DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, JANUARY 20TH, 1867, BY
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON. ___________
“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”—John xiv. 1.
THE disciples had been like lambs, carried in the warm bosom of a loving Shepherd. They were now about to be left by him, and would hear the howlings of the wolves, and endure the terrors of the snowstorm. They had been like tender plants conserved in a hot-house, a warm and genial atmosphere had always surrounded them; they were now to endure the wintry world with its nipping frosts, and so it was to be proven whether or not they had an inward vitality which could exist when outward protections were withdrawn. Their Master, their head, was to be taken from them; well might they cry with Elisha, “My Father, my Father, the chariot of Israel and the horsemen thereof”! We too, dear friends, though we have not enjoyed perhaps so entire an immunity as did the apostles, were at one time very graciously shielded from trouble; we had a summer time of joy and an autumn of peace, far other than this present winter of our discontent. It frequently happens that after conversion God, who tempers the wind to the shorn lamb, gives to the weaklings of the flock a period of repose, during which they rejoice with David, “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters;” but for all of us there will come a time of trouble similar to that sorrowful occasion which led the Saviour to utter these memorable heart-cheering words. If our conscious communion with Jesus should not be interrupted, yet some other form of tribulation awaits us, for the testimony of earth’s poet, that “man is made to mourn,” is well borne out by the inspired declaration, “man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upwards.” We must not expect that we shall be exceptions to the general lot of our race; there is no discharge in this war, we must all be conscripts in the armies of grief. We too shall do battle with strong temptations and feel the wounds of adversity. Albeit that yonder bark so lately launched upon a glassy sea has all her streamers flying, and rejoices in a favourable wind, let her captain remember that the sea is treacherous, that winds are variable, and that the stoutest vessel may find it more than difficult to outride a hurricane. I rejoice to see the courage of that young man who has but just joined the army of the church militant, and is buckling on the glittering armour of the faith; as yet there are no dents and bruises on that fair casque and burnished breastplate, but let the wearer reckon upon blows, and bruises, and blood-stains; nay, let him rejoice if he endure hardness as a good soldier, for without the fight where would be the victory? Brethren in our Lord Jesus, without due trial where would be our experience, and without the experience where would be the holy increase of our faith, and the joyful triumph of our love through the manifested power of Christ? We must expect, then, to walk with our Lord to the gates of Gethsemane, both his and ours; we must expect to cross the Brook Kedron in company with our Master, and it will be well if we hear him say to us as he did to his disciples on that eventful night, “Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
My brethren, some of us live at this hour in the midst of trouble. We do not remember any period more dark with portents of evil than the present watch of earth’s long night. Few events have occurred of late to cheer the general gloom. Our hopeful spirit has been accustomed to say, that all things considered, there are no times like the times present; query, whether any times have been more vexatious and troublesome, than those which just now are passing over our head. The political atmosphere is far from being clear, nay, it is thick and heavy with death-damps of mutual distrust, which bring no increase to England’s greatness, but greatly the reverse. There are those who think that our trade, especially in its more speculative department, has become thoroughly rotten; and one thing is quite certain, that many well-known infamous transactions have sapped the foundations of credit, and stained our national honour. Is all England bankrupt, and our wealth a sham? Let us hope not. But who can see without alarm the great portion of our trade which is going from us through the folly of the many who combine to regulate what ought to be left perfectly free? If our trade continues much longer to depart from us, we shall become a generation of beggars, who will deserve no pity because we brought our poverty upon ourselves. There are, we fear, dark days coming upon this land; in fact, the dark days are come: for no year of the last twenty has there been, brethren, such deep and wide-spread distress in London as at the present moment. I am far from endorsing all the fears of the timid, yet I do see much ground for pleading earnestly with God to send to our rulers political wisdom to end the bitter disputes of class with class, and to our whole nation grace to repent of its many sins that the chastening rod may be withdrawn.
Apart from these, we have each a share of home-trials. Is there one here who is happy enough wholly to escape from the troubles of the hearth? Some have the wolf at the door, shortness of bread just now is felt in the houses of many a Christian; some of you are compelled to eat your bread with carefulness, and go to your God in the morning and ask him to provide for you your daily food, and repeat that prayer with more meaning than usual, for just now God is making us to feel that he can break the staff of bread and send a famine in the land, if so he wills it. Many who are not altogether poor are, nevertheless, in sorrow, for reverses in business have, during the last few months, brought the affairs of many of the Lord’s people into a very perilous state, so that they cannot but be troubled in spirit. Vexations abound and many a path is strewn with thorns. If this is not the shape of our trouble, sickness may be raging, penury has entered. Beyond all these there may be afflictions which it were not well to mention—griefs which must be carried by the mother alone, trials which the father alone must bear, or sorrows in which none but the daughter can share. We all have our omer full of trials, day by day this bitter manna falls around the camp.
Trials arising from the church of God are many, and we add, that to the genuine Christian they are as heavy as any which he has to bear. I am sure, to those of us who have to look upon the church with the anxious eye of loving shepherds, to those of us who are set by God for the guidance and rule of his people, there are troubles enough, and more than enough, to bow us to the earth. In the best-ordered church, such as this is and long has been, it must needs be that offences come. Sometimes it is a jealousy between brethren; at another time a strife between sisters; sometimes it is this one who has fallen into gross sin (God forgive these, who have pierced us through with many sorrows!) and another time it is a gradual backsliding which the pastor can detect, but which the subject of it cannot discern. Sometimes it is a heresy, which, springing up, troubles us; at another time it is a slander, which, like a deadly serpent, creeps through the grass. I have had little enough to complain of in these respects, but still such things are with us, even with us, and we must not count them strange, as though some strange thing had happened to us. While men are imperfect there will be sins among the best of them, which will cause sorrow both to themselves and to those of the Lord’s people who are in fellowship with them.
Worst of all are soul troubles. God save you from these. Oh the grief of being conscious of having fallen from high places of enjoyment, conscious of having wasted opportunities for eminent usefulness, conscious of having been lax in prayer, of having been negligent in study, of having been—alas! that we should have to add it—unguarded in word and act! Ah! friends, when the soul feels all this, and cannot get to the blood of sprinkling as it would, cannot return to the light of God’s countenance as it would desire, it is trouble indeed! It is terrible to be compelled to sit and sing
“Where is the blessedness I knew, When first I saw the Lord? Where is the soul-refreshing view Of Jesus and his Word?”
But my tale is all too long. It is clear that this mortal life has troubles enough. Suppose that these should meet, and that the man as a patriot is oppressed with the ills of his country, as a father and a husband is depressed with the cares of home, as a Christian afflicted with the troubles in the church, and as a saint made to walk heavily before the Lord because of inward afflictions: “why then he is in a sorry plight,” you say. Indeed he is; but, blessed be God, he is in a plight in which the words of the text are still applicable to him. “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.”
Ceasing from this dolorous prelude, let us observe, that the advice of the text is very timely and wise; and, secondly, let us notice that the advice of the text is practicable; it is not given us to mock us, we must seek to carry it out; and lastly, and perhaps that last may yield us good cheer, the advice of the text is very precious.
I. FIRST, then, THE ADVICE OF THE TEXT IS VERY TIMELY AND WISE.
There is no need to say, “Let not your heart be troubled,” when you are not in affliction. When all things go well with you, you will need another caution—“Let not your heart be exalted above measure: if riches increase, set not your heart upon them.” The word, “Let not your heart be troubled,” is timely, and it is wise; a few minutes’ thought will lead you to see it. It is the easiest thing in the world in times of difficulty to let the heart be troubled; it is very natural to us to give up and drift with the stream, to feel that it is of no use “taking arms against” such “a sea of trouble,” but that it is better to lie passive and to say, “If one must be ruined, so let it be.” Despairing idleness is easy enough, especially to evil, rebellious spirits, who are willing enough to get into further mischief that they may have wherewithal to blame God the more, against whose providence they have quarrelled. Our Lord will not have us be so rebellious. He bids us pluck up heart and be of good courage in the worst possible condition, and here is the wisdom of his advice, namely, that a troubled heart will not help us in our difficulties or out of them. It has never been perceived in time of drought that lamentations have brought showers of rain, or that in seasons of frost, doubtings, fears, and discouragements, have produced a thaw. We have never heard of a man whose business was declining, who managed to multiply the number of his customers by unbelief in God. I do not remember reading of a person whose wife or child was sick, who discovered any miraculous healing power in rebellion against the Most High. It is a dark night, but the darkness of your heart will not light a candle for you. It is a terrible tempest, but to quench the fires of comfort and open the doors to admit the howling winds into the chambers of your spirit will not stay the storm. No good comes out of fretful, petulant, unbelieving heart-trouble. This lion yields no honey. If it would help you, you might reasonably sit down and weep till the tears had washed away your woe. If it were really to some practical benefit to be suspicious of God and distrustful of Providence, why then you might have a shadow of excuse; but as this is a mine out of which no one ever digged any silver, as this is a fishery out of which the diver never brought up a pearl, we would say, Renounce that which cannot be of service to you; for us it can do no good; it is certain that it does much mischief. A doubting, fretful spirit takes from us the joys we have. You have not all you could wish, but you have still more than you deserve. Your circumstances are not what they might be, but still they are not even now so bad as the circumstances of some others. Your unbelief makes you forget that health still remains to you if poverty oppresses you; or that if both health and abundance have departed, you are a child of God, and your name is not blotted out from the roll of the chosen. Why, man, there are flowers that bloom in winter, if we have but grace to see them. Never was there a night of the soul so dark but what some lone star of hope might be discerned, and never a spiritual tempest so tremendous but what there was a haven into which the soul could put if it had but enough confidence in God to make a run for it. Rest assured that though you have fallen very low, you might have fallen lower if it were not that underneath are the everlasting arms. A doubting, distrustful spirit will wither the few blossoms which remain upon your bough, and if half the wells be frozen by affliction, unbelief will freeze the other half by its despondency. Brother, you will win no good, but you may get incalculable mischief by a troubled heart; it is a root which bears no fruit except wormwood.
A troubled heart makes that which is bad worse. It magnifies, aggravates, caricatures, misrepresents. If but an ordinary foe is in your way, a troubled heart makes him swell into a giant. “We were in their sight but as grasshoppers,” said the ten evil spies, “yea, and we were but as grasshoppers in our own sight when we saw them.” But it was not so. No doubt the men were very tall, but they were not so big after all as to make an ordinary six-foot man look like a grasshopper. Their fears made them grasshoppers by first making them fools. If they had possessed but ordinary courage they would have been men, but being cowardly they subsided into grasshoppers. After all, what is an extra three, four, or five feet of flesh to a man? Is not the bravest soul the tallest? If he of shorter stature be but nimble and courageous, he will have the best of it; little David made short work of great Goliath. Yet so it is; unbelief makes out our difficulties to be most gigantic, and then it leads us to suppose that never soul had such difficulties before, and so we egotistically lament, “I am the man that hath seen affliction;” we claim to be peers in the realm of misery, if not the emperors of the kingdom of grief. Yet it is not so. Why? What ails you? The head-ache is excruciating! Well, it is bad enough, but what wouldst thou say if thou hadst seven such aches at once, and cold and nakedness to back them! The twitches of rheumatism are horrible! Right well can I endorse that statement! But what then? Why there have been men who have lived with such tortures thrice told all their lives, like Baxter, who could tell all his bones because each one had made itself heard by its own peculiar pang. I know that you and I often suffer under depression of spirit and physical pain, but what is our complaint compared with the diseases of Calvin, the man who preached at break of every day to the students in the cathedral, and worked on till long past midnight, and was all the while a mass of disease, a complicated agony? You are poor! ah yes! But you have your own room, scanty as it is, and there are hundreds in the workhouse who find sorry comfort there. It is true you have to work hard! ay! but think of the Huguenot galley slave in the old times, who for the love of Christ was bound with chains to the oar, and scarce knew rest day nor night. Think of the sufferings of the martyrs of Smithfield, or of the saints who rotted in their prisons. Above all, let your eye turn to the great Apostle and High priest of your profession, and “consider him who endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest you be weary and faint in your mind.”
