Adapted from C.H. Spurgeon's sermon #264, How Saints May Help the Devil, preached on 7/24/1859.
I wish to speak very pointedly and personally to all of you who are professors of religion, and I hope that you will take every point to yourself, in which you must feel that you have been and are guilty. The acts of many of Christ's followers have been the cause of justifying and comforting sinners in their evil ways.
Sinners often excuse themselves in the manifest worldliness of many Christians. … You will see Christian men and women as fond of dress and as pleased with the frivolities of the age as any other people possibly could be—just as anxious to adorn their outward persons so as to be seen of men! They are just as ambitious to win the praise which fools accord to fine dressing, as the silliest clothes or the gaudiest among worldly women.
"Look," says the worldling, "this man professes that his inheritance is above and that his affection is set not on things on earth, but on the things of heaven—but look at him—he is just as earnest as I am about the things of this world!"
"You talk about carrying the cross, but we do not see it anywhere—unless it is a golden cross sometimes hanging around your neck! You say you are crucified to the world and the world to you—it is a very merry sort of crucifixion! You say that you mortify your members and deny yourselves—mortification must be suffered in secret, for it is but very little that we can see of it!"
Thus, the worldling casts back to our challenge, declaring that we are not sincere and thus, he comforts himself in his sin and justifies himself in his iniquity! But what effect does all this have upon the worldling? Why, just this—he says:
"I like you, because you don't rebuke me. I like that kind of religion, because it is no accusation against me. When I see a Christian hot and in earnest about being saved, it rebukes my own indifference. But when I see a professed Christian just as indifferent about the salvation of men as I am, why, then I say it is all a farce, nonsense! They don't mean it, the minister does not care a bit about whether souls are saved or not and as for the church, they make a great deal of noise every now and then … but they don't care about saving us."
And so a worldling wraps himself up and goes on his way in his sin and his iniquity and perseveres all the way to the end declaring that religion is but a sham, because he sees us careless in solemn matters and cold concerning everlasting realities.
Friends, how often have you and I, in the first place, helped to keep sinners easy in their sin, by our inconsistency? Had we been true Christians, the wicked man would often have been pricked to the heart and his conscience would have convicted him. But having been unfaithful and untrue, he has been able to sleep on quietly, without any disturbance from us. Do you not think my dear brothers and sisters, that you have each been guilty here—that you have often helped to pacify the wicked in their rebellion against God? I must confess myself that I am guilty. I have labored to escape from the sin, but I am not clean delivered from it. I pray each one of you makes a full confession before God, if by your silence, when sin has been committed before your eyes, or by a smile when a lascivious joke has been told in your hearing, or if by a constant indifference to the cause of Christ, you have led sinners to sleep more securely in the bed of their iniquities!
But, let's go still further. Do you not think that very often, when a sinner's conscience has been awakened, you and I have helped to give it a tranquilizing draught by our coldness of heart? "Hush, Master Conscience!" says the sinner. But he will not be still, but cries aloud, "Repent! Repent!" And then you, a professing Christian, pass by and you administer the opium draught of your indifference and the sinner's conscience falls back again into its slumber; and the reproof that might have been useful is entirely lost upon him! I am sure that this is one of the great crying sins of the church of Christ—that we are not now the witnesses of God, as we should be—but often quiet the witness of conscience in the souls of men! Look now to your lives—I am speaking personally to each one—look at yesterday and the days that went before and I ask you and I solemnly charge you to answer that question—have you not often assisted, in the first place, to keep men's consciences quiet and afterwards to send them to sleep when they have been convicted?
Further, is it not possible that often sinners have been strengthened in their sin by you? They were but beginning in iniquity and had you rebuked with honesty and sincerity, by your own holy life, they might have been led to see their folly and might have ceased from sin. But you have strengthened their hands! They have gone forward confidently, because they have said, "See, a church member leads the way! So-and-so is not more scrupulous than I," says such a one. "I may do what he does." And so you have helped to strengthen sinners in their sins!
No, is it not possible that some of you Christians have helped to confirm men in their sins and to destroy their souls? It is a masterpiece of the devil when he can use Christ's own soldiers against Christ! But this he has often done. I have known many a case. Let me tell a story of a minister—one which I believe to be true and which convicts myself and, therefore, I tell it with the hope, that it may also awaken your consciences and convict you too:
There was a young minister once preaching very earnestly in a certain chapel and he had to walk some four or five miles to his home along a country road after the service. A young man who had been deeply impressed under the sermon, requested the privilege of walking with the minister, with an earnest hope that he might get an opportunity of telling his feelings to him and obtaining some word of guidance or comfort. Instead of that, the young minister, all the way along, told the most amazing tales to those who were with him, causing loud roars of laughter and even relating tales which bordered upon the improper! He stopped at a certain house, and this young man with him, and the whole evening was spent in frivolity and foolish talking.
Some years after, when the minister had grown old, he was sent for to come to the bedside of a dying man. He hastened there with a heart desirous to do good; he was requested to sit down at the bedside, and the dying man, looking at him and regarding him most closely, said to him, "Do you remember preaching in such-and-such a village on such an occasion?"
"I do," said the minister.
"I was one of your hearers," said the man, "and I was deeply impressed by the sermon."
"Thank God for that," said the minister.
"Stop!" said the man, "don't thank God till you have heard the whole story! You will have reason to alter your tone before I have done."
The minister changed countenance, but he little guessed what would be the full extent of that man's testimony.
Said he, "Sir, do you remember, after you had finished that earnest sermon, I, with some others walked home with you? I was sincerely desirous of being led in the right path that night. But I heard you speak in such a strain of levity, and with so much coarseness too, that I went outside the house while you were sitting down to your evening meal. I stamped my foot upon the ground and said that you were a liar; that Christianity was a lie; that if you could pretend to be so in earnest about it in the pulpit, and then come down and talk like that, the whole thing must be a hoax! And I have been an infidel," he said, "a confirmed infidel, from that day to this! But I am not an infidel at this moment. I know better; I am dying and I am about to be damned! And at the bar of God I will lay my damnation to your charge—my blood is on your head"—and with a dreadful shriek and one demoniacal glance at the trembling minister, he shut his eyes and died!
Is it not possible that we may have been guilty thus? The bare idea would make the flesh creep on our bones; and yet, I think there are few among us who must not say, "That has been my fault, after all." Are there not enough traps in which to catch souls, without your being made Satan's fowlers to do mischief? Has not Satan legions enough of devils to murder men, without employing you? Are there no hands that may be red with the blood of souls beside yours? O followers of Christ! O believers in Jesus! Will you serve under the Black Prince? Will you fight against your Master? Will you drag sinners down to hell? Shall we—I take myself in here, more truly than any of you—shall we, who profess to preach the gospel of Christ, by our conversation injure and destroy men's souls?