A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 10, 1875, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *4/15/2012
Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling. [Job 7:1]
1. I was settling myself down yesterday to meditate upon the Word of God, and to prepare my mind to preach the gospel to you today, when, suddenly, I had my subject appointed for me by a mournful messenger, for the angel of death pointed to it with his finger. There came into my room an honoured elder of this church, who in broken accents told me “our beloved brother, Henry Olney, is dead.” He is my close neighbour, and I was in his house so recently that I could not believe the news. It seems that when he left the city at noon he felt a severe rheumatic pain in his shoulder, and upon reaching home he sent for a doctor, who prescribed a minor remedy and advised him to lie down. He did so, and with a gasp or two he expired. A man in the prime of life, and apparently in full vigour of health, he went to his business for the last time that morning, and returned to die. The blow has fallen so suddenly that I am stunned and staggered by it, nor do I think that either of his three brothers, whose familiar faces we miss this morning, have yet recovered from the shock caused by the stroke. Many around me were with him so short a time ago that it is hard to believe one’s own eyes and feel sure that there he lies a cold corpse, motionless upon the bed. But, oh, my brethren, how true it is that in the midst of life we are in death; and those often die first who least expected to go. If I had said to you this morning that our brother William Olney was gone, you would have said, “We are grieved at our loss, but we do not wonder, for he has been sick for so long”; but here the strong and stalwart brother, who was in perfect health has been taken away, while, thank God, the languishing invalid is still spared to us. So they remain who expected to depart, and they depart who expected to remain. Who among us can count on a single hour? We speak of being living men: let us correct ourselves, and feel from this moment that we are dying men, whose every breath bring them nearer to the grave. We are and are not; we walk in a vain show, and are restless. We are unsubstantial as the shadow of the flying clouds which on a summer’s day flit over the face of the field and are gone.
2. When I look at that seat where our departed friend sat for years, the Lord seems to have come very near to us. I could almost take off my shoes from my feet in awful consciousness of his terrible presence. We can no longer think of the Lord as far away in heaven, he has been among us, he who touches the hills and they smoke has set his eyes upon our brother, and lo! he is not here. Let me put it in a gentler manner: our Lord came into his garden to gather lilies, and his hand has been filled to our sorrow. When our heavenly Father comes so near to us, and in so solemn a manner, let us ask him why he contends with us. Let us in solemn reverence approach him so that we may hear his answer, and may be obedient to his word. The flower of the field stands amid the grass unconscious that the mower’s scythe is busy, and though swath after swath has fallen beneath the pitiless stroke, the flower smiles cheerily, it does not care for its associate in the same field, and is heedless concerning its own speedy fall. Its leaves are wet with dew, and its colours are bright in the sun, it does not mourn for its companions, but rejoices in unconsciousness of all that happens around it. In this respect you are not like the grass of the field, but are endowed with understanding, so that you are able to be instructed, or at least warned, by the fall of those around you. The sheep in their folds do not notice that their companions are taken away to the slaughter. The cattle graze in the meadows in happy ignorance that death is abroad. You, however, are not “dumb, driven cattle.” To you it is given to know your own mortality, and you cannot allow your comrades to be taken away one after another so rapidly, without feeling emotion, and gathering wisdom. You will hear the rod, and him who has appointed it, and this morning you will ask for grace that the dead may be your teachers and yourselves the scholars who cry “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
3. As best I shall be able this morning, I shall try and teach you, by the help of God’s Spirit, one lesson. It is this — divine appointment rules human life; and when we have learned that lesson, we shall, in the second place, draw inferences from this truth.
4. I. First, then, let us consider a truth which, I trust, none of us have ever denied, but have heartily accepted ever since we have been believers. THERE IS A DIVINE APPOINTMENT RULING ALL HUMAN LIFE.
