A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, December 27, 1874, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/5/2012
Rightly dividing the word of truth. [2Ti 2:15]
1. Timothy was to divide rightly the word of God. Every Christian minister must do this if he would make full proof of his ministry, and if he would be clear of the blood of his hearers at the last great day. Of the whole twenty years of my printed sermons, I can honestly say that this has been my aim — rightly to divide the word of truth. Where I have succeeded I magnify the name of the Lord, where I have failed I lament my faultiness. And now once more we will try again, and may God the Holy Spirit, without whose power nothing can be done properly, help us rightly to divide the word of truth.
2. The expression is a very remarkable one, because it bears so many phases of meaning. I do not think that any one of the figures by which I shall illustrate it will be at all strained, for they have been drawn from the text by most eminent expositors, and may fairly be taken as honest comments, even when they might be challenged as correct interpretations of the text. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” is our authorized version, but we leave it for a little to consider other renderings. Timothy was neither to mutilate, nor twist, nor torture, nor break in pieces the word, nor keep on the outside of it, as those do who never touch the soul of a text, but rightly to divide it, as one taught by God to teach others.
3. I. The Vulgate version translates it — and with a considerable degree of accuracy — “Rightly HANDLING the word of truth.”
4. What is the right way, then, to handle the word of truth? It is like a sword, and it was not meant to be played with. That is not the right way to handle the gospel. It must be used in earnest and pushed home. Are you converted, my friends? Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Are you saved, or not? Swords are meant to cut and hack, and wound, and kill with, and the word of truth is for pricking men in the heart and killing their sins. The word of God is not committed to God’s ministers to amuse men with its glitter, nor to charm them with the jewels in its hilt, but to conquer their souls for Jesus. Remember, dear hearers, if the preacher does not push you to this — that you shall be converted, or he will know the reason why; if he does not drive you to this — that you shall either wilfully reject, or cheerfully accept Christ, he has not yet known how rightly to handle the great “sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Now, then, where are you personally at this moment? Are you unbelievers, upon whom the wrath of God abides, or are you believers, who may lay claim to that gracious word, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me has everlasting life.” Oh that the Lord would make his all discerning word go all around this place and strike at every conscience and lay bare every heart with its mighty power.
5. He who rightly handles the word of God will never use it to defend men in their sins, but to slay their sins. If there is a professing Christian here who is living in known sin, shame on him; and if there is a non-Christian man who is living in sin, let his conscience upbraid him. What will he do in that day when Christ comes to judge the hearts of men, and the books shall be opened, and every thought shall be read out before an assembled universe? I desire to handle the word of God so that no man may ever find an excuse in my ministry for his living without Christ, and living in sin, but may know clearly that sin is a deadly evil, and unbelief the sure destroyer of the soul. He has indeed been made to handle the word properly who plunges it like a twoedged sword into the very bowels of sin.
6. The gospel ought never to be used for frightening sinners from Christ. I believe it is handled like that sometimes. Sublime doctrines are rolled like rocks in the sinner’s way, and dark experiences set up as a standard of horror which must be reached before a man may believe in Jesus: but rightly to handle the word of life is to frighten men to Christ rather than from him, yes, to woo them to him by the sweet assurance that he will cast out no one who comes, that he asks no preparations from them, but if they come at once as they are he will assuredly receive them. Have I not handled the word of truth in this way hundreds of times in this house? Has it not been a great magnet attracting sinners? Just as a magnet has two poles, and with one pole it repels, so, no doubt, the truth of God repels the prejudiced, rebellious heart, and thus it is a savour of death to death; but our object is to handle it so that the attractive pole may come into operation through the power of the Spirit of God, and men may be drawn to Christ.
7. Moreover, if we rightly handle the word of God we shall not preach it so as to send Christians into a sleepy state. That is easily done. We may preach the consolations of the gospel until each professor feels “I am safe enough; there is no need to watch, no need to fight, no need for any exertion whatever. My battle is fought, my victory is won, I have only to fold my arms and go to sleep.” No, no, men, this is not how we handle the word of God, but our cry is, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure. Watch and pray that you do not enter into temptation. Do not consider yourselves to have attained to perfection, but forget the things that are behind, and reach forward to what is before, even looking to Jesus.” This is to rightly handle the word of God.
