THE GOD WHO HAS MADE US TO DIFFER
by C.H. SPURGEON
“WHO MAKETH THEE TO DIFFER FROM ANOTHER?” [1Cor 4:7] – This question should be like a dagger put to the throat of our boasting;—” and “WHAT HAST THOU THAT THOU DIDST NOT RECEIVE;”—it would be like a sword thrust through the heart of our self-exaltation and pride.
We are now going to look at, not matters of providence, but the things of God’s grace. Here it is that we who are now assembled as a church have most reason to bless God, and to say, “WHO maketh us to differ from others?”
Take, my dear friends, in your mind’s eye the cases of the careless, the hardened, and the thoughtless, of even this present congregation. Side-by-side with you, my brother, there may sit a man, a woman, who is dead in trespasses and sins. To such the music of the gospel is like singing to a dead ear, and the dropping of the word is as dew upon a rock. There are many in this congregation whose position in society, and whose moral characters are extremely excellent, and yet before God their state is awful. They attend the house of God as regularly as we do. They sing as we sing, sit as we sit, and come and go as we do, and yet are they without God and without hope in the world—strangers from the commonwealth of Israel, and aliens from the covenant of promise.
Yet WHO maketh us to differ? Why is it that I this day am not sitting down a callous hearer, hardened under the gospel? Why am I not at this very hour hearing the Word with my outward ear but rejecting it in my inward heart? Why is it that I have not been suffered to reject the invitation of Christ to despise his grace—to go on, Sunday after Sunday, hearing the Word and yet being like the deaf adder to it?
Oh, HAVE I MADE MYSELF TO DIFFER? God forbid that such a proud, blaspheming thought should defile our hearts. No, beloved;
“‘Twas the same love which spread the feast,
That sweetly forced us in;
Else we had still refused to taste,
And perished in our sin.”
The only reason, my brother, why thou art at this time an heir of God, a joint-heir with Christ, a partaker of sweet fellowship with Jesus, an inheritor of the kingdom of heaven, is because HE hath made thee to differ. Thou wast an heir of wrath, even as others, born in sin and shapen in iniquity. Therefore must thou give all the glory to his holy name, and cry—”Not unto us, not unto us, but unto thy name be all the praise.” Even this one thought when fully masticated and digested might feed up our gratitude and make us humbly bow before the footstool of God’s throne with joyful thanksgiving.
How frightful is the sin of drunkenness, which degrades a man into a beast, which sinks him lower than the brutes themselves! How shameful is the iniquity of blasphemy, which without any object or any chance of profit brings a curse upon its own head! How awful are the ways of the lascivious wretch who ruins both body and soul at once, and not content with his own destruction ruins others with him. Cases that come under our observation in the daily newspapers, and that assail us in our daily observation and hearing are too vile to be told. How often is our blood chilled with the sound of an imprecation, and how frequently our heart is made to palpitate with the daring impieties of the blasphemous! Now let us stop; “WHO maketh thee to differ?”
LET US RECOLLECT THAT IF WE LIVE VERY NEAR TO CHRIST, WE SHOULD HAVE LIVED QUITE AS NEAR TO HELL IF IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR SAVING GRACE.
Some of you here present are special witnesses of this grace, for you have yourself experienced redemption from these iniquities. Look back some four years with some of you and recollect how different were your surroundings THEN to what they are NOW. Mayhap four years ago you were in the tap-room singing the song of the drunkard as readily as any; but a little while ago you cursed that Saviour whom now you love. Only a few months have flitted over your head since you ran with the multitude to do evil; but now, “WHO maketh thee to differ?” “WHO hath brought this miracle of grace. WHO has led you to the stool of the penitent and the table of communion, WHO hath done it? Beloved, you are not slow to answer, for the verdict of your heart is undivided; you do not give the glory in part to man and in part to God.
No, you cry loudly in your hearts, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, and ye have been washed in the Redeemer’s blood, and sanctified with the Spirit.
