The following is an interesting public policy article related to the obesity epidemic out of the Spring 2018 Politics and the Life Sciences journal. I agree that this problem does require a policy discussion while balancing individual liberty and autonomy. Where do you think the line should be drawn? Why?
A rare sermon I delivered on Resurrection Sunday, Lord’s Day afternoon, April 1, 2018. This is an overview of Acts chapter 13. May the word of the Lord go out and accomplish its intended purpose and not return to him void.
“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”—Isaiah 43:23.
Who are the recipients of mercy? Look…at the 22nd verse of the chapter from which our text is taken, and you will see, first, that they were prayerless people: “Thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob.” These prayerless ones may have repeated many a form of prayer, but the breathing desire, the living words, have not come from their lips. Prayerless souls are Christless souls; for you can have no real fellowship with Christ, no communion with the Father, unless you approach his mercy-seat, and be often there; and yet if you are condemning yourselves, and lamenting that this has been your condition, you need not despair, for this mercy is for you.
Next, these persons were despisers of religion, for observe the language of the same verse:—“Thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.” As for the Sabbath-day, do not too many of you find it the most tiresome day in the week. You have to find some worldly amusement to make the hours of the Sabbath-day pass away with any comfort at all. But if you are now convinced of this sin, and are repenting of it, and desire to be delivered from its power, then God speaks to you this morning, and says, “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake—return unto me, with unfeigned repentance, and I will have mercy upon you.”
Note, again, the character. They have been thankless persons. “Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings.” If a man has no more religion than that, if he has not a religion that will make him generous, he has no religion at all. and yet the Most High is willing to pardon thy sin in this thing, if thou art but unfeignedly penitent, and dost sue for forgiveness.
Yet, again, these people were a useless people. How many are there, even, perhaps among my hearers this morning, who have never honored God in their lives? What souls have you ever won to the Saviour? How has his name been magnified by you? Have you ever served him? Perhaps you have assisted in destroying the souls of those with whom you have been connected in life. You may look upon some souls who are going even now to damnation through your example. Even if it be so, my Master outhorises me to say again, “Thus saith the Lord, I, even I, am he that blotteth out my transgressions, and will not remember thy sins.”
Again, there are some who may be termed sanctuary sinners…the children of pious parents. O yes, the worst of sinners are sinners in Zion, because they sin against light and knowledge; they force their way to hell, as John Bunyan says, over the Cross of Christ; and the worst way to hell is to go by the cross to it. Do you tremble and shake for fear, and with a penitent heart desire forgiveness? If so, then I say again, in my Master’s name—who spake nothing but love and mercy to penitent sinners, who said, “Neither do I condemn thee”—Jehovah now declares “I, even I am be that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.”
Yet, once more, we have here men who had wearied God. You see the man who has been a professor of religion, and can look back twenty years ago, when he was a member of a Christian church; he was apparently walking in the fear of the Lord, and all men thought he had received the grace of God in truth; but he has turned aside into the paths of sin. Poor backslider, return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon thee; he will blot out all thy sins, and so blot them out that he will not remember them against thee any more for ever.
Some of you may say, “You…exclaim, “How can you talk to us in this way? We are a honest, moral, and upright people.” If so, then I have no gospel to preach to you. You may go elsewhere if you will, for you may get moral sermons in scores of chapels if you want them; but I am come in my Master’s name to preach to sinners, and so I will not say a word to you Pharisees except this—By so much as you think yourself righteous and holy, by so much shall ye be cast out of God’s presence at last.
The second point is, the deed of mercy. It is a deed of forgiveness, and in speaking of it, I shall speak first of its being a divine forgiveness. Divine pardon is the only forgiveness possible; for no one can remit sin but God only; but then it is the only pardon necessary.
It is surprising forgiveness. It is amazing to the poor sinner when first awakened to his sin and danger. It seems to be too good too be true, and he “wonders to feel his own hardness depart.” Unutterable mercy! There is no sinner out of hell so black but that God can wash him white.
Notice once more, that it is a present forgiveness. There are some who believe, or at least seem to imagine, that it is not possible to know whether our sins are forgiven in this life. But this will not satisfy the poor soul who is really seeking pardon, and is anxious to find it; and God has therefore blessedly told us, that he blotteth out our sin now; that he will do it at any moment the sinner believes. Jesus Christ bore our punishment, and God will never require at my hands the fulfilment of that law which Christ has honored in my stead. It is no more possible for a pardoned man to be lost than for Christ to be lost, because Christ is the sinner’s surety. Jehovah will never require my debt to be paid twice.