8. And, oh, beloved, there is one thing; that I dread above all others lest I should ever handle the word of God so as to persuade some of you that you are saved when you are not. To collect a large number of professors together is one thing; but to have a large number of true saints built together in Christ is quite another thing. To get up a whirl of excitement, and to have people influenced by that excitement, so that they certainly think that they are converted, has been done a great many times; but the bubble has, by and by, vanished. The balloon has been filled until it has burst. May God save us from that. We want sure work, lasting work, a work of divine grace in the heart. If you are not converted, please do not pretend that you are. If you have not known what it is to be brought down to see your own nothingness, and then to be built up by the power of the Spirit upon Christ as the only foundation, oh, remember that whatever is built upon the quicksand will fall with a crash in the hour of trial. Do not be satisfied with anything short of a deep foundation, cut in the solid rock of the work of Jesus Christ. Ask for real vital godliness, for nothing else will suffice you at the last great day. Now, this is rightly to handle the word of God; to use it to push truth home upon men for their immediate conversion, to use it for the striking down of their sins, to use it to draw men to Christ, to use it to arouse sinners, and to use it to produce, not mere profession, but a real work of grace in the hearts of men. May the Holy Spirit teach all the ministers of Christ in this manner to handle the twoedged sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
9. II. But now, secondly, my text has another meaning. It has an idea in it which I can only express by a metaphor. “Rightly dividing, or STRAIGHT CUTTING.” A ploughman stands here with his plough, and he ploughs right along from this end of the field to the other, making a straight furrow. And so Paul would have Timothy make a straight furrow right through the word of truth. I believe there is no preaching that God will ever accept but what goes decidedly through the whole line of truth from end to end, and is always thorough, honest, and downright. Just as truth is a straight line, so must our handling of the truth be straightforward and honest, without slight of hand or tricks. There are two or three furrows which I have laboured hard to plough.
10. One is the furrow of free grace. “Salvation is from the Lord,” — he begins it, he carries it on, he completes it. Salvation is not from man, neither by man, but by grace alone. Grace in election, grace in redemption, grace in effectual calling, grace in final perseverance, grace in conferring the perfection of glory; it is all grace from beginning to end. If we say at any time anything which is really contrary to this distinct testimony that salvation is by grace, do not believe us. This furrow must be ploughed fairly, plainly, and beyond all mistake. Sinner, you cannot be saved by any merit, penance, preparation, or feeling of your own. The Lord alone must save you as a work of gratis mercy, not because you deserve it, but because he wills to do it to magnify his abundant love. That is the straight furrow of the Word.
11. We endeavour always to make a straight furrow upon the matter of human depravity — to preach that man is fallen, that every part and passion of his nature is perverted, that he has gone astray altogether, is sick from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, yes, is dead in trespasses and sins, and corrupt before God. “There is no one who does good, no, not one.” I have noticed some preachers ploughing this furrow very crookedly, for they say, “There are still some very fine points about man, and many good things in him which only need developing and educating.” You may have read in the history of Mr. Whitfield’s time what a howl was made at him because he once said that man was half beast and half devil. I do not think he ever got nearer the truth than when he said that; only I would beg the beast’s pardon, for a beast would scarcely become so evil and vile as human nature becomes when it is left alone fully to develop itself. Oh pride of human nature, we plough right over you! The hemlock stands in your field, and must be ripped out by the roots. Your weeds smile like fair flowers, but the ploughshare must go right through them all until all human beauty is shown to be a painted Jezebel, and all human boasting a bursting bubble. God is everything, man is nothing. God in his grace saves man, but man by his sin utterly ruins himself until God’s grace interposes. I like to plough a straight furrow here.
