William Gadsby Sermons (Complete)

22 At That Time Ye Were Without Christ

Preached November, 17th, 1842.

“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.”—Ephesians 2:12

A very trifling alteration of the words of our text would make it applicable, I greatly fear, to many before me to-night. If we were to read, “At this time ye are without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” What an awful state you are in, if such be your case! And of others we may adopt the language of God’s Word in another place, and say, “And such were some of you.” There was a period when we were without Christ, without hope, and without God in the world.

The apostle is here, in the first place, addressing the church at Ephesus as being Gentiles, and not having even the common mercies that Israel, in a religious sense, possessed; for they, as a nation, had mercies that other nations never had. God was a God to Israel in an especial manner, as the God of nations. He says, “Thee only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore will I punish thee for all thine iniquities.” Now, some people lay it down as a rule that, as God has a special people whom he loves above all the rest, they have no cause to fear sinning; their God loved them from all eternity; therefore they have no cause to fear; sin can do them no hurt. I believe that doctrine which leads men to talk in such a way comes from hell and leads to hell; for God’s people, above all other people, are visited most for their sins in this world. “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.” God loves his people too well to let them live in the love and practice of sin, after he has made it manifest that they are his children; and if you see a professor who can boast of high attainments, and say, “I know my election, I know the Lord has called me by grace, therefore I fear no sin, sin can do me no harm; I’m ,not concerned about such trifles as sin;” sooner believe the devil to be a child of God than such a man as that. The child of God has a -tender conscience, a tender regard for God’s honour; and nothing is such a grief to him as sinning against his Lord. Nothing wounds his mind more than being left to practise sin against the loving-kindness and mercy of that God who has done so much for him. I believe such hardened professors as these ought to be shunned more than you would shun a common infidel.

But the text will be applicable to us all: “At that time we were without Christ.” At what time? In our unregenerate state. Then ,we were without Christ. At that time we were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise;” and at that time were “without hope, and without God in the world.”

Now, we shall make a few remarks upon the passage as it Ins before us. And let us inquire whether or not it can be said of us, “At this time we are without Christ.”

It may be that, in our state of unregeneracy, we did not all make the same public appearance in the world. One man lived in the love and practice of drunkenness; another lived in the love and practice of uncleanness; another lived in the love and practice of open profanity; another lived in the love and practice of covetousness,— and a covetous man is as far from God as the devil can make him, because his heart is wrapped up in the world, and the world is wrapped up in his heart; another lives in the love and practice of his freewill pride—of what he can do, does, and means to do, to please God, and looks upon his fellow mortals as the Pharisee looked upon the poor publican. He pays tithes of mint and cummin, says his prayers, does his duty, and goes to his church or chapel; and some of his friends extol him for his piety; hut if you come to ask him about the divine law of God, about his own state as a lost and ruined sinner, and how he was brought to know and feel it, about the salvation of the sinner by Jesus Christ, and how he was brought to know his interest in it, you set him fast at once.

What the apostle here has in view is, what we were manifestively. What we were in the purpose of God, what we were as viewed by him in Christ before the foundation of the world, is another thing altogether; he is not talking about that, but of what we were manifestively: “At that time ye were without Christ.” Now, do not some of you feel it was the case with you? I, for my own part, have felt a little solemnity about the matter. At one time I thought I had a great many things I could boast of. Sometimes I thought I had a little more knowledge ‘in religious matters than others. But when God the Spirit brought me to a true knowledge of myself and my real state and condition, I felt before God that I was as destitute of Christ as are the dammed in hell, as regards the manifestation and sensible enjoyment of him; and I could no more get at Christ than I could pull God from his throne. Some of you may think it is not so difficult a matter as that. You think you can repent to-night, believe to-night, get pardon to-night, and bring Christ into your souls tonight. I believe the devil to be the author of such a faith and repentance as that; and the devil sets men about it to deceive their souls and to wrap them up in self-delusion. Faith and repentance are Christ’s gifts; for God has exalted him “to give repentance to Israel, and remission of sins.”

God tells us that his people are accepted in Christ. If we are without Christ, then we have nothing that God will accept; because his people are accepted in Christ. God has said that no man can come unto the Father but by Christ; therefore if we are without Christ we have no ground upon which we can approach unto God. Christ says, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life;” and if he is the Way, there is no other way; if he is the Truth, everything else is a lie; and if he is the Life, everything apart from him is death. Therefore, if we are without Christ, we are out of the way, we are ignorant of the truth, and we are dead in trespasses and sins.

