by Robert Murray M'Cheyne (1813-1843)
" I therefore so run, not as
uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air;
OBSERVE, (1.) How earnestly Paul sought the kingdom of heaven. - "I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air."—Ver. 26. It was long after his conversion that Paul writes in this manner. He could say, "To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." He felt it better to depart and be with Christ. He knew there was a crown laid up for him; and yet see how earnest he was to advance in the divine life. He was like one at the Grecian games running for a prize. This is the way all converted persons should seek salvation. "So run that ye may obtain." It is common for many to sit down after conversion, and say, I am safe, I do not need to strive any more. But Paul pressed toward the mark.
(2.) One particular in which he was very earnest.—"I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." He had observed in the Grecian games, that those who were to run and fight, were very attentive to this: "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things."—Ver. 25. This was one thing that Paul strove for, to be temperate in all things, in eating and drinking, "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection."
(3.) His reason for all this earnestness.—"Lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Not that Paul had not an assurance of his salvation; but he felt deeply that his high office in the Church would not save him, although he was one of the apostles—the apostle of the Gentiles—one that had laboured more than all the rest; though many had been converted under his ministry, he knew that still that would not keep him from being a castaway. Judas had preached to others, and yet was cast away. Paul felt also, that if he lived a wicked life, he would surely be cast away. He knew there was an indissoluble connection between living in sin and being cast away; and, therefore, it was a constant motive to him to holy diligence. What he feared, was, being "a castaway." It is taken from the trying of metals—the dross, or part that is thrown away, is said to be reprobate, or cast away.
What is it to be cast away!
I. Wicked men shall be cast away from God.—"Depart from Me, ye cursed."—Matt. xxv. 41. "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power."—2 Thess. i. 9.
(1.) Away from Christ.—At present, ungodly men are often near to Christ. Christ stands at their door and knocks. He stretches out His hands to them, all the day long. He speaks to them in the Bible and the preached Gospel. He says, Come unto Me, and I will give you rest. Him that cometh unto Me, I will in nowise cast out. But when Christ pronounces that sentence, "Depart from Me, ye cursed," there will not be one knock more—not one invitation more—not one sweet offer more. Christ is the only way to the Father; but it shall be then closed for ever. Christ is the only door; but it shall then be shut for evermore. It is the blessedness of the redeemed that they shall be with Christ. "To-day shalt thou be with Me." Having a desire to be absent from the body and present with the Lord. So shall they be ever with the Lord. His servants shall serve Him, and they shall see His face. It is this that maintains the eternal calm in the bosom of the redeemed. But the ungodly shall be cast away from all this. "Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into utter darkness."
(2.) Away from God.—True, the wicked can never be cast away from the presence of God. "If I make my bed in hell, behold Thou art there."—Psa. cxxxix. 8. Job says, "Hell is naked before Him, and destruction hath no covering.—(xxvi. 6.). His almighty power creates it; His breath kindles it. "The breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it."—Isa. xxx. 33. But they shall be banished,
1st. From the fruition of God.—God said to Abraham, "I am Thy shield and Thine exceeding great reward." God makes Himself over to the believing soul, saying, I will be thy God. David says, "God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever." Who can tell the joy of those who enjoy God—who have God—the infinite God—as their portion? From this the Christless shall be cast away. You will have no portion in God. God will not be your God. His attributes will be all against you.
2nd. From the favour of God.—"In Thy favour is life." The favour of God is what believers feel on earth. A beam of God's countenance is enough to fill the heart of a believer to overflowing. It is enough to light up the pale cheek of a dying saint with seraphic brightness, and make the heart of the lone widow sing for joy. From all this the Christless shall be cast away for ever. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
3rd. Cast away from the blessing of God.—God is the fountain of all blessing. No creature is good or pleasant any more than God makes it to be so. The sun warms us, our food nourishes us, our friends are pleasant to us; because God makes them so. All the joys in the world are but beams from that uncreated light; but separate a man from God, and all becomes dark. God is the fountain of all joy—separate a man from God finally, and no creature can give him joy. This is to be cast away, cut off, from God, for ever and ever. Though there were no lake of fire, this, of itself, would be hell.
