The Nature and Danger of Making Light of Christ and Salvation
Adapted from a sermon by Samuel Davies
"But they paid no attention." Matthew 22:5
There is not one of us in this gathering who has not heard of Christ and his great salvation. There is not one of us who has not had the rich blessings of the gospel freely and repeatedly offered to them. Each one of us stands in the most absolute need of these blessings, and must perish forever without them! I wish I could add, that there is not one of us who has not cheerfully accepted them according to the offer of the gospel. But, sadly! such an unmixed assembly is not to be expected on earth! Multitudes will make light of Christ and the invitations of the gospel, as the Jews did.
This parable pictures the great God under the majestic idea of a king. He is represented as making a marriage feast for his Son. That is, God in the gospel offers his Son Jesus Christ as a Savior to the guilty sons of men, and, when they accept him, the most intimate and wonderful union, and the warmest mutual affection takes place between Christ and them; which may properly be pictured by the relation of marriage. And God has provided for them a rich variety of blessings: pardon, holiness, and everlasting happiness, which correspond to the picture of a royal wedding feast.
These blessings were first offered to the Jews, who were invited to the wedding by Moses and the prophets, whose great business it was to prepare them to receive the Messiah. The servants who were sent to call those who were invited, were the apostles and seventy disciples, whom Christ sent out to preach that the gospel kingdom was just at hand. (v.3) When the Jews rejected this call, he sent other servants, namely, the apostles, after his ascension, who were to be more urgent in their invitations, and to tell them that, in view of Christ’s death on the cross, all things were now ready.(v.4)
It is rare that invitations to a royal feast are rejected; but sadly! the Jews rejected the invitation of the gospel, and would not accept its important blessings. They paid no attention to Christ and his blessings: they were careless about them, they made light of them, and turned their attention to other things. These things were not confined to the Jews but belong also to us Gentile sinners in these ends of the earth. Christ is still proposed to us; we are invited to the same blessings; and I have the honour of appearing among you as a servant of the heavenly King, sent out to urge you to accept the offer!
I dare hope, that some of you have already complied; and you are enriched and made blessed forever. But sadly! must I not also fear for most of you? Have you not made light of Christ and salvation, to which you have been invited for so many years? Your case is really lamentable, as I hope you will see before I am done.
I now stand in this solemn place intending to speak to you with the most solemn seriousness, and the most compassionate concern. And if you knew how much your happiness may depend on it, and how worried I am that I should fail in my duty; I am sure you could not but pray for me, and pity me. If ever you paid any serious attention to any man in some speech or announcement, I ask that you would now pay attention to what I am going to say to you. You cannot receive any benefit from this, or indeed any other subject, until you apply it to yourselves. And therefore, in order to reform you of the sin of making light of Christ and the gospel, I must first ask: WHO are guilty of it? To answer this question, let us consider,
What is it to make light of Christ and the invitations of the gospel?
I can think of no plainer way to show this, than to consider how we treat those things that we think highly of; and also by way of contrast, how we treat those things which we make light of. And from that we may see whether Christ and the gospel may be ranked among the things we esteem or those we disregard.
1. People are apt to remember and affectionately think of the things that they highly esteem;
but as for those which they disregard, they can easily forget them, and live from day to day without a single thought about them. Now do you often affectionately remember the Lord Jesus Christ, and do your thoughts affectionately go after him? do they pay him early visits in the morning? do they make frequent excursions to him through the day? and do you lie down with him in your hearts at night?
Is it not the exact opposite with many of you? Is it not easy for you to live from day to day thoughtless of Jesus, and your everlasting salvation? Try and remember now: how many times have you thought of these things throughout the last week, or even this Lord’s day morning? And can you really say you highly esteem those things which you hardly ever think of? Follow your own hearts; see which way they most naturally and freely run, and then judge whether you make light of the gospel or not!
