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Life and Walk of Faith
Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 7th, 1862, by
Rev. C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him. Colossians 2:6 .
OUR NATURE IS FOND of change. Although man was made in the image of God at first, it is plain enough that any trace of immutability which he may once have possessed has long ago departed. Man, unrenewed, could he possess the joys of heaven, would in time grow weary of them, and crave for change. When the children of Israel in the wilderness were fed on angels' food, they murmured for variety, and groaned out, "Our soul loatheth this light bread." It is little wonder, then, that we need cautions against shifting the ground of our hope and the object of our faith. Another evil principle will co-work with this love of change in our hearts, and produce much mischief our natural tendency to build upon our own works. For a time that pernicious habit is cured by conviction of sin. The law, with its sharp axe, cuts down the lofty cedar of fleshly confidence, and withers all its verdure; but, since the root still remains, at the very scent of water it sprouts again, and there is good need to set the axe going with all its former edge and weight. When we think legality quite dead, it revives, and, linking hands with our love of change, it tempts us to forsake our simple standing upon Christ, the Rock of Ages, and urges us to advance to a something which it decorates before our eyes with fancied colors, and makes out to our feeble understandings to be better or more honorable to ourselves. Though this will certainly be again beaten down in a Christian, for he will meet with trouble after trouble when once he goeth astray from his first path, yet again the old secret desire to be something, to do something, to have some little honor by performing the works of the law, will come in, and we shall have need to hear the voice of wisdom in our hearts saying to us, "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him;" persevere in the same way in which ye have begun, and, as at the first Christ Jesus was the source of your life, the principle of your action, and the joy of your spirit, so let him be the same even till life's end, the same when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and enter into the joy and the rest which remain for the people of God.
In trying to teach this very useful, though simple lesson, I shall, in the plainest possible language, first of all talk a little of the text by way of exposition; then, secondly, by way of advocacy; and then, thirdly, by way of application.
I. Oh that the gracious Spirit, who alone can lead us into all truth, would aid me awhile I endeavor to open up this verse BY WAY OF EXPOSITION.
In expounding the text, we readily break it up into two parts: here is the life of faith receiving Christ Jesus the Lord; here is, secondly, the walk of faith so walk ye in him.
1. The Holy Spirit here reveals to us the life of faith the way by which you and I are saved, if saved at all. Remark, carefully, that it is represented as receiving. Now the word receiving implies the very opposite of anything like merit. Merit is purchasing; merit might be called making by labor, or winning by valor; but receiving is just the accepting of a thing as a gift. The eternal life which God gives his people is in no sense whatever the fruit of their exertions; it is the gift of God. As the earth drinks in the rain, as the sea receives the streams, as night accepts light from the stars, so we, giving nothing, partake freely of the grace of God. The saints are not by nature wells, or streams, they are but cisterns into which the living water flows. They are but as the empty vessel; sovereign mercy puts them under the conduit-pipe, and they receive grace upon grace till they are filled to the brim. He that talks about winning salvation by works; he that thinks he can earn it by prayers, by tears, by penance, by mortification of the flesh, or by zealous obedience to the law, makes a mistake; for the very first principle of the divine life is not giving out, but receiving. It is that which comes from Christ into me which is my salvation; not that which springs out of my own heart, but that which comes from the divine Redeemer and changes and renews my nature. It is not what I give out, but what I receive, which must be life to me.
The idea of receiving, again, seems to imply in it a sense of realization, making the matter a reality. One cannot very well receive a shadow; we receive that which is substantial. Gold, silver, precious stones such things we can receive; estates, riches, bread, water, food, raiment all these are things which are substances to us, and therefore it becomes possible for us to receive them. We do not receive a dream; we do not receive, again I say, a shadow; we do not speak of receiving a spectre; we do not receive a phantom. There is something real in a thing that is received. Well now so is it also in the life of faith; we realize Christ. While we are without faith, Christ is a name to us, a person that may have lived a long while ago, so long that his life is only a history to us now! By an act of faith Christ becomes a real person in the consciousness of our heart, as real to us as our own flesh, and blood, and bones, and we speak of him and think of him as we would of our brother, our father, our friend. Our faith gives a substance to the history and idea of Christ, puts real solidity into the spirit and name of Christ, and that which to the worldly man is but a phantom, a thing to hear about, and talk about, becomes to us a thing to taste, and handle, to lay hold upon, and to receive as real and true. I know, ye that are unconverted, that ye think all these things an idle tale; but you that are saved, you who have received Christ, you know that there is substance here, and shadow everywhere else. This has become to you the one grand reality, that God is in Christ reconciling you unto himself.
But receiving means also a third thing, that is getting a grip of it, grasping it. The thing which I receive becomes my own. I may believe it to be real, but that is not receiving it. I may believe, also, that if I ever do get it, it must be given to me, and that I cannot earn it for myself, but still that is not receiving it. Receiving is the bona fide taking into my hand and appropriating to myself as my own property that which is given to me. Now this is what the soul doth when it believes on Christ. Christ becomes my Christ; his blood cleanses my sin, and it is cleansed; his righteousness covers me, and I am clothed with it; his Spirit fills me, and I am made to live by it. He becomes to me as much mine as anything that I can call my own; nay, what I call my own here on earth is not mine; it is only lent to me, and will be taken from me; but Christ is so mine, that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, shall ever be able to rob me of him. Oh! I hope, dear friends, you have that blessed appropriating faith which says, "Yes, he is not another man's Christ, he is my Christ," I hope you can look into his face to-day and say, "My beloved, who loved me, and gave himself for me." I hope you do not talk of these things as I might talk of my lord So-and-So's park, and admire its beauties, while I myself have no right to one acre of the many thousands within the park-fence; but I trust, on the other hand, you can say "The blessings and promises of the Lord my God are all my own; whatever I read of in the covenant of grace that is good, that is comely, that is desirable, I have heard a voice say in my ears, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look to the north, and the south, to the east, and the west all this have I given thee to be thy possession for ever and ever by a covenant of salt." Now put these three things together, and I think you have the idea of receiving Christ. To receive him is to have him as the result of God's free gift; to realize him; and then to appropriate him to yourselves.
The word "receive" is used in some ten or a dozen senses in holy Scripture; five of them will suffice my purpose just now. To receive is often used for taking. We read of receiving a thousand shekels of silver, and of receiving money, garments, olive-yards, sheep, and oxen. Perhaps in this sense we understand the words of the Master "No man can receive anything unless it be given him from above," and that other sentence "To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." We take Christ into us-to return to my old simile-as the empty vessel takes in water from the stream; so we receive Christ. The love, life, merit, nature, and grace of Jesus freely flow into us, as the oil into the widow's vessels. But the word is also used in Scripture to signify holding that which we take in; indeed, a vessel without a bottom could hardly be said to receive water. I do not suppose any one would talk of a sieve receiving water except in a mock sense. But the life of faith consists in holding within us that which Christ hath put into us, so that Jesus Christ is formed in us the hope of glory. By faith it comes in; by faith it is kept in; faith gives me what I have; keeps what I have; faith makes it mine; faith keeps it mine; faith gets hold of it with one hand, and then clasps it with both hands with a grasp that neither death nor life can loose. Then, receiving sometimes means in Scripture simply believing. "He came unto his own and his own received him not." We read of receiving false prophets, that is, believing them. Now, to receive Christ is to believe him. He says, "I can save you." I receive that. He says, "I will save you." I receive that. He says, "Trust me and I will make you like myself." I receive that. Whatever Jesus says, I believe him, and receive him as true. I make his word so true to myself that I act upon it as being true, and regard it not as a word that may possibly be true, but which must be true, even if heaven and earth should pass away. This is receiving Christ believing what he has said. Receiving, also, often signifies in Scripture entertaining. Thus the barbarous people at Melita received Paul and his companions kindly, and kindled a fire. Ah! after we have once found all in Christ to be our own, and have received him into ourselves by faith, then we entreat the Lord to enter our hearts and sup with us. We give him the best seat at the table of our souls; we would feast him on the richest dainties of our choicest love. We ask him to abide with us from morn till eve; we would commune with him every day, and every hour of the day. We entertain him; we have a reception-chamber in our hearts, and we receive Christ. And then, once again, receiving in Scripture often signifies to enjoy. We hear of receiving a crown of life which fadeth not away; that is, enjoying it, enjoying heaven, and being satisfied with all its bliss. Now, dear friends, when we receive Christ, there is intended in this an enjoying of it. I am only now talking the simplicities of our faith, but I do want to make them very personal to you. Are you thus enjoying Christ? if you had a crown you would wear it; you have a Christ feed on him. If you were hungry and there were bread on the table, you would eat. Oh! eat and drink, beloved, of your Lord Jesus Christ. If you have a friend, you enjoy his company: you have a friend in Christ; Oh! enjoy his conversation. Do not leave him, like a bottle of cordial for the fainting, sealed up from us; let him not be as some choice dainty all untasted, while you are hungry. Oh! receive Christ, for this is the very heaven and rest of the soul. His flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed. Never did angels taste such divine fare. Come hither saints and satiate yourselves in him. To take him into one's self, to hold him there, to believe every word he says, to entertain him in our hearts, and to enjoy the luscious sweetness which he must confer upon all those who have eaten his flesh, and have been made to drink of his blood this it is to receive Christ.
But we have not brought out the real meaning of this life of faith yet till we dwell upon another word. As ye have received. Received what? Salvation may be described as the blind receiving sight, the deaf receiving hearing, the dead receiving life; but beloved, beloved, here is a thought here oh that you may get hold of it! We have not only received these things, but we have received CHRIST. "As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord." Do you catch it? It is true that He gave us life from the dead? He gave us pardon of sin; He gave us imputed righteousness. These are all precious things, but you see we are not content with them; we have received Christ himself. The Son of God has been poured out into us, and we have received him, and appropriated him. Mark, I say, not merely the blessings of the covenant, but himself; not merely the purchase of his blood, but he himself from whose veins the blood hath flowed has become ours; and every soul that hath eternal life is this day a possessor of Christ Jesus the Lord. Now we will put this, also, personally to you. Have I received Christ, that is the anointed. My soul, hast thou seen Christ as the anointed of the Father in the divine decree to execute his purposes? Hast thou seen him coming forth in the fullness of time wearing the robes of his priesthood, the anointed of the Father? Hast thou seen him standing at the altar offering himself as a victim, an anointed priest, anointed with the sacred oil by which God has made him a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec? My soul, hast thou seen Jesus going within the veil and speaking to thy Father and to his Father as one whom the Father has accepted, of whom we can speak, in the language of David, as our shield and God's anointed? Oh! it is a delight indeed to receive Christ not as an unsent prophet, not as a man who came of his own authority, not as a teacher who spoke his own word, but as one who is Christos, tho anointed, the anointed of God, ordained of the Most High, and therefore most certainly acceptable, as it is written, "I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people. It pleased the Father to bruise him, he hath put him to grief." Delightful is the contemplation of Christ under that aspect! Soul, dost thou thus receive the Messias of God? But the text says," Christ Jesus." Now Jesus means a Savior. Christ is his relation to God, Jesus his relation to me. Have I received Christ in his relationship to me as a Savior? My soul, has Christ saved thee? Come, no "ifs" and "ans" about it. Hast thou received him as thy Savior? Couldest thou say in that happy day when thy faith closed with him, "Yes, Jesus, thou hast saved me!" Oh! there are some professors of religion who do not seem to have received Christ as Jesus. They look upon him as one who may help them to save themselves, who can do a great deal for them, or may begin the work but not complete it. Oh! beloved, we must get a hold of him as one that has saved us, that has finished the work. What know ye not that ye are this day whiter than the driven snow because his blood has washed you? Ye are this day more acceptable to God than unfallen angels ever were, for ye are clothed in the perfect righteousness of a divine one. Christ has wrapped you about with his own righteousness; you are saved; you have received him as God's anointed, see that you receive him as Jesus your Savior.