“His way was much rougher and darker than mine, Did Christ, my Lord, suffer, and shall I repine?”
Yet this is the habit of unbelief to draw our picture in the blackest possible colours, to tell us that the road is unusually rough and utterly impassable, that the storm is such a tornado as never blew before, and that our name will be down in the wreck register, and that it is impossible that we should ever reach the haven.
Moreover, a troubled heart is most dishonourable to God. It makes the Christian think very hardly of his tender heavenly Friend; it leads him to suspect eternal faithfulness, and to doubt unchangeable love. Is this a little thing? It breathes into the Christian a proud rebellious spirit. He judges his judges, and misjudges. He has not learned Job’s philosophy; he cannot say, “Shall we receive good from the hand of the Lord, and shall we not also receive evil? The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; and blessed be the name of the Lord.” Inward distress makes the humble, meek, teachable child of God to become a wilful, wicked, rebellious offender in spirit. Is this a little thing? And meanwhile, it makes the family and the outsiders who know the Christian to doubt the reality of those truths of which the Christian used to boast in his brighter days. The enemy suggests to them, “You see these Christian people are no better sustained than others, the props which they leaned upon when they did not want them are of no service to them now that they do require them.” “See,” says the fiend, “they are as petulant, as unbelieving, and as rebellious as the rest of mankind; it is all a sham, a piece of enthusiasm which will not endure an ordinary trial.” Is this a small matter? Surely there are mouths enough to revile the throne of God, there are lips enough to utter blasphemy against him without his own dear children turning against him because he frowns upon them. Surely they should be bowed to the earth at the mere suspicion that they could do such a thing, and cry to God to save them from a troubled heart lest they should rebel against him.
I feel with regard to the Christian church that the truth which I am endeavouring to bring forward is above all things essential. The mischief of the Christian church at large is a want of holy confidence in God. The reason why we have had as a church, I believe, unprecedented prosperity has been that on the whole we have been a courageous, hopeful, and joyous body of Christian people who have believed in our own principles most intensely, and have endeavoured to propagate them with the most vehement earnestness. Now I can suppose the devil coining in amongst us, and endeavouring to dishearten us by this or that supposed failure or difficulty. “Oh,” saith he, “will you ever win the victory?” See! sin aboundeth still, notwithstanding all the preaching and all the praying. Do not the gaols keep full? Do you see any great moral change wrought after all? Surely you will not make the advances you expected; you may as well give it up. Ay! and when once an army can be demoralised by a want of spirit, when once the British soldier can be assured that he cannot win the day, that even at the push of the bayonet nothing can await him but defeat, then the rational conclusion he draws is that every man had better take care of himself, and look to his heels and fly to his home. But oh, if we can feel that the victory is not precarious nor even doubtful but absolutely certain, and if each one of us can rest assured that the Lord of hosts is with us, that the God of Jacob is our refuge, that the most discouraging circumstances which can possibly occur are only mere incidents in the great struggle, mere eddies in the mighty current that is bearing everything before it; if we can but feel that sooner should heaven and earth pass away than God’s promise be broken, I say, if we can keep our courage up at all times, if from the youngest of us who have lately joined, to the venerable veterans who have for years fought at our side, we can feel that we must win, that the purposes of God must be fulfilled, that the kingdoms of this world must become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, then we shall see bright and glorious things. Some of you grow discouraged because you have tried in the Sunday school, and you have seen no conversions in your class, and you want to sneak away among the baggage; others of you have tried to preach in the streets and you did not get on, and you feel half inclined not to do anything more. Is this right? Some of you have not felt as happy with other Christian people as you would like to be; you do not think others respect you quite up to the mark that you have marked for yourselves on your thermometer of dignity, and you are inclined to run away. Is this right? Now I will boldly say, Those of you who are inclined to run, let them, for our resolution is to stand fast. Those who are afraid, let them go to their homes, for our eye is on the battle and the crown. Those of you who cannot bear a little roughness and cannot fight for Christ, I had almost said, We shall be better without your cowardly spirits, but I would rather pray for you, that you may pluck up heart and cry with holy boldness, “Nothing shall discourage us.” If all the devils in hell should appear visibly before us, and show their teeth with flame pouring from their mouths as from ten thousand ovens, yet so long as the Lord of hosts liveth we will not fear, but lift up our banners and laugh our enemies to scorn.
“We will in life and death His steadfast truth declare, And publish with our latest breath His love and guardian care.”
There is a great deal more to say, but we cannot say it; perhaps you will think it over, and perhaps you will perceive that of all the mischiefs that might happen to a good man, it is certainly one of the greatest to let his heart be troubled; and that of all the good things that belong to a Christian soldier, a bold heart and confidence in God are not the least. As long as we do not lose heart we have not lost the day; but if confidence in God be departed, then the floods have burst into the vessel, and what can save it? What indeed, but that eternal love which comes in to the rescue even at our extremity?
II. In the second place, THE ADVICE THAT IS GIVEN IS PRACTICABLE: it can be carried out. “Let not your heart be troubled.” “Oh,” says somebody, “that’s very easy to say, but very hard to do.” Here’s a man who has fallen into a deep ditch, and you lean over the hurdle and say to him, “Don’t be troubled about it.” “Ah,” says he, “that’s very pretty for you that are standing up there, but how am I to be at ease while up to my neck in mire?” There is a noble ship stranded, and liable to be broken up by the breakers, and we speak from a trumpet and say to the mariners on board, “Don’t be alarmed.” “Oh,” say they, “very likely not, when every timber is shivering, and the vessel is going to pieces!” But when he who speaks is full of love, pity, and might, and has it in his own power to make his advice become prophetic of deliverance, we need not raise difficulties, but we may conclude that if Jesus says, “Let not your heart be troubled,” our heart need not be troubled. There is a way of keeping the heart out of trouble, and the Saviour prescribes the method. First, he indicates that our resort must be to faith. If in thy worst times thou wouldst keep thy head above water, the swimming belt must be faith. Now, Christian, dost thou not know this? In the olden times how were men kept from perishing but by faith? Read that mighty chapter in the Hebrews, and see what faith did—how believers overcame armies, put to flight the army of aliens, quenched the violence of fire, and stopped the mouths of lions. There is nothing which faith has not done or cannot do. Faith is girdled about with the omnipotence of God for her girdle; she is the great wonder-worker. Why, there were men in the olden times whose troubles were greater than yours, whose discouragements and difficulties in serving God were a great deal more severe than any you and I have known, yet they trusted God; they trusted God, and they were not confounded; they rested in him, and they were not ashamed. Their puny arm wrought miracles, and their uplifted voices in prayer brought blessings from on high. What God did of old he will do now: he is the same yesterday, today and for ever. Christian, betake yourself to faith. Did not faith bring your first comfort to you? Recollect, when you were in despair under a sense of sin, what brought you joy. Was it good works? Was it your inward feelings? The first ray of light that came to your poor dark spirit, did it not come from the cross through believing? Oh, that blessed day when first I cast myself on Jesus and saw my sins numbered on the scape-goat’s head of old, what a flood of light faith brought then! Open the same window, for the sun is in the same place, and you will get light from it. Go not, I pray you, to any other well but to this well of your spiritual Bethlehem which is within the gate, the water of which is still sweet and still free to you.
Ah, dear friends, there is one reason why you should resort to faith, namely, that it is the only thing you have to resort to. What can you do if you do not trust your God? Under many troubles, when they are real troubles, the creature is evidently put to a nonplus; human ingenuity itself fails. We are like the seamen in a storm who reel to and fro, and stagger like drunken men, and are at their wits’ end. Oh let us, now that every other anchor is dragged, cast out the great sheet-anchor, for that will hold. Now that every refuge has failed, let us fly to the Strong for strength, for God will be our helper. Surely it ought not to be difficult for a child to believe his father; it should not therefore be difficult for us to trust in our God today, and so to lift our spirits out of the tumult of their doubts. Somebody will say, “Well, I can understand that faith is a practical way of getting out of trouble, but I cannot understand how we are to have faith.” Well, in this the Saviour helps us. You remember what he said when the people were hungering: “Give ye them to eat.” “Ah,” they said, “there are so many; how can we feed them?” The Master began by saying, “How many loaves have ye?” That is just what he says here. He says, “It is faith that will got you out of trouble; but how much faith have you?” He answers for them, “Ye believe in God.” I must do the same by you. Faith is that which will deliver you. You say, “Where am I to get it?” Well, you have some already, have you not? You have five barley loaves and a few small fishes. You are unbelieving creatures, but you have some measure of faith. You believe that there is a God. “Ay,” you say. You believe he is unchangeable, you believe that he is full of love, good and kind, and true and faithful. Now, really that is a great deal to begin with. You believe in God; the most of us believe in a great deal more than that; we not only believe in a God, and in the excellence of his character, but we believe that he has a chosen people, that he has made with them a covenant, ordered in all things and sure, that the promises of his covenant will be fulfilled, that he never puts away his people; we believe that all things work together for good to them that love God; we believe that the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth us from all sin; we believe that the Holy Ghost is given to dwell in his people. Now this is a great deal, as solid fulcrum upon which to place the lever. If you believe all that, you have only properly to employ this faith in order to lift your soul out of the horrible slough of doubt and fear into which it has stumbled. You believe all this; surely, then, there is some room for hope and confidence.
