Click here to get started today!
The Beloved Pastor's Plea for Unity
July 7th, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 1:7 .
In a few minutes we shall gather together as members of the Church of Christ to celebrate the memorial of his death. It is a memorable sight to see so many Christian people sitting together with the object of observing this ordinance. Frequently as I have seen it, I must confess that, when sitting in the chair at the head of the table, I often feel overawed with the remembrance that it is the largest gathering of Christians anywhere beneath the sun, and that they have come there with one common object, namely, to show our Lord's death "till he come." The question then rises in our minds whether there is real fellowship in all this, for if there is not, it is a great sham; and the more numerous we are, if we have not fellowship with Christ, and with one another, the greater is the deception; it is only having a name to live while we are dead. So I want to-night, not so much to preach to you, as to exhort you, who are about to gather to this holy festival, so to think that your thoughts shall go out toward all your Christian brethren, and that you shall feel the power of that precious blood which makes us nearer akin than even the blood of Adam, that blood of Jesus, which makes us truly brethren and sisters, yea, members of one body, and so united by living communion the one to the other. In this first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, you see the spirit of communion in the apostle Paul. He was, he says, anxious to do good to others. He longed to see the Roman Christians, in order that he might impart to them some spiritual gift. While he is writing to them, you can see that he is anxious that they may have the best thing that they can have. All his desire is for their good; he is lovingly interested in their welfare. That is how we ought to be the one to the other, not only the pastor to the people, but the people to the pastor, and the members of the church the one towards the other, all anxious for the good of the rest; no man living unto himself, but each one endeavouring to live for the benefit of the entire community in Christ Jesus. Not only did the apostle's heart go out to the church in Rome, but to all the Gentiles. He felt himself, he says, a debtor to everybody, to the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, to the bond and to the free. Do you not think that our loving sympathies should go out towards all mankind? Oh, let them do so! While you have the nearest and closest fellowship with the saints, yet desire to recognize your kinship with the rest of men, praying to God that he would enlighten them, and bring them also within the bonds of the covenant, that your fellowship with them might be loving, and true, and deep. However, the apostle especially expresses his fellowship with the saints in Rome, and to prove that fellowship he calls them by endearing names, by the highest titles which they could have, "beloved of God, called to be saints;" and then he salutes them with good wishes of the very sweetest, tenderest kind, when he says, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." While I am trying to talk on this text, will our dear brethren and sisters' hearts be going out the one towards the other, with a view to the increase of real spiritual communion in this church, and also in every branch of the one Church of Christ throughout the world? First, notice, concerning these people, their favoured condition: "beloved of God;" secondly, their sure proof of that favour: "called to be saints;" and, thirdly, their blessedness through that favour. Paul wished them to have what he was allowed to wish for them, for it was truly theirs, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." I. First, then, notice concerning these people, THEIR FAVOURED CONDITION. They are said to be "beloved of God." I wish that I could hope that this was true of everybody here, in the fullest and most emphatic sense, that we were all "beloved of God." There is a sense in which it is true, for God has a love of benevolence, and kindness, and well-wishing towards all his creatures. He is kind to the unthankful and the evil, and makes his rain to fall upon the field of the miser as well as on the ground of the gracious. He is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." God is willing that all should come to him, repent of sin, believe in Jesus Christ, and find eternal life. We are all, in some respects, partakers of the love of God. But, dear friends, there is a love to Peter which is greater than the love which Christ had to Judas. There is a love which he has to his own, which is of peculiar character, and differs very greatly from that common love which he bestows upon all the works of his hands, for there is a love of choice, and it is in this sense that Paul calls these Roman saints "beloved of God." God had chosen them; his prescient eye had foreseen them, and their condition, and he had selected them out of the mass of the Roman population that they might be his own. Whatever may be said about the doctrine of election, it is written in the Word of God as with an iron pen, and there is no getting rid of it; there it stands. To me, it is one of the sweetest and most blessed truths in the whole of Revelation; and those who are afraid of it are so because they do not understand it. If they could but know that the Lord had chosen them, it would make their hearts to dance for joy. The Lord has a people in this world, whom he has himself chosen, and given to his Son Jesus Christ, and whom the Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed from among men, for Christ "loved the church, and gave himself for it." These are the people of whom Paul speaks as beloved of God, those who have been, by divine grace, chosen out of the great mass of mankind. Beware, I pray you, of that desperately evil thing which is everywhere now, "the Christian world." There is no mixture that can be so bad as that. If it be the world, it is the world; if it be Christian, it is not the world; and the two things cannot be bound together. There is a divorce proclaimed between the two. Our Lord Jesus proclaimed it when he said, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world;" and he was never of the world. Nobody ever thought that he was of the world; and so his followers, if they are true to him, are not of the world. They are of another race. As the apostle John says, "Ye know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the wicked one." It is not, as some one said the other day, "a redeemed world"; it is a world that lieth in the wicked one, as a child lies in its father's arms. There is a redeemed people in it, whom Christ is calling out by his own wondrous and sovereign grace; but we are not to look upon them as tasting of the benefits of his redemption in any saving way until he calls them to faith in himself, and brings them to be washed in his precious blood. Then may they, indeed, be called "beloved of God." These are, again, beloved with a love of resolve. He determined concerning those whom he loved that they should be saved, that they should repent, that they should accept the great Sacrifice. He ordained them unto eternal life, and he resolved so to work upon them that, while he did not violate the freedom of their wills, or treat them otherwise than as men, yet still he would accomplish his purpose with them, he would create in them a new heart and a right spirit, he would turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to himself. These were the beloved of the Lord. And in consequence they came to be the beloved of God in another sense, namely, with a love of complacency. The Lord cannot love a wicked man with the love of complacency. He takes no delight in him; he cannot even look on him without abhorrence, for he provokes the Lord to anger by his iniquity. But there are men in the world in whom the Holy Spirit has wrought principles which delight God. He has given them a character which is pleasing to him. They are his Hephzibahs; his delight is in them. There are some, of whom he thinks with pleasure, though they were once sinful and vile as others. He has transformed them into new creatures in Christ Jesus, and now he delights in them. I do not know a more joyful thought than for a man to be led to believe that God takes complacency in him, and looks at him with the eye of loving approval. Such as he are the beloved of the Lord. And because of this, dear friends, there was also a love of unity. God joins himself to the man in whom he takes delight. There is a friendship between them more close than that between David and Jonathan, so that God speaks with his servant, and hears what his servant has to say in reply. There are men who are on such intimate terms with God that they might be called the friends of God, as Abraham was; and God is both their shield, and their exceeding great reward. Oh, did some of you know what a joy it is to be the beloved of the Lord, you would reckon yourselves to be wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked, while you are without him; and you would reckon that, even if you were poor, and blind, and naked, yet you would not be wretched and miserable if you did but know this wondrous love of God, which leads to the friendship of God, and to fellowship with God. There are many men and women, nowadays, thank God, who have a place where they are accustomed to meet with God, quite as regularly as they meet with their fellow-tradesmen at their stall or at their office. They keep tryst with God; and it would be a doleful day to them if, on any occasion, they should go to wait upon God, and find that he had closed the door against them. Yes, we have in London, and all over the world, a multitude who may truly be called the beloved of the Lord. This is a very choice privilege; if you possess it, prize it beyond everything else. This is a crowning honour. Perhaps, if you were invited to attend the Queen, you might think something of it; but what would that be compared with being beloved of God? To have the love of our fellow-men, is very sweet; there are times when it comes with peculiar pleasantness; but oh, believe me, all the loves of all relationships, all the loves of all friendships heaped together, can never be compared with the love of God to us! All the goodness that there is in human love is derived from the love of God; and is at best but as a drop compared with the boundless ocean. If thou art beloved of God, I will not stay to ask whether thou art rich or poor, or even whether thou art in good health or in sickness, neither will I enquire whether thou art in honour or in disrepute, or whether thy life is likely to be long or to be suddenly cut short. All these things are but trifles; this is the solid fact that makes thee a happy and a blessed man, that thou canst be called "beloved of God." Now the sweet thing here is that, if I am beloved of God, and you are beloved of God, here is a ground for us to meet. If you have not yet learnt to know your brother, if he is a stranger to you, and if, because of this, no love has actually sprung up in your heart, yet, since Christ loves you, when you hear that Christ loves him, why, then you will seem at once knit to him! I recollect that, when I first came to London, I used to think a great deal of everybody who came up from Waterbeach. I believe that, if a dog had come up from Waterbeach, I should have fed him; and I think that, if anybody comes from where Christ is, the Christ who loves us, we shall be sure to love him. They who are beloved of God will love