Matthew 24:12
Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. These verses are connected with Christ's prophecy of the history of his Church. There may be difficulty in fixing the precise references of his language, but he describes general features which are seen in every passing age. There is always a disposition to exaggerate or overestimate the evils of the age in which we happen to live, because they are specially prominent to us. But we may certainly say this much - we live in an age when outside wickedness and semi-wickedness are telling very directly and very injuriously on the Christian spirit. It cannot be said that there is general failing from the Christian profession; but there is a strange, sad "chilling of the Christian love," a "leaving of the first love." In some ages the separation of the Church from the world is more marked, and so the influence of the world on the Church is less felt. Illustrate by Slapton Sands in Devonshire. A freshwater lake well stocked with fish is divided from the sea only by a road and a narrow belt of sand. Usually the two are well kept apart. But when wind and tide unite, the sea rises, floods the sand and the road, and pours the defiling and destructive salt waters into the sweet lake.

I. EFFECT OF GROWING INIQUITY ON THE CHRISTIAN SPIRIT. "Love waxes cold." The true idea of Christian life is the sanctifying and ennobling power of a personal love to Christ. Iniquity, self-willedness, and self-willed ways chill this love

(1) by presenting to us other and rival claims to our love (preacher must be left to select illustrations of such claims);

(2) by undervaluing and putting slights on Christ. Show how human friendships are spoiled when our friends are satirized and scorned. Show how jealously, in these criticizing days, we need to watch over our high, adoring, admiring thoughts of Christ.

II. THE MASTERY OF SURROUNDING INIQUITY IS THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIAN STEADFASTNESS. "He that shall endure to the end." It will cost persistent and persevering effort if we are to keep loving Christ supremely. True endurance is not possible unless we have a strong grip of Christ. We must have and cherish warm feeling toward Christ. We must keep on

(1) trusting,

(2) obeying,

(3) following,

(4) honouring,

(5) working for Christ.

And if ever faint, it must be "taint, yet pursuing." - R.T.







The love of many shall wax cold.
Sketches.
uity: —

I. WHEN INIQUITY BE SAID TO ABOUND.

1. When those who are set for the defence of the gospel can see its doctrines corrupted without emotion.

2. When those who live in total disregard of practical religion increase.

3. When all classes give each other countenance in crime, and provoke each other to it by example, by solicitation, and by menaces (Genesis 6:5-7; Genesis 19:12, 13).

II. THE ABOUNDING OF INIQUITY OPERATES TO COOL THE BLOOD OF CHRISTIANS.

(Sketches.)

I. THE EXTERNAL POSITION OF THE CHURCH. Abounding iniquity in the forms of speculative error, obvious and shameful sin, direct opposition to the gospel, etc.

II. THE INTERNAL STATE OF THE CHURCH The same circumstances which cause gross wickedness to abound in the world, produce coldness of love in the Church. Antediluvians, Jewish history, etc. The wickedness which abounds in the world is often the fruit of coldness in the love of the Church, and then the reaction, etc. That you may sustain no harm by the abounding of iniquity, guard your attention, affections, etc. Cherish ardent, enthusiastic love to Christ.

(A. Tucker.)

Conversation with cold ones will cast a damp, and will make one cold, as Christ here intimates; there is no small danger of defection, if not of infection by such; they are notable quench-coals. This both David and Isaiah found, and therefore cried out each for himself, "Woe is me" (Psalm 120:5; Isaiah 6:5). There is a compulsive power in company to do as they do (Galatians 2:14). It behoveth us, therefore, upon whom the ends of the world are come, to beware lest we suffer a decay; lest, leaving our first love, and led away with the error of the wicked, we fall from our former steadfastness (Revelation 2:5; 2 Peter 3:17). The world, says Ludolfus, has been once destroyed with water for the heat of lust, and shall be again with fire for the coldness of love. Latimer saw so much lack of love to God and goodness in his time that he thought verily Doomsday was then just at hand. What would he have thought had he lived in our age, wherein it were far easier to write a book of apostates than a book of martyrs?

(John Trapp.)

