Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Without Divine Grace Men Do Nothing But Sin

Those, who live in sin, sin all the time. It is their trade, and they work hard at it. They love it, and are greedy of iniquity. They "love death." They "dig up evil." They "fill up their sin always." They "do always resist the Holy Ghost." Never for an hour do they love God supremely. They sin with out cessation.

Two things are required to make an action right. One is that it be lawful in itself. The other is that it be done with a right motive. If the thing done be itself wrong, no motives can make it right. To steal, or curse, or murder, or despise the poor, or hate the just, can never under any circumstances be right. To do evil that good may come is the doctrine of none but devils, and the worst of men. On the other hand the thing done may be right in itself, but the motive, which governs us, may be wrong, and so the act may be sinful because the motive is sinful. Bad motives in good actions are like dead flies in sweet ointments. They corrupt the whole. The heart is everything. Most men of the world in Christian countries do many things, which are very proper, but not from love to God. No man, who has not been born again, ever does anything with holy motives. His life is better than his heart. Indeed his heart is the worst part of him. It is all wrong. It is hard, and proud, and selfish, and unbelieving, and without any love to God. So far from pleasing God, all the unregenerate are continually offending him. Their very best works are but "splendid sins."

There are reasons found in human nature, which render it certain that unrenewed men will do nothing but sin. They are blind and see no beauty in holiness. They have no spiritual discernment. "They have eyes but they see not." "They know not what they do." If they do not see the beauty of holiness, how can they love it? No being can love that, which does not seem to him good or comely.

The man, who is without the grace of God, never fully approves the law of God, as holy, just and good, nor adopts it as the rule of his life. He does some things which it requires, and abstains from some things which it forbids, not because he loves God or his law, but because it promotes his health, or wealth, or honour, or quiet, to do so. God is not in all his thoughts. He would live very much as he does if the law of God were not known to him. Ask him, and he will tell you that he does not aim with a single eye to honour God in everything. He does not frame his doings to that end at all. All the lines of his conduct meet and end in himself. He is without God in the world. He serves the creature more than the Creator. Nor is his heart without objects of love. He loves the world and the things of the world. When he prospers in the things that perish, he counts himself happy. He is greatly pleased with gold and silver, and objects of sense, and works of art. These are his gods, because he sets his heart on them. He thinks of them ten times as much and a thousand times as eagerly as he thinks of God. 
 
What makes his case worse is that he is commonly much at ease. He is well pleased with himself. He is not sighing over his failures, and lamenting his sins. He thinks he is nearly good enough. Rivers of water never run down his eyes for his own sins or the sins of others. He seldom cries, "God, be merciful to me a sinner," and when he does, it is rather a form than a hearty prayer. His real belief is that God could not righteously and for ever condemn him; at least he says, "If I am lost, I know not what will become of many others." Would it not be strange that one, who cares not to serve God, should do it? that he, who tries to please himself and wicked men, should as by accident please God? that he, who seeks the honour that comes from man, should find the honour that comes from God only? Surely there is no such con fusion where God reigns. He does not put darkness for light, bitter for sweet, sin for holiness, and vice for virtue. 
 
Nor should men be offended at this doctrine. It is not new. It is not of human invention. It is not the doctrine held by a few only. It is not a mere theory. It is very practical, very important. No truth concerns any man more than this. It is the very doctrine of the Bible in many places. Paul says: "They that are after the flesh [who are unrenewed by God's Spirit] do mind the things of the flesh... To be carnally-minded is death...The carnal [or unregenerate] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Rom. viii. 5-8. Could words be plainer or stronger? Until God shall be pleased with a heart that is enmity against him, and with a mind that "cannot be subject" to his law, until he shall cease to be a holy God, he cannot be pleased with anything done by a man who has not the Spirit of God, and whose heart has not been mightily changed.

Ploughing is itself a lawful act. If there be no ploughing, there can be no bread. Yet God says: "The ploughing of the wicked is sin." Yea, he puts it down with other sins, that greatly offend him. The whole verse reads thus: "An high look, and a proud heart, and the ploughing of the wicked is sin." Prov. xxi. 4. If God had intended to teach that everything, even the most common and necessary thing done by wicked men, was sinful, could he have chosen more fit words?

But, here is a passage, which shows that all the religious services of sinners are defiled with sin. "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord: but the prayer of the upright is his delight." There are but two classes of men known in the Bible. They are called saints and sinners, the just and the unjust, the righteous and the wicked, men of the way and men of the world. Their end will be different, because their characters are different.
 
