ENEMIES OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST. NO. 3.
Phil. iii. 18. 19. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you. even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction.
I Proposed, from these words, to consider three points:
I. There is reason to believe that many professing Christians are the real enemies of the cross of Christ.
II. What are the characteristics of that enmity; or how may they be known to be such; and
III. Why is the fact of their being in the church fitted to excite grief.
The first two points lrave been considered. The third will occupy our attention at this time; and the enquiry is, why is the fact that there ate in the church those who are the enemies of the cross of Christ fitted to excite grief and tears. I observe:
I. In the first place, that their being in the church is a fact fitted to call forth the feelings of tenderness and commiseration—not reproach and harshness of language— for they are cherishing hopes that will be disappointed, and are exposed to danger that is unfelt. The effect on the mind of Paul was to produce tears, not harsh reproof, not angry denunciation. He saw their situation as one that was to be wept over; and he knew enough of human nature to see that all hope of reclaiming such persons was in the use of the language of kindness and love. Kindness will do what harshness never can; and the love which expresses itself in gushing tears will make its way to the heart, while harsh words would only steel the soul, and confirm it in error.
A similar case occurred in the church at Corinth, and Paul met it in the same manner. Though required by the nature of the offence to proceed to the extremity of Christian discipline, yet it was still with tenderness and tears. "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart," says he, " 1 wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you." 2 Cor. ii. 4.
The same language of tenderness is evinced in the New Testament throughout, in regard to this class of persons. The Saviour's language was uniformly that of tenderness, and pity. He spake with a fearful solemnity of manner indeed; with words which show how much his soul was impressed with the importance of the subject; yet in his manner and words there is not a particle of harshness. We admit that when the Lord Jesus addressed the hypocrite—the man who professed a religion which he knew, he did not practice, we hear the language of severity. "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers," says he, " how can ye escape the damnation of hell!" The age in which he lived was eminently hypocritical; the men with whom he had to.deal were many of them false professors. But we are not to infer that this is to be the characteristic of all times, or that men in the church who are strangers to religion, are to be addressed in this manner, by us. The Son of God,-knowing the human heart, could speak with unerring certainty of the character of those whom he addressed. But the ministers of religion —themselves imperfect men, and having no right to assume pre-eminence in moral worth above their Christian brethren, will use the language of entreaty, not of denunciation; will seek to melt the heart by a tender setting forth of danger, not to overwhelm it by the denunciations of wrath.
Perhaps we are in danger of erring in regard to the character of those in the church who give no evidence of piety. In churches that are connected with the state; in lands where the obtainment of office or any other important temporal advantage may depend on a profession of religion, many will openly profess it who are influenced solely by a regard to the worldly consideration. But the temptation to this in this land, if it ever exist at all, exists to so inconsiderable a degree as not to call for any special animadversion. The instances remain yet to occur, probably, where a profession of religion has been assumed in this country for the sake of office; or where it would contribute to the attainment of office. Nor is there reason to believe that the profession of religion is often, if ever assumed, because it will clothe a man with additional influence, or will facilitate the acquisition of wealth- The power which a man can wield in the church in this country is too inconsiderable to make it a prize to be purchased by known hypocrisy; and those who are intent on becoming rich will derive too little advantage from a profession of religion to make it an object to be purchased at the expense of a good conscience. . I have been a pastor now more than sixteen years, and it has been my business to observe, as I was able, the lives of those who profess Christianity. And I cannot recall an instance in which I have seen evidence that the profession of religion was assumed, because it would elevate a man to office, or aid him in becoming rich. I have seen instances where it seemed to me, and still seems, that men were deterred from making a profession of religion because there might be apprehension that it would interfere with the hopes of office; or throw around them restraints which they would rather avoid in the acquisition of wealth. The conclusion which has been pressed on my mind has been, that ten men are deterred from making a profession of religion from an apprehension that it would interfere with their worldly interests, for one who professedly embraces Christianity from any hope of honor, or emolument.
