A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, June 6, 1875, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/26/2012
A Watchword For Messrs. Moody and Sankey’s Campaign In South London
Then a lord on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of God, and said, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” And he said, “Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat any of it.” [2Ki 7:2]
1. The people of Samaria had cast off their allegiance to Jehovah, and worshipped other gods, and therefore, according to his solemn threatening, the Lord visited them with severe judgments. They were so besieged by Syrian armies, that food failed them altogether, and in their hunger they devoured human flesh, and the most abominable filth. They could not open the city gates, for they knew that the adversary, if he once entered, would sack and ransack the city, and put them all to the sword, and therefore they remained cooped up within the city walls to perish. In their dire extremity the Lord had mercy upon them and remembered that they were the children of Israel, the seed of Abraham, his friend, and therefore he would not utterly destroy them, but gave them time for repentance. He turned an eye of pity upon the famished thousands and promised them relief from the severe famine which had wasted them. How rich in mercy is the Lord our God! Sin must be multiplied exceedingly before his longsuffering ceases; he is unwilling to execute the sentence of his wrath. Judgment is his strange work. He is always ready with his mercy, he waits to be gracious, yes, he is always ahead of us in his grace, but he is very slow footed in punishment; he pauses by the way and deliberates, and before he deals a blow he often expostulates with himself and cries, “How shall I give you up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver you, Israel? How shall I make you as Admah? How shall I set you as Zeboim?” Truly he is a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plentiful in mercy.
2. Perhaps one reason why the Lord was pleased in Samaria’s extremity to visit it so graciously was the presence of Elisha there. There was at least one man in the city who had power with God in prayer, and perhaps a band of the sons of the prophets was with him, so that there were in the apostate city a few holy men, “faithful among the faithless found,” and these acted as a handful of salt and preserved the city. Solomon tells us in the Proverbs that one wise man preserved a city, and this was a case in which one godly man did so. The Lord had respect for his servant, and, for the sake of the man of God, Samaria was saved. Well was Elisha called the chariot of Israel and its horsemen, for he was a better defence than ten thousand cavalry. You cannot measure the beneficial influence of godly men, they are universal benefactors. We hear men speak of the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and the other stars which smile from above upon this earth below, but we too much forget the influence of the stars below upon the heavens above. Power proceeds upward as well as downward, even as the angels ascended as well as descended upon the ladder which Jacob saw. A good man’s prayers move the arm which moves the world.
3. The Lord met the need of Samaria by a most merciful promise, all the more full of grace because it bore upon its forefront the assurance of speedy fulfilment. The prophet was commissioned to declare, “Tomorrow, about this time, a measure of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel.” They had only twenty-four hours to wait; yet only once more must the sun go down and rise, and then there should be no more pinching hunger or cruel famine throughout Samaria. The timing of the supply was most kind, he gives twice who gives quickly, and so the speedy promise was doubly precious. The plentifulness of the promise made it all the more gracious, for the wheat and barley would become so cheap that they would be sold at a figure far less than what had been paid for doves’ dung, whatever that may have been, and less than the price of such unwholesome food as might be gathered from a donkey’s head, which had been sold for eighty pieces of silver.
4. The best food, even fine flour, was to be publicly sold at a low rate at their very doors. They would not need to send to Egypt or fetch grain from afar, but it was to be brought to their gates, and sold at a price which would enable everyone to purchase. It was very great goodness on the Lord’s part to meet the famine-stricken multitude with such a very royal word of cheer. But observe how God’s prophet is answered — not as one would have thought, with words of thanksgiving and tears of gratitude, but with the opposite. They did not fall down and on their knees exclaim, “Oh God, how good you are!” They did not lift up a single word of praise, as they surely should have done: the only response was a supercilious sneering, contemptuous, unbelieving utterance — “If the Lord should make windows in heaven might such a thing be?” Oh base ingratitude! Ungenerous return for such great mercy!
5. Notice well the Lord’s answer to the unbeliever’s scorn. There is nothing which he will so little endure as unbelief, and unbelief in the face of unusual mercy becomes doubly provoking. In the name of the Lord the prophet at once responded — “Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat any of it.” The Lord has a speedy answer to the unbelief which dares to defy him: if men call God a liar, they personally shall before long have sufficient proof that his threatenings do not lie.
