A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 25, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *4/29/2013
They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I provide for it. [Jer 33:9]
1. God’s ancient people sadly provoked him with their idolatries from age to age. He was longsuffering to them to the nth degree, but at length he grew weary of them, and according to his own words “he abhorred his own inheritance.” He caused them to be carried away into captivity, and their land became a desert, or the inheritance of strangers. Israel became a people scattered and plundered, and on the brink of national extinction, for their iniquities had hidden the face of the Lord from them. Yet the Lord, even Jehovah, had entered into a covenant concerning them with Abraham his friend, which covenant he had afterwards renewed with his servant David. By the prophet Jeremiah the Lord is said to remember this latter covenant even when Jerusalem is desolate. We read in the twentieth verse and onward these words: “Thus says the Lord; ‘If you can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; then also may my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne.’ ” [Jer 33:20,21] Even in Israel’s worst days, when her representative man was the weeping prophet Jeremiah, and when her sorrows were greater than even he could express, yet the Lord revealed his love, and promised that blessed days should dawn for the seed of Abraham. These days have not yet come, but they shall surely arrive, for God has not cast away his people whom he foreknew. There is still a history for Israel; her sun is clouded, but it has not set. As surely as the covenant stands with day and night, so surely shall the chosen people return from their captivity and possess the land which the Lord has given to them. In those days the Lord will build them as at the first, and cleanse them from all their iniquities. Then they shall not be proud or arrogant, for his goodness shall startle and astound them and they shall be amazed even to trembling when they see what great things Jehovah has done for them. The memory of their great national offences, and especially of their long rejection of the Messiah, shall cause them to wear their high dignity without pride: they shall be subdued by love to a childlike fear of offending again, they shall tremble as they see the Lord God of their fathers glorifying all his grace in them.
2. So much for the primary meaning of the text. At this time we shall loosen the verse from its stall and bring it out to our own pastures. Its primary meaning is not its only teaching, for the words of the Lord are fall of eyes, and look in many ways. We may use this promise in reference to all the Lord’s people, for the promise is sure to all the seed. What is true of the Jew in one way is true of all the chosen seed in the same sense or in another. No privilege of the covenant is absolutely private either to Jew or Gentile; but in its highest form, if not in its lowest, it is the common property of all the heirs of salvation. We are joint-heirs with Christ Jesus, and just as he inherits all blessing, so also do we. Paul, in his epistle to the Galatians, has well said, “If you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Let me, then, read the text again, and let us appropriate it to ourselves: “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I provide for it.” All the saints have such honour and blessing.
3. Our text suggests at the outset the remark that all the good things which make up prosperity are to be traced to the Lord. Woe to us if we receive good and perfect gifts, and yet forget the Father of lights from whom they come. These benefits are not from beneath, but from above; let them not be passed by in ungrateful silence, but let us send up humble and warm acknowledgments. He who forgets mercy deserves that mercy should forget him. May God grant that we may never be such practical atheists as to receive daily bounties from God, and not return a daily song. As each gleaming wave of the sea reflects the light of the sun, so let each ripple of our life flash with gratitude for the blessings from heaven. All good comes from the Altogether Good, who is the essence of good, the Creator, and the Giver. This is true especially of all spiritual blessing, — of such goodness as comes not so much from benevolence to creatures as from mercy to sinners. As a being, I am grateful that my Creator is kind to me; but as a sinner, if my Judge smiles upon me, I admire his abundant grace. His justice had left me unblessed to perish through my sin, if his mercy had not found a way to spare and to cleanse. You who know not only your insignificance, but also your unworthiness, are held under special bonds to lift up your hearts in fervent gratitude to the Lord.
