Published on Thursday, September 22nd, 1904.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On a Lord's-day Evening, in 1862.
"Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."Hebrews 12:14.
NE feels most happy when blowing the trumpet of jubilee, proclaiming peace to broken hearts, freedom to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. But God's watchman has another trumpet, which he must sometimes blow; for thus saith the Lord unto him, "Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain." Times there are when we must ring the tocsin; men must be startled from their sleep, they must be roused up to enquire, "What are we? Where are we? Whither are we going?" Nor is it altogether amiss for the wisest virgins to look to the oil in their vessels, and for the soundest Christians to be sometimes constrained to examine the foundations of their hope, to trace back their evidences to the beginning, and make an impartial survey of their state before God. Partly for this reason, but with a further view to the awakening and stirring up of those who are destitute of all holiness, I have selected for our topic, "Holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."
Betwixt the west and north-west side."
There is no question about their being masters in divinity. If degrees went according to merit, they would have been dubbed "D. D." years ago, for they know everything, and are not a little proud that they do. And yet these men live a life that is a stench even in the nostrils of men who make no profession of religion. We have some of this kind in all congregations. I wish you would not come here. If we could do you good, we might be glad to see you; but you do so much hurt to the rest, and bring so much discredit upon the cause at large, that your room would be better than your company. You listen to the sermon, and sometimes perhaps have the condescension to speak well of the preacher, who wishes you would not. Yet, after the sermon is done, on the road home, there may be a public-house door just opened at one o'clock, and the brother refreshes himself, and perhaps does so many times. Even if it be the holy day, it is all the same, and yet he is a dear and precious child of God. No doubt he is in his own estimation. And then, during the week, he lives as others live, and acts as others act, and yet. congratulates himself that he knows the truth, and understands the doctrines of the gospel, and therefore he will surely be saved! Out with thee, man! Out with thee! Down with thy hopes! "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
No mere doctrines will suffice;
Broken hearts, and humble walkers
These are dear in Jesus' eyes."
Heart-work, carried out afterwards into life-work,this is what the Lord wants. You may perish as well with true doctrines as with false, if you pervert the true doctrine into licentiousness. You may to go to hell by the cross as surely as you may by the theatre, or by the vilest of sin. You may perish with the name of Jesus on you lips, and with a sound creed sealed on your very bosom, for "except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "Be not deceived; God is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall lie also reap." Now, if any of you belong to either of these four classes, I think you cannot help knowing it, and, being destitute of gospel holiness, you have good cause to bewail your character, and tremble for your destiny.
But, to help you still further, brethren, that man is destitute of true holiness who can look back upon his own past sin without sorrow. Oh, to think of our past lives! There were some of us who knew the Lord at fifteen years of age, but those fifteen years of unregeneracy,we can never forget them! Others may say, "We did not know him till we were fifty or sixty." Ah, my dear brethren! you have much to weep over, but so have those of us who knew the Lord in early life. I can look back upon God's mercy with delight, but I hope I shall never be able to look back upon my sins with complacency. Whenever a man looks to any of his past faults and shortcomings, it ought to be through his tears. Some men recall their past lives, and talk of their old sins, and seem to roll them under their tongues as a sweet morsel. They live their sins over again. As it was said of Alexander,
And twice he slew the slain."
There are those who revel in the memory of their iniquities. They live their life in imagination over again. They recollect some deed of lewdness, or some act of infamy; and, as they think it over, they dare not repeat it, for their profession would be spoiled; but they love the thought, and cultivate it with a vicious zest. Thou are no friend to true holiness, but an utter stranger to it unless the past causes thee profound sorrow, and sends thee to thy knees to weep and hope that God, for Christ's sake, has blotted it out.
