1371. Vanities And Verities

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Charles Spurgeon expounds on 2 Corinthians 4:18.

A Sermon Delivered By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *8/16/2012

We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporary; but the things which are not seen are eternal. [2Co 4:18]

1. The apostle Paul was by no means a stoic. He had not conquered all human feeling, and rendered himself a stone man. On the contrary, he was extremely sensitive. You can see abundant evidence, not only in the Acts of the Apostles, but also in the tone of all his epistles, that he has a very tender spirit. He acutely feels any unkindness. If a friend forsakes him, he mourns it; or if friends oblige him, there is genuine emotion in his gratitude. He is sensitive, too, to poverty, sensitive to shame; sensitive to all those griefs which he has to bear for Christ’s sake. He feels them; you can see that he does. He is not an invulnerable man in armour, he is a man of flesh and blood, whom the arrow pierces and pains. Yet how bravely he sticks to his work; he faces every danger and never dreams of flinching. Never for a single moment does he seem to take into consideration what he may have to personally suffer for the testimony of Christ and the triumph of the gospel. He remembers the pangs when they are past; he looks on the scars when they are healed, and he sometimes gives a long list of the perils and deprivations he has had to endure, thus showing that he was keenly sensitive; but he never tries to shelter himself from any kind of suffering if it is necessary to accomplish his life-work. Thus he pressed steadily on through evil report and good report, through honour and through dishonour, enjoying the love of the churches at one time, and at another time smarting under a cruel suspicion of his apostleship even among his own converts; now the hero of unbounded popularity when the people crowd to do him honour, and immediately the victim of public hatred and frenzied riot when he is dragged out of the city to be stoned to death. “But none of these things move me, neither do I consider my life dear to me,” he could well say. He seemed as if God had thrown him out from his hand, even as he hurls a thunderbolt, and he did not stop until he reached the end towards which the power of God was urging him. He cried, “The love of Christ constrains us.” He considered himself, therefore, dead to all except Christ. Well may we be curious to know what supported so noble a man under his trials, and developed such a hero under such a succession of oppositions. What kept him so calm; what made him so self-possessed and intrepid?

2. How was it that when cast down he was not destroyed — that when troubled he was not distressed? What sustained him? He gives us the key to this fortitude by telling us that he considered his afflictions light because they were, in his estimation, only for a moment; and they were working out for him a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. He was calm and happy amid rage and tumult, violent prejudice, and adverse and even disastrous circumstances, because, in the language of the text, he did not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are unseen, considering that the things which are seen are not worth looking at, they are so transient, while the things unseen are of priceless value, because they are eternal. That is our subject at this time: Firstly, things not to be looked at; and, secondly, things to be looked at.

3. The text takes the form of a double paradox. Things that can be seen are, naturally, the things to be looked at. What should a man look at except what he can see? And yet the apostle tells us not to look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. How can invisible things be looked at? That again is a paradox. How can you look at what you cannot see? This is only one paradox of the Christian life, which is all paradox, and the riddle lies rather in the words than in the sense. We shall soon discover that there is no contradiction or incongruity, no difficulty whatever.

4. I. First, then, let us LOOK AT WHAT CAN BE SEEN, and ask, what are we to understand by this protest: “We do not look at the things which are seen.” The word for “look” is used, I think, six times in the New Testament, and is translated in four or five different ways. I do not intend to keep to those translations, but to work them into the explanation of what is meant by not looking at the things which are seen.