5. I do not single out man’s existence as the sole object of divine forethought, far rather I believe it to be only one little corner of boundless providence. A divine appointment arranges every event, minute or magnificent. As we look out on the world from our quiet room it appears to be a mass of confusion. He who studies history and forgets God might think that he was looking out on Milton’s “chaos and old night,” for events seem flung together in terrible disarray, and the whole scene is as darkness itself, without any order. Events happen which we deeply deplore — incidents which appear to bring evil, and only evil, and we wonder why they are permitted. The picture before us, to the glance of reason, looks like a medley of colour, with dark shades where lights seemed necessary, and glowing colour where we might have looked for masses of black. Human affairs are a maze of which we cannot discover the clue. The world appears to be a tangled skein of wool, and we weary ourselves with vain endeavours to unentangle it.
6. But, brethren, the affairs of this world are neither tangled, nor confused, nor perplexing to him who sees the end from the beginning. To him all things are in due course and order, and before him all forces keep rank and file. God is in all, and rules all. In the least as well as in the greatest, Jehovah’s power is revealed. He guides the grain of dust in the March wind, and the comet in its immeasurable orbit; he steers each drop of spray which is beaten back from the face of the rock, and he leads out Arcturus with his sons. God is the dictator of destinies, and appoints both the means and the ends. He is the King of kings, ruling rulers and guiding counsellors. Equally in the crash of battle and in the hush of peace, in the desolation of pestilence and famine, and in the joy of abounding harvests he is Lord. He does according to his will, not only in the army of heaven, but among the inhabitants of this lower world. Those fiery steeds, which dash so terribly along the highway of time, are not galloping madly: there is a charioteer whose almighty hands have held the reins for ages, and will never let them go. Things are not in the hurly-burly which we imagine, but driven onward by a power which is irresistible, they are under law to God, and speed onward without deviation towards the goal which he designs. All is well, brethren! It is night, but the watchman never sleeps, and Israel may rest in peace. The tempest rages, but it is well, for our Captain is the governor of storms. He who trod the waves of the Galilean lake is at the helm, and at his bidding winds and waves are quiet.
7. Our main point is that God rules mortal life; and he does so, first, concerning its term — “Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth?” He rules it, secondly, concerning its warfare, for so the text might most properly be read — “Is there not an appointed warfare for man upon earth?” And, thirdly, he rules it concerning its service, for the second clause of the text is, “Are not his days as the days of a hireling?”
8. First, then, God’s determination governs the time of human life. We shall all acknowledge this concerning its commencement. Not without infinite wisdom did any infant’s life begin then and there, for no man is the offspring of chance. Dear friend it was not without a world of kindness that your life began just where and when it did. Our child’s little hymn, in which he thanks God that he was not “born a little slave to labour in the sun,” contains a good deal of truth in it. A man’s whole life is mainly guided by its beginning; if we had been born as thousands are in a place where God was never known we might have been idolaters at this hour. Who would wish to have first seen the light in the era when our naked forefathers sacrificed to idols? Who would wish to have stepped upon the stage of life amid the dense darkness of popery, when our childish hands would have been lifted up by superstitious parents in adoration of the Virgin Mary, and we should have been taught to worship some cast clout or rotten rag, superstitiously believed to be a relic of a saint? It is no small thing to have been born in this century, when works of grace are to be seen on every side. Many of us should bless the Lord every day because in infancy we lay upon a Christian woman’s bosom, and were lulled to sleep with the sound of holy hymns, of which the name of Jesus was the theme. Our tiny feet were taught to run in the ways of righteousness, as far as parental instruction could accomplish it, and this was no insignificant advantage. Blessed are the eyes which see the things which we see, and hear the things which we hear! All this is by the appointment of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our presence on earth in this day of grace was a matter altogether beyond our control, and yet it involves infinite issues; therefore let us with deepest gratitude bless the Lord, who has cast our lot for such an auspicious time.
