A Sermon Delivered By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *7/8/2012
I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back. [Jud 11:35]
1. In Jephthah’s case there were good reasons for going back. He had made a rash vow, and such things are much better broken than kept. If a man makes a vow to commit a crime his vow to do so is in itself a sin, and the carrying out of his vow will be doubly sinful. If a man’s vowing to do a thing made it necessary and right for him to do it, then the whole moral law might be suspended by the mere act of vowing, for a man might vow to steal, to commit adultery, or to murder, and then say, “I was right in all those acts, because I vowed to do them.” This is a self-evident absurdity, and to admit such a principle would be to destroy all morality. You have, first of all, no right to promise to do what is wrong; and then, secondly, your promise, which is in itself wrong, cannot make a criminal act to be right. If you have come under a rash vow, you must not dare to keep it. You ought to go before God and repent that you have made a vow which involves sin; but concerning keeping the sinful vow, that would be to add sin to sin. “But,” one says, “would it not be sin to break my vow?” I reply, there was great sin in making it; and there will probably be some measure of sin connected with your breaking it, for few human actions are perfect; but to keep your evil vow would certainly be sin, and you must not commit the greater sin to avoid the lesser sin which perhaps may be involved in the breach of your foolish promise. I think it would have been well if Jephthah, though he had opened his mouth before God, had gone back when it involved, as I think it did, so dreadful a necessity as that of sacrificing his own innocent, only child. His having sworn to do it did not make it right: it was just as wrong. If he really did kill her, it was a horrible action, dramatize or disguise it as you may. He had no right to make the dangerous promise; he had still less right to carry it out after he had made it, if it led to such terrible consequences.
2. But now I am going to speak about other openings of the mouth to God, in which there is no sin; openings of the mouth which need never be regretted, which certainly never can be recalled, and of which we may rightly say, before the living God, in the strength which he gives us, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
3. My sermon will not have much to do with some of you. You have not opened your mouth to God, or made any kind of promise; but you remain as you were, far off from him, and negligent of his claims. I do not envy you. Your being under no obligation from any resolution of your own does not prevent your being under just as much natural obligation to God on account of your being his creatures and therefore subjects under his law. I sometimes hear of people who say, “You know I do not profess anything,” and after that assertion they appear to feel at liberty to say and do whatever they like. Now, if we heard of certain people entrusted with our business that they had not acted honestly, what should we think of it if one man among them should rise up and say, “Do not blame me. You know I never professed to be honest.” What would that mean? It would mean that he is a confessed and acknowledged thief. Suppose a man were to say, “Well, I never profess to be truthful,” what is he? He is an acknowledged liar. And he who says, “Ah, I never made any vows or promises, neither do I pretend to serve the Lord,” acknowledges himself to be a godless man. He is living in the daily robbery of God, defrauding him of his rights: he is living in direct and affirmed rebellion against the King of kings. He is living without a hope for the hereafter — without grace in his soul for the present, and without glory in prospect for the future. Ah, friend, although the things I may have to say at this time may not directly bear upon you, yet the very fact that they do not bear upon you should make you think, and weigh, and consider, and ponder your ways as to the place which you now occupy. You are, by your non-profession and non-affirmation of Christ, making a confession of being on the opposite side; for he who is not with him is against him, and he who does not gather with him scatters abroad.
4. But now I speak to my own brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus. Dear friends, there are three things which I would bring to your practical remembrance; first, what we have done: we have opened our mouth to the Lord. Secondly, what we cannot do: “I cannot go back”; and, thirdly, what we must do: there are some things that we must seek after if we are to be able to hold on and to act faithfully to our profession.
5. I. First, then, WHAT WE HAVE DONE. “I have opened my mouth to the Lord.”
We have opened our mouths before the Lord, first, by confessing our
faith in Jesus Christ. I have said, and most of you upon whom I am
looking have also solemnly said, before others, “I believe in the
Lord Jesus Christ with all my heart. Let others believe what they
will and trust in what they please:
‘My hope is fixed on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.’ ”
We are troubled by no question of our Lord’s power to save, or of our interest in his salvation, but we have testified outright, as a matter of fact which we feel in our own souls, that we believe that Jesus died for us, and that he is all our salvation and all our desire. We have opened our mouth to that in the most decided manner, and we are continually doing so in various ways.
