A Short Sermon For The New Year. From The Sick Room Of C. H. Spurgeon. *10/26/2012
This year also. [Lu 13:8]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 650, “Judgment Threatening but Mercy Sparing” 641]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1451, “This Year Also (Short Sermon)” 1442]
Exposition on Lu 13:1-22 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2547, “Return! Return!” 2548 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Lu 13:6-30 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2308, “Ten Wrong Kinds of Hearers” 2309 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on So 8:11-14 Isa 5:1-7 Lu 13:6-9 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2480, “Tender Grapes, The” 2481 @@ "Exposition"]
1. At the opening of another year, and at the beginning of another volume of sermons, we earnestly desire to utter the word of exhortation: but alas, at this present moment, the preacher is a prisoner, and must speak from his pillow instead of his pulpit. Do not let the few words which we can put together come with diminished power from a sick man, for the musket fired by a wounded soldier sends out the bullet with none the less force. Our desire is to speak with living words, or not at all. He who enables us to sit up and compose these trembling sentences is entreated to clothe them with his Spirit, so that they may be according to his own mind.
2. The interceding gardener pleaded for the fruitless fig tree, “Leave it alone this year also,” dating as it were a year from the time when he spoke. Trees and fruit-bearing plants have a natural measurement for their lives: evidently a year came to its close when it was time to look for fruit on the fig tree, and another year began when the gardener began again his digging and pruning work. Men are such barren things that their fruitage marks no certain periods, and it becomes necessary to make artificial divisions of time for them; there seems to be no set period for man’s spiritual harvest or vintage, or if there is, the sheaves and the clusters do not come in their season, and hence we have to say to each other, — “This shall be the beginning of a new year.” So be it, then. Let us congratulate each other upon seeing the dawn of “this year also,” and let us unitedly pray that we may enter upon it, continue in it, and come to its close under the unfailing blessing of the Lord to whom all years belong.
3. I. The beginning of a new year SUGGESTS A RETROSPECT. Let us take it, deliberately and honestly. “This year also”: — then there had been former years of grace.
4. The gardener of the vineyard was not aware of the fig tree’s failure for the first time, neither had the owner come for the first time seeking figs in vain. God, who gives us “this year also,” has given us others before it; his sparing mercy is no novelty, his patience has already been taxed by our provocations. First came our youthful years, when even a little fruit for God is particularly sweet to him. How did we spend them? Did our strength run all into wild wood and wanton branch? If so, we may well bewail that wasted vigour, that life misspent, that sin extremely multiplied. He who saw us misuse those golden months of youth nevertheless affords us “this year also,” and we should enter upon it with a holy jealousy, lest what of strength and ardour may be left to us should be allowed to run away into the same wasteful courses as previously. Upon the heels of our youthful years came those of early manhood, when we began to muster a household, and to become as a tree fixed in its place; then also fruit would have been precious. Did we bear any? Did we present to the Lord a basket of summer fruit? Did we offer him the firstling of our strength? If we did so, we may well adore the grace which saved us so early; but if not, the past chides us, and, lifting an admonitory finger, it warns us not to let “this year also” follow the way of the rest of our lives. He who has wasted youth and the morning of manhood has surely had enough of fooling: the time past may well suffice him to have performed the will of the flesh: it will be a superfluity of haughtiness to allow “this year also” to be trodden down in the service of sin. Many of us are now in the prime of life, and our years already spent are not a few. Do we still need to confess that our years are eaten up by the grasshopper and the cankerworm? Have we reached the halfway house, and still do not know where we are going? Are we fools at forty? Are we half a century old by the calendar and yet far off from years of discretion? Alas, great God, that there should be men past this age who are still without knowledge! Unsaved at sixty, unregenerate at seventy, unawakened at eighty, unrenewed at ninety! These are each and all startling. Yet, perhaps, each one will fall upon ears which they should make to tingle, but they will hear them as though they did not hear them. Continuance in evil breeds callousness of heart, and when the soul has long been sleeping in indifference it is hard to arouse it from the deadly slumber.
5. The sound of the words “this year also” makes some of us remember years of great mercy, sparkling and flashing with delight. Were those years laid at the Lord’s feet? They were comparable to the silver bells upon the horses — were they “holiness to the Lord?” If not, how shall we answer for it if “this year also” should be musical with merry mercy and yet be spent in the ways of carelessness? The same words recall for some of us our years of sharp affliction when we were, indeed, dug around and fertilised. How did those years go? God was doing great things for us, exercising careful and expensive husbandry, caring for us with extremely great and wise care, — did we render according to the benefit received? Did we rise from the bed more patient and gentle, weaned from the world, and welded to Christ? Did we produce clusters to reward the gardener of the vineyard? Do not let us refuse these questions of self-examination, for it may be this is to be another of these years of captivity, another season of the furnace and the refining pot. May the Lord grant that the coming tribulation may take more chaff out of us than any of its predecessors, and leave the wheat cleaner and better.
6. The new year also reminds us of opportunities for usefulness, which have come and gone, and of unfulfilled resolutions which have blossomed only to fade; shall “this year also” be as those which have gone before? May we not hope for grace to advance upon grace already gained, and should we not seek for power to turn our poor sickly promises into robust action?
