A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, August 10, 1879, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *12/2/2012
For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even what he has. [Mt 13:12]
1. Two great general principles are conspicuous in the gospel. The first is that God gives his grace to the empty — “He has filled the hungry with good things, and he has sent the rich away empty.” The second principle is that where God has given a measure of grace it is his custom to give more — “He gives more grace.” There is no stint with the Lord of love, and no limit to the abundance of the grace which those who come to him may receive. He gives grace to those who have none, and more grace to those whom he has already favoured. These two principles do not contradict each other, but help to make each other complete. In their proper order they exhibit both sides of one truth, and give us instruction concerning the Lord’s dealings with two different stages of spiritual condition. Each principle has its own range. Are you as yet unsaved? Then the principle which you have to deal with is this, that God will fill the empty and feed the hungry. You have to go to him with nothing of your own except your needs, and ask for everything from his hands. Your wisdom is to hurry to the Saviour just as you are, do not delay to gather a price which you may carry in your hand, but coming empty-handed to the generous Lord. In all your sinfulness you must look to him for pardon; in all your nakedness you must flee to him for clothing; in all your weakness you must cry to him for strength; yes, in all your death you are to look to him for life, even as he has said, “Awake you who sleep, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light.” Take care that you are quite clear upon this point, for unless your eye is good here, your whole soul will be full of darkness. Grace is for the undeserving, the guilty, the needy; otherwise it would be no need for grace. The gospel is not the law, and therefore it does not demand a holy character as a condition for receiving its blessings, but it comes to sinners as they are, looks on them with an eye of pity, forgives their sins, and makes them new creatures and holy creatures. In dealing with the sinner God acts on the principle of undeserved love and unmerited favour. Trembling sinner, you have to go to him with your empty bucket so that he may fill it out of the deep well of his overflowing love.
2. When a man has received grace, or when he professes to have done so, he comes under the second principle. He must take care that he has indeed and truly received what God in the gospel presents to him; for if he does not really and truly receive at the very beginning the true grace of God he will begin with falsehood and end in shame. He must see to it that he has the beginnings of grace, or he cannot have their increase. If there is a mistake concerning the actual reception of Christ into the heart there may be an appearance of having Christ, and this appearance may last for a while, but since there is really nothing begun there will be no addition to it. While I am like the unsown soil I am simply to receive the seed when it is scattered; but after the scattering of the seed, if I think I have received it, I must see to it that I am not deceived, I must watch that the word really does lodge in the furrows of my soul, for unless that is the case, beyond all question, so far from obtaining growth in grace, I shall eventually lose what I think I have, and I shall be clearly proven to be barren and unfruitful. If I have received the light of heaven into my soul, however small its beginnings, the Lord will add a gracious increase, and as I follow on to know him I shall be as the shining light which shines more and more to the perfect day. If I am a mere pretender I shall fade away, but if I am a sincere believer I shall become brighter and brighter. I shall endeavour to use this last principle at this time for our warning and instruction. May the Holy Spirit greatly bless it to our hearts, so that those who profess to be the people of God may make sure that their profession is founded on the truth; and may those who are mere hearers of the gospel be disturbed in their consciences and aroused from the sleep of death.
3. I. First, we shall study this principle AS IT IS ILLUSTRATED IN THE PARABLE OF THE SOWER. You will not fail to observe that this saying of our Lord occurs in three evangelists in connection with the parable of the sower. Besides our text, you will find it in Mr 4:24, and there it is at the close of the parable of the sower; you will see it again in Lu 8:18, still in connection with the same parable. The principle must be very important, or else our Lord would not have taken care to have it recorded by three evangelists; and he must have intended that we should read it in the light of the parable, or he would not have mentioned it there.
4. That parable was spoken in reference to the hearing of the word, and it is concerning the word of God, and its blessings, that he says, “Whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even what he has.” To know the mind of the Spirit it is always wise to view a passage in its context; we do this with the writings of men if we wish to understand them, and reason itself teaches us to do likewise with the word of God. Let us consider our text in its original context. Each evangelist has given a shade of difference to his record.
