3105. The Search For Happiness

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No. 3105-54:385. A Sermon Delivered By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, August 13, 1908.

There are many who say, “Who will show us any good?” LORD, lift up the light of your countenance on us. {Ps 4:6}

1. This is a text which, by the rich assistance of the Holy Spirit, may serve as a touchstone to test our state. See, here are two classes of men; the many, panting after the good of this world, and the few, turning the eye of faith to their God, and asking that he would lift up the light of his countenance on them.

2. I. Let us contemplate with sadness, and with searching of heart, THE MANY, — trembling lest we should find ourselves among that number.

3. “THE MANY”: what multitudes of thoughts cluster around these two words! The city of a million people, the populous town, the wide-spread country, this isle, kingdoms, empires, continents, the world, all seem to issue out, like armies from the hundred-gated Thebes, at the mention of those two words, “The many.” Here we see the toiling peasant and his lordly squire, the artisan and the princely merchant, the courtier and the king, the young and the old, the learned and the unlearned, all gathered within the range of a word.

4. And all who form this vast gathering of human souls are joining in one cry, and moving in one direction. This is a thought at which the faithful may well weep, for their cry is SELF, their course is SIN. Here and there are the chosen few struggling against the mighty tide; but the masses, the multitude still, as in the days of David, are hurrying along their mad career in search of an imaginary good, and reaping the fruit of their futile search in disappointment, death, and hell. Oh my hearer, are you like the dead fish, floating with the stream; or are you, by constraining grace, drawn onward and upward to the bliss prepared for the elect? If you are a Christian, I beseech you to pause and admire the grace which has made you to differ. If your heart is right with God, I know you will confess that there is no intrinsic natural goodness in you, for, like your friend the speaker, I do not doubt that you are made to groan over a strong propensity within, which often tempts you to join in the world’s chase, and leave “the fountain of living waters” for the “broken cisterns” of earth, and therefore you will join with the preacher in singing, — 


   ’Tis all of free grace we were brought to obey,

      While others were suffer’d to go

   The road which, by nature, WE chose as our way,

      Which leads to the regions of woe.


5. Come, then, with me, and behold the evil and the folly of the world; listen to their never-ceasing cry, “Who will show us any good?”

6. Note, first, its sensual character: “Who will SHOW us any good?” The world desires something which it may see, and taste, and handle. It does not understand the joys of faith. We, by divine grace, do not walk by sight; but the poor sons of earth must have visible, present, terrestrial joys. We have an unseen portion, an invisible inheritance; we have higher faculties, and nobler delights. We want no carnal showman to tell the puppet joys of time to dance before us; we have seen “the King in his beauty,” and spiritually we behold “the land which is very far off.” Let us pity the worldling, who is seeking water where there is none, in a salt land, a thirsty soil. Let us earnestly intercede for poor, short-sighted man, so that he may yet have “the wisdom that is from above,” and the eyesalve of divine illumination; then he will no more seek for his happiness below, or look for pleasure in things of time and sense.

7. Take care, my hearer, that you do not suffer under the same delusion. Always pray that you may be kept from hunting in the haunts of sense, and fixing your affection on earthly things; for, be sure of this, that the roses of this world are covered with thorns, and her hives of honey, if broken open, will surround you with stinging reminders, but they will afford not a drop of sweetness. Remember to lay to heart the words of a holy poet, — 


   Nor earth, nor all the sky,

   Can one delight afford;

   No, not a drop of real joy,

   Without thy presence, Lord.


8. Notice, next its indiscriminating nature: “Who will show us ANY good?” The unregenerate mind has no discernment in its choice. For it one good is as desirable as another. Men are very tolerant here. The intoxicating cup is the “good” of the wine-bibber, the indulgence of lust is the object of the voluptuary, gold is the miser’s god, and fame or power the choice of the ambitious. To most men, these are all “good” in their way; if not esteemed good morally, they are looked on as forbidden fruits, only untasted because of the penalty, and not abhorred because of a real distaste. Oh my hearer, do you have sufficient judgment to see that any good will not suit you? Have you made the choice of “solid joys and lasting pleasures,” and are the dainties of time tasteless for you? You are not like the bee, which can find her food in nettles and poisonous weeds; “the Rose of Sharon” is the flower of your choice, and “the Lily of the valley” is the perfection of beauty to you. No longer can you ask for ANY good, for you have found the one, the only good; and in HIM is such a fulness, such an abundance, that your song will always be, — 


   God is my all-sufficient good,

      My portion and my choice;

   In him my vast desires are fill’d,

      And all my powers rejoice.