Then, again, it is clear that saving faith consisteth also in receiving him as he is in himself, as the divine Son. "Ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord." Those who say they cannot believe in his Deity have not received him. Others theoretically admit him to be divine, but he is never a subject of confidence as such; they have not received him. But I trust I speak to many hundreds this morning who willingly accept his Godhead, and say, "I entertain no doubt about his Deity, and, moreover, on that I risk my soul; I do take him into my heart as being God over all, blessed for ever, Amen; I kiss his feet while I see his humanity; but I believe that, since those feet could tread the waters, he is divine. I look up to his hands, and as I see them pierced I know, that he is human; but as I know that those hands multiplied the loaves and fishes till they fed five thousand, I know that he is divine. I look upon his corpse in the tomb, and I see that he is man; I see him in the resurrection, and I know that he is God. I see him on the cross, suffering, and I know that he is bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh; but I hear a voice which saith, 'Let all the angels of God worship him,' 'Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;' and I bow before him and say, 'Oh Lord, thou Son of God and son of Mary, I receive thee as Christ Jesus the Lord.'"
Now this is all very plain talking you will say; and I remind you that souls are saved by very plain truths, and the dealings of men's souls with Christ are not carried on in learned or metaphysical terms. We do believe, and so take Christ Jesus the Lord into us, and by that act of faith, without any doing of our own, we are completely saved.
I shall only make this further remark here, that the apostle speaks of this as a matter of certainty, and goes on to argue from it. Now we do not argue from a supposition. I must have you clear, dearly beloved in the Lord, that this is a matter of certainty to you. We can hardly get to the next point unless you can say, "I have received Jesus." The verse runs, "As or since ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord so walk ye in him." We must not alter it into, "Since I hope I have," "Since I trust I have." Ye either have or have not; if ye have not, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, and cry to him for his great gift; but if you have, O, dear friends, do not let it be a question with you, but say "Yes, yes, yes, I can say, once for all, I have received him; poor, weak, and worthless though I am, I do put my humble seal to the fact that God is true, and I trust in him who is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him." This is the life of faith.
2. Now, in expounding the text, our second point was the walk of faith. "Since ye have received him, walk in him." Walk implies, first of all, action. Do not let your reception of Christ be a mere thing of thought to you, a subject only for your chamber and your closet, but act upon it all. If you have really received Christ, and are saved, act as if you were saved, with joy, with meekness, with confidence, with faith, with boldness. Walk in him; do not sit down in indolence, but rise and act in him. Walk in him; carry out into practical effect that which you believe. See a man who has received an immense fortune, his purse is bursting, and his caskets are heavy; what does he do? Why, he behaves like a rich man; he sees a luxury which pleases him, and he buys it; there is an estate he desires, and he purchases it; he acts like a rich man. Beloved brethren, you have received Christ act upon it. Do not play the beggar now that boundless wealth is conferred upon you. Walking, again, implies perseverance not only being in Christ to-day, that would be standing in him and falling from him; but being in him to-morrow, and the next day, and the next, and the next, and the next; walking in him all your walk of life. I remember Matthew Henry, speaking about Enoch walking with God, says he did not only take a turn or two up and down with God, and then leave him, but he walked with God four hundred years. This implies perseverance. You have received Christ persevere in receiving him; you have com to trust him keep on trusting him; you hang about his neck as a poor, helpless sinner remain hanging there; in other words abide in him. Walking implies habit. When we speak of a man's walk and conversation, we mean his habits, the constant tenor of his life. Now, dear friends, if you and I sometimes enjoy Christ, and then forget him; sometimes say he is ours, and anon loose our hold, that is not a habit; we do not walk in him. But if you have received him, let it be your habit to live upon him, keep to him; cling to him, never let him go, but live and have your being in Him. This walking implies a continuance. There is no notice given in the text of the suspension of this walking, but there must be a continual abiding in Christ. How many Christians there are who think that in the morning and evening they ought to come into the company of Christ, and then they may be in the world all the day. Ah! but we ought always to be in Christ, that is to say, all the day long, every minute of the day; though worldly things may take up some of my thoughts, yet my soul is to be in a constant state of being in Christ, so that if I am caught at any moment, I am in him; at any hour if any one should say to me, "Now, are you saved?" I may be able still to say, "Yes." And if they ask me for an evidence of it, I may, without saying so, prove it to them by the fact that I am acting like a man who is in Christ, who has Christ in him, has had his nature changed by receiving Christ's nature, and has Christ to be his one end and aim. I suppose, also, that walking signifies progress. So walk ye in him; proceed from grace to grace, run forward until you reach the uttermost limit of knowledge that man can have concerning our Beloved. "As ye have received him walk in him."
But now I want you to notice just this; it says, "Walk ye in him." Oh! I cannot attempt to enter into the mystery of this text "Walk in him!" You know if a man has to cross a river, he fords it quickly and is out of it again at once, but you are to suppose a person walking in a certain element always, in Christ. Just as we walk in the air, so am I to walk in Christ; not sometimes, now and then coming to him and going away from him, but walking in him as my element. Can you comprehend that? Not a soul here can make anything out of that but the most silly jargon, except the man who having received the inner spiritual life, understandeth what it is to have fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. Dear friends, in trying to open up that point just for a moment, let us notice what this walking in Christ must mean. As Christ was at first when we received him the only ground of our faith; so as long as we live, we are to stand to the same point. Did you not sing the other day when you first came to him
"I'm a poor sinner and nothing at all,
But Jesus Christ is my all in all?"
Well, that is how you are to continue to the end. We commence our faith with
"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling."
When thou art hoary with honors, when thou art covered with fame, when thou hast served thy Master well, still come in just the same way with
"A guilty weak and helpless worm,
On Christ's kind arms I fall,
He is my strength and righteousness,
My Jesus and my all."
Let not your experience, your sanctification, your graces, your attainments, come in between you and Christ, but just as you took him to be the only pillar of your hope at first, so let him be even to the last. You received Christ, again, as the substance of your faith. The infidel laughed at you, and said you had nothing to trust to; but your faith made Christ real to you. Well, now, just as the first day when you came to Jesus you no more doubted the reality of Christ than you did your own existence, so walk ye in him. Well can I recollect that first moment when these eyes looked to Christ! Ah! there was never anything so true to me as those bleeding hands, and that thorn-crowned head. I wish it were always so, and indeed it ought to be. As ye have received Christ really, so keep on realising and finding substance in him. And that day, beloved, Christ became to us the joy of our souls. Home, friends, health, wealth, comforts all lost their lustre that day when He appeared, just as stars are hidden by the light of the sun. He was the only Lord and giver of life's best bliss, the one well of living water springing up unto everlasting life. I know that the first day it mattered not to me whether the day itself was gloomy or bright. I had found Christ; that was enough for me. He was my Savior; he was my all. I do think that that day I could have stood upon the faggots of Smithfield to burn for him readily enough. Well now, just as you received him at first as your only joy, so receive him still, walking in him, making him the source, the center, ay, and the circumference too of all your souls' range of delight, having your all in him. So, beloved, that day when we received him, we received him as the object of our love. Oh! how we loved Christ then! Had we met him that day, we would have broken the alabaster box of precious ointment, and poured it upon his head; we would have washed his feet without tears, and wiped them with the hairs of our head. Ah! Jesus, when I first received thee, I thought I should have behaved far better than I have, I thought I would spend and be spent for thee, and should never dishonor thee or turn aside from my faith, and devotedness, and zeal; but ah! brethren, we have not come up to the standard of our text walking in him as we have received him. He has not been by us so well beloved as we dreamed he would have been.
I take it then to be the meaning of our text, as Christ Jesus the Lord was at the first All-in-All to you, so let him be while life shall last.
II. I shall be very brief upon THE ADVOCACY OF THIS PRINCIPLE, for surely you need no urgent persuasion to cleave unto such a Lord as yours.
In advocating this principle, I would say, first of all, suppose, my brethren, you and I having been saved by Christ, should now begin to walk in some one else, what then? Why, what dishonor to our Lord. Here is a man who came to Christ and says he found salvation in him, but after relying upon the Lord some half-a-dozen years, he came to find it was not a proper principle, and so now he has begun to walk by feelings, to walk by sight, to walk by philosophy, to walk by carnal wisdom. If such a case could be found, what discredit would it bring upon our Holy Leader and Captain. But I am certain no such instance will be found in you, if you have tasted that the Lord is gracious. Have you not up till now found your Lord to be a compassionate and generous friend to you, and has not simple faith in him given you all the peace your spirit could desire? I pray you, then, unless you would stain his glory in the dust, as you have received Christ, so walk in him.
Besides, what reason have you to make a change? Has there been any argument in the past? Has not Christ proved himself all-sufficient! He appeals to you to-day "Have I been a wilderness unto you?" When your soul has simply trusted Christ, have you ever been confounded? When you have dared to come as a guilty sinner and believed in him, have you ever been ashamed? Very well, then, let the past urge you to walk in him. And as for the present, can that compel you to leave Christ? Oh! when we are hard beset with this world or with the severer trials within the Church, we find it such a sweet thing to come back; and pillow our head upon the bosom of our Savior. This is the joy we have to-day, that we are in trial, that we are saved in him, and if we find this to-day to be enough, wherefore should we think of changing! I will not forswear the sunlight till I find a better, nor leave my Lord until a brighter Lover shall appear; and, since this can never be, I will hold him with a grasp immortal, and bind his name as a seal upon my arm. As for the future, can you suggest anything which can arise that shall render it necessary for you to tack about, or strike sail, or go with another captain in another ship? I think not. Suppose life to be long He changes not. Suppose you die; is it not written that "neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord!" You are poor; what better than to have Christ who can make you rich in faith? Suppose you are sick; what more do you want than Christ to make your bed in your sickness? Suppose you should be maltreated, and mocked at, and slandered for his sake what better do you want then to have him as a friend who sticketh closer than a brother? In life, in death, in judgment, you cannot conceive anything that can arise in which you would require more than Christ bestows.
But, dear friends, it may be that you are tempted by something else to change your course for a time. Now what is it? Is it the wisdom of this world, the cunning devices and discoveries of man? Is it that which our apostle mentions as philosophy? The wise men of the world have persuaded you to begin questioning; they have urged you to put the mysteries of God to the test of common-sense, reason, and so forth, as they call it, and not lean on the inspiration of God's Word. Ah! well, beloved, it is wisdom, I suppose, which philosophy offers you. Well, but have you not that in Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? You received Christ at first, I thought, as being made of God unto you wisdom, and sanctification, and righteousness, and so on; well, will you cast him off when you have already more than all the wisdom which this philosophy offers?
Is it ceremonies that tempt you? Has the priest told you that you ought to attend to these, and then you would have another ground of confidence? Well, but you have that in Christ. If there is anything in the circumcision of the Jews, you have that, for you are circumcised in him. If there be anything, in baptism, as some think that to be a saving ordinance, you have been buried with hmt in baptism; you have that. Do you want life? your life is hid with him. Do you want death? You are dead with Christ, and buried with him. Do you want resurrection? he hath raised you up with him. Do you want heaven? he hath make you sit together in heavenly places in him. Getting Christ, you have all that everything else can offer you; therefore be not tempted from this hope of your calling, but as ye have received Christ, so walk in him.
And then, further, do you not know this? that your Jesus is the Lord from heaven? What can your heart desire beyond God? God is infinite; you cannot want more than the infinite. "In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." Having Christ you have God, and having God you have everything. Well might the apostle add to that sentence, "And ye are complete in him!" Well, then, if you are complete in Christ, why should you be beguiled by the bewitcheries of this world to want something besides Christ? If resting upon him, God is absolutely yours, and you are, therefore, full to the brim with all that your largest capacity can desire, oh! wherefore should you thus be led astray, like foolish children, to seek after another confidence and another trust? Oh! come back, thou wanderer; come thou back to this solid foundation, and sing once again with us
"On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand."
III. And now, last of all, a few words BY WAY OF APPLICATION.
"So walk ye in him." One of the first applications shall be made with regard to some who complain of a want of communion, or rather, of those of whom we ought to complain, since they injure us all by their distance from Christ. There are some of you who never have much communion with Christ. You are members of the Church, and very decent people, I dare say, in your way; but you do not have communion with Christ. Ask some professors "Do you ever have communion with Christ?" They would be obliged to say "Well, I do not know that my life is inconsistent; I do not think anybody could blame me for any wrong act towards my fellow-man; but if you come to that, whether I have ever had communion with Christ, I am compelled to say that I have had it now and then, but it is very seldom, it is like the angels' visits, few and far between." Now, brethren, you have received Christ, have you not? Then the application of the principle is, as you have received him, so walk in him. If it were worth while for you to come to him at first, then it is worth while for you always to keep to him. If it were really a safe thing for you to come to him and say, "Jesus, thou art the way," then it is a safe thing for thee to do now; and if that was the foundation of blessedness to thee, to come simply to Christ, then it will be the fountain of blessedness to thee to do the same now. Come, then, to him now. If thou wert foolish in trusting him at the first, then thou art wise in leaving off doing so now. If thou wert wise, however, in approaching to Christ years gone by, thou art foolish in not standing by Christ now. Come, then, let the remembrance of thy marriage unto the Lord Jesus rebuke thee; and if thou hast lost thy fellowship with Jesus, come again to his dear body wounded for thy sake, and say, "Lord Jesus, help me from this time forth as I have received thee, day by day to walk in thee."