There was always, in the converts of Jerusalem, a strong temptation towards a relapse into Judaism; and in those disturbed times which preceded the fall, any man with Jewish blood in his veins, with the traditional Jewish temper, the ancestral beliefs, the intense love for his nation and people, must have been hard beset. Why should he, too, not choose the heroic part, and cast in his lot with the defenders of the sacred walls? Why not with his dying body make a rampart against the on-pressing Roman, rather than slip away in cowardly desertion like a traitor, leaving the glorious city to perish as it might? All patriotic instincts, all that the Jew most cherished, must have drawn the convert in that direction: it was a sore trial to have to make this choice between the Old Testament and the New. It was such a crisis as rarely happens to a man, to a society, to a nation. It broke up the old Church, the old national life. By destroying the centralized worship of the temple, and staying the immemorial sacrifices, it taught Christians to look far afield, it bade them bow down in no single shrine to worship the Father, and it sent them forth to evangelize a world lying in darkness. They learnt, by the fall of the Holy City, that the Christian faith was to be not national but cosmopolitan, and that out of the ruins of a narrower polity a larger and wider world would grow .... It was by endurance and self-denial of no ordinary kind that these early Jewish Christians succeeded in overcoming the danger besetting them at every turn. They endured to the end; they learned by patience to get a broader and wiser view of the true position and relation of the faith of their adoption. The sneers of the unconverted Jews, the sense that they had lost their patriotic standing-ground, the oppression and sword of their Roman masters — these were the bitter draughts which refreshed their souls, and nerved them for independence in a larger sphere of life. By these they not only saved their souls, but ennobled their views and aims, till they were able to enter fully into the new conditions of the faith of Christ, and thereby take an active part in the outward movements of a missionary church.

(Dean Kitchen.)

We are not to expect that apostates will own that iniquity is the cause of their apostasy. They have always assigned other causes of it, which in their opinion clears them from all suspicion of unjust prejudice or prevention. And these are

(1)the immoral and unexemplary lives of the clergy; and

(2)the irrational system of Christianity.

(Bishop Warburton.)

It is but a "he," a single man, that holdeth out, when "many " lose their love and therewith their reward. Eeebolus, AEneas, Sylvius, Baldwin, Pendleton, Shaxton, and many others, set forth gallantly, but tired ere they came to their journey's end. Like the Galli Insubres, they showed all their valour in the first encounter. Like Charles VIII. of France, of whom Guicciarden notes, that in his expedition to Naples he came into the field like thunder and lightning but went out like a snuff. Like Mandrobulus in Lucian, who, the first year offered gold to his gods, the second year silver, the third nothing. Or, lastly, like the lions of Syria which, as Aristotle reports, bring forth five whelps, next time four, next three, and so on, till at length they become barren. So apostates come at last to nothing, and therefore must look for nothing better than to be cast off for ever; when they that hold out and hold on their way, passing from strength to strength, from faith to faith, etc., shall be as the sun when he goeth forth in his strength; yea, they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Caleb was not discouraged by the giants, and therefore had Hebron, the place of the giants: so those that hold out in the way of heaven shall be sure to have heaven. Thomas San Paulius, at Paris, a young man of eighteen years, being in the fire, was plucked up again upon the gibbet, and asked whether he would turn. To whom he said, That he was in his way towards God, and therefore desired them to let him go. That merchant of Paris, his case was nothing so comfortable, who, for jesting at the friars, was by them condemned to be hanged; but he, to save his life, was content to recant, and so he did. The friars, hearing of his recantation, commended him, saying, If he continued so he should be saved; and so, calling upon the officers, caused them to make haste to the gallows to hang him up, while he was yet in a good way, said they, lest he fall again.

(John Trapp.)

There lies a ship in the stream. It is beautiful in all its lines. It has swung out from the pier and is lying at anchor yonder; and men, as they cross the river on the ferry-boats, stand and look at it and admire it; and it deserves admiration. But it has never been out of port: there it stands, green, new, untried; and yet everybody thinks it is beautiful. It is like childhood, which everybody thinks is beautiful, or ought to be. There comes up the bay, and is making towards the navy-yard, another ship. It is an old man-of-war. It has been in both oceans, and has been round the world many times. It has given and taken thunder-blows under the flag of its country. It is the old Constitution we will suppose. She anchors at the navy-yard. See how men throng the cars and go to the navy-yard to get a sight of her! See how the sailors stand upon the deck and gaze upon her! Some of them, perchance, have been in her, and to them she is thrice handsomer than any new vessel. This old war-beaten ship, that carries the memory of many memorable campaigns, lies there; and they look at its breached bow, its shattered rigging, its coarse and rude lines, its dingy sides, which seem long since to have parted company with paint; and every one of them feels, if he is a true patriot, "God bless you, old thing! God bless you!"

(H. W. Beecher.)

When Diogenes had spent the greater part of his life in observing the most extreme and scrupulous self-denial, and was now verging on ninety years of age, one of his friends recommended him to indulge himself a little. "What!" said he, "would you have me quit the race close by the goal?"

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