6. We shall try this morning to gather from the text the lesson which it was intended to teach us. May God bless us in so doing, helping us by his Holy Spirit.
7. First, let us observe the conduct of unbelief; secondly, the divine answer to it; and, thirdly, the appointed punishment for it.
8. I. First let us notice repentingly, for we have been guilty of this sin ourselves, THE CONDUCT OF UNBELIEF.
9. You will observe that unbelief dares to question the truthfulness of the promise itself. The prophet had said, “Tomorrow, about this time, two measures of barley shall be sold for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel”; and directly in the teeth of this “Thus says Jehovah” comes the contemptuous denial of the lord on whose hand the king leaned. Unbelief does not hesitate to say that what God declares will not be fulfilled, although it frequently veils its speech, and usually imagines some kind of argument upon which to base its denials. Sophistry comes to the aid of incredulity and endeavours to buttress its bowing walls. If you had asked the sneering nobleman why he spoke so distrustingly, he would have replied, “Why, the promise is far too great to be fulfilled. It is out of all character and reason. How can there be flour enough in this city in twenty-four hours for a measure to be sold for a shekel? Why, you could not get a measure of fine four for ten thousand shekels; it cannot be had for love nor money, and there is not a measure of barley left in all the country around Samaria, for the Syrians have plundered every homestead and granary. Do you not see that the thing this prophet talks about is utterly impossible? His talk is preposterous. We might have believed him if his prediction had been a tenth as large, but he has overdone it, and no attention ought to be paid to his ramblings.” Has not your unbelief, my brethren, sometimes created a case for distrusting the greatness of the promised good? When the Lord was first drawing you with cords of love, was not the very greatness of his mercy one of the most severe trials of your faith? When you found that he would blot out your sins like a cloud, and like a thick cloud your iniquities, did your heart not say, “How can it be?” Well do I remember with what power and sweetness the words of Isaiah once came to my soul to remove this doubt — “ ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways.’ ” We forget this glorious declaration, and we degenerate into measuring God’s capability for blessing by our capacity for believing, and because the favour is wonderful we think it improbable. Is this not bad reasoning? Can anything be great with God? Can any marvel be too miraculous for the Lord? The matter is hard in itself, but is it hard for omnipotence? It is a massive blessing, but can it be too large for the infinitely gracious hand to bestow? Surely the Holy One of Israel is not such a one as yourself, why then do you limit him as if he could give no more than you can give? May divine love deliver our souls from this net of unbelief which so easily entangles us. Low thoughts of the divine power greatly dishonour God, and deprive us of much comfort. Is he not a great God, and is it not like him to do great things for his people? His resources are infinite, and therefore he is able to fulfil his promises, however great they may be. He did not promise in ignorance or in haste, his word is not a thing of yesterday, therefore he will not fail to keep his promise to the letter.
10. Perhaps had you enquired of this lord he would have said to you, “Oh, but it will be such a new thing. I have lived in Samaria, and I have not seen flour for sale at any price for months. The householders have hoarded it up, as if each ounce of it were a jewel. Each man has taken care to secure what he had for his own family; and now there is none left anywhere, even in private supplies, and yet you talk about selling wheat and barley at the gate of Samaria! Blessed would the eyes be which should see such a thing for many a day! I never expect to see it, and a thousand prophets could not induce me to indulge such a dream. We shall perish by famine or by the sword of the Syrians, for this promise will not be kept.” My brethren, has our unbelief sometimes not fed upon the novelty of the promised blessing? It seemed a new thing to you sinners that the Lord should in a moment pass by your sins, and make you righteous in the righteousness of Christ: yet the new thing has come to pass. When we hear of a more than ordinarily successful Christian work, many brethren who have not been favoured with such prosperity cannot believe it to be true. Had they seen two or three people converted and added to the church in a year, they would have said, “This is the finger of God,” but if they hear of forty or a hundred, or even a thousand converted during a gracious revival they are very sceptical. The conversion of thousands under one sermon they admit may have taken place in New Testament times, but that is a long time ago; we cannot expect to see such things now. Thus they reason in their hearts, and insinuate that the Lord’s arm has waxed short. Oh, brethren, if God has given us a promise which has not yet been fulfilled, and if there never has occurred anything like it before, this is no excuse for our not believing the divine word. Has he not promised, “Behold I will do a new thing?” [Isa 43:19] Did he not say to his people Israel, “I have showed you new things from this time, even hidden things, and you did not know them.” Is not everything new when for the first time the Lord reveals it? Moses might have doubted God’s promise to strike Egypt with plagues, for these plagues were novelties. He might have doubted the Lord’s power to lead his people through the Red Sea, for when had a sea been divided for a nation to pass through it dryshod? He might have doubted God’s power to feed the hosts in the wilderness, for when had bread been rained down from heaven, and when had water leaped from a rock? The Lord, who works great wonders, shows us mercies “new every morning.” He is not tied down to a monotony of procedure, his blessings are as varied as his creations, he delights to surprise us with new displays of love; and so it is clear that the novelty of the blessing is no excuse whatever for our unbelief.
