A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, April 7, 1878. By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *9/13/2012
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up. [Jas 4:7-10]
1. We frequently meet people who tell us that they cannot find peace with God. They have been invited to believe in the Lord Jesus, but they misunderstand the command, and, while they think they are obeying it, they are really unbelievers; hence they miss the way of peace. They attempt to pray, but their petitions are not answered, and their supplications yield them no comfort whatever, for neither their faith nor their prayer is accepted by the Lord. Such people are described by James in the third verse of the chapter now open before us — “You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss.” We cannot be content to see seekers in this wretchedness, and hence we endeavour to comfort them, instructing them again and again in the great gospel precept, “Believe and live”; yet as a rule they get no further, but linger in an unsatisfactory condition. They assure us that they believe in Jesus, but we see none of the fruits of faith in them, neither can they themselves say that they derive any spiritual benefit from the faith which they profess. Now I fear that comfort is misplaced in these cases. When we have endeavoured to cheer such people, I fear we may have been covering over a wound which needs a sharp knife rather than a soft bandage, a keen lancet rather than a healing liniment. We shall try at this time to show certain uneasy souls why they do not obtain peace, and what they must be brought to by the Holy Spirit before they can really claim that they are saved. Though our words may be somewhat caustic they will be uttered in loving faithfulness, and may the Lord our God make them effective towards the ending of the inner strife and the establishment of settled peace.
2. I fear that many who profess to be Christians are in a very questionable condition: they have no joy from their faith and no success in their prayers. Whether they are Christians or not is a moot point, and the practical James does not waste time in discussing the doubtful question, but speaks to them from both sides of their apparent condition. In his previous chapters he calls them “my brethren,” and even “my beloved brethren,” and he draws no line of demarcation when he later addresses them as “sinners,” whose hands must be cleansed, and as “double-minded” people, whose hearts must be purified. They were both these: they were professedly brethren, but they were at heart unchaste to Christ; they indulged in grievous sins of contention and malice, and their hearts were divided between love for sin and the hope of salvation. We will not, therefore, raise personal questions, or try to discriminate where certainty is hard to reach, but we will speak to suspicious characters without determining whether they are believers or not. If such people claim to be called brethren, we will address them as such, but it will be in a sentence like this, “My brethren, such things ought not to be.” On the other hand, we will use no condemnatory title, but leave the question between God and each man’s own conscience. We will go to the root of the matter, and present the reason for the lack of peace and salvation of which some complain. May the sacred Spirit help us to point out the fatal failure which keeps the soul from rest. If any man is not sure that he is in Christ, he ought not to rest easy for one moment until he is so. Dear friend, without the fullest confidence concerning your saved condition, you have no right to be at ease, and I pray you may never be so. This is a matter too important to be left undecided. Instantly every man of prudence should make assurance doubly sure; and bind all things firmly so that he may find them secure for eternity — for eternity I say, for thus says the Lord. Never risk your souls, for your souls are yourselves, your real selves, and nothing can make up for their loss. If you lose your own souls, it will be no reward to have gained the whole world. Be careful, then, leave nothing insecure, carefully measure and weigh every important step; consider and examine, lest being so near to the kingdom any of you should seem to come short of it. To help you to a settled peace, let me first of all urge upon you to obey the comprehensive command of our text — “Submit yourselves therefore to God”; and then, secondly, let me further press upon you to practise the other precepts which follow, such as “Resist the devil,” “Draw near to God,” “Cleanse your hands,” “Purify your hearts,” and “Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep”; and “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord.”
3. I. First listen to THE COMPREHENSIVE COMMAND — “Submit yourselves therefore to God.”
4. According to the context, the fighting spirit within many men shows that they have not submitted themselves to God; lusting, envy, strife, contention, jealousy, anger, all these things declare that the heart is not submissive, but remains violently self-willed and rebellious. Those who are still wrathful, proud, contentious, and selfish, are evidently unsubdued. There are some men to whom the very idea of submission is distasteful; they will submit to no one, but wish to be their own gods, and a law to themselves. “Submit” is a galling word to them. They say in their hearts, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” They are willing enough to accept his favours, willing enough in their way to say “Thank God,” but with respect to submission, they will have none of it, it does not suit their high mightiness. They strive for the mastery, they push for the front place, striving to advance their own interests, and make “the great I” to be lord paramount. The apostle quietly indicates in the words of our text that many Christian professors need to submit, for at present their proud nature leads them to lustings and strivings, and effectively prevents their asking in order to receive from the Lord’s hands.
