David Clarkson, 1622-1686
"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'" Matthew 7:21-23
Observation: Many think themselves sure of Heaven, when it is sure from Scripture, they shall never come there. Many are persuaded they shall enter into Heaven, whom Christ is resolved to shut out of it. This is clearly implied in the text. Yet because it is but implied, I shall not much insist on it. Only it will be necessary to take notice of the grounds of this woeful mistake, so that they may be avoided. And they are such as these:
(1) Ignorance and heedlessness.There are many who do not know or at least do not consider:
what is necessary to bring a soul to Heaven,
where the way lies, and
what Christ requires of those that would enter into it.
They do not consider:
that there must be regeneration,
that "unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God" (John 3:3);
that there must be a new creation;
that the new Jerusalem is only for new creatures.
There must be a radical change in every part of the soul, and in the whole course of their lives. Old things must pass away, and all things must become new.
There must be a new heart and new way of life.
There must be holiness in the life, growth, power, and exercise of it, "without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14).
There must be self-denial: a denying of their own wisdom, will, plans, and interests.
There must be a renouncing of the world—they must be crucified to the world. They understand scarcely what it is to be crucified.
There must be mortification: they must mortify the flesh with the affections and lusts, and die daily.
There must be a taking up the cross. If any man will come after Christ, it may cost him tears, sighs, bonds, imprisonment, his estate, his relations, his limbs, his blood, his life, and all that it requires all diligence (2 Peter 1:5). He must strive and break through all difficulty, what sweat and toil it cost (Luke 13:24). He must wrestle, and employ all his strength (Ephesians 6:12). He must run, put out all his might, and so run as he may obtain. He must fight, be in a continual war, fight the good fight. He must beat his body (1 Corinthians 9:27). He must take Heaven by force, if he will have it.
If they did know and consider this, they would not be confident of Heaven, when they are strangers to these things which are required of all those for whom Heaven is intended.
(2) Negligence and slothfulness.If they know these things, yet they will not take the pains to examine their state by them. They will not be at the trouble to compare their hearts with the Scripture rule. They will not spare a few hours seriously to inquire whether they come up to what the Word requires.
Alas, for the wretched carelessness of men as to their own souls and their everlasting state! One who seriously observes, would think that the greatest part of people among us are either atheists or madmen! Either they do not believe:
that there is a God;
or that the Scriptures are His Word;
or that their souls are immortal;
or that there is a state of everlasting misery or happiness for every one after death;
or that there are evidences in the Word by which they may know whether they shall be eternally damned or saved.
Either they do not believe these things—and so are plain atheists. Or if they do believe there is such a God and such a soul and such an eternal state and such a Word, wherein they may have directions to know whether their souls are bound for Heaven or Hell—would they not make use of these directions? Would they not spare some hours to examine seriously whether Heaven or Hell is their eternal portion? Would they not do this immediately? Would they not do it seriously, as a matter of eternal life or death requires—if they were not madmen indeed, if they were not quite bereaved of all spiritual sense and reason?
No! Rather than thus trouble themselves, they will simply assume assume that they shall go to Heaven—when, alas, they have no ground for such an assumption, but what Satan suggests, or their own deceitful hearts prompt them. And thus they hang the whole weight of eternity upon a cobweb! Thus, they pin the everlasting concerns of their souls upon a shadow, as though it would hang there safe enough, where it can have no hold at all.
Would any do this but a madman? What! Trust without verifying, in a matter of eternal consequence to body and soul? What! Trust without verifying, in a matter of eternal consequence to body and soul?
"Why need I put myself to this trouble? I will trust God with my soul," say some. "Why need I take any care further?" But alas, wretched creature! This is not to trust God, but to trust Satan with the soul! And, oh, what a woeful account will he give you of it one day! Now, when men are so careless of their souls, when they will not trouble themselves to inquire after their eternal state—it is no wonder if they are so woefully mistaken as to promise themselves Heaven—when nothing but Hell is reserved for them.
(3) Self-love.This possesses men with a good opinion of their souls' condition, so that if they come to examine their state—they come to the work biased. Self-love will not allow them to deal impartially with their souls. They catch greedily at anything that seems to favor them, and are careful to ignore everything that would be against them. Or if they cannot yet put such a favorable construction on it as partial men will do when they are resolved to defend a bad cause—they look upon the Scripture as an enemy that would shake the rotten pillars of a false hope. They deal with it as the prophet did with the king's messenger—they make sure to shut him out.