There are many of you who complain of a want of comfort. You are not so comfortable as you would like to be, and why? Why you have sinned. Yes, yes, but how did you receive Christ. As a saint? "No, no," say you, "I came to Christ as a sinner." Come to him as a sinner now, then. "Oh! but I feel so guilty." Just so, but what was your hope at first? Why, that guilty though you were, he had made an atonement, and you trusted in him. Well, you are guilty still; do the same as you did at first; walk in him, and I cannot imagine a person without comfort who continually makes this the strain of his life, to rest on Christ as a poor sinner, just as he did at first. Why, Lord, thou knowest the devil often says to me, "Thou art no saint." Well then if I be not a saint, yet I am a sinner, and it is written "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners." Then
"Just as I am, and waiting not,
To rid my soul of one foul spot,
To him whose blood can cleanse each blot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come."
Why, you cannot help having comfort if you walk with your Surety and Substitute as you did at the first, resting on Him, and not in feelings, nor experience, nor graces, nor anything of your own; living and resting alone on him who is made of God unto you all that your soul requires.
There is yet another thing. There are many Christians whose lives really are not consistent. I cannot understand this if they are walking in Christ; in fact, if a man could completely walk in Christ he would walk in perfect holiness. We hear an instance, perhaps, of a little shopkeeper who puffs and exaggerates as other shopkeepers do he does not exactly tell a lie, but something very near it. Now I want to know whether that man was walking in Christ when he did that. If he had said to himself, "Now I am in Christ," do you think he would have done it? We hear of another who is constantly impatient, always troubled, fretting, mournful. I want to know whether that man is really walking in Christ as he walked at first, when he is doubting the goodness, the providence, the tenderness of God. Surely he is not. I have heard of hard-hearted professors who take a Christian brother by the throat with, "Pay me what thou owest." Do you think they are walking in Christ when they do that? We hear of others, when their brothers have need, shut up the bowels of their compassion; are mean and stingy; are they walking in Christ when they do that? Why, if a man walks in Christ, then he so acteth as Christ would act; for Christ being in him, his hope, his love, his joy, his life, he is the reflex of the image of Christ; he is the glass into which Christ looks; and then the image of Christ is reflected, and men sav of that man, "He is like his Master; he lives in Christ." Oh! I know, dear brethren, if we lived now as we did the first day we came to Christ, we should live very differently from what we do. How we felt towards him that day! We would have given all we had for him! How we felt towards sinners that day! Lad that I was, I wanted to preach, and
"Tell to sinners round,
What a dear Savior I had found."
How we felt towards God that day! When we were on our knees what pleading there was with him, what a nearness of access to him in prayer! Oh! how different; how different with some now! This world has with rude hand brushed the bloom from the young fruit. Is it true that flowers of grace, like the flowers of nature, die in the autumn of our piety? As we all get older, ought we to be more worldly? Should it be that our early love, which was the love of our espousals, dies away? Forgive, O Lord, this evil, and turn us anew unto thee.
"Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
We hate the sins that made thee mourn,
And drove thee from our breast.
The dearest idol we have known,
Whate'er that idol be,
Help us to tear it from thy throne,
And worship only thee.
So shall our walk be close with God,
Calm and serene our frame;
So purer light shall mark the road
That leads us to the Lamb."
"As ye have received him walk in him," and if ye have not received him, oh! poor sinner, remember he is free and full, full to give thee all thou needest, and free to give it even to thee. Let the verse we sung be an invitation to thee:
"This fountain, though rich, from charge is quite clear;
The poorer the wretch, the welcomer here:
Come, needy and guilty; come, loathsome and bare;
Though leprous and filthy, come just as you are."
Trust in God's anointed that is receive him and then, having trusted him, continue still to trust him. May his Spirit enable you to do it, and to his name shall be glory for ever and ever.
Death and Its Sentence Abolished
Intended for Reading on Lord's-day, January 15th, 1899,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, October 14th, 1883.
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." Colossians 2:13-14 .
IT TENDS TO EXCITE GRATITUDE in our hearts if we remember what the Lord has done for us. It is not wrong for us to think of all that we still need from God, but it would be exceedingly ungrateful if we were to forget what we have already received. By far the greater part of salvation is ours already, and though, in some respects, we have not yet attained, neither are already perfect, yet in other respects we are complete in Christ Jesus. If we are truly believers in Christ, we are already saved; we are not merely in a salvable state, but we have really obtained salvation. In Christ, we are delivered from the curse of the law, and we have an eternal inheritance already secured to us. I must not dwell on that blessed theme; I only just mention it, in passing, to remind you that it encourages our gratitude if we remember what the Lord has done for us.
It also stimulates us to hope for more blessings in the future; it puts a keener edge upon our prayers, and helps us to plead with greater confidence; for we feel that, inasmuch as God has given us so much already, and done so much for us, he will perfect that which concerneth us, and will not forget the work of his own hands. The remembrance of what the Lord has done for us is quite sure also to inflame our love. We cannot be cold-hearted if we continue to recollect God's goodness to us. We must be glad in the Lord; and, with that gladness, there must come fervent love to him who has wrought all these things on our behalf, and brought us into the blessed estate of those who are saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation.
This morning,* I talked to those who were seeking the Savior; they had their turn then, so now I am going to speak to those who have found the Lord. Ah, dear friends, how precious he is to you! I want you to see what he has done for you, what God the everlasting Father has done for you through Jesus Christ his Son, that you may come and sit at his feet in adoring love, and feel your hearts burn within you as you meditate upon the riches of his amazing grace. Our text speaks of two things which God has done for us through Christ Jesus. First, there is the removal of the death within us: "And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath ho quickened together with Christ, having forgiven you all trespasses." The second thing is, the removal of the handwriting which was against us. This we have in the 14th verse: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross."
Before I come to the subject of my discourse, I want every child of God whom I am addressing to feel, "The preacher's talk is to be about me, and about what Christ has done for me;" for, remember, dear friends, that the work of Christ is as distinctly on behalf of each believer as if he were the only object of divine love in the whole universe; and while it is true that Christ's work concerns all his people, and it is a very great comfort that it is so, yet it is also true that it concerns each one of his people, and it is all the property of each one, and yet there is as much left for all of us who believe in Christ. I want you, just now, to eat your own morsel, to claim your own portion, and to take home to your own heart what God has given to you by a covenant of salt, and so given to you that it can never be taken away from you.
I. First, then, the Lord has done this for all of us who believe in him, HE HAS REMOVED OUR INWARD SPIRITUAL DEATH. Turn to the text to see what this death was: "You being dead in your sins." We were all, then, the regenerate as well as the rest of mankind, "dead in trespasses and sins." What kind of death was this? Certainly, it was not physical death, We lived, and moved, and had our being; we exercised our wills, and did as we pleased in our enmity and opposition to God. The Lord does not trent men as if they were stocks and stones, nor does he ever regard them as such. They are alive, and when they sin, they sin most sadly of their own accord.
Neither was our death a mental death, for the ungodly can think as well as others, and they have all the powers of reason unless, indeed, they have dulled and destroyed them by certain forms of sin which produce that result. Alas! there are some of the most acute minds in the world that are not reconciled to God. The men are alive enough as to their minds, yet they are truly said to be dead. I could almost wish, for some people, that it was a mental death, rather than the kind of death they have, since now the quickness of their intellect only helps them to increase their guilt, and to multiply the reasons for their condemnation.
And yet again, as it is not a physical death, nor a mental death, so neither is it a moral death. Man is not so dead that he sins without guilt, or lives without responsibility. No man who remains out of Christ is without guilt on that account. He who continues an unbeliever may not say that he cannot help it; it is his fault and his sin that he does not believe. Indeed, our Lord told his disciples that the Comforter would convince the world of sin for this very reason: "because," said he, "they believe not on me." To Nicodemus, our Lord also said, "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." O dear hearers, if I could believe that you were mere machines, or that you had drifted along the stream of time like some stray timber on a Canadian river, if I believed that you could not in any way help yourselves, but were the mere creatures of your circumstances, then I might be comfortable concerning you, for you would be exempt from criminality. But it is not so: you are men and women living before the living God; and you are responsible to him for your actions, and your words, and even for the thoughts and imaginations of your heart. For every rejection of his gospel you will have to give account at the last great day; and if you remain out of Christ, that account will seal your doom for ever.
The kind of death here spoken of is spiritual death, death as to higher things than can be grasped by the hand, or seen with the eye, or comprehended by the natural mind. Only the spiritual man knows what spiritual things are, for they have to be spiritually discerned You would not think of teaching a horse the wonders of astronomy, because there is no mind in the horse that could learn that science; neither can we, of ourselves, teach spiritual things to our fellow-men, because, until they are born again, born from above, they do not possess the faculty with which they can grasp spiritual things. Our Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh," and therefore can only lay hold of the things that are fleshly; "and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit;" and until a man is born of the Spirit, he is without the faculty of understanding and enjoying spiritual things. As far as spiritual things are concerned, man's understanding is dead. He can comprehend the highest and most wonderful of sciences, but he cannot, or, what is tantamount to it, he will not understand the things of God. He turns on his heel, and says, "I cannot make out what you mean." No, we know that you cannot, and we are not surprised at your lack of apprehension, for it is just what the Bible leads us to expect. We even find. those who consider themselves to be learned divines rejecting the gospel, and saying that it is not consistent with their philosophy. We never thought that it was, and we never imagined that they could receive the gospel until they are converted, and become as little children. The great reason why men reject; the gospel is because they are not born again, because they have not received the life of God into their souls. If they had, they would understand it so as to delight in it; but the understanding, spiritually, is under a cloud of night, which the Word of God calls "death."
So also is the human will dead to spiritual things. When a person is literally dead, he cannot will to come to life; neither does any man ever will to come to Christ till the Spirit of God gives him that will, for his natural will is exerted in quite another direction, as our Lord said to the Jews, "Ye will not come to me that ye might have life." The will is a slave, it is held in chains, it is set on mischief, and resolved not to subject itself to the will of the Most High. Not morally, nor mentally, but spiritually, the will of man is dead.
So, too is it true of the affections that they are dead to spiritual things. Men, in their unregenerate state, will not love that which is good; alas! they will not love Christ. He is altogether lovely, yet unrenewed men see nothing in him that they should love. Holiness, purity, the will of God, all these things are worthy of being loved, yet men do not love them; nay, they love the very opposite until the grace of God comes and quickens them.
Now, brothers and sisters, is not all this a true description of what we were before the Spirit of God begin to deal with us in his regenerating power? Were we not dead to all spiritual things? Some of you used to come to the house of God, but you were here just as so many corpses might have been. You used to visit where there wore Christian people, but you could not understand what they said about their experience. You had no enjoyment in their joys, neither did you sorrow in their sorrows. There was a deep gulf between you and them, and the secret was that you were natural men, and they were spiritual men. You loved not the things which they loved, even as they took no delight in the things which charmed you, for you were in a condition of spiritual death.
Consider, next, dear friends, what that spiritual death involved. The text puts it thus: "You being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh."
First, we were dead in sin. Nay, I quoted the text wrongly, for we were dead in our sins, the word is in the plural. They were our own sins; not the sins of our fate or destiny, or of our circumstances and surroundings, but our own sins. We willingly committed them. As the result of our death to everything that was holy, and good, and spiritual, we sinned, and we took pleasure in sin. We repeated our old sins, and we devised and invented new sins; they were, with an emphasis, our sins, our own actual, real, personal sins.