From the earliest ages of the Christian church this has been the uniform doctrine, held and insisted on by God's people. Basil in his treatise on baptism says expressly that it is not possible, nor a thing pleasing and acceptable to God, for one that is the servant of sin to perform righteousness, according to the rule of the saints' piety. In proof he urges these words of our Saviour: "Let us first make the tree good, and then the fruit will be good;" and let us "first make clean the inside of the cup and platter," and then the outside will be wholly clean. He also refers to 2 Cor. vii. 1. Jerome says: "Let us pronounce our sentence against those that do not believe in Christ, and yet think themselves valiant, and wise, and temperate, and just, that they may know that none can live without Christ, without whom all virtue is in vice,'' or vicious. Augustine says: "Be it far from us to think that true virtue should be in any one, unless he be a righteous man. And let it be as far from us to think that any one is truly righteous, unless he live by faith." "All the life of unbelievers is sin, and there is nothing good without the chief good: for where the knowledge of the eternal and unchange able truth is wanting, there is but false virtue in the best manners." Again: "The man is first to be changed, that his works may be changed; for if a man remain in that state that he is evil, he cannot have good works." 
 
Gregory says: " If faith be not first begotten in our hearts, all the other things cannot be good, though they may seem good." 
 
The Church of England and the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America do both say of works done before the grace of Christ and the inspiration of his Spirit, because "they are not done as God hath willed and commanded them to be done, we doubt not but they have the nature of sin." 
 
The 5th article of the Church of Ireland contains the same words without alteration. It holds also this language: "We have no power to do good works, grace of God preventing [going before] us, that we may have a good will, and working with us when we have that good will." It also incorporates these words from the Lambeth Articles: "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn, and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith, and calling upon God."
The Reformed Churches generally fully agree with the above testimonies. 
 
The Synod of Dort says: "There is indeed remaining in man, since the fall, some light of nature, by the help of which, he retains certain notions concerning God and natural things; concerning the difference of things honourable and shameful, and manifests some desire after virtue and external discipline: but so far from his being able, by this light of nature, to attain to the saving knowledge of God, or to turn himself to him, he does not use it rightly in natural and civil things: nay, indeed, whatever thing it may at length be, he contaminates it all in various ways, and holds it in unrighteousness, which when he does, he is rendered inexcusable before God.” 
 
The French Confession says: "Although man can somewhat discern between good and evil, yet we affirm, that whatsoever light he hath, it straightway becometh darkness, when the question is of seeking God, so that by his understanding and reason he can never come to God. Also, although he be endued with will, whereby he is moved to this or that, yet in as much as it is altogether captivated under sin, it hath no liberty at all to desire good, but such as it hath received by grace and of the gift of God."

The Augsburg Confession, which is the standard of the Lutheran churches in Germany and America, says: "We condemn the Pelagians and all such as they are, who teach that by the only powers of nature, without the Holy Spirit, we may love God above all, and fulfil the law of God, as touching the substance of our actions. We do freely and necessarily mislike these dreams; for they do obscure the benefits of Christ. For therefore is Christ the Mediator set forth, and mercy promised in the gospel, because that the law cannot be satisfied by man's nature, as Paul witnesseth when he saith, (Rom. viii.) 'The wisdom of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.' For albeit that man's nature by itself can after some sort perform external works (for it can contain the hands from theft and murder) yet can it not make those inward motions, as true fear, true faith, patience, and chastity, unless the Holy Ghost do govern and help our hearts. And yet in this place also do we teach, that it is also the commandment of God, that the carnal motions should be restrained by the industry of reason and by civil discipline, as Paul saith, 'The law is given to the unjust.'” And again: "Albeit that men by their own strength be able to do outward honest deeds in some sort, and must also perform this civil obedience; yet so long as men are void of faith, they are in the power of the devil, who driveth them to shameful sins, occupieth their minds with wicked and blasphemous opinions, for that is the kingdom and tyranny of the devil. Moreover, nature is weak, and cannot without God's help strengthen itself to any spiritual works.'' 
 
The Moravian Confession says: "And since through faith the Holy Spirit is given, thus also the heart is made fit to do good works. through faith the Holy Spirit is given, thus also the heart is made fit to do good works. For before that, as long as it is without the Holy Spirit, it is too weak; and besides it is in the power of the devil, who impels the poor human nature to many sins...Without faith and without Christ, human nature and ability is far too weak to do good works; as to call upon God, to show patience in suffering, to love one's neighbour, diligently to discharge offices entrusted to us, to be obedient, to avoid evil lusts. Such noble and truly good works cannot be done without the help of Christ, as he himself speaks - John xv. 'Without me ye can do nothing'" 
 
The Westminster Confession says: "Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith; nor are done in a right manner, according to the word; nor to a right end, the glory of God; they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, or make a man meet to receive grace from God. And yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing unto God” This article is found without alteration in the Confessions of all the Presbyterian bodies of Scotland, Ireland, and Canada, and of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. It was incorporated entire into the Savoy Confession, into the Saybrook Platform, into the London Baptist Confession, into the Philadelphia Baptist Confession, as well as into the Confession of numerous smaller bodies in this and other countries.