11. I dare say the scoffing nobleman would have said “It is the suddenness of the thing which renders the promise so incredible. Tomorrow! What! abundance of food tomorrow! No, that is too much. Say that in three months we may be supplied and we may believe it, but tomorrow is going too far. How could wheat and barley be brought in such plenty to Samaria in the time, even upon swift horses and dromedaries? Suppose the Syrians were to leave us tomorrow, yet the country has been devoured by them, and you must import wheat from some distant land. It is not at all likely that this could be done suddenly. Do not strain our faith too much, give us a month or two at any rate.” My brethren, nowadays I find that this point of suddenness often staggers unbelieving minds. “What! the church suddenly revived! How can it be? True doctrines may perhaps be spread in England by slow degrees, after generations have come and gone, but to expect the gospel to spread through the country in a few months is perfectly absurd.” Some, perhaps, among my present hearers dare not hope that this south of London can be immediately stirred, as I believe it will be, and they dare not expect conversions at once, such as I venture to look for. Some dread anything sudden, and feel sure that if any gracious gift comes suddenly it will prove to be like Jonah’s gourd, which came up in a night and perished in a night. They give the world the express trains, and condemn grace to travel in the luggage van. Why do they dream that the Lord is slow? Why do they limit the rapidity of his actions? He created the world in six days, could he not recreate it in the same time? He destroyed the race in the days of Noah in forty days, can he not do his saving work with equal speed? Is it not written, “He rode upon a cherub and flew; yes, he flew upon the wings of the wind?” Oh unbelief, how dare you say, “in a year” when God says “tomorrow?” If he says “tomorrow” it will be tomorrow to the tick of the clock. “Tomorrow, about this time,” said the prophet, and so it was. Let us not be as those spoken of by the prophet Haggai, who said, “The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built.” Let us lay aside this postponing of expectancy, and believe that God can do wonders today, even today. Ah, sinner, you cannot believe that God can save you in a minute, but he can; in less time than it takes the clock to tick he can cause you to pass from death to life, and cast all your transgressions behind his back. At this very moment, if you will look to Jesus Christ, the work of grace shall be accomplished. The tax collector who confessed his sin did not have to wait long for his justification, but received it before he went down to his house.
12. This scoffing peer would also have justified his unbelief by saying, “Where can you find the means for accomplishing this promise? So much grain and barley are to be sold, you say, but where is it to come from? There are no grain traders here, and if there were their stocks would have run out long ago. No great underground storerooms remain to be discovered, I am sure of that for I have ordered a minute search in every place where food could be hidden away.” “No,” he said, “There will be no cheap food, for there are no means by which it can be had.” Has not our unbelief too often run on that tack? We too often want to see how the Lord will perform his word. We begin calculating, like the disciples, that two hundred pennyworth of bread will not be enough for the multitude, and as for a few loaves and fishes, we cannot believe that they will be of any avail among so many. Of course, if we have to engineer according to the laws of mechanics, we must calculate our forces and demand means proportionate to the results to be produced; but why apply the feeble rules of mechanics to the omnipotent God? No, I think we do worse, for we hardly carry out our calculations correctly in reference to the Lord’s working; if we did we would calculate that — given omnipotence, difficulties no longer exist, and impossibilities have disappeared. If the Lord is indeed almighty, then how dare we question concerning ways and means? Ways and means are his business and none of ours, and with him no such question can ever arise.