5. In Matthew, from where we take our text, the words stand in connection with the hearing of the word, — not any mode of hearing, but hearing itself. Read the ninth verse: whoever has ears to hear, let him hear. There are some who do not hear, for “their ears are dull of hearing”; and there are others of whom it is written, “Blessed are your ears, for they hear.” Beloved, we must take care that we truly hear what we hear, for if we do not, we shall soon lose all power to hear; but if we hear the truth attentively and heartily we shall be privileged to hear it even more fully, and to make greater profit by listening to it, even as our Lord says: “He answered and said to them, ‘It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.’ ”
6. Our Saviour’s first picture in the parable of the sower is that of the seed falling upon the wayside or the hard road. There was much traffic through the field, a footpath which was trodden hard by many feet ran from one end to the other, and a handful of seed fell upon it. So the gospel falls upon men who are occupied with stubbornnesses, prejudices, pursuits, ambitions, cares, and these make so much traffic through their minds that they are hardened towards the gospel, and it never reaches the inner man, but lies upon the hard surface, a rejected thing. When they hear it they do hear it, and that is all: as the saying is, “It goes in one ear and out the other.” The truth never enters the man. They would not like to miss any religious services, and yet they do much the same thing, for only their bodies are there, their hearts are far away, engaged with very different themes. They bring to the preacher ears which are sealed up, and eyes which are curtained against the light. They see, but do not perceive; they hear, but do not understand. What is the sure result of this mimic hearing? The Saviour in the parable represents the birds of the air as taking away the seed which fell upon the roadside and devouring it, and he tells us by way of explanation that Satan comes and takes away the word, lest at any later time it should obtain an entrance into the heart. So the text is fulfilled: “Whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even what he has.” How many of our hearers are of this kind! They lose what they have because in very truth they never had it. Their attendance at worship is coming and going, coming and going, and nothing more. Like a dog wandering in and out of the fair, they have no business to do when they go to the house of God. They are not any the better by their coming and going than the door which swings on its hinges, and turns in and turns out, and then rests in its place. Such people, like the wayside, do not receive anything; and, receiving nothing, they continue to receive nothing; indeed, they even go from bad to worse, for, though they received nothing at first, they at least seemed to do so, and in due course even that seeming disappears. They become less likely to profit by the gospel, and more and more hardened against it, while those who really do hear and drink in the truth become capable of hearing and understanding more; more mysteries are opened up to them, deeper truths are revealed, and they perceive a greater sweetness and a more divine power in the word of God. Those who do not receive the word lose what little notional knowledge of the word they once possessed. Though it may be the same preacher and the same preaching of the very same doctrines, yet the results are very different: to those who have a part and a lot in the matter the paths of the Lord drop fatness; while to careless, unbelieving hearers the ministry becomes every day more dull, until they cry out, “What a weariness it is.” Satan is doing his work thoroughly, and is taking away from the hard heart all desire towards the word and all interest in it.
7. In Mr 4:25 our text is used in reference to the doctrine which is to be heard. The Saviour in the twenty-fourth verse says, “Take heed what you hear.” I would press that important exhortation upon you all as most necessary at this time. Nowadays people do not care what they hear. If a man can speak fluently, if he can be rhetorical and sensational, if he can tell many pretty stories, if he can use claptrap and bombast he will have a large audience. There was a time with our forefathers when if a man went half an inch astray concerning orthodoxy they would have nothing to do with him; and though we would not have you so censorious, for we are not to make a man an offender for a word, yet we would have you jealous for the truth. If we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel than what you have received, I charge you do not listen to it. Be the good sheep of the good Shepherd, of whom it is written, “they will not follow a stranger, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” The false shepherds try to charm you with their excellency of speech, but be deaf to their charms. False doctrine is a poisoned dish however daintily it may be served. The false teachers would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect; but you know what the Saviour said, “All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them.” “Take heed what you hear.” A man cannot bear false doctrine long without being injured by it. He may at the first say, “I like the man, I admire his cleverness, although I disagree very much with what he says.” This is treacherous ground to stand on, for imperceptibly evil comes from it; “their word eats like a canker.” You cannot expose the soil of your heart to a continual sowing of tares without some tare or other taking root, and eventually, instead of having the good wheat growing in your soul, there will spring up the tares whose end is to be burned, and you will have lost the harvest which should have been produced in your spirit. The wise man says, “Cease, my son, to hear the instruction that causes to err from the words of knowledge.” “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” “Do not be carried about with various and strange doctrines, for it is good that the heart is established with grace.” Therefore take heed to what you hear.
