of pollution. Our streets are lined with fair houses; but what have we behind them? what have we there, in the very vitals of our city? This city is a colossal culprit, it is a behemoth sinner, and everywhere there are those who live in the vilest of vices, and yet go unchecked and unreproved, for it is unfashionable to tell men of their sins and there are few who have the spirit to speak out plainly of men’s sins. When we consider the mass of female profligacy which numbers it adherents by tens of thousands, are we not driven to conclude that the same sin must be rife enough with men. And ah! that there should be need to utter it. Are not the men who ensnare and seduce the poor unfortunates, allowed to enter society as respectable and moral. What is this but abominable hypocrisy.

We are greater sinners in London than many suppose. Everything is painted over. But think not that you can deceive God in this way? Sin is stalking through the land at a horrid pace; iniquity still runs down our streets, covered up, it is true, not open sin, but still offensive alike to God and to good men. Oh! my brethren, the world is not good yet; it is filmed over, but all the while the loathsome disease lurks within. Up, again, I say, soldiers of Christ; the war against sin is not finished, it is scarce begun.

II. But now, secondly, we have to notice, briefly the appointed means of warfare. When Amalek came out against Israel, God appointed two means of combating them. If he had chosen, he could have sent a wind and driven them away, or have cut off their hosts by the blast of the pestilence; but it did not so please him; for he would put honor upon human effort, and, therefore, he said to Joshua, “Choose out your men, and go fight with Amalek.” It is true Joshua might, by God’s strength, have overcome the foe; but God says, “While I honor human effort, I will still make men see that God does all. Moses! go up to yonder hill; stand there in prayer, hold up your rod, and whilst the soldiers of Joshua rush into the fight, Moses shall plead, and you shall be unitedly successful. Your prayers, O Moses, without the sword of Joshua, shall not prosper; and the sword of Joshua, without the rod of Moses, shall not be effectual.” The two ways of fighting sin are these—hard blows and hard prayers.

First, the church must employ hard blows and hard fighting against sin. It is of no use for you to shut yourselves up in your houses, and pray to God to stay sin, unless you go and do something yourselves. If you pray away till you are dumb, you shall never have a blessing unless you exert yourselves. Let the farmer pray for a harvest; will he ever have it, unless he ploughs the field and then sows his seed? Let the warrior pray for victory, and let his soldiers stand peacefully to be shot at, will he gain a triumph? No, there must be an active exercise of the power given by God, or else prayer without it will be of no avail.

Let us, then, brethren and sisters, each in our spheres, deal hard blows at the enemy. This is a fight in which all can do something who are the Lord’s people. Those who halt upon their crutches can use them for weapons of war, as well as the mighty men can wield their swords! We have each an allotted work to do, if we are the Lord’s elect; let us take care that we do it. You are a tract distributor; go on with your work, do it earnestly. You are a Sunday-school teacher; go on, do not stop in that blessed work, do it as unto God, and not as unto man. You are a preacher; preach as God gives you ability, remembering that he requires of no man more than he has given to him; therefore, be not discouraged if you have little success, still go on. Are you like Zebulon, one that can handle the pen? Handle it wisely; and you shall smite through the loins of kings therewith. And if you can do but little, at least furnish the shot for others, that so you may help them in their works of faith and their labours of love. But let us all do something for Christ.

I will never believe there is a Christian in the world who cannot do something. There is not a spider hanging on the king’s wall that does not have its errand; there is not a nettle that grows in the corner of the churchyard that does not have its purpose; there is not a single insect fluttering in the breeze that does not accomplish some divine decree; and I will never have it that God created any man, especially any Christian man, to be a blank, and to be a nothing. He made you for an end. Find out what that end is; find our your niche, and fill it. If it be ever so little, if it is only to be a hewer of wood and drawer of water, do something in this great battle for God and truth.

Joshua must go out and take his men. I think I see him; he appears to have been a man of war from his youth; but what a motley host he had to choose from! Why, they were a set of slaves; they had never seen a sword in their lives, except in the hands of the Egyptians; they were poor, miserable creatures; they were cowards when they saw their old enemies at the Red Sea, and now their weapons were those which were washed up from the Red Sea, and their regimentals were of all descriptions upon earth. Joshua, however, chooses out the strongest of them, and says, “Come with me.” It was indeed, as one called it, a “ragged regiment” with which he went to fight: and yet the ragged regiment was the victorious one. Joshua won the day against the Amalekites, who had been trained to a predatory life. So, you children of God, you may know little of the tactics of warfare, your enemies may overthrow you in arguments, and annihilate you in logic; but, if you are God’s children, they that are with you are more than a match for your foes; you shall live to see them yet dead upon the field; only fight on with faith in God, and you shall be victorious.

