A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 16, 1870, By C H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 6/18/2011*6/18/2011
Will you be made whole? (John 5:6)
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1. Jesus spoke to the impotent man who had been afflicted for thirty-eight years, and enquired of him, “Will you be made whole?” It seems a very strange question to ask. Who would not want to be made whole? Would the poor man have been lying at the pool if he had not been anxious for healing? Must there not have been in the very look of his face, as he gazed upon the Saviour, an answer to that question, superseding all necessity of asking it? Just as our Lord spoke no superfluous words, so it may be that be perceived that the paralysis of the man’s body had to a very painful degree dulled his mind and brought on a paralysis of his will. He had hoped until his heart was sick, he had waited until despondency had dried up his spirits; and now it had almost come to this, that he scarcely cared whether he was made whole or not. The bow had been bent so long that all its elasticity was destroyed. He had hungered until appetite itself was gone. He was now listless, with an indifference made up of sullen repining at his disappointments and blank hopelessness for the future. The Saviour touched a chord which needed to vibrate when he enquired about his will. He aroused by that question a dormant faculty, whose vigorous exercise, it may be, was one of the first essentials to a cure. “Will you be made whole?” was the enquiry of a profound investigation, the scientific probe of a great physician, the resurrection from the grave of a great master power of manhood.
2. Now, in the matter of preaching the gospel today, it may seem almost an impertinent question for me to ask each one of you gathered here who as yet are not saved, “Will you be made whole?” “Surely,” you will reply, “every one desires salvation.” Believe me, I am not quite as certain as you are of the truth of that statement. “But our being here,” one says, “our having been here so long, and our attentive listening to the gospel, go to prove that we are willing enough to be made whole if we could only discover where health is to be found, and what is that balm of Gilead of which so much is said.” And yet I should not wonder if there are many here who through having waited long are beginning to be paralysed in their once earnest desires; and others who having been long here and never having been very anxious, at last have come to occupy these pews as a mere matter of custom, and have no hearty will towards the wholeness of soul which the Good Physician is always prepared to give to those who seek his help. I am persuaded that instead of the question being an unnecessary one, it is in every congregation one of the first to be pressed upon the hearer’s attention. To get a truthful answer to this enquiry from the innermost soul of every hearer is my object now, believing that it will be a very healthy thing for you, even if you are honestly compelled to give a negative answer; it will at least expose the condition of the heart to itself, and that may be helpful towards something better. As God may help me, I shall labour to press upon you very earnestly this question this morning, oh unsaved man or woman, “Will you be made whole?”
3. I. This question is needful to be asked, in the first place, because IT IS A QUESTION NOT ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD. It is not the same as this question, “Will you be saved from going to hell?” Everyone answers “Yes,” to that. “Will you be saved in order to go to heaven?” At once, without deliberation, everyone says, “Yes.” For the harps of gold, for the songs of blessedness, for the eternity of immortality, we have all a heart and a strong desire, but that you see is not the question. Heaven and its joys come out of what is proposed in our question, as a result, as a consequence, but that is not the matter in hand just now. We are not now saying to the thief, “Will you have your imprisonment remitted?” we are asking it of him in another way: “Are you willing to be made an honest man?” We are not now saying to the murderer, “Are you anxious to escape the gallows?” we know his reply; the question we are asking him is, “Will you be made righteous, upright, kind, forgiving, in order to give up all this evil of yours?” It is not, “Are you willing to sit at the festival of mercy, and eat and drink as those do who are in health?” but, “Are you yourself willing to be made spiritually healthful, to pass through those divine processes by which the foul disease of sin may be cast out, and the healthiness of sanctified manhood may be restored to you?”
