2125. Hope For Your Future

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No. 2125-36:41. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

I will settle you as in former times, and will do better for you than at your beginnings. {Eze 36:11}

1. These words were spoken to the mountains, valleys, and rivers of Judah; and we know that the Lord does not care for hills and rivers, but he speaks altogether for the sake of his people. The blessing for the land was intended to be a blessing for the people. We shall do no violence to the text if we take the promise as belonging to ourselves, and plead it before the mercy seat, trusting that the Lord will do this to us, and that our latter end may be better than our beginning.

2. Have you ever noticed that when nations fall they seldom rise again? Babylon and Nineveh become mountains of rubbish. If the Medo-Persian kingdom falls, the throne is never revived. If Greece and ancient Rome cease from their eminence, we see no more of them than their ruins. But God’s people are not numbered among the nations, so that when Israel falls she revives again. Though for many centuries the ancient people have been scattered and dispossessed, derided and despised, yet every Israelite may put down his foot with joyful tread, and say, “No, Israel, you shall never perish!” Even in her ashes live her accustomed fires, and the days shall come when Israel shall acknowledge her Messiah, and her God will fulfil the promise of the text, “I will settle you as in former times, and will do better for you than at your beginnings; and you shall know that I am the Lord.” I believe that to be the first sense of the passage; but since all the blessings of the covenant, which belong to the seed according to the flesh, spiritually belong to all those who are in that covenant according to the spirit, we shall take this word as spoken to all believers.

3. If a hypocrite falls, he falls like Lucifer, never to hope again. He is a meteor, that flashes across the sky and disappears; a wandering star, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever. Let Judas fall from his apostleship, and there is no restoring the son of perdition. But how different is the case of God’s own, when they fall! Alas, that they should do so! Yet of them it is said, “Do not rejoice against me, oh my enemy: when I fall, I shall arise.” Peter, at a look from his Master, wept bitterly, and lived to say, “You know that I love you.” There is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, for there is life in it; and where there is life there is hope. If Mordecai is of the royal seed, the enemy shall never prevail against him. There may come dark times of backsliding, but surely the redeemed of the Lord shall come again with mourning and repenting, and they shall seek for him from whom they have wandered.

4. I am not, however, going to dwell much upon the dark side of the subject of declension; but I shall invite your attention to the gracious promise that God will make things better for us than they were at our beginnings. First, I shall answer the question, what is there, then, so good in our beginnings? In the second place, if so good, can anything be better? And, in the third place, how can we secure these better things, so that our life shall verify the statement of the text, “I will do better for you than at your beginnings?”

5. I. WHAT IS THERE, THEN, SO GOOD IN OUR BEGINNINGS? Let us look back. Some of us have been converted to God for a good number of years now; and all that while we have enjoyed spiritual life. Others are young beginners, but their present enjoyment will assist them to answer the question — “What is there so good about those first days?” We read of our first love as “the love of our espousals”; and we all know there was something especially charming about those first hours when forgiving love was precious to us, and we rejoiced in the Lord.

6. One choice enjoyment was our vivid sense of pardon. We knew that we were forgiven: we did not have the shadow of a doubt about it. We were black so recently that, being washed from our stains, we saw the change. It would not have been possible for Satan then to make us doubt it. When we stood at the foot of the cross, and said, “Here my sins were washed away,” then things went well with us. When substitution was a novelty to us, and when we seemed to hear a voice like that of the angels before the throne, singing, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus,” — we all knew then that we had looked to Jesus, for we felt that we could look nowhere else. We were newly-cleansed sinners, and we knew it. Oh, that blessed time! Our earthly comforts were forgotten in the greater sweetness, and our earthly sorrows ceased because guilt was gone. Taken out of the bonds of iniquity, our hearts danced at the very sound of the redeeming name. You sang, “I am forgiven: I am forgiven.” You wanted to tell the angels this strange wonder of almighty love. That was one of the good things of your beginning.

