A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, December 6, 1863, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
And it shall come to pass, that just as you were a curse among the heathen, oh house of Judah, and house of Israel; so I will save you and you shall be a blessing: do not fear, but let your hands be strong. (Zechariah 8:13)
1. Since these words came from the lips of Zechariah, doubtless they referred to the seed of Abraham, including the two tribes of Judah and the ten tribes of Israel. They have already received a minor fulfilment; but their most glorious accomplishment is yet to come. The Jews have for many a generation been cursed by all people. For ages no one had a good word or a kind look for the Jew. In every nation they have been persecuted, and hunted like beasts of prey. The followers of the fierce Mohammed have not been their only enemies, for the children of the Babylonian prostitute have equally thirsted for their blood. In our own country, in the dark ages, it was accounted God’s service to afflict the Israelites, and the day upon which the Church celebrated our Saviour’s passion was chosen for the public stoning of his own brethren if they ventured into the streets. To be a Jew was, in the estimation of that era, to be deserving of all scorn and cruelty, and of no pity or consideration. To what exactions, to what fines, to what imprisonments and tortures, have not the sons of Jacob been subjected by the professed followers of the Messiah. It is perhaps the greatest of all modern miracles, that there should be one Jew upon earth who is a Christian for the treatment they have received from pretended Christians has been enough to make them hate the name of Jesus; it has been not simply villainous, but diabolical. Demons in hell could not be more cruel to their victims than professed Christians have been to the sons of Abraham. They have been a curse indeed. The whole vocabulary of abuse from “dog” down to “devil” has been exhausted upon them; they have been a hissing and a byword among all nations. But the day is coming, yes it dawns already, when the whole world shall discern the true dignity of the chosen seed, and shall seek their company, because the Lord has blessed them. In that day when Israel shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and shall mourn for their sins, the Jew shall take his true rank among the nations as an older brother and a prince. The covenant made with Abraham, to bless all nations by his seed, is not revoked; heaven and earth shall pass away, but the chosen nation shall not be blotted out from the book of remembrance. The Lord has not cast away his people; he has never given their mother a bill of divorcement; he has never put them away; in a little wrath he has hidden his face from them, but with great mercies he will gather them. The natural branches shall again be engrafted into the olive together with the wild olive graftings from among the Gentiles. In the Jew, first and chiefly, shall grace triumph through the King of the Jews. Oh time, fly with rapid wing, and bring the auspicious day.
2. Another meaning has been given to the passage by some very eminent expositors, namely, that the Jews have been for ages the model of a curse to all people. As old Master Trapp says, they bear upon their backs the wheals of God’s rod, or, as he puts it still more strongly, like Cain, they carry upon their foreheads the mark of God’s wrath. They have been a tall, smooth-skinned people, not numbered among the nations, men of weary foot and haggard countenances. Their nation has been the football of providence and the butt of misfortune. They have been shipwrecked upon every sea, overturned by every storm, the victims of every calamity, and the objects of every misery. Everywhere they have been men evidently accursed by God and given up to his wrath. When men wanted a name to curse by, they said, “Let me be as accursed as the Jew.” But the day is to come when they are to be quite obviously the blessed ones of God. Their conversion shall show how God favours them: their gathering to their own land, the splendour of the reign of Messiah in their midst, and all those latter day glories which are dimly shadowed in the Book of the Revelation, and in the Book of the Vision of Daniel the Prophet, — when all these shall come to pass, then the sons of men shall speak of the Jewish people as a royal priesthood and a peculiar people. The seed of Abraham, God’s friend, are very dear to him — the darlings of his bosom, the flock of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Oh, that the dark night would soon be over! Long has the Christian Church slept in forgetfulness of the Jew; even faithful men have scarcely given a thought to Israel, and have left the Jew to perish, as though his heart were too hard to be melted by divine love. I trust that mistake has been discovered, and that there are many now anxiously praying for the restoration of the glory to Israel, but too many are still indifferent where earnestness is needed. May the Lord in his infinite mercy first put it into his people’s hearts to pray for Israel, and then to work in love, and labour in faith: may he hasten in his own time the fulfilment of his promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then the whole earth shall be covered with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. We may work and we may toil, but until Israel is gathered God’s glory cannot be universal, nor even widely spread. Until the Jew acknowledges Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the fulness of the times of restitution shall not have arrived. Oh our Lord make no delay! Come quickly, and send as the herald of your coming your own brethren, who once despised you when you came to your own, and your own did not receive you.