4. To help you to know what that question means, let me remind you that there only were two men who were whole, perfectly whole; and those may be called the two Adams, the first and the second Adam. These both showed us in their own persons what a man would be if he were whole. The first Adam in the garden — we should all be willing to be in paradise with him, we should all be delighted to walk beneath those never withering boughs, and gather ever luscious fruits, without toil, without suffering, without disease, without death. We all should be glad enough to welcome the return of the primeval gladness of Eden, but that is not the question; it is, would we be willing to be made mentally and morally what Adam was before his sin brought disease into manhood? And what was Adam? Why, he was a man who knew his God, knew many things besides, but mainly and chiefly knew his God; whose delight was to walk with God, to commune with him, to speak with him as a man speaks with his friend: until he fell he was one whose will was submitted to the will of his Creator, anxious and desirous not to violate that will, but in all things to do what his Lord should ask him. He was placed in the garden to till the ground, to keep and dress the garden, and he did all that with joy. He was a whole, a sound man; his whole enjoyment consisted in his God; it was his one object as a living creature to do the will of him who made him. He knew nothing of rioting and drunkenness. For him there were no lascivious songs or wanton deeds. The flash of debauchery and the glitter of profligacy were far from him. He was pure, upright, chaste, and obedient. How would you like to be made like him, sinner, you who are doing your own will, you who have sought out many inventions, you who find happiness in this sin and the other filthiness, would you be willing to come back and find your happiness in your God, and henceforth serve him and no one else besides? Ah! perhaps you say, blindly, “Yes,” and it is possible you do not know what you are saying. If the truth were more clearly before you, you would obstinately refuse to be made whole. Life would under such a prospect seem to you tame, joyless, slavish. Without the fire of lust, the excitement of drink, the laughter of folly, and the pomp of pride, what would existence be to many? To them our ideal of sound manhood is only another name for bondage and misery.
5. Take the other instance of a man who was whole; it was Jesus, the Second Adam. Dwelling here among the sons of men, not in a paradise, but in the midst of reproach, temptation, and suffering, yet he was a whole, sound man. Sicknesses he took upon himself, as to his body, and our sins were imputed to him as our substitute, but in him was no sin; the prince of this world searched him through and through, but could find no unsoundness in him. The perfection of our Saviour’s manhood consisted in this — that he was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners.” He was holy, that is, in its root, the same thing as “whole”; he was a complete, perfect, uninjured, untainted man. He was whole towards his God. It was his food and drink to do the will of God who sent him. Jesus as man was man as God would have man, perfectly conformed to his right position. He was as he came from the Maker’s hand, without blot, without loss, without a trace of evil, and with the presence of every good thing; he was whole and holy. Hence he was harmless, never inflicting ill on others in word or deed; undefiled, never affected by the influences that surrounded him so as to become false to his God or unkind to man; undefiled, though blasphemy passed through or by his ear, yet it never polluted his heart; though he saw the lust and wickedness of man carried to its climax, yet he himself shook off the viper into the fire, and remained without spot and blameless. He was also separate from sinners, not drawing around him a Pharisaic cordon, and saying, “Stand by, for I am holier than you,” but eating with them and yet separate from them; and never more separate than when his kind hand touched them, and when he entered most deeply into sympathy with them in their sorrows. He was separate by his own mental elevation, moral superiority, and spiritual grandeur. Now, would you wish to be like Jesus? There is a question. Probably if you were, it would involve in you much of his experience; you would be laughed at, you would be scoffed, you too would be persecuted, and unless providence restrained your foe you also might be killed: but taking Christ for all and all, would you be willing to be made like him, to have torn away from yourself much real evil, which you now admire, and to have implanted in you much real good, which perhaps at this moment you do not appreciate? Would you be willing now to be made whole? I can imagine that you say, “I want to be like Jesus, I anxiously desire it,” and yet permit me gently and affectionately to whisper in your ear that if you knew what I meant, if you knew what Jesus was, I am not so sure that your will would very vehemently incline that way. I am afraid that many a struggle, and many a rebellion, would arise in your heart if the process were being carried on towards making you whole as Jesus Christ was whole.
6. Still further to illustrate the meaning of the question, “Will you be made whole?” let me remind you that when a man is whole, complete, and what a man should be, there are certain evil propensities which are expelled, and certain moral qualities which he is sure to possess. For instance, if a man is made whole before God he is made honest before men. No man can be said to be whole while he is still guilty of injustice in his business, in his thinking, in his conversation, or in his actions towards his neighbours. Sinner, you have been in the habit of perpetrating in your business much that would not stand the tests of God’s all searching eye. You often say in your business things that are not true; you excuse them by the assertion that others do the same. I am not here to listen to your excuses, but I am about to ask you earnestly, “Will you be made whole?” Are you desirous to be made from this time a thoroughly, strictly, punctiliously honest man? No more lying puffs; no more exaggerations; no more overrating, and taking advantage; come now, what do you think of this state of things? Why, there are some who could not carry on their business at this rate; “the trade is rotten, and if you do not fall into its practices you cannot make a living; the district is low and beggarly, and no one can thrive in it except cheats; we should have to close the shop if we were perfectly honest.” “Why,” cries one, “I should be eaten alive in this age of competition. I cannot believe that we are to be so excessively conscientious.” I see how it is, you do not want to be made whole.