I cannot help noticing the completeness of this forgiveness. He has a book in which all your debts are written; but with the blood of Christ he crosses out the handwriting of ordinances which is there written against you. The bond is destroyed, and he will not demand payment for it again.
New, very briefly, the third thing—the reason for mercy. Hear what God says, “I am not about to forgive you for your own sake, but for my own sake.” “But, Lord, I shall not be thankful enough.” “I am not about to pardon you because of your gratitude, but for my name’s sake.” “But, Lord, if I am taken into thy church I can do very little for thy cause in future years, for I have spent my best days in the devil’s service, surely the impure dregs of my life cannot be sweet to thee, O God.” “I will not engage to forgive you for your sake, but for my own. I do not want you,” says God, “I can do as well without you as with you; the cattle upon a thousand hills are mine; and if I pleased I could create a whole race of men for my service, who should be as renowned as the greatest monarchs, or the most eloquent preachers, but I can do as well without them, as with them; and I forgive you therefore for my own sake.” Go then to Christ, poor sinner—naked, filthy, poor, wretched, vile, lost, dead, come as thou art, for there is nothing required in thee, except the need of him.
Now to conclude—the promise of mercy. “And will not remember thy sins.” He is Omnipotent…can he cease to remember? There are senses in which the expression is entirely accurate.
First of all, he will not exact punishment for them when we come before his judgment bar at last. Who then can bring to remembrance what God has forgotten?
The second meaning of this is, I will not remember thy sins to suspect thee. He loves them just as much as if they had never gone astray. He will employ them to preach his gospel; he will put them into the Sunday-school, and make them servants of his Son: for he says, “I will not remember thy sins.”
Again: he will not remember in his distribution of the recompense of the reward. He will give heaven to the chief of sinners as well as to the chief of saints…the malefactor who died on the cross is as much in the sight of God as the most moral person that ever lived. “He is able to save unto the uttermost.” “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.”
Oh, poor penitent if you perish, you will be the first penitent who ever did so. God give you his blessing, my dear friends, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
“The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”—1 Cor. 15:56, 57.
First, the sting of death. The apostle pictures death as a terrible dragon or monster, which, coming upon all men, must be fought with by each one for himself…each man must die; we all must cross the black stream; each one of us must go through the iron gate…”but one thing can be done—it has a sting which thou mayest extract; thou canst not crush death under foot, but thou mayest pull out the sting which is deadly; and then thou needst not fear the monster, for monster it shall be no longer, but rather it shall be a swift winged angel to waft thee aloft to heaven.”
First, sin puts a sting into death from the fact that sin brought death into the world. “In Adam all die.” By his sin every one of us become subject to the penalty of death, and thus, being a punishment, death has its sting.
But I must take it in another sense. “The sting of death is sin:”—that is to say, that which shall make death most terrible to man will be sin, if it is not forgiven. Let us consider a man dying, and looking back on his past life: he will find in death a sting, and that sting will be his past sin. It would not sting him that he had to die, but that he had sinned, that he had been a bloody man, that his hands were red with wholesale murder—this would plague him indeed, for “the sting of death is sin.”
How many in this place can spell that word “remorse? You know its derivation: it signifies to bite. Ah! now we dance with our sins—it is a merry life with us—we take their, hands, and sporting in the noontide sun, we dance, we dance, and live in joy. But then those sins shall bite us. To have remorse is to feel the sparks that blaze upwards from the fire of the bottomless Gehenna. The sting of death shall be, unforgiven, unrepented sin.
But if sin in the retrospect be the sting of death, what must sin in the prospect be? My friends, we do not often enough look at what sin is to be. We have seen whereunto it has grown, but whereunto will it grow? for it is not ripe when we die; it has to go on still; it is set going, but it has to unfold itself for ever. And after that the man goes on growing filthier and filthier still; his lust developes itself, his vice increases; all those evil passions blaze with ten-fold more fury, and, amidst the companionship of others like himself, without the restraints of grace, without the preached word, the man becomes worse and worse; and who can tell whereunto his sin may grow? Where death leaves me, judgment finds me. It is for ever for ever, for ever! If a soul could die in a thousand years it would die in time; if a million of years could elapse, and then the soul could be extinguished, there would be such a thing as time…for there is no time to stop it; the fact of its stopping would imply time, but everything shall be eternal for time shall cease to be.
“The strength of sin is the law.” It is true I have sinned, and therefore I have put a sting into death, but I will endeavour to take it away. “Before thou canst destroy sin thou must in some way satisfy the law…until thou hast satisfied the vengeance of the law, until thou hast paid the uttermost farthing of its demands, my sting cannot be taken away, for the very strength of sin is the law.”