7. We have also affirmed and declared before the living God that we are Christ’s disciples and followers. If anyone should ask us, “Are you one of them? Do you consort with Jesus of Nazareth?” We would gladly answer, “Yes.” However short we come of perfect obedience to his commands, yet his will is our rule. We call him “Master” and “Lord,” and when we read about the disciples of Christ we think of ourselves as belonging to them. Blessed Master, how glad we are to admit that we are indeed your disciples. We are not ashamed to acknowledge that we have opened our mouth to you, to believe all your teachings, and to obey all your commands.
We have opened our mouth to the Lord, next, because just as we
believe in Jesus Christ, and take him to be our Master, so we have
admitted the Redeemer’s claims to our people and services, and have
resolved to live for him alone all our days. We have made a
dedication of ourselves to his service, declaring that we are not our
own, but bought with a price. Some of us did this years ago; and —
High heaven that heard the solemn vow,
That vow, renewed, has often heard,
and shall hear it again. We do profess that nothing that we have is ours, but our goods, our hours, our talents, and ourselves are all marked with the broad arrow [a] of the King. We are the perpetual inheritance of the Lord, to be his for ever, and never to serve self again, or the world, or the flesh, or anyone, except Jesus.
9. We have also cast in our lot with his people. We belong to their fraternity heart and soul. We are not ashamed of them either. It is a number of years ago with some of us since we came forward and asked to have our names enrolled with the despised people of God, and we opened our mouth to the Lord that we would take part and lot with his people — that if they were abused we would take a share of the abuse, that if they had sorrows we would help to bear their burdens, and if they had joys we only hoped that we might be worthy to enjoy the crumbs of their table. We craved to be numbered with the citizens of that noble city, the New Jerusalem, and we requested to share the portion of Zion’s blessed but tried inhabitants, whether they held fast or festival, suffered siege or enjoyed triumph. We asked to have it said of us that we were born there, and when we were asked if we would forego the world and all its allurements to become heirs of the better country we stood up before the Lord and declared that it was even so.
10. In all these things we have, as Christian people, opened our mouths to the Lord, have we not? Now, if you ask me when you did so, I shall have to mention several occasions.
Some of us opened our mouths in this respect to the Lord in a very
solemn way in private. We made our dedication to God a solemn
deed performed in a distinct and formal manner. We took time about
it, thought it over, and then did it deliberately and definitely.
Some have even written out an act of solemn dedication, and signed
it. Others, perhaps, more wisely, have refrained from writing it,
lest it should become a bondage to their spirits, but they have,
nevertheless, made a formal act of transfer of themselves, and all
that they had, to the Lord. At any rate, whether we did it formally
or not, we can say,
’Tis done! The great transaction’s done,
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine.
12. There was a time when we gave up once and for all the keys of the city of Mansoul, and surrendered to the Lord unconditionally, so that he might be ours, and that we might be his for ever and ever.
13. Then many of you, beloved friends, opened your mouth to the Lord in baptism. Searching his word, you saw there clearly that as many as believed were baptized. You read of the eunuch to whom the question was asked, “Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? for if you believe with all your heart you may”; and then on confession of his faith he was baptized. I have opened my mouth to the Lord in that manner. I remember the solemn occasion when I went into the river, with multitudes of people as witnesses on either bank, to see my burial with the Lord in the water: and, though I do not have the remotest confidence in outward form or ceremony, yet often has my soul recalled that day when I before men and angels and demons declared myself to be the servant of the living God, and was therefore buried in water as the sign of my death to all the world, and then raised from it as the emblem of my newness of life. Oh, to be always faithful to what we did then, when, coming forward of our own accord, we declared that we were dead with Christ, so that we might also live with him.