The eighth article of the Methodist Episcopal Church, of the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and of the Protestant Methodist Church in the United States, is in these words: "The condition of man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and works to faith, and calling upon God: wherefore we have no power to do good works, pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have that good will, and working with us, when we have that good will." 
 
The Confession of Sueveland says: "Good works {which are good indeed) do proceed from a lively faith, by the Holy Ghost, and are done of the faithful according to the will or rule of God's word." 
 
The Confession of Basle says: "The Lord himself saith, 'Without me ye can do nothing;' John xv. 5; that is, nothing that may please God and be for your salvation... Faith and love are the fountain and square of all virtues and good works, according to the testimony of the Apostle: 'The end of the command ment is love, out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith not feigned.' 1 Tim. i. 5. And again: 'Without faith it is impossible to please God.' Heb. xi. 6."

The Confession of Belgia says: "We are justified by faith in Christ, yea, even before such time as we could bring forth any good work: for our works before faith can no more be good, than the fruit of a tree can be good, before the tree itself be good.” 
 
The Confession of Saxony says: "External discipline, even where it is most honest, is not a fulfilling of external government, such as it is; like unto the leaf of the fig-tree, wherewith our first parents, after their fall, did cover their nakedness: neither doth it any more take away sin, and the corruption of nature, and death, than those fig-leaves did." 
 
The Confession of Wirtemberg says: "We confess and believe that to do and practise such righteousness as is acceptable to God, these virtues be necessary - faith, hope, and love: and that man cannot of himself conceive these virtues, but doth receive them of the favour and grace of God." 
 
These extracts from the standards of different bodies of Christians might have been much more extended. They are, however, sufficient to show that the doctrine here set forth is not novel; is not the doctrine of a few extreme writers, but is the common doctrine of the purest and most zealous churches. The fair arguments used and the texts quoted in these Confessions do mightily strengthen the arguments and proofs before quoted. It is not too much to say that it has been fairly and scripturally proven, that unregenerate men do sin always, and that none of them do anything but sin against God. 
 
Is not the misery of an unregenerate state indescribable and unfathomable? No wonder that pious Ezra, having some just sense of the evil of sin, and the vileness of men, "did eat no bread, nor drink water be cause of the transgression of them that had been carried away." No wonder that Jeremiah said of the wicked of his day: "If ye will not hear it, my soul shall weep in secret places." Even Daniel "was astonied for one hour and his thoughts troubled him," when he foresaw the ruin which the king of Babylon was about to bring on himself by his royal crimes. All the unregenerate do nothing but sin. If for a while they seem to reform, they soon return to their wickedness, as the dog to his vomit, or the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire. All their goodness is as the morning cloud; as the early dew it passeth away. They sometimes return from outward acts of sin; but they return not unto the Lord. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man and returns again, "the last state of that man is worse than the first” Matt, xii. 45. Neither mercies, nor judgments, nor promises, nor threatenings, nor hopes, nor fears, without the grace and spirit of Christ, will or can ever cure the love, or arrest the practice, of sin.

W.S. Plumer, The Grace of Christ, Chapter 8 (Without Divine Grace Men Do Nothing But Sin)

Friday, January 27, 2017

Perseverance Founded On Divine Immutability

Hence is the stability of grace, and perseverance of the saints; it is founded upon his unchangeableness. Not that they are so, though truly sanctified, if they and their graces were left to their own management; no, it is he who not only gives that rich portion to those he adopts to be his children, but keeps it for them, and them in the possession of it; He maintains the lot of our inheritance, Psal. xvi. 6. And to build that persuasion of perseverance upon his truth and power engaged in it is no presumption, yea, it is high dishonour to him to question it. 
 
But when nature is set to judge of grace, it must speak according to itself; and, therefore, very unsuitably to that which it speaks of. Natural wits apprehend not the spiritual tenor of the Covenant of Grace, but model it to their own principles, and quite disguise it; and they think of nothing but their resolves and moral purposes: or they take up with a confused notion of grace; they imagine it put into their own hands, to keep or lose it, and will not stoop to a continual dependence on the strength of another; rather choosing that game of hazard, though it is certain loss and undoing, to do for themselves.

But the humble believer is otherwise taught; he 'hath not so learned Christ.' He sees himself beset with enemies without, and buckled to a treacherous heart within, that will betray him to them; and he dare no more trust himself, to himself, than to his most professed enemies. Thus it ought to be, and the more the heart is brought to this humble petitioning for that ability, and strengthening, and perfecting, from God, the more shall it find both stability and peace, from the assurance of that stability.