The Saviour goes on to say, “You believe in God,” very well; exercise that same faith with regard to the case in hand. The case in hand was this—could they trust a dying Saviour? Could they rest upon one who was about to be crucified, dead and buried, who would be gone from them except that his poor mangled body would remain in their midst? “Now,” saith Jesus, “you see you have had enough of faith to believe in God; now exercise that same faith upon me; trust me as you trust God.” From this I infer that the drift of the exhortation I am to give you this morning is this. You have believed God about other things, exercise that same faith about this thing whatever it may be. You have believed God concerning the pardon of your soul, believe God about the child, about the wife, about the money, about the present difficulty. You have believed concerning God, the great invisible One, and his great spiritual promises, now believe concerning this visible thing, this loss of yours, this cross of yours, this trial, this present affliction; exercise faith about that. Jesus Christ did in effect say to his people, “It is true I am going from you, but I want you to believe that I am not going far; I shall be in the same house as you are in, for my Father’s house has many rooms to it, and though you will be here in these earthly mansions and I shall be in the heavenly mansions, yet they are all in the Father’s house, for in my Father’s house are many dwelling-places. “I want you to believe,” says Jesus, “that when I am away from you I am about your interests, I am preparing a place for you, and moreover that I intend coming back to you. My heart will be with you, and my person shall soon return to you.” Now then, the drift of that applied to our case is this—believe that the present loss you sustain, or the present discouragement which threatens to overwhelm you—believe that God has a high design in it; that as Christ’s departure was to prepare eternal mansions for his people, so your present loss is to prepare for you a spiritual gain. I like that word of Christ when he says, “If it were not so I would have told you.” When a man makes a general statement, if he knows all exception he ought to mention it, and if he does not mention it his statement is not strictly true. Jesus says, “If it were not so I would have told you.” There is a large word of his which says, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” A very awkward thing has happened to you; the trouble which you are now suffering is a very singular one; now, if ever there had been any exception to the rule which we have quoted, God in honour would have told it to you when he made the general statement, “All things work together for good to them that love God.” Such is his love and wisdom that if there had been one trial that would happen to one of his people which would not work for the good of that child of his, he would have said, “Dear child, there is an exception: one trouble will happen to you which will not work for your good.” I am clear that there is no exception to the statement that all things work together for good to them that love God, because if there had been an exception he would have put it in, he would have told us of it, that we might know how far to trust and when to leave off trusting, how far to rejoice and when to be cast down. Your case, then, is no exception to the rule; all that is happening is working for your everlasting benefit. Another place, however, another place will reveal this to you. Think of your Father’s house and its mansions, and it will mitigate your griefs. “Alas for us if thou wert all, and nought beyond, O earth!” There is another and a better land, and in your Father’s house, where the many mansions be, it may be you shall be privileged to understand how these great afflictions, which are but for a moment, have worked out for you a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.
Before I close this point, let me say it ought to be a great deal easier for you and me to live above heart trouble than it was to the apostles; I mean easier than it was to the apostles at the time when the Saviour spoke to them and for forty days afterwards. You say, “How was that?” Why because you have three things which they had not. You have experience of many past troubles out of which you have been delivered. They had only been converted at the outside three years; they had not known much trouble, for Jesus in the flesh had dwelt among them to screen off troubles from them. Some of you have been converted thirty—forty—what if I say sixty years, and you have had abundance of trouble—you have not been screened from it. Now all this experience ought to make it easier for you to say, “My heart shall not be troubled.” Again, you have received the Holy Spirit, and they had not. The Holy Spirit was not given, as you remember, until the day of Pentecost. His direct government in the church was not required while Christ was here. You have the Spirit, the Comforter, to abide with you for ever; surely you ought to be less distracted than they were. Thirdly, you have the whole of Scripture, they had but a part. They certainly had not the richest Scriptures of all, for they had not the Evangelists nor any of the New Testament, and having, as we have, all that store of promise and comfort, we ought surely to find it no hard work to obey the sweet precept, “Let not your heart be troubled.”
III. THE EXHORTATION OF THE TEXT OUGHT TO BE VERY PRECIOUS TO ALL OF US THIS MORNING, and we should make a point of pleading for the Holy Spirit’s aid to enable us to carry it out. Remember that the loving advice came from him. Who said, “Let not your heart be troubled”? Who could have said it but the Lord Jesus, the Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief? The mother says to the child, “Do not cry, child; be patient.” That sounds very differently from what it would have done if the schoolmaster had said it, or if a stranger in the street had spoken. “Do not let your heart be troubled,” might be a stinging remark from a stranger, but coming from the Saviour, who “knows what strong temptations mean, for he has felt the same,” it droppeth like virgin honey for sweetness, and like the balm of Gilead for healing power. Jesus saith, “Let not your heart be troubled.” His own face was towards the cross, he was hard by the olive-press of Gethsemane; he was about to be troubled as never man was troubled, and yet among his last words were these, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” As if he wanted to monopolise all tears, and would not have them shed so much as one; as if he longed to take all the heart trouble himself and remove it far from them; as if he would have them exercise their hearts so much with believing that they would not have the smallest room left for grief; would have them so much taken up with the glorious result of his sufferings in procuring for them eternal mansions that they would not think about their own present losses, but let them be swallowed up in a mighty sea of joyful expectation. Oh the tenderness of Christ! “Let not your hearts be troubled.” He is not here, this morning, in person, (would God he were!) but oh, if he will but look at us out of those eyes of his which wept, and make us feel that this cheering word wells up from that heart which was pierced with the spear, we shall find it to be a blessed word to our soul. Say it, sweet Jesus; say to every mourner, “Let not your heart be troubled.” Brethren, the text should have to us the dignity of a command as well as the sweetness of a counsel. Shall we be tormented with trouble after the Captain has said, “Let not your heart be troubled”? The Master of your spirit, who has bought you with his precious blood, demands that the harpstrings of your heart should resound to the touch of his love, and of his love alone, and will you surrender those strings to be dolorously smitten by grief and unbelief? Nay, rather like George Herbert, say, “My hand shall find thee, and every string shall have its attribute to sing.” At thy word instead of mourning, I will bring forth joy; as thou biddest me I will put off my sackcloth and cast away mine ashes, and I will rejoice in the Lord always, and yet again I will rejoice.”
Prize the counsel, because it comes from the Well-beloved. Prize it next because it points to him. He says, “Ye believe in God; believe also in me.” You know, if it were not for the connexion which requires the particular construction here used, one would have looked to find these words, “Ye believe in me, believe also in God.” Jesus was speaking to Jews, disciples, who from their youth up had learned to believe in Emmanuel; believe in me. There, there, there is the very cream of the whole matter. If you want comfort, Christian, you must hear Jesus say, Believe also in me; you must approach afresh to the fountain, and believe in the power of the blood; you must take that fair linen of his righteousness and put it on, and believe that
“With his spotless vesture on, You’re holy as the Holy One.”
You must see Jesus dead in his grave, and believe that you died there in him, and that your sin was buried there in him. You must see him rise, and you must believe also in him, that his resurrection was your resurrection, that you are risen in him. You must mark him as he climbs the starry way up to the appointed throne of his reward; this must be your belief also in him, that he has raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in himself. You must see him far above all principalities and powers, the ever-living and reigning Lord, and you must believe also in him that because he lives you shall live also. You must see him with all things put under his feet, and you must believe that all things are under his feet for you; sin, death, hell, things present and things to come, all subject unto the Son that he may give to you, and to as many as the Father hath given him, eternal life. Oh! this is comfort. No place for a child’s aching head like its mother’s bosom. No shadow of a great rock in this weary land like our Saviour’s love consciously overshadowing us. His own side is the place where he doth from the sun protect his flock. This is the pasture where he maketh them to lie down; this is the river from which he giveth them to drink, namely, himself. Communion with Jesus is glory. The saints feast, but it is upon his flesh; they drink, but it is of his blood; they triumph, but it is in his shame; they rejoice, but it is in his grief; they live, but it is with his life; and they reign, but it is through his power. It is precious advice, then, because it comes from him and points to him.
Once more, it is precious advice because it speaks of him. It says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you: I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus is here seen in action; anything which makes us remember Christ should be prized. Jesus Christ comes to comfort us, but that comfort is all about himself; we should greatly prize it. We want to know more of Jesus. One great deficiency is our ignorance of him, and if the advice of this morning is calculated to make us know him better and value him more, let us prize it. Think of all he said and did, and what he is doing for us now. Now let your thoughts see him beyond the glittering starry sky with the many crowns upon his head; see him as your representative, claiming your rights, pleading before the throne for you, scattering blessings for you on earth, and preparing joys for you above. That is the last thought, namely, that the advice is precious, because it hints that we are to be with him for ever. “An hour with my God,” says the hymn, “will make up for it all.” So it will; but what will an eternity with our God be, for ever to behold him smiling, for ever to dwell in him! “Abide in me.” That is heaven on earth. “Abide in me” is all the heaven we shall want in heaven. He is preparing the place now, making it ready for us above, and here below making us ready for it. Courage, then, brethren, courage; let us not fret about the way; our heads are towards home. We are not outward-bound vessels, thank God; every wind that blows is bringing us nearer to our native land. Our tents are frail, we often pitch and strike them, but we nightly pitch them
“A day’s march nearer home.”
Be of good cheer, soldier, the battle must soon end; and that bloodstained banner, when it shall wave so high, and that shout of triumph, when it shall thrill from so many thousand lips, and that grand assembly of heroes, all of them made more than conquerors, and the sight of the King in his beauty, riding in the chariot of his triumph, paved with love for the daughters of Jerusalem, and the acclamations of spirits glorified, and the shouts and plans of cherubims and seraphims—all these shall make up for all the fightings of today,
“And they who, with their Master, Have conquer’d in the fight, For ever and for ever Are clad in robes of light.”
Be that ours. Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON—Part of John xvi.
THE LOST SILVER PIECE. A Sermon DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, JANUARY 15TH, 1871, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
“Either what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.”—Luke xv. 8-10.
THIS chapter is full of grace and truth. Its three consecutive parables have been thought to be merely a repetition of the same doctrine under different metaphors, and if that were so, the truth which it teaches is so important that it could not be rehearsed too often in our hearing. Moreover, it is one which we are apt to forget, and it is well to have it again and again impressed upon our minds. The truth here taught is just this—that mercy stretches forth her hand to misery, that grace receives men as sinners, that it deals with demerit, unworthiness, and worthlessness; that those who think themselves righteous are not the objects of divine compassion, but the unrighteous, the guilty, and the undeserving, are the proper subjects for the infinite mercy of God; in a word, that salvation is not of merit but of grace. This truth I say is most important, for it encourages penitents to return to their Father; but it is very apt to be forgotten, for even those who are saved by grace too often fall into the spirit of the elder brother, and speak as if, after all, their salvation depended on the works of the law.
But, my dear friends, the three parables recorded in this chapter are not repetitions; they all declare the same main truth, but each one reveals a different phase of it. The three parables are three sides of a vast pyramid of gospel doctrine, but there is a distinct inscription upon each. Not only in the similitude, but also in the teaching covered by the similitude, there is variety, progress, enlargement, discrimination. We have only need to read attentively to discover that in this trinity of parables, we have at once unity of essential truth and distinctness of description. Each one of the parables is needful to the other, and when combined they present us with a far more complete exposition of their doctrine than could have been conveyed by any one of them.