But this is not all. Joshua might have fought; but he would have been routed, had it not been for Moses on the brow of the hill. They were both necessary. Do you not see the battle! It is not on a very large scale, but it is still worthy of your earnest attention. There is Amalek, rushing to the war with discordant cries; see, Israel is repulsing them, and Amalek flees! But what is it that I notice? Now Israel turns back and flees; now again they rally and Amalek is put to the flight! Lo! they are cut to pieces by the sword of Joshua, and mighty Amalek wavers like the corn beneath the mower’s scythe. The crowd of Amalek are drooping. But again! again the battle wavers; Joshua flees; but once again he rallies his troops!

And have you not observed the wondrous phenomenon? There, on the brow of the hill stands Moses. You will notice that when his hands were outstretched, Israel routed Amalek; but the moment when from weariness he dropped his hands, then Amalek had a temporary victory; and when again he held up his rod, Israel routed the foe. Each time the hand of prayer fell down, victory wavered between the combatants. Do you see the venerable intercessor? Moses, being an aged man, becomes weary from standing so many hours, they seat him upon a stone; still, arms are not iron, and the hands are drooping; but see! his eyes are flashing fire, and his hands are lifted up to heaven; tears are beginning to flow down his cheeks and his repeated prayers are going to heaven like so many darts, which shall find their target in the ear of God.

Do you see him, he is the hinge of victory; as he falters Amalek prevails; and as he is strong the chosen people gain the victory. See! Aaron is holding his hand for a moment; and soon Hur is supporting it, and the good old man changes his hands, for the battle lasts all day long, and in the hot sun it is wearisome work to hold them in one position. But see how manfully he holds them; stiff, as though they were cut out of stone; weary and worn, still his hands are out-stretched, as if he were a statue, and his friends assist his zeal. And see now, the ranks of Amalek are broken like thin clouds before a Biscay gale. They fly! they fly! Still his hands are motionless; still they fight; still the Amalekites fly; still Joshua prevails, until at last all the foes lie dead on the plain, and Joshua returns with the shout of joy.

Now this teaches that there must be prayer as well as effort. Minister! preach on; you shall have no success unless you pray. If you do not know how to wrestle with God on your knees, you will find it hard work to wrestle with men on your feet in the pulpit. You may make efforts to do so, but you shall not be successful, unless you back up your efforts with prayer. You are not so likely to fail in your efforts as in your prayers. We never read that Joshua’s hand was weary with wielding the sword, but Moses’ hand was weary with holding the rod. The more spiritual the duty, the more apt we are to tire of it. We could stand and preach all day, but we could not pray all day. We could go forth to see the sick all day, but we could not be in our closets all day one-half so easily. To spend a night with God in prayer would be far more difficult than to spend a night with man in preaching.

Oh! take care, take care, church of Christ, that you do not cease your prayers! Above all, I speak to my own much loved church, my own people. You have loved me, and I have loved you, and God has given us great success, and blessed us. But, mark, I trace all of it to your prayers. You have assembled together in multitudes, perfectly unparalleled, to pray for me on each Monday evening, and I know I am mentioned at your family altars, as one who is very dear to your hearts; but I am afraid lest you should cease your prayers. Let the world say, “Down with him;” I will stand against them all, if you will pray for me; but if you cease your prayers it is all up with me and all over with you. Your prayers make us mighty; the praying legion is the thundering legion.

If I might compare myself to a military commander, I should say, that when I see my men rise to pray in such large numbers, I feel like Napoleon, when he sent out his old guards. The battle had wavered; “There,” said he, “they go; now the victory is sure.” Or, like our own guards, the black caps, who, wherever they went carried victory with them. The praying legion is a thundering legion everywhere. Men can stand against anything but prayer. We would pray the very gates of hell off their hinges, if we could pray as some men have done. Oh! that we had might in prayer. Do not, I beseech you, I entreat you, do not cease to pray; cease what you please, but do not give up that; down on your knees, wrestle with God, and verily the Lord our God will bless us, “and all the ends of the earth shall fear him.”

III. And now I am to close up with just a few remarks, in the third place, to stir you up to the warfare

Remember, O children of God, that there are many things that should make you valiant for God and for his truth. The first thing I will bring to your remembrance is the fact, that this warfare in which you are engaged is a hereditary warfare; it is not one which you began, but it is one which has been handed to you from the moment when the blood of Abel cried aloud for vengeance. Each martyr that has died has passed the blood-red flag to the next, and he in his turn has passed it on to another. Every confessor who has been nailed to the stake to burn, has lit his candle, and handed it to another, and said, “Take care of that!” And now here is the old “sword of the Lord and of Gideon.” Remember what hands have handled the hilt; remember what arms have wielded it; remember how often it has “pierced to the dividing asunder of the joints and marrow.” Will you disgrace it. Will you disgrace it? There is the great banner: it has waved in many a breeze; long before the flag of this our land was made, this flag of Christ was born aloft, Will you stain it? Will you stain it? Will you not hand it to your children, still unsullied, and say, “Go on, go on; we leave you the heritage of war; go on, go on, and conquer. What your fathers did, do you again; still keep up the war, till time shall end.”