9. The continuance of life is equally determined by God. He who fixed our birth has measured the interval between the cradle and the grave, and it shall not be a day longer or a day shorter than the divine decree. How many times your lungs shall heave and your pulses beat have been fixed by the eternal calculator from of old. What reflections ought to arise out of this! How willing we should be to labour on, even if we are weary, since God appoints our day and will not overly weary us, for he is no hard taskmaster. How glad we ought to be even to suffer if the Lord so ordains it. It is sweet music that God draws from patient sufferers, and though the strings have to be painfully and continually tightened with many a grief and pang to us, yet if those dear hands of the chief musician can orchestrate a richer melody from those tightened strings, who among us would wish to have it otherwise, or ask to have the harp withdrawn from that beloved harpist’s hand before the wondrous strain is over? No, let us wait, for he appoints. If our griefs were the offspring of chance, we might pine to have them ended, but if the loving Lord appoints, we would not hurry him in his processes of love. Let the Lord do what seems good to him. Here is good cheer for those who have lain so long upon the bed of pain, and who are apt to ask — “Will it never end? Oh Lord, will the chariots of salvation never come? Have the angels quite forgotten your servant in his sickness? Must he remain for ever a prisoner under his infirmity, loneliness, and decay? Have you placed me as a sentinel to stand upon my watchtower through a night which will never end, and shall I never be relieved from my weary guard? Shall I never know rest? Must I for ever peer into the dark with these eyes so red with weeping?” Courage, brother! Courage, sister, the Lord, the ever merciful, has appointed every moment of your sorrow and every pang of your suffering. If he ordains the number ten, it can never rise to eleven, neither should you desire it to shrink to nine. The Lord’s time is best: your span of life is accurately measured to a hair’s breadth; God ordains all: therefore peace, restless spirit, and let the Lord have his way.
10. So, too, he has fixed life’s termination. “Is there not an appointed time for man upon earth?” a time in which the pulse must cease, the blood stagnate, and the eye be closed. Yes, my brethren, it is of no use for us to indulge any idle dream of living here for ever; a time of departure must come for every one of us, unless the Lord himself should appear suddenly, and then we shall not die, but be changed. There is no man among us who lives and shall not see death. In this war there is no discharge. Not only do the Scriptures teach us so, but our common sense and reason put the matter beyond all question.
What do the grey hairs mean which fall like snowflakes upon our
heads? What does that stooping gait and failing strength mean? What
do the dimness of the eye and the tottering of the limbs mean? Do
they not all show that the house is about to come down, for its lath
and plaster are beginning to give way? Yet our earthly house will not
fail us until the time ordained by heaven. There is an appointed time
for death, and God has fixed how we shall die, when we shall die, and
where we shall die.
Plagues and deaths around me fly,
Till he please I cannot die
Not a single shaft can hit
Till the God of love sees fit.
Diseases eager to kill are in ambush all around us, but none of their
swords can reach us until Jehovah gives them permission. Behold the
Lord shall cover you with his feathers, and you shall trust under his
wings, nor shall nightly pestilence nor midday destruction make you
What though a thousand at thy side
At thy right hand ten thousand died,
Our God his chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.
We are immortal until our work is done, but that work will not last for ever, and when it is concluded we shall have fulfilled our day, and shall receive our summons home.
12. All this is true; no one will venture to dispute it, but let us remember that it is true for ourselves at this moment; for you, my brothers and sisters, it is true while you sit here. Believe it, and do not look on others as dying men while you yourselves are assured of a long life. Be also prepared to meet your God suddenly, for you may be called to do so. This fact is most solemn. We shall not live, but die, and that death may come in an instant. As I greeted my brethren this morning in the vestry I could not help expressing my pleasure and surprise that any of us were alive, for certainly it was quite as much a wonder that certain of us were alive, as that our friend should be dead. We might as readily have been taken away as he, and even more readily. God had ordained his death, he might have ordained ours. “Be also ready; for in such an hour as you do not think the Son of man comes.”
13. Yet this fact, to my mind, is most strengthening. The doctrine of predestination, when really believed, is like an iron tonic, infuses a good deal of iron into the mental system and builds up strong men. I am not such a predestinarian as Mohammed, who commanded his soldiers to rush into the battle, “for,” he said, “when your time comes to die you will die at home as well as in the battle, and Paradise is to be found beneath the shadow of swords.” But still I see that while the doctrine makes some men slumber, it is to nobler souls a mighty source of energy, and a fountain of courage. If duty calls you into danger — if you have to nurse the sick who are laid low with foul disease — never shrink, but run all risks if love for God or man demands them of you. You will not die by a stray arrow from death’s quiver; the Lord alone can recall your breath. Your death is not left to chance; it is determined by a heavenly Father’s gracious will; therefore do not be afraid. Do not be so fearful of pain, or so anxious to preserve life, as to be held back where Jesus calls you on, for in such a case he who saves his life shall lose it. You may not be reckless, and rush into danger without reason, that would be madness; but you will, I trust, be brave and never fear to face death when the voice of God calls you into peril.