8. There are many who, when they hear the gospel, are, according to our Lord’s second picture, mere superficial hearers. They take some heed to their hearing, but not to what they have heard; for if they regarded the value and dignity of the word they would take it more thoroughly to heart, and it would permanently affect their lives. These are those who receive the word in stony places. When the gospel comes to them they grasp at it without much consideration; they are hot and eager for it, and rejoice because it has come in their way, “Immediately with joy they receive it.” They sing and shout at once, “Happy day! Happy day! This is the gospel for me. I have found peace and heaven, and will never be anxious again.” These people have not counted the cost, or weighed the truth, or entered into its inner meaning and spiritual certainty. There has been no repentance of sin, no sense in guilt, no humbling before God, no brokenness of spirit, no inner conflict, and no work of the Holy Spirit in the soul. It has all been a kind of happy-go-lucky business, in which they grasped at what came their way and promised them good. They will soon fling away what they have so inconsiderately embraced: when the sun is up the plant which has no root will wither; when persecution arises the unregenerated convert will be offended. Our Saviour warns us against this in the language of the text. If you truly receive what you hear you shall have more; for to everyone who has shall be given, and he shall have abundance; but if, like the stony ground, you never really have the seed, but simply allow it to sprout in the surface soil which conceals the rock of your unrenewed nature, then under trial you will lose what you have: the sprouting of the grain so prematurely will only end in an equally rapid withering, and all will be gone. Oh, my dear hearers, be sincere and solid in all things. Believe what you do believe, and take care that what you believe is worth believing, and is the very truth of the living God. Let it sink deep into your soul and take root there. I beseech you do not espouse religion as a man puts on his coat to take it off again: let it be woven into the warp and woof of your being; let it be part and parcel of yourselves, running like a thread through all your thoughts, desires, and aims, so that if anything else of yourselves should be torn away, yet it would be impossible to tear away from you the blessed gospel, because it is in and of you, a component part of your truest selves. If you receive the gospel like this and give it a root-hold you shall know more and more of its blessings; but if you do not receive it like this, but leave it to a rootless sprouting of mere surface religion, it shall be taken away from you when trouble and persecution arise.
9. In Lu 8:18 this grand principle is used in reference to taking heed how we hear. Our Lord said, — “Take heed therefore how you hear: for whoever has, to him shall be given; and whoever does not have, from him shall be taken even what he seems to have.” Many are attentive to the gospel, and they have some discernment, and will not listen to what is unsound, so that they do regard what they hear, and yet they have little consideration for how they hear it, and that especially on one point. The suitable way to hear the gospel is to give it full and entire possession of the heart. The gospel is exclusive. It will not be one of two masters. I would have you, my brethren, be among “the exclusive brethren” in a very excellent and admirable sense of the term. Our Saviour gives us a picture of the non-exclusives, who are illustrated by the seed sown among thorns. The soil received the good seed after a fashion, and then it received the nettles and the thorns; and these nettles and thorns and wheat all began to grow together — a happy family some would say, but a devil’s garden is nearer the truth. In these days such a garden is projected on a large scale by some of our public writers and speakers. The church and the world are to become one, and saints and sinners are to blend together in one universal round of play-going. We are actually urged by people who suppose themselves to be Christians to renew the old league which was established in the days of Noah, and brought on the Flood, when the sons of God and the daughters of men joined in alliance, because the sons of God thought that they should greatly improve the world by uniting with it. At this time we are told that it is wrong on our part to forsake the debasing amusements of the ungodly, for if we would join in them we might improve their tone and quality. If heaven would go down to hell, hell would be greatly improved. See how benevolent Satan has turned, and how anxious to be reformed.
10. Hear the voice of God, which runs in another manner: “Come out from among them, be separate, and do not touch the unclean thing.” “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Beware of religious play-going and pious theatricals, for they are a snare into which only the vain and foolish will fall. Let thorns be thorns, and do not let wheat attempt to grow among them. See that plot of ground, how charming is its location, wheat springing up with its green blades among the thorns and thistles! Is it not a delightful compromise? What was the end of this conglomeration? Why, the wheat died; it was choked, and could not grow in such uncongenial society. Know this, that if you receive Christ you must cast out the love of the world. Christ will be aut Caesar aut nullus — either king or nothing. He will have our whole heart or none of it. We must altogether give ourselves up to his influence and to his sway; for if we set up another king and say to him, “You shall reign and Christ shall reign, too,” Christ will not have it; he will get up and leave, for his jealousy will not endure a rival, and his sovereignty will not tolerate a consort. Take care, then, how you hear the gospel; hear it, knowing it to be the only word which can save your souls. Receive it into your being, to become everything to you; for if you do not there shall be taken away from you that gospel which you think you have, since you have not afforded it the reception which it demands and deserves. If you say to sin, and self, and all else, “Begone! my heart is for Christ alone, this good seed must not be encumbered with such weeds as you are”; then the truth is in you, and shall be more and more fully apparent within you, producing fruit abundantly after its kind.
