What Have I Done?
listen, I did hearken, but they spake not aright; no man repented of his
wickedness, saying, "What shall I do?" Ah! my hearer, thou never hast a desire
toward God which does not excite God's hope; thou dost never breathe a prayer toward
heaven which he does not notice; and though thou hast very often uttered prayers which
have been as the morning cloud and as the early dew that soon passeth away, yet all these
things have moved Jehovah's bowels; for he has been hearkening to thy cry and noticing the
breathing of thy soul, and though it all hath passed away, yet it did not pass away
unnoticed, for he remembers it even now. And oh! thou that art this day seeking a Saviour,
remember, that Saviour's eyes are on thy seeking soul to-day. Thou art not looking after
one who can not see thee; thou art coming to thy Father, but thy Father sees thee even in
the distance. It was but one tear that trickled down thy cheek, but thy Father noticed
that as a hopeful sign; it was but one throb that went through thy heart just now during
the singing of the hymn, but God, the Loving, noticed even that, and thought upon it as at
least some omen that thou wast not yet quite hardened by sin, nor yet given up by love and
The text is "What have I done?" I shall just introduce that by a few words of affectionate persuasion, urging all now present to ask that question: secondly, I shall give them a few words of assistance in trying to answer it; and when I have so done, I shall finish by a few sentences of solemn admonition to those who have had to answer the question against themselves.
I. First, then, a few words of EARNEST PERSUASION, requesting every one now present, and more especially every unconverted person, to ask this question of himself, and answer it solemnly: "What have I done?"
Few men like to take the trouble to review their own lives, most men are so near bankruptcy that they are ashamed to look at their own books. The great mass of mankind are like the silly ostrich, which, when hard pressed by the hunters, buries its head in the sand and shuts its eyes, and then thinks, because it does not see its pursuers, that therefore it is safe. The great mass of mankind, I repeat, are ashamed to review their own biographies; and if conscience and memory together could turn joint authors of a history of their lives throughout, they would buy a huge iron clasp and a padlock to it, and lock the volume up, for they dare not read it. They know it to be a book full of lamentation and woe, which they dare not read, and still go on in their iniquities. I have therefore a hard task in endeavoring to persuade you one and all to take down that book, and be its pages few or many, be they white or be they black, I have some difficulty in getting you to read them through. But may the Holy Spirit persuade you now, so that you may answer this question, "What have I done?" For remember, my dear friend, that searching yourself can do you no hurt. No tradesman ever gets the poorer by looking to his books; he may find himself to be poorer than he thought he was, but it is not the looking to the books that hath hurt him; he hath hurt himself by some ill trading before. Better, my friend, for you to know the past whilst there is yet time for repairing it, than that you should go blindfolded, hoping to enter the gates of Paradise and find out your mistake when alas! it is too late, because the door is shut. There is nothing to be lost by taking stock; you can not be any the worse for a little self examination. This of itself shall be one strong argument to induce you to do it; but remember you may be a great deal the better; for suppose your affairs are all right with God, why then you may make good cheer and comfort yourself for he that is right with his God has no cause to be sad. But ah! remember there are many probabilities that you are wrong. There are so many in this world that are deceived, that there are many chances that you are deceived too. You may have a name to live and yet be dead; you may be like John Bunyan's tree, of which he said "'twas fair to look upon and green outside, but the inside of it was rotten enough to be tinder for the devils tinder box." You may this day thus stand before yourself your fellow creatures well whitewashed, and exceeding fair, but you may be like that Pharisee of whom Christ said, "Thou art a whited sepulcher, for inwardly thou art full of rottenness and dead men's bones." Now, man, however thou mayest wish to be self-deceived, for my own part I feel that I would a thousand times rather know my own state really than have the most pleasing conceptions about it and find myself deceived. Many a time have I solemnly prayed that prayer, "Lord, help me to know the worst of my own case; if I be still an apostate from thee, without God and without Christ, at least let me be honest to myself and know what I am." Remember, my friend, that the time you have for self-examination is, after all, very short. Soon thou wilt know the great secret. I perhaps may not say words rough enough to rend off the mask which thou now hast upon thee, but there is one called Death who will stand no compliment. You may masquerade it out to-day in the dress of the saint, but death will soon strip you, and you must stand before the judgment seat after death has discovered you in all your nakedness, be that naked innocence or naked guilt. Remember, too, though you may deceive yourself, you will not deceive your God. You may have light weights, and the beam of the scale in which you weigh yourself may not be honest, and may not therefore tell the truth; but when God shall try you he will make no allowances; when the everlasting Jehovah grasps the balances of justice and puts his law into one scale, ah, sinner, how wilt thou tremble when he shall put thee into the other; for unless Christ be thy Christ thou wilt be found light weightthou wilt be weighed in the balances and found wanting, and be cast away for ever.
