Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.—Rom. 8.33

[Sermons Delivered in Times of Persecution in Scotland: Donald Cargill, Sermon 1.]





Sermons & Lectures by Donald Cargill.


"Jesus answered them, Verily, verily I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever."—John 8.34,35.
THERE are many things that do not answer their pretences, but especially these:—First, man's show, or outward appearance; Secondly, man's boasting; and, Thirdly, man's hopes. I say,

First, Man's show answers not its pretences. "Every man," says the Spirit of God, "walks in a vain show." That is, the walk he walks in is but a vain show. Indeed one shows riches and he hath poverty; another shows gladness, and he hath sadness; another shows honesty, and has nothing but deceit and the crookedness of the serpent within him. All these pretences hold not.

Secondly, Man's boasting holds not. Boasting is the greatest and surest thing in man; for he makes nothing the matter of his boasting for ordinary but that which is the surest and greatest in him. Well, that holds not pace with its pretences. The apostle, when speaking of boasting, says, "Our boasting is found a truth," which intimates that it is but rare or seldom that man's boasting is founded in truth. But our boasting, says he, "holds for truth. We may say this of it, that no creature may boast in God's sight; and if there be anything before boasting, it immediately slides away after boasting, and never returns till it is retracted again. Away then with boasting; and oh, that we boasted of this, and nothing but this, that we are true believers in Christ Jesus!"

Thirdly, Man's hopes hold not the thousandth part. Man's hopes never answer or quadrate with his pretences. What are man's hopes at best? Why, they are just like a field of corn upon which the winter comes before it be full; and so it is blasted. And oh, but this field was rank in summer! Now, of these things we may say, man's show is vain, his boastings often fail, and his hopes fail. But that which is more than all, as it is in other things, so it is also in religion: men's pretences hold not in religious things. And these are, First, things most interesting; Secondly, things that make the deepest impression; and, Thirdly, things of the most subtle conveyance; for it is a devilish and deceitful heart that sometimes manages these things. Oh, then, we have need to take good heed here, when we entertain or take up with religious persuasions! These are failing; they muster up greatly, and make a fair appearance, but they never or seldom answer their pretences.

But, to omit other things, we shall only instance in these particulars that are here spoken in the words of the text. It is a debate betwixt Christ and a people; He holds them to be in a state of thraldom, and they aver themselves to be free. There is much between these two. But we are sure that truth must be on Christ's side of the question. You say ye are free, but ye are servants, "and the servant abideth not in the house for ever." Ye are in bondage. But say ye, "We are so far past feeling that we cannot tell whether we are bond or free men." There are some, when they boast most of freedom, that are most in slavery to sin. They talk as if they were the only free men in the world, and yet they are so wedded to their own lusts that they cannot get from them nor by them. We may say this of some, that they think there are none free but those that have got over the law of God or the checks of an awakened conscience. Indeed, "there is a lamb feeding in a large place," and yet not altogether free. What is freedom? What is bondage or thraldom? In a word, a man is free when he has got, by the Spirit of God, such a power over himself as to govern himself by divine laws, religion, and right reason. So far as ye exceed these, if it were but in the instance of your four hours' drink, so far ye are slaves to sin. We may mention less things to which ye are slaves. In a word, man is a slave where affection and sensuality rule and take the sceptre out of the hand of religion and right reason. Now,

Upon the other hand, what is bondage or thraldom to sin? Why, it is when a man is carried up and down against reason and religion. Consider, then, and weigh the matter, and see who are bond and who are free. But we shall proceed a little farther and speak somewhat of the evidence of this thraldom to sin. What is it? It is the commission of sin. The commission of sin is an indication of this thraldom—I say the commission of sin. "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin." I need go no further to prove it. We are sure there is an undoubted truth here; if we could explain it rightly, we might soon make it evident who are free and who are bound unto sin.

And that we may understand this the better, we shall not speak of every commission of sin. But

  1. We shall speak of that commission of sin that denotes or evidences a man to be the servant or slave of sin.
  2. We shall speak of that subjection to sin that makes one a servant to it, and so liable to ejection and expulsion out of the house of God.
I. Of the commission of sin. We are not to speak of every commission of sin, for there are none who are not under the commission of sin either ignorantly or willingly; for there is no soul or mind so illuminated as to reach the knowledge of every sin and duty. And on the other hand, there is no conscience so much renewed as to give warning at every approach of sin and iniquity. But sin is many a time done ere ever a man knows of it, or the conscience checks him for it; and, therefore, we speak not of every commission of sin, neither do we mean those sins that are committed through weakness. There are innumerable thoughts in man's heart that he cannot get overcome, mastered, or excluded; and yet, upon the one hand, we will not say that these thoughts, are not sinful, for sinful they are indeed; nor, on the other hand, will we say that these thoughts denote a man the servant of sin, for there are fightings against them, and where fighting is, we are not servants but enemies, for we would fight for and not against those we were servants unto.