11. In connection with this parable, then, the sum and substance of our text is this: the word must dwell in us truly, and then it will dwell in us richly; but if it does not enter in very deed into the heart we shall lose it altogether before long. The Jewish people heard Christ preach the gospel, and because never man spoke as he did they listened to him, but they never did receive his word, for they did not understand his meaning; they only caught at the symbols under which he couched the sacred mysteries, but they did not know the mysteries themselves; consequently after a little while they grew angry with the divine messenger of the covenant; they persecuted him, and hounded him to death. While he gave them loaves and fishes and there was something to be had by hearing they hung on his every word in crowds, but when he no longer offered them any food other than the bread of heaven, then they immediately lifted up the heel against him and would have nothing to do with him. The result of this was that the preaching of the word ceased among them. The apostles turned to the Gentiles, who gladly received the truth, and the Jewish nation was left in blindness, in which, alas, it remains to this day. The same is constantly happening among us now. Men hear the gospel, but they do not receive it into their hearts, and therefore after awhile they grow weary of it: they are tired of being perpetually reminded of a danger in which they do not believe, and of being invited to a feast which they despise, and therefore they turn on their heel and go. If from force of habit they remain, the gospel seems to have lost all power over them, and they have no appreciation of its ministry. What they once had is taken from them, because they never truly had it; they are blinded by the light which they refused to see, choked by the morsels which ought to have been their food, and cast down to hell by the stone upon which they should have mounted to heaven. He who receives gets more; he who does not receive loses what he seemed to have. There is no standing still: there is a necessary movement one way or another. In this business a man daily grows richer or poorer. This is no stagnant sea, the current bears all vessels onward either to the fair havens or to the black sea of eternal ruin. Here stands the inevitable decree: he who has shall have; he who is a mere pretender, and does not have, shall lose even his power to seem to have.
12. II. Let this suffice; and now, dear friends, let us try and bring out the same principle IN REFERENCE TO THE EXPERIENCE OF ALL GRACIOUS SOULS. Our experience verifies the truth of the text, “Whoever has, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance.”
13. In the world among men it is commonly observed that it never rains but it pours. Where you see a sheep there is generally a flock. Money makes money. Poverty remains poor. Lack of capital brings bankruptcy. A company starts on imaginary or borrowed capital: it makes a fuss and a noise, but it never prospers. Eventually it breaks up, and all is lost, and yet it never had anything of its own to lose: so it verifies to the letter the truth — whoever does not have, from him shall be taken away even what he has. Ordinarily, prosperity is a hen which likes to lay where there is a nest egg, and when one swallow of success comes, others will follow it. Certainly we have found it so in the things of grace; where grace has been given more grace comes; spiritual capital well worked multiplies the stock, and spiritual wealth is increased where there is a solid basis to begin with. Let us give examples.
14. When a man believes the gospel in its most elementary form that man will soon be taught the higher truths. When we begin with some people by telling them the plain way of salvation they raise doubts and quibbles. “But” is their favourite word. They cry, “I cannot see this and I cannot understand that.” We never thought they would see it or understand it, for they generally want to understand the most difficult parts of the gospel first, like a man who wants to stand on the top of Mont Blanc before he has reached the valley at its base. Imagine the folly of such a conversation as this: “Here are your letters, my child; this letter is A.” “Sir, I cannot learn A B C, for as yet I cannot read a single line of Homer’s Iliad.” “Come then, my child, and learn the multiplication table.” “Alas, sir, I cannot do it, for I am not yet acquainted with Differential Calculus.” Surely the child mocks us and is unwilling to learn. The elements can be mastered, although the higher grades of study have not been reached. Half the difficulties of unbelievers are the result of unwillingness to be taught. When a man says, “I understand very little, but I know that I am a sinner, and I perceive that Christ came into the world to save sinners, therefore I will trust him to save me,” that man has something, and he shall have more. When a seeker confesses, “I am very foolish and slow of comprehension, but I perceive that I need a new heart, and that only the Spirit of God can renew me, and therefore I seek him for his grace,” — then it is clear that he has some belief, and to him shall be given so that he shall have more abundance. If you are struggling with unbelief, be willing to believe what you can believe: have a will towards believing. Dear friend, if you cannot follow the Lord into the depths yet, he will save you if you follow him into the shallows as far as you can. If you are staggered by any one truth, do not therefore reject your Lord, but be willing to accept what does not stagger you. Touch the hem of his garment if you cannot reach his divine person, and you shall soon find that your faith in the elementary truths of the gospel will, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, lead you to an understanding of the deeper mysteries. Use your starlight and you shall have sunlight soon.
