Spurgeon on Proverbs







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                                Table of Contents


The Hold Fast                                                     Prov. 4:13         4 

The Great Reservoir                                           Prov. 4:23         18

Eyes Right                                                           Prov. 4:25          30

At the End of Your Life                                       Prov. 5:11          43

Sinners Bound with Cords of Sin                       Prov. 5:22          57

An Appeal to Children of Godly Parents            Prov. 6:20-23     70

The Talking Book                                               Prov. 6:22           80

The Waterer Watered                                        Prov. 11:25         93

Withholding Corn                                               Prov. 11:26         106

The Soul Winner Soul Winning                          Prov. 11:30         120

How a Man’s Conduct Come Home to Him       Prov. 14:14         133

Godly Fear and its Goddly Consequence           Prov. 14:26         147

God, the All-Seeing One                                     Prov. 15:11         160

The Hedge of Thorns and the Plain Way           Prov. 15:19         172

Unsound Spiritual Trading                                 Prov. 16:2           185

Trust in God—True Wisdom                              Prov. 16:20         199

The Unrivalled Friend                                         Prov. 17:17         211

Our Stronghold                                                   Prov. 18:10         224

Pride and Humility                                              Prov. 18:12         237

The Cause and Cure of a Wounded Spirit         Prov. 18:14         249

A Faithful Friend                                                 Prov. 18:24         261

The Sluggard’s Reproof                                     Prov. 20:4           274

One Lion, Two Lions, No Lions at All                Prov. 22:13         286

All the Day Long                                                 Prov. 23:17-18    300

Three Important Precepts                                  Prov. 23:19         313

Buying the Truth                                                 Prov. 23:23         326

The Heart:  A Gift from God                              Prov. 23:26         337

The Broken Fence:  The Sluggard’s Farm        Prov. 24:30-32    346

God’s Glory in Hiding Sin                                   Prov. 25:2           355

Good News                                                          Prov. 25:25         366

Tomorrow Cheer for Despondency                    Prov 27:1            379

Faithful Wounds                                                  Prov. 27:6           392

The Wandering Bird                                           Prov. 27:8           419

The Best Friend                                                  Prov. 27:10         431

The Way to Honor, The Honored Servant         Prov. 27:18         442

Spiritual Appetite                                                Prov. 27:7           455

Two Coverings and Two Consequences            Prov. 28:13         468




The Right King of Fear                                       Prov. 28:14        478

Two Ancient Proverbs                                        Prov. 29:25        491

A Homily for Humble Folks                                Prov. 30:2          501

The Gospel Cordial                                             Prov. 31:6-7       515


Procrastination by Jonathan Edwards               Prov. 27:1           524

The Duties of Parent by J. C. Ryle                     Prov. 22:6          542




                                  The Hold Fast



                             June 9th, 1878

                   at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,


                                     by C. H. Spurgeon.


“Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.”——Proverbs 4:13.


Faith may be well described as taking hold upon divine instruction. God has condescended to teach us, and it is ours to hear with attention and receive his words; and while we are hearing faith comes, even that faith which saves the soul. To take “fast hold” is an exhortation which concerns the strength, the reality, the heartiness, and the truthfulness of faith, and the more of these the better. If to take hold is good, to take fast hold is better. Even a touch of the hem of Christ’s garment causeth healing to come to us, but if we want the full riches which are treasured up in Christ we must not only touch but take hold; and if we would know from day to day to the very uttermost all the fullness of his grace, we must take fast hold, and so maintain a constant and close connection between our souls and the eternal fountain of life. It were well to give such a grip as a man gives to a plank when he seizes hold upon it for his very life— that is a fast hold indeed.

We are to take fast hold of instruction, and the best of instruction is that which comes from God; the truest wisdom is the revelation of God in Christ Jesus: of that therefore we are to take fast hold. The best understanding is obedience to the will of God and a diligent learning of those saving truths which God has set before us in his word: so that in effect we are exhorted to take hold of Christ Jesus our Lord, the incarnate wisdom in whom dwelleth all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. We are not to let him go but to keep him and hold him, for he is our life. Does not John in his gospel tell us that the Word is our light for instruction and at the same time our life? “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” The more we abide in the Lord Jesus and the more firmly we take hold upon him, the better will it be for us in a thousand ways. I intend at this time to speak as the Holy Spirit shall enable me upon this fast-hold; and I reckon that the subject is one of the most important which can occupy your attention at this particular crisis in the history of the church. Many there be around us who believe in Christ, but it is with a very trembling faith and their hold is unsteady; we need to have among us men of tighter grip, who really believe what they profess to believe, who know the truth in its living power, and are persuaded of its certainty, so that they cannot by any means be moved from their steadfastness. Among the vacillating crowd we long to see fast-holders who are pillars in the house of our God, whose grasp of divine truth is not that of babes or boys, but of men full grown and vigorous.

We shall handle our subject by speaking first upon the method by which we may take fast hold; then upon the difficulties which will lie in our way in so doing; thirdly, upon the benefits of such a firm grasp; and lastly upon the arguments for our fast holding mentioned in the text.

I. First then, the method of taking fast hold upon true religion, upon the gospel, upon Christ in fact.

At the outset my brethren, much must depend upon the intense decision which a man feels in his soul with regard to eternal things. If he intends trifling he will trifle, but if he means taking fast hold he will, by God’s grace, do so. Under God, this, in many cases, depends very much upon a man’s individuality and force of character. Some men are naturally thorough and whole-hearted in all things upon which they enter, whether of this world or the next. When they serve the devil they are amongst his life guards, and they rush to the front in all kinds of iniquity. Among sinners they become the chief for they have no fear and no hesitancy; they are daredevils, defying both God and man, sinning greedily with both hands. Such men, when converted, often become eminent saints, being just as thorough and resolute in their following after God as they were in the pursuit of evil; they are determined to vindicate his holy cause and spread abroad the knowledge of his love. I must confess an earnest longing that many such may be brought into the church of Christ at this time to brace her up and inspire her with new energy. Many in our churches appear to have no depth of earth; with joy they receive the word from the very fact that they are so shallow, but as soon as the sun ariseth with burning heat it is discovered that they have no root, for they wither away. Others are truly religious, and probably will remain so, but they are not zealous; in fact they are not intense about anything, but are lukewarm, weak, and unstable. These are mere chips in the porridge, neither souring nor sweetening: they give forth no flavour, but they take the flavour of that which surrounds them; they are the creatures of circumstances, not helmsmen who avail themselves of stream and tide, but mere drift-wood carried along by any and every current which may take hold on them. They have no fullness of manhood about them, they are mere children; they resemble the sapling which can be bent and twisted, and not the oak which defies the storm. There are certain persons of this sort who in other matters have purpose enough, and strength of mind enough, but when they touch the things of God they are loose, flimsy, superficial, half-hearted. You see them earnest enough in hunting after wealth, but they show no such zeal in the pursuit of godliness. The force of their character comes out in a political debate, in the making of a bargain, in the arrangement of a social gathering, but you never see it in the work of the Lord. The young man comes to the front as a volunteer, or as a member of a club, or in the house of business, but who ever hears of him in the Sabbath school, the prayer-meeting, or the home-mission? In the things of God such persons owe any measure of progress which they make to the influence of their fellows who bear them along as so much dead weight, they themselves never throwing enough weight into the matter to add a single half-ounce of spiritual power to the church. Now, all this is mischievous and wrong.

My dear friends, we must all confess that if the religion of Christ be true it deserves that we should give our whole selves to it. If it be a lie let it be scoured from creation; but if it he true, it is a matter concerning which we cannot be neutral or lukewarm, for it demands our soul, our life, our all, and its claim cannot be denied. There must be a determination wrought in our souls by the Holy Spirit to be upright and downright in the work of the Lord, or else we shall be little worth.

We come however to closer matters of fact when we observe next that our taking fast hold of the things of God must depend upon the thoroughness of our conversion. In this church we try, as far as we can, in receiving church-members, to receive none but those who give clear evidence of a change of heart; but this evidence can be imitated so skilfully that the best examination and the most earnest judgment cannot prevent self-deceived persons from making a profession of religion. This we cannot help, but woe to those who wilfully deceive. Many exhibit flowers and fruits which never grew in their own gardens; their experience is borrowed and does not spring from the essential root of the Holy Ghost’s work within their souls: this is sad indeed. Our condition before God is a personal matter and can never be settled by the judgment of our fellows, for what can others know of the workings of our hearts? Each man must judge himself and examine himself, for whatever a church may attempt in its zeal for purity, it can never take the responsibility of his own sincerity from any man. We do not pretend to give certificates of salvation, and if we did they would be worthless; you must yourselves know the Lord and be really converted, or else your profession is a forgery and you yourselves are counterfeits. If a man shall in after life hold fast the things of God he must be soundly converted at first. Very much of his after life depends upon the thoroughness of his beginning. There must at the very first be a deep sense of sin, a consciousness of guilt, a holy horror of evil, or he will never make much of a Christian. I do not say that all or even any of those doubts and temptations and satanic suggestions which some have had to struggle with, are necessary to make a true conversion; but I must confess that I am not at all displeased when I meet with a good deal of battling and struggling in the experience of the newly awakened. It is not pleasant for them, but we hope it will be profitable. Those whose souls are ploughed and ploughed and ploughed again before the seed is sown upon them, often yield the best crop. John Bunyan’s “Grace Abounding” very much accounts for John Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress.” If it had not been for his terrible conflicts of soul he might not have known how to hold fast his confidence when shut up for twelve years in prison, nor would he have seen visions of the celestial city when all around him was as the valley of the shadow of death. I do not wish to see seeking souls distressed by Satan, but I do press for this— that there shall be an end of self-trust, a total destruction of self-righteousness, a complete giving up of all legal and carnal hopes, or else the conversion will be a mere show and he who is the subject of it will be like Ephraim, a silly dove without heart. Unless repentance of sin is real in you, you will never take fast hold of the truth of God.

And there must be, dear friends, a very sincere laying hold upon Christ Jesus. If you have any doubt about the doctrine of atonement I do not wonder if your religion soon wears into shreds. No, you must without question accept the substitutionary sacrifice; your soul must feel that the precious blood is her only hope, that this and this alone can make her clean before the living God. You must fly to Christ in desperation, and cling to him as all your salvation and all your desire; there must be no hesitancy here. At the very outset of the Christian life these two things should be very distinct with you —sin which has ruined you, and Christ who has saved you. Make a muddle at first and your life will be a tangle. Some tradesmen never carry on their business well, they evidently do not more than half understand it and are mere bunglers. Now, if you come to enquire you will find that they were never thoroughly grounded in their calling; either they never served an apprenticeship, or else they were lazy lads and never became masters of their trade, and this bad commencement sticks to them all their lives. It is the same with the higher learning. A man may go a long way in the classics, but if he was not grounded in the grammar he will be everlastingly making mistakes which a sound scholar will soon discover. Every teacher must work hard at the elements if his pupils are to succeed. Whatever you do with the higher forms, do teach that little boy his grammar, ground him in the rudiments, or he will be injured for life. To borrow another illustration, we have heard of a bridge which spanned a stream and for some years stood well enough, but by-and-by through the force of the current, it began to show signs of giving way. When it came to be examined it was soon seen that the builders never went deep enough with the foundations. There is the mischief of thousands of other things besides bridges. We must have good and deep foundations or otherwise the higher we build the sooner the fabric will fall. Look at many of the wretched houses in the streets around us, they are the disgrace of the city; you will see settlements and cracks everywhere because of bad foundations and bad materials. The same is true in the characters of many professed Christians; for want of a good commencement you can see flaws and cracks innumerable and you wonder that they do not come down in sudden ruin. So indeed they would, but like those wretched houses they hold one another up. Many professors only keep upright because they stand in a row and derive support from their associations. I wish we could see more Christian men of the sort who dare to stand alone, like those old family mansions which stand each one in its own garden, so well built that when we begin to take them down each brick is found to be solid as granite, and the mortar is as hard as a rock. Such buildings and such men become every day more rare, but we must come back to the old style, and the sooner the better. Those of you who are yet in the early days of your piety should see to this. See that you are right, and sound, and thorough, and take fast hold of truth in the days of your first love, or yours will be but a sickly life in years to come.

This being taken for granted, the next help to a fast hold of Christ is hearty discipleship. Brethren, as soon as you are converted you become the disciples of Jesus, and if you are to become fast-holding Christians you must acknowledge him to be your Master, Teacher, and Lord in all things, and resolve to be good scholars in his school. He will be the best Christian who has Christ for his Master and truly follows him. Some are disciples of the church, others are disciples of the minister, and a third sort are disciples of their own thoughts; he is the wise man who sits at Jesus’ feet and learns of him with the resolve to follow his teaching and imitate his example. He who tries to learn of Jesus himself, taking the very words from the Lord’s own lips, binding himself to believe whatsoever the Lord hath taught and to do whatsoever he hath commanded—he I say, is the stable Christian. Follow Jesus my brethren and not the church, for our Lord has never said to his disciples, “Follow your brethren,” but he has said “Follow me.” He has not said, “Abide by the denominational confession,” but he has said, “Abide in me.” Nothing must come in between our souls and our Lord. What if fidelity to Jesus should sometimes lead us to differ from our brethren? What matters it so long as we do not differ from our Master? Crochets and quibbles are evil things, but a keenly sensitive conscientiousness is invaluable. Be true disciples of Christ and let his least word be precious to you. Remember that if a man love him he will keep his words; and he hath said, “he that shall break one of the least of these my commandments and shall teach men so, the same shall be least in the kingdom of heaven.” Shun all compromises and abatements of truth, but be thorough and determined, holding fast your Savior’s words. Follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. If such be your resolve by the grace of God, you will take fast hold of instruction and will never let it go.

It will much help you to this if in the next place you have a studious consideration of the Word of God, and meditate much upon the truth which you have received. There is too little studying of the Scriptures nowadays, I am persuaded. Books, magazines, papers, and the like bury the Bible under heaps of rubbish; but he who means to be a man of God to the fullness of his manhood will feed upon the word of God at first hand. Like the Bereans he will be of a noble spirit, and he will search the Scriptures daily. “I want,” saith he, “to obtain my creed, not at second hand from others, but directly for myself from the very word of God itself—the pure well of gospel undefiled.” This is a very important point. I have heard often of late a misused expression—“I do my own thinking:” let us correct it and then adopt it by saying, “I do my own searching of the word of God.” Remember, we are not called to think out a new gospel, as some imagine, but we are called to be thinkers upon the old gospel, that we may know and understand its principles and its bearings and become confirmed in the belief of it. We need to think over the word till we are thoroughly imbued with it. The silk of certain insects takes its color from the leaves on which they feed, and a Christian man’s life will always take its color from that which his soul feeds upon. Oh, to live upon the word of God, even upon the deep things of God, for so shall we be rooted and grounded in the faith and shall take fast hold of eternal wisdom.

An established Christian is one who not only knows the doctrine but who also knows the authority for it, having looked around it and pondered it in his heart. By careful meditation he is taught in the truth and is able to give a reason for the hope that is in him with meekness and fear. Nor is he merely a man of the letter; his study in the power of the Holy Spirit has carried him into the essence of the word. He has asked the Spirit of God to make him acquainted with divine truth, so that he has not only read of it but he has communed with it, and now he lives upon it, eats it, drinks it, receives it into the inward parts of his soul, and retains it there as a living and incorruptible seed. Now a man who does this year after year is the kind of man who, by God’s grace, will take fast-hold of instruction, and will prove a faithful witness for his Lord.

Add to this also an earnest seriousness of character, and you go a long way towards maintaining a fast hold of Christ. We do not mean by this that we are to dismiss cheerfulness—the Lord give us more of it, for it is as oil to the wheels, and is a high recommendation of religion to the unconverted. There are some who are a deal too gloomy in their religion, and seem to think that the grace of God is never displayed by them unless they are sullen and doleful. But at the same time there is a flippancy which is not commendable, and a levity which is far apart from the mind of Christ. Christian life is not child’s play; we above all men ought to make our lives sublime, and not ridiculous. We are not called into this world to trifle away the hours and kill time in doing nothing; for this life links itself to eternity, and that eternity, in spite of all that is said to the contrary, wilt be one of endless misery or of endless joy; it is therefore no small thing to possess an immortal mind and to be responsible before God. Sin is no trifle, pardon is no trifle, and condemnation is no trifle. Eternal life is precious beyond all things, and to lie under the wrath of God is dreadful beyond conception. I love to see, especially in young Christians, with regard to the things of God, deep seriousness of purpose and spirit, showing that they feel it to be a weighty thing to be a Christian, and that they cannot afford to have their Christianity put under the shadow of suspicion, nor dare they even appear to be mere players upon a stage, for they fear and tremble at his word.

Now, if all these things be in you and abound, there will grow around them an experimental verification of the things of God. I mean that you will not only read of the love of God, but you will feel it from day to day, and so be assured of it. You read in the Scriptures of the power of sin and you believe what you read, but to this will be added the confirmatory fact that you feel it in your members, and therefore cannot doubt it. You read of the efficacy of the precious blood of Jesus; but you do more, for you feel its cleansing power upon your heart and its consoling influence over your conscience, and so you are established in the blessed truth. We hardly know anything till we have lived it. You must get truth burnt into you with the hot iron of experience or you will forget it. I believe that the pains and griefs and afflictions of many of God’s children have been absolutely necessary to establish them in the faith; and I can only hope that you who are the children of joy may derive as much benefit from your gladness, as mourners have found in their sorrows; it might be so and should be so, but I fear it seldom is. The whole of our life should be a daily testing of the gospel, and a continuous verification of the eternal truth thereof. Our life should agree with this Book of life: just as the book of nature, being written by the same author as the book of revelation, shows the same hand and style; so the book of the new creation within us; being inscribed by the same Spirit who has written these Scriptures, will display the same style and manner; and we shall thus be growingly assured of the things which are verily revealed to us of God. Go on, dear friends, and may the Lord grant that whatever your experience may be, whether it shall abound in bitterness or in sweetness, the testimony of God may be confirmed in you, and your grip of it may be intensified by every year’s experience.

I must add one other word. I believe that in the mode of taking fast hold upon the gospel, practical Christianity has a great influence; I refer especially to practical usefulness. Some members enter the church and never do a hand’s turn. We have the distinguished privilege of seeing them sit in their pews, and that is all we know about them. We cannot bring them under church censure, for they are punctual in religious observances; but they are barren boughs. Give me the young man who, when he joins the church, says, “I shall take a little time to study the gospel till I know more of it by the teaching of God’s Spirit;” and then, having done so, says, “I have not learned this for myself. There is something for me to do in connection with the church of God and I am determined to find out what it is and to do it.” You see such a young believer going to the Sabbath school, or you find him beginning to speak in a cottage, or becoming a visitor, and seeking to speak personally to individuals about their souls. If he be a man of the right kind his work will be another hold-fast to his mind. Look at him, how he keeps to the gospel: how he clings to the old, old truth. He is not the man to run after new theories and modern doubts for he is helped to keep right by his practical connection with spiritual disease and its remedy. Go into the back slums of London and see if you will doubt the doctrine of human depravity. Oh no, it is your ladies and gentlemen that wear lavender kid gloves who doubt that doctrine. Try to rescue a harlot from her sin, and if you are enabled to lead her to Jesus you cannot doubt the power of the precious blood of Jesus to cleanse the heart. Not those who battle with vice but those who practice it themselves are found cavilling at the doctrine of atonement. Those who are busy plucking brands out of the fire are little given to speculation, but are firm abiders in the gospel. I think there are few exceptions to the rule that the “advanced thought” gentlemen are not engaged in practical work for the salvation of souls. They are grand talkers but very poor workers. I am not hypercritical when I say that if you will mention a “modern thought” professor, it will generally turn out that he is not worth his salt as to practical usefulness: not he; he has the parrot-faculty of pulling things to pieces, but what positive work has he ever done? He may be a distinguished dignitary or a noble scholar, but as to actually grappling with the hearts and consciences of men and entering into the dark and troublous experience of tempted souls, he is quite at sea, for he knows nothing about it. He would talk after another fashion if his hand had ever been laid to hard work among sinful men and afflicted consciences. I tell you sirs that to argue with a poor distressed conscience and to try to bring it to peace in Christ soon lets you know the truth of the gospel. To stand by a dying bed and hear the holy triumph of even the most illiterate of the children of God, or what is equally efficacious, to watch the last sad hours of an impenitent sinner dying without hope, will make you know that there is a world to come, joyful or terrible as the case may be; and you will also learn that sin is a great evil, and that the atonement is a great reality. Young convert, if you want to be one of the firm holders of the gospel you must get to work as well as to study, for this by the overruling power of the Holy Ghost will strengthen you in the faith of God’s elect. Thus I have brought forward the method: may it prove to be instructive.

II. Very briefly I want now to show the difficulties of taking fast hold of instruction, and every difficulty I mention will tend to show all the more clearly the necessity of it.

The first difficulty is that this is the age of questioning. Everybody questions now. Our friends over in Germany have pushed the questioning business to the furthest point, and in their thorough way they have produced its legitimate fruit in cold-blooded attempts to murder a venerable monarch. Professed ministers of the gospel have taught the German mind to doubt everything, and now the basis of society is shaken and law and order are undermined. What could they expect otherwise? He who does not fear God is not likely to honor the king. When men give up their Bibles they will care but little for human laws. We have plenty of the like evil leaven in England, and certain clergymen and dissenting divines are spreading it with hideous industry. Young gentlemen whose whiskers have not yet developed are authoritatively deciding that nothing can be decided, and dogmatically denouncing all dogmas. We meet them every day, and we notice that in proportion to their ignorance is their confidence in sneering at every holy thing. According to them nobody is sincere, nothing is sacred. These great men, who would never have been heard of if they had not been heretical, know better by far than God himself. As for apostles and prophets, they are just nothing at all to these infallibles; their own “thought” is more precious than inspiration itself. This conceited scepticism is in the air; everywhere it seems to be abroad and you cannot help encountering it; therefore let us be the more earnest to hold fast the faith.

Worse than this, this is an age of worldliness. Everybody wants to be rich, and nobody is rich now at the point at which his forefathers were content to stop. Our good old deacons and respected church members were content with very moderate incomes, they were satisfied and happy with thrift and prudence, and would have been deeply grieved with the extravagance which is seen on all sides at this time. They not only considered their shops and their fields, but they planned to have time to look after the Sunday-schools in which they were proud to serve, and the prayer-meetings which they delighted to attend. But, dear me, prayer-meetings, lectures, sermons, Sunday-schools, these are all despised now! If a man can make an extra guinea or two by putting himself where they are out of the question, he jumps at the chance. We must be rich, we must cut a dash, we must spend more than our neighbors, and for this the work of the church may go to the dogs. Oh for a few simple, earnest Christians who will judge their Lord and his cause to be worth some consideration, and will lay themselves out to serve his church. When worldliness is so predominant it becomes so much the harder to take fast hold of eternal things. One needs to hear the word, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you,” for unless we do hear it we shall be tempted to take fast hold on the world, and let the things of eternity slip by us.

Then, besides, there is and always has been a great desire for novelty. We are all the subjects of it: we all like something fresh. But there are some who are sick of the changeable disease; you see them zealots for a creed to-day, but on a sudden you find them deeply immersed in the opposite teaching. Ah, now they have found out something very wonderful: just as the idiot who saw the rainbow, and believed that there was a jewel at the foot of it, ran for miles to seize a glittering sapphire and grasped a piece of glass bottle; so do they forever pursue and never attain. We have a few of these gentlemen in most of our churches, but you will find them nowhere long. Another inventor starts a new system and away they go, pining always to be the first disciples of each new prophet. May God save us from the Athenian spirit which for ever hungers for something new.

Another difficulty, and the worst of all, is the corruption of our own hearts. “Take fast hold of instruction” says the text. “Why,” I hear a brother say, “my dear sir, sometimes it is as much as I can do to take hold of it at all. I have to question whether I have been converted. I go down into such depths of despondency that unless the truth holds me, I shall never hold it.” Well, but I hope this is all a means of helping you to hold it all the more firmly. You now see that salvation must be by grace from first to last. By this very process you will be compelled to hold the doctrines of grace the more intensely, because you are made to see how utterly unable you are, in and of yourselves to think a good thought, much less to remain steadfast in the whole truth of Christ.

And then there is Satan, too; how busy he is in trying to undermine the fundamentals of the faith! Has he not suggested to some of us all kind of doubts? Yes. I said to a man one day who had uttered some blasphemy in my presence against a certain truth, “You think you stagger me! My dear man, I have had more doubts pass through my thoughts a great deal than you could tell me, or fifty like you.” The doubts which the devil insinuates into the minds of the people of God are at times quite as horrible as any which a Voltaire or a Tom Paine was ever able to invent, and yet by God’s grace we have not given up the gospel, nor shall we, though heaven and earth shall pass away. Because we are one with Christ, we shall live in the truth of Christ, for he will keep and preserve us even to the end.

III. Thirdly let us consider the benefits of taking fast hold. I wish I had an hour in which to dilate upon the benefit of so doing, but I must briefly say that it gives stability to the Christian character to have a firm grip of the gospel. Men who take fast hold are the backbone of a church. All through the dark reign of moderatism in Scotland, who kept up the testimony for truth? Why, those solid Christians who were known as “the men” who held the faith and walked with God in the power of it. These were men much in prayer and much in meditation, who lived on when all sound teaching had left the pulpits, because their souls were sustained by secret communion with God on the hill-side. When the time came for pure truth to revive in Scotland these men came to the front and were honored as the men who had kept the flame alive in the land. What was it delivered our country in still earlier times from being altogether under the hoof of Rome? When prelates forsook Christ, and preachers by hundreds in Mary’s day turned from Protestantism to Popery, the true faith lived on in the hearts of poor men and women, weavers and cobblers, who believed what they did believe and could not deny the truth. Everybody in the parish knew that they were “stubborn heretics” who could not be frightened or argued down. They knew, they were sure, they were confident, and therefore they spoke. It did not matter to them that they were in a minority, for they knew that a minority of one on God’s side is a majority. “I Athanasius against the world,” said that grand old confessor, when they told him everybody had gone over to Arianism, and that nobody believed in the deity of Christ. “The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved, I bear up the pillars of it,” said one of old; and happy is that man to whom such an office is given.

A firm grip of the gospel will give you strength for service. The man who can “hold the fort” at one time is the very man who can capture a fort at another time. He who can stand well can march well. The hand of the church is made of the same material as its backbone. It is of no use sending poor hesitating professors into the field of holy labor. If you hardly know what you believe how can you teach other people? But when the truth is written upon your very soul and graven as with the point of a diamond upon your heart, you will speak with confidence; and there will be a power about your utterances which none shall be able to withstand or gainsay. For the sake then of your spiritual strength, I press the exhortation of the text, “Take fast hold of instruction.”

And this, too, will bring you joy. The outskirts of our Jerusalem are dreary; her glory lies within. Where shines the brightest light? It is in the holy of holies, in the innermost shrine. The skin and husks of religion are poor things, but the juice, the life, the vital power of religion,—therein lies the sweetness. You must not be satisfied with the “name to live”; it will never comfort you, it will even distress you. The life of Christ mightily developed in you must be the joy of your heart. Multitudes of Christian professors get next to nothing out of Christianity. How can they? They hold their religion as some rich farmers hold “off-hand farms.” Nobody ever makes anything out of off-hand farms: the man who makes farming pay lives on the spot, and gives his whole time and energy to it. So is it in the things of God: if you make your minister your bailiff in religion you will get nothing out of it; you must live in it and upon it, and then you will prosper. I want you to say, “If there be anything in godliness I am going to know it; if prayer has power I am going to pray; if there be such a thing as communion with God I will enjoy it; if there be such a thing as likeness to Christ I will obtain it. Godliness shall not be an addition to my life, but it shall be my life itself.” Ah brother, you are the man of the shining countenance, you are the man of the sparkling eye; you drink deep, and you find that the deeper you drink the sweeter the draught becomes.

Lastly, with regard to this summary of benefits;—persons of this kind are the very glory of the church, they are the persons in whom true religion displays its brightest beams. They may be humble cottagers, or obscure members of a large church who are scarcely known, but those who live with them, those who are at all acquainted with them, say of them, “These men are a credit to the church and an honor to the name of Christianity.” Not your frothy talkers, not your flimsy professors, but your deep taught, grace-instructed men and women, these are they who are the beauty of the church and the glory of Christ. I would to God we had many more such. I look around and see that the cause does not prosper as I could wish throughout the land, and then I recollect in one spot an earnest village preacher, in another a holy laborious deacon, in a third a gracious woman, zealous in every good work, and I am comforted. Thank God, there is life in the old church yet. There is hope for her yet because of her fast-holding people. If I study the statistics of the churches, I have to say, “What is the good of these figures? Probably a church of two hundred members might be cut down to twenty earnest effectives.” For my part, I would sooner stand on this platform with twelve holy men and women to back me up than with twelve thousand mere pretenders to religion, such as can be found in crowds anywhere. No, it is the fast grip of faith, it is vital godliness which makes a man to be a real power in the church.

IV. Now lastly I have to mention the arguments of the text, which are three. All through the sermon I have been using argument, therefore I shall be the more brief and draw to a close.

The first argument is, take fast hold of true religion because it is your best friend. Read the text: “Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go.” You cannot find your way to heaven without this guide, therefore do not suffer it to leave you. Do as Moses did, who when his father-in-law, Hobab, was with him, would not suffer him to depart, “for” he said, “thou shalt be to us instead of eyes, for thou knowest where to encamp in the wilderness.” As Moses kept Hobab, so do you keep the faith, for you cannot find your road except by holding the true gospel with a true heart. What a sweet companion the gospel is! How often it has cheered you! How easy has the road become while you have been in intercourse with it. Do you what the disciples at Emmaus did when Jesus talked with them: they constrained him, saying “Abide with us.” Do not let him go; you will be a lonely pilgrim if you do. No, if you could be led by an angel but must lose the presence of your God, you would be wise to cry out against such an evil, and like Moses plead: “If thy Spirit go not with us, carry us not up hence.”

The next argument is that true godliness should be held fast, for it is your treasure. “Keep it,” says our text. It is your best inheritance at the present moment, and it is to be your eternal inheritance: keep it then. Let everything else go, but do not part with a particle of truth. The slightest fragment of truth is more valuable than a diamond. Hold it then with all firmness. You are so much the richer by every truth you know; you will be so much the poorer by every truth you forget. Hold it then, and hide it in your heart. A certain king who had a rare diamond sent it to a foreign court, entrusting it to a very faithful servant. This servant was attacked however on the road by a band of robbers, and as they could not find the diamond, they drew their swords and killed him. He was found dead, but his master exclaimed, “He has not lost the diamond, I am sure!” He judged truly, for the trusty servant had swallowed the gem and so preserved it with his life. We also should thus place the truth in our inward parts, and then we shall never be deprived of it. A priest took a Testament from an Irish boy. “But” cried the boy, “you cannot take away those six chapters of Matthew that I learned by heart.” They may take away our books but they cannot take away what we have fed upon and made our own. “His flesh is meat indeed, his blood is drink indeed,” for when we have fed upon him our Lord Jesus remains in us the hope of glory. Hold fast the truth, O believers in Jesus, for it is your treasure.

Lastly, it is your “lift.” Mr. Arnot, in his very beautiful book upon the Proverbs, tells a story to illustrate this text. He says that in the Southern seas an American vessel was attacked by a wounded whale. The huge monster ran out for the length of a mile from the ship, and then turned round, and with the whole force of its acquired speed struck the ship and made it leak at every timber, so as to begin to go down. The sailors got out all their boats, filled them as quickly as they could with the necessaries of life, and began to pull away from the ship. Just then two strong men might be seen leaping into the water who swam to the vessel, leaped on board, disappeared for a moment, and then came up bringing something in their hands. Just as they sprang into the sea, down went the vessel, and they were carried round in the vortex, but they were observed to be both of them swimming, not as if struggling to get away, but as if looking for something, which at last they both seized and carried to the boats. What was this treasure? What article could be so valued as to lead them to risk their lives? It was the ship’s compass which had been left behind, without which they could not have found their way out of those lonely southern seas into the high road of commerce. That compass was life to them, and the gospel of the living God is the same to us. You and I must venture all for the gospel: this infallible word of God must be guarded to the death. Men may tell us what they please, and say what they will, but we will risk everything sooner than give up those eternal principles by which we have been saved. The Lord give all of us his abundant grace that we may take fast hold of divine instruction. Amen.

The Great Reservoir

February 21, 1858


"Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."—Proverbs 4:23.

If I should vainly attempt to fashion my discourse after lofty models, I should this morning compare the human heart to the ancient city of Thebes, out of whose hundred gates multitudes of warriors were wont to march. As was the city, such were her armies, as was her inward strength, such were they who came forth of her. I might then urge the necessity of keeping the heart, because it is the metropolis of our manhood, the citadel and armory of our humanity. Let the chief fortress surrender to the enemy, and the occupation of the rest must be an easy task. Let the principal stronghold be possessed by evil, the whole land must be overrun thereby. Instead, however, of doing this, I shall attempt what possibly I may be able to perform, by a humble metaphor and a simple figure, which will be easily understood; I shall endeavor to set forth the wise man's doctrine, that our life issues from the heart, and thus I shall labor to show the absolute necessity of keeping the heart with all diligence.

You have seen the great reservoirs provided by our water companies, in which the water which is to supply hundreds of streets and thousands of houses is kept. Now, the heart is just the reservoir of man, and our life is allowed to flow in its proper season. That life may flow through different pipes—the mouth, the hand, the eye; but still all the issues of hand, of eye, of lip, derive their source from the great fountain and central reservoir, the heart; and hence there is no difficulty in showing the great necessity that exists for keeping this reservoir, the heart, in a proper state and condition, since otherwise that which flows through the pipes must be touted and corrupt. May the Holy Spirit now direct our meditations.

Mere moralists very often forget the heart, and deal exclusively with the lesser powers. Some of them say, "If a man's life be wrong, it is better to alter the principles upon which his conduct is modeled: we had better adopt another scheme of living; society must be re-modeled, so that man may have an opportunity for the display of virtues, and less temptation to indulge in vice." It is as if, when the reservoir was filled with poisonous or polluted fluid, some sage counsellor should propose that all the piping had better be taken up, and fresh pipes laid down, so that the water might run through fresh channels; but who does not perceive that it would be all in vain, if the fountain-head were polluted, however good the channels. So in vain the rules by which men hope to fashion their lives; in vain the regimen by which we seek to constrain ourselves to the semblance of goodness, unless the heart be right, the very best scheme of life shall fall to the ground, and fail to effect its design. Others say, "Well, if the life be wrong, it would be better to set the understanding right: you must inform man's judgment, educate him, teach him better, and when his head is well informed, then his life will be improved. Now, understanding is, if I may use such a figure, the stopcock which controls the emotions, lets them flow on, or stops them; and it is as if some very wise man, when a reservoir had been poisoned, proposed that there should be a new person employed to turn the water off or on, in hope that the whole difficulty would thus be obviated. If we followed his advice, if we found the wisest man in the world to have control of the fountain, Mr. Understanding would still be incapable of supplying us with healthy streams, until we had first of all purged the cistern whence they flowed. The Arminian divine, too, sometimes suggests another way of improving man's life. He deals with the will. He says, the will must first of all be conquered, and if the will be right, then every thing will be in order. Now, will is like the great engine which forces the water out of the fountain-head along the pipes, so that it is made to flow into our dwellings. The learned counsellor proposes that there should be a new steam-engine employed to force the water along the pipes. "If," says he, "we had the proper machinery for forcing the fluid, then all would be well." No, sir, if the stream be poisonous, you may have axles to turn on diamonds, and you may have a machine that is made of gold, and a force as potent as Omnipotence, but even then you have not accomplished your purpose until you have cleansed the polluted fountain, and purged the issues of life which flow therefrom. The wise man in our text seems to say, "Beware of misapplying your energies, be careful to begin in the right place." It is very necessary the understanding should be right; it is quite needful the will should have its proper predominance; it is very necessary that you should keep every part of man in a healthy condition; "but," says he, "if you want to promote true holiness, you must begin with the heart, for out of it are the issues of life; and when you have purged it, when you have made its waters pure and limpid, then shall the current flow and bless the inhabitants with clear water; but not till then." Here let us pause and ask the solemn and vital question, "Is my heart right in the sight of God?" For unless the inner man has been renewed by the grace of God, through the Holy Spirit, our heart is full of rottenness, filth, and abominations. And if so, here must all our cleansing begin, if it be real and satisfactory. Unrenewed men, I beseech you ponder the words of an ancient Christian which I here repeat in thine ear:—"It is no matter what is the sign, though an angel, that hangs without, if the devil and sin dwell therein. New trimmings upon an old garment will not make it new, only give it a new appearance; and truly it is no good husbandry to bestow a great deal of cost in mending up an old suit, that will soon drop to tatters and rags, when a little more might purchase a new one that is lasting. And is it not better to labor to get a new heart, that all thou dost may be accepted, and thou saved, than to lose all the pains thou takest in religion, and thyself also for want of it?"

Now, ye who love the Lord, let me take you to the reservoir of your heart, and let, me urge upon you the great necessity of keeping the heart right, if you would have the stream of your life happy for yourselves and beneficial to others.

I. First, keep the heart full. However pure the water may be in the central reservoir, it will not be possible for the company to provide us with an abundant supply of water, unless the reservoir itself be full. An empty fountain will most assuredly beget empty pipes; and let the machinery be never so accurate, let every thing else be well ordered, yet if that reservoir be dry, we may wait in vain for any of the water that we require. Now, you know many people—(you are sure to meet with them in your own society, and your own circle; for I know of no one so happy as to be without such acquaintances)—whose lives are just dry, good-for-nothing emptiness. They never accomplish anything; they have no mental force; they have no moral power; what they say, nobody thinks of noticing; what they do is scarcely ever imitated. We have known fathers whose moral force has been so despicable, that even their children have scarcely been able to imitate them. Though imitation was strong enough in them, yet have they unconsciously felt, even in their childhood, that their father was, after all, but a child like themselves, and had not grown to be a man. Do you not know many people, who if they were to espouse a cause, and it were entrusted to them, would most certainly pilot it to shipwreck. Failure would be the total result. You could not use them as clerks in your office, without feeling certain that your business would be nearly murdered. If you were to employ them to manage a concern for you, you would be sure they would manage to spend all the money, but could never produce a doit. If they were placed in comfortable circumstances for a few months, they would go on carelessly till all was gone. They are just the flats, preyed on by the sharpers in the world; they have no manly strength, no power at all. See these people in religion: it does not matter much what are their doctrinal sentiments, it is quite certain they will never affect the minds of others. Put them in the pulpit: they are the slaves of the deacons, or else the, are over-ridden by the church; they never have an opinion of their own, can not come out with a thing; they have not the heart to say, "Such a thing is, and I know it is." These men just live on, but as far as any utility to the world is concerned, they might almost as well never have been created, except it were to be fed upon by other people. Now, some say that this is the fault of men's heads: "Such a one," they say, "could not get on; he had a small head; it was clean impossible for him to prosper, his head was small, he could not do anything; he had not enough force." Now, that may be true; but I know what was truer still—he had got a small heart and that heart was empty. For, mark you, a man's force in the world, other things being equal, is just in the ratio of the force and strength of his heart. A full-hearted man is always a powerful man: if he be erroneous, then he is powerful for error; if the thing is in his heart, he is sure to make it notorious, even though it may be a downright falsehood. Let a man be never so ignorant, still if his heart be full of love to a cause, he becomes a powerful man for that object, because he has got heart-power, heart-force. A man may be deficient in many of the advantages of education, in many of those niceties which are so much looked upon in society; but once give him a good strong heart, that beats hard, and there is no mistake about his power. Let him have a heart that is right full up to the brim with an object, and that man will do the thing, or else he will die gloriously defeated, and will glory in his defeat. HEART IS POWER. It is the emptiness of men's hearts that makes them so feeble. Men do not feel what they are at. Now, the man in business that goes heart and soul into his business, is more likely to prosper than anybody else. That is the preacher we want, the man that has a full soul. Let him have a head—the more he knows the better; but, after all, give him a big heart; and when his heart beats, if his heart be full, it will, under God, either make the hearts of his congregation beat after him; or else make them conscious that he is laboring hard to compel them to follow. O! if we had more heart in our Master's service, how much more labor we could endure. You are a Sunday-school teacher, young man, and you are complaining that you can not get on in the Sunday-school. Sir, the service-pipe would give out plenty of water if the heart were full. Perhaps you do not love your work. O, strive to love your work more, and then when your heart is full, you will go on well enough. "O," saith the preacher, "I am weary of my work in preaching; I have little success; I find it a hard toil." The answer to that question is, "Your heart is not full of it, for if you loved preaching, you would breathe preaching, feed upon preaching, and find a compulsion upon you to follow preaching; and your heart being full of the thing, you would be happy in the employment. O for a heart that is full, and deep, and broad! Find the man that hath such a soul as that, and that is the man from whom the living waters shall flow, to make the world glad with their refreshing streams.

Learn, then, the necessity of keeping the heart full; and let the necessity make you ask this question—"But how can I keep my heart full? How can my emotions be strong? How can I keep my desires burning and my zeal inflamed?" Christian! there is one text which will explain all this. "All my springs are in thee," said David. If thou hast all thy springs in God, thy heart will be full enough. If thou dost go to the foot of Calvary, there will thy heart be bathed in love and gratitude. If thou dost frequent the vale of retirement, and there talk with thy God, it is there that thy heart shall be full of calm resolve. If thou goest out with thy Master to the hill of Olivet, and dost with him look down upon a wicked Jerusalem, and weep over it with him, then will thy heart be full of love for never-dying souls. If thou dost continually draw thine impulse, thy life, the whole of thy being from the Holy Spirit, without whom thou canst do nothing; and if thou dost live in close communion with Christ, there will be no fear of thy having a dry heart. He who lives without prayer—he who lives with little prayer—he who seldom reads the Word—he who seldom looks up to heaven for a fresh influence from on high—he will be the man whose heart will become dry and barren; but he who calls in secret on his God—who spends much time in holy retirement—who delights to meditate on the words of the Most High—whose soul is given up to Christ—who delights in his fullness, rejoices in his all-sufficiency, prays for his second coming, and delights in the thought of his glorious advent—such a man, I say, must have an overflowing heart; and as his heart is, such will his life be. It will be a full life; it will be a life that will speak from the sepulcher, and wake the echoes of the future. "Keep thine heart with all diligence," and entreat the Holy Spirit to keep it full; for, otherwise, the issues of thy life will be feeble, shallow, and superficial; and thou mayest as well not have lived at all.

2. Secondly, it would be of little use for our water companies to keep their reservoirs full, if they did not also keep them pure. I remember to have read a complaint in the newspaper of a certain provincial town, that a tradesman had been frequently supplied with fish from the water company, large eels having crept down the pipe, and sometimes creatures a little more loathsome. We have known such a thing as water companies supplying us with solids when they ought to have given us nothing but pure crystal. Now, no one likes that. The reservoir should be kept pure and clean; and unless the water comes from a pure spring, and is not impregnated with deleterious substances, however full the reservoir may be, the company will fail of satisfying or of benefiting its customers. Now it is essential for us to do with our hearts as the company must do with its reservoir. We must keep our hearts pure; for if the heart be not pure, the life can not be pure. It is quite impossible that it should be so. You see a man whose whole conversation is impure and unholy; when he speaks he lards his language with oaths; his mind is low and groveling; none but the things of unrighteousness are sweet to him, for he has no soul above the kennel and the dunghill. You meet with another man who understands enough to avoid violating the decencies of life; but still, at the same time he likes filthiness; any low joke, anything that will in some way stir unholy thoughts is just the thing that he desires. For the ways of God he has no relish; in God's house he finds no pleasure, in his Word no delight. What is the cause of this? Say some, it is because of his family connections—because of the situation in which he stands—because of his early education, and all that. No, no; the simple answer to that is the answer we gave to the other inquiry; the heart is not right; for, if the heart were pure, the life would be pure too. The unclean stream betrays the fountain. A valuable book of German parables, by old Christian Scriver, contains the following homely metaphor:—"A drink was brought to Gotthold, which tasted of the vessel in which it had been contained; and this led him to observe. We have here an emblem of our thoughts, words, and works. Our heart is defiled by sin, and hence a taint if sinfulness cleaves unfortunately to everything we take in hand; and although, from the force of habit, this may be imperceptible to us, it does not escape the eye of the omniscient, holy, and righteous God." Whence come our carnality, covetuousness, pride, sloth and unbelief? Are they not all to be traced to the corruption of our hearts? When the hands of a clock move in an irregular manner, and when the bell strikes the wrong hour, be assured there is something wrong within. O how needful that the main-spring of our motives be in proper order, and the wheels in a right condition.

Ah! Christian keep thy heart pure. Thou sayest, "How can I do this?" Well, there was of old a stream of Marah, to which the thirsty pilgrims in the desert came to drink; and when they came to taste of it, it was so brackish that though their tongues were like torches, and the roofs of their mouths were parched with heat, yet they could not drink of that bitter water. Do you remember the remedy which Moses prescribed? It is the remedy which we prescribe to you this morning. He took a certain tree, and he cast it into the waters, and they became sweet and clear. Your heart is by nature like Marah's water, bitter and impure. There is a certain tree, you know its name, that tree on which the Saviour hung, the cross. Take that tree, put it into your heart, and though it were even more impure than it is, that sweet cross, applied by the Holy Spirit, would soon transform it into its own nature, and make it pure. Christ Jesus in the heart is the sweet purification. He is made unto us sanctification. Elijah cast salt into the waters; but we must cast the blood of Jesus there. Once let us know and love Jesus, once let his cross become the object of our adoration and the theme of our delight, the heart will beam its cleansing, and the life will become pure also. Oh! that we all did learn the sacred lesson of fixing the cross in the heart! Christian man! love thy Saviour more; cry to the Holy Spirit that thou mayest have more affection for Jesus; and then, how ever gainful may be thy sin, thou wilt say with the poet,

"Now for the love I bear his name,
What was my gain I count my loss;
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to his cross."

The cross in the heart is the purifier of the soul; it purges and it cleanses the chambers of the mind. Christian! keep thy heart pure, "for out of it are the issues of life."

3. In the third place, there is one thing to which our water companies need never pay much attention; that is to say, if their water be pure, and the reservoir be full, they need not care to keep it peaceable and quiet, for let it be stirred to a storm, we should receive our water in the same condition as usual. It is not so, however, with the heart. Unless the heart be kept peaceable, the life will not be happy. If calm doth not reign over that inner lake within the soul which feeds the rivers of our life, the rivers themselves will always be in storm. Our outward acts will always tell that they were born in tempests, by rolling in tempests themselves. Let us just understand this, first, with regard to ourselves. We all desire to lead a joyous life; the bright eye and the elastic foot are things which we each of us desire; to carry about a contented mind is that to which most men are continually aspiring. Let us all remember, that the only way to keep our life peaceful and happy is to keep the heart at rest; for come poverty, come wealth, come honor, come shame, come plenty, or come scarcity, if the heart be quiet there will be happiness anywhere. But whatever the sunshine and the brightness, if the heart be troubled the whole life must be troubled too. There is a sweet story told in one of the German martyrologies well worth both my telling and your remembering. A holy martyr who had been kept for a long time in prison, and had there exhibited, to the wonderment of all who saw him, the strongest constancy and patience, was at last, upon the day of execution, brought out, and tied to the stake preparatory to the lighting of the fire. While in this position he craved permission to speak once more to the Judge, who, according to the Swiss custom, was required to be also present at the execution. After repeatedly refusing, the judge at last came forward, when the peasant addressed him thus: You have this day condemned me to death. Now, I freely admit that I am a poor sinner, but positively deny that I am a heretic, because from my heart I believe and confess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed (which he thereupon repeated from beginning to end). Now, then, sir, he proceeded to say, I have but one last request to make, which is, that you will approach and place your hand, first upon my breast and then upon your own, and afterwards frankly and truthfully declare, before this assembled multitude, which of the two, mine or yours, is beating most violently with fear and anxiety. For my part, I quit the world with alacrity and joy, to go and be with Christ, in whom I have always believed; what your feelings are at this moment is best known to yourself. The judge could make no answer, and commanded them instantly to light the pile. It was evident, however, from his looks, that he was more afraid than the martyr."

Now, keep your heart right. Do not let it smite you. The Holy Spirit says of David, "David's heart smote him." The smiting of the heart is more painful to a good man than the rough blows of the fist. It is a blow that can be felt; it is iron that enters into the soul. Keep your heart in good temper. Do not let that get fighting with you. Seek that the peace of God which passeth all understanding, may keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Bend your knee at night, and with a full confession of sin, express your faith in Christ, then you may "dread the grave as little as your bed." Rise in the morning and give your heart to God, and put the sweet angels of perfect love and holy faith therein, and you may go into the world, and were it full of lions and of tigers you would no more need to dread it than Daniel when he was cast into the lion's den. Keep the heart peaceable and your life will be happy.

Remember, in the second place, that it is just the same with regard to other men. I should hope we all wish to lead quiet lives, and as much as lieth in us to live peaceably with all men. There is a particular breed of men—I do not know where they come from, but they are mixed up now with the English race and to be met with here and there—men who seem to be born for no other reason whatever but to fight—always quarreling, and never pleased. They say that all Englishmen are a little that way—that we are never happy unless we have something to grumble at, and that the worst thing that ever could be done with us would be to give us some entertainment at which we could not grumble, because we should be mortally offended, because we had not the opportunity of displaying our English propensities. I do not know whether that is true of all of us, but it is of some. You can not sit with them in a room but they introduce a topic upon which you are quite certain to disagree with them. You could not walk with them half a mile along the public streets but they would be sure to make an observation against every body and every thing they saw. They talk about ministers: one man's doctrine is too high, another's is too low; one man they think is a great deal too effeminate and precise, another they say is so vulgar they would not hear him at all. They say of another man that they do not think he attends to visiting his people; of another, that he visits so much that he never prepares for the pulpit. No one can be right for them.

Why is this? Whence arises this continual snarling? The heart must again supply the answer, they are morose and sullen in the inward parts, and hence their speech betrayeth them. They have not had their hearts brought to feel that God hath made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth, or if they have felt that, they have never been brought to spell in their hearts—"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another." Whichever may have been put there of the other ten, the eleventh commandment was never written there. "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another." That they forgot. Oh! dear Christian people, seek to have your hearts full of love, and if you have had little hearts till now that could not hold love enough for more than your own denomination, get your hearts enlarged, so that you may have enough to send out service-pipes to all God's people throughout the habitable globe; so that whenever you meet a man who is a true-born heir of heaven, he has nothing to do but to turn to the tap, and out of your loving heart will begin to flow issues of true, fervent, unconstrained, willing, living love. Keep thine heart peaceable, that thy life may be so; for out of the heart are the issues of life.

How is this to be done? We reply again, we must ask the Holy Spirit to pacify the heart. No voice but that which on Galilee lake said to the storm "Be still," can ever lay the troubled waters of a stormy heart. No strength but Omnipotence can still the tempest of human nature. Cry out mightily unto him. He still sleeps in the vessel with his church. Ask him to awake, lest your piety should perish in the waters of contention. Cry unto him that he may give your heart peace and happiness. Then shall your life be peaceful; spend ye it where ye may, in trouble or in joy.

4. A little further. When the water-works company have gathered an abundance of water in the reservoir, there is one thing they must always attend to, and that is, they must take care they do not attempt too much, or otherwise they will fail. Suppose they lay on a great main pipe in one place to serve one city, and another main pipe to serve another, and the supply which was intended to fill one channel is diverted into a score of streams, what would be the result? Why nothing would be done well, but everyone would have cause to complain. Now, man's heart is after all so little, that there is only one great direction in which its living water can ever flow; and my fourth piece of advice to you from this text is, Keep your heart undivided. Suppose you see a lake, and there are twenty or thirty streamlets running from it: why, there will not be one strong river in the whole country; there will be a number of little brooks which will be dried up in the summer, and will be temporary torrents in the winter. They will every one of them be useless for any great purposes, because there is not water enough in the lake to feed more than one great stream. Now, a man's heart has only enough life in it to pursue one object fully. Ye must not give half your love to Christ, and the other half to the world. No man can serve God and mammon because there is not enough life in the heart to serve the two. Alas! many people try this, and they fail both ways. I have known a man who has tried to let some of his heart run into the world, and another part he allowed to drip into the church, and the effect has been this: when he came into the church he was suspected of hypocrisy. "Why," they said, "if he were truly with us, could he have done yesterday what he did, and then come and profess so much to-day?" The church looks upon him as a suspicious one: or if he deceive them they feel he is not of much use to them, because they have not got all his heart. What is the effect of his conduct in the world? Why, his religion is a fetter to him there. The world will not have him, and the church will not have him; he wants to go between the two, and both despise him. I never saw anybody try to walk on both sides of the street but a drunken man: he tried it, and it was very awkward work indeed; but I have seen many people in a moral point of view try to walk on both sides of the street, and I thought there was some kind of intoxication in them, or else they would have given it up as a very foolish thing. Now, if I thought this world and the pleasures thereof worth my seeking, I would just seek them and go after them, and I would not pretend to be religious; but if Christ be Christ, and if God be God, let us give our whole hearts to him, and not go shares with the world. Many a church member manages to walk on both sides of the street in the following manner: His sun is very low indeed—it has not much light, not much heat, and is come almost to its setting. Now sinking suns cast long shadows, and this man stands on the world's side of the street, and casts a long shadow right across the road, to the opposite side of the wall just across the pavement. Ay, it is all we get with many of you. You come and you take the sacramental bread and wine; you are capsized; you join the church; and what we get is just your shadow; there is your substance on the other side of the street, after all. What is the good of the empty chrysalis of a man? And yet many of our church members are little better. They just do as the snake does that leaves its slough behind. They give us their slough, their skin, the chrysalis case in which life once was, and then they go themselves hither and thither after their own wanton wills; they give us the outward, and then give the world the inward. O how foolish this, Christian! Thy master gave himself wholly for thee; give thyself unreservedly to him. Keep not back part of the price. Make a full surrender of every motion of thy heart; labor to have but one object, and one aim. And for this purpose give God the keeping of thine heart. Cry out for more of the divine influences of the Holy Spirit, that so when thy soul is preserved and protected by him, it may be directed into one channel, and one only, that thy life may run deep and pure, and clear and peaceful; its only banks being God's will, its only channel the love of Christ and a desire to please him. Thus wrote Spencer in days long gone by: "Indeed, by nature, man's heart is a very divided, broken thing, scattered and parceled out, a piece to this creature, and a piece to that lust. One while this vanity hires him (as Leah did Jacob of Rachel), anon when he hath done some drudgery for that, he lets out himself to another: thus divided is man and his affections. Now the elect, whom God hath decreed to be vessels of honor, consecrated for his holy use and service, he throws into the fire of his word, that being there softened and melted, he may by his transforming Spirit cast them anew, as it were, into a holy oneness; so that he who before was divided from God, and lost among the creatures, and his lusts, that shared him among them, now, his heart is gathered into God from them all; it looks with a single eye on God, and acts for him in all that he doth: if therefore thou wouldest know whether thy heart be sincere, inquire whether it be thus made anew."

5. Now, my last point is rather a strange one perhaps. Once upon a time, when one of our kings came back from a captivity, old historians tell us that there were fountains in Cheapside that did run with wine. So bounteous was the king, and so glad the people, that instead of water, they made wine flow free to everybody. There is a way of making our life so rich, so full, so blessed to our fellow men, that the metaphor may be applicable to us, and men may say, that our life flows with wine when other men's lives flow with water. Ye have known some such men. There was a Howard. John Howard's life was not like our poor common lives; he was so benevolent, his sympathy with the race so self-denying, that the streams of his life were like generous wine. You have known another, an eminent saint, one who lived very near to Jesus: when you talked yourself, you felt your conversation was poor watery stuff; but when he talked to you, there was an unction and a savor about his words, a solidity, and a strength about his utterances, which you could appreciate, though you could not attain unto it. You have sometimes said, "I wish my words were as full, as sweet, as mellow, and as unctuous as the words of such an one! Oh! I wish my actions were just as rich, had as deep a color, and as pure a taste as the acts of so-and-so. All I can do seems but little and empty when compared with his high attainments. Oh, that I could do more! Oh, that I could send streams of pure gold into every house, instead of my poor dross," Well, Christian, this should teach thee to keep thine heart full of rich things. Never, never neglect the Word of God; that will make thy heart rich with precept, rich with understanding; and then thy conversation, when it flows from thy mouth, will be like thine heart, rich, unctuous, and savory. Make thy heart full of rich, generous love, and then the stream that flows from thy hand will be just as rich and generous as thine heart. Above all, get Jesus to live in thine heart, and then out of thy belly shall flow rivers of living water, more rich, more satisfying than the water of the well of Sychar of which Jacob drank. Oh! go, Christians, to the great mine of riches, and cry unto the Holy Spirit to make thy heart rich unto salvation. So shall thy life and conversation be a boon to thy fellows; and when they see thee, thy face shall be as the angel of God. Thou shalt wash thy feet in butter and thy steps in oil; they that sit in the gate shall rise up when they see thee, and men shall do thee reverence.

But one single sentence, and we have done. Some of your hearts are not worth keeping. The sooner you get rid of them the better. They are hearts of stone. Do you feel today that you have a stony heart? Go home, and I pray the Lord hear my desire that thy polluted heart may be removed. Cry unto God and say, "Take away my heart of stone, and give me a heart of flesh;" for a stony heart is an impure heart, a divided heart, an unpeaceful heart. It is a heart that is poor and poverty-stricken, a heart that is void of all goodness, and thou canst neither bless thyself nor others, if thy heart be such. O Lord Jesus! wilt thou be pleased this day to renew many hearts? Wilt thou break the rock in pieces, and put flesh instead of stone, and thou shalt have the glory, world without end!



                                                   Eyes Right


                               July 14, 1887

                                  C. H. Spurgeon


“Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”——Proverbs 4:25.


These words occur in a passage wherein the wise man exhorts us to take care of all parts of our nature, which he indicates by members of the body. “Keep thy heart,” says he “with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life. Put away from thee a froward mouth, and perverse lips put far from thee. Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” It is clear that every part of our nature needs to be carefully watched lest in any way it should become the cause of sin. Any one member or faculty is readily able to defile all the rest, and therefore every part must be guarded with care. We have selected for our meditation the verse which deals with the eye. These windows of light need to be watched in their incomings, lest that which we take into our soul should be darkness rather than light; and they need to be watched in their outgoings lest the glances of the eye should be full of iniquity, or should suggest foolish thoughts. Hence the wise man advises, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Have eyes and use them. Using them, take care to use them honestly.

Some persons are always as if they were asleep. They go though the world mooning about, seeing nothing, or seeing men as if they were trees with a sight which is not sight, but blindness hidden. The shadows of this transient life impress them and that is all: they have never awakened yet to the true life and its solemn realities. They have never seen anything in very truth; for it is faith that sees, and of faith they have none. That which is apart from faith is not visible to the soul however clear it may be to the eye. We have thousands around us who need to be startled out of that slumber in which they see the fabrics of their dreams, and the unsubstantial fancies of the hour. They say, “We see,” but scales are on their eyes. I fear we have such in all our congregations, lulled to sleep even by the preacher’s tones, to whom the fact of coming to their accustomed seat and listening to the usual hymns, tends rather to confirm them in a sluggard’s slumber than to stir their souls to action. O ye sluggards, may God awaken you by grace lest he arouse you by the thunderbolts of his vengeance! It is time that your eyes began to look right on, and your eyelids straight before you.

Many others are somewhat awake mentally but they are not looking right on, neither do their eyelids look straight before them. They are staring about them, star-gazing, wondering what will be seen next: always ready like the Athenians to hear and see some new thing. They move, it is true, but it is in a labyrinth which leads to nothing, in a circle which ends where it began; they toil and slave but it is all in the shadowland: of substantial work they do nothing. An active idleness, a diligent laziness, is all that their life is made up of; for as yet they have no purpose—no purpose worth being the aim of an immortal soul. An arrow will never strike the mark if it travels in a zigzag direction; and the man whose life has no aim whatever, who pursues this, and then that, and then the other, what will he achieve? Are not many like “dumb driven cattle” going they know not where? They have never yet discovered that this life is a preface to a life of diviner mold. They do not regard the present as the lowly porch of the glorious edifice of the future. They have not thought that time is but the doorstep of eternity, a thing of small account, save that it is linked with the endless ages; and so they seek after this, and then after that, and then after the other; and always after that which is too poor, too trifling to be the object of a mind capable of fellowship with God. How many there are whose spirit is agitated by a mere nothing, resembling

“Ocean into tempest tost
To waft a feather or to drown a fly”!

To beings who lead such purposeless lives we would address the words of the wise man, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Have something to do and do it. Have something to live for and live for it. Get to know the right way, and knowing the right way keep to it with full purpose of heart and concentration of faculty. O man, see whither thou art going and go that way with thine eyes open, resolutely marking every step as thou takest it. Look where thou oughtest to look and then follow thine eyes, which shall thus be useful outriders to thy life, and help to make thy way safe and wise. When thou hast sent thine eyes before thee to make sure of the way, it will be safe to follow. Look before you leap, and only leap when looking bids you do so. If a man is to let his eyes look right on and his eyelids straight before him, then he is to have a way, and that way is to be a straight way, and in that straight way he is to persevere. You cannot see to the end of a crooked way. You can only see a small part of a way that twists and winds. Choose then a direct path which has an end which you dare think of and look upon. Some men’s lives are such that they dare not think of what the end of them must be. They would not long pursue their present track if they were forced to gaze into that dread abyss which is the only possible close of an evil course. The way of transgressors is hard in itself, but it is hardest of all when we behold their dreadful end. “Surely thou hast set them in slippery places. Thou castest them down into destruction.” You need to have a way, and a straight way, and a way whose end you dare contemplate, or else you cannot carry out the advice of Solomon, “Let thine eyes look right on and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”

Every wise man will conclude that the best way for a man is the way which God has made for him. He that made us knows what he made us for, and he knows by what means we may best arrive at that end. According to divine teaching, as gracious as it is certain, we learn that the way of eternal life is Jesus Christ. Christ himself says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life”; and he that would pursue life after a right fashion must look to Jesus, and must continue looking unto Jesus, not only as the author but as the finisher of his faith. It shall be to him a golden rule of life when he has chosen Christ to be his way, to let his eyes look right on, and his eyelids straight before him. He need not be afraid to contemplate the end of that way, for the end of the way of Christ is life and glory with Christ for ever. “It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” A friend said to me the other day, “How happy are we to know that whatever happens to us in this life, it is well!” “Yes,” I added, “and to know that if this life ends it is equally well, or better.” Then we joined hands in common joy to think that we were equally ready for life or death, and did not need five minutes’ anxiety as to whether it should be the one or the other. Brethren, when you are on the King’s highway, and that way is a perfectly straight one, you may go ahead without fear and sing on the road.

With all my heart I invite any who have never yet begun to live after a right fashion, to take Christ to be the way of life to them; and then I entreat them to let their eyes look straight on, and their eyelids straight before them, and to follow Jesus without giving a glance either to the right hand or to the left till it shall be said of them, even in glory, “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth.”

I. I shall make my earnest appeals to the heart and conscience by beginning with this first exhortation: let Christ be your way. You that are young, let him be your way from your youth. You that have hitherto gone the wrong road until your hairs have grown grey in the service of iniquity, turn I beseech you, and take to the way of salvation. May his Spirit turn you, and you will be turned, then will Jesus become your way from henceforth.

If Christ be your way, you will begin first to seek to have Christ. “How shall I have him?” says one. Dost thou desire him? Wilt thou accept him? He is thine. The act of accepting Christ secures Christ to us, for the Father freely gives him to all who freely accept him. Some are troubled through ignorant and unbelieving fears, and are saying, “I wish I could lay hold on Jesus! I wish I knew that Christ was mine!” Art thou willing to have him? Who made thee willing? Dost thou desire him? Who made thee desire him? Who but the Spirit of the Lord? Wilt thou now take Jesus to be thy Savior to save thee from thy sin? Then depend on it, he is thine. There was never any difficulty with him to give himself to thee; the difficulty was to bring thee to receive him; and now that thou dost receive him, remember this—“ As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” Jesus himself has said it, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out”; and therefore, since thou comest, thou shalt never be cast out. Jesus has accepted thee, for thou hast accepted him. But I pray you, none of you rest until you have Christ. Let your eyes look right on and your eyelids straight before you till you find him. Look nowhere else but to him and after him. Shut yourself up in your room determine not to come out again until you have him, and it shall not be long before you find him. Concentrating all your gaze upon the Crucified, light shall come from him, causing the scales to fall from your eyes, and you shall see him, even you that could not see; and you shall cry in delight, “He is mine, he is mine.” Remember how David said to his son, “If thou seek him, he will be found of thee.” Think of the words of the prophet, “Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.” When you have Christ, the next business of your life must be to know Christ. Seek to know more of him, to know him better, to know him more practically, to know him more assuredly. “That I may know him,” said the apostle, after he had been a believer in him for fifteen years. That same man of God speaks of “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge,” even his knowledge, which was of the fullest sort; so that he meant to go on learning more and more of Christ, and he did not count himself to have attained. Christian men and women, you do not know your great Master yet. Here have some of us been nearly forty years in his service, and yet we could not describe him to our own satisfaction. Why, we hardly know the power of the hem of his garment yet. We have not descended far down into the mines of his perfections. How little know we of our hidden wealth in Christ Jesus! Oh, that we studied Scripture more, that we were more teachable, and waited more humbly upon the Lord for the light of his Spirit from day to day! Well says our singer—


“Hoard up his sacred word,

And feed thereon and grow;

Go on to seek to know the Lord,

And practice what you know.”

In this matter let your eyes look right on, and your eyelids straight before you. Other men may have their pursuits, this is yours; stick to it earnestly. The science of a crucified Savior shines like the moon in the midst of the stars as compared with all the other sciences which men may know; study it with your whole power of mind and heart. The angels on the mercy-seat of the ark stood always looking downward and bending over. Hence the apostle says, “Which things the angels desire to look into”; and if they desire to look into the ark of the covenant and its sacred mysteries, how much more should we!

When you come to know somewhat of what he is, then go on to obey Christ. Is there anything that he has bidden you do? Do it. Some Christians have never yet been baptized: how will they answer for wilful neglect of a known duty? Others have been Christians for years and yet have never communed at the Lord’s table. Jesus said “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” Do they keep his commandments? It was his dying request, “This do in remembrance of me,” and yet they will not fulfill it. Even such a tender request they slight, as though it were of no importance whatever, as if their Lord was a mere nobody whose wishes might well be overlooked. What shall I say of many of the biddings of our holy gospel, many of those sweet precepts which are to be used in the family, and in the business, and in the field? What forgetfulness there is of them! What refusings to follow Christ! He might come to us and say, “If I be a Master, where is mine honor?” Truly it ought to be one of the first thoughts of a Christian to find out the Lord’s will; and when he knows it, obedience should follow immediately. His eyes should look right on, and his eyelids straight before him. What said the blessed virgin to those who were at the feast? Note the words, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” It was well spoken of the favored mother and it remains as a golden precept for us all —“Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.” Make no reserve, exercise no choice but obey his command. When you know what he commands, do not hesitate, question, or try to avoid it, but “do it”: do it at once, do it heartily, do it cheerfully, do it to the full. It is but a little thing that, as our Lord has bought us with the price of his own blood, we should be his servants. The apostles frequently call themselves the bond-slaves of Christ. Where our Authorized Version softly puts it “servant” it really is “bond-slave.” The early saints delighted to count themselves Christ’s absolute property, bought by him, owned by him, and wholly at his disposal. Paul even went so far as to rejoice that he had the marks of his Master’s brand on him, and he cries, “Let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” There was the end of all debate: he was the Lord’s, and the marks of the scourges, the rods, and the stones were the broad-arrow of the King which marked Paul’s body as the property of Jesus the Lord. Now if the saints of old time gloried in obeying Christ, I pray that you and I, forgetting the sect to which we may belong, or even the nation of which we form a part, may feel that our first object in life is to obey our Lord and not to follow a human leader, or to promote a religious or political party. This one thing we mean to do, and so follow the advice of Solomon as he says, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Beloved, let us endeavor to be obedient in the minute as well as in the greater matters, for it is in details that true obedience is best seen. Let us copy the faintest touches in the life of our great Exemplar.

That being attended to, remember, if Christ be your way you have further to seek to be like him, not only to do as he did, but to be as he was; for “as he was, so are we in this world.” What a man does is important, but what a man is, is all-important. The ring of the metal is something, but if its ring could be imitated by a base coin it would be nothing. It is after all the substance of the metal that decides its value. O man, what art thou? If thou be a twice-born man thou art a partaker of the nature of Christ; but if not thou art under the curse which cleaves to the old nature as leprosy cleaves to the leper. “As we have borne the image of the earthy we shall also bear the image of the heavenly”; and we must begin to bear that heavenly image even now. As born again into the headship of the Second Adam, we should seek to be as much like the Second Adam as we are already by nature like the first Adam through our first birth. The second birth should be as operative to produce the image of the second Adam, as the first was to produce the image of the first Adam. Alas! “the earthy” is impressed upon us very distinctly; we cannot spend an hour without discovering the clear stamp of nature’s die. Oh that “the heavenly” could be quite as clearly discerned! This therefore we must aim at, though as yet we have not attained it. Here is something to be thought of very carefully, and I charge you by the Holy Ghost, let your eyes look right on and your eyelids straight before you, that you may be transformed from glory to glory into the image of the Lord. God grant that it may be so with every one of us!

Now supposing that we have attended to all this, if Christ is our way and our model there is something more; namely, that we seek to glorify Christ and labor to win others to him. Here is a grand field for all our energies. O Christian people, what are we left in this world for except to bring others to Jesus? Are we not left in this wilderness that we may find out more of the good Shepherd’s stray sheep, and work for him and with him to bring them in. I fear we forget this. Are not some of you indifferent as to whether your fellow-men are lost or saved? Have not some of you, in your families, come to this pass - that you see your brother an infidel, your sister frivolous, your parents godless, and yet it does not fret you? I think that if I had a godless relative it would break my night’s rest, not now and then, but always. A brother, a father, a child unsaved! What mean ye by taking your ease? If the spirit of Christ be in us, the tears that fell from the eyes of Jesus will find their like upon our cheeks. We shall weep day and night because men are not gathered unto eternal life. Nor will this be a loss to us for blessed are the mourners in Zion. Blessed are they that mourn because others abide in sin and reject the Lord!

Now concerning the salvation of our fellow-men; we shall never compass it unless our eyes look right on and our eyelids straight before us. Before we win souls we must live for souls. We need men and women who live to convert others to Christ. The minister had better quit his pulpit if it be not his one burning desire to bring hearts to Jesus’ feet. If a divine impulse be not upon him driving him to seek the souls of men, let him go elsewhere with his windy periods. Professors have little right to be in Christ’s church unless they are passionately in earnest to increase his kingdom by the salvation of their fellow-men. O my brothers and sisters on whom is the blood-mark of redemption, I charge you concerning this matter to “let your eyes look right on and let your eyelids look straight before you”! Seek souls as dogs hunt their game; eye, nostril, ear all open, and every muscle strained. Converts are not gained by dreamers. We cannot imitate Jesus as a Savior of men by being dull and heartless. In any point in which we follow our Lord let us do it with all our soul.

Thus much upon the first point: let Christ be your way in all things, and keep to that way.

II. Following the text again, only working it a little differently, the second exhortation is set your eyes on him as your way. If Christ be your way and you follow him to have him, to know him, to obey him, to be like him, and to glorify him, then set your eyes on him as the way. Think of him, consider him, study him, and in all things regard him as first and last to you.

First, that you may know the way of life, let your eyes be fixed on him. Soul, art thou in the dark? Kneel down and pray and look Christward. Saint, art thou bewildered? Go by the way of the cross, the way of the Crucified, for that is the true and sure path. Sinner, art thou burdened? Wouldst thou be rid of thy burden? Run Christward. Any direction given thee to go anywhere else will misdirect thee. I say not to any one I meet to-night, “Go to the wicket-gate.” Neither will I bid you look to any light within and run that way. My only direction is “Go to Jesus.” You see that cross and him who bled thereon! Stand still and look that way, and your burden shall fall from your shoulders. Where Jesus died, you shall live. Where Christ was wounded, you shall be healed. “Let your eyes look right on and let your eyelids look straight before you.” Know the road; you will never know it too well: the more you know it the happier you will be in it. “To Christ!” “To Christ!” “To Christ!” That is the sole inscription upon every finger-post of the road to heaven. Keep you to the King’s highway.

Since Christ is the way, let your eyes be fixed on him as the way, that you may follow him well, may follow him wholly. Gather up all your faculties to go after your Lord. Be not like Lot’s wife who longed, and looked, and lingered, and was lost. Away, away, away from Sodom, altogether away: let no eye steal in that direction. Away, away, away to Christ, to Christ alone. All eyes must be for Jesus who cries “Look unto me and be ye saved.” As the ploughman looks to the end of the furrow and keeps right on, even so must you look only to Jesus. What hast thou to do with anything but Christ, sinner? I tell thee that thou hast nothing even to do with thine own sins, but to lay them down at his feet. He is all; the beginning and the end. “Let thine eyes look right on and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”

Look alone to Jesus and do this to keep your spirits up. Some men’s eyes do not look right on and their eyelids do not look straight before them, for they look back upon that part of the road which they have traversed, and grow content with that which they have already attained. They live in retrospection. When you begin to look back at what you have done and rub your hands and say with self-satisfaction, “I remember when I did right well,” wisdom warns you that this is not the right kind of look. What have you to look back upon? Poor, weak creature! Forget that which is behind and press forward to something better and higher. When you sinful souls get looking back upon your past bad lives, I am glad of that, but still I do not want even you to keep your eyes always in that direction. You will get no comfort in looking into the foul ditch of your own transgressions. Look, look, look before you! Look where the cross stands. Run that way. Let thine eyelids look straight before thee to the atoning sacrifice; away from the past, which he will graciously blot out, to Jesus only. Some spend much of their time in what is called introspection. Now introspection, like retrospection, is a useful thing in a measure; but it can readily be overdone, and then it breeds morbid emotions, and creates despair. Some are always looking into their own feelings. A healthy man hardly knows whether he has a stomach or a liver; it is your sickly man who grows more sickly by the study of his inward complaints. Too many wound themselves by studying themselves. Every morning they think of what they should feel: all day long they dwell upon what they are not feeling; and at night they make diligent search for what they have been feeling. It looks to me like shutting up your shop and then living in the counting-house, taking account of what is not sold. Small profits will be made in this way. You may look a long while into an empty pocket before you find a sovereign, and you may look a long time into fallen nature before you find comfort. A man might as well try to find burning coals under the ice as to find anything good in our poor human nature. When you look within it should be to see with grief what the filthiness is; but to get rid of that filthiness you must look beyond yourself. I remember Mr. Moody saying that a looking-glass was a capital thing to show you the spots on your face; but you could not wash in a looking-glass. You want something very different when you would make your face clean. So let your eyes look right on—

“To the full atonement made,

To the utmost ransom paid.”

Forget yourself and think only of Christ.

Some not only unduly practice retrospection and introspection, but they carry much too far a sort of circumspection. They look all around them: they look upon their past, and their present, and their fears and their doubts, and from all these things they judge their condition, and decide their state of mind. You recollect Peter. He cried to his Lord, “Bid me come unto thee on the water.” He receives permission. Down the side over the boat goes Peter. To his intense surprise he is standing on a wave. Peter had never done such a thing before in his life as walk on the water. He might have kept on standing on the wave and he might have walked all the way to Jesus, if he had kept his eyes on his Master until he reached him. The waters would have borne him up as well as a granite pavement; but Peter began to look at the billows, and he listened to the howling of the wind, and then to the beating of his own heart; and down he went; and then he had to cry to his Master. “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee”: thou canst walk the waters all the way to the golden shore if thou canst but stop thine eyes to all things else. Surely I may use the text as an illustration of that closing of the eyes. “Let thine eyes look right on.” “I understand that,” says one, “for I trust. But you cannot look with your eyelids.” What can that mean? Remember that you can shut your eyes with your eyelids to a great many things, and so cease to see them; and in the matter of faith-sight a great many things are best not seen. So, when you would otherwise see the danger and all the difficulties and the doubts, do not look with your eyes, but look with your eyelids. Not to look at the difficulties at all is all the look they deserve. Let your eyelids shut out the view which would create distrust. Do not see, do not feel, “only believe.” Believe Christ, and believe nothing else. “Let God be true but every man a liar.” If all the sins thou hast ever done should come rolling up like Atlantic billows, and if all the devils in hell should come riding on the crests of those waves howling as they come, take no notice of them. Christ has said he that believeth in him hath everlasting life; believe thou in him, and thou hast the everlasting life as surely as Christ is the Christ of God. Draw down the blind and see nothing, know nothing, believe nothing but the living word of the living Savior. “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” When thou closest thine eyes to consider, thou canst see a good deal with closed eyes, but still look thou right on to the one and only trust.

You must also let your eyes look right on, dear friends; for if you begin to look two ways at a time you will miss the Lord Jesus, who is your way. Under the Jewish law no man who had a squint was allowed to be a priest. He is described as one who had “a blemish in his eye.” I wish they would make a similar law with regard to spiritual sight in preachers nowadays, for certain of them are sadly cross-eyed. When they preach free grace they squint fearfully towards free-will; and if they look to the atonement they must needs see in it more of man than of Christ. See how they look to Moses and to Darwin; to revelation and to speculation! A great many people would fain be saved, but they squint: they look a little towards sin, and the flesh, and the world, and they make provision for personal gain, and personal ease. In this case they fail to see Christ’s strait and narrow way of the denial of self, and the crucifixion of the flesh. If thou wouldst have salvation, “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Look not a little this way and a little that way, or thou wilt never run aright. “I could believe that I was a Christian,” says one, “if I felt more happy. I could trust Christ if I felt my nature changed.” That is a squint which ruins the faith-look. That is trying to look two ways at once. You cannot do it: it will ruin you. It would spoil the beauty of the sweetest countenance if we could use our eyes to look otherwise than straight on. We have some friends who if they wish to see us, look over there, and yet we are not there. Avoid this spiritual blemish; it has no advantages—“Let thine eyes look right on.” Look to Christ alone, to him as thy whole salvation. Have nothing to do with thy good works as a ground of trust, or thou art a lost man. I charge thee have nothing to do even with thy faith and thy repentance as a ground of trust. Trust not thy trust, but trust alone in what Christ has done. If thou shalt trust thy best feelings or thy worst feelings, thy prayers or thy praises, thy almsgivings or thy consecration in any degree, thou hast made an antichrist of them. Strip thyself of thy last rag and let Christ clothe thee from top to toe. Be thou hungry unto famishing, and clean out the last crumb thou hast in the pantry, for then only wilt thou feed on Christ the bread of life. Let him be both bread and wine, and make up the whole of a feast for thee. Thou shalt have salvation surely enough if this be what thou dost. But let not Jesus bring the bread, and carnal confidence the wine: take a whole Christ to be all thy salvation and all thy desire, and thy peace shall be unbroken. Let the Holy Spirit bring thee to that oneness of trust which makes both eyes meet at their proper focus, and let that focus be the Lord Jesus. “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.”

