Jonah’s Doctrate earned in a strange College

Jonah’s Doctrate earned in a strange College

 C.H. SPURGEON

[A must read sermon for all of God’s Elect – M.J.]

 Jonah learned this sentence of good theology in a strange college. He learned it in the whale’s belly, at the bottom of the mountains, with the weeds wrapped about his head, when he supposed that the earth with her bars was about him forever.

Most of the grand truths of God have to be learned by trouble; they must be burned into us with the hot iron of affliction, otherwise we shall not truly receive them. No man is competent to judge in matters of the kingdom, until first he has been tried; since there are many things to be learned in the depths which we can never know in the heights. We discover many secrets in the caverns of the ocean, which, though we had soared to heaven, we never could have known.

He shall best meet the wants of God’s people as a preacher who has had those wants himself; he shall best comfort God’s Israel who has needed comfort; and he shall best preach salvation who has felt his own need of it. Jonah, when he was delivered from his great danger, when, by the command of God the fish had obediently left its great deeps and delivered its cargo upon dry land, was then capable of judging; and this was the result of his experience under his trouble—”Salvation is of the Lord.”

By salvation here we do not merely understand the special salvation which Jonah received from death; for according to Dr. Gill, there is something so special in the original, in the word salvation having one more letter than it usually has, when it only refers to some temporary deliverance, that we can only understand it here as relating to the great work of the salvation of the soul which endureth for ever. That “salvation is of the Lord,”

First, then, to begin by explanation, let us EXPOUND THIS DOCTRINE—the doctrine that salvation is of the Lord, or of Jehovah. We are to understand by this, that the whole of the work whereby men are saved from their natural estate of sin and ruin, and are translated into the kingdom of God and made heirs of eternal happiness, is of God, and of him only. “Salvation is of the Lord.”

To begin, then, at the beginning, THE PLAN OF SALVATION IS ENTIRELY OF GOD. No human intellect and no created intelligence assisted God in the planning of salvation; he contrived the way, even as he himself carried it out. The plan of salvation was devised before the existence of angels. Before the day-star flung its ray across the darkness, when as yet the unnavigated ether had not been fanned by the wing of seraph, and when the solemnity of silence had never been disturbed by the song of angel, God had devised a way whereby he might save man, whom he foresaw would fall. He did not create angels to consult with them; no, of himself he did it. We might truly ask the question, “With whom took he counsel? Who instructed him, when be planned the great architecture of the temple of mercy? With whom took he counsel when he digged the deeps of love, that out of them there might well up springs of salvation? Who aided him?” None.

He himself, alone, did it. In fact, if angels had then been in existence, they could not have assisted God; for I can well suppose that if a solemn conclave of those spirits had been held, if God had put to them this question, “Man will rebel; I declare I will punish; my justice, inflexible and severe, demands that I should do so; but yet I intend to have mercy;” if he had put the question to the celestial squadrons of mighty ones, “How can those things be? How can justice have its demands fulfilled, and how can mercy reign?” the angels would have sat in silence until now; they could not have dictated the plan; it would have surpassed angelic intellect to have conceived the way whereby righteousness and peace should meet together, and judgment and mercy should kiss each other. God devised it, because without God it could not have been devised. It is a plan too splendid to have been the product of any mind except of that mind which afterward carried it out. “Salvation” is older than creation; it is “of the Lord.”

And as it was of the Lord in planning so IT WAS OF THE LORD IN EXECUTION. No one has helped to provide salvation; God has done it all himself. The banquet of mercy is served up by one host; that host is he to whom the cattle on a thousand hills belong. But none have contributed any dainties to that royal banquet; he hath done it all himself. The royal bath of mercy, wherein black souls are washed, was filled from the veins of Jesus; not a drop was contributed by any other being. He died upon the cross, and as an expiator he died alone. No blood of martyrs mingled with that stream; no blood of noble confessors and of heroes of the cross entered into the river of atonement; that is filled from the veins of Christ, and from nowhere else beside. He hath done it wholly!

Atonement is the unaided work of Jesus. On yonder cross I see the man who “trod the winepress alone;” in yonder garden I see the solitary conqueror, who came to the fight single-handed, whose own arm brought salvation, and whose omnipotence sustained him. “Salvation is of the Lord,” as to its provisions; Jehovah—Father, Son, and Spirit—hath provided everything.

So far we are all agreed: but now we shall have to separate a bit. “Salvation is of the Lord” IN THE APPLICATION OF IT. “No,” says the ARMINIAN, “it is not; salvation is of the Lord, inasmuch as he does all for man that he can do; but there is something that man must do, which if he does not do, he must perish.” That is the ARMINIAN way of salvation.

Now last week I thought of this very theory of salvation, when I stood by the side of that window of Carisbrooke castle, out of which King Charles of unhappy and unrighteous memory, attempted to escape. I read in the guide book that everything was provided for his escape; his followers had means at the bottom of the wall to enable him to fly across the country, and on the coast they had their boats lying ready to take him to another land; in fact everything was ready for his escape. But here was the important circumstance: his friends had done all they could; he was to do the rest; but that doing the rest was just the point and brunt of the battle. It was to get out of the window, out of which he was not able to escape by any means, so that all his friends did for him went for nothing, so far as he was concerned. SO WITH THE SINNER.

If God had provided every means of escape, and only required him to get out of his dungeon, he would have remained there to all eternity. Why, is not the sinner by nature dead in sin? And if God requires him to make himself alive, and then afterward he will do the rest for him, then verily, my friends, we are not so much obliged to God as we had thought for; for if he require so much as that of us, and we can do it, we can do the rest without his assistance.

The Romanists have an extraordinary miracle of their own about St. Dennis, of whom they tell the lying legend that after his head was off be took it up in his hands and walked with it two thousand miles; whereupon, said a wit, “So far as the two thousand miles go, it is nothing at all; it is only the first step in which there is any difficulty.” So I believe, if that is taken, all the rest can be easily accomplished. And if God does require of the sinner—dead in sin—that he should take the first step, then he requireth just that which renders salvation as impossible under the gospel as ever it was under the law, seeing man is as unable to believe as he is to obey, and is just as much without power to come to Christ as he is without power to go to heaven without Christ. The power must be given to him of the Spirit. He lieth dead in sin; the Spirit must quicken him. He is bound hand and foot and fettered by transgression; the Spirit must cut his bonds, and then he will leap to liberty. God must come and dash the iron bars out of their sockets, and then he can escape from the window, and make good his escape afterward; but unless the first thing be done for him, he must perish as surely under the gospel as he would have done under the law.

