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Crucified with Christ – JC Philpot

October 14, 2010 Comments off

Crucifixion with Christ

Preached at the North Street Chapel, Stamford, on Lord’s Day

Morning, August 19, 1860

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Gal. 2:20

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest mystery of divine wisdom and Almighty power, of eternal love and superabounding grace, which could ever have been displayed before the eyes of men or angels. I call it a mystery, not only as incomprehensible by natural intellect, but because the very essence of a mystery, in the Scripture sense of the term, is to be hidden from some and revealed to others. Thus the Lord said to his disciples when they asked him why he spake unto the multitude in parables, “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.”

(Matt. 13:11.) In the same spirit he on another occasion said, “I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight.” (Luke 10:21.) The cross, then, is a mystery, not only as enfolding in its bosom the deepest treasures of heavenly wisdom and grace, but because the power and wisdom of it are hidden from some, and made known to others. The apostle, therefore, begs of the saints at Ephesus that they would pray for him that utterance might be given unto him that he might open his mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which he was an ambassador in bonds. (Eph. 6:19, 20.) And again he says, “Unto me who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 3:8, 9.) Salvation by the cross was of all doctrines the most offensive, and the most unintelligible. That the promised Messiah should be crucified was unto the Jew, who anticipated a triumphant king, a stumbling block; that a crucified man was the Son of God was to the Greek foolishness, for it contradicted sense and reason. Thus the preaching of the cross was to them that perish foolishness. But there were those whose eyes were divinely enlightened to see, and their hearts opened to believe and receive it. He therefore adds, “But unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18.) Though foolishness to the learned Greek, there were those who saw in the cross a wisdom as much surpassing all other as the midday sun surpasses the faintest star; which made the apostle say, “Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought: but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” (1 Cor. 2:6, 7, 8.) This, then, is the mystery of the cross; this is the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory, that the Son of God, who as God the Son, is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father and the Holy Ghost, should take our nature into union with his own divine Person, and in that nature should suffer, agonize, bleed, and die; that by his sufferings, bloodshedding, and death an innumerable multitude of sinners should be redeemed from the curse of the law and the damnation of hell, and be saved in himself with an everlasting salvation. It is not my present object to enter further into the depth of this mystery as a display of the infinite wisdom, love, and grace of God; but I may briefly say that by the cross of our suffering, dying Lord, justice and mercy were thoroughly harmonised; every attribute of God blessedly glorified; the Son of his love supremely exalted; redemption’s work fully accomplished; the church everlastingly saved; Satan entirely baffled and defeated; and an eternal revenue of praise laid up to redound to the glory of a triune Jehovah. Well then may we say, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. 3:16.)

But there never lived a man more deeply penetrated, or more thoroughly and inwardly possessed with a sense of the grace and glory displayed in this mystery than the apostle Paul. Such wisdom and power, such love and grace, such fulness of salvation did he see and feel in the cross, that, as a preacher of the gospel, he was determined to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified. United to Christ by a living faith, he could declare, “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14.) And knowing experimentally what it was to have sacred fellowship with Christ in his sufferings and death, he could speak of himself as being crucified with him, as if he were so one with Jesus in spirit, so conformed to his suffering image, and so baptized into his death, that it was as if Christ and he were nailed to one and the same cross. “I am crucified,” he says, “with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

In opening up these words, I shall, with God’s blessing, direct your minds, I.—First, to the grand foundation on which the whole of the text rests, as intimated in the last clause—the love and gift of the Son of God.

II.—Secondly, the effect of that being made known to the soul by a divine power: it causes it to be crucified with Christ.

III.—Thirdly, the consequence of this crucifixion with Christ; which is not, as we should expect, death, but rather life:”Nevertheless, I live.”

IV.—Fourthly, that self has no hand in this divine life; “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.”

V.—Fifthly, that this life is a life of faith on the Son of God.

I.—Union with Christ is the grand, I may say the sole source and spring of vital godliness; for union must precede communion; and “fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ” is indeed the very sum and substance, the very life and power and blessedness of all true religion. What fruit can the branch bear without union with the vine? And is not union maintained as well as manifested by abiding communion? “Abide in me, and I in you.

As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4.) But the original source as well as the closeness and individuality of this union and communion with Christ are pointed out by the language of the apostle, “who loved me and gave himself for me.” He had a testimony in his own breast that the Son of God loved him, and gave himself for him; and it was the sweet enjoyment of this inward assurance of Christ’s personal, individual love to his soul, and the flowing forth of faith and love toward him in return, which enabled him to say in the language of holy fellowship with him, “I am crucified with Christ.”

Now, many of the saints of God may not be so highly favoured as to take up into their lips Paul’s language of strong, personal assurance. They may hope, and at times may rise beyond a hope, into a sweet confidence, by the shining in of the Sun of Righteousness, that the Son of God has loved them and given himself for them. But the strength of Paul’s persuasion and the full expression of his confidence so far out-strip both their  assurance and their language, that many real saints of God confess they come short both in heart and tongue. Yet their coming short of this blessed certainty as an enjoyed reality in the heart, and as a declared confidence by the mouth—for conscience and tongue must move together where God works—does not affect the fact. Clouds and mists sometimes obscure the sun, but they do not blot him out of the sky. So the mists and fogs of unbelief may obscure the Sun of Righteousness, yet they do not blot him out of the spiritual hemisphere. He still loved you and gave himself for you who believe in his name, though you may not be able to rise up to the faith of Paul, or speak with the same fulness of assurance. The bud has the same union with the vine as the branch, but not the same strength of union; the babe is as much a member of the family as the grownup son, but has not the same knowledge of its relationship; the foot is as much a part of the body as the eye or the hand, though it has not the same nearness to the head, or the same honours and employments. If, then, you can find any inward testimony, be it but a rising hope of your interest in the Lord Jesus Christ, and that he loved you and gave himself for you, look with me to the three particulars connected with Paul’s expression of his confidence:—First, the Person of “the Son of God.” Secondly, the love which he, as the Son of God, bore to his church. Thirdly, the fruit of that love, in giving himself for her; for that the church was the object both of the love and the gift, is plain enough from the apostle’s words, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph. 5:25.)

i. In speaking here of the glorious Person of the Son of God, I do not wish to enter into the field of controversy. In fact, with me, the true, proper, and eternal Sonship of our blessed Lord is not a matter of controversy. I receive it as a most blessed truth, no more to be controverted than the inspiration of the Scriptures, the Deity of Christ, or the Trinity itself. Apart, then, from all controversy, looking at the words in the simplicity of faith, receiving them purely and plainly as the Spirit of God dictated them and left them on record by the hand of Paul, I would ask any child of God here present if they do not in themselves afford sufficient proof that the Son of God was the Son of God from all eternity? If any one doubt this conclusion, and I were to ask him “When did the love of Christ begin?” must not his answer, to be consistent with truth, be, “It had no beginning, for his own words are ‘I have loved thee kith an everlasting love; therefore, with loving-kindness have I drawn thee?'” (Jer. 31:3.) And he would rightly add, “It must from the very nature of God, from the eternity of his purposes and the infinity of his perfections, be eternal, for if this love knew beginning, it could know end.” But Jesus, as the Son of God, loved Paul; for we read, “the Son of God loved me;” if, then, this love was eternal, the Son of God must have been eternal, or he would have loved him as the Son of God before he was the Son of God. Thus, without entering into the field of controversy, to seek there for other arguments, in the simplicity and in the strength of faith, as taking our stand upon this one text, were there no other, we at once say, if the Son of God loved his church from everlasting, he was the Son of God from everlasting. But, to bring this to a practical head, to a close and experimental bearing upon our own conscience, how can we know for ourselves that he is the Son of God who loved us from all eternity, unless we have some knowledge of him as the Son of God from all eternity? This makes me say that I have passed beyond the region of controversy—beyond the Arctic Sea ever shrouded in the chilling mists and fogs of dispute and uncertainty into the Pacific Ocean of a southern hemisphere, where we can look at the Sun of Righteousness as shining in the bright, clear sky. Those who doubt or deny his divine Sonship have never seen his glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. Theirs is not the faith of Peter, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16); nor of Nathanael, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God” (John 1:49); nor of Paul, when straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues that he is the Son of God (Acts 9:20); nor can they say with holy John, “And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20.) If we are to live a life of faith in the Son of God, we must know him in our own souls to be the Son of God, as John so plainly speaks. If we are to believe that he loved us from all eternity, we must have some knowledge of him as the Son of God from all eternity. But, how can we have this knowledge or this faith unless he is pleased to reveal himself to our soul? As Paul speaks in this very Epistle, “When it pleased God who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace, to reveal his Son in me.” (Gal. 1:15, 16.) God revealed his Son in Paul’s heart, and by this revelation he knew for himself that he was the Son of God; for he received him as such into his inmost soul and into his warmest affections. And when the Son of God was thus revealed in his soul, the love of God was shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost; and as that love was shed abroad, it raised up a firm persuasion that the same Son of God loved him, and had loved him from all eternity.

For when the Son of God was revealed, love was revealed in him, and with him, and through him. Yea, the Son of God himself came with such power into his soul, shone into his heart with such heavenly beams, and revealed his love and blood and grace so gloriously and so conspicuously that he could say, in the sweet language of assurance, “the Son of God loved me.”

ii. But look with me at this love. When did this love begin? As I said before, this love knew no beginning; for if this love knew beginning, it might know end; if it knew rise, it might know decline. If you can assign an origin to any thing, you must assign to it a termination; for every thing which in time began to be, may in time cease to be.

1. It was then necessarily eternal; and in this consists its peculiar blessedness, that, being from eternity, it will last to eternity; having no beginning, it will know no end. What would heaven be, if it lasted only a few ages, and then an end, a blank, a dissolution, an annihilation, a ceasing of love? What else but a very ceasing to be? for God being love, the end of his loving would be the end of his being. The very thought, the remotest prospect, would change the anthems of heaven into wailings of mourning and lamentation. It would thoroughly damp, if not fully extinguish the joys of the saints, that they could look forward to a period when those joys would cease, and a Triune God, he who is God the Son, would love them no more.

2. But this love was not only eternal: it was infinite. We speak sometimes of the attributes of God, and we use the words to help our conception. But God, strictly speaking, has no attributes. His attributes are himself. We speak, for instance, of the love of God, but God is love; of the justice of God, but God is just; of the holiness of God, but God is holy; of the purity of God, but God is pure. As he is all love, so he is all justice, all purity, all holiness.

