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The Shameful Sufferer
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 30th, 1859, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"Who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God."-- Hebrews 12:2
OH what shall I do, my Saviour to praise?" Where shall language be found which shall describe his matchless, his unparalleled love towards the children of men. Upon any ordinary subject one may find liberty of speech and fullness of utterance, but this subject lies out of the line of all oratory, and eloquence cannot attain unto it. This is one of the unutterable things--unutterable, because it surpasses thought, and defies the power of words. How, then, can we deal with that which is unutterable? I am conscious that all I can say concerning the sufferings of Jesus, this morning, will be but as a drop of the bucket. None of us know the half of the agony which he endured; none of us have ever fully comprehended the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Philosophers have probed the earth to its very center, threaded the spheres, measured the skies, weighed the hills--nay, weighed the world itself; but this is one of those vast, boundless things, which to measure doth surpass all but the Infinite itself. As the swallow but skimmeth the water, and diveth not into its depths, so all the descriptions of the preacher but skim the surface, while depths immeasurable must lie far beneath our observation. Well might a poet say
"O love, thou fathomless abyss!"
for this love of Christ is indeed measureless and fathomless. None of us can attain unto it. In speaking thereof we feel our own weakness, we cast ourselves upon the strength of the Spirit, but, even then, we feel that we can never attain unto the majesty of this subject. Before we can ever get a right idea of the love of Jesus, we must understand his previous glory in its height of majesty, and his incarnation upon the earth in all its depths of shame. Now, who can tell us the majesty of Christ? When he was enthroned in the highest heavens he was very God of very God; by him were the heavens made, and all the hosts thereof, by his power he hanged the earth upon nothing; his own almighty arm upheld the spheres; the pillars of the heavens rested upon him; the praises of angels, arch-angels, cherubim and seraphim, perpetually surrounded him; the full chorus of the Hallelujahs of the universe unceasingly flowed to the foot of his throne: he reigned supreme above all his creatures, God over all, blessed for ever. Who can tell his height, then? And yet this must be attained before we can measure the length of that mighty stoop which he took when he came to earth to redeem our souls. And who, on the other hand, can tell how low he descended? To be a man was something, but to be a man of sorrows was far more; to bleed, and die, and suffer, these were much for him who was the Son of God; but to suffer as be did--such unparalleled agony--to endure, as lie did, a death of shame and a death of desertion of his God, this is a lower depth of condescending love which the most inspired mind must utterly fail to fathom. And yet must we first understand infinite height, and then, infinite depth; we must measure, in fact, the whole infinite that is between heaven and hell, before we can understand the love of Jesus Christ.
Yet because we cannot understand shall we therefore neglect, and because we cannot measure shall we therefore despise? Ah! no; let us go to Calvary this morning, and see this great sight. Jesus Christ, for the joy that was set before him, enduring the cross, despising the shame.
I shall endeavor to show you, first, the shameful sufferer; secondly, we shall endeavor to dwell upon his glorious motive; and then in the third place, we shall offer him to you as an admirable example.
I. Beloved, I wish to show you the SHAMEFUL SUFFERER. The text speaks of shame, and therefore before entering upon suffering, I shall endeavor to say a word or two upon the shame.
Perhaps there is nothing which men so much abhor as shame. We find that death itself has often been preferable in the minds of men to shame; and even the most wicked and callous-hearted have dreaded the shame and contempt of their fellow-creatures far more than any tortures to which they could have been exposed. We find Abimelech, a man who murdered his own brethren without compunction; we find even him overcome by shame, when "a certain woman cast a piece of a millstone upon Abimelech's head, and all to break his skull. Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword and slay me, that men say not of me, A woman slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died." Shame was too much for him. He would far rather meet the suicide's death--for such it was--than he should be convicted of the shame of being slain by a woman. So was it with Saul also--a man who was not ashamed of breaking his oath, and of hunting his own son in-law like a partridge upon the mountains--even he fell upon his own sword rather than it should be said of him that he fell by the Philistines. And we read of an ancient king, Zedekiah, that albeit he seemed reckless enough, he was afraid to fall into the hands of the Chaldeans, lest the Jews who had fallen away to Nebuchadnezzar should make a mock of him.
These instances are but a few of many. It is well known that criminals and malefactors have often had a greater fear of public contempt than of ought else. Nothing can so break down the human spirit as to be subject continually to contempt, the visible and manifest contempt of one's fellows; in fact to go further, shame is so frightful to man that it is one of the ingredients of hell itself; it is one of the bitterest drops in that awful cup of misery. The shame of everlasting contempt to which wicked men awake in the day of their resurrection; to be despised of men, despised of angels, despised of God, is one of the depths of hell. Shame, then, is a terrible thing to endure; and many of the proudest natures have been subdued when once they have been subjected to it. In the Saviour's case, shame would be peculiarly shameful; the nobler a man's nature, the more readily does he perceive the slighest contempt, and the more acutely does he feel it. That contempt which an ordinary man might bear without a suffering, he who has been bred to be obeyed, and who has all his life-long been honored, would feel most bitterly. Beggared princes and despised monarchs are among the most miserable of men; but here was our glorious Redeemer, in whose face was the nobility of Godhead itself, despised and spit upon, and mocked. Ye may, therefore, think how such a noble nature as his had to endure. The mere kite can bear to be mewed, but the eagle cannot bear to be hoodwinked and blindfolded; he hath a nobler spirit than that. The eye that hath faced the sun, cannot endure darkness without a tear. But Christ who was more than noble, matchlessly noble, something more than of a royal race, for him to be shamed, and mocked, must have been dreadful indeed.
Besides some minds are of such a delicate and sensitive disposition that they feel things far more than others. There are some of us who do not so readily perceive an affront, or when we do perceive it, are totally indifferent to it. But there are others of a loving and tender heart; they have so long wept for others' woes, that their hearts have become tender, and they therefore feel the slightest brush of ingratitude from those they love, and if those for whom they are willing to suffer should utter words of blasphemy and rebuke against them, their souls would be pierced to the very quick. A man in armor would walk through thorns and briars without feeling, but a man who is naked feels the smallest of the thorns; now Christ was so to speak a naked spirit, he had stripped himself of all for manhood; he said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man hath not where to lay his head." He stripped himself of everything that could make him callous, for he loved with all his soul; his strong passionate heart was fixed upon the welfare of the human race; he loved them even unto death, and to be mocked by those for whom he died, to be spit upon by the creatures whom he came to save, to come unto his own, and to find that his own received him not, but actually cast him out, this was pain indeed. Ye tender hearts can weep for others' woes, and ye that love with a love as strong as death, and with a jealousy as cruel as the grave, ye can guess, but only you, what the Saviour must have endured, when all did mock him, all did scorn him, and he found none to pit,y none to take his part.
To go back to the point with which we started--shame is peculiarly abhorrent to manhood, and far more to such a manhood as that which Christ carried about with him--a noble, sensitive, loving nature, such as no other manhood had ever possessed.
And now come and let us behold the pitiful spectacle of Jesus put to shame. He was put to shame in three ways--by shameful accusation, shameful mockery, and shameful crucifixion.
1. And, first, behold the Saviour's shame in his shameful accusation. He in whom was no sin, and who had done no ill, was charged with sin of the blackest kind. He was first arraigned before the Sanhedrim on no less a charge than that of blasphemy. And could he blaspheme?--he who said "It is my meat and my drink to do the will of him that sent me." Could he blaspheme? He who in the depths of his agony, when he sweat as it were great drops of blood at last cried, "My Father, not my will, but thine be done,"--could he blaspheme? No. And it is just because it was so contrary to his character, that he felt the accusation. To charge some of you here present with having blasphemed God, would not startle you, for ye have done it, and have done it so often as almost to forget that God abhors blasphemers, and that he "will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain." But for one who loved as Jesus loved, and obeyed as he obeyed, for him to be charged with blasphemy, the accusation must have caused him peculiar suffering. We wonder that he did not fall to the ground, even as his betrayers did when they came to lay hold upon him. Such an accusation as that might blight an angel's spirit. Such a calumny might wither the courage of a cherub. Marvel not, then, that Jesus felt the shame of being accused of such a crime as this.
Nor did this content them. Having charged him with breaking the first table, they then charged him with violating the second: they said he was guilty of sedition; they declared that he was a traitor to the government of Caesar, that he stirred up the people, declaring that he himself was a king. And could he commit treason? he who said "my kingdom is not of this world, else would my servants fight;" he who when they would have taken him by force, to make him a king withdrew himself into the wilderness and prayed--could he commit treason? It were impossible. Did he not pay tribute, and sent to the fish, when his poverty had not wherewith to pay the tax. Could he commit treason? He could not sin against Caesar, for he was Caesar's lord; he was King of kings, and Lord of lords. If he had chosen he could have taken the purple from the shoulders of Caesar and at a word have given Caesar to be a prey to the worms. He commit treason? 'Twas far enough from Jesus, the gentle and the mild to stir up sedition or set man against man. Ah no, he was a lover of his country, and a lover of his race; he would never provoke a civil war, and yet this charge was brought against him. What would you think good citizens and good Christians, if you were charged with such a crime as this, with the clamours of your own people behind you crying out against you as so execrable an offender that you must die the death. Would not that abash you? Ah! but your Master had to endure this as well as the other. He despised the shameful indictments, and was numbered with the transgressors.
2. But next, Christ not only endured shameful accusation but he endured shameful mocking. When Christ was taken away to Herod, Herod set him at nought. The original word signifies made nothing of him. It is an amazing thing to find that man should make nothing of the Sun of God, who is all in all. He had made himself nothing, he had declared that he was a worm, and no man; but what a sin was that, and what a shame was that when Herod made him nothing! He had but to look Herod in the face, and he could have withered him with one glance of his fire-darting eyes. But yet Herod may meek him, and Jesus will not speak, and men of arms may come about him, and break their cruel jests upon his tender heart, but not a word has he to say, but "is led as a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep before her shearers is dumb."
You will observe that in Christ's mocking, from Herod's own hall, on to the time when he was taken from Pilate's hall of judgment to his crucifixion, and then onward to his death, the mockers were of many kinds. In the first place they mocked the Saviour's person. One of those things about which we may say but little, but of which we ought often to think, is the fact that our Saviour was stripped in the midst of a ribald soldiery, of all the garments that he had. It is a shame even for us to speak of this which was done by our own flesh and blood toward him who was our Redeemer. Those holy limbs which were the casket of the precious jewel of his soul were exposed to the shame and open contempt of men-coarse-minded men who were utterly destitute of every particle of delicacy. The person of Christ was stripped twice; and although our painters, for obvious reasons, cover Christ upon the cross, there he hung--the naked Saviour of a naked race. He who clothed the lilies had not wherewith to clothe himself; he who had clothed the earth with jewels and made for it robes of emeralds, had not so much as a rag to conceal his nakedness from a staring, gazing, mocking, hard-hearted crowd. He had made coats of skins for Adam and Eve when they were naked in the garden; he had taken from them those poor fig leaves with which they sought to hide their nakedness, given them something wherewith they might wrap themselves from the cold; but now they part his garments among them, and for his vesture do they cast lots, while he himself, exposed to the pitiless storm of contempt, hath no cloak with which to cover his shame. They mocked his person,--Jesus Christ declared himself to be the Son of God;--they mocked his divine person as well as his human--when he hung upon the cross, they said. "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross, and we will believe on thee." Frequently they challenge him to prove his divinity by turning aside from the work which he had undertaken. They asked him to do the very thing which would have disproved his divinity, in order that they might then, as they declared, acknowledge and confess that he was the Son of God. And now can you think of it? Christ was mocked as man, we can conceive him as yielding to this. But to be mocked as God! A challenge thrown to manhood, manhood would easily take up and fight the duel. Christian manhood would allow the gauntlet to lie there, or tread it beneath its foot in contempt, bearing all things, and enduring all things for Christ's sake. But can you think of God being challenged by his creature--the eternal Jehovah provoked by the creature which his own hated hath made; the Infinite despised by the finite; he who fills all things, by whom all things exist, laughed at, mocked, despised by the creature of an hour, who is crushed before the moth! This was contempt indeed, a contempt of his complex person, of his manhood, and of his divinity.
But note next, they mocked all his offices, as well as his person. Christ was a king, and never such a king as he. He is Israel's David; all the hearts of his people are knit unto him. He is Israel's Solomon; he shall reign from sea to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth. He was one of royal race. We have some called kings on earth, children of Nimrod, these are called kings, but kings they are not. They borrow their dignity of him who is King of kings and Lord of lords. But here was one of the true blood, one of the right royal race, who had lost his way, and was mingled with the common herd of men. What did they do? Did they bring crowns with which to honor him, and did the nobility of earth cast their robes beneath his feet to carpet his footsteps. See, what they do? He is delivered up to rough and brutal soldiery. They find for him a mimic throne, and having put him on it, they strip him of his own robes, and find some old soldier's cloak of scarlet or of purple, and put it about his loins. They plait a crown of thorns, and put it about his brow--a brow that was of old bedight with stars, and then they fix in his hand--a hand that will not resent an insult, a secptre of reed, and then bowing the knee, they pay their mimic homage before him, making him a May-day king. Now, perhaps there is nothing so heartrending as royalty despised. You have read the story of an English king, who was taken out by his cruel enemies to a ditch. They seated him on an ant-hill, telling him that was his throne, and then they washed his face in the filthiest puddle they could find; and the tears running down his cheeks, he said, "he should yet be washed in clean water;" though he was bitterly mistaken. But think of the King of kings and Lord of lords, having for his adoration the spittle of guilty mouths, for homage the smitings of filthy hands, for tribute the jests of brutal tongues! Was ever shame like thine, thou King of kings, thou emperor of all worlds, flouted by the soldiery, and smitten by their menial hands? O earth! how couldst thou endure this iniquity. O ye heavens! why did ye not fall in very indignation to crush the men who thus blasphemed your Maker? Here was a shame indeed,--the king mocked by his own subjects.
He was a prophet, too, as we all know, and what did they that they might mock him as a prophet? Why they blindfolded him; shut out the light of heaven from his eyes, and then they smote him, and did buffet him with their hands, and they said, "Prophecy unto us who it is that smote thee." The prophet must make a prophecy to those who taunted him to tell them who it was that smote him. We love prophets; it is but the nature of mankind, that if we believe in a prophet we should love him. We believe that Jesus was the first and the last of prophets; by him all others are sent; we bow before him with reverential adoration. We count it to be our highest honor to sit at his feet like Mary; we only wish that we might have the comfort to wash his feet with our tears, and wipe them with the hairs of our head we feel that like John the Baptist, his shoe latchet we are not worthy to unloose and can we therefore bear the spectacle of Jesus the prophet, blindfolded and buffeted with insult and blows
But they also mocked his priesthood, Jesus Christ had come into the world to be a priest to offer sacrifice, and his priesthood must be mocked too. All salvation lay in the hands of the priests, and now they say unto him, "It thou be the Christ save thyself and us," Ah! he saved others, himself he could not save. But oh, what mystery of scorn is here, what unutterable depths of shame that the great High Priest of our profession, he who is himself the Paschal Lamb, the altar, the priest, the sacrifice, that he, the Son of God incarnate, the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, should thus be despised, and thus be mocked.
He was mocked, still further, in his sufferings. I cannot venture to describe the sufferings of our Saviour under the lash of the scourge. St. Bernard, and many of the early fathers of the Church, give such a picture of Christ's scourging, that I could not endure to tell it over again. Whether they had sufficient data for what they say, I do not know; but this much I know,--"he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." I know it must have been a terrible scourging, to be called wounding, bruising, chastisement, and stripes; and, remember, that every time the lash fell on his shoulders, the laugh of him who used the lash was mingled with the stripe, and every time the blood poured out afresh, and the flesh was torn off his bones, there was a jest and a jeer, to make his pain yet more poignant and terrible. And when he came at last to his cross, and they nailed him upon it, how they continued the mockery of his sufferings! We are told that the high priests and the scribes stood, and at length sat and watched him there. When they saw his head fall upon his breast, they would, no doubt, make some bitter remark about it, and say, "Ah! he will never lift his head again among the multitude;" and when they saw his hands bleeding they would say, "Ha, ha, these were the hands that touched the lepers, and that raised the dead, they will never do this again;" and when they saw his feet, they would say, "Ah, those feet will never tread this land again, and journey on his pilgrimages of mercy;" and then some coarse, some villainous, some brutal, perhaps some beastly jest would be made concerning every part of his thrice-adorable person. They mocked him, and, at last, he called for drink, and they gave him vinegar--mocking his thirst, while they pretended to allay it.
But worst of all, I have one more thing to notice, they mocked his prayers. Did you ever read in all the annals of executions, or of murders, that ever men mocked their fellow-creatures prayers? I have read stories of some dastardly villains who hare sought to slay their enemies, and seeing their death approaching the victims have said, "give me a moment or two for prayer"--and rare has been the cases when this has been disallowed. But I never read of a case in which when the prayer was uttered it has been laughed at, and made the object of a jest. But here hangs the Saviour, and every word he speaks becomes the subject of a pun, the motto of a jest. And when at the last he utters the most thrilling death-shriek that ever startled earth and hell, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani," even then they must pun upon it, and say, "he calleth for Elias, let us see whether Elias will come and take him down." He was mocked even in his prayer. O Jesus! never was love like thine; never patience that could be compared with thy endurance when thou didst endure the cross, despising the shame.
I feel that in thus describing the Saviour's mockeries, I have not been able to set before you the fullness of the shame through which he passed, and shall have to attempt it yet, again, in another moment, when I come to describe his shameful death, taking the words which preceded the ones I have already enlarged upon. He endured the cross just as he did despise the shame.
The cross! the cross! When you hear that word it wakens in your hearts no thoughts of shame. There are other forms of capital punishment in the present day far more disgraceful than the cross. Connected with the guillotine there is much with the block as much, with the gallows, most of all. But, remember, that although to speak of the gallows is to utter a word of ignominy, yet there is nothing of shame in the term "gallows," compared with the shame of the cross, as it was understood in the days of Christ. We are told that crucifixion was a punishment to which none could be put but a slave, and, even then, the crime must have been of the most frightful character--such as the betrayal of a master, the plotting his death, or murdering him--only such offenses would have brought crucifixion, even, upon a slave. It was looked upon as the most terrible and frightful of all punishments. All the deaths in the world are preferable to this; they have all some slight alleviating circumstance, either their rapidity or their glory. But this is the death of a villain, of a murderer, of an assassin,--a death painfully protracted, one which cannot be equalled in all inventions of human cruelty, for suffering and ignominy. Christ himself endured this. The cross, I say, is in this day no theme of shame. It has been the crest of many a monarch, the banner of many a conqueror. To some it is an object of adoration. The finest engravings, the most wonderful paintings, have been dedicated to this subject. And now, the cross engraven on many a gem has become a right, royal, and noble thing. And we are unable at this day, I believe, fully to understand the shame of the cross; but the Jew knew it, the Roman knew it, and Christ knew what a frightful thing, what a shameful thing its was to be put to the death of crucifixion.
Remember, too, that in the Saviour's case, there were special aggravations of this shame. He had to carry his own cross; he was crucified, too, at the common place of execution, Calvary, analogous to our ancient Tyburn, or our present Old Bailey. He was put to death, too, at a time when Jerusalem was full of people. It was at the feast of the Passover, when the crowd had greatly increased, and when the representatives of all nations would be present to behold the spectacle. Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers in Mesopotamia, in Greece, ay, and perhaps far-off Tarshish, and the islands of the sea. All were there to unite in this scoffing, and to increase the shame. And he was crucified between two thieves, as if to teach that he was viler than they. Was ever shame like this
Let me conduct you to the cross. The cross, the cross! Tears begin to flow at the very thoughts of it. The rough wood is laid upon the ground, Christ is flung upon his back, four soldiers seize his hands and feet, his blessed flesh his rent with the accursed iron; he begins to bleed, he is lifted into mid-air, the cross is dashed into the place prepared for it, every limb is dislocated, every bone put out of joint by that terrific jerk; he hangs there naked to his shame, gazed upon by all beholders, the sun shines hot upon him, fever begins to burn, the tongue is dried up like a potsherd, it cleaveth to the roof of his mouth, he hath not wherewith to nourish nature with moisture. His body has been long emaciated by fasting, he has been brought near the brink of death by flagellation in the hall of Pilate. There he hangs, the tenderest part of his body, his hands and feet are pierced, and where the nerves are most numerous and tender, there is the iron rending and tearing its fearful way. The weight of his body drags the iron up his foot, and when his knees are so weary that they cannot hold him, then the iron begins to drag through his hands. Terrible spectacle indeed! But you have seen only the outward, there was an inward, you cannot see that: if you could see, it though your eyes were like the angels, you would be smitten with eternal blindness. Then there was the soul. The soul dying. Can you guess what must be the pangs of a soul dying? A soul never died on earth yet. Hell is the place of dying souls, where they die everlastingly the second death. And there was within the ribs of Christ's body, hell itself poured out. Christ's soul was enduring the conflict with all the powers of hell, whose malice was aggravated by the fact, that it was the last battle they should ever be able to fight with him. Nay, worse than that. He had lost that which is the martyr's strength and shield, he had lost the presence of his God, God himself was putting his hand upon him; it pleased the Father to bruise him; he hath put him to grief, he hath made his soul a sacrifice for sin. God, in whose countenance Christ had everlastingly seemed himself, basking in delight, concealed his face. And there was Jesus forsaken of God and man, left alone to tread the winepress, nay, to be trodden in the wine-press, and dip his vesture in his own blood. Oh, was there ever grief like this! No love can picture it. If I had a thought in my heart concerning the suffering of Christ, it should excoriate my lips ere I uttered it. The agonies of Jesus were like the furnace of Nebuchadnezzar, heated seven times hotter than ever human suffering was heated before. Every vein was a road for the hot feet of pain to travel in; every nerve a string in a harp of agony that thrilled with the discordant wail of hell. All the agonies that the damned themselves can endure were thrust into the soul of Christ. He was a target for the arrows of the Almighty, arrows dipped in the poison of our sin; all the billows of the Eternal dashed upon this rock of our salvation. He must be bruised, trodden, crushed, destroyed, his soul must be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.
But I must pause, I cannot describe it. I can creep over it, and you can too. The rocks rent when Jesus died, our hearts must be made of harder marble than the rocks themselves if they do not feel. The temple rent its gorgeous veil of tapestry, and will not ye be mourners too? The sun itself had one big tear in its own burning eye, which quenched its light; and shall not we weep; we for whom the Saviour died? Shall not we feel an agony of heart that he should thus have endured for us
Mark, my friends, that all the shame that came on Christ he despised. He counted it so light compared with the joy which was set before him, that he is said to have despised it. As for his sufferings, he could not despise them, that word could not be used in connection with the cross for the cross was too awful for even Christ himself to despise. That he endured; the shame he could cast off, but the cross he must carry, and to it he must be nailed. "He endured the cross, despising the shame."