Oh! what words shall I adopt to induce every one of you now to search yourselves! I know the various excuses that some of you will make. Some of you will plead that you are members of churches, and that, therefore, all is right with you. Perhaps you look across from the gallery, and you say to me, "Mr. Spurgeon, your hands baptized me but this year into the Lord Jesus, and you have often passed to me the sacramental bread and wine. Ah, my hearer, I know that, and I have baptized, I fear, many of you that the Lord hath never baptized; and some of you have been received into the church fellowship on earth who were never received by God. If Jesus Christ had one hypocrite in his twelve, how many hypocrites must I have here in nearly twelve hundred? Ah! my hearers, in this age it is a very easy thing to make a profession of religion: many churches receive candidates into their fellowship without examination at all; I have had such come to me, and I have told them, "I must treat you just the same as if you came from the world," because they said, "I never saw the minister; I wrote a note to the Church, and they took me in." Verily, in this age of profession, a man may make the highest profession in the world, and yet be at last found with damned apostates. Do not put off the question for that; and do not say, "I am too busy to attend to my spiritual concerns; there is time enough yet." Many have said that, and before their "time enough" has come, they have found themselves where time shall be no more. O! thou that sayest thou hast time enough, how little dost thou know how near death is to thee. There are some present that will not see New Year's Day; there is every probability that a very large number will never see another year. O, may the Lord our God prepare us each for death and for judgment, and bless this mornings exhortation to our preparation, by leading us to ask the question"What have I done?"
II. Now, then, I am to help you to answer the question"What have I done?"
Christian, true Christian, I have little to say to thee this morning. I will not multiply words, but leave the inquiry with thine own conscience. What hast thou done? I hear thee reply, "I have done nothing to save myself; for that was done for me in the eternal covenant, from before the foundation of the world. I have done nothing to make a righteousness for myself, for Christ said, 'It is finished;' I have done nothing to procure heaven by my merits, for all that Jesus did for me before I was born." But, say, brother, what hast thou done for him who died to save thy wretched soul? What hast thou done for his church? What hast thou done for the salvation of the world? What hast thou done to promote thine own spiritual growth in grace? Ah! I might hit some of you that are true Christians very hard here; but I will leave you with your God. God will chastise his own children. I will, however, put a pointed question. Are there not many Christians now present who can not recollect that they have been the means of the salvation of one soul during this year? Come, now; turn back. Have you any reason to believe that directly or indirectly you have been made the means this year of the salvation of a soul? I will go further. There are some of you who are old Christians, and I will ask you this question: Have you any reason to believe that ever since you were converted you have ever been the means of the salvation of a soul? It was reckoned in the East, in the time of the patriarchs, to be a disgrace to a woman that she had no childrento have none born unto God through his instrumentality! And yet, there are some of you here that have been spiritually barren, and have never brought one convert to Christ; you have not one star in your crown of glory, and must wear a starless crown in heaven. Oh! I think I see the joy and gladness with which a good child of God looked upon me last week, when we had heard some one who had been converted to God by her instrumentality. I took her by the hand and said, "Well, now, you have reason to thank God." "Yes, sir," she said, "I feel a happy and an honored woman now. I have never, that I know of, before been the means of bringing a soul to Christ." And the good woman looked so happy; the tears were in her eyes for gladness. How many have you brought during this year? Come, Christian, what have you done? Alas! alas! you have not been barren fig-trees, but still your fruit is such that it can not be