And certainly, the more the Christian is acquainted with himself, the more will he go out of himself for his perfecting and establishing. He finds, that when he thinks to go forward, he is driven backward, and sin gets hold of him, oftentimes, when he thought to have smitten it. He finds that miserable inconstancy of his heart in spiritual things, the vanishing of his purposes and breaking off of his thoughts, that they usually die ere they be brought forth: so that when he hath thought, 'I will pray more reverently, and set myself to behold God when I speak to him, and watch more over my heart, that it fly not out and leave me:' possibly the first time he sets to it, thinking to be master of his intention, he finds himself more scattered, and disordered, and dead, than at any other time. When he hath conceived thoughts of humility and self-abasement, and thinks, 'Now I am down, and laid low within myself, to rise and look big no more;' yet some vain fancy creeps in anon, and encourages him, and raises him up to his old estate; so that in this plight, had he not higher strength to look at, he would sit down and give over all, as utterly hopeless of ever attaining to his journey’s end.

But when he considers whose work that is within him, even these small beginnings of desires, he is encouraged by the greatness of the work, not to despise and despair of the small appearance of it in its beginning; not to despise the day of small things, Zech. iv. 10; and knowing that it is not by any power nor might, but by his Spirit, that it shall be accomplished, he lays held on that word, Job viii. 7, Though thy beginning be small, yet thy latter and shall greatly increase.” 

Robert Leighton, Commentary on 1 Peter 5:10

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Suffering Church

Though God has promised that no weapon formed against Zion shall prosper, yet he has not promised that no weapon shall be formed against Zion. He has promised that the flame shall not kindle upon her, but he has not promised that she shall not walk through the fire. He has promised that the rivers shall not overflow her, but he has not promised that she shall not pass through the waters. He has promised to redeem her from her enemies, but he has not promised that she shall have no enemies.

On the contrary, he has always dealt candidly with her, and told her to expect tears, sighs, waters of a full cup, hatred, slander, contempt, temptation, tribulation, distress, persecution, fa mine, nakedness, peril, the sword. "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember the word that I said unto you. The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you.""We must, through much tribulation, enter into the kingdom of God." "Many are the afflictions of the righteous." Old Giant Pope cannot do as once he did; but he has a good will to be at the saints, if he could. He bites his nails, he gnaws his tongue, and he grins and snarls at pilgrims as they pass right along. It is rather out of fashion, just now, to burn heretics; but there have been martyrs even in this century. The world has not at all improved in its temper towards Christ and holiness, towards God's people or his commandments.

The mode of expressing this hostility varies according to circumstances. When chains, and dungeons, and faggots, are laid aside, slander, railing, and the denial of social rights succeed. Nothing expresses deeper malignity, nothing is harder to bear than those "cruel mockings," of which Paul speaks. "And they cast him out," expresses a world of wrong. The infamous Jeffreys has sent his name down to posterity as the embodiment of cruelty, not only for the innocent victims he doomed to death, but for the brutal revilings he heaped on their heads. He has on earth many petty imitators.

In this age and land of peace it is hard to form a conception of the sufferings of our brethren in days of bloody persecution. We might get some idea of that "utmost thrill of agony, to which the flesh and blood of holy men were wrought;" we can fill our minds with strong images of scourgings, fetters, and racks. But who can tell the fears, the anguish, the torture of the mind, when government becomes a praise to them who do ill, and a terror to those who do well? "Persecution often does in this life what the last day will do completely — separate the wheat from the tares." But even that good is gained at a fearful expense. O that the blood of saints might flow no more!

But at all times the true church of God is composed of a suffering people. They mourn, they weep, they sigh, and cry for the abominations done in the land. They have fightings without, and fears within. Temptations harass, and iniquities confound them. They are troubled on every side; they are perplexed; they are cast down; death works in them; and yet they faint not.

Why do God's people thus suffer? To say that sorrow is the lot of humanity, is to speak like a heathen. Is there no difference between the righteous and the wicked? The Judge of all the earth does discriminate. To say that this suffering is unavoidable, means nothing, unless it is intended that we should wrap ourselves in the mantle of sullenness, or find comfort in denying providence. God could avert any evil. He has twice averted death. Why are the saints sufferers?

One answer is, that the Lord chasteneth every son whom he receiveth. He doth not afflict willingly. As many as he loves, he rebukes and chastens. An enemy, a reprobate, a doomed man may escape correction; but a child is loved too tenderly to be indulged in sin. His soul's good is sought. On this point the Scriptures speak very fully. Heb. 12:5-11.

