A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, March 9, 1876, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *6/6/2012
I will bring the blind by a way that they did not know: I will lead
them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light
before them, and crooked things straight. I will do these things for
them, and not forsake them. [Isa 42:16]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 847, “Joyful Transformations” 838]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1310, “Blind Befriended, The” 1301]
Exposition on Isa 42:1-17 43:18-25 Ro 10:1-19 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3441, “God’s Memorial of His People” 3443 @@ "Exposition"]
1. This promise is not made to every blind man, or to all kinds of blind people, for there are some blind people whom God does not lead. There is only a particular kind of blind people to whom this promise is given, that he will guide them and not forsake them. If you go outside the Tabernacle, take the first turn on the left, and walk down what is called the St. George’s Road until you come to the end, you may see asylums built for three kinds of blind people. On your right hand you will have the Blind School. That is for the physically blind, who have lost the sight of these outward eyes. On the left hand you will see the Bethlehem Hospital. That is for the mentally blind, who have lost the inner sight, and are in the more unhappy state of lunacy. Then straight before you will see the St. George’s Roman Catholic Cathedral. That is for the spiritually blind, whose case is all the more pitiable, because these blind people have blind leaders, and their deluded souls are prescribed for by physicians who foster their delusions. Now, the promise of divine guidance is not addressed to any of these. It is not necessarily given to the physically blind; for, alas, some of them, in addition to their loss of natural sight, are without a sight of Christ. Nor is it given to the mentally blind, for some of them, before they lost their reason, had made poor use of it, and had despised the Saviour. Neither is it made to the spiritually blind, for a strong delusion is upon them that they should believe a lie, and, alas, they wander in the light as in the darkness, and grope like the blind at noon day. There is, however, a fourth kind of blindness, which you who are genuine Christians will attribute to yourselves. A painful experience has made it clear to you. The promise is made to the confessedly, the consciously blind; and I shall try to show that this appropriately describes every Christian man. Every believer in Christ is made a witness of that “judgment for which Christ came into this world, that those who do not see might see, and that those who see might be made blind.” [Joh 9:39] It is to him, and to such as him, that the Lord has said, “I will bring the blind by a way that they did not know: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.”
2. I. Our first enquiry shall be, WHO ARE THEY? Who are these blind people?
3. We have already said, they are consciously blind people; and they confess that at one time they were totally blind. Years gone by, before they knew the Saviour, they knew nothing properly. Before the light from heaven shone upon them they were in the gross darkness of their natural state. Now, it is not every man who knows that he is by nature in the dark; and when he does know it he becomes one of the blind to whom the Lord makes this promise. The Pharisees in Christ’s day were as blind as bats; but they said, “We see.” “Therefore,” he said, “your sin remains.” They were the very people whom it was hard to save, because they were seeing people in their own estimation; but the man who has been converted now knows that there was no light in him by nature, that he did not understand anything properly, that he put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter, darkness for light, and light for darkness. He knows that in him — that is in his flesh — there was no good thing, but all manner of corruptions, tendencies towards evil, envyings of mankind, and hatred of God. Soul, have you ever seen your own darkness? Have you ever seen that nature’s light is nothing better than midnight? Have you ever been made to see that, as it were, through Adam’s fall, you were plunged into the state of the blind, and could not possibly find your way? Well, if you are of that kind, the promise is made to you.
4. These blind people knowing their infirmity and feeling their deprivation, recognise that what they thought was sight before was all delusion. Ah, there was a time with me when I thought I was righteous, and as I looked upon myself I saw fair white linen upon my loins; but now I know that it was my blindness that made me think I was fully dressed when I was naked. I thought I had many goods and treasures, and I used to go from treasure chest to treasure chest to inspect my jewels. I would gladly persuade myself that I was rich; but now I see that I was in the delirium of sin, and therefore flattered myself that I was rich when I was poor. I thought then, too, that I was happy. There was a mirth and a frothy joy which I thought well worth the having; but now I call that joy misery which is sinful, and that mirth to be wretchedness which is apart from God.
