A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 7, 1877, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *8/12/2012
There is no one who calls upon your name, who stirs himself up
to take hold of you. [Isa 64:7]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 437, “Sight of Self, A” 428]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1377, “Taking Hold Upon God” 1368]
Exposition on Isa 63:1-64:12 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2258, “Where is the Lord?” 2259 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Isa 64 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2391, “Keeper of the Vineyard, The” 2392 @@ "Exposition"]
1. Isaiah in the chapter before us describes a very mournful condition of the people of God. He feels the case to be so desperate that he sighs for a divine intervention — “Oh that you would rend the heavens, that you would come down.” He perceives that the people are so steeped in slumber, so utterly under the power of their sins that, unless God himself shall descend with all the power and terror of Sinai, the nation will utterly perish through its iniquity, even as withered leaves are blown away by the fierce winds. He longed for a melting fire to dissolve their hard hearts; for a swift flame such as burns the brushwood on the mountain’s side to make a speedy end of their false confidences; and for a burning heat, such as makes the water to boil, to remove the lukewarmness of those who professed to worship the Lord.
2. I do not know that the condition of the church of God at the present time is quite so bad as what is described here. It would be wrong to boast about our condition, but it would be worse to despair about it. It would not be honest to apply the words of our text to the church of the present day. Blessed be God, we could not say, “There is no one who calls upon your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of you,” for there are many who plead day and night for the prosperity of Zion. Yet in a measure we are somewhat in the same plight as what is described by the prophet, and there is much to mourn over. Prayer languishes in many churches, power in intercession is by no means a common attainment, and meetings for prayer are, as a rule, sparsely attended, and not much thought of. Sin abounds, empty profession is common, hypocrisy is plentiful, and the life of God in the soul is very little esteemed.
3. Notice carefully that according to our text the prophet traces much of the evil which he deplored to the lack of prayer. After he has compared their righteousnesses to filthy rags he adds, “there is no one who calls upon your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of you.” When there is a degeneracy of public manners, you may be sure that there has also occurred a serious decline of secret devotion. When the outward service of the church begins to flag and her holiness declines, you may be sure that her communion with God has been sadly suspended. Devotion to God will be found to be the basis of holiness and the buttress of integrity. If you backslide in secret before God, you will soon err in public before men. You may judge yourselves, my dear hearers, concerning your spiritual state by the condition of your hearts in the matter of prayer. How are you at the mercy seat? for that is what you really are. Are the consolations of God small with you? That is a minor matter; look deeper, — “Is there not a restraining of prayer before the living God?” Do you find yourself weak in the presence of temptation? That is important; but search below the surface, and you will find that you have grown lax in supplication, and have failed to keep up continual communion with God.
4. The prophet also reveals the very essence and soul of prayer. It is a stirring up of one’s self to take hold of God. If in prayer we do not take hold of God, we have prayed very feebly, if at all. The very soul of devotion lies in experiencing the divine presence, in dealing with God as a real person, in firm confidence in his faithfulness, — in a word, in “taking hold of him.” Men do not take hold of a shadow, they cannot grasp the unsubstantial fabric of a dream. Taking hold implies something real which we grasp; and there is needed to make prayer truthful and acceptable with God the grip and grasp of a tenacious faith, which believes the fact that God is, and that he is the rewarder of those who diligently seek him. Taking hold implies a reverent familiarity with the Lord, by which we use a holy force to win a blessing from his hand. It was because there was so little of this in Israel, that the nation had fallen into so forlorn a state; and if you trace back the evils of the church at the present day to their source it will come to this, that there are so few who stir themselves up to take hold upon the living God, so few who grapple with spiritual matters in downright earnest, and bring them before the Lord with resolute faith. We have few Elijahs now, and Jacobs are hard to find. Why, look, sirs, there are many whose religion is nothing but a mere outward performance, it consists in attendance upon a place of worship so many times on the Sunday, the reading of prayers in the family, the repetition of a form of devotion night and morning, and perhaps the mechanical reading of a chapter; but there is no consciousness that God is near, no conversation with him, no taking hold upon him. In the case of such people the “Oh God, you see me” of Hagar in the wilderness has never leaped from their lips, neither have they cried like David, “Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight.” God is far off from them even when they pray; they never dream that they are speaking into his ear. They believe there is a God, but they act as if there were none. He does not influence them, their lives are not inspired by his presence, or ennobled by his smile. Their religion is practically godless, and therefore worthless. It is in vain that they are regular at services and attentive at sermons if their hearts stop short of God himself. Their service may be in all respects proper and orderly, but if there is no taking hold of God it is lifeless and useless: a garnished sepulchre, and not a temple. “God with us,” in our flesh, is our Saviour; “God with us,” by his Spirit, proves that we are saved.