So that all is sent in mercy. Thus we get our comforts; thus we get our crosses. The Lord thinks upon us, and gives us today a correction; tomorrow a cordial. We see not the mercy at the first; but at last it appears. Jacob thought all against him, till he saw the wagons. Then and thenceforward he read the book of providence with new eyes.

Nor is divine wisdom less apparent. "The Lord tempereth the wind to the shorn lamb." That is not found in the Bible, but here is some thing like it: "He stayeth his rough wind in the day of the east wind." Is. 27:8. Blessed be God; "he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust." Ps. 103:14 Jeremiah had good cause for praying, "O Lord, correct me, but with judgment; not in thine anger, lest thou bring me to nothing." Jer. 10:24. God has, with equal wisdom and mercy, promised, "I will not contend forever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit should fail before me, and the souls which I have made." Is. 57:16. God never goes too far. He never strikes a stroke too much.

God causes his church to suffer because he would be faithful. He has promised to finish the work of faith with power; he has pledged his word that his people's sanctification shall be completed; he has led them to hope that he will present them faultless before the throne of his glory. He will fulfill his word. His faithfulness is unto all generations. The work of grace progresses best under seasonable griefs, and the child of sorrow sings, "I know, O Lord, that thou, in faithfulness, hast afflicted me." Ps. 119:75.

All this is done in power. Everything is controlled, directed, restrained. Every lion is chained. Every wild beast is caged. Every spirit is let loose, or held back by the will of Him who filleth all in all. When Satan would afflict Job, he must first appear before God, and obtain permission. Did not Jesus say to Pilate, "Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above?" John 19:11. When the wicked afflict the righteous, they are God's sword — God's hand. Ps. 17:13, 14. They are his axe, his saw, his rod, his staff. Is. 10:15. Do Hadad the Edomite, and Rezon the son of Eliadah, become adversaries of Solomon? it is because the Lord has "stirred them up." 1 Kings 11:14, 23. Does Shimei the Benjamite, curse King David? it is because "the Lord hath bidden him." 2 Sam. 16:11.

All the sufferings of the Church are productive of good; yea, "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose." Rom. 8:28. And is it not the distinct testimony of every saint who has passed through the furnace, "It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I might learn thy statutes?" Ps. 119:71. Blessed be the Lord, his afflicted people "know that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed." Rom. 5:3-5. "Blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." Jas. 1:12. The fruit gathered at the tree of sorrow, whose bud is so bitter, cannot be surpassed for sweetness.

Much affliction is chiefly for the benefit of others. It both instructs and animates them. "Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience." Jas. 5:10. The patterns set us by others teach us how to suffer and to die. The lessons taught by the martyrs will be profitable to the end of the world.

Besides all this, the Church is but following her Head, when she suffers. His sorrows were far greater than hers. He suffered for sins to expiate guilt. He was the man of sorrows. "If we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him." Therefore, let the modern Church follow the example of the Church under a darker dispensation, and say, "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against him, until he plead my cause, and execute judgment for me: he will bring me forth to the light, and I shall behold his righteousness." Micah 7:8, 9. “God's time to visit his people with his comforts is, when they are most destitute of other comforts, and other comforters." Marvelous are his tender mercies. Blessed be his great and holy name forever and ever.

- W.S. Plumer, The Church and Her Enemies, Chapter 6

Friday, January 20, 2017

The Wicked Are Not To Be Envied

THE WICKED ARE NOT TO BE ENVIED.
Let not thine heart envy sinners. — Prov. 23:17.

Yonder goes a crowd of people. Men and boys with here and there a coarse woman, are eagerly pressing on, In the middle of the crowd goes a cart. In it is a man, with his arms tied behind him. A few months ago he was going at large like other men. But he killed a good man that he might get his money. He was soon suspected. He fled, but was caught and brought back. In a few months he was tried. The evidence against him was full and clear. He was found guilty. He was sentenced to be hanged. He is now about to die a painful and shameful death. In a few minutes the awful scene will be closed on earth, and his soul will return to God, to be judged by him, who makes no mistakes, and always judges righteously. No man envies this poor wretch in his present condition. Even the most wicked say, 'Let me not come to such an end. I would not be in that man's place for all this world.' But all sinners are not in so awful a condition. Indeed, many of them are very prosperous. They have much that pleases them and pleases the carnal heart. They are full of life and mirth. These are they whom fools envy. Men praise them, court them, and natter them. Many wish they could have as large a share of temporal good.