5. A lack of submission is no new or rare fault in mankind; ever since the fall it has been the root of all sin. When the heart submits to God in sincerity the work of grace is begun, and when it submits perfectly the work is complete; but for this to happen divine grace must display its power, for the heart is obstinate and rebellious. From the moment when our mother Eve stretched out her hand to pick the forbidden fruit, and her husband joined her in setting up the human will against the divine, the sons of men have universally been guilty of a lack of conformity to the will of God. They choose their own way, and will not submit their wills; they think their own thoughts, and will not submit their understandings; they love earthly things, and will not submit their affections. Man wants to be his own law, and his own master. This is abominable, since we are not our own makers; for “it is he who has made us and not we ourselves.” The Lord should have supremacy over us, for our existence depends on his will. I have heard much about the rights of man: but it would be good also to consider the rights of God, which are the first, highest, surest, and most solemn rights in the universe, and lie at the base of all other rights. The Lord has an absolute right to the beings whom he has fashioned, and it is shameful that the great majority of men seem never even to remember that he exists, much less to ask themselves what is due to him. Alas, great God, how are you a stranger even in the world which you have yourself made! Your creatures, who could not see if you had not given them eyes, look everywhere except to you. Creatures who could not think if you had not given them minds, think of all things except you; and beings who could not live if you did not keep them in being, utterly forget you, or if they remember your existence, and see your power, are foolhardy enough to become your foes! The hemlock of sin grows in the furrows of opposition to God. When the Lord is pleased to turn the hearts of opposers to the obedience of the truth, it is an evident sign of salvation; in fact, it is the dawn of salvation itself. To submit to God is to find rest.
6. The rule of God is so beneficial that he ought readily to be obeyed. He never commands us to do what, in the long run, can be injurious to us; nor does he forbid us anything which can be to our real advantage. Our God is so kind, so wise, so full of loving forethought, that it must always be in our best interest to follow his leading. Even if we could be left to choose our own way, and were under no bonds of duty, it would be wise and prudent to choose the way of the Lord, for it is the path of pleasantness and safety. Beloved, the Lord is far too great to have any need to deal unjustly, or unkindly, with his creatures; indeed, he is so great that he cannot desire any personal advantage from his government, but he condescends to govern us because without his rule and guidance we would be utterly undone. It is for our good that like a father in his family he commands us this or forbids us the other. It is wanton cruelty to ourselves when we break away from the liberty with which Jesus makes us free to place ourselves under the tyranny of selfishness and the baser passions of the mind. It is madness to forsake the honourable service of the great King to become the slave of Satan. Oh that men would submit themselves to God and be willing to be blest.
7. All resistance against God must, from the necessity of the case, be futile. Common sense teaches that rebellion against omnipotence is both insanity and blasphemy. The Lord’s purpose must stand, and his pleasure must be done; his power will assuredly crush all opposition, and it is idle to raise it. Why, then, should a man contend against his Master? Wisdom as well as righteousness call upon him to submit himself to God.
8. And then let it always be known that submission to God is absolutely necessary for salvation. A man is not saved until he bows before the supreme majesty of God. He may say, “I believe in Jesus,” but if he goes on to follow out his own desires, and to gratify his own passions, he is a mere pretender, a wolf in the clothing of a sheep. Dead faith will save no man; it is not even as good as the faith of demons, for they “believe and tremble,” and these men believe in a fashion which makes them brazen in their iniquity. No, salvation means being saved from the domination of self and sin; salvation means being made to long after likeness to God, being helped by divine grace to reach to that likeness, and living according to the mind and will of the Most High. Submission to God is the salvation which we preach, not a mere deliverance from eternal burnings, but deliverance from present rebellion, deliverance from the sin which is the fuel of those unquenchable flames. There must be conformity to the eternal laws of the universe, and according to these God must be first and man must bow to him: nothing can be right until this is done. Submit is a command which in every case must be obeyed, or no peace or salvation will be found.
9. Now, it is generally in this matter of submission that the stumbling-block lies in the way of souls when seeking peace with God. It keeps them unsaved, and as I have already said, necessarily so, because a man who is not submissive to God is not saved; he is not saved from rebellion, he is not saved from pride, he is still obviously an unsaved man, let him think whatever he wishes about himself. Perhaps by a few personal remarks I reveal the reason why certain of my hearers cannot get the peace which the gospel so freely sets before them. There is a lack of submission in some point or other. Now, in the saved man there is and must be a full and unconditional submission to the law of God. He must consent to the law that it is good. If your mind has previously criticised the law, you must end the contest, for it is impossible that you should be right while you quarrel with the law of righteousness. If you set yourself up to be a judge of the law, you judge the lawgiver himself, and what is this but the blackest presumption? Traced to its real meaning, the thought of judging the law is treason, and would dethrone God and reign in his place. How sad to see a sinful mortal criticising the perfect law of his Maker! Dare you do this? If you say in your heart, “He is too strict in marking sin, and too severe in punishing it,” what is this except condemning your Judge? If you say, “He calls me to account for idle words, and even for sins of ignorance, and this is harsh,” what is this except to call your Lord unjust? Should the law be amended to suit your desires? Should its requirements be accommodated to ease your indolence? If you ask for this you are not saved, for a saved person delights in the law of God after the inward man; he says of it, “the law is holy”; though he weeps as he adds, “but I am carnal, sold under sin.” He honours the law as he bows before it and confesses his shortcomings.