5. Laying hold upon God is not the act of a dead man, neither is it the deed of one who is destitute of spiritual perception; it is the act of one who is quickened and kept alive by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. Those who are at enmity with God neither can nor will take hold of him, for “they say to God, ‘Depart from us; for we do not desire the knowledge of your ways!’ ”
6. Men will do anything sooner than stir themselves up to take hold of God; they will build churches, and raise altars, and say masses and perform pilgrimages, and a thousand other things, but they do not want God, and will not have him. To go through a round of performances is very easy work compared with thought, and consideration, and the yielding of the heart. You may in religious matters make yourself like the brickmaker’s blind horse, which goes around and around at his pugmill, [a] but knows nothing about what he is doing. God does not regard such worship; as well might we set automatons to pray and wax figures to move in and out of church doors! God is a Spirit, and to grasp a spirit is not ordinary work. Only a spiritual man can do anything of the kind or know what it means. A man must be stirred up and have all his faculties awake, and his entire mental and spiritual nature thrown into energetic action before he will be able to cope with this mystery, and take hold on him who made the heavens and the earth, who is not seen by the eye nor heard by the ear, and is only to be apprehended by the inner spirit of man. I pray God that I may be helpful, as he shall please, in stirring up many of you to take hold upon the Lord with all your heart and soul and strength. If such shall be the case, it will be a great blessing to the churches to which you belong, a great blessing to the people among whom you move.
7. At this present I shall not attempt more than the task of describing certain forms in which taking hold upon God is extremely desirable at this present time. The same principle in different stages of spiritual life is seen in varying forms, let me point out four of the most necessary; and may the Holy Spirit enable some among us to stir themselves up for the holy effort.
8. I. The first form of taking hold of what is intended in the text, is that in which THE AWAKENED SINNER TAKES HOLD UPON GOD. Here I shall be addressing myself, I hope, to those who are sincerely anxious to find salvation today.
9. If you really wish to be reconciled to God, and to be pardoned by the great Father at once, listen diligently to me, and hear, so that your souls may live. Your only hope lies in taking hold upon God. Do not be startled, but listen and obey. It is great condescension on the Lord’s part that he should permit it to be so, but so it is, that when he bares his right arm to strike you your safety lies in grasping that very hand which apparently is lifted for your destruction. He says by the mouth of the prophet, “Let him lay hold on my strength, and let him make peace with me.” Just as a child when his father is about to chasten him will often seize his father’s hand and with many tears entreat him to withhold the rod, so you will do if you act wisely. You are to run in, as it were, into God, and shelter in the very Rock which frowns upon you. Though he seems to be a destroyer, if you can only trust him you will find him to be your Saviour. You must say, as John Bunyan once did, “I was so driven that I would have run to Christ, even if he had stood with a spear in his hand, yes, I would have run upon its very point sooner than be as I was then.” It is so wretched a thing to be without God that one may gladly dare any calamity in venturing to approach him, though in truth there is no cause for fear. God has been pleased to reveal himself in the person of his dear Son Jesus Christ, who lived and died for the salvation of men; and whoever will trust God as he is revealed in Christ Jesus shall find forgiveness for all his sins, shall obtain a new nature, shall enter upon a new life, and shall be the heir of a blessed immortality. This is the way of salvation which God appoints, namely, that you now at once heartily trust in his Son.
10. However strange this method may appear to you, do not judge according to the sight of the eyes, but accept what the Lord sets before you. That must be best for you which God thinks best; if it satisfies your Maker it may well satisfy you. But indeed you have no choice; you are restricted to this one method of deliverance. Trusting in Christ will save you; but “there is no other name under heaven given among men, by which we must be saved.”