These sins were very varied, according to our condition and temperament. Some went after one sin, others after another. Some were quiet and gentle sinners, so that many persons thought that they were holy. Others were noisy outrageous sinners, who were a nuisance to the parish in which they lived. Some were sinners under some sort of fear, but they would have sinned more if they had dared to do so. Others had east off all fear both of God and man, and plunged headlong into rioting, and wantonness, and all manner of unmentionable crimes. All these sins were accompaniments of spiritual death; they were just what winding-sheets are to dead men. There, then, is the picture of what we were, and of what the unregenerate are: "dead in trespasses and sins," lying there wrapped in the cerements of sin, surrounded, covered with sin, getting ready in that condition soon to be carried out to the eternal burial, to the place "where their worm dieth not, and where the fire is not quenched." That is how I was by nature; that is how you were, brothers and sisters, who are now alive unto God. You may, perhaps, have seen an Egyptian mummy, bound from head to foot with the wrappings appertaining to death; so was it with you. Your sins were about your head, your heart, your hands, your feet; sins surrounded you everywhere, and there you lay, as the text says, "dead in your sins."
Now let us see how we were delivered; and as we lay our hands on our hearts, and think of what God has done for us, let us prepare to bless and magnify his name: "You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your mesh, hath ho quickened," he hath made you to live, "you hath he quickened together with him." God, by his grace, has made you to live in Christ. Do you not feel the difference between what you were and what you now are? Can you imagine what a change there would be if a dead man, who had been lying in his graveclothes, could suddenly sit upright, or rise out of the shell in which the undertaker had placed him? What a contrast between the state of death and the state of life! That is a very faint figure of the difference between what we now are and what we used to be; do you not realize it, brothers and sisters? The things you once despised, you now value; and the things you then passed by with a sneer, you would now live for and die for. You used to hear about these things, and it often seemed dull work to listen to a sermon; but now there is music in it from the first word to the end. That Bible of yours used to be like an old will to you, and old wills are very dry reacting; but now you have found the record of a great legacy left to yourself; and, oh! it is blessed work to read the will now; you could sit and study it all day long.
Praying, also, used to be hard work; you managed to mutter, in a dead way, a few deal words; but prayer now is quite another thing with you, your whole spirit is alive when you draw near to God in supplication. In fact, you are a changed man altogether. I suppose that, if you were to meet your old self, he would hardly know you, for you are so greatly altered. I daresay he would say to you, "Come, old fellow, let us go to the theater, or turn into this beer-shop, or let us go home, and find out some way of amusing ourselves." You would reply, "No, sir; I cut your acquaintance a long time ago, and I do not mean to have anything further to do with you, so you may go about your business as soon as you like. I am not what I was, for I have been crucified with Christ, and I am dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God." There was one of the old saints who used to keep company with a woman in his ungodly days, and when he was converted, she met him in the street, and said to him, "Austin, you know me." "Well," he said, "yes, I do; but I am not Austin any longer; at least, I am not the person that I used. to be." Oh, it is a blessed thing when we can feel that we are not what we once were! True, we are not yet what we want to be, and we are not what we shall be; but we are not what we used to be, and we shall never again be what we used to be; the grace of God will prevent that now that we have been quickened.
But how are we quickened? Paul says that God hath quickened as together with Christ, and by this he means, first, that we have been quickened mystically by Christ's resurrection. That morning, when Christ Jesus rose from the dead, all his people rose in him. The sun was not yet up, but the Prince of life and glory had lingered long enough in the sepulcher; so, awaking into life through the divine power, he began to unwrap himself from the cerements of the tomb. He laid the napkin by itself for your use and mine, that we may wipe our eyes when our dear friends are taken away; but he took the graveclothes, and put them together, that he might leave the house ready furnished against the time when we should, be carried there, our last bed being tlus supplied by him with all the furniture we shall need when our time comes to sleep in it. Then he waited a while till the sheriff's offcer came down to set the hostage free, for the angel descended from heaven, the stone was rolled away, and Jesus breathed again the sweet morning air. He that had been dead arose, and left the tomb, no more to die; and, in that hour, every one who is in him was virtually made to rise. The resurrection of all whom he represented was guaranteed by his resurrection, as he said to his disciples, "Because I live, ye shall live also." That is the result of the mystical union between Christ and his people.
But, as a matter of fact, and practically, you and I began to live, spiritually, when we became united to Christ by faith. Do you remember that glad hour when you first believed in him, trusted him, put your soul into his hands? Ah! then it was that you began really to live. Oh, what a difference that saving faith makes in us! In our Savior's parable about the two builders, there is one expression that seems to me very significant. Luke's account of it runs thus: "Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digger deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream bent vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock. But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great." Did you notice, as I quoted the words, that in the second instance Christ left out all about coming to him? Yet that coming to him is the essential thing. If you come to him, and hear his words, and do them, you will have a rock for the foundation of your eternal building, and it will stand any storm that may beat upon it. But if you do not come to Christ, even though you do hear his words, that hearing can be of no permanent profit to you; indeed, it will really increase your condemnation. It is the coming to him, the getting into union with him, which settles and decides the all-important point in connection with our new life. So, then, it was when we became one with Christ by an act of living faith that we were quickened, blessed be his holy name for ever and ever! If we do indeed possess this new life, let us show it. Let us prove, by our conduct and conversation, that we are no longer numbered among the dead, that we have risen with Christ, and cannot go back to the tomb, and cannot enjoy the charnel-house any more. We will have nothing to do with whitewashing the outside of our old sepulcher; we have left the outside and the inside, too, and now we live unto God, and have done for ever with the old state of death. I have set forth all too feebly the great work of God in removing the death that was within us; but if you feel that my words are true concerning you, your heart will beat high with devout thanksgiving to the quickening Spirit who hath wrought this great miracle in you.
II. Now I come, secondly, to notice the great deed of Christ in THE REMOVAL OF THE HANDWRITING THAT WAS AGAINST US.
Consider, dear friends, what this handwriting was. When a man has some charge or insinuation against him merely whispered about and floating in the air, he hardly knows what it is; and, perhaps, if he is a sensible man, he does not care much what it is, but he lets it fly about till it flies away. But when he has an accusation made a midst him in black and white, when there is a handwriting against him, a charge written down and laid before the court, an indictment upon which ho is to be tried, that is a more serious matter.
Handwriting, especially in legal matters, is generally more accurate than mere speech; and there is, against every ungodly man, something written with the anger of God, which he cannot deny, for it is absolutely true. Handwriting also abides; the old Latin proverb says, "Litera scripta manet," that which is written remains. Be very careful as to what you put into black and white, because it may be brought against you many years after you have written it, when you may think very differently concerning it. There is, against every unconverted man, a handwriting which will remain, and which will be brought up against him at the great day of judgment. It is not a mere, baseless rumor floating about, but something tangible which will last, and which cannot be removed except by the almighty power of God.
What is meant, in our text, by "the handwriting of ordinances that was against us"? I cannot give all the meaning in a word; but, does it not mean, first, that the moral law, which we have broken, has written out a curse against us? Each of the ten commandments has, as it were, united with the rest to draw up an indictment against us. The first commandment says, "He has broken me." The second cries, "He has broken me," the third, "He has broken me;" and the whole ten together have laid the same charge against each one of us; that is the handwriting of the law condemning every man of woman born while he remains in a state of nature. The Jews, you remember, came under another law, the ceremonial law; did that ceremonial law draw up an indictment against them? Was it not intended to rid them of sin? I answer, No. There was a lamb slain every morning, and that sacrifice must have reminded at least some of their that a perpetual atonement was provided; but, as with an undertone of thunder, it also reminded them all that such an atonement was still needed, that, after a thousand years of the offering of. lambs, sacrifices were still required. There was ordained a day of atonement with specially solemn ceremonies; but what did that day say to the Jews? That an atonement was provided? No; but that an atonement was still needed; for, as soon as ever that year was up, the atonement had not been made, and they must have another day of atonement. The apostle Paul expressly says, "But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." There was a perpetual remembrance of sin in every one of the offerings under the ceremonial law. I need not stay to speak of them in detail; but they were intended the most of them, at any rate, continually to remind men that sin was not washed away. Thus all the ceremonies drew up a handwriting, and said to the Jews, and to us, too, "You need an atonement by blood; you are guilty, and there is no hope of your ever coming to God except by a sacrifice which these rams and bullocks represent, but the place of which they cannot possibly fill"
Then there is another "handwriting of ordinances that was against us." I think there is written, across the very face of nature, the great truth that man has sinned. Sin has so marred the world which God made perfect that none can go through it without feeling inconvenience, and often sorrow and pain. There are some men who pass through the world as though it were a burning fiery furnace threatening their destruction. Why howls the blast upon the sea, and dashes the galleon upon the rocks? Why have we earthquake, tornado, cyclone, and the like? Why, because man is a sinner, and there is a handwriting in the very ordinances of nature written, as it were, mystically upon the wall, as it was at Belshazzar's feast, and this is what it says, "Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting." There is also another handwriting to the same effect, for God's works always sing to the same tune, that is, the handwriting of conscience within the heart. Conscience writes, "Thou hast sinned; thou hast done the things which thou oughtest not to have done, and thou hast left undone the things which thou oughtest to have done." And if conscience be permitted to write in its own bold text-hand, it sets down this terrible message, "Thou art lost, ruined, and undone; the wrath of God has gone out against thee." This is "the handwriting of ordinances" which is in every part of God's creation, though, alas! many are unable or unwilling to read it.
Now let us ask, concerning this "handwriting of ordinances," what is to become of it? It will certainly be impossible for us to answer it, for "all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." There may be some men here who know of little pieces of handwriting that have cost them a great deal of trouble. A so-called friend came to see you; it would have been a good thing for you if it had been your worst enemy, for you might have been more on your guard against him; your friend wanted just a little help for a time, he could not meet a certain liability just then, so he asked you merely to put your name on the back of a piece of paper, You would never see that document again, he would be quite able to meet it in three months, there was really no risk in the matter. The plausible man said, "You have only to put your name there, you will never be called upon in the least degree. I have plenty of money, and have only to call it in when I want any, so it will be all right." You were persuaded by him, and, like a fool, put your name at the back of his bill; you knew that you had not the money guaranteed by that paper, yet you promised to pay it. You did not beiieve that text in the Bible which tells you that "he that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it; and he that hateth suretyship is sure." I do not know when that bill will come due, perhaps it will be next week; but I know that you are feeling uncommonly uncomfortable about it as you sit there in your pew, and well you may. You say that you will never do such a thing again; it is not likely that you will have the opportunity to do so, but you will find that it is sufficient to have that one piece of handwriting against you, your own handwriting, too. It will be brought home to you; sooner or later, you will see it again. Do not comfort yourself with the foolish idea that you will get off scot free, for you will not. Such a case as that rarely or never occurs; you have given the bond,and the man who holds it will, like Shylock, demand his pound of flesh; and the worst of it is that the bond is one of your own making, and you voluntarily incurred the debt. I wish I could tell you how to get clear of it; be I am glad that I can tell you how to get free from a worse bond even than that, one into which you have entered through your sin, the bond of your own indebtedness to the infinite justice of God for all your rebellions against his law, all your breaches of his divine covenant. You have sinners against him, and it is all down in black and white in the handwriting that is against you.
Now listen, dear friends. The Lord Jesus Christ has done this for all of us who are believers in him. First, he has taken that handwriting, and he has blotted it out, as our text says, "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us." The Greek original has the meaning of smearing over or expunging the handwriting, so as to make it illegible as a document to be producers against us. With his own atoning blood, the Lord Jesus Christ has discharged all our debt. As believers in him, there is nothing whatever due from us to the justice of almighty God, for Christ has paid it all. We cannot, therefore, be punished for our sin, for that would be unjust, since God will not and cannot punish, first the Substitute, and then the sinners for whom that Substitute bled and died. God's justice cannot demand the payment twice,
First my bleeding Surety's hand,
And then again at mine.
Christ did become the Surety of all who believe in him, and he was made to smart for it; but, by the carrying out of his suretyship, he discharged ail your liabilities at the bar of God if you are a believer; and hence he smeared over, expunged, erased, obliterated, the handwriting of ordinances that was against you, and it can never again be lail to your charge. This was the truth that inspired that brave challenge of the apostle Paul, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?"