Love, then, is infinite, because God is infinite: his very name, his very character, his very nature, his very essence is infinite love.

He would cease to be God if he did not love, and if that love were not as large as himself, as infinite as his own self-existent, incomprehensible essence. The love of the Son of God as God the Son, is co-equal and coeternal with the love of the Father; for the holy Trinity has not three distinct loves, either in date or degree.

The Father loves from all eternity; the Holy Ghost loves from all eternity. The love of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, as one, equal, indivisible, infinite Jehovah cannot be otherwise but One. We therefore read of “the love of God,” that is the Father (2 Cor. 13:14); of “the love of the Son,” in our text; and of “the love of the Spirit.” (Rom. 15:30.) This love being infinite, can bear with all our infirmities, with all those grievous sins that would, unless that love were boundless, have long ago broken it utterly through. This is beautifully expressed by the prophet. “How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? how shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? how shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim: for I am God, and not man.” (Hosea 11:8, 9.).

3. But this love is also unchangeable, “I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (Mal. 3:6.) “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.” (Heb. 13:8.) Thus this love knows neither variableness nor shadow of turning: but is always fixed on the same objects, without the least change, the least augmentation, or the least declension. It is hard to conceive love that knows no variation, if we measure the love of God by our own. We are naturally mutable creatures, overwhelmed by infirmities through the fall, and, therefore, ever subject to changes; but he changeth not.

Our love to him is ever sinking or rising, as fluctuating as the tides of the sea, as variable as the winds in the sky; but his love to us, whose hearts he has touched by his grace, is as immutable as his own immutable Being.

4. And from this circumstance his love is indissoluble. Our love to each other is soon dissolved. How a little strife, a little envy, a little difference of opinion, an angry word, or a reported tale, may alienate our affections from one another! How soon jealousy, suspicion, or dislike may creep into our warmest feelings and sever the closest ties! Were we to review the chains which have bound us at various times to our warmest friends, how many would lie upon the ground with broken links; links, alas! so severed as to yield scarce any prospect of re-union in this timestate.

I fully admit that a spiritual union is never really broken; but Christian communion and that sweet intercourse which should exist among brethren are often so interrupted that they seem almost utterly gone. What would be our condition for time or for eternity if the love of Christ to us resembled our love to each other? But one of the sweetest features of the love of the Son of God to his saints is, that it is indissoluble.

III. But, now let us look at the fruits, and results of that love wherewith Christ loved his church. And what heart can conceive or what tongue express the height, the depth, the length, and the breadth of that love? As the apostle speaks, “that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge?” (Eph. 3:17, 18.) Could he have afforded a greater, a richer, a clearer evidence of this love than by giving himself for us? There is something in this expression which seems to outstrip all conception and all expression. As viewed by faith, there is something so large, so comprehensive, and yet so inexpressibly touching in the words “gave himself for me,” that I despair of bringing it before your minds as my heart could desire. But let us make the attempt; and in doing so let us first, if the Lord enable, take a view by faith of the Son of God as lying in the bosom of

the Father from all eternity as his only-begotten Son. If thus enabled to contemplate the glories of heaven, the bliss and blessedness that fill those celestial courts, the sweet employments ever going on in the worship and adoration of angels, and what far surpasses all human thought, the holy fellowship and divine intercommunion between the three Persons of the sacred Godhead, and that from all eternity,—shall we then not see what Jesus left in leaving the bosom of God? Now if, lowering our view, we cast a glance at the sins and sorrows of this lower world, what it is in itself, as a mere earthly abode, and what sin has made it with all its dreadful consequences; then to look at the Son of God freely giving himself out of the bosom of his Father and all the bliss and glory of heaven, to come down to this world of sin and grief: we seem for a few moments lost in wonder at love so great, at love so free, at love so self-sacrificing as this. How broad to spread itself over such a seething mass of

sin and sorrow; how long to know neither beginning nor end, but to stretch from eternity to eternity; how deep to sink so low as the gates of the grave; how high to raise from thence poor lost sinners to the glories of heaven! And when we take a further view of what the Lord Jesus Christ gave himself unto as well as gave himself from, for we must take both into consideration; when we see by the eye of faith the condescension of his glorious Majesty in taking our flesh in the womb of the Virgin; when we think how he tabernacled here below amid such scenes of misery and abomination as daily met his eye; when we view him in Pilate’s judgment hall exposed to the buffetings of the rude Roman soldiers, scourged and mangled, as if he were the vilest malefactor, and then see him hanging upon the cross, and there dying the most painful and ignominious death that the cruelty of man had ever devised; and when we remember that he who bled and suffered there was the Son of God who thus gave himself to redeem us from the lowest hell, how lost we seem to be in wonder! These are the things which the angels desire to look into; for they in heaven beheld his glory before they saw him in the manger, ministered to him in the wilderness, strengthened him in the garden, viewed him on the cross, and watched over his sepulchre. A part of the great mystery of godliness is that “God manifest in the flesh” was “seen of angels” (1 Tim. 3:16); seen by them as the Son of God in heaven; seen by them as the Son of man on earth. To see him, then, with angels’ eyes is to look at what Christ came from, and what Christ came unto; what he was in heaven and what he was on earth; the glories of his Father’s house, and the ignominy of Pilate’s judgment hall; the bliss of his Father’s bosom and the tortures of Calvary’s cross; the love of his Father’s heart and the hidings of his Father’s face; the worship of adoring angels and the shouts of the blasphemous multitude; the glory of the only begotten Son and the bloody sweat of Gethsemane.

And do you not see in the expression “gave himself,” how freely, how fully, how voluntarily, how unreservedly he yielded himself up to the lowest depths of shame and sorrow! No force but the gentle force of love; no compulsion but the compulsion of grace; no constraint but the constraint of doing his Father’s will, which was his delight (Psal. 40:8), moved him to give himself. He could give no more; he would give no less. And all this he did to save our souls from the bottomless pit. Now these heavenly mysteries are not matters of mere doctrine or theoretical speculation, but to be received into a believing heart as a matter of personal and living experience; in a word, they are to be revealed to our soul by the power of God, and made experimentally and feelingly ours by the sealing testimony of the Holy Ghost upon our breast. Now just as we are put into possession of these divine realities by an inward experience of their heavenly power, can we make use of the apostle’s language, to which I now come.

II.—“I am crucified with Christ.”

Let us seek, if the Lord enable, some spiritual entrance into the experimental meaning of these words.

i. And take them first in their simple meaning, neither adding to, nor diminishing their literal signification. To be “crucified with Christ” is to be nailed to the cross with him. But this could not be actually done; for Jesus had no partner in his cross, though there were those who were crucified by his side. It was, then, in the feelings of his soul that Paul was crucified with Christ. This blessed man of God had such a view in his bosom of the crucifixion of the Lord of life and glory, that it was as if he were nailed to the same cross with him, as if the same nails that pierced the hands and feet of the blessed Redeemer were struck through his hands and his feet. It was not in body, but in soul; not in his flesh, but in his spirit, that he was thus crucified with him. In this sense he was nailed side by side, or rather to the same cross, with the suffering God-Man. In this sense, therefore he mystically and spiritually suffered as Christ suffered, died as Christ died; and was thus made conformable to his suffering, dying image.

ii. But taking the words in a wider sense, as applicable to all the saints of God, we may lay it down as a certain truth that there are two senses in which every saint is crucified with Christ: first, representatively; secondly, experimentally.

Both these senses I shall now unfold.

1. First, then, there is a union which the Church of Christ has with her Head, which we may call representative; that is, there is such a union between Christ and his Church as exists between the head and its members, between the Husband and the wife; and as this is not a nominal but a real, not a dead but a living union, she has such an interest in all that he did and suffered for her sake, that she may be said to have been one with him in those acts and sufferings. Thus, when he died, she died with him; when he rose, she rose with him; when he went on high, she ascended with him; when he sat down at the right hand of the Father, she was made to sit in heavenly places with him. All these you will remember are scriptural expressions, and are meant to show us not only the intimacy of this union, but its efficacious nature; for the virtue and validity of these acts and sufferings of her glorious Head become hers in consequence of this close, and intimate, and eternal union of person and interests. In the same way, when Christ was crucified, the Church of God was crucified with him; for so intimate is their union, that when the Head was crucified, the members were crucified also. This may seem mysterious and incomprehensible. But why was Christ crucified? Was it for himself? Why did Christ suffer? Was it for his own sins? If a husband go to jail for his wife, or die for her, does she not mystically go with him to the prison and to the scaffold? Thus mystically and representatively, every member of Christ’s body was crucified with their crucified Head.

2. But this is not the only, nor indeed the chief meaning of the passage before us. The apostle was speaking experimentally of the feelings of the soul—what he was daily passing through as a living member of the mystical body of Christ; for though there is a representative crucifying of all Christ’s members in which all the family of God have a share, even those yet unborn, as united to him by eternal ties, this can only be made known by regenerating grace. There is, then, a being experimentally crucified with Christ, made known to the soul by the power of God; and of this felt, inward, daily, experimental crucifixion the apostle here especially speaks.

iii. But you will observe, if you look at the text carefully, that the  apostle uses the word “I” very much through it. And if besides this observation of the letter, you are able to read the text in the light of the blessed Spirit, and understand it experimentally for yourselves by sharing in the same gracious work upon your heart, you will also find there are two “I’s” that run through the whole text, and that these two “I’s” are perfectly distinct. Thus there is an “I” that is crucified, and an “I” that lives; there is an “I” not worthy of the name, which is therefore called a “not I;” that there is an “I” which lives in the flesh, and that there is an “I” which lives by the faith of the Son of God. These two “I’s” are perfectly distinct in birth and being; in beginning and end; in living and dying; in thought and feeling; in word and action; in desire and movement; and they are so essentially distinct as never to unite, but to be at perpetual warfare. There is therefore, a natural “I” and a spiritual “I.” These are the two “I’s” which look upon us from the text; and whose life and death, history and actions, are faithfully recorded by the pen of one who know them both from daily, hourly intercourse. The solution of this mystery is not difficult. Every believer carries in his bosom two distinct natures; as born of Adam, one nature which the Scripture calls the “Old man;” and another which, as being born of God, the Scripture terms the “new man.” The first is the natural “I,” and the second is the spiritual “I;” and it is in the struggle between these two principles, the old man and the new, the fleshly “I” and the spiritual “I,” that so much of the conflict in a Christian’s bosom consists. How vividly has the apostle described these two “I’s” and the conflict between them, Rom. 7.: there we find an “I” which is “carnal, sold under sin;” an “I” which does evil, in which no good dwells; which serves the law of sin, and in which the body of death is ever present. And then we have an “I” which delights in the law of God; which consents unto it that it is good; which serves it and hates everything opposed to it; which cries out, “O, wretched man that I am,” and yet thanks God through Jesus Christ. Is there one born of God who does not daily find and feel these two “I’s?” Is there a living soul in which they are not ever at war?

