A Sermon Delivered By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *11/1/2012
And you shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with
all your heart. [Jer 29:13]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1313, “Second Word to Seekers, A” 1304]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1457, “Seekers Directed and Encouraged” 1452]
1. This was a part of the direction which God gave by his servant to the captives in Babylon. They were to remain settled in Babylon until the set time came for their deliverance, and then there would be granted to them a gracious visitation from God which would move them to repentance, and incite them to prayer. Then they might be quite sure that the time had come for their deliverance, when they sought the Lord with their whole heart. It is a general principle that a blessing is about to come from the All-Merciful-One when we are moved to pray for it with all our heart. The Lord of grace may send us blessings before we search for them, for he is a sovereign, and often far outstrips what we might have expected, but his promise runs, “Seek and you shall find me,” and it is with the promise that we have most to do. A cheering assurance is given to those who seek in hearty earnest, and to this requirement of heartiness we must give earnest heed.
2. At this time I shall not attempt instruction, but strive to drive home the truth into the heart and conscience: I pray the Holy Spirit to help me, and I ask the prayers of those who have power with God, that the word may be as a goad to arouse, bestir, and urge onward those upon whom it is used.
3. Our address will be, first, to the unconverted; secondly, to backsliders; and thirdly, to this church, or any other Christian people.
4. I. And first TO THE UNCONVERTED.
5. Our text has a word for you. “You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.” You have lost your God: you are at a distance from him; your sins have separated you from your Maker, and nothing will ever be right with you — really right — until you get back to your God. You are a sheep away from its shepherd now; you are a prodigal son away from his father now; and you will never be right, I say, until, as a sheep, you get back to the fold, and as a son who has rebelled you are reconciled to your Father. You need your God, and you will never be right until you find him. You are therefore stirred up by the text to “search for” him. You are not to sit still with folded arms, and say, “He will come if he wishes.” The prodigal said, “I will arise and go to my father,” and some such spirit must be in you, or we cannot hope well concerning you. You must search after the Lord.
6. In this search it will be of no use for you to look within your heart, for it is empty and void of anything godlike, and altogether estranged from God. Do not expect to find the remedy in the disease. No one turns to his empty purse in the hope that it will supply his necessities, for poverty is not the source of riches. It would be vain to look for the living among the dead, therefore do not look for grace and salvation in yourself. Neither will it be the path of wisdom to endeavour to perform good works of your own, hoping to set yourself right by your own exertions in gaining merit. Man, the whole mischief is that you are separated from God, and you must get back to God; the best works done while you are at enmity with your Lord and King are only part and parcel of the proud, presumptuous sin which rejects the Saviour and sets itself up in his place. It would have been quite right for the prodigal to wash himself, and cease from feeding the swine; it was most desirable that he should leave the prostitutes and the riotous living in which he had indulged; but if he had done all that and nothing more the great mischief would not have been cured, for the radical evil lay in his being away from his father’s house. That is the essential wrong in your case, oh unconverted man. You will never be perfectly happy and right until you are reconciled to God.
7. You are allowed to search for him, and what a privilege that is. When Adam sinned, he could not go back to Paradise, for there stood the mailed cherub with a flaming sword in his hand to keep the way so that he might not touch the tree of life. But God, as far as the garden of his mercy is concerned, has moved that fiery sentinel, and Jesus Christ has placed angels of love to welcome you at mercy’s gate. You may come to God, for God has come to you. He has taken upon himself your nature, and his name is Emmanuel, God with us. Yes, the Infinite became a man, and he who built that arch of heaven, and hung it with those starry lamps, came down below, to be subject to lowly parents, to work in a carpenter’s shop, and to die upon a felon’s gibbet, “the just for the unjust, so that he might bring us to God.” Search for him, and you must find him, for so stands his own word, “You shall seek me, and find me.”
8. The text, however, demands that our searching after God should be done with all our heart. There are several ways of seeking God which must prove failures. One is to seek him with no heart at all. This is done by those who take their book and read prayers, never thinking what they say; or who attend a dissenting place of worship, and hear another person pray, but never join in it. This is done by those who bow the knee at eventide, and mutter pious words, but never think; who rise in the morning and repeat sacred sentences, and never consider; who with regard to divine things are as little thoughtful as if the gospel were all a legend or an old wives’ tale, not worth an hour’s meditation. I have seen young women, sometimes, when I have been travelling, reading those trashy novels, which they purchase at the railway stall, and I have seen them waste their tears on some imaginary heroine or hero, and yet they and others hear about the majesty and the love of God without emotion, and read about heaven and hell, and Christ and God, with scarcely a tear or a thought. Dear friend, you will never find the Lord if you seek him in a heartless, unthinking manner. God is not mocked. If any of you have fallen into a formal religion, and seek the Lord without your heart, your seeking is in vain.