But more positively of the commission of sin here meant. And

  1. They are commissions that are done willingly.
  2. That are done ordinarily. And
  3. That are allowed.
1st, They are commissions that are done willingly; for we are sure that where the will is there is the man, and there is servitude to sin. An evidence of servitude is a will going forth to sin. And where is your will? We may say this, if there were not the will there would not be so frequent a prevalence of sin, for the will keeps the door and shuts the door. If the will be against any particular sin, it may prevail once, but not always. Thus the indication of servitude is a willingness of the mind to sin.

2ndly, As there is willingness in this case, so they are ordinary or habitual commissions that are meant. We will not call him a servant that only performs one act to another. No; he must abide constantly at his work, and then he gets both the name and wages of a servant. Where will ye be found working through the day? Ye will be found either working to yourselves or to sin! And he that works to himself works to sin, too, if he hath not first wrought unto God. What are ye thinking? What are your thoughts? And where are your hearts? You are at service, but I am afraid it is at the service of sin, or of yourselves. How seldom are we found in the service of our God!

3rdly, They are allowed commissions. And what are these? Why, all these sins that we have not retracted. But what call you these? They are sins done with the full consent of the will. Do you retract your sins as soon as they are committed? He is not a servant of sin that retracts and repents for sin as soon as committed. To say no more at present, all sins that are not retracted are allowed.

II. Of subjection to sin. And it is not every subjection to sin, but a subjection and servitude to sin, that makes us liable to expulsion out of God's house; for, as we said before, every sin does not determine a man to be a servant of sin, for he may be subjected by force. But that we may press this a little further, ye should consider that if you would know whose servants ye are, and whose work ye are doing: if you be serving sin, sin is your master, and death shall be your wages. And oh, but this is a great part of your work—sin! We are sure that the denomination is from the greatest part of your actions. Well, then, if this be a maxim in Divinity, sure the greatest part of this company will be servants to sin, for the most part of our work is sin. I say, then, look to it. What is your work? Under whose subjection are you? And whom do you serve? Whether is it God, yourselves, or sin? For one of these three you are all serving. God should be served first and most, ourselves next, and sin not at all. Not being debtors to sin, we ought to be pursuing it unto death, for it has injured us; and in pursuing it unto death we are servants unto it. But

1st, Are you in subjection and working to God? Let every man now speak according to his own conscience. What is your service done to God? Now we are sure many a soul will be silent, not having wherewith to answer. What shall I then pitch upon? And what service shall I say for you? Well, this is my service: I am following God's ordinances, I am hearing preaching on the Sabbath, and I am abstaining from my own ordinary work and service. Is not that service to God? Well, well, we shall consider this. But ye should know that there is nothing service to God without obedience to His command. If ye are doing that out of obedience to God, then are ye servants to Him; but, otherwise, to speak with reverence, ye are but putting a cheat on God if ye could. Ye meet under His banner, and then just turn back to the enemy again. There are some heritors bound to little more by their charters than to answer before the court thrice a year; and we are such gentlemen's tenants as these. We think it enough to appear at court! But will God regard you as servants on that account? God will have other service than that. And He will put every man to it. "If then I be a father, where is mine honour? and if I be a master, where is my fear?" And if His servants, where is His service? But we are sure that if ye be servants ye can say, "Here is my reward." Seek it out till ye find it; and if ye find it or not, rest not until you attain unto that which is a serving of God, or else you serve but yourselves.

Before we speak of a serving of ourselves, we may say this: there is nothing right service unto God but what is inward and of the spirit; for we may say this, that ye can never serve God without inward purity of the conscience and righteousness of the mind. Do ye think that words, prayers, or any other religious duties are a serving of Him, though there be not inward purity of mind? Nay, we shall say that the principal thing in God's service is the inward part, and the outward is rather for exercise to yourselves than for Him; for He looks on the spirit only. But there is need of external ordinances here: and if there were not, there should not be any more external ordinances than in heaven, for there are no such external ordinances there. The spirits in heaven still worship Him, and they do so constantly in the acts of love, and in the uninterrupted enjoyment of Him. But remember that there is no service if it be not in a well-dressed house. Right service is a readiness to receive your Lord with a pure heart, and to weep and mourn when He absents Himself long. Ye serve God when ye keep yourselves right, and without doing so there is no serving Him in an acceptable way. Why do ye "worship me, teaching for doctrine the traditions of men?" This is the suggestion of Satan, and the deceitfulness of your hearts. Let every man and woman tell whom they serve, and whom they pitch upon for their master; or else let them acknowledge that they are yet to begin this service of a truth.

