A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, January 22, 1882, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *5/4/2013
I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great plunder. [Ps 119:162]
1. In the preceding verse David had affirmed his reverence for God’s word in the following language: “My heart stands in awe of your word.” It is clear that holy awe is perfectly consistent with intense delight. Fear seems to stand far apart from joy, and yet in the experience of the child of God they are next of kin. We are familiar with combinations such as this: “They returned from the sepulchre with fear and great joy.” “Happy is the man who fears always.” “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” These two emotions are like two notes which are far apart, but yet sound harmoniously together: the one is far down and the other is high up in the scale, but they melt into one with sweet accord in the experience of God’s people. It is a blessed thing both to reverence the word and to have an intense joy in it. May we all know what the mixed emotion means.
2. More than this, I will go the length of saying that unless we have deep awe for the word we shall never have high joy over it. Our rejoicing will be measured by our reverencing. If I think upon the Bible, as some seem to do, as though it were an ordinary piece of literature, I shall not have very special joy in it; or if I rise no higher than many critics of the present day, and conceive the holy book to be in a certain sense inspired, but still to be marred with imperfection and open to rectification by the growing intelligence of the age, — if I have such little reverence for the word I shall have a correspondingly little joy in it. A man rejoices in gold rather than in clay because the gold is more precious, and as the treasure rises in value so his delight in it will rise. The more, then, we think of the Scriptures, the greater will be our delight in them if we see that they relate to us. “Your word is very pure: therefore your servant loves it.” If they become to us the infallible voice of truth, that pure light which never misleads, that metal which is entirely free from alloy; then our joy in Holy Writ will overflow as we read in it the mind and will of our Father in heaven; and then we shall borrow the language of the Psalmist, saying first, “My heart stands in awe of your word,” and next, “I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great plunder.”
3. Observe, dear friends, concerning this joy of David in the word which he reverenced, that he expresses it in martial language. My text is quite a soldierly verse: “I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great plunder.” It is a metaphor taken from men of war, who after they have overcome their enemy divide the plunder among themselves. This expression is most natural as coming from David. David had been a soldier from his youth up, and he knew personally and literally what it was to divide the plunder; hence he did not go far to find his metaphor, but picked it from the garden of his own life. How I like to hear men both in prayer and praise speak like themselves! I notice that if a sailor has been converted to God, he can in cool blood utter proper sentences, such as one might borrow from collects and forms of prayer; but if his soul grows warm within him, he ceases to speak according to the books, and begins to pray like an “ancient mariner.” When he breaks through the bonds of restraint and gets quite free, he takes you among the rolling billows, and many of his expressions have a salt spray upon them, possibly also a suspicion of yarn and pitch. You soon find that you have fallen in with a shipmate whose soul has done business on the great waters. So it must be with the soldier: if cold, dead propriety rules him you will not know whether he is a soldier or a citizen; but let him grow enthusiastic, let his very heart speak out, and his speech betrays him; wars and rumours of wars are in his utterances; he sings and prays to martial music. Hence I like to hear David saying that his heart rejoices at God’s word as one who finds great plunder, for it is his own manner of speech, and sounds suitable from a warrior. Do not cut away the naturalness of your utterances in prayer: never grow so strictly proper as to pray like someone else. You may take a bird and teach it to pipe half-a-dozen set notes, and it will be thought to be a wonder: but no piping bullfinch in the world, to my ear, sings so sweetly as the finches in my own garden, whose wild songs are all their own. The laboured notes of the trained bird’s little tune may be remarkable, but are they not also somewhat grotesque and unnatural? The notes of nature more truly reveal the bird, and are a better utterance for it than the ditty it has learned so painfully. It is a pity that men should speak with God in a constrained and artificial style, it far more befits them to pray in their own natural manner. If you are ploughmen, or artisans, or labourers, do not be ashamed that your speech should savour of your calling. If you are soldiers, pray like soldiers: let your truest selves speak out when you speak with God, for he is truth itself, and does not need that you put on artificial manners in his presence.
4. Having thus prefaced my discourse I come to look into this joy of David over God’s word, which he compares to the joy of a warrior when he finds great plunder. We are not strangers to such overflowing joy: we feel quite at home with the text.
