A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, June 29, 1879, By C H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *12/22/2012
I declare new things: I tell you about them before they happen. [Isa 42:9]
1. God has often foretold things to come by the lips of his prophets. I need not give you even a single example of the multitudes of cases in which events which could not have been guessed at, which indeed were highly improbable and unlikely, were nevertheless foretold by the Spirit of God through the prophets, and actually came to pass. The Lord claims this as a proof of his Godhead; it is his special prerogative to possess omniscience, the knowledge of everything, and therefore prescience, or the knowledge of what will happen in years to come. These are attributes of God alone, and often he challenges the idols to produce examples in which they have exercised foresight, and predicted things to come. They had their oracles, which were the mimicry of prophecy, but they continually failed, whereas Jehovah’s word stood firm even in jots and tittles, and so his eternal Godhead was proven. The imitation of this attribute by the magicians and prophets of the false gods proved that they saw this to be an exclusive attribute of deity, and their perpetual confusion in their attempts proved with equal clarity that their mock deities did not possess it.
2. I think it is most admirable, and it seems another example of the foresight of the Holy Spirit, that the words of my text should stand where they do; for you may know that the modern critics, who always try, if they can, to tear the heart out of every text, and are never satisfied until, like swine, they trample beneath their feet every cluster of Eshcol, have dared to ascribe one part of the Book of Isaiah to a second Isaiah, as they call him, who wrote after the times of Christ; because, you see, the prophecy so plainly describes our Lord Jesus Christ, that men who will not believe in God or in the inspiration of his holy book are driven to invent the notion that the prophecy was written after the event. Truly, it might as well have been written afterwards as before, for it is so accurate; but here, as if the Lord foresaw that there would come in the last days scoffers, he tells his servant, in these express words, to claim that he speaks things before they come to pass — “Behold, the former things are come to pass, and I declare new things: I tell you about them before they happen.” It remains, therefore, for these sham Christian critics either to accept the fact that Isaiah’s book contains actual prophecies, or else to reject it altogether. Their specious pretence of believing the book to be authentic while they deny its prophetic character is exposed by the words before us.
3. It is not, however, about prophecy that I am going to speak at this time. I wish to bring out a general principle — the principle that our gracious Lord usually gives a promise of what he intends to bestow. Before his favours come into our hands the sound of them falls upon our ears.
4. Since God is full of mercy and grace, he has resolved to give great blessings to the sons of men, but he does not give without prudent arrangement, and therefore his wisdom appoints times for the bestowal of his gifts. A certain fulness of time of which he often speaks was necessary before the coming of Christ. Our Lord could not appear in human flesh until that appointed time had come; but while his wisdom told him to suspend the fulfilment, his love was so great that he must begin to speak of the grand covenant blessing. Before the Lord Jesus came, the Father was continually speaking of his coming. Before he had given him from his bosom to die, he so delighted in what he was going to do, and he took such pleasure in the result of his glorious gift, that he must speak about it, and so in countless promises he spoke with the sons of men concerning the great deed of love. This seems to me a clear proof of how heartily he went about the great work of our redemption; because he dwelt so much upon the prospect of it that he revealed his thoughts in prophecy and promise. If you are going to do some kindness for a friend, and the time has not quite come for it, yet you cannot keep your purpose a secret. If you think it will minister to his comfort to receive a promise of it you are sure to give him some cheering hint or comforting intimation. The thought is pleasant for you, and you wish him to share your anticipation. You wish for him to get a sight of the good thing before he gets a taste of it. Before he actually obtains the help itself you wish to see him cheered with the prospect, and so you turn his mind hopefully in the kindly direction. Love is so fond of its object that it is not content with blessing it by a solitary act; before the time comes for the actual blessing love exudes a fragrance, as a forecast of the flower which is yet in the bloom and not fully opened. It is for this reason that the Lord anticipates his mercy, and informs his people of things to come before they actually happen. Wisdom waits its time to fulfil, as we have said, but grace gives the promise beforehand so that it may ease its own soul of the load of its beneficence, and give comfort to those who are to receive the blessing.