11. Do you understand me? The way of life is to take hold of God in Christ Jesus. You are charged with sin; do not deny it, for such a course will be your ruin; take hold upon the accusation, and confess it. Stand where the accusation places you in conscious guilt, and repent as you stand there; then turn to God, and say to him, “It is written in your own word, ‘This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.’ Lord, you know I am a sinner, and I also feel it. I cast myself upon the faithful saying, and trust in you to save me through Jesus Christ your Son.” This is taking hold upon God, and when you have done so you shall find salvation; yes, you are saved.
12. I think I hear you say, “But how shall I take hold on God? I who am so vile, so weak, so far off from him.” He has given you many points by which you may grasp him. You may take hold upon certain of his attributes, and especially upon his mercy. “He delights in mercy.” Can you not trust the God who is ready to pardon, and eager to receive his returning child? Remember his lovingkindness, and the multitude of his tender mercies, and remember the fact that he has declared that he has no pleasure in the death of him who dies, but that he should turn to him and live. Can you not cast anchor in the harbour of infinite mercy, as seen in the provision of a divine Saviour? Can you not find a foothold for faith on that blessed and sure word, “His mercy endures for ever?” This is the star of the sinner’s night, the dawn of his day of hope. There is forgiveness with God so that he may be feared; with him is plentiful redemption. Oh poor sinking soul, take hold of this, believe that God for Christ’s sake can justly pardon the guilty, and plead with him to do so in your case. Urge your suit upon this plea, and it will not fail you.
13. Perhaps your mind can settle better upon a promise. Well, it will matter very little which one of them it is, for though they are very many, they are all equally certain; but do try to take hold of the Lord by one or other of those handholds which he has provided on purpose for seeking souls. Hold him by such a word as this, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Or take hold upon that other gracious invitation, “ ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord; ‘though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ ” There are many such words of grace, and, as I have already told you, they are all equally certain. Like the great roads which all meet in London, so any promise will lead you to God. Fix your grasp of faith on what best suits your character and condition, and you are at once in contact with God; only do take hold, and do not trifle with the promise, or stagger at it. Oh sinner, arouse yourself to take hold upon the loving word; be in earnest, man, for it is your life, and when you once get hold, let your grip be as an iron vice, grapple the promise to you as with hooks of steel. Plead in this way, “You have said it, oh God, and I believe it, and I trustfully look to you to be as good as your word. I depend on your promise, and I am persuaded you will keep your word.”
14. Perhaps the character of our Lord Jesus Christ may furnish you with a holdfast. Remember who and what he was, and remember that whatever Christ was that God is, for he himself testified, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Remember how Jesus expressed the message of love, “Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls.” Could you not trust the meek and lowly one? Say, can you not readily trust Jesus? Do you fear Emmanuel or dread the Lamb of God? Bleeding on the tree, with no thunder in his hand nor terror on his brow, can you not confide in him? His dying body by every wound invites the sons of men to find a shelter in the riven rock. Take a firm hold of God at once. The body of his incarnate Son and all his blessed doing and stand before you as so many points of attraction. Do not turn away, but let the God of love be your God now and for ever.
15. Can you not take hold of him through the gospel; the gospel which proclaims salvation to the most ungodly? What do you say to this, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved?” “He who believes on him is not condemned.” “The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” What a number of people have laid hold of God through that precious text. It stands like an open door with width enough to admit a giant in sin. Some who could never find comfort anywhere else have grasped at that encouragement, and found peace with God at once. Why should you not? Notice this one also. “He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out,” and this, “Whoever will, let him come and take the water of life freely.” By some one or other of those gospel declarations I do in the name of Jesus entreat every guilty sinner to take hold of God. Again, I say, do not run from him, or from the facts of your sad case; do not try to forget what you are to him, nor forget what he must be to you if you continue in your sin; but come now in an honest manner, and meet the truth face-to-face. Make this firm resolve, that you will be stranger to your God no longer. Say in your soul, “I will take hold of God today, as he presents himself to me in his word.” Stretch out your hand and touch the hem of the garment of Jesus if you can do no more, and he will not spurn you, but give you immediate salvation.