10. Yes, and before a man can have peace with God he must submit himself to the sentence of the law. Though that law in its severity searches the reins and tries the heart, arraigns us before the judgment bar of God, and pronounces sentence upon us, we must acknowledge that it is just. Grace working in the heart brings the penitent to plead guilty to the sin, and to admit that the penalty is deserved. In my own case I unreservedly admit that when the law in my conscience condemned me to hell, I dared not lift a finger nor even think a thought by way of disputing the sentence. The conscience is not divinely quickened, nor the soul renewed, nor the man saved, unless he cries, “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is always before me., I have sinned against you, and you only, and done this evil in your sight, so that you might be justified when you speak, and be clear when you judge.” You must submit yourselves to the righteousness and severity of God, or he will resist you as he does with all the proud. There can be no pardon for a man unless he will honour the law by hearty submission. If your plea is “not guilty,” you will be committed for trial according to justice, but you cannot be forgiven by mercy. You are in a hopeless position; God himself cannot meet you upon that basis, for he cannot admit that the law is unrighteous and its penalty too heavy. The Lord cannot be at peace with you while you defy his law. He declares that you are guilty and you dispute this declaration, hence between you and himself there is a quarrel which never can be ended until you admit your error and beg for pardon. He can deal with you in mercy when you once stand where mercy can meet you, namely, in the sinner’s place, but if you say “I am not guilty,” and begin to vindicate or excuse yourself, you are in a position which the Lord cannot recognise. If you are professedly righteous how can the Lord deal with you except in justice? And if he deals with you in justice he will readily enough summon his witnesses, and prove you guilty, and condemn you everlastingly. Submit, then, to God, and say, “Guilty, Lord: I throw down the weapons of my rebellion, and admit that I stand condemned before you, and if saved at all it must be by your free forgiveness, by your unmerited mercy, by your boundless love.”
11. Next a man must submit himself to the plan of salvation by grace alone. God meets the sinner on the footing of grace. “I cannot exonerate you,” he seems to say, “but I can forgive you; I cannot tolerate your denial of guilt, but if you confess your sin I am faithful and just to forgive your sin, and to save you from all unrighteousness.” Now, are you willing, my dear hearer, are you sure that you are willing to be saved by grace alone and to owe your deliverance from sin and its punishment entirely to the free favour of God? Will you yield to that? I trust you will. But there are some who will not, for they go about to establish their own righteousness and do not submit themselves to the righteousness of God. They think that so much chapel-going, church-going, sermon hearing, prayer meeting attending, Bible reading, and so on, will certainly create something like a claim upon God. Oh, sirs, away with your claims. If you come with anything like a claim the Lord will not touch the case at all, for you have no claim, and the pretence of one would be an insult to God. If you imagine you have demands upon God, go into the court of justice and plead them, but the sentence is certain to be against you, for by the deeds of the law no flesh can be justified. Try the other way. Come to God with no claim, and appeal to his pity, saying, “Lord, I cry for mercy. I will gladly accept your free grace if you will only give it to me.” You will be accepted on that basis; for the Lord is gracious and casts out no one who comes to him confessing his sins.
12. You must also submit yourselves to God’s way of saving you through an atoning sacrifice and by means of your personal faith in that sacrifice. You must receive his Son as divine, and you must believe in that atoning blood which was shed for many for the remission of sins. Surely there should be no difficulty about surrendering the mind to this. Salvation by the great Mediator is such a delightful way of salvation, so just for God, so safe for man, that we ought to clap our hands for very joy to think that such a royal road to heaven is opened for us. What do you say, dear hearers? Does the Holy Spirit incline you to trust in the blood of Jesus?