5. Now our eyes are open to see that we did not see, and to discover that it was all dark, and yet we thought it was light. Phantoms passed before us — mere shapes of things that were not; but we thought these to be substantial realities. Dear hearer, have you discovered that those bright eyes of yours which you used to possess, which made you see such righteousness in yourself, and such pleasure in sin, were, after all, blind eyes, and that you did not see at all, but were duped and deluded, and under the witchcraft of Satan, fascinated by the world, and beguiled by your own corrupt heart? Well, if it is so, you are one of those blind people who confess their blindness, to whom the promise is most graciously made.
6. But I think I hear you say, “You are telling us rather of a blindness that we used to be afflicted with than of one from which we are now suffering.” Well, the metaphor will not run on all fours. We must use it, however, to illustrate the present truth and this is as it ought to be used. Surely, the description “blind” may well be applied to the Christian, for this reason — that he does not now expect to see that upon which he builds his hope. All that he sees is nothing to him. What is substantial and real for him is what he believes. If you ask any believer what he rests his hope on, he will tell you that it is on an unseen Christ, “whom having not seen we love.” He will tell you that there is a promise, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed”; and he has experienced the sweetness of that word. He does not rest his confidence on a crucifix which he can see with his eyes, but on the Saviour who is not here, for he is risen and ascended into heaven. He does not rest upon a priest whose voice he can hear — a man like himself; but his confidence is in another priest who has gone within the veil, and entered into glory. He no longer now depends upon his own doings. These he can see, but what he sees of them makes him despondent. He dares not rest in his own works, but he rests in the works of another who has gone up to the throne of God, and carried a matchless righteousness into Jehovah’s presence. He will tell you that he does not even depend upon his own feelings; he is very conscious that they are fickle — they change like the weather. Just as one day we have a little bright sunshine, and perhaps in an hour we have a hailstorm, and eventually are brought back to the very cold of winter, so it is with our feelings. Our experience is always varying, and the man who knows himself properly dares not trust in his feelings, nor rely upon his experience. No, he rests in the feelings of him who sweat great drops of blood in the garden. His confidence is in the anguish of one who was exceedingly sorrowful, even to death, and not in his own anguish. He rests in the death and resurrection — in the wounds and in the triumphs — not of himself, in any respect, but of Christ whom, having not seen, he nevertheless trusts and relies upon. Oh, it is a blessed thing to be blind like this, so that you cannot see any good in yourself, cannot see any good upon which you could rest; cannot discover, even in God’s work, apart from Christ, any foundation upon which to build; cannot find in heaven or earth any prop and pillar for the soul, except Jesus crucified. Ransack the universe, and where others can see reasons for confidence these truly blind men are unable to see anything, and only say, “These we consider mere dross and dung so that we may win Christ and be found in him, not having our own righteousness which is from the law, but the righteousness which is from God by faith.” Oh, blessed blindness, never more to be able to see a solitary ray of hope except in Christ — never more to be able to find any confidence anywhere except in him whom God the Father has presented to be a propitiation for sin, through faith in his precious blood!
7. Moreover, besides this, these blind people are content not to see a great many things. He who is blind, in the blessed sense, knows that there are many things which he cannot see, and does not need to foresee. For example, he cannot see into the future. He leaves others to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and will buy and sell and get gain.” But this man is so wisely blind that he cannot presume to peer into tomorrow. He has been told to leave tomorrow with God, for “sufficient for the day is its evil.” I know some of the Lord’s people who look so far forward that they see a great deal too much for their own peace of mind. They catch a glimpse of trouble ahead, and yet that trouble will never come. Some of them see dreadful disasters which never happen. I have known some good old people who were afraid that they should have to spend their last shilling, and yet they left ample wealth behind when they went home. I have known some who were afraid that they should live so long that they would be a nuisance to their friends, and yet their friends bewailed them when they at last fell asleep. I have known a Christian man to dread what would happen if — and that “if” was entirely of his own making. Some are afraid to die, and they feel a thousand deaths in fearing one. There will be no terrors for them in death. There was one who used to be always in bondage through fear of death, but he died in his sleep, and it would have been a good thing for him if he had been so blind that he could not see the thing he dreaded. Oh, it is a happy thing not to be able to see the trouble which if wisely appointed is as wisely concealed, but to leave it all with God. You have enough to do to fight the battles of today. Permit me to repeat a story which I have often used before. When Leonidas and the Spartans went into the narrow pass of Thermopylae, where their enemies could only come up one or two at a time, they kept the whole Persian host at bay; but when afterwards they gave up in despair, and rushed into the plain to fight the Persians, they soon fell. Now, if you will stand in the narrow pass of today, and just meet your troubles as they come, single-handed, in the name of God Almighty, who is your defender, you will be sufficient for the evil, as the evil will be sufficient for the day. But if you get meddling with all the troubles that may come to pass between now and twelve months’ hence; why you will soon surround yourselves with perplexities and plunge yourselves into dismay. You had better leave them alone. Be blind to the future. Be happily blind, and plead the promise, “I will bring the blind by a way that they did not know.”
