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To The End
C.H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
“He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” — Matthew 10:22
This particular text was originally addressed to the apostles when they were sent out to teach and preach in the name of the Lord Jesus. Perhaps magnificent visions floated before their minds, of honor and esteem among men. It was a great honor to be among the twelve first heralds of salvation to the sons of Adam. Was a restraint needed to their high hopes? Perhaps so. Lest they should enter upon their work without having counted its cost, Christ gives them a very complete description of the treatment which they might expect to receive, and reminds them that it was not the beginning of their ministry which would win them their reward, but rather “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” It would be good if every young candidate to the gospel ministry would remember this, if merely to put our hand to the plow proved us to be called of God, how many would be considered called to the ministry; but sadly, too many look back and prove themselves unworthy of the kingdom. The command of Christ to believers, is a very necessary exhortation to every young minister: “Be faithful, even to the point of death,” (Rev 2:10). It is not to be faithful for a time, but to be “faithful, even to the point of death,” which will enable a man to say, “I have fought the good fight.” Oh, how many dangers surround the Christian minister! Just as the officers in an army are the chosen targets of the sharpshooters, so are the ministers of Christ. The king of Syria said to his servants, “Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel;” in the same way the Prince of Darkness makes his main attack upon the ministers of God.
From the first moment of his call to the ministry, the preacher of the Word will be familiar with temptation. While he is still in his youth, there are large numbers of the subtle temptations to turn the head and trip the feet of the young preacher of the cross; and when the flattery of early popularity have passed away, and it will, then the harsh grumble of slander, and the adder’s tongue of ingratitude attack him, he finds himself criticized and unpopular where once he was flattered and admired; yes, the poison of hatred overpowers the sweet crumbs of praise. Now, let him prepare himself for action and fight the good fight of faith. In his later years of ministry, to provide fresh material Sunday after Sunday, to lead as in the sight of God, to watch over the souls of men and women, to weep with them who weep, to rejoice with those who rejoice, to be a nurturing father to young converts, sternly to rebuke hypocrites, to deal faithfully with backsliders, to speak with solemn authority and fatherly sorrow to those who are in the first stages of spiritual decline, to carry about with him the care of the souls of hundreds, is enough to make him grow old while he is still young, and to mar his face with the lines of grief, till, like the Savior, at the age of thirty years, men will consider him nearly fifty. “You are not yet fifty years old, and you have seen Abraham!” (John 8:57) said the adversaries of Christ to him when he was only thirty-two.
If the minister should fall, my brothers and sisters; if, set upon a pinnacle, he should be thrown down; if, standing in slippery places, he should falter; if the standard-bearer falls, what great harm is done to the Church, what shouts are heard among the adversaries, what dancings are seen among the daughters of the Philistines! God’s banner has been stained in the dust, and the name of Jesus thrown into the mire! When the minister of Christ becomes a traitor, it is as if the pillars of the house start to tremble; every stone in the structure feels the shock. If Satan can succeed in overturning the preachers of the Word, it is as if a great Oak tree would suddenly fall beneath the axe; prone in the dust it lies to wither and rot; but where are the birds of the air which made their nests among its branches, and where did those animals of the field go which found a peaceful shadow beneath its branches? Dismay has seized them, and in great fear they run away. All who were comforted by the preacher’s word, strengthened by his example, and edified by his teaching, are filled with humiliation and grief, crying, “Sad, Oh, so sad, my brother.” Because of these various dangers and weighty responsibilities, we justly appeal to you who feed under our ministry, and beg you, “Brothers and Sisters, pray for us.” Clearly, we know that though our ministry has been given to us by the Lord Jesus, and if up till now we have been kept faithful by the power of the Holy Spirit, yet it is only the person who stands firm to the end who will be saved.