5. Hence almost everything that God gives to his people is made a matter of promise. He not only plans to bestow the favour, but he tells us he intends to bestow it, and he has a practical purpose in this information. The philosophy of promise is my topic at this time. Why are covenant blessings the subject of promises? Why does the Lord not give us the blessing without previous intimation? It would be just as effective. Why does he, before it comes, promise it again and again? I shall give five answers to a question which might have at least fifty.
6. I. And the first is this, GOD SPEAKS THESE THINGS BEFORE THE BLESSING COMES, IN ORDER TO DISPLAY HIS GRACE.
First, to display the freeness of his grace. You will notice that
the promise to which he specifically alludes is this, “To open the
blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison-house.” Now
these blind and captive people had not sought grace, they had not
pleaded for eyes, nor asked for liberty; in fact, they were not even
born in the days of Isaiah. It is a case like that of Jacob quoted by
Paul, “The children not being yet born”; the promise was made
irrespectively of them. Unsought, unbought, unthought of, the promise
came, so that he would open the blind eyes and bring the prisoners
out of the prison-house. This, I say, proves the freeness of God’s
grace, that he makes a promise before we know our need or seek his
face. When he makes a promise of pure grace he does not come to us
and say, “If this,” and, “if that,” and, “if the other”; but he comes
with, “I will,” and, “I will,” and, “I will,” and, “I will,” before
we seek him, before we have any desire towards him, indeed, and
before we have any sense of a need for him. There are many
conditional promises for which we ought to be very thankful, but the
foundation of them all is an absolute, unconditional covenant of
grace. A redemption was provided for me before I lived, and
consequently before I could have known that I was a slave. The Spirit
of God was given so that I might live, before I knew that I was dead,
and consequently before I could have made an appeal for spiritual
life. The blessings of the covenant of grace, my dear hearers, were
laid up in store for God’s chosen people many ages ago; before the
Fall actually took place the covenant had arranged for the recovery
of the church of Christ. These blessings have been in existence and
provided for many of you, albeit that even now perhaps you do not
know your need of them, and have not yet begun to seek the Lord so
that you may find him; for the Lord, in mighty grace, comes to men
long before they come to him. Their first sincere thought about him
is caused by his having first thought about them.
No sinner can be beforehand with thee:
Your grace is most sovereign,
Most rich, and most free.
The promise of the covenant runs like this — “I will call them my people who were not my people, and her beloved who was not beloved.” The grace of God comes so spontaneously from the heart of God, and he foretells its working, and declares that he will save his chosen, in order that it may be seen beyond all dispute to be the outcome of his own deliberate purpose, and the act of his sacred sovereignty and boundless love.
8. I think the Lord also tells us what he is going to do before he does it so that we may see the fulness of his grace. The Lord says that he will come, not to men who are looking for him, but to those who have blind eyes and therefore cannot look; that he will come, not to those who are coming to him, though he will do that, but to those who cannot come to him, because they are securely locked up as in a prison-house. Notice the passage: they are blind prisoners, and cannot come out, and yet the Lord comes to take the film from the eye, and to tear the iron bar from the window and set the captive free, not because there is any goodness in the poor blind prisoner at the present moment, nor because there ever will be any, but simply because the Lord is full of mercy and delights to display his grace. Christ died for the ungodly. Jesus came to seek and to save those who were lost. He is a physician, and therefore does not come to seek the healthy, but the sick. To make us know this glorious fairness of his grace he informs us beforehand of what he is about to do.