13. And then there must be a full submission to God in the matter of giving up every sin. Numbers of people pray for mercy, but they continue in their sins. Such men cannot be saved, because salvation is salvation from sin — not in sin. How can we be saved from sin if we are its slaves? If you come to God and cry, “Lord, deliver me, and have mercy upon me,” and yet you practise private drinking, and tipple yourselves into semi-drunkenness, how can you be saved? If you keep on cheating in business, or telling lies, or indulge a malicious or angry temper in the family, or are proud and unkind, selfish and miserly, how can you be saved? I warn you, sirs, that faith itself cannot save you while these things are so, for if your faith were a saving faith it would rescue you from these evils. This, indeed, is salvation, namely, deliverance from the power and habit of sin. Many prayers are semi-hypocritical; there is a kind of sincerity about them, but there is no whole-hearted desire after holiness, and therefore they will never receive a comforting answer from God. Oh seeker, are you willing to give up every sin? Come, drunkard, you pray to be forgiven, but are you willing to forsake the intoxicating cup once and for all? You, my brother, ask to be pardoned; it is good, but are you at the same time desirous to cease from your transgressions? Yes or no? Are you anxious to search out every false way, and abandon it as soon as it is discovered? Do you wish to have a holy, truthful, godly tongue? Do you long to be saved from every lust and secret vice? If so, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, you are already saved; your sigh to be delivered from evil is the beginning of the work of sanctification. But if you say, “I would be saved from every wrong way except my one indulgence, my one secret iniquity,” then you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity; your prayers will come back into your heart unanswered, and your insincere faith in Christ will condemn you. Your imagined faith cannot save you, since you hug your sin. A certain man has been accustomed to eat a certain dish which is bad for his health, and when he calls in a physician they speak like this: “If you trust in me,” says the doctor, “I can cure you.” “Yes,” replies the patient, “I do trust in you heartily.” The doctor proceeds, “That dainty of yours must be given up, for it is the cause of your disease, and as long as you eat it you must suffer the consequences.” “Well, doctor,” he says, “I trust in you, but I cannot give up my favourite food.” Is it not apparent to everyone that he is not trusting in the physician at all? Even so when a man declares, “I trust in Christ to save me from sin,” and then continues in his wickedness: he mocks the Good Physician, and is in danger of sudden destruction. Either you must cast sin out of your heart or it will keep you out of heaven. This point must be insisted on: receiving Christ is impossible without at the same time renouncing sin.
14. If we wish to be saved there must be submission to the Lord concerning all his teachings; a very necessary point in this age, for a multitude of people, who appear to be religious, judge the Scriptures instead of allowing the Scriptures to judge them. Hear, oh you wise men, “Unless you are converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Submission to the infallible authority of the inspired word is absolutely required of every disciple of Jesus, but this age delights in the opposite spirit. Even some of those who call themselves ministers of the gospel persistently indulge a spirit which is precisely the opposite of the childlike faith which saves the soul. They industriously endeavour to stir up rebellion against the teachings of Christ, and extol it under the name of “honest doubt.” They do not wish men to believe, but to think, and their gospel, practically, is, “Doubt, and do not be baptized, and you shall be saved.” Shame upon them! Now our gospel is, “He who believes, and is baptized, shall be saved”; and we are content to teach what Jesus Christ our Lord told his disciples to preach to all nations. If I will never yield my reason, if I will never believe what I cannot understand, if I will carry an open knife around with me to cut and hack at texts of Scripture, if I will not sit at the feet of Jesus with Mary, but want him to sit at my feet so that I may tell him what his religion ought to be, and what he ought to have said, how can I be saved? If, after all, we are personally infallible, and are to spend all our days in touting our opinions, how can we know Christ? If instead of yielding my judgment to the plain teachings of my Lord I must revise his doctrines, how can I be saved? If I have not submitted my intellect to God, what peace can there be? Note this well, you wise young men who know so much more than your fathers, and are too intellectual to reverence your fathers’ God.
