1792. Do You Understand What You Are Reading?

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No. 1792-30:409. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, May 11, 1884, By C. H. Spurgeon, At Exeter Hall.

And Philip ran there to him, and heard him read the prophet Isaiah, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?” And he said, “How can I, unless some man should guide me?” And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the Scripture which he read was this, “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so he did not open his mouth: In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth.” {Ac 8:30-33}

1. How this negro chamberlain of the Queen of Ethiopia came to be a proselyte we do not know. The book which he was so fond of reading may have been the means of leading him to worship the God of Abraham; certainly it has served that purpose thousands of times. At any rate, he followed the light he had, and though he had not yet come to the full glory of Christianity, it was more than probable that he would do so, because he was evidently prepared to follow truth wherever her flaming torch should lead the way. Oh, that there was more candour among men in these latter days, and less of the prejudice which puts scales upon the eyes of the mind!

2. Be true to truth as it comes to you. If God gives you only common candlelight, make good use of it; and he will trim your lamp until it shines like the sevenfold golden light of his holy place. Those who are willing to see God by the moon of nature shall soon be illuminated by the sun of revelation. Instead of complaining that you have no more light, make good use of what you have. Many groan over their inabilities, and yet they have never gone to the end of their abilities: this is sheer hypocrisy.

3. Having become a proselyte to the faith of Israel, the eunuch made a long and perilous journey to Jerusalem. After he had enjoyed the solemn feast he returned; and while he travelled along, he read the word of God. The book of the prophet Isaiah was the portion chosen for his meditation. Does it not strike you as being remarkable that he should be reading at that moment the best text that Philip could have selected? He had reached a portion of Scripture from which, without the slightest digression, the evangelist preached to him Jesus as the slain lamb, the willing sacrifice for guilty men. The same conjunction of providence and the Holy Spirit constantly occurs in conversions. What the man has read in the book, the preacher is often moved by the Spirit of God to declare from the pulpit, for God has servants everywhere, and his secret directions are given out, so that all these servants, though they are little aware of it, are led to work together for the same predestined end. How often have the talks of young men by the wayside been reproduced by the preacher, and such exceptional coincidences have struck their attention, and been the means of impressing their hearts! God grant there may be something of that kind tonight — I know there will be. Into this hall years ago there strayed a wild young man; he heard me preach, he believed in Jesus, and he has long been an honoured deacon of a suburban church. Are there not other men here to whom the same salvation shall come?

4. This eminent nobleman is reading. That is a commendable occupation: reading is in itself somewhat of a hopeful sign. In these days we hardly need to exhort young men to read. “Give attendance to reading,” said the wise apostle Paul, and that was excellent advice for Timothy. Let all Christian men be reading men. But, then, Philip’s question contains these words, “what are you reading,” and that suggests a necessary enquiry. I am afraid much that is read nowadays had far better be left unread. Multitudes of books are fruits of an accursed tree — the tree of evil knowledge, which is watered by the rivers of perdition. The fruits of this upas {a} tree will yield no benefit to the minds that feed on it, but much of solemn damage; by perverting the judgment, or polluting the imagination. Souls have been ruined for all eternity by reading a vile book. Consider it no trifle to have heard bad language; but consider it a more serious evil to have read a bad book which has wounded your soul, and left a scar on your conscience. The writer of an evil book is a deliberate poisoner, secretly pouring death into the wells from which men drink. The printers and publishers of such works are accomplices in the crime. Young men, you will read — who among us would wish you to do otherwise? — but take heed to what you read! As one who has read more greedily than most men all kinds of books, I bear my testimony that the best of reading is the reading of the best of books. The more we read the Bible and volumes that lead up to the understanding of it, the better for us. I do not like to see in a lending library all the works of fiction needing to be bound two or three times over, while the books of sober fact and solid teaching, and the works that speak of eternal things, have never been read, since they have not even been opened. I fear that this is the general if not the universal rule. “Do you understand what you are reading?” is a question I should hardly ask until a man has made up his mind that he will not read mere rubbish and falsehood, but will with deep attention read what is accurate, truthful, devout, and ennobling. Read; take heed what you read; and then seek to understand what you are reading.