4. Notice next that temporal mercies are always best when they come in their proper order. I have no doubt our text includes both temporal and spiritual good; but certainly the temporals are arranged in the second rank, for the eighth verse runs — “I will cleanse them from all their iniquity, by which they have sinned against me; and I will pardon all their iniquities, by which they have sinned, and by which they have transgressed against me”; [Jer 33:8] and after this we have mention of goodness and prosperity. After pardon, peace and plenty are golden blessings; without it they might prove to be a curse. To an unforgiven sinner the richest enjoyments of this life are as the food which fattens the young bull for the slaughter, but when sin is pardoned, common mercies become signs of a Father’s love, and ripen beneath the sun of divine love into an inexpressible sweetness. The children of God bless God for bread and water, because God has made these things matters of promise, and they come as covenant provisions. Cheered by grace, the child of poverty finds contentment in what otherwise might seem only prison fare. Much or little must depend upon the way in which you look at it, and what to the believer is enough, might be to the worldling a mere pittance, because grace has not trained his mind to rejoice in the will of the Lord. Blessed be God if he has given to us first the fruits of the sun of grace, and then the fruits produced by the moon of providence. The main thing is to be able to sing, “Bless the Lord, who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases,” and after that it is most pleasant to add, “who satisfies your mouth with good things.”
5. What shall I say of the happiness of those people who have spiritual and temporal blessings united, to whom God has given both the upper and the nether springs, so that they possess all things necessary for this life in fair proportion, and then, far above all, enjoy the blessings of the life to come? Such are first blessed in their spirits and then blessed in their basket and in their provisions. In their case double favour calls for double praise, double service, double delight in God. Let them take for their example the Psalmist in the seventy-first psalm, who found himself increased in greatness, and comforted on every side, and then exclaimed, “I will also praise you with the psaltery, even your truth, oh my God: I will sing to you with the harp, oh you Holy One of Israel. My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing to you; and my soul, which you have redeemed.”
6. And yet, and yet, and yet, if we are very happy today, and though that happiness is lawful and proper, because it arises both out of spiritual and temporal things in due order, yet in all human happiness there lurks a danger. There is a wealth which has a sorrow necessarily connected with it, and I think that even when God makes rich and adds no sorrow with it, he still makes provision against an evil which otherwise would surely come. Let me remind you of that memorable passage, “There the glorious Lord will be to us a place of broad rivers and streams.” The Lord is all that to his believing people. But then broad rivers and streams have a danger appertaining to them, for these are waterways by which the pirates of the sea approach a city and plunder it; and hence for Zion’s protection it is added, “Where shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass by it.” So the Lord gives the benefit without the danger naturally attendant with it; he gives peace, but prevents carnal security, and he gives happiness but prevents the pride and presumption which are too apt to grow out of it. The text speaks of goodness and prosperity provided for us, and then tells us that all danger which might arise out of it is averted by a gracious work upon the heart. The Lord sends a chastened joy, — “they shall fear and tremble.” Instead of unduly exalting in their possessions, and becoming high-minded and proud, the Lord’s people are kept lowly and humble, and so their happiness brings glory to God, and the Lord’s word is fulfilled, “It shall be for me a name of joy, a praise and an honour before all the nations of the earth, who shall hear all the good that I do for them.” This then is our subject, the sanctifying and mellowing of our joy. We shall try to see the Lord’s loving wisdom in this matter, so that we may all the more wisely love him, and all the more intelligently value his prudent conduct towards us. We shall first notice this toning down of our joy; and then in the second place we shall observe the feelings by which this chastened effect is produced; and thirdly, we shall look to the measure in which most of us can enter into this experience of a joy, toned and tinted by fear and trembling.
7. I. Let us think for a little about THE TONING DOWN OF OUR GREAT JOYS. As I have said, we need grace in enjoying both temporal and spiritual prosperity, and therefore I shall speak upon them both. Even when we are filled with holy delight it is hard to carry a full cup with a steady hand. When most lifted up with spiritual joy we are not beyond the gunshot of the enemy. We need the armour of God on the right hand as well as on the left. Even when we serve the Lord it must be with fear, and in his glorious presence we must rejoice with trembling.
