Delivered on Sabbath Evening, August 24, 1856, by the Rev. C. H. Spurgeon At Exeter Hall, Strand
“For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.”—Philippians 3:18-19.
There are many now among us, as there were then, who walk in such a manner that we recognize them at once as the “enemies of the cross of Christ.” I do fear that the evil, instead of having decreased, has multiplied and grown in danger. We have more profession now than there was in the age of Paul, and consequently we have mere hypocrisy.
It is a crying sin with our churches that there are many in their midst who never ought to be there, who would be fit members of an ale-house or any favorite resort of the gay and frivolous, but who never ought to sip the sacramental wine or eat the holy bread, the emblems of the sufferings of our Lord. We have — O Paul, how wouldst thou have said it to night, and how wouldst thou have wept while saying it! — we have many in our midst who are the “enemies of the cross of Christ,” because “their God is their belly, they mind earthly things,” and their life is not consistent with the great things of God.
I never read that the apostle wept when he was persecuted Though they ploughed his back with furrows, I do believe that never a tear was seen to gush from his eye while the soldiers scourged him. Though he was cast into prison, we read of his singing, never of his groaning. I do not believe he ever wept on account of any sufferings or dangers to which he himself was exposed for Christ’s sake. I call this an extraordinary sorrow, because the man who wept was no soft piece of sentiment, and seldom shed a tear even under grievous trials. He wept for three things: he wept on account of their guilt; on account of the ill effects of their conduct; and on account of their doom.
First, Paul wept on account of the GUILT of those persons who, having a name to live, were dead, and while uniting themselves with a Christian church, were not walking as they should do among men and before God.
There were those in the early church who, after they sat at God’s table, would go away and sit at the feasts of the heathen, and there indulge in gluttony and drunkenness; others indulged in lusts of the flesh, enjoying those pleasures (so miscalled) which, afterwards, bring unutterable pain even to the body itself, and are disgraceful to men, much more to professors of religion. Their God was their belly. They cared more about the dress of their body than the dress of their soul; they regarded more the food of the outward carcass than the life of the inner man. Ah! my hearers; are there not many everywhere in our churches who still bow before their belly-god, and make themselves their own idols? Is it not notorious, in almost every society, that professing men can pamper themselves as much as others?
Have we not some in our churches (it is idle to deny it) who are as fond of the excesses of the table and of surfeit in the good things of this life as any other class of men? Have we not persons who spend a very fortune upon the dress of their bodies, adorning themselves far more than they adorn the doctrine of their Savior; men whose perpetual business it is to take good care of their bodies, against whom flesh and blood never had any cause to complain, for they not only serve the flesh, but make a god of it?
Ah! sirs, the church is not pure; the church is not perfect; we have scabbed sheep in the flock. In our own little communion, now and then, we find them out, and then comes the dread sentence of excommunication, by which they are cut off from our fellowship; but there are many of whom we are not aware, who creep like snakes along the grass, and are not discovered till they inflict a grievous wound upon religion, and do damage to our great and glorious cause.
Another of their sins was that they did mind earthly things.
Beloved, the last sentence may not have touched your consciences, but this is a very sweeping assertion, and I am afraid that a very large proportion of Christ’s church are verily guilty here. It is an anomaly, but it is a fact, that we hear of ambitious Christians, although Christ has told us that he who would be exalted must humble himself.
There are among the professed followers of the humble Man of Galilee, men who strive to gain the topmost round of the ladder of this world; whose aim is, not to magnify Christ, but to magnify themselves at any hazard.
It had been thought at one time that a Christian would be a holy, a humble, and contented man; but it is not so now-a-days. We have (Oh, shame, ye churches!) mere professors; men who are as worldly as the worldliest, and have no more of Christ’s Holy Spirit in them than the most carnal who never made a profession of the truth.
Again, it is a paradox, but it stares us in the face every day, that we have covetous Christians. It is an inconsistency. We might as well talk of unholy seraphim, of perfect beings subject to sin, as of covetous Christians; yet there are such men, whose purse strings were never intended to slide, at least at the cry of the poor; who call it prudence to amass wealth, and never use it in any degree in the cause of Christ. If you want men that are hard in business, that are grasping after wealth, that seize upon the poor debtor and suck the last particle of his blood; if you want the men who are grasping and grinding, that will skin the flint, and take away the very life from the orphan, you must come—I blush to say it, but it is a solemn truth—you must come sometimes to our churches to find them.
Another character which the Apostle gives of these men is that they gloried in their shame.
A professing sinner generally glories in his shame more than any one else. In fact, he miscalls it. He labels the devil’s poisons with the names of Christ’s medicines. Things that he would reckon vices in any other man are virtues with himself. If he could see in another man the selfsame action which he has just performed — if another could be the looking-glass of himself, oh! how he would thunder at him!
He is the very first man to notice a little inconsistency. He is the very strictest of Sabbatarians; he is the most upright of thieves; he is the most tremendously generous of misers; he is the most marvelously holy of profane men. While he can indulge in his favorite sin, he is for ever putting up his glass to his eye to magnify the faults of others.
Reproof is thrown away upon him. Is he not a member of the church? Has he not been so for years? Who shall dare to say that he is unholy?