all others who are beloved of God. "But they are American friends." Never mind whether they are American or Dutch; if the Lord loves them, we love them. "Oh, but they live so many thousands of miles away; and they never come here." Never mind; what if seas and mountains divide us, yet are we one, and he who loves us loves them also. I am sure that I appeal to you with no doubt as to what your answer will be. If God has put us within the same circle of his infinite affection, may we not safely clasp hands feeling that we shall never have to unclasp them, nay, not even in death? The relationship between a husband and a wife, between a mother and her son, may be snapped entirely by death, never to be renewed; if there is no grace in the heart of the husband or the child, the weeping and the wailing will be useless at the last. They are parted, never to meet again; think of that, you who are still unsaved. But if we are one in Christ's love, we may have to bid "Good-bye" to one another here on earth for a time; but it is only for a time. Those bands, of which the love of God is the raw material, are everlasting. Some of you to-night, when I break the bread, will have to go upstairs, or to go home. I very often meet with good men, who come to join the church, and who say, "Nothing decided me till I had to leave my wife behind me, or when I stopped in the top gallery, and looked down upon her, and felt that I could not come and eat with her the memorial of the Lord's death. Then I felt that I could not hold out any longer." Oh, may you have that union in the love of God which never will be broken! Seek it to-night. May we all, in these two galleries, and this great area, be encompassed within the circle of the "beloved of God"! II. Now, my second head is, THEIR SURE PROOF OF THAT FAVOUR, for they were "called to be saints": "beloved of God, called to be saints." What were these people to whom Paul wrote? First, they were saints. You notice that the words "to be" are put in by the translators; but though they are supplied, they are not really necessary to the sense. These believers in Rome were "called saints." They were not called because they were saints; but they became saints through that calling. Now, here is a name that belongs to all the people of God; they are saints. It is not merely "St. John", and "St. James", and so on, as some foolish people talk, who cannot call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, by their right names, but must always "Saint" them. I believe that there is a St. John; I dare say that there are twenty St. Johns in this Tabernacle to-night. I believe in St. Matthew; I expect that there are two or three St. Matthews here to-night. All the people of God, all who are really believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, are saints. They are all of them called saints, and we may call them so. Is not that very wonderful, that these Romans should be called saints, for they were not saints once? The Romans were among the worst of mankind. This first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is one of the most awful that ever fell from a human pen; it so describes the infamous crimes of the Gentiles, that we might almost blush to read it in the presence of a congregation; and such were some of these people, but grace came and renewed them, and they were called saints, and really were saints, that is, dedicated persons. A saint is a person who is set apart unto God, consecrated to God, sanctified, separated, a man who is in the world, but not of it; he belongs to God, and he lives for God. Now, if God loves you in the sense in which we have been speaking, he has made a saint of you, a dedicated man. You remember that Jonah was asked, "What is thine occupation, and of what people art thou?" and he answered, "I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord." That was his occupation; he was a God-fearing man. It is not every man who could give such an answer as that. When we feel that our very occupation is to serve God, then are we rightly "called saints", sanctified, set apart ones. But the word "saints" really means also holy persons. If we are the beloved of the Lord, he will make us holy persons. There is a very wide difference between that and being merely moral. Here is a man who calls himself a saint, and he is not honest; do not call him a saint, he is not even a respectable sinner. Here is a man who says he is a child of God, and yet he is guilty of lewdness. Call him a saint, when even common morality is absent? Dear friends, all the charity we can possibly pump up will not allow us to call that man a holy man who is not even a moral man. What is holiness, then? It rises above morality as much as the heaven rises above the earth. Holiness is a more spiritual, a more intense, a more divine, a more heavenly thing than morality; but he who has not morality certainly falls very short of anything like holiness. We are called not merely to be moralists, but to be saints. If you go, to-morrow, into some place of amusement, where there is something not quite clean, something full of levity, I should like somebody to whisper in your ear, "Called to be saints;" or, if to-morrow, in business, you should lose your temper, and begin to speak rather strongly, I should like something, even if it were only a parrot, to say, "Called to be saints; "and if, when you go home, you begin to be very rough to the children, unkind to the wife, and not what you should be even to the servant, I should like you to hear a voice saying, "Called to be saints." It might make you blush, if you can, there are some who cannot, but every man, who professes to be a child of God, should recollect that this is what his calling is, and he cannot prove that he is beloved of God unless he can prove his calling to saintship by being really a saint. Oh, that we had a church all made up of saints! Our churches, nowadays, are very respectable communities, I do not doubt, and there is a good deal of sainthood in them; but, oh, if they were all saints, then indeed we should tell upon the world, and tell upon the age, and the kingdom of our Lord would come! They were saints, then, to whom Paul wrote. He also says that they were "called to be saints." They were not saints originally; they were "called to be saints." They were not saints by their own native growth, they did not grow up into saints; they were "called to be saints." They were called of Christ himself. Read the sixth verse: "Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ." Being called by Jesus Christ, they were called by a voice which they recognized, a voice to which they yielded, a voice that spoke effectually, a voice that spoke transformingly; and they were called by him to be saints. Have you ever had such a call, my dear hearer? Sitting in your pew to-night, can you remember when that call came to you, as real a call as when God called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, a call from heaven, mysterious, divine, which nobody else could hear, but which you heard and obeyed? "Called to be saints." Now, then, see a ground of our communion one with another. If I have had a call to be a saint, I should not like to talk much about that to some people whom I know, for they would call it fanaticism. If you have had a call to be a saint, you have been very much in the same state; but when you and I meet together, we are not afraid to talk about it. You understand it, and I understand it; and on the ground of having had a common call, we feel ourselves at home. We are brothers and sisters at once, because we are equally "called to be saints." You cry and you sigh for saintship, and your friend cries and sighs for saintship, too. He is conscious that he comes short of his own idea of it; he struggles, he groans. You and he have a secret between you; your experience is his experience, and you two feel, having equally received a call from God, and a call for the same purpose, that you should both become the same thing, namely, saints unto God. Here is ground for fellowship. The lambs can have no fellowship with the wolves; let them keep together, and have fellowship one with another. You who love God will not find much fellowship up and down these streets. In many of the houses, if you were to speak of God, they would ridicule you. Get all the fellowship that you can one with another. Let it be said of you, as of those of old, "Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name." I like to think of this, that as we are one in being the beloved of the Lord, so are we one in the outcome of it; we have all been called, and we have all been called to the same high attainment of saintship. Paul does not say that he alluded to "the upper ten" at Rome; no, but he says, "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God." Do not you go about, and pick out a few of the best Christian people, and say, "I am in sympathy with them." Ah, dear friends, this is not like Christ; he washed his disciples' feet, but you are for looking up at their heads! Go and begin fellowship with him by washing his dear feet. Where there is aliquid Christi, as a good man used to say, anything of Christ, there should your love go forth. Where there is any work of Christ upon the soul of anyone, however uneducated, however poor, however rough he may be, ay, and however bad-tempered he may be, nevertheless endeavour to get to maintain and to increase fellowship with him, seeing that you and he have one calling, you are both "called to be saints." III. Now I come to a close with the third point, where I think we shall also find some ground for fellowship, THEIR BLESSEDNESS THROUGH THE FAVOUR OF GOD. This was the same with regard to all to whom Paul wrote: "To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." First, these good people had this blessedness, they all had the same Father. Suppose that two persons were to meet here to-night, who did not know each other, and they were to begin to talk to one another, and one said, "My father's name is So-and-so," and the other were to look at him, and say, "And where does he live?" "He lives at such a house, in such a city." "Does he? Why, do you know, that is my father?" Those two would be surprised that they did not know each other, for they evidently had the same father. I can see them backing a bit, and looking at one another, and saying, "Do you mean to say that really his name is John Smith?" "Yes." "And he lives at such a house?" "Yes." "What age is he? What kind of a man is he? Have you his portrait about you?" "Yes." "There, I have a good portrait of him, too, and it is the same man. He is father to us both; then what are we two?" "We are brothers;" and they put their arms about each other's neck, and say, "What have we been at, that, having the same father, we did not know each other?" Now, there are many Christian people who, if they came right, would be in much the same condition. They have the same Father, and do not know it, because they do not quite agree, perhaps, upon some form of doctrine, or even upon the rite of baptism, or something of that sort, which is of very great importance, but still the most important thing is, Have we one Father? If we have, then let us have fellowship one with the other. I want this to be real. When I was very young, and first joined the church in Cambridge, I sat in a pew at the communion with a gentleman, perhaps with two or three, but none of them spoke to me. The next time I went to the communion, it was the same, nobody spoke to me. I was not anybody to be spoken to; so when I got outside the chapel, I said to one gentleman, "Well, dear sir, how are you?" He said, "I