A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, June 2, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *3/30/2013
This he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. [Joh 6:6]
1. Observe, dear friends, how careful the Holy Spirit is that we should not make a mistake about our Lord Jesus Christ. He knew that men are liable to think too little of the ever-blessed Son of God, and that some, who call themselves Christians, nevertheless deny Christ’s divinity, and are always ready to forge an argument against the true and real deity of the Saviour out of anything which appears to limit his power or knowledge. Here is an example of the care of the Spirit to prevent our falling into an erroneous conclusion. Our Lord consults with Philip, asking this poor disciple, “From where shall we buy bread, so that these may eat?” Some might therefore have inferred that Jesus did not know what to do, but felt embarrassed. From this they would argue that Jesus cannot be Almighty God, for surely embarrassment is inconsistent with Omnipotence. Why should Jesus consult with Philip if he knows all things? Now, the Holy Spirit would have us beware of falling into low thoughts of our great Redeemer and Lord, and especially of ever being so mistaken as to think that he is not God; therefore he plainly tells us, “This he said to prove Philip, for he himself knew what he would do.” Jesus was not asking for information or taking counsel with Philip because he felt any doubt about his line of procedure, or needed help from his disciple. He did not want Philip to multiply bread, but he desired to multiply Philip’s faith. Take heed, therefore, dear friends, that you never think little of the Saviour, or impute any of his acts to motives that would lessen his glory.
2. Learn here, too, that we, being very apt to make mistakes concerning Christ, need daily that the Spirit of God should interpret Christ to us. Jesus simply asks the question of Philip, “From where shall we buy bread?” and we are at once in danger of drawing a wrong inference, and therefore the Holy Spirit tells us more about Christ so that we may escape from that danger. By giving us more insight into our Lord’s motives, he prevents our misjudging his actions. We must have the Spirit of God with us, or we shall not know Christ himself. The only way to see the sun is by its own light; and the only way to see Jesus is by his own Spirit. Did he not himself say, “He shall take of what is mine, and shall show it to you?” No man can call Jesus “Lord” but by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit must come to each man personally, and reveal the Son of God to him, and in him. Therefore, do not let us take up the Bible and imagine that we shall at once understand it as we do another book, but let us breathe the prayer that the Great Author of its letter would himself give us grace to enter into its spirit, in order to know its meaning and feel its power. Even with the infallible Word before you, you will miss your way, and fall into grievous error unless you are taught by God. The mercy is that it is written, “All your children shall be taught by the Lord”; and again, “We have an unction from the Holy One, and know all things.” There is no knowing anything except by that unction, and by that divine teaching. What dependent creatures we are, since we make mistakes even about Jesus Christ himself unless the Spirit of God is pleased to instruct us concerning him! Always lead us, oh light of God!
3. Another thing we learn from the text before we plunge into it is, that our divine Lord always has a reason for everything that he does. Even the reason of his asking a question may be determined; or, if we cannot discover it, we may still be quite sure that there is a worthy reason. That reason in Philip’s case certainly was not because of any lack of wisdom in himself, but there was a reason, — “This he said to prove him.” Now, if there is a reason for all that Jesus asks, how much more is there a reason for all that he does. We cannot tell the reason for election — why this man is chosen or that; but there is a reason, since God never acts unreasonably, though his reasons are not always revealed, and might not be understood by us if they were. Sovereignty is absolute, but it is never absurd. There is always a justifiable cause for all that God does in the kingdom of grace, though that cause is not the merit of the person whom he favours, for there is no merit. In the matter of your present trial and trouble, dear friend, you have been trying to determine the intention of the Almighty, but without success. Do you not know that his ways are past finding out? In all probability this side of eternity you may never discover God’s purpose in your present trial, but that he has a purpose is certain, and that purpose is a wise and kind one. It is such as you yourself would delight in if you were capable of understanding it. If you could have a mind like that of God, you would act as God does even in this matter which troubles you: at present your thoughts are far below those of God, and therefore you error when you try to measure his ways. If you have a quarrel with your heavenly Father about a bereavement or a sickness; end it