5. I. Let me first observe that THIS GREAT JOY IS SOMETIMES AROUSED BY THE FACT THAT THERE IS A WORD OF GOD.
6. This is true if we regard the Scriptures as a revealing of God. After going up and down in the world searching after deity it is a great delight to come upon a book in which the one only living and true God has unveiled himself to those who care to behold him. It is a great “find” for a man to discover that after all he is not left in a fog to grope his way, but that God has kindled a sun so that honest hearts may walk in its light, and in that light see all things clearly. I say that a revelation of God is a great discovery over which a man rejoices “as one who finds great plunder.” For, dear friends, there can be no revealing of God except by God himself. The apostle Paul tells us very truly that no man knows the things of a man, except the spirit of a man that is in him. You cannot read a man until that man brings out something from within, and so reveals himself. A man must speak, or act, or we cannot know his mind. The chief means of a man’s revealing himself is by his word: language is the gate of the soul. If the man is true and honest, his word will be a window through which you may see his mind. Even so, says the apostle, just as the heart of a man is only known to the man himself, so no man knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. The divine thought must be hidden in the heart of God for ever until the Spirit of God is pleased to tell it to us: there is therefore an absolute necessity for a revelation, since no one can by searching find out God. This written word is the revelation of God, and when the Spirit of God shines upon it, we see in it the Lord as in a mirror. Oh, but what a blessing that the Spirit of God should still be with his people, bearing witness with the word which he has inspired of old! What a comfort that we have this sure word of testimony in which God has spoken to us in terms so distinct, so clear, so unquestionable. He who feels the power of this revelation in his own soul may well rejoice “as one who finds great plunder.”
7. Nor does our evaluation of Holy Scripture depend upon this one view of it, for we also prize it as the guide for our life. Often we come to positions in which we do not know which way to take. It is a great discomfort to have to be questioning, questioning, and for ever questioning. To hear within the soul the enquiries, “How?” “What?” “Which?” “When?” and to be confused by dubious voices is a great affliction: suspense is killing. How delightful to turn over the sacred page and find in it a guidance like that of the Urim and Thummim of old. This book tells us what is right and tells us to follow it; it teaches us the way of wisdom, and the path of understanding, and supplies motives for walking in it. Submitting ourselves to the Spirit of God we hear him speak in this volume and say, “This is the way, walk in it.” Just as a bewildered wanderer in a forest hails the light in a cottage window, hoping to find a guide there to set him on his homeward path, so we hail the light of holy writ which shines in a dark place. Just as the mariner prizes his chart and compass, so we welcome the law of the Lord. Tossed on the changing sea of life our eye is gladdened by the clear ray of this pole-star of heaven, the fixed light of God.
8. If we had been left to blind reason we should soon have stumbled into the ditch; but with inspiration to conduct us we have a plain path before us, and are glad. No longer in a perpetual quandary, guessing and surmising, the way of life is definitely mapped out for us, and we pursue our route with confidence, knowing that “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord.” This becomes our daily song, “You shall guide me with your counsel, and afterwards receive me to glory.” Oh happy man who finds such sure direction as this! He can rejoice “as one who finds great plunder.”
9. More than this, if you think of it, dear friends, a word from God apprehended in the soul is a sure pledge of mercy. Consider what words those words of God are; how full of love, and grace, and tenderness. I will not stop to quote the very great and precious promises, for they are, I hope, your daily food. You know what great things the Lord has spoken concerning you. But here is a thought worth pondering, — these promises are backed by the word of God; indeed, each one is the word of God. When a man has given his word, if he is an upright, honourable man, there is an end to further question: he has pledged his word, and that is enough. Now the Lord has given to his people his word, his very honourable word that cannot be broken, which must stand firm for ever and ever. Happy are those who are willing to take God at his word, and accept his promise as the equivalent for the thing promised; for what the Lord has promised he will surely perform. When a man grasps a promise of forgiveness, of acceptance in prayer, of sanctifying grace, of daily providence, of divine anointing, of comfort in death, or of eternal glory, he may well rejoice “as one who finds great plunder.” Within the word of promise there lies the blessing itself: the word is to the apprehension of faith the substance of the thing hoped for. What is guaranteed by God — who cannot lie — is already ours. Well may he rejoice who finds it.