O sirs, there are some of your members of churches who will one day be members of the pit.
We have some united with our churches who have passed through baptism and sit at our sacramental tables, who, while they have a name to live, are dead as corpses in their graves as to anything spiritual. It is an easy thing to palm yourself off for a godly man now-a-days. There is little self-denial, little mortification of the flesh, little love to Christ wanted. Oh, no. Learn a few religious hymns; get a few cast phrases, and you will deceive the very elect.
I am saying hard things, but I am saying true things; for my blood boils sometimes when I meet with men whom I would not own, whom I would not sit with anywhere, and who yet call me “brother.” They can live in sin, and yet call a Christian “brother.” God forgive him! We can feel no brotherhood with them; nor do we wish to do so until their lives are changed, and their conduct is made more consistent. You see, then, in the Apostle’s days there were some who were a disgrace to godliness, and the Apostle wept over them because he knew their guilt.
But the Apostle did not so much weep for them as for THE MISCHIEF THEY WERE DOING, for he says, emphatically, that they are, “The enemies of the cross of Christ.”
“The enemies of the cross of Christ” are Pharisaic professors, bright with the whitewash of outside godliness, whilst they are rotten within. Oh! methinks there is nothing that should grieve a Christian more than to know that Christ has been wounded in the house of his friends.
See, there comes my Savior with bleeding hands and feet; O my Jesus, my Jesus, who shed that blood? Whence comes that wound? Why lookest thou so sad?
He replies, “I have been wounded, but guess where I received the blow?” Why, Lord, sure thou wast wounded in the gin-palace; thou wast wounded where sinners meet, in the seat of the scornful; thou wast wounded in the infidel hall. “No, I was not,” saith Christ; “I was wounded in the house of my friends; these scars were made by those who sat at my table and bore my name, and talked my language; they pierced me and crucified me afresh, and put me to an open shame.”
Far worst of sinners they that pierce Christ thus whilst professing to be friends.
Beloved, I would rather have a thousand devils out of the church, than have one in it. I do not care about all the adversaries outside; our greatest cause of fear is from the crafty “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” that devour the flock. It is against such that we would denounce in holy wrath the solemn sentence of divine indignation, and for such we would shed our bitterest tears of sorrow. They are “the enemies of the cross of Christ.”
Now, for a moment, let me show you how it is that the wicked professor is the greatest enemy to Christ’s church.
In the first place, he grieves the church more than any one else. If any man in the street were to pelt me with mud, I believe I should thank him for the honor, if I knew him to be a bad character, and knew that he hated me for righteousness sake. But if one who called himself a Christian should injure the cause with the filthiness of his own licentious behavior: ah! that were more injurious then the stakes of Smithfield, or the racks of the Tower. The deepest sighs the Christian has ever heaved, have been fetched from him by carnal professors. I would not weep a tear if every man should curse me who was a hater of Christ; but when the professor forsakes Christ, and betrays his cause: ah! that indeed is grievous; and who is he that can keep back the tear on account of so vile a deed? Again: nothing divides the church more.
Yet again: nothing has ever hurt poor sinners more than this. Many sinners coming to Christ would get relief far more easily, and find peace far more quickly, if it were not for the ill lives of false professors.
Lastly, Paul wept, BECAUSE HE KNEW THEIR DOOM: “Their end is destruction.”
Mark you, the end of a professing man who has been a hypocrite will be emphatically destruction. If there be chains in hell more heavy than others — if there be dungeons in hell more dark than others — if there be racks that shall more fearfully torment the frame — if there be fires that shall more tremendously scorch the body — if there be pangs that shall more effectually twist the soul in agonies, professing Christians must have them if they be found rotten at last, I had rather die a profligate than die a lying professor. I think I had rather die the veriest sweeping of the street than die a hypocrite.
Oh, to have had a name to live, and yet to have proved insincere. The higher the soar the greater the fall. This man has soared high, how low must he tumble when he finds himself mistaken!
“Depart from me, I never knew you!” I think I had rather hear it said to me, “Depart accursed, among the rest of the wicked,” than to be singled out, and to have it said, after exclaiming, “Lord, Lord,” “Depart from me; I know you not; though you ate and drank in my courts; though you came to my sanctuary, you are a stranger to me, and I am a stranger to you.”
Such a doom, more horrible than hell, more direful than fate, more desperate than despair, must be the inevitable lot of those “whose god is their belly,” who have “gloried in their shame,” and “minded earthly things.”
I never met with a truly good man but he always felt he was not good enough; and as you are so particularly good, you must excuse me if I cannot quite endorse your security. You may be very good, but if you will take a trifle of my advice, I recommend you to “examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith,” lest, being puffed up by your carnal fleshly mind, you fall into the snare of the wicked one. “Not too sure,” is a very good motto for the Christian. “Make your calling and election sure,” if you like; but do not make your opinion of yourself so sure.
Take care of presumption. Many a good man in his own esteem has been a very devil in God’s eyes; many a pious soul in the esteem of the church has been nothing but rottenness in the esteem of God.
Excerpts taken from “False Professors Solemnly Warned” (Full sermon here)