15. And, now, I must ask another question of you who desire peace and cannot find it: have you submitted yourselves to the providential arrangements of God? I know people who often sit in this house of prayer who have a quarrel with God. He took away a beloved object, and they not only thought him unkind and cruel at the time, but they still think so. Like a child in a sulking fit, they cast an evil eye upon the great Father. They are not at peace, and never will be until they have acknowledged the Lord’s supremacy, and ceased from their rebellious thoughts. If they were in a proper state of heart they would thank the Lord for their sharp trials, and consent to his will, as being assuredly right. I fear that lack of submission on this point affects a great number of people. They cannot succeed in business, and therefore they are out of sorts with God. He knows very well that they are not fit to be made rich, and could not be trusted with a large business; and, therefore, he does not grant their suicidal desires. Some men would never win the race of life if they had an ounce of gold to carry; the only hope for their running at all lies in keeping them unencumbered. We know, also, thoughtful young men who cannot pursue their studies because of failing health: they want to be famous, but they are not strong enough to continue their work for the examination, and so they are vexed with the Lord. Or, it may be, they have less talent than ambition, and they rebel because their Maker has not given them intellects as capacious as that of Solomon. Let them be satisfied to use the talent they have, and cease from contending with their Creator. Many men have a kind of private pique with providence, and sit down like Jonah under their withered gourd and mutter, “We do well to be angry even to death.” Now, if such is the case with any before me, I would say to them, — Quit quarrelling with your God. What can be the use of it? The very best and wisest thing for you is to make friends with him, and let his will be yours. After all he deals well with you, if you would only see it. Depend upon it there is something to be made out of the position you occupy: gain will come to you out of all those losses, profit will arise even from those sad bereavements, if you will stand still and see the salvation of God. Acquaint yourselves with God and be at peace, for by it good shall come to you; for unless you do this you may say, “I believe,” but you have no faith in God. How can a man believe in God when he charges God with treating him wrongly? Faith fosters resignation and submission, but where there is strife and enmity, unbelief is still supreme. Until you submit yourselves to God it cannot be well with your souls, for he resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
16. This is the long and the short of it: you must, as a guilty sinner, cast yourself at God’s feet and say, “Have mercy upon me, oh Lord, and have mercy upon me in your own way. I do not dictate to you, but I implore your grace! I humbly beg for forgiveness, be pleased to pity me. I yield up myself to you, asking you to make me holy. I do from my very heart give up the love of sin. I fear I shall sin, help me to loathe myself when I do so; make me what you will have me to be, and then deal as you wish with me. I make no terms nor conditions; mine is an unconditional surrender. Only for your mercy’s sake renew me, make me your child and save me. Since you ask me to trust your Son, I trust him. ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.’ ” You will have peace when your heart is brought to this point. At present your wound does not heal, because it needs washing, for the grit of pride has fallen into it and is causing a wretched irritation. When pride is gone and you are fully submissive then the wound shall heal and your broken bones shall rejoice. I am not asking you to submit to a priest, I am not asking you to submit to a mere man, but I speak very earnestly when I say, “Submit yourselves to God”: it is natural, it is right; it is good in itself, and full of the highest good for you. Submission is essential for salvation, therefore bow before the Lord at once. May the Lord bend that stubborn will and conquer that wayward heart. Yield yourselves to God, and pray to be delivered from future rebellion. If you have submitted, do so even more completely, for by this you shall be known to be Christians when you submit yourselves to God. If you will not submit, your faith is a lie, your hope is a delusion, your prayer is an insult, your peace is presumption, your end will be despair. Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. “But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such a one as still goes on in his trespasses.”
17. II. But now, secondly, having thus spoken upon the great duty of submission, let us consider the other and FOLLOWING PRECEPTS.
18. I think I am not suspicious without reason when I express a fear that the preaching which has recently been very common, and in some respects very useful, of “only believe and you shall be saved,” has sometimes been altogether mistaken by those who have heard it. Cases occur in which young people go on living light, frivolous, giddy, and even wicked lives, and yet they assert that they believe in Jesus Christ. When you come to examine them a little you find that their belief in Christ means that they believe that he has saved them, although everyone who knows their character can see clearly that they are not saved at all: now, what is their faith except the belief of a lie? They are living just as they did live, and hence it is clear that they are not saved from their former foolish conduct, nor from their bad tempers, nor from their old sins; and yet they try to persuade themselves that they are saved. Now, true faith never believes falsehoods: presumption lives upon lies, but faith will only feed on truth. My faith does not teach me to believe I am saved when straight before my very eyes I have the evidence that I am not saved, since I am living in the very sin I pretend to be saved from. Though we would not for a moment cast a doubt upon the doctrine of justification by faith and free salvation, we must also preach more and more that parallel truth, “You must be born again.” We must bring to the forefront the grand old word which has been thrown into the background by some evangelists, namely, “Repent.” Repentance is as essential for salvation as faith: indeed there is no faith without repentance except the faith which needs to be repented of. A dry-eyed faith will never see the kingdom of God. A holy loathing for sin always attends upon a childlike faith in the Sin Bearer. Where the root grace of faith is found other graces will grow from it.