10. Notice still further, that Holy Scripture, when it comes to us with power as the word of God, is the beginning of communion with God. It will strike you in a moment that when the Lord speaks to a man communion has in a measure begun. It may be that God speaks to a deaf ear, but even then it shows great goodness and condescension on God’s part that he should speak to men at all, and especially to those who refuse to hear him; but oh, if you actually hear the voice of God in his word, if it sinks into your soul by the accompanying power of the Holy Spirit, what remains then except for you to answer the Lord, and to let him speak again? This Bible talks: “When you awaken, it shall talk with you.” This is God’s side of a heavenly conversation, which ought to be kept up throughout all the days of our pilgrimage. God says this and that in the word, and we in prayer, in faith, in holy action reply to him; and then he speaks again, and we again answer him. When you are alone, and wish to have communion with God, you probably begin with prayer. Do so. But sometimes you feel that you cannot pray. Very well; do not try. Say, “I desire to converse with God, and if I cannot speak I will hear him speak.” Take down the Bible; read a Psalm, or some precious portion of Holy Writ, and after God has thus spoken to you the conversation has begun. God’s words will suggest heart-words with which you can speak to the Most High. If it does not, read again, until at last within your spirit there is communion with the Eternal One. Oh, what a bliss it is that God speaks to any one of us: to me, a poor, worthless, sinful creature! How highly favoured is man to have a word from the great King! Many would give their eye-teeth to be spoken to by a monarch, but here we are spoken to daily by the King of kings if we are only willing to incline our ear to his sweet voice: and this is the beginning of a communion which may continue throughout life and consummate itself in everlasting glory.
11. Personally I can sometimes experience my text in a particular sense, when the word of God becomes to me the instrument of usefulness. How often do I look around me anxiously for the next theme of discourse! My mind enquires, “What shall I preach to the people? What shall be my message? How shall I feed my church?” This is a trying question after twenty-eight years preaching to one congregation. At last a passage comes home to my soul with power. I have found it. What joy fills the preacher’s heart! No warrior was ever more glad when he heaped up the mountains of plunder.
12. You meet a person who is anxious: you want to say the right word to him, and therefore you look all around prayerfully, until a text suggests itself, which proves to be the exact word for the person whose good you are seeking. Have you not felt great joy in handling such a passage as the instrument of usefulness? Have you not been ready to cry like the old Greek philosopher, “Eureka; [a] I have found it?” Have you not wanted to be off to tell it not only to the one person that you are anxious about, but to fifty thousand more? Ah, yes, you have rejoiced as one who finds great plunder.
13. You see then that there is a distinct joy which comes to the man who gets God’s word into his soul, — a joy which arises out of the fact that there is a word of God which comes to us as the revelation of God, as an infallible guide through life, as the pledge of divine mercy, the beginning of divine communion, and the instrument of usefulness. Upon all those things we might profitably enlarge, but time would not allow it, so I ask you to follow me to the next point. May the Holy Spirit lead our minds.
14. II. Secondly, let us remark that FREQUENTLY THE JOY OF THE BELIEVER IN THE WORD ARISES OUT OF HIS HAVING HAD TO BATTLE TO OBTAIN A GRASP OF IT. Read the text again: “I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great plunder.” Covered with sweat, grimy with dust, bleeding from many a wound, wearied and faint, the fighting man has defeated the enemy, and now he staggers forward to seize his portion of the plunder, finding new strength in the joy of victory. Did you ever have to do that with God’s word, for I have had to do so many times, and I will try to describe the battling as I know it. “Oh my soul, you have trodden down strength.”
15. We have had to wrestle over certain doctrines before we could really understand them. Learning doctrines out of books, or merely learning them as matters of catechism, is never enough. Such teaching is all very useful and helpful, but the best way to learn a doctrine is to have it burned into your soul as with a hot iron. “Oh,” they say of me, “that man speaks so dogmatically.” I cannot help it. Why should I speak with bated breath when I feel absolutely certain of what I say? If I were not certain I would hold my tongue until I was. I could not dare to come here to talk about matters which may or may not be true: I dare not waste your time and thought like this. I have not only found the doctrines of the gospel in God’s word, but I have tested and tried them in my own experience, and they have been so powerfully operative upon my own soul that I must speak as I find. To me the things I preach are as assured as my existence; in fact they are a part of my existence, since they are my life, my hope, my joy, and strength. I am positive in speech because I am assured in mind. Nor can I see the gain which would accrue from the opposite form of speech. Of what avail is this cloudy doubt? Unless a man speaks up to the best of his knowledge and belief, most positively, who is likely to believe him? Wise men will tell the speaker to make up his own mind before he can hope to influence other minds. I have no doubt about the existence of a God. Have you? If you have, do not plan to be a minister for God in any way. I have no doubt about the mediatorial power of his precious blood. Have you? If you have, do not pretend to be a Christian teacher, for your whole weight will be on the wrong side. Faith receives more stabs from waverers than from affirmed sceptics. Sowers of doubt are no friends to the gospel, for men are saved by faith, but no one was ever saved by unbelief. “We know and have believed the love which God has towards us.” “I believed, therefore I have spoken.” But how do we arrive at this assurance? Why, by fighting our way to it. A doctrine of God’s word comes before us: our heart exclaims, “Yes, this seems to be the teaching of Scripture, and therefore I must believe it.” But carnal reason rebels, and conjures up a phalanx of difficulties, while our proud human nature revolts from a truth which is so little to its taste. These things have to be battled with. Faith has to bring all the faculties of the child of God upon their knees, and to say to them, “Be quiet; listen while God speaks: let God be true and every man a liar, and every faculty in the man a liar too, sooner than God be doubted.” This is the victory we have to strive after the triumph of a firm belief in the veracity of God. A doubt rises, and then another, and another, like a flight of bats when a dark cave is startled by the blaze of torches. Away they fly, and light seizes on their dreary realm.
