Are you a Christian?
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17. You say, again, you can't change your heart without more conviction.Do 1 you mean by this that you have not knowledge enough of your duty and your sin? You cannot say this. You do know your sin and your duty. You know you ought to consecrate yourself to God. What, then, do you mean? Can't you do that which you know you ought to do? Ah, there is the old lie -- that shameless refuge of lies -- that same foul dogma of inability. What is implied in this new form of it? This -- that God is not willing to convict you enough to make it possible for you to repent. There is a work and a responsibility for God, and He will not do His work -- will not bear His responsibility. Hence, you, alas, have no alternative but to go down to hell. And because God will not do His part towards your salvation! Do you really believe that, sinner.
18. Again, you say in excuse, that you must first have more of the Spirit. And yet you resist the Spirit every day. God offers you His Spirit, nay, more, God bestows His Spirit but you resist it. What, then, do you mean when you pretend to want more of the Spirit's influence?
The truth is, you do not want it -- you only want to make it appear that God does not do His part to help you to repent, and that as you can't repent without His help, therefore the blame of your impenitence rests on God. It is only another refuge of lies -- another form of the old slander upon God -- He has made me unable and won't help me out of my inability.
19. The sinner also excuses himself by saying -- God must change my heart. But in the sense in which God requires you to do it, He cannot do it Himself God is said to change the heart only in the sense of persuading you to do it. As in a man's change of politics, one might say, Such a man changed my heart -- he brought me over, which, however, by no means implies that you did not change your own mind. The plain meaning is that he persuaded, and you yielded.
But this plea made by the sinner as his excuse implies that there is something more for God to do before the sinner can become religious. I have heard many professors of religion take this very ground. Yes, thousands of Christian ministers, too, have said to the sinner, Wait for God He will change your heart in His own good time; you can't do it yourself, and all that you can do is to put yourself in the way for the Lord to change your heart. When this time comes, He will give you a new heart, while you are asleep, perhaps, in a state of unconsciousness. God acts in this matter as a sovereign, and does His own work in His own way.
2O. The sinner pleads, again I can't live a Christian life if I were to become a Christian. It is unreasonable for me to expect to succeed where I see so many fail. I recollect the case of a man who said, It is of no use for me to repent and be a Christian, for it is altogether irrational for me to expect to do better than others have done before me. So sinners who make this excuse come forward very modestly and tell God, I am very humble; Thou seest, Lord, that I have a very low opinion of myself; I am so zealous of Thine honor, and so afraid that I shall bring disgrace upon Thy cause; it does not seem at all best for me to think of becoming a Christian, I have such a horror of dishououring Thy name.
Yes; and what then? Therefore, I will sin on and trample the blessed Gospel under my feet. I will persecute Thee, O my God, and make war on Thy cause, for it is better by far not to profess religion than to profess and then disgrace my profession. What logic! Fair specimen of the absurdity of the sinner's excuses.
This excuse assumes that there is not grace enough provided and offered to sustain the soul in a Christian life. The doctrine is, that it is irrational to expect that we can, by any grace received in this life, perfectly obey the law of God. There is not. grace and help enough afforded by God! And this is taught as BIBLE THEOLOGY! Away with such teaching to the nether pit whence it came!
What! is God so weak that He can't hold up the soul that casts itself on Him? Or is He so parsimonious in bestowing His gracious aid that it must be expected always to fall short of meeting the wants of His dependent and depending child? So you seem to suppose. So hard to persuade the Lord to give you a particle of grace Can't get grace enough to live a Christian life with honor What is this but charging God of withholding sufficient grace.
But what say the word and the oath of Jehovah? We read that God, willing more abundantly to show unto the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath; that by two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong comfort who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us. You say, however, If I should flee and lay hold of this hope I should fail for want of grace. I could have no `comfort' in reposing upon the word of Him who cannot lie. The oath of the immutable God can never suffice for me.
So you belie the word of God, and make up a miserably slim and guilty apology for your impenitence.
21. Another excuse claims that this is a very dark, mysterious subject. This matter of faith and regeneration -- I can't understand it.
Sinner, did you ever meet the Lord with this objection, and say, Lord, Thou hast required me to do things which I can't understand? You know that you can understand well enough that you are a sinner -- that Christ died for you -- that you must believe on Him and break off your sins by repentance. All this is so plain that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. Your plea, therefore, is as false as it is foul. It is nothing better than a base libel on God!
22. But you say, I can't believe. You mean (do you?) that you can't believe a God of infinite veracity as you can believe a fellow man? Would you imply that God asks you to believe things that are really incredible -- things so revolting to reason that you cannot admit them on any testimony that even God himself can adduce?