5. It was a very sharp-pointed question that Philip asked this gentleman. He made honest and earnest use of a rare opportunity for reaching one of the upper ten. We find it tolerably easy to ask questions of a man who is poor, but how shall we approach the rich? We have sermons for the working classes, and it would be a fair and useful thing to have sermons for the House of Peers, and evangelistic addresses for the House of Commons! Are there any bigger sinners anywhere than you might find in those two chambers? The rich are neither better nor worse than the poor: the various classes have bad and good in each of them, in much the same proportion. I am persuaded that there are noble lords and honourable gentlemen who would be all the better for a little teaching on the things of the kingdom of God: for example, it might do many of them good to hear a plain sermon from, “You must be born again.” Why is it that we are so apt to be plain-spoken with working men, and not with their employers? I admire Philip for his outspokenness to the royal treasurer. This gentleman keeps a carriage. Look at his retinue and his brave display! He is a very important personage, and yet Philip, who is a nobody in particular, only a poor preacher of the Word, runs up to the chariot, and solemnly asks, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Young men, never be irritated by plain questions from a servant of Christ, or else you will not be as noble as this Ethiopian chamberlain: and, young men, when you know the Lord, do not be ashamed yourselves to ask important questions of other people. Bold enquiries often give less offence than the more political and indirect address which timidity suggests. I fear the world can seldom charge the church with being too violent in its appeals. Look at what the ungodly will do to us. Where can you live on a street of London, especially in this part of the town, without having the night made hideous with their loud licentious songs and shouts? They force upon us their irreligion: may we not introduce our religion in return? If we boldly go up to a man, and speak to him in the name of Christ, perhaps he will say, “You intrude.” Well, we are not the only people who intrude, for many intrude their filthy tongues upon us as we go down the streets, and force their infidelity upon us in the daily newspapers. The world sets the fashion, and if we follow its customs it has no right to complain. When the wicked grow so delicate that they are afraid of hurting our feelings by their unbelieving speeches, we may take into consideration how we can go delicately also. Meanwhile, is there anything which a man of God does not have a right to say if it is the truth, and if he is earnestly striving for the salvation of his fellow men?

6. This was the question, “Do you understand what you are reading?” Ah, my brothers, you and I need to understand the Bible. I will suppose you read it — let me hope I am not mistaken; but when you read it, do labour, above all things, to understand it. The Book was written to be understood. It is a book which speaks to us about our lives (for the soul is the true life), and about the eternal bliss and the way to win it. It must be so written as to be understood, since it would be a mockery for God to give us a revelation which we could not comprehend. The Bible was meant to be understood, and it benefits us in proportion as we get at its meaning. The mere words of Scripture passing over the ear or before the eye, can do us little good. I heard a person say once, concerning a great doctrine which I hold to be very plainly taught in Scripture, that he had read the Bible through — I think he said six times — on his knees, but he could not find that doctrine. I replied, “Brother, that is an awkward position in which to read the Bible. I would have sat on a chair, and studied the page in a natural and easy posture. Moreover, I would not have galloped through it at the rate at which you must have raced over the chapters. I should rather have read a little at a time, and tried to understand it.”

7. “Do you understand what you are reading?” that is the question. “I read a chapter every morning,” one says. Quite right; keep that up, but “Do you understand what you are reading?” “Well, I learn the daily text.” Yes, but “Do you understand what you are reading?” That is the main point. The butterflies flit over the garden, and nothing comes of their flitting; but look at the bees, how they dive into the bells of the flowers, and come out with their thighs laden with the pollen, and their stomachs filled with the sweetest honey for their hives. This is the way to read the Bible: get into the flowers of Scripture, plunge into the inward meaning, and suck out that secret sweetness which the Lord has put there for your spiritual nourishment. A thoughtful book needs and deserves thoughtful reading. If it has taken its author a long time to write it, and he has written it with much consideration, it is due to him that you give his work a careful perusal. If the thoughts of men deserve this, what shall I say of the supreme thoughts of God which he has written for us in this Book? Let us apply ourselves to the Book; let us ask for increased capacity, and let us use what capacity we already possess to reach the innermost soul of the Word of God, so that we may understand it, and be fed by it. The Bible can be understood, I assure you. I will not say that any man here understands all of it. I do not believe there is any man alive who does. I could not myself believe in it if I could understand it all — for I should imagine that it came from my equal, and not from that supreme Master mind, whose thoughts must be above our thoughts, even as the heavens are above the earth. All that is right, all that is fundamental, all that is essential for our soul’s eternal good, can be understood by the help of God if we desire to understand it. Digest the word, I urge you. Be prepared to answer this question, “Do you understand what you are reading” Desiring to press that matter upon you, I am going to speak on three questions somewhat briefly. The first is, What is most essential to be understood in this Book? secondly, What is the test of a man’s understanding it? and, lastly, What can be done to obtain such a desirable understanding?