There being then these two “I’s” in every believer, the question naturally rises in our mind, which “I” is crucified with Christ: the fleshly, natural “I,” or the spiritual, gracious “I?” We cannot for a moment doubt which “I” is crucified when we turn to the language of the apostle. “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” (Rom. 6:6.) We have a similar light cast upon the point by another expression of the apostle in this very epistle, “They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” (Gal. 5:24.) And again, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal. 6:14.) Thus we see, from God’s own testimony, that it is the old man, the flesh, and the world which are crucified; so that when the apostle says, “I am crucified,” he means his old Adam “I;” his worldly, his fleshly, his sinful, his selfish “I;” in a word, the whole of that native and natural “I” which he derived from our fallen parent. But let us look at these things a little more closely.

1. If we are crucified with Christ, the world is to be crucified to us and we to the world. But which world is crucified, for there are two; a world without, and a world within? Can we take the outward world in our grasp and drive through it the nails of crucifixion? This we can no more do than we can embrace the globe, or drink up the Atlantic. That huge world which lies spread before our eyes is beyond our reach; out of all proportion with our grasp. But we have a worldly “I” in our bosom which is but the reflection of the great world without. For what is the world all around us but an aggregate of human hearts; a motley, mingled multitude of carnal “I’s;” so that each individual is but a specimen of the whole, and the whole but a huge collection of individual specimens? It would indeed then be but lost labour to attempt to nail the outward world to the cross of Christ. This is not the task that lies before the child of grace. His crucifixion is within. His own carnal heart, worldly spirit, proud, covetous, aspiring mind, it is, which is to be crucified with the Lord of life and glory. For it comes to this, that our worldly “I” must either reign and rule; be pampered and petted; fed and nurtured in pride and pleasure; or it must be crucified, mortified, and subdued by the power of God’s grace. The apostle therefore speaks of the world being crucified to him and he unto the world. What attraction would the world, with all its pleasures and profits, have to the eyes of one dying on a cross? Or what charms could he, writhing with pain, groaning in agony, dropping blood from his hands and feet, present to the eyes of the gay and glittering world? The cross killed the world to him; the cross killed him to the world. What was a living world to a dying man? What was a dying man to a living world? Now we cannot be literally crucified. Even if we were, that would give us no spiritual change of heart, nor cause us to be crucified with Christ. It is, therefore, not the actual body or the literal flesh—the mere outward material man which is crucified; but it is the worldly spirit in a believer’s heart, the proud, selfish, carnal “I,” which, by virtue first of his representative, and then by the power of his experimental crucifixion with Christ is crucified with Jesus, nailed to the cross to suffer, bleed, and die with him. This inward crucifixion of the worldly spirit, of the natural “I,” kills the believer to the world. Do you not find this in your own experience? The world without would little attract, influence, or ensnare your mind, unless you had the world within alive to it. As long then as the worldly spirit lives in you unsubdued, unmortified, uncrucified, your religion is but skin deep. A thin coat of profession may film the surface of the heart, hiding the inside from view; but the whole spirit of ungodliness is alive beneath, and as much in union with the world as the magnet with the pole, or the drunkard with his cups. But, on the contrary, if the world within be crucified by the power of Christ’s cross, the world without will have little charm. And this will be in exact proportion to the life and strength of your faith and the reality of your crucifixion. The world is ever the same; one huge mass of sin and ungodliness. That cannot be changed; that can never die. It must be you who are changed; it must be you who die to it. Now, is it not true that it is the meeting of the two worlds in one embrace, which gives the world without all its power to ensnare and entangle your feet? Let the worldly spirit be but crucified in our breast, then we shall be like the dying man who has no sympathy with the living world. The poor criminal that was nailed to the cross, dying there in agony and shame, could look down with expiring eyes upon the crowd below him, or cast his last glance on the mountains and vales, woods and rivers of the prospect before him. Might not such a one say, “O, busy crowd! O, once fair and beauteous world! I am dying to you, and ye are dying to me. O, world, where now are your fashions; where your maxims; where your lusts; where your vain and gaudy shows; where are ye all now that I am dying here upon the cross? My eyes are sinking into the shades of night. I am leaving you, and ye are leaving me. Here we part, and that for ever. I once loved you, and ye once loved me; but there is between us now separation, enmity, and death.” Is not this crucifixion? This at least is the figure of the apostle; and a most striking one, in which he represents the world as crucified to him, and himself to the world.

But you will observe that it is only by virtue of “the cross of Christ,” that is, by a spiritual union and experimental communion with Christ crucified that this inward crucifixion can be really effected. There are two things whereby the inward, spiritual, and experimental crucifixion of a child of God is distinguished from that of a Papist, a Puseyite, or a Pharisee. The first is that it is by “the cross of Christ,” that is, it flows from a spiritual knowledge of union with a crucified Jesus. “I am crucified with Christ.” I do not crucify myself; nor does my flesh crucify my flesh. The second feature is that the whole of the old is crucified; it is not one limb, but the whole body which suffers crucifixion; as the Apostle says, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not sin.” (Rom. 6:6.) In the literal crucifixion, though the nails were driven through the feet and hands, the whole body was crucified; so spiritually, though the nails may chiefly be struck through the working and moving members of the old man, yet the whole of him is crucified with them. So not only our worldly spirit, but our whole flesh, with all its plans and projects, with all its schemes, motives, and designs, is nailed to the cross; and especially our religious flesh, for this is included in the “affections” of it, which are crucified. (Gal. 5:24.)

But now arises another question. Is this crucifixion with our consent, or against our consent? To this I answer that it is partly voluntary, and partly involuntary. We may illustrate this by the example of Peter. The Lord said to him, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, when thou wert young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.” (John 21:18.) The Lord was here referring to Peter’s crucifixion, and tells him that “when he would be old, another would gird him, and carry him whither he would not.” Do we not see from this that Peter would shrink from being crucified, but that he would be carried to the cross against his will? Yet we read in ecclesiastical history, that when that time arrived, Peter begged of his executioners to crucify him with his head downwards, because he could not bear to die in the same posture with his crucified Lord. Thus we see in the actual, literal crucifixion of one of the Lord’s most highly favoured followers, there was a shrinking from the cross, and yet a submission to it.

“The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak.” The natural “I” was unwilling, the spiritual “I” was willing. So, it is with us in a spiritual sense. The coward flesh rebels against, and cries out under the nails of crucifixion; but the spirit submits, and, when favoured by divine help, counts itself unworthy of such an honour and such a blessing. But no man ever spiritually crucified his own flesh. This is God’s work, who in so doing spares not for our crying. Perhaps we are hugging close some bosom idol, some secret lust, some rising ambition, some covetous plan, or pleasing prospect. This may be as dear to us almost as our natural life. Can we then drive through it the crucifying nails? Or if we could, would that crucify it? No. God himself must take it with his own hand, and drive through it the nails of crucifixion; yes, and so drive them through this worldly spirit, this covetous heart, this proud, unbending mind, this self-righteous, selfpleasing, self-exalting affection, this deceptive, delusive, souldestroying, fleshly religion, that it may ever after live a dying life.

It is he, not you, who thus crucifies it, that its hands can no more move to execute its designs than the hands of a man nailed upon a cross, and its feet no more walk in the plan projected than the feet of a crucified man can come down from the cross and walk abroad in the world. Here is God taking your darling schemes, your favourite projects, your anticipated delights, so that they become to you dying, bleeding, gasping objects. Have you not again and again experienced this in providence? Have not all your airy castles been hurled down, your prospects in life blighted, your hopes laid low, your projects disappointed, in a word, all your schemes and plans to get on in life so nailed to the cross that they could move neither hands nor feet, but kept dying away by a slow, painful, and lingering death? But did you approve of all this? Very far from it; but you were in God’s hands, and could not fight against his cutting strokes. Thus, then, you have a proof in yourself that your worldly schemes and projects were taken by the hand of God, contrary to your wish, for you loved them too dearly to part with them, but were as if torn from your bosom by God’s relentless hand, and nailed to the cross, not by you but by him. And yet mercy was so mingled with these dealings, and your heart was so softened by a sense of God’s goodness in and under them, that there was a sweet spirit of submission given you, which mingled itself with this unwillingness, and subdued and overpowered it. Thus you were made willing in the day of his power that God should take the idols out of your bosom with his own hand; you consented generally, that they should be crucified, because by this lingering death only could the life-blood of your worldly spirit be at all drained out of your breast. For crucifixion is a gradual death which drains life and blood slowly away.