II. And now HIS GLORIOUS MOTIVE. What was that which made Jesus speak like this?--"For the joy that was set before him." Beloved, what was the joy? Oh, 'tis a thought must melt a rock, and make a heart of iron move; that the joy which was set before Jesus, was principally joy of saving you and me. I know it was the joy of fulfilling his Father's will--of sitting down on his Father's throne--of being made perfect through suffering; but still I know that this is the grand, great motive of the Saviour's suffering, the joy of saving us. Do you know what the joy is of doing good to others? If you do not I pity you, for of all joys which God has left in this poor wilderness, this is one of the sweetest. Have you seen the hungry when they have wanted bread for many an hour,--have you seen them come to your house almost naked, their clothes having been thrust away that they might get money upon them to find them bread? Have you heard the woman's story of the griefs of her husband? Have you listened when you have heard the tale of imprisonment, of sickness, of cold, or hunger, of thirst, and have you never said, "I will clothe you, I will feed you." Have you never felt that joy divine, when your gold has been given to the poor, and your silver has been dedicated to the Lord, when you bestowed it upon the hungry, and you have gone aside and said, "God forbid that I should be self-righteous;" but I do feel it is worth living for to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, and to do good to my poor suffering fellow creatures. Now, this is the joy which Christ felt, it was the joy of feeding us with the bread of heaven--the joy of clothing poor, naked sinners in his own righteousness--the joy of finding mansions in heaven for homeless souls,--of delivering us from the prison of hell, and giving us the eternal enjoyments of heaven.
But why should Christ look on us? Why should he choose to do this to us? Oh my friends, we never deserved anything at his hands. As a good old writer says "When I look at the crucifixion of Christ, I recollect that my sins put him to death. I see not Pilate, but I see myself in Pilate's place, bartering Christ for honor. I hear not the cry of the Jews, but l hear my sins yelling out, 'Crucify, him, crucify him.' I see not iron nails, but I see my own iniquities fastening him to the cross. I see no spear, but I behold my unbelief piercing his poor wounded side,
'For you, my sins, my cruel sins, his chief tormentors were;
Each of my sins became a nail, and unbelief the spear.'"
It is the opinion of the Romanist, that the very man who pierced Christ's side was afterwards converted, and became a follower of Jesus. I do not know whether that is the fact, but l know it is the case spiritually. I know that we have pierced the Saviour, I know that we have crucified him; and yet, strange to say, the blood which we fetched from those holy veins has washed us from our sins, and hath made us accepted in the beloved. Can you understand this. Here is manhood mocking the Saviour, parading him through the streets, nailing him to a cross, and then sitting down to mock at his agonies. And yet what is there in the heart of Jesus but love to them? He is weeping all this while that they should crucify him, not so much because he felt the suffering, though that was much, but because he could bear the thought that men whom he loved could nail him to the tree. "That was the unkindest stab of all." You remember that remarkable story of Julius Caesar, when he was struck by his friend Brutus. "When the noble Caesar saw him stab, ingratitude, more strong than traitor's arms, quite vanquished him! Then burst his mighty heart." Now Jesus had to endure the stab in his inmost bowels, and to know that his elect did it--that his redeemed did it, that his own church was his murderer--that his own people nailed him to the tree? Can you think, beloved, how strong must hare been the love that made him submit even to this. Picture yourself to-day going home from this hall. You have an enemy who all his life long has been your enemy. His father was your enemy, and he is your enemy too. There is never a day passes but you try to win his friendship; but he spits upon your kindness, and curses your name. He does injury to your friends, and there is not a stone he leaves unturned to do you plumage. As you are going home to-day, you see a house on fire; the flames are raging, and the smoke is ascending up in one black column to heaven. Crowds gather in the street, and you are told there is a man in the upper chamber who must be burnt to death. No one can save him. You say, "Why that is my enemy's house;" and you see him at the window. It is your own enemy--the very man; he is about to be burnt. Full of lovingkindness, you say, "I will save that man if I can." He sees you approach the house; he puts his head from the window and curses you. "An everlasting blast upon you!" he says; "I would rather perish than that you should save me." Do you imagine yourself then, dashing through the smoke, and climbing the blazing staircase to save him; and can you conceive that when you get near him he struggles with you, and tries to roll you in the flames? Can you conceive your love to be so potent, that you can perish in the flames rather than leave him to be burned? You say, "I could not do it; it is above flesh and blood to do it." But Jesus did it. We hated him, we despised him, and, when he came to save us, we rejected him. When his Holy Spirit comes into our hearts to strive with us, we resist him; but he will save us; nay, he himself braved the fire that he might snatch us as brands from eternal burning. The joy of Jesus was the joy of saving sinners. The great motive, then, with Christ, in enduring all this, was, that he might save us.
III. And now, give me just a moment, and I will try and hold the Saviour up for OUR IMITATION. I speak now to Christians--to those who have tasted and handled of the good word of life. Christian men! if Christ endured all this, merely for the joy of saving you, will you be ashamed of bearing anything for Christ? The words are on my lips again this morning,--
"If on my face for thy dear name, shame and reproach shall be,
I'll hail reproach, and welcome shame, my Lord, I'll die for thee."
Oh! I do not wonder that the martyrs died for such a Christ as this! When the love of Christ is shed abroad in our hearts, then we feel that if the stake were present we would stand firmly in the fire to suffer for him who died for us. I know our poor unbelieving hearts would soon begin to quail at the crackling faggot and the furious heat. But surely this love would prevail over all our unbelief: Are there any of you who feel that if you follow Christ you must lose by it, lose your station, or lose your reputation? Will you be laughed at, if you leave the world and follow Jesus? Oh! and will you turn aside because of these little things when he would not turn aside, though all the world mocked him, till he could say "It is finished." No, by the grace of God, let every Christian lift his hands to the Most High God, to the maker of heaven and earth, and let him say within himself,
"Now for the love I bear his name, what was my gain I count my loss,
I pour contempt on all my shame, and nail my glory to his cross."
"For me to live is Christ; to die is gain," Living I will be his, dying I will be his; I will live to his honor, serve him wholly, if he will help me, and if he needs, I will die for his name's sake.
[Mr. Spurgeon was so led out under the first head, that he was unable from want of time to touch upon the other points. May what was blessed to the hearer be sweet to the reader.]
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, October 28, 1855, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him."-- Hebrews 12:5
GOD'S PEOPLE CAN never by any possibility be punished for their sins. God has punished them already in the person of Christ, Christ, their substitute, has endured the full penalty for all their guilt, and neither the justice nor the love of God can ever exact again that which Christ has paid. Punishment can never happen to a child of God in the judicial sense, he can never be brought before God as his Judge, as charged with guilt, because that guilt was long ago transferred to the shoulders of Christ, and the punishment was exacted at the hands of his surety. But yet, while the sin cannot be punished, while the Christian cannot be condemned, he can be chastised, while he shall never be arraigned before God's bar as a criminal, and punished for his guilt, yet he now stands in a new relationship--that of a child to his parent: and as a son he may be chastised on account of sin. Folly is bound up in the heart of all God's children, and the rod of the Father must bring that folly out of them. It is essential to observe the distinction between punishment and chastisement. Punishment and chastisement may agree as to the nature of the suffering: the one suffering may be as great as the other, the sinner who, while here is punished for his guilt, may suffer no more in this life than the Christian who is only chastised by his parent. They do not differ as to the nature of the punishment, but they differ in the mind of the punisher and in the relationship of the person who is punished. God punishes the sinner on his own account, because he is angry with the sinner, and his justice must be avenged, his law must be honored, and his commands must have their dignity maintained. But he does not punish the believer on his own account, it is on the Christian's account, to do him good, He afflicts him for his profit, he lays on the rod for his child's advantage; he has a good design towards the person who receives the chastisement. While in punishment the design is simply with God for God's glory, in chastisement, it is with the person chastised for his good, for his spiritual profit and benefit. Besides, punishment is laid on a man in anger. God strikes him in wrath, but when he afflicts his child, chastisement is applied in love, his strokes are, all of them, put there by the hand of love. The rod has been baptized in deep affection before it is laid on the believer's back. God doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve us for nought, but out of love and affection, because he perceives that if he leaves us unchastised, we shall bring upon ourselves misery ten thousand-fold greater than we shall suffer by his slight rebukes, and the gentle blows of his hand. Take this in the very starting, that whatever thy trouble, or thine affliction, there cannot be anything punitive in it, thou must never say--"Now God is punishing me for my sin." Thou hast fallen from thy steadfastness when thou talkest so. God cannot do that. He has once for all done it. "The chastisement of our peace was upon HIM, and by HIS stripes we are healed." He is chastising thee, not punishing thee; he is correcting thee in measure, he is not smiting thee in wrath. There is no hot displeasure in his heart. Even though his brow may be ruffled, there is no anger in his breast; even though his eye may have closed upon thee, he hates thee not, he loves thee still. He is not wroth with his heritage, for he seeth no sin in Jacob, neither iniquity--in Israel, considered in the person of Christ. It is simply because he loves you, because ye are sons, that he therefore chastises you.
Peradventure this morning I may have some within these walls who are passing under the chastising hand of God. It is to them that I shall have to speak. You are not all of you in trial, I know no father chastises his whole family at once. It is so seldom that God afflicts people, after all, compared with their faults, that we must not expect to find in this congregation, perhaps, one-half of the children of God passing under the rod of the covenant; but if you are not under it now, you will have to pass under it some time or other in your life, so that what we may say, if it be not profitable to you in present circumstances, yet if treasured up and recollected, it shall be fetched out in some future time, when the wine will not have lost its flavor by keeping, but have improved thereby, and you will find it a bottle of cordial to your spirit, useful to your heart.
There are two dangers against which a person under the chastising hand of God should always be very careful to keep a strict look-out. They are these: "My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord." That is one. On the other hand: "Neither faint when thou art rebuked of him." Two evils: the one is despising the rod and the other is fainting under it. Evils always hunt in couples; sins always go in a leash. It is a marvellous thing that there are always to be found two evils, side by side. We have said sometimes, extremes are dangerous, and for this reason, that one evil has its opposite, which is equally a hurtful thing. Take this: there is a haughty pride which laughs at the rod. On the other hand there is a foolish faintness which faints under it. I have found through life that there is always a Scylla and a Charybdis; a rock on the one side and a whirlpool on the other, between which it is dangerous to steer. On the one hand we are tempted to feel that we can do something, and to trust in our works, and if we try to shun that, we run into sloth and leave off doing anything. At times we get proud of what we have accomplished; and in seeking to avoid that, we become despairing and desponding. There are always two evils on the opposite side of one another. The way of righteousness is a difficult pass between two great mountains of error; and the great secret of the Christian life is to wind his way along the narrow valley. God help us so to do! We will point out the two this morning.
The first evil to which the chastened Christian is liable is this: he may despise the hand of God. The second is, that he may faint when he is rebuked. We will begin with the first: "My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord."
I. This may be done in five ways, and in discussing the subject, I shall propose the remedy for each of these as we pass along.
First, a man may despise the chastening of the Lord when he murmurs at it. Ephraim is like a bullock unaccustomed to the yoke; when a son of God first feels the rod, he is like a bullock--he kicks at it, he cannot bear it. He is an unbroken colt, and when he first feels the collar put upon his shoulders, he rears in the air, and by all manner of ways expresses his aversion thereunto. The first time a child of God receives a blow from his Father's hand he may possibly turn round upon his own tender Father and murmur at him: "Why ought I to have this? Why am I thus punished and afflicted? Why should I be chastised? What have I done to be afflicted and chastened? "You will wonder, perhaps, that a man who has grace in his heart should talk like this; but in reality we do say so--not with the words of our lips, but with the thoughts of our hearts, for we sit down and say, "I am the man who hath seen affliction--I am the man more tried and troubled than others. No one is ever chastened as I am." And we look around with the eye of jealousy exclaiming, "That man is happier than I--that man has less sorrow and suffering." We are too apt to put our own condition in the worst place, and describe ourselves as being the most afflicted of all God's people. Though we blush to say it, it is true. There are murmurers in the midst of Israel now, as well as in the camp of Israel of old; there are people of God who, when the rod falls, cry out against it, who, instead of kissing the Son lest he be angry, turn round upon him, and speak against the afflictive dispensations of God. We know ourselves what it is when we have a little sickness to be so cross, that hardly anybody dares to speak to us, and if we have a little pain, perhaps in our head, we know what it is to think all the world is going wrong, and to be grieved, and vexed, and melancholy on that account. Many of you have been foolish enough when bereaved of your property, to cry out, "Ah! God takes everything away. He smites me with one stroke upon another. Surely he is an unkind God." And you have felt when you have lost your friends that you could not say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord." You have thought, "Oh! wherefore this? Simon is not, and Joseph is not, and now ye would take Benjamin away. All these things are against me "We have murmured, now listen to the exhortation: "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord." That is despising God's chastening, when we murmur at it. Patience is the only way to receive it. A want of resignation shows we despise God's chastening hand.
A word with thee, O murmurer! Why shouldst thou murmur against the dispensations of thy heavenly Father? Can he treat thee more hardly than thou deservest? Consider what a rebel thou wast once, but he has pardoned thee. Surely if he chooses now to lay the rod upon thee, thou needest not cry out. Hast thou not read, that amongst the Roman emperors of old it was the custom when they would set a slave at liberty, to give him a blow upon the head, and then say, "Go free?" This blow which thy Father gives thee is a token of thy liberty, and dost thou grumble because he smites thee rather hardly? After all, are not his strokes fewer than thy crimes, and lighter than thy guilt? Art thou smitten as hardly as thy sins deserve? Consider the corruption that is in thy breast, and then wilt thou wonder that there needs so much of the rod to fetch it out? Weigh thyself, and discern how much dross is mingled with thy gold, and dost thou think the fire too hot to get away so much dross as thou hast? Why, thou hast not the furnace hot enough, methinks. There is too much dross, too little fire; the rod is not laid on hardly enough, for that proud spirit of thine proves that thy heart is not thoroughly sanctified; and though it may be right with God, thy words do not sound like it, and thine actions do not pourtray the holiness of thy nature. It is the old Adam within thee that is groaning. Take heed if thou murmurest, for it will go hard with murmurers. God always chastises his children twice if they do not bear the first blow patiently. I have often heard a father say, "Boy, if you cry for that you shall have something to cry for by-and-by." So, if we murmur at a little God gives us something that will make us cry. If we groan for nothing, he will give us something that will make us groan. Sit down in patience; despise not the chastening of the Lord, be not angry with him, for he is not angry with thee; say not that he deals so hardly with thee. Let humility rise up and speak--"It is well, O Lord! Just art thou in thy chastising, for I have sinned, righteous art thou in thy blows, for I need them to fetch me near to thee, for if thou dost leave me uncorrected and unchastised, I, a poor wanderer, must pass away to the gulf of death, and sink into the pit of eternal perdition." There is the first sense in which we may despise the chastening of the Lord: we may murmur under it.
Secondly, we despise the chastening of the Lord when we say there is no use in it. There are certain things that happen to us in life, which we immediately set down for a providence. If a grandfather of ours should die and leave us five hundred pounds, what a merciful providence that would be! If by something strange in business we were suddenly to accumulate a fortune, that would be a blessed providence! If an accident happens, and we are preserved, and our limbs are not hurt, that is always a providence. But suppose we were to lose five hundred pounds, would not that be a providence? Suppose our establishment should break up, and business fail, would not that be a providence? Suppose we should during the accident break our leg, would not that be a providence? There is the difficulty. It is always a providence when it is a good thing. But why is it not a providence when it does not happen to be just as we please? Surely it is so; for if the one thing be ordered by God, so is the other. It is written, "I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create evil. I, the Lord, do all these things." But I question whether that is not despising the chastening of the Lord, when we set a prosperous providence before an adverse one, for I do think that an adverse providence ought to be the cause of as much thankfulness as a prosperous one. And if it is not, we are violating the command, "In everything give thanks." But we say, Of what use will such trial be to me?; cannot see that it can by any possibility be useful to my soul. Here I was growing in grace just now, but there is something that has damped all my ardor, and overthrown my zeal. Just now I was on the mount of assurance, and God has brought me to the valley of humiliation. Can that be any good to me? A few weeks ago I had wealth, and I distributed it in the cause of God; now I have none. What can be the use of that? All these things are against me." Now, you are despising the chastening of the Lord, when you say that is of no use. No child thinks the rod of much value. Anything in the house is of more use than that rod in his opinion. And if you were to ask the child which part of the household furniture could be dispensed with, he would like chairs, tables and everything else to remain but that; the rod he does not think of any good whatever. He despises the rod. Ah! and so do we. We think it cannot benefit us; we want to get rid of the rod and turn it away. "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord." Let me show thee how wrong thou art. What! doth thine ignorance affect to say that God is unwise? I thought it was written that he was too wise to err; and I did think that thou wast a believer, that he was too good to be unkind. And doth thy little wisdom arrogate to itself the chair of honor? Doth thy finite knowledge stand up before thy Maker and tell him he is unwise in what he doth? Wilt thou dare to say that one of his purposes shall be unfulfilled, that he does an unwise act? O then, thou art impudently arrogant I thou art impudently ignorant if thou wilt thus speak. Say not so, but bend meekly down before his superior wisdom, and say. "O God I believe that in the darkness thou art brewing light, that in the storm-clouds thou art gathering sunshine, that in the deep mines thou art fashioning diamonds, and in the beds of the sea thou art making pearls. I believe that however unfathomable may be thy designs, yet they have a bottom. Though it is in the whirlwind and in the storm, thou hast a way, and that way is good and righteous altogether. I would not have thee alter one atom of thy dispensations, it shall be just as thou wilt. I bow before thee, and I give my ignorance the word to hold its tongue, and to be silenced while thy wisdom speaketh words of right." "My son despise not thou the chastening of the Lord" by thinking that it can be of no possible service to thee.
There is a third way in which men despise the chastening of the Lord, that is--we may think it dishonorable to be chastened by God. How many men have thought it to be dishonorable to be persecuted for righteousness sake! A young man for instance is in a situation in business where he has a large number of fellow workmen with him. They are accustomed to jeer him, to call him pretty titles--methodist, dissenter, presbyterian, or some other kind of name most common among the worldly; this young man for a time bears it, but still thinking it a kind of disgrace to him. He does not know how to endure it. So, after a while, teeing beaten by these jeers, and overcome by these insults, he leaves it off, because he discovers that the reproach of Christ is dishonorable to him. My son, if thou dost thus, thou despisest the chastening of the Lord. If thou thinkest that reproach for Christ's sake is a dishonor, thou judgest wrongly of it, for it is the greatest honor that can possibly happen to thee. There are many of you who count that religion is very honorable while you can be respectable in it, while you can walk in respectable society, but if the cause of God brings you into tribulation, if it engenders the laugh and jeer of the worldling, the hiss and scorn of the world, then you think it a dishonor. But my son thou dost not weigh the blessing rightly. I tell thee once again, it is the glory of a man to be chastened for God's sake. When they say all manner of evil against us falsely, we put that down not in the book of dishonor but in the scroll of glory. When they call us by opprobrious titles, we write not that down for loss, but for gain. We accept their jeers as honors, we count the vile things they cast at us in the pillory of scorn to be a donation of pearls and diamonds: we take their evil speaking, we read it by the light of the Word of God, and we discover that in it lie music, notes of honor and chords of glory to us for ever. Now you who faint under a little trouble, and despise the chastening of the Lord, let me encourage you in this way. My son, despise not the persecution. Remember how many men have borne it. What an honor it is to suffer for Christ's sake! because the crown of martyrdom has been worn by many heads better than thine. Oh! methinks it would be the greatest dignity I could ever attain to, if the enemy would place the blood-red crown of martyrdom around this brow! We in these gentle times cannot suffer for Christ's sake. God has put us in evil times because we cannot encounter so much as we wish for him. These times are not good for us. We almost wish for different ones, when we might be more partakers with Christ in his sufferings. We would almost envy those blessed men of yore, who had the opportunity of showing their courage and faith to all men, by enduring more for Christ; and if any of you are in a peculiar place of trouble, where you have more persecution than others, you ought to glory in it, and should be glad of it. He that stands in the thickest part of the battle shall have the highest glory at last. The old warriors would not stand and skirmish a little on the outside of the army; but what would they say? "To the center, men! to the center!" And they cut through thick and thin till they reached the place where the standard was, and the hotter the battle, the more glory the warrior felt. He could glory that he had been where shafts flew the thickest, and where lances were hurled like hail. "I have been near the standard," he could say, "I have smitten the standard-bearer down." Count it glory to go into the hottest part of the field. Fear not, man, thine head is covered in the day of battle; the shield of God can easily repel all the darts of the enemy. Be bold for his name's sake. Go on still rejoicing. But, mark thee, if thou turnest back thou art guilty of the sin of despising the cross, and despising the chastening of the Lord. Do not do so, but rather write it down for an honor and glory to be persecuted for righteousness' sake.
Again, in the fourth place, we despise the chastening of the Lord, when we do not earnestly seek to amend by it. Many a man has been corrected by God, and that correction has been in vain. I have known Christian men, men who have committed some sin, God, by the rod, would have shown them the evil of that sin; they have been smitten and seen the sin, and never afterwards corrected it. That is despising the chastening of the Lord. When a father chastises a son for anything he has done, and the boy does it again directly, it shows that he despises his father's chastening; and so have we seen Christians who have had an error in their lives, and God has chastened them on account of it, but they have done it again. Ah! you will remember there was a man named Eli. God chastened him once when he sent Samuel to tell him dreadful news--that because he had not reproved his children those children should be destroyed, but Eli kept on the same as ever; he despised the chastening of the Lord although his ears were made to tingle, and in a little while God did something else for him. His sons were taken away, and then it was too late to mend, for the children were gone. The time he might have reformed, his character had passed away. How many of you get chastened of God and do not bear the rod. There are many deaf souls that do not hear God's rod; many Christians are blind and cannot see God's purposes, and when God would take some folly out of them the folly is still retained. It is not every affliction that benefits the Christian; it is only a sanctified affliction, It is not every trial that purifies an heir of light it is only a trial that God himself sanctifies by his grace. Take heed if God is trying you, that you search and find out the reason. Are the consolations of God small with you? Then, there is some reason for it. Have you lost that joy you once felt? There is some cause for it. Many a man would not have half so much suffered if he would but look to the cause of it. I have sometimes walked a mile or two, almost limping along because there was a stone in my shoe, and I did not stop to look for it. And many a Christian goes limping for years because of the stones in his shoe, but if he would only stop to look for them, he would be relieved. What is the sin that is causing you pain? Get it out, and take away the sin, for if you do not, you have not regarded this admonition which speaketh unto you as unto sons--"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord."
