Sermons

The Secret Spot

Charles Haddon Spurgeon November 10, 1867 Scripture: Deuteronomy 32:5 From: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Volume 13

The Secret Spot

 

“Their spot is not the spot of his children.” — Deuteronomy 32:5.

 

THERE are frequently great difficulties in identifying the persons of  men, even when they have been distinctly seen. Our police courts have  given us, during the last few weeks, most serious evidence that men  may be utterly deceived as to the identity of individuals. They may  be prepared, and honestly I believe, to take oath that such-and-such a  person is the man whom they saw discharging firearms or throwing  stones, and yet that person may have been many miles away. A slight  change of dress, another colour in the necktie, or a different shape of  the hat, or some trifling alteration of the hair, may throw a witness  entirely off his guard. It was said to be almost dangerous for persons  of a certain height, and of a certain colour of hair, to be passing the  police courts, lest they should be arrested, and marched in with others  to be identified by witnesses who were extremely anxious to identify  somebody or other.. This fact seems very clearly established, that the  judgment of men, even with regard to the identity of their fellow  creatures, is very far from being infallible.

     Turning to the moral universe, identity there is far more difficult to  be made out, for both the moral and religious world swarm with pretenders. You cannot know to a certainty who among your acquaintances  is a Christian and who is not. This is known to God, and may be  revealed to each man for himself; but deception is so easy, and is  nowadays practised in so masterly a manner, that I wot it is difficult to  know a son of God from a son of Belial; you may sit down and commune with an apostle, and find he is a Judas; you may walk side by  side with one who seemed to be a Simon Peter, and prove him to be a  Simon Magus; yea, what is worse, you may be deceived about yourself,  and whereas you may have thought your body to be a temple of the  Holy Ghost, you may suddenly discover it to have been made a den of  thieves. Yet this is a very important matter, for if men are not right,  and cannot clear their consciences that they are right, they live in a  state of perpetual unrest, never at any moment possessing safety. We  ought to know — we should never be at peace till we do know — whether  we are the children of God or not; and since the outward aspect so  often deceives, and visible signs are not to be relied upon, it becomes imperative upon us that we should search deep, and look for signs that will not deceive us, prying into the very core and marrow of our being, till we have resolved the weighty question, whether we are the children  of God or the heirs of wrath. 

     You see the text talks about certain secret spots. These are tokens  in which men cannot so readily deceive as to their identity. The  mother will be able to tell whether this is her child or not by the  spot which is known to none but herself. The pretender may be very  like her child: the voice may be the voice of Jacob, and the hands  may not be dissimilar, and he may be able to relate many things concerning his youth which it would seem that none but the real child  could know; but the mother recollects that there was a secret spot,  and if that be not there, she turns aside the pretender — but if she  discovers that private token, she knows the claimant to be her child.  I want, this morning, for us to recollect that there are secret marks  upon every Christian, and if we have not the spot of God’s child too,  it will little avail us how fairly in our outward garb and manner we  may conform ourselves to the members of the heavenly family.