And I am quite sure that you know nothing of true holiness if you can look forward to any future indulgence of sensual appetites with a certain degree of delightful anticipation. Have I a man here, a professed Christian, who has formed some design in his mind to indulge the flesh, and to enjoy forbidden dainties when an opportunity occurs? Ah, sir! if thou canst think of those things that may come in thy way without tremor, I suspect thee: I would thou wouldst suspect thyself. Since the day that some of us knew Christ, we have always woke up in the morning with a fear lest we should that day disown our Master. And there is one fear which sometimes haunts me, and I must confess it; and were it not for faith in God, it would be too much for me. I cannot read the life of David without some painful emotions. All the time he was a young man, his life was pure before God, and in the light of the living it shone with a glorious lustre; but when grey hairs began to be scattered on his head, the man after God's heart sinned. I have sometimes felt inclined to pray that my life may come to a speedy end, lest haply in some evil hour, some temptation should come upon me, and I should fall. And do you not feel the same? Can you look forward to the future without any fear? Does not the thought ever cross your mind," He that thinketh he standeth may yet fall "I And the very possibility of such a thing,does it not drive you to God's mercy-seat, and do you not cry, "Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe"? There is no doxology in Scripture which I enjoy more than that one at the end of the Epistle of Jude: "Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to him be glory." I say to you are a stranger to holiness of heart if you can look forward to a future fall without great alarm.
Again, methinks you have great cause for questioning, unless your holiness is uniform; I mean, if your life is angelic abroad and devilish at home. You must suspect that it is at home that you are what you really are. I question whether any man is much better than he is thought to be by his wife and family, for they, after all, see the most of us, and know the truth about us; and if, sir, though you seem in the pulpit, or on the platform, or in the shop, to be amiable, Christian, and God-like to the passer-by, your children should have to mark your unkindness, your want of fatherly affection for their souls, and your wife has to complain of your domineering, of the absence of everything that is Christ-like, you may shrewdly suspect that there is something wrong in the state of your heart. O sirs, true holiness is a thing that will keep by night and by day, at home and abroad, on the land and on the sea! That man is not right with God who would not do the same in the dark that he would do in the light; who does not feel, "If every eye should look upon me, I would not be different from what I am when no eye gazes upon me; that which keeps me right is not the judgement and opinions of men, but the eye of the Omnipresent, and the heart of the Lord who loves me." Is your obedience uniform? Some farmers I know, in the country, maintain a creditable profession in the village where they live; they go to a place of worship, and seem to be very good people: but there is a farmer's dinner once a year, it is only once a year, and we will not say anything about how they get home,the less that is said, the better for their reputation. "It is only once a year," they tell us; but holiness does not allow of dissipation even "once a year." And we know some who, when they go on the Continent, for instance, say, "Well, we need not be quite so exact there;" and therefore the Sabbath is utterly disregarded, and the sanctities of daily life are neglected, so reckless are they in their recreations. Well, sirs, if your religion is not warranted to keep in any climate, it is good for nothing. I like the remark which I heard from one of the sailors on board ship in crossing the Irish Channel. A passenger said, to try him, "Wouldn't you like to attend a certain place of amusement?" which he mentioned. "Well, sir," said the sailor, "I go there as often as ever I like; I have a religion that lets me go as often as I think proper." "Oh, how is that?" he enquired. "Because I never like to go at all," was the reply; "I do not keep away because of any law, for it is no trial to me; but I should be unhappy to go there." Surely the fish, were it asked if it did not wish to fly, would reply, "I am not unhappy because I am not allowed to fly; it is not my element." So the Christian can say, "I am not unhappy because I do not spend my nights in worldly society, because I do not join in their revelry and wantonness; it is not my element, and I could not enjoy it. Should you drag me into it, it would be a martyrdom which to my spirit would be alike repulsive and painful." You are a stranger to holiness if your heart does not feel that it revolts at the thought of sin.