But I have seen many, who, without any violation, as I trust, of that charity which hopeth all things and is kind, seemed to me to be strangers to the transforming and elevating principles of the religion which they profess. In looking at the evidences of piety as laid down with such simplicity in the New Testament, it has been so forcibly impressed on the mind that all those evidences were wanting, that it was impossible not to come to the conclusion that there was an utter mistake in their cherished hopes, and in the profession which they made. To this conclusion, the mind and heart of a pastor will slowly and reluctantly come. But having come to this conclusion, he is guilty of unfaithfulness to the master whom he serves, and to the souls which he would save, if he fails to express his apprehensions, or to tell his hearers " often," and " even weeping" that " many walk who are the enemies of the cross of Christ, Whose End Is
There is nothing more fitted to excite commiseration than this. If we see a son cherishing from year to year a delusive expectation that he will be heir to a great estate; and in the mean time, on the ground of this, making no preparation for the life which he must lead when thrown upon his own resources, our feelings towards him will be those only of pity, and of grief. If we see a man lying on a sick bed with every mark of approaching death, yet clinging to life-; if we see the body waste away, and the hectic on the cheek, and hear the admonitory voice of the physician, and yet see the emaciated sufferer indulging in day-dreams of returning health, we have but one feeling in relation to the deluded man—not of severity but of tenderness; not prompting to rebuke, but'exciting to tears. And so when we see an immortal soul cherishing the delusive hope of the "adoption" into the family of God, and of "the inheritance of the saints in light," can there be other than the language of pity? When we hear a man speak of treading the green fields of heaven, of slaking his thirst in the river of life; of reposing beneath the trees ever green in the Paradise above; of wearing the diadem, and of being clothed in the flowing robes of heaven; and then reflect that all this is the language of a lost, and still unransomed soul, is there a heart so hard as to use the language of severity, and are there eyes so unused' to pity as to withhold their tears?
If it should be said that it is not reasonable to suppose that, when the delusion is not to be traced to voluntary hypocrisy, a God of mercy will recompense the error with everlasting torments, I ask how it is in other matters? I look at the great principles of the divine administration as they are developed in the world. -I ask whether the fact that men are deceived, in the ordinary course of events, will make them safe from suffering, or turn aside the regular penalty of law? I see the man who is cherishing the delusive hope that his worldly affairs are prosperous, and who gives no heed to the admonitions of his friends. He is not benefited by the cherished delusion, but ruin and bankruptcy come upon him with a step steady as time. I see a young man confident in the vigor of his constitution; unwilling to believe that he endangers his health by a course of dissipation; deceived about the strength of his own principles, and spurning the sober counsel of wisdom and of age. - Nor is he benefited by his delusion, but he-sinks like others to the woes and curses of the drunkard's grave. I see the pale, emaciated man clinging to life; cherishing the delusive hope that his disease will yet. depart from him; and anticipating future days of health, and pleasure. Yet the disease is not stayed by his delusion. It approaches steadily the seat of life. Unawed, unrebuked, unarrested by his delusions, the destroyer is levelling the poisoned shaft, and the man finds the cold damps of death standing upon his brow even while he cherishes the hope of living long. So it is every where. The laws of nature and of God, operate with steady and unchanging power. They hasten to their end. When, violated in regard to health, or morals, or property, or salvation, they have a penalty which is not met by self-deception; and which will not be driven back by the sunshine and calm of fancied security. Man must pay the forfeit; and neither in regard to his worldly affairs or to religion, will self-deception turn aside the penalty, or interpose to shield the body or the soul.
II. The existence of such persons in the church is a subject of regret and of tears, from their influence. This I shall illustrate in a few particulars. It is,
(1.) The loss of so much positive strength to the cause of the Redeemer. For it cannot be denied that those of whom I am speaking often embody not a little of the wealth, the talent, and the actual influence of the church. Nor can it be denied that, when this is the case, this very fact gives them a melancholy conspicuity, and prominence. If those who sustain this character possess an influence that spreads far through the political or commercial world; if they have power, to excite to energy mighty masses of mind, and that talent is a dead weight on the church, the fact cannot escape the public observation, and be felt in all the interests of the church of Christ. If they whose power is felt most deeply in the commercial or political world, are entirely inactive in the church; if while they are known every where else, they are unknown here except in the bare record of their'names; if nothing will rouse them to even a temporary interest in the spiritual affairs of the church, it is just so mUch abstraction of that which professedly belongs to Christ-; and there can be no wonder if it diffuse a chill and paralysis over all the interests of religion. It is melancholy to reflect on what might be done in the church of Christ if all its members had the burning zeal of Paul, or the ever-glowing and pure love of John; and then to remember that the designs of Christian enterprise—the conversion of the soul—the cause of revivals—the salvation of the world—lack the counsel, and the prayers, and the friendly co-operation of those who are best qualified, under God, to carry them forward. Paul spake of such with tears; nor is it easy to withhold such expressions of grief when a man reposes in the bosom of a church, bearing simply the name of Christian; a stranger to its feelings, to its plans, and to its spiritual peace; a man whose power is felt in the political and commercial world Always; in the religious world—NEVER.