3. You can clearly understand the text now in its literal meaning without another word of exposition — “Just as you have been a curse among all nations, oh house of Judah, and house of Israel; so I will save you, and you shall be a blessing.”
4. We feel ourselves perfectly justified in using the text in a broader sense. Our text teaches us that the unconverted are a curse; secondly, that when converted they become a blessing; thirdly, the text tells the means by which the transformation is performed — “I will save you” — and it closes with a word of encouragement to those who desire salvation — “Do not fear, but let your hands be strong.”
Unconverted Men Are a Curse.
5. I. UNCONVERTED MEN ARE A CURSE. This they are positively, for every unconverted man, no matter what may be his moral character, adds in his degree to the amount of evil in the world — he adds another handful of leaven to leaven the whole lump, another breath of death bearing wind to scatter the plague of sin among the sons of men. Every unrenewed heart casts another stone upon the heap of iniquity, and assists the rising Babel of rebellion to lift its head more proudly. As I see the ungodly advancing one by one, I hear the prince of darkness cry, “Here comes another soldier to swell the ranks of evil, another lance for Satan, and another sword for the powers of evil.” Every man who is unconverted is a recruit to the black banner. Let him do as he may and think as he wishes, he who is not with Christ is against him, he who is not for the right is on the side of the wrong. How the corporate body of humanity is poisoned more and more as each man adds his grain of evil! How the torrent is swollen with another and another stream! A deluge of iniquity is only a collection of all the contributions from every fountain of the great deep. Every graceless spirit binds another millstone around the neck of the human race to sink it to the lowest hell. Every sinner is a positive mischief maker in the world. He is a deadly upas1 tree — every deed distilling poison. It is impossible that it should be otherwise, for as a black and filthy fountain must send forth unclean streams, so by a law of nature, as long as man is himself evil he must do evil. One sinner destroys much good, and whatever sort of sinner he may be, whether his sin be written on his forehead, or only carried concealed in his right hand, he infects the world with evil. The sinner is a curse, then, because he adds to the positive evil in the world.
6. He is still more — he is a curse because he helps to bring down the wrath of heaven upon the world. Another destroying angel to cry, “Oh Lord, how long before you strike iniquity and bathe your sword in the blood of rebels?” Another voice to cry, “Awake! awake! oh sword of justice! strike the sinner and let him perish from the face of the earth.” Doubtless every sin is a God provoking thing. It stirs him to jealousy. As the blood of Abel cried “Vengeance,” so does sin; it is a thorn in the side of justice, a stab at the heart of truth. God’s great patience is expended at a tremendous rate by the sins of men. You unconverted man! you draw every day a draught upon the treasury of longsuffering, and the day shall come when the golden sun shall all be expended, and then woe to the world, for then shall the last plagues be let loose and the last vials shall be poured out.
7. Even when the ungodly man dies he has not finished his evil work. His life may be over, but the moral death caused by his life still continues. As the tree that has borne evil fruit sends to the winds its seeds and these are buried in their appointed places, where young saplings spring up to become a forest of evil, so it is with the ungodly man — his words and his example, like seeds in the ground, germinate and bring forth the same fruit in other men. Like produces like. His children in nature and spirit arise after him, and these prolong the echo of the dreadful curse which his life has pronounced upon mankind. He cannot stop that curse even if he wishes, it is given to the course of time as a feather to the wind, and on it must go for ever. Those saplings which sprang from him as from the parent tree will all grow into death yielding trees, and these will scatter their seeds, and so on, and on, and on, as long as the human race lasts — indeed, even in eternity the victims of his sin lie in torment and blaspheme God world without end, so that his curse is an everlasting curse, and the evil which he does lives on when he himself sleeps in the earth of the valley. The ungodly man is everlastingly a positive curse.
