REMEMBERING 2008 & 1869
David C. Bennett, Dr. Min.
The year 2008 will be remembered for many things but especially will it be remembered for the man-made global economic crisis. Billions of dollars were lost on the stock market and elsewhere as the financial scoundrels behind the mess walked away with seemingly no guilt, no punishment and with billions of other peopleís dollars. Governments have succumbed to financial blackmail and bailed out bankrupt companies and corrupt CEOís not with their own money but with taxpayerís dollars!
Who is to blame? There are many. Investors are to blame when they invested in property that was over-valued, schemes and companies that promised returns to good to be true. The financial wizards were to blame for poor money management and promoting schemes that they knew were unsound. Greed and covetousness had been enthroned as god. However, this 2008 situation is not a new one. In the 1860ís a similar thing occurred of which C. H. Spurgeon spoke in his introduction to his sermon UNSOUND SPIRITUAL TRADING preached on Sunday morning the 10th of January, 1869 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, England. This editor has abbreviated the sermon for space but hopefully the impact will be the same as when preached by the Prince of Preacherís that Lordís Day so many years ago.
"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits." - Proverbs 16:2.
During the last two years some of the most notable commercial reputations have been hopelessly destroyed. Men in the great world of trade, who were trusted for hundreds of thousands of pounds, around whose characters there hovered no cloud of suspicion, nor even the shade of doubt, have proved themselves reckless of honesty and devoid of principle. The fiery trial has been too much for the wood, hay, and stubble, of many a gigantic firm. Houses of business which seemed to be founded upon a rock, and to stand as fast as the commonwealth of England itself, have been shaken to their foundations and have caved in with a tremendous crash: On all sides we see the wrecks of great reputations and colossal fortunes. There is wailing in the palaces of sham, and desolation in the halls of pretense. Bubbles are bursting, windbags are collapsing, paint is cracking, gilt is peeling off. Probably we have more of this to come, more revelations still to be made of apparent wealth which covered insolvency, as a rich paper may cover a mud wall; crafty schemes which duped the public with profits never made, and tempted them to advance to deeper speculations, even as the mirage of the desert mocks the traveler. We have seen in the public prints, month after month, fresh discoveries of the modes of financing adopted by the villainy of this present age, to accomplish robbery respectably and achieve felony with credit. We have been astonished and amazed at the vile tricks and shameless devices to which men of eminence have condescended. And yet we have been compelled to hear justifications of gigantic frauds, and have even been compelled to believe that the perpetrators of them did not consider themselves to be acting disreputably, their own previous successes and the low state of morality together, having lulled them into a state in which conscience, if not dead, was thoroughly asleep. I say, we may probably have yet more to see of this school of dishonesty; but it is a pity that we should, and altogether needless, for the whole trade of financing is now to be examined by the diligent student with models and living examples, more than enough to illustrate every single portion of the art.
Some ages may have been great in science, others in art, and others in war, but our era overtops every other in the proficiency of its rascals; this is the classic period of chicanery, the golden age of fraud. Let a man have a base heart, and a seared conscience, and a plausible mode of address, and let him resolve upon deluding the public out; of millions, he need not travel to learn the readiest method, he can find examples near at home, amongst high professors and the great ones of the earth.
My brethren, these noises of falling towers on the right, these sounds of crumbling battlements on the left, these cries of the shipwrecked everywhere along the coasts of trade, have not only awakened within me many thoughts relative to themselves and the rottenness of modern society, but they have made me muse upon similar catastrophes evermore occurring in the spiritual world. Unrecorded in the journals, and unmourned by unregenerate men, there are failures, and frauds, and bankruptcies of soul, most horrible to think upon. There is a spiritual trading just as pretentious, and apparently just as successful, as your vaunted limited liability juggle,
but really just as rotten and as sure to end in hopeless overthrow.
Speculation is a spiritual vice as well as a commercial one - trading without capital is common in the religious world, and puffery and deception are every-day practices. The outer world is always the representative of the inner; the life which clusters round the Exchange illustrates that which gathers within the church; and if our eyes were opened, and our ears were able to hear, the sights and the sounds of the spirit world would far more interest us and sadden us than the doings which begin in the directorsí board-room and end we know not where. We should see at this moment colossal religious fortunes melting into abject spiritual poverty. We should see high professors, much reverenced and held in esteem, brought into shame and everlasting contempt. We should see the wealthy in divine matters, whom men have unwisely trusted as their guides and counsellors
as to their soulsí best interests, unmasked and proved to be deceitful through and through. I seem at this moment to be peering into the world of spiritual things, and I see many a Babel tower tottering and ready to fall; many a fair tree decaying at the heart; many a blooming cheek undermined by disease. Yes, a sound comes to my ear of men in the church, apparently rich and increased in goods, who are naked, and poor, and miserable, and great men whose towering glories are but a fading flower.