Once, more, and then we will pass away from that part of the subject. We despise the chastening of the Lord when we despise those that God chastens. You say, "Poor old Mrs. So-and-so, the last seven years she has been bed-ridden, what is the good of her in the church? Would it not be a mercy if she were dead? We always have to be keeping her--one and another giving her charities. Really what is the good of her? "Many will go to see her, and they will say, "Well, she is a very good sort of woman, but it would be a happy release if she were taken." They mean it would be a happy release for them, as they would not have to give her anything. But mark you, if you think little of those whom God is chastising, you are despising the God who chastens them. There is another man, and he frequents the house of God, but he comes there in much affliction, much pain. Ah! you think that weakness of body incapacitates him from being of service to the church. If he is called upon to pray, there is a sweet brokenness of spirit about his prayer, but there is not that pointedness and warmth we could desire. And some will say when they are walking home, "Brother So-and-so, he is always melancholy, and always dealing with the gloomy side of the Word of God, I don't hardly like to talk to him. I would rather mix with the cheerful and light-hearted, and those Christians who are happy on the mount of assurance. I don't think I shall walk home with him, for he is so miserable, it makes one feel so dull to be in his company." My son, my son, thou art despising the chastened ones of the Lord. That man is being chastened; be sure and keep his company, for though thou dost not know it, beneath the habiliments of mourning he wears a garment of light. There is more in those chastened ones, very often, than there is in any one of us. I can speak from experience. The most tried children of God have been those that I have picked up the most from. Sometimes I go and see a poor much-tried countryman that I have told you about. You remember one saying of his. "Depend upon it, if you or I get an inch above the ground we get that inch too high." Well, I heard another the other day, and I will give it to you. "I have been troubled," he said, "with that old devil lately, and I could not get rid of him for a long while, until at last, after he had been conjuring up all my sins, and bringing them all before my remembrance, I said to him, 'You rascal you! did not I transfer all my business to Jesus Christ long ago, bad debts and all? What business have you to bring them here! I laid them all on Christ; I made a transfer of the whole concern to him. Go, tell my Master about them. Don't come troubling me.'" Well, I thought that was not so bad. It was pretty rough, but it was gloriously true, and I have thought many times of it. We transferred the whole, bad debts and all, to Christ. He took the whole concern, the whole stock, and everything. All our sins were given up into the hands of Jesus, so why need we be troubled? When Satan and Conscience come, we will tell them to go to our Master. He will settle all the accounts with them. Do not be ashamed to talk with the chastised ones; shun them not because of their poverty. I would walk with a true saint if he had a ragged coat and a hat without a crown.
II. The second evil, upon which we shall have to be rather more brief, is this; "Nor faint when thou art rebuked of him." We, on the one hand, must not despise it, and say, "I care not for the rod," and act like the stoic; and on the other hand we should not faint and give up everything because the Lord pleases to correct us in a measure, and to chastise us in love. There are two or three different ways whereby we may faint under the afflicting hand of God.
The first way of fainting is when we give up all exertion under the rod. You understand what I mean better than I describe to you, for you have seen some such. I must give you a picture; I cannot tell you what I mean unless I do. There is a good woman there. She always attended the house of God regularly. She strove for her Master; was busy in the Sabbath-school, in the distribution of tracts, and every other way. Suddenly she lost that excellent gift, the fullness of assurance; her faith began to totter, and she now trembles, and fears, lest she is not accepted in the Beloved. And do you know what she has done? She has given up going to the house of God, she has given up attendance at the Sabbath-school, she does just nothing for her Master at all. And if you ask her why it is, she says that God's hand is heavy on her, and she cannot do anything, she has given it up. She is like a person in a fainting fit that cannot move; she is motionless, she does nothing. Many I have known in this state. Because they cannot enjoy all the comfort they wished, they will not do anything. I have seen some with eyes starting from their sockets, who have said to me "Oh! I am under such horror of darkness, so terribly am I afflicted, I have lost all evidence of Christianity--I never was a child of God. I must give it all up: I cannot keep on. I faint under it. I can do no more. Though I go to God's house, I feel as if I could not pray. As for singing, I dare not. I dare not read my Bible. I think I must give it up." My son, faint not when thou art corrected of him. God does not like sulky children, and there are many of his children fainting out of pure sulkiness, and nothing else. Because God does not please to do as they like, they will do nothing at all, "I must be top sawyer," says he, "and I will not be at bottom to shove the saw up. If I cannot be where I like I will be nowhere at all." We have many of these. Because they have to be shaft horses now and then, they will not pull. If they could always be in front and wear the ribbons, it would be well, but when they have to go behind all, they "jib" as you say, and will not go at all. Instead of fainting, we should go forward when we have the lash; we should say, "Am I smitten? I will turn to the hand that smote me. Did my Father strike me? Then I will take care, by more ardent duty, that he does not strike me again, and I will go my way the more swiftly and get away from the rod. Does he send a cross every day out of love to me? I will seek to work all the more, and so, if it be possible, I shall have my prayer fulfilled. "Forgive my debts, and pardon my transgressions.'"
Again, the man faints when he doubts whether he is a child of God under chastisement. Too many of the children of God have the blow of the Father's rod, and they at once conclude that they are not the Father's children at all. Like one of old they say, "If it be so, why am I thus?" forgetful that it is "through much tribulaltion" they must "enter the kingdom of heaven," and unmindful that there is not a son whom the Father does not chasten. Thou art saying this morning, "I cannot be a child, or I should not be in poverty and distress." Talk not thus foolishly, that trial is more a proof of adoption than it is that thou art not his. Remember the passage: "If we be not partakers of chastisement then are we bastards, and not sons." Say not he has forgotten thee, but look upon thy trial as a proof of his love. Cecil once called to see his friend Williams, and the servant said he could not see him because he was in great trouble. "Then I would rather see him," said Cecil; and Williams hearing it was his old pastor, said," Show him up." Up he went, and there stood poor Williams, his eyes suffused with tears, his heart almost broken, his dear child was dying. "Thank God," said Cecil; "I have been anxious about you for some time, you have been so prosperous and successful in everything, that I was afraid my Father had forgotten you, but I know he recollects you now. I do not wish to see your child full of pain and dying; but I am glad to think my Father has not forgotten you." Three weeks after that Williams could see the truth of it, though it seemed a harsh saying at first.
Again, many persons faint by fancying that they shall never get out of their trouble. "Three long months," says one, "have I striven against this sad trouble which overwhelms me, and I have been unable to escape it." "For this year," says another, "I have wrestled with God in prayer that he would deliver me out of this whirlpool, but deliverance has never come, and I am almost inclined to give the matter up, I thought he kept his promises, and would deliver those who called upon him, but he has not delivered me now, and he never will." What! child of God, talk thus of thy Father! say he will never leave off smiting because he has smitten thee so long? Rather say "He must have smitten me long enough now, and I shall soon have deliverance." If a man is in a wood and cannot see his way out, he goes straight on, for he thinks he shall come out some day or other; and if he is wise he will climb the highest tree he can find, in order to discover the right way. That is how you should do, climb one of the promises, and thou wilt see the other side of the wood with all the sweet fields, beyond where thou shalt feed in green pastures, and lie down under your Saviour's guidance. Say not thou canst not escape. The fetters on thy hands may not be broken by thy feeble fingers, but the hammer of the Almighty can break them in a moment. Let them be laid on the anvil of providence and be smitten by the hand of omnipotence, and then they shall be scattered to the winds. Up, man! up. Like Samson, grasp the pillars of thy troubles, and pull down the house of thine affliction about the heads of thy sins, and thou thyself shalt come out more than conqueror.
I had intended to finish up by referring you to the succeeding verses; but instead of doing so, let me ask, what son is there whom the Father chasteneth not? Ye ministers of God who preach the gospel, is there amongst your ranks one son whom his Father chastens not? Unanimously they reply, "We all have been chastened." Ye holy prophets who testified God's word with the Holy Ghost from heaven, is there one amongst your number whom God chastened not? Abraham, Daniel, Jeremy, Isaiah, Malachi, answer; and unanimously ye cry, "There is not one among us whom the Father chasteneth not." Ye kings, ye chosen ones, ye Davids and ye Solomons, is there one in your high and lofty ranks who has escaped chastisement? Answer David! Wast not thou obliged to cross the brook Kedron in the darkness? Answer Hezekiah! Didst not thou spread the letter before the Lord? Answer Jehoshophat! Hadst not thou thy cross when thy ships were broken that were sent to Tarshish for gold? Oh ye starry host above, translated out of the reach of the trials of this world, is there one amongst you whom the Father chastened not? Not one; there is not one in heaven whose back was unscarred by the chastening rod, if he attained to the age when he needed it. The infant alones escapes, flying at once from his mother's breast to heaven. There is one whom I will ask, the Son of God, the Son par excellence, the chief of all the family. Thou Son of God Incarnate, didst thou escape the rod? Son without sin, wast thou a Son without punishment? Wast thou chastised? Hark! the hosts of earth and heaven reply--the church militant and triumphant answer: "The chastisement of our peace was even upon him: he suffered; he bore the cross; he endured the curse as well as any of us; yea, more, he endured ten thousand-fold more chastisement than any of us can by any possibility endure." "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, neither faint when thou art rebuked of him."
In closing, let me ask those who are afflicted and have no religion, where they get their comfort from. The Christian derives it from the fact that he is a son of God, and he knows that the affliction is for his good. Where do you get comfort from? It has often puzzled me how poor tried worldlings get on. I can somewhat guess how they can be happy, when the glass is full, when hearts are glad and joyous, when hilarity and mirth sparkle in their eyes, when the board is covered, and the family is well. But what does the worldling do when he loses his wife, when his children are taken away, when his health departs and he himself is nigh unto death? I leave him to answer. All I can say is, I wonder every day that there are not more suicides, considering the troubles of this life, and how few there are that have the comforts of religion; Poor sinner, even if there were no heaven and hell, I would recommend to thee this religion; for even if in this life only we had hope, we should be of all men most happy, really, in our spirits, although we might seem to be "of all men most miserable." I tell you, if we were to die like dogs, if there were no second world, so happy does the Christian religion make the heart, that it were worth while having it for this life alone. The secularist who thinks of this world only, is a fool for not thinking of Christianity, for it confers a benefit in this world as well as in that which is to come. It makes us bear our troubles. What would break your backs are only feathers to us; what would destroy your spirits are to us "light afflictions which are but for a moment." We find light enough in our hearts, in the depth of darkness. Where you find darkness we have light; and, where you have light we have the brilliance of the sun. May God put you in the number of his saved family, and then if he chastens you, I ask whether you will not think his rod light when compared with that sword which you deserve to have smitten you dead. God give you, if you are chastened now, that you may be chastened and not killed, that you may be chastened with the righteous, and not condemned with the wicked.
Published on Thursday, September 22nd, 1904.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On a Lord's-day Evening, in 1862.
"Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."-- Hebrews 12:14
ONE feels most happy when blowing the trumpet of jubilee, proclaiming peace to broken hearts, freedom to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. But God's watchman has another trumpet, which he must sometimes blow; for thus saith the Lord unto him, "Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain." Times there are when we must ring the tocsin; men must be startled from their sleep, they must be roused up to enquire, "What are we? Where are we? Whither are we going?" Nor is it altogether amiss for the wisest virgins to look to the oil in their vessels, and for the soundest Christians to be sometimes constrained to examine the foundations of their hope, to trace back their evidences to the beginning, and make an impartial survey of their state before God. Partly for this reason, but with a further view to the awakening and stirring up of those who are destitute of all holiness, I have selected for our topic, "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
There has been a desperate attempt made by certain Antinomians to get rid of the injunction which the Holy Spirit here means to enforce. They have said that this is the imputed holiness of Christ. Do they not know, when they so speak, that, by an open perversion, they utter that which is false? I do not suppose that any man in his senses can apply that interpretation to the context, "Follow peace with all men, and holiness." Now, the holiness meant is evidently one that can be followed like peace; and it must be transparent to any ingenuous man that it is something which is the act and duty of the person who follows it. We are to follow peace; this is practical peace, not the peace made for us, but "the fruit of righteousness which is sown in peace of them that make peace." We are to follow holiness,--this must be practical holiness; the opposite of impurity, as it is written, "God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness." The holiness of Christ is not a thing to follow; I mean, if we look at it imputatively. That we have at once; it is given to us the moment we believe. The righteousness of Christ is not to be followed; it is bestowed upon the soul in the instant when it lays hold of Christ Jesus. This is another kind of holiness. It is, in fact, as every one can see who chooses to read the connection, practical, vital holiness which is the purport of this admonition. It is conformity to the will of God, and obedience to the Lord's command. It is, in fine, the Spirit's work in the soul, by which a man is made like God, and becomes a partaker of the divine nature, being delivered from the corruption which is in the world through lust. No straining, no hacking at the text can alter it. There it stands, whether men like it or not. There are some who, for special reasons best known to themselves, do not like it, just as no thieves ever like policemen or gaols; yet there it stands, and it means no other than what it says: "Without holiness,"--practical, personal, active, vital holiness,--"no man shall see the Lord." Dealing with this solemn assertion, fearfully exclusive as it is, shutting out as it does so many professors from all communion with God on earth, and all enjoyment of Christ in heaven, I shall endeavour, first, to give some marks and signs whereby a man may know whether he hath this holiness or not; secondly, to give sundry reasons by way of improvement of the solemn fact, "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord;" and then, thirdly, to plead hard, in Christ's stead, with those who are lovers of gain, that they may bethink themselves ere time be over, and opportunity past.
I. First, then, brethren, ye are anxious to know whether ye have holiness or not. Now, if our text said that, without perfection of holiness, no man, could have any communion with Christ, it would shut every one of us out, for no one, who knows his own heart, ever pretends to be perfectly conformed to God's will. It does not say, "Perfection of holiness," mark; but "holiness." This holiness is a thing of growth. It may be in the soul as the grain of mustard-seed, and yet not developed; it may be in the heart as a wish and a desire, rather than anything that has been fully realized,--a groaning, a panting, a longing, a striving. As the Spirit of God waters it, it will grow till the mustard-seed shall become a tree. Holiness, in a regenerate heart, is but an infant; it is not matured,--perfect it is in all its parts, but not perfect in its development. Hence, when we find many imperfections and many failings in ourselves, we are not to conclude that, therefore, we have no interest in the grace of God. This would be altogether contrary to the meaning of the text. As it is not so much my present purpose to show what this holiness is as what it is not, I think, while I am endeavouring to undeceive those who have not this holiness, those who are not condemned may reasonably draw some comfortable inferences as to their own pursuit of this inestimable grace.
Well, now, let us note four sorts of people who try to get on without holiness. First, there is the Pharisee. The Pharisee goes to work with outward ceremonies. He pays tithes of all that he possesses,--his anise, his mint, his cummin,--everything, even to the tithe of his parsley-bed, he gives. He gives alms to the poor, he wears his phylacteries, and makes broad the borders of his garment;--in fact, anything and everything that is commanded ceremonially he most punctiliously attends to; but, all the while, he is devouring widows' houses, he is living in the practice of secret sin, and he thinks that by ceremonies he shall be able to propitiate God, and be accepted. Sinner, pharisaic sinner, hear the death-knell of thy hopes tolled out by this verse: "Without holiness,"--and that is a thing thou knowest. nothing of,--" no man shall see the Lord." Thy ceremonies are vain and frivolous; even if God ordained them, seeing thou puttest thy trust in them, they shall utterly deceive and fail thee, for they do not constitute even a part of holiness. Thou canst not see God till thy heart be changed, till thy nature be renewed, till thine actions, in the tenor of them, shall become such as God would have them to be. Mere ceremonialists think they can get on without holiness. Fell delusion! Do I speak to any Ritualist who finds himself awkwardly situated here? Do I speak to any Romanist who has entered into a place where, not the works of the law, but the righteousness of Christ is preached? Let me remind you again, very solemnly, my hearer, that those fine hopes of yours, built upon the manoeuvres of the priests, and upon your own performances, shall utterly fail you in that day when most you shall need them. Your soul shall then stand in shivering nakedness when most you need to be well equipped before the eyes of God. These men know not true holiness.
Then there is the moralist. He has never done anything wrong in his life. He is not very observant of ceremonies, it is true; perhaps he even despises them; but he treats his neighbour with integrity, he believes that, so far as he knows, if his ledger be examined, it bears no evidence of a single dishonest deed. As touching the law, he is blameless: no one ever doubted the purity of his manner; from his youth up, his carriage has been amiable, his temperament what every one could desire, and the whole tenor of his life is such that we may hold him up as an example of moral propriety. Ah, but this is not holiness before God. Holiness excludes immorality, but morality does not amount to holiness; for morality may be but the cleaning of the outside of the cup and the platter, while the heart may be full of wickedness. Holiness deals with the thoughts and intents, the purposes, the aims, the objects, the motives of men. Morality does but skim the surface, holiness goes into the very caverns of the great deep; holiness requires that the heart shall be set on God, and that it shall beat with love to him. The moral man may be complete in his morality without that. Methinks I might draw such a parallel as this. Morality is a sweet, fair corpse, well washed and robed, and even embalmed with spices; but holiness is the living man, as fair and as lovely as the other, but having life. Morality lies there, of the earth, earthy, soon to be food for corruption and worms; holiness waits and pants with heavenly aspirations, prepared to mount and dwell in immortality beyond the stars. These twain are of opposite nature: the one belongs to this world, the other belongs to that world beyond the skies. It is not said in heaven, "Moral, moral, moral art thou, O God!" but "Holy, holy. holy art thou. O Lord!" You note the difference between the two words at once. The one, how icy cold; the other, oh, how animated! Such is mere morality, and such is holiness! Moralist !--I know I speak to many such,--remember that your best morality will not save you; you must have more than this, for without holiness , --and that not of yourself, it must be given you of the Spirit of God, --without holiness, no man shall see the Lord.
Another individual, who thinks to get on without holiness, and who does win a fair reputation in certain circles, is the experimentalist. You must be aware that there are some professed followers of Christ whose whole religious life is inward; to tell you the truth, there is no life at all; but their own profession is that it is all inward. I have had the misery to be acquainted with one or two such. They are voluble talkers, discoursing with much satisfaction of themselves, but bitter critics of all who differ from them in the slightest degree; having an ordained standard as to the proper length to which Christian experience should go, cutting off everybody's head who was taller than they were, and stretching every man out by the neck who happened to be a little too short. I have known some of these persons. If a minister should say "duty" in the sermon, they would look as if they would never hear him again. He must be a dead legalist,--a "letter man", I think they call him. Or, if they are exhorted to holiness, why, they tell you they are perfect in Christ Jesus, and therefore there is no reason why they should have any thought of perfection in the work of the Spirit within. Groaning, grunting, quarrelling, denouncing, --not following peace with all men, but stirring up strife against all, --this is the practice of their religion. This is the summit to which they climb, and from which they look down with undisguised contempt upon all those worms beneath who are striving to serve God, and to do good in their day and generation. Now I pray you to remember that, against such men as these, there are many passages of Scripture most distinctly levelled; I think this is one among many others. Sirs, you may say what you will about what you dream you have felt, you may write what you please about what you fancy you have experienced; but if your own outward life be unjust, unholy, ungenerous, and unloving, you shall find no credit among us as to your being in Christ: "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord." The moment you know a man who is drunk on a Saturday night, and then enjoys So-and-so's preaching on a Sunday; the moment you know a man who can tell you what a child of God should be, and then appears himself exactly what he should not be, just quit his company, and let him go to his own place, and where that is, Judas can tell you. Oh, beware of such high-fliers, with their waxen wings, mounting up to the very sun,--how great shall be their fall, when he that searches all hearts shall open the book, and say, "I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink. Inasmuch as ye did it not. to one of the least of these my brethren, ye did it not to me."
There is another class of persons, happily fewer than they once were, but there are some among us still,--opinionists, who think they can do without holiness. These, too, it has sometimes been my misfortune to know. They have learned a sound creed, or perhaps an unsound one, for there are as many Arminians as Calvinists in this line,--they think they have got hold of the truth, that they are the men, and that, when they die, the faithful will fail from among men. They understand theology very accurately. They are wiser than their teachers. They can--
"A hair divide
Betwixt the west and north-west side."
There is no question about their being masters in divinity. If degrees went according to merit, they would have been dubbed "D. D." years ago, for they know everything, and are not a little proud that they do. And yet these men live a life that is a stench even in the nostrils of men who make no profession of religion. We have some of this kind in all congregations. I wish you would not come here. If we could do you good, we might be glad to see you; but you do so much hurt to the rest, and bring so much discredit upon the cause at large, that your room would be better than your company. You listen to the sermon, and sometimes perhaps have the condescension to speak well of the preacher, who wishes you would not. Yet, after the sermon is done, on the road home, there may be a public-house door just opened at one o'clock, and the brother refreshes himself, and perhaps does so many times. Even if it be the holy day, it is all the same, and yet he is a dear and precious child of God. No doubt he is in his own estimation. And then, during the week, he lives as others live, and acts as others act, and yet. congratulates himself that he knows the truth, and understands the doctrines of the gospel, and therefore he will surely be saved! Out with thee, man! Out with thee! Down with thy hopes! "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
"No big words of ready talkers,
No mere doctrines will suffice;
Broken hearts, and humble walkers--
These are dear in Jesus' eyes."
Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life-work,--this is what the Lord wants. You may perish as well with true doctrines as with false, if you pervert the true doctrine into licentiousness. You may to go to hell by the cross as surely as you may by the theatre, or by the vilest of sin. You may perish with the name of Jesus on you lips, and with a sound creed sealed on your very bosom, for "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall lie also reap." Now, if any of you belong to either of these four classes, I think you cannot help knowing it, and, being destitute of gospel holiness, you have good cause to bewail your character, and tremble for your destiny.
But, to help you still further, brethren, that man is destitute of true holiness who can look back upon his own past sin without sorrow. Oh, to think of our past lives! There were some of us who knew the Lord at fifteen years of age, but those fifteen years of unregeneracy,--we can never forget them! Others may say, "We did not know him till we were fifty or sixty." Ah, my dear brethren! you have much to weep over, but so have those of us who knew the Lord in early life. I can look back upon God's mercy with delight, but I hope I shall never be able to look back upon my sins with complacency. Whenever a man looks to any of his past faults and shortcomings, it ought to be through his tears. Some men recall their past lives, and talk of their old sins, and seem to roll them under their tongues as a sweet morsel. They live their sins over again. As it was said of Alexander,--
"He fought his battles o'er again,
And twice he slew the slain."
There are those who revel in the memory of their iniquities. They live their life in imagination over again. They recollect some deed of lewdness, or some act of infamy; and, as they think it over, they dare not repeat it, for their profession would be spoiled; but they love the thought, and cultivate it with a vicious zest. Thou are no friend to true holiness, but an utter stranger to it unless the past causes thee profound sorrow, and sends thee to thy knees to weep and hope that God, for Christ's sake, has blotted it out.
And I am quite sure that you know nothing of true holiness if you can look forward to any future indulgence of sensual appetites with a certain degree of delightful anticipation. Have I a man here, a professed Christian, who has formed some design in his mind to indulge the flesh, and to enjoy forbidden dainties when an opportunity occurs? Ah, sir! if thou canst think of those things that may come in thy way without tremor, I suspect thee: I would thou wouldst suspect thyself. Since the day that some of us knew Christ, we have always woke up in the morning with a fear lest we should that day disown our Master. And there is one fear which sometimes haunts me, and I must confess it; and were it not for faith in God, it would be too much for me. I cannot read the life of David without some painful emotions. All the time he was a young man, his life was pure before God, and in the light of the living it shone with a glorious lustre; but when grey hairs began to be scattered on his head, the man after God's heart sinned. I have sometimes felt inclined to pray that my life may come to a speedy end, lest haply in some evil hour, some temptation should come upon me, and I should fall. And do you not feel the same? Can you look forward to the future without any fear? Does not the thought ever cross your mind,--" He that thinketh he standeth may yet fall "I And the very possibility of such a thing,--does it not drive you to God's mercy-seat, and do you not cry, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe"? There is no doxology in Scripture which I enjoy more than that one at the end of the Epistle of Jude: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to him be glory." I say to you are a stranger to holiness of heart if you can look forward to a future fall without great alarm.