at once with humble shame. There, child, if it ever comes to a question concerning which is right — a poor, ignorant, inexperienced youth, or a great, good, wise Father — there cannot be a moment’s deliberation; the Father’s will must be better for the child than his own will. Be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live. Do believe in your Lord, and be quieted: Jesus knows what he is doing, and why he is doing it. There is a reason for the loss of your health. For those pains of body, for that depression of spirit, for that lack of success in business, even for the permission of the cruel tongue of slander to inflict its wounds upon you, there is a reason; and possibly that reason may lie in the words of our text, “He did this to prove him.” You must be tested. God does not give faith, or love, or hope, or any grace without intending to prove it. If a man builds a railway bridge, it is that engines may go over it, so that its carrying power may be proved. If a man makes a road, it is that there may be traffic over it, every yard of it will be proved by wheels and hooves. If he only makes a needle it must be tested by the work it can do. When the pillars that now support these galleries were cast, they were made with the object of supporting a great weight, and these twenty years they have bravely endured the pressure: it would have been an idle thing to have set them up and placed no weight upon them. So when God made you, my brother, to be strong in the Lord he meant to try every ounce of your strength; for what God makes has a purpose, and he will prove it to see that it is equal to its design. I do not think that a single grain of faith will be kept out of the fire; all the golden ore must go into the crucible to be tested. You have heard of the Birmingham proving-houses [a] for the barrels of guns; now, the great Maker of believers proves all whom he makes in his factory of grace with heavy charges of affliction, and only those who can bear the test shall receive his mark. When no other explanation of a providence can be found you may always fall back upon the belief that — this he said and this he did to prove you.
4. Let us at once come to the text, which seems to me to have much comfort in it. May the Holy Spirit lead us into it.
5. First, here is a question for Philip — “From where shall we buy bread, so that these may eat?” — a question with a purpose. But, secondly, there is no question with the Master, for he himself know what he would do. And, thirdly, if we enter into the spirit of the Master there will be an end of questions with us, for we shall be perfectly satisfied that he knows what he is going to do.
6. I. First, then, HERE IS A QUESTION FOR PHILIP, as there have been many questions for us.
7. Jesus asked this question of Philip with the motive of proving him in several points. He would thus try his faith. As one has well said, “He did not want food from Philip, but faith.” The Master enquires, “From where shall we buy bread, so that these may eat?” What will Philip say? If Philip has strong faith he will answer, “Great Master, there is no need to buy bread; you are greater than Moses, and under Moses the people were fed with manna in the wilderness; you only have to speak the word, and bread shall be rained around the host, and they shall be filled.” If Philip had possessed great faith he might have replied, “You are greater than Elisha, and Elisha took a few loaves and ears of grain and fed the sons of the prophets with them. Oh wonder-working Lord, you can do the same.” If Philip had displayed still greater faith, he might have said, “Lord, I do not know where bread is to be bought, but it is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’ You can refresh these people without visible bread: you can satisfy their hunger and fill them to the full, and yet they need not eat a single mouthful; for it is written, ‘Man shall live by every word that precedes out of the mouth of God.’ Speak the word, and they will be refreshed at once.” This question, therefore, was asked to prove Philip’s faith. It did prove it, and proved it to be very little, for he began calculating his pennyworths — “One, two, three, four.” No; I will not count two hundred, but that is what Philip did. He began counting pennies, instead of looking to Omnipotence. Did you ever do the same, dear friend, when you have been tried? Did you start calculating and counting coppers, instead of looking to the eternal God and trusting in him? I fear that few of us can plead exemption from this failure, since even Moses once fell into unbelieving calculations. “And Moses said, ‘The people among whom I am, are six hundred thousand footmen; and you have said, "I will give them flesh, so that they may eat for a whole month." Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fish of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?’ ” Remember God’s answer to his anxious servant, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? You shall see now whether my word shall come to pass for you or not.’ ” Even so we shall see the faithfulness of God, but if we are unbelieving we may have to see it in a way which will painfully bring home to us our sin in having doubted our Lord.