Note for a moment the first of the three which brings before us a shepherd seeking a lost sheep. To whom does this refer? Who is the shepherd of Israel? Who brings again that which has gone astray? Do we not clearly discern the ever glorious and blessed Chief Shepherd of the sheep, who lays down his life that he may save them? Beyond a question, we see in the first parable the work of our Lord Jesus Christ. The second parable is most fitly placed where it is. It, I doubt not, represents the work of the Holy Spirit, working, through the church, for the lost but precious souls of men. The church is that woman who sweeps her house to find the lost piece of money, and in her the Spirit works his purposes of love. Now the work of the Holy Spirit follows the work of Christ. As here we first see the shepherd seeking the lost sheep, and then read of the woman seeking the lost piece of money, so the great Shepherd redeems, and then the Holy Spirit restores the soul. You will perceive that each parable is thoroughly understood in its minute details when so interpreted. The shepherd seeks a sheep which has wilfully gone astray, and so far the element of sin is present; the lost piece of money does not bring up that idea, nor was it needful that it should, since the parable does not deal with the pardon of sin as the first does. The sheep, on the other hand, though stupid is not altogether senseless and dead, but the piece of money is altogether unconscious and powerless, and therefore all the fitter emblem of man as the Holy Ghost begins to deal with him, dead in trespasses and sins. The third parable evidently represents the divine Father in his abundant love receiving the lost child who comes back to him. The third parable would be likely to be misunderstood without the first and the second. We have sometimes heard it said—here is the prodigal received as soon as he comes back, no mention being made of a Saviour who seeks and saves him. Is it possible to teach all truths in one single parable? Does not the first one speak of the shepherd seeking the lost sheep? Why need repeat what had been said before? It has also been said that the prodigal returned of his own free will, for there is no hint of the operation of a superior power upon his heart, it seems as if he himself spontaneously says, “ I will arise, and go unto my Father.” The answer is, that the Holy Spirit’s work had been clearly described in the second parable, and needed not to be introduced again. If you put the three pictures in a line, they represent the whole compass of salvation, but each one apart sets forth the work in reference to one or other of the divine persons of the blessed Trinity. The shepherd, with much pain and self-sacrifice, seeks the reckless, wandering sheep; the woman diligently searches for the insensible but lost piece of money; the father receives the returning prodigal. What God has joined together, let no man put asunder. The three life-sketches are one, and one truth is taught in the whole three, yet each one is distinct from the other, and by itself instructive.
May we be taught of God while we try to discover the mind of the Spirit in this parable, which, as we believe, represents the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the church. The church is evermore represented as a woman, either the chaste bride of Christ, or the shameless courtesan of Babylon; as for good a woman sweeps the house, so for evil a woman takes the leaven and hides it in the meal till all is leavened. Towards Christ a wife and towards men a mother, the church is most fitly set forth as a woman. A woman with a house under her control is the full idea of the text, her husband away and herself in charge of the treasure: just such is the condition of the church since the departure of the Lord Jesus to the Father.
To bring each part of the text under inspection we shall notice man in three conditions—lost, sought, found.
I. First, the parable treats of man, the object of divine mercy, as LOST.
Notice, first, the treasure was lost in the dust. The woman had lost her piece of silver, and in order to find it she had to sweep for it, which proves that it had fallen into a dusty place, fallen to the earth, where it might be hidden and concealed amid rubbish and dirt. Every man of Adam born is as a piece of silver lost, fallen, dishonoured, and some are buried amid foulness and dust. If we should drop many pieces of money they would fall into different positions; one of them might fall into actual mire, and be lost there; another might fall upon a carpet, a cloth, or a clean, well-polished floor, and be lost there. If you have lost your money, it is equally lost into whatever place it may have fallen. So all men are alike lost, but they have not all fallen into the like condition of apparent defilement. One man from the surroundings of his childhood and the influences of education, has never indulged in the coarser and more brutalising vices; he has never been a blasphemer, perhaps never openly even a Sabbath-breaker, yet he may be lost for all that. Another, on the other hand, has fallen into great excess of riot; he is familiar with wantonness and chambering, and all manner of evil; he is lost, he is lost with an emphasis: but the more decorous sinner is lost also. There may be some here this morning (and we wish always to apply the truth as we go on), who are lost in the very worst of corruption: I would to God that they would take hope and learn from the parable before us, that the church of God and the Spirit of God are seeking after them, and they may be among the found ones yet. Since, on the other hand, there are many here who have not dropped into such unclean places, I would affectionately remind them that they are nevertheless lost, and they need as much to be sought for by the Spirit of God as if they were among the vilest of the vile. To save the moral needs divine grace as certainly as to save the immoral. If you be lost, my dear hearer, it will be small avail to you that you perished respectably, and were accursed in decent company: if you lack but one thing, yet if the deficiency be fatal, it will be but a poor consolation that you had only one lack. If one leak sent the vessel to the bottom, it was no comfort to the crew that their ship only leaked in one place. One disease may kill a man; he may be sound everywhere else, but it will be a sorry comfort to him to know that he might have lived long had but that one organ been sound. If, dear hearer, thou shouldst have no sin whatever save only an evil heart of unbelief, if all thy external life should be lovely and amiable, yet if that one fatal sin be in thee, thou canst draw small consolation from all else that is good about thee. Thou art lost by nature, and thou must be found by grace, whoever thou mayst be.
In this parable that which was lost was altogether ignorant of its being lost. The silver coin was not a living thing, and therefore had no consciousness of its being lost or sought after. The piece of money lost was quite as content to be on the floor or in the dust, as it was to be in the purse of its owner amongst its like. It knew nothing about its being lost, and could not know. And it is just so with the sinner who is spiritually dead in sin, he is unconscious of his state, nor can we make him understand the danger and terror of his condition. When he feels that he is lost, there is already some work of grace in him. When the sinner knows that he is lost, he is no longer content with his condition, but begins to cry out for mercy, which is evidence that the finding work has already begun. The unconverted sinner will confess that he is lost because he knows the statement to be scriptural, and therefore out of compliment to God’s word he admits it to be true, but he has no idea of what is meant by it, else would he either deny it with proud indignation, or he would bestir himself to pray that he might be restored to the place from which he has fallen, and be numbered with Christ’s precious property. O my hearers, this it is that makes the Spirit of God so needful in all our preachings, and every other soul-saving exercise, because we have to deal with insensible souls. The man who puts the fire-escape against the window of a burning house, may readily enough rescue those who are aware of their danger, and who rush to the front and help him, or at least are submissive to him in his work of delivering them; but if a man were insane, if he played with the flames, if he were idiotic and thought that some grand illumination were going on, and knew nothing of the danger but was only “glamoured by the glare,” then would it be hard work for the rescuer. Even thus it is with sinners. They know not, though they profess to know; that sin is hell, that to be an alien from God is to be condemned already, to live in sin is to be dead while you live. The insensibility of the piece of money fairly pictures the utter indifference of souls unquickened by divine grace.
The silver piece was lost but not forgotten. The woman knew that she had ten pieces of silver originally; she counted them over carefully, for they were all her little store, and she found only nine, but she well remembered that one more was hers and ought to be in her hand. This is our hope for the Lord’s lost ones, they are lost but not forgotten, the heart of the Saviour remembers them, and prays for them. O soul, I trust you are one whom Jesus calls his own, if so he remembers the pangs which he endured in redeeming you, and he recollects the Father’s love which was reflected on you from old eternity, when the Father gave you into the hands of his beloved Son. You are not forgotten of the Holy Spirit who seeks you for the Saviour. This is the minister’s hope, that there is a people whom the Lord remembers and whom he never will forget, though they forget him. Strangers to him, far-off, ignorant, callous, careless, dead, yet the ever-lasting heart in heaven throbs towards them with love; and the mind of the Spirit, working on earth, is directed to them. These, who were numbered and reckoned up of old are still in the inventory of the divine memory; and though lost they are earnestly remembered still. In some sense this is true of every sinner here. You are lost, but that you are remembered is evident, for I am sent to-day to preach the gospel of Jesus to you. God has thoughts of love concerning you, and bids you turn unto him and live. Have respect, I pray you, to the word of his salvation. Next, the piece of silver was lost but still claimed. Observe that the woman called the money, “my piece which was lost.” When she lost its possession she did not lose her right to it; it did not become somebody else’s when it slipped out of her hand and fell upon the floor. Those for whom Christ hath died, whom he hath peculiarly redeemed, are not Satan’s even when they are dead in sin. They may come under the devil’s usurped dominion, but the monster shall be chased from his throne. Christ has received them of old of the Father, and he has bought them with his precious blood, and he will have them; he will chase away the intruder and claim his own. Thus saith the Lord, “Your covenant with death is disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand.” Ye have sold yourselves for nought; and ye shall be redeemed without money. Jesus shall have his own, and none shall pluck them from his hold; he will defend his claim against all comers.
Further, observe that the lost piece of money was not only remembered and claimed, but it was also valued. In these three parables the value of the lost article steadily rises. This is not very clear at first sight, because it may be said that a sheep is of more value than a piece of money; but notice that the shepherd only lost one sheep out of a hundred, but the woman lost one piece out of ten, and the father one son out of two. Now, it is not the value of the thing in itself which is here set forth, for the soul of a man, as absolutely valued in comparison with the infinite God, is of small esteem; but because of his love it is of great value to him. The one piece of money to the woman was a tenth part of all she had, and it was very valuable in her esteem. To the Lord of love a lost soul is very precious: it is not because of its intrinsic value, but it has a relative value which God sets at a high rate. The Holy Spirit values souls, and therefore the church prizes them too. The church sometimes says to herself, “We have but few conversions, few members; many are called, but few chosen.” She counts over her few converts, her few members, and one soul is to her all the more precious because of the few there are who in these times are in the treasury of Christ, stamped with the image of the great King, and made of the precious genuine silver of God’s own grace. O dear friend, you think yourself of small value, you who are conscious that you have sinned, but the church does not think you of small value, and the Holy Spirit does not despise you. He sets a high price upon you, and so do his people. We value your souls, we only wish we knew how to save them; we would spare no expense or pains if we might but be the means of finding you, and bringing you once more into the great Owner’s hand.
The piece of money was lost, but it was not lost hopelessly. The woman had hopes of recovering it, and therefore she did not despair, but set to work at once. It is a dreadful thing to think of those souls which are lost hopelessly. Their state reminds me of a paragraph I have cut from this week’s newspaper:—“The fishing smack Veto of Grimsby, S. Cousins, master, arrived in port from the Dogger Bank on Saturday night. The master reports that on the previous Wednesday, when about two hundred miles from Spurn, he sighted to the lee ward what at first appeared to be a small schooner in distress, but on bearing down to her found her to be a full-sized lifeboat, upwards of twenty feet long, and full of water up to her corks. There was no name on the boat, which had evidently belonged to some large ship or steamer. It was painted white both inside and out, with a brown streak round the rim. When alongside, on closer examination, three dead sailors were perceived lying aft, huddled together, and a fourth athwart in the bow, with his head hanging over the rowlocks. They seemed from their dress and general appearance to be foreigners, but the bodies had been frightfully ‘washed about,’ and were in a state of decomposition, and had evidently been dead some weeks. The water-logged waif drifted on with its ghastly cargo, and the horrible sight so shocked the crew of the Veto that afterwards they were almost too unnerved to attend to their trawling, and the smack, in consequence, returned to port with a comparatively small catch, and sooner than expected.” Do you wonder at the men sickening in the presence of this mystery of the sea? I shudder as I think I see that Charon-like boat floating on and on; mercy need not follow it, she can confer no boon; love need not seek it, no deed of hers can save. My soul sees, as in a vision, souls hopelessly lost, drifting on the waves of eternity, beyond all hope or help. Alas! Alas! Millions of our race are now in that condition. Upon them has passed the second death, and powerless are we all to save them. Towards them even the gospel has no aspect of hope. Our joy is that we have to deal to-day with lost souls who are not yet hopelessly lost. They are dead in sin, but there is a quickening power which can make them live. O mariner of the sea of life, fisher of men upon this stormy sea, those castaways whom you meet with are accessible to your efforts of compassion, they can be rescued from the pitiless deeps; your mission is not a hopeless one. I rejoice over the ungodly man here to-day that he is not in torment, not in hell, he is not among those whose worm dieth not and whose fire is not quenched. I congratulate the Christian church too, that her piece of money has not fallen where she cannot find it. I rejoice that the fallen around us are not past hope; yea, though they dwell in the worst dens of London, though they be thieves and harlots, they are not beyond the reach of mercy. Up, O church of God, while possibilities of mercy remain! Gird up your loins, ye soul-winners, and resolve by the grace of God that every hour of hope shall be well employed by you.