16. Some minds have for a time to contend with doubts, army after army. Do not wonder if you have to strive even to blood, until your very soul bleeds over the doctrine; but rejoice that when once you win it like this you will doubt no more, and the truth will become doubly precious to you for ever afterwards. You have gained the truth by fighting for it, and therefore you cry, “This is my plunder, and no one shall rob me of it.” Take away the giant’s head from David? He is not to be so easily defrauded. Did he not cut it off himself? Did he not throw the stone which sank into the Philistine’s forehead? So when a man has killed a thousand doubts in conflict over a doctrine, and has at last come to assured belief, immediately he rejoices “as one who has found great plunder.”
17. What a fight there is sometimes over a promise. Have you never entered into such a contest? Oh gracious promise, most suitable to my case! How it would comfort my soul! But may I appropriate it? The devil says, “Certainly not!” He pushes us back from it. Our feeble hope assures us that it is too good to be true for us. A thousand doubtful suggestions assail us, until at last the soul, by a desperate effort, seizes the portion and holds it against all comers. We drive out the Canaanites, though they have chariots of iron, and take possession of their strongholds. Then a man rejoices over a promise when he has believed it in the teeth of a thousand improbabilities, and proved it to be true. He feels that he took the blessing out of the hand of the Amorite with his sword and with his bow, and henceforth it is a particular portion for his soul, and he rejoices over it “as one who finds great plunder.” It is a good thing to mark your Bibles when you have received a promise. Mark the margin with T and P, and let it stand for “tried and proved.” Mark the passage which the Lord fulfils for you with some private seal, bearing witness to its truth. David set his own hand to the margin in many places; as, for example, when he exhorted us to wait on the Lord, and then added, “Wait, I say, on the Lord.” May what is written with ink in the Bible be written with grace on our hearts. May the public promise become a private promise for each one of us by the living experience of our own soul.
18. Sometimes the hardest fight is around a precept. God has told us to do this and that, but carnal ease cries, “Leave the precept alone,” and love of self says, “That command is too humbling; pass it by.” But oh, when you can battle with yourself and win the victory until your heart cries, “I will delight myself in your commandments, which I have loved,” then your rejoicing will be great indeed! What a joy to conquer yourself! What bliss to master your surroundings, and all the peculiarities of your disposition and temperament, so as to come to love the very same precept which a little while ago was irksome. How the believer loves the law when he has fought down his rebellious will, vanquished his obstinacy, crushed his pride, fettered his levity, and yielded himself entirely to the word of the Lord. Holy Spirit, bestow this joy on us.
19. A sharp warfare often goes on over the threatenings. I have had many a wrestling match over them. A voice whispers in my ear, “that threatening of God is too severe: that sentence of Scripture is too harsh.” Certain of my brethren carry a bit of pumice-stone with them, and rub down the rough texts. Whenever they find God speaking in wrathful indignation against sinners, they meet his terrors with a “larger hope.” Things that are revealed belong to me, but things that are not revealed seem to belong to them. They have many learned ways of softening down disagreeable truth. Now, if I find my mind quarrelling with any line of Scripture I say to my soul, “You are wrong, or else you would be in accord with every word of the Judge of all the earth.” If I cannot yield whole-hearted assent, and consent to the justice of God, it does not occur to me to alter the Scripture, but to school my own heart until it bows before the thunder of divine judgment. I try to get my heart into such a state that I can say, “If my soul were in God’s place, this is exactly what I would say to the ungodly; this is precisely the measure I would deal out. For it must be right, it must be just or Jehovah would not deal with men like this.” When you are thus agreed with God you will rejoice as one who finds great plunder; for you will be confident that to the sternest problems there is a gracious answer, and for the direst difficulties a sweet solution. It is risky to take the soul out of texts of Scripture, and to attempt to give them souls of our own invention. Let us learn God’s meaning, and then become friends with it. Grow accustomed to the terrible texts until like Daniel you feel safe even in the lions’ den. The doctrine of eternal punishment is no longer difficult to believe for me since I am confident that it is taught in the Scriptures: its difficulties are for God to solve, and there I leave them, being well assured that in some way or other all that he does will be consistent with his justice and his love. One does not consent without a battle to the darker side of sacred writ, but when that is once fought there is rest.
