A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, April 2, 1865, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
So he paid its fare. (Jonah 1:3)
1. As a general rule, wherever we go, whatever we do, we must “pay its fare.” Expenditure is connected with every act, work, and operation. The sun does not constantly flood this world, and all its sister spheres, with light and heat, without some kind of consumption within itself; nor does the earth yield her fruits of harvest except at the cost of the matter of which it is composed. By the force of wind and frost, the very “Mountain falling comes to nothing, and the rock is removed out of his place.” (Job 14:18) The rivers do not reach the sea without wearing away their banks, and cutting channels in the earth through which their floods may flow. The raindrops, the generous gifts of heaven, have first been loaned from the treasury of the great deep; the air itself is constantly in process of consumption, and if it were not that a fresh supply is daily being produced, even the atmosphere would become exhausted. All the processes of nature involve a constant expenditure of power. Ponderous as is the engine of creation, and little as it shows the erosive power of age, it is certain that in all of its machinery, from its most stupendous wheel down to its smallest valve, it is daily and necessarily experiencing an appointed amount of wear and tear. It is assuredly so with regard to the lesser world of man. The body cannot move a limb or contract a muscle without expense. The lifting of my hand, the pointing of my finger, the motion of my tongue, the stirring of my brain in thought, all cost something, and draw upon the inner store of strength: you cannot so much as gaze upon the world around you without some wear of that marvellous optical instrument by which outward sights are brought to the inward mind. Friction operates on flesh, and bone, and sinew, and a higher friction acts on mind, and intellect, and passion, for even these grow weak with strain and age. “Its fare” nature sternly demands before she will loosen her cable or spread her sail to the breeze. He quarrels with God’s laws who expects something for nothing, and hopes to be served without offering a just remuneration, and to find friends without showing himself friendly. We must pay our fare, for the universe requires it; we will pay it cheerfully, for we are honest men.
2. This general rule of expenditure holds good when we enter the world of morals and commune with spiritual things. Man picked the forbidden fruit, and dearly was that fruit paid for in the fall of all our race. The Lord redeemed us in his boundless love, but not without a price: the free mercy of God cannot work its way among men unless heaven’s best treasure is spent to purchase men from bondage. Expense occurs everywhere in our salvation: “The price of pardon was the Saviour’s blood”; “To buy our souls it cost his own.”
There’s ne’er a gift his hand bestows,
But cost his heart a groan.
Nor is it so in the kingdom of heaven only, for even if a man would pursue a foolhardy voyage across the sea of rebellion to the horrible land of perdition, in the ship of sin, he must “pay its fare.” Sinners, for what is not bread must spend their money, and for what does not profit, they must pay their labour. He who wishes to be saved must take care to sit down and count the cost, lest, after having begun to build, he should not be able to finish it; but do not let him think that he is alone in his expenses, for the transgressor’s bill of costs is no light one. War of any kind is costly; but ungodly men will find that a war with heaven is the dearest of all. God’s house, like the palace of Solomon, needs a large income to sustain its daily feasting, but it is not like the house of evil which makes a beggar of every man who comes within its doors.
The Cost of the Road to Hell
3. I. I shall this morning commence my discourse by endeavouring to direct your attention to THE COST OF TRAVELLING ON THE BROAD ROAD TO HELL.
4. Phocion1 paid for the poison which killed him: and the sinner pays dearly for the sin which proves to be his ruin. The worldling often taunts the Christian because he spends his money on his religion. The Christian may well reply to the sinner, “I wish that your taunt were more true, for I fear that I do not spend one tenth so much in the service of God as you do in the service of your vices.” Very few except the most generous of Christians, could venture to say that they spend as much upon their God as profligates squander upon their lusts.