One other point is worthy of notice. The piece of silver was lost, but it was lost in the house, and the woman knew it to be so. If she had lost it in the streets, the probabilities are she would not have looked for it again, for other hands might have closed over it. If she had lost it in a river, or dropped it in the sea, she might very fairly have concluded that it was gone for ever, but evidently she was sure that she had lost it in the house. Is it not a consolation to know that those here, who are lost, are still in the house? They are still under the means of grace, within the sphere of the church’s operations, within the habitation of which she is the mistress, and where the Holy Spirit works. What thankfulness there ought to be in your minds that you are not lost as heathens, nor lost amid Romish or Mohammedan superstition, but lost where the gospel is faithfully and plainly preached to you; where you are lovingly told, that whosoever believeth in Christ Jesus is not condemned. Lost, but lost where the church’s business is to look after you, where it is the Spirit’s work to seek and to find you. This is the condition of the lost soul, depicted as a lost piece of silver.
II. Secondly, we shall notice the soul under another condition, we shall view it as SOUGHT.
By whom was the piece of silver sought? It was sought by the owner personally. Notice, she who lost the money lit a candle and swept the house, and sought diligently till she found it. So, brethren, I have said that the woman represents the Holy Spirit, or rather the church in which the Holy Spirit dwells. Now, there will never be a soul found till the Holy Spirit seeks after it. He is the great soul finder. The heart will continue in the dark until he comes with his illuminating power. He is the owner, he possesses it, and he alone can effectually seek after it. The God to whom the soul belongs must seek the soul. But he does it by his church, for souls belong to the church too; they are sons and daughters of the chosen mother, they are her citizens and treasures. For this reason the church must personally seek after souls. She cannot delegate her work to anybody. The woman did not pay a servant to sweep the house, but she swept it herself. Her eyes were much better than a servant’s eyes, for the servant’s eyes would only look after somebody else’s money, and perhaps would not see it; but the mistress would look after her own money, and she would be certain to light upon it if it were anywhere within sight. When the church of God solemnly feels, “It is our work to look after sinners, we must not delegate it even to the minister, or to the City-missionary, or the Bible-woman, but the church as a church must look after the souls of sinners,” then I believe souls will be found and saved. When the church recognises that these lost souls belong to her, she will be likely to find them. It will be a happy day when every church of God is actively at work for the salvation of sinners. It has been the curse of Christendom that she has ventured to delegate her sacred duties to men called priests, or that she has set apart certain persons to be called the religious, who are to do works of mercy and charity and of evangelisation. We are, every one of us who are Christ’s, bound to do our own share; nay, we should deem it a privilege of which we will not be deprived, personally to serve God, personally to sweep the house and search after the lost spiritual treasures. The church herself, in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God, must seek lost souls.
Note that this seeking became a matter of chief concern with the woman. I do not know what other business she had to do, but I do know that she put it all by to find the piece of money. There was the corn to be ground for the morning meal, perhaps that was done, at any rate, if not so, she left it unprepared. There was a garment to be mended, or water to be drawn, or the fire to be kindled, or the friends and neighbours to be conversed with—never mind, the mistress forgets everything else, she has lost her piece of money, and she must find it at once. So with the church of God, her chief concern should be to seek the perishing sons of men. To bring souls to know Jesus, and to be saved in him with a great salvation should be the church’s great longing and concern. She has other things to do. She has her own edification to consider, she has other matters to be attended to in their place, but this first, this evermore and always first. The woman evidently said, “The money is lost, I must find that first.” The loss of her piece of silver was so serious a matter that if she sat down to her mending, her hands would miss their nimbleness, or if any other house-hold work demanded her attention, it would be an irksome task to her, for she was thinking of that piece of coin. If her friend came and talked with her, she would say to herself, “I wish she were gone, for I want to be looking after my lost money.” I wish the church of God had such an engrossing love for poor sinners that she would feel everything to be an impertinence which hindered her from soul-saving. We have every now and then, as a church, a little to do with politics, and a little to do with finance, for we are still in the world, but I love to see in all churches everything kept in the background, compared with soul-saving work. This must be first and foremost. Educate the people—yes, certainly; we take an interest in everything which will do good to our fellow citizens, for we are men as well as Christians; but first and foremost our business is to win souls, to bring men to Jesus, to hunt up those who bear heaven’s image, though lost and fallen. This is what we must be devoted to, this is the main and chief concern of believers, the very reason for the existence of a church; if she regard it not, she forgets her highest end.
Now note, that the woman having thus set her heart to find her money, she used the most fit and proper means to accomplish her end. First, she lit a candle. So doth the Holy Spirit in the church. In Eastern dwellings it would be necessary, if you lost a piece of money and wanted to find it, to light a candle at any time; for in our Saviour’s day glass was not used, and the windows of houses were only little slits in the side of the wall, and the rooms were very dark. Almost all the Oriental houses are very dark to this day, and if anything be dropped as small as a piece of silver, it must be looked for with a candle even at high noon. Now, the sphere in which the church moves here on earth is a dim twilight of mental ignorance, and moral darkness, and in order to find a lost soul, light must be brought to bear upon it. The Holy Spirit uses the light of the gospel; he convinces men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come. The woman lit a candle, and even thus the Holy Spirit lights up some chosen man whom he makes to be a light in the world. He calls to himself whomsoever he wills, and makes him a lamp to shine upon the people. Such a man will have to be consumed in his calling, like a candle he will be burnt up in light-giving. Earnest zeal, and laborious self-sacrifice, will eat him up. So may this church, and every church of God, be continually using up her anointed men and women, who shall be as lights in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, to find out lost souls.
But she was not content with her candle, she fetched her broom, she swept the house. If she could not find the silver as things were in the house, she brought the broom to bear upon the accumulated dust. Oh, how a Christian church, when it is moved by the Holy Spirit, cleanses herself and purges all her work! “Perhaps,” saith she, “some of our members are inconsistent, and so men are hardened in sin; these offenders must be put away. The tone of religion is low—that may be hindering the conversion of souls, it must be raised. Perhaps our statements of truth, and our ways of proclaiming it, are not the most likely to command attention, we must amend them; we must use the best possible methods, we must in fact sweep the whole house.” I delight to see an earnest house-sweeping by confession of sin at a prayer meeting, or by a searching discourse, a house-sweeping when every one is earnest to reform himself, and to get nearer to God himself by a revival of his own personal piety. This is one of the means by which the church is enabled to find the hidden ones. Besides this, all the neighbourhood—round the church (for the house is the sphere in which the church moves), must be ransacked, stirred, turned over, in a word “swept.” A church that is really in earnest after souls will endeavour to penetrate the gloom of poverty and stir the heaps of profligacy. She will hunt high and hunt low if by any means she may rescue from destruction the precious thing upon which her heart is set.
Carefully note that this seeking after the lost piece of silver with fitting instruments, the broom and the candle, was attended with no small stir. She swept the house—there was dust for her eyes; if any neighbours were in the house there was dust for them. You cannot sweep a house without causing some confusion and temporary discomfort. We sometimes hear persons complain of certain Christians for making too much ado about religion. The complaint shows that something is being done, and in all probability some success being achieved. Those people who have no interest in the lost silver are annoyed at the dust; it is getting down their throats, and they cough at it; never mind, good woman, sweep again, and make them grumble more. Another will say, “I do not approve of religious excitement, I am for quiet and orderly modes of procedure.” I dare say that this good woman’s neighbour, when she came in to make a call, exclaimed in disgust, “ Why, mistress, there is not a chair to sit down upon in comfort, and you are so taken up about this lost money that you scarce give me an answer. Why, you are wasting candle at a great rate, and seem quite in a fever.” “Well,” the good woman would answer, “but I must find my piece of silver, and in order to seek it out I can bear a little dust myself, and so must you if you wish to stop here while I am searching.” An earnest church will be sure to experience a degree of excitement when it is soul-hunting, and very cautious, very fastidious, very critical people will find fault. Never mind them, my brethren, sweep on and let them talk on. Never mind making a dust if you find the money. If souls be saved irregularities and singularities are as the small dust of the balance. If men be brought to Jesus, care nothing what cavillers say. Sweep on, sweep on, even though men exclaim, “They that turn the world upside down are come hither also.” Though confusion and stir, and even persecution be the present result, yet if the finding of an immortal soul be the ultimate effect, you will be well repaid for it.
It is to be remarked, also, that in the seeking of this piece of silver the coin was sought in a most engrossing manner. For a time nothing was thought of but the lost silver. Here is a candle: the good woman does not read by the light of it, nor mend her garments; no, but the candle-light is all spent on that piece of money. All its light is consecrated to the search. Here is a broom: there is other work for the broom to do, but for the present it sweeps for the silver and for nothing else. Here are two bright eyes in the good woman’s head: ay, but they look for nothing but the lost money; she does not care what else may be in the house or out of it—her money she cares for, and that she must find; and here she is with candle, broom, strength, eyesight, faculties of mind, and limbs of body, all employed in searching for the lost treasure. It is just so when the Holy Ghost works in a church, the preacher, like a candle, yields his light, but it is all with the view of finding out the sinner and letting him see his lost estate. Whether it be the broom of the law or the light of the gospel, all is meant for the sinner. All the Holy Spirit’s wisdom is engaged to find the sinner, and all the living church’s talent and substance and power are put forth if by any means the sinner may be saved. It is a fair picture, may I see it daily. How earnestly souls are sought for when the Spirit of God is truly in his church!
One other thought only. This woman sought for her piece of silver continuously—“till she found it.” May you and I, as parts of the church of God, look after wandering souls till we find them. We say they discourage us. No doubt that piece of silver did discourage the woman who sought it. We complain that men do not appear inclined to religion. Did the piece of money lend the housewife any help? Was it any assistance to her? She did the seeking, she did it all. And the Holy Ghost through you, my brother, seeks the salvation of the sinner, not expecting the sinner to help him, for the sinner is averse to being found: What, were you repulsed the other day by one whose spiritual good you longed for? Go again! Were your invitations laughed at? Invite again! Did you become the subject of ridicule through your earnest entreaties? Entreat again! Those are not always the least likely to be saved who at first repel our efforts. A harsh reception is sometimes only an intimation that the heart recognises the power of the truth, though it does not desire at present to yield to it. Persevere, brother, till you find the soul you seek. You who spend so much effort in your Sunday-school class, use still your candle, enlighten the child’s mind still, sweep the house till you find what you seek; never give up the child till it is brought to Christ. You, in your senior class, dealing with that young man or young woman, cease not from your private prayers and from your personal admonitions, till that heart belongs to Jesus. You who can preach in the streets, or visit the lodging-houses, or go from door to door with tracts, I charge you all, for you can all do something, never give up the pursuit of sinners until they are safely lodged in Jesus’ hands. We must have them saved! With all the intense perseverance of the woman who turned everything upside down, and counted all things but loss that she might but find her treasure, so may we also, the Spirit of God working in us, upset everything of rule and conventionality, and form and difficulty, if we may but by any means save some, and bring out of the dust those who bear the King’s image, and are dear to the King’s heart.