7. He who is quite whole becomes in all respects a sober man. “Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man”; and “the kingdom of God does not stand in food or drink,” yet still men do frequently sin both in food and drink, and especially in the sin of drunkenness. Now I suppose there is no drunkard but what at least, when he is sober, anxiously desires to be saved: but drunkard, understand the question, it is not this — would you go to heaven? but this — would you give up your drunkenness, and no longer delight yourself in those cups of excess? Now what do you say? Would you from this moment stop all this rioting and lewdness, and cast them all away? Perhaps in the morning some would say, “Yes,” when the eyes are red, and the woe of excess is on them; but how about in the evening when the merry company surrounds the man, and the wine sparkles in the cup, would he then be made whole, and renounce what ruins his body and his soul? Ah! no. Many say, “Yes, I would be made whole,” but they do not mean it, and the dog returns to its vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
8. To be made whole involves in a man the production of universal truthfulness. Now, there are people who cannot endure to speak the truth. To them two must always be twenty; to their eyesight the faults of any neighbour are crimes, and the virtues of any, except their special favourites, are always tinged with vice; naturally they have a malicious judgment towards others, they are envious of anything that is honourable in their fellow man. Now, what do you say, sir? Are you willing to be made whole, and from this hour to speak nothing except the truth towards God and towards man? I am afraid many a tongue that is glib now would have little to say if it only said the truth, and many a man might and would, if he were honest enough to say it, refuse the blessing of being made perfectly truthful.
9. So it is in the matter of forgiveness. A man who is made whole can forgive even to seventy times seven. When you cannot forgive an injury, it is because your soul is sick. When a wrong is resented strongly you are ill for the moment; when it is resisted constantly you have a chronic disease. Some people are so far from wishing to know how to forgive, that they would almost pray that they might live and die to gratify the passion of revenge; they would follow the man who has done them an injury through this world and the other too, and be damned with him if they might have the satisfaction of seeing him amidst the flames. Sweet is revenge for many men, and it is useless for a man to say, “I would be made whole,” while he still cultivates malice, and bears ill will towards his fellow man.
10. So I might pass over one after another of the virtues and the vices, and show that my text is not quite such a simple question after all as some people think. There are some men who are afflicted with a miserly, grasping disposition. If they were whole they would be generous, they would be kind to the poor, they would be ready to give from their substance to the Lord’s work. But would they be made whole if it were left to their choice this morning? Ah, no. They think generosity to be weakness, and charity sheer folly. “What is the good of having money and giving it away?” they say. “What can be the good of getting it except to hold it? and he is the wise man who can hold it most tightly and part with as little of it as may be.” The man does not want to be made whole, sir. He considers his paralysed hand and hardened heart to be the marks of health. He considers himself to be the only mentally healthy man around, though his narrow mindedness and soul starvation are visible to all. He is a very skeleton, and an anatomy of sickness, and yet he believes himself to be the paragon of health. Those who admire their failings have evidently no wish to be free from them. “What a beautiful cataract I have in my eye,” says one; “What a precious tumour decorates my limb,” says another; “What a delightful crook this is in my leg,” says a third; “What a comely hump adorns my back,” says another. Men do not speak like this concerning their bodily diseases, or we would think them to be crazy; but they often glory in their shame, and rejoice in their iniquities. Whenever you meet a man who has a fault which he mentally elevates into a virtue, you have a man who would not wish to be made whole, and who would scorn the physician’s visit if he waited at his door. And such people are common in every street.