I love my Bible because it is a Bible baptized with blood; I love it all the better, because it has the blood of Tyndale on it; I love it, because it has on it the blood of John Bradford, and Rowland Taylor, and Hooper; I love it, because it is stained with blood. I sometimes think I like the baptismal pool because that has been stained with blood, and is now upon the continent, forbidden by law. I love it, because I see in it the blood of men and of women who had been martyred, because they loved the truth. Will you not, then, stand by the banner of truth, after such an illustrious pedigree of warriors have held it in their hands?

I would that I could have addressed you as I desired, but my voice fails me; I cannot, therefore, urge you, except by one consideration, and that is, the prospect of ultimate victory. It is certain that before long we shall triumph; therefore let us not give up the fight. I have been much gratified of late to hear that there is a revival in the ranks of Christ’s church; here and there I hear of great evangelists who are starting up. Some have said to me, when they have mentioned their names, “What say you to them?” My answer is, “Would God that all the Lord’s servants were prophets!”

Oh! that God might send thousands and thousands of men, who would gather multitudes together to hear his word. I would that the day were come, when every church and every chapel in England were as full of souls as this, and as large as this. I do think the churches are reviving; but if they are not, still victory is certain—God will still get the victory; Jehovah will triumph. Satan may dream he will, but he will not. Therefore, men and brethren, on to victory; let the crown that is before you, embolden you to the fight; to victory; to victory; and on, on, on! for God is with you. Remember the great intercessor; Christ is on the hill, and while you are in the valley he pleads, and must prevail, therefore, go on, and conquer, for Christ’s sake!

I can no longer address you, but must finish up by repeating the words with which I always like to conclude my sermons: “He that believeth on the Lord Jesus and is baptized shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned!” Oh! that you would believe in Christ; oh! that God would give you faith to put your trust in him; this is the only way of salvation. “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved.”

Friday, April 28, 2023

“Secret Sins” | Charles Spurgeon Sermon (Historic Homilies)


Note: This version of the text contains minor changes I made while recording the sermon. Some of these changes were accidental reading errors, while others were intentional in order to aid understanding.

“Secret Sins”
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon
February 8, 1857

Self-righteousness arises partly from pride but mainly from ignorance of God’s law. It is because men know little or nothing concerning the terrible character of the divine law, that they foolishly imagine themselves to be righteous. They are not aware of the deep spirituality, and the stern severity of the law, or they would have other and wiser notions. Once let them know how strictly the law deals with the thoughts, how it brings itself to bear upon every emotion of the inner man, and there is not one creature beneath God’s heaven who would dare to think himself righteous in God’s sight in virtue of his own deeds and thoughts. Only let the law be revealed to a man; let him know how strict the law is, and how infinitely just, and his self-righteousness will shrivel into nothing—it will become a filthy rag in his sight, whereas before he thought it to be a goodly garment.

Now, David, having seen God’s law, and having praised it in this Psalm, which I have read in your hearing, he is brought, by reflecting on its excellency, to utter this thought, “Who can understand his errors?” and then to offer this prayer, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”

In the Lateran Council of the Church of Rome, a decree was passed that every true believer must confess his sins, all of them, once in a year to the priest, and they affixed to it this declaration, that there is no hope of pardon but in complying with that decree. What can equal the absurdity of such a decree as that? Do they suppose that they can tell their sins as easily as they can count their fingers? Why, if we could receive pardon for all our sins by telling every sin we have committed in one hour, there is not one of us who would be able to enter heaven, since, besides the sins that are known to us and that we may be able to confess, there are a vast mass of sins, which are as truly sins as those which we do observe, but which are secret, and come not beneath our eye.

Oh! if we had eyes like those of God, we should think very differently of ourselves. The sins that we see and confess are but like the farmer’s small samples which he brings to market, when he has left his granary full at home. We have but a very few sins which we can observe and detect, compared with those which are hidden to ourselves and unseen by our fellow creatures. I doubt not it is true of all of us who are here, that in every hour of our existence in which we are active, we commit tens of thousands of unholinesses for which conscience has never reproved us, because we have never seen them to be wrong, seeing we have not studied God’s laws as we ought to have done. Now, be it known to us all that sin is sin, whether we see it or not—that a sin secret to us is a sin as truly as if we knew it to be a sin, though not so great a sin in the sight of God as if it had been committed presumptuously, seeing that it lacks the aggravation of willfulness. Let all of us who know our sins, offer this prayer after all our confessions: “Lord, I have confessed as many as I know, but I must add an etcetera after them, and say, ‘Cleanse thou me from secret faults.’”