8. In the cup of salvation there are drops of bitterness, and so it must be, for unmixed delight in this world would be dangerous. Unbroken prosperity in worldly things has proved perilous for many Christians. It is no theory, but a matter of sad fact, that many men, as they rise concerning one world sink concerning another. I am even afraid that long-continued health of body is not always for the health of a man’s soul; and that to be without care and trouble, is not the best way to soul prosperity. When the sea is smooth the ship makes poor sailing. Men are ensnared by their rest and ease, and have little concern to fly heavenward. We are apt to lose our God among our goods. Is it not so? If the world’s roses had no thorns should we not think it paradise, and forego all desire for the gardens above? If Israel in Egypt had lived luxuriously, would a cry for deliverance have ever gone up to heaven? and had Pharaoh been content to ease their burdens, would they ever have marched for Canaan? Alas, we are apt to chill in our desires for heaven when we get to the warm side of the hedge, and hear the smooth side of the world’s tongue. When the flowers of earth charm us we cast our eyes downward and forget the stars of heaven — at least, the danger lies that way.
9. Wise men dare not ask for unending prosperity, for they are not sure they can bear it. When first we travel to the south and escape this land of fog, we delight without measure in the sunshine, and are anxious to bask in it throughout the entire day. Do you wonder? Yet before long experience suggests a sunshade, for the stranger finds that his head cannot endure the full rays of the sun. In the same way many a man has suffered a sunstroke in his mind, and heart, and character, by making money too fast and prospering too much.
10. There is a danger of another kind in a spiritual experience which is all smooth and pleasant. You all remember the fate of Moab who had been at ease from his youth, and had become settled upon his lees; may it never be ours. Yet I have seen professors lose their balance while filled with delight. I am not one of those who would speak evil of excitement in religion: men get excited about politics, why should they not be excited about eternal things? Still, there is a kind of delirious religion abroad which I would have men avoid. Its joys are not calm and quiet, but fanatical and noisy. Be sober. Do not give up the reins of your judgment and permit your feelings to run away with you. Some Christians have been so uniformly joyful that they have grown elated and self-conceited, even as Jeshurun grew fat and kicked. A few have even supposed themselves to be absolutely perfect while in the flesh — a mere supposition, disproved by their own lack of modesty. We have seen brethren carry their heads so high that they could hardly understand a poor believer who was wrestling against sin, and in the strength of God overcoming his corruptions: they have become censorious, and have condemned their brethren as if they had been appointed to be judges in Israel to set up whom they wished, and put down whom they chose. Repose of mind, caused as much by sound bodily health as by spiritual joy, has made men think uncharitably of sick and sorrowful saints, who have been very dear to Jesus, though very doubtful of themselves. Alas! a succession of excitements has, in some cases, bred self-sufficiency, and this has made men light-headed, and they have been carried away by various heresies. Ecclesiastical history will tell you that some who have boasted about their high spiritual delights have gone far in vain imaginings, and have ended in the worst forms of immorality. It is an extraordinary fact that super-spirituality has often been found to dwell next door to sensuality, and men have turned the wine of holy love into the vinegar of lust. I need not go to ancient chronicles to prove this: a word to the wise suffices. Even spiritual joy needs a dash of salt, if not of wormwood, to be mingled with it. Holy delight needs to be coupled with sacred grief; repentance must go with faith, patience with hope, humility with full assurance, and conscious self-emptiness with a sense of the all-sufficiency of Christ.
11. I would remind you next, that unmixed joy would be fallacious, because there is no such thing here below. If a man should become perfectly contented with the things of this world, it would be the result of a false view of things. This is an error against which we should pray; for this world cannot fill the soul, and if a man thinks he has filled his soul with it, he must be under a gross delusion. What is the best thing of earth — but a bubble, tinted with rainbow hues, but unsubstantial as a dream? Every earthly joy has within it the seeds of its own destruction! Oh man, if you only knew yourself, much more your God, you would be assured that visible things can never satisfy the desires of a spiritual being.