II. Wicked men shall be cast away by the Holy Spirit.—It is not often thought of, but it is true, that the Holy Spirit is now dealing and striving with natural men. All the decency and morality of unconverted men is to be attributed to the restraining grace of the Holy Spirit.
(1.) The Holy Spirit works on natural men through the ordinances.—The ordinance of family worship is often greatly blessed to restrain wicked children, so that they are kept from the vicious courses and outbreaking sins. The ordinance of the read and preached Word is also greatly blessed in this way to restrain wicked men. The awful threatenings of the Word—the sweet invitations and promises of the Gospel—have this effect on unconverted men, that they are greatly restrained from going to extreme lengths in wickedness.
(2.) The Holy Spirit also works through providences in restraining wicked men.— He places them in circumstances they cannot sin as they would otherwise do. He often reduces them to poverty, so that they cannot run into the vices they were inclined unto; or He lays sickness on their body, so that their keen relish for sin is greatly blunted; or He terrifies them by bereavements, so that they are kept in the bondage of fear, and dare not sin with so high a hand as they would otherwise do.
(3.) The Holy Spirit also restrains through convictions of sin.—Many men have deep wounds of conviction who are never saved. Many are pierced with arrows of the Word from time to time, and are thus driven away from their wicked companions and scared from open sin. Restraining grace is an amazing work of God. It is more wonderful than His setting a bound to the sea that it cannot pass over. Think what a hell every unconverted bosom would become, if the Spirit were to withdraw and give men over to their own heart's lusts. Think what a hell an unconverted family would become, if the Spirit were to withdraw His bands. What hatreds, strifes, murders, parricides, would take place! Think what a hell this town would become, if every Christless man were given over to the lusts of his own heart.
Now this is to be a castaway. "My Spirit shall not always strive with man."— Gen. vi. 3. The Holy Spirit, I believe, strives with all men. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost"—Acts vii. 51 ; but He will not always strive. When the day of grace is done—when the sinner sinks into hell—the Spirit will strive no more.
1st. The Spirit will strive no more through ordinances. There will be no family worship in hell—no Bible read—no Psalms sung. There will be no Sabbath in hell - no preached Gospel—no watchmen to warn you of your sin and danger. The voice of the watchman will be silent—the danger has come—your doom will be past, and no room for repentance.
2d. The Spirit will no more strive through providences. There will be no more poverty or riches—no more sickness or bereavements—no kindly providences restraining the soul from sin—nothing but anguish and despair unutterable.
3d. There will be no more convictions by the Spirit. Conscience will condemn, but will not restrain. Your hearts will then break out. All your hatred to God, the fountains of contempt and blasphemy in your heart, will be all broken up. You will blaspheme the God of Heaven. All your lusts and impurities that have been pent up and restrained by restraining grace and the fear of man, will burst forth with amazing impetuosity. You will be as wicked and blasphemous as the devils around you.
O the misery of this! It is an evil thing and bitter. The way of transgressors is hard. Ah! sinners, you will yet find sin the hardest of all masters—you will yet find your grovelling lusts to be worse than the worm that never dies. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still."—Rev. xxii. 11.
III. Wicked men shall be cast away by all the creatures. The state of unconverted men at present, although a very dreadful one, is not yet hopeless. The angels watch the unconverted, to see of there is any signs of repentance. It is believed that the holy angels are present in the assembly of God's worshippers. 1 Tim. v. 21. And if so, no doubt they watch your faces, to see if a tear starts into your eye, or a prayer trembles on your lip. There would be joy this day among the angels, if one sinner was to repent.