7. You remember very well, too, that you had then a delightful enjoyment of the good things of the covenant of grace. You did not know a tenth of what you know now, but you intensely enjoyed what you did know. When the Israelites first of all came into Canaan, they found it to be a land that flowed with milk and honey. It became afterwards a stony land through their sins, but rare clusters then grew in Eshcol, and the wild bees made honey plentifully, even in such a strange place as the carcass of a lion. When we first came to Christ, it was so with us as for the things of God; they were all sweets. We saw one covenant blessing, then another, and then another; and we were enraptured with each one. Whether in the body or out of the body we could scarcely tell; for we did not look then without tasting, and we did not taste then without feasting, and we did not feast then without feasting again. We begrudged the world the hours we spent in business: we wanted to get back to our Bibles, or to the assembly of the saints. Our Lord was a precious Christ then, and very lovely in our eyes, that had been so newly opened. Everything about him, and his people, and his Word, and his day, and his cross was astonishing to us, and filled us with an intensity of delight. It was “happy day” indeed with us then. That was another blessed point in our beginnings.

8. And, at that time, we were like the children of Israel in a third matter, namely, that we had repeated victories. Do you remember when your Jericho fell down — when a high walled-up sin, that you feared would never yield to you, was brought down suddenly? Just as Israel went from victory to victory, and killed king after king, so you did in those early days. As quickly as conscience revealed a sin, you struck it as with a two-edged sword. You sometimes wondered about professors that they could live as they did. You felt you could not. Your hand was in for fighting; and, like Joshua, you did not stop. The day was not long enough for you in which to slay your sin; you felt inclined to order the sun to stand still, and the moon to rest, so that you might make full work of blessed carnage in putting sin altogether to the sword. You have had a good many defeats since then, it may be, for which you cannot excuse yourself; but then “Victory!” was your watchword, and you went on to experience it in the name of the eternal God. From day to day, though attacked by the uprising of corruptions, you said, “In the name of the Lord I will destroy them,” and you sometimes cried like her of old, “Oh my soul, you have trodden down strength!” You marvelled to see how the adversary was subdued beneath the foot of your faith. Those were good times, were they not — those beginnings?

9. In those days, you had great delight in prayer. When alone with Christ, it was heaven below; and in the prayer meetings, when God’s people were warm at heart, how you delighted to unite with them! The preaching was marrow and fatness to you. You did not mind walking a long way on a wet night to hear about your Lord and Master then. It may be there was no cushion on the seat, or you had to stand in the aisle. You did not mind that. You are getting wonderfully dainty now; you cannot hear the poor preacher whose voice was once like music to you. You cannot enjoy the things of God as you once did. Whose fault is that? The kitchen is the same, and the food the same: the appetite has gone, I fear. How ravenous I was after God’s Word — how I would wake early in the morning to read those books that are full of the deep things of God! I wanted none of your nonsensical novels, nor your weekly tales, for which some of you pine, like children for candies. Then one fed on manna that came from heaven, on Christ himself. Those were good times in which everything was delightful. You heard a gospel preacher, and perhaps he spoiled the Queen’s English; but you did not care a bit about that. You were hungry, and you did not mind the knives, and the tablecloths: you wanted food, and plenty of it, and as long as it was good spiritual food, your souls were delighted with it. That is one of the good things of our beginnings.

10. In those days we were full of living fruitfulness. I hope we have not lost it. Just as the mountains of Judea dropped with wine, and ran with milk, through the abundance of the soil, so it was with us then. We could do anything. Sometimes, in looking back, we wonder how we ever attempted so much. We were not so anxious to keep up our spiritual life as we were to spend what we had. We thought then we would push the church before us, and drag the world behind us. What marvels we were going to do; indeed, and we did many of them by God’s good grace!

11. Then, if we had very little strength, yet we kept the Lord’s Word. If we had only one talent, we made as much use of it, perhaps, as some do with ten. I love to see you young Christians as active as you ever can be; and I am going to put my hand on young heads, and say “This is right. Do all you can. You may not be so lively eventually.” If you are not earnest when you begin, what will you be soon? I want you to maintain that earnestness, and to let it increase, for no man is doing too much for Jesus. No one is too consecrated, no one too self-denying, no one too enthusiastic. There has never been seen on the face of the earth yet a man who has laid himself out too much for the cause and kingdom of our Master. That will never be. But it is one of the good points of our beginnings that we were full of fruitfulness for the Lord our God.

12. This is because the saints begin generally with abounding love. Oh, how we loved the Saviour when we first discovered how he had loved us with an everlasting love! When we see that the dunghill is never to be our portion again, but that bright glory at the right hand of the Eternal — oh, then we love our Saviour with all our hearts! I am not saying that we do not now love even more; but it is a good beginning when we overflow with love for our Lord Jesus.