12. As for spiritual joy, I say that in no man’s experience can it be long without interruption and yet be true. Never at any moment can a Christian be in such a position that he has not some cause either for dissatisfaction with himself, or fear of the tempter, or anxiety to be faithful in service. Our streams of joy blend with currents of fear. Blessed be God, my sin is forgiven me: this joy calls up its balancing thought, — oh that the Spirit of God may help me not to sin again. Again I sing, — Blessed be God, I have gotten the victory over an evil habit: but my song is followed by the prayer — Lord, enable me to conquer all evils, even those which as yet I do not know. So joy and fear hang like the two scales of a balance, — I do not mean the fear which love casts out, but the filial fear which love fosters. If God has preserved his servant in the day of battle, he has no time to boast, for here comes another enemy. Temptations come wave after wave, and, having conquered one, we must prepare for another. We cannot shout the victory yet, for, lo, the foes advance squadron upon squadron; their routed battalions are succeeded by new armies, and it behoves us to behave ourselves like men. We dwell where in our God we have the utmost reason for delight, but where in all things we perceive the most weighty arguments for solemnity. Rejoice evermore, but do not cease to fear and tremble for all the goodness and all the prosperity that the Lord has provided for you.
Once more, unmixed delight on earth would be unnatural. We are
not in heaven yet, and perfect bliss does not live beneath these
cloudy skies, nor within the pale sway of the moon. While we are in
this body we groan, though we have the first-fruits of the Spirit,
for we are in a creation which groans and travails in pain together
until now. Our years must have their winters while the world
revolves. When the Dutch had the trade of the East in their hands
they were accustomed to sell birds of paradise to the untravelled
people of these realms. These specimen birds had no feet, for they
had craftily removed them, and the merchants declared that the
species lived on the wing and never alighted. There was so much of
truth in the fable that had they been really and veritably “birds of
paradise” they would not have found a place for their feet upon this
globe. Truly, birds of paradise do come and go, and flit from heaven
to earth, but we do not see them, neither can we build tabernacles to
detain them. While you are here expect reminders of the fact that
this is not your rest. If you could attain to perfect joy on earth
you might be justified in saying, “I have no longing for heaven; I am
perfectly clear of sin, and care, and trouble; I may as well stay
where I am. What need to go farther if I can fare no better?” Let no
man dream that things will ever come to this with him. Ah, you lovely
flowers of spring this year you have bloomed too soon. It is
strangely mild weather for December, but spring has not yet arrived.
Possibly it is so with some of my hearers: because the Lord is
smiling on you, it is very mild weather with your souls, and you
dream that the winter of trouble is ended and that your heaven has
begun. Do not be deceived, you are not yet
Where everlasting spring abides
And never-withering flowers.
Perhaps a touch of frost may do you good by preventing your getting into an unnatural and unsound condition.
14. So much then, upon the first point, the toning down of our joys, which is wisely managed by our Father’s wisdom and prudence.
15. II. Secondly, we are to see how this toning down is done, and observe THE FEELINGS BY WHICH THIS SOBERING EFFECT IS PRODUCED, — “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I provide for it.”
16. Why fear and tremble? Is this not in part a holy awe of God’s presence? Remember that text, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” The argument for fear and trembling is the work of God in the soul. Because God is working in you there must be no trifling. If the eternal Deity condescends to make a workshop of my nature, I too must work, but it must be with fear and trembling.
17. So, then, the blessed presence of God in the believer’s joy, and the very fact that he has worked it in him, is a reason for the fear and trembling which comes over the spirit of the joyful believer, and I think that is the first meaning of our text. God has been very good to me, unspeakably good to me, and I have plainly seen the traces of his fatherly hand in my life. Yes, I have so seen those who I have cried out with adoring amazement in many a Bethel, “How dreadful is this place! It is none other than the house of God and the very gate of heaven.” So it has been with you, dear friends. When God has come very near to you in a blaze of mercy, when he has done things that you did not look for; when your mouth has been filled with laughter, and your tongue with singing because of his goodness, have you not at the same time felt overcome by the excess of his favour? Have you not been able to sympathise with Peter when, at the sight of his boat full of fish, he cried “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, oh Lord.” Have you not felt a solemn trembling like Manoah when he feared that he must die, because he had seen an angel of the Lord? I know it has been so with you. A little mercy would have made you sing, but a great mercy has made you sit in silence before the Lord, or fall on your knees in adoration. A common providence would have charmed you, but all extraordinary providence has overwhelmed you; you have lain in the dust at Jesus’ feet, feeling yourself to be only dust and ashes, and yet every particle of dust has been full of wondering love for God. This is one way in which God keeps his people upright in the days of their joy: where a shallow drink might have intoxicated, he gives so deep a draught that the danger is past, and holy wonder takes the place of unholy pride.
