A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, May 12, 1878, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *9/18/2012
Underneath are the everlasting arms. [De 33:27]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 624, “Present Privilege and Future Favour” 615]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 803, “Israel’s God God’s Israel” 794]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1413, “Underneath” 1404]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2435, “Everlasting Arms, The” 2436]
Exposition on De 33 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3528, “Promise and a Providence, A” 3530 @@ "Exposition"]
God surrounds his children on all sides: they live in him. The
passage before us shows that the Lord is above, for we read,
“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides upon the heaven
in your help, and in his excellency in the sky.” Assuredly he is
around them, for “The eternal God is your refuge”; and he is
before them, for “He shall thrust out the enemy from before you;
and shall say, ‘Destroy them.’ ” Here according to the text the Lord
is also under his saints, for “Underneath are the everlasting
arms.” “Lord, you have been our dwelling-place in all generations,”
and we are surrounded by you everywhere as the earth by the
Within thy circling power I stand;
On every side I find thy hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God.
2. The verse which contains our text should be interpreted somewhat after this fashion: “The eternal God is your dwelling-place, or your rest, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” The parallel passage is that verse in the Song where the bride exclaims, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand embraces me.” The soul has come to its resting-place in God, and feels itself to be supported by the divine strength. The heart has learned to remain in Christ Jesus to go out no more for ever, but to lean on his bosom both day and night. It is somewhat in the condition of Noah’s dove which, when weary, was about to drop into the all-destroying waters, but Noah reached out his hand and pulled her in to him into the ark; and when she was all safe, in the hollow of his hands, held by her preserver with a firm but tender grasp, she found in that place a refuge which surrounded her and upheld her from below. The hands covered her on all sides and came beneath her too. Even so the hand of God sustains all those who remain in the secret place of the Most High and reside under the shadow of the Almighty.
3. I am going, however, to take the words just as they stand in our own Authorized Version, and to consider them apart from the context. I ask for your most careful consideration of them, for they must be very full of meaning, and very emphatic in their force. The words are placed at the end of the song of Moses, and they are its crown and climax. He had wound himself up to the highest pitch of poetic excitement and spiritual fervour, and this passage is the result. He had spoken grandly before concerning the individual tribes, and the words which fell from his lips are unspeakably rich; but now he is about to close, and therefore he pours out his loftiest strains and utters full and deep meanings, the ripest and choicest fruit of a lifetime of communion with God. Just as our Lord ascended to heaven blessing his disciples, so his servant Moses before climbing to Pisgah poured out a torrent of benedictions full and deep, inspired by the divine Spirit. It is not possible, therefore, that the language can be too highly prized. The words mean all that we can make them mean, the nectar of their consolation is altogether inexhaustible; may God the Holy Spirit help us to weigh and measure them, and then to distil their inner sense and drink the spiced wine of his pomegranate.
4. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” I shall handle the text in this way. Where? “Underneath”: What? “The everlasting arms”: When? They are underneath us now and for evermore: and if it is so, What then?
5. I. First let us attend to the question: — WHERE? “Underneath.”
Now, “underneath,” is a region into which we cannot see. We
glance downwards, and the dead cold earth stops our gaze. When we are
heavy in spirit we fix our eyes upon the ground and look, and look,
and look, but even an eagle’s glance cannot see far below. We can
scarcely peer beneath the thin green sod, the bottom of a grave is
almost the full range of mortal vision. The underworld is mysterious,
we associate the subterranean with all that is dark and hidden, and
because of this it is often regarded as terrible. A man scarcely
ever fears what he can see in proportion to his dread of what he
cannot see. Hence our alarm at the “underneath.” What may be
underneath us when we leave this sunlit region for the grave’s
overshadowing vault? What will happen to us in eternity? Life will
soon end: what is death? What is the immediate result of death? What
shall we feel when we are traversing those unknown tracks and finding
our way to the judgment seat of God? Not knowing, except that little
which has been revealed to us, we are all too apt to conjecture
terrors and invent horrors, and so to begin trembling concerning what
we do not understand. What a comfort it is to be told by the voice of
inspiration that “Underneath are the everlasting arms!” Poets have
usually been in a gloomy humour when picturing the underworld, and
imagination is very apt to spin a black and tangled thread. You have
read of dark caverns where the bodies of men are firmly detained, of
which caverns death has the key. Of this the grim Anglo-Saxon poet
wailed the warning note —
Loathsome is that earth house,
And grim within to dwell;
There thou shalt dwell,
And worms shall divide thee.