III. But my time has almost expired and I have only to lay emphasis on one more matter. Let your eyes distinctly and directly look to Christ alone. I have gone over this before, but I need to hammer at it again in order to clench the nail. Look not to any human guide but look to Christ Jesus alone. We have no faith in priests; but it is a very easy thing to fix your faith upon a minister and hear what he says, and believe it because he says it. I charge you, believe nothing that I tell you if it cannot be supported by the Word of God. I am content to stand or to fall by this: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, there is no light in them.” I will quote the authority of no other book whoever may have composed it; no ancient book, let it belong even to the earliest days of the church. This one inspired volume is the text-book of our religion. Follow Holy Scripture and you have an infallible chart. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the one apostle and high priest of our profession: follow him. Not even mother or father or the brightest saint that ever lived must divide you from your perfect Guide. “Let your eyes look right on and let your eyelids look straight before you,” and hear the gracious words of him who bought you with his blood as he cries, “Follow me.”

Then again look to Christ directly and distinctly for yourself. I warn you against putting any trust in national religion, or in family and birthright godliness. A personal Christ must be laid hold of by a personal faith. You must yourself repent, yourself believe, yourself get a grip of him, and of none but him. You must use your own eyes: “Let your eyes look right on and let your eyelids look straight before you.”

Again, look not to any secondary aims. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In seeking Christ make no bargain with gain or reputation; be content to lose all gold and all honor if you may but win Christ. To follow religion for self would be a mean act of hypocrisy, and to leave it for the same reason is equally vile. Let your eyes be fixed on following your Lord, and as to any worldly consequences, bring your eyelids into use, keep them fast closed, and go right on in implicit obedience to your Lord.

Forget all things else when seeking Christ and when you have found Christ. It is no ill thing for a man, when he is under concern of soul, to let his business and everything go till he finds his Savior. I urge no one to such a course, but I have noticed many converts who have done this who have soon found rest. If a captain were busy about the comfort of his passengers in their cabins but all the while knew that there was a great leak in the ship, and that it would soon go down, and to this he paid no heed whatever, you would say to him “How foolish you are to mind the little and neglect the great!” But if he told the passengers, “Breakfast cannot be prepared with our usual care for all hands are pumping or repairing the vessel,” you could not blame him when you knew that every man’s help was needed to save the ship from going down. In times of extreme danger, secondary things must give place to the main thing. If this house were to take fire you would not stay to sing the last hymn, even if I gave it out. May the Holy Spirit lead some of you to feel that you must be saved! You must be saved, and therefore you must put other things into a second place. Remember how Bunyan pictures the man running for his life, and when his neighbors called to him to stop, he put his fingers in his ears, and as he ran he shouted “Eternal life! Eternal life! Eternal life!” That man was a wise man. Imitate him; if you have not found eternal life run for it with your “eyes right on, and your eyelids straight before you.”

And lastly, take care that you continue gazing upon Christ until you have faith in him. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Go on hearing the Word of God till faith come thereby. Do you ask me how faith comes? It is the gift of God, but it usually comes in a certain way. Thinking of Jesus and meditating upon Jesus will breed faith in Jesus. I was struck with what one said the other day of a certain preacher. The hearer was in deep concern of soul, and the minister preached a very pretty sermon indeed, decorated abundantly with word-painting. I scarcely know any brother who can paint so daintily as this good minister can; but this poor soul under a sense of sin said, “There was too much landscape, sir. I did not want landscape; I wanted salvation.” Dear friend, never crave word-painting when you attend a sermon; but crave Christ. You must have Christ to be your own by faith or you are a lost man. When I was seeking the Savior I remember hearing a very good doctrinal sermon; but when it was over I longed to tell the minister that there was a poor lad there who wanted to know how he could be saved. How I wished he had given half a minute to that subject! Dr. Manton, who was usually a clear and full preacher of the gospel, when he preached before the Lord Mayor, gave his lordship something a cut above the common citizens and so the poorer folk missed their portion. After he had done preaching his sermon an aged woman cried, “Dr. Manton, I came here this morning under concern of soul, wanting a blessing, and I have not got it for I could not understand you.” The preacher meekly replied, “The Lord forgive me! I will not so offend again.” He had overlooked the poor, and had thought mainly of my Lord Mayor. Special sermons before Mayors and Queens and assemblies are seldom worth a penny a thousand. The gospel does not lend itself to show performances. I am not here to give you intellectual treats: my eyes look right on to your salvation. Oh that yours may look that way! Go after Christ, dear friend. Seek after Christ with your whole heart and soul. Feel that the one thing you must have is to be reconciled to God by the death of his Son. Keep on with that cry, “None but Christ: none but Christ.” Make this your continual litany—


“Give me Christ, or else I die;

Give me Christ, or else I die.”

Then you will soon find him. “Let your eyes look right on and let your eyelids look straight before you,” and you shall see the Lord of grace appearing to you through the mist and through the cloud; that self-same Savior who stands in the midst of us even now and cries, “Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth: for I am God and there is none else.”

At the End of Your Life

December 31, 1865

C. H. Spurgeon


© Copyright 2001 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as
long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.

Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION © 1978
by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

A copy of this sermon, Preached by Tony Capoccia, is available
on Audio Tape Cassette or Audio CD at

“At the end of your life.”--Proverbs 5:11

The wise man saw a young and foolish man straying into the house of the adulterous woman. The house seemed so completely different from what he knew it to be, that he desired to shed a light on it, that the young man might not sin in the dark, but might understand the nature of his actions. The wise man looked around, and he saw only one lamp suitable for his purpose; it was called “At the end;” so, grabbing this lamp, he held it up in the midst of the adulterous woman’s den of iniquity, and suddenly everything was changed from what it had been before: the truth had come to light, and the deception vanished. The young man dreamed of pleasure, he hoped to find delight in lustful lovemaking; but when the lamp called “At the end” began to shine, he saw rottenness in his bones, filthiness in his flesh, pains and griefs and sorrows, as the necessary consequence of sin, and, wisely guided, wisely taught, the simple-minded young man started back and listened to the warnings of the teacher, “Do not go near the door of her house, for her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death.”

Now if this lamp called “At the end” was found so useful in this one particular case, I think it would be equally useful everywhere else, and it may help us all to better understand the truth of matters if we will look at them in the light which this wonderful lamp yields. I can only compare my text in its matchless power to Ithuriel’s spear. Now, according to Milton, Ithuriel was an angel, who on finding Satan, in a toad-like form, tempting Eve, touched him with his spear and transformed him into his proper likeness, into his true colors. Therefore, if I can apply my text to certain things today, they will come out in their true light; “At the end,” will be the rod in my hand with which I will touch tinsel, and it will disappear and you will see it is not gold, and I will touch varnish and paint, and you will understand what they really are, and not what they profess to be: the “At the end” light will be the light of truth, the light of wisdom to our souls. It seems to me that this morning is a fitting occasion for holding up this light, since we have come to the end of the year, and will in a few short hours be at the beginning of another. Let us look back on the year that is past, and look forward on the year that is to come, and my four-sided lamp will perhaps shine off in the distance. I hope that you have the courage to look down the vista of the years that you have already lived, and think of everything that you have thought, and spoken, and done, in the light of the beams of this lamp called “At the end,” and then I hope you will be bold enough to let the same light shine forward on the years yet to come, when your hair will be grey and your teeth begin to fall out, and your eyesight fails.

We will, this morning, examine the past and the future of life in the light of “At the end.” May it teach us wisdom, and make us walk in the fear of God.

I have said that my lamp has four sides to it, and so it has: we will look at the first side of the light which streams from death.

I. DEATH is at the end.

In some sense it is the end, of this mortal life; it is the end of our period of trial here below; it is the end of the day of grace; it is the end of the day of sin. The tree falls when we die, and it will not sprout again; the house is removed from its foundations and it is not to be built again, if it has been founded on sin. Death is the end of this present life. And how certain it is to all of us! This year we have had many proofs of its certainty. One might almost compose an almanac for this year, and write down, each month, the name of a noteworthy person who has died, and I would not be exaggerating if I said every week, throughout the year. All ranks and classes have been made to feel the sting of death. From royalty down to poverty the grave has been gorged with its prey. Early this year there fell one whose benevolence mingled with wisdom had blessed our land, and who being dead is still remembered by the needy, because he lowered the cost of their food, and abolished the laws which, have fattened the rich, and impoverished the poor. His wisdom and kindness could not spare him, and though he is embalmed in the hearts of thousands, yet to the dust he has returned.

Swiftly after him there fell another who ruled a mighty people in the afterglow of victory, when what threatened to be a disruption and a separation had ended in triumph to one side and the nation seemed as if it were about to start on a fresh course of prosperity. By the assassin’s hand he fell. Whatever question there might have been about him in his life, all men conspired to honor him in his death. The ruler of a nation who could subdue a fearless and a mighty enemy, could not subdue that old enemy who conquers whomever he wills. Abraham Lincoln died just like all the rest.

And then there was he who had saved many precious lives by warning mariners of the approaching storm, and thus many a ship had remained in harbor and been delivered from the merciless jaws of the deep, but this person could not forecast or escape the last dreaded storm; he, too, must go down into that fathomless deep which swallows all mankind.

Then, when the year was ripe and the flowers were all in bloom--an appropriate season for his death--there was taken away the man who has garnished our nation with objects of beauty and of joy, a man who loved the flowers and sleeps beneath them now. Like flowers he withered as all of us must do--Sir Joseph Paxton died. Then in the month of September, when the year began to wane, three men who studied the stars, astronomers who predicted eclipses and told of comets, men of fame and name--all three died at once. They might tell of a coming eclipse, but they themselves must be eclipsed; and they who could foretell the track of the next comet, are themselves gone from us just like those dazzling meteor stars have disappeared from view.

Then you will remember, when the year had waned, grown old, it is but a day or two ago, that all were startled by the death of that man who had ruled our nation so long and on the whole so well. We will not forget that he who was taken away from us, was, in some respects, a king throughout our land. Wisdom, cheerfulness, youthful strength such as he possessed, could not avert the time of death. And then, as if the muster roll were not completed, as if death could not be satisfied till the year had yielded up yet another grave, we heard that the oldest of monarchs had been taken away; and though his goodness and his wisdom had successfully guided the little nation over which he ruled, and given him an influence far more extensive than his own sphere, yet death did not spare him, and King Leopold I of Belgium must die.

This past year has been a year of dying rather than of living, and you may look on yourselves and wonder why you are still here. Some younger than we are have been taken. You that are older, are you ready? It is amazing that although you are so ripe for death, yet you should have been spared for so long.

Now in the light of all these deaths, I want you to look at the deadliness of sin. If you were to visit a graveyard you would notice that some gravestones have angels sculptured on them; then let each angel from the gravestone speak to us this morning, and we will listen to their words, for they will surely be wise and solemn, and worthy of our notice, as if they had risen from the dead.

Let me take you to your own death bed, for there, perhaps, the lamp will burn best for you. Look at the various activities of your life which you thought were great, and on which you have prided yourself--how will they look at the end? You made money; you made money fast; you did it very cleverly; you praised yourself for it, just as others have praised themselves for conquering nations, or forcing their way to fame, or lifting themselves into eminence. Now you are dying, and what do you think of all that? Is it so great as it seemed to be? Oh, how hard you climbed up to it, how you strained yourself to reach it, and you have got it, and you are dying. What do you think of it now? The greatest of human accomplishments will appear to be insignificant when we come to die, and especially those on which men most pride themselves--these will yield them the bitterest humiliation. We will then say what madmen we must have been to have wasted so much time and energy on such worthless things. When we discover that they were not real, that they were only mere bubbles, mere pretences, we will then look on ourselves as having been crazy to have spent our entire life and all of our energy on them.

Let us look at our selfish actions in that light of death.

A man says, “I know how to make money,” “and I know how to hold on to it too,” he says, and he prides himself that he is not such a fool as to be generous, nor such a simpleton as to give either to God or to the poor. Now, there he lies. Ah! do you know how to hold on to it now? Can you take it with you? Can you carry so much as a single penny of it across the river of death? You have come to the water’s edge--how much of it will you carry over? Oh you fool! how much wiser you would have been if you had laid up your treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys! You called such men fools when you were living. What do you think of them now that you are dying? Who is the fool, he that sent his riches on ahead, or he that stored them up here on earth to leave them forever? Everything that is selfish will look disgraceful when we come to die; but everything which in the sight of God we have done for Christ’s sake that has been generous, and self-denying, and noble, will even amidst the tombs of death sparkle with celestial splendor. Some of you have been, during this past week, giving very generously to the cause of Christ, for which I thank you, and when I have thought of it, I have said to myself, “Surely, when these generous people come to die, none of them will regret that they have served the cause of Christ. Yes, if they have even given to the point of personal sacrifice, it will be no source of sorrow when they come to their death bed that they did it to one of the least of God’s little ones.” Look at your actions in the light of death, and the selfish ones will soon fade away.

I pray also, dear friends, that some of you would look at your self-righteousness in the light of death.

You have been very good people, very upright, honest, moral, friendly, generous, and so on, and you are resting on what you are. Do you think this will bear your weight when you come to die? When you are in good health any form of religion may satisfy, but a dying soul wants more than sand to rest on. You will want the Rock of Ages. Then let me assure you, that in the light of the grave, all confidence, except confidence in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, is a clear delusion. Flee from it, I beg you. Will you rest beneath Jonah’s vine that will wither when chewed by the worm? Seek a better shelter; cling to the Rock of Ages; find the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.

I can say the same thing of all confidence in the value of the Roman Catholic ceremonies and sacraments. When Roman Catholics are in good health it seems sufficient for them to have been baptized, and to have taken the sacrament of Holy Communion and to go to Mass, and read prayers and all that, and take a little “holy” water, out of those little wells while they are strong and joyous; but when they become sick and are about to die, these sacraments and ceremonies will mean nothing to them.

Likewise, for those claiming to be Christians, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper will also deceive you, if you rest your salvation on them; when you are near death you will find them too frail to be supports to bear the weight of an immortal soul’s eternal interests. It will be worthless when you lie dying, if your conscience prompts you to say, “I went to church or to prayer meetings so many times a week.” You will find it a poor dressing to your soul’s wounds to be able to say, “I made a profession of godliness.” Oh, your facade will all be torn away from you by the rough hand of the skeleton called “Death”; you will need a real Savior, vital godliness, true regeneration, not baptismal regeneration; you will need Christ, not sacraments; and nothing short of this will do “at the end.”

And, dear friends, let me ask as I hold up the light, “How will sin appear when we come to die?”

Sin is pleasant now and we can excuse it, calling it a venial sin, a little trivial mistake, a juvenile error, and an indiscretion, and so on; but how will sin appear when we come to die? The grim ghosts of our iniquities, if they have not been laid in the grave of Christ Jesus, will haunt our dying bed. That ghastly figure of Death, with his fingers all bloody and red, will draw the curtain around us. What a horrid prospect, to be shut in with our sins forever, to be dying, with no friends around the bed to comfort, but only the remembrances of the past to terrify and to frighten!

Think, I pray that you think, not only of the root and principle of evil, but of the fruit of it. Remember that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life. Do not consider what the thing looks like today, but what they will look like at the end of your life? Today you provide a warm resting place for the viper of sin in your heart, but how will you bear its sting in the last day when you are lying on your death bed? I know the sea is smooth and calm to you, for the moment, as you navigate your ship through life; but remember, there are storms, there are hurricanes that sweep down, and what will your poor cry of distress accomplish without Christ at the helm when the dreaded storm of death comes? Imagine with me, that you are going down, down, down in the waters of death, where you will feel your feet sinking in the dreadful sand of uncertainty, and hear the explosive sounds of the distant sea, and your spirit will begin to ask, “What is that ocean that I hear?” And there will come back an answer, “You hear the breaking of the everlasting waves of judgment; the bottomless sea of eternity is that to which you are descending.” You will feel its chilling floods as they rise up from the ankles to the knees, and from the knees to the hips; and you will find it (if you are without Christ), not a river to swim in, but an ocean to be drowned in forever, forever, and forever.

Oh, may God help you to look at present joys, and actions, and thoughts, and behavior, in the light of death!

What a contrast there often is between the life of a man and his time of death! You would praise some men if you only saw their lives, but, when you see their deaths, you change your estimation. There is Moses: he is in line to become the King of Egypt, but he gives up royalty and all its tempting joys. On the mountain he is told that he will become the founder of a mighty race--a desire always prominent in the Eastern mind, but, instead of desiring that he would be made be made a great nation, he, unselfishly, desires that he himself would be blotted out of the Book of Life, if God will but spare his people Israel. And what does Moses get for it all? His only earthly reward is to be the leader of a group of slaves who are perpetually rebelling against him and greatly troubling his heart. Now there is Balaam, on the other hand, he has visitations from God; and when Balak, the son of Zippor, begs him to curse Israel, he cannot curse, though he is quite willing to go as far as he can. He is compelled by the Holy Spirit to bless the people, but, after he has done that, for gain and for reward, he devises a plan against Israel by which they were cursed: he tells their enemy to send out the idolatrous women of Moab to lead astray the children of Israel. Now there he goes, with his treasures of silver and gold, back to his own house, and the shrewd busy worldly man says, “That is the man for me: do not tell me about your meek Moses, that is afraid of doing this and that. He has thrown away a kingdom, and has thrown away the chance of being the head of a nation. That is the man to make money--Balaam. He will be a city father, or a mayor, or governor one day--that Balaam. A man must not get too caught up with principles; he must move ahead, and make hay while the sun shines.

That is the man for me, the one who knows when to launch out on the waters and who does not ask if they are dirty or clean if they only carry him onward to wealth and success.” Ah, but they come to die, and Balaam dies--how? He had prayed to God, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my end be like theirs!” Balaam wanted to die the death of the righteous, but how did he die? He died in battle, fighting against the righteous and against the God of the righteous.

When Moses died; how did he die? You know how--standing on Mount Nebo, looking at, Canaan, the Promised Land, in the distance, and melting what he saw into visions of the Promised Land which is above, the New Jerusalem, which is the mother of us all. In death, who would not want to be a Moses, let all who will be Balaam in life? Be it yours and my desire to aspire to be like Moses, both in life and in death. “At the end!” think of that, and whenever you are tempted by sin, or tempted by wealth or honor, look at it by the light--called, “At the end,” “At the end.” God help you to judge with a righteous judgment.

II. And now we will turn to the second side of our lantern. The second light at the end is the light of JUDGMENT.

After death comes the judgment. When we die, we don’t really die! When a man dies, will he live again? Yes, he will--for his spirit never dies. God has made us such strange wondrous creatures, with such far reaching hopes and aspirations, that it is not possible we should die and become extinct. Animals have no longing for immortality; you never hear them sigh for the celestial state: they have no fear of judgment, because there is no second life, no judgment for the animal that perishes. But the God who gives to man the fear of things to come, and makes him feel and long after something better than this earthly life provides, cannot have mocked us, cannot have made us more wretched than the beast that perishes, by giving us passions and desires never to be gratified.

We are immortal, every one of us, and when the stars cease to exist and the sun’s great furnace is extinguished for lack of fuel, and, like a scroll, God’s universe is rolled up, we will still be living a life as eternal as the Eternal God himself. Oh, when we leave this world, we are told that after death there comes a judgment for us. I don’t know how it is with you--you may be more accustomed to courts of justice than I am--but there always creeps a somberness over me, even in a common court of justice among men, and especially, when a man is being tried for his life. Laughter seems out of place there, and everything is solemn. How much more dread will be in that Court where men and women will be tried for their eternal lives, where their souls rather than their bodies will be at stake! Judgment by our fellowmen is not to be despised. A bold good man can afford to laugh at the world’s opinion; still it is trying to him, for they just may be right: multitudes of men, if they have really thought on the matter, may not all be wrong. It is not easy to be given the judgment of public opinion, and receive the verdict of condemnation; but what will it be like to stand before the judgment throne of God, who is greater than all, and to receive from him the sentence of eternal damnation! God save us from that!

Let us think of this judgment for a moment.

We will rise from the dead: we will be there in body as well as spirit. These very bodies will stand on the earth during the last days: when Christ will come and the trumpet will sound, his people will rise at the first resurrection, and the wicked will rise also, and in their flesh they will see God. Let me think of all that I have done in the light of that. There will be present every man and woman who has ever lived on earth. How will I like to have all my deeds published there? My very thoughts--how will I feel when they are read out loud; what I whispered in the ear--how will I like to have that proclaimed with the sound of trumpet! And what I did in the dark--how will I like to have that revealed in the light? And yet these things must be revealed before the assembled universe. My enemies will be present there. If I have treated them badly, if I have been a backbiter, a slanderer, then it will be declared: if I have been a hypocrite and a deceiver, and made others think I was speaking the truth when I was lying, I will be unmasked then. Those I have injured will be there. The seducer will panic to see those whom he has seduced stand with fiery eyes to accuse him there! With what horror will the oppressor see the widow and the fatherless, whom he drove to poverty, stand there, swift witnesses against him to condemnation! If I have spread false doctrine, a moral pestilence destroying human souls, my victims will be there to gather around me in a circle and, like dogs that bay the deer, each of them demanding my blood. They will all be there, friends and foes. But still even more solemn, “He” will be there--the man of men, the grandest among men, because He is God as well as man, and if I have despised and rejected his salvation, I will then see him in another way and with a much different nature.

“The Lord will come! but not the same
As once in lowliness he came,
A silent Lamb before his foes,
A weary man, and full of woes.

The Lord will come! a dreadful form,
With rainbow-wreath and robes of storm;
On cherub wings, and wings of wind,
Appointed Judge of all mankind!”

How will you face him, you that have despised him? You who have doubted his deity, how will you bear the blaze of it? You rejected and trampled on his precious blood, how will you bear the weight of his almighty arm? When on the cross you would not receive him, and when on the throne you will not escape from him. That silver scepter which he now stretches out to you on earth today, if you refuse to touch it, will be laid aside at your death, and he will take one of another metal, a rod of iron, and he will break you in pieces, yes, he will smash you in pieces like potters’ jars. And God will be there, manifestly there, that God who is here this morning, on the last day of this year, and who sees your thoughts and reads your minds at this very moment, but who is so invisible that you forget that he fills this place, and fills all places; you will not be able to forget him then. Your eyes will see him in that day; you will understand his presence. You will try to be hidden from him; would desire hell itself, and think it a place of shelter, if you could escape from him; but everywhere that fire will encircle you, will consume you, for “our God is a consuming fire.” You will no more be able to escape from yourself than from God. You will find him as present with you as your own soul will be, and you will feel his hand of fire searching for your soul. Unspeakable misery must be yours when the voice of the God-man, will say, “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fires,” of hell.

I pray to God that you would look at all your actions in the light of the Day of Judgment. Our secret thoughts, let us expose them this morning; they have been lying hidden till they have become moldy; let us bring them out today. My thoughts, how will they look in the light of judgment? My profession of faith, my imaginations, my conceptions, how will they all be when the judgment day will shine on them? My profession of faith, how does that look? I have been baptized in Christ because of my professed faith, I wear the name “Christian,” I preach the gospel, I am a Church officer or a Church member, how will all this stand the light of that tremendous day? When I am put on the scales and weighed, will I be the weight that I am labeled? In that dreadful day will I see the handwriting on the wall, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, PARSIN”--“You have been weighed on the scales and found wanting”? or will I hear the gracious sentence which will pronounce me saved in Jesus Christ?

As to my graces, what must they be in the light of judgment?

My own salvation, all the matters of experience and knowledge--how do they all look in that light! I think I have believed: I think I love the Savior: I sometimes hope that I am his; but am I really? Will I be found to be a true believer at the end? Will my love be mere lip service or true affection? Will my graces be mere talk, or will they be found to be the work of God the Holy Spirit? Am I vitally united to Christ or not? Am I a mere pretender, or a true possessor of eternal things? Oh, my soul, ask these questions in the light of that tremendous day. I pray to God we could now go forward to the day of judgment, in thought at any rate; and since I feel myself quite unable to lead you there, let me adopt my Savior’s words: “He says that the day will come when he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. There will be some on his left hand to whom he will say, “I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. Depart from me, you who are cursed.” Will he say that to you and to me? There will be some on his right hand to whom he will say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Will he say that to you and to me? It will be one or the other.

As I stand here this morning, I seem to feel, and I hope you all do too, what a certain man once felt in court. Sentence was about to be given in his case, or, at least he thought the case would be called on immediately, and he rushed to his attorney and he said, “Have we done everything we can do? Are you sure? for if I lose this case I am a ruined man.” His face was white with anxiety. And so it is with you. Have you done everything you can do? for if you lose this case at God’s throne of judgment--you are a ruined man. Come, have you believed in Christ Jesus, or is your faith incomplete? Have you given up your self-righteousness? Have you left your sin? Have you given your heart to the Savior? Is your regeneration still unaccomplished? Are you born again? Are you in Christ? Are you saved? If your case is lost you then you are a ruined man. A man ruined here on earth may still retrieve his fortunes; the bankrupt person may start all over again and still become rich; the captain who has lost a battle may renew the fight and win the next victory and begin the campaign anew; but lose the battle of life, and the fight will be over. Become bankrupt in this life’s business, and you have no more trading. This is the business of eternity.

Soul, is there anything left unfinished? Brother, sister, is there anything left incomplete? for if you lose this case, you are ruined, and that for all eternity. I pray that you look at this day and at all your days, the past and the future, in the light of the day of judgment.

III. But my lamp has a third side to it, bright, gleaming like a cluster of stars. The third light at the end of our lives is the light of HEAVEN.

We hope, when days and years have passed, that many of us will meet to part no more on the other side of the Jordan, in heaven. Now, let us see if we can cast a little light from heaven on things from the present and the past. You have been working--working very hard, and wiping the sweat from your brow, and saying, “My lot in life is not a desirable one. Oh, how tired I feel! I cannot bear it.” Courage, brother, courage, sister; there is rest for the weary; there is eternal rest for the beloved of the Lord, and when you arrive in heaven, how little, how utterly insignificant your labor on earth will seem, even if it will have lasted seventy years. You are in much pain; even now pain shoots through your body; you don’t often know what it is to have an easy hour, and you half murmur to yourself, “Why am I like this? Why did God deal so harshly with me?” Think of heaven, where the inhabitants will never again say, “I am sick;” where there are no groans to mingle with the songs that sing from immortal tongues. Courage, tried one, Oh it will soon be over; it is only a pin’s prick or a moment’s pang, and then eternal glory. Cheer up, and don’t let your patience fail you.

So you have been slandered. You have received shame and reproach because of Christ’s dear name, and you are ready to give up. Come, my friend, look beyond this earth! Can’t you hear the applause of the angels as the conquerors receive, one by one, their eternal crowns? What! Why won’t you fight when there is so much to be won? Must you be carried to the skies on flowery beds of comfort? You must fight if you would reign. Prepare your mind for action and think of the rewards waiting for you in heaven. In the light of heaven, the shame of earth will seem to be less than nothing and vanity.

So you have had many losses and crosses: you were once well-to-do, but now you are poor. You will have to go home today to a very poor house and to a meager meal, Oh, but beloved, you will not be there long. “In my Father’s house are many rooms.” It is only an inn you are staying at for awhile, and, if the accommodation is a little rough, remember you are gone tomorrow; so don’t complain. I pray to God we could look on all our actions in the light of heaven--I mean those who are believers in Jesus Christ. If we could have regrets in heaven, I think it would be that we did not do more than we did for Christ here below. In heaven they cannot feed Christ’s poor, cannot teach the ignorant. They can extol him with songs of praise, but there are some things in which we have the preference over them: they cannot clothe the naked, or visit the sick, or speak words of cheer to those that are sad. If there is anything that can give joy in heaven, surely it will be in looking back on the grace which enabled us to serve the Master. Oh, if I can win souls to Christ, I will be a gainer as well as you. I will have another heaven in their heaven, another joy as it were in their life, and another happiness in their souls’ happiness. And, dear brothers and sisters, if in your Sunday-school teaching, or visiting, or talking to others, you can bring any to glory, you will, if it is possible, multiply your heaven and make it all the more glad and joyful.

Now, look at the life of some Christians. They come here, and if I preach what they call a good sermon, they like it and drink it in. They are willing to eat the best foods and drink the sweetest drinks, but what do they do for Christ? Nothing. What do they give for Christ? Hardly anything. There are a few such people among us, and these are generally the most miserable people you meet with--neither a comfort to others, nor any joy to themselves. Now, I think, even in heaven, though no sorrow should be there, it will only be God’s wiping it away that will keep them from regretting that they did not do what they might have done on earth. We are saved by grace, blessed be God--by grace alone; but, being saved, we desire to make known the savor of Christ in every place, and we believe in heaven we will have joy in having made this known among the sons of men on earth. Look at your joy in the light of heaven, and you will see it differently than it now appears.

IV. Lastly, we now turn to the fourth side of our lamp, and that is the fourth light at the end of our lives, the light of HELL. Let us look at all things in the light of HELL, that dreadful and gloomy light, the glare of the fiery abyss.

Bring that lantern here. Here is a young man very merry. “Ho! ho!” he sings, “Christians are fools.” Hold up the light of Hell. There you are, young man, without God, without hope, with the great iron gate of death shut on you and locked forever, your body and soul in the horrible flames of the wrath of God. Who is the fool now? Oh, when your spirit is damned, as it must be if you live without a Savior, you will not even think of laughing. Laugh now, sir! Scoff now! For a few minutes’ merriment you sold eternal joys. You had a bowl of red stew and you ate it quickly, and you sold your birthright. What do you think of it now? It is an awful thing that men should be content, for a few short hours of silly amusement, to throw away their souls. Look at your fun and games in the glare of the flames of hell. Note that man in agony down in the vault of hell, he made money by sin, and there he is; he gained the whole world and lost his own soul. How does it look now? “I would give fifty thousand dollars,” said a gentleman when he lay dying, “if any man could prove to me, without a doubt, that there is no hell.” That man did not want to believe in a literal hell, and was willing to pay almost anything for some proof to satisfy his conscience, but now, with indescribable pain, he knows hell is real. If lost spirits could return here, surely they would do what Judas did--throw down the thirty pieces of silver in the temple, and curse themselves that they ever took the reward of this world and destroyed their souls.

And how will unbelief look in the flames of hell?

There are no unbelievers anywhere except on earth: there are none in heaven, and there are none in hell. Atheism is a strange thing. Even the demons never fell into that vice, for the Bible says, “the demons believe and shudder.” Yet, there are some of the devil’s children that have gone beyond their father in sin, but how will it look when they are forever lost? When God’s wrath crushes them, they will not be able to doubt his existence. When he tears them in pieces and there is no one to save them, then their sophisticated reasoning, their empty logic, their boasts and showy defiance, will be of no avail. Oh, that they had been wise and had not darkened their foolish hearts, but had turned to the living God!

I have another thought which will come home to some of your spirits with special power. How will procrastination seem when you get to hell?

Some of you have been attending this church for a long time: you have often felt conviction in your hearts, but you have always said “Tomorrow,” “Tomorrow.” You have been aroused and aroused again, but still it has been “Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow.” How that word “tomorrow” will ring in your ears when you are actually burning in the fires of hell! What would you not give for another day of mercy, another hour of grace? I feel this morning as if I would do with you what the Roman Ambassadors did with Antiochus. They met him and asked him whether he intended war or peace. He said he hadn’t decided yet; and one of them taking his staff, made a circle around him where he stood, and said, “You must answer before you leave that spot. If you step out of the circle then it is war. Now, war or peace?” And I too would draw a circle around you in the pew this morning, and say to you, “Which will it be, sin or holiness, self or Christ? Will it be grace or hostility, heaven or hell? And I pray you answer that question in the light of hell. It is a dreadful light, but it is a revealing one. It is a fire that will devour the scales that cover your eyes and prevent you from seeing clearly. God grant that it may burn those scales away, that you may now see how dreadful a thing it is to be an enemy of God, and be led by his Holy Spirit to plead for mercy from Jesus Christ even now.

Ah, how will the gospel seem in the light of hell, and how will your indifference to it seem?

When I was thinking of preaching this morning, I wished that I could preach as in that light. To think that there are some to whom I have spoken again and again, who during this year have passed out of this world of hope and into the fires of despair, is a dreadful thought. Persons that occupied these pews, some even stood during the service and listened and heard the gospel--and now they are gone! Did I warn them fairly, truly? If not--if you didn’t warn them, then they perished, but their blood God will require at our hands. My God, by the blood of the Savior, set us free from these men! Oh deliver us from that solemn condemnation. But with those of you that still live, I will be innocent of your blood. Dear listeners, don’t you feel that you are mortal? Don’t you have within you a sense that you are dying? It is a thought that is always with me; life seems so short. It was not always this way with me; but the shortness of life now seems to hang over my mind perpetually, and I suppose it must be so for those of you who are thirty, forty, fifty, or sixty, and who frequently see your friends taken away. Now, since you too must soon die, since there is a world to come, and you believe there is, how can some of you play with these things? How is it that while you are attentive to your business, you neglect the business of your soul? What are you waiting for, my friend? Are you waiting for another season? Doesn’t the Bible say, “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation”? What are you waiting for? Oh that you were wise, and would think of the end of your life and seek after God! I call on you, because of the shortness of life, because of the certainty of death, because of the terrors of judgment, because of the glories of heaven, because of the agonies of hell, to seek the narrow path to heaven and follow it. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. This is the gospel, “Whoever believes in Christ is not condemned.” To believe is to trust. Oh, that you may have grace to trust your souls with the Lord Jesus now and forever, and then we will not need to fear those words, “At the end,” nor the four lights at the end of our lives: Death, Judgment, Heaven, and Hell. God bless you, for his name’s sake. Amen.


Sinners Bound with the Cords of Sin

February 13th, 1870

"His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins."—Proverbs 5:22.

The first sentence has reference to a net, in which birds or beasts are taken. The ungodly man first of all finds sin to be a bait, and, charmed by its apparent pleasantness he indulges in it, and then he becomes entangled in its meshes so that he cannot escape. That which first attracted the sinner, afterwards detains him. Evil habits are soon formed, the soul readily becomes accustomed to evil, and then, even if the man should have lingering thoughts of better things, and form frail resolutions to amend, his iniquities hold him captive like a bird in the fowler's snare. You have seen the foolish fly descend into the sweet which is spread to destroy him, he sips, and sips again, and by-and-by he plunges boldly in to feast himself greedily: when satisfied, he attempts to fly, but the sweet holds him by the feet and clogs his wings; he is a victim, and the more he struggles the more surely is he held. Even so is it with the sins of ungodly men, they are at first a tempting bait, and afterwards a snare. Having sinned, they become so bewitched with sin, that the scriptural statement is no exaggeration: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil."

The first sentence of the text also may have reference to an arrest by an officer of law. The transgressor's own sins shall take him, shall seize him; they bear a warrant for arresting him, they shall judge him, they shall even execute him. Sin, which at the first bringeth to man a specious pleasure, ere long turneth into bitterness, remorse, and fear. Sin is a dragon, with eyes like stars, but it carrieth a deadly sting in its tail. The cup of sin, with rainbow bubbles on its brim, is black with deep damnation in its dregs. O that men would consider this, and turn from their delusions. To bring torment to the guilty, there is little need that God should, literally in the world to come, pile up Tophet with its wood and much smoke, nor even that the pit should be digged for the ungodly in order to make them miserable; sin shall of itself bring forth death. Leave a man to his own sins, and hell itself surrounds him; only suffer a sinner to do what he wills, and to give his lusts unbridled headway, and you have secured him boundless misery; only allow the seething caldron of his corruptions to boil at its own pleasure, and the man must inevitably become a vessel filled with sorrow. Be assured that sin is the root of bitterness. Gild the pill as you may, iniquity is death. Sweet is an unholy morsel in the mouth, but it will be wormwood in the bowels. Let but man heartily believe this, and surely he will not so readily be led astray. "Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird," and shall man be more foolish than the fowls of the air? will he wilfully pursue his own destruction? will he wrong his own soul? Sin, then, becomes first a net to hold the sinner by the force of custom and habit, and afterwards, a sheriffs officer to arrest him, and to scourge him with its inevitable results.

The second sentence of our text speaks of the sinner being holden with cords, and a parable may be readily fashioned out of the expression. The lifelong occupation of the ungodly man is to twist ropes of sin. All his sins are as so much twine and cord out of which ropes may be made. His thoughts and his imaginations are so much raw material, and while he thinks of evil, while he contrives transgression, while he lusts after filthiness, while he follows after evil devices, while with head, and hand, and heart he pursues eagerly after mischief, he is still twisting evermore the cords of sin which are afterwards to bind him. The binding meant is that of a culprit pinioned for execution. Iniquity pinions a man, disables him from delivering himself from its power, enchains his soul, and inflicts a bondage on the spirit far worse than chaining of the body. Sin cripples all desires after holiness, damps every aspiration after goodness, and thus, fettering the man hand and foot, delivers him over to the executioner, which executioner shall be the wrath of God, but also sin itself, in the natural consequences which in every case must flow from it. Samson could burst asunder green withes and new ropes, but when at last his darling sin had bound him to his Delilah, that bond he could not snap, though it cost him his eyes. Make a man's will a prisoner, and he is a captive indeed. Determined independence of spirit walks at freedom in a tyrant's Bastille, and defies a despot's hosts; but a mind enslaved by sin builds its own dungeon, forges its own fetters, and rivets on its chains. It is slavery indeed when the iron enters into the soul. Who would not scorn to make himself a slave to his baser passions? and yet the mass of men are such—the cords of their sins bind them.

Thus, having introduced to you the truth which this verse teaches, namely, the captivating, enslaving power of sin, I shall advance to our first point of consideration. This is a solution to a great mystery; but then, secondly, it is itself a greater mystery; and when we have considered these two matters it will be time for us to note what is the practical conclusion from this line of thought.

I. First, then, the doctrine of the text, that iniquity entraps the wicked as in a net, and binds them as with cords is A SOLUTION OF A GREAT MYSTERY.

When you and I first began to do good by telling out the gospel, we labored under the delusion that as soon as our neighbors heard of the blessed way of salvation they would joyfully receive it, and be saved in crowds. We have long ago seen that pleasant delusion dispelled; we find that our position is that of the serpent-charmer with the deaf adder, charm we ever so wisely, men will not hear so as to receive the truth. Like the ardent reformer, we have found out that old Adam is too strong for young Melancthon. We now perceive that for a sinner to receive the gospel involves a work of grace that shall change his heart and renew his nature. Yet none the less is it a great mystery that it should be so. It is one of the prodigies of the god of this world that he makes men love sin, and abide in indifference as if they were fully content to be lost. It is a marvel of marvels that man should be so base as to reject Christ, and abide in wilful and wicked unbelief. I will try and set forth this mystery, in the way in which, I dare say, it has struck many an honest hearted worker for Jesus Christ.

Is it not a mysterious thing that men should be content to abide in a state of imminent peril? Every unconverted man is already condemned. Our Lord has said it: "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed on the Son of God." Every unregenerate man is not only liable to the wrath of God in the future, but the wrath of God abideth on him. It is on him now, it always will remain upon him; as long as he is what he is, it abideth on him. And yet in this state men do not start, they are not amazed or alarmed, they are not even anxious. Sabbath after Sabbath they are reminded of their unhappy position: it makes us unhappy to think they should be in such a state, but they are strangely at ease. The sword of vengeance hangs over them by a single hair, yet sit they at their banquets, and they laugh and sport as though there were no God, no wrath to come, no certainty of appearing before the judgment-seat of Christ. See a number of persons in a train that has broken down. The guard has only to intimate that another train is approaching, and that it may perhaps dash into the carriages and mangle the passengers; he has only to give half a hint, and see how the carriage doors fly open, how the travelers rush up the embankment, each one so eager for his own preservation as to forget his fellow's. Yet here are men and women by hundreds and thousands, with the fast-rushing train of divine vengeance close behind them; they may almost hear the sound of its thundering wheels, and, lo, they sit in all quietness, exposed to present peril and in danger of a speedy and overwhelming destruction. "'Tis strange. 'tis passing strange, 'tis wonderful." Here is a mystery indeed, that can only be understood in the light of the fact that these foolish beings are taken by their sing, and bound by the cords of their iniquities.

Be it ever remembered that before very long these unconverted men and women, many of whom are present this morning, will be in a stale whose wretchedness it is not possible for language fully to express. Within four-and-twenty hours their spirits may be summoned before the bar of God; and, according to this book, which partially uplifts the veil of the future, the very least punishment that can fall upon an unconverted soul will cause it "weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth." All they had endured, of whom it is written, that they wept and gnashed their teeth, was to be shut out into outer darkness, nothing more; no stripes had then fallen, they had not yet been shut up in the prison-house of hell, only the gate of heaven was shut, only the light of glory was hid; and straightway there was weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. What, then, will be the woe of the lost when positive punishment is inflicted? As for what they will endure who have beard the gospel, but have wilfully rejected it, we have some faint notion from the Master's words: "It shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for them." We know that it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, for "our God is a consuming fire." From this platform there rings full often that question, "How shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?" And yet for all this, men are willing to pass on through time into eternity regardless of the escape which God provides, turning aside from the only salvation which can rescue them from enduring "the blackness of darkness for ever." O reason, art thou utterly fled? Is every sinner altogether brutish? If we should meet with a man condemned to die, and tell him that pardon was to be had, would he hear us with indifference? Would he abide in the condemned cell and use no means for obtaining the boon of life and liberty? Yes, there awaits the sinner a more awful doom, and a more terrible sentence, and we are sent to publish a sure pardon from the God of heaven; and yet thousands upon thousands give us no deep heartfelt attention, but turn aside and perish in their sins. O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep for the folly of the race to which I belong, and mourn over the destruction of my fellow men!

It often strikes us with wonder that men do not receive the gospel of Jesus Christ, when we recollect that the gospel is so plain. If it were a great mystery one might excuse the illiterate from attending to it. If the plan of salvation could only be discovered by the attentive perusal of a long series of volumes, and if it required a classical training and a thorough education, why then the multitude of the poor and needy, whose time is taken up with earning their bread, might have same excuse; but there is under heaven no truth more plain than this, "He that believeth on the Lord Jesus hath everlasting life;" "He that believeth and is baptised, shall be saved." To believe—that is, simply to trust Christ. How plain! There is no road, though it ran straight as an arrow, that can be more plain than this. Legible only by the light they give, but all so legible that be who runs may read, stand these soul-quickening words, "Believe and live." Trust Christ and your sins are forgiven; you are saved. This is so plain a precept, that I may call it a very A B C for infants, yet men receive it not. Are they not indeed holden by the cords of their sins when they refuse to obey?

Moreover, brethren, there is a wonderful attractiveness in the gospel. If the gospel could possibly be a revelation of horrors piled on horrors, if there were something in it utterly inconsistent with reason, or something that shocked all the sensitive affections of our better part, we might excuse mankind, but the gospel is just this: man is lost, but God becomes man to save him, "The Son of Man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Out of infinite love to his enemies the Son of God took upon himself human flesh, that he might suffer in the room and stead of men what they ought to have suffered. The doctrine of substitution, while it wondrously magnifies the grace of God and satisfies the justice of God, methinks ought to strike you all with love because of the disinterested affection which it reveals on Jesus Christ's part. O King of Glory, dost thou bleed for me? O Prince of Life, canst thou lie shrouded in the grave for me? Doth God stoop from his glory to be spat upon by sinful lips? Doth he stoop from the splendor of heaven to be "despised and rejected of men," that men may be saved? Why, it ought to win every human ear, it ought to entrance every human heart. Was ever love like this? Go ye to your poets, and see if they have ever imagined anything nobler than the love of Christ the Son of God for the dying sons of men! Go to your philosophers, and see if in all their maxims they have ever taught a diviner philosophy than that of Christ's life, or ever have imagined in their pictures of what men ought to be, an heroic love like that which Christ in very deed displayed! We lift before you no gory banner that might sicken your hearts; we bring before you no rattling chains of a tyrant's domination; but we lift up Jesus crucified, and "Love" is written on the banner that is waved in the forefront of our hosts; we bid you yield to the gentle sway of love, and not to the tyranny of terror. Alas! men must be bound, indeed, and fettered fast by an accursed love to sin, or else the divine attractions of a crucified Redeemer would win their hearts.

Consider, my friends, you who love the souls of your fellow men, how marvellous it is that men should not receive the gospel when the commandment of the gospel is not burdensome! Methinks if it had been written that no man should enter heaven except by the way of martyrdom, it had been wisdom for every one of us to give our bodies to be burned, or to be stretched upon the rack; yea, if there had been no path to escape from the wrath of God, but to be flayed alive with Bartholomew, enduring present but exquisite torture, it would have been but a cheap price for an escape from wrath, and an entrance into heaven. But I find in God's word prescribed as the way of salvation, no such physical agonies. No austerities are commanded; not even the milder law which governed the Pharisee when he "fasted thrice in the week." Only this is written—"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" and the precept of the Christian's life is, "Love thy God with all thy heart, and thy neighbor as thyself." Most pleasant duties these of love! What more sweet? What more delightful than to permit the soul to flow out in streams of affection? The ways of true religion are not irksome, her ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. What, heaven given for believing? What, heaven's gate opened only for knocking, and boons all priceless bestowed for nothing but the asking? Yet they will not ask, they will not knock. Alas, my God, what creatures are men! Alas, O sin, what monsters hast thou made mankind, that they will forget their own interests, and wrong their own souls!

Further, it is clear that men must be fast held by the bondage of their sins when we recollect that, according to the confession of the most of them, the pleasures of sin are by no means great. I have heard them say themselves that they have been satiated after a short season of indulgence We know how true the word is, "Who hath woe? who hath redness of eyes? They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine." No form of sin has ever been discovered yet that has yielded satisfaction. You shall look at those who have had all that heart could wish, and have without restraint indulged their passions, and you shall find them to be in their latter end amongst the most wretched rather than the most satisfied of mankind. Yet for these pleasures—I think I degrade the word when I call them pleasures—for these pleasures they are willing to pawn their souls and risk everlasting woe; and all this while, be it remembered, to add to the wonder, there are pleasures to be found in godliness; they do not deny this, they cannot without belying their own observation. We who are at least as honest as they are, bear our testimony that we never knew what true happiness was till we gave our hearts to Christ; but since then our peace has been like a river. We have had our afflictions, we have suffered grievous bodily pain, we have endured mental depression, we have been heavily burdened, we have borne many trials; but we can say—

"We would not change our blest estate
For all the world calls good or great."

"Happy are the people whose God is the Lord!" We can set our seal to this experimentally. See ye then, my brethren, these poor souls will prefer the pleasures that mock them to the pleasures that alone can satisfy. If we had to die like dogs, it would be worth while to be a Christian. If there were no hereafter, and our only consideration were who should enjoy this life the best, it would be the wisest thing to be a servant of God and a soldier of the cross. I say not it would ensure our being rich, I say not it would ensure our being respected, I say not it would ensure our walking smoothly and free from outward trouble; but I do say that because of "the secret something which sweetens all," because of the profound serenity which true religion brings, the Christian life out-masters every other, and there is none to be compared therewith. But think ye for awhile what the ungodly man's life is! I can only compare it to that famous diabolical invention of the Inquisition of ancient times. They had as a fatal punishment for heretics, what they called the "Virgin's Kiss." There stood in a long corridor the image of the Virgin. She outstretched her arms to receive her heretic child; she looked fair, and her dress was adorned with gold and tinsel, but as soon as the poor victim came into her arms the machinery within began to work, and the arms closed and pressed the wretch closer and closer to her bosom, which was set with knives, and daggers, and lancets, and razors, and everything that could cut and tear him, till he was ground to pieces in the horrible embrace; and such is the ungodly man's life. It standeth like a fair virgin, and with witching smile it seems to say, "Come to my bosom, no place so warm and blissful as this;" and then anon it begins to fold its arms of habit about the sinner, and he sins again and again, brings misery into his body, perhaps, if he fall into some form of sin, stings his soul, makes his thoughts a case of knives to torture him, and grinds him to powder beneath the force of his own iniquities. Men perceive this, and dare not deny it; and yet into this virgin's bosom they still thrust themselves, and reap the deep damnation that iniquity must everywhere involve. Alas, alas, my God!

And now, once more, this terrible mystery, which is only solved by men's being held by their sins, has this added to it, that all the while in the case of most of you now present, all that I have said is believed, and a great deal of it is felt. I mean this: if I were talking with persons who did not believe they had a soul, or believe in the judgment to come, or believe in the penalty of sin, or believe in the reward of righteousness, I should see some reason why they rejected the great salvation; but the most of you who attend this house of prayer—I think I might say all—have scarcely ever had a doubt about these things. You would be very much horrified if any one would insinuate that you did not believe the Bible to be the word of God. You have a little Pharisaism in your soul, that you think you are not as scoffers are, nor infidels. I own you are not, but I grieve to say I think you are more inconsistent than they. If these things be a fiction, well, sirs, your course is rational; but if these things be realities, what shall I say for you when I plead with God on your behalf? What excuse can I make for you? If you profess to believe these things, act as though you believe them; if you do not, practically act so. Why do you profess to own them as the truth? The case is worse, for you not only believe these thing's to be true, but some of you have felt their power. You have gone home from this place, and you could not help it, you have sought your chamber and bowed your knee in prayer; such prayer as it was, for, alas! your goodness has been like the morning cloud and the early dew. I know some of you who have had to break off some of your sins, for your conscience would not let you rest in them. Yet you are unbelievers still, still you are undecided, still you are unsaved, and at this moment, if your soul were required of you, nothing would be in prospect but a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation. O my hearer, you whose conscience has been at times awakened, in whom the arrows of the great King have found a lodging place, in whom they are rankling still, yield, I pray thee, yield to the divine thrusts, and give up thy contrite spirit to thy Redeemer's hands. But if thou do not, what shall I say to thee? The kingdom of God has been thrust from you by yourselves. Be sure of this, it has come near you, and in coming near it has involved solemn responsibilities which I pray you may not have to feel the weight of in the world to come.

Here, then, stands the riddle, that man is so set against God and his Christ that he never will accept eternal salvation until the Holy Spirit, by a supernatural work, overcomes his will and turns the current of his affections; and why is this? The answer lies in the text, because his own iniquities have taken him, and he is holden with the cords of his sin. For this reason he will not come unto Christ that he may have life; for this reason he cannot come, except the Father which hath sent Christ draw him.

II. But now, secondly, I pass on to observe that though this is the solution of one mystery, IT IS IN ITSELF A GREATER MYSTERY.

It is a terrible mystery that man should be so great a fool, so mad a creature as to be held by cords apparently so feeble as the cords of his own sins. To be bound by reason is honorable; to be hold by compulsion, if you cannot resist it, is at least not discreditable; but to be held simply by sin, by sin and nothing else, is a bondage which is disgraceful to the human name. It lowers man to the last degree, to think that be should want no fetter to hold him but the fetter of his own evil lusts and desires. Let us just think of one or two cords, and you will see this.

One reason why men receive not Christ and are not saved, is because they are hampered by the sin of forgetting God. Think of that for a minute. Men forget God altogether. The commission of many a sin has been prevented by the presence of a child. In the presence of a fellow creature, ordinarily a man will feel himself under some degree of restraint. Yet that eye which never sleeps, the eye of the eternal God, exercises no restraint on the most of men. If there were a child in that chamber thou wouldst respect it-but God being there thou canst sin with impunity. If thy mother or thy father were there thou wouldst not dare offend, but God who made thee and whose will can crush thee, thy lawful sovereign, thou takest no more account of him than though he were a dog, yea, not so much as that. Oh, strange thing that men should thus act! And yet with many it is not because of the difficulty of thinking of God. Men of study, for instance, if they are considering the works of God, must be led up to thoughts of God. Galen was converted from being an atheist while in the process of dissecting the human body; he could not but see the finger of God in the nerves and sinews, and all the rest of the wonderful embroidery of the human frame. There is not an emmet or an infusorial animalcule beneath the microscope but what as plainly as tongue can speak, saith, "Mortal, think of God who made thee and me." Some men travel daily over scenes that naturally suggest the Creator; they go down to the sea in ships, and do business on great waters, where they must see the works of the Lord, and yet they even manage to become the most boisterous blasphemers against the sacred majesty of the Most High, in his very temple where everything speaks of his glory. But you will tell me perhaps, some of you, that you are not engaged in such pursuits. I reply, I know it. Many of you have to labor with your hands for your daily bread, in occupations requiring but little mental exercise. So much the more guilty then are you that when your mind is not necessarily taken up with other things, you still divert it from all thoughts of God. The working man often find is it very possible to spend his leisure hours in politics, and to amuse his working hours by meditating upon schemes more or less rational concerning the government of his country, and will he dare to tell me therefore that he could not during that time think of God? There is an aversion to God in your heart, my brother, or else it would not be that from Monday morning to Saturday night you forget him altogether. Even when sitting here you find it by no means a pleasant thing to be reminded of your God, and yet if I brought up the recollection of your mother, perhaps in heaven, the topic would not be displeasing to you. What owe you to your mother compared with what you owe to your God? If I spoke to you of some dear friend who has assisted you in times of distress, you would be pleased that I had touched upon such a chord; and may I not talk with you concerning your God, and ask you why do you forget him? Have you good thoughts for all but the best? Have you kind thoughts of gratitude for every friend but the best friend that man can have? My God! my God! why do men treat thee thus? Brightest, fairest, best, kindest, and most tender, and yet forgotten by the objects of thy care!

If men were far away from God, and it were a topic abstruse and altogether beyond reach, something might be said. But imagine a fish that despised the ocean and yet lived in it, a man who should be unconscious of the air he breathes! "In him we live and move and have our being; we are also his offspring." He sends the frost, and he will send the spring; he sends the seed-time and the harvest, and every shower that drops with plenty comes from him, and every wind that blows with health speeds forth from his mouth. Wherefore then is he to be forgotten when everything reminds you of him? This is a sin, a cruel sin, a cursed sin, a sin indeed that binds men hard and fast, that they will not come to Christ that they may have life; but it is strange, it is beyond all miracles a miracle, that such a folly as this should hold men from coming to Christ.

Another sin binds all unregenerate hearts; it is the sin of not loving the Christ of God. I am not about to charge any person here with such sins as adultery, or theft, or blasphemy, but I will venture to say that this is a sin masterly and gigantic, which towers as high as any other—the sin of not loving the Christ of God. Think a minute. Here is one who came into the world out of pure love, for no motive but mercy, with nothing to gain, but though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor; why then is he not loved? The other day there rode through these streets a true hero, a brave bold man who set his country free, and I do remember how I heard your shouts in yonder street, and you thronged to look into the lion-like face of Italy's liberator. I blame you not, I longed to do the same myself, he well deserved your shouts and your loudest praises. But what had he done compared with what the Christ of God has done in actually laying down his life to redeem men from bondage, yielding up himself to the accursed death of the cross that man might be saved through him? Where are your acclamations, sirs, for this greater Hero? Where are the laurels that you cast at his feet? Is it nothing to you, is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, is it nothing to you that Jesus should die? Such a character, so inexpressibly lovely, and yet despised! Such a salvation, so inexpressibly precious, and yet rejected! Oh, mystery of iniquity! indeed, the depths of sin are almost as fathomless as the depths of God, and the transgressions of the wicked all but as infinite in infamy as God is infinite in love.

I might also speak of sins against the Holy Ghost that men commit, in that they live and even die without reverential thoughts of him or care about him; but I shall speak of one sin, and that is the mystery that men should be held by the sin of neglecting their souls. You meet with a person who neglects his body, you call him fool, if, knowing that there is a disease, he will not seek a remedy. If, suffering, from some fatal malady, he never attempts to find a cure, you think the man is fit only for a lunatic asylum. But a person who neglects his soul, be is but one of so numerous a class, that we overlook the madness. Your body will soon die, it is but as it were the garment of yourself and will be worn out; but you yourself are better than your body as a man is better than the dress he wears. Why spend you then all thoughts about this present life and give none to the life to come?

It has long been a mystery who was the man in the iron mask. We believe that the mystery was solved some years ago, by the conjecture that he was the twin brother of Louis XIV., King of France, who, fearful lest he might have his throne disturbed by his twin brother, whose features were extremely like his own, encased his face in a mask of iron and shut him up in the Bastille for life. Your body and your soul are twin brothers. Your body, as though it were jealous of your soul, encases it as in an iron mask of spiritual ignorance, lest its true lineaments, its immortal lineage should be discovered, and shuts it up within the Bastille of sin, lest getting liberty and discovering its royalty, it should win the mastery over the baser nature. But what a wretch was that Louis XIV., to do such a thing to his own brother! How brutal, how worse than the beasts that perish! But, sir, what art thou if thou doest thus to thine own soul, merely that thy body may be satisfied, and thy earthly nature may have a present gratification? O sirs, be not so unkind, so cruel to yourselves. But yet this sin of living for the mouth and living for the eye, this sin of living for what ye shall eat and what ye shall drink, and wherewithal ye shall be clothed, this sin of living by the clock within the narrow limits of the time that ticks by the pendulum, this sin of living as if this earth were all and there were nought beyond—this is the sin that holds this City of London, and holds the world, and binds it like a martyr to the stake to perish, unless it be set free.

Generally, however, there also lies some distinct form of actual sin at the bottom of most men's impenitence. I will not attempt to make a guess, my dear hearer, as to what it may be that keeps thee from Christ, but without difficulty I could, I think, state what these sins generally are. Some men would fain be saved, but they would not like to tale up the cross and be despised as Christians. Some would fain follow Christ, but they will not give up their self-righteous pride; they want to have a part of the glory of salvation. Some men have a temper, which they do not intend to try to restrain. Others have a secret sin, too sweet for them to give it up; it is like a right arm, and they cannot come to the cutting of it off. Some enjoy company which is attractive, but destructive, and from that company they cannot fly. Men one way or another are held fast like birds with birdlime, till the fowler comes and takes them to their destruction. O that they were wise, for then they might be awakened out of this folly! But this still remaineth the mystery of mysteries, that those sins absurd and deadly, bind men as with cords, and hold them fast like a bull in a net.

THE CONCLUSION OF THE WHOLE MATTER IS THIS, a message sinner to thee, and saint, to thee.

Sinner, to thee. Thou art held fast by thy sins, and I fear me much thou wilt be held so till thou perish, perish everlastingly. Man, does not this concern you? I lay last night by the hour together on my bed awake, tossing with a burden on my heart, and I tell thee that only burden that I had was thy soul. I cannot endure it, man, that thou shouldst be cast into the "lake that burneth with fire and brimstone." I believe that book as thou dost; believing it, I am alarmed at the prospect which awaits the unconverted. The more I look into the subject of the world to come, the more I am impressed that all those who would lessen our ideas of the judgment that God will bring upon the wicked, are waging war against God and against virtue and the best interests of men. "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Do not try it, my friend, I pray thee do not try it. Run not this risk, this certainty of endless misery, I beseech thee, dare it not! What sayest thou, "What then should I do?" I venture to reply in the words of one of old, "Break off thy sins by righteousness, for it is time to seek the Lord." But thou repliest, "How can I break them off? they are like cords and bonds." Ah, soul, here is another part of thy misery, that thou hast destroyed thyself, but thou canst not save thyself; thou hast woven the net, thou hast made it fast and firm, but thou canst not tear it in pieces. Bat there is One who can, there is One upon whom the Spirit of the Lord descended that he might loose the prisoner. There is a heart that feels for thee in heaven, and there is One mighty to save, who can rescue thee. Breathe that prayer, "O set me free, thou Liberator of captive souls;" breathe the prayer now, and believe that he can deliver thee, and thou shalt yet, captive as thou art, go free, and this shall be thy ransom price, his precious blood; and this shall be the privilege of thy ransomed life, to love and praise him who hath redeemed thee from going down into the pit.

But I said the conclusion of the whole matter had something to do with the child of God. It has this to do with him. Dear brother and sister in Christ, by the love you bear to your fellow sinners, never help to make the bonds of their sins stronger than they are—you will do so if you are inconsistent. They will say, "Why, such a one professes to be a saved man, and yet see how he lives!" Will you make excuses for sinners? It was said of Judah, by the prophet, that she had become a comfort to Sodom and Gomorrah. O never do this; never let the ungodly have to say, "There is nothing in it; it is all a lie; it is all a mere pretense; we may as well continue in sin, for see how these Christians act!" No, brethren, they have bonds enough without your tightening them or adding to them.

In the next place, never cease to warn sinners. Do not stand by and see them die without lifting up a warning note. A house on fire, and you see it as you go to your morning's labor, and yet never lift up the cry of "Fire!" a man perishing, and yet no tears for him! Can it be so? At the foot of Mr. Richard Knill's likeness I notice these words, "Brethren, the heathen are perishing, will you let them perish?" I would like to have each of you apply to your own conscience the question, "Sinners are perishing, will you let them perish without giving them at least, a warning of what the result of sin must be?" My brethren, I earnestly entreat you who know the gospel to tell it out to others. It is God's way of cutting the bonds which confine men's souls; be instant, in season and out of season, in publishing the good news of liberty to the captives through the redeeming Christ.

And lastly, as you and I cannot set these captives free, let us look to him who can. O let our prayers go up and let our tears drop down for sinners. Let it come to an agony, for I am persuaded we shall never get much from God by way of conversion till we feel we must have it, until our soul breaketh for the longing that it hath for the salvation of souls: when your cry is like that of Rachel, "Give me children or I die I" you shall not long be spiritually barren. When you must have converts, or your heart will break, God will hear you and send you an answer. The Lord bless you! May none of you be held by the cords of your sins, but may ye be bound with cords to the horns of God's altar as a happy and willing sacrifice to him that loved you. The Lord bless you for Jesus' sake.



   An Appeal to Children of Godly Parents



                             March 27th, 1887

                        delivered by C. H. Spurgeon

“My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”—Proverbs 6:20-23.

You have here before you the advice of King Solomon, rightly reckoned to be one of the wisest of men; and verily he must be wise indeed who could excel in wisdom the son of David, the King of Israel. It is worth while to listen to what Solomon has to say; it must be good for the most intelligent young person to listen and to listen carefully to what so experienced a man as Solomon has to say to young men. But I must remind you that a greater than Solomon is here, for the Spirit of God inspired the Proverbs. They are not merely jewels from earthly mines, but they are also precious treasures from the heavenly hills; so that the advice we have here is not only the counsel of a wise man, but the advice of that Incarnate Wisdom who speaks to us out of the Word of God. Would you become the sons of wisdom? Come and sit at the feet of Solomon. Would you become spiritually wise? Come and hear what the Spirit of God has to say by the mouth of the wise man.

In considering this subject I am going first of all to show you that true godliness, of which the wise man here speaks, comes to many of us recommended by parental example: “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” But in addition to that true religion comes to us commended by practical uses, by its beneficial effect upon our lives: “When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.”

I. Now in the first place I want to show you that true religion comes to many of us recommended by parental example.

Unhappily it is not so with all of you. There are some who had an evil example in their childhood, and who never learnt anything that was good from their parents. I adore the sovereignty of divine grace that there are among us tonight many who are the first in their families that ever made a profession of faith in Christ. They were born and brought up in the midst of everything that was opposed to godliness; yet here they are, they can themselves hardly tell you how, brought out from the world as Abraham was brought from Ur of the Chaldees. The Lord in his grace has taken one of a city, and two of a family, and brought them to Zion. You, dear friends, have special cause for thankfulness; but it should be a note to be entered in your diary that your children shall not be subjected to the same disadvantages as you yourselves suffered. Since the Lord has looked in love upon you, let your households be holiness to the Lord, and so bring up your children that they shall have every advantage that religious training can give, and every opportunity to serve the living God.

But there are many among us, I believe the larger proportion of those gathered here, who have had the immense privilege of godly training. Now, to my mind it seems that a father’s experience is the best evidence that a young man can have of the truth of anything. My father would not say that which was false anywhere to anyone; but I am sure that he would not say it to his son; and if after serving God for fifty years he has found religion to be a failure, even if he had not the courage to communicate it to the whole world, I feel persuaded that he would have whispered in my ear, “My son, I have misled you. I was mistaken, and I have found it out.” But when I saw the old man the other day he had no such information to convey to me. Our conversation was concerning the faithfulness of God; and he delights to tell of the faithfulness of God to him and to his father, my dear grandfather, who has now gone up above. How often have they told me that in a long lifetime of testing and proving the promises, they have found them all true, and they could say in the language of the hymn —


“‘Tis religion that can give

Sweetest pleasures while we live;

‘Tis religion must supply

Solid comfort when we die.”

As for myself, if I had found out that I was mistaken, I should not have been so foolish as to rejoice that my sons should follow the same way of life, and should addict themselves with all their might to preaching the same truth that I delight to proclaim. Dear son, if thou hast a godly father believe that the religion upon which he has fixed his faith is true. He tells thee that it is so; he is, at any rate, a sincere and honest witness to thee; I beseech thee therefore, forsake not thy father’s God.

Then I think that one of the most tender bonds that can ever bind man or woman is the affection of a mother. Many would perhaps break away from the law of the father; but the love of the mother, who among us can break away from that? So next, a mother’s affection is the best of arguments. You remember how she prayed for you. Among your earliest recollections is that of her taking you between her knees and teaching you to say,—


“Gentle Jesus, meek and mild,

Look upon a little child.”

Perhaps you have tried to disbelieve, but your mother’s firm faith prevents it. I have heard of one who said that he could easily have been an infidel if it had not been for his mother’s life and his mother’s death. Yes, these are hard arguments to get over, and I trust that you will not get over them. You remember well her quiet patience in the house when there was much that might have ruffled her. You remember her gentleness with you when you were going a little wild. You hardly know perhaps, how you cut her to the heart, how her nights were sleepless because her boy did not love his mother’s God. I do charge you by the love you bear her, if you have received any impressions that are good, cherish them, and cast them not aside. Or if you have received no such impressions, yet at least let the sincerity of your mother, for whom it was impossible to have been untrue,— let the deep affection of your mother who could not and would not betray you into a lie,—persuade you that there is truth in this religion which now, perhaps, some of your companions are trying to teach you to deride. “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother.”

I think that to any young man, or any young woman either, who has had a godly father and mother, the best way of life that they can mark out for themselves is to follow the road in which their father’s and mother’s principle would conduct them. Of course we make great advances on the old folks, do we not? The young men are wonderfully bright and intelligent, and the old people are a good deal behind them. Yes, yes; that is the way we talk before our beards have grown. Possibly when we have more sense we shall not be quite so conceited of it. At any rate, I, who am not very old, and who dare not any longer call myself young, venture to say that for myself I desire nothing so much as to continue the traditions of my household. I wish to find no course but that which shall run parallel with that of those who have gone before me. And I think dear friends, that you who have seen the holy and happy lives of Christian ancestors will be wise to pause a good deal before you begin to make a deviation, either to the right or to the left, from the course of those godly ones. I do not believe that he begins life in a way which God is likely to bless, and which he himself in the long run will judge to be wise, who begins with the notion that he shall upset everything; that all that belonged to his godly family shall be cast to the winds. I do not seek to have heirlooms of gold or silver; but though I die a thousand deaths I can never give up my father’s God, my grandsire’s God, and his father’s God, and his father’s God. I must hold this to be the chief possession that I have; and I pray young men and women to think the same. Do not stain the glorious traditions of noble lives that have been handed down to you; do not disgrace your father’s shield, bespatter not the escutcheons of your honored predecessors by any sins and transgressions on your part. God help you to feel that the best way of leading a noble life will be to do as they did who trained you in God’s fear!

Solomon tells us to do two things with the teachings which we have learned of our parents. First he says, “Bind them continually upon thine heart,” for they are worthy of loving adherence. Show that you love these things by binding them upon your heart. The heart is the vital point; let godliness lie there, love the things of God. If we could take young men and women and make them professedly religious without their truly loving godliness, that would be simply to make them hypocrites, which is not what we desire. We do not want you to say that you believe what you do not believe, or that you rejoice in what you do not rejoice in. But our prayer—and oh that it might be your prayer too!—is that you may be helped to bind these things about your heart. They are worth living for, they are worth dying for, they are worth more than all the world besides; the immortal principles of the divine life which comes from the death of Christ. “Bind them continually upon thine heart.”

And then Solomon, because he would not have us keep these things secret as if we were ashamed of them, adds, “and tie them about thy neck,” for they are worthy of boldest display. Did you ever see my Lord Mayor wearing his chain of office? He is not at all ashamed to wear it. And the sheriffs with their brooches; I have a lively recollection of the enormous size to which those ornaments attain; and they take care to wear them too. Now then, you who have any love to God, tie your religion about your neck. Do not be ashamed of it, put it on as an ornament, wear it as the mayor does his chain. When you go into company never be ashamed to say that you are a Christian; and if there is any company where you cannot go as a Christian, well, do not go there at all. Say to yourself, “I will not be where I could not introduce my Master; I will not go where he could not go with me.” You will find that resolve to be a great help to you in the choice of where you will go and where you will not go; therefore bind it upon your heart, tie it about your neck. God help you to do this and so to follow those godly ones who have gone before you!

I hope that I am not weak in wishing that some here may be touched by affection to their parents. I have had very sorrowful sights sometimes in the course of my ministry. A dear father, an honest, upright, godly man, is perhaps present; but he will not mind my saying what lines of grief I saw upon his face when he came to say to me, “Oh, sir, my boy is in prison!” I am sure that if his boy could have seen his father’s face as I saw it, it would have been worse than prison to him. I have known young men who have come to this Tabernacle with their parents—nice boys too, they were— and they have gone into situations in the city where they have been tempted to steal, and they have yielded to the tempter and they have lost their character. Sometimes the deficiency has been met, and they have been rescued from a criminal’s career; but alas, sometimes they have fallen into the hands of a wicked woman, and then woe betide them! Occasionally it has seemed to be sheer wantonness and wickedness that has made them act unrighteously. I wish I could fetch those young men—I do not suppose that they are here to-night—and let them see not merely the misery they will bring upon themselves, but show them their mother at home when news came that John had lost his position because he had been acting dishonestly, or give them a glimpse of the father’s face when the evil tidings reached him. The poor man stood aghast; he said “There was never a stain upon the character of any of my family before.” If the earth had opened under the godly man’s feet, or if the good mother could have gone down straight into the grave, they would have preferred it to the lifelong tribulation which has come upon them. Therefore I charge you, young man, or young woman, do not kill the parents who gave you life, do not disgrace those who brought you up; but I pray you, instead thereof, seek the God of your father and the God of your mother, and give yourselves to the Lord Jesus Christ and live wholly to him.

II. Now I must turn to my second point, which is that true religion comes to us commended by practical uses. This is a less sentimental argument than the one I have been pleading; but to many, vital godliness appeals because of its immense utility in the actual everyday life of men.

Solomon tells us first that true godliness serves us for instruction: “For the commandment is a lamp.” If thou wouldst know all that thou oughtest to know, read this Book. If thou wouldst know in thy heart that which shall be for thy present and eternal good, love this Book, believe the truth it teaches and obey it, “for the commandment is a lamp.”

Next, true religion serves us for direction: “and the law is light.” If we want to know what we should do, we cannot do better than yield ourselves up to the guidance of the Divine Spirit and take this Word as our map, for—


“‘Tis like the sun, a heavenly light,

That guides us all the day;

And through the dangers of the night,

A lamp to lead our way.”

Solomon also tells us that true religion guides us under all circumstances. He says in the 22nd verse that when we are active, there is nothing like true godliness to help us: “When thou goest, it shall lead thee.” He tells us that when we are resting there is nothing better than this for our preservation: “When thou sleepest, it shall keep thee.” And when we are just waking, there is nothing better than this with which to delight the mind: “When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” I do not intend to expand those three thoughts except just to say this, when thou art busiest, thy religion shall be thy best help. When thy hands are full of toil, and thy head is full of thought, nothing can do thee more service than to have a God to go to, a Savior to trust in, a heaven to look forward to. And when thou goest to thy bed to sleep or to be sick, thou canst have nothing better to smooth thy pillow and to give thee rest than to know that thou art forgiven through the precious blood of Christ, and saved in the Lord with an everlasting salvation. Often ere I fall asleep, I say to myself those words of Watts,—


“Sprinkled afresh with pardoning blood,

I lay me down to rest,

As in the embraces of my God,

Or on my Savior’s breast;”

and there is no more delicious sleep in the world than that sleep which even in dreams keeps near to Christ. Some of us know what it is, even in those wanderings of our mind in sleep, not to quit the holy ground of communion with our Lord. It is not always so, but it is sometimes so; and even then when the mind has lost power to control its thoughts, even the thoughts seem to dance like Miriam to the praise of God. Oh, happy men, whose religion is their protection even in their sleep! And then Solomon says, “when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.” This Bible is a wonderful talking book; there is a great mass of blessed talk in this precious volume. It has told me a great many of my faults; it would tell you yours if you would let it. It has told me much to comfort me; and it has much to tell you if you will but incline your ear to it. It is a book that is wonderfully communicative; it knows all about you, all the ins and outs of where you are and where you ought to be, it can tell you everything. The best communion that a man can have is when he commences with God in prayer and the reading of the Word: “When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee.”

I have hurried over that point because I want to say something else to you. Dear friends, those of you who are unconverted, our great anxiety is that you should know the Lord at once; and our reason is this, that it will prepare you for the world to come. Whatever that world may be, full of vast mysteries, yet no man is so prepared to launch upon the unknown sea as the one who is reconciled to God, who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, who trusts him, and rejoices in the pardon of his sin through the great atoning sacrifice, and experiences in his own heart the marvelous change which has made him a new creature in Christ Jesus. The great reason, I say again, why we wish to have our dear friends converted, is that they may be ready for the world to come. You will soon die, all of you: I think it was last Sunday evening that there sat in that pew just over there, a friend who was generally here in the morning and evening; but on Wednesday he died quite suddenly. He appeared to be in good health, but he died at the railway station, away from home. That seat where he used to sit ought to have a warning voice to all of us, crying aloud, “Prepare to meet thy God.” It might have been myself; it might have been any of these friends around me on the platform; it might have been any of you in the congregation. Who can tell who will go this week? Probably some one or other of us (our number is so large) will be taken away ere another Sabbath bell shall be heard.

I think that is a very good reason for seeking the Lord, that you may be prepared for eternity. One day this week I saw an aged friend who cannot live much longer; she is eighty-six, and her faculties are failing her; but she said to me, “I have no fear, I have no fear of death; I am on the Rock, I am on the Rock Christ Jesus. I know whom I have believed, and I know where I am going.” It was delightful to hear the aged saint speak like that; and we are always hearing such talk from our dear friends when they are going home, they never seem to have any doubts. I have known some who, while they were well, had many doubts; but when they came to die they seemed to have none at all, but were joyously confident in Christ.

But there is another reason why we want our friends converted, and that is that they may be prepared for this life. I do not know what kind of life you have set before yourself. Perhaps I may be addressing some young men who are going to the University, and they hope to have lives consecrated to learning and crowned with honor. Possibly some here have no prospect but that of working hard to earn their bread with the sweat of their brow; some have begun to lay bricks, or to drive the plane, or to wield the pen. There are all sorts of ways of mortal life; but there is no better provision and preparation for any kind of life on earth than to know the Lord, and to have a new heart and a right spirit. He that rules millions of men will do it better with the grace of God in his heart; and he that had to be a slave would be the happier in his lot for having the grace of God in his heart. You that are old and you that are young, you that are masters and you that are servants, true religion cannot disqualify you for playing your part here in the great drama of life; but the best preparation for that part, if it is a part that ought to be played, is to know the Lord and feel the power of divine grace upon your soul.

Let me just show you how this is the case. The man who lives before God, who calls God his Father, and feels the Spirit of God working within him a hatred of sin and a love of righteousness, he is the man who will be conscientious in the discharge of his duties; and you know, that is the kind of man, and the kind of woman, too, that we want nowadays. We have so many people who want looking after; if you give them anything to do they will do it quickly enough if you stand and look on; but the moment you turn your back they will do it as slovenly, or as slowly, and as badly as can be. They are eye-servants only. If you were to advertise for an eye servant I do not suppose anybody would come to you; yet they might come in shoals for there are plenty of them about. Well now, a truly Christian man, a man who is really converted, sees that he serves God in doing his duty to his fellow men. “Thou God seest me,” is the power that ever influences him; and he desires to be conscientious in the discharge of his duties whatever those duties may be. I once told you the story of the servant girl who said that she hoped she was converted. Her minister asked her this question, “What evidence can you give of your conversion?” She gave this among a great many other proofs, but it was not a bad one; she said, “Now, sir, I always sweep under the mats.” It was a small matter, but if you carry out in daily life that principle of sweeping under the mats, that is the kind of thing we want. Many people have a little corner where they stow away all the fluff and the dust, and the room looks as if it was nicely swept, but it is not. There is a way of doing everything so that nothing is really done, but that is not the case where there is grace in the heart. Grace in the heart makes a man feel that he would wish to live wholly to God, and serve God in serving man. If you get that grace you will have a grand preparation for life as well as for death.

The next thing is that a man who has a new heart has imparted to him a purity which preserves him in the midst of temptation. Oh, this dreadful city of London! I wonder that God endures the filth of it. I frequently converse with good young men who come up from the country to their first situation in London, and the first week they live in London is a revelation to them which makes their hair almost stand on end. They see what they never dreamt of. Well now, you young fellows who have just come to London, perhaps this is your first Sunday, give yourselves to the Lord at once I pray you. Yield yourselves to Jesus Christ tonight, for another week in London may be your damnation. Only a week in London may have led you into acts of impurity that shall ruin you forever. Before you have gone into those things devote yourselves to God and to his Christ, that with pure hearts and with right spirits you may be preserved from “the pestilence that walketh in darkness, and the destruction that wasteth at noonday,” in this terribly wicked city. There is no hope for you young men and young women in this great world of wickedness, unless your hearts are right towards God. If you go in thoroughly to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, he will keep and preserve you even to the end; but if you do not give yourselves to the Lord, whatever good resolutions you may have formed, you are doomed—I am sure you are—to be carried away with the torrents of iniquity that run down our streets today. Purity of heart then, which comes from faith in Christ, is a splendid preparation for life.

So also is truthfulness of speech. Oh, what a wretched thing it is when people will tell lies! Now the heart that is purified by the grace of God hates the thought of a lie. The man speaks the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; and he is the man who shall pass through life unscathed, and shall be honored, and in the long run successful. He may have to suffer for a time through his truthfulness, but in the end nothing shall clear a way for him so well as being true in thought and word and deed.

If you love the Lord with all your heart you will also learn honesty in dealing; and that is a grand help in life. I know that the trickster does sometimes seem to succeed for a time; but what is his success? It is a success which is only another name for ruin. Oh, dear sirs, if all men could be made honest, how much more of happiness there would be in the world! And the way to be upright among men is to be sincere towards God, and to have the Spirit of God dwelling within you.