8. There are some other things, too, that these blind people know they could not see. They are quite aware that if they open their eyes ever so wide they will never see clearly all the secrets, the profound mysteries of God’s covenant. I know men who are wise in their own eyes, and very well assured of their own intellects, who, while palpably ignorant of everything that is rational, are conscious that they know everything that is spiritual. Their acquaintance with theology is thoroughly exhaustive; they have learned long ago to count to five, count them on their fingers ends, — one, two, three, four, five. These mystical figures comprise all the doctrines of the gospel. They know them, and they double up their fists at the mention of any of those five points, and they are ready to fight anyone about them. They are men of a great deal of wisdom, — seeing men; but I think a man who gets a little nearer to God discovers that he does not know everything; and he is quite clear that he can no more comprehend all of divine truth, than he can hold the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I have long felt that I shall never understand where the two great truths of free agency and predestination meet. I believe them both — believe them with equal faith; but how to reconcile them I no longer wish to know, because I do not think that God intends we should know. Oh, brethren, there is such a thing as prying where you ought to be believing, such a thing as for ever quibbling, and wanting to see, where your faith has to acquiesce in being led blindfold. And who would not wish to be blind, if the blind man’s privilege is to be led by God? Who is not willing not to see, if, instead of seeing, which will always be fallible, there shall come guidance from God, which is constantly infallible.
9. Thus, you see, I have attempted to describe these blind people. I have not given a full description of them; but I hope there are some of them here — people who feel their own weakness, their own lack of knowledge, their own nothingness, people who are willing to be led, willing to be guided, people who cannot see everything, and do not expect to see everything, but are willing to walk by faith in the unseen God, and to trust Jehovah where they cannot trace his footsteps.
10. II. Now let us consider THE PROMISE THAT IS MADE TO THEM. What shall be done for them?
11. Well, they have this pact of heaven for their solace — “I will bring the blind by a way that they did not know: I will lead them in paths that they have not known.” Do you understand the idea? Do you discern the sense of this gracious undertaking? If so you must be wonderfully struck with the condescending goodness of the Lord in that he offers to lead blind men. Certainly it is not an office generally sought for. It is not one supposed to be attended with any great honour, but it is a very kindly office, and one which any Christian man may be very glad to render to his afflicted friend. But only think of God himself coming and guiding the blind — leading his blind children. “I will bring them,” he says; “I will guide them.” So our first thought is that God himself will be the guide for his people when they feel their blindness. He will not leave you to stumble and to grope your way, nor will he ask you to depend upon your fellow Christian, who is as blind as yourself, but he will be your guide. Think of it. Omniscience shall bow itself to instruct your ignorance. Infinite power shall stoop so that you may lean upon its shoulder. Boundless love shall condescend without any degradation to take you by the hand and pick your pathway for you, and infinite patience shall continue to direct every step of your course, until you are brought to your home at last. As I said just now, who would not be blind if he could have God for his guide? Oh, blessed weakness, that links me to the strong! Oh, blessed poverty that gives me a lien upon Jehovah’s wealth! Oh, blessed wretchedness, that results in blessedness and conducts me to the happiness and bliss of God! Beloved, as you think of your own blindness, be comforted because he sees. As you think of your own ignorance, be cheered, because he knows; and as you comprehend your own aptness to stumble, be of good courage because he does not faint, neither is weary; there is no searching of his understanding. God will be their guide.
12. And, being their guide, he will lead them in ways they never went before. The beauty of the promise appears in its special adaptation to meet the particular need — “I will bring the blind by a way that they did not know.” Of course, when a blind man knows the way, he can almost go without the guide. Many of our friends afflicted with the loss of sight find their way day by day along the accustomed road; and there have been some who have been so expert, though blind, that they could go over fifty miles in the country, or thread their way in the town up and down the streets of a milkman’s walk, serving at each customer’s house without ever making a mistake. In fact, they have often acted as guides for others, but, then, it has always been along a way that they have known. And oh, brethren, there is many a blind sinner here tonight who, I have no doubt, could guide others in the ways that he knows. He could guide others in the way of the drunkard, in the way of the licentious, in the way of the swearer. He knows that way very well. I dare say he could guide young people into the way of infidelity — put a thousand horrible thoughts into their minds. But when the Lord takes such a man as that in hand, he does not lead him that way, but he leads him in a way that he never went before. Oh, I remember being led by the divine hand down the dark lane of repentance with many a sigh and many a groan. I remember being led into the more pleasant way of faith by the same divine hand, and brought to the Saviour’s feet; and since then I have not known the way, have not expected to know the way; for the way of grace that lies before us may be described as the Lord described the way of Israel in the wilderness: “You have not passed this way before.” It is a new way; and when God undertakes to be our guide it is all new. Is it not written, “Behold, I make all things new”? I hope that many of us know what it is to be led in a way we have not known; and I trust that others who do not know that, may breathe the prayer at once, “Lord, lead me in the way I have not known.” Someone said the other night that the way to heaven was very easily learned. It is the first turn to the right, and keep on going. Well, that is very good: but I have heard it described another way — out of self, into Christ — only one step, and you are on the road to heaven. Out of self, and into Christ. It is a way that you do not know, but the Lord will lead you in it.
13. Yet, although the way by which we go is a way that we do not know, we shall be led safely in it; for it is not only said, “I will lead them,” but “I will bring them,” which is a great deal more. You may lead a man, and still he may be unable to follow you. You may be a good enough guide, but his legs may fail him. Happily the text says, “I will bring them”; that is to say, “They will assuredly follow where I lead.” Oh believer, though you cannot see the way to heaven, trust implicitly in the Lord your God, and you shall surely find your way there, for he who leads you will also bring you. There has never been a vessel which sailed with Christ as a convoy that was captured by the enemy. There was never a pilgrim who entrusted himself to Christ as a guide who lost his way and stumbled to destruction. Now as of old, our Lord Jesus Christ can affirm, “Of all that you have given to me, I have lost no one.” He preserves his sheep; he keeps them; yes, he preserves them to eternal life. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.” They are blessed, then, who, having no sight of their own, and being unable to find their way by themselves, are trusting in him, who has promised that he will accurately lead and bring them home.
14. Yes, and he will do this in the very narrowest ways, too, for the text says, “I will bring them by a way: I will lead them in paths.” I suppose a way may be descriptive of the high road; and the path may be like a track across the fields, over hill and dale, over stiles and down lanes, through the mire and through the slough. Whether it is, however, along a high road or among bypaths, the Lord will lead them. Oh, beloved! there are some very narrow ways in the Christian’s pilgrimage. Do you not sometimes hear a sermon which makes you question whether you can truly be a child of God? What a narrow way it is! You thought when the preacher discoursed the other day about free grace and dying love, what a glorious highway it was, and you were running along it. But now he begins to preach about regeneration, the work of the Spirit, and its inward marks and evidences, you are afraid, you hesitate, you stand still and wonder whether you are travelling in the right direction; the road seems so narrow. Well, then, you must pray to your great Guide, and say, “Lord, lead me in the paths that I have not known. If there is any very narrow place — something very stringent and searching, and testing, and trying — if there is some high attainment that I have not yet reached; if there is some sweet enjoyment I have not yet known, Lord, lead me there.” You have the promise, the performance rests with him — “I will lead them in paths which they have not known.” So, you see, the blessing of the text is wrapped up in this. You are to be blind, and God is to be your guide. You are not to want to see, but you are to let him see for you. You who feel yourselves incapacitated by infirmity are to be led by his unerring wisdom.
15. III. And this brings us, thirdly, to notice WHAT SHALL COME OF IT.
16. What shall come of it? Why, the Lord says, “I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight.” Where are you, brother? Are you in a dilemma where everything is dark around you, where you do not see your evidences, and where you feel no sweet tranquillising assurance? Presuming that you are one of the blind — truly blind — it will not make much difference to you. Do you not perceive that? Why, should you or I, who have the sight of our natural eyes, want to read, it would be of little avail when the sun had gone down. “Between the lights,” as we say, there is a little unproductive time: we cannot discern the letters. Well, now, a blind man is as well off then as he is in the middle of the day. When you happen to be in the dark you begin fretting and want a light. The blind man does not want a light: he is just as well without a light as with one. Thus it is a great mercy when God has so far enabled you to be blind — so little wanting to see — that when it is all dark around you you are just as happy as when it is all bright around you, because when it was bright you did not walk by sight, and now it is dark you do not want to walk by sight either. Oh, blessed is the secret art of living by faith, for as you turn to God in days of happiness and trust him, so you likewise turn to him in days of sorrow and distress. In trial or in triumph you still trust him. It is a dangerous thing to begin to draw your happiness from your circumstances. You will weaken yourself by it; for once having drawn happiness from prosperous circumstances, you will, with equal ease, draw unhappiness from adverse circumstances. But if the Lord has taught you not to live according to the sight of the eyes at all, but to rejoice in the Lord always, then, you will be prepared to enjoy the same calm, the same peace, and the same happiness, no matter what the circumstances may be. It was a glorious speech of Job when he said, “Though he kills me, yet I will trust in him.” Was it not as much as to say, “I do not trust in him because he gave me the camels, and gave me the gold and silver, and the sheep and oxen. I do not trust him for them, though I am glad and thankful. And I do not trust him because of the earrings of gold, and because of the status I had when I sat in the gate among the citizens. But I trust him, let him do what he likes. If he shall take it all away, until there is nothing left, and afflicts me until I scrape my sores with a potsherd, I will not let go of my trust in him. And since I never did trust in my wealth, or my health, though he goes further still, and kills me, yet I will trust in him.” Say, then, dear friends, is it not a sweet contentment that does not need to see? To be delivered from regret and repining, knowing that he makes darkness light before us; and why? Because it is as light in the dark as at any other time and as safe for those who cease to walk with the eyes, and only walk by faith.
Nor is this all the meaning we may extract out of this gracious
promise. If, my dear brother, you are surrounded by the darkness of
trouble, trust in God, and the trouble will vanish. I do not
say that the cause of the trouble will vanish. Perhaps you will have
to bear with that; but the trouble itself will cease to trouble you.
It will not touch your heart any longer, and very likely the trouble
itself may go, and its cause may go too; for when the Lord brings his
people to be resigned to what they have to endure, he frequently does
not call them to endure it any longer. If you are in trouble, I can
recommend to you, by experience, to be resigned. I do not have so
long an experience as some of the friends with grey hairs and bald
heads before me, but I believe that they cannot contradict me when I
say that he is a faithful God. At any rate, of this I can speak
When trouble, like a gloomy cloud,
Has gather’d thick and thunder’d loud,
He near my soul has always stood;
His lovingkindness, oh how good!
So the light of his countenance has chased away the darkness of my trouble.
And are you in the dark, child of God, through a sense of sin? Some
of our friends, you know, get up so high in the scale of perfection
that they never have any folly or negligence to bemoan. Most of us
ordinary people are afflicted every now and then with such heart-searchings
and such inward conflicts that we walk in darkness and see
no light. Somehow, I think the Bible was written for people like us,
rather than for our fine brethren, for it rather abounds in the
details of such experience. Should it ever be my lot to get rid of
all conflicts and all darkness, I shall be able to dispense with a
great part of the book of Psalms. In fact, I do not know that I
should need anything in particular except for Solomon’s Song, and I
am afraid I could hardly need that, for even the spouse had to seek
her Lord in the dark, and was unable to find him sometimes when she
had been unwary or remiss. But, oh, if you are dejected by reason of
darkness, dismayed with a sense of sin, or distressed through
soul-trouble, trust in your Lord, and you shall find quick relief.
When we in darkness walk,
Nor feel the heavenly flame;
Then is the time to trust our God,
And rest upon his name.
And when thy eye of faith is dim,
Still trust in Jesus, sink or swim;
Still at his footstool bow the knee,
And Israel’s God thy peace shall be.
He will make the darkness light before you whatever other kind of darkness may happen to befall you. Only be as the blind man, who does not want to see, just leave it all to Jesus, trust in his dear name, and he will make the darkness light before you.
19. And as we are delivered out of darkness, so we shall be rescued out of difficulty. “I will make crooked things straight.” And God can make crooked things straight! Who among us has not had some crooked thing or other to deal with? Just as they say that there is a skeleton somewhere in every house, so there is a crook in every lot, and no one can make straight what God has made crooked. Awkward embarrassments and anxious perplexities very often drive us to our wit’s end, until we do not know which way to turn. Shall I go to the right hand, or to the left? Both seem equally blocked. Shall I go forward, or shall I go backward? Both ways seem equally hazardous. The judgment has lost chart and compass. And sometimes a child of God really does not know what he ought to choose. He seems to be in a maze, and he has lost the clue. The road goes in and out, backwards and forwards, like a map of the wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness. “There,” he says, “what shall I do?” Well, dear brother, the best thing to do in such a case as that is to do nothing at all, but just to trust in the Lord. There is more wisdom in a quarter of an hour’s prayer than there is in a quarter of a year’s consultation with friends. Often when we have sought counsel from the living God he has befriended us. When we have left things with him, we have always gone wisely. Oh, how he can make the most crooked thing that ever happened suddenly turn out to be the very straightest thing that ever occurred for our welfare. I know that sometimes I have puzzled my head about some difficulty in my Master’s service — asked opinions from lots of people, like a stupid fool, and I have gone home with my head aching in deeper uncertainty than ever what to do. And I have never discovered how to unravel a knotty point by my own ingenuity, but I have always found that when I at last bowed the knee, and said, “Heavenly Father, it is your business rather than mine; it is quite beyond me, and I now leave it in your hands to guide me,” and when I have just put it up on the shelf, and said, “I will never take it down again whatever happens,” it has gone all right. If I had manoeuvred to manage it for myself it would have gone wrong enough. You are often, dear friends, busy in doing yourself a mischief, when eager to do the right thing; so you do the wrong thing after all, as though there were a fatalness about it. “Stand still and see the salvation of God.” A hard lesson to learn, very often, and especially for impetuous spirits, as some of us are. But when it is learned, if we continue to practise it, we shall find it to be the way of wisdom. Now, my dear sister, do not fall in too hastily with that proposal which has been made to you. Think it over first; pray about it. Just stop. You may get yourself into a world of trouble. Young man, it certainly does look as if a very fine opening was presented before you; be careful. There is a fine opening for flies into many a spider’s web, but they would be glad to find a fine opening for getting out again. Just stop for a while. Stand still, and give reflection time to whisper in your ear. Do not delude yourself with flattering visions. Confess that the eyes of your understanding are dark and blind. Let the Lord guide you. Do not have an eye for your own advantage; do not have an eye for the opinion of this world. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all things will go well with you. Ah, they will call you such a fool not to jump at that chance of joining in business with a man whom you know is not a Christian. But you are told not to be unequally yoked together with an unbeliever. Therefore, do not disobey your Master’s command, I urge you. Just back out of it, and give yourself up to be led and guided by the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and you will go right enough. Here is one of the benefits of being blind in this sense, and this is what shall come of it.
20. IV. And now, lastly, WHAT WILL BE THE END OF IT?
21. Why the end of it will be, if you can see nothing, if you are blind, and yield yourself to the Lord to lead you, leaving all that concerns you to his counsel and his care, your life will be strewn with mercies — fulfilled promises. “I will do these things for them”: and you shall have a life of everlasting love, for he adds, “and not forsake them.” You shall find God present with you as long as you live.