8. I. WHAT, THEN, IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO BE UNDERSTOOD IN THIS BOOK?

9. I truly believe that it is contained in the passage which the eunuch was reading. It is a very exceptional passage. A section of the Bible begins at Isaiah fifty-three, and goes onward through several chapters. I will read to you a verse or two out of that part which the eunuch would soon have read had he continued to peruse the words of the prophet. Already he had noted the words, — “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” There was something for him, for he had gone astray, and knew his lost estate. Go on to the next chapter and read this, “You shall break out on the right hand and on the left; and your seed shall inherit the Gentiles, and make the desolate cities to be inhabited.” {Isa 54:3} He might have thought, “I am one of the Gentiles, and therefore I am of the nations that shall be possessed by the seed.” When he reached the fifty-fifth chapter, how his eyes would sparkle as he began to read, “Ho, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters!” And this, “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near.” Here, too, he would hear the voice of God inviting men to come to his Anointed, and he would see that promise, “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and nations that did not know you shall run to you because of the Lord your God.” He would rejoice to see that the Ethiopians were included in those who did not know the Christ, but should, nevertheless, run to him.

10. I ask you to look at the fifty-sixth chapter. I imagine the eunuch had previously read the portion; it must have been a favourite passage with him, for it runs like this: “Neither let the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’ For thus said the Lord to the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant; even to them I will give in my house, and within my walls, a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.” {Isa 56:3-5} Was that not pointedly personal, and full of consolation? I do not wonder that he liked to be found reading near such a choice promise, where he saw the tender compassion of the Lord for beings who are usually despised.

11. The passage from which Philip’s text was taken contains the most essential thing for every young man to know. Let him know and understand Isa 53:6; it begins with “all” and ends with “all”; therefore carry it in your memories — “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” What is needed is that we first understand that we have all gone astray. He who does not know that he has gone astray will not care for the Shepherd who comes to bring him back again. A humbling, heart-breaking sense of our personal wanderings from the Lord is a main force by which the heavenly Father leads us to the Lord Jesus and his salvation. I want every young man here to know and understand the truth, that salvation is the gift of divine mercy for those who are guilty, and is never the reward of human merit. Christ did not come to save you because you are good, for you are not good; nor because you have merit, for you have no merit. He would not have come to save you if you had possessed merit. Why should he? There would have been no need. I hear the doctor’s coach rattling down the street at a great pace, and I wonder where he is going. It never occurs to me that he is rushing to call upon a hale and hearty man. I am persuaded that he is hurrying to see one who is very ill, perhaps one in dying circumstances, otherwise he would not drive so fast. It is just so with Jesus Christ. When he is hurrying on the wings of the wind to rescue a child of man, I am sure that the soul he visits is sick with the malady of sin, and that the Physician is hurrying because the disease is developing into corruption and death. He did not come “to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

   Who rightly would his alms dispose
      Must give them to the poor;
   None but the wounded patient knows
      The comforts of a cure.

Jesus will not waste his grace on those who are already good. “He has filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he has sent away empty.”