9. Moreover, I think it is not only to show the freeness and the fulness of his grace, but also the power of it; for he speaks very positively, he says that he will open the blind eyes, and he will bring out the prisoners from the prison-house. Can he do this? Indeed, that he can. There can be no question about his ability. When the Lord resolves to save, he can save. Some people believe in a great God in nature, but in a very little God in grace. The God of nature can do everything, and they believe in physical miracles, but according to their notions the God of grace has to consult the will of man, and he has to halt and hesitate, unless dead man will arise and give himself life, and unwilling man will change his own will. I believe in the omnipotence of God in the kingdom of grace, and that he can change a heart of stone to flesh, and break the iron sinew of the stubborn will, and bow men before him. To me the Almighty is as supreme in the realm of mind as in the world of matter. I do not doubt the free agency of man; on the contrary, I see daily evidence of it. I believe man to be a free agent, and yet he is not and cannot be more powerful in any respect than the Lord of all. The Lord knows how to be master in the kingdom of the human will, and, without violating that will in any degree, he can achieve the eternal purpose of his love. To triumph over mere dead matter is nothing compared with the glory of the Lord’s rule over mind thought, intellect, and will. He will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he will have compassion on whom he will have compassion, and yet he who comes to him — he will in no wise cast out. The Lord’s grace is irresistible: his purpose shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure. “This is taking high ground,” one says. It is ground blessedly high for sinking sinners; it is such ground as we need who are utterly lost and ruined and undone. You who can help yourselves may go and do it, but we who cannot do so are glad to find that God knows what he is going to do, and speaks with the tone of a sovereign, and with the voice of one who does not have to ask help from others, but who can work all things according to the counsel of his own will. “I tell you about them before they happen,” he says: because his grace is mighty he speaks of what is going to be done.
10. Oh listen to me, you blinded ones, who cannot open your own eyes. Christ has come to open them. Oh you lost sinners, who cannot save yourselves, Christ has come to save you. Oh, you who are all but damned, and lie at hell’s gate expecting the flame, have hope, for Christ has come to save those who were lost. Oh you firebrands, who almost smoke in the burning, he comes to pick you out of the fire. He does not come to help you to save yourselves, but to save you. He does not approach you with measured steps in order that you may come half way to meet him, but he comes all the way to you in your death, your ruin, your poverty, your misery, your blindness, your captivity. He comes to achieve salvation, and he proclaims what he is about to do, in order that he may have the glory for it.
11. That is our first point, then. The Lord announces his purposes of love to display his grace.
12. II. Secondly, brethren, I think the Lord announces the covenant blessings he is about to bestow IN ORDER TO AROUSE OUR HOPES.
13. Many poor souls would actually die before they were saved if they did not get a little hope every now and then while they are in a seeking state. I am not speaking haphazardly now, I am speaking of cases that I do know, — poor tempted, troubled ones, to whom the promises are as a brook by the way from which they drink and lift up their heads. Some of you come to Christ apparently very easily. Thank God for it; but I know others who cannot get near the Lord Jesus for the crowd. They try even to look at him, but they are blinded by their tears. I cannot excuse their unbelief, but I do pity their poor trembling spirits. They are coming to Christ, but they are like the child of whom we read that “when he was coming the demon threw him down and tore him.” They are sadly torn and cannot get to Christ. Now, when the Lord tells his people what he will do they are cheered with expectation. When they read such texts as these, “I will also give you a new heart, and I will put a right spirit within you,” and “I will put my law in your hearts, and you shall not depart from me,” and “Their sins and their iniquities I will remember no more for ever”; “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool,” — these poor souls catch at such words of promise, and learn how to hope. “Oh!” they say, “if that promise might be true for me, then I should not perish. Perhaps the Lord will look in mercy upon me.” Every now and then the Lord saves a great, big sinner — an unusually black sinner; and what does he do with him? He makes him a walking advertisement for his mercy, so that others see the infinite grace of God. Men cry out in wonder, “What, has So-and-so found Christ? Then why should not we?” Perhaps the man may have been guilty of great iniquities. He may have been a ringleader in wickedness; but the Lord takes him and washes him from his sin, and opens his mouth to praise his name. When such a one begins to speak of divine love poor tormented spirits catch at every word, and they say, “Why should not I find mercy? Why should not I be saved?” When such a man becomes a living proof of what God can do, the promise becomes alive before the poor sinner’s eye, and he says “Ah, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps there is salvation for me.” John Bunyan, who had been a drunken tinker, went about preaching the everlasting gospel like a man who had been in the condemned cell, and had received a pardon; and I tell you the villagers gathered to listen to such a one as he, because they marvelled at God’s mighty grace. They said to each other, “Has Mr. Bad-man become a pilgrim? Then why should we not start on the pilgrimage also? Has infinite mercy changed his heart? Then why should it not change ours?”