12. Another straight furrow is that of faith. We are sent to tell men that he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, and our duty is to express it so. “Salvation is not by works,” that is not the furrow: not by prayers, that is not the furrow: not by feelings — that is not the gospel furrow: not by preparations and amendments and reforms; but by faith in Jesus Christ. He who believes on him is not condemned. As we begin the new life by faith, we must abide in it by faith. We are not to be saved by faith up to a certain point, and then to rely upon ourselves. Having begun in the gospel we are not to be perfected by the law. “The just shall live by faith.” We live by faith at the wicket gate, and we live by faith until we enter into our eternal rest. Believe! — that is the grand gospel precept, and we trust we have never gone out of this furrow, but have tried to plough right across the gospel field from end to end, crying, “Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, for Jehovah is God, and besides him there is no one else.”
13. Another furrow which some do not much like to plough, but which must be distinctly marked if a man is an honest ploughman for God, is that of repentance. Sinner, you and your sins must part. You have been married long, and you have had a merry time of it perhaps; but you must part. You and your sins must separate, or you and your God will never come together. You may not keep one sin. They must all be given up: they must be brought out like the Canaanite kings from the cave, and hung up before the sun. Not one darling must be spared. You must forsake them, loathe them, abhor them, and ask the Lord to overcome them. Do you not know that the furrow of repentance runs right through the Christian’s life? He sins, and as long as he sins he repents of his sin. The child of God cannot love sin: he must loathe it as long as he sees any of it in existence.
14. There is the furrow of holiness, that is the next turn the ploughman takes “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” We have preached salvation by grace, but we do not preach salvation to those who still continue in sin. The children of God are a holy people, washed, purged, sanctified, and made zealous for good works; he who talks about faith, and has no works to prove that his faith is a living faith, lies to himself and lies before God. It is faith that saves us, not works, but the faith that saves us always produces works: it renews the heart, changes the character, influences the motives, and is the means in the hand of God of making the man a new creature in Christ Jesus. No nonsense about it, sirs: you may be baptized and rebaptised, you may attend to sacraments, or you may believe in an orthodox creed; but you will be damned if you live in sin. You may become a deacon, or an elder, or a minister, if you dare; but there is no salvation for any man who still harbours his sins. “The wages of sin is death” — death to professors as well as to non-professors. If they hug their sins in secret God will reveal those sins in public, and condemn them according to the strict justice of his law. These are the furrows we have tried to plough — deep, sharp cut, and straight. Oh, that God might plough them himself in all your hearts so that you may know from experience how the truth is rightly divided.
15. III. There is a third meaning to the text. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” is, as some think, an expression taken from the priests dividing the sacrifices. When they had a lamb or a sheep, a ram or a young bull to offer, after they had killed it, it was cut in pieces, carefully and properly; and it requires great skill to find out where the joints are, in order to cut up an animal discreetly. Now, the word of truth has to be taken to pieces wisely; it is not to be hacked or torn as by a wild beast, but rightly divided. There has to be DISCRIMINATION AND DISSECTION. It is a great part of a minister’s duty to be able to dissect the gospel — to lay one piece there, and another there, and preach with clarity, distinction, and discrimination.
16. Every gospel minister must divide between the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. That is a very fine point, and many fail to discern it well; but it must always be kept clear, or great mischief will be done. Worse confusion follows when grace and law are confused. There is the covenant of works — “Do this, and you shall live,” but its voice is not that of the covenant of grace which says, “Hear and your soul shall live.” “You shall, for I will”: that is the covenant of grace. It is a covenant of pure promise unalloyed by terms and conditions. I have heard people put it like this — “Believers will be saved if from this time on they are faithful to the grace given.” That savours of the covenant of works. “God will love you” — says another, — “if you — .” Ah, the moment you get an “if” in it, it is the covenant of works, and the gospel has evaporated. Oil and water will mix sooner than merit and grace. When you find the covenant of works anywhere, what are you to do with it? Why, do what Abraham did, and what Sarah demanded, “cast out the bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.” If you are a child of the free grace promise, do not permit the Hagar and Ishmael of legal bondage and carnal hope to live in your house. Out with them; you have nothing to do with them. Let law and gospel keep their proper places. The law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, but when we have come to Christ we are no longer under a schoolmaster. Let the law principle go its way to work conviction in sinners, and destroy their ill founded hopes, but remain in Christ Jesus even as you have received him. If you are to be saved by works then it is not by grace, otherwise work is no more work; and if saved by grace then it is not by human merit, otherwise grace is no more grace. It is of the utmost importance to be absolutely clear here, for many a soul has been wrecked on the rocks of legality.
