Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 28th, 1858, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens.
"The governor of the feast called the bridegroom, and saith unto him, every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse; but thou hast kept the good wine until now."—John 2:9-10.
THE governor of the feast said more than he intended to say, or rather, there is more truth in what he said than he himself imagined. This is the established rule all the world over: "the good wine first, and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse." It is the rule with men; and have not hundreds of disappointed hearts bewailed it? Friendship first—the oily tongue, the words softer than butter, and afterwards the drawn sword. Ahithophel first presents the lordly dish of love and kindness to David, then afterwards that which is worse, for he forsakes his master, and becomes the counsellor of his rebel son. Judas presents first of all the dish of fair speech and of kindness; the Saviour partook thereof, he walked to the house of God in company with him, and took sweet counsel with him; but afterwards there came the dregs of the wine—"He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me." Judas the thief betrayed his Master, bringing forth afterwards "that which is worse." Ye have found it so with many whom ye thought your friends. In the heyday of prosperity, when the sun was shining, and the birds were singing, and all was fair and gay and cheerful with you, they brought forth the good wine; but there came a chilling frost, and nipped your flowers, and the leaves fell from the trees, and your streams were frosted with the ice, and then they brought forth that which is worse,—they forsook you and fled; they left you in your hour of peril, and taught you that great truth, that "Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm." And this is the way all the world over—I say it once again—not merely with men, but with nature too.
"Alas, for us, if thou wert all,
And nought beyond O earth;"
for doth not this world serve us just the same? In our youth it brings forth the best wine; then we have the sparkling eye, and the ear attuned to music; then the blood flows swiftly through the veins and the pulse beats joyously; but wait a little and there shall come forth afterwards that which is worse, for the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves; the grinders shall fail because they are few, they that look out of the windows shall be darkened, all the daughters of music shall be brought low; then shall the strong man totter, the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail, the mourners shall go about the streets. First there is the flowing cup of youth, and afterwards the stagnant waters of old age, unless God shall cast into those dregs a fresh flood of his lovingkindness and tender mercy, so that once again, as it always happeneth to the Christian, the cup shall run over, and again sparkle with delight. O Christian, trust not thou in men; rely not thou upon the things of this present time, for this is evermore the rule with men and with the world—"the good wine first, and when ye have well drunken, then that which is worse."
This morning, however, I am about to introduce you to two houses of feasting. First, I shall bid you look within the doors of the devil's house, and you will find he is true to this rule; he brings forth first the good wine, and when men have well drunk, and their brains are muddled therewith, then he bringeth forth that which is worse. Having bidden you look there and tremble, and take heed to the warning, I shall then attempt to enter with you into the banquetting house of our beloved Lord and Master Jesus Christ, and of him we shall be able to say, as the governor of the feast said to the bridegroom, "Thou hast kept the good wine until now;" thy feasts grow better, and not worse: thy wines grow richer, thy viands are daintier far, and thy gifts more precious than before. "Thou hast kept the good wine until now."
I. First, we are to take a warning glance at the HOUSE OF FEASTING WHICH SATAN HATH BUILDED: for as wisdom hath builded her house, and hewn out her seven pillars, so hath folly its temple and its tavern of feasting, into which it continually tempts the unwary. Look within the banquetting house, and I will shew you four tables and the guests that sit thereat; and as you look at those tables you shall see the courses brought in. You shall see the wine cops brought, and you shall see them vanish one after another, and you shall mark that the rule holds good at all four tables—first the good wine, and afterwards that which is worse—yea, I shall go further—afterwards, that which is worst of all.