That, however, will not be the pith of my sermon this morning. I am going after a certain class of men who have sins not unknown to themselves, but secret to their fellow creatures. Every now and then we turn up a fair stone which lies upon the green grass of the professing church, surrounded with the verdure of apparent goodness, and to our astonishment we find beneath it all kinds of filthy insects and loathsome reptiles, and in our disgust at such hypocrisy, we are driven to exclaim, “All men are liars; there are none in whom we can put any trust at all.” It is not fair to say so of all; but really, the discoveries which are made of the insincerity of our fellow-creatures are enough to make us despise our kind, because they can go so far in appearances, and yet have so little soundness of heart. To you, sirs, who sin secretly, and yet make a profession; you break God’s covenants in the dark and wear a mask of goodness in the light—to you, sirs, who shut the doors and commit wickedness in secret—to you I shall speak this morning. O may God also be pleased to speak to you, and make you pray this prayer: “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”

I shall endeavour to urge upon all pretenders present to give up, to renounce, to detest, to hate, to abhor all their secret sins. And, first, I shall endeavour to show the folly of secret sins; secondly, the misery of secret sins; thirdly, the guilt of secret sins; fourthly, the danger of secret sins; and then I shall try to apply some words by way of remedy, that we may all of us be enabled to avoid secret sins.

I. First, then, the folly of secret sins.

Pretender, you are fair to look upon; your conduct outwardly upright, amiable, liberal, generous and Christian; but you do indulge in some sin which the eye of man has not yet detected. Perhaps it is private drunkenness. You do revile the drunkard when he staggers through the street; but you can yourself indulge in the same habit in private. It may be some other lust or vice; it is not for me just now to mention what it is. But, pretender, we say unto you, you are a fool to think of harbouring a secret sin; and you are a fool for this one reason, that your sin is not a secret sin; it is known, and shall one day be revealed; perhaps very soon. Your sin is not a secret; the eye of God has seen it; you have sinned before his face. You have shut-to the door, and drawn the curtains, and kept out the eye of the sun, but God’s eye pierceth through the darkness; the brick walls which surround you were as transparent as glass to the eye of the Almighty; the darkness which did gird you was as bright as the summer’s noon to the eye of him who beholdeth all things.

Do you not know, O man, that “all things are naked and open to the eyes of him with whom we have to do?” As the priest ran his knife into the entrails of his victim, discovered the heart and liver, and what else did lie within, so are you, O man, seen by God, cut open by the Almighty; you have no secret chamber where you can hide yourself; you have no dark cellar where you can conceal your soul. Dig deep, ay, deep as hell, but you cannot find earth enough upon the globe to cover your sin; if you should heap the mountains on its grave, those mountains would tell the tale of what was buried in their bowels. If you could cast your sin into the sea, a thousand babbling waves would tell the secret out. There is no hiding it from God. Your sin is photographed in high heaven; the deed when it was done was photographed upon the sky, and there it shall remain, and you shall see yourself one day revealed to the gazing eyes of all men, a hypocrite, a pretender, who sinned in fancied secret, observed in all your acts by the all-seeing Jehovah.

O what fools men are, to think they can do anything in secret. This world is like the glass hives wherein bees sometimes work: we look down upon them, and we see all the operations of the little creatures. So God looks down and sees all. Our eyes are weak; we cannot look through the darkness; but his eye, like an orb of fire, penetrates the blackness; and reads the thoughts of man, and sees his acts when he thinks himself most concealed. Oh; it were a thought enough to curb us from all sin, if it were truly applied to us—“Thou, God, seest me!” Stop thief! Drop that which you have taken to yourself. God sees you! No eye of detection on earth has discovered you, but God’s eyes are now looking through the clouds upon you. Swearer! hardly any for whom you care heard your oath; but God heard it; it entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabbaoth. Ah! you who lead a filthy life, and yet are a respectable merchant bearing among men a fair and goodly character; your vices are all known; written in God’s book. He keeps a diary of all your acts; and what will you think on that day when a crowd shall be assembled, compared with which this immense multitude is but a drop of a bucket, and God shall read out the story of your secret life, and men and angels shall hear it.

Certain I am there are none of us who would like to have all our secrets read, especially our secret thoughts. If I should select out of this congregation the most holy man, should bring him forward and say, “Now, sir, I know all your thoughts, and am about to tell them,” I am sure he would offer me the largest bribe that he could gather if I would be pleased to conceal at least some of them. “Tell,” he would say, “of my acts; of them I am not ashamed; but do not tell my thoughts and imaginations—of them I must ever stand ashamed before God.” What, then, sinner, will be your shame when your private lusts, your closet transgressions, your secret crimes shall be announced from God’s throne, published by his own mouth, and with a voice louder than a thousand thunders preached in the ears of an assembled world? What will be your terror and confusion then, when all the deeds you have done shall be published in the face of the sun, in the ears of all mankind. O renounce the foolish hope of secresy, for your sin is this day recorded, and shall one day be advertised upon the walls of heaven.