In reality, those who cannot be persuaded to spend even just one hour seriously considering what they ought to be doing to have a saving interest in Christ, are the same ones who, astonishingly, will not be convinced that they re those who pay no attention to Christ! And here lies the trap of sin: it blinds and fools men, so that they do not know what they are thinking of; what they love; or what they intend, much less do they know the natural tendencies of their souls. They often imagine themselves free from those sins to which they are most enslaved; and particularly they think themselves innocent of the crime of making light of the gospel, when this is the very crime that is likely to destroy them forever!
2. The things that people value most will be what they talk about most.
The thoughts will govern the tongue, and provide subjects of conversation. But those things that they forget and disregard they will not talk of. Do not they therefore make light of Christ and salvation who have no delight in talking about them, and hardly ever mention the name of Christ but in a trivial or profane manner? They do not like the company where divine things are discussed but find it be excessive and troublesome. They had much rather be entertained with amusing tales and idle stories, or talk about the affairs of the world. "They are from the world," says John, "therefore they speak they from the world, and the world listens to them." (1 John 4:5) They are at home in such conversation.
Or others may talk about 'religion' but it is only about the 'externals' of it as, "How such a man preached; if it was a very good or a bad sermon," and such. But they have no desire to enter into the spirit and substance of divine things! and if they speak of Christ and experimental religion, it is in a heartless and bland manner. And do not such make light of the gospel? and is not this the character of many of you?
3. Men make light of those things, which they only talk about but do not put in practice.
Christianity was not intended to provide material for empty talkers, but to govern the heart and practice! But are there not some who only speak about it, at predetermined times or special occasions? Watch their lives, and you will see little evidence of Christianity there. And do not these evidently make light of Christ, who make him the theme of things which they will not put into practice, or who seem to think that God sent his Son from heaven just to a provide a subject of conversation. This behaviour betrays an awful condition of heart.
4. We work hardest to obtain things we value and we cannot be at ease while it is unsure whether we have them or not.
But of those things that we think lightly of, we worry very little whether they are ours or not. Therefore, have not such of you made light of Christ and salvation, who have lived many years uncertain whether you have a saving interest in him and yet have been easy and contented, and take no steps to get to the bottom of the matter? Are all who hear me this day earnest in this important question: "What shall become of me when I die?" Are you all certain about your good grounds, after serious testing, that you will be eternally saved?
It would be wonderful if you were! but, sadly! you are not! And do you think you would put up with this uncertainty, if you did not make light of salvation? No! you would carefully examine yourselves; you would diligently read the Scriptures to find out the marks of those who will be saved; you would anxiously consult those who could help you to the narrow gate. Reflecting on his own day, Samuel Davies could say: “But now ministers may sit in their studies for a whole year, and not ten people perhaps in five hundred, come to them on this important business.”
In truth, if the gospel should really break in upon you, you would but cry out with the convicted Jews, "Brothers, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37) or as Paul, when awakened, cried out, trembling with anxiety, "What shall I do, Lord!" (Acts 22:10) But when do we hear such questions these days?
5. The things that people highly esteem, affect them deeply and move their hearts.
But what they make light of, makes no impression on them. And if you did not make light of the gospel, what a place it would have in your heart! What solemn, heart-felt, and strong passion would it raise in you to hear such things about the world to come! what fear and astonishment would seize you as you considered your misery; what bursts of joy and gratitude would you feel at the good news of salvation by the blood of Christ! How determined would you be to discover and fulfill your duty! Indeed, what hearers would we have, were it not for this one sin, the making light of the gospel! Whereas now we are in danger of tiring them, or preaching them asleep with our most solemn discourses about this infinitely important matter!
But we talk to them of Christ and salvation until they grow quite tired of this dull old tale, and this foolishness of preaching. Alas! little would one think from the air of carelessness and inattention that appears among them that they were hearing such weighty truths, or have anything to do with them at all!