14. I would have you pluck up courage, any sinners among you who are here at this time. Supposing you to be the very worst people who ever lived, and supposing you to have the worst temper, and the worst disposition, and the worst besetting sins, and the worst habits that men ever had, I tell you the Lord in great mercy has saved just such as you, and he has still promised to deal with great sinners in a way of great love. Seize hold of this blessed fact, weave a hope out of it, and say, “I need not despair — not even I. I need not plunge into great sin under the notion that I cannot be saved. ‘He is able also to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him.’ He can save me. He has said, ‘He who comes to me I will in no wise cast out,’ and if I come to him, he will not cast me out. I will not despair, then, or sit down and say there is no hope. I deserve to be with the demons in hell; but why should I not be among the saints in heaven? I deserve to be banished for ever, but why should there not be a crown in heaven for me? Ah, will not the saints wonder when they see me come in? The angels will look down from their harps and say, ‘What, is he doing here?’ Then I will tell the story of what the Lord has done, and set them wondering over again, until even they shall say, ‘It has never been seen like this before. Here comes the biggest, blackest, most hell-deserving wretch that ever did enter heaven. Lift up a loftier song than ever. Louder, and still louder, let the song ring through the heavenly arches, for love has out-loved itself, and grace has out-graced itself above all it has ever done before.’ ” I pray God that some despairing soul may grasp these cheering facts and be comforted. I am trying to throw the big net to catch a whale of a sinner if he is floating anywhere near my barque. I know if the gospel net once encloses him it will hold him, for not a single mesh of it will give way, despite his size and his struggling. I would like to spread the gospel so wide, and so broad, that the sheep which is hunted by the dog of hell farthest away from the fold may, nevertheless, come back to the great and gracious Shepherd of souls.
15. Why, beloved, even God’s own believing people need to be told of what God will do, in order to encourage their hope at times. See how the Lord deals with his persecuted ones. When they are hunted, slandered, plundered of their goods, what does he do? He makes them know that they have a richer inheritance in heaven. He sets before them the joys which he has prepared for those who love him. Now, he might, if he liked, have kept all about heaven to himself and so have made it a surprise for us; and, indeed, some seem to think that he has done so, but in this they are ill-advised. We know much about heaven even now. “Why,” one says, “the Scripture says, ‘Eye has not seen, neither has ear heard.’ ” I know it does, but why do you stop in the middle of a text? You make it say the opposite of what it intends to say. Hear all of it. “Eye has not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love him; but he has revealed them to us by his Spirit.” By chopping it in halves you made the passage say the very opposite of what it intended. Your eye has not seen it, and your ear has not heard it, but his Spirit has told you concerning the things which he has prepared for you, and this is a great privilege. I need not pause to tell you how much the Lord has told us about the eternal state, concerning our being with Jesus where he is, so that we may behold his glory, and may be sharers in that glory for ever. He has told us this, to cheer us up while on the road, to encourage us so that we may never sink in despair. Going to lie down and die, brother? Do you know how near you are to heaven? Perhaps you will be there in a month. Going to give it all up now? Will you be so foolish as to leave the battle just as the victory is won? Brother, does the devil tell you to turn back? He knows how near you are to the glory land. You are something like Columbus when he was within three days sail of America, and the sailors told him to stop his voyage. He could not, would not, reverse his venturous prow, but pushed on and found the new world. Some of us may be within a very few days’ sail of heaven, and yet do not know it, and the devil has the impudence to persuade us to go back. Shall we listen to the impudent fiend? No, by the grace of God, never! If the journey is long, the destination will repay us for it. If the voyage is rough, the brave country will make amends for all the tempests which have wreaked their vengeance upon us. Onward, onward, be our course: to help us to persevere even to the end, the Lord has made the new things known to us, and has told us of them before they happen.