16. The text speaks of a man’s stirring himself up to lay hold on God, and that is the point to which I long to see you brought to. I wish that every unconverted man were at this moment aroused out of his deadly slumber. You will not take hold on God while you are asleep in sin’s downy bed. Believe me, no sinner is saved while his mind is in a dreamy, hesitating, lethargic condition. You need to be stirred up to make your calling and election sure. Surely such a business should be earnestly attended to. Let your memory be stirred up to remember your sin, and your soul to repent of it. Let your conscience be stirred up to remind you of the guilt of that sin, and your heart to make a full confession of it with deep shame and bitter sorrow. Let your fears be stirred up to apprehend the wrath to come, and your hopes to remind you of the possibilities of everlasting life and glory. Let your desires be awakened this morning, and may you be longing and crying after mercy; and with your desires may your will awaken, only not as it has been accustomed to be, in vicious obstinacy, setting itself against God, but made willing to obey in the day of the Lord’s power. May his Holy Spirit arouse reason and thought, understanding and the affections, yes, your whole man. Just as when in business you are about to do something of extreme importance you arouse yourself and endeavour to have all your wits about you, so now come to this great business of your soul’s salvation with all your thoughts aroused and all your energies excited, for all these are necessary. Is it not a concern of the utmost weight? Since the prize is worth the winning, and the loss will be intolerable, be stirred up with strong resolve that, if grace and mercy are to be had by laying hold on God, you will have them at this very hour.
17. Brethren beloved, if there are none among us who take hold on God our church is in a very sad state; a church without converts is a cloud without rain, a river without water. I thank God that we are not in such a plight, but we have many in this place who have recently taken hold upon the Lord, and found grace in his sight. This has been a means of grace for us all; the oldest and most established have been cheered by these new converts. Their coming among us has been a dew from the Lord; we have welcomed them as men do swallows in the spring. Their addition to our numbers has lit up new stars in our sky. Pray, my brethren, that there may be many such in all churches, for it is preeminently desirable that every awakened sinner should be stirred up to take hold upon God.
18. II. We will now consider another character considerably in advance of the former, who also stirs himself up to take hold of God. We very greatly need to have among us many THOROUGH BELIEVERS WHO TAKE HOLD UPON GOD BY FIDELITY TO HIM.
19. I have seen applied to Calvin the motto, “He took a firm hold.” If ever a man did take a firm hold on invisible things, it was that famous reformer. What he grasped he held with force of clear conviction, intelligent apprehension, and devout reverence. I am particularly anxious that every member of this church should now look upon himself or herself individually, and try to follow me in my description of a believer who takes hold of God. He is deeply sincere and thorough in all that he does. Shams and pretences are his abhorrence. He feels the solemn importance of dealing in spirit and in truth with the Lord, and of taking hold upon God himself and not on mere names and words and forms. He says within himself, “I am a Christian, and I will be so, by God’s grace, not in name only, but in deed and in truth. I know that the outward form of religion is only a husk, and I resolve to feed upon the kernel. I intend to have the substance of religion, and not its shadows. I will take hold of all the outward which God has revealed; but I will mainly look to the inward, and my soul and spirit shall deal with the living God himself. If I live, I will live for him; nothing short of this shall satisfy me.” Such a man opens his Bible and resolves to find out what God’s will is, and he judges for himself, for he knows that he will have to render a personal account. He intends to take hold for himself of every revealed truth, for he does not wish to be taught by man alone, but to be taught by God. He arouses all his wits to understand the doctrine and precepts of God’s word; for he has become a disciple, and he therefore wishes to learn. His cry is, “I want to be thorough, I want to go to the soul and centre of things, and know truth by the teaching of the Spirit of God in my own heart.” Not content with searching the word alone, he takes everything he finds there to God, and says, “Lord, I long to lay hold of you in this truth. I desire not merely to know concerning Christ, but to know Christ. Not only to believe the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, but to feel the power of the Holy Spirit himself upon my soul, for I have said in my heart, ‘My God, I want to know you and commune with you, love you and serve you. My soul follows hard after you; when shall I come and appear before you?’ ” Such a man, dear brothers and sisters, when he once knows the will of the Lord, has made up his mind to act promptly upon what he knows; his mind is expressed in the language of one of old, who said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” It is nothing to him what others may do, except that he regrets that they should do amiss. He puts his foot down and will not run with a multitude to do evil. He has made the word of the Lord to be the guide of his life, and he will not depart from it. His is no borrowed faith; he has embraced the truth of Jesus for himself, and he intends to follow him at all costs; and, as far as he can, he will have his household so ordered that all who come around him may see that Jesus is his Lord. Come fair or come foul, his hold is taken, and he will not leave it.
20. Such a man prepares himself to extend the kingdom of Christ, impelled by inward zeal. Having obtained a solid fulcrum of assured knowledge, he now begins to use his lever and work upon others. Wherever he is settled in providence he prepares to found a church for his Lord. He is glad to be a member of a large church for the sake of Christian fellowship, but if he is placed in a desert place he can hold his own alone, for his hold is not on man, but on God. He can testify in the midst of others who do not fear God; he would testify in the midst of heathen if he were called to do it, for opposition and persecution cannot shake him. He has taken hold of God; not of the church, nor of the minister, nor of the mere formal creed; he has passed beyond all things to the Lord himself, and his confidence is above the heavens. He knows that be cannot be placed where God is not, and therefore he feels that his best friend is always near. The eye of man is nothing to him, the presence of God is first and last with him.
21. He labours with earnest zeal to maintain and defend, and also to spread abroad, the truths which are most certainly believed among us. He is a man who calls upon God, not merely in prayer, but by confessing his name, and taking up his cause; and he stirs himself up to take hold upon God in the doing of all these things. Brethren, I earnestly wish that every member of this church was a man of this mettle; we would be strong for God if this were the case. We have so many professors who are still babes, needing the feeding bottle and the baby pram though they are forty years of age; what can we do with these? Others are unstable; they know something about truth, but not very much, and what they do know they are not sure of, and so they are ready to be bamboozled out of it. In the present age if any man can talk well he will get a following, whatever he may teach. I am astounded at some professors, who can hear this man today and that man the next, though the two are diametrically opposed. Surely there is some difference between truth and error, and mere cleverness cannot neutralize false doctrine. Our forefathers discerned between things that differed, and when false doctrine came before them they cast it out, notwithstanding the eloquence of its advocate. I do not want you to be bigots. May God deliver us from their bitter spirit, but I do want you to be sound believers. There is a great difference between obstinate bigotry and a decided maintenance of what we have believed. After all, what is the chaff to the wheat? There is a difference between the doctrines of men and the teachings of the Lord. No lie is derived from the truth. Garnish it all you want, it is still a lie. Oh to be rooted and grounded and built up in Christ! One of the most desirable things in this fickle age is to see around the minister of Christ a people who know the truth, and feel that the truth binds them firmly to their God.
22. III. We take a step further in advance when we mention a third form of this taking hold of God. We need a development in the form of THE WRESTLING PLEADER.
23. The expression is borrowed, as you know, from Jacob at the brook of Jabbok. He had begun to pray alone by the brook when an angel appeared to him, or rather the prince of angels himself. When Jacob saw the angel be laid hold upon him, and there was a wrestling match between them all through that night. It was a sight such as never did earth see before. After much weeping and agony, Jacob made a desperate clutch at the angel and cried, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” In the church of God we need many wrestling Jacobs. What does the text mean when it speaks of a man stirring himself up to take hold of God? The transaction takes this form. The good man feels the case urgently; the blessing which is needed is laid on his heart, and he feels that he must have it. He is convinced of the necessity of it, and he is also certain that he cannot have it, except from God. Then he looks at the propriety of it and asks, “Is this a case which I can lawfully lay before God? I seek such a thing, but may I expect the thrice-holy God to give it to me? Is it for his glory?” When you have done that, dear friend, you have begun well; now proceed to business. Go about it in an energetic but reasonable way; and next, turn to the Bible and see if the Lord has ever promised what you seek. Search out promises, get them ready at your hand, learn their very words; then go before God and tell him your desire, and honestly declare your reasons for desiring it. Show the Lord that you know that he has promised the blessing, and then begin to plead with him to fulfil his own word. Very much of taking hold upon God must be in using argument with him. The Lord knows the thing is good, but he wants you to know it, and in order that you may be well instructed in the value of the mercy you seek he wishes you to produce your arguments and bring out your strong reasons. Many teachers use what we call the Socratic method, in which the boy is made to answer questions, not that his teacher may be instructed, but that the youth may learn. Set your case in order, and mention your pleadings before the Lord as if you were pleading in a court of justice; state why this thing should be, and what you fear will happen if you are not answered. Return to the work again and again, as Abraham did when interceding for Sodom, and each time renew your strength. Especially bring out the divine promises, and say concerning each one of them, “Do as you have said. Fulfil this word to your servant, upon which you have caused me to hope.” Plead the covenant and the faithfulness of God. Having done that, believe that God will