But, my brothers and sisters, how glorious is the sight of the man who stands firm to the end as a minister of Christ. Right now I have a picture on my heart, a portrait of one very, very dear to me, and I think I will venture to produce a rough sketch of him, as a good example of how honorable it is to endure to the end. This man began while still a youth to preach the Word. Sprung from his ancestors who had loved the Lord and served his Church, he felt the glow of holy enthusiasm. Having proved his capabilities, he entered college, and after the close of its course, settled in a spot where for more than fifty years he continued his labors. In his early days, his sober earnestness and sound doctrine were used by God in many conversions both at home and abroad. Assailed by slander and abuse, it was his privilege to live it all down. He outlived his enemies, and though he had buried a generation of his friends, yet he found many warm hearts clustering around him to the very end. Visiting his flock, preaching in his own pulpit, and making many journeys to other Churches, years followed one another so rapidly, that he found himself the head of a large tribe of spiritual children and grandchildren, most of them walking in the truth. At the age of 80, he still preached on, until weighed down with ill-health, but still as joyful and as cheerful as in the prime of his life, but his time had come to die. He was able to say truthfully, when he last spoke to me, “I do not believe that my testimony for God has ever been altered, as to the fundamental doctrines; I have grown in experience, but from the first day until now, I have not had to teach any new doctrines to my congregation. I have not had to make any confessions of error on vital points, but have held fast to the doctrines of grace, and can now say that I love them more than ever.” This faithful minister was very much like the Apostle Paul, longing to preach as long as his tottering knees could bear him to the pulpit. I am thankful that I had such a grandfather. He fell asleep in Christ only a few hours ago, and on his deathbed talked as cheerfully as men do in the full vitality of their health. He talked most sweetly of the preciousness of Christ, and of the security of the believer; the truthfulness of the promise; the immutability of the covenant; the faithfulness of God, and the infallibility of the divine decree. Among other things which he said at the end was this, which is, I think worth treasuring in our memories. He said, “Dr Watts sings in his hymn —
‘Firm as the earth thy gospel stands,
My Lord, my hope, my trust.’
What, Doctor Watts, is it not firmer than that? Could you not find a better comparison? Why, the earth will give way beneath our feet one day or another, if we rest on it. The comparison will not do. The Doctor was much nearer the mark, when he said—
“Firm as his throne his promise stands,
And he can well secure
What I’ve committed to his hands.
‘Till the decisive hour.’”
“Firm as his throne,” he said, “he must cease to be king before he can break his promise, or lose his people. Divine sovereignty makes us all secure.” He then quietly fell asleep in Christ, for his day was over, and the night had come, what could he do better than to go and rest in Jesus? May God allow us to preach the Word, so long as we breathe, standing firm to the end in the truth of God; and if we don’t see our sons and grandsons testifying to those doctrines which are so dear to us, yet may we see our children walking in the truth. I know of nothing, dear friends, which I would choose to have, as the subject of my ambition for life, than to be kept faithful to my God till death, still to be a soul-winner, still to be a true messenger of the cross, and testify the name of Jesus to the very last hour. It is only these kind of men in the ministry who are truly saved ministers.
Our text, however, occurs again in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew, in the thirteenth verse, which this time is not addressed to the apostles, but to the disciples. The disciples, looking at the huge stones which were used in the construction of the Temple, greatly admired the buildings, and expected their Lord to utter a few words of passing praise; instead he, who came not to be an admirer of architecture, but to cut living stones out of the quarry of nature, to build them up into a spiritual temple turned their remarks to practical account, by warning them of a time of affliction, in which there would be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. He said that many false prophets will appear and deceive many people, and that the love of most people would grow cold, and warned them that only “He who stands firm to the end will be saved.” So we can see, from the words of Jesus, that this solemn truth applies to every one of us.
A Christian man or woman, though not called to be a pastor or preacher who must publicly preach and teach the grace of God, is still destined in their own lives to testify concerning Jesus, and in their proper sphere and place, to be a burning and a shining light. They may not have the cares of a Church, but they have far more, the cares of business or the home: they are mixed up with the world; they are compelled to associate with the ungodly. To a great degree, they must, at least six days in the week, walk in an atmosphere that is disagreeable with their nature: they are compelled to hear words which will never provoke them to love and good works, and to see examples of people’s actions that are obnoxious. They are exposed to temptations of every kind, for this is the lot of the followers of the Lamb. Satan knows how useful a consistent follower of the Savior is, and how much damage to Christ’s cause an inconsistent Christian may bring, and therefore he empties out all his arrows from his quiver in order that he may wound, even to death, the soldier of the cross.
My brothers and sisters, many of you have been Christians for a much longer time than myself; you know how severe the battle of the Christian life is, how you must contend, even to the shedding of blood, in your struggle against sin. Your life is one continued scene of warfare, both on the outside and within; perhaps even now you are crying out with the apostle, “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). A Christian’s career is always fighting, never ceasing; always plowing ahead in the stormy sea, and never resting till they reach the port of glory. If my God preserves you, and preserve you he must, or else you are not his; if he will keep you, and keep you he will if you have committed your souls to his faithful guardianship, what an honor awaits you!
