A Prophetic Warning
“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.”
Christ had spoken to His disciples of earthquakes in divers places, famines and pestilences–but these were only the beginning of sorrows. Such things as these need not trouble Christians, for though the earth is removed and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea, yet may the Believer be confident and his heart may abide at rest. Even when the Master told His disciples that they would be hated of all men for His name’s sake, that needed not afflict them. He had taught them before, “Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him which is able to destroy both soul and body in Hell.” They were thus braced up to meet the fiery trial. Earthquake, pestilence, war and persecution fail to disturb the serenity of Believers in Christ! But the evil spoken of in our text–this is the wound, this is the sorrow! Here is something to tremble at! “Because iniquity shall abound”–that is worse than pestilence–“the love of many shall grow cold”–that is worse than persecution! As all the water outside a vessel can do it no harm until it enters the vessel, itself, so outward persecutions cannot really injure the Church of God. But when the mischief oozes into the Church and the love of God’s people grows cold–ah, then the boat is in sore distress! I fear that we are much in this condition at the present hour. May the Holy Spirit bless the alarming prophecy now before us to our awakening!
- Notice, first, THE CAUSE OF THAT GRIEVOUS CHILL OF HEART which is here spoken of–“Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” When love grows cold, it is a serious sign. Then the heart is affected–affected with a chill! Is not this the forerunner of death? What is the cause of it? According to our text, it is the abounding of iniquity!
Sin does its best to destroy Divine Grace. So much sin, so much the less of holiness, so much the less of every Christian Grace! Sin is like a poisonous atmosphere–if a man has to live in it, he has good need to pray that he may not be overcome by it. You and I, seeing that we are in this world and cannot go altogether out of it, will come into contact with evil. In our daily avocations however careful we are, we must encounter this infection. We cannot but feel that the evil around us is a hindrance to our holiness and a detriment to our growth in Grace. When the society around the Christian becomes flagrantly wicked, corrupt and offensive, it is difficult for him to maintain the purity of his life and the strength of his spiritual character. At this time, we live in an atmosphere which hinders our growth, yet in the early days of Christianity the Lord’s people had, as a, rule, to live in worse society than that which surrounds us today! I will not say this without an exception. There are quarters of London, I am told, as vicious as ever existed in Corinth, or in old Rome. And I am afraid that some of the grossest vices which we dare not even mention, abound in this city. We have a fringe of respectability which barely conceals the licentiousness and abomination which abound. I have been reading today some details as to the number of illegitimate births and I am perfectly astounded at the awful wickedness of this land! We call ourselves a Christian country. Do not dare to speak so falsely! This is growing to be a heathen land–part of itbowing before images, another part howling out, “There is no God,” and a third secretly reveling in unutterable filthiness.
Still, the most of us do not come into contact with vice to the same degree as the first Christians did. Society in the Roman Empire was utterly rotten. It is a wonder that God permitted the world to exist in that loathsome age! It tended greatly to the depression of Christian principle for infamous crimes to be tolerated in the society which surrounded the faithful. Look at these first Churches which some think so much of! They were not half as good as the Churches of today, bad as these are. Take the Church at Corinth, for instance. Did you ever hear of a Church in our day which allowed drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper? Have we personally met with a Church which would knowingly allow a person living in incest to remain in its membership? I hope not! But gross offenses had become so common in general society in Paul’s day that it did not strike even Christian people that some of these things were wrong! Iniquity abounded and it was greatly detrimental to Grace.
Again, iniquity is especially injurious to the growth of love. Because iniquity abounded, therefore the love of manygrew cold. Men inside the Christian Church found themselves betrayed by other members of the Church. Frequently, the heads of the Brothers and Sisters were sold to the executioner by hypocrites like Judas. That would greatly tend to injure Christian love. Men began to suspect one another. You did not know that the man who sat next to you at the Lord’s Table would not tomorrow inform against you and get blood-money for you! Therefore suspicion entered with its wintry breath. It was natural that it should be so, albeit that there was sin in it, yet you and I would have probably fallen into the same. All around, men were so loathsome that Christian love, which teaches us to pity the most degraded and to do good to the most unworthy, found it a difficult struggle to live. Godly men endeavored to win the ungodly from their lusts, but they found themselves persecuted in consequence–the more they sought to do good, the more they were hated–and this put their love to a severe test.
I think that you can see why our Savior has given us a warning in this particular form.
Iniquity is naturally opposed to Grace, but it is most of all injurious to the Grace of love. If sin abounds in a Church, it is little wonder if the love of many should grow cold. Young members introduced into the Church after a short time find that those whom they looked upon as being examples are walking disorderly and using lightness of speech and of behavior. Those young people cannot be very warm in love–they are led to stumble and are scandalized. Older saints who have for years held onto their way in integrity, and by Grace have kept their garments unspotted from the world, see those around them who have come into the Church who seem to be of quite another race, who can drink of the cup of Belial and of the cup of the Lord, who seem to follow Christ and the devil, too! Seeing this evil, these godly men and women gather up their garments in holy indignation and find it difficult to feel the love of purer days.