12. Oh, that you would also understand the second half of Isaiah’s verse, “The Lord has laid, on him the iniquity of us all!” There is more philosophy in that statement than in all the teachings of Aristotle, there is more truth worth knowing in that one sentence than in all the books of the Alexandrian Library. The Lord Jehovah lifted up the sin of man, and deliberately laid it upon his dear Son. His Son, willingly bearing that load as our Substitute, went up to the tree, and there he bore what was due for all that weight of sin, even the penalty of darkness, desertion, and death. By bearing the chastisement he put away sin, and hurled it into his own sepulchre, where it is buried for ever. Now, every man who believes in Jesus may know that his sin was laid upon Christ, and borne by Christ, and put away by Christ. A thing cannot be in two places at one time. If my sin was laid on Christ, it is no longer laid on me. God cannot exact two penalties for the same offence: if he accepted Christ Jesus as my substitute, then he cannot punish me. God’s justice cannot demand the penalty twice — 

   First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
   And then again at mine.

Such an exaction would be a strange confusion and destruction of both love and justice. Such injustice can never be. This is how you are to get rid of your sin. You cannot bear it, but Christ bore it; you are to accept Christ as your Sin Bearer, and then you may know that your sins are gone, that the depths have covered them; that there is not one of them left. I sometimes think if men only understood this they would be sure to accept the Lord Jesus. I heard of a minister in Edinburgh who went to visit one of his poor people. He heard that she was in deep poverty, and therefore he went to take her help. When he came to her house, he could not make anyone hear, though he knocked loud and long. Seeing her some time after, he said, “Janet, I knocked at your door with help for you, but you did not hear me.” “What time did you come, Sir?” she asked. “It was about twelve o’clock.” “Oh,” she said, “I did hear you, Sir, but I thought it was the man calling for the rent.” Just so. Men do hear the calls of Christ, but they are wilfully deaf, because they think he wants them to do something. But he does not want anything from you; he wants you to receive what he has already done. He comes laden with mercy, with his hands full of blessing, and he knocks at your door: you have only to open it and he will enter in, and salvation will enter with him. Say, “Come in, you Traveller unknown! What do you have in your hands? I gladly accept what you bring.” Will not some young man here, who has thought religion to be a hard exaction, change his mind, now that he understands that it is a bountiful blessing? Salvation is a gift — a free gift of God. “Whoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” The Saviour lifts sin from men to himself, and then makes an end of that sin once and for all by his death upon the cross. Oh, hear this, you guilty ones: there is full salvation presented to you in the word of God — salvation from every kind of evil! You shall be helped to overcome every bad passion, to conquer every evil habit, to be masters of your own minds, and lords of your own spirits. The Lord Jesus Christ, if you accept him, will come into your heart, and turn out his enemy and yours, and he will reign in you from this time on and for ever, until he has made you perfect, and fit to dwell with himself in glory. Oh, that you understood this vital point; “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all!”

13. II. WHAT IS THE TEST OF A MAN’S UNDERSTANDING HIS BIBLE, AND OF UNDERSTANDING THIS PASSAGE IN IT?

14. I answer that the test of a man’s understanding this important part of Scripture is that Jesus Christ is everything to him: for Philip, who understood it, when he explained it, preached to the eunuch Jesus and nothing else. I try with all my might to preach my Lord Jesus Christ, and I love to meet people who delight in this theme. Certain critics call upon us to preach something fresh. I will also do this for I will preach Jesus, and he is always fresh: there is nothing stale in him, he has for ever the dew of his youth.

15. It may be said, “But new doctrines are brought out continually.” Yes, but they grow stale in a month; they are a poor kind of Covent Garden Market stuff, and need to be carted away quickly, otherwise they decay. I have lived to see a score or more kinds of modern theology; they all come and go, but Jesus Christ remains the same yesterday, today, and for ever.

16. If you have Jesus Christ, you have everything — top, bottom, and middle as well. Have Christ and nothing else except Christ. You will not be in safety if you rest without having a firm hold on Jesus, the divine Saviour. “Well,” one says, “but what do you make of Socinians and Unitarians?” I come to the same conclusion about them as did an old Baptist minister, who was greatly grieved to see a Socinian chapel erected opposite his own. One of his deacons said, “This is a dreadful thing — this opposition shop that has been opened on the other side of the road!” “I do not call it opposition at all,” said the minister. The deacon exclaimed, “Why, they are Unitarians; they do not preach the Godhead of Christ!” The old man said, “If you kept a baker’s shop, and another man were to open a hardware store opposite you, that would not be opposition, for he would be in quite another line of business. Those who do not preach the deity of Christ are in an altogether different business. If you want a hardware store you may go to them, but if you want the bread of heaven you must look to the Lord Jesus, the Son of the Highest.” So if you want to understand the Scripture, test yourself by this: Is Jesus Christ everything to you?