15. As it is with faith so it is with the possession of any real, genuine grace. Take repentance for example: a man may say, “My heart is hard, and I cannot repent as I wish to.” No, my dear friend, but do you really hate evil, and do you labour to avoid the faults into which you formerly fell? Do you mourn and regret mistakes, and errors, and transgressions of which you are convicted? Well, then, this repentance of yours will deepen: you will come to be very sensitive one of these days, and you will chasten yourself even for a sinful thought. Though now you cannot reach the sensitiveness which you long for, yet, if your repentance is real, though it is weak at first, to him who has shall be given, and your repentance shall grow. If there is in your heart an evident love of sin it is useless for you to hope that your repentance will increase, for you have none. Your green bay tree is not the weeping willow, and will never grow into one, however much it may spread; but the least twig of the willow, if planted by the watercourses, will be sure to flourish.
16. Take faith again. If you really believe in Jesus Christ, and look to him for salvation, that faith, though it is very weak, will become strong. If it is there at all it will grow great in the soul: but if you say, “I think I believe,” and yet you really do not believe, you will never grow in faith; in fact, the faith you think you have will in the day of trouble altogether vanish, and you will find yourself in despair. If you will really trust my Lord and Master, though your faith is only like a grain of mustard seed, still, if it is real, you shall have more and more until your faith can move mountains and pull up trees. It is God’s plan to add more to the first little deposit of faith, even as a master-builder adds stone to stone until the structure is complete.
It is so with love for God. Who among us loves God as he would wish
to love him! We sigh out —
Yes, I love thee and adore, —
Oh, for grace to love thee more.
But, beloved, the point you have to watch is not so much the possession of the flaming love of a Samuel Rutherford or a Madame Guyon, as the making sure of even the lowest degree of genuine love for Jesus. See that it is true even if it is feeble. A spark of fire is true fire, and is quite enough to begin with. It turns everything with which it comes in contact into its own nature, and it spreads by the force of its own intensity. The same is true of love. If you have real fire it will burn, but if you have only a painted fire, it will not increase. A painted love for Christ, by which I mean the mere imitation of love for him, will not increase, but will eventually disappear altogether. See that you truly love Jesus. I implore and beseech you to heed this. Do not feign love, but feel love. Give him your whole heart, for lip love is mockery. How can you say, “I love you,” when your heart is not with me?
18. It is the same with zeal for God’s glory: none of us is as zealous as we ought to be for Christ, but the way to get to be flamingly zealous for his name is to be truly zealous at the first. If you desire his glory, though that desire is faint, it will become more and more intense. If you feel that you must live to praise him, if you desire to be made willing, even to die to praise him, you will before long feel seraphic zeal. True grace must grow, there is no fear about its increase. If the bulb of the lily is really alive the fair flower will crown its stem before long, but if it is a dead bulb, to start with, you may place it in the best soil, and water it every moment, but nothing will come of it. A seed may be so small that you can scarcely see it, and yet if it is a living seed no one can tell how much it will develop; but if it is one of those dead seeds which are far too plentifully mixed up with the seedsman’s parcels, you may do what you wish with it, but its only change will be decay. You see, then, that where there is true grace we should not despise the day of small things, but look for more grace and a grander display of the divine power.