13. I should not wonder, too, if the nobleman’s unbelief arose partly from the realisation of the scene which would be presented if the promise were indeed fulfilled. Had he been told that there would be a great deliverance accomplished for Jerusalem when it was besieged I dare say he would have believed it; but for Samaria — ! What here? Here in this place? In these streets which have so long heard the wailing of weeping women and the groans of famished men! Plenty of grain and barley in twenty-four hours! He could not belief that. It is easy to believe that God will keep his promise in Australia, it is not always so easy to believe that he will do it here. That the Lord will be very gracious to my afflicted brother over there I do firmly believe, but do I always believe that he will be gracious to me? You have been in many troubles, and you have been helped through them, and you believe that God would help you a second time through those same troubles if they were to return; but this particular one that you are now in, there is something so unique about it that you cannot quite believe that you will be supported under it. We generally have a large quantity of faith when we do not need it, but when faith comes to be needed how much of it evaporates! The time to believe in the promise of God occurs when the famine is severe in the city: but, alas for the nobleman, he could not believe the blessing, he could not suppose it to be possible.
14. But now, putting all of these causes for distrust together, is there any force in any or all of them as a reason for doubting God? If God has said it he will certainly do it. Why, then, do we doubt him?
15. Now observe, secondly, that unbelief often shows itself by restricting the Lord to one mode of action. This man thinks that perhaps there might be food in Samaria if God would make windows up in heaven, or, as some read it, open sluices in heaven, out of which you would see the barley and flour pouring down. That would be the only way as far as he can see how God could feed the people. Perhaps he remembered the manna in the wilderness, and how it seemed to drop from the clouds of heaven. Well, God might do it in that way; he goes the length of half admitting that perhaps he might do it in that way. That is how unbelief works: we say, “Yes, God may deliver me in my time of trouble, if such and such a friend’s heart is touched.” God is restricted to touching that friend’s heart, according to our notion. The sinner thinks that he might be saved if he could get to hear Mr. So-and-so, or if such and such an impression could be felt within, but according to his notion the Lord is restricted to converting him under one minister and bringing him to Jesus in one particular way. That is many a man’s notion of revival — “If you could get Mr. Eloquent to come and hold a course of services in our town he would wake us up, but I do not see any other way.” Do you not call that unbelief? God calls it that. Why, brethren, if the Lord wished to feed Samaria, he could have done it by multiplying the food that was there, just as he multiplied the widow’s oil; or he could have continued the quantity of food undiminished, just as he did the barley cake and the little oil of the widow of Zarephath. God has a thousand ways of accomplishing his purposes. He might have turned every stone in Samaria into a loaf, and made the dust of its streets into flour, if he so wished. If he sent food in the wilderness without harvests, and water in the wilderness without wind and without rain, he can do as he wishes and perform his own work in his own way. Do not let us think of limiting the Holy One of Israel to any special mode of action. When we hear of men being led to break out into new ways of going to work, do not let us feel, “This must be wrong”; rather let us hope that it is very probably right, for we need to escape from these horrible ruts, and wretched conventionalisms, which are rather hindrances than helps. Some very stereotypical brethren judge it to be a crime for an evangelist to sing the gospel; and concerning that American organ, — dreadful! One of these days another set of conservative souls will hardly endure a service without such things, for the horror of one age is the idol of the next. Every man in his own order, and God using them all; and if there happens to be some peculiarity, some idiosyncrasy, so much the better. God does not make his servants by the score as men run iron into moulds; he has a separate work for each man, and let each man do his own work in his own way, and may God bless him.
16. Once again, notice that unbelief does not after all believe that even if God were to work in her way the thing would have been done. Did you notice a little note of interrogation in the text, “Behold, if the Lord would make windows in heaven, might this thing be?” Now, look through your spectacles, and you will see at the end of the word “be” a question mark. He meant to say that if God did make windows in heaven even then he could not feed the starving multitudes in Samaria. If the men, who say, “If God were to do so and so we might see a great blessing,” were pressed on the issue, it would be discovered that they do not believe that it would be done even then. Unbelief is such a presumptuous denier of the veracity of God, that it does not give him credit for being able to keep his promise in any shape or form, no, not even by the most extraordinary deeds. May the Spirit of God drive such unbelief as this out of our hearts. It may be there at this very moment, and we may be unconscious of it. Let us search and look and drive this traitor out, for if anything can harm ourselves and the church and the world, it is unbelief in the fidelity of God.