     We have before us a whole host of persons who profess to be the  children of the Most High. They are exceedingly confident because  they come before us in the garments of God’s people, but their robes do  not deceive us, at once we tell them that we cannot judge by the outward appearance; for a religious profession is very easily procured:  the very brightest colours may be flaunted, and a man’s garments may  be outwardly spotless and fair to the eye, and yet for all that he may  be the basest of pretenders. None wash their hands more often than the  Pharisees, and yet they are sepulchres full of rottenness; none say  longer prayers than the Scribes, and yet none more ready to devour  widows’ houses. The outward garb of religion is no criterion by which  to judge a man in an age so full of deception as the present, which has  been fitly called the era of shams. If a devout exterior will not satisfy  us, these professors then address us in the language of piety; they  use the holy speech which is thought decorous amongst the people of  God; but we straightway tell them that albeit if we lived with them,  we have no doubt their speech would betray them, when the old brogue  of Babylon would come out unawares, yet still their outward public speech can be no rule of judgment to us, for those often talk loudest who  know least. The bell rings men to church, but says no prayers itself:  there may be the sign of the angel hanging over the inn door, but the  devil may be the landlord within. That sepulchre which is most  whitewashed may be fullest of dead men’s bones. Should both garb  and language fail to convince us, those who would make a fair show  in the flesh, point us to their actions, and “In this” they say, “surely  we cannot deceive, for ‘by their fruits ye shall know them.’” We confess that it is even so, we can only judge men by their fruit, and  we are not allowed by God’s word to judge any further; but men  must judge themselves otherwise than by their merely outward acts,  they must examine their motives and the design and scope by which  those acts were dictated and directed, for otherwise they may only  possess that superficial morality which is deceptive, because it springeth  not from the depths of the heart, but is a mere stagnant pool, and not the clear crystal living water welling up from the inmost soul  of the man. Men may be externally washed, but not internally  quickened; they may be covered with the flowers of righteousness,  but those flowers may have no root, and by-and-by may wither away  because the heart is not right in the sight of God. Sirs, we will not be  content, this morning, with examining your garments, nor listening to your speech, nor even with touching your hands, for all these signs may  deceive you, if they do not deceive us. We ask you to come with us  into the stripping room, and let us search for the spots, the secret spots,  without which you cannot know to a certainty that you are the true  children of the living God. 

     This morning, as we may be helped by God the Holy Ghost, in  solemn downright earnest we mean if we can, first of all, to take you to  the examination of the secret spots; secondly, to make a declaration from  God’s word of what the true spot is; thirdly, to discriminate amongst  men as to those public and defiling spots which, alas! are to be found  in us all; and, then, fourthly, an exhortation upon the whole subject.

     I. First, then, at the mention of private spots which are to be the  insignia of the regenerate, there are thousands who say, “We do not  shirk that examination. Truly the signs of saints are in us also! Are  others Israelites? so are we. We bear in our bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus: we challenge an investigation.” Be it so, then! LET US  COMMENCE A MINUTE EXAMINATION. 

     I am not now to deal with anything that is public. We are not  speaking now about actions or words, but concerning those secret  things which men have judged to be infallible marks of their being  saved. 

     Here is a friend before us, and as he lays bare his heart, he indicates  to us the spot which he thinks proclaims him to be a child of God. I  will describe it. This man has embraced sound doctrine; he has  managed by some means to become thoroughly Calvinistic; he holds  the doctrine of election in all its length and breadth; he would fight to  the last moment of life for any one of the five points of the Calvinistic  confession. You cannot find a man more determinedly orthodox; he  abhors all teaching which he judges to be uncertain in its sound; and  within his heart he believes that he is therefore saved. “Surely,” whispers his vain heart, ‘‘surely a man with such a sound creed cannot  be cast into hell!” He delights to hear the preacher deal a heavy blow  at Arminians, or Ritualists, or any other people who differ from him,  because he feels then that the privilege which he has monopolised in  his own conceit is thus defended and preserved from all intruders.  “Ah!” saith he, “I am saved; I have received the truth, and hold it  with all my might.” Everywhere wherever he goes, his whole talk is  of his favourite Shibboleth, “The truth! The truth! The truth!”  Not that the aforesaid truth has ever renewed his nature;, not that it  has ever changed his moral character; not that it has at all made  him a better husband or a kinder father; not that it influences him in  trade; not that you could perceive any sanctifying effect proceeding  from his creed if you lived with him ; but still this is it, orthodoxy,  thorough orthodoxy, holding the truth and holding it firmly too, and  denouncing all others, this is his balm of Gilead to heal all diseases, his crown of rejoicing in life, and his passport to the skies. Now, sir,  we do not hesitate to say concerning you, although you will not be best  pleased with us for it, that your spot is not the spot of the children of  God. It is a good thing to be sound in the faith, but that virtue may  belong to the vilest sinner out of hell. There have been some men who  have been orthodox to the core, and yet they have been detestable  hypocrites, and not one atom better, as their outward life has shown. No form of doctrine, however scriptural, can ever save the soul if it be  only received by the head, and does not work in its mighty energy  upon the heart. “Ye must be born again,” is the Saviour’s word;  and unless ye be born again, your carnal nature may hold the truth in  the letter without discerning its spirit; and while the truth shall be  dishonoured by being so held, you yourself shall not be benefited thereby.

     But here is another waiting for the searchers. He also believes that  he has discovered in himself the spot of God’s child. It is this — not  so common a spot, I believe, in this congregation as in some — a knowledge of inward corruption. “Ah,” saith one, “I know that I am an  heir of heaven because I am aware of the sinfulness of my nature. I  know my heart to be horridly depraved; I believe my nature to be  detestable and vile, and sometimes I am the subject of frightful blasphemous thoughts, and I have inclinations towards the most horrible  iniquities. Surely I am a quickened child of God, or I should not  have so vivid a conviction of indwelling sin! I should not feel that I  was so bad as I am if I had not been first of all quickened and awakened!”  Now, believe me, there are thousands who are under the delusion that  this spot is the spot of God’s children, but let me assure them very  affectionately that it is no such thing. God’s children do have a sense  of sin, they groan because of the body of this death, they daily lament  the plague of their own heart, but a frill persuasion of their own sinfulness may be found in thousands who are not God’s children. It is a preposterous assumption that for a man to know himself to be a  sinner, proves him to be a saint. Let me ask the physician whether a  sense of sickness proves a man to be cured. Let me ask a drowning  man whether a sense of sinking proves that he is rescued. Let me  ask a bankrupt debtor whether a sense of being penniless proves that  he is rich. You know better; common sense teaches you better. It  is not a discovery of your sin that will save you, but hearty faith in the  Saviour; and if you have not gone further that a mere conviction of  sin, which may be nothing but a ,legal conviction, and a natural alarm  at the awful punishment of sin, if ye have not gone farther than mere  alarm or remorse, ye have not the spot which marks you out to be a  child of God; you may be a Judas crying, “I have sinned,” and you  may even hang yourself through terror of conscience, and be none the  less, but rather all the more, a son of perdition. A cutting truth is this,  but it must be told, lest any be misled. 

     I see before me at the door of the stripping room a third class of persons,  who say, “We have this spot surely, for we are full of confidence that  we are saved; we believe that we are saved — firmly believe it. We are  not among those sinful people who indulge in doubts and fears. We  know that we are saved. We have known it for years, and we have  never had a mistrust about it. If ever a question is raised, ‘Do I love the Lord or no? Am I his or am I not?’ we cast the question out — we  believe it to come from Satan to mar our peace and spoil our comfort.  Self-examination we have long ago given up as an unnecessary disturbing of the peace of our spirits. We have made up our minds that  we are saved, and it gives us great peace to believe that we are.” Yes;  but, my hearers such a spot is not the spot of God’s children, for after this  fashion the foolish cry, “Peace, peace, where there is no peace.” Remember how easy it is to daub with untempered mortar, how readily you  may build upon a sandy foundation, and how the superstructure may be  run up with marvellous celerity if you build with wood, hay, and stubble:  much more fair show may you make with perishable materials than if you  waited till you had gold and silver, and precious stones, slowly to build  the edifice withal. But, remember that for you to believe that you are  saved does not prove that you are saved: the poor lunatic in Bedlam  believes himself to be a king, but no man owns his sovereignty. Your undisturbed conscience may be no evidence of grace, but rather a token  of reprobation, for there are some who have received a strong delusion  to believe a lie, that they may be damned. They are befooled by Satan  into the delusion that they are the people of God, whereas they are in  the gall of bitterness, and in the bonds of iniquity. Hope is our anchor,  but what is the use of an anchor if it has nothing to lay hold upon? “I hope,” said one, when he heard of his neighbour’s death, “I hope  he is all right.” He knew that he died drunk. Now, if that man had  said, “I wish that there may have been found a way by which it is possible for him to be saved,” I could understand it, but to say “I hope,”  where there was no ground and foundation for hope, was to speak as  the foolish speak. You and I ought not to have a hope which will not  bear the test. Oh! instead of shirking self-examination, practise it  daily; ask for the strong wind from the wilderness to come and smite  the four corners of your house, for if it be built upon a rock it will not  fall; but, oh! if it be but a sand-built house, it will be better far that it  should come down now, than that you should dwell in it for awhile  with groundless comfort, and find it fall about your ears to all eternity. No, the self-confident assumption that you are saved is not the spot of  God’s children.

     Not unfrequently do I meet with others who will say, “We certainly  have the private mark of gracious souls, for weave so happy; we have  such happy feelings when we are worshipping God; we feel so delighted  with going up to the assemblies of God’s people. Sometimes at the  prayer meeting we get so happy and excited we hardly know what to  do, and when we sing those delightful revival tunes, we do feel so  exceedingly blessed.” Now this may or may not be from the Spirit of God. God’s children are made glad in the house of prayer, but  remember, others are made glad beside God’s children, for doubtless there have been thousands who have received the word with joy,  as our Saviour tells us, who are like the seed sown on stony ground,  which sprang up rapidly, because it had no depth of earth, but afterwards when the sun had arisen, it withered away. Beware of being  stony-ground hearers, and above all, let me say to you, beware of placing  the slightest dependence upon your frames and feelings. The most  desponding feelings do not prove that your soul is in peril, for some of those who before God were surest of heaven, have been the least assured  of it in their own feelings. The highest and most rapturous feelings of delight do not prove us to be the children of God, for some have  had no bands in their death, but their strength has been firm; they  have not been in trouble as other men, neither have they been plagued  like other men, and yet for all that their end has been destruction.  Moab was settled upon his lees, and was not emptied from vessel to  vessel, but how terrible was his end! Never henceforth put any dependence upon your frames and feelings, let them be what they may;  go deeper than the froth of feeling, search in the depths of principle  for the priceless pearl of infallible evidence. This spot is not the spot  of God's children.

     There are others, and many too, who will say, “But at least we  can bring a mark which is not to be counterfeited, a sure and certain mark of conversion: there was a happy day when we experienced  most extraordinary things.” As soon as some people of an excitable  temperament begin to narrate their treasured story of marvels, you may  anticipate that they are going to tell you that they heard a voice, or  saw a vision, or were impressed with this, or saw that; all which may  be true or may be imagination, according to the truthfulness and  common sense of the speaker. And all this may have a connection with  their being saved, for there is no doubt that many have been impressed  in dreams, and I will even venture to say by visions and voices. Many  men’s first religious thoughts have been awakened in them by strange  impressions; and, therefore, these things are not to be laughed at:  whether they are freaks of the imagination or not I care not, so long as  men’s minds are aroused, the mode matters but little; but if anybody  shall say that the experience of singular impressions or remarkable  emotions proves men to be believers, I must most gravely and solemnly  demur, for alas! there have been thousands who profess to have seen  angels who are now with devils, and I do not doubt there are tens of  thousands who have fought with devils who are now with angels of light. It is not what you see with these eyes, nor hear with these  ears, nor feel with flesh and blood; our religion is spiritual, and is  spiritually discerned — not a thing of rhapsody, excitement, and imagination, but a matter of sober thought and meditation; and if you have  not something more than a mere day or night of singularities to look  back upon, your evidences of grace are worthless. I do delight to look  back upon the day when I was converted to God. Many of you do, and  I hope you always will, look back upon that happy hour with pleasure when  you first turned unto the Lord. But I have known what it is to feel, that  if I had no reason to believe that I was saved except the remembrance  what I felt that day, I should have no solid ground at all. The fact is,  brethren, the spot of God’s children is not a thing of yesterday, but  an abiding and continual token. The true spot is far more than any  memory of the past, as I shall have to show you, and if you have not  that, you may have all that you can imagine or invent, but God will  repudiate you at the last, saying, “I know you not whence ye are;  depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.” 

     II. We now come to the second head. WHAT IS THE TRUE SECRET  SPOT WHICH INFALLIBLY BETOKENS THE CHILD OF GOD ?

     Beloved, it were vain presumption, blasphemous arrogance, for me to  set myself up as able to tell you this of mine own judgment; but God’s  word reveals it to us, and therefore we may tread surely where we have  revelation to be our guide. Now, we are told in the Gospel according to  John, concerning our Lord, to “As many as received him, to them gave the power [or privilege] to become the sons of God, even to them that  believe on his name.” Here it is, then, if I have received Christ Jesus  into my heart, then I am a child of God. That reception is described in  the second clause as a believing on the name of Jesus Christ. If, then, I  believe on Jesus Christ’s name — that is, simply from my heart trust  myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member  of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I  have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God; but if I have  not this, I may have all the other spots I have been speaking of, this  morning, which may seem to some to be very great beauty spots, but  they are not the spots of the children of God. To strengthen the text  we have already given you, let us remind you of another: “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ, is born of God.” That is, whosoever  takes Jesus to be to him his anointed Priest, anointed to offer sacrifice  of atonement for him, such a soul is born of God. He who takes  this man or that to be his priest, or sets up to offer sacrifice for himself,  is no child of God, be he what he may ; but he who takes the Most  High Lord, once slain, but now ever living, to be an anointed Priest  unto him, may conclude at once that he has the spot of God’s child  upon him. Our Lord Jesus puts it in another shape. “My sheep  hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” Here is the  matter in a nutshell. Christ appears as a Shepherd to his own sheep,  not to others. As soon as he appears, his own sheep perceive him;  they trust him, they are prepared to follow him; he knows them, and  they know him — there is a mutual knowledge; he guides them, and  they follow him —there is a constant connection between them twain. If to put this truth positively be not enough, let me remind you how our Saviour puts it negatively. When the Jews were rioting around him, instead of listening to his earnest voice, he turned to  them and said, “Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I  said unto you.” As much as to say, it is because I have not chosen you,  and my grace has never looked upon you, it is because the life divine has  never throbbed in your bosoms, that you do not believe on me; for if  you had the life of God, and were God’s children, you would accept me  at once. This is the one mark, the sure mark, the only infallible mark,  a hearty faith in the appointed Redeemer. My dear friends, I doubt  not many will say, “That is very simple.” My reply is, “Glory be to  God, it is simple!” The more simple the plan of salvation, the more  evidently it is of God. Are we not told that Babylon, the mother of  harlots has written upon her the brow, “Mystery”? — mystery is the mark of the Romish faith, and the sure symbol of Antichrist. That gospel which is so plain that he who runs may read it, that the wayfaring  man, though a fool, need not err therein, this gospel which is preached  Unto the poor, this gospel which may be understood even by a child,  this is the gospel, the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which is committed to our trust. What saith the apostle? “Seeing then,” he says, “that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech.” Here is  the root of the matter, and if you trust Jesus Christ with all your heart,  if you rely upon him to save you, and if your reliance is such that it  touches your heart, and makes you love the Man who shed great drops  of blood for you, if your faith is such that it operates upon your moral  character, constraining you no longer to be an enemy to your good and  generous God, then you are saved, for you have the spot of God’s  child. But “without faith it is impossible to please God.” I tell  you solemnly that all your generosity, your almsgivings, your Sabbath  keepings, your repentance, your prayers, your tears, are all nothing  without faith in Christ. Go heap them up till they make a pyramid  great as that which casts its mighty shadow far down the Libyan desert,  but they are as nothing, things of nought. All human excellencies  without faith, will fly as chaff before the wind when the trial-hour shall  come; if trusted in, they are as smoke in the nostrils of the Most  High, because they rival the cross of Christ. Go humbly to the cross, look up to him who suffered there, rely on him and you shall live; but  gad ye about as ye may to this shrine and to that, and scourge yourselves and deny yourselves this and that, and practise all the austerities  you please, you shall be further still from God than at the first if  you despise the salvation of Jesus Christ. Going about to establish  their own righteousness, they have not submitted themselves unto the  righteousness which is of God by faith, and therefore their spot is not  the spot of God’s children, but coming simply to Jesus, and resting  alone in him, they have glorified God, and they are themselves proved  to be the children of the Most High. 