Again, methinks you have great cause for questioning, unless your holiness is uniform; I mean, if your life is angelic abroad and devilish at home. You must suspect that it is at home that you are what you really are. I question whether any man is much better than he is thought to be by his wife and family, for they, after all, see the most of us, and know the truth about us; and if, sir, though you seem in the pulpit, or on the platform, or in the shop, to be amiable, Christian, and God-like to the passer-by, your children should have to mark your unkindness, your want of fatherly affection for their souls, and your wife has to complain of your domineering, of the absence of everything that is Christ-like, you may shrewdly suspect that there is something wrong in the state of your heart. O sirs, true holiness is a thing that will keep by night and by day, at home and abroad, on the land and on the sea! That man is not right with God who would not do the same in the dark that he would do in the light; who does not feel, "If every eye should look upon me, I would not be different from what I am when no eye gazes upon me; that which keeps me right is not the judgement and opinions of men, but the eye of the Omnipresent, and the heart of the Lord who loves me." Is your obedience uniform? Some farmers I know, in the country, maintain a creditable profession in the village where they live; they go to a place of worship, and seem to be very good people: but there is a farmer's dinner once a year, it is only once a year, and we will not say anything about how they get home,--the less that is said, the better for their reputation. "It is only once a year," they tell us; but holiness does not allow of dissipation even "once a year." And we know some who, when they go on the Continent, for instance, say, "Well, we need not be quite so exact there;" and therefore the Sabbath is utterly disregarded, and the sanctities of daily life are neglected, so reckless are they in their recreations. Well, sirs, if your religion is not warranted to keep in any climate, it is good for nothing. I like the remark which I heard from one of the sailors on board ship in crossing the Irish Channel. A passenger said, to try him, "Wouldn't you like to attend a certain place of amusement?" which he mentioned. "Well, sir," said the sailor, "I go there as often as ever I like; I have a religion that lets me go as often as I think proper." "Oh, how is that?" he enquired. "Because I never like to go at all," was the reply; "I do not keep away because of any law, for it is no trial to me; but I should be unhappy to go there." Surely the fish, were it asked if it did not wish to fly, would reply, "I am not unhappy because I am not allowed to fly; it is not my element." So the Christian can say, "I am not unhappy because I do not spend my nights in worldly society, because I do not join in their revelry and wantonness; it is not my element, and I could not enjoy it. Should you drag me into it, it would be a martyrdom which to my spirit would be alike repulsive and painful." You are a stranger to holiness if your heart does not feel that it revolts at the thought of sin.
Then, let me further remark, that those who can look with delight or any degree of pleasure upon the sins of others are not holy. We know of some, who will not themselves perpetrate an unseemly jest, yet, if another does so, and there is a laugh excited upon some not over-decent remark, they laugh, and thus give sanction to the impropriety. If there is a low song sung in their hearing, which others applaud, though they cannot quite go the length of joining in the plaudits, still they secretly enjoy it; they betray a sort of gratification that they cannot disguise; they confess to a gusto that admires the wit while it cannot endorse the sentiment. They are glad the minister was not there; they are glad to think the deacon did not happen to see them just at that moment; yet still, if there could be a law established to make the thing pretty respectable, they would not mind. Some of you know people who fall into this snare. There are professing Christians who go where you at one time could not go; but, seeing that they do it, you go too, and there you see others engaged in sin, and it becomes respectable because you give it countenance. There are many things, in this world, that would be execrated if it were not that Christian men go to them, and the ungodly men say, "Well, if it is not righteous, there is not much harm in it, after all; it is innocent enough if we keep within bounds." Mind! mind! mind, professor, if thine heart begins to suck in the sweets of another man's sin, it is unsound in the sight. of God; if thou canst even wink at another man's lust, depend upon it that thou wilt soon shut thine eye on thine own, for we are always more severe with other men than we are' with ourselves. There must be an absence of the vital principle of godliness when we can become partakers of other men's sins by applauding or joining with them in the approval of them. Let us examine ourselves scrupulously, then, whether we be among those who have no evidences of that holiness without which no man can see God. But, beloved, we hope better things of you, and things which accompany salvation. If you and I, as in the sight of God, feel that we would be holy if we could, that there is not a sin we wish to spare, that we would be like Jesus, --O that we could !--that we would sooner suffer affliction than ever run into sin, and displease our God; if our heart be really right in God's statutes, then, despite all the imperfections we bemoan, we have holiness, wherein we may rejoice, and we pray to our gracious God,--
"Finish, then, thy new creation,
Pure and spotless let us be."
II. Now, then, for the second point very briefly indeed: "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord;" that is to say, no man can have communion with God in this life, and no man can have enjoyment with God in the life to come, without holiness. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" If thou goest with Belial, dost thou think that Christ will go. with thee? Will Christ be a pot companion for thee? Dost thou expect to take the Lord of love and mercy with thee to the haunts of sin? Professor, dost thou think the just and holy One will stand at thy counter to be co-trader with thee in thy tricks? What thinkest thou, O man! wouldst thou make Christ a sharer of thy guilt? and yet he would be so if he had fellowship with thee in it. Nay, if thou wilt go on in acts of unrighteousness and unholiness, Christ parts company with thee, or, rather, thou never didst have any fellowship with him. Thou hast gone out from us because thou wert not of us; for, if thou hadst been of us, doubtless thou wouldst have continued with us. And as to heaven, dost thou think to go there with thine unholiness? God smote an angel down from heaven for sin, and will he let man in with sin in his right hand? God would sooner extinguish heaven than see sin despoil it. It is enough for him to bear with thine hypocrisies on earth; shall he have them flung in his own face in heaven? What, shall an unholy life utter its licentiousness in the golden streets? Shall there be sin in that higher and better paradise? No, no; God has sworn by his holiness--and he will not, he cannot lie, --that those who are not holy, whom his Spirit has not renewed, who have not been, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, made to love that which is good, and hate that which is evil, shall never stand in the congregation of the righteous. Sinner, it is a settled matter with God that no man shall see him without holiness.
III. I come to my last point, which is, pleading with you. Doubtless, there are some in this vast crowd who have, some sort of longings after salvation and after heaven. My eye looks round; yes, sometimes it has been my wont to gaze with sorrow upon some few here whose cases I know. Do I not remember one? He has been very often impressed, and so impressed, too, that he has not been able to sleep. Night after night he has prayed, he has wrestled with God, and there is only one thing in his way, and that is drink, strong drink! By the time that Wednesday or Thursday comes round, he begins to forget what he heard on Sunday. Sometimes, he has taken the pledge, and kept it three months; but the craving has been too strong for him, and then he has given all resolutions and vows up, and has plunged into his besetting sin worse than before. Others I know in whom it is another sin. You are here now, are you? You do not come of a morning, and yet, when you come at night, you feel it very severely; but why not come here in the morning? Because your shop is open, and that shop seems to stand between you and any hope of salvation. There are others who say, "Well, now, if I go to hear that man, I must give up the vice that disquiets my conscience; but I cannot yet, I cannot yet." And you are willing to be damned for the sake of some paltry joy? Well, if you will be damned, it shall not be for want of reasoning with you, and weeping over you. Let me put it to you, --do you say that you cannot give up the sin because of the profit? Profit! Profit, forsooth! "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" 'What profit have you obtained hitherto? You have put it all into a bag full of holes; what you have earned one way, you have spent in another; and you know that, if this life were all, you surely have not been any the better for it. Besides, what is profit when compared with your immortal soul? Oh, I adjure you, lose not gold for dross, lose not substance for shadows! Lose not your immortal soul for the sake of some temporary gain!
But it is not profit with some of you, it is pleasure, it is a morbid passion. You feel, perhaps, for some particular sin which happens to beset you, such an intense longing, and in looking back upon it afterwards, you think you could give up everything but that. Young man, is it some secret sin which we must not mention, or is it some private guilt which is hidden from all hearts but thine own? O soul, what is this pleasure, after all? Weigh it, weigh it; what does it come to? Is it equal to the pain it costs thee now, to the pangs of conscience, to the agonies of remorse? When an American doctor, who had led a loose life, came to die, he seemed to wake up from a sort of stupor, and he said, "Find that word, find that word." "What word?" they asked. "Why," he said, "that awful word,--remorse!" He said it again,--" Remorse!" and then, gathering up his full strength, he fairly seemed to shriek it out,--"Remorse!" "Write it," said he, "write it." It was written. "Write it with larger letters, and let me gaze at it; underline it. And now," said he, "none of you know the meaning of that word, and may you never know it; it has an awful meaning in it, and I feel it now,--Remorse! Remorse!! Remorse!!!"
What, I ask, is the pleasure of sin contrasted with the results it brings in this life? and what, I ask, is this pleasure' compared with the joys of godliness? Little as you may think I know of the joys of the world, yet so far as I can form a judgment, I can say that I would not take all the joys that earth can ever afford in a hundred years for one half-hour of what my soul has known in fellowship with Christ. We, who believe in him, do have our sorrows; but, blessed be God, we do have our joys, and they are such joys --oh, such joys, with such substance in them, and such reality and certainty, that we could not and would not exchange them for anything except heaven in its fruition.
And then, bethink thee, sinner, what are all these pleasures when compared with the loss of thy soul? There is a gentleman, high in position in this world, with fair lands and a large estate, who, when he took me by the button-hole after a sermon,--and he never hears me preach without weeping,--said to me, "O sir, it does seem such an awful thing that I should be such a fool!" "And what for?" I asked. "Why," he said, "for the sake of that court, and of those gaieties of life, and of mere honour, and dress, and fashion, I am squandering away my soul. I know," he said, "I know the truth, but I do not follow it. I have been stirred in my heart to do what is right, but I go on just as I have done before; I fear I shall sink back into the same state as before. Oh, what a fool am," said he, "to choose pleasures that only last a little while, and then to be lost for ever and for ever!" I pleaded hard with him, but I pleaded in vain; there was such intoxication in the gaiety of life that he could not leave it. Alas! alas! if we had to deal with sane men, our preaching would be easy; but sin is a madness, such a madness that, when men are bitten by it, they would not be persuaded even though one should rise from the dead. "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
"But," I hear someone say, "it is impossible; I have tried it, and I have broken down; I did try to get better, but I did not succeed; it is of no use, it cannot be done." You are right, my dear friend, and you are wrong. You are right, it is of no use going about it as you did; if you went in your own strength, holiness is a thing you cannot get, it is beyond you. The depth says, "It is not in me;" and the height saith, "It is not in me." You can no more make yourself holy than you could create a world. But you are wrong to despair, for Christ can do it; he can do it for you, and he can do it now. Believe on him, and that believing will be the proof that he is working in you. Trust him, and he that has suffered for thy sins, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, shall come in, and put to rout the lion of the pit. He will bruise Satan under thy feet shortly. There is no corruption too strong for him to overcome, there is no habit too firm for him to break. He can turn a lion to a lamb, and a raven to a dove. Trust him to save thee, and he will do it, whosoever thou mayest be, and whatsoever thy past life may have been. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;"--that is, he shall be saved from his sins, and delivered from his evil practices; he shall be made a new man in Christ Jesus by the power of the Spirit, received through the medium of his faith. Believe, poor soul, that Christ is able to save thee, and he will do it. He will be as good as thy faith, and as good as his own word. May he now add his own blessing to the word I have spoken, and to the people who have heard it, for his own sake! Amen.
The Voice of the Blood of Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 29, 1858, by the
REV. C.H. SPURGEON
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"The blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel."-- Hebrews 12:24
OF all substances blood is the most mysterious, and in some senses the most sacred. Scripture teacheth us,--and after all there is very much philosophy in Scripture,--that "the blood is the life thereof,"--that the life lieth in the blood. Blood, therefore, is the mysterious link between matter and spirit. How it is that the soul should in any degree have an alliance with matter through blood, we cannot understand; but certain it is that this is the mysterious link which unites these apparently dissimilar things together, so that the soul can inhabit the body, and the life can rest in the blood. God has attached awful sacredness to the shedding of blood. Under the Jewish dispensation, even the blood of animals was considered as sacred. Blood might never be eaten by the Jews; it was too sacred a thing to become the food of man. The Jew was scarcely allowed to kill his own food: certainly he must not kill it except he poured out the blood as a sacred offering to Almighty God. Blood was accepted by God as the symbol of the atonement. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin, because, I take it, blood hath such an affinity with life, that inasmuch as God would accept nought but blood, be signified that there must be a life offered to him, and that his great and glorious Son must surrender his life as a sacrifice for his sheep.
Now, we have in our text "blood" mentioned--two-fold blood. We have the blood of murdered Abel, and the blood of murdered Jesus. We have also two things in the text:--a comparison between the blood of sprinkling, and the blood of Abel; and then a certain condition mentioned. Rather, if we read the whole verse in order to get its meaning, we find that the righteous are spoken of as coming to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abel; so that the condition which will constitute the second part of our discourse, is coming to that blood of sprinkling for our salvation and glory.
I. Without further preface I shall at once introduce to you the CONTRAST AND COMPARISON IMPLIED IN THE TEXT. "The blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." I confess I was very much astonished when looking at Dr. Gill and Albert Barnes, and several of the more eminent commentators, while studying this passage, to find that they attach a meaning to this verse which had never occurred to me before. They say that the meaning of the verse is not that the blood of Christ is superior to the blood of murdered Abel, although that is certainly a truth, but that the sacrifice of the blood of Christ is better, and speaketh better things than the sacrifice which Abel offered. Now, although I do not think this is the meaning of the text and I have my reasons for believing that the blood here contrasted with that of the Saviour, is the blood of the murdered man Abel, yet on looking to the original there is so much to be said on both sides of the question, that I think it fair in explaining the passage to give you both the meanings. They are not conflicting interpretations; there is indeed a shade of difference but still they amount to the same idea.
First, then, we may understand here a comparison between the offerings Abel presented, and the offerings Jesus Christ presented, when he gave his blood to be a ransom for the flock.
Let me describe Abel's offering. I have no doubt Adam had from the very first of his expulsion from the garden of Eden offered a sacrifice to God; and we have some dim hint that this sacrifice was of a beast, for we find that the Lord God made Adam and Eve skins of beasts to be their clothing, and it is probable that those skins were procured by the slaughter of victims offered in sacrifice. However, that is but a dim hint: the first absolute record that he have of an oblatory sacrifice is the record of the sacrifice offered by Abel. Now, it appears that very early there was a distinction among men. Cain was the representative of the seed of the serpent, and Abel was the representative of the seed of the woman. Abel was God's elect, and Cain was one of those who rejected the Most High. However, both Cain and Abel united together in the outward service of God. They both of them brought on a certain high day a sacrifice. Cain took a different view of the matter of sacrifice from that which presented itself to the mind of Abel. Cain was proud and haughty: he said "I am ready to confess that the mercies which we receive from the soil are the gift of God, but I am not ready to acknowledge that I am a guilty sinner, deserving God's wrath, therefore," said he, "I will bring nothing but the fruit of the ground." "Ah, but" said Abel, "I feel that while I ought to be grateful for temporal mercies, at the same time I have sins to confess, I have iniquities to be pardoned, and I know that without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin; therefore," said he, "O Cain, I will not be content to bring an offering of the ground, of the ears of corn, or of first ripe fruits, but I will bring of the firstlings of my flock, and I will shed blood upon the altar, because my faith is, that there is to come a great victim who is actually to make atonement for the sins of men, and by the slaughter of this lamb, I express my solemn faith in him." Not so Cain; he cared nothing for Christ; he was not willing to confess his sin; he had no objection to present a thank-offering, but a sin-offering he would not bring. He did not mind bringing to God that which he thought might be acceptable as a return for favors received, but he would not bring to God an acknowledgment of his guilt, or a confession of his inability to make atonement for it, except by the blood of a substitute. Cain, moreover, when he came to the altar, came entirely without faith. He piled the unhewn stones, as Abel did, he laid his sheaves of corn upon the altar, and there he waited, but it was to him a matter of comparative indifference whether God accepted him or not. He believed there was a God, doubtless, but he had no faith in the promises of that God. God had said that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head--that was the gospel as revealed to our first parents; but Cain had no belief in that gospel--whether it were true or not, he cared not--it was sufficient for him that he acquired enough for his own sustenance from the soil; he had no faith. But holy Abel stood by the side of the altar, and while Cain the infidel perhaps laughed and jeered at his sacrifice, he boldly presented there the bleeding lamb as a testimony to all men, both of that time and all future times, that he believed in the seed of the woman--that he looked for him to come who should destroy the serpent, and restore the ruins of the fall. Do you see holy Abel, standing there, ministering as a priest at God's altar? Do you see the flush of joy which comes over his face, when he sees the heavens opened, and the living fire of God descend upon the victims? Do you note with what a grateful expression of confident faith he lifts to heaven his eye which had been before filled with tears, and cries, "I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast accepted my sacrifice, inasmuch as I presented it through faith in the blood of thy Son, my Saviour, who is to come."
Abel's sacrifice, being the first on record, and being offered in the teeth of opposition, has very much in it which puts it ahead of many other of the sacrifices of the Jews. Abel is to be greatly honored for his confidence and faith in the coming Messiah. But compare for a moment the sacrifice of Christ with the sacrifice of Abel, and the sacrifice of Abel shrinks into insignificance. What did Abel bring? He brought a sacrifice which showed the necessity of blood-shedding but Christ brought the blood-shedding itself. Abel taught the world by his sacrifice that he looked for a victim, but Christ brought the actual victim. Abel brought but the type and the figure, the Lamb which was but a picture of the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world; but Christ was that Lamb. He was the substance of the shadow, the reality of the type. Abel's sacrifice had no merit in it apart from the faith in the Messiah with which he presented it; but Christ's sacrifice had merit of itself; it was in itself meritorious. What was the blood of Abel's lamb? It was nothing but the blood of a common lamb that might have been shed anywhere, except that he had faith in Christ the blood of the lamb was but as water, a contemptible thing; but the blood of Christ was a sacrifice indeed, richer far than all the blood of beasts that ever were offered upon the altar of Abel, or the altar of all the Jewish high priests. We may say of all the sacrifices that were ever offered, however costly they might be, and however acceptable to God, though they were rivers of oil and tens of thousands of fat beasts, yet they were less than nothing, and contemptible, in comparison with the one sacrifice which our high priest hath offered once for all, whereby he hath eternally perfected them that are sanctified.
We have thus found it very easy to set forth the difference between the blood of Christ's sprinkling and the blood which Abel sprinkled. But now I take it that there is a deeper meaning than this, despite what some commentators have said. I believe that the allusion here is to the blood of murdered Abel. Cain smote Abel, and doubtless his hands and the altar were stained with the blood of him who had acted as a priest. "Now," says our apostle, "that blood of Abel spoke." We have evidence that it did, for God said to Cain, "The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground," and the apostle's comment upon that in another place is--"By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts, and by it he being dead yet speaketh," speaketh through his blood, his blood crying unto God from the ground. Now, Christ's blood speaks too. What is the difference between the two voices?--for we are told in the text that it "speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Abel's blood spoke in a threefold manner. It spoke in heaven; it spoke to the sons of men; it spoke to the conscience of Cain. The blood of Christ speaks in a like threefold manner, and it speaks better things.
First, the blood of Abel spoke in heaven. Abel was a holy man, and all that Cain could bring against him was, "His own works were evil, and his brother's were righteous." You see the brothers going to the sacrifice together. You mark the black scowl upon the brow of Cain, when Abel's sacrifice is accepted while his remains untouched by the sacred fire. You note how they begin to talk together--how quietly Abel argues the question, and how ferociously Cain denounces him. You note again how God speaks to Cain, and warns him of the evil which he knew was in his heart; and you see Cain, as he goes from the presence chamber of the Most High, warned and forewarned; but yet with the dreadful thought in his heart that he will imbrue his hands in his brother's blood. He meets his brother; he talks friendly with him: he gives him, as it were, the kiss of Judas; he entices him into the field where he is alone; he takes him unawares; he smites him, and smites him yet again, till there lies the murdered bleeding corpse of his brother. O earth! earth! earth! cover not his blood. This is the first murder thou hast ever seen; the first blood of man that ever stained thy soil. Hark! there is a cry heard in heaven, the angels are astonished; they rise up from their golden seats, and they enquire, "What is that cry?" God looketh upon them, and he saith, "It is the cry of blood, a man hath been slain by his fellow; a brother by him who came from the bowels of the self-same mother has been murdered in cold blood, through malice. One of my saints has been murdered, and here he comes, And Abel entered into heaven blood-red, the first of God's elect who had entered Paradise, and the first of God's children who had worn the blood red crown of martyrdom. And then the cry was heard, loud and clear and strong; and thus it spoke--"Revenge! revenge! revenge!" And God himself, upstarting from his throne, summoned the culprit to his presence, questioned him, condemned him out of his own mouth, and made him henceforth a fugitive and a vagabond, to wander over the surface of the earth, which was to be sterile henceforth to his plough.
And now, beloved, just contrast with this the blood of Christ. That is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God; he hangs upon a tree; he is murdered--murdered by his own brethren. "He came unto his own, and his own received him not, but his own led him out to death." He bleeds; he dies; and then is heard a cry in heaven. The astonished angels again start from their seats, and they say," What is this? What is this cry that we hear?" And the Mighty Maker answers yet again, "It is the cry of blood; it is the cry of the blood of my only-begotten and well-beloved Son!" And God, uprising from his throne, looks down from heaven and listens to the cry. And what is the cry? It is not revenge; but the voice crieth, "Mercy! mercy! mercy!" Did you not hear it? It said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Herein, the blood of Christ "speaketh better things than that of Abel," for Abel's blood said, "Revenge!" and made the sword of God start from its scabbard; but Christ's blood cried "Mercy!" and sent the sword back again, and bade it sleep for ever.
"Blood hath a voice to pierce the skies,
'Revenge!' the blood of Abel cries;
But the rich blood of Jesus slain,
Speaks peace as loud from every vein."
You will note too that Abel's blood cried for revenge upon one man only--upon Cain; it required the death of but one man to satisfy for it, namely. the death of the murderer. "Blood for blood!" The murderer must die the death. But what saith Christ's blood in heaven? Does it speak for only one? Ah! no, beloved; "the free gift hath come upon many." Christ's blood cries mercy! mercy! mercy! not on one, but upon a multitude whom no man can number--ten thousand times ten thousand.