8. But he is also a curse negatively. It is deplorable to think how much good a man who does not know God keeps from this world. He encumbers the ground in which he grows. He extracts nourishment from the ground, and covers it so that it cannot yield nourishment to any other plant, and yet he himself brings forth no fruit. Is this your position, my hearer, this morning? Are you a do nothing? If you are, remember that the place which you occupy might have been occupied by a man who would have glorified God, and done much for the spread of true religion. You have much time upon your hands, but you kill it. If another had it, it would be occupied with visitation of the sick, teaching the ignorant, comforting the weary, and other acts which would glorify the name of Jesus. You have the time and it is ill spent. You have money. You spend perhaps upon a feast for your own pleasure as much as might have sent a herald of the cross to a foreign land. Many a man, if he had your means, would put clothes upon the backs of the naked, and bread into the mouths of the hungry. In one respect money answers all things, but you make it answer to nothing except your own gratification. Ah, how much mischief you do in this way! You have influence — it may be, you are a master with many servants, or placed in such a position that many wait upon you, and your example is followed, and your words are weighty. If another had your place, how would he lead a whole troop to heaven. With what earnestness would he seek to bless those who dwell under his shadow. But you, what do you do? You encumber the ground. These many years there has not been found upon you one single ripe fruit such as may be acceptable to the Lord of the vineyard. Beware, beware lest he cuts you down! Do you not see what evil you are doing to others? The minister is preaching to you this morning, and he has to do it often; if it were not for stray sheep such as you are, he would have more time to look after the lambs of the flock. If he did not have to cry out after you, and against your sins, he might be led into the deep things of God, to the comfort and edification of the Lord’s chosen people. While you are in this house you are spoiling the song — you are marring the prayer by the wandering and wantonness of your thoughts. If you should come into the midst of a company of God’s people, who were speaking of divine things, you would be like an iceberg chilling the atmosphere around you. How many young Christians you have hindered in their zeal by your indifference. If you did nothing else but damage the good, plug up the stream of love, and quench the light of truth, you would have done enough to make them a curse among men, and to provoke God to strike you with the curse that withers body and soul for ever and ever.
9. This is true of every unconverted man. Many of you moral men, whose lives are admirable, do not have your hearts right with God. What is the lesson that men learn from your conduct? Why, when the infidel wants to prove that there may be goodness apart from religion, he quotes you, as an argument against the word of God, and against the necessity of a new heart and a right spirit. Have not many in your own position been hardened in their halting between two opinions by your example? Young people say, “There is Mrs. So-and-So, and Mr. This-and-That, what good people they are, and yet they have never given their hearts to God. Surely,” they say, “such people must know, and if there was anything in religion, they would certainly have followed in the right road, and have put their trust in Christ.” The better you are, the more I deplore that you should be on the wrong side. If my country were at war, it would be very little comfort to me to know that my enemies were good soldiers. Indeed, I would rather that they were bad ones; for there would be then the more hope of overcoming them. The weight of your character makes it the more sad that it should be thrown into the scale of self-righteousness. I say, the very excellence of your morals renders it a more serious crime that you should not take your stand with Christ, the lover of holiness. You do mischief, I am sure. Possibly, there is a measure of moral good effected by your example, but there is a more abundant spiritual evil, because many stop where you stop; being affected by your example, they halt at your halting place, and just as you will perish unless you be born again, so will they, and the blood of their souls will lie at your door, because your example was a curse to them.
10. If this is true of the moral unconverted man, how much more certainly is it of the open follower of vice. Shall I venture? No; I will scarcely so much as use my pencil to portray the mischief which the votary of vice brings upon others. How does the drunkard drown multitudes in his cups? How does the man of lust destroy and damn both the body and the soul of his victim? How does the man who leads a licentious life spread poison by his very eyes — like the basilisk,2 doing mischief by his glance? “His feet,” we may truly say, “are swift to shed blood.” His hands are full of drawn swords and flaming firebrands to destroy souls. The profane swearer — what a pest he is! Young ears are inoculated with sin by him, and young hearts learn the crimes of old rebels. Ah! you are a curse indeed! Better for someone to walk the streets with a deadly plague around him, and to spread it in every house, than to have such as you are living in society, for you have the death plague and the damnation plague upon you: you are a walking miasma; a breather of pestilence; a myrmidon3 of hell; a jackal to the infernal lion, the lackey and the slave of the destroyer.
11. Perhaps there are few of you here, therefore let us be brief upon that point. It is the same with the sinner who makes ungodly men his associates — he is a curse. You do not drink as they do, you say, nor go to their excess of riot, nor curse with their curses, but yet you keep company with them. You make them your associates, and, if you want a little pleasure, you seek their acquaintance. Sir, you are a curse; you are a curse to these men. I will not say you make them sinful, but I must say you add to their comfort in their sin. They see such as you are with them, and as association always hardens the sinner, they grow more confirmed in evil. Many a drinking club would break up if it were not for the two or three sensible men in it, and yet what is the effect of their morality? Not so much to check the others as to keep the whole together, and put a respectable face upon mischief. You who lie in the same bed with the wicked, must take care when God strikes the house, that you do not perish in its overthrow. You who eat at their feasts, and drink from their cups, and laugh at their jokes, and revel in their vices, and take pleasure in their wantonness, mind when the Lord spreads his net to take these foul birds, he will take you in the same net, and award you a portion with those who were his enemies.