You have heard of gloomy ruins where the night raven for ever sits
and croaks; of corridors where prisoners incessantly rattle their
chains to the dolorous music of sullen groans and hollow moans. We
have been afraid of death because of the horrors with which our
ignorance has surrounded it, and dismayed at the future because of
the mysteries which darken it. Be comforted. Our text, like a lamp,
reveals the abyss of death and lifts up the veil of the future;
follow its gleam, and you will see how it dispels the darkness. If
you are a child of God you may descend without fear into the lowest
depths: even if like Jonah you had to cry, “I went down to the
bottoms of the mountains; the earth with her bars was around me for
ever,” yet you need not be dismayed, for “Underneath are the
everlasting arms.” If you were called to take some such awful journey
as Virgil and Dante have fabled in their poems, when their heroes
descended into the dread Avern, [a] you need not tremble, though it
were said of you as of them,
Along the illuminated shade
Darkening and lone their way they made.
If, I say, you were bound to traverse the sepulchral vaults, and all the gloomy dungeons of grave, still you need not fear, for “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Mystery of mysteries! you are no longer terrible to us, because the light of lights is shining upon you. Unfathomable depths, we no longer fear to pass through you, for there is one whose love is deeper than the depths beneath as it is higher than the heights above, and he has said, “I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring them up from the depths of the sea.” We gladly take our journey downward at the call of God, and without fear we pass through the gates of the tomb, and enter the doors of the shadow of death, for “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
7. “Underneath” — the word arouses thought and enquiry. Everything ought to be sound, solid, and substantial there. “Underneath” must be firm, for if that fails we fail indeed. We have been building, and our eyes have been gladdened with the rising walls, and with the towering pinnacles; but what if something should be rotten “underneath?” Great will be its fall, if we have built as high as heaven, if the sand lies underneath, yielding and shifting in the day of flood.
8. “Underneath” is the great matter to which the architect, if he is wise, will give his best attention. And truly, brethren, when you and I begin to examine our graces and our professions, that word “underneath” suggests many a testing question. Is it all right with us with respect to the root of the matter — “underneath?” If not, the fair flower above ground will wither very speedily. The seed has sprung up hastily, but how is the soil underneath? for if there is no depth of earth the scorching sun will soon dry up the superficial harvest. “Underneath,” though it is mysterious, is also intensely important, and hence the great joy of being able to say by faith, “Yes, ‘underneath’ is well secured; we have trusted in God and we shall not be confounded; we have relied on the eternal promises and they cannot fail; we have rested on the infinite merits of the atoning sacrifice of God’s dear Son, and we shall never be ashamed of our hope.” Happy is he who rests upon the everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure, for with him all is safe underneath; and, though the earth is removed, and the mountains are carried into the midst of the sea, he need not fear, but may patiently hope and quietly wait for the salvation of God.
9. For a period of time we may be content with superficial pleasures, but there are times of trial when we have to fall back upon something deeper and more reliable: earthly props give way in their season, and we need superior sustaining power. The carnal mind encounters an hour when “the proud helpers stoop under him”; and believers too, in proportion as they foolishly lean upon an arm of flesh, find their confidences departing; then it is that we feel the value of divine upholdings, and rejoice that “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Let us look more closely into this most important matter.
10. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” That is, first, as the foundation of everything. If you go down, down, to discover the foundation upon which all things rest you come before long to “the everlasting arms.” The things which are seen are held up by the invisible God. This outward visible universe has no power to stand for a single instant if he does not sustain its being. By him all things consist. There are no forces apart from God’s power, no existences apart from his will. He bears up the pillars of the universe. He alone spreads out the heavens, and treads upon the waves of the sea. He makes Arcturus, Orion, and the Pleiades, and the chambers of the south. Foolish are those philosophers who think that they can reach the essence and soul from which visible things were created, unless they bow before the invisible God. He is the foundation of creation, the fountain and source of being, the root and basis of existence. “Underneath” everything “are the everlasting arms.”