Christ has done something more than this for us. Look at the text again: "blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way." First, it is blotted out; then, it is taken away, lest the blotting out should not prevent it from being real, for you can sometimes trace through an erasure what was written there, and you say, "Oh, yes! I see what the entry was; 'So-and-so, so many pounds in debt.'" Ay, but Christ says, "You need not worry yourselves about that handwriting, for I will take it away." So he removes the document itself out of sight. It lay in the court against you; but Christ first obliterated it, and then took the accusation itself, the indictment, the charge upon which you were to be tried, and put it out of the way.
Perhaps someone says, "But, possibly, after all, he may bring the accusation up again. He may only have hidden it for a while, and laid it by that he may bring it out against me some other day; and when it is produced, some expert will examine it with his gloss, and through all the blotting he will make out the original charge, and say, 'This man was guilty of such-and-such crimes.'" "No," says Christ, "he shall not do that, for I will let you see where I put the handwriting. I will take it quite out of the way, but I will fasten it up where you can see it," "nailing it to his cross." Ah, that is glorious! Just as Christ was fastened to the tree by those dreadful Roman nails, so has he nailed up all the sins of his people, and all that could be laid to their charge. I have heard that they used to drive a nail through the Bank of England notes when they were cashed; a hole was made right through the center, and they could never be used again; and our blessed Lord has driven the nails right through the accusation that was against his people, and there you can see the handwriting hanging up upon his cross. First, he blotted it out; then, he took it out of the way; aud, finally, he nailed it up to his cross, and there it is still, its accusing and condemning power for ever gone. Now, child of God, sit down and say to yourself, "As to all the sins I have ever committed, whatever they may have been, inasmuch as I believe in Jesus, the record is crossed out; and, consequently, the very parchment upon which it was written (to use that figure) has been take out of the way; and that I may be quite sure that an end has been made of it, once for all, my Lord has nailed it, as a crucified thing which ho has put to death with himself upon the tree of sacrifice, and now it has no power to alarm or annoy me."
What better way can there be of abolishing a debt than by paying it? And Christ has paid your debts and mine. What better way can there be of putting an end to sin than by bearing the punishment which was due to sin. The punishment which was due to sin was for us to lie for ever under the wrath of God; but, owing to the majesty of Christ's divine person, the suffering which he endured upon the cross was accepted as an equivalent for all that suffering which we deserved to endure for ever. All the wrath duo to Christ's people was condensed into that one cup of which he began to drink in Gethsemane. As he put his lip to it, and tasted it, so terrible was it that it covered him with a bloody sweat; but he never ceased to drink until he turned the chalice upside down, and not one black drop was found lingering there. At that one tremendous draught of love, the Lord had drunk damnation dry for all his people; and "there is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." How could there be any when Christ endured it all? O beloved friends, go ye in thought away to Calvary, and with joyful hearts trust in the Crucified! The great transaction is done, and done for ever. He has blotted out the handwriting that was against you, and put it away, "nailing it to his cross." All this is true of every one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ. Then, trust yourself with him now, and my text shall be true of you at this moment, and true for ever: "You, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and tools it out of the way, nailing it to his cross." God. bless you all, for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake! Amen.
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 307, 430, 406.
Colossians 2:6-23 ; AND Colossians 3:1-3 .
Colossians 2:6-23 . As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
That is, keep on as you began. Christ was enough for you when, as poor, guilty sinners, you came and trusted him; so keep on trusting him in the same way as you did at the first. Do not try to live by feeling, after having lived by faith. Do not begin to live upon outward forms and ceremonies after having found salvation by grace through faith: "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:"
7. Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Christians are to make progress in the heavenward road; but they are not to have any other foundation for their faith than they had at the begining of their Christian career. We are still to stand fast as we stood at the first; we are to be rooted, grounded, "stablished in the faith," keeping to the old truth that saved our souls, and laying hold upon the same Savior with greater tenacity every hour of our lives. We are not to be like chaff driven before the wind, for ever moving; but to be like the cedars of Lebanon, firmly rooted, and withstanding the heaviest storms.
8. Beware lest any man spoil you
Or, "rob you"
8. Throurgh philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Cleave to Christ, beloved. Go no further than he leads you; and turn not away from him either to the right hand or to the left. In him are contained all the riches of grace, and all the treasures of knowledge. If you would become truly wise, seek to know more of the wisdom of God in Christ Jesus.
9, 10. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:
You have everything in Christ that you ought to want; you are fully furnished, completely supplied and equipped for all future service. You need not go to Christ for the supply of some of your needs, and then go elsewhere for the supply of other needs; but, "ye are complete in him."
11. In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the aine of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:
Anything good that there was in Judaism, you have secured to you in Christ. Whatever there was of blessing and privilege in the covenant mark in the flesh of those whom God made to be his people in the olden time, you have handed on to you by the death of Christ.
12-15. Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took at out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.
The Lord Jesus Christ has done everything for his people, fought their battle, won their victory, and, on their behalf, celebrated the triumph in the streets of heaven, "leading captivity captive." What more, then, do we want? Surely Christ is enough for us.
16. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days:
Do not put yourself under the bondage of any rules and regulations that may be made by men. If you choose to do anything, or to abstain from something else, because you judge it to be right and beneficial, do so. Christ is your only Ruler and Leader; and if he does not command anything, let it not signify to you who does command, it,
17. Which are a shadow of things to come;
All this regard for meats, and drinks, and holy days, and new moons, is but a shadow; what is the great substance that is all-important?
17, 18. But the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,
Do not be beguiled by those who tell you that you ought to pay reverence to angels, and saints, and I know not what besides. One day is called St. Matthew's, and another is St. Michael's, and one, I suppose, is St. Judas's day; there are all sorts of supposed saints, some of whom are never mentioned in the Bible, and about whom nobody ought to care at all: "Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels,"
18-20. Intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances,
Such ordinances as these,
21, 22. (Touch not; taste not; handle not; which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men?
I have actually seen this text quoted as though it stood as a matter of teaching, "Touch not; taste not; handle not;" whereas the apostle here means, "Why are ye subject to such ordinances of men when Christ has set yon free from them all? If, with a view to the good of your fellowmen, you choose not to touch, or taste, or handle, you will act very wisely; but, as far as your own conscience is concerned, do not submit to any merely human regulations as to your manner of life,"
23. Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honor to the satisfying of the flesh.
Colossians 3:1-3 If ye then be risen with Christ,
Leave all these outward rituals, and formalities, and ordinances of men,
1-3. Seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your option on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
See Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No, 1,744, "Where the 'If' lies."
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 4th, 1859, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Colossians 2:15 .
TO THE EYE OF REASON the cross is the centre of sorrow and the lowest depth of shame. Jesus dies a malefactor's death. He hangs upon the gibbet of a felon and pours out his blood upon the common mount of doom with thieves for his companions. In the midst of mockery, and jest, and scorn, and ribaldry, and blasphemy, he gives up the ghost. Earth rejects him and lifts him from her surface, and heaven affords him no light, but darkens the mid-day sun in the hour of his extremity. Deeper in woe the Saviour dived, imagination cannot descend. A blacker calumny than was cast on him satanic malice could not invent. He hid not his face from shame and spitting; and what shame and spitting it was! To the world the cross must ever be the emblem of shame: to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness. How different however is the view which presents itself to the eye of faith. Faith knows no shame in the cross, except the shame of those who nailed the Saviour there; it sees no ground for scorn, but it hurls indignant scorn at sin, the enemy which pierced the Lord. Faith sees woe, indeed, but from this woe it marks a fount of mercy springing. It is true it mourns a dying Saviour, but it beholds him bringing life and immortality to light at the very moment when his soul was eclipsed in the shadow of death. Faith regards the cross, not as the emblem of shame, but as the token of glory. The sons of Belial lay the cross in the dust, but the Christian makes a constellation of it, and sees it glittering in the seventh heaven. Man spits upon it, but believers, having angels for their companions, bow down and worship him who ever liveth though once he was crucified. My brethren, our text presents us with a portion of the view which faith is certain to discover when its eyes are anointed with the eye-salve of the Spirit. It tells us that the cross was Jesus Christ's field of triumph. There he fought, and there he conquered, too. As a victor on the cross he divided the spoil. Nay, more than this; in our text the cross is spoken of as being Christ's triumphal chariot in which he rode when he led captivity captive, and received gifts for men. Calvin thus admirably expounds the last sentence of our text: "the expression in the Greek allows, it is true, of our reading--in himself; the connection of the passage, however, requires that we read it otherwise; for what would be meagre as applied to Christ, suits admirably well as applied to the cross. For as he had previously compared the cross to a signal trophy or show of triumph, in which Christ led about his enemies, so he now also compares it to a triumphal car in which he showed himself in great magnificence. For there is no tribunal so magnificent, no throne so stately, no show of triumph so distinguised, no chariot so elevated, as is the gibbet on which Christ has subdued death and the devil, the prince of death; nay, more, has utterly trodden them under his feet."
I shall this morning, by God's help, address you upon the two portions of the text. First, I shall endeavour to describe Christ as spoiling his enemies on the cross; and having done that I shall lead your imagination and your faith further on to see the Saviour in triumphal procession upon his cross, leading his enemies captive, and making a shew of them openly before the eyes of the astonished universe.
I.First, our faith is invited this morning to behold CHRIST MAKING A SPOIL OF PRINCIPALITIES AND POWERS. Satan, leagued with sin and death, had made this world the home of woe. The Prince of the power of the air, fell usurper, not content with his dominions in hell, must need invade this fair earth. He found our first parents in the midst of Edem; he tempted them to forego their allegiance to the King of heaven; and they became at once his bondslaves bondslaves forever, if the Lord of heaven had not interposed to ransom them The voice of mercy was heard while the fetters were being rivetted upon their feet, crying, "Ye shall yet be free!" In the fulness of time there shall come one who shall bruise the serpent"s head, and shall deliver his prisoners from the house of their bondage. Long did the promise tarry. The earth groaned and travailed in its bondage. Man was Satan's slave, and heavy were the clanking chains which were upon his soul. At last, in the fulness of time, the Deliverer came forth, born of a woman. This infant conqueror was but a span long. He lay in the manger he who was one day to bind the old dragon and cast him into the bottomless pit, and set a seal upon him. When the old serpent knew that his enemy was born, he conspired to put him to death; he leagued with Herod to seek the young child that he might destroy him. But the providence of God preserved the future conqueror; he went down into Egypt, and there was he hidden for a little season. Anon, when he had come to fulness of years, he made his public advent, and began to preach liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that were bound. Then Satan again shot forth his arrows, and sought to end the existence of the woman's seed. Once the Jews took up stones to stone him; nor did they fail to repeat the attempt. They sought to cast him down from the brow of a hill headlong. By all manner of devices they laboured to take away his life, but his hour was not yet. Dangers might surround him, but he was invulnerable till the time was come. At last the trememdous day arrived. Foot to foot the conqueror must fight with the dread tyrant. A voice was heard in heaven, "This is your hour, and the power of darkness." And Christ himself exclaimed, "Now is the crisis of this world; now must the prince of darkness be cast out." From the table of communion the Redeemer arose at midnight, and marched forth to the battle. How dreadful was the contest! In the very first onset the mighty conqueror seemed himself to be vanquished. Beaten to the earth at the first assault, he fell upon his knees and cried, "My Father, if it be possible let this cup passd from me." Revived in strength, made strong by heaven, he no longer quailed, and from this hour never did he utter a word which looked like renouncing the fight. From the terrible skirmish all red with bloody sweat, he dashed into the thick of the battle. The kiss of Judas was, as it were, the first sounding of the trumpet; Pilate's bar was the glittering of the spear; the cruel lash was the crossing of the swords. But the cross was the centre of the battle; there, on the top of Calvary, must the dread fight of eternity be fought. Now must the Son of God arise, and gird his sword upon his thigh. Dread defeat or glorious conquest awaits the Champion of the church. Which shall it be? We hold our breath with anxious suspense while the storm is raging. I hear the trumpet sound. The howlings and yells of hell rise in awful clamour. The pit is emptying out its legions. Terrible as lions, hungry as wolves, and black as night, the demons rush on in myriads. Satan's reserve forces, those who had long been kept against this day of terrible battle, are roaring from their dens. See how countless their armies, and how fierce their countenances. Brandishing his sword the arch fiend leads the van, bidding his followers fight neither with small nor great, save only with the King of Israel. Terrible are the leaders of the battle. Sin is there, and all its innumbrable offspring, spitting forth the venom of asps, and infixing their poison-fangs in the Saviour's flesh. Death is there upon his pale horse,and his cruel dart rends its way through the body of Jesus even to his inmost heart. He is "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Hell comes, with all its coals of juniper and fiery darts. But chief and head amongst them is Satan; remembering well the ancient day Christ hurled him from the battlements of heaven, he rushes with all his malice yelling to the attack. The darts shot into the air are so thick that they blind the sun. Darkness covers the battle-field, and like that of Egypt it was a darkness which might be felt. Long does the battle seem to waver, for there is but one against many. One man nay, tell it, lest any should misunderstand me, one God stands in battle array against ten thousands of principalities and powers. On, on they come, and he receives them all. Silently at first he permits their ranks to break upon him, too terribly enduring hardness to spare a thought for shouting. But at last the battle-cry is heard. He who is fighting for his people begins to shout, but it is a shout which makes the church tremble. He cries, "I thirst." The battle is so hot upon him, and the dust so thick that he is choked with thirst. He cries, "I thirst." Surely, now, he is about to be defeated? Wait awhile; see ye yon heaps; all these have fallen beneath his arm, as for the rest fear not the issue. The enemy is but rushing to his own destruction. In vain his fury and his rage, for see the last rank is charging, the battle of ages is almost over. At last the darkness is dispersed. Hark how the conqueror cries, "It is finished." And where now are his enemies? They are all dead. There lies the king of terrors, pierced through with one of his own darts! There lies Satan with his head all bleeding, broken! Yonder crawls the broken-backed serpent, writhing in ghastly misery! As for sin, it is cut in pieces, and scattered to the winds of heaven! "It is finished," cries the conqueror, as he came with dyed garments from Bozrah, "I have trodden the wine-press alone, I have trampled them in my fury, and their blood is sprinkled on my garments."