am pretty well, thank you, but you have the advantage of me." "I do not think I have, sir; I do not know you any more than you know me; but I came to the communion-table to profess that I was a brother of those who were there, and I meant it; did not you mean it?" He put both his hands on me, for he was much older than I was, and he said, "What sweet simplicity! You have only acted according to truthfulness. I am glad," he added, "that you did not do it to our deacon." The next thing he said was, "Will you come in and have a cup of tea with me?" I said, "Thank you, sir, I could not do that to-night, because I am expected home at the place where I live." "Will you come in next Sunday?" "Yes." I continued to go in every Sunday as long as I could, and he remained, and does remain, a dear friend of mine to this day. Though he is very much older than I am, I established a friendship with him which never has been interrupted, and never will be, either in time or in eternity. Should it not be thus among all Christians? Is the Fatherhood of God a reality among the children of God? If it is, let their brotherhood be a reality, and let them show that they are true brothers by their love one to another. May the Lord make it so! The common talk of the universal fatherhood of God is a flat contradiction of the teaching of the Bible. There is certainly in God's Word such a doctrine as adoption. Does God adopt his own children, then? There is certainly a revelation about the new birth. What are the regenerated born into, then? Only into the same nature as they had before? Is there anything fresh given to them which makes them to have the nature of the children of God? I thought, and I still think, that it was meant that, until then, they were heirs of wrath, children of disobedience, even as others, and children of the wicked one; but by no means children of the family of the Most High. By grace alone could the saints in Rome call God, "Abba, Father." The next point in their blessedness was that they had the same Saviour, for so says the text, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." He who died for Paul died for them. The streams of blood, that flowed for the apostle, flowed for them. For them the bloody sweat, for all of them; for them the death cry, "It is finished," for all of them; and truly, I do think that, being bought with the same price, ought to make us feel that we are all one lump. We were all passed over to Christ by the one transaction of the paying down of his heart's blood to redeem us, and we ought to feel, nay, brothers and sisters, I hope that we do feel that we are all one, and we will endeavour as much as lieth in us to show this in our lives. And, more than that, they were going to the same heaven. Beloved, the home of God should be the great goal to which we are always pressing forward. You see that the men of the world are coming this way in a great crowd, all in a hurry, rushing after their gods; and we, what are we doing? Threading our way, as best we can, pushing our way against the stream, going in an exactly opposite direction to the rest of mankind. Some of you cannot do this; you keep getting carried off your legs, and you are swept along by the torrent; but the man of God must go against the current. He is not to be swept back; but he is always pressing forward, ever seeking to make an advance, contending for every inch, and making up his mind that, come what may, he cannot go back. That is not his way; he must go forward, ever pressing on toward the city that hath foundations. Christians are like a live fish that goes up the stream, always up the stream. If the fish comes down the stream, and you see it floating with its white belly on the top of the water, you know that it is dead; and we can see plenty of these dead fish floating down the stream nowadays. But the live Christian is going straight up the stream, straight up, up, up. Whichever way the tide may be running, whether it is at the ebb or at the flood, he is going straight up the stream; and, God helping him, he will proceed in that way right to the end. So, brethren, as we are going to the same heaven, let us have heaven begun below as we live in love one towards another. These saints, also, had the same grace. I cannot stop to say much about it; but Paul wished for them all that they might have "grace." If you have grace, and I have grace, the grace is the same in us all. It may take a different shape as to the fruit that it produces; but grace is one. Whether it is grace in the babe in Christ, or grace in the strong man in Christ, it is the same grace; and if we all are debtors to grace, and if grace begins, and grace carries on, and grace completes its work in us all, let us, by the bonds of that grace, be knit together in mutual affection the one towards the other. And then they all had the same peace. Oh, what a blessed thing is peace with God, peace with our own conscience, peace with the past, peace with the present, peace with the future, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding! Hast thou peace, brother, and have I peace? Then let us be as one, for we have the same peace. You must have noticed, in times of peril, how men are driven into each other's arms. If you are on board ship, and the vessel is ready to go down, his lordship will be seen at the pumps working as hard as any sweep who may be on board. Everybody must share alike when they divide the biscuit, and everybody must take his turn at working in the saving of the ship. Well, well, if it be so in time of danger, let it be so in time of peace. Let us have an equally hearty communion and fellowship the one with the other in happy times and under sad circumstances as well. So have I tried to prepare you to come to this feast. If any of you have any ill-will towards the others, have done with it. If there are any bickerings and jealousies among you, wring the necks of those evil birds, and have done with them; put them to a speedy death. Now, surely, is the time, when we come to the common table of the Lord's one family, to feel that one heart is in us all, and that by him who loved us all, and through him whom we all love, we will love each other. God grant it! I am not aware that there is any special reason now why I should urge you to this unity more than at any other time; but there is always a reason for it. There is never a company of men and women, so large as ours, but what they have little jealousies between them, and you may be quite sure that these are displeasing to God, and should be put away as speedily as possible. So let it be, and thus may we keep the feast in union with Christ, and with one another, for our Saviour's sake! Amen.
'Inexcusable Irreverence And Ingratitude' and 'Knowledge. Worship. Gratitude.'
Inexcusable Irreverence And Ingratitude
Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, May 22nd, 1892,
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
On Lord's-day Evening, July 13th, 1890.
"They are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful." Romans 1:20-21 .
This first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is a dreadful portion of the Word of God. I should hardly like to read it all through aloud; it is not intended to be so used. Read it at home, and be startled at the awful vices of the Gentile world. Unmentionable crimes were the common pleasures of those wicked ages; but the chapter is also a striking picture of heathenism at the present time. After a missionary had gone into a certain part of Hindostan, and had given away New Testaments, a Hindoo waited upon him, and asked him this question: "Did you not write that first chapter in the Epistle to the Romans after you came here?" "No," replied the missionary, "I did not write it at all; it has been there nearly two thousand years." The Hindoo said, "Well, if it has not been written since you came here, all I can say is, that it might have been so written, for it is a fearfully true description of the sin of India." It is also much more true, even of London, than some of us would like to know. Even here are committed those vices, the very mention of which would make the cheek of modesty to crimson. However, I am not going to talk about Hindoos; they are a long way off. I am not going to speak about the ancient Romans; they lived a couple of thousand years ago. I am going to speak about ourselves, and about some persons here whom my text admirably fits. I fear that I am speaking to some who are "without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
I. The first charge against those who are mentioned in my text is, WANT OF REVERENCE. "They knew God," but "they glorified him not as God." They knew that there was a God; they never denied his existence; but they had no reverence for his name, they did not render him the homage to which he is entitled, they did not glorify him as God.
Of many this is still true in this form, they never think of God. they go from year to year without any practical thought of God. Not only is he not in their words, but he is not in their thoughts. As the Psalmist puts it, "The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not at all in his thoughts." The marginal reading is very expressive: "All his thoughts are, There is no God." Whether there is a God, or not, makes no practical difference to the wicked; they have so little esteem for him that, perhaps, if we could prove that there were no God, they would feel easier in their conscience. There must be something very wrong with you when you would rather that there were no God. "Well," says one, "I do not care much whether there is a God or not; I am an agnostic. "Oh!" I said, "that is a Greek word, is it not? And the equivalent Latin word is 'Ignoramus'." Somehow, he did not like the Latin nearly as much as the Greek. Oh, dear friends, I could not bear to be an "ignoramus" or an "agnostic" about God! I must have a God; I cannot do without him. He is to me as necessary as food to my body, and air to my lungs. The sad thing is, that many, who believe that there is a God, yet glorify him not as God, for they do not even give him a thought. I appeal to some here, whether that is not true. You go from the beginning of the week to the end of it without reflecting upon God at all. You could do as well without God as with him. Is not that the case? And must there not be something very terrible in the condition of your heart when, as a creature, you can do without a thought of your Creator, when he that has nourished you, and brought you up, is nothing to you, one of whom you never think?
These people, further, have no right conceptions of God. The true conception of God is that he is all in all. If God is anything, we ought to make him everything; you cannot put God in the second place. He is Almighty, All-wise, All-gracious, knowing everything, being in every place, constantly present, the emanations of his power found in every part of the universe. God is infinitely glorious; and unless we treat him as such, we have not treated him as he ought to be treated. If there be a king, and he is set to open the door or do menial work, he is not honoured as a king should be. Shall the great God be made a lackey for our lusts? Shall we put God aside, and say to him, "When I have a more convenient season, I will send for thee: when I have more money, I will attend to religion," or, "When I can be religious, and not lose anything by it, then I will seek thee"? Dost thou treat God so?" Oh, beware, this is high treason against the King of kings! Wrong ideas of God, grovelling thoughts of God, come under the censure of the text, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God."