11. This is most true with regard to his church. He chose her and redeemed her to himself: the very idea of a church is from the Lord alone. As a temple he devised her architecture, saying, “I will lay your foundations with sapphires”; and he has built up her every stone by his own power; he sustains her walls against her enemies, so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against her, for the foundation of God stands sure. The foundation of every true church is the Lord himself, the Highest himself establishes her. God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
12. Blessed be God, what is true of the church as a corporate body is true of every member of the church. There exists no spiritual life in the world which is not founded upon the everlasting arms. Beloved, if the life of God is in you, if you search deep and go to the bottom of it, you will find that your life is sustaining itself and drawing its constant nurture, yes, deriving its very existence, from the life of the eternal God. Jesus says, “Because I live, you shall live also.” Your life is the life of God in you; for the divine seed is the foundation of all spiritual life. Beware, then, of harbouring in your heart anything which does not have the everlasting arms underneath it. If there is any hope let it be founded on the everlasting covenant of God; if there is any joy let it well up from the everlasting love of God; if there is any confidence let it be sustained upon the everlasting strength of Jehovah; if there is any service rendered, let it be according to the everlasting commandment. If in your soul there is any grace, if there is any virtue, if there is any praise, permit none of these matters to be superficial or pretentious, the creation of your own native strength, but let them be all founded upon the work of the Holy Spirit in your soul; in fact, let it be said of each of them, “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” Nothing will sustain us in the trials of life, the terrors of death, or the solemnities of the last great day, except what has underneath it the everlasting arms. See how the nations reel when God no longer sustains them: “he removes the mountains and they do not know, he overturns them in his anger.” See how those churches fall into apostasy which do not have the everlasting arms underneath them, they are quenched as the fire of thorns, and only smoke remains. Did not Jesus say, “Every plant that my Father has not planted shall be uprooted?” See how hypocritical professors disappear like the morning mist when the sun arises. Nothing will endure the day of the Lord’s coming unless its foundation is laid in the eternal God. May the Lord help us to know what this means, so that we may be like the wise man who dug deep and built his house upon a rock.
13. Again we may read the words, “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” in the sense of being the bottom and end and object of everything. If in faith you search into divine providence, however dark and trying it may appear, you will soon find that underneath it are the everlasting arms. Satan may be mining, but God is undermining; even under the deep devices of hell the everlasting arms are to be found. Satan’s craft is deep to us, but it is very shallow to the Lord, whose wisdom goes far deeper than all the cunning of the prince of darkness. The evils and errors which are in the world should not cause us to despair of the ultimate victory of the truth, for beneath them still there is the immutable decree of the Ever Living and the Ever-Blessed; and that decree shall be accomplished whoever may oppose it; has he not said, “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear?” His purpose shall stand, he will do all his pleasure. He works all things according to the counsel of his own will. Trace your present trials below their surface, trace them to the depths instead of groaning over their outward appearance, and you will find that underneath each trouble there is a faithful purpose and a kind intention; yes, beneath the utmost depths of distress and grief God is still at work in love for your soul, “From seeming evil still educing good, and better still, and better still, in infinite progression.” Underneath the best events are the arms of love to make them good, and underneath the worst that can happen are the very same everlasting arms to moderate and overrule them. As the design, and object of all, “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
14. I take the text, “Underneath are the everlasting arms,” to mean next that the arms of God are there as the preservation of his people. His people sometimes appear to themselves to be in very great danger, but it is written, “He shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways. They shall bear you up in their hands, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” Certain of the saints are placed in very high places, and their brain might well be turned, so that they would fall; but they shall not slip with their feet, for God upholds the righteous. If under deep depression of spirit and severe sorrow of heart their feet should be almost gone, what a blessing it is to think that “underneath are the everlasting arms.” Sometimes faith walks upon a very slender thread high up above the ways of common men; poising her balancing pole of experience, she tries to keep her feet, but her satisfaction is that even if she should slip for a while, and her joy should fail, yet there is a net beneath her which will receive her in her fall, so that she shall not be utterly dashed to pieces. “I have prayed for you that your faith does not fail” is the gracious safeguard of those who fall, as Peter did, when Satan has them in his sieve. The people of God must and shall be safe. Satan may cast them down, but God shall save them before they fall into perdition. Let us walk carefully none the less because of this. Let us watch our footsteps well as much as if our preservation entirely depended upon ourselves, but let us always look only to our Lord, knowing that he alone keeps the feet of his saints. Holiness, strength of faith, and ultimate perfection are the things which we must daily strive for, but it is a blessed consolation that when through infirmity or carelessness we do not fully maintain our consecrated walk, we are not therefore cast away for ever, for it is written, “Though he falls, he shall not be utterly cast down: for the Lord upholds him with his hand.” “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
