A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, May 22, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/24/2013
The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the
Son of God. [Ga 2:20]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 781, “Christus et Ego” 772]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1599, “Everyday Religion” 1599]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2370, “Christ First, Me Last: Nothing Between But Love” 2371]
Exposition on Ga 1:11-2:21 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3202, “ ‘It Pleased God’ ” 3203 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ga 2:15-3:29 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3062, “Spirit’s Office Towards Disciples, The” 3063 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Ga 2:16-3:29 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2370, “Christ First, Me Last: Nothing Between But Love” 2371 @@ "Exposition"]
1. I am not about to preach from this whole verse, for I have done that before: this single sentence will suffice me. I shall not attempt to enter into the fulness of the spiritual meaning of this very deep and fruitful passage; I am merely going to bring out one thought from it, and to try to work that out, I trust, for practical purposes. It has sometimes been objected to the preaching of the gospel, that we exhort men to live for another sphere, and do not teach them to live well in the present life. Nothing can be more untrue than this: I venture to say that more practical moral teaching is given by ministers of the gospel than by all the philosophers, lecturers, and moralists put together. While we consider ourselves to be ordained to speak of something higher than mere morals, we nevertheless, indeed, and for that very reason, inculcate the purest code of duty, and lay down the soundest rules of conduct. It would be a great pity, dear brethren, if in the process of being qualified for the next life we became disqualified for this; but it is not so. It would be a very strange thing if, in order to be fit for the company of angels, we should grow unfit to associate with men; but it is not so. It would be an exceptional circumstance if those who speak of heaven had nothing to say concerning the way there; but it is not so. The calumny is almost too stale to need a new denial. My brethren, true religion has as much to do with this world as with the world to come; it is always urging us onward to the higher and better life; but it does so by processes and precepts which prepare us to worthily spend our days, while here below. Godliness prepares us for the life which follows the laying down of this mortal flesh; but as Paul tells us in the text, it moulds the life which we now live in the flesh. Faith is a principle for present use; see how it has triumphed in ordinary life according to the record of the eleventh chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Godliness with contentment is great gain: it has the promise of the life that now is, as well as of what is to come. The sphere of faith is earth and heaven, time and eternity; the sweep of its circle takes in the whole of our being — spirit, soul, and body; it includes the past and the future, and it certainly does not omit the present. The faith of Christians has to do with the things that are now; and it is concerning the life that we now live in the flesh that I shall now speak, trying, by the help of God’s Spirit, to show the influence which faith has upon it.
2. There are seven points in which faith in him who loved us and gave himself for us will have a distinct influence upon the life which we now live in the flesh.
3. I. To begin, FAITH INCLINES A MAN TO AN INDUSTRIOUS LIFE. It suggests activity.
4. I will venture to say of any lazy man that he has little or no faith in God; for faith always works, — “works by love.” I lay it down as a thesis which shall be proved by observation that a believing man becomes an active man, or else it is because he cannot act, and, therefore, what would have been activity runs into the channel of patience, and be endures with resignation the will of the Most High. He who does nothing believes nothing — that is to say, in reality and in truth. Faith is only an empty show if it produces no result upon the life. If a professor reveals no energy, no industry, no zeal, no perseverance, no endeavour to serve God, there is reason to gravely question whether he is a believer at all. It is a sign of faith that, whenever it comes into the soul, even in its lowest degree, it suggests activity. Look at the prodigal, and notice his early desires. The life of grace begins to gleam into his spirit, and its first effect is the confession of sin. He cries, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son.” But what is the second effect? He desires to be doing something. “Make me as one of your hired servants.” Having nothing to do had helped to make him the prodigal he was. He had wasted his substance in riotous idleness, seeking enjoyment without employment. He had plunged into the foulest vices because he was master of money but not master of himself. It was not a bad thing for him when he was sent into the fields to feed swine: the company which he met at the swine trough was better than what he had kept at his banquets. One of the signs of the return of his soul’s sanity was his willingness to work, although it might be only as a menial servant in his father’s house. In actual history observe how Saul of Tarsus, even before he had found peaceful faith in Christ, cried, “Lord, what will you have me to do?” Faith arouses the soul to action. It is the first question of believing anxiety, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Hence faith is such a useful thing for men in the labour and travail of this mortal life, because it puts them into motion and supplies them with a motive for work. Faith does not permit men to lie upon the bed of the sluggard, listless, frivolous, idle; but it makes life to appear real and earnest, and so girds the loins for the race.