Spending Money on Vices
5. 1. Let us begin to calculate the bill! We are met at once with a heavy item. The man who makes the world his idol, and forgets God, has at once, at the start of his voyage, to pay down and place in a sinking fund, all hope of God’s favour and all expectation of the blessings which it brings. He cannot run contrary to God’s will and command, and then expect that God will be his friend and prosper his plans. If I set myself up in rebellion against heaven’s great King, I cannot suppose that he will make it his constant care to promote my interests, nor dare I dream that he will aid and abet me in my designs of evil. “With the froward you will show yourself froward,” (Psalms 18:26) is the revelation of Scripture. “If you walk contrary to me, I will walk contrary to you,” is the voice of the God of Sinai. The man throws down the gauntlet of battle against the Lord, and his Creator will let him know that it is “Woe to him who strives with his Maker.” Jehovah is longsuffering and does not strike the rebel with speedy ruin, but still it is written, “God is angry with the wicked every day: if he does not turn he will whet his sword, he has bent his bow and made it ready.” The good man sees a gracious providence smiling at his side; he knows that “all things work together for good to those who love God”; and although the wheels of providence are too high for him to understand their revolutions, yet he knows that they are full of eyes, seeing the wisdom and care of his Father in heaven. He sings with rapture—
Your ways, oh Lord, with wise design,
Are framed upon your throne above;
And every dark and bending line
Meets in the centre of your love.
6. The Almighty God is the believer’s refuge, and he finds perpetual shelter beneath his wings. Not so the sinner. In the court of providence he is an outlaw, and can claim no right of protection. How shall providence care for him who does not care for God? He is under its ban, and he shall before long learn that “Those who plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same. By the blast of God they perish, and by the breath of his nostrils they are consumed.” The ungodly cannot claim the privilege which Eliphaz ascribes to the righteous—“He shall deliver you in six troubles: yes, in seven there shall no evil touch you. . . . You shall laugh at destruction and famine: neither shall you be afraid of the beasts of the earth. For you shall be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with you”—on the contrary, providence may justly remind him of his sins, and say, “Call now, if there are any who will answer you; and to which of the saints will you turn?” Our gracious God has given no charge to his angels to keep the sinner in all his ways; those ministering spirits have no commission to bear him up, lest he dash his foot against a stone; rather, the forces of nature are restrained by almighty mercy, or else the very stars in their courses, and the waters in the rivers, would fight against the wicked, as they did against Sisera in days gone by. The Christian has the presence of God also to rejoice in. Mungo Park, when lost in the wilderness, observed a tiny piece of moss, and seeing how beautifully it was fashioned, he remembered, “God is here! My Father is here!” So does the Christian. He is never out of his Father’s house, and consequently he is always at home. The lines of Thompson are ours, not merely as poetry, but as matter of fact:—
Should Fate command me to the farthest verge
Of the green earth, to distant barbarous climes,
Rivers unknown to song; where first the sun
Gilds Indian mountains, or his setting beam
Flames on th’ Atlantic isles; ’tis nought to me;
Since God is ever present, ever felt,
In the void waste as in the city full;
And where he vital breathes, there must be joy.
When even at last the solemn hour shall come,
And wing my mystic flight to future worlds,
I cheerful will obey; there with new powers
Will rising wonders sing. I cannot go
Where UNIVERSAL LOVE smiles not around,
Sustaining all yon orbs, and all their sons,
From seeming evil still educing good.
And better thence again, and better still,
In infinite progression.
It is not so with the sinner! The presence of God is dreadful to him. If there were some valley of confusion where God’s power is not known, its congenial desolation would become the sinner’s heaven: the place where God’s presence shall gleam upon him with irresistible force will be his hell.
7. Moreover, the sinner gives up every promise of God in choosing the road to perdition. There is not a word in this book of divine love which can whisper comfort into the sinner’s ear while he chooses; his own ways. It is a book of threatenings and of curses to the impenitent. It woos as a mother would call her wandering child; it has a gentle voice for every broken and contrite spirit, but it thunders like Sinai itself against every hardened sinner who will not turn from his wicked way. Oh unbeliever, you have renounced, by the very fact of your remaining without God and without Christ, all possession in the rich promises of God. You have lost the immense capital upon the interest of which the Christian lives in time, and in the enjoyment of which he hopes to be blest throughout eternity. You who know how to count, notice this one item of expenditure to begin with, and guess how heavy is the fare of sin!