16. Two good answers to the question are now before us, and each one is an argument for adoration.
17. III. But now, thirdly, why has the Lord told us about the mercies he intends to give? TO EXERCISE OUR FAITH.
18. The gospel of God is a gospel for believers; and one of God’s great purposes in the whole arrangement of the gospel system is to educate our confidence in him. I remember speaking once with a brother upon the place which God has left for faith to work in. We were speaking about the various defences which have been used to prove the veracity of the Christian religion against infidel assaults, and I was remarking upon the obvious failure of certain of them which appeared extremely strong at one time, but are now abandoned, because under new attacks they have obviously failed. My friend was deploring that this book, and the other, which had once been considered as standard works, seemed to have lost power over this generation. It came to the minds of both of us, that if God had made the Christian religion so clear that you could make an axiom of it, or prove it as easily as you show that twice two makes four, there would have been no place for faith at all; and then the divine system of salvation must have taken another course, for faith would have occupied a very small part in it. The Lord intends that men should exercise faith in his word, for he knows that faith is necessary for us if we are to be delivered from sin. A man cannot be saved if he does not trust his God, and when a man is brought to trust his God, he is practically saved. You say, “How is that?” If a man has a servant, and that servant has fallen out with his master, if it is desirable to bring that servant to obedience, the first thing to do is to make him believe in his master. If he believes his master to be good, and true, and kind, and noble, you have gained the servant’s obedience. He will be reconciled to his master now, and will be very contented to serve him. So that faith and trust, though they appear to be such minor things that we wonder why they should be the great requirement of the gospel, are not small matters after all. They are the pivot upon which character turns. When I bring my mind down to this, that I just believe God, and accept the Bible as his revelation, I am getting close to the truth. If when I cannot understand the word of God I believe it as much as if I did understand it, then I have in heart become obedient to God. I have taken up the position which a creature ought to occupy towards his Creator; and the act of trusting and believing has become the pivot upon which I turn as my mind seeks the Lord, and by its means I get into a right condition with him. Therefore the Lord, before he gives us a mercy, says to us, “Believe in me, and you shall have it. Believe in the atonement made by my dear Son, and you shall have pardon. Believe in my willingness to forgive you, and submit yourself and cast yourself at my feet, and I will forgive, and bless you.” It is not a hard thing that he requires. It is not a wrong thing. It is an act of the heart which is good for all of us, and becomes the instrument in the hand of the Spirit of reconciling us to God.
19. The Lord has told us what great things he is going to do for sinners; and I want you just to answer the question: “Do you believe that he can do this?” Come now, you who are ungodly and graceless, do you believe that God can save you? can make you holy? can make you gracious? You have many sins, but do you believe that Christ can blot them all out in a moment, and make you to be as though you had never committed them, casting them behind the back of God himself, so that they shall never be mentioned against you any more for ever? Can you believe all this? If you can believe it, can you also believe another thing, namely, that he is willing to do this deed of love? Can you believe that the great Father does not will that you should perish, and has no joy that you should be lost? Can you believe that it will give him delight to receive you, that he will be glad to press you to his bosom and make you his child, and that you should be reconciled to him? Can you believe this? By the wounds of God, by the blood of the Son of God on Calvary, I say you ought to believe it, for he who loved sinners well enough to die cannot be unwilling that they should be saved. You can believe his power and his willingness, you say. Well, the only thing that you have now to do in order to be saved this moment is to act out your belief upon these two points. He can and he is willing, — throw yourself upon that power and will. Trust yourself with Jesus now. That is the one demand of the gospel: “Believe and live.” Rest in the fact that he has reconciled you to himself in Christ that he forgives you now, because you trust in his Son alone for your eternal salvation. Will you do this at once? Will you rest on Christ Jesus? Then, “Your sins, which are many, are all forgiven.” You are a saved man.
20. You ask, “Oh, but how do I know that I am saved?” You shall feel and know that you are saved if you believe, for you shall find yourself from this time loving the things which you previously hated and hating the things which you once loved; and that simple act of trusting which seems so insignificant will transform you, and will so become the hinge on which your life shall turn.
Believing in Christ, you shall go out of this house saying, “I am a
forgiven man, and I love the God who has forgiven me. I am washed in
the blood of Christ, and henceforth I will serve him.