The strength of sin is in the law, first, in this respect, that the law being spiritual it is quite impossible for us to live without sin. If the law were merely carnal and referred to the flesh, if it simply related to open and overt actions, I question even then, whether we could live without sin; but when I turn over the ten commandments and read, “Thou shalt not covet,” I know it refers even to the wish of my heart. It is said, “Thou shalt not commit adultery;” but it is said, also, that whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath already committed that sin. So that it is not merely the act, it is the thought; it is not the deed simply, it is the very imagination, that is a sin.
Then, again, the law puts strength into sin in this respect—that it will not abate one tittle of its stern demands. It says to every man who breaks it, “I will not forgive you.” Where in the law do we read of mercy? If you will read the commandments through, there is a curse after them, but there is no provision made for pardon. If ye would be saved by works, men and brethren, ye must be as holy as the angels, ye must be as pure and as immaculate as Jesus; for the law requires perfection, and nothing short of it; and God with unflinching vengeance, will smite every man low who cannot bring him a perfect obedience
Yet again, the law gives strength to sin from the fact that for every transgression it will exact a punishment. The law speaks not of sin and mercy; mercy comes in the gospel. I will not have mercy,” says Justice; “Mercy has its own palace, but I have nought to do with forgiveness here; mercy belongs to Christ.
Now, my friends, I ask you, if ye consider the spirituality of the law, the perfection it requires, and its unflinching severity, are you prepared to take away the sting of death in your own persons? Can you hope to overcome sin yourselves? Can you trust that by some righteous works you may yet cancel your guilt? If you think so, go, foolish one, go!
But now, in the last place, we have before us the victory of faith. First, Christ has taken away the strength of sin in this respect that he has removed the law. We are not under bondage, but under grace. Law is not our directing principle, grace is.
Then Christ has removed the law in this sense, that he has completely satisfied it. “Christ says, “Law, thou hast it; find fault with me; I am the sinner’s substitute; have I not kept thy commandments? Wherein have I violated thy statutes?” “Come here, my beloved.” he says, and then he cries to Justice, “Find a fault in this man. I have put my robe upon him; I have washed him in my blood; I have cleansed him from his sin. I have endured the agonies he ought to have endured. Justice, have I not satisfied thee? Yes,” saith Justice, “I am well satisfied, and even more content, if possible, than it the sinner had brought a spotless righteousness of his own.” “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect!” Not Christ, for he hath died; not God, for he hath justified.” “O grave, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”
As the Lord liveth, sinner, thou standest on a single plank over the mouth of hell, and that plank is rotten! Thou hangest over the pit by a solitary rope, and the strands of that rope are breaking.
Jesus backs up my entreaty, and he cries, “Spare him yet another year, till I dig about him, and dung him, and though he now cumbers the ground, he may yet bring forth fruit, that he may not be hewn down and cast into the fire.” I thank thee, O God, thou wilt not cut him down tonight; but to-morrow may be his last day, Ye may never see the sun rise, though you have seen it set. Take heed. Hear the word of God’s gospel, and depart with God’s blessing. “Whosoever believeth on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved.” “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” “He is able to save to the uttermost all that come unto him.” Whosoever cometh unto him he will in no wise cast out.” Let every one that heareth, say come; whosoever is athirst, let him come, and take of the water of life, freely.”
“Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”—1 Cor. 10:12
I speak not against strong faith or full assurance; God giveth it to us; it is the holiest, happiest thing that a Christian can have, and there is no state so desirable as that of being able to say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” It is not against that I speak, but I warn you against that evil thing, a false confidence and presumption which creepeth over a Christian, like the cold death-sleep on the mountain-top, from which, if he is not awakened, as God will see that he shall be, death will be the inevitable consequence. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”
My first business shall be to find out The Character intended by the presumptuous man, the man who thinks he stands. The fanning must begin with the floor; the winnowing must try the wheat. So we are to winnow the church this morning to discover the presumptuous.
And first, a very common cause, is continued worldly prosperity. If God should always rock us in the cradle of prosperity—if we were always dandled on the knees of fortune—if we had not some stain on the alabaster pillar, if there were not a few clouds in the sky, some specks in our sunshine—if we had not some bitter drops in the wine of this life, we should become intoxicated with pleasure, we should dream “we stand;” and stand we should, but it would be upon a pinnacle; stand we might, but like the man asleep upon the mast, each moment we should be in jeopardy. We bless God, then, for our afflictions; we thank him for our depressions of spirit; we extol his name for the losses of our property; for we feel that had it not so happened to us, had he not chastened us every morning, and vexed us every evening, we might have become too secure.
