George H. Morrison - Devotional Sermons
The Loneliness of Sin
He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night--Joh 13:30
He Made His Bed in Hell
What first strikes us here is the utter loneliness of Judas. No word-painting, however vivid, could give a deeper impression of that than these few words of John: "He ... went immediately out: and it was night." Within, there was light and gladness, and the richest fellowship this world had ever known. For Christ was there, and John was leaning upon Jesus' bosom, and the talk was on high and holy themes that evening. Outside was fierce hostility. Outside was dark. And no man drove out Judas. No push and curse hurried him to the door. It was the momentum of his own heart and life that impelled him to choose the darkness rather than the light.
Shall we follow Judas into the dark street? He turns and looks, and the light is gleaming from the window of the upper chamber. He hurries on, and the streets are not empty yet. A band of young men, like himself, goes singing by. The sounds of evening worship come stealing from the houses. And everything that tells of love, and breathes of fellowship, and speaks of home, falls like a fiery rain on Judas' heart. The loneliness of Judas was intolerable. He had made his bed in hell. A friend of mine was once preaching on that text in the Assembly Hall in Edinburgh. And when he left the hall and was stepping homewards, a young man rushed across the street and grasped him by the arm and cried, "Minister, minister, I have made my bed in hell," and disappeared. And the lonely misery of that cry will ring in my friend's ears till his dying day. There was a loneliness in it like that in Judas. He was estranged, apart. "He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night."
In a Sense Everybody Is Lonely
There is a sense in which every person is lonely. Each has his different road, his different trial, his different joy; and these differences are invisible barriers between us, so that even in fellowship we walk apart. We say we know that woman thoroughly, and we believe we do, till someday there comes a new temptation to her, or a new chance to be heroic, and all our reckoning are falsified, and there are depths our plummet never sounded. I cannot utter forth all that I am. Gesture, speech, even music are but rude interpreters. The dullest has his dream he never tells. The very shallowest has his holy ground. There is an isolation of the soul that brings the note of pathos into history, and makes me very reluctant to judge my friend, and leads me to the very feet of Christ.
In a Sense Christ Was Lonely
For there is a deep sense in which Christ was lonely too. And it is strange that on the night of the betrayal, perhaps the two loneliest figures in the world were the sinful disciple and his sinless Lord. But oh, the world of difference between the two! Christ lonely because He was the Son of God, bearing His cross alone and going out into the glory. And Judas lonely because he was the son of perdition, with every harmony destroyed by sin, and going out into the night. Now towards which figure are you making, friend? For towards one or the other your feet are carrying you. There is a loneliness upon the mountain top. There is a loneliness in death and in the grave. And the one is the isolation of the climbing heart, and the other the isolation of the lost. Towards which are you headed? Is it "To the hills will I lift up mine eyes" or "The wages of sin is death"?
This, then, is one continual effect of sin. In every shape and form, in every age and country, it intensifies the loneliness of life. We talk of social sins. All sin is ultimately anti-social. We hear of comradeship's based upon common vices. All vice in the long run grinds the very thought of comradeship to powder. Sin isolates, estranges, separates; that is its work. It is the task of God ever to lead us to a richer fellowship. It is the work of sin, hidden but sure, to make us lonelier and more lonely till the end. From all that is best, and worthiest, and purest, it is the delight of sin to separate. And I want to touch on the three great separations that sin brings, making life a lonely thing.
Sin Separates Man from His Ideal
First, then, sin separates man from his ideal. When I have an ideal, I can never be quite lonely. When I have the vision beckoning me on, when I have something to live for and to struggle for higher than coin or food, there is a fervor in my common day, and a quiet enthusiasm for tomorrow, that are splendid company for my secret heart. And even if my ideal be a dream, it is so. In the famous battle between the clans on the North Inch of Perth, rendered immortal in the story of Sir Walter Scott, you will remember how the old chieftain Torquil sent out his sons to fight for Hector. And as one son after another fell under the smiting blows of Hal of the Wynd, the old chief thundered out, "Another for Hector," and another of his sons stepped forward to the battle. And they were all slain, every one of them, for Hector--and Hector was a coward. Let the ideal be a dream, yet men will fight for it; and fighting, the heart forgets its loneliness.
