A Call to Holy Living
Delivered on Lord's Day Morning, January 14th, 1872, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"What do ye more than others?"Matthew 5:47.
T IS A VERY GREAT FAULT in any ministry if the doctrine of justification by faith alone be not most clearly taught. I will go further, and add, that it is not only a great fault, but a fatal one; for souls will never find their way to heaven by a ministry that is indistinct upon the most fundamental of gospel truths. We are justified by faith, and not by the works of the law. The merit by which a soul enters heaven is not its own; it is the merit of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am quite sure that you will all hold me guiltless of ever having spoken about this great doctrine in any other than unmistakable language; if I have erred, it is not in that direction. At the same time, it is a dangerous state of things if doctrine is made to drive out precept, and faith is held up as making holiness a superfluity. Sanctification must not be forgotten or overlaid by justification. We must teach plainly that the faith which saves the soul is not a dead faith, but a faith which operates with purifying effect upon our entire nature, and produces in us fruits of righteousness to the praise and glory of God. It is not by personal holiness that a man shall enter heaven, but yet without holiness shall no man see the Lord. It is not by good works that we are justified, but if a man shall continue to live an ungodly life, his faith will not justify him; for it is not the faith of God's elect; since that faith is wrought by the Holy Spirit, and conforms men to the image of Christ. We must learn to place the precepts in their right position. They are not the base of the column, but they are the capital of it. Precepts are not given to us as a way to obtain life, but as the way in which to exhibit life. The commands of Christ are not upon the legal tenor of "this do and live," but upon the gospel system of "live and do this." We are not to be attentive to the precepts in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Our master motive is to be gratitude to him who has saved us with a great salvation. I am sure that every renewed heart here will feel no opposition to the most holy precepts of our Lord. However severely pure that law may seem to be which we have read just now from this fifth chapter of Matthew, our hearts agree with it, and we ask that we may be so renewed that our lives may be conformed to it. The regenerate never rebel against any precept, saying, "This, is too pure;" on the contrary, our new-born nature is enamoured of its holiness, and we cry, "Thy word is very pure, therefore thy servant loveth it. O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes." Even though we find that when we would do good evil is present with us, yet our inmost soul longs after holiness, and pines to be delivered from every evil way. At any rate, Dear friends, if it be not so with you, you may well question whether you are indeed the children of God. My desire, this morning, is to insist upon the precepts which tend to holiness, and I pray the Holy Spirit to excite desires after a high degree of purity in all believing, hearts.
And tell how bright they shine;
Your heaps of glittering dust are yours,
But my Redeemer's mine."
While the poor believer feels that his God is his portion he dispises rather than covets the glories of the world.
Brethren in Christ, you know right well that you possess the covenant of grace, a covenant rich beyond comparison. When Moses looked from the top of Nebo and saw the land from Lebanon even to the river of Egypt, no such prospect gladdened his gaze as that which rises before the eye of your faith when you survey the covenant ordered in all things and sure. More than that, you have Christ in the covenant, and Christ is all. All the glories of his immaculate manhood and his infinite Godhead, and all his merits, and all his conquests, and all his glories, all are yours, seeing you are his. And what is most of all, God is yours. "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." And having God to be your God, Providence is yoursall things work together for your good. Life's goods are yours and so are its ills, this world is yours and worlds beyond the river; time and eternity, things present and things to come, life and death, all are yours. And yet no good thing was yours by natural inheritance. To good was yours by purchase from your own earnings or procurement of your own labor; they are all the gifts of the sovereign grace of God. Brethren, we all debtors: who shall tell how much we owe? If I said to any of you, "Take thy pen and sit down quickly, and write how much thou owest to thy Lord," if you had to sit there till you completed the wondrous tale, you certainly would never leave those seats. Depths of mercy, that I, a sinner, should ever have a hope of heaven, but oh, heights of mercy! that I should be adopted into the family of God, and made a joint heir with Christ Jesus of all the heritage of the Firstborn of God; to have all that God is, and all that God has, to be the portion of my cup, this is grace indeed! My cup runneth over! Bless the Lord, O my soul!