17. We also need to maintain a clear distinction between the efforts of nature and the work of grace. It is commendable for men to do all they can to improve themselves, and everything by which people are made more sober, more honest, more frugal, better citizens, better husbands, better wives, is a good thing; but that is nature and not grace. Reformation is not regeneration. “You must be born again” still stands for the good as well as for the bad. To be made a new creature in Christ Jesus is as necessary for the moral as for the debauched; for, when flesh has done its best, “what is born by the flesh is flesh”; and men must be born by the Spirit, or they cannot understand spiritual things, or enter into heaven. I have always tried to maintain this distinction, and I trust none of you will ever confound the efforts of nature for the works of divine grace. Do what you can for human reformation, for you are to foster whatever things are honest and of good repute; but, still, never put the most philanthropic plan, or the most elevating system in the place of the work of sovereign grace, for, if you do, you will do ten times as much mischief as you can possibly do good. We must rightly divide the word of truth.
18. It is always good, too, for Christian men to be able to distinguish one truth from another. Let the knife penetrate between the joints of the work of Christ for us, and the work of the Holy Spirit in us. Justification, by which the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us, is one blessing; sanctification, by which we ourselves are made personally righteous, is another blessing. I have known some to describe sanctification as a kind of foundation, or at least a buttress for the work of justification. Now, no man is justified because he is sanctified: he is justified because he believes in him who justifies the ungodly. Sanctification follows justification. It is the work of the Spirit of God in the soul of a believer, who first of all was justified by believing in Jesus while he was still unsanctified. Give Jesus Christ all the glory for his great and perfect work, and remember that you are perfect in Christ Jesus and accepted in the Beloved, but, at the same time, give glory to the Holy Spirit, and remember that you are not yet perfect in holiness, but that the Spirit’s work is to be carried on and will be carried on all the days of your life.
19. One other point of rightly dividing should never be forgotten, we must always distinguish between the root and the fruit. He is a very poor botanist who does not know a bulb from a bud, but I believe that there are some Londoners who do not know which are roots and which are fruits, they have seen so little of anything growing; and I am sure there are some theologians who hardly know which is the cause and which is the effect in spiritual things. Putting the cart before the horse is a very absurd thing, but many do it. Hear how people will say — “If I could feel joy in the Lord I would believe.” Yes, that is the cart before the horse, for joy is the result of faith, not the reason for it. “But I want to feel a great change of heart, and then I will believe.” Just so; you wish to make the fruit the root. “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ,” that is the root of the matter; change of life and joy in the Lord will spring up as gracious fruits of faith, and not otherwise. When will you discriminate?
20. Thus I have given you three versions of my text — rightly handling, straightly furrowing, and wisely discriminating.
21. IV. The next interpretation of the apostle’s expression is, practically CUTTING OUT the word for holy uses. This is the sense given by Chrysostom.
