A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, September 4, 1879, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 12/10/2012
My soul is among lions. [Ps 57:4]
Some of you cannot say this, and you ought to be very thankful that
you are not obliged to do so. Happy are you young people who have
godly parents, and who have Christian families. You ought to grow
like the flowers in a conservatory, where killing frosts and biting
blasts are unknown. You live under very favourable circumstances.
Your soul, I might almost say, is among angels; for you live where
God is worshipped, where family prayer is not forgotten, where you
can have a kindly guidance in the hour of difficulty and comfort in
the time of trial. You live where angels come and go, and God himself
condescends to dwell. Happy young people to live in such favourable
circumstances! How grateful and how holy you ought to be! I want all
who live where everything helps them to remember the many gracious
ones who live where everything hinders them. You who live near the
Beautiful Gate of the temple must not forget the many who are sighing
in the tents of Kedar. If your soul is not among lions, praise God
for it; and then let your sympathies go out towards those who
mournfully complain —
My soul with him that hateth peace
Hath long a dweller been;
I am for peace; but when I speak,
For battle they are keen.
It is a Christian duty to “remember those who are in bonds as bound with them”; and whenever our own favoured circumstances lead us to forget those who are persecuted and tried, our very mercies are working mischief in us. “We are all members of each other.” If one member suffers, all the rest should suffer with him; and therefore, we will turn our thoughts towards our persecuted brethren tonight, so that our united supplications may sustain them under their difficulties, and, if the Lord is so pleased, may even deliver them.
2. When may a Christian man truly say, “My soul is among lions?” Such is the case when, either from our being members of ungodly families, or from having to gain our livelihood among unconverted and graceless people, we are subjected to reproach and rebuke, and to jest and jeer for Jesus Christ’s sake. Then we can say, “My soul is among lions.” Many in this congregation known to me are the only ones in their family whom God has called. I bless his name that he is often taking one out of a household, and a lone one of a family, and bringing these to Jesus. Some quite un-Christian person who does not think of God drops in here out of curiosity, and God meets him and he becomes the first of his kith and kin to say “I am the Lord’s.” Frequently when converts come to cast in their lot with us they will say, “I do not know one in all my family who makes any profession of godliness: all of them are opposed to me.” In such a case the soul is among lions, and it is very hard and trying to be in such a position. Well may we pity a godly wife bound to an ungodly husband. Alas! very often a drunkard, whose opposition amounts to brutality. A tender, loving spirit, who ought to have been cherished like a tender flower, is bruised and trodden underfoot, and made to suffer until the heart cries out in grief, “My soul is among lions.” We little know what lifelong martyrdom’s many pious women endure. Children also have to bear the same when they are singled out by divine grace from depraved and wicked families. Only the other day there came under my notice one who loves the Lord. I thought that if she had been a daughter of mine I should have rejoiced beyond all things in her sweet and gentle piety, but the parent said, “You must leave our house if you attend such and such a place of worship. We do not believe in these things, and we cannot have you around us if you do.” I saw the grief, which that state of things was causing, and though I could not alter it I mourned over it. Woe to those who tyrannize over my Lord’s little ones.
3. No one knows what godly working men have to put up with from those among whom they labour. There are some shops where there is religious liberty; but frequently the working men of this city are great tyrants in matters of religion. I tell them that to their faces. If a man will drink with them, and swear with them, they will make him their companion; but when a man comes out to fear God they make it very hard for him. And sir, has not a man as much right to pray as you have to swear? And has he not as much right to believe in God as you have not to believe? It is a wonderfully free country, this! wonderfully free country! Almost as free as America in the olden time when every man was free to beat his own nigger; for now the working man claims freedom to laugh and swear at every other working man who chooses to be sober and religions. There are large factories all over London where a Christian man has to run the gauntlet from morning to night of sneers which never ought to come upon the face of honest men — which never would come if Britons were as fond of freedom as they profess to be. They declare that they never will be slaves; but they are slaves — slaves to their own ungodliness and drunkenness — the great majority of them; and only where divine grace comes in and snaps the chain do men become free at all. If one serious man sets his face steadfastly to serve God the baser sort seem as if they must get him under their feet, and treat him with every indignity that malice can devise. It may be all in sport, but the victim does not think so. Do not tell me that persecution ceased when the last martyr burned. There are martyrs who have to burn by the slow fire of cruel mockings day after day; and I bless God that the old grit is still among us, and that the old spirit still survives, so that men defy sneers and slander and hold on their way. I could tell stories, which would both shock you and delight you, of what is said and done by the common order of English working men against those who profess religion, and how courageously the righteous and the true bear it all, and, in the long run, conquer too, and often win their workmen to confess the very same faith. They call us all fanatics and hypocrites, and the like, but they know better, and if they had a grain of manliness they would cease from such lying. A true Briton gives that liberty to others which he claims for himself, and if he does not choose to be religious himself he stands up like a man to defend the rights of others to be so if they choose. Now, then, you British workmen, when shall we see you doing this?