17. II. Now let us pass on to the second point, THE DIVINE ANSWER.
18. Here stands God’s servant Elisha, who has spoken in God’s name, and there stands the great nobleman, whom I have no doubt very much despises the poor prophet, and he answers him sarcastically, thought to be witty, I dare say; many laughed at it and thought it was a good put down of the good man. But notice the conduct of the Lord’s servant. He does not argue with the man, not at all. We have had a great deal too much of arguing with unbelievers. Whenever a rotten book comes out some ministers take care to read it all through, and then they go and tell their people all about it under the pretence of answering it, and the people forget their answers, and only remember the poison which the ministers unwisely disseminate. There would not be a tenth part of the infidelity that there is now if the ministers would leave it alone. It is like a pool of filth, it is all the worse for being stirred, leave it alone. It does not have enough vitality to live by itself, it is only our opposition that makes it vital at all. So Elisha had no argument for him, nor need we be very careful to answer those who deny the truth of God. They shall answer for it to their God, not to us.
19. And there was no adoption of the unbeliever’s means. God did not say by his servant Elisha, “Well, to oblige you I will go out of my way, and make windows in heaven, if you think it the best way of providing for the city.” Not at all. When there are objections taken to modes of usefulness which God evidently blesses it is not for us to alter them because the popular voice is against them, or some very wise people have condemned them. I think that is a reason for going on with them, and when the world suggests that holy work ought to be done in this way or in that, the very best thing is to let those who like the proposed plans try them themselves. God does not mould his course to please the wisdom of men, and if the Lord intends to save souls in this part of London he will do it in his own way, and unbelief may say what it likes, he will not abate one jot or tittle of his own purpose, but bless the people as seems good in his sight.
20. In due time the promise was kept. That lord’s unbelief did not alter the mind of God. The promise was kept; the wheat and the barley were sold at the prices named. His lordship’s indignation and sarcasm did not postpone the fall of prices for a single hour. Lord or no lord, nobleman or no nobleman, it made no difference whatever, the flour and the barley were there. And herein is our great joy, that although there has been much infidelity in our country, much loose talk about the doctrines of the gospel, much insinuation that the whole thing is worn out and out of date, God will not, because of these semi-infidels, withhold the blessing from his own true people who really believe his word. Our God will answer the infidelity of this age, indeed, has answered it during the last two or three years. News has come to us, brought by those who were despised, that there is grain for the people. Some who were not ordained messengers, but laymen outside the city, have made a discovery; we did not intend that they should do it, but they have brought information that there is plenty of food to be had for the starving crowds, and now the gospel is preached to the multitude, and they are told that Jesus Christ is able to save, that he is ready to give them salvation. What follows? Why, we have seen it already, we have seen it in the Tabernacle for many years, and we shall see it generally all over England, I hope, soon. The people go rushing out to find this bread, and as they pour out in armies they tread infidelity under their feet. There it stands, this boasted modern thought, this vaunted culture, it looks upon the preachers of the simple gospel and those who go to hear them as a set of fools. Infidelity will not believe that the gospel of Jesus is the bread of the soul; the crowding of the people is the answer. See how eagerly they devour the word! See how they rejoice in it! Listen to their songs like the voice of many! Unbelief is trodden down as mire in the streets. Brethren, if you want to answer infidelity, preach the gospel; tell the people that Jesus Christ is able to save sinners. Lift high the bloodstained cross, proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prisons to those who are bound. This will make a stir, this will agitate the masses. There is nothing like it. Christ’s gospel is like fire flung among the standing grain, it makes a wondrous conflagration. Preach Jesus Christ and him crucified, the people must come to hear it, they are not masters of themselves, they cannot stay away; and as they hear it, and as they feed upon it, and joy comes to them, and peace, and new life, facts will answer theories, salvation will be the best reply to the witticisms and the sophistries of unbelief. Do not enter into arguments, but test the gospel practically. Someone says that that lifeboat is not of the right colour. I see a number of men in the rigging of that sinking vessel: they cannot hold on much longer. Here, good fellows, do not stand debating about the boat, jump into it, pull out to the vessel, get the men on board, and bring them to shore. Hurrah! Here they are! Is that not the best reply to every objection? There they are! If they tell us that the gospel which we preach is not true, we point to many here present whose stories of reclamation from vice and deliverance from despair and uplifting into light and life and holiness are proofs that the gospel is divine. There they are! Facts, facts, facts, these are God’s replies. The lord was silenced in death by the facts of the case.