seen. You may be alive unto God, but how many of you have been very unprofitable and exceedingly unfruitful? And do not think that while I thus deal hardly with you I would escape myself. No, I ask myself the question, "What have I done?" And when I think of the zeal of Whitfield, and of the earnestness of many of those great evangelists of former times, I stand here astounded at myself, and I ask myself the question, "What have I done?" And I can only answer it with some confusion of face. How often have I preached to you, my hearers, the Word of God, and yet how seldom have I wept over you as a pastor should? How often ought I to have warned you of the wrath to come, when I have forgotten to be so earnest as I might have been. I fear lest the blood of souls should lie at my door, when I come to be judged of my God at last. I beseech you, pray for your minister in this thing, that he may be forgiven, if there has ever been a lack of earnestness, and energy, and prayerfulness, and pray that during the next year I may always preach as though I ne'er might preach again.
if good works have any merit; but then
it is very unfortunate that they have not any; for our good works, if we do them to save
ourselves by them, are no better than our sins. You might as well hope to go to heaven by
cursing and swearing, as by the merits of your own good works; for although good works are
infinitely preferable to cursing and swearing in a moral point of view, yet there is no
more merit in one than there is in the other, though there is less sin in one than in the
other. Will you please to remember, then, that all you have been doing all these years is
good for nothing? "Well, but, sir, I have trusted in Christ." Now, stop! Let me
ask you a question. Do you mean to say, that you have trusted partly in Christ, and partly
in your own good works? "Yes, sir." Well, then, let me tell you, the Lord Jesus
Christ will never be a make weight; you must take Christ wholly, or else no Christ at all,
for Christ will never go shares with you in the work of salvation. So, I repeat, all you
have ever done is good for nothing. You have been building a card-house, and the tempest
will blow it down; you have been building a house upon the sand, and when the rains
descend and the floods come, the last vestige of it will be swept away forever. Hear ye
the word of the Lord! "By the works of the law shall no flesh living be
justified." "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are
written in the book of the law to do them;" and in as much as you have not continued
in all things that are written in the law you are transgressors of the law, and you are
under the curse, and all that the law has to say to you is, "Cursed, cursed, cursed!
Your morality is of no help to you whatever, as to eternal things."
I turn to another character. He says, "Well, I don't trust in my morality nor in anything else; I say,
But there is one man here who has grown very careless and indifferent to every point of morality, and he says, "Ah! young man, I could tell you what I have done during the year." Stop, sir, I don't particularly wish to know just now; you may as well tell it to yourself when you get home. There are young people here: it would not do them much good to know what you have done perhaps. You are no better than you should be, some people say; which means, you are so bad they would not like to say what you are. Do you suppose in all this congregation we have no debauched mennone that indulge in the vilest sin and lust? Why, God's angel seems even now to be flying through our midst, and touching the conscience of some, to let them know in what iniquities they have indulged during the year. I pray God that my just simply alluding to them may be the means of startling your conscience. Ah! ye may hide your sins; the coverlet of darkness may be your shelter; you may think they shall never be discovered; but remember, every sin that you have done shall be read before the sun, and men, and angels shall hear it in the day of final account. Ah! my hearer, be thou moral or be thou dissolute, I beseech thee, answer this question solemnly to-day: "What have I done?" It would be as well if you took a piece of paper when you went home, and just wrote down what you have done from last January to December; and if some of you do not get frightened at it I must say you have got pretty strong nerves, and are not likely to be frightened at much yet.