I would cease to preach, if I believed that God, in the matter of salvation, required anything whatever of man which he himself had not also engaged to furnish. For how many have I frequently hanging upon my lips of the worst of characters—men whose lives have become so horribly bad, that the lip of morality would refuse to give a description of their character? When I enter my pulpit am I to believe that these men are to do something before God’s Spirit will operate upon them? If so, I should go there with a faint heart, feeling that I never could induce them to do the first part.

But now I come to my pulpit with a sure confidence—God the Holy Spirit will meet with these men this morning. They are as bad as they can be; he will put a new thought into their hearts; he will give them new wishes; he will give them new wills, and those who hated Christ will desire to love him; those who once loved sin will, by God’s divine Spirit, be made to hate it; and here is my confidence, that what they cannot do, in that they are weak through the flesh, God sending his Spirit into their hearts will do for them, and in them, and so they shall be saved.

Well then, says one, that will make people sit still and fold their arms. Sir, it shall not. But if men did so I could not help it; my business, as I have often said in this place before, is not to prove to you the reasonableness of any truth, nor to defend any truth from its consequences; all I do here, and I mean to keep to it, is just to assert the truth, because it is in the Bible; then, if you do not like it, you must settle the quarrel with my Master, and if you think it unreasonable, you must quarrel with the Bible. Let others defend Scripture and prove it to be true; they can do their work better than I could; mine is just the mere work of proclaiming.

I am the messenger; I tell the Master’s message; if you do not like the message, quarrel with the Bible, not with me; so long as I have Scripture on my side I will dare and defy you to do anything against me. “Salvation is of the Lord.” The Lord has to apply it, to make the unwilling willing, to make the ungodly godly, and bring the vile rebel to the feet of Jesus, or else salvation will never be accomplished. Leave that one thing undone, and you have broken the link of the chain, the very link which was just necessary to its integrity. Take away the fact that God begins the good work, and that he sends us what the old divines call preventing grace—take that away, and you have spoilt the whole of salvation; you have just taken the key-stone out of the arch, and down it tumbles. There is nothing left then.

And now on the next point we shall a little disagree again, “Salvation is of the Lord,” AS TO THE SUSTAINING OF THE WORK IN ANY MAN’S HEART. When a man is made a child of God he does not have a stock of grace given to him with which to go on forever, but he has grace for that day; and he must have grace for the next day, and grace for the next, and grace for the next, until days shall end, or else the beginning shall be of no avail. As a man does not make himself spiritually alive, so neither can he keep himself so. He can feed on spiritual food, and so preserve his spiritual strength; he can walk in the commandments of the Lord, and so enjoy rest and peace, but still the inner life is dependent upon the Spirit as much for its after existence as for its first begetting.

I do verily believe that if it should ever be my lot to put my foot upon the golden threshold of Paradise, and put this thumb upon the pearly latch, I should never cross the threshold unless I had grace given me to take that last step whereby I might enter heaven. No man of himself, even when converted, hath any power, except as that power is daily, constantly, and perpetually infused into him by the Spirit. But Christians often set up for independent gentlemen; they get a little stock of grace in hand, and they say, “My mountain standeth firm, I shall never be moved.” But ah! it is not long before the manna begins to be putrid. It was only meant to be the manna for the day, and we have kept it for the morrow, and therefore it fails us. We must have fresh grace.

“For day by day the manna fell;
O to learn that lesson well.”

So look day by day for fresh grace. Frequently too the Christian wants to have grace enough for a month vouchsafed to him in one moment. “O!” he says, “what a host of troubles I have coming—how shall I meet them all? O! that I had grace enough to bear me through them all! “My dear friends, you will have grace enough for your troubles, as they come one by one. “As thy days, so shall thy strength be;” but thy strength shall never be as thy months, or as thy weeks. Thou shalt have thy strength as thou hast thy bread. “Give us this day our daily bread.” Give us this day our daily grace. But why is it you will be troubling yourself about the things of tomorrow?

But, lastly, upon this point. THE ULTIMATE PERFECTION OF SALVATION IS OF THE LORD. Soon, soon, the saints of earth shall be saints in light; their hairs of snowy age shall be crowned with perpetual joy and everlasting youth; their eyes suffused with tears shall be made bright as stars, never to be clouded again by sorrow; their hearts that tremble now are to be made joyous and fast, and set for ever like pillars in the temple of God. Their follies, their burdens, their griefs, their woes, are soon to be over; sin is to be slain, corruption is to be removed, and a heaven of spotless purity and of unmingled peace is to be theirs forever. But it must still be by grace. As was the foundation such must the top-stone be; that which laid on earth the first beginning must lay in heaven the top-most stone. As they were redeemed from their filthy conversation by grace, so they must be redeemed from death and the grave by grace too, and they must enter heaven singing

“Salvation of the Lord alone;
Grace is a shoreless sea.”

THERE MAY BE ARMINIANS HERE, BUT THEY WILL NOT BE ARMINIANS THERE; they may here say, “It is of the will of the flesh,” but in heaven they shall not think so. Here they may ascribe some little to the creature; but there they shall cast their crowns at the Redeemer’s feet, and acknowledge that he did it all. Here they may sometimes look a little at themselves, and boast somewhat of their own strength; but there, “Not unto us, not unto us,” shall be sung with deeper sincerity and with more profound emphasis than they have even sung it here below.

In heaven, when grace shall have done its work, this truth shall stand out in blazing letters of gold, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

Read the full sermon – http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0131.htm

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GOD’S PEOPLE GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

GOD’S PEOPLE GO FROM STRENGTH TO STRENGTH

C.H. Spurgeon

“They go from strength to strength.” — Psalm 84:7

They go from strength to strength. There are various renderings of these words, but all of them contain the idea of progress. Our own good translation of the Authorized Version is enough for us this morning. “They go from strength to strength.” That is, they grow stronger and stronger. Usually, if we are walking, we go from strength to weakness; we start fresh and in good order for our journey, but by-and-by the road is rough, and the sun is hot, we sit down by the wayside, and then again painfully pursue our weary way.

