"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven." (Matthew 7:21)
THE whole of the most solemn discourse of our blessed Lord, from which we have selected one short portion for our consideration at this time, bears upon the practical exhibition of Christianity. It would seem to be a fearful prophecy--a fearful character it has been--of that which should be afterwards manifested--which is manifested on every side--that there should be those who, with a profession of Christianity upon their lips, should still come short of the kingdom of heaven. It presents to us the possibility of a man expressing loyalty with the mouth, while he is a rebel in his heart: it presents to us the possibility of a man being amongst the number of those who speak well, but yet come short of the kingdom of heaven. This is one of the characters that is presented in our text. But there is another character also presented to us; it is that of a man who, doing the will of God, enters into the kingdom of heaven.
We have to consider both of the important declarations which are here made by our blessed Lord. We have to endeavor to sift, to examine, to lay open before you, the two characters that are here presented to us: we must endeavor (the Lord helping us) on the one hand, to prevent men escaping from that which belongs to them; and we have, on the other hand, to take care lest men should establish false doctrine upon the declaration which is here made by our blessed Lord.
We have, in the first place, to examine such a character as that which is presented to us in these words--"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord"--and then we have to examine what the doing of the will of God is, in (not by) the doing of which a man enters into the kingdom of heaven.
Now, the point, brethren, of our Lord's caution--for it partakes of the nature of a caution--the point of it is this: "He does not find fault with a man because he says, "Lord, Lord." There is nothing to exclude him from the kingdom of heaven, because he makes an acknowledgment of the Lord Jesus, as Lord and God. If he makes a profession of believing the Gospel; if he is identified with the people of God; if he says he is sure of going to heaven, as a child of God, and an inheritor of that kingdom, there is nothing in all this to exclude him from the kingdom of heaven; on the contrary, remember this word (you will find it at the end of the 10th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans)--"With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." You must have both. So that you observe the point which the caution is directed against is this, a man saying, "Lord, Lord," and having nothing else; having the bubble (if I may so say) of profession, and nothing more; an acknowledgment with the lip, but no allegiance to the truth, the will, the Word of God in the heart.
Now, there have been men of this class in all ages, who have just floated down the stream of the Church's history; and we suppose that in our own day, when profession is so great amongst us, and when knowledge is so very extensive on every side--we suppose that there are those who are saying, "Lord, Lord," and who know no more.
In looking at the context in which this passage stands, it is quite evident that our Lord refers, in the first place, to false teachers; for you will observe, He says, in the 15th verse, "Beware of false prophets." Oh! that this were published on every side in the present day! There were honorable men in Apostolic times, who, when a Paul preached, "searched the Scriptures daily" whether the things which he spake were so; and if ever there was a period in the Church's history when we have to call on men to search, and to examine, and to compare what man says with what the Word of God says, this is that period. "Beware," says our Lord--in painful prophecy it seems to be presented to us--"beware of false prophets." "Ye shall know them by their fruits." This is a passage which is greatly misunderstood; we shall have occasion to show you, by-and-bye, how a man is to know false teaching and wrong conduct by the fruits. Again, in the 22nd verse, He says, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name?" Some of these false teachers shall, at the last, appeal to Him, and say that they have proclaimed His truth; to whom He shall answer, "I never knew you. Depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Now, although, primarily, our Lord's address seems to have reference to false teachers, yet it is of more extensive application, for we believe that it fastens upon communities, upon congregations, upon families, upon individuals, wherein there is a profession made of the Lord and of His truth.
I have said that there have been many such hollow professors in the Church, in all ages; and I shall now endeavor to bring before you two or three of the varieties--for they can be classed--of the men who say, "Lord, Lord." It is quite evident that our Lord here refers to those who say this, but who do nothing more; otherwise He would not place in contradistinction those who do the will of His Father.
It appears to me, that we may bring before you three classes of such men--three classes of religionists (shall I call them such?)
The first of these classes, which you understand as well as I do, must be the men who are saying, "Lord, Lord," without any intelligence at all. You are not to suppose, brethren, that every man who is called a Christian, really knows what it is to be a Christian. I am now speaking of common attention to the things of God; and I do not hesitate to say, that a man of common education, who would attend a lecture upon chemistry, or upon natural philosophy, and who would profess to go there for instruction, would be ashamed to come away and exhibit such a want of attention, such a want of intelligence, such a want of memory, as would manifest that he had not profited by the lecture which he had been attending. Ay, many a man would be ashamed to come away from such a place, exhibiting the want of all these things which men are not ashamed of exhibiting in reference to the things which belong to their everlasting peace.
The class which I am describing is that which our blessed Lord describes, first, in His parable of the sower, under the figure of seed falling on the hard, beaten road. He there speaks of a people who hear the word (just as you are now doing), but who go away, understand it not, and the devil comes and catches away that which was sown in the heart. The mind is just like the street, or the hard roadside; the precious truths which have been sounding in their ears, instead of distilling as the dew upon their souls--instead of dropping as the rain upon their hearts, have made no impression. The blood of Christ has not come home to their hearts and consciences to give them peace. The righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ has not fastened upon their minds, as that which is to make them righteous in the sight of God. Eternal life is not that which they are looking as their portion. They have heard of these things, but they have made no impression upon them.
O, brethren, if we know what a large number shall be this day listening to the precious truths of the Gospel in our different churches, who, when they go away from our churches, shall enter into idle conversation, one going to his newspaper, another to his business, another to his letters. O! it sickens the heart to think what may probably be the proportion of such hearers out of the large number who have been listening to the truths of the Gospel. It seems to me that these are the very people who are described so graphically--if I may use such an expression in speaking of what the Holy Ghost has indited--in the 33rd chapter of the prophecy of Ezekiel--"They speak one to another, every one to his brother, saying, Come, I pray you, and hear what is the word that cometh forth from the Lord." "Let us hear the Gospel preached today, in this church or in that church;" and very often it is, "Let us hear what this preacher or that preacher has to say;" "and they"--these people--these nothings--these men whose mind is like a thoroughfare over which the devil passes--"they come unto thee, as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them." There is an end of it. They may, perhaps, say that "it is a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument;" (Ezek. 33:30-32) they may tell us that they like very well what the preacher says; but there it stops.
This is the first class; those who have no intelligence those who give no attention, who seem to take no heed to the matter when they leave this place. Now, there are two figures under which such men are presented to us in the Word of God. They are compared to chaff--they are utterly useless. Again, they are compared to a tree, which the owner of the ground would remove, because it was cumbering the ground--it was taking up place. Such persons have a kind of skeleton of religion; they have an orthodox creed; they are joined to an orthodox communion, and no more. They say in the form of sound words which we have in our Liturgy, "We believe that thou shalt come to be our Judge;" and they never think any more about it.
There is another class that says, "Lord, Lord." These are more earnest people. I shall call them ecclesiastical formalists. You understand what I mean by this. In the bud, it is mere adherence to a Church, because everybody else does so, and because it is a more convenient thing to shelter oneself under the Church than to betake oneself to a spiritual walking with God. In its full-blown blossom, it is that of which we see so much in the present day. You may call it Tractarianism, or Churchism, or what you will; but to sum it up in one brief definition, it is putting the Church in the place of the truth of God.
Brethren, these are the men who say, "Lord, Lord," but who do not do the will of God. It matters nothing to me what austerities may be practic ed, from the wearing of sackcloth to the lying in churches at the night. It matters little to me what there may be of semblance or what there may be of reality in these self-imposed sufferings. It is telling men of a temple in which the Lord is to be worshipped, but in which the glory of the Lord does not dwell; and we say, if there were crucifixes in every niche in our churches; if there were representations of the glory upon every pane in our windows, all this would not constitute that reasonable service which the Scripture presents to us, as worshipping God "in spirit and in truth."
Now, there is a third class, which third class is to be found in every body of professing Christians; and these are an earnest, devoted people; bigoted, if you will, but earnest in their doings. They say to all around, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord." They are earnest in doing those things which shall attract the observation of men; it may be devotedness of the strictest kind to their own system--bigotry to their own body and communion; but still, at the core, when it is examined, there is nothing more than the saying, "Lord, Lord."
Now, when our Lord says, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven," He is not finding fault with this profession, for we tell you, if you are the Lord's people, you must acknowledge it; if the fire is burning in the breast, you must speak; for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh;" (Luke 6:45) and we will ever say, away with that dishonor which men put upon the Lord's name, when those who know Christ are ashamed to confess Him before an ungodly world.
