THE THINGS MEN TRADE CHRIST FOR
“Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears!” [Heb 12:16,17]
Beware, my dear Hearers, first, of ever giving up spiritual benefits for anything that is carnal, or bartering eternal blessings for anything temporal. Esau came in from the chase hungry and faint. Jacob’s mess of red pottage smelt delicious to him and when he begged for it as a starving man craves food, his crafty brother sold it to him in exchange for his birthright as Isaac’s elder son. Esau’s sin consisted in his willingness to sell the Covenant blessing at such a price as that—yet how many nowadays are selling their souls just as cheaply as Esau sold his birthright!
Some sell their souls for what they call “pleasure.” They say that they wish to be saved, but a little transient gaiety exercises more fascination over their minds than all eternal joys or the delights of present fellowship with God. The time will come when they will rue their fatal choice and call themselves a thousand fools. But just now they sneer at anything like self-denial with a view to eternal blessedness and count that man wise who makes the moments fly most merrily, who is satisfied with the passing “pleasure” of the hour. Foolish creatures of the day, I would to God that you were only creatures of a day that would die like the insects of a summer’s evening! But for immortal souls to barter eternal happiness for present joys is folly indeed!
We have known some sell their souls for gain. They are making money in a dishonest or disreputable way. To become Christians, they must give up their business—and they frankly say that they cannot afford it. Their shop would never “pay” if it were closed on Sundays! Their trade would never “prosper” if it were conducted on Christian principles! Possibly it is an evil trade and the gain from it comes out of the vices of men. There are such trades—God save all of us from having anything to do with them! But with many, the glitter of the 30 pieces of silver is more fascinating than the Christ of God and, Judas-like, they take the silver, deliberately reject the Savior and so commit spiritual suicide.
We have known some sell their souls for the sake of the love of their friends. They laughed at you because you frequented a place of worship and expressed some anxiety about your eternal welfare and made some little reform in your outward life. And because of that laughter, you have gone back like a coward. You have turned your back on Heaven and are going down to Hell merely to escape the jeers and sneers of sinners like yourself! Such conduct is unworthy of anyone who calls himself a man. And such conduct will surely bring down the just condemnation of God upon anyone who is guilty of so acting. Yet how many snatch up the mess of pottage and push away from them heavenly blessings for fear somebody or other should call them Methodists or Puritans—and sneer at them for their precision of character!
Alas, some have even sold their souls for the cup of the drunkard. The intoxicating cup which is very rarely, if ever, a benefit to anyone, even when taken in what is called, “moderation,” leads to the certain damnation of many if they touch a single drop of it! It has allured thousands into the jaws of Hell! They could not resist its spell when once it fell upon them. It is, alas, only too true that men who were once honorable and loving husbands and fathers, have become brutes and monsters! No, I slander the brutes when I compare them with many men whom I have seen, who have seemed, through strong drink, to have made themselves into incarnate fiends!
There is the “pure river of Water of Life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the Throne of God and of the Lamb,” and there the fire-water, which has its origin among the flames of Hell—and yet, when the choice is left to men—many of them prefer the fiery liquor to that Water which would be in them “a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” Some of those men who are selling their souls for drink are with us here—oh, that God would give them Grace enough to see themselves as they really are in His sight—that they might then ask for the Grace which would make them to be new creatures in Christ Jesus!
Others have sold their souls for lust—lust which I must not now describe, lest the cheek of modesty should be caused to blush. Alas! Alas, we have known some who have stood high in the esteem of their fellow men, and some who have even dared to enter the visible Church of God, who, all the time, have preferred their “mistress” to the Messiah! And as surely as they continue to do so, the day will come when they will rue it! Oh, that they had the Grace to rue it now and to escape from their Delilahs! It will need more than human strength to shake off this deadly hydra, whose cruel folds have twisted themselves so tightly around them!
Beware, next, of being content with a secondary blessing. Esau did not seem to care that Jacob had the spiritual blessing. As he could not get that, he appeared willing to be content with a temporal one. And many a man says, “Give me a prosperous business, give me plenty to eat and drink, let me enjoy myself and have my full swing in this life—and then, as for those joys of which Christians talk, I do not care a snap of the finger about them! They may have their fine country up among the stars for all that I care, if I can only have my good things here.” Yes, I know that is how you talk, my Friends, but I charge every sensible man here not to talk or act like that.
Even if you could sell your soul for 50 years of intense physical or mental delight, what would become of your soul when the 50 years came to an end? And if you could have the 50 years extended to 70, or even to a hundred—what would become of your soul at the end of the century? And what would become of your soul forever? It is forever—let men say what they will! “These shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” “The punishment” is of the same duration as the “life”—forever and ever! Is it worthwhile to make such a bargain as that—to buy a mess of red pottage at the price of your immortal soul?
I charge each one of you to buy the Truth of God, and sell it not, to lay up for yourself treasures in Heaven, to get Christ, to get peace and pardon, to get acceptance with God, to get Heaven in the way that this Book tells you to get it! If you only succeed in getting broad acres of fertile fields, they must all be left! If you amass a great store of gold and silver, it must all be left to your heirs who will probably laugh at the thought of the fool who hoarded so much for them to scatter! Do not act so foolishly, but seek to get the chief blessing! May God graciously enable you to get it this very hour!
Remember that if you leave this world without getting this blessing, you will, like Esau, find no place of repentance, though you seek it carefully with tears. Isaac could not take back what he had said, and God will never alter what He has said. There has been spreading in this country and in other lands, also, the idea of universal salvation—and mark you, wherever that doctrine spreads, vice must and will spread as the natural and inevitable consequence!
When men are taught to believe in ultimate universal salvation, their immediate and legitimate inference is, “Then we may live as we like and all will be right in the end.” And they will live as they like, but all will not be right in the end! They are ambassadors of the devil who teach that lying doctrine, and they will have to answer for it at the Judgment Bar of God! I bring you no such lies as that. I tell you what God’s Book of Truth tells me, which is that if you live and die without repentance, without faith and without holiness—as surely as the righteous will live forever in Heaven, just as surely will you live forever in Hell!
I implore you, as you value your immortal soul, do not imperil its eternal interest by trusting these dreams and fictions, for that is what they are. He who is righteous when he dies will be righteous forever! And he who is unrighteous then, will be unrighteous forever! So if you do not wish to have to weep and gnash your teeth in anguish and in anger at your own stupidity, fly now, I pray you, to the hope that is set before you in the Gospel and lay hold of Jesus, who alone can save you! It is no pleasure to me to have to utter this solemn message. I deliver it from an aching heart, as the burden of the Lord.