But the Christian pilgrim having obtained fresh supplies of grace, is as vigorous after years of toilsome travel and struggle as when he first set out. He may not be quite so elate and buoyant, nor perhaps quite so hot and hasty in his zeal as he once was, but he is much stronger in all that constitutes real power, and travels, if more slowly, far more surely. Some gray-haired veterans have been as firm in their grasp of truth, and as zealous in diffusing it, as they were in their younger days; but, alas, it must be confessed it is often otherwise, for the love of many waxes cold and iniquity abounds, but this is their own sin and not the fault of the promise which still holds good: “The youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.” [Isaiah 40:31]

Fretful spirits sit down and trouble themselves about the future. “Alas!” say they, “we go from affliction to affliction.” Very true, O thou of little faith, but then thou goest from strength to strength also. Thou shalt never find a bundle of affliction which has not bound up in the midst of it sufficient grace. God will give the strength of ripe manhood with the burden allotted to full-grown shoulders.

ALL THINGS ORDAINED FOR THE SALVATION OF GOD’S ELECT

ALL THINGS ORDAINED FOR THE SALVATION OF GOD’S ELECT

 “Things that accompany Salvation.” [Hebrews 6:9]

 C.H. Spurgeon

 IN THE MARCHES OF TROOPS AND ARMIES, THERE ARE SOME THAT ARE OUTRIDERS, AND GO FAR AHEAD OF THE OTHER TROOPS. So in the march of Salvation, which have far preceded it to clear the way. I will tell you the names of these stupendous Titans who have gone before. The first is ELECTION, the second is PREDESTINATION, the third is REDEMPTION and the COVENANT is the captain of them all. Before Salvation came into this world, Election marched in the very forefront, and it had for its work the billeting of Salvation. Election went through the world and marked the houses to which Salvation should come and the hearts in which the treasure should be deposited. Election looked through all the race of man, from Adam down to the last, and marked with sacred stamp those for whom Salvation was designed. “He must needs go through Samaria,” said Election; and Salvation must go there.

Then came Predestination. Predestination did not merely mark the house, but it mapped the road in which Salvation should travel to that house, Predestination ordained every step of the great army of Salvation, it ordained the time when the sinner should be brought to Christ, the manner how he should be saved, the means that should be employed; it marked the exact hour and moment, when God the Spirit should quicken the dead in sin, and when peace and pardon should be spoken through the blood of Jesus. Predestination marked the way so completely, that Salvation doth never overstep the bounds, and it is never at a loss for the road. In the everlasting decree of the Sovereign God, the footsteps of Mercy were every one of them ordained. As nothing in this world revolves by chance—as even the foreknown station of a rush by the river is as fixed as the station of a king—it was not meet that Salvation should be left to chance; and therefore God has mapped the place where it should pitch its tent, the manner of its footsteps to that tent, and the time when it should arrive there.

Then came Redemption. The way was rough; and though Election had marked the house, and Predestination had mapped the road, the way was so impeded that Salvation could not travel it until it had been cleared. Forth came Redemption, it had but one weapon; that weapon was the all-victorious cross of Christ. There stood the mountains of our sins; Redemption smote them, and they split in halves and left a valley for the Lord’s redeemed to march through. There was the great gulf of God’s offended wrath; Redemption bridged it with the cross, and so left an everlasting passage by which the armies of the Lord may cross. Redemption has tunnelled every mountain; it has dried up every sea, cut down every forest; it has levelled every high hill, and filled up the valleys, so that the road of Salvation is now plain and simple. God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly.

Now, this sacred advance-guard carry for their banner the Eternal Covenant. Election, Predestination, and Redemption—the things that have gone before, beyond the sight, are all rallied to the battle by this standard—the Covenant, the Everlasting Covenant, ordered in all things and sure. We know and believe that before the morning star startled the shades of darkness, God had covenanted with his Son that he should die and pay a ransom price, and that, on God the Father’s part, he would give to Jesus “a number whom no man could number,” who should be purchased by his blood, and through that blood should be most securely saved. Now, when Election marches forward, it carries the Covenant. These are chosen in the Covenant of grace. When Predestination marcheth, and when it marketh out the way of Salvation, it proclaims the Covenant. “He marked out the places of the people according to the tribes of Israel.” And Redemption also, pointing to the precious blood of Christ, claims Salvation for the blood-bought ones, because the Covenant hath decreed it to be theirs.

Now, my dear hearers, this advance-guard is so far ahead that you and I cannot see them. These are true doctrines, but very mysterious; they are beyond our sight, and if we wish to see Salvation, we must not stop until we see the van-guard, because they are so far off that only the eye of faith can reach them. We must have that sacred glass, that divine telescope of faith, or else we shall never have the evidence of things not seen. Let us rest certain, however, that if we have Salvation we have Election. He that believeth is elected and whoever casts himself on Christ as a guilty sinner, is certainly God’s chosen child. As sure as ever you believe on the Saviour, and go to him, you were predestinated to do so from all eternity, and your faith is the great mark and evidence that you are chosen of God, and precious in his esteem.

Dost thou believe? Then Election is thine. Dost thou believe? Then Predestination is as surely thine as thou art alive. Dost thou trust alone in Jesus? Then fear not, Redemption was meant for thee. So then, we will not be struck with terror at that grand advance-guard that hath already gained the celestial hill, and have prepared the place where the elect shall for ever repose upon the bosom of their God.

But mark, we are about to review THE ARMY THAT IMMEDIATELY PRECEDES SALVATION; and first, in the forefront of these, there marches one whose name we must pronounce with sacred awe. It is God, the Holy Spirit. Before anything can be done in our salvation, there must come that Third Person of the Sacred Trinity. Without him, faith, repentance, humility, love, are things quite impossible. Even the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ cannot save until it has been applied to the heart by God the Holy Spirit. Before we notice the grand army, then, that immediately precedes Salvation, let us be cautious that we do not forget Him who is the leader of them all. The great King, Immortal, invisible, the Divine person, called the Holy Ghost, the Holy Spirit: it is he that quickens the soul, or else it would lie dead for ever; it is he that makes it tender, or else it would never feel, it is he that imparts efficacy to the Word preached, or else it could never reach further than the ear; it is he who breaks the heart, it is he who makes it whole: he, from first to last, is the great worker of Salvation in us just as Jesus Christ was the author of Salvation for us.