18. But next to that there rises up in the mind of every favoured Christian a deep repentance for past sin. He asks himself this question, “How could I have lived as I have done when God has entertained such love towards me?” When I discovered the election of God’s grace, and when I saw at what a price I had been redeemed by our Lord Jesus, I was ashamed of all my evil ways. When I read my name inscribed on the palms of Jesus’ hands, when I understood that I was united to him by a union that never could be broken, I said to myself, “What a thousand fools I have been to have lived forgetful of my highest glory, unmindful of my dearest friend!” To have lived year after year in open enmity against my Lord seemed like a grim and ghastly dream, almost too horrible to be true. Have you not felt the same? Have you not felt ashamed and confounded at the memory of your former life? Have you not felt as if you could never open your mouth any more because of all your unkindness to your heavenly friend? Such penitent reflections keep the Lord’s people upright, by creating a fear and trembling in the presence of his overflowing goodness.
19. Let me ask you another question. Has not your deepest sense of unworthiness come upon you when you have been conscious of superlative mercy? When the Lord has scourged and chastened you, you have seen your sins in your sorrows, and have been ashamed: but, by the memory of his great goodness, you have been far more corrected and humbled. When our secret sins are set in the light of God’s countenance, it is a light indeed! Oh, the shame my soul has known when the Lord has caressed me, when he has kissed me with the kisses of his mouth. Then I have said, “Ah, Lord, why is this for me? Who am I that you deal so lovingly with me?” When Jehovah came and showed himself to Job, not in chastening, not with fire of God, or whirlwind, nor with severe boils and blains, but as his own dear covenant God, then it was that Job said, “Now my eye sees you, therefore I abhor myself in dust and ashes.” Love makes the crimson of sin more red than ever. Blood-bought pardon makes sin look black as sackcloth of hair. I tell you, sirs, it is not the flames of hell, but the glories of heaven, that most of all fill us with trembling before the Lord. Nothing touches the heart like undeserved and unexpected love. Love’s glance flashes to the very core of the heart, and makes the offender, like Peter, go out and weep bitterly. Do we not each cry, “Oh that I could never sin again. Oh, that I could perfectly serve my God without a slip, even to my last day, because of his great love for me.” We tremble and are afraid, because of the unutterable grace which has met our utter unworthiness, and rivalled it, until grace has obtained the victory.
20. Have you never noticed how the Lord brings his people to their bearings, and keeps them steady, under a sense of great love, by suggesting to their hearts the question, “How can I live as becomes one who has been favoured like this?” Did you ever feel that the glory of the palace of love made you afraid to live in it? When you have put on your best apparel, those garments which are whiter than any fuller on earth could make them, the matchless righteousness of God, have you not felt fearful of defiling your robes? Did you ever see yourselves adorned as a bride for her husband in all the gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, and have you not said to yourselves “What manner of people ought we to be?” You have scarcely known which way to turn, or how to move. You feared to walk lest you should defile those silver sandals and those feet so newly washed; you did not know what to touch for fear you should stain those hands which Christ had jewelled with his love and made white as ivory with his effective cleansing. Have you not felt as if you dared not speak until you had prayed, “Lord, open my lips.” You have been afraid to look for fear lest your eyes should glance on evil; and therefore you have prayed, “Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity.” There has been such a fear, such a caution, such a holy jealousy upon you that, instead of being lifted up by favour, you have been humbled by it. Grace never makes a man vain. When a soul is adorned with glory and beauty, and made to shine like the star of the morning, it acknowledges its borrowed beauty and brightness, and is mildly radiant with reflected rays. When raised up by the special favour of our God into communion with himself, we are afraid of trespassing against the decorum of almighty love, fearful of violating the propriety of sovereign grace. The Lord our God is a jealous God; and he will be held in reverence by those who are all around him. This fact has made us feel like those apostles who were filled with fear as well as with great joy. To know how to behave ourselves in the house of God has been our anxiety. We have felt like a poor countryman, born and bred in the wilds, who finds himself in a court, and feels strange in such a place. So we have been clothed with humility as we have worn the garments of praise. Exalted to be kings and priests, our kingdom and priesthood have called out our careful thought, and pride has been banished by this.