YE HAVE BEEN MADE TO DIFFER, AND YE WILL CONFESS IT; YE HAVE BEEN MADE TO DIFFER BY DISTINGUISHING GRACE, AND DISTINGUISHING GRACE ALONE.
And what upholds the rest of us from being what these my reclaimed brethren once were, and what they will become again unless saving grace keeps them? What preserves the preacher this day from being a lecturer to Infidels, dishonoring the grace of God which now he glories to magnify? What prevents the deacon from being an assistant in the courts of Satan? What forbids those who open the doors at the house of our God, and who serve him on the Sabbath-day, from being door-keepers in the tents of the sons of Belial? Why NOTHING; they had been there unless grace had prevented them. GRACE HATH DONE IT, AND NOTHING ELSE!
When we pass a prostitute in the street, we say, “O poor creature! I can pity you. I have not a harsh word for you, for I had been as you are had not God preserved me.” And when you see the reeling drunkard, be not too hasty to condemn, recollect you had been as a beast before God unless the Lord had kept you, and when ye hear the oath and shudder at it, imagine not that you are superior in yourself to the man who curses God, for perhaps you once cursed him too; and certainly you would have done had not the Holy Spirit sanctified you and implanted in you a hatred of that which the wicked so greedily follow. Have you seen a man hanged for murder? Have you seen another transported for the most infamous of crimes? If you hear of one who sins against society so foully that mankind excommunicate him, pause, and say, “Oh! but I should have gone as low as that, I should have been as black as he, unless restraining grace had kept me back in my unregeneracy, and unless constraining grace had pushed me forward in the heavenly race, ever since I have known the will of Jesus.”
CONSIDER BACKSLIDERS AND REMEMBER WHO IT IS THAT MAKES YOU TO DIFFER!
Some of those, who were once in the midst of God’s sanctuary, have become drunkards and whoremongers—and God in heaven only knows what. They have sinned against everything that is seemly, as well as everything that is holy. At the recollection of these our eyes are filled with tears. “Oh that our head were waters, and our eyes fountains of tears, that we might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of our people.” No mischief-makers are so powerful as deserters. None cause so much agony as those who have nestled beneath our wings, and then have flown away to feed with carrion vultures on the putrid carcasses of lust and sin.
But now let us pause. How is it that the minister has not forsaken his profession, and gone back like a dog to his vomit, and like the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire? How is it that the deacons of this church have not turned aside unto crooked ways, and denied the faith, and become worse than infidels? How is it that so many members of this church have been kept so that the wicked one toucheth them not? O beloved! I can say for myself, I am a continual miracle of divine grace. IF THOU LEAVE ME, LORD, FOR A MOMENT, I AM UTTERLY UNDONE.
Let Abraham be deserted by his God, he equivocates and denies his wife. Let Noah be deserted, he becomes a drunkard, and is naked to his shame. Let Lot be left awhile, and, filled with wine, he revels in incestuous embraces, and the fruit of his body becomes a testimony to his disgrace. Nay, let David, the man after God’s own heart, be left, and Uriah’s wife shall soon show the world that the man after God’s own heart hath still an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God. Oh! well doth the poet put it—
“Methinks I hear the Saviour say,
Wilt thou forsake me too?”
And now let our conscience answer:—
“Ah, Lord! with such a heart as mine,
Unless Thou hold me fast,
I feel I must, I shall decline
And prove like them at last.”
Oh be not rashly self-confident, Christian man. Be as confident as you can in your God, but be distrustful of yourself. Ye may yet become all that is vile and vicious, unless sovereign grace prevent and keep you to the end. But remember if you have been preserved, the crown of your keeping belongs to the Shepherd of lsrael, and ye know who that is. For he hath said “I the Lord do keep it. I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day.” “Ye know who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before his presence with exceeding great joy.”
Then give all glory to the King immortal, invisible, the only wise God your Saviour, who has kept you thus!
[The above are excerpts from C.H. Spurgeon’s sermon, ‘Distinguishing Grace’. Please make the time to read the full sermon available on spurgeon.org]