14. Moreover, how consoling is this truth; for, if the Father of our Lord Jesus arranges all, then our friends do not die untimely deaths. The beloved of the Lord are not cut off before their time; they go into Jesus’ bosom when they are ready to be received there. God has appointed the times for the ingathering of his fruits; some of them are sweet even in early spring, and he gathers them; others are as a basket of summer fruit, and he takes these also while the year is young, while yet another company needs to remain among us until autumn mellows them: each class shall be gathered in its season. Now concerning all this we are by no means competent judges. We know nothing, for we are infants of a day; God knows best. It would be better that our friend should die, as he did die, than that he should live, or else he would have lived. Be sure of that. Yes, God has appointed the commencement, the continuance, and the conclusion of this mortal life.
15. But we must now consider the other translation of our text. It is generally given in the margin of the Bibles. “Is there not an appointed warfare for man upon earth?” which teaches us that God has appointed life to be a warfare. To all men it will be so, whether good or bad. Every man will find himself a soldier under some captain or other. Alas for those men who are battling against God and his truth, they will in the end be clothed with dishonour and defeat. I shall, however, speak mainly of the righteous, and truly their experience shows that life is one long struggle, from which we never cease until we hear the word, “Your warfare is accomplished.” Brethren, life is a warfare, and therefore we are all men under authority. No Christian is free to follow his own devices; we are all under law to Christ. A soldier surrenders his own will to that of his commander: his captain says to him, “Go,” and he goes, or “Do this,” and he does it. Such is the Christian’s life — a life of willing subjection to the will of the Lord Jesus Christ. As a result of this we have our place fixed and our order arranged for us, and our life’s relative positions are all prescribed. A soldier has to keep rank and step with the rest of the line. He has a relationship to the man on his right, and to his comrade on his left, and he bears a relationship which he must not violate to each officer, and especially to his commander-in-chief. God has appointed to you, then, dear brother, to be a father or to be a son, to be a master or to be a servant, to be a teacher or to be taught; see that you keep your place. Just as a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man who wanders from his place. In our appointed warfare happy is the man who from first to last keeps in order with the forces of the Lord of hosts, and cheerfully fulfils the divine purposes.
16. Since we have a warfare to accomplish, we must expect hardships. A soldier must not count upon ease. During a campaign he has neither house nor home. Perhaps last night he pitched his tent in a pleasant valley, but he must get up and go away, and his tent must tomorrow be exposed on the bleak mountainside. He has renounced the luxuries of life and the joys of repose. Forced marches, light slumbers, scant fare, and hard blows are his portion — he would be foolish to look for ease and enjoyment during a campaign. Oh you sons of men, the Lord has appointed life to be a warfare; why, then, do you wrap yourselves around with silken garments, and wear magic charms on your wrists, and say to yourselves, “Soul, you have much goods laid up for many years; eat, drink, and be merry?” You must not do so, and if the Lord by trial prevents your doing so you must not quarrel with him, but must feel that such treatment must be expected in this war.
17. If life is a warfare, we must look for contests and struggles. The Christian man must not expect to go to heaven without opposition. A soldier who never meets an enemy at all is not renowned. We consider his valour light, and consider him to be as some vain carpet knight “whose best delight is only to wear a braid of his fair lady’s hair.” The man who is scarred and gashed, maimed and wounded, he is the hero to whom men pay homage. You must fight if you would reign. Your predecessors swam through seas of blood to win the crown; and, although the form of battle may be changed, yet the spirit of the enemy is unaltered; you must still contend against sin and bear up under trouble, for only through much tribulation will you inherit the kingdom of God.