4. The text speaks of a soul among lions. Why did the psalmist call them lions? “Dogs” is about as good a name as they deserve. Why call them lions? Because at times the Christian man is exposed to enemies who are very strong — perhaps strong in the jaw — very strong in biting, rending, and tearing. Sometimes the Christian man is exposed to those who loudly roar out their infidelities and their blasphemies against Christ, and it is an awful thing to be among such lions as those. The lion is not only strong but also cruel; and it is real cruelty which subjects well-meaning men to reproach and misrepresentation. The enemies of Christ and his people are often as cruel as lions, and would kill us if the law permitted them. The lion is a creature of great craftiness, creeping along stealthily, and then making a sudden spring; and so will the ungodly creep up to the Christian, and, if possible, spring upon him when they can catch him in an unguarded moment. If they imagine they see a fault in him they come down upon him with all their weight! The ungodly watch the righteous, and if they can catch them in their speech, or if they can make them angry, and cause them to speak an unguarded word, how eagerly they pounce upon him. They magnify his fault, put it under a microscope of ten thousand power, and make a great thing of it. “Report it! Report it!” they say, “So we would have it!” Anything against a true-born child of God is a sweet morsel for them. Such as are daily watched, daily carped at, daily abused, daily hindered in everything that is good and gracious, go with their tears before the God they serve and cry to him, “My soul is among lions.”
5. Now, it is to such that I am going to speak tonight, a little at first by way of comfort, and then a little by way of advice.
6. I. First, BY WAY OF COMFORT.
7. You are among lions, my dear young friend, then you will have fellowship with your Lord and with his church. Every Lord’s day, and every time we meet, this benediction is pronounced upon you, that you may enjoy the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Fellowship with the Holy Spirit brings you into fellowship with Jesus, and this involves your being conformed to his sufferings. Now, your Lord was among lions. The men of his day did not have a good word to say about him. They called the Master of the house Beelzebub, they will never call you a worse name than that. They said that he was a drunken man and a winebibber; possibly they may say much the same as that about you, and it will be equally false. You need not be ashamed to be pelted with the same dirt that was thrown at your Master; and if it should ever come to this, that you should be stripped of everything, and false witnesses should rise up against you, and you should even be condemned as a felon, and taken out to execution, still your lot will not be worse than his. Remember that you are the followers of a Crucified Lord, and cannot expect to be the world’s darlings. If you are Christians, the inspired description of the Christian life is the taking up of the cross. Do you expect to be dandled on the knees of that same ungodly world which hung your Master upon the gibbet? No; you know that he who is the friend of this world is the enemy of God. This truth is unchangeable. It is just as certain today as it was in years gone by, that “the evil hates the righteous, and gnashes upon him with his teeth.” You may pick up a fashionable religion, and get through the world with it very comfortably; but if you have the true faith you will have to fight for it. If you are of the world, the world will love its own; but if you are not of the world, because the Lord has chosen you out of the world, the world will hate you. When a villager goes up the little street the dogs do not bark at him, for they know him well; but when a stranger rides along they set up a howl. By this you shall know whether you are a citizen of the world or a pilgrim heading towards the better land.