14. We have opened our mouth to the Lord since then, very often when we have come to the communion table. The solemn sitting down at the table of communion, when others have to go away, or can only look on — the separation which is made in that act — is a declaration on your part, beloved, that you belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, that he is become your food and your drink, that you feed at his table, and are his servants. There is something very solemn about the communion service, it ought never to be lightly entered upon, and when you have been attending to that ordinance in remembrance of him you should feel, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord in a very special manner by sitting at the table with his people.”
Besides that, how often have we opened our mouth before God in hymn
singing. I am afraid that we do not always think enough about what
we say when we sing. But what solemn things you have sung. Did you
not sing the other day —
And if I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great
That I would give him all?
And did you not sing —
Had I ten thousand hearts, dear Lord,
I’d give them all to thee:
Had I ten thousand tongues, they all
Should join the harmony.
Ah, you have opened your mouth very widely to the Lord in song.
16. And so, too, in prayer, both in the closet and in public. We say great things to God in supplication: do we always come up to what we say? Are we always of the mind of Jephthah, who said, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.” Do we remember those vows which our soul in anguish made when we drew near to God in the bitterness of our spirit, and poured out our complaint before him?
17. But ah, beloved, very specially I may speak of some here present who are my partners in the work and ministry of the church for her Lord. We who bear public testimony, “we have opened our mouths to the Lord, and cannot go back.” You who teach classes in the Sunday School, you who try to share the gospel with other men in the workshop, you who talk about Jesus Christ even to your children — remember that you have committed yourselves. While you are trying to speak to others you make affirmations for yourselves which bind you to present truth and future fidelity. As for me, where could I flee from my Master’s presence? Where could I go from his service? Should I desert his ministry, to what part of the earth could I go to hide myself? Someone would remember this face which has been seen by so many thousands: the very tones of my voice would betray me, and men would point me out as an apostate from my Lord. Jonah might flee to Tarshish, but if I went to Tarshish someone or other would know me and pronounce my name as soon as I set foot upon the soil. I must fight this battle through now, retreat is out of the question. “I have opened my mouth to the Lord” so often, and before so many, that I am bound by a myriad of ties, nor would I wish to be bound with one the less, but daily with more and more. But, beloved friends, do remember that in proportion as your religion gains publicity, and in proportion as, by teaching others, you tacitly or affirmedly declare your faith in the gospel, in that proportion you have opened your mouth to the Lord, and it is not possible that you should go back without deep disgrace and dire destruction.
18. Now, it is worth our remembering in what manner we have done this. I have shown you that we have opened our month to the Lord, and I have shown you the occasions when we have done so, but in the very manner of the deed there has been practical force. We have done this voluntarily. We have opened our mouth to the Lord without any compulsion. The little child, you know, who according to the Prayer-Book is made a member of Christ and a child of God, and so on, has nothing to do with the business, and is in no way responsible for what others choose to promise without his permission; but you and I willingly did what we did. We came forward and said, “Let me be baptized, for I am a believer in Jesus. Let me be united with the church, for I am one of the Lord’s redeemed.” We said to the Lord Jesus Christ, “I am cheerfully and willingly your servant.” We took upon ourselves the bonds of a Christian profession because we loved to do so. Well, then, if we have done this voluntarily, there is the strongest reason why we should not go back from our own chosen position as the Lord’s own disciples.
19. And we did this very solemnly. Oh, to some of you it was indeed a devout action when you affirmed yourselves to be on the Lord’s side. Many were the prayers and praises which preceded and followed it. Shall such solemnity be made into a falsehood? Shall the weeping and the supplication be proven to have been base hypocrisy?