20. Yet, once more, this is true about the word which reveals Christ. We do not know Christ properly until we are conformed to what we know about him. If Christ is lovely we shall not understand that loveliness until we are in a measure lovely ourselves. The pure in heart see the pure and holy God because every man sees what he is. When the lady said to Mr. Turner, “Sir, I have seen that place many times, but I never saw what you have pictured.” “No, ma’am,” he replied, “I dare say you have not; but do you not wish you could?” Just so, the artist’s eye sees what another eye cannot, and the pure in heart see in God what no one else can see, because they are like God. When our minds become moulded like the mind of Christ then we understand Christ. If there is anything about the character of our divine example which staggers us, let us pray our way into it. We must get to be like him; and oh, when we do, then every feature of that dear face will be conspicuously and transcendentally charming for us, because we have come to it through suffering.
21. The inner experience of many a child of God lies much in conflict and contention, and scarcely an inch of Scripture is truly gained without fighting for it foot to foot with those who would rob us of our inheritance. Canaan was given to Israel by the Lord himself by a covenant of salt, but we all remember the long list of enemies that already occupied it. What are their names? Hivites, Hittites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Jebusites — I will not trouble you with more, so many and so ugly are the names of those who would keep the believer back from his portion in the covenant. One of old said, “They surrounded me like bees: like bees they surrounded me”; and yet he added, “But in the name of the Lord I will destroy them.” May it be our resolve that we will take every part of the word to be our inheritance, and rejoice over it “as one who finds great plunder.”
22. III. We shall now tarry for a moment upon a third thought, which is altogether different from what has gone before. AT TIMES THE JOY OF THE BELIEVER LIES IN ENJOYING GOD’S WORD WITHOUT ANY FIGHTING AT ALL.
23. In the text I am not sure that fighting is certainly mentioned or necessarily implied, though it is highly probable. David says, “I rejoice at your word, as one who finds great plunder,” as if he happened suddenly upon it, like the lepers at the gate of Samaria, who to their surprise found all the way they traversed covered with clothing, and gold and silver articles. They had not lifted a finger in war, yet they found great plunder; like the man in the parable who, when he was ploughing, found a treasure hidden in the field. He had never looked for it, but he had great joy in discovering it. In infinite mercy the Lord makes his word open up before his people when they are not seeking it, according to the promise, “I am found by those who did not seek for me.” Have you never experienced what this means, and have you not rejoiced as one who suddenly finds plunder?
24. The word of the Lord is often as plunder found, not fought for. The promise lies before me on the way, and I find it, and by the law of the kingdom of grace it becomes mine for the finding. There it is, and the Spirit of God reveals it to me, and I take it, asking no permission whatever, since all covenant blessings are free for us when we are free to take them. Our warrant for feeding at the banquet of love is the fact that God has set before us an open door, and we are invited to enter in. What joy this is!
25. This plunder, however, must have cost someone else most dearly, though it has cost us nothing. If we did not fight for it someone else fought for it once. Ah, what a fight that was! Let Gethsemane and Calvary speak. What joy there is in seizing the plunder which Jesus has left for us as the result of his life’s warfare! We have not trodden the wine-press, but yet we drink the wine. The blessing is free for us, but it cost him groans and tears, and bloody sweat, and death. “This is David’s plunder.” Look down and see the mark of the victor’s feet! Do you not see where the nails went in? The Crucified One has been here and defeated all our adversaries, and left this plunder for us poor creatures to divide among ourselves.
26. Great is the plunder: all the plunder of death and hell; all that father Adam was robbed of is recovered from the robbers. Life, light, peace, joy, holiness, immortality, heaven, — all these are brought back by our great Conqueror who has taken the prey from the mighty, and brought back the lawful captives, leading captives captive. Oh, brethren, we rejoice when we get a hold of the precious treasures of the word as Jesus Christ’s plunder, fought for by himself, and then distributed to us.
