James Smith, 1856
Every man has the power of choosing for himself, and he exercises that power, either to his destruction or salvation. If left to himself — his choice ruins him; if swayed by the grace of God — that grace saves him. Man’s nature and disposition may be known by his choice. How do men in general choose? Look at four points.
First, their course. The man that chooses his own course, chooses a course of sin.
He lies, because he chooses.
He swears, because he chooses.
He gets drunk, because he chooses.
He steals, because he chooses.
He commits fornication or adultery, because he chooses.
He despises the Gospel, because he chooses.
The course he chooses is a sinful course, just the opposite of the course pointed out by God’s holy and righteous law. Hence the Lord says, “They have chosen their own ways.” If man deliberately chooses to disobey God, to break his holy law, and live daily insulting him to his face — can he complain if God punishes him for his guilty, daring, inexcusable conduct? Especially when he is warned of his danger, exhorted to desist, invited to turn to the Lord, and promised a free pardon of all sin upon doing so! Can it be unjust in God to punish such sinners? If they were reasonable — would they not expect to be punished?
Secondly, their companions. Sinners love sinners, therefore if a man choose his own companions — he will choose sinful companions. He will not choose the prayerful, the holy, the self-denying ones. The mirthful chooses mirthful companions. The wicked chooses wicked companions. Just look into the alehouse, into the brothel, or into the theater — who are there? Companions. How did they come there? It was their own choice. Why did they choose to go there? Because they were wickedly inclined, and had “pleasure in unrighteousness.”
So, if wechoose sinners, ungodly people, for our companions now — can we expect that God will put us among his children, or give us a place in Heaven with the saints when we die? If we enjoy the company of the wicked or the carnal on earth — could we enjoy the company of the holy, the spiritual, in Heaven? It is impossible! If, therefore, we choose the company of lost sinners now — we must expect to be associated with lost sinners forever. If we choose their pleasures now — we ought to expect to suffer their punishment in eternity.
Thirdly, their object of trust. We must have an object of trust — or someone or something in which to confide. Now, the Lord proposed himself to be that object — but man chooses anyone or anything before the Lord! Does he want to trust in someone for safety? He will trust anyone — even a dog, or a stone wall, before he will trust the Lord. Does he want something on which to trust for eternal life, or on which to build his hopes of Heaven? He will trust his own tears, or prayers, or sufferings, or works; yes he would sooner trust in his very sins, than trust in the precious blood and glorious righteousness of the Lord Jesus. The very spirit of Popery is, refusing to trust in Christ alone for acceptance with God. The essence of Puseyism is, refusing to rely on the atonement of Christ alone for everlasting life. This is the stone that is set at nothing of all Popish, Puseyite, Socinian, and a thousand other builders. Yet God proposes the work of Christ alone, and the person of Christ alone — to be the object of our trust and confidence. If men refuse to trust in Jesus only, as God bids them, and prefer trusting in some spider’s web, or building upon some sandy foundation — can they complain if God “rejects their confidences,” and allows them to reap the due desert of their folly?
Fourthly, their end. There is an end that is divinely glorious — it is everlasting life; and there is an end which is unutterably dreadful — it is everlasting destruction away from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power.
Now, he who chooses to walk in the way — may be said to choose the end to which it leads; especially if he does so after he is warned, and the result of his course is kindly and clearly pointed out. Now, strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there are who find it. But because wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leads to destruction — many there are who go in thereat. Yet to all who read the New Testament, Jesus says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate, for strait is the gate and narrow is the way that leads unto life, and few there are who find it.” The same admonition is uttered from the pulpit, repeated in this book, and presented to the eye and ear of sinners in a thousand forms.
Now, if under such circumstances men choose the broad road, persevere in the broad road, and refuse to be either driven or drawn from it — are they not also choosing the end to which the broad road leads? And if they choose death in the error of their ways — can they complain if they find themselves at last in everlasting burnings? The fate of the sinner is both reasonable and just, it is but the wages of his sin!