18. It is a warfare, brethren, for all these reasons, and yet more so because we must always be on the watch for danger. In a battle no man is safe. Where bullets fly, who can count upon life for a moment? Brethren, the age is particularly dangerous. Perhaps every preacher before me has said as much, and every preacher after me will say the same for his times — yet still, I say, in this particular age there are a thousand perils for the soul, from superstition on the one hand and scepticism on the other; from rude self-reliance and indolent trust in others, from a wicked world and an apostate church. You must not wonder that it is so, for war is raging. The enemy has not laid down his weapons, the war drum is still beaten; therefore do not lay down your arms, but fight manfully for your King and country — for Christ and for his church.
19. Blessed be God that the text says “Is there not an appointed warfare?” Then, brethren, it is not our warfare, but one that God has appointed for us, in which he does not expect us to wear our own armour, or carry on at our own expense, or find our own rations, or supply our own ammunition. We do not have to construct the armour that we wear, and we do not have to fabricate the sword we wield. All things are ready for us. Our great Captain manages the commissariat with unquestioned skill and unbounded liberality. Yes, the warfare is so much his warfare that he is with us in it. The Greek soldiers, when they marched against the Persians, traversed many a weary league, but what comforted them and made every man a hero was that Alexander marched when they marched. If he had been carried luxuriously, like the Persian monarch, while they were toiling over the hills and dales, they might have murmured. If he had been seen to drink costly wines while they were parched with thirst, they might have complained. But Alexander, like a great commander as he was, marched in the ranks with his soldiers, so that they saw him faint and weary as they were, and wiping the sweat from his brow when they did the same; and when, as was his due, they brought him the first crystal draught they could obtain, he laid it aside and said, “Give it to the sick soldiers, I will not drink until every man can take a draught.” Oh glorious Jesus, surely you have done the same and more. You have resisted even to blood, you have known toil and agony, even to a sweat of gore, and suffering, and weakness, and self-denial you too have drank from; for you save others, but you could not save yourself. Courage, brother, then. Our warfare is of the Lord. Let us go out to it, conquering and to conquer.
20. Thirdly. The Lord has also determined the service of our life. All men are servants to some master or other, neither can any of us avoid the servitude. The greatest men are only so much the more the servants of others. The prime minister is only the first and most laborious of servants. The yoke upon the neck of the emperor is heavier than what galls the shoulders of the serf. Despots are the most in bondage of all men. It will be happy for us if through divine grace we have chosen Jesus for our Master and have become his servants for life: then indeed we are free, for his yoke is easy and his burden is light, and in learning from him we shall find rest for our souls. If we are now the servants of the Lord Jesus, this life is a set time of a labour and apprenticeship to be worked out. I am bound by solemn indentures to my Lord and Master until my term of life shall run out, and I am very glad to have it so. Jacob, when he had served seven years was glad to serve seven more for the love of Rachel, and we for love of Jesus would serve seventy times seven if he desired it, but even then the longest term of life would have an end, even as ours also will. Here below our term is fixed, even as the days of a hireling.
21. Now, a servant who has let himself out for a term of years does not have a moment that he can call his own, nor have any of us, if we are God’s people. We do not have a moment, no, not a breath, nor a faculty, nor a farthing that we may honestly reserve. We have transferred ourselves to Jesus Christ for ever, and we belong entirely to him. A servant does nothing on his own authority, he does what his master tells him: this also is our condition. We have an appointed service, and we receive orders from our Lord, which orders are our law. A servant has his tasks prescribed; he may have to work indoors or outdoors, he may have to be near the house or far off in the field. He may be sent on errands, or told to stay at home but he does not choose his labour or its location, he accepts what is chosen for him by his superior. Are we not glad to have it so? Does our heart not say, “anything, everything for Jesus?” That should be our spirit. The servant, moreover, expects to be weary and spent sometimes, is it not natural? To a servant who applies for your situation, and says, “I do not expect to work hard; I need large wages and little work,” you would say, “Yes, there are many of your mind, but I shall not employ one of that kind if I know it.” Your Lord and Master thinks the same. You must expect to toil in his service until you are ready to faint, and then his grace will renew your strength.