I am just now thinking of one who has been associated with this Church for about sixty years, and who this week, full of years, and ripe for heaven, was carried by angels into the Savior’s arms. Called by divine grace, while still young, he was united with the Christian Church early in life. By divine grace, he was enabled to maintain a consistent and honorable character for many years; as an officer of this Church, he was acceptable among his brethren, and useful both by his godly example and sound judgment; all the while in various parts of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, he earned himself a good reputation. He went last Sunday, twice to church where he was accustomed in these latter years to worship, enjoying the Word, and feasting at the Communion-table with much delight. He went to his bed without having any serious illness, having spent his last evening on earth in cheerful conversation with his daughters. But before the morning light, with his head leaning on his hand, he had fallen asleep in Christ, having been admitted to the rest which remains for the people of God. As I think of my dear brother, though these past few years I have only seen him a few times, I can rejoice in the grace which illuminated his pathway. When I saw him, the week before his death, although full of years, there was little or no failure in his mind. He was just the picture of an aged saint waiting for his Master, and willing to work in his cause while life remained. I refer, as most of you know, to Mr. Samuel Gale. Let us thank God and take courage—thank God that he has preserved in this case, a Christian so many, many years, and take courage to hope that there will be found in this Church, many, at all periods, whose grey heads will be crowns of glory. “He who stands firm to the end” and only he “will be saved.”
But, dear friends, perseverance is not the experience of the few; it is not for just the faithful preachers of the Word, or only for the elders or deacons of the church, rather it is the common experience of every true believer in the Church. It must be so, for only by persevering in the faith can they prove that they are believers. It must be so, for only by their perseverance can the promise be fulfilled, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” (Mark 16:16). Without perseverance, they cannot be saved; and if they are truly saved then they will persevere through divine grace.
I will now, with brevity and earnestness, as God enables me, show from our text that: perseverance is the badge of true saints — the target of our spiritual enemies — the glory of Christ — and the great concern of all believers.
First, then, PERSEVERANCE IS THE BADGE OF TRUE SAINTS.
It is their Scriptural mark. How can I tell who a true Christian is? By their words? Well, to some degree, words betray the person; but a person’s speech is not always a reflection of their heart, for many are able to deceive with smooth language. What does our Lord say? He says, “You will know them by their fruits.” But how am I to know a person’s fruits? By watching them one day? I may, perhaps, form a guess of their character by being with them for an hour, but I could not confidently state a person’s true state even by being with them for a week. George Whitfield was asked what he thought of a certain person’s character. “I have never lived with him,” was his answer. If we take the course of a person’s life, say for ten, twenty, or thirty years, and, if by carefully watching, we see that they produce the fruits of grace through the Holy Spirit, then we can make a safe conclusion. Just like the truly magnetized needle in the compass, with many deflections, yet really and naturally points to the pole; so, if I can see that despite weaknesses, my friend sincerely and constantly aims at holiness, then I may conclude with almost certainty, that they are a child of God. Although works do not justify a person before God, they do justify a person’s profession before his peers. I cannot tell whether you are justified in calling yourself a Christian except by your works; by your works, therefore, as James said, “A person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone,” (James 2:24). You cannot by your words convince me that you are a Christian, much less by your experience, which I cannot see but must take on trust from you; but your actions will, unless you are an unmitigated hypocrite, speak the truth, and speak the truth loudly too. If your course is like the “…first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day,” (Prov. 4:18) then I know that yours is the path of the just. All other conclusions are only the judgment of kindness such as we are bound to exercise; but we can give the judgment of certainty when a person’s life has been consistent for many years.
Moreover, analogy shows us that it is perseverance which must
characterize the Christian.
How do I determine the winner in a footrace?
There are the spectators, and there are the runners. What strong men! what magnificent muscles! But at the end of the course is the finish line, and there at that point is where I must judge who the winner is, not here, at the starting line, for “In a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?” (1 Cor. 9:24) I may elect this one, or that other person, as likely to win, but I cannot be absolutely sure until the race is over. There they fly! see how they press forward with straining muscles; but one has tripped, another faints, a third is out of breath, and others are far behind. One only wins—and who is he? Why, he who continues to the end.