   You cannot be right in the rest
   Unless you think rightly of him.

You understand the Scripture if you make everything of the Lord Jesus Christ; if you believe in him with all your heart, and then yield yourselves up to him in his own way.

17. Every young man, when he believes in Jesus, should give himself to Jesus, heart and soul, for ever. “That is the kind of young man for my money, for he is O and O.” So a certain person spoke, and when he was asked what that meant, he replied, “Out-and-out for Jesus Christ.” Such a man is precious in these days; yes, precious as the gold of Ophir. Jesus was out-and-out for us, he loved us, and gave himself for us: there should be no half-heartedness in our dealings with him. If we have read Scripture properly, we have not received the kind of Christianity which sanctifies us on Sunday, but enables us to be dishonest throughout the week. True saints have a religion that has entered into their very blood, changing their nature, and permeating their being, so that it is part and parcel of themselves. Practical Christianity is the only real Christianity. If your religion can be laid aside I would advise you to get rid of it; for a real Christian could no more lay aside his godliness than he could unscrew his head.

18. I like this eunuch for proposing that he should be baptized. He was not advised to do so, but he proposed it himself, and gave himself up to his Lord and Master to do the Lord’s bidding at once, the providence of God having provided water so that he might fulfil his Master’s command then and there. Young man, whichever way the Scripture tells you to dedicate yourself to God, set to work about it, and let it be done at once. Find out what is the scriptural way, and then follow it without delay, surrendering yourself completely to the Lord: you have not read the Scriptures with understanding unless you do that.

19. The next thing is, if you have read the Scriptures with a clear understanding, they have made you glad, for this eunuch “went on his way rejoicing.” The man who gets up from reading his Bible, and says, “I am a believer in Jesus; what a solemn thing it is!” and then goes out with a pious resolution that he will make everyone as miserable as he can all the day long, needs converting again. The faith of the Scriptures leads joy by the hand, and chases away despair. When true religion comes, its tendency is to make us rejoice in the Lord always; and though we are not as happy as we ought to be, that is not the fault of our faith, but of our unbelief. Fair flowers of Paradise spring up where Faith plants her feet; but thistles grow where doubt exists. Our indigestion, or some other malady may depress us; but faith should make our songs abound even while we are travelling through the wilderness. Joys unspeakable may be ours before we — 

   Reach the heavenly fields,
   Or walk the golden streets.

You have not read your Bible in order to understand it to the full, unless you have learned to be happy by a sweet resting in Jesus.

20. I think you have not understood the Bible unless it makes you care about the salvation of others; for this Ethiopian nobleman, when he got home, I have no doubt, spread the gospel throughout his native land: he was, probably, the founder of the Abyssinian Church. If any young man reads this Book properly, he becomes large-hearted, he cannot hold his soul within the narrow bound of his ribs, but his great heart looks out to see where it can scatter benefits. If you can let another man be damned without an effort, I fear that such will be your own end: if you can be complacent when you believe your brother is on the brink of eternal ruin, I fear you are on the brink of ruin yourself. One of the holiest instincts born in a renewed man is that of longing to save others. Being saved, we wish to co-operate with the Saviour in his gracious work. A missionary enthusiasm is the natural result of a clear perception of the true state of matters in reference to the world, which lies in the wicked one. The heathen die without hope: shall it always be so? Will no young man rescue the perishing? I ask you from the depths of my soul, will you not cry, “Here I am, send me!”?