8. The question was meant, no doubt, to prove Philip’s love, and he could endure that test better than he could stand the other; for he loved Jesus even though he was slow of heart to believe. In many true hearts there is more quiet love than active faith. I am sorry that there should be little faith, but thankful that there should be more love. The Saviour seemed to say, “Philip, I want these people fed. Will you come to my help in it? From where shall we buy bread? I am going to associate you with me, Philip. Come, now, how shall we do the work?” Philip loves his Master, and therefore he is quite ready to consider the matter, and to give at least the benefit of his arithmetic. He says, “Lord, two hundred pennyworth is not sufficient.” His Master did not ask him what would not be sufficient, but what would be; but Philip begins calculating the negative question — which question I also am afraid that you and I have often calculated. Even to give each one in the crowd a little could not be done for under two hundred pence: is it not clear that our resources are inadequate? That is always a depressing and impractical question to go into. Poor Philip counts what would not be sufficient for all, and leaves the all-sufficient Lord out of the calculation. Still, even in that calculation he showed his love for his Master. If he had not been full of love and esteem for Jesus he would have said, “My Lord, it is idle to go into that: we are a poor company: we have a trifle of money given to us every now and then, and I do not quite know how it goes, perhaps Judas does: but I am persuaded that there is not enough in the bag to feed these multitudes, even if there were bakers’ shops in the neighbourhood from which we could buy loaves.” But Philip did not answer like this. No; he had too much reverence and too much love for Jesus for that; he failed in his faith, but he did not fail in his love. It will be good for us to love our Lord so much that we never speak of his gracious plans as being visionary, nor judge them to be impossible. Jesus never proposes wild, visionary schemes, and we must never allow the idea to cross our minds; even the conquest of the world to truth and righteousness is not to be looked upon as a dream, but to be practically considered.
9. The question also tried Philip’s sympathy. Jesus by this query moved Philip’s heart to care about the people. The other disciples said, “Send the multitude away, so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus, perhaps, noticing a little more tenderness in Philip than in the others, said to Philip, “From where shall we buy bread?” It was placing great honour upon Philip to associate him with himself; but perhaps he saw in him a sympathetic soul, and Christ loves to work with sympathetic agents. One thing I notice — that God seldom greatly uses a man who has a hard heart, or a cold heart. Only warmth within ourselves can create warmth in others. A man must love people, or he cannot save them. A minister must have an intense desire that his congregation should be saved, and must get into sympathy with Jesus upon that subject, or else Jesus will not make use of him. So our Lord sought to stir up Philip’s sympathy. “Come, Philip: what shall you and I do? From where shall we buy bread to give them to eat?” I do not think Philip failed altogether there. He did not have such sympathy with his Master as he ought to have had, but he had a measure of it. I trust that our God has given to us also some communion with his dear Son in his love for the souls of men; and so this question comes to prove us.
10. Let us not be lacking either in faith, or love, or sympathy. May God grant that we may abound in all these through the effective working of his Holy Spirit; then we shall be prepared to be workers together with him.
11. But why was that question asked of Philip? Why is a special question asked of some one of you, or a particular trial sent to one of you? It is said it was sent to prove him; but why to prove Philip?
12. Well, I think the Saviour spoke to Philip because Philip was from Bethsaida. They were near Bethsaida, and so Jesus said to Philip, “From where shall we buy bread?” Every man should think most of the place where he lives. I want Jesus to say to some of you, “What shall we do for London?” — because many of you are Londoners — possibly born within the sound of Bow bells, or within the postal district. You belong to the four million of this great province — indeed this great nation, of a city, and it is a solemn responsibility to be a citizen of the greatest city in the world. If the Lord does lay London on anyone’s heart, he would naturally lay it upon the hearts of those who live in it; just as he said to Philip, “From where shall we buy bread?” If he associates anyone with himself in the evangelization of a village or town, it will naturally be a person either born there, or living there. I know that the old proverb declares that the cobbler’s wife goes barefoot, and sometimes a man will care for people thousands of miles away, and not take care of his own house or of his own neighbourhood, but it should not be so, for it is to Philip, the Bethsaida man, that the message comes about the people when they are near Bethsaida — “From where shall we buy bread?” It is said to prove him: and to you, brother Londoner, questions about this great city are sent to prove you.
