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We read of our Lord himself, that before he was tempted, in that great scene of his temptation with Satan, he had been filled with the Spirit. Even he had prepared himself for the coutest by spiritual discipline. And this, my brethren, is an instruction to us. Before we commit ourselves to the world and its temptations, and mix in that general company where the bad so much abound, we should by spiritual discipline prepare ourselves for the difficulties and trials we shall have to encounter. To go into the world unprepared, is to deliver ourselves over to Satan's will, and to go blindfold into the temptations he has laid for us.
And is not this a reason, my brethren, why you should attend church ?listen to and study God's word !-exercise yourselves in public and private prayer !-seek grace in the communion ?--and make a conscience of spending every Sabbath as you are now spending this !
We have an account of at least one devout soldier in God's word. We read of “ Cornelius, a centurion of the baud, called the Italian band," that he was “a devout man and one that feared God with all his house, which give much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway.”
Observe, he “prayed to God alway,”-he attended not merely to his public but to his private devotions,-he prayed not only for pardon but for grace,—he not only sought that the past might be forgiven, but that holpen by the Divine Spirit, his future life might be more holy. And observe, that in thus acting he showed that he relied not on his own strength, but that after hearing God's will he thought it necessary to seek help from heaven to enable him to do it. And as he was a soldier, he ought to be your example.
But, then further, he “feared God with all his house.” Doubtless, like Joshua, his resolution had been long fixed and acted upon," As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He looked not merely to his own salvation, but to the salvation of all about him. He walked in the steps of father Abraham : of whom, God foreseeing his faith, thus spake, “I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment.” Such was Cornelius, he was not selfish in his religion, but sought to bring all with whom he was connected into the same happy state of sonship with God as himself,
My brethren, you see that you have not merely a duty owing to yourselves, but to your households. You should endeavour to make your families religious, and especially are you to see that your children be brought up "in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
But Cornelius' duties were not confined to prayer and attention to his household, he extended his thoughts to others, and endeavoured to do them good, and that in the most substantial way, by helping them with his purse. He gave, says the divine historian, “much alms to the people.” Even the very humblest may show kindness to their neighbours,-sympathy itself is a
kindness,—and friendly help is sometimes of more value than money, nay, there are kind deeds which money cannot purchase. Taking Cornelius, then, as your example, you are to be kind to one another, and not merely to one another, but to all with whom you may come in contact. Give alıns, if you can, but if you have no alms to give, give your sympathy and attention.
All that I have now done, has been to give you a few hints as to what you ought to do; I have dwelt on no abstruse subjects, nor spoken to you in unintelligible language, but have dealt with you with plainness. The fact is, my duty, let me be placed where I may, is to set forth God's word, and apply it to the hearts of my hearers. This has been my object with you. Bear in mind, therefore, that inasmuch as I have only spoken God's word, God has been now speaking to you by me. Put it not from you, therefore, but consider it as a message from him, and let that much of it, which in your consciences you have approved, have an effect upon your conduct, and lead you to some of the godly practices which I have suggested.
I cannot conclude without adding one word more. As things are arranged now in our army; crosses, and medals, and ribbons, and other honours of a more substantial sort are distributed to those who distinguish themselves for heroic exploits. But all these honours will perish with the using. Both the honours themselves and those that are decorated with them will soon have passed away, and both they and their exploits will be forgotten.
But the honours for which Christians .contend will be immortal,-themselves will live and their decorations shall last for ever. And mark, whatever good we do in this world will never be blotted out of God's memory. God will not forget our works and labour which proceedeth of love. The crown any one shall in the Christian warfare win, he shall wear for ever. The earthly soldier, as such, can only attain to a corruptible crown, but the Christian soldier to an incorruptible.