5. Everyone should follow an honourable vocation. It was a rule of the old church, and it ought to be one of the present — “If any man will not work neither let him eat.” It is good for us all to have something to do, and plenty of it. When man was perfect God placed him in a paradise, but not in a dormitory. He set him in the garden to “dress it and to keep it.” It would not have been a happy place for Adam if he had had nothing to do but to smell the roses and gaze at the flowers: work was as essential to the perfect man as it is to us, though it was not of the kind which brings sweat to the face or weariness to the limbs. In the garden of grace faith is set to a happy service, and never wishes to be otherwise than occupied for her Lord.
6. The text says, “The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God.” Does faith in the Son of God, who loved him and gave himself for him, suggest to the redeemed man that he should be industrious and active? Assuredly it does; for it sets the divine Saviour before him as an example, and where was there ever one who worked as Jesus did? In his early youth he said, “Do you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” He was no loitering heir of a gentleman, but the toiling son of a carpenter. In later life it was his food and his drink to do the will of him who sent him. He says, “My Father works so far, and I work.” His was stern labour and severe travail: the zeal of God’s house ate him up, and the intensity of love consumed him. He worked on until he could say, “I have finished the work which you gave me to do.” Now, it is no small thing for a man to be roused by such an example, and to be made a partaker of such a spirit.
7. True faith in him who loved us, and gave himself for us, also seeks direction from the Lord concerning the sphere of its action, and waits upon him to be guided by him in the choice of a calling. This part of our discourse may be useful to young people who have not yet decided what they are to do in life. Faith is a great service to us here. Much depends upon the choice of our pursuits. Very grievous mistakes have been made here — as grievous mistakes as if a bird in the air should have undertaken the pursuits of a fish, or a labouring ox should have entered into competition with a racehorse. Some people are trying to do what they were never made for, ambitious beyond their ability. This is a grievous evil. There should, therefore, be a seeking of God for guidance and direction; and faith leads us to such seeking. This prayer may be used in many senses: “Show me what you would have me to do.” In the choice of a calling faith helps a Christian to refuse what is the most lucrative if it is attended with a questionable morality. If the Christian could have huge amounts of that gold which is coined out of the drunkenness, the lust, or the ungodliness of men, he would scorn to put them among his possessions. Trades which are injurious to men’s minds and hearts are not lawful callings before God. Dishonest gain is awful loss. Gold gained by deceit or oppression shall burn into the soul of its owner as the fire of hell. “Make money,” said the worldling to his son; “make it honestly if you can, but, by any means, make money.” Faith abhors this precept of Mammon, and having God’s providence for its inheritance, it scorns the devil’s bribe. Choose no calling over which you cannot ask God’s blessing, or you will be acting contrary to the law of faith. If you cannot conceive of the Lord Jesus wishing you success in a certain line of business, do not touch it. If it is not possible to think of your Lord as smiling upon you in your daily calling, then your calling is not fit for a Christian to follow.
8. Callings should be deliberately chosen with a view to our own suitableness for them. Faith watches the design of God, and desires to act according to his intention. It would have been bad for David to have lived in retirement, or for the prophet Nathan to have aspired to the throne. The law of the kingdom is — “Every man in his own order”; or in other words, “Every man according to his individual ability.” If the Lord has given us one talent let us use it in its own market; or if two, or five, let us trade with them where they can be most profitably employed, so that we may be found faithful servants in the day of the Master’s coming.
9. We should also by faith desire such a calling as Providence evidently has arranged and intended for us. Some people have never had a free choice of what vocation they would follow; for from their birth, position, surroundings, and connections they are set in a certain line of things, like carriages on the rail lines, and they must follow on the appointed track, or stand still. Faith expects to hear the voice behind it saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Trusting in our own judgment often means following our own whims; but faith seeks direction from infallible wisdom, and so it is led in a right way. God knows your capacity better than you do; entreat him to choose your inheritance for you. If the flowers were to revolt against the gardener, and each one should select its own soil, most of them would pine and die through their unsuitable position; but he who has studied their nature knows that this flower needs shade and humidity; and another needs sunlight and a light soil; and so he puts his plants where they are most likely to flourish. God does the same with us. He has made some to be kings, though few of those plants flourish much. He has made many to be poor, and the soil of poverty, though damp and cold, has produced many a glorious harvest for the great Reaper. The Lord has set some in places of peril, places from which they would gladly escape, but they are preserved there by his hand; he has planted many others in the quiet shade of obscurity, and they blossom to the praise of the great Gardener.
