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Laodiceans. They said that they were rich and increased with goods and had need of nothing, while they were all the time poor, and miserable, and blind, and naked. And so it is with all. A lukewarm profession of religion satisfies the mind, so that when we preach repentance, they say, We have been baptized and confirmed and are communicants; what need we more? This is not meant for us; we are not such grievous sinners. When we preach the necessity of faith they say, Oh, we do believe in Christ; this cannot be meant for us.
When we say come out from the world, ye cannot serve God and mammon, the friendship of the world is enmity with God; they say, We only indulge ourselves in allowable gratifications, innocent amusements; God is not a hard master. So that there is no situation in which it is more difficult to force the way of truth.
Brethren, my object has been at this time to say just what I am commanded in the Scripture, and my pole-star has been the declaration of God to Ezekiel—“Say unto the people, thus saith the Lord.” Now, in relation to the point on which I am speaking, the difficulty of bringing truth to the consciences of the lukewarm, I speak the parallel language
of our Saviour to the Pharisees. The Pharisees, you know, trusted that they were righteous; they were members in the full communion of the Jewish Church, if I may so speak, and yet their religion was formal; it had no life and spirit. Now mark our Saviour's language to them—“The publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you.” Why, is not this a strange doctrine, that such abandoned characters as these were actu
ally nearer to the kingdom of God than the professing Pharisees? But here is the reason. The Pharisees thought they had something to cling to; they held on to their Church privileges as matters of justification; they would not be persuaded that they too were sinners, and therefore, when the truth came to their hearts, they found a brazen coat of mail. Whereas, when truth reached the bosoms of those who knew they had no such refuge to cling to, it pierced their souls at once, and they fall down and cry out, “Lord, what shall we do to be saved ?" And so of lukewarmness; it has on its coat of mail; the arrows of conviction are sent, and their armour resists; the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, comes and it is turned aside. From lukewarmness the cause of religion must look to meet continual opposition; the elements of war are within and without, and it makes a difficulty found not elsewhere. It is by reason of this, that in the heart of the lukewarm there is such a concentrated purpose of resistance, that our Saviour uses such strong and emphatic language—“I will spue thee out of my mouth.” There is no condition so awfully dangerous.
If this be so, perhaps you may, if the situation of the lukewarm is so almost hopeless, what then shall we do? Brethren, if those who are in this condition could be really convinced ; if instead of crying peace, peace, while there is no peace, they would mourn in bitterness over the delusion which otherwise must ruin their souls; then on this dark and dismal cloud, one beam of hope might be painted, as encouraging to the spiritual eye-sight as that bright rainbow-beam of material sun-light which some
times sits on the darkest cloud of the summer as it retreats away. Dark and dismal, and almost desperate as is this condition of lukewarmness, it is not a condition from which hope is to be utterly shut out; for I take the bright example of my doctrine from the lips of the Saviour, who thus addressed the lukewarm Laodiceans—“Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked; I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine
eyes salve, that thou mayest see.”
Let it ring in your ears till they are paralyzed, or till they drink in the exhortation with the avidity of conscious need. Be zealous and repent. There is your remedy. Return ye backsliding children; amend your ways and your doings; give yourselves to God in the bonds of a new and eternal covenant; repent and believe the Gospel; so shall the curse be exchanged for the blessing, and instead of the awful and agonizing declaration—" I will spue thee out of my mouth”—“he that putteth his hand to the plough and looketh back is not fit for the kingdom of heaven”-you may hear that rich promise which in infinite grace concludes this epistle—“To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne."
SERMON XX V.
LUKEWARMNESS IN RELIGION,
ILLUSTRATED IN THE
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN LAODICEA.
REVELATION iii. 14-22.
I Trust it will be remembered, my friends, because it was one of the strongest positions taken in my
last discourse to show the awful condition of lukewarmness, that there is in this sin a peculiarity of danger, inasmuch as the very existence of this state of mind and heart renders the access of truth more difficult, and seems to put the most insurmountable obstacle in the way of repentance. It was remarked, that a lukewarm professor is apt to be satisfied with his condition, and thus think himself safe. Every false confidence of this kind has, of its own nature, a hardening effect, and becomes more and more hopeless, because the heart in its ill-founded security rejects the application of Gospel truth. Thus it was with the Laodiceans. They were luke
warm; they had none of the real life and spirit of religion ; they were in such an awful state, that our Saviour tells them they could not possibly be worse. “I would that thou wert cold or hot.” They were in such a state, that he saw fit to employ the most disgusting figure in all the circle of nature to express his utter abhorrence of them and their condition—“I will spue thee out of my mouth.” And yet they had the most exalted opinions of their own spiritual state; they thought themselves in a very excellent and safe condition, and it was this self-deception which constituted the chief danger of their situation. Now, let us see what this opinion was which they so erroneously and fatally entertained. This subject is embraced in the
IV th general division of my subject, the pride and ignorance of the lukewarm Laodiceans, with Christ's severe rectification of the error"Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked."
Here the first particular to be noticed is, that these lukewarm professors of religion deceived themselves in the supposition that they were rich and had need of nothing. The term rich here must evidently apply to their estimate of their spiritual condition. It had nothing to do with the external circumstances in which they were as a Church; for the whole of this epistle relates to the particulars of vital religion. When they considered themselves as rich, then, it means that they looked upon themselves not only in a good and safe state, but in a very remarkably