9. Some seek God with a false heart. They flame with zeal, and would have their friends know it, for they say as Jehu did to Jehonadab, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord”; but their heart is not true towards God. Their piety is an affectation of feeling, and not deep soul work; it is sentimentality, and not the engraving of God’s Spirit upon the heart. Beware of a false religious excitement — of being borne up with religious gas as some are, inflated like balloons by a revival, only to eventually burst when they most need something to support them. May God grant us to be saved from a lie in the heart, for it is a deadly canker, fatal to all hope of finding the Lord.
10. Some seek him, too, with a double heart — a heart and a heart, as the Hebrew puts it. They have a heart towards God, and they have a heart towards sin: they have a heart towards the pardon, but they have also a heart towards the transgression. They would gladly serve God and Mammon: they would build an altar for Jehovah, and still keep Dagon in his place. If your heart is divided you will be found wanting. Those prayers will never get to heaven which only fly upward with one wing. If one oar pulls towards earth and the other towards heaven the boat of the soul will revolve in a circle of folly, but never reach the happy shore. Beware of a double heart.
11. And some seek God with half a heart. They have a little concern, and are not altogether indifferent; they do think when they pray, or read, or sing, but the thought is not very intense. Superficial in all things, the seed is sown in stony ground, and soon it is withered away, because there is no depth of earth. May the Lord save us from this.
12. Now, you who are seeking Christ, remember that if you would find him you must neither seek him without heart, nor with a false heart, nor with a double heart, nor with a half heart, but “You shall find me,” says the Lord:, “when you shall search for me with all your heart.”
13. No one gets ahead in the world who is half-hearted. If a man wants money he must hunt for it morning, noon, and night. If a man longs for knowledge he cannot take a book and ladle it into his brain with a spoon: he must read and study if he is to be a scholar. If a man desires to rise in such an age as this, he cannot do it without stern labour. Great discoverers, eminent artists, and powerful orators have all been men of hard work. Handel, who composed such majestic music, practised so often on his harpsichord that he hollowed out the keys like spoons through his constant use of them. Nothing is to be done without earnestness, and you may not expect that God is to be found, and pardon is to be received, and grace to be had, while you have only one eye open, and are not half-awakened out of sleep. What did Jesus say? — “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” Heaven’s celestial bastions must be stormed by downright importunity. You must take the knocker of heaven’s gate, and not drop it from your fingers with a dainty tap, but hammer at mercy’s door again and again until you make the infernal depths of despair resound with your desperate knocks, and cause heaven itself to echo with your hopeful determination that you will enter in, or know the reason why. Oh, knock and knock and knock and knock again, for the door shall be opened when you knock with all your hearts. Surely, dear friends, if any men have reasons to bring their whole hearts into action, you unconverted people are the men. I am sure that if I were to intimate to you that a hundred pounds of gunpowder were stowed away in that centre seat, and the probability was that it would soon explode, you would not remain very long in this Tabernacle, but would hurry out with all your heart. But any destruction that could be caused by gunpowder, as far as its effects on earth are concerned, could be nothing at all as compared with the overwhelming destruction which will come upon body and soul to men who are under the wrath of God. That wrath of God rests on every one of you who are unconverted. God is angry with the sinner every day, and if it is so your position is the most perilous one conceivable. You will soon die. Do not be vexed with my reminding you of it. We are compelled to see it, some of us, who watch large congregations. Never does the same assembly meet in this place twice, and I suppose between Sunday and Sunday it happens almost invariably that some one hearer goes to his account. Certainly in the church here we lose all the year around more than one per week of our friends. It is true, then, that you will soon have to die, and how will you bear to close your eyes on all mortal things without a hope of immortal joy? To go before the dread tribunal of your Maker and your Redeemer unwashed in the precious blood, with all your sins from the first day of your life until now around your neck like millstones, to sink you for ever, how can you bear it? Do think of this, and if you do you will have good reason for seeking your God with all your heart. Remember, also, that after death comes judgment. We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ: and after the judgment comes the final award, which to those who have rejected Christ will be eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord and the glory of his power. Do not, I urge you, defy the wrath of God or dare his infinite displeasure. He himself has said it, “Beware you who forget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there is no one to deliver.” Surely every man in his senses who knows that he is exposed to such an imminent risk as this will with his whole heart seek the Lord.
