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The Nature and Danger of Making
Light of Christ and Salvation
by Samuel Davies
"But they made light of it." Matthew 22:5
There is not one of us in this assembly who has not heard of Christ and his great salvation. There is not one of us who has not had the rich blessings of the gospel freely and repeatedly offered to them. Each one of us stands in the most absolute need of these blessings, and must perish forever without them! I wish I could add, that there is not one of us who has not cheerfully accepted them according to the offer of the gospel. But, alas! such an unmixed assembly is not to be expected on earth! Multitudes will make light of Christ and the invitations of the gospel, as the Jews did.
This parable represents the great God under the majestic idea of a king. He is represented as making a marriage feast for his Son. That is, God in the gospel offers his Son Jesus Christ as a Savior to the guilty sons of men, and, upon their acceptance of himthe most intimate and endearing union, and the tenderest mutual affection takes place between Christ and them; which may properly be represented by the marriage relation. And God has provided for them a rich variety of blessings: pardon, holiness, and everlasting felicity, which may be signified by a royal nuptial feast, verse 2.
These blessings were first offered to the Jews, who were bidden to the wedding by Moses and the prophets, whose great business it was to prepare them to receive the Messiah, verse 3. The servants who were sent to call those who were thus bidden, were the apostles and seventy disciples, whom Christ sent out to preach that the gospel kingdom was just at hand, verse 3. When the Jews rejected this call, he sent forth other servants, namely, the apostles, after his ascension, who were to be more urgent in their invitations, and to tell them that, in consequence of impending Christ's deaththat all things were now ready, verse 4.
It is seldom that invitations to a royal feast are rejected; but alas! the Jews rejected the invitation of the gospel, and would not accept its important blessings. They made light of Christ and his blessings: they were careless to them, and turned their attention to other things. These things were not peculiar to the Jewsbut belong also to us Gentile sinners in these ends of the earth. Christ is still proposed to us; to the same blessings we are invited; and I have the honor, my dear brethren, of appearing among you as a servant of the heavenly King, sent out to urge you to embrace the offer!
I doubt not, but some of you have already complied; and you are enriched and made blessed forever. But alas! must I not also fear for most of you? Have you not made light of Christ and salvation, to which you have been invited for so many years successively? Your case is really lamentable, as I hope you will see before I am done; and I most sincerely compassionate you from my heart. I now rise up in this solemn place with the design to address you with the most solemn seriousness, and the most compassionate concern. And did you know how much your happiness may depend upon it, and how anxious I am lest I should fail in the attemptI am sure you could not but pray for me, and pity me. If ever you regarded a man in the most serious temper and address, I beg you would now regard what I am going to say to you. You cannot receive any benefit from this, or indeed any other subjectuntil you apply it to yourselves. And therefore, in order to reform you of the sin of making light of Christ and the gospel, I must first inquire: WHO are guilty of it? For this purpose let us consider,
What is it to make light of Christ and the invitations of the gospel? I can think of no plainer way to show this, than to inquire how we treat those things that we highly esteem; and also by way of contrast, how we treat those things which we make light of. And hence we may discover whether Christ and the gospel may be ranked among the things we esteemor those we disregard.
1. Men are apt to remember and affectionately think of the things that they highly esteem; but as for those which they disregard, they can easily forget them, and live from day to day without a single thought about them. Now do you often affectionately remember the Lord Jesus Christ, and do your thoughts affectionately go after him? do they pay him early visits in the morning? do they make frequent excursions to him through the day? and do you lie down with him in your hearts at night?
Is not the contrary evident, as to many of you? Can you not live from day to day thoughtless of Jesus, and your everlasting salvation? Recollect now, how many affectionate thoughts have you had of these things through the week past, or in this sacred morning. And can you indeed highly esteem those things which you hardly ever think of? Follow your own hearts, sirsobserve which way they most naturally and freely runand then judge whether you make light of the gospel or not!