5. It means, first, lightly esteeming both present joy and present sorrow, as if they were not worth looking at. The present is so soon to be over that Paul does not care to look at it. There is so little of it, and it lasts such a brief time, that he does not even condescend to give it a glance, he does not look at it. Here he is persecuted, despised, forsaken. “It will not last long,” he says. “It is only a pin’s prick; it will soon be over, and I shall be with the goodly fellowship above, and behold my Master’s face.” He will not look at it. He ignores it. So it behoves us to do this if surrounded with trials, troubles, present sorrows; we should not think so much of them as to fix our attention, or rivet our gaze on them. Rather let us treat them with indifference and say, “It is really a very small matter whether I am in wealth or in poverty, in health or in sickness; whether I am enjoying comforts or whether I am robbed of them. The present will be so soon gone that I do not care to look at it. I am like a man who stays at an inn for a night while he is on a journey. Is the room uncomfortable? When the morning breaks it is of no use making a complaint, and so he merely chronicles the fact, and hurries on.” He says to himself, “Never mind, I am up and away immediately; it is of no use fretting about trifles.” If a person is going a long distance in a railway coach, he may be a little particular concerning where he shall sit to see the country, and concerning which way he likes to ride; but if it is only a short trip — between, say, the Borough Road and the Elephant and Castle — he does not think about it. He does not care in whose company he may be, it is only for a few minutes; he is hardly in before he is out again, it is a matter not worth thinking about. That is how the apostle regarded it. He considered that his present joys and present sorrows were so soon to be over that they were to him a matter of indifference, not even worth casting his eye that way to see what they were. “Does Jesus ask me go to Rome?” says the apostle. “Then I do not look to see whether I shall be housed in Nero’s hall or caged in Nero’s dungeon. It is for so short a while that if I can serve my Master better in the dungeon than I can in the palace, so let it be. My casual lot shall be my well contented choice. It shall be a matter, if not of cool indifference, yet still of calm serenity, for it will be over soon, and gone into history. A whole eternity lies beyond, and therefore a short temporality dwindles into an insignificant trifle.” What a blessed philosophy this is which teaches us not even to look at passing, transient troubles, but to fix our gaze on eternal triumphs.

6. He meant more than that, however. He meant that he had learned not to regard the things of the present as if they were at all real. He did not look upon them as substantial or enduring. Just as clouds when they float overhead assume various shapes but change their form while we are gazing at them, so events as they seemed to be transpiring were to him no more than apparitions. When a man looks on a dissolving view, knowing that it is going to dissolve, he does not regard it as being other than an illusion. It is a shadow cast upon a sheet, there is nothing substantial in it. It may please his eye, but he will say, “The subject upon the sheet is not the real thing. The view before me is not the scene itself, and if I turn my eyes away from it, it will have melted away into nothingness in a little while, so for all its charms or its terrors I will not fret myself.” You know how Paul explains his own words in another passage when he says, “Brethren, the time is short. It remains, that both those who have wives be as though they had none; and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; and those who use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passes away.” That is so with the earthly joy of the best of men. He should say to himself, “This is a dying joy; this will pass away; I look at it as a shadow.” Is a child born into your house? Read across his brow the word “Mortal,” and when he dies you will not be disappointed or be anything like so sad as if you dreamed that you were parent of an immortal; such a thought must be a dream, since your little one may be taken from you as well as the child of another. When you have riches do you say to yourself, “This is a solid treasure; this is golden gain?” Ah, then it will be your god, and if you lose it the loss will eat like a canker into your spirit. But if you say, “These are fleeting things; they take to themselves wings and fly away; I will not consider money to be treasure, but only look upon it as a shadow and hold it as such — as a thing not to be compared with substances, because it is seen and temporal” — that is the way to do with every one of our joys. Do not look upon them as though they were substantial, for they are not. They are a part of this life dream, this empty show; they are nothing more at their very best. Oh, how often do they prove to us, painfully, that they are unsubstantial! Look in the same way upon your circumstances. Say, “Well, I am in poverty, but this is not real poverty, because it is not lasting poverty. In a short time I shall be among the angels and walk the streets of gold, and be as bravely clad as any prince among them; therefore I will not fret and worry, since my poverty will soon be over.” Anything of loss or suffering that you are called upon to endure, always look upon it in the light of time, and see what a fleeting thing it is, and bear it bravely like a man — indeed, like a Christian man — because you have in heaven a better and an enduring substance. These transient things are not worthy to be considered. Look upon them as if they were just nothing at all. The apostle did so.

