They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
How mischievous is that false kindness which is afraid of telling you honestly the state of the case, if it happen to be dangerous or desperate! Now, in regard of their eternal concerns, men have a willingness to be deceived, though in regard of their temporal concerns, they are keenly alive to attempts at imposition, and eager to resent them. They commonly prefer the moral physician who will make light of their vices, and not startle them by faithfully exposing their danger, though, were they similarly beguiled by one whom they consulted on a bodily malady, they would denounce him as guilty of the most hateful perfidy. And it may be for your profit, if we look into some of the more ordinary cases. First, we would remind you that, if there be truth in the statements of Scripture, there is a distinction the very strongest between the people of the world and the people of God. Yet, here is the respect in which, perhaps, the danger is the greatest of the moral hurt being only slightly healed, and peace prophesied when there is no peace. The worldly are well pleased to have the differences between themselves and the religious made as few and unimportant as possible, inasmuch as they are thus soothed into a persuasion that after all they are in no great danger of the wrath of the Almighty. On the other hand, those who profess a concern for the soul are often still so much inclined to the pursuits and the pleasures of earth, that they have a ready ear for any doctrine which seems to offer them the joys of the next life, without requiring continued self-denial in this life. Thus it is an unpopular thing, opposed to the inclinations of the majority of hearers, to insist upon the breadth of separation between the worldly and the religious, to represent, without qualification or disguise, that the attempting to serve two masters is the certain serving of only one, and that the master whose wages is death. But if we would be faithful in the ministry, this is what we must do. To do otherwise, would be to play with your souls — to lead you into delusion, which, if continued, must leave you shipwrecked for eternity. Take another case, the case of those in whom has been produced a conviction of sin, whose consciences after a long slumber have been aroused to do their office and have done it with great energy. It is no uncommon thing for conviction of sin not to be followed by conversion. Hundreds who have been stirred for a time to a sense of guilt and danger, in place of advancing to genuine penitence have lapsed back into former indifference. Ah, this is amongst the most alarming of moral phenomena. The signs and earnest, as we thought of life, give a melancholy and mysterious interest to death. Let the ministers of religion take heed that they be not accessory to so disappointing an occurrence, and they easily may be. The spiritual physician may be too hasty in applying to the wounded conscience the balm of the Gospel; and thus he may arrest that process of godly contrition which seemed so hopefully begun. It is no time to speak of free forgiveness till the man exclaims in the agony of alarm and almost of despair, "What must I do to be saved?" Then display the Cross. Then expatiate on the glorious truth, that "the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost." Then point to the unsearchable riches of Christ, and meet every doubt, oppose every objection, and combat every fear by exhibiting the mighty fact of an atonement for sin. But the case suggested by our text is that of a too hasty appropriation of the consolations of Christianity, and this case we cannot doubt is of frequent occurrence. Not, indeed, that whenever conviction of sin is not followed by conversion, the cause is to be found in the premature use of the mercies of the Gospel. We know too well that in many instances the conscience which had been mysteriously aroused is as mysteriously quieted; so that, without a solitary reason, men who had manifested anxiety as to their souls, and apparently been earnest in seeking salvation, are soon again found amongst the careless and indifferent, as busy as ever with chasing shadows, as pleased as ever with things that perish in the using. For a moment they have seemed conscious of their immortality and have risen to the dignity of deathless beings, and then the pulse has ceased to beat, and they have again been creatures of a day in place of heirs of eternity. Still, if there be many instances in which we may not fairly ascribe to a too hasty appropriation of the mercies of the Gospel, the failure of what seemed hopefully commenced, we may justly say that such an exhibition is likely to produce so disappointing a result, and that the probability is that it frequently does. We have further to remark, that the peculiar doctrines of Christianity are strongly offensive to the great body of men, and that on this account chiefly it is that there is so much reluctance to the bringing them forward, and so much readiness to explain them away. You cannot fail to be aware that the offence of the Cross has not ceased, you must be sufficiently aware that these are not days when men are called to join the noble army of martyrs, yet there is an opposition to the peculiar doctrines of the Gospel, an opposition which gives as much cause now as there was in earlier days for the Saviour to exclaim, "Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me." So that here is a precise case in which the known feelings of the generality of men place the teacher under a temptation to keep back truth, or of stating it so equivocally that its full force shall not be felt, He cannot be ignorant that if he set forth without reserve, or disguise the corruption and helplessness of man, insist on the perfect gratuitousness of salvation, and refer to God's mercy and distinguishing grace as first exciting the desire for deliverance, and then enabling us to lay hold upon the provided succours, he will have to encounter the antipathies of perhaps a majority of his hearers; and he is consequently and naturally moved to the concealing much, and the softening down more; and if he yield to the temptation, then we have that mixed and diluted theology which does not, indeed, exclude Christ, but assigns much to man, which without denying the meritorious obedience and sufferings of the Mediator soothes our pride with an assurance that by our good works we con. tribute something towards the attainment of everlasting happiness. By encouraging the opinion that men are not very far gone from original righteousness, that notwithstanding the fall, they retain a moral power of doing what shall be acceptable to God, and that their salvation is to result from the combination of their own efforts and the merits of Christ, we maintain that by encouraging such opinions as these, the teacher flatters his hearers with the most pernicious of all flattery, hiding from them their actual condition, and instructing them, how to miss, at the same time that they think they are securing deliverance. Probably enough has been advanced to certify you not only of the possible occurrence but of the grievous peril which must lie in the substituting in religion what is superficial for what ought to be radical. It is on this that we are most anxious to fix your attention. We want to have you satisfied that there can be no falser kindness than that which should hide from men their real condition, and that it is the very extreme of danger when those who are tottering believe themselves secure. It needs no small courage — we ought rather to say, it needs no small grace — to be willing to know the worst; not to be afraid of finding out how bad we are, how corrupt, how capable of the worst actions, if left to ourselves. This is a great point gained in spiritual things, it is a great point gained to be able to pray with David, "Search me, O God, and try me, and see if there be any wicked way in me." We call it a great point gained to be willing to know the worst; for so long as we stop short of this, we shall always be trying half measures, healing the hurt slightly, and therefore never reaching the root of the disease. We counsel you then to be honest with yourselves, honest in observing the symptoms of spiritual sickness, honest in applying the remedies prescribed by the Bible.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.