Think, then, my brethren, of the glorious home to which you are invited through Jesus Christ, think of the imperishable honours to which you may attain,—think of the happiness of being blessed amongst the blessed, and even being more blessed than they. And ask yourselves whether such honours are not worth contending for! And should you think they are, then take the advice given in the text, and whatever may be the difficulties you may have to contend with in seeking such glorious rewards, yet endeavour to encounter them, and resolve to “endure hardness, as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.”
It hath pleased the Lord by a painful illness to interrupt for a little whilo my usual labors. As I was unable to preach last Lord's day, accept this week the issue of an old sermon. Though it has been buried in my publishers' warehouse for two years, I pray God it may bud afresh and bring forth fruit, even as old corn after having been entombed in Egyptian sepulchres for centuries will often germinate again and yield an abundant crop. Ye have prayed for me. The Lord bath visited me in the chamber of affliction. I am recovering; and God knoweth “I long to see you, and impart unto you some spiritual gift;" and I trust that ere long " through your prayers I shall be given unto you." Yours in much affection,-C. H. S.
AN APPEAL TO SINNERS.
REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
“This man receiveth sinners.”—Luke xv. 2. It was a singular group which had gathered round our Saviour, when these words were uttered; for we are told by the evangelist—" Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him.”. The publicans—the very lowest grade, the public oppressors, scorned and hated by the meanest Jew—these, together with the worst of characters, the scum of the streets and the very riff-raff of the society of Jerusalem, came around this mighty preacher, Jesus Christ, in order to listen to his words. On the outside of the throng there stood a few respectable people, who in those days were called Pharisees and Scribes—men who were highly esteemed in the synagogues as rulers, and governors, and teachers. These looked with scorn upon the Preacher; and watched him with invidious eyes, to find some fault. It they could find none in him personally, yet they could easily find it in his congregation; his deportment towards them shocked their false notion of propriety, and when they observed that he was affable with the very worst of characters, that he spoke loving words to the most fallen of mankind, they said of him what they intended for a disgrace, albeit it was highly to his honour: “ This man receiveth sinners." I believe that our Saviour could not have wished to have had a sentence uttered concerning him, more evidently true or more thoroughly consistent with his sacred commission. It is the exact portrait of his character; the hand of a master seems to have limned him to the very life. He is the man who “receiveth sinners.” Many a true word has been spoken in jest, and many a true word has been spoken in slander. Men have said sometimes in jest, “ There goes a saint;" but it has been true. They have said, “There goes one of your chosen ones, one of your elect;" they meant it as a slander, but the doctrine they scandalized was to the person who received it a comfort; it was his glory and his honour. Now the Scribes and Pharisees wished to slander Christ; but in so doing they outstripped their intentions, and bestowed upon him a title of renown. “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”
This evening I shall divide my observations to you into three parts. First, the doctrine, that Christ receiveth sinners, which is a doctrine of holy writ. Secondly, the encouragement it affords the sinner ; and thirdly, the exhortation naturally springing from it, to the same characier.
1. First, then, THE DOCTRINE. The doctrine is, not that Christ receiveth everybody, but that he “receiveth sinners." By that term we, in common parlante, understand everybody. It is in the present day quite fashionable for everybody to lie against what he believes, and to say he is a sinner, even when he believes himself to be a very respectable, well-to-do man, and does not conceive that he ever did anything very amiss in his life. It is a sort of orthodox confession for men to make, when they say that they are sinners; though they might just as well use one formula as another, or repeat words in a foreign tongue; for they mcan no deep and heartfelt contrition. They have no true apprehension that they are sinners at all. These Scribes and Pharisees did virtually assert, that they were not sinners; they marked out the Putlicans and the harlots, and the worthless, and they said, “ These are sinners, we are not.” “Very well,” said Christ; * I endorse the distinction you have made. In your own opinion, you are not sinners; vell, you shall stand exempt for the time from being called sinners- I endorse your distinction. But I beg to inform you, that I came to save those very persons tha in their own estimation and in yours, are reckoned to be sinners." It is my bed that the doctrine of the text is this—that Christ receives not the self-rightenes not the good, not the whole-hearted, not those who dream that they do not need a Savicur; but the broken in spirit, the contrite in heart-those who are ready to confess that they have broken God's laws, and have merited his displeasure. These and these alone, Christ came to save; and I reassert the subject of laat Sabbath evening--that Jesus has died for such, and for none other; that he has shed his blood for those who are ready to confess their sins, and who do setk Mercy through the open veins of his wounded body, but for none other did he designedly offer up himself upon the cross.