7. Again, I find the word sometimes translated “mark.” “Brethren,” says the apostle, “mark those who are unruly.” The word is the same as what is here rendered “look.” Dear friends, we are not to mark the things which are seen as if they were worth notice. You know that little children, if you give them a new toy, or a new outfit, clap their hands and otherwise express their delight. That is because they are children. Do not be children in knowledge, but behave yourselves like men; and as for the things of this life, look on them as toys. Do not act towards them as children do, but as men. “Oh,” says the young man, “I have received my degree at the university today.” How he exalts. What high importance he attaches to it. He wishes to get the newspaper to see if it is recorded there. It is to him an event as great as anything in history. We perhaps are rather amused at his excitement, for we do not consider anything of this kind much worthy of notice. Another man finds that he has made some considerable gain, and he, too, considers it as a red-letter day the day in which he seized these additions to his fortune. If you are doing so you are making sorrow for yourself, for as surely as joy becomes too sweet sorrow will become too bitter. If I care nothing whatever for man’s praise, I think very little of man’s condemnation; one gets to be brave in that way. It is not good to be much elated or much depressed by the joys and sorrows of life. If you are overjoyed, if you mark down certain matters as the very essence of happiness, and begin to exalt and revel in the things which are seen, then, notice that, when the untoward things come to you and blight your hopes, you will find that you have rendered yourself too sensitive, and you will feel the smart far more keenly than you would have done if you had exercised enough wisdom to forbear revelling in the sweets. Look at the wasps and flies in summer. They will see placed for them by your kindness sweet liquor in which to catch them; sugar or honey is employed to hold their wings. The wise fly sips a little and goes away, but the unwise insect enjoys the sweet and wades in farther and farther until he clogs his wings, and it is he who will suffer when you come to destroy your prey. It is a blessed thing to be able to sip from this world, and no more, for to plunge into it is death. Avoid the sweets of this world when they begin to tempt you. Say of them, as Solomon did of wine — “Do not look upon it when it is red, when it gives its colour in the cup, when it moves itself about, for who has woe, who has sorrow, who has contention, who has babbling, who has wounds without cause, who has redness of eyes?” Surely the men who make this world to be their highest joy find at the last it bits like a serpent and stings as an adder. They indulge their passions to the destruction of their souls. Do not, therefore, mark carnal joy as specially to be desired.

8. But are we never to have anything special to mark? Oh yes, carefully mark down the eternal things. Did the Lord appear to you? Mark that down. Did you win a soul for Christ? Mark that down. Did you have sweet answers to prayer? Mark that down. Those are things of special note, as I am quite sure Paul thought. Though he would not say much about the discomforts of the dungeon of the Praetorium, he marked down its consolations. When Onesimus came to hear him, he made a note of it. It did not matter to him whether he was assailed with stones or surrounded with applause. Whether he lodged in a palace or slept in a prison was to him no more than the incident, or say only the accident of the hour; he made no account of such trivialities. He never marked those things down; the eternal was what he marked, but not the transient.

9. Another meaning is, take heed. You must put all the translations together to get the meaning. In the gospel according to Luke this word is translated, “Take heed.” The apostle meant, no doubt, that he did not take heed of the things which were seen. He did not exercise care, thought, and anxiety about them; but his care, thought, and anxiety were about the things which are not seen. “After all these things,” Christ says, “do the Gentiles seek.” So they do. They are always seeking after the world; from early morning until late at night it is the world they are after. Well, let the Gentiles follow their pursuits; but the child of God should not, for our Lord says to us, “Take no thought for your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, or with what you shall be clothed.” He tells us to cast our care upon him, and cease from all anxiety. “Seek,” he says, “first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” So the apostle Paul tells us not to care, not to worry or trouble ourselves about things which are seen, whether good or bad, prosperous or adverse — never allowing them to eat like a corrosive acid into our spirit. We are to spend all our heed upon our walk with God, our obedience to his command, our fulfilling his will, our spreading his kingdom, our getting ready for the coming of Christ, our being prepared for judgment, our being prepared to dwell eternally with God at his right hand. About these matters we ought to take heed. This is our business, but, alas, our thoughts naturally drift the other way. These temporary things are accustomed to absorb us. There are some who not only apologise for themselves, but justify their worldly mindedness. Fitly, therefore, does the Lord Jesus Christ, by the mouth of his apostle, recall our thoughts from grovelling themes, and tells us to take heed of the eternal, and let the secular sit lightly on our minds.