14. But why is it that when men search with all their heart they find God? I will tell you. The only way in which we can find God is in Jesus Christ. There he meets with men, but nowhere else, and to get to Jesus Christ there is nothing on earth to be done except simply to believe in him. It is a matter which does not take a moment. Believe God’s testimony about Jesus Christ, and trust yourself with Jesus Christ, and salvation is yours. The saving word is near you, in your mouth, and in your heart, and that is why when men seek the Lord with their whole hearts they find him, for before they called the Lord was ready to answer. Jesus was always ready; but other wishes and other thoughts made the seeker unready. Sins were there, and lusts of the flesh, and all manner of things to hinder the man. When a man comes to seek God with all his heart, he lets those things go, and soon sees Jesus. Then, too, a man becomes teachable, for when a man is in earnest to escape from danger he is glad enough to be told by anyone. If I had lost my way, and feared I might fall over a precipice, I should be glad for the tiniest child to tell me my right road; and a man is likely to learn who is willing to be taught. This seeking God with all his heart makes a man quick in understanding. Before he was a dolt, because his heart was not in it, like a boy at school who does not want to learn. Where a man seeks God with all his heart you do not need to preach fine sermons to him; he does not crave elegance or eloquence; no, tell him Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and that “there is life for a look at the Crucified One,” and he jumps at it. “That is what I want,” he says. The Spirit of God has made him eager to learn, and so he catches at once at the blessed message, and believes in Jesus. Half a heart, or no heart, or a double heart will not see what is as plain as a walking stick, and will not accept a gospel which is as glorious to God as it is simple to man. I charge you, then, you who seek the Lord, to be whole-hearted in it, for you cannot expect peace and joy in the Holy Spirit until all those straggling affections and wandering desires are tied up into one bundle, and your entire being is eager in the search for God in Christ Jesus.
15. II. I cannot spare the seeker any more time, for I want to have five minutes with THE BACKSLIDER.
16. Backsliders, you have left your Lord. Perhaps you have left the church, or the church has left you by putting you outside its pale; and deservedly so, because you were a dishonour to it. I am glad you come among us to worship. You have had to be cut off from our fellowship because of your sad conduct, but you still stay with us, and I am glad to see you. I always feel a hope for you as long as you love the old house. I am glad that though you are not recognised as a child in it, and do not feel that you ought to be, yet still you wait under the window to hear the family sing. When the children of God are feasting together at the table I have seen you looking on and wishing you were again in the happy household. I do not know whether you are God’s children or not; I cannot judge your hearts. I call you backsliders, not because I am sure you really are so, for it is very possible that you made a false profession, and you afterwards did what was natural you should do, you broke down in trying to carry out a practical falsehood. I will not try to judge that, but I will say this to you — surely, if there are any people in the world who ought to be whole-hearted in seeking after God, you are the people. If I am to be lost, I pray God I may not perish as an apostate or a backslider. Oh you who once made a profession of religion, I cannot understand how you can dare to think of the judgment day, for you will not be able to plead ignorance, for you knew the truth and professed to believe it. You will not be able to say, “I never heard of these things.” No, but you came to the communion table, and you joined the church; you even preached to others, or you taught in the Sunday School: for you ran over at the mouth about divine things though you were empty at the heart. How speechless you will stand at the last dreadful day, with your old regimentals hanging on you to prove that you were deserters! You will not be able to lift a finger or utter a word in defence of yourself. And what will you do when you go down to hell? The prophet represents the king of Babylon as going there, and as he descended the little petty princes whom he put to death, who were lying there in their dungeons in the prison of hell, rose, and leaning on their elbows, looked at him, and said, “Are you become like one of us?” I think I hear the drunkard rising up and saying to you, “What, and are you here after all? You used to preach sobriety to me, and warn me of the drunkard’s doom.” Ah, my hearers, hypocrites are damned as well as drunkards. Then the woman will speak whom you talked about reclaiming, and what a sneer she will meet you with, and say, “You needed a refuge yourself, you hypocrite!” Then, too, your neighbours will speak who never went to a place of worship, whom you thought were so very bad, because you went there and forgot what you heard. They will say, “This is what came of your going to the Tabernacle, and hearing Spurgeon! Is this the result of your joining the church, and going to the communion table?” What answer can you give when those eyes shall leer on you, and those lips shall hiss in derision of you? Others shall say, “I never had the opportunities you had; I never was warned as you were; I never rejected Christ as you have done: I never stained the robes of his church and wounded him anew in the house of his friends, as you have done.” Then they will insult and triumph over you. If a prince of the blood were sent to a common jail, what a misery it would be for him. I pity every man who has to work upon the treadmill, so far as he can deserve pity, but most of all the man who has been delicately brought up and scarcely knows what labour means, for it must be hard indeed for him. Ah, you delicate sons and daughters of Zion, you whose mouths were never stained with a curse, and whose hands have never been defiled with outward sin, if your hearts are not right with God, you must take your place with the profane and share with them. What do you say to this? Do you say, “I would gladly return and find acceptance in Christ?” To you the text speaks expressly. Then you shall “find me when you shall search for me with all your heart.”
17. III. My last word is to you, my brethren in Christ, and especially TO YOU, the members of this church. Thus says the Lord, “You shall seek me, and find me, when you shall search for me with all your heart.”
18. Brethren, we want the Lord to be always among us. We have had his presence very graciously, but I am always troubled lest any sin of ours should cause him to depart. I dread anything like a decline in zeal and ardour, and generosity, and prayerfulness, and holy living among any of us, lest the glory should depart and Ichabod be written on our walls. We hunger for our God, for I trust we can say we love him. Can you say that? I heard — this last week — a story about that mighty preacher, Robert Hall, which touched me as I heard it. A friend related that Robert Hall was riding one day through a little hamlet on his way to preach at a country town. It snowed very heavily, and Mr. Hall was passing through the village, unaware of the state of the road beyond. A Christian man, who knew him well, cried out, “Mr. Hall, you must not go farther; the snow is very deep, you cannot get through it; you must come in.” Mr. Hall stopped in the house and rested for a while. He looked out of the window, and saw that it kept on snowing. He looked out again, and it snowed more heavily than before, and his friend said to him, “You cannot go, Mr. Hall; you cannot get there.” But he said, “Sir, I must go.” “Sir,” said the good man, “you cannot, it is impossible. You cannot get to the place; the roads are blocked up.” So the great preacher agreed to remain if he could deliver his sermon. “I must preach, sir; I must preach, sir. I cannot remain unless I preach.” His host went around the hamlet, knocked at the doors of the cottages, and got a few people together into his room. Mr. Hall preached a wonderful sermon. The good man seemed to mount to heaven in preaching from the words, “I saw no temple in it.” When the people had gone home he said to his friend, “My dear sir, I am afraid I am not a child of God.” “Why, Mr. Hall, how can you say such a thing as that?” “But I am afraid I am a hypocrite, sir.” “Well, no one else is afraid of that about you, Mr. Hall, and I cannot think how you can give way to such a notion.” “Ah, but I want to ask you a question, sir. What do you think is a sure sign that a man is a child of God?” “Mr. Hall,” said the good man, “you ought to know better than I do. I cannot undertake to instruct you.” “I want to know, sir, and shall be obliged by your judgment,” said Mr. Hall. “Well,” said the man, “this is what I think is a sure sign; if a man really loves God he must be a child of God, and there must have been a change in him.” “Thank you, sir; thank you, sir, for that word,” said Mr. Hall; “that is just what I wanted. Love God, sir? I love him with my whole soul.” “And,” said the good host, in talking to my friend, “you should have heard how Mr. Hall went on about God; it was wonderful to hear him, sir. He praised him above all things, he said all that was good about him, and he kept saying, ‘I cannot help loving such a being as God is, and if that proves that I am saved then I am sure of it, for I must love him.’ ” Now, my brethren, we love God with all our hearts, and therefore we desire to have him glorified in our midst. Do you not, my brethren, vehemently desire this? I know you do. How, then, shall the Lord be honoured? He may be glorified by holier living. How is that to be done? The text says we shall find him if we seek him with all our hearts, and in finding him we shall find holiness. I have given up the idea that I shall ever get a church in which all hearts will seek God earnestly. I know you will not all be alive and full of fervour, for some of you are a dishonour to the church. You will never help us, but you will remain among us as dead wood. How I wish I could hope otherwise, but I dare not deceive myself or you. I do expect, however, that all who have the life of God really in their souls will give their whole hearts to the glory of God, and will do it always intensely. I look to them to seek the Lord by prayer, praying much for God to be glorified, and to back up their prayer by effort, cheerfully seeking to take their full share in the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
19. Brethren, did Christ die for you? Yes or no? If he did, then, in the name of common honesty, live for him, for you cannot be your own; he has bought you with a price. When you were baptized in the name of The Sacred Three, did you mean it? If you did, in the name of truth, live for God, for you then confessed that you were dead to the world and buried with Christ, that henceforth you should live for him. When you last came to the communion table, did you really believe that Jesus gave himself for you, and did you know that you feasted upon his flesh and drank his blood by faith? Then, I say, in the name of both honesty and truth, live as souls should live who have eaten better than angels’ food, and have Christ within them.