Again: Abel's blood cried to heaven for revenge, for one transgression of Cain that for ought that Cain had done, worthless and vile before, the blood of Abel did not demand any revenge: it was for the one sin that blood clamoured at the throne of God, and not for many sins. Not so the voice of the blood of Christ. It is "for many offenses unto justification." Oh, could ye hear that cry, that all-prevailing cry, as now it comes up from Calvary's summit--"Father, forgive them!" not one, but many. "Father, forgive them." And not only forgive them this offense, but forgive them all their sins, and blot out all their iniquities. Ah! beloved, we might have thought that the blood of Christ would have demanded vengeance at the hands of God. Surely, if Abel be revenged seven fold, then must Christ be revenged seventy times seven. If the earth would not swallow up the blood of Abel, till it had had its fill, surely we might have thought that the earth never would have covered the corpse of Christ, until God had struck the world with fire and sword, and banished all men to destruction. But, O precious blood! thou sayest not one word of vengeance! All that this blood cries is peace! pardon! forgiveness! mercy! acceptance! Truly it "speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Again: Abel's blood had a second voice. It spoke to the whole world. "He being dead yet speaketh"--not only in heaven, but on earth. God's prophets are a speaking people. They speak by their acts and by their words as long as they live, and when they are buried they speak by their example which they have left behind. Abel speaks by his blood to us. And what does it say? When Abel offered up his victim upon the altar he said to us, "I believe in a sacrifice that is to be offered for the sins of men," but when Abel's own blood was sprinkled on the altar he seemed to say, "Here is the ratification of my faith; I seal my testimony with my own blood; you have now the evidence of my sincerity, for I was prepared to die for the defense of this truth which I now witness unto you." It was a great thing for Abel thus to ratify his testimony with his blood. We should not have believed the martyrs half so easily if they had not been ready to die for their profession. The Gospel in ancient times would never have spread at such a marvellous rate, if it had not been that all the preachers of the gospel were ready at any time to attest their message with their own blood. But Christ's blood "speaketh better things than that of Abel." Abel's blood ratified his testimony, and Christ's blood has ratified his testimony too; but Christ's testimony is better than that of Abel. For what is the testimony of Christ? The covenant of grace--that everlasting covenant. He came into this world to tell us that God had from the beginning chosen his people--that he had ordained them to eternal life, and that he had made a covenant with his son Jesus Christ that if he would pay the price they should go free--if he would suffer in their stead they should be delivered. And Christ cried e'er "he bowed his head and gave up the ghost"--"It is finished." The covenant purpose is finished. That purpose was "to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness." Such was the testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ, as his own blood gushed from his heart, to be the diestamp, and seal, that the covenant was ratified. When I see Abel die I know that his testimony was true; but when I see Christ die I know that the covenant is true.
"This covenant, O believer, stands
Thy rising fears to quell;
'Tis signed and sealed and ratified,
In all things ordered well."
When he bowed his head and gave up the ghost, he did as much as say, "All things are made sure unto the seed by my giving myself a victim." Come, saint, and see the covenant all blood-bestained, and know that it is sure. He is "the faithful and true witness, the prince of the kings of the earth." First of martyrs, my Lord Jesus, thou hadst a better testimony to witness than they all, for thou hast witnessed to the everlasting covenant; thou hast witnessed that thou art the shepherd and bishop of souls; thou hast witnessed to the putting away of sin by the sacrifice of thyself Again: I say, come, ye people of God, and read over the golden roll. It begins in election--it ends in everlasting life, and all this the blood of Christ crieth in your ears. All this is true; for Christ's blood proves it to be true, and to be sure to all the seed. It "speaketh better things than that of Abel."
Now we come to the third voice, for the blood of Abel had a three-fold sound. It spoke in the conscience of Cain. Hardened though he was, and like a very devil in his sin, yet he was not so deaf in his conscience that he could not hear the voice of blood. The first thing that Abel's blood said to Cain was this: Ah! guilty wretch, to spill thy brother's blood! As he saw it trickling from the wound and flowing down in streams, he looked at it, and as the sun shone on it, and the red glare came into his eye, it seemed to say, "Ah! cursed wretch, for the son of thine own mother thou hast slain. Thy wrath was vile enough, when thy countenance fell, but to rise up against thy brother and take away his life, Oh! how vile!" It seemed to say to him, "What had he done that thou shouldst take his life? Wherein had he offended thee? Was not his conduct blameless, and his conversation pure? If thou hadst smitten a villain or a thief, men might not have blamed thee; but this blood is pure, clean, perfect blood; how couldest thou kill such a man as this?" And Cain put his hand across his brow, and felt there was a sense of guilt there that he had never felt before. And then the blood said to him again, "Why, whither wilt thou go? Thou shalt be a vagabond as long as thou livest." A cold chill ran through him, and he said, "Whosoever findeth me will kill me." And though God promised him he should live, no doubt he was always afraid. If he saw a company of men together, he would hide himself in a thicket, or if in his solitary wanderings he saw a man at a distance, he started back, and sought to bury his head, so that none should observe him. In the stillness of the night he started up in his dreams. It was but his wife that slept by his side; but he thought he felt some one's hands gripping his throat, and about to take away his life. Then he would sit up in his bed and took around at the grim shadows, thinking some fiend was haunting him and seeking after him. Then, as he rose to go about his business, he trembled. He trembled to be alone, he trembled to be in company. When he was alone he seemed not to be alone; the ghost of his brother seemed staring him in his face; and when he was in company he dreaded the voice of men, for he seemed to think every one cursed him, and he thought every one knew the crime he had committed, and no doubt they did, and every man shunned him. No man would take his hand, for it was red with blood, and his very child upon his knee was afraid to look up into his father's face, for there was the mark which God had set upon him. His very wife could scarcely speak to him,--for she was afraid that from the lips of him who had been cursed of God some curse might fall on her. The very earth cursed him. He no sooner put his foot upon the ground, than where it had been a garden before it suddenly turned into a desert, and the fair rich soil became hardened into an arid rock. Guilt, like a grim chamberlain, with fingers bloody red, did draw the curtain of his bed each night. His crime refused him sleep. It spoke in his heart, and the walls of his memory reverberated the dying cry of his murdered brother. And no doubt that blood spoke one more thing to Cain. It said, "Cain, although thou mayest now be spared there is no hope for thee; thou art a man accursed on earth, and accursed for ever, God hath condemned thee here, and he will damn thee hereafter." And so wherever Cain went, he never found hope. Though he searched for it in the mountain top, yet he found it not there. Hope that was left to all men, was denied to him: a hopeless, houseless, helpless vagabond, he wandered up and down the surface of the earth. Oh! Abel's brood had a terrible voice indeed.
But now see the sweet change as ye listen to the blood of Christ. It "speaketh better things than that of Abel." Friend! hast thou ever heard the blood of Christ in thy conscience? I have, and I thank God I ever heard that sweet soft voice.
Once a sinner near despair;
Sought the mercy seat by prayer."
He prayed: he thought he was praying in vain. The tears gushed from his eyes; his heart was heavy within him; he sought, but he found no mercy. Again, again, and yet again, he besieged the throne of the heavenly grace and knocked at mercy's door Oh! who can tell the mill-stone that lay upon his beating heart, and the iron that did eat into his soul. He was a prisoner in sore bondage; deep, as he thought, in the bondage of despair was he chained, to perish for ever. That prisoner one day heard a voice, which said to him, "Away, away to Calvary!" Yet he trembled at the voice, for he said, "Why should I go thither, for there my blackest sin was committed; there I murdered the Saviour by my trangressions? Why should I go to see the murdered corpse of him who became my brother born for adversity?" But mercy beckoned, and she said, "Come, come away, sinner!" And the sinner followed. The chains were on his legs and on his hands, and he could scarcely creep along. Still the black vulture Destruction seemed hovering in the air. But he crept as best he could, till he came to the foot of the hill of Calvary. On the summit he saw a cross; blood was distilling from the hands, and from the feet, and from the side, and mercy touched his ears and said, "Listen!" and he heard that blood speak; and as it spoke the first thing it said was, "Love!" And the second thing it said was, "Mercy!" The third thing it said was, "Pardon." The next thing it said was, "Acceptance." The next thing it said was, "Adoption." The next thing it said was, "Security." And the last thing it whispered was, "Heaven." And as the sinner heard that voice, he said within himself, "And does that blood speak to me?" And the Spirit said, "To thee--to thee it speaks." And he listened, and oh what music did it seem to his poor troubled heart, for in a moment all his doubts were gone. He had no sense of guilt. He knew that he was vile, but he saw that his vileness was all washed away; he knew that he was guilty, but he saw his guilt all atoned for, through the precious blood that was flowing there. He had been full of dread before; he dreaded life, he dreaded death; but now he had no dread at all; a joyous confidence took possession of his heart. He looked to Christ, and he said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth;" he clasped the Saviour in his arms, and he began to sing:--"Oh! confident am I; for this blest blood was shed for me." And then Despair fled and Destruction was driven clean away. and instead thereof came the bright white-winged angel of Assurance, and she dwelt in his bosom, saying evermore to him, "Thou art accepted in the Beloved: thou art chosen of God and precious: thou art his child now, and thou shalt be his favourite throughout eternity." "The blood of Christ speaketh better things than that of Abel."
And now I must have you notice that the blood of Christ bears a comparison with the blood of Abel in one or two respects, but it excelleth in them all.
The blood of Abel cried "Justice!" It was but right that the blood should be revenged. Abel had no private pique against Cain; doubtless could Abel have done so, he would have forgiven his brother; but the blood spoke justly, and only asked its due when it shouted "Vengeance! vengeance! vengeance!" And Christ's blood speaketh justly, when it saith, "Mercy!" Christ has as much right to demand mercy upon sinners, as Abel's blood had to cry vengeance against Cain. When Christ saves a sinner, he does not save him on the sly, or against law or justice, but he saves him justly. Christ has a right to save whom he will save, to have mercy on whom he will have mercy, for he can do it justly, he can be just, and yet be the justifier of the ungodly.
Again, Abel's blood cried effectively. It did not cry in vain. It said, "Revenge!" and revenge it had. And Christ's blood, blessed be his name, never cries in vain. It saith, "Pardon;" and pardon every believer shall have it saith, "Acceptance," and every penitent is accepted in the Beloved. If that blood cry for me, I know it cannot cry in vain. That all-prevailing blood of Christ shall never miss its due; it must, it shall be heard. Shall Abel's blood startle heaven, and shall not the blood of Christ reach the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth
And again, Abel's blood cries continually, there is the mercy-seat, and there is the cross, and the blood is dropping on the mercy-seat. I have sinned a sin. Christ says, "Father, forgive him." There is one drop. I sin again: Christ intercedes again. There is another drop. In fact, it is the drop that intercedes, Christ need not speak with his mouth; the drops of blood as they fall upon the mercy-seat, each seemeth to say, "Forgive him! forgive him! forgive him!"
Dear friend, when thou hearest the voice of conscience, stop and try to hear the voice of the blood too. Oh! what a precious thing it is to hear the voice of the blood of Christ. You who do not know what that means, do not know the very essence and joy of life; but you who understand that, can say, "The dropping of the blood is like the music of heaven upon earth." Poor sinner! I would ask thee to come and listen to that voice that distils upon thy ears and thy heart to-day. Thou art full of sin; the Saviour bids thee lift thine eyes to him. See, there, his blood is flowing from his head, his hands, his feet, and every drop that falls, still cries, "Father, O forgive them! Father, O forgive them." And each drop seems to cry also as it falls, "It is finished: I have made an end of sin, I have brought in everlasting righteousness." Oh! sweet, sweet language of the dropping of the blood of Christ" It "speaketh better things than that of Abel."
II. Having thus, I trust, sufficiently enlarged upon this subject I shall now close by addressing you with a few earnest words concerning the second point.--The CONDITION INTO WHICH EVERY CHRISTIAN IS BROUGHT. He is said to be "come to the blood of sprinkling." I shall make this a very brief matter, but a very solemn and pointed one. My hearers, have you come to the blood of Christ? I do not ask you whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or of an observance of ceremonies, or of a certain form of experience; but I ask you if you have come to the blood of Christ. If you have, I know how you come. You must come to the blood of Christ with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you must come to that blood, and to that blood alone, for your hopes; you come to the cross of Christ and to that blood too, I know, with a trembling and an aching heart. Some of you remember how you first came, cast down and full of despair; but that blood recovered you. And this one thing I know: if you have come to that blood once, you will come to it every day. Your life will be just this--"Looking unto Jesus." And your whole conduct will be epitomized in this--"To whom coming as unto a living stone." Not to whom I have come, but to whom I am always coming. If thou hast ever come to the blood of Christ thou wilt feel thy need of coming to it every day. He that does not desire to wash in that fountain every day, has never washed in it at all. I feel it every day to be my joy and my privilege that there is still a fountain opened. I trust I came to Christ years ago but ah! I could not trust to that, unless I could come again to-day. Past experiences are doubtful things to a Christian; it is present coming to Christ that must give us joy and comfort. Did you not, some of you, sing twenty years age that hymn,
"My faith doth lay her hand
On that dear head of thine
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin."
Why, beloved you can sing it as well to-day as you did then. I was reading the other day some book, in which the author states, that we are not to come to Christ as sinners as long as we live; he says we are to grow into saints. Ah! he did not know much, I am sure; for saints are sinners still, and they have always to come to Christ as sinners. If ever I go to the throne of God as a saint, I get repulsed; but when I go just as a poor humble seeking sinner, relying upon nothing but thy blood, O Jesus, I never can get a repulse, I am sure. To whom coming as unto "blood that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Let this be our experience every day.
But there are some here who confess that they never did come. I cannot exhort you, then, to come every day, but I exhort you to come now for the first time. But you say, "May I come?" Yes, if thou art wishing to come thou mayest come; if thou feelest that thou hast need to come thou mayest come.
"All the fitness he requireth,
Is to feel your need of him;"
This he gives you,
'Tis his Spirit's rising beam."
But you say, "I must bring some merits." Hark to the blood that speaks! It says, "Sinner, I am full of merit: why bring thy merits here?" "Ah! but," thou sayest "I have too much sin." Hark to the blood: as it falls, it cries, "Of many offenses unto justification of life." "Ah! but," thou sayest, "I know I am too guilty." Hark to the blood! "Though your sins be as scarlet I will make them as wool; though they be red like crimson they shall be whiter than snow." "Nay," says one, "but I have such a poor desire, I have such a little faith." Hark to the blood! "The bruised reed I will not break, and smoking flax I will not quench." "Nay, but," thou sayest, "I know he will cast me out, if I do come." Hark to the blood! "All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." "Nay, but," sayest thou, "I know I have so many sins that I cannot be forgiven." Now, hear the blood once more, and I have done. "The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." That is the blood's testimony, and its testimony to thee. "There are three that bear witness on earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood;" and behold the blood's witness is--"The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin." Come, poor sinner, cast thyself simply on that truth. Away with your good works and all your trustings! Lie simply flat on that sweet word of Christ. Trust his blood; and if thou canst put thy trust alone in Jesus, in his sprinkled blood, it shall speak in thy conscience better things than that of Abel.
I am afraid there are many that do not know what we mean by believing. Good Dr. Chalmers once visiting a poor old woman, told her to believe in Christ, and she said, "But that is just the thing I do not know what you mean by." So Dr. Chalmers said, "Trust Christ." Now, that is just the meaning of believing. Trust him with your soul; trust him with your sins; trust him with the future; trust him with the past; trust him with everything. Say,
"A guilty, weak, and worthless worm,
On Christ's kind arms I fall
Be thou my strength and righteousness,
The Blood of Sprinkling (first and second sermons)
The Blood of Sprinkling
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, February 28th, 1886, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven."-- Hebrews 12:24-25
WE ARE JOYFULLY REMINDED by the apostle that we are not come to Mount Sinai and its overwhelming manifestations. After Israel had kept the feast of the Passover, God was pleased to give his people a sort of Pentecost, and more fully to manifest himself and his law to them at Sinai. They were in the wilderness, with the solemn peaks of a desolate mountain as their center; and from the top thereof, in the midst of fire, and blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and with the sound of a trumpet, God spake with them. "The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel." We are not come to the dread and terror of the old covenant, of which our apostle saith in another place, "The covenant from the Mount Sinai gendereth unto bondage" (Galatians 4:24 .) Upon the believer's spirit there rests not the slavish fear, the abject terror, the fainting alarm, which swayed the tribes of Israel; for the manifestation of God which he beholds, though not less majestic, is far more full of hope and joy. Over us there rests not the impenetrable cloud of apprehension; we are not buried in a present darkness of despair; we are not tossed about with a tempest of horror; and, therefore, we do not exceedingly fear and quake. How thankful we should be for this! Israel was privileged even in receiving a fiery law from the right hand of Jehovah; but we are far more favored, since we receive "the glorious gospel of the blessed God."
Our apostle next tells us what we are come to. I suppose he speaks of all the saints after the death and resurrection of our Lord and the descent of the Holy Ghost. He refers to the whole church, in the midst of which the Holy Spirit now dwells. We are come to a more joyous sight than Sinai, and the mountain burning with fire. The Hebrew worshipper, apart from his sacrifices, lived continually beneath the shadow of the darkness of a broken law; he was startled often by the tremendous note of the trumpet, which threatened judgment for that broken law; and thus he lived ever in a condition of bondage. To what else could the law bring him? To convince of sin and to condemn the sinner is its utmost power. The believer in the Lord Jesus Christ lives in quite another atmosphere. He has not come to a barren crag, but to an inhabited city, Jerusalem above, the metropolis of God. He has quitted the wilderness for the land which floweth with milk and honey, and the material mount which might be touched for the spiritual and heavenly Jerusalem. He has entered into fellowship with an innumerable company of angels, who are to him, not cherubim with flaming swords to keep men back from the tree of life, but ministering spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation. He is come to the joyous assembly of all pure intelligences who have met, not in trembling, but in joyous liberty, to keep the feast with their great Lord and King. He thinks of all who love God throughout all worlds, and he feels that he is one of them; for he has come to "the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven." Moreover, he has come "to God the Judge of all," the umpire and rewarder of all the chosen citizens who are enrolled by his command, the ruler and judge of all their enemies. God is not to them a dreadful person who speaks from a distance; but he is their Father and their Friend, in whom they delight themselves, in whose presence there is fullness of joy for them. Brethren, our fellowship is with the Father, our God. To him we have come through our Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, in the power of the Spirit of God we realize the oneness of the church both in heaven and earth, and the spirits of just men made perfect are in union with us. No gulf divides the militant from the triumphant; we are one army of the living God. We sometimes speak of the holy dead; but there are none such: they live unto God; they are perfected as to their spirits even now, and they are waiting for the moment when their bodies also shall be raised from the tomb to be again inhabited by their immortal souls. We no longer shudder at the sepulcher, but sing of resurrection. Our condition of heart, from day to day, is that of men who are in fellowship with God, fellowship with angels, fellowship with perfect spirits.
We have also come to Jesus, our Savior, who is all and in all. In him we live; we are joined unto him in one spirit; he is the Bridegroom of our souls, the delight of our hearts. We are come to him as the Mediator of the new covenant. What a blessed thing it is to know that covenant of which he is the Mediator! Some in these days despise the covenant; but saints delight in it. To them the everlasting covenant, "ordered in all things, and sure," is all their salvation and all their desire. We are covenanted ones through our Lord Jesus. God has pledged himself to bless us. By two immutable things wherein it is impossible for him to lie, he has given us strong consolation, and good hope through grace, even to all of us who have fled for refuge to the Lord Jesus. We are happy to live under the covenant of grace, the covenant of promise, the covenant symbolized by Jerusalem above, which is free, and the mother of us all.
Then comes the last thing of all, mentioned last, as I shall have to show you, for a purpose. We have come "to the blood of sprinkling." On that first day at Sinai no blood of sprinkling was presented, but afterwards it was used by divine order to ratify the national covenant which the tribes made with Jehovah at the foot of the hill. Of that covenant the Lord says, "which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them." He never brake his covenant, but they brake it; for they failed to keep that condition of obedience without which a covenant founded upon works falls to the ground. We have come to the blood of sprinkling which has fallen upon a covenant which never shall be broken; for the Lord hath made it to endure though rocks and hills remove. This is called by the Holy Ghost "a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." We are come to the covenant of grace, to Jesus the Mediator of it, and to his blood, which is the seal of it. Of this last we are going to speak at this time--"The blood of sprinkling which speaketh better things than that of Abel."
I shall need this morning to occupy all the time with what I regard as only the first head of my discourse. What is it "The blood of sprinkling." It will be our duty afterwards to consider where we are--"we are come unto this blood;" and, thirdly, to remember what then "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."
I. FIRST, WHAT IS IT? What is this "blood of sprinkling?" In a few words, "the blood of sprinkling" represents the pains, the sufferings, the humiliation, and the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, which he endured on the behalf of guilty man. When we speak of the blood, we wish not to be understood as referring solely or mainly to the literal material blood which flowed from the wounds of Jesus. We believe in the literal fact of his shedding his blood; but when we speak of his cross and blood we mean those sufferings and that death of our Lord Jesus Christ by which he magnified the law of God; we mean what Isaiah intended when he said, "He shall make his soul an offering for sin;" we mean all the griefs which Jesus vicariously endured on our behalf at Gethsemane, and Gabbatha, and Golgotha, and specially his yielding up his life upon the tree of scorn and doom. "The chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." "Without shedding of blood there is no remission;" and the shedding of blood intended is the death of Jesus, the Son of God.
Remember that his sufferings and death were not apparent only, but true and real; and that they involved an incalculable degree of pain and anguish. To redeem our souls cost our Lord an exceeding sorrowfulness "even unto death;" it cost him the bloody sweat, the heart broken with reproach, and specially the agony of being forsaken of his Father, till he cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Our Mediator endured death under the worst possible aspects, bereft of those supports which are in all other cases of godly men afforded by the goodness and faithfulness of God. His was not merely a natural death, but a death aggravated by supernatural circumstance, which infinitely intensified its woe. This is what we mean by the blood of Christ, his sufferings, and his death.
These were voluntarily undertaken by himself out of pure love to us, and in order that we might thereby be justly saved from deserved punishment. There was no natural reason on his own account why he should suffer, bleed, and die. Far from it,--"He only hath immortality." But out of supreme love to us, that man might be forgiven without the violation of divine rectitude, the Son of God assumed human flesh, and became in very deed a man, in order that he might be able to offer in man's place a full vindication to the righteous and unchangeable law of God. Being God, he thus showed forth the wondrous love of God to man by being willing to suffer personally rather than the redeemed should die as the just result of their sin. The matchless majesty of his divine person lent supreme efficacy to his sufferings. It was a man that died, but he was also God, and the death of incarnate God reflects more glory upon law than the deaths of myriads of condemned creatures could have done. See the yearning of the great God for perfect righteousness: he had sooner die than stain his justice even to indulge his mercy. Jesus the Lord, out of love to the Father and to men, undertook willingly and cheerfully for our sakes to magnify the law, and bring in perfect righteousness. This work was so carried out to the utmost, that not a jot of the suffering was mitigated, nor a particle of the obedience foregone: "he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Now he hath finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness: for he has offered such an expiation that God is just, and the justifier of him that believeth. God is at once the righteous Judge, and the infinitely loving Father, through what Jesus hath suffered.
Brethren, though I have said that there was no reason why the Son of God should bleed and die on his own account, yet towards us there was a reason. Our Lord from of old in the eternal covenant was constituted the head and representative of all who were in him; and so, when the time came, he took the place, bore the sin, and suffered the penalty of those whom the Father gave him from before the foundations of the world. He is as much the representative man as the first Adam was the representative man; and as in Adam the sin was committed which ruined us, so in the second Adam the atonement was made which saves us. "As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive." There was no other person so fit to undertake the enterprise of our redemption as this second man, who is the Lord from heaven. He properly, but yet most generously and spontaneously, came and shed his precious blood, in the room and place and stead of sinners, to bring the guilty near to God.