13. It is also probable that it was Philip’s department to attend to the providing for the little company of twelve and their Leader. Judas was the treasurer, and, unless we are much mistaken, Philip was the butler. It was Philip’s business to see that they had bread in their bags, and his part to make a little provision when the band of disciples went into desert places. Even so, there are brethren here present whose official business it is to care for the souls of men. Among these are ministers, missionaries, Sunday School teachers, deacons, elders, district visitors, Bible women, and the like. If the Lord does not say to others, “What shall we do for London?” he says it to us. The question is sent to prove us whether we are fit for our office, or whether we have taken upon ourselves a position for which we are not qualified, because we have no heart for it. Christ asks us especially, but I think he also asks all those whom he has made priests and kings to God, “From where shall we buy bread? How shall we feed this great city?” The question comes to prove us because it is upon us that this burden ought to be laid.
14. And perhaps it came to Philip because he was not quite so forward in the school of grace as some were. Philip did not make a very wise remark when he said, “Show us the Father, and it suffices us,” for our Lord answered, “Have I been such a long time with you, and yet have you not known me, Philip?” He was evidently slow in learning. I do not think that Philip was the most stupid of the twelve, but I am sure that he was not the most intelligent. James and John and Peter were the first three: Andrew and Thomas followed close behind, and probably Philip was close after them. Perhaps Philip was number six; I do not know; but certainly the Saviour selected him as not the lowest in the class, yet not the highest, and he said to him, “From where shall we buy bread?” These people in the middle position very much need proving for their own satisfaction. The lowest kind of Christians are so feeble that they can hardly bear proving. Poor souls, they need encouraging rather than testing, and therefore the greatest problems are not often pressed upon them. On the other hand, the highest kind of Christians do not so much require testing, for they make their calling and election sure. The middle kind most need proving, and they make up, I am afraid, the majority of the rank and file of the army of God. How many there are who may be described as half instructed, half enlightened, and to these the Lord asks the question, “From where shall we buy bread?” This he says so that he may prove them.
15. Notice well that the question which the Saviour asked of Philip to prove him served its purpose. It did prove him. How it proved him I have already shown you. It served its purpose because it revealed his inability. “From where shall we buy broad?” Philip gives up. He has made a calculation of what would not suffice even to give every man a little refreshment, and that is all his contribution to the work: he does not even have a loaf or a fish which he can produce to make a start with. Philip is beaten. What is more, his faith, being proved, is beaten too. “Oh, good Master,” he seems to say, “the people cannot be fed by us. We cannot buy bread — we — not even you and I. You are the Lord, and you can do great things; yet my faith is not strong enough to believe that we could buy bread enough for all these thousands of people.” So the question served its purpose. It tested Philip’s faith, and his faith was proven to be very weak, very wavering, very short-handed. Is it a good thing to find that out? Yes, brethren, it is good to know our spiritual poverty. Many of us have a heap of faith, as we think, but if the Lord were to prove it, he would not need to put it in the fire to melt it; he has only to put it on the fire, and most of it would evaporate. Under ordinary trial much faith disappears like morning dew when the sun looks upon it. What a great deal of faith a man has when he is healthy! Just turn on the screw and let him suffer. See how much of that faith will vanish. How many men have faith if they have an excellent income regularly paid; but when they have to ask, “Where will the next meal come from?” do they have faith? Alas, they grow anxious and encumbered. It is a wholesome thing to be made to see what weaklings we are, for when we find much of our faith to be unreal, it drives us to seek for more true faith, and we cry, “Lord, increase our faith.” Philip was drawn into his Master; and it is a grand thing to be driven right out of ourselves to our Lord so as to feel “Lord, I cannot do it; but I long to see how you will perform your purpose. I cannot even believe in you as I ought to believe, unless you give me faith, so that I must even come to you for more faith. Quite empty-handed I must come and borrow everything.” It is then that we become full and strong. You will soon see Philip breaking the bread, and feeding the multitude just because Christ has emptied Philip’s hands. Until he has emptied our hands he cannot fill them, lest it should be supposed that we shared in the supplying. “This he said to prove him,” to make him see his own weakness, for then he would be filled with the Master’s strength.