6. Our appreciation of things may be seen by the diligence and earnestness of our efforts to obtain them.
Those things which we highly value, we spare no effort to obtain. Those things we think lightly of, we use no endeavours to obtain them, or we use them in a lazy, careless manner. And do not they make light of Christ and salvation, who do not earnestly exert themselves to obtain them, and think a great deal of every little thing they do in religion? They are still ready to cry out, "What is the need of so much diligence? We hope to be saved without so much trouble!" And, though people may not be so honest as to speak it out—it is plain from their attitude and practice—that they grudge all the service they do for Christ as done to a master whom they do not love. They love and esteem the world—and therefore for the world they will labour and toil all day and night, and seem never to think that they can do too much! But for the God who made them, for the Lord who bought them, and for their everlasting salvation, they seem afraid of making too much efforts.
Let us preach to them as long as we will, we cannot bring them in earnest to desire and pursue after holiness. Follow them to their houses, and you will hardly ever find them reading a chapter in their Bibles, or calling upon God with their families, so much as once a day. Follow them into the evening, and you will hear no penitent confessions of sin, no earnest cries for mercy. They will not allow to God even one day in seven for his own immediate service—but will rather fill it with worldly conversation, or business or play. And some even are so wicked as to reproach and ridicule others who are earnestly seeking Christ!
And is not Christ worth seeking? Is not eternal salvation worth so much trouble? Does not the person make light of these things—who thinks of his ease or worldly pleasure as being more important? Common sense can judge of this!
7. That which we highly value—we think we cannot sacrifice too much for;
and we are ready to part with everything that comes in competition with it. The merchant that found the one pearl of great price—“sold all that he had and bought it,” (Matt 13:46) But those things that we make light of—we will not part with things we value for them.
Now, when Christ and the blessings of the gospel come in competition with the world and sinful pleasures, you may detect which you most highly esteem by considering which you are most ready to part with. You are called to part with everything that is inconsistent with a saving interest in Christ—and yet many of you will not do it.
You are called but to give God his own, to resign all to his will, to let go all those profits and pleasures which you must either part with—or part with Christ; and yet your hearts cling to these things; you grasp them eagerly, and nothing can tear them from you! You must have your pleasures, you must keep your credit in the world, you must focus on your earthly wealth—whatever becomes of Christ and salvation! As if you could live and die better without Christ—than without these earthly things; or as if Christ could not make you happy without them.
And does this not clearly highlight the matter, and plainly show that you make light of Christ—in comparison with these things? Christ himself has assured you, over and over, that unless you are willing to part with all for his sake—that you cannot be his disciples! And yet, while you are of a quite contrary nature—you will pretend to be his disciples; as if you knew better what it means to be his disciples—than Christ does!
8. Those things which we highly value—we will be helping our friends to have also.
Do not those, then, make light of Christ—who do not make half so much an effort to help their children to a saving interest in him, as to set them up in the world, and leave them large fortunes? They provide for the outward needs of their families—but they take little or no care about their everlasting salvation! The parents of neglected, ignorant, and wicked children—will witness against them, that they made very light of Christ and salvation, and their immortal souls!
9. That which people highly esteem—they will pursue so diligently—that you may see their esteem for it in their endeavours after it.
You may therefore see that many make light of the gospel by the little knowledge they have of it, after all the means of instruction with which they have been favoured. Sadly! where is their growth in holiness! Sadly! how little do they know of their own hearts, of God and Christ, and the world to come, and what they must do to be saved! Ask them about these things, and you will find them sadly ignorant! And yet they have so much proud knowledge, that they will not acknowledge it; or if they do, they have no better excuse than to say they are no scholars, or they have a poor memory—as if it required extensive learning, or a great genius to know the things that are necessary to salvation. When in reality, if they had not made light of these things; if they had devoted only half the efforts on them which they have taken to understand matters of worldly business or pleasure, they would not be so grossly ignorant as they are!
When people can learn the hardest trade in a few years, when people of great abilities, and perhaps considerable learning, after living so many years—are still mere novices in matters of true religion, and do not so much as know the terms of life according to the gospel—is it not plain that they care but little about these things, and that they make light of the Son of God, and all his priceless, immortal blessings?