And now he proceeds to divide the spoil.
We pause here to remark that when the spoil is divided it is a sure token that the battle is completely won. The enemy will never suffer the spoil to be divided among the conquerors as long as he has any strength remaining. We may gather from our text of a surety, that Jesus Christ has totally routed, thorougly defeated once for all, and put to retreat all his enemies, or else he would not have divided the spoil.
And now, what means this expression of Christ dividing the spoil? I take it that it means, first of all, that he disarmed all his enemies. Satan came against Christ; he had in his hand a sharp sword called the Law, dipped in the poison of sin, so that every wound which the law inflicted was deadly. Christ dashed this sword out of Satan's hand, and there stood the prince of darkness disarmed. His helmet was cleft in twain, and his head was crushed with a rod of iron. Death rose against Christ. The Savior snatched his quiver from him, cut them in two, gave Death back the feather end, but kept the poisoned barbs from him, that he might never destroy the ransomed. Sin came against Christ; but sin was utterly cut in pieces. It had been Satan's armour bearer, but its shield was cast away, and it lay dead upon the plain. Is it not a noble picture to behold all the enemies of Christ? nay, my brethren, all your enemies, and mine, totally disarmed? Satan has nothing left him now wherewith he may attack us. He may attempt to injure us, but wound us he never can, for his sword and spear are utterly taken away. In the old battles, especially among the Romans, after the enemy had been overcome, it was the custom to take away all their weapons and ammunition; afterwards they were stripped of their armour and their garments, their hands were tied behind their backs, and they were made to pass under the yoke. Now, even so hath Christ done with sin, death, and hell: he hath taken away their armour, spoiled them of all their weapons, and made them all to pass under the yoke; so that now they are our slaves, and we in Christ are conquerors of them who were mightier than we.
I take it this is the first meaning of dividing the spoil total disarming of the adversary.
In the next place, when the victors divide the spoil they carry away not only the weapons but all the treasures which belong to their enemies. They dismantle their fortresses, and rifle all their stores, so that in future they may not be able to renew the attack. Christ has done the like with all his enemies. Old Satan had taken away from us all our possessions. Paradise, Satan had added to his territories. All the joy, and happiness, and peace of man, Satan had taken not that he could enjoy them himself, but that he delighted to thrust us down into poverty and damnation. Now, all our lost inheritances Christ hath gotten back to us. Paradise is ours, more than all the joy and happiness that Adam had, Christ hath brought back to us. O robber of our race, how art thou spoiled and carried away captive! Didst thou despoil Adam of his riches? The second Adam hath rent them from thee! How is the hammer of the whole earth cut asunder and broken, and the waster is become desolate. Now shall the needy be remembered, and again shall the meek inherit the earth. "Then is the prey of a great spoil divided, the lame take the prey."
Moreover, when victors divide the spoil, it is usual to take away all the ornaments frm the enemy, the crowns and the jewels. Christ on the cross did the like with Satan. Satan had a crown on his head, a haughty diadem of triumph. "I fought the first Adam," he said; "I overcame him, and here's my glittering diadem." Christ snatched it from his brow in the hour when he bruised the serpent's head. And now Satan cannot boast of a single victory, he is thoroughly defeated. In the first skirmish he vanquished manhood, but in the second battle manhood vanquished him. The crown is taken from Satan. He is no longer the prince of God's people. His reigning power is gone. He may tempt, but he cannot compel; he may threaten, but he cannot subdue; for the crown is taken from his head, and the mighty are brought low. O sing unto the Lord a new song, all ye his peoole, make a joyful noise unto him with psalms, all ye his redeemed; for he hath broken in sunder the gates of brass, and cut the bars of iron, he hath broken the bow and cut the spear in sunder, he hath burned the chariots in the fire, he hath dashed in pieces our enemies, and divided the spoil with the strong.
And now, what says this to us? Simply this. If Christ on the cross hath spoiled Satan, let us not be afraid to encounter this great enemy of our souls. My brethren, in all things we must be made like unto Christ. We must bear our cross, and on that cross we must fight as he did with sin, and death and hell. Let us not fear. The result of the battle is certain, for as the Lord our Saviour hath overcome once even so shall we most surely conquer in him. Be none of you afraid with sudden fear when the evil one cometh upon you. If he accuse you, reply to him in these words: "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" If he condemn you, laugh him to scorn, crying: "Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather hath risen again." If he threaten to divide you from Christ's love, encounter him with confidence: "I am persuaded that neither things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus your Lord." If he let loose your sins upon you dash the hell-dogs aside with this: "if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous." If death should threaten you, shout in his very face: "O grave where is thy sting" O death, where is thy victory?" Hold up the cross before you. Let that be your shield and buckler and rest assured that as your master not only routed the foe but afterwards took the spoil, it shall be even so with you. Your battles with Satan shall turn to your advantage. You shall become all the richer for your antagonists. The more numerous they shall be, the greater shall be your share of the spoil. Your tribulation shall work patience, and your patience experience, and your experience hope a hope that maketh not ashamed. Through this much tribulation shall you inherit the kingdom, and by the very attacks of Satan shall you be helped the better to enjoy the rest which remaineth to the people of God. Put yourselves in array against sin and Satan. All ye that bend the bow shoot at them, spare no arrows, for your enemies are rebels against God. Go ye up against them, put your feet upon their necks, fear not, neither be y dismayed, for the battle is the Lord's and he will deliver them into your hands. Be ye very courageous, remembering that you have to fight with a stingless dragon. He may hiss, but his teeth are broken and his poison fang extracted. You have to battle with an enemy already scarred by your Master's weapons. You have to fight with a naked enemy. Every blow you give him tells upon him. for he has nothing left to protect him. Christ hath stripped him naked, and divided his armour, and left him defenceless before his people. Be not afraid. The lion may howl, but rend you in pieces he never can. The enemy may rush in upon you with hideous noise and terrible alarms, but there is no real cause for fear. Stand fast in the Lord. Ye war against a king who hath lost his crown; ye fight against an enemy whose cheek-bones have been smitten, and the joints of whose loins have been loosed. Rejoice, rejoice ye in the day of battle, for it is for you but the beginning of an eternity of triumph.
I have thus endeavoured to dwell upon the first part of the text, Christ on the cross divided the spoil and he would have us do the same.
II.The second part of our text refers not only to the dividing of the spoil, but to THE TRIUMPH. When a Roman general had perfomed great feats in a foreign country, his highest reward was that the senate should decree him a triumph. Of course there was a division of spoil made on the battle-field, and each soldier, and each captain, took his share; but every man looked rapturously to the day when they should enjoy the public triumph. On a certain set day the gates of Rome were thrown open; all the houses were decorated with ornaments; the people climbed to the tops of the houses, or stood in great crowds along the streets. The gates were opened, and by-and-bye the first legion began to stream in with its banners flying and its trumpets sounding. The people saw the stern warriors as they marched along the street returning from their blood-red fields of battle. After one half of the army had thus defiled, your eye would rest upon one who was the centre of all attraction: riding in a noble chariot drawn by milk-white horses, there came the conqueror himself, crowned with the laurel crown and standing erect. Chained to his chariot were the kings and mighty men of the regions which he had conquered. Immediately behind them came part of the booty. There were carried the ivory and the ebony, and the beasts of the different countries which he had subdued. After these came the rest of the soldiery, a long, long stream of valiant men, all of them sharing the triumphs of their captain. Behind them came banners, the old flags that had floated aloft in the battle, the standards which had been taken from the enemy. And after these, large painted emblems of the great victories of the warrior. Upon one there would be a huge map depicting the rivers which he had crossed, or the seas through which his navy had found its way. Everything was represented in a picture, and the populace gave a fresh shout as they saw the memorial of each triumph. And then, behind, together with the trophies, would come the prisoners of lesser rank. Then the rear would be closed with sound of trumpet, adding to the acclamation of the throng. It was a noble day for old Rome. Children would never forget these triumphs; they would estimate their years from the time of one triumph to another. High holiday was kept. Women cast down flowers before the conqueror, and he was the true monarch of the day.
Now, our apostle had evidently seen such a triumph, or read of it, and he takes this as a representation of what Christ did on the cross. He says, "Jesus made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it." Have you ever thought that the cross could be the scene of a triumph. Most of the old commentators can scarcely conceive of it as true. They say, "This must certainly refer to Christ's resurrection and ascension." But, nevertheless, so saith the Scripture, even on the cross Christ enjoyed a triumph. Yes! while those hands were bleeding, the acclamations of angels were being poured on his head. Yes, while those feet were being rent with the nails, the noblest spirits in the world were crowding round him in admiration. And when upon that blood-stained cross he died in agonies unutterable, there was heard a shout such as never was heard before for the ransomed in heaven, and all the angels of God with loudest harmony chanted his praise. There was sung, in fullest chorus, the song of Moses, the servant of God and of the Lamb, for he had indeed cut Rahab and sorely wounded the dragon. Sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously. The Lord shall reign for ever and ever, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
I do not feel able, however, this morning, to work out a scene so grand, and yet so contrary to everything that flesh could guess as a picture of Christ actually triumphing on the cross in the midst of his bleeding, his wounds, and his pains, actually being a triumphant victor, and admired of all. I choose, rather, to take my text thus: the cross is the ground of Christ's ultimate triumph. He may be said to have really triumphed there, because it was by that one act of his, that one offering of himself, that he completely vanquished all his foes, and for ever sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens. In the cross, to the spiritual eye, every victory of Christ is contained. It may not be there in fact, but it is there virtually; the germ of his glories may be discovered by the eye of faith in the agonies of the cross.
Bear with me while I humbly attempt to depict the triumph which now results from the cross.