Spending Time on Vices
8. 2. In the next place, those who follow the course of sin make a great expenditure of their time. However, that I dare say they do not think much about it, for time to them is a mere drug of no clear value. Many of the ungodly seek after pastimes, killing time, and all sorts of inventions by which they may get rid of time, which to us appears sadly too little for our daily work. The precious privilege of existence is to them a nuisance; the pictured gallery of life is to them a prison or corridor through which they would hasten as speedily as may be, forgetting its end and where it leads to. Ah! brethren, if they were wise, they would comprehend that time is the stuff which life is made of, and that this life is the only season in which we can be made fit for the enjoyments of eternity. If men understood it, they would sooner cast pearls to swine than give their days to sin, and their nights to rioting. If time is the chrysalis of eternity, who but a fool would treat it with contempt! He is the worst of prodigals who wastes that most precious of all treasures, his time; but what hours does fashion demand! What days will the debauched and the profligate give to their sensual indulgence! But what am I saying, it is needless to single out the more bold of transgressors, the rule is universal, the sinner’s life is all waste, for it is unconsecrated by faith, unblessed by God, and is therefore all lavished for nothing on shadows and dreams.
Spending Labour on Vices
9. 3. It must not be forgotten that some ungodly men expend a great deal of labour to gratify their evil desires. The way to hell may be downhill, but it is not all smooth. There are hill Difficulties even for the ungodly. “The way of transgressors is hard.” Hence the Saviour says, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden,” for sinners labour, and their sins prove to be a heavy burden. The same Hebrew word, and the same Greek word, stands both for “labouring,” and for “sin,” for sinning is often hard; as the prophet says, “The people labour in the very fire, and weary themselves for vanity.” Though men call sin pleasure, who does not know that it often jades and fatigues the man worse than the hardest toil! How the proud man toils for honour! How the miser pinches himself for gold! How the thief exhausts his ingenuity to get at another man’s wealth! How hard is the prostitute’s drudgery! How heavy is the yoke of Satan!
Spending Substance on Vices
10. 4. Sinners, again, are frequently forced by their sins to a great expense of their actual substance. Their money finds feather’s for its wings in the gratification of their desires. Who can be a drunkard without coming to poverty or lessening his estate? Who fills the cup to the brim without clothing himself with rags before long, and bringing his household to poverty? The prodigal wasted his substance in riotous living; who can do otherwise, if he entertains a host of greedy sins? God only knows how much of the poverty of this land is due to nothing else except drunkenness. No doubt there always will be some poverty which may claim our charity, for the poor shall never cease out of the land; but still, it is to be feared that three fourths of all the poverty of this great city is to be traced more or less directly to the gin palace and the beer shop. Drunkenness is a “greedy sin,” and like the horseleech it cries, “Give, give.” England, with all its liberality, does not give anything like so much to the cause of missions, or for the maintenance of religion, as men spend in intoxication. Then look at other sins, how costly they are! Consider those amusements of the world which many defend as being no offence to public morals, but which the spiritual avoid as being unfit occupations for heirs of heaven; even these are far from being inexpensive. I noticed yesterday an advertisement in the newspaper of boxes at the opera, for a certain term, to be rented for over two hundred pounds. What would people think if a pew in any place of worship were only to be had on terms of so heavy a subscription? Why, that sum would pay the charges all the year around of very many places of worship; and yet this amount represents probably only a portion of the expense involved in attendance at the theatre. There are far greater drains upon the purse than those implied in missionary societies, ministers, chapels, and Bible women. Who has not heard how fast debauchery burns the candle at both ends? Is it not said of the prodigal, that he devoured his living with prostitutes? This sin has brought many a man of wealth and fortune down to shiver like a beggar on a dunghill. “Remove your way far from her, and do not come near the door of her house . . . lest strangers be filled with your wealth, and your labours be in the house of a stranger.” He who sins must pay its fare.