Alas! we cannot persuade men to one hour's serious consideration, as to what they should do for a saving interest in Christ; we cannot persuade them so much as to afford him only their thoughts, which are such cheap things! And yet astonishingly, they will not be convinced that they make light of Christ! And here lies the infatuation of sin: it blinds and befools men, so that they do not know what they think ofwhat they loveor what they intend, much less do they know the habitual bent of their souls. They often imagine themselves free from those sins to which they are most enslaved; and particularly they think themselves innocent of the crime of making light of the gospel, when this is the very crime that is likely to destroy them forever!
2. The things that men most valuewill be the frequent subjects of their discourse. The thoughts will command the tongue, and furnish materials for conversation. But those things that they forget and disregardthey will not talk of. Do not they therefore make light of Christ and salvationwho have no delight in conversing about them, and hardly ever mention the name of Christ but in a trifling or profane manner? They do not like the company where divine things are discoursed ofbut think it fanatical and troublesome. They had much rather be entertained with humorous tales and idle stories, or talk about the affairs of the world. "They are of the world," says John, "therefore speak they of the world, and the world hears them." 1 John 4:5. They are in their element in such conversation.
Or others may talk about 'religion'but it is only about the 'externals' of it as, "How such a man preached; it was a very good or a bad sermon," etc. But they have no desire to enter into the spirit and substance of divine things! and if they speak of Christ and experimental religion, it is in a heartless and insipid manner. And do not such make light of the gospel? and is not this the character of many of you?
3. Men make light of those things, which they only talk aboutbut do not reduce into practice. Christianity was intended not to furnish matter for empty talkersbut to govern the heart and practice! But are there not some who only employ their tongues about it, especially when their spirits are raised with liquor, and then a torrent of noisy religion breaks from them. Watch their lives, and you will see little appearance of Christianity there. And do not these evidently make light of Christ, who make him the theme of their drunken conversation, or who seem to think that God sent his Son from heaven just to set the world a talking about him? There is nothing in nature that seems to me more abominable than this!
4. We take the utmost pains and labor to secure the things we valueand cannot be easy while our property in them is uncertain. But those things that we think lightly ofwe care but little whether they are ours or not. Therefore, have not such of you made light of Christ and salvation, who have lived twenty or thirty years uncertain whether you have a saving interest in himand yet have been easy and contented, and take no method to be resolved? Are all who hear me this day determined in this important question: "What shall become of mewhen I die?" Are you all certain upon good grounds, and after a thorough trialthat you shall be eternally saved? Oh that you were! but, alas! you are not! And do you think you would bear this uncertainty about it, if you did not make light of salvation? No! you would carefully examine yourselves; you would diligently peruse the Scriptures to find out the marks of those who shall be saved; you would anxiously consult those who could direct you, and particularly pious ministers, who would think it the greatest favor you could do themto devolve such an office upon them. But now ministers may sit in their studies for a whole year, and not ten people perhaps in five hundred, come to them on this important business.
Oh, sirs, if the gospel should pierce your hearts indeed, you would but cry out with the convicted Jews, "Men and brethren, what shall we do!" Acts 2:37. Paul, when awakened, cries out, in a trembling consternation, "Lord! what will you have me to do!" But when shall we hear such questions now-a-days?
5. The things that men highly esteem, deeply and tenderly affect them, and excite some motions in their hearts. But what they make light of, makes no impression upon them. And if you did not make light of the gospel, what workings would there be in your hearts about it! What solemn, tender, and vigorous passion would it raise in youto hear such things about the world to come! what fear and astonishment would seize you at the consideration of your misery; what transports of joy and gratitude would you feel at the glad tidings of salvation by the blood of Christ! what strong effectual purposes would be raised in you at the discovery of your duty! Oh what hearers would we have, were it not for this one sinthe making light of the gospel! Whereas now we are in danger of wearying them, or preaching them asleep with our most solemn discourses about this momentous affair!