And so I have offered you sufficient matter of conviction in this affair. And what is the result? Does conscience not accuse some of you by this time, and say, "I am the one who has made light of Christ and his gospel!" If not, on what grounds are you acquitted? Some of you, I doubt not, can say, in the integrity of your hearts, "Alas! I am too careless about this important affair—but God knows I am often deeply concerned about it! God knows that if ever I was in earnest about anything in all my life—it has been about my everlasting state; and there is nothing in all the world that day to day lies so near my heart!"
But are there not some of you whose conscience does not accuse of this crime of too much carelessness about the gospel, not because you are innocent—but because you make so very light of it, that you will not even start to make a careful examination into it? and does this alone not prove you guilty? I urge you to consider the folly of your conduct. Do you then think to excuse your crime, by being careless about whether you are guilty of it or not? Can you avoid the precipice—by shutting your eyes? If you discover your sin now, it may be of unspeakable service to you—but if you shut your eyes now —you will certainly see it later, when it will be too late—when your conviction will be your punishment!
I urge you also to consider the dreadful evil of your conduct in making light of a Savior. And here I will offer arguments that so powerfully show the evil of this conduct that, I am sure, it cannot fail to convince and astonish you—if you act like creatures of reason and understanding.
1. Consider that you make light of Christ—who did not make light of you—when you deserved only His wrath!
You were worthy of nothing but contempt and revulsion from him. As a man—you are but a worm to God; and as a sinner—you are viler than a toad or a serpent! Yet Christ was so far from making light of you—that he left heaven, became a man of sorrows, and died in the most terrible agonies—that a way might be opened for the salvation of your miserable soul!
And can you make light of him after all his regard to you? What miracles of love and mercy has he shown towards you! and can you neglect him after all? Angels, who are less concerned in these things than we are—“long to look” (1 Pe 1:12) into them with delightful wonder, and will sinners who have the most intimate personal concern in them, make light of them? This is a crime more than devilish; for the devils never had a Savior offered to them, and consequently never could despise him. And can you live in a carelessness of Christ all your days—and yet feel no remorse?
2. Consider that you make light of matters of the greatest worth and importance in all the world!
Truly, you do not know what it is that you despise! Had you known these things—you would not have ventured to make light of them for ten thousand worlds! As Christ said to the woman of Samaria, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water!" (John 4:10) Had the Jews known, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory!” (1 Cor 2:8) Just so, had you known who Jesus is—you would not have made light of him; he would have been to you the most important being in the universe!
Consider this: had you been but only one day in heaven, and seen and felt the happiness there! or had you been but only one hour under the agonies of hell—you could never more play with salvation!
3. Consider whose salvation it is, that you make light of. It is your own! And do you not care what becomes of your own eternal souls? Is it nothing to you—whether you are saved or damned forever? Is the natural principle of self-love extinct in you? Have you no concern for your own preservation? Are you your own worst enemies?
If you despise Christ and love sin—you virtually love death and damnation! And you may as well say this in words—as by your practice!
4. Consider, your sin is made worse—by professing to believe that gospel, which you make light of.
For a professed infidel who does not believe the Scripture revelation concerning Christ and a future state of rewards and punishments, for such a one to be careless about these things would not be so strange.
But many of you profess to believe the gospel—but make light of it in your thoughts and practice! How astonishing is this! How utterly inexcusable!
Think of this! You believe that you will live forever in the most perfect happiness or exquisite misery—and yet make no serious effort to obtain the one, and escape the other!
And again! You believe that the great and awesome God will very soon be your judge—and yet make no more preparation for it? Either say plainly, "I am no Christian, I do not believe these things!" or else let your hearts be affected with your belief, and let it influence and govern your lives!
5. Consider what are those things, which engross your affections, and which tempt you to neglect Christ and your salvation.
Have you found a better friend than Christ, or a more substantial and lasting happiness than His salvation?
Oh! what baubles and vanities, what dreams and shadows are men pursuing—while they neglect the important realities of the eternal world!