21. And have you never felt a fear lest God’s goodness should be abused by you? I have been struck to the very heart as with a secret blow in moments of delight, when I have thought, “And suppose, after all, I should not serve God faithfully in my favoured position, and should not be approved by him at the last? What if I should seem to be an apostle, and prove to be a Judas? What if I should speak of Christ, and yet be nothing better than a sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal?” That heart-piercing fear will wound pride if anything will. Have you never been questioned like this by your conscience? Have not other questions arisen of a similar character? You have seen your children around you, and you have been happy with them, but have you not thought, “What if I should not train them properly, and they should grow up to be a sorrow to me, and a dishonour to the church of God?” When prospered in business, have you never said to yourself, “What if I should become a worshipper of the golden calf? What if covetousness should eat out the heart of my devotion? What if, when my Master calls me to account for my talents, he should cast me away for having hidden them in a napkin?” Have you never been vexed by such thoughts? If you have never examined yourself like this, you had better do so at once. He who has never questioned his own condition had better make an immediate enquiry. He who has never felt great searchings of heart needs to be searched with candles. It is idle to take things for granted, for all of us must be tested by fire, and even “the righteous are scarcely saved.” No man’s hell shall be more terrible than that of the self-confident one who was so sure of heaven that he would not take the ordinary precaution to ask whether his title-deeds were genuine or not.
22. One more thought may also occur to the most joyful believer. He will say, “What if after rejoicing in all this blessedness I should lose it?” “What,” one cries, “do you not believe in the final perseverance of the saints?” Assuredly I do, but are we saints? That is the question. Moreover many a believer who has not lost his soul has, nevertheless, lost his present joy and prosperity, and why may not we? The good man has shone as a star of the first magnitude, but suddenly he has dwindled into darkness: he has been unwatchful, and as a result for several dozen years he has had to go softly in the bitterness of his soul. We have known fathers in Israel who have stepped aside, and though they have by deep repentance found their way to heaven, they have gone there sorrowing. Look at David’s history. Who was happier all the early part of his life? Notice that one sin with Bathsheba, and ask who was more tried and troubled than David throughout the rest of his pilgrimage? The doctrine of final perseverance was never intended for the comfort of any who are afraid of self-examination, or who are not watchful; for it is by no means at variance with the other doctrine that many who were certain of heaven in their own minds will never enter there, because Jesus never knew them. Great joy may be only a meteor, great excitement may be a mirage of the desert, great confidence may be a will-o’-the-wisp luring to destruction. The highest seats in the synagogue do not secure for their occupants a place among the shining ones above. Many rejoicing professors will yet discover that their place was not the place of God’s people, and their song was not the new song which God puts into the mouth. And what if that should be your case and mine? So, when I stand upon my high mountain, let, me pray, “Lord, hold me up.” Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls, for he is the man who is most in danger. He who is most full of holy delight is still to watch, for did not Jesus say, “What I say to you, I say to all, watch?” May God grant that we may be helped to watch against the arrow which flies by day as much as against the pestilence which walks in darkness.
23. So you see how the Lord, by working upon our innermost feelings, sobers us in the hour of joy, even as the text has it, — “They shall fear and tremble for all the goodness and for all the prosperity that I provide for it.”
24. III. By way of practical application, let us now consider THE MEASURE IN WHICH YOU AND I CAN ENTER INTO THIS EXPERIENCE.