Again, true religion is of this value, that it comforts a man under great troubles. You do not expect many troubles my young friend, but you will have them. You expect that you will be married and then your troubles will be over; some say that then they begin. I do not endorse that statement; but I am sure that they are not over, for there is another set of trials that begin then. But you are going to get out of your apprenticeship and then it will be all right; will it? Journeymen do not always find it so. But you do not mean always to be a journeyman; you are going to be a little master. Ask the masters whether everything is pleasant with them in these times. If you want to escape trouble altogether you had better go up in a balloon; and then I am sure that you would be in trouble for fear of going up too high or coming down too fast. But troubles will come; and what is there that can preserve a man in the midst of trouble like feeling that things are safe in his Father’s hands? If you can say, “I am his child, and all things are working together for my good. I have committed myself entirely into the hands of him who cannot err, and will never do me an unkindness,” why, sir, you have on a breastplate which the darts of care cannot pierce, you are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, and you may tread on the briars of the wilderness with an unwounded foot.

True religion will also build up in you firmness of character, and that is another quality that I want to see in our young people nowadays. We have some splendid men in this place, and some splendid women too. I should not be afraid if the devil himself were to preach here that he would pervert them from the faith; and if all the new heresies that can rise were to be proclaimed in their presence, they know too well what the truth is ever to be led astray. But on the other hand, we have a number of people who are led by their ears. If I pull their ear one way, they come after me; if they happen to go somewhere else and somebody pulls their ear the other way, they go after him. There are lots of people who never do their own thinking, but put it out as they put out their washing; they do not think of doing it at home. Well now, these people are just like the chaff on the threshing-floor, and when the wind begins to blow, away they go. Do not be like that. Dear young sons and daughters of the church-members here, know the Lord. May he reveal himself to you at once; and when you do know him, and get a grip of the gospel, bind it to your heart and tie it about your neck, and say “Yes, I am going to follow in the footsteps of those I love, and especially in the footsteps of the Lord Jesus Christ.


“‘Through floods and flames, if Jesus lead,

I’ll follow where he goes.’”

God help you to do it! But first believe in the Lord Jesus Christ; trust yourselves wholly to him and he will give you grace to stand fast even to the end.


                                    The Talking Book

October 22nd, 1871


"When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee"—Proverbs 6:22.

It is a very happy circumstance when the commandment of our father and the law of our mother are also the commandment of God and the law of the Lord. Happy are they who have a double force to draw them to the right—the bonds of nature, and the cords of grace. They sin with a vengeance who sin both against a father on earth and the great Father in heaven, and they exhibit a virulence and a violence of sin who do despite to the tender obligations of childhood, as well as to the demands of conscience and God. Solomon, in the passage before us, evidently speaks of those who find in the parents' law and in God's law the same thing, and he admonishes such to bind the law of God about their heart, and to tie it about their neck; by which he intends inward affection and open avowal. The law of God should be so dear to us, that is should be bound about the most vital organ of our being, braided about our heart. That which a man carries in his hand he may forget and lose, that which he wears upon his person may be torn from him, but that which is bound about his heart will remain there as long as life remains. We are to love the Word of God with all our heart, and mind, and soul, and strength; with the full force of our nature we are to embrace it; all our warmest affections are to be bound up with it. When the wise man tells us, also, to wear it about our necks, he means that we are never to be ashamed of it. No blush is to mantle our cheek when we are called Christians; we are never to speak with bated breath in any company concerning the things of God. Manfully must we take up the cross of Christ; cheerfully must we avow ourselves to belong to those who have respect unto the divine testimonies. Let us count true religion to be our highest ornament; and, as magistrates put upon them their gold chains, and think themselves adorned thereby, so let us tie about our neck the commands and the gospel of the Lord our God.

In order that we may be persuaded so to do, Solomon gives us three telling reasons. He says that God's law, by which I understand the whole run of Scripture, and, especially the gospel of Jesus Christ, will be a guide to us:—"When thou goest, it shall lead thee." It will be a guardian to us: "When thou sleepest"—when thou art defenceless and off thy guard—"it shall keep thee." And it shall also be a dear companion to us: "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." Any one of these three arguments might surely suffice to make us seek a nearer acquaintance with the sacred word. We all need a guide, for "it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." Left to our own way, we soon excel in folly. There are dilemmas in all lives where a guide is more precious than a wedge of gold. The Word of God, as an infallible director for human life, should be sought unto by us, and it will lead us in the highway of safety. Equally powerful is the second reason: the Word of God will become the guardian of our days; whoso hearkeneth unto it shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil. Unguarded moments there may be; times, inevitable to our imperfection, there will be, when, unless some other power protect us, we shall fall into the hands of the foe. Blessed is he who has God's law so written on his heart, and wears it about his neck as armour of proof, that at all times he is invulnerable, kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.

But I prefer, this morning, to keep to the third reason for loving God's word. It is this, that is becomes our sweet companion: "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." The inspired law of God, which David in the hundred and nineteenth Psalm calls God's testimonies, precepts, statutes, and the like, is the friend of the righteous. Its essence and marrow is the gospel of Jesus, the law-fulfiller, and this also is the special solace of believers. Of the whole sacred volume it may be said, "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee." I gather four or five thoughts from this expression, and upon these we will speak.

I. We perceive here that THE WORD IS LIVING. How else could it be said: "It shall talk with thee"? A dead book cannot talk, nor can a dumb book speak. It is clearly a living book, then, and a speaking book: "The word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever." How many of us have found this to be most certainly true! A large proportion of human books are long ago dead, and even shrivelled like Egyptian mummies; the mere course of years has rendered them worthless, their teaching is disproved, and they have no life for us. Entomb them in your public libraries if you will, but, henceforth, they will stir no man's pulse and warm no man's heart. But this thrice blessed book of God, though it has been extant among us these many hundreds of years, is immortal in its life, unwithering in its strength: the dew of its youth is still upon it; its speech still drops as the rain fresh from heaven; its truths are overflowing founts of ever fresh consolation. Never book spake like this book; its voice, like the voice of God, is powerful and full of majesty.

Whence comes it that the word of God is living? Is it not, first, because it is pure truth? Error is death, truth is life. No matter how well established an error may be by philosophy, or by force of arms, or the current of human thought, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and all untruth shall be as stubble before the fire. The tooth of time devours all lies. Falsehoods are soon cut down, and they wither as the green herb. Truth never dies, it dates its origin from the immortals. Kindled at the source of light, its fame cannot be quenched; if by persecution it be for a time covered, it shall blaze forth anew to take reprisals upon its adversaries. Many a once venerated system of error now rots in the dead past among the tombs of the forgotten; but the truth as it is in Jesus knows no sepulchre, and fears no funeral; it lives on, and must live while the Eternal fills His throne.

The word of God is living, because it is the utterance of an immutable, self-existing God. God doth not speak to-day what He meant not yesterday, neither will He to-morrow blot out what He records to-day. When I read a promise spoken three thousand years ago, it is as fresh as though it fell from the eternal lips to-day. There are, indeed, no dates to the Divine promises; they are not of private interpretation, nor to be monopolised by any generation. I say again, as fresh to-day the eternal word drops from the Almighty's lips as when He uttered it to Moses, or to Elias, or spake it by the tongue of Esaias or Jeremiah. The word is always sure, steadfast, and full of power. It is never out of date. Scripture bubbles up evermore with good matters, it is an eternal Geyser, a spiritual Niagara of grace, for ever falling, flashing, and flowing on; it is never stagnant, never brackish or defiled, but always clear, crystal, fresh, and refreshing; so, therefore, ever living.

The word lives, again, because it enshrines the living heart of Christ. The heart of Christ is the most living of all existences. It was once pierced with a spear, but it lives on, and yearns towards sinners, and is as tender and compassionate as in the days of the Redeemer's flesh. Jesus, the Sinner's Friend, walks in the avenues of Scripture as once He traversed the plains and hills of Palestine: you can see Him still, if you have opened eyes, in the ancient prophecies; you can behold Him more clearly in the devout evangelists; He opens and lays bare His inmost soul to you in the epistles, and makes you hear the footsteps of His approaching advent in the symbols of the Apocalypse. The living Christ is in the book; you behold His face almost in every page; and, consequently, it is a book that can talk. The Christ of the mount of benedictions speaks in it still; the God who said, "Let there be light," gives forth from its pages the same divine fiat; while the incorruptible truth, which saturated every line and syllable of it when first it was penned, abides therein in full force, and preserves it from the finger of decay. "The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever."

Over and above all this, the Holy Spirit has a peculiar connection with the word of God. I know that He works in the ministries of all His servants whom He hath ordained to preach; but for the most part, I have remarked that the work of the Spirit of God in men's hearts is rather in connection with the texts we quote than with our explanations of them. "Depend upon it," says a deeply spiritual writer, "it is God's word, not man's comment on it, which saves souls." God does save souls by our comment, by still it is true that the majority of conversions have been wrought by the agency of a text of Scripture. It is the word of God that is living, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword. There must be life in it, for by it men are born again. As for believers, the Holy Spirit often sets the word on a blaze while they are studying it. The letters were at one time before us as mere letters, but the Holy Ghost suddenly came upon them, and they spake with tongues. The chapter is lowly as the bush at Horeb, but the Spirit descends upon it, and lo! it glows with celestial splendour, God appearing in the words, so that we feel like Moses when he put off his shoes from his feet, because the place whereon he stood was holy ground. It is true, the mass of readers understand not this, and look upon the Bible as a common book; but if they understand it not, as least let them allow the truthfulness of our assertion, when we declare that hundreds of times we have as surely felt the presence of God in the page of Scripture as ever Elijah did when he heard the Lord speaking in a still small voice. The Bible has often appeared to us as a temple God, and the posts of its doors have moved at the voice of Him that cried, whose train also has filled the temple. We have been constrained adoringly to cry, with the seraphim. "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God of Hosts." God the Holy Spirit vivifies the letter with His presence, and then it is to us a living word indeed.

And now, dear brethren, if these things be so—and our experience certifies them—let us take care how we trifle with a book which is so instinct with life. Might not many of you remember your faults this day were we to ask you whether you are habitual students of holy writ? Readers of it I believe you are; but are you searchers; for the promise is not to those who merely read, but to those who delight in the law of the Lord, and meditate therein both day and night. Are you sitting at the feet of Jesus, with His word as your school-book? If not, remember, though you may be saved, you lacked very much of the blessing which otherwise you might enjoy. Have you been backsliding? Refresh your soul by meditating in the divine statues, and you will say, with David, "Thy word hath quickened me." Are you faint and weary? Go and talk with this living book: it will give you back your energy, and you shall mount again as with the wings of eagles. But are you unconverted altogether? Then I cannot direct you to Bible-reading as being the way of salvation, nor speak of it as though it had any merit in it; but I would, nevertheless, urge upon you unconverted people great reverence for Scripture, an intimate acquaintance with its contents, and a frequent perusal of its pages, for it has occurred ten thousand times over that when men have been studying the word of life, the word has brought life to them. "The entrance of thy word giveth light." Like Elijah and the dead child, the word has stretched itself upon them, and their dead souls have been made to live. One of the likeliest places in which to find Christ is in the garden of the Scriptures, for there He delights to walk. As of old, the blind men were wont to sit by the wayside begging, so that, if Jesus passed by, they might cry to Him, so would I have you sit down by the wayside of the Holy Scriptures. Hear the promises, listen to their gracious words; they are the footsteps of the Saviour; and, as you hear them, may you be led to cry, "Thou Son of David, have mercy upon me!" Attend most those ministries which preach God's Word most. Do not select those that are fullest of fine speaking, and that dazzle you with expressions which are ornamental rather than edifying; but get to a ministry that is full of God's own Word, and, above all, learn God's Word itself. Read it with a desire to know its meaning, and I am persuaded that, thereby, many of you who are now far from God will be brought near to him, and led to a saving faith in Jesus, for "the Word of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul." "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."

II. If the text says, "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee," then it is clear THE WORD IS PERSONAL. "It shall talk with thee." It is not written, "It shall speak to the air, and thou shalt hear its voice," but, "It shall talk with thee." You know exactly what the expression means. I am not exactly talking with any one of you this morning; there are too many of you, and I am but one; but, when you are on the road home, each one will talk with his fellow: then it is truly talk when man speaks to man. Now, the word of God has the condescending habit of talking to men, speaking personally to them; and, herein, I desire to commend the word of God to your love. Oh! that you might esteem it very precious for this reason!

"It shall talk with thee," that is to say, God's word talks about men, and about modern men; it speaks of ourselves, and of these latter days, as precisely as if it had only appeared this last week. Some go to the word of God with the idea that they shall find historical information about the ancient ages, and so they will, but that is not the object of the Word. Others look for facts upon geology, and great attempts have been made either to bring geology round to Scripture, or Scripture to geology. We may always rest assured that truth never contradicts itself; but, as nobody knows anything yet about geology—for its theory is a dream and an imagination altogether—we will wait till the philosophers settle their own private matters, being confident that when they find out the truth, it will be quite consistent with what God has revealed. At any rate, we may leave that. The main teachings of Holy Scripture are about men, about the Paradise of unfallen manhood, the fall, the degeneracy of the race, and the means of its redemption. The book speaks of victims and sacrifices, priests and washings, and so points us to the divine plan by which man can be elevated from the fall and be reconciled to God. Read Scripture through, and you shall find that its great subject is that which concerns the race as to their most important interests. It is a book that talks, talks personally, for it deals with things not in the moon, nor in the planet Jupiter, nor in the distant ages long gone by, nor does it say much of the periods yet to come, but it deals with us, with the business of to-day; how sin may be to-day forgiven, and our souls brought at once into union with Christ.

Moreover, this book is so personal, that it speaks to men in all states and conditions before God. How it talks to sinners—talks, I say, for its puts it thus: "Come, now, and let us reason together; though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as wool; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as snow." It has many very tender expostulations for sinners. It stoops to their condition and position. If they will not stoop to God, it makes, as it were, eternal mercy stoop to them. It talks of feasts of fat things, of fat things full of marrow; and the book, as it talks, reasons with men's hunger, and bids them eat and be satisfied. In all conditions into which the sinner can be cast, there is a word that precisely meets his condition.

And, certainly, when we become the children of God the book talks with us wondrously. In the family of heaven it is the child's own book. We no sooner know our Father than this dear book comes at once as a love letter from the far-off country, signed with our own Father's hand, and perfumed with our Father's love. If we grow in grace, or if we backslide, in either case Scripture still talks with us. Whatever our position before the eternal God, the book seems to be written on purpose to meet that position. It talks to you as you are, not only as you should be, or as others have been, but with you, with you personally, about your present condition.

Have you never noticed how personal the book is as to all your states of mind, in reference to sadness or to joy? There was a time with some of us when we were very gloomy and sore depressed, and then the book of Job mourned to the same dolorous tune. I have turned over the Lamentations of Jeremiah wrote. It mourns unto us when we lament. On the other hand, when the soul gets up to the exceeding high mountains, to the top of Amana and Lebanon, when we behold visions of glory, and see our Beloved face to face, lo! The word is at our side, and in the delightful language of the Psalms, or in the yet sweeter expressions of the Song of Solomon, it tells us all that is in our heart, and talks to us as a living thing that has been in the deeps, and has been on the heights, that has known the overwhelmings of affliction, and has rejoiced in the triumphs of delight. The word of God is to me my own book: I have no doubt, brother, it is the same to you. There could not be a Bible that suited me better: it seems written on purpose for me. Dear sister, have not you often felt as you have put your finger on a promise, "Ah, that is my promise; if there be no other soul whose tearful eyes can bedew that page and say, 'It is mine,' yet I, a poor afflicted one, can do so!" Oh, yes; the book is very personal, for it goes into all the details of our case, let our state be what it may.

And, how very faithful it always is. You never find the word of God keeping back that which is profitable to you. Like Nathan it cries, "Thou art the man." It never allows our sins to go unrebuked, nor our backslidings to escape notice till they grow into overt sin. It gives us timely notice; it cries to us as soon as we begin to go aside, "Awake thou that sleepest," "Watch and pray," "Keep thine heart with all diligence," and a thousand other words of warning does it address personally to each one of us.

Now I would suggest, before I leave this point, a little self-examination as healthful for each of us. Does the word of God after this fashion speak to my soul? Then it is a gross folly to lose by generalisations that precious thing which can only be realised by a personal grasp. How sayest thou, dear hearer? Dost thou read the book for thyself, and does the book speak to thee? Has it ever condemned thee, and has thou trembled before the word of God? Has it ever pointed thee to Christ, and has thou looked to Jesus the incarnate Saviour? Does the book now seal, as with the witness of the Spirit, the witness of thine own spirit that thou art born of God? Art thou in the habit of going to the book to know thine own condition, to see thine own face as in a glass? Is it thy family medicine? Is it thy test and tell-tale to let thee know thy spiritual condition? Oh, do not treat the book otherwise than this, for if thou dost thus unto it, and takest it to be thy personal friend, happy art thou, since God will dwell with the man that trembles at His word; but, if you treat it as anybody's book rather than your own, then beware, lest you be numbered with the wicked who despise God's statutes.

III. From the text we learn that HOLY SCRIPTURE IS VERY FAMILIAR. "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. To talk signifies fellowship, communion, familiarity. It does not say, "It shall preach to thee." Many persons have a high esteem for the book, but they look upon it as though it were some very elevated teacher speaking to them from a lofty tribunal, while they stand far below. I will not altogether condemn that reverence, but it were far better if they would understand the familiarity of God's word; it does not so much preach to us as talk to us. It is not, "When thou awakest, it shall lecture thee," or, it shall scold thee;" no, no, "it shall talk with thee." We sit at its feet, or rather at the feet of Jesus, in the Word, and it comes down to us; it is familiar with us, as a man talketh to his friend. And here let me remind you of the delightful familiarity of Scripture in this respect that it speaks the language of men. If God had written us a book in His own language, we could not have comprehended it, or what little we understood would have so alarmed us, that we should have besought that those words should not be spoken to us any more; but the Lord, in His Word, often uses language which, though it be infallibly true in its meaning, is not after the knowledge of God, but according to the manner of man. I mean this, that the word uses similes and analogies of which we may say that they speak humanly, and not according to the absolute truth as God Himself sees it. As men conversing with babes use their broken speech, so doth the condescending word. It is not written in the celestial tongue, but in the patois of this lowland country, condescending to men of low estate. It feeds us on bread broken down to our capacity, "food convenient for us". It speaks of God's arm, His hand, His finger, His wings, and even of His feathers. Now, all this is familiar picturing, to meet our childish capacities; for the Infinite One is not to be conceived of as though such similitudes were literal facts. It is an amazing instance of divine love, that He puts those things so that we may be helped to grasp sublime truths. Let us thank the Lord of the word for this.

How tenderly Scripture comes down to simplicity. Suppose the sacred volume had all been like the book of the prophet Ezekiel, small would have been its service to the generality of mankind. Imagine that the entire volume had been as mysterious as the Book of Revelation: it might have been our duty to study it, but if its benefit depended upon our understanding it, we should have failed to attain it. But how simple are the gospels, how plain these words, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved"; how deliciously clear those parables about the lost piece of money, the lost sheep, and the prodigal son. Wherever the word touches upon vital points, it is as bright as a sunbeam. Mysteries there are, and profound doctrines, deeps where Leviathan can swim; but, where it has to do immediately with what concerns us for eternity, it is so plain that the babe in grace may safely wade in its refreshing streams. In the gospel narrative the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err. It is familiar talk; it is God's great mind brought down to our littleness, that it may lift us up.

How familiar the book is too—I speak now as to my own feelings—as to all that concerns us. It talks about my flesh, and my corruptions, and my sins, as only one that knew me could speak. It talks of my trials in the wisest way; some, I dare not tell, it knows all about. It talks about my difficulties; some would sneer at them and laugh, but this book sympathises with them, knows my tremblings, and my fears, and my doubts, and all the storm that rages within the little world of my nature. The book has been through all my experience; somehow or other it maps it all out, and talks with me as if it were a fellow-pilgrim. It does not speak to me unpractically, and scold me, and look down on me from an awful height of stern perfection, as if it were an angel, and could no sympathise with fallen men; but like the Lord whom it reveals, the book seems as if it were touched with a feeling of my infirmities, and had been tempted in all points like as I am. Have you not often wondered at the human utterances of the divine word: it thunders like God and yet weeps like man. It seems impossible that anything should be too little for the word of God to notice, or too bitter, or even too sinful for that book to overlook. It touches humanity at all points. Everywhere it is a personal, familiar acquaintance, and seems to say to itself, "Shall I hide this thing from Abraham my friend?"

And, how often the book has answered enquiries! I have been amazed in times of difficulties to see how plain the oracle is. You have asked friends, and they could not advise you; but you have gone to your knees, and God has told you. You have questioned, and you have puzzled, and you have tried to elucidate the problem, and lo! In the chapter read at morning prayer, or in a passage of Scripture that lay open before you, the direction has been given. Have we not seen a text, as it were, plume its wings, and fly from the word like a seraph, and touch our lips with a live altar coal? It lay like a slumbering angel amidst the beds of spices of the sacred word, but it received a divine mission, and brought consolation and instruction to your heart.

The word of God, then, talks with us in the sense of being familiar with us. Do we understand this? I will close this point by another word of application. Who, then, that finds God's word so dear and kind a friend would spurn or neglect it? If any of you have despised it, what shall I say to you? If it were a dreary book, written within and without with curses and lamentations, whose every letter flashed with declarations of vengeance, I might see some reason why we should not read it; but, O precious, priceless companion, dear friend of all my sorrows, making my bed in my sickness, the light of my darkness, and the joy of my soul, how can I forget thee—how can I forsake thee? I have heard of one who said that the dust on some men's Bibles lay there so thick and long that you might write "Damnation" on it. I am afraid that such is that case with some of you. Mr. Rogers, of Dedham, on one occasion, after preaching about the preciousness of the Bible, took it away from the front of the pulpit, and, putting it down behind him, pictured God as saying, "You do not read the book: you do not care about it; I will take it back—you shall not be wearied with it any more." And then he portrayed the grief of wise men's hearts when they found the blessed revelation withdrawn from men; and how they would besiege the throne of grace, day and night, to ask it back. I am sure he spoke the truth. Though we too much neglect it, yet ought we to prize it beyond all price, for, if it were taken from us, we should have lost our kindest comforter in the hour of need. God grant us to love the Scriptures more!

IV. Fourthly, and with brevity, our text evidently shows that THE WORD IS RESPONSIVE. "When thou awakest, it shall talk with thee," not to thee. Now, talk with a man is not all on one side. To talk with a man needs answering talk from him. You have both of you something to say when you talk together. It is a conversation to which each one contributes his part. Now, Scripture is a marvellously conversational book; it talks, and makes men talk. It is ever ready to respond to us. Suppose you go to the Scriptures in a certain state of spiritual life: you must have noticed, I think, that the word answer to that state. If you are dark and gloomy, it will appear as though it had put itself in mourning, so that it might lament with you. When you are on the dunghill, there sits Scripture, with dust and ashes on its head, weeping side by side with you, and not upbraiding like Job's miserable comforters. But suppose you come to the book with gleaming eyes of joy, you will hear it laugh; it will sing and play to you as with psaltery and harp, it will bring forth the high-sounding cymbals. Enter its goodly land in a happy state, and you shall go forth with you and be led forth with peace, its mountains and its hills shall break before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. As in water the face is reflected, so in the living stream of revealed truth a man sees his own image.

If you come to Holy Scripture with growth in grace, and with aspirations for yet higher attainments, the book grows with you, grows upon you. It is ever beyond you, and cheerily cries, "Higher yet; Excelsior!" Many books in my library are now behind and beneath me; I read them years ago, with considerable pleasure; I have read them since, with disappointment; I shall never read them again, for they are of no service to me. They were good in their way once, and so were the clothes I wore when I was ten years old; but I have outgrown them I know more than these books know, and know wherein they are faulty. Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years. It is true, it cannot really grow, for it is perfect; but it does so to our apprehension. The deeper you dig into Scripture, the more you find that it is a great abyss of truth. The beginner learns four or five points of orthodoxy, and says, "I understand the gospel, I have grasped all the Bible." Wait a bit, and when his soul grows and knows more of Christ, he will confess, "Thy commandment is exceeding broad, I have only begun to understand it."

There is one thing about God's word which shows its responsiveness to us, and that is when you reveal your heart to it, it reveals its heart to you. If, as you read the word, you say, "O blessed truth, thou art indeed realised in my experience; come thou still further into my heart. I give up my prejudices, I assign myself, like the wax, to be stamped with thy seal,"—when you do that, and open your heart to Scripture, Scripture will open its heart to you; for it has secrets which it does not tell to the casual reader, it has precious things of the everlasting hills which can only be discovered by miners who know how to dig and open the secret places, and penetrate great veins of everlasting riches. Give thyself up to the Bible, and the Bible will give itself up to thee. Be candid with it, and honest with thy soul, and the Scripture will take down its golden key, and open one door after another, and show to thy astonished gaze ingots of silver which thou couldst not weigh, and heaps of gold which thou couldst not measure. Happy is that man who, in talking with the Bible, tells it all his heart, and learns the secret of the Lord which is with them that fear Him.

And how, too, if you love the bible and talk out your love to it, the Bible will love you! Its wisdom says, "I love them that love me." Embrace the word of God, and the word of God embraces you at once. When you prize its every letter, then it smiles upon you graciously, greets you with many welcomes, and treats you as an honoured guest. I am always sorry to be on bad terms with the Bible, for then I must be on bad terms with God. Whenever my creed does not square with God's word, I think it is time to mould my creed into another form. As for God's words, they must not be touched with hammer or axe. Oh, the chiselling, and cutting, and hammering in certain commentaries to make God's Bible orthodox and systematic! How much better to leave it alone! The word is right, and we are wrong, wherein we agree not with it. The teachings of God's word are infallible, and must be reverenced as such. Now, when you love it so well that you would not touch a single line of it, and prize it so much that you would even die for the defence of one of its truths, then, as it is dear to you, you will be dear to it, and it will grasp you and unfold itself to you as it does not to the world.

Dear brethren and sisters, I must leave this point, but it shall be with this remark—Do you talk to God? Does God talk to you? Does your heart go up to heaven, and does His Word come fresh from heaven to your soul? If not, you do not know the experience of the living child of God, and I can earnestly pray you may. May you this day be brought to see Christ Jesus in the word, to see a crucified Saviour there, and to put your trust in Him, and then, from this day forward, the word will echo to your heart—it will respond to your emotions.

V. Lastly, SCRIPTURE IS INFLUENTIAL. That I gather from the fact that Solomon says, "When thou wakest, it shall talk with thee"; and follows it up with the remark that it keeps man from the strange woman, and from other sins which he goes on to mention. When the word of God talks with us, it influences us. All talk influences more or less. I believe there more done in this world for good or bad by talk than there is by preaching; indeed, the preacher preaches best when he talks; there is no oratory in the world that is equal to simple talk; it is the model of eloquence; and all your rhetorician's action and verbiage are so much rubbish. The most efficient way of preaching is simply talking; the man permitting his heart to run over at his lips into other men's hearts. Now, this book, as it talks with us, influences us, and it does so in many ways.

It soothes our sorrows, and encourages us. Many a warrior has been ready to steal away from God's battle, but the word has laid its hand on him, and said, "Stand on thy feet, be not discouraged, be of good cheer, I will strengthen thee, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness." Brave saints we have read of, but we little know how often they would have been arrant cowards only the good word came and strengthened them, and they went back to be stronger than lions and swifter than eagles.

While the book thus soothes and cheers, it has a wonderfully elevating power. How you never felt it put fresh life-blood into you? You have thought, "How can I continue to live at such a dying rate as I have lived, something nobler must I gain?" Read that part of the word which tells of the agonies of your Master, and you will feel—

"Now for the love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss;
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross."

Read of the glories of heaven which this book reveals, and you will feel that you can run the race with quickened speed, because a crown so bright is glittering in your view. Nothing can so lift a man above the gross considerations of carnal gain or human applause as to have his soul saturated with the spirit of truth. It elevates as well as cheers.

Then, too, how often it warns and restrains. I had gone to the right or to the left if the law of the Lord had not said, "Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee."

This book's consecrated talk sanctifies and moulds the mind into the image of Christ. You cannot expect to grow in grace if you do not read the Scriptures. If you are not familiar with the word, you cannot expect to become like Him that spake it. Our experience is, as it were, the potter's wheel on which we revolve; and the hand of God is in the Scriptures to mould us after the fashion and image which He intends to bring us to. Oh, be much with the holy word of God, and you will be holy. Be much with the silly novels of the day, and the foolish trifles of the hour, and you will degenerate into vapid wasters of your time; but be much with the solid teaching of God's word, and you will become solid and substantial men and women: drink them in, and feed upon them, and they shall produce in you a Christ-likeness, at which the world shall stand astonished.

Lastly, let the Scripture talk with you, and it will confirm and settle you. We hear every now and then of apostates from the gospel. hey must have been little taught in the truth as it is in Jesus. A great outcry is made, every now and then, about our all being perverted to Rome. I was assured the other day by a good man with a great deal of alarm, that all England was going over to Popery. I told him I did not know what kind of God he worshipped, but my God was a good deal bigger than the devil, and did not intend to let the devil have his way after all, and that I was not half as much afraid of the Pope at Rome as of the Ritualists at home. But mark it, there is some truth in these fears. There will be a going over to one form of error or another unless there be in the Christian church a more honest, industrious, and general reading of Holy Scripture. What if I were to say most of you church members do not read your Bibles, should I be slandering you? You hear on Sabbath day a chapter read, and you perhaps read a passage at family prayer, but a very large number never read the Bible privately for themselves, they take their religion out of the monthly magazine, or accept it from the minister's lips. Oh, for the Berean spirit back again, to search the Scriptures whether these things be so. I would like to see a huge pile of all the book, good and bad that were ever written, prayer-books, and sermons, and hymn-books, and all, smoking like Sodom of old, if the reading of those books keeps you away from the reading of the Bible; for a ton weight of human literature is not worth an ounce of Scripture; one single drop of the essential tincture of the word of God is better than a sea full of our commenting and sermonisings, and the like. The word, the simple, pure, infallible word of God, we must live upon if we are to become strong against error, and tenacious of truth. Brethren, may you be estalished in the faith rooted, grounded, built up; but I know you cannot be except ye search the Scriptures continually.

The time is coming when we shall all fall asleep in death. Oh, how blessed it will be to find when we awake that the word of God will talk with us then, and remember its ancient friendship. Then the promise which we loved before shall be fulfilled; the charming intimations of a blessed future shall be all realised, and the face of Christ, whom we saw as through a glass darkly, shall be all uncovered, and He shall shine upon us as the sun in its strength. God grant us to love the word, and feed thereon, and the Lord shall have the glory for ever and ever. Amen and amen.


                The Waterer Watered


A sermon (No. 626) delivered on Sunday Morning, April 23, 1865,

at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

by C. H. Spurgeon.

“He that watereth shall be watered also himself.”—Proverbs 11:25.

The general principle is that in living for the good of others, we shall be profited also ourselves. We must not isolate our own interests, but feel that we live for others. This teaching is sustained by the analogy of nature, for in nature there is a law that no one thing can be independent of the rest of creation, but there is a mutual action and reaction of all upon all. All the constituent parts of the universe are bound to one another by invisible chains, and there is not a single creature in it which springeth up, or flourisheth, or decayeth for itself alone. The very planets, though they float far from one another, exercise attraction; and the fixed stars, though they seem to be infinitely remote, are still linked to one another by mysterious bonds. God has so constituted this universe that selfishness is the greatest possible offense against his law, and living for others, and ministering to others, is the strictest obedience to his will. Our surest road to our own happiness is to seek the good of our fellows. We store up in God’s own bank what we generously expend on the behalf of our race. The little spring bubbling forth from the ancient pipe on the hill side overflows the stone basin, and liberally supplies all the villagers with pure and cooling drink. In its flowing it does not waste itself, for the deep fountains in the bowels of the earth continue unceasingly to supply it, and both in winter’s frost and summer’s drought the spring-head yields its crystal stream. The little brook which babbles through the wood, hiding among stones, leaping down the moss-grown rocks, and anon deepening and swelling its stream, pours all its gatherings into the river hoarding not a drop, and though its treasure is constantly being lavished with unstinting liberality, yet heaven and earth see to it that the brook shall never fail to sing its joyous song,


“Men may come and go

But I go on for ever.”

The river hastens with its greater floods towards the all-receiving ocean, pouring itself out every hour with happy plenteousness as though it only existed to empty itself; yet the abundant tributaries which come streaming from the hills and draining the valleys are careful that the river shall know no lack, but shall be kept constantly brimming, a joyous and bounding river evermore. The ocean perpetually sends up its steaming exhalations to the sky, grudging nothing it puts no doors to its roiling waves, but uncovereth all its treasure to the sun, and the sun makes large draughts upon the royal exchequer of the deep; nevertheless the ocean is not diminished, for all the rivers are constantly conspiring to keep the sea full to the shore. The clouds of heaven when they are full of rain empty themselves upon the earth, and yet the clouds cease not to be, for “they return after the rain,” and the ocean down below seems but to be too glad to be continually feeding its sister ocean on the other side the firmament. So as wheels with bands are made to work together, as wheels with cogs working upon one another, the whole watery machinery is kept in motion by each part acting upon its next neighbor, and the next upon the next. Each wheel expends its force upon its fellow, and the whole find a recompense in their mutual action upon one another. The same truth might be illustrated from other departments of nature. If we view this microcosm, the human body, we shall find that the heart does not receive the blood to store it up, but while it pumps it in at one valve it sends it forth at another. The blood is always circulating everywhere and is stagnant nowhere; the same is true of all the fluids in a healthy body, they are in a constant state of expenditure. If one cell stores for a few moments its peculiar secretion, it only retains it till it is perfectly fitted for its appointed use in the body, for if any cell in the body should begin to store up its secretion, its store would soon become the cause of inveterate disease; nay, the organ would soon lose the power to secrete at all if it did not give forth its products. The whole of the human system lives by giving. The eye cannot say to the foot I have no need of thee and will not guide thee, for if it does not perform its watchful office the whole man will be in the ditch, and the eye will be covered with mire. If the members refuse to contribute to the general stock the whole body will become poverty-stricken, and be given up to the bankruptcy of death. Let us learn then from the analogy of nature, the great lesson that to get we must give; that to accumulate we must scatter; that to make ourselves happy we must make others happy; and that to get good and become spiritually vigorous we must do good and seek the spiritual good of others. This is the general principle.

The text suggests a particular personal application of the general principle. We shall consider it first in its narrowest sense, as belonging to ourselves personally; secondly, in a wider sense as it may refer to us as a Church; then thirdly, in its widest sense as it may be referred to the entire body of Christ, showing that still it is true that as it watereth so it shall be watered itself.

I. First then, in reference to ourselves personally.

There are some works my brethren, in which we cannot all engage. Peculiar men are called to be God’s great woodmen, to clear the way with the axe, to go before his army like our sappers and miners —such men as Martin Luther, and Calvin, and Zwingle—that glorious trio of heroes marching in front of reformation and evangelization; they are cutting down the tall trees, tunnelling the hills, and bridging the rivers, and we smaller men feel that there is little of this work for us to do. But when the backwoodsmen have cleared the forest, after all the roots are grubbed and the soil is burned and ploughed, then comes the sowing and the planting, and in this all the household can take a place; and when the plants have sprung up and need water, it is not only the stalwart man with the axe who can now apply himself to watering, but even the little children can take a share in this lighter work. Watering is work for persons of all grades and all sorts. If I cannot carry about me some ponderous load as the Eastern water-bearer can, yet I will take my little waterpot, my little jug or pitcher, and go to the well; for if I cannot water the forest tree I may water the tiny plant which grows at its root. Watering is work for all sorts of people; so then, we will make a personal application to every Christian here this morning: you can all do something in watering, and this promise can therefore be realized by you all, “He that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

All God’s plants more or less want watering. You and I do. We cannot live long without fresh supplies of grace. Hence the value of the promise, “I, the Lord, do keep it; I will water it every moment.” There are no rills at our root as we grow in the soil of nature; it is only in the garden of grace that we are “like trees planted by the rivers of water, bringing forth our fruit in our season.” If the Lord Jesus who is the stem of the vine should cease to supply us with the fresh sap of grace, should we not be like the withered branch which is cast over the wall to be burned in the fire?

The Lord’s people usually get this watering through instrumentality. God does not speak to us out of heaven with his own voice—perhaps the thunder might appal us; he doth not write texts of Scripture with his own finger in letters of fire across the sky, but he waters us by instrumentality, by his Word written and his Word preached, or otherwise uttered by his servants. His Holy Spirit waters us by the admonitions of parents, by the kind suggestions of friends, by the teaching of his ministers, by the example of all his saints. The Holy Spirit waters us, but he takes care to do it by our fellow-workers, putting an honor upon his own servants by using them in instrumentality.

This being fully believed by us all, we may proceed to another truth, namely that some of his servants especially want watering and should therefore be the objects of our constant care. Some plants need watering from their peculiar nature. A gardener will tell you that certain flowers require very little water, perhaps for months they will grow in a stony soil, but others must be watered regularly and plenteously or they will soon droop. Some of you, my dear brothers and sisters, are so desponding that if you did not receive much comfort you would hardly hold up your heads at all; you are so weak in the faith that if you were not fed with milk continually you would scarcely be alive. “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your God” —is especially applicable to the mourners in Zion. Their constitutional temperament is such that to maintain the lamp of their joy they require much oil of comfort.

Perhaps too they are ignorant, and the ignorant want much watering. If they knew the doctrines of grace more fully they might go to the wells themselves: but not knowing where the water is, or feeling like the woman at the well that the well is deep, and that there is nothing to draw with, they cannot get the water; and we who are instructed in the way of God must take care that we bring up the water for them with our longer length of the line of knowledge, so that they may not fail to be watered.

It may be the need is not so much caused by the nature of the plant, but by the position in which it is placed. Many of you, dear brethren, are very happily situated where you can constantly attend the means of grace, where the family altar smokes with sweet perfume, where you cannot well help growing for you are like plants in a hothouse. But there are others on the contrary who live in houses where the jeer is far more frequently heard than the voice of praise; where instead of being helped in your devotions you are hindered; your spirit is driven to and fro with distractions; from the very closet where you wanted to commune with God, you are forced out by cruel mocking. We ought to be very tender over your condition, as being planted on no fruitful hill, but on a very thirsty land where no water is; your position should lead God’s people to watch you with deepest interest, and see to it that you are well watered.

I may mention also the sick. When our dear friends are tried with bodily pain, when they are shut up week after week from the public gatherings, then they want watering. Their position is such that we ought to be specially mindful of them. It is written, “He carrieth the lambs in his bosom, and gently leadeth those that are with young;” and we must note the peculiar condition of the saints of God, being most careful of those who most need our tenderness.

Let me also suggest the young to you. These want watering, both, let me say, from their character and from their position. With little experience and little knowledge they are prone to wander or to be seized by the wolf. Tend them with parental affection. When slips of flowers are first put into the ground they want more water than they will do afterwards; when they have sent out more roots, and these roots have abundant fibres searching through the soil for moisture, they may not require much of the gardener’s care; but just now they must have it or die. Therefore I say, let the feeble, the weak, the young, the sick, the persecuted, be watered most anxiously and lovingly by you all.

Certain dear friends need watering, not so much from their position and character, as from the present trials through which they are passing. Certain plants, after long standing in the sun, droop their leaves and look as if they must wither and die; but as soon as water is poured to their roots it has sometimes perfectly surprised me to see how they will recover. I could scarcely think that they were the same plants, their recovery was so sudden. The little roots beneath sent the message up to the main roots and said, “We have found out moisture, a friendly hand has given us a supply,” and the root talked to the stem, and the stem rejoiced, and the great leaves drank up their share, and the little leaves sucked up their drops, till the whole plant to the very summit was verdant once more and rejoiced. Times will come to all of us when we want water. I myself get very desponding at seasons, as I suppose you do. Unbelief dries us up. Oh that devil of unbelief! Why, if that demon were dead the other devil we might very well contend with. Personal affliction, losses, crosses, burdens, make us just like the withering shrub, and then we want to have the consolations of some kind friend to water us.

Dear friends, sometimes there are those in the Church who particularly want watering because they are actually withering. It is not to maintain verdure in their case, but to restore it. Those backsliding ones, those who have slipped with their feet, do not cast them off, for God casts not off the backsliding one. When they begin to forsake the House of God, do not forsake them; follow them with your tears. In such a Church as this if you do not exercise mutual oversight over one another we shall simply become a mass of corruption, instead of being a mountain of holiness. Watch over your brethren as soon as you see the first signs of declension. When they forsake the prayer-meetings, gently give them a hint of the evil of lukewarmness, and the danger of falling by little and little. When you mark the first sign in their outward carriage of laxity with regard to divine things, when you see coldness where there was formerly zeal, be sure to give a gentle word of earnest, pathetic admonition. As I look around this Tabernacle, I can but compare these rising seats to shelves in the conservatory, and you are the plants which must all be watered or you will languish and wither; and I who have to be my Master’s under-gardener am very anxious to say to all of you who have any water in your wateringpots, help me to water these plants, that by the gracious operations of God the Holy Ghost they may be kept fruitful, green, verdant in spiritual things even to the end.

We now enter more thoroughly into our text and observe that all believers have power to water others. You may not have much ability or influence, but you all have some power in this matter. In thinking over what Solomon meant, it struck me that he had in his mind’s eye the plan of irrigation which is followed in some Eastern countries. The rivers at certain seasons overflow their banks. The careful husbandmen whose farms are close along the sides of the bank, have large tanks and reservoirs in which they store up the water. After the flood, the river is comparatively empty, and the little farms, the vineyards, and pastures on the banks begin to cry out for water; then the careful husbandman lets out the water from his tank or reservoir by slow degrees, and uses it with great economy. It would sometimes happen that one of these farmers would have his reservoirs filled, and his next neighbor, perhaps through the bursting of a tank, or the falling down of the bank of earth, might have little or no water. At such times a churlish man would say, “I shall want all my water for myself, I will not lend or give so much as a drop of it. I have none to spare.” But the generous man says, “I do not know whether God may be pleased to send a drought or no, but I cannot let my neighbor lose all his crops for the want of a little water while I have a good stock in hand;” so he pulls up the sluice and lets such a stream as he thinks he can spare flow into his neighbour’s channel, that he may water his fields therewith. Now Solomon says that those who water others shall be watered; hence, next season it may happen that this good man may have no water himself; well then, all the farmers round about will say, “Why, he helped us when his tank was full, and we will return his kindness into his bosom.” “Ah,” says one, “he saved me from ruin; I should not have had a crop at all last season if it had not been for him.” So they all lend a portion till he finds no difficulty whatever; even in a season of drought when men cannot get water for love or money, he is sure to have it. The common feeling of men, as a usual rule, recognises the law of gratitude, and men say, “He watered others, he shall be watered himself.” My dear brother, you may be a man of talent, you may be a man of wealth: just turn on the big tap and let your ignorant or poor neighbors benefit a little by your abundance; pull up the flood-gates and let the more needy brethren be enriched by your fullness: open that mouth of yours that your wisdom may feed many; tell of what God has done for your soul that the humble may hear thereof and be glad. Do not be a reservoir brimmed up till the banks are ready to burst out through the weight which presses upon them, but just let some of the treasure run out, and when your need of it shalt come—and who knows when it may overtake any of us?—you shall find willing friends who shall run with swift feet to cheer your adversity.

This simile needs to be supplemented by another: many true saints are unable to do much. See then the gardeners going down to the pond and dipping in their watering-pots to carry the refreshing liquid to the flowers. A child comes into the garden and wishes to help; and yonder is a little watering-pot for him. Now, see that little water-pot, though it does not carry so much, yet carries the same water; and it does not make any difference to the half-dozen flowers which get that water whether it came out of the big pot or the little pot, so long as it is the same water and they get it. You who are like children in God’s Church, you who do not know much, yet try and tell to others what you do know, and if it be the same gospel truth and it be blest by the same Spirit it will not matter to the souls who get blessed by you whether they were blessed by a man of one or ten talents. What difference will it make to me whether I was converted to God by means of a poor woman who was never made a blessing to anybody else, or by one who had brought his thousands to the Savior’s feet? Go, my dear brethren, and exercise the holy art of watering. You say “How?” Why, a word may do it, a look may do it, an action may do it; only zealously desire to offer sympathy, to afford instruction, to give needed help, to impart what you may be favored with to others, and you shall be watering yourselves.

The main point is that in so watering others we shall be watered ourselves. I am sure we shall, for God promises it and he always keeps his promise. If I want to get water I must give water. Though that seems a strange way of self-serving, I pray you try it. Was not that a very singular thing that when the poor woman of Sarepta had nearly exhausted all her meal, the prophet asked for a cake for himself? She had been very saving of it; I dare say she had eaten only a mouthful or two every day. She and her poor boy were looking very thin. They had come to the last handful. She thought, “I will make one cake for my son and myself and then we will die.” She is outside picking up sticks that she may bake this cake. God intends to bless her. How does he do it? There comes his prophet, the hairy man, and the first word he says to her is, “Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel that I may drink.” She is quite ready to serve any one, and away she hastens for the water, when Elijah cries aloud, “Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.” What, out of that little handful—only enough for one? “Yes,” he says, “make me thereof a little cake first, and after make for thee and thy son.” “After that!” she might have said, “what will be left after that? When there is only a handful of meal and a little oil in a cruse, not enough for one, am I to give that to you and afterwards see to myself and child?” Faith enabled her to obey, and from that very moment neither she nor her son ever knew what want was. She gave from her little, and her little multiplied. The case of the woman of Zarephath is but one of thousands establishing the rule of God’s mode of action with his Church, a rule which shall not be broken till the end shall come.

Let me show you how you will get watered yourself. In the first place, if you try to do good to others it will do you good by waking up your powers. Thousands of men do not know what they are made of. You have no idea what a fine fellow you are, young man, till you begin to shake yourself a little and go forth to fight the Lord’s battles. We do not know what sinews we have till we climb the mountains; we do not know what strength there may be in our backs and arms till we have to carry a ponderous load, and then we find it out. You have latent talents, dormant faculties which would work wonders if you could call them forth. Some people are not awake more than skin deep; all underneath the skin is sound asleep. They are like the great candle which I showed you one night with a small wick, which was only melted a little in the middle while all the outside was still cold hard tallow, and did not contribute to the light. You have not become warmed through yet, your whole souls have not been wound up to the right pitch for serving God, you have only a little earnestness, a little zeal; but if you ventured upon holy enterprises you would bestir yourself so thoroughly that you would scarcely know yourself again. That would be a blessing indeed.

But next you would often find that in trying to water others, you gained instruction. Go talk to some poor saint to comfort her, and she will tell you what will comfort you. Oh, what gracious lessons some of us have learned at sick beds! We went to teach the Scriptures, we came away blushing that we knew so little of them. We went to talk experimental truth, and we found we were only up to the ankles while here were God’s poor saints breast-deep in the river of divine love. We learn by teaching, and our pupils often teach us.

You will also get comfort in your work. Rest assured that working for others is very happy exercise. Like the two men in the snow; one chafed the other’s limbs to keep him from dying, and in so doing he kept his own blood in circulation, and his own life was preserved. Comfort God’s people and the comfort will return into your own soul.

Watering others will make you humble. You will find better people in the world than yourself. You will be astonished to find how much grace there is where you thought there was none, and how much knowledge some have gained while you as yet have made little progress with far greater opportunities.

You will also win many prayers. Those who work for others get prayed for, and that is a swift way of growing rich in grace. Let me have your prayers and I can do anything! Let me be without my people’s prayers, and I can do nothing. You Sunday-school teachers, if you are blessed to the conversion of the children, you will get your children’s prayers. You that conduct the larger classes, in the conversion of your young people you will be sure to have a wealth of love come back into your own bosoms, swimming upon the stream of supplication. You will thus be a blessing to yourselves.

In watering others you will get honor to yourselves, and that will help to water you by stimulating your future exertions. The Romans appointed censors in their State, not only to censure men for gross immoralities, but to require every man to give an account of what he was doing for the good of the Republic. We have deacons and elders —would it not be an additional blessing to have censors in the Church to go round and ask the members, all of them, what they are doing for the good of the Christian Church? A Greek historian desired very intensely to say a word about the people of the city where he was born. He felt he could not write his history without saying something of his own native place, and accordingly he wrote this— “While Athens was building temples and Sparta was waging war, my countrymen were doing nothing.” I am afraid there are too many Christians of whom, if the book were written as to what they are doing in the Church, it would have to be said they have been doing nothing all their lives. You would be delivered from that reproach if you began to water others.

Let me cease from this subject by saying while you are watering others, you will be manifesting and showing your love to Christ, and that will make you more like him, and so you will be watered while you are seeking to benefit your neighbors. To serve Jesus! what need I say of that? Look into that face bedewed with bloody sweat for you, and can you not sweat for him? Look to those hands pierced for you, and shall your hands hang idly down and not be used for him? Look at those feet fastened to the wood with nails for you! Can I ask of you any pilgrimage too long to repay the toil which those feet endured for your sake? My brethren and sisters, remember what Christ Jesus has done for you, from whence he came, the riches which he left, to what he came, the poverty and shame which he endured, and how he went down into the depths that he might take us up to the heights. If you will think of these, you will have the best motive methinks for beginning to look after his lambs and fighting with those lions which seek to devour his flock; and in that moving motive will be the main means by which you shall be conformed to his image, and shall become like him, self-sacrificing, doing your Father’s business.

I wish I could speak more powerfully this morning but the matter ought to speak for itself with Christians. If we love Jesus we shall not want any pleading with to water his plants. If you really love him it will not be a question of whether you shall do something, the only question will be “What can I do?” and you will say in your pew this morning, “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits toward me?” He has spared your lives, he has given you health and strength, provided you with spirituals and temporals, he has made your heart leap for joy at the sound of his name, he has plucked you out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay, he has taken you out of the black bondage of the prince of darkness and made you his sons and daughters; he has put the ring of his eternal love upon your finger, your feet are shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace —


“This world is yours, and worlds to come,

Earth is your lodge, and heaven your home.”

There is a crown for your head and a palm branch for your hand and pavements of gold for your feet, and felicities for ever for your entire soul; and even your body is to be raised again from the dust and fashioned like unto Christ’s glorious body. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for you.” Now what will you do for him? Will you not win the promise that your soul shall be watered by seeking to water the souls of others?

II. a brief exhortation shall suffice for the second point—this general principle is worthy of a wider application.

We as a Church, dear friends, have enjoyed singular prosperity. While many Churches have been depressed and decreased in numbers, we have increased. While other Churches have had the hectic flush of a spurious revival, we have had one perpetual revival lasting for nearly twelve years. I do not know that we have increased at a more or a less rapid rate; we could not increase more quickly for we have not officers enough, or time enough to see the converts as it is; we have never, I think, increased less, for the work seems to have ever the same prosperity about it. I praise God that I can say of my ministry in this place and elsewhere, that to this day it hath the dew of its youth upon it, and there are as many rejoicing to find Christ through the agencies employed in this Church to-day as in the first day when we came among you in the freshness and vigor of our youth. We have had no schism; we have had no division; we have not been vexed with heresy. We have been blessed with something like persecution, but this has only bound us the faster to one another till we are like a three-fold cord which cannot be broken, and like iron bars made red hot in the furnace and hammered together, we are not soon to be sundered from one another. Now, dear friends, up to this time the policy which we have pursued has been this: if members of other Churches want to know, we hereby tell them, we have endeavored to water others. Your minister has journeyed all over the three kingdoms preaching the Word, and you have not grumbled at his absence. We have undertaken many enterprises for Christ; we hope to undertake a great many more. We have never husbanded our strength; we have undertaken enterprises that were enough to exhaust us, to which we became accustomed in due season, and then we have gone on to something more. We have never sought to hinder the uprising of other Churches from our midst or in our neighborhood. It is with cheerfulness that we dismiss our twelves, our twenties, our fifties, to form other Churches. We encourage our members to leave us to found other Churches; nay, we seek to persuade them to do it. We ask them to scatter throughout the land to become the goodly seed which God shall bless. I believe that so long as we do this we shall prosper. I have marked other Churches that have adopted the other way, and they have not succeeded. This is what I have heard from some ministers: “I do not encourage village stations, or if I do, I do not encourage their becoming distinct Churches and breaking bread together. I do not encourage too many young men going out to preach, for to have a knot of people who can preach a little may very soon cause dissatisfaction with my own preaching.” I have marked those who have followed this course, and I have seen that the effect of trying to keep all the blood in the heart is to bring on congestion, and very soon the whole body has been out of health. My brethren, if you can do more good elsewhere than you can do here, for God’s sake, go, and happy shalt I be that you have gone. If you can serve my Master in the little rooms in the neighborhood, if by forming yourselves into smaller Churches you can increase the honor of my Master’s name, I shall love you none the less for going, but I shall delight to think that you have Christ’s spirit in you, and can do and dare for his name’s sake. At the present moment we rejoice to know that many a Sunday School in this neighborhood is indebted to the members of this Church for teachers. It is right. We do not want you at home, and are therefore glad to see you at work elsewhere. No matter, so long as Christ is preached, whether you throw your strength into that Church or into this Church. Here, as being members with us, we have the first claim upon you; but when we do not need you by reason of our abundance of men, go and give your strength to any other part of Christ’s Church that may desire you.

While I speak thus much in your praise my brethren and sisters, let me say we must keep this up. If we say, “We have the College to support, and we do as much as other Churches for various societies, and we can be content to sit still,” this Church will begin to go rotten at the core the moment we are not working for God with might and main. Sometimes I get a pull at my coat-tail by very kind, judicious friends, who think I shall ask you to do too much. My brethren are welcome to pull my coat-tail, but it will come off before I shall stand back for a moment. As long as I live I must serve my Master with my whole soul, and when you think I go too fast, you can stand back if you dare, for mark, you will be responsible to God if you do; you may start back if you will and if you dare, but I must go on, must go, MUST go on, or else you and I that are worthy of the day in which you live will follow me, step by step, in any good project, and though I should seem too rash, you will redeem me from the charge of rashness by the enthusiasm and the earnestness with which you carry out my plans. Here is this great city! Was there ever such spiritual destitution? A million of people who could not go to a place of worship, if they had the heart to go there! And here we have the priestcraft of the Church of England increasing the spiritual destitution by building fresh Churches—not providing for it, but increasing it I say, for I reckon that wherever Puseyism is preached there is an increase of spiritual destitution; wherever broad Churchism comes, there is an increase of spiritual destitution, and it is little better where they go who preach the gospel in the pulpit, and read Popery at the font, the grave, and the bedside. In this last case public morality is shocked by the perjury of those who swear to a Prayer Book in which they do not believe. Much as I respect and even love believers in the Anglican Establishment, I can only feel that their presence in so corrupt a body is the reason why it exists; and I therefore think them to be doing mischief by buttressing a falling and ruinous cause. True Protestants, we must take upon ourselves to work for London, as if there were no other agencies at work except those of the Free Churches; for the Hagar Church, the Church which has a mortal for its head, the harlot Church which lives in alliance with the State, has too many sins of her own to repent of to be of much use in this hour of peril. The good she can do is so insignificant that it is not worth while to compute it, because the monstrous evil which she fosters and perpetrates is a more than sufficient set-off against it. We must work and toil and labor to scatter in every lane, amid alley and court of London, the pure gospel of the blessed God; and let men know that Sacramentarianism is a lie, and that there is no salvation but in the uplifted cross of Christ, and no salvation through ceremonies but only through a simple faith in him who loved us and gave himself for us. If ye, among others, are come to the kingdom for such a time as this, it shall be well with you; but if not, ye shall be put away as things abhorred, and this place shall be a hissing and a bye-word in generations yet to come, and it shall be said of you, there lived a people who were led by a man, who, with all his faults, was in earnest and was honest, and they would not follow him, but proved unworthy of him, and they have passed away, and their names are writ in water. They had opportunities which they did not use; work was allotted them which they were not worthy to take up, God said to them in answer to their request to be excused, “Ye shall be excused;” and they went back—


“To the vile dust from whence they sprung,

Unwept, unhonoured, and unsung.”

But it shall not be so with you my brethren, though I thus speak; I know your zeal, and love, and earnestness, and that you will continue to water others, and then you shall be watered yourselves. We will pray and strive together for the faith once delivered to the saints; we will cleave closer and closer to one another, and foot to foot, and shoulder to shoulder, we will march to battle for God and for his truth, and come what may, whoever may prove cravens in these days of charity and compromise, we will be found, in God’s name, by the help of God’s Spirit, faithful and true.

III. And now dear friends, another sentence or two will close the sermon.

On the widest scale, this is true. This is true of our denomination and of every Church. If we will water others, we shall be watered. From the very day when Carey, and Fuller, and Pearce went forth to send the gospel to the heathen, a blessing rested upon our denomination, I believe, and if we had done more for the heathen we should have been stronger to do more at home. You may rest assurred, though some may not think it, that our missionary operations are an infinite blessing to the churches at home—that relinquishing them, giving them up, staying them, would bring such a blight and a curse that we had need to go down on our knees and pray, God send the missionary work back again. Give us an outlet for our liberality and our zeal, for without it we become like a pool dammed up, that is full of filth, and toads, and frogs, and all sorts of foul things. Lord, open the river for our zeal and let us once again have an opportunity to serve thee for the nations that are far away!” But I must leave you to preach on that point for my time has gone, and you can do so more practically than I can. My sermon is reported, and I will undertake that what you preach shall not be forgotten, it shall all be taken down in those boxes which shall be passed round. Say each of you as much as ever you can upon this subject by your contributions, and remember, “He that watereth others, shall himself be watered.”


                                Withholding Corn



                               July 30, 1865,

              at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.


“He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.”—Proverbs 11:26.


If I dared, I should always preach upon the comfortable promises and gracious doctrines of God’s Word. I find it most delightful and easy work to expatiate upon those themes of revelation which abound in sweetness, and are full of savor and preciousness to the child of God. I said, “If I dared,” and you will ask me why I dare not? The answer is because I have a solemn conviction on my mind, that if I would be clear of the blood of all men, I must strive to make my range of ministry as wide as the range of revelation, and I must not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. I feel bound to go, not where my wishes would lead me, but where Holy Scripture has made a track for my feet. There are certain texts in the Scriptures which are very seldom preached upon because it is thought that there is little gospel in them, and that the people when they go home will say to one another, “Well, I was not fed this morning.” Those who aim at pleasing men may well be shy of such subjects. But I hold that since God in his wisdom has placed these passages in the Bible, he intended his servants, the preachers of the Word, to expound them. We are, it strikes me, not to preach from selections of Scripture only, but from the whole of the Sacred Volume, for “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” I freely confess that I do not know why I have selected this text this morning, except that it haunted and hunted me until I could not forbear to preach upon it. It seems to force itself upon me, and to bore its way into my soul like a rifle shot. I thought it over and over and could not make much of it, until I yielded up myself to it, saying within myself, “If the Lord has anything to say to the people out of my mouth, here it is—let him use it.” If there should be any persons among our country-friends, or our corn-dealing townsmen, who this morning feel at all touched by the text, I cannot help it; there is my Master’s message to them, and I can only deliver it with the best intentions, hoping that those to whom it comes home may he profited by it. It will, however, soon be clear to you that the verse before us has, besides its first meaning, a weight of very important spiritual teaching in it, to which we shall all do well to take heed.

The text, as it stands, has to do, as you clearly see, with owners of corn and dealers in it. In Solomon’s days there were very frequent famines. Communication between one nation and another was so extremely difficult that the transportation of wheat in any large quantities was not attempted; and therefore, if a failure in the crops occurred in one district, the scarcity in that neighborhood was not compensated by abundance in another, and terrible famines prevailed. Certain persons in those days not only stored up all the corn which grew on their own fields, but purchased as much as they could of others, so as to raise the market above its natural level. This, under the circumtances, was a very high affront put upon God, for instead of bearing their part in his judgments, these men enriched themselves by the poverty of their starving neighbors. There have been such people ever since Solomon’s day, and although the present system of free trade has nearly put an end to that kind of thing, there are doubtless some who would again withhold their corn, even at famine prices, if they could raise the price still higher. How does Scripture deal with this peculiar form of greed in trade?

I cannot but admire the wonderful reserve of Holy Scripture, for as Mr. Arnot well observes, “in this brief maxim no arbitrary rule is laid down to the possessor of corn, that he must sell at a certain period and at a certain price: and yet the hungry are not left without a protecting law. The protection of the weak is entrusted not to small police regulations, but to great self-acting providential arrangements. The double fact is recorded in terms of peculiar distinctness, that he who in times of scarcity keeps up his corn in order to enrich himself is loathed by the people, and he who sells it freely is loved. This is all. There is no further legislation on the subject.” Our narrow wisdom might have wished for some definite law upon the subject, something like a slidingscale, but the great ruler of heaven and earth falls into no such error. Laws which interfere between buyer and seller, master and workman, by any form of law, are blunders and nuisances. Parliaments and princes have hung on to the antiquated absurdity of regulating prices, but the Holy Ghost does nothing of the kind. All the attempts of men to control the price of bread and wheat is sheer folly, as the history of France may well prove. The market goes best when it is left alone, and so in our text, there is no law enacted and no penalty threatened, except that which the nature of things makes inevitable. God knows political economy, whether men do or not, and leaving the coarse machinery of police regulations, he puts the offender under a form of self-acting legislature which is far more efficient. The text seems to say, “Well, if you have no love to your neighbor and choose to keep your wheat, I make no law to break open your granary or pull down your ricks, but you will most certainly gain the hatred, contempt, and curse of the people among whom you dwell.”

You see dear friends, that the man may do as he pleases about selling or not, but he cannot escape from the curse of the people if he chooses to lock up his grain; and on the other hand if he will sell at a proper price, or as another translation reads it, break his bread, that is to say, give it to the starving if they cannot buy it, he will receive blessings not only from the people but from heaven itself.

Brethren, this is a matter of fact, that any man of any observation must have seen, that there is no transaction which ever brings such ill-will upon a man, such general condemnation, especially from the poor, as withholding the corn. Common consent condemns the hoarder, and human nature revolts at his offense. Ask any one you choose to meet, except he be himself deep in the same mire, and he will join you in crying out against it. Of course there are many ways of defending the deed, but there is no way of escaping the fact that the people curse the doer of it in their hearts. “Well,” says one, “it is my own corn, I may do as I like with it.” Just so, nobody said you could not; nobody disputed your rights—only you are warned that in hoarding it you are sure to get the people’s curse. You cannot alter that; it will follow and hang about your heels, and as far as the fact is known, it will make men curl the lip at you and sneer if they are your equals, while the working-men deep in their hearts will abhor you. No matter how kind you may be to the poor in other matters, or how you may have given your money in other ways, your holding the corn will be a scorn among your enemies and an offense to your best friends. It is not always an ill sign when the voice of the people is against a man, but in this case Scripture endorses it, and he who dares to run the risk is none too wise.

“Ah,” says another, “I do not see the wrong of withholding. There are laws of supply and demand, and the preacher does not understand political economy.” The preacher however thinks he does understand it, and even if he does not a child can comprehend the text before him, and with that we have to deal just now. Solomon here tells you that if you like to carry out political economy in the withholding way, you will get cursed for it, and depend upon it, you will. Facts are stubborn things, and this is one—that withholding corn earns me the curse of the people, and that is what no Christian man would wish to bear.

“But what business is that of the preacher’s?” He answers that he thanks God that he has no share in it whatever, but he is set in his place to rebuke what God rebukes, and he is doing no more than expounding God’s own word upon the matter. Whether you hear or forbear, there is the truth, and may the Lord bless it to you. “Well, we ought not to hear such things on Sundays.” What, not read our Bibles on Sundays—not explain the meaning of a text on Sundays? You would not have heard me on a Monday some of you, and therefore you have it to-day. Do not be angry with the text, but look at it and read it, and then afterwards choose you as you will. “He that withholdeth corn,” God says, “the people shall curse him;” and if you wish to have ill-will, and the bad word of thousands of poor cottagers and all others who have human sympathies, then withhold your corn. Thank God, the worst monopoliser cannot do much mischief now-a-days, for by the gracious providence of God which has burst the fetters of commerce, we are not likely to feel any very great straitness for bread in this country. Should our own crops fail, the harvests of other lands supply the masses with their food. The crime is growing scarcer and scarcer; but if any cases still survive and men choose to follow so ruinous a course, they will get cursed for it in mutterings deep, if silent, and in sneers as bitter as they are well deserved.

By your leave I shall now take a step above my text, using it as a ladder to mount to a yet higher truth. If it brings a curse upon a man to withhold the bread which perisheth, what a weight of curse will light upon that man who withholds the bread of eternal life. If the people shall curse the man who keeps back the bread which merely sustains the body, what shall be the withering denunciations which shall overwhelm the soul of him who deals deceitfully with the bread of eternal life? That seems to me to be a fair deduction from the text, and at that truth we will aim this morning. First, I shall attempt to show the ways in which the bread of life may be withheld from the people, and the curse which will follow; secondly, I shall try to depict the blessedness of the man who “breaketh it,” as another translation hath it, to the people; and then thirdly, we shall conclude by opening our own granaries and breaking some of this bread among the assembled multitude.

I. First, he that withholdeth the bread of life will surely get the people’s curse upon him. How can this be done?

1. It may be readily accomplished by locking up the Word of God in an unknown language, or by delivering and preaching it in such a style that the people shalt not comprehend it. The Romish Church for many years kept the sacred Scriptures in an unknown tongue, and resisted all attempts to translate the book of God into the vulgar language of the people. What a curse Rome has had resting on her head. To those who know the enormity of this wickedness in holding back the word of life, it is scarcely possible to think of Rome without invoking judgement upon her. What myriads of souls went down to the pit perishing through lack of knowledge during what were called the Dark Ages! What fearful imprecations they must be uttering even now upon Popes and Cardinals and Priests who had the key of the kingdom, but would neither enter themselves nor suffer others to enter there! They had the light but they concealed it in a dark lantern, and the nations were compelled to sit in the darkness of profound ignorance and superstition because they would not give them the light. Surely the people shall curse such for ever. But are these the only offenders? Is not their crime prolonged by those ministers who aim at delivering themselves in an oratorical style, with flowers of rhetoric far too fine to be reached by the common people? We have heard of some, and we fear we know some, who would rather round a period than win a soul, to whom it is the first and the last object to deliver refined thoughts in elegant and elaborate language, and having so done, having soared aloft on the spread-eagle’s wing far out of sight, they are content to have dazzled the many, and displayed themselves. Truly such men withhold the corn. What can the poor countrymen and servants who are sitting in the aisles make out of their eloquence? What can the work-people, who come in to hear something that may do them good, make out of their outlandish big talk? The terms of theology, the phrases of art, the definitions of philosophy, the jargon of science, are an unknown tongue to the young godly ploughmen or praying shopkeepers. “Alas!” says he, “this does not come to me—I cannot get at it.” Possibly, in their ignorance, some people think the highflyers very learned men, but in reality they are far from it; for plainness of speech is a better sign of learning than high-sounding words and soaring sentences.

Oh, dear friends, when we preach the gospel plainly, I am sure we have our reward! When preaching in some village chapel, or from a waggon in a field, it is no small delight to watch the faces of the men in smockfrocks and the women in their print gowns, as they catch or feel the force of an inspired truth; plain speech wins their blessing. But to stand and talk right over the people’s heads—what is it but having the corn and keeping it from those who want it? Simplicity is the authorised style of true gospel ministry. “Having this ministry,” says the apostle, “we use great plainness of speech.” The common people heard the Master gladly, which they would not have done if he had spoken in highflown language. Whitfield, the prince of preachers, was mainly so because of the market language which he used. Let all of us who have the bread of life try to be very plain. You who write tracts or preach in the street, or you that teach children, break the large slices of truth into small pieces, and crack the shells of the hard nuts. Take away the crust for the babes, and pick out the stones from the fruit. Beware lest in seeking an excess of refinement you withhold the corn and win the people’s curse.

2. But secondly, we may fall into this sin by keeping back the most important and vital truths of Revelation, and giving a prominence to other things which are but secondary. My brethren, if I were to stand in this pulpit and for the next few months address you upon moral precepts, the excellence of virtue or the faultiness of vice; if you could come out of this place and say, time after time, “We hear nothing about Jesus Christ; we do not know whether there be any Holy Ghost:” if I were gifted with ever so much of ability—if these were my themes, however earnestly I pressed them, I should he guilty of withholding the corn, the true food of souls. Morality brings no food to hungry souls, although it is a good thing in its place. Dissuasives from vice are not the bread of heaven, though well enough in their way. We need to have the great doctrines of grace brought forward, for the Word of God is the sword of the Spirit, and it is by preaching the truth as it is in Jesus that souls are won to him. I grieve to think how indistinct some preachers are upon the doctrines of grace: they dare not say “Election,” or if they do they tremble directly and guard their words with shields so huge that the poor truth is crushed beneath them. As to final perseverance, effectual calling, particular redemption, or any of those grand truths wherein the fatness and savor and marrow of the gospel is to be found, you may listen to some of them from the beginning of January to the end of December without hearing a word. This will not do: this is taking away the backbone from the spiritual man; it is tearing away the vitals of the gospel; it is giving to the people husks for wheat, and straw and chaff, instead of corn. Above all, that ministry is an abomination which puts Jesus Christ in the background. My brethren and sisters, we must not only hear something about Jesus Christ but our preaching must be mainly about Him. He must be its head and front; nay, let me say, in some sense, he must be all that the preacher has to preach. Christ crucified must be the general summary of his ministry; and he must he able to say when he retires from it and is called up higher, “I have preached Christ. Of the things which I have spoken this is the sum: I have preached my Master and what my Master gave me.” O my brethren, what a guilty ministry is that in which the blood has no place—the ministry which denies or undervalues the atoning sacrifice of the great Redeemer! God have mercy upon us that we have not preached this fundamental truth so earnestly as we ought to have done, but still, we can plead before him and say we have truly desired to do it.


“E’er since by faith I saw the stream

His flowing wounds supply,

Redeeming love has been my theme,

And shall be till I die.”

What is the use of any ministry of which that is not true? It is withholding corn, and in eternity the lost will curse their destroyer.

But we must not talk about ministers, of whom there are not many here: we will come down to you. Many of you are Sunday-school teachers: now you can sin in this way in the very same sense. Suppose as a Sunday-school teacher you are content with making the little ones read through the lesson, satisfied with filling up the hour or the hour and-a-half, and feeling you have done a good deal in making the little fellows sit still, and so on. Ah! my brother and sister, it is very solemn work. You have undertaken to teach these young immortals, and if you are satisfied with just making them go through the routine, take heed lest when they grow up they come to curse you. I am afraid that many Sunday-school addresses have no gospel in them. I do not see why the same gospel should not he preached to children as to grown-up people. I think it should. To stand up in a Sunday-school and say, “Now, be good boys and girls and God will love you,” is telling lies. I know the teachers of our school feel the importance of delivering the truth as it is in Jesus to their children, and you therefore tell them: “You are lost and ruined, and your salvation is in Jesus Christ: look to him and live.” The teacher whose general teaching is not full of Christ will be called to a sad account in the day when Christ shall come. Dear teachers of the school, whatever you do not know, do know your Lord, and whatever you cannot get into the youngsters’ heads, do make it a matter of prayer that you may get a knowledge of Christ and his atoning blood into their young hearts by the Holy Ghost. The same is also true of those of our beloved friends who conduct Bible classes, or who in any way teach the people. I do not know that I have any necessity to say this to the most of you here, but still I will say it for the good of others; you must not my brethren get away from your great theme. It is of no use to go to the people empty-handed, we must take them bread; we only mock them by offering them stones if we talk to them about the histories and precepts of Scripture and forget the cross. Let our teaching be full of grace and truth: let us deliver our souls of every doctrine as we find it in Scripture, and let us be determined that if men do perish it shall not be for want of knowing the way of salvation.

3. We may withhold the bread of life dear friends, by a want of loving in our labor; because the mere telling out the plan of salvation is of no great service; God may bless it, but he does not often do so.

That which God blesses to the saving of sinners is truth attended by the earnestness of the speaker, the loving anguish of a heart which stirs the preacher’s soul. What shall I say here? for if I speak I do but condemn myself. Think of the preaching of Baxter. He preached for many years but he said he never went into his pulpit without his knees knocking together; and Martin Luther said the same. Truly it is enough to make any man tremble when he feels that he is God’s mouth to immortal souls. “If they perish and thou warn them not, their blood will I require at thy hand.” Surely this ought to give a melting heart and streaming eyes to God’s ministers! But, I say, I remember reading of Baxter’s ministry—oh what pleading there was in it! The man seemed as if he never would go out of the pulpit till his hearers had received the truth, he wept, and sighed, and sobbed, unless they came to Jesus Christ. You know how he followed them to their houses, watched them through the streets of Kidderminster, and would give them no rest till they thought about eternal things, and he was privileged thus to break the bread of life to many thousands, although his body was as full of physical pain as his heart was of holy anxiety. O for something of Mr. Baxter’s spirit to make us love the souls of men as he did! We are guilty of withholding corn unless we preach with a sympathising, loving, tender, affectionate, earnest, anxious soul. Brethren and sisters, you are most of you doing something for Jesus Christ; let me therefore put this very plainly to you. If you get through your work for God as a mere matter of form, however true may be that which you have to say, and however carefully you may deliver it, yet still if the truth you deliver is not delivered with holy anxiety, with earnestness, with fervor, with love, with affection, and above all, if it he not attended with prayer, take heed lest in some day to come you get the curse of those from whom you withheld the bread. How would you like, Sunday-school teachers, to see a lad in your class grow up and go into sin? How would you like to meet him some day on a sick bed when his vices had at last brought him to his end; how would you like that he should look into your face and say, “Ah! teacher, you were never earnest with me: you told me the truth, but you told it me so coldly that I did not believe it. If I had seen one tear in your eye I think there would have been one in mine. If I thought you felt what you were saying, I sometimes think I should have felt it too; but you merely kept me still and told me it all as if it were no great matter, and so I doubted the whole, and from doubt went on to unbelief and ran into sin, and here I am. O that you had wept over me as such-and-such a teacher did with my brother! How different is my brother from what I am. He was in another class, and his teacher took him before God in prayer; prayed with him as well as for him, told him the truth, but did more: labored to drive it home as with a great hammer while he pleaded with him to lay hold on eternal life. Teacher, would to God that you had been more earnest with me.” Beloved, seek to rid yourselves of any future regrets in this matter. It is no small satisfaction when you hear the death-bell toll, to say, “Well, I did all I could for that soul, and whether it be in heaven or hell my conscience is clear. You cannot save, but still, God who works by means may make you the instrument of conveying salvation to sinners: or on the other hand, you may be made instruments of unrighteousness through whom Satan may harden these children’s hearts, even to their everlasting ruin. I take the case of a Sunday-school teacher, but I intend the remarks for every worker. O let us work for God with our whole hearts. God make us more awfully in earnest. Life is earnest, death is earnest, heaven is earnest, hell is earnest, Christ is earnest, God is earnest; let us be clad with zeal as with a cloak, and go forth to serve the Lord with all our soul and strength as his Holy Spirit shall enable us.

4. Fourthly, we may be found guilty of withholding corn by refusing to labor zealously for the spread of the kingdom of Christ and the conversion of sinners. I am afraid that the Churches of the past were not altogether without a curse because of their deficiency in the matter of missions and home evangelization. During the pastorate of my venerated predecessor, Dr. Gill, this Church, instead of increasing, gradually decreased; and although the age in which he lived was honored with many great and excellent men, yet the state of our own denomination, and the Presbyterian body, and the Independent body, in England was most lamentable. Many of the Churches were gradually sliding into Unitarianism, and the simple gospel of Jesus Christ was scarcely preached, or, where preached, it was without any power whatever: and I take it that the reason was very much that the Churches were content to be edified themselves, but had no bowels of compassion for the perishing multitudes around and abroad. But mark this, from the day when Fuller, Carey, Sutcliffe, and others met together to send out missionaries to India, the sun began to dawn on a gracious revival which is not over yet; for bad as the state of the Churches now is, yet it is marvellously an improvement upon anything before the age of missions. Though not as zealous as we ought to be, the zeal of Christendom is one hundred times greater than it was then; and as for what is done for winning souls brethren, the Churches now are like a garden of the Lord compared with what they were then. I believe that the neglect of sending the word to the heathen brought a blight and a curse upon the Churches, which is now happily removed. Yet even to-day we find professors who are always doubting. They never get beyond —


“‘Tis a point I long to know.”

There they stick, and never know whether they are saved or not. Full assurance is to be a tempting morsel which they have not yet tasted. Their eyes do not sparkle with heavenly delight; they know not what it is to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus; their raptures are very few, their joys very shallow. I will tell you why. In almost every case these people do nothing for souls; they withhold the corn and therefore they get this curse in their souls, that they shall not enjoy their own religion because they do not want to lead other people into it. If you put your hands into your pockets and say. “Well, glory be to God; I trust I am one of the elect, and whatever becomes of the rest of mankind really is not my concern. Every man for himself, say I.” That is such an unchristian spirit, so antagonistic to the whole life of Jesus Christ, that if you get sorely whipped in providence I can only hope you may be blessed by it; but I would not pray that the rod may be removed until you are scourged into a better temper. Commend me to the Christian who says, “I bless God I am saved; now what can I do for others?” The first thing in the morning he prays, “God help me to say a word to some soul this day.” During the day, wherever he may be, he is watching his opportunity, and will do good if he can. He is concerned about his children: it sometimes breaks his heart to think that they are not saved. If he happens to have an ungodly wife it is his daily burden: “Oh God, save my wife!” When he goes to a place of worship, he does not expect the minister to make sermons always on purpose for him, but he says “I shall sit here and pray God to bless the word,” and if he looks round the chapel and sees one that he loves, he prays for him, “God send the word home to him.” When service is over, a man of this kind will waylay the unconverted, and try to get a personal word with them; and see if he cannot discover some beginnings of grace in their souls. This is how earnest Christians live; and let me tell you, as a rule, though they have the griefs of other men’s souls to carry, they do not have much grief about their own. As a rule their Master favors them with the light of his countenance; they are watering others and they are watered themselves also. May this be your work and mine! But some of you say nothing for Christ at all. You are too timid, and others of you are too indifferent, too thoughtless about others. Oh, the opportunities many of you have lost! Oh, the many who have died to whom you might have spoken, but you did not! Oh, the people that are now in the darkness of ignorance who get no light from you! You have light, but you keep it. They are dying, and you have the healing medicine, but you will not tell them of it. May God deliver you from the curse of those who thus withhold the corn.

We will only mention one more form of this evil. Some may be said to be guilty of withholding the corn, because while they themselves do not speak for Christ, they do not help those who can. No Christian man ought to go to bed with an easy conscience if he has thousands of pounds which he does not require, which lies by unused for God. There must be many Christians in this rich country who have not consecrated their substance to the Lord. When a man can say, “I have money which I really do not need, and my children do not require it; and this is money absolutely needed for God’s cause,” ought he to keep it from the Lord Jesus?’ Must you confess that so many missionaries might be sent out to-morrow if you just drew a cheque and handed it over to the proper quarter—then why not do it? A destitute neighborhood needs a place of worship, and if I can build it if I would, how am I to answer for it to my Lord?