If crowns and kingdoms, if all the riches, glories, and pleasures of the world were yours for sure—as a reward for making light of Christ, even then you would make the most foolish bargain possible; for what are these in the grand scale of things—when compared to eternal joy or eternal misery! "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul!" (Matt 16:26)
But realistically you cannot hope for the ten thousandth part of these worldly trivial things! And will you cast away your souls for so very little?
You who think it is such a great thing to live in riches, success, pleasures, and honours; consider this, is it such a mighty happiness to die rich? to die after a life of pleasure, success, and honour? Will it be such a great happiness to give an account at the judgement day, for the life of a rich pleasure seeker, rather than of a poor humble Christian? Will the rich man then be so much happier than Lazarus?
In reality what does the richest, the highest, the most extravagant sinner do—but store up wrath for the day of wrath! And how will the unhappy creatures torture themselves forever with the most cutting reflections, for selling their Savior and their souls for such utterly worthless things! Let your sins and earthly enjoyments save you then, if they can! Then go and cry to the gods you have chosen; let them deliver you in the day of your damnation!
6. Your making light of Christ and salvation, is a certain proof that you have no saving interest in them.
Christ will not throw himself and his blessings away on those who do not value them. "Those who honour him (me)—he (I) will honour, and those who despise him (me) shall be lightly esteemed." (1 Sam. 2:30) There is certainly a day coming, when you will feel you cannot do without him; when you will feel yourselves perishing for lack of a Savior; and then you may go and look for a saviour where you will; then you may plead your case as best you can—he will have nothing to do with you! The Savior of sinners will cast you off forever!
I tell you that whatever estimate you may have of all these things—that God thinks very highly of the blood of his Son, and the blessings that flow from it; and if ever you obtain them, he will have you think highly of them too. If you continue to make light of them—all the world cannot save you. And can you find fault with God for denying you that which you valued so little?
7. And lastly, the time is fast coming when you will not think so lightly of Christ and salvation.
Think of this. When God will commission death to tear your guilty souls out of your bodies, when devils drag you away to the place of torment, when you find yourselves condemned to everlasting fire by that Savior whom you now neglect—what would you then give for a Savior?
When divine justice brings in its heavy charges against you, and you have nothing to answer, how will you then cry, "If I had only sincerely received Jesus for my Savior—He would have answered all!" When you see that the world has deserted you, that your companions in sin have deceived both themselves and you, and all your merry days are over forever—would you not then give ten thousand worlds for Christ?
And will you not think him worthy of your esteem and earnest pursuit now? The time is certainly fast approaching when you will forever wish that you had.
And now, you who have immortal souls! I have revealed the nature and danger of this common but unsuspected and unlamented sin, making light of Christ. I have delivered the message—and now I must leave it with you, imploring the blessing of God upon it!
I may not follow all of you home to your houses to see what effect it has upon you, or to apply it to each of you in particular; but I hope conscience does this work! Whenever you spend another prayerless, thoughtless day, whenever you give yourselves up to sinful pleasures, or an over-eager pursuit of the world, may your conscience become your preacher, and sting you with this rebuke: "Alas! is this the effect of all I have heard? Do I still make light of Christ and the matters of true religion? Oh what will be the end of such conduct!"
I cannot but fear, after all, that some of you, as usual, will continue careless and impenitent.
Well then, when you are suffering the punishment of this sin in hell, remember that you were warned, and acquit me from being accomplice to your eternal ruin!
And when we all appear before the supreme Judge, and I am called to give an account of my charge: when I am asked, "Did you warn these people of their danger? Did you lay before them their guilt in not paying attention to these things?" You will hear me answer, "Yes, Lord, I warned them in the best way I could—but they would not believe me; they would not pay any attention to what I said, though it was enforced by the authority of your awesome name, and confirmed by your own Word!"
Will I have to speak this accusation against any of you? No, rather have mercy on yourselves, and have mercy on me, that I may give an account of you with joy, and not with sorrow!