Again, light thoughts of sin will engender presumption. It is sadly true, that even a Christian will grow by degrees so callous, that the sin which once startled him and made his blood run cold, does not alarm him in the least. The ear in which the cannon has been booming will not notice slight sounds. “We have not fallen,” say we, “we only did such a little thing; we have not gone astray. True, we tripped a little, but we stood upright in the main. We might have uttered one unholy word, but as for the most of our conversation, it was consistent.” Christian, beware! when thou thinkest lightly of sin, then thou hast become presumptuous. Do not little strokes fell lofty oaks? Will not continual droppings wear away stones?
A third reason often is, low thoughts of the value of religion. We none of us value religion enough. Religious furor, as it is called, is laughed at everywhere; but I do not believe there is such a thing as religious furor at all. If a man could be so enthusiastic as to give his body to be burned at the stake, could he pour out his drops of blood and turn each drop into a life, and then let that life be slaughtered in perpetual martyrdom, he would not love his God too much. When we consider we must be either in hell or in heaven throughout a never-ending state of immortality, how sirs, can we love too much? how can we set too high a value on the immortal soul? Can we ask too great a price for heaven? Can we think we do too much to serve that God who gave himself for our sins? If Christians knew the value of their souls, if they estimated religion at its proper rate, they never would presume; but low thoughts of Christ, low thoughts of God, mean thoughts of our souls’ eternal state—these things tend to make us carelessly secure.
But again, this presumption often springs from ignorance of what we are, and where we stand. All our life long the Holy Spirit reveals to us the horrid abomination of our hearts. I know there are some here who do not think anything about it; they think they are good-hearted creatures. Good hearts, have you? Good hearts! Jeremiah had a better heart than you, yet he said, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” There is such corruption in a Christian, that while he is a saint in his life, and justified through Christ, he seems a devil sometimes in imagination, and a demon in the wishes and corruptions of his soul.
But to finish this delineation of a presumptuous man—Pride is the most pregnant cause of presumption.
Sometimes it is pride of talent. How am I wrapped in grandeur!” And thus in his self-complacency he thinks he stands. Ah! those are the men that fall.
Others have the pride of grace. A man says, “I have great faith, I shall not fall; poor little faith may, but I never shall.” There are some…who think their graces can keep them, knowing not that the stream must flow constantly from the fountain head, else the bed of the brook shall soon be dry, and ye shall see the pebbles at the bottom.
Many are worse still; they think they shall not fall because of their privileges. “I take the sacrament, I have been baptized in an orthodox manner, as written in God’s word; I attend such and such a ministry; I am well fed; I am fat and flourishing in the courts of my God. If I were one of those starved creatures who hear a false gospel, possibly I might sin; but oh! our minister is the model of perfection; we are constantly fed and made fat; surely we shall stand.” Pride cometh before a fall; and a haughty spirit is the usher of destruction. Take heed; watch thy footsteps; for where pride creepeth in, it is the worm at the root of the gourd, causing it to wither and die.
The true Christian cannot possibly suffer a final fall, but he is very much disposed to a foul fall. Though the Christian shall not stumble so as to destroy his life, he may break his limb.
The Danger. I must now try and give you the reason why a man who thinks he stands is more exposed to the danger of falling than any other. First, because such a man in the midst of temptation will be sure to be more or less careless. The man who thinks he is strong, is off his guard; he is not ready to parry the stroke of the evil one, and then the poignard entereth his soul.
Again, the man who thinks he stands will not be careful to keep out of the way of temptation, but rather will run into it. Presumptuous men will say they can go into sin, they are so full of moral strength; but when a man tells you he is so good, always read his words backwards, and understand him to mean that he is as bad as he can be.
Another reason is, that these strong men sometimes will not use the means of grace, and therefore they fall. know some professedly religious people who are accepted in some churhes as being true children of God, who yet make it a habit of stopping away from the house of God, because they conceive they are so advanced that they do not want it. These are your presumptuous men. They are not to be found at the Lord’s table, eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ, in the holy emblems of bread and wine. You do not see them in their closets; you do not find them searching the Scriptures with holy curiosity. They think they stand—they shall never be moved; they fancy that means are intended for weaker Christians; and leaving those means, they fall.