But you urge again that you can't realize these things. You know these things to be true, but you can't realize -- you can't realize that the Bible is true -- that God does offer to forgive -- that salvation is actually provided and placed within your reach. What help can there be for a case like yours? What can make these truths more certain? But, on your own showing, you do not want more evidence. Why not, then, act upon the known truth? What more can you ask?
Do you ever carry your case before God and say, O Lord, Thou sayest that Christ died for me, but I can't realize that it is so; and, therefore, Lord, I can't possibly embrace Him as my Savior? Would this be a rational excuse?
But you also plead that you can't repent. You can't be sorry you have abused God. You can't make up your mind now to break off from all sin. If this be really so, then you cannot make up your mind to obey God, and you may as well make up your mind to go to hell!There is no alternative!
But at any rate, you can't become a Christian now. You mean to be converted some time, but you can't make up your mind to it Now. Well, God requires it now, and of course you must yield or abide the consequences.
But do you say, You can't now? Then God is very much to blame for asking it. If, however, the truth be that you can, then the lie is on your side, and it is a most infamous and abusive lie against your Maker.
III. All excuses for sin add insult to injury.
1. A plea that reflects injuriously upon the court or the lawgiver is an aggravation of the original crime. It is always so regarded in all tribunals. It must be pre-eminently so between the sinner and his infinite Lawgiver and Judge.
2. The same is true of any plea made in self-justification. If it be false, it is considered an aggravation of the crime charged. This is a case which sometimes happens, and whenever it does, it is deemed to add fresh insult and wrong. For a criminal to come and spread out his lie upon the records of the court -- to declare what he knows to be false; nothing can prejudice his case so fearfully.
On the other hand, when a man before the court appears to be honest, and confesses his guilt, the judge, if he has any discretion in the case, puts down his sentence to the lowest point possible. But if the criminal resorts to dodging -- if he equivocates and lies, then you will see the strong arm of the law come down upon him. The judge comes forth in all the thunders of judicial majesty and terror, and feels that he may not spare his victim. Why? The man has lied before the very court of justice. The man sets himself against all law, and he must be put down, or law itself is down.
3. It is truly abominable for the sinner to abuse God, and then excuse himself for it. Ah, this is only the old way of the guilty. Adam and Eve in the garden fled and hid themselves when they heard the voice of the Lord approaching. And what had they done? The Lord calls them out and begins to search them: Adam, what hast thou done? Has thou eaten of the forbidden tree in the center of the garden? Adam quailed, but fled to an excuse: The woman whom Thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree and I did eat. God, he says, gave him his tempter. God, according to his excuse, had been chiefly to blame in the transaction.
Next He turns to the woman: What is that thou hast done? She, too, has an excuse: The serpent beguiled me and I did eat. Ah, this perpetual shuffling the blame back upon God! It has been kept up through the long line of Adam's imitators down to this day. For six thousand years God has been hearing it, and still the world is spared, and the vengeance of God has not yet burst forth to smite all His guilty calumniators to hell! O! what patience in God! And who have ever abused His patience and insulted Him by their excuses more than sinners in this house?
1. No sinner under the light of the Gospel lives a single hour in sin without some excuse, either tacit or avowed, by which he justifies himself. It seems to be a law of man's intelligent nature that when accused of wrong, either by his conscience or by any other agent, he must either confess or justify. The latter is the course taken by all unrepentant sinners. Hence, the reason why they have so much occasion for excuses, and why they find it convenient to have so great a variety. It is remarkable with what facility they fly from one to another, as if these refuges of lies might make up in number what they lack in strength. Conscious that not one of all the multitude is valid in point of truth and right, they yet, when pressed on one, fly to another, and when driven from all in succession they are ready to come back and fight the same ground over again. It is so hard to abandon all excuses and admit the humbling truth that they themselves are all wrong and God all right.
Hence, it becomes the great business of a Gospel minister to search out and expose the sinner's excuses; to go all round and round, and, if possible, demolish the sinner's refuges of lies, and lay his heart open to the shafts of truth.
2. Excuses render repentance impossible. For excuses are justifications; and who does not know that justification is the very opposite of confession and repentance? To seek after and embrace excuses, therefore, is to place one's self at the farthest possible remove from repentance.
Of course the self-accusing sinner makes it impossible for God to forgive him. He places the Deity in such a position toward himself, and, I might say, places himself in such an attitude toward the government of God, that his forgiveness would be ruin to the very throne of God. What would heaven say, and hell too, and earth besides, if God were to forgive a sinner while he, by his excuses, is justifying himself and condemning his Maker?