10. So, then, you see, faith has much to do with the force and direction of our life in the flesh. It provides impetus by giving a man something to live for; it shows him the far-reaching influences of the thoughts and deeds of today, and how they issue in eternal results; and faith also takes the helm and steers the vessel along a safe channel towards the haven of holy rest. Happy are those who in the early days of their youth believe in him who loved them and gave himself for them, and so begin their life walk with Jesus. Blessed be God for converting some of us while we were still boys and girls. Oh happy young people, who begin life with the early dew of grace upon them! No prince of eastern empires was ever so richly bejewelled! You will not in later days have to lament a score of years spent in error, or half a life wasted in sin, or a whole seventy years frittered away in idleness. Oh that you, who are still young, who have the world before you, may now be led by the Spirit to follow Christ, who did not please himself but did the will of his Father, so shall the life that you live in the flesh be lived by the faith of the Son of God who loved you and gave himself for you.
11. II. Secondly, FAITH LEADS A MAN TO LOOK TO GOD FOR HELP IN HIS ORDINARY VOCATION.
12. Here, again, it has a great influence over him. A believer may seek from God the qualifications for his particular calling. “What,” you say, “may we pray about such things?” Yes. The labourer may appeal to God for strength; the artisan may ask God for skill; the student may seek God for help to quicken his intelligence. David was a great warrior, and he attributed his valour to God who taught his hands to war and his fingers to fight. We read of Bezaleel, and of the women who were wise-hearted, that God had taught them, so that they made all manner of embroidery and metal work for the tabernacle of the Lord. In those days they used to think skill and invention to be the gifts of God; this wretched century has grown too wise to honour any God but its own idolized self. If you pray over your work I am persuaded you will be helped in it. If for your calling you are as yet very little qualified, you may every morning pray to God to help so that you may be careful and observant as an apprentice or a beginner; for has he not promised that as your day your strength shall be? A mind which is trusting in the Lord is in the best condition for acquiring knowledge, and getting understanding.
13. As for your behaviour also in your work, there is room for faith and prayer. For, oh brethren, whether qualified or not for any particular offices of this life, our conduct is the most important matter. It is good to be clever, but it is essential to be pure. I would have you masters of your trades, but I am even more earnest that you should be honest, truthful, and holy. We may confidently go to God about this and ask him to lead us in a plain path, and to hold up our goings so that we do not slip. He can and will help us to behave ourselves wisely. “Do not lead us into temptation” is one sentence of our daily prayer, and we may further ask that when we are in the temptation we may be delivered from the evil. We need prudence, and faith remembers that if anyone lacks wisdom he may ask God for it. Godliness teaches the young men prudence, the babes knowledge and discretion. See how Joseph prospered in Egypt because the Lord was with him. He was placed in very difficult positions, on one occasion in a position of the most terrible danger, but he escaped by saying, “How can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” A sense of God’s presence preserved him then and at all other times. He was set over all the house of Potiphar because God was with him. And so, dear friends, engaged in service or in business, you may go to your heavenly Father and ask him to guide you with his counsel, and you may rest assured that he will order all your way, so that your daily calling shall not hinder your heavenly calling, nor your conduct misrepresent your profession.
14. Faith tells you to seek help from God with respect to the success of your daily calling. Do you not know what David says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he gives his beloved sleep.” It is a most pleasant thing to be able by faith to consult the holy oracle about everything, whether it arises in the work place, or in the family, or in the church. We may say with Abraham’s servant, “Oh Lord, please prosper me today.” You may expect success if you seek it like this: and perhaps some of you would have prospered more if you had more believingly sought the Lord. I say “perhaps,” because God does not always prosper even his own people in outward things, since it is sometimes better for their souls that they should be in adversity, and then the highest prosperity is a lack of prosperity. Faith quiets the heart in this matter by enabling us to leave results in the hand of God.
15. Faith acts also in reference to our surroundings. We are all very much influenced by those around us. God can raise up friends for us who will be eminently helpful to us, and we may pray to him to do so; he can place us into a circle of companions in which we shall find much assistance in this life’s affairs, and also in our progress towards heaven; and concerning this we know that “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord.” Faith will keep you clear of evil company, and constrain you to seek the friendship of the excellent of this earth, and thus it will colour your whole life. If there are no friends to help him, the believer’s dependence is so fixed upon God, that he goes forward in cheerful confidence knowing that the Lord alone is sufficient for him; yet, if he is encouraged and assisted by friends, he looks upon it as God’s doing, as much as when David was strengthened by those who came to him in the cave.