So with the flesh generally, for the whole of our flesh is to be crucified; for “they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts.” And again, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” (Rom. 8:13.) To mortify means to put to death; and that death is the death of the cross. By his Spirit and grace God gives his people strength at times, to mortify and crucify the deeds of the body, with all the wretched passions and affections of the carnal mind. In this sense they do it; for he fires their soul with a holy hatred of sin, and godly resentment, what the apostle calls “indignation” and “revenge” (2 Cor. 7:11), against its movements and horrid opposition to the will and word of God. So that, in a sense, a believer’s spiritual “I,” under the influence of grace, drives the nails of crucifixion through his carnal “I.” Have you not felt at times that you could with your own hands take vengeance upon that dreadful flesh of yours which has been and is such a deadly

foe, not only to God but to your own soul’s peace? Could you not almost kill your wicked heart for being what it is? Now, as the grace to do this only flows into the soul from union to Christ as crucified for us, we are in this sense “crucified with Christ.” There is no other way whereby sin can be subdued, or the flesh crucified with all its affections and lusts; so that not one, however small, however hidden, can escape the crucifying nail. O, how blessed it is to have a view by faith of the cross of Christ; to derive strength out of that cross, so as to give up our flesh to crucifixion, yield up our bosom idols, and with our own hands crucify our darling lusts, saying to the Lord, “All these evils of my heart are sworn enemies of thee: take them, Lord, and nail them to thy cross, that they may not live in my bosom so as to grieve the blessed Spirit, cause thee to hide thy face, wound and distress my conscience, and bring me into captivity and bondage.” Thus you see that this inward crucifixion is done unwillingly, and yet done willingly. The carnal “I” rebels against the cross, but the spiritual “I” submits to it, sees the will of God in it, and joins with him in the doing of it. We may compare them, perhaps, to the two malefactors who were crucified with Christ. The one felt nothing but the outward agonies of the cross, and rebelled against it to his latest breath: this may be a figure of our fleshly “I.” The other malefactor at first rebelled and blasphemed too; but when grace touched his heart and God revealed his dear Son in him, he could bless the Lord for being crucified with him, and counted it his happiest day and his dearest delight, for out of it came salvation and Paradise. I offer this, however, as a figure, not as an interpretation. Yet we cannot but feel deeply the crucifying nails, and cry out under them; but the Lord will not spare for our crying. The Lord has no compassion for our sins, though he has compassion upon our persons. As he would not take his dear Son from the cross, though as a Father he pitied him, so he may pity you as a child (Psal. 103:13), yet not spare your lusts.

The crucifixion of self is indispensable to following Christ, as he himself said:—”If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” The criminal always carried his own cross. To take up the cross, then, is to be crucified by being affixed to it. What is so dear to a man as himself? Yet this beloved self is to be crucified. Whether it be proud, or ambitious, or selfish, or covetous, or, what is harder still, religious self—that dear, idolized creature, which has been the subject of so much fondling, petting, pampering, nursing, to part with which is to part with our very natural life—this fondly loved self has to be taken out of our bosom by the hand of God, and nailed to Christ’s cross.

Now what can compensate us for this pain and this sacrifice?

Nothing that earth can give. But there is a most blessed compensation which earth never dreamt of, but which is the special gift of heaven. And this compensation begins here below; for as the child of grace is thus experimentally crucified with Christ, the benefits of Christ’s cross begin to flow into his soul. Pardon through his blood; peace through his sacrifice; communion and fellowship with him in his dying love; power over sin; victory over the world; subjugation of his lusts, and the subduing of his iniquities, become more or less experimentally tasted, felt, and realised. For as the soul is thus crucified with Christ, and the flesh nailed to his cross, power passes over from the cross into the soul, to give us victory over self; for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.” And faith in whom? In Jesus as the Son of God, who came “by water and blood”—the blood to cleanse and the water to sanctify. (1 John 5:4, 6.) How deep, how blessed is the mystery that Christ is of God made unto us “sanctification,” as well as “righteousness” (1 Cor. 1:30); and that the same grace which pardons sins also subdues it! Who of you can say, “I am crucified with Christ?” Blessed is such a man! Blessed is such a crucifixion!

III.—But the apostle goes on to add, as I proposed to show in the third place, “Nevertheless I live.” One would think at first sight that this crucifixion would be his death. To be crucified with Christ! to have everything that the flesh loves and idolizes put to death! How can a man survive such a process? In the same way as the three children cast into the furnace were not burnt by the fire. Crucifixion is not death but life to a child of God. This made the apostle say, “Nevertheless I live.” But what “I?” I have shown you that there is a twofold I in the Christian’s bosom—the old Adam “I” and the new Adam “I,” the carnal “I” and the spiritual “I;” and I have also shown you that it is the old Adam “I” which is crucified with Christ. But as this old Adam “I” is crucified, it is not that “I” which lives, but the spiritual “I;” for the death of the carnal “I” is the life of the spiritual “I.” As the old man is put off, the new man is put on; as the world, sin, and self are crucified, subdued, and subjugated by the power of the cross, the life of God springs up with new vigour in the soul. The believing “I,” the hoping, the loving, the praying, the watchful, the broken, the contrite, the humble, in a word, the new “I” lives in proportion as the natural “I” is crucified by the grace of God. Here then, is the mystery, and here is the grand, distinguishing difference between the living saint of God and the dead in sin or the dead in profession. It is death to a worldly man to take the world out of his breast. Here is a man immersed in business, whose whole heart is in it night and day. Let him get into difficulties, become a bankrupt, ruin himself and his family, be arrested for debt, and shut up in prison; the man dies of a broken heart. Here is another whose whole heart is in his money: it is his idol, his god, his all. Maddened by the lust of gain, he speculates to a large amount. A crash comes; down he goes; and what is his end? He puts a  pistol to his head, or drinks a phial of prussic acid, and dies upon a heath. Take another man living in drunkenness, lust, and every other vile abomination. Put him into a penitentiary; shave his head, and feed him with bread and water. He dies from the mere misery of life. Life’s pleasures are gone. He only lived for them. Take them away, and he dies for want of them. Take another person. It shall this time be a lady—full of the world, its fashions, its pleasures, its amusements, its company, its enjoyments. Take away from her those delights of her vain heart; her fine dresses, her admirers, her youthful attractions: the woman is miserable; she dies, if not literally yet inwardly, of vexation and disappointment. But let the world, sin, self, and all that he loves by nature be taken from a child of God. Does he die? Die? What, he die? No; just the contrary. He lives all the more for now he lives more unto the Lord. How martyrs in prison have blessed and praised God. A dungeon did not kill their inward life. Being taken out of the world and shut up in a dark prison was not their death, for the world was not their life. They only enjoyed more of the sunlight of God’s face. Look at Christians on their death bed, when the world with all its gaudy shows is shut out. Does this kill them? Do they not rather live all the more unto God; so that the more the world is shut out, and the more that self is put under their feet, the more they feel a holy joy, a quiet, tranquil contentment, such as God alone is pleased to shower down upon their breast? Just, then, in proportion as the world and the flesh, sin and self, are crucified, does the life of God spring up in the soul of those who fear God. It was this divine life springing up within which made the apostle say—and can we not sometimes echo back his words? “Nevertheless I live.”

Here, then, is the great secret of vital godliness that the Christian lives most within, when everything dies most without; that the more that nature fades, the more grace thrives; the more that sin and self, and the world are mortified, the more do holiness and spirituality of mind, heavenly affections and gracious desires spring up and flourish in the soul. O! blessed death! O! still more blessed life!

IV.—But to come to our next point,—in order to discard all idea that he could do all or any of this—that he had any innate strength or power to carry on this blessed work in his own soul— to dispossess us of any such opinion of his own strength or holiness, he tells us in the most pointed language, “Yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” “O,” he would say, “look not at Paul; take not your measure of him as if he were able to do these things in his own strength. Look not at him, but at Christ; in him Paul lives, it is true; but not in his own life, but in Christ’s. He fights against sin and self; not however in his own strength, but in Christ’s. He stands righteous before God. Not however in his own righteousness, but Christ’s. He has both will and action; yet neither is his own, but Christ’s; for Christ works in him both to will and to do his good pleasure.” This made the apostle say “Not I.” It could not be his natural “I,” for that was crucified; and he even disclaims any part of the work as done by his spiritual “I;” for though that lived, yet, it only lived by Christ living in it. But how it may be asked, does Christ live in a believer’s soul? By his Spirit and grace; by being formed in his heart, the hope of glory; by blessing the soul with his presence and power; by communicating and shedding abroad his love. Thus, it is not the believer, but the Spirit of Christ in him, by which he lives unto God. Do you not find this true in your daily experience? If we pray with any life or feeling in our soul, with any access to a throne of grace, or obtain any answer; it is not we that pray: it is the Spirit of God praying in us. If I preach anything that may instruct, comfort, or edify your soul, or write anything that may be blessed to build up the Church of God on our most holy faith; it is not I, but the Spirit of God that speaks in me, and guides my pen. How else could I, or any other man, be made a blessing to the church of God? It is not my abilities or learning, but the dew and unction of the blessed Spirit resting upon me, which glorifies

God or edifies the church. Or take me as a private Christian. If I repent of my sins, it is not I that repent, but the Spirit of God giving me repentance. If I believe in the Lord of life and glory, it is not I that believe, but the Lord giving me faith by his holy Spirit. If I watch, he must watch in me; if I live to his praise, he must live in me; if I act for his honour, he must act in me; if I enjoy his presence, it is he who must communicate a sense of that presence to my heart. So it is not I, but Christ himself that liveth in me. O blessed guest! O gracious inhabitant! Who that fears God would not have such a blessed inmate ever to dwell in his bosom? And who that has had him once does not long again and again for his sweet presence, and to experience renewed and repeated manifestations of his love? It is true that those are rare seasons; but the Lord never leaves the heart into which he has ever come. If you have not the felt presence, you are longing for it; and these longings, breathings, and desires manifest more or less of his power and presence. You will also find from time to time how secretly and yet how blessedly the Lord will come into the soul. He will come sometimes in a word of promise; sometimes in a look of love; sometimes in a sweet smile; sometimes in a soft whisper; sometimes in a heavenly touch. How he will melt at one time your heart into sorrow for sin; how he will at another encourage you with a word when much cast down; will shine upon your soul when it walks in thick darkness; will renew your life that seems almost gone, and revive your spirit. And as you will thus find your dependence upon him for every spiritual breath and for every gracious desire, you will learn that it is not you that live, but Christ that lives in you.

V.—But to come to our last point, the nature of this life. “The life which I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God.” It is a life still “in the flesh,” with all the infirmities, with all the frailties, all the sins, and all the sorrows of a body of sin and death; a life in the flesh and therefore surrounded with everything that belongs to the flesh. And yet though a life in the flesh, not a life of the flesh, but a spiritual life in a body of sin and death. Christ in the heart the hope of glory; and yet the heart deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. What a mystery of grace is this! That so holy a guest should take up his abode in the breast of a polluted sinner, and yet not partake of the sinner’s pollution; should work in him by his Spirit and grace, and yet keep himself free from all the sinner’s filth and folly.