Oh, Friends, if the frost of sin rules in a Church, every tender flower is injured and nothing flourishes! Love is a sensitive plant and if it is touched by the finger of sin, it will show it. The lilies of Love’s Paradise cannot bloom amid the smoke and dust of unholiness!
Because iniquity abounds even in the professing Church, the love of many is growing cold today. What a sermon one might preach upon this!–but I shall not do anything of the kind. I am not so desirous to deplore the evils of others as to watch against evils within myself. I am not so anxious to make you discover transgression in the Church as to make you watch against it in your hearts–for rest sure of this–if you give sin any license in your heart, your love will grow cold! You cannot walk in love to Christ and yet live in the love of sin. If today you have indulged an unholy temper, if you have given way to covetousness, if you have in any way transgressed against the Lord, you will not feel that warmth of love towards Jesus Christ which you felt yesterday! Your life will have lost much of its beauty and its sweetness. Cry to God that He would give it back to you! Do not rest satisfied until it is perfectly restored.
II. Now let us consider THE SERIOUS CHARACTER OF THIS EVIL. “The love of many shall grow cold.” It is a very dreadful thing that love in any man’s heart should grow cold. Observe the bearings of Christian love and you will see the sin of it under various aspects.
Our love is, first, a love to the great Father–our Father who chose us before ever the earth was, by whom we havebeen begotten again and received into His family. If our love to Him grows cold, what mischief that must bring! Coldness towards the father in a family–do you know any household afflicted in that way? I should be very sorry to be a member of it! Coldness of love to the father? Why, that household is scarcely a family! It has lost the bond which holds it together and constitutes it a family. May the good Lord save us from this ruin of all holy unity!
Next, our love is love to Jesus Christ, “who loved us and gave Himself for us.” If love to Jesus should grow cold, theresult would be grievous! Is there any spiritual Grace within you that can be in a healthy condition when your love to Christ is declining? Are you right anywhere if your heart is wrong towards your Lord? Can you do anything earnestly when love to Jesus is chilled? Can you sing aright? Can you pray aright? Can you live aright? Do not let us dream of bearing fruit if we are severed from the Vine! It is vitally important that we should love Jesus with all our heart, soul and strength!
Christian love also embraces
the Truths of God. They that love God and His Divine Son, love the Truth which He
has committed to them. The Church is the trustee of the Gospel–she is “the pillar and ground of the Truth.” And when men begin to play with the Truth of God and think that one set of Doctrines is as good as another, and that nothing is of any particular importance, evil must come! In former days our fathers counted it a small thing to go to prison for a Doctrine, or to be burnt to death for a testimony! Look at the multitudes in Holland who were drowned, or who were tied to ladders and roasted to death for nothing but their conviction that Believers should be baptized! Nowadays, people consider Scriptural views of Baptism to be a mere trifle. I question whether our present Broad Churchmen think that there is any Doctrine worth a person’s losing the first joint of his little finger for! As to burning to death for a Truth of God–that must seem a great absurdity to these liberal theologians! Now that things have reached this pass, need we wonder that heresies and all manner of errors rush in torrents down our streets? When she can afford to trifle with the Truths of God, what is the Church worth?
Our love is also love to our fellow Christians. This is a vital principle. “We know that we have passed from death unto life because we love the brethren.” But when members of Churches have no love to one another. When a professor does not care at all what becomes of his Brothers and Sisters, has the Church any Christianity left? No, it has a name to live, and is dead! Christianity is gone when the heart is cold–its very life is mutual affection.
Then, again, we are to love the ungodly and the unconverted. It is by love that we are to win them to Christ. But ifthe Church has no love to the dying sons of men, what is she worth? Where will be her missionary operations? What will be the use of her ministry? Think of her Sunday schools without love to the children! Think of people pretending to win souls who have no love for them and do not care whether they are lost or saved. Can the Church sustain a worse loss than the losing of her fervent love to perishing men? And yet, if iniquity abounds, this is the great risk we run–compassionate love will cease to minister to man’s miseries!
Beloved, when we love best, how little is our love compared with what it ought to be for Him who left the royalties of Heaven for the shame and sorrow of our Nature! If we glowed with seraphic fire night and day through a life as long as that of Methuselah, our love could not repay the love of Christ! If that love, poor as it is, grows colder, what will it come to? Oh, eyes that are to look upon the Well-Beloved forever and ever, if you cease to see beauty in Him, now, what has blinded you? Oh, hearts that are to glow forever with delight in the Presence of the Reigning One, who once was crucified, what ails you if you grow cold when you most need His love and are receiving most from Him? I cannot bear it that we should love Jesus so little! It seems to me horrible! Not to have your heart all on fire for Christ Jesus is immoral! Let us love Him to the utmost! Let us ask Him to give us larger hearts and to fire them with the same love that is in His own, that we may love Him to the utmost possibilities of affection!