12. Nor can we spare here the men of thoroughly bad principles; the men who pretend to doubt the existence of a God, who question the inspiration of the Scripture, deny the deity of Christ, or impugn the veracity of gospel promises — all such men are great destroyers of good. They will always be on the face of the earth, and we must never expect to see them uprooted, until the Lord’s coming. It is wonderful that in England they should be so miserably small a party. If again infidelity should be as prevalent as Christianity, I should not much marvel, for it so suits the natural heart of man, that the wonder is that there is not more of it abroad. But one infidel — oh what a curse he is! In a workshop that one man of sharp shrewd sense will very soon make disciples, for, like the Pharisees of old they encompass sea and land to make one proselyte. Too often the believer does not give that attention to the reading of Scripture, and to the finding arguments for his faith which the ungodly man will give in order to find arguments to shake the faith of others. I wish that our members were more industrious, both in searching the Scriptures, and in studying the evidences of their inspiration and authenticity, so that they might have their weapons ready to meet the attacks of infidels, for these infidels — men of much thinking, and shrewdness, and sagacity, and wit — placed in the midst of poor uneducated Christians, are terrible as wolves in the midst of a flock of sheep, and they may do much havoc; although they cannot turn one truly blood bought child of God out of the flock, nor yet make one that is born again apostatize from truth, yet they bring much misery into the heart, and doubtless many who are undecided are led by them into decision for Satan, and abandon all hopefulness of being converted to God. Now of such a one we may say he is a curse indeed.
13. But now, I hear another say, “Well now, I do not come under the description of immoral, nor yet of those who spread infidel principles and practices.” Ah, but, still you may be a curse, if you have an evil spirit towards religion. There are some who say very little, but who hate the very name of Christ. Even if they hold their tongues, that shrug of the shoulder, that look, that cold, heartless reception which they give to the truth, must infallibly be observed by others. Children, and those all around them, cannot help detecting what they are and who they are, and they will thus become very successful servants of the Prince of darkness. Oh dear friends, I fear that some of you know in your own conscience, without any words of mine, that so far your lives have been no blessing to your companions, but rather, wherever you have gone, you have been a curse.
14. I shall conclude this point by noticing that the unconverted man is a curse everywhere. In the family, what a curse he is! His wife, perhaps, is a Christian: what a life he gives her! Does he strike her? Perhaps not; but his words wound her even more than blows would have done. What about the children? Why, they will go as the father goes: they learn to speak his crooked words, and they will learn to do his crooked actions. It is not likely, though by divine grace it is possible, that they should be better than he. If we were to put a black cross upon every house where there is a husband who is a curse to the household, how many streets in London might have the black cross half the way down! Are you an ungodly man — and does your life teem with iniquity? Then think that the black cross is there as you go home, and say, “Yes; I am a curse to this house; I lead them away from God.” He is a curse in the workshop. As soon as he goes to it, those who would be decent, are led to the public house by him, and to places where sin is accustomed to be allowed. Let him become what is more respectable, as we say, in life; but he is a curse there. Make him a master, and give him many servants: then how haughty and how domineering he will be if he meets a servant who is a professor of religion. His misspending of his Sabbath will be known to all his working men, and they are always willing enough to follow the example of their employers in doing evil. Make him wealthy, he can indulge himself in all kinds of pleasures, and his gold is spent in the service of Satan. Give him abilities — talents of thought and speech — he becomes a sort of sergeant-major in the ranks of Satan, a commander of others. Satan employs him as a decoy duck to bring others into the net. Now he goes abroad, and is the bird call to others, so that others hearing his sweet notes, are lured into the fowler’s snare, and are taken and destroyed. Put him on a throne, and he curses an empire. Give him only a small village, over which he shall be the squire, and he is a curse to all the parish. Let him become a professor, and oh! this is the place where he can do the most mischief. Clothe him with the garments of a Christian, while his heart is rotten — and now, while pretending to be a disciple of Jesus, he will become more than ever a successful servant of Satan. Make him a minister, and you have given him the worst possible position; in fact, the better the man’s place, the more evil he can do. Oh, to be a minister — to be thought to be sent by God to the people, and then to be delivering falsehood, to be either by one’s life or one’s teaching contradicting the oracles of God! Of such a man we may well say his damnation is sure, but this is not the worst of it, for, before he goes down to the pit himself; he drags as with a hundred ropes, multitudes of others down the dreadful steep.