And now, after all this, ought you not to do more than others? Shall the servant who has but his daily pay love the master better than the child who has the father's heart? Shall the stranger who comes into the house occasionally love the master of the house better than his spouse who is beloved of his soul? Oh, by the favors you have received, countless and immense; by the precious fountain-head of mercy, from which all those favors come; by the many years in which goodness and mercy have followed you all your days; if you be not indeed insensible, and your hearts changed to adamant, I beseech you, brethren, do more than others; serve your Lord with an intensity which others cannot reach, and live for him with an ardor of which they cannot conceive. I think there is a good argument here. It will be powerful reasoning, if you feel it to be so. Do you feel it, brother? And feeling it, will you try to live it out?
Believers ought to do more than others, in the next place, because they are looking for more than others. The ungodly man's look-out is dark and dreary: when he dares open the window and look, what seeth he? Come hither, come hither, ungodly man, I must take thee to the battlements of thine house and bid thee look abroad. What seest thou? Ah, he closes his eye and refuses to look, for he sees a river, the name of which is Death, and he seeth that the waves are black and foaming with the wrath of God. Look, sir, look, I pray you, for to close your eyes upon it will not dry it up. And see you what is beyond that river? Ah, he dares not think for after death to him cometh hell and the wrath of God. O man, look, I beseech thee, look, for it will be thy portion except thou relent and fly to Christ for mercy. But no, he covers his eyes, and gets him back to his gaieties, for he cannot bear to look at what will surely be his portion. But come, thou Christian, thou who hast washed thy robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; what seest thou? Suppose it should be thy lot to die before the Master comes in the Second Advent, what seest thou? "I see," saith he, "but a couch whereon I recline and close mine eyes on earth to open them in heaven; I see angels waiting round that bed, and the Master, the Lord of life, ready to receive my spirit." "What next do you see?" "Nay, I cannot tell you, for my eyes are dazzled with the glory, and my tongue is not able to describe what God revealeth to his children by his Spirit; but there is the never-ending glory, for ever with the Lord, the rest that knows no fear, the Sabbath without end." Oh, the glory, the glory that lasteth on for aye in the presence of the Master whom we have served, and the Father who hath loved us of old! This is your prospect now; and brethren, as your prospect is so bright, I beseech you do ye more than others.
II. This is a very large field, but we must leave it because our time fails us, and we must call your attention to those MATTERS IN WHICH WE MAY NATURALLY LOOK FOR THE CHRISTIAN TO DO MORE THAN OTHERS.
I thought I would not utter my own ideas this morning, but to fortify myself, would go back to the Master's own language; so I must refer you again to this fifth chapter of Matthew, and you will see in looking from the thirteenth to the sixteenth verses, that our Lord expects his people to set a store godly example than others do. Observe, they are to be the salt of the earth, they are to be the light of the world, they are to be as a city set on a hill, and therefore seen of all. If you were not a professor, my friend, you would certainly have some influence, and be under responsibilities for it; but as a Christian, your place in this world is peculiarly that of influence. You are not like a stone, affected by the atmosphere, or overgrown by moss, a merely passive thing; no, you are active, and are to affect others, as the salt which operates and seasons. You are not a candle unlit, which can exist without affecting others; you are a lighted candle, and you cannot be so lit without scattering light around. You are made on purpose to exert influence, and your Master warns you that if your influence be not salutary and good you are a hopelessly useless person for when the salt has lost its savor it is good for nothing but to be trampled under foot. You are expected, therefore, to influence others for good. You are an employer; let your influence be felt by your servants. You are a child at home; let influence be felt around the social hearth. You are, perhaps, a domestic servant; then take care that, like the little maid who waited on Naaman's wife, you seek the good of the household. Your influence must act quietly and unostentatiously, like the influence of salt, which is not noisy but yet potent. You cannot get through this world rightly by saying, "If I do no good, at least, I do no hurt;" that might the plea of a stone or a brick, but it cannot be an apology for savourless salt; for if when the salt is rubbed into the meat it does not season and preserve it, it is bad salt, and has not performed its work, but has caused loss to the owner, and left the meat to become putrid. And if you in this world, according to your capacity and means, do not affect other people for good, you have convicted yourself of being useless, worthless, a cumberer of the ground. The Master expects, as he has put the pungent influence of his grace into you, that you should be as salt; as he has put the burning light of his grace upon you, that you should be as a lamp, and scatter light all round. Take good heed of that. It is no saying of mine, it is the saying of him whom ye call Master and Lord. Think you hear him speaking it from those dear lips, which are like lilies dropping sweet smelling myrrh, and instead of seeing my hands lifted up in warning, think you see the print of the nails in his hand, and let the words come home with force to your soul.
