Delivered on Sabbath Evening, August 17, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise."Matthew 22:5.
AN is not much changed since the days of Adam. In his bodily frame he appears to be exactly similar, for skeletons many hundred years' old are the exact counterparts of ours; and sure enough that which was recorded in history as having been done by man centuries ago, might be written again, for "there is nothing new under the sun." The same class of men is still to be discovered (although, perhaps, differently dressed) as that which existed ages long gone by. There are still men who answer the character given to others, in his day, by the Saviour, "They go their way, one to his farm, another to his merchandise,: making light of the glorious things of the gospel. I am certain I have many such characters here to-night, and I pray the Lord that I may be enabled to discourse to them very solemnly and very pointedly. And I must ask all you who understand the heavenly art of prayer, to pray that God would be pleased to send home every thought into the breast where he intends it to lodge, that it may bring forth the comfortable fruit of righteousness in the salvation of many souls. "They made light of it;" so do too many in this day; and so will a large portion of my hearers to-night. I believe that to think lightly of Christ is a sin; and at all risks of being falsely called legalist, or free-willer, by those who are wise above what is written, I shall charge it upon you as such, for I hope I shall never belong to that class of Calvinists who do the devil's work by excusing sinners in their sins.
Sure, the whole earth would love him too."
Oh! dear friends, if you once knew what a blessed master Christ is, if you once knew what a blessed thing the gospel is, if you could once be brought to believe what a blessed God our God is, if you could only have one hour's enjoyment such as the Christian experiences, if you could only have one promise applied to your heart, you would never make light of the gospel again. Oh! you say you do not like it! Why, you have never tried it? Should a man despise the wine of which he has never sipped. It may be sweeter than he dreams? Oh! taste and see that the Lord is good, and so sure as ever you taste, you will see his goodness. I will venture to say, again, that there are many who make light of the gospel, simply through ignorance; and if that is so, I am somewhat in hopes that when they are a little enlightened by sitting under the Word, the Lord may be pleased graciously to bring them to himself; and then I know they will never make light of Christ again. Oh! do not be ignorant, "for that the soul be without knowledge is not good." Seek to know him whom to know aright is life eternal; and when you know him you will never make light of him.
Other people make light of it because of pride. "What is the good," said one, "of bringing me that invitation? Step into my house, my man, I will show you a feast quite as good as any you can tell me of. Look here! there is good cheer for you; my table is as well spread as any man's; begging his Majesty's pardon, the King cannot give a better feast than I; and I do not see why I should drag my bones about to get nothing better than I can get at home." So he would not go, out of pride. And so with some of you. You want to be washed! No, you were never filthy; were you? You need to be forgiven! Oh no! you are rather too good for that. Why, you are so awfully pious in your own conceit, that if it were all true, you would make even the angel Gabriel blush to think of you. You do not think even an angel capable of holding a candle to you. What! you seek for mercy? It is an insult to you. "Go and tell the drunkard," you say, "go and fetch the harlot; but I am a respectable man; I always go to church or chapel; I am a very good sort of fellow; I may frolic now and then, but I make it up some other day; I am sometimes a little slack, but then I rein the horses in, and make up the distance afterwards; and I dare say I shall get to heaven as soon as anybody else. I am a very good sort." Well, my friend, I do not wonder that you despise the gospel, for the gospel just tells you that you are entirely lost. It tells you that your very righteousness is full of sin. That, as for any hope of your being saved by it, you might as well try to sail across the Atlantic on a sere leaf as try to get to heaven by your righteousness. And as for it being a garment fit to cover you, you might as well get a spider's web to go to court in, and think it a dress fit to appear in before her Majesty. Ah! my hearer, I know why thou despisest Christ; it is because of thy Satanic pride. May the Lord pull the pride out of thee; for if he do not, it will be the faggot that shall roast thy soul for ever. Take heed of pride; by pride fell the angelshow can men, then, though the image of their Maker, hope to win by it? Shun it, flee from it; for so sure as thou art proud, wilt thou incur the guilt of making light of Christ.
Perhaps quite as many made light of the good news, because they did not believe the messenger. "Oh!" said they, "stop a moment. What! a dinner to be given away? I do not believe it. What! the young Prince going to be married? Tell that to fools, we do not believe any such thing. What! we all invited? We do not believe it; the story is incredible." The poor messenger went home and told his Master that they would not believe him. That is just another reason why many men make light of the gospel, because they do not believe it. "What!" they say, "Jesus Christ died to wash men from their sins? We do not believe it. What! A heaven. Who ever saw it? A hell! Who ever heard its groans? What! Eternity. Who ever returned from that last hope of every spirit. What! Blessedness in religion? We do not believe itit is a moping, miserable thing. What! Sweetness in the promises? No there is not; we believe there is sweetness in the world, but we do not believe there is any in the wells the Lord has digged." And so they despise the gospel, because they do not believe it. But, I am sure, that when a man once believes it, he never thinks lightly of it. Once let me have the solemn conviction in my heart by the Holy Spirit, that if unsaved, there is a gaping gulf that shall devour me; do you think I can go to rest till I have trembled from head to foot? Once let me heartily believe that there is a heaven provided for those who believe on Christ, do you think I could give sleep to my eyes, or slumber to my eyelids, till I have wept because it is not mine? I believe not. But damnable unbelief thrusts his hand into the mouth of an, and plucks up his heart, and so destroys him, for it will not let him believe, and, therefore, he cannot feel, because he believeth not. Oh! my friends, it is unbelief that makes men think lightly of Christ; but unbelief will not do so by-and-bye. There are no infidels in hell; they are all believers there. There are many that were infidels here, but they are not so now; the flames are too hot to make them doubt their existence. It is hard for a man, tormented in the flame, to doubt the existence of the fire. It would be difficult for a man, standing before the burning eyes of God, to doubt the existence of a God after that. Ah! unbelievers, turn ye, or rather, may the Lord turn you from your unbelief, for this makes you think lightly of Christ; and this is it that is taking away your life, and destroying your souls.