I cannot understand how a man can love God when he only lives to heap up riches. I can with great difficulty imagine such a case, but I fear that such cannot be real piety. It seems to me that if I have any religion in my soul, it will make me not only say with Dr. Watts: —


“Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all”

but I think it would make me carry it out. I will not propose to you that you should act indiscreetly in giving, so as to beggar your families or deprive yourselves of what is necessary; you know I am not so foolish. But I am speaking to many Christians who have not only enough, but to spare, and who will continue to accumulate and accumulate and accumulate, and I cannot think that they can feel that they are doing right in the sight of God. O God! this great city needing preachers, needing the gospel—thousands needing even bread to keep them from starving—and for thy professing people to be heaping their coffers fuller and fuller! Why surely, if I do this, I am heaping up wrath against the day of wrath, and I shall find it come into my bosom hot and fierce from the God of Sabaoth, to whom my gold and my silver will cry out against me. Let us not be guilty of this, but ‘each in our own station, as far as we can, let us be aiding others to preach the word if we cannot preach it ourselves. Dozens of young men are desirous to enter our College, and you can help them to go forth to preach if you cannot preach yourself.

II. I am pleased to turn to the other subject for a minute or two. I am to speak upon the blessedness which those possess who break the bread of life.

To describe it is altogether beyond my power. You must know and taste and feel it, beloved. There are many blessednesses in doing good to others. God is a good paymaster; he pays his servants while at work as well as when they have done it; and one of his payments is this, an easy conscience. If you have spoken faithfully only to one person, when you go to bed at night you feel happy in thinking “I have this day discharged my conscience of that man’s blood.” You do not know how delightful a Sabbath evening is to some of us when God has helped us to be faithful; how sweet to feel “I have made many blunders, shown many infirmities of the flesh, and so on, but I have preached the gospel and preached it with my whole heart to the best of my ability.” One feels a burden taken off one’s back, and there is a joy and satisfaction unknown to those who sit at home doing nothing. You in your class at the Sunday-school, I know you feel when Sunday is over, though it is a very hard day’s work for some of you after the six days’ toil in the week, you feel “I thank God I did not spend that afternoon in lolling about at home, but I did speak a word for Jesus.” You will find such a peace of mind that you would not give it up for all the world. Then there is a great comfort in doing something for Jesus. Look into his face—what would you not do for him? When first converted did you not think you could do ten thousand things for Jesus; the moment your burden was off your back and your sins forgiven, how you felt you could follow him through floods and flames! Have you lived up to your resolutions, brethren? Have you kept up to your own ideas of Christian duties? I do not suppose any of us can say that we have. Still, what little we have done has been an unspeakable delight, when we have felt that we have been crowning his head and strewing palm-branches in his path. Oh! what a happiness to place jewels in his crown and give him to see of the travail of his soul! Beloved, there is very great reward in watching the first buddings of conviction in a young soul! To say of that girl in the class, “She seems so tender of heart, I do hope that there is the Lord’s work there.” To go home and pray over that boy who said something in the afternoon to make you think he must know something more than he seemed to know! Oh, the joy of hope! But as for the joy of success! It is unspeakable. I recollect the first soul that God ever gave me—she is in heaven now—but I remember when my good deacon said to me, “God has set his seal on your ministry in this place, sir.” Oh, if anybody had said to me, “Somebody has left you twenty thousand pounds,” I should not have given a snap of my fingers for it compared with that joy which I felt when I was told that God had set his seal on my ministry. “Who is it?” I asked. “Why, it is a poor laboring man’s wife! she went home broken-hearted by the sermon two or three Sundays ago, and she has been in great trouble of soul, but she has found peace, and she says she would like to speak to you.” I felt like the boy who has earned his first guinea, like a diver who has been down to the depths of the sea and brought up a rare pearl— I prize each one whom God has given me, but I prize that woman most. Since then my God has given me many thousands of souls, who profess to have found the Savior by hearing or reading words which have come from my lips. Well, this joy, overwhelming as it is, is a hungry sort of joy —you want more of it: for the more you have of spiritual children the more your soul desires to see them multiplied. Let me tell you that to be a soul-winner is the happiest thing in this world, and with every soul you bring to Jesus Christ you seem to get a new heaven here upon earth. But what will be the joy of soul-winning when we get up above! What happiness to the Christian minister to be saluted on his entrance into heaven by many spiritual children! They will call him “Father,” for though they are not married nor given in marriage, though natural relations are all over, yet spiritual relations last for ever. Oh! how sweet is that sentence, “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Do you know what the joy of Christ is over a saved sinner? You cannot guess it. You would need to know the griefs he suffered to save that sinner. O the joys he must feel when he sees that sinner saved as the result of his griefs; this is the very joy which you and I are to possess in heaven: “Enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” Yes, when he mounts the throne you shall mount with him. When the heaven rings with “Well done, well done,” you shall partake in the reward; you have toiled with him, you have suffered with him, you shall now reign with him; you have sown with him, you shall reap with him; you were despised with him, you shall now be honored with him; your face was covered with sweat like his, and your soul was grieved for the sins of men as his soul was, now shall your face be bright with heaven’s splendor as is his countenance, and now shall your soul he filled with beatific joys even as his soul is. He that breaketh bread, blessings shall be upon his head.

III. Now I have to open the granary for a minute myself.

Hungry sinners, wanting a Savior, we cannot withhold the bread from you. You may never come to hear the gospel again; we therefore will open the granary very wide. Christ Jesus, the Son of God, became man to save men, and inasmuch as God’s wrath was due to sin, Christ took the sin of all who have ever believed, or ever shall believe on him, and, taking all their sins, he was punished in their room and place, and stead so that God can now justly forgive sin because Christ was punished in the stead of sinners, and suffered divine wrath for them. Now this is the way of salvation, that thou trust this Son of God with thy soul and if thou dost so then know that thy sins are now forgiven thee, and that thou art saved. Concerning this salvation, hear thou just these few words.

It is a satisfying salvation. Here is all that thou canst want. Thy conscience shall be at ease for ever if thou believest in Jesus: thy biggest sins shall no longer trouble thee, thy blackest iniquities shall no longer haunt thee. Believing in Jesus, every sin thou hast of thought and word and deed shall be cast into the depths of the sea and never shall be mentioned against thee any more for ever.

It is an all-sufficient salvation too. However great thy sins, Christ’s blood can take all away. However deep thy needs, Christ can supply them. Thou canst not be so big a sinner as he is a Savior. Thou mayest be the worst sinner out of hell, but thou art not too great for him to remove; he can carry elephantine sinners upon his shoulders, and bear gigantic mountains of guilt upon his head into the wilderness of forgetfulness. He has enough for thee, however deep thy necessity.

It is moreover a complete salvation. Sovereign mercy does not stand on the mountain and cry to you, climb up hither and I will save you. Eternal mercy comes down the valley to you just where you are, and meets your case just as it is, and never leaves you till it has made you meet to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Christ does not want you to pay one talent out of the hundred and promise to pay for you the ninety-nine. He will discharge all your debts of sin. All that you want to take you up to heaven is provided in Jesus.

This is a present salvation—a salvation which if it come to you, will save you now. You shall be a child of God this very hour, and ere that clock shall strike again you shall rejoice in the peace which the Spirit of God gives you, if you believe on him.

It is an available salvation, freely presented to you in Christ Jesus. Remember the text of two or three Sundays ago: “Whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Jesus casts out none that come to him. Oh that thou mayest be led to come this morning.

Thus have I tried to avoid the sin of withholding corn; and if any in this house of prayer have been guilty of it, I pray you avoid the curse of the people, and seek the blessing of the Most High God by this day endeavoring to scatter everywhere the bread of life. Go and work for God wherever you have an opportunity, and help us in our prayers and efforts to send forth more laborers into the harvest, for the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few. Amen.

                                  The Soul Winner



                                       January 20th, 1876,

              at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.


“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”—Proverbs 11:30.


I had very great joy last night—many of you know why but some do not. We held our annual meeting of the church, and it was a very pleasant sight to see so many brethren and sisters knit together in the heartiest love, welded together as one mass by common sympathies, and holding firmly to “one Lord, one faith, and one baptism.” Think of a church with 4,900 members! Such a community has seldom been gathered in any age, and in the present century it is without a parallel. “O Lord, thou hast multiplied the people and increased the joy. They joy before thee as the joy of harvest.” It brings tears into one’s eyes to look upon so many who declare themselves to be members of the body of Christ. The hope that so many are plucked as brands from the burning and delivered from the wrath to come is in itself exceedingly consoling, and I felt the joy of it while communing with the brethren and sisters in Christ Jesus. On thinking it over afterwards however, it seemed to me that there was a higher joy in looking at a body of believers than that which arises from merely regarding them as saved. Not but what there is a great joy in salvation, a joy worthy to stir the angelic harps. Think of the Savior’s agony in the ransom of every one of his redeemed, think of the work of the Holy Spirit in every renewed heart, think of the love of the Father as resting upon every one of the regenerate: I could not, if I took up my parable for a month, set forth all the mass of joy that is to be seen in a multitude of believers if we only look at what God has done for them, and promised to them, and will fulfill in them. But there is yet a wider field of thought, and my mind has been traversing it all this day—the thought of the capacities of service contained in a numerous band of believers, the possibilities of blessing others which lie within the bosoms of regenerate persons. We must not think so much of what we already are that we forget what the Lord may accomplish by us for others. Here are the coals of fire, but who shall describe the conflagration which they may cause?

We ought to regard the Christian Church, not as a luxurious hostelry where Christian gentlemen may each one dwell at his ease in his own inn, but as a barracks in which soldiers are gathered together to be drilled and trained for war. We should regard the Christian church not as an association for mutual admiration and comfort, but as an army with banners, marching to the fray to achieve victories for Christ, to storm the strongholds of the foe and to add province after province to the Redeemer’s kingdom. We may view converted persons when gathered into church membership as so much wheat in the granary. God be thanked that it is there, and that so far the harvest has rewarded the sower; but far more soul-inspiring is the view when we regard those believers as each one likely to be made a living center for the extension of the kingdom of Jesus, for then we see them sowing the fertile valleys of our land and promising ere long to bring forth some thirty, some forty, some fifty, and some a hundredfold. The capacities of life are enormous; one becomes a thousand in a marvellously brief space. Within a short time a few grains of wheat would suffice to seed the whole world, and a few true saints might suffice for the conversion of all nations. Only take that which comes of one ear, store it well, sow it all, again store it next year, and then sow it all again, and the multiplication almost exceeds the power of computation. O that every Christian were thus year by year the Lord’s seed corn! If all the wheat in the world had perished except a single grain, it would not take many years to replenish all the earth and sow her fields and plains; but in a far shorter time, in the power of the Holy Spirit, one Paul or one Peter would have evangelised all lands. View yourselves as grains of wheat predestinated to seed the world. That man lives grandly who is as earnest as if the very existence of Christianity depended upon himself, and is determined that to all men within his reach shall be made known the unsearchable riches of Christ.

If we whom Christ is pleased to use as his seed corn were only all scattered and sown as we ought to be, and were all to sprout and bring forth the green blade and the corn in the ear, what a harvest there would be! Again would it be fulfilled, “There shall be an handful of corn in the earth upon the top of the mountains;”—a very bad position for it—“the fruit thereof shall shake like Lebanon: and they of the city shall flourish like grass of the earth.” May God grant us to feel to-night some degree of the Holy Spirit’s quickening power while we talk together, not so much about what God has done for us as about what God may do by us, and how far we may put ourselves into a right position to be used by him.

There are two things in the text, and these are found laid out with much distinctness in its two sentences. The first is—the life of the believer is, or ought to be, full of soul blessing —“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” In the second place—the pursuit of the believer ought always to be soul winning. The second is much the same as the first, only the first head sets forth our unconscious influence and the second our efforts which we put forth with the avowed object of winning souls for Christ.

I. Let us begin at the beginning, because the second cannot be carried out without the first: without fullness of life within there cannot be an overflow of life to others. It is of no use for any of you to try to be soul winners if you are not bearing fruit in your own lives. How can you serve the Lord with your lips if you do not serve him with your lives? How can you preach with your tongues his gospel, when with hands, feet, and hearts you are preaching the devil’s gospel, and setting up antichrist by your practical unholiness? We must first have life and bear personal fruit to the divine glory, and then out of our example will spring the conversion of others. Let us go to the fountain head and see how the man’s own life is essential to his being useful to others. The Life Of The Believer Is Full Of Soul Blessing: this fact we shall consider by means of a few observations growing out of the text; and first let us remark that the believer’s outward life comes as a matter of fruit from him. This is important to notice. The fruit of the righteous —that is to say his life—is not a thing fastened upon him, but it grows out of him. It is not a garment which he puts off and on, but it is inseparable from himself. The sincere man’s religion is the man himself, and not a cloak for his concealment. True godliness is the natural outgrowth of a renewed nature, not the forced growth of pious hothouse excitement. Is it not natural for a vine to bear clusters of grapes? natural for a palm tree to bear dates? Certainly it is as natural for the apples of Sodom to be found on the trees of Sodom as for noxious plants to produce poisonous berries. When God gives a new nature to his people, the life which comes out of that new nature springs spontaneously from it. The man who has a religion which is not part and parcel of himself will by-and-by discover that it is worse than useless to him. The man who wears his piety like a mask at a carnival, so that when he gets home he changes from a saint to a savage, from an angel to a devil, from John to Judas, from a benefactor to a bully—such a man I say, knows very well what formalism and hypocrisy can do for him, but he has no vestige of true religion. Fig trees do not bear figs on certain days and thorns at other times, but they are true to their nature at all seasons.

Those who think that godliness is a matter of vestment and has an intimate relation with blue and scarlet, and fine linen, are consistent if they keep their religion to the proper time for the wearing of their sacred pomposities; but he who has discovered what Christianity is knows that it is much more a life than an act, a form, or a profession. Much as I love the creed of Christendom, I am ready to say that true Christianity is far more a life than a creed. It is a creed, and it has its ceremonies, but it is mainly a life; it is a divine spark of heaven’s own flame which falls into the human bosom and burns within, consuming much that lies hidden in the soul, and then at last, as a heavenly life, flaming forth so as to be seen and felt by those around. Under the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit a regenerate person becomes like that bush in Horeb, which was all aglow with Deity. The God within him makes him shine so that the place around him is holy ground, and those who look at him feel the power of his hallowed life. Dear brethren, we must take care that our religion is more and more a matter of outgrowth from our souls. Many professors are hedged about with, “You must not do this, or that,” and are driven onward with, “You must do this, and you must do that.” But there is a doctrine, too often perverted, which is nevertheless a blessed truth, and ought to dwell in your hearts. “Ye are not under the law but under grace”: hence you do not obey the will of God because you hope to earn heaven thereby, or dream of escaping from divine wrath by your own doings, but because there is a life in you which seeks after that which is holy, pure, right, and true, and cannot endure that which is evil. You are careful to maintain good works, not from either legal hopes or legal fears, but because there is a holy thing within you born of God, which seeks, according to its nature, to do that which is pleasing to God. Look to it more and more that your religion is real, true, natural, vital—not artificial, constrained, superficial, a thing of times, days, places, a fungus produced by excitement, a fermentation generated by meetings and stirred by oratory. We all need a religion which can live either in a wilderness or in a crowd; a religion which will show itself in every walk of life and in every company. Give me the godliness which is seen at home, especially around the fireside, for it is never more beautiful than there; that is seen in the battle and tussle of ordinary business among scoffers and gainsayers as well as among Christian men. Show me the faith which can defy the lynx eyes of the world and walk fearlessly where all scowl with the fierce eyes of hate, as well as where there are observers to sympathize and friends to judge leniently. May you be filled with the life of the Spirit, and your whole conduct and conversation be the natural and blessed outgrowth of that Spirit’s indwelling!

Note next that the fruit which comes from a Christian is fruit worthy of his character—“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.” Each tree bears its own fruit and is known by it. The righteous man bears righteous fruit; and do not let us be at all deceived brethren, or fall into any error about this, “he that doeth righteousness is righteous,” and “he that doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” We are prepared, I hope, to die for the doctrine of justification by faith, and to assert before all adversaries that salvation is not of works; but we also confess that we are justified by a faith which produces works, and if any man has a faith which does not produce good works it is the faith of devils. Saving faith appropriates the finished work of the Lord Jesus and so saves by itself alone, for we are justified by faith without works; but the faith which is without works cannot bring salvation to any man. We are saved by faith without works, but not by a faith that is without works, for the real faith that saves the soul works by love and purifies the character. If you can cheat across the counter your hope of heaven is a cheat too; though you can pray as prettily as anybody and practice acts of outward piety as well as any other hypocrite, you are deceived if you expect to be right at last. If as a servant you are lazy, lying, and loitering, or if as a master you are hard, tyrannical, and unchristianlike towards your men, your fruit shows that you are a tree of Satan’s own orchard and bear apples which will suit his tooth. If you can practice tricks of trade, and if you can lie—and how many do lie every day about their neighbors or about their goods—you may talk as you like about being justified by faith, but all liars will have their portion in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone, and amongst the biggest liars you will be for you are guilty of the lie of saying, “I am a Christian,” whereas you are not. A false profession is one of the worst of lies since it brings the utmost dishonor upon Christ and his people. The fruit of the righteous is righteousness: the fig tree will not bring forth thorns, neither shall we gather grapes from thistles. The tree is known by its fruit, and if we cannot judge men’s hearts, and must not try to do so, we can judge their lives, and I pray God we may all be ready to judge our own lives and see if we are bringing forth righteous fruit, for if not ye are not righteous men.

Let it however never be forgotten that the fruit of the righteous, though it comes from him naturally, for his newborn nature yields the sweet fruit of obedience, yet it is always the result of grace and the gift of God. No truth ought to be remembered more than this, “From me is thy fruit found.” We can bring forth no fruit except as we abide in Christ. The righteous shall flourish as a branch, and only as a branch. How does a branch flourish? By its connection with the stem, and the consequent inflowing of the sap; and so, though the righteous man’s righteous actions are his own, yet they are always produced by the grace which is imparted to him and he never dares to take any credit for them, but he sings, “Not unto us, but unto thy name give praise.” If he fails he blames himself; if he succeeds he glorifies God. Imitate his example. Lay every fault, every weakness, every infirmity at your own door, and if you fall short of perfection in any respect—and I am sure you do—take all that to yourself and do not excuse yourself; but if there be any virtue, any praise, any true desire, any real prayer, anything that is good, ascribe it all to the Spirit of God. Remember, the righteous man would not be righteous unless God had made him righteous, and the fruit of righteousness would never come from him unless the divine sap within him had produced that acceptable fruit. To God alone be all honor and glory.

The main lesson of the passage is that this outburst of life from the Christian, this consequence of life within him, this fruit of his soul, becomes a blessing to others. Like a tree it yields shade and sustenance to all around. It is a tree of life, an expression which I cannot fully work out to-night as I would wish, for there is a world of instruction compressed into the illustration. That which to the believer himself is fruit becomes to others a tree: it is a singular metaphor, but by no means a lame one. From the child of God there falls the fruit of holy living, even as an acorn drops from the oak; this holy living becomes influential and produces the best results in others, even as the acorn becomes itself an oak and lends its shade to the birds of the air. The Christian’s holiness becomes a tree of life. I suppose it means a living tree, a tree calculated to give life and sustain it in others. A fruit becomes a tree! A tree of life! Wonderful result this! Christ in the Christian produces a character which becomes a tree of life. The outward character is the fruit of the inner life; this outer life itself grows from a fruit into a tree, and as a tree it bears fruit in others to the praise and glory of God. Dear brothers and sisters, I know some of God’s saints who live very near to him and they are evidently a tree of life, for their very shadow is comforting, cooling, and refreshing to many weary souls. I have known the young, the tried, the downcast, go to them, sit beneath their shade, and pour out the tale of their troubles, and they have felt it a rich blessing to receive their sympathy, to be told of the faithfulness of the Lord, and to be guided in the way of wisdom. There are a few good men in this world whom to know is to be rich. Such men are libraries of gospel truth, but they are better than books, for the truth in them is written on living pages. Their character is a true and living tree; it is not a mere post of the dead wood of doctrine bearing an inscription and rotting while it does so, but it is a vital, organized, fruit-producing thing, a plant of the Lord’s right hand planting.

Not only do some saints give comfort to others, but they also yield them spiritual nourishment. Well-trained Christians become nursing fathers and nursing mothers, strengthening the weak and binding up the wounds of the broken hearted. So too, the strong, bold, generous deeds of large-hearted Christians are of great service to their fellow Christians, and tend to raise them to a higher level. You feel refreshed by observing how they act; their patience in suffering, their courage in danger, their holy faith in God, their happy faces under trial—all these nerve you for your own conflicts. In a thousand ways the sanctified believer’s example acts in a healing and comforting way to his brethren, and assists in raising them above anxiety and unbelief. Even as the leaves of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations, so the words and deeds of saints are medicine for a thousand maladies.

And then what fruit, sweet to the taste of the godly, instructed believers bear! We can never trust in men as we trust in the Lord, but the Lord can cause the members to bless us in their measure, even as their Head is ever ready to do. Jesus alone is the Tree of Life, but he makes some of his servants to be instrumentally to us little trees of life, by whom he gives us fruit of the same sort that he bears himself, for he puts it there, and it is himself in his saints causing them to bring forth golden apples with which our souls are gladdened. May we every one of us be made like our Lord, and may his fruit be found upon our boughs.

We have put into the tomb during last year many of the saints who have fallen asleep, and among them there were some of whom I will not at this moment speak particularly, whose lives as I look back upon them are still a tree of life to me. I pray God that I may be like them. Many of you knew them, and if you will only recall their holy, devoted lives, the influence they have left behind will still be a tree of life to you. They being dead yet speak, hear ye their eloquent exhortations! Even in their ashes live their wonted fires; kindle your souls at their warmth. Their noble examples are the endowments of the church, her children are ennobled and enriched as they remember their walk of faith and labor of love. Beloved, may we every one of us be true benedictions to the churches in whose gardens we are planted. “Oh,” says one, “I am afraid I am not much like a tree, for I feel so weak and insignificant.” If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed you have the commencement of the tree beneath whose branches the birds of the air will yet find a lodging. The very birds that would have eaten the tiny seed come and find lodgment in the tree which grows out of it; and people who despise and mock at you now that you are a young beginner, will one of these days, if God blesses you, be glad to borrow comfort from your example and experience.

But one other thought on this point. Remember that the completeness and development of the holy life will be seen above. There is a city of which it is written, “In the midst of the street thereof, and on every side of the river was there the tree of life.” The tree of life is a heavenly plant, and so the fruit of the Christian is a thing of heaven; though not transplanted to the glory land, it is getting fit for its final abode. What is holiness but heaven on earth? What is living unto God but the essence of heaven? What are uprightness, integrity, Christ-likeness? Have not these even more to do with heaven than harps and palms and streets of purest gold? Holiness, purity, loveliness of character, these make a heaven within a man’s own bosom, and even if there were no place called heaven, that heart would have a heavenly happiness which is set free from sin and made like the Lord Jesus. See then dear brethren, what an important thing it is for us to be indeed righteous before God, for then the outcome of that righteousness shall be fruit which will be a tree of life to others, and a tree of life in heaven above, world without end. O blessed Spirit make it so, and thou shalt have all the praise.

II. This brings us to our second head. The pursuit of the believer should be soul winning. For “he that winneth souls is wise.” The two things are put together—the life first, the effort next: what God hath joined together let no man put asunder.

It is implied in our text that there are souls which need winning. Ah me, all souls of men are lost by nature. You might walk through the streets of London and say of the masses of men you meet upon those crowded pavements with sighs and tears—“Lost, lost, lost!” Wherever Christ is not trusted, and the Spirit has not created a new heart, and the soul has not come to the great Father, there is a lost soul. But here is the mercy—these lost souls can be won. They are not hopelessly lost; not yet has God determined that they shall for ever abide as they are. It is not yet said, “He that is filthy, let him be filthy still,” but they are in the land of hope where mercy may reach them, for they are spoken of as capable of being won. They may yet be delivered, but the phrase hints that it will need all our efforts. “He that winneth souls.”

What do we mean by that word win. We use it in lovemaking. We speak of the bridegroom who wins his bride, and sometimes there is a large expense of love, many a pleading word, and many a wooing act, ere yet the valued heart is all the suitor’s own. I use this explanation because in some respects it is the very best, for souls will have to be won for Christ in this fashion, that they may be espoused unto him. We must make love to the sinner for Christ; that is how hearts are to be won for him. Jesus is the bridegroom, and we must speak for him, and tell of his beauty as Abraham’s servant, when he went to seek a wife for Isaac acted as a wooer in his stead. Have you never read the story? Then turn to it when you get home and see how he talked about his master, what possessions he had, and how Isaac was to be heir of it all and so on, and then he finished his address by urging Rebecca to go with him. The question was put home to her, “Wilt thou go with this man?” So the minister’s business is to commend his Master and his Master’s riches and then to say to souls, “Will you be wedded to Christ?” He who can succeed in this very delicate business is a wise man.

We also use the term in a military fashion. We speak of winning a city, a castle, or a battle. We do not win victories by going to sleep. Believe me, castles are not captured by men who are only half awake. To win a battle needs the best skill, the greatest endurance, and the utmost courage. To storm fortresses which are regarded as almost impregnable, men need to burn the midnight oil and study well the arts of attack; and when the time comes for the assault, not a soldier must be a laggard, but all force of artillery and manhood must be brought to bear on the point assailed. To carry man’s heart by main force of grace, to capture it, to break down the bars of brass and dash the gates of iron in pieces, requires the exercise of a skill which only Christ can give. To bring up the big battering rams and shake every stone in the sinner’s conscience, to make his heart rock and reel within him for fear of the wrath to come, in a word, to assail a soul with all the artillery of the gospel, needs a wise man, and one aroused to his work. To hold up the white flag of mercy, and if that be despised, to use the battering ram of threatening until a breach is made, and then with the sword of the Spirit in his hand to capture the city, to tear down the black flag of sin and run up the banner of the cross, needs all the force the choicest preacher can command and a great deal more. Those whose souls are as cold as the Arctic regions, and whose energy is reduced to the vanishing point, are not likely to take the city of Mansoul for Prince Emanuel. If you think you are going to win souls, you must throw your soul into your work just as a warrior must throw his soul into a battle, or victory will not be yours.

We use the words “to win” in reference to making a fortune, and we all know that the man who becomes a millionaire has to rise up early and sit up late and eat the bread of carefulness, and it takes a deal of toiling and saving, and I know not what besides, to amass immense wealth. We have to go in for winning souls with the same ardor and concentration of our faculties as old Astor of New York went in to build up that fortune of so many millions which he has now left behind him.

It is indeed a race, and you know that in a race nobody wins unless he strains every muscle and sinew. They that run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize; and that one is generally he who had more strength than the rest; certainly, whether he had more strength or not, he put out all he had, and we shall not win souls unless we imitate him in this.

Solomon in the text declares that “He that winneth souls is wise,” and such a declaration is all the more valuable as coming from so wise a man. Let me show you why a true soul-winner is wise. First, he must be taught of God before he will attempt it. The man who does not know that whereas he was once blind, now he sees, had better think of his own blindness before he attempts to lead his friends in the right way. If not saved yourself, you cannot be the means of saving others. He that winneth souls must be wise unto salvation first for himself. That being taken for granted, he is a wise man to select such a pursuit. Young man, are you choosing an object worthy to be the great aim of your life? I do hope you will judge wisely and select a noble ambition. If God has given you great gifts, I hope they will not be wasted on any low, sordid, or selfish design. Suppose I am now addressing one who has great talents, and has an opportunity of being what he likes, of going into Parliament and helping to pass wise measures, or of going into business and making himself a man of importance; I hope he will weigh the claims of Jesus and immortal souls as well as other claims. Shall I addict myself to study? Shall I surrender myself to business? Shall I travel? Shall I spend my time in pleasure? Shall I become the principal fox-hunter of the county? Shall I lay out my time in promoting political and social reforms? Think them all over; but if you are a Christian man, my dear friend, nothing will equal in enjoyment, in usefulness, in honor, and in lasting recompense the giving yourself up to the winning of souls. Oh, it is grand hunting, I can tell you, and beats all the fox hunting in the world in excitement and exhilaration. Have I not sometimes gone with a cry over hedge and ditch after some poor sinner, and kept well up with him in every twist and turn he took till I have overtaken him by God’s grace, and been in at the death, and rejoiced exceedingly when I have seen him captured by my Master. Our Lord Jesus calls his ministers fishermen, and no other fishermen have such labor, such sorrow, and such delight as we have. What a happy thing it is that you may win souls for Jesus, and may do this though you abide in your secular callings. Some of you would never win souls in pulpits, it would be a great pity if you tried, but you can win souls in the workshop, and in the laundry, in the nursery, and in the drawing-room. Our hunting grounds are everywhere: by the wayside, by the fireside, in the corner, and in the crowd. Among the common people Jesus is our theme, and among the great ones we have no other. You will be wise, my brother, if for you the one absorbing desire is that you may turn the ungodly from the error of their ways. For you there will be a crown glittering with many stars, which you shall cast at Jesus’ feet in the day of his appearing.

Further, it is not only wise to make this your aim, but you will have to be very wise if you succeed in it because the souls to be won are so different in their constitutions, feelings, and conditions, and you will have to adapt yourselves to them all. The trappers of North America have to find out the habits of the animals they wish to catch, and so you will have to learn how to deal with each class of cases. Some are very depressed, you will have to comfort them. Perhaps you will comfort them too much, and make them unbelieving; and therefore possibly instead of comforting them you will need sometimes to administer a sharp word to cure the sulkiness into which they have fallen. Another person may be frivolous, and if you put on a serious face you will frighten your bird away; you will have to be cheerful and drop a word of admonition as if by accident. Some people, again, will not let you speak to them, but will talk to you; you must know the art of putting a word in edgeways. You will have to be very wise and become all things to all men, and your success will prove your wisdom. Theories of dealing with souls may look very wise, but they often prove to be useless when actually tried: he who by God’s grace accomplishes the work is a wise man, though perhaps he knows no theory whatever. This work will need all your wit, and far more, and you will have to cry to the great winner of souls above to give you of his Holy Spirit.

But mark you, he that wins souls is wise because he is engaged in a business which makes men wiser as they proceed with it. You will bungle at first, and very likely drive sinners off from Christ by your attempts to draw them to him. I have tried to move some souls with all my might with a certain passage of Scripture, but they have taken it in an opposite light to what it was intended, and have started off in the wrong direction. It is very difficult to know how to act with bewildered enquirers. If you want some people to go forward you must pull them backwards; if you want them to go to the right you must insist upon their going to the left, and then they go to the right directly. You must be ready for these follies of poor human nature. I know a poor aged Christian woman who had been a child of God fifty years, but she was in a state of melancholy and distress from which nobody could arouse her. I called several times and endeavored to cheer her up, but generally when I left she was worse than before. So the next time I called to see her I did not say anything to her about Christ or religion. She soon introduced those topics herself, and then I remarked that I was not going to talk to her about such holy things for she did not know anything about them, for she was not a believer in Christ, and had been, no doubt, a hypocrite for many years. She could not stand that, and asserted, in self-defense that the Lord above knew her better than I did, and he was her witness that she did love the Lord Jesus Christ. She scarcely forgave herself afterwards for that admission, but she could never talk to me quite so despairingly any more. True lovers of men’s souls learn the art of dealing with them, and the Holy Spirit makes them expert soul surgeons for Jesus. It is not because a man has more abilities, nor altogether because he has more grace, but the Lord makes him to love the souls of men intensely, and this imparts a secret skill, since for the most part the way to get sinners to Christ is to love them to Christ.

Beloved brethren, I will say once more he who really wins souls for Jesus, however he wins them, is a wise man. Some of you are slow to admit this. You say—Well, so-and-so, I dare say, has been very useful, but he is very rough. What does his roughness matter if he wins souls? Ah, says another, but I am not built up under him. Why do you go to hear him, to get built up? If the Lord has sent him to pull down, let him pull down, and do you go elsewhere for edification; but do not grumble at a man who does one work because he cannot do another. We are also too apt to pit one minister against another, and say “you should hear my minister.” Perhaps we should, but it would be better for you to hear the man who edifies you, and let others go where they also are instructed. “He that winneth souls is wise.” I do not ask you how he did it. He sang the gospel and you did not like it, but if he won souls he was wise. Soul-winners have all their own ways, and if they do but win souls they are wise. I will tell you what is not wise, and will not be thought so at the last, namely, to go about the churches doing nothing yourself and railing at all the Lord’s useful servants. Here is a dear brother on his dying bed, he has the sweet thought that the Lord enabled him to bring many souls to Jesus, and the expectation when he comes to the gates that many spirits will come to meet him. They will throng the ascent to the New Jerusalem, and welcome the man who brought them to Jesus. They are immortal monuments to his labors. He is wise. Here is another who has spent all his time in interpreting the prophecies; so that everything he read of in the newspapers he could see in Daniel or the Revelation. He is wise, so some say, but I had rather spend my time in winning souls. I would sooner bring one sinner to Jesus Christ than unpick all the mysteries of the divine word, for salvation is the thing we are to live for. I would to God that I understood all mysteries, yet chief of all would I proclaim the mystery of soul-saving by faith in the blood of the Lamb. It is comparatively a small matter for a minister to have been a staunch upholder of orthodoxy all his days, and to have spent himself in keeping up the hedges of his church; soul winning is the main concern. It is a very good thing to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints; but I do not think I should like to say in my last account, “Lord, I have lived to fight the Romanists and the State church, and to put down the various erroneous sects, but I never led a sinner to the cross.” No, we will fight the good fight of faith, but the winning of souls is the greater matter, and he who attends to it is wise. Another brother has preached the truth, but he did so polish up his sermons that the gospel was hidden. Never a sermon was fit to preach, he thought, until he had written it out a dozen times to see whether every sentence would be according to the canons of Cicero and Quintillian, and then he went and delivered the gospel as a grand oration. Is that wise? Well, it takes a wise man to be a thorough orator; but it is better not to be an orator if fine speech prevents your being understood. Let eloquence be flung to the dogs rather than souls be lost. What we want is to win souls, and they are not to be won by flowery speeches. We must have the winning of souls at heart, and be red hot with zeal for their salvation, and then however much we blunder according to the critics, we shall be numbered among those whom the Lord calls wise.

Now, Christian men and women, I want you to take this matter up practically, and to determine that you will try this very night to win a soul. Try the one next to you in the seat if you cannot think of anybody else. Try on the way home; try with your own children. Have I not told you of what happened one Sunday six months ago? In my sermon I said “Now you mothers, have you ever prayed with each of your children, one by one, and urged them to lay hold on Christ? Perhaps dear Jane is now in bed, and you have never yet pleaded with her about eternal things. Go home to-night, wake her up and say, “Jane, I am sorry I have never told you about the Savior personally and prayed with you, but I mean to do it now.” Wake her up, and put your arms round her neck, and pour out your heart to God with her. Well, there was a good sister here who had a daughter named Jane. What do you think? She came on Monday to bring her daughter Jane to see me in the vestry, for when she woke her up and began, “I have not spoken to you about Jesus,” or something to that effect, “Oh, dear mother,” said Jane, “I have loved the Savior these six months, and wondered you had not spoken to me about him;” and then there was such kissing and rejoicing. Perhaps you may find that to be the case with a dear child at home, and if you do not, so much the more reason why you should begin at once to speak. Did you never win a soul for Jesus? You shall have a crown in heaven, but no jewels in it. You will go to heaven childless; and you know how it was in the old times, how the women dreaded lest they should be childless. Let it be so with Christian people; let them dread being spiritually childless. We must hear the cries of those whom God has given to be born unto himself by our means. We must hear them, or else cry out in anguish, “Give me converts or I die.” Young men, and old men, and sisters of all ages, if you love the Lord get a passion for souls. Do you not see them? they are going down to hell by thousands; as often as the hand upon the dial completes its circuit, hell devours multitudes, some of them ignorant of Christ, and others wilfully rejecting him. The world lies in darkness: this great city still pines for the light, your own friends and kinsfolk are unsaved and they may be dead ere this week is over. Oh, if you have any humanity, let alone Christianity, if you have found the remedy tell the diseased about it. If you have found life, proclaim it to the dead; if you have found liberty, publish it to the captives; if you have found Christ, tell of him to others. My brethren in the college, let this be your choice work while studying, and let it be the one object of your lives when you go forth from us. Do not be content when you get a congregation but labor to win souls, and as you do this God will bless you. As for us, we hope during the rest of our lives to follow him who is the soul-winner, and to put ourselves in his hands who maketh us soul-winners, so that our life may not be a long folly, but may be proved by results to have been directed by wisdom. O you souls not won to Jesus, remember that faith in Christ saves you. Trust in him. May you be led to trust in him for his name’s sake. Amen.

   How a Man’s Conduct Comes Home
                           to Him



A sermon (No. 1235) delivered on Lord’s Day Morning, May 16th, 1875,

at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

by C. H. Spurgeon.


“The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.”—Proverbs 14:14.

A common principle is here laid down and declared to be equally true in reference to two characters, who in other respects are a contrast. Men are affected by the course which they pursue; for good or bad, their own conduct comes home to them. The backslider and the good man are very different, but in each of them the same rule is exemplified—they are both filled by the result of their lives. The backslider becomes filled by that which is within him, as seen in his life, and the good man also is filled by that which grace implants within his soul. The evil leaven in the backslider leavens his entire being and sours his existence, while the gracious fountain in the sanctified believer saturates his whole manhood, and baptizes his entire life. In each case the fullness arises from that which is within the man, and is in its nature like the man’s character; the fullness of the backslider’s misery will come out of his own ways, and the fullness of the good man’s content will spring out of the love of God which is shed abroad in his heart.

The meaning of this passage will come out better if we begin with an illustration. Here are two pieces of sponge, and we wish to fill them: you shall place one of them in a pool of foul water, it will be filled, and filled with that which it lies in; you shall put the other sponge into a pure crystal stream, and it will also become full, full of the element in which it is placed. The backslider lies asoak in the dead sea of his own ways, and the brine fills him; the good man is plunged like a pitcher into “Siloa’s brook, which flows hard by the oracle of God,” and the river of the water of life fills him to the brim. A wandering heart will be filled with sorrow, and a heart confiding in the Lord will be satisfied with joy and peace. Or, take two farmsteads; one farmer sows tares in his field, and in due time his barns are filled therewith; another sows wheat, and his garners are stored with precious grain. Or follow out our Lord’s parable: one builder places his frail dwelling on the sand, and when the tempest rages he is swept away in it naturally enough; another lays deep the foundations of his house and sets it fast on a rock, and as an equally natural consequence he smiles upon the storm, protected by his well-founded dwelling-place. What a man is by sin or by grace will be the cause of his sorrow or of his satisfaction.

I. I shall take the two characters without further preface, and first let us speak awhile about the backslider. This is a very solemn subject, but one which it is needful to bring before the present audience, since we all have some share in it. I trust there may not be many present who are backsliders in the worst sense of the term, but very, very few among us are quite free from the charge of having backslidden in some measure at some time or other since conversion. Even those who sincerely love the Master sometimes wander, and we all need to take heed lest there be in any of us an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God.

There are several kinds of persons who may with more or less propriety be comprehended under the term “backsliders,” and these will each in his own measure be filled with his own ways.

There are first, apostates, those who unite themselves with the church of Christ, and for a time act as if they were subjects of a real change of heart. These persons are frequently very zealous for a season, and may become prominent if not eminent in the church of God. They did run well like those mentioned by the apostle, but by some means they are, first of all, hindered, and slacken their pace; after that they linger and loiter, and leave the crown of the causeway for the side of the road. By-and-by in their hearts they go back into Egypt, and at last, finding an opportunity to return, they break loose from all the restraints of their profession and openly forsake the Lord. Truly the last end of such men is worse than the first. Judas is the great type of these pre-eminent backsliders. Judas was a professed believer in Jesus, a follower of the Lord, a minister of the gospel, an apostle of Christ, the trusted treasurer of the college of the apostles, and after all turned out to be the “son of perdition” who sold his Master for thirty pieces of silver. He ere long was filled with his own ways, for, tormented with remorse, he threw down the blood-money he had so dearly earned, hanged himself, and went to his own place. The story of Judas has been written over and over again in the lives of other traitors. We have heard of Judas as a deacon, and as an elder; we have heard Judas preach, we have read the works of Judas the bishop, and seen Judas the missionary. Judas sometimes continues in his profession for many years, but sooner or later the true character of the man is discovered; his sin returns upon his own head, and if he does not make an end of himself, I do not doubt but what, even in this life, he often lives in such horrible remorse that his soul would choose strangling rather than life. He has gathered the grapes of Gomorrah and he has to drink the wine; he has planted a bitter tree and he must eat the fruit thereof. Oh sirs, may none of you betray your Lord and Master. God grant I never may. “Traitor! Traitor!” Shall that ever be written across your brow? You have been baptised into the name of the adorable Trinity, you have eaten the tokens of the Redeemer’s body and blood, you have sung the Songs of Zion, you have stood forward to pray in the midst of the people of God, and will you act so base a part as to betray your Lord? Shall it ever be said of you, “Take him to the place from whence he came, for he is a traitor”? I cannot conceive of anything more ignominious than for a soldier to be drummed out of a regiment of Her Majesty’s soldiers, but what must it be to be cast out of the host of God! What must it be to be set up as the target of eternal shame and everlasting contempt for having crucified the Lord afresh, and put him to an open shame! How shameful will it be to be branded as an apostate from truth and holiness, from Christ and his ways. Better never to have made a profession than to have belied it so wretchedly, and to have it said of us, “it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, the dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” Of such John has said, “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.”

This title of backslider applies also to another class, not so desperate but still most sad, of which not Judas but David may serve as the type: we refer to backsliders who go into open sin. There are men who descend from purity to careless living, and from careless living to indulgence of the flesh, and from indulgence of the flesh in little matters into known sin, and from one sin to another till they plunge into uncleanness. They have been born again and therefore the trembling and almost extinct life within must and shall revive and bring them to repentance: they will come back weary, weeping, humbled, and brokenhearted, and they will be restored, but they will never be what they were before; their voices will be hoarse like that of David after his crime, for he never again sung so jubilantly as in his former days. Life will be more full of trembling and trial, and manifest less of buoyancy and joy of spirit. Broken bones make hard travelling, and even when they are set they are very subject to shooting pains when ill weathers are abroad. I may be addressing some of this sort this morning, and if so I would speak with much faithful love. Dear brother, if you are now following Jesus afar off you will ere long, like Peter, deny him. Even though you will obtain mercy of the Lord, yet the text will certainly be fulfilled in you, and you will be “filled with your own ways.” As certainly as Moses took the golden calf and ground it into powder, and then mixed it with the water which the sinful Israelites had to drink till they all tasted the grit in their mouths, so will the Lord do with you if you are indeed his child: he will take your idol of sin and grind it to powder, and your life shall be made bitter with it for years to come. When the gall and wormwood are most manifest in the cup of life, it will be a mournful thing to feel “I procured this unto myself by my shameful folly.” O Lord, hold thou us up, and keep us from falling by little and little lest we plunge into overt sin and continue in it for a season; for surely the anguish which comes of such an evil is terrible as death itself. If David could rise from his grave and appear before you with his face seamed with sorrow and his brow wrinkled with his many griefs, he would say to you “keep your hearts with all diligence lest ye bring woe upon yourselves. Watch unto prayer, and guard against the beginnings of sin lest your bones wax old through your roarings, and your moisture be turned into the drought of summer.” O beware of a wandering heart, for it will be an awful thing to be filled with your own backslidings.

But there is a third sort of backsliding, and I am afraid a very large number of us have at times come under the title—I mean those who in any measure or degree, even for a very little time, decline from the point which they have reached. Perhaps such a man hardly ought to be called a backslider because it is not his predominant character, yet he backslides. If he does not believe as firmly, and love as intensely, and serve as zealously as he formerly did, he has in a measure backslidden, and any measure of backsliding, be it less or be it more, is sinful, and will in proportion as it is real backsliding fill us with our own ways. If you only sow two or three seeds of the thistle there will not be so many of the ill weeds on your farm as if you had emptied out a whole sack, but still there will be enough and more than enough. Every little backsliding, as men call it, is a great mischief; every little going back even in heart from God, if it never comes to words or deeds, yet will involve us in some measure of sorrow. If sin were clean removed from us, sorrow would be removed also, in fact we should be in heaven since a state of perfect holiness must involve perfect blessedness. Sin in any degree will bear its own fruit, and that fruit will be sure to set our teeth on edge; it is ill therefore to be a backslider even in the least degree.

Having said so much, let me now continue to think of the last two kinds of backsliders, and leave out the apostate. Let us first read his name, and then let us read his history, we have both in our text.

The first part of his name is “backslider.” He is not a back runner, nor a back leaper, but a backslider, that is to say he slides back with an easy, effortless motion, softly, quietly, perhaps unsuspected by himself or anybody else. The Christian life is very much like climbing a hill of ice. You cannot slide up, nay, you have to cut every step with an ice axe; only with incessant labor in cutting and chipping can you make any progress; you need a guide to help you, and you are not safe unless you are fastened to the guide, for you may slip into a crevasse. Nobody ever slides up, but if great care be not taken they will slide down, slide back, or in other words backslide. This is very easily done. If you want to know how to backslide, the answer is leave off going forward and you will slide backward, cease going upward and you will go downward of necessity, for stand still you never can. To lead us to backslide, Satan acts with us as engineers do with a road down the mountains side. If they desire to carry the road from yonder alp right down into the valley far below, they never think of making the road plunge over a precipice, or straight down the face of the rock, for nobody would ever use such a road; but the road makers wind and twist. See, the track descends very gently to the right, you can hardly see that it does run downwards; anon it turns to the left with a small incline, and so by turning this way and then that, the traveler finds himself in the vale below. Thus the crafty enemy of souls fetches saints down from their high places; whenever he gets a good man down it is usually by slow degrees. Now and then, by sudden opportunity and strong temptation, the Christian man has been plunged right from the pinnacle of the temple into the dungeon of despair in a moment, but it is not often the case; the gentle decline is the devil’s favourite piece of engineering, and he manages it with amazing skill. The soul scarcely knows it is going down, it seems to be maintaining the even tenor of its way, but ere long it is far below the line of peace and consecration. Our dear brother, Dr. Arnot, of the Free Church, illustrates this very beautifully by supposing a balance. This is the heavy scale loaded with seeds, and the other is high in the air. One morning you are very much surprised to find that what had been the heavier scale is aloft, while the other has descended. You do not understand it till you discover that certain little insects had silently transferred the seeds one by one. At first they made no apparent change, by-and-bye there was a little motion, one more little seed was laid in the scales and the balance turned in a moment. Thus silently the balance of a man’s soul may be affected, and everything made ready for that one temptation by which the fatal turn is made, and the man becomes an open transgressor. Apparently insignificant agencies may gradually convey our strength from the right side to the wrong by grains and half-grains, till at last the balance is turned in the actual life and we are no more fit to be numbered with the visible saints of God.

Think again of this man’s name. He is a “backslider,” but what from? He is a man who knows the sweetness of the things of God and yet leaves off feeding upon them. He is one who has been favored to wait at the Lord’s own table, and yet he deserts his honorable post, backslides from the things which he has known, and felt, and tasted, and handled, and rejoiced in— things that are the priceless gifts of God. He is a backslider from the condition in which he has enjoyed a heaven below; he is a backslider from the love of him who bought him with his blood; he slides back from the wounds of Christ, from the works of the Eternal Spirit, from the crown of life which hangs over his head, and from a familiar intercourse with God which angels might envy him. Had he not been so highly favored he could not have been so basely wicked. O fool and slow of heart to slide from wealth to poverty, from health to disease, from liberty to bondage, from light to darkness; from the love of God, from abiding in Christ, and from the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, into lukewarmness, worldliness, and sin. The text however, gives the man’s name at greater length, “The backslider in heart.” Now the heart is the fountain of evil. A man need not be a backslider in action to get the text fulfilled in him, he need only be a backslider in heart. All backsliding begins within, begins with the heart’s growing lukewarm, begins with the love of Christ being less powerful in the soul. Perhaps you think that so long as backsliding is confined to the heart it does not matter much; but consider for a minute, and you will confess your error. If you went to your physician and said, “Sir, I feel a severe pain in my body,” would you feel comforted if he replied “There is no local cause for your suffering, it arises entirely from disease of the heart”? Would you not be far more alarmed than before? A case is serious indeed when it involves the heart. The heart is hard to reach and difficult to understand, and moreover it is so powerful over the rest of the system, and has such power to injure all the members of the body, that a disease in the heart is an injury to a vital organ, a pollution of the springs of life. A wound wherein there are a thousand wounds, a complicated wounding of all the members with a stroke. Look ye well then to your hearts, and pray, “O Lord cleanse thou the secret parts of our spirit and preserve us to thy eternal kingdom and glory!”

Now let us read this man’s history—“he shall be filled with his own ways,” from which it is clear that he falls into ways of his own. When he was in his right state he followed the Lord’s ways, he delighted himself in the law of the Lord, and he gave him the desire of his heart; but now he has ways of his own which he prefers to the ways of God. And what comes of this perverseness? Does he prosper? No; he is before long filled with his own ways; we will see what that means.

The first kind of fullness with his own ways is absorption in his carnal pursuits. He has not much time to spend upon religion; he has other things to attend to. If you speak to him of the deep things of God he is weary of you, and even of the daily necessaries of godliness he has no care to hear much, except at service time. He has his business to see to, or he has to go out to a dinner party, or a few friends are coming to spend the evening: in any case, his answer to you is “I pray thee have me excused.” Now, this pre-occupation with trifles is always mischievous, for when the soul is filled with chaff there is no room left for wheat; when all your mind is taken up with frivolities, the weighty matters of eternity cannot enter. Many professed Christians spend far too much time in amusements, which they call recreation, but which I fear is far rather a redestruction than a recreation. The pleasures, cares, pursuits, and ambitions of the world swell in the heart when they once enter, and by-and-bye they fill it completely. Like the young cuckoo in the sparrow’s nest, worldliness grows and grows and tries its best to cast out the true owner of the heart. Whatever your soul is full of, if it be not full of Christ, it is in an evil case.

Then backsliders generally proceed a stage further, and become full of their own ways by beginning to pride themselves upon their condition and to glory in their shame. Not that they really are satisfied at heart, on the contrary, they have a suspicion that things are not quite as they ought to be, and therefore they put on a bold front and try to deceive themselves and others. It is rather dangerous to tell them of their faults, for they will not accept your rebuke, but will defend themselves, and even carry the war into your camp. They will say, “Ah, you are puritanical, strict and straight-laced, and your manners and ways do mischief rather than good.” They would not bring up their children as you do yours, so they say. Their mouths are very full because their hearts are empty, and they talk very loudly in defense of themselves because their conscience has been making a great stir within them. They call sinful pleasure a little unbending of the bow, greed is prudence, covetousness is economy, and dishonesty is cleverness. It is dreadful to think that men who know better should attempt thus to excuse themselves. Generally the warmest defender of a sinful practice is the man who has the most qualms of conscience about it. He himself knows that he is not living as he should, but he does not intend to cave in just yet, nor at all if he can help it. He is filled with his ways in a boasted self-content as to them.

Ere long this fullness reaches another stage, for if the backslider is a gracious man at all, he encounters chastisement, and that from a rod of his own making. A considerable time elapses before you can eat bread of your own growing: the ground must be ploughed and sown, and the wheat has to come up, to ripen, and to be reaped and threshed and ground in the mill, and the flour must be kneaded and baked in the oven; but the bread comes to the table and is eaten at last. Even so the backslider must eat of the fruit of his own ways. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked, whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” Now look at the backslider eating the fruit of his ways. He neglected prayer, and when he tries to pray he cannot; his powers of desire, emotion, faith, and entreaty have failed; he kneels awhile, but he cannot pray; the Spirit of supplications is grieved, and no longer helps his infirmities. He reaches down his Bible; he commences to read a chapter, but he has disregarded the word of God so long that he finds it to be more like a dead letter than a living voice, though it used to be a sweet book before he became a backslider. The minister, too, is altered; he used to hear him with delight; but now the poor preacher has lost all his early power, so the backslider thinks. Other people do not think so, the place is just as crowded, there are as many saints edified and sinners saved as before; but the wanderer in heart began criticizing, and now he is entangled in the habit, and he criticises every thing, but never feeds upon the truth at all. Like a madman at table he puts his fork into the morsel and holds it up, looks at it, finds fault with it, and throws in on the floor. Nor does he act better towards the saints in whose company he once delighted; they are dull society and he shuns them. Of all the things which bear upon his spiritual life he is weary, he has trifled with them, and now he cannot enjoy them. Hear him sing, or rather sigh —


Thy saints are comforted, I know,

And love thy house of prayer;

I sometimes go where others go,

But find no comfort there.”

How can it be otherwise? He is drinking water out of his own cistern and eating the bread of which he sowed the corn some years ago. His ways have come home to him.

Chastisement also comes out of his conduct in other ways. He was very worldly and gave gay parties, and his girls have grown up and grieved him by their conduct. He himself went into sin, and now that his sons outdo his example, what can he say? Can he wonder at anything? Look at David’s case. David fell into a gross sin, and soon Amnon his son rivalled him in iniquity. He murdered Uriah the Hittite, and Absalom murdered his brother Amnon. He rebelled against God, and lo, Absalom lifted up the standard of revolt against him. He disturbed the relationships of another man’s family in a disgraceful manner, and behold his own family rent in pieces, and never restored to peace; so that even when he lay a-dying he had to say, “My house is not so with God.” He was filled with his own ways and it always will be so, even if the sin be forgotten. If you have sent forth a dove or a raven from the ark of your soul, it will come back to you just as you sent it out. May God save us from being backsliders lest the smooth current of our life should turn into a raging torrent of woe.

The fourth stage, blessed be God, is at length reached by gracious men and women, and what a mercy it is they ever do reach it! At last they become filled with their own ways in another sense; namely, satiated and dissatisfied, miserable and discontented. They sought the world and they gained it, but now it has lost all charms to them. They went after other lovers, but these deceivers have been false to them, and they wring their hands and say, “Oh that I could return to my first husband for it was better with me then than now.” Many have lived at a distance from Jesus Christ, but now they can bear it no longer; they cannot be happy till they return. Hear them cry in the language of the fifty-first psalm, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.” But, I tell you, they cannot get back very easily. It is hard to retrace your steps from backsliding, even if it be but a small measure of it; but to get back from great wanderings is hard indeed, much harder than going over the road the first time. I believe that if the mental sufferings of some returning backsliders could be written and faithfully published they would astound you, and be a more horrible story to read than all the torments of the Inquisition. What racks a man is stretched upon who has been unfaithful to his covenant with God! What fires have burned within the souls of those men who have been untrue to Christ and his cause! What dungeons, what grim and dark prisons under ground have saints of God lain in who have gone aside into By-path Meadow instead of keeping to The King’s Highway. Their sighs and cries, for which after all they have learned to be thankful, are dolorous and terrible to listen to, and make us learn that he who sins must smart, and especially if he be a child of God, for the Lord has said of his people, “you only have I known of all the people of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities.” Whoever may go unchastised, a child of God never shall: the Lord will let his adversaries do a thousand things and not punish them in this life, since he reserves vengeance for them in the life to come, but as for his own children, they cannot sin without being visited with stripes.

Beloved friends, let all go straight away to the cross at once for fear we should be backsliders—


Come, let us to the Lord our God

With contrite hearts return

Our God is gracious, nor will leave

The penitent to mourn.”

Let us confess every degree and form of backsliding, every wandering of heart, every decline of love, every wavering of faith, every flagging of zeal, every dulness of desire, every failure of confidence. Behold, the Lord says unto us, “Return”; therefore let us return. Even if we be not backsliders it will do us no hurt to come to the cross as penitents, indeed, it is well to abide there evermore. O Spirit of the living God, preserve us in believing penitence all our days.

II. I have but little time for the second part of my text. Excuse me therefore if I do not attempt to go into it very deeply. As it is true of the backslider that he grows at last full of that which is within him and his wickedness, it is true also of the Christian, that in pursuing the paths of righteousness and the way of faith, he becomes filled and contented too. That which grace has placed within him fills him in due time.

Here then we have the good man’s name and history.

Notice first, his name. It is a very remarkable thing that as a backslider, if you call out his name, will not as a rule answer to it, even so a good man will not acknowledge the title here assigned him. Where is the good man? Know that every man here who is right before God will pass the question on, saying, “There is none good save One, that is, God.” The good man will also question my text and say “I cannot feel satisfied with myself.” No, dear friend, but mind you read the words aright. It does not say “satisfied with himself,” no truly good man ever was self-satisfied, and when any talk as if they are self-satisfied it is time to doubt whether they know much about the matter. All the good men I have ever met with have always wanted to be better; they have longed for something higher than as yet they have reached. They would not own to it that they were satisfied, and they certainly were by no means satisfied with themselves. The text does not say that they are, but it says something that reads so much like it that care is needed. Now, if I should seem to say this morning that a good man looks within and is quite satisfied with what he finds there, please let me say at once, I mean nothing of the sort. I should like to say exactly what the text means, but I do not know quite whether I shall manage to do it, except you will help me by not misunderstanding me, even if there should be a strong temptation to do so. Here is the good man’s history, he is “satisfied from himself,” but first I must read his name again, though he does not own to it, what is he good for? He says, “good for nothing,” but in truth he is good for much when the Lord uses him. Remember that he is good because the Lord has made him over again by the Holy Spirit. Is not that good which God makes? When he created nature at the first he said of all things that they were very good; how could they be otherwise, since he made them? So in the new creation a new heart and right spirit are from God, and must be good. Where there is grace in the heart the grace is good and makes the heart good. A man who has the righteousness of Jesus, and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is good in the sight of God.

A good man is on the side of good. If I were to ask, who is on the side of good? we would not pass on that question. No, we would step out and say “I am. I am not all I ought to be, or wish to be, but I am on the side of justice, truth, and holiness; I would live to promote goodness, and even die rather than become the advocate of evil.” And what is the man who loves that which is good? Is he evil? I trow not. He who truly loves that which is good must be in a measure good himself. Who is he that strives to be good, and groans and sighs over his failures, yea and rules his daily life by the laws of God? Is he not one of the world’s best men? I trust without self-righteousness the grace of God has made some of us good in this sense, for what the Spirit of God has made is good, and if in Christ Jesus we are new creatures, we cannot contradict Solomon, nor criticize the Bible if it calls such persons good, though we dare not call ourselves good.

Now, a good man’s history is this, “He is satisfied from himself.”

That means first that he is independent of outward circumstances. He does not derive satisfaction from his birth, or honors, or properties; but that which fills him with content is within himself. Our hymn puts it so truly—


I need not go abroad for joys,

I have a feast at home,

My sighs are turned into songs,

My heart has ceased to roam.

Down from above the blessed Dove

Is come into my breast,

To witness thine eternal love

And give my spirit rest.”

Other men must bring music from abroad if they have any, but in the gracious man’s bosom there lives a little bird that sings sweetly to him. He has a flower in his own garden more sweet than any he could buy in the market or find in the king’s palace. He may be poor, but still he would not change his estate in the kingdom of heaven for all the grandeur of the rich. His joy and peace are not even dependent upon the health of his body, he is often well in soul when sick as to his flesh; he is frequently full of pain and yet perfectly satisfied. He may carry about with him an incurable disease which he knows will shorten and eventually end his life, but he does not look to this poor life for satisfaction, he carries that within him which creates immortal joy: the love of God shed abroad in his soul by the Holy Ghost yields a perfume sweeter than the flowers of Paradise. The fulfillment of the text is partly found in the fact that the good man is independent of his surroundings.

And he is also independent of the praise of others. The backslider keeps easy because the minister thinks well of him and Christian friends think well of him, but the genuine Christian who is living near to God thinks little of the verdict of men. What other people think of him is not his chief concern; he is sure that he is a child of God, he knows he can say, “Abba, Father,” he glories that for him to live is Christ, and to die is gain, and therefore he does not need the approbation of others to buoy up his confidence. He runs alone, and does not need, like a weakly child, to be carried in arms. He knows whom he has believed, and his heart rests in Jesus; thus he is satisfied not from other people and from their judgment, but “from himself.”

Then again, the Christian man is content with the well of upspringing water of life which the Lord has placed within him. There, my brethren, up on the everlasting hills is the divine reservoir of all-sufficient grace, and down here in our bosom is a spring which bubbles up unto everlasting life. It has been welling up in some of us these five and-twenty years, but why is it so? The grand secret is that there is an unbroken connection between the little spring within the renewed breast and that vast unfathomed fount of God, and because of this the well-spring never fails; in summer it still continues to flow. And now if you ask me if I am dissatisfied with the spring within my soul which is fed by the all-sufficiency of God, I reply, no, I am not. If you could by any possibility cut the connection between my soul and my Lord I should despair altogether, but as long as none can separate me from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord, I am satisfied and at rest. Like Naphtali we are “satisfied with favor and full of the blessing of the Lord.”

Faith is in the good man’s heart and he is satisfied with what faith brings him, for it conveys to him the perfect pardon of his sin. Faith brings him nearer to Christ. Faith brings him adoption into the family of God. Faith secures him conquest over temptation. Faith procures for him everything he requires. He finds that by believing he has all the blessings of the covenant daily to enjoy. Well may he be satisfied with such an enriching grace. The just shall live by faith.

In addition to faith, he has another filling grace called hope, which reveals to him the world to come, and gives him assurance that when he falls asleep he will sleep in Jesus, and that when he awakes he will arise in the likeness of Jesus. Hope delights him with the promise that his body shall rise, and that in his flesh he shall see God. This hope of his sets the pearly gates wide open before him, reveals the streets of gold, and makes him hear the music of the celestial harpers. Surely a man may well be satisfied with this.

The godly heart is also satisfied with what love brings him; for love though it seem but a gentle maid, is strong as a giant, and becomes in some respects the most potent of all the graces. Love first opens wide herself like the flowers in the sunshine, and drinks in the love of God, and then she joys in God and begins to sing:—


I am so glad that Jesus loves me.”

She loves Jesus, and there is such an interchange of delight between the love of her soul to Christ and the love of Christ to her, that heaven itself can scarce be sweeter. He who knew this deep mysterious love will be more than filled with it, he will need to be enlarged to hold the bliss which it creates. The love of Jesus is known, but yet it passeth knowledge. It fills the entire man, so that he has no room for the idolatrous love of the creature, he is satisfied from himself and asks no other joy.

Beloved, when the good man is enabled by divine grace to live in obedience to God, he must as a necessary consequence, enjoy peace of mind. His hope is alone fixed on Jesus, but a life which evidences his possession of salvation casts many a sweet ingredient into his cup. He who takes the yoke of Christ upon him and learns of him finds rest unto his soul. When we keep his commandments we consciously enjoy his love, which we could not do if we walked in opposition to his will. To know that you have acted from a pure motive, to know that you have done the right is a grand means of full content. What matters the frown of foes or the prejudice of friends, if the testimony of a good conscience is heard within? We dare not rely upon our own works, neither have we had a desire or need to do so, for our Lord Jesus has saved us everlastingly; still, “Our rejoicing is this, the testimony our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world.”

The Christian needs to maintain unbroken fellowship with Jesus his Lord if he would be good as a soldier of Christ, but if his communion be broken his satisfaction will depart. If Jesus be within we shall be satisfied from within, but not else; if our fellowship with him be kept up, and it may be from day to day, and month to month, and year to year (and why should it ever be snapped at all), then the satisfaction will continue and the soul will continue to be full even to the brim with the bliss which God alone can give. If we are by the Holy Spirit made to be abundant in labor or patient in suffering, if, in a word, we resign ourselves fully up to God, we shall find a fullness of his grace placed within ourselves. An enemy compared some of us to cracked vessels, and we may humbly accept the description. We do find it difficult to retain good things, they run away from our leaking pitchers; but I will tell how a cracked pitcher can be kept continually full. Put it in the bottom of an ever-flowing river, and it must be full. Even so though we are leaking and broken, if we abide in the love of Christ we shall be filled with his fullness. Such an experience is possible; we may be


Plunged in the Godhead’s deepest sea,

And lost in his immensity,

Then we shall be full—full to running over; as the Psalmist says, “my cup runneth over.” The man who walks in God’s ways, obediently resting wholly upon Christ, looking for all his supplies to the great eternal deeps, that is the man who will be filled—filled with the very things which he has chosen for his own, filled with those things which are his daily delight and desire. Well may the faithful believer be filled, for he has eternity to fill him—The Lord has loved him with an everlasting love; —there is the eternity past: “The mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but my covenant shall not depart from thee”—there is the eternity to come. He has infinity, yea the infinite One himself, for the Father is his Father, the Son is his Savior, the Spirit of God dwells within him—the Trinity may well fill the heart of man. The believer has omnipotence to fill him, for all power is given unto Christ, and of that power Christ will give to us according as we have need. Living in Christ and hanging upon him from day to day, beloved, we shall have a “peace of God which passeth all understanding to keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” May we enjoy this peace and magnify the name of the Lord for ever and ever. Amen.

   Godly Fear and its Goodly Consequence


delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.”—Proverbs 14:26.

In the Book of Proverbs you meet with sentences of pithy wisdom, which to all appearance belong entirely to this world, and pertain to the economy of the life that now is. I do not know whether it is true, but it was said that years ago our friends in Scotland had a little book widely circulated and read by all their children which consisted of the Proverbs of Solomon, and that it was the means of making the Scotch, as a generation, more canny, shrewd, and wiser in business than any other people. If it be so, I should suggest that such a book be scattered throughout England as well, and indeed, anywhere and everywhere. The book might have been written in some parts of it by Franklin or Poor Richard, for it contains aphorisms and maxims of worldly wisdom, pithy but profound, sometimes poetic, but always practical. Has it never surprised you that there should be such sentences as these in the book of inspiration—secular proverbs, for so they are—secular proverbs intermixed with spiritual proverbs—the secular and the spiritual all put together without any division or classification? You might have expected to find one chapter dedicated to worldly business, and another chapter devoted to golden rules concerning the spiritual life; but it is not so. They occur without any apparent order, or at any rate without any order of marked division between the secular and the spiritual: and I am very glad of it. The more I read the Book of Proverbs the more thankful I am that there is no such division, because the hard and fast line by which men of the world, and I fear some Christians, have divided the secular from the spiritual, is fraught with innumerable injuries. Religion, my dear friends, is not a thing for churches and chapels alone; it is equally meant for counting-houses and workshops, for kitchens and drawing-rooms. The true Christian is not only to be seen in the singing of hymns and the offerings, of prayers, but he is to be distinguished by the honesty and integrity, the courage and the faithfulness of his ordinary character. In the streets and in the marketplaces or wherever else the providence of God may call him, he witnesses the good confession. It is easy to secularize religion in a wrong sense. There are many I doubt not that desecrate the pulpit to worldly ends. How can it be otherwise if “livings” are to be bought and sold? I cannot doubt that the sacred desk has been a place simply for earning emoluments, or for gathering fame, and that sacred oratory has been as mean in the sight of God as the common language of the streets. I do not doubt that many people have put religion as a show-card into their business, and have tried to make money by it. Like Mr. By-ends, they thought that if by being religious they could get a good smile —if by being religious they could be introduced into respectable society—if by being religious they would bring some excellent religious customers to their shop, and if indeed, by being religious they could get themselves to be esteemed, it would be a very proper thing. Now, this is making religion into irreligion; this is turning Christianity into selfishness; this is the Judas-spirit of putting Christ up for pieces of silver, and making as good a bargain as you can out of him; and this will lead to damnation, and nothing short of it, in the case of anybody who deliberately attempts it. Woe to that man! He is a son of perdition. Better for him had he never been born. Instead of profaning the spiritual, the right thing is to spiritualize the secular till the purity of your motives and the sanctity of your conscience in ordinary pursuits shall cause the division to vanish. Why, there should be about an ordinary meal enough religion to make it resemble a sacrament. Our garments we should wear, and wear them out in the service of the Lord until they acquired as much sanctity as the very vestments of a consecrated priesthood. There should be a devout spirit in everything we do. “Whether ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do it in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by him.” No, it is not a less holy thing to be the Christian merchant than to be the Christian minister. It is not a less holy thing to be the mother of mercy to your own children than to be the sister of mercy to the sick children of other people in the hospital ward. It is not a less sacred thing to be the married wife than it is to be the virgin consecrated to Christ. Wherever ye are, if ye discharge the duties of your calling as in the sight of God, ye can by prayer and thanksgiving saturate your lives with godliness and make every action drip with sanctity, till, like Ashur of old, it shall be said of you that you have dipped your foot in oil. So shall you leave the mark of grace wherever your footstep is put. Let us endeavor to be so minded, and forbear to sort out our actions, saying to ourselves, “In this thing I am to be a Christian: in the other thing I am to be a business man.” “Business is business,” says somebody. Yes, I know it is, and it has no business to be such business as it very often is. It ought to be Christianized, and the Christian that does not Christianize business is a dead Christian—a savourless salt; wherewith shall such salt be savoured when the salt itself has lost its savor? Mix up your proverbs. Be as practical as Poor Richard counsels, and then be as spiritual as Christ commands. You need not be a fool because you are a Christian. There is no necessity to be outwitted in business.

There is no necessity to be less shrewd, less sharp. There is no necessity to be less pushing because you are a Christian. True religion is sanctified common sense, and if some people had got a little common sense with their religion, and some others had got a little more religion with their common sense, they would both be the better for it. And this Book of Proverbs is just this common sense, which is the rarest of all senses, saturated and sanctified by the presence of God and the power of the gospel ennobling the pursuits of the creature.

Let this suffice by way of introduction. Now we are going to plunge into the text. “In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.”

I. What is this fear of the Lord? The expression is used in Scripture for all true godliness. It is constantly the short way of expressing real faith, hope, love, holiness of living, and every grace which makes up true godliness. But why was fear selected? Why did not it say, “Trust in God is strong confidence”? Has not religion been commonly described by faith rather than by fear? In legal indictments it is said sometimes of a man that he, “not having the fear of God before his eyes,” did so and so. Why is the fear of God selected? One would say that according to the general theology of this period we ought to have selected faith. But the Spirit of God has not given us the phrase—faith in God. He puts fear, because after all, there is a something more tender, more touching, more real about fear than there is about some people’s faith, which faith may very readily verge upon presumption. But in speaking of fear we must always discriminate. There is a fear with which a Christian has nothing to do. The fear of the slave who dreads a task-master we have now escaped from. At least we ought to be free from such bondage, for we are not under the law, which is the task-master, but we are under grace, which is a paternal spirit and has given us the liberty of sons. Brethren, if you labor under any dread of God which amounts to a slavish fear of him, do not cultivate it. But ask God to give you that perfect love of which John tells us that it casteth out fear, because fear hath torment. Do not be afraid of God whatever he does with you. The kind of fear commended in the text is not such as appals the senses and scares the thoughts. It is a fear that has not anything like being afraid mixed with it. It is quite another kind of fear. It is what we commonly call filial fear of God, like the child’s fear of his father. Just think for a minute, what is a child’s fear of his father? I do not mean a naughty child, a child that is obstinate, but a young man who loves his father—who is his father’s friend, his father’s most familiar acquaintance. Thank God some of us have children whom we can look upon as near and dear friends as well as dutiful sons and daughters, to whom we can speak with much confidence and love. What is the fear that a well-ordered, well-disciplined, beloved child has of his own father?

Well, first, he has an awe of him which arises out of admiration of his character. If his father be what he should be, he is to that son a real model. The youth looks upon what his father does as exactly what he would like to do, and what he aims to copy. His judgment is to his son almost infallible. At any rate, if he sees reason to differ from his father, he is a long while before he brings himself to prefer his own judgment. He has seen his father’s wisdom in other matters so often that he mistrusts his own apprehension, and would rather trust to what his father tells him. He has a profound conviction that his father is good, kind, wise, and could not do anything, or ask him to do anything, which would not promote his own good. So he feels a sort of awe of him—a fear of him—which prevents his questioning what his father does as he would have questioned anybody else. He is prone to conjecture that his father may have got some reason behind that would explain what he does not understand. He would not give another person credit for having that concealed virtue, but he has such an esteem for his father—his dear father, that he fears to raise any questions about his father’s character, his conduct, or his conclusions. In fact, that character so rules his admiration and commands his respect that he does not think of questioning it. Well now dear friends, how far higher must be our fear of God in this view of the matter. How could we question him? Nay, whatever he does we say, “It is the Lord; let him do what seemeth him good.” Like Aaron, when his two sons were stricken down, and that as a summary punishment of their transgression, it should be said of us as it was recorded of him—“He held his peace.” Aaron could not say anything against God, however severe the stroke was. So brethren, we cannot judge God. I hope we have given that folly over. We ought to be afraid to do it. Sometimes terrible horror takes hold upon me, when I now and then meet with a brother or sister (I hope in Christ) who will tell me that God has taken away a dear child and they cannot forgive him. “That cannot be right, sir.” Oh, it is a dreadful thing for us once to get into such a state of heart that we question anything that God does! No: “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” Is it meet, think you, to imagine that our heavenly Father can do anything that is unkind or unwise towards us? It is not possible. The Lord has done it. Let that be your ultimatum. We fear him too much to question what he does. Our reverence of him makes us jealous of ourselves.

A child, also, without any fear of his father in the wrong sense, is sure to be very deferential in his father’s presence. If his father be in the way, and if quiet be wanted in the house, he will draw his shoes off his feet and check the ebullition of his spirits, lest his father should hear and he should disturb the unruffled calm. He watches carefully, and studiously guards his conduct, lest anything he does amiss should reach his father’s ear and grieve his father’s heart. Now it would be very wrong for a child merely to restrain himself in his father’s presence out of respect for him, and then break the bounds with unbridled licentiousness in his father’s absence, as I fear many do. But you and I need not fall into this danger because we are always in the presence of our heavenly Father in every place. Who among us that fears God as he ought would wish to do anything anywhere which is wrong and offensive to him, seeing that


“Where e’er we roam, where e’er we rest,

We are surrounded still with God”?

Daring were the hardihood that could insult a king to his face and commit trespass in his presence. A sense of the presence of God, a conscience that prompts one to say, “Thou God seest me,” fosters in the soul a healthy fear which you can easily see would rather inspirit than intimidate a man. It is a filial, childlike fear, in the presence of one whom we deeply reverence, lest we should do anything contrary to his mind and will. So then, there is a fear which arises out of a high appreciation of God’s character, and a fear of the same kind which arises out of a sense of his presence.

Further, every child of the sort I have described fears at any time to intrude upon the father’s prerogative. When he is at home he feels that there are some points in which he may take many liberties. Is it not his own home? has he not always been there? But there are some things of which, if they were suggested to him to do, he would say, “Why, it is impossible. Only my father may do that. I cannot give orders as if I were the master. I cannot expect to govern. I am here and I am glad to be here, but I am under my father and I must not presume to exercise the control to which he has an exclusive right.” Now that is one of the fears which a child of God has. “No,” says he, “how should I venture to stand in the place of God? God bids me: it is not for me to demur or to ask, ‘Shall I or shall I not?’ That were to usurp the place of ruler, to be a master to myself, to ignore the fact that the Lord is alone the ruler. Such a thing God appoints;” then it is not for me to wish the appointment different. Should it be according to my mind? Am I the comptroller? Is divine providence put under my supervision? “No,” says the child of God, “I cannot do anything so inconsistent with a dutiful allegiance.” Some things there are which he feels would be arrogating a position unbecoming altogether in a creature, and much more unbecoming in a creature that has received the spirit of fear whereby he cries “Abba, Father.” O brethren and sisters, it is well to have a fear of getting to feel great—a fear of getting to feel good —a fear of getting to feel anything that should violate your fealty, or disregard the worshipful reverence you owe to the Most High, as if you took sinister license because you were given a sacred liberty, or refused to do homage because you had received favor. Oh no, the virtuous child does not thus slight his indulgent father; neither must we ever think irreverently of our covenant God.

Holy fear leads us to dread anything which might cause our Father’s displeasure. A good child would not do anything which would make his father feel vexed with him. “It vexes me,” says he, “if it vexes my father.” So let there be always with us a fear to offend our loving God. He is jealous, remember that. It is one of the most solemn truths in the Bible, “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” We might have guessed it, for great love has always that dangerous neighbor jealousy not far off. They that love not have no hate, no jealousy, but where there is an intense, a definite love, like that which glows in the bosom of God, there must be jealousy. And oh, how jealous he is of the hearts of his people! How determined he is to have all their love! How I have known him to take away the objects of their attachment, one after another—break their idols, and deprive them of their precious vanities—all to get their hearts wholly to himself, because he knew it would never be right with them while they had a divided heart. It was injurious to themselves and so he is jealous of that which injures them, and jealous of that which dishonors him.

Let us have this holy fear very strong upon us, and we shall avoid anything which might grieve the Spirit of God. A true child of the kind I have tried to describe—and I hope there are some about —is always afraid of doing anything which might cast a suspicion upon his love and his respect to his father. If he feels that he has done something which might appear discourteous, or be interpreted as akin to rebellion, he is eager to explain at once that he did not mean it so. Or, if he has made a mistake, he is eager at once to rectify it, and would say, “Father, do not read my conduct severely. I love you with all my heart. I may have erred; I have erred; I beg to express my deep regret and repentance.” He could not bear it that his father should think, “My child has no esteem for me, no respect for me, no love for me.” It ought to go hard with every Christian when he thinks he has given God cause to doubt his love. I should suspect he has when he finds cause to suspect it himself. When you say in your soul, “Do I love the Lord or not?”—just think whether God may not be saying it—whether Jesus Christ, the ever blessed, may not feel cause next time he meets you to say to you, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Indeed, dost thou love me?” Three times he may have to put that question because you have given him a treble cause for mistrusting you, as to whether, indeed, your heart is right before him. We know that the Lord knows all things, and he knows that we love him. We fall back on that, but still we would not so act that the action should look as if we did not. We do not want so to think, or speak, or do, that anything about us should give just cause for suspicion to the All-wise One as to the reality of our professions of love.

Fear, then—this blessed fear—is what we must all cultivate, and the Lord grant that we may have it, fully matured and fitly exercised, for “blessed is the man that feareth always.”

II. But now, giving our meditation a more cheerful turn, let us follow the teaching of our text. It says that this fear has strong confidence in it.