III. Time has fled, alas! too swiftly, and so I must close with the third point, which is the piece of silver FOUND.
Found! In the first place, this was the woman’s ultimatum, and nothing short of it. She never stopped until the coin was found. So it is the Holy Spirit’s design, not that the sinner should be brought into a hopeful state, but that he should be actually saved: and this is the church’s great concern, not that people be made hearers, not that they be made orthodox professors, but that they be really changed and renewed, regenerated and born again.
The woman herself found the piece of money. It did not turn up by accident, nor did some neighbour step in and find it. The Spirit of God himself finds sinners, and the church of God herself as a rule is the instrument of their recovery. Dear brethren, a few years ago there was a kind of slur cast upon the visible church, by many enthusiastic but mistaken persons, who dreamed that the time was come for doing away with organised effort, for irregular agencies outside of the visible church were to do all the work. Certain remarkable men sprang up whose ferocious censures almost amounted to attacks upon the recognised churches. Their efforts were apart from the regular ministry, and in some cases ostentatiously in opposition to it. It was as much their aim to pull down the existing church as to bring in converts. I ask any man who has fairly watched these efforts, what they have come to? I never condemned them, nor will I; but I do venture to say to-day in the light of their history, that they have not superseded regular church work and never will. The masses were to be aroused, but where are the boasted results? What has become of many of these much-vaunted works? Those who have worked in connection with a church of God have achieved permanent usefulness; those who acted as separatist agencies, though they blazed for awhile before the public eye and filled the corners of the newspapers with spiritual puffery, are now either altogether or almost extinct. Where are the victories which were to be won by these free-shooters? Echo answers, Where? We have to fall back on the old disciplined troops. God means to bless the church still, and it is through the church that he will continue to send a benediction upon the sons of men. I am glad to hear of anybody preaching the gospel; if Christ is preached I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. I remember the Master’s words, “Forbid them not! He that is not against us is for us.” Still the mass of conversions will come through the church, and by her regular organised efforts. The woman who lights the candle and sweeps the house, to whom the silver belongs, will herself find it.
Now notice when she had found it what she did, she rejoiced. The greater her trouble in searching, the higher her joy in finding. What joy there is in the church of God when sinners are converted! We have our high holidays, we have our mirthful days downstairs in the lecture hall, when we hear of souls turned from the paths of the destroyer; and in the vestries behind, your pastors and elders often experience such joy as only heaven can equal, when we have heard the stories of souls emancipated from the slavery of sin, and led into the perfect liberty which Jesus gives. The church rejoices.
Next, she calls her friends and neighbours to share her joy. I am afraid we do not treat our friends and neighbours with quite enough respect, or remember to invite them to our joys. Who are they? I think the angels are here meant; not only the angels in heaven, but those who are watching here below. Note well, that when the shepherd took home the sheep, it is written, “There shall be joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth;” but it does not mention heaven here, nor speak of the future, but it is written, There is joy in the presence of the angels of God.” Now, the church is on earth, and the Holy Spirit is on earth, at work; when there is a soul saved, the angels down below, who keep watch and ward around the faithful, and so are our friends and neighbours, rejoice with us. Know ye not that angels are present in our assemblies? for this reason the apostle tells us that the woman hath her head covered in the assembly. He saith, “Because of the angels, for they love order and decorum.” The angels are wherever the saints are, beholding our orders and rejoicing in our joy. When we see conversions we may bid them rejoice too, and they will praise God with us. I do not suppose the rejoicing ends there; for as angels are always ascending and descending upon the Son of Man, they soon convey the tidings to the hosts above, and heaven rejoices over one repenting sinner.
The joy is a present joy; it is a joy in the house, in the church in her own sphere; it is the joy of her neighbours who are round about her here below. All other joy seems swallowed up in this: as every other occupation was suspended to find the lost silver, so every other joy is hushed when the precious thing is found. The church of God has a thousand joys—the joy of her saints ascending to the skies, the joy of her saints ripening for glory, the joy of such as contend with sin and overcome it, and grow in grace and receive the promise; but the chief joy in the church, which swallows all others, as Aaron’s rod swallowed up the other rods, is the joy over the lost soul which, after much sweeping and searching, is found at last. The practical lesson to the unconverted is just this. Dear friend, see what value is set upon you. You think that nobody cares for you—why, heaven and earth care for you! You say, “I am as nothing, a cast-away, and I am utterly worthless.” No, you are not worthless to the blessed Spirit, nor worthless to the church of God—she longs for you. See, again, how false that suspicion of yours is that you will not be welcome if you come to Christ. Welcome! welcome! why, the church is searching for you; the Spirit of God is searching for you. Do not talk of welcome, you will be a great deal more than welcome. Oh, how glad will Christ be, and the Spirit be, and the church be, to receive you! Ah! but you complain that you have done nothing to make you fit for mercy. Talk not so, what had the lost piece of money done? What could it do? It was lost and helpless. They who sought it did all; he who seeks you will do all for you. O poor soul, since Christ now bids thee come, come! If his Spirit draws thee, yield! Since the promise now speaks, “Come now, and let us reason together: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” accept the promise. Believe in Jesus. God bless you and save you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON—Psalm cxxxvi. and Luke xv.
A Sermon DELIVERED ON SABBATH EVENING, MARCH 18, 1855, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
“I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Hosea viii. 12.
THIS is God’s complaint against Ephraim. It is no mean proof of his goodness, that he stoops to rebuke his erring creatures; it is a great argument of his gracious disposition, that he bows his head to notice terrestrial affairs. He might, if he pleased, wrap himself with night as with a garment; he might put the stars around his wrist for bracelets, and bind the suns around his brow for a coronet; he might dwell alone, far, far above this world, up in the seventh heaven, and look down with calm and silent indifference upon all the doings of his creatures; he might do as the heathens supposed their Jove did, sit in perpetual silence, sometimes nodding his awful head to make the Fates move as he pleased, but never taking thought of the little things of earth, disposing of them as beneath his notice, engrossed within his own being, swallowed up within himself; living alone and retired; and I, as one of his creatures might stand by night upon a mountain-top, and look upon the silent stars, and say, “Ye are the eyes of God, but ye look not down on me; your light is the gift of his omnipotence, but your rays are not smiles of love to me. God, the mighty Creator, has forgotten me; I am a despicable drop in the ocean of creation, a sear leaf in the forest of beings, an atom in the mountain of existence. He knows me not; I am alone, alone, alone.” But it is not so, beloved. Our God is of another order. He notices every one of us. There is not a sparrow or a worm, but is found in his decrees. There is not a person upon whom his eye is not fixed. Our most secret acts are known to him. Whatsoever we do, or bear, or suffer, the eye of God still rests upon us, and we are beneath his smile,—for we are his people; or beneath his frown,—for we have erred from him.
Oh! how ten-thousand-fold merciful is God, that, looking down upon the race of man, he does not smile it out of existence. We see from our text that God looks upon man, for he says of Ephraim, “I have written to him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” But see how when he observes the sin of man he does not dash him away and spurn him with his foot; he does not shake him by the neck over the gulf of hell, until his brain doth reel, and then drop him for ever; but rather, he comes down from heaven to plead with his creatures; he argues with them; he puts himself, as it were, upon a level with the sinner, states his grievances, and pleads his claim. O Ephraim, I have written unto thee the great things of my law, but they have been unto thee as a strange thing! I come here tonight in God’s stead, my friends, to plead with you as God’s ambassador, to charge many of you with a sin; to lay it to your hearts by the power of the Spirit, so that you may be convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of a judgment to come. The crime I charge you with is the sin of the text. God has written to you the great things of his law, but they have been unto you as a strange thing. It is concerning this blessed book, the Bible, that I mean to speak tonight. Here lies my text—this Word of God. Here is the theme of my discourse: a theme which demands more eloquence than I possess; a subject upon which a thousand orators might speak at once; a mighty, vast, incomprehensive theme, which might engross all eloquence throughout eternity, and still it would remain unexhausted.
Concerning the Bible, I have three things to say tonight and they are all in my text. First, its author, “I have written;” secondly, its subjects—the great things of God’s law; and thirdly, its common treatment—It has been accounted by most men a strange thing.
1. First, then, concerning this book, who is THE AUTHOR? The text says that it is God. “I have written to him the great things of my law.” Here lies my Bible —who wrote it? I open it, and I find it consists of a series of tracts. The first five tracts were written by a man called Moses. I turn on and I find others. Sometimes I see David is the penman, at other times, Solomon. Here I read Micah, then Amos, then Hosea. As I turn further on, to the more luminous pages of the New Testament, I see Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, Paul, Peter, James and others; but when I shut up the book, I ask myself who is the author of it? Do these men jointly claim the authorship? Are they the compositors of this massive volume? Do they between themselves divide the honour? Our holy religion answers, No! This volume is the writing of the living God: each letter was penned with an Almighty finger; each word in it dropped from the everlasting lips, each sentence was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Albeit, that Moses was employed to write his histories with his fiery pen, God guided that pen. It may be that David touched his harp and let sweet Psalms of melody drop from his fingers, but God moved his hands over the living strings of his golden harp. It may be that Solomon sang Canticles of love, or gave forth words of consummate wisdom, but God directed his lips, and made the Preacher eloquent. If I follow the thundering Nahum when his horses plough the waters, or Habbakuk when he sees the tents of Cushan in affliction; if I read Malachi, when the earth is burning like an oven; if I turn to the smooth page of John, who tells of love, or the rugged, fiery chapters of Peter, who speaks of the fire devouring God’s enemies; if I turn to Jude, who launches forth anathemas upon the foes of God, everywhere I find God speaking: it is God’s voice, not man’s; the words are God’s words, the words of the Eternal, the Invisible, the Almighty, the Jehovah of this earth. This Bible is God’s Bible; and when I see it, I seem to hear a voice springing up from it, saying, “I am the book of God: man, read me. I am God’s writing: open my leaf, for I was penned by God; read it, for he is my author, and you will see him visible and manifest everywhere.” “I have written to him the great things of my law.”