22. I will show you what I mean here. Suppose I have a skin of leather before me, and I want to make a saddle. I take a knife, and begin cutting out the shape. I do not need those parts which are dropping off on the right, and around this corner; they are very good leather, but I cannot make use of them just now. I have to cut out my saddle, and I make that my one concern. Or, suppose I have to make a pair of reins out of the leather. I must take my knife around, and work away with one object, keeping clearly before me what I am trying to do. The preacher, to be successful, must also have his wits about him, and when he has the Bible before him he must use those portions which will have a bearing upon his grand aim. He must make use of the material laid ready at hand in the Bible. Every portion of the word of God is very blessed, and exceedingly profitable, but it may not happen to be connected with the preacher’s immediate subject, and therefore he leaves it to be considered another time; and, although some will upbraid him for it, he is much too sensible to feel bound to preach all the doctrines of the Bible in each sermon. He wants to have souls saved and Christians quickened, and therefore he does not for ever pour out the vials, and blow the trumpets of prophecy. Some hearers are crazy after the mysteries of the future. Well, there are two or three brethren in London who are always trumpeting and vialing. Go and hear them if you want it, I have something else to do. I confess I am not sent to decipher the Apocalyptic symbols, my errand is more humble but equally useful, I am sent to bring souls to Jesus Christ. There are preachers who are always dealing with the deep things, the very deep things. For them the coral caves of mystery, and the far descending shafts of metaphysics have a mighty charm. I have no quarrel with their tastes, but I do not think the word of God was given to us to be a riddle book. To me the plain gospel is the part which I cut out, and rightly cut out from the word of God. There is a soul that wants to know how to find peace with God. Some other brother can tell him where predestination falls in with free agency, I do not pretend to know; but I do know that faith in Jesus brings peace to the heart. My business is to bring out what will save souls, build up saints and set Christians to work for Christ. I leave the mysteries, not because I despise them; but because the times demand that we first, and above all other things, seek the souls of men. Some truths press to be heard; they must be heard now, or men will be lost. They can hear tomorrow the other truths, or by and by, but now escape from hell and preparation for heaven are their immediate business. Imagine the angels sitting down with Lot and his daughters inside Sodom, and discussing predestination with them, or explaining the limits of free agency. No, no, they cry, “Come along,” and they take them by the arm and lead them out, saying, “Flee, flee, flee, for fire is coming down from heaven, and this city is to be destroyed.” This is what the preacher has to do; leaving certain parts of truth for other times, he is now rightly dividing the word of truth when he brings out what is of pressing importance. In the Bible there are some things that are essential, without which a man cannot be saved at all: there are other things which are important, but still men are saved, notwithstanding their ignorance of those things; is it not clear that the essentials must have prominence? Every truth ought to be preached in its turn and place, but we must never give the first place to a second truth, or push that to the front which was meant to be in the background of the picture. “We preach Christ,” said the apostle, “Christ and him crucified,” and I believe that if the preacher is rightly to divide the word, he will say to the sinner, “Sinner, Christ died, Christ rose again, Christ intercedes; look to him. As for the difficult questions and fine points, leave them for awhile. You shall discuss them by and by, as far as they are profitable to you, but just now believing in the Lord Jesus Christ is the main matter.” The preacher must thus separate the vital from the secondary, the practical from the speculative, and the pressing and immediate from what may be lawfully delayed; and in that sense he will rightly divide the word of truth.
23. V. I have given you four meanings. Now I will give you another, leaving out some I might have mentioned. One thing the preacher has to do is to ALLOT TO EACH ONE HIS PORTION; and here the metaphor changes. According to Calvin, the intention of the Spirit here is to represent one who is the steward of the house, and has to apportion food to the different members of the family. He has rightly to divide the loaves in order not to give the little children and the babes all the crust; rightly to supply each one’s needs, not giving the strong men milk, nor the babes hard diet; not casting the children’s bread to the dogs, nor giving the swine’s husks to the children, but placing before each his own portion. Let me try and do it.
24. Child of God, your portion is the whole word of God. Every promise in it is yours. Take it: feed on it. Christ is yours; God is yours; the Holy Spirit is yours; this world is yours, and worlds to come. Time is yours; eternity is yours; life is yours; death is yours; everlasting glory is yours. There is your portion. It is very sweet to give you your royal food. May the Lord give you a good appetite. Feed on it; feed on it. Sinner, you who do not believe in Jesus, none of this is yours. While you remain as you are the threatenings are yours. If you refuse to believe in Jesus, neither this life nor the next is yours, nor time, nor eternity. You have nothing good. Oh, how dreadful is your portion now, for the wrath of God abides on you. Oh, that you were wise, that your character might be changed, for until it is, we dare not flatter you, there is not a promise for you, nor a single approving sentence. You get your food to eat and your clothing to put on; but even that is given to you by the abounding longsuffering of God, and it may become a curse to you unless you repent. I am sorry to bring you such a portion but I must be honest with you. That is all that I can give you. God has said it — it is an awful sentence — “I will curse their blessings.” Oh, sinner, the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked.