16. This question did good, for it was meant not only to prove Philip but to prove the other disciples, and so they came together, and they had a little talk about the subject. At any rate, here is a committee of two — Philip and Andrew. Philip says, “Two hundred pennyworth is not sufficient,” and Andrew says, “Well no, it is not; but there is a lad here with five barley loaves, and two small fishes.” I like this brotherly consultation of willing minds, and to see how they differ in their ideas. Philip is willing to begin if he has a grand start; he must see at least two hundred pennyworth of bread in hand, and then he is ready to entertain the idea. Andrew, on the other hand, is willing to begin with a small capital; a few loaves and fishes will enable him to start, but he remarks, “What are they among so many?” When saints converse together they help each other, and perhaps what one does not discover another may. Philip was counting the impossible pence, and could not see the possible loaves: but Andrew could see what Philip overlooked. He found the lad with that basket packed full of loaves and fishes. It was not much: Andrew did not have faith enough to see food for the thousands in that little basket; but still he saw what he did see, and he told the Master about it. So they made a beginning by mutual consultation; perhaps if we were to consult we might make a start too. When a question eats into men’s hearts like this — “What shall we do for London?” when it leads Christian people to come together and talk about it, and when one sighs out, “Why, it will take many thousands of pounds to build chapels, and find ministers, and maintain missionaries,” there is something hopeful in the calculation. All right, Philip, I am glad you have had your say, and shown the difficulty of the task. And then I like Andrew to get up and say, “It is a very difficult task, but still we must do what we can do, and since we have these five loaves and two small fishes we must at least put these before the Lord, and leave it with him concerning what is to be done.” All this is better than shirking the question altogether, and leaving the crowd to starve.
17. Philip had his faculties exercised. Christ tried his arithmetic; he tried his eyesight; he tried his mind and spirit; and this prepared him to go and serve at the monster banquet which followed. A man never does a thing well until he has thought about it; and if Philip had not thought about how to feed the multitudes he would not have been a proper man to be employed in it. It prepared him also to adore his Master after the feast, for Philip would say when the meal was over, “The Master asked me how it was to be done, but I could not tell him, and now, though I have had a share in doing it, he must and shall have all the glory. He multiplied the fishes, and increased the loaves. My poor faith can take no glory for itself. He did it. He did it all.” Perhaps some question comes to you, my brother, about the Lord’s work — “How can it be done? How can England be evangelized? How can the masses be reached? How can the world be made to hear the gospel?” Whatever the question is which is asked of you, it is a question sent on purpose to do you good, and benefit your soul, and to lead you to magnify the Lord all the more when the miracle of grace is done.
18. II. Now I come to the second part of the subject, and that is, that THERE WAS NO QUESTION WITH JESUS. The question was with Philip, but Christ had no question “This he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.”
19. Let us take these words and pull them to pieces for a minute. “He knew.” He always does know. “Ah,” one says, “I am sure I do not know what I shall do.” No, dear friend, and yet you have been taking advice, have you not? That is a splendid way of confusing yourself. I hear you cry in bewilderment, “I do not know. I have been to everyone, and I do not know what I shall do.” That is a chronic state with us when we puzzle our own poor brains; but Jesus knew what he would do. This is sweet comfort; Jesus knows. He always knows all about it. He knew how many people there were. He knew how much bread it would take: he knew how many fish he would need, and how he planned to feed the crowd, and send them all away refreshed. He knew all before it happened. Tried brother, Jesus knows all about your case and how he is going to bring you through. Do not think that you can inform him concerning anything. “Your heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask him.” Prayer is not meant for the Lord’s information. The question is not asked of you so that you may instruct him, but so that he may instruct you. He made the heavens and the earth without you. With whom did he take counsel? Who instructed him? And he will bring you through this present trial of yours without needing to add your poor wisdom to his infinite knowledge. He knows.