But the text does not merely speak of the blood shed, which I have explained to you, but of "the blood of sprinkling." This is the atonement applied for divine purposes, and specially applied to our own hearts and consciences by faith. For the explanation of this sprinkling we must look to the types of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament the blood of sprinkling meant a great many things; in fact, I cannot just now tell you all that it signified. We meet with it in the Book of Exodus, at the time when the Lord smote all the first-born of Egypt. Then the blood of sprinkling meant preservation. The basin filled with blood was taken, and a bunch of hyssop was dipped into it, and the lintel and the two side-posts of every house tenanted by Israelites were smeared with the blood; and when God saw the blood upon the house of the Israelite, he bade the destroyer pass that family by, and leave their first-born unharmed. The sprinkled blood meant preservation: it was Israel's passover and safeguard.
The sprinkled blood very frequently signified the confirmation of a covenant. So it is used in Exodus 24:1-18 , which I read to you just now. The blood was sprinkled upon the book of the covenant, and also upon the people, to show that the covenant was, as far as it could be, confirmed by the people who promised, "All that the Lord hath said will we do." The blood of bulls and of goats in that case was but a type of the sacrificial blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. The lesson which we learn from Exodus 24:1-18 :is that the blood of sprinkling means the blood of ratification or confirmation of the covenant, which God has been pleased to make with men in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since Jesus died, the promises are Yea and Amen to all believers, and must assuredly be fulfilled. The covenant of grace had but one condition, and that condition Jesus has fulfilled by his death, so that it has now become a covenant of pure and unconditional promise to all the seed.
In many cases the sprinkling of the blood meant purification. If a person had been defiled, he could not come into the sanctuary of God without being sprinkled with blood. There were the ashes of a red heifer laid up, and these were mixed with blood and water; and by their being sprinkled on the unclean, his ceremonial defilement was removed. There were matters incident to domestic life, and accidents of outdoor life, which engendered impurity, and this impurity was put away by the sprinkling of blood. This sprinkling was used in the case of recovery from infectious disease, such as leprosy; before such persons could mingle in the solemn assemblies, they were sprinkled with the blood, and thus were made ceremonially pure. In a higher sense this is the work of the blood of Christ. It preserves us, it ratifies the covenant, and wherever it is applied it makes us pure; for "the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." We have our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience; for we have come unto the obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
The sprinkling of the blood meant, also, sanctification. Before a man entered upon the priesthood the blood was put upon his right ear, and on the great toe of his right foot, and on the thumb of his right hand, signifying that all his powers were thus consecrated to God. The ordination ceremony included the sprinkling of blood upon the altar round about. Even thus hath the Lord Jesus redeemed us unto God by his death, and the sprinkling of his blood hath made us kings and priests unto God for ever. He is made of God unto us sanctification, and all else that is needed for the divine service.
One other signification of the blood of the sacrifice was acceptation and access. When the high priest went into the most holy place once a year, it was not without blood, which he sprinkled upon the ark of the covenant, and upon the mercy-seat, which was on the top thereof. All approaches to God were made by blood. There was no hope of a man drawing near to God, even in symbol, apart from the sprinkling of the blood. And now to-day our only way to God is by the precious sacrifice of Christ; the only hope for the success of our prayers, the acceptance of our praises, or the reception of our holy works, is through the ever-abiding merit of the atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Holy Ghost bids us enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus; there is no other way.
There were other uses besides these, but it may suffice to put down the sprinkling of the blood as having these effects, namely, that of preservation, satisfaction, purification, sanctification, and access to God. This was all typified in the blood of bulls and of goats, but actually fulfilled in the great sacrifice of Christ.
With this as an explanation, I desire to come still closer to the text, and view it with great care; for to my mind it is singularly full of teaching. May the Holy Spirit lead us into the truth which lies herein like treasure hid in a field!
First. The blood of sprinkling is the center of the divine manifestation under the gospel. Observe its innermost place in the passage before us.* You are privileged by almighty grace to come first to Mount Zion, to climb its steeps, to stand upon its holy summit, and to enter the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. In those golden streets, surrounding the hallowed shrine, you behold an innumerable company of angels. What a vision of glory! But you must not rest here; for the great general assembly, the festal gathering, the solemn convocation of the enrolled in heaven, is being held, and all are there in glad attire, surrounding their God and Lord. Press onward to the throne itself, where sits the Judge of all, surrounded by those holy spirits who have washed their robes, and, therefore, stand before the throne of God in perfection.
Have you not come a long way? Are you not admitted into the very center of the whole revelation? Not yet. A step further lands you where stands your Savior, the Mediator, with the new covenant. Now is your joy complete; but you have a further object to behold. What is in that innermost shrine? What is that which is hidden away in the holy of holies? What is that which is the most precious and costly thing of all, the last, the ultimatum, God's grandest revelation? The precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot--the blood of sprinkling. This comes last; it is the innermost truth of the dispensation of grace under which we live. Brethren, when we climb to heaven itself, and pass the gate of pearl, and wend our way through the innumerable hosts of angels, and come even to the throne of God, and see the spirits of the just made perfect, and hear their holy hymn, we shall not have gone beyond the influence of the blood of sprinkling; nay, we shall see it there more truly present than in any other place beside. "What!" say you, "the blood of Jesus in heaven?" Yes. The earthly sanctuary, we are told, was purified with the blood of bulls and of goats, "but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these."(Hebrews 9:23 ) When Jesus entered once for all into the holy place, he entered by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us: so saith the apostle in the ninth chapter of this epistle. Let those who talk lightly of the precious blood correct their view ere they be guilty of blasphemy; for the revelation of God knows no lower deep, this is the heart and center of all. The manifestation of Jesus under the gospel is not only the revelation of the Mediator, but especially of his sacrifice. The appearance of God the Judge of all, the vision of hosts of angels and perfect spirits, do but lead up to that sacrifice which is the source and focus of all true fellowship between God and his creatures. This is the character which Jesus wears in the innermost shrine where he reveals himself most clearly to those who are nearest to him. He looks like a lamb that has been slain. There is no sight of him which is more full, more glorious, more complete, than the vision of him as the great sacrifice for sin. The atonement of Jesus is the concentration of the divine glory; all other revelations of God are completed and intensified here. You have not come to the central sun of the great spiritual system of grace till you have come to the blood of sprinkling--to those sufferings of Messiah which are not for himself, but are intended to bear upon others, even as drops when they are sprinkled exert their influence where they fall. Unless you have learned to rejoice in that blood which taketh away sin, you have not yet caught the key-note of the gospel dispensation. The blood of Christ is the life of the gospel. Apart from atonement you may know the skin, the rind, the husk of the gospel; but its inner kernel you have not discovered.
I next ask you to look at the text and observe that this sprinkling of the blood, as mentioned by the Holy Ghost in this passage, is absolutely identical with Jesus himself. Read it. "To Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." He saith it is the blood that speaketh; and then he proceeds to say, "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." This is a very unexpected turn, which can only be explained upon the supposition that Jesus and the blood are identical in the writer's view. By what we may call a singularity in grammar, in putting him for it, the Spirit of God intentionally sets forth the striking truth, that the sacrifice is identical with the Savior. "We are come to the Savior, the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh; see that ye refuse not him." Beloved friends, there is no Jesus if there is no blood of sprinkling; there is no Savior if there is no sacrifice. I put this strongly, because the attempt is being made nowadays to set forth Jesus apart from his cross and atonement. He is held up as a great ethical teacher, a self-sacrificing spirit, who is to lead the way in a grand moral reformation, and by his influence to set up a kingdom of moral influence in the world. It is even hinted that this kingdom has never had prominence enough given to it because it has been overshadowed by his cross. But where is Jesus apart from his sacrifice? He is not there if you have left out the blood of sprinkling, which is the blood of sacrifice. Without the atonement, no man is a Christian, and Christ is not Jesus. If you have torn away the sacrificial blood, you have drawn the heart out of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and robbed it of its life. If you have trampled on the blood of sprinkling, and counted it a common thing, instead of putting it above you upon the lintel of the door, and all around you upon the two side-posts, you have fearfully transgressed. As for me, God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, since to me that cross is identical with Jesus himself. I know no Jesus but he who died the just for the unjust. You can separate Jesus and the blood materially; for by the spear-thrust, and all his other wounds, the blood was drawn away from the body of our Lord; but spiritually this "blood of sprinkling" and the Jesus by whom we live, are inseparable. In fact, they are one and indivisible, the self-same thing, and you cannot truly know Jesus, or preach Jesus, unless you preach him as slain for sin; you cannot trust Jesus except you trust him as making peace by the blood of his cross. If you have done with the blood of sprinkling, you have done with Jesus altogether; he will never part with his mediatorial glory as our sacrifice, neither can we come to him if we ignore that character. Is it not clear in the text that Jesus and the blood of sprinkling are one? What God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. Note this right carefully.
Thirdly, observe that this "blood of sprinkling" is put in close contact with "the new covenant." I do not wonder that those who are lax in their views of the atonement have nothing honorable to say concerning the covenants, old or new. The doctrine of the covenants is the marrow of divinity; but these vain-glorious spirits affect to despise it. This is natural, since they speak slightingly of the atonement. What covenant is there without blood? If it be not ratified, if there be no sacrifice to make it sure, then is it no covenant in the sight of God or of enlightened men. But, O beloved, ye who know your Lord, and follow on to know him yet better, to you the covenant of promise is a heritage of joy, and his atonement is most precious as the confirmation of it. To us the sacrificial death of our Lord is not a doctrine, but the doctrine, not an outgrowth of Christian teaching, but the essence and marrow of it. To us Jesus in his atonement is Alpha and Omega, in him the covenant begins and ends. You see how it was confirmed by blood. If it be a man's covenant, if it be confirmed, it standeth; but this is God's covenant, confirmed with promises, oaths and blood, and it stands fast for ever and ever. Every believer is as much interested in that covenant as was Abraham the father of believers; for the covenant was made with Abraham and his spiritual seed; and in Christ it is confirmed to all that seed for ever by his most precious blood. That, also, is evident enough in the text: fail not to consider it well.
But, fourthly, I want you to notice that according to the text the blood is the voice of the new dispensation. Observe that on Sinai there was "the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more." You look, therefore, under the new dispensation, for a voice, and you do not come to any till you reach the last object in the list, and there see "the blood of sprinkling that speaketh." Here, then, is the voice of the gospel; it is not the sound of a trumpet, nor the voice of words spoken in terrible majesty; but the blood speaks, and assuredly there is no sound more piercing, more potent, more prevailing. God heard the voice of Abel's blood and visited Cain with condign punishment for killing his brother; and the precious blood of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, cries in the ears of God with a voice which is ever heard. How can it be imagined that the Lord God should be deaf to the cry of his Son's sacrifice? Lo, these many ages the blood has cried--"Forgive them! Forgive them! Accept them! Deliver them from going down into the pit, for I have found a ransom!"
The blood of sprinkling has a voice of instruction to us even as it has a voice of intercession with God. It cries to us, "See the evil of sin! See how God loveth righteousness! See how he loveth men! See how impossible it is for you to escape from the punishment of sin except by this great sacrifice in which the love and the justice of God equally appear! See how Jehovah spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him up for us all."
What a voice there is in the atonement!--a voice which pleads for holiness and love, for justice and grace, for truth and mercy. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."
Do you not hear it? If you take away the blood of sprinkling from the gospel, you have silenced it. It has no voice if this be gone. "Oh," they say, "the gospel has lost its power!" What wonder when they have made it a dumb gospel! How can it have power when they take away that which is its life and speech? Unless the preacher is evermore preaching this blood, and sprinkling it by the doctrine of faith, his teaching has no voice either to rouse the careless or to cheer the anxious. If ever there should come a wretched day when all our pulpits shall be full of modern thought, and the old doctrine of a substitutionary sacrifice shall be exploded, then will there remain no word of comfort for the guilty or hope for the despairing. Hushed will be for ever those silver notes which now console the living, and cheer the dying; a dumb spirit will possess this sullen world, and no voice of joy will break the blank silence of despair. The gospel speaks through the propitiation for sin, and if that be denied, it speaketh no more. Those who preach not the atonement exhibit a dumb and dummy gospel; a mouth it hath, but speaketh not; they that make it are like unto their idol.
Let me draw you nearer still to the text. Observe, that this voice is identical with the voice of the Lord Jesus; for it is put so. "The blood of sprinkling that speaketh. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." Whatever the doctrine of the sacrifice of Jesus may be, it is the main teaching of Jesus himself. It is well to notice that the voice which spoke from Sinai was also the voice of Christ. It was Jesus who delivered that law the penalty of which he was himself to endure. He that read it out amidst the tempest was Jesus. Notice the declaration--"Whose voice then shook the earth." Whenever you hear the gospel, the voice of the precious blood is the voice of Jesus himself, the voice of him that shook the earth at Sinai. This same voice shall by-and-by shake, not the earth only, but also heaven. What a voice there is in the blood of sprinkling, since indeed it is the voice of the eternal Son of God, who both makes and destroys! Would you have me silence the doctrine of the blood of sprinkling? Would any one of you attempt so horrible a deed? Shall we be censured if we continually proclaim the heaven-sent message of the blood of Jesus? Shall we speak with bated breath because some affected person shudders at the sound of the word "blood?" or some "cultured" individual rebels at the old-fashioned thought of sacrifice? Nay, verily, we will sooner have our tongue cut out than cease to speak of the precious blood of Jesus Christ. For me there is nothing worth thinking of or preaching about but this grand truth, which is the beginning and the end of the whole Christian system, namely, that God gave his Son to die that sinners might live. This is not the voice of the blood only, but the voice of our Lord Jesus Christ himself. So saith the text, and who can contradict it
Further, my brethren, from the text I learn another truth, namely, that this blood is always speaking. The text saith not "the blood of sprinkling that spoke," but "that speaketh." It is always speaking, it always remaineth a plea with God and a testimony to men. It never will be silenced, either one way or the other. In the intercession of our risen and ascended Lord his sacrifice ever speaketh to the Most High. By the teaching of the Holy Ghost the atonement will always speak in edification to believers yet upon the earth. It is the blood that speaketh, according to our text, this is the only speech which this dispensation yields us. Shall that speech ever be still? Shall we decline to hear it? Shall we refuse to echo it? God forbid. By day, by night, the great sacrifice continues to cry to the sons of men, "Turn ye from your sins, for they cost your Savior dear. The times of your ignorance God winked at, but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent, since he is able to forgive and yet be just. Your offended God has himself provided a sacrifice; come and be sprinkled with its blood, and be reconciled once for all." The voice of this blood speaks wherever there is a guilty conscience, wherever there is an anxious heart, wherever there is a seeking sinner, wherever there is a believing mind. It speaketh with sweet, familiar, tender, inviting voice. There is no music like it to the sinner's ear: it charms away his fears. It shall never cease its speaking so long as there is a sinner yet out of Christ; nay, so long as there is one on earth who still needs its cleansing power because of fresh backslidings. Oh, hear ye its voice! Incline your ear and receive its blessed accents: it says, "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool."
This part of my discourse will not be complete unless I bid you notice that we are expressly told that this precious blood speaks "better things than that of Abel." I do not think that the whole meaning of the passage is exhausted if we say that Abel's blood cries for vengeance, and that Christ's blood speaks for pardon. Dr. Watts puts it:--
"Blood has a voice to pierce the skies:
'Revenge!' the blood of Abel cries;
But the dear stream when Christ was slain
Speaks peace as loud from ev'ry vein."
That is quite true; but I conceive that it is not all the sense, and perhaps not even the sense here intended. Revenge is scarcely a good thing; yet Abel's blood spake good things, or we should hardly read that Christ's blood speaks "better things." What does the blood of Abel speak? The blood of Abel speaks to a complete and believing obedience to God. It shows us a man who believes God, and, notwithstanding the enmity of his brother, brings to God the appointed sacrifice of faith, strictly following up, even to the bitter end, his holy obedience to the Most High. That is what the blood of Abel says to me; and the blood of Jesus says the same thing most emphatically. The death of Jesus Christ was the crown and close of a perfect life, it was a fit completion of a course of holiness. In obedience to the Great Father, Jesus even laid down his life. But if this be all the blood of Jesus speaks, as some say that it is, then it does not speak better things than the blood of Abel; for it only says the same things in a louder voice. The martyrdom of any saint has a voice for obedience to God as truly as the martyrdom of Jesus; but the death of our Lord says far more, infinitely more, than this: it not only witnesses to complete obedience, but it provides the way by which the disobedient may be forgiven and helped to obedience and holiness. The cross has a greater, deeper, gladder gospel for fallen men than that of a perfect example which they are unable to follow.
The blood of Abel said this, too--that he was not ashamed of his faith, but witnessed a good confession concerning his God, even to the death; he put his life in his hand, and was not ashamed to stand at the altar of God, and avow his faith by obediently offering the ordained sacrifice. Now, I grant you that the blood of Jesus also declares that he was a faithful and true witness, who willingly sealed his witness with his blood. He proved by shedding his blood that he could not be turned aside from truth and righteousness, even though death stood in his way; but if that is all that the blood of sprinkling speaketh, it saith no better things than the blood of Abel. "Be faithful unto death," is the voice of Abel as well as of Jesus. Jesus must have said more than this by his blood-shedding.
The blood of Abel said good things; that is implied in the fact that the blood of Jesus Christ says better things; and no doubt the blood of Abel rises to the dignity of teaching self-sacrifice. Here was a man, a keeper of sheep, who by his mode of life laid out his life for the good of those committed to his charge; and at the last, in obedience to God, he yielded himself up to die by a brother's hand. It was the first draught of a picture of self-sacrifice. Our Lord Jesus Christ also made a complete self-sacrifice. All his life long he gave himself to men. He lived never for himself. The glory of God and the good of men were united in one passion which filled his whole soul. He could say, "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up." His death was the completion of his perfect self-sacrifice. But if that were all, the blood of Jesus saith no better thing than Abel's death saith, though it may say it more emphatically.
Our Lord's blood saith "better things than that of Abel;" and what doth it say? It saith, "There is redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of his grace." "He his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to sins should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes we were healed." "He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." The voice of the blood is this, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." Now, my brethren, these are better things than Abel's blood could say, and they are what the blood of Jesus speaks to every one upon whom it is sprinkled by faith. It must be applied to each one of us by faith, or it says nothing to us. But when it falls on each believing individual, it saith to him words of blessing which pacify his conscience and delight his soul.
The apostle says that "Ye are come to the blood of sprinkling." Is it so? Has that blood of sprinkling ever been applied to you? Do you feel it? Are you preserved? Are you cleansed? Are you brought nigh to God? Are you sanctified unto God's service by the atoning sacrifice? If so, then go you out, and in firm confidence that never can be shaken, make your glory in the blood of sprinkling. Tell every sinner whom you meet that if the Lord Jesus wash him he shall be whiter than snow. Preach the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God and then sing of it. Recollect that wondrous threefold song in the fifth chapter of the Revelation, where, first of all, the elders and living creatures round about the throne, sing a new song, saying, "Thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation." Then ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands of angels take up the strain and cry, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain." Nor is this all; for the apostle tells us, "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 honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever." See you not that they all extol the Lord Jesus in his sacrificial character as the Lamb slain? I have scant patience with those who dare to put this great truth into the background, and even sneer at it or misrepresent it of set purpose. Sirs, if you would be saved you must have the blood of Jesus sprinkled upon you. He that believeth not in Christ Jesus, in Jesus the atoning sacrifice, must perish. The eternal God must repulse with infinite disgust the man who refuses the loving sacrifice of Jesus. Inasmuch as he counted himself unworthy of this wondrous sacrifice, this marvellous expiation there remaineth no other sacrifice for sin, and nothing for him but that eternal blackness and darkness and thunder which were foreshadowed at Sinai. Those who refuse the atonement which wisdom devised, which love provided, and which justice has accepted, have signed their own death-warrant, and none can wonder that they perish. The Lord lead us to glory in Christ crucified. Amen.
The Blood of Sprinkling (Second Sermon.)
Delivered on Lord's-day Evening, February 28th, 1886, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Ye are come . . .. to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."-- Hebrews 12:24-25
IN THE FORMER part of this sermon the text grew upon me so largely that it was quite impossible to express all its meaning. In as condensed a manner as possible I explained what was meant by "the blood of sprinkling," and I also enlarged upon the high position which this precious blood occupies in the gospel dispensation; but I was obliged to leave for this second occasion two practical questions which the text is sure to raise if it be carefully thought upon.
The doctrinal portion of our meditation was greatly blest to our hearts, for God the Holy Ghost refreshed us thereby: may he now fulfill his sacred office with equal power, by revealing the things of Christ to us in a way which shall cause self-examination, and arouse us to give more earnest heed than ever to the voice of him that speaketh from heaven. No theme can excel in value and excellence that of the precious blood of Jesus. Unless the Holy Spirit shall prepare our hearts, even with such a topic as this before us, we shall be nothing profited; but if he will show these choice truths unto us, we shall be comforted, quickened, edified, and sanctified by them.
It is a considerable disadvantage to some of you that you have not heard the former part of the sermon; but I hope you will read it at your leisure, and then, if you read this in connection with it, the whole subject will be before you.* Not that I can set it all out in words: I only mean that it will be before you as the ocean is before us when we sit on the beach, or as the heavens are before us when we gaze upon Arcturus with his sons. Finite language fails to convey the infinite; and if ever there was a text which deserved to be called infinite, it is that which is now before us.
Having touched, as with a swallow's wing, the surface of our great theme under the first division of the sermon, I have now to speak with you upon the second, which is this: Where are we with reference to this blood of sprinkling The text says, "Ye are come." We are not come to Mount Sinai, but we are come to Mount Zion; to angels and their God; to saints and their Mediator, and to the blood of sprinkling. This having had its share of our thoughts, we are to conclude with the question, What then If we have come to this blood of sprinkling, what then? The answer is, "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." Let us give to the wondrous truths revealed to us by the sacrifice of Jesus the most earnest heed, that our souls may hear and live. May the Holy Spirit enable us to hear the heavenly voice at this hour! "Faith cometh by hearing; may it come at this time by our reverently hearing the voice of the blood of sprinkling!
II. My business under the second head of my discourse is to answer the question, WHERE ARE WE? I have to explain what is meant by the expression which is found in the twenty-second verse of the chapter "Ye are come." Link the twenty-second verse with this twenty-fourth, and read, "Ye are come to the blood of sprinkling."
Well, first, ye are come to the hearing of the gospel of the atoning sacrifice. The Israelites left Egypt, and, having passed the Red Sea, they entered the desert, and at length came to the mount of God, even to Sinai, that terrible mountain. In the valley around that throne of God they were gathered together in their thousands. What a sight that vast multitude must have been! Probably two millions or more were encamped before the mount. Then, "The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from Mount Paran; and he came with ten thousands of his saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them." Israel crouched in the valley below, subdued by the terrible majesty of the scene, and overawed by the trumpet voice which pealed forth from the midst of the thick darkness. The Lord spake with them, but their uncircumcised ears could not bear his glorious voice, and they entreated that Moses might act as mediator, and speak in God's stead.
You and I have not come to such a terrible sight at this hour. No quivering mountain smokes before you, no terrible lightnings appall you, no thunders distress you.
"Not to the terrors of the Lord,
The tempest, fire, and smoke;
Not to the thunder of that word
Which God on Sinai spoke:
"But we are come to Sion's hill
The city of our God,
Where milder words declare his will,
And spread his love abroad."