O soul, by this mayest thou know whether Salvation has come to thine house—art thou a partaker of the Holy Spirit? Come now, answer thou this question—hath he ever breathed on thee? Hath he ever breathed into thee? Canst thou say that thou hast been the subject of his supernatural influence? For, if not, remember except a man be born of the Spirit from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; only that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Thy best exertions will be all unavailing unless the Holy Ghost shall work in thee, to will and to do of God’s good pleasure.

The highest efforts of the flesh can never reach higher than the flesh, just as water of itself will never run higher than its source. You may be moral, you may be strictly upright, you may be much that is commendable, but unless you be partakers of the Holy Spirit, salvation is as impossible to you as it is even to the lost. We must be born again, and born again by that divine influence, or else it is all in vain. Remember, then, that the Spirit of God always accompanies Salvation.

TRAINING NEW DISCIPLES IN CHRIST

TRAINING NEW DISCIPLES IN CHRIST

C.H. Spurgeon

“Come, ye children, hearken unto me: and I will teach you the fear of the LORD!” [Psalm 34:11]

The best of the church are none too good for this work. Do not think because you have other service to do that therefore you should take no interest in this form of holy work, but kindly, according to your opportunities, stand ready to help the little ones, and to cheer those whose chief calling is to attend to them. To us all this message comes: “Feed My lambs!” To the minister, and to all who have any knowledge of the things of God, the commission is given. See to it that you look after the children that are in Christ Jesus. Peter was a LEADER among believers, YET HE MUST FEED THE LAMBS!

The LAMBS are the young of the flock. So, then, we ought to look specially and carefully after those who are YOUNG IN GRACE. They may be old in years, and yet they may be, mere babes in grace as to the LENGTH OF THEIR SPIRITUAL LIFE, and therefore they need to be under a good shepherd.

As soon as a person is converted and added to the church, he should become the object of the special care and kindness of his fellow-members. He has but newly come among us, and has no familiar friends among the saints, therefore let us all be friendly to him. Even should we leave our older comrades, we must be doubly kind towards those who are newly escaped from the world, and have come to find a refuge with the Almighty and His people. Watch with ceaseless care over those new-born babes who are strong in desires, but strong in nothing else. They have but just crept out of darkness, and their eyes can scarcely bear the light; let us be a shade to them until they grow accustomed to the blaze of gospel day.

Addict yourselves to the holy work of caring for the feeble and despondent. Peter himself that morning must have felt like a newly-enlisted soldier, for he had in a sense ended his public Christian life by denying his Lord, and he had begun it again when he “went out and wept bitterly.” He was now making a new confession of his faith before his Lord and his brethren, and, therefore, because he was thus made to sympathize with recruits, he is commissioned to act as a guardian to them. Young converts are too timid to ask our help, and so our Lord introduces them to us, and with an emphatic word of command He says, “Feed My lambs!” This shall be our reward: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these—you have done it unto Me!”

However young a believer may be, he should make an OPEN CONFESSION of his faith, and be folded with the rest of the flock of Christ. We are not among those who are suspicious of YOUTHFUL PIETY: we could never see more reason for such suspicions in the case of the young, than in the case of those who repent late in life. Of the two we think the latter are more to be questioned than the former: for a selfish FEAR OF PUNISHMENT and dread of death are more likely to produce a COUNTERFEIT FAITH than mere childishness would be. How much has the child missed—which might have spoiled it! How much it does not know—which we hope it never may know!

Oh, how much there is of brightness and trustfulness about children when converted to God which is not seen in elder converts! Our Lord Jesus evidently felt deep sympathy with children—and he is but little like Christ who looks upon them as a trouble, and treats them as if they must needs be either little deceivers or foolish simpletons. To you who teach in our schools is given this joyous privilege of finding out where these young disciples are, who are truly the lambs of Christ’s flock, and to you He says, “Feed My lambs!”; that is, instruct such as are truly gracious, but young in years.

It is very remarkable that the word used here for “feed My LAMBS” is very different from the word employed in the precept, “feed My SHEEP.” I will not trouble you with Greek words, but the second “feed” means exercise the office of a shepherd, rule, regulate, lead, manage them, do all that a shepherd has to do towards a flock; but this first feed does not include all that: it means distinctly FEED, and it directs teachers to a duty which they may perhaps, neglect—namely, that of INSTRUCTING children in the faith.

The lambs do not so much need keeping in order, as we do who know so much, and yet know so little: who think we are so far advanced that we judge one another, and contend and strive. Christian children mainly need to be taught the DOCTRINE, PRECEPT, and CHRISTIAN LIVING: they require to have Divine truth put before them clearly and forcibly. Why should the higher doctrines, the DOCTRINES OF GRACE, be kept back from them? They are not as some say, bones; or if they are bones—they are full of marrow, and covered with fatness! If there is any doctrine too difficult for a child, it is rather the fault of the teacher’s conveyance of it—than of the child’s power to receive it, provided that child is really converted to God. It is ours to make doctrine simple; this is to be a main part of our work. Teach the little ones the whole truth and nothing but the truth; for instruction is the great need of the child’s nature.

A child has not only to LIVE as you and I have—but also to grow; hence he has double need of food. When fathers say of their boys, “What appetites they have!” they should remember that we also would have great appetites if we had not only to keep the machinery going, but to ENLARGE it at the same time. Children in grace have to grow, rising to greater capacity in knowing, being, doing, and feeling, and to greater power from God; therefore above all things they must be FED. They must be WELL fed or instructed, because they are in danger of having their cravings perversely satisfied with error! Youth are susceptible to false doctrine.

Whether we teach young Christians truth or not, the DEVIL will be sure to teach them ERROR. They will hear of it somehow, even if they are watched by the most careful guardians. The only way to keep CHAFF out of the child’s little measure—is to fill it brimful with good WHEAT. Oh, that the Spirit of God may help us to do this! The more the young are taught the better; it will keep them from being misled!