Wherein is that confidence seen? The history of men that have feared God may perhaps enlighten us a little on this matter. It is written concerning Job that he was a man that “feared God and eschewed evil.” Satan was permitted to tempt him and he came into deep trouble, but how blessed was the confidence of Job in all his trouble. How brave a thing it was to say, “The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”! How grand it was of him to say in answer to his wife, “What? shall we receive good at the hand of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?” Best of all, that was one of the noblest resolves that ever mortal uttered, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” A man up to his neck in trouble—nay, with the billows going over him, and yet his confidence in God is not moved —nay, not for a single moment. He declares that if God does not set him right now while he lives, yet he believes that his God, his kinsman, lives, and that if he dies, yet after his death God would avenge him. “I know,” says he, “that my avenger liveth, and though after my death the worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God, and I shall get right somehow.” He feels sure about that so his confidence is strong, and it relaxes not in time of trouble. You see the like implicit confidence in Habakkuk. He draws a dreadful picture—“Though the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall.” He foresees the full stress of the calamity, and prophecies that it shall come to pass. “Yet,” saith he, “will I rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” That was the simple consequence of his fear of the Lord. He feared and therefore trusted. He knew the grandeur of the divine character. He trembled to impute wrong or unfaithfulness to God; he feared him too much to have one hard thought of him, or to utter one mistrustful word about him; so in the grandeur of that fear he felt a strong confidence. Both Job and Habakkuk experienced and even tested this, and many there be schooled in the same school who have spoken after the same valiant fashion when all God’s waves and billows have gone over them.

That confidence will not only appear in time of trouble, but it will appear in acts of obedience. The Lord calls his people to obey him, and sometimes obedience requires great self-denial. We may have to surrender what we greatly prize for Christ’s sake. It is not always easy to be confident in doing that which demands quick decision. We may be prone to parley, or to do as though we were driven, yielding to stern compulsion rather than surrendering with sweet submission. But to do it with strong confidence can only come to us from having the fear of God before us. Now, Abraham feared the Lord with all his heart, and when the Lord said, “Take now thy son, thy only son, Isaac, whom thou lowest, and offer him up for a burnt offering upon a mountain which I will tell thee of”—if he had not feared God wonderfully, and dreaded to do anything that would look like rebellion against his orders, he would have said, “What! commit murder —for it will come to that—slay my own dear child!” But no, though he could not understand it, he felt sure that God had some meaning in it—that God could not be ordering him to do what was wrong—that there must be a way by which it would be made right. Besides, he remembered that in Isaac was his seed to be called, and his descendants were to come out of Isaac. How, then, can God keep his promise? How can he fulfill the covenant? This also did not distress Abraham, but being “strong in faith, he staggered not through unbelief.” Hence he rose up early in the morning and prepared the wood. I have looked with tears at the spectacle of that old man, far advanced in years, preparing the wood, and then getting up early and putting the wood upon Isaac, and then going with him, and telling the servants at the bottom of the hill that they must stay lest they should interrupt the consummation of that wondrous deed of faith. And then Isaac says to him, “My father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” It must have brought the heart of the father into his mouth. Still he seemed to swallow that dreadful thought and he said, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb.” And so he takes him and lays him on the altar, and draws a knife—going through with it—right through with it, to the very last, with wondrous heroism; till the Lord stayed his hand. But for his deep fear of God he never would have had the confidence to go through with such an act of obedience.

Although the Lord does not call you and me to such strong tests as that, yet he does try our faith. I have known sometimes when a man in order to do his duty has had before him what appeared to be a terrible dilemma—“I shall have to give up that situation. If I do that, what is to become of my children? Were I a single man I would do it without hesitation. I would face poverty; I would go down to the docks to ask for day labor. But there are the children. The children —what is to become of the children?” You see you cannot feel like Abraham who gave up the darling child for God. You are staggered. Yes, but if your fear of God is very strong you will say, “I cannot make a compromise with any sin. I cannot persevere with that sinful line of business in which I am engaged. Is this the ultimatum? then it admits of no alternative. If God should leave me and my little children to starve, yet I must cede all into God’s hands. It is his to provide, not mine. He does not allow me to do a wrong thing under any circumstances. So here goes for God and for righteousness.” If you have got a great fear of God that is what you will do, but if you have not the reverence you will not have the confidence. For lack thereof you will timorously shrink back into the sin which galls you. May God give you the heroic confidence which springs of a deep fear of him.

The same confidence, the same loyalty to God will develop itself when persecution is involved. There are in this world men who hate true religion, and the experiences which occur to true believers are consequently often very painful. If we have much fear of God we shall have strong confidence, but if we have not the fear of God then the fear of man will make us waver. See yonder; Nebuchadnezzar’s image of gold on the plains of Dura. A great many people stand about the colossal figure who are of the race of Shem, monotheists— that is to say, believers in one God; not polytheists whose creed might excuse their idolatry. Hark now! At the sound of flute, harp, sackbut and all kinds of music, the herald proclaims that whosoever will not bow down and worship the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king has set up shall be cast into a burning fiery furnace. How quickly does this recreant race of Protestant people swallow their principles. See how they succumb with their heads in the dust, worshipping the golden image. They had not much fear of the one God, and so they break all his laws. They have more fear of Nebuchadnezzar and his furnace than they have of Jehovah the God of Israel. But here are three young men, captives in Babylon, who stand before the king, and when asked why it is that they have not worshipped his gods and the image which he has set up declare that they will not worship his god or fall down before his image. They speak positively. They say, “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us, but, if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not worship thy gods or the image which thou hast set up.” Look at the king’s fury. See how the devil lights up his face with lurid glare, how a legion of devils possesses him. “Heat that furnace seven times hotter than it is wont,” says he, “and cast these daring rebels therein.” The men are calm, unrushed by his rage, unmoved by his threats. They do not even take off their hats to him. There they stand in their hosen and their hats calm and quiet. They defy the king because who need have a fear of Nebuchadnezzar that has a fear of Jehovah? Who need fear a king that fears the king of kings? So they consent to be put into the furnace, for in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence. It was bravely done by old Hugh Latimer when he preached before Henry the Eighth. It was the custom of the Court preacher to present the king with something on his birthday, and Latimer presented Henry VIII with a pocket-handkerchief with this text in the corner, “Whoremongers and adulterers God will judge”; a very suitable text for bluff Henry. And then he preached a sermon before his most gracious majesty against sins of lust, and he delivered himself with tremendous force, not forgetting or abridging the personal application. And the king said that next time Latimer preached—the next Sunday—he should apologize, and he would make him so mold his sermon as to eat his own words. Latimer thanked the king for letting him off so easily. When the next Sunday came he stood up in the pulpit and said: “Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the high and mighty prince Henry, King of Great Britain and France. If thou sayest one single word that displeases his Majesty he will take thy head off; therefore, mind what thou art at.” But then said he, “Hugh Latimer, thou art this day to preach before the Lord God Almighty, who is able to cast both body and soul into hell, and so tell the king the truth outright.” And so he did. His performance was equal to his resolution. However, the king did not take off his head, he respected him all the more. The fear of the Lord gave him strong confidence, as it will any who cleave close to their colors.


“Fear him, ye saints, and ye will then

Have nothing else to fear.”

Drive right straight ahead in the fear of the everlasting God, and whoever comes in your way had better mind what he is at. It is yours to do what is right, and bear everything they devise that is wrong. God will bless you therein, and you shall praise him therefore.

Moreover this fear of God declares itself in other things besides braving trouble and enduring. It will be a tower of strength to you when you stand up to bear witness to the truth. Have you anything to say for Jesus, you will say it in a very cowardly and sneaking manner if you have not a great fear of God; but if you fear God much you will be like Peter and John, of whom when the council saw them it is said, “they wondered at their boldness.” The fear of God will make you bold in speaking God’s word. Or should you fall down in sheer exhaustion, instead of standing up in sound enthusiasm, the fear of God will prove a potent restorative. Even if you are overthrown for a time you shall overcome at the last. In the Book of Micah we read, “Rejoice not over me, O mine enemy, for though I fall, yet shall I rise again.” He that really fears God expects to conquer, even though for a time he seems to be defeated. This fear will come out gloriously in confidence in the hour of death. If we fear God we shall like Stephen fall asleep, even if it be amid a shower of stones. Glorious is the confidence with which Christians depart from this life when they can depend on the God whom they fear with reverence and serve with readiness.

III. I must hasten on to notice in the third place, though not to dwell upon it as I could wish, whereupon this confidence is built. The fear of the Lord brings strong confidence, but why?

Why; because they that fear God know God to be infinitely loving to them, to be immutable and unchangeable, to be unsearchably wise, and omnipotently strong on their behalf. How can they help having confidence in such a God? They know next, that a full atonement has been made for their sins. Jesus has borne the wrath of God for them: how can they help being confident? They know that this same Jesus has risen from the dead and lives to plead for them, and in their ears they can hear the almighty plea of Jesus ever speaking in their favor. How can they help having confidence? They believe that this same Jesus is head over all things to his church, and ruler of providence. How can they help being confident in him? To him all power is given in heaven and in earth. They believe that everything is working together for their good. How can they help being confident, I say again? They believe that the Spirit of God is in them, dwells in them. What confidence can be too staunch and stedfast for men who know this to be true? They know that there is a mysterious union between them and the Son of God; that they are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. What confidence can be too implicit? They know that there are two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie— his promise and his oath, whereby he has given them strong consolation. With such strong consolation they may well have strong confidence.


“The gospel bears my spirits up;

A faithful and unchanging God

Lays the foundation of my hope

In oaths and promises and blood.”

Oh, what unwavering confidence may be based on this firm foundation which God has laid for his people. But time fails me; I cannot enlarge upon it.

IV. Let me therefore close with a fourth reflection, how this confidence and this fear are favored of God! Observe the promise: “His children shall have a place of refuge.” So then, you see that those who fear God and have confidence in him are his children. They have a childlike fear, and then they have a childlike confidence, and these are the marks that they are his children. And what a favor is this! “To as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” Oh, dear friends, there is a heaven lying asleep inside those words—his children. There is paradise eternal couched within that word— Abba, Father. If you know how to say it with the spirit of adoption, you have the earnest of the inheritance within you: you have got a heaven, a young heaven within your spirit. Oh, be glad! To be a child of God is greater than to be an angel. Why, were Gabriel capable of envy he would envy you who are the children of the Most High, however poor or sick or downcast you may be. “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God.”

“His children shall have a place of refuge.” Take heart, for this is a grand thought for you that fear him and confide in him; you shall have a place of refuge. There is Noah. All the world is about to be drowned. In vain might one climb to the tops of the mountains, for the waters will cover their highest pinnacle. Must Noah be drowned then? Is his destruction inevitable? No, but there is an ark for him. God will not pull up the flood-gates of heaven till Noah is shut in the ark. There is Lot—naughty Lot. He has been acting very badly, and has got away there down in Sodom. Still, he is a child of God and he is vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked, proving that he has some fear of God in his heart. Well, what does the Lord say? “Haste thee,” he says, “for I cannot do anything till thou hast come out hither.” Lot must get to Zoar. There must be a little city to shelter Lot. God cannot burn Sodom and Gomorrah till he has got Lot safe out of the way. He must find a refuge for his children. Well, there are his people down in Egypt. God is going to smite the firstborn and he has loosed an angel to do it, and that angel is swift in his message—swift to do his bidding, and he will slay the firstborn of Israel as well as of Egypt when he goes upon his terrible errand. He will make no distinctions. Yes, but there are the bloodmarks over the door, and the angel sees that the bloody sacrifice has been offered in that house and he passes by. God’s people must have a place of refuge, and he found them one in Egypt when the angel was let loose, and the angel of death was there. So it happened all along through Scripture history. God sent a famine into the land, and after the famine some that had fled the country came back, and among the rest, Naomi and Ruth. What is to become of Ruth? She has been a heathen. She has come to fear God. She has put her trust under the shadow of the Almighty’s wings. What is to become of Ruth? Well, she must go and glean in the fields of him who is next of kin and she found a place of refuge in his bosom. God takes care, you see, of those that fear him and have confidence in him. But there is another great famine, and all the country is barren for three years long. According to the word of God there is neither dew nor rain, and there is no food, but there is one man there who fears the Lord above all the rest, and that is Elijah. Well, he must have a place of refuge. There, you see, by the brook Cherith he sits him down, and ravens that were more likely to rob him than to feed him come to bring him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening. I heard some time ago of a poor woman who was very hard pressed for food, but she remembered the promise of God, and she knelt down and appealed to him that he would provide her bread. Just afterwards a friend came in who brought a loaf of bread to her, saying that this loaf of bread was bought for her husband, but her husband was not well and he was unable to eat it because they found that a mouse had been eating it, and it so turned him that he could not eat the bread. But the loaf was not hurt: “and,” said the friend, “I dare say you will eat it; I have cut away the part that the mouse touched.” Oh, yes, God can make a mouse do it or a raven do it. His people shall have a place of refuge. When the brooks are dried up and the ravens are gone there is a widow woman over there who has to sustain Elijah, and that woman’s cruse is nearly empty and her barrel of meal nearly all spent; but still her house is the place of refuge for Elijah, and God provides for him there. When the Lord Jesus was here he knew that Jerusalem was to be destroyed, and he knew that his disciples were to be there, but if history is to be believed—and I suppose it is —no Christians perished in the destruction of Jerusalem; yet they were very numerous. There is no mention of them by Josephus. They were all gone away, many of them to the little city called Pella, and other places beyond the river Jordan, because Jesus told them when they saw Jerusalem compassed with armies they might know that the desolation thereof was nigh. So he counselled such as were in Judea to flee to the mountains. Thus when that destruction came which was the most terrible calamity that ever happened on the face of the earth, his people had a place of refuge. And now brethren, whatever is going to happen— and there are some that predict dreadful things—as for me, I do not know what is going to happen, and, which is another thing, I do not care—his people shall have a place of refuge. “Though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swellings thereof. There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved: God shall help her, and that right early. The heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: he uttered his voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” If it should ever come to this—that the whole earth should rock and reel, or burn and smoke and seethe, or burn like a cauldron into one boiling mass—if there is no room for God’s people on the earth to find a refuge, he will find a refuge for them in the clouds. They shall be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air. But somehow or other his people shall have a place of refuge. His children shall have a place of refuge. Lay hold on that. There is a refuge for you somewhere, Christian, even in the matter of ordinary providence, and there is always a mercy-seat for you to go to. There is always the bosom of Christ for you to fly to. The fear of the Lord does not drive you from him. It drives you to him, and when it drives you to him you have got a place of refuge. I find that Moses Stewart reads the text differently from anybody else, and I am not sure that he is wrong. He says the text means that the children of those that fear God shall have a place of refuge, and if so, this is not the only passage of Scripture that proves it. There are many precious texts that speak of our children. Let us try to grasp the promise for our children as well as for ourselves, and pray for them that they may have a place of refuge. There are some believers going to be baptized to-night. I hope they have got a firm grip of that gospel promise that Paul uttered, where he says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The jailer did, you know, and we find that it is said, “He was baptized, and all his house;” and for this reason—that he believed in the Lord, rejoicing with all his house. Oh, we can never be satisfied till we see all our house converted, and all our household baptized, and all those that belong to us belonging also to the Lord our God, for thus it is “His children shall have a place of refuge.” May God bless you, dear friends, through Jesus Christ our Lord.                


God, the All-Seeing One


February 14, 1858


"Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?"—Proverbs 15:11.

You have often smiled at the ignorance of heathens who bow themselves before gods of wood and stone. You have quoted the words of Scripture, and you have said, "Eyes have they but they see not; ears have they, but they hear not." You have therefore argued that they could not be gods at all, because they could neither see nor hear, and you have smiled contemptuously at the men who could so debase their understandings as to make such things objects of adoration. May I ask you one question—but one? Your God can both see and hear: would your conduct be in any respect different, if you had a god such as those that the heathen worship? Suppose for one minute, that Jehovah, who is nominally adored in this land, could be (though it is almost blasphemy to suppose it) smitten with such a blindness, that he could not see the works and know the thoughts of man: would you then become more careless concerning him than you are now? I trow not. In nine cases out of ten, and perhaps in a far larger and sadder proportion, the doctrine of Divine Omniscience, although it is received and believed, has no practical effect upon our lives at all. The mass of mankind forget God: whole nations who know his existence and believe that he beholds them, live as if they had no God at all. Merchants, farmers, men in their shops, and in their fields, husbands in their families, and wives in the midst of their households, live as if there were no God; no eye inspecting them; no ear listening to the voice of their lips, and no eternal mind always treasuring up the recollection of their acts. Ah! we are practical Atheists, the mass of us; yea, all but those that have been born again, and have passed from death unto life, be their creeds what they may, are Atheists, after all, in life; for if there were no God, and no hereafter, multitudes of men would never be affected by the change; they would live the same as they do now—their lives being so full of disregard of God and his ways, that the absence of a God could not affect them in any great degree. Permit me, then, this morning, as God shall help me, to stir up your hearts; and may God grant that something I may say, may drive some of your practical Atheism out of you. I would endeavor to set before you, God, the all-seeing one, and press upon your solemn consideration the tremendous fact, that in all our acts, in all our ways, and in all our thoughts, we are continually under his observing eye.

We have in our text, first of all, a great fact declared,—"Hell and destruction are before the Lord ;" we have, secondly, a great fact inferred,—"How much more then the hearts of the children of men?"

I. We will begin with THE GREAT FACT WHICH IS DECLARED—a fact which furnishes us with premises from which we deduce the practical conclusion of the second sentence—"How much more then the hearts of the children of men?" The best interpretation that you can give of those two words, "hell" and "destruction," is, I think, comprehended in a sentence something like this,—"Death and hell are before the Lord." The separate state of departed spirits, and destruction, Abaddon, as the Hebrew has it, the place of torment, are both of them, although solemnly mysterious to us, manifest enough to God.

1. First, then, the word here translated "hell," might just as well be translated "death," or the state of departed spirits. Now, death, with all its solemn consequences, is visible before the Lord. Between us and the hereafter of departed spirits a great black cloud is hanging. Here and there, the Holy Spirit hath made chinks, as it were, in the black wall of separation, through which, by faith we can see; for he hath "revealed unto us by the Spirit" the things which "eye hath not seen nor ear heard," and which the human intellect could never compass. Yet, what we know is but very little. When men die, they pass beyond the realm of our knowledge: both in body and in soul, they go beyond our understandings. But God understands all the secrets of death. Let us divide these into several heads, and enumerate them.

God knows the burial-places of all his people. He notes as well the resting-place of the man who is buried tombless and alone, as the man over whom a mighty mausoleum has been raised. The traveler who fell in the barren desert, whose body became the prey of the vulture, and whose bones were bleached in the sun—the mariner, who was wrecked far out at sea, and over whose corpse no dirge was ever wailed, except the howling of the winds, and the murmuring of the wild waves—the thousands who have perished in battle, unnumbered and unnoticed—the many who have died alone, amid dreary forests, frozen seas, and devouring snow-storms—all these, and the places of their sepulchre, are known to God. That silent grot within the sea, where pearls lie deep, where now the shipwrecked one is sleeping, is marked by God as the death-place of one of his redeemed; that place upon the mountain-side, the deep ravine into which the traveler fell and was buried in a snow-drift, is marked in the memory of God as the tomb of one of the human race. No body of man, however it may have been interred or uninterred, has passed beyond the range of God's knowledge. Blessed be his name, if I shall die, and lie where the rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep, in some neglected corner of the churchyard, I shall be known as well, and rise as well recognized by my glorious Father, as if interred in the cathedral, where forests of gothic pillars proudly stand erect, and where the songs of myriads perpetually salute high heaven. I shall be known as well as if I had been buried there in solemn pomp, and had been interred with music and with dread solemnities, and I shall be recognized as well as if the marble trophy and the famous pillar had been raised to my remembrance; for God knoweth no such thing as forgetfulness of the burying-places of his children. Moses sleeps in some spot that eye hath not seen. God kissed away his soul, and he buried him where Israel could never find him, though they may have searched for him. But God knoweth where Moses sleeps; and if he knows that, he understands where all his children are hidden. Ye cannot bell me where is the tomb of Adam; ye could not point out to me the sleeping place of Abel. Is any man able to discover the tomb of Methuselah and those long-lived dwellers in the time before the flood? Who shall tell where the once-treasured body of Joseph now sleeps in faith? Can any of you discover the tombs of the kings, and mark the exact spot where David and Solomon rest in solitary grandeur? No, those things have passed from human recollection, and we know not where the great and mighty of the past are buried; but God knoweth, for death and Hades are open before the Lord.

And again, further, not only does he know the place where they were buried, but he is cognizant of the history of all their bodies after sepulture or after death. It has often been asked by the infidel, "How can the body of man be restored, when it may have been eaten by the cannibal, or devoured by wild beasts?" Our simple reply is, that God can track every atom of it if he pleases. We do not think it necessary to resurrection that he should do so, but if he so willed it, he could bring every atom of every body that hath ever died: although it hath passed through the most complicated machinery of nature, and become entangled in its passage with plants and beasts, yea, and with the bodies of other men, God hath it still within the range of his knowledge to know where every atom is, and it is within the might of his Omnipotence to call every atom from its wandering, and restore it to its proper sphere, and rebuild the body of which it was a part. It is true, we could not track the dust that long since has moldered. Buried with exactest care, preserved with the most scrupulous reverence, years passed away, and the body of the monarch, which had long slept well guarded and protected, was at last reached by the careless hand. The coffin had moldered, and the metal was broken for the sake of its own value; a handful of dust was discovered, the last relics of one who was master of many nations. That dust by sacrilegious hand was cast in the aisle of the church, or thrown into the churchyard and blown by the winds into the neighboring field. It was impossible for ever to preserve it; the greatest care was defeated; and at last the monarch was on a level with his slave, "alike unknowing and unknown." But God knows where every particle of the handful of dust has gone: he has marked in his book the wandering of every one of its atoms. He hath death so open before his view, that he can bring all these together, bone to bone, and clothe them with the very flesh that robed them in the days of yore, and make them live again. Death is open before the Lord.

And as the body, so the soul when separated from the body, is before the Lord. We look upon the countenance of our dying friend, and on a sudden a mysterious change passes over his frame. "His soul has fled," we say. But have we any idea of what his soul is? Can we form even a conjecture of what the flying of that soul may be, and what the august presence into which it is ushered when it is disentangled from its earthly coil? Is it possible for us to guess what is that state where Spirits without bodies, perpetually blest, behold their God? It is possible for us to compass some imagination of what heaven is to be, when bodies and souls, reunited, shall before God's throne enjoy the highest bliss; but I do think, that so gross are our conceptions, whilst we are in our bodies, that it is almost, if not quite, impossible for any of us to form any idea whatever as to the position of souls, whilst in the disembodied state, between the hour of death and the time of resurrection.

"This much, and this is all, we know;
They are supremely blest:
Have done with sin, and care, and woe,
And with their Saviour rest."

But the best of the saints can tell us nothing more than this. They are blest, and in paradise they are reigning with their Lord. Brethren, these things are known to God. The separate state of the dead, the heaven of disembodied spirits, is within the gaze of the Most High, and at this hour, if so he pleased, he could reveal to us the condition of every man that is dead—whether he has mounted to Elysian fields, to dwell for ever in the sunlight of his Master's countenance, or has been plunged into hell, dragged down by iron chains, to wait in dreary woe the result of the awful trial, when "Depart ye cursed," must be the re-affirmation of a sentence once pronounced, and already in part endured. God understands the separate doom of every man's spirit before the great tribunal day—before the last sentence shall have been pronounced, death is open before the Lord.

2. The next word, "destruction," signifies hell, or the place of the damned. That also is open before the Lord. Where hell is, and what its miseries, we know not; except "through a glass darkly," we have never seen the invisible things of horror. That land of terror is a land unknown. We have much reason to thank God that he has put it so far off from the habitations of living mortals, that the pains, the groans, the shrieks, the yells, are not to be heard here, or else earth itself would have become a hell, the solemn prelude and the ante-past of unutterable torment. God has put somewhere, far on the edge of his dominions, a tearful lake that burneth with fire and brimstone; into that he cast the rebel angels, who (though by a license they are now allowed to walk the earth) do carry a hell within their bosoms, and are by-and-by to be bound with chains, reserved in blackness and darkness for ever for them that kept not their first estate, but lifted the arm of their rebellion against God. Into that place we dare not look. Perhaps it would not be possible for any man to get a fair idea of the torments of the lost, without at once becoming mad. Reason would reel at such a sight of horror. One moment of listening to the shrill screams of spirits tortured, might forever drive us into the depths of despair, and make us only fit to be bound in chains whilst we lived on earth. Raving lunatics surely we must become. But whilst God has mercifully covered all these things from us, they are all known to him; he looks upon them; yea, it is his look that makes hell what it is. His eyes, full of fury, flash the lightnings that scathe his enemies; his lips, full of dreadful thunders, make the thunders that now Upright the wicked. 01 could they escape the eye of God, could they shut out that dreary vision of the face of the incensed Majesty of heaven, then might hell be quenched; then might the wheels of Ixion stand still; then might doomed Tantalus quench his thirst and eat to his very full. But there, whilst they lie in their chains, they look upward, and they see ever that fearful vision of the Most High; the dreadful hands that grasp the thunderbolts, the dreadful lips that speak the thunders, and the fearful eyes that flash the flames that burn their souls, with horrors deeper than despair. Yes, hell, horrible as it is, and veiled in many clouds, and covered over with darkness, is naked before the vision of the Most High.

There is the grand fact stated—"Hell and destruction are before the Lord." After this the inference seems to be easy—"How much more then the hearts of the children of men?"

II. We now come to the GRAND FACT INFERRED.

In briefly entering upon this second part I will discuss the subject thus: You notice there an argument—"How much more then the hearts of the children of men?" I will therefore begin by asking, why does it follow that the hearts of men are seen by God? Why—how—what—when—shall be four questions into which we shall divide what we have now to say.

1. Why is it so clear, that "if hell and destruction are open before the Lord," the hearts of men must be very plainly viewed by him?

We answer, because the hearts of men are not so extensive as the realms of death and torment. What is man's heart? what is man's self? Is he not in Scripture compared to a grasshopper? Does not God declare that he "takes up the isles"—whole islands full of men—"as a very little thing; And the nations before him are but as the drop of a bucket?" If, then, the all-seeing eye of God takes in at one glance the wide regions of death—and wide they are, wide enough to startle any man who shall try to range them through—if, I say, with one glance God seeth death and seeth hell through, with all its bottomless depths, with all its boundlessness of misery, surely, then, he is quite able to behold all the actions of the little thing called man's heart. Suppose a man so wise is to be able to know the wants of a nation and to remember the feelings of myriads of men, you can not suppose it difficult for him to know the actions of his own family and to understand the emotions of his oven household. If the man is able to stretch his arm over a great sphere, and to say, "I am monarch of all this," surely he shall be able to control the less. He who in his wisdom can walk through centuries shall not say that he is ignorant of the history of a year; he who can dive into the depths of science, and understand the history of the whole world from its creation, is not to be alarmed by some small riddle that happens at his own door. No, the God who seeth death and hell seeth our hearth for they are far less extensive.

Reflect again, that they are far less aged too. Death is an ancient monarch; he is the only king whose dynasty stands fast. Ever since the days of Adam he has never been succeeded by another, and has never had an interregnum in his reign. His black ebon sceptre hath swept away generation after generation; his scythe hath mowed the fair fields of this earth a hundred times, and is sharp to mow us down, and when another crop shall succeed us he is still ready to devour the multitudes, and sweep the earth clean again. The regions of death are old domains; his pillars of black granite are ancient as the eternal hills. Death made his prey on earth long ere Adam was here. Those mighty creatures that made the deep hoary with their strength, and stirred the earth with their tramplings—those elder born of natures sons, the mighty creatures that lived here long ere Adam walked in Eden—death made them his prey: like a mighty hunter he speared the mighty lizard and laid it low, and now we dig it from the stony tomb, and wonder at it. He is our ancient monarch; but ancient as he is, his whole monarchy is in the records of God, and until death itself is dead, and swallowed up in victory, death shall be open before the Lord. How old, too, is death—old as the first sin. In that day when Satan tempted the angels, and led astray the third part of the stars of heaven, then hell was digger; then was that bottomless pit first struck out of solid rocks of vengeance, that it might stand a marvelous record of what God's wrath can do. The fires of hell are not the kindlings of yesterday: they are ancient flames that burned long ere Vesuvius cast forth its lurid flame. Long ere the first charred ashes tell upon the plain from earth's red volcanoes, hell's flames we're burning; for "Tophet is prepared of old, the pile thereof is wood and much smoke; the breath of the Lord like a stream of brimstone, doth kindle it. If, then, the ancient things, these old ones, death and hell, have been observed by God, and if their total history is known to him, how much more then shall he know the history of those mere animalculae, those ephemera of an hour, that we call men! You are here to-day, and gone to-morrow; born yesterday—the next hour shall see our tomb prepared, and another minute shall hear, "ashes to ashes, dust to dust," and the falling of the clod upon the coffin lid. We are the creatures of a day, and know nothing. We are scarcely here; we are only living and dead. "Gone!" is the greatest part of our history. Scarcely have we time enough to tell the story, ere it comes to its finis. Surely, then, God may easily understand the history of a beast, when he knows the history of the monarchies of death and hell.

This is the why. I need not give further arguments, though there be abundance deducible from the text. "How much more then the hearts of the children of men?"

2. But now, how does God know the heart? I mean to what degree and to what extent does he understand and know that which is in man? I answer, Holy Scripture in divers places gives us most precise information. God knows the heart so well that he is said to "search" it. We all understand the figure of a search. There is a search-warrant out against some man who is supposed to be harboring a traitor in his house. The officer goes into the lower room, opens the door of every cupboard, looks into every closet, peers into every cranny, takes the key, descends into the cellar, turns over the coals, disturbs the wood, lest any one should be hidden there. Up stairs he goes: there is an old room that has not been open for years,—it is opened. There is a huge chest: the lock is forced, and it is broken open. The very top of the house is searched, lest upon the slates or upon the tiles some one should be concealed. At last, when the search has been complete, the officer says, "It is impossible that there can be anybody here, for, from the tiles to the foundation, I have searched the house thoroughly through; I know the very spiders well, for I have seen the house completely." Now, it is just so that God knows our heart. He searches it—searches into every nook, corner, crevice, and secret part; and the figure of the Lord is pushed further still. "The candle of the Lord," we are told, "searches the secret parts of the belly." As when we wish to find something, we take a candle, and look down upon the ground with great care, and turn up the dust. If it is some little piece of money we desire to find, we light a candle and sweep the house, and search diligently till we find it. Even so it is with God. He searches Jerusalem with candles, and pulls every thing to day-light. No partial search, like that of Laban, when he went into Rachel's tent to look for his idols. She put them in the camel's furniture, and sat upon them; but God looks into the camel's furniture, and all. "Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord." His eye searches the heart, and looks into every part of it.

In another passage we are told that God tries the reins. That is even more than searching. The goldsmith when he takes gold, looks at it, and examines it carefully. "Ah!" says he, "but I don't understand this gold yet: I must try it." He thrusts it into the furnace; there coals are heaped upon it, and it is fused and melted, till he knows what there is of dross, and what there is of gold. Now, God knows to the very carat how much there is of sound gold in us, and how much of dross. There is no deceiving him. He has put our hearts into the furnace of his Omniscience; the furnace—his knowledge—tries us as completely as the goldsmith's crucible doth try the gold—how much there is of hypocrisy, how much of truth—how much of steam, how much of real—how much of ignorance, how much of knowledge—how much of devotion, how much of blasphemy—how much of carefulness, how much of carelessness. God knows the ingredients of the heart; he reduces the soul to its pristine metals; he divides it asunder—so much of quartz, so much of gold, so much of dung, of dross, of wood, of hay, of stubble, so much of gold, silver, and precious stones. "The Lord trieth the hearts and searcheth the reins of the children of men."

Here is another description of God's knowledge of the heart. In one place of Sacred Writ—(it will be well if you set your children to find out these places at home)—God is said to ponder the heart. Now, you know, the Latin word ponder means weigh. The Lord weighs the heart. Old Master Quarles has got a picture of a great one putting a heart into one scale, and then putting the law, the Bible, into the other scale, to weigh it. This is what God does with men's hearts. They are often great, puffed-up, blown-out things, and people say, "What a great-hearted man that is!" But God does not judge by the appearance of a man's great heart nor the outside appearance of a good heart; but he puts it in the scales and weighs it—puts his own Word in one scale and the heart in the other. He knows the exact weight—knows whether we have grace in the heart, which makes us good weight, or only pretence in the heart, which makes us weigh light weight when put into the scale. He searches the heart in every possible way, he puts it into the fire, and then thrusts it into the balances. Oh, might not God say of many of you, "I have searched your heart, and I have found vanity therein? Reprobate silver shall men call you; for God has put you in the furnace and rejected you." And then he might conclude his verdict by saying, "Mene, mene, tekel—thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting." This, then, is the answer to the question, How?

The next question was, What? What is it that God sees in man's heart? God sees in man's heart a great deal more than we think of God sees, and has seen in out hearts, lust, and blasphemy, and murder, and adultery, and malice and wrath, and all uncharitableness. The heart never can be painted too black, unless you daub it with something blacker than the devil himself. It is as base as it can be. You have never committed murder, but yet you have had murder in your heart; you may never have stained your hands with lusts and the aspersions of uncleanness, but still it is in the heart. Have you never imagined an evil thing? Has your soul never for a moment doted on a pleasure which you were too chaste to indulge in, but which for a moment you surveyed with at least some little complacency and delight? Has not imagination often pictured, even to the solitary monk in his cell, greater vice than men in public life have ever dreamed of? And may not even the divine in his closet be conscious that blasphemies, and murders, and lusts of the vilest class, can find a ready harbor even in the heart which he hopes is dedicated to God? Oh! beloved, it is a sight that no human eye could endure: the sight of a heart really laid bare before one's own inspection would startle us almost into insanity: but God sees the heart in all its bestial sensuousness, in all its wanderings and rebellions, in all its high mindedness and pride; God has searched and knows it altogether.

God sees all the heart's imaginations, and what they are let us not presume to tell. O children of God, these have made you cry and groan full many a time, and though the worldling groans not over them, yet he hath them. Oh, what a filthy stye of Stygian imaginations is the heart; all full of every thing that is hideous, when it once begins to dance and make carnival and revelry concerning sin. But God sees the heart's imaginations.

Again, God sees the heart's devices. You, perhaps, O sinner, have determined to curse God; you have not done so, but you intend to do it. He knows your devices—reads them all. You perhaps will not be permitted to run into the excess of riotousness into which you purpose to go; but your very purpose is now undergoing the inspection of the Most High. There is never a design forged in the fires of the heart, before it is beaten on the anvil of resolve, that is not known, and seen, and noted by Jehovah our God.

He knows, next, the resolves of the heart. He knows, O sinner, how many times you have resolved to repent, and have resolved and re-resolved, and then have continued the same. He knows, O thou that hast been sick, how thou didst resolve to seek God, but how thou didst despise thine own resolution, when good health had put thee beyond the temporary danger. Thy resolves have been filed in heaven, and thy broken promises, and thy vows despised, shall be brought out in their order as swift witnesses for thy condemnation. All these things are known of God. We have often had very clear proof of God's knowing what is in man's heart, even in the ministry. Some months ago, whilst standing here preaching, I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said these words—"There is a man sitting there that is a shoemaker, keeps his shop open on Sunday, had his shop open last Sabbath morning, took ninepence, and -there was fourpence profit out of it. His soul is sold to Satan for fourpence." A City Missionary, when going round the West end of the town, met with a poor man, of whom he asked this question: "Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?" He found him reading a sermon. "Yes," he said, "I have every reason to know him; I have been to hear him, and under God's grace I have become a new man. "But," said he, "shall I tell you how it was? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place, and the man looked at me as if he knew me, and deliberately told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I sold shoes on a Sunday; and I did, sir. But, sir, I should not have minded that; but he said I took ninepence the Sunday before, and that there was fourpence profit; and so I did take ninepence, and fourpence was just the profit, and how he should know that I'm sure I can not tell. It struck me it was God had spoken to my soul through him; and I shut my shop last Sunday, and was afraid to open it and go there, lest he should split about me again." I could tell as many as a dozen authentic stories of cases that have happened in this Hall, where I have deliberately pointed at some body, without the slightest knowledge of the person, or ever having in the least degree any inkling or idea that what I said was right, except that I believed I was moved thereto by the Spirit; and so striking has been the description, that the persons have gone away and said, "Come, see a man that told me all things that ever I did: he was sent of God to my soul, beyond a doubt, or else he could not have painted my case so clearly."

And not only so, but we have known cases in which the thoughts of men have been revealed from the pulpit. I have sometimes seen persons nudge with their elbows, because they have got a smart hit, and I have heard them say, when they went out, "That is just what I said to you when I went in at the door." "Ah!" says the other, "I was thinking of the very thing he said, and he told me of it." Now, if God thus proves his own Omniscience by helping his poor, ignorant servant, to state the very thing, thought and done, when he did not know it, then it must remain decisively proved that God does know everything that is secret, because we see he tells it to men, and enables them to tell it to others. Oh, ye may endeavor as much as ye can to hide your faults from God, but beyond a doubt he shall discover you. He discovers you this day. His Word is "a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart," and "pierces to the dividing asunder of the joints and of the marrow;" and in that last day, when the book shall be opened, and he shall give to every man his sentence, then shall it be seen how exact, how careful, how precious, how personal was God's knowledge of the heart of every man whom he had made.

4. And now the last question: When? When does God see us? The answer is, he sees us everywhere and in every place. O foolish man, who thinks to hide himself from the Most High! It is night! no human eye sees thee; the curtain is drawn, and thou art hidden. There are his eyes lowering at thee through the gloom. It is a far-off country; no one knows thee; parents and friends have been left behind, restraints are cast off. There is a Father near thee, who looks upon thee even now. It is a lone spot, and if the deed be done, no tongue shall tell it. There is a tongue in heaven that shall tell it; yea, the beam out of the wall, and the stones in the field, shall raise up themselves as witnesses against thee. Canst thou hide thyself anywhere where God shall not detect thee? Is not this whole world like a glass hive, wherein we put our bees? and does not God stand and see all our motions when we think we are hidden? Ah, it is but a glass hiding-place. He looketh from heaven, and through stone walls and rocks; yea, to the very centre itself, does his eye pierce, and in the thickest darkness he beholds our deeds.

Come, then, let me make a personal application of the matter, and I have done. If this be true, hypocrite, what a fool thou art! If God can read the heart, O man, what a sorry, sorry thing thy fair pretense must be! Ah! ah! ah! what a change will come over some of you! This world is a masquerade, and ye, many of you, wear the mask of religion. Ye dance your giddy hours, and men think you to be the saints of God. How changed will you be, when, at the door of eternity, you must drop the visor, and must announce the theatricals in which you live! How you will blush when the paint is washed from off your cheek—when you stand before God naked to your own shame, a hypocrite, unclean, diseased, covered up before with the gew-gaws and the trickery of pretended formality in religion, but now standing there, base, vile, and hideous! There is many a man that bears about him a cancer that would make one sick to see. Oh, how shall hypocrites look when their cancerous hearts are laid bare! Deacon! how you will tremble when your old heart is torn open, and your vile pretences rent away! Minister! how black you will look when your surplice is off, and when your grand pretensions are cast to the dogs! How will you tremble! There will be no sermonizing others then. You yourself will be preached to, and the sermon shall be from that text, "Depart ye cursed." O brethren, above all things shun hypocrisy. If ye mean to be damned, make up your minds to it, and be damned like honest men; but do not, I beseech you, pretend to go to heaven while all the time you are going to hell. If ye mean to make your abodes in torment forever, then serve the devil, and do not be ashamed of it; stand it right out, and let the world know what you are. But oh! never put on the cloak of religion. I beseech you, do not add to your eternal misery being a wolf in sheep's clothing. Show the cloven foot; do not hide it. If you mean to go to hell, say so. "If God be God, serve him. If Baal be God, serve him." Do not serve Baal and then pretend to be serving God.

One other practical conclusion. If God sees and knows everything, how this ought to make you tremble—you that have lived in sin for many years! I have known a man who was once stopped from an act of sin by the fact of there being a cat in the room. He could not bear even the eyes of that poor creature to see him. Oh, I would ye could carry about with you the recollection of those eyes that are always on you. Swearer! could you swear if you could see God's eye looking at you? Thief! drunkard! harlot! could ye indulge in your sins, if ye saw his eyes on you? Oh, methinks they would startle you and bid you pause, before ye did in God's own sight rebel against his law. There is a story told of the American War, that one of the prisoners taken by the Americans was subjected to a torture of the most refined character. He says, "I was put into a narrow dungeon; I was comfortably provided for with all I needed; but there was a round slit in the wall, and through that, both night and day, a soldier always looked at me." He says, "I could not rest, I could not eat nor drink, nor do anything in comfort, because there was always that eye—an eye that seemed never to be turned away, and never shut—always following me round that little apartment. Nothing ever hidden from it." Now take home that figure. Recollect that is your position; you are shut in by the narrow walls of time, when ye eat, and when ye drink, when ye rise, and when ye lie upon your beds; when ye walk the streets, or when ye sit at home, that eye is always fixed upon you. Go home now and sin against God, if ye dare; go home now and break his laws to his face, and despise him, and set him at nought! Rush on your own destruction; dash yourselves against the buckler of Jehovah, and destroy your selves upon his own sword! Nay, rather, "turn ye, turn ye." Turn ye, ye that have followed the ways of sin, turn ye to Christ, and live; and then the same Omniscience which is now your horror, shall be your pleasure. Sinner! if thou now dost pray, he seeth thee; if thou now dost weep he seeth thee. "When he was yet a great way off his father saw him, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." It shall be even so with thee, if now thou turnest to God and dost believe in his Son Jesus Christ.



     The Hedge of Thorns and the Plain



         Metropolitan  Tabernacle, Newington, 1887

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.


“The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.”—Proverbs 15:19.


You must have noticed how frequently godly people almost wear out their Bibles in certain places. The Psalms, the Gospel of John, and parts of the Epistles are favourite portions, and are thumbed in many an old believer’s Bible till the fact is very noticeable. There are certain sheep-tracks up the slopes of Scripture which are much more trodden than the rest of the holy fields. I suppose it has always been so, and I will not quarrel with the instincts of the saints.

I do however regret that any portion of Holy Writ should be neglected. There are Bible-readers who keep clear of the historical parts of Scripture, and also greatly avoid the Book of Proverbs: indeed, they almost wonder how Proverbs and Ecclesiastes come to be a part of the Word of God. Very singular it must seem to them that this Book of Proverbs should be placed so very near to Solomon’s Song —that sacred canticle which is the center and climax of inspired Scripture: a book which I do not hesitate to call “the holy of holies”—the innermost sanctuary of divine love. Concerning that deeply mystical, mysterious, and rapturous canticle, it would be impossible to speak too highly: it is indeed the Song of songs —a song however which none can sing but such as are made songsters by God himself by partaking of the inspiration, not of the fount which gushed from Mount Parnassus, but of that fount of every blessing which flows from the mount of everlasting love. It is certainly remarkable that hard by such a deeply-spiritual Book there should be placed the Book of Proverbs, which mainly consists of instructions for this life. Doubtless there is a meaning in that arrangement. The Lord would not have the highest spirituality divorced from common-sense. God has made us body and soul, and he would have us serve him with both. There is a part of us that is material and there is a part that is spiritual; and both need guidance such as the Holy Spirit affords us in the inspired Book. The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed us, not as to our soul alone, nor our spirit alone, but as to our body also; and he would have us recognize this fact.

While we are in the world we are not to regard ourselves as if we were pure spirits, having nothing to do with earth; but we are to look to our lower nature and our earthly surroundings, and order all these in accordance with the will of the Lord. It is not enough that our hearts are cleansed; our bodies are to be washed with pure water. We are in the world, and we must eat and drink and work and trade even as other men do; and all this must be as much brought under the rule of wisdom as our higher nature and its actions. The Christian’s faith does not come to him merely to create holy raptures and heavenly emotions, but it comes to help him in the business of every day.

Grace is intended to sanctify all the relations of life. There is no necessity that a man who is wise unto salvation should in other respects be a fool; but the reverse should be constantly seen: sanctity should beget sagacity, and purity should be the mother of prudence. We are to make the common things of this world sacred to God, so that the bells of the horses may be as truly “Holiness unto the Lord” as was the mitre of the consecrated priest who served at the altar.

I pray my friends not to be so spiritual that they cannot do a good day’s work, or give full measure, or sell honest wares. To my disgust I have known persons professing to have reached perfect purity who have done very dirty things. I have been suspicious of superfine spirituality since I knew one who took no interest in the affairs of this world, and yet speculated till he lost thousands of other people’s money. Do not get to be so heavenly-minded that you cannot put up with the little vexations of the family; for we have heard of people of whom it was said that the sooner they went to heaven the better, for they were too disagreeable to live with below.

As the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ is meant for this world as well as for worlds to come, so the volume of Holy Scripture is fitly made to contain Proverbs as well as Psalms. I have been told, but I do not know how true it is, that Scotland owes very much of its practical shrewdness to the fact that the Book of Proverbs used to be printed in a small form, and was one of the first books read by all the children at the public schools. I can only say that if it was so, it showed much wisdom on the part of those who made the arrangement; and I have no doubt that if it were so still, it would be a clear gain to the rising generation. It is a right thing to have practical teaching in connection with sound doctrine, and common-sense in conjunction with deep spirituality. Let the Gospels, and Psalms, and Prophets, and Epistles be your bread, and let the Book of Proverbs be your salt. Neglect neither the one nor the other.

I preach at this time from the word of Solomon which is now before us, and I shall not withhold from you its everyday meaning; but I shall also exhibit its higher lights, for I believe that there is not a moral truth in the Book of Proverbs which does not also wear a spiritual aspect. I shall try to show you that our text, while it has its temporal bearings, which we will not conceal, has beyond these its higher and spiritual teachings, with which we will conclude.

I. First then, take the text in its temporal bearings. It runs thus—“The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.”

Note then first of all that a slothful man is the opposite of a righteous man. In the text they are set in opposition. “The way of the slothful man” is placed in contrast, not with the way of the diligent man, but with “the way of the righteous,” as if to show that the slothful man is the very opposite of being a righteous man. A sluggard is not a righteous man, and he cannot be, he misses a main part of rightness. It is very seldom that a sluggard is honest: he owes at least more labor to the world than he pays. He is guilty of sins of omission, for he fails in obedience to one of the laws laid upon manhood since the fall: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread.” He aspires to eat his bread without earning it: he would if he could eat bread for nought, or eat the bread for which others toil, and this verges upon coveting and stealing and generally leads up to one or both of these sins. The sluggard evades the common law of society; and equally does he offend against the rule which our apostle promulgated in the church: “If any would not work, neither should he eat.” The sluggard is not righteous for he does not render to God according to the strength lent to him, nor to man according to the work assigned him. A slothful man is a soldier who would let others fight the battle of life while he lies under the baggage-wagon asleep, until rations are served out. He is a husbandman who only husbands his own strength, and would eat the grapes while others trim the vines. He would, if possible, be carried on his bed into the kingdom of heaven; he is much too great a lover of ease to go on pilgrimage over rough and weary ways. If the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence from others it will never suffer violence from him. He is too idle to be importunate, too slothful to be earnest.

He cannot be a righteous man for slothfulness leads to the neglect of duty in many ways, and very soon it leads to lying about those neglects of duty, and no liar can have a portion in heaven. Idleness is selfishness, and this is not consistent with the love of our neighbor, nor with any high degree of virtue. Every good thing withers in the drought of idleness. In fact, all kinds of vices are comprehended in the one vice of sloth, and if you tell me that a man is a sluggard I have his whole character before me in the blackest of letters. His fallow fields are well adapted for evil seed, and no doubt Satan will raise a fine crop of weeds in every corner of his life. What this world would have been if we had all been gentlemen with nothing to do, I cannot tell. The millions that have to work are largely kept out of mischief by their toil, and although crimes are abundant enough in our great city as it is, what would they have been if there had not been daily tasks to keep men from excessive indulgence in drink and other forms of evil? Without labor, the ale-houses would have been crammed every one of the twenty-four hours; folly would have held unbroken carnival, and licentiousness would have burst all bounds. Amongst the sanitary and salutary regulations of the moral universe there is none much better than this—that men must work. He who does not work is not a righteous man for he is out of accord with that which makes for righteousness. In some form or other, with either brain or hand, either by working or enduring, we share the common labors of the race appointed them of heaven; and if we are not doing so, we are not righteous. I call to your remembrance the remarkable words of the Savior, “Thou wicked and slothful servant.” Those two adjectives are nearly related—“wicked and slothful.” Might not our Lord have said “slothful” alone? He might, but he knew how much of wickedness goes with sloth and is inherent in it, and therefore he branded it with the condemning word.

Our second observation is this: if we avoid sloth we have not done enough, we must also be righteous. If it had been sufficient to shake off idleness and become industrious the text would have run thus: “The way of the slothful is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the diligent is made plain.” Ah, dear friends! a man may be very industrious, and energetic, and earnest, but if it is in a wrong cause he might have been less mischievous had he been slothful. To be exhibiting industry by doing a great deal of mischief is not commendable. To be actively disseminating your opinions if those opinions are false is to be doing grievous harm. To rise up early, and to sit up late, and to eat the bread of carefulness merely for selfish ends is not to secure a blessing. There is a diligence which is produced by greed or ambition; and this is no better than the selfishness which is the cause of it. Many wear themselves to skin and bone to gather that which is not bread, to hoard up that which can never satisfy them. We are to become the servants of righteousness when we escape from the servitude of sloth. “Not slothful in business” is very well; but to complete the change we must be gracious in our diligence, being “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord.” We must do that which is right, and kind, and holy; and so we must live to the honor and glory of him to whom we owe all things.

Young men who are beginning life, it is well that you should be urged to be diligent, but it is better that you should be led to be righteous! Worldlings would have you industrious, but saints would have you righteous. You can be made righteous in state through faith in Jesus Christ, and righteous in character through the renewal of your heart by the Holy Ghost. Mind this.

The text leads us to make a third observation which repeats its very words: namely, that a slothful man’s way is like a hedge of thorns. Here we enlarge. The idler’s way is not a desirable way. Unthinking persons suppose that the sluggard lives a happy life and travels an easy road. It is not so. Many believe in “the sweet doing of nothing,” but it is a sheer fiction. Surface appearances are not the truth: though it may seem that idleness is rest, it is not so: though sloth promises ease, it cheats its votaries. Of all unrest there is none more wearisome than that of having nothing whatever to do. The severest toil is far more endurable than utter sloth. I have heard of retired business men going back to the counter from absolute weariness of idleness. It is far more desirable to be righteous than it is to be at ease. Labour of a holy sort has ten thousand times more joy in it than purposeless leisure.

The way of the sluggard is also difficult. The idle man walks a hard road in his own apprehension: he has to break through thorns. Every mole-hill is a mountain to him; every straw is a stumbling-block. There is a lion in the way, he will be slain in the streets. You look out and can only see the smallest possible dog, but he is sure that it is a roaring lion and he must stay at home and go to bed. He cannot plough by reason of the cold. The clods are frozen he is sure; they are hard as iron and will break the plough-share. If you look out of doors you will see the neighbours’ teams going, but he has another excuse if you beat him out of the one he has given you. The difficulties that he sees are created in his own mind by his natural sluggishness; but he has such a creative faculty that he has always twenty arguments against exerting himself once. The first thing such persons do in the morning when they open their window is to look out and see a difficulty. Whenever they are sent about a task or on an errand they straightway begin to consider the great labor that will be involved in it, the imminent risk that will surely come of it, and the great advantages of leaving it undone. To the slothful man, his way, when he gets so far as having a way at all, always appears to be as hard to pursue as a hedge of thorns; and mark you! if he continues slothful it will actually become a hedge of thorns. Difficulties imagined are apt to arrive. Duty neglected to-day will have to be done some time or other; and the arrears of neglected service are grim debts. The slothful is like the spendthrift who does not reckon what he spends, but contents himself with crying, “Put it down.” The score increases and again he cries, “Put it down.” He resolves to do better and then gives a bill, or renews a former bill and dreams that the debt is paid. But the debt remains, accumulates, and follows the man’s track. Old debts pursue a man. Like wolves which hunt the flying traveler across the snowy plains of Russia, neglects and obligations follow a man with swift and sure pursuit, and there is no way of escape. It is the past which makes the present and the future so difficult. The sluggard’s way appears to lie not only over a thorny brake, but over a compacted mass of thorns of set purpose planted for a hedge. Dear friends, do not put off till to-morrow that which can be done to-day. Keep the road clear of arrears. Do the day’s work in the day. I am persuaded that in your ordinary business work some of you Christian people need to be warned against shiftless delay. Believe me, there is a piety in keeping your work well in hand, in having the house right, the business in order, the daily task well done. True religion seeks to honor God in all the transactions of life and this cannot be done by idling, by postponement, and by allowing work to run behind. No slut can be a saint; no sluggard can glorify God. Life grows hard and unenviable to men who try to make it easy. A man who neglects his duty, whether he be a carpenter, a bricklayer, a clerk, a minister, or an archbishop, will find his way increase in difficulty until it becomes almost impassable.

Before long the sluggard’s course becomes a very painful way, for a way of thorns tears a man’s garments and wounds his flesh; and you cannot be neglectful of the ordinary duties of life without by-and-by suffering for it. Loss of character, loss of position, and actual want all come from idleness.

Continue in that course and you will find your way become a hedge of thorns in a further sense, for it will be blocked up altogether. You will be unable to go on at all. You took it easy once, but what will you do now? You neglected duty, you forbore to do the service of the day, and at last your sins have found you out; nobody will have you and you are a burden to yourself. Now have you found a hedge of thorns in your way. This is clear enough, and it has been seen by most of us in actual life in several cases.

The other truth of the text is equally clear—a righteous man’s way becomes plain: “The way of the righteous is made plain.” When a man by the Holy Spirit’s gracious influence upon him is made thoroughly truthful, thoroughly honest so that he walks in his integrity, it is most pleasant to note how soon by some means or other his way opens up before him. We have seen good men in great straits and adversities: their own conscientiousness may appear to narrow their course, and of course the depressions of business fall upon righteous men as much as upon the unrighteous; but in the long run you will see that if a man keeps straight, and walks in strict integrity and faith, the Lord will make darkness light before him and crooked things straight. Ask the aged man of God whose life has been full of grace and truth, and he will tell you that though he was brought low the Lord has helped him. He will interest you with his account of the struggles of his younger days, and how when he had his large family of little children about him he was tempted to do a questionable act, but was enabled to hold fast his integrity and found in his steadfastness the way to success. Those stories which some of us heard as boys at our father’s fireside, or which our grandsires told us before they were taken up to heaven, are to some of us heirlooms treasured as tokens for good, and proofs of the faithfulness of God. We know that integrity and uprightness are the best preservatives. If we will not put forth our hand unto iniquity even during the worst pinch, we shall come forth as the light. But if in trouble you try to get out of it by indirect means, you will involve yourself in tenfold difficulty. It is far better to be poor than dishonest; ay, it is better to die than to dishonor our profession. It is God’s business to provide for us, and he will do it. We are not to be too fast in providing for ourselves. We must not command the stones to be made bread by forestalling the Lord in that which is his own peculiar province. Remember our Lord’s answer to the tempter, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” We shall dwell in the land, and verily we shall be fed; but how this is to be accomplished is the Lord’s business rather than ours. “The way of the righteous is made plain.” Only wait and watch and you shall see the salvation of God.

Thus I have set before you the moral or temporal meaning of the text, commending it earnestly to the consideration of all, especially of men of business, begging them to see to it that there be no neglect about any part of their calling, for a Christian’s business ought to be the best done of any man’s in the world.

Look to it also that there be no swerving from righteousness in aught that you do, for the safest and surest road is the way of truth, the path of righteousness. If you keep close to God and make him your guide even unto death, you will have no need to trouble yourself about your way—the Lord will make it plain.

II. Now I come to the spiritual teaching of the text; and may the Lord anoint our eyes by his Holy Spirit that we may see!

Take the first side of the text, the spiritual sluggard, what is said of him? His way is “as an hedge of thorns.” I gather from the opposition of the text that the spiritual sluggard’s way is the way of unbelief, because the opposite of his way is the way of the righteous. Now, the way of the righteous is the way of faith—“We walk by faith.” Therefore the spiritual sluggard’s way is the way of unbelief.

I will describe him. He has a way, for he is not altogether dead to religious matters. He hears sermons, and attends the house of God. He sometimes reads his Bible, and he often has a correct notion of what the gospel is. But he fails in faith: he has not faith enough in the truth of the things which he professes to believe ever to be affected by them in his daily life, or in his truest feelings. If he did really believe these things to be true, his life would not be slothful. When a man believes that there is a hell, he labors to escape from it. When a man verily believes that there is a heaven, unless he is demented he has an ambition to partake in its glories. When a man really and truly accepts the fact of his having sinned against a righteous God, and believes in the evil of sin, he pines to be cleansed from sin. When he heartily believes in the power of the precious blood of Christ to make him clean, he seeks to be washed therein that he may be pure before the sight of God. The spiritual sluggard does not believe after that practical fashion. He says “It is true,” but he acts as if it were false. He is too much a sluggard to become an infidel; he is too lethargic to argue against the truth which condemns him; he nods assent, it is the nod of sleep. We might have more hope of him if he would begin to contradict. If he would think enough of the truth to endeavor to justify his unbelief of it, we might hope that he had opened one of his eyes; but while he continues to cry “Yes; oh, yes;” and to do all that is proper, but nothing that is decided and earnest, we have small hope of him. He prays at times, but it is a dreamy devotion. He has not faith enough in prayer to continue in it till he is heard in heaven. He listens to the preaching of the gospel, but as a sluggard he lets what is said go in at one ear and out at the other: he grasps nothing, feels nothing, retains nothing. He is often on the verge of some good and great thing, but it ends in smoke. He has resolved in real earnest to look to his eternal state and seek the Lord with all his might, but his resolves are frail as bubbles. If you were to tell him that in seven years’ time he would be just as dull, stupid, and sinful as he now is, he would angrily deny it; but such will be the case. He intends only to delay a very little longer, and then he is going to entertain the great question in the most serious manner. If I recollect rightly he was in the same mind twenty years ago, and I fear he will continue in the same mind when death comes upon the scene and ends all his dreaming. I fear that of him it will be true, “in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torments.” He will not open his eyes till then.

I must not forget that this sluggard did once make an effort. He gave up one of his vices: that is to say he almost did so, but he soon returned to it. He was a drunkard, and he went the length of not drinking quite so much. Perhaps he even went so far as not drinking at all, which was a good thing for him, but then he made up for his self-denial in that direction by indulgence in another way. If you cannot sink a ship by a hole in one place you can do so by boring a hole in another: while some go down to perdition by one sin, others destroy themselves by another. The sluggard spent all his strength in tinkering one breakage, and he had no energy left to mend a second flaw. He was so much asleep that he murmured in his dream, “Well done! I am a splendid fellow.” Even when a friend shook him, he yawned, and turned over, and went to sleep again. He was almost awakened but he preferred to doze till a more convenient season. He heard a sermon the other day upon “One thing thou lackest,” and he cried, “That’s me!” and slumbered again. He heard a discourse upon judgment to come and he at once admitted the absolute need of being prepared for death and judgment; but he did not prepare, and in all probability he will die in his sins. The man has no resolution, no soul for action, no spirit for anything good. He is given up to slumber; he pleads always for a little more folding of the arms to sleep. He will, he will; he assures you that he will wake up; but he never does. Oh that by the grace of God this dreamer could be aroused! His way is the way of unbelief, and he keeps to it with a deadly persistence which must end in destruction.

Now, that way is full of thorns. It is a very hard way. I will show you in a minute that it is so. People who are in this state cannot quite give up religion, and yet they have never really taken to it. Do you notice how hard everything is to them? To begin with, ministers always preach such dreadfully long sermons. The sermon is not long to you who feed upon the word; but to those who sleep at the table it is intolerably tedious. The whole service is dreary to them, though to believers it is bright and happy. And Sundays! To me the Sabbath is the pearl of the week, but to these sluggards in religion it is a day of gloom. We hear them speak of “dreary English Sundays.” They piteously describe the closed shops and theatres and museums; and enquire what a man is to do in so sad a case. To go to church? To hear of the best things? This is much too hard a task for sluggish minds. Poor dear souls! As for a prayer-meeting, they never condescend to consider such a gathering; it is too dreary. Or if perchance they go nobody ever prays to please them; their ideal of devotion is not reached. Ask them whether they read the Bible at home. They might do so if they were flogged to it, but the Bible does not interest them, and it requires so much thought: they cannot muster mind enough for it. To us it is a Book which sparkles with the divinest truth: it is the Book of God: the Lord of books: there is no volume like it. But to these people Bible-reading is hard labor, and worse. Prayer also is slavery; repentance is impossible. The revival plan of “Believe, and live,” without any repentance—they rather take to for a time till they begin to understand more of what the evangelist means.

They go into the enquiry-room and get “converted” in five minutes, and have done with godliness for the rest of their lives. Possibly some time after they hear of a sanctification to be had in the same manner: they believe themselves to be perfect and feel that there is no more need for watchfulness or striving; for sin is dead and they are perfect. When they are told what repentance and faith really are, and that these are for daily, life-long use, and that we must every day watch and strive against temptation without and within, they disappear from among our hearers for they do not wish to trouble themselves with so great an enterprise. If they could be carried to heaven in a sedan chair or trip there in their slippers they would be glad of it; but to go on pilgrimage up hill and down dale is another matter. Their way is as full of difficulties as a thorn-hedge is full of prickles.

Moreover, it is full of perplexities. Do you ever meet with these sluggards? I do. They sometimes come to see me, and when they come this is their style of talk. They say, “Well sir, I have heard about believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Can you tell me what it means?” I explain that it is a simple acceptance of God’s testimony and trust in the Lord Jesus. Do you understand that? They say “Yes.” Then they raise a difficulty, which I explain. Do you quite comprehend that? “Yes sir, I see that, but”—and then follows a further doubt. This also is cleared up in time to make room for another. Again and again it is —“Yes, but then—.” Thus I continue grinding wind by the hour together. Their minds are bottomless buckets and their memories are bags full of holes: it is very unprofitable work to endeavor to fill them. I seem to be trying to catch a fox. I stop up its hole but it is out at another opening. This also I stop and fifty more, and to my surprise I hear the shout, “Hark, away!” My fox has gone across country. He is further off than ever: it was great folly on my part to imagine that I could bring him to earth, or dig him out of his burrow. These people are great at questions, the whole difficulty really lying in their unbelief—they are unwilling to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. When a man does not wish to believe, reasons for doubting gather about him in swarms like flies. Besides, it is such a fashionable thing, you know, to doubt. You are aware that all the cultured folk display great facility in fashioning doubts, while those who believe God to be true and do not mistrust his word are common-place persons of a very low order of mind. You smile; but this is a very convincing argument to our sleepy friend. No great logic is needed to lull a sluggard to repose. It is the fashion to doubt, and you may as well be dead and buried as out of the fashion! These sluggish people will not take the trouble to sift evidence; they have no wish to be driven to turn from their sins and seek a Savior, and be reconciled to God: this would be too much exertion and involve too many self-denials and heart-searchings. They prefer a way full of perplexities to the new and living way: they choose a thorn-hedge rather than the King’s highway of righteousness.

Nor is this all. In addition to perplexities their way becomes full of miseries. The sermon which pleases the believer and cheers his heart, saddens the sluggard. The prayer which is to us a delight is to them a cause of anxiety, if they enter into it at all. The sight of bread is a great joy to a hungry man; but suppose he does not eat it, and there it stands—well then it becomes an instrument of torture fit for Tantalus to use. I should suppose that nothing could aggravate thirst much more than the mirage of the desert when the traveler sees a stream of bright sparkling water rippling at his feet, and yet not a drop is there. His fancy torments his thirst. So for some of you to hear of the feast of love and to see the joy of the children of God must be horrible if you yourselves have neither part nor lot therein. That promise quoted by the preacher, how it must have grated on your ear if you knew its value and yet did not embrace it by faith! Painful is this predicament. You are sadly placed, for you enjoy neither good nor evil. If you were to go straight out into the world and plunge into the pleasures of it you would at least know one side of life; but you dare not do that, you have too much conscience, too much training in religious ways to run with the worldling in his wantonness; so that you neither know the pleasures of the world nor the pleasures of grace. You feel restraints from both sides but you know not the liberties of either side. Betwixt two stools you come to the ground. Neither heaven nor hell is on your side; both saints and sinners are shy of you, and so your way is as a thorn-hedge. It is dreadful for a man to have enough conscience to know that he is lost, but not enough grace to find salvation; to have enough religion to make him uncomfortable in sin but not enough to make him happy in Christ. I know some who continue in sin and yet at night have terrible dreams, and wake up in a cold sweat of fear. They dare not think of the course of conduct which they nevertheless persevere in: they go onward to destruction, and by-and-by they will take a leap in the dark because they are too idle to wake up. O mighty grace, wake these sluggards or else they will sleep themselves into eternal misery!

“The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns.” One of these days he will come to the end of his way, and he will see that hedge of thorns blocking him out of heaven—blocking him out from God. His sins like a thick hedge will stand in front of him as he is about to die, and will shut him out from hope while his despairing soul will cry, “Oh, that I could find mercy! Oh, that I could find deliverance!” Recollection of wasted opportunities and of a rejected gospel and of despised Sabbaths will come up before him, and through that thornhedge his naked soul will be unable to force its way into hope and peace. God grant that we may not be among the sluggards at the end of the way!

We will now consider the other side of the text very briefly and notice that the righteous man’s way shall be made plain. This is a cheering promise, especially to any of you who are walking in the dark at this time. “The way of the righteous is made plain.” The Lord will see to this. The way of the righteous is the way of faith. They see him who is invisible, and they trust in God. They look for their pardon to the precious blood of Jesus Christ; in fact they look to God in Christ Jesus for everything. Their way has impediments in it: crooked things are in it, mountains are in it, and deep gulfs; but see the beauty of the promise, “The way of the righteous is made plain.” Difficulties shall be removed, the valleys shall be exalted, and the mountains and hills shall be laid low, the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain. Child-like confidence in God shall march on as upon a raised causeway and always find for itself a road. Faith travels by an unseen track to honor and glory, neither shall anything turn her aside. Her way may not be plain at this moment, but it shall be made so. God is with those who trust in him, and what or whom shall we fear when God is with us? In due time the hand of the Lord shall be seen. To the moment the divine power will time its interposition. The Red Sea was not divided a single second before Israel passed through it. The Jordan only flowed apart when the feet of the Lord’s priests actually came to the water’s brim. To-morrow’s difficulties are real, and to-morrow’s grace will be real. When to-morrow comes, sufficient unto the day shall be the divine help thereof. When you come to the sepulcher you shall find that the stone is rolled away from its mouth. In due time the way of the righteous shall be made plain, and that is all the righteous should desire or expect.

Sometimes the way of the righteous is mysterious and perplexing. I have known the best of men say, “I long to do the right and by God’s grace I will not stoop to anything which is evil; but which out of the two ways now before me is the right way? Each of them seems to be both hopeful and doubtful; which way shall I turn?” This is a condition which causes great anxiety to one who is deeply earnest to be right. Oh for an oracle which could plainly indicate the path! Superstition and fanaticism shall not be gratified by either voice or dream, but yet the way of the righteous shall be made plain. Brother, when you do not know your way ask your guide. Stand still and pray. If you cannot find the way upon the chart, commit yourself to the divine guidance by prayer. Down on your knees and cry to the Lord! Few go wrong when they pray over their movements and use the judgment which God has given them. The last is not to be omitted, for I have known persons pray about a matter which was perfectly clear to any one with half a grain of sense. In order to escape from an evident but unpleasant duty they have talked about praying over it. Where a plain command is given an unmistakable finger points the way, and hesitation is rebellion. Sluggards make prayer an excuse for doing nothing: on the other hand wilful people make up their mind and then pray, and this is sheer hypocrisy.

God is insulted by prayers which only mean that the petitioner would be glad of divine allowance to do wrong—glad of an event which might be twisted into guidance in a doubtful direction. Such prayers God will never hear, but the way of the righteous shall be made plain. The path of faith shall end in peace, the way of holiness shall conduct to happiness. Your way may be so dark that you cannot see your hand before you, but God will before long make it bright as noonday. At this moment all the wise men in the world might not be able to predict your path; but the Lord will direct you. Only trust in the Lord and do good, and he will light your candle, yea, he will cause his sun to shine upon you. There is a blessing in the very act of waiting upon God, and out of it comes this joy, that your way shall be made plain.

I find one excellent translation runs thus—“The way of the righteous is a highway.” The righteous do not follow the blind alleys and back streets of craft and policy: “The way of the righteous is a highway;” it is the open road where none may challenge the traveler. It is the King’s highway where the passenger has a right to be. It is a grand thing to feel that in your position in life you are where you have a right to be, and that you came there by no trespass or breaking of hedges; that you are doing what you have a right to do before the living God and none may gainsay you. He that is in the King’s highway is under the King’s protection, and he that stops him by daylight shall come under the strong hand of the law. Our King has said, “No lion shall be there, neither shall any ravenous beast go up thereon.”

He that is on the King’s highway will come to a good end, for the King has completed that way so that it does not fall short, but leads to a city of habitations whose Builder and Maker is God. Oh, to be right with God; yea, to be right with him in our daily life and private walk! Let that be the case, and our way shall be judged of by the Lord as his own royal highway, and upon it the light of his love shall shine so that it shall become brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.

O God of great mercy, keep us in thy fear, and through thy grace lead us in imitation of thy dear Son to abide in holiness! And to thy name be praise for ever and ever! Amen.


                      Unsound Spiritual Trading


                           January 10th, 1869,

                at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                              by C. H. Spurgeon.


 “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord           
                       weigheth the spirits.”
——Proverbs 16:2.


During the last two years some of the most notable commercial reputations have been hopelessly destroyed. Men in the great world of trade who were trusted for hundreds of thousands of pounds, around whose characters there hovered no cloud of suspicion nor even the shade of doubt, have proved themselves reckless of honesty and devoid of principle. The fiery trial has been too much for the wood, hay, and stubble of many a gigantic firm. Houses of business which seemed to be founded upon a rock, and to stand as fast as the commonwealth of England itself, have been shaken to their foundations and have caved in with a tremendous crash: on all sides we see the wrecks of great reputations and colossal fortunes. There is wailing in the palaces of sham, and desolation in the halls of pretense. Bubbles are bursting, windbags are collapsing, paint is cracking, gilt is peeling off. Probably we have more of this to come, more revelations still to be made of apparent wealth which covered insolvency, as a rich paper may cover a mud wall; crafty schemes which duped the public with profits never made, and tempted them to advance to deeper speculations, even as the mirage of the desert mocks the traveler. We have seen in the public prints month after month, fresh discoveries of the modes of financing adopted by the villainy of this present age, to accomplish robbery respectably, and achieve felony with credit. We have been astonished and amazed at the vile tricks and shameless devices to which men of eminence have condescended. And yet we have been compelled to hear justifications of gigantic frauds, and have even been compelled to believe that the perpetrators of them did not consider themselves to be acting disreputably, their own previous successes, and the low state of morality, together having lulled them into a state in which conscience, if not dead, was thoroughly asleep. I say, we may probably have yet more to see of this school of dishonesty; but it is a pity that we should—and altogether needless—for the whole trade of financing is now to be examined by the diligent student, with models and living examples, more than enough to illustrate every single portion of the art. Some ages may have been great in science, others in art, and others in war, but our era overtops every other in the proficiency of its rascals; this is the classic period of chicanery, the golden age of fraud. Let a man have a base heart, and a seared conscience, and a plausible mode of address, and let him resolve upon deluding the public out of millions, he need not travel to learn the readiest method, he can find examples near at home amongst high professors and the great ones of the earth. My brethren, these noises of falling towers on the right, these sounds of crumbling battlements on the left, these cries of the shipwrecked everywhere along the coasts of trade, have not only awakened within me many thoughts relative to themselves and the rottenness of modern society, but they have made me muse upon similar catastrophes evermore occurring in the spiritual world. Unrecorded in the journals, and unmourned by unregenerate men, there are failures and frauds and bankruptcies of soul most horrible to think upon. There is a spiritual trading just as pretentious and apparently just as successful as your vaunted limited liability juggle, but really just as rotten and as sure to end in hopeless overthrow. Speculation is a spiritual vice as well as a commercial one— trading without capital is common in the religious world, and puffery and deception are every-day practices. The outer world is always the representative of the inner; the life which clusters round the Exchange illustrates that which gathers within the church; and if our eyes were opened and our ears were able to hear, the sights and the sounds of the spirit world would far more interest us and sadden us than the doings which begin in the directors’ board-room and end we know not where. We should see at this moment colossal religious fortunes melting into abject spiritual poverty. We should see high professors, much reverenced and held in esteem, brought into shame and everlasting contempt. We should see the wealthy in divine matters, whom men have unwisely trusted as their guides and counsellors as to their souls’ best interests, unmasked and proved to be deceitful through and through. I seem at this moment to be peering into the world of spiritual things, and I see many a Babel tower tottering and ready to fall; many a fair tree decaying at the heart; many a blooming cheek undermined by disease. Yes, a sound comes to my ear of men in the church, apparently rich and increased in goods, who are naked, and poor, and miserable, and great men whose towering glories are but a fading flower. There ever have been such, there are many now, and there will be to the end.

The supply of deceivers is sure to be maintained since the text tells us that all the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; there is a propensity in human nature which leads men, even when they are most wrong, to judge themselves most right. The text at the same time suggests the terrible conclusion to which all self-deception will certainly come, for the judgment of man concerning himself is not final, and there comes a day when the Lord who weigheth the spirits will reverse the verdict of a perjured conscience, and make the man to stand no longer in the false light which his conceit has thrown around him, but in the true light, in which all his fancied glory shall vanish as a dream.

Travelling some time ago in an iron steamboat to the Continent, the captain told me that the compass was far from trustworthy where so much iron was on every side, and that sometimes, when so far as he knew he had steered correctly, he had found himself very considerably out of his course. Though the compass was fixed aloft so as to be as much as possible out of the region of the metallic attraction, yet the deflection and aberrations in the case of his own compass had been occasionally most remarkable. In like manner our conscience originally as it came from God was no doubt an exceedingly correct standard of right and wrong, and if we had sailed by it we must have reached the haven safely enough; but conscience is now placed in connection with a depraved nature which forbids its accurate working. Now, if the laws of nature would vary to make up for its defects when the compass erred, the aberrations would not matter; but if the man is misled by the perverted needle he may unexpectedly be upon a rock, and will be as surely wrecked as if the helmsman had neglected the compass altogether. So, if God’s law could be shaped to suit the errors of our judgment it might not matter; but the laws of God stand sternly and inflexibly the same, and if we deviate from the right way through this false judgment of ours we shall be none the less guilty, and we shall find our fate to be none the less terrible. Hence I do approach this matter with a greater vehemence and earnestness this morning, on your account, and with more brokenness and humility of spirit on my own, desiring to speak with divers classes among you, urging you not to be so flattered by your own conceptions of your position as to get out of the course in which you ought to steer; beseeching you to remember that however well you may cajole yourselves with the idea that your way is right and clear, yet the inevitable judgment-day will come to end all delusions, however pleasant. Spiritual traders, I speak to you this day, reminding you of the great audit which hastens on, and warning you lest you make a fair show for awhile, and then in the end come down with a crash. I am sure there is much rotten spiritual trading abroad, and to save you from it I pray the Holy Ghost to help me speak plainly and searchingly this morning.

As God shall help me, I intend to address the text to different characters. We will endeavor to be practical throughout the sermon, and to push home vital truth with great earnestness upon each one.

I. The ways of the openly wicked are clean in their own eyes, but the Lord will weigh their spirits.

At first sight this statement seems to be rash. The drunkard, the blasphemer, the Sabbath-breaker, can it be that these people are right in their own eyes? Solomon was a profound student of human nature, and when he penned this sentence you may rest assured he knew what he wrote. They who are best acquainted with mankind will tell you that self-righteousness is not the peculiar sin of the virtuous, but that most remarkably it flourishes best where there appears to be the least soil for it. Those men who in the judgment of their fellows distinctly and plainly have no righteousness in which they can glory, are the very persons who, when you come to search into the depth of their nature, are relying upon a fancied goodness which they dream about and rest upon. Take the outwardly immoral for a moment and begin to talk with them about their sins, and you will find that they are accustomed to speak of their faults under very different names from those which Scripture and right reason would use. They do not call drunkenness “drunkenness,” for instance, but it is “taking a glass.” They would not for a moment advocate downright blasphemy, but it is “strong language which a fellow must use if he’s to get on,” or “letting slip an ugly word or so, because you were plagued so.” They disguise vice to themselves as pleasure; they label their uncleanness as gaiety, their filthiness as lightheartedness. They speak of their sins as though they had no enormity about them, but were trifles light as air—if wrong at all, themes rather for the feather lash of ridicule than for the scourge of reproof. Moreover, the most of them will claim that they are not so bad as others. There is some one point in their character in which they do not go so far as some of their fellows, and this is a grand point and a vast comfort to them. They will confess that they are sinners, not meaning it for a moment; and if you come to particulars and details, if they are in an honest frame of mind they will recede step by step, admitting fault after fault, till they come to a particular point, and there they take their footing with virtuous indignation. “Here I am right beyond all rebuke, and even deserving of praise. So far my sin has come, but how thoroughly sound at heart must I be that I have never permitted it to advance further!” This boasted line is frequently so singular and mysterious in its direction, that no one but the man himself can see any reason or consistency in it; and the satirist who shoots at folly as it flies, finds abundant objects for his arrows. Yet to that man himself, his pausing there is the saving clause of his life; he looks to that as the sheet anchor of his character. The woman whose character long since has gone, will yet boast some limit to her licentiousness which is merit in her esteem—merit sufficient to make all her ways clean in her own eyes.

Moreover, the worst of men conceive that they have some excellences and virtues, which, if they do not quite atone for their faults, yet at any rate greatly diminish the measure of blame which should be awarded them. The man is a spendthrift, “But sir, he was always freehearted, and nobody’s enemy but his own.” The man, it is true, would curse God, but then, well, it was a mere habit, he always was a dashing blade, but he meant no harm; and besides he never was such a liar as So-and-So; and indeed, he scorned to tell a lie upon any business subject. Another has cheated his creditors, but he was such a nice man; and although, poor fellow, he never could keep accounts or manage money matters, yet he always had a good word for everybody. The immoral man, if he sits down to write his own character, and summons all the partiality he is capable of, will say “I am a sad dog in some respects, sowing a great many wild oats, but I have a fine character underlying it all which will no doubt come up some day, so that my end shall be bright and glorious notwithstanding all. That last point that I hinted at is very often the righteousness of men who have no other, namely, their intention one of these days much to amend and improve. To make up for present poverty of righteousness they draw a bill upon the future. Their promises and resolves are a sort of paper currency on which they imagine they can trade for eternity. “Is it not often done in business?” say they: “A man who has no present income may have a reversionary interest in an estate; he gets advances thereon—why should not we?” Thus the open sinner, easing his all too ready conscience with the imaginary picture of his future repentance and amendment, begins to feel himself already meritorious and bids defiance to all the threatenings of the word of God.