9. Note carefully the selfish nature of the question, “Who will show US any good?” Here the poor man of this world is seeking for himself and his companions, but not for God, or the good of others. He has no fear of God, nor any love, nor reverence for him. Only let his barn be full, his purse filled, his body fed, his senses gratified, and the great Maker and bountiful Giver may be forgotten. What does he care whether there is a God, or whether he is worshipped, or not; to him Venus, and Brahma, and Woden, and Jehovah are all equally gods. He does not care for the living and true God; he lets others have religion; it would be a weariness and a labour for him. Or, if he puts on the outward guise of religion, he is only a Gibeonite in the temple, “a hewer of wood, and drawer of water”; selfish even in his worship, selfish in his praises and his prayers.

10. But we, beloved, are, we trust, no longer lovers of self; we have become adorers of God, and purely from gratitude we pay our glad homage at his throne. We do not now put self foremost, we wish to experience a self-annihilation, a death to self; we have learned to sacrifice our own desires on the altar of divine love, and now one passion concentrates our power, and truly we exclaim, — 


   Christ is my light, my life, my care,

   My blessed hope, my heavenly prize;

   Dearer than all my passions are,

   My limbs, my bowels, {heart} or my eyes.


11. Observe, also, the futility of the enquiry, “WHO will show us any good?” Echo might answer, “Who?” Where lives the fortunate discoverer, the man who has stumbled on this pearl of price unknown? Ah, sinner! call again, like the priests of Baal, for there is neither hearing nor answering. Go to those Arcadian groves of poetry, and find them a fiction, taste the nectar of the epicure, and find it gall; lie on a bed of down, and loathe the weakness which effeminacy engenders; surround yourself with wealth, and learn its powerlessness to ease the mind; indeed, wear a royal crown, and mourn a king’s uneasy head. Try it all, like the preacher of wisdom, open each cabinet in the palace of pleasure, and ransack each corner of her treasure-house. Have you found the long-sought-for good? Ah, no! Your joys, like bubbles, have dissolved at your touch; or, like the school boy’s butterfly, have been crushed by the blow which won them.

12. Pause here, and understand the emptiness of sublunary joys. Entreat the Spirit of all grace to reveal to your soul the hollowness of terrestrial baubles. Take earth, and as Quarles has it, “Tinnit inane,” — it sounds because it is empty. Despise the world, rate its jewels at a low price, estimate its gems as paste, and its solidities as dreams. Do not think that you shall lose pleasure by this, but rather remember the saying of Chrysostom, “Condemn riches, and you shall be rich; condemn glory, and you shall be glorious; condemn injuries, and you shall be a conqueror: condemn rest, and you shall gain rest; condemn earth, and you shall gain heaven.”

13. Here may you and I close our review of the foolish multitude by learning the three lessons spoken of by Bonaventure, “The multitude of those who are damned, the small number of the saved, and the vanity of transitory things.”

14. II. A happier sight now awaits us. Over there is a company whose constant utterance is widely different from the enquiry of the many. These are THE FEW; not so many as the moralist and formalist believe them, and at the same time not so few as Bigotry in her narrowness would make them, for God has his hidden thousands whose knees have never bowed to Baal.

15. These do not seek for good, for they have found it; they do not ask a question, but they breathe a prayer; they do not apply to mortals, but they address this petition to their God, “Lord, lift up the light of your countenance on us.”

16. Let us tarry on the very threshold of these words, and devoutly ask for divine searching, lest we should be deceived in our belief that this is our prayer. Let us not take the words lightly on our unhallowed lips, lest we ask for our own damnation. Perhaps, my hearer, if the light of God’s countenance were at once to shine on you, your heart is so far from God, so full of hatred for him, that it would suddenly destroy you, for, remember, he is “a consuming fire.”

17. Let us, however, if the answer of conscience and the inward witness are agreed to give us hope, behold the countenance of our God.

18. For, first, it is a reconciled countenance. “Though you were angry with me, your anger is turned away, and you comforted me.” “I have sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.” The anger of God towards believers in Jesus is appeased for ever; they are so perfect, in the righteousness of Christ, that he sees no spot of sin in them. Though of “purer eyes than to behold evil,” he does still regard poor sinners with affection; and towards you, my Christian brother or sister, he has no sentiments but those of pure love. Think of your glorious condition, reconciled! beloved! adopted!