11. Let me also remark, if a man would be made whole there are not only moral virtues which will abound in him, but spiritual graces; for a man who is whole is sound in spirit as well as in outward character. What then, would happen to a man if he were made whole in his spirit? I reply, first, “You see that Pharisee there, he is thanking God that he is quite as good as he should be, and a great deal better than most people.” Now, if that man is ever made whole, he will say, “God be merciful to me a sinner”; but if I were to ask him whether he would like to exchange places with the tax collector, he would reply, “Why should I? He is a degraded and debased wretch; the language which he uses is very appropriate for him, I am glad he uses it; it would be very degrading for me to make the same confession as he does, and I do not intend to do it.” The man does not want to be made whole, he thinks he is whole already. He who is made whole becomes a self-renouncing man. Paul was whole when he said, “Not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but what is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith”; when he considered his own righteousness to be only dung, so that he might win Christ and be found in him, he was a whole man. Sickly men think their own righteousness is good enough, and wrap themselves in it, and stick a little sham jewellery of ceremony and outward form on it, and then conclude that they are good enough for heaven. They are in such a fever of pride that they rave about their imagined goodness, while real goodness they call sham and hypocrisy.
12. He who is whole spiritually is a man of habitual prayer; he is accustomed to feel constant gratitude, and so to exhibit continual praise; he is a man of abiding consecration; whatever he does he does it for God, seeking God’s glory in it. His mind is fixed upon things unseen and eternal; his heart is not enslaved by the things that are seen, for he knows that they are vanity. Now, if we were to appeal to many, and they fully knew what we meant by it, and say, “Would you be made whole? Would you from this hour become a prayerful man, a praiseful man, a holy man, a God serving man?” I believe that the majority even of our congregations, if they spoke honestly, would say, “No; we do not want to be made whole; we would like to go to heaven, but we do not want this; we desire to escape from hell, but we do not wish to practise all this Puritan precision which you call holiness. No; we would enjoy ourselves with sinners first, and go to heaven with the saints last. The poison is too sweet to give up, but we too will have the antidote by and by. We would gladly have breakfast with the devil, and have supper with Christ. We are in no hurry to be made pure, our tastes for the present lead us in another direction.”
13. II. So, having explained the question I shall, as strength holds out, go on to notice in the second place, that THIS QUESTION IS CAPABLE OF A GREAT MANY REPLIES, and therefore it is the more needful that it should be asked and answered.
14. 1. First, there are some here whose only reply to this question may be called no answer at all, that is to say, they do not want to hear or consider anything of the kind. “Will you be made whole?” “Well, yes, no — we do not quite know what to say; we do not want to be bothered about it; we are young people, there is plenty of time for us to think about these things; we are business people, we have something else to do besides worrying our minds about religion; we are wealthy people, we really must not be expected to look at these things, as poor and coarse minded people are required to do.” Or, “We are sickly, and really our attendance to our health takes up too much time to allow us to be troubled with theological difficulties.” Anything, I see, to put away the one needful thing from your thoughts. The poor soul is most precious, and yet least esteemed. Oh, how some of you trifle with your souls; how you play with your immortal interests! I did so once myself; if tears of blood could express my regret for having done so, I would gladly weep them; for the loss of time which comes through a long carelessness with regard to our soul’s interests is something very solemn, a loss of time which even mercy cannot restore to us, which even the grace of God cannot give back. I wish, young people, that these things were on your minds. Oh, how earnestly I wish that these questions were seen by you to be important, yes, pressingly, overwhelmingly important to you, so that you could not shake off religious enquiry, nor keep away from your spirit the loving pressure of the Holy Spirit who would arouse you. Oh that you were made wise enough to desire the most noble development of spiritual life, and the destruction of everything detrimental to your best welfare. Be considerate, I urge you, concerning the first and chief question. Do not ignore it. Your dying hour may be much nearer than you think; the tomorrow in which you hope to consider these things may never arrive. I wish to ask you again: if anything is deferred let it be something that may safely wait; if anything is postponed let it not be an eternal thing, a spiritual thing, but “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.”
Now, there are some people who have had a great deal of religious
concern, and have not shaken it off either, and yet their answer to
this question, “Will you be made whole?” is not a very earnest one.
Years ago they were aroused; when they heard a sermon they used to
treasure up every word; their prayers were importunate, and their
desires were eager, but they have not obeyed the command which says,
“Believe in Christ and live”; they have become accustomed to
unbelieving misery, to a continuance beneath the burden of sin, which
they will persist in carrying, when there is a dear Saviour waiting
to relieve them of the burden; and now at this time their answer to
the question is neither one thing nor the other. They groan out
feebly, “I wish I did wish, I wish that I did wish; but oh! my
heart is hard —
If aught is felt ’tis only pain
To find I cannot feel.