10. Paul in the epistle to the Galatians uses the word in the sense of considering, “considering yourself lest you also are tempted.” We shall dive still more deeply into the meaning if we understand how in certain conditions, the present, the transient, the things most palpable to the senses are properly left out of all consideration, and not taken into consideration. For example, if the apostle knew that he should glorify God by preaching the gospel, what would it matter to him if friend or foe should say to him, “Paul, you will risk your life by attempting to do so?” Live or die, he would be bold to preach. He never took their caveat into his consideration. And if they had said, “If you state such and such a truth, or administer such and such a reproof in a certain church, you will be sure to lose their respect; you will lose standing among them,” again he would have smiled. It would have had no more influence upon him than it would have upon a merchant should you say to him, “If you go into such a district you will have to encounter clouds of dust.” He would reply “Why, if I can net a thousand pounds, what do I care about dust or no dust?” If it is my object to ascend a mountain, am I to be deterred by a few cobwebs across my path? What are tiny obstacles to a strong man? So Paul did not consider the things which are seen to be worth a thought, though there are puny folk who value nothing else. The cost to him seemed so little, that he would let it go into the scale or not, as men pleased. “I consider that these light afflictions, which are only for a moment, are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

11. Are you not sometimes placed in this position? You know you ought to do right, but you fear that if you do so you will lose your position. Well, now, if God’s cause is uppermost in your estimation you will not consider your loss as the first matter. You will rather say, “I can lose anything sooner than lose peace of mind, and miss pleasing God.” Or there is some duty which you know you ought to perform, and you are told, “Well, if you do that you will lose your old uncle’s love. He will write you out of his will. You must think about it.” What is the use of thinking about it? It is only an earthly, transient thing; and what are these transient things, no matter what they are, compared with the eternal weight of glory? Oh brothers, if men lived in the light of eternity, and judged their position accordingly, how differently would they act. But instead of so doing we begin weighing those trifles which we may have to endure for Christ’s sake, and making much of them. This is playing the traitor to Christ, and forsaking him when we ought to be most firm. Shame upon us if we requite our Lord like this. Eternal contempt awaits such cowards. From this time on may we never look upon the things which are seen as substantial, but put them down as vanity, and let the things which are not seen rise before us in all their supremacy of value.

12. Perhaps you may get a still clearer perception of the meaning of the text if I tell you its full interpretation. By “not looking at the things which are seen” we may understand not making them our focus. That is the nearest English word I can find to interpret the Greek. Do not let these visible objects be the focus of your life; for, alas, there are many whose whole focus of life is that they may prosper in this world. The next world may go as it wills; their focus ends here. To win the esteem of God seems a trifle to them. That they may live at ease, enjoy the comforts, and, if possible, the luxuries of this life, is their sole purpose and object.

13. As for the eternal things of heaven they seem dim and unsubstantial. Now, it must not be so with us. We should say, “I pursue the things eternal. I am no more a citizen of this world, but a pilgrim bound for the celestial city. When I passed through Vanity Fair, they asked me to buy this and that, and I said, ‘I buy the truth.’ I must go through the Enchanted Ground, but I will not sleep there, for this is not my rest. Whatever I see which is enchanting to others shall have no power over me, for the focus of my soul’s desire and life-work is eternity.” Oh that we all had invisible joys for our goal.

14. To sum up the whole, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, do not look at the things which are seen. Do not look upon your comforts as if they were enduring. Do not dote upon them. Do not think of them as if you had them otherwise than on loan, or as if you had any right to them. Be thankful to God for them; but, because they will so soon pass away, do not set much value on them. Do not build your nest on any of these trees, for they are all marked for the axe, and before long they will all come down. Do not say of any mortal man, or woman, or dear child, or worldly possession, or knowledge, or pursuit, or honour, “This means a lot to me.” Let it be little to you. Put the gifts of God far down in the scale compared with himself. Try, when you have your comforts, to find God in all; and, when you lose your comforts, then just change the words, and try to find all in God; for, remember, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but man shall live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