As self-love makes them flatter themselves—so they would have the Word of God to flatter them. They dislike plain, searching, awakening truths. They will have a good opinion of themselves, whatever is said to the contrary. They say as those in the church of Laodicea, "I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing"—even though Christ says the contrary, "you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked!" (Revelation 3:17). Though this is plainly manifested, yet self-love makes them both unable and unwilling to discern it. A blind man cannot judge of colors, and in the same way, self-love blinds them.
Many professors cannot judge of the face of their soul—whether the features of Heaven or Hell are on it. They dislike looking in the mirror of the Word—lest the visage of their soul, truly represented, should trouble them.
Satan blinds one eye, self-love closes the other, and the deceitfulness of sin seals both! It is no wonder that they imagine themselves on the way to Heaven, when they are on the high road to Hell.
When the blind leads the blind, you know what the outcome will be! It is no wonder that they think they shall be safe ashore in Heaven and their feet near the very banks of happiness—at that very moment they are falling into the bottomless pit!
(4) Misapprehensions of God.If light and conviction proceed so far as to reveal to a sinner that he comes short of the Scripture rule, and that which the Word calls for as necessary to salvation is not to be found in him; if he cannot misapprehend his own state any longer, rather than leave his vain deceiving hopes, he will misapprehend God, and think Him more merciful than the Word represents Him.
"It is true," says the sinner, "in this case, the Scripture rule is strict and the way to Heaven seems to be strait, and much is required of a sinner that he may be saved. But God is merciful. And He may save me, though I have not this or that which seems to be required. Though I allow myself this or that sin, and fall into it now and then—why it is but a little one. God is gracious. He is not so strict and rigid as some would make Him. What? Though I be not so strict and precise as some others, must none be saved but such as they? God forbid! Though I come not up to the Scripture rule, God is gracious. I may be saved as well as the best of them."
But alas, poor deluded sinner! If here are all your hopes—then your case is hopeless. Will God be so merciful as to contradict Himself and go contrary to His Word? Will He show you so much mercy, as to neglect His truth? Will He save you, when He cannot do it without making Himself a liar? Do you not tremble to see that you have nothing to bear up your hopes of Heaven, but sheer blasphemy? If you find not what He requires as necessary to salvation, if He should save you without it, He would deny Himself and become a liar. Do you think He will make Himself a liar, that He may make you happy? Oh, how sad is your case, when even as you have stated it, you have no hopes of Heaven, but upon such terms as the very thought of them deserves Hell forever!
OBSERVATION: Many shall go far towards Heaven, and yet never reach it—they may go far in the ways of Christ, and yet miss Heaven in the end. This is evident in the text. Here are many who had professed Christ and been zealous professors; who professed Him not in word only, but had really worshiped Him, had been much in hearing, preaching, praying, praising Him. And yet for all this, when they shall come to allege these things at the Day of Judgment for their admission into Heaven—Christ will shut them out. He will disclaim them and profess that he never knew them—that is, that He never loved them, never approved them. He will command them to depart from Him—and give them their portion with the workers of iniquity. There needs nothing more for evidence to this truth. But the question here will be, "How far may professors go in the ways of Christ—and yet come short of Heaven?"
I shall resolve this according to the method of the text by endeavoring to show how far they may go in both ordinary things, and extraordinary things:
1. In EXTRAORDINARY things:
(1) Revelations, dreams, visions. God may reveal Himself by dreams and visions. It is no peculiar privilege of the godly, which is promised, "Your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions" (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16). For dreams, it is evident in Nebuchadnezzar, to whom "the Revealer of secrets" by dreams made known what would happen hereafter (Daniel 2:47). Nebuchadnezzar's dream arose not from an ordinary cause—it was sent from the Lord, the Revealer of secrets. The subject of his dream was not ordinary, but secrets and things future. It revealed even the most remarkable acts of providence which should come to pass to the end of the world: the rise, periods, and revolutions of the world's monarchies and the erecting of the kingdom of Christ—Who is the stone cut out without hands, which would crush all the kingdoms of the world and raise His throne upon their ruins (Daniel 2:34). Here is a remarkable revelation, almost comparable to any mentioned in Scripture.
Pharaoh also had a revelation by a dream (Genesis 41:25, 28). And when Saul complains that the Lord answered him not either by dreams or prophets, it implies that He did reveal Himself by these before Saul was cast off (1 Samuel 28:6). This is confirmed by Deuteronomy 13:1, 2.