There ever have been such, there are many now, and there will be to the end. The supply of deceivers is sure to be maintained, since the text tells us that all the ways of a man are dean in his own eyes; there is a pro-penalty in human nature which leads men, even when they are most wrong, to judge themselves most right. The text at the same time suggests the terrible conclusion to which all self-deception will certainly come, for the judgment of man concerning himself is not final, and there comes a day when the Lord who weigheth the spirits will reverse the verdict of a perjured conscience, and make the man to stand no longer in the false light which
his conceit has thrown around him, but in the true light, in which all his fancied glory shall vanish as a dream.
Travelling some time ago in an iron steamboat to the Continent, the captain told me that the compass was far from trustworthy where so much iron was on every side, and that sometimes, when, so far as he knew, he had
steered correctly, he had found himself very considerably out of his course. Though the compass was fixed aloft, so as to be as much as possible out of the region of the metallic attraction, yet the deflection and aberrations in the case of his own compass had been occasionally most remarkable. In like manner our conscience originally as it carne from God was, no doubt, an exceedingly correct standard of right and wrong, and if we had sailed by it, we must have reached the haven safely enough; but conscience is now
placed in connection with a depraved nature, which forbids its accurate working. Now, if when the compass erred, the laws of nature would vary to make up for its defects, the aberrations would not matter; but if the man
is misled by the perverted needle, he may unexpectedly be upon a rock, and will be as surely wrecked as if the helmsman had neglected the compass altogether. So, if Godís law could be shaped to suit the errors of our
judgment, it might not matter; but the laws of God stand sternly and inflexibly the same, and if we deviate from the right way through this false judgment of ours, we shall be none the less guilty, and we shall find our fate to be none the less terrible. Hence, I do with a greater vehemence and earnestness, this morning, on your account, and with more brokenness and humility of spirit on my own, approach this matter, desiring to speak with
divers classes among you, urging you not to be so flattered by your own conceptions of your position as to get out of the course in which you ought to steer; beseeching you to remember that however well you may cajole
yourselves with the idea that your way is right and clear, yet the inevitable judgment-day will come to end all delusions however pleasant. Spiritual traders, I speak to you this day, reminding you of the great audit which
hastens on, and warning you lest you make a fair show for awhile, and then in the end come down with a crash. I am sure there is much rotten spiritual trading abroad, and to save you from it, I pray the Holy Ghost to help me speak plainly and searchingly this morning. I intend, as God shall help me, to address the text to different characters. We will endeavor to be practical throughout the sermon, and to push home vital truth with great earnestness upon each one.
I. THE WAYS OF THE OPENLY WICKED are clean in their own eyes, but the Lord will weigh their spirits.
Solomon was a profound student of human nature, and when he penned this sentence you may rest assured he knew what he wrote. They who are best acquainted with mankind will tell you that self-righteousness is not the peculiar sin of the virtuous, but that most remarkably, it flourishes best where there appears to be the least soil for it.
Those men, who distinctly and plainly in the judgment of their fellows, have no righteousness in which they can glory, are the very persons who, when you come to search into the depth of their nature, are relying upon a fancied goodness which they dream about and rest upon. O you who fondly dream that the broad road to destruction is the upward path to celestial bliss, I beseech you learn wisdom, and hearken to the voice of instruction; consider your ways, and seek unto the precious blood which alone can blot our your sins.
II. A second class I will now address. THE WAYS OF THE GODLESS MAN are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits.
The godless man is often exceedingly upright and moral in his outward behavior to his fellow men. He will sometimes say, "Your religion I look upon as a mere farce: I regard Christians as being made up of two sorts, knaves and fools. They are either duped by others, or else for purposes of their own they are deceiving others. Their talk about God, sir, it is all cant; with some of them I grant you it is not quite that, but then they have too few brains to be able to discover that they are deceived. However, take the whole thing for all in all, it is all a piece; of nonsense, and if people just behave as they ought towards their neighbors, and do their duty in their station in life, that is enough." Yes, and there are in this city of London, thousands, and hundreds of thousands, who think this to be good logic, and indeed who open their eyes with astonishment if for a single moment you are supposed to contradict their statement that such a style of life is the best and most commendable; and yet, if they would but think, nothing can be more unsound than their life and its supposed excellence. Here is a man created by his God, and he is put down amongst his fellow creatures; surely, the
first duty that he owes is towards his Creator. His life depends entirely upon that Creatorís will - it must be his first duty to have respect to him in whose hands his breath is; but this man not only refuses to be obedient to
the law of his Creator, and be have regard to him in his daily actions, but turns round to his neighbours, who are mere creatures like himself, and he says, "I will have respect to you, but not to God. Any laws of the state
which bind me in my relation to you I will obey; but any laws which describe my relation to God, I will not consider except it be to ridicule and laugh at them. I will be obedient to any but to God; I will do the right thing
to any but to the Most High. I have a sense of right and wrong, but I will restrict its action to my fellow men, and that sense of right and wrong when it comes in relation to God I will utterly obliterate." Now, if there were no God, this man were wise enough, but as there is a God who created us, and who shall surely come in the clouds of heaven to call every one of us to account, for the things which we have done in the body, what think you will be the judgment dealt out to this unfaithful servant?