How do you know that God wrote the book? That is just what I shall not try to prove to you. I could, if I pleased, to a demonstration, for there are arguments enough, there are reasons enough, did I care to occupy your time tonight in bringing them before you: but I shall do no such thing. I might tell you, if I pleased, that the grandeur of the style is above that of any mortal writing, and that all the poets who have ever existed, could not, with all their works united, give us such sublime poetry and such mighty language as is to be found in the Scriptures. I might insist upon it, that the subjects of which it treats are beyond the human intellect; that man could never have invented the grand doctrines of a Trinity in the Godhead; man could not have told us anything of the creation of the universe; he could never have been the author of the majestic idea of Providence, that all things are ordered according to the will of one great Supreme Being, and work together for good. I might enlarge upon its honesty, since it tells the faults of its writers; its unity, since it never belies itself; its master simplicity, that he who runs may read it; and I might mention a hundred more things, which would all prove to a demonstration, that the book is of God. But I come not here to prove it. I am a Christian minister, and you are Christians, or profess to be so; and there is never any necessity for Christian ministers to make a point of bringing forth infidel arguments in order to answer them. It is the greatest folly in the world. Infidels, poor creatures, do not know their own arguments till we tell them, and then they glean their blunted shafts to shoot them at the shield of truth again. It is folly to bring forward these firebrands of hell, even if we are well prepared to quench them. Let men of the world learn error of themselves; do not let us be propagators of their falsehoods. True, there are some preachers who are short of stock, and want them to fill up! but God’s own chosen men need not do that; they are taught of God, and God supplies them with matter, with language, and with power. There may be some one here tonight who has come without faith, a man of reason, a free-thinker. With him I have no argument at all. I profess not to stand here as a controversialist, but as a preacher of things that I know and feel. But I too have been like him. There was an evil hour when once I slipped the anchor of my faith; I cut the cable of my belief; I no longer moored myself hard by the coasts of revelation; I allowed my vessel to drift before the wind; I said to reason, “Be thou my captain;” I said to my own brain, “Be thou my rudder;” and I started on my mad voyage. Thank God it is all over now; but I will tell you its brief history. It was one hurried sailing over the tempestuous ocean of free thought. I went on, and as I went the skies began to darken; but to make up for that deficiency, the waters were brilliant with coruscations of brilliancy. I saw sparks flying upwards that pleased me, and I thought, If this be free thought, it is a happy thing.’ My thoughts seemed gems, and I scattered stars with both my hands; but anon, instead of these coruscations of glory, I saw grim fiends, fierce and horrible, start up from the waters, and as I dashed on they gnashed their teeth and grinned upon me; they seized the prow of my ship, and dragged me on, while I, in part, gloried at the rapidity of my motion, but yet shuddered at the terrific rate with which I passed the old land marks of my faith. As I hurried forward with an awful speed, I began to doubt my very existence; I doubted if there were a world, I doubted if there were such a thing as myself. I went to the very verge of the dreary realms of unbelief. I went to the very bottom of the sea of infidelity. I doubted everything. But here the devil foiled himself; for the very extravagance of the doubt proved its absurdity. Just when I saw the bottom of that sea, there came a voice which said, “And can this doubt be true?” At this very thought I awoke. I started from that death-dream, which, God knows might have damned by soul, and ruined this my body, if I had not awoke. When I arose faith took the helm; from that moment I doubted not. Faith steered me back; faith cried, “Away, away!” I cast my anchor on Calvary; I lifted my eye to God; and here I am alive, and out of hell. Therefore, I speak what I do know. I have sailed that perilous voyage; I have come safe to land. Ask me again to be an infidel! No; I have tried it; it was sweet at first, but bitter afterwards. Now, lashed to God’s gospel more firmly than ever, standing as on a rock of adamant, I defy the arguments of hell to move me, for “I know in whom I have believed. and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” But I shall neither plead nor argue this night. You profess to be Christian men, or else you would not be here. Your profession may be lies; what you say you are, may be the very contrary to what you really are; but still I suppose you all admit that this is the Word of God. A thought or two then upon it. “I have written to him the great things of my law.”
First, my friends, stand over this volume, and admire its authority. This is no common book. It is not the sayings of the sages of Greece; here are not the utterances of philosophers of past ages. If these words were written by man, we might reject them; but oh, let me think the solemn thought—that this book is God’s handwriting, that these words are God’s. Let me look at its date; it is dated from the hills of heaven. Let me look at its letters: they flash glory on my eye. Let me read the chapters: they are big with meaning and mysteries unknown. Let me turn over the prophecies: they are pregnant with unthought-of wonders. Oh, book of books! And wert thou written by my God? Then will I bow before thee. Thou book of vast authority, thou art a proclamation from the Emperor of Heaven; far be it from me to exercise my reason in contradicting thee. Reason! thy place is to stand and find out what this volume means, not to tell what this book ought to say. Come thou my reason, my intellect, sit thou down and listen, for these words are the words of God. I do not know how to enlarge on this thought. Oh! if you could ever remember that this Bible was actually and really written by God! Oh! if ye had been let into the secret chambers of heaven, if ye had beheld God grasping his pen and writing down these letters, then surely ye would respect them. But they are just as much God’s hand-writing as if you had seen God write them. This Bible is a book of authority; it is an authorized book, for God has written it. Oh, tremble, tremble, lest any of you despise it; mark its authority, for it is the Word of God.
Then, since God wrote it, mark its truthfulness. If I had written it, there would be worms of critics who would at once swarm on it, and would cover it with their evil spawn; had I written it, there would be men who would pull it to pieces at once, and perhaps quite right too. But this is the Word of God; come, search ye critics, and find a flaw; examine it from its Genesis to its Revelations, and find an error. This is a vein of pure gold, unalloyed by quartz, or any earthy substance This is a star without a speck; a sun without a blot! a light without darkness; a moon without its paleness; a glory without a dimness. O Bible! it cannot be said of any other book, that it is perfect and pure; but of thee we can declare all wisdom is gathered up in thee, without a particle of folly. This is the judge that ends the strife where wit and reason fail. This is the book untainted by any error; but is pure, unalloyed, perfect truth. Why? Because God wrote it. Ah! charge God with error if ye please; tell him that his book is not what it ought to be. I have heard men with prudish and mock-modesty, who would like to alter the Bible; and (I almost blush to say it) I have heard minister’s alter God’s Bible, because they were afraid of it. Have you never heard a man say, “He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; but he that believeth not,”—What does the Bible say? “shall be damned.” But that does not happen to be polite enough, so they say, “shall be condemned.” Gentlemen! pull the velvet out of your mouths; speak God’s word; we want none of your alterations. I have heard men in prayer, instead of saying, “Make your calling and election sure,” say, “Make your calling and salvation sure.” Pity they were not born when God lived, far—far back, that they might have taught God how to write. Oh, impudence beyond all bounds! Oh! full-blown self-conceit! To attempt to dictate to the All-wise—to teach the Omniscient, and instruct the eternal. Strange that there should be men so vile as to use the pen-knife of Jehoiakim, to cut passages of the Word, because they are unpalatable. Oh ye who dislike any portions of the Holy Writ, rest assured that your taste is corrupt, and that God will not stay for your little opinion. Your dislike is the very reason why God wrote it, because you ought not to be suited; you have no right to be pleased. God wrote what you do not like; he wrote the truth. Oh! let us bend in reverence before it, for God inspired it. It is pure truth. Here from this fountain gushes aqua vita—“the water of life,” without a single particle of earth, here from this sun there cometh forth rays of radiance, without the mixture of darkness. Blessed Bible; thou art all truth.
Yet once more, before we leave this point, let us stop and consider the merciful nature of God, in having written us a Bible at all. Ah! he might have left us without it, to grope our dark way, as blind men seek the wall; he might have suffered us to wander on with the star of reason as our only guide. I recollect a story of Mr. Hume, who so constantly affirmed that the light of reason is abundantly sufficient. Being at a good minister’s house one evening, he had been discussing the question, and declaring his firm belief in the sufficiency of the light of nature. On leaving, the minister offered to hold him a candle, to light him down the steps. He said, “No, the light of nature would be enough; the moon would do.” It so happened that the moon was covered with a cloud, and he fell down the steps. “Ah,” said the minister, “you had better have had a little light from above after all, Mr. Hume.” So, supposing the light of nature to be sufficient, we had better have a little light from above too, and then we shall be sure to be right. Better have two lights than only one. The light of creation is a bright light. God may be seen in the stars; his name is written in gilt letters on the brow of night; you may discover his glory in the ocean waves, yea, in the trees of the field; but it is better to read it in two books than in one. You will find it here more clearly revealed, for he has written this book himself, and he has given you the key to understand it, if you have the Holy Spirit. Ah, beloved, let us thank God for this Bible; let us love it; let us count it more precious than much fine gold.
But let me say one thing before I pass on to the second point. If this be the Word of God, what will become of some of you who have not read it for the last month? “Month, sir! I have not read it for this year.” Ay, there are some of you who have not read it at all. Most people treat the Bible very politely. They have a small pocket volume, neatly bound; they put a white pocket-handkerchief around it, and carry it to their places of worship; when they get home, they lay it up in a drawer till next Sunday morning; then it comes out again for a little bit of a treat and goes to chapel; that is all the poor Bible gets in the way of an airing. That is your style of entertaining this heavenly messenger. There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write “damnation” with your fingers. There are some of you who have not turned over your Bibles for a long, long, long while, and what think you? I tell you blunt words, but true words. What will God say at last? When you shall come before him, he shall say, “Did you read my Bible?” “No.” “I wrote you a letter of mercy; did you read it?” “No.” “Rebel! I have sent thee a letter inviting thee to me: didst thou ever read it?” “Lord I never broke the seal; I kept it shut up.” “Wretch! “says God, “then thou deservest hell, if I sent thee a loving epistle and thou wouldst not even break the seal: what shall I do unto thee?” Oh! let it not be so with you. Be Bible readers; be Bible searchers.
II. Our second point is, THE SUBJECTS ON WHICH THE BIBLE TREATS. The words of the text are these: “I have written to him the great things of my law.” The Bible treats of great things, and of great things only. There is nothing in this Bible which is unimportant. Every verse in it has a solemn meaning, and if we have not found it out yet, we hope yet to do it. You have seen mummies wrapped round and round with folds of linen. Well, God’s Bible is like that; it is a vast roll of white linen, woven in the loom of truth; so you will have to continue unwinding it, roll after roll, before you get the real meaning of it from the very depth; and when you have found, as you think, a part of the meaning, you will still need to keep on unwinding, unwinding, and all eternity you will be unwinding the words of this wondrous volume. Yet there is nothing in the Bible but great things. Let me divide, so as to be more brief. First all things in this Bible are great; but secondly, some things are the greatest of all.
All things in the Bible are great. Some people think it does not matter what doctrines you believe; that it is immaterial what church you attend; that all denominations are alike. Well, I dislike Mrs. Bigotry above almost all people in the world, and I never give her any compliment or praise: but there is another woman I hate equally as much, and that is Mrs. Latitudinarianism, a well-known character, who has made the discovery that all of us are alike. Now, I believe that a man may be saved in any church. Some have been saved in the church of Rome—a few blessed men, whose names I could mention here. I know, blessed be God, that multitudes are saved in the church of England: she has a host of pious, praying men in her midst. I think that all sections of Protestant Christians have a remnant according to the election of grace, and they had need to have, some of them, a little salt, for otherwise they would go to corruption. But when I say that, do you imagine that I think them all on a level? Are they all alike truthful? One seat says infant baptism is right, another says it is wrong, yet you say they are both right. I cannot see that. One teaches we are saved by free grace; another says that we are not, but are saved by free will; and yet you believe they are both right. I do not understand that. One says that God loves his people, and never leaves off loving them; another says that he did not love his people before they loved him: that he often loves them, and then ceases to love them and turns them away. They may be both right in the main; but can they be both right when one says “Yes,” and the other says “No”? I must have a pair of spectacles to enable me to took backwards and forwards at the same time, before I can see that. It cannot be, sirs, that they are both right. But some say they differ upon non-essentials. This text says, “I have written to him the great things of my law.” There is nothing in God’s Bible which is not great. Did ever any of you sit down to see which was the purest religion? “Oh,” say you, “we never took the trouble. We went just where our father and mother went.” Ah! that is a profound reason indeed. You went where your father and mother did. I thought you were sensible people; I didn’t think you went where other people pulled you, but went of your own selves. I love my parents above all that breathe, and the very thought that they believed a thing to be true, helps me to think it is correct; but I have not followed them; I belong to a different denomination, and I thank God I do. I can receive them as Christian brethren and sisters; but I never thought that because they happened to be one thing I was to be the same. No such thing. God gave me brains, and I will use them; and if you have any intellect, use it too. Never say it doesn’t matter. It does matter. Whatever God has put here is of eminent importance: he would not have written a thing that was indifferent. Whatever is here is of some value; therefore, search all questions, try all by the Word of God I am not afraid to have what I preach tried by this book. Only give me a fair field and no favour, and this book; if I say anything contrary to it, I will withdraw it the next Sabbath-day. By this I stand, by this I fall. Search and see: but don’t say, “It does not matter.” If God says a thing, it must always be of importance.