Christ has for ever overcome all his foes, and divided the spoil upon the battle field, and now, even at this day is he enjoying the well-earned reward and triumph of his fearful struggle. Lift up your eyes to the battlements of heaven, the great metropolis of God. The pearly gates are wide open, and the city shines with her bejewelled walls like a bride prepared for her husband. Do you see the angels crowding to the battlements? Do you observe them on every mansion of the celestial city, eagerly desiring and looking for something which has not yet arrived? At last, there is heard the sound of a trumpet, and the angels hurry to the gates the vanguard of the redeemed is approaching the city. Abel comes in alone, clothed in a crimson garb, the herald of a glorious army of martyrs. Hark to the shout of acclamation! This is the first of Christ's warriors, at once a soldier and a trophy, that has been delivered. Close at his heels there follow others, who in those early times had learned of the coming Saviour's fame. Behind them a mighty host may be discovered of patriarchal veterans, who have witnessed to the coming of the Lord in a wanton age. See Enoch still walking with his God, and singing sweetly "Behold the Lord cometh with ten thousand of his saints." There too is Noah, who had sailed in the ark with the Lord as his pilot. Then follow Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Moses and Joshua, and Samuel, and David, all mighty men of valour. Hearken to them as they enter! Every one of them waving his helmet in the air, cries, "Unto him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, unto him be honour, and glory, and dominion, and power, for ever and ever!" Look, my brethren, with admiration upon this noble army! Mark the heroes as they march along the golden streets, everywhere meeting with an enthusiastic welcome from the angels who have kept their first estate. On, on they pour, those countless legions was there ever such a spectacle? It is not the pageant of a day, but the "show" of all time. For four thousand years, on streams the army of Christ's redeemed. Sometimes there is a short rank, for the people have often been minished and brought low; but, anon, a crowd succeeds them, and on, on, still on they come, all shouting, all praising him who loved them and gave himself for them. But, see, he comes! I see his immediate herald, clad in a garment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins. The Prince of the house of David is not far behind. Let every eye be open. Now, mark, how not only the angels, but the redeemed crowd the windows of heaven! He comes! He comes! It is Christ himself! Lash the snow-white coursers up the everlasting hills; "Life up you heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of glory may come in." See, he enters in the midst of acclamations. It is he! but he is not crowned with thorns. It is he! but though his hands wear the scar, they are stained with blood no longer. His eyes are as a flame of fire, and on his head are many crowns, and he hath on his vesture and on his thigh written, KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. He stands aloft in that chariot which is "paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem." Clothed in a vesture dipped in blood, he stands confessed the emperor of heaven and earth. On, on he rides, and louder than the noise of many waters and like great thunders are the acclamations which surround him! See how John's vision is become a reality, for now we can see for ourselves and hear with our ears the new song, whereof he writes, "They sung a new song, saying, thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou was slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and has made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; saying with a loud voice, worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever." But who are these at his chariot wheels? Who are these grim monsters that come howling in the rear? I know them. First of all there is the arch enemy. Look at the old serpent, bound and fettered, how he writhes his ragged length along! his azure hues all tarnished with trailing in the dust, his scales despoiled of their once-vaunted brightness. Now is captivity led captive, and death and hell shall be cast into the lake of fire. With what derision is the chief of rebels regarded. How is he become the object of everlasting contempt. He that sitteth in the heavens doth laugh, and the Lord doth have him in derision. Behold now how the serpent's head is broken, and the dragon is trampled under foot. And now regard attentively yon hideous monster, Sin, chained hand in hand with his satanic sire. See how he rolls his fiery eye-balls, mark how he twists and writhes in agonies. Mark how he glares upon the holy city, but is unable to spit his venom there, for he is chained and gagged, and dragged along an unwilling captive at the wheels of the victor. And there, too, is old Death, with his darts all broken and his hands behind him the grim king of terrors, he too is a captive. Hark to the songs of the redeemed, of those who have entered in Paradise, as they see these mighty prisoners dragged along! "Worthy is he," they shout, "to live and reign at his Almighty Father's side, for he hath ascended up on high, he hath led captivity captive, and received gifts for men."
And now behind him I see the great mass of his people streaming in. The apostles are the first to arrive in one goodly fellowship hymning their Lord; and then their immediate successors; and then a long array of those who through cruel mockings and blood, through flame and sword, have followed their Master. These are those of whom the world was not worthy, brightest among the stars of heaven. Regard also the mighty preachers and confessors of the faith, Chrysostom, Athanasius, Augustine, and the like. Witness their holy unanimity in praising their Lord. Then let your eye run along the glittering ranks till you come to the days of Reformation. I see in the midst of the squadron, Luther, Calvin, and Zwingle, three holy brothers. I see just before them Wickliffe, and Huss, and Jerome of Prague, all marching together. And then I see a number that no man can number, converted to God through these mighty reformers, who now follow in the rear of the King of kings and Lord of lords. And looking down to our own time I see the stream broader and wider. For many are the soldiers who have in these last times entered into their Master's triumph. We may mourn their absence from us, but we must rejoice in their presence with the Lord. But what is the unanimous shout, what is the one song that still rolls from the first rank to the last? It is this: "Unto him that loved us, washed us from our sins in his own blood, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever!" Have they changed the tune? Have they supplanted his name by another? Have they put the crown upon another head, or elevated another hero into the chariot? Ah, no: they are content still to let the triumphant procession stream along its glorious length; still to rejoice as they behold fresh trophies of his love, for every soldier is a trophy, every warrior in Christ's army is another proof of his power to save, and his victory over death and hell.
I have not the time to enlarge further, or else I might describe the mighty pictures at the end of the procession; for in the old Roman triumphs, the deeds of the conqueror were all depicted in paintings. The towns he had taken, the rivers he had passed, the provinces he had subdued, the battles he had fought, were represented in pictures and exposed to the view of the people, who with great festivity and rejoicing, accompanied him in throngs, or beheld him from the windows of their houses, and filled the air with their acclamations and applauses. I might present to you first of all the picture of hell's dungeons blown to atoms. Satan had prepared deep in the depth of darkness a prison-house for God's elect; but Christ has not left one stone upon another. On the picture I see the chains broken in pieces, the prison doors burnt with fire, and all the depths of the vasty deep shaken to their foundations. On another picture I see heaven open to all believers; I see the gates that were fast shut heaved open by the golden lever of Christ's atonement. I see one, another picture, the grave despoiled; I behold Jesus in it, slumbering for awhile, and then rolling away the stone and rising to immortality and glory. But we cannot stay to describe these mighty pictures of the victories of his love. We know that the time shall come when the triumphant procession shall cease, when the last of his redeemed shall have entered into the city of happiness and joy, and when with the shout of a trumpet heard for the last time, he shall ascend into heaven, and take his people up to reign with God, even our Father, even for ever and ever, world without end.
Our only question, and with that we conclude, is, have we a good hope through grace that we shall march in that tremendous procession? Shall we pass under view in that day of pomp and glory? Say, my soul, shalt thou have an humble part in that glorious pageant? Wilt thou follow at his chariot wheels? Wilt thou join in the thundering hosannas? Shall thy voice help to swell the everlasting chorus? Sometimes, I fear it shall not. There are times when the awful question comes what if my name should be left out when he should read the muster roll? Brethren, does not that thought trouble you? Can you answer it? Will you be there shall you see this pomp? Will you behold him triumph over sin, death and hell at last? Canst thou answer this question? There is another, but the answer will serve for both dost thou believe on the Lord Jesus Christ? Is he thy confidence and thy trust? Hast thou committed thy soul to his keeping? Reposing on his might canst thou say for thine immortal spirit
"Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on thee?"
If thou canst say that, thine eyes shall see him in the day of his glory; nay, thou shalt share his glory, and sit with him upon his throne, even as he has overcome and sits down with his Father upon his throne. I blush to preach as I have done this morning on a theme far beyond my power; yet I could not leave it unsung, but, as best I might, sing it. May God enlarge your faith, and strengthen your hope, and inflame your love, and make you ready to be made partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light, that when he shall come with flying clouds on wings of wind, ye may be ready to meet him, and may with him ascend to gaze for ever on the vision of his glory.
May God grant this blessing, for Christ's sake. Amen.
A Warning to Believers
Published on Thursday, July 8th, 1915.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Thursday Evening, June 16th, 1870.
"Let no man beguile you of your reward." Colossians 2:18 .
THERE is an allusion here to the prize which was offered to the runners in the Olympic games, and at the outset it is well for us to remark how very frequently the Apostle Paul conducts us by his metaphors to the racecourse. Over and over again he is telling us so to run that we may obtain, bidding us to strive, and at other times to agonize, and speaking of wrestling and contending. Ought not this to make us feel what an intense thing the Christian life is not a thing of sleepiness or haphazard, not a thing to be left now and then to a little superficial consideration? It must be a matter which demands all our strength, so that when we are saved there is a living principle put within us which demands all our energies, and gives us energy over and above any that we ever had before. Those who dream that carelessness will find its way to heaven have made a great mistake. The way to hell is neglect, but the way to heaven is very different. "How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" A little matter of neglect brings you to ruin, but our Master's words are "Strive to enter in at the straight gate, for many, I say unto you, shall seek" merely seek "to enter in, and shall not be able." Striving is needed more than seeking. Let us pray that God the Holy Spirit would always enable us to be in downright, awful earnest about the salvation of our souls. May we never count this a matter of secondary importance, but may we seek first, and beyond everything else, the kingdom of God and his righteousness. May we lay hold on eternal life; may we so run that we may obtain.
I would press this upon your memories because I do observe, observe it in myself as well as in my fellow-Christians, that we are often more earnest about the things of this life than we are about the things of the life to come. We are all impressed with the fact that in these days of competition, if a man would not be run over and crushed beneath the wheels of the Juggernaut of poverty, he must exert himself. No man seems now able to keep his head above water with the faint swimmer strokes which our forefathers used to give. We have to strive, and the bread that perisheth hath to be laboured for. Shall it be that this poor world shall engross our earliest thoughts and our latest cares, and shall the world to come have only now and then a consideration' No; may we love our God with all our heart, and all our soul, and all our strength, and may we lay our body, soul, and spirit upon the altar of Christ's service, for these are but our reasonable sacrifice to him.
Now the Apostle in the text before us gives us a warning, which comes to the same thing, however it is interpreted; but the passage is somewhat difficult of rendering, and there have been several meanings given to it. Out of these there are three meanings which have been given of the text before us which are worthy of notice. "Let no man beguile you of your reward." The Apostle, in the first place, may mean here:
I. LET NO MAN BEGUILE ANY OF YOU who profess to be followers of Christ of the great reward that will await the faithful at the last.
Now, my brethren, we have, many of us, commenced the Christian race, or we profess to have done so, but the number of the starters is far greater than the number of the winners. "They that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize." "Many are called, but few are chosen." Many commence, apparently, in the Christian career, but after a while, though they did run well, something hinders them that they do not obey the truth, and they go out from us because they were not of us, for if they had been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us. Now we may expect, now that we have commenced to run, that some will come and try to turn us out of the race course openly not plausibly and with sophistry, but with an open and honest wickedness. Some will tell us plainly that there is no reward to run for, that our religion is all a mistake, that the pleasures of this world are the only things worth seeking, that there are delights of the flesh and the lusts thereof, and that we should do well to enjoy them. We shall meet the Atheist with his sneer and with his ringing laugh. We shall meet with all kinds of persons who will to our faces tell us to turn back, for there is no heaven, there is no Christ, or, if there be, it is not worth our while to take so much trouble to find him. Take heed of these people. Meet them face to face with dauntless courage. Mind not their sneers. If they persecute you only, reckon this to be an honour to you, for what is persecution but the tribute which wickedness pays to righteousness, and what is it, indeed, but the recognition of the seed of the woman when the seed of the serpent would fain bite his heel?
But the Apostle does not warn you so much against those people who openly come to you in this way. He knows that you will be on the alert against them. He gives a special warning against some others who would beguile you; that is to say, who will try to turn you out of the right road, but who will not tell you that they mean to do so. They pretend that they are going to show you something that you knew not before, some improvement upon what you have hitherto learned. In Paul's day there were some who took off the attention of the Christian from the worship of God to the worship of angels. "Angels," said they, "these are holy beings; they keep watch over you; you should speak of them with great respect"; and then when they grew bolder, they said, "You should ask their protection"; and then after a little while they said, "You should worship them; you should make them intermediate intercessors"; and so, step by step, they went on and established an old heresy which lasted for many years in the Christian church, and which is not dead even now, and thus the worship of angels crept in.
And nowadays you will meet with men who will say, "That bread upon the Table why, it represents the body of Jesus Christ to you when you come to the Lord's Supper; therefore, you ought to treat that bread with great respect." By and bye they will get a little bolder, and then they say, "As it represents Christ, you may worship it, pay it respect as if it were Christ." By and bye it will come to this, that you must have a napkin under your chin, lest you should drop a crumb; or it will be very wicked if a drop of the sacred wine should cling to your moustache when you drink; and there will be the directions which are given in some of the papers coming out from the High Church party absurdities which are only worthy of the nursery about the way in which the holy bread is to be eaten, and the holy wine is to be drunk bringing in idolatry, sheer, clear idolatry, under the presence of improving upon the too bare simplicity of the worship of Christ. Have a care of the very first step, I pray you.