16. Do you say, “We see the connection of this with faith, but how do we do this with faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave himself for us?” I answer, — “Our Saviour as the object of our faith is also the object of our imitation, and you know, brethren, how in all things he rested upon God.” Whenever he undertook a great enterprise you find him spending a night in prayer. If anyone could have dispensed with prayer it was our Lord Jesus; if any man who ever lived could have found his own way without heavenly guidance it was Christ the Son of God. If then he was much in prayer and exercised faith in the great Father, how much more should you and I bring everything before God. We should live in the flesh expecting that the Lord Jesus will be with us even to the end, and that we shall be upheld and comforted by his sympathetic love and tenderness. Faith enables us to follow Jesus as the great Shepherd of the sheep, and to expect to be led in a right way, and daily upheld and sustained until the Redeemer shall come to receive us to himself.
17. III. Thirdly, faith exercises a power over a man’s life of a remarkable kind because IT LEADS HIM TO SERVE GOD IN HIS DAILY CALLING.
18. Never is life more ennobled than when we do all things as for God. This makes drudgery sublime, and links the poorest menial servant with the brightest angel. Seraphs serve God in heaven, and you and I may serve him in the pulpit or in the kitchen, and be as accepted as they are. Brethren, Christian men are helped by faith to serve God in their calling by obedience to God’s commands, by endeavouring to order everything according to the rules of love for God and love for men. In such a case integrity and uprightness preserve the man, and his business becomes true worship. Though there is no straining after eccentric unworldliness and superstitious singularity, yet in doing what is right and just, the common tradesman is separated for the service of the Lord. Jesus says, “If any man serves me let him follow me,” as much as to say that obedience to the divine command is the true mode of showing love for Jesus. If you wish to do something great for God, be greatly careful to obey his commands: for “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.”
19. Godly men exercise faith in God in their callings by trying to reveal a Christian spirit in all that they do. The spirit which motivates us may seem to be a small matter as long as we are outwardly right; but it is in reality the essence of the whole thing. Take away the flavour from the fruit, or the fragrance from the flower, and what is left? Such is correct living without the savour of grace. The same thing can be done in several ways: you can do a right thing in so wrong a way as to make it wrong. Even in giving to the poor, a churl will trample upon their feelings in the very act of his charity; while I have known others who have been unable to give who, nevertheless, have expressed their inability in so kindly a way that they have comforted the disappointed applicant. Oh, to act in your trade and your calling as Christ would have acted had he been in your place. Hang that question up in your houses, “What would Jesus do?” and then think of another, “How would Jesus do it?” for what he would do, and how he would do it, may always stand as the best guide for us. So faith puts a man upon serving God by leading him to exhibit the spirit of Christ in what he ordinarily does, showing all courtesy, gentleness, forbearance, charity, and grace.
20. Furthermore, in all that we do, we should be striving for God’s glory. We should do everything as to God, and not for men. There would be no eye-service if we quit being men-pleasers and began to please God. Neither would there be impatience under injustice; for if men do not accept our service when we have done it with all our hearts, we shall comfort ourselves with the reflection that our Master in heaven knows how little we deserve the unrighteous censure. To live as kings and priests to God is the cream of living. Then you will be the Lord’s free men. Serve God in serving men, and serve men by serving God: there is a way of working out those two sentences even to the full, and so rendering life sublime. May God the Holy Spirit teach us to do this. If we really live to serve God we shall live intensely day by day, allowing no time to waste. Sophia Cook sought Mr. Wesley’s counsel concerning what she should do in life, and he answered, “Live today”: a very short direction, but one that is full of wisdom. “Live today,” and tomorrow you may do the same. Many of you may not be able to construct plans for the whole term of life, but be careful to work while it is called today. “Son, go work today in my vineyard” is the great Father’s word. How would a man live if he felt that he was especially to live for God today? Suppose that today there was a vow on you, or some other bond, by which you felt that this whole day was solemnly consecrated to the Lord; how would you behave yourself? You so ought to behave today, and every day; for you belong completely to him who loved you, and gave himself for you. Let the love of Christ constrain us in this matter: let us put on the yoke of Christ, and feel at once that we are his blood-bought possession, and his servants for ever, because by faith he has become ours and we are his. We ought to live as Christ’s men in every little matter as well as in every great matter; whether we eat or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all for the glory of God, giving thanks to God and the Father by Christ Jesus. So, you see, faith in him who gave himself for us leads us to spend our energies in his service, and to do our ordinary work with an eye for his glory, and so our life is coloured and savoured by our faith in the Son of God.