21. You have read this Book in order to understand it, if your message for others is what the message was for you — Christ, Christ, Christ, Christ. You have nothing else to employ as the means of good, except the salvation of Jesus, and there is nothing else worth telling. I heard of a congregation the other day that was so very small that hardly anyone came to listen to the preacher. Instead of blaming himself, and preaching better, the minister said he thought he was not doing much good by sermons and prayer meetings, and therefore he would found a club, and if the fellows came in, and played checkers, that might do them good. What a lot of that kind of thing is now being tried! We are going to convert souls on a new system, — are we? Are we also to have a substitute for bread? — and healthier drink than pure water? We cannot save men by faith in Jesus Christ, and so it seems we are going to try new dodges of our own. We shall reap small, scanty sheaves from such wretched seed. If you can do good in any way, do good anyway; but to ever hope to bring sinners to holiness and heaven by any teaching but what begins and ends in Jesus Christ is a sheer delusion. No other name is given among men by which they can be saved. If you have to deal with highly learned and educated people, nothing is so good for them as preaching Jesus Christ; and if the people are ignorant and degraded, nothing is better for them than the preaching of Jesus. A young man said to another the other day, “I am going down to preach at So-and-so, what kind of people are they there? What kind of doctrine will suit them?” Having heard of the question, I gave this advice, — “You preach Jesus Christ, and that will suit them, I am sure, if they are learned people it will suit them; if they are ignorant it will suit them — God blessing it.” When the great biblical critic, Bengel, was dying, he sent for a young theology student, to whom he said, “I am low in spirit; say something good to cheer me.” “My dear Sir,” said the student, “I am so insignificant a person, what can I say to a great man like yourself?” “But if you are a student of theology,” said Bengel, “you ought to have a good word to say to a dying man; please say it without fear.” “Well, Sir,” he said, “What can I say to you, except that the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from all sin?” Bengel said, “Give me your hand, young man; that is the very word I needed.” A simple gospel text is the word which every man needs who is in fear of divine wrath, and he may be sitting next to you at this moment, or he is in the same house of business with you, and needs that you should tell him about Christ. Do that, and bless his soul. May you all understand the Scriptures in this way, and may God make you a great blessing to those around you.

22. III. Now in a few words I want to answer the question, WHAT CAN BE DONE TO OBTAIN SUCH A DESIRABLE UNDERSTANDING OF THE SCRIPTURES?

23. “I read the Bible,” one says, “and get a great deal puzzled over it.” Let me advise that when you read a passage in the Scriptures which you do not understand, you should read it until you do. “I should have to read often.” Well, that would not hurt you. “But suppose I never do understand it?” Keep on reading it all the same. “Can passages of Scripture which we do not understand do us any good when we read them?” Yes; they gradually filter into our souls: by long considering them we get light out of them. Here is a little boy whose father is an artisan, and uses a great many technical terms when talking about his work. The boy is apprenticed to the trade, and wants to know all about it, and therefore he listens to his father, and when the day is over he says to himself, “I heard my father say a great deal, but I do not understand much of it.” “But did you understand a little of it?” “Oh, yes.” To that little he is faithful, and day by day he adds to his store of information, learning more by the help of what he already knows. He hears his father talk again the next day, and still he does not understand much; but at last, by hearing the terms often, and by meditating upon them, light breaks in, and at length he can talk like his father, using the same words with understanding. So I have found it. When I do not comprehend a chapter, I say, — This is probably comprehensible; I will therefore hear my great Father speak, even if I do not understand at first what he may say to me, and I will keep on hearing him until at last I grasp his meaning. I fear we do not understand some passages because we have not read them often enough, nor thought upon them with full concentration of mind. Once or twice they pass before the mind and produce no impression; let us observe them yet again, and then their effect will be deep and permanent. Do as the photographer does, when he allows an object to be long before the camera until he obtains a well-defined picture. Let your mind dwell on a passage until at last it has photographed itself upon your soul by the light of God.

24. The next bit of advice I would give is, always read with a desire to understand: always have the nut-crackers with you to crack the nuts, so that you may feed upon their kernels. Some may say, when reading the Bible, “That may be a very blessed passage, but I do not in the least know what it means.” Do not be content to leave the text in that condition. Weep much because no man can open the book, and release its seven seals. Pray over the words, and study them again and again, until at last you come to the essence of the text. Reading with that view, it is wonderful how soon you will obtain the understanding you seek after.

25. Next, be sure to pray for the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. If you want to understand a book, and you find difficulties in it, do as I have done on several occasions with my contemporaries — write and ask them what they mean by their language. I have in this way obtained much valuable information. Can we do that with the Bible? Assuredly we can if we know how to pray. The Author of the Bible is never more pleased than when we go directly to him to ask him what he means. He puts himself at the disposal of every earnest student to open up by means known to himself those Scriptures which he has himself dictated. “I consulted a learned commentator,” one says. Very well; at the same time, to go to a commentator upon a book is not half so certain a mode of procedure as to go to the author of the book. Seek instruction from the blessed Spirit by humble prayer.