15. You do not have to live on the creature comforts; you are bound to live on the living word of the living God, and you will never be fully happy until you do this. A man who goes to a town and chooses a house that is dilapidated — the foundations gone and the beams decayed — may say, “This is a very comfortable house.” But you would not think so highly of its charms. “No,” you would be ready to say, “I cannot be comfortable in it. The rich hangings and costly furniture do not hide the serious defects; it may fall down at any time around the ears of the sleepers. This is not a house for me.” You know this is the case in daily life and common experience. Well, it is just same with regard to the eternal things. Therefore say to yourself, “I must repose my soul upon what is true, real, well founded, and imperishable; earthly things are too transient to afford me any solace or security. I dare not set my soul upon them. I cannot drink water out of these broken cisterns, I must go to the fountain from where all satisfying, trustworthy supplies flow.”

16. You must do the same with regard to your sorrows; although it looks rather hard, yet it is the wiser way to take them cheerfully, rather than to exaggerate their weight by murmuring about them. If a man has grace to live above his joys, that same grace will enable him to live above his sorrows. As I said just now, when earthly joys enchant you too much, then should earthly sorrows overtake you they will make you severely despondent. Your wisdom is to live above them both, above the glee of prosperity and the gloom of adversity. Dear brother, what ails you? have you lost a child? Lost! Why, you will be where that dear one is within so incredibly short a time, that you need not worry and fret. Coming down from such a domestic grief as that to a commercial anxiety; you have had a sad loss in the City, have you? Some of your comforts will be curtailed. But if you get nearer to the heart of your Lord, and love him better, and walk in the light of his countenance more than you did, you will never know you had a loss. You will be so much richer in the fine gold of his comfort, that you will scarcely miss the silver of this poor world.

17. And so, too, if you lose credit, or are disowned by old friends, or are deprived of anything which men are accustomed to make a great account of here below; if you remember that it was only a bubble, and it has burst, you will not be broken-hearted. Say, “It never was more than a bubble, and I ought to have known that it would soon be gone. The comfort I had was never anything except a temporary loan, and I ought to have remembered that it was borrowed.” If you get into that state of mind you will live above the cares of this life. May God help you to do so.

18. II. Now for a few minutes let us address ourselves to the second point — LOOKING AT THE THINGS WHICH ARE NOT SEEN. How can we do that?