19. Next, it is a cheering countenance. The smile of a fond friend will nerve us to duty; the approving glance of a wise man will give us courage in trial; but the looks of God, the smiles of our Father who is in heaven, these are better than the applause of a colossal audience, or the shouts of an empire of admirers. Give me the comforts of God, and I can well bear the taunts of men. Let me lay my head on the bosom of Jesus, and I do not fear the distraction of care and trouble. If my God will ever give me the light of his smile, and the glance of his approval, it is enough for me. Come on, foes, persecutors, fiends, indeed, Apollyon himself, for “the Lord God is a sun and shield.” Gather, oh clouds, and surround me, I carry a sun within; blow, wind of the frozen North, I have a fire of living coals within; yes, death, slay me, but I have another life, — a life, in the light of God’s countenance.

20. Let us not forget another sweet and precious consideration. It is a special countenance, from the fact that it is transforming, changing the beholder into its own likeness. I gaze on beauty, yet may be deformed myself. I admire the light, and may yet dwell in darkness; but, if the light of the countenance of God rests on me, I shall become like him; the lineaments of his visage will be on me, and the great outlines of his attributes will be mine. Oh, amazing mirror, which renders the beholder lovely like this! Oh, admirable mirror, which does not reflect self with its imperfections, but gives a perfect image to those who are uncomely! May you and I, beloved, so fix our contemplations on Jesus, and all the persons of the Godhead, that we may have our unholiness removed, and our depravity overcome. Happy day when we shall be like him; but the only reason for it will be that, then, “we shall see him as he is.” Oh, could we look less to the smile and favour of man, and more to the regard and notice of heaven, how far should we be in advance of what we are! Our puny spirits would become gigantic in stature, and our feeble faith would, through grace, grow mighty. We should no longer be the sport of temptation, and the pliant servants of our corruptions. Oh our God, amid our folly and our sin, we turn to you with strong desire, crying out, “Lord lift up the light of your countenance on us!”

21. We will only note, in concluding our brief but instructive musings, that God’s countenance is unchanging. The light may seem to vary, but the face is the same. Our God is the immutable Father of lights. He does not love now, and cast away in the future. Never did his love begin, and never can it cease. It is from eternity, and shall be to eternity. The things of time are mutable, confessedly and constantly so; but the things of eternity are always the same. Away with the horrible suggestion that God may forget and forsake his own children. Oh, no! the face which was once radiant with love, is not now beclouded with wrath; the heart which overflowed with affection, is not now filled with anger: great as my sins have been, they are not so great as his love; the file of my backsliding shall not be permitted to cut the golden links of the chains of his mercy. If my gracious Lord and Saviour has assured me that my name was ever enrolled among the sons of Zion, then “the powers of darkness” cannot “erase those everlasting lines.” Go, poor menial of Satan, pursue your weary drudgery; go seek the unsteady will-o’-the-wisp of carnal delights; but I have a better joy, a substantial happiness beyond your reach. My hearer, it will be well with you if you can pity the many, and join with the few, singing, — 


   Turn, then, my soul, unto thy rest;

   The merits of thy great High Priest

      Have bought thy liberty:

   Trust in his efficacious blood,

   Nor fear thy banishment from God,

      Since Jesus died for thee.


Expositions By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 66 Ro 8:1-9}

1, 2. Make a joyful noise to God, all you lands: sing out the honour of his name; make his praise glorious.

In a company of advanced saints, silence may be profitable sometimes. The first verse of the previous Psalm should read, according to the Hebrew, “Praise is silent for you, oh God, in Zion.” Full-grown saints may have their times of waiting in silence before the Lord; but when the heathen are to be brought in, and when new hearts are to be taught new songs, then there must be a noise, and not merely a noise, but a noise that is full of joy: “Make a joyful noise to God, all you lands.” This should be the chief point about it, that it should be a joyful noise. Many of the newly-invented tunes, which have put the good old tunes out of favour, appear to have been made to rattle through the hymn as quickly as possible, as though the composer had written, “Let us praise God at express speed, and get it done; and the quicker, the better.” But I prefer those tunes in which we can sometimes repeat the words, and roll them under the tongue until our heart gets thoroughly saturated with their spirit.