They Shall Be a Blessing.
15. II. But secondly, here is a gracious promise made that THEY SHALL BE A BLESSING.
16. Dear friends, the true Christian is a blessing temporally in the world. If there would be no life to come, still a converted man is a blessing: since he arrests the judgments of God. Sodom shall stand if there are ten righteous found in it. The world shall last as long as there is salt enough in it to keep it from putrefaction. The world shall not be given up to blackness of darkness for ever, as long as there are a few lights still shining in it. As the conducting rod prevents the houses of men from being destroyed by lightning, so believers, in a State or in a town, are its preservation from the avenging judgments of God. Who will deny, again, that the Christian, the true Christian promotes morality — that his godly life settles the foundation of order? Where are there the most revolutions? Where is the least of religion? Where has the guillotine fallen with its fatal drop? Where have heads rolled by hundreds in a basket? Where have streams of blood crimsoned the street? Where is there an empire, never safe unless the throne is supported by bayonets? Look across the Channel, and you will see that the absence of religion is the absence of order in the State. It is England’s Bible which is the keystone of England’s institutions. The flag of old England is nailed to the mast, not so much by her soldiers and sailors, as by the men who love her God and bring down the blessing upon her continually by prayer. Do you think that we would have had a famine in the north,4 and a shutdown of the mills without riot, if it had not been for the wide spread of religion among the working men? But the blessed restraints of holiness and goodness, have produced order and patience. Dear friends, the Christian man is the truest patriot; he is a blessing to his country, wherever he may be.
17. Does not the Christian aid in every good work? He is no Christian if he does not. If there is a hospital, does he not delight as much to contribute towards the relief of sickness of the body, as for the removal of disease of the soul? If education is needed by the lower classes, who shall be found to teach in the Sunday School, and who will support institutions on the weekday more readily than Christian men? Anything which is pure and lovely, and of good repute in this world, owes, if not its origin, yet its main support to the godliness of believers. No one shall be able to estimate how much the presence of a good man in the State is a preventative as well as a cure. It prevents the breaking out of the more frightful forms of vice, or else drives it into seclusion, and makes it hide its head for very shame. The Christian I believe, is to a nation, one of the greatest temporal blessings which God can send to it.
18. And as for eternity, truly a Christian is a blessing there. If his example shall lead men to seek after God — if his words shall teach the sinner his need of a Saviour — shall point him to the cross — shall show him the flowing wounds — oh! if his prayers shall be heard, and the Spirit of God shall descend, and his family shall be converted, and his relatives shall be reclaimed, then eternity shall know the music of the blessing which he scattered among the sons of men. You cannot bless men for ever, in any other way than by yourself being a true follower of Jesus, and then seeking to bring them to a knowledge of the truth. Now, as I said of the ungodly, that every ungodly man is a curse, so I will venture to say that every Christian man is a blessing in the degree in which he is true to his Christianity. If he has been moral before, now that he becomes a Christian, how that is revealed in men like him. How those who would have been undecided are moved to go forth! The force of his former character, the excellence and amiability of his deportment, operate upon those who knew him. If he has been a drunkard and a swearer before, this will not hinder him from being a blessing now. His old companions hear of the great change; they enquire how it was done; they go with him to the house of God, and they too are brought to Christ. Some of those who have brought more saints to God than others were once themselves the greatest of sinners. Let no one suppose that because his character has been so far very vile, therefore, if converted, he would be of no use: sometimes he will be even of more use. What would all your old mates say, when they saw you become a Christian. “There must be something in it,” they say, “if drunken William is saved.” What if the swearer should wash his mouth, and should preach God’s Word! What if that voice should be heard at the prayer meeting, although once so loud in a brothel! Oh, would men not wonder, and would there not be many who would suddenly feel attracted to the cross, as you have been, and say, “We will go with you, for we perceive that God has blessed you.”