15. That leads me to read my text in the fourth sense as teaching us that the everlasting arms are the rest for his people. If these everlasting arms are always stretched out to preserve me lest I totter in weakness and fall into destruction, then on those arms let me lean my whole weight for time and for eternity. That is the practical lesson of this choice word. Repose yourselves, beloved, in those arms which even now are embracing you. Why vex your heart when you may be free from care? Underneath everything your Father’s arms are placed — what, then, can trouble you? Why are you disquieted when you might live at ease and inherit the earth? Are you afraid to rest where the universe rests? Are not your Father’s arms a sufficient pillow for you? Do you think that it is not safe to be at peace when the love and might of God, like two strong arms, are stretched out for your upholding, and the divine voice whispers to you, “Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him?” His own word to his prophets is, “ ‘Comfort, comfort my people,’ says your God. ‘Speak comfortingly to Jerusalem.’ ” Will you not accept the comfort which he sends by his Spirit, and asks his servants to impart to you? When God himself rests in his love will you not rest in it, and shall it not again be proven that “we who have believed do enter into rest?” Is not the Lord Jesus our peace? Why, then, are we troubled? Well may you lie down to sleep in peace when underneath you are the everlasting arms. Well may your spirit be filled with composure and become indifferent to outward trials when you are upheld like this. Blow you winds and toss you waves, the barque cannot sink, or if it did sink it could not sink to our destruction, we should only drop into the great Father’s hand, for underneath even the sinking vessel are the everlasting arms. Now, let the earth reel with earthquake, or open wide her mouth to swallow us up alive, we need not fear to descend into her dreariest gulf, since underneath us still would be the everlasting arms. What a fulness of rest this secures for the believing people of God!
16. I will draw from the text one more meaning while I am speaking upon the position of these arms. The text seems to give us a promise of exaltation and uplifting. We may be very low and greatly cast down, but “underneath are the everlasting arms.” The merciful God is great in extreme difficulties. “He raises up the poor out of the dust, and lifts the needy out of the dunghill; so that he may set him with princes, even with the princes of his people.” Who can tell how high a man may be lifted up — to what sublime elevations he may safely ascend when the Lord makes his feet like hind’s feet so that he may stand upon his high places? If still underneath him are the everlasting arms he may safely obey the word, “Get up into the high mountains.” He may outsoar the eagle, mounting higher and higher until he has left the sun like a speck beneath his feet, and still underneath him shall be the everlasting arms. Therefore higher, and yet higher may we hourly ascend in thought, in joy, in holiness, in likeness to our God; this is meant to encourage us to rise, since there can be no danger while the arms of God are underneath. This then, my brethren, is the place where we may expect to find the strength and power of God: it is underneath us, bearing us up. We may not always see it, for the underneath is hidden from our sight, but surely as in secret the Lord upholds the huge columns of the universe so he bears up all his own servants, and their concerns. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.”
17. II. Secondly let us meditate upon WHAT it is which is beneath us. The everlasting arms. What is meant by this?
18. I hope the gentlemen who are so ingenious in toning down the word “everlasting” will not meddle with my text. A new way of reading the Bible has been invented in these highly enlightened days. I used to get on extremely well with the book years ago, for it seemed clear and plain enough, but modern interpreters would puzzle us out of our wits and out of our souls, if they could, by their vile habit of giving new meanings to plain words. Thank God, I keep to the old simple way; but I am informed that the inventors of the new minimizing glasses manage to read the big words small, and they have even read down the word “everlasting” into a little space of time. Everlasting may be six weeks or six months according to them. I use no such glasses; my eyes remain the same, and “everlasting” is “everlasting” to me whether I read of everlasting life or everlasting punishment. If I clip the word in one place I must do so in another, and it will never do to have a heaven that ends. I cannot afford to give it up here when its meaning is joyous to the saint, and therefore not there when its sound is terrible to the sinner. What, then, are “the everlasting arms?” They are arms which always were, and always will be: arms which always were strong, and never will grow faint or weary; arms which once stretched out will never be drawn back again; arms which once engaged for the defence of the chosen people shall never cease to work for their good world without end. Not failing arms, nor dying arms, but everlasting arms, are underneath the saints of God.