Spending Health on Vices
11. 5. Nor is this all. Those men who go far into sin, and carry out the desires of their hearts, soon find that there is an expense of health. How many a man has rottenness in his bones, and disease in his heart’s core, brought on by gluttony, drunkenness, and vice! Well may men pray that they may be delivered from the sins of their youth and their former transgressions; for they are in a sad plight who mourn at the last, when their flesh and their body are consumed. It is not God who has thickly sown this world with disease and sorrow—man’s iniquity has done it. Men sow many weeds into the furrows of life, and when they spring up, they complain about the appointments of God, whereas, they are the result of their own sins; and there is no injustice in the rule, that, whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap. “Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?” “His bones are full of the sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust.” The fare, the full fare of sin’s voyage, must be paid.
Spending Peace of Mind on Vices
12. 6. Another expense, and that one which ought not to be forgotten, is the loss of peace of mind. A man cannot indulge in sin, and yet go to his bed with a quiet conscience; at least, if he can do so, this callousness is of itself a still greater evil. For the most part, men are startled by the ghosts of their own crimes. “Terrors make the wicked afraid on every side, and drive them to their feet.” Even the respectable sinner whose life is outwardly moral, but whose heart is far from God, cannot avoid some qualms and disturbance of mind. If I am not one with God, if I am not washed in Jesus’ blood, if I am not sanctified by God’s Holy Spirit, there is an aching void within me which the world can never fill; there is an inward monitor which tells me, “There is something that you want, something that the world cannot give you, which you cannot earn for yourself. How is it that you are living in the neglect of it?” “A dreadful sound is in his ears: in prosperity the destroyer shall come upon him . . . . He wanders abroad for bread, saying, ‘Where is it?’ He knows that the day of darkness is close at hand.” Until I was saved by grace, I can truly say I had no lasting peace, but now my peace is like a river. How a trumpet will often blanch the sinner’s cheek! The cholera comes, and how the man trembles because death is at work next door! How fearful he is when he stands at the grave’s brink and looks down upon the coffin of some companion with whom he has spent many a riotous hour! Ah! you cannot have peace, you cannot have peace until you have Christ, you cannot be truly happy until you have given your souls to Jesus. The apple may look fair, but it is rotten within. You may speak of joy, but you do not know it if you do not know Jesus. Surely to lose this priceless pearl is an item in the bill of no mean magnitude.
Peace has sweets
That Hybla never knew; it sleeps on down
Cull’d gently from beneath the cherub’s wing.
Who would throw this away for vexing, mocking, deceiving, lying vanities?
Spending Eternity for Vices
13. 7. The worst expense, however, we have only hinted at. The man who goes to hell must pay its fare in another way—he loses his soul. What that loss may be, no mortal tongue can tell. If one could come again from the pit, as once the rich man proposed, perhaps he might tell us in dolorous tones what it is to be cast out from God into the place where there is not a drop of water to cool the fire tormented tongue; but it is not for us even to conceive what the place of torment may be. Enough to hear and profit by the question of the Saviour: “What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?” How is Caesar the better for his dominions? How is Croesus the better for his wealth? How is the philosopher the better for his wisdom, now that he is cast away from the favour of God for ever? In fact, the greater the wretched beings were on earth, the more terrible will their doom be in eternity, when, looking from their beds of flame, the lesser sinners shall cry, “Are you become like one of us? Is the lofty one brought low? Is the proud one humbled? Is the boaster made to feel in the torment of this fire that he is no greater than the rest of us?” I say, the more honour, and dignity, and glory, the man obtained on earth, the more terrible his shame and disgrace when, his soul being lost, he is cast into the pit for ever. Let us then, if we have been deluded by the pleasures of sin, or have been tempted in any way to forget God because we have thought that the way of the flesh was easy, let us think for a while that we shall have to pay its fare, and that the fare is far too expensive to be paid by men of understanding. We dare not risk soul and body, life and death, heaven and hell, judgment and eternity, merely for the sake of those paltry, passing, delusive joys, which are all that the world can pretend to offer.