The great blessedness of a believer here below is that he lives a life of faith in the Son of God. But how can he do this unless he has had a believing view of the Son of God as having loved him, and given himself for him, as having risen from the dead, and to be now ever living at God’s right hand to make intercession for him? It is, then, as he is pleased to send his Spirit down into his heart to testify of his grace, and to draw up faith, and hope, and love, and every sweet affection to centre in himself that he lives a life of faith upon him. “Because I live,” saith the Lord, “ye shall live also;” and we live because he is “the resurrection and the life.” Thus as Jesus lives at God’s right hand, he lives also in the believer’s soul; and as he sends his Spirit down into the believer’s heart, and draws his faith and hope and love to himself, he enables him to live a life of faith upon him as the Son of God.

Viewing the Son of God at the right hand of the Father, he looks to him for the supply of all his wants. He sees him at one time a kind God in providence; he views him at another as a most blessed and suitable Saviour in grace; he looks sometimes to his atoning blood as cleansing from all sin; to his glorious righteousness as his only justifying robe; and to his heavenly love as the sweetest balm that God can shed abroad in his heart. He desires from time to time to have fellowship and communion with the Son of God; to be conformed to his suffering image here below, that he may be conformed to his glorified image above. It is in this way he comes up out of the wilderness, leaning upon Christ as his beloved. By his superabounding grace he is recovered and restored from his innumerable slips and falls and backslidings; by his gracious renewings, his youth is renewed like the eagle’s; and thus day by day, as the blessed Spirit works in his soul both to will and to do of his good pleasure, he lives by the faith of the Son of God. And as all this can only be done by the power of faith, by faith he lives, by faith he acts; by faith he walks; faith being the grand moving principle of every action of his soul, and the uniting chain that links his soul to the Son of God upon his heavenly throne. Thus living a life of faith upon the Son of God, he receives out of this fulness grace for grace; and by God’s help and strength eventually dies in him, and rising up to the glorious mansions of light, lives with him to all eternity.

Now this is a feeble sketch of the life of a Christian; what we must know something of in our own souls, before we can really believe ourselves to be saints of the living God, by the testimony of the Spirit in our breast. We have to confess that we come painfully short in many of these things; and yet we have every reason to praise the Lord if he has put any measure of this experience into our breasts, for where he has begun that good work he will surely perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Instability – Spurgeon

July 12, 2009 Comments off

“Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.”—Genesis 49:4.

PERFECT STABILITY has ceased from the world since the day when Adam fell. He was stable enough when in the garden he was obedient to his Master’s will, but when he ate of the forbidden fruit he did not only slide himself, but he shook the standing places of all his posterity. Perfect stability belongs alone to God he alone, of all beings, is without variableness or shadow of a turning. He is immutable, he will not change. He is all-wise, he need not change. He is perfect; he cannot change. But men, the best of them are mutable, and therefore to a degree, they are unstable, and do not excel. Yet it is remarkable that, although man has lost perfect stability, he has not lost the admiration of it. Perhaps there is no virtue, or, rather, no compound of virtues, which the world more esteems than stability of mind. You will find that, although men have often misplaced their praise, and have called those great who were not great, morally, but were far below the level of morality, yet they have scarcely ever called a man great who has not been consistent, who has not had strength of mind enough to be stable in his principles. I know not how it is, but so it is, whenever a man is firm and consistent, we always admire him for it. Though we feel certain that he is wrong, yet his consistency in his wrong still excites our admiration. We have known men whom we have thought to be insane, they have conceived a design so ridiculous that we could only laugh at them, and despise their idea; but they have stuck to it, and we have said, “Well, there is nothing like a man standing to a thing,” and we have admired even the senseless, brainless idiot, as we have thought him, when we have seen him pertinaciously insisting that his idea would at last triumph, and persevering in futile endeavors to realize his wish. The weathercock man is never admired, as a politician or as anything else he will never succeed; he must be one thing or another, or the world will never respect him.

Now, my brethren, if it be so in earthly things, it is so also in spiritual. Instability in religion is a thing which every man despises, although every man has, to a degree, the evil in himself, but stability in the firm profession and practice of godliness, will always win respect, even from the worldly, and certainly will not be forgotten by him whose smile is honor and whose praise is glory, even the great Lord and Master, before whom we stand or fall. I have many characters here to-day whom I desire to address in the words of my text. “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” I propose, first, briefly to notice, the common and unavoidable instabilities which necessarily attach themselves to the best of Christians. I shall then note the character of a Christian who is noted for glaring instability, but who, notwithstanding, has sufficient of godliness to bid us hope that he is a child of God, I shall then have to do with the mere professor, who is “unstable as water,” and cannot excel in any way whatever; and then I must deal with the unstable sinner who, in any pretensions he may ever make to better feelings, is always like the early cloud and the morning dew.

I. First, then, to ALL Christians, permit me to address myself. Our father Adam, spoilt us all; and, although the second Adam has renewed us, he has not yet removed from us the infirmities, which the first Adam left us as a mournful legacy. We are none of us stable as we should be. We had a notion when we were first converted, that we should never know a change; our soul was so full of love that we could not imagine it possible we should ever flag in our devotion; our faith was so strong in our Incarnate Master, that we smiled at older Christians who talked of doubts and fears; our faces were so stedfastly set Zionward that we never imagined Bye-path Meadow would ever be trodden by our feet. We felt sure that our course would certainly be “like the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” But, my brethren, have we found it so? Have we not this day to lament that we have been very changeable and inconstant, even unstable as water? How unstable have we been in our frames? To-day we have climbed the top of Pisgah, and have viewed the heavenly landscape over by the eye of faith; to-morrow we have been plunged in the dungeon of despair, and could not call a grain of hope our own; to-day we have feasted at the banquetting table of communion; to-morrow we have been exclaiming, “Oh! that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even unto his feet.” At night I have said, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me,” to-morrow has beheld my grasp loosened, and prayer neglected until God has said “I will return unto my rest, until thou hast acknowledged thy transgressions, which thou hast committed against me.” High frames one day, low frames the next We have had more changes than even this variable climate of ours. It is a great mercy for us that frames and slings are not always the index of our security, for we are as safe when we are mourning as we are when we are singing; but verily, if our true state before God had changed as often as our experience of his presence, we must have been cast into the bottomless pit years ago.

And how variable have we been in our faith! In the midst of one trouble we have declared, “though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” We have courted the jeer, we have laughed at the scorn of the world, and have stood like rocks in the midst of foaming billows, when all men were against us; another week has seen us flying away, after denying our Master, because, like Peter, we were afraid of some little maid, or of our own shadow. After coming out of a great trouble, we have resolutely declared “I can never doubt God again,” but the next cloud that has swept the sky, has darkened all our faith. We have been variable in our faith.
And have you not also, at times, my friends, felt variable in your love? Sweet Master, King of heaven, fairest of a thousand fairs! my heart is knit to thee—my soul melteth at the mention of thy name; my heart bubbleth up with a good matter, when I speak of the things which I have made touching the King.

The strings that bind around my heart,
Tortures and racks may tear them off;
But they can never, never part,
The hold I have of Christ, my love.”

Sure, I could die for thee, and think it better than to live, if so I might honor thee. This is the sweet manner of our spirit when our love is burning and fervent: but anon we neglect the fire, it becomes dim, and we have to rake among the ashes even for a spark, crying,

“‘Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his, or am I not?”

How unstable we are! At one time we are quite certain we are the Lord’s. though an angel from heaven should deny our election, or our adoption, we would reply that we have the witness of the Spirit that we are born of God, but perhaps within two minutes we shall not be able to say that we ever had one spiritual feeling. We shall perhaps think that we never repented aright, never fled to Christ aright, and did never believe to the saving of the soul. Oh! it is no wonder that we do not excel, when we are such unstable creatures. Alas! my brethren I might enlarge on the inconsistencies of the mass of Christians. How unfaithful we have been to our dedication vows! how negligent of close communion! How unlike we have been to holy Enoch! how much more like Peter, when he followed afar off! I might tell how one day, like the mariner, we mounted up to heaven, and how the next moment we have gone to the lowest depths when the waves of God’s grace have ceased to lift us up. I wonder at David, at Jacob, and at every instance we have in Scripture of excellent men. Marvel! O ye angels, that God should ever make such bright stars out of such black blots as we are. How can it ever be that man, so fickle, so inconstant, should nevertheless be a pillar in the house of his God, and should be made to stand “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord!” How is it, O our God, that thou couldst have steered a vessel so safely to its port which was so easily driven by every wind and carried away by every wave! He is a good marksman who an shoot so crooked an arrow straight to its target. Marvel not that we do not excel—marvel that we do excel in anything unstable as we are.

II. And now leaving these general remarks I have to single out a certain class of persons. I believe them to be TRUE CHRISTIANS but they are Christians of a singular sort. I would not be so harsh as to condemn them, though I must certainly condemn the error with which I am about to find fault. I doubt not that they have been converted in a genuine manner, but still they are often a mystery to me, and I should think they are a mystery to themselves. How many Christians have we in our churches that are unstable as water! I suppose they were born so. They are just as unstable in business as they are in religion; they open a grocer’s shop, and shut it in three months, and turn drapers, and when they have been drapers long enough to become almost bankrupts, they leave that and try something else. When they were boys they could never play a game through, they must always be having something fresh, and now they are just as childish as when they were children. Look at them in doctrine: you never know where to find them. You meet them one day, and they are very full of some super-lapsarian doctrine, they have been to some strong Calvinist place, and nothing will suit them except the very highest doctrine and that must be spiced with a little of the gall of bitterness, or they cannot think it is the genuine thing. Very likely next week they will be Arminians; they will give up all idea of a fixed fate, and talk of free-will, and man’s responsibility like the most earnest Primitive Methodist. Then they steer another way. “Nothing is right but the Church of England. Is it not established by law? Ought not every Christian to go to his parish church?” Ah! ah, Let them alone, they will be at the most gross schismatical shop in the metropolis before long. Or if they do not change their denomination they are always changing their minister. A new minister starts up; there is no one, since the apostles, like him; they take a seat and join the church; he is everything to them. In three months they have done with him, another minister rises up some distance off, and these people are not particular how far they walk; so they go to hear him. He is the great man of the age; he will see every man’s candle out, and his will burn on. But a little trouble comes on the church, and they leave him. They have no attachment to anything; they are merely feathers in the wind or corks on the wave. They hear a sermon preached, and they say, “I think it did me good” but they do not venture to be sure till they speak to some great man who is a member of the church, and he says “Oh! there was nothing in it.” “Ah! just so,” they say, and cannot make up their minds whether it was a good sermon or not. They are unstable; they could easily be talked into anything or out of anything, they never had any brains in their head, I suppose, or if they ever had any they gave them to somebody else to muddle as he liked. They believe the last man they hear, and are easily guided and led by him.

