ALTHOUGH it is by no means a difficult thing in itself to believe him who cannot lie, and to trust in One whom we know to be able to save, yet something may intervene which may render even this a hard thing to my reader. That hindrance may be a secret, and yet it may be none the less real. A door may be closed, not by a great stone which all can see, but by an invisible bolt which shoots into a holdfast quite out of sight. A man may have good eyes, and yet may not be able to see an object, because another substance comes in the way. You could not even see the sun if a handkerchief, or a mere piece of rag, were tied over your face. Oh, the bandages which men persist in binding over their own eyes!
A sweet sin, harbored in the heart, will prevent a soul from laying hold upon Christ by faith. The Lord Jesus has come to save us from sinning; and if we are resolved to go on sinning, Christ and our souls will never agree. If a man takes poison, and a doctor is called in to save his life, he may have a sure antidote ready; but if the patient persists in keeping the poison-bottle at his lips, and. will continue to swallow the deadly drops, how can the doctor save him? Salvation consists largely in parting the sinner from his sin, and the very nature of salvation would have to be changed before we could speak of a man’s being saved when he is loving sin, and willfully living in it. A man cannot be made white, and yet continue black; he cannot be healed, and yet remain sick; neither can anyone be saved, and be still a lover of evil.
A drunkard will be saved by believing in Christ — that is to say, he will be saved from being a drunkard; but if he determines still to make himself intoxicated, he is not saved from it, and he has not truly believed in Jesus.
A liar can by faith be saved from falsehood, but then he leaves off lying, and is careful to speak the truth. Anyone can see with half an eye that he cannot be saved from being a liar, and yet go on in his old style of deceit and untruthfulness. A person who is at enmity with another will be saved from that feeling of enmity by believing in the Lord Jesus; but if he vows that he will still cherish the feeling of hate, it is clear that he is not saved from it, and equally clear that he has not believed in the Lord Jesus unto salvation. The great matter is to be delivered from the love of sin: this is the sure effect of trust in the Savior; but if this effect is so far from being desired that it is even refused, all talk of trusting in the Savior for salvation is an idle tale. A man goes to the shipping-office, and asks if he can be taken to America. He is assured that a ship is just ready, and that he has only to go on board, and he will soon reach New York. “But,” says he, “I want to stop at home in England, and mind my shop all the time I am crossing the Atlantic.” The agent thinks he is talking to a madman, and tells him to go about his business, and not waste his time by playing the fool. To pretend to trust Christ to save you from sin while you are still determined to continue in it, is making a mock of Christ. I pray my reader not to be guilty of such profanity. Let him not dream that the holy Jesus will be the patron of iniquity.
Do you see the tree in my picture? The ivy has grown all over it, and is strangling it, sucking out its life, and killing it. Can that tree be saved? The gardener thinks it can be. He is willing to do his best. But before he begins to use his ax and his knife, he is told that he must not cut away the ivy. “Ah! then,” he says, “it is impossible. It is the ivy which is killing the tree, and if you want the tree saved, you cannot save the ivy. If you trust me to preserve the tree, you must let me get the deadly climber away from it.” Is not that common sense? Certainly it is. You do not trust the tree to the gardener unless you trust him to cut away that which is deadly to it. If the sinner will keep his sin, he must die in it; if he is willing to be rescued from his sin, the Lord Jesus is able to do it, and will do it if he commits his case to his care.
What, then, is your darling sin? Is it any gross wrong-doing? Then very shame should make you cease from it. Is it love of the world, or fear of men, or longing for evil gains? Surely, none of these things should reconcile you to living in enmity with God, and beneath his frown. Is it a human love, which is eating like a canker into the heart? Can any creature rival the Lord Jesus? Is it not idolatry to allow any earthly thing to compare for one instant with the Lord God? “Well,” saith one, “for me to give up the particular sin by which I am held captive, would be to my serious injury in business, would ruin my prospects, and lessen my usefulness in many ways.” If it be so, you have your case met by the words of the Lord Jesus, who bids you to pluck out your eye, and cut off your hand or foot, and cast it from you, rather than be cast into hell. It is better to enter into life with one eye, with the poorest prospects, than to keep all your hopes, and be out of Christ. Better be a lame believer than a leaping sinner. Better be in the rear rank for life in the army of Christ than lead the van and be a chief officer under the command of Satan. If you win Christ, it will little matter what you lose. No doubt many have had to suffer that which has maimed and lamed them for this life; but if they have entered thereby into eternal life, they have been great gainers.
It comes to this, my friend, as it did with John Bunyan; a voice now speaks to you, and says — WILT THOU KEEP THY SIN AND GO TO HELL?
OR LEAVE THY SIN AND GO TO HEAVEN?
The point should be decided before you quit the spot. In the name of God, I ask you. Which shall it be — Christ and salvation, or the favorite sin and damnation? There is no middle course. Waiting or refusing to decide will practically be a sure decision for the evil one. He that stands questioning whether he will be honest or not, is already out of the straight line: he that does not know whether he wishes to be cleansed from sin gives evidence of a foul heart.
If you are anxious to give up every evil way, our Lord Jesus will enable you to do so at once. His grace has already changed the direction of your desires: in fact, your heart is renewed. Therefore, rest on him to strengthen you to battle with temptations as they arise, and to fulfill the Lord’s commands from day to day. The Lord Jesus is great at making the lame man to leap like a hart, and in enabling those who are sick of the palsy to take up their bed and walk. tie will make you able to conquer the evil habit.
He will even cast the devil out of you. Yes, if you had seven devils, he could drive them out at once; there is no limit to his power to cleanse and sanctify. Now that you are willing to be made whole, the great difficulty is removed. He that has set the will right can arrange all your other powers, and make them move to his praise. You would not have earnestly desired to quit all sin if he had not secretly inclined you in that direction. If you now trust him, it will be clear that he has begun a good work in you, and we feel assured that he will carry it on.