The Expense of Avoiding Duty
14. II. Let us change our tack, and say a little upon THE EXPENSE OF AVOIDING DUTY.
15. Jonah’s duty was to go to Nineveh and preach the Word: he preferred not to go; therefore he shirked the work, went down to Joppa and paid his fare to go to Tarshish. I hope we are not in the habit of doing the same, but still there are occasions when even God’s servants shrink from duty, and seem willing to forget that where God calls they are bound to go. Possibly this remark may apply to some minister who may come under the Word. He is called to bear his protest against a certain sin, and he thinks to himself, “If I speak this way, some of those who hear me will never come again, I may lose rich subscribers; I will not say a word on that point.” Or, he has it laid upon him, to cry against the monstrous evils in the State Church; but he puts his finger to his lips, and remains silent, inwardly calculating, “I had better hold my peace on that subject, for I may risk my popularity.” Such a minister should reflect that it is a very expensive thing to try to flee to Tarshish when you ought to go to Nineveh, for a man cannot avoid duty without expense. I have known good people who will say, “I know what I ought to do, but still you see the path is very difficult, and I do not feel called upon to make so great a sacrifice.” Well, friend, if you do not make the sacrifice when God demands it of you, he has other ways of taking away your treasured goods. In the long run you will find it far more expensive to shun the work and will of God than to give yourself to it at once. You will be a loser by your prudence; you shall find that the scriptural rule holds good, “He who would lose his life shall save it, but he who would save his life shall lose it.” If you are willing to be a loser for Christ you shall be a gainer, but if you insist upon being held harmless, and try at all costs to make provision for the flesh, then you shall find that before long you will have to pay its fare to your own grievous harm and injury. What did Jonah lose? Jonah had to pay as part of his fare the presence and comforting enjoyment of God’s love. He went down into the bottom of the vessel and hid himself from sight. I think I see him, that Jonah, who a few days after walked with all the boldness of a lion through the streets of Nineveh, crying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” that Jonah who defiantly opposed Nineveh’s haughty monarch, and was not afraid to tell him that in forty days his city would be overthrown; that Jonah goes sneaking down among the cargo at the bottom of the hold, for fear anyone should see him, and there hides his cowardly, craven head. Poor Jonah, you have lost the hallowed fellowship of your God, you have lost his presence, and consequently your courage has all oozed out of you; this is a dear price which you have paid for shunning Nineveh. When you and I serve our Lord Jesus as believers should do, we can remember that our God is with us, and although we have the whole world against us, if we have God with us what does it matter? But oh! the minute we recoil, and begin to seek our own inventions and appeal to our own wisdom, we are all at sea without a pilot, and our great Helper withdraws from us. Then may we bitterly lament and groan out, “Oh my God, where have you gone? How could I have been so foolish as to shun your service, and in this way to lose all the bright shinings of your face? This is a price too high. Let me return to my allegiance and to your presence.”
16. In the next place, Jonah lost all peace of mind. When he was in Nineveh, crying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown,” he was not afraid of the edge of the sword, nor of the tyrant’s rage: he felt that he was doing God’s work, and he knew that when on God’s errands he was perfectly safe. His heart beat gently, like that of a man in a happy, tranquil frame of mind, wearing the herb called heart’s ease in his bosom; but now, down there, in the hold of the vessel, his heart is palpitating, he does not know what may happen, and until sleep happily comes in to ease the distress of his mind, he is like a poor hunted stag, panting with alarm.