19. Well, first, believe them by faith. We believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in the judgment, and in everlasting life, according to the teaching of the word of God. Try to look at these things — to look at them as present facts. Some will never do that. They will tell you that they could not see them if they tried; but that is just what we, who have been taught by God do, to look at the things which are not seen, can palpably discern. Oh, to look beyond death to “the home over there,” beyond the swelling flood where souls that were loved by God from before the foundation of the world are safe with Jesus. I invite you to do so, especially if you have some dear ones there. Do you see them? Do you hear their music? Do you behold their joys? Are you going to be troubled about them any longer after having experienced their certain happiness? Eventually there comes the resurrection, and the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised. The very body over which you wept because it was to be given to the worm shall rise in matchless beauty in the likeness of its Lord. Will you not wipe your eyes dry now and submit to the divine will, for surely the hope of the blessed resurrection makes amends for the loss by death? Then there is to come the judgment, and you and I will be there. A soldier, some time ago, was in the valley of Jehoshaphat, where, according to tradition, the feet of the Messiah will rest in the day of judgment, and he sat on a stone and said, “And shall we all be present? I will sit here in that day.” And there, absorbed with the thought, he looked up to the sky, and so distinctly did he experience the majestic vision of the day of judgment, that he fell to the ground in amazement, oblivious of everything that was transpiring around him. Ah, if all of us were living in the light of the day of the Lord, what trifles these ebbs and flows, these ups and downs of passing circumstances would seem to be! How lightly we should bear sorrow, and how little we should consider of earthly fortunes and misfortunes if we could actually forecast the tremendous day when with angels for witnesses and Christ for our judge we shall have to stand and be judged according to the things done in the body. Imagine heaven, brothers and sisters — the heaven of the perfected manhood after the resurrection — the heaven where we shall see the Beloved’s face, and day and night extol him for ever. Oh, what is it to be poor? What is it to be sick? What would it be to go through a thousand deaths if we may only at last behold his glory, world without end? And think of hell, you who forget God and revel in vanities; as your trembling spirit best may, think what it must be to be driven from his presence — to hear him say, “Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire in hell.” Ah! gilded world, how you lose your lustre when once I see the lurid glare of Tophet! Oh painted prostitute, how I see your haggard ugliness, when I hear the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth of those who chose the broad road and let the Lord the Saviour go! How I despise you! As the vision opens before the eyes of faith what zeal it kindles in my heart! If only I could induce some careless person here, who nevertheless believes the Scriptures, to sit down, if it were only for one half-hour and try, believingly, to picture these things in his mind’s eye. This sacred volume is full of pictures; pictures of things that shall shortly come to pass. Oh that you had the discernment to see them, not as weird fancies, but as veritable facts; the true sayings of God. The real thing is what you do not see to be real. The fiction is what you consider to be a solid fact. Each one of us is going down to the grave, but God lives for ever and ever. As for that body of yours in which you are sitting in this house, it is not a substance which shall endure, but it is a shadow which shall dissolve, rotting into dust, and exhaling into water. Yet there lives within you what you cannot see — the real and true self; and that true self of yours will pass into another state, and through it into yet another, which shall be everlasting. And, oh, may God grant that your lot may not be everlasting sorrow, but endless joy. In either case the things which are not seen are eternal. Gird up your loins and look at them like a man who will have before long to dispel the illusions of sense and confront the verities of eternity, whether he wishes to or not.

20. The Christian learns to look on these things with the eye of delight. Is it not for you, my dear brother in Christ, a delight to see God? I should not like to go to any place where I could not see my God. Yet he is not seen. Is it not a delightful thing to look forward to the heaven that is above — to the city of the blest? When the Lord indulges our faith with a view of that eternal joy — and some of us have known what it is — it has been too much for our weak capacity. We can laugh in our sleep when we dream of heaven, and we can sit down in the midst of pain and sorrow and feel as if we could not feel more joy than we possess, because our souls have looked on the pinnacles of our Father’s palace, and seen the gleaming radiance of the twelve jewelled foundations of the eternal city where there is a house and a crown and a harp for every believer among us. The poor girl who goes home from this joyous place of worship to her own little cheerless room would feel miserable indeed if she looked at the shady side of her condition; but she says, “My Lord is in this room,” and the place glows as if it were made of slabs of gold. She settles down and begins to think of the heaven that is hers, and she sees herself to be a king’s daughter, a true princess, for she possesses in the glory land a crown that no head can wear except hers, and there is a mansion provided for her which no one can occupy except herself; therefore she may well be happy. Oh beloved friends, learn to look at these things with intense delight, because they are ours in reversion [a] now, and are soon to be ours in possession.