19. Such a man, even if he has been an infidel, becomes a blessing now — sometimes he is the most blessing to those to whom he was the most a curse. Now he refutes himself; now his own example becomes the best answer to his former false teaching; now his love for Jesus is observed and noticed — all those whom he taught to hate the Lord, will help to adore his sacred person. And if the man has been a bad spirit through and through, though he has not publicly spoken against the things of God, yet when he was converted, how useful he becomes, for even if he be almost silent, and can say very little, yet, just as the bad spirit oozed through him, so now the Spirit of God will shine through him. There shall be a difference about his very face; and the manner of his walk and conversation shall be such that it will betray him; out of the midst of him shall flow rivers of living water, from which multitudes shall drink. No matter, oh Christians, how poor you may be, or how ignorant you are, or how little of influence you may have, you are and shall be a blessing, if God gives you a new heart and a right spirit.
20. The converted man is a blessing everywhere. He is a blessing to his family. Daily prayer, Bible reading, teaching of the children — all these make his home a little paradise. When he goes to the workshop, if any learn vice, it is not from him. If there are any who despise Christ, it is not from his example. He has a good word for Jesus. Now he begins to lament and pray over the sins of his fellow men; he speaks about the cross of Christ, and perhaps he brings some of them to repentance, and to a saving faith. You may put him anywhere with safety. Make a king of him — he rules his dominions in the fear of God. Give him a large estate, and you will find his substance expended as it should be. Now the hungry shall have their portion, and the needy their share; the Church at home, and missions abroad, shall all be prospered by him. Let him make a profession — he does not dishonour it. He puts golden chains around the neck of piety, by the excellence of his deportment. You may put him into the pulpit with safety. With a new heart he can be trusted, even at the altars of God. His soul having been renewed, there will be nothing in his example, or word, of which a Christian could complain. Now you may take him to heaven itself, for even there he shall be a blessing, and help to swell the song of “Hallelujah to him who washed our robes and made them white in his blood.” I wish that we had a holy rivalry, to be more a blessing than we have been, for do remember that if you have been converted, and are not living consistently with your religion, then your life is not much of a blessing. Oh! it is so sad, so sad, to my own soul, when I see those who might be a blessing, by some weakness or folly throw away their golden opportunities. There are some of you — I cannot tell what good you might do in the world, but either through natural infirmity or unmortified sin, you are of little use. Please do not destroy your own power to bless your fellow men. Do not so act in the family, and in business, and in the Church, as to make yourself a little blessing, when you might have been a great one, but do ask the Lord to fill you so full with his grace, that you may be like a great cloud of mercy, resting continually over the sons of men, and pouring forth its gracious shower day by day.
How Is All This to Be Brought About?
21. III. The third point was, HOW IS ALL THIS TO BE BROUGHT ABOUT? How is the man who was a curse to be made a blessing? Can he do it himself? Does there rest a power in human will, that by the magic of its might, men who were once a curse may be made a blessing? Ah no! this does not reside in the creature, but with the Creator. So runs the text: “I will save you.” You who have been a curse, “I will save you.” Swearer, drunkard, fornicator, whoever you may be, “I will save you, to show what sovereign grace can do”: “I will save you, and make you a blessing.” But you say, “How then may I be saved?” Salvation from sin is one, but still it is a salvation from sin in two senses — from the guilt of it, and from the power of it. Sinner, cursed by God, and cursing others, all the sin that you have done can be blotted out. It does not matter, although it is red like scarlet, it may be as wool; and, although it is as crimson, God can make it whiter than snow. In a moment all your sin can pass away, so that if it were looked for it could not be found; yes, though an inquisition would be made to search it out, yet it could not be discovered. And this can be done by the blood, the precious blood of Jesus. Jesus the Substitute, the Son of God, and yet the Son of Man, took the sins of all believers upon himself, and suffered the punishment of all their sins.
He for the sins of all the elect
Has a complete atonement made;
And justice never can expect
That the same debt should twice be paid.
If you believe, that is, if you trust in Christ, all the sin you have ever done was laid upon Christ. Your believing is the sign and mark of this; and henceforth you have no sin, your sin is gone; you are an accepted and pardoned man. Indeed more, you are justified. The righteousness of Christ is yours; and in the sight of God you stand accepted in the Beloved. And all this is to be had by the simple act of trusting. Whoever you may be, “He who believes, and is baptized, shall be saved.” But then you say, “But how can I be delivered from the power of sin? If all my past sins were forgiven, yet I might go back and do as before, and so remain as vile as ever.” Yes, there is power in the Holy Spirit to make a new man of you. He can put into your heart the holy influences of grace, so that though you naturally go towards evil, you shall by supernatural influence go towards the right. He shall give you that fiery motion, which, as the flame always ascends towards heaven, shall make your heart ascend towards holiness. He shall subdue in you the powers of evil which now reign, shall keep your sins under your feet, and eventually cast them out for ever, and make you perfect before the Lord.