19. Now notice how the Spirit of God, after having asked us to submit, goes on to show what else is to be done. He calls for a brave resistance of the devil. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” The business of salvation is not all passive, the soul must be aroused to active warfare. I am to fall into the arms of Christ, so that he may save me, and trust in him entirely; but when I depend upon him I receive life, and the very first effort of that life is to strike with all its might the adversary of Christ and of my own soul. I am not only to contend with sin, but with the spirit which foments and suggests sin. I am to resist the secret spirit of evil as well as its outward acts. “Oh,” one says, “I cannot give up an inveterate habit.” Sir, you must give it up; you must resist the devil or perish. “But I have been so long in it,” cries the man. Yes, but if you truly trust Christ your first effort will be to fight against the evil habit. Indeed, and if it is not merely a habit, nor an impulse, but if your danger lies in the existence of a cunning spirit who is armed at all points, and both strong and subtle, yet you must not yield, but resolve to resist to the death, cheered by the gracious promise that he will flee from you. You shall in the name of Jesus overcome temptation, master evil habits, and escape from bondage: only strike for freedom and disdain the chain of sin. If you are to have peace with God there must be war with Satan; you cannot rest in your spirit and know the peace which faith gives unless you wage war to the death against every evil and against the patron and prince of evil, even Satan. Are you ready for this? You cannot have peace unless you are.
20. Next the apostle writes, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” He who believes in Christ sincerely will be much in prayer; yet there are some who say, “We want to be saved,” but they neglect prayer. They cannot figure out how it is that they have no enjoyment of religion; but why do they need to be puzzled? Ask your neglected prayer closet, ask your own heart, how you can be happy and prosperous and blessed in divine things if you do not pray? Remember that the mere saying of prayers is not praying. The essence of prayer lies in the heart drawing near to God: and it can do that without words. Prayer is the feeling that God is present, and the desire of the soul to come near to him, in order to submit to his influence, to know his love, to feel his power, and to be conformed to his will. This kind of praying can be continued by the power of God’s Holy Spirit all the day long. We must know something of this. “Behold he prays” is one of the first signs of a saved soul and if you think that by some momentary act of faith which you suppose you exercised you are therefore saved, while your heart remains at a distance from God, prayerless and careless, you are fatally deceived. Such is not the teaching of Scripture, and there is no warrant for it in the promises of God. If prayer is utterly neglected, the soul is dead.
21. The next precept is, “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” What! does the word of God tell sinners to cleanse their hands and purify their hearts? Yes, it does. Some brother whispers, “Ah, that is Arminianism.” Who are you who replies against God’s word? If such teaching is in this inspired book, how dare we question it? It comes with a “thus says the Lord,” — “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” When a man comes to God and says, “I am willing and anxious to be saved, and I trust Christ to save me,” and yet he keeps his dirty black hands exercised in filthy actions, doing what he knows is wrong, does he expect God to hear him? Do I need spend even so many as half-a-dozen words to show that this man does not believe and is not really honest before the Most High? “Cleanse your hands, you sinners.” Can you ask God to be at peace with you while your hands grasp your sins with loving embrace and are full of bribes, or are foul with lust, or are striking with the fist of anger and wrath? If you do the devil’s work with your hands, do not expect the Lord to fill them with his blessing. It cannot be, you must break off your sins by righteousness, and as Paul shook off the viper from his hand into the fire, so must you. By the power of faith, if it is a real faith, you will be able to purge your outward life. Why, when men talk about being spiritual, and are not even decently moral, it makes us sick to hear them. How dare they talk about being Christians when they do not live as well as Mohammedans or heathens? Oh you dogs, howling out your shame, what portion have you among the children as long as you bite and devour and love your filthiness? It is idle to talk about salvation while sin is being hugged to the heart with both hands. Away with such hypocrisy!
22. Then it is added, “Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Can they do this? Assuredly not by themselves, but still in order to have peace with God there must be so much purification of the heart that it shall no longer be double-minded. He who would have salvation must seek it with all his heart, must so seek it that he is resolved to give up anything, and to endure anything, so that he may only be rescued from sin. “Purify your hearts, you double-minded.” Get rid of that leering eye of yours towards uncleanness, and that cross eye which squints towards worldly gain; for until your whole heart cries after the Most High he will not hear you. When you can say with David, “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God,” you shall find the Lord. When you cease trying to serve two masters, and submit yourselves to God, he will bless you, but not until then. I believe that this touches the centre of the mischief in many of those hearts which fail to reach peace; they have not given up sin, they are not whole-hearted after salvation.