So I can gather from the analogy, which Paul constantly makes, from the ancient games, that only he who continues until he reaches the goal can be considered a Christian at all. A man has begun to build a house, and has erected one side of it — do you consider him a builder if he stops there, and fails to finish the other walls? Do we give men praise for being warriors because they know how to make one desperate charge, but lose the campaign? Have we not, of late, smiled at the boasting messages of commanders, in fights where both combatants fought with valor, and yet neither of them had the common sense to push on to reap the victory? What was the very strength of Wellington, but that when a triumph had been achieved, he knew how to reap the harvest which had been sown in blood? And he only is a true conqueror, and will be crowned at the end, who continues until the war is over and has been won. It is the same with a Christian as it was with the great Napoleon: he said, “Conquest has made me what I am, and conquest must maintain me.” So, under God, conquest has made you what you are, and conquest must sustain you. Your motto as a Christian must be, “Excelsior;” which means “Upward and Onward,” or if it is not, then you don’t possess the noble spirit of God’s princes. But why do I give so many illustrations, when the entire world rings with the praise of perseverance?
Furthermore, commonsense tells us, that those who merely begin and do not persevere, will not be saved.
Why, if every person would be saved who began to follow Christ, who would be damned? In such a country as this most people have at least one religious spasm in their lives. I suppose that every person before me this morning, have at some time or other in their lives considered themselves to be a Christian. You, Mr. Pliable, were induced by a Christian friend, who had some influence with you, to go with him for a while, until you came to the Swamp of Despondency and Discouragement, and you thought you were very wise when you scrambled out on that side which was nearest to your own home. And even you, Mr. Obstinate, are not always rigid; you have times of thoughtfulness and intervals of tenderness. My friends, how blessed you were at the prayer meeting! how excited you were at that revival service when you heard a zealous brother preach and the results that were produced! Oh! yes; you did not swear or get drunk for nearly a month, but then you could not hold out any longer.
Now, if those who started off good were saved, why would they feel secure, though they are presently far removed from anything like Christianity, as far removed as the darkness at midnight is from the blazing light of the noonday sun? Besides, common sense shows us, that a person must persevere, or else they cannot be saved, because the very worst of people are those who begin and then give up. If you would look through all the black pages of bad characters, to find the name of the son of hell, where would you find it? Why, among the apostles. The man who had performed miracles and preached the gospel, sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver — Judas Iscariot, betrays the Son of Man with a kiss. Where is a worse name than that of Simon Magus? Simon “believed too,” says the Scripture, and yet he offered the apostles money if they would sell the Holy Spirit to him. What wicked notoriety Demas has obtained, who loved the present evil world! How much damage did Alexander the metalworker do to Paul? “He did me a great deal of harm, he said, “the Lord will repay him for what he has done,” (2 Tim. 4:14). And yet that Alexander once exposed himself to danger in the theater at Ephesus, that he might rescue the apostle, (Acts 19:33). There are none so bad as those who once seemed to be good. “If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” (Matt. 5:13). That which is best when ripe, is worst when rotten; juice which is sweet in one stage, becomes sour in another.
Don’t let him that puts on his armor boast just like the ones that take it off after the battle has been won; for even common sense teaches you, that it is not just to begin, but to continue to the end which truly identifies the child of God.
But we needn’t look to analogy and to mere common sense. Scripture is clear enough. John says, “They went out from us.” Why? Were they true saints? Oh! no — “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us,” (1 John 2:19). They were not Christians, or else they would not have abandoned the faith. Peter said, “Of them the proverbs are true: ‘A dog returns to its vomit,’ and, ‘A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud,’ (2 Pet. 2:22) indicating most clearly that the dog, though it did vomit, always was a dog. When men vomit up their sins unwillingly, not giving them up because they dislike them, but because they cannot keep them; if a favorable time comes, they will return to swallow once more what they seemed to abandon. The sow that was washed — yes, bring it into the parlor, introduce it among society; it was washed, and well-washed too; no one ever saw so respectable a member of the honorable community of swine before? Bring it in! Yes, but will you keep it there? Wait and see. Because you have not transformed it into a man, on the first occasion it will be found wallowing in the mud. Why? Because it was not a man, but a sow. And so we can learn from many other passages, if we had time to quote them, that those who go back into the world of sin were not Christians at all, for perseverance is the badge of the righteous. “The righteous will hold to their ways, and those with clean hands will grow stronger,” (Job 17:9). We not only get life by faith, but faith sustains it; God’s Word declares, that the “righteous ones will live by faith. And if they shrink back, God will not be pleased with them,” (Heb. 10:38).