27. What a joy there is in our heart when we remember what foes our Lord overcame to gain for us all this plunder; sin has been routed, death has been slain, and hell has been stripped of its prey: our worst enemies are broken in pieces, and the crown of their head is crushed by him who is the seed of the woman, the Messiah of God.
28. Whenever a passage of Scripture sings to you of itself sing with it before the Lord: whenever in reading, the verse seems to leap out of the page into your heart let it lodge there for ever. Whenever in hearing the word it darts into your heart, then you will understand what David meant when he said that his soul rejoiced over God’s word “as one who,” by a happy, blessed find, “finds great plunder.”
29. IV. My fourth point is the principal one, and I want all your attention while I dwell on it for a short time. THERE IS A JOY ARISING OUT OF THE VERY FACT THAT HOLY SCRIPTURE MAY BE CONSIDERED TO BE A PLUNDER. I will show you that in five particulars.
30. First, a plunder is the end of all uncertainty. Whenever a fight begins it is questionable who will win; while it rages the result still hangs quivering in the balances; but we know who has won the battle when the victor begins to divide the plunder. No question now remains; the debate is over. Blessed is that man who has found in Scripture a plunder in the sense that he has come to the end of uncertainty, and arrived at something like certainty. All men who think crave for certainty, and gradually settle down to one standard or another. I have heard of two brothers, equally honest and thoughtful men, who began life at the same point, but parted in their search for a firm and strong foundation. One of them at last gravitated to the Church of Rome, for he thought he discovered certainty in a historical church, and in one at the head of it whose utterances are regarded as infallible. I do not envy him his ideal certainty: it seems to me to be a mass of fraud, a great historical imposture. The other brother found his resting-place in his own reason, or in the fact that he could not be sure of anything. There is a certainty in being certain that you are not certain of anything; but certainly it is not a certainty which would afford comfort to me; for my reason would be to me a sorry guide for eternal things, since even in everyday concerns it has misled me. We must find certainty somewhere, or believe that we have found it, or else we shall be of all men most miserable.
31. If a man has no standard of infallibility outside himself he tries to find it in himself, and becomes his own pope: and depend on it a pope in England is as likely to err as a pope in Rome. I would not give twopence for the two of you, and if I threw myself in it would not add an extra farthing to the value. When a man has in experience fought up to confidence in the word of the Lord, or has had it powerfully laid home by the Holy Spirit to his own soul, then he reaches the end of the controversy as far as he himself is concerned: he is dividing the plunder, for he says, “We have known and believed the love which God has towards us.” Of course, people come around and say, “You are mistaken.” Our answer is, “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind. It may not be certainty for you, but it is for me.” If a man should assert, “Oh, that medicine is all quackery,” he has a right to speak his mind; but his decision is not final. “Not so,” cries another, “I have been ill half-a-dozen times, and on each occasion I have speedily recovered through its use: call it quackery if you like, it is no quackery to me, at any rate, for I am certain about its good effects.” It is so when a man has at last, by the application of the Spirit of God, felt the power of God’s word over his soul, he says, “I am not going to fight that battle over again. I am sure of the truth of that Scripture.” Such a man is restful about that matter. I wish that all of you had this certainty as some of us have. How horrible it is to grope in the eternal fog, to flounder in primeval chaos, seeing no road or landmark; turning this way and finding it night, and the other way equally dark; to the right disorder, to the left questioning. Oh, to get to know that God loves me, and that I love God, and Christ has redeemed me, and my sin is put away, and to feel all this witnessed in my soul by the Holy Spirit! This is to rejoice in the end of uncertainty as one who divides the plunder.
32. The next idea that comes out of the metaphor of plunder is this. It is the weakening of the adversary for any future attacks; for when they divide the plunder they say to each other, “The invaders will be here again, no doubt, before long; but they will not have this great gun to turn upon us; we have spiked it. Their supply of ammunition will be somewhat diminished by the capture of their magazine, and they will not have this huge chest of gold with which to purchase more war supplies; for we have taken it from them. We have weakened the adversary. Have we not entered their strongholds? Have we not captured their quadrilateral? [b] They may take up arms again; but their force is broken.” Every doubt a man conquers by resting on the infallible word has weakened the power of unbelief within him, and strengthened his faith. Blessed is that man who has so trusted in his God that doubts now are just like the grasshopper which is only a burden to the feeble. Oh the joy of saying, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep what I have committed to him”; or to cry with the once blind man, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see.” Tasting and handling of the good things of the kingdom, we rise into a region of fact, and leave suppositions and quibbles far below. In this lies a part of the joy of taking the plunder: we hope for less disturbance of heart, less peril of intellect, less struggle of soul from this time on. The horns of the adversary have been broken, and they cannot harm us as they did previously.