19. I understand the words to mean, first, the arms of everlasting purpose, “according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” His purpose may be called his arms, by which he stretches out his hands to do his work, and these can never fail: for “The Lord of hosts has purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?” “The counsel of the Lord stands for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.” “He is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desires even that he does.” We have to deal with One whose gifts and calling are without repentance. In the book of his purpose it is written, and his providence and grace shall tally with the secret decree, “He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion,” and the everlasting purpose of sovereign grace shall be carried out to the end. Oh my soul, when your poor purposes shift and vanish, and you have to change them twenty times a day, what a blessing it is to think that the purpose of your God stands firm, and he himself is without the shadow of a turning. He has declared that he who believes in Christ shall be saved, and so you shall be, though all hell assails you. Come what may, the eternal purpose lies at the bottom of all, and will be the end and result of all, and so all Israel shall be saved; for “underneath are the everlasting arms” of unchanging purpose.
20. But next we see here the everlasting arms of love. I do no violence to Scripture when I compare love to arms, for is it not written, “I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you?” Love has hands and arms with which it draws us, and these are at this moment underlying all the dealings of God with us. This love is everlasting love: without beginning, without variation, without end. Underneath you, child of God, is the infinite affection of the omnipotent God; what, then, can harm you? Your love! Ah, how it flames forth at times, and then how dull it becomes; but your safety comes from a love which never varies, which many waters cannot quench, and which the floods cannot drown. Look beneath you, and you may see a depth of love, fathomless and eternal, which may well remind you of what Moses said when he spoke of “the depths which lies under.” The strength of love which resides in God, who is love itself, no mind can conceive, but all this is placed under you, oh believer, for your help, support, and security. Immovable arches of immortal love sustain your soul from fear of ruin. Rest there and sing to the Lord your song upon your stringed instrument as long as you have any being.
21. But next, these arms may be described as the arms of power. And what does Isaiah the prophet say? “Trust in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength.” What did Jeremiah say? “Ah Lord God! behold, you have made the heaven and the earth by your great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for you.” Strength is needed to uphold the people of God lest they fall to their confusion, and that strength is always ready, indeed, it is always in exercise. Believer, you have been able to stand because the arm of divine strength has never been withdrawn. He is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless, and he will do it. “Oh bless our God, you people, and make the voice of his praise to be heard: which holds our soul in life, and does not permit our feet to be moved.”
22. These are the arms of immutability, for God remains for ever the same. “I am God; I do not change: therefore you sons of Jacob are not consumed.” He saved his people “with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his mercy endures for ever.” They are the arms of everlasting blessing, for God has determined to make his people happy, and happy they shall be. “Surely,” he says, “in blessing I will bless you.” “Your blessing is upon your people.” He gives liberally to them, and that liberality is never diminished, nor can it be withheld. Underneath you, believer, are the everlasting arms, for ever carrying you as a nurse carries her child, for ever gathering up for you innumerable blessings, and carrying them for your provision. He shall gather the lambs with his arm, and with that same arm he will show strength to his people. How blest are they who have such arms beneath them. I heard of a man who was spending a great deal of money, living in grand style, and launching out in business, and certain of his fellow tradesmen told me that they could not see a reason for his cutting such a figure. But one said, “There is someone backing him; we are quite sure of that.” And so it is with us: we may well be strong, we may well be happy, for there is a power unseen by men which is backing us: the everlasting arms are underneath us, and we cannot fail. Let us be joyous and confident, and praise the right hand of the Lord. Yes, though our conflicts should multiply let us not fear, but let us sing to the Lord, “Your right hand, oh Lord, is become glorious in power. The right hand of the Lord is exalted. The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.” For this right hand upholds the cause of his servants.
23. III. Now, in the third place, let us consider WHEN are the everlasting arms underneath us? The only answer is now and for evermore.