Now, if the matter ended there it would not be so bad; but these poor people are just the same with regard to any religious enterprise they take in hand. There is a Sunday-school, they are enchanted with the thought. What a lovely thing it must be to sit on a form and try to teach half-a-dozen boys the way to heaven. They go to the Sunday-school and are alarmed the very first day, when they hear all the boys talking louder than the teachers. After about ten minutes they think it is not quite so nice as they thought. Perhaps they think it is that particular school they do not like, and they try another, and at last they give up all Sunday-school teaching, and make up their minds that it is not a good thing, at least not for them. Then there is a Ragged-school. What a divine enterprise! They will be Ragged-school teachers, and off they go with their hearts full of fire, and their eyes full of tears over these poor ragged-school children they are going to teach. Ah! how soon is their zeal withered and all their glory departed! Hear them talk about Ragged-schools a month afterwards: they shake their heads and say it is a very arduous enterprise. They do not think they had a call to it, they will try something else, and so they keep on to the end of the chapter, they are “everything by turns, and nothing long.” There are some brethren in the ministry very much of the same sort. They never preach in one pulpit long, (though some say they preach there too long, for they ought never to have preached there at all) but I sometimes think that if they had had a little more courage, and bore a little more of the brunt of the battle, they might have done good to some of the villages where they were placed. But they are unstable as water, and everybody sees that they cannot excel. The same instability men will carry out in their friendships; they meet a person one day, and are as friendly as possible with him; they meet him the next day, he does not know what he has done to offend them, but they turn their head another way. And some carry their instability a little farther, they carry it into their moral character. I shall not deny their Christianity, but they are a queer sort of Christians. For these people will sometimes, at least, stretch the cords of godliness a little too far, and though they certainly do act in the main conscientiously, yet their conscience is a large one, and it admits a great many things which tender-hearted people would think were wrong. We cannot find out any crime for which we could excommunicate them, yet in our hearts we often say, “Dear me! what a sad disgrace so-and-so is to the cause; we could do far better without him than with him, for he casts such a slur on the name of Christ.”

Now, do not think I am drawing a fancy picture. I beg to inform you I am not; there are persons here who are furnishing me with the model; and if they choose to think me personal I shall be obliged to them, for I intend to be. These persons are to be found in all churches and among all denominations. You have met them everywhere. They are as unstable as water; they do not excel.

Now, let me address these persons very earnestly. My brother, I would be far from dealing in a censorious manner with thee, for I am inclined to think that thine instability is a little owing to some latent insanity. We are no doubt all of us insane to a degree; there is some little thing in us, which if we saw in another we should regard as being a little madness. I would therefore, my brother, deal very leniently with you, but at the same time let me very solemnly address you as a Christian minister speaking to a professedly Christian man. My brother, how much moral weight you lose in the church, and in the world by your perpetual instability. No one ever attaches any importance to your opinion, because your opinion has no importance in it, seeing that you yourself will contradict it in a very short time. You see many persons growing up in the church who have an influence over their neighbor for good; you sometimes wish that you too could strengthen the young convert, or reclaim and guide the wanderer. My brother you cannot do it, because of your inconsistency. Now is it not a fearful thing that you should be throwing away the whole force and weight of your character, simply because of this insane habit of yours of being always unstable? I beseech thee, my brother, recollect that thou art responsible to God for thine influence; and if thou canst have influence and dost not get it thou art as sinful as if, having influence, thou hadst misused it. Do not, I beseech thee, suffer this instability to continue, lest thou shouldst become like the chaff which the wind driveth away—of no account to the world at all. Remember, my brother, how your instability ruins your usefulness. You never continue long enough in an enterprise to do good. What would you think of the farmer who should farm just long enough to plough his ground and sow his wheat, but not long enough to get a harvest? You would think him foolish; but just so foolish are you. You begin time enough to be overworked before you have well commenced. My brother, review your history, what have you done? You have made hundreds of futile attempts to do something, but a list of failures must be the only record of your labors. What do you think will be your distress of mind when you come to die, when you look back upon your life, and see it all the way through, a host of blunders? Do you not think it will stuff the pillow of your dying bed with thorns, to think that you were so wayward in disposition, so unstable in heart, that you were unable to accomplish anything for your Master, so that when you lay your crown at his feet you will have to say, “There is my crown, my Master but it has not a solitary star in it for I never worked long enough for thee in any enterprise to win a soul; I only did enough to fail and to be laughed at by all.” And I would have thee think also, my brother, how canst thou be a growing Christian, and yet be so changeable as thou art? If a gardener should plant a tree to day, and take it up in the course of a month, and transfer it to another place, what crop would he have when autumn came? He would not have much to repay his toil. The continual changing of the tree would put it into such a weakly condition, that if it did not actually die, it would certainly produce nothing. And how can you expect to grow in knowledge when you have no steadfast principle? The man who espouses one form of doctrine, and does it honestly, will, though it be a mistaken form, at least understand it, but you do not know enough of Calvinism to defend it from its opponents, or enough of Arminianism to defend it from the Calvinists. You are not wise in anything, you are a rolling stone, you gather no moss. You stay in one school only long enough to read through the curriculum, but you learn nothing. You are smiling I see. And yet some of those who smiled are just the men we smile at. They are here. But alas! I have noticed one sad thing respecting these people, they are generally the most conceited in all the world; they are excellent men they think; they are at home everywhere. If they are in error they know they can get right to-morrow, and then if some one else will again convince them they are in error, they know no difference between error and truth, except the difference which other people like to point out to them. O ye unstable Christians, hear ye the word of the Lord! “Unstable as water thou shalt not excel.” Your life shall have little of the cream of happiness upon it: you shall not walk in the midst of the king’s highway, in which no lion shall be found, but you shall walk on the edge of the way, where you shall encounter every danger, feel every hardship and endure every ill. You shall have enough of God’s comfort to keep you alive, but not enough to give you joy in your spirit and consolation in your heart. Oh, I beseech you ponder a little. Study the Word more, know what is right, and defend what is right. Study the Law more, know what is right, and do what is right. Study God’s will more, know what be would have you do, and then do it. For an unstable Christian never can excel.

III. But now there is another class of persons whom we dare not, in the spirit of the widest charity admit to be true Christians. They are PROFESSORS they have been baptized, they receive the Lord’s Supper, they attend prayer meetings church meetings, and everything else that belongs to the order of Christians with which they are connected. They are never behindhand in religious performances; they are the most devout hypocrites, they are the most pious formalists that could be discovered, range the wide world o’er. Their religion on the Sabbath day is of the most superfine order; their godliness when they are in their pews cannot be exceeded. They sing with the most eloquent praise, they pray the longest and most hypocritical prayer that man could utter; they are just up to the mark in every religious point of view, except on the point which looks to the heart As far as the externals of godliness go there is nothing to be desired. They tithe the anise, the mint, and the cummin; they fast twice in the week; or if they do not fast, they are quite as religious in not fasting, and are just as godly in not doing it, as if they did it.

But these people are unstable as water, in the worst sense; for whilst they sing Watts’s hymns on Sunday, they sing other songs on Monday, and whilst they drink sacramental cups on Sabbath evenings, there are other cups of which they drink too deep on other nights; and though they pray most marvellously, there is a pun on that word pray, and they know how to exercise it upon their customers in business. They have a great affection for everything that is pious and devout; but alas! like Balaam, they take the reward of wickedness, and they perish in the gainsaying of Core. “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.” They bring a disgrace upon the cause which they profess: not the vilest profane swearer brings more dishonor on God’s holy name than they do. They can find fault with everything in the church, whilst they commit all manner of wickedness, and are, as the apostle said, even weeping “enemies of the cross of Christ, for their God is their belly, and they glory in their shame.” O hypocrite, thou thinkest that thou shalt excel, because the minister has been duped, and gives thee credit for a deep experience, because the deacons have been entrapped and think thee to be eminently godly, because the church members receive thee to their houses, and think thee a dear child of God too! Poor soul! mayhap thou mayest go to thy grave with the delusion in thy brain that all is right with thee; but remember, though like a sheep thou art laid in thy grave, Death will find thee out. He will say to thee, Off with thy mask, man! away with all thy robes! Up with that whitewashed sepulcher! Take off that green turf; let the worms be seen. Out with the body; let us see the reeking corruption! and what wilt thou say when thine abominably corrupt and filthy heart shall be opened before the sun, and men and angels hear thy lies and hypocrisies laid bare before them? Wilt thou play the hypocrite then? Soul, come and sing God’s praises in the day of judgment with false lip! Tell him now, while a widow’s house is in your throat, tell him that you love him! Come, now, thou that devourest the fatherless, thou that robbest, thou that dost uncleanness! tell him now that thou didst make thy boast in the Lord! tell him that thou didst preach his word, tell him that thou didst walk in his streets! tell him thou didst make it known that thou wert one of the excellent of the earth! What! man, is thy babbling tongue silent for once? What is the matter with thee? Thou wast never slow to talk of thy godliness. Speak out, and say “I took the sacramental cup; I was a professor.” Oh how changed! The whitewashed sepulcher has become white in another sense, he is white with horror. See now; the talkative has become dumb; the boaster is silent; the formalist’s garb is rent to rags, the moth has devoured their beauty; their gold has become tarnished, and their silver cankered. Ah! it must be so with every man who has thus belied God and his own conscience. The stripping day of judgment will reveal him to God and to himself. And how awful shall be the damnation of the hypocrite! If I knew that I must be damned, one of my prayers should be, “Lord, let me not be damned with hypocrites,” for surely to be damned with them is to be damned twice over. Conceive of a hypocrite going into hell. You know how one of the prophets depicted the advent of a great monarch into hell, when all the kings that had been his slaves rose up and said, “Art thou become like one of us?” Do you not think you see the godly Christian deacon, so godly that he was a liar all his life? Do you not think you see the eminent Christian member that kept a bank, took the chair at public meetings, swindled all he could, and died in despair? Do you not think you see him coming into the pit? There is one man there that was a drunkard all his life. Hear his speech, “Ah! you were a sober man! you used to talk to me, and tell me that drunkards could not inherit the kingdom of heaven. Aha! and art thou become like one of us?” Says another, “About a month ago, when we were on earth, you met me and rebuked me for profane swearing, and told me that all swearers should have their portion in the lake. Ah! there is not much to choose between thee and me now, is there?” And the profane man laughs as well as he can laugh in misery at his desperately religious adviser. “Oh!” says another—and they look round at one another with demoniac mirth; as much mockery of joy as hell can afford—”The parson here? Now preach us a sermon; now pray us a long prayer! Plenty of time to do it in!” “No!” says another, “there is no widow’s house to eat, here, and he only prayed on the strength of the widow’s house.”

