46. ON LUKEWARMNESS
The path of the true Christian lies remote from unbelief and lukewarmness.
Thousands who profess to believe the Gospel, are indifferent to its precepts
and promises; and tens of thousands, though nominally Christian, are opposed
to it through unbelief. Hence the zeal of the true believer is reviled by
the infidel as fanaticism, and by the lukewarm professor as unwarranted
No state of heart is more revolting to a God of love, than a state of
spiritual lukewarmness. Bodily sickness and earthly privations are slight
evils, when compared with this spiritual distemper. It is most offensive to
that gracious Being, who unrobed himself of his glories, who condescended to
become a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; that we hell-deserving
sinners be rescued from the burning wrath, and be received into heavenly
Outward prosperity, the admiration of friends, self-love, and the gradual
omission of watchfulness and prayer, lead us insensibly towards this
dangerous precipice, down which thousands have fallen, and from which
nothing but sovereign grace can preserve us.
The natural inclination of the heart is from God; and even when renewed in
righteousness, it feels the force of this evil inclination, the moment it
relaxes in the exercise of faith and prayer. Believers in Jesus should
therefore dread nothing so much as leaving their first love, and backsliding
in heart. All spiritual declensions begin in the heart and in the closet;
and though slow at first, yet they increase with awful rapidity as the
principle of grace is weakened through the indulgence of sin.
If reason and experience tell us that the surest preservative against
falling down a precipice, is to keep at a distance from its edge; surely
that must be the safest path for a Christian, which lies the most remote
from spiritual declension. Those impressions which are made merely upon the
passions, soon degenerate into lukewarmness, when the novelty ceases, or
when persecution arises because of the word. This lukewarmness is rapidly
succeeded by coldness, and coldness by contempt; for "evil men and seducers
wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived."
But what is painfully true must not be withheld– even real Christians may
grow lukewarm for a season, through the power of temptation, the force of
indwelling sin, the fear of man, or the blandishments of the world. They may
fall asleep in the arbor of carnal ease, or on the soft couch of worldly
prosperity; and by thus grieving and quenching the Spirit, lose for a time
the sensible enjoyment of divine love, as well as the evidence of their
adoption into the family of God. Awful state! most seriously to be dreaded.
No eclipse is so dark as the hidings of the divine countenance.
For this, they shall be made to smart and mourn; for this, they shall go
heavily, "as one that mourns for his mother," when they are awakened by the
voice of mercy, and called to look upon him whom they have pierced by their
ingratitude and declension.
This sinful wandering from God does not destroy their sonship—for the word
of truth declares, that "the gifts and calling of God are without
repentance"—any more than the disobedience of a child towards an earthly
father makes him not a child. He is still a child, though a disobedient
child. The father is displeased, and withholds his regards. The wayward
child is made to know this, either by correction, distance of manner, or the
withholding of some favor. Hence he is brought to see, to fret, and to
lament his disobedience; to long after reconciliation; and never to rest
easy, or become happy, until the displeasure is removed and confidence and
comfort are restored.
In this manner God deals with his redeemed people, when they decline and
disobey. He hides his face, and they are troubled. He blows upon their
comforts, and they wither. He has a thousand ways of manifesting his
displeasure, both in the course of his providence, and in the actings of his
But love is still inscribed upon all these chastening dispensations. How
gracious is the voice of their heavenly Father, speaking to his wayward
children through his word! "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten." "Whom
the Lord loves he chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives." "You
shall consider in your heart, that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord
your God chastens you." "I will be his Father, and he shall be my son; if he
commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the stripes
of the children of men, but my mercy shall not depart from him" "Behold!
happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore, despise not the chastening of
the Almighty." Is not this the language of a loving, tender parent, who
seeks the good of his rebellious children?
All sin is productive of sorrow, and naturally leads to the chambers of
death. Blessed, then, are those souls whom grace has brought within the
bonds of the covenant. If they wander from the fold, they shall be
mercifully driven into it again, through the faithfulness of the good
Shepherd, who has said, "I will hedge up your way with thorns; I will never
leave you nor forsake you"
But let no one dare to presume upon the mercy of God, and sin that grace may
abound. Such conduct would prove the person so acting to be destitute of
faith and love. Should any deluded sinner be led by Satan so to abuse the
grace of the Gospel, he may be allowed to follow the wicked devices of his
own depraved heart, until he fall, as a vessel fitted for destruction, into
the abyss of hell.
It is the part of true wisdom to distinguish between the privileges of God's
children, and the abuse of those privileges. Who would condemn the noble
faculty of speech, because thousands pervert it to the basest purposes? Is
there any one gift of providence, which is not, by some, converted into an
instrument of wickedness? But let it ever be remembered, that those who
abuse the blessings, either of providence or grace, must bear the
consequences of such impiety, whoever they be; for God is no respecter of
It is evident, then, that if we do not enjoy peace through believing, there
must be something wrong either in our views or in our hearts. Examine, Oh my
soul, where the evil lies; for peace is the sacred legacy which Christ left
to his church when he said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto
God in Christ is the Father of all his redeemed people. Now, a loving,
obedient child delights in the society of a tender parent. He comes to his
father cheerfully, and without fear. He tells him his little needs, and
sincerely and sorrowfully confesses any fault which may have been committed
against so loving a parent. But if a child dreads his parent, or feels shy,
and avoids his company, even when his father is manifesting nothing but
kindness towards him; must there not be something wrong in the heart of such
a child? Does not the child either mistake the character of the parent, or
feel a consciousness of some indulged sin, which is the latent cause of this
defect in duty?
The Gospel inspires confidence and love. The moment we believe in Jesus with
the heart, that moment we obtain peace with God, and pass from death unto
life. This peace of justification cannot be broken, because it is founded on
the atonement of Christ, who is "our peace," and "has made peace for us
through the blood of the cross." The sins of believers cannot destroy this
peace, which is immutable; since Jesus, foreseeing the sins of his people,
atoned for them by the one sacrifice of himself. "Being justified by faith,
we have peace with God." The debt was paid; the satisfaction was made, and
fully accepted; when the Savior cried out, "It is finished!" and bowed his
head and died!
But the peace of sanctification– that peace of God which is the sweet fruit
of the Spirit—may be ruffled. Every sin disturbs this peace, like the
agitating wind, or the pebble cast into the glassy lake. To preserve this
inward peace, we must go continually to Jesus. As the feet contract
defilement by walking through a miry road, so our souls have need to be
washed every hour from every hour's defilement, while journeying through a
As peace with God is not the result of our obedience, but of Christ's
atonement, and, as such, cannot be broken; so the enjoyment of that peace of
God which passes all understanding, and which is the work of the Spirit in
our hearts, can only be maintained by constant prayer; by delighting in the
study of God's word; by watching against the workings of indwelling sin; by
walking closely with God in all holy obedience; and by a daily application,
through faith, to the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness.
Every approach to lukewarmness is destructive to our peace. To keep the
heart under a lively sense of the love of God, we must never put our sins
between our souls and the Savior. This will only obscure his grace and bring
distress upon our minds. We must look at them as laid upon Christ when he
hung upon the cross. Oh! that nothing, no, not a finger, may be placed
between Jesus and my soul, lest it obstruct my view of his full and free
Many look at their sins, instead of their Savior; or at their sins as lying
between them and their Savior; and so are discouraged, by false fear, from
coming to him. But this is a device of Satan. We must remember that Christ
was made a curse for us when he hung upon the cross; that he there made a
full atonement for all the sins of all his believing people; for thus says
the apostle, "He gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all
iniquity;" "having forgiven you all trespasses." Oh blessed revelation of
grace and mercy! This apprehension of Christ and his all-sufficient merits
will banish every doubt and fear; prevent that hateful lukewarmness which is
the very bane of godliness; and cause our hearts to burn with holy love; and
to overflow in grateful praise.
Oh heavenly Father! be graciously pleased to preserve my soul from this evil
of lukewarmness, and from every approach to spiritual indifference and
declension. Let the sacred fire of love ever burn upon the altar of my
heart. Keep me humble and active, zealous and self-denying, until called to
your courts above where all your servants shall serve you with ever-growing
delight through the countless ages of eternity.
You saints, who taste the holy joys,
Which from the Gospel sweetly flow;
Can you behold with unconcern
A world deep sunk in guilt and woe?
Behold the millions bound with sin,
Surrounded by the shades of night;
Behold, until pity drops the tear,
Until zeal awakens at the sight.
Arouse, you torpid saints, and bend
Your knees with humble, contrite shame,
That you so little pain have felt
For those who know not Jesus' name.
Come, join that little holy band,
Who labor to convert a world;
Join the victorious host of God,
Whose peaceful banners are unfurled.
Pour out your consecrated store;
Enrich the treasury divine;
Pour out the fervent heart-felt prayer,
Until truth through every region shine.
The cause is great—the promise sure;
The work of mercy shall be done:
Eternal love has firm decreed
The heathen to the eternal Son.