22. Never does a child of God risk everything by faith except the risk pays off. You who speculate — I have no doubt that you find that your speculations are as often bad as good; but if you risk everything apparently in your confidence in God it is no speculation: it is a certainty. He will not fail you, I was greatly refreshed yesterday by what you may think to be a very small thing, but it was not small to God. I was reading over our church minute book, and I came to the year 1861, and somewhere in January there is the record, “This church requires £4000 in order to pay for the new tabernacle, and we, the undersigned, not knowing where it will come from, fully believe in our heavenly Father that he will send it all to us in the proper time, as witness by our hands.” And there stand subscribed my hand, and the hands of my deacons, and the hands of my elders, and the hands of a great many Christian women among us. Well, I was pleased to see that we had put our confidence in God like this. There were one or two names down there of very prudent brethren, and I remember at the time I saw them sign it I was rather surprised, because they had been doubting most of the time whether we should ever get the money: but they signed their names like men. A month or two afterwards — say two months — there is this record: “I, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who am less than the least of all saints, set to my seal that God is true, for he has supplied us with all this £4000.” And then follows another minute entry like this; “We, the undersigned, hereby declare our confidence in Almighty God, who has done for us according to our faith, and sent us, even before the time when we needed it, all that was needed. We are ashamed of ourselves to think that we ever had a doubt, and we pray that we may always confide in him in all things henceforth and for ever.” And then there is a long list of signatures. Some of the names down there are those of people whom I can see now before me. You wrote your names down there, thanking God that faith was honoured. Well, brethren, we have had a good many times to do something like that for large amounts, as a church, but has the Lord ever failed us yet? Never! And he never will, and you may depend upon it that in your business, in your household affairs, in your spiritual struggles, if you will trust God he will be as good as your trust, and better. You will never be able to say, “I rested in him and was confounded. I trusted in him, and I found his promise to fail.” Note that you must have a promise to rest on. You must not go and ask the Lord for every whim you like to get into your heads; but, if he has promised it to you and you can plead a promise, and it is for his glory, and you know it is, then see if he will ever renege on it. Search this book, given by inspiration, and see whether a promise of his ever failed. Turn, then, to your own lives, led by strange experience, and answer this question — Has he ever been a wilderness to you? Has he ever been a dry well, or a cloud that mocked you, and yielded you no rain? You have trusted in men, and you have received your reward, for “Cursed is he who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm.” But when you have trusted in God, have you not received a very different reward? And can you not say, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is?” There, you see, you have got this — “I will do these things for you.” If you can just trust, the promise will be fulfilled.
23. Then the last clause of the text is particularly inspiriting — “And not forsake them.” “And not forsake them.” This is no vain tautology. I think that the Lord’s people are subject at times to a sudden fluttering of heart, a nervous depression of spirits, and a great trembling, just when their faith has been in the fullest exercise, and the goodness of God has been most conspicuously displayed to them; and I do believe that this little sentence is intended to be at once a powerful tonic and an efficacious sedative. Where did it come from; did it arise from weariness of the flesh in the case of Elijah? You remember how he showed his zeal for the Lord of hosts on Mount Carmel; how vehemently he contended with the prophets of Baal; how exceptionally his prayer was answered when the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt sacrifice and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench; and how he brought down the prophets of Baal to the Brook Kishon, and killed them there. And you remember how soon afterwards he went a day’s journey in the wilderness, sat down under a juniper tree, requested that he might die, and said, “It is enough; now, oh Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers.” He had much fear, but there was no danger that the Lord would forsake him. Or it may be that this strange terror is the reaction and result after intense excitement. David had been delivered again and again out of the hand of Saul, and had heard his old enemy acknowledge that he had sinned and played the fool and erred exceedingly. Yet he went on his way, and said in his heart, “I shall now perish one day by the hand of Saul!” But was he forsaken by God? Had he any real cause to suspect such a climax to the Lord’s dealings with him? Far from it!
I do not know, but I am prone to attribute this fear sometimes to the
infirmity of age, when decay creeps over the mortal frame, and the
soul sympathises with the weakness of the flesh. The Psalmist, as I
have already intimated, touches all the keys of human passion and all
the moods to which believers are subject. Certainly his faith was in
full vigour when he said, “I will go in the strength of the Lord
God. I will make mention of your righteousness, even of yours
only.” Nor could his gratitude have been at fault, when he reviews
his life from childhood to advanced years, saying, “Oh God, you
have taught me from my youth, and so far I have declared your
wondrous works!” But you can never forget the impassioned prayer
that followed: “NOW, ALSO, WHEN I AM OLD AND GREY-HEADED, oh GOD, DO
NOT FORSAKE ME!” Just ring this bell once or twice, this silver, this
delightful silver bell. “I will do these things for them, and not
forsake them.” They will still get into trouble. Their friends will
desert them as the leaves are gone from the trees in winter; but,
says the Lord, “I will not forsake them.” They will be very sick, and
they will lie in bed until the bed gets hard beneath them; but “I
will do these things for them, and not forsake them.” They will come
to die, and the devil will tempt them. Flesh will be very weak, and
their bodily pains distressing, but “I will do these things for them,
and not forsake them. They will pass through the river, and they will
stand in judgment; but still, as it is written so shall it be, I will
do these things for them and not forsake them.” Go on, beloved; go
on, beloved. Though blind, and you cannot see your way, go on,
beloved. In the dark and crooked paths, go on, beloved. For as surely
as you trust in God, God will fulfil every promise of his to you, and
to the last these shall be his words in your ears, “And not forsake
them,” for I will not fail them or forsake them is his promise to his
people. Throwing that grateful reflection into a verse — the verse of a
familiar hymn, I will conclude.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not, desert to his foes.