21. On the other hand, if you are not converted, I would urge you to look upon the eternal future — for it is all eternal — with an intense dread, for without Christ what is there for you among the things which are not seen, and are eternal, but what will make you wring your hands with poignant grief and gnash your teeth with bitter self-reproach if you are resolved to live and to die as you now are? You do not see yet the future state of woe, but like all the unseen things it is eternal. There can be no end to the misery of an immortal soul when once banished from God. I see no “larger hope” revealed in Scripture. Let my philosophical brethren conjecture what they wish, where God does not speak I am silent; but I do see the dread forebodings of a death that never dies and a fire that is never quenched. I would have every man who will not have Christ, or who dilly-dallies with salvation and runs risks with his soul, to look at what he risks. Face your future, oh you who choose your own destruction! That was a solemn morning’s work for Abraham when he went to the place where he was accustomed to meet God, and he looked towards Sodom, and he saw its smoke going up as the smoke of a furnace. Oh Christians, you do well sometimes to look that way. Such a contemplation is not pleasant for flesh and blood. No, but it will do you good and make you feel fervent emotions of gratitude for your own redemption, and intense desires for the salvation of others. But come here, sinner! Come here! I must have you here. Look, do you see it? Do you see it — the smoke of the flame which burns for ever and ever? That flame is for your burning if you do not repent. Do you see it as it reddens the heavens? That fire burns for you if you do not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Will you not look? If you will not, you will have to feel it, you cannot mitigate those woes by refusing to believe in their existence. It is the silly trick of the ostrich, so they say, when the hunter pursues it, to burrow its head in the sand and imagine itself to be safe; and this is what you are doing, with more than equal folly. I would gladly bring you back to reason. Look at the things which are not seen, for they are eternal. I heard a remark the other day which struck me forcibly, — “If a man had no worse pain than the toothache, if he knew that it would last for ever, he would desire to die so that he might escape from it. When we have to endure any acute pain for a little while we begin to cry out for relief, and find it hard to be quiet, but were any pang to last eternally, the horror of such an expectation would even now be overwhelming!” By the dread thought of eternity I implore you see to it, that your salvation is secured at once. Escape for your life, my friend, and do not look behind you, for unless you escape in time your fate will be sealed for ever and ever. Those things which are not seen are eternal, and hell is one of them. Unless you escape now by faith in Jesus Christ you never will escape. There is no reprieve nor respite in the world to come; pardon therefore should be sought at once.

22. By looking into the things which are not seen, Paul doubtless meant that he looked to them with hope. To his view the harvest was ripe, and he was eager to reap it. I invite all believers to be looking with ardent hope for the things that are eternal. Long for the bright appearing of the Lord. Long for your translation to the city of glory. Expect it; watch for it. It is on the way. You may be much nearer than you think. You may be in heaven before next year; indeed, you may be there before tomorrow morning. Light is fading from the earth. Dear friend, look towards heaven. Look towards eternal things. Make it a point to look forward to your future home. Should there be any young man here who is not twenty-one, and he knows that when he comes of age he is to be squire of a village, own a park, and enjoy a rich inheritance, I will be bound to say he has often anticipated the time because he is sure of his title. If any one of you had a legacy left to him of a large estate, he would be off this week to have a look at it. One likes to look at one’s own possessions; Christian, be sure to survey your own possession in the skies. Read much the book of God, which tells you of your future inheritance. Say to yourself, “This is all mine. Why should I not begin to enjoy it? Did not the Israelites fetch bunches of the grapes of Eshcol before they entered Canaan? And why should not I?” I hope you will full often enjoy foretastes of bliss, until you can sing with John Berridge, — 

   Too long, alas, I vainly sought
      For happiness below,
   But earthly comforts, dearly bought,
      No solid good bestow.
   At length, through Jesus’ grace, I found,
      The good and promised land
   Where milk and honey much abound
      And grapes in clusters stand.
   My soul has tasted of the grapes,
      And now it longs to go
   Where my dear Lord his vineyard keeps,
      And all the clusters grow.
   Upon the true and living vine
      My famish’d soul would feast,
   And banquet on the fruit divine,
      An everlasting guest.

What a sanctifying influence such anticipations would have upon you! “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself.” Pursue eternal things with concentrated mind. You must look right on to the end of the race for the prize. The runner does not cast a glance to the right or to the left, or to the flowers which bespangle the pathway, but he keeps his eye on the prize, and that helps him to run. He stretches every nerve to reach the end, and win the prize. Brothers and sisters, make eternal things the focus of your life at all times. This I have told you is the literal sense of the original Greek. Make them that for which you strive for and plan; that for which you think and consider; that for which you live and act; throw your whole being into eternal things. Are we, therefore, to neglect business, you may ask? God forbid! Serve God in business. To leave business, or to do business as if it were not a part of your religion, would be a departure from your Master’s will, and not a fulfilment of it. Sanctify your most common action to the glory of God. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God.” Have an eye always on eternity. Keep your thoughts upon that. Eat and drink as for eternity, remembering that what you eat and drink perishes, and he who eats will perish too. It is “earth to earth” whenever we eat, therefore let us not make gods of our bellies. When you enjoy any earthly thing, do it as in the light of eternity, and say, “I am picking a flower that must fade. This is not a diamond that will remain with me, always glistening; it is only a bright daisy; it looks very pretty at the moment, but it will soon fade. The children gather it, but soon let it fall, and so do I. Do not put your soul into what is sensual at your peril. See that you pursue with all your might spiritual things.” As for transient things, commit them to God’s providence. Do your best to honour God in the use of this world’s currency, but do not make it your wealth. Look at Jonah sitting under his gourd which screened him from the scorching sun with its broad leaves. Think of Jonah as he said to himself, “How happy I am under this arbour. How cool it makes me.” He was content and comfortable, but God prepared a worm. The worm destroyed the wretched gourd. Though it seemed so beautiful before, it soon became only fit to be pulled down and cast upon the dunghill. It may soon be the same with your earthly comforts. If you make your gourd your God, it will do you no good. Gourds are good enough, but they are not good when you put them in the place of eternal comforts.