20. I hope also that we did it very deliberately, counting the cost, looking all around, and seeing what it meant, and understanding what we were doing. We did not count upon a smooth path; we did not consider that we should gain crowns without crosses, or win victories without fightings; and we have found it much as we expected. We passed through the wicket gate, and entered on the road to the celestial city, knowing that there were dragons to encounter, giants to fight, hills to climb, rivers to swim, and swamps to ford. We set out with considerable knowledge of what we were doing and what it involved, and we were not prevented by it from decidedly and deliberately declaring ourselves to be on the Lord’s side. Are we now going to confess ourselves to have been fools and dupes? Will we now tell our Lord that his service is hard and worthless?
21. Most of us made our profession publicly. We had many onlookers. We cannot forget that when we began the race a cloud of witnesses surrounded us, and have ever since kept us in full view. If there is a little speck in our character they are sure to point it out. Never did a cat watch a mouse as the lynx eyed world watches the Christian. How it magnifies and multiplies the faults of believers, and cries, “Aha! aha! so would we have it,” the moment it finds the slightest fault or mistake. Well, we have opened our mouth to the Lord before multitudes, and shall we recant and deny the faith? Men and angels and demons know that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ. We have declared it before all with whom we have come into contact, not always in so many words, but I hope in our actions, by the decided stand that we have taken up for God and for Christ, and for truth, and for holiness, and for the fear of God in the land.
22. But its weight all lies in this, — “We have opened our mouth to the Lord.” It is not what we promised the church, though in becoming members of it we have promised to fulfil the mutual duties of Christians. It was not what we promised to the minister, though, in the very fact of becoming members of a church of which he is the pastor, we have a Christian duty towards him. It was not what we promised each other, though we all owe something to each other. But we have opened our mouth to the Lord. If a man must trifle, let him trifle with men, but not with God. If promises to men may be lightly broken — and they should not be, yet let us not trifle with promises made to God. And if solemn declarations ever can be forgotten — which they should not be — yet not solemn declarations made to God. Beware, oh! beware of anything like levity in entering into covenant with the Most High. If a man should measure his footsteps and weigh his words when he appears before an earthly monarch, how much more when he stands before the King of kings, who is also Judge of the quick and the dead. There let your words be few and guarded, but when you have once spoken them, and lifted your hand to heaven, let your promise stand, and keep it faithfully, saying, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
23. II. But enough upon what we have done, for we need our full strength of thought to dwell upon WHAT WE CANNOT DO. “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
24. That is to say, having once become Christians we cannot apostatize from the faith. We feel that we cannot, and God’s servants in all ages have proved that they cannot. Men have threatened them, “You shall go to prison if you do not go back,” but they have said, “We cannot.” And they have gone to prison, and they have said, like John Bunyan, “I will lie there until the moss grows on my eyelids, but I cannot — I cannot do other than what God tells me.” The enemy has said, “If you do not leave Christ you shall be stretched on the rack,” and that means the pulling of every bone from its joint: but in defiance of torture they have replied, “We cannot go back: we can rather bear the rack.” Poor women, like Anne Askew, have been racked most cruelly, but they could not go back. Then the enemies of the Lord have sworn, “We will burn you alive to the death.” The saints have accepted that challenge also, and they have burned, and triumphed in the burning, clapping their blazing hands; for they could not go back. The young people in the old city of London, over the water there, went down to Smithfield in the early morning to see their pastor burned; and when they came home and their mother asked, “Why did you go?” the boys replied, “We went to learn the way.” They wanted to know how to burn when their turn should come! Brave sons of brave fathers! God’s servants always have known how to burn, but they have not known how to turn. They have lifted their hand to the Lord, and if it involved losses, and crosses, and torture, and torment, and death, they could not go back. No, sir, if you can go back, you never knew Christ! If you can go back, he never marked the mark of the cross on your heart, he never baptized you into his death; for, if he had done so a sacred impulse would be upon you, and you must go forward. As though you were a thunderbolt launched from the omnipotent hand you must go on, and burst through every opposition until you reach the end towards which God’s eternal might is speeding you. You cannot go back.