13. II. So I could keep on reminding you of the days gone by; but I do not care to do so. I am going now, in the second place, to answer the question, CAN ANYTHING BE BETTER THAN THIS?

14. Well, it would be a very great pity if there could not be, because I am sure we, when we were young beginners, were not much to boast about; and all the joy we had was, after all, very little compared with what is revealed in the Word of God. We ought to get to something better; and it would be a miserable thing if we were to get “small by degrees, and miserably less.” It would not look like Christian perseverance if our light were to shine less and less to the perfect darkness. No, but it is to shine more and more to the perfect day; and in the beginning our day is only twilight. In coming to God at first we are only in the outer courts: we have not yet entered the holy of holies of inward experience, we stand in the outer court. We are wheat in the blade as yet. Ask the farmer whether he thinks that the green blade is the best thing on the farm. He says, “Yes, for the present”; but if it is a green blade next July, he will not think so. There is something better coming. All the good that God gives us draws something better behind it. And let me whisper it: the best thing is yet to come, not yet revealed to eye or ear of saint, but it will be ours eventually when our Lord comes.

15. In what respects, then, can our future be better than what is behind? I answer very readily, faith may be stronger. By the grace of God it will be firmer and more robust. At first it shoots up like the lily, very beautiful, but fragile; afterwards it is like the oak with great roots that grip the soil, and rugged branches that defy the winds. Faith in the young beginner is soon cast down, and doubts and fears prevail; but if we grow in grace, we become rooted and grounded. In these days, when it is fashionable to sneer at the doctrines of Scripture, and no one is thought to be sensible who believes anything, the young believer is apt to be staggered; but it would take a great many of the critics and divines of the present day, with all their scepticisms, to shake some of us. We have tasted, and handled, and lived upon these things; and being established in them, we are not to be moved from the hope of our calling. Though all the wiseacres in the world should dip their pens in tenfold darkness, and write it down as proven that there is no such thing as light, we have seen it with our eyes, and we live in it, and we are not to be moved from the eternal verities.

16. This is something better than early faith, is it not? Go on, and obtain it.

17. Again, God gives to his people, as they advance, much more knowledge. At first they enjoy what they know, but they hardly know what they enjoy. As we grow in grace we know more. We are surprised to see that what we thought to be one blessing is fifty blessings in one. We learn the art of dissecting truth — taking it to pieces, and seeing the different veins of divine thought that run through it; and then we see with delight blessing after blessing conveyed to us by the person and sacrifice of our exalted Lord. Brethren, if years and experience make us know more, our present is better than our beginnings.

18. Love for Christ gets to be more constant. It is a passion always, but with believers who grow in grace it comes to be a principle as well as a passion. If they are not always blazing with love, there is a good fire banked up within the soul. You know how you bank your fire up when you come to the chapel in the evening, and have no one at home, and want to keep the fire burning until you get home. That is often the condition of a Christian. Even if we do not talk much about assurance, and say nothing about getting near perfection, yet we lie humbly before God, and do not doubt that we love him. We are sure that we do, for it becomes a daily delight to us to speak with Christ; and, in the speaking, we feel our love glowing. You do not always feel that you love those whom you never see: but when you talk to the dear objects of your love, your heart is moved. As one of the old Puritans used to say, our graces are not apparent unless they are in exercise. You walk through a preserve, and there may be partridges and pheasants and hares all around you: you will not see them until one flies out of its hiding, or a hare springs up before you. You see them in motion; but while they were quiet in the copse {underbrush} you did not observe them. So may love for Christ and all Christian virtues lie concealed until they are called into action. Our Lord’s dear presence attracts them all out of their hiding-places; and then you perceive that love was always there, and there in strength too, though it was not always on your lip, nor even in your thought.

19. As Christians grow in grace, prayer becomes more mighty. If the Lord builds you up into true spiritual manhood, you will know how to wrestle. Why did not Jacob meet the angel the first time when he went to Bethel? He lay down, and slept, and dreamed a dream. He was a spiritual babe, and a dream suited his capacity. But when he came back, a man who had grown by years of experience, then the angel of God came and wrestled with him. It is one part of the teaching of divine experience that we grow stronger in the art of prayer, and know how to win from God greater things than we ever dreamed of asking at the first. May God grant you better things in the matter of prayer than at your beginnings!