21. III. Thirdly, our text teaches us THE APPOINTED PUNISHMENT FOR UNBELIEF.
22. It is allotted to unbelief that it shall see with its eyes what it cannot enjoy. This is always fulfilled, although in different ways. The unbeliever says he will not believe what he cannot see: God’s answer is, that he shall not enjoy what he does see. There was the flour, there was the barley; the man could see these, but he could not enjoy them. Unbelievers do not really enjoy the things of this life. The majority of them find that wealth does not yield them satisfaction, their outward riches cannot conceal their inner poverty. To many men it is given to have all that heart can wish for, and yet not to have what their heart does wish for. They have everything except contentment. If you will not accept in faith the spiritual gifts which God promises, then the temporal gifts which the world promises shall tantalise you; you shall eat and not be satisfied, you shall have, but not have enough; you shall spend your money for what is not bread, and your labour for what does not satisfy. If you will not have things unseen, things seen shall become a mere shadow to you. This is one punishment for unbelief.
23. Another is this: frequently men in connection with spiritual things, being unbelievers, have their minds convinced but their hearts are not converted. They see enough of the work of God to make them know that the Lord is God and that Christ is a Saviour, that faith brings pardon, that the Holy Spirit renews the heart; they know all these things and yet they never taste any of them. They are as orthodox as orthodox can be concerning their creed, but there is nothing in their heart. The living water flows by their lips, but, as they stoop to drink, it flees away as in the fable of Tantalus of old.
24. Often also they see God’s work in others but never feel it in themselves. Their wife has found peace, but they have not; their dear child has been converted, but they are not: the brother has seen his sister rejoicing in the Lord, but he knows no such joy; the sister has seen her sister lay hold of Christ, but she has never done so herself. This makes missing the blessing so much the more unhappy a circumstance, for to be starving when everyone else is fed is dreadful. I would not have been in that nobleman’s place for all the world, to see the people all satisfied and himself not able to partake of it, and yet it is so with some of you.
25. Do you know that this will lead to an eternal tantalisation? for unbelievers in hell, according to Christ’s own description, will look up and see Lazarus in Abraham’s bosom, but they themselves will be cast out. Surely it must be one of the hells of hell — to see heaven and to have a great gulf fixed between you and it.
26. You shall have good things if you believe your God, but if you will not believe in him neither shall you receive them. The punishment is natural, and fair, and appropriate. If certain people believe that gold is to be found in a mine and others do not, is it not right that if there is gold there those who believed in it and looked for it should have it? Should he who ridiculed the idea come in for his share too? No one would think so. It is the very least thing that can be expected of us to believe God, for he cannot lie, and if we refuse credence to the word of God it cannot be thought to be a harsh measure that the blessing should not be given to us. If you will not believe you shall not be established. Oh unbeliever, it will be your lot to know that God speaks the truth, but never to know that truth in your own soul; to know that he is gracious, to know that he is ready to forgive, to know that he lifts sinners up to his own throne through the blood of the Lamb, and yet never to be forgiven, never to be saved, never to be glorified. I am afraid there are some in this house of prayer who are quickly going towards such a doom. I do not mean strangers who have dropped in here once, but I mean those who have sat here for many years, and yet have never believed. In this next month you will see God’s grace working in the south of London, but it will not come near to you: you are an unbeliever, and you have been so for many years; there is no reason to expect you will ever be altered, the probabilities are you will remain just as you are. The rain will fall all around you, but never upon you; the barn floor will be wet, but your fleece will be dry. May God grant it is not so, but it is to be feared that it will be.