Let us inquire — 
 
I. What is it in sinners that we are apt to envy? This is a grave question. Let us weigh it well. 

1. Many sinners have much money. So little does God think of riches that he often gives much of them to his enemies. True, money is a good thing; if we use it aright, and do not set our hearts on it. But riches are not necessary to any man. Many of the best and greatest men the world ever saw have lived and died poor. Still human nature is so weak and so corrupt that but few men can look at others rolling in wealth without envying them. They seem to have such an easy time. They are not bowed down with poverty. Their eyes stand out with fatness. They have more than heart could wish. They are proud, and their eyes are lofty. Men call them happy and envy them.

2. Sometimes the wicked seem to have a great deal of pleasure. They are not in trouble as other men ; neither are they plagued like other men. They laugh and shout when others sigh and mourn. Their joys seem to be sparkling. They boast a great deal of their pleasures. Take their word for it, and no people are so happy. They have a fine time. They praise each other. They do not willingly indulge any fears about the future. They say "To-morrow shall be as this day, and more abundant." They avoid all thoughts about dying. Nothing but decency leads them to the house of mourning. Their laughter is loud and is mad. They call themselves men of pleasure. One of their number in the last century was called "The Happy Rake." Those who have not health, or money, or time thus to live in ease, are very apt to envy these lovers of pleasure. 

3. Some sinners seem to get many of the honours of this life. Men praise them. Perhaps they have learned the tricks of securing public favour. They know what springs to touch and what wires to pull. A little flattery here and a little bribery there bring them the offices they seek. The higher they rise, the higher they seek to rise. Men call them great or wise. Fools gape at them in wonder. They seek the honour that cometh from man, and they have their reward. To them the praise of man is sweeter than the praise of God. If they can have things their way, they care not for others. Silly people stand off and ad mire and envy. 

4. Others envy the wicked for their apparent freedom from restraint. The law of God does not bind them any further than suits themselves. They follow their desires and their vile affections. In morals they are hardly a law to themselves. They say and do what is right in their own eyes. Speak to them about God, and they say, "Who is the Lord that I should obey him? My tongue is my own, my mind is my own, I will do as I please." To a carnal mind, this looks as if it was a fine way of getting through the world, and the foolish envy these lawless ones. 

5. Sometimes sinners seem to be, and for a long time are, free from afflictions, which so much distress the righteous. A good man often has more trouble with his wicked heart alone, than the sinner has with all his affairs. All the concern which the pious have about the Church never troubles the wicked. Often God seems to give double trials to his people, and few or none to his foes. These things and many more like them often stir up in men a desire to be like the wicked. But after all — 

II. There is no good ground for preferring the state of sinners. There is really no Divine blessing permanently resting on the wicked, as there is on the righteous. "A little that a righteous man hath is better than the riches of many wicked." "Whereas evil shall slay the wicked, and the righteous shall see, and fear, and shall laugh at him : lo, this is the man that made not God his strength, but trusted in the abundance of his riches, and strengthened him self in his wickedness," Psal. xxxvii. 16; lii. 6, 7. "Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great riches and trouble therewith," Prov. xv. 16. O yes, it is God's blessing that maketh rich, or happy, or truly honourable. 

There is also a sad amount of alloy mixed up with all that sinners have. Much as they have, they wish for more. Then there is always some painful draw back. If the king honours Haman, still there is an old Mordecai that will not cringe and truckle to a tyrant. If Ahab has much, still there is a Naboth who has too much conscience to part with his portion in Israel. If Joseph's brethren sell him to Egypt, the famine compels them to go after him for bread. If Herod will live in shameful sin, there is a John the Baptist to tell him of his baseness. Then the passions of sinners are at war with each other and with mankind. The wicked plotteth against the just, and gnasheth upon him with his teeth; the wicked watcheth the righteous and seeketh to slay him, Psal. xxxvii. 12, 32. One vile passion in the heart is enough to make any man unhappy. 

The devices of the wicked will ruin them. They are spreading snares all the time for the feet of others; but they are all the time sinking down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken. Pharaoh was at the head of the greatest empire in the world. He thought he saw how every thing should be done. But the end of him is that he perishes in the Red Sea. 

Nor are the wicked without conscience. The "Happy Rake," seeing a dog pass through his room, wished that he was that dog. To the guilty, the shaking of a leaf may be a terror. "A dreadful sound is in his ears," Job xv. 20. The Emperor Caligula confessed to the Roman Senate that he suffered the pains of death every day. If a man would have health, he must be on good terms with his stomach; if he would have domestic quiet, he must be on good terms with his wife; if he would not lead the life of a wretch, he must be on good terms with his conscience. 

Moreover, all nature is armed against the wicked. The stars fought against Sisera. Against sinners "the stone shall cry out of the wall, and the beam out of the timber shall answer it," Habakkuk ii. 11. The plagues of Egypt are sometimes renewed in our day on many a wicked man, though seldom at once on a whole people. 