I will to will, but scarcely dare say I will.” See to what a state you have brought yourself into, and may God help you now to make a desperate effort with that will of yours; may his quickening Spirit bless this affectionate word to your heart, and may you say, “Ah! yes, out of my deep despair, out of the pit where there is no water, I still cry to you, my God; out of the belly of hell I desire deliverance. I will, I will, I want to be saved, oh give me grace that I may be made whole.” May none of you continue to be numbered with those who virtually give no answer to the question.
16. 2. And, secondly, there are too many who give very evasive replies to the question. To them I must speak. Will you be made whole? My dear hearers, I am anxious to ask this question of every unconverted one, but I anticipate that from several I shall get no distinct reply. I shall hear one say, “How am I to know whether I am God’s elect or not?” Beloved, that is not the question, that question cannot be answered at this stage of the proceedings, it shall be answered by and by. Meanwhile, why do you need to bring up that subject, unless it is to blind your eyes to the solemn enquiry which the text would raise? Will you, or will you not, be made whole? Come, man, do not shirk the question; come to it, and face it like a man. Are you willing to be reconciled to God, and to be obedient to him, or not? Say yes or no, and speak out. If you wish to be God’s foe, and to love sin and unrighteousness, say so; you will be honest to yourself, and see yourself in the true light; but if indeed you wish to be purified from sin and be made holy, say so — it will be no great thing, after all to say, nothing at any rate to boast about; it is only a will, and that is nothing to brag about.
17. “Well,” says another, “I do not have the power to cease from sin.” Again I say that is not the question. A distinction must always be drawn between the will and the power. God will give the power, rest assured, in proportion as he gives the will. It is because our will is not there that the power is not there. When a feeble will comes, a feeble power comes; but when the will becomes intense then the power becomes intense too. They rise and fall together. But that is not the question. I do not say, “What can you do?” but “What would you be?” Would you be holy? Are you earnestly, honestly anxious to be today set free from the power of sin? There is the question, and I do beseech you, for your soul’s sake, look into your heart and answer this enquiry as in the sight of God.
18. “But I have been so guilty in the past,” one says, “my former sins alarm me.” Again, although I am glad you have a sense of your sin, I would remind you that this is not the question; it is not how sick you are, but are you willing to be made whole? I know you are a sinner, and a much worse one than you think yourself to be; however black your sin is to your own eye, it is ten times more black to God’s eye, and you are an utterly condemned and lost sinner by nature. But the question now is, “Will you be made whole?” It is not, “Will you have the past forgiven, and be delivered from its penalty?” Of course you would; but would you be set free from the lusts that have been your delight, from the sins that have been your darlings? Would you be delivered from the desires of your flesh and of your mind, the things that your heart hungers for? Would you be made as the saints are, as God is, holy, set free from sin? Is that the yearning of your spirit, or is it not?
19. 3. Now, I shall pass on to observe that there are a great many people who practically say, “No” to this. They do not evade it, but they honestly say, “No.” Indeed, I must retract that word; I question whether they honestly say, “No,” they virtually say, “No,” by their actions. “I would be made whole,” one says, and yet when the divine service is over he goes back to his sin. A man says he would be cured of his disease, and yet he indulges again in what gave the disease, is he untruthful or insane? The eating of a certain food may be the cause of disease — the doctor tells the patient so; he says he desires to be healed, and yet he immediately feasts upon the very dish that caused his sickness. He is a liar, is he not? And he who says he would be made whole, and yet dallies with his old sin, does he not lie to himself, and to his God? When a man would be made whole he frequents the places where healing is given; yet there are some who very seldom go up to the house of God, who go perhaps only once on the Sabbath, who now and then hear the gospel, or who attend places because they are called places of worship, where the gospel is not preached, where the conscience is never harrowed, where the demands of God’s law and the promises of God’s gospel are never fully insisted on, yet they are quite content with having gone there, and think they have done well, like a man who being sick does not go to the physician who understands the case, but calls in at any quack’s shop where there is a profession made of curing, though no one has ever been cured. Such a person does not desire to be made whole; he would not act so if he did.