Now, in closing, I want to apply my subject to the special
circumstances under which we are found today, at the beginning of the
special services for the south of London. Dear friends, I earnestly
trust that all of you resident in this region who love the Lord will
unite your best energies to make this movement a success. I mean
chiefly by prayer for the blessing, by giving your attendance at such
meetings as are called for Christian conference, by endeavouring to
take your friends, your children, and your neighbours, if they are
unconverted, to the place, and by doing everything you can to win
souls, as the Holy Spirit shall enable you. It may be just possible
that some of you are standing aloof. Now, I cannot condemn any
brother for doing that if his reasons are such as satisfy his
conscience, for there is no movement, however excellent, that it is
from some point or other open to criticism, and if a brother’s
criticism is conscientious and honest, it is not for me to judge him
for a moment. But I should like to ask this question of some — “Do you
not think that at the bottom of almost all objections raised against
this work there is unbelief?” It is an unusual thing, and there is
excitement — why not? Someone says he does not see any remarkable
talent in the two brethren — what of that? I am sure the brethren do
not pretend to have any talent whatever, for more unassuming men I
never saw in my life, and that is one reason why God blesses them so
much. For one reason and another certain good people hold off, but
does it not all amount to unbelief? Our friends in Glasgow,
Edinburgh, Newcastle, bear indisputable testimony to the fact that
souls were saved in large numbers, and that the churches were
edified, and the tone of religious feeling improved. We cannot doubt
the testimony of faithful, well instructed brethren, and I think if
we hold back it will resolve itself into this, that we do not believe
in God’s working just now upon a large scale by simple
instrumentality. For my part, I would like to ask myself this
question, “Could I justify myself in holding back when I come to my
deathbed?” Here are two men who have for months consecrated
themselves to the preaching of the gospel with no object in the world
except the winning of souls for Christ. Baser calumny than to assert
that they have a selfish motive never fell from the lip of Satan
himself. They have no intention nor object for gain except for the
sole glory of God. They seek conversions, conversions to Christ only;
and brethren, if there were a thousand faults in them, who am I or
who are you to judge them, and to say we will not help them in such a
work and with such motives? Brother, do you strive for God’s glory?
So do I. Do you strive for the salvation of souls? So do I. Brother,
do you preach salvation by the precious blood? So do I. Brother, do
you believe in regeneration by the power of the Holy Spirit? So do I.
Do you tell sinners to believe and live? That is exactly what I am
telling them; and if we are agreed in this, for my part I cannot
conceive of any excuse for any man’s holding back unless he has so
much work of his own to do that he has no time to spare, in which
case let him at least bid them God speed. If we do not help now we
may live to regret it. For some reason or other the crowds are
willing to hear the gospel, and there seems to be a unity among
Christians about the thing. However it comes about, let us accept it
as from God, and use it. There is a tide which, taken at the flood,
leads on to fortune as well in heavenly things as in secular, and let
us take this tide, however God may have sent it to us, and use it to
our best advantage: for if not, if unbelief holds us back, it may
happen to us even as to Moses, who, for his unbelief, never entered
into the promised land: he saw it, but never entered it; and we may
see, and see with gladness, God blessing the church, but we may have
no part of the blessing in our own church. Do we wish to see the
clusters of grapes that come from an Eshcol into which we cannot
enter? It may even happen to us as it happened to this nobleman that
God may see fit to take us out of the way. I have seen it. Do not
think me superstitious, when any truly good man has stood in God’s
way God has made very short work of him, he has taken him home, or he
has laid him aside by sickness. If you will not help, and will
hinder, you will be set aside, and perhaps your own usefulness will
be cut short. Or it may happen, worst of all, that if we refuse help
when the time of blessing had come we shall remain among our fellow
Christians, but for many years we shall be wretched and unprofitable.
A blessing was coming and you did not seem to want it, so the Lord
sent it somewhere else, and you will be a doubting, miserable,
carping, critical, faultfinding Christian as long as you live, never
eating the dainties, but always pointing out errors in the cookery;
never delighting in the joy of your Lord nor making your harps to
ring for joy over converts, but always playing the part of the older
brother who was angry and would not go in, though it was his own
brother who had come home and his own father who had killed the
fatted calf. May God save us from this, and cause us from this very
day to shake off unbelief and to go forward rejoicing in the Lord!
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — 2Ki 7]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — The Truth Of God The Promiser” 191]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 46” 46 @@ "(Version 2)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Its Excellencies — The Different Success Of The Gospel” 483]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Extra Non-Tabernacle Hymns — Ring The Bells Of Heaven” 1062]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "Treasury Of David"]
God the Father, Attributes of God
191 — The Truth Of God The Promiser
1 Praise, everlasting praise, be paid
To him that earth’s foundation laid;
Praise to the God, whose strong decrees,
Sway the creation as he please.