Now I specially address myself to the unconverted man and I would help him to answer this question in another point of view. "What have I done?" Ah! man, thou that livest in sin, thou that art a lover of pleasure more than a lover of God, what hast thou done? Dost thou not know that one sin is enough to damn a soul for ever? Hast thou never read in Holy Scripture that cursed is he that sins but once? How damned then, art thou by the myriad sins of this one year! Recall, I beseech thee, the sins of thy youth and thy former transgressions up till now; and if one sin would ruin thee for ever, how ruined art thou now! Why, man, one wave of sin may swamp thee. What will these oceans of thy guilt do? One witness against thee will be enough to condemn thee: behold the crowds of follies and of crimes now gathered round the judgment-seat that have gone before thee into judgment. How wilt thou escape from their testimonies, when God shall call thee to his bar. What hast thou done? Come, man, answer this question. There are many consequences involved in thy sin, and in order to answer this question rightly thou must reply to every consequence, what hast thou done to thine own soul? Why, thou hast destroyed it; thou hast done thy best to ruin it for ever. For thine own poor soul thou hast been digging dungeons; thou hast been piling faggots; thou hast been forging chains of ironfaggots with which to burn it, and fetters with which to bind it for ever.
Remember, thy sins are like sowing for a harvest. What a harvest is that which thou hast sown for thy poor soul! Thou hast sown the wind, thou shalt reap the whirlwind; thou hast sown iniquity, thou shalt reap damnation. But what hast thou done against the gospel? Remember, how many times this year thou hast heard it preached? Why, since thy birth there have been wagon-loads of sermons wasted on thee. Thy parents prayed for thee in thy youth; thy friends instructed thee till thou didst come to manhood. Since then how many a tear has been wept by the minister for thee! How many an earnest appeal has been shot into thine heart! But thou hast rent out the arrow. Ministers have been concerned to save thee, and thou cast never been concerned about thyself. What hast thou done against Christ? Remember, Christ has been a good Christ to sinners here; but as there is nothing that burns so well as that soft substance, oil, so there is nothing that will be so furious as that gentle-hearted Saviour, when he comes to be your Judge. Fiercer than a lion on his prey is rejected love. Despise Christ on the cross, and it will be a terrible thing to be judged by Christ on his throne.
But again: what have you done for your children this year? Oh! there be some here present that have been doing all they could to ruin their children's souls. 'Tis solemn what responsibility rests upon a father; and what shall be said of a drunken father?the father that sets his children an example of drunkenness. Swearer, what have you done for your family? Haven't you, too, been twisting the rope for their eternal destruction? Will they not be sure to do as you do? Mother, you have several children, but this year you have never prayed for one of them, never put your arms round their necks as they kneeled at their little chair at night, and said, "Our Father;" you have never told them of Jesus that loved children, and once became a child like them. Ah, then, you too have neglected your children. I remember a mother who was converted to God in her old age, and she said to meand I shall never forget the womanly grief"God has forgiven me, but I shall never forgive myself. For sir," she said, "I have nourished and brought up children but I have done it without any respect to religion." And then she burst into tears, and said, "I have been a cruel mother, sir; I have been a wretch!" "Why," said I, "my good woman, you have brought your children up." "Yes," said she, "my husband died when they were young, and left me with six of them, and these hands have earned their bread and found them clothes; no one," she said, "can accuse me of being unkind to them in anything but this; but this is the worst of all; I have been a cruel mother to them, for while I fed their bodies I neglected their souls. But some have gone further than this. Ah, young man, you have not only done your best this year to damn yourself, but you have done your best to damn others! Remember, last January, you took that young man into the tavern for the first time, and laughed at all his boyish scruples, as you called them, and told him to drink away, as you did. Remember, when in the darkness of night you first led astray one young man whose principles were virtuous, and who had not known lust unless you had revealed it to him; you said at the time, "Come with me; I'll show you London life, I'll let you see pleasure!" That young man, when he first came to your shop, used to go to the house of God on Sunday, and seemed to bid fair for heaven"Ah," you say, "I have laughed religion out of Jackson, he doesn't go any where on a Sunday now except for a spree, and he is just as merry as any of us." Ah! sir, and you will have two hells when you are damned; you will have your own hell and his too, for he will look through the lurid flames upon you, and say, "Mayhap, I had never been here if you had not brought me here!" And ah! seducer, what eyes will be those that will glare at you through hell's horror?The eyes of one whom you led into iniquity! what double hells they will be to you as they glare on you like two stars, whose light is fury, and wither your blood for ever! Pause, ye that have led others astray, and tremble now. I paused myself, and prayed to God when I first knew a Saviour, that he would help me to lead those to Christ that I had ever in any way led astray. And I remember George Whitfield says when he began to pray, his first prayer was that God would convert those with whom he used to play at cards and waste his Sundays. "And blessed be God," he says, "I got every one of them."