Another set of people thought lightly of this feast because they were so worldly; they had so much to do. I have heard of a rich merchant who was waited on one day by a godly man, and when he stopped him, he said to him, "Well, sir, what is the state of your soul?" "Soul!" he said, "bother you, I have no time to take care of my soul; I have enough to do to take care of my ships." About a week after, it so happened that he had to find time to die, for God took him away. We fear he said to him, "Thou fool! this night thy soul shall be required of thee; then whose shall those things be which thou hast hoarded up for thyself?" Ye merchants of London, there are many of you who read your ledgers more than your Bibles. Perhaps you must, but ye do not read your Bibles at all, while ye read your ledgers every day. In America, it is said, they worship the almighty dollar; I believe that in London many men worship the almighty sovereign; they have the greatest possible respect for an almighty bank note; that is the god which many men are always adoring. The prayer-book they carry so religiously in their hands is their cash-book. Even on Sunday, there is a gentleman over there, he does not think his foreman knows it, but he was sitting in doors all this morning, because it was wet, casting up his accounts; and now he comes here in the evening, because he is a very pious manextraordinarily so. He would shut the parks up on a Sunday, he wouldhe would not let a soul get a breath of fresh air, because he is so pious, but he himself may sit for half-a-day in the counting-house and yet think it no sin. But many are too busy to think of these things. "Pray!" they say, "I have no time for that; I have to pay. What! read the Bible? No I cannot; I have to be looking over this thing and that thing, and seeing how the markets go. I find time to read the Times, but I could not think of reading the Bible." It will be marvellously unfortunate for some of you, that you will find the lease of your lives rather shorter than you expected. If you had taken a lease of your lives for eighty-eight years from this date, you would be foolish enough, perhaps, to spend forty-four in sin. But considering that you are a tenant at will, and liable to be turned out any day, it is the height of folly, the very climax of absurdity, excelling all that the fool, with his cap and bells, ever did, to be living just to gather up the pelf of this world, and not for things to come. Worldliness is a demon that hath wrung the neck of many souls; God grant that we may not perish through our worldliness!
There is another class of people that I can only characterize in this way: they are altogether thoughtless. If you ask them concerning religion, they have no opinion at all about it. They do not positively detest it, they do not mock at it; but they have not a thought about it. The fact of it is, they intend thinking about it by-and-bye. Theirs is a kind of butterfly existence; they are always moving about, never doing anything, neither for others or themselves. And these are very amiable people, who are always ready to give a guinea for a charity; they never refuse anybody, and they would give their guinea all the same, whether it was for a cricket match or a church. Now, if I were forced to go back to the world, and had to chose the character I would wish to be, the last position I would wish to occupy would be that of the thoughtless man. I believe thoughtless persons are in the most danger of being lost of any class I know. I like, sometimes to get under the word a thoroughly stout, stiff, hater of the gospel, for his heart is like a flint, and when it is struck with the hammer of the gospel the flint goes to pieces in a moment. But these thoughtless people have india-rubber heartsyou hit them, and they give way; you strike them again, and they give way. If they are sick, and you visit them, they say "yes." You talk to them about the importance of religion; they say "yes." You talk to them about escaping from hell and entering heaven, they say "Yes." You preach a sermon to them when they are better, and remind them of the vows they made in their sickness; "it is quite right, sir," they say. And they say the same whatever you may tell them. They are always very polite to you; but whatever you say to them is put aside. If you begin talking to them about drunkards; oh! they are not drunkards; they may have accidently got drunk once, but that was a little thing out of the usual way. And bring whatever sin you like to them, you may hit them, and hit them, but it is no good, for they are not half so easily broken (speaking after the manner of men) as the real stout-hearted hater of the gospel. Why, there is a sailor comes rolling home from sea, swearing, blaspheming, cursing; he comes into the house of God, and almost the first word is applied by the Spirit for the breaking of Jack's heart. Another young man says, "I know as much as any minister can tell me; for my own mother taught me, and my old father used to read the Bible to me till, I believe, I have got every bit of it in my head. I go to chapel out of respect to his memory, but I really don't care at all about it; it is very good for old people, it is quite right for old women, and those who are dying, and in time of cholera. It is a very good thing, but I don't care anything about it just now." Now, I tell you, careless people, most solemnly, that you are the very devil's lifeguards; you are his reserve; he keeps you away from the battle, he does not send you out like he does a blasphemer, for he fears that a shot may haply light upon you, and you may be saved. But he says, "Stand by here, and if you have to go out I will give you an inpenetrable coat of mail." The arrows go rattling against you; they all hit you; but alas! there is not one of them that penetrates your heart, for that is left elsewhere. You are only an empty chrysalis, and when you come to God's house, and his word is preached, you make light of it, because it is your habit to be thoughtless about everything.