2 Praise to the goodness of the Lord,
Who rules his people by his word;
And there, as strong as his decrees,
He sets his kindest promises.
3 Firm are the words his prophets give,
Sweet words, on which his children live:
Each of them is the voice of God,
Who spoke, and spread the skies abroad.
4 Each of them powerful as that sound
That bid the new made world go round;
And stronger than the solid poles
On which the wheel of nature rolls.
5 Oh, for a strong, a lasting faith,
To credit what th’ Almighty saith!
T’ embrace the message of his Son,
And call the joys of heaven our own.
6 Then should the earth’s old pillars shake,
And all the wheels of nature break,
Our steady souls should fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar.
7 Our everlasting hopes arise
Above the ruinable skies,
Where th’ eternal Builder reigns,
And his own courts his power sustains.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 46 (Version 1)
1 God is the refuge of his saints,
When storms of sharp distress invade;
Ere we can offer our complaints,
Behold him present with his aid.
2 Let mountains from their seats be hurl’d
Down to the deep, and buried there;
Convulsions shake the solid world,
Our faith shall never yield to fear.
3 Loud my the troubled ocean roar,
In sacred peace our souls abide;
While every nation, every shore,
Trembles, and dreads the swelling tide.
4 There is a stream whose gentle flow
Supplies the city of our God:
Life, love, and joy, still gliding through,
And watering our divine abode.
5 That sacred stream, thine holy Word,
That all our raging fears controls:
Sweet peace thy promises afford,
And give new strength to fainting souls.
6 Sion enjoys her Monarch’s love,
Secure against a threat’ning hour;
Nor can her firm foundations move,
Built on his truth, and arm’d with power.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 46 (Version 2.)
1 God is our refuge and our strength,
In straits a present aid:
Therefore, although the earth remove,
We will not be afraid.
2 Though hills amidst the seas be cast;
Though waters roaring make,
And troubled be; yea, though the hills
By swelling seas do shake.
3 A river is, whose streams do glad
The city of our God;
The holy place, wherein the Lord
Most high hath his abode.
4 God in the midst of her doth dwell;
Nothing shall her remove:
The lord to her an helper will,
And that right early, prove.
5 Our God, who is the lord of hosts,
Is still upon our side;
The God of Jacob, our defence
For ever will abide.
Scotch Version, 1641, a.
Psalm 46 (Version 3)
1 God is our refuge, tried and proved,
Amid a stormy world:
We will not fear though earth be moved,
And hills in ocean hurl’d.
2 The waves may roar, the mountains shake,
Our comforts shall not cease;
The Lord his saints will not forsake;
The Lord will give us peace.
3 A gentle stream of hope and love
To us shall ever flow;
It issues from his throne above,
It cheers his church below.
4 When earth and hell against us came,
He spake, and quell’d their powers;
The Lord of hosts is still the same,
The God of grace is ours.
Henry Francis Lyte, 1834.
Gospel, Its Excellencies
483 — The Different Success Of The Gospel
1 Christ and his cross is all our theme;
The mysteries that we speak
Are scandal in the Jew’s esteem,
And folly to the Greek.
2 But souls enlighten’d from above
With joy receive the Word;
They see what wisdom, power, and love,
Shine in their dying Lord.
3 The vital savour of his name
Restores their fainting breath;
But unbelief perverts the same
To guilt, despair, and death.
4 Till God diffuse His graces down,
Like showers of heavenly rain,
In vain Apollos sows the ground,
And Paul may plant in vain.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
Extra Non-Tabernacle Hymns
Ring The Bells Of Heaven
1 Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today,
For a soul, returning from the wild!
See, the Father meets him out upon the way,
Welcoming His weary, wandering child.
2 Ring the bells of Heaven! There is joy today,
For the wanderer now is reconciled;
Yes, a soul is rescued from his sinful way,
And is born anew a ransomed child.
3 Ring the bells of Heaven! Spread the feast today!
Angels, swell the glad triumphant strain!
Tell the joyful tidings, bear it far away!
For a precious soul is born again.
Glory! Glory! How the angels sing:
Glory! Glory! How the loud harps ring!
’Tis the ransomed army, like a mighty sea,
Pealing forth the anthem of the free.
William Cushing, 1866.
From Ira D. Sankey’s Hymns.