A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *5/1/2012
Surely it is fitting to be said to God, “I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: teach me what I do not see: if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.” [Job 34:31,32]
1. Even when addressing our fellow men there should be a fitness about our speech; therefore Solomon represents the preacher as seeking out acceptable words, or words suitable for the occasion. When we approach those who are high in authority this necessity becomes obvious, and therefore men who are petitioners in the courts of princes are very careful to order their language properly. Much more, then, when we speak before the Lord we ought to consider, as the text does, the propriety of our words. Some language must never be uttered in the divine presence, and even what is allowed must be well weighed, and spoken with solemn humbleness. Hence Elihu does well to suggest in the text language that is “fitting to be said to God.” May our lips ever be kept as by a watchful sentinel, lest they permit anything to pass through them that is dishonourable to the Most High. In the divine presence — and we are always there — it is incumbent upon us to set a double watch over every word that comes from our mouth.
2. Remember that thought is speech before God. Thought is not speech to man, for men cannot read one another’s thoughts until they are expressed in words or other outward signs, but God who reads the heart regards that as being speech which was never spoken, and he hears us say in our souls many things which were never uttered by our tongues. Beloved, there are thoughts which are not fit to be thought before the Lord; and it is well for us, especially those of us who are afflicted, to be very watchful over those thoughts, lest the Lord hear us say in our hearts things which will grieve his Spirit, and provoke him to jealousy. Oh saints of God, since you never think except in the immediate presence of your heavenly Father, make a conscience of your every thought, lest you sin in the secret chambers of your being, and charge God foolishly. Elihu tells us what it would be proper for us to think and say, “It is fitting to be said to God, ‘I have borne chastisement, I will not offend any more: teach me what I do not see: if I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.’ ”
3. We will use the text mainly at this time in reference to those who are being chastened; and afterwards we shall see if there is not teaching in it, even to those who, at present, are not smarting under the rod. Thirdly, we shall find a word in our text for those who are not the children of God, and, therefore, know nothing about the smarting rod of fatherly correction. Perhaps to them, also, God may speak through this text. Oh that his Holy Spirit may condescend to do so.
4. I. But first, dear friends, let us commune together upon the text in its more natural application as addressed TO THE AFFLICTED. The instruction of the wise man is especially for them, and there are three duties here prescribed for them, or rather three privileges suggested, which they should pray the Holy Spirit to enable them to enjoy.
5. The first lesson is, it is fitting for them to accept the affliction which the Lord sends, and to say to God, “I have borne chastisement.” We notice that the word “chastisement” is not actually in the Hebrew, though the Hebrew could not be well interpreted without supplying the word. It might exactly and literally be translated “I bear,” or “I have borne.” It is the softened heart saying to God, “I bear whatever you will put upon me; I have borne it, I still bear it, and I will bear it, whatever you may ordain it to be. I submit myself entirely to you, and accept the load with which you are pleased to weight me.” Now, we ought to do this, dear friends, and we shall do it if we are right at heart. We should cheerfully submit, because no affliction from which we suffer has come to us by chance. We are not left to the misery of believing that things happen by themselves, and are independent of a divinely controlling power. We know that not a drop of bitter ever falls into our cup unless the wisdom of our heavenly Father has placed it there. We are not even left in a world governed by angels, or ruled by cherubim; we dwell where everything is ordered by God himself. Shall we rebel against the Most High? Shall we not let him do as seems good in his sight? Shall we not cover our lip in silence when we know that the evil is from the Lord? Shame upon us, if we are his children, if this is not the prevalent spirit of our mind — “It is the Lord, let him do what seems good to him.” Moreover, we should not only bear all things because the Lord ordains them, but because he orders all things for a wise, kind, beneficial purpose. He does not afflict willingly. He takes no delight in the sufferings of his children. Whenever adversity must come it is always with a purpose; and, if a purpose of God is to be served by my suffering, would I wish to escape from it? If his glory will come from it, shall I not even crave the honour of being the agent of his glory, even though it is by lying passive and enduring in anguish? Yes, beloved, since we know that God can only grieve his regenerated creatures for some purpose of love, we should willingly accept whatever sorrow he pleases to place upon us. And we have his assurance, besides, that all things work together for our good. Our trials are not merely sent for a good reason, but for an outcome good for ourselves, an intention which is being answered by every twig of our heavenly Father’s rod. “The cup which our Father has given to us, shall we not drink it?” It is healing medicine and not deadly poison, therefore let us put it to our lips without a murmur, indeed, quaff it to its very dregs, and say, “Not as I will, but as you will.”