Lord, in the strength of grace,
With a glad heart and free,
Myself, my residue of days,
I consecrate to thee.
I am Christ’s man for ever; I will not grieve him; by the help of his Holy Spirit I will live for his praise. I will tell others what he has done for me, and my entire life shall be a life of obedience if he will only help me and keep me and sustain me by his gracious power.” You see now why the blessings of grace are foretold — so that they may become objects of faith. May God give you faith to exercise upon them now.
22. IV. Fourthly, and very briefly, these things are told us before they happen SO THAT THEY MAY STIMULATE OUR PRAYER.
23. After hope and faith, prayer is quite sure to follow. Notice the order: the Lord says that Christ shall come to open the eyes of the blind, — here is grace. I pictured the blind man just now as saying, “Jesus is come to open the blind eyes; why should he not open mine?” Here is hope. Next the blind man goes on to say, “He says that he will do it if I trust in him. I know he can. I believe he will. I will trust him.” Here is faith. What is the very next thing that the blind man does? Why he begins to pray to him. “Jesus, you Son of David, have mercy on me.” Here is prayer. As soon as the first little drop of faith falls into a man’s soul, he begins to pray, “Lord, you have promised pardon to believers; give that pardon to me. You have promised a new heart; give a new heart to me. You have promised eternal salvation to as many as obey Christ; Lord, give me eternal salvation.” Oh that blessed gift of faith! It soon brings a man to his knees. When he hopes that he may gain the blessing, when he believes that he may have it — then he begins to cry for it; and if he cries with real faith he has already obtained the blessing for which he is seeking. While he is pleading God is hearing.
24. Think of those poor people in the prison-house too. There they sit in darkness, and they make no sound but groans: but suddenly a voice is heard. Jesus comes to set the captives free. It is repeated, “He comes, he comes to release the bondaged ones.” Inside the prison-house there shines a light in the midst of the darkness, and the prisoners say, “If he comes, why should he not come to us? Blessed be his name, we hope he will come to us.” And now you can hear them cry, “Come! Come! Come, Lord! Come quickly! Break these chains! Dispel this darkness. Set us free.” And it is not long, when the prisoner of hope begins to pray, before the walls totter, and the captive is free as a bird of the air. So the Lord, as it were, holds out the mercy that his dear ones may ask for it, cry for it, struggle for it, and so that they may get the double blessing of being taught to pray as well as to receive the answer of their prayers.
25. Oh you who are the people of God, I want you to learn this lesson, that all God’s promises which are not fulfilled are meant to stimulate you to pray. We read a chapter just now in which the Lord says that the isles shall wait for God; pray for it. He has promised to give his Son the heathen for his inheritance; pray that the heathen may be the inheritance of your Prince. Every promise should be turned into a prayer. I believe that the whole earth will yet be “filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea”; but not without prayer. Even Christ must pray. Is it not written “Ask of me, and I shall give you the heathen for your inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for your possession?” Christ is to come, but he has taught his church to say “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Every picture of the princely reign of Christ should at once arouse our desires, and those desires should be set on fire with prayer. Thus says the Lord, “For this I will be enquired of by the house of Israel to do it for them.” And yet if the Lord does not do some great thing before his church prays greatly, the good time is not coming just yet. We have good prayer meetings in this Tabernacle, thank God. It is the joy of my heart to see so many assemble to pray, though some of you do not come as often as I wish you did. You do not know what you lose, you who do not come to our delightful prayer meetings. You are more losers by being away than we are by losing your company. We are sorry to miss you, but our sorrow is on your account, for you do not know what you lose. We ought to meet for prayer, we cannot expect the blessing unless we do. I have little to say on that score, by way of rebuke, to you who compose my regular congregation, for many of you do not sin in that way; but I know some churches where the prayer meeting is a mere form. It is such a little affair that they might put it in a dish, cover it up, and lock it up in the pantry, and say nothing about it. It is a miniature concern, a very sickly dwarf. If God blessed some churches in London in proportion to their prayers, he would not bless them very much: for the prayer meetings are held in the vestry, and that is not full, nor one half full at the best. A prayer meeting in the chapel itself would look like a drop in a bucket, and so they hide the nakedness of the land by holding the meeting in any insignificant place in the vestry. Such things as prayer meetings in the chapel are not expected, a snug little room is quite