What we have learned from Scripture, dear friends, has been abundantly confirmed by observation. Each day I bless God that in our very large congregation we have comparatively so few who have proved false; but I have seen enough, and the Lord knows, more than enough, to make me very jealous over you with a godly jealousy. I could tell of many an instance of men and women who seemed to be running a good race for a while. But then, someone, “Cut in on them and kept them from obeying the truth?” (Gal. 5:7].
I remember a young man of whom I thought as highly of as any of you, and I believe he did at that time deserve our favorable judgment. He walked among us, one of the most hopeful of our sons, and we hoped that God would make him serviceable to his cause. But then he fell into bad company. There was enough conscience left, after a long course of secret sin, to make him feel uncomfortable in his wickedness, though he didn’t give it up; and when finally his sin stared him in the face, and others knew it, he was so ashamed, that, though he bore the Christian name, he took drugs that he might escape the shame which he had brought on himself. He was rescued—rescued by skill and the good providence of God; but where he is today, and what he is, God only knows, for he had taken another drug more deadly than before which made him the slave of his own lusts.
However, don’t think it is only the young. It is a very regrettable fact that there are, in proportion, more backslidings among the old than the young; and, if you want to find a great sinner in that respect, you will find him, surely, nine times out of ten, with grey hairs on his head. Have I not frequently mentioned that you do not find in Scripture, many cases of young people going astray. You do find believers sinning, but they were all older men. There is Noah—not a youth. There is Lot, when drunken — not a child. There is David with Bathsheba, —not a young man in the heat of passion. There is Peter denying his Lord—no boy at the time. These were men of experience and knowledge and wisdom. “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Cor. 10:12).
With sorrow we remember one whom, years ago, we heard pray among us, and sweetly too; respected and trusted by us all. I remember a dear brother saying very kindly, but not too wisely, “If he is not a child of God, then neither am I.” But where did he go, my brothers and sisters, to our shame and sorrow, but to the very worst and foulest of sins, and where is he now? Perhaps he lives in the bars or even worse places. Just as we have seen in life, the earth’s sun may be eclipsed, and the earth’s stars may go out, and all the human glory can melt into shame. Yet, no true child of God can ever lose their salvation and be cast into hell — never forget that; but this is the badge of a true child of God: that they will endure to the end; and if they don’t hold on, but creep back to their old master, and once again puts on the old collar of the Satanic yoke, then that is sure evidence that they have never come out of the spiritual Egypt through Jesus Christ, their leader, and have never obtained that eternal life which will never end or be taken away, because it is born of God.
Dear friends, I believe that I have said enough to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the true badge of the Christian is perseverance, and that without it, no one can proved themselves to be a true child of God.
II. Secondly, PERSEVERANCE IS THEREFORE, THE TARGET OF ALL OUR SPIRITUAL ENEMIES.
We have many adversaries. Look at the world!
The world does not object to us claiming to be Christians for a while; it will cheerfully overlook all such assertions, if we will today shake hands with the world and be as we used to be. Your old companions who used to call you such good persons, when in reality you were really bad persons, wouldn’t they quickly forgive you for having acted like a Christian, if you would just go back and be as you were in the past? Oh! certainly, they would look on your religion as a freak of folly, and they would very easily overlook it, if you would give it up for the future. “Oh!” says the world, “come back; come back to my arms once more; love me again, and though you have spoken some harsh words against me, and done some cruel deeds against me, I will cheerfully forgive you.” The world is always stabbing at the believer’s perseverance. Sometimes she will bully them back; she will persecute them with her tongue—cruel mockings will be used; and at other times, she will flatter them, “Come back to me; O come back! Why should we disagree? You are made for me, and I am made for you!” And she beckons so gently and so sweetly, like a former immoral lover. She has one goal , and that is that you would cease your Christian walk to heaven, and settle down in this world and enjoy her many pleasures.
The second enemy of your perseverance, is the flesh.
What is its aim? “Oh!” cries the flesh, “we have had enough of this; it is hard work being a Christian, come, give it up.” Laziness says, “Sit still where you are. Enough is enough, at least of this tedious thing.” Then, lust cries out, “Am I always to be mortified? Am I never to be indulged? Give me at least, a rest from this constant warfare?”
