2462. The Known And The Unknown

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No. 2462-42:193. A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, April 8, 1886, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, April 26, 1896.

For who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow? For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun? {Ec 6:12}

1. Man at his very best is only man; and well might David ask, “What is man?” In part, he is only red earth, as Adam was at the time when he came fresh from his Maker’s hand. Solomon tells us, in the 10th verse of this chapter, “What has been is named already, and it is known that it is man.” Whoever has lived, and however wise and good and great he may have been, he has been only man. Sum him up, add everything together, — the beauties of his body, the skill of his mind, even the virtues of his spirit; and what is he then but man? And man is only vapour, which appears for a little while, and then vanishes away; he is as thin and airy and unsubstantial as his own breath. He comes and he goes; he is here for such a little while that he can scarcely be said to be, for he only begins to be before he concludes his existence so far as this world is concerned.

2. Since man is as light as vanity itself, Solomon urges that it is idle and vain for him to attempt to contend with God. He puts it like this in the 10th verse, “Neither may he contend with him who is mightier than he.” It is always unwise to contend with one who is mightier than yourself; but when the disparity is so great as between man and God, — the creature of an hour and the self-existent Creator, the poor feeble worm called man and the almighty invincible God, — you see at once what folly it is even to think of battling with him. He is indeed foolish who would contend with his Maker. Shall the potsherd strive to break the rod of iron? Or shall the wax war against the fire? There is no hope for us in such contention; yet how frequently do we — even we who are his children — begin to contend with our God! If he chastens us, if he takes away our comforts, if he permits us to be disappointed in our aspirations, immediately we begin to enquire, “Why is this?” And I have known times when that question has been carried very, very far, when some whom we have esteemed have seemed to pick a quarrel with God, and they would not forgive him. Their dear one was taken away, and they called God cruel. If they did not say as much, they thought it; and they have kept the anniversary of that bereavement, still unforgiving towards their God. That kind of rebellious spirit creates ten times more pain than the affliction itself did. Then the rod falls more heavily than it otherwise would have done; and the soul, dashing itself against the pricks, wounds itself against the goad far more than it was originally intended to be wounded.

3. No, beloved, we cannot contend with our Maker. Are we wiser than he is? Do we understand providence better than he does? Can we sit in judgment on him? Do we dare to think of arraigning the great Judge of all at our judgment bar? Let us only think of him properly, and we shall say, “I was dumb, I did not open my mouth; because you did it”; and, by the grace of God, we shall get even further than that, and be able to say with the patriarch Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord …… Shall we receive good from the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” What we often lack is the spirit of complete submission. If our childhood — I mean the childhood that results from our regeneration and adoption into God’s family, — if that childhood does not teach us this submission, our common sense ought to teach us. We ought to feel how absurd it is that we who are only as a fly should fight with the flame, for we can only burn ourselves by such folly. We cannot possibly carry on successful contention against One who is so great, so good, so wise, as the infinitely glorious God.

4. I am going to speak to any who are in that contending state of mind, and also to others who perhaps may get into such a state unless they are warned of the danger to which they may be exposed. The ship that is in the dry dock, and that has never been out at sea, is astonished when it is told that such and such a vessel leaks in the day of storm; but when that ship itself is launched, and gets out on the rough waters, it may come to wonder how the timbers resist the billows, and how it is that anything keeps afloat at all. You who are young and inexperienced in the Christian life, and have never done business on great waters, may think yourselves competent to judge and to condemn the older ones for all their deficiencies and failures; but, perhaps, when you get into the same seas yourselves, you may behave no better than they have done. Therefore, take warning beforehand, and learn from Solomon’s words a lesson concerning yourselves, that you may never set yourselves in opposition to the Lord God, or compare yourselves with him.

5. I. The first subject of consideration in our text is, OUR LIFE WHICH WE DO KNOW: “Who knows what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow?”

6. We do know something about our present life, and what we do know about it should humble us in the presence of God, for, first, it is very short. Observe that Solomon here says nothing about the “years” of our life, he only counts it by “days.” He looks at our earthly existence as of so short a duration that, if he were to count it by years, he could scarcely mention it; but if he only counts it by days, he may use the word “all”: “all the days of his vain life.” And, my brethren, we only live by the day, and scarcely as much as that. We are at least taught by our great Master to pray for daily bread, as if the nourishment was for a daily life which is always to be counted by the day. Yet is a day more than you and I can be sure of, for who knows what even a day may bring forth?

    The rising morning can’t assure
       That we shall end the day;
    For death stands ready at the door
       To take our lives away.

7. At the very best, we can only count our lives by days. I know that we are often tempted to think that we shall live to a ripe old age; but, suppose we should be spared seventy or eighty years, what a short time the longest life is! Suppose we could live even as long as Methuselah did, — which we cannot do, — yet how soon it would be all over, and when we came to the end of it, we should say, with old Jacob, “Few and evil have the days of the years of my life been.” The fact is, the older a man grows, the shorter his life seems to be; and it was because Jacob was so old, and had seen so many days, that he called them few and evil. Children and youths appear to have lived a long while; men seem to have lived only a short time; older men an even shorter period; but the oldest man considers his days the shortest of all. The calculations about time are very unique, the length seems to turn to shortness. Well, then, since I am such an ephemeral creature, