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Struggles of Conscience

Written by: Spurgeon, C.H.    Posted on: 04/07/2003

Category: Sermons

Source: CCN

                                                   Struggles of Conscience by REV. C.H. SPURGEON                                                 

               "How many are mine iniquities and sins? make me to know my transgression and my sin."Job 13:23.

          THERE ARE MANY PERSONS who long to have a deeper sense of their sinfulness, and then with a           certain show of conscientious scruple, they make an excuse for the exercise of simple faith. That spiritual           disease, which keeps sinners from Christ, assumes a different shape at different times. In Luther's day the           precise evil under which men laboured, was this: they believed in being self-righteous, and so they supposed that           they must have good works before they might trust in Christ. In our day the evil has taken another, and that a           most extraordinary shape. Men have aimed at being self-righteous after quite a singular fashion; they think they           must feel worse, and have a deeper conviction of sin before they may trust in Christ. Many hundreds do I meet           with, who say they dare not come to Christ and trust him with their souls, because they do not feel their need of           him enough; they have not sufficient contrition for their sins they have not repented as fully as they have rebelled.           Brethren, it is the same evil, from the same old germ of self-righteousness, but it has taken another and I think a           more crafty shape. Satan has wormed himself into many hearts under the garb of an angel of light, and he has           whispered to the sinner, "Repentance is a necessary virtue; stop until you have repented, and when you have           sufficiently mortifed yourself on account of sin, then you will be fit to come to Christ, and qualified to trust and           rely on him." It is with that deadly evil I want to grapple this morning. I am persuaded it is far more common than           some would think. And I think I know the reason of its great commonness. In the Puritanic age, which was noted           certainly for its purity of doctrine, there was also a great deal of experimental preaching, and much of it was sound           and healthy. But some of it was unscriptural, because it took for its standard what the Christian felt and not what           the Saviour said; the inference from a believer's experience, rather than the message which goes before any belief.           That excellent man, Mr. Rogers, of Deadham, who has written some useful works, and Mr. Sheppard, who wrote           The Sound Believer, Mr. Flavel, and many others, give descriptions of what a sinner must be before he may come           to Christ, which actually represent what a saint is, after he has come to Christ. These good brethren have taken           their own experience; what they felt before they came into light, as the standard of what every other man ought to           feel before he may put his trust in Christ and hope for mercy. There were some in the Puritanic times who           protested against that theology, and insisted that sinners were to be bidden to come to Christ just as they were; not           with any preparation either of feeling or of doing. At the present time there are large numbers of Calvinistic           ministers who are afraid to give a free invitation to sinners; they always garble Christ's invitation thus: "If you are a           sensible sinner you may come;" just as if stupid sinners might not come;" and then they describe what that feeling           of need is, and give such a high description of it that their hearers say, "Well, I never felt like that," and they are           afraid to venture for lack of the qualification. Mark you, the brethren speak truly in some respect. They describe           what a sinner does feel before he comes, but they make a mistake in putting what a sinner does feel, as if that           were what a sinner ought to feel. What the sinner feels, and what the sinner does, until he is renewed by grace, are           just the very opposite of what he ought. We always get wrong when we say one Christian's experience is be           measured by the Word of God; and what the sinner should feel is to be measured by what Christ commands him           to feel, and not by what another sinner has felt. Comparing ourselves among ourselves, we are not wise. I do           believe there are hundreds and thousands who remain in doubt and darkness, and go down to despair, because           there is a description given and a preparation for Christ demanded, to which they cannot attaina description           indeed which is not true, because it is a description of what they feel after they have found Christ, and not what           they must feel before they may come to him. Now, then, with all my might I come this morning to break down           every barrier that keeps a soul from Christ; and, as God the Holy Spirit shall help me, to dash the battering ram of           truth against every wall that has been built up, whether by doctrinal truth or experimental truth, that keeps the           sinner from Christ, who desires to come and to be saved by him.               I shall attempt to address you in the following order this morning. First, a little by way of consolation; then, a           little by way of instruction; a little more upon discrimination or caution; and in the last place, a few sentences by           way of exhortation.               I. First, beloved, let me speak to you who are desiring to feel more and more your sins, and whose prayer is           the prayer of the text, "Lord how many are mine iniquities and my sins, make me to know my transgression and           my sin." Let me try to COMFORT YOU. It ought to give you much solace when you recollect that the best of           men have prayed this prayer before you. The better a man is, the more anxious is he to know the worst of his           case. The more a man gets rid of sin and the more he lives above his daily faults and errors, the more does he cry           "Search me, O God, and know my heart; O try me and know my thoughts, and see if there be any wicked way in           me, and lead me in the way everlasting." Bad men do not want to know their badness; it is the good man, the man           who has been renewed by grace, who is anxious to discover what is his disease, that he may have it healed. Ought           it not then be to some ground of comfort to you, that your prayer is not a prayer which could come from the lips           of the wicked, but a prayer which has constantly been offered by the most advanced of saints, by those who have           most grown in grace. Perhaps that is a reason why it would not be offered by you, who just now can scarcely           hope to be a saint at all; yet it should be a matter of sweet rejoicing that your prayer cannot be an evil one,           because the "Amens" of God's people, even those who are the fathers in our Israel, go up to God with it. I am           sure my aged brothers and sisters in Christ now present, can say unanimously, "That has often been my prayer,           'Lord let me know my iniquity and my sin; teach me how vile I am, and lead me daily to Christ Jesus that my sins           may be put away."'               Let this reflection also comfort youyou never prayed like this years ago when you were a careless sinner. It           was the last thing you would ever think of asking for; you did not want to know your guilt. No! you found           pleasure in wickedness. Sin was a sweet morsel to you; you only wanted to be let alone that you might roll it under           your tongue. If any told you of your evil, you would rather they let it alone. "Ah," said you, "what business is that           of yours? no doubt I make some mistakes and am a little amiss, but I don't want to be told so." Why, the last           meditation you would ever have thought of entertaining would have been a meditation upon your own criminality.           When conscience did speak, you said, "Lay down, sir, be quiet!" When God's word came home sharp to you, you           tried to blunt its edgeyou did not want to feel it. Now, ought it not to be some comfort that you have had such a           gracious change wrought in you, that you are now longing for the very feeling which at one time you could not           endure? Surely, man, the Lord must have begun a good work in you, for you would not have such wishes and           desires as these unless he had put his hand to the plough, and had begun to plough the barren, dry, hard soil of           your heart.               Yet further, there is another reason why you should take comfort; it is very probable you do already feel your           guilt, and what you are asking for you already have in measure realized. It often happens that a man has the grace           which he seeks for, and does not know he has it, because he makes a mistake as to what he should feel when he           has the blessing. He has already got the boon which he asks God to give him. Let me just put it in another shape.           If you are sorry because you cannot be sorry enough on account of sin, why you are already sorry. If you grieve           because you cannot grieve enough, why you do grieve already. If it is a cause of repentance to you that your heart           is very hard and that you cannot repent, why you do repent. My dear hearer, let me assure you for your comfort,           that when you go down on your knees and say "Lord, I groan before thee, because I cannot groan; I cannot feel;           Lord help me to feel;" why, you do feel, and you have got the repentance that you are asking for. At least you           have got the first degree of it; you have got the mustard seed of repentance in tiny grain. Let it alone, it will grow;           foster it with prayer and it will become a tree. The very grace which you are asking of God is speaking in your           very prayer. It is repentance which asks God that I may repent more. It is a broken heart which asks God to break           it. That is not a hard heart which says, "Lord I have a hard heart; soften my heart." It is a soft heart already. That           is not a dead soul which says, "Lord I am dead, quicken me." Why, you are quickened. That man is not dumb           who says, "Lord I am dumb; make me speak." Why, he speaks already; and that man who says, "Lord I cannot           feel," why, he feels already. He is a sensible sinner already. So that you are just the man that Christ calls to him.           This experience of yours, which you think is just the opposite of what it ought to be, is just what it should be. Oh,           be comforted in this respect. But sit not down in it; be comforted enough to make you run to Jesus now,just as           you are. I take thee, sinner, to be just the man the minister is always seeking after. When we say that Christ came           that there might be drink given to the thirsty, you are just the man we meanyou are thirsty. "No," you say, "I           don't feel that I am thirsty, I only wish I did." Why, that wish to feel thirsty is your thirst. You are exactly the           man; you are far nearer the character than if you said "I do thirst, I have the qualification;" then, I should be afraid           you had not got it." But, because you think you have it not, it is all the clearer proof that you have this           qualification, if indeed there be any qualification. When I say, "Come unto Christ all ye that labour and are heavy           laden;" and you say, "Oh, I don't feel heavy laden enough," why, you are the very man the text means. And when           I say, "Whosoever will, let him come," and you say, "I wish I were more willing, I will to be willing, "why you are           the man. It is only one of Satan's quibblesa bit of hell's infernal logic to drive you from Christ. Be a match for           Satan now, this once and say "Thou lying fiend, thou tellest me I do not feel my need of a Saviour enough. I           know I feel my need; and, inasmuch as I long to feel it I do feel it. Christ bids me come to him, and I will           comenow, this morning. I will trust my soul, just as it is, in the hands of him whose body hung upon the tree.           Sink or swim, here I am resting on him, and clinging to him as the rock of my salvation."               Take then, these words of comfort.               II. I must now go on to my second point, and give a few words of INSTRUCTION.               And so, my hearer, you anxiously long to know how many are your iniquities and your sins; and your prayer           is, "Lord, make me to know my transgression and my sin." Let me instruct thee, then as to how God will answer           your prayers. God hath more than one way of answering the same prayer; and though the ways are diverse, they           are all equally useful and efficacious. It sometimes happens that God answers this prayer by allowing a man to fall           into more and more gross sin. At our last church meeting, a brother, in giving his experience of how he was           brought to God, said he could not feel his guilt, his heart was very hard; till it happened one day he was tempted to           the utterance of an untruth, and no sooner had he uttered it than he felt what a despicable creature he was to tell a           lie to another. So that one sin led him to see the deceitfulness and vileness of his own heart; and from that day he           never had to complain that he did not feel his guilt enough, but, on the contrary, he felt too guilty to come to           Christ. I believe many a man, who has been educated morally, who has been trained up in such a way that he has           never fallen into gross sin, finds it very difficult to say, "Lord, I feel myself to be a sinner." He knows he is a           sinner, and he knows it as a matter of fact, but he cannot altogether feel it. And I have known men who have           often envied the harlot and the drunkard, because, say they, "Had I been like them, I should feel more bitterly my           sin, and should feel I was one of those whom Jesus came to save." It may be, though I could hope it may not be           so, that God may suffer thee to fall into sin. God grant it may never be so; but if thou ever shouldst, thou wilt then           have cause to say, "Lord, I am vile; now mine eyes sees myself; I abhor myself in dust and ashes, because of this           my great sin." Or possibly, you may not actually fall into sin, but be taken to the very verge of it. Did you ever           know what it was on a sudden to be overtaken by some fiery temptation, to feel as if the strong hand of Satan had           gripped you about the loins, and was pulling on, you knew not whither, nor why, nor how, but against your will, to           the very verge of the precipice of some tremendous sin, and you went on and on, till, on a sudden, just as you           were about to take a dive into sin, your eyes were opened, and you said, "Great God, how came I here,I, who           hate this iniquity?I, who abhor it?and yet my feet had almost gone, my steps had well-nigh slipped." Then in           the recoil you say, "Great God, hold thou me up, for if thou dost not hold me up, I fall indeed." Then you           discover that there is inbred sin in your heart only lacking opportunity to spring out; that your soul is like a           magazine of gunpowder, only needing the spark, and there shall come a terrible catastrophe; that you are full of           sin, grim with iniquity and evil devices, and that it only wants opportunity and strong temptation to destroy you           body and soul, and that for ever. It happens sometimes that this is the way God answers this prayer.               A second method by which the Lord answers this prayer is by opening the eyes of the soul; not so much by           providence, as by the mysterious agency of the Holy Spirit. Let me tell thee, my hearer, if thou shouldst ever have           thing eyes opened to see thy guilt, thou wilt find it to be the most awful sight that thou hast ever beheld. I have           had as much experience of this as any man among you. For five years as a child there was nothing before my eyes           but my guilt; thought I do not hesitate to say that those who observed my life would not have seen any           extraordinary sin, yet as I looked upon myself, there was not a day in which I did not commit such gross, such           outrageous sins against God, that often and often have I wished I had never been born. I know John Bunyan's           experience when he said he wished he had been a frog, or a toad, rather than a man, so guilty did he feel himself           to be. You know how it is with yourselves. It is as when a housewife cleans her chamber, she looks, and there is           no dust; the air is clear, and all her furniture is shining brightly. But there is a chink in the window shutter, a ray of           light creeps in, and you see the dust dancing up and down, thousands of grains, in the sunbeam. It is all over the           room the same, but she cannot see it only where the sunbeam comes. It is just so with us; God sends a ray of           divine light into the heart, and then we see how vile and full of iniquity it is. I trust, my hearer, that your prayer           may not be answered as it was in my case, by terrible conviction, awful dreams, nights of misery, and days of           pain. Take care; you are praying a tremendous prayer when you are asking God to show you your wickedness.           Better for you to modify your prayer, and put it thus,"Lord, let me know enough of my iniquity to bring me to           Christ; not so much as to keep me from him, not so much as to drive me to despair; but only enough to be           divorced from all trust in myself, and to be led to trust in Christ alone." Otherwise, Like Moses, you may be           constrained to cry out in a paroxyism of agony, "O Lord, kill me I pray thee, out of hand, if I have found favor in           thy sight, and let me not see my wretchedness."               Still, however, the practical question recurs, and you ask me again, "Tell me how I can feel the need of my           Saviour." The first advice I give you is this: Particularise your sins. Do not say "I am a sinner;" it means nothing;           everybody says that. But say this, "Am I a liar? Am I a thief? Am I a drunkard? Have I had unchaste thoughts?           Have I committed unclean acts? Have I in my soul often rebelled against God? Am I often angry without a cause?           Have I a bad tempter? Am I covetous? Do I love this world better than the world to come? Do I neglect prayer?           Do I neglect the great salvation?" Put the yourself much more readily than by taking yourself in the gross as being           a sinner. I have heard of a hypocritical old Monk who used to whine out, while he whipped his back as softly as           he could, "Lord, I am a great sinner, as big a sinner as Judas;" and when some one said, "Yes that you areyou           are like Judas, a vile old hypocrite," then he would say, "No I am not." Then he would go on again, "I am a great           sinner." Some one would say, "You are a great sinner, you broke the first commandment;" and then he would say,           "No I have not." Then when he would go on and say, "I am a great sinner," some one would say, "Yes, you have           broken the second commandment," and he would say, "No I have not;" and the same with the third and the           fourth, and so on right through. So it came to pass he had kept the whole ten according to his own account, and           yet he went on crying he was a great sinner. The man was a hypocrite, for if he had not broken the           commandments, how could he be a sinner at all? You will find it better not to dwell on your sins in the mass, but           to pen them, count them over, and look at them individually, one by one.               Then let me advise you next to hear a personal ministry. Sit not where the preacher preaches to you in the           plural number, but where he deals with you as a man alone, by yourself. Seek out a preacher like Rowland Hill, of           whom it is said that if you sat in the back seat in the gallery, you always had a notion that Mr. Hill meant you; or,           that if you sat in the doorway where he could not see you, yet you were quite convinced he must know you were           there, and that he was preaching right at you. I wonder indeed, if men ever could feel their sins under some           ministersgenteel ministers, intellectual, respectable, who never speak to their hearers as if they did anything           wrong. I say of these gentlemen what Hugh Latimer said of many ministers in his day, that they are more fit to           dance a morris-dance than to deal with the souls of men. I believe there are some this day more fit to deliver smart           lectures and bring out pleasing things to soothe carnal minds, than to preach the Word of God to sinners. We want           the like of John the Baptist back again, and Boanerges; we want men like Baxter to preach,

                                            "As though they might not preach again,                                                  As dying men to dying men."

          We want men like John Berride, who have pulled the velvet out of their mouths years ago and cannot speak fine           wordsmen that hit hard, that draw the bow and pull the arrow to its very head, and send it right home, taking           deadly aim at the heart and the conscience of men, ploughing deep, hitting at the private lusts and at the open sins,           not generalising but particularizing, not preaching to men in the mass but to men in the detail, not to the mob and           the crowd, but to each man separately and individually. Grow not offended with the minister if he come home too           close to you; remember that is his duty. And if the whip goes right round you, and stings you, thank Cod for it, be           glad of it. Let me, if I sit under a ministry, sit under a man who uses the knife with me sometimes, a man who will           not spare me, a man who will not flatter me. If there should be flattery anywhere, let it not be at any rate in the           pulpit. He who deals with men's souls should deal with them very. plainly; the pulpit is not the place for fine           words, when we have to deal with the solemnities of eternity. Take that advice, then, and listen to a personal,           home-smiting ministry.               Next to that, if thou wouldst know thy sins, study much the law of God let the twentieth chapter of Exodus be           often before your eyes, and take with it as a commentary, Christ's sermon, and Christ's speech when he said, "He           that looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery already with her in his heart." Understand that           God's commandments mean not only what they say in words, but that they touch the thought, the heart, the           imagination. Think of that sentence of David, "Thy commandments are exceeding broad." And thus, I think, thou           wilt soon come to detect the heinousness of thy sin, and the blackness of thy guilt. And if thou wouldst know still           more, spend a little time in contemplating the fatal end of thy sin, shouldst thou die impenitent. Dare to look           downward to that fire which must be thy eternal doom, unless Jesus Christ save thee. Be wise, sinner, and look at           the harvest which thou shalt surely reap if thou sowest tares; sometimes let these words ring in thy ears, "These           shall go away into everlasting punishment." Open thy ears and listen to the end of this text"Where there is           weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." Let such a passage as this be chewed over in your soul, "The wicked           shall be cast into hell with all the nations that forget God." These solemn thoughts may help you. Such books as           Allaine's Alarm, Baxter's Call to the Uncoverted, Doddridge's Rise and Progress, may have a good effect on your           mind, in helping you to see the greatness of your guilt, by making you meditate upon the greatness of its           punishment. But if thou wouldst have a better, and more effectual way still, I give thee one other piece of advice.           Spend much of your time in thinking upon the agonies of Christ, for the guilt of thy sin is never so clearly seen           anywhere as in the fact that it slew the Saviour. Think what an evil thing that must be which cost Christ his life, in           order to save thee. Consider, I say, poor soul, how black must be that vileness which could only be washed out           with his precious blood! how grievous those offences which could not be expiated unless his body were nailed to           the tree, his side pierced, and unless he died in fever and in thirst, crying, "My God, my God, why hast thou           forsaken me?" Go thou to the garden at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and see the Saviour in his bloody sweat!           Go thou to Pilate's hall, and see him in his shameful accusations! Go thou to the hall of Herod's praetorian guard,           and see there how the mighty men set Christ at nought! And go then, last of all, to Calvary, and see that spectacle           of woe, and if these do not show thee the blackness of thy sin, then nothing can. If the death of Christ do not           teach thee thy need of a Saviour, then what remedy remains for a heart so hard, for a soul so blind as thine?               Thus have I given you words of instruction. Forget them not; put them into practice. Be ye not hearers only,           but doers of the word.               III. And now, very briefly indeed, a few sentences by way of DISCRIMINATION.               Thou art longing, my hearer, to know thy great guilt and to feel thy need of Jesus. Take care that thou dost           discriminate between the work of the Spirit and the work of the devil. It is the work of the Spirit to make thee feel           thy self a sinner, but it never was his work to make thee feel that Christ could forget thee. It is the work of the           Spirit to make thee repent of sin; but it is not the work of the Spirit to make thee despair of pardon; that is the           devil's work. You know Satan always works by trying to counterfeit the work of the Spirit. He did so in the land           of Egypt. Moses stretched out his rod and turned all the waters into blood. Out came Jannes and Jambres and by           their cunning and sleight of hand, they have a large piece of water brought, and they turn that into blood. Then           Moses fills the land with frogsthe ungracious sorcerers have a space cleared and they fill that with frogs; thus           they opposed the work of God by pretender to do the same work; so will the devil do with thee. "Ah!" says God           the Holy Spirit; "Sinner thou canst not save thyself" "Ah!" says the devil, "and he cannot save thee either." "Ah!"           says God the Holy Spirit "thou hast a hard heart, only Christ can soften it." "Ah!" says the devil, "but he wont           soften it unless thou dost soften it first." "Ah!" says God the Spirit "thou hast no qualification, thou art naked, and           ruined, and undone." "Yes," says the devil, "it is no use your trusting Christ, because you have no good in you,           and you cannot hope to be saved." "Ah!" says God the Spirit, "thou dost not feel thy sin; thou art hard to repent,           because of thy hardness." "Ah!" says the devil, "and because thou art so hard-hearted Christ cannot save thee."           Now do learn to distinguish between the one and the other. When a poor penitent sometimes thinks of destroying           himself, do you think that is the Spirit's work? "It is the devil's work; 'he was a murderer from the beginning." One           sinner says, "I am so guilty, I am sure I can never be pardoned." Is that the Spirit's teachingthat lie? Oh! that           comes from the father of lies. Take heed, whenever you read a biography like that of John Bunyan's Grace           Abounding, as you read, say, "that is the Spirit's work, Lord send me that""that is the devil's work, Lord keep           me from that." Do not be desirous to have the devil tearing your soul to pieces; the less you have to do with him           the better, and if the Holy Ghost keeps Satan from you, bless him for it. Do not wait to have the terrors and           horrors that some have, but come to Christ just as you are. You do not want those terrors and horrors, they are of           little use. Let me remind you of another thing; I ask you not to acquaint yourself with your sins so as to hope to           know them all, because you cannot number them with man's poor arithmetic. Young, in his Night Thoughts, says,           "God hides from all eyes but his own that desperate sighta human heart." If you were to know only the tenth           part of how bad you have been you would be driven mad. You who have been the most moral, the most excellent           in character, if all the past sins of your heart could stand before you in their black colours, and you could see them           in their true light, you would be in hell, for indeed it is hell to discover the sinfulness of sin. Do you mean to say           that you would go down on your knees and ask God to send you to hell, or drive you mad? Be not so foolish; say,           "Lord, let me know my guilt enough to drive me to Christ; but do not gratify my curiosity by letting me know           more; no, give me enough to make me feel that I must trust Christ, or else be lost, and I shall be well content if           thou givest me that, though thou deniest me more.               Once again, my dear hearers, listen to this next caution, for it is very important. Take care thou dost not try to           make a righteousness out of thy feelings. If you say, "I may not go to Christ till I feel my need of him"that is           clear legality; you are on the wrong track altogether, because Christ does not want you to feel your need in order           to prepare for him; he wants no preparation, and anything which you think to be a preparation is a mistake. You           are to come just as you aretoday, as you are, nownot as you will be, but just now, as you now are. I do not           say to you, "Go home and seek God in prayer; I say come to Christ now at this very hour;" you will never be in a           better state than you are now, for you were never in a worse state, and that is the fittest state in which to come to           Christ. He that is very sick is just in the right state to have a doctor; he that is filthy and begrimed is just in the           right state to be washed; he that is naked is just in the right state to be clothed. That is your case. But you say, "I           do not feel my need." Just so: your not feeling it proves you to have the greater need. You cannot trust your           feelings, because you say, you have not any. Why, if God were to hear your prayers arid make you feel your           need, you would begin to trust in your feelings, and would be led to say, "I trust Christ because I feel my need;

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