8. Nor was your Master alone. Remember the long line of prophets who went before Christ. Who of them was it that was received with honour? Did they not stone one and kill another with the sword, cut one in pieces with a saw, put others to death with stones? You know that the march of the faithful may be tracked by their blood. And after our Lord had gone to heaven, how did the world treat the church? In the streets of Rome, and all large cities, the fierce cry was often heard, “Christians to the lions! Christians to the lions! Christians to the lions!” At the dead of night men cry “Fire!” when a house is blazing; or a mob will cry “Bread!” when they are starving; but the cry of old Rome that was dearest to the Roman heart, and most expressive of their horrible enmity towards goodness, was “Christians to the lions!” Of all the gallant shows the Roman Empire ever saw, what aroused the populace beyond all other things was to see a family — a man and his wife, perhaps, and a grown-up daughter and son, and three or four children — all marched into the arena, and the big door thrown up, that out might rush the lion and spring upon them, and tear them to pieces. What harm had they done? They had forgiven their enemies. That was one of their great sins. They would not worship the gods of wood and stone. They would not blaspheme the name of Jesus whom they loved, for he had taught them to love each other, and to love all mankind. For such things as this men raised the cry, “Christians to the lions! Christians to the lions!” All along this has been the cry of the world against all who have faithfully followed in the steps of Jesus Christ. Just now the merciful hand of providence prevents public persecution, but only let that hand be taken away, and the old spirit will rage again. The seed of the serpent still hates the seed of the woman; and if the old dragon were not chained he would devour the man-child, as he has often tried to do. Do not deceive yourselves, in one form or other the old howl of “Christians to the lions!” would soon be heard in London if almighty power did not sit upon the throne and restrain the wrath of man.
9. You who have to suffer a measure of persecution for Christ’s sake ought to be very glad for it, for you are considered worthy not only to be Christians, but to suffer for Christ’s sake. Do not, I urge you, be unworthy of your high calling, but endure hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. In these afflictions you are having fellowship with your head and with his mystical body, therefore do not be ashamed.
Here is another thought. If you are among lions you should be
driven nearer to your God by it. When you had a great many friends
you could rejoice in them; but now that these turn against you, and
the truth has come home to you — “A man’s foes shall be those of his
own household,” — what ought you to do? Why, get closer to God than you
ever were before. Jesus Christ so loved his church that he said as he
looked at his poor disciples, “These are my mother, and sister, and
brother.” You should do what your Master did — make his church your
father and mother and sister and brother; indeed, better still, make
Christ all these to you and more. Take the Lord Jesus to be
everything that all the dearest of mortals could be and far more.
Sing that charming verse, which is a great favourite of mine, for it
was very precious to me in days gone by —
If on my face, for thy dear name,
Shame and reproaches be,
All hail reproach, and welcome shame,
If thou remember me.
Be sure that you live near to God. All Christians ought to do so, but you especially should be driven by every false accusation, by every caustic remark, by every cutting sentence, nearer to your Father’s bosom. The more they rebuke you the more constantly you should remain under the covert [hiding-place] of his sacred wings, and find your joy in the Lord.
11. And, getting close to Christ, let me say to you now by way of advice, and by way of comfort too, endeavour to be very calm and happy. Do not mind it. Take as little notice of the scoff as you ever can. It is a grand thing to have one deaf ear. Be careful that you keep yourself very deaf to slander and reproach, as the psalmist did when he said, “I was as a man that does not hear, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.” One blind eye towards the folly of enemies is often of more use to a man than two that are always looking around with suspicion. Do not see everything, do not hear everything. When there is a harsh word spoken do not notice it; or if you must hear it, forget it as quickly as you ever can. Love others all the more the less they love you: repay their enmity with love. Heap coals of fire upon them by making no return to a harsh speech except by another deed of kindness. Very seldom defend yourself: it is a waste of breath, and casting pearls before swine. Bear and bear again. Remember that our Lord has sent us out as sheep among wolves, and sheep cannot defend themselves. The wolf can eat all the sheep up if it likes; but, do you not see, there are more sheep in the world now than there are wolves, ten thousand to one? Though the wolves have had all the eating, and though there never was a sheep that devoured a wolf yet, still the sheep are here and the wolves have gone. The sheep have won that victory: and so will Christ’s little flock. The anvil is struck by the hammer, and the anvil never strikes in return, and yet the anvil wears the hammer out. Patience baffles fury and vanquishes malice. The non-resistance principle involves a resistance, which is irresistible. The steady patience that cannot be provoked, but which, like Jesus, when reviled does not revile again, is certain of conquest. This is what you persecuted ones need to learn — to get more near your God the more you are among the lions, and so to be all the more calm and patient the more men rage against you.