“Make a joyful noise to God, all you lands”; but let that joyful noise be orderly, not like the shouts of those who cry around the cart of Juggernaut. {a} Let it be joyful singing to the Lord: “Sing out the honour of his name.” God is worthy of the highest honour, so let our praise of him be given in such a way that it shall really honour him.

“Make his praise glorious.” It is only giving back to God what properly belongs to him when we give him glory, and it is our highest earthly glory to be giving glory to God; we are never so near to the condition of the glorified saints above as when we are, with heart, and soul, and voice, glorifying God.

3. Say to God, “How terrible you are in your works!”

Our praises should be directed to God: “Say to God.” Our hymns should be a form of speaking to the Most High, and an ascription to him of his own glory. The first attribute of God that influences men is the attribute of power, which fills them with terror of his awful majesty and might. Afterwards, they perceive more of his love, and goodness, and wisdom, and other attributes; but, at first, — indeed, and perhaps at last, — there is a time in which there is much solemn stately music in this utterance, “How terrible you are in your works!”

3, 4. Through the greatness of your power shall your enemies submit themselves to you. All the earth shall worship you, and shall sing to you; they shall sing to your name.

From the marginal reading of the third verse, it appears that God’s enemies will only “yield insincere obedience” to him; but whether the submission is insincere or real, it shall not be possible for any man or any power finally to resist his omnipotence, and the day shall come when all the earth shall worship him, and sing to him.

4. Selah.

Here is a little pause for the lifting up of the heart and of the strain, and well there may be, for what a joyful thing it is to think of all the earth worshipping God, and singing to him! I know of no topic that is more calculated to arouse the admiring gratitude of God’s servants than the prospect of the universal supremacy of one God and of his Christ.

5, 6. Come and see the works of God: he is terrible in his doing towards the children of men. He turned the sea into dry land: — 

You must often have noticed that the sweet singers of Israel are never singing very long to God without mentioning that wonderful deliverance that he accomplished at the Red Sea. What God did when he brought his people out of Egypt will be the subject of joyful and grateful song to God for ever, for even in heaven “they sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.” The Red Sea as the grand type of redemption, and the Lamb as the great Worker of redemption are joined together in that triumphant song of “those who had obtained the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.”

Here, the psalmist sings of what God did for his people at the Red Sea: “He turned the sea into dry land”: — 

6. They went through the flood on foot; we rejoiced in him there.

Perhaps some of you say, “But we were not there.” No, we were not personally there; but do you not remember what the prophet Hosea says about God meeting with Jacob at Bethel? It is written, “There he spoke with us.” We were not personally there, yet believers have been everywhere in the Bible where other representative believers have been before them. “No prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation.” What God spoke to any one of his people he has spoken to all of whom that one was typical. Paul tells us that the Lord has said, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you,” yet it was to Joshua that he said that; but, just as he said it to Joshua, so he virtually said it to me, for I am a believer even as he was. All the promises belong to us who are in Christ Jesus, for the heavenly inheritance is left to all the spiritual seed; and if we are in the Lord’s family, we shall share equally with all the rest of the children.

“There we rejoiced in him.” Then, if we rejoiced in the Lord there, let us rejoice in him here. Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us rest assured that, when our turn to go through the sea shall come, we shall find that the Lord has “turned the sea into dry land” for us, whether it is a sea of troubles or the sea of death. “They went through the flood on foot”; and so shall we. The God who made a way for them through the sea, virtually made a way for us also, for the army of God is one, and when the first ranks of the innumerable host passed through the flood, the army itself began to pass through, and that army can never be parted. So we are passing through the flood at this moment, and rejoicing in the God who divides the sea in two to make a highway for his people.

7. He rules by his power for ever;

What he did in the past, he is still doing in the present, and he will do in the future.

7. His eyes behold the nations: do not let the rebellious exalt themselves.

The rebellious may for a while exalt themselves; but they will, sooner or later, be pulled down. These eagles may fly as high as they wish, but God’s arrow can always reach them. The Lord pulled down the haughty Pharaoh from his throne, but he lifted up the people whom the proud monarch had trodden down and oppressed. The Lord overthrew the hosts of Egypt; but as for his people, he led them out like sheep, and guided them through the wilderness, even as he is doing at this very moment.

7. Selah.

That is, pause again, and lift up the heart and the sacred strain too; and when all the strings of your heart and of your harp are tuned up, then go on with your music again.