keep his promise, and begin to expect the blessing. Act as if you had obtained it, for it is written, “Believe that you have it, and you shall have it.” If the mercy is not then given, ask again — go through the same pleadings as before, amending them and increasing their power. The agony of prayer is somewhat like a great siege, in which one earthwork is cast up, and after awhile it is followed by another still nearer to the town which is to be taken. One after another the besiegers raise their works until the place is quite hemmed in; then they bring up their guns, and begin to pound away upon the walls which they have resolved to capture. So we must go about to win the blessing which we need, using divine promises as our ramparts, and our strong reasons as our great guns. Remember it is not for God’s sake that you are called upon to plead like this, but for your own. The Lord desires to convince you of the value of mercy, and when he has done it he intends to grant it to you.
24. A man who can take hold of God in prayer will be of the utmost value to the church. Why should we not learn this art? But oh how few there are who call upon his name, who stir themselves up to take hold of God. Sleepy prayers; God have mercy upon them! Prayers that do not mean anything! Prayers of men who can be put off with “No”; these are as common as stones on the road, and of less worth. We need importunity; the knocking at the gate of mercy again and again and again. We need the unconquerable resolve: “I must have it; it is for God’s glory, and he has promised it, and I will not cease until I obtain it.” We need to see the majesty of prayer among us again. If we had hundreds of church members who could take hold upon God, religion would revive, and we should no more have to complain of barrenness. God will rend the heavens and come down, and the mountains will flow at his presence, when once his people take him at his word and pray as if they believed.
25. IV. The fourth point, and the last, is to mention one other form of this stirring up of ourselves to lay hold of God. It is one which I confess I have very seldom seen, and wish I could see on all sides. I have read of it in biographies, and past ages have seen it, and marvelled about it. It ought, however, to be common in the church, and to be seen in every Christian. I mean THE TAKING HOLD OF GOD BY THE STRENGTHENED BELIEVER.
26. The man who has gotten beyond doubts and fears, and grasped the eternal verities. There is no question now concerning whether there is a God or not; he knows him, speaks with him; walks with him. In sacred communion the Lord has made known his secret to him, and shown him his covenant. Concerning the gospel, and things revealed, he does not care to argue; he is as sure of those matters as of the fact that there is a sun in the heavens or salt in the sea. He has passed beyond argument concerning things of this kind. You might as well try to shake the earth out of its place as to remove him from his convictions; he knows them, and what is a great deal more, he intensely believes them. He as much believes in God and his gospel as he believes in his own existence; and these things have an obvious power over him just as the things which are seen and heard have over the human senses. He is familiar now with God, he talks with Jesus; the Holy Spirit dwells in him. He has passed into a spiritual realm, and has consciously to do with spiritual things. Such a man is now quite sure about God’s being with him, for he dwells in his presence, and he never dares to act unless under a sense of that presence. He is quite sure about God’s keeping his promises, he does not dare doubt that, for he has had too many proofs already of the faithfulness of God for him to doubt him. Now, see how steadily that man moves about; trial does not bow him down, he expected it, and he expects to be delivered out of it. If you rush in upon him with the most terrible information it does not distress him, for “he is not afraid of bad news; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
27. What a grand character Abraham was, and only because he was grandly believing. Whenever faith gave way in Abraham, as it did now and then, for the best of men are only men, then he sank to the ordinary level, as he did when he denied his wife and said — “She is my sister.” But when his faith is strong what a wonderful man he is. He never disputes with Lot about who shall take the best pasture. Lot may have what he likes, for Abraham has his God. Lot may take the well watered plain of the Jordan if he desires it, Abraham would sooner dwell alone with his God. When Lot is carried captive, and he feels it is his duty to deliver his relative, he does not ask about how strong Chedorlaomer and the other three kings may be; that is nothing to him, God is with him, and he hurries to the conflict. He uses such means as are at hand, and asks his neighbours to join him in the pursuit, and then he marches confidently after Chedorlaomer and attacks him, and God gives the plundering host like driven stubble to his bow. You never find Abraham fretting, he is always peaceful in mind; he is not afraid of men, nor abashed before princes. His faith had made him heir of the world, and he knew it. He moved majestically, because he had learned to believe in God. When Isaac was to be offered up, how the strong man smothered his emotions, and went silently but resolutely his three days’ journey with his son, to the hill of which God had spoken to him. There the deed would have been done, had not the angel interposed, for it never entered into his mind to disobey the Lord. He believed so firmly in his God that whatever God had asked of him he resolved to do.