12. A third piece of comfort is this. Please remember that, although your soul is among lions, the lions are chained. When Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den the lions were hungry and would soon have devoured him; but you know why it was that they could not touch him. Ah, the angel came. Just as the fierce lions were about to seize on Daniel, down he came swift from heaven, and stood in front of them. “Hush!” he said, and they lay as still as a stone. So says the text: “My God has sent his angel and shut the lions’ mouths.” They had fine teeth, but their mouths were shut. If the Lord can easily shut a lion’s mouth, he can quite as easily shut the mouth of an ungodly man. He can remove all trouble from you, if he wills it, in an instant, and he can give you a smooth path to heaven when it pleases him; only remember that if everything on the road to heaven were smooth, heaven would not be so sweet at the end, and we should not have an opportunity of displaying those Christian graces which are brought out and educated by the opposition of the world. God will not quench the fire of persecution, for it consumes our dross, but he will moderate its power so that not a grain of pure metal shall be lost. The lions are chained, dear friend; they can go no farther than God permits. In this country the most they can do, as a rule, is to howl, they cannot bite; and howling does not break bones; why, then, be afraid? The man who is afraid of being laughed at is not half a man, but almost deserves the scorn he receives. Never mind what is said. Talking will not harm you. Harden your spirit against it, and bear it gallantly. Go and tell your Lord about it if your heart fails you; and then go forward, calm as your Master did, fear nothing, for God will bear you through. The lions can roar, but they cannot rend — do not fear them.
Another fact for your comfort is this; when your soul is among
lions, there is another lion there as well as the lions that you
can see. Have you never heard of him? He is the Lion of the tribe of
Judah. How quietly he lies! How patiently he waits by the side of his
servants! The jest, the jeer, and the noise continue, and he lies
still. If he only would — if he thought it wise, if it were not for his
superlative patience — he has only to rouse himself for one moment, and
all our enemies would be destroyed. Our great Lord and King could
have had twenty legions of angels when he was in the garden for the
lifting of his finger, but he continued a lone, suffering man. If he
willed it today he could sweep the ungodly away as chaff before the
wind: his longsuffering is for their salvation, if perhaps they may
turn and repent. If your faith is as it should be, it will be a great
joy for you to know that he is always with you, that he is always
near you. If he is ever absent from others of his servants, he is
never away from his persecuted servants. Ask the Covenanters among
the mosses and the hills, and they will tell you that they never had
such Sabbaths in Scotland as when they met among the crags, and set
their scouts to warn them against Claverhouse’s dragoons. When
Cargill or Cameron thundered out the word, with what power was it
attended. How sweetly was the blessed Bridegroom with his persecuted
church among the hills. There is never such a time for seeing the Son
of God as when the world heats the furnace seven times hotter. There
is the flaming furnace, go and stand at the mouth of it and look in.
They threw three men bound into it in their hosen and in their hats,
and the flame was so strong that it killed the soldiers who threw
them in. But look! Can you not see? Nebuchadnezzar himself comes to
look. See how greatly he is astonished! He calls to those around him,
and he demands, “Did we not cast three men bound into the furnace?
Look, there are four. A strange, mysterious form is that fourth. They
are walking the coals as if they walked in a garden of flowers. They
seem full of delight, they are walking calmly as men converse in
their gardens in the cool of the day; and that fourth — that mysterious
fourth — is like the Son of God!” Ah, Nebuchadnezzar, you have seen a
sight that has often been seen elsewhere. When God’s people are in
the furnace, God’s Son is in the furnace also. He will not leave
those who will not leave him. If we can cling to him, rest assured
that he will cling to us, even to the end. Do not fear the lions,
then. Our Samson would turn upon them, and rend them in a moment if
their hour were come.