Then all those seeming advantages of the wicked cannot last long, "For they shall soon be cut down like the grass, and wither as the green herb. For yet a little while and the wicked shall not be; yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be," Ps. xxxvii. 2, 10, 35, 36. Sometimes it looks as if a man would ruin his neighborhood, his country, or the world. But God says, "Thus far shalt thou go and no farther." 

However long the wicked may live, and however high they may rise, their course must end in everlasting darkness. The case of that poor man on his way to the gallows for murder is sad indeed ; but it is no more sad than that of a poor sinner on his way to perdition. All that believe not in Jesus Christ shall lie down in sorrow. Nor can any sinner tell until he enters eternity whether his doom shall be more or less dreadful than that of the vilest criminal. The greatest sinners in many cases are those who frequent the house of God, but love not the Saviour. 

REMARKS. 

1. Instead, therefore, of envying sinners, let us pity them, pray for them, and labour for their conversion. In this work let us be fearless and faithful. It is a shame and a sin that we should not warn men of their great danger. A little faithfulness might save many a man who is now ready to sink into ruin. There is a great lack of true, heavenly zeal. 

2. Let the righteous show that they are pleased with the choice which they have made. God has given them to drink of the water of life. Let them not try to quench their thirst with the dirty puddles of earth. He has given them bread from heaven. Let them not beg the world for a slice from its loaf. The great practical error of Christians is that their souls do not always follow hard after God. If we would make more of our religion, our religion would do more for us. Psal. Ixxxi. 13 — 16. Heaven is no hive for drones, for laggards. O! let us stir ourselves up to take hold upon God.

Sermon 10, from Short Sermons For The People, London, 1872

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Unconverted Men Hate God

UNCONVERTED MEN HATE GOD.
A Sermon by William S. Plumer

The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. — Rom. viii. 7.

Sin is no trifle. It is not an honest mistake. It is wickedness. It is wholly contrary to all that is lovely in the character of God. If it breaks not forth in crimes to be punished by the judges, yet the carnal mind, the unregenerate heart of man, is enmity against God. "The friendship of the world is enmity with God." All that is of the flesh and of the world is op posed to God. The words of the text are very strong. They do not say that the natural heart of man has some shyness towards God; but that it is a foe to God, it hates God, his will, his law, his nature. Nothing is more contrary to any other thing than is the carnal heart to the Most High. It is not subject to the law of God. It does not consent to the law that it is good; it does not serve the law ; it does not delight in the law; it does not submit to the law. The will of the carnal mind is hostile to the will of God. It is not subject to his law, neither indeed can be. Sin cannot be pleased with holiness. A vile heart perverts or opposes all that is pure. Love obeys God. Hatred denies him, and resists him, and rejects him.

Let us think of these things.

I. Men prove their hatred to God by their dislike of sound knowledge concerning him. At two periods in the history of this world, once in the family of Adam and once in the family of Noah, every man on earth had the true knowledge of the true God. But men did not like to retain God in their knowledge. When they knew God they glorified him not as God. For thousands of years God has raised up great numbers of able and faithful men, who have with zeal told the truth, and made known God's word and will. Yet many, even in Christian lands, have not the saving knowledge of God. This great fact cannot be explained, if men do not hate God. 

II. Men show their hatred to God by the way in which they treat his name. They often take it in vain. They mingle it up with profane oaths and horrid curses, with their ribaldry, their prejudices, and their religious errors. They use it in jests, and in vile songs, and in mockery. The name of no pest of society is so often lightly spoken of, as is the name of God. No scourge of his race, who involved his native land in civil war, or led his people into ruinous foreign war, is ever named with such hatred as the wicked express toward God. In every city and town and land more slanders are spoken against God than against all others. I have often been struck, on entering a strange place, with the fact that the very first word I heard uttered was something expressive of contempt towards God. I have sometimes remained an hour or a day in such a place, and heard not one word uttered against any but the name of God only. 

III. Men prove their hatred to God, because they are unwilling to see his glory advanced. When Joseph's brethren saw that their father tenderly loved him, they hated him and could not speak peaceably to him, Gen. xxxvii. 4. And when his prophetic dreams told of his coming greatness, they hated him yet the more for his dreams and for his words ; and they envied him, Gen. xxxvii. 8, 11. The higher he rose, the higher rose their malice. So sinners are grieved when God is honoured. "When the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that Jesus did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David, they were sore displeased," Matt. xxi. 15. Why was this? Not because he had taught any error, nor slandered any one, nor wronged any one; but because they hated him with a cruel hatred. Had they loved him, they would have been glad to see others honour him. 