28. Oh, if you could get to the same believing faith, how calm, quiet, serene, strong, happy, blessed would you be, for you would then to the fullest extent have taken hold of God. When we have such a man in a church he is a man of power in all respects. When he speaks it is almost as the oracles of God. Other speakers may dazzle you with eloquence, but this man overpowers you with grace and confounds the adversaries by his boldness. God gives to the church every now and then such a man. Such a one was Martin Luther, a man by no means free from faults, but gloriously free from doubt. Others think the gospel is true; Erasmus feels sure that it is, but Erasmus wants to die in a whole skin. Luther knows that justification by faith is right, and he will thunder it out, whether his skin shall be damaged or not. “It will be better not to go to Worms,” say timid advisers; “thing’s have come to such a state that there will be danger to life: — you had better give up the contest, Luther, before you die in it. Future ages may take it up, but if you go to Worms you will certainly never come back again!” “Well,” he says, “I shall go; yes, if there were as many demons there as there are tiles on the house-tops, I would go, for I have to confess Christ there, and I will confess him.” And when he is asked, “What would you do if the duke, your protector, should no longer harbour you?” “I shall take shelter,” he says, “beneath the broad shield of the Almighty God.” What are dukes and princes to such a man? He had taken hold of God, and he feels stronger than all men and all demons combined. There is nothing like this linking of one’s self with the Eternal by faith.
29. Such a man was Calvin. I picture him as he looked when going into the church of St. Peter, the libertines resolved that they would partake of the Lord’s Supper, though he had declared they should not. They are men licentious in life and godless in character, but they intend to come to the table and take the sacred elements, whether he wishes or not. They care for no one, and intend riot and bloodshed. If he refuses they have sent him word that they will kill him in the church. He goes to the table and breaks the bread, and distributes it to the people of God, and does not hand a mouthful to the profane, upon whom he looks with such pitying severity that, awed by the man’s courage, they retire to learn better manners.
30. We have in these days a race of time servers and word spinners to succeed the real men. There are hundreds who say it is undoubtedly untrue that children are in their baptism made members of Christ, children of God, heirs of the kingdom of heaven, but still we will teach children to say so, and afterwards we will tell them that the words mean something else. Is this the way of doing the work of the Lord? Is this according to the gospel of faith, or after the manner of truth? Numbers of others say, “Yes, we see all this, we see popery coming back in the form of ritualism, but, at the same time, we cannot take sides, and shake ourselves clear of the accursed thing. We cannot tell what will happen; we will wait, and perhaps fate may favour us.” I know what would happen if we feared God more; we would sooner die than remain in any fellowship with popery. Every man who saw any fear of his being found in complicity with Antichrist would at once say, “I will not have it. Popery is abhorred by the Lord, and those who help it wear the mark of the beast. I hate Antichrist, and therefore I denounce it and cry, ‘Down with it, raze it even to the ground.’ ” Everything that is from the Pope and popery would soon be put aside if only men were true to their consciences and their God. This generation is credulous, and yet unbelieving. It is deluded by the most transparent frauds. It swings like a pendulum to this and that; it believes in almost anything except its God, but in God and his truth and righteousness it will not be made to believe.