Next, if I read from the seventeenth to the twentieth verse, I am taught that our Lord expects from his people a more exact performance of the divine will than even the Pharisees pretend to give. Observe, he speaks here about jots and tittles never passing away, and about those who break the least of his commandments, and teach men so; and I gather that he would have us observe the very least of his words and treasure up his commandments. Do you think, dear brethren, there would be so many sects among Christians if all believers honestly wanted to know the truth and to know Christ's will? I do not think there would be. I cannot think our Lord has written a book so doubtful and ambiguous in its expressions that men need differ in interpreting it upon plain points. I am afraid we bring prejudice to it, the prejudice of our constitutional temperament, or of our parents, or of the church with which we are associated, and we pay reverence to somebody else's book, perhaps a catechism, perhaps the Book of Common Prayer, over and beyond the Bible itself. Now, this is all wrong, and we must purge ourselves of it and come to the word of God itself: and, when we come to this book, it must be candidly and humbly, with this feeling, "I desire now to unlearn the most precious doctrine or practice I have ever learned if the Lord will show me that it is inconsistent with his will; and I desire to learn that truth which will bring me most into derision, or that ordinance which will submit me to the greatest inconvenience, if it is his will, for I am his servant, and I desire nothing to support my own opinion, or to be my own rule." I think we shall all get pretty near together, if, in the Spirit of God, we begin reading our Bibles in this way. Surely the Lord expects this of us. I do not think he expects this of some professors, for certainly he will never get it; they are quite satisfied to say, "I attend my parish church, and that is the faith of our church;" or, "My grandmother joined the Dissenters, and, therefore, I keep to them; besides, after all you know there are no sects in heaven." That last assertion is one of the most shallow pretences ever designed on earth, to excuse men from being scrupulously obedient to every word of their Lord and Master. I do not doubt, O disciple, but what you will reach heaven, even though you mistake some of the Master's teaching, but I do doubt your ever reaching there if you wilfully despise his words, or decline to learn what he came to teach. Our Lord has said unto us, "Go ye therefore, and disciple all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," and therefore, if you will not become disciples, and learn of Christ, we have not even begun with you, neither can you be baptised, or bear the name of the Triune God. Jesus will have you obey his will, as well as trust his grace. Mind that, beloved. This demand for exact obedience is no word of mine, but of the Master.
Look again, from the twenty-first to the twenty-sixth verse, and though I do not pretend to expound every word, I remark that Christ would have his people excel all others in gentleness. Others will retaliate on those who vex them, and call them hard names, and will even go the length of saying "fool;" and, perhaps, go still further, and even come to cursing and imprecating terrible judgments. A quarrelsome man when he is in a quarrel with another rather takes pleasure in it; he does not mind how many hate him, or how many he hates; his religion is quite consistent with the worst temper; he can say his prayers, or he can offer his gifts to his God, and yet be as malicious as he likes; but with the Christian it is not so, and must not be so. We are to bear a great deal of wrong before we make any reply whatever, and when we do give an answer, we must, if we would be like our Master, give a gentle one. Heaping coals of fire upon the head of our enemy by returning abundant kindness is the right revenge for a Christian, and all other revenge is denied to him. He is not to stand upon his rights; he is rather to say, "I know it is my right, but I will yield it sooner than I will contend; I know this man does me an injustice, but I will bear it sooner than my temper shall be ruffled, or my spirit shall be defiled, by a thought of evil." "Oh," saith one, "this is a hard measure." Do you think it so? Are you a Christian then? for while in my soul I feel it is difficult, my heart feels I desire to do it, and I love it, and aspire after it; and I think every real Christian, though by reason of infirmity he often breaks this blessed rule, yet sees the beauty of it, and does not think it hard. Nay, rather the hard point to him is that he should fall so short of the gentle, loving nature of his dear Lord and Master.