(2.) Their influence in the church is a subject of grief, because it tends to discourage the true friends of God. There are not a few in all Christian churches, who are sincere and humble Christians. They love the Saviour who died for them. They have not merely in form, but in sincerity, devoted themselves to his service. Their hearts pant for the spread of the gospel; and their most fervent desires are for the salvation of sinners, for the peace and happiness and purity of the church, and for the conversion of the world. Their purest joys are connected with the reign of Immanuel, and they wish to live only that by their influence and prayers, they may do something for the furtherance of his gospel on the earth. Their language is, in sincerity,
I love thy kingdom, Lord,
The house of thine abode
The church our blessed Redeemer saved
With his own precious blood.
If e'er to bless thy sons
My voice or hands deny,
These hands let useful skill forsake,
This voice in silence die.
For her my tears shall fall,
For her my prayers ascend,
To her my toils and cares be given,
Till cares and toils shall end.
Now it is not needful to dwell on the discouragement which ensues when the irresistible conviction comes over the mind, that a professed brother or' sister in the church has no interest in these things;—that they have no prayers to offer for the conversion of sinners; no tears to shed, like the Saviour, over the dangers of lost men; no cheering counsel for those who are endeavoring to do good; no aid to offer to the pastor in his great office, and no rejoicing when souls are converted to Christ. It is as if, in the straggle for liberty, a few should brave every danger, encamp on the cold field, and expose themselves to death, while professed friends should sit and look from their palace windows on the struggle without sympathy, and without a tear when brave men bleed,
But this is not the only cause of grief. It is not from mere discouragement because they are left to toil alone. For the Master has said, " he that is not with me, is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad." In this strife between sin and holiness, heaven and hell, there is no neutrality. And it adds to the sadness of the scene, when they who are the professed friends of Christ not only stand aloof, but seek to build up that which true Christians labor to destroy, and to destroy that which God is endeavoring to build up. When the real friends of Christ are endeavoring to promote revivals of religion and the conversion of the world, and his professed friends are always found to countenance the views of the enemies of Christ, and to coincide with the men of the world, it adds to the grief of the friends of the Saviour by all the sorrow that attends violated friendship, and forgotten plighted love. "I was wounded in the house of my friends, and he that hath eaten bread with me hath lifted up his hand against me," was the tender language of the much injured David. "It was not an enemy that did it, then I could have born it. But it was thou, a man mine equal, my guide and mine acquaintance; we took sweet counsel together and walked to the house of God in company." Ps. lv. 12, 13. And when too the professed friends of Christ are found the patrons of those things which his real friends are endeavoring to remove from the world as hurtful to health, and morals, and the salvation of the soul, can it be otherwise than a matter of grief? Can a house .that is divided against itself stand? And does not a kingdom that is divided against itself fall? In one portion of the church there shall be prayer, and toil, and tears to discountenance and destroy the works of the devil; and if in another the professed friends of Christ are doing just what the enemy of souls, of revivals, of humble piety, and of the world's redemption would wish them to do, how can it be otherwise than a subject of grief and of tears?
(3.) The deportment of such professors of religion gives occasion for the reproach and opposition of a wicked world:—and it is, therefore, a cause of grief and tears. For the great mass of men ever have derived, and ever will derive their views of the Christian religion not from the Bible, but from the lives of its professors. Barely will they take upthe-Bible to learn the nature of Christianity from the pure life, or holy precepts of its founder; and rarely will they be convinced that that religion which does not in fact produce renovation of the heart, and holiness of life, can be from heaven—nor should they be. And though we can point them to many instances of consistent jsiety; though we can refer them to multitudes of cases where Christianity has in.fact reformed the profane, the sensual, and the proud, yet the influence of one inconsistent professor will more than neutralize the argument drawn from the consistent walk of ten who are ornaments to their high calling. The thoughless, ungodly world has an interest in keeping the lives of the ten humble and holy Christians out of view, and in fixing the attention on the one professor that is a disgrace to the Christian name.