Is this your case? Are you without Christ’? If you are, whatever you possess besides, it will not do to bring it to God. “Sinners can say, and only they,

How precious is a Saviour.” If there be any poor, rooted-up, broken- hearted sinner here to night, who feels he is ruined, and guilty, and filthy, and is ready to cry out that he is too vile, too base, and that God will not receive such a vile sinner as he is, I tell thee what; a sinner never was received since the world stood, but on the ground of Christ; and thy felt sinfulness, vileness, and wretchedness, are rather a plea than anything else, that thou shouldest fall flat upon Christ as thine all-sufficient Saviour.

If we are without Christ, we are without holiness; for God says, “He is made unto us sanctification.” But the child of God has got a holiness that Satan cannot sully, and which will stand the test amid all the confusion and noise around him. Without Christ, all the rest will leave us when we come to die; but, having Christ, we shall stand when the world is in a blaze, and we shall be able to say,

“Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay,
While through thy blood absolved,
I am From sin’s tremendous curse and shame?”

Again, if we have Christ, we have his blood for pardon, his righteousness for justification, his fulness to supply all our needs, his promises to cheer us, his strength to support us, his wisdom to guide us in all our ways. We have him in all the offices he sustains,—as Prophet to teach and instruct us, as Priest to atone and plead for us, and as King to rule over us and in us. We have him in all the blessed characters he bears,—as our Shepherd, our Captain, our Bread of Life, Water of Life, and the Wine of God to cheer us. We have him in the endearing relationship he sustains as our Elder Brother. And, which is more endearing than all, we have him as our Husband; and he does not take his bride as we are in the habit of taking ours,—for better or for worse. O no! He knew she would have no better about her; it would be all worse: therefore he took her with all her sin and guilt, and stood answerable for all her debts.

Cannot some of you recollect a time when you were without Christ? Up to the tune that I was nearly eighteen years of age, I was without Christ; but before I was eighteen, Christ, in distinguishing love, revealed himself to me. I am now within a few weeks of 70; and I feel up to this moment as much necessity of Christ as ever. I have not gained a bit of ground here. Since that time I have preached many thousands of sermons about Christ, I have traveled many thousands of miles to preach about him; and in this respect I think I may say I have labored more abundantly than many. But, if you would take away Christ, I would as soon trust the devil as all my doings; and the devil would have as good a hope as I should have; for all my hope comes from, and is centered in, a precious Christ. If we are without Christ, we have nothing but sin and wretchedness; nothing but what will lead us to ruin.

“Having no hope.” That is, having no real, good hope. All people have a hope of some sort. What sort of a hope have you.’ “O,” says one, “I have a hope of getting to heaven.” And what do you ground it upon? “Why, I think God is too merciful to send anybody to hell.” If that be true, you think God is too merciful to tell the truth, for he says, “The wicked shall be turned into hell.”

Another says, “I have some hope that I shall be saved, for I am as good as my neighbours and better than many of them; and though I am a sinner, I am but a little sinner after all; and so I hope I shall go to heaven.” Now, I will tell you this; if you ever committed one sin, and God were to take you to heaven, he would not be true; for God says, “He that offendeth in one point is guilty of all;” “Cursed is every one who continueth not in all things written in the book of the law to do them;” “He that believeth not shall be dammed.” So that being what you call a little sinner is only a delusion.

Another says, “I have a hope, because I really am decidedly pious; I lay by a certain sum every week for Tract Societies and Missionary Societies; and I have heard men say, on public occasions, that God would reward these pious deeds, and that he would be sure not to forget such acts of charity and love.” Well, it is all very well to lay by part of our substance for the Lord; but I tell you what, poor sinner, if you rest here, if you make a Saviour of it, you insult God, and do as much as you can to damn your own soul; you do indeed.

“Without God in the world.” If we are without God, we have no God to go to in trouble, in storms, and in tempests; no God to carry our grievances to. We may have our tens of thousands of riches; our knowledge may be wonderful; we may cultivate our intellects, store up a great treasure of useful knowledge; but to be without God; O what an awful thing! By and by we shall have to stretch ourselves upon a dying bed and to drop into eternity. What will become of ns then, if we are without God as our God? Without God. This is the state we are all in by nature. Sinner, are you without Christ? Where art thou?[1] O may the Lord God omnipotent send a dart into your conscience, if it be his blessed will, and lead you to a sight and sense of your condition before him, as being without God in the world!

[1] We imagine we are near the preacher, as we have heard him exclaiming, like thunder, “Where art thou?”