20. Jesus knew what he would do. He meant to do something; he was quite ready to do it; and he knew what he was going to do. We embarrass ourselves by saying, “Something must be done, but I do not know who is to do it.” The Saviour knew that something must be done, and he knew that he was going to do it himself. He was not in a hurry, he never is: “He never is before his time, he never is too late.” Our blessed Master has glorious leisure, because he is always punctual. Late people are in a hurry; but he, being never late, never hurries. He does everything calmly and serenely, because he foresees what he will do. Jesus knows, dear friend, concerning you, not only what you will do, but what he will do. That is the point, and he intends to do some great thing for you and to help you. He intends also to bring this city and this nation to his feet. He intends that every knee shall bow to him, and that the whole earth shall be filled with his glory. He knows what he intends to do.
21. He knew, moreover, how he intended to do it. He knew precisely the way and method which he intended to use. He perceived long before Andrew told him that there was a lad somewhere in the crowd with five barley loaves. When the lad set out that morning, I cannot figure out what made him bring five barley loaves and fishes into that crowd; except the Master had whispered into his heart, “Young lad, take a good lunch with you. Put those barley loaves into the basket, and do not forget the fishes. You do not know how long you may be away from home.” Nature told him to provide for contingencies, but then nature is God’s voice when he chooses to make it so. He was a hungry, growing lad with a fine appetite, and he meant to be well provided for; but had he ever thought in his mind that these strangely providential loaves would multiply so as to feed that mass of people? Where is the man who is to be the universal provider? Where is the chief of the commissariat? It is that youth, and that is his entire storehouse. He is carrying a bag of food on his back — in that basket. The Saviour knew that. And he knows exactly, dear friend, where your help is to come from in your hour of trouble. You do not know, but he does. He knows where the ministers are to come from who will stir up this city of London; and he knows in what style and manner they shall come, and how they shall reach the masses. When everyone else is defeated and nonplussed, he is fully prepared. He knew that those loaves and fishes would be brought out in due time to be the basis of a banquet; he knew that he would bless them, break them, multiply them, and give them to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude. Everything was arranged in his mind, and as much fixed as the rising of the sun.
22. Once more, he did it as one who knew what he was going to do. How does a man act when he knows what he is going to do? Well, he generally proceeds in the most natural way! He knows that he is going to do it; so he just goes and does it. Can you conceive that a miracle was ever performed in a more natural style? If this had been a Roman Catholic miracle, they would have thrown the loaves up in the air, and they would have come down mysteriously transformed and multiplied a million times; all popish miracles, if you observe, have a great deal of the theatrical and show about them. They are totally distinct from the miracles of Christ. He does this miracle in the most natural way in the world, because it is virtually the same miracle which Christ works every year. We take a certain quantity of wheat, and put it into the ground, and, in the long run, the end of it is that it is multiplied into loaves of bread. Certain fish are in the sea, and they increase into great shoals. The sown wheat passes through the same operation in the ground in the same hands — in God’s hands, but it comes out loaves of bread; and that is precisely what came of our Lord’s action. He took a little into his own blessed hands, and broke it, and it kept on multiplying in his hands, and in the hands of his disciples, until they were all filled.
23. He knew what he was going to do, and so he did it naturally, and did it orderly. It is not so when a man does not know what he is to provide for. We have a large meeting, and there is provision made for supper, and three times as many come as you have provided for. What a hurry! What a scurry! What a running to and fro! Jesus never conducts his matters in that way. He knew what he was going to do, and, therefore, he told the men to sit down on the grass; and they sat down like so many children. Mark tells us that they sat down in rows by fifties and by hundreds; they were arranged as if each one had been specially set to his plate, and found his name laid upon it. Moreover, there was much grass in the place, so that the hall was carpeted in a way that no firm in London could have done it. The feast was conducted as orderly as if there had been notice given seven days beforehand, and a contractor had supplied the provisions. Nothing could have been done in a better way, and all because Jesus knew what he would do.
24. Moreover, he did it very joyfully. He took bread and blessed it. He went about it with great pleasure. I should have liked to have seen his face as he looked on these poor famishing people being fed. Like a good host, he cheered them with his smile, while he blessed them with the food.