Ah, then, Beloved, think again. Suppose our love grows cold–do you not see how it paralyzes the entire system? If the reservoir is empty, you cannot expect to get much water from the pipes. If the heart grows cold, everything will be coldly done. When love declines, what cold preaching we have! All moonlight–light without heat–polished like marble and as cold! What cold singing we get–pretty music made by pipes and wind, but oh, how little soul-song!–how little singing in the Holy Spirit, making melody in the heart unto God! And what poor praying! Do you call it praying? What little giving! When the hot is cold, the hands can find nothing in the purse and Christ’s Church, and Christ’s poor, and the heathen may perish, for we must hoard up for ourselves and live to grow rich! Is there anything that goes on as it ought to go when love grows cold? I should like to act throughout life as I have when my soul has been stirred to its inmost depths with affection for my Lord! I would continually act as if I had just seen Him and had put my fingers into theprint of the nails! I would live as if I had been just sitting with Mary at His feet, yes, and were still sitting there! I would speak for Him, work for Him and give for Him as if I had freshly lifted my head from John’s place upon His bosom! III. Thirdly, THE SOLEMN DANGER of the spread of this mischief.
I will read you the text translated accurately. “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of the many shall grow cold."That is a more saddening expression than "the love of many.” It is, “the love of the many.” That is, of the major part ofthe Church–the bulk of it. This supposes a dreadful state of things because when the many they keepone another in countenance. One cold Brother says to the other, “What is your temperature?” “I think I am far below zero.” “So am I,” says the first one, “and we are about right.” If the majority are warm, then the cold ones are thawed, but if they are all below zero, then they freeze into a wretched compactness! It is the most sober, respectable Church you ever knew–they have no quarrelling–everything is so comfortable and orderly. Alas, they are frozen together, and their peace is that of death! The love of the many has grown cold and they are full of mutual admiration for their quietness.
They have nobody to rebuke them. If the many have grown cold, then the few among them, instead of being able to rebuke with authority, are themselves snubbed. “He is a terribly fanatical young man! That zealous fellow never leaves anyone alone!” “He will grow out of that,” says one, “by the time he gets to my age he will be as prudent as I am.” Yonder good woman feels great anxiety for the conversion of souls and she is making a stir. A lady of repute declares that she is too forward, or has got a bee in her bonnet. Active people are looked upon as rather troublesome when the love of the many grows cold. The few have a hard time of it and if they do venture upon a rebuke, they are soon snuffed out–this confirms the evil.
And then the tendency is to grow still colder. They go on freezing. There is no telling how cold people can be. I havebeen burnt with cold and I suppose you have been too. I have preached in places whose spiritual temperature was that of an icehouse and, preach as hard as I could, nothing could possibly come of it, for my words fell to the ground like lumps of ice! Colder and colder Churches become till, at last, the great God who breaks up icebergs in due season, destroys a Church and its place knows it no more!
IV. In the presence of the danger which is seriously threatening many Churches, there is A CALL FOR SERIOUS ACTION ON OUR PART. What is that serious action?
Why, it is, first, that we should remember that if the love of the many may grow cold, then our love may grow cold!What are we that we should think ourselves secure where others are in danger? If other men as good as we are have gradually cooled down, may not we? Let us be watchful and careful–and let us go to God for more Grace.
Let us notice, next, that if the love of the many grows cold, it is not much use our complaining about it, but the fewmust get together and pray. The real vitality of a Church seldom lies in the many, but generally in the few. Inside the election there is another election. Do you remember that out of Christ’s disciples there were twelve? Out of the 12 there were three? Out of the three there was one? And so election has rings within rings. Inside the nominal Church–(we cannot say whether they are all God’s people or not)–the many may grow cold, but there ought to be a remnant who abide in life and love. God grant that we may belong to it! We must at once grow warmer. We must live nearer to Christ. We must be more enthusiastic. Oh for a band of choice spirits–men fit to walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy–men who will be prepared to follow the Lamb wherever He goes! The Spirit said, “You have a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.” And so in every Church there are some that have not grown idle or heretical! Let them get together and help each other! I thank God for those whom the Lord keeps very near to Him–may their number be daily increased! May each one of us be filled with the Spirit! When I hear of one minister after another giving up the old-fashioned Gospel, do you know what I say to myself? I resolve that I will stick the closer to it! If the many cannot bear Calvinistic Doctrine, I will be more Calvinistic than ever! The more men do not like the Truths of God, the more they shall have it! Let this be our line of action. If men become more worldly, we will become more Puritanical. If professing Christians do not exhibit the Spirit of Christ, we will ask our Lord to give us sevenfold of His Spirit, that we may maintain His Truths!
Suppose you expected a famine in London as there was in Paris during the siege? Everybody who could do so, would get in a hundred-fold supply of provisions. Every good housewife would lay out every penny that she could get and fill her cellars full of food. There is going to be a spiritual famine–therefore buy the Truth of God and sell it not. Go toyour Lord and get larger supplies from Him. Do not go to one another for it. That will be like saying, “Give us of your oil”–and your companions will wisely reply, “Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you.” Go to your Master and ask Him to fan the fire within you to a great heat, that if there should be cold everywhere else, there may be warmth in your bosoms! The Lord help you to do this, dear Friends, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.