For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)
To you dear Christian with a callous heart, to you unfeeling person for the state of souls and the eternal destination of those a step from hell, why do you feel so little for those whom God’s wrath abides? Why is it so hard for you to step out and proclaim the gospel in the by-ways and highways? Do you not care for the dying in sin?
Are you so puffed up of being in grace that you care so little for those a full breathe away from dead?
You have so many excuses, upon excuses. Why is it so hard for you to take that step, that opening of the mouth, that utterance of truth? Why is it you are so ashamed to preach that same gospel that pleased God to save you?
Oh dear Christian, dear believer in Christ, what has made you to differ? From a thousand sinners around you, from a million sinners in Hell, what has made you to differ? O, how great a sinner might have you been if not for grace?
What then is withholding your speech? What then is withholding the tears from your eyes? The breaking of your heart for the lost?! What then is withholding your knees from bleeding in prayer? And yet you would exhaust and spend your speech, your eyes, your heart, and your knees in so many trivial things to the satisfaction of your own lusts and desires! Trivial talk, the watching of television, the drama and the sitting all day to the satisfaction of self! O, what a betrayal of grace is this! Dear soul, why oh why would you do such a thing? Why would you waste your time, waste your life for such Sin Exalting Things? Why do you care so little for holiness? Why do you care so little for the Cross of Christ?
Christ came to save sinners and yet in your Christian practice you would have nothing of it? You say we are not to be popes, but if Christ died for sin, how can you whom He died for still live in sin?
What a rebellion against grace!
You say we are not to save everybody, since we can’t do it ourselves, yet why o why do you bring it to the extreme of not preaching the Gospel as much as you can? How many thousands of people have you gone by in your life time and yet to virtually each and everyone you have withheld the gospel of grace from them?i
What a rebellion against grace!
What a rebellion against God!
O dear believer, what has made you to differ? How great a sinner might you be apart from grace!
Yes, look upon yourself as you are now. Does not your conscience reproach you?
Do not your thousand wanderings stand before you and tell you that you are unworthy to be called His son?
Does not the weakness of your mental power, the frailty of your moral power, your continual unbelief and your perpetual backsliding from God tell you that you are less than the least of all saints?
And if He has made you anything, are you not thereby taught that it is grace, free sovereign grace, which has made you to differ?
Should any here, supposing themselves to be the children of God, imagine that there is some reason in them why they should have been chosen, let them know that as yet they are in the dark concerning the first principles of grace and have not yet learned the Gospel.
If ever they had known the Gospel they would, on the other hand, confess that they were less than the least—the offscouring of all things—unworthy, ill-deserving, undeserving and Hell-deserving.
They would ascribe it all to distinguishing grace, which has made them to differ and to discriminating love which has chosen them out from the rest of the world.
Great Christian, you would have been a great sinner if God had not made you to differ. Oh, you who are valiant for Truth—you would have been as valiant for the devil if grace had not laid hold upon you!
A seat in Heaven shall one day be yours but a chain in Hell would have been yours if grace had not changed you. You can now sing His love but a licentious song might have been on your lips if grace had not washed you in the blood of Jesus.
You are now sanctified. You are quickened. You are justified.
But what would you have been tonight if it had not been for the interposition of the Divine hand?
There is not a crime you might not have committed. There is not a folly into which you might not have run.
Even murder itself you might have committed if grace had not kept you.
You shall be like the angels. But you would have been like the devil if you had not been changed by grace.
Therefore, never be proud.
All your garments you have from above—rags were your only heritage.
Be not proud though you have a large estate, a wide domain of grace. You had not once a single thing to call your own except your sin and misery.
You are now wrapped in the golden righteousness of the Savior and accepted in the garments of the Beloved but you would have been buried under the black mountain of sin and clothed with the filthy rags of unrighteousness if He had not changed you.
And are you proud?
Do you exalt yourself?
Oh, strange mystery, that you, who have borrowed everything, should exalt yourself! That you, who have nothing of your own but have still to draw upon grace, should be proud! A poor dependent pensioner upon the bounty of your Savior and yet proud. One who has a life which can only live by fresh streams of life from Jesus and yet proud!
Go, hang your pride upon the gallows, as high as Haman—hang it there to rot and stand beneath it and denounce it to all eternity. For surely of all things most to be cursed and despised is the pride of a Christian.
He of all men has ten thousand times more reason than any other to be humble and walk lowly with his God and kindly and humbly towards his fellow creatures.
Let this then humble you, Christian, that the vine tree is nothing more than any other tree, save only for the fruitfulness which God has given it.
The Fruitless Vine
A sermon delivered on sabbath morning, July 18, 1856,
By the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon,
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
“And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying: Son of man, What is the vine tree more than any tree, or than a branch which is among the trees of the forest?” (Ezekiel 15:1, 2)
Read the rest of this self-abasing, Christ exalting, God honoring sermon on the nature of grace and our utter dependence upon it, to us who are undeserving, ill-deserving, and hell-deserving, here.
- From my brother in Christ, Joel De Leon: It is profitable to point out as well that, from a Reformed perspective, not every Christian is called to preach. Indeed, it is the responsibility of every Christian to confess Christ before men (to witness) but we are to differentiate that from preaching which is ecclesiastically sanctioned.
Rom. 10:15a states, “And how are they to preach unless they are sent?” This implies that those who are to preach are sent. The next question to ask would then be, “Who sends them?” Of course, the simple answer is that God sends them and we all agree on that but not all Christians agree on the answer to the question, “How does God send them?” The Reformed would say that we ought to recognize God’s ordained means.
We should all witness Christ before men as long as we keep in mind that the office of the minister/elder is not the office of every believer. [↩]