8, 9. Oh bless our God, you people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: who holds our soul in life, and does not allow our feet to be moved.

I do bless God for this verse, and as many of you as have found it true should also praise and bless him. Observe the two things that are mentioned here, — living and standing: “Who holds our soul in life, and does not allow our feet to be moved.” There are some who have a certain standing in the church, and who keep up their reputation among their fellow members, yet they are not spiritually alive. It is a dreadful thing to be standing, and yet not living; like those in Sardis who were only living in name. Then there are those who are living, but not standing, — at least, not standing firm. They are often caught tripping, and falling, and wounding themselves. They go with broken bones on their way towards heaven by reason of their many falls. But what a blessing it is to be kept both living and standing, and what reason there is to bless God for this great mercy; — not congratulating ourselves on our steadfastness, and being exalted and proud, but magnifying the Lord for his grace in granting to us this double blessing, — living and standing!

10. For you, oh God, have proved us: you have tried us, as silver is tried.

That is, with fierce furnaces, and with carefully graduated heat, for silver needs delicate refining. Christ still sits as the Refiner of silver, patiently watching until the process is complete.

11. You brought us into the net; — 

Did not our enemies entangle us? Oh, yes; but God often uses our enemies to carry out his divine purposes. He overrules all things; so, when you are caught in the net, do not sit down, and say that such and such a person did it, or that the devil did it. No; but look to the Great First Cause. If you strike a dog with a stick, he tries to bite the stick because he does not know any better. But you are not a dog, so do not look at the second cause of your troubles, but learn to sing, as the psalmist does here, “You brought us into the net”; — 

11. You laid affliction on our loins.

Not merely on our backs, where we might be better able to bear it, but right on our loins, so that we were pressed and squeezed almost out of our very life.

12. You have caused men to ride over our heads;

And when they mount their high horse, they crow and exalt themselves over God’s afflicted servants.

12. We went through fire and through water:

They were subjected to a double test, for what fire does not burn water will drown, yet God’s people “went through fire and through water.” There is no fire that can burn them. Nebuchadnezzar tried it, and failed. And there is no water that can drown them. Even though their bodies may be burned or drowned, their real selves shall still survive, and stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, triumphant over both fire and water.

12. But you brought us out into a wealthy place.

That is to say, the Lord brought the Israelites out from all kinds of oppression under Pharaoh, and brought them into the land flowing with milk and honey. Nothing that Pharaoh could do could destroy the chosen nation, he tried to kill all the male children who were born, yet the Israelites still increased and multiplied, and they came at last to Canaan. It will be just so with God’s people in all times and all climes; they shall not die, but live, and shall ultimately come into that most wealthy of all places, even the heavenly and better Canaan. We cannot fully tell what joy awaits us there. We cannot measure the height of our joy by the depth of our sorrows, for, after all, our sorrows are shallow, but the glory of God, which the saints are to share, is an unfathomable depth, a height that no man can measure. Oh Lord, bring us into that wealthy place very speedily if it is your holy will!

13. I will go into your house with burnt offerings:

Here is one worshipper breaking away from the rest, — a child of God who is not satisfied by merely joining in the general praise of the whole assembly, so he brings his own personal thanksgiving and thank offering to God. Dear brother, dear sister, try to do this. Break away from all the rest of us, and say to the Lord, “I will go into your house with burnt offerings.”

13-15. I will pay you my vows, which my lips have uttered, and my mouth has spoken, when I was in trouble. I will offer to you burnt sacrifices of fatlings,

“I will give you the best that I have.”

15. With the incense of rams;

Not only one of the best, but the best of two kinds of offerings.

15. I will offer young bulls with goats.

“I will present to you great sacrifices and smaller sacrifices. I will obey you in the great ordinances and in the lesser ordinances also. I will bring both young bulls and goats. I will make an all-round offering. I will try to do all that I can for you, my God, since you have done so much for me.”

15. Selah.

Here the psalmist pauses again while the smoke of the sacrifice ascends; let us also pause, and meditate on the better sacrifice which Christ offered for the sins of all who put their trust in him.

16, 17. Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will declare what he has done for my soul. I cried to him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue.

“I mixed crying and singing together. I cried when I was in trouble, and I extolled the Lord as soon as he delivered me from it. No, by faith expecting to be delivered, I began to extol him even while I was still crying to him.”