I thought to myself, if I begin to make individual applications I
shall have before me a never-ending task, because every man has had a
distinct experience of this truth if he has safely stood upon the
high places of joy. Hundreds of us have perceived the benefits of the
dark lines and shadings of life’s picture, and we see how fitting and
proper it is that trembling should mingle with transport. As the
fruit of experience I have learned to look for a hurricane soon after
an unusually delightful calm. When the wind blows hard, and the
tempest lowers, I hope that before long there will be a lull; but
when the sea-birds sit on the wave, and the sail hangs idly, I wonder
when a gale will come. To my mind there is no temptation so bad as
not being tempted at all. The worst devil in the world is the time
when you cannot see the devil at all, because the villain has hidden
himself away within the heart, and is preparing to give you a fatal
More the treacherous calm I dread
Than tempests thundering overhead.
26. This general statement may suffice, and since I cannot make an application for each one personally, I think I will apply the truth to this church as a whole. When this building was not yet ready for opening we held a meeting in it, and I remember among the speakers there was one who is now with God, Mr. Jonathan George, of Walworth, and he made use of this text in a little speech that he made: — He said, “It would be good for us all to remember, when God blesses us with any measure of prosperity, that prosperity is very hard to bear. How is that? Cannot Christianity or the grace of God bear it? No, it is because of the extreme carnality and pride of our hearts. Here is a portion of Scripture we should all remember: ‘They shall fear and tremble for all the prosperity that I send.’ It is a blessing when God has prospered our poor efforts, and poured out a blessing upon us, if we are jealous of our own hearts, and fear and tremble. Oh God, how rich, how beneficent you are! Let us not lose your full blessing by our own pride; by pointing to some secondary cause, and saying, ‘It was I; it was ourselves; it was our ministers.’ ” Truly I say to you the words of the man of God have been fulfilled. How I have feared and trembled because the Lord’s mercy towards us has been so extraordinary. As a church we have enjoyed so many years of growth, and prosperity, and unity, and happiness, that one is apt to fear that it cannot last much longer. Certainly it cannot be perpetuated except by fresh power from the Lord who is wonderful in working. One begins to think, “Must not something happen to spoil our concord? Will power always continue with the word preached? Will not the candle burn low in the socket?” Such holy jealousy, if faith is also active, will help to keep us upright. Evils may be prevented by the foresight of them. Through grace, by our fear of falling we may be helped to stand.
27. Brethren, we are just now in a critical time of our life as a church. Whatever of novelty there was about our movements has long since vanished, and those who came among us from curiosity know us no more. Your pastor’s ministry cannot be expected to be as fresh and vigorous as it used to be, for upon his head the grey hairs far outnumber the darker ones, and perhaps grey hairs are stealing over his preaching too. If natural vigour fails, now is the time to see whether the power which has sustained us is from God or not. We know what the answer to the text will be — out of weakness we shall be made strong.
28. Besides, my brethren, certain invaluable helpers who were with us in the beginning — and rare men they were — are going home; one by one our leaders are being called away: will more be found? Will they be of equal worth and weight? I know they will; yet, these are solemn questions. We are in the middle of the river now, and in the middle the river is deepest and hardest to ford. We need the everlasting arms underneath us now. I am weaker than ever, you also are weaker than ever; but the eternal God does not faint. We have the same old gospel, and you will not grow tired of it, though it is preached by the same old Spurgeon. The Holy Spirit will remain with us, and that will make up for the weakness of our spirit. You who have been earnest at prayer will not, I hope, lose your zeal, for the mercy seat is still accessible.