1. At the first table to which I shall invite your attention, though I beseech you never to sit down and drink thereat, sit the PROFLIGATE. The table of the profligate is a gay table; it is covered over with a gaudy crimson, and all the vessels upon it look exceedingly bright and glistening. Many there be that sit thereat, but they know not that they are the guests of hell, and that the end of all the feast shall be in the depths of perdition. See ye now the great governor of the feast, as he comes in? He has a bland smile upon his face; his garments are not black, but he is girded with a robe of many colours, he hath a honied word on his lip, and a tempting witchery in the sparkle of his eye. He brings in she cup, and says, "Hey, young man, drink hereat, it sparkleth in the cup, it moveth itself aright. Do you see it? It is the wine-cup of pleasure." This is the first cup at the banquetting house of Satan. The young man takes it, and sips the liquor. At first it is a cautious sip; it is but a little he will take, and then he will restrain himself. He does not intend to indulge much in lust, he means not to plunge headlong into perdition. There is a flower there on the edge of that cliff: he will reach forward a little and pluck it, but it is not his intention to dash himself from that beetling crag and destroy himself. Not he! He thinks it easy to put away the cup when he has tested its flavour! He has no design to abandon himself to its intoxication. He takes a shallow draught. But O how sweet it is! How it makes his blood tingle within him. What a fool I was, not to have tasted this before! he thinks. Was ever joy like this? Could it be thought that bodies could be capable of such ecstacy as this? He drinks again; this time he takes a deeper draught, and the wine is hot in his veins. Oh! how blest is he! What would he not say now in the praise of Bacchus, or Venus, or whatever shape Beelzebub chooses to assume? He becomes a very orator in praise of sin? It is fair, it is pleasant, the deep damnation of lust appeareth as joyous as the transports of heaven. He drinks, he drinks, he drinks again, till his brain begins to reel with the intoxication of his sinful delight. This is the first course. Drink, O ye drunkards of Ephraim, and bind the crown of pride about your head, and call us fools because we put your cup from us; drink with the harlot and sup with the lustful; ye may think yourselves wise for so doing, but we know that after these things there cometh something worse, for your vine is the vine of Sodom, and of the fields of Gomorrah, your grapes are grapes of gall, the clusters are bitter; your wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel venom of asps.
Now with a leer upon his brow, the subtle govenor of the feast riseth from his seat. His victim has had enough of the best wine. He takes away that cup, and he brings in another, not quite so sparkling. Look into the liquor; it is not beaded over with the sparkling bubbles of rapture; it is all flat, and dull, and insipid; it is called the cup of satiety. The man has had enough of pleasure, and like a dog he vomits, though like a dog he will return to his vomit yet again. Who hath woe? Who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine. I am now speaking figuratively of wine, as well as literally. The wine of lust bringeth the same redness of the eyes; the profligate soon discovers that all the rounds of pleasure end in satiety. "What!" says he, "What more can I do? There! I have committed every wickedness that can be imagined, and I have drained every cup of pleasure. Give me something fresh! I have tried the theatres all round: there! I don't care so much as one single farthing for them all. I have gone to every kind of pleasure that I can conceive. It is all over. Gaiety itself grows flat and dull. What am I to do?" And this is the devil's second course—the course of satiety—a fitful drowsiness, the result of the previous excess. Thousands there are who are drinking of the tasteless cup of satiety every day, and some novel invention whereby they may kill time, some new discovery whereby they may give a fresh vent to their iniquity would be a wonderful thing to them; and if some man should rise up who could find out for them some new fashion of wickedness, some deeper depths in the deeps of the nethermost hell of lasciviousness, they would bless his name, for having given them something fresh to excite them. That is the devil's second course. And do you see them partaking of it? Three are some of you that are having a deep draught of it this morning. You are the jaded horses of the fiend of lust, the disappointed followers of the will-o'-the-wisp of pleasure. God knows, if you were to speak your heart out you would be obliged to say, "There! I have tried pleasure, and I do not find it pleasure ; I have gone the round, and I am just like the blind horse at the mill, I have to go round again. I am spell-bound to the sin, but I cannot take delight in it now as I once did, for all the glory on it is as a fading flower, and as the hasty fruit before the summer.