TIME SPENT SHARPENING THE SWORD OF GOD’S WORD NEVER WASTED

TIME SPENT SHARPENING THE SWORD OF GOD’S WORD NEVER WASTED

C.H. Spurgeon

“Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and REST A WHILE.” [Mark 6:31]

What! When the people are fainting? When the multitudes are like sheep upon the mountains without a shepherd? Does Jesus talk of rest? When Scribes and Pharisees, like grievous wolves, are rending the flock, does he take his followers on an excursion into a quiet resting place? Does some red-hot zealot denounce such atrocious forgetfulness of present and pressing demands? Let him rave in his folly. The Master knows better than to exhaust his servants and quench the light of Israel.

REST TIME IS NOT WASTE TIME. It is economy to gather fresh strength. Look at the mower in the summer a day, with so much to cut down ere the sun sets. He pauses in his labour, is he a sluggard? He looks for his stone, and begins to draw it up and down his scythe, with “rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink—rink-a-tink.” Is that idle music? is he wasting precious moments? How much he might have mown while he has been ringing out those notes on his scythe! But he is sharpening his tool, and he will do far more when once again he gives his strength to those long sweeps which lay the grass prostrate in rows before him. Even thus a LITTLE PAUSE prepares the mind for GREATER SERVICE in the good cause.

Fishermen must mend their nets, and we must every now and then repair our mental waste and set our machinery in order for future service. To tug the oar from day to day, like a galley-slave who knows no holidays, suits not mortal men. Mill-streams go on and on forever, but we must have our pauses and our intervals. Who can help being out of breath when the race is continued without intermission? Even beasts of burden must be turned out to grass occasionally; the very sea pauses at ebb and flood; earth keeps the Sabbath of the wintry months; and man, even when exalted to be God’s ambassador, must rest or faint; must trim his lamp or let it burn low; must recruit his vigour or grow prematurely old.

It is wisdom to take occasional furlough. IN THE LONG RUN, WE SHALL DO MORE BY SOMETIMES DOING LESS. On, on, on forever, without recreation, may suit spirits emancipated from this “heavy clay,” but while we are in this tabernacle, we must every now and then cry halt, and serve the Lord by holy inaction and consecrated leisure. Let no tender conscience doubt the lawfulness of going out of harness for awhile, but learn from the experience of others the necessity and duty of taking timely rest.

“For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength!” [Isaiah 30:15]

JESUS THE TRUE FRIEND 

JESUS THE TRUE FRIEND

C.H. Spurgeon

“There is a Friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” [Prov 18:24]

We assert that CHRIST IS “A FRIEND THAT STICKETH CLOSER THAN A BROTHER.” And in order to prove this from facts, we appeal to such of you as have had him for a friend. Will you not, each of you, at once give your verdict, that this is neither more nor less than an unexaggerated truth? He loved you before all worlds; long ere the day star flung his ray across the darkness, before the wing of angel had flapped the unnavigated ether, before aught of creation had struggled from the womb of nothingness, God, even our God, had set his heart upon all his children. Since that time, has he once swerved, has he once turned aside, once changed? No; ye who have tasted of his love and know his grace, will bear me witness, that he has been a certain friend in uncertain circumstances.

“He, near your side hath always stood.
His loving-kindness. O! how good.”

You fell in Adam; did he cease to love you? No; he became the second Adam to redeem you. You sinned in practice, and brought upon your head the condemnation of God; you deserved his wrath and his utter anger; did he then forsake you? No!

“He saw you ruined in the fall,
Yet loved you notwithstanding all.”

He sent his minister after you; you despised him; he preached the gospel in your ears; you laughed at him; you broke God’s Sabbath, you despised his Word. Did he then forsake you? No!

“Determined to save, he watched o’er your path,
Whilst, Satan’s blind slave, you sported with death.”

And at last he arrested you by his grace, he humbled you, he made you penitent, he brought you to his feet, and he forgave you all your sins. Since then, has he left you? You have often left him; has he ever left you? You have had many trials and troubles; has he ever deserted you? Has he ever turned away his heart, and shut up his bowels of compassion? No, children of God, it is your solemn duty to say “No,” and bear witness to his faithfulness. You have been in severe afflictions and in dangerous circumstances; did your friend desert you then?

Others have been faithless to you; he that eat bread with you has lifted up his heel against you; but has Christ ever forsaken you? Has there ever been a moment when you could go to him, and say, “Master, thou hast betrayed me?” Could you once, in the blackest hour of your grief, dare to impugn his fidelity? Could you dare to say of him, “Lord, thou hast promised what thou didst not perform?” Will you not bear witness now, “Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord God hath promised; all hath come to pass?”

And do you fear he will yet forsake you? Ask, then, the bright ones before the throne—”Ye glorified spirits! did Christ forsake you? Ye have passed through Jordan’s stream; did he leave you there? Ye have been baptized in the black flood of death; did he there forsake you? Ye have stood before the throne of God; did he then deny you?” And they answered, “No; through all the troubles of our life, in all the bitterness of death, in all the agonies of our expiring moments, and in all the terrors of God’s judgment, he hath been with us, ‘a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.'” Out of all the millions of God’s redeemed, there is not one he hath forsaken. Poor they have been, mean and distressed, but he hath never abhorred their prayer, never turned aside from doing them good. He hath been ever with them.

“For his mercy shall endure,
Ever faithful, ever sure.”

But I shall not longer stay, since I cannot prove this to the ungodly, and to the godly it is already proven, for they know it by experience; therefore it is but little necessary that I should do more than just certify the fact that Christ is a faithful friend – a friend in every hour of need and every time of distress.

THE BEGINNING, INCREASE AND END OF THE CHRISTIAN’S PILGRIMAGE

THE BEGINNING, INCREASE AND END OF THE CHRISTIAN’S PILGRIMAGE

C.H. Spurgeon

(A comforting sermon for all of God’s Elect who are vexed with fears and disquieted with doubts)

“Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” [Job 8:7]

We have here a great principle—a principle against which none can ever contend. The beginning of the godly and the upright man may be but very small, but his latter end shall greatly increase. Evil things may seem to begin well, but they end badly; there is the flash and the glare, but afterwards the darkness and the black ash. They promise fairly: their sun rises in the zenith, and then speedily sets, never to rise again. Evil things begin as mountains; they end as mole-hills. You sail upon their ocean at first, and as you sail onward it shrinks into a river, and afterwards into a dry bed, if not into burning sands. Ay, the path of evil is down hill, from its sunny summits, to its dark ravines—from the loftiness, which it assumes when it professes to be a cherub, to that lowliness in which it finds itself to be a fiend. Evil goeth downward; it hath its great things first, and then its terrible things last.