     III. I shall now, in the third place, turn to another view of the  subject, which concerns THE DISCRIMINATION OF DEFILING SPOTS. 

     The term “spot” as used in the text, will not be read usually as we  have read it this morning. It will, no doubt, to most readers suggest  the idea of sin, and very properly so — then the text would run thus:  the sin of the people mentioned here is not the sin of God’s people. There is a difference between their guilt and the offences of the Lord’s  chosen. This brings me to the point — there is a discrimination to be  made, even as to sinful spots. When God’s children are mired and  bespattered with filth, still there is a difference between them and  others. An unhappy thing it is, we cannot mourn too much over it, that evil doth remain even in the hearts of the regenerate, and that the  much fine gold sometimes becometh dim, and the glory departeth.  God’s people are a holy people, but they are not a perfect people.  They aspire after perfection, but they have not yet attained it. Sometimes, alas! they fall. We believe they never fall finally nor totally,  but they often fall sorrowfully and foully. But yet the ungodly may  not take comfort from the sins of God’s people, for their spots are not  the spots of God’s children.

     Let us very briefly — we cannot enter into the subject in fall this  morning — show that there is a difference between the sin of God’s  people and the sin of others. God forbid that you should imagine that I wish to excuse the sins of believers. In some views, when a believer sins, his sin is worse than that of other men, because he offends  against greater light and knowledge; he revolts against greater love and mercy; he flies in the teeth of his profession; he does despite in a  measure to the cross of Christ, and he brings grievous dishonour upon  the name of Jesus, whom he professes to serve. Believers cannot sin  cheaply. The very least speck on a Christian is more plainly seen than  the foulest blot on the ungodly, just as a white dress shows the dirt the  sooner. The more clean the paper, the sooner is the mark perceived;  but if the paper be black, there may be many marks and stains, and  yet they may not be perceptible. Cod forbid that we should palliate,  excuse, or extenuate the faults of God’s people. Sin is a horrible thing,  and it is above all things detestable when it lurks in a child of God;  yet the sins of God’s people do differ from the sins of other men in  many important respects they do not sin with deliberation and with  cool determination, meaning to sin and sinning for its own sake. The  ungodly man knows a thing to be wrong, and therefore does it; he  plans it upon his bed; he taketh counsel with himself when he shall  enjoy this pleasure or indulge that lust, knowing at the same time that  the pleasure is evil, and the lust is iniquity. The believer possibly  falls into the same sin as the unbeliever, yet not through evil aforethought,  but through force of a strong and violent temptation. Had he paused awhile he would have eschewed the evil, and turned from it with  hatred; but there came upon him on a sudden a rush of diabolical  power, and he seemed borne away by it, to his own intense grief, a grief  which makes him go with broken bones for many a year afterwards. We  do not sin wilfully nor deliberately; we do not love the way of transgression — blessed be God, we could not run it in with all our heart,  for if we saw the evil distinctly before us as such, our spirit in calm  consideration would recoil from the mere shadow of it. The child of  God does not sin with the pleasure and gusto of other men. When the  sheep stumbles, as it may do, into the mire, it is up again and on; but  if the swine should fall there, it rolls over, and wallows as in its  element. A sinner in his sins is a bird in the air, but the believer in  sin is like the fish that leaps for awhile into the air, but must be back  again or die. Sin cannot be satisfactory to an immortal spirit regenerated by the Holy Spirit, it is poison to it; very soon that poison must  be thrown out of the system, for the living child of God cannot endure  sin to fester within him. If you sin, you “have an advocate with the  Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;” but if you sin and love sin, then  you are the servant of sin, and not the child of God.