26. Remember that you can also go to the Maker of your mind, and he can open it to receive the truth. Your mind is out of order, and it is no wonder, considering its serious damage by the Fall, and the atmosphere of sin which surrounds it in this present evil world. My mind, I know, is very likely to be in a disorderly state; it has for fifty years been always at work, and I think it must by this time be like an old clock that has grown rusty or dusty. I find my brains need clearing out a bit; and I believe that this is the case with you young men, too. You are either very busy, or else very careless, and the dust of care or neglect spreads over your brain. Who can set the brain right? The Creator who made the brain. The Holy Spirit has a wonderful power in clearing the intellect. You shall study for a month and make no headway; but you shall pray to God about a spiritual truth, and it shall be clear to you in a minute. There are multitudes of cases in which men have turned dark problems over and over again in their minds, and have never solved them by their own mental efforts, but one flash of divine light has made everything bright as noonday. Wait, then, upon the Author of the Book, and then wait upon the Author of yourself, and say, “Lord, as you open the Scriptures, so open my understanding that I may perceive their meaning.”

27. I would earnestly entreat every man who desires to understand the Bible to consider at this moment the vital point of his natural condition, and the way of salvation from it. You are lost, dear friend. If you are an unconverted man you are still lost, and you cannot save yourself; it is impossible that you should. You may have heard the story of that philosopher who was once on the roof of a house, when suddenly behind him came a strong man with a huge whip, and told him to jump down to the ground. Certain death would have been the result. The man was a lunatic. The philosopher perceived that terrible fact in a moment, and so he very wisely said, “Well, you see? any fool can jump down, the grand thing would be to jump up. Let us go down, and jump up.” They went down, but they never jumped up, for the gentleman thus escaped. Are there not some here who are jumping down? some young men who are taking a desperate leap into one sin or another? Any fool can jump down; but if any of you are already down, I defy you to jump up again. No, you need a greater power than your own before you can ascend the heights of holiness. If you have tried to jump up, I know, young man, you have fallen back in despair. Easy is the descent to hell, the gravitation of our nature tends that way; but to retrace our steps, this is the work, this is the difficulty. Turn that over in your mind, and say, “If there is salvation to be had, since I cannot work out my own rescue without divine grace, I will trust in Jesus.” Oh, that you would seek his grace at once!

28. I tried to preach the gospel just now; let me again put it simply. A negro worded it like this, “Christ die, me not die,” and that is the gospel; Christ dies so that you may not die. Only trust him, and you are saved.

29. When you are about it, dear young friend, I beseech you to trust Christ out-and-out. A homely parable will illustrate what I mean. A father, it is said, had to go one night along the top of a rugged and very slippery precipice. His two boys were with him, and when he started, one boy said, “Father, I will take hold of your hand.” He did so, and it seemed a very wise thing to do. The other boy said, “Father, take hold of my hand,” and, as it turned out, that was a much more prudent course; for the first youngster clung to his father’s hand until he grew weary, and when they were in a very frightful place he failed to hold on, and down he went, but the other trudged along very merrily, for he was not dependent on his hold of his father’s hand — all depended on the father’s hold of him. Now come, young man, and begin as you intend to go on. Put yourself right into the hand of the Lord Jesus for him to keep you. When I was a lad I heard a preacher say that Christ gave to his sheep eternal life, and that they should never perish, for he would keep them to the end. This charmed me. I longed to find this sure salvation. I thought within myself, “I know James So-and-so, and Tom So-and-so, who went up to London, and who were about a year older than I, and they, within half-a-dozen years, were as far gone in vice as one could be. They were better boys when they were at school than I was, and yet they went bad. I may go and do the same thing as they did unless I get this eternal salvation. I may lose my position, or be found pilfering, or something of that kind, for I have as bad a heart as they have.” I looked upon salvation as a spiritual insurance, which would guarantee my character. So I tried the promise and now, at the age of fifty, I place myself under the care of the Lord Jesus as I did at the age of fifteen; he has kept me to this day, and I believe he will never let me go, however long I may live. Oh, young man, give yourself up to that dear pierced hand wholly and heartily! Let your motto be, “Jesus only.” Trust Christ a little, and yourself a little, and, like a man who plants one foot on the rock and the other on the quicksand, you will go down. Trust in him alone, and he will hold you firm. If Jesus does not save me, I shall be lost, for I cannot save myself. It is his business to save me, for both by name and office he is Jesus, the Saviour; and I rest quite happily in him.