Again, dear friends, there are some who think of God a little, but they never offer him any humble, spiritual worship. Do not imagine that God can be worshipped by anything which is merely mechanical or external, but which is from the heart. A strange god must that god be who is pleased with what some men call worship. I have been into many a Romish church, and seen upon the altar paper flowers that would have been a disgrace to a tap-room; and I have said, "Is God pleased with this kind of thing?" Then I have been into a better building, and I have seen crucifixes and altars adorned like a fine lapidary's shop; and I have said to myself, "They might adorn a bride; but God cares not for jewels." Is your conception of God that he desires your gold and your silver, and your brass and your fine linen, and all these adornments? Thou thinkest that he is such an one as thyself. Surely, thou hast poor conceptions of God. When the organ peals out its melodious tones, but the heart is not in the singing, dost thou think that God has ears like a man, that can be tickled with sweet sounds? Why hast thou brought him down to thy level? He is spiritual; the music that delights him is the love of a true heart, the prayer of an anxious spirit. He has better music than all your organs and drums can ever bring to him. If he wanted music, he would have not asked thee, for winds and wave make melodies transcendently superior to all your chief musicians can compose. Does he want candles when his torch makes the mountains to be great altars, smoking with the incense of praise to the God of creation? Oh, brethren, I fear that it has been true of many who externally appeared to be devout, "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God"! Weep over your sin: now have you glorified him as God. Fall on your face, and be nothing before the Most High: now you have glorified him as God. Accept his righteousness; adore his bleeding Son; trust in his infinite compassion. Now you have glorified him as God, for "God is a Spirit, and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth." How far, my dear hearers, have you complied with that requisition?
Further, the people mentioned in my text did not glorify God, for they did not obediently serve him. My dear hearer, have you served God? Have you looked upon yourself as a servant of God? When you awoke in the morning, did you say, "What does God expect me to do to-day?" When you have summed up the day, have you applied this test, "How far have I endeavoured to serve God to-day?" There are many who are the servants of themselves; and there is no master more tyrannical than unsanctified self. Many are toiling, like slaves at the galleys, for wealth, for honour, for respectability, for something for themselves. But, remember, if the Lord be God, and he made us, we are bound to serve him. How is it that God has kept you alive these forty years, perhaps twice forty, and you have never glorified him as God, by rendering him any service whatsoever? This is a very solemn enquiry. I should like everyone whom it concerns to take it home to his own conscience.
There is another charge to be brought against those who glorified not God, although they knew him; that is, they did not trust him. The place for man is under the shadow of God's wings. If he made me, I ought to seek him in the hour of trouble. In the time of my need, I should apply to his bounty. If I feel unhappy, I should look to him for comfort. My dear hearers, are there not some of you who never did trust God yet? You run to your neighbours as soon as ever you are in difficulties. You trust your old uncle; but you never trust your God. Oh, what a wretched business is this, if God, who is all truth and all love, does not have the confidence of his own creatures! Remember how the Lord spake by the mouth of Jeremiah: "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see good when it cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought; neither shall cease from yielding fruit." The people mentioned in the text knew God, but they did not trust him.
In addition to this, they did not seek to commune with him. Are there not some here who never tried to speak to God? It never occurred to you, did it? And God has not spoken to you; at least, you have not known whose voice it was when he did speak. It is a very sad business when a boy, who has been at home with his father and mother for years, has never spoken to them. He came down in the morning, and ate his breakfast; he came in, and devoured his dinner; he took his supper with them by night; but never spoke to them. Would you have a boy of that kind living with you? You would be obliged to say. "John, you must go; it pains me to send you away, but I cannot bear to have you sitting here in silence. If I speak to you, you never answer me." Some of you cannot remember the time when you spoke to God, or God spoke to you: it is so very long ago, if it ever did occur in your past experience. There is a man somewhere here who did speak to God the other day. He called upon God with a foul and blasphemous oath. When he was telling a lie, he called upon God to witness it. Ah! Yes, you have broken the silence; but it would have been better not to have spoken, than to have uttered those vile blasphemies against the Most High. Your horrible words have entered into the ears of the Lord God of Sabaoth; and, as the Lord liveth, you will have more to answer for them to the great judge of all men, unless you seek his face, and find forgiveness through his Son. Our Saviour said that, for every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account in the day of judgment; how much more shall they be required to answer for every evil, false, slanderous, blasphemous word they have spoken!
But are there not many persons who have uttered an oath, and are scrupulously careful about speaking the truth, who have never had any spiritual converse with God? Wretched creatures indeed are you, even though you are healthy and prosperous, you have missed the highest good, the best blessing that man can know.
There are some who, although they know God, they do not want to be reconciled to him. there is a way of perfect reconciliation between God and man. Whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus is at once forgiven; he is adopted into the family of God; he drinks the wine of the love of God; he is saved with an everlasting salvation. There are many who know this in their minds; but it never excites any desire for it in their hearts. No, whether reconciled or unreconciled, does not trouble them. Knowest thou, O man, that the English of it is, "I defy God; I neither want his love, nor fear his hate; I will lift my face before his thunderbolts and dare him to do his worst."? Oh, fatal defiance of the blessed God! May the Spirit of God work upon thy conscience now, to make thee see the evil of this condition, and turn from it! While I speak, I feel deeply troubled to have to say what I do; but I am only speaking of what many a conscience here must confess to be true. You live, some of you, knowing God, but not glorifying him as God.
II. Now I take from my text the second accusation, which is certainly quite as sad as the other. Those who are mentioned by Paul are accused of WANT OF GRATITUDE. It is said of them that "when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
I cannot say anything much worse of a man than that he is not thankful to those who have been his benefactors; and when you say that he is not thankful to God, you have said about the worst thing you can say of him. Now look not merely at the people who lived in Paul's day, but at those who are living now. I will soon prove ingratitude on the part of many. There are many counts in the indictment we have to bring against them in God's High Court of Justice.
First, God's law is despised. You young men and women, who are beginning life, if you are intelligent and wise, say, "We wish that we knew what we ought to do for our own preservation and happiness; and we should also like to know what to avoid lest we should do ourselves harm." Well, now. The book of the law of the ten commands is simply the sanitary regulation of the moral world, telling us what would damage us, and what would benefit us. We ought to be very thankful to have such plain directions. "Thou shalt." "Thou shalt not." But see. God has taken the trouble to give us this map of the way, and to direct us in the right road; yet some have despised the heavenly guide. They have gone directly in the teeth of the law; in fact, it looks as if the very existence of the law has been a provocation for them to break it. Is not this a piece of dreadful ingratitude? Whenever God says, "Thou shalt not, " it is because it would be mischievous to us to do it. Sometimes, in London, when the ice in the parks is not strong enough to bear, they put up boards on which is the word "Dangerous." Who but a fool would go where that danger-signal is? The ten commands indicate what is dangerous: nay, what is fatal. Keep clear of all that is forbidden.
Next, God's day is dishonoured by those who are not thankful to him. God has, in great mercy, given us a day, on day in seven, wherein to rest, and to think of holy things. There were seven days that God had in the week. He said, "Take six, and use them in your business." No, we must have the seventh as well. It is as if one, upon the road, saw a poor man in distress, and having but seven shillings, the generous person gave the poor man six; but when the wretch had scrambled to his feet, he followed his benefactor to knock him down, and steal the seventh shilling from him. How many do this! The Sabbath is their day for sport, for amusement, for anything but the service of God. They rob God of his day, though it be but one in seven. This is base unthankfulness. May not many here confess that they have been guilty of it? If so, let no more Sabbaths be wasted; but let their sacred hours, and all the week between, be spent in diligent search after God; and then, when you have found him, the Lord's-day will be the brightest gem of all the seven, and you will sing with Dr. Watts,
"Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise;
Welcome to this reviving breast,
And these rejoicing eyes!"
Moreover, God's Book is neglected by these ungrateful beings. He has given us a Book; here is a copy of it. Was there ever such a Book, so full of wisdom, and so full of love? Let a man look at it on bended knee; for he may find heaven between those pages. But, when God has taken the trouble to make this wonderful Book, there are many who do not take the trouble to read it. Ah, me, what ingratitude! A father's love-letter to his son, and his son leaves it unread! Here is a Book, the like of which is not beneath the cope of heaven, and God has exercised even his omniscience to make it a perfect Book, for all ranks and conditions of men, in all periods of the world's history; and yet, such is man's ingratitude, that he turns away from it.
But there is something much worse; God's Son is refused by the unthankful. God had but one Son, and such a Son; one with himself, infinite, holy, his delight! He took him from his bosom, and sent him to this earth. The Son took our nature, and became a servant, and then died the death of a felon, the death of the cross, and all to save us, all for the guilty, all for men who were his enemies. I feel guilty myself while I am talking about it, that I do not burst into tears. This must be one of the mysteries that the angels cannot comprehend, that after Christ had died, there were found sinners who would not be saved by him. They refused to be washed in the fountain filled with blood; they rejected eternal life, even though it streamed from the five great founts of his wounded body. They chose hell rather than salvation by his blood. They were so in love with their dire enemy, sin, that they would not be reconciled to God, even by the death of his Son. Oh, ingratitude, thou hast reached thy utmost limit now, for thou hast trodden under foot the Son of God, and hast counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hast done despite unto the Spirit of Grace! Is it not terrible?