Among the great things which you are called upon to consider under the gospel is "the blood of sprinkling." Count yourselves happy that you are privileged to hear of the divinely appointed way of reconciliation with God. You are come to hear, not of your sin and its doom, not of the last judgment and the swift destruction of the enemies of God; but of love to the guilty, pity for the miserable, mercy for the wicked, compassion for those who are out of the way. You are come to hear of God's great expedient of wisdom, by which he, by the same act and deed, condemns sin, and lets the sinner live; honors his law, and yet passes by transgression, iniquity, and sin. You are come to hear, not of the shedding of your own blood, but of the shedding of his blood who, in his infinite compassion, deigned to take the place of guilty men--to suffer, that they might not suffer, and die, that they might not die. Blessed are your ears, that they hear of the perfect sacrifice! Happy are your spirits, since they are found where free grace and boundless love have set forth a great propitiation for sin! Divinely favored are you to live where you are told of pardon freely given to all who will believe on the name of the Lord Jesus, as the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. You hear at this hour not law, but gospel; not the sentence of judgment, but the proclamation of grace. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." It is no small thing for the kingdom of God to have come so nigh unto you. Awake to a sense of your privilege: you do not sit in heathen midnight, nor in Popish gloom, nor in Jewish mist; but day has dawned on you: do not refuse the light.
In a better sense, going a little further, we have not only come to the blood of sprinkling by hearing about it, but we have come to it because the great God now deals with us upon methods which are founded and grounded upon the atoning sacrifice of Christ. If God were to deal with us upon the terms laid down at Sinai, he need not be long in finding the "two or three witnesses" to prove that we have broken his law. We should be ourselves compelled to plead guilty; no witnesses would be required. Truly, he hath not dealt with us after our sins. We are so faulty that we can draw no comfort from the prospect of judgment by law; we appeal to mercy alone; for on any other ground our case is hopeless. "This do, and thou shalt live" is a covenant which brings us no ray of comfort; for its only word to us is that thunderbolt--"The soul that sinneth, it shall die."
By the works of the law none can be justified, for by that law we are all condemned. Read the Ten Commandments, and pause at each one, and confess that you have broken it either in thought, or word, or deed. Remember that by a glance we may commit adultery, by a thought we may be guilty of murder, by a desire we may steal. Sin is any want of conformity to perfect holiness, and that want of conformity is justly chargeable upon every one of us. Yet the Lord does not, under the gospel dispensation, deal with us according to law. He does not now sit on the throne of judgment, but he looks down upon us from the throne of grace. Not the iron rod, but the silver scepter, is held over us. The long-suffering of God rules the age, and Jesus the Mediator is the gracious Lord-lieutenant of the dispensation. Instead of destroying offending man from off the face of the earth, the Lord comes near to us in loving condescension, and pleads with us by his Spirit, saying, "You have sinned, but my Son has died. In him I am prepared to deal with you in a way of pure mercy and unmingled grace."
O sinner, the fact that you are alive proves that God is not dealing with you according to strict justice, but in patient forbearance; every moment you live is another instance of omnipotent long-suffering. It is the sacrifice of Christ which arrests the axe of justice, which else must execute you. The barren tree is spared because the great Dresser of the vineyard, who bled on Calvary, intercedes and cries, "Let it alone this year also." O my hearer, it is through the shedding of the blood and the mediatorial reign of the Lord Jesus that you are at this moment on praying ground and pleading terms with God! Apart from the blood of atonement you would now be past hope, shut up for ever in the place of doom. But see how the great Father bears with you! He stands prepared to hear your prayer, to accept your confession of sin, to honor your faith, and to save you from your sin through the sacrifice of his dear Son.
Through our Lord Jesus sovereign grace and infinite love find a free way to the most undeserving of the race. Through the divine sacrifice the Lord saith, "Come now and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow;" "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Thus the rebel is treated as a child, and the criminal as a beloved one. Because of yonder death on Calvary's cruel tree, God can invite guilty men to come to him, and he can receive them to the bosom of his love. O my dear hearers, do remember this! I am not sent to scold you, but to woo you, not sent to thunder at you, but to let the soft cleansing drops from the heart of Jesus fall upon you. I beg you not to turn away, as men may well do when the tidings are heavy; but hearken diligently, for the message is full of joy. You are now in the house of prayer, addressed by one of the Lord's ambassadors, and the tidings are of peace through a propitiation which God himself has provided and accepted. We cry not to you, "Prepare for vengeance;" but we proclaim, "a God ready to pardon." We do not threaten that he will no more have mercy upon you; but we tell you that he waiteth to be gracious. If I had to say, "You have provoked him past bearing, and he now means to destroy you," what a miserable man should I be! How could I bring such evil tidings to my fellow-creatures? Then would it have been woe to me that my mother bare me for so hard a fate. Thank God, it is not so. By virtue of the blood of sprinkling the language of boundless love is heard among our apostate race, and we are entreated to acquaint ourselves with God, and be at peace.
No, my hearer, the day of grace is not over: you are not come to Sinai. No, you are not yet condemned past all hope; for you are still within reach of Jesus the Mediator. There is forgiveness. The fountain which was opened of old for sin and for uncleanness is open still. If you have sinned like David, if you will but accept the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus, I am able to speak to you as Nathan did to the guilty king, and say, "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." At any rate, God is dealing with you now on gospel terms; he sits on Zion, not on Sinai; he pronounces invitations of grace, and does not utter the stern sentence of justice.
Further, there is a far more effectual way of coming to the blood of sprinkling than this--when by faith that blood is sprinkled upon our souls. This is absolutely needed: the blood shed must become to each one of us the blood sprinkled. "How can I know," says one, "that the blood of Christ is upon me?" Dost thou trust thyself with Christ? Dost thou believe that he made an atonement on the cross; and wilt thou venture thy eternal destiny upon that fact, trusting in what Jesus did, and in that alone? If thou dost thus trust, thou shalt not trust in vain. Dost thou apply thy heart to the precious blood of Jesus? Then that precious blood is applied to thy heart. If thine heart bleeds for sin, bring it to the bleeding heart of Jesus, and it shall be healed. I showed, in the early part of this discourse, that the blood sprinkled on the lintel and the two side-posts of the door preserved the Israelites on the night of the Passover: it shall also preserve you. The blood sprinkled upon the defiled made them ceremonially clean: it shall cleanse you. Have I not often quoted those blessed words: "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin?" That blood put upon the sons of Aaron dedicated them to God; and if it be applied to you, it shall consecrate you to God, and you shall become the accepted servant of the Most High. Oh, what a blessed thing to know assuredly that we have come to the blood of sprinkling by a true and humble faith! Canst thou say that thou dost alone rely on Jesus for salvation? Canst thou call heaven and earth to witness that thou hast no other confidence? Then remember the word of the Lord: "He that believeth in him hath everlasting life. He that believeth in him is not condemned." "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God." Are not these words full of strong assurance? Indeed, we have not come to Mount Sinai, the place of trembling; but to Zion, the place which is beautiful for situation, the joy of the earth; the vision of peace, the home of infinite blessedness. Conscience no longer thunders at you for your sins, for your sins are gone. The expiation has covered them: the sprinkling of the blood has put them all away. Your iniquities are cast into the depths of the sea; God has cast them behind his back. The handwriting of ordinances that was against you Christ has taken away, nailing it to his cross, as a record in which there is no more condemning force. The debt is paid, the bill is receipted. Who can lay anything to the charge of God's elect? O beloved! it is a most blessed thing to come to the blood of sprinkling.
"The terrors of law and of God
With me can have nothing to do;
My Savior's obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions from view."
The act of faith, whereby we accept and trust in the Lord Jesus as our Mediator and Sacrifice, is the true and effectual coming to the blood of sprinkling. May none of us forget thus to come! He is the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world, and those who come to him shall be led into full salvation. Have you thus come? If you have not, why do you delay? He saith, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." Come to him, for he is calling you; come to him, even as you now are, and he will receive you without fail.
Further, to come to this blood of sprinkling means thankfully to enjoy all that comes to us through the blood of sprinkling. I have intruded upon this somewhat already. Brothers and sisters, if you have come to the blood of sprinkling, believe in the full pardon which God has given you, and in your consequent peace with God. It is a blessed word in the Creed, "I believe in the forgiveness of sins." Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? I have seen some of the children of God who have believed in Jesus, but it has been with a faith which did not realize the full blessing promised to it; for they were as troubled about their sins as if they had never been forgiven. Now, a man who receives a free pardon from the Queen, and goes his way out of prison, rejoices in that pardon as a reality, and therefore walks abroad without fear. You must believe in the pardon of God as a reality, and act accordingly. If he has absolved you for Jesus' sake, then you are absolved. Why tremble like a guilty wretch waiting for the verdict? Why talk about fearing divine wrath? If you are pardoned, the deed of grace is done, and can never be undone; for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance on his part. His remission of sin is a clear gaol delivery, a sure plea, a full quittance.
"Oh! how sweet to view the flowing
Of our Lord's atoning blood,
With divine assurance knowing
He has made my peace with God!"
I want every child of God in his inmost soul to come to the blood of sprinkling by full assurance of his justification, and then to go on to enjoy constant access to the mercy-seat, and communion with the Lord God. We may now with holy boldness speak with God in prayer, for the mercy-seat is sprinkled with the blood. O pardoned one, be not backward to enjoy thy liberty of fellowship! Thou art clean through the blood, and therefore thou mayest enter into the closest communion with the divine Father; thou art consecrated by the blood, and therefore thou mayest abound in the service of thy God. Treat thy God as a child should treat a father, and be not so awed by his majesty as to be cast down and distressed because of past sin, seeing it is pardoned. Take the good that God provides thee; enjoy the peace the blood has bought thee; enter into the liberty that thy ransom price has ensured thee. Do not stand in feelings, and fears, and dreams; but come unto this blood of sprinkling, and rest there, and be filled with joy and peace through believing. With such a ransom found for thee, dream not of going down into the pit, but ascend with gladness into the hill of the Lord, and stand in his holy place.
I think, once more, that this coming to the blood of sprinkling means also that we feel the full effect of it in our lives. The man who knows that Jesus shed his blood for him, and has had that blood applied to his conscience, becomes a sin-hating man, consecrated to him who has cleansed him. "The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again." I believe that there is no fruitful source of virtue like faith in the precious blood of Jesus. I hope your conduct will always support me in this assertion. Those who are debtors for salvation to their dying Lord should be the most holy of men. You people who think that you will get to heaven by some other way than by "the blood of sprinkling" have no sure bonds to hold you to holiness. You trust partly to your own works, and partly to what Jesus has done. Well, you do not owe him much, and therefore you will not love him much, and therefore you will not feel bound to live strict, holy, gracious lives. But the man who knows that his many sins are all washed away through the blood of Jesus, and that thus he is saved, he is the man who will serve the Lord with all his heart. He who has received a finished righteousness and complete salvation is under boundless obligations of gratitude, and the force of these obligations will urge him to a consecrated life. Over him the supreme power of gratitude will exert its sacred influence, and he will be not only carefully obedient, but ardently zealous in the service of his Redeemer. We know it is so, and we mean to prove it by our daily conduct. Brethren, I would have you exhibit more and more the influence of the precious blood in sanctifying your lives. Are there not Christians who hold the doctrine of the atoning blood, and yet are no better than others? Alas! it is so. But it is one thing to hold a doctrine, and another thing for that doctrine to take hold upon your heart and influence your life. Oh, if we believed practically what we believe professionally, what manner of persons should we be in all holy conversation and godliness! Hear me, my brother, and answer the appeals I make to thee as in the presence of the Lord. Blood-bought; canst thou live for thyself? Blood-washed; canst thou defile thy garments? Marked with the King's own name, in the King's own blood; how canst thou yield thyself to other rulers? God grant that we may come unto the blood of sprinkling till it shall purify our nature, and fill us with an all-consuming enthusiasm for him whose heart was pierced for us!
I ask you, then, to put the question closely home, "Have I come unto this blood of sprinkling? If not, why should I not come at once?" I read the other day an imaginary story, which describes the need of looking well to this great business. Receive it as a parable:--A little daughter of the house of Israel, had heard the commandment concerning the Passover night, and as she lay ill in her bed she cried, "Father, have you sprinkled the blood upon the lintel and the two side-posts?" Her father answered, "Not yet, my child. It shall be done." The daughter was distressed, and filled with fear. After waiting a little while she again cried, "Father, father, have you sprinkled the blood upon the door?" He answered carelessly, "Child, I have told Simeon to sprinkle it, and I have no doubt it is done." "But, father," cried she, "it is near midnight, and the destroying angel will soon be abroad; are you sure that the blood is over the door? Jehovah our God hath said that we must sprinkle the blood upon the lintel and the two side-posts, or else the destroyer will not pass over us. Father, are you sure it is done?" The father passed over her enquiry: he had been eating of the lamb with his friends, and thought that this was sufficient; he did not care to give too much prominence to the ghastly idea of blood. He was of a liberal mind, and would not believe that a merciful God would smite his household for so small an omission.
Then his daughter arose from her bed, made strong by the God of Israel. Nothing would content her until she had been outside into the street, and seen for herself whether the saving mark was over the door of her father's house. It was almost midnight, but by the light of the moon she looked, and no blood-mark was there! How great was her distress! "Father," she cried, "make haste and bring the basin." There it stood, filled with blood; for the Paschal Lamb had been slain. The father, at her entreaty, dashed the hyssop into it, struck the lintel and the two side-posts and shut the door, and as he did so, the midnight hour arrived. They were saved so as by fire. The daughter's obedient care and reverence of the Lord had warded off the sword of the destroyer. Oh that the holy anxiety of some one now present would work the like blessing for other households! Ask, dear child, ask the question, "Father, have you come to the blood of sprinkling? Is the blood of the Lamb above your head, between you and God? Is it on both sides of you, when you come in and go out?" O soul, be thus anxious about thyself, and rest not till thou hast by faith been purged with hyssop, and cleansed by the blood of the one sacrifice for sin.
III. The last part of our subject is this: WHAT THEN? According to our text, the blood of Jesus is the voice of the new dispensation. It is the blood which speaks, and it speaks better things than the blood of Abel. What then is our duty? How doth the apostle express our obligation? "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."
I would have a quarter of an hour's very quiet talk with you, without excitement or quibbling debate. Lend me your ears, for I speak in all love for your souls. I want, dear friends, that this great truth of atonement which I so often preach may have a fair hearing, and not be left to lie among the number of forgotten things.
Do not refuse the voice of Jesus by cold indifference. God was made flesh, and dwelt among men, and in due time he took upon himself our sin, and suffered for it in his own body on the tree, that sin might be put away by the sacrifice of himself. By his death upon the cross our Lord made atonement for the sin of man, and those who believe in him are delivered from evil and its consequences. The main point is that Jesus died for us, the just for the unjust. His atoning blood has a voice: "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." The text says: See to it; look to it; make sure of it; be careful about it. Do not miss the salvation of your Lord through neglect; for he who dies by neglecting the healing medicine will as surely perish as he who stabs himself. Be in earnest to accept the Savior: I beseech you so to do, for I am afraid that many refuse him that speaketh, because they never think of him, or of his sacrifice. It seems to me that if I were a young man I would give this matter very early notice. However deeply I might be engaged in business, I should feel that my first concern ought to be to set myself right with God. Other matters would be sure to drop into order if I could be right with the Lord of all. If I heard it said that salvation came by the blood of Christ, I think I should pull myself together and resolve to understand this singular statement. I would not let it go by me, but would endeavor to reach the bottom of it, and practically understand it. I would meditate much upon teaching so wonderful as this--that the Son of God in man's stead honored the justice of God by death, and so put away sin.
When I was a youth I had a great longing to begin life on right principles: I longed to find deliverance from sin. I would wake up with the sun in summer time to read my Bible, and such books as Bunyan's "Grace Abounding," Baxter's "Call to the Unconverted," Alleine's "Alarm," and Doddridge's "Rise and Progress of. Religion in the Soul." In these books I tried to spell out the way of salvation; but the chief thing I longed to know was, "How can man be just with God? How can God be just with man, and yet put away his sin?" Do you not think that these questions are of high importance? I beg that they may not have the cold shoulder from you. Give this question due space. I know that a great many things demand your attention nowadays; but I claim for this, which is the innermost revelation of God that it should have an early and earnest hearing. God incarnate in Christ Jesus bleeding and dying for human sin is a marvel of love too great to be passed over without thought. I pray you, therefore, "refuse not him that speaketh." Do not say, "I pray thee, have me excused." I do not suppose that you will become an infidel or act as a blasphemer towards this grand truth. I will not accuse you of denying the fact of the atonement; but my great fear is lest you should be indifferent to it. If it be so, that God himself has come to earth to bleed and die to save guilty man, it is the greatest, gladdest news that ever came to our poor erring race, and every member of that race should receive it with hopeful attention.
When you resolve to study the doctrine, do not approach it with prejudice through misapprehension. Those that hate the gospel of Christ are very busy in caricaturing the doctrine of the atonement. They assert that we preach that God was not merciful by nature, but must needs be appeased by the blood of his own Son. They charge us with saying that Jesus by his death made God loving. We distinctly teach the very opposite of that statement. What we do say is this, that God is infinitely loving--that, in fact, God is love; but that love does not cause him to be unjust or unholy; for that in the long run would not be love. God is the Judge of all the earth, and he must do right. The Lord, as the great moral governor, if he makes a law, and threatens a penalty, must execute that penalty, or else his law will lose its authority. If the penalty threatened be not executed, there is a tacit acknowledgment that it was threatened in error. Could you believe in a fallible God? The Lord has made a law which is perfect, and just, and good. Would you rather be without law? What reasonable person desires anarchy? He has backed up that law with a threatening. What is the use of a law if to break it involves no evil consequences? A government that never punishes offenders is no government at all. God, therefore, as moral ruler, must be just, and must display his indignation against wrong and evil of every kind. It is written on the conscience of men that sin must be punished. Would you have it go unpunished? If you are a just man, you would not. To meet the case, therefore, the Lord Jesus Christ, by himself bearing the penalty of death, has honored the divine law. He has shown to all intelligences that God will not wink at sin, that even his infinite mercy must not come in the way of his justice. This is the doctrine: do not listen to those who twist and pervert it. It is the love of God which has provided the great atonement by which, in a judgment better than ours, the law finds a glorious vindication, and the foundation of moral government is strengthened. Do consider this matter, and judge it fairly, with candid minds. We do assure you from God's Word that apart from the atonement of our Lord Jesus you can never be saved either from the guilt or power of evil. You will find no peace for your conscience that is worth having, no thorough and deep peace, except by believing in this atoning sacrifice; neither will you meet with a motive strong enough to rescue you from the bonds of iniquity. Therefore "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." Hear, and your soul shall live. Cavil, and you will die in your sins.
Do not refuse the voice of the Lord Jesus by rejecting the principle of expiation. If God is content with this principle, it is not for us to raise objection. The Lord God is infinitely more concerned to fix matters on a right foundation than ever we can be, and if he feels that the sacrifice of Jesus meets the case at all points, why should we be dissatisfied with it? If there were a flaw in the proceedings his holy eyes would see it. He would not have delivered up his own Son to die unless that death would perfectly fulfill the design intended by it. A mistake so expensive he would never have perpetrated. Who are you to raise the question? If God is satisfied, surely you should be? To refuse the atonement because we are too wise to accept so simple a method of mercy is the utmost height of folly. What! will ye refuse him that speaketh because the present phase of human madness dares to dispute the divine way of human redemption? I pray you, do not so.
Once more. Do not refuse this voice of mercy by preferring your own way of salvation. You have, no doubt, a way of salvation in your own mind, for few men have given up all hope. Perhaps your chosen hope is that you will be saved by doing your best. Alas! no man does his best; and the best acts of a rebel must be unaccepted of his king. So long as he is a rebel his acts are those of a rebel, and of no esteem with his prince. Perhaps your hope lies in saying so many prayers, and going to church, or attending chapel; or you are so unwise as to trust to a minister or priest. Now, we beseech you, hear the witness of God which he has given us in this book, and learn that other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ the righteous. There is one salvation, and there can be no other; all other hopes are lying vanities, and arrogant insults to Jesus. God hath set forth Christ to be a propitiation for sin. There is no other propitiation, or atonement, or way of acceptance; and if you reject this way, you must die in your sins.
I cannot help it if you do not like this teaching, although I shall be grieved if you refuse it. I can only tell you the truth, and leave it with your own hearts. Do not wilfully refuse it. When I meet you face to face in that last day, to which we all must come, I shall not be clear of your blood unless I tell you what is assuredly the truth--that in the precious blood of Christ is the only cleansing from sin, and the only acceptance with God. By believing in Jesus, as slain for you, you shall be saved; but do what you may, pray as you may, fast as you may, give alms as you may, you shall not enter heaven by any other road. The way to glory is by the way of the cross. "Without shedding of blood there is no remission." Look to him whom you have pierced, and mourn for your sins. Look not to any other, for no other is needed, no other is provided, no other can be accepted. Jesus is the sole messenger of the covenant of life and peace. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh."
"See that ye refuse not." Then there is a choice about it. If you had never heard the gospel, you could not have refused it; but now that you have heard the message, it lies within your power, and it is an awfully dangerous power, to refuse him that speaketh. Oh, can you, will you, dare you refuse my bleeding Savior--refuse the Lord of love? I see him now. The thorn-crown is about his brow. He is hanging on his cross expiring in unutterable pangs! Can you refuse him while he presents such a spectacle of sacrifice? His eyes are red with weeping; have you no tears for such sorrow? His cheeks are all distained with the brutal soldiers' spittle: have you no love and homage for him? His hands are fastened to the wood--his feet the same: and there he hangs to suffer in the sinner's stead. Will you not yield yourselves to him? I could joyfully bow before that cross-foot to kiss his dear feet distained with blood. What a charm he has for me! And you--do you refuse him
He is no mere man. It is God himself who hangs upon the cross. His body is that of a man, but it is in union with the Godhead. He who died at Calvary is God over all, and this makes his death so effectual. He whom you have offended, in order to be justly able to pardon you, hangs there and dies for you: and do you turn your back on him? O sirs, if you be wise you will come, as I said I fain would come, and kiss those bleeding feet, and look up and say, "My Lord, I am reconciled to thee--how could I be otherwise? My enmity is dead. How can I be an enemy to him that died for me? In shame, and scorn, and misery, Jesus dies that I may live. O Lord Jesus, thou hast wrought in me, not reconciliation merely, but full submission and hearty love. I joy to sink myself in thee, and to be thine for ever." See that ye refuse not my Lord. May the sweet Spirit who loves the cross, and, like a dove, hovers round it now, descend upon you all who hear my message! May the Holy Ghost apply the blood of sprinkling to you; and may you feel that, instead of refusing him that speaketh, you rejoice in his name!
When the text says, "See that ye refuse not," it tacitly and pleadingly says, "See that ye accept him." Dear hearers, I trust you will receive my Lord into your hearts. When we read of refusing, or receiving, we perceive an action of the will. Jesus must be willingly received: he will not force himself upon any man. Whosoever accepts Jesus is himself accepted of Jesus. Never was there a heart willing to receive him to whom Jesus denied himself. Never! But you must be willing and obedient. Grace works this in you; but in you this must be. Till the heart entertains Jesus gladly nothing is done. All that is short of a willing hearing of Jesus, and a willing acceptance of his great atonement, is short of eternal life. Say, wilt thou have this Savior, or dost thou decline his love? Wilt thou give him a cold refusal? Oh, do not so; but, on the contrary, throw open the doors of thy heart, and entreat thy Lord and Savior to come in.