21. IV. Fourthly, faith has a very beneficial influence upon the life that we live in the flesh, for IT RECONCILES A MAN TO THE DISCOMFORTS OF HIS CALLING.
22. It is not every calling that is easy or lucrative, or honoured among men. It is a happy circumstance when a man has espoused a business which is so congenial with his taste that he would not change it for another if he could: but some find their jobs irksome to them. This is an evil under the sun. Some employments are despised by the thoughtless, and involve much self-denial, and hence those who follow them need much faith to enable them to live above the trials of their position. Faith teaches the humble worker to see Jesus in all his lowliness, condescending to take upon himself the form of a servant for our sakes. Faith reads, “Jesus, knowing that he came from God and going to God, took a towel, and girded himself, and washed his disciples’ feet.” That was one of the most menial of employments, and if our Lord and Master did not disdain it why should we be ashamed of the humblest form of service? From henceforth let no man trouble you, but rejoice because the poor man’s Saviour was a servant even as you are, and he too was “despised and rejected by men.”
23. Your faith ought to help you by arousing your gratitude for deliverance from a far worse drudgery. You did for Satan things of which you are now ashamed. Any work for the devil, and for his black cause, would be dishonourable: to rule an empire for Satan would disgrace us; to wear the crown put on our heads by sinning would be a horrible curse, but to wash feet for Christ is glorious service. There is no degradation in anything that is done for God. Faith in God sanctifies the man, and his calling, too, and makes it pleasant to him to carry the cross of Christ in his daily labour. There are some who hold their heads high, who, nevertheless, do things that are disgraceful to humanity, but surely you and I ought never to think anything a hardship which falls to our lot by the appointment of divine providence.
24. Faith is a great teacher of humility; for it tells us to think little of ourselves, and rest only in God; and because it fosters humility it renders a man’s task pleasant when otherwise it would be irksome. Pride makes a man stiff in the back: there are some works which he cannot do though he would be happy enough in doing them if he did not have such foolish ideas of his own importance. Hard work is no disgrace for any man; it is far more degrading to be leading the life of a fashionable do-nothing. When the Lord makes us feel that we are poor, undeserving creatures, we do not mind taking the lowest room, or doing the lowliest work, for we feel that as long as we are outside of hell and have a hope of heaven, the lowliest service is an honour for us. We are glad enough to be where God would have us be, since Christ has loved us and given himself for us.
25. Faith also removes discomforts by reminding us that they will not last long. Faith says of trial, “Bear it! The time is short. Soon the Saviour comes, and the poorest of his followers shall then reign with him.” Toil on, oh weary one, for the morning light will put an end to your labour, which lasts only through the hours of darkness. The glory breaks; the night is wearing away, and the dawn appears. Therefore patiently wait and quietly hope, for you shall see the salvation of God. So faith takes the thorns from our pillow, and makes us learn in whatever state we are in to be content with it. Do you call this nothing? Has not Jesus done much for us when by faith in him we have learned to endure the hardships of life with sweet contentment?
26. V. Fifthly, faith has this further influence upon ordinary life that — IT CASTS ALL THE BURDEN OF IT UPON THE LORD.
27. Faith is the great remover of yokes, and it does this in part by making us submissive to God’s will. When we have learned to submit we cease to repine. Faith teaches us so to believe in God, infallible wisdom and perfect love, that we consent to the Lord’s will and rejoice in it. Faith teaches us to look to the end of every present trial, and to know that it works together for good; thus again reconciling us to the passing grief which it causes. Faith teaches us to depend upon the power of God to help us in the trial, and through the trial, and in this way we are no longer tripped up by afflictions, but rise above them as on eagles’ wings. Brethren, if any of you are anxious, careworn, and worried, do not remain in such a state of mind; it cannot do you any good; and it reflects no honour upon your great Father. Pray for more faith, so that you may have no back-breaking load to carry, but may transfer it to the great Burden Bearer. Pray to your great Lord to strengthen and ease your heart so that your only care may be to please him, and that you may be released from all other care. By this means you will be greatly helped, for if the burden is lightened, it comes to much the same thing as if the strength were multiplied. Contentment with the divine will is better than increase of riches, or removal of affliction, for with wealth no peace may come; and out of prosperity no joy in the Lord may arise, but contentment is peace itself.