Oh for a John Knox! We need a leader, firm and heroic, a man strong
and stout because he has God with him. He who believes in God will
make men decide for the right when otherwise they would vacillate. He
is a commander-in-chief among the sons of men. His brow is like a
flint, and he is not to be abashed. Let criticism rattle upon his
armour like a hailstorm, he stands firm and defies it all. May God
make some of you into such heroes. I wish that he would make all of
you valiant for truth, so that in your little circle you would be
firm for God and scriptural doctrine and pure worship, because you
have taken hold of him. May God save us from the men of willow, and
spineless and plaster of Paris, such as would be dear if you could
buy them at a shilling for a dozen. Take these away, oh father Time,
and give us back men of granite, men of backbone, oh say rather, men
of God. Oh that each man among us were aroused to take hold of God,
and that all our faculties were stirred to their utmost depth, and
that then they grasped the Lord. Ho comrades, do you not see the
standard! It wavers! Shall it fall? The true soldier in the cruel
fight, when he sees the standard-bearer struck down, and the fight
thickening all around the banner, stirs up all his strength and
rushes into the strife, as a lion leaps on his prey. He strains every
sinew, and throws every nerve into action, dashing forward to grasp
the standard and to hold it aloft, whoever dares to touch it. He
strikes right and left, and sooner than the banner shall be trailed
in the mire, he will spill his life in crimson streams upon the
ground. Up you soldiers of Christ! Up you lion-like men, and turn the
battle to the gate! May God help you to do it for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Isa 64; 65:1-10]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — God Is All Sufficient” 676]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — Stand Up For Jesus” 674]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Dedication To God — ‘My Beloved Is Mine And I Am His’ ” 660]
[a] Pugmill: A machine for comminuting, thoroughly mixing, and working clay and other materials into a plastic state for making bricks and pottery. OED.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
676 — God Is All Sufficient (l.m.)
1 Awake our souls, away our fears,
Let every trembling thought begone
Awake, and run the heavenly race,
And put a cheerful courage on.
2 True, ‘tis a strait and thorny road,
And mortal spirits tire and faint;
But they forget the mighty God
That feeds the strength of every saint.
3 Thee, mighty God, whose matchless power
Is ever new and ever young,
And firm endures, while endless years
Their everlasting circles run.
4 From thee, the overflowing spring,
Our souls shall drink a fresh supply,
While such as trust their native strength,
Shall melt away, and droop, and die.
5 Swift as an eagle cuts the air,
We’ll mount aloft to thine abode;
On wings of love our souls shall fly,
Nor tire amidst the heavenly road.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
674 — Stand Up For Jesus (7.6)
1 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
Ye soldiers of the cross!
Lift high his royal banner;
It must not suffer loss:
From victory unto victory
His army shall he lead,
Till every foe is vanquish’d,
And Christ is Lord indeed.
2 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
The trumpet call obey;
Forth to the mighty conflict,
In this his glorious day;
Ye that are men, now serve him,
Against unnumber’d foes;
Your courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose.
3 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
Stand in his strength alone:
The arm of flesh will fail you;
Ye dare not trust your own:
Put on the gospel armour,
And watching unto prayer,
Where duty calls, or danger,
Be never wanting there.
4 Stand up! Stand up for Jesus!
The strife will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
To him that overcometh
A crown of life shall be;
He with the King of Glory
Shall reign eternally.
George Duffield, 1858.
The Christian, Dedication To God
660 — “My Beloved Is Mine And I Am His” (c.m.)
1 When I had wander’d from his fold,
His love the wanderer sought;
When slave like into bondage sold,
His blood my freedom bought.
2 Therefore that life, by him redeem’d,
Is his through all its days;
And as with blessings it hath teem’d,
So let it teem with praise.
3 For I am his, and he is mine,
The God whom I adore!
My Father, Saviour, Comforter,
Now and for evermore.
4 When sunk in sorrow, I despair’d,
And changed my hopes for fears,
He bore my griefs, my burden shared,
And wiped away my tears.
5 Therefore the joy by him restored,
To him by right belongs:
And to my gracious loving Lord,
I’ll sing through life my songs:
6 For I am his, and his is mine,
The God whom I adore!
My Father, Saviour, Comforter,
Now and for evermore!
John S. B. Monsell, 1863.