I do not wonder that the Israelites asked that they might no longer hear the voice of thunder from the top of Sinai; it was too terrible for human ear; but you have no such excuse if you refuse him that speaketh; for Jesus speaks in notes more sweet than music, more tender than a mother's sonnet to her babe. Let me remind you, that he was wont to say, "come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." He declared that all manner of sin and of blasphemy should be forgiven unto men. He stood and cried, on the last day of the feast, "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink." I am telling you no fables; for Christ, who was born at Bethlehem and died on Calvary, by his own blood which he shed for many, assures you that there is forgiveness for every man of you who, confessing his sin, will come and put his trust in him.
"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh;" for though you hear only my poor feeble voice pleading with you, with an honest, loving heart at the back of it, yet God the Holy Ghost is speaking, and Jesus Christ himself is speaking to you. Refuse me if you please, but do not refuse my Lord. The blood of Jesus says, "I was poured out for the guilty. I was shed to manifest divine love. I am sprinkled to cleanse from sin." Each drop as it falls creates peace of heart. Stand where that blood is falling. Let it sprinkle you.
Thus the blood speaks. Will you not answer, "Lord, we come to thee, for thou hast drawn us. Thy wounds have wounded our hearts. Thy death has killed our enmity. Sprinkle us unto thyself. Bedew us with thy blood. Let us be accepted in the Beloved?" Amen. So may God hear us!
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-- Hebrews 10:1-39 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"--302, 294, 580, 288.
* See "The Blood of Sprinkling," No. 1888.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-- Exodus 20:1-21 ; Exodus 24:1-8 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"--236, 279, 291.
* For this line of thought I am much indebted to a chapter in an admirable book, entitled "Every-day Life," by C. H. Waller, M. A. Shaw and Co.
God's Word Not To Be Refused
Published on Thursday, December 30th, 1915.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, 27th November , 1870.
"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven."-- Hebrews 12:25
WE ARE NOT a cowering multitude gathered in trembling fear around the smoking mount of Horeb; we have come where the great central figure is the mercy of God in Christ Jesus. We have gathered virtually in the outer circle of which the saints above and holy angels make the inner ring. And now tonight Jesus speaks to us in the gospel. So far as his gospel shall be preached by us here, it shall not be the word of man, but the word of God; and although it comes to you through a feeble tongue, yet the truth itself is not feeble, nor is it any less divine than if Christ himself should speak it with his own lips. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." The text contains:--
I. AN EXHORTATION OF A VERY SOLEMN, EARNEST KIND.
It does not say, "Refuse not him that speaketh," but "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh"--that is, "be very circumspect that by no means, accidental or otherwise, you do refuse the Christ of God, who now in the gospel speaks to you. Be watchful, be earnest, lest even through inadvertence ye should refuse the prophet of the gospel dispensation--Jesus Christ, the Son of God, 0who speaks in the gospel from heaven to the sons of men." It means, "Give earnest heed and careful attention, that by no means, and in no way you refuse him that speaketh." My object tonight will be to help you, beloved friends, especially you that have not laid hold on Christ, who are not the children of Zion, who are joyful in their king--to help you tonight, that you may see to it.
And to go to our point at once, we shall have many things to say, and we shall speak them in brief sentences, hoping that the thoughts as they arise may be accepted by your mind, and may, by God's Spirit, work upon your hearts and conscience. There is great need of this exhortation from many considerations not mentioned in the text. A few of these we will hint at first.
First, from the excellency of the Word of God itself. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." That which Jesus speaks concerns your soul, concerns your everlasting destiny; it is God's wisdom; God's way of mercy; God's plan by which you may be saved. If this were a secondary matter, ye need not be so earnest about receiving it, but of all things under heaven, nothing so concerns you as the gospel. See, then, that ye refuse not this precious Word, more precious than gold or rubies--which alone can save your souls.
See to this, again, because there is an enemy of yours who will do all he can that you may refuse him that speaketh. Satan is always busiest where the gospel is most earnestly preached. Let the sower scatter handfuls of seeds, and birds will find out the seeds and soon devour them. Let the gospel be preached, and these birds of the air, fiends of hell, will soon by some means try to remove these truths from your hearts, lest they should take root in your hearts and bring forth fruit unto repentance.
Give earnest heed, again, "that ye refuse not him that speaketh," because the tendency of your own mind will be to refuse Christ. Oh! sirs, ye are fallen through your first father, Adam, and the tendencies now of your souls are towards evil, and not towards the right, and when the Lord comes from heaven to you, you will reject him if left to yourselves. Watch, then, I say; see that ye refuse not, stir up your souls, awaken your minds, lest this delirious tendency of sin should make you angry with your best friend, and constrain you to thrust from you that which is your only hope for the hereafter. When a man knows that he has a bad tendency which may injure him , if he be wise he watches against it. So, knowing this, which God's Word tells you, watch, I pray you, lest ye refuse him that speaketh.
Bethink you well, too, that you have need to see to this, because some of you have rejected Christ long enough already. He has spoken to you from this pulpit, from other pulpits, from the Bible, from the sick-bed. He spoke to you lately in the funeral knell of your buried friend--many voices, but all with this one note, "Come to me, repent, be saved"; but until now ye have refused "him that speaketh." Will not the time past suffice to have played this mischievous game? Will not the years that have rolled into eternity bear enough witness against you? Must ye add to all this weight by again refusing? Oh! I implore you to see to it that ye do not again "refuse him that speaketh from heaven," for there is not a word of that which he speaks, but what is love to your souls. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came not armed with terrors to work wrath among the sons of men; all was mercy, all was grace, and to those who listen to him he has nothing to speak but tenderness and loving-kindness; your sins shall be forgiven you; the time of your ignorances God will wink at; your transgressions shall be cast into the depths of the sea; for you there shall be happiness on earth, and glory hereafter. Who would not listen when it is good news to be heard? Who would not listen when the best tidings that God himself ever sent forth from the excellent glory is proclaimed by the noblest Ambassador that ever spake to men, namely, God's own Son, Jesus, the once crucified, but now exalted Saviour? For these reasons, then, at the very outset I press upon you this exhortation, "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh such precious truth", which the enemy would fain take out of your minds: truth which you yourselves have refused long enough already, and truth which is sweet, and will be exceedingly precious to your souls if you receive it. But now the text gives us:
II. SOME FURTHER REASONS for seeing to it that we do not "refuse him that speaketh." One reason I see in the text is this: see to this because there are many ways of refusing him that speaketh, and you may have fallen into one or other of these. See to it; pass over in examination your own state and conduct, lest you may have been refusing Christ. Some refuse the Saviour by not hearing of him. In his day there were some that would not listen, and there are such now. The Sabbath days of some of you are not days of listening to the gospel. Where were you this morning? Where are you usually all the Lord's Day long? Remember, you cannot live in London, where the gospel is preached, and be without responsibility. Though you will not come to the house of God to hear of it, yet be sure of this, the kingdom of God hath come nigh unto you. You may close your ears to the invitation of the gospel, but at last you will not be able to close your ear to the denunciation of wrath. If you will not come and hear of Christ on the cross, you must one day see for yourselves Christ on his throne. "See that ye refuse not him that speaks to you from heaven" by refusing to be found where his gospel is proclaimed.
Many come to hear it, and yet refuse him that speaketh, for they hear listlessly. In many congregations--I will not judge this--a very large proportion of hearers are listless hearers. It little matters to them what is the subject in hand: they hear the sentences and phrases that come from the speaker's tongue, but these penetrate the ear only, and never reach their heart. Oh! how sad it is that this should be the case with almost all who have heard the gospel long, and who are not converted! They get used to it; no form of alarm could reach them, and perhaps no form of invitation could move them to penitence. The preacher may exhaust his art. They are like the adder that is deaf. He may know how to charm others, but these he cannot charm, charm he never so wisely.
Oh! see ye gospel hearers up yonder, and ye below here, that have been hearing Christ these many years, see that ye refuse not him that day by day during so long a time has spoken to you in the preaching of the gospel out of heaven.
But there are some who do hear, and have a very intelligent idea of what they hear, but who actually refuse to believe it. For divers reasons best known to themselves they reject the testimony of the incarnate God. They hear that God the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and he hath borne testimony that whosoever believeth in him is not condemned. They know but they will not believe in him. They will give you first one excuse, and then another, but all the excuses put together will never mitigate the fact that they do not believe the testimony of God concerning his Son, Jesus Christ, and so they "refuse him that speaketh." How many, how many here are by their unbelief refusing the Christ that speaks out of heaven
Some are even offended at the gospel, as in Christ's day. When he came to a tender point in his preaching they went back and walked no more with him. Such there are to be found in our assemblies. The gospel galls them; there is some point that touches their prejudices, something that touches their favourite sin, and they are vexed and irritable. They ought to be angry--angry with their sin-- but they are angry with Christ instead. They ought to denounce themselves, and patiently seek mercy, but this is not palatable to them; they would rather denounce the preacher, or denounce the preacher's Master.
Some will even hear the gospel, the very gospel of Christ to catch at words and pervert sentences to make play of the preacher's words which he uses, when they are honestly the best he can find, and, worse still, make play with the sense, too, with the very gospel-- and find themes for loose jokes and profane and ribald words, even in the cross. Dicing, like the soldier at the cross-foot, with the blood falling on them, so some make merriment when the blood of Jesus is falling upon them to their condemnation. May it not be so with any here present, but there have been such who have even reviled the Saviour, and had hard words for God in human flesh--could not believe that he bore the guilt of sin, could not admire the love astounding that made him suffer for the guilt of his enemies--could not see anything admirable in the heroic sacrifice of the great Redeemer, but rather turned their heel against their benefactor, and poured forth venomous words on him that loved the sons of men and died saying, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."
And some have practically shown they have refused him that speaketh, for they have begun to persecute his people; they have maltreated those that sought the glory of God, and anything that had a savour of Christ about it has been despicable and detestable to them.
Oh! dear hearers, I shall ask you, since there are all these ways of refusing Christ, to see to it that ye do not fall into any of them. The grosser forms, perhaps, you would be too shocked at, but don't fall into the others. Do not especially fall into that indifference which has as much of insult to the Saviour almost as blasphemy. Is it nothing to you, is it nothing to you that God should come from heaven that he might be just in the salvation of men, and that, coming from heaven to be thus just, he should himself suffer that we might not suffer--the Christ of God bleed and die instead of the undeserving, hell-deserving sinners? Shall this be told you--pressed upon you--and will you refuse it? Will you refuse him who speaks himself, in his own sacrifice, and in the blood which he hath carried within the veil continues now to speak--will you, will you refuse him? Pray God you may see to it that in no form you do.
And now passing on, but keeping to the same point, striking the hammer on the head of the same nail, there are many reasons why men refuse Christ; therefore, see that for none of these reasons ye do it. Some refuse him out of perfect indifference; the great mass of men have not a thought above their meat and their drink. Like the cock that found the diamond on the dunghill, they turn it over and wish it were a grain of barley. What care they for heaven, or the pardon of sin? Their mind does not reach to that. See that ye--that ye, none of you, are so sensuous as to "refuse him that speaketh from heaven" for such a reason as this. Some reject him because of their self-righteousness: they are good enough. Jesus Christ speaks against them, they say; he does not applaud their righteousness, he ridicules them rather; he tells them that their prayers are long prayers, and their many good works are, after all, a poor ground for reliance." So as the Saviour will not patronize their righteousness, neither will they have to do with him. Oh! say not ye are rich and increased in goods; ye are naked, and poor, and miserable. Say not ye can win heaven by your merits; ye have none; your merits drag you down to hell. Yet many will refuse the Saviour because of the insanity of their self-righteousness.
Some, too, reject him because of their self-reliant wisdom. "Why," they say, "this is a very thoughtful age." And everywhere I hear it dinned into my ears, "thoughtful preaching," "thinkings," "intellectual preaching." And what a mass of rottenness before high heaven the whole lot is that is produced by these thinking preachers and these intellectual men! For my part I would rather say to them, "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh," for one word of God is better than all the thoughts of all the philosophers, and one sentence from the lip of Christ I do esteem to be more precious than the whole Alexandrian library, and the Bodleian also if you will, so much as it comes from man. Nay, it is the thinking of Christ we have to think about; otherwise our thinking may prove our curse. A man, if he is drowning, if he have a rope thrown to him, had better lay hold of it than merely be there thinking about the possibilities of salvation by some other means. While your souls are being lost, sirs, there is better employment for you than merely indulging in rhapsodies and inventions of your own supposed judgment. Take hold of this, the gospel of Jesus revealed of God, lest ye perish, and perish with a vengeance.
Some reject the Saviour from another cause: they do not like the holiness of Christ's teaching. They refuse him that speaketh because they think Christ's religion too strict, too precise, cuts off their pleasures, condemns their lusts. Yes, yes, it is so, but to reject Christ for such a reason is certainly to be most unreasonable, for it should be in every man a desire to be delivered from these passions and lusts, and because Christ can deliver us, shall we, therefore, reject him? God forbid that we should be led astray by such a reason.
Some reject him because they have a fear of the world. If they were Christians, they would probably be laughed at as Methodistic, Presbyterian, Puritanic, or some other name. And shall we lose our souls to escape the sneers of fools? He is not a man--call him by some other name--he is no man that flings away his soul because he is such a coward that he cannot bear to do and believe the right, and bear the frown of fashion.
There are others who refuse the Saviour simply out of procrastination. They have no reason for it, but they hope they shall have a more convenient season. They are young people as yet, or they are not so very old, or if they are old, yet still life will linger a little while, and so still they refuse him that speaketh.
I have not mentioned a worthy reason for refusing him that speaketh, nor do I believe there is a worthy reason. It seems to me that if it be so, that God himself has taken upon himself human form, and has come here to effect our redemption from our sin and misery, there cannot be any reason that will stand a moment's looking at for refusing him that speaketh. It must be my duty and my privilege to hear what it is that God has got to say to me: it must be my duty to lend him all my heart to try and understand what it is that he says, and then to give him all my will to do, or to be whatever he would have me to do or to be.
"But did God thus come?" says one. I always feel that the very declaration is its own proof. No heart could ever have contrived or invented this as a piece of imagination, the love, the story of the redeeming love of God in Christ Jesus. If I had no evidence but the mere statement, I think I must accept it, for it wears truth upon its very forefront. Who should conceive it? The offended God comes here to redeem his creatures from their own offence. Since he must in justice punish, he comes to bear the punishment himself, that he may be just and yet be inconceivably gracious! My soul flies into the arms of this revelation; it seems to be the best news my troubled conscience ever had--God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Oh! there cannot be a reasonable motive for rejecting the Saviour, and I, therefore, impress it upon you, since so many unreasonable motives carry men away, see that ye refuse not him that speaketh, and may the Spirit of God grant that you may not be able to refuse. But now coming to the text again, we have:--
III. A VERY HIGH MOTIVE GIVEN for seeing that we refuse not him that speaketh. It is this--because in refusing him, we shall be despising the highest possible authority. When Moses spake in God's name, it was no light thing to refuse such an ambassador. Still, Moses was but a man. Though clothed with divine authority, yet he was but a man and a servant of God. But Jesus Christ is God by nature. See that ye refuse not him who is of heavenly origin, who came from heaven, who is clothed with such divine powers, that every word he speaks is virtually spoken from heaven, and who, being now in heaven, speaks through his ever living gospel directly out of the excellent glory. Regard ye this, I pray you, and remember well the parable which Jesus gave. A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it out to husbandmen, and when the time came that he should receive the fruit he sent a servant, and they stoned him. He sent another, and they beat him. He sent another, and they maltreated him. After he had thus sent many of his servants, and the dressers of the vineyard had incurred his high displeasure by the shameful way in which they had treated the servants, he sent his own son, and he said, "They will reverence my son." It was the highest degree of guilt when they said, "This is the heir; let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours." Then they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. You know how the Saviour was treated by the sons of men; but here is the point I aim at; it is this: to reject Jesus Christ, to refuse him, to refuse merely his gospel, if he did not speak in it, might not be so high a misdemeanour, but to refuse him!--I don't know how it is, but my heart feels very heavy, even to sinking, at the thought that any man here should be able to refuse Christ, the Son of God, the Everlasting and the ever Blessed. But I cannot speak out what I feel. It fills my soul with horror to think that any creature should refuse his God, when his God speaks, but much more when God comes down on earth in infinite, wondrous, immeasurable love, takes upon himself the form of man, and suffers, and then turns round to his rebellious creature and says, "Listen, I am ready to forgive you; I am willing to pardon you; do but listen to me." Oh! it seems monstrous that men should refuse Christ! I don't know how you feel about it, but if you have ever measured that in your thoughts, it will have seemed to be the most monstrous of all crimes. If, in order to be saved, the terms were hard and the conditions difficult, I could understand a man saying, "It mocks me," but when the gospel is nothing but this, "Turn ye, turn ye; why will ye die?"; when it is nothing but, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved," what shall I say? I cannot fashion an excuse for any of you, and if you, after having heard the gospel, be cast into hell, I dare not think that its utmost pains will be too severe for so high an insult to such wondrous love. Ye will not be saved, sirs; ye put from you your own life; ye will not be saved when the way of salvation is plain, easy, simple, close to your hand.
"What chains of vengeance they deserve,
That slight the bonds of love."
I cannot--I could not--conceive a punishment too severe for men who, knowing that their rejection of Christ will bring upon them everlasting punishment, yet wilfully reject him. Ye choose your own delusion. If ye drank poison and did not know it, I could pity you; if you made all your veins to swell with agony, and caused your death--but when we stand up and say, "Sirs, it is poison; see others drop and die; touch it not!"--when we give you something a thousand times better, and bid you take that, but you will not take that, but will have the poison--then if you will, you must. If, then, you would destroy your soul, it must be so; but we would plead with you yet again, "See, see that ye refuse not him that speaketh." I wish I could raise him before you tonight--even the Christ of God, and bid him stand here, and you should see his hands and his feet, and you should ask, "What are these marks we see there?" He would reply, "These are the wounds that I received when I suffered for the sons of men," and he bares his side and says, "See here, here went the spear when I died that sinners might live." In glory now, yet once, saith he, this face was defiled with spittle, and this body mangled with Pilate's scourge and Herod's rod, and I, whom angels worshipped, was treated as a menial, ay, worse, God himself forsook me, Jehovah hid his face from me, that I, bearing the punishment of sin, might really bear it, not in fiction, but in fact, and might suffer the equivalent for all the miseries that souls redeemed by me ought to have suffered had they been cast into hell. Will ye look at his wounds, and yet refuse him? Will you hear the story of his love, and yet reject him? Must he go away and say in his heart, "They have refused me; they have refused me; I told them of salvation; I showed them how I bought salvation; they have refused me; I will go my way, and they shall never see my face again till that day when they shall say, 'Mountains fall upon us; hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne'"? If you will not have him in mercy, you must have him in judgment, and if the silver sceptre of God will not touch you, the Christ of God, the man of Nazareth, will come a second time on the clouds of heaven, and woe unto you in that tremendous day. Then shall the nations of the earth weep and wail because of him. They would not have him as their Saviour; they must have him as their Judge, and out of his mouth shall the sentence come, "Depart! Depart!"
Now I have to close with the last reason that is given in the text why we should see that we "refuse not him that speaketh." It is this: that if we do:--
IV. THERE IS A DOOM TO BE FEARED, for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven. You hear the din that goes up from the Red Sea when the angry billows leap over Pharaoh and his horsemen. Why is the king asleep in the midst of the waters? Why are the chivalry of Egypt cut off? They rejected Moses when he said, "Thus saith the Lord, Let my people go." If Pharaoh escaped not when he refused him that spake on earth, oh! dreadful shall be that day when the Christ who this day speaks to you, and whom you reject, shall lift up the rods of his anger, and the lake of fire, more direful than the Red Sea, shall swallow up his adversaries. See you that next sight? A number of men are standing there holding censers of incense in their hands, and there stands Moses, the servant of God, and he says, "If these die the death of common men, God hath not spoken by me," for they have rebelled against Moses. Do you see the sight? Can you picture it? If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, how shall we escape if we refuse him that speaketh from heaven? Go through the peninsular of the Arabian desert. See how the tribes drop, one by one, and leave graves behind them as the track of their march. Of all that came out of Egypt, not one entered into Canaan. Who slew all these? They were all slain there because they resisted the Word of God by his servant Moses, and he swore in his wrath that they should not enter into his rest. If they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, how shall we escape if we refuse him that speaketh to us from heaven
I might multiply instances and give you proof of how God avenged the refusal to listen to his servant Moses, but how much more will he avenge it if we listen not to Jesus Christ the Lord! "Oh!" says one, "you preach the terrors of the Lord." The terrors of the Lord!--I scarce think of them; they are too dreadful for human language; but if I speak severely, even for a moment, it is in love. I dare not play with you, sinner; I dare not tell you sin is a trifle; I dare not tell you that the world to come is a matter of no great account; I dare not come and tell you that you need not be in earnest. I shall have to answer for it to my Master. I have these words ringing in my ears, "If the watchman warns them not, they shall perish, but their blood will I require at the watchman's hands." I cannot bear that I should have the blood of souls upon my skirts, and, therefore, do I again say to you--refuse what I say as much as you will; cast anything that is mine to the dogs; have nothing to do with it; but wherein I have spoken to you Christ's Word, and I have told you his gospel, "Believe and live," "He that believeth on him is not condemned," "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved." Wherein it is Christ's gospel, it is Christ that speaks, and I again say to you, for your soul's sake, "Refuse not him that speaks from heaven to you." May his Spirit sweetly incline you to listen to Christ's Word, and may you be saved tonight.
If you don't have Christ tonight, some of you never will have him. If you are not saved tonight, some of you never will be. 'Tis now or never with you. God's Spirit strives with you, conscience is a little awakened. Catch every breeze, catch every breeze; do not let this pass by. Oh! that tonight you might seek, and that tonight you might find he Saviour. Else remember if you refuse him that speaks from heaven, he lifts his hands and swears that you shall not enter into his rest. Then are you lost, lost, lost, beyond all recall! God bless every one of you, and may we meet in heaven.
I do not know, I sometimes am afraid that there are not so many conversions as there used to be. If I thought there were no more souls to be saved by me in this place, under God, I would break away from every comfort, and go and find out a place where I could find some that God would bless. Are they all saved that will be? You seatholders, have I fished in this pond till there is no more to come? Is it to be so, that in all the ground where wheat ever will grow, wheat has grown, and there can be no more? My brethren and sisters in Christ, pray God to send his Spirit that there may be more brought to Jesus. If not, it is hard, hard work to preach in vain. Perhaps I grow stale and dull to you; I would not if I could help it. If I could learn how to preach, I would go to school. If I could find the best way to reach you I am sure I would spare no pains. I do not know what more to say, but if Christ himself shall be refused, how shall I speak for him? If his dear wounds, if his precious blood, if his dying groans, if his love to the souls of men all go for nothing, then my words cannot be anything; they may well go to the wind. But do, do turn ye to him. Cast not away your souls. Come to him; he will receive you; he waiteth to be gracious. Whosoever is heavy laden, let him come tonight. One tear, one sigh, one cry--send it up to him; he will hear you. Come and trust him; he will save you. God bless you for Christ's love's sake. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Hebrews 12". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30