No so, however, with good. With good the beginning is even small; but its latter end doth greatly increase. “The path of the just is as the shining light,” which sheds a few flickering rays at first, which exercises a combat with the darkness, but it “shineth more and more unto the perfect day.” [Prov 4:18]

The principle, then, upon which I have to speak this morning, is this,—that though the beginnings of good things are small, yet their latter end shall greatly increase. Instead, however, of dealing with this as a mere doctrine, I propose to use it practically; assume the fact, and then make a practical use of it. Three ends shall I hope to serve—first, TO QUIET THE FEARS OF THOSE WHO ARE BUT BEGINNERS IN GRACE; SECONDLY, TO CONFIRM THEIR FAITH; AND, THIRDLY, TO QUICKEN THEIR DILIGENCE.

First, then, for THE QUIETING OF YOUR FEARS. Perhaps thy first fear, if I put it into words, is this:—”My beginning is so small that I cannot tell when it did begin, and therefore, methinks I cannot have been converted, but am still in the gall of bitterness.” O beloved! How many thousands like thyself have been exercised with doubts upon this point! They were not converted in an instant; they were not stricken down as in the Revivals; they were not nerved with terrible alarms, such as John Bunyan describeth in his “Grace Abounding;” but they were called of God, as was Lydia, by a still small voice.

Their hearts were gradually and happily opened to receive the truth; it was not as if a tornado or a hurricane rushed through their spirits; but a soft zephyr below, and they lived and came to God. And you doubt, do you, because from this very reason you cannot tell WHEN you were generated; it is but necessary for you to know that YOU ARE SO. If thou canst set no date to the BEGINNING of thy faith, yet if thou dost believe NOW, thou art saved. If in thy diary there stands no red-letter day in which thy sins were pardoned, and thy soul accepted, yet if thy trust be in Jesus only, this very day thou art pardoned, and thou art accepted, despite thy ignorance of the time when.

God’s promises bear no date; our notes are dated because there is a time when they run due, and we are apt to forget them; God’s promises bear none, and his gifts sometimes do not bear any. If thou art saved—though the date be erased—yet do thou rejoice and triumph evermore in the Lord thy God.

True, there are some of us who can remember the precise spot where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes looked to the cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus know not when they were brought in; be it enough for them to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them lie down beside the still waters for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour. Whether they came in youth or in old age, it matters not; all times are acceptable with God, “and whosoever cometh,” come he when he may, “he will in no wise cast out.”

Another doubt also arises from this point. “Ah! sir,” saith a timid Christian, “it is not merely the absence of all date to my conversion, but the extreme weakness of the grace I have.” “Ah,” saith one, “I sometimes think I have a little faith, but it is so mingled with unbelief, distrust, and incredulity, that I can hardly think it is God’s gift, the faith of God’s elect. I hope sometimes I have a little love, but it is such a beginning, such a mere spark, that I cannot think it is the love which God the Holy Spirit breathes into the soul; my beginning is so exceeding small, that I have to look, and look, and look again, at times, before I can discern it for myself. If I have faith, it is but as a grain of mustard seed, and I fear it will never be that goodly tree, in the midst of whose branches the birds of the air might rest.”

Courage, my brother, courage; however small the beginnings of grace, they are such beginnings that they shall have a glorious end. WHEN GOD BEGINS TO BUILD, IF HE LAY BUT ONE SINGLE STONE HE WILL FINISH THE STRUCTURE; when Christ sits down to weave, though he casts the shuttle but once, and that time the thread was so filmy as scarcely to be discernable, he will nevertheless continue till the piece is finished, and the whole is wrought. If thy faith be never so little, yet it is immortal, and that immortality may well compensate for its littleness. A spark of grace is a spark of Deity—as soon may Deity be quenched as to quench grace—that grace within thy soul given thee of the Spirit shall continue to burn, and he who gave it shall fan it with his own soft breath, for “he will not quench the smoking flax;” he will bring it to a fire, and afterwards to a furnace, till thy faith shall attain to the full assurance of understanding.

Oh! Let not the littleness of God’s beginnings stagger you. Who would think, if he stood at the source of the Thames, that it would ever be such a river as it is—making this city rich? So little is it that a child might stop it with his hand, and but a handful of miry clay might dam its course, but there it rolls a mighty river that man cannot stop. And so shall it be with thee; thy faith is so little that it seems not to exist at all, and thy love so faint that it can scarcely be called love, but thy latter end shall greatly increase, till thou shalt become strong and do exploits; the babe shall become a giant; and he that stumbled at every straw shall move mountains, and make the very hills to shake.

Having thus spoken upon two fears, which are the result of these small beginnings, let me now try to quiet another. “Ah!” saith the heir of heaven, “I do hope that in me grace hath commenced its work, but my fear is, that such frail faith as mine will never stand the test of years. I am,” saith he, “so weak, that one temptation would be too much for me; how then can I hope to pass through yonder forest of spears held in the hands of valiant enemies? A drop makes me tremble, how shall I stem the roaring flood of life and death? Let but one arrow fly from hell it penetrates my tender flesh; what then if Satan shall empty his quiver? I shall surely fall by the hand of the enemy. My beginnings are so small that I am certain they will soon come to their end, and that end must be black despair.”

Be of good courage, brother, have done with that fear once for all; it is true, as thou sayest, the temptation will be too much for THEE, but what hast THOU to do with it? Heaven is not to be won by THY might, but by the might of HIM who has promised heaven to thee; thy crown of life is to be obtained, not by THY ARM, but by THAT ARM which now holds it out, and bids thee run towards it. If thy perseverance rested upon thyself thou couldst not persevere an hour; if spiritual life depended on itself it would be like the shooting-star, which makes a shining trail for a moment and then is gone; but thanks be unto God, it is written—”Because I live, ye shall live also.” “For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.”