25. And then he did it so plentifully, for he knew what he would do; so he did not come half provided, or stint them so that every man should have “a little.” No; he knew what he would do, and he measured their appetites exactly, a difficult thing when you have a number of hungry people to feed. He provided all that they needed, and afterwards there was provision left for the head waiters, so that each one should have a basketful for himself; for they took up of the fragments, twelve basketfuls — one for each of the head waiters.
26. Our Lord Jesus Christ, in the matter of bringing in his own elect, is going about it, I am quite certain, knowing what he is going to do; and when you and I see the end of the great festival of mercy we shall say, “Blessed be the Lord! We were in a great worry; we were in severe trouble; but our Lord has done it easily, and thoroughly. There has been no muddle, no crowding, no passing over of anyone. Blessed be his name! He has not done it by chance or through fortunate circumstances; but he knew what he would do, and he has planned it all through from the beginning to the end in such a way that principalities and powers in heaven shall sing for ever about the grace and love and wisdom and power and prudence in which he has abounded towards his people.” Oh, but if we could see the end as well as the beginning we should begin even now to exalt the name of Jesus our Saviour, who foreknows all his work, and never deviates from his plan.
27. III. I conclude by saying that because there is no question with Christ, though he asks questions of us, THERE OUGHT TO BE NO QUESTION OF A DOUBTFUL CHARACTER FROM US ANY LONGER. Let me mention three questions and I am finished.
28. The first question that troubles a great many people is, “How shall I bear my present burden? How shall I endure this suffering? How shall I make a living?” That question is sent to you to prove you; but remember that there is no question with Christ concerning how you will get through, for “as your day so shall your strength be,” and he will keep his saints, even to the end. Therefore let there be no question with you, for Jesus himself knows what he will do. You came here tonight very distressed, and you said, “I wish I might get a word to tell me what I should do.” You will not get half a word concerning what you shall do, but you shall hear a word of a different kind. Jesus knows what HE will do; and what he will do is infinitely better than anything you can do. Your strength, my friend, is to sit still. Roll your burden upon the Lord. Do the little you can do, and leave the rest with your heavenly Father. This is the answer from the Urim and the Thummim for you, — Jesus knows what he will do.
29. There is that other question, which I have already mooted: What is to be done for this great city? I had the great privilege of being able to preach yesterday afternoon in one of our eastern suburbs, and setting out from my own house early in the morning, I went on riding, riding, upon one railway and another until I think I must have been journeying for fully two and a half hours before I had passed from one end of London to another. What a city of magnificent distances! It seems as if there was not a green tree which the builders will not cut down, nor a grassy meadow which they will not turn into ugly streets. “Replenish the earth,” indeed? It is replenished. The dead earth is buried away beneath the abodes of living men. As for creatures of our race, what myriads there are of them! And, then, as you go along with a Christian friend, he says, “There is a chapel needed here.” Or “There is a little chapel here, but not one person in fifty goes to a place of worship.” Then you arrive at another suburban place, and your guide will say, “Here are people anxious for the gospel, but there is no one to take it to them.” I went along yesterday severely burdened, and questioning in my heart, “What shall we do?” I kept thinking “You had better not ask yourself that question, for you cannot do much towards answering it, and it will only worry you.” And yet it came back to me, “How shall we buy bread for this multitude?” My Lord and Master would say “We.” In my heart I wanted him to leave me out, but he would not. He never could have said, “How shall I buy bread?” because he knows that; but he asked it of me, and I felt that I was a hindrance for making it a question at all, for he only makes it a question for me for my sake. Oh that we had men and money to send out ministers and to build places for them to preach in. We have preachers ready in the College, but I have no means for building places of worship. Surely many of you must have been burdened by the great size of this city. But, dear, dear, this is like one drop of rain in a great shower compared with the whole world that lies in the wicked one. How is this world to be enlightened? It is no question with Jesus, and, therefore, it should never be an unbelieving question with us. “Can these dry bones live?” Let us answer “Lord, you know.” There we will leave it. He is able to do very abundantly above what we ask, or even think, and we may depend upon it that if he has sworn by himself that every knee shall bow, and every tongue confess to him, it shall be so, and he shall have the glory.