But while all things in God’s Word are important, all are not equally important. There are certain fundamental and vital truths which must be believed, or otherwise no man would be saved. If you want to know what you must believe if ye would be saved, you will find the great things of God’s law between these two covers; they are all contained here. As a sort of digest or summary of the great things of the law, I remember an old friend of mine once saying, “Ah! you preach the three R’s, and God will always bless you.” I said, “What are the three R’s?” And he answered, “Ruin, redemption, and regeneration.” They contain the sum and substance of divinity. R for ruin. We were all ruined in the fall; we were all lost when Adam sinned, and we are all ruined by our own transgressions; we are all ruined by our own evil hearts, and our own wicked wills; and we all shall be ruined unless grace saves us. Then there is a second R for redemption. We are ransomed by the blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish and without spot; we are rescued by his power; we are ransomed by his merits; we are redeemed by his strength. Then there is R for regeneration. If we would be pardoned, we must also be regenerated; for no man can partake of redemption unless he is regenerate. Let him be as good as he pleases; let him serve God, as he imagines, as much as he likes; unless he is regenerate, and has a new heart, a new birth, he will still be in the first R, that is ruin. These things contain an epitome of the gospel. I believe there is a better epitome in the five points of Calvinism:—Election according to the foreknowledge of God; the natural depravity and sinfulness of man; particular redemption by the blood of Christ; effectual calling by the power of the Spirit; and ultimate perseverance by the efforts of God’s might. I think all those need to be believed, in order to salvation; but I should not like to write a creed like the Athanasian, beginning with “Whosoever shall be saved, before all things it is necessary that he should hold the Catholic faith, which faith is this,”—when I got so far, I should stop, because I’ should not know what to write. I hold the Catholic faith of the Bible, the whole Bible and nothing but the Bible. It is not for me to draw up creeds; but I ask you to search the Scriptures, for this is the word of life.
God says, “I have written to him the great things of my law.” Do you doubt their greatness? Do ye think they are not worth your attention? Reflect a moment, man. Where art thou standing now?
“Lo, on a narrow neck of land, ‘Twixt two unbounded seas I stand; An inch of time, a moment’s space, May lodge me in you heavenly place, Or shut me up in hell.”
I recollect standing on a sea-shore once, upon a narrow neck of land, thoughtless that the tide might come up. The tide kept continually washing up on either side, and wrapped in thoughts I still stood there, until at last there was the greatest difficulty in getting on shore; the waves had washed between me and the shore. You and I stand each day on a narrow neck, and there is one wave coming up there; see, how near it is to your foot; and lo, another follows at every tick of the clock: “our hearts, like muffled drums, are beating funeral marches to the tomb.” We are always tending downwards to the grave each moment that we live. This Book tells me that if I am converted, when I die there is a heaven of joy and love to receive me; it tells me that angels’ pinions shall be stretched, and I, borne by strong cherubic wings, shall out-soar the lightning, and mount beyond the stars, up to the throne of God, to dwell for ever,
“Far from a world of grief and sin With God eternally shut in.”
Oh! it makes the hot tear start from my eye, it makes my heart too big for this my body, and my brain whirls at the thought of
“Jerusalem, my happy home, Name ever dear to me.”
Oh! that sweet scene beyond the clouds; sweet fields arrayed in living green, and rivers of delight. Are not these great things? But then, poor unregenerate soul, the Bible says, if thou art lost, thou art lost for ever; it tells thee, that if thou diest without Christ, without God, there is no hope for thee, that there is a place without a gleam of hope, where thou shalt read in burning letters, “Ye knew your duty, but ye did it not;” it tells you that ye shall be driven from his presence with a “depart cursed.” Are not these great things? Yes, sirs, as heaven is desirable, as hell is terrible, as time is short, as eternity is infinite, as the soul is precious, as pain is to be shunned, as heaven is to be sought, as God is eternal, and as his words are sure, these are great things, things ye ought to listen to.
III. Our last point is THE TREATMENT WHICH THE POOR BIBLE RECEIVES IN THIS WORLD. It is accounted a strange thing. What does that mean—the Bible accounted a strange thing? In the first place, it means that it is very strange to some people, because they never read it. I remember reading, on one occasion, the sacred story of David and Goliath, and there was a person present, positively grown up to years of maturity, who said to me, “Dear me what an interesting story; what book is that in?” And I recollect a person once coming to me in private; I spoke to her about her soul, she told me how deeply she felt, how she had a desire to serve God, but she found another law in her members. I turned to a passage in Romans, and read to her, “The good that I would I do not; and the evil which I would not that I do!” She said, “Is that in the Bible? I did not know it.” I did not blame her because she had no interest in the Bible till then; but I did wonder that there could be found persons who knew nothing about such a passage. And you know more about your ledgers than your Bible; you know more about your day-books than what God has written. Many of you will read a novel from beginning to end, and what have you got? A mouthful of froth when you have done. But you cannot read the Bible; that solid, lasting, substantial, and satisfying food goes uneaten, locked up in the cupboard of neglect; while anything that man writes, a catch of the day, is greedily devoured. “I have written unto him the great things of my law, but they were counted as a strange thing.” Ye have never read it. I bring the broad charge against you. Perhaps ye say, I ought not to charge you with any such thing. I always think it better to have a worse opinion of you than too good an one. I charge you with this: you do not read your Bibles. Some of you never have read it through. I know I speak what your heart must say, is honest truth. You are not Bible readers. You say you have the Bible in your houses: do I think you are such heathens as not to have a Bible? But when did you read it last? How do you know that your spectacles, which you have lost, have not been there for the last three years? Many people have not turned over its pages for a long time, and God might say unto them, “I have written unto you the great things of my law, but they have been accounted unto you a strange thing.”
Others there be who read the Bible, but when they read it, they say it is so horribly dry. That young man over there says it is a “bore;” that is the word he uses. He says, “My mother said to me, when you go up to town, read a chapter every day. Well, I thought I would please her, and I said I would. I am sure I wish I had not. I did not read a chapter yesterday or the day before. We were so busy. I could not help it.” You do not love the Bible, do you? “No, there is nothing in it which is interesting.” Ah! I thought so. But a little while ago I could not see anything in it. Do you know why? Blind men cannot see, can they? But when the Spirit touches the scales of the eyes they fall off, and when he puts eye-salve on, then the Bible becomes precious. I remember a minister who went to see an old lady, and he thought he would give her some precious promises out of the word of God. Turning to one, he saw written in the margin, “P,” and he asked, “What does this mean?” “That means precious, sir.” Further down he saw “T. and P.,” and he asked what the letters meant. “That,” she said, “means tried and proved, for I have tried and proved it.” If you have tried God’s word and proved it; if it is precious to your souls, then you are Christians; but those persons who despise the Bible, have “neither part nor lot in the matter.” If it is dry to you, you will be dry at last in hell. If you do not esteem it as better than your necessary food, there is no hope for you, for you lack the greatest evidence of your Christianity.
Alas! alas! the worst case is to come. There are some people who hate the Bible, as well as despise it. Is there such an one stepped in here? Some of you said, “Let us go and hear what the young preacher has to say to us.” This is what he hath to say to you: “Behold ye despisers, and wonder and perish.” This is what he hath to say to you: “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all that forget God.” And this, again he has to say to you: “Behold there shall come in the last days, mockers like yourselves, walking after your own lusts.” But more: he tells you tonight that if you are saved, you must find salvation here. Therefore, despise not the Bible, but search it, read it, and come unto it. Rest thee well assured, O scorner, that thy laughs cannot alter truth, thy jests cannot avert thine inevitable doom. Though in thy hardihood thou shouldst make a league with death, and sign a covenant with hell—yet swift justice shall o’ertake thee, and strong vengeance strike thee low. In vain dost thou jeer and mock, for eternal verities are mightier than thy sophistries: nor can thy smart sayings alter the divine truth of a single word of this volume of Revelation. Oh! why dost thou quarrel with thy best friend, and ill-treat thy only refuge? There yet remains hope even for the scorner. Hope in a Saviour’s veins. Hope in the Father’s mercy. Hope in the Holy Spirit’s omnipotent agency.
I have done when I have said one word. My friend, the philosopher, says it may be very well for me to urge people to read the Bible; but he thinks there are a great many sciences far more interesting and useful than theology. Extremely obliged to you for your opinion, sir. What science do you mean? The science of dissecting beetles, and arranging butterflies? “No,” you say, “certainly not.” The science, then, of arranging stones, and telling us of the strata of the earth? “No, not exactly that.” Which science then? “Oh, all sciences,” say you, “are better than the science of the Bible.” Ah! sir, that is your opinion; and it is because you are far from God, that you say so. But the science of Jesus Christ is the most excellent of sciences. Let no one turn away from the Bible, because it is not a book of learning and wisdom. It is. Would ye know astronomy? It is here: it tells you of the Sun of Righteousness and the Star of Bethlehem. Would you know botany? It is here: it tells you of the plant of renown—the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon. Would you know geology and mineralogy? You shall learn it here: for you may read of the Rock of Ages, and the White Stone with a name graven thereon, which no man knoweth, saving he that receiveth it. Would ye study history? Here is the most ancient of all the records of the history of the human race. Whate’er your science is, come and bend o’er this book; your science is here. Come and drink out of this fair fount of knowledge and wisdom, and ye shall find yourselves made wise unto salvation. Wise and foolish, babes and men, grey-headed sires, youths and maidens,—I speak to you, I plead with you, I beg of you respect your Bibles and search them out, for in them ye think ye have eternal life, and these are they which testify of Christ. I have done. Let us go home and practise what we have heard. I have heard of a woman, who, when she was asked what she remembered of the minister’s sermon, said, “I don’t recollect anything of it. It was about short weights and bad measures, and I didn’t recollect anything but to go home and burn the bushel.” So if you will remember to go home and burn the bushel, if you will recollect to go home and read your Bibles, I shall have said enough. And may God, in his infinite mercy, when you read your Bibles, pour into your soul, the illuminating rays of the Sun of Righteousness, by the agency of the ever-adorable Spirit; then you will read to your profit and to your soul’s salvation.
We may say of THE BIBLE:--
“God’s cabinet of revealed counsel ‘tis! Where weal and woe, are ordered so That every man may know which shall be his; Unless his own mistake, false application make.
“It is the index to eternity. He cannot miss of endless bliss, That takes this chart to steer by, Nor can he be mistook, that speaketh by this book.
“It is the book of God. What if I should Say, God of books, let him that looks Angry at that expression, as too bold, His thoughts in silence smother, till he find such another.”