Jesus’ tremendous name
Puts all our foes to flight;
Jesus, the meek, the angry Lamb,
A Lion is in fight.
By all hell’s host withstood,
We all hell’s host o’erthrow;
And conquering them, through, Jesus’ blood
We still to conquer go.
14. Again, I want to comfort you with this word: you whose souls are among lions should remember that you will come out of the lions’ den unharmed. Daniel was cast into the den. Darius could not sleep that night, and when he went in the morning he did not expect to find a bone of Daniel left, and so he began crying out to him. How surprised he must have been when Daniel replied that his God had preserved him. How thankful he was to draw him out of the den. You, too, dear child of God will come out of the den all right. There will be a resurrection of God’s people’s bodies at last, and there will be a resurrection for their reputations also. The slanderer may misrepresent the character of a true man, but no true man’s character will ever be buried long enough to rot. Your righteousness shall come forth as light, and your judgment as the noonday. You need not be afraid but that, just as Daniel rose from the den to dignity, so will every man who suffers for Christ receive honour and glory and immortality “in that day.”
15. Remember that if you are among the lions now, the day is hurrying on with speed when you shall be among the angels. Our Lord and Master, after being in the wilderness with the wild beasts, found that “angels came and ministered to him.” Such a visitation awaits all the faithful. What a change those martyrs enjoyed who took a fiery breakfast on earth, but supped with Christ that very day after riding to glory in a chariot of fire. If you have to suffer now all that can possibly be wreaked of vengeance upon you for Christ’s sake, you will think nothing of it when you have been in heaven for five minutes. Indeed, it will be a subject of congratulation that you ever were permitted in your humble measure to be counted worthy to suffer for Christ’s sake. Therefore, be comforted, you young people, and march on with heroic step.
16. I see a soldier or two here tonight, and I am very glad that we have generally a block of red coats in the congregation. I know that often in the barracks it is hard for a Christian man to bear witness for Jesus Christ. Very many a soldier has found his path as a Christian to be extremely difficult; he has had to sail very carefully, like a ship among torpedoes, and only divine grace has kept him safe. Some of you who reside in large establishments, where you sleep in rooms with a great many others, find it difficult even to kneel down to pray. Be careful that you do it, though. Do it at first very bravely, and keep it up. Never be ashamed of your colours. Begin as you intend to go on; and go on as you begin. If you begin to compromise you will soon lose all their respect, and make it worse for yourself; but in the name of Jesus Christ let me beseech you to be firm and steadfast even to death. Be comforted, for nothing new has happened to you. It is no novelty for the followers of Jesus to be ridiculed and despised. He came to send fire on the earth, and it has been kindled for almost two thousand years. The fiery path is the old road of the church militant; therefore tread it, and be glad that you are permitted to follow the heroes of heaven in their sacred way.
17. II. Now, a few words BY WAY OF ADVICE. Of course this does not deal with all of you who are now present — I hope that many of you live among the godly. Still there are some whose soul is among lions, and to them I give this counsel.