large enough. Alas, there are not many brethren to pray. Two or three pray so long and so drearily, that they fill up the evening, and then they ask the Lord to forgive their shortcomings; they would do better to ask forgiveness for their longcomings, which are the death of all fervency. There is not much prayer in these long sermonizing, and the whole business is far more formal than real. Scant will be the blessing if the Lord is going to bless them in proportion to their prayers. Do you wonder that the minister cannot preach when the people do not pray? I see some of you up from the country; perhaps you are deacons, and yet do not attend the prayer meetings yourselves. I have known such things; and I cry shame upon you. And then you find fault with the minister. Have you never heard of the minister who suddenly seemed to fail, and, when the people complained, he said, “Ah, I may well fail, for I have lost my Prayer-Book!” Someone said, “I did not know you used a Prayer-Book, sir.” “Oh!” he said, “my Prayer-Book used to be written on the hearts of my people, and while they prayed for me God blessed me and I had success, but they have given up praying for me, and what can I do?” Do you want the man to make bricks without straw? Surely the least thing you can do is to find him straw for the bricks, and you can only find that by means of earnest, united prayer. The sinew of the minister’s strength under God is the supplication of his church. We can do anything and everything if we have a praying people around us; but, when our dear friends and fellow helpers cease to pray, the Holy Spirit hastens to depart, and “Ichabod” is written upon the place of assembly. Promises of the mercy of the Lord, dear friends, are sent to you on purpose so that you may pray for the covenanted blessings, and you shall not have them unless you seek his face for them.
26. V. Last of all, the Lord tells you what he is going to do, and in this he has yet another purpose in view, namely, TO FOSTER GRATITUDE AND ASSURANCE WHEN THE MERCY HAS BEEN RECEIVED.
When the blessing comes, the man who has received it declares, “I
know that this came from God, because he promised to give it. I know
that God was in all this because I can see he has acted according to
his own declaration. His word has not returned to him void. He has
done what he said, when he said, and as he said: surely this thing is
from the Lord.” Then comes the inference, — If he has done all this for
me in the past, he will do as much for me in the future. He told me
that he would help me, and he has helped me; he still assures me that
he will be my helper, and I am sure he will, for he does not change.
Each sweet Ebenezer I have in review,
Confirms his good pleasure to help me quite through.
This is God’s way of creating assurance in the minds of his people.
If you notice in the next chapter, the one argument which God seems
to use there is, “I will because I have.” I will read it to you.
“Thus says the Lord who created you, oh Jacob, and he who formed you,
oh Israel, ‘Do not fear: for I have redeemed you, I have
called you by your name; you are mine.’ ” What then? “ ‘When you pass
through the waters I will be with you, and through the rivers
they shall not overflow you.’ Do you think that I have redeemed you
to drown you? ‘When you walk through the fire you shall not be
burned.’ Do you think that I created you to be destroyed, and
redeemed you so that the flames should consume you? I have loved
you. I have redeemed you; therefore I will help you, and keep you
even to the end.” This is God’s argument of consolation. Do you not
see the force of it? Look in the third verse, “I gave Egypt for your
ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for you. Since you were precious in my
sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved you: therefore I
will give men for you, and people for your life.” If I paid a full
ransom once, I will spare no expense to gain my precious purchase. If
I gave Egypt and Ethiopia once, I will give the same again but I will
have my redeemed ones set flee. You are mine, and I will not lose
you. I will spend all heaven but I will bring you safely home to
myself. See, he says, “I have created him; I have formed him,
yes, I have made him,” and therefore he says, “I will bring
your seed from the east and gather you from the west.” I know of
nothing except the sure promise and oath of the glorious Jehovah
which is worthy to be the ultimate foundation of our hope. Beyond
that, I know of nothing that is so firm a foundation for our hope as
our past experience of the faithfulness of God. If the Lord had meant
to be unfaithful he would have been unfaithful long ago. If it had
been possible for him to cast away his people he would have cast you
and me away years ago. Does a man bestow much care and labour and
expense on what he intends to leave unfinished? Does a wise man begin
to build a house, and then leave the structure with no roof and
incomplete? Will God begin the work of grace in you and not complete
it? Will he bring you so far on the road to the Golden City, and then
leave you and put you to shame? Shall it be said in eternity, “This
man trusted in God, and God failed him. This poor sinner rested in
the blood of Christ, but Christ could not save him?” Never, oh never!