II. In the next place, let us notice the misery of secret sins.

Of all sinners the man who makes a profession of religion, and yet lives in iniquity, is the most miserable. A downright wicked man, who takes a glass in his hand, and says, “I am a drunkard, I am not ashamed of it,” he shall be unutterably miserable in worlds to come, but brief though it be, he has his hour of pleasure. A man who curses and swears, and says, “That is my habit, I am a profane man,” and makes a profession of it, he has, at least, some peace in his soul; but the man who walks with God’s minister, who is united with God’s Church, who comes out before God’s people, and unites with them, and then lives in sin, what a miserable existence he must have of it! Why, he has a worse existence than the mouse that is in the parlour, running out now and then to pick up the crumbs, and then back again to his hole. Such men must run out now and then to sin; and oh! how fearful they are to be discovered! One day, perhaps, their character turns up; with wonderful cunning they manage to conceal and gloss it over; but the next day something else comes, and they live in constant fear, telling lie after lie, to make the last lie appear truthful, adding deception to deception, in order that they may not be discovered.

“Oh! ‘tis a tangled web we weave,
When once we venture to deceive.”

If I must be a wicked man, give me the life of a rowdy sinner, who sins before the face of day; but, if I must sin, let me not act as a hypocrite and a coward; let me not profess to be God’s, and spend my life for the devil. That way of cheating the devil is a thing which every honest sinner will be ashamed of. He will say, “Now, if I do serve my master I will serve him out and out, I will have no sham about it; if I make a profession, I will carry it out; but if I do not, if I live in sin, I am not going to gloss it over by empty words and hypocrisy.” One thing which has hamstringed the church, and cut her very sinews in two, has been this most damnable hypocrisy. Oh! in how many places have we men whom you might praise to the very skies, if you could believe their words, but whom you might cast into the nethermost pit if you could see their secret actions. God forgive any of you who are so acting! I had almost said, I can scarce forgive you. I can forgive the man who riots openly, and makes no profession of being better, but the man who fawns, and deceives, and pretends, and prays, and then lives in sin, that man I hate, I cannot bear him, I abhor him from my very soul. If he will turn from his ways, I will love him, but in his hypocrisy he is to me the most loathsome of all creatures.

‘Tis said the toad wears a jewel in her head, but this man has none, but beareth filthiness about him, while he pretends to be in love with righteousness. A mere profession, my hearers, is but painted pageantry to go to hell in; it is like the plumes upon the hearse and the trappings upon the black horses which drag men to their graves, the funeral array of dead souls. Take heed above everything of a waxen profession that will not stand the sun; be wary of a life that needs to have two faces to carry it out; be one thing, or else the other. If you make up your mind to serve Satan, do not pretend to serve God; and if you serve God, serve him with all your heart. “No man can serve two masters;” do not try it, do not endeavour to do it, for no life will be more miserable than that. Above all, beware of committing acts which it will be necessary to conceal. There is a singular poem by Hood, called “The Dream of Eugene Aram”—a most remarkable piece it is indeed, illustrating the point on which I am now dwelling. Aram has murdered a man and cast his body into the river—“a sluggish water, black as ink, the depth was so extreme.” The next morning he visited the scene of his guilt:

“And sought the black accursed pool,
With a wild misgiving eye;
And he saw the dead in the river bed,
For the faithless stream was dry.”

Next he covered the corpse with heaps of leaves, but a mighty wind swept through the wood and left the secret bare before the sun:

“Then down I cast me on my face,
And first began to weep,
For I knew my secret then was one
That earth refused to keep;
On land or sea though it should be
Ten thousand fathoms deep.”

In plaintive notes he prophesies his own discovery. He buried his victim in a cave, and trod him down with stones, but when years had run their weary round the foul deed was discovered and the murderer put to death.

Guilt is a “grim chamberlain,” even when his fingers are not bloody red. Secret sins bring fevered eyes and sleepless nights, until men burn out their consciences, and become in very deed ripe for the pit. Hypocrisy is a hard game to play at, for it is one deceiver against many observers; and for certain it is a miserable trade, which will earn at last, as its certain climax, a tremendous bankruptcy. Ah! you who have sinned without discovery, “Be sure your sin will find you out;” and mind you, it may find you out before long. Sin, like murder, will come out; men will even tell tales about themselves in their dreams. God has sometimes made men so pricked in their consciences that they have been obliged to stand forth and confess the story. Secret sinner! if you want the foretaste of damnation upon earth, continue in your secret sins; for no man is more miserable than he who sins secretly, and yet tries to preserve a character. Yon stag, followed by the hungry hounds, with open mouths, is far more happy than the man who is followed by his sins. Yon bird, taken in the fowler’s net, and labouring to escape, is far more happy than he who has weaved around himself a web of deception, and labours to escape from it day by day by making the toils more thick and the web more strong. Oh! the misery of secret sins! Truly, one may pray, “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”

III. But now, next, the guilt, the solemn guilt of secret sin.

Now, John, you do not think there is any evil in a thing unless somebody sees it, do you? You feel that it is a very great sin if your master finds you out in robbing the till—but there is no sin if he should not discover it—none at all. And you, sir, you fancy it to be very great sin to play a trick in trade, in case you should be discovered and brought before the court; but to play a trick and never be discovered, that is all fair—do not say a word about it Mr. Spurgeon, it is all business; you must not touch business; tricks that are not discovered, of course you are not to find fault with them.