25. Moreover, if we are right at heart we feel that we have lifted our hand to the Lord, and we cannot go back, even by temporary turnings aside. I do not mean that we do not do so, sadly too often; the Lord have mercy upon us for it. But it ought to be our solemn declaration that we cannot go back. Someone says to you when you enter the workshop, “Ah, you are one of those fools who are Christians.” The devil tempts you to say that you are not, or at any rate to be very quiet about it. Do not fall into cowardly silence, but say at once, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back. I am in for it now. Whatever it means, I am enlisted and will never desert.” Sometimes the temptation is, “Come with me, young man, come with me, young woman — to such and such questionable place of amusement.” “Shall I go? Perhaps I shall not get much harm.” Stand still and say, “No, I have opened my mouth to the Lord and I cannot go back, even if I had the desire to do so. I have committed myself to the pursuit of holiness, and I cannot go back to the foolish pleasures of sin.” I like you young people to make a very straightforward profession of your faith, because it may be the means of keeping you in the hour of temptation; you will say to yourself “The vows of the Lord are upon me; how can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” I heard someone say once, “I could not join the church because I should feel it to be such a tie.” “Indeed, but,” I replied, “Brother, it is the kind of tie you need to feel.” A profession of our faith in Jesus ought to be a very strong cord of love to hold us to what is good; we ought to feel that the sacrifice is bound to the horns of the altar, but this bondage is true liberty to us, and pleasant to us, and it should be our desire to be bound more and more firmly as long as we live. “I cannot go back” is an inability of the most desirable kind.
26. The enemies of your soul will attempt to persuade you to forsake the Lord, they will try ridicule and threats and bribes, but be like a deaf man and do not hear them. If you have really opened your mouth to God with all your heart, you cannot go back; the divine life within you will laugh to scorn all efforts of the foe. Baffled and discouraged, they will soon give up their wicked endeavours: they will see that it is of no use to tempt such a one as you are, your steadfastness and patient endurance will drive them from the field.
27. But there are some of you that make a profession, who attempt compromises, and go a little way with the world. If you go a furlong with the world you will soon go a mile. I will give you a sentence to remember: — “That man who is only half Christ’s is altogether the devil’s.” Do remember that. He who is only half a Christian is altogether an unbeliever. Just as half clean is unclean, so half converted is unconverted, and half a saint is totally a sinner. You cannot say to the world, “So far you shall go, but no farther,” it is greedy, and seeks to win the whole man. Give a stern denial to its imperious demands, saying, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
28. Now, what are our reasons why we cannot go back?
29. The first reason is that if we did go back we should show that we have been altogether false until now. You profess to be believers in Jesus Christ, you say that you have been born again, that you have received that inward principle which lives and remains for ever; if you go back to the world and to sin, you say to all mankind, “I made a hypocritical profession. I was a mere formalist. The root of the matter was not in me.” You cannot say that; for you know you love the Lord. Even when you are in a doubting mood, you know you love Jesus. Though you question yourselves over and over again, you know that you love your Master. If you hear anyone finding fault with him, are you not severely grieved? Oh, yes, it brings the blood into your cheeks, and you say, “I cannot bear to hear him spoken against.” You thought that you did not love him, but the enemy provokes you to feel that you do love him. You do love him; you cannot say that you do not. Can you? And yet if you went back it would be tantamount to a declaration that all your former life had been a falsehood.
30. You cannot go back, dear friend, because that would be to act most basely. Have you been bought with the precious blood of Christ, and will you go away from him? Did he die upon the cross for you, and will a little buffeting cause you to desert him? What! Did he bring you up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay by his own death, and will you forsake him, and choose sinful ease and the praises of a wicked world? Oh, it would be baseness, abominable baseness, for a soul who once has tasted of his wondrous love, and seen him in his glory and death throes to desert Christ. No, no, NO; we cannot be so base as this, God helping us.