This is a hard scene for me to describe; but I doubt not of its truthfulness. It may be given to you in rough language, but it needs far rougher to make you know the dread reality. And what a solemn thought it is! there is not one man nor one woman in this place who has not need to ask, “Is it so with me?” Many have been deceived—I may be—you may be, my hearer. “I am not deceived,” says one, “I am a minister.” My brethren, there are many of us who are preachers who are like Noah’s carpenters; we may help to build an ark, and never get in it ourselves. Says another, “I shall not endure such language as that; I am a deacon.” You may be all that, and yet, after having ministered, instead of earning to yourself a good degree, you may be cast from the presence of God. “No,” says another, “but I have been a Christian professor these last forty years, and nobody has found fault with me.” Ah! I have known many A rotten bough to have stopped on a tree forty years, and you may be rotten and yet stand all that time; but the winds of judgment will crack you at last, and down you will fall. “Nay,” says another. “I know I am not insincere I am sure I am right.” I am glad that you think so, but I would not like you to say it. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” There have been many great bubbles that have burst ere this, and your piety may be one of them. “Let not him that putteth on the harness boast as though he put it off.” It will be time enough for you to be quite sure when you are quite safe. Yet blessed be God, we hope we can say, “O Lord, if not awfully deceived we have given our hearts to thee! Lord thou knowest all things; thou knowest that we love thee, and if we do not, Lord thou knowest we pray this prayer from our hearts: ‘Search me, O God, and try my ways, prove me and know my heart, and see if there be any evil way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.'” May God the Holy Spirit strengthen and settle each of us.

IV. And now I have the last word to address to those who MAKE NO PRETENSION TO RELIGION whatever. I have heard hundreds of persons in my short life excuse their sin by saying, “Well, I make no profession,” and I have always thought it one of the strangest excuses, one of the most wild vagaries of apology to which the human mind could ever make resort. Take an illustration, which I have used before. To-morrow morning, when the Lord Mayor is sitting, there are two men brought up before him for robbery. One of them says he is not guilty, he declares that he is a good character, and he is an honest man in general though he was guilty in this case. He is punished. The other one says, “Well, your worship, I make no profession; I’m a down right thorough thief, and I don’t make any profession of being honest at all.” Why you can suppose how much more severe the sentence would be upon such a man. Now, when you say I do not make any profession of being religious, what does that mean? It means that you are a despiser of God and of God’s law; it means that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity. You that boast of making no profession of religion, you are boasting you know not what of. You would think it a strange thing for a man to boast that he made no profession of being a gentleman, or no profession of being honest, or no profession of being sober, or no profession of being chaste. You would shun a man who did this, at once. And you who make no pretensions to religion, just make your trial the more easy for there will be no need for any dispute concerning you. When the scales of justice are lifted up at last you will be found to be light weight, and that upon your own confession. I cannot imagine you urging such a plea as that when God shall judge you. “My Lord, I made no profession.” “What” saith the King, “did my subject make no profession of obedience?” “O Lord, I made no profession.” “What!” saith the Creator, “make no profession of acknowledging my rights?” “I made no profession of religion.” “What!” saith the Judge, “did I send my Son into the world to die, and did this man make no profession of casting his soul upon him? What! did he make no profession of his need of mercy? Then he shall have none. Does he dare tell me to my face that he never made any profession of faith in Christ, and never had anything to do with the Saviour? Then insomuch as he despised my Son, and despised his cross, and rejected his salvation, let him die the death;” and what that death is with its everlasting wailings and gnashing of teeth, eternity alone can tell.

O sinner! thou hast some part and lot in my text Thou art “unstable as water.” Let me remind thee that though thou makest no profession of religion now, there was a time when thou didst. Strong man! you are laughing now: I repeat it, there was a time when you did talk about religion; it is not quite gone from your memory yet. You lay sick with fever for six weeks: do you recollect when the delirium came on, and they all thought that you must die? Do you recollect when your poor brain was right for a moment how you asked the physician whether there was any hope for you, and he would not exactly say “NO,” but he looked so blank at you, that you understood what it meant? Do you recollect the agony with which you looked forward to death? Do you recollect how you groaned in your spirit, and said, “O God, have mercy upon me?” Do you recollect that you got a little better, and you told your friends that if you lived you would serve God? “Oh! it is all over now,” you say, you were a fool! Yes, you were a fool, that is true, you were a fool, to have said what you did not mean and to have lied before God. You do not profess religion! But you remember the last time the terrific thunder and lightning came. You were out in the storm. A flash came very near you. You are a bold man, but not so bold as you pretend to be. You shook from head to foot, and when the thunder clap succeeded, you were almost down on your knees, and before you knew it you were in prayer. “Please God I get home to-night,” you said, “I shall not take his name in vain again!” But you have done it. You are unstable as water. You went sometime ago to a church or a chapel—I mind not which: the minister told you plainly where you were going. You stood there and trembled; tears ran down your cheeks, you did not knock your wife about that Sunday, you were a greet deal more sober that week, and when your companion said you looked squeamish, you denied it, and said you had no such thoughts as he imagined. “Unstable as water.” Oh! and there are some of you worse than that still: for not once, nor twice, but scores of times you have been driven under a faithful minister, to the very verge of what you thought repentance, and then, just when something said in your heart, “This is a turning point,” you have started back, you have chosen the wages of unrighteousness, and have again wandered into the world. Soul! my heart yearns for thee! “Unstable as water thou shalt not excel.” No, but I pray the Lord to work in thee something that will be stable; for we all believe—and what I say is not a matter of fiction, but a thing that you believe in your own hearts to be true—we all believe that we must stand before the judgment bar of God, and ere long give account of the things done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil. Friend, what account wilt thou give of thy broken vows, of thy perjured soul? What wilt thou have to say why judgment should not be pronounced against thee? Ah! sinner, you will want Christ then! What would you give then for one drop of his blood? “Oh! for the hem of his garment! Oh, that I might but look to him and be lightened. Oh, would to God that I might hear the gospel once again!” I hear you wailing, when God has said, “Depart ye cursed!” And this is the burden of your song “Fool that I was, to have despised Jesus, who was my only hope, to have broken my promise, and gone back to the poor vain world that deluded me, after all!” And now I hear him say “I called, but ye refused, I stretched out my hand, but no man regarded; now I will laugh at your calamity, and mock when your fear cometh.” I always think those two last sentences the most awful in the Bible. “I will laugh at your calamity.” The laugh of the Almighty over men that have rebelled against him, that have despised him, and trodden his gospel underfoot! “I also will laugh at your calamity I will mock when your fear cometh.” Rail at that if you like, it is sure, sirs. Remember that all your kicking at God’s laughter will not make him leave it off; remember that all your rebellious speeches against him shall be avenged in that day, unless ye repent, and that speak as ye will against him your blasphemy cannot quench the flames of hell, nor will your jeers slay the sword of vengeance: fall it must, and it will fall on you all the more heavily because you did despise it.

Hear the gospel, and then farewell. Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God was born of the Virgin Mary and became a man, he lived on earth a life of holiness and suffering; at last he was nailed to the cross, and in deep woe he died. He was buried; he rose again from the deed, he ascended into heaven. And now God “commandeth all men everywhere to repent;” and he telleth them this—”Whosoever believeth on the Son of God shall not perish, but have eternal life.” And this is his gospel. If you this day feel yourself to be a sinner, if that be a feeling wrought in you by the Holy Spirit and not a casual thought flashing across the soul, then Christ was punished for your sins; and you cannot be punished; for God will not punish twice for one offense. Believe in Christ; cast your soul on the atonement that he made; and although black as hell in sin, you may this day find yourself, through the efficacious blood of Christ, whiter than the snow. The Lord help thee, poor soul, to believe that the Man who died on Calvary was God, and that he took the sin of all believers upon himself—that thou, being a sinner and a believer, he has taken thy sins, and that therefore thou art free. Thus believe, and by faith thou wilt have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord, by whom also we have received the atonement.

Categories: Sermons Tags: ,

John Bunyan’s last sermon

June 11, 2009 Comments off

Mr. Bunyan’s Last Sermon: Preached August 19TH, 1688

[ADVERTISEMENT BY THE EDITOR]

This sermon, although very short, is peculiarly interesting: how it was preserved we are not told; but it bears strong marks of having been published from notes taken by one of the hearers. There is no proof that any memorandum or notes of this sermon was found in the autograph of the preacher. In the list of Bunyan’s works published by Chas. Doe, at the end of the ‘Heavenly Footman,’ March 1690, it stands No. 44. He professes to give the title-page, word for word, as it was first printed, It is, ‘Mr. John Bunyan’s last sermon, at London, preached at Mr. Gamman’s meeting-house, near Whitechapel, August 19th, 1688, upon John 1:13: showing a resemblance between a natural and a spiritual birth; and how every man and woman may try themselves, and know whether they are born again or not.’ Published 1689, in about one sheet in 12mo.

From this it appears to have been preached only two days before his fatal illness, and twelve days before his decease, which took place August 31st, 1688. The disease which terminated his invaluable life, was brought on by a journey to Reading on horseback, undertaken with the benevolent design of reconciling an offended father to his son. Having accomplished his object, he rode to London; on his way home, through a heavy rain, the effects of which appeared soon after this, his last sermon was preached. He bore, with most exemplary patience and resignation, the fever which invaded his body; and, at a distance from his wife and family, in the house of his friend Mr. Strudwick, at Snow Hill, his pilgrimage was ended, and he fell asleep in perfect peace, to awake amidst the harmonies and glory of the celestial city.

GEO. OFFOR.

Mr. Bunyan’s Last Sermon

‘Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’– John 1:13 The words have a dependance on what goes before, and therefore I must direct you to them for the right understanding of it. You have it thus: ‘He came unto his own, and his own received him not; but as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh – but of God.’