But we talk to them of Christ and salvationuntil they grow quite tired of this dull old tale, and this foolishness of preaching. Alas! little would one think from the air of carelessness, levity, and inattention that appears among themthat they were hearing such weighty truths, or have any concern in them!
6. Our estimate of things may be discovered by the diligence and earnestness of our endeavors to obtain them. Those things which we highly valuewe think no pains too great to obtain. Those things we think lightly ofwe use no endeavors to obtain them, or we use them in a languid, careless manner. And do not they make light of Christ and salvation, who do not exert themselves in earnest to obtain themand think a great deal of every little thing they do in religion? They are still ready to cry out, "What need of so much diligence? We hope to be saved without so much trouble!" And, though these may not be so honest as to speak it outit is plain from their temper and practicethat they grudge all the service they do for Christ as done to a master whom they do not love. They love and esteem the worldand therefore for the world they will labor and toil all day, and seem never to think they can do too much! But for the God who made them, for the Lord who bought them, and for their everlasting salvation, they seem afraid of taking too much pains.
Let us preach to them as long as we will, we cannot bring them in earnest to desire and pursue after holiness. Follow them to their houses, and you will hardly ever find them reading a chapter in their Bibles, or calling upon God with their families, so much as once a day. Follow them into their retirements, and you will hear no penitent confessions of sin, no earnest cries for mercy. They will not allow to God that one day in seven which he has appropriated to his own immediate servicebut they will steal and prostitute some even of those sacred hours for idleness, for worldly conversation, or business. And many of them are so malignant in wickedness, that they will reproach and ridicule others who are earnestly seeking Christ!
And is not Christ worth seeking? Is not eternal salvation worth so much trouble? Does not that man make light of these thingswho thinks his ease or carnal pleasure of greater importance? Let common sense judge!
7. That which we highly valuewe think we cannot buy too dear; and we are ready to part with everything that comes in competition with it. The merchant that found the one pearl of great pricesold all that he had to purchase it, Matthew 13:46. But those things that we make light ofwe will not part with things of value for them.
Now, when Christ and the blessings of the gospel come in competition with the world and sinful pleasures, you may know which you most highly esteemby considering which you are most ready to part with. You are called to part with everything that is inconsistent with a saving interest in Christand yet many of you will not do it. You are called but to give God his own, to resign all to his will, to let go all those profits and pleasures which you must either part withor part with Christ; and yet your hearts cling to these things; you grasp them eagerly, and nothing can tear them from you! You must have your pleasures, you must keep your credit in the world, you must look to your estateswhatever becomes of Christ and salvation! As if you could live and die better without Christthan without these earthly things; or as if Christ could not make you happy without them.
And does not this bring the matter to an issue, and plainly show that you make light of Christin comparison with these things? Christ himself has assured you, over and over, that unless you are willing to part with all for his sakethat you cannot be his disciples! And yet, while you have the quite contrary dispositionyou will pretend to be his disciples; as if you knew better what it is that constituted his disciplesthan Christ does!
8. Those things which we highly valuewe shall be for helping our friends to obtain. Do not those, then, make light of Christwho do not take half so much pains to help their children to a saving interest in him, as to set them up in the world, and leave them large fortunes? They supply the outward needs of their familiesbut they take little or no care about their everlasting salvation! Alas! Sirs, your neglected, ignorant, and wicked childrencan witness against you, that you make very light of Christ and salvation, and their immortal souls!
9. That which men highly esteemthey will so diligently pursuethat you may see their regard for it in their endeavors after it. You may therefore see that many make light of the gospel by the little knowledge they have of it, after all the means of instruction with which they have been favored. Alas! where is their improvement in holiness! Alas! how little do they know of their own hearts, of God and Christ, and the world to come, and what they must do to be saved! Ask them about these things, and you will find them stupidly ignorant! And yet they have so much conceited knowledge, that they will not acknowledge it; or if they do, they have no better excuse than to say they are no scholars, or they have a poor memoryas if it required extensive learning, or a great genius to know the things that are necessary to salvation. Oh! if they had not made light of these things; if they had bestowed but half the pains upon them which they have taken to understand matters of worldly business or pleasure, they would not be so grossly ignorant as they are!