3. Sinners should lay all their excuses at once before God. Surely this is most reasonable. Why not? If a man owed me, and supposed he had a reasonable excuse for not paying the debt, he should come to me and let me understand the whole case. Perhaps he will satisfy me that his views are right.
Now, sinner, have you ever done so in regard to God? Have you ever brought up one excuse before the Lord, saying, Thou requirest me to be holy, but I can't be; Lord, I have a good excuse for not obeying Thee? No, sinner; you are not in the habit of doing this -- probably you have not done it the first time yet in all your life. In fact, you have no particular encouragement to carry your excuses before God, for you have not one yet that you yourself believe to be good for anything except to answer the purpose of a refuge of lies. Your excuses won't stand the ordeal of your own reason and conscience. How then can you hope they will stand before the searching eye of Jehovah? The fact that you never come with your excuses to God shows that you have no confidence in them.
4. What infinite madness to rest on excuses which you dare not bring before God now!How can you stand before God in the judgment, if your excuses are so mean that you cannot seriously think of bringing one of them before God in this world? O, sinner, that coming day will be far more searching and awful than anything you have seen yet. See that dense mass of sinners drawn up before the great white throne -- far as the eye can sweep they come surging up -- a countless throng; and now they stand, and the awful trump of God summons them forward to bring forth their excuses for sin. Ho, sinners -- any one of you, all -- what have you to say why sentence should not be passed on you? Where are all those excuses you were once so free and bold to make? Where are they all? Why don't you make them now? Hark! God waits; He listens; there is silence in heaven -- all through the congregated throng -- for half an hour -- an awful silence that may be felt; but not a word -- not a moving lip among the gathered myriads of sinners there; and now the great and dreadful Judge arises and lets loose His thunders. O, see the waves of dire damnation roll over the ocean -- masses of self-condemned sinners! Did you ever see the judge rise from his bench in court to pass sentence of death on a criminal? There, see, the poor man reels -- he falls prostrate -- there is no longer any strength in him, for death is on him and his last hope has perished!
O, sinner, when that sentence from the dread throne shall fall on thee! Your excuses are as millstones around your neck as you plunge along down the sides of the pit to the nethermost hell!
5. Sinners don't need their excuses. God does not ask for even one. He does not require you to justify yourself -- not at all. If you needed them for your salvation I could sympathize with you, and certainly would help you all I could. But you don't need them. Your salvation does not turn on your successful self-vindication. You need not rack your brain for excuses. Better say, I don't want them -- don't deserve them -- have not one that is worth a straw.
Better say, I am wicked. God knows that's the truth, and it were vain for me to attempt to conceal it. I AM WICKED, and if I ever live, it must be on simple mercy!
I can recollect very well the year I lived on excuses, and how long it was before I gave them up. I had never heard a minister preach on the subject. I found, however, by my experience, that my excuses and lies were the obstacles in the way of my conversion. As soon as I let these go utterly, I found the gate of mercy wide open. And so, sinner, would you.
6. Sinners ought to be ashamed of their excuses, and repentof them. Perhaps you have not always seen this as plainly as you may now. With the light now before you it becomes you to beware. See to it that you never make another excuse, unless you intend to abuse God in the most horrible manner. Nothing can be a more grievous abomination in the sight of God than excuses made by a sinner who knows they are utterly false and blasphemous. O, you ought to repent of the insult you have already offered to God -- and Now, too, lest you find yourself thrust away from the gate of mercy.
7. You admit your obligation, and of course are estoppedfrom making excuses. For if you have any good excuse, you are not under obligation. If any one of you has a good excuse for disobeying God, you are no longer under obligation to obey. But since you are compelled to admit obligation, you are also compelled to relinquish excuses.
8. Inasmuch as you do and must admit your obligation, then if you still plead excuses you insult God to His face. You insult Him by charging Him with infinite tyranny.
Now, what use do you calculate to make of this sermon? Are you ready to say, I will henceforth desist from all my excuses, now and for ever; and God shall have my whole heart? What do you say? Will you set about to hunt up some new excuse? Do you at least say, Let me go home first -- don't press me to yield to God here on the spot -- let me go home and then I will? Do you say this? And are you aware how tender is this moment -- how critical this passing hour? Remember it is not I who press this claim upon you -- but it is God. God Himself commands you to repent today - - this hour. You know your duty -- you know what religion is -- what it is to give God your heart. And now I come to the final question: Will you do it? Will you abandon all your excuses, and fall, a self-condemned sinner, before a God of love, and yield to him yourself -- your heart, and your whole being, henceforth and for ever? WILL YOU COME?