TEXT: For the time is come for judgment to begin at the house of God: and if it begin first at us, what shall be the end of them that obey not the gospel of God? - 1Pe 4:17.
"The time has come that judgment should commence at the house of God." The repelling power is essential. If the church lays too much stress on the attraction, if the church uses worldly means of drawing people, don't you see how fatal that influence becomes?
Out in the unregenerate world are a great many nice people. They do not belong to the riff-raff. They are exceedingly respectable and high-toned, and they are willing to belong to some church, saying, "If you will just let the gap down low enough-if you will not stand there with a flaming sword and demand regeneration, we will come in." If you will quit preaching the necessity of regeneration, if you will quit preaching salvation by the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, if you will lower the doctrine, why you can get the multitude. They will come in. And then lay a little more stress on the aesthetical parts of your worship. Bring in art. Be a little more artistic. Employ some fashionable singer, whose reputation is for song and song only, and put her in the church, and let her draw. Let her draw!
Oh, the repulsion of the ancient Gospel, when the people of God would rely upon the truth and power of spiritual religion rather than factitious, adventitious aids from other sources! God needs no such help. It is a question of life and of death. You are lost if you are not regenerated, and you are guilty of suicide if you deceive yourself by any whitewashing or veneering on the subject of religion. "It is time that judgment should begin at the house of God." Away, and forever away, with every appliance that appeals to men except as to lost sinners, guilty before God and needing the regenerating power of the Spirit and the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And when the church forgets, when it turns away from its ancient source of might, to make alliance with the feeble forces of time, and surrenders the dignity and majesty and sublimity and omnipotence of God's methods in order to adopt some time-serving method, it stands accursed. The curse of God is on it.
I would rather see this house unroofed, each timber taken down, cast off brick by brick its walls, its foundations dug up and the trench of the foundations filled with salt; I would rather that the congregation itself, all in one place, by one bidding of Jesus, should be called through the portals of death to heaven, and leave not one upon the earth, than for this church to turn aside from God's holy way of saving men to the miserable frauds and shams and impostures that are sometimes employed.
"It is time that judgment should commence in the house of God." This is true, brethren. It is true no matter who is hit by it. Even if it lifts out your pastor and every other preacher in the church, and all your deacons, it is true that you have no religious power in the sight of God that is not in the line set forth in that book. You fail in your mission as a church when you abate one jot or tittle, when you lower the standard by a hair's breadth, when you turn aside to any flimsy method of time, when you go away from that simple foundation: "Verily, verily, I say unto you, except you be born from above you can never see the kingdom of God." Let Judas go to his own place. Let Ananias and Sapphira, with lies on their lips, go down to their doom. Let Simon Magus clank the chain of his bondage, his fetters never having been broken. But let the church of Jesus Christ stand for the simplicity of the Gospel as it is in our Lord.
Do thou, Lord, give equipoise to thy church and cause. Make great the centripetal attraction. But also make great the centrifugal force. Let thy cause draw all men, but let not it draw them except by spiritual force. Oh, let not the builders of Zion's walls daub with untempered mortar! Neither let them work wood, hay and stubble. Keep us forewarned of the trial by fire, lest we suffer loss in the day of fire.