But, I must pass on, for the next point in which the Christian is to excel is in purity. Read from the twenty-seventh to the thirty-second verseI do not go into particulars, but purity is earnestly commanded. The ungodly man says, "Well, I do not commit any act of fornication; you do not hear me sing a lascivious song," and saying that he feels content: but the Christian's Master expects us to carry the point a great deal farther. An unchaste look is a crime to us, and an evil thought is a sin. Oh, it shocks me beyond measure when I hear of professedly Christian people who fall into the commission of immodest actions,not such as are called criminal in common society, but loose, fleshly, and full of lasciviousness. I beseech you all of you in your conversation with one other, avoid anything which has the appearance of impurity in this respect. Looks and gestures step by step lead on to fouler things, and sport which begins in folly ends in lewdness. Be ye chaste as the driven snow, let not an immodest glance defile you. We do not like to say much about these things, they are so delicate, and we tremble lest we should suggest what we would prevent; but, oh, by the tears of Jesus, by the wounds of Jesus, by the death of Jesus, hate even the garment spotted by the flesh; and avoid everything that savours of unchastity. Flee youthful lusts as Joseph did. Run any risk sooner than fall into uncleanness, for it is a deep ditch, and the abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein. Strong temptation lie in wait for the young in a great city like this, but let the young man learn of God to cleanse his way, by taking heed there to according to his word. May you all be kept from falling, and be presented faultless before the presence of God with exceeding great joy. You are not to be commonly chaste, you are to be much more than that: the very look and thought of impurity are to be hateful to you. Help us, O Spirit of God.
Next to that, the Christian is to be more than others in truthfulness. Read on from the thirty-third to the thirty-seventh verse, and the gist of all is, that whereas another man utters the truth because he swears, you are to speak the truth because you can do no otherwise. Your ordinary word is to be as true as the extraordinary oath of the man who stands in the witness box in the court of justice. You are to avoid those evasions, alcove modes of concealing truth which are common enough in trade, those exaggerations, those lies which are a common nuisance. Why, our advertisements swarm with lies; our shop windows are daubed with themsuch as "tremendous sacrifices," when the only sacrificed person is the customer. All the world sees through puffery, and yet even professors go on puffing and exaggerating. Shun it, Christian. If you tell a man you sell him an article under cost price, let it be under cost price, or do not say so. There are other modes of commending your wares which will be quite as effectual as falsehood. Scorn to earn a farthing by uttering that which is not true, and what you might allow in your next door neighbor, and say, "Well, he is under a different rule from me;" do not for a moment tolerate in yourself; the strict literal truth in all things should be the law of the child of God. Let your "yea, be yea," and your "nay, nay."
We have already touched upon the point which our Savior mentions from the thirty-eighth to the forty-second verse, namely, that the Christian should excel in forbearance. He should be ready to suffer wrong again and again sooner than be provoked to resistance, much less retaliation. That I have already spoken of, but may we excel in it.