The Lord has given you many a promise, and he has fulfilled it in
order that today in your present difficulties, and tomorrow in your
new troubles, you may stand firm as a rock, and feel, “He will help
me; yes, he will uphold me; yes, he will deliver me. Therefore my
heart is fixed, my heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord.”
I know that safe with him remains
Protected by his power,
What I’ve committed to his hands
Till the decisive hour.
Then will he own his servant’s name
Before his Father’s face,
And in the New Jerusalem
Appoint my soul a place.
Such faith as this is God’s due. He deserves nothing less than
unmingled confidence. He has never lied to any one of you: never
doubt him until he gives you reason for suspicion, but rest, and
quietly wait, and patiently hope, and you shall see the salvation of
God. As surely as the Lord lives, he will not forsake your believing
soul, but will be always at your side until he has completed what he
has spoken to you about, and brought you home to dwell at his right
hand with his dear Son for ever and ever. Amen.
[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Isa 42:1-16 43:1-7]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — The Truth Of God The Promiser” 191]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation — The Advent” 257]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Attributes of God — Faithful And Unchanging” 193]
The Publishers regret to have to inform the readers of the sermons
that no letter has been received from Mr. Spurgeon for insertion in
this week’s issue; the latest report from Mentone stating that he is
very unwell, and quite unable to write.
God the Father, Attributes of God
191 — The Truth Of God The Promiser
1 Praise, everlasting praise, be paid
To him that earth’s foundation laid;
Praise to the God, whose strong decrees,
Sway the creation as he please.
2 Praise to the goodness of the Lord,
Who rules his people by his word;
And there, as strong as his decrees,
He sets his kindest promises.
3 Firm are the words his prophets give,
Sweet words, on which his children live:
Each of them is the voice of God,
Who spoke, and spread the skies abroad.
4 Each of them powerful as that sound
That bid the new made world go round;
And stronger than the solid poles
On which the wheel of nature rolls.
5 Oh, for a strong, a lasting faith,
To credit what th’ Almighty saith!
T’ embrace the message of his Son,
And call the joys of heaven our own.
6 Then should the earth’s old pillars shake,
And all the wheels of nature break,
Our steady souls should fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar.
7 Our everlasting hopes arise
Above the ruinable skies,
Where th’ eternal Builder reigns,
And his own courts his power sustains.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation
257 — The Advent
1 Hark, the glad sound, the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
2 On him the Spirit, largely pour’d
Exerts its sacred fire;
Wisdom and might, and zeal and love,
His holy breast inspire.
3 He comes, the prisoners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
4 He comes, from thickest films of vice,
To clear the mental ray;
And on the eye balls of the blind
To pour celestial day.
5 He comes, the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure;
And, with the treasures of his grace
To enrich the humble poor.
6 Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven’s eternal arches ring
With thy beloved name.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.
God the Father, Attributes of God
193 — Faithful And Unchanging
1 How oft have sin and Satan strove
To rend my soul from thee, my God!
But everlasting is thy love,
And Jesus seals it with his blood.
2 The oath and promise of the Lord
Join to confirm the wond’rous grace;
Eternal power performs the word,
And fills all heaven with endless praise.
3 Amidst temptations sharp and long,
My soul to this dear refuge flies;
Hope is my anchor, firm and strong,
While tempests blow and billows rise.
4 The gospel bears my spirit up;
A faithful and unchanging God
Lays the foundation for my hope
In oaths, and promises, and blood.
Isaac Watts, 1790.