1858 - On Refuges of Lies
“Judgement also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet, and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place.” (Isaiah 28:17)
ALL men know themselves to be sinners against God. They know also, that, as sinners, they are in peril and are not safe. Hence their anxiety to find some refuge, for they know they might find this in the way of forsaking sin and turning to the Lord; but they do not choose to forsake their sins. Hence there seems to be no convenient resource but to hide themselves under some refuge.
Our text speaks of “the refuge of lies.” Yet it is obvious that men who resort to lies for a refuge regard those lies not as lies, but as truth. This fact leads us to raise the primary fundamental question—Have we any rule or standard which will show what is truth, and what is falsehood? Men have countless opinions about religion; these can not all be true; how can we determine which are true and which not true?
We have an infallible test.
Salvation, to be real and available, must be salvation from sin. Everything else fails. Any system of religion which does not break the power of sin, is a lie. If it does not expel selfishness and lust, and if it does not beget love to God and man, joy, peace, and all the fruits of the Spirit, it is false and worthless. Any system that fails in this vital respect is a lie—can be of no use—is no better than a curse.
That which does not beget in us the spirit of heaven and make us like God, no matter whence it comes, or by what sophistry defended, is a lie, and if fled to as a refuge, it is a “refuge of lies.”
Again, if it does not beget prayer, does not unify us with God, and bring us into fellowship and sympathy with Him, it is a lie.
If it does not produce a heavenly mind, and expel a worldly mind, and wean us from the love of the world, it is a lie. If it does not beget in us the love required in the Scriptures, the love of God and of His worship and of His People—indeed, of all mankind: if it does not produce all those states of mind which fit the soul for heaven, it fails utterly of its purpose.
And now let my hearers take notice of what God says. He declares, “The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters shall overflow the hiding-place.” No doubt this hail is the symbol of God’s displeasure. It is fit that God should be displeased with these refuges of lies. He loves Truth too well to have the least sympathy with lies. He loves the souls of men too deeply to have any patience with agencies so destructive. Therefore, he loathes all these refuges of lies, and has solemnly declared that the hail shall sweep them all away.
The waters, he declares, shall overflow the hiding-places. Every resort that leaves the soul in sin is a hiding-place. All religious affectation is such, and is nothing better. To put on the mere appearance of devoutness and sanctimony, as if God could be made to believe you are sincere and could not see through it all, this is a flimsy hiding-place indeed. So of all religious formality—going through the forms of worship, being “in the church”, “being baptized”—what avails it all unless their piety be instinct with life and that life be the soul of real holiness?
Remember the test—this one plain simple principle: That and only that which saves from sin is true; all else is false and ruinous.