24. Now, at this moment, beloved, the everlasting arms are underneath us. The life of a Christian is described as walking by faith, and to my mind walking by faith is the most extraordinary miracle ever beheld beneath the sun. Walking on the waves, as Peter did, is a type of the life of every Christian. I have sometimes compared it to ascending an invisible staircase far up into the clouds. You cannot see a step before you, but you wind up towards the light. When you look downward all is dark, and before you lies nothing visible except cloud, while beneath you yawns a fathomless abyss. Yet we have climbed, some of us, now for years up this perpetually ascending staircase, never seeing an inch before us. We have often paused almost in horror, and asked in wonder, “What next, and what next?” Yet what we thought was cloud has proved to be solid rock; darkness has been light before us, and slippery places have been safe. Every now and then, when the darkness has been denser than usual, a darkness which might be felt, when all the past behind us has vanished, and nothing has been seen except the one step we stood on, we have said, “How did I come here? What a strange, mysterious life mine has been!” We have almost wished ourselves down on the level among the worldlings, who can always see their way and know what is underneath them, but faith has come to our help again; we have believed, and believing we have seen the invisible and grasped the eternal; and then we have gone on, have put our foot down again, and immediately have run up the shining way with joy. What an ascent we have sometimes made upon that ladder of light, so that we have had angels for company and left the world far down beneath our feet! Now and then we have enjoyed a glimpse through the thick darkness of the jewelled walls of the eternal city, which needs no candle, neither light of the sun; we have seen, I say, its brightness, and still determined to climb the mysterious way. Well, believer, at this moment, though you cannot see your way, yet since you are walking by faith “underneath are the everlasting arms.”
25. It is so, though at this moment you fear that you are going down into a gloomy glen. You have lost a great deal of money recently, and the friend who so kindly helped you is taken away, so that you are going down in the world: yes, but underneath are the everlasting arms. You are getting nearer to those arms now. Friends and wealth came between you and the almighty arms: but now you must lean on them alone. The creature fails, and you must rest on the Creator. You will have sweeter fellowship now than you ever had, since there is nothing to come between you and your Lord. “Ah,” one says, “but I am sinking in spirit; I am greatly depressed.” Still underneath are the everlasting arms. Your soul is sinking, like Peter amid the waves, but a hand is outstretched to save you: you cannot sink while your heavenly Father’s hand is near. Go on sinking, if the Lord so wills it. Sometimes the greatest sweetness in life is found amid intense bitterness. I never have in my soul a more solid and real joy than when I have been cast into the dust with fearful depression of spirit. I sustain myself upon my God, and him only, and then I touch the confines of bliss, though trembling all the while. I hardly know how to express the unrivalled sweetness of resting upon the Lord alone. When you are flung upon God altogether, then your soul enters into the most divine peace. The natural spirits have gone, everything that sprang from the vigour of youth and the natural elasticity of the mind has departed: now you come right upon God, and lie naked in his hands; and then there is cast into your cup a foretaste of heaven which the soul sits down and humbly sips to herself, for she can never tell the secret; no ear would understand her if she did. “Underneath are the everlasting arms.” And so, dear friends, if you should sink both in circumstances and in spirits, and your experience should happen to be a very downcast one, it will still be well. If now you have to discover the corruption of your nature, which you knew little about before; if now your experience, instead of being that of the brethren of the higher life, should be one of humiliation, of prostration of spirit, of deep self-loathing, still underneath you are the everlasting arms. If you are not to climb to Pisgah with Moses, but must dive to the bottom of the mountains like Jonah, still underneath are the everlasting arms, even at the lowest point of your going down.