19. The way in which the promise of the text is carried out by our gracious God is worthy of observation. “Whoever has, to him shall be given.” If this is connected with the parable of the sower it becomes clear that God gives more by a process of growth; and then turning the truth the other way we see that all growth in grace is still the gift of God, and we should not forget that it is so. If you have any faith, if you are to grow strong, the same grace that gave you your first confidence in Christ must give you more. It is quite true that there is a growing power about the inner life, but its growing power is dependent upon the immediate working of God upon it. If he were to cease to give more grace the new life must cease to grow. The apostle well says, “He gives more grace.” You grow, but that growth is God’s gift, and you must look to him for it.
20. Why did the Lord not give us the largest measure of grace to begin with — why promise more abundance as a subsequent result? I think it is because we value grace all the more when it comes to us little by little. Again, it is for our good to be exercised to get more grace. A poor woman is allowed to go and glean in a field: your generosity might say, “Come, my good woman, I will give you the grain, and you shall not have the trouble of gleaning”; but this might not be so good a thing for her as it would be to allow her to gather the wheat by her own efforts. It is often much better to enable the poor to help themselves than to help them without their own effort. God is wise towards us; he intends to give us the grain, but he decides that we shall glean for it, and so exercise ourselves in godliness. We are to become rich in grace, but it is to be by heavenly commerce. Growth is a gift, remember that. God’s grace is received, not as a dead external thing, but as a living outgrowth, and for outgrowth there must be inner life.
21. You, then, who hope that you have a little genuine grace in your souls, may well take courage. Let the truth contained in the text cheer you — to you shall more be given, and you shall have more abundance. Do not think because you have very little faith you are always to be doubting and trembling. You shall grow out of it, my brother, as your faith becomes established. Do not suppose that because your hands have been weak and your knees have been trembling, they are always to be so. We are not always to be infants in arms, we are daily nearing fulness of stature. You are very glad to have little ones at home. They may be dear tiny babes, but you are not at all dissatisfied with their being so little, since it is right that they should be. A babe of six months old is not expected to be very tall. You are pleased to have a son though he is little, you even admire his littleness. But, suppose your child should live to twenty years, and should still remain a babe in stature, you would be severely distressed, and say, “Surely my child is a dwarf. What a sad thing that my boy should be so deformed.” You young beginners need not worry about being little, we expect you to be so: but it does not do for you older folk who have been Christians for these twenty years to still be babes, for, if so, we shall begin to be afraid that you are not a child of the Lord’s own family, for divine life grows. A dead post which we saw in the ground twenty years ago is still the same post, no bigger, no smaller, and only altered by becoming rotten underground; but the tree which you saw twenty years ago, what a difference there is in it. It was then a sapling which you could bend, but now it has become as an iron pillar, and there is no moving it. So it ought to be with us, and we must aspire to have it so. May God the Holy Spirit work it in us, for Jesus’ sake.
22. The main point, however, to come to is this — have we really obtained the first living principle? Do we really have the heavenly seed in our souls? I cannot preach to you at this time as I should like, because it is not so much a subject for discourse as for personal use. Oh for a discerning eye to look through a window right into the heart of each one of you. Most of you profess to be the people of God, but are you really so? I have no reason to suspect you, have you any reason to suspect yourselves? You were converted, you say, but was it conversion or not? You say, “I do believe in Jesus,” but is it that real faith which depends upon him alone? You know a person may be a professor for a long time and not find out that he has deceived himself even for scores of years; and I am afraid that there are some who will never open their eyes to their wilful self-deceit until they find themselves in hell, when that discovery will come too late. Oh do not let us go on increasing the number of the church without duly searching ourselves to see whether we truly belong to the number of the faithful. A prince may get his treasure chest full of shining stones, but what if they should all turn out to be paste gems? A collector of coins might accumulate a multitude of them; there are dealers who will gratify his taste and supply him with an endless number of counterfeits, but if a master of the science should look over his treasures and condemn them as mere shams, what a disappointment would befall him! Brothers and sisters, let each one of us put himself into the crucible; let us ask the Lord to search us lest we are found destitute of grace. To him who has that shall be given, and if we do not have true grace it shall not be given to us, but we shall even lose what we have.
23. III. I must now mournfully conclude with THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRUTH AS EXEMPLIFIED IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE INSINCERE. Insincere men and women find that what they had is taken away from them. I will illustrate this point very rapidly. It is in this way.