     Again, the child of God cannot look back upon sin with any kind of  complacency. The ungodly man has this spot, that after the sin he  even boasts of it; he will tell to others that he enjoyed himself greatly  in his wicked sport, and he will gloat over its sweetness, turning the  morsel over an1 over, and rolling it under his tongue like an epicure  delighting in a dainty dish. “All,” saith he, “how sweet it is!” As  for its being contrary to God, it makes it all the sweeter to him, or  else, “God is not in all his thoughts.” But no man of God ever sins  without smarting. Very soon conscience wakes, and, as the word of  God puts it, “David’s heart smote him.” It is a horrible knock that  the heart gives when it begins to smite. All the men in the world may  say what they please so long as my heart does not speak against me;  but when conscience says, “It is true; thou didst it, and thou hast played the fool exceedingly,” then a man hangs his head, and retires  into the shades to hide himself awhile, for he is ashamed. If you can  sin and not weep over it, you are an heir of hell. If you can go into sin, and afterwards feel satisfied to have done so, you are on the road to  destruction. If there are no prickings of conscience, no inward torments, no bleeding wounds; if you have no throbs and heavings of a bosom that cannot rest; if your soul never feels filled with wormwood and gall when you know you have done evil, you are no child of God; but if your sins plague you, and your soul abhors them, and takes them  with weeping to the cross of Jesus, then the sins which you hate shall  never destroy you; that which you loathe shall not be brought against you to condemn you; this shall be set down to the account of your Surety, and not to you, seeing that he was delivered for you offences, and is raised again for your justification.

     The child of God also has this difference in his spots from others,  that when he knows the spot, and is led to repent of it, it makes him  more careful for the future, especially in that respect in which he has erred. Have ye not seen him afraid to put one foot before another for  fear he should do wrong? He had a fall the other day, and he goes very tenderly, very softly. He is almost afraid to open his mouth now, because he spoke so unadvisedly the other day, and his prayer is, “Lord, open thou my lips! I dare not open them.” He used to be very fast and confident, but notice him now, he has a broken spirit, and speaks  with bated breath. He does not hold his head up loftily as he used to  do; he thanks God that he is forgiven, feels that he has peace, and he  blesses God for it; but he is jealous of himself with holy jealousy. You will not find him mingling with that company which led him  astray; he is a burnt child, and dreads the fire. You will see him  much more precise with himself than he used to be. He used to be precise with other men and lax with himself; now it is different — he can  make excuses for others, but he makes none for himself. His heart now pants to be eminent for that very grace in which he failed, and he gives particular attention to keep watch and ward over that part of the wall  through which the invader found entrance.

     But I need not enlarge. You who are the children of God must have  noticed a difference between your sins now and your sins as they once were; and you cannot but observe, day by day, if you look within, that  grace has made a change even in those sins in which our evil nature  exercises most dominion. But, beloved, the best thing we can do is to  keep as far away from evil as possible. We have no right to say, “I may be a child of God, and yet do so-and-so.” Nay, but the heir of  heaven does not desire to approach the appearance of evil. I am much afraid for some of you who are asking, “Is this wrong and that wrong?” Do nothing about which you have need to ask a question. Be quite sure  about it, or leave it alone. Know you not that inspired word, “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” – that is, whatsoever you cannot do with the confidence that you are doing right, is sin to you? Though the deed may be right to other people, if you have any doubt about it yourself, it is evil to you. God grant, dear friends, that we may not be “conformed to the world,” but be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.” If I knew that  there was a pest-house anywhere in the country, I do not think I should want to build my house near it; I should not send for the physician and  say, “Sir, how far do you think the effect of pestilence might spread? I should like to get as near as I could without actually catching the  pest.” “No, no,” say you, “if there is a plot of land to be bought where  there is no disease in the neighourhood, there let my tent be pitched.  It is best to dwell far off from evil.” O may God separate us from  evil in this world, as we hope to be separated from it in the world to  come! There will be a great gulf fixed between it and us in the next  world, may there be a wide line of demarcation now. 