28. Whatever burden faith finds in her daily vocation she casts it upon God by prayer. We begin with God in the morning, seeking help to do our work, and to do it well. At his hands we seek guidance and prosperity from hour to hour. We pray to him to prevent our doing any wrong to others, or suffering any wrong from them; and we ask him to keep our temper and to preserve our spirit while we are with worldly men. We ask that we may not be infected by the evil example of others, and that our example may be such as may be safely followed. These are our great concerns in business; we tremble lest in anything we should dishonour God, and we trust in him to keep us. A believer goes to God with the matters of each day, and looks for the morning dew to fall upon him; he looks up through the day expecting the Lord to be his constant shield, and at night before he goes to rest he empties out the accumulated troubles of the day, and so falls into a happy sleep. Then a man lives sweetly when he lives by the day, trusting his Lord with everything, and finding God to be always near.
29. The example of the Saviour leads us to all this, and his love within our hearts draws us. “He trusted in the Lord so that he would deliver him,” and “was heard in that he feared.”
30. VI. Sixthly, faith has a happy influence upon the present life, for IT MODERATES A MAN’S FEELINGS CONCERNING THE RESULT OF HIS WORK.
31. Sometimes the result of our work is prosperity, and here the grace of God prevents an indulgence in worldly things. There is a keen test of character in prosperity. Everyone longs for it, but it is not every man who can bear it when it comes. True faith forbids our setting great value on worldly goods and pleasures and enjoyments, for it teaches us that our treasure is in heaven. If we begin to idolize the things that are seen, we shall soon degenerate and turn aside from God. How easily we may spoil a blessing! Two friends each gathered a rose: the one was continually smelling it, touching its leaves and handling it as if he could not hold it too firmly; you do not wonder that it soon withered. The other took his rose, enjoyed its perfume moderately, carried it in his hand for a while, and then placed it on the table in water, and hours afterwards it was almost as fresh as when it was picked from the stem. We may dote on our worldly possessions until God becomes jealous of it, and sends a blight upon it; and, on the other hand, we may with holy moderation use these things as not abusing them, and get from them the utmost good which they are capable of conveying to us. Many pursue wealth or fame as some eager boy hunts the painted butterfly: at last, after a long and weary run, he dashes it down with his cap, and with the stroke he spoils its beauty. Many a man has reached the summit of a lifelong ambition and found it to be mere vanity. In gaining all he has lost all; wealth has come, but the power to enjoy it has gone; life has been worn out in the pursuit, and no strength is left with which to enjoy the gain. It shall not be so with the man who lives by faith, for his chief joys are above, and his comfort lies within. For him God is joy so rich that other joy is comparatively flavourless.
32. But perhaps the result of all our work may be adversity. Some men row very hard, and yet their boat makes no headway. When an opportunity presents itself the tide of trade suddenly turns against them. When they have grain in the mill the wind does not blow. Perhaps they lose all except their character, and it is then that faith comes in to cheer them under the disaster. I am deeply grieved when I hear about people committing suicide because they were in difficulties: it is a dreadful thing to rush like this before one’s Creator unbidden. Faith sustains the heart and puts aside all thought of such desperate attempts to flee from present griefs by plunging into far more awful woes. We shall bear up and come through our trials triumphantly if we have faith in God. If our heavenly Father has appointed a bitter cup for us shall we not drink it? If the fields which we have tilled yield no harvests, and the beasts that we have fed die in the stall, shall we not bow the head and say, “The Lord has done it?” Must it not be right if the Lord ordains it? Let us still bless him. If not, it will be our unbelief which hinders. How many have been happy in poverty, happier than they were in wealth! How often have the saints rejoiced more during sickness than in their health. Payson declared that during illness he felt happier than he had ever been, far happier than he had ever expected to be. Though bereavement has come into the family, and sickness to the household, yet faith has learned to sing in all weathers because her God is still the same.
33. Oh brothers and sisters, faith is a precious preparative for anything and everything that comes; be careful to always have it ready for action. Do not leave it at home in time of storm, as the foolish seaman left his anchor. It is not a grace to be shut up in a closet, or fastened to a communion table, or boxed up in a pew, but it is an everyday grace which is to be our companion in the shop and in the market, in the parlour and in the kitchen, in the workplace and in the field; indeed, it may go into the workhouse with the poor, as well as into the mansion with the rich; it may either cheer the dreary hours of the infirmary, or sanctify the sunny weeks of holiday. Faith is for every place in which a good man may lawfully be found. “Should fate command you to the utmost verge of the green earth, to rivers unknown to song” yet a childlike faith in God shall find you a home in every clime, under every sky. Oh, to feel the power of it, as for all that comes of our labour, that the life which we live in the flesh may be lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.