I may be speaking to some to whom these remarks are very applicable, and if so I pray that they may lead to serious thought. My hearer, you must know, or at any rate a few sober moments of reflection would make you know, that there is no truth in the pleas, excuses, and promises with which you now quiet your conscience; your peace is founded on a lie, and is upheld by the father of lies. Whilst you are continuing recklessly to break the laws of God in your ordinary life and to take pleasure in sin, you most assuredly are under the anger of God and you are heaping up wrath against the day of wrath, and when the measure of your iniquity is full then shall you receive the terrible reward of transgression. The Judge of all the earth will not pay regard to the idle preterites which now stultify your conscience. He is not a man that he should be flattered as you flatter and deceive yourself. You would not have the impertinence to tell your excuses to him. Dare you kneel down now and speak to the great God in heaven and tell him all these fine things with which you are now smoothing your downward road? I hope you have not come to such a brazen pitch of impertinence as that, but if you have let me remind you of that second sentence of my text, “The Lord weigheth the spirits.” A just and true balance will be used upon you ere long. When the Lord puts such as you are into the scale, there will be no need for delay; the sentence will go forth at once and from it there shall be no appeal: “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” Ah then my hearer, when that conscience of yours wakes up, how it will torment you! It sleeps now, drugged by the opiates of your ignorance and perverseness; but it will start up soon like a giant refreshed with new wine, and then with strength and fury unthought of before it will pull down the temple of your peace about your ears, even as Samson smote the Philistines. An awakened conscience in another world is the worm that dieth not and the fire which never can be quenched. O sirs, it is a dreadful thing to be delivered up to one’s own conscience when that conscience is enlisted on the side of right. Old tyrants had their terrible headsmen with grim masks across their brows who carried the bright and gleaming axe; the old inquisitors had their familiars arrayed in gowns of serge and cowls, from the loopholes of which their fierce eyes gleamed like wolves; but no tormentors, yea, no fiends of hell, can ever prove more terrible to a man than his conscience when its lash is corded with truth and weighted with honesty. Did you ever spell the burning letters of that word remorse? Within the bowels of that single word there lieth hell with all its torments. O sirs, if you be but a little aroused now by an earnest sermon or a sudden death, how wretched you feel and how desperately you plunge into fresh gaiety and wantonness to drown your thoughts; but what will you do with thoughts which no dissipation can drown, and remembrances which no mirth can banish? What will it be to be haunted by your sins for ever and for ever? What to have it made sure to you that from the guilt and punishment no way of escape can ever be discovered?

O you who fondly dream that the broad road to destruction is the upward path to celestial bliss, I beseech you, learn wisdom and hearken to the voice of instruction; consider your ways and seek unto the precious blood which alone can blot our your sins.

II. A second class I will now address. The ways of the godless man are clean in his own eyes, but the Lord weigheth the spirits.

The godless man is often exceedingly upright and moral in his outward behavior to his fellow men. He has no religion, but he glories in a multitude of virtues of another kind. It is unhappily true that there are many who have much that is amiable about them who nevertheless are unamiable and unjust towards the one Being who ought to have the most of their love, and who should have been respected in their conduct first of all. How often have I met with the ungodly man who has said, “You talk to me about fearing God! I know him not, neither do I regard him, but I am much better than those who do.” He will sometimes say, “Your religion I look upon as a mere farce: I regard Christians as being made up of two sorts, knaves and fools. They are either duped by others, or else for purposes of their own they are deceiving others. Their talk about God, sir, it is all cant; with some of them I grant you it is not quite that, but then they have too few brains to be able to discover that they are deceived. However, take the whole thing for all in all, it is all a piece of nonsense, and if people just behave as they ought towards their neighbors and do their duty in their station in life, that is enough.” Yes, and there are in this city of London thousands, and hundreds of thousands, who think this to be good logic, and indeed who open their eyes with astonishment if for a single moment you are supposed to contradict their statement that such a style of life is the best and most commendable; and yet if they would but think, nothing can be more unsound than their life and its supposed excellence. Here is a man created by his God, and he is put down amongst his fellow creatures; surely the first duty that he owes is towards his Creator. His life depends entirely upon that Creator’s will—it must be his first duty to have respect to him in whose hands his breath is; but this man not only refuses to be obedient to the law of his Creator and have regard to him in his daily actions, but turns round to his neighbours who are mere creatures like himself, and he says “I will have respect to you, but not to God. Any laws of the state which bind me in my relation to you I will obey; but any laws which describe my relation to God I will not consider except it be to ridicule and laugh at them. I will be obedient to any but to God; I will do the right thing to any but to the Most High. I have a sense of right and wrong but I will restrict its action to my fellow men, and that sense of right and wrong when it comes in relation to God I will utterly obliterate.” Now if there were no God this man were wise enough, but as there is a God who created us, and who shall surely come in the clouds of heaven to call every one of us to account for the things which we have done in the body, what think you will be the judgment dealt out to this unfaithful servant? Will he dare to say unto his King, “I knew that thou wast my Maker and Lord, but I considered that if I served my fellow servants it would be enough. I knew what was right to them, but I disregarded the doing of anything that was right towards thee”? Shall not the answer be, “Thou wicked and faithless servant, thou knewest what was right and wrong, and yet towards me, having first claim upon thee, thou hast acted unjustly, and whilst thou wouldst bow thy neck to others thou wouldst not yield to me. Depart from me, I know thee not. Thou didst not know me, neither do I know thee. I weigh thee in the balances, and I find thee utterly reprobate. Thou art cast away for ever.” O ungodly man, let this warning, if thou be here this morning, sound in thy heart as well as thy ears: no longer set thyself in defiance to thy Creator or live in negligence of him, but say, “I will arise and go unto my Father; I will confess that I have forgotten him and despised him, and I will seek peace through the blood of Jesus Christ.”

III. Further, I shall address myself to another class of persons. In all ages of the church, and especially at this time, there are numbers of persons who are outwardly religious, but whose religion ends there. Now it seems to some of us amazingly strange that a man should be acting viciously, should be living wickedly, and yet should think that his ways are clean because he takes a sacrament or attends a certain place of worship. I must confess to my mind this seems a very strange phenomenon, that there should exist men of intelligence in this world who know that their conduct is altogether blameworthy and yet feel perfectly at ease because a chosen ritual has been diligently observed; as if bowing and scraping, singing or groaning could be a substitute for holiness of heart. Look at the Pharisee and tell me if he be not a moral wonder! He devours widows’ houses, he is ready to prey on everything that comes to hand; he is a detestable hypocrite, but the man is perfectly at ease because he has made broad the border of his garments, because he fasts twice in the week, and strains out gnats from the wine that he drinks; he is quite content with himself and all his ways seem right, so right, indeed, that other men who are better than he, he passes by with contempt, afraid lest they should come between the wind and his nobility. He thanks God that he is not as other men, when so far as you and I can judge he is ten thousand fathoms deeper down in dark damnation in his horribly hypocritical character. Yet brethren, some form or other of this is very common. All the ways of a man are clean unto him when he once imbibes the idea that ceremonial religion, or religious talk, or religious profession, can make up for moral sin. Ah brethren, this evil may even creep in among ourselves. Let us not be so swift in condemning the Pharisee when perhaps the same sin may pollute our own souls. I have known the man who was reckoned a sound Calvinist and believed in very high doctrine, live a very unhallowed life. He despised “Arminians,” as he chose to call them, though some of these despised ones lived very near to God and walked in holiness and integrity. The Arminian, forsooth, godly man as he was, would be lost; but this self-righteous orthodox man who could at the same time drink and cheat thought that he should be saved because he had been able to see the truth of certain doctrines, which also the devil sees as well as he. I have known another who thought he had a deep and memorable experience who would talk by the yard of the depravity of his heart. Some people thinking that he ought to be able to talk about that very truly, for he proved it in his life; and yet because he could repeat cant phrases and had picked up certain rich expressions of experience from books, he verily thought within himself that he was not only as good as others but a very pattern for others to copy. Right and left such men as these will hurl curses and anathemas upon the best and most earnest of saints. They are the men—wisdom will die with them. Holiness being dead already with them, it is no wonder that wisdom should die too. Ah! take care lest you and I drink in the same spirit in another shape. Ah! preacher, thy preaching may be all well and good, it may be sound enough and right enough, and it may be even edifying to the people of God and arousing to the unconverted. But remember, God will not judge thee by thy sermons but by thy spirit, for he weigheth not thy words but thy motive, thy desire, thine object in preaching the gospel. Deacon of the church, you may have walked in all honor for many years and may be universally respected, and thine office may have been well maintained in all the outward duties of it, but if thy heart be not right, if some secret sin be indulged, if there be a canker upon thy profession which none know but thine own self, the Lord who weighs the spirit will make nothing of thy deaconship and thy carrying round the cups and bread at the communion, but thou shalt be found wanting and cast away. Thou too, brother elder, thy labors and thy prayers are nothing if the heart be evil. Thou mayst have visited others and instructed them and been a judge of their state; still, if thou hast not served God and his church out of a pure desire for his glory, thou too, put into the scales, shall be rejected with abhorrence. I often pray—I wish however I prayed it more —that none of us here may be preached into the idea that we are all right if we are all wrong. It is not your coming to the Tabernacle, it is not your joining the church, your being baptised, your attending prayer-meetings, or your doing anything that will be the slightest matter in this business—it is your giving up your hearts to God truly, and your living in conformity with your profession; and unless the grace of God be really given you, helping you to do this, your ways may be clean unto you because of your outward profession; but the Lord who weigheth the spirits will make short work of these bubbles, he will break this confectionery, smash to pieces these shams, and leave the man who ought to have a palace over his head throughout eternity to sit down and shiver amongst the ruins of his Babylon, and cry out and weep and wail amongst dragons and fiends.

IV. But to pass on, there is another character that must be addressed. “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes,” so are the ways of the covetous professor.

It is marvellous to some of us that a man whose object in life is merely to get money and who withholds what he has from the cause of God should take up the profession of being a Christian man, because none of all the vices is more contrary to true religion than covetousness. Where will you find an instance of a single saint in Scripture that ever fell into covetousness? Into all other sins have they fallen, but into this one I do not remember that one child of God mentioned in Scripture ever descended. Grace may exist where there are many occasional sins, but never where there is abiding covetousness. Think of Paul’s words: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither, fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Luther used to say, “I have been tempted to all sins but covetousness.” This he so detested that he distributed gifts made to him lest he should have his portion in this world. Adams, in his book on Peter, well remarks, “Noah was once drunk with wine but never with the world; Lot, twice incestuous, never covetous; Peter denied his Master thrice, but it was not the love but the fear of the world that brought him to it. Once David was overcome by the flesh, never by covetousness. Why did not these purge themselves from adultery, anger, and the like? Because into these sins the infirmities of a saint may fall, but if once into covetousness there is nothing of a saint left—not even the name. Covetousness hath the brand of God’s hate full on its brow.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him;” and when a professor shows the love of the world in its grossest shape, when he gives way to being the slave of “Mammon, the least erect of all the fiends,” he bears evidence to all who judge righteously according to Scripture that the love of God is not in him, and cannot be in him; the two things are inconsistent. Yet, strange to say we do know not a few whose way seems very clean to them. They screw here and there, now their servants, and now their customers: the widow and the fatherless would not be safe from them if they could pick their bones. What they scrape together is held with an iron grasp. Let souls be damned, they shall have no missionary sent to them by their money. Let this London fester with sin, let it be covered with the ulcers of the most fearful depravity, they are never stirred to give any assistance towards the healing of the city’s wounds. And yet while their damnation awaits them certainly, and their condemnation stares them in the face as plainly as the sun in the heavens, yet their ways seem clean unto them. Strange it should be so, but the Lord weigheth the spirits, and what a weighing that shall be when men who escape church censure because theirs was a sin of which the church could not deal with, shall be found guilty of it, and God shall cast them away! Vain will be their pretensions that they ate and they drank in God’s house, for the answer shall come, “I was an hungered and ye gave me no meat; I was thirsty and ye gave me no drink; naked, and ye clothed me not. I was sick and in prison, and ye did not minister unto me. Verily I say unto you, I know ye not!” O let this truth, for truth it is, pierce like a two-edged sword right through the hearts of any of you who are beginning to yield to this damning vice. Cry unto God that as he gives you substance you may use it for his glory. Ask him that you may never perish with a millstone about your neck; for even if that killing weight be made of gold it will be no better perishing for all that.

V. Another character must have a word also: we will now note the ways of the worldly professor.

It is amazing how some people making a profession of religion, square it with their conscience that they live as they do live. You could not with a microscope detect any difference between them and common worldlings, and yet they think there is a vast difference, and they would be insulted if you did not allow it. Here they come up to the house of God to-day, but to what amusements have they been during the week? How are they dressed? How are their children educated? Is there any family prayer? Is there anything in the household that is Christian? Look at them in business. Do not they trade precisely like those who make no pretensions to religion? Ask their workpeople, just go yourselves and watch them—see if they cannot tell white lies as well as others, whether they are not for all the world as alike as two peas are to one another, like other unregenerate and unconverted people! and yet their ways seem very clean unto them, very clean indeed, and their conscience does not trouble them in any way whatever. I have but this word to say in all affection to such, earnestly desiring that they may be plucked out of this fire, “the Lord will weigh the spirits.” The whole of our life is known to him. He will not judge us without book. When he comes to the account he will not be like a judge who has to learn the facts; he will come to the last assize, having seen with those eyes of fire the secret thoughts, the private feelings of our life. God be merciful to us sinners, we may all of us say; but God especially save us from being like the ungodly.

VI. Yet another word, and this is addressed to all professors here more or less: it is a solemn word concerning the ways of secure backsliders.

Do you not know brethren and sisters, that very often our ways seem very clean to us when they are not. I have learned by experience most painful to my own soul, that I am not in the least qualified to judge of my own spiritual health: I have thought myself gradually advancing in the ways of God when I have been going back, and I have had the conceit crossing my mind that I had now overcome a certain besetting sin, when to my surprise I had found it return with greater force than before. Fellow professor, you may be at this moment walking as you think very rightly, and going off very well and comfortably, but let me ask you a few questions: are you not less in private prayer than you used to be? Do you not now hurry over it, do you not sometimes omit it altogether? Do you not frequently come from your closet without really having spoken to God, having merely gone through the form for the sake of quieting yourself? Your way may seem clean, but is it not foul when the mercy-seat becomes neglected? How about your Bible, is that read as it once was, and are the promises as sweet to you? Do they ever rise from the page and talk with you? Oh, but if your Bible be neglected my brother, you may be just as diligent in attending to the house of God as you used to be, but is not yours a sad state of decay? Let me come closer still. Is there the vitality about your profession that there used to be? There are some in this house this morning who if they could speak, would tell you that when to their great sorrow they fell into sin, it was because by little and little their piety began to lose its force and power of life. They have been restored, but their bones still ache where they were once broken, and I am sure they would say to their brethren “Take care of allowing a gracious spirit to evaporate, as it were, by slow degrees. Watch carefully over it, lest settling upon your lees and not being emptied from vessel to vessel you should by-and-by become carnally secure, and afterwards fall into actual sin. I ask some of my brethren here, and I ask the question because I have asked it of my own soul and answered it very tearfully, may not some of us be growing hardened in heart with regard to the salvation of our fellow creatures? Do we not love less now than we used to do, those who are crying to us, “Come over and help us”? Do we not think ourselves getting to be experienced saints? We are not the poor sinners we once used to be. We do not come broken-heartedly to the mercy-seat as we did. We begin to judge our fellow Christians and we think far less of them than we did years ago when we used almost to love the ground that the Lord’s saints did tread upon, thinking ourselves to be less than nothing in their sight. Now if it were the case in others, that they were growing proud, or becoming cold, or waxing hard of heart, we should say of them, “they are in great danger,” but what about ourselves if that be the case with us? For my own self, I dread lest I should come to this pulpit merely to preach to you because the time has come and I must get through an hour or an hour-and-a-half of worship. I dread getting to be a mere preaching machine without my heart and soul being exercised in this solemn duty; and I dread for you, my dear friends who hear me constantly, lest it should be a mere piece of clock-work that you should be in the seats at certain times in the week, and should sit there and patiently hear the din which my noise makes in your ears. We must have vital godliness, and the vitality of it must be maintained, and the force and energy of our religion must go on to increase day by day, or else though our ways may seem to be very clean the Lord will soon weigh our spirits to our eternal confusion. Do you know that to his people the divine weighing in fatherly chastisement is rough work, for he can put the soul into the scale to our own consciousness, and when we think that it weighs pounds he can reveal to us that it does not even reach to drachms! “There,” saith he, “see what you are!” and he begins to strip off the veil of self-conceit, and we see the loathsomeness and falsehood of our nature, and we are utterly dismayed. Or perhaps the Lord does worse than that. He suffers a temptation to come when we do not expect it, and then the evil bolls up within us, and we who thought we were next door to the cherubs find ourselves near akin to the demons; wondering too that such a wild beast should have slumbered in the den of our hearts, whereas we ought to have known it was always there and to have walked humbly with God, and watched and guarded ourselves. Rest assured beloved, great falls and terrible mischief never come to a Christian man at once, they are a work of slow degrees; and be assured too that you may glide down the smooth waters of the river and never dream of the Niagara beyond, and yet you may be speeding towards it. An awful crash may yet come to the highest professor among us that shall make the world to ring with blasphemy against God, and the church to resound with bitter lamentations because the mighty have fallen. God will keep his own, but how if I should turn out not to be his own! He will keep the feet of his saints, but what if I leave off to watch and my feet should not be kept, and I should turn out to be no saint of his, but a mere intruder into his family, and a pretender to have what I never had! O God, through Christ Jesus deliver each of us from this.

VII. Had time not failed me I meant to speak concerning the seventh and last character, namely, the ways of the deceived man.

There are, no doubt, many in the world who will never find out that their ways which they thought to be so clean are all foul till they enter upon another world. There are some men who are Christians in all but this, that they have not true faith in Jesus. There are others who apparently are saved, but they have never been really born again. There are many who have everything but the one thing needful, and who think they have that, and persuade their fellows that they have that. How near a man may come to being a Christian and yet miss salvation it were difficult to tell; but certainly he may come so near that no man nor yet the angels of God shall be able to tell the difference between him and a saved soul, only God shall discern the difference when he comes to weigh the spirits.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. It is this: let us come my brethren, all of us, to the place of confession of sin and acknowledge that we have broken God’s law, and deserve his just displeasure. Let us go by the help of his Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of supplication, and let us confess the depravity of our nature and the error of our hearts. Let us pray that instead of thinking our ways clean, we may know them to be foul, may mourn over them, and may learn to see them as God sees them, as crooked ways and wrong ways in themselves not to be boasted of, but to be remembered with shame and confusion of face. Blessed is he who is delivered from any rejoicing in himself. Happy is that man who can see no speck of soundness in his own flesh, but who feels that the leprosy of sin hath covered him without and within from head to foot. And brethren, if we come to such deep humiliation of spirit, the next word is this: let us go together to the great salvation which God has provided in the person of Christ Jesus. Come, linking hand in hand, saint and sinner, now all sinners consciously, let us stand and see where sin has pierced the body of the blessed Substitute with yonder bleeding wounds. Let us read the lines of grief written upon that blessed face; let us gaze into the depth of his soul filled with an ocean of anguish, lashed to a tempest of suffering; let us believe that he suffered in our stead and so roll our sin and our sinfulness on him. Jesus, accept a sinner, a poor sinner still; though these twenty years I have known thy name, yet still a sinner I come to thee, the chief of sinners! Ah, brethren and sisters, we are never safer I am sure, never healthier, never in a better frame than when we are right flat down on the ground before the cross. When you feel yourself to be utterly unworthy you have hit the truth. When you think you are doing something and are rich and flourishing, you are poor, and naked, and miserable; but when you are consciously weak and sinful, then you are rich. When you are weak you are strong; but O God, save us from letting our ways seem clean in our own sight, but may we weigh our spirits by the help of thy Spirit, and condemn ourselves that we may not be condemned of the Lord.

The Lord bless you richly and freely for his name’s sake. Amen.

                    Trust in God—True Wisdom


                              May 12th, 1861,
              at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                                by C. H. Spurgeon.

“He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.”—Proverbs 16:20.

Wisdom is man’s true path—that which enables him to accomplish best the end of his being, and which therefore gives to him the richest enjoyment and the fullest play for all his powers. Wisdom is the compass by which man is to steer across the trackless waste of life. Without wisdom man is as the wild asses’ colt; he runs hither and thither, wasting strength which might be profitably employed. Without wisdom, man may be compared to a soil untilled, which may yield some fair flowers but can never field a harvest which shall repay the labor of the reaper, or even the toil of the gleaner. Give man wisdom, wisdom in the true sense of the term, and he rises to all the dignity that manhood can possibly know; he becomes a fit companion for the angels, and between him and God there is no creature; he standeth next to the Eternal One because Christ has espoused his nature, and so has linked humanity with divinity. But where shall this wisdom be found? Many have dreamed that they discovered it, but they have not possessed it. Where shall we find it? ‘Twere worth while to pierce the bowels of the earth, to scale the heights of heaven, to traverse the deserts, to plough the sea, to fly through the illimitable fields of ether—all were too little if we might but find this precious thing at last. But “the depth saith, It is not in me: and the sea saith, It is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighted for the price thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it shall not be for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of pearls: for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof.

Let us listen then to the voice of the Lord, for he hath declared the secret; he hath revealed to the sons of men wherein true wisdom lieth, and we have it in the text, “whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he;” and that sentence is put in conjunction with another which teaches us this truth, that to handle a matter wisely is to find good, and the true way to handle a matter wisely is to trust God. This is the short and brief method of escaping the greatest difficulties: this is the clue to the most intricate labyrinths; this is the lever which shall lift the most tremendous weights. He that trusts in the Lord has found out the way to handle matters wisely, and happy is he.

I shall take the text this morning by God’s assistance in two ways. First, we shall apply it to the wise handling of matters with regard to time and this present state; and then secondly with regard to the handling of the eternal matters relating to our destiny beyond the grave, and endeavor to show how trusting in the Lord is handling this matter wisely.

I. First then my dear friends, with regard to the wise handling of matters of time which concern our bodies and our souls, whilst we are here below.

A man must be prudent in such a world as this. He will soon cut his feet if he does not pick his steps. He will soon tear his garments with thorns and briars if he does not choose his way. This is a land full of enemies; we must be wise or the arrow will suddenly find out a vulnerable place in our armor. We must be cautious, for we are not travelling in noon-day on the king’s highway, but rather at night-fall, and we may therefore be attacked by robbers and may lose our precious treasures. He who is in a wilderness, and in a wilderness infested with robber bands, must handle matters wisely if he would find good.

How shall we handle these matters wisely? Three or four come forward to instruct us, and the first lesson is one which Satan often teaches the young and foolish spirit. He says, “To handle a matter wisely is to make your own will your law, and to do that which seemeth to be the best for you, be it right or be it wrong.” This was the lesson which he taught to Eve when in the serpent’s form he spoke the serpent’s wisdom, “Ye be shall be as gods,” said he. “Mistrust the goodness of your Maker; believe that he is afraid lest you should attain to equal power and dignity with himself. Pluck the fruit. ‘Tis true he forbids, but who is Jehovah that you should obey his voice? ‘Tis true he threatens to punish, but do not believe the threatening, or if you believe it, dare it. He who cannot risk anything will never win. He that will not venture something shall never make great gains. Do and dare, and you will be handling the matter wisely.” She plucked the fruit and the next instant she must have perceived somewhat of her folly; but ere many hours had passed over man’s head, his discovered nakedness, pains of body, weariness, toil, expulsion from Paradise, and tilling a thankless, thorny land, taught man that he had not handled the matter wisely, for he had not found good. And you too, ye sons and daughters of Eve, when the old serpent whispers in your ear, “Sin, and you shall escape from difficulty; be just when you can afford to be so, but if you cannot live except by dishonesty, be dishonest; if you cannot prosper except by lies, then lie” —oh! men, listen not to his voice I pray you. Hearken to a better wisdom than this. This is a deception which shall destroy you; you shall find no good, but you shall find much evil; you shall sow the wind and you shall reap the whirlwind. You think that you dive into these depths for pearls, but the jagged rocks shall break you, and from the deep waters you shall never rise, except your lifeless corpse swim on the surface of the pestilential waves. Be wise, and learn of God, and close your ears to him who would have you destroy yourself that he may gloat his malicious spirit over your eternal misery. It is never wise to sin, brethren, never. However it may seem to be the best thing you can do, it must always be the worst. There never was a man in such a position that it would be really profitable to him to sin. “But,” say you, “some men have become rich by it!” Sirs, they have had sorrow with their riches; they have inherited the blasting curse of God, and so they have been really poorer than poverty could have made them. “But,” say you, “men have mounted to the throne by breaking their oaths.” I know they have; but temporary success is no sure sign of constant happiness; the Emperor’s career is not ended yet; wait ye in patience; but should he escape in this life, the perjurer shall meet his Judge, and then—. He that measures what man gains by what he seems to gain hath taken a wrong standard. There was never yet —I will repeat it—there was never yet any man who broke his word, who forfeited his oath, who turned aside from God’s Word or God’s law, who in the end found it be profitable to him. He heaped up deceptions, he gathered together delusions, and when God awoke, and when that man awoke, as a dream when one awaketh, so did he, or so shall he, despise the image on which his soul had doted.

But now the serpent moderates his hiss. “Do not sin,” saith he; “there is no necessity for downright dishonesty or theft; do not absolutely plunge yourself into vice, but be wise,” saith he, by which he means, “Be crafty; trim your sails when the wind changes, how can you reach your haven unless you learn to tack about? The straight road is thorny; take the bye-path; there will be another path which will bring you back after the thorns and flints are passed. Why” says he, “will you dash your head against a stone? If there be a mountain in your way, why not wind about the base; why climb the summit? Doth not wisdom teach you that that which is easiest must be best, and that which is most in consistence with the dictates of your own nature must after all be best for you?” Ah! slimy serpent! Ah! base deceiver, how many multitudes have been thus deceived! Why, brethren, the reason why we have not more men in this age whom one could trust, why we have not in our high places more men in whom we could place confidence, is because policy has been the law of individuals, and the law of nations too, instead of that course of honesty which is like the flight of the arrow, certain and sure to reach its mark, not by tortuous windings, but by one onward straight line. Why do persons so frequently inquire what they ought to do in such a case, not meaning what God’s law would have them do, but what will bring the best result? The rules of modern craft and time-serving morality are difficult because they are inconsistent, but honesty is simple and clear as the sunlight. It takes years to make a clever lawyer, grace however can make an honest man in one hour. Brethren believe me, policy is not wisdom, and craft is not understanding. Let me give you the case of another woman— Rebecca. Rebecca heard that God had decreed that her favourite son Jacob should be ruler of the twain. “The elder shall serve the younger.” She could not wait for God’s providence to fulfill God’s purpose, but must needs deceive her blind husband. She dresses up her son with skins of goats and wool, provides the savoury meat, and sends Jacob who was, though a good man, the very picture of a politic and prudent professor, to meet his father and to deceive him. Ah! if Rebecca had been wise she had not done this. Little did she foresee that the effect of this stratagem would be to drive her favourite son away from his affectionate mother, give him years of toil under Laban, cause him to make the great mistake of his life, the commission of the error of polygamy, and make him a far more afflicted man than he might have been had he been like Abraham or Isaac who leaned not to their own understandings, but trusted in God with all their hearts. Brethren, you shall never find in any case that any turning aside from a staightforward course will be for your profit. After all, you may depend on it that the way to be most renowned among men is to have the strange singularity of being a downright honest man. Say what you mean; mean what you say. Do what you believe to be right, and ever hold it for a maxim that if the skies fall through your doing right, honest men will survive the ruin. How can the godly sin? If the earth should reel, would he fail? No, blessed be God, he should find himself in the honorable position of David of old when he said, “The earth is removed; I bear up the pillars thereof.”

But now the serpent changes his note and he says, “Well, if you be not sinful or crafty, at any rate, to succeed in life you must be very careful. You must fret, and worry, and think much about it; that is the way to handle a matter wisely. Why” saith he, “see how many are ruined from want of thought and want of care. Be you careful over it. Rise up early, sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness. Stint yourself; deny yourself. Do not give to the poor; be a miser, and you shall succeed. Take care; watch; be thoughtful.” And this is the path of wisdom according to him. My brethren, it is a path which very many have tried, very many have persevered in it all their lives, but I must say to you this is not handling a matter wisely after all. God forbid we should say a single word against prudence, and care, and necessary forethought, industry and providence. These are virtues; they are not only commendable, but a Christian’s character would be sadly at fault if he had them not. But when these are looked upon as the foundations, the staple materials of success, men are desperately in error. It is vain for you in that sense to rise up early, and sit up late, and eat the bread of carefulness, for “so he giveth his beloved sleep.” Oh! there be many who have realized that picture of old Care, which old Spenser gives in his Faery Queene.


“Rude was his garment, and to rags all rent;

So better had he, nor for better cared;

With blistered hands, among the cinders burnt,

And fingers filthy, with long nails unpared,

Right fit to rend the food ere which he fared:

His name was Care: a blacksmith by his trade,

That neither day nor night from working spared,

But to small purpose iron wedges made:

Those be unquiet thoughts that careful minds invade.”

Who wishes to have that picture come true of himself? I would infinitely rather that we could be photographed as being like Luther’s bird, which ate upon the tree and sang,


“Mortal cease from care and sorrow, God provideth

for the morrow.”

Care is good, mark, if it be good care; but care is ill when it cometh to be ill care, and it is ill care if I dare not cast it upon him who careth for me. Cotton has well said of covetous earthworms, “After hypocrites, the greatest dupes the devil has are those who exhaust an anxious existence in the disappointments and vexations of business, and live miserably and meanly, only to die magnificently and rich. For like the hypocrites, the only disinterested action these men can accuse themselves of is that of serving the devil without receiving his wages: he that stands every day of his life behind a counter until he drops from it into the grave may negotiate many very profitable bargains; but he has made a single bad one, so bad indeed that it counter balances all the rest; for the empty foolery of dying rich, he has paid down his health, his happiness, and his integrity.”

Once again, there is another way of handling a matter wisely which is often suggested to young men, and suggested too, I am sorry to say, by Christian men who little know that they are giving Satanic advice. “Well,” say they, “young man, if you will not be exceeding careful and watch night and day, at least be self-reliant. Go out and tell the world that you are a match for it, and that you know it; that you mean to carve your way to glory, to build yet for yourself an edifice at which men shall gaze. Say to the little men round about you, ‘I mean to tower above you all and bestride this narrow world like a Colossus. Be independent young men. Rest on yourselves. There is something wonderful in you; quit yourselves like men; be strong.” Well brethren, there be many who have tried this self-reliance, and their deception in this case has been fearful too, for when the day of fiery trial has come they have discovered that “Cursed is he that trusteth in man,” even though that man be himself, “and maketh flesh his arm,” though it be his own flesh. Broken in pieces they have been left as wrecks upon the sand, though they sailed out of harbour gaily with all their sails filled with the wind. They have come back like knights unhorsed and dishonored, though they went out with their lance in hand and their proudly flaunting pennon, intending to push like the horns of unicorns and drive the whole earth before them. No man was ever so much deceived by others as by himself. Be warned, Christian man, that this is not handling a matter wisely.

But what then is the way of wisdom? The text answers the question —“He that trusteth in the Lord, happy is he.” So then, if I understand the text aright, if we learn to trust in God in temporal things we shall be happy. We are not to be idle, that would show we did not trust in God who worketh hitherto, but in the devil who is the father of idleness. We are not to be impudent and rash; that were to trust chance, but not to trust God, for God is a God of economy and order. We are to trust God; acting in all prudence and in all uprightness, we are to rely simply and entirely upon him. Now I have no doubt there are many here who say, “Well, that is not the way to get on in the world; that can never be the path of success, simply trusting in God.” Ay, but it is so, only one must have grace in the heart to do it. One must first be made a child of God and then he can trust his affairs in his Father’s hands; one must come to depend upon the Eternal One, because the Eternal One has enabled him to use this Christian grace which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I am persuaded that faith is as much the rule of temporal as of spiritual life, and that we ought to have faith in God for our shops as well as for our souls. Wordly men may sneer at this, but it is none the less true; at any rate I pray that it may be my course as long as I live.

My dear friends, let me commend to you a life of trust in God in temporal things by these few advantages among a great many others. First, trusting in God you will not have to mourn because you have used sinful means to grow rich. Should you become poor through it, better to be poor with a clear conscience than to be rich and guilty. You will have always this comfort should you come to the lowest position of nature, that you have come there through no fault of your own. You have served God with integrity, and what if some should say you have missed your mark, not achieved to success, at least there is no sin upon your conscience.

And then again, trusting God you will not be guilty of self-contradiction. He who trusts in craft sails this way to-day and that way the next, like a vessel propelled by the fickle wind; but he that trusteth in the Lord is like a vessel propelled by steam, she cuts through the waves, defies the wind, and makes one bright silvery track to her desired haven. Be you such a man as that; never bow to the varying customs of worldly wisdom. Let men see that the world has changed, not you,—that man’s opinions and man’s maxims have veered round to another quarter, but that you are still invincibly strong in the strength which trusting in God alone can confer. And then dear brethren, let me say you will be delivered from carking care, you will not be troubled with evil tidings, your heart will be fixed, trusting in the Lord. I have read a story of an old Doctor of the Church who, going out one morning, met a beggar and said to him, “I wish you a good day.” “Sir,” said he, “I never had an ill day in my life.” “But,” said the Doctor, “your clothes are torn to rags and your wallet seems to be exceedingly empty.” Said he, “My clothes are as good as God wants them to be, and my wallet is as full as the Lord has been pleased to make it, and what pleases him pleases me.” “But,” said the Doctor, “suppose God should cast you into hell?” “Indeed, sir,” said he, “but that would never be; but if it were I would be contented, for I have two long and strong arms—faith and love—and I would throw these about the neck of my Savior, and I would never let him go, so that if I went there he would be with me, and it would be a heaven to me.” Oh, those two strong arms of faith and love! if you can but hang about the Savior’s neck, indeed, you may fear no ill weather. No fatal shipwreck shall I fear, for Christ is in my vessel, he holds the helm, and holds the winds too.


“Though winds and waves assault my keel,

He doth preserve it, he doth steer,

Even when the bark seems most to reel.

Storms are the triumphs of his art,

Sure he may close his eyes, but not his heart.”

The practical lesson from all this is—“trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.” Whatever thy trouble be, take it to God this morning; do not bear it till the night. Whatever your difficulty and peculiar exercise of mind, tell it unto the Lord your God. He is as able as he is willing, and as willing as he is able; having sent the trial he will surely make a way of escape for you.

II. But now I turn to the second part of our discourse. In spiritual matters, he that handleth a matter wisely shall find good.

But what is the right way of handling this dread matter which stands between our soul and God? We have immortal spirits, and spirits that are responsible. The day of judgment draweth nigh, and with it heaven’s happiness or hell’s torment. What, my brethren, shall we do to handle this matter wisely? And here comes up the old serpent again and he says, “Young man, the easiest way to handle this matter is to let it alone altogether, you are young as yet, there is plenty of time—why put old heads on young shoulders? You will have need enough to think of religion by-and-bye, but at present, you see, it will be much in your way. Better leave it alone; it is only these ministers that try and make you thoughtful, but they only bother you and trouble you, so drop it. You can think of it if there be anything in it by-and-bye; but for the present, rejoice in your youth and let your joy be in the morning of your days, for the evil days come, and then let your thoughtfulness come with them.”

Well now young man, does this strike you after all as being the wisest course? I will tell you one thing, whatever you may think it, such a course as that is the direct road to hell. Do you know the road to heaven? Well, it might take us some little time to tell you about that, but if you want to go to hell we will tell you that in one moment. You need not go and swear, you need not be drunk, you need not become a monster in iniquity or a fiend in cruelty. No, no, it is easier than that, it is just a little matter of neglect, that is all, and your soul is lost to a certainty. Remember how the apostle puts it, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation”! Now, can that which is the surest road to hell be a wise way? I think I may leave it with your reason, certainly I may leave it with your conscience. You know it is not the right way, ay, and I have noticed this, that men who laugh most at religion when they are well and are most careless, are the most frightened when they meet with a little accident. If they have a little illness, oh how bad they feel! It is an awful thing for them to be ill, they know it is, they are dreadfully shaken, and the strangest thing is that the minister they hated most when they were well becomes the very man they have the most faith in, and most long to see when they become sick. I know when the cholera was here last, there was a certain man for whom no word in the English language could be found that was bad enough to describe me, and in the cholera when he lay sick, who should be sent for? The clergyman of the parish? No, certainly not. Who should be sent for? Some minister of good repute? No, send for the man whom he had cursed before; and until that man should come and speak to him and offer prayer, he could not even indulge a hope—though, alas! poor soul, I fear he had no hope even then. Yet so is it, God will honor his ministers, he will prove the utter futility of man’s brag and boast. You may be careless sir while you are well, you may neglect this great salvation, but a little sickness shall make you tremble and thy knees shall shake, and thou shalt be convulsed with agony and find that this is not handing the matter wisely. You are something like a bankrupt who knows that his accounts are going wrong and fears that he is insolvent, he does not look at his books, he does not like to look at them for there is no very pleasant reading there; there may be a few assets, but the entries are mostly on the other side and so at last he does not keep any book, it would be troublesome to him to know where he was. So is it with you. It is because things are not right, you do not like to sift them and try them lest you should find out the black reality. Be wise I pray you, and look a little beyond you. Why shut your eyes and perish? Man, I charge thee by the living God, awake, or hell shall wake thee; look man, or eternity shall soon amaze thee.

But Satan comes to some and he says, “If you won’t be careless the next easiest thing is to be credulous. There,” says he, “is a man over there with a shaven crown who says he’d manage the thing for you. Now, he ought to know. Does not he belong to a Church that has an infallible head? Give yourself up to him,” saith he, “and it will be all right. Or,” saith he, “I hate popery; but there is a clergyman, let him give you the sacrament; rely upon him and it will be all safe. Or,” says he, “if you could but join the Church and be baptized; there, that will do—take it for granted that it is all right. Why should you trouble yourself with theological squabbles? let these things alone; be credulous, don’t search into the root of the matter; be content so long as you swim on the surface and do not care whether there be rocks down deep at the bottom of the sea.” And is this the way—is this the way to handle this matter wisely? Assuredly not, sir. Better trust a lawyer with your property than a priest with your soul. Better hand your purse to a highwayman upon the heath than commit your soul to a Romish priest. What will he do for you but make his penny of you, and your soul may be penniless for him. So shall it be with the best of men, if you make saviours of them. Go, lean upon a reed; go, build a throne of bubbles; go, sleep in a powder magazine with your candle burning in a bag of gunpowder; but do not trust even a good man with your soul. See to it that you handle this matter wisely, and you cannot do it thus.

“Ah, well!” says Satan, “if this will not do, then try the way of working out your own salvation with fear and trembling. Do good,” saith he, “say a great many prayers, perform a great many good works, and this is handling the matter wisely.” Now, I will take you to Switzerland for a minute to give you a picture. There was a poor women who lived in one of those sweet villages under the Alps, where the fountains are always pouring out their streams of water into the great stone tanks, and the huge overhanging roofs cover the peasant homes. She had been accustomed to climb the mountain to gather fodder for her cows, and she had driven her goats to the wild crags and the sheer solitudes where no sound is heard except the tinkling of the bell. She, good soul, had read nothing but the Bible, and her dreams and thoughts were all of heavenly things, and she dreamed thus, that she was walking along a smooth meadow where there were many fair flowers, and much soft grass. The pathway was smooth, and there were thousands winding their way along it, but they took no notice of her; she seemed alone. Suddenly the thought crossed her that this was the path to destruction; and these were selfish sinners; she sought another way for she feared to meet their doom. She saw a path up the mountain-side exceedingly steep and rugged, as mountain paths are, but up this she saw men and women carrying tremendous burdens, as some of us have seen them carry them, till they stoop right down under the tremendous weight as they climb the stony staircase. Here there was a tree across the road, and there a bramble, and there a brook was gushing down the mountain-side, and the path was lined with stones, and she slipped. So she turned aside again, but those that went up the hill looked at her with such sorrow that she turned back again, and began to climb once more, but only to find the way rough and impossible. She turned aside again into the green meadow, but the climbers seemed to be very sad, yet though they pitied her, she did not pity them, for their toil made them wet with perspiration and faint with fatigue. She dreamed she went along the green meadow till she came to a fair house, out of which looked a bright spirit. The side of the house where she was was all windows without a door, and the spirit said to her, “You have come the wrong road, you cannot come in this way, there is no entrance here,” and she woke. She told a Christian woman who visited her of this dream, and she said, “I am sore troubled for I cannot go up that mountain path, I know. I understand that to be the way of holiness, I cannot climb it, and I fear that I shall choose the green meadow, and when I come at last to the gates of heaven, they will tell me that is not the way and I cannot enter there.” So her kind instructress said to her, “I have not dreamed, but I have read in my Bible this morning that one day when the corn was ripening and the sun was shining brightly, there went three men out of a city called Jerusalem, one of them was the Savior of the world and the other two were thieves. One of them, as he hung upon the cross, found his way to the bright city of heaven; and it was said ‘To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.’ Did he go up that hilly path do you think?” “No,” said the poor woman, “he believed and was saved.” “Ah,” said her friend, “and this is your way to heaven. That hilly path you cannot climb; those who were ascending it with so much labor perished ere they reached the summit, tottering from some dizzy height, they were dashed to pieces upon some jagged rock. Believe, and this shall be the path of salvation for you.” And so I come to the poor soul and I say, if thou wouldst handle matters rightly, happy is he that trusteth in the Lord. You have done the right thing for eternity, with all its solemnities, when you have cast your soul just as it is on him who is “able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him.”

And let me now tell you what are the excellencies of so doing. That man who believes in Christ and can say, “Salvation is finished; all is of Christ and all is free; my faith is in Jesus Christ and in him alone,”—that man is freed from fears; he is not afraid to die, Christ has finished the work for him: he is not afraid to live, he shall not perish, for his soul is in Jesus Christ: and he is not afraid of trial, or of trouble, for he that bought him with his blood shall keep him with his arm. He is free from present fears, and he is free from present cares too. He has no need to toil and labor, to fret and strive, to do this or to do that. He feels no more the whip of the slave-driver on his back; his life is happy and his service light, the yoke he wears he scarce knows to be a yoke, the road is pleasant, and the path is peace—no climbing upwards except as angel hands assist him to climb the road which else no mortal feet could traverse. He is free too from all fatal delusion. He is not a deceived man, he shall never open his eyes to find himself mistaken, he has something which shall last him long as life shall last, which shall be with him when he wakes from his bed of clay to conduct him joyously to realms of light and endless day. This man is such a man that if I compared him with the very angels I should not do amiss. He is on earth but his heart is in heaven; he is here below, but yet he sits together with Christ in heavenly places, he has his troubles but they work his lasting good; he has his trials but they are only the precursors of victory, he has weakness, but he glories in infirmity because the power of Christ doth rest upon him, he is sometimes cast down, but he is not destroyed, he is perplexed, he is not in despair, he does not grovel, but he walks upright; his foot may be in the mire, but his eye is above the stars; his body may be covered with rags, but his soul his robed in light, he may go to a miserable pallet to find an unresting rest, but his soul sleeps in the bosom of his beloved, and he has a perfect peace, “a peace which passeth all understanding, which keeps his heart and mind through Jesus Christ.” Christians, I would that you and I could believe God better and get rid of these wicked fears of ours. Gracious Father, I do to-day cast all I have on thee, and all I have not, too, I would cast on thee. My cares, my sorrows, my labors, my joys, my present, my past, my future—take thou and manage all. I will be nothing, be thou all.


“O God, I cast my care on thee,

I triumph and adore,

Henceforth my chief concern shall be

To love and serve thee more.”

Brethren, believers in Jesus, do the same, and you shall find that happy is the man who trusteth in the Lord. As for you who fear not the Lord Jesus—may his Holy Spirit visit you this morning, may he quicken you, for you are dead in sin; may he give you power, for you are strengthless of yourselves. Remember, the way of salvation is simple and plain before you—“Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.” Trust my Master’s blood, depend upon his finished righteousness and you must, you shall be saved; you cannot, you will not be lost.


“Oh believe the promise true

God to you his Son has given.”

Depend on his Son, and you shall thus escape from hell, and find your path to heaven. The Lord add now his own best blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.


                          The Unrivalled Friend


                          November 7th, 1869,

              at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                                by C. H. Spurgeon.

            “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for             
—Proverbs 17:17.


There is one thing about the usefulness of which all men are agreed, namely, friendship; but most men are soon aware that counterfeits of friendship are common as autumn leaves. Few men enjoy from others the highest and truest form of friendship. The friendships of this world are hollow, they are as unsubstantial as a dream, as soon dissipated as a bubble, as light as thistledown. Those airy compliments, those empty sentences of praise, how glibly they fall from the lip, but how little have they to do with the heart! He must be a fool indeed who believes that there is aught in the complimentary affection but mere flattery or matter of form. The loving cup means not love, and the loud cheering of the toast means not sincere fellowship. With very many friendship sits very loosely: they could almost write as Horace Walpole does in one of his letters. He says he takes every thing very easily, “and if,” saith he, “a friend should die, I drive down to the St. James’s coffee-house and bring home another,” doubtless as cordial and enraptured with the new friend as with the old. Friends in this world are too often like the bees which swarm around the plants while they are covered with flowers and those flowers contain nectar for their honey; but let November send its biting frosts, the flowers are nipped, and their friends the bees forsake them. Swallow friendship lives out with us our summer but finds other loves in winter. It has always been so from of old, even until now; Ahithophel has deserted David and Judas has sold his Lord. The greatest of kings who have been fawned upon by their courtiers while in power, have been treated as if they were but dogs in the time of their extremity; we may, as the poet of the passions—


“Sing Darius, great and good-Deserted

in his utmost need,

By those his former bounty fed;

On the cold ground exposed he lies,

With not a friend to close his eyes.”

Of all friendship which is not based on principle, we may say with the prophet, “Thou art weighed in the balances and found wanting.” But there is a higher friendship than this by far, and it subsists among Christian men, among men of principle, among men of virtue where profession is not all, but where there is real meaning in the words they use. Damon and Pythias still have their followers among us, Jonathan and David are not without their imitators. All hearts are not traitorous; fidelity still lingers among men: where godliness builds her house true friendship finds a rest. Solomon speaking not of the world’s sham friends but of friends indeed, saith, “A friend loveth at all times.” Having once given his heart to his chosen companion he clings to him in all weathers, fair or foul; he loves him none the less because he becometh poor, or because his fame suffers an eclipse, but his friendship like a lamp shines the brighter, or is made more manifest because of the darkness that surrounds it. True friendship is not fed from the barn-floor or the winefat; it is not like the rainbow dependent upon the sunshine, it is fixed as a rock and firm as granite, and smiles superior to wind and tempest. If we have friendship at all, brethren and sisters, let this be the form it takes: let us be willing to be brought to the test of the wise man, and being tried, may we not be found wanting. “A friend loveth at all times.”

But I am not about to talk of friendship at all as it exists between man and man; I prefer to uplift the text into a still higher sphere. There is a Friend, blessed for ever be his name, who loveth at all times; there is a Brother who in an emphatic sense was born for adversity. That friend is Jesus, the friend of sinners, the friend of man, the brother of our souls, born into this world that he might succor us in our adversities. I shall take the text then and refer it to the Lord Jesus Christ; and unless time should fail us I shall then refer it to ourselves as in connection with the Lord Jesus Christ, showing that we also ought to love him even as he has loved us, always and under all adversities.

I. First then in reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. The first sentence is, “a friend loveth at all times,” and this leads us to consider first, the endurance of the love of Jesus Christ.

My dear brethren, when we read “a friend loveth at all times” and refer that to Christ, the sentence, full as it is, falls short of what we mean, for our Lord Jesus is a friend who loved us before there was any time. Before time began the Lord Jesus Christ had entered into covenant that he would redeem a people unto himself, who should show forth his Father’s praise. Before time began his prescient eye had foreseen the creatures whom he determined to redeem by blood. These he took to himself by election, these the Father also gave to him by divine donation, and upon these, as he saw them in the glass of futurity, he set his heart. Long before days began to be counted or moons to wax and wane, or suns to rise and set, Jehovah Jesus had set apart a people to himself whom he espoused unto himself, whose names he engraved upon his heart and upon his hands, that they might be taken into union with himself for ever and ever. Meditate on that love which preceded the first rays of the morning, and went forth to you before the mountains were brought forth or ever he had formed the earth and the world. My brethren, you believe the doctrine of eternal love, meditate thereon, and let it be very sweet unto your hearts:—


“Before thy hands had made

The sun to rule the day,

Or earth’s foundation laid,

Or fashioned Adam’s clay,

What thoughts of peace and mercy flow’d

In thy dear bosom, O my God!”

He loved you when time began, in the elder days before the flood, and in the far-off periods; for those promises which were spoken in love had reference to you as well as to all the believing seed. All the deeds of love which were wrought as a preface to his coming, all had some bearing towards you as one of his people. There never was a point in the antiquity of our world in which this friend did not love you, every era of time has been a time of love. Love, like a silver thread, runs adown the ages. Chiefly did he lay bare his love eighteen hundred years ago, when down with joyful haste he sped to lie in the manger; and hang as a babe at the virgin’s breast. He proved his love to you to a degree surpassing thought when as a carpenter’s son he condescended for thirty years to live in obscurity, working out a perfect righteousness for you, and then spent three years of arduous toil to be ended by a death of bitterness unutterable. You had no being then, but he loved you and gave himself for you. For you the bloody sweat that fell amidst the olives of Gethsemane; for you the scourging and the crowning with thorns; for you the nails and spear, the vinegar and lance; for you the cry of agony; the exceeding sorrow “even unto death.” He is a friend that loved you in that darkest and most doleful hour when your sins were laid upon him and with their crushing weight pressed him down, as it were, in spirit, to the lowest hell.

Beloved, having thus redeemed you, he loved you when time began with you. As soon as you were born the eye of his tenderness was fixed upon you. “When Ephraim was a child, then I loved him.” It was lovingkindness which arranged your parents’ native place and time of birth. You came not into this world, as it were, by chance, or as the young ostrich bereft of a parent’s care—the Lord was your guardian; the Lord Jesus Christ looked upon you in your cradle and bade his angels keep ward around you. He would not let you die unconverted, though fierce diseases waited around you to hurry you to hell. And when you grew up to manhood and ripened the follies of youth into the crimes of mature years, yet still he loved you. O let your heart be humbled as you remember that if you ever fell into blasphemy, he loved you as you cursed him; that if you indulged in Sabbath-breaking, he loved you when you despised his day; that your neglected Bible could not wean his heart from you, that your neglected prayer closet could not make him cease his affection. Alas! to what an excess of riot did some of his people run! but he loved them notwithstanding all. He was a friend that loved under the most provoking circumstances.


“Loved when a wretch defiled with sin,

At war with heaven, in league with hell,

A slave to every lust obscene,

Who, living, lived but to rebel.”

When justice would have said, “Let the rebel go O Jesus; be not bound any longer by cords of love to such a wretch,” our ever-faithful Redeemer would not cast us away but threw another band of grace around us and loved us still. Consider well “his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses and sins.”

I feel as if this were rather matter for you to think over in private, than for me thus hastily to introduce to you in public. May the Holy Spirit however now bedew your hearts with grateful drops of celestial love as I remind you of the love at all times of this best of friends. You recollect when you were constrained to seek him, when your heart began to be weary of its sin, and to be alarmed at the doom that would surely follow unpardoned transgression; it was his love that sowed the first seeds of desire and anxiety in your heart. You had never desired him if he had not first desired you. There was never a good thought towards Christ in any human breast, unless Christ first put it there. He drew you and then you began to run after him; but had he left you alone your running would have been from him, and never towards him. It was a bitter time when we were seeking the Savior, a time of anguish and sore travail. We recollect the tears and prayers that we poured out day and night, asking for mercy; but Jesus our friend was loving to us then, taking delight in those penitential tears, putting them into his bottle, telling the angels that we were praying, and making them string their harps afresh to sweet notes of praise over sinners that repented. He knew us, knew us in the gloom, in the thick darkness in which we sought after God, if haply we might find him. He was near the prodigal’s side when in all his rags and filth he was saying, “I will arise, and go to my Father,” and it was Jesus through whom we were introduced to the Father’s bosom, and received the parental kiss, and were made to sit down where there are music and dancing, because the dead are alive, and the lost is found.

My brethren, since that happy day this friend has loved us at all times. I wish I could say that since that sacred hour when we first came to his feet and saw ourselves saved through him, we had always walked worthily of the privileges we have received; but it has been very much the reverse. There have been times in which we have honored him, his grace has abounded, and our holiness has been manifest; but alas! there have been other seasons in which we have backslidden, our hearts have grown cold, and we were on the road to become like Nabal when his heart was turned to a stone within him. We have been half persuaded like Orpah to go back to the land of idols, and not like Ruth to cleave unto the Lord our God. Our heart has played the harlot from the love of Christ, desiring the leeks and garlick and onions of Egypt rather than the treasures of the land of promise. But at such times when our piety has been at a low ebb, he has loved us still; there has not been the slightest diminution in the affection of Christ even when our piety has been diminished; he does not set his clock by our watch, or stint his love to the narrow measure of ours. I fear we have often gone further than merely getting poor in grace within; there have been times when God’s people have even actually fallen into overt sin; ay, and have descended to sin grievously too, and to dishonor the name of Christ; but herein is mercy, even those actual and accursed sins of ours have not rent away the promise from us, nor turned away the heart of Christ for his beloved. Sinned though we have to our abounding sorrow, I was about to say, for if there could be sorrow in heaven we might eternally regret that we have sinned against such love and mercy, yet for all that our Lord and Savior would not cast us off, nor will he abjure us come what may.

Reflect, my dear friends, upon all the trying and changeful scenes through which you have passed since the time of your conversion. You have been rich perhaps and increased in goods: you were tempted to forget your Lord, but he was a friend who loved you at all times, and he would not suffer your prosperity to ruin you, but still made his love to dart with healing beams into your soul. But you have been also very poor. The cupboard has been bare and you have said, “Whence shall I find sufficient to supply my need?” But Christ has not gone away because your suit was threadbare, or your house ill furnished; nay, he has been nearer than ever, and if he revealed himself to you in your prosperity, much more in your adversity. You have found him a faithful friend when all others were unfaithful, true when every one else was a liar. You have been sore sick sometimes, but he it was that made the pillow, and that softened the bed of your affliction. It may be you have been slandered and those who loved you have passed you by. Some ill word has been spoken in which there was no truth, but it has sufficed to turn away the esteem of many; but your Lord has gone with you through shame and abuse, and never for a single moment has he even hinted that he only loved you because you were had in respect by men. Ever faithful, ever true has been this friend who loveth at all times. Ah, there have been times, it may be with you, when you could fain have thrown your very self away, for you felt so empty, so good-for-nothing, so undeserving, ill deserving, hell deserving; you felt fitter to die than to live; you could hardly entertain a hope that any good thing could ever spring from you: but when you have least esteemed yourself, his esteem of you has been just the same; when you were ready to die in a ditch, he has been ready to lift you to a throne; when you felt yourself a castaway, you have still been pressed to his dear bosom, an object of his peculiar regard.

Soon, very soon, your time will come to die: you shall pass through the valley of deathshade, but you need not fear for the friend that loveth at all times will be with you then. That eminent servant of God, Jonathan Edwards, when he was at his last, said, “Where is Jesus of Nazareth, my old and faithful friend? I know he will be with me now that I need his help,” and so he was, for that faithful servant died triumphant. You shall enquire in that last day for Jesus of Nazareth and you shall hear him say, “Here I am;” you shall find the death-shade vale lit up with supernal splendor, it shall be no death to you, but a passing into life eternal, because he who is the resurrection and the life shall be your helper.

Thus I have hastily run through the life of Christ’s love from the beginning that had no beginning, down to the end that knoweth no end, and in every case we see that he is a friend that loveth at all times.

Now brethren, I shall vary the strain though still keeping to the same subject. Let us consider the reality of Christ’s love at all times. The text says, “A friend loveth at all times,” not professes to love, not talks of love, but really does so. Now in Christ’s case the love has become intensely practical. His love has never been a thing of mere words or pretensions; his love has acted out itself in mighty deeds, and signs, and wonders, worthy of a God, such as heaven itself shall not sufficiently extol with all its golden harps.

See then brethren, Christ has practically loved us at all times. It is not long ago that you and I were slaves to sin, we wore the fetters, nor could we break them from our wrists. We were held fast by evil passions and worldly habits, and there seemed no hope of liberty for us. Jesus loved us at all times, but the love did not let us lie prisoners any longer. He came and paid the ransom price for us. In drops of blood from his own heart he counted down the price of our redemption, and by his eternal Spirit he broke every fetter from us, and to-day his believing people rejoice in the liberty wherewith Christ makes them free. See how practical his love was! He did not leave the slave in his chains and let him remain a captive, but he loved us right out of our prison-house into a sacred freedom. Our Lord found us not long ago standing upon our trial. There we were prisoners at the bar, we had nothing to plead in our defense. The accuser stood up to plead against us, and as he laid many charges and heavy, we were not able to answer so much as one of them. Our great High Priest stood there and saw us thus arraigned as prisoners at the bar; he loved us, but oh! how efficient was his love—he became an advocate for us; he did more, he stood in our place and stead, stood where the felon ought to stand. He suffered what was due to us and then covering us with his perfect righteousness, he said before the blaze of the ineffable throne of justice, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is Christ that died, yea, rather that hath risen again.” He did not love the prisoner at the bar and leave him there to be condemned; he loved him until this day we stand acquitted, and there is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. Believer, lift up your heart now, and bless his name who hath done all this for thee.

Our Lord when he came in mercy to us, found us in the rags of our self-righteousness, and in the abject poverty of our natural condition. We were houseless, fatherless; we were without spiritual bread, we were sick and sore, we were as low and degraded as sin could make us. He loved us but he did not leave us where love found us. Ah! do you not remember how he washed us in the fountain which flowed from his veins; how he wrapped us about with the fair white linen, which is the righteousness of his saints; how he gave us bread to eat that the world knoweth not of; how he supplied all our wants and gave us a promise that whatsoever we should ask in prayer, if we did but believe his name, we should receive it? We were aliens, but his love has made us citizens; we were far off, but his love has brought us nigh; we were perishing, but his love hath enriched us; we were serfs, but his love has made us sons; we were condemned criminals, but his love has made us “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ.”

I shall not enlarge here, but I shall appeal to the experience of every believer. In your needs, has not Christ always helped you? you have been in doubt which way to take and you have gone to him for guidance: did you ever go wrong when you left it to him? Your heart has been very heavy and you had no friend that you could communicate with, but you have talked with him, and have not you always found solace in pouring out your hearts before him? When did he ever fail you? when did you find his arm shortened, or his ear heavy? Up to this moment has it been mere talk with Christ? no, you know it has been most true and real love—and now in the recollection of it, I beseech you give him true and real praise, not that of the head only, or of the lip, but of your whole spirit, soul, and body, as you consecrate yourself afresh to him. See then the endurance of Christ’s love, and see then also the reality of it.

By your patience, I shall notice in the next place the nature of the love of Christ, accounting for its endurance and reality. The love of our good friend to us sprang from the purest possible motives, he has nought to gain by loving us. Some friendship may be supposed to be tinged with a desire of self advantage, to that extent it is degraded and valueless. But Jesus Christ had nought to gain, but everything to lose. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” The love he bears to his people was not a love which sprang from anything in them. I have no doubt it had a reason, for Christ never acts unreasonably, but that reason did not lie in us. Love between us and our fellows sometimes springs from personal beauty, sometimes for traits of character which we admire, and at other times from obligations which we have incurred, but with Christ none of these things could avail. There was no personal beauty in any one of his elect: there were no traits of character in them that could enchant him, very much on the other hand that might have disgusted him; he certainly was under no obligations to us, for we had not a being then when his heart was set upon us. The love of man to man is sustained by something drawn from the object of love, but the love of Christ to us has its deep springs within himself. As his own courts maintain the grandeur of his throne without drawing a revenue from the creatures, so his own love maintains itself without drawing any motives and reasons from us, and hence my brethren, you see why this love is the same at all times. If it had to subsist upon us and what we do and what we merit, ah! it would always be at the lowest conceivable ebb, but since it leaps up from the great deep of the divine heart, it never changes, it never shall.

Be it also remembered that Christ’s love was a wise love, not blind as ours often is. He loved us knowing exactly what we were whom he loved. There is nothing in the constitution of man that Jesus Christ had not perceived; there is nothing in your individuality but what Christ had foreknown. Remember Christ loved his people before they began to sin, but not in the dark. He knew exactly everything they would think or do or be; and if he resolved to love them at all you may rest assured he never will change in that love, since nothing fresh can ever occur to his divine mind. Had he begun to love us and we had deceived and disappointed him, he might have turned us out of doors, but he knew right well that we should revolt, that we should backslide and should provoke him to jealousy; he loved us knowing all this, and therefore it is that his love abides and endures and shall even remain faithful to the end.

Brethren, the love of Christ is associated continually with an infinite degree of patience and pity. Our Lord knows that we are but dust, and like as a father pitieth his children so he pities us. We are but short-tempered, but our Lord is longsuffering. When he sees us sin he saith within himself, “Alas! poor souls, what folly in them thus to injure themselves.” He takes not our cold words in umbrage so as to put himself in wrathful fume therewith; but he saith, “Poor child, how he hurteth himself by this, and how much he loseth thereby.” He even hath a kind look for us when we sin, for he knows it is blotted out through his own blood, and he sees rather the mischief which it is quite sure to bring to the poor soul than the evil of the sin itself. Jesus hath infinite condescension and patience, and we cannot so provoke him as to turn him from his purpose of grace. He is at all times ready to pardon and never slow to be moved to forgiveness. Oh, the provocations of men! but the patience of Christ reacheth over the mountains of our provocation and drowns them all.

Methinks one reason why Christ is so constant in his love and so patient with us is that he sees us as what we are to be. He does not look at us merely as what we are to-day in Adam’s fall— ruined and lost, nor as we are to-day but partly delivered from indwelling sin; but he remembers that we are to lie in his bosom for ever, that we are to be exactly like himself and to be partakers of his glory; and as he sees us in the glass of futurity, as by-and-by to be his companions in the world of the perfect, he passes by transgression, iniquity and sin, and like a true friend he loveth us at all times.

I shall not weary those who know this love. They need no gaudy sentences or eloquent periods to set it forth. Its sweetness lies in itself. You may drink such wine as this out of any cup. He that knoweth the flavour of this divine dainty, asketh not that it be carved this way or that, he rejoiceth but to have it, for the meditation upon it must be sweet. “A friend loveth at all times.”

The next sentence of the text is, “and a brother is born for adversity.” That is to say, a true brother comes out and shows his brotherhood in the time of the trouble of the family. Now let every believer in Jesus here catch the meaning of this with regard to Christ. Jesus Christ was born for you. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given;” but if at any one time more than another Christ is peculiarly yours by birth, it is in the time of adversity. A brother born for adversity.

Observe that Christ was born in the first place for our adversity, to deliver us from the great adversity of the fall. When our parents’ sin had blasted Eden and destroyed our hopes, when the summer of our joy had turned into the winter of our discontent, then Christ was born in Bethlehem’s manger that the race might be lifted up to hope, and his elect be elevated to salvation. He restored that which he took not away, he rebuilt that which he cast not down. He had never come to be a Savior if we had not been lost; because our adversity was so great, therefore so great a Savior was required, and so great a Savior came.

Our Lord is born for adversity because he has the peculiar art of sympathising with all in adversity. No other but he can claim that he has ranged high and low through all the territories of grief, but this, Jesus Christ can justly claim. Every pang that ever rends a human heart has first tried its keen edge on him. It is not possible even in the extremities of anguish to which some are exposed, that any man can go beyond Christ in the endurance of pain. Christ is crowned king of misery, he is the emperor of the domains of woe. He is able therefore to succor all such as are tempted and tried, seeing he is compassed about himself also with a feeling of our infirmities. Look to him suffering on the tree, look to him throughout all his life of shame and pain and you will see that he was born into adversity, and through being born into it, was born to sympathise with our trials, having learned, as the Captain of our salvation, to be made perfect in sympathy with those many sons whom he brings to glory.

Brethren, the text means more than this however. Jesus Christ is a brother born for adversity because he always gives his choicest presence to his saints when they are in tribulation. I know many men will think that the presence of Christ with the sick and with the depressed is mere fancy. Ah, blessed fancy! such a fancy as makes them laugh at pain and rejoice in deep distress, and take joyfully the spoiling of their goods. A blessed fancy truly! Let me declare my heart’s witness, and assert that if there be anything real anywhere to the spiritual mind, the presence of Christ is intensely so. Though we do not see his form bending over us, nor mark the lovely light of those eyes that once were red with weeping, though we touch not that hand which felt the nails, and hear no soft footfalls of the feet that were fastened to the cross, yet are we inwardly as certainly conscious of the shadow of Christ falling upon us as ever were his disciples when he stood in the tempest-tossed vessel, and said to winds and waves, “Peace, be still.” Believe me, it is not imagination, nor is it barely faith. It is faith that brings him, but there is a kind of spiritual sense that discovers his presence and that rejoices in the bliss flowing therefrom. We speak what we do know and testify what we have seen when we say that he is a brother born for adversity in very deed, most tenderly revealing himself to his people, as he doth not unto the world.

He is born for adversity I think in this sense, that you can hardly know him except through adversity. You may know Christ so as to be saved by him by a single act of faith, but for a full discovery of his beauty it needs that you go through the furnace. Those children of God whose grassy paths are always newly mown and freshly smoothed, learn comparatively but little fellowship with Christ and have but slender knowledge of him, but they that do business on great waters, these see the works of the Lord and his wonders in the deep, and these know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted,” many can say, not only because of the restoring effect of sorrow, but because their afflictions have acted like windows, to let them gaze into the very heart of Christ, and read his pity and understand his nature, as they never could have done by other means. Furnace light is memorably clear. Jesus is a brother born for adversity because in the glimmer of the world’s eventide, when all the lamps are going out, a glory shines around him, transforming midnight into day.

He is a brother born for adversity, in the last place, because in adversity it is that through his people’s patience he is glorified. I warrant you the sweetest songs that ever come up from these lowlands to the eternal throne are from sick beds. “They shall sing his high praises in the fires.” God’s children are too often dumb when they have much of this world’s earth in their mouths, but when the Lord is pleased to take away their comforts and possessions, then, like birds in cages they begin to sing with all their hearts. Praise him, ye suffering ones, your praise will be grateful to him. Extol him ye mourners, exchange by faith your sorrows for hopes, and bless his name who deserveth to be praised.

II. Now I shall leave this and only for a moment turn the text round to a practical purpose by referring it to the Christian. I hope that what has been spoken has been only the echo of the experience of the most of you. You have found Jesus Christ to be a true brother and a blessed friend, now let the same be true of you. He that would have friends must show himself friendly. If Christ be such a friend to us, what manner of people ought we to be towards him? So, beloved, let us pray and labor to be friends that love Christ at all times. Alas! some professors seem to love him at no time at all. They give him lip homage, but they refuse to give him the exercise of their talents, or the contribution of their substance. They love him only with words that are but air, but they offer him no sweet cane with money, neither do they fill him with the fat of their sacrifices. Such people are windbag lovers, and do nothing substantial to prove their affection. Let it not be so with us. Let our love to Christ be so true as to constrain us to make sacrifices for him. Let us deny ourselves that we may spread abroad the knowledge of his truth, and never be content unless in very deed and act we are giving proofs of our love.

We ought to love him at all times. Alas! there are some that prosper in business who grow too great to love their Savior. They hold their heads too high to associate with his saints. Aforetime they were with his people, content to worship with them when they were in humble circumstances, but they have prospered in trade, they have laid by a good store of wealth, and now they feel half ashamed to attend the conventicle that was once the very joy of their hearts. They must seek out the world’s religion, and they must worship after the world’s fashion, for they must not be left behind in society. The people of God are not good enough for them; though they be kings and princes in Christ’s esteem, yet are they too poor company for those that have risen so high in the world. Alas, alas! that professed lovers of Jesus should rise too high to walk truthfully and faithfully with Christ: it is no rise at all, but a lamentable fall. Let us cling to him in days of joy as well as nights of grief, and prove to all mankind that there are no enchantments in this world that can win our hearts away from our best beloved.

We should love Jesus Christ at all times, that is to say, in times when the church seems dull and dead. Perhaps some of you are living in a district just now where the ministry is painfully devoid of power. The lamp burns very low in your sanctuary, the members worshipping are few and zeal is altogether dead. Do not desert the church, do not flee away from her in the time of her necessity. Keep to your post, come what may. Be the last man to leave the sinking vessel, if sink she must. Resolve as a friend of Christ to love him at all times, and as a brother born into that church, feel that now, beyond all other times, in the season of adversity, you must adhere to her. It may happen that some here present may to-morrow be found in a workshop or in some other place where their business brings them, where some dear child of God will be laughed at and ridiculed. That same man you would have cheerfully owned on the Sabbath as your brother, you delighted to unite your voice with him in prayer, but now while he stands in the midst of a ribald throng will you own him, or rather, own Christ in him? They are making cruel jokes, they are vexing his gracious spirit; now it is possible that a cowardly fear may make you slink away to the other end of the shop, but oh, if you remember that a friend loveth at all times you will take up this man’s quarrel as being Christ’s quarrel, and you, as being a part of the body of Christ, will be willing to share whatever contumely may come upon your fellow Christian, and you will say “If you mock at him you may mock also at me, for I also have been with Jesus of Nazareth, and him whom you scoff at I adore.” O let us never, by the love that Christ has borne to us, keep back a truth because it may expose us to shame. Let us never be such cowards as to palter with the word of God because we may then live in silken ease and delicacy. These are not times in which one single particle of truth ought to be repressed. Whatever the Spirit of God and the word of God may have taught you my brethren, out with it for Christ’s sake, and let it bring what it will to you, bear that with joy. Since your Savior bore far more for you, count it joy to bear anything for him. Be a brother born on purpose for adversity. Do you expect to be carried to heaven on beds of ease? do you reckon to win the everlasting laurels without a conflict? What, sirs, would ye stand beneath the waving banners of victory without having first endured the smoke and the dust of battle? Nay, rather with consecrated courage follow in the steps of your Master. Love him at all times, give up all for him, and then shall you soon be with him in his glory world without end. God grant a blessing for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

                                  Our Stronghold


                        October 26th, 1862,

             at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.


“The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth        
        into it, and is safe.” {safe: Heb. set aloft}
—— Proverbs 18:10.


Strong towers were a greater security in a bygone age than they are now. Then, when troops of marauders invaded the land, strong castles were set upon the various hill-tops and the inhabitants gathered up their little wealth and fled thither at once. Castles were looked upon as being very difficult places for attack; and ancient troops would rather fight a hundred battles than endure a single siege. Towns which would be taken by modern artillery in twelve hours held out for twelve years against the most potent forces of the ancient times. He that possessed a castle was lord of all the region round about, and made their inhabitants either his clients who sought his protection or his dependents whom he ruled at will. He who owned a strong tower felt, however potent might be his adversary, his walls and bulwarks would be his sure salvation. Generous rulers provided strongholds for their people; mountain fortresses where the peasantry might be sheltered from marauders. Transfer your thoughts to a thousand years ago, and picture a people who after ploughing and sowing, have gathered in their harvest, but when they are about to make merry with the harvest festival, a startling signal banishes their joy. A trumpet is blown from yonder mountain, the tocsin answers it from the village tower, hordes of ferocious robbers are approaching, their corn will be devoured by strangers; burying their corn and furniture and gathering up the little portable wealth they have, they hasten with all their might to their tower of defense which stands on yonder ridge. The gates are shut; the drawbridge is pulled up; the portcullis is let down; the warders are on the battlements, and the inhabitants within feel that they are safe. The enemy will rifle their deserted farms, and search for hidden treasure, and finding that the inhabitants are quite beyond their reach, they will betake themselves to some other place. Such is the figure which is in the text. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe.”

I. Of course we all know that by the name of God is meant the character of the Most High, so that our first lesson is that the character of God furnishes the righteous with an abundant security.

The character of God is the refuge of the Christian, in opposition to other refuges which godless men have chosen. Solomon suggestively puts the following words in the next verse— “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit.” The rich man feels that his wealth may afford him comfort. Should he be attacked in law, his wealth can procure him an advocate; should he be insulted in the streets, the dignity of a full purse will avenge him; should he be sick, he can fee the best physicians; should he need ministers to his pleasures, or helpers of his infirmities, they will be at his call; should famine stalk through the land, it will avoid his door; should war itself break forth he can purchase an escape from the sword, for his wealth is his strong tower. In contra-distinction to this, the righteous man finds in his God all that the wealthy man finds in his substance, and a vast deal more. “The Lord is my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I trust in him.” God is our treasure; he is to us better than the fullest purse, or the most magnificent income; broad acres yield not such peace as a well attested interest in the love and faithfulness of our heavenly Father. Provinces under our sway could not bring to us greater revenues than we possess in him who makes us heirs of all things by Christ Jesus. Other men who trust not in their wealth, nevertheless make their own names a strong tower. To say the truth, a man’s good name is no mean defense against the attacks of his fellow-men. To wrap one’s self about in the garment of integrity is to defy the chill blast of calumny, and to be mailed against the arrows of slander. If we can appeal to God and say, “Lord, thou knowest that in this thing I am not wicked,” then let the mouth of the liar pour forth his slanders, let him scatter his venom where he may, we bear an antidote within before which his poison yields its power. But this is only true in a very limited sense; death soon proves to men that their own good name can afford them no consolation, and under conviction of sin a good repute is no shelter. When conscience is awake, when the judgment is unbiassed, when we come to know something of the law of God and of the justice of his character, we soon discover that self-righteousness is no hiding-place for us, a crumbling battlement which will fall on the neck of him that hides behind it—a pasteboard fortification yielding to the first shock of the law—a refuge of lies to be beaten down with the great hailstones of eternal vengeance—such is the righteousness of man. The righteous trusteth not in this; not his own name, but the name of his God, not his own character, but the character of the Most High is his strong tower. Numberless are those castles in the air to which men hasten in the hour of peril: ceremonies lift their towers into the clouds; professions pile their walls high as mountains, and works of the flesh paint their delusions till they seem substantial bulwarks; but all, all shall melt like snow and vanish like a mist. Happy is he who leaves the sand for the rock, the phantom for the substance.

The name of the Lord is a strong tower to the Christian, not only in opposition to other men’s refuges, but as a matter of fact and reality. Even when he is not able to perceive it by experience, yet God’s character is the refuge of the saint. If we come to the bottom of things, we shall find that the basis of the security of the believer lies in the character of God. I know you will tell me it is the covenant; but what is the covenant worth if God were changeable, unjust, untrue? I know you will tell me that the confidence of the believer is in the blood of Christ; but what were the blood of Christ if God were false; if after Christ had paid the ransom the Lord should deny him the ransomed, if after Christ had stood the substitute, the judge of men should yet visit upon our heads for whom he suffered our own guilt; if Jehovah could be unrighteous; if he could violate his promise and become faithless as we are, then I say that even the blood of Christ would afford us no security. You tell me that there is his promise, but again I remind you that the value of a man’s promise must depend on his character. If God were not such that he cannot lie, if he were not so faithful that he cannot repent, if he were not so mighty that he cannot be frustrated when he intends to perform, then his promise were but waste paper; his words like our words would be but wind, and afford no satisfactory shelter for a soul distressed and anxious. But you will tell me he has sworn with an oath. Brethren, I know he has. He has given us two immutable things in which it is impossible for him to lie that we may have strong consolation. But still what is a man’s oath worth irrespective of his character? Is it not after all what a man is that makes his asseveration to be eminently mistrusted or profoundly believed? And it is because our God cannot by any means foreswear himself but must be true, that his oath becomes of value to you and to me. Brethren, after all, let us remember that the purpose of God in our salvation is the glorifying of his own character, and this it is that makes our salvation positively sure. If everyone that trusts in Christ be not saved then is God dishonored, the Lord of Hosts hath hung up his escutcheon, and if in the face of the whole earth he accomplisheth not that which he declares he will perform in this book, then is his escutcheon stained. I say it, he hath flung down the gauntlet to sin, and death, and hell, and if he be not the conqueror over all these in the heart of every soul that trusteth in him, then he is no more the God of Victories, nor can we shout his everlasting praise as the Lord mighty in battle. His character then, you see, when we come to the basis of all, is the great granite formation upon which must rest all the pillars of the covenant of grace and the sure mercies thereof. His wisdom, truth, mercy, justice, power, eternity, and immutability, are the seven pillars of the house of sure salvation. If we would have comfort, we can surely find it in the character of God. This is our strong tower, we run into it and we are safe.

Mark you beloved, not only is this true as a matter of fact, but it is true as a matter of experience. I hope I shall now speak the feelings of your hearts while I say we have found the character of God to be an abundant safeguard to us. We have known full well the trials of life; thank God we have, for what would any of us be worth if we had no troubles? Troubles like files take away our rust; like furnaces they consume our dross; like winnowing-fans they drive away the chaff, and we should have had but little value, we should have had but little usefulness if we had not been made to pass through the furnace. But in all our troubles we have found the character of God a comfort. You have been poor—very poor: I know some of you here have been out of work a long time, and you have wondered where your bread would come from even for the next meal. Now what has been your comfort? Have you not said, “God is too good to let me starve; he is too bountiful to let me want.” And so you see you have found his character to be your strong tower. Or else you have had personal sickness; you have long lain on the bed of weariness, tossing to and fro, and then the temptation has come into your heart to be impatient: “God has dealt hardly with you,” so the Evil One whispers; but how do you escape? Why, you say, “No, he is no tyrant, I know him to be a sympathizing God.” “In all their afflictions he was afflicted, the angel of his presence saved them.” Or else you have had losses—many losses, and you have been apt to ask, “How can these things be? How is it I have to work so long and plod so hard, and have to look about me with all my wits to earn but little, and yet when I have made money it melts? I see my wealth, like a flock of birds upon the fields, here one moment and gone the next, for a passer-by claps his hand and everything takes to itself wings and flies away.” Then we are apt to think that God is unwise to let us toil for naught; but lo, we run into our strong tower and we feel it cannot be. No; the God who sent this affliction could not have acted in a thoughtless, reckless, wisdomless manner; there must be something here that shall work for my good. You know brethren, it is useless for me to attempt to describe the various ways in which your trials come; but I am sure they that know Jehovah’s name will put their trust in him. Perhaps your trial has been want, and then you have said “His name is Jehovah-Jireh, the Lord will provide;” or else you have been banished from friends, perhaps from country, but you have said, “Ah! his name is Jehovah-Shammah, the Lord is there;” or else you have had a disturbance in your family; there has been war within and war without, but you have run into your strong tower, for you have said, “His name is Jehovah-Shalom, the Lord send peace;” or else the world has slandered you, and you yourself have been conscious of sin, but you have said, “His name is Jehovah-Tsidkenu, the Lord our righteousness,” and so you have gone there and been safe; or else many have been your enemies, then his name has been “Jehovah-Nissi, the Lord my banner;” and so he has been a strong tower to you. Defy then brethren—defy in God’s strength tribulations of every sort and size. Say with the poet,


“There is a safe and secret place

Beneath the wings divine,

Reserved for all the heirs of grace;

That refuge now is mine.