31. To go back from that for which we have opened our mouth to the Lord would be to incur frightful penalties: for there is no judgment so great as what is pronounced upon the apostate. If they have tasted of the heavenly gift and the powers of the world to come — “if these shall fall away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance.” “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its savour how shall it be seasoned? It is henceforth good for nothing but to be trodden underfoot by men,” you know how many passages there are in which it is positively asserted that if a child of God did deliberately and totally apostatize, his restoration would be utterly impossible — not difficult, but impossible. This is one of the greatest proofs of the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, since there is no man in a condition in which it is impossible to save him, and yet any man would be in such a state if he apostatized. Therefore true believers shall not apostatize, but shall stand firm, and shall be kept even to the end. Yet, if they could totally apostatize, they could never be restored again: the greatest remedy having already failed, there would remain no other. On the supposition that the power of the Holy Spirit and the cleansing influence of the blood of Jesus could not preserve the man from falling back into his unregenerate state, what else could be done for such people? If regeneration fails — what then? If the incorruptible seed which lives and remains for ever can die — what then? Oh, we cannot go back! To go back is death, shame, and eternal ruin.
32. And to go back would be so unreasonable. Why should I leave my Lord? Why should I let my Saviour go? In my heart of hearts I cannot think of a reason why I should forsake my Master. Do I seek pleasure? What pleasure is equal to what he can give me? Do I seek gain? What gain could there be if I lost him? Do I seek ease? Ah, to leave him would be to forfeit eternal rest. To whom should we go? That was a forcible question of the disciples when the Master enquired, “Will you also go away?” They replied, “To whom can we go?” Ah, to whom can we go? If you give up the religion of Jesus Christ, what other religion would you have? If you were to give up the pleasures of godliness, what other pleasures would you have? “Oh,” one says, “we could go into the world.” Could you? Could you? If you are a child of God you are spoiled for the world. Before you became a Christian you could have done very well in the world, but now you know too much to be happy there. While the sow is a sow, the mud is good enough for her. Turn that sow into an angel, and if the angel has no place in heaven, where shall it go? It cannot go back to the pig stye. What could it do there? The slop of the trough was good enough for the sow, but the angel has eaten heavenly food. It cannot roll in the mire, nor consort with swine, it must have heaven or nothing. If you can go back to the world you will go back to the world; but if you are a child of God you cannot go back, because grace has so changed your nature that you would not be in an element in which you could exist.
33. There is no reason for apostasy; all the reasons lie the other way. “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back,” for this reason — that I have no inclination that way. Brethren, some of us have been Christians for these twenty-five years, and we are glad of it. You know that in the army they have short-term soldiers and career soldiers. When I enlisted in Christ’s army, I did not go in to enlist for a quarter of a year, and then have another term of duty; but I enlisted for life. But suppose my Master were to say to me, “Now, you have had some twenty-five years of it: you may now go home and cease from being one of my soldiers.” “Ah, my Master, where should I go? Do not discharge me.” If he were still to say, “Your time is up, and you may go home,” I would tell him that I would not leave him in life or death. If I were put out at the front door I would come in at the back. Ah, my Lord, what anguish has that question stirred, whether I would also go as others have done. Go? You have fastened me to your cross and driven in the nails. I cannot go. Go? I am dead, and buried with you; and your rich grace has made me part and parcel of yourself by indissoluble union. “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?” No, if I were discharged today, I would immediately enlist again. The man who is married to a good wife thinks to himself, “If I had to marry again tomorrow morning, she should be the bride, and we would be happy.” And so, if we had our choice to make again, we would choose our dear Lord over again, only with much more eagerness and earnestness than we did at the first.
34. Dear friends, we have opened our mouth to the Lord, and we cannot go back because we never have been so happy as we now are. A man does not turn his back upon what has become his life and his joy, he is bound to it by the bliss which he derives from it. Can the Swiss forget his country when he hears the home music which he heard as a child amidst his native hills? Does not the homesickness come over him so that he longs to be among the Alps again? Does not the Englishman, wherever he wanders, whether by land or sea, feel his heart instinctively turn to the white cliffs of Albion, and does he not say that with all her faults he still loves his country? Who would cease to be what he loves to be? And so, now, our joy in Christ is great, and we cannot wish to be separated from him. Why should we? Shall the star desert the sphere in which it shines, or the fish the sea in which it swims? Shall the eagle abhor the craggy rock on which he builds his nest, or the angel shun the heaven where he dwells? No, beloved, we cannot go back. Our joy holds us firmly to our Lord.