23. Then the Lord asks us to, “be afflicted, and mourn, and weep let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” I grieve to say that I have met people who say, “I cannot find peace, I cannot get salvation,” and talk very prettily in that way; but yet outside the door they are giggling one with another, as if it were a matter of amusement. The Sabbath day is spent in vain, idle, frivolous conversation — they do not even seem to have been serious. The whole matter appears to be a mere sport. Some converts seem to jump into religion as people do into a bath, and jump out again about as fast; they never weigh the matter, they have no thought, no sorrow for sin, no humiliation before God. Stop that laughter if you are an unsaved soul — for decency’s sake, stop that laughter. For you to laugh while in danger of being lost sounds to me as ghastly and as grim as if the fiends of hell were to set up a theatre and present a comedy in the pit. What right have you with laughter while sin is unforgiven, while God is angry with you? Indeed, go to him in a more fit form and fashion, or he will refuse your prayers. Be serious, begin to think of death, and judgment, and the wrath to come. These are not trifles, sirs, nor things to make sport about, neither is true religion a thing that is to be attended to as easily as when one snaps his finger and says, “Heigh presto! Quick. It’s done!” By no manner of means. If you are saved your mind is solemnly impressed by eternal realities and you are serious about matters of life and death; the very thought of sin pains you, and since you meet it in your daily life you have good reason for daily humbling, and are afflicted because of it. Many, I fear, fail to get peace because it is not a solemn matter at all, they trifle with it as if it were a game for boys and girls to play at, and not for the heart and spirit to enter upon with deep concern.
24. Then the Lord sums up his precepts by saying, “Humble yourselves in the sight of God.” With that I close. There must be a deep and lowly prostration of the spirit before God. If you happen to have a boy who shows a high rebellious spirit against you, and you have chastened him for it, and yet he blantly resists, you tell him that there must be a humbling of himself before you can forgive him. If he is a wise child, and wishes to escape your anger, he makes a dutiful confession, acknowledges that he was wrong, and appeals to your love, and you freely pardon him: but in many who pretend to come to God there is no humbling. They do not admit that they ever did anything particularly wrong, and they do not care if they did: still they hear there is such a thing as believing in Jesus, and they profess to believe, not because there is any need for it, as they think, but for fashion’s sake. Ah, sirs, Jesus Christ did not come to heal the healthy, but the sick, neither did he die to bind up those who are not broken, nor to make alive those who were never killed. There must be in you, and may God give it to you, a brokenness of spirit; a broken and a contrite heart he will not despise.
25. If your heart has never been broken, how can he bind it up? If it was never wounded, how can he heal it? These are weighty matters, and I speak them weightily lest anyone among you should be deceived. May God help you to cry, “Search me, oh God, and know my heart: test me, and know my thoughts: and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
This is the way of salvation, that you believe in Jesus Christ whom
God has sent. But remember that he saves us from our sins, not
in our sins. Faith in Jesus Christ saves and will save all who
have it, but it is by purging out sin. It assures us that we are
pardoned, and thus it makes us love the Christ by whom we are
forgiven: this love leads us to abhor ourselves for our sins, and we
endeavour to purify ourselves from them by his Spirit. Faith without
works is dead, being alone; and though a man is justified by faith
and not by works, and by faith alone, and not even in part by his
works, yet the faith which saves is a faith which produces good
works, and leads into the way of holiness. He who does not seek after
righteousness and true holiness, let him pretend what he may, is dead
while he lives. May the Lord have mercy upon you, for Christ’s sake.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Jas 3:1-4:12]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Lord’s Day — Welcome, Sweet Day Of Rest” 907]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Holy Anxiety — ‘Search Me, Oh Lord!’ ” 641]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 119” 119 @@ "(Song 2)"]
Public Worship, The Lord’s Day
907 — Welcome, Sweet Day Of Rest
1 Welcome, sweet day of rest,
That saw the Lord arise:
Welcome to this reviving breast,
And these rejoicing eyes!
2 The King himself comes near,
And feasts his saints today;
Here we may sit and see him here,
And love, and praise, and pray.
3 One day amidst the place
Where my dear God hath been,
Is sweeter than ten thousand days
Of pleasurable sin.
4 My willing soul would stay
In such a frame as this,
And sit and sing herself away
To everlasting bliss.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Holy Anxiety
641 — “Search Me, Oh Lord!”
1 Searcher of hearts, before they face.
I all my soul display:
And, conscious of its innate arts,
Entreat thy strict survey.
2 If, lurking in its inmost folds,
I any sin conceal,
Oh let a ray of light divine
That secret guile reveal.
3 If tinctured with that odious gall
Unknowing I remain,
Let grace, like a pure silver stream,
Wash out the accursed stain.
4 If in these fatal fetters bound,
A wretched slave I lie,
Smite off my chains, and wake my soul
To light and liberty.
5 To humble penitence and prayer
Be gentle pity given;
Speak ample pardon to my heart,
And seal its claim to heaven.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 119 (Song 1)
1 Oh how I love thy holy law!
‘Tis daily my delight;
And thence my meditations draw
Divine advice by night.
2 How doth thy word my heart engage!
How well employ my tongue!
And in my tiresome pilgrimage
Yields me a heavenly song.
3 Am I a stranger, or at home,
‘Tis my perpetual feast:
Not honey dropping from the comb,
So much allures the taste.