The least and feeblest here may hide

Uninjured and unawed;

While thousands fall on every side, I rest secure in God.”

But, beloved, besides the trials of this life we have the sins of the flesh, and what a tribulation these are; but the name of our God is our strong tower then. At certain seasons we are more than ordinarily conscious of our guilt; and I would give little for your piety if you do not sometimes creep into a corner with the poor publican and say, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Broken hearts and humble walkers, these are dear in Jesu’s eyes. There will be times with all of us when our saintship is not very clear, but our sinnership is very apparent; well then, the name of our God must be our defense: “He is very merciful”—“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.” Yea, in the person of Christ we even dare to look at his justice with confidence, since “He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Possibly it is not so much the guilt of sin that troubles you as the power of sin. You feel as if you must one day fall by the hand of this enemy within. You have been striving and struggling but the old Adam is too much for you. It is a stern conflict, and you fear that the sons of Anak will never be driven out. You feel you carry a bombshell within your heart; your passions are like a powder magazine; you are walking where the flakes of fire are flying, and you are afraid a spark may fall and then there will be a terrible destruction of everything Ah! then there is the power of God, there is the truth of God, there is the faithfulness of God, and despite all the desperate power of sin we find a shelter here in the character of the Most High. Sin sometimes cometh with all the terrors of the law; then, if thou knowest not how to hide thyself behind thy God, thou wilt be in an evil plight. It will come at times with all the fire of the flesh, and if thou canst not perceive that thy flesh was crucified in Christ and that thy life is a life in him, and not in thyself, then wilt thou soon be put to the rout. But he who lives in his God and not in himself, and he who wraps Christ’s righteousness about him, and is righteous in Christ, such a man may defy all the attacks of the flesh and all the temptations of the world; he shall overcome through the blood of the Lamb. “This is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

Then beloved, there are the temptations of the devil, and these are very dreadful; but how sweet it is still to feel that the character of God is our strong tower. Without walls of grace and bulwarks of mercy how can a tempted soul escape the clutches of the archdestroyer? But where the soul lies in the entrenchments of divine promise, all the devils in hell cannot carry it by storm. I saw this week one whom many of you greatly respect—the former pastor of this Church, Mr. James Smith of Cheltenham [since departed “to be with Christ, which is far better.”]—a name well-known by his innumerable little works which are scattered everywhere and cannot fail to do good. You will remember that about a year ago he was struck with paralysis, and one half of his body is dead. But yet when I saw him on the bed I had not seen a more cheerful man in the full heyday of strength. I had been told that he was the subject of very fearful conflicts at times; so after I had shaken hands with him I said, “Friend Smith, I hear you have many doubts and fears!” “Who told you that?” said he, “for I have none.” “Never have any? why, I understood you had many conflicts.” “Yes,” he said, “I have many conflicts, but I have no doubts; I have many wars within but I have no fears. Who could have told you that? I hope I have not led any one to think that. It is a hard battle but I know the victory is sure. After I have had an ill night’s rest—of course, through physical debility—my mind is troubled, and then that old coward Satan who would be afraid to meddle with me perhaps if I were strong, attacks me when I am weak; but I am not afraid of him; don’t you go away with that opinion; he does throw many fiery darts at me but I have no doubt as to my final victory.” Then he said, in his own way, “I am just like a packet that is all ready to go by train, packed, corded, labelled, paid for, and on the platform, waiting for the express to come by and take me to glory. I wish I could hear the whistle now,” said he, “I had hoped I should have been carried to heaven long ago; but still I am fine.” “And then,” he said, “I have been telling your George Moore over there that I am not only on the rock, but that I am cemented to the rock, and that the cement is as hard as the rock so there is no fear of my perishing; unless the rock falls I cannot; unless the gospel perishes I cannot perish.” Now, here was a man attacked by Satan; he did not tell me of the bitter conflicts he had within, I know they were severe enough; he was anxious to bear a good testimony to the faithfulness of his gracious Lord; but you see it was his God that was his stronghold; he ran to this—the immutability, the faithfulness, the truthfulness, the mightiness of that God upon whose arm he leaned. If you and I will do the same, we can always find an attribute of God to oppose each suggestion of the Evil One. “God will leave thee,” says the Evil One. “Thou old liar, he cannot for he is a faithful God.” “But thou wilt perish after all.” “O thou vile deceiver, that can never be for he is a mighty God and strong to deliver.” “But one of these times he will abhor thee.” “No; thou false accuser and father of lies, that cannot be for he is a God of love.” “The time shall happen when he shall forget thee.” “No, traitor; that cannot be for he is a God omniscient and knows and sees all things.” I say, thus we may rebut every mischievous slander of Satan, running still into the character of God as our strong tower.

Brethren, even when the Lord himself chastens us, it is most blessed to appeal against God to God. Do you understand what I mean? He smites us with his rod, but then to look up and say, “Father, if I could believe what thy rod seems to say, I should say thou lovest me not; but I know thou art a God of love, and my faith tells me that thou lovest me none the less because of that hard blow.” See here brethren, I will put myself in the case a moment—Lo, He spurns me as though he hated me; drives me from his presence; gives me no caresses; denies me sweet promises; shuts me up in prison, and gives me the water of affliction and the bread of distress; but my faith declares, “He is such a God that I cannot think hardly of him; he has been so good to me that I know he is good now, and in the teeth of all his providences, even when he puts a black mask over his face, I still believe that


“Behind a frowning providence,

He hides a smiling face.”

But, friends, I hope you know, I hope each of us may know by experience the blessed art of running into the bosom of God and hiding therein.

This word is to the sinner who has not yet found peace. Do not you see, man, the Christian is not saved by what he is, but by what his God is, and this is the groundwork of our comfort—that God is perfect, not that we are perfect. When I preached last Thursday night about the snuffers of the temple and the golden snuffer trays, and the necessity there was for the lamps in the sanctuary to be trimmed, one foolish woman said, “Ah, you see, according to the minister’s own confession these Christians are as bad as the rest of us, they have many faults; oh!” said she, “I dare say I shall be as well off at the last as they will.” Poor soul! she did not see that the Christian’s hope does not lie in what he is, but in what Christ is; our trust is not in what we suffer, but in what Jesus suffered; not in what we do, but in what He has done. It is not our name I say again that is a strong tower to us, it is not even our prayer, it is not our good works; it is the name, the promise, the truth, the work, the finished righteousness of our God in Christ Jesus. Here the believer finds his defense and nowhere besides. Run sinner, run, for the castle gate is free to all who seek a shelter, be they who they may.

II. By your leave I shall turn to the second point. How the righteous avail themselves of this strong tower. They run into it. Now running seems to me to imply that they do not stop to make any preparation. You will remember our Lord Jesus Christ said to his disciples that when the Romans surrounded Jerusalem, he that was on the house-top was not to come down into his house, but to run down the outer staircase and escape. So the Christian, when he is attacked by his enemies, should not stop for anything but just run into his God and be safe. There is no need for thee to tarry until thou hast prepared thy mind, until thou hast performed sundry ablutions, but run man, straight away at once. When the pigeons are attacked by the hawk their better plan is not to parley, nor to stay, but swift as they can cut the air and fly to the dove-cote. So be it with you. Leave fools who will to parley with the fiend of hell; but as for you, fly to your God and enter into his secret places till the tempest be over past. A gracious hint is this to you anxious souls who are seeking to fit yourselves for Jesus. Away with such legal rubbish, run at once; you are safe in following the good example of the righteous.

This running appears to me to imply that they have nothing to carry. A man who has a load, the heavier the load may be, the more will he be impeded in his flight. But the righteous run like racers in the games who have thrown off everything; their sins they leave to mercy and their righteousness to the moles and bats. If I had any righteousness I would not carry it, but run to the righteousness of Christ without it; for my own righteousness must be a drag upon me which I could not bear. Sinners I know, when they come to Christ, want to bring tons of good works, wagon loads of good feelings, and fitnesses, and repentings, and such like; but the righteous do no such thing; they just foreswear every thing they have of their own, and count it but dross and dung that they may run to Christ and be found in him. Gospel righteousness lies all in Jesus, not in the believer.

It seems to me too that this expression not only implies a want of preparation and having nothing to carry, but it imports that fear quickens them. Men do not run to a castle unless they are afraid. But when the avenger of death is close behind, then swiftly they fly. It is marvellous how godly fear helps faith. There is a man sinking there in the river; he cannot swim, he must be drowned! See! see he is going down! We push him a plank; with what a clutch he grasps it; and the more he is convinced that he has no power to float, the more firmly doth he grip at this one hope. Fear may even drive a man, I say, to faith, and lend him wings to fly where else he might have crept with laggard feet. The flight is the flight of fear, but the refuge is the refuge of faith. O sinner, if the righteous fly, what ought thy pace to be? Again, it seems to me that there is great eagerness here, as if the Christian did not feel safe till he had entered into his God. And therefore, as the stag pursued by the hounds quickens its flight by reason of the baying of the dogs as the clamor grows louder and louder, see how the stag leaps from crag to crag, dashes through the stream, flies over yonder hill, is lost in yonder brake and anon springs through the valley; so the Christian flies to his dear God for safety when the hounds of hell and the dogs of temptation are let loose against him. Eagerness! Where indeed shall the like be found? “As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God. My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God: when shall I come and appear before God?” O convinced sinner, what should thine eagerness be if thus the righteous pant for God? Brethren, I may add here that there is an absence of all hesitation. He runs. You know if we want somebody to help us we put our hand to our brow and consider, “Let us see, where shall we go? I am in great straits, to whom shall I fly? Who will be the best friend to me?” The righteous never ask that question, at least when they are in a right mind they never do; but the moment their trouble comes they run at once to their God for they feel that they have full permission to repair to him; and again they feel they have nowhere else to fly. “To whom, or whither should I go if I could turn from thee?” is a question which is its own answer. Then understand in our text there is eagerness, the absence of all hesitation; there is fear and yet there is courage; there is no preparation, there is the flinging aside of every burden. “The righteous runneth into his high tower, and is safe.”

Beloved, I will leave that point when I have just said, please remember that when a man gets into a castle he is safe because of the impregnability of the castle; he is not safe because of the way in which he entered into the castle. You hear some man inside saying, “I shall never be hurt because I came into the castle the right way.” You will tell him, “No, no, no, it is not the way you came into the castle, but the castle itself is our defense.” So some of you may be thinking, “I do come to Christ, but I am afraid that I do not come aright.” But it is not your coming, it is Christ that saves you. If you are in Christ I do not care a pin how you got in, for I am sure you could not get in except by the door; if you are once in he will never throw you out; he will never drive away a soul that cometh unto him for any reason whatsoever. Your safety does not lie in how you came, for in very truth your safety is in Him. If a man should run into a castle and carry all the jewels of a kingdom with him, he would not be safer because of the jewels; and if another man should run in with hardly a fresh suit of clothes with him, he would not be any the more in danger because of his raggedness. It is the castle, it is the castle, not the man. The solid walls, the strong bastions, the frowning ramparts, the mighty munitions, these make up the defense, not the man, nor yet the man’s wealth, nor yet the way the man came. Beloved, it is most true that salvation is of the Lord, and whosoever shall look out of self to-night, whosoever shall look to Christ only shall find him to be a strong tower, he may run into his Lord and be safe.

III. And now for our third and closing remark. You that have Bibles with margins, just look at them. You will find that the second part of the text is put in the margin thus—“The righteous runneth into it, and is set aloft.” Our first rendering is, “The righteous runneth into it, and is safe”—there is the matter of fact. The other rendering is, “He is set aloft”—there is the matter of joyous experience.

1. Now first let us see to the matter of fact. The man that is sheltered in his God—a man that dwells in the secret places of the tabernacle of the Most High, who is hidden in his pavillion, and is set upon a rock, he is safe; for first, who can hurt him? The Devil? Christ has broken his head. Life? Christ has taken his life up to heaven; for we are dead, and “our life is hid with Christ in God.” Death? No; the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” The law? That is satisfied and it is dead to the believer, and he is not under its curse. Sin? No; that cannot hurt the believer, for Christ has slain it. Christ took the believer’s sins upon himself and therefore they are not on the believer any more. Christ took the believer’s sins and threw them into the Red Sea of his atoning blood; the depths have covered them, not one of them is left. All the sin the believer hath ever committed is now blotted out, and a debt that is cancelled can never put a man in prison; a debt that is paid, let it be never so heavy, can never make a man an insolvent —it is discharged, it has ceased to be. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Who can harm us? Let him have permission to do what he will; what is there that he can do? Who again has the power to reach us? We are in the hand of Christ. What arrow shall penetrate his hand to reach our souls? We are under the skirts of Deity. What strength shall tear away the mantle of God to reach his beloved? Our names are written on the hands of Jesus, who can erase those everlasting lines? We are jewels in Immanuel’s crown. What thievish fingers shall steal away those jewels? We are in Christ. Who shall be able to rend us from his innermost heart? We are members of his body. Who shall mutilate the Savior? “I bare you,” saith God, “as on eagles’ wings.” Who shall smite through the breast of the Eternal One, heaven’s great eagle? he must first do it ere he can reach the eaglets, the young sons of God, begotten unto a lively hope. Who can reach us? God interposes; Christ stands in the way; and the Holy Spirit guards us as a garrison. Who shall stand against the Omnipotent? Tens of thousands of created puissances must fall before him, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. What weapon is there that can be used against us? Shall they kill us? Then we begin to live. Shall they banish us? Then we are but nearer to our home. Shall they strip us? How can they rend away the garment of imputed righteousness? Shall they seize our property? How can they touch our treasure since it is all in heaven? Shall they scourge us? Sweet shall be the smart when Christ is present with us. Shall they cast us into a dungeon? Where shall the free spirit find a prison? What fetters can bind the man who is free in Christ? Shall the tongue attack us? Every tongue that riseth against us in judgment we shall condemn. I know not what new weapon can be formed, for certain it is that the anvil of the Church has broken all the hammers that were ever used to smite it, and it remains uninjured still. The believer is—he must be safe. I said this morning that if the believer in Christ be not saved for ever, then, beloved, there is no meaning whatever in God’s Word; and I say it once again, and I say it without any word of apology for so doing, I could never receive that book as the book of God at all if it could be proved to me that it did not teach the doctrine of the safety of those that trust in Christ. I could never believe that God would speak in such a manner as to make tens of thousands of us, yea millions of us, believe that He would keep us, and yet after all he should cast us away. Nor do I believe that he would use words which, to say the very least, seem to teach final perseverance if he had not intended to teach us the doctrine. All the Arminian divines that ever lived cannot prove the total apostacy of believers; they can attack some other points of the Calvinistic doctrine; there are some points of our form of doctrine which apparently are far more vulnerable. God forbid we should be so foolish as to deny that there are difficulties about every system of theology, but about the perseverance of the saints there is no difficulty. It is as easy to overthrow an opponent here as it would be to pierce with a spear through a shield of pasteboard. Be ye confident, believer, that this is God’s truth, that they who trust in God shall be as Mount Zion which shall never be removed, but abideth for ever.

2. But now we conclude by noticing that our text not only teaches us our safety, but our experience of it. “He shall set him up aloft.” The believer in his high-days, and they ought to be every day, is like an eagle perched aloft on a towering crag. Yonder is a hunter down below who would fain strike the royal bird; he has his rifle with him, but his rifle would not reach one third of the way; so the royal bird looks down upon him, sees him load and prime and aim, and looks in quiet contempt on him, not intending even to take the trouble to stretch one of his wings; he sees him load again, hears the bullet down below, but he is quite safe for he is up aloft. Such is the faithful Christian’s state before God. He can look down upon every trial and temptation; upon every adversary and every malicious attack, for God is his strong tower and “he is set up aloft.” When some people go to the newspaper and write a very sharp, bitter, and cutting letter against the minister, oh, think they, “How he will feel that; how that will cut him to the quick!” And yet if they had seen the man read it through, double it up, and throw it into the fire, saying, “What a mercy it is to have somebody taking notice of me;” if they could see the man go to bed and sleep all the better because he thinks he has had a high honor conferred on him for being allowed to be abused for Christ, surely they would see that their efforts are only “hate’s labor lost.” I do not think our enemies would take so much trouble to make us happy if they knew how blessed we are under their malice. “Thou hast prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies,” said David. Some soldiers never eat so well as when their enemies are looking on; for there is a sort of gusto about every mouthful which they eat, as they seem to say, “snatched from the jaw of the lion, and from the paw of the bear, and in defiance of you all, in the name of the Most High God I feast to the full, and then set up my banner.” The Lord sets his people up aloft. There are many who do not appear to be much up aloft. You meet them on the corn market, and they say, “Wheats do not pay as they used to; farming is no good to anybody.” Hear others after those gales, those equinoctial gales, when so many ships have gone down, say, “Ah! you may well pity us poor fellows that have to do with shipping, dreadful times these, we are all sure to be ruined.” See many of our tradesmen—“This Exhibition has given us a little spurt, but as soon as this is over there will be nothing doing; trade never was so dull.” Trade has been dull ever since I have been in London, and that is nine years! I do not know how it is, but our friends are always losing money, yet they get on pretty comfortably too. Some I know begun with nothing; and they are getting pretty rich now, but it is all with losing money if I am to believe what they tell me. Surely this is not sitting up aloft; surely this is not living up on high. This is a low kind of life for a child of God. We should not have liked to see the Prince of Wales in his boyhood playing with the children in the street, and I do not suppose you would like to see him now among coal-heavers at a wrestling match. Nor should the child of God be seen pushing and grasping as if this world were all, always using that muck-rake to scrape together the things of this world; instead of in full satistisfaction being content with such things as he has, for God has said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” I am not a little ashamed of myself that I do not live more on high, for I know when we get depressed in spirits and downcast and doubting we say many unbelieving and God-dishonoring words. It is all wrong. We ought not to stay here in these marshes of fleshly doubts. We ought never to doubt our God. Let the heathen doubt his God, for well he may, but our God made the heavens. What a happy people ye ought to be! When we are not we are not true to our principles. There are ten thousand arguments in Scripture for happiness in the Christian; but I do not know that there is one logical argument for misery. Those people who draw their faces down, and like the hypocrites pretend to be of a sad countenance, these, I say, cry, “Lord, what a wretched land is this that yields us no supplies.” I should think they do not belong to the children of Israel; for the children of Israel find in the wilderness a rock following them with its streams of water, and manna dropping every day, and when they want them there are the quails and so the wretched land is filled with good supplies. Let us rather rejoice in our God. I should not like to have a serving man who always went about with a dreary countenance, because you know people would say “What a bad master that man has.” And when we see Christians looking so sad we are apt to think they cannot have a good God to trust to. Come, beloved, let us change our notes, for we have a strong tower and are safe. Let us take a walk upon the ramparts, I do not see any reason for always being down in the dungeon; let us go up to the very top of the ramparts where the banner waves in the fresh air and let us sound the clarion of defiance to our foes again, and let it ring across the plain where yonder pale whitehorsed rider comes, bearing the lance of death; let us defy even him. Ring out the note again; salute the evening, and make the ontgoings of the morning to rejoice. Warder upon the castle-top, shout to thy companion yonder and let every tower and every turret of the grand old battlements be vocal with the praise of him who has said—


“Munitions of stupendous rock,

Thy dwelling-place shall be;

There shall thy soul without a shock

The wreck of nature see.”

Sinner, again I say the door is open; run to the mercy of God in Christ and be safe.


Pride and Humility


                              August 17, 1856
                             C. H. SPURGEON


                        "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty,
                        and before honor is humility."—Proverbs 18:12.


Almost every event has its prophetic prelude. It is an old and common saying, that "coming events cast their shadows before them;" the wise man teaches us the same lesson in the verse before us. When destruction walks through the land, it casts its shadow; it is in the shape of pride. When honor visits a man's house, it casts its shadow before it; it is in the fashion of humility. "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty;" pride is as surely the sign of destruction as the change of mercury in the weather-glass is the sign of rain, and far more infallibly so than that. "Before honor is humility," even as before the summer, sweet birds return to sing in our land. Everything hath its prelude. The prelude of destruction is pride, and of honor, humility. There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently, more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture. Against pride, prophets have lifted up their voices, evangelists have spoken and teachers have discoursed. Yea, more; the everlasting God has mounted to the very heights of eloquence when he would condemn the pride of man; and the full gushing of the Eternal's mighty language has been most gloriously displayed in the condemnation of the pride of human nature. Perhaps the most eloquent passage of God's Word is to be found toward the conclusion of the book of Job, where, in most splendid strains of unanswerable eloquence, God hides pride from many by utterly confounding him; and there is another very eloquent passage in the 14th chapter of Isaiah, where the Lord's holy choler seems to have risen up, and his anger to have waxed hot against the pride of man, when he would utterly and effectually condemn it. He says concerning the great and mighty king of Babylon, "Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee, even al the chief ones of the earth; it hath raised up from their thrones all the kings of the nations. All they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee. How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations? For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms." Mark how God addresses him, describing hell itself as being astonished at his fall, seeing that he had mounted so high; and yet declaring, assuredly, that his height and greatness were nothing to the Almighty, that he would pull him down, even though, like an eagle, he had built his nest among the stars. I say there is nothing more eloquently condemned in Scripture than pride, and yet there is no trap into which we poor silly birds so easily flee, no pitfall into which, like foolish beasts of the earth, we so continually run. On the other hand, humility is a grace that hath many promises given to it in the Scripture. Perhaps most promises are given to faith, and love is often considered to be the brightest of the train of virtues; yet humility holds by no means an inferior place in God's word, and there are hundreds of promises linked to it. Every grace seems to be like a nail on which precious blessings hang, and humility hath many a mercy suspended from it. "He that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted;" "Blessed are the poor in spirit;" and in multitudes of other passages, we are reminded that God loveth the humble, but that he "bringeth down the mighty from their seats, and exalteth the humble and meek." Now, this morning, we shall have a word to say concerning pride and humility. May the Holy Spirit preserve us from the one, and produce in our hearts the other.

I. In the first place, we shall have something to say concerning the vice of PRIDE. "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty." Pride, what is it? Pride, where is its seat? The heart of man. And pride, what is its consequence? Destruction.

1. In the first place, I must try to describe pride to you. I might paint it as being the worst malformation of all the monstrous things in creation; it hath nothing lovely in it, nothing in proportion, but everything in disorder. It is altogether the very reverse of the creatures which God hath made, which are pure and holy. Pride, the first-born son of hell, is indeed like its parent, all unclean and vile, and in it there is neither form, fashion, nor comeliness.

In the first place, pride is a groundless thing. It standeth on the sands; or worse than that, it puts its foot on the billows which yield beneath its tread; or worse still, it stands on bubbles, which soon must burst beneath its feet. Of all things pride has the worst foothold; it has no solid rock on earth whereon to place itself. We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural to us, for we have nothing to be proud of. What is there in man of which he should glory? Our very creation is enough to humble us; what are we but creatures of to-day? Our frailty should be sufficient to lay us low, for we shall be gone to-morrow. Our ignorance should tend to keep pride from our lips. What are we, but like the wild ass's colt which knoweth nothing? And our sins ought effectually to stop our mouths, and lay us in the dust. Of all things in the world, pride towards God, is that which hath the very least excuse; it hath neither stick nor stone whereon to build. Yet like the spider, it carrieth its own web in its bowels, and can, of itself, spin that wherewith to catch its prey. It seems to stand upon itself, for it hath nothing besides whereon it can rest. Oh! man, learn to reject pride, seeing that thou hast no reason for it; whatever thou art, thou hast nothing to make thee proud. The more thou hast, the more thou art in debt to God; and thou shouldst not be proud of that which renders thee a debtor. Consider thine origin; look back to the hole of the pit whence thou wast digged. Consider what thou wouldst have been, even now, if it were not for Divine grace. And, consider, that thou will yet be lost in hell if grace does not hold thee up. Consider that amongst the damned, there are none that would have been more damned than thyself, if grace had not kept thee from destruction. Let this consideration humble thee, that thou hast nought whereon to ground thy pride.

Again, it is a brainless thing as well as a groundless thing; for it brings no profit with it. There is no wisdom in a self-exaltation. Other vices have some excuse, for men seem to gain by them; avarice, pleasure, lust, have some plea; but the man who is proud sells his soul cheaply. he opens wide the flood-gates of his heart, to let men see how deep is the flood within his soul; then suddenly it floweth out, and all is gone—and all is nothing, for one puff of empty wind, one word of sweet applause—the soul is gone, and not a drop is left. In almost every other sin, we gather up the ashes when the fire is gone; but here, what is left? The covetous man hath his shining gold, but what hath the proud man? He has less than he would have had without his pride, and is no gainer whatever. Oh! man, if thou wert as mighty as Gabriel, and had all his holiness, still thou wouldst be an arrant fool to be proud, for pride would sink thee from thine angel station to the rank of devils, and bring thee from the place where Lucifer, son of the morning, once dwelt, to take up thine abode with hideous fiends in perdition. Pride exalts it head, and seeks to honor itself; but it is of all things most despised. It sought to plant crowns upon its brow, and so it hath done, but its head was hot, and it put an ice crown there, and it melted all away. Poor pride has decked itself out finely sometimes; it hath put on its most gaudy apparel, and said to others, "how brilliant I appear!" but, ah! pride, like a harlequin, dressed in thy gay colours, thou art all the more fool for that; thou art but a gazing stock for fools less foolish than thyself. Thou hast no crown, as thou thinkest thou hast, nothing solid and real, all is empty and vain. If thou, O man, desirest shame, be proud. A monarch has waded through slaughter to a throne, and shut the gates of mercy on mankind to win a little glory; but when he has exalted himself, and has been proud, worms have devoured him, like Herod, or have devoured his empire, till it passed away, and with it his pride and glory. Pride wins no crown; men never honor it, not even the menial slaves of earth; for all men look down on the proud man, and think him less than themselves.

Again, pride is the maddest thing that can exist; it feeds upon its own vitals; it will take away its own life, that with its blood may make a purple for its shoulders: it sappeth, and undermineth its own house that it may build its pinnacles a little higher, and then the whole structure tumbleth down. Nothing proves men so made as pride. For this they have given up rest, and ease, and repose, to find rank and power among men: for this they have dared to risk their hope of salvation, to leave the gentle yoke of Jesus, and go toiling wearily along the way of life, seeking to save themselves by their own works, and at last to stagger into the mire of fell despair. Oh! man, hate pride, flee from it, abhor it, let it not dwell with thee. If thou wantest to have a madman in thy heart, embrace pride, for thou shalt never find one more mad than he.

Then pride is a protean thing; it changes its shape; it is all forms in the world; you may find it in any fashion you may choose, you may see it in the beggar's rags as well as in the rich man's garment. It dwells with the rich, and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot. Pride can be found in every rank of society—among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Arminian, and talks about the power of the creature; then it turns Calvinist, and boasts of its fancied security—forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion; it may be a Quaker, and wear no collar to its coat; it may be a Churchman, and worship God in splendid cathedrals; it may be a Dissenter, and go to the common meeting-house; it is one of the most Catholic things in the world, it attends all kinds of chapels and churches; go where you will, you will see pride. It cometh up with us to the house of God; it goeth with us to our houses; it is found on the mart, and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere. Let me hint at one or two of the forms which it assumes. Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape; it teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency; it tells us what man can do, and will not allow that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty, and rails at election. Then if it is driver from that, it takes another form; it allows that the doctrine of free grace is true but does not feel it. It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. And when driven from that, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation; and when that is all rent up, and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian's heart as well as the sinner's—it will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching the Christian that he is "rich and increased in goods, having need of nothing." It will tell him that he does not need daily grace, that past experience will do for to-morrow—that he knows enough, toils enough, prays enough. It will make him forget that he has "not yet attained;" it will not allow him to press forward to the things that are before, forgetting the things that are behind. It enters into his heart, and tempts the believer to set up an independent business for himself, and until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep him from going to God. Pride has ten thousand shapes; it is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture it; it is a vile, creeping, insinuating thing, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. It will talk of humility, and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men talk about their corruption most marvellously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side the gulf of separation. Oh! my friends, ye cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume; look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it, and when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

2. Now, I have to speak of the seat of pride—the heart. The true throne of pride everywhere, is the heart of man. If, my dear friends, we desire, by God's grace, to put down pride, the only way is to begin with the heart. Now let me tell you a parable, in the form of an eastern story, which will set this truth in its proper light. A wise man in the east, called a dervish, in his wanderings, came suddenly upon a mountain, and he saw beneath his feet a smiling valley, in the midst of which there flowed a river. The sun was shining on the stream, and the water as it reflected the sunlight, looked pure and beautiful. When he descended, he found it was muddy, and the water utterly unfit for drinking. Hard by he saw a young man, in the dress of a shepherd, who was with much diligence filtering the water for his flocks. At one moment he placed some water into a pitcher, and then allowing it to stand, after it had settled, he poured the clean fluid into a cistern. Then, in another place, he would be seen turning aside the current for a little, and letting it ripple over the sand and stones, that it might be filtered, and the impurities removed. The dervish watched the young man endeavouring to fill a large cistern with clear water; and he said to him, "My son, why all this toil?—what purpose dost thou answer by it?" The young man replied, "Father, I am a shepherd; this water is so filthy that my flock will not drink of it, and, therefore, I am obliged to purify it little by little, so I collect enough in this way that they may drink, but it is hard work." So saying, he wiped the sweat from his brow, for he was exhausted with his toil. "Right well hast thou laboured," said the wise man, "but dost thou know thy toil is not well applied? With half the labour thou mightest attain a better end. I should conceive that the source of this stream must be impure and polluted; let us take a pilgrimage together and see." They then walked some miles, climbing their way over many a rock, until they came to a spot where the stream took its rise. When they came near to it, they saw flocks of wild fowls flying away, and wild beasts of the earth rushing into the forest; these had come to drink, and had soiled the water with their feet. They found an open well, which kept continually flowing, but by reason of these creatures, which perpetually disturbed it, the stream was always turbid and muddy. "My son," said the wise man, "set to work now to protect the fountain and guard the well, which is the source of this stream; and when thou hast done that, if thou canst keep these wild beasts and fowls away, the stream will flow of itself, all pure and clear, and thou wilt have no longer need for thy toil." The young man did it, and as he labored, the wise man said to him, "My son, hear the word of wisdom; if thou art wrong, seek not to correct thine outward life, but seek first to get thy heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life, and thy life shall be pure when once thy heart is so." So if we would get rid of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language, by using an outlandish tongue, but let us seek of God that he would purify our hearts from pride, and then assuredly if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble. Make the tree good, and then the fruit shall be good; make the fountain pure, and the stream shall be sweet. Oh! that God might grant us all, by his grace, that our hearts may be kept with diligence, so that pride may never enter there lest we be haughty in our hearts, and find that afterwards cometh wrath.

3. This brings me to the other point, which is, the consequence of price—destruction, a fact which we can prove by hundreds of instances in Scripture. When men have become proud, destruction has come upon them. See you yon bright angel chanting the loud anthem of praise before his Maker's throne? Can anything tarnish that angel's glory, rob him of his harp, despoil him of his crown? Yes, see there enters a destroyer whose name is pride. He assaults the angel, and his harp-strings are snapped in twain. His crown is taken from his brow, and his glory is departed, and yon falling spirit descending into hell is he who once was Lucifer, son of the morning. He has now become Father of nights, even the Lord of Darkness, Satan, the Fallen one. See you again that happy pair walking in the midst of luscious fruits, and flowery walks and bowers of Paradise? Can aught spoil Eden, and ruin those happy beings? Yes, pride comes in the shape of a serpent, and asks them to seek to be as gods. They eat of the forbidden fruit, and pride withers their paradise and blasts their Eden. out they go to till the ground, whence they were taken, to beget and to bring forth us who are their children—sons of toil and sorrow. Do you see that man after God's own heart, continually singing his Maker's praise? Can aught make him sad? Can you suppose that he shall ever be laid prostrate on the earth, groaning, and crying, and asking "that the bones which God hath broken may rejoice?" Yes, pride can do that. it will put into his heart that he will number his people, that he will count the tribes of Israel, to show how great and mighty is his empire. It is done, and a terrible pestilence sweeps o'er his land on account of his pride. Let David's aching heart show how destruction comes to a man's glory when he once begins to make a god of it. See that other good and holy man who, like David, was much after God's own heart. He is rich and increased in goods. The Babylonian ambassadors are come, and he shows them all he has. Do you not hear that threatening, "Thy treasures shall be carried away, and thy sons and thy daughters shall be servants to the king of Babylon?" The destruction of Hezekiah's wealth must come, because he is proud thereof. But for the most notable instance of all, let me show you yonder palace, perhaps the most magnificent which has even yet been built. In it there walks one who, lifting up his head on high, as if he were more than mortal man, exclaims, "See ye this great Babylon that I have builded?" Oh! pride, what hast thou done? thou hast more power than a wizard's wand! Mark the mighty builder of Babylon creeping on the earth. Like oxen he is devouring grass; his nails have grown like birds' claws, his hair like eagles' feathers, and his heart has gone from him. Pride did all that, that it might be fulfilled which God hath written, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty."

Is thine heart haughty, sinner, this morning? Dost thou despise God's sovereignty? Wilt thou not submit thyself to Christ's yoke? Dost thou seek to weave a righteousness of thine own? Art thou seeking to be or to do something? Art thou desirous of being great and mighty in thine own esteem? Hear me then, sinner, destruction is coming upon thee. As truly as ever thou exaltest thyself, thou shalt be abased; thy destruction, in the fullest and blackest sense of the word, is hurrying on to overwhelm thee. And oh! Christian, is thine heart haughty this morning? Art thou come here glorying in thy graces? Art thou proud of thyself, that thou hast had such high frames and such sweet experiences? Mark thee, brother, there is a destruction coming to thee also. Some of thy proud things will be pulled up by the roots, some of thy graces will be shattered, and thy good works, perhaps, will become loathsome to thee, and thou wilt abhor thyself in dust and ashes. As truly as ever thou exaltest thyself, there will be a destruction come to thee, O saint—the destruction of thy joys and of thy comforts, though there can be no destruction of thy soul.

Pride, you know, is most likely to meet with destruction, because it is too tall to walk upright. It is most likely to tumble down, because it is always looking upward in its ambition, and never looks to its feet. There only needs to be a pitfall in the way, or even a stone, and down it goes. It is sure to tumble, because it is never contented with being where it is. It is always seeking to be climbing, and boys that will climb must expect to fall. Pride is foolhardy, and will venture upon scaling any rock. Sometimes it holds on by a brier, and that pricks it; sometimes by a flint, and that cuts it. There it goes, toiling and laboring on, till it gets as high as it can, and then, from its very height, it is likely to fall. Nature itself tells us to avoid high things. Who is he that can stand upon an eminence without a reeling brain, and without a temptation to cast himself down? Pride, when most successful, stands in slippery places. Who would choose to dwell on a pinnacle of the temple? That is where pride has built its house, and verily it seems but natural that pride should down if pride will up. God will carry out this saying, "Before destruction, the heart of man is haughty." Yet beloved, I am persuaded that all I can say to you, or to myself, can never keep pride from us. The Lord alone can bolt the door of the heart against pride. Pride is like the flies of Egypt; all Pharaoh's soldiers could not keep them out; and I am sure all the strong resolutions and devout aspirations we may have cannot keep pride out unless the Lord God Almighty sends a strong wind of his Holy Spirit to sweep it away.

II. Now, let us consider briefly the last part of the text, "BEFORE HONOR IS HUMILITY." So then, you see our heavenly Father does not say that we are not to have honor. He has not forbidden it; he has only forbidden us to be proud of it. A good man may have honor in this life. Daniel had honor before the people; Joseph rode in the second chariot, and the people bowed the knee before him. God often clothes his children with honor in the face of their adversaries, and makes the wicked confess that the Lord is with them in deed and in truth. But God forbids our making that honor a cloak for pride, and bids us seek humility which always accompanies as well as precedes true honor.

1. Now let us briefly enquire, in the first place, what is humility? The best definition I have ever met with is, "to think rightly of ourselves." Humility is to make a right estimate of one's-self. It is no humility for a man to think less of himself than he ought, though it might rather puzzle him to do that. Some persons, when they know they can do a thing, tell you they cannot; but you do not call that humility? A man is asked to take part in some meeting. "No," he says, "I have no ability;" yet, if you were to say so yourself, he would be offended at you. It is not humility for a man to stand up and depreciate himself and say he cannot do this, that, or the other, when he knows that he is lying. If God gives a man a talent, do you think the man does not know it? If a man has ten talents he has no right to be dishonest to his Maker, and to say, "Lord, thou hast only give me five." It is not humility to underrate yourself, Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is to feel that if we have talents, God has given them to us, and let it be seen that, like freight in a vessel, they tend to sink us low. The more we have, the lower we ought to lie. Humility is not to say, "I have not this gift," but it is to say, "I have the gift, and I must use it for my Master's glory. I must never seek any honor for myself, for what have I that I have not received?" But, beloved, humility is to feel ourselves lost, ruined, and undone. To be killed by the same hand which, afterwards, makes us alive, to be ground to pieces as to our own doings and willings, to know and trust in none but Jesus, to be brought to feel and sing—

"Nothing in my hands I bring,
Simply to thy cross I cling."

Humility is to feel that we have no power of ourselves, but that it all cometh from God. Humility is to lean on our beloved, to believe that he has trodden the winepress alone, to lie on his bosom and slumber sweetly there, to exalt him, and think less than nothing of ourselves. It is in fact, to annihilate self, and to exalt the Lord Jesus Christ as all in all.

2. Now, what is the seat or throne of humility? The throne of humility must be the heart. I do hate, of all things, that humility which lives in the face. There are some persons who always seem to be so very humble when you are with them, but you can discover there is something underneath it all, and when they are in some other society, they will brag and say how you told them your whole heart. Take heed of the men who allow you to lay your head in their lap and betray you into the hands of the Philistines. I have met with such persons. I remember a man who used to pray with great apparent humility, and then would go and abuse the servants, and make a noise with all his farming men. He was the stiffest and proudest man in the church, yet he invariably used to tell the Lord, in prayer, that he was nothing but dust and ashes, that he laid his hand on his lip, and his mouth in the dust, and cried, "Unclean, unclean." Indeed he talked of himself in the most despairing way, but I am sure if God had spoken to him, he must have said, "O, thou that liest before my throne, thou sayest this, but thou dost not feel it; for thou wilt go thy way and take thy brother by the throat, exalt thyself above all thy fellow-creatures, and be a very Diotrephes in the church, and a Herod in the world." I dislike that humility which rests in outward things. There is a kind of oil, sanctimonious, proud humility, which is not the genuine article, though it is sometimes extremely like it. You may be deceived by it once or twice, but by-and-bye you discover that is a wolf dexterously covered with sheep's clothing. It arrayeth itself in the simplest dress in the world; it talks in the gentlest and humblest style; it says, "We must not intrude our own peculiar sentiments, but must always walk in love and charity." But after all, what is it? It is charitable to all except those who hold God's truth, and it is humble to all when it is forced to humble. It is like one of whom, I dare say, you have read in your childish books,—

"So, stooping down, as needs he must
Who cannot stand upright."

True humility does not continually talk about "dust and ashes," and prate about its infirmities, but it feels all that which others say, for it possesses an inwrought feeling of its own nothingness.

Very likely the most humble man in the world won't bend to anybody. John Knox was a truly humble man, yet if you had seen him march before Queen Mary with the Bible in his hand, to reprove her, you would have rashly said, "What a proud man!"

Cringing men that bow before everybody, are truly proud men; but humble men are those who think themselves so little, they do not think it worth while to stoop to serve themselves. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, were humble men, for they did not think their lives were worth enough to save them by a sin. Daniel was a humble man; he did not think his place, his station, his whole self, worth enough to save them by leaving off prayer. Humility is a thing which must be genuine; the imitation of it is the nearest thing in the world to pride. Seek of God, dear friends, the gift of true humility. Seek to have that breaking in pieces by the Holy Spirit, that breaking in the mortar with the pestle which God himself gives to his children. Seek that every twig of his rod may drive pride out of you, so that by the blueness of your wound, your soul may be made better. Seek of him, if he does not show you the chambers of imagery within your own heart, that he may take you to Calvary, and that he may show you his brightness and his glory, that you may be humble before him. Never ask to be a mean, cringing, fawning thing: ask God to make you a man—those are scarce things now-a-days—a man who only fears God, who knows no fear of any other kind. Do not give yourselves up to any man's power, or guidance, or rule, but ask of God that you may have that humility towards him, which gives you the noble bearing of a Christian before others. Some think that minister are proud when they resent any interference with their ministry. I consider they would be proud if they allowed it for the sake of peace, which is only another word for their own self-seeking. It is a great mercy when God gives a man to be free from everybody, when he can go into his pulpit, careless of what others may think of him. I conceive that a minister should be like a lighthouse-keeper; he is out at sea, and nobody can suggest to him that he had better light his candles a little later, or anything of the kind. He knows his duty, and he keeps his lamps burning; if he were to follow the opinions of the people on shore, his light might be extinguished altogether. It is a merciful providence that they cannot get to him, so he goes on easily, obeys his regulations as he reds them, and cares little for other people's interpretation. So a minister should not be a weathercock, that is turned by the wind, but he should be one who turns the wind; not one who is ruled by others, but one who knows how to stand firm and fast, and keep his light burning, trusting always in God; believing, that if God has raised him up, he will not desert him, but will teach him by his Holy Spirit, without the ever-changing advice of men.

3. Now, in the last place, what comes of humility? "Before honor is humility." Humility is the herald which ushers in the great king; it walks before honor; and e who has humility, will have honor afterwards. I will only apply this spiritually. Have you been brought to-day to feel, that in yourself you are less than nothing, and vanity? Art thou humbled in the sight of God, to know thine own unworthiness, thy fallen estate in Adam, and the ruin thou hast brought upon thyself by thine own sins? Hast thou been brought to feel thyself incapable of working out thy own salvation, unless God shall work in thee, to will and to do of his own good pleasure? Hast thou been brought to say, "Lord, have mercy upon me, a sinner?" Well, then, as true as the text is in the Bible, thou shalt have honor by-and-bye. "Such honor have all the saints." Thou shalt have honor soon to be washed from all thy guilt; thou shalt have honor soon to be clothed in the robes of Jesus, in the royal garments of the King; thou shalt have honor soon to be adopted into his family, to be received amongst the blood-washed ones who have been justified by faith. Thou shalt have honor to be borne, as on eagles' wings, to be carried across the river, and at last to sing his praise, who has been the "Death of deaths, and hell's destruction." Thou shalt have honor to wear the crown, and wave the palm one day, for thou hast now that humility which comes from God. You may fear that because you are now humbled by God, you must perish. I beseech you do not think so; as truly as ever the Lord has humbled you, he will exalt you. And the more you are brought low, the less hope you have of mercy; the more you are in the dust, so much the more reason you have to hope. So far from the bottom of the sea being a place over which we cannot be carried to heaven, it is one of the nearest places to heaven's gate. And if thou art brought to the very lowest place to which even Jonah descended, thou art so much the nearer being accepted. The more thou knowest thy vileness; remember the blacker, the more filthy, the more unworthy thou art in thine own esteem, so much the more right hast thou to expect that thou wilt be saved. Verily, honor shall come after humility. Humble souls, rejoice; proud souls, go on in your proud ways, but know that they end in destruction. Climb up the ladder of your pride, you shall fall over on the other side and be dashed to pieces. Ascend the steep hill of your glory; the higher you climb the more terrible will be your fall. For know you this, that against none hath the Lord Almighty bent his bow more often, and against none has he shot his arrows more furiously than against the proud and mighty man that exalteth himself. Bow down, O man, bow down; "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him."



The Cause and Cure of a Wounded Spirit

                                April 16th, 1885,

                 Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.                            


                           by C. H. Spurgeon

         “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity;
          but a wounded spirit who can bear?”
—Proverbs 18:14.


Every man sooner or later has some kind of infirmity to bear. It may be that his constitution from the very first will be inclined to certain disease and pains, or possibly he may in passing through life suffer from accident or decline of health. He may not however have any infirmity of the body, he may enjoy the great blessing of health; but he may have what is even worse, an infirmity of mind. There will be something about each man’s infirmity which he would alter if he could; or if he should not have any infirmity of body or of mind, he will have a cross to carry of some kind—in his relatives, in his business, or in certain of his circumstances. His world is not the Garden of Eden, and you cannot make it to be so. It is like that garden in this respect—that the serpent is in it, and the trail of the serpent is over everything here. It is said that there is a skeleton in some closet or other of everybody’s house. I will not say so much as that, but I am persuaded that there is no man in this world but has trial in some form or other, unless it be those whom God permits to have their portion in this life because they will have no portion of bliss in the life that is to come. There are some such people who appear be have no afflictions and trials; but as the apostle reminds us, “If ye be without chastisement, whereof all (the true seed of the Lord) are partakers, then are ye bastards and not sons;” and none of us would wish to have that terrible name truthfully applied to us. I should greatly prefer to come into the condition of the apostle when he said, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” I say again that every man will have to bear an infirmity of some sort or other. To bear that infirmity is not difficult when the spirit is sound and strong: “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity.”

I. Let me therefore first of all try to answer the question —what is that sound spirit which will sustain a man’s infirmities?

Such a spirit may be found, in a minor degree, in merely natural men. Among the Stoics there were men who bore pain and poverty and reproach without evincing the slightest feeling. Among the Romans, in their heroic days, there was one named Scoevola who thrust his right hand into the fire and suffered it to be burnt off, in order to let the foreign tyrant know that there were Romans who did not care for pain. We have read wonderful stories of the patience and endurance of even natural men, for our text is true in that sense, “the spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity.” Whatever it was that was placed upon some men, they seemed as if they carried it without a care or without a thought, so brave was their heart within them; yet if we knew more of these people, we should find that there were some points in which their natural strength failed them; for it must be so, the creature at its best estate is altogether vanity. David truly said, “God has spoken once; twice have I heard this: that power belongeth unto God;” and the strength of mind by which Christian men are able to bear their infirmities is of a higher kind than that which comes from either stoicism, or from natural sternness, or from obedience to any of the precepts of human philosophy.

The spirit which will best bear infirmities is first of all, a gracious spirit wrought in us by the Spirit of God. If thou wouldst bear thy trouble without complaining, if thou wouldst sustain thy burden without fainting, if thou wouldst mount on wings as eagles, if thou wouldst run without weariness and walk without fainting, thou must have the life of God within thee, thou must be born again, thou must be in living union with him who is the Strong One, and who, by the life which he implants within thee, can give thee of his own strength. I do not believe that anything but that which is divine will stand the wear and tear of this world’s temptations, and of this world’s trials and troubles.


“Mere mortal power shall fade and die,

And youthful vigor cease;”

but they that trust in the Lord and derive their power from him shall press forward even to victory. So then, first, if you would sustain your infirmity you must have a gracious spirit, that is, a spirit renewed by grace divine. Further, I think that a sound spirit which can sustain infirmity will be a spirit cleansed in the precious blood of Christ. “Conscience does make cowards of us all;” and it is only when conscience is pacified by the application of the blood of sprinkling that we are able to sustain our infirmities. The restful child of God will say, “What matters it if I am consumptive? What matters it if I have a broken leg? My sin is forgiven me and I am on my way to heaven; what matters anything else? Have you not sometimes felt that if you had to spend the rest of your life in a dungeon, and to live on bread and water, or to lie there as John Bunyan would have said, till the moss grew on your eyelids, yet as long as you were sure that you were cleansed from sin by the precious blood of Christ you could bear it all. For after all, what are any pains and sufferings that the whips and scourges of this mortal life can lay upon us compared with the terrors that have to be endured when sin is discerned by an awakened conscience, and the wrath of God lies heavily upon us? Believe me when I say that I would rather suffer such physical pangs as may belong to hell itself than I would endure the wrath of God in my spirit; for there is nothing that can touch the very marrow of our being like a sense of divine anger when it comes upon the soul, when God seems to dip his arrows in the lake of fire and then shoot them at us till they wound the very apple of our eye, and our whole being seems to be a mass of pain and misery. Oh, this is dreadful! But once delivered from all fear of the righteous vengeance of God, and I can sing with Dr. Watts—


“If sin be pardon’d, I’m secure;

Death hath no sting beside;

The law gives sin its damning power;

But Christ, my ransom, died.”

Take sin away and give me a spirit washed in the fountain filled with blood, and I can patiently go through anything and everything, the Lord being my Helper.

The kind of spirit then that a man needs to sustain his infirmity is one which has been renewed by the Holy Ghost, and washed in the precious blood of Jesus.

Next it is a spirit which exercises itself daily unto a growing confidence in God. The spirit that is to sustain infirmity is not a spirit of doubt and fear and mistrust. There is no power about such a spirit as that; it is like a body without bone or sinew or muscle. Strength lieth in believing. He who can trust can work, he who can trust can suffer. The spirit that can sustain a man in his infirmity is the spirit that can say, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him; come what may, I will not doubt my God, for his word is strong and steadfast. Although my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” O dear sir, I am sure that if God calls you to do business in great waters, you will want the great bow or anchor with you, you will not feel safe without it. When the Lord calls you to battle with your spiritual foes you will feel the necessity of having upon you the whole armor of God, and above all you will need to take the shield of faith wherewith you shall be able to quench the fiery darts of the enemy.

So beloved, our spirit must be a renewed spirit, a blood-washed spirit, and a believing spirit, if we are to sustain our infirmity.

I must also add my belief that no spirit can so well endure sickness, loss, trial, sorrow, as a perfectly-consecrated spirit. The man who is free from all secondary motives, who lives only for God’s glory, says if he is sick, “How can I glorify God upon my bed?” If he is in health he cries, “How can I glorify God in my vigor?” If he is rich he asks, “How can I glorify God with the possessions which he has put under my stewardship?” If he is poor he says, “There must be some advantage about my poverty; how can I best use it to the glory of God?” He looks to see not how he can comfort himself, but how he can most successfully fight his Master’s battles. A soldier who is in the fight must not enter into business on his own account. Paul wrote to Timothy, “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier;” and the true soldier of the cross just says, “Up hill and down dale, wet or dry, in honor or dishonor, all I have to do is to lift on high the banner of my Lord and strike down the foe; and if needful, even lay down my own life for his sake.” The perfectly consecrated spirit will enable a man to sustain his infirmity; but a selfish spirit will weaken him so that he will begin to complain of this and to lament that, and will not be made “strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.”

So much then about the sound spirit that can sustain infirmity; may the Lord give it to every one of us! How many of us have it? “Oh!” says one, “I think I am all right; I have a sane mind in a sane body.” Ah! yes, but there is another part of you that needs sanity: you need spiritual health, and there are times that will come to you who have nothing to depend upon but your bodily and mental vigor, and then you will find you want something more. There will come a trial that will touch you in a very tender spot, and you will cry out, “Oh! what is it that I want?” You will find that there was an unguarded place in your harness, and the arrow of the adversary has pierced you to the soul. You must be born again even for the bearing of your present infirmity; even for struggling through this life you must have a new heart and a right spirit or else sometime or other you will find yourself overthrown. “If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trustedst, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?” What wilt thou do then if thou hast not that divinely-given spirit which will sustain thine infirmity? When the deathsweat is on thy brow thou wilt need a better handkerchief than was ever made by human hands; and if the Lord thy God be not at thy side then to wipe the scalding tears from thine eyes, what wilt thou do? What wilt thou do?

II. But now I have to answer a second question, what is a wounded spirit? “A wounded spirit who can bear?” It cannot bear its own infirmity so it becomes a load to itself, and the question is not, “What can it bear?” but “Who can bear it?” “A wounded spirit, who can bear?” What then is a wounded spirit? Well, I have known some who have talked about having a wounded spirit, but the wound has been after all a very slight affair compared with the wounds that I mean. One has been disappointed in love. That is very sad, but still it is a trial that can be endured. We have no right to love the creature so much as to make it our god or our idol. I have known some who have been disappointed in the object of their ambition, and in consequence they have had a wounded spirit. But who are you that you should not be disappointed, and what are you that you should have everything according to your mind? Surely if the Lord were to deal with you according to your sins you would have something to bear far worse than your present disappointment. As to those trials of which a person says, “Nobody ever suffered as I have done, nobody was ever treated I have been,” such statements are altogether wrong. There are many others who have passed through equal or even greater trials. Do not therefore allow these things to fret you and to destroy your peace. Be not like the Spartan boy who put the fox into his bosom and carried it there, though it was gnawing at his flesh, and eating right into his heart. There are some people who are so unwise as to make earthly objects their supreme delight, and those objects become like foxes that gnaw to their soul’s destruction. I will only say this about such wounded hearts as these; there is a good deal of sin mingled with the sorrow, and a great deal of pride, a great deal of creature-worship and of idolatry there. Depend upon it, if you make an idol and God loves you, he will break it. A Quaker lady once stood up to speak in a little meeting, and all that she said was “Verily, I perceive that children are idols.” She did not know why she said it; but there was a mother there who had been wearing black for years after her child had been taken away; she had never forgiven her God for what he had done. Now this is an evil that is to be rebuked. I dare not comfort those whose spirits are wounded in this fashion. If they carry even their mourning too far, we must say to them, “Dear friend, is not this rebellion against God? May not this be petulance instead of patience? May there not be very much here which is not at all according to the mind of Christ?” We may sorrow and be grieved when we lose our loved ones, for we are men, but we must moderate our sorrow and bow our will to the will of the Lord, for are we not also men of God?

I will not dwell further upon that point, but there are some forms of a wounded spirit which are serious, and yet they are not quite what I am going afterwards to speak about. Some have a wounded spirit through the cruelty of men, the unkindness of children, the ingratitude of those whom they have helped, and for whom they have had such affection that they would almost have been willing to sacrifice their own lives. It is a terrible wounding when he who should have been your friend becomes your foe, and when, like your Lord, you also have your Judas Iscariot. It is not easy to bear misrepresentation and falsehood, to have your purest motives misjudged, and to be thought to be only seeking something for yourself when you have a pure desire for the good of others. This is a very painful kind of wounded spirit, but it must not be allowed to be carried too far. We should cry to God to help us bear this trial; for after all, who are we that we should not be despised? Who are we that we should not be belied? He is the wise man who expects this kind of trial, and expecting it, is not disappointed when it comes. “How”—asked one, of a person who had lived through the terrible French Revolution when almost all notable men were put to death—“how was it that you escaped?” He answered, “I made myself of no reputation, and nobody ever spoke of me, so I escaped.” And I believe that, in this world, the happiest lot does not belong to those of us who are always being talked about, but to those who do not know anybody, and whom nobody knows; they can steal through the world very quietly. So do not be broken-hearted if men try to wound your spirit. When thirty years ago they abused me to the utmost, I felt that I need not care what they said, for I could hardly do anything worse than they said I had done. When you once get used to this kind of treatment—and you may as well do so for you will have plenty of it if you follow Christ—it will not trouble you, and you will be able to bear your infirmity without being much wounded by the unkindness of men.

There are others who have been very grievously wounded by sorrow. They have had affliction upon affliction, loss after loss, bereavement after bereavement. And we ought to feel those things; indeed, it is by feeling them that we get the good out of them. Still, every Christian man should cry to God for strength to bear repeated losses and bereavements if they are his portion, and he should endeavor in the strength of God not to succumb whatever his trials may be. If we do yield to temptation and begin to complain of God for permitting such things to come upon us, we shall only be kicking against the pricks and so wound ourselves all the more. Let us be submissive to the hand that wields the rod of correction, and then very soon that rod will be taken from off our backs.

There are some who have been greatly wounded no doubt, through sickness. A wounded spirit may be the result of diseases which seriously shake the nervous system. Let us be very tender with brethren and sisters who get into that condition. I have heard some say, rather unkindly, “Sister So-and-so is so nervous, we can hardly speak in her presence.” Yes, but talking like that will not help her; there are many persons who have had this trying kind of nervousness greatly aggravated by the unkindness or thoughtlessness of friends. It is a real disease, it is not imaginary. Imagination no doubt contributes to it and increases it; but still, there is a reality about it. There are some forms of physical disorder in which a person lying in bed feels great pain through another person simply walking across the room. “Oh!” you say, “that is more imagination.” Well, you may think so if you like, but if you are ever in that painful condition—as I have been many a time —I will warrant that you will not talk in that fashion again. “But we cannot take notice of such fancies,” says one. I suppose that you would like to run a steam-roller across the room just for the sake of strengthening their nerves! But if you had the spirit of Christ you would want to walk across the room as though your foot were flakes of snow!; you would not wish to cause the poor sufferer any additional pain. I beg you, never grieve those upon whom the hand of God is lying in the form of depression of spirit, but be very tender and gentle with them. You need not encourage them in their sadness, but at the same time, let there be no roughness in dealing with them; they have many very sore places, and the hand that touches them should be soft as down.

Yet do I not wish to speak of that kind of wounded spirit alone for that is rather the business of the physician than of the divine. Still, it well illustrates this latter part of our text, “a wounded spirit, who can bear?” But this is the kind of wounded spirit I mean. When a soul is under a deep and terrible sense of sin —when conviction flashes into the mind with lightning swiftness and force, and the man says, “I am guilty;” when the notion of what guilt is first comes clearly home to him and he sees that God must be as certainly just as he is good, then he discovers that he has angered infinite love, that he has provoked almighty grace, and that he has made his best Friend to be, necessarily, his most terrible foe. A man in such a condition as that will have a wounded spirit such as none can bear. Then you may pipe to him, but he will not dance; you may try to charm him with your amusements, or to please him with your oratory, but you cannot give him peace or rest. “A wounded spirit, who can bear?” You know that there was one of old who said, “My soul chooseth strangling and death rather than my life,” and there was another, Judas, who actually did strangle himself under an awful sense of his guilt in betraying his Lord. Oh! I do trust that no one of you will act as he did, for that were to damn yourself irretrievably; but I do not wonder that you cry out, “Oh, that I could hide myself in the dust to escape from the terrors of a sense of divine wrath!” “A wounded spirit, who can bear?”

Sometimes the spirit is wounded by the fierce temptations of Satan. I hope that you do not all understand what this means; but there are some who do. Satan tempts them to doubt, tempts them to sin, tempts them to blasphemy. Some dear friends whom I know, who are among the purestminded of mortals, and whose lives are models of everything that is devout and right, are worried by the great adversary from morning to night, scarcely ever waking in the night without some vile suggestion of Satan or some horrible howling in their ears, “You are lost; you are lost; you are shut out from mercy for ever.” They are tempted even to curse God and die; and that temptation brings a wounded spirit, such as they scarcely know how to bear. Who can bear it? God save you from it if you have fallen under its terrible power!

A wounded spirit may also come through desertion by God. The believer has not walked carefully, he has fallen into sin, and God has hidden his face from him. Ah, my friends, whenever you trifle with sin, I wish you could feel as some of God’s true people have done when they have been restored after a great fall! A burnt child dreads the fire, and so does a true child of God who has ever played with sin; he has been brought back to his Lord, but he has gone the rest of his life with an aching heart and limping limbs, and many a time in wintry weather he has felt that his broken bones start and cry out against him with the memory of his past sins. “Deliver me,” says David, “from the sins of my youth;” and so may some of God’s best servants say in their old age; and some who once were very bright stars but who have been for a while eclipsed, will never be able to escape from a certain sense of darkness which is still upon them. “I shall go softly all my years in the bitterness of my soul,” may he say who has once grievously sinned against God after light and knowledge. Therefore beloved, be very careful that you do not backslide, for if you do you will have a wounded spirit which you will not know how to bear.

I believe however that some of God’s children have a wounded spirit entirely through mistake. I am always afraid of those who got certain wild notions into their heads, ideas that are not true I mean; they are very happy while they hold those high notions, and they look down with contempt upon others of God’s people who do not go kite-flying or balloon-sailing as they do. I think to myself sometimes—how will they come down when their precious balloon bursts? I have often wished them well down on the level again. I have seen them believe this, and believe that, which they were not warranted by the Scriptures to believe, and they have affected exalted ideas of their own attainments. Their position was something wonderful; they were far up in the sky looking down upon all the saints below! Yes, dear friends, that is all very pretty and very fine, undoubtedly; but when you come down again then you will begin to condemn yourself for things that you need not condemn, and you will be distressed and miserable in your spirit because of a disappointment which you need never have had if you had walked humbly with your God. For my own part, I can truly say that none of the novelties of this present evil age have any sort of charm for me; I am content still to abide in the old way, myself ever a poor, needy, helpless sinner, finding everything I need in Christ. If you ever hear me beginning to talk about what a fine fellow I am and how perfect I am getting, you just say, “He’s off his head.” Please put me in an asylum directly, for I must have lost my reason before I could have believed this modern nonsense. I feel sure that I, for one, shall not suffer any disappointment in this direction, for I shall keep just where Jack the huckster kept, and say with him,—


“I’m a poor sinner, and nothing at all,

But Jesus Christ is my all in all.”

Yet I am very fearful for others, for whom there awaits a terrible time of bondage when they once come back to the place where it would have been better for them to have stopped. If I were to set up to be a prince of the realm, and begin to spend at the rate of fifty thousand pounds a year, I am afraid that in a very few days I should have the sheriff’s officer down upon me, and I should not be able to pay a penny in the pound of my debts. I think I would much rather go on in my own quiet way, and keep within my own means than do any thing of that kind. There are nowadays many spiritual spendthrifts who are pretending to spend money that does not exist, and they will very soon find a sense of their poverty forced upon them, and their want will come like an armed man, demanding their surrender.

So much then upon the words, “a wounded spirit who can bear?”

III. My time has almost fled; but I want to answer a third question—how are we to avoid a wounded spirt so far as it is evil?

I answer first, if you are happy in the Lord and full of joy and confidence, avoid a wounded spirit by never offending your conscience. Labor with all your might to be true to the light that God has given you, to be true to your understanding of God’s Word, and to follow the Lord with all your heart. When Mr. Bunyan describes Christian as meeting with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, and fighting that terrible battle which he so graphically describes, he told us that the pilgrim remembered then some of the slips that he had made when he was going down into the valley. While he was fighting with Apollyon he was remembering in his own heart the slips that he had previously made. Nothing will come to you in a time of sorrow and pain and brokenness of spirit so sharply as a sense of sins of omission or sins of commission. When the light of God’s presence is gone from you, you will begin sadly to say, “Why did I do this? Why did I not do that?” Therefore dear friends, endeavor as much as lieth in you so to live in the time of your joy that, if there ever should come times of depression, you may not have to remember neglected duties or wilful wickedness.

Again, if you would avoid a wounded spirit get a clear view of the gospel. There are numbers of Christian people who have seen the gospel just as that half-opened eye of the blind man saw “men as trees walking.” They do not yet know the difference between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. They do not know how a Christian stands in Christ. Get them to spell that glorious word grace if they can; ask them to say it like this,— “free grace.” They will probably say to you, “Oh! free grace,—that is tautology.” Never mind; give it to them, tautology or not. Spell it in your own bout, —free, rich, sovereign grace; and know that you, a guilty, lost sinner, are saved as a sinner, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, that in due time he died for the ungodly, and that your standing is not in yourself or in your own attainments, but wholly and entirely in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It will often prevent your getting a wounded spirit if you understand the differences between things that do really differ, and do not mix them up as so many do. Again, you will avoid a wounded spirit by living very near to God. The sheep that gets bitten by the wolf is the one that does not keep near the shepherd. Ah! and I have known sheep to get bitten by the dog, and the dog did not mean them any hurt though he did bite them. It has often happened that when I have been preaching there has been somebody dreadfully hurt. Yes, even the Good Shepherd’s dog bites sometimes; but if you had kept near the Shepherd his dog would not have bitten you, for neither the dog nor the wolf will bite those that are near him. Let your cry be—


“Oh, for a closer walk with God!”

Then will come “a calm and heavenly frame”; but if you get away from holy living and close communion with God, you may expect to get a wounded spirit.

So much then for the prevention which is better then a cure. God help us all to make good use of it!

IV. But lastly, suppose our spirit is wounded, how is it to be healed? Do you need that I should tell you that there is only One who can heal a wounded spirit? “By his stripes we are healed.” If you would be healed of the bleeding wounds of your heart, flee away to Christ. You did so once; do it again. Come to Christ now, though you may have come to him a hundred times before. Come now just as you are, without one plea, but that his blood was shed for you. Come to him. There is no peace for a soul that does not do this, and you must have peace if you will but come simply as you are, and trust yourself with Christ.

If however your wounded Spirit should not get peace at once, try to remove any mistakes which may be causing you unnecessary sorrow. Study your Bible more. Listen to plain preaching of the gospel. Let this be to you the mark of true gospel preaching—where Christ is everything and the creature is nothing; where it is salvation all of grace through the work of the Holy Spirit, applying to the soul the precious blood of Jesus. Try to get a clear view of the gospel and many a doubt and fear will fly away when knowledge takes the place of ignorance.

Endeavour also to get a clear view of your own troubles. We are never frightened so much by what we know as by what we do not know. The boy thinks as he sees something white, “That is a ghost,” and that is why he is frightened. He does not know what a ghost is; he supposes that it is something mysterious, and he is superstitious, so he is frightened by the object before him. If he would go right up to it he would see that it is a cow and he would not be frightened any more. Half the fears in the world have no real ground, and if we could but induce troubled persons dispassionately to look at their fears, their fears would vanish. Write it down in black and white if you can, and let some friend read it. Perhaps if you read it yourself you will laugh at it. I believe that oftentimes with regard to the most grievous afflictions that we have in our mind, if they fretted somebody else, we should say, “I cannot think how that person can be so stupid.” We almost know that we are ourselves stupid, but we do not like to confess it. I would therefore urge the wounded spirit to look at its wound; it is of no use to cover it over and to say, “Oh, it is an awful wound!” Perhaps if you would just have it thoroughly examined, the surgeon would say to you, “Oh, it is only a flesh wound; it will soon be all right again!” And so your drooping spirits would revive and your wounded self would begin to heal.

One thing however I would say to one who has a really wounded heart. Remember Christ’s sympathy with you. O thou who art tossed with tempest and not comforted, thy Lord’s vessel is in the storm with thee! Yea, he is in the vessel with thee. There is not a pang that rends the believer’s heart but he has felt it first. He drinks out of the cup with you. Is it very bitter? He has had a cup full of it for every drop that you taste. This ought to comfort you. I know of no better remedy for the heart’s trouble in a Christian than to feel, “My Master himself takes no better portion than that which he gives to me.”

Also let me recommend as a choice remedy for a wounded spirit; an enlarged view of the love of God. I wish that some of you who have a wounded spirit would give God credit for being as kind as you are yourself. You would not suffer your child to endure a needless pain if you could remove it; neither does God afflict willingly, or grieve the children of men. He would not allow you to be cast down, but would cheer and comfort you if it was good for you. His delight is that you should be happy and joyful. Do not think that you may not take the comfort which he has set before you in his Word; he has put it there on purpose for you. Dare to take it and think well of God, and it shall be well with your soul. If this should not cure the evil, remember the great brevity of an your afflictions, after all. What if you should be a child of God who has even to go to bed in the dark? You will wake up in the eternal daylight. What if for the time being you are in heaviness? There is a needs-be that you should be in heaviness through manifold temptations, and you will come out of it. You are not the first child of God who has been depressed or troubled. Ay, among the noblest men and women who ever lived there has been much of this kind of thing. I noticed in the life of Sir Isaac Newton—probably the greatest mind that God ever made apart from his own dear Son —the great Sir Isaac Newton, the master and teacher of the truest philosophy, during the middle part of his life was in great distress and deep depression. Robert Boyle again, whose name is well known to those who read works of depth of thought, at one time said that he counted life to be a very heavy burden to him. And there was that sweet charming spirit of the poet Cowper. You all know that throughout his life he was like a flower that blooms in the shade; yet he exhaled the sweetest perfume of holy piety and poetry. Do not therefore think that you are quite alone in your sorrow. Bow your head and bear it if it cannot be removed; for but a little while and every cloud shall be swept away, and you in the cloudless sunlight shall behold your God. Meanwhile, his strength is sufficient for you. He will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able to bear; and if you cannot bear your infirmity because of your wounded spirit, he will bear for you both yourself and your infirmity. “O rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him.” “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in your Christ.” Go away you Hannah of a sorrowful spirit, and be no more sad. The Lord grant his comforts to you for his Son Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