When men can learn the hardest trade in a few years, when men of bright abilities, and perhaps considerable learning, after living so many yearsare still mere novices in matters of true religion, and do not so much as know the terms of life according to the gospelis it not plain that they care but little about these things, and that they make light of the Son of God, and all his inestimable, immortal blessings?
Thus I have offered you sufficient matter of conviction in this affair. And what is the result? Does not conscience smite some of you by this time, and say, "I am the man who has made light of Christ and his gospel!" If not, upon what evidence are you acquitted? Some of you, I doubt not, can say, in the integrity of your hearts, "Alas! I am too careless about this important affairbut God knows I am often deeply concerned about it! God knows that if ever I was in earnest about anything in all my lifeit has been about my everlasting state; and there is nothing in all the world that habitually lies so near my heart!"
But are there not some of you whom conscience does not accuse of this crime of too much carelessness about the gospel, not because you are innocentbut because you make so very light of it, that you will make no thorough search into it? and does not this alone prove you guilty? I beseech such to consider the folly of your conduct. Do you then think to excuse your crime, by being careless whether you are guilty of it or not? Can you avoid the precipiceby shutting your eyes? If you discover your sin now, it may be of unspeakable service to youbut if you now shut your eyesyou must see it hereafter, when it will be too latewhen your conviction will be your punishment!
I beseech you also to consider the dreadful evil of your conduct in making light of a Savior. And here I shall offer such arguments to expose its aggravations, as I am sure I cannot fail to convince and astonish youif you act like men of reason and understanding.
1. Consider that you make light of Christwho did not make light of youwhen you deserved only His wrath! You were worthy of nothing but contempt and abhorrence from him. As a manyou are but a worm to God; and as a sinneryou are viler than a toad or a serpent! Yet Christ was so far from making light of youthat he left his native heaven, became a man of sorrows, and died in the most exquisite agoniesthat a way might be opened for the salvation of your miserable soul!
And can you make light of him after all his regard to you? What miracles of love and mercy has he shown towards you! and can you neglect him after all? Angels, who are less concerned in these things than we arecannot but pry into them with delightful wonder, 1 Peter 1:12, and shall sinners who have the most intimate personal concern in them, make light of them? This is a crime more than devilish; for the devils never had a Savior offered to them, and consequently never could despise him. And can you live in a carelessness of Christ all your daysand yet feel no remorse?
2. Consider you make light of matters of the greatest excellency and importance in all the world! Oh, sirs, you know not what it is that you slight! Had you known these thingsyou would not have ventured to make light of them for ten thousand worlds! As Christ said to the woman of Samaria, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is, that says to you, Give me a drink, you would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water!" John 4:13. Had the Jews known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory! 1 Corinthians 2:8. Just so, had you known who Jesus isyou would not have made light of him; he would have been to you the most important being in the universe!
Oh! had you been but one day in heaven, and seen and felt the happiness there! or had you been but one hour under the agonies of hellyou could never more trifle with salvation!