We now come to the second part of our subject--the people who do the will of God; and you will have observed the distinction which I made at the beginning of our subject; I said the people who in the doing, not by the doing, of the will of God, enter into the kingdom of heaven; for here we have to guard against false doctrine. If we have to protest against the mere hollow, nominal profession of Christianity on the one hand, we have on the other hand, to protest against men putting repentance, faith--works of any kind, no matter how spiritual--in place of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ; and therefore we say, that if a man seems honest in his profession, diligent in his service, strict in his walk, unceasing in his obedience, as far as we can judge, yet still if he knows anything of himself, and if he is acquainted with the truth of God, he will be obliged to take up the language of Job and to say, "If I wash myself in snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." (Job 9:30,31)
You remember, brethren, that the New Testament presents us with a sample of such sincerity of profession, such diligence in service, such faithfulness in conduct, that when the man is giving us the record of his own past history, he tells us that he was "touching the righteousness which is of the law blameless;" that in privilege he was highly honored, "and Hebrew of the Hebrews;" as to his religious profession, he was of the strictest sect amongst the Jews, he was "a Pharisee;" but with all this, his desire was to be "found in Christ, not having," he says, "mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith." (Phil. 3:5-9)
Here, then, you will observe, at the outset of our inquiry into this obedience to the will of God, that we assert, in the fullest manner that we can, that a man is not to be saved in whole, or in part, by his doings, his services, his honesty, his sincerity, or anything else of his own; he is to be justified, from first to last, in and by a righteousness of imputation; in and by Him, who is "made of God unto us, wisdom and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption." (1 Cor. 1:30)
Again, let me remind you that it is a great Scriptural truth, that you must "make the tree good, and his fruit good, or else make the tree corrupt and his fruit corrupt; for the tree is known by his fruit." (Matt. 12:33)
Perhaps some of you have never thought of that passage, "the tree is known by his fruit." The tree is known by the kind of fruit which it bears. A man's works, however great, however numerous, however self-denying, however laborious, however beautiful and fair they may appear in the eyes of his fellow-men, cannot constitute the ground of his acceptance in the sight of God. It is not because doings that therefore they must be accepted by God.
Mark what the Apostle Paul says, in the 11th of Hebrews. He there tells us of Cain and Abel, two men who engaged in religious service; for I maintain that the service of Cain was a religious service, though this has been contradicted by some. The one was accepted, the other was rejected. And why?--Because Abel had a regard to blood--he has a regard to the truth of God; Cain was one of those natural worshippers "without the grace of Christ, and the inspiration of His Spirit." The Apostle Paul, after having set forth the conduct of these two brothers, and the acceptance of the one, and the rejection of the other, tells us, "Without faith it is impossible to please God." (Heb. 11:6) He means without faith in Christ--faith in God's revelation--faith in the blood--faith in God's character, as revealed in the Gospel.
Our Lord says, You must "make the tree good." It is as much as to tell us that the bramble bush may bear loads of fruit, but yet the bramble-berries are not grapes. The bramble is known by its fruit; the vine is known by its fruit. We want you to learn from this, brethren, what doing the will of God is. There may be a great deal of benevolence, a great deal of active exertion, a great deal of benevolence, a great deal of active exertion, a great deal of social usefulness proceeding from a love of self--from a desire for human praise. This is what Paul tells us in the 2nd chapter of the Epistle of the Romans, that "he is a Jew which is one inwardly, whose praise is not of men, but of God." You observe that the character which our Lord here presents to us, is that of one who does the will of God. We know that the performance of moral and social duties which gains for a man the praise of the world, is very often substituted for the doing of the will of God.
Now, the principle upon which a work becomes a good work--that which shows it to be a grape, and not a bramble-berry, is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. When our blessed Lord told the Jews that it would be better for them to labor for the meat which endureth to everlasting life, than to labor for the meat which perisheth; they asked Him this very important question, "What shall we do that we might work the works of God?"--Have you ever considered the answer which He gave to them? "This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." (John 6:29) So that there cannot be a step taken in the Christian life, without faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is this which makes a man a Christian; it is this which gives a man a standing acceptable in the Lord's sight; and therefore the Apostle Paul, in the 9th of Hebrews, 14th verse, tells us that the blood of Christ, this precious blood of which he is speaking, shall "purge their consciences from dead works"--the dead flies in the ointment, which spoil it--"to serve the living God."
Again, this doing the will of God proceeds from a new creation in the soul. A man cannot by nature do those things which are pleasing to God; and therefore it is, that we find the Apostle Paul saying, in the 2nd of Ephesians, "We are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." Mark you, there is the secret of all Christian fruitfulness. Again, in the 5th of 2nd Corinthians, the Apostle says, "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." This is the regeneration of the heart, the life. This is not what the Tractarians would teach you; this is not mere sprinkling of the water without any effect upon the conduct. Here is a new creation in the soul--"God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus unto good works."