O ungodly man, let this warning, if thou be here this morning, sound in thy heart as well as thy ears: no longer set thyself in and go unto my Father; I will confess that I have forgotten him and despised him, and I will seek peace through the blood of Jesus Christ.
III. Further, I shall address myself to another class of persons. In all ages of the church, and especially at this time, there are numbers of persons who are OUTWARDLY RELIGIOUS, but whose religion ends there.
Now, it seems to some of us amazingly strange that a man should be acting viciously, should be living wickedly, and yet should think that his ways are clean, because he takes a sacrament or attends a certain place of worship. I often pray- I wish I prayed it, however, more - that none of us here may be preached into the idea that we are all right if we are all wrong. It is not your coming to the Tabernacle, it is not your joining the church, your being baptised, your attending prayer-meetings, or your doing anything, that will be the slightest matter in this business - it is your giving up your hearts to God truly, and your living in conformity with your profession; and unless the grace of God be really given you, helping you to do this, your ways may be clean unto you, because of your outward profession; but the Lord who weigheth the spirits will make short work of these bubbles, he will break this confectionery, smash to pieces these shams, and leave the man who ought to have a palace over his head throughout eternity, to sit down and shiver amongst the ruins of his Babylon, and cry out and weep and wail amongst dragons and the fiends.
IV. But to pass on, there is another character that must be addressed. "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes," so are THE WAYS OF THE COVETOUS PROFESSOR.
Where will you find an instance of a single saint in Scripture that ever fell into covetousness? Into all other sins have they fallen, but into this one, I do not remember that one child of God mentioned in Scripture ever descended. Grace may exist where there are many occasional sins, but never where there is abiding covetousness. Think of Paulís words: "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither, fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God." Cry unto God, that as he gives you substance, you may use it for his glory. Ask him that you may never perish with a millstone about your neck; for even if that killing weight be made of gold, it will be no better perishing for all that.
V. Another character must have a word also: we will now note THE WAYS OF THE WORLDLY PROFESSOR.
It is amazing how some people, making a profession of religion, square it with their conscience, that they live as they do live. You could not with a microscope detect any difference between them and common worldlings, and yet they think there is a vast difference, and they would be insulted if you did not allow it. Here they come up to the house of God to-day, but to what amusements have they been during the week? how are they dressed? how are their children educated? is there any family prayer? Is there anything in the household that is Christian? Look at them in business. Do not they trade precisely like those who make no pretensions to religion?
I have but this word to say in all affection to such, earnestly desiring that they may be plucked out of this fire, "the Lord will weigh the spirits." When he comes to the account, he will not be like a judge who has to learn the facts; he will come to the last assize, having seen with those eyes of fire the secret thoughts, the private feelings of our life. God be merciful to us, sinners, we may all of us say; but God especially save us
from being like the ungodly.
VI. Yet another word, and this is addressed to all professors here more or less: it is a solemn word concerning THE WAYS OF SECURE BACKSLIDERS.
Do you not know, brethren and sisters, that very often our ways seem very clean to us when they are not. Rest assured, beloved, great falls and terrible mischief never come to a Christian man at once, they are a work of slow degrees; and be assured, too, that you may glide down the smooth waters of the river and never dream of the Niagara beyond, and yet you may be speeding towards it. An awful crash may yet come to the highest professor among us that shall make the world to ring with blasphemy against God, and the church to resound with bitter lamentations because the mighty have fallen. God will keep his own, but how if I should turn out not to be his own I He will keep the feet of his saints, but what if I leave off to watch, and my feet should not be kept, and I should turn out to be no saint of his, but a mere intruder into his family, and a pretender to have what I never had! O God, through Christ Jesus, deliver each of us from this.
VII. Had time not failed me, I meant to speak concerning the seventh and last character, namely, THE WAYS OF THE DECEIVED MAN.
There are, no doubt, many in the world who will never find out that their ways which they thought to be so clean are all foul, till they enter upon another world. How near a man may come to being a Christian, and yet miss salvation it were difficult to tell; but, certainly, he may come so near that no man, nor yet the angels of God, shall be able to tell the difference between him and a saved soul, only God shall discern the difference when he comes to weigh the spirits.
When you think you are doing something and are rich and flourishing, you are poor, and naked, and miserable; but when you are consciously weak and sinful, then you are rich. When you are weak you are strong; but, O God, save us from letting our ways seem clean in our own sight, but may we weigh our spirits by the help of thy Spirit, and condemn ourselves that we may not be condemned of the Lord. The Lord bless you richly, and freely, for his nameís sake. Amen.
The Bible For Today
For whosoever shall call upon the name
of the Lord shall be saved.
From the Authorized King James Bible