Here I find my thoughts run so naturally into the same channel with those of the excellent Richard Baxter, about a hundred years ago, that you will allow me to give a long quotation from him, that you may see in what light this great and godly man viewed the neglected things which the gospel brings to your ears. His words are these, and I am that they are very weighty:
"Oh, sirs, they are no trifles or jesting matters, which the gospel speaks of. I must needs profess to you, that when I have the most serious thoughts of these things, I am ready to wonder that such amazing matters do not overwhelm the souls of men! that the greatness of the subjectdoes not so overmatch our understandings and affections, as even to drive men beside themselves! Much more am I amazed, that men should be so blockish as to make light of such wondrous things! Oh, Lord, that men did but know what everlasting gloryand everlasting torments are! Would they then hear us as they do? Would they read and think of these things as they do? I profess I have been ready to wonder when I have heard such weighty things delivered, how people can forbear crying out in the congregation; and much more do I wonder how they can restuntil they have gone to their ministers and learned what they shall do to be saved, that this great business of their eternal salvation should be put out of doubt. Oh, that heaven and hell should work no more upon men! Oh, that eternity should work no more! Oh, how can you forbear when you are aloneto think with yourselves, what it is to be everlastingly in joyor torment! I wonder that such thoughts do not break your sleep, and that they do not crowd into your minds when you are about your labor! I wonder how you can almost do anything else! How can you have any quietness in your minds? How can you eat or drink, or restuntil you have got some ground of everlasting consolations? Is that a man, or a corpsewho is not affected with matters of such great consequence? who can be readier to sleepthan to tremble, when he hears how he must stand at the bar of God? Is that a man, or a clod of claywho can rise up and lie down without being deeply affected with his everlasting state? who can follow his worldly business, and make nothing of the great business of salvation or damnation; and that when he knows it is so close at hand! Truly, sirs, when I think of the weight of the matter, I wonder at the best saints upon earth, that they are no better, and do no more in so weighty a case. I wonder at those whom the world accounts more holy than needs be, and scorns for making too much adothat they can put off Christ and their souls with so little; that they do not pour out their souls in every prayer; that they are not more taken up with God; that their thoughts are not more serious in preparation for their last account! I wonder that they are not a thousand times more strict in their lives, and more laborious and unwearied for the eternal crown than they are. And for myself, (says that zealous, flaming, and indefatigable preacher,) as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life; the Lord knows I am ashamed of every sermon that I preach! When I think what I am, and who sent me, and how much the salvation and damnation of men is concerned in itI am ready to tremble, lest God should judge me as a slighter of his truth and the souls of men; and lest, in my best sermon, I should be guilty of their blood! Methinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence, without tears, or the greatest earnestness!"
And now, my brethren, if such a man as this viewed these things in this light, oh what shall wewe languishing, careless creatures, what shall we think of ourselves? Into what a dead sleep are we fallen! Oh let the most active and zealous among usawake, and be a thousand times more earnest! And you frozen-hearted, careless sinners, for God's sakeawake, and exert yourselves to good purpose in the pursuit of salvationor you are lost to all eternity!
3. Consider whose salvation it is, that you make light of.
It is your own!
And do you not care what becomes of your own eternal souls?
Is it nothing to youwhether you are saved or damned forever?
Is the natural principle of self-love extinct in you?
Have you no concern for your own preservation?
Are you your own worst enemies?
If you slight Christ and love sinyou virtually love death and damnation! And you may as well say this in wordsas by your practice!
4. Consider, your sin is aggravatedby professing to believe that gospel, which you make light of. For a professed infidel who does not believe the Scripture revelation concerning Christ and a future state of rewards and punishments, for such a one to be careless about these things would not be so strange.
But many of you profess to believe the gospelbut make light of it in your thoughts and practice!
How astonishing is this!
How utterly inexcusable!
What! You believe that you shall live forever in the most perfect happiness or exquisite miseryand yet take no more pains to obtain the one, and escape the other!
What! You believe that the great and awesome God will shortly be your judgeand yet make no more preparation for it? Either say plainly, "I am no Christian, I do not believe these things!" or else let your hearts be affected with your belief, and let it influence and govern your lives!
5. Consider what those things are, which engross your affections, and which tempt you to neglect Christ and your salvation. Have you found a better friend than Christ, or a more substantial and lasting happiness than His salvation?
Oh! what trifles and vanities, what dreams and shadows are men pursuingwhile they neglect the important realities of the eternal world!