33. Next, in dividing the plunder there is always a sense of victory, and so there is in believing God’s word. In getting firm hold upon the faithful testimony of our God, we achieve a conquest over doubts, fears, turmoil, and all our proud judgments of God. There is a sense of conquest when we overcome our passions and propensities, and do the Lord’s bidding according to his precepts and statutes. When what at one time was difficult, if not impossible, becomes easy and delightful, then we wave the palm branch of victory over a defeated enemy. When the mind is brought into subjection to all and every revealed truth, then we have done more than if we had taken a strong city. “This is the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” May we have more of it, and go from strength to strength, doing valiantly in the name of the Lord.
34. Again, in dividing the plunder there is profit, pleasure, and honour. I am not about to justify the deeds of war, for I hate these: as for plunder and rapine, such as have been indulged in by the general run of conquerors, they are detestable crimes. Men have made themselves worse than demons to men. No calamities have ever befallen nations that are so much to be deplored as the atrocities of war. I use the warlike metaphor, but condemn the fact. Men conceive when they divide the plunder that there is honour in it. Look at the crowds that gathered along the Via Sacra when the Roman conquerors came down from the Appian Way, passed under the arch, and marched towards the Capitol. Then the populace crowded the house roofs, and the chimney tops, so that they might see a Scipio or a Caesar expose his captives and display his plunder. They shouted until they were hoarse, and wearied themselves with applause at the sight of the spolia opima [great plunder] which were borne in the procession. Thus men judge concerning plunder in war. See how Napoleon thought to glorify himself by placing in Paris the works of art which he had taken from the capitals of Europe. What are most trophies except stolen goods, or what is purchased by them? But when you and I lay hold on Holy Scripture then we have grasped a plunder more precious than royal treasures, a plunder which we may hold with justice and honour. When we can say that the things which God has revealed are ours, then we are rich beyond a miser’s dream; and when we can hold them against all comers, then what we believe becomes our honour and gives glory to us, and glory to faith, and chief glory to him who created our faith in us by his almighty Spirit.
35. Last of all, the plunder is a prophecy of rest, and so is that delightful dividing up of the word of God, and its appropriation by faith. “Ah,” said the Romans when they plundered old Carthage, “we shall never see another Hannibal at our gates, nor dread the ships of Carthage in our seas.” They had overcome their most potent adversary when they utterly plundered her, and then they looked for a long period of peace. And that is the joy of receiving the word. When we can believe that Jesus took our sins, and suffered for them on the tree, we are no more troubled concerning the guilt of sin. When we believe that our heavenly Father overrules all things for the good of his people, then sorrow and sighing, fear and fretting flee away. Well may he rest who sees even evil made to work his good. When we believe that Jesus died and rose again from the dead, then the fear of death which haunts so many receives its mortal wound. Knowing the meaning of the word, “He who believes in me, though he were dead yet he shall live,” the dread of death has no more dominion over us.
The appropriation of the divine promise, as the soldier appropriates
his share of the booty, is for us the prophecy that the war is over.
We may now rest, and be quiet. And oh, what joy, what blessedness is
this! How I wish that all those who are present here were believers,
first in Jesus the great incarnate Word, and then in this book, the
written word; and that you did not only believe these things to be
true, but took them to yourselves as warriors take the plunder. You
would be happy and blessed, and your rejoicing today would be as the
joy of harvest, or as the shouting of those who divide the plunder.
May God grant that it may be so, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ps 119:145-168]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 84” 84 @@ "Song 3)"]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement — Faith Struggling” 624]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement — Confidence In The Promises” 632]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "John Ploughman’s Pictures"]
[a] Eureka: The exclamation (“I have found it”) uttered by Archimedes when he discovered the means of determining (by specific gravity) the proportion of base metal in Hiero’s golden crown. OED.
[b] Quadrilateral: The space lying between, and defended by, four fortresses. OED.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 84 (Song 1)
1 How pleasant, how divinely fair,
Oh Lord of hosts, thy dwellings are!
With long desire my spirit faints
To meet the assemblies of thy saints.
2 My flesh would rest in thine abode,
My panting heart cries out for God;
My God! my King! why should I be
So far from all my joys and thee?