20. So, I think, it is in usefulness. Growing Christians, and full-grown Christians, are more useful than beginners. They may not, apparently, be doing so much; but they are doing it better, and there are more results. Their fruit, if not quite so plentiful, is of better quality, and more mellow. If there are fewer fruits, each one is larger, and each one of a finer flavour.

21. In fact, this one thing is apparent in all believers who have grown in grace — that the work of grace in them is nearer completion. They are getting nearer heaven, and they are getting more fit for it. Some of you are holding things of this world very loosely. You are expecting very soon to hear the summons which will call you to leave these earth-born things. Just as ripe fruit comes from the tree with a gentle touch, so it is getting to be with you: the world had a greater hold on you when you were young than it has now; and your thoughts of departure from it are more frequent, and more full of desire than they used to be. You have come to look at death as though it were only a move to a neighbouring town, or like stepping across the street. You have looked at it so long that you can say like one I knew, “I have dipped my foot in the river every morning, and I shall not be at all afraid to ford it when the time comes.” The Lord has made you to stand on tiptoe, ready to rise. You can say, “The time of my departure is at hand.” Your chariot is at the door. Well, now, this is something better than your beginnings.

22. The old Christian may look back on the new wine, and say regretfully, “How it sparkled and effervesced! But the old is better.” You may think of the days of your youthful vigour when the body kept pace with the spirit; and you were young and full of nerve, and muscle, and enthusiasm. Those animal spirits have now gone from you, and you are sobered, and even slow. You have become old, and, perhaps, forgetful of many things. You go over the old story now instead of inventing new ones; but then, the old story — the old, old story — is as new to you as at the first, and you love it better than ever before. You cannot be driven from it now. I should think Satan himself would hardly like to meddle with some of you; he feels that he cannot shake your faith in the living God; or if he should shake you, you would in turn shake him. He has had so many brushes with you during the last fifty years that he begins to know that you carry the true Jerusalem blade, and he would rather deal with other folks who are fond of the “modern thought” wooden sword. You have come to the land Beulah, and you are siting on the brink of Jordan, waiting to cross over to the Celestial City. Surely, you have realised that God is dealing better with you than at your beginnings.

23. III. I will end with the last, which is a practical matter. How can we, dear friends, we who are beginning a Christian life, HOW CAN WE ENSURE THAT IT WILL BE BETTER WITH US BY AND BY THAN IT IS NOW? Alas! we have seen some start splendidly in appearance. They ran well; but they were soon out of breath, or turned aside. We hear no more of them. Our fear should be lest the same should happen to us. How can we act so as to hold on our way, and go from good to better?

24. I answer, first, keep to the simplicity of your first faith. Never get away from that. You remember the story we used to tell of poor Jack the huckster, who sang —

   I’m a poor sinner and nothing at all,
   But Jesus Christ is my all in all.

Questioners could not make him doubt. He said that he could not doubt that he was a poor sinner and nothing at all, for he knew he was. And why should he doubt that Jesus Christ was his all in all? The Word of God said so; why should he doubt it? Here he stood, and would not budge an inch. Neither will I. The cony is safe in the rock, and he knows better than to come out. I hide in Jesus, and there I intend to remain, whatever the critics or the cultured may say. Jesus is my all in all, and I am a nobody. My life cost him his death, and his death is my life. He took my sin, and died; I take his righteousness, and live. You may laugh, but I win. You may sneer, but I sing. Oh dear friend, flee to Jesus, and hide in him, and then stay there! Never get an inch beyond the cross; for, if you do, you will have to come back. That is your place until you die: you nothing, and Christ everything. You have to sink lower, and lower, and lower; and in your esteem Christ must rise higher, and higher, and higher. The “nothing at all” must be more emphatic the older you grow, and the “all in all” must be more emphatic too. If you get borrowing wings, and trying to fly up with speculations about what you may be in yourself, you will end in coming down heavily with a bruised heart, if not with broken bones. Stay at the foot of the cross, and you will maintain — indeed, you will increase — your joy in the Lord.

25. At the same time, dear friends, practise great watchfulness. Many a child of God has to weep for months because he did not watch for minutes. He closed his eye for a little while, and said, “It is all right with me”; and in that little while the enemy came and sowed tares among his wheat, and great mischief came from a little nap. We ought to have the eyes of a lynx, and they ought never to be closed. We do not know which way the next temptation will come from. We need to be guarded on all sides, and remember the words of our Master, “What I say to you, I say to all, ‘Watch.’ ” You will not keep your joy and grow in grace unless you watch.

