On leaving the Gloucester station the other day, I found that one of my fellow-passengers was a lunatic, in the care of a keeper. I soon found that this keeper held some most dangerous opinions respecting the Temperance movement. With him temperance was a John the Baptist, to prepare sinners for Christ; and, as near as I could make out his meaning, he thought it was about one-half of a sinner's salvation; a sentiment as much like blasphemy against the Holy Ghost, whose blessed work it is to bring sinners to Christ, as anything I have heard.
I should be most sorry to speak one word against temperance as a great social benefit amongst men. Right glad should I be, where drunkenness is such a frightful evil, if there were not a drop of drink to be got in the land. Entirely apart from the question of a sinner's salvation, there can be no doubt the moral government of God so orders things, that a sober man must enjoy a greater amount of social happiness than a drunkard. But when the foundation of the gospel is attacked, is a Christian to be silent? God forbid. This caused me to speak very strongly of the use that Satan may make of the Temperance movement. This may startle my reader; but lot me remind you that it is ever Satan's policy to use the best things adapted to accomplish his purposes. He is wont to appear as an angel of light. I will just refer to a parallel case. No one can question that the law of God is holy, just, and good. No one can question the immense benefit of that law in God's moral government of the world; or that in this respect, and for this purpose, to abolish it would be to turn this whole world into one wide hell. And yet it was this very law that the ministers of Satan were seeking to mix with the work of Christ, for justification before God. The Epistle to the Galatians was written for the very purpose of meeting this work of Satan. Now, if he took up so good a thing as the law, is it any wonder that he should take up so good a thing as temperance, and use it in the same way? It was not enough, said they, for salvation, that a man should believe in Christ, he must also be circumcised and keep the law. This keeper was just saying the same thing over again; trying hard to prove that it was not enough for a poor, lost sinner to believe in Christ. He must take the pledge first, and be a temperance man; then he was fit to believe in Christ. Mix the two together, and the man might be saved. A man must have poor eyes that cannot see this to be the devil's work over again.
And now mark the rebuke of the lunatic. He suddenly stopped his keeper with these words, "Christ must be all." Yes, my reader, in the business of thy soul's salvation these are the words of truth. I felt they were the words of God, though through a deranged man. He spoke again, "Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils;" and when I put the question to all in the carriage, "What is it to be a Christian?" one said, "It is to do all the good I can to my neighbours;" another said, "It is to love God all I can;" another said, "I do not know much about it." "Ask me," said the lunatic. "Very well, what do you say it is?" "To have a broken heart!!" was the reply. "Is not a Christian," said he, "like a tree? Is not Christ the root, from which the tree gains the sap, which produces and support all the twigs, the leaves, and fruit? Christ is all." What remarkable words from a man who had to be watched every minute!
Suppose my reader had to cross a fearful mountain current, rolling deeply beneath a solid, firm bridge, built at great cost by the government, and stretched across the frightful gulf. A man sees you, and, pretending to be your friend, he brings a plank, far too short to reach across. He tells you the bridge is not sufficient, that you must walk first on his plank, or that, at all events, you must walk a little on one, and a little on the other; what would you say to such a proposal?
The plank might be useful enough for other purposes; but if you trusted it for crossing the gulf, you would find it a fearful mistake. Christ is the bridge across the gulf of destruction, and temperance is man's plank. It is useful in its place, but far too short to lay across the gulf. Trust it, and you are lost. Shall I say that Christ is not able to save to the uttermost? that He who converted the mad persecutor, Paul, cannot convert the poor drunkard until he has half saved himself? I tell thee thou art welcome this moment to Christ. Did He ever send a sinner away? Never. He is the only one who can deliver thee from thy hateful sins.
"But, oh!" say the modern ministers of Satan, "the bridge so often falls, and lets its travellers into the gulf — there are so few of its travellers get safe over, that you had really better try the plank." Find me a stone loose in that foundation which God hath laid! Christ fail! Christ let a soul perish that trusts in Him! Do you mean to say that? It is plain enough, if a traveller falls in who is on the bridge, that the bridge itself must fall first. It is plain enough, too, that whatever plank man or Satan brings, it is calling in question the all-sufficiency of Christ Jesus, for the sinner's entire and eternal salvation. But perhaps you may say, "Do all who are on that bridge, that is, who are saved by Christ alone, go safe to God?" Yes; if one were lost, then Christ would have failed. Their going safe over is the proof that they are saved by Him. "Then how is it that so many who profess do fall, and perish at last?" Profess what? Many are in this day walking on a plank of their own. They can only walk until their own weight sinks them in; and then they say the bridge has let them in. The fact is, they never were on the bridge. Suppose the plank you are walking, or trying to walk on, is the law — the keeping of the commandments. You have believed Satan, that Christ is not enough for your salvation. He gently lays you down the plank — the law. Can you walk across the gulf on that plank? It is far too short to carry a sinner across. You feel your sins are getting heavier and heavier; another step, and the plank sinks lower. Hold! stop! man, you will be in! Another is trusting to his sacraments, ordinances, and the like. He goes back to Judaism, and calls it High Church. He is walking on his own plank; it is sure to let him in, and all that are blind enough to follow him. Yes, and if thou art trusting to thy pledge, to thy temperance, to thy morality, or to thyself, in any form, thy plank is too short, and keeping to it, thou wilt perish for ever. I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, or by the pledge, or by anything that man can do for himself, "then Christ is dead in vain." Yes, if any plank could have been found able to carry the sinner across the fearful gulf and torrent of iniquity and sin, God would have spared His Son — those words would never have been heard from the holy lips of Jesus, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Oh, what has that bridge, cost God? The death of His only-begotten Son. It is not my loving God with all my heart that makes me a Christian, but believing that God has loved me with all His heart — so loved, that He spared not His beloved Son! It is not my doing all the good I can to my neighbour that makes me a Christian. No, it is God that has done all the good He can to me, when an enemy. As the lunatic said, it is learning this love at the foot of the cross that breaks my proud heart.
Reader, hast thou thus got a broken heart? Is Christ thy root? thy bridge? Is Christ thy all? If not, beware of Satan's planks. It is quite true what the apostle says of "Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of the which [says he] I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." But it is also true that Jesus is the Saviour who shall deliver, who hath delivered, and who doth deliver His people from their sins.
Fellow-believer, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Jesus Christ our Lord."