And lastly, from the forty-second to the forty-eighth verse, our Savior shows that he expects us to excel in love to all mankind, and in the practical fruit of it, in trying to do them good. We ought to be, above all others, the most loving people, and the most good-doing people. Your man who buttons himself up within himself, and says, "Well, let every man see to himself, that is what I say; every man for himself and God for us all;" the man who goes through the world paying his way with strict justice, but all the while having no heart to feel for the sick, and the poor, and the needy, with no care about anybody else's soul, his whole hearts enclosed within his own ribs, all buttoned up in his own broadcloth such; a man is very like the devil, but he certainly is not like Christ. Our Lord Jesus Christ's heart was expansive and unselfish. He gave himself for his enemies, and died breathing a prayer over them; he lived never for himself. You could not put your finger on one point of his life and say, "here he lived for himself alone." Neither his prayers nor his preachings, his miracles or his sufferings, his woes or his glories were with an eye to himself. He saved others, but himself he would not save. His followers must in this follow him closely. Selfishness is as foreign to Christianity as darkness to light. The true Christian lives to do good, he looks abroad to see whom be may serve, and with this eye he looks upon the wicked, upon the fallen and the offcasts, seeking to reclaim them. Yes, in the same way he looks upon his personal enemies, and aims at winning them by repeated kindnesses. No nationality must confine his goodwill, no sect or clan monopolise his benevolence. No depravity of character or poverty of condition must sicken his lovingkindness, for Jesus received sinners and ate with them. Our love must embrace those who lie hard by the gates of hell, and we must endeavor with words of truth and deeds of love to bring them to Christ, who can uplift then to heaven. Oh that you may all be gentle, quiet, meek in spirit, but full of an ardent, burning affection towards your fellowmen; so shall you be known to be Christ's disciples.
"Oh," say you, "these are great things." Yes, but you have a great Spirit to help you, and you owe a great deal to your precious Lord and Master. Did I hear one say, "I will avoid sin by being very retired; I will find out a quiet place where I shall not be tempted, and where I shall have few calls upon me." Pretty soldier you who when your Captain says, "Win the victory," reply, "I will keep clear of the fight." No, Christian, go about your trade, go into the busy mart, attend to your business, attend to your family, attend to those matters which God has allotted to you, and glorify God in the battle of life by doing more than others. Will God enable you so to do.
III. Now, into about two minutes we must condense what ought to have occupied at least a quarter-of an-hour. The last head was to deal with REASONS FOR OUR DOING MORE THAN OTHERS. They were just these. First, by our fruits we are to be known. Men will never know us by our faith, for that is within us; they know us by our works, which are visible to them. Bring forth, therefore, the fruits of grace that the world may know you have been with Jesus. Remember also that works are to be evidence at the last. It is consistent with the gospel of grace, no doubt, for it is a truth clearly revealed, that we shall be judged according to the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil; and you know that when the Lord gives us the description of the judgment, he did not say to his disciples, "Ye believed in me," or "Ye loved me"these were secret mattersbut he said, "I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was sick and in prison, and ye visited me." It is by your works ye will be judged. O believers, may grace enable you to abound in them.
It is by such works that the mouths of gainsayers are to be stopped. One holy action is a better argument against blasphemers than a thousand eloquent discourses. You are our replies to scepticsyou who having been rescued from sin maintain a life of holiness. When they see the men that are healed, standing with Peter and John, they can say nothing against them. Oh, by your works confound gainsayers!
These works, too, bring glory to God. "That they, seeing your good works may glorify your Father which is in heaven."
And these works also ensure peace to your own conscience, and have much to do with your close communion with God. "How can two walk together except they be agreed?" If ye walk contrary to him he will walk contrary to you. Your sins will separate between you and your God, but the Holy Spirit, where he maintains holiness, maintains peace and communion in the soul. "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." "If ye keep my commandments," saith the Savior, "Ye shall abide in my love"shall abide in the conscious fellowship of that love, and in the enjoyment of it. May God help you, may God help you, for his name's sake.
Look ye here, ye who say you believe in Christ and are living in sin: what does this make of your boastings? Look you here, ye that say "I have only to believe by-and-by, and I may live as I like, and yet be saved." Is it so? Is it so? "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where will the ungodly and the wicked appear?" As for those whose ungodly lives stare them in the face, so far from being saved by their pretended faith, they are trees twice dead, plucked up by the roots. If they say they continue in sin that grace may abound, their damnation is just. The salvation of Christ is not a salvation in sin, but a salvation from sin. They who would be saved by him must come and trust him just as they are, and he will enable them to forsake their sin; but while they continue to say, "We will take pleasure in sin," there is no salvation possible for them. God bring us to Christ, and nail our sins to his cross, and give us life in our Savior's life. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMONMatthew 5.