6. A constant submission to the divine will should be the very atmosphere in which a Christian lives. He should put an earnest negative upon his self-will by crying, “Not my will,” and then he should with holy warmth beseech the Lord to execute his purpose, saying, “May the will of the Lord be done.” He should throw the whole vigour of his soul into the Lord’s will, and exhibit more than submission, namely, a devout acquiescence in whatever the Lord appoints.
7. Beloved friends, we must not be content with bearing what the Lord sends, with the coolness which says, “It must be, and, therefore, I must put up with it.” Such forced submission is far below a Christian grace, for many a heathen has attained it. The stolid stoic accepted what predestination handed out to him, and the Mohammedan still does the same. We must go beyond unfeeling submission. We must not so harden our hearts against affliction as not to be affected by it. That chastisement which does not make us smart has failed in its purpose. It is by the blueness of the wound, says Solomon, that the heart is made better; and if there is no real blueness — if it is merely a surface bruise — little good will come of it. “For a season we are in heaviness,” says the apostle, “through various trials,” and not only the trial, but the heaviness which comes from it, is necessary for us. God would not have his children become like the ox or the donkey, which present hard skins to hard blows, but he would have us tender and sensitive. There is such a thing as despising the chastening of the Lord, by a defiant attitude which seems to challenge the Lord to draw a tear or a sigh from us. Let us be on our guard against this.
8. Neither, on the other hand, are we to receive affliction with a rebellious spirit. It is hard for us to kick against the pricks, like the ox which, when goaded, is irritated, and strikes out and drives the iron into itself deeper than it went before. We can easily do this by complaining that God is too severe with us. In this spirit we may “take up arms against a sea of troubles”; but by opposing we shall not end them, but increase their raging. By a proud murmuring spirit we only bring upon ourselves trial upon trial; “the Lord resists the proud,” and a high spirit challenges his opposition.
9. Neither, dear friends, as believers in God, are we to despair under trouble, for that is not bearing the cross, but lying down under it. We are to take up our appointed burden, and carry it, and not sit down in wicked sullenness, and murmur that we can do it no more. Some are in a very naughty frame of mind, their moody spirits mutter that if God will be so severe with them they must yield to it, but they have lost all heart, and all faith, and all they ask for is permission to die. A child of God must not repine. He has not yet “resisted to blood, striving against sin”; and, if he had, still he should say, “Though he kills me yet I will trust in him.” Since Jesus, the man of sorrows, never murmured, it ill becomes any of his followers to do so. We must in patience possess our souls. Perhaps you think it is easier for me to say this than it would be to practise it; and yet, by Almighty grace, a saint can bear to the utmost of bearing, to the utmost of suffering he can suffer, to the utmost of loss he can lose, and even to the uttermost of death itself he can die daily, and yet triumph through the divine life, for God, who works in us to will and to do, is almighty, and makes our weakness strong.
10. The Christian, then, is not to treat the cross which God puts upon him in any such way as I have described, but he is to accept it humbly, looking up to God, and saying, “I might deserve to receive much worse than this even as your child; for the discipline of your house requires the rod, and well might I expect to be chastened every morning.” The child of God should feel that it is in very faithfulness that the Lord afflicts him, and that every stroke has love in it. Anything over and above the lowest abyss of hell is a great mercy to us. If we had to be sick for fifty years and scarcely have a minute free from pain, yet since the Lord has pardoned our sins, and accepted us in Christ Jesus, and made us his children, we should be grateful for every pang, and still continue to bless the Lord upon our beds, and sing his high praises in the midst of the fires. Humbly, therefore, as sinners deserving divine wrath, we are bound to accept the chastenings of the Lord.