Awhile the feaster remains in the putrid sea of his infatuation, but another scene is opening. The governor of the feast commandeth another liquor to be broached. This time the fiend bears a black goblet, and he presents it with eyes full of hell-fire, flashing with fierce damnation. "Drink of that, sir," says he, and the man sips it and starts back and shrieks, "O God! that ever I must come to this!" You must drink, sir! He that quaffs the first cup, must drink the second, and the third. Drink, though it be like fire down your throat! Drink it, though it be as the lava of Etna in your bowels! Drink! you must drink! He that sins must suffer; he that is a profligate in his youth must have rottenness in his bones, and disease within his loins. He who rebels against the laws of God, must reap the harvest in his own body here. Oh! there are some dreadful things that I might tell you of this third course. Satan's house has a front chamber full of everything that is enticing to the eye and bewitching to the sensual taste; but there is a back chamber, and no one knoweth, no one hath seen the whole of its horrors. There is a secret chamber, where he shovels out the creatures whom he hath himself destroyed—a chamber, beneath whose floor is the blazing of hell, and above whose boards the heat of that horrible pit is felt. It may be a physician's place rather than mine, to tell of the horrors that some have to suffer as the result of their iniquity. I leave that; but let me tell the profligate spendthrift, that the poverty which he will endure is the result of his sin of extravagant spendthriftcy; let him know, also, that the remorse of conscience that will overtake him is not an accidental thing that drops by chance from heaven,—it is the result of his own iniquity; for, depend upon it, men and brethren, sin carries an infant misery in its bowels, and sooner or later it must be delivered of its terrible child. If we sow the seed we must reap the harvest. Thus the law of hell's house stands—"first, the good wine, then, afterwards, that which is worse."
The last course remains to be presented. And now, ye strong men who mock at the warning, which I would fain deliver to you with a brother's voice and with an affectionate heart, though with rough language. Come ye here, and drink of this last cup. The sinner has at the end brought himself to the grave. His hopes and joys were like gold put into a bag full of holes, and they have all vanished—vanished for ever; and now he has come to the last; his sins haunt him, his transgressions perplex him; he is taken like a bull in a net, and how shall he escape. He dies, and descends from disease to damnation. Shall mortal language attempt to tell you the horrors of that last tremendous cup of which the profligate must drink, and drink for ever? Look at it: ye cannot see its depths, but cast an eye upon its seething surface, I hear the noise of rushing to and fro, and a sound as of gnashing of teeth and the wailing of despairing souls. I look into that cup, and I hear a voice coming up from its depths—"These shall go away into everlasting punishment;" for "Tophet is prepared of old, the pile thereof is wood and much smoke, the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, shall kindle it." And what say ye to this last course of Satan? "Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?" Profligate! I beseech thee, in the name of God, start from this table! Oh, be not so careless at thy cups; be not so asleep, secure in the peace which thou now enjoyest! Man! death is at the door, and at his heels is swift destruction. As for you, who as yet have been restrained by a careful father and the watchfulness of an anxious mother, I beseech you shun the house of sin and folly. Let the wise man's words be written on thine heart, and be thou mindful of them in the hour of temptation—"Remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house: for the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil: but her end is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on hell."