This reproach is unanswerable. The fact alleged is undeniable ; and the attention is easily fixed on some professor of religion with whom the objector has had business of a worldly nature, where he has found him as close as other men; where he has seen a spirit as grasping; where he has witnessed some departure from moral honesty; where a promise has not been kept; or where there has been a case of overreaching, or of fraud. And where such a case can be referred to, it is all that the man of the world asks; and the force of argument with him is at an end. In vain may we press upon his attention the argument for Christianity from miracles and prophecy; in vain refer to the pure life and precepts of its founder; in vain appeal to its obvious and indisputable effects in reforming the world ; in vain urge on the man that he should judge of religion by its precepts and recorded principles in the Bible, and that it is unfair to hold the whole system answerable for the faults of its professed friends, in vain is all this urged—for the inconsistent professor occupies the whole field of vision before the objector. It is all that he sees, or will see, or can be made' to see; and the reasoning falls on heavy ears, and on a heart in respect to our arguments justlike adamant. All the objections which/ ever hear against religion are drawn from the inconsistent lives of its friends. All the obstacles which are thrown in my path in endeavoring to urge the gospel personally on the immediate attention of sinners are drawn from this quarter.
(4.) Their influence is a matter of grief because it is the occasion of the loss of the souls of men. They who are in the church without any religion are a stumblingblock over which others fall into perdition; and to the guilt of the ruin of their own souls, is to be added that of being the means of the everlasting ruin of others. This follows inevitably. They do not adorn the religion which they profess to love by their lives; they convey erroneous ideas of it every step which they take; they do not exert a Christian influence over their children, and friends, and fellow-sinners; their example and conversation is just that which the world desires to make it quiet in sin; they are pursuing just the course which Satan desires them to pursue in order that the sons and daughters of gaiety and folly should not be alarmed; and their whole influence is adapted to make the world thoughtless, and unconcerned, and prayerless. An ungodly parent thus adds to his own destruction that of his children; and unless special mercy interposes, a whole family in hell shall be the sad argument to illustrate the. effects of being deceived in the church. We can conceive of no more affecting image of the inexpressible wretchedness of the world of despair, than when we think of a child thus reproaching a father or a mother as the cause of his ruin. 'You were a professor of religion. Your example and views of life; your conducting me to scenes of fashion and gaiety, when the mind should have been impressed with the thoughts of God; your neglecting to acquaint me with the Saviour of the soul, is the cause why I weep amidst these inextinguishable fires. But for that inconsistent, and unholy life of her that bare me, I should now have been among the blessed, and heaven would have been my eternal home. But 0 these horrors! These deep, eternal burnings! A father has led me there; a mother has guided my footsteps down to death!'
III. The existence of the enemies of the cross of Christ in the church is fitted to excite regret and tears from the slender probability that they will ever be converted and saved.. Paul's grief arose mainly from the fact which he expresses, that their "end was destruction." It is evident that he did not anticipate their conversion. Judas Iscariot was three years with the Saviour, under his direct ministry, and was not converted. In the account which our Saviour gives in the parable of the tares, it is evident that he did not suppose that they who were deceived in the church would ever be converted. "Let both grow together until the harvest," said he; not, 'let the tares remain amidst the wheat with the hope of a change,' but "let both grow together until the harvest, and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them." Matth. xiii. 30. Joshua had no hope that Achan would be converted, and he was accordingly destroyed. God had no expectation that Nadab and Abihu would be converted, and the earth opened and swallowed them up. Peter had no hope that Ananias and Sapphira would be converted if they remained in the church, and the judgment of heaven was manifested in their death. And the current representations of the Bible may be appealed to as a proof that the conversion of a man in the church is an event scarcely contemplated, and for which no provision has been made.
An appeal to fact would sustain this conclusion. Amidst the evidence which we cannot resist that there are many such in the church, how rare a thing is it that even one abandons his falsely-cherished hope, and becomes a sincere believer. The die seems to be cast, and the destiny sealed. The profane, the profligate, the dissolute, the moral, the aged, and the young, the rich and the poor, are converted by hundreds around them, but no Sun of righteousness visits the Greenland of their souls, or removes the deep darkness which blinds their minds. The gospel is borne to other lands, and the benighted pagan hails its coming, but it has no consolations for the deceived professor, and its pleadings and its thunders die away alike unheeded on the ear.