17. These were two great things to lose—God’s presence, and his own peace of mind—but these were not all his loss and injury; he was now brought into great peril—he must be thrown into the sea. In all likelihood he will meet with a watery grave. Had he gone to Nineveh, that would not have occurred, he would have been under the care of God’s special providence there, but now the winds and waves threaten him. With what a splash he falls into the deep! As we see him engulfed, let us with holy caution shun the dangerous way of disobedience. Other men may escape the chastisements of God in this world, but not the Lord’s own children. “You only have I known of all the families of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.”
18. Now, too, he is brought into great affliction of soul. He tells us that he “cried by reason of affliction.” He compares his state to the “belly of hell,” he was brought into such depths of distress; a miracle had interposed to save his life, but not to cheer his spirit. Like the Saviour, of whom he was a type, he was exceedingly sorrowful and very heavy, almost to death. Sin soon destroys a believer’s comfort. It is the deadly upas tree2 from whose leaves distil deadly drops which destroy the life of joy and peace.
19. Jonah, too, had lost everything upon which he might have drawn for comfort in any other case. He could not turn to the promise of God that he would keep him, for he was not in God’s ways; he could not say, “Lord, I am your servant,” for then conscience would have said, “Yes, and a pretty servant, too!” He could not say, “Lord, I am on your errand!” for conscience would have said, “No, you are on your own!” He could not say, “Lord, I meet with these difficulties in the discharge of my duty, therefore help me through them”—no, for there would have been a reply, “You are not here in the discharge of duty; you flew in the teeth of the Most High; you sought to escape from a little difficulty; you tried to get away from the presence of God altogether, and you have prepared all this for yourself. If the draught is bitter, you mixed it; if the fruit is sharp, you planted the tree; if this harvest is terrible, you sowed the seed; you are reaping your own deeds, you are being filled with your own ways.” Poor Jonah! poor Jonah! to be in such a state as this.
20. Then here is another point, he had to go to Nineveh after all: and so will you. You may kick, but when God means you to do his work, you will be made to do it. The ox goad has been thrust into you already because you hate the yoke; you do not like it, and you kick against it, and the only result is, that it is driven further into you. Saul, Saul, it is hard for you to kick against the pricks, for with all your kicking and rebelling, you will have to go where you were originally ordered to go; you might as well go at first—you will go with better grace; you will go with your Master’s comforting presence; but you will have to go one way or another. Many men have found this to be true. They have struggled against duty, and perhaps, year after year they have drawn back from it, finding miserable excuses for their consciences; but they never prospered in business, they could not get on in the world, they had trouble on trouble, and at last it came to this, they had to go back to the very place where they were ten or twenty years ago, and there they discharged the duty which they had been so long seeking to avoid, which had proven to be a burdensome stone to them until they were rid of it by yielding to its demands. Now, my dear brother, do not play the Jonah, for you will have to pay its fare. If you know your duty, do it. I may be speaking very pointedly to some of you. “I should have to sever the bonds of many a fond connection.” Do it for Christ’s sake. “I should have to leave the camp and go outside of it, take up a very heavy cross, and bear Christ’s reproach.” You may as well do it now as well as later, for you will have to do it. “But,” one says, “this business of mine—I have nothing left to live on; I feel it is a bad business, but I do not like to give it up just yet.” You will have to do so sooner or later, you may as well do it now, before, like Jonah, you have had to pay for your wit, remember that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and all those have a good understanding who keep his commandments.” May God the Holy Spirit give you the wisdom which comes from above, which will lead you to sit as a child at the feet of Jesus, and learn his ways. “Do not be as the horse, or as the mule, which has no understanding, whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to you”; “but listen diligently to his commandments, and then shall your peace be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.”