20. How many, again, hear the gospel but do not hear it attentively! A telegram on the Exchange — they read it with both their eyes — will there be a rise or fall of stocks? An article from which they may judge the general current of trade — how they devour it with their minds, they suck in the meaning, and then go and practise what they have gathered from it. A sermon heard, and lo, the minister is judged concerning how he preached it-as if a man reading a telegram should say the capital letter was not well inked on the press, or the dot to the “I” had dropped off the letter; or as if a man reading an article of business should simply criticise the style of the article, instead of seeking to determine its meaning, and act upon its advice. Oh, how men will hear and think it to be the height of perfection to say they liked or disapproved of the sermon! As if the preacher sent by God cared one bit whether you did or did not like his sermon, his business being not to please your tastes, but to save your souls, not to win your approbation, but to win your hearts for Jesus, and bring you to be reconciled to God. Liking is hardly to be thought of in the question; seldom enough is a patient enamoured by a surgeon’s lancet. The surgeon who conscientiously removes the proud flesh, or prevents a wound from healing too rapidly, cannot expect admiration for his use of the knife while the sufferer still feels it; nor does the preacher when faithfully declaring the truth, expect men to commend him with their tastes; if their consciences commend him it is enough. Ah, my hearers, you give us listless hearing, critical hearing, anything but practical hearing, and all this goes to prove that after all, though you crowd our houses of prayer, you do not want to be made whole. Too many take up the gospel as a man of reading may take up a surgery book to amuse himself with a smattering of the discipline, but not to find out what will handle his own case, or remove his own sickness. So you do with this Bible, you read it as a sacred volume, but not as bearing upon your own best interests. How little do you know about deep earnest heart longing to find Jesus, to be reconciled to God, and to be delivered from the wrath to come! There are men who both by their non-hearing and their hearing, say, “We do not want to be made whole.”
21. Again there are many who do not desire to be made whole, because being made whole would involve their losing their present position in society; they do not want to part with their ungodly gains or wicked companions. Religion would involve them in some degree of persecution; they would not like to be sneered at as a Methodist or Presbyterian; they could not afford to go to heaven if the road were a little rough; they would prefer to go to hell as long as the road which leads there is smooth and pleasant. They consider it better to be lost with the approbation of fools, than to be saved with the derision of the wicked. They think it is inconvenient to be gracious, irksome to be pious, disreputable to be devout, foolish to be too exact. They would gladly have the crown without the fight, the reward without the service. They would enjoy the sweets of soul health, but not lose the advantages of associating with the leprous and defiled. Alas! poor fools.
22. 4. Thank God, there are some who can say, “Yes, yes, I would be made whole”; and concerning their case I am going to speak in the next place.
23. III. WHEREVER AN HONEST AFFIRMATIVE ANSWER IS GIVEN TO THIS QUESTION, WE MAY CONCLUDE THAT THERE IS A WORK OF GRACE STARTED IN THE SOUL.
24. If anyone of my hearers can earnestly say, “Yes, my great longing is to be set free from sin,” my dear friend, I am thrice happy to be privileged to speak to you this morning. If you say, “It is not fear of punishment, sin is punishment enough for me; if I could be in heaven and yet be a sinner such as I am, it would be no heaven for me. I want to be clear from every fault both of thought, and word, and deed, and if I could be perfect I should be perfectly happy, even if I were sick and poor.” Well, if the Lord has made you to long after holiness, there is in your heart already the embryo of grace, the seed of everlasting life. Before long you shall rejoice that you are born again, and are passed from death to life. “Oh,” you say, “I wish I could see that, I wish I could feel it!” I do not believe that any utterly graceless person ever could have hearty, earnest, intense longings after holiness, for its own sake. Now if you would get the joy and peace that is to come out of this fact, I have to say to you very much what Jesus said to the poor man at Bethesda: he said, “Take up your bed, and walk,” so now, this morning, hear the word of the Lord — trust now, at once, in the finished work of Jesus Christ, who as a substitute was punished for your guilt; rely on him, and you shall be a joyous as well as a saved soul. “Have I the power to believe in Christ?” says one. I answer, “Yes, you have the power. I would not say to every man, ‘You have the power to exercise faith,’ for the lack of will is the death of moral power; but if you are willing you have the right, you have the privilege, you have the power, to believe that Jesus died for you, that God who has made you to long after holiness, has prepared holiness for you, and the instrument that will work it in you now is your faith. The same Spirit who works the will in you, is in you working to do his own good pleasure. Look then to Christ and be saved.” I pray that some of you may come to perfect peace this morning by looking to Christ. “I want holiness,” you say. Yes, and it may seem a strange thing, but it is true that while you look for holiness in yourself you will never have it, but if you look away from yourself to Christ, then holiness will come to you. Even now that very desire of yours has come to you from him; it is the beginning of the new birth in your soul. Look, I urge you, away, right away, even from your best desires to Christ on the cross, and today shall be the day of your salvation.