If crowns and kingdoms, if all the riches, glories, and pleasures of the world were ensured to youas a reward for making light of Christ, you would even then make the most foolish bargain possible; for what are these in the grand scaleif compared to eternal joy or eternal misery! "What is a man profited, if he shall gain even the whole world, and lose his own soul!"
But you cannot realistically hope for the ten thousandth part of these worldly trifles! And will you cast away your souls for such a pittance?
You who think it such a great thing to live in riches, pleasures, and honors; consider, is it such a mighty happiness to die rich? to die after a life of pleasure and honor? Will it be such a great happiness to give an account at the judgement day, for the life of a rich sensualist, rather than of a poor humble Christian? Will Dives then be so much happier than Lazarus?
Alas! what does the richest, the highest, the most voluptuous sinner dobut lay up treasures of wrath against the day of wrath! Oh how will the unhappy creatures torture themselves forever with the most cutting reflections, for selling their Savior and their souls for such trifles! Let your sins and earthly enjoyments save you then, if they can! Then go and cry to the gods you have chosen; let them deliver you in the day of your damnation!
6. Your making light of Christ and salvation, is a certain evidence that you have no saving interest in them. Christ will not throw himself and his blessings away upon those who do not value them. "Those who honor himhe will honor; but those who despise himshall be lightly esteemed," 1 Sam. 2:30. There is a day coming, when you will feel you cannot do without him; when you will feel yourselves perishing for lack of a Savior; and then you may go and look for a savior where you will; then may you shift for yourselves as best you canhe will have nothing to do with you! The Savior of sinners will cast you off forever!
I tell you, sirs, whatever estimate you may form of all these thingsthat God thinks very highly of the blood of his Son, and the blessings of his purchase; and if ever you obtain them, he will have you think highly of them too. If you continue to make light of themall the world cannot save you. And can you find fault with God for denying you that which was so little in your account?
7. And lastly, the time is hastening when you will not think so lightly of Christ and salvation. Oh, sirs, when God shall commission death to tear your guilty souls out of your bodies, when devils shall drag you away to the place of torment, when you find yourselves condemned to everlasting fire by that Savior whom you now neglectwhat would you then give for a Savior?
When divine justice brings in its heavy charges against you, and you have nothing to answer, how will you then cry, "Oh if I had sincerely received Jesus for my SaviorHe would have answered all!" When you see that the world has deserted you, that your companions in sin have deceived both themselves and you, and all your merry days are over foreverwould you not then give ten thousand worlds for Christ?
And will you not now think him worthy of your esteem and earnest pursuit? Why will you judge of things nowquite the reverse of what you will do thenwhen you will be more capable of judging rightly?
And now, dear immortal souls! I have revealed the nature and danger of this common but unsuspected and unlamented sin, making light of Christ. I have delivered my messageand now I must leave it with you, imploring the blessing of God upon it!
I cannot follow you home to your houses to see what effect it has upon you, or to make application of it to each of you in particular; but oh, may your consciences undertake this office! Whenever you spend another prayerless, thoughtless day, whenever you give yourselves up to sinful pleasures, or an over-eager pursuit of the world, may your conscience become your preacher, and sting you with this expostulation: "Alas! is this the effect of all I have heard? Do I still make light of Christ and the concerns of true religion? Oh what will be the end of such conduct!"
I cannot but fear, after all, that some of you, as usual, will continue careless and impenitent. Well, when you are suffering the punishment of this sin in hell, remember that you were warned, and acquit me from being accessory to your eternal ruin! And when we all appear before the supreme Judge, and I am called to give an account of my ministry: when I am asked, "Did you warn these creatures of their danger? Did you lay before them their guilt in making light of these things?" You will hear me answer, "Yes, Lord, I warned them in the best manner I couldbut they would not believe me; they would not regard what I said, though enforced by the authority of your awesome name, and confirmed by your own Word!" Oh sirs, must I give in this accusation against any of you? No, rather have mercy on yourselves, and have mercy upon me, that I may give an account of you with joy, and not with grief!