The Expense of Heaven
21. III. A few words upon another point: there is AN EXPENSE CONNECTED WITH GOING TO HEAVEN.
22. It is estimated at a very high rate by some, who say that the road is good enough, but the tolls are too high. Others pretend to believe that religion is only a scheme for putting money into ministers’ pockets, whereas I can truly say for one, that what I receive for my ministry is not a tenth of what I could readily earn in an engagement infinitely less laborious and harassing than my present position; although, I might add, I would not leave my ministry for ten thousand worlds. Let us think over this matter of expense, and begin with an old story. “An aged couple, in the vicinity of London, who, in the early part of life, were poor, but who, by the blessing of God upon their industry, enjoyed a comfortable independence in their old age, were called upon by a Christian minister, who solicited their contributions to a charity. The old lady was disposed to make up some excuse, and to answer in the negative, both for her husband and herself; and therefore replied, ‘Why, sir, we have lost a great deal by religion since we began; my husband knows that very well’; and being wishful to obtain her husband’s consent to the assertion, she said, ‘Have we not, Thomas?’ Thomas, after a long and solemn pause, replied, ‘Yes, Mary, we have lost a great deal by our religion! I have lost a great deal by my religion. Before I got religion, Mary, I had got a water pail, in which I carried water, and that you know I lost many years ago. And then I had an old slouched hat, a patched old coat, and mended shoes and stockings; but I have lost them also long ago. And, Mary, you know that, poor as I was, I had a habit of getting drunk, and quarrelling with you; and that you know I have lost. And then I had a burdened conscience, and a wicked heart; and then I had ten thousand guilty feelings and fears; but all are lost, completely lost, and, like a millstone, cast into the deepest sea. And, Mary, you have been a loser too, though not so great a loser as myself. Before we got religion, Mary, you had a washing tray, in which you washed for hire; and God Almighty blessed your industry; but since we got religion, you have lost your washing tray. And you had a gown and bonnet much the worse for wear, though they were all you had to wear; but you have lost them long ago. And you had many an aching heart concerning me, at times; but those you happily have lost. And I could even wish that you had lost as much as I have lost, and even more; for what we lose by our religion, Mary, will be our eternal gain.’ We need not add, the preacher did not go away without substantial proof that Thomas deemed his losses for religion his most weighty obligations to the goodness of Almighty God as the richest boon of grace on earth, and the most authentic pledge of glory in the world to come.” If some of us were to look back upon what religion has cost us, we might tally up the amount with very much the same result. Where were some of you once accustomed to spend your Sundays? Where would not a few of you have been on other occasions?—at the race course; at the theatre; indeed, and in the brothel. But now you are washed, and cleansed, and sanctified, and rejoicing in Christ Jesus. This is what your religion has cost you: the giving up of nothing that made you truly happy, but only renouncing what pretended to make you happy, but which was ruining your soul for ever. The first expense of religion is that it takes spurious joys away from men and gives them real ones; takes away from them shadows and gives them substance.
23. Then, again, the expense of your religion has been this: some of you have given a good deal of your time to the cause of Christ; others of you have devoted a considerable portion of your money to it, but after all that you or any of us have ever given, I am sure we can say, religion has cost us nothing which we did not give cheerfully—and it has asked nothing of us which it was not our happiness to render; we have felt a greater joy in giving than in withholding—a greater bliss in serving God than in being idle. Moreover our liberality has always been repaid to us with interest, for our God will be in no man’s debt. Here is a specimen of what has been our experience from the pen of a tradesman. “Some years ago I heard a sermon from the words, ‘Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.’ (Malachi 3:10) I cannot describe how my mind was impressed with the manner in which Jehovah here condescended to challenge his people when he says, ‘And prove me now by this,’ etc. Suffice it to say that the subject made such an impression, that I found it my duty to do more for the cause of God than I ever had done. I did so; and on closing that year’s accounts, I found that I had gained more than in any two years preceding it. Some time afterwards I thought the Redeemer’s cause had an additional claim, since the place in which we worshipped him needed some repairs. The sum I then gave was £20; and in a very little time afterwards I received £40 which I had long given up as lost.” Our Master’s service is our liberty; we count it our joy to run in the way of his commandments; and if the worldling pities us, and says, “Poor man, how he must deny himself!” we reply, “In one sense it is true, but in another, our best self is fed, and satisfied, and feasted, when we deny self; the duties we perform are not performed as duties, but as privileges; we do not do them because we feel forced to do so, but because we love them.” We confess that religion has cost us our spirit, our soul, our body; and our only regret is, we do not have more that we can give to the cause of Christ. We think we can stand at the foot of the Saviour’s cross, and say—
Now for the love I bear his name,
What was my gain I count my loss,
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to his cross.