This melancholy fact may be accounted for in a word. The condition of a deceived professor is unfavorable to conversion. He dreams of a heaven to be obtained with an unhumblfid heart, without self-denial, and without bearing the cross, and he is unwilling that the pleasing dream should be disturbed. His fancied security shields him from all the appeals which are made to men. The exhortations which are addressed to sinners to repent and to believe the gospel he does not apply to himself, for hedoes not professedly belong to that class. The arguments which are urged on Christians to lead a holy life; the motives which are urged from their inextinguishable love to the Saviour, he does not regard, for he has none of the Christian's feelings, and none of his real desire to glorify God the Redeemer. Belonging not to the world professedly, and not to Christians really, the appeals of divine mercy for the salvation of the soul almost never reach the heart, alarm the conscience, or arouse tohope or fear. Yet it is fancied security, not real. It is that kind of security which a man will take, who, when iEtna or Vesuvius should cast forth lurid flames, and heave with an approaching eruption, instead of fleeing to the distant plain, should be content with reposing beneath a tree at its base, and hiding his eyes, and stopping his ears, should regard himself as secure.
Here I close the consideration of this text. In conclusion I shall make two remarks.
(1.) The first is, that there is an obvious propriety for honest self-examination. The necessity of this is urged upon us by all the worth of the undying soul; by all the value of the blood of Christ; by all the apprehensions of a dreadful hell. On this of all subjects we should be most honest with ourselves; and yet on this of all subjects we are prone to take up with slightest evidences. The solicitude of the merchant to save his affairs from bankruptcy, is untiring; the advocate toils to gain his cause, and the physician to save his patient; the farmer has no rest till the title to his land is without a flaw. Yet that merchant, perhaps, will feel no solicitude that his eternal interests may not be bankrupt; nor that professional man feel any concern that he is in danger of losing his soul; nor the farmer that his title to heaven is insecure. On the very point where we should suppose there would be most interest felt, there is often the least; and the last thing to which immortal man, in the church or out of it, can be roused, is the worth of his own soul.
Weje it thus in other cases, we should be impressed with the folly. Let a man be seized with disease, though not immediately alarming, and let it be suffered to run on without care or anxiety until death shall lay its cold hand on him, and .we do not doubt its folly. Yet how many ar6 under the influence of the incurable disease of sin, who allow themselves to be deceived; who listen to no language of entreaty to examine; and, who will soon find that their hopes of heaven have been founded on the sand! Once more, I may be permitted, not in form, but in the soberness of sincerity and of love, to entreat you to be willing to know the worst of the case. If deceived, be willing to know it, and to seek mercy before it shall be too late.- If we are Christians let us know it, and let our lives testify accordingly.
(2.) Let me address one word to those who are not professors of religion. I beseech you not to make the follies, and sins, and self-delusions of others the means of your own destruction. You, as well as professed Christians, whether they are deceived or not, are advancing to the same burial-place of the dead, and to the same judgment-seat. You will stand before the same God, and give up an account, not for them, but for yourselves. "Every man shall give account of himself to God." It will constitute no safeguard to you that they are deceived. It will diminish none of the terrors of death, that your wife or child was deceived, and must perish forever. It will be no ground of acquittal to you, if they are lost. I will add, it will furnish no consolation to you in hell— no, not the drop of water to cool the parched tongue— should they go down to be your everlasting companions. To your own master you stand or fall. They may be deluded; you certainly are. They, in cherishing a hope of life to which they have no claim; you, in supposing that no preparation is necessary, and -that there is no heaven or hell beyond the grave. You, deluded amidst the gaieties, and fascinations, and the jostling plans, and the vain expectations of happiness in this world; they in the church in regard to the hope of heaven. But what then? Are you safe? Hear me. When all the delusions of life shall have vanished; when we shall be summoned to attend to the sober reality of dying, and of going on the journey up to God, and giving in the solemn account at his bar, and of entering a world where there is no delusion, it will remove none of the sad realities of those scenes to remember that others were deluded as well as you, and that they, as you anticipated, sunk down to the world where "are hypocrites and unbelievers." But let me ask you, my friend, a question. What if their hopes should be well-founded? What if it shall appear that you alone are deluded and deceived? What if they rise to heaven, saved by the hope which they now cherish? What if, notwithstanding all the difficulties of the way, and the delusions around them, and their many doubts and fears, they are able to bear the scrutiny of the All-seeing Eye in the great day? Solve me this question, I beseech you—" If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?"