The common measure of sin is the notoriety of it. But I do not believe in that. A sin is a sin, whether done in private or before the wide world. It is unique how men will measure guilt. A railway servant puts up a wrong signal, there is an accident; the man is tried, and severely reprimanded. The day before he put up the wrong signal, but there was no accident, and therefore no one accused him for his neglect. But it was just the same, accident or no accident, the accident did not make the guilt, it was the deed which made the guilt, not the notoriety nor yet the consequence of it. It was his business to have taken care; and he was as guilty the first time as he was the second, for he negligently exposed the lives of men. Do not measure sin by what other people say of it; but measure sin by what God says of it, and what your own conscience says of it.

Now, I hold that secret sin, if anything, is the worst of sin; because secret sin implies that the man who commits it has Atheism in his heart. You will ask how that can be. I reply, he may be a professing Christian, but I shall tell him to his face that he is a practical Atheist, if he labours to keep up a respectable profession before man, and then secretly transgresses. Why, is he not an Atheist, who will say there is a God, yet at the same time thinks more of man than he does of God? Is it not the very essence of Atheism—is it not a denial of the divinity of the Most High when men lightly esteem him and think more of the eye of a creature than of the observation of their Creator? There are some who would not for the life of them say a wicked word in the presence of their minister, but they can do it, knowing God is looking at them. They are Atheists. There are some who would not trick in trade for all the world if they thought they would be discovered, but they can do it while God is with them; that is, they think more of the eye of man than of the eye of God; and they think it worse to be condemned by man than to be condemned by God. Call it by what name you will, the proper name of that is practical Atheism. It is dishonoring God; it is dethroning him; putting him down below his own creatures; and what is that, but to take away his divinity?

Brethren, do not, I beseech you, incur the fearful guilt of secret sins. No man can sin a little in secret, it will certainly engender more sin; no man can be a hypocrite and yet be moderate in guilt; he will go from bad to worse, and still proceed, until when his guilt shall be published, he shall be found to be the very worst and most hardened of men. Take heed of the guilt of secret sin. Ah! now if could I preach as Rowland Hill did, I would make some people look to themselves at home, and tremble too! It is said that when he preached, there was not a man in the window, or standing in the crowd, or perched up anywhere, but said, “There, he is preaching at me; he is telling me about my secret sins.” And when he proclaimed God’s omniscience, it is said men would almost think they saw God bodily present in the midst of them looking at them. And when he had done his sermon, they would hear a voice in their ears, “Can any hide himself in secret places that I cannot see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.” I wish I could do that; that I could make every man look to himself, and find out his secret sin. Come my hearer, what is it? Bring it forth to the daylight; perhaps it will die in the light of the sun. These things love not to be discovered. Tell your own conscience, now, what it is. Look it in the face; confess it before God, and may he give you grace to remove that sin and every other, and turn to him with full purpose of heart! But this know—that your guilt is guilt discovered or undiscovered, and that if there be any difference it is worse, because it has been secret. God save us from the guilt of secret sin! “Cleanse thou me from secret faults.”

IV. And note, next, the danger of secret sin. One danger is, that a man cannot commit a little sin in secret, without being by-and-by betrayed into a public sin. You cannot, sir, though you may think you can preserve a moderation in sin. If you commit one sin, it is like the melting of the lower glacier upon the Alps; the others must follow in time. As certainly as you heap one stone upon the mound to-day, the next day you will cast another, until the heap, reared stone by stone, shall become a very pyramid. See the coral insect at work, you cannot decree where it shall stop its work. It will not build its rock just as high as you please, it will not stay until it shall be covered with weeds, until the weeds shall decay; and there shall be soil upon it, and an island shall be created by tiny creatures.

Sin cannot be held in with bit and bridle. “But I am going to have a little drink now and then, I am only going to be intoxicated once a week or so. Nobody will see it; I shall be in bed directly.” You will be drunk in the streets soon. “I am only just going to read one lascivious book; I will put it under the sofa-cover when any one comes in.” You will keep it in your library yet, sir. “I am only going into that company now and then.” You will go there every day, such is the bewitching character of it; you cannot help it. You may as well ask the lion to let you put your head into his mouth. You cannot regulate his jaws: neither can you regulate sin. Once go into it, you cannot tell when you will be destroyed. You may be such a fortunate individual, that like Van Amburgh you may put your head in and out a great many times; rest assured that one of these days it will be a costly venture.