Now, let us remark, beloved, that there is a very wise distinction on the part of God, that he hath been pleased thus to choose and call sinners to repentance, and not others. For this reason, none but these ever do come to him. There bas never been such a miracle as a self-righteous man coming to Christ for merey; none but those who want a Saviour ever did come. It stands to reason, that wbiz men do not consider themselves in need of a Saviour, they never will approach his throne; and surely it is satisfactory enough for all purposes, that Christ should say he receiveth sinners, seeing that sinners are the only persons who will ever come to him for mercy, and therefore it would be useless for hiin to say that he wouli receive any but those who most assuredly will come.
And mark, again, none but those can come; no man can come to Christ until he truly knows himself to be a sinner. The self-righteous man cannot come to Christ; for what is implied in coming to Christ? Repentance, trust in his mercy, and the denial of all confidence in one's self. Now, a self-righteous man cannot repent, and yet be self-righteous. He conceives that he has no sin; why, then, should be repent? Tell him to come to Christ with humble penitence, and he exclaims"Āy! you insult my dignity. Why should I approach to God? Wherein hare I sinned? My knce shall not bend to seek for pardon, wherein I hare not offended; this lip shall not seek forgiveness when I do not believe myself to have transgressed against God; I shall not ask for mercy.” The self-rigliteous man cannot come to God; for his coming to God implies that he ceases to be self-righteous. Nor cap a self-righteous man put his trust in Christ: why should he? Shall I trust in a Christ whom I do not require? If I be self-righteous, I need no Christ to save me in my own opinion. How, then, can I come with such a confession as this,
" Nothing in my hands I bring," when I have got my hands full. How can I say, “Wash me,” when I believe myself white? How can I say "Heal me,” when I think that I never was sick? How can I cry, “ Give me freedom, give me liberty,” when I believe I never was a slave, and never in bondage to any man?" It is only the man who knows his slavery by reason of the bondage of sin, and the man who knows himself to be sick even unto death by reason of the sense of guilt: it is only the man who feels he cannot save himself, who can with faith rely upon the Saviour. Nor can the self-righteous man renounce himself, and lay huld of Christ; because in the renunciation of himself he would at once become the very character whom Christ says he will receive. He would then put himself in the place of the sinner, when he cast away his own righteousness. Why, sirs, coming to Christ implies the taking off the polluted robe of our own righteousness, and putting on Christ's. How can I do that, if I wittingly wrap my own garment about me? and if in order to come to Christ I must forsake my own refuge and all my own hope, how can I do it, if I believe my bope to be good, and my refuge to be secure; and if I suppose that already I am clothed sufficiently to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb? Nay, beloved, it is the sinner, and the sinner only, who can come to Christ; the self-righteous man cannot do it; it is quite out of his way–he would not do it if he could. His very self-righteousness fetters his foot, so that he cannot come; palsies his arm, 80 that he cannot take hold of Christ; and blinds his eye, so that he cannot see the Saviour.