2. Do ye see that other table yonder in the middle of the palace? Ah! good easy souls! Many of you had thought that you never went to the feast of hell at all; but there is a table for you too; it is covered over with a fair white cloth, and all the vessels upon the table are most clean and comely. The wine looks not like the wine of Gomorrah, it moveth aright, like the wine from the grapes of Eshcol; it seems to have no intoxication in it; it is like the ancient wine which they pressed from the grape into the cup having in it no deadly poison. Do ye see the men who sit at this table? How self-contented they are! Ask the white fiends who wait at it, and they will tell you, "This is the table of the self-righteous: the Pharisee sits there. You may know him; he has his phylactery between his eyes; the hem of his garment is made exceeding broad; he is one of the best of the best professors." "Ah!" saith Satan, as he draws the curtain and shuts off the table where the profligates are carousing, "be quiet; don't make too much noise, lest these sanctimonious hypocrites should guess what company they are in. Those self-righteous people are my guests quite as much as you, and I have them quite as safely." So Satan, like an angel of light, brings forth a gilded goblet, looking like the chalice of the table of communion. And what wine is that? It seems to be the very wine of the sacred Eucharist; it is called the wine of self-satisfaction, and around the brim you may see the bubbles of pride. Look at the swelling froth upon the bowl—"God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican." You know that cup, my self-deceiving hearers; Oh that ye knew the deadly hemlock which is mixed therein. "Sin as other men do? Not you; not at all. You are not going to submit yourself to the righteousness of Christ: what need you? You are as good as your neighbours; if you are not saved, you ought to be, you think. Don't you pay everybody twenty-shillings in the pound? Did you ever rob anybody in your life? You do your neighbours a good turn; you are as good as other people." Very good! That is the first cup the devil gives, and the good wine makes you swell with self-important dignity, as its fumes enter your heart and puff it up with an accursed pride. Yes! I see you sitting in the room so cleanly swept and so neatly garnished, and I see the crowds of your admirers standing around the table, even many of God's own children, who say, "Oh that I were half as good as he." While the very humility of the righteous provides you with provender for your pride. Wait awhile, thou unctious hypocrite, wait awhile, for there is a second course to come. Satan looks with quite as self-satisfied an air upon his guests this time as he did upon the troop of rioters. "Ah!" says he, "I cheated those gay fellows with the cup of pleasure—I gave them, afterwards, the dull cup of satiety, and I have cheated you, too; you think yourselves all right, but I have deceived you twice, I have befooled you indeed." So he brings in a cup which, sometimes, he himself doth not like to serve. It is called the cup of discontent and unquietness of mind, and many there be that have to drink this after all their self-satisfaction. Do you not find, you that are very good in your own esteem, but have no interest in Christ, that when you sit alone and begin to turn over your accounts for eternity, that they do not square somehow—that you cannot strike the balance exactly to your own side after all, as you thought you could? Have not you sometimes found, that when you thought you were standing on a rock, there was a quivering beneath your feet? You heard the Christian sing boldly,—
"Bold shall I stand in that great day,
For who aught to my charge shall lay?
While, thro' thy blood, absolv'd I am
From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
And you have said, "Well, I cannot sing that, I have been as good a Churchman as ever lived, I never missed going to my church all these years, but I cannot say I have a solid confidence." You had once a hope of self-satisfaction; but now the second course has come in, and you are not quite so contented. "Well," says another, "I have been to my chapel, and I have been baptized, and made a profession of religion, though I was never brought to know the Lord in sincerity and in truth, and I once thought it was all well with me, but I want a something which I cannot find." Now comes a shaking in the heart. It is not quite so delightful as one supposed, to build on one's own righteousness. Ah! that is the second course. Wait awhile, and mayhap in this world, but certainly in the hour of death, the devil will bring in the third cup of dismay, at the discovery of your lost condition. How many a man who has been self-righteous all his life, has, at the last discovered that the thing whereon he placed his hope had failed him. I have heard of an army, who, being defeated in battle, endeavoured to make good a retreat. With all their might the soldiers fled to a certain river, where they expected to find a bridge across which they could retreat and be in safety. But when they came to the stream, there was heard a shriek of terror—"The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!" All in vain was that cry; for the multitude hurrying on behind, pressed upon those that were before and forced them into the river, until the stream was glutted with the bodies of drowned men. Such must be the fate of the self-righteous. You thought there was a bridge of ceremonies; that baptism, confirmation, and the Lord's Supper, made up the solid arches of a bridge of good works and duties. But when you come to die, there shall be heard the cry—"The bridge is broken, the bridge is broken!" It will be in vain for you to turn round then. Death is close behind you; he forces you onward, and you discover what it is to perish, through having neglected the great salvation, and attempting to save yourself through your own good works. This is the last course but one: and your last course of all, the worst wine, your everlasting portion must be the same as that of the profligate. Good as you thought yourself to be, inasmuch as you proudly rejected Christ, you must drink the winecup of the wrath of God; that cup which is full of trembling. The wicked of the earth shall wring out the dregs of that cup, and drink them; and you also must drink of it as deep as they. Oh, beware in time! Put away your high looks, and humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved. (Please click here to continue reading, "Satan's Banquet"