23. I finish with this. Treat the things present as if they were not, and live like an heir of heaven’s invisible but substantial joys. Higher and better things are in store for you. May God bless you by his blessed Spirit with blessed foretastes of the blessed hereafter. Amen.

[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — 2Co 4]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — ‘Whom Having Not Seen We Love’ ” 785]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, World Renounced — Escaping From The Current Of Sin” 656]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, World Renounced — Choosing The Pearl” 657]


[a] Reversion: Conditional upon the expiry of a grant or the death of a person. OED.

The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
785 — “Whom Having Not Seen We Love”
1 Jesus, these eyes have never seen
      That radiant form of thine!
   The veil of sense hangs dark between
      Thy blessed face and mine!
2 I see thee not, I hear thee not,
      Yet art thou oft with me;
   And earth hath ne’er so dear a spot.
      As where I meet with thee.
3 Like some bright dream that comes unsought,
      When slumbers o’er me roll,
   Thine image ever fills my thought,
      And charms my ravish’d soul.
4 Yet though I have not seen, and still
      Must rest in faith alone;
   I love thee, dearest Lord! and will,
      Unseen, but not unknown.
5 When death these mortal eyes shall seal,
      And still this throbbing heart,
   The rending veil shall thee reveal,
      All glorious as thou art!
                           Ray Palmer, 1858.


The Christian, World Renounced
656 — Escaping From The Current Of Sin
1 I send the joys of earth away,
   Away, ye tempters of the mind;
   False as the smooth deceitful sea,
   And empty as the whistling wind.
2 Your streams were floating me along
   Down to the gulf of black despair;
   And whilst I listen’d to your song,
   Your streams had e’en convey’d me there.
3 Lord, I adore thy matchless grace,
   That warn’d me of that dark abyss,
   That drew me from those treacherous seas
   And bade me seek superior bliss.
4 Now to the shining realms above
   I stretch my hands, and glance my eyes;
   Oh for the pinions of a dove,
   To bear me to the upper skies!
5 There from the bosom of my God,
   Oceans of endless pleasure roll;
   There would I fix my last abode,
   And drown the sorrows of my soul.
                        Isaac Watts, 1709.


The Christian, World Renounced
657 — Choosing The Pearl
1 Ye glittering toys of earth, adieu,
      A nobler choice be mine;
   A real prize attracts my view,
      A treasure all divine.
2 Begone, unworthy of my cares,
      Ye specious baits of sense:
   Inestimable worth appears,
      The pearl of price immense.
3 Jesus to multitude unknown,
      Oh name divinely sweet!
   Jesus, in thee, in thee alone,
      Wealth, honour, pleasure meet.
4 Should both the Indies at my call,
      Their boasted stores resign,
   With joy I would renounce them all,
      For leave to call thee mine.
5 Should earth’s vain treasures all depart,
      Of this dear gift possess’d,
   I’d clasp it to my joyful heart,
      And be for ever bless’d.
6 Dear Sovereign of my soul’s desires,
      Thy love is bliss divine;
   Accept the wish that love inspires,
      And bid me call thee mine.
                        Anne Steele, 1760.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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