Yet another reason: if these people, w!o are not sinners, would come to Christ, Christ would get no glory from them. When the physician openeth his door for those who are sick, let me go there full of health; he can win no honour
from me, because he cannot exert his skill upon me. The benevolent man may distribute all his wealth to the poor; but let some one go to him who has abundance, and he shall win no esteem from him for feeding the hungry, or for clothing the naked; since the applicant is neither hungry nor naked. If Jesus Christ proclaims that he giveth his grace unto all who come for it, surely it is sufficient, seeing that none will or can come for it, but those whose pressing necessities prompt them. Ay! sufficient; it is quite sufficient for his honour. A great sinner brings great glory to Christ when he is saved. A man who is no sinner, if he could attain to heaven would glorify himself, but he would not glorify Christ. The man who has no stains may plunge into the fountain; but he cannot magnify its cleansing power, for he hath no stains to wash away. He that hath no guilt can never magnify the word " forgiveness." It is the sinner then, and the sinner only, who can glorify Christ; and hence “this man receiveth sinners,” but it is not said that he receiveth any else. “He came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." This is the doctrine of the text.
But allow us just to ainplify that word: “this man receiveth sinners." Now, by that we understand that he receives sinners to all the benefits which he has purchased for them. If there be a fountain, he receives sinners to wash them in it; if there be medicine for the soul, he receives sinners to heal their diseases; if there be a house for the sick, an hospital, a lazar-house for the dying, he receives such into that retreat of mercy. All that he hath of love, all that he hath of mercy, all that he hath of atonement, all that he hath of sanctification, all that he hath of righteousness—to all these he receives the sinner. Yea, more; not content with taking him to his house, he receives him to his heart. He takes the black and filthy sinner, and having washed him-“There,” he says, " thou art my beloved; my desire is towards thee.” And to consummate the whole, at last he receives the saints to heaven. Saints, I said, but I meant those who were sinners, for none can be saints truly, but those who once were sinners, and have been washed in the blood of Christ, and made white through the sacrifice of the lamb.
Observe it then, beloved, that in receiving sinners we mean the whole of salvation; and this word in my text, “ Christ receivelh sinners," graspeth in the whole of the covenant. He receives them to the joys of paradise, to the bliss of the beatified, to the songs of the glorified, to an eternity of happiness for ever. “This man receiveth sinners;” and I dwell with special emphasis on this point,-he receives none else. He will have none else to be saved but those who know themselves to be sinners. Full, free salvation is preached to every sinner in the universe; but I have no salvation to preach to those who will not acknowledge themselves to be sinners. To them I must preach the law, telling them that their righteousness is but as filthy rags, that their goodness shall pass away as the spider's web, and shall be broken in pieces, even as the egg of the Ostrich is broken by the foot of the horse. “This man receiveth sinners," and receiveth none else,
II. Now, then, THE ENCOURAGEMENT. If this man receiveth sinners, poor sinsick sinner, what a sweet word this is for thee! Sure, then, he will not reject thee. Come, let me encourage thee this night to come to my Master, to receive his great atonement, and to be clothed with all his righteousness. Mark: those whom I address, are the bona fide, real, actual sinners; not the complimentary sinners; not those who say they are sinners by way of pacifying, as they suppose, the religionists of the day; but I speak to those who feel their lost, ruined, hopeless condition. All these are now frankly and freely invited to come to Jesus Christ, and to be saved by him. Come, poor sinner, come.
Come, because he has said he will receive you; I know your fears; we all felt them once, when we were coming to Christ. I know thou sayest in thy heart, • He will reject me. If I present my prayer, he will not hear me; if I cry unto him, yet peradventure the heavens will be as brass; I have been so great a sinner, that he will never take me into his house to dwell with him." Poor sinner! say not so; he hath published the decree. It is enough between man and man usually, if we count our fellow creatures honest, to obtain a promise. Sinner! is this not enough between thyself and the Son of God? He has said, “Him that cometh I will in nowise cast out." Durst thou not venture on that pro nise? Wilt thou not go to sea in a ship as staunch as this: he hath said it? It has been often and again the only comfort of the saints; on this they have lived, on this they have died: he hath said it. What! dost thou think Christ will lie unto thee? Would he tell thee he will receive thee, and yet not do so? Would he say, “My fallings are killed, come ye to