Once more, the man who is self-confident runs a fearful hazard, because God’s, Spirit always leaves the proud. The gracious Spirit delights to dwell in the low places. God loves humility. He who walks with fear and trembling, fearing lest he should go astray, that man the Spirit loves; but when once pride creeps in, and the man declares, “Now I am in no danger,” away goes the dove; it flies to heaven and will have nought to do with him.
The third point is The Counsel. I would, if my Lord would allow me, speak home to your souls, and so picture the danger of a presumptuous man, that I would make you all cry out to heaven that sooner might you die than presume.
First, take heed, because so many have fallen. Oh! do you want to be saved by fire, Christians? Would ye not rather enter heaven, singing songs of praises? Would ye not glorify him on earth, and then give your last testimony with, “Victory, victory, victory, unto him that loved us;” then shut your eyes on earth, and open them in heaven? If you would do so, presume not.
Once more, my brother, take heed, because a fall will so much damage the cause of Christ. Nothing has hurt religion one-half, or one thousandth part, so much as the fall of God’s people. Ah! when a true believer sins, how will the world point at him. I heard one man say, a little while ago, that he did not believe there was a true Christian living, because he had found out so many hypocrites. I reminded him that there could be no hypocrites if there were no genuine ones. No one would try to forge bank notes if there were no genuine ones. But let those who are so, take heed; let them always, in their conduct, have the ring of true gold.
Oh ye, my beloved, ye my brethren, think not that ye stand, lest ye should fall. Oh ye fellow heirs of everlasting life and glory, we are marching along through this weary pilgrimage; and I, whom God hath called to preach to you, would turn affectionately to you little ones, and say, take heed lest ye fall. My brother, stumble not. Oh, my brethren; be much more in prayer than ever. Spend more time in pious adoration. Read the Scriptures more earnestly and constantly. Watch your lives more carefully. Live nearer to God. Take the best examples for your pattern. Let your conversation be redolent of heaven. Let your hearts be perfumed with affection for men’s souls. So live that men may take knowledge of you that you have been with Jesus, and have learned of him; and when that happy day shall come when he whom you love shall say, “Come up higher,” let it be your happiness to hear him say, “Come my beloved, thou hast fought a good fight, thou hast finished thy course, and henceforth there is laid up for thee a crown of righteousness that fadeth not away”.
Sirs, there are some of you who know ye have not believed in Christ. If ye were to die where ye now sit ye have no hope that ye would rise amongst the glorified in bliss. How many are there here who if their hearts could speak, must testify that they are without God, without Christ, and strangers from the commonwealth of Israel. I cannot reverse my Master’s order—he says, “believeth,” and then “baptised;” and he tells me that “he that believeth not shall be damned.” Oh, my hearers, your works cannot save you. Though I have spoken to Christians, and exhorted them to live in good works, I talk not so to you. I ask ye not to get the flower before ye have the seed. I will not bid you get the roof of your house before ye lay the foundation. Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and ye shall be saved.
Oh, may God grant you grace to turn to him with full purpose of heart! Come, guilty sinner, come!
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were anlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.”—Acts 4:13.
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they marvelled, and they came to a right conclusion as to the source of their power—they had been dwelling with Jesus. If we could live like Peter and John; if our lives were “living epistles of God, known and read of all men;” if, whenever we were seen, men would take knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus, it would be a happy thing for this world, and a blessed thing for us.
As God may help us then, first of all, we will speak of what a believer should be. A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. We do not wish to speak to them in any legal way. We are not under the law, but under grace. That I will ever maintain—that by grace we are saved, and not by ourselves; but equally must I testify, that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting deeds. [T]he fact that perfection is beyond our reach, should not diminish the ardour of our desire after it.
First then, a Christian should be like Christ in his boldness. Jesus Christ and his disciples were noted for their courage. Jesus Christ never fawned upon the rich; he stooped not to the great and noble; he stood erect, a man before men,—the prophet of the people; speaking out boldly and freely what he thought. He dealt out honest truth; he never knew the fear of man; he trembled at none; he stood out God’s chosen, whom he had anointed above his fellows, careless of man’s esteem. My friends, be like Christ in this. Be like Jesus, very valiant for your God; so that when they shall see your boldness, they may say, “He has been with Jesus.”