Then comes in the devil.
Our enemy the devil sometimes beats the big drum, and cries out with a thundering voice “There is no heaven; there is no God; you are a fool to persevere.” Or, changing his tactics, he cries out, “Come back! I will treat you better than I did before. You thought I was a hard master, but that was a misrepresentation; come back and try me again; I am a different devil from what I was ten years ago; I am now respectable. I don’t want you to go back to the bars or the casino; come with me, and be a respectable lover of pleasure. I promise you, I can dress you in expensive clothes, and I can take you into the very courts of kings. O just come back!” he says, and make yourself one of mine again.”
So this hellish trinity, the world, the flesh, and the devil, all stab at the Christian’s perseverance.
The enemies will frequently attack the Christian’s perseverance in ministry and service:
They will say “What profit is there in serving God?” The devil will say to me sometimes, as he did to Jonah, “Flee to Tarshish, and don’t stop in Nineveh; they will not believe your words, though you speak in God’s name?” To you he will say, “Why, you are so busy six days of the week, what good is there in spending your Sundays trying to teach a bunch of noisy brats in a Sunday School? Why go around trying to share the gospel with people? Not much good will come from it. Wouldn’t you be better off with taking a little rest?”
Oh! my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, that word rest—some of us are very fond of it; but we ought to remember that we spoil it if we try to get it here, for rest is only beyond the grave. We will have plenty of rest when we come into the presence of our Lord.
The devil would, if he could, destroy our perseverance in ministry, but if he cannot stop us in ministry, then he will try to prevent our perseverance in suffering.
“Why be patient any longer?” he says; “why sit among the ashes, scraping your sores with a broken piece of pottery? —curse God, and die. You have always been poor since you have been a Christian; your business does not prosper; you see, you cannot make money unless you do as others do. You must go with the times, or else you will not make it. Give it all up. Why continue to suffer like this?”
Or you may have taken up some good cause, and the moment you open your mouth, many laugh and try to put you down. “Well,” says the devil, “be put down — what is the use of it? Why make yourself look like an oddball, and expose yourself to perpetual martyrdom? It is all very nice,” he says, “if you want to be a martyr, to be quickly burned at the stake; but to hang and be roasted over a slow fire for days, is not comfortable. Why,” says the tempter, “why be always suffering — give it up.” You see, then, dear friends, that it is also perseverance in suffering which the devil shoots at.
Or, perhaps, it is perseverance in commitment.
The love of many has grown cold, but you remain zealous. “Well,” Satan says, “what is the good of your being so zealous? Other people are good enough people, you shouldn’t criticize them: why do you want to be more righteous than they are? Why should you be pushing the Church into a more holy walk? Do as the rest of the Christians do; be idle as they are. Sleep like the others, and let your lamp go out as other virgins do.” Thus Satan frequently attacks our perseverance in commitment.
Or else, Satan will attack our doctrinal sentiments.
“Why,” says Satan, “do you hold to these statements of faith and doctrine? Sensible Christians are getting more liberal, they are giving away what does not belong to them — God’s truth; they are removing the old landmarks. Old doctrines are to be repealed, articles and creeds are to be laid aside as useless lumber, not necessary for this enlightened age; fall in with this, and be an ‘Anythingarian.’ Believe that black is white; hold that truth and a lie are very much akin to one another, and that it doesn’t matter what we believe, for we are all right, though we flatly contradict each other; that the Bible is a very flexible book to fit any lifestyle; that it does not teach anything relevant, thus you can make it say anything you like. Do that,” he says, “and no longer be firm in your opinion.”
I think I have proved that perseverance is the target for all enemies. Carry your shield, Christian, therefore, put on your armor, and cry mightily to God, that by his Spirit you may endure to the end.