In the words before, you have two things. First, Some of his own rejecting him, when he offered himself to them. Second, Others of his own receiving him, and making him welcome; those that reject him, he also passes by; but those that receive him, he gives them power to become the sons of God. Now, lest any one should look upon it as good luck or fortune, says he, they ‘were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’ They that did not receive him, they were only born of flesh and blood; but those that receive him, they have God to their Father; they receive the doctrine of Christ with a vehement desire.

[TO EXPLAIN THE TEXT.]

FIRST, I will show you what he means by blood. They that believe are born to it, as an heir is to an inheritance–they are born of God, not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God; not of blood, that is, not by generation, not born to the kingdom of heaven by the flesh, not because I am the son of a godly man or woman–that is meant by blood (Acts 17:26); He ‘hath made of one blood all nations.’ But when he says here, ‘not of blood,’ he rejects all carnal privileges they did boast of: they boasted they were Abraham’s seed; no, no says he, it is not of blood; think not to say you have Abraham to your father; you must be born of God, if you go to the kingdom of heaven.

SECOND, ‘Nor of the will of the flesh.’ What must we understand by that? It is taken for those vehement inclinations that are in man, to all manner of looseness, fulfilling the desires of the flesh: that must not be understood here; men are not made the children of God by fulfilling their lustful desires. It must be understood here in the best sense: there is not only in carnal men a will to be vile, but there is in them a will to be saved also; a will to go to heaven also. But this it will not do; it will not privilege a man in the things of the kingdom of God: natural desires after the things of another world, they are not an argument to prove a man shall go to heaven whenever he dies. I am not a free-willer, I do abhor it; yet there is not the wickedest man but he desires, some time or other, to be saved; he will read some time or other, or, it may be, pray, but this will not do: ‘It is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.’ There is willing and running, and yet to no purpose (Rom 9:16). Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, have not obtained it (v 30). Here, I do not understand, as if the apostle had denied a virtuous course of life to be the way to heaven; but that a man without grace, though he have natural gifts, yet he shall not obtain privilege to go to heaven, and be the son of God. Though a man without grace may have a will to be saved, yet he cannot have that will God’s way. Nature, it cannot know any thing but the things of nature–the things of God knows no man but by the Spirit of God; unless the Spirit of God be in you, it will leave you on this side the gates of heaven. ‘Not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

It may be, some may have a will, a desire that Ishmael may be saved; know this, it will not save thy child. If it was our will, I would have you all go to heaven. How many are there in the world that pray for their children, and cry for them, and are ready to die [for them]? and this will not do. God’s will is the rule of all; it is only through Jesus Christ: ‘which were born, not of flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

Now I come to the doctrine. Men that believe in Jesus Christ, to the effectual receiving of Jesus Christ, they are born to it. He does not say they shall be born to it, but they are born to it–born of God unto God and the things of God, before he receives God to eternal salvation. ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ Now, unless he be born of God, he cannot see it: suppose the kingdom of God be what it will, he cannot see it before he be begotten of God. Suppose it be the gospel, he cannot see it before he be brought into a state of regeneration. Believing is the consequence of the new birth; ‘not of blood, nor of the will of man, but of God.’

First, I will give you a clear description of it under one similitude or two. A child, before it be born into the world, is in the dark dungeon of its mother’s womb: so a child of God, before he be born again, is in the dark dungeon of sin, sees nothing of the kingdom of God; therefore it is called a new birth: the same soul has love one way in its carnal condition, another way when it is born again.

Second, As it is compared to a birth, resembling a child in his mother’s womb, so it is compared to a man being raised out of the grave; and to be born again, is to be raised out of the grave of sin; ‘Awake, thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.’ To be raised from the grave of sin is to be begotten and born (Rev 1:5); there is a famous instance of Christ; He is ‘the first begotten of the dead’; he is the first-born from the dead, unto which our regeneration alludeth; that is, if you be born again by seeking those things that are above, then there is a similitude betwixt Christ’s resurrection and the new birth; which was born, which was restored out of this dark world, and translated out of the kingdom of this dark world, into the kingdom of his dear Son, and made us live a new life–this is to be born again: and he that is delivered from the mother’s womb, it is the help of the mother; so he that is born of God, it is by the Spirit of God. I must give you a few consequences of a new birth.

(1.) First of all, A child, you know, is incident to cry as soon as it comes into the world; for if there be no noise, they say it is dead. You that are born of God, and Christians, if you be not criers, there is no spiritual life in you–if you be born of God, you are crying ones; as soon as he has raised you out of the dark dungeon of sin, you cannot but cry to God, What must I do to be saved? As soon as ever God had touched the jailer, he cries out, ‘Men and brethren, what must I do to be saved?’ Oh! how many prayerless professors is there in London that never pray! Coffee-houses will not let you pray, trades will not let you pray, looking-glasses will not let you pray; but if you was born of God, you would.

(2.) It is not only natural for a child to cry, but it must crave the breast; it cannot live without the breast–therefore Peter makes it the true trial of a new-born babe: the new-born babe desires the sincere milk of the Word, that he may grow thereby: if you be born of God, make it manifest by desiring the breast of God. Do you long for the milk of the promises? A man lives one way when he is in the world, another way when he is brought unto Jesus Christ (Isa 66). They shall suck and be satisfied; if you be born again, there is no satisfaction till you get the milk of God’s Word into your souls (Isa 66:11). To ’suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolation.’ Oh! what is a promise to a carnal man? A whore-house, it may be, is more sweet to him; but if you be born again, you cannot live without the milk of God’s Word. What is a woman’s breast to a horse? But what is it to a child? there is its comfort night and day, there is its succour night and day. O how loath are they it should be taken from them: minding heavenly things, says a carnal man, is but vanity; but to a child of God, there is his comfort.

(3.) A child that is newly born, if it have not other comforts to keep it warm than it had in its mother’s womb, it dies; it must have something got for its succour: so Christ had swaddling clothes prepared for him; so those that are born again, they must have some promise of Christ to keep them alive; those that are in a carnal state, they warm themselves with other things; but those that are born again, they cannot live without some promise of Christ to keep them alive; as he did to the poor infant in Ezekiel 16:8: I covered thee with embroidered gold: and when women are with child, what fine things will they prepare for their child! Oh, but what fine things has Christ prepared to wrap all in that are born again! Oh what wrappings of gold has Christ prepared for all that are born again! Women will dress their children, that every one may see them how fine they are; so he in Ezekiel 16:11: ‘I decked thee also with ornaments, and I put bracelets upon thine hands, and a chain on thy neck; and I put a jewel on thy forehead, and ear-rings in thine ears, and a beautiful crown upon thine head.’ And, says he in verse 13, ‘Thou didst prosper into a kingdom.’ This is to set out nothing in the world but the righteousness of Christ and the graces of the Spirit, without which a new-born babe cannot live, unless they have the golden righteousness of Christ.

(4.) A child, when it is in its mother’s lap, the mother takes great delight to have that which will be for its comfort; so it is with God’s children, they shall be kept on his knee (Isa 66:11): ‘They shall suck and be satisfied with the breasts of her consolations’; verse 13: ‘As one whom his mother comforteth, so will I comfort you.’ There is a similitude in these things that nobody knows of, but those that are born again.

(5.) There is usually some similitude betwixt the father and the child. It may be the child looks like its father; so those that are born again, they have a new similitude–they have the image of Jesus Christ (Gal 4). Every one that is born of God has something of the features of heaven upon him. Men love those children that are likest them most usually; so does God his children, therefore they are called the children of God; but others do not look like him, therefore they are called Sodomites. Christ describes children of the devil by their features–the children of the devil, his works they will do; all works of unrighteousness, they are the devil’s works: if you are earthly, you have borne the image of the earthly; if heavenly, you have borne the image of the heavenly.

(6.) When a man has a child, he trains him up to his own liking–they have learned the custom of their father’s house; so are those that are born of God–they have learned the custom of the true church of God; there they learn to cry ‘My Father’ and ‘My God’; they are brought up in God’s house, they learn the method and form of God’s house, for regulating their lives in this world.

(7.) Children, it is natural for them to depend upon their father for what they want; if they want a pair of shoes, they go and tell him; if they want bread, they go and tell him; so should the children of God do. Do you want spiritual bread? go tell God of it. Do you want strength of grace? ask it of God. Do you want strength against Satan’s temptations? go and tell God of it. When the devil tempts you, run home and tell your heavenly Father–go, pour out your complaints to God; this is natural to children; if any wrong them, they go and tell their father; so do those that are born of God, when they meet with temptations, go and tell God of them.

[THE APPLICATION.]

The first use is this, To make a strict inquiry whether you be born of God or not; examine by those things I laid down before, of a child of nature and a child of grace. Are you brought out of the dark dungeon of this world into Christ? Have you learned to cry, ‘My Father?’ (Jer 3:4). ‘And I said, Thou shalt call me, My Father.’ All God’s children are criers–cannot you be quiet without you have a bellyful of the milk of God’s Word? cannot you be satisfied without you have peace with God? Pray you, consider it, and be serious with yourselves; if you have not these marks, you will fall short of the kingdom of God–you shall never have an interest there; ‘there’ is no intruding. They will say, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us; and he will say, I know you not.’ No child of God, no heavenly inheritance. We sometimes give something to those that are not our children, but [we do] not [give them] our lands. O do not flatter yourselves with a portion among the sons, unless you live like sons. When we see a king’s son play with a beggar, this is unbecoming; so if you be the king’s children, live like the king’s children; if you be risen with Christ, set your affections on things above, and not on things below; when you come together, talk of what your Father promised you; you should all love your Father’s will, and be content and pleased with the exercises you meet with in the world. If you are the children of God, live together lovingly; if the world quarrel with you, it is no matter; but it is sad if you quarrel together; if this be amongst you, it is a sign of ill-breeding; it is not according to the rules you have in the Word of God. Dost thou see a soul that has the image of God in him? Love him, love him; say, This man and I must go to heaven one day; serve one another, do good for one another; and if any wrong you, pray to God to right you, and love the brotherhood.

Lastly, If you be the children of God, learn that lesson–Gird up the loins of your mind, as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to your former conversation; but be ye holy in all manner of conversation. Consider that the holy God is your Father, and let this oblige you to live like the children of God, that you may look your Father in the face, with comfort, another day.