And nowadays you will meet with men who will say, "That bread upon the Table--why, it represents the body of Jesus Christ to you when you come to the Lord's Supper; therefore, you ought to treat that bread with great respect." By and bye they will get a little bolder, and then they say, "As it represents Christ, you may worship it, pay it respect as if it were Christ." By and bye it will come to this, that you must have a napkin under your chin, lest you should drop a crumb; or it will be very wicked if a drop of the sacred wine should cling to your moustache when you drink; and there will be the directions which are given in some of the papers coming out from the High Church party--absurdities which are only worthy of the nursery--about the way in which the holy bread is to be eaten, and the holy wine is to be drunk--bringing in idolatry, sheer, clear idolatry, under the pretence of improving upon the too bare simplicity of the worship of Christ. Have a care of the very first step, I pray you.
Or, perhaps, it may come to you in another shape. One will say to you, "The place in which you worship--is it not very dear to you? That seat where you have been accustomed to sit and listen, is it not dear?"; and your natural instincts will say, "Yes." Then it will go a little farther. "That place is holy; it ought never to be used for anything but worship." Then a little farther it will be, "Oh! that is the house of God," and you will come to believe that, contrary to the words which you know are given to you of the Holy Ghost, that God dwells not in temples made with hands; that is to say, in these buildings, and you will get by degrees to have a worship of places, and a worship of days, and a worship of bread, and a worship of wine. And then it will be said to you, "Your minister, has he not often cheered you? Well then, you should reverence him; call him 'Reverend.'"
Go a little farther, and you will call him "Father"; yet a little farther, and he will be your confessor; get a little farther and he will be your infallible Pope. It is all step by step it is done. The first step seems to be very harmless indeed. Indeed, it is a kind of voluntary humility. You look as if you were humbling yourselves, and were paying reverence to these things for God's sake, whereas the object is to get you to pay reverence to them, instead of to God, and here the Apostle's words come in, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." They will often attack you in that insidious manner by setting up other objects of reverence besides those which spiritual men worship.
So, too, they will by slow degrees try to insinuate a different way of living from that which is the true life of the Christian. You who have believed in Jesus are saved; your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. You are accustomed to go to Jesus Christ constantly to receive that washing of the feet of which he spake to Peter when he said, "He that is washed needeth not except to wash his feet, for he is clean every whit." You go to him with "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them that trespass against us."
But there will be some who will come in and tell you that to live in that way by a simple faith in Jesus Christ is not, perhaps, the best way. Could you not get a little farther? Could you not lead the life of those recluses who mortify the flesh in such a way that at last they come to have no sins, but commence to be perfect in themselves? Could you not begin, at least in some degree, to commit your soul's care to some priest, or to some friend, and instead of making every place holy and every day a holy day, would it not be well to fast on such and such days in the week, to scrupulously observe this rule and the other rule, and walk by the general opinion of the ancient Church, or by some one of those books which profess to show how they used to do it a thousand years ago?
All this may have a great show of wisdom, and antiquity, and beauty; there may be a semblance of everything that is holy about it, and names that should never be mentioned without reverence may be appended to it all, but listen to the Apostle as he saith, "Beware lest any man beguile you of your reward," for if they get you away from living upon Christ as a poor sinner from day to day by simple confidence in him, they will beguile you of your reward.
There is another party who will seek to beguile you of your reward by bringing in speculative notions, instead of the simple truths of God's Word. There is a certain class of persons who think that a sermon must be a good one when they cannot understand it, and who are always impressed with a man whose words are long; and if his sentences are involved they feel, poor souls, that because they do not know what he is talking about, there is no doubt that he is a very wise and learned man; and after a while when he does propound something that they can catch at, though it may be quite contrary to what they have learned at their mother's knee or from their father's Bible, yet they are ready to be led off by it.
There are many men nowadays who seem to spend their time in nothing else but in spinning new theories, and inventing new systems, gutting the gospel, taking the very soul and bowels out of it, and leaving there nothing but the mere skin and outward bones. The life and marrow of the gospel is being taken away by their learning, by their philosophies, by their refinements, by their bringing everything down to the test of this wonderfully enlightened nineteenth century, to which we are all, I suppose, bound to defer. But a voice comes to us, "Let no man beguile you of your reward." Stand fast to the old truths; they will outlast all these philosophies. Stand fast to the old way of living; it will outlast all the inventions of men. Stand fast by Christ, for you want no other object of worship but himself