Then, let me further remark, that those who can look with delight or any degree of pleasure upon the sins of others are not holy. We know of some, who will not themselves perpetrate an unseemly jest, yet, if another does so, and there is a laugh excited upon some not over-decent remark, they laugh, and thus give sanction to the impropriety. If there is a low song sung in their hearing, which others applaud, though they cannot quite go the length of joining in the plaudits, still they secretly enjoy it; they betray a sort of gratification that they cannot disguise; they confess to a gusto that admires the wit while it cannot endorse the sentiment. They are glad the minister was not there; they are glad to think the deacon did not happen to see them just at that moment; yet still, if there could be a law established to make the thing pretty respectable, they would not mind. Some of you know people who fall into this snare. There are professing Christians who go where you at one time could not go; but, seeing that they do it, you go too, and there you see others engaged in sin, and it becomes respectable because you give it countenance. There are many things, in this world, that would be execrated if it were not that Christian men go to them, and the ungodly men say, "Well, if it is not righteous, there is not much harm in it, after all; it is innocent enough if we keep within bounds." Mind! mind! mind, professor, if thine heart begins to suck in the sweets of another man's sin, it is unsound in the sight. of God; if thou canst even wink at another man's lust, depend upon it that thou wilt soon shut thine eye on thine own, for we are always more severe with other men than we are' with ourselves. There must be an absence of the vital principle of godliness when we can become partakers of other men's sins by applauding or joining with them in the approval of them. Let us examine ourselves scrupulously, then, whether we be among those who have no evidences of that holiness without which no man can see God. But, beloved, we hope better things of you, and things which accompany salvation. If you and I, as in the sight of God, feel that we would be holy if we could, that there is not a sin we wish to spare, that we would be like Jesus, O that we could !that we would sooner suffer affliction than ever run into sin, and displease our God; if our heart be really right in God's statutes, then, despite all the imperfections we bemoan, we have holiness, wherein we may rejoice, and we pray to our gracious God,
Pure and spotless let us be."
II. Now, then, for the second point very briefly indeed: "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord;" that is to say, no man can have communion with God in this life, and no man can have enjoyment with God in the life to come, without holiness. "Can two walk together except they be agreed?" If thou goest with Belial, dost thou think that Christ will go. with thee? Will Christ be a pot companion for thee? Dost thou expect to take the Lord of love and mercy with thee to the haunts of sin? Professor, dost thou think the just and holy One will stand at thy counter to be co-trader with thee in thy tricks? What thinkest thou, O man! wouldst thou make Christ a sharer of thy guilt? and yet he would be so if he had fellowship with thee in it. Nay, if thou wilt go on in acts of unrighteousness and unholiness, Christ parts company with thee, or, rather, thou never didst have any fellowship with him. Thou hast gone out from us because thou wert not of us; for, if thou hadst been of us, doubtless thou wouldst have continued with us. And as to heaven, dost thou think to go there with thine unholiness? God smote an angel down from heaven for sin, and will he let man in with sin in his right hand? God would sooner extinguish heaven than see sin despoil it. It is enough for him to bear with thine hypocrisies on earth; shall he have them flung in his own face in heaven? What, shall an unholy life utter its licentiousness in the golden streets? Shall there be sin in that higher and better paradise? No, no; God has sworn by his holinessand he will not, he cannot lie, that those who are not holy, whom his Spirit has not renewed, who have not been, by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, made to love that which is good, and hate that which is evil, shall never stand in the congregation of the righteous. Sinner, it is a settled matter with God that no man shall see him without holiness.
III. I come to my last point, which is, pleading with you. Doubtless, there are some in this vast crowd who have, some sort of longings after salvation and after heaven. My eye looks round; yes, sometimes it has been my wont to gaze with sorrow upon some few here whose cases I know. Do I not remember one? He has been very often impressed, and so impressed, too, that he has not been able to sleep. Night after night he has prayed, he has wrestled with God, and there is only one thing in his way, and that is drink, strong drink! By the time that Wednesday or Thursday comes round, he begins to forget what he heard on Sunday. Sometimes, he has taken the pledge, and kept it three months; but the craving has been too strong for him, and then he has given all resolutions and vows up, and has plunged into his besetting sin worse than before. Others I know in whom it is another sin. You are here now, are you? You do not come of a morning, and yet, when you come at night, you feel it very severely; but why not come here in the morning? Because your shop is open, and that shop seems to stand between you and any hope of salvation. There are others who say, "Well, now, if I go to hear that man, I must give up the vice that disquiets my conscience; but I cannot yet, I cannot yet." And you are willing to be damned for the sake of some paltry joy? Well, if you will be damned, it shall not be for want of reasoning with you, and weeping over you. Let me put it to you, do you say that you cannot give up the sin because of the profit? Profit! Profit, forsooth! "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" 'What profit have you obtained hitherto? You have put it all into a bag full of holes; what you have earned one way, you have spent in another; and you know that, if this life were all, you surely have not been any the better for it. Besides, what is profit when compared with your immortal soul? Oh, I adjure you, lose not gold for dross, lose not substance for shadows! Lose not your immortal soul for the sake of some temporary gain!