III. Thirdly, my brothers and sisters, PERSEVERANCE IS THE GLORY OF CHRIST.
It is to the honor of Christ that He makes all his people persevere to the end. If they would fall away and perish, every office, and work, and attribute of Christ would be stained in the mud. If any child of God would perish, then where were Christ’s covenant promises? What is he worth as a mediator of the covenant and the guarantee of it, if he has not made the promises sure to all the recipients? My brothers and sisters, Christ is made a leader and commander of the people, to bring many souls to glory; but if he does not bring them into glory, where is the captain’s honor? Where is the effectiveness of the precious blood, if it does not effectually redeem? If it only redeems for a time and then allows us to perish, where is its value? If it only blots out sin for a few weeks, and then permits that sin to return and to remain on us, where, I say, is the glory of Calvary, and where is the luster of the wounds of Jesus? He lives, he lives to intercede, but how can I honor his intercession, if it is fruitless? Didn’t he pray, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am;” (John 17:24) and if they are not finally brought to be with him where he is, where is the honor of his intercession? Hasn’t the Mediator failed and been dismissed without success? Is he not at this very moment in union with his people? But what is the value of union to Christ, if that union does not insure salvation? Is he not today at the right hand of God, preparing a place for his saints; and will he prepare a place for them, and then lose them on the road? Oh! can it be that he procures the harp and the crown, and will not save souls to use them?
My brothers and sisters, the perishing of one true child of God, would be such a dishonor to Jesus that I cannot think of it without considering it as blasphemy. One true believer in hell! Oh! what laughter in the pit — what defiance, what unholy delight! “Oh! Prince of life and glory,” says the prince of the pit, “I have defeated you; I have snatched the prey from the mighty; I have torn a jewel from your crown. See, here it is! You redeemed this soul with blood, and yet it is in hell.” Hear what Satan cries out— “Christ suffered for this soul, and yet God makes it suffer for itself. Where is the justice of God? Christ came from heaven to earth to save this soul, and failed in the attempt, and I have him here. We have conquered heaven! We have destroyed the eternal covenant; we have foiled the purposes of God; we have defeated his decree; we have triumphed over the power of the Mediator, and cast his blood to the ground!”
Can this ever happen? What an awful question! It can never, ever happen. They who are in Christ are saved. They whom Jesus Christ has really taken into union with himself, will be with him where he is. But how are you to know whether you are in union with Christ? My brothers and sisters, you can only know it by obeying the apostle’s words, “Be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure,” (2 Pet. 1:10).
IV. I close, therefore, with only a hint of the last point, PERSEVERANCE SHOULD BE THE GREAT CONCERN OF EVERY CHRISTIAN—his daily and his nightly concern.
O beloved! I implore you by the love of God, and by the love of your own souls, be faithful unto death. Do you have difficulties? You must conquer them. Hannibal crossed the Alps, for his heart was full of fury against Rome; and you must cross the Alps of difficulty, for I trust your heart is full of hatred of sin. When Mr. Smeaton had built the second Eddystone lighthouse he looked out anxiously after a storm to see if the edifice was still there, and it was his great joy when he could see it still standing, for a former builder had constructed a lighthouse there on that very same spot and he thought that lighthouse was indestructible, and expressed a wish that he might be in it in the worst storm which ever blew, and he was, and neither himself nor his lighthouse were ever seen again.
Now you have to be exposed to many storms; you must be in your lighthouse in the worst storm which ever blew; therefore build firmly on the Rock of Ages, and make sure work for eternity, for if you do these things, you will never fall. For this Church’s sake, I pray that you do it; for nothing can dishonor and weaken a Church so much as the falls of those who profess Christ. A thousand rivers flow to the sea, and make the meadows rich, but no man hears their sound; but if there is one waterfall, its thunderous sound will be heard for miles, and every traveler will note the fall. A thousand Christians can scarcely give honor to their Master as much as one hypocrite can do to dishonor him. If you have ever tasted that the Lord is gracious, pray that your foot will not slip. It would be infinitely better to bury you in the earth than see you buried in sin. If I must be lost, God grant it may not be as an apostate. If I must, after all, perish, it would be better never to have known the way of righteousness than after having known the theory of it, and something of the enjoyment of it, turn again to the weak and miserable principles of the world?
Let your prayer not be against death, but against sin. For your own sake, for the Church’s sake, for the name of Christ’s sake, I pray you do this. But you cannot persevere except by many prayers in the closet, a great deal of carefulness over every action, a great dependence on the strong hand of the Holy Spirit who alone can make you stand. Walk and live as in the sight of God, knowing where your great strength lies, and depend on it you will yet sing that sweet doxology in Jude, “To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.”
A simple faith brings the soul to Christ, Christ keeps the faith alive; that faith enables the believer to persevere, and so they enter heaven. May that be your lot and mine for Christ’s sake. Amen.
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