Again, you may labour to conceal your vicious habit, but it will come out, you cannot help it. You keep your little pet sin at home; but mark this, when the door is ajar the dog will be out in the street. Wrap him up in your bosom, put over him fold after fold of hypocrisy to keep him secret, the wretch will be singing some day when you are in company; you cannot keep the evil bird still. Your sin will gad abroad; and what is more, you will not mind it some of these days. A man who indulges in sin privately, by degrees gets his forehead as hard as brass. The first time he sinned, the drops of sweat stood on his brow at the recollection of what he had done; the second time, no hot sweat on his brow, only an agitation of the muscle; the third time there was the sly, sneaky look, but no agitation; the next time, he sinned a little further; and by degrees he became the bold blasphemer of his God, who exclaimed, “Who am I that I should fear Jehovah, and who is he that I should serve him?”

Men go from bad to worse. Launch your boat in the current—it must go where the current takes it. Put yourself in the whirlwind—you are but a straw in the wind: you must go which way the wind carries you—you cannot control yourself. The balloon can mount, but it cannot direct its course; it must go whichever way the wind blows. If you once mount into sin there is no stopping. Take heed if you would not become the worst of characters, take heed of the little sins, they, mounting one upon another, may at last heave you from the summit and destroy your soul for ever. There is a great danger in secret sins.

But I have here some Christians who indulge in secret sins. They say it is but a little one, and therefore do they spare it. Dear brethren, I speak to you, and I speak to myself, when I say this—let us destroy all our little secret sins. They are called little and if they be, let us remember that it is the foxes, even the little foxes, that spoil our vines; for our vines have tender shoots. Let us take heed of our little sins. A little sin, like a little pebble in the shoe, will make a traveller to heaven walk very wearily. Little sins, like little thieves, may open the door to greater ones outside. Christians, recollect that little sins will spoil your communion with Christ. Little sins, like little stains in silk, may damage the fine texture of fellowship; little sins, like little irregularities in the machinery, may spoil the whole fabric of your religion. The one dead fly spoils the whole pot of ointment. That one thistle may seed a continent with noxious weeds. Let us, brethren, kill our sins as often as we can find them. One said—“The heart is full of unclean birds; it is a cage of them.” “Ah, but,” said another divine, “you must not make that an apology, for a Christian’s business is to wring their necks.” And so it is; if there be evil things, it is our business to kill them. Christians must not tolerate secret sins. We must not harbour traitors; it is high treason against the King of Heaven. Let us drag them out to light, and offer them upon the altar, giving up the dearest of our secret sins at the will and bidding of God. There is a great danger in a little secret sin; therefore avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it and shun it; and God give you grace to overcome it!

V. And now I come, in finishing up, to plead with all my might with some of you whom God has pricked in your consciences. I have come to intreat you, if it be possible, even to tears, that you will give up your secret sins. I have one here for whom I bless God; I love him, though I know him not. He is almost persuaded to be a Christian; he halts between two opinions; he intends to serve God, he strives to give up sin, but he finds it a hard struggle, and as yet he knows not what shall become of him. I speak to him with all love: my friend, will you have your sin and go to hell, or leave your sin and go to heaven? This is the solemn alternative: to all awakened sinners I put it; may God choose for you, otherwise I tremble as to which you may choose. The pleasures of this life are so intoxicating, the joys of it so ensnaring, that did I not believe that God works in us to will and to do, I should despair of you. But I have confidence that God will decide the matter.

Let me lay the alternative before you:—on the one hand there is an hour’s merriment, a short life of bliss, and that a poor, poor bliss; on the other hand, there is everlasting life and eternal glory. On the one hand, there is a transient happiness, and afterwards overwhelming woe; in this case there is a solid peace and everlasting joy, and after it overflowing bliss. I shall not fear to be called an Arminian, when I say, as Elijah did, “Choose you this day whom you will serve. If God be God, serve him; if Baal be God serve him.” But, now, make your choice deliberately; and may God help you to do it! Do not say you will take up with religion, without first counting the cost of it; remember, there is your lust to be given up, your pleasure to be renounced; can you do it for Christ’s sake? Can you? I know you cannot, unless God’s grace shall assist you in making such a choice. But can you say, “Yes, by the help of God, earth’s gaudy toys, its pomps, pageantries, gewgaws, all these I renounce?

“These can never satisfy,
Give me Christ or else I die.”

Sinner, you will never regret that choice, if God help you to make it; you will find yourself a happy man here, and thrice happy throughout all eternity.