25. We also have to divide a portion for the mourners, and oh, how sweet a task that is, to say to those who mourn in Zion that the Lord will give them beauty for ashes. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” The Lord will restore peace to his mourners. Do not fear, neither be dismayed, for the Lord will help you. But when we have given the mourners their sweet deserts we have to turn around upon the hypocrites and say to them, “You may hang your heads like bulrushes, you may tear your garments and pretend to fast, but the Lord, who knows your heart, will suddenly come and unmask you, and if you are not sincere before him, if you are weighed in the balances and found wanting, he will deal out the gall of bitterness to you for ever. For his mourners there is mercy, but for the deceiver and the hypocrite there is judgment without mercy.”
26. It is a very pleasant thing, moreover, to deal out a portion to the seeker — when we say, “He who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened.” “Come to me all you who labour and are heavy laden,” says Christ, “for I will give you rest.” Take your portion and be glad.
27. We have to turn around, and say to others who think they are seekers, but who are delaying, “How long do you halt between two opinions?” How is it that you continually hesitate and refuse to believe in Jesus, and remain in the condition of unbelief, when the gospel mandate is, “Believe — believe now and live!” So we have to give to one comfort, to another counsel; to one reproof, to another encouragement; to one the invitation, to another the warning; and this is rightly to divide the word of truth.
28. Yes, and sometimes God enables his servants to give the word very remarkably to some men. I believe that if I were to tell a few of the things which have happened to me during the last twenty-one years they would not be believed, or if I were to tell you some of the past events which is known to me that has occurred in this Tabernacle to people who have come here, and to whom I have spoken the exact word, not knowing them for a moment, the facts would sound like fictions. I will give you one example. Some of you will remember my preaching from the text, “What if your father answers you roughly?” [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1188, “A Word for the Persecuted” 1179] There came into the vestry after that sermon a venerable Christian gentleman, bringing with him a young foreigner whom he was anxious to satisfy upon one point. He said, “Sir, I want you kindly to answer this question — have you seen me concerning this young gentlemen?” “No, sir, certainly not,” I said; and assuredly, though I knew the gentleman who addressed me, he had never spoken to me about the foreign stranger whose very existence up to that moment was unknown to me. He said, “This young gentleman is almost persuaded to be a Christian. His father is of quite another faith, and worships other gods, and our young friend knows that if he becomes a Christian he will lose his father’s love. I said to him, when he conversed with me, come down and hear Mr. Spurgeon this morning. Here we came, and your text was, ‘What if your father answers you roughly?’ Now, have you ever heard a word from me about this young gentleman?” “No, never,” I said. “Well,” said the young man, “it is the most extraordinary thing I ever heard in my life.” I could only say, “I trust it is the voice of God to your soul. God knows how to guide his servants to utter the word most suited to bless men.”
29. Some time ago a town missionary had in his district a man who never would allow any Christian person to come into his house. The missionary was warned by many that he would get a broken head if he ventured to visit. He therefore kept from the house, though it troubled his conscience to pass it by. He made a matter of prayer of it, and one morning he boldly ventured into the lion’s den, and the man said, “What have you come here for?” “Well, sir,” he said, “I have been talking with people in all the houses along here, and I have passed you by because I heard you objected to it; but somehow I thought it looked cowardly to avoid you, and therefore I have called.” “Come in,” the man said; “sit down, sit down. Now, you are going to talk to me about the Bible. Perhaps you do not know much about it yourself. I am going to ask you a question, and if you can answer me you shall come again. If you do not answer it, I will throw you down the stairs. Now,” he said, “do you agree to this?” “Yes,” said the other, “I agree.” “Well, then,” he said, “this is the question — where do you find the word ‘girl’ in the Bible, and how many times do you find it?” The city missionary said, “The word ‘girl’ occurs only once in the Bible, and that is in the Book of Joel, the third chapter and the third verse. ‘They sold a girl for wine.’ ” “You are right,” he said, “but I would not have believed you knew it, or else I would have asked you some other question. You may come again.” “But,” said the missionary, “I should like you to know how I came to know it. This very morning I was praying for direction from God, and when I was reading my morning chapter I came upon this passage, ‘And they sold a girl for wine’; and I took down my concordance to see whether the word ‘girl’ was to be found anywhere else. I found that the word ‘girls’ occurs in the passage, ‘There shall be girls and boys playing in the streets of Jerusalem,’ but the word did not occur as ‘girl’ anywhere except in Joel.” The result, however, of that story, however odd it seems, was that the missionary was permitted to call again, and the man took an interest in his visits, and the whole family were the better for it; the man, and his wife, and one of his children becoming members of a Christian church some time afterwards. What an extraordinary thing it seems; yet, I can assure you that such extraordinary things are commonplace in my experience. God does help his servants rightly to divide the word, that is to say, to allot a special portion to each special case, so that it comes as a pat answer for that man as if everything about him was known. Before I came to London, a man met me one Sunday, in a dreadful state of rage. He vowed he would horsewhip me for bullying him from the pulpit. “What did I say?” I asked. “What have you said? You looked me in the face, and said, ‘What more can God do for you? Shall he give you a good wife? You have had one: you have killed her by bad treatment: you have just gotten another, and you are likely to do the same to her.’ ” “Well,” I said, “did you kill your first wife by your bad treatment?” “They say so; but I was married on Saturday,” he said. “Did you not know it?” “No, I did not, I assure you,” I replied; “I have no knowledge whatever of your family matters, and I am sure I wish you joy with your new wife.” He cooled down a great deal; but I believe that I had struck the nail on the head that time — that he had killed his wife with his unkindness, and he scarcely liked to bring his new wife to the place of worship to be told about it. The shoe fitted him; and if any shoe fits you, I urge you to wear it, for so far from shrinking from being personal, I do assure you I try to be as personal as ever I can, for I long to see the word go home to every man’s conscience, and convict him and make him tremble before God and confess his sin and forsake it.
30. VI. You must give me a few more minutes while I take the last point, which is this. Rightly to divide the word of truth means to TELL EACH MAN WHAT HIS LOT AND INHERITANCE WILL BE IN ETERNITY.
31. Just as when Canaan was conquered, it was divided by lot among the tribes, so the preacher has to tell about Canaan, that happy land, and he has to tell about the land of darkness and of death shade, and to let each man know where his last abode will be. You do know it; you who come here do know it. Need I repeat a story that we have gone over and over a thousand times? As many as believe in Jesus, and are renewed in heart, and are kept by the grace of God through faith to salvation, shall inherit eternal life; but as for those who do not believe on God, who reject his Son, who remain in their sins, there remains nothing for them except “a fearful looking for of judgment and of fiery indignation.” “The wicked shall be turned into hell with all the nations that forget God.” “These shall go away into everlasting punishment; but the righteous into eternal life.” “Beware,” says God, — “Beware, you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there is no one to deliver.” Oh, the wrath to come! the wrath to come!
Believer, there is your portion — in the blessed land. Sinner, unless
you repent, there is your portion — in the land of darkness and of
weeping, and of wailing, and of gnashing of teeth. I subscribe to a
religious newspaper from America, and the last copy I had of it bore
on it these words at the end, in good large type, printed in a
practical, business like, American way: “If you do not want to have
this paper, discontinue it NOW. If you wish to have it for the next
year, send your subscription NOW. If you have any complaint against
it, send your complaint NOW. If you have moved, send a notice of your
change of address NOW.” There was a big “NOW” at the end of every
sentence. As I read it I thought, well, that is right: that is common
sense. And it struck me that I would say to you on this last night of
the year, if you wish to forsake your sins, forsake them NOW. If you
wish to have mercy from God through Jesus Christ, believe on him NOW.
What better time than before the dying year is gone — NOW, NOW, NOW? In
that very paper I read a story concerning Messrs. Moody and Sankey to
the same point. The story is that, while they were preaching in
Edinburgh, there was a man sitting opposite to them who was very
deeply interested, and was drinking it all in. There was a pause in
the service, and the man went out with his friend; but when he
reached the door he stopped, and his friend said, “Come away, Jamie.”