18. First, if you dwell among lions do not irritate them. If I happened to be among lions I would not tease them: I would take good care that if they were cruel and fierce I did not make them so. I have known some, who I hope were Christians, who have acted very unwisely, and so have made matters worse for themselves. There is such a thing as ramming religion down people’s throats, or trying to do so; and you can put on a very long face, and try to scold people into religion. This will not do. Never was anyone yet bullied to Christ, and there never will be. Some are very stern, and make no allowances for other people: these may be good, but they are not wise. What is a rule for you and for me may not be a rule for everyone else. We said the other Sunday that we should not think of eating what we give to swine; but we do not, therefore, say, “These swine must not have their swill.” No, no; it is good enough for them. Let them have it. And as for worldly people and their amusements, let them have them, poor things. They have nothing else, let them have their mirth. I would not touch their joys, nor would you, for they would be no pleasure for you; but do not, as a new-born man, go and set yourself up as the standard of what the ordinary sinner, dead in sin, is to be. He cannot come up to our standard. Do not be perpetually finding fault: that is pulling the lions’ whiskers, and the creatures are very likely to growl at you. If your soul is among lions, be gentle, be kind, be prudent, be tender. Sometimes be silent: a good word is on your tongue, but there are times when you must not say it: for the life of you, you must not say it, for it would arouse the lions and make more sin than need be. Sometimes a truth needs defending; but, my inexperienced and untaught brother, do not try to defend it, for you do not have the strength. The champion of infidelity will challenge one who is weak and uninstructed, and he overthrows him, and he who came out valorously is beaten in argument. He was not up to the mark in knowledge, and so he was vanquished: and then, what do the adversaries say? Why, they boast that the truth is disproved and that Christ is beaten. Nothing of the kind. The British empire was not defeated when a regiment of our soldiers were killed at Isandlwana; [a] and the truth and cause of Christ is not defeated when some weak champion full of zeal rushes to the front when he ought to have kept in the rear. I do not say much on this point, because we do not have much rash zeal nowadays, and it would be a pity to check what honest zeal there is; but still there is such a text as “Be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Put your finger on your lips when you are irritated. You cannot speak to the point when you are perturbed, and are likely to be angry. Be quiet and bide your time. Many a man would do more good for the cause of God if he would not irritate ungodly people. Leave them alone: seek their salvation lovingly and tenderly; but when your efforts to do them good only provoke them to sin, try another way. Do not go on with what angers them; invent another method. I do believe that some Christians make half the opposition which they get from the world by their own bad tempers and stupidity. They challenge conflict: their actions seem to say, “Who will fight me?” and then, of course, someone takes up the contest. Do not act foolishly; but if your soul is among lions, and they are inclined to be quiet, do not needlessly excite them.
19. Secondly, if your soul is among lions, do not roar yourself, for that is very easily done. We have known some, who we hope were Christians, who have met railing with railing, harsh words with harsh words, bitter speeches with bitter speeches. The ungodly are lions, and you are not; do not try to meet them in their own line. You will never roar as well as they do. If you are a Christian man, you do not have the knack of roaring. Leave them to do it. Your way of meeting them is not by losing your temper and abusing your antagonists, and so becoming a lion yourself; but you must conquer them with gentleness, patience, kindness, and love. I urge you, dear brothers and sisters who have to bear a good deal for Christ’s sake, do not get soured in spirit. There is a tendency in a martyr age to become obstinate and pugnacious. You must not be so. Love, love, love; and the more you are provoked, love all the more. Overcome evil with good. I think it is necessary to mention these cautions, because I know many require them.
Again, if your soul is among lions: then, do not be cowardly.
Have you never heard that a lion is afraid of a man if he looks him
steadily in the face? I am not sure about that piece of natural
history; but I am quite certain that it is true with regard to the
ungodly world. If a man will bear himself calmly — if he will be
unmoved, determined, resolute, steadfast — he will overcome the
adversary. “When a man’s ways please the Lord he makes even his
enemies to be at peace with him.” If you give way a little, you will
have to give way a great deal. If you give the world an inch, you
will have to give it a mile, as sure as you are alive. If you will
not yield an inch, indeed, nor even a barley-corn, but stand
steadfast, God will help you. Courage is what is needed. The world,
after a while, says of any man, “It is of no use laughing at him; he
does not mind it. It is of no use calling him bad names; he only
smiles at you. It is useless to be his enemy, for he will not be
yours. He will only be your friend.” Then the world whispers, “Well,
after all, he is not so bad a fellow as we thought he was; we must
let him have his own way.” There is a big human heart somewhere down
in men if you can only get at it, and after a while, when truth and
righteousness have suffered, and been denounced, men turn around and
are almost ready to carry on their shoulders with hosannas the very
same person whom a little while before they longed to crucify. Do not
be a coward! Do not be a coward!
Stand up! stand up for Jesus!
The fight will not be long;
This day the noise of battle,
The next the victor’s song.
Even if the fight were long, for such a Master as Jesus it would be worth while to endure ten thousand years of scorn, and moreover the reward at the end will repay us a thousandfold.