26. The next advice is grow in dependence on God. For your watchfulness, depend on his watching. You cannot keep yourself unless he keeps you. You must watch, but still it is he who keeps Israel, and neither slumbers nor sleeps. Remember that.

27. Determine, dear friend, at the very beginning, to be thorough. I love to see young Christians very scrupulous about the mind of the Lord. I would not have you say, “Oh, that is non-essential!” Obedience to a command may not be essential to your salvation, but it must be essential to the completeness of your holiness. “Whatever he says to you do it.” Safe walking can only come from careful walking. I have known the time when I felt afraid to put down one foot before the other for fear I should go wrong; and I believe I was never so right as when that feeling was on me continually. You young people must cultivate more and more the grace of holy fear. Daily dread lest in anything you should omit to do your Lord’s will, or should trespass against him. In this way your joy shall be maintained, and you shall be settled as in former times; and God will do better for you than at your beginnings.

28. Lastly, seek for more instruction. Try to grow in the knowledge of God, so that your joy may be full. It will be bad for you to say, “I know I was converted, and therefore need not care any further.” That will not do. No, no, in conversion you began a race from which you are never to cease. You have been born again, and therefore you need spiritual food. You enjoy spiritual life, and you are to nurture that life until it is conformed to the perfect image of Christ. Onward, brother! Onward, for what is beyond will repay your labour!

[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Eze 36:1-15,23-34]
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Courage and Confidence — ‘Be Strong, Fear Not’ ” 675}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Church, Christian Fellowship — Fellow Citizens With The Saints” 889}
{See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Heaven — Jerusalem” 867}

Letter From Mr. Spurgeon

Dear Friends, — In the present epidemic most of us are fellow sufferers; let us endeavour to be spiritually profited by it. We would be speedily restored; but we would also be graciously instructed. The comfort and joy of life are dependent on the divine will as much as life itself. We must look up to the Lord for the joy of our graces as well as for the existence of our hope. In all things we must pray. The preacher asks that he may not be forgotten by his hearers and readers, to whom he hopes speedily to return in renewed health.

                   Yours most heartily,
                   C. H. Spurgeon.
Mentone. January 11. 1890.

The Christian, Courage and Confidence
675 — “Be Strong, Fear Not”
1 Now let the feeble all be strong,
   And make Jehovah’s arm their song,
   His shield is spread o’er every saint,
   And thus supported, who shall faint?
2 What though the hosts of hell engage
   With mingled cruelty and rage!
   A faithful God restrains their hands,
   And chains them down in iron bands.
3 Bound by his word, he will display
   A strength proportion’d to our day;
   And, when united trials meet,
   Will show a path of safe retreat.
4 Thus far we prove that promise good,
   Which Jesus ratified with blood:
   Still he is gracious, wise, and just,
   And still in him let Israel trust.
                     Philip Doddridge, 1755.

Church, Christian Fellowship
889 — Fellow Citizens With The Saints
1 Happy the souls to Jesus join’d
      And saved by grace alone:
   Walking in all his ways, they find
      Their heaven on earth begun.
2 The church triumphant in thy love,
      Their mighty joys we know:
   They sing the Lamb in hymns above,
      And we in hymns below.
3 Thee, in thy glorious realm, they praise,
      And bow before thy throne;
   We in the kingdom of thy grace;
      The kingdoms are but one.
4 The holy to the holiest leads;
      From thence our spirits rise;
   And he that in thy statutes treads,
      Shall meet thee in the skies.
                        Charles Wesley, 1745.

The Christian, Heaven
867 — Jerusalem
1 Jerusalem, my happy home,
      When shall I come to thee?
   When shall my sorrows have an end,
      Thy joys when shall I see?
2 Oh happy harbour of the saints!
      Oh sweet and pleasant soil!
   In thee no sorrows may be found,
      No grief, no care, no toil.
3 Thy walls are made of precious stones,
      Thy bulwarks diamond square;
   Thy gates are of right orient pearl,
      Exceeding rich and rare.
4 Thy turrets and thy pinnacles
      With carbuncles do shine;
   Thy very streets are paved with gold,
      Surpassing clear and fine.
5 Oh my sweet home, Jerusalem,
      Would God I were in thee!
   Would God my woes were at an end,
      Thy joys that I might see!
                     Francis Baker, 1616?

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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