35. And then, besides that, we cannot go back from what we have said, for divine grace impels us onward. There is a secret power more mighty than all other forces called the force of grace, and this has captured us. When the temptation comes to go back to Egypt, and we remember the garlic, — that strong-smelling garlic, and the cucumbers, — those spongy, watery cucumbers, and we remember the onions, — those pungent onions, the thought of going back to the fleshpots again comes upon us like a man of war; but mighty grace soon puts it down, drowns the desire in tears of repentance, and makes us loathe ourselves to think that we should be such fools as to think more of fleshpots than of manna, and more of cucumbers than of Canaan. Again we resolutely press forward towards Canaan, blushing to think that we should have in heart turned back into Egypt. Grace will not let us return to our old bondage.
36. And there is another that holds us. It is he with the hands nailed to the tree. Whenever he is revealed in us we feel that we cannot go back. A sight of him with his face to the world’s opposition, his face to the devil, his face to death, his face to hell, his face towards the wrath of God, and going through it all with boundless courage, makes us feel that we must go forward too, even until we enter into his rest. Brethren, by all these arguments we are moved to testify each one for himself, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back.”
37. III. Now, the last thing of all is that, if this is the case, there is something WHICH WE MUST DO. What we must do is this — if there is a present sacrifice demanded of us we must make it immediately, “I have opened my mouth to the Lord: I cannot go back.”
38. Now, if there is anything in your business, and you cannot be a Christian if you do it, renounce it at once and for ever. Do not question about it, and do not ask a friend what you shall do, but follow conscience. If you know the thing is right, do it. Do not ask mother, or brother, or the wisest man who ever lived; do not consult with flesh and blood, but follow Jesus at all costs. Do not take time for second thoughts, but do it, and be done with it. Oh, I have known Christians to equivocate concerning what they ought to do: their duty has been plain enough, but they have not liked it, and so they have wished for someone to tell them that they might be Christians, and yet do wrong: to get some kind of excuse from the judgment of others they have gone fishing about to this and that minister, misrepresenting the circumstances to some extent, to gain the decision they desired, until at last they have forged a kind of dispensation for sin from some good man’s opinion, and then they have cheated their conscience by saying, “I feel much relieved. I can do it now, for I have consulted a gracious man, and he thinks I may.” No consultation can be required where duty is plain.
39. “Oh, sir, but the sacrifice is great.” If it were a thousand times greater, that does not enter into the question. Duty is imperative, and let it be done. If your doing right will make yourself and your children poor, it must be so. It would be better that you were poor and yet maintained your integrity and continued in the service of God than that you should roll in riches by violating your conscience. Say, “I cannot go back”: make the sacrifice, and go on.
40. If you are to do this, however, you must ask for more grace; and, dear brethren, wherever there is a rough stretch in the road, since you cannot go back, all you have to do is to ask the Lord to assist you over it, for you must go through it, and this can only be done by his strength. Remember that your abiding faithful to the end does not depend upon yourself. You have to do it; but the Holy Spirit is to find you strength to do it. The negro said, “Massa, if the Lord say to Sambo, ‘Sambo, jump through the brick wall,’ I will jump. It is the Lord that will make me go through; but Sambo must jump.” So it is with persevering in the face of difficulty and trouble. If you are asked to do a hard duty, and it involves sacrifice and hardship, do not hesitate, but advance unflinchingly; it is the Lord who asks you to do it, and if the Lord asks you to go through the brick wall he will make a hole in it for you, or make it soft for you, or in some way or other make you equal to the occasion. It is yours to go through; do not stand back because of your own weakness, but let faith lay hold on the divine strength.