IV. Men show their enmity to God by their hatred to his law and his government. They will not have him to reign over them. Every man on earth, if he is without the grace of God, does daily, willingly, and allowedly break the spirit of the moral law and every precept thereof. Where is the unrenewed man that loves the Sabbath, as a day of sacred rest holy unto the Lord? Where is the carnal mind that does not covet whatever it fancies? Not one in a thousand of wicked men do seriously profess any love to the law of God, or declare that they daily aim to meet its demands, or express sorrow when they fail to obey it. Men, not under grace, do cast away from them the cords of divine restraint. 

V. If men did not hate God, they would not hate his people as they do. A child of God knows that he has passed from death unto life, because he loves the brethren. But from the days of Cain to this hour, the people of God have been hated, hunted, hounded, slandered, reviled, misjudged, and murdered, till the earth almost everywhere is ready to disclose their blood. The path of every saint has been soaked with his tears for the wickedness of the wicked. Since Christ went up to heaven, more than fifty millions of human beings have suffered violent deaths for their professed subjection to the Saviour. If men loved God, they would not hate his people. 

VI. Men prove that they hate God by hating his character, and especially the mild and merciful at tributes of his nature. Everywhere the pious exult in God's almightiness, omniscience, and omnipresence. But the wicked have no hallelujahs for such perfections. The cry of the carnal heart is, "Cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us," Isa. .xiii. 1 1 . And when God displays his rich mercy and saving grace in rescuing many sinners and bringing them to hope in his Son, the fleshly mind (unless divinely restrained) rises up in great wrath. How vile must be the heart, that hates a pure revival of gospel holiness. Yet even one sound conversion sometimes stirs up frightful malice. I have known a minister well received by a family when he went to preach a sermon at the death of a godless youth ; but coldly repulsed when he went to tell his conscience-stricken sister what she must do to be saved. VII. The ingratitude of men for God's great and numerous mercies shows their hatred of him. These mercies are both temporal and spiritual. They relate to soul and body, to mind and heart, to health and friends, to life and all things. They cannot be counted up. The best of them cost the life of the Saviour. All of them are the fruits of his bounty. Yet many daily sit down to a table loaded with comforts and never even in words give thanks to God; and many more give thanks in words, but by their wicked lives clearly show that they have no real love to God. VIII. But on this solemn matter God's word is full and clear. Nathan, Asaph, David, and Paul speak of the haters of the Lord, Ps. lxxxi. 15; of the haters of God, Rom. i. 30; of the enemies of the Lord, 2 Sam. xii. 14; and of the enemies of the King, Ps. xlv. 5. There are many other texts that teach the same thing. "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death," Ps. viii. 36. Again, " Whosoever will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God," Jas. iv. 4. Paul states it as beyond dispute that before their conversion Jews and Gentiles were enemies, Rom. v. 10. Our Lord himself charged the unconverted of his day with the same enmity: " They have both seen and hated both me and my Father. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also," John xv. 23, 24. This enmity against God is very stout, untiring, pure, and unmixed. It is mortal. It had rather die than love God. If it could, it would dethrone the Almighty. 

REMARKS. 

1. , We see the nature of sin. It is war with God. It is dreadful wickedness. 

2. It will be just in God to punish those who thus hate him. Not a curse does he denounce against the ungodly beyond what equity demands. 

3. It is evident that men must be born again or perish. They are in their minds and by wicked works enemies to God. They never can see his face in peace unless they are renewed in the temper of their minds, their enmity slain and love planted in their hearts. How could God's foes assure their hearts before him if they could not submit to him on earth? Could they delight in him in heaven? Baptism, seeing sights and visions, hearing sounds and voices, shouting and professing flaming love, will save no soul. No thing short of a real, great, inward, mighty, thorough, spiritual change will meet the case of any man. That change must take place soon. Ere long it will be said: "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still," Rev. xxii. 11. 

4. We are not saved by finite power. Sinners "are like the deaf adder, that stoppeth her ear;  which will nor hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely," Ps. lviii. 4, 5. It requires more than sweet music to raise the dead. An arm of flesh is not strong enough to save a soul. God must do the whole work, or it will not be done. 

5. Truly God is love. No king ever had so bitter enemies. Yet no king ever made to his best friends such gracious offers as God is making to his worst enemies on earth. He actually gives us food, raiment, shelter, and friends as if we were not wholly undeserving. In providing a Saviour, his goodness surpasses all names of love. "For a good man some would even dare to die; but God commendeth his love to us in that while we were yet enemies, Christ died for the ungodly." And how long he continues his offers of pardon and mercy. Verily, he endures with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. O sinner, sinner, turn and live.

Sermon 6 from Short Sermons For The People, London, 1872

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