3 Bless’d are the saints who sit on high
Around thy throne of majesty;
Thy brightest glories shine above,
And all their work is praise and love.
4 Bless’d are the souls that find a place
Within the temple of thy grace;
There they behold thy gentler rays,
And seek thy face, and learn thy praise.
5 Bless’d are the men whose hearts are set
To find the way to Zion’s gate;
God is their strength, and through the road,
They lean upon their helper, God.
6 Cheerful they walk with growing strength,
Till all shall meet in heaven at length,
Till all before thy face appear,
And join in nobler worship there.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 84 (Song 2)
1 Great God, attend while Sion sings
The joy that from thy presence springs;
To spend one day with thee on earth
Exceeds a thousand days of mirth.
2 Might I enjoy the meanest place
Within thy house, oh God of grace!
Not tents of ears, nor thrones of power,
Should tempt my feet to leave thy door.
3 God is our sun, he makes our day;
God is our shield, he guards our way
From all th’ assaults of hell and sin,
From foes without and foes within.
4 All needful grace will God bestow,
And crown that grace with glory too;
He gives us all things, and withholds
No real good from upright souls.
5 Oh God, our King, whose sovereign sway
The glorious hosts of heaven obey,
And devils at thy presence flee;
Bless’d is the man that trusts in thee.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
Psalm 84 (Song 3) <148th.>
1 Lord of the worlds above,
How pleasant and how fair
The dwellings of thy love,
Thy earthly temples are!
To thine abode,
My heart aspires
With warm desires,
To see my God.
2 Oh happy souls that pray
Where God appoints to hear!
Oh happy men that pay
Their constant service there!
They praise thee still;
And happy they
That love the way
To Zion’s hill.
3 They go from strength to strength,
Through this dark vale of tears,
Till each arrives at length,
Till each in heaven appears:
Oh glorious seat,
When God our King
Shall thither bring
Our willing feet.
4 To spend one sacred day,
Where God and saints abide,
Affords diviner joy
Than thousand days beside:
Where God resorts,
I love it more
To keep the door
Than shine in courts.
5 God is our sun and shield,
Our light and our defence;
With gifts his hands are fill’d;
We draw our blessings thence;
He shall bestow
On Jacob’s race
And glory too.
6 The Lord his people loves;
His hand no good withholds
From those his heart approves,
From pure and pious souls:
Thrice happy he,
Oh God of hosts,
Whose spirit trusts
Alone in thee.
Isaac Watts, 1719.
The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement
624 — Faith Struggling <8s.>
1 Encompass’d with clouds of distress,
Just ready all hope to resign;
I pant for the light of thy face,
And fear it will never be mine:
Dishearten’d with waiting so long,
I sink at thy feet with my load;
All plaintive I pour out my song,
And stretch forth my hands unto God.
2 Shine, Lord, and my terror shall cease
The blood of atonement apply;
And lead me to Jesus for peace,
The rock that is higher than I:
Speak, Saviour, for sweet is thy voice,
Thy presence is fair to behold;
I thirst for thy Spirit with cries
And groanings that cannot be told.
3 If sometimes I strive, as I mourn,
My hold of thy promise to keep,
The billows more fiercely return,
And plunge me again in the deep:
While harass’d and cast from thy sight,
The tempter suggests with a roar,
“The Lord hath forsaken thee quite:
Thy God will be gracious no more.”
4 Yet Lord, if thy love hath design’d
No covenant blessing for me,
Ah, tell me, how is it I find
Some sweetness in waiting for thee?
Almighty to rescue thou art,
Thy grace is my only resource;
If e’er thou art Lord of my heart,
Thy Spirit must take it by force.
Augustus M. Toplady, 1772.
The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement
632 — Confidence In The Promises
1 Why should I sorrow more?
I trust a Saviour slain,
And safe beneath his sheltering cross,
Unmoved I shall remain.
2 Let Satan and the world,
Now rage or now allure;
The promises in Christ are made
Immutable and sure.
3 The oath infallible
Is now my spirit’s trust;
I know that he who spake the word,
Is faithful, true, and just.
4 He’ll bring me on my way
Unto my journey’s end;
He’ll be my Father and my God,
My Saviour and my Friend.
5 So all my doubts and fears
Shall wholly flee away,
And every mournful night of tears
Be turn’d to joyous day.
6 All that remains for me
Is but to love and sing,
And wait until the angels come
To bear me to the King.
William Williams, 1772;
Charles H. Spurgeon, 1866