22. A servant knows that his time is limited. If it is weekly service, he knows that his engagement may be closed on Saturday; if he is hired by the month, he knows how many days there are in a month, and he expects it to end; if he is engaged by the year, he knows the day of the year when his service shall end. As for us, we do not know when our term will be complete; but we do know that it will conclude, therefore we would live in view of that conclusion. It is as well that the Lord has not told us when the appointed end will be, or we might have loitered until near the close; but he has left that period unrevealed so that we may be always labouring, and waiting for his coming. None the less it is certain that there is an appointed time, and our work will come to an end.
23. The hireling expects his wages; that is one reason for his industry. We, too, expect ours — not of debt truly, but of grace, yet still a gracious reward. God does not employ servants without paying them wages, as many of our merchants now do. They are his own children, and therefore they would be glad enough to serve without a hope of wage; but that is not God’s way; he prefers that they also should have “respect for the reward.” While the child’s relationship shall be carried out with blessed liberality, so shall the servant’s relationship too, and wages shall be liberally given. Let us look forward, brothers and sisters; let us look forward to the great day when the Master shall call his servants together and give them their wages. The reward, if it were of debt, would be a very scanty one, and, in fact, it would be none at all, for we are unprofitable servants; but, the wages being of grace, there is room for giving every man his penny, room for giving to us exceeding abundantly above what we ask or even think. I leave the subject of service there: it is all appointed for us, let us fulfil it.
24. II. Secondly, and briefly, THE INFERENCES TO BE DRAWN FROM THIS FACT.
First, there is Job’s inference. Job’s inference was that since
there was only an appointed time, and he was like a servant employed
by the year, he might be allowed to wish for life’s speedy close, and
therefore he says — “As a servant earnestly desires the shade, and as a
hireling looks for the wages for his work.” Job was right in a
measure but not altogether so. There is a sense in which every
Christian may look forward to the end of life with joy and
expectancy, and may pray for it. I wish that some believers were in a
state of mind which would honestly allow them to do so. Many of us
can heartily sympathise with the poet who penned the verses beginning —
I would not live always, I ask not to stay
Where storm after storm rises dark o’er the way;
The few fleeting mornings that dawn on us here
Are enough for life’s sorrows, enough for its cheer.
Who, who would live always away from his God —
Away from yon heaven, that blissful abode,
Where rivers of pleasure flow o’er the bright plains,
And the noontide of glory eternally reigns?
At the same time, there are necessary modifications to this desire to
depart, and a great many of them; for, first, it would be a very lazy
thing for a servant to be always looking for Saturday night, and to
be always sighing and groaning because the days are so long. The
man who wants to be off to heaven before his life’s work is done does
not seem to me to be quite the man that is likely to go there at all;
for he who is fit to go there and serve God, is one who is willing to
stay here and do the same. Besides, while our days are like those
of a hireling, we serve a better master than other servants do. There
are employers of such a kind that servants might be very glad never
to see their faces any more, they are so sharp, so acid, so
domineering, but our Master is love itself. Blessed be his name, his
service is perfect freedom. We are never so happy and never so truly
helping ourselves as when we are completely serving him. For my part,
I can say of him that I love my Master, I love his service, I love
his house, I love his children, and I love everything about him; and
if he were going to discharge me at the end of this life, I would beg
him to let me live here for ever, for I could not bear to be
dismissed. It is one of my dearest hopes in going to heaven that he
will still employ me. Moreover, we are not like other servants, for
this reason — that we are one with our Master, his brethren, his
spouse, his body; and we are under such deep obligation to him that
it is unspeakable joy to work for him. If he gave us no wages it
would be wage enough to be allowed to wait upon him.
For why, oh blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the sake of winning heaven,
Or of escaping hell.
But because of your own sweetness, goodness, and dear love for me, ought I not to be yours for ever? Yes, yes; under some aspects you might feel that it was better to depart and be with Christ, but from other points of view you see differently, and check the wish, so that, like Paul, you are caught between the two, and you do not know which to choose. It is a great mercy that the choice does not lie with you, all things are settled for you. Thus you see there are facts which modify Job’s inference, and forbid our excessive longing to close life’s weary day.