One other question should be mentioned. It is this. Has the Lord
placed into the heart of any unconverted person the question, — “What
must I do to be saved?” And is that question perplexing any of you?
I am glad it is so, but I hope you will turn to the right place for
an answer. I hope you are enquiring, — Lord, what would you have me
to do? Do you know why that question is asked of you? It is to prove
you, and to humble you. It is meant to make you feel the
impossibility of salvation by your own works, so that you may submit
yourself to the righteousness of God, and be saved by faith in Christ
Jesus. Remember that there is no question with Christ about how you
are to be saved. In fact, that question was settled — when shall I say?
Settled when he died? No, settled long before that: it was decided in
the everlasting covenant before the day-star knew its place, or
planets ran their round. God had then regarded his son as the Lamb of
God, slain before the foundation of the world, and to this day the
word still stands — “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of
the world.” Look to him and be saved. There is no question about the
possibility of your salvation, or about Christ’s ability to save you.
The question in your heart, “What must I do to be saved?” is put
there to prove you; but Jesus himself knows what he will do. What a
blessed word that is! He knows how he will pardon, comfort,
regenerate, instruct, and lead you. He knows how he will keep you to
the end by his unchanging grace. He knows how he will preserve you,
and sanctify you, and use you, and glorify his own name by you, and
take you up to heaven, and set you upon his throne, and make all the
angels wonder and adore, as they see what he will do. May God bless
you for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 6]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence — God’s Counsels Wise And Just” 210]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Patience and Resignation — ‘My Times Are In Thy Hand’ ” 701]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — Christ Our Strength” 681]
[a] Proofing-House: The Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House was established in 1813 by an act of Parliament at the request — and expense — of the then prosperous Birmingham Gun Trade. Its remit was to provide a testing and certification service for firearms in order to prove their quality of construction, particularly in terms of the resistance of barrels to explosion under firing conditions. Such testing prior to sale or transfer of firearms is made mandatory by the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868, which made it an offence to sell, offer for sale, transfer, export or pawn an unproofed firearm, with certain exceptions for military organisations. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Birmingham_Proof_House"
God the Father, Acts, Creation and Providence
210 — God’s Counsels Wise And Just
1 Wait, oh my soul, thy Maker’s will:
Tumultuous passions, all be still;
Nor let a murmuring thought arise:
His ways are just, his counsels wise.
2 He in the thickest darkness dwells,
Performs his work, the cause conceals;
And, though his footsteps are unknown,
Judgment and truth support his throne.
3 In heaven and earth, in air and seas,
He executes his wise decrees:
And by his saints it stands confest,
That what he does in ever best.
4 Wait, then, my soul, submissive wait,
With reverence bow before his seat;
And midst the terrors of his rod,
Trust in a wise and gracious God.
Benjamin Beddome, 1818.
The Christian, Patience and Resignation
701 — “My Times Are In Thy Hand”
1 Our times are in thy hand,
Father, we wish them there:
Our life, our soul, our all, we leave
Entirely to thy care.
2 Our times are in thy hand,
Whatever they may be,
Pleasing or painful, dark or bright,
As best may seem to thee.
3 Our times are in thy hand,
Why should we doubt or fear?
A Father’s hand will never cause
His child a needless tear.
4 Our times are in thy hand,
Jesus the Crucified!
The hand our many sins had pierced
Is now our guard and guide.
5 Our times are in thy hand,
We’ll always trust in thee;
Till we have left this weary land,
And all thy glory see.
William Freeman Lloyd, 1835, a.
The Christian, Courage and Confidence
681 — Christ Our Strength
1 Let me but hear my Saviour say,
Strength shall be equal to thy day!
Then I rejoice in deep distress,
Leaning on all sufficient grace.
2 I glory in infirmity,
That Christ’s own power may rest on me;
When I am weak, then am I strong,
Grace is my shield, and Christ my song.
3 I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there:
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.
4 But if the Lord be once withdrawn,
And we attempt the work alone,
When new temptations spring and rise,
We find how great our weakness is.
Isaac Watts, 1709.