And the work of sin has been to separate the world from its ideals--to blot out the vision and to say to men, Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die. Sin lays the emphasis on what I see. Sin holds me back from what I would be, and binds me a prisoner to what I am. Until, at last, through years of weary failure, all that we hoped and longed to be is gone, and the beckoning hands have vanished, and the vision is fled, and we are alone with our own poor selves. Sin separates a man from his ideal. Judas had his ideal once, but the devil entered him, and the ideal died out; and from that hour Judas drew apart.
Sin Separates Man from Man
Not only does sin separate man from his ideal, it separates man from man. When Cain slew Abel, he became an outcast. When David fell, he had to fly. When Peter denied Christ, he went out and wept bitterly. Sin broke life's ties for them, sundered the bonds that bound them to their fellows. Read over every narrative of sin within the Bible, and underneath the outward form of it--it may be passion, envy, treachery, revenge--you will detect, from Genesis to Revelation, the sundering of ties between man and man.
And sin is always doing that. There is not a passion, not a lust or vice, but mars and spoils the brotherhood of life, and tends to the loneliness of individual souls. God meant us to be friends. God has established numberless relationships. And God is righteousness and God is love, and the Spirit of righteousness and love inspires them all. And sin has been unrighteous from the first, and shall be cold and loveless till the end. O sin, thou severing and separating curse! There is no tie so tender but my vice will snap it. There is no bond so strong but sin will shatter it. It separates the father from his child; it sunders hearts; it creates distances within the home, till the full harmonies of life are lost, and the deep fellowships of life impossible. And the world is lonelier because of sin.
And Jesus Christ knew that. Christ saw and felt sin's separating power. And so the Gospel, that rings with the note of brotherhood, centers in Calvary upon the fact of sin. The social gospel is but a shallow gospel, false to the truth and alien from Christ, unless it roots itself in the divine forgiveness and the inspiring power of the Holy Ghost. The poet Whittier tells a story of the Rabbi Nathan, who long lived blamelessly but fell at last, and his temptation clung to him in spite of his prayers and fastings. And he had a friend, Rabbi Ben Isaac, and he felt that his sin had spoiled the friendship. But he would go to him and speak to him and tell him all. And when they met, the two embraced each other; till Rabbi Nathan, remembering his sin, tore himself from his friend's arms and confessed. It was the separating power of sin. But when Rabbi Ben Isaac heard his words, he confessed that he too had sinned, and he asked his friend to pray for him as Rabbi Nathan had asked himself. And there in the sunset, side by side, they knelt and each prayed with his whole heart for the other. "And when at last they rose up to embrace, each saw God's pardon in his brother's face."
Sin, separation--pardon, brotherhood; it is the order of the universe and God.
Sin Separates Man from God
And so sin separates a man from his ideal and a man from men. But the most awful separation of all, the one that reaches the very heart of loneliness, is this: sin separates a man from God.
I can never be lonely in God's fellowship. When I detect His glory in the world, and trace His handiwork in field and sunset; when I recognize His voice in conscience, when I feel the power of His love in Christ; "there is society where none intrudes," there is the sweetest company in solitude; and I may dwell alone, but I can never be a lonely man. "For me to live is Christ," said the apostle; and the friendship of God was so intense for him, that even in the prison at Philippi he had society.
But from the first it has been sin's great triumph to separate the soul from God; and the deepest loneliness of sin is this, that it blinds me to One whom not to see is death, and bars me from the fellowship of Him whose friendship is of infinite value to my heart. If in the sky and sea, if in the call of duty, if in the claims of men, if in the love of Christ, if in all these I see and hear no God. this is a lonely world. And sin has blinded me, and made lonely, as the prodigal was lonely when far from his father and father's home. Shall I arise and go to Him tonight? Shall I return by the way of Calvary to God? I have been separated from holiest and the best. I have been living far from goodness and from God. But -
Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd'st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!
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