27. I will tell you the devil’s inference. The devil’s inference is that if our time, warfare, and service are appointed, there is no need of care, and we may cast ourselves down from the pinnacle of the temple, or do any other rash thing, for we shall only work out our destiny. So the archenemy argues, although he knows better. How many men have drawn most damnable conclusions from most blessed truths; and these men know, when they are doing it, that their conclusions are absurd. “Oh,” they say, “we need not turn to Christ, for if we are ordained to eternal life we shall be saved.” Yes, sirs, but why will you eat at mealtime today? Why do you eat at all? for if you are to live you will live. Why go to bed tonight? If you are ordained to sleep you will sleep. Why will you take down your shop shutters tomorrow and exhibit your goods, and try to sell them? If you are predestinated to be rich you will be rich. Ah, I see, you will not act the thing out. You are not such fools as you look; you are more knaves than fools, and your excuse is a piece of deceit. If it is not so, why not act upon it in daily life? He has a false heart who dares to suck out of the blessed truth of predestination the detestable inference that he may sit still and do nothing. Why, sirs, nothing in the world more nerves me for work than the belief that God’s purposes have appointed me for this service. Being convinced that the eternal forces of immutable wisdom and unfailing power are behind me, I exert all my strength as becomes a “worker together with God.” The bravest men who ever lived, like Cromwell and his Ironsides, believed in God’s decrees, but they also kept their powder dry. They relied upon everlasting purposes, but also believed in human responsibility, and so must you and I. Your years are appointed, but do not commit lewdness or drink with the drunken or you will shorten your days. Your warfare is appointed, oh man, but do not go and play the fool, or your troubles will be multiplied. Your service is allotted to you, oh believer, but do not loiter, or you will grieve the Spirit of God and mar your work.
28. I will now give you the sick man’s inference — “Is there not an appointed time for men upon the earth? Are not his days also like the days of a hireling?” The sick man, therefore, concludes that his pains will not last for ever, and that every suffering is measured out by divine love. Truly disease is a bitter draught, but Jehovah Rophi often prescribes it as a medicine for spiritual disease. When the Lord knows that the appointed affliction has accomplished all his purpose he will either raise up the patient to walk among the sons of men again or else he will take him to his bosom in glory. Why, let him be patient, and his strength shall be in confidence and quietness.
29. Next comes the mourner’s inference — one which we do not always draw quite so readily as we should. It is this: “My child has died, but not too soon. My husband is gone; ah, God, what shall I do? Where shall my widowed heart find sympathy? Still he has been taken away at the right time. The Lord has done as it pleased him, and he has done wisely.” If you have not yet come to mourning over the dead, but every day have to sympathise with a living sufferer who is gradually melting away amidst wearisome pain and constant anguish, ask for grace to enable you to feel “It is good.” It is a grand triumph of grace when the heart is neither stoic, unsympathetic, nor rebellious; when you can grieve but not rebel in the grieving, mourn without murmuring, and sorrow without sinning. Pray for some who have this trial. Pray for those whom grace may perfect in their weakness.
30. Furthermore, let us draw the healthy man’s inference. Do you know what inference I have drawn from the sudden death of my friend? I thought — in a moment it struck me — “Ah, if I had died last Saturday afternoon instead of Mr. Henry Olney, should I have left all the concerns that I have in hand quite in order?” I have no end of business — a great deal too much; and I resolved “I will get all square and trim as if I were departing, for perhaps I am.” Dear brother, I want you to feel the same. You are a healthy man, but be prepared to die. Have your will made and your accounts squared, and fit for your successor to take up. What you are doing do quickly! Have your will made, and if you are wealthy do not forget the Lord’s work. Mr. Whitfield used to say, “I could not sleep at night if I had left my gloves out of their place, for,” he said, “I would leave everything in order.” Trim the ship, brother, for you do not know what weather is coming. Clear the decks for action, for no one knows when the last enemy will be in sight. Your best friend is coming, make ready for his entertainment. Be as a bride adorned for her husband, and not as a slovenly person who would be ashamed to be seen.