24. Many who hear the gospel have been brought up to do so from their childhood; but if they do not heartily receive the gospel they in many cases give up attendance upon the outward means of grace when they get away from the restraints of religious company. They find it dull work to sit so long and listen to drowsy prayers and dull preaching. They find it uncomfortable to get into crowded congregations, cold to be in small ones, and unhealthy to sit in the close atmosphere of a meeting-house. They see many faults in the service, and grumble quite cleverly. At first they stay away one part of the day. Once is quite enough for them, they say; they cannot stand twice. Then, eventually, every excuse is made for staying at home. Sometimes it is wet, at another time they feel a little out of sorts; these things would not keep them from business, but a very little suffices to excuse a man’s staying at home on Sunday. At length they do not go at all. So there is taken away from them what they really did not have: they did not really hear, and now they do not nominally hear. There are thousands of people in London at home today, hardly dressed even at this hour, from whom is taken away all wish to hear the gospel.
25. Here is another form of the same thing. The man keeps on hearing, but not having received the gospel he loses all power to appreciate it. “I do not know what has come over our minister,” he says, “At one time I used to feel something when he was preaching, but it is not so now. He is getting old, and has about spun himself out.” Other people do not think so, however, for they have been converted and blessed under his ministry. What has happened? Why, this man has lost what he seemed to have, namely, the power to appreciate the gospel. He remembers the day when he used to stand in the aisles all the time, longing to catch every syllable, and then would go home and get on his knees, and pray for mercy after a fashion. Nothing affects him now. Tremble, my hearers, if that is your case, for you are quickly going to perdition, with nothing to stop you. You are dying at the root and will continue to lose all sensation until death ends in corruption.
26. In certain people this takes yet another form. They did receive the grace of God in a way and there was an effect produced upon them, but it all disappeared. I have seen an unconverted man admirably reformed for a time by hearing the Word. The drunkard’s cup has been given up, and foul language has ceased; there has been a great moral improvement for which we have all been very glad; but, alas, it has not lasted. Unless gospel work is inward heart work, if it merely lies in external reformation, the man often goes back to be worse than he was before. The evil spirit which had left him returns, and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they enter in and dwell there, and the last end of that man is worse than the first. If the gospel does not save you, it may in the end even make you worse: if it is not a savour of life to life it will become a savour of death to death.
One more version of this same truth and I am finished. Some appear to
receive the Word even further than those in whom it produces an
external reformation, for they make a confession of faith in Christ:
they pray, and perhaps they preach: their voices are heard in
Christian assemblies, and they appear to live the lives of
Christians. I have seen them even become eminent for supposed
sanctity, but if they have not received the Word really and truly
what a miserable life theirs must be! They do not get the secret
comfort of true religion, and yet they have to keep up an appearance
of it. Surely, the poorest people in the world are those who have to
keep up appearances and do not have the means to do it with: they are
always getting in debt, and yet have to look everyone in the face. I
always pity a penniless nobleman, the Earl of Nowhere, Lord Lackland.
Many professors are in a similar plight, they have a name to live and
are dead. They do not really believe what they profess to believe.
They have a shrewd suspicion that all is not right within, and hence
they derive no comfort from all their religious talking and doing; it
is a task, a dreary, cheerless task. They have no proof in their own
hearts of the truth of the gospel; for they lack the internal
evidence, which is the best of all. Their religion has never changed
them, nor stirred the depths of their being, and at last it becomes
impossible to keep up the imposture. Just as with a man who continues
to live beyond his means, there comes a time when he must be
bankrupt, so then comes a time with the spiritual deceiver when he
cannot keep it up any longer. Look at Judas; he sold his soul for
thirty pieces of silver and a rope, — that was his way out of his
profession. Others have become grosser sceptics and viler haters of
Christ than others, — their hypocrisy has curdled into blasphemy.
Others have settled down in utter indifference, callousness, and
carelessness, and have slept themselves into hell. Where the cheat is
kept up until the end, what a rude awakening awaits the deceiver!
When he will have to go from the hearing of the gospel to the
howlings of the lost, from his pew in the house of God to his place
in Tophet: when he will have to be dragged away from the cup of the
Lord to drink in very deed the cup of demons; when he will be shut
out from the association of the saints to dwell for ever with the
condemned; when that God whom he professed to worship shall reject
him, and Jesus himself shall say, “I never knew you; depart from me,
you workers of iniquity.” May God saves us from such a doom, for
his sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Mt 13:1-23]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Lord’s Day — Another Sabbath Is Begun” 906]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 51” 51]
The Doxology was also sung in gratitude for gracious answers to
prayer, the Lord having sent a sufficient sum to pay for the land for
the Girl’s Orphanage.