18, 19. If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me: but truly God has heard me;

It is a blessed thing to be able to say that; and if you can truthfully say it, please say it: “Truly God has heard me.” Some people tell us that there is no such thing as an answer to prayer; they say that it is a piece of superstition on our part. Well, I believe that I am as honest a man as anyone who denies the power of prayer, and I can truthfully say, “God has heard me.” There are scores of us — there are hundreds of us — there are thousands of us who can stand in the witness-box, and each one of us can say, “Truly God has heard me.” If our testimony is not accepted by unbelieving men, we cannot help that. We know what we do know, and we know that God has heard and answered our prayers again and again.

19, 20. He has attended to the voice of my prayer. Blessed be God, who has not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me.

Reading from Romans chapter 8: — 

1. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

My hearers, each of us is, by nature, under the condemnation of God. We are not only subject to condemnation, but we are condemned already; and, on account of sin, there is judgment recorded in God’s book against every one of us, considered in our fallen state. But if we “are in Christ Jesus,” if we are made partakers of Jesus, if we have hidden ourselves in the cleft of the rock, Christ, and if our trust is entirely in him, oh precious thought, “there is therefore now no condemnation” for us. It is blotted out. The old judgment that was recorded against us is now erased; and in God’s book of remembrance there is not to be found a single condemnatory syllable, nor one word of anger written against any believer in Christ Jesus. Glorious freedom from condemnation!

How may I know whether I have been set free like this? This is the question that should enter into each of our hearts. The answer is: “Who do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” My hearers, according to which of these are you and I walking? Are we following the flesh? Are we seeking to please ourselves, — to indulge our bodies, to gratify our lusts, to satisfy our own inclinations? If so, we are not in Christ Jesus; for those who are in Christ Jesus “do not walk after the flesh, but after the Spirit”; and every one of you who is fleshly and carnal is not in Christ, but is still under condemnation.

2, 3. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

He accomplished it. The law could not condemn sin so truly and so thoroughly as God did when he condemned sin in the person of Christ. Oh believer, do not let your sins grieve you, — however great or however tremendous they may have been; weep over them, but do not be distressed about them, for they have been condemned in Christ Jesus. They may have been enormous, but if you are in him, Christ was punished for you, and God’s justice does not ask for a second punishment for one offence. Christ offered once a complete atonement for all believers, and if I am a believer in him, there is no possible fear of my ever being condemned. There cannot be; for Christ was condemned for me, my sins were laid on his head; and in the awful moment when he sustained the stroke of his Father’s vengeance, those sins ceased to be; and “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

4. That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk after the flesh, but afterto the Spirit.

Note, again, how Paul brings us to this as the great evidence of our being in Christ Jesus, — not walking according to the flesh. Now, every man, as he is born into the world, left to himself, is sure to “walk according to the flesh.” It is only the man who has the Spirit of God put into his soul, who has the heavenly gift from on high, who will “walk according to the Spirit.” It is not talking according to the flesh, but it is walking according to it, that condemns us, and it is not talking according to the Spirit that will save us, it is walking according to the Spirit that is the evidence of salvation; not talking, but walking. How many of you are there who are talkatives, who can talk religion, and give us as much as we like of it, but whose life and conduct are not such as become godliness! “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked: for whatever a man sows, that he shall also reap.” If you sow to the flesh, you “shall from the flesh reap corruption,” but if you sow to the Spirit, you “shall from the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

5-7. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh; but those who live according to the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God:

That mind with which we are all born is enmity against God; and however much refined or polished a man may be, however amiable or polite, however he may shine among his fellow creatures, if he has not had a new heart and a right spirit, he is at “enmity against God,” and he cannot enter heaven until there has been a divine change accomplished in him. Some of you suppose, because you have never been guilty of any vice, because you have not indulged in any great transgression, that therefore you do not require the work of regeneration in your hearts. You will be mightily mistaken if you continue under that delusion until the last great day. “For to be carnally minded,” even though that carnal mind is in a body that is dressed in silks and satins, “To be carnally minded is death,” even though it is whitewashed until it looks like a spiritual one. “To be carnally minded,” even though you sow the carnal mind with a few good garden seeds of the flowers of morality, will still be nothing but damnation to you at the last. “To be carnally minded is death”; only, “to be spiritually-minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God”:

7. For it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.

The opponents of the free-grace gospel, which it is our delight to preach, assert that men can be saved, if they wish, and that men most certainly can repent, and can believe, and can come to God by their own free will, and that it is not through any defect in any powers that they have if they are not saved. Now, we are not overly prone to dispute that point; but, at the same time, we do not understand the meaning of this verse if what they say is correct. It says here, “The carnal mind is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” Some say that men could repent if it were their inclination. Exactly so; but that is what we assert, — that it never will be and never can be their inclination, unless they are constrained to do so by the grace of God. Rowland Hill uses a very exceptional and odd metaphor in his “Village Dialogues.” Two parties are speaking together on this subject, and one of them, pointing to the cat sitting on the hearth says, “Do you see that cat? She sits there, and licks her paws, and washes herself clean.” “I see that,” said the other. “Well,” said the first speaker, “did you ever hear of one of the hogs taken out of the sty that did that?” “No,” he said. “But he could if he liked,” said the other. Ah, truly, he could if he liked; but it is not according to his nature, and you never saw such a thing done, and until you have changed the swine’s nature, he cannot perform such a good action; and God’s Word says the same about man. We do not care about fifty thousand aphorisms, or syllogisms, or anything else; we take God’s Word against man’s any day. Jesus said, “No man can come to me, unless the Father who has sent me draws him.” “The carnal mind is enmity against God.” Men cannot come to Jesus, unless the Father draws them to him. We assert that, from first to last, the work of salvation is all by grace; and we are not afraid of any licentious tendency of that doctrine, or anything of the kind. God’s Word, in all its simplicity, must be preached, and we leave him to take care of his own truth. Blessed be God, this humbling truth is of far more use than the other doctrine, which puffs men up with pride, telling them that they can perform what most assuredly they cannot do. “It is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.”

8. So then those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

No man “in the flesh” can please God. Oh, what a sword this is, — a sharp two-edged sword against many of you, my friends! Some of you who regularly attend this house of prayer, and others of you who stray in here in the evening, you “are in the flesh,” and you “cannot please God.” Perhaps you have been attempting to do it. You have said, “I will attend the house of prayer regularly.” You cannot please God by doing that, as long as you are “in the flesh.” You may be as moral as you please, and we beseech you to be so; but unless you have the Spirit of God, unless you are really changed in heart, and made new creatures in Christ Jesus, all that you can do, as long as you are “in the flesh, cannot please God.” Virtues, in unregenerate men, are nothing but whitewashed sins. The best performance of an unchanged character is worthless in God’s sight. It lacks the stamp of grace on it; and what does not have the stamp of grace is counterfeit coin. Be it ever so beautiful in model and finish, it is not what it should be. “So then those who are in the flesh cannot praise God.”

9. But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.

Oh beloved, each of us needs to put ourselves in this scale! Come, preacher, do not be too sure of your own salvation. Come, church member, do not be too certain of your own regeneration. Come, Christian, put yourself in this scale: “If any man does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not his.” If he does not have the Holy Spirit really dwelling in him, guiding him, directing him, teaching him, comforting him, supporting him, he is not Christ’s. And if we do not exhibit the Spirit of Christ in our character, — if we do not have gentleness, meekness, purity, holiness, benevolence, we are not Christ’s. Ah, this will take some of your flimsy Christians to pieces. Half of your professors, we fear, will at the last be found not to have had “the Spirit of Christ.” It is one thing to profess religion, beloved; it is quite another thing to possess vital godliness. We may sit down at the communion table, but oh! if we never had the Spirit of Christ, we “are not his.” We may plead our own goodness before the throne of God at the last; but Jesus Christ will say, “You do not have my Spirit; you are not mine”; and then, however much we may have striven to serve God, unless we have the Spirit of Christ, there shall be nothing for us but the fearful curse, “Depart! depart! depart!” “Oh come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.” Let us ask him for his Spirit; let us plead with him for his grace; and though some of you have never had it, yet if you ask for it now, our God is a gracious God, full of mercy, and very compassionate; whoever calls on his name shall be saved; and though you are the chief of sinners, if you sincerely ask for pardon and for grace, you shall receive it from him. May the Lord help you to pray like this, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.


{a} Juggernaut: Hindu Myth. A title of Krishna, the eighth avatar of Vishnu; spec., the uncouth idol of this deity in Orissa, annually dragged in procession on an enormous cart, under the wheels of which many devotees are said to have formerly thrown themselves to be crushed. OED.

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