O my God, can I not detect in some face here astonishment and terror. Doth no man's knees knock together? Doth no man's heart quail within him because of his iniquity? Surely it cannot be so, else were your hearts turned to steel, and your bowels become as iron in the midst of you. Surely, if it be so, the words of God are most certainly true, wherein he saith, in the seventh verse of this chapter"The stork in the heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle, and the crane, and the swallow, observe the time of their coming; but my people know not the judgment of the Lord;" and certainly that prophet was true who said, "The ox knoweth its owner, and the ass his masters crib; but my people doth not know, Israel doth not consider." Oh, are ye so brutish as to let the reflections of that guilt pass over you without causing astonishment and terror? Then, surely we who feel our guilt have need to bend our knees for you, and pray that God might yet bring you to know yourselves; for, living and dying as you are, hardened and without hope, your lot must be horrible in the extreme.
How happy should I be if I might hope that the great mass of you could accompany me in this humble confession of our faith; may I speak as if I were speaking for each one of you? It shall be at your option, either to accept what I say, or to reject it; but, I trust, the great multitude of you will follow me. "Oh, Lord! I this morning confess that my sins are greater than I can bear; I have deserved thy hottest wrath, and thine infinite displeasure; and I hardly dare to hope that thou canst have mercy upon me; but inasmuch as thou didst give thy Son to die upon the cross for sinners, thou hast also said, 'Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth,' Lord, I look to thee this morning, though I never looked before, yet I look now; though I have been a slave of sin to this moment, yet Lord, accept me, sinner though I be, through the blood and righteousness of thy Son, Jesus Christ. Oh Father, frown not on me; thou mayest well do so, but I plead that promise which says, 'Whosoever cometh unto me, I will in no wise cast out. Lord, I come
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bid'st me come to thee,
O Lamb of God, I come.
On that dear head of thine,
While like a penitent I stand,
And there confess my sin.
III. Now I have to address a few words of AFFECTIONATE ADMONITION, and then I have done. It is a very solemn thing to think how years roll away. I never spent a shorter year in my life than this one, and the older I grow, the shorter the years get; and you, old men, I dare say, look back on your sixty and seventy years, and you say, "Ah, young man, they will seem shorter, soon!" No doubt, they will. "So teach us to number our days, O God, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom." But, is it not a solemn thing, that there is another year nearly gone; and yet many of you are unsaved? You are just where you were last year. No, you are not, you are nearer death, and you are nearer hell, except you repent; and, perhaps, even what I have said this morning will have no effect upon you. You are not altogether hardened, for you have had many serious impressions. Scores of times you have wept under discourses, and yet all has been in vain, for you are what you were. I beseech you, answer this question, "What have I done?" for, remember, there will be a time when you will ask this question, but it will be too late. When Is thatsay youon the death bed? No, it is not too late there.
The vilest sinner may return."
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