30. When we meet in heaven we shall praise the Lord for making us understand what we read. May God bless you all, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ac 8:26-40]
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Holy Scriptures — Most Excellent” 478}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Its Excellencies — The Different Success Of The Gospel” 483}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Gospel, Its Excellencies — Excellence Of The Gospel” 486}


{a} Upas: An evergreen tree in the family Moraceae, native to south-eastern Asia, from India and Sri Lanka east to southern China, the Philippines and Fiji; closely related species also occur in eastern Africa. It produces a highly poisonous latex, known in Java as "Upas," from the Javanese word for "poison". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Upas

Holy Scriptures
478 — Most Excellent
1 Laden with guilt and full of fears,
      I fly to thee, my Lord,
   And not a glimpse of hope appears
      But in thy written Word.
2 The volume of my Father’s grace
      Does all my griefs assuage;
   Here I behold my Saviour’s face
      Almost in every page.
3 This is the field where hidden lies
      The pearl of price unknown,
   That merchant is divinely wise
      Who makes the pearl his own.
4 Here consecrated water flows,
      To quench my thirst of sin,
   Here the fair tree of knowledge grows,
      No danger dwells therein.
5 This is the judge that ends the strife,
      Where wit and reason fail,
   My guide to everlasting life
      Through all this gloomy vale.
6 Oh may thy counsels, mighty God,
      My roving feet command,
   Nor I forsake the happy road
      That leads to thy right hand.
                           Isaac Watts, 1709.


Gospel, Its Excellencies
483 — The Different Success Of The Gospel
1 Christ and his cross is all our theme;
      The mysteries that we speak
   Are scandal in the Jew’s esteem,
      And folly to the Greek.
2 But souls enlighten’d from above
      With joy receive the Word;
   They see what wisdom, power, and love,
      Shine in their dying Lord.
3 The vital savour of his name
      Restores their fainting breath;
   But unbelief perverts the same
      To guilt, despair, and death.
4 Till God diffuse His graces down,
      Like showers of heavenly rain,
   In vain Apollos sows the ground,
      And Paul may plant in vain.
                           Isaac Watts, 1709.


Gospel, Its Excellencies
486 — Excellence Of The Gospel
1 Let everlasting glories crown
   Thy head, my Saviour and my Lord,
   Thy hands have brought salvation down,
   And writ the blessings in thy Word.
2 What if we trace the globe around,
   And search from Britain to Japan,
   There shall be no religion found
   So just to God, so safe for man.
3 In vain the trembling conscience seeks
   Some solid ground to rest upon;
   With long despair the spirit breaks,
   Till we apply to Christ alone.
4 How well thy blessed truths agree!
   How wise and holy thy commands!
   Thy promises, how firm they be!
   How firm our hope and comfort stands!
5 Should all the forms that men devise
   Assault my faith with treacherous art,
   I’d call them vanity and lies,
   And bind the gospel to my heart.
                           Isaac Watts, 1709.

Spurgeon Sermons

These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).

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Modernized Edition of Spurgeon’s Sermons. Copyright © 2010, Larry and Marion Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario, Canada. Used by Answers in Genesis by permission of the copyright owner. The modernized edition of the material published in these sermons may not be reproduced or distributed by any electronic means without express written permission of the copyright owner. A limited license is hereby granted for the non-commercial printing and distribution of the material in hard copy form, provided this is done without charge to the recipient and the copyright information remains intact. Any charge or cost for distribution of the material is expressly forbidden under the terms of this limited license and automatically voids such permission. You may not prepare, manufacture, copy, use, promote, distribute, or sell a derivative work of the copyrighted work without the express written permission of the copyright owner.

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