41. One other admonition to Christian people is this — burn the boats behind you. When the Roman commander meant victory he landed his troops on the coast where he knew there were thousands of enemies, and he burned the boats, in order to cut off all chance of retreat. “But how are we to get away if we are beaten?” “That is just it,” he said; “we will not be beaten; we will not dream of such a thing.” “Burn the boats” — that is what you Christian people must do. “Make no provision for the flesh.” Let the separation between you and the world be final and irreversible. Say, “Here I go for Christ and his cross, for the truth of the Bible, for the laws of God, for holiness, for trust in Jesus; and I will never go back, come what may.”
42. This is the right spirit. The Lord send it among us more and more! It is the spirit of martyrs. You need it, you converted working men — you need the spirit of martyrs. I know how your workmates jest, and jeer, and torment you. Well, do not think yourself hard done by, but play the man, and bear it all, and say to yourself, “I did not quite count on this, but it does not matter; I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot go back if it costs me everything.”
I will not talk to you longer; for what, after all, brethren, can
religion cost us compared with what our salvation cost our Lord? What
is it to go forward if we compare it with the glory that is beyond? A
pin’s prick, that is all; and then you will be in heaven. Oh, to
stand among the glorified! — to hear the Master say, “Well done!” One
might die a thousand deaths to get those two syllables, if there were
nothing else — “Well done!” To enjoy his smile, to share his crown, to
stand among his palm bearing hosts, and participate in his glory — this
is worth all the difficulty and sacrifice involved in going forward,
and ten thousand times more. Therefore accept this closing word.
Forward, my brothers — forward! Whatever lies before you — the Red Sea or
the rage of earth and hell combined — if God calls you, forward to it!
He will bear you through to the glorious end. May the Lord be with
you, for Christ’s sake! Amen!
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Jud 11:1-39]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Dedication To God — ‘The Lord Is My Portion’ ” 661]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — Stand Up For Jesus” 674]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Seeking to Persevere — Let Us Not Fall” 668]
[a] Broad Arrow: The arrowhead shaped mark, used by the British Board of Ordnance, and placed upon government stores. OED.
The Christian, Dedication To God
661 — “The Lord Is My Portion”
1 From pole to pole let others roam,
And search in vain for bliss;
My soul is satisfied at home,
The Lord my portion is.
2 Jesus, who on his glorious throne
Rules heaven, and earth, and sea,
Is pleased to claim me for his own,
And give himself to me.
3 His person fixes all my love,
His blood removes my fear:
And while he pleads for me above,
His arm preserves me here.
4 His word of promise is my food,
His Spirit is my guide:
Thus daily is my strength renew’d,
And all my wants supplied.
5 For him I count as gain each loss,
Disgrace for him renown;
Well may I glory in his cross,
While he prepares my crown!
John Newton, 1779.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
674 — Stand Up For Jesus <7.6.>
1 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
Ye soldiers of the cross!
Lift high his royal banner;
It must not suffer loss:
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquish’d,
And Christ is Lord indeed.
2 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
The trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict,
In this his glorious day;
Ye that are men, now serve him,
Against unnumber’d foes;
Your courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose.
3 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
Stand in his strength alone:
The arm of flesh will fail you;
Ye dare not trust your own:
Put on the gospel armour,
And watching unto prayer,
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
4 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.
George Duffield, 1858.
The Christian, Seeking to Persevere
668 — Let Us Not Fall
1 Lord, through the desert drear and wide
Our erring footsteps need a guide;
Keep us, oh keep us near thy side.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
2 We have no fear that thou shouldest lose
One whom eternal love could choose;
But we would ne’er this grace abuse.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
3 Lord, we are blind, and halt, and lame,
We have no strong hold but thy name:
Great is our fear to bring it shame.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
4 Lord, evermore thy face we seek:
Tempted we are, and poor, and weak;
Keep us with lowly hearts, and meek.
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
5 All thy good work in us complete,
And seat us daily at thy feet;
Thy love, thy words, thy name, how sweet!
Let us not fall. Let us not fall.
Mary Bowly. 1847.