Or, perhaps, it may come to you in another shape. One will say to you, "The place in which you worship is it not very dear to you? That seat where you have been accustomed to sit and listen, is it not dear?"; and your natural instincts will say, "Yes. " Then it will go a little farther. "That place is holy; it ought never to be used for anything but worship " Then a little farther it will be, "Oh! that is the house of God," and you will come to believe that, contrary to the words which you know are given to you of the Holy Ghost, that God dwells not in temples made with hands; that is to say, in these buildings, and you will get by degrees to have a worship of places, and a worship of days, and a worship of bread, and a worship of wine. And then it will be said to you, "Your minister, has he not often cheered you? Well then, you should reverence him; call him 'Reverend.'" Go a little farther, and you will call him "Father"; yet a little farther, and he will be your confessor; get a little farther and he will be your infallible Pope. It is all step by step until it is done. The first step seems to be very harmless indeed. Indeed, it is a kind of voluntary humility. You look as if you were humbling yourselves, and were paying reverence to these things for God's sake, whereas the object is to get you to pay reverence to them, instead of to God, and here the Apostle's words come in, "Let no man setting up other objects of reverence besides those which spiritual men worship.
So, too, they too, by slow degrees try to insinuate a different way of living from that which is the true life of the Christian. You who have believed in Jesus are saved; your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. You are accustomed to go to Jesus Christ constantly to receive that washing of the feet of which he spake to Peter when he said, "He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet, for he is clean every whit." You go to him with "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us." But there will be some who will come in and tell you that to live in that way by a simple faith in Jesus Christ is not, perhaps, the best way. Could you not get a little farther? Could you not lead the life of those recluses who mortify the flesh in such a way that at last they come to have no sins, but commence to be perfect in themselves? Could you not begin, at least in some degree, to commit your soul's care to some priest, or to some friend, and instead of making every place holy and every day a holy day, would it not be well to fast on such and such days in the week, to scrupulously observe this rule and the other rule, and walk by the general opinion of the ancient Church, or by some one of those books which profess to show how they used to do it a thousand years ago? All this may have a great show of wisdom, and antiquity, and beauty; there may be a semblance of everything that is holy about it, and names that should never be mentioned without reverence may be appended to it all, but listen to the Apostle as he saith, "Beware lest any man beguile you of your reward," for if they get you away from living upon Christ as a poor sinner from day to day by simple confidence in him, they will beguile you of your reward.
There is another party who will seek to beguile you of your reward by bringing in speculative notions, instead of the simple truths of God's Word. There is a certain class of persons who think that a sermon must be a good one when they cannot understand it, and who are always impressed with a man whose words are long; and if his sentences are involved they feel, poor souls, that because they do not know what he is talking about, there is no doubt that he is a very wise and learned man; and after a while when he does propound something that they can catch at, though it may be quite contrary to what they have learned at their mother's knee or from their father's Bible, yet they are ready to be led off by it. There are many men nowadays who seem to spend their time in nothing else but in spinning new theories, and inventing new systems, gutting the gospel taking the very soul and bowels out of it, and leaving there nothing but the mere skin and outward bones. The life and marrow of the gospel is being taken away by their learning, by their philosophies, by their refinements, by their bringing everything down to the test of this wonderfully enlightened nineteenth century to which we are all, I suppose, bound to defer. But a voice comes to us, "let no man beguile you of your reward." Stand fast to the old truths; they will outlast all these philosophies. Stand fast to the old way of living; it will outlast all the inventions of men. Stand fast by Christ, for you want no other object of worship but himself.
The Apostle gives us this warning, "Let no man beguile you of your reward," reminding us that these persons are very likely to beguile us. They will beguile us by their character. Have I not often heard young people say of such and such a preacher who preaches error, "But he is so good a man." That is nothing to the point. "Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." If the life of the man should be blameless as the life of Christ, yet if he preach to you other than the gospel of Jesus Christ, take no heed of him; he weareth but the sheep's clothing, and is a wolf after all. Some will plead, "But such and such a man is so eloquent". Ah! brethren, may the day never come when your faith shall stand in the words of men. What is a ready orator, after all, that he should convince your hearts? Are there not ready orators caught any day for everything? Men speak, speak fluently, and speak well in the cause of evil, and there are some that can speak much more fluently and more eloquently for evil than any of our poor tongues are ever likely to do for the right. But words, words, words, flowers of rhetoric, oratory are these the things that saved you? Are ye so foolish that having begun in the spirit by being convinced of your sins, having begun by being led simply to Christ, and putting your trust in him are you now to be led astray by these poetic utterances and flowery periods of men? God forbid! Let nothing of this kind beguile you.
Then there will be added to these remarks that the man is not only very good and very eloquent, but that he is very earnest he seems very humble-minded. Yes, and of old they wore rough garments to deceive, and in the connection of the text we find that those persons were noted for their voluntary humility and their worship of angels. Satan knows very well that if he comes in black he will be discovered, but if he puts on the garb of an angel of light, then men will think he comes from God, and so will be deceived. "By their fruits ye shall know them." If they give you not the gospel, if they exalt not Christ, if they bear not witness to salvation through the precious blood, if they do not lift up Jesus Christ as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, have nothing to do with them, speak as they may. "Let no man beguile you of your reward." Though it should happen to be your relative, one whom you love, one who may have many claims on your respect otherwise let no man, let no man, however plausible may be his speech, or eminent his character, beguile you of your reward.
Recollect, you professors, you lose the reward if you lose the road to the reward. He that runs may run very fast, but if he does not run in the course, he wins not the prize. You may believe false doctrine with great earnestness, but you will find it false for all that. You may give yourself up indefatigably to the pursuit of the wrong religion, but it will ruin your souls. A notion is abroad that if you are but earnest and sincere, you will be all right. Permit me to remind you that if you travel never so earnestly to the north, you will never reach the south, and if you earnestly take prussic acid you will die, and if you earnestly cut off a limb you will be wounded. You must not only be earnest, but you must be right in it. Hence is it necessary to say, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." "I bear them witness," said the Apostle, "that they had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge, but went about to establish their own righteousness, and have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." Oh! may we not be beguiled, then, so as to miss the reward of heaven at the last!
But I must pass on, especially as the light fails us this evening; I hope it is prognostic of a coming shower. Here is a second rendering which may be given to the text:
II. LET NO MAN DOMINEER OVER YOU.
This rendering, or something analogous to it, is in the French translation. One of the great expositors in his commentary upon this passage refers it to the judges at the end of the course, who sometime would give the reward to the wrong person, and the person who had really run well might thus be deprived of his reward. Now, however close a man may be to Christ, the world, instead of honouring him for it, will, on the contrary, censure and condemn him, and hence the Apostle's exhortation is, "Let no man domineer over you."
And, my brethren, I would earnestly ask you to remember this first as to your course of action. If you conscientiously believe that you are right in what you are doing, study very little who is pleased or who is displeased. If you are persuaded in your own soul that what you believe and what you do are acceptable to God, whether they are acceptable to man or not is of very small consequence. You are not man's servant, you do not look to man for your reward, and, therefore, you need not care what man's opinion may be in this matter. Be just and fear not. Tread in the footsteps of Christ, follow what may. Live not on the breath of men. Let not their applause make you feel great, for perhaps then their censure will make you faint. Let no man in this respect domineer over you, but let Christ be your Master, and look to his smile.
So not only with regard to your course of action, but also with reference to your confidence, let no man domineer over you. If you put your trust in Jesus Christ, there are some who will say it is presumption. Let them say it is presumption. "Wisdom is justified of all her children," and so shall faith be. If you take the promise of God and rest upon it, there will be some who will say that you are hare-brained fanatics. Let them say it. They that trust in him shall never be confounded. The result will honour your faith. You have but to wait a little while, and, perhaps, they that now censure you will have to hold up their hands in astonishment, and say with you, "What hath God wrought?" Your confidence in Christ, especially, my dear young friend, I trust does not depend upon the smile of your relatives. If it did, then their frown might crush it. Walk with your Saviour in the lowly walk of holy confidence, and let not your faith rest in man, but in the smile of God.
Let no man domineer over you, again, by judging your motives. Men will always give as bad a reason as they can for a good man's actions. It seems to be innate in human nature never to give a man credit for being right if you can help it, and often tender minds have been greatly wounded when they have been misrepresented, and their actions have been imputed to sinister and selfish motives, when they have really desired to serve Christ. But do not let your heart be broken about that. You will appear before the judgment-seat of Christ: do not care about these petty judgments-seats of men. Go on with your Master's work dauntlessly and fearlessly. Let them say, as David's brethren said of him, "Because of thy pride and the naughtiness of thy heart to see the battle, art thou come." Go you and get Goliath's head, and bring it back, and that shall be the best answer to these sneering ones. When they see that God is with you, and that he has given you the triumph, you shall have honour, even in the eyes of those who now ridicule you. I think sometimes the Christian should have very much the same bravado against the judgment of men as David had when Michal, the daughter of Saul, came out and said, "How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants," and he said, "It was before the Lord, and I will yet be more vile than thus." Let your eye be to God, and forget the eyes of men. Live so that, whether they know what you do, or do not know, you will not care, for your conduct will bear the blaze of the great Judgment Day, and, therefore, the criticisms of earth do not affect you. Let no man domineer over you.
So may I put it in another light let no man sway your conscience so as to lead you. I am always anxious, my dear hearers, that, whatever respect I may ever win from you and I trust I may have your esteem and your affection yet that you will never believe a doctrine simply because I utter it, but unless I can confirm it from the Word of God, away with it. If it be not according to the teaching of the Lord and Master, I beseech you follow me not. Follow me only as far as I follow Christ. And so with every other man. Let it be God's truth, God's Word, the Holy Spirit's witness to that Word in your soul, that you are seeking after, but rest, I pray you, never short of that, for if you do your faith must stand merely in the wisdom of men, and when the man who helped you to believe is gone, perhaps your faith may be gone too, when most you need its comforting power. No; let no man domineer over you, but press forward in the Christian race, looking unto Jesus, and looking unto Jesus only.
But now a third meaning belongs to the text. A happy circumstance it is, this dark night, that the preacher does not need to use his manuscript, for if he did his sermon must certainly come to an end now. But here is this point, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." It may mean this:
III. LET NO MAN ROB YOU OF THE PRESENT REWARD WHICH YOU HAVE IN BEING A CHRISTIAN.
Let no man deprive you of the present comfort which your faith should bring to you. Let me just for a few minutes have your attention while I speak upon this. Dear brethren, you and I, if we are believers in Christ, are this day completely pardoned. There is no sin in God's book against us. We are wholly and completely justified. The righteousness of Jesus Christ covers us from head to foot, and we stand before God as if we had never sinned. Now let no man rob you of this reward. Do not be tempted by anything that is said to doubt the completeness of a believer in Christ. Hold this, and, as you hold it, enjoy it. Do not let the man, yourself, whom you have most to fear, beguile you. Even though conscience should upbraid you, and you should have many grave reasons for doubt, as you imagine, yet if you believe in Jesus, stand to it "There is, therefore, now no condemnation to me, for I am in Christ Jesus; he that believeth on him is not condemned; I have believed, and I am not condemned, neither will he permit condemnation to be thundered against me, for Christ has borne my sin for me, and I am clear in him." Let no man beguile you of the reward of feeling that you are complete in Christ.
Further, you who have believed in Jesus Christ are safe in Christ. Because he lives, you shall live also. Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord? He has said, "I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." Now there are some who will tell you that you are not safe, and that it is dangerous for you to believe that you are. Let no man beguile you of this reward. You are saved. If you are believing on him, he will keep you, and you may sing, "Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy. unto him be glory." Hold to that blessed truth that you are in Jesus safe in Jesus Christ.
There is a third blessed truth. that not only are you pardoned and safe in Christ, but you are accepted at this moment, in the Beloved. Your acceptance with God does not rest upon anything in you. You are accepted because you are in Christ, accepted for Christ's sake. Now sometimes you will get robbed of this reward if you listen to the voice which says, "Why, there is sin in you still; your prayers are imperfect; your actions are stained." Yes, but let no man beguile you of this conviction that, sinner as you are, you are still accepted in Christ Jesus.
The Lord grant that you may feel this within, and let no man beguile you of your reward as long as you live. May you live and die in the enjoyment of it, beloved, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Colossians 2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28