For visions, we have a clear instance in Balaam, the wizard or enchanter, who used to seek for enchantments (Numbers 24:1). Even to him, did the Lord reveal Himself by visions. God came unto him, conferred with him, and revealed to him both what he should say and what he should do (Numbers 22:9, 12, 20). He had the vision of an angel (Numbers 22:31). God met Balaam and put a word into his mouth (Numbers 23:4, 5). Two immediate revelations we have in that chapter and two in chapter 24, whereto the preface is observable: "And the Spirit of God came upon him . . ." (Numbers 24:2-4); and, "and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty" (Numbers 24:16).
(2) The gift of prophecy. Those whom Christ shuts out of His kingdom and will take no notice of them, had this plea for themselves, "In your name have we prophesied." It is known that Saul was at best but an hypocrite; and yet, "the Spirit of God came upon him, and he prophesied among them" (1 Samuel 10:10, 19, 23). Hence the proverb, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" There is scarcely a clearer prophecy of Christ at such a distance, than that of Balaam's, where he also foretells the ruin of several nations—Moab, Edom, Amalek, the Kenites, Assyrians, and Romans—and who should ruin them, which the event has proved true (Numbers 24:17-24).
(3) The power to work miracles. They may do signs and wonders, heal diseases, cast out devils—yes, it is possible for them to remove mountains. For proof, see Deuteronomy 13:1-3: "If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, 'Let us go after other gods'—which you have not known—'and let us serve them,' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul." Idolaters may do these miracles. They may also cast out demons.
This they plead, whom Christ will not own: "Many will say to Me in that day: Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?" (Matthew 7:22). Yet what they were, appears by Christ's profession, "Depart from me, you that work iniquity" (verse 23)
It is express that Judas had power to work miracles. For Christ "called unto him his twelve disciples," whereof Judas was one. "And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease." (Matthew 10:1). We cannot doubt but Judas was one, since he is named among them, verse four—and immediately after Judas is named, Matthew adds, "These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying: Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils!" (Mat 10:4-8).
(4) The gift of tongues. "Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels" (1 Corinthians 13:1). For these are not saving gifts, and therefore may be given to those who shall never be saved.
2. In ORDINARY things:
In KNOWLEDGE, they may go far—this we may see in the text. It is included in the word prophesy. For whether we take it for teaching and publishing the truth or foretelling things to come—it necessarily supposes and imports knowledge.
(1) Their knowledge may be great for the EXTENT of it. It may reach many truths that are out of the reach of many sincere Christians. Their minds may grasp more of truth than the understanding of others is capable of—they may admit more light than others can let in. They may dig further into the mines of truth and make greater discoveries. No question Judas knew more than those he preached to, though we may suppose some of them sincerely converted. If he had not known more than his hearers—he would not have been fit to be their teacher. And Christ, who would have this to be observed as a qualification in those that we choose, would not Himself choose one destitute of it.
But that their knowledge may be exceeding great, the Apostle puts it out of question (1 Corinthians 13). They may know not only all necessary truths, those that are vital and saving truths, being the foundation of religion—but those which raise the structure and tend to edifying; nay, those which are for the finishing and completing of an intelligent Christian, which tend to make him a thoroughly furnished and accomplished man as to his knowledge of Scripture.
"And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains—but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2) "All knowledge" is a large expression and will reach farther and farther without stretching. He may far outgo a true saint in the largeness and extent of his knowledge. He may apprehend truth not only truly, but apprehend it clearly, distinctly, evidently—so as the clearness of his conceptions may convince his conscience and satisfy his judgment of the truth he apprehends. His notions may appear in his mind so clearly, as may scatter all doubt and leave no room for question or contradiction. He may be able to convey his notions clearly to others so as to convince and satisfy them.
A sincere believer, as to many things, may be much in the dark compared with him.
(2) Their knowledge may be great for the OBJECT of it. They may have great and clear knowledge of the things of God, of the truths of Christ, and of the doctrine of the Gospel—not only of those truths that are more common and obvious, but of the more mysterious and subtle parts thereof—those which are called the mysteries of the kingdom. "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 13:11).