26. So it shall be for ever and for ever, for the arms are everlasting in their position as well as their power. Now you have come to die; you have gathered up your feet in the bed; the death sweat stands upon your brow: you are sinking as far as this life is concerned among the sons of men, but underneath you shall then be the everlasting arms. Beautifully has Bunyan described confidence in death, when he pictures the pilgrims passing through the river. Christian cried out to young Hopeful, “I sink in deep waters, the billows go over my head, all its waves go over me.” Then Hopeful said, “Be of good cheer, my brother, I feel the bottom, and it is good.” Thus, beloved, it shall be with you. You shall feel the bottom of death’s chilly river, but you shall say “it is good”; for underneath are the everlasting arms. Then comes the last plunge, and we shall be as when a man stands on the edge of a precipice and leaps over into the clouds below him. You need not fear to take your last farewell and drop into your Father’s arms, for underneath you shall be the everlasting arms; and oh, how sweetly shall you be caught up together with the Lord in the air, pressed to the bosom of the great Father, and borne upward into the heaven of heavens, where you shall behold the face of the Well-Beloved, and find yourselves entranced in his company for ever and for ever. Oh heir of glory, underneath you there is no hell: underneath you there is no annihilation: underneath you are the everlasting arms; therefore commit your spirit to your faithful Creator, and then welcome life or death, for all is well with you.
27. IV. Lastly, let us reply to the query, WHAT THEN? If underneath us are the everlasting arms, what then?
28. First, let us look underneath. My brother, you have been going on with great discomfort, sighing and crying because your way is rough, and because sometimes you think it is dangerous, and fear that you will slip into a chasm and perish. Now, instead of complaining like this, and fearing the road, stop a little and begin to examine — “What is underneath me? What is the basis of my hope?” You hypocrites dare not examine; you formalists dare not search. You are afraid to ask questions and to open your eyes, lest you should see too much; but those who are honest and sincere in the way of our Lord are not afraid to be tested. You who are under any anxiety will do well to pull right up and say, “I have been troubled with doubts and fears, and I will no longer endure it. I will know the end of this; I will search myself and know my ways, and pray the Lord to let me see the worst of my case; for I long to know what there is underneath.” If you are believing in Jesus Christ with a sincere heart, and resting in the atoning sacrifice, and the covenant of which his blood is the seal, you can afford to search underneath; for you will find all things solid and eternal. It is well to look underneath an outward providence when it frowns darkly upon you, for it conceals the eternal purpose of love. The sorrows which you see are only, as it were, a napkin hiding the precious treasure of eternal grace, hence you can say to yourself in all bad weathers, “All is well, for all is well underneath. The eternal purpose is working out my lasting good.” Do not be afraid to search underneath, my trembling brothers and sisters; but when you do so and find the everlasting arms to be there, then sing to the Lord with all your might.
29. The next inference is, if underneath us are the everlasting arms, let us lean heavily. We are afraid to lean too hard on God. To be careful not to encroach on a friend is a very proper disposition. Do not spoil a generous friend by drawing upon him so heavily that he will dread to see you again. I wish some people had a little more of that disposition, as far as I am concerned; but this is not a right feeling when you have to deal with the Lord. Never fear that you will weary your God; never say to yourself, “I will ask for as little as I can.” Why, he says, “Open your mouth wide and I will fill it.” Never say, “I will trust him a little, take him some of my cares and rest a portion of my trials upon him.” No, lean with your whole weight. Do not keep a spare ounce for your own carrying. That will break your back. Bring all the tons and the pounds and the ounces and the pennyweights, and cast them all on God. He loves his children to treat him with entire confidence. All your weight will not trouble him. You know Aesop’s fable of the polite little gnat which apologised to the ox for burdening him when he alighted on his horn, and the ox replied that he really did not know he was there. Your God will not tell you that, for he counts the very hairs of your head, but he will tell you that your load is no burden for him. Why, if you had fifty kingdoms burdening your brain and if you carried the politics of a hundred nations in your mind, or were loaded with all the cares of a thousand worlds, you might safely leave them with the Wonderful Counsellor and go your way rejoicing. Lean hard, brothers, lean hard, sisters, for underneath you are the everlasting arms.
30. The next thing is then, let us rise confidently. Do not be afraid of ascending to heights of love: do not be afraid of having a high ambition for a wholly consecrated life. Do not be afraid of high doctrines, or high enjoyments, or high attainments in holiness. Go as high as you like, for underneath you are the everlasting arms. It would be dangerous to speculate, but it is safe to believe. Some men are always going downward, turning diamonds into gas and hallelujahs into howlings; they are trying to get rid of precious truth, and to substitute for it some new theory or the other. Let us be brave in the other direction, and seek to comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. You may climb, my dear young brother, nor fear to fall even if you reach the masthead of truth, for underneath are the everlasting arms.
Once more, let us dare unhesitatingly, and be very courageous for
the Lord our God.