22. Remember, this is to be done for you, not by you. You cannot make yourself a new man. It is impossible for you to work regeneration. One look at Jesus will take away past sin, and will kill the power of sin for the future. Sprinkle the blood of Jesus upon the old serpent, and it dies. Put the water which flowed with the blood from Christ, and the foulness of nature only remains to be subdued, and eventually to be cast out when the believer shall be taken up in perfection to dwell before the Father’s throne. God can save you, whoever you may be, and whatever your past life may have been. No doings of your own, no prayers, no penances, no alms givings, are required. Simply trust Jesus who died for you, and you are saved, saved on the spot — saved for ever.
Give a Word or Two of Encouragement.
23. IV. And then comes the last point. The text GIVES A WORD OR TWO OF ENCOURAGEMENT from this — “Let your hands be strong: do not fear.”
24. Though you have been a curse until now, yet, if you sincerely desire to be made a blessing, and if the Holy Spirit has made you willing to accept the perfect righteousness of Christ, and to be washed in his most precious blood, then “do not fear.” Do not let conscience make you fear; God will answer to your conscience, the blood of Christ shall purge it from dead works. Do not let a sense of divine justice make you fear, Christ has satisfied divine justice, and justice is your friend. Do not let the remembrance of past sins make you fear; they shall be cast into the depths of the sea — not one of them shall rise to accuse you. Do not let the thoughts of judgment make you fear; you shall have an advocate at the last great day to plead your cause. Do not fear, but, come and welcome. Christ invites you by his wounds; the Father asks you to come and trust his only begotten Son. He earnestly entreats you to come to him and live. “Do not fear,” says he; and if doubts and fears stand at the door to keep you from coming, yet dash forward through them all, saying — “God has told me not to fear, and, therefore, I will not fear, but boldly venture upon the finished work of Christ; and if I perish, I perish.” “Let your hands be strong,” especially the hand with which you grasp the Saviour. Lay hold upon him, sinner. Oh may the Spirit of God help you to lay hold upon him now! “Let your hands be strong.” Grasp him. Lay hold on eternal life. Just as a sinking man lays hold upon the rope that is cast to him, so lay hold on Christ. It is now or never with you. If Christ does not save you, you are damned for ever. Grasp him, then. He passes by. He may never pass this way again. This morning he comes in mercy to you to turn you, you cursed one, into a blessing. Grasp him. Even as Jacob laid hold upon the angel, lay hold on Christ; and if he struggles with you, and seem as though he would not bless you, say to him —
Nay, I must maintain my hold,
’Tis your goodness makes me bold;
I can no denial take,
Pity me for your love’s sake.
Oh for strong hands to grasp the Saviour! Let your hands be strong to lay hold on his promises. They are such as these — “Although your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; although they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” “Whoever comes to me, I will in no wise cast out.” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” “He is able also to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.” Lay hold on these; take them before God and say to him, “Can you lie? Can you be untrue? If you are true, keep this promise to me. Have you not said, ‘Just as you have been a curse, so I will make you a blessing?’ I have been a curse — I admit it. I lament it. Make me a blessing, Lord. By the sufferings of Jesus — by the agony and bloody sweat — by his cross and passion — by his precious death and burial — make me a blessing, Lord. You have only to speak the word, and I, even I, shall repent. You have only to will it, and I shall behold your face in Christ, and believe in him. Your Spirit is not to be resisted; send him out to raise my dead soul from the grave. Come and work with me. Turn the lion into a lamb, the raven into a dove.” Sinner, if you can believe that God will do it, he will do it; for anything you will believe of him, however high and great, he can do and will do, for he will never let your faith be in excess of his power — his unbounded power. Trust in him; rest upon him. May God help you to do it, and may these poor stammering words of mine, by their very weakness, help in your conversion, because my Master’s glory shall shine all the better through my weakness, and his power to save shall be all the more resplendent because of my feeble words. If it is so, I would sooner be dumb than speak with the tongues of men and angels, if he would not be honoured. Father, glorify Jesus! Glorify him now in bringing some who have been a curse, to make them a blessing, for his name’s sake. Amen.