4 No treasures so enrich the mind,
Nor shall thy word be sold
For loads of silver well refined,
Nor heaps of choicest gold.
5 When nature sinks, and spirits droop,
Thy promises of grace
Are pillars to support my hope,
And there I write thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 2)
1 Oh that the Lord would guide my ways
To keep his statutes still!
Oh that my God would grant me grace
To know and do his will!
2 Oh send thy Spirit down, to write
Thy law upon my heart!
Nor let my tongue indulge deceit,
Nor act the liar’s part.
3 From vanity turn off my eyes;
Let no corrupt design,
Nor covetous desires arise
Within this soul of mine.
4 Order my footsteps by thy word,
And make my heart sincere;
Let sin have no dominion, Lord,
But keep my conscience clear.
5 My soul hath gone too far astray,
My feet too often slip;
Yet since I’ve not forgot thy way
Restore thy wandering sheep.
6 Make me to walk in thy commands,
‘Tis a delightful road;
Nor let my head, or heart, or hands,
Offend against my God.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 119 (Song 3)
1 My soul lies cleaving to the dust;
Lord, give me life divine;
From vain desires and every lust,
Turn off these eyes of mine.
2 I need the influence of thy grace
To speed me in thy way,
Lest I should loiter in my race
Or turn my feet astray.
3 When sore afflictions press me down,
I need thy quickening powers;
Thy word that I have rested on
Shall help my heaviest hours.
4 Are not thy mercies sovereign still,
And thou a faithful God?
Wilt thou not grant me warmer zeal
To run the heavenly road?
5 Does not my heart thy precepts love,
And long to see thy face?
And yet how slow my spirits move
Without enlivening grace!
6 Then shall I love thy gospel more,
And ne’er forget thy word,
When I have felt its quickening power
To draw me near the Lord.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 4)
1 My soul lies grovelling low,
Still cleaving to the dust:
Thy quickening grace, oh Lord, bestow,
For in thy word I trust.
2 Make me to understand
Thy precepts and thy will;
Thy wondrous works on every hand,
I’ll sing and talk of still.
3 My soul, oppress’d with grief,
In heaviness melts down;
Oh strengthen me and send relief,
And thou shalt wear the crown.
4 Remove from me the voice
Of falsehood and deceit;
The way of truth is now my choice,
Thy word to me is sweet.
5 Thy testimony stands,
And never can depart;
I’ll run the way of thy commands
If thou enlarge my heart.
Joseph Irons, 1847
Psalm 119 (Song 5)
1 Consider all my sorrows, Lord,
And thy deliverance send;
My soul for thy salvation faints;
When will my troubles end?
2 Yet I have found ‘tis good for me
To bear my Father’s rod;
Afflictions make me learn thy law,
And live upon my God.
3 This is the comfort I enjoy
When new distress begins:
I read thy word, I run thy way,
And hate my former sins.
4 Had not thy word been my delight
When earthly joys were fled,
My soul oppress’d with sorrow’s weight,
Had sunk amongst the dead.
5 I know thy judgments, Lord, are right,
Though they may seem severe;
The sharpest sufferings I endure
Flow from thy faithful care.
6 Before I knew thy chastening rod
My feet were apt to stray;
But now I learn to keep thy word,
Nor wander from thy way.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 119 (Song 6)
1 Oh that thy statutes every hour
Might dwell upon my mind!
Thence I derive a quickening power,
And daily peace I find.
2 To meditate thy precepts, Lord,
Shall be my sweet employ;
My soul shall ne’er forget thy word;
Thy word is all my joy.
3 How would I run in thy commands,
If thou my heart discharge
From sin and Satan’s hateful chains,
And set my feet at large!
4 My lips with courage shall declare
Thy statutes and thy name;
I’ll speak thy words though kings should hear,
Nor yield to sinful shame.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 119 (Song 7)
1 Father, I bless thy gentle hand;
How kind was thy chastising rod;
That forced my conscience to a stand,
And brought my wandering soul to God!
2 Foolish and vain, I went astray
Ere I had felt thy scourges, Lord;
I left my guide, and lost my way;
But now I love and keep thy word.
3 ‘Tis good for me to wear the yoke,
For pride is apt to rise and swell;
‘Tis good to bear my Father’s stroke,
That I might learn his statutes well.
4 Thy hands have made my mortal frame,
Thy Spirit form’d my soul within;
Teach me to know thy wondrous name,
And guard me safe from death and sin.
5 Then all that love and fear the Lord,
At my salvation shall rejoice;
For I have hoped in thy word,
And made thy grace my only choice.
Isaac Watts, 1719.