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1. No sinner under the light of the Gospel lives a single hour in sin without some excuse, either tacit or avowed, by which he justifies himself. It seems to be a law of man’s intelligent nature that when accused of wrong, either by his conscience or by any other agent, he must either confess or justify. The latter is the course taken by all impenitent sinners. Hence, the reason why they have so much occasion for excuses, and why they find it convenient to have so great a variety. It is remarkable with what facility they fly from one to another, as if these refuges of lies might make up in number what they lack in strength. Conscious that not one of all the multitude is valid in point of truth and right, they yet, when pressed on one, fly to another, and when driven from all in succession they are ready to come back and fight the same ground over again. It is so hard to abandon all excuses and admit the humbling truth that they themselves are all wrong and God all right.
Hence, it becomes the great business of a Gospel minister to search out and expose the sinner’s excuses; to go all round and round, and, if possible, demolish the sinner’s refuges of lies, and lay his heart open to the shafts of truth.
2. Excuses render repentance impossible. For excuses are justifications; and who does not know that justification is the very opposite of confession and repentance? To seek after and embrace excuses, therefore, is to place one’s self at the farthest possible remove from repentance.
Of course the self-accusing sinner makes it impossible for God to forgive him. He places the Deity in such a position toward himself, and, I might say, places himself in such an attitude toward the government of God, that his forgiveness would be ruin to the very throne of God. What would heaven say, and hell too, and earth besides, if God were to forgive a sinner while he, by his excuses, is justifying himself and condemning his Maker?
3. Sinners should lay all their excuses at once before God. Surely this is most reasonable. Why not? If a man owed me, and supposed he had a reasonable excuse for not paying the debt, he should come to me and let me understand the whole case. Perhaps he will satisfy me that his views are right.
Now, sinner, have you ever done so in regard to God? Have you ever brought up one excuse before the Lord, saying, “Thou requirest me to be holy, but I can’t be; Lord, I have a good excuse for not obeying Thee?” No, sinner; you are not in the habit of doing this—probably you have not done it the first time yet in all your life. In fact, you have no particular encouragement to carry your excuses before God, for you have not one yet that you yourself believe to be good for anything except to answer the purpose of a refuge of lies. Your excuses won’t stand the ordeal of your own reason and conscience. How then can you hope they will stand before the searching eye of Jehovah? The fact that you never come with your excuses to God shows that you have no confidence in them.
4. What infinite madness to rest on excuses which you dare not bring before God now! How can you stand before God in the judgment, if your excuses are so mean that you cannot seriously think of bringing one of them before God in this world? O, sinner, that coming day will be far more searching and awful than anything you have seen yet. See that dense mass of sinners drawn up before the great white throne—far as the eye can sweep they come surging up—a countless throng; and now they stand, and the awful trump of God summons them forward to bring forth their excuses for sin. Ho, sinners—any one of you, all—what have you to say why sentence should not be passed on you? Where are all those excuses you were once so free and bold to make? Where are they all? Why don’t you make them now? Hark! God waits; He listens; there is silence in heaven—all through the congregated throng—for half an hour—an awful silence that may be felt; but not a word—not a moving lip among the gathered myriads of sinners there; and now the great and dreadful Judge arises and lets loose His thunders. O, see the waves of dire damnation roll over the ocean—masses of self-condemned sinners! Did you ever see the judge rise from his bench in court to pass sentence of death on a criminal? There, see, the poor man reels—he falls prostrate—there is no longer any strength in him, for death is on him and his last hope has perished!
O, sinner, when that sentence from the dread throne shall fall on thee! Your excuses are as millstones around your neck as you plunge along down the sides of the pit to the nethermost hell!
5. Sinners don’t need their excuses. God does not ask for even one. He does not require you to justify yourself—not at all. If you needed them for your salvation I could sympathize with you, and certainly would help you all I could. But you don’t need them. Your salvation does not turn on your successful self-vindication. You need not rack your brain for excuses. Better say, I don’t want them—don’t deserve them—have not one that is worth a straw.
Better say, ”I am wicked. God knows that’s the truth, and it were vain for me to attempt to conceal it. I AM WICKED, and if I ever live, it must be on simple mercy!”
I can recollect very well the year I lived on excuses, and how long it was before I gave them up. I had never heard a minister preach on the subject. I found, however, by my experience, that my excuses and lies were the obstacles in the way of my conversion. As soon as I let these go utterly, I found the gate of mercy wide open. And so, sinner, would you.
6. Sinners ought to be ashamed of their excuses, and repent of them. Perhaps you have not always seen this as plainly as you may now. With the light now before you it becomes you to beware. See to it that you never make another excuse, unless you intend to abuse God in the most horrible manner. Nothing can be a more grievous abomination in the sight of God than excuses made by a sinner who knows they are utterly false and blasphemous. O, you ought to repent of the insult you have already offered to God—and Now, too, lest you find yourself thrust away from the gate of mercy.
7. You admit your obligation, and of course are estopped from making excuses. For if you have any good excuse, you are not under obligation. If any one of you has a good excuse for disobeying God, you are no longer under obligation to obey. But since you are compelled to admit obligation, you are also compelled to relinquish excuses.
8. Inasmuch as you do and must admit your obligation, then if you still plead excuses you insult God to His face. You insult Him by charging Him with infinite tyranny.
Now, what use do you calculate to make of this sermon? Are you ready to say, “I will henceforth desist from all my excuses, now and for ever; and God shall have my whole heart? What do you say? Will you set about to hunt up some new excuse? Do you at least say, “Let me go home first—don’t press me to yield to God here on the spot—let me go home and then I will?” Do you say this? And are you aware how tender is this moment—how critical this passing hour? Remember it is not I who press this claim upon you—but it is God. God Himself commands you to repent today—this hour. You know your duty—you know what religion is—what it is to give God your heart. And now I come to the final question: Will you do it? Will you abandon all your excuses, and fall, a self-condemned sinner, before a God of love, and yield to him yourself—your heart, and your whole being, henceforth and for ever? WILL YOU COME?7
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