We must amalgamate with our boldness the loveliness of Jesus’ disposition. Let courage be the brass; let love be the gold. Behold in Christ, love consolidated! he was one mighty pillar of benevolence. As God is love, so Christ is love. Oh, ye Christians, be ye loving also. But how many have we in our churches of crab tree Christians, who have mixed such a vast amount of vinegar, and such a tremendous quantity of gall in their constitutions, that they can scarcely speak one good word to you. [W]e shall be happy enough to meet them in heaven, we are heartily glad to get rid of them from the earth. Be ye not thus, my brethren. Imitate Christ in your loving spirits; speak kindly, act kindly, and do kindly, that men may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”
Another great feature in the life of Christ, was his deep and sincere humility. I bid thee look at thy Master talking to the children, bending from the majesty of his divinity to speak to mankind on earth, tabernacling with the peasants of Galilee, and then—ay, depth of condescension unparalleled—washing his disciples’ feet, and wiping them with the towel after supper. And ye, some of you who count yourselves Christians, cannot speak to a person who is not dressed in the same kind of clothing as yourselves, who has not exactly as much money per year as you have. We ought to forget caste, degree, and rank, when we come into Christ’s church. [W]ill ye walk with lofty heads and stiff necks, looking with insufferable contempt upon your meaner fellow-worms?
[I]mitate him in his holiness. Was he zealous for his Master? So be you. Was he self-denying, never looking to his own interest? So be you. Was he devout? So be you fervent in your prayers. Had he deference to his Father’s will? So submit yourselves to him. Was he patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as he did.
Now, when should Christians be this? for there is an idea in the world that persons ought to be very religious on a Sunday, but that it does not matter what they are on a Monday. When should a Christian, then, be like Jesus Christ? Is there a time when he may strip off his regimentals—when the warrior may unbuckle his armour, and become like other men? Oh! no; at all times, and in every place let the Christian be what he professes to be.
Imitate him in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master, and not ourselves—so that we can say,” It is no longer I that live, but Christ that liveth in me.”
Be like Christ in the church…there all men are equal—alike brethren, alike to be received as such.
But most of all take care to have religion in your houses. A religious house is the best proof of true piety. If your household is not the better for your Christianity—if men cannot say, “This is a better house than others,” then be not deceived—ye have nothing of the grace of God. Take care of your character there; for what we are there, we really are.
[I]mitate Jesus in secret. When no eye seeth you except the eye of God, when darkness covers you, when you are shut up from the observation of mortals, even then be ye like Jesus Christ.
But now, thirdly, why should Christians imitate Christ? Christians should be like Christ, first, for their own sakes. Oh! my brethren, there is nothing that can so advantage you, nothing can so prosper you, so assist you, so make you walk towards heaven rapidly, so keep your head upwards towards the sky, and your eyes radiant with glory, like the imitation of Jesus Christ.
Next, for religion’s sake, strive to imitate Jesus. None have hurt thee, O Christianity, so much as those who profess to be thy followers. Such men, sirs, injure the gospel more than others: more than the laughing infidel; more than the sneering critic, doth the man hurt our cause, who professes to love it, but in his actions doth belie his love.
Then, to put it into the strongest form I can, let me say, for Christ’s sake, endeavour to be like him. How would Jesus standing here, show you his hands this morning! “My friends,” he would say, “behold me! these hands were pierced for you; and look ye here at this my side. It was opened as the fountain of your salvation. See my feet; there entered the cruel nails. Each of these bones were dislocated for your sake. These eyes gushed with torrents of tears. This head was crowned with thorns. These cheeks were smitten; this hair was plucked; my body become the centre and focus of agony. I hung quivering in the burning sun; and all for you, my people. And will ye not love me now? I bid you be like me. Is there any fault in me? Oh! no. Ye believe that I am fairer than ten thousand fairs, and lovelier than ten thousand loves. Have I injured you? Have I not rather done all for your salvation? And do I not sit at my father’s throne, and e’en now intercede on your behalf? If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Be like Christ, since gratitude demands obedience; so shall the world know that ye have been with Jesus.
“How can I imitate him?” In the first place, then, my beloved friends, in answer to your inquiry, let me say, you must know Christ as your Redeemer before you can follow him as your Exemplar. [E]xcellent as his example [is], it would be impossible to imitate it, had he not also been our sacrifice. [D]o not seek to copy him until you are bathed in the fountain filled with blood, draw from his veins. It is not possible for you to do so; your passion will be too strong and corrupt, and you will be building without a foundation, a structure which will be about as stable as a dream. You cannot mould your life to his pattern, until you have had his Spirit, till you have been clothed in his righteousness.
Next then, let me entreat you to study Christ’s character. Christian, wouldst thou know thy Master? Look at him. There is a wondrous power about the character of Christ, for the more you regard it the more you will be conformed to it. Then, in the next place, correct your poor copy every day. Do this, day after day continually, noting you faults one by one, so that you may better avoid them.