To persevere is the difficulty. It would be easy to burn at a stake
for five minutes; but to be surrounded with smouldering faggots of
green wood, and to burn by slow degrees, would be torture indeed; yet
such is the patience of saints. Keeping up your burning zeal, your
personal holiness, your evangelizing efforts, and all your spiritual
works after twenty-seven years is no insignificant test of your
faith. He who endures to the end the same shall be saved. Yes,
brethren, these are the thoughts that come into my mind, and prevent
my ever saying we have done well, and may rest on our oars. Far from
anything like exaltation or self-congratulation, I feel more than
ever inclined to lie low at the feet of my Master and kiss the very
dust he stands on. I feel more disqualified, more unsuitable, more
unable for my Lord’s work than ever, and yet I am glad in the Lord,
and find joy in his name. Since there is an everlasting arm that
never can be palsied, since there is a brow that knows no wrinkle,
and a divine mind that is never perplexed, we go forward in hope, and
cast ourselves upon our eternal helper once again. You have heard of
the ancient giant Antaeus, who could not be overcome, because as
often as Hercules threw him to the ground, he touched his mother
earth, and rose up renewed. Such is your lot and mine, often to be
cast down, and as often to rise from that fall. “When I am weak then
I am strong.” Let us glory in infirmity, because the power of Christ
rests upon us. Let us be content to decrease so that Christ may
increase; to be nothing so that Jesus may be all in all. If we fear
and tremble for all the goodness that God has provided for us, it is
not a fearing that he will change, or a trembling lest he
should be defeated. The fear and trembling are for ourselves, and not
for him. I have no fear and trembling about the gospel. I have
preached it many years in this place, and its attractive perfume is
undiminished. I read the other day of a grain of musk which had been
kept for ten years in a room where the air was perpetually changed;
it scented that room from year to year, and yet when it was weighed
by the most delicate scales no diminution of its bulk was apparent.
So the gospel continues to be like an ointment poured out, savouring
the thousands who come here year by year, and yet it is as full of
fragrance and freshness as ever, and so it shall be even if for a
thousand ages it should be our theme. We come then with comfort back
to the unalterable gospel, to the undying Spirit, to the unchanging
God: here is room for joy unspeakable and full of glory. Up with your
banners, then! Forward to new victories! In the name of the God of
Jacob let us be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work
of the Lord. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ps 103]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation — Deity And Humanity Of Our Lord” 249]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — His Name Is Lovely” 808]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — ‘I Did Know Thee In The Wilderness’ ” 809]
Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation
249 — Deity And Humanity Of Our Lord
1 Ere the blue heavens were stretch’d abroad,
From everlasting was the Word:
With God he was; the Word was God,
And must divinely be adored.
2 By his own power were all things made;
By him supported all things stand;
He is the whole creation’s head,
And angels fly at his command.
3 Ere sin was born, or Satan fell,
He led the host of morning stars;
(Thy generation who can tell,
Or count the number of thy years?)
4 But lo! he leaved those heavenly forms,
The Word descends and dwells in clay,
That he may hold converse with worms,
Dress’d in such feeble flesh as they.
5 Mortals with joy beheld his face,
Th’ eternal Father’s only Son;
How full of truth! how full of grace!
When through his eyes the Godhead shone!
6 Archangels leave their high abode
To learn new mysteries here, and tell
The love of our descending God,
The glories of Immanuel.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
808 — His Name Is Lovely <7s.>
1 Other name than my dear Lord’s,
Never to my heart affords
Equal influence to move
Its deep springs of joy and love.
2 He from youth has been my guide,
He to hoar hairs will provide,
Every light and every shade,
On my path his presence made.
3 He hath been my joy in woe,
Cheer’d my heart when it was low,
And, with warnings softly sad,
Calm’d my heart when it was glad.
4 Change or chance could ne’er befall,
But he proved mine all in all;
All he asks in answer is,
That I should be wholly his.
5 Oh that I may ever prove,
By a life of earnest love,
How, by right of grace divine,
I am his, and he is mine.
John S. B. Monsell, 1863.
The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
809 — “I Did Know Thee In The Wilderness”
1 I knew thee in the land of drought,
Thy comfort and control,
Thy truth encompass’d me about,
Thy love refresh’d my soul.
2 I knew thee when the world was waste,
And thou alone wast fair,
On thee my heart its fondness placed,
My soul reposed its care.
3 And if thine alter’d hand doth now
My sky with sunshine fill,
Who amid all so fair as thou?
Oh let me know thee still:
4 Still turn to thee in days of light,
As well as nights of care,
Thou brightest amid all that’s bright!
Thou fairest of the fair!
5 My sun is, Lord, where’er thou art,
My cloud, where self I see,
My drought in an ungrateful heart,
My freshest springs in thee!
John S. B. Monsell, 1863.