I might stop here; but, for the sake of pricking the conscience of some, I want to say, dear friends, that there are some persons so ungrateful, that God's deliverances are forgotten. Some years ago, I spoke with a soldier who rode in the fatal charge at Balaclava; and when he told me so, I took him by the hand; I could not help it, though he was a stranger to me. The tears were in my eyes, and I said, "Sir, I hope that you are God's man after such a deliverance as that." Almost all the saddles emptied, shot and shell flying to the right and left, death mowing down the whole brigade; yet he escaped. But I did not find that he had given his heart to Christ. Over there is a man who has been in a half-a-dozen shipwrecks; and if he does not mind, he will be shipwrecked to all eternity! One here has had yellow fever. Ah sir, there is a worse fever than that on you now! I cannot speak of all the cases here of strange deliverances; but I do not doubt that I address some who have been between the jaws of death. They have looked over the edge of that dread precipice, beneath which is the fathomless abyss. You vowed that, if God would spare your life, you would never be what you were before; and in truth you are not, for you are worse than ever. You are sinning now against light, and in shameful ingratitude. God have mercy upon you!
How often, dear friends, is there ingratitude on the part of unconverted men in the matter of God providences ignored! Why, look at some of you! You never missed a meal in your lives. When you went to the table, there was always something on it. You never had to lose a night's rest for want of a bed. Some of you, from your childhood, have had all that heart could wish. If God has treated you so, while many are crushed with poverty, should he not have some gratitude from you? You had a good mother; you had a tender father; you have gone from one form of relationship to another with increasing comfort. You are spared, and your mother is spared; your wife and children are spared. Indeed, God has made your path very smooth. Some of you are getting on in business, while other men are failing; some of you have every comfort at home, while others have been widowed, and their children have fallen, one after the other. Will you never be grateful? Hard, hard heart, wilt thou never break? Will any mercy bend thee? I do appeal to some here, whose path has been so full of mercies, that they ought to think of God, and turn to him with sincere repentance and faith.
But one says, "I have had good luck." What can be worse than that? Here is unthankfulness to God indeed, when you ascribe his good gifts to "good luck." "Well, you know, but I have been a very hard-working man." I know you have, but who gave you this strength for your work? "I have a good supply of brains while others do not." Did you make your own brains? Do you not feel that any man who talks about his own wisdom, and his own wit, writes "FOOL" across his forehead in capital letters? We owe everything to God; shall we not give God nothing? Shall we have no gratitude to him from whom all our blessings have come? God forgive us if it has been so, and give us grace to alter our past course at once!
Once more, there is another piece of ingratitude of which many are guilty, God's Spirit is resisted by them. The Spirit of God comes to them, and gently touches them. Perhaps he has done so to-night while you have been sitting here. You have said, "Do not talk quite so plainly to us. Give us a little comfort, a little breathing space; and do not be quite so hard on us." I hope that it was the Spirit of God rather than the preacher who was dealing with you. At any rate, he has done so a good many times; and you have tried to drive from your heart your best Friend. You have been so ungenerous to him that, when he came to lead you to Christ, you summoned all your strength, and the devil came to help you, and up till now you have resisted the Spirit of God with some degree of success. The Lord have mercy upon you! But how true is my text still, even of many who are found in the house of prayer, "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful"!
III. Now I finish with my third point, which is, that THIS IRREVERENCE AND INGRATITUDE WERE AGAINST KNOWLEDGE. "When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful."
Will you kindly notice, that, according to my text, knowledge is of no use if it does not lead to holy practice? "They knew God." It was no good to them to know God, for "they glorified him not as God." So my theological friend over there, who knows so much that he can split hairs over doctrines, it does not matter what you think, or what you know, unless it leads you to glorify God, and to be thankful. Nay, your knowledge may be a millstone about your neck to sink you down in woe eternal, unless your knowledge is turned to holy practice.
Indeed, knowledge will increase the responsibility of those who are irreverent and ungrateful. Paul says, "They are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful." Whatever excuse might be made for those who never heard of God, there was none for these people. My dear hearers, you also are "without excuse." Many of you have had godly parents, you have attended a gospel ministry, your Sunday-school teachers and Christian friends have taught you the way of salvation; you are not ignorant. If you do not glorify God, if you are not thankful to him, it will be more tolerable for the people of Sodom and Gomorrah at the day of judgment than for you, for they never had the privileges that you have despised. Remember how the Saviour upbraided the cities wherein most of his mighty works were done, because they repented not: "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! Woe unto thee, Bethsaida! For if the might works which were done in you, had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes." I hardly know which is the greater wonder, that the poor people who saw Christ's mighty works did not repent, or that those who would have repented if they had seen those works were not permitted to see them.
I wish, dear friends, that you could go out of this state of not glorifying God, and not being thankful. Surely, you only want to have the case stated, and the Spirit of God to speak to your conscience, to cause you to say, "I cannot bear to be in such a dreadful condition without regard to God any longer." May God enable you to repent to-night! Change your mind. That is the meaning of the word "repent." Change your mind, and say, "We will glorify God. There is a Great First Cause. There is a Creator. There must be an omnipotent, all-wise Being. We will worship him. We will say in our hearts, 'This God shall be our God, and we will trust him, if he will but accept us."
Then remember the years that are past. They involve a great debt, and you cannot pay it; for, if you go one serving God without a flaw to the end of your life, there is the old debt still due; there are the years that are gone, and "God requireth the years that are past." Well, now, hear what he has done. He has given his dear Son to "bear our sins in his own body on the tree"; and if you will trust Christ, then know of a surety that Christ has put away your sin, and you are forgiven. "Look," that is his word "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth." When the brazen serpent was lifted up, all that those who were bidden had to do was to look at the serpent of brass; and everyone that looked, lived. If any man of that crowd had looked at Moses, that would have healed him. If he had looked at the fiery serpents, and tried to pull them off, that would not have healed him. But he looked to the brazen serpent, and, as his eyes caught the gleam of the brass, the deadly serpent's bites were healed, and the man lived. Look to Jesus. Look now. May God the Holy Spirit lead you to do so!
"I do not feel fit," says one. That is looking to yourself. "I do not feel my need enough." Says another. That is trusting to your sense of need. Away with everything that is in you, or about you, and just trust Christ, and you shall immediately be saved. Whoever, in this great congregation will but look to Jesus shall be saved upon the spot. However great your iniquities, however stony your heart, however despairing your mind, look, look, look, look. And then, when you look to Christ, your ingratitude will be forgiven, and it will die. You will love him who has loved you, and you shall be saved, and saved forever.
When we received eighty-two into the church last Lord's-day evening, I could not help breathing an earnest prayer that this might be the beginning of a revival. May it come to-night, and may many in these two galleries, and down below, be carried away by that blessed tide of mighty grace that shall sweep them off their feet, and land them safe on the Rock of ages!
Will you, dear friends, pray for this? I shall feel that even my poor, weak instrumentality will be quite sufficient for the greatest work if I have your prayers at my back. Will you to-night at the family altar, or at your own bedsides, make it a special subject of prayer that men, who knew God, but glorified him not as God, and were not thankful, may to-night turn to God? If I could get at some of you who are living without Christ, I should like to do what the Roman ambassadors used to do. When they come to a king who was at war with the empire, they said to him, "Will you have peace with Rome, or not?" If he said that he must have time to think it over, the ambassador, with his rod, drew a ring around the man, and said, "You must decide before you cross that line, for, if you do not say 'Peace' before you step out of it, Rome will crush you with her armies." There are no doors to the pews, else I would say, "Shut those doors, and do not let the people out until God decides them." Lord, shut them in! Lord, arrest them: hold them fast, and let them not go till each one of them has said, "I believe; help thou mine unbelief." May God bless you all, for Jesus' sake! Amen.
Knowledge. Worship. Gratitude.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"So that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful." Romans 1:20-21
THOSE who boast of their knowledge betray their ignorance. Knowledge is not a possession to be proud of, since it brings with it so great a responsibility that a nurse might as well be proud of watching over a life in peril. Knowledge may become good or ill according to the use which is made of it. If men know God, for instance, and then glorify him as God, and are thankful, their knowledge has become the means of great blessing to them; but if they know God, and fail to glorify him, their knowledge turns to their condemnation. There is a knowledge which does not puff up the mind, but builds up the soul, being joined with holy love. Did not our Lord say, "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent"? But for men to know God, and not to glorify him as God, and to be unthankful, is according to our text, no benefit to them: on the contrary, it becomes a savour of death unto them, because it leaves them without excuse. Our Saviour could plead for some, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." But what plea is to be used for those who know what they do, and yet do evil; who know what they ought to do, and do it not? These have the light, and close their eyes; or, to use another figure, they have the light, and use it to sin by. They take the golden candlestick of the sanctuary into their hands, and by its help they perform their evil deeds the more dexterously, and run in the way of wickedness the more swiftly. Accursed is that man who heaps to himself knowledge till he becomes wise as Solomon, and then prostitutes it to base ends by using it to aggrandize his wealth, to pamper his appetites, to bolster his unbelief, or to conceal his vices. A man may by knowing more become all the more a devil. His growing information may only increase his condemnation. It is clear, then, that knowledge is not a possession of such unmingled good that we may grow vain of it; better far will it be if the more we know the more we watch and pray. Go on and read, young man. Go on and study with the utmost diligence. The more of knowledge you can acquire the better; but take care that you do not, like Sardanapalus, heap up your treasures to be your own funeral pile. Do not by a rebellious pride curdle the sweet milk of knowledge, and sour your precious blessing into an awful curse. It is soon done, but not so soon undone. It was the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil the eating of which brought all this evil upon us which ye see this day. Ye may eat of that tree still, if so it please you; but if ye taste not of the tree of life at the same time, your knowledge shall only open to you the gates of hell. Knowledge of itself alone is as land which may either become a blooming garden or a howling wilderness. It is a sea out of which you shall bring pearls or dead men's bones. Life and death, heaven and hell, are here: if it was said of old, "Take heed what you hear," I also say, "Take heed what you know."