Lastly, as the best advice I can give, seek more of the Spirit of God, for this is the way to become Christ-like. Vain are all your attempts to be like him till you have sought his Spirit. So take your heart, not cold as it is, not stony, as it is by nature, but put it into the furnace; there let it be molten, and after that it can be turned like wax to the seal, and fashioned into the image of Jesus Christ.
For at heaven’s gate there sits an angel, who admits no one who has not the same features as our adorable Lord. There comes a man poor he may have been; illiterate he may have been; but the angel, as he looks at him, smiles and says, “It is Christ again; a second edition of Jesus Christ is there. Come in, come in.
Go away with this one thought, then, my brethren, that you can test, yourselves by Christ. If you are like Christ you are of Christ and shall be with Christ. To him be all honor given! Amen.
“The carnal mind is enmity against God.”—Romans 8:7.
The fall of Adam was our fall; we fell in and with him; we were equal sufferers; it is the ruin of our own house that we lament, it is the destruction of our own city that we bemoan, when we stand and see written in lines too plain for us to mistake their meaning, “The carnal mind”—that very self-same mind which was once holiness, and has now become carnal—“is enmity against God.”
We all know that the word “carnal” here signifies fleshly…that is to say, the natural mind, that soul which we inherit from our fathers, that which was born within us when our bodies were fashioned by God.
[O]bserve how strongly the Apostle expresses it. “The carnal mind,” he says, “is enmity against God.” He uses a noun, and not an adjective. It is not black, but blackness; it is not at enmity, but enmity itself; it is not corrupt, but corruption, it is not rebellious, it is rebellion; it is not wicked, it is wickedness itself.
Nor need we say a word to explain that it is “enmity against God.” It does not charge manhood with an aversion merely to the dominion, laws, or doctrines of Jehovah; but it strikes a deeper and surer blow; it penetrates into his heart.
First, we are called upon to speak of the truthfulness of this great statement “the carnal mind is enmity against God.” It may be I might move your souls to detestation, if I spake of the cruelty of this race to itself…if I should recite the black list of vices in which whole nations have indulged.
And did not that suffice, I would point you to the delusions of the heathen; I would tell you of their priestcraft, by which their souls have been enthralled in superstition; I would drag their gods before you; I would let you witness the horrid obscenities, the diabolical rites which are to these besotted men most sacred things. If this be his ardent love of the Godhead, what must his hatred thereof be?
A further argument I might find in the fact, that the best of men have been always the readiest to confess their depravity. He whose garments are the whitest, will best perceive the spots upon them…one of them exclaimed, “O wretched man that I am; who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”
And more, I will summon one other witness to the truthfulness of this fact, who shall decide the question it shall be your conscience. Conscience, truly answer! be not drugged with the laudanum of self-security! speak the truth! didst thou never hear the heart say, “I wish there were no God?” Has not thine heart ever desired, since there is a God, that he were a little less holy, a little less pure, so that those things which are now great crimes might be regarded as venial offences, as peccadillos? Well, that wish to change God, proves that thou art not in love with the God that now is…for thou hast wished to change his nature, and in that hast thou proved that thou art at enmity with him.
Now, secondly, we are called upon to notice the universality of this evil. Every carnal mind in the world is at enmity against God. This does not exclude even infants at the mother’s breast. Some say that children learn sin by imitation. But no: take a child away, place it under the most pious influences, let the very air it breathes be purified by piety; let it constantly drink in draughts of holiness; let it hear nothing but the voice of prayer and praise; let its ear be always kept in tune by notes of sacred song; and that child, notwithstanding, may still become one of the grossest of transgressors; and though placed apparently on the very road to heaven, it shall, if not directed by divine grace, march downwards to the pit. So it is not by imitation, but it is by nature, that the child is evil. And if this applies to children, equally does it include every class of men…if we had not been regenerated and converted, if we have not experienced a change of heart, our carnal mind is still at enmity against God.
Again, notice the universality of this at all times. “Oh,” say some, “It may be true that we are at times opposed to God, but surely we are not always so.” The wolf may sleep, but it is a wolf still. The snake with its azure hues, may slumber amid the flowers, and the child may stroke its slimy back, but it is a serpent still; it does not change its nature, though it is dormant. At all times, at all hours, at every moment, (I speak this as God speaketh it,) if ye are carnal, ye are each one of you enmity against God.