But it is not profit with some of you, it is pleasure, it is a morbid passion. You feel, perhaps, for some particular sin which happens to beset you, such an intense longing, and in looking back upon it afterwards, you think you could give up everything but that. Young man, is it some secret sin which we must not mention, or is it some private guilt which is hidden from all hearts but thine own? O soul, what is this pleasure, after all? Weigh it, weigh it; what does it come to? Is it equal to the pain it costs thee now, to the pangs of conscience, to the agonies of remorse? When an American doctor, who had led a loose life, came to die, he seemed to wake up from a sort of stupor, and he said, "Find that word, find that word." "What word?" they asked. "Why," he said, "that awful word,remorse!" He said it again," Remorse!" and then, gathering up his full strength, he fairly seemed to shriek it out,"Remorse!" "Write it," said he, "write it." It was written. "Write it with larger letters, and let me gaze at it; underline it. And now," said he, "none of you know the meaning of that word, and may you never know it; it has an awful meaning in it, and I feel it now,Remorse! Remorse!! Remorse!!!"
What, I ask, is the pleasure of sin contrasted with the results it brings in this life? and what, I ask, is this pleasure' compared with the joys of godliness? Little as you may think I know of the joys of the world, yet so far as I can form a judgment, I can say that I would not take all the joys that earth can ever afford in a hundred years for one half-hour of what my soul has known in fellowship with Christ. We, who believe in him, do have our sorrows; but, blessed be God, we do have our joys, and they are such joys oh, such joys, with such substance in them, and such reality and certainty, that we could not and would not exchange them for anything except heaven in its fruition.
And then, bethink thee, sinner, what are all these pleasures when compared with the loss of thy soul? There is a gentleman, high in position in this world, with fair lands and a large estate, who, when he took me by the button-hole after a sermon,and he never hears me preach without weeping,said to me, "O sir, it does seem such an awful thing that I should be such a fool!" "And what for?" I asked. "Why," he said, "for the sake of that court, and of those gaieties of life, and of mere honour, and dress, and fashion, I am squandering away my soul. I know," he said, "I know the truth, but I do not follow it. I have been stirred in my heart to do what is right, but I go on just as I have done before; I fear I shall sink back into the same state as before. Oh, what a fool am," said he, "to choose pleasures that only last a little while, and then to be lost for ever and for ever!" I pleaded hard with him, but I pleaded in vain; there was such intoxication in the gaiety of life that he could not leave it. Alas! alas! if we had to deal with sane men, our preaching would be easy; but sin is a madness, such a madness that, when men are bitten by it, they would not be persuaded even though one should rise from the dead. "Without holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
"But," I hear someone say, "it is impossible; I have tried it, and I have broken down; I did try to get better, but I did not succeed; it is of no use, it cannot be done." You are right, my dear friend, and you are wrong. You are right, it is of no use going about it as you did; if you went in your own strength, holiness is a thing you cannot get, it is beyond you. The depth says, "It is not in me;" and the height saith, "It is not in me." You can no more make yourself holy than you could create a world. But you are wrong to despair, for Christ can do it; he can do it for you, and he can do it now. Believe on him, and that believing will be the proof that he is working in you. Trust him, and he that has suffered for thy sins, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, shall come in, and put to rout the lion of the pit. He will bruise Satan under thy feet shortly. There is no corruption too strong for him to overcome, there is no habit too firm for him to break. He can turn a lion to a lamb, and a raven to a dove. Trust him to save thee, and he will do it, whosoever thou mayest be, and whatsoever thy past life may have been. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved;"that is, he shall be saved from his sins, and delivered from his evil practices; he shall be made a new man in Christ Jesus by the power of the Spirit, received through the medium of his faith. Believe, poor soul, that Christ is able to save thee, and he will do it. He will be as good as thy faith, and as good as his own word. May he now add his own blessing to the word I have spoken, and to the people who have heard it, for his own sake! Amen.