The mysteries of God: "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God" (1 Corinthians 4:1). The Apostle's discourse implies that he who has no true grace—may know all mysteries, all Gospel mysteries (1 Corinthians 13:2). The hypocrite may understand a divine secret, such as could not have been known but by divine revelation, such as no light of nature, no human understanding could have ever reached had they not been brought down by the Spirit of revelation. He may see far into these mysteries; he may have access unto the most hidden of those secrets; he may wade far into the deep things of God, as if all were fordable. Those things, which are difficult to others, may be easy to him.
As for experimental truths—though hypocrites but have this knowledge second-hand—yet they may have more second-hand, than those of experience have at first-hand. By experimental discourses and conversing with experienced Christians, they may come to great attainments in this kind. They may draw the lineaments of a new creature to the life so exactly, as though they had a pattern thereof in their own souls. They may give such an account of the work of grace—as you may think they were transcribing their own hearts. They may hold forth the conflicts between the flesh and the spirit, as though the combat were in their own quarters, as though they had really felt the things which they state. They may express the actings of grace in such and such a duty, such an occasion, under such a temptation, in such a manner—as you would think nothing could teach them but their own experience. They may have the exact idea, the true notion of these things in their heads—when there is nothing of all this in their hearts!
As for the understanding of the Scriptures, they may excel herein. They may understand those difficult verses, which others find beclouded. They may understand not only the words and phrases, and so become masters of the letter of the Scripture, but they may with a great sagacity, find out the sense and meaning of the Holy Spirit, and may outstrip many herein, who have the Holy Spirit dwelling in them.
(3) Their knowledge may be spiritual as to the AUTHOR of it (such as proceeds from the Spirit of God). They may attain their knowledge, not only by their pains and industry in searching after it—by not only reading, study, conference, etc.—but the Holy Spirit may dart this light into them, either in the use of means or immediately.
In Hebrews 6:4-6, those who were never in a saving condition are said to be "enlightened." And who it was that enlightened them, we may learn by another clause in that verse: "partakers of the Holy Spirit." They partook of the Holy Spirit because they were partakers of the light and other gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit. They did partake of Him, as He communicated Himself to them. This was one way He enlightened them—not only in a common way, as all light and knowledge in the world may be said to come from the Father of light, and as Christ is said to enlighten every man that comes into the world, namely, by implanting in their minds that light which we call "natural".
But He enlightens them in a more special and peculiar manner—as He is Mediator and the great Prophet of His church. Christ sends His Spirit in the execution of His prophetic office to spread abroad a divine light in the minds of some who enjoy the Gospel, whereby they may discover the deep things of God.
The Spirit of God may come upon such a man as Balaam, or Saul, or Caiaphas, and may shine into their souls with an evangelical light to reveal to them the secrets of Christ, the mysteries of the Gospel, and the things of the world to come. They may partake of the Holy Spirit and be thereby so enlightened as to see these things, and so see them as to taste them. They may by this light discover the excellency, goodness, and sweetness of these things so clearly and convincingly, as if they did taste them. Such a light, such a knowledge—they may have from the Spirit of Christ—in that respect a spiritual knowledge, and yet have their portion in outer darkness!
(4) Their knowledge may be OPERATIVE and EFFECTUAL. It may have a mighty efficacy both upon their souls and lives, both upon heart and affections, and upon their conduct. It may have an influence both upon inward and outward man, powerful to change both in some degree.
Now since this knowledge may have such power upon the affections, and seeing affections are but the acts and motions of the will—it follows that it may have some efficacy upon the will. Now the will being the great wheel that being moved, sets all the parts of the whole man on motion—it is hence evident that their knowledge may be operative upon the whole man. It may have a working influence upon every faculty within, upon every part and member without.
It may excite fear, hope, joy, sorrow, etc. See here the efficacy of this knowledge as to reformation of life: it may make them not only avoid sin, but fly from it—fly from it as from a pollution, as though they loathed and abhorred it—fly from it, as we do from what we are greatly afraid of—and to fly so far, so fast, as one would think that it could never overtake them—as one would think that they had made a clear escape. So powerful may be the knowledge of those who are no better than hypocrites!
Oh, consider your sad condition! Will you stay far short of those who fall short of Heaven? If those who come so near Canaan as they can see it, so near it as they taste some of it—shall yet fall in the wilderness and never enjoy it—then how can they come to Canaan, who will not stir out of Egyptian darkness? How can you come to the land of promise, come to Heaven—who stay in your ignorance, which is worse than Egyptian darkness and a condition further from Heaven than Egypt is from Canaan? A man with thus much knowledge may possibly perish—but an ignorant person shall certainly perish!