The people mentioned by Paul in our text fell into two great evils, or rather into two forms of one great evil atheism: the atheism of the heart, and the atheism of the life. They knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.
We will first consider the first sin mentioned here, and then the second. I shall not look at these two evils as if you were Romans, because I know that you are not, but I shall adapt the text to your own case, and speak of these sins, as Englishmen are too apt to commit them. Thirdly, let us view the consequences, or, what comes of men not glorifying God, and not being thankful. Then, fourthly, let us fly from these sins immediately, God helping us. O Holy Spirit, help the preacher now, for all his help is in thee!
I. At once, then, let us look at this first sin, a sin very common in these days. THEY KNEW GOD, BUT THEY GLORIFIED HIM NOT AS GOD. Even in old Rome, with all its darkness, there was some knowledge of God: how can the creature quite forget its Creator? Of course the people had not that spiritual knowledge which the Holy Ghost communicates to the renewed heart, for the carnal mind cannot know God spiritually: its fleshly ideas cannot come near to his holy spirituality. But Paul means that they perceived the eternal power and Godhead of the Great Former of all things; and they might have perceived much more of his divine character and glory if their foolish hearts had not been darkened by their evil passions. When you go among the heathen, whether they are Pantheists or Polytheists, or whatever they may be, there is still a notion in the background of all their mythology of some one great superior being, elevated above those whom they call gods, some serenely just father, preserver, avenger, and rewarder of men. The most debased of mankind are still found to have some measure of knowledge of the great Creator: they hold the truth, though they hold it in unrighteousness. They can as soon shut their eyes to the sun, as completely blind their mind to the fact that there is a God. Some among the heathen no doubt attained to a very considerable knowledge of God, or at least they walked upon the borders of marvellous discoveries of the Godhead. We are greatly surprised at the language of Socrates, and Plato, and Seneca, and others: such men have lately been held up as patterns; but if their lives are studied, they will be found to be sadly defaced with what Paul fitly calls "vile affections." These were wise men, but the world by wisdom knew not God; they were great thinkers, but a clear revelation of God was not in all their thoughts. They did not like to retain God in their knowledge, and so they remained steeped in loathsome vice which we dare not mention, for it is a shame even to speak of the things which were done of the most enlightened of them in secret. They had knowledge, but they forgot its responsibilities: they knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.
We may now let all the heathen go, for it is more true of us than it is of them, that we know God. Those to whom I am speaking to-night dwell where the name of God is familiar, where the gospel of God sounds like a trumpet in their streets, where the character of God is painted with the finger of light upon the blessed pages of the Bible, and where the Spirit of God takes care that the consciences of men shall be enlightened. We know God, but I am afraid that there are many thousands and millions of our fellow-creatures who glorify him not as God; let us see to it that we do not ourselves belong to the unhappy number.
Those do not glorify God as God who do not trace all their good things to God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above," but many ungrateful hearts forget this truth, and receive the blessings of this life with dumb mouths and cold hearts. In the old time there were those who traced everything they saw to what they called "Chance"; that misformed deity has been laid aside, and on its pedestal men have set up another idol known as "Nature." Nowadays swarms of people attribute everything that is great and wonderful to "Nature": they talk for ever of "the beauties of Nature," "the grandeur of Nature," "the laws of Nature;" but God is as little spoken of as if he were not alive. As to laws of Nature, these occupy with moderns much the same place as the deities of Olympus with the ancients. What are laws of Nature but the ordinary ways in which God works? I know of no other definition of them. But these people attribute to them a sort of power apart from the presence of the Creator. One standing up in the street, venting his infidelity, said that we could not do better on Sunday than go abroad and worship Nature. There was nothing that was so refining and elevating to the mind as Nature. Nature did everything. A Christian man in the crowd ventured to ask, "What is Nature?" And the gentleman said, "Well, Nature well it is Nature. Don't you know what it is? It is Nature." No further definition was forthcoming; I fear the term is only useful as enabling men to talk of creation without being compelled to mention the Creator. I find nowadays that people talk about "Providence," and yet discard God. Among the vulgar and the ungodly this is another subterfuge to avoid the ascribing of their blessings to the Giver of them. A farmer, whose crops had failed a second time, was consoled by a clergyman, because he suffered from the hand of Providence. "Yes," said he, "that Providence is always treating me shamefully: but there's one above that will stop him." The poor soul had heard of Providence till he thought it an evil power, and hoped that the good God would curb its mischievous influence. This comes of not speaking plainly of God. For what is Providence? Can there be such a thing without the constant working of the Great Provider? Men talk of "Foresight." But is there any foresight without an eye? Is there not some living eye that is watching for our good, some living hand that is following up the eye, and providing our needs? Man does not like to think of his God. He wants to get away into a far country, away from God his Father; and he will adopt any sort of phrase which will help him to clear his language of all trace of God. He longs to have a convenient wall built up between himself and God. The heathen often attributed their prosperity, to "fortune"; some of them talked of "chance;" others discoursed of "fate." Anything is to man's taste rather than blessing the great Father, and adoring the one God. If they prospered, they were "lucky"; this was instead of gratitude to God. They looked into the almanac to find lucky days; this instead of faith in the Most High. They were superstitious, and ask their priest to tell them what would be a fortunate time for commencing an undertaking; this instead of resting upon the goodness of the Lord. Have we not some now who bless their good luck, and still talk about their fortunate stars? God, whom they know they do not honour as God.
Yes, and we have among us men who talk neither of "fortune" nor of "Nature," but of themselves. They are styled "self-made men," and they are very prone to worship the great self who made them: they are never backward in that cult. Their adoration of themselves is constant, reverent, and sincere. "Self-made men," indeed! Infinitely better is it to be a God-made man. If there be anything about us that is worth the having, it must be from him from whom every good gift and every perfect gift has evermore descended; let us therefore give Him thanks. There is no other sun for our sky than your sun in the heavens: there is no other source of good but the ever-blessed God, who has made himself known to us, whom with all our hearts we now adore.
But may I not be addressing some who, at this moment, do not bow before God, and bless him for their prosperity? They attribute it to their industry, and to their good luck. Oh, sirs, you come under the head of those who know God, and yet do not glorify him as God; neither are you thankful. The Lord help such to confess this sin, and may his grace wash them clean of it, for indeed it is a great and heinous sin in the judgment of the Most High. Justice makes a black mark against those who do not ascribe their good things to God, from whom they flow with such sweet constancy of kindness.
But we can also commit that sin, in the next sense, by not feeling any obligation laid upon us through partaking of the divine bounty. Are there not many rich men to whom it never occurs to feel bound to serve the Lord who gave them power to get wealth? Are there not many healthy persons, sound of limb, and strong in constitution, who yet do not praise the God who has kept them from sickness and death? Are we any of us sufficiently grateful for our talents, our faculties, our friends, our daily provisions? Do we not all receive a large amount of blessing for which we do not render praise to God? The fact that every mercy brings an obligation with it, and we that receive most ought to render most; for we receive nothing from God without being thereby naturally and of right laid under bonds to return to him the glory due unto his name. We are tenants, whose rent is to be paid in service and praise. It is a very blessed obligation! It is a happy bond to be bound to praise and bless God! Praise is no more a burden to a true heart than song to a bird, or perfume to a flower, or twinkling to a star. Adoration is no taxation. God's revenue of glory comes from myriads of free-will offerings, which gracious spirits delight to present to him all their days. Yet there are some who know God, but they glorify him not as God: they rob him of that which it should be their life to bring. They seem to say that they are their own, and not God's: they may live as they please; they may serve themselves. God is not in all their thoughts; and, as to spending and being spent in the service of him who gave them being, it has not yet crossed their minds. God's complaint concerning them is a just one, "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doeth not know, my people doeth not consider." God grant us grace to avoid this cruel provocation, and may we glorify God as God by practically owning the obligation under which his mercy places us.