21. If your soul is among lions, then do not go out among them alone. “Then whom shall I take with me?” one says, “There is not a Christian in the shop.” Take your Lord with you. Be sure that you do that. Now, my dear friend, I know what they said yesterday, and how they bantered you; and you were tart and short with them, because you had not been in prayer in the morning as you ought to have been. If your mind had been more calm and gentle as the result of prayer you would not have minded it one half so much. Take your Master with you, and whenever you have to speak think that he is standing at your side, and try to say what you would like him to hear; and then, when you have made your defence you will be able to say, “Good Master, I think I have not dishonoured you, for I have spoken your words.” Oh, live near to Christ if you live among lions. Those of you who endure opposition make the best Christians. Many who have been distinguished for Christ in later life have had to rough it a little at first. “It is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth.” If I could bring a lawn roller and roll the grass for you all the way from here to heaven do you think that I would do it? Certainly not. A rough place or two is good for you, it tries and strengthens a pilgrim’s feet. A child will never become a man if he is carried around all his life like a baby. You must run alone. You must learn the arts of holy warfare, or else you will not be fit to be a soldier of the cross, a follower of the Lamb. May his good Spirit help you to keep in fellowship with Christ, so that he may guard and protect you from every temptation and persecution.
22. Further, let me say to you that if your soul is among lions, and you feel very weak about it, you are permitted to pray the Lord to move you in his providence to quieter quarters. A Christian man is not bound to endure persecution if he can help it: “When they persecute you in one city flea to another.” You are quite warranted in seeking another place of employment. There may be reasons why you should remain under the trial, and if so, take care that you do not overlook them. Prudence may make you avoid persecution, but cowardice must not mingle with the prudence. That prayer which says, “Do not lead us into temptation,” gives us, as it were, a permit to move from places where we are much tempted; and sometimes it is the duty of the Christian to seek some other sphere of labour, if he possibly can, where he will not be tried so much.
23. One thought more: the braver thing is to ask for grace to stay with the lions and tame them. “My soul is among lions.” Well, if the Lord makes you a lion tamer that is the very place where you ought to be. In some of our districts in London as soon as a man is ever converted he feels that he cannot live there any longer, and this makes the district hopeless. My dear friend, Mr. Orsman, working in Golden Lane, as it used to be, told me that his was an endless task, because as soon as the people were ever converted they say, “Would you have me live here any longer, in such a horrible place as this?” They naturally feel that since they have grown sober, and decent, and respectable, they should move into a different locality, and they do so: but the result is that the old place does not improve. Sometimes the Christian man should say, “No; God has made me strong in grace; and I will remain here, and fight it out. These are lions, but I will tame them. I believe that God has put me here on purpose to bring my fellow workmen to the Saviour, and by his grace I will do it.” Now, if I were a lamp I daresay that, if I had my choice of where I should burn, I should choose to blaze away in a respectable street. I should like to scatter my light in front of the Tabernacle; but surely if I were a really intelligent lamp I should say to myself — “If there are only a few lamps, and all the streets have to be lit, there is more necessity to light up a back slum or a blind alley than to adorn a main street, therefore let me shine in the dismal courts. In a lonely, dark place where murder may be committed, let me act there as a guardian of the night and a detective of the villain.” A wise lamp would say, “I came into the world to give light, and I should like to give light where light is most needed. Hang me up in Mint Street, or in St. Giles’s, or away there by the back of Kent Street, where I may be most useful.”