11. We should receive chastisement with meek submission, presenting ourselves to God so that he may do with us still as he has dealt with us — not wishing to turn aside to the right hand or to the left: asking him, if it may be his will to remove the load, to heal the pain, to deliver us from the bereavement, and the like, but still always leaving ample margin for full resignation of spirit. The gold is not to rebel against the goldsmith, but should at once yield to be placed in the crucible and thrust into the fire. The wheat as it lies upon the threshing floor is not to have a will of its own, but to be willing to endure the strokes of the flail so that the chaff may be separated from the precious grain. We are not far off being purged from dross and cleansed from chaff when we are perfectly willing to undergo any process which the divine wisdom may appoint to us. Self and sin are married, and will never be divorced, and until our self-hood is crushed the seed of sin will still have abundant vitality in it; but when it is “not I” but “Christ who lives in me,” then we have come near to that mark to which God has called us, and to which, by his Spirit, he is leading us.
12. But we ought to go further than this. We should accept chastisement cheerfully. It is a hard lesson, but a lesson which the Comforter is able to teach us — to be glad that God should have his way. Do you know what it is sometimes to be very pleased to do what you do not like to do? I mean you would not have liked to do it, but you find that it pleases someone you love, and immediately the irksome task becomes a pleasure. Have you not felt, sometimes, when one whom you very much esteem is sick and ill, that you would be glad enough to bear the pain, at least for a day or two, so that you might give the suffering one a little rest? Would you not find a pleasure in being an invalid for a while to let your beloved one enjoy a time of health? Let the same motive, in a higher degree, sway your spirit! Try to feel, “If it pleases God it pleases me. If, Lord, it is your will, it shall be my will. Let the lashes of the scourge be multiplied, if it brings you more honour, and I shall be permitted to bring you some degree of glory.” The cross becomes sweet when our health is so sweetened by the Spirit that our will runs parallel with the will of God. We should learn to say, in the language of Elihu “I have borne, I do bear, I accept it all.” To be as soft clay on the potter’s wheel, or as wax in the modeller’s hand, should be our great desire. That is the first business of the sufferer.
13. The next duty is to forsake the sin which may have occasioned the chastisement. “It is fitting to be said to God, I have borne chastisement; I will not offend any more.” There is a connection between sin and suffering in every case. It would be very wrong for us to suppose that every man who suffers is therefore more guilty than others: that was the mistake of Job’s friends — a mistake too commonly made every day: but it is right for the sufferer himself to judge his own case, by a standard which we may not use towards him. He should say, “Is there not some connection between this chastisement and sin that dwells in me?” And here he must not judge himself unrighteously, even for God, lest he plunge himself into unnecessary sorrow. There are afflictions which come from God, not on account of past sin, but to prevent sin in the future. There are also sharp prunings which are intended to make us produce more fruit: they are not sent because we have produced no fruit, but because we are fruitful boughs, and are worth pruning. “Every branch in me that bears fruit he purges it, so that it may produce more fruit.” There are also afflictions which are sent by way of test, and trial, and proof, both for God’s glory and for the display of his power; as also for the comforting of others, so that trembling saints may see how weak and feeble men can carry the heaviest cross for Christ’s sake, and can triumph under it. We are not to be sure that every sorrow comes to us because of any sin actually committed; yet it will be best for us to be more severe with ourselves than we should think of being with others, and always to ask, “Is there not some reason for this chastisement? May there not be something of which God would rid me, or something which has grieved him which has caused him to grieve me?” Brothers and sisters, I charge you never be lenient with yourselves. The best of us are men at the best, and at our best we have much to mourn over in the presence of the Most High. It is good to be always dissatisfied with ourselves, and pressing forward to something yet beyond; always praying that in us Christ’s likeness may be completely formed. Thorns are often put in the nest so that we may search for hidden evils. “Are the consolations of God been few for you? Is there any secret thing with you?” Has there been a defeat at Ai? May there not be an Achan in the camp? Has not a traitor concealed in some secret place a goodly Babylonian garment and a wedge of gold? Does not the trial give a hint that there may be something amiss? Beloved, I ask myself and I ask you to look now, not only at your outward character, but at your more private life and to your walk before God, and see if there is not some flaw. Is there trouble in the family? Have you always acted towards the children and the servants as you should have done as a master and a father? Question yourself. The child is grieving you. Have you, good mother, always been as prayerful about that child as you should have been? May not your child’s conduct to you be a fair reflection of your own conduct towards your heavenly Father? I do not mention any of these things to increase your grief, but in order that you may put your finger on the evil which provokes the Lord God, and may put it away. Have there been losses in business? Are you sure, brother, that when you were making money you always used it for God as you should? Were you a good steward? Did you give the Lord his full portion — the sacred tithe of all that you had? Or may you not have been too selfish — and may that not be the reason why you must now be reduced from wealth to comparative poverty? Is that so? Does the affliction scourge your body? Then has there been anything wrong with your habits? Has the flesh predominated over the spirit? Has there been a failure of the entire consecration of the vessel to the Lord? Does the trial occur in the person of some dear one? You may not be conscious of any wrong there, but still look, dear friends! Search your entire conduct as the spies searched Canaan of old. If your sin is glaring, there is little need of a chastisement to point it out to you, for you ought to see it without that: but there may be a secret sin between you and your Lord for which he has sent you chastisement, and after this you must raise a hue and cry. You know I do not mean that the Lord is punishing you for sin as a judge punishes a criminal, for he will not do that; since he has laid the punishment of sin upon Christ, and Christ has borne it as a matter of punitive justice. He, as a father, chastens his child, but never without a cause. I am urging you to see whether there may not be some cause for the present painful discipline. Never fall into the mistake of some who suppose that sin in God’s children is a trifle. Why, if there is any place where sin is horrible it is in a child of God’s. Hence the text puts it, “I will not offend any more.” Sin is an offensive thing to God, he cannot bear it. I should dislike a plague spot on anyone’s face, but I should tremble to see it most of all upon my own child’s face. Sin is more visible in a good man than in any other. I may drop a spot of ink upon a black handkerchief and never see it, but on a white one you will see it instantly, and see it all the more because of the whiteness of the linen which it defiles. You, child of God, know that just in proportion as you are sanctified — in proportion as you live near to God — sin will be grievous to the Most High. It is gloriously terrible to live near to God. I wonder if all of you understand me. To walk as a favoured courtier with a monarch is a very delicate matter. Favourites have to pick their steps; for although they stand near a king, they very well know how soon they may fall from their high position. We serve a jealous God. That is a wonderful question, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” God is that consuming fire. God is the everlasting burnings. Who among us shall dwell with him? The answer is, “He who has clean hands and a pure heart, he shall dwell on high. His place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks”: but it is only the man who is very jealous of himself who will be able to bear that fierce light which blazes around the throne of God — that devouring flame which God himself is, as says the apostle — “Even our God is a consuming fire.” Caesar’s wife must not only be without fault, but she must be above suspicion, and such must be the character of the child of God who, like Moses, lives in the inner circle — who stands on the mountain top — who knows what the peaks of Sinai mean, and what it is to be forty days in fellowship with the Most High.
14. Beloved friends, I urge upon you a very thorough search into what the transgression may be which has brought correction upon you, for it may be in you an offence which would scarcely be sin in anyone else. Another person might fall into your fault as a sin of ignorance but since you know better the sin is all the blacker in you. The Lord will be sanctified in those who draw near to him, and woe to them if they defile themselves.
15. The third lesson in the text to the afflicted clearly teaches them that it is their duty and privilege to ask for more light. The text says, “Teach me what I do not see. If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.” Do you see the reason for this? It is the awakened child of God who is to look after the sin which the chastisement indicates, and since he cannot see all the evil that may be in himself, he turns to his God with this prayer, “Teach me what I do not see.”
16. Beloved friends, it may be that, in looking over your past life and searching through your heart, you do not see your sin, for perhaps it is in the place where you do not suspect. You have been looking in another place. Your own opinion is that you are weak in one point, but possibly you are far weaker in the opposite direction. In nothing do men make more mistakes than concerning their own characters. I have known a brother to confess that he was deficient in firmness, when, in my opinion, he was about as obstinate as any man I knew. Another man has said that he was always lacking in coolness, and yet I thought that if I needed to fill an ice well, [a] I had only to put him into it. People misjudge themselves. Unfeeling people say they are too sensitive, and selfish people imagine themselves to be victims to the good of others. So, it may be, you have been looking in one quarter for the sin, while your fault lies in the opposite point of the compass. Pray, then, “Lord, search me and try me, and teach me what I do not see.” Remember, brethren, that our worst sins may lurk under our holiest things. Oh, how these evils will hide away — not under the burdocks and nettles of the dung heap — not they, but under the lilies and the roses of the garden. They lurk in the cups of the flowers. They do not flit through our souls like demons with dragons’ wings; they fly as angels of light, with wings tinted as the rainbow. They come as sheep, and they seem to be a very fat kind, but they are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Watch, therefore, very carefully against the sins of your holy things. In our holy things we are nearer to God than at any other time, and hence such defilement brings upon us the stroke of our heavenly Father’s rod sooner. Perhaps your sin is hidden away under something very dear to you. Jacob made a great search for the images — the teraphim which Laban worshipped. He could not find them. No; he did not like to disturb Rachel, and Laban did not like to disturb her either — a favourite wife and daughter must not be inconvenienced. She may sit still on the camel’s saddle, but she hides the images there. Even thus you do not like to search in a certain quarter of your nature; it is a very tender subject — something you feel very grieved about when anyone even hints at it: it is just there that the sin is harboured. My brothers and sisters, let us be honest with the Lord. Let us really wish to know where we are wrong, and heartily long to be set right. Do you think we all honestly want to know our errors? Are there not chapters of the Bible which we do not like to read? If there are — if any text has a quarrel with you, quarrel with yourself; but yield wholly to the word of God. Is there any doctrine which you almost think is a truth, but your friends do not believe it, and they might, perhaps, think you heretical if you were to accept it, and therefore you dare not investigate any further? Oh, dear friends, let us be rid of all such dishonesty. So much of it has gotten into the church that many will not see things that are as plain as a pitchfork. They will not see, for truth might cost them too dearly. They cover up and hide away some parts of Scripture which it might be awkward for them to understand, because of their connection with a church, or their standing in a certain circle. This is hateful, and we need not wonder if God strikes the man who allows himself to be in it. Be true, brother! You cannot deceive God. Do not try it. Ask him to search you through and through. Let your desire be, “Refining fire go through my heart with a mighty flame that shall devour everything like a lie, everything that is unholy, selfish, earthly, so that I may be fully consecrated to the Lord my God.” This is the right way in which to treat our chastisements. “If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more. Teach me what I do not see.”
17. “Alas,” someone says, “we cannot say that we will do it no more iniquity.” Yes, we can say it a great deal more easily than we can practise it, and therefore it is a pity to say it except in the evangelical spirit, leaning entirely on the divine strength. He who says, “I will do iniquity no more” has perpetrated iniquity then and there if he has vowed in his own strength, for he has exalted himself into the place of God by self-confidence. Yet we must feel in our innermost hearts that we desire to depart from all iniquities. There must be an earnest and hearty intent that, as Paul shook off the viper into the fire, so will we, as God helps us, shake off the sin, whatever it may be, which brings us the trial, or that causes the Lord to take away the light of his countenance from us. Oh, how earnestly I would urge my dear tried brothers and sisters to seek after this excellent fruit of affliction. May it come to every one of us according as the affliction comes, so that we may never miss the sweet fruit of this bitter tree. May God bless you who are tried, and support you under your griefs; but, above all, may he sanctify you through tribulation, for that is the main point, and it little matters how sharp the flames are if you are purified by the fire.
18. II. And now, briefly, I am going to use the text for THOSE OF US WHO MAY NOT HAVE BEEN AFFLICTED. What does the text say to us if we are not afflicted? Does it not say this — “If the afflicted man is to say ‘I bear,’ and to take up his yoke cheerfully, how cheerfully ought you and I to take up the daily yoke of our Christian labour?”
19. Brother, sister, do you ever grow weary? Does the Sunday School tax you too much? Is that Bible class becoming somewhat of a heaviness? That house to house visitation — has it become a drudgery? That distribution of tracts — is there a great sameness and tedium about it? Now look, my brother, look at that dear saint of God who has been upon his bed for months until the feathers have grown hard beneath him. He tosses from side to side but finds no ease — no sleep at night, no respite by day. Would you like to change places with him? Yet hear how he praises God amidst his many pains, and abundant weaknesses, and poverty. Do you prefer your lot to his? Well, then, in the name of everything that is good, accept your portion with joy, and throw your soul into the Lord’s service. The great Captain might say to you, “What! tired of marching! I will send you back to the trenches, and let you lie there until you feel sick at heart of your inactivity. What! weary of fighting! You shall be put into the hospital with broken bones and made to lie there and pine, and see what you think of enforced inactivity.” If I have any message to give from my own bed of sickness it would be this — if you do not wish to be full of regrets when you are obliged to lie still, work while you can. If you desire to make a sickbed as soft as it can be, do not stuff it with the mournful reflection that you wasted time while you were in health and strength. People said to me years ago, “You will break your constitution down with preaching ten times a week,” and the like. Well, if I have done so, I am glad of it. I would do the same again. If I had fifty constitutions I would rejoice to break them down in the service of the Lord Jesus Christ. You young men who are strong, overcome the wicked one and fight for the Lord while you can. You will never regret having done all that lies in you for our blessed Lord and Master. Crowd as much as you can into every day, and postpone no work until tomorrow. “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”
20. We have yet another remark for those who are strong. Should the favours of God not lead us to search out our sins? Chastisement acts like a black finger to point out our failures: ought not the love of God to do the same with its hand glittering with jewels? Lord, do you give me good health? Lord, do you spare my wife and my children to me? Do you give me wealth enough and to spare? Then, Lord, is there anything about me that might grieve you? Do I harbour anything in my soul that might vex your Spirit? Let your love guide me so that I may escape from these evils. It is a sweet text — “I will guide you with my eye. Do not be as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near to you.” Your child only needs a glance of the eye, and he runs to you; but your horse and mule will not do that, you must put a bit into their mouths, and some of them must have very hard bits, and their mouths must be made very tender before they can be guided. You are men, do not be as the beasts are. Yet some of God’s own children are very brutish. They will not obey his words, and so their God has to give them blows, for he will have his children obey him: if they will be drawn with cords of love so they shall be, but if they will not, they shall be driven with the rod. If you make yourselves like horses and mules he will treat you like horses and mules, or you will have reason to think so; perhaps the best way to prevent you from becoming altogether mulish is to treat you as if you were a mule, and so drive you out of it, by letting you see the effect of your folly. Let our mercies act as a sweet medicine, and then we shall not need bitter potions.
21. Once again, do you not think that while enjoying God’s mercy we should be anxious to be searched by the light of the love of God? Should we not wish to use the light of the divine countenance so that we may discover all our sin and overcome it? I know some Christians who will not come to this point. They have an ugly temper, and they say, “Well, you know, that is constitutional.” Away for ever with such wicked self-excusing. It is idle to say, “I cannot help it, it is my temperament.” Your temperament will destroy you, as surely as you live, if the grace of God does not destroy your temperament. If such excuses were permitted there is no crime, however abominable, for which temperament might not be pleaded. Thieves, prostitutes, drunkards, murderers might all use this justification, for they all have their evil temperaments. Do you find in the law that any sin is excused upon the basis that it is “constitutional?” Do you find anything in the example of Christ, or in the precepts of the gospel, to justify a man in saying, “I must be treated with indulgence, for my nature is so inclined to a certain sin that I cannot help yielding to it?” My brother, you must not talk such nonsense. Your first business is to conquer the sin you love best; against it all your efforts, and all the grace you can get must be levelled. Jericho must be first besieged, for it is the strongest fort of the enemy, and until it is taken nothing can be done. I have generally noticed in conversion that the most complete change takes place in that very point in which the man was constitutionally most weak. God’s strength is made perfect in our weakness. “Well,” one cries, “suppose I have a besetting sin, how can I help it?” I reply, if I knew that four fellows were going to mug me tonight on Clapham Common, I would take with me sufficient policemen to lock the fellows up. When a man knows that he has a besetting sin it is not for him to say, “It is a besetting sin and I cannot help it,” he must, on the other hand, call for heavenly assistance against these besetments. If you have besetting sins, and you know it, fight with them, and overcome them by the blood of the Lamb. By faith in Jesus Christ, besetting sins go to be led captive, and they must be led captive, for the child of God must overcome even to the end. He is to be more than a conqueror through him who has loved him. Let the love of God, then, lead you to search yourselves and say, “Teach me what I do not see. If I have done iniquity, I will do it no more.”
22. III. The last remark I have to make is to THE UNCONVERTED.
Perhaps there are some here who are not the people of God, and yet
they are very happy and prosperous. They have all that heart can wish
for, and as they hear me talk about God’s children being chastened,
they say, “I do not want to be one of them, if such is their
portion.” You would rather be what you are, would you? “Yes,” you
say. Listen! We will suppose that we have before us a prince of the
blood who will one day be a king. He has been doing something wrong,
and his father has chastened him with the rod. There stands the young
prince with the tears running down his cheeks; and over there is a
street urchin, who has no father that he knows of — certainly no one
who ever chastened him for his good. He may do what he likes — use any
kind of language — steal, lie, swear, if he likes, and no one will
chasten him. He stands on his head, or turns cartwheels in the
streets, or rolls in the dirt, but no father ever holds a rod over
him. He sees this little prince crying, and he laughs at him, “You do
not have the liberty I do. You are not allowed to stand on your head
as I do. Your father would not let you beg for coppers by the side of
the buses as I do. You do not sleep under a bridge all night as I do.
I would not be you to catch that thrashing! I would sooner be a
street boy than a prince!” Your little prince very soon wipes his
eyes, and answers, “Get along with you. Why, I would rather be
chastened every day and be a prince and heir to a kingdom, than I
would be you with all your fine liberty!” He looks down upon the
ragged urchin with the greatest conceivable pity, even though he
himself is smarting from the rod. Now, sinners, that is just what we
think of you and your freedom from heavenly discipline. When you are
merriest and happiest, and in the fullest of your joy, we would not
trade places with you for all the world; when you have been
electrified by that splendid spectacle at the theatre, or have
enjoyed yourself so much in a licentious dance, or, perhaps, in
something worse, we would not be as you are. Take us at our
worst — when we are most sick, most desponding, most tried, most
penitent before God, we would not change places with you at your
best. Would we change places with you, for all your mirth and sinful
hilarity? No, that we would not! Ask the old woman in the
wintertime, who has only a couple of sticks to make a fire with, and
has nothing to live upon except what the tender mercy of the parish
allows her, ask her if she would change places with the rich man in
his purple and fine linen. Look at her. She puts on an old red cloak
to shelter her poor limbs, which are as full of rheumatism as they
can be; the cupboard is bare, her poor husband lies in the
churchyard, and she has not a child to come and see her. Ah, there
she is. You say, “She is a miserable object.” Here is the young
squire in his top boots, coming home from the hunt. He is standing in
front of her. He might say to her, with all his large possessions and
broad acres, “You would change places with me, mother, would you
not?” She knows his character, and she knows that he has no love for
God, and no union to Christ, and therefore she replies, “Change
places with you? no, that I would not, for a thousand worlds.”
Go you that boast of all your stores,
And tell how bright they shine;
Your heaps of glittering dust are yours,
But my Redeemer’s mine.
24. I still have another word for you who do not fear God. I wish you would reflect for a moment what will become of you one of these days. God loves his dear children very much: he loves them so much that Jesus died to save them, and yet he does not spare them when they sin, but he chastens them with the rod of men. Now, if he does so with his children, what will he do with you who are his enemies? If judgment begins at the house of God — if when his anger only gently smokes it is so hot — what will it be when the winds of justice fan it to a furious flame? As when the fire sets the forests of the mountains burning, or as when the vast prairie becomes one sheet of fire, so shall it be in that dread day when God shall launch out all his vengeance against the sins of the ungodly. I beseech you, think of this. He did not spare his own Son, but put him to a cruel death upon the tree for the sins of others: do you think he will spare his enemies who have rebelled against him, and rejected his mercy, when he visits them for their own personal sins? “Beware, you who forget God, lest he tear you in pieces, and there is no one to deliver you.”
Only one more thought, for I must not send you away with that
terrible warning and no gospel encouragement. Learn a lesson from the
Lord’s children. When his children are chastened they submit, and
when they submit they obtain peace. Sinner, I urge you to learn
wisdom; and if you have been recently troubled, if you have had
trials from God, yield to him, yield to him. Old Master Quarles gives
a quaint picture of a man who is striking at an enemy with a flail.
The person assaulted runs right into the striker’s arms, and so
escapes the force of the stroke, and Quarles adds the remark, “The
farther off the heavier the blow.” Sinner, run in, run into God’s
bosom tonight. Say “I will arise and go to my Father.” God will not
strike you if you come there. How can he? The Lord says, “Let him
take hold of my strength.” When that arm is lifted to scourge you,
lay hold of it. Lay hold upon that arm of strength as it is revealed
in Jesus Christ, for in him God has made bare his holy arm in the
eyes of all the people. Hang on the arm that otherwise might strike
you. Trust in the Lord, sinner, through Jesus Christ, the atoning
sacrifice, and you shall find peace with him. Ask him with humble
submission to put away the sin that has made you suffer, and has
nearly cost you your soul. Ask him to search you, and find out the
sin. Repent and believe the gospel. Forsake evil and cling to the
Saviour, the great Physician who heals the disease of sin, and you
shall live. Come now to your Father’s home. Those rags, that hungry
belly, those swine and filthy troughs, those citizens who would not
help you, that blandest of all citizens whose only kindness lay in
degrading you lower than you were before — all these are sent to bring
you home. Believe it, soul, and say, “I will arise and go to my
Father, and will say to him, ‘Father I have sinned’ ”; and while you
are still saying it you shall have the kiss of his love, the embraces
of his affection, the robe of his righteousness, and the fatted calf
of spiritual food, and there shall be merriment concerning you, both
on earth and in heaven. May the Lord bless you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Job 34]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 91” 91]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Patience and Resignation — ‘My Times Are In Thy Hand’ ” 701]
[a] Ice well: A cold storage pit containing a solid cake of ice built up during freezing weather.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 91 (Song 1)
1 He that hath made his refuge God
Shall find a most secure abode,
Shall walk all day beneath his shade,
And there at night shall rest his head.
2 Then will I say, “My God, thy power
Shall be my fortress and my tower:
I, that am form’d of feeble dust,
Make thine almighty arm my trust.”
3 Thrice happy man! thy Maker’s care
Shall keep thee from the fowler’s snare;
Satan, the fowler, who betrays
Unguarded souls a thousand ways.
4 Just as a hen protects her brood,
From birds of prey that seek their blood,
Under her feathers, so the Lord
Makes His own arm his people’s guard.
5 If vapours, with malignant breath,
Rise thick, and scatter midnight death,
Israel is safe; the poison’d air
Grows pure, if Isael’s God be there.
6 What though a thousand at thy side,
At thy right hand, ten thousand died,
Thy God his chosen people saves
Amongst the dead, amidst the graves.
7 But if the fire, or plague, or sword,
Receive commission from the Lord
To strike his saints among the rest,
Their very pains and deaths are blest.
8 The sword, the pestilence, or fire,
Shall but fulfil their best desire;
From sins and sorrows set them free,
And bring thy children, Lord, to thee.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 91 (Song 2)
1 There is a safe and secret place,
Beneath the wings divine,
Reserved for all the heirs of grace,
Oh, be that refuge mine!
2 The least, the feeblest there may hide
Uninjured and unawed;
While thousands fall on every side,
He rests secure in God.
3 The angels watch him on his way,
And aid with friendly arm;
And Satan, roaring for his prey,
May hate, but cannot harm.
4 He feeds in pastures large and fair,
Of love and truth divine,
Oh child of God, oh Glory’s heir,
How rich a lot is thine!
5 A hand almighty to defend,
An ear for every call,
An honour’d life, a peaceful end,
And heaven to crown it all!
Henry Francis Lyte, 1834.
Psalm 91 (Song 3)
1 Ye sons of men, a feeble race,
Exposed to every snare,
Come make the Lord your dwelling place
And try, and trust his care.
2 He’ll give his angels charge to keep
Your feet in all their ways;
To watch your pillow while you sleep,
And guard your happy days.
3 “Because on me they set their love,
I’ll save them,” saith the Lord;
“I’ll bear their joyful souls above
Destruction and the sword.
4 “My grace shall answer when they call;
In trouble I’ll be nigh;
My power shall help them when they fall,
And raise them when they die.
5 “Those that on earth my name have known
I’ll honour them in heaven:
There my salvation shall be shown,
And endless life be given.”
Isaac Watts, 1719.
The Christian, Patience and Resignation
701 — “My Times Are In Thy Hand”
1 Our times are in thy hand,
Father, we wish them there:
Our life, our soul, our all, we leave
Entirely to thy care.
2 Our times are in thy hand,
Whatever they may be,
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to thee.
3 Our times are in thy hand,
Why should we doubt or fear?
A Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.
4 Our times are in thy hand,
Jesus the Crucified!
The hand our many sins had pierced
Is now our guard and guide.
5 Our times are in thy hand,
We’ll always trust in thee;
Till we have left this weary land,
And all thy glory see.
William Freeman Lloyd, 1835, a.