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I will never, no never, no never forsake.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Isa 43]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 23” 23 @@ "(Version 3)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance — He Will Keep Us” 741]
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 23 (Version 1)
1 My Shepherd will supply my need,
Jehovah is his name;
In pastures fresh he mikes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
2 He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake his ways:
And leads me, for his mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.
3 When I walk through the shades of death,
Thy presence is my stay;
A word of thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
4 Thy hand, in spite of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows;
Thine oil anoints my head.
5 The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
Oh may thy house be mine abode,
And all my work be praise!
6 There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, or a guest,
But like a child at home.
Isaac Watts, 1719
Psalm 23 (Version 2)
1 The Lord’s my Shepherd, I’ll not want
He makes me down to lie
In pastures green: he leadeth me
The quiet waters by.
2 My soul he doth restore again,
And me to walk doth make
Within the paths of righteousness,
E’en for his own name’s sake.
3 Yea, though I walk through death’s dark vale,
Yet will I fear no ill;
For thou art with me, and thy rod
And staff me comfort still.
4 My table thou hast furnished
In presence of my foes;
My head thou dost with oil anoint,
And my cup overflows.
5 Goodness and mercy all my life
Shall surely follow me;
And in God’s house for ever more
My dwelling place shall be.
Scotch Version, 1641.
Psalm 23. (Version 3)
1 The Lord my Shepherd is,
I shall be well supplied;
Since he is mine, and I am his,
What can I want beside?
2 He leads me to the place
Where heavenly pasture grows,
Where living waters gently pass,
And full salvation flows.
3 If e’er I go astray,
He doth my soul reclaim;
And guides me in his own right way,
For his most holy name.
4 While he affords his aid,
I cannot yield to fear;
Though I should walk through death’s dark shade,
My Shepherd’s with me there.
5 In spite of all my foes,
Thou dost my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
And joy exalts my head.
6 The bounties of thy love
Shall crown my following days;
Nor from thy house will I remove,
Nor cease to speak thy praise.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 23 (Version 4)
1 The Lord my pasture shall prepare,
And feed me with a Shepherd’s care;
His presence shall my wants supply,
And guard me with a watchful eye;
My noonday walks he will attend,
And all my midnight hours defend.
2 Though in the paths of death I tread,
With gloomy horrors overspread,
My stedfast heart shall fear no ill,
For thou, Oh Lord! are with me still:
Thy friendly crook shall give me aid,
And guide me through the dreadful shade.
Joseph Addison, 1712.
The Christian, Privileges, Final Perseverance
741 — He Will Keep Us <8.7.4.>
1 Saviour! through the desert lead us;
Without thee we cannot go:
Thou from cruel chains hast freed us
Thou hast laid the tyrant low:
Let thy presence
Cheer us all our journey through.
2 With a price thy love has bought us;
Saviour! what a love is thine!
Hitherto thy power has brought us;
Power and love in thee combine!
Lord of Glory!
Ever on thy household shine.
3 Through a desert waste and cheerless
Though or destined journey lie,
Render’d by thy presence fearless,
We may every foe defy:
Nought shall move us,
While we wee our Saviour nigh.
4 When we halt (no track discovering),
Fearful lest we go astray,
O’er our path thy pillar hovering,
Fire by night and cloud by day,
Shall direct us:
Thus we shall not miss our way.
5 When we hunger thou wilt feed us,
Manna shall our camp surround;
Faint and thirsty, thou wilt heed us,
Streams shall from the rock abound:
What a Saviour thou hast found!
Thomas Kelly, 1804.