31. Lastly, there is the sinner’s inference. “My time, my warfare, and my service are appointed, but what have I done in them? I have waged a warfare against God, and have served in the pay of the devil, what will the end be?” Sinner, you will run your length, you will fulfil your day to your black master; you will fight his battle and earn your pay, but what will the wages be? The end comes, and the wages are paid, are you ready to reap what you have sown? Having taken sides with the devil against yourself and against your God, are you prepared for the result? Consider it, I implore you, and beseech the Lord, through Jesus Christ, to give you grace to escape from your present position and enlist on the side of Christ.
I ask you, sirs, who are sitting in this gallery here, and who have
not believed in Jesus, and you men and women all over this building
who are unregenerate, if instead of the decease of the brother who
has fallen I had to speak of your death, where must you have been? We
are not among those who would have read a hypocritical service over
you and thanked God that you were taken if you died in sin. We would
not have insulted the Most High by saying that we ourselves hoped to
die in that way. We dare not have blasphemed the Majesty of heaven
so. You know we should have laid you into the grave very silently,
with many a tear more salty than usual, because deep down in our
spirit there would have been that dreary thought, “He died
impenitent. He died unregenerate. He is lost! He is lost!” Do not
weep for our brother, taken in his prime, whose children mourn him!
Do not weep for him, though his sorrowing wife bends over his corpse,
and cannot persuade herself that his spirit is gone! Do not weep for
him, but weep for those who have died and are lost for ever, driven
from the presence of God! In their eternal warfare there will be no
discharge, and in their dreadful slavery there will be no end, for
there is no appointed time for man when he once leaves this earth.
Time is over, and the angel who puts one foot upon the sea, and
another upon the land, swears by the Eternal that time shall be no
more, and so the condition of the lost spirit is finally settled,
settled for ever. Beware, therefore, and be wise, for Christ’s sake
and your own. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Job 7]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 90” 90]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Aspirations for Heaven — ‘Present With The Lord’ ” 851]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Resurrection — ‘I Know That My Redeemer Liveth’ ” 839]
Spirit of the Psalms
1 Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home!
2 Under the shadow of thy throne
Thy saints have dwelt secure;
Sufficient is thine arm alone,
And our defence is sure.
3 Before the hills in order stood,
Or earth received her frame,
From everlasting thou art God,
To endless years the same.
4 A thousand ages in thy sight
Are like an evening gone;
Short as the watch that ends the night
Before the rising sun.
5 Time, like an ever-rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.
6 Like flowery fields the nations stand,
Pleased with the morning light:
The flowers beneath the mower’s hand
Lie withering ere ‘tis night.
7 Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come;
Be thou our guard while troubles last,
And our eternal home!
Isaac Watts, 1719.
The Christian, Aspirations for Heaven
851 — “Present With The Lord”
1 There is a house not made with hands,
Eternal and on high,
And here my spirit waiting stands
Till God shall bid it fly.
2 Shortly this prison of my clay
Must be dissolved and fall:
Then, oh my soul! with joy obey
Thy heavenly Father’s call.
3 ‘Tis he, by his almighty grace,
That forms thee fit for heaven,
And, as an earnest of the place,
Has his own Spirit given.
4 We walk by faith of joys to come,
Faith lives upon his word:
But while the body is our home,
We’re absent from the Lord.
5 ‘Tis pleasant to believe thy grace,
But we had rather see;
We would be absent from the flesh,
And present, Lord, with thee.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Resurrection
839 — “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”
1 I know that my Redeemer lives:
This thought transporting pleasure gives,
And standing, at the latter day,
On earth, his glories will display.
2 And though this goodly mortal frame
Sink to the dust, from whence it came;
Though buried in the silent tomb,
Worms shall my skin and flesh consume;
3 Yet on that happy rising morn,
New life this body shall adorn;
These active powers refined shall be,
And God, my Saviour, I shall see.
4 Though perish’d all my cold remains,
Though all consumed my heart and reins
Yet for myself, my wondering eyes
God shall behold, with glad surprise.
John Williams, 1801.