Many may be met with who know God, but never glorify him as God, because they never adore him, and worship him, with the love of their hearts. They go to church or to some place of worship regularly, and sing psalms and hymns, and they may even have family-prayer at home; but their heart has never adored the living God with living love. Their worship has a name to live, but it is dead. They present to the Lord all the eternal harvest of worship, but the corn is gone, only the straw and the husk are there. And what is the value of your husky prayers? your prayers without a kernel, made up of the straw of words, and the chaff of formality? What is the value of professions of loyalty from a rebel? What is the worth of professed friendship to God when your heart is at enmity against him? Is it not a mockery of God to present to him a sacrifice "where not the heart is found"? When the Lord has to say They come as my people, and they sit as my people, and they sing as my people, but their heart is far from me, can he take any pleasure in them? May not God thus complain of many? Oh, let it not be so with you! I know that there are some here against whom that charge would lie if we preferred it that they know God, but they do not glorify him as God, for they do not love him. The name and service of God are much on their tongues, but they do not delight in him, they do not hunger and thirst after him, they do not find prayer and praise to be their very element, but such service as they render is merely lip-service, the unwilling homage of bond-slaves, and not the delighted service of those who are the children of God. Oh, my brethren, if we accept Jehovah as the living God, let us give him the utmost love of our souls. Will you call a man brother, and then treat him like a dog? Dare you call God your God, and then act towards him as though he were not worthy of a thought. With what joy does David cry, "I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds"! This is the kind of spirit with which to deal with the Lord. Oh, to rejoice in God all the day, and to make him our exceeding joy! Thus, and thus only, do we glorify him as God. Without the fire of love no incense will ever rise from the censer of praise. If we do not delight in God we do not fitly adore God.
There is another way of not glorifying God as God, and that is by never recognizing his omnipresence. Have we not among us those who on Sunday feel some kind of reverence of God, but during the six days of the week are godless? When they are in a place of worship they have some sense of God's being there; if they do not fear and tremble, yet they behave with decency and respect; but in other places they dare to act as if they were out of range of God. Do they fancy that God is not in that secret chamber where they follow out their passions? Do they imagine that he is not in that ribald company where they make mirth of sacred things? Do they imagine that out of man's sight is also out of God's sight? Do not some men so act and live as if God were either dead, or else were blind or deaf, utterly oblivious to everything that is done on the face of the earth? How blind must they be, who think God blind! May we never fall into this absurdity! May we feel that we cannot anywhere consent to sin for God is there. The whole earth is God's house: shall we abuse the King in his own palace? The skies are the roof of his temple, and beneath God's blue sky we ought not to find a place to sin in. Nowhere in time is there space for evil, nor in the universe is there room for sin. Yet, alas, how few recognize, "Thou God seest me," as being a death-blow to sin? "They know God, but they glorify him not as God," but think that he is absent either in person or in mind, and that in some great secret places they can hide away from him, and with impurity follow their own desires.
Are there not some again, and many, who do not admit the true glory of God because the idea of his sovereignty is very horrible to them? I lay this charge against many professing Christians that their God is not the God of the Bible, and that they have no notion of Jehovah, the true God. The one God of heaven and earth is Jehovah that God who said of old, "I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion." Certain professed followers of Jesus will not have this God, but they make to themselves a god who is under some degree of obligation to his sinful creatures, of whom they say that he is bound to treat all alike. These are guilty of robbing Divinity of its most majestic attribute, namely, sovereignty. They are for dictating to the King of kings, and tying the hands of infinite compassion, lest the supreme will of God should have too much liberty. I know of no such God as that: the God I worship can never do other than right, yet is he under no bond to his creatures, but ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will. I believe that if the Lord had denied me mercy, I had so sinned that I could never have impugned his justice. When I see him save a sinner, I look not at it as a deed which he was bound to do, but as a spontaneous act, free as the air, full of his own goodness which arises entirely from himself. "He doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth." I, for one, am perfectly satisfied with everything that God does, whether of power, justice, or mercy. My heart says, "It is the Lord, let him do what seemeth him good." I could have sung the song of Moses at the Red Sea, when all Egypt was drowned, and found in the drowning of the foe a deep background of joy, because I should have seen in it the carrying out of the divine will, the reign of righteousness, and the avenging of cruel tyranny. I make bold to say that I would have praised God as the waves went over Pharaoh; for the Lord did it, and he did right. I would have cried with Moses, "I will sing unto the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea." I expect to be among the number, though some seem as if they would decline the service, who shall for ever bless God for all his dealings with mankind the stern as well as those that seem more tender. The Lord God, even Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is the God whom I worship. I do not know this new god that has lately come up, who they say is all tenderness and has none of the stern attributes of righteousness and wrath. The God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob is the God and Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and in him my soul delights. Let him sway his sceptre even as he pleases. His will be done on earth even as it is in heaven. Again will we say Hallelujah, when all his everlasting purposes shall have been fulfilled, and the wicked shall be punished, and the righteous raised to their Father's throne. To know God, and to glorify him as God, is to regard him as supreme, ungoverned, the Arbiter of all things, whose will is law. I believe in God on his throne, God giving no account of his matters, but doing his own pleasure as God over all. Short of this I could not glorify him as God.
There are some others who know God, who fail to glorify him as God, because they do not trust him. In revelation God has presented himself as the object of trust to his creatures, and he has promised that all who trust in him shall be forgiven their transgressions through the atonement of his Son, Jesus Christ. Such as trust him he declares shall be saved; and he sends out a messenger of mercy to all mankind, proclaiming "He that believeth in him is not condemned." He bids sinners come and trust under the shadow of his wing; and he declares that none that come to him will be ever cast out. Revealing himself in Christ Jesus, he pleads with guilty men. Asking nothing of them, he entreats them to accept his mercy, which he freely presents to them without money and without price. Making no distinction in the gospel-call, he bids men come to him, saying, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all ye ends of the earth; for I am God, and besides me there is none else." When proud man replies, "No, I shall trust in myself, trust in my own works, trust in my own prayers, but I shall not trust in Christ," then he knows God, but he glorifies him not as God, and when he perishes he will be without excuse. What kind of God is that whom we will not trust? How do we honour him when we refuse to believe him? Do we accept his Godhead, and yet refuse his mercy? This cannot be.
The counts are many against men, but this one more must be mentioned many know God, but they never glorify him as God by submitting themselves to him, and yielding up their members to be instruments of his glory. If I glorify God as God, then I desire to obey God's commandments, to spread his glory, to magnify his name. I desire in all things to please him, if indeed I treat him as God should be treated. If I know God, and yet live for my own profit, for my own honour, for my own comfort, then I do not glorify God as God. Oh, sirs, when the Lord is glorified as God, we yield ourselves to his control without a murmur. He may take what he will away from us, and we say, "It is the Lord: let him do what seemeth him good." He may remove every comfort from us, and cover us with sore boils and blains, but we shall sit down with Job upon the dunghill, and say, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Knowing him as God will make us submissive to suffer, and quick to act. We shall feel the force of Elijah's cry, "If the Lord be God, follow him." We shall rouse ourselves to the utmost energy to serve him when he stands before us as really God. If we serve man and are faithful, we do the best we can for our master; but if God be our Master, oh, what service we are bound to render to him! What enthusiasm ought to be kindled in our breast by the belief that we are God's servants! "I am thy servant," is our happy claim, our honoured challenge. This it is that makes a man of a man, and something more than man. Oh, to learn this lesson, and to practise it! To glorify God as God will make us akin to angels! Even you Christians may feel that this is much beyond you yet, but towards it you must ever fly. I shrink before my Lord in speaking of him, but I desire what I have not yet attained that I may truly glorify him as my Lord and my God.
II. Now we come to consider the second sin. May the word which I may have to say about it, be blessed to many of my hearers by the power of the Holy Spirit! The second sin is "NEITHER WERE THANKFUL." Did you know, dear friends, that unthankfulness was such a sin as this? Have you ever thought of it in this light before that men were without excuse because when they knew God they were not thankful? Unthankfulness is a sin for which there is no excuse if it be attended with knowledge. I fear there are thousands who call themselves Christians, who are not thankful, and yet they never thought themselves very guilty on that account. Yet you see these sinners were without excuse, because they were guilty of a great sin before God, and that sin was unthankfulness. I tremble both for myself and you when I see want of thankfulness thus set in the front rank of sins.
How is it that we may be thankful?
I answer, first, there is in some a want of gratitude for mercies possessed. They receive many blessings without making a note of them, or even seeming to know that they have them. Their daily mercies seem to come in always at the back door, where the servants take them in, and never tell their master or mistress that they have arrived. They never receive their mercies at the front door with grateful acknowledgments; but they still continue dumb debtors, daily owing more, but making no attempt at a return. The Lord continues to bless them in things temporal, to keep them in health and strength, ay, and to give them the means of grace and spiritual opportunities; and they live as if these things were so commonplace that they were not worth thanking God for. Many professors are of that kind recipients of countless mercies, but destitute of such common thankfulness as even beast might manifest. From them God hears no song of gratitude, no chirp of praise, though birds would charm the woodlands with their minstrelsy: these are worse than the dumb driven cattle, or the fishes in the brook, which do at least leap up, and mean their Maker's praise.