                 A Faithful Friend
                               March 8, 1857
                           C. H. SPURGEON
  "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."-Proverbs 18:24.
Cicero has well said, "Friendship is the only thing in the world concerning 
the usefulness of which all mankind are agreed." Friendship seems as 
necessary an element of a comfortable existence in this world as fire or 
water, or even air itself. A man may drag along a miserable existence in 
proud solitary dignity, but his life is scarce life, it is nothing but an 
existence, the tree of life being stripped of the leaves of hope and the 
fruits of joy. He who would be happy here must have friends; and he who would be happy hereafter, must, above all things, find a friend in the world to 
come, in the person of God, the Father of his people.
Friendship, however, though very pleasing and exceedingly blessed, has been 
the cause of the greatest misery to men when it has been unworthy and 
unfaithful; for just in proportion as a good friend is sweet, a false friend 
is full of bitterness. "A faithless friend is sharper than an adder's tooth." 
It is sweet to repose in some one; but O! how bitter to have that support 
snapped, and to receive a grievous fall as the effect of your confidence. 
Fidelity is an absolute necessary in a true friend; we can not rejoice in men 
unless they will stand faithful to us. Solomon declares that "there is a 
friend that sticketh closer than a brother." That friend, I suppose, he never 
found in the pomps and vanities of the world. He had tried them all, but he 
found them empty; he passed through all their joys, but he found them "vanity 
of vanities." Poor Savage spoke from sad experience when he said-
              "You'll find the friendship of the world a show!
              Mere outward show! 'Tis like the harlot's tears,
              The statesman's promise, or false patriot's zeal,
                  Full of fair seeming, but delusion all."
And so for the most part they are. The world's friendship is ever brittle. 
Trust to it, and you have trusted a robber; rely upon it, and you have leaned 
upon a thorn; ay, worse than that, upon a spear which shall pierce you to the 
soul with agony. Yet Solomon says he had found "a friend that sticketh closer 
than a brother." Not in the haunts of his unbridled pleasures, nor in the 
wanderings of his unlimited resources, but in the pavilion of the Most High, 
the secret dwelling-place of God, in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, the 
Friend of sinners.
It is saying a great thing to affirm that "there is a friend that sticketh 
closer than a brother;" for the love of brotherhood has produced most valiant 
deeds. We have read stories of what brotherhood could do, which, we think, 
could hardly be excelled in the annals of friendship. Timoleon, with his 
shield, stood over the body of his slain brother, to defend him from the 
insults of the foe. It was reckoned a brave deed of brotherhood that he 
should dare the spears of an army in defense of his brother's corpse. And 
many such instances have there been, in ancient and modern warfare, of the 
attachment of brethren. There is a story told of a Highland regiment, who, 
while marching through the Highlands, lost their way; they were overtaken by 
one of the terrible storms which will sometimes come upon travelers unawares, 
and blinded by the snow, they lost their way upon the mountains. Well nigh 
frozen to death, it was with difficulty they could continue their march. One 
man after another dropped into the snow and disappeared. There were two 
brothers, however, of the name of Forsythe; one of them fell prostrate on the 
earth, and would have lain there to die, but his brother, though barely able 
to drag his own limbs across the white desert, took him on his back, and 
carried him along, and as others fell one by one, this brave, true-hearted 
brother carried his loved one on his back, until at last he himself fell down 
overcome with fatigue, and died. His brother, however, had received such 
warmth from his body that he was enabled to reach the end of his journey in 
safety, and so lived. Here we have an instance of one brother sacrificing his 
life for another. I hope there are some brothers here who would be prepared 
to do the same if they should ever be brought into the same difficulty. It is 
saying a great thing, to declare that "there is a friend that sticketh closer 
than a brother." It is putting that friend first of all in the list of loving 
ones; for, surely, next to a mother's love, there is, and there ought to be, 
no higher affection in the world than the love of a brother to one begotten 
of the same father, and dandled on the same knee. Those who have "grown in 
beauty side by side, and filled one house with glee," ought to love one 
another. And we think there have been many glorious instances and mighty 
proofs of the love of brethren. Yet, says Solomon, "there is a friend that 
sticketh closer than a brother."
To repeat our assertion, we believe that this friend is the blessed Redeemer, 
Jesus Christ. It shall be ours, first, to prove, this morning, the fact that 
he sticks closer than a brother; then, as briefly as we can, to show you why 
he sticks closer than a brother; and then to finish up by giving you some 
lessons which may be drawn from the doctrine, that Jesus Christ is a faithful 
I. First, then, beloved, we assert that CHRIST IS "A FRIEND THAT STICKETH CLOSER THAN A BROTHER." And in order to prove this from facts, we appeal to such of you as have had him for a friend. Will you not, each of you, at once give your verdict, that this is neither more nor less than an unexaggerated truth? He loved you before all worlds; long ere the day star flung his ray across the darkness, before the wing of angel had flapped the unnavigated ether, before aught of creation had struggled from the womb of nothingness, God, even our God, had set his heart upon all his children. Since that time, has he once swerved, has he once turned aside, once changed? No; ye who have tasted of his love and know his grace, will bear me witness, that he has been a certain friend in uncertain circumstances.
                   "He, near your side hath always stood.
                     His loving-kindness. O! how good."
You fell in Adam; did he cease to love you? No; he became the second Adam to redeem you. You sinned in practice, and brought upon your head the 
condemnation of God; you deserved his wrath and his utter anger; did he then 
forsake you? No!
                       "He saw you ruined in the fall,
                     Yet loved you notwithstanding all."
He sent his minister after you; you despised him; he preached the gospel in 
your ears; you laughed at him; you broke God's Sabbath, you despised his 
Word. Did he then forsake you? No!
               "Determined to save, he watched o'er your path,
            Whilst, Satan's blind slave, you sported with death."
And at last he arrested you by his grace, he humbled you, he made you 
penitent, he brought you to his feet, and he forgave you all your sins. Since 
then, has he left you? You have often left him; has he ever left you? You 
have had many trials and troubles; has he ever deserted you? Has he ever 
turned away his heart, and shut up his bowels of compassion? No, children of 
God, it is your solemn duty to say "No," and bear witness to his 
faithfulness. You have been in severe afflictions and in dangerous 
circumstances; did your friend desert you then? Others have been faithless to 
you; he that eat bread with you has lifted up his heel against you; but has 
Christ ever forsaken you? Has there ever been a moment when you could go to 
him, and say, "Master, thou hast betrayed me?" Could you once, in the 
blackest hour of your grief, dare to impugn his fidelity? Could you dare to 
say of him, "Lord, thou hast promised what thou didst not perform?" Will you 
not bear witness now, "Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord 
God hath promised; all hath come to pass?" And do you fear he will yet 
forsake you? Ask, then, the bright ones before the throne-"Ye glorified 
spirits! did Christ forsake you? Ye have passed through Jordan's stream; did 
he leave you there? Ye have been baptized in the black flood of death; did he 
there forsake you? Ye have stood before the throne of God; did he then deny 
you?" And they answered, "No; through all the troubles of our life, in all 
the bitterness of death, in all the agonies of our expiring moments, and in 
all the terrors of God's judgment, he hath been with us, 'a friend that 
sticketh closer than a brother.'" Out of all the millions of God's redeemed, 
there is not one he hath forsaken. Poor they have been, mean and distressed, 
but he hath never abhorred their prayer, never turned aside from doing them 
good. He hath been ever with them.
                        "For his mercy shall endure,
                         Ever faithful, ever sure."
But I shall not longer stay, since I can not prove this to the ungodly, and 
to the godly it is already proven, for they know it by experience; therefore 
it is but little necessary that I should do more than just certify the fact 
that Christ is a faithful friend-a friend in every hour of need and every 
time of distress.
There are some things in himself which render it certain that he will stick 
close to his people.
1. True friendship can only be made between true men. Hearts are the soul of 
honor. There can be no lasting friendship between bad men. Bad men may 
pretend to love each other, but their friendship is a rope of sand, which 
shall be broken at any convenient season; but if a man have a sincere heart 
within him, and be true and noble, then we may confide in him. Spenser sings 
in fine old English verse-
                "No, certes can that friendship long endure,
                    However gay and goodly be the style,
                   That doth ill cause or evil end enure,
            For Vertue is the band that bindeth Harts most sure."
But who can find a stain in the character of Jesus, or who can tarnish his 
honor? Has there ever been a spot on his escutcheon? Has his flag ever been 
trampled in the dust? Does he not stand the true witness in heaven, the 
faithful and just? Is it not declared of him that he is God who can not lie? 
Have we not found him so up to this moment; and may we not, knowing that he is "Holy, holy, holy Lord," confide in him, that he will stick closer to us 
than a brother? His goodness is the guaranty of his fidelity; he can not fail 
2. Faithfulness to us in our faults is a certain sign of fidelity in a 
friend. You may depend upon that man who will tell you of your faults in a 
kind and considerate manner. Fawning hypocrites, insidious flatterers, are 
the sweepings and offal of friendship. They are but the parasites upon that 
noble tree. But true friends put enough trust in you to tell you openly of 
your faults. Give me for a friend the man who will speak honestly of me 
before my face; who will not tell first one neighbor, and then another, but 
who will come straight to my house, and say, "Sir, I feel there is such-and-
such a thing in you, which, as my brother, I must tell you of." That man is a 
true friend; he has proved himself to be so; for we never get any praise for 
telling people of their faults; we rather hazard their dislike; a man will 
sometimes thank you for it, but he does not often like you any the better. 
Praise is a thing we all love. I met with a man the other day who said he was 
impervious to flattery; I was walking with him at the time, and turning round 
rather sharply, I said, "At any rate, sir, you seem to have a high gift in 
flattering yourself, for you are really doing so, in saying you are 
impervious to flattery." "You can not flatter me," he said. I replied, "I 
can, if I like to try; and perhaps may do so before the day is out." I found 
I could not flatter him directly, so I began by saying what a fine child that 
was of his; and he drank it in as a precious draught; and when I praised this 
thing and that thing belonging to him, I could see that he was very easily 
flattered; not directly, but indirectly. We are all pervious to flattery; we 
like the soothing cordial, only it must not be labeled flattery; for we have 
a religious abhorrence of flattery if it be so called; call it by any other 
name, and we drink it in, even as the ox drinketh in water. Now, child of 
God, has Christ every flattered you? Has he not told you of your faults right 
truly? Has he not pricked your conscience even upon what you thought to gloss 
over-your little secret sins? Has he not provoked conscience to thunder in 
your ears notes of terror, because of your misdeeds? Well, then, you may 
trust him, for he shows that faithfulness which renders a man right 
trustworthy. Thus I have pointed out to you that there are reasons in himself 
for which we may trust him.
3. In the next place, there are some things in his friendship which render us 
sure of not being deceived, when we put our confidence in him. True 
friendship must not be of hasty growth. As quaint old Master Fuller says: 
"Let friendship creep gently to a height; if it rush to it, it may soon run 
itself out of breath." It is even so. I think it was Joanna Baillie said-
                  "Friendship is no plant of hasty growth.
                 Though planted in esteem's deep fixed soil,
                   The gradual culture of kind intercourse
                        Must bring it to perfection."
In vain thou trustest the gourd over thy head, O Jonah; it will not be of 
much use to thee; it came up in a night, it may wither in a night. It is the 
strong stiff oak, of ages' growth, which shall abide the tempest; which shall 
alike put out its wings to shield thee from the sun, and shall afterward find 
thee a hovel in its heart, if necessary, in its gray old age, when its 
branches tremble in the blast. Friendship is true when it begins; but we must 
have a man's friendship long before we can say of him, that he will stick 
closer than a brother. And how long has Christ loved you? That you can not 
tell. When the ages were not born he loved you; when this world was an 
infant, wrapped in the swaddling clothes of mist, he loved you; when the old 
pyramids had not begun to be builded, his heart was set upon you; and ever 
since you have been born he has had a strong affection for you. He looked on 
you in your cradle, and he loved you then; he was affianced to you when you 
were an infant of a span long, and he has loved you ever since. Some of you I 
see with gray hairs, some with heads all bald with age; he has loved you up 
till now, and will he now forsake you? O! no, his friendship is so old that 
it must last; it has been matured by so many tempests, it has been rooted by 
so many winds of trouble, that it can not but endure; it must stand. Even as 
the granite peak of the mountain shall not be melted, because, unlike the 
snow, it has braved the blast, and borne the heat of the burning sun; it has 
stood out always, catching in its face every blow from the face of nature, 
and yet been unmoved and uninjured. It shall last, for it has lasted. But 
when the elements shall melt, and in a stream of dissolving fire shall run 
away, then shall Christ's friendship still exist, for it is of older growth 
than they. He must be "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother;" for his 
friendship is a hoary friendship-hoary as his own head, of which it is said, 
"His head and his hair are white like snow, as white as wool."
4. But note, further, the friendship which lasts does not take it rise in the 
chambers of mirth, nor is it fed and fattened there. Young lady, you speak of 
a dear friend whom you acquired last night in a ball-room. Do not, I beseech 
you, misuse the word; he is not a friend if he was acquired merely there; 
friends are better things than those which grow in the hot-house of pleasure. 
Friendship is a more lasting plant than those. You have a friend, have you? 
Yes; and he keeps a pair of horses, and has a good establishment. Ah! but 
your best way to prove your friend is to know that he will be your friend 
when you have not so much as a mean cottage, and when, houseless and without clothing, you are driven to beg your bread. Thus you would make true proof of a friend. Give me a friend who was born in the winter time, whose cradle was rocked in the storm; he will last. Our fair weather friends shall flee away from us. I had rather have a robin for a friend than a swallow; for a swallow abides with us only in the summer time, but a robin cometh to us in the winter. Those are tight friends that will come the nearest to us when we are 
in the most distress; but those are not friends who speed themselves away 
when ill times come. Believer, hast thou reason to fear that Christ will 
leave you now? Has he not been with you in the house of mourning? You found your friend where men find pearls, "in caverns deep, where darkness dwells;" you found Jesus in your hour of trouble. It was on the bed of sickness that you first learned the value of his name; it was in the hour of mental anguish that you first did lay hold of the hem of his garment; and since then, your nearest and sweetest intercourse has been held with him in the hours of 
darkness. Well, then, such a friend, proved in the house of sorrow-a friend 
who gave his heart's blood for you, and let his soul run out in one great 
river of gore-such a friend never can and never will forsake you; he sticketh 
closer than a brother.
5. Again, a friend who is acquired by folly is never a lasting friend. Do a 
foolish thing, and make a man your friend; 'tis but a confederacy in vice, 
and you will soon discover that his friendship is worthless; the friendship 
you acquire by doing wrong, you had better be without. O! how many silly 
friendships there are springing up, the mere fruit of a sentimentalism, 
having no root whatever, but like the plant of which our Saviour tells us, 
"It sprang up because it had no depth of earth." Jesus Christ's friendship is 
not like that; there is no ingredient of folly in it; he loves us discreetly, 
not winking or conniving at our follies, but instilling into us his wisdom. 
His love is wise; he hath chosen us according to the counsel of his wisdom; 
not blindly and rashly, but with all judgment and prudence.
Under this head I may like wise observe, that the friendship of ignorance is 
not a very desirable one. I desire no man to call himself my friend, if he 
doth not know me. Let him love me in proportion to his knowledge of me. If he 
loves me for the little he knows, when he knoweth more he may cast me aside. 
"That man," says one, "seems to be a very amiable man." "I am sure I can love 
him," says another, as he scans his features. Ay, but do not write "friend" 
yet; wait a wee bit, until you know more of him; just see him, examine him, 
try him, test him, and not till then enter him on the sacred list of friends. 
Be friendly to all, but make none your friends until they know you, and you 
know them. Many a friendship born in the darkness of ignorance, hath died 
suddenly in the light of a better acquaintance with each other. You supposed 
men to be different from what they were, and when you discovered their real 
character you disregarded them. I remember one saying to me, "I have great 
affection for you, sir," and he mentioned a certain reason. I replied, "My 
dear fellow, your reason is absolutely false; the very thing you love me for, 
I am not, and hope I never shall be." And so I said, "I really can not accept 
your friendship, if it be founded upon a misunderstanding of what I may have 
said." But our Lord Jesus never can forsake those whom once he loves, because he can discover nothing in us worse than he knew, for he knew all about us beforehand. He saw our leprosy, and yet he loved us; he knew our 
deceitfulness and unbelief, and yet he did press us to his bosom; he knew 
what poor fools we were, and yet he said he would never leave us nor forsake 
us. He knew that we should rebel against him and despise his counsel often 
times; he knew that even when we loved him our love would be cold and 
languid, but he loved for his own sake. Surely, then, he will stick closer 
than a brother.
6. Yet again, friendship and love, to be real, must not lie in words, but in 
deeds. The friendship of bare compliment is the fashion of this age, because 
this age is the age of deceit. The world is the great house of sham. Go where 
you may in London, sham is staring you in the face; there are very few real 
things to be discovered. I allude not merely to tricks in business, 
adulterations in food, and such like. Deception is not confined to the 
tradesman's shop. It prevails throughout society; the sanctuary is not 
exempt. The preacher adopts a sham voice. You hardly ever hear a man speak in the pulpit in the same way he would speak in the parlor. Why, I hear my 
brethren, sometimes, when they are at tea or dinner, speak in a very 
comfortable decent sort of English voice, but when they get into their 
pulpits they adopt a sanctimonious tone, and fill their mouths with inflated 
utterance, or else whine most pitifully. They degrade the pulpit by 
pretending to honor it; speaking in a voice which God never intended any 
mortal to have. This is the great house of sham; and such little things show 
which way the wind blows. You leave your card at a friend's house; that is an 
act of friendship-the card! I wonder whether, if he were hard up for cash, 
you would leave your banker's book! You write "My dear sir," "Yours very 
truly;" it is a sham; you do not mean it. "Dear!" that is a sacred word; it 
ought to be used to none but those you regard with affection; but we tolerate 
falsehoods now, as if they were truths; and we call them courtesies. 
Courtesies they may be; but untruths they are in many cases. Now, Christ's 
love lieth not in words, but in deeds. He saith not, "My dear people;" but he 
let his heart out, and we could see what that was. He doth not come to us, 
and say, "Dearly beloved" simply; but he hangs upon the cross, and there we 
read "Dearly beloved" in red letters. He does not come to us with the kisses 
of his lips first-he giveth us blessings with both his hands; he giveth 
himself for us, and then he giveth himself to us. Trust no complimentary 
friend; rely upon the man who giveth you real tokens worth your having, who 
does for you deeds to show the truthfulness of his heart. Such a friend-and 
such is Jesus-"sticketh closer than a brother."
7. Once more, and I shall not weary you, I trust. A purchased friend will 
never last long. Give to a man nineteen times, and deny him the twentieth, 
and he shall hate you; for his love sprang only from your gifts. The love 
which I could buy for gold I would sell for dross; the friendship that I 
could buy for pearls I would dispense with for pebbles; it were of no value, 
and therefore the sooner lost the better. But O believer, Christ's love was 
unpurchased love. Thou broughtest him no present. Jacob said, when his sons 
went to Egypt, "Take the man a present, a little oil, a little balm, a few 
nuts and almonds;" but you took Christ no presents. When you came to him you said,
                        "Nothing in my hands I bring,
                        Simply to thy cross I cling."
You did not even promise that you would love him; for you had such a 
faithless heart, you durst not say so. You asked him to make you love him; 
that was the most you could do. He loved you for nothing at all-simply 
because he would love you. Well, that love which so lived on nothing but its 
own resources, will not starve through the scantiness of your returns; the 
love which grew in such a rocky heart as this, will not die for want of soil. 
That love which sprang up in the barren desert, in your unirrigated soul, 
will never, never die for want of moisture; it must live, it can not expire. 
Jesus must be "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
8. Shall I stay to urge more reasons? I may but mention one other, namely, 
this-that there can not, by any possibility, arise any cause which could make 
Christ love us less. You say, how is this? One man loves his friend, but he 
on a sudden grows rich, and now he says I am a greater man than I used to be, 
I forget my old acquaintances. But Christ can grow no richer; he is as rich 
as he can be, infinitely so. He loves you now; then it can not be possible 
that he will by reason of an increase in his own personal glory forsake you, 
for everlasting glories now crown his head; he can never be more glorious and 
great, and therefore he will love you still. Sometimes, on the other hand, 
one friend grows poorer, and then the other forsakes him; but you never can 
grow poorer than you are, for you are "a poor sinner and nothing at all" now; 
you have nothing of your own; all you have is borrowed, all given you by him. 
He can not love you, then, less, because you grow poorer; for poverty that 
hath nothing is at least as poor as it can be, and can never sink lower in 
the scale. Christ, therefore, must love thee for all thy nakedness and all 
thy poverty.
"But I may prove sinful," sayest thou. Yes, but thou canst not be more so 
than he foreknew thou wouldst be; and yet he loved thee with the 
foreknowledge of all thy sins. Surely, then, when it happens it will occasion 
no surprise to him; he knew it all beforehand, and he can not swerve from his 
love; no circumstance can possibly arise that ever will divide the Saviour 
from his love to his people, and the saint from his love to his Saviour. He 
is "a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."
III. Now, then, AN INFERENCE TO BE DERIVED FROM THIS. Lavater says, "The qualities of your friends will be those of your enemies; cold friends, cold enemies, half friends, half enemies, fervid enemies, warm friends." Knowing this to be a truth, I have often congratulated myself, when my enemies have spoken fiercely against me. Well, I have thought, "My friends love me hard and fast; let my enemies be as hot as they please; it only indicates that the friends are proportionately firm in affection. Then we draw this inference, that if Christ sticks close, and he is our friend, then our enemies will 
stick close, and never leave us till we die. O, Christian, because Christ 
sticks close, the devil will stick close too; he will be at you and with you; 
the dog of hell will never cease his howlings, till you reach the other side 
of Jordan; no place in this world is out of bow-shot of that great enemy; 
till you have crossed the stream his arrows can reach you, and they will. If 
Christ gave himself for you, the devil will do all he can to destroy you; if 
Christ has been long-suffering to you, Satan will be persevering, in hopes 
that Christ may forget you; he will strive after you, and strive until he 
shall see you safely landed in heaven. But be not disappointed: the louder 
Satan roars, the more proof you shall have of Christ's love. "Give me," said 
old Rutherford, "give me a roaring devil rather than a sleeping one; for 
sleeping devils make me slumber, but roaring ones provoke me to run to my 
Master." O! be glad, then, if the world rant at thee, if thy foes attack thee 
fiercely. Christ is just as full of love to thee as they are of hatred. 
                            "Be firm and strong;
                  Be grace thy shield and Christ thy song."
And now I have a question to ask: that question I ask of every man and every 
woman in this place, and of every child too-Is Jesus Christ your friend? Have 
you a friend at court-at heaven's court? Is the judge of quick and dead your 
friend? Can you say that you love him, and has he ever revealed himself in 
the way of love to you? Dear hearer, do not answer that question for thy 
neighbor; answer it for thyself. Peer or peasant, rich or poor, learned or 
illiterate, this question is for each of you; therefore, ask it: Is Christ my 
friend? Did you ever consider that question? Have you ever asked it? O! to be 
able to say "Christ is my friend," is one of the sweetest things in the 
world. A man who had lived much in sin, one day casually entered a place of 
worship. Before the sermon, this hymn was sung-
                         "Jesus, lover of my soul."
The next day the man was met by an acquaintance who asked him how he liked the sermon. Said he, "I do not know, but there were two or three words that took such a hold of me that I did not know what to do with myself. The 
minister read that hymn, 'Jesus, lover of my soul.' Ah!' said he, though he 
was by no means a religious man, "to be able to say that, I would give up all 
I have got! But do you think," he asked "that Jesus ever will be the lover of 
such a man as I am? 'Jesus, lover of my soul!' O! could I say it." And then 
he buried his head in his hands and wept. I have every reason to fear that he 
went back to his sin, and was the same afterwards as before. But, you see, he 
had conscience enough to let him know how valuable it was to have Christ for 
his lover and his friend. Ah! rich man, thou hast many friends. There be some 
here who have toiled for their country's good, and deserve a meed of honor at 
their country's hands, who, for one mistake-or what, perhaps, was a mistake-
have been neglected by too many who once appeared to be their most trusty 
adherents. O! put no confidence, ye great men and ye rich, in the adherence 
of your friends. David said in his hast," All men are liars;" you may one day 
have to say it at your leisure. And O! ye kind and affectionate hearts, who 
are not rich in wealth, but who are rich in love-and that is the world's best 
wealth-put this golden coin among your silver ones, and it will sanctify them 
all. Get Christ's love shed abroad in your hearts, and your mother's love, 
your daughter's love, your husband's love, your wife's love, will become more 
sweet than ever. The love of Christ cast not out the love of relatives, but 
it sanctifies our loves, and makes them sweeter far. Remember, dear hearer, 
the love of men and women is very sweet; but all must pass away; and what 
will you do, if you have no wealth but the wealth that fadeth, and no love 
but the love which dies, when death shall come? O! to have the love of 
Christ! You can take that across the river of death with you; you can wear it 
as your bracelet in heaven, and set it up as a seal upon your hand; for his 
love is "strong as death and mightier than the grave." Good old Bishop 
Beveridge, I think it was, when dying, did not know his best friends. Said 
one, "Bishop Beveridge, do you know me?" Said he, "Who are you?" and when the name was mentioned, he said, "No." "But don't you know your wife, Bishop?" "What is her name?" said he. Said she, "I am your wife." "I did not know I had got one," said he. Poor old man! his faculties all failed him. At last 
one stooped down and whispered, "Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?" "Yes," said he, making an effort to speak, "I have known him these forty years, and I never can forget him." It is marvelous how memory will hold the place with Jesus, when it will with no one else; and it is equally marvelous, that,
"When all created things are dry, Christ's fullness is the same."
My dear hearers, do think of this matter. O that you might get Christ for 
your friend; he will never be your friend while you are self-righteous; he 
will never be your friend while you live in sin. But do you believe 
yourselves guilty? Do you desire to leave off sin? Do you want to be saved? 
Do you desire to be renewed? Then let me tell you, my Master loves you! Poor, weak, and helpless worms, my Master's heart if full of love to you; his eyes at this moment are looking down with pity on you. "O! Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Jerusalem!" He now bids me tell you that he died for all of you who confess yourselves to be sinners, and feel it. He bids me say to you, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved." He tells me to proclaim salvation full and free; full, needing nothing of yours to help it; free, needing 
nothing of yours to buy it.
                     "Come ye thirsty, come and welcome;
                         God's free bounty glorify:
                      True belief and true repentance,
                      Every grace that brings us nigh-
                               Without money,
                       Come to Jesus Christ, and buy."
There is nothing I feel that I fail so much in as addressing sinners. O! I 
wish I could cry my heart out, and preach my heart out, to you and at you.
                    "Dear Saviour, draw reluctant hearts,
                          To thee let sinners fly,
                    And take the bliss thy love imparts;
                         And drink, and never die."
Farewell, with this one thought-we shall never all of us meet together here 
again. It is a very solemn thought, but according to the course of nature and 
the number of deaths, if all of you were willing to come here next Sabbath 
morning, it is not at all likely that all of you would be alive; one out of 
this congregation will be sure to have gone the way of all flesh. Farewell, 
thou that are appointed to death; I know not where thou art-yon strong man, 
or yon tender maiden with the hectic flush of consumption on her cheek. I 
know not who is appointed to death; but I do now most solemnly take my 
farewell of such an one. Farewell, poor soul; and is it farewell for ever? 
Shall we meet in the land of the hereafter, in the home of the blessed; or do 
I bid you farewell now for ever? I do solemnly bid farewell to you for ever, 
if you live and die without Christ. But I can not bear that dreary thought; 
and I therefore say, poor sinner! stop and consider-consider thy ways, and 
now "turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?" "Why will ye die?" "Why will ye 
die?" "Why will ye die?" Ah! ye can not answer that question. May God help 
you to answer it in a better fashion, by saying, "Here Lord!
                       Just as I am, without one plea,
                     But that thy blood was shed for me,
                        O Son of God I come to thee.
I trust my soul in thy kind hands." The Lord bless you all for Christ's sake! 


                         The Sluggard’s Reproof

Winter of 1859

delivered by C.H. Spurgeon

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall 
     he beg in harvest, and
have nothing.” {cold: or, winter}— Proverbs


Laziness is the crying sin of Eastern nations. I believe that the peculiar genius of the Anglo-Saxon character prevents our being, as a nation, guilty of that sin. Perhaps we have many other vices more rife in our midst than that, but in the East almost every man is a lazy man. If you tell a Turk in Constantinople that his street is filthy— and it certainly is for there the offal lies and is never swept away —he says sitting with his legs crossed and smoking his pipe, “The Lord wills it.” If you tell him there is a fire at the bottom of the street he does not agitate himself, but he says “God wills it.” If you were to tell him that he was sitting on a heap of gunpowder and that he had better take heed lest a spark should blow him up, probably he would never move or take his pipe out of his mouth, except to say “God wills it.” Some of the most extraordinary instances of idleness are told us of those people by travelers in the East to this day. The further you go East, the less activity there is; the further you go West in the world, the more restless does the human mind become, and consequently I suppose, the more active.

Yet, while the fact of the superabundance of idleness in the East is a great explanation of the reason why Solomon speaks so much against it in the Proverbs, and seeing that this Book was meant to be read not only in the East but everywhere else, I should fear that there must be some laziness in the West also, and as this Book was meant to be read in England I should imagine there must be a few sluggards in England; and this happens to be not a matter of imagination with me at all, for I know there are many such. You can brush against them at the corners of our streets. There are to be found many such who are slothful in business, who certainly are not worth their salt, who do not earn a livelihood for themselves even with regard to the things of this life. There are still far too many to whom the familiar lines of Dr. Watts may be applied,—


“Tis the voice of the sluggard; I heard him complain,

‘You have waked me too soon, I must slumber again.’”

It sometimes happens too that these idle people are religious people, or profess to be so, though I have no faith in that man’s religion who is lazy. He reminds me always of a certain monk who went to a monastery determined to give himself up entirely to contemplation and meditation. When he reached the place he saw all the monks at work tilling the ground, ploughing or trimming the vines round the monastery, so he very solemnly observed as he entered “Labour not for the meat that perisheth.” The brethren smiled, and they still continued their labors. He thought it his duty to reprove them a second time by saying, “Martha is cumbered with much serving, but I have chosen the good part which shall not be taken from me.” However, it was taken from him, for the bell did not ring for him at the usual time for meals; and our brother, after waiting some few hours in his cell in prayer, beginning to feel certain calls within, came out, and accosting the prior of the monastery enquired, “Do not the brethren eat?” “Do you eat?” said he; “I thought you were a spiritual man for you said to the brethren, ‘Labour not for the meat that perisheth.’” “Oh, yes!” he replied, “I know I said that, but I thought the brethren ate.” “Yes,” answered the prior, “so they do, but we have a rule in our monastery that none eat but those that work. There is such a rule to be found in Scripture, too,” he reminded the monk; “Paul himself hath said it, ‘If any man would not work neither should he eat.’” I think the master of that monastery acted and spoke wisely. A man must work in this life. He was sent to this world that he might be diligent in his calling, in the position in life in which God has been pleased to place him.

However, I do not intend to treat now of this phase of the subject. I am about to direct your attention to spiritual things. I am no legalist; I know that the works of the law can save no man, for “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified.” I know that the work of salvation is by grace alone, and that all our good works are not our own, but are wrought in us by divine grace; yet at the same time I cannot shut my eyes to the fact that, although Scripture continually denies that salvation is by works, it always speaks of the work of grace in the heart of man, and of the experience of the believer as being a hard worker. For do we not continually hear the Christian described as a pilgrim, as one who is on a long and a weary journey? He is described not as a gentleman who is carried on other men’s backs, or who is borne along in a vehicle, but as a pilgrim who has to toil along the road; and he is told not to be weary and faint in his mind; he is warned that the road will be very rough and very long, and that he will have to run with endurance the race that is set before him. The very use of such a figure as that does not look as if religion were a lazy thing. Then again, we find religion described as a battle. The Christian is continually exhorted to take unto himself the whole armor of God and to fight the good fight of faith. He is told to resist even unto blood striving against sin. That does not look as if it were a very easy thing to be a Christian— as if Christianity were a kind of thing to be kept in a band—box. It looks as if there were something to be done, some foe to fight, some great task to be accomplished. When I also find another figure used, which is perhaps yet more forcible because it combines the idea of pressing forward with that of fighting—when I find the figure of agonizing used—“Agonize to enter in at the strait gate”—press, push, labor, strive, toil—I cannot imagine that to be a Christian is to be an idler or a sluggard. No my brethren, though salvation is not by our works, yet as sure as ever the Lord puts divine life into us, we shall begin to labor for the meat that endureth to eternal life, we shall strive to enter in at the strait gate and we shall run perseveringly the race that is set before us, and we shall endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ.

Now it is just this point in religion that many men do not like. They prefer an easy religion—flowery meadows, flowing streams, and sunny glades—all those things they like; but they do not like the climbing of mountains or the swimming of rivers or going through fires or fighting, struggling, and wrestling. They go along the pilgrim’s way till they come to some slough and then they are offended. When it was all clean walking they did not mind; but when they tumble into the bog and begin to bemire themselves, they straightway creep out on that side of the slough that is nearest to their own house, and like Mr. Pliable in “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” of whom you have often heard—they go back to their house in the City of Destruction. They went in the right road for a little while, but they found that religion was not so easy a thing as they expected and therefore they turned back.

Now, it is of these people I am going to talk. “The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.” When I have spoken about him, I shall talk a little to those of you who are ploughing in God’s field, exhorting you not to make excuses, not to be dilatory in your Master’s service, but to plough all the harder the colder it is because the day is coming when a joyful harvest shall reward all your pains.

I. First, I am going to speak of this sluggard.

Ploughing is hard work and the sluggard does not like it. If he does go up and down the field once or twice he makes a short turn of it, and leaves a wide headland; and moreover he leans on the handle of his plough, and therefore the plough does not go in very deep— not so deep as it would if he were to do as the active ploughman does, hold the handles up in order that the ploughshare may go deeply into the soil. But he goes nodding along, half-dragged by his horses, and glad to do nothing. He would be very pleased indeed if his feet would go without being moved, and if the clods would but move one another, and lift his feet up for him, so that he might not have the trouble of carrying himself after his plough. But the lazy man knows that he will be laughed at if he says ploughing is hard work, so he does not like to say that. “I must get a better excuse,” he thinks, so he says, “It is so cold; it is so cold! I would not mind going out to plough but I am frozen almost to death; I shall have chilblains; I have not clothes enough to keep me warm; it is so cold to my fingers. Oh, how the snow comes down! The ponds are all frozen; the ground is so hard; the ploughshare will get broken; it is so cold!” Lazy fellow! Why don’t you say that ploughing is hard work? That is the English of it. But no, he must have a more genteel excuse that he may not be so likely to be laughed at. Suppose it were not cold, do you know what he would say? “Oh, it is so hot! I cannot plough; the perspiration runs down my cheeks. You wouldn’t have me ploughing in this hot weather, would you?” Supposing it were neither hot nor cold, why, then he would say I believe that it rained; and if it didn’t rain, he would say the ground was too dry, for a bad excuse, he holds, is better than none; and therefore he will keep on making excuses to the end of the chapter; anything will he do rather than go and do the work he does not like—that is, ploughing.

Now I have made you smile. I wish I could make you cry, because there will be more to cry about than to smile at in this matter, when I come to show you that this is spiritually the case with many. There are men and women who would like to go to heaven without having any trouble. They want to enjoy the harvest, but they do not like the labor of ploughing. They have not the common honesty to say, “I do not like religion.” But what do you suppose they say? Why, they make another excuse. Sometimes it is this, “Well, I am as anxious as anybody to be a Christian; but you know, these are such hard times.” Hard times! The times always were hard to such people as you are. “But in these times,” say they, “there is no warmth in Christians; they are all so cold-hearted. Why, I go up to the chapel, and nobody speaks to me. There is not one-half the religion that there used to be; and what there is is not half so good as it once was. The article is depreciated. Now if I lived over in Ireland, then I would plough; if I lived over where there is the Revival, then I would be a saint; or if I had lived in the apostle Paul’s days and heard such a preacher as that, or if I could have talked to those early Christians, I would not object to be a Christian. But these are such coldhearted times—such lots of hypocrites, and so few Christians—I don’t think I shall trouble about religion at all.”

Ah! that is a pretty excuse, for you know that what you are saying is false. In the first place, you know that there is life in Christ’s Church even now, and that there are still (if you would but look) a few good, loving, warm-hearted Christian men to be found. You know that there are still faithful preachers left. The faithful have not failed from among men; and although hypocrites are plentiful, still there are many sincere souls. And what if there were not? What business is that of yours? Are you content to be lost because the Church is not what it ought to be? Just look at the matter in that light. Because there are a great many hypocrites you have made up your mind to go to hell. Is that the English of it? Because there are such multitudes going there, you think you will go too and keep them company. Is that what you mean? “No!” say you, “not that.” That is it Mr. Sluggard, though you don’t like to say so. It is a bad excuse you have made. It won’t hold water, and you know it won’t. You know very well that, when your conscience speaks, it tells you that this excuse is a bad one. It is one that will not satisfy you when you are lying on your dying bed; and above all it is one that will vanish in the day of judgment, just as the mists vanish before the rising sun. What business can it be of yours what the Church is or what the Church is not? If you will not think about the things of God in these times, neither would you in the best of times; and if the present agency is not blessed to you, neither would you be converted though one rose from the dead.

“But,” says Mr. Sluggard, “if that is not a good excuse, I will give another. It is all very well for you, Mr. Minister, to talk about being religious, but you don’t know where I live; you don’t know my business and the sort of shopmates I am engaged with. You know very well it is a hard matter for me to hold my own as it is, with merely going to a place of worship; but if I really were to throw all my heart into it, I should have them all down upon me. I tell you, sir, my business is such that I could not carry it on, and yet be a Christian.” Then, Mr. Sluggard; if it is a business that you cannot carry on without going to hell with it—give it up sir. “Ah, but then sir, we must live!” “Yes sir, but then we must die. Will you please to recollect that also, for that seems to me to be a great deal more of a necessity? Sometimes, when people say to me, “Why, you know we must live,” I do not see any necessity for that. Some of them would be almost as well dead as alive. “But we must live.” I am not sure of that; I am sure of another thing, you must die. Oh, that you would think rather of dying than of living! Besides, it is all nonsense about your business being one that you cannot carry on and be a Christian. I tell you sir, there is no business that is a legitimate one which a man cannot carry on and adorn his Master in it; or if there be such a business, come out of it as you would out of the burning city of Sodom. “But then I am in such an ungodly household, sir; I am so laughed at.” Yes, sir; but if somebody were to leave you a thousand pounds on condition that you wore a red ribbon round your arm—you know you would be laughed at if you did, or suppose the condition was that you were to wear a fool’s-cap for a week and you would have a thousand pounds a-year for life afterwards, would you not wear it? Ah! I should not like to trust you. I believe you would put it on; and when people laughed you would say, “You may laugh but I am well rewarded for it;” yet here your soul is at stake, and a little laughter you say drives you back. I do not believe you, sir. I do not think you are such a fool as that, to be laughed into hell; for you cannot be laughed out again by all their laughter. I believe your second excuse is as bad as your first one; I shiver it into a thousand pieces. The fact is sir, you don’t like religion; that is the truth. You don’t want to give up your sins. You are willing to continue to be what you are —a sinner dead in trespasses and sins. That is the plain, simple English of it, and all the excuses you can make will not alter it.

“Nay,” says one, “but it is such a hard thing to be a Christian. Very often, when I hear the preacher saying what manner of persons we ought to be I think, Ah! I had better not set out for I shall never go all the way. When I hear of the trials and temptations and troubles of the child of God, I think I will not go.” There you are again, Mr. Sluggard, you will not plough by reason of the cold. But do you not recollect what has been so often impressed upon your mind—though we have many troubles and many trials, yet grace is all-sufficient for us? Do you not know that though the way is long, yet our shoes are iron and brass; and though the work is hard, yet Omnipotence has promised to give us strength all-sufficient? You only look at one side of the subject, and not at the other. Why not think for a moment on that grace of God which guarantees to assist and to carry through all in whom it begins the good work? Sir, your excuse is an idle one. I tell you again that the naked truth is this, that you love your sins, that you love them better than heaven, better than eternal life, that you are a lazy fellow, that you do not like prayer, nor faith, nor repentance, and I warn you that your fate will be that of this sluggard who begged in harvest and had nothing.

Someone else says, “I have no time, I have not indeed.” Time for what, sir? What do you mean? “Why, I have no time to pray an hour in the morning!” Who said you had? “But I have no time to be attending to religion all the day long.” Who asked you to do so, sir? I suppose you find time for pleasure; perhaps you find time for what you call recreation, and the like. There are many precious portions of time that you sweep away and never use. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and if the Holy Spirit has made you love religion and the things of God, you will find time enough. That is a worse excuse than any other, for God has given you the time; and if you have not got it, you have lost it. Look for it, for you will be accountable for it at the last great day. You have been hiding your talent in a napkin, and now you say you cannot find it. You had it, sir; where it is is your business, not mine. Look it up; and God help you to shake off your sloth and may you in earnest be constrained by the Holy Spirit to be a Christian, and to espouse the life of the pilgrim, and run with diligence the race that is set before you!

I have thus tried to describe the sluggard as the man who would not plough by reason of the cold—the man who would like to be a Christian, only he does not like the cross; who would like to get to heaven, only he does not like the road there. He would be saved, but oh! he cannot give up his sin, he cannot live in holiness. He would like to be crowned conqueror but he does not like to fight the battle. He would like to reap a harvest, but he neither cares to plough nor to sow. Mr. Sluggard, I have three little sayings to repeat to you; will you try to treasure them up? No pains, no gains; no sweat, no sweet; no mill, no meal. Will you just recollect those three things? I will tell you again lest you should forget them. No pains, no gains; no sweat, no sweet; no mill, no meal. So just get up sir, and may God grant that you may get up to some purpose! “Awake” thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.” “Let us not sleep as do others; but let us watch and be sober.”

But Mr. Sluggard, this life is the time of ploughing and sowing. It is winter-time with us now; but wait awhile and the spring-time shall come, and after that the harvest. There are some of us who are longing for the time when we shall reap the golden harvest, the harvest given to us by grace, but yet a harvest for which we have sown the seed; for Hosea beautifully puts it “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy.” We sow in righteousness but the harvest is not given us as the effect of righteousness, it is given us by mercy. Reap in mercy! What a joyous day that will be when God’s true sowers shall reap their harvests! The angels shall be with us; they shall carry harvest home with us; and men and angels, hand in hand, shall enter the gates of paradise bringing their sheaves with them.

Where’s our friend the sluggard? Oh, there he is! Is he cold now? No; but how altered he looks! He looked to me quite a smart gentleman when he was sitting by the fire last winter-time, rubbing his hands and saying that he would not plough. What does he look like now? What is his disembodied spirit like? Alas! poor wretch, he is begging. The saints are shouting, but he is moaning. They are rejoicing, but he is sorrowing. They are taken into heaven and housed in the Lord’s garner; but he is a houseless wanderer, begging. Look at him; he has just gone up to the great golden gate and he has lifted that knocker of pearl—hark at the noise—and he cries “Lord, Lord, I have eaten and I have drunk in thy presence”—just like you, Mr. Sluggard; you are all for eating and drinking— “and thou hast taught in our streets;”—very likely, sir; you are just the man to be taught; but you never did anything that you were taught to do. Do you hear the terrible words of the loving Jesus, “I never knew you; depart from me you worker of iniquity”? The golden gate does not open to him. He is still begging but the answer comes, “Your time of sowing you neglected, and now your time of reaping must be a time of beggary for ever.” Now he goes up to yonder angel, and he cries, “Bright spirit, introduce me to the courts of heaven. It is true, I wasted my time on earth; but oh, how bitterly do I repent it now! Oh, if I could but have back my wasted hours, what would I not do? If I could but hear the gospel preached again, I would hear it with both my ears, and I am sure I would receive it and be obedient to it.” But the angel saith, “I have no power to let you in. Besides, if I could I would not. You had your day, and it is gone, and now you have your night. You had your lamp but you did not trim it. You took no care to have oil in your vessel for your lamp; and now your lamp is gone out, and the Bridegroom’s door is shut, and you cannot enter.” Now I see him for he is very sad indeed—begging of a saint who has just come up, and saying to him, “Give me of your oil, for my lamp is gone out.” But the other replies “Not so, for there is not enough for me and for you. God has given me grace for myself; but I have none to spare for anybody else.”

I remember a mother’s dream—a mother who once after having exhorted her children, and talked, and prayed, and wrestled with them, retired to rest and dreamt at the day of judgment she and her children arose from the family tomb. The trumpet was rending the air with its terrific blast, and there was she—“saved,” but her children still unregenerate. She dreamt that they clasped her round the waist, clung to her garments, and cried, “Mother, save us! take us into heaven with you.” But she dreamt that a spirit came—some bright angel—dashed them from her, and wafted her aloft to heaven while they were left. And she remembered too in that dream that she had then no care for them, no thought for them; her spirit was so swallowed up with the one thought that God was dealing justly with them—that they had had their day for sowing, and that they had not sowed, and now must not expect a harvest. The justice of God so filled her breast that she could not even weep for them when she was taken from them.

Ah sluggard! you will be begging in another world, man; and though you will not think of your soul’s concerns now, you will think of them then. There is a place where there is a dreadful prayer meeting every day, and every hour in the day; a prayer-meeting where all the attendants pray—not merely one, but all; and they pray too, with sighs and groans and tears; and yet they are never heard. That prayer-meeting is in hell. There is a begging meeting there, indeed. Oh that there were on earth half the prayer there will be there! Oh that the tears shed in eternity had but been shed in time! Oh that the agony that the lost ones now feel had but been felt beforehand! Oh that they had repented ere their life was ended! Oh that their hearts had been made tender before the terrible fire of judgment had melted them!

But notice that though the sluggard begs in harvest, he gets nothing. Now, in harvest time, when everything is plentiful, every man is generous. If a man sees a beggar in the streets in harvest time, he will refuse him nothing. He may go and glean in the field for there is enough and to spare for all. It is a season of abundance; no man grudges his poor fellow-man then. But here is the terrible point, in that last harvest when the slothful man shall beg for bread, no man will give him anything. I see him standing at the gate of heaven, and he looks in. There they are feasting, and he says, “Give me a crumb, a crumb is all I ask, let me have what the dogs have that feed under their masters’ table.” But it is denied him. There he is, in the flames of he’ll, and he cries, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue,” but it is refused him. He begs in harvest and he has nothing; the beggary becomes all the more terrible because its results are so disappointing. “And to think that others should have so much yet I myself should have nothing; others be blessed but myself cursed.”

I do think that one of the stings of hell will be for the sinner to see some of his own relatives and friends in heaven, and himself shut out. Think my dear hearer what you will feel if you should see your wife in paradise, and yourself be eternally excluded. Mother, what if you should see those babes of yours, those precious infants, who took an early flight to heaven—if you should see them above, but between you and them a great gulf fixed so that you can never reach them, but you are shut out and they are glorified! Turn that thought over, I beseech you, and may God grant grace to every one of you that by the love of Christ you may be constrained to escape from hell and fly to heaven; for thus saith the Lord unto you, “Escape, flee for your life, look not behind you, stay not in all the plain, but flee to the mountain of Christ Jesus—lest ye be consumed.” Be wise today, O sinner; to-morrow may never come! Now, now, bethink thee; now repent; now cast thy soul on Christ; now give up thy sins; now may the Spirit help thee to begin a new life, and to be in earnest about salvation; for remember, though you laughed when I described the sluggard just now, it will be no laughing matter if you are found in his hot shoes at the day of judgment—if his rags shall be on you and his beggary shall be your everlasting portion. God grant that you may have done with your idle excuses; may you look truly at the matter as in the light of the day of judgment; and God grant you grace so to act that from this time you may be found among the most diligent, the most fervent, and the most anxious of the followers of Christ, ploughing every day with a plough drawn by a superior power, but a plough which shall enter into the world and leave some furrow of usefulness behind it, so that in the day of harvest you may have your portion, and not like the sluggard, beg and have nothing.

II. Well now, having thus addressed the sluggard I have a few minutes to spare in which to address the people of God; and knowing you to be by far the larger portion of those whom I address, I am sorry that I have so little time for you, but can only make just these few remarks.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Lord has by his sovereign grace set our hand to the plough. We once like our poor fellow-sinners hated this plough, and we never should have come to it unless sovereign grace had brought us. Now we have shaken off that old sloth of ours, and we are in earnest about the matter of salvation; but do we not at times feel this old sluggishness creeping on us? When we are asked to do something for the cause of Christ, do we not make excuses? There is a brother over yonder, he ought to join the church but he does not, and his excuse is a very stupid one; I will not tell you what it is. There is another brother—never mind who it is—the man the cap fits, let him wear it till it is worn out, and may it be worn out soon! —he ought to teach in the Sabbath-school, he lives quite conveniently, but he does not like the school. There is another brother, he ought to be doing something or other, but he says that really, his position is just now such that he does not see that he can. The fact is, it is cold my brethren and you don’t want to plough. Now recollect, those are always coldest that do not plough, for those that plough get warm. I have always noticed that the people in a church who quarrel are the idle ones. Those that do nothing always grumble. They say, “Ah! there is no love in the church”— because you haven’t any! “Ah” say you, “but they don’t speak to one another,”—you mean you don’t speak to them. “No,” says one, “but they are not active.” You mean you are not active, for that which you think they are, depend upon it, you are yourselves; for we mostly see ourselves in other people, and the idea we get of others is close upon the heels of the idea we ought to have of ourselves, except when it is a good notion, and then the less we indulge the thought as being a picture of ourselves, the better.

But whenever this sluggishness creeps upon you, I want you to think of One whom you love, who will be an example to you. Now, who do you suppose it is to whom I am about to direct your eye, if you begin to be weary and faint in your minds? Ah, it is not to a deacon of the church, or to a minister; it is not to some renowned preacher of the olden time;—yes it is—I have made a mistake there; it is to a renowned Preacher of the olden time—One whom you love. Whenever you feel faint and weary, will you think of One who ploughed more than you ever can plough, and deeper furrows too, and ploughed more terrible ploughing on a harder rock and a more terrible soil than you have to plough upon? Whenever you are weary and faint in your minds, consider him. “And who is that?” say you. Why, you know, it is your Lord and Master, Jesus Christ. Whenever sloth creeps on you and you begin to lean on the plough handles, and the devil whispers, “Look back,” do not look back; look up and see him— the Crucified One—and you will no longer be weary I am sure.

Myconins, the friend of Luther, had made up his mind that he would not help Luther, but that he would keep in a monastery quiet and alone. The first night he went there, he had a dream to this effect; he dreamed that the Crucified One appeared to him, with the nail-prints still in his hands, and that he led him away to a fountain into which he plunged him—a fountain of blood. He beheld himself washed completely clean, and being very rejoiced thereat he was willing to sit down; but the Crucified One said “Follow me.” He took him to the top of a hill, and down beneath there was a wide-spreading harvest, he put a sickle into his hand and he said, “Go and reap.” He looked round him and he replied, “But the fields are so vast, I cannot reap them.” The finger of the Crucified One pointed to a spot where there was one reaper at work, and that one reaper seemed to be mowing whole acres at once. He seemed to be a very giant, taking enormous strides. It was Martin Luther. “Stand by his side,” said the Crucified One, “and work.” He did so, and they reaped all day. The sweat stood upon his brow, and he rested for a moment. He was about to lie down when the Crucified One came to him and said, “For the love of souls, and for my sake, go on.” He snatched up the sickle again, and on he worked, and at last he grew weary once more. Then the Crucified One came to him again, and said, “For the love of souls, and for my sake, go on.” And he went on. But once he dared to pause and say, “But, Master, the winter is coming, and much of this good wheat will be spoiled.” “No,” said he, “reap on; it will all be gathered in before the winter comes—every sheaf. I will send more laborers into the harvest, only do thou thy best.” So now, methinks, the Crucified One takes me to the brow of that hill, and yourselves with me, and shows us this great London and says, “See, this great field is ripe for the harvest, take your sickles and reap it.” You say, “Lord, I cannot.” “Nay,” says he, “but for the love of souls, and for the sake of the Crucified One, go on and reap.”

Ah brethren, I beseech you, cease not from your labor! Be more diligent than ever you have been. Think more of Christ; and that will nerve you to duty and remove all sense of weariness. And if this suffice not, remember brethren and sisters, it may be hard ploughing; it may be true that this is a frozen time, that the winter is very sharp upon Christ’s Church; but let us plough on very hard for the harvest will pay for all. Why, I can say that the harvest I have reaped already pays me for all my labors ten thousand times told. When I have grasped the hand of some poor woman who has been saved from sin through my ministry, I have felt it were worth while to die to snatch that one soul from hell. Ah, it is a blessed harvest that God gives us here; but what a harvest will that be when we shall see all the saved souls gathered above—when we shall see the face of Christ and lay our crowns at his feet! Then look, labor, hope. An hour with your God will make up for all you may endure here. Oh may God the Holy Ghost fill you with energy, give you fresh strength, and may you, all of you, begin to plough straighter, deeper, longer furrows than you ever made before! Never look back, never take your hand from the plough, for in due season you shall reap if you faint not. Keep at it still, and be ye not like the sluggard who would not plough by reason of the cold —who shall beg in harvest and have nothing.


       One Lion, Two Lions, No Lion at All


                            June 8th, 1882,

                 at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                               by C. H. Spurgeon.


“The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in
                                the streets.”
—Proverbs 22:13.

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the
—Proverbs 26:13.


This slothful man seems to cherish that one dread of his about the lions, as if it were his favorite aversion and he felt it to be too much trouble to invent another excuse. Perhaps he hugs it to his soul all the more because it is a home-born fear, conjured up by his own imagination; and as mothers are said to love their weakest children best, so is he fondest of this most imbecile of excuses; at any rate, it serves him for a passable excuse for laziness and that is what he wants. If you can get the king of beasts to apologize for your idleness there is a sort of royalty about your pretences: he hopes his sloth will appear the less disgraceful if he can paint a rampant lion upon its shield.

I am not about to speak of slothful men in general, albeit that when a man does not diligently attend to his business he is committing great wrong to himself and to others. When a man is slothful as a servant he is unjust to his employers, and when he is in business on his own account, idleness is usually a wrong to his wife and family. I know one who is the cause of poverty and want to those for whom he ought to provide, and all because honest labor and himself have long since fallen out. He would not move an inch if he could help it, nor even open his eyes if he could manage to live and sleep all his life away. When a man is thoroughly eaten up with the dry rot of laziness he generally finds some kind of excuse, though his crime is really inexcusable. “There is a lion in the way,” and therefore the man judges it to be quite right that he should keep his bed, or that he should sit leisurely indoors and should not give himself too much trouble or run any risks: but all this is a mere make-up to screen his loathsome vice. No Christian ought to be slothful in his ordinary work: the apostle describes the good man as “not slothful in business”—of whatever kind that business may be. If you have a right to undertake it, if you have a right to continue in it, you have no right to be a sluggard in it. There should be as wide a division as between the poles, between the thought of a Christian and the idea of a sluggard. “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily.” An idler is a disgrace to himself, and if he professes religion he is a dishonor to it. Paul would starve him, for he says, “If any would not work, neither should he eat,” and that is as near starvation as well can be. Popery may create and foster lazzaroni, but the true faith bids every man eat his own bread. I leave worldly sluggards to the moralist: doth not nature itself teach us to labor diligently? Man was not made for an idle life; labor is evidently his proper condition. Even when man was perfect he was placed in the garden, not to admire its flowers, but to keep it and to dress it. If he needed to work when he was perfect, much more does he require the discipline of labor now that he is fallen. Lions or no lions, men must work, or find disease and death in sloth.

But we have many spiritual sluggards, and it is to them that I speak. They are not sceptics, they are not confirmed infidels, they are not opposers of the gospel; perhaps their sluggish nature saves them from anything like energetic opposition to goodness. They claim that they are not averse to the gospel: on the contrary, they are rather friendly to it, and one of these days they intend to be obedient to its great commands and to yield themselves as servants to Christ; but not just yet, the good time has not fully arrived. They have a very comfortable bed of sloth upon which they lie, and they do not want to rise in a hurry and exert themselves too much. They want to take this matter very leisurely and turn to Christ when it is quite convenient—when it will not require so much self-denial as at the present moment. “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” is their continual cry; and although God’s watchmen disturb them terribly, and cry aloud that they may wake them, yet they sleep so heavily that they just turn over when they are most disturbed and drop into their slumbers again. I want to cry aloud under the window of such sleepers to-night with the hope that peradventure some of them may be wakened. What meanest thou, O sleeper? Wilt thou sleep thy soul away? Wilt thou lose heaven rather than bestir thyself? Wilt thou never lift up thine eyes till hell’s torments are hopelessly about thee and within thee?

Our texts speak concerning the sluggard, and you first notice about him that his tongue is not slothful:—“The slothful man saith.” The man who is lazy all over is generally very busy with his tongue. “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without.” In both texts the slothful man is represented as having something to say, and I think that there are no people that have so much to say as those that have little to do. Where nothing is done, much is talked about. Their goodness begins and ends in mere lip service. They talk about repentance, but they do not repent. They are willing to hear about faith and even to speak about it, but they do not believe. They extol zeal and fervor, but they like to see these active graces rather than to feel them. They will talk till midnight, but all ends in smoke. When you sit down to speak with them about the reason that they have not given their hearts to Christ, they are not at all short of reasons and apologies and excuses. Indeed, a man must be desperately hard pushed when he cannot make an excuse. If our first parents made garments of fig-leaves, there is no fear that their descendants will fail to make coverings of some kind or other; and so the slothful man with his ready tongue declares that there is a lion in the way, and he shall be slain in the streets. He is not idle with his mouth. He has a short hand, but a long tongue.

His imagination also is not idle. There were no lions in the streets. One does not expect to find lions there. They may be in the desert; they may be in the jungle; they may be in the forest; but who expects to find lions in the streets of Jerusalem or the lanes of London? Laziness is a great lion-maker. He who does little dreams much. His imagination could create not only a lion but a whole menagerie of wild beasts; and if some mighty hunter could hunt down all the lions that his imagination has let loose, he would soon distribute herds more of the terrible animals, with wolves and bears and tigers to match. An idler will never be short of difficulties as long as he has no heart for work. As they say that any stick will do to beat a dog with, so any excuse will do to ruin your soul with; for this man’s objection, after all, was not to lions in the way: he objected to the way itself, and he was glad to place a lion there so that he might be excused from going into the street. He did not want to get to his work, and therefore there was a lion in the way to obstruct him. The lion was his friend. He had invented him on purpose to be the ally of his idleness. Yes, men will have their tongues busy and their imaginations busy, even though their hearts be idle and their hands are covered over with idle dirt.

This man, using both his imagination and his tongue, gives me the opportunity of saying that he took great pains to escape from pains. He had to use his inventive ability to get himself excused from doing his duty. It is an old proverb, that lazy people generally take the most trouble, and so they do; and when men are unwilling to come to Christ it is very wonderful what trouble they will take to keep away from him. Hear how they argue. Mark their ingenuity in avoiding the narrow way. Oh, if they were to argue half as well upon the question why they should be saved as they do upon the question why they should not be saved, their logic would be put to a much more useful purpose. When we have talked with them we have seen them invent all kinds of difficulties and doubts, disputes and dilemmas. They are ever ready with hard doctrines and texts that are hard to be understood. They seem as if they raked heaven and earth and hell to find reasons why they should be lost, and yet the only reason that they have for this is that they do not want to give up their sins; they do not want to give up their self-righteousness; they do not want to come to Jesus and be washed in his blood and owe everything to the charity of God through the Redeemer. They cannot be troubled with repenting and so they leave that doleful business, as they call it. They do not like to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, and so they invent the lions. They do not care for faith, they do not delight in Christ, and so they invent difficulties and take a world of trouble to avoid trouble; storing up for themselves hereafter a heap of misery in order to escape from the blessedness of being found in Christ both now and at the last great day.

Now in dealing with sluggishness and its vain excuse, my divisions to-night will be such that every child can take them home and recollect them. The first head will be a lion; the second will be two lions; and the third will be no lions at all. Those three headings will surely abide in everybody’s memory, and they are fairly derived from the two texts.

I. The first is “a lion.” “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” That is to say, it is needful for him to get to the vineyard to work, but he does not get up and he pretends that he is best in bed, for there is a lion outside the door. Would you have him risk his precious life, so valuable to himself at any rate, if to nobody else? He turns over upon his bed to sleep again; for this is far more comfortable than to be meeting a lion, and falling a prey to his teeth.

He means I think that there is a great difficulty—a terrible difficulty, quite too much of a difficulty for him to overcome. He has heard of lion-tamers and lion-killers, but he is not one. He has not the strength and the vigor to attack this dreadful enemy; he will even confess that he has not sufficient courage for such an encounter. The terrible difficulty which he foresees is more than he can face: it is a lion, and he is neither Samson, nor David, nor Daniel, and therefore he had rather leave the monster alone. Are there not many here who say much the same? “Oh,” they say to the preacher, “you do not know our position or the peculiar circumstances and special trials under which we labor. We would gladly be saved, but we cannot live as Christian men: our trade is a difficulty, our poverty is a difficulty, our want of education is a difficulty, and the whole put together make up an impossibility; there is a lion in the way.”

Yes, I know, that is what your relative said many years ago, and as long as there is any of your family left there always will be lions about: and you, being a true descendant of the slothful one—to speak honestly to you—can hear the lion roar under your window just as your great grandfather’s grandfather did in Solomon’s time. I am persuaded that your sons and daughters, if they have the same mind as you have—that is, a mind unwilling to come to Christ—will hear the voice of the lions too; wonderful difficulties will be in their way as they are in yours. The ancient order of the Donomores and the fruitful family of the Easys will keep their beds and their posts till the last trump shall sound. Though the promise is, “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet,” they have no heart for the conflict and therefore never win a victory.

Yes, but in this sluggard’s case it was a very fierce lion. The Hebrew of the second text implies that it was a mighty lion that was in the street. His imagination pictured a very extraordinary monster, much larger than usual. And so, my dear friends, you have some difficulty much greater than anybody else ever had; at least you talk as if this were the case. True, the martyrs swam through seas of blood to win the crown, and thousands were burnt to ashes at the stake that they might be found faithful to Christ: but it would seem from your talk that those lions were nothing compared with your lion, which is of huge dimensions and extraordinary ferocity. What can this lion be? Perhaps if I were to examine a little closely it might come out that you are a great coward, and the lion a wretched cur not worth noticing. Your lion is a mere mouse: where is your manliness to tremble at so insignificant a trial? Perhaps you have an acquaintance who would be parted from you if you became a Christian. Is this your lion? It is a very young one. Or else you are following a bad trade and a bad business, and you know that you would have to give them up. Is this all? Your shop would have to be shut on Sunday—is this the secret of the matter? You know that the tricks that you now practice and that you find so profitable, you cannot practice if you become a Christian. Perhaps that is your lion. I should not wonder, though you try to make others believe that it is so terrible, that you really cannot tell what it is; and yet you fondly dream that it quite excuses you for being what you are—an idle lie—abed, sleeping when the light of the gospel is shining full in your face, and declining to decide for God and for Christ though you know what the Lord requires of you. I wish that Elijah were here to-night that he might cry as he did on Carmel, “If God be God, serve him. If Baal be God, serve him. How long halt ye between two opinions?”


Wake, ye sleepers, wake! What mean you?

Sin besets you round about,

Up and search the foes within you

Slay or chase the traitor out.”

Still you halt, because this lion is such a terrible lion that there never was the like of it. In all the woods, in all the forests, never was such a roaring beast as this. So you say, if you are wide awake enough to say as much as that. I tell you that you are trying to make yourself believe a lie, for your difficulties are no greater than many of us have surmounted by God’s grace. Your difficulties are not half as great as were those of Paul, and of those who lived in his day who had to carry their lives in their hands, and seemed every day given over to death for Jesus Christ’s sake, and yet bravely followed their Lord’s will notwithstanding all.

Observe, again, that this sluggard said that there was a lion without, and he should be slain in the streets. It is rather a novel thing for people to be killed by lions in the streets. It has not occurred within my recollection, and I do not think that it is ever likely to occur; but still this man professed that he expected to be slain in the streets. In an age of liberty like this he is afraid to be a Christian because of persecution, for persecution would be the death of him, Oh, dear! In a time like this, when to be honest, to be upright, is, for certain, the best thing for this world as well as for the world to come, yet men still tell us that they would lose by being Christians; it would ruin their business, they could never make a living; they would be slain in the streets. If you had lived in Madagascar years ago, when to be a Christian involved your being hurled down a precipice or being speared, I could see something in the excuse; but in a land like this the persecutions which are endured may be bitter, and the losses which are incurred may be heavy, but they are hardly worth mentioning as compared with the sufferings of the first ages. I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the sufferings of the past times, and much less with the glory that shall be revealed in us. It will not do for you to talk so. It is idle talk; you do not believe it yourself though you whine like a coward, “I shall be slain in the streets.” If you were half a man you would never fear the streets or think it at all probable that a wild beast would pounce upon you there.

And then look at the base conclusion,—“There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets,” as if the lion would be sure to look for him if it did not meddle with anybody else, as if he was the only man in the street, and not one among hundreds equally in danger, if such danger there really were. The lion for certain would kill him, he was quite sure of it; “I shall be slain in the streets.” This is how sluggards talk, as if all the troubles and trials that ever fell upon men that are decided for Christ would fall upon them; and whereas many of God’s Daniels have lived in dens of lions and have been none the worse for it, they cannot look to Daniel’s God, and they do not expect Daniel’s rescue. They are sure that they shall be torn in pieces, though there be but one lion and that lion in the streets, where there would be protection near and shelter at hand. If I did meet a lion at all I should best like to meet his roaring majesty in the streets, because there would probably be plenty of people at hand to help me. This consideration puts the case in a most ridiculous light. “Slain in the streets,” when there will be others there more courageous than himself who will rush to the rescue. Now, look ye, you that talk about the difficulties of being Christians. Are there no other Christians besides you? Will you be the only believer? When you are converted to God will you be all alone? Will there be none to help you? Is there no Christian brotherhood left among us? Are there no advanced saints who will help you as a young man to struggle against your doubts, and against the temptations that are in the way? Why, you know that you will not be alone in the streets of the Jerusalem of God. Once get into the city of God, which is his church, and you will be safe, for “no lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, but the redeemed of the Lord shall walk there”; and thus you shall be in the blessed company. You shall be in the place of safety when once you get into the streets of the city of our God. Still, it is after such manner that idle people talk. They imagine perils. Then are they in fear where no fear is, frightened at their own shadows, troubled with imaginary ills.

The real lion after all is sluggishness itself, aversion to the things of God. Oh, how many we have in the Tabernacle whom I have looked to see coming forward to profess their faith in Christ, but they have not come, and for all that I can see they are just where they were ten, twelve, twenty years ago. The real difficulty lies in this— that their heart is not right towards God. They have not yet humbly acknowledged their need of Jesus: it is too much trouble to confess their sins. They have not yet accepted the Lord Jesus as God presents him, as the propitiation for sin. Oh, if they were in earnest about these things, if their hearts were really anxious to find Christ, they would not see this lion in the way. I am quite sure that the monster would soon disappear.

Dear friends, one very common species of lion is the plea of many that they cannot understand the way of salvation. Is that true? Then remember the text of last Sunday morning—“If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded their minds.” It is an awful thing then, to say, “I cannot understand it,” for it proves that you are under the power of the devil. Another man says, “I cannot believe it.” That is an equally dreadful thing to say. What is it, no, who is it that you cannot believe? Can you not believe God? Is he a liar? Remember how John puts it, and he is the most loving of all spirits,—“He that believeth not hath made God a liar, because he hath not believed on his Son.” It is a dreadful thing to say—“I cannot believe,” when God who cannot lie is the object of the remark. If you make such an observation to your fellow man you disgrace him; but if you say it to God, oh, how you dishonor him! That excuse will not do. If Jesus speaks the truth, why do you not believe him? The gospel is plain to the understanding of those who wish to know the truth, and it carries such evidence with it that it ought to be at once received without a cavil. Can you deny this? Then where is your lion? But, says one, “If I did come to Christ, I am persuaded that after a little while I should fall back.” Be not so sure of that. If you give your heart to Christ has he not promised to keep you? Is it not written, “I give unto my sheep eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall any pluck them out of my hand”? Do you think that you are to keep yourself from falling? If so, read this doxology, and try to sing it —“Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,—unto him be glory both now and ever.”

“Oh,” says another, “but I know that a great many Christians are hypocrites.” This is your lion, is it? Well, if there are so many hypocrites it is time that there should be one honest man; and why should not you be that one? Besides, what have you to do to call God’s people hypocrites? You know that they are not. “Oh, but,” you say, “they are full of faults: all of them are false.” You do not dare say that, do you? If they all were false, nobody would want to be thought a Christian. How is it that a bad sovereign will pass? Why, because there are so many good ones, and because good sovereigns are worth having; and the reason why a hypocrite passes through society is because there are so many genuine Christians to make him go down, and it is so good a thing to be a Christian. Instead of judging others, it is time that you sat and judged yourself, and that lion would soon be dead.

“Yes, but I have tried,” says one. Oh that is your lion is it? But how did you try? You tried in your own strength; and we do not invite you to do that any more for your strength is perfect weakness. Had you committed yourself to the keeping of Christ you would have another tale to tell and another song to sing, for he is faithful and he keeps those that are in his hand. If that is your lion, God grant that you may never hear it roar again. You are not asked to save yourself, or keep yourself, but to submit yourself to the grace of God, and surely that is able to keep you unto the end.

I have this to say to you before I pass to my second head. If there is a lion without, is there no lion within? That is to say, if you come to Christ and perish, you will most surely perish if you do not come to him. If you live as you are what must become of you? If you die as you are, what must be your lot? Without a Savior to wash you from sin, and a Mediator to plead for you before God, what must be your eternal portion? Why, it would be better to go out among a thousand lions than to stay within and to perish in your sins. The lion within doors in your case will certainly destroy you; therefore up and away. Escape as a bird out of the snare of the fowler: that fowler is Satan and his nets are the deceitfulness of sin. And what if there be a lion without? Can you not fight it? If you ask the Lord to go with you, can you not contend with the lion and destroy him, even as David did? Saints of old have overcome through the blood of the Lamb. None of those who are in heaven came there riding upon beds of ease, but—


They wrestled hard, as we do now,

With sins and doubts, and fears.”

Do you expect to be carried into heaven on a golden palanquin? You will be mightily mistaken. Did Jesus die on a cross, and are you to be crowned with roses?


Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery beds of ease;

While others fought to win the prize,

And sail’d through bloody seas?

No, my friend, there is no dainty road to glory. If you are afraid of difficulty and self-denial you judge yourself unworthy of the kingdom. Remember, among the condemned the fearful and unbelieving lead the van! Up, and slay the lion if lion there be, and it shall be your joy to find honey in his carcase before long.

If you do not feel that you can contend with the enemy—and certainly you cannot without divine help—can you not cry for help? Our God hears and answers prayer; why not cry to the strong One for deliverance? Your lion is in the way. Shout then for a friend to come and help you; and within call there stands One who is a wonderful lion-killer. There is the Son of David. Did he not destroy the works of the devil when he was here? Still he shows himself strong for the defense of all them that put their trust in him. Call to him, “My Jesus, deliver me from the lion,” and he will be with you and take the lion by the beard and slay him. Therefore sluggard, your excuses will not do. They are broken vessels that hold no water. God help you to be weary of them.

II. We leave our friend the sluggard for a little while in the twenty-second chapter of Proverbs, and we turn on three or four pages till we come to the twenty-sixth chapter at the thirteenth verse, and there we find the gentleman again. The slothful man is still talking, and he says, “There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.” Is there any difference between this verse and the first one that I took for my text? Yes, I think there is this difference—that there are two lions here instead of one.

He has waited because of that one lion, and now he fancies that there are two lions. He has made a bad bargain of his delay. He said that he would have a more convenient season, but where is it? It was inconvenient then because there was a lion. Is it more convenient now? Not at all, for now there are two lions. “There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the street.” That is always the result of waiting: procrastination never profits; difficulties are doubled, dangers thicken. The countryman who had to cross the river foolishly determined to wait until the water had all gone past, for at the rate it was going he was quite sure that it must run dry; but when he had waited long, to his surprise he found that a flood had come down from the upland country, and the river was much deeper than it had been before: the river was not dried, but swollen. Those who think when they are young that it will be so much more easy to seek and to find the Savior when they reach manhood are greatly deceived. Those who think that they will wait till their family has grown up, or till they retire from business, for then they will be able to attend to it so much more easily, may live to discover that hardness of heart has come upon them as the result of delay. Life is like an evening; the longer you wait the darker it becomes. Delay bristles with danger, and the best fruit it can possibly bear is regret. When those who lingered are at length brought to Jesus, how much they wish that the precious years that have been wasted could come back to them. How heartily do they love that promise, “I will restore unto you the years which the locust hath eaten”! I said last Sunday evening what I am sure is true— that our dear Savior knew the best time for the soul to come to him. And what does the Spirit say is the best time? He says, “To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord.” It is now that he gives the invitation, because now is the best time that is likely to come to us. You see in the second text there were two lions, and, according to the Hebrew, they were quite as bad as the other lion, for one of them was a young lion. “There is a young lion in the way.” And the second Hebrew word implies a great lion. “A strong lion is in the streets.” So now there were two active enemies—two unconquerable difficulties— instead of one; and as an old Puritan observes, the first time when the sluggard looked down the street and saw a lion lurking on the left, he could have gone the other way; but now when he looked out there was a lion to the right as well as to the left, and he could not go either way without facing a foe. With a lion at the front door and a lion at the back, there seemed to be no way of escape for him, and this was the wretched result of waiting. And do not some of you who years ago hesitated over the difficulties of being a Christian, find more difficulties now instead of less? When you were one-and-twenty you were deeply impressed, and conscience was aroused; only you said, “No, not just now. It will be easier soon.” Certain cords of sin held you. But now you are forty. Well, what about it? Are those cords weaker? I believe that now they are like cart-ropes to bind you, and whereas sin once chastised you with whips, it is now chastising you with scorpions. You are getting farther away from the melting power of the gospel, hardening to your own destruction. You can hear a sermon now, and hear it without prickings of conscience. The tears used to flow in years gone by, and you have gone out of this place feeling as if you never dared come into it again, for the preacher had cut and torn you to pieces. He tries to preach just the same, and he hopes that he does, but his words have not the same effect upon you now as in other days. You are gospel-hardened, and that is the worst kind of hardening. You have heard the gospel so long that there is no novelty in it; and you know the excuses so well that you have got to be one of the devil’s old soldiers, a veteran inured to war. You know how to get over the gospel somehow; like an old fox, you know all the traps and cannot be caught in them. You are sticking to the old trick about the lions; but now there are two lions, so you say. Thus you have a double-barrelled excuse. How can I be so unreasonable as to expect you to come out often to a week-night service? You have three or four shops. How can you come out on a Sunday evening, some of you? You have half-a-dozen children. How is it possible that you should give much time to prayer? You are here, and there, and everywhere in your worldly calling! “Oh!” say you, “do not talk to us. Years ago it might have been possible for us to be Christians, but now how can it be?” Therefore I say to you young people, hasten to be blest. I beseech you do not delay. An old man took a little child up into his arms and put his fingers into the abundant curls of his sunny hair, and he said, “Oh! dear child, while your mother sings to you and tells you about Jesus, think of him, and trust him.” “Grandpa,” said the little boy, “don’t you trust him?” “No, dear,” he said, “I might have done so years ago, but my old heart has got so hard now, nothing ever touches me now.” And the old man dropped a tear as he said it. “I wish,” said he, “that I had a curly head like yours and was beginning life like you.” Oh! old man, are you here to-night? Let me tell you a secret. You may become a boy again. I am sure you may, for you may be born again; and he that is born again is but an infant and starts on a new life with freshly given strength. He shall have softer feelings than nature lends to manhood. He shall have the feelings which grace alone can produce. In a spiritual sense his flesh shall come again unto him like that of a little child, though he cannot grow young again as to his bodily frame. The Holy Spirit can make him a new creature in Christ Jesus. But do not delay! Do not delay, you that are yet young. I am sure that Watts is right when he says—


“‘Tis easier work when we begin

To serve the Lord betimes.”

It is assuredly so. Although grace can bring in a person of any age, yet God delights to be found of them that seek him early. It matters not who he may be: if any man comes to Jesus he shall be received; but yet there is a susceptibility which pertains to the young which has often gone from those who year after year have heard the gospel and yet have not yielded to its demands.

Oh! I should like you who have two lions to frighten you to cry out to the Lord to-night to help you to go out and slay them both. “I am very old,” say you. Well, that is one of the lions but the grace of God can make a sinner who is a hundred years old into a babe in Christ. “Oh! but I have formed such bad habits.” Yes, those are horrible lions; but those habits can be broken by divine power. “Ah! but my heart is so hard.” Lay it asoak in the fountain filled with blood, and that will soften it. The Spirit of God —


Can take the flint away

That would not be refined,

And from the riches of his grace,

Bestow a softer mind.

He can take away the heart of stone out of your flesh, and give you a heart of flesh. Let us have done with the lions, whether there be two or two hundred, for the Lord will help us. Oh! for a lion-hunt to-night. Drive away the one, and drive away the two. But that can never be while sluggards still are sluggards. The Lord quicken them and wake them up to real earnestness.

III. That brings me to my last point, which is no lion at all. If there be here a man who would have Christ, there is no lion in the way to prevent his having Christ.

“There are a thousand difficulties,” says one. If thou desirest Christ truly, there is no effectual difficulty that can really block thee out from coming to him. You notice that Solomon does not say that there were any lions in the way: he only tells us that the sluggard said so. Well, you need not believe a lazy man. The sluggard said it twice; but it did not make it true. Everybody knew what a poor fool he was, and that it was only in his own imagination that there were any lions at all. Do not believe your sluggish self then, and do not believe the sluggish speeches of others. There are no lions except in your own imagination. John Bunyan pictures lions at the gate of the interpreter’s house, and according to some commentators he meant the deacons and elders of the church that are outside to watch those who desire to join the church. I am one of those horrible lions; but the happy thought is that the lions are chained. Whenever you wish to join the church, if you will only have courage to come and face us who are the dreadful lions in front of the palace gate, you will find that we are chained; and what is more, if we were not chained we would not harm you. We do try to roar at those who are not our Master’s children, and we would drive away all who come as thieves and robbers, for it is our duty to do so; but if you have a true heart and wish to cast in your lot with the Lord’s people, you shall not find that we are any terror to you. We shall be glad to say, “Come in, thou blessed of the Lord. Wherefore standest thou without?” A believer’s duty is to join a Christian church, therefore fear not the face of man. I believe that some will never come to Christ until another and a real lion shall get at them, and then they will run to Jesus for shelter, lions or no lions. I mean, if the lions of their sin should ever wake up and roar upon them terribly, then they will not say that there are lions in the way. I used to be terribly afraid to come to Christ until I came to be more afraid of my sin than of all things else in the world. And Mr. Bunyan, in one of his books, says that line pictured Christ in his own mind as standing with a drawn sword to keep him away, “but at last,” says he, “I got so desperately worried by my convictions of sin that if the Lord Jesus had really stood within a pike in his hand, I would have thrown myself upon the point of it, for I felt that I must come at him or perish.” Let some such desperate resolve impel you to his feet. Say—


“I can but perish if I go

I am resolved to try

For if I stay away, I know

I must for ever die.”

Oh, throw yourself on the very point of the pike, for it is but in seeming that there is either pike or point. Hasten to Jesus, even though he seems to frown, for there is more love in a frowning Savior than in all the world beside. He cannot mean it. No sinner comes to him but Christ is more glad to receive him than the sinner is to be received. Nothing charms Jesus like seeing a poor troubled one come to him. He will in no wise cast out one who does so. If you were walking in the fields, and a poor bird should fly into your bosom for shelter from a hawk, would you take it out of your bosom and throw it away, and give it up to its enemies? I know that you would not. You would put your hands about it, and say, “Poor fluttering thing, you are safe enough now. Nobody shall harm you. You have trusted a man that has humanity, and he will take care of you.” And if you fly into the bosom of Jesus Christ he will not give you over to your foe, but he will receive you and you shall be his for ever. I have heard of a king upon the crown of whose pavilion, when it was pitched, a pair of birds came and built their nests; and he was gentle of heart and truly royal, for he said to his chamberlain, “the tent shall never be taken down till the birds have hatched their young. They have found shelter in a king’s pavilion, and they shall not have to rue it.” And oh, if you will go like the swallows and the sparrows, and build your nests under the eaves of Christ, who is the temple of God, you shall never have your nest pulled down. Ay, and if you can lay your young there, they shall be safe too. There is no place half so secure for our children as Christ’s bosom. All who are in Christ shall be kept in safety, and shall be cherished and blessed. Oh, come along with you. Come, you that are afraid of lions. There are no lions. The way is clear and open, for Jesus says, “I am the way,” and “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.” Why do you still say that you will come by-and-by? Do not trifle so. I had almost rather that you cried, “I will not come at all”; such perversity might end better than feigned promises and base delays. I pray God to give you a better mind than that and may you say, “Yes, this very night, please God, I will be saved. The sun has gone down, but there is a little twilight left, and I will yield ere darkness quite sets in, I will now trust my Savior and hasten to him, and seek him on my knees in prayer.” May the Spirit of God sweetly lead you to do this; and oh, our heart will be so glad of it. The Lord grant it, for his dear name’s sake. Amen.


                              All the Day Long


                         June 22nd, 1890,

             at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington,

                             by C. H. Spurgeon.


“Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the
         Lord all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine
   expectation shall not be cut off.” {end: or, reward}
                                                 23:17, 18.


Last Lord’s-day we had for our texts two promises. I trust they were full of comfort to the tried people of God, and to souls in the anguish of conviction. To-day we will consider two precepts, that we may not seem to neglect any part of the Word of God; for the precept is as divine as the promise. Here we have a command given of the Holy Spirit through the wisest of men; and therefore both on the divine and on the human side it is most weighty. I said that Solomon was the wisest of men, and yet he became in practice the most foolish. By his folly he gained a fresh store of experience of the saddest sort, and we trust that he turned to God with a penitent heart and so became wiser than ever—wiser with a second wisdom which the grace of God had given him to consecrate his earthly wisdom. He who had been a voluptuous prince became the wise preacher in Israel: let us give our hearts to know the wisdom which he taught.

The words of Solomon to his own son are not only wise, but full of tender anxiety, worthy therefore to be set in the highest degree as to value, and to be received with heartiness as the language of fatherly affection.

These verses are found in the Book of Proverbs: let them pass current as proverbs in the church of God as they did in Israel of old. Let them be “familiar in our mouths as household words.” Let them be often quoted, frequently weighed, and then carried into daily practice. God grant that this particular text may become proverbial in this church from this day forward. May the Holy Ghost impress it on every memory and heart! May it be embodied in all our lives!

If you will look steadily at the text you will see, first, the prescribed course of the godly man: “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” Secondly you will note the probable interruption of that course. It occurred in those past ages and it occurs still: “Let not thine heart envy sinners.” We are often tempted to repine because the wicked prosper: the fear of the Lord within us is disturbed with envious thoughts—which will lead on to murmuring and to distrust of our heavenly Father unless they be speedily checked. So foolish and ignorant are we that we lose our walk with God by fretting because of evil-doers. Thirdly we shall notice before we close, the helpful consideration, which may enable us to hold on our way and to cease from fretting about the proud prosperity of the ungodly: “For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.”

I. Oh, for grace to practice what the Spirit of God says with regard to our first point, the prescribed course of the believer—“Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long”! The fear of the Lord is a brief description for true religion. It is an inward condition betokening hearty submission to our heavenly Father. It consists very much in a holy reverence of God, and a sacred awe of him. This is accompanied by a child-like trust in him which leads to loving obedience, tender submission, and lowly adoration. It is a filial fear. Not the fear which hath torment, but that which goes with joy when we “rejoice with trembling.”

We must first of all be in the fear of God, before we can remain in it “all the day long.” This can never be our condition except as the fruit of the new birth. To be in the fear of the Lord, “ye must be born again.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and we are taught therein by the Holy Spirit, who is the sole author of all our grace. Where this fear exists it is the token of eternal life, and it proves the abiding indwelling of the Holy Ghost. “Happy is the man that feareth alway.” “The Lord taketh pleasure in them that fear him.” This holy fear of the living God is the life of God showing itself in the quickened ones.

This fear, according to the text, is for all the day and for every day: the longest day is not to be too long for our reverence, nor for our obedience. If our days are lengthened until the day of life declines into the evening of old age, still are we to be in the fear of God; yea, as the day grows longer our holy fear must be deeper.

This is contrary to the habit of those persons who have a religion of show; they are very fine, very holy, very devout when anybody looks at them; this is rather the love of human approbation than the fear of the Lord. The Pharisee, with a halfpenny in one hand and a trumpet in the other, is a picture of the man who gives an alms only that his praises may be sounded forth. The Pharisee, standing at the corner of the street saying his prayers, is a picture of the man who never prays in secret but is very glib in pious assemblies. “Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward.” Show religion is a vain show. Do nothing to be seen of men or you will ripen into a mere hypocrite.

Neither may we regard godliness as something off the common— an extraordinary thing. Have not a religion of spasms. We have heard of men and women who have been singularly excellent on one occasion, but never again: they blazed out like comets, the wonders of a season, and they disappeared like comets never to be seen again. Religion produced at high pressure for a supreme occasion is not a healthy growth. We need an ordinary, common-place, every-day godliness, which may be compared to the light of the fixed stars which shineth evermore. Religion must not be thought of as something apart from daily life; it should be the most vital part of our existence. Our praying should be like our breathing, natural and constant; our communion with God should be like our taking of food, a happy and natural privilege. Brethren, it is a great pity when people draw a hard and fast line across their life, dividing it into the sacred and the secular. Say not, “This is religion, and the other is business,” but sanctify all things. Our commonest acts should be sanctified by the Word of God and prayer and thus made into sacred deeds. The best of men have the least of jar or change of tone in their lives. When the great Elijah knew that he was to be taken up, what did he do? If you knew that to-night you would be carried away to heaven, you would think of something special with which to quit this earthly scene; and yet the most fitting thing to do would be to continue in your duty, as you would have done if nothing had been revealed to you. It was Elijah’s business to go to the schools of the prophets and instruct the young students; and he went about that business until he took his seat in the chariot of fire. He said to Elisha, “The Lord hath sent me to Bethel.” When he had exhorted the Bethel students he thought of the other college, and said to his attendant, “The Lord hath sent me to Jericho.” He took his journey with as much composure as if he had a lifetime before him, and thus fulfilled his tutorship till the Lord sent him to Jordan, whence he went up by a whirlwind into heaven. What is there better for a man of God than to abide in his calling wherein he glorifies God? That which God has given you to do, you should do. That, and nothing else, come what may. If any of you should to-morrow have a revelation that you must die, it would not be wise to go upstairs and sit down, and read, or pray, until the usual day’s work was finished. Go on good woman, and send the children to school, and cook the dinner and go about the proper business of the day, and then if you are to die you will have left no ends of life’s web to ravel out. So live that your death shall not be a piece of strange metal soldered on to your life, but part and parcel of all that has gone before. “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” Living or dying we are the Lord’s, and let us live as such.

Ours must never be a religion that is periodic in its flow, like certain intermittent springs which flow and ebb, and flow only to ebb again. Beware of the spirit which is in a rapture one hour and in a rage the next. Beware of serving Christ on Sunday, and Mammon on Monday. Beware of the godliness which varies with the calendar. Every Sunday morning some folks take out their godliness and touch it up while they are turning the brush round their best hat. Many women, after a fashion, put on the fear of God with their new bonnet. When the Sunday is over and their best things are put away, they have also put away their best thoughts and their best behavior. We must have a seven-days’ religion, or else we have none at all. Periodical godliness is perpetual hypocrisy. He that towards Jesus can be enemy and friend by turns is in truth always an enemy. We need a religion which, like the poor, we have always with us; which like our heart is always throbbing, and like our breath is always moving. Some people have strange notions on this point: they are holy only on holy days and in holy places. There was a man who was always pious on Good Friday. He showed no token of religion on any other Friday, or indeed on any other day; but on Good Friday nothing would stop him from going to church in the morning, after he had eaten a hotcross bun for breakfast. That day he took the Sacrament and felt much better: surely he might well enough do so, since on his theory he had taken in grace enough to last him for another year. You and I believe such ideas to be ignorant and superstitious; but we must take heed that we do not err after a similar manner. Every Friday must be a Good Friday to us. May we become so truly gracious that to us every day becomes a holy day; our garments, vestments; our meals, sacraments; our houses, temples; our families, churches; our lives, sacrifices; ourselves kings and priests unto God! May the bells upon our horses be “holiness unto the Lord”! God send us religion of this kind, for this will involve our being “in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”

Let us practically note the details which are comprised in the exhortation, “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” The sun is up and we awake. May we each one feel, “When I awake I am still with thee.” It is wise to rise in proper time, for drowsiness may waste an hour and cause us to be behindhand all the day, so that we cannot get into order and act as those who quietly walk with God. If I am bound to be in the fear of God all the day long, I am bound to begin well with earnest prayer and sweet communion wi