34. VII. Seventhly, faith has this sweet influence upon our present life, that IT ENABLES A MAN CHEERFULLY TO LEAVE HIS OCCUPATION WHEN THE TIME COMES.
35. A Christian may have to leave a favourite vocation on account of circumstances over which he has no control; he may have to emigrate to a distant land, or altogether to change his mode of living, and this may involve many a wrench to his feelings. It is not always easy to leave the old house, and all its surroundings, and to take a long journey; nor is it pleasant to change one’s settled habits and begin life anew; yet true faith holds worldly things loosely, and is ready to haul up the anchor and make sail at the divine bidding. The believer says, “Command my journey, and I go.” I am only a tent dweller, and must expect to be on the move. Like Israel in the desert, we must follow the cloud, and journey or rest as the cloud ordains, for here we have no continuing city, but we seek one to come. Faith has the same gracious influence upon those who enjoy unbroken prosperity; it keeps them from taking root in the soil of earth, and this is a miracle of grace.
36. Sometimes our vocations have to be given up through weakness or old age. It is a hard pinch to many a busy man when he feels that he has no more strength for business, when he perceives that other and more vigorous minds must be allowed to step into the long occupied position. The workman cannot bear to feel that his hand has lost its cunning: it is a sharp experience. Faith is of essential service here. It helps a man to say, “My Master, I am one of the vessels of your house; if you will use me I will be glad; but if you will put me on the shelf, I will be glad too. It must be best for me to be as you would have me.” If faith resigns herself to the supreme wisdom and love and goodness of Christ, and says, “Do with me even as you wish: use me, or set me aside,” then retirement will be a release from care and no source of distress. The evening of advanced age may be spent as joyfully as the noontime of manhood if the mind is sustained on God. “They shall produce fruit in old age” is a promise very often experienced by believers, for all around me are venerable brethren who are more useful and more happy than ever, though the infirmities of years are growing on them.
37. And then comes at last the leaving of your vocation by death, which will arrive in due time for us all. Then faith displays its utmost energy of blessing. Brethren, may we meet death as Moses did, who when God told him to climb the mountain, for he must die there, uttered no word of sorrow, but like a child obeyed his father, went upstairs to bed, looked wistfully out at the window upon the promised land, and then fell asleep. How sweet to look upon the goodly land and Lebanon, and then to be kissed to sleep by his Father’s own mouth, and to be buried — man does not know where. His work was done, and his rest was come. Beautiful are the departing words of Samuel when, laying down his office, he can challenge all men to bear witness to his character. Happy man, to depart amid universal blessing. Oh that each one of us may be ready to render in his account before the judgment seat of Christ — let the last day come whenever it may.
38. Our Master, by whose love we have been endowed with faith, has taught us how to die as well as how to live. He could say, “I have finished the work which you gave me to do,” and he would have us say it. Thrice happy man who, in laying down the shepherd’s crook or the carpenter’s plane, in putting aside the ledger or the class-book, never to open them again, can exclaim, “I have fought a good fight; I have kept the faith; henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of life which does not fade away.” Good old Mede, the Puritan, when he was very old, and leaning on his staff, was asked how he was, and he answered, “Why, going home as fast as I can; as every honest man ought to do when his day’s work is done: and I bless God I have a good home to go to.” Dear aged saints, so near home, does not faith transform death from an enemy into a friend, as it brings the glory so near to you? You will soon be in the Father’s house and leave me behind; and yet I cannot tell: I remember that the other disciple outran Peter, and came first to the sepulchre, and so, perhaps, I may. You have a head start on us in years, but we may be called home before you, for there those who are last who shall be first. Let death come when it may we shall not be afraid, for Jesus, who has loved us and given himself for us, is the resurrection and the life. Living this life in the flesh by faith upon the Son of God, we are waiting for the usher of the black rod to bring a message from the King to summon us to meet him in the upper house. Why should we be loathe to go? What is there here that we should wait? What is there on this poor earth to detain a heaven-born and heaven-bound spirit? Indeed, let as go, for he is gone in whom our treasure is, whose beauties have engrossed our love. He is not here, why should we desire to linger? He has risen, let us rise.