And now, Christian people, is there not sense in this advice? Is
there not reason in it? Would not your Master have you go where you
are most needed, and should you not, therefore, if your soul is among
lions, say, “Thank God it is so. These people are not going to
conquer me, but I am going to conquer them?” What a beautiful
spectacle was exhibited by the Moravian Brethren in their grand
times! They could not land on one of the West Indies to preach the
gospel to the negroes, for the planters would not have anyone there
except slaves; and two brethren sold themselves for slaves, and lived
and died in bondage, so that they might teach the poor negroes. It is
said that there was a place in Africa where people were confined
whose limbs were rotting away through leprosy and other diseases. Two
of these brethren climbed up the wall and saw these poor
creatures — some with no legs, and others with no arms. They asked to
be allowed to go in to win their souls for Christ, and the answer
was, “If you enter you can never come out again, because you would
bring contagion. You go in there to die, to rot away as the lepers
do.” These brave men went in and died so that they might bring the
lepers to Christ. I hope that we have some drops of that grand
Christian blood still in our veins; and if we have, we shall feel
that we could go to the gates of hell to win a sinner. You are not
like your Master unless you would die to save men from hell. You will
bear jests and jeers, and consider them nothing if you can only win
souls. So stay where you are, my stronger brothers and sisters; if
your souls are among lions, tarry and tame the lions. It will be a
grand thing for you to come one day to the church meeting with two or
three of your neighbours whom you have been the means of converting
to Christ. I like to see a man march, if he can do it, with a tame
lion on each side. When a man has by God’s grace brought some of
those who were drunkards and swearers to the feet of Jesus, oh, it is
a grand triumph. It has been my business for many years to be a lion
tamer, and I delight in it. If there is any lion of the kind here, I
wish the Master would tame him, and make him lie down and crouch at
his feet. There is the place for us poor sinners, at the feet of
Christ. But do not be afraid of sinners, dear friends, for how can
you tame them if you tremble before them. Go out to win them in the
strength of the living God, and you shall yet see the lion lie down
with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them. Amen and amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ps 57]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 124” 124]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Aspirations for Heaven — ‘For Here We Have No Continuing City’ ” 854]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 131” 131]
[a] On January 22, 1879, Isandlwana was the site of the Battle of Isandlwana, where approximately 22,000 Zulu warriors defeated a contingent of approximately 1,350 British and native troops in one of the first engagements of the Anglo-Zulu War. The force was largely wiped out by the Zulus under Cetshwayo. The battle remains the single greatest defeat for the British Army at the hands of a native army. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isandlwana"
Spirit of the Psalms
1 Had not the Lord, my soul may cry,
Had not the Lord been on my side;
Had he not brought deliverance nigh,
Then must my helpless soul have died.
2 Had not the Lord been on my side,
My soul had been by Satan slain;
And Tophet, opening large and wide,
Would not have gaped for me in vain.
3 Lo, floods of wrath, and floods of hell,
In fierce impetuous torrents roll;
Had not the Lord defended well,
The waters had o’erwhelm’d my soul.
4 As when the fowler’s snare is broke,
The bird escapes on cheerful wings;
My soul, set free from Satan’s yoke,
With joy bursts forth, and mounts, and sings.
5 She sings the Lord her Saviour’s praise;
Sings forth his praise with joy and mirth;
To him her song in heaven she’ll raise,
To him that made both heaven and earth!
John Ryland, 1775.
The Christian, Aspirations for Heaven
854 — “For Here We Have No Continuing City”
1 We’ve no abiding city here;
This may distress the wordlings mind,
But should not cost the saint a tear,
Who hopes a better rest to find.
2 We’ve no abiding city here;
Sad truth, were this to be our home;
But let this thought our spirits cheer,
We seek a city yet to come.
3 We’ve no abiding city here;
Then let us live as pilgrims do:
Let not the world our rest appear,
But let us haste from all below.
4 We’ve no abiding city here;
We seek a city our of sight:
Zion its name — the Lord is there;
It shines with everlasting light.
5 Oh sweet abode of peace and love,
Where pilgrims freed from toil are blest!
Had I the pinions of the dove,
I’d fly to thee, and be at rest.
6 But hush, my soul, nor dare repine!
The time my God appoints is best:
While here, to do his will be mine:
And his to fix my time of rest.
Thomas Kelly, 1804.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 131 <7s., 6 lines.>
1 Quiet, Lord, my froward heart,
Make me teachable and mild,
Upright, simple, free from art,
Make me as a weaned child,
From distrust and envy free,
Pleased with all that pleases thee.
2 What thou shalt today provide,
Let me as a child receive;
What tomorrow may betide,
Calmly to thy wisdom leave:
‘Tis enough that thou wilt care;
Why should I the burden bear?
3 As a little child relies
On a care beyond his own,
Knows he’s neither strong nor wise,
Fears to stir a step alone:
Let me thus with thee abide,
As my Father, Guard, and Guide.
4 Thus, preserved from Satan’s wiles,
Safe from dangers, free from fears,
May I live upon thy smiles
Till the promised hour appears,
When the sons of God shall prove
All their Father’s boundless love.
John Newton, 1779.