Through floods or flames, if Jesus leads,
I’ll follow where he goes,
for underneath are the everlasting arms. Are you called upon to lose
everything for Christ? Go on and leap like Curtius [b] into the gulf
for your Lord Jesus, for underneath you are the everlasting arms.
Does your Master call you to an enterprise which seems impossible?
Nevertheless, if God has called you to it, attempt it, for he renders
to every man according to his work. Remember what the negro said: “If
Massa Jesus say to me, ‘Sam, you jump through that brick wall,’ I
jump. It is Sam’s business to jump: it is Massa’s work to make me go
through the wall.” So it is with you. It is yours to leap forward
when the captain gives the watchword, and in confidence to attempt
what mere nature cannot achieve, for the supernatural is still with
us. The best of all is, God is with us. Underneath us are the
everlasting arms. Less reliance upon self and more reliance upon
God; less counting of the barley loaves and fishes, and a greater
readiness to bring them to his hands who can multiply them until they
shall feed the thousands, this is what we need. May God grant us
grace to trust in his almighty power and sing henceforth and for ever
“underneath are the everlasting arms.”
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — De 33]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — Gratitude For Providence” 214]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love — The Refiner Sitting By The Fire” 731]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love — The Firm Foundation” 732]
[a] Avern: orig. A lake in Campania, the poisonous effluvium from which was said to kill birds flying over it. transf. The infernal regions. OED.
[b] Curtius: A legendary hero of ancient Rome. According to legend, in 362 BC a deep chasm opened in the Roman Forum. The seers declared that the pit would never close until Rome’s most valuable possession was thrown into it. Claiming that nothing was more precious than a brave citizen, Curtius leaped, fully armed and on horseback, into the chasm, which immediately closed. See Explorer "http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/147219/Marcus-Curtius"
God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
214 — Gratitude For Providence
1 When all thy mercies, oh my God,
My rising soul surveys,
Transported with the view, I’m lost
In wonder, love, and praise.
2 Oh how shall words, with equal warmth,
The gratitude declare
That glows within my ravish’d heart!
But thou canst read it there.
3 To all my weak complaints and cries
Thy mercy lent an ear,
Ere yet my feeble thoughts had learnt
To form themselves in prayer.
4 When in the slippery paths of youth
With heedless steps I ran,
Thine arm unseen convey’d me safe,
And led me up to man.
5 Through hidden dangers, toils, and deaths,
It gently clear’d my way:
And through the pleasing snares of vice,
More to be fear’d than they.
6 When worn with sickness, oft hast thou
With health renew’d my face;
And when in sins and sorrow sunk,
Revived my soul with grace.
7 Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue;
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.
8 When nature fails, and day and night
Divide thy works no more,
My ever grateful heart, oh Lord!
Thy mercy shall adore.
9 Through all eternity to thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
But oh! eternity’s too short
To utter all thy praise.
Joseph Addison, 1712.
The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love
731 — The Refiner Sitting By The Fire
1 God’s furnace doth in Zion stand;
But Zion’s God sits by,
As the refiner views his gold
With an observant eye.
2 His thoughts are high, his love is wise,
His wounds a cure intend;
And though he does not always smile,
He loves unto the end.
3 Thy love is constant to its line,
Though clouds oft come between:
Oh could my faith but pierce these clouds,
It might be always seen.
4 But I am weak, and forced to cry,
Take up my soul to thee:
Then, as thou ever art the same,
So shall I ever be.
5 Then shall I ever, ever sing,
Whilst thou dost ever shine:
I have thine own dear pledge for this;
Lord, thou art ever mine.
John Mason, 1683.
The Christian, Privileges, Unchanging Love
732 — The Firm Foundation <11s.>
1 How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
You who unto Jesus for refuge have fled?
2 In every condition — in sickness, in health,
In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth;
At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea,
“As thy days may demand shall thy strength ever be.”
3 “Fear not, I am with thee, oh, be not dismay’d!
I, I am thy God, and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.”
4 “When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of grief shall not thee overflow:
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.”
5 “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.”
6 “E’en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sovereign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And when hoary hairs shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs they shall still in my bosom be borne.”
7 “The soul that on Jesus hath lean’d for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!”
George Keith, 1787.