25. It may seem a very little thing to have a desire, but yet such a desire as I have described is no little thing, it is more than human nature ever produced by itself, and only God the Eternal Spirit can implant it. I am persuaded that a living, saving faith always goes with it, and sooner or later comes to the surface, and brings joy and peace with it.
26. IV. But now, lastly, WHERE THIS QUESTION IS ANSWERED IN THE NEGATIVE, I must remind you, IT INVOLVES MOST FEARFUL SIN.
27. I wish I did not have to preach on this last point, but I must, painful as it is. There are some here, there are many elsewhere, who are not willing to be made whole. You, my unconverted brethren, are thus unwilling. Face that now, I urge you, since you will have to face it soon. It is just this. You prefer yourself to God, you prefer to please yourself before pleasing him, you prefer sin to holiness. Look at it closely and fairly. Sin is your own choice, your own present deliberate choice; you are now making it, and have often made it, and will, I fear, continue to make it, if God’s grace does not prevent it. Look it in the face, for soon, on a deathbed, you will see the whole matter in the light of eternity; you will then discover that you preferred the pleasures of this life to heaven; you preferred the gaieties and amusements, and self-righteousnesses, and prides, and self-wills of a few fleeting years, to the glory and the bliss of perfectly obeying Christ, and being in his presence for ever. Oh! when you come to die, and certainly when you live in another state, you will curse yourself for having made such a choice as this. When you lie dying unsaved, it will come to you like this, “I am willingly here an unsaved man, because I would not be made whole, I did not wish to be a believer, I wished to be impenitent; I heard the gospel, I had it put before me, I deliberately willed to put it behind me, and to remain what I am, and now I am dying unforgiven and unholy, and that by choice.” Remember, no spiritually unsound man can enter heaven. He must be made whole, or be shut out of glory. We cannot stand in the most holy place until we are made perfect. Then you, oh unhealed soul, remaining as you are, will never stand in God’s presence, and you choose, you deliberately choose, never to be admitted to the courts of paradise.
Furthermore, and oh! how this will strike you in a short time (how
short I do not know, nor do you), there being no entrance into heaven
for you, you having elected not to enter heaven, there will remain
only one other thing, namely, for you to be driven from his presence
into the eternal burnings of his wrath. This will surely be one of
the stings of hell, that you perish by your own accord. How you will
cry, “I chose this, I chose this. Fool that I was, I willed this.”
For what is hell? It is full blown sin, Sin is evil in the
conception, hell is sin in its development. What thoughts will be
yours in hell? “I chose what has involved me in a misery from which
there never can be any escape; in a death out of which there can be
no deliverance. I must die to God, to holiness, to happiness, and
exist for ever in that everlasting death, that eternal punishment,
and all because I wished to have it so, and as the result of my own
free will.” Do look that in the face, I beseech you. It seems to me
to be the most dreadful element about the whole of the lost sinner’s
case. If I could when cast into hell say, “I am here because of God’s
decree, and for no other reason,” I could find something with which
to harden my spirit to endure the misery of my lost condition; but if
I shall be compelled in hell to feel that my ruin is altogether and
only my own doing, and that I perish for my own sin, my personal
rejection of Christ, then hell is hell indeed. These flames are they
of my own kindling? This prison house, is it my own building? That
door so locked as never to open, is it my own barring? Then the last
relic of consolation is taken away from my soul for ever. But, my
dear hearer, I hope you say, “I do desire to be made whole.” Then let
me again remind you, that the place to find the fulfilment of that
desire is at the foot of the cross. Stand there and hope in the great
Redeemer; there is some life in you already, the dying Saviour will
increase it; stand at the foot of the cross where the precious drops
of blood fall, view the flowing of his soul redeeming blood, and
hope, no, believe that he shed that blood for you, and you are saved.
Go your way, you who would be made whole, for Jesus says, “I will, be
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — John 5:1-30]