So, from the beginning to the end of the life that we live in the
flesh, faith in the Son of God answers all things, and all its paths
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Mt 6]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 122” 122]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 121” 121]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 116” 116 @@ "(Song 3)"]
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 122 (Song 1)
1 How did my heart rejoice to hear
My friends devoutly say,
“In Zion let us all appear,
And keep the solemn day!”
2 I love her gates, I love the road;
The church adorn’d with grace,
Stands like a palace built for God
To show his milder face.
3 Up to her courts with joys unknown
The holy tribes repair;
The Son of David holds his throne,
And sits in judgment there.
4 He hears our praises and complaints;
And, while his awful voice
Divides the sinners from the saints,
We tremble and rejoice.
5 Peace be within this sacred place,
And joy a constant guest!
With holy gifts and heavenly grace
Be her attendants blest!
6 My soul shall pray for Zion still,
While life or breath remains;
There my best friends, my kindred dwell,
There God my Saviour reigns.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 122 (Song 2)
1 Pray that Jerusalem my have
Peace and felicity:
Let them that love thee and thy peace
Have still prosperity.
2 Therefore I wish that peace may still
Within thy walls remain,
And ever may thy palaces
3 Now, for my friends’ and brethren’s sakes,
Peace be in thee, I’ll say;
And for the house of God our Lord,
I’ll seek thy good alway.
Scotch Version, 1641, a.
Spirit of the Psalms
1 To heaven I lift my waiting eyes
There all my hopes are laid:
The Lord that built the earth and skies
Is my perpetual aid.
2 Their feet shall never slide to fall,
Whom he designs to keep:
His ear attends the softest call;
His eyes can ner sleep.
3 He will sustain our weakest powers
With his almighty arm;
And watch our most unguarded hours
Against surprising harm.
4 Israel, rejoice, and rest secure,
Thy keeper is the Lord;
His wakeful eyes employ his power
For thine eternal guard.
5 Nor scorching sun, nor sickly moon,
Shall have his leave to smite;
He shields thy head from burning noon,
From blasting damps at night.
6 He guards thy soul, he keeps thy breath,
Where thickest dangers come:
Go, and return secure from death,
Till God commands thee home.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 116 (Song 1)
1 I Love the Lord: he heard my cries,
And pitied every groan:
Long as I live, when troubles rise,
I’ll hasten to his throne.
2 I love the Lord: be bow’d his ear,
And chased by griefs away;
Oh let my heart no more despair,
While I have breath to pray!
3 My flesh declined, my spirits fell,
And I drew near the dead;
While inward pangs, and fears of hell,
Perplex’d my wakeful head.
4 “My God,” I cried, “Thy servant save
Thou ever good and just;
Thy power can rescue from the grave,
Thy power is all my trust.”
5 The Lord beheld me sore distress’d,
He bid my pains remove:
Return, my soul, to God thy rest,
For thou hast known his love.
6 My God hath saved my soul from death,
And dried my falling tears;
Now to his praise I’ll spend my breath,
And my remaining years.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 116 (Song 2)
1 What shall I render to my God,
For all his kindness shown?
My feet shall visit thine abode,
My songs address thy throne.
2 Among the saints that fill thine house,
My offerings shall be paid:
There shall my zeal perform the vows
My soul in anguish made.
3 How much is mercy thy delight,
Thou ever blessed God!
How dear thy servants in thy sight!
How precious is their blood!
4 How happy all thy servants are!
How great thy grace to me!
My life, which thou hast made thy care,
Lord, I devote to thee.
5 Now I am thine, for ever thine,
Nor shall my purpose move!
Thy hand hath loosed my bands of pain,
And bound me with thy love.
6 Here in thy courts I leave my vow,
And thy rich grace record:
Witness, ye saints, who hear me now,
If I forsake the Lord.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 116 (Song 3)
1 Redeem’d from guilt, redeem’d from fears,
My soul enlarged, and dried my tears,
What can I do, oh love divine,
What, to repay such gifts as thine?
2 What can I do, so poor, so weak,
But from thy hands new blessings seek?
A heart to feel my mercies more,
A soul to know thee and adore.
3 Oh! teach me at thy feet to fall,
And yield thee up myself, my all;
Before thy saints my debt to own,
And live and die to thee alone!
4 Thy Spirit, Lord, at large impart!
Expand, and raise, and fill my heart;
So may I hope my life shall be
Some faint return, oh Lord, to thee.
Henry Francis Lyte, 1834.