I try to speak as earnestly as I can, but usually when I reach my
home I say to myself, “What are you doing? You do not arouse those
people, or yourself either. You are getting dull and old: you are not
half so zealous as you used to be in your younger days.” I try to
stick big pins into myself in a spiritual fashion, to wake myself up
again, for fear I should fall into the same drowsy state as some I
know about, whose preaching is little better than articulate snoring.
They are sound asleep, and as a natural consequence their people are
asleep too. If this Book is true, most of us are not living as we
ought to live. If there is a heaven, we are not living in the joy
which the hope of it ought to inspire. If there is a hell, and some
of our own children are going down to it, we do not act towards them
as if we believed in their danger. We are acting like monsters, and
not like men, if we permit our fellow creatures to be lost without
lifting a finger for their salvation. Awake! arise! my brethren. Oh,
church of God in this place, and church of God everywhere, shake
yourself from the bonds of your neck. Arise, and sit down on your
throne of power, oh daughter of Zion. Put on your strength as in the
ancient days, for strength shall be yours if you search after the
Lord with all your heart. May God grant that as a church we may be
thoroughly earnest in seeking for a display of his saving power, and
he shall have the glory. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Mt 11]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, His Praise — The Passion And Exaltation Of Christ” 429]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Invitations — All Ye Who Seek A Sure Relief” 503]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Received by Faith — The Solid Rock” 549]
To My Church And People
Dear Friends, — I am hoping and praying that the special services at the Tabernacle may excel all that have gone before. To urge you to the utmost earnestness about them, I have written the short sermon for this week. It would give me great joy to hear, as I feel sure I shall, that in this as in all the other works of the church you are abundantly filled with zeal and constancy. My one concern is lest the Lord’s work should suffer by my absence; I entreat you, do not permit it to be so in any one point or degree.
The damp and dull weather, which has reached us even here, has somewhat retarded my progress to health and strength, so that I remain a very feeble traveller; but yet I am greatly improved, and feel that my mind and spirits are all the better for the rest. To all of you, from the bottom of my heart, I send my sincere love in Christ Jesus.
Yours to serve while there remains any life in me,
Mentone, Feb. 6, 1879. C. H. Spurgeon
Jesus Christ, His Praise
429 — The Passion And Exaltation Of Christ
1 Come, all harmonious tongues,
Your noblest music bring,
‘Tis Christ the everlasting God,
And Christ the Man we sing.
2 Tell how he took our flesh
To take away our guilt,
Sing the dear drops of sacred blood
That hellish monsters spilt.
3 The waves of swelling grief
Did o’er his bosom roll,
And mountains of almighty wrath
Lay heavy on his soul.
4 Down to the shades of death
He bow’d his awful head,
Yet he arose to live and reign
When death itself is dead.
5 No more the bloody spear,
The cross and nails no more,
For hell itself shakes at his name,
And all the heavens adore.
6 There the Redeemer sits
High on the Father’s throne,
The Father lays his vengeance by,
And smiles upon his Son.
7 There his full glories shine
With uncreated rays,
And bless his saints’ and angels’ eyes
To everlasting days.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
503 — All Ye Who Seek A Sure Relief
1 All ye who seek a sure relief
In trouble or distress,
Whatever sorrow vex the mind,
Or guilt the soul oppress;
Jesus, who gave himself for us
Upon the cross to die,
Unfolds to us his sacred heart;
Oh to that heart draw nigh.
2 Ye hear how kindly he invites,
Ye hear his words so blest:
“All ye that labour, come to me,
And I will give you rest.”
Oh Jesus, joy of saints on high;
Thou hope of sinners here;
Attracted by these loving words,
To thee I lift my prayer.
3 Wash thou my wounds in that dear blood
Which forth from thee did flow;
New grace, new hope inspire; a new
And better life bestow.
Praise him who with the Father sits
Enthroned upon the skies;
Whose blood redeems our souls from guilt,
Whose Spirit sanctifies.
Edward Caswall, 1849.
Gospel, Received by Faith
549 — The Solid Rock
1 My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame;
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
2 When darkness veils his lovely face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
3 His oath, his covenant, and his blood,
Support me in the sinking flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
4 When the last awful trump shall sound,
On may I then in him be found,
Dress’d in his righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne:
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
Edward Mote, 1825, a.