“The feeblest saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way,”

because that feeble saint is girded with Jehovah’s strength.

Thus have I dealt with a third fear. Let me seek to quiet and pacify one other fear. “Nay, but,” say you, “I never can be saved; for when I look at other people, at God’s own true children,—I am ashamed to say it,—I am but a miserable copy of them. So far from attaining to the image of my Master, I fear I am not even like my Master’s servants. Look at such-an-one, how he preaches the truth with power, what fluency he has in prayer, what service he undertakes! But I—I am such a beginner in grace, that –

‘Hosannas languish on my tongue,
And my devotion dies.’

I live at a poor dying rate. I sometimes run, but oftener creep, and seldom or ever fly. Where others are shaking mountains, I am stumbling over mole-hills. The saints seem to bestride this narrow world like some great colossus, but I walk under their huge legs, and peep about, to find myself a poor dishonoured slave. I have no power, no strength, no might.”

Pause, brother, pause; stop thy murmuring for a moment. If some little star in the sky should declare it was not a star, because it did not shine as brightly as Sirius or Arcturus, how foolish would be its argument! If the moon should insist upon it that she was never made by God, because she could not shine as brightly as the sun, fie on her pale face, that she cannot be content to be what her Lord hath made her! If the nettle would not bloom, because it was not a pine, and if the hyssop on the wall refused to grow, because it was not a cedar, oh! What dislocation would there be in the noble frame of this universe! If these murmurings that vex us vexed the whole of God’s creatures, then were this earth a howling wilderness indeed.

Now, let me talk to thee a moment, to calm thy fears. Hast thou, my brother, ever learned to distinguish between grace and gifts? For know that they are marvellously dissimilar. A man may be saved who has not a grain of gifts; but NO MAN CAN BE SAVED WHO HATH NO GRACE. Yonder brother who prayed, yonder friend who preaches, yonder sister who spoke—all these perhaps acted so well, because God had given them excellent gifts. It might not be that it was because of grace. When you are in the prayer-meeting, and hear a brother extremely fluent, remember that there are men quite as fluent about their daily business, and that FLUENCY IS NOT FERVENCY, and that even the appearance of fervency is not absolutely an evidence that there is fervency in the soul. If thou art so mean a thing that thou canst not spell a word in any book, or put six words together grammatically, if thou canst offer no prayer in public, if thou art so poor a scholar that every fool is wiser than thou art, yet if thou hast grace in thy heart, thou art saved, and that is the matter in point just now, whether thou art saved or not.

“Covet earnestly the BEST gifts;” but still, sit not down and murmur because thou hast them not, for ONE GRAIN OF GRACE OUTWEIGHS A POUND OF GIFTS; one particle of grace is far more precious than all the gifts that Byron ever had, or that Shakespeare ever possessed within his soul, vast and almost infinite though the gifts of those men certainly were.

And yet another question would I put to you. My dear brother, have you ever learned to distinguish between grace that saves, and the grace which develops itself afterwards? Remember, there are some graces that are absolutely necessary to the saving of the soul; there are some others that are only necessary to its comfort.

Faith, for instance, is absolutely necessary for salvation; but assurance is not. Love is indispensible; but that high degree of love which induces the martyr’s spirit, does not reign in the breast of ever one, even of those who are saved. The possession of grace in some degree is needful to salvation; but the possession of grace in the highest degree, though it be extremely desirable, is not absolutely necessary for an entrance into heaven.

Bethink thee, then, thus to thyself, if I be the meanest lamb in Jesus’ fold, I would be happy to think that I am in the flock; if I be the smallest babe in Jesus’ family, I will bless his name to think that I have a portion among the sanctified. If I be the smallest jewel in the Saviour’s crown, I will glisten and shine as best I can, to the praise of him that bought me with his blood. If I cannot make such swelling music in the orchestra of heaven as the pealing organ may, then will I be but as a bruised reed, which may emit some faint melody. If I cannot be the beacon fire that scares a continent, and throws its light across the deep, I will seek to be the glow-worm that may at least let the weary traveller know something of its whereabouts.

O Christians! Ye that have but little beginnings, quiet your fears; for these little beginnings, if they be of God, will save your soul, and you may in this rejoice, yes, rejoice exceedingly.

[ Read the full sermon – http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0311.htm ]

BESIDE THE STILL WATERS [Psalm 23:2]

BESIDE THE STILL WATERS [Psalm 23:2]

C.H. Spurgeon

What are these “STILL WATERS” but the influences and graces of his blessed Spirit? His Spirit attends us in various operations, like waters in the plural — to cleanse, to refresh, to fertilize, and to cherish.

They are “STILL waters,” for the Holy Ghost loves peace, and sounds no trumpet of ostentation in his operations. He may flow into our soul, but not into our neighbor’s, and therefore our neighbor may not perceive the divine presence; and though the blessed Spirit may be pouring His floods into one heart, yet he that sitteth next to the favored one may know nothing of it. “IN SACRED SILENCE OF THE MIND MY HEAVEN, AND THERE MY GOD I FIND.”

Still waters run deep. Nothing more noisy than an empty drum. That silence is golden indeed in which the Holy Spirit meets with the souls of His saints. Not to raging waves of strife, but to peaceful streams of holy love does the Spirit of God conduct the chosen sheep. He is a dove, not an eagle; the dew, not the hurricane. Our Lord leads us beside these “STILL WATERS;” we could not go there of ourselves, we need his guidance, therefore it is said, “HE LEADETH ME.” He does not drive us.Moses drives us by the law, but Jesus leads us by His example, and the gentle drawings of his love.

“HE RESTORETH MY SOUL.” When the soul grows sorrowful he revives it; when it is sinful he sanctifies it; when it is weak he strengthens it. “He” does it. His ministers could not: do it if he did not. His Word would not avail by itself. “He restoreth my soul.” Are any of us low in grace? Do we feel that our spirituality is at its lowest ebb? He who turns the ebb into the flood can soon restore our soul. Pray to Him, then, for the blessing “Restore Thou me, thou Shepherd of my soul.”