2ndly, We are serving ourselves, and it is not very difficult to find out such a man. Here ye will get the whole week unto yourselves, and yet ye will not think much to take a part of the Lord's day also. Ye will take the whole week unto yourselves. Ye will rise in the morning, and fall to work without craving a blessing on your own hands, except it be in a superstitious manner by a saining or blessing yourselves. It is a wonder that men and women can rise up, go out, and not return until night in this manner. Where are ye all the day? Are you at God's service? We may say, that as some are ashamed to be idle, so others should be ashamed to be found so often working in their shops, in their houses, fields, and so constant at their own affairs without minding the service of God. As in some idleness is their sin, so in others laboriousness becomes both their sin and their shame. I am afraid you will find it so at last.

3rdly, And we are the servants of sin. But I need not put a difference between these two, being servants to sin and servants to ourselves, for they amount all to one head, though they have some distinctions. "The servants of sin!" Where will ye find men occupied? for, if we may say so, he hath his cap in his hand. He bows to it and gives way to it, then kisses it, and hugs it in his bosom. We will say this of it, and we shall speak but little of many of these things that we might speak unto. But we are sure of this, that we will not find a man in all this company but hath got some particular sin that in less or more hath the dominion over him. It is sad enough, it is sad, that in an assembly consisting of some thousands there is not one amongst them all but what hath some sin reigning in him not yet cast out, while others are setting up sin in their hearts every day.

USE.—Now try yourselves thoroughly. Are ye not freed? And what are ye freed from? Are ye free from lusts—the lust of covetousness, the lust of passion, pride, sensuality? What is it ye have got loose from, that had once a grip of you? Some have got this lust, but not all out; and in effect, when a man has got the one eye thrust out, or blinded accidentally, commonly the other we think is the stronger. So we are sure if ye put not all your lusts out, those you leave behind will be stronger than before. It is best to thrust them all out. And for further trial in this, what is it that hath most power over you; and how shall ye know it? What is it that diverts you most from God and His service when ye should go to it? And what is it that takes you from meditation, prayer, reading, and other duties in the service of God? What is it that hath a greater power over you than God hath? Remember, then, whose commands you obey, and whose servants ye are. If sin hath a greater power over you than God, and if ye are under the power of sin and the dominion thereof, you are thus servants of sin. Here we thought to have spoken a word unto this, whose servants ye are; but we shall only notice that, if ye be the servants of sin, ye should remember what shall be your wages. The evening approaches; the labourers must be called and paid, and whom have ye your wages to ask from? From sin? "Then the wages of sin is death." Then ye must go to death, devils, and hell to receive your wages. Ye would not bow a knee to God. Ye would not obey His commands. Ye have nothing therefore to demand from Him. He hath given you more than ye deserved. He hath given you so many years' life and maintenance, and yet ye never bowed heart or knee unto Him. How many are here whom you will never find in a closet, field, garden, barn, or barnyard, bowing a knee unto God? And think ye that is a serving of Him? I think it is not.

We have one word to say unto you: The servants of sin will be expelled out of the house of God. For certification of this, "The servant abideth not in the house for ever; but the Son abides in the house for ever." We shall say this of it, this house is to be dissipated, and the other is to be taken up, and all the servants are to get their leave. Remember the bond-woman and her son are to be cast out. [Gen. 21.10.] It will come to this with you if ye be evil servants, He will not deal with you as some with their servants. They will not send them away without somewhat to furnish their house. But ye shall be brought before God's awful tribunal, and from thence sent away empty and bare unto everlasting misery. All those benefits which bear up your hearts on earth, and those duties that your souls took pleasure in, shall be taken away from you.

I say, then, this is the doom, this is the sentence, that the servants of sin shall not abide in the house for ever. Now, we might insist on this a little; 1st, To show you the truth of it: 2ndly, The greatness of such a judgment: but for brevity's sake, only remember:—

1st, That it is Christ Himself that speaks it. This is enough for the truth of it. If ye abide the servants of sin, ye shall abide slaves to wrath for ever; for the servants of sin go unto hell—that is the place of their reward. So if ye be the servants of sin, look to it speedily, before it be too late. But

2ndly, On the other hand, for the greatness of the evil of being excluded out of the house of God, this only serves sufficiently to show the greatness of this judgment and misery, that it is to be excluded from the presence of God, from Christ, angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, and from all their pleasures and enjoyments, which are but external. But this dish shall soon be over, and then comes the great and lasting dish of glory from which they are cast out. And oh, what horror of conscience will the most part of the world be in, that are the servants of sin, when forced to take their leave or last farewell of God, never to see His face again in mercy!

Now these should be the things our hearts should be upon: whose servants we are, and see who will be kept to continue in or cast out of God's house for ever. We pray and entreat you to consider this.

We shall now add no more but this:—Let these things be laid to heart, and consider the greatness of your hazard, if you continue in the service of sin and neglect the service of God. But we shall leave it at present.