     IV. My close is AN EXHORTATION, an exhortation to myself and to  you to make sure work for eternity, and to make it clear to your own  consciences that you are indeed the children of God.

     Ah! my dear hearers, it is not possible for me to be earnest enough in  this matter. I wish I had a tongue like the pen of a ready writer, that I might speak to you with power this morning. Yet, perhaps, feebleness of words may give but the greater power in spirit if God the Holy  Spirit will press upon the conscience of you all the need and duty of an  earnest heart-searching self-examination. A famous case is now pending,  in which a person claims to be the son of a deceased baronet. Whether  he be or not I suppose will, ere long, be decided by the highest authorities; meanwhile the case is pending, a very weighty case for him, for  upon the decision will hang his possession or non-possession of vast  estates and enormous property. Now, in your case you, many of you,  profess to be the children of God, and heaven hangs upon the question  of the truthfulness of your profession. Heaven I nay, there is a dread  alternative, heaven or hell must hang upon the truth or the falsehood of your profession: yea, moreover about those two things there  is flung a golden chain of eternity, making each of them more weighty  than they otherwise would be. A child of God! Then your portion  is eternal life. An heir of wrath, even as others! Then your  heritage will be eternal death. For a moment, conceive that you are passing into the next world. What will be the trepidation of your spirit if it be a matter of question then? With what alarm will you  await the decisive ordeal ? “Shall I ascend on wings of joy up to the  realms where angels dwell, or must I sink with devils as the companions  of my woe, to dwell for ever in hell?” What horror to have that question still unanswered! Is it uncertain now, my hearer, is it uncertain  now, whether you are a child of God or not? Is it uncertain whether  your spot is the spot of God’s children? Then let not an hour pass  over your head till you have said, “Search me, O God, and know my  heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked  way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” Trifle not here, I  do adjure you! If you must trifle anywhere, let it be about some  secondary matter; your health, if you will, or the title deeds of your  estates; but your souls, your never dying souls, and their eternal  destinies, I beseech you be in earnest here, for you will be in earnest  soon, earnestly praising God in heaven, or earnestly moaning out your  never ending dolor in the pit where hope can never come. God grant  us wisdom, then, since so much hangs upon it, not to play the fool by  taking things at second hand, but to search to the very roots and  foundations of the matter to know whether we are saved or not.

     This duty is much more easy to explain than to enforce, and more  easy to enforce than to practise. We all shun it. The preacher naturally says to himself, “Hast thou not preached to others? Thou  mayst surely excuse thyself.” The old member of the church who  has long maintained an honourable outward profession, whispers to him self, or Satan whispers to him, “Thou art an old experienced Christian, why needst thou go back to the beginning and do thy first works?” The young professor in the heyday of his zeal, says within himself. “I know that it is right with me.” But ah! I pray you remember, he  who takes things too quickly as being what he desires them to be, will be deceived in the end. “The heart is deceitful above all things,” says  the prophet, “and desperately wicked,” and wilt thou believe it? Examine it and cross-examine it, for it is a lying witness. Believe it to be dishonest and try to prove it so, and if haply thou shouldst be unable,  then what a comfort to thee! but to believe thy heart to be honest and  sound, why this is to begin where the fool doth, at the wrong end of the  chapter. Suspect thyself, and go to Christ this morning as a sinner. Doubt thyself, and go to Jesus. Never doubt him. Confess thyself  now to be undone and ruined if so it be, but go to him who is still  the Saviour, able to save to the uttermost. Still guilty, still lost, still  defiled, go still to the “ fountain filled with blood;” go still to the openhanded Saviour, and ask him to press thee to his bosom and to save  thee now. This is the quick way, the sure way, the blessed way of finding out the secret spot, to go at once to Christ. If I never came  before, O bleeding Saviour, now I come, and if I have often come and  put my trust in thee, I come again — accept a guilty sinner who casts  himself alone on thee, and save him for thy mercy’s sake. Amen.

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