“But,” says one, “Sir, I intend to be religious, but I do not hold with your strictness.” I do not ask you to do so; I hope, however, you will hold with God’s strictness, and God’s strictness is ten thousand times greater than mine. You may say that I am puritanical in my preaching; God will be puritanical in judging in that great day. I may appear severe, but I can never be so severe as God will be. I may draw the harrow with sharp teeth across your conscience, but God shall drag harrows of eternal fire across you one day. I may speak thundering things! God will not speak them, but hurl them from his hands. Remember, men may laugh at hell, and say there is none; but they must reject their Bibles before they can believe the lie. Men’s consciences tell them that

“There is a dreadful hell,
And everlasting pains;
Where sinners must with devils dwell,
In darkness, fire and chains.”

Sirs, will ye keep your secret sins, and have eternal fire for them? Remember it is of no use, they must all be given up, or else you cannot be God’s child. You cannot by any means have both; it cannot be God and the world, it cannot be Christ and the devil; it must be one or the other. Oh! that God would give you grace to resign all; for what are they worth? They are your deceivers now, and will be your tormentors for ever. Oh! that your eyes were open to see the rottenness, the emptiness and trickery of iniquity. Oh! that God would turn you to himself. Oh! may God give you grace to cross the Rubicon of repentance at this very hour; to say, “Henceforth it is war to the knife with my sins; not one of them will I willingly keep, but down with them, down with them; Canaanite, Hittite, Jebusite, they shall all be driven out.”

“The dearest idol I have known,
Whate’er that idol be;
Help me to tear it from its throne,
And worship only thee.”

“But oh! sir, I cannot do it; it would be like pulling my eyes out.” Ay, but hear what Christ says: “It were better for thee to enter into life with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire.” “But it would be like cutting my arm off.” Ay, and it would be better for you to enter into life disabled or maimed, than to be cast into hell fire for ever. Oh! when the sinner comes before God at last, do you think he will speak as he does now? God will reveal his secret sins: the sinner will not then say, “Lord, I thought my secret sins so sweet, I could not give them up.” I think I see how changed it will be then. “Sir” you say now, “you are too strict;” will you say that when the eyes of the Almighty are glowering on you? You say now, “Sir, you are too precise;” will you say that to God Almighty’s face? “Sir, I mean to keep such-and-such a sin.” Can you say it at God’s bar at last? You will not dare to do it then.

Ah! when Christ comes a second time, there will be a marvellous change in the way men talk. I think I see him; there he sits upon his throne. Now, Caiaphas, come and condemn him now! Judas! come and kiss him now! What do you stick at, man? Are you afraid of him? Now, Barabbas! go; see whether they will prefer you to Christ now. Swearer, now is your time; you have been a bold man; curse him to his face now. Now drunkard; stagger up to him now. Now infidel; tell him there is no Christ now—now that the world is lit with lightning and the earth is shaken with thunder till the solid pillars thereof do bow themselves—tell God there is no God now; now laugh at the Bible; now scoff at the minister. Why men, what is the matter with you? Why, can’t you do it? Ah! there you are; you have fled to the hills and to the rocks—“Rocks hide us! mountains fall on us; hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne.” Ah! where are now your boasts, your vauntings, and your glories? Alas! alas! for you, in that dread day of wonders.

Secret sinner, what will then become of you? Go out of this place unmasked; go out to examine yourself, go out to bend your knee, go out to weep, go out to pray. God give you grace to believe! And oh, how sweet and pleasant the thought, that this day sinners have fled to Christ, and men have been born again to Jesus! Brethren, before I finish, I repeat the words at which so many have cavilled—it is now, or never, it is turn or burn. Solemnly in God’s sight I say it; if it be not God’s truth I must answer for it in the great day of account. Your consciences tell you it is true. Take it home, and mock me if you will; this morning I am clear of your blood: if any seek not God, but live in sin, I shall be clear of your blood in that day when the watchman shall have your souls demanded of him; oh, may God grant that you may be cleared in a blessed manner!

When I went down those pulpit stairs a Sabbath or two ago, a friend said to me words which have been in my mind ever since—“Sir, there are nine thousand people this day without excuse in the day of judgment.” It is true of you this morning. If you are damned, it will be not for want of preaching to you, and it shall not be for want of praying for you. God knows that if my heart could break of itself, it would, for your souls, for God is my witness, how earnestly I long for you in the bowels of Christ Jesus. Oh, that he might touch your hearts and bring you to him! For death is a solemn thing, damnation is a horrible thing, to be out of Christ is a dreadful thing, to be dead in sin is a terrifying thing. May God lead you to view these things as they are, and save you, for his mercy’s sake! “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.”

“Lord, search my soul, try every thought;
Though my own heart accuse me not
Of walking in a false disguise,
I beg the trial of thine eyes.

Doth secret mischief lurk within?
Do I indulge some unknown sin?
O turn my feet whene’er I stray,
And lead me in thy perfect way.”