The redeemed on earth are peculiarly interested in unconverted souls. They pray for them night and day, many of them with tears; many a child of God wets his pillow with tears in behalf of perishing souls. Jeremiah wept in secret places for their pride. David says, Rivers of water run down mine eyes. They seek your conversion more than any personal benefit. Ministers are set apart to seek after lost and perishing souls. "Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." If ministers are like their Master, this will be their great errand—that by all means we may save some. But when the day of grace is past, all holy creatures will cast you away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, for the Lord hath rejected them.
The angels will no longer take any interest in you. They will know that it is not fit they should pity you any more. You will be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.
The redeemed will no longer pray for you, nor shed another tear for you. They will see you condemned in the judgment, and not put in one word for you. They will see you depart into everlasting fire, and yet not pray for you. They will see the smoke of your torments going up for ever and ever, and yet cry, Allelujah!
Ministers will no more desire your salvation. It will no more be their work. The number of the saved will be complete without you; the table will be full. Ministers will bear witness against you in that day.
Even devils will cast you off. As long as you remain on earth, the devil keeps you in his train; he flatters you, and gives you many tokens of his friendship and esteem; but soon he will cast you off. You will be no longer pleasant to him; you will be a part of his torment; and he will hate you and torment you, because you deceived him, and he deceived you.
IV. Wicked men shall be cast away by themselves.—It is said, they shall wish to die, and shall not be able. They shall seek death, and death shall flee from them. I believe that some suicides experience the beginnings of hell. I believe that Judas did; he could not bear himself, and he tried to cast himself away. This will be the feeling of lost souls. They will not be able to bear the sight of themselves; they will be weary of being; they will wish they had never been. At present, unconverted men are often very self-complacent. They love to employ their faculties; the wheels of their life go smoothly; their affections are pleasant. Memory has many pleasant green spots to look back upon. How different when the day of grace is done! (1.) The understanding will be clear and fill to apprehend the real nature of your misery. Your mind will then see the holiness of God, His almightiness, His majesty. You will see your own condemned condition, and the depth of your hell. (2.) The will in you will be all contrary to God's will, even though you see it add to your hell; yet you will hate all that God loves, and love all that God hates. (3.) Your conscience is God's vice-regent in the soul. It will accuse you of all your sins. It will set them in order and condemn you. (4.) Your affections will still love your kindred. "I have five brethren," you will say. Earthly fathers who are evil know how to give good gifts to their children. Even in hell you will love your own kindred; but ah! what misery it will cost you, when you hear them sentenced along with you. (5.) Your memory will be very clear. You will remember all your misspent Sabbaths—your sermons heard, as if you did not hear—your place in the house of God—your minister's face and the voice—the bell—through millions of ages after this, you will remember these, as if yesterday. (6.) Your anticipations.—Everlasting despair. O how you will wish you had never been! How you will wish to tear out your memory, these tender affections, this accusing conscience! You will seek death, and it will flee from you. This, this is to be lost! This is everlasting destruction! This is to be a castaway.
Lessons.—(1.) Let believers learn Paul's earnest diligence.—A wicked life will end in being a castaway. These two are linked together, and no man can sunder them.
(2.) Hell will be intolerable.—I have not spoken of the lake of fire, of the utter darkness, and the worm that never dies. I have spoken only of the mental facts of hell; and yet these by themselves are intolerable. O who can tell what it will be when both meet, and meet eternally? "Who knows the power of Thine anger?" O do not keep away from Christ now. Now He says, Come ; soon, soon He will say, Depart. O do not resist the Holy Spirit now. Now He strives, but He will not always strive with you. Soon, soon He will leave you. O do not despise the word of ministers and godly friends. Now they plead with you, weep for you, pray for you. Soon, soon they will be silent as the grave, or sing hallelujah to see you lost. O do not be proud and self-admiring. Soon you will loath the very sight of yourself, and wish you had never been.
(3.) The amazing love of Christ in bearing all this for sinners.—Christ is a wrath-bearing Surety. All that is included in being a castaway He bore. Amen.
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