A Castaway

by Robert Murray M'Cheyne

"I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air; but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection; lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway" (1 Cor. 9:26-27).

Observe, first, how earnestly Paul sought the Kingdom of Heaven: " So fight I, not as one that beateth the air." He was like one at the Grecian games running for a prize. This is the way all converted persons should seek salvation. "So run that ye may obtain." It is common for many to sit down after conversion, and say, I am safe, I do not need to strive any more. But Paul pressed toward the mark.

Secondly, note one particular in which he was very earnest: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection." He had observed in the Grecian games, that those who were to run and fight were very attentive to this: "And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things" (v. 25).

Thirdly, his reason for all this earnestness: "Lest when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." Not that Paul did not have assurance of his salvation; but he felt deeply that his high office in the church would not save him, although he was one of the apostles-the apostle of the Gentiles-one that had labored more than all the rest. Though many had been converted under his ministry, he knew that would not keep him from being a castaway. Judas had preached to others, and yet was cast away. Paul felt also, that if he lived a wicked life, he would surely be cast away. He knew there was an indissoluble connection between living in sin and being cast away; and, therefore, it was a constant motive to him to holy diligence.

What Is It to Be Cast Away?

I. Wicked men shall be cast away from God-"Depart from Me, ye cursed" (Matt. 25:41.); "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power" (2 Thess. 1. 9).

1. Away from Christ. At present, ungodly men are often near to Christ. Christ stands at their door and knocks. He stretches out His hands to them, all the day long. He speaks to them in the Bible and the preached gospel. He says, "Come unto Me, and I will give you rest. Him that cometh unto Me, I will in nowise cast out." But when Christ pronounces that sentence, "Depart from Me, ye cursed," the opportunity shall be closed forever. Christ is the only door; but it shall then be shut for evermore.

2. Away from God. True, the wicked can never be out of God's sight. Job says, "Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering" (v. 26:6). But they shall be banished:

From the fruition of God. Who can tell the joy of those who enjoy the infinite God as their portion? From this the Christless ones shall be cast away. You will have no portion in God.

From the favor of God. "In Thy favour is life." A beam of God's countenance is enough to fill the heart of a believer to overflowing. It is enough to light up the pale cheek of a dying saint with seraphic brightness, and make the heart of the lone widow sing for joy. From all this the Christless shall be cast away for ever. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

From the blessing of God. God is the fountain of all blessing. The sun warms us, our food nourishes us, our friends are pleasant to us; because God makes them so. All the joys in the world are but beams from that uncreated Light; but separate a man from God and all becomes dark. Separate a man from God finally, and no creature can give him joy. This is to be cast away, cut off, from God, forever and ever. Though there were no lake of fire, this, of itself, would be hell.

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II. Wicked men shall be cast away by the Holy Spirit. It is not often thought of, but the Holy Spirit is now dealing and striving with natural men. All the decency and morality of unconverted men is to be attributed to the restraining grace of the Holy Spirit.

1. The Holy Spirit works on natural men through the ordinances-including family worship, which often restrains wicked children-and reading and preaching of the Word. These greatly restrain those without Christ from going to extreme lengths in wickedness.

2. The Holy Spirit also works through providence, by placing wicked men in circumstances that hold them back from excesses of evil. He often reduces them to poverty, so that they cannot run into the vices they were inclined unto; or He lays sickness on their body, so that their relish for sin is greatly blunted; or He terrifies them by bereavements, so that they are kept in the bondage of fear, and dare not sin with so high a hand as they would otherwise do.

3. The Holy Spirit also restrains through conviction of sin. Restraining grace is an amazing work of God. It is more wonderful than His setting a bound to the sea that it cannot pass over. Think what a hell every unconverted bosom would become, if the Spirit were to withdraw and give men over to their own heart's lusts. What hatreds, strife, murders, parricides, would take place if every Christless man were given over to the lusts of his own heart!

The Holy Spirit, I believe, strives with all men. "Ye do always resist the Holy Ghost" (Acts 7:51); but He will not always strive. When the day of grace is done, and the sinner sinks into hell, the Spirit will strive no more-not through providence nor ordinances nor convictions. All your lusts and impurities that have been pent up and restrained by restraining grace and the fear of man, will burst forth with amazing impetuosity. You will be as wicked and blasphemous as the devils around you.

Ah! sinners, you will yet find sin the hardest of all masters-you will yet find your groveling lusts to be worse than the worm that never dies. "He that is unjust, let him be unjust still." (Rev. 22:11).

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III. Wicked men shall be cast away by all the creatures. The state of unconverted men at present, although dreadful, is not yet hopeless. The angels watch the unconverted, to see if there are any signs of repentance. And there would be joy this day among the angels, if one sinner were to repent.

The redeemed on earth are peculiarly interested in unconverted souls. Many a child of God wets his pillow with tears in behalf of perishing souls. They seek your conversion more than any personal benefit. If ministers are like their Master, this will be their great errand-that by all means we may save some. But when the day of grace is past, all holy creatures will cast you away. Reprobate silver shall men call them, for the Lord has rejected them.

Even the devil will cast you off. As long as you remain on earth, the devil keeps you in his train; he flatters you, and gives you many tokens of his friendship and esteem; but soon he will cast you off. He deceived you.

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IV. Wicked men shall be cast away by themselves. It is said they shall wish to die, and shall not be able. They shall seek death, and death shall flee from them. They will not be able to bear the sight of themselves; they will be weary of being; they will wish they had never been.

At present, unconverted men are often very self-complacent. The wheels of their lives go smoothly. How different when the day of grace is done. They will apprehend the real nature of their misery. They will then see the holiness of Almighty God and His majesty. Yet they will hate all that God loves, and love all that God hates. Even in hell they will love their own kindred-"I have five brethren," they will say; but what misery it will cost them, when they hear them sentenced also. Further, they will remember all their missed opportunities through millions of ages. Finally, they will know everlasting despair. This is everlasting destruction! This is to be a castaway.

Let believers learn Paul's earnest diligence. A wicked life will end in being a castaway. These two are linked together, and no man can sunder them.

O do not keep away from Christ now. Now He says, "Come." Soon He will say, "Depart." O do not resist the Holy Spirit now. Now He strives, but He will not always strive with you. O do not despise the word of ministers and godly friends. Now they plead with you, weep for you, pray for you. Soon they will be silent as the grave. O do not be proud and self-admiring. Soon you will loath the very sight of yourself, and wish you had never been.

From Memoirs & Remains, 1858 edition. Preached in January, 1843. Based upon a transcription by David Frank Haslam (HTML transcription © 1997-1998,2001), abridged and with modernized language usage in numerous cases.

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