“HE LEADETH ME IN THE PATHS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS FOR HIS NAME’S SAKE.” The Christian delights to be obedient, but it is the obedience of love, to which he is constrained by the example of his Master. “He LEADETH me.” The Christian is not obedient to some commandments and neglectful of others; he does not pick and choose, but yields too all. Observe, that the plural is used — “the PATHS of righteousness.” Whatever God may give us to do we would do it, led by His love.

THE GOD WHO FEEDS HIS PEOPLE

THE GOD WHO FEEDS HIS PEOPLE

C.H. Spurgeon

The old man’s voice faltered as he said, “The God which fed me all my life long.” The translation would be better if it ran, “The God which shepherded me all my life long.”

He spoke of the Lord as his Shepherd. Jacob had been a shepherd and, therefore, he knew what shepherding included—the figure is full of meaning. There had been a good deal of Jacob about Jacob and he had tried to shepherd himself. Poor sheep that he was, while under his own guidance he had been caught in many thorns and had wandered in many wildernesses. Because he would be so much a shepherd to himself, he had been hard put to it. But over all, despite his wilfulness, the shepherding of the Covenant God had been exercised towards him and he acknowledged it.

O dear saints of God, you to whom years are being multiplied, give praise to your God for having been your Shepherd! You delight in the 23rd Psalm—sing it sometimes with variations by using the past tense—”The Lord has been my Shepherd and I have known no need. He has made me to lie down in green pastures; He has led me beside the still waters. Yes, though I have walked through the valley of the shadow of death in times of great darkness, yet I have feared no evil: for He has been with me, His rod and His staff have comforted me.” Bear your witness to the shepherding of God, for this may lead others to become the sheep of His pasture.

This shepherding had been perfect. Our version rightly says that the Lord had fed Jacob all his life long. Take that sense of it and you who have a daily struggle for subsistence will see much beauty in it. Jacob had a large family and yet they were fed. Some of you say, “It is all very well of you to talk of Providence when you have few to provide for.” I answer, it is better, still, to talk of Providence where a large household requires large provision! Remember Jacob had 13 children, yet his God provided them bread to eat and clothes to put on. None of that large company were left to starve.

You think, perhaps, that Jacob was a man of large estate. He was not so when he began life. He was only a working man—a shepherd. When he left his father’s house he had no attendants with camels and tents. I suppose he carried his little bit of provision in a handkerchief and when he laid down that night to sleep, with a stone for his pillow, the hedges for curtains, the heavens for his canopy, and the earth for his bed, he had no fear of being robbed.

God was with him, but apart from that, he had nothing to begin life with but his own hands. Whatever he received from his father Isaac afterwards, he had at first to fight his own way—but he knew no lack either at the beginning or at the end, for he could speak of the great Elohim as, “the God which fed me all my life long.” Hundreds of us can say the same! I remember one who came to be wealthy who used to show me with great pleasure the tree axle of the truck in which he used to wheel his goods through the streets when he began in business—I liked to see him mindful of his original.

Mind you do not go and say, “See how I have got on by my own talents and industry!” Talk not so proudly, but say, “GOD HAS FED ME.” Mercies are all the sweeter when seen to come from the hand of God.
But besides being FED, Jacob had been LED, even as sheep are guided by the shepherd who goes before them. His journeys, for that period, had been unusually long, perilous and frequent. He had fled from home to Padanaram. After long years he had come back to Canaan and had met his brother, Esau. And after that, in his old age he had journeyed into Egypt. To go to California or New Zealand in these times is nothing at all compared to those journeys in Jacob’s day! But he says, “God has shepherded me all my life long” and he means that the great changes of his life had been wisely ordered. At home and in exile, in Canaan and in Goshen, God had been a shepherd to him. He sees the good hand of God upon him in all his wanderings, until he now finds himself sitting up on his bed and blessing Joseph through his sons.

Oh that the Holy Spirit may make you feel that you need God with you with wealth as much as your fathers needed God without wealth! You may yet come to beggary with all your inheritance if you cast off the fear of the Lord and fall into sin. You who begin life with nothing but your own brains and hands, trusting in your father’s God, shall yet have to sing as your fathers sang, “the God which fed me all my life long.”

Young men and young women beginning life, I charge you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! It is not life to live without God—you miss the kernel, the cream, the crown of life if you miss the Presence of God! Life is but a bubble blown up of toil and trouble without God! Life ends in blighted hope if you have not hope in God. But with God you are as a sheep with a Shepherd—cared for, guided, guarded, fed, led—and your end shall be peace without end!

DON’T JUST READ BUT SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

DON’T JUST READ BUT SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES

C.H. Spurgeon

“Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me” [John 5:39]

The Greek word here rendered ‘search’ signifies a strict, close, diligent, curious search, such as men make when they are seeking gold, or hunters when they are in earnest after game. We must not rest content with having given a superficial reading to a chapter or two, but with the candle of the Spirit we must deliberately seek out the hidden meaning of the word. Holy Scripture requires searching-much of it can only be learned by careful study.

There is milk for babes, but also meat for strong men. The rabbis wisely say that a mountain of matter hangs upon every word, yea, upon every title of Scripture. Tertullian exclaims, “I adore the fulness of the Scriptures.” No man who merely skims the book of God can profit thereby; we must dig and mine until we obtain the hid treasure. The door of the word only opens to the key of diligence. The Scriptures claim searching. They are the writings of God, bearing the divine stamp and imprimatur- who shall dare to treat them with levity?

He who despises them despises the God who wrote them. God forbid that any of us should leave our Bibles to become swift witnesses against us in the great day of account. The word of God will repay searching. God does not bid us sift a mountain of chaff with here and there a grain of wheat in it, but the Bible is winnowed corn-we have but to open the granary door and find it. Scripture grows upon the student. It is full of surprises. Under the teaching of the Holy Spirit, to the searching eye it glows with splendour of revelation, like a vast temple paved with wrought gold, and roofed with rubies, emeralds, and all manner of gems.

No merchandise like the merchandise of Scripture truth. Lastly, the Scriptures reveal Jesus: “They are they which testify of Me.” No more powerful motive can be urged upon Bible readers than this: he who finds Jesus finds life, heaven, all things. Happy he who, searching his Bible, discovers his Saviour.