Yes, and I must and will esteem
All things but loss for Jesus’ sake
Oh may my soul be found in him,
And of his righteousness partake!
Religion, then, takes away from us nothing except what we are glad to lose; and it asks nothing of us except what we are too glad to give; and it returns to us in ten thousand ways all that it takes from us. It gives us blessings of the upper and of the lower springs; it comforts us in life, it cheers us in death; it makes us so happy, that we can say with Watts—
I would not change my bless’d estate
For all the world calls good or great;
And while my faith can keep her hold,
I envy not the sinner’s gold.
The True Cost Has Already Been Paid
24. IV. In the last place, THE TRUE FARE OF GODLINESS IS ALREADY PAID; NOT BY US, BUT BY OUR LORD JESUS.
25. Jonah paid his fare from Joppa to Tarshish, but I never find that he paid any fare back. The conveyance which brought him to land was far cheaper than the ship of Tarshish, although not quite so comfortable. He came back to land with no expense to himself whatever. So we must pay much and do much in order to be cast away; but the way of eternal life and salvation is perfectly free. When Jonah was thrown out into the midst of the sea, the large fish did not swallow him because he was a man of money, or because he was a man of merit; he was just a needy, destitute sinner, subject to the wrath of God, as expressed in that tempest, and in that storm, and in that boiling sea; and there came the friendly fish, which carried him into a living grave for three days, so that his life might be preserved. And this is very much like our salvation, salvation by death and burial with Jesus. We flee away; we trust by our self-righteousness to escape from the tempest of God’s wrath, but we cannot. At last we feel that we are cast right out into the sea to perish, and God’s anger, as we think, is hot against us; there is no good thing in us, nothing upon which we can rely, we see no hope of escape. Just then the death of Christ, which was our greatest crime, which seems as though it would destroy us, takes us into its friendly shelter, and in it we go to the bottoms of the mountains; in it we descend until all the waves and billows of God’s wrath have rolled over us; and in it we are securely landed, to praise the name and love of God. When our extremity comes, and there is no one to help, then God prepares the way of deliverance for us, his people.
26. Hear me for one moment, my brethren, this morning. We have sinned. May God help us to feel the sin! Grievously we have offended against God by flying in his face, and going where he would not have us go. Can we return? We have paid our fare to go to the place of destruction, but we have no means to pay our fare to heaven. Penniless, stripped of all hope in ourselves, is there any way by which we can return—by which we can find eternal life? There is! there is!—if we give ourselves up wholly to God, confessing our sin, and if our soul rests alone upon the finished work of the great salvation provided in Christ Jesus. We need not fear because we have nothing; our God, who has everything, asks nothing from us. He does not save us because we are righteous, but because he is gracious. He will not deliver us because there is something good in us; but because there is everything good in himself. Let me say to those of you who are sleeping this morning, careless of your fate, if you sleep much longer, you may wake up where your waking will be terrible. What do you mean, oh you sleepers! Rise! remember, remember your future doom and your present danger. Oh Spirit of God, arouse them. But if, awakened, you cry, “What must I do to be saved?”—the answer comes, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Although you can see no means of escape, yet there is a means provided by God, and when you are cast out from the ship, have left all other confidence, and think that God’s sea of wrath will cover you up, then Christ, who has been prepared of old as our great Deliverer, shall take you and bear you safely to the land of eternal glory. I wish that you were made to forsake the way of the destroyer, and led in the way of peace, so that he might have all the praise for ever.
27. May he bless these poor, feeble, but well intended remarks, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.