Some show this unthankfulness in another way, for they always dwell most on what they have not got. They have manna, and that is angels' food; but then they have no fish, and this is a ready theme for grumbling. They talk very loudly of "the fish we did eat in Egypt," and lament those ample feasts provided by the muddy Nile. Moreover, they have none of those delightful vegetables the leeks, and the garlic, and the onions. They have none of these rank luxuries, and therefore again they murmur, and call the manna "light bread." They put this complaint over and over again to Moses, till Moses must have been sick of them and their garlic. They said that they could not get leeks, and cucumbers, and onions, and that they were therefore most hardly done by, and would not much longer put up with it. Thankless rebels! And have I not known some of God's servants say that they enjoy much of the presence of their Lord, but they have no riches; and so they are not among the favoured ones. Over their poverty they fetch a deep groan. Some live in the presence of God, so they tell us, and they are full of divine delights, but yet they are greatly afflicted with aches and pains, and all the dolors of rheumatism, and therefore they murmur. I admit that rheumatism is a dreadful pain enough, but at the same time to dwell always on the dark side of things, and to forget our mercies, is a sad instance of ingratitude. We are few of us as thankful as we ought to be; and there are some people who are not thankful at all, for instead of a song concerning their mercies, their life is one long dirge for their miseries. Must we always hear the sackbut? Is the harp never to give forth a joy-note?
Some show their unthankfulness by fretting under their supposed ills. They know from Scripture that even their afflictions are working for their good, yet they do not rejoice in the prospect, or feel any gratitude for the refining process through which the Lord is passing them. Heaven and perfection are left unsung, but the present processes are groaned over without ceasing. Their monotonous note is always this pain, this loss, this burden, this uncomfortable sensation, this persecution from the world, this unkindness from the saints, and so on; all this goes to show that, though they know God, they do not glorify him as God, neither are they thankful.
We can be guilty of unthankfulness, also, by never testifying to the goodness of God. A great many people come in and out of your houses; do you ever tell them about God's goodness to you? Did you ever take up a single ten minutes with the tale of the Lord's lovingkindness to you? Oh, what backwardness there is to testify to God as God, and to all his goodness and love! Our mouths are full of anything rather than the goodness of the Lord. Shame on our wicked lips!
Some fail, also, in their singing of God's praises. I love to be singing in my heart, if I may not sing with my tongue. Is it not a good thing for you house-wives, when you are about the house, to sing over everything? I remember a servant that used to sing at the washtub, and sing in the kitchen; and when some one asked her why she was always singing, she said that if it did not do anything else it kept bad thoughts out of her mind. There is a great deal in that; for bad thoughts are bad tenants, who pay no rent and foul the house. I knew a dear old Methodist preacher, who is now in heaven, who when he came downstairs of a morning was always tooting a bit of a hymn over, and he did the same in the barn, and the field. I have passed him in the street, and noted his happy melody: indeed he was always singing. He never took much notice of anybody, so as to be afraid of being overheard. Whether people heard him or not did not make much difference to him. He was singing to the Lord, not to them; and so he went on singing. I do not think he had much of a voice, or an ear for music, but his soul was made up of praise, and that is better than a musical education. God does not criticize our voice, but he accepts our heart. Oh, to be singing the praises of God every minute of our lives, and never ceasing therefrom! Do you not think that many fail in this respect? They are not preparing for heaven, where all is praise, or they would take up the joyful employment at once.
It is plain that many are not thankful to God, for they never praise him with their substance. Yet when the Jew was thankful, he took care to give a portion to the house of the Lord: before he would eat of his corn, he would send his sheaf to the sanctuary. If we are grateful to God, we shall feel that the first thing to do is to give of our substance an offering of thanksgiving to the Most High. But this does not strike some people, whose religion is so spiritual that they cannot endure to hear of money, and they faint at the sound of a collection. Their thankfulness rises to singing a hymn occasionally, but it never goes as far as giving a button to the cause of God. I am afraid their thankfulness is not worth more than what they pay to express it: that is to say, nothing at all. God deliver us from such a state of heart as that; and may we never, in any of these senses, be found amongst those professors, of whom it is said that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful.
III. Listen to me now carefully for two or three minutes while, in the third place, I mention, very briefly and solemnly, what was THE RESULT OF THIS.
They knew God, but they glorified him not as God, neither were they thankful. And the first result of it was that they fell into vain imaginings. If we do not glorify God, the true God, we shall soon be found setting up another god. This vain-imagination business is being done quite as extensively now as in Paul's days. Depart from the inspiration of the Bible, and from the infallibility of the Spirit of God who wrote it, and where will you go? Well I cannot tell you where you will go. One wanders into one vain imagination, and one into another, till the dreamers are on all sides. I expect to see a new doctrine every day of the week now. Our thinkers have introduced an age of inventions, wherein everything is thought of but the truth of God. We do not want these novelties. We are satisfied with the word of God as we find it. But if we do not glorify God as God, and are not thankful to him for all his teachings, then away you go into vain imaginations.
And what next? Well, away goes the mind of man into all sorts of sins. The chapter describes unnatural lusts and horribly fierce passions. Men that are not satisfied and thankful men that have no fear of God before their eyes it were a shame for us to think, much more to speak, of what they will do. A heart that cannot feed at God's table will riot somewhere. He that is not satisfied with the cup that God has filled will soon be a partaker of the cup of devils. An unthankful spirit is, at bottom, an atheistic spirit. If God were God to us, we should not be unthankful to him. If God were glorified in our hearts, and we were thankful for everything that he did, we should walk in holiness, and live in submission. And if we do not thus behave ourselves, the tendency will be for us to go from bad to worse, and from worse to very worst. This has been done on a large scale by nations, whose downward course of crime began with want of thankfulness to God. It is done on a smaller scale by individuals, to whom departure from God is the beginning of a vicious career. Get away from God, and where have you gone? If you do not love him, and delight in him, whither will you stray? May the Lord tether us fast to himself, and even nail us to the cross.
It seems that these people, of whom Paul wrote, fell into all kinds of bitterness, such as envy, murder, deceit, malignity, whispering, backbiting, hating of God. They became spiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, and so forth. Well, if your spirit is not sweetened by the adoration and the love of God, it will grow bitter. If love does not reign, hate will rule. Look at unthankful people. Hear them talk. Nobody's character is safe. There is no neighbour whom they will not slander. There is no Christian man whom they will not misrepresent. The very angels of God would not be safe from suspicion if they lived near to people of that kind. But when you glorify God as God, and are thankful for everything when you can take up a bit of bread and a cup of cold water, and say with the poor Puritan, "What, all this, and Christ too?" then are you happy, and you make others happy. A godly preacher, finding that all that there was for dinner was a potato and a herring, thanked God that he had ransacked sea and land to find food for his children. Such a sweet spirit breeds love to everybody, and makes a man go through the world cheerfully. If you give way to the other order of feeling, and do not glorify God, but quarrel with him, and have no thankfulness for his mercies, then you will suck in the spirit of the devil, and you will get into Satan's mind, and be of his temper, and by-and-by his works you will do. Oh, brothers and sisters, dread unthankfulness! Perhaps you did not think that it was so bad, but it is horrible! God help you to escape from it!
IV. And that you may escape from it, let us finish up by this exhortation. LET US FLY BY THE HELP OF GOD'S SPIRIT FROM THESE TWO SINS. Let us glorify God, as God, every one of us.
"Oh," says one, "I am full of sin." Come and glorify God, then, by confessing it to him. "Oh, but I am not pardoned." Come and glorify him by accepting pardon through the blood of his dear Son. "Oh, but I am of an evil heart." Come and glorify him by telling him so, and asking his Spirit to renew you in your mind. Come, yield yourself to his sweet gospel. May his blessed Spirit incline you so to do. Come, take him now to be your God. Have you forgotten him? Remember him. Have you neglected him? Seek him. Have you offended him? Mourn before him. Say, "I will arise, and go unto my Father." Your Father waits to receive you. Glorify him as God.
And then, next, let us begin to be very thankful, if we have not been so before. Let us praise God for common mercies, for they prove to be uncommonly precious when they are once taken away. Bless God that you were able to walk here, and are able to walk home again. Bless God for your reason: bless him for your existence. Bless God for the means of grace, for an open Bible, for the throne of grace, for the preaching of the Word. You that are saved must lead the song. "Bless the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name." Bless him for his Son. Bless him for his Spirit. Bless him for his Fatherhood. Bless him that you are his child. Bless him for what you have received. Bless him for what he has promised to give. Bless him for the past, the present, and the future. Bless him in every way, for everything, at all times, and in all places. Let all that is within you bless his holy name. Go your way rejoicing. May his Spirit help you so to do!
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Romans 1:1-22 .
HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK" 103 (First version), 1032, 699.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Romans 1". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16