Another thought concerning the universality of this statement. The whole of the mind is enmity against God. [T]hat is, the entire man, every part of him—every power, every passion. Look at our memory; is it not true that the memory is fallen So are the affections. We love everything earthly better than we ought; we soon fix our heart upon a creature, but very seldom upon the Creator. Look at the imagination too. Oh! how can the imagination revel, when the body is in an ill condition? So with the judgment—I might prove how ill it decides. “Traitor against heaven! Traitor against God!” The whole “carnal mind is enmity against God.”
I have said that I would endeavour, in the third place, to show the great enormity of this guilt. I do fear, my brethren, that very often when we consider our state, we think not so much of the guilt as of the misery. I fear many of us here must acknowledge that we do not charge the sin of it to our own consciences. Yes, say we, we have many corruptions. Oh! yes. But we sit down very contented. My brethren, we ought not to do so. What a sin it is!
What is God to us? He is the creator of the heavens and the earth. He stands to us in the relationship of a Maker and Creator; and from that fact he claims to be our King…he is the ruler of providence; for it is he who keeps us from day to day. [I]s it not high treason against the emperor of heaven—is it not an awful sin, the depth of which we cannot fathom with the line of all our judgment—that we, his creatures, dependent upon him, should be at enmity with God?
But the crime may be seen to be worse when we think of what God is. God is the God of love; he is kind to his creatures; he regards you with his love of benevolence; for this very day his sun hath shone upon you, this day you have had food and raiment, and you have come up here in health and strength. Do you hate God because he loves you? He might have sent you to hell; but you are here. Now, do you hate God for sparing you? My fellow creature, dost thou not know that God sent his Son from his bosom, hung him on the tree, and there suffered him to die for sinners, the just for the unjust? and dost thou hate God for that? Art thou so estranged that thou givest enmity for love?
Did an earthly benefactor feed you, would you hate him? Did he clothe you, would you abuse him to his face? Did he give you talents, would you turn those powers against him? Oh, speak! Would you forge the iron and strike the dagger into the heart of your best friend? Do you hate your mother who nursed you on her knee? Do you curse your father who so wisely watched over you?
Where are your hearts, that ye can still despise God, and be at enmity with him? Oh! diabolical crime! Oh! satanic enormity! Oh! iniquity for which words fail in description! to hate the all-lovely—to despise the essentially good—to abhor the constantly merciful—to spurn the ever-beneficent—to scorn the kind, the gracious one; above all, to hate the God who sent his Son to die for man!
But there are one or two doctrines which we will try to deduce from this. Is the carnal mind at “enmity against God?” Then salvation cannot be by merit; it must be by grace. If we are at enmity with God, what merit can we have? How can we deserve anything from the being we hate? Even if we were pure as Adam, we could not have any merit; for I do not think Adam had any desert before his Creator. When he had kept all his Master’s law, he was but an unprofitable servant; he had done no more than he ought to have done; he had no surplus—no balance. But since we have become enemies, how much less can we hope to be saved by works! Salvation for enemies must be by an ambassador—by an atonement—yea, by Christ.
Another doctrine we gather from this is, the necessity of an entire change of our nature. Let me suppose an impossible case for a moment. Let me imagine a man entering heaven without a change of heart. He comes within the gates. He hears a sonnet. He starts! It is to the praise of his enemy. He sees a throne, and on it sits one who is glorious; but it is his enemy. He walks streets of gold, but those streets belong to his enemy. He sees hosts of angels; but those hosts are the servants of his enemy. He is in an enemy’s house; for he is at enmtity with God. He could not join the song, for he would not know the tune. Christ should say, with a voice louder than ten thousand thunders, “What dost thou here? Enemies at a marriage banquet? Enemies in the children’s house? Enemies in heaven? Get thee gone! depart ye cursed, into everlasting fire in hell!’ ” Oh! sirs, if the unregenerate man could enter heaven, I mention once more the oft-repeated saying of whitfield, he would tie so unhappy in heaven, that he would ask God to let him run down into hell for shelter.
[T]his change must be worked by a power beyond your own. An enemy may possibly make himself a friend; but enmity cannot. I tell you, sirs, if you change yourselves, and make yourselves better, and better, and better, a thousand times, you will never be good enough for heaven, till God’s Spirit has laid his hand upon you; till he has renewed the heart, till he has purified the soul, till he has changed the entire spirit and new-made the man, there can be no entering heaven.
Oh! may God grant that you may turn unto Jesus with full purpose of heart! He is the ambassador; he it is who can make peace through his blood; and though you came in here an enemy, it is possible you may go out through that door a friend yet, if you can but look to Jesus Christ.
O come thou condemned one, self-condemned, and turn thine eye this way, for one look will save!