Public Worship, The Lord’s Day
906 — Another Sabbath Is Begun
1 Another six days’ work is done,
Another Sabbath is begun;
Return, my soul, enjoy thy rest;
Improve the day thy God has blest.
2 Come, bless the Lord, whose love assigns
So sweet a rest to wearied minds;
Provides an antepast of heaven,
And gives this day the food of seven.
3 Oh that our thoughts and thanks may rise,
As grateful incense to the skies;
And draw from heaven that sweet repose
Which none but he that feels it knows.
4 This heavenly calm within the breast,
Is the dear pledge of glorious rest,
Which for the church of God remains;
The end of cares, the end of pains.
5 In holy duties let the day,
In holy pleasures pass away;
How sweet a Sabbath thus to spend,
In hope of one that ne’er shall end!
Joseph Stennett, 1732, a.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 51 (Version 1)
1 Show pity, Lord; oh Lord, forgive;
Let a repenting rebel live:
Are not thy mercies large and free?
May not a sinner trust in thee?
2 My crimes are great, but don’t surpass
The power and glory of thy grace:
Great God, thy nature hath no bound,
So let thy pardoning love be found.
3 Oh wash my soul from every sin,
And make my guilty conscience clean;
Here, on my heart, the burden lies,
And past offences pain my eyes.
4 My lips, with shame, my sins confess
Against thy law, against thy grace:
Lord, should thy judgment grow severe,
I am condemn’d, but thou art clear.
5 Should sudden vengeance seize my breath,
I must pronounce thee just in death;
And, if my soul were sent to hell,
Thy righteous law approves it well.
6 Yet save a trembling sinner, Lord;
Whose hope, still hovering round thy word,
Would light on some sweet promise there,
Some sure support against despair.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 51 (Version 2)
1 Lord, I am vile, conceived in sin,
And born unholy and unclean;
Sprung from the man whose guilty fall
Corrupts the race, and taints us all.
2 Soon as we draw our infant breath,
The sees of sin grow up for death;
Thy law demands a perfect heart,
But we’re defiled in every part.
3 Behold I fall before thy face,
My only refuge is thy grace;
No outward forms can make me clean;
The leprosy lies deep within.
4 No bleeding bird, nor bleeding beast,
Nor hyssop branch, nor sprinkling priest,
Nor running brook, nor flood nor sea,
Can wash the dismal stain away.
5 Jesus, my God! thy blood alone
Hath power sufficient to atone;
Thy blood can make me white as snow;
No Jewish types could cleanse me so.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 51 (Version 3)
1 Oh thou that hear’st when sinners cry,
Though all my crimes before thee lie,
Behold them not with angry look,
But blot their memory from thy book.
2 Create my nature pure within,
And form my soul averse to sin;
Let thy good Spirit ne’er depart,
Nor hide thy presence from by heart.
3 Though I have grieved thy Spirit, Lord,
His help and comfort still afford;
And let a wretch come near thy throne,
To plead the merits of thy Son.
4 A broken heart, my God, my King,
Is all the sacrifice I bring;
The God of grace will ne’er despise
A broken heart for sacrifice.
5 My soul lies humbled in the dust,
And owns thy dreadful sentence just;
Look down, oh Lord, with pitying eye,
And save the soul condemn’d to die.
6 Then will I teach the world thy ways;
Sinners shall learn thy sovereign grace;
I’ll lead them to my Saviour’s blood,
And they shall praise a pardoning God.
7 Oh may thy love inspire my tongue;
Salvation shall be all my song;
And all my powers shall join to bless
The Lord, my strength and righteousness.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 51 (Version 4)
1 Oh God of mercy, hear my call,
My load of guilt remove;
Break down this separating wall
That bars me from thy love.
2 Give me the presence of thy grace:
Then my rejoicing tongue
Shall speak aloud thy righteousness,
And make thy praise my song.
3 No blood of goats, nor heifer slain,
For sin could e’er atone:
The death of Christ shall still remain
Sufficient and alone.
4 A soul oppress’d with sin’s desert,
My God will ne’er despise!
A humble groan, a broken heart,
Is our best sacrifice.
Isaac Watts, 1719.