7. Looking back on the past we lament the follies by which we would not willingly be held captive “this year also,” and we adore the forgiving mercy, the preserving providence, the boundless liberality, the divine love, of which we hope to be partakers “this year also.”
8. II. If the preacher could think freely he could take the text at his pleasure into many directions, but he is feeble, and so must let it drive with the current which bears it on to a second consideration: the text MENTIONS A MERCY.
9. It was in great goodness that the tree which encumbered the soil was allowed to stand for another year, and prolonged life should always be regarded as a blessing of mercy. We must view “this year also” as a grant from infinite grace. It is wrong to speak as if we cared nothing for life, and looked upon our being here as an evil or a punishment; we are here “this year also” as the result of love’s pleadings, and in pursuance of love’s purposes.
10. The wicked man should think that the Lord’s longsuffering points to his salvation, and he should permit the cords of love to draw him to it. Oh that the Holy Spirit would make the blasphemer, the Sabbath breaker, and the openly vicious to feel what a wonder it is that their lives are prolonged “this year also!” Are they spared to curse, and riot, and defy their Maker? Shall this be the only fruit of patient mercy? The procrastinator who has put off the messenger of heaven with his delays and half promises, ought he not to wonder that he is allowed to see “this year also?” How is it that the Lord has borne with him and put up with his vacillations and hesitations? Is this year of grace to be spent in the same manner? Transient impressions, hasty resolves, and speedy apostasies — are these to be the weary story over and over again? The startled conscience, the tyrant passion, the smothered emotion! Are these to be the signs of still another year? May God forbid that any one of us should hesitate and delay through “this year also.” Infinite compassion holds back the axe of justice, shall it be insulted by the repetition of the sins which caused the uplifting of the instrument of wrath? What can be more tantalising for the heart of goodness than indecision? Well might the Lord’s prophet become impatient and cry, “How long do you halt between two opinions?” Well may God himself push for a decision and demand an immediate reply. Oh undecided soul, will you swing much longer between heaven and hell, and act as if it were hard to choose between the slavery of Satan and the liberty of the Great Father’s home of love? “This year also” will you sport in defiance of justice, and pervert the generosity of mercy into a licence for still further rebellion? “This year also” must divine love be made an occasion for continued sin? Oh do not act so basely, so contrary to every noble instinct, so injuriously to your own best interests.
11. The believer is kept out of heaven “this year also” in love, and not in anger. There are some for whose sake it is necessary he should remain in the flesh, some to be helped by him on their heavenward way, and others to be led to the Redeemer’s feet by his instruction. The heaven of many saints is not yet prepared for them, because their nearest companions have not yet arrived, and their spiritual children have not yet gathered in glory in sufficient number to give them a thoroughly heavenly welcome: they must wait “this year also” so that their rest may be all the more glorious, and that the sheaves which they will bring with them may afford them greater joy. Surely, for the sake of souls, for the delight of glorifying our Lord, and for the increase of the jewels of our crown, we may be glad to wait below “this year also.” This is a wide field, but we may not linger in it, for our time is little, and our strength even less.
12. III. Our last feeble utterance shall remind you that the expression, “This year also,” IMPLIES A LIMIT.
13. The gardener asked for no longer a reprieve than one year. If his digging and manuring should not prove successful then he would plead no more, but the tree should fall. Even when Jesus is the pleader, the request for mercy has its bounds and times. It is not for ever that we shall be left alone, and allowed to encumber the ground; if we will not repent we must perish, if we will not be benefited by the spade we must fall by the axe.
14. There will come a last year for each one of us: therefore let each one say to himself — “Is this my last?” If it should be the last with the preacher, he would gird up his loins to deliver the Lord’s message with all his soul, and ask his fellow men to be reconciled to God. Dear friend, is “this year also” to be your last? Are you ready to see the curtain rise upon eternity? Are you now prepared to hear the midnight cry, and to enter into the marriage supper? The judgment and all that will follow surely the inheritance of every living man, blessed are those who by faith in Jesus are able to face the judgment bar of God without a thought of terror.
15. If we live to be counted among the oldest inhabitants we must depart at last: there must be an end, and the voice must be heard — “Thus says the Lord, ‘This year you shall die.’ ” So many have gone before us, and are going every hour, that no man should need any other memento mori, [warning of death] and yet man is so eager to forget his own mortality, and to forfeit his hopes of bliss by it, that we cannot too often bring it before the mind’s eye. Oh mortal man, remember this! Prepare to meet your God; for you must meet him. Seek the Saviour, yes, seek him before another sun sinks to its rest.
16. Once more, “this year also,” and it may be for this year only, the cross is lifted up as the Pharos [a] of the world, the one light to which no eye can look in vain. Oh that millions would look that way and live. Soon the Lord Jesus will come a second time, and then the blaze of his throne will supplant the mild radiance of his cross: the Judge will be seen rather than the Redeemer. Now he saves, but then he will destroy. Let us hear his voice at this moment. He has limited a day, let us be eager to avail ourselves of the gracious season. Let us believe in Jesus today, since it may be our last. These are the pleadings of one who now falls back on his pillow in very weakness. Hear them for your souls’ sakes and live.
[a] Pharos: The name of an island off Alexandria, on which stood a famous tower lighthouse, built by Ptolemy Philadelphus: hence the lighthouse itself. OED.