Now, brethren, we must go a little farther into this subject; we must say a word as to the basis upon which a man can do any good work. O, it is of great importance to bring this matter before you; for remember, the basis upon which a man can do any good work, is acceptance in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let men tell you what they will, depend upon it, the very essence of the confidence of a Christian in any work which he has to do--the very essence of a spirit of liberty in the service of God, is the conviction of our acceptance in the Beloved. When a man knows this, he knows that he has free access to the throne of grace, that he can look up to God as his Father, that he can speak to Him as such; and, then, when he looks at his short-comings; when he looks at the pollution which cleaves to all his doings, he can still betake himself to the precious blood of Jesus Christ "which cleanseth us from all sin."
Again, as to the standard of a Christian man's obedience--perhaps some of you would wish to hear something of this. As to its quality, you have that set before you in the 8th of Romans, 5th, and following verses, "They that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit; for to be carnally-minded is death, but to be spiritually-minded is life and peace." Again, at the 14th verse--"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God; for ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father." Again, in the 3rd of Colossians, the Apostle tells us that what constitutes real spiritual godliness, is the putting on of the new man. This is the quality of a Christian man's obedience. And, again, as to its extent, our blessed Lord Himself tells us, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me."
Now, a word as to the power. Men may say what they will of striving after obedience, and of putting oneself upon one's own resolutions, and so on; but let them remember this little word in the 15th of John, "Without Me ye can do nothing." And, therefore, if I hear of a man who is diligent in his business, who gives all his goods to feed the poor, gives his own body to be burned; but if I find that the spring of all this is not the living upon the Lord Jesus Christ, I say that all the rest is but "sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal."
It is this which gives energy to prayer; it is this which makes a man live near to the throne of grace, because he believes that whether he goes to his social duties, or to his official business, or whether he wants to exhibit in his daily walk that he is a Christian; that in all this he must be a man of prayer; he must look up to the Lord for the dew of heaven to come down upon him.
We do hope, brethren, that this subject has been opened out to you with all plainness. You have been told what there may be of mere form in religious service and worship. You have been told that there are men who say, "Lord, Lord," without any intelligence at all, who give no attention to the things of God. You have been told that there may be a kind of Tractarian religion, having to do with crucifixes, and altars, and holy water, and putting these external things in the place of Christ. You have been told that there may be an earnest devotedness to some particular system of religion--a saying, "Come, see my zeal for the Lord," and yet, all the while there may be nothing more than the saying, "Lord, Lord."
Again, you have been told what doing the will of God is. You have been reminded that it is not by this means that the sinner is justified before God. It is the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanseth us from all sin. You have been told that all good fruit springs from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ--that it is a new creation which is in a man; that the basis upon which a man does any good work, is acceptance in the Beloved; that the standard as to quality is spirituality, and having the mind of the Spirit; as to extent, that it is denying oneself, taking up our cross, and following Jesus; and that the power is that which comes from God himself.
And now the question for you to ask is, Are you, individually, a doer of the Lord's will? You remember what a picture the Lord Jesus Christ gives to us of this matter: He compares a man who hears the will of God, and who does it not, to a house built upon the sand. Men may, perhaps, admire it, and say it is a beautiful structure; they may, perhaps, find themselves quite at home in it; but let the rain descend, let the winds blow and beat upon that house, it will fall, and great will be the fall thereof.
Remember again, that word which I read at the opening of our address to you this day. I told you of some who seem to pass religiously through the world; at the end, they stand before the Lord on the great judgment-day, and whether it be through the blindness which is upon the mind, or through the self-deception which has been practiced upon the heart, or through the self-righteousness which incrusts them; they seem, as it were, to confront the Lord Himself at such a time, in such a place, and in such a garb; and they appeal to Him, saying, We have done this, we have done the other. He who is the judge seems to gaze on them in utter estrangement--"I never knew you!" Oh! what a withering word to one who claims the cognizance of the Lord--"I never knew you!" Then comes the awful sentence--"Depart from me, ye that work iniquity."
Now, brethren, this is a solemn subject. Recollect there must be spiritual life; and there must be an exhibition of the Christianity that is in the heart.
Oh! that the Spirit of God may bring the Word home to your hearts, that you may learn what it is to do the will of God; and that having the principle of faith in your breasts, you may "adorn the doctrine of God your Saviour in all things."