“No,” he said, “I will go back. I came here to get food for my soul,
and I have not taken it all in yet, I must go back again.” He went
back, and sat in his old place, and listened again. The Lord blessed
him. He found Christ, and so found salvation. Being a miner, he went
down the pit the next day to his work, and a mass of rock fell on
him. He was taken out; but he could not recover. He said to the man
who was helping him out, “Oh, Andrew, I am so glad it was all settled
last night. Oh, man,” he said, “it was all settled last night.” Now,
I hope those people who were killed in the railway accident on
Christmas Eve [a] could say — “It was all settled the night before.”
What a blessed thing it will be for you, if you should have an
accident tomorrow, to say, “Blessed be God, it was all settled last
night. I gave my heart to Jesus, I yielded myself to his divine love
and mercy, and I am saved.” Oh Holy Spirit, grant that it may be so,
and you shall have the praise. Amen and amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — 2Ti 2]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “New Year — Shortness And Uncertainty Of Life” 1041]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Public Worship, Revivals and Missions — Prayer For Quickening Power” 960]
[a] The Shipton-on-Cherwell train crash: This was a major disaster which occurred on the Great Western Railway. It involved the derailment of a long passenger train at Shipton-on-Cherwell near Kidlington, Oxfordshire, England, on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1874, and was one of the worst ever disasters on the Great Western Railway. The basic cause was established as a broken wheel on the carriage just behind the locomotive, but that failure was worsened by the poor braking system fitted to the train. When a passenger warned the driver of the problem, by waving from the carriage window, it was still being pulled along intact along the rails. However, the driver braked immediately, before the brake at the rear of the train in the guards van could be applied. The engine brake caused the failed carriage to be squashed, and the carriages behind derailed near the Oxford Canal. There were 34 deaths and 69 seriously injured in the carriages which fell from the bridge over the canal. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shipton-on-Cherwell_train_crash"
Letter From Mr. Spurgeon
Read at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, on Sunday, February 14, 1875.
Beloved Friends, — Instead of journeying to the sunny south I have been a prisoner in my room all the week, making this the sixth week of my affliction, and completing more than forty days of quarantine. I see in this the hand of the Lord, and cheerfully submit to his will. Why should a living man complain? Why should a child of God even think of doing so?
I have been much cheered to hear about the success of the week of special services, held at the Tabernacle, and am pleading with God that the second week may be even more fruitful with results. Join with me in the earnest intercession.
Prayer, and effort, presented in faith will secure us a great and lasting blessing.
Do not let anything flag, I urge you, of any kind, in any department of labour. Both in labour and gifts abound more and more. Many would like to make out that the work at the Tabernacle all depends on me, and is not of a permanent character. I want them to be forced to see that the Lord’s hand is so gloriously with you, and that there is such depth of piety among the members, that the temporary absence of the Pastor proves rather a stimulus to greater exertion than an excuse for slackness. It has been so until now, and it will be so.
I would, with much deference to the divine will, now venture to ask for restored health, and if the church and all my friends would unitedly ask this for me, it may be that the Lord would remove his rod from me. May it be according to his will.
Peace be with all who are in Christ Jesus, but what shall I say to
those outside of Christ? What peace can be for them?
Yours very heartily,
C. H. Spurgeon.
1041 — Shortness And Uncertainty Of Life <7s.>
1 While with ceaseless course the sun
Rolls along the passing year,
Many souls their race have run,
Never more to meet us here.
2 Fix’d in an eternal state,
They have done with all below;
We a little longer wait,
But how little — none can know.
3 Swiftly thus our fleeting days
Bear us down life’s rapid stream!
Upwards, Lord, our spirits raise;
All below is but a dream.
4 Bless thy word to young and old;
Fill us with a Saviour’s love;
And when life’s short tale is told,
May we dwell with thee above.
John Newton, 1779.
Public Worship, Revivals and Missions
960 — Prayer For Quickening Power
1 Oh thou, our head, enthroned on high,
By whom thy members live!
Wilt thou not hear our fervent cry,
The holy unction give?
2 Arise, oh Lord! send forth thy word,
Thy faithful heralds call;
And while the gospel trump is heard,
Let Satan’s bulwarks fall.
3 Breathe forth, oh wind, and to new birth
Quicken the bones of death;
Regenerate this wither’d earth,
Give to the dying breath.
Josiah Conder, 1856.