Very briefly I must touch another case, and then I must dismiss you. You may make light of the gospel out of sheer presumption. They are like the foolish man who goes on, and is punished; not like the prudent man, who "forseeth the evil, and hideth himself." They go on; that step is safethey take it; the next step is safethey take it; their foot hangs over a gulf of darkness; but they will try one step, and as that is safe, they think they will try the next; and as the last has been safe, and as for many years they have been safe, they suppose they always shall be; and because they have not died yet, they think they will never die. And so out of sheer presumption, thinking "all men mortal but themselves," they go on making light of Christ. Tremble, ye presumptuous, you will not always be able to do that.
And, lastly, I fear there are a great many who make light of Christ because of the commonness of the gospel. It is preached everywhere, and that is why you make light of it. You can hear it at the corner of every street; you can read it in this widely circulated Bible; and because the gospel is so common, therefore, you don't care for it. Ah! my dear friends, if there were only one gospel minister in London that could tell you the truth; if there were only one Bible in London, I believe you would be rushing to hear that Bible read; and the man who had the message would have no sinecure of it, he would be obliged to work from morning to night, to tell it out to you. But now, because you have so many Bibles you forget to read them; because you have so many tracts you pack up any article in them; because you have so many sermons you do not think anything at all of them. But what is that? Dost thou think the less of the sun because he scatters his beams abroad? Dost thou think the less of bread because it is the food which God gives to all his children? Dost thou think the less of water, when thou art thirsty, because every rill will afford it to thee? No. If thou wert athirst after Christ, thou wouldst love him all the better, because he is preached everywhere; and thou wouldst not think lightly of him because of that.
"They made light of it." How many of my hearers to-night, I ask again, are making light of Christ? Many of you are, no doubt. I will give you, then, just one warning, and then farewell. Make light of Christ, sinner! let me say, again, to thee, and thou wilt rue the day, when thou comest on thy death-bed. It will go hard with thee when the bony monster has got the grip of thee, and when he is bringing thee down to the river, to steep thee in the lake of death. It will go hard with thee, when thy eye-strings break, and when thy death-sweat stands upon the brow. Remember, last time thou hadst a fever; ah! how thou didst shake. Remember, last night, how thou didst quake in thy bed, when flash after flash of lightning came through thy window; and how thou didst tremble when the deep-mouthed thunder spake out the voice of God. Ah! sinner, thou wilt tremble worse then when thou shalt see death for thyself, and when the bony rider, on his white horse, shall grasp his dart and plunge it in thy bowels. It will go hard with thee if thou hast despised Christ, and shalt die a despiser. See that flying angel? his wings are made of flame, and in his hand he grasps a sharp two-edged sword. O angel, wherefore dost thou wing thy speedy flight? "Hark!" says he, "this trump shall tell you." And he puts a trumpet to his lips, and
Ne'er were prophetic sounds so full of woe."
Look! the sheeted dead have started from their graves. Behold, the cloudy chariot of wheeled along by cherub's hand. Mark! there upon the throne there sits the Kingthe Prince. O angel, what in this terrible day must become of the man that has thought lightly of Christ? See there, he unleashes his sword. "This blade," says he, "shall find and pierce him through. This blade, like a sickle, shall reap each tare from the wheat, and this strong arm shall bind him up in his bundle to be burned; and this great arm of mine shall grasp him, and hurl him down, down, down, where flames for ever burn, and hell for ever howls." It will go hard with you then. Mark this man's word to-night; go away and laugh at it; but remember, I say to you again, it will be a solemn thing for you when Christ shall come to judgment, if you have made light of him, and worse than all, if you should ever be locked up in the caverns of despair, if you should ever hear it said, "Depart ye cursed," if you should ever mingle your awful shrieks with the doleful howls of lost myriads, if you should see the pit that is bottomless, and the gulf that has walls of fire. It will be a fearful thing to find thyself in there, and to know that thou canst ne'er get out again! Sinner, this night I preach the gospel to thee. E'er thou goest, hear it, and believe it; may God grant thee grace to receive it, so thou shalt be saved. "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. He that believeth not," so saith the Scripture, "shall be damned." To believe, is to put your trust in Christ; to be baptized, is to be plunged in water in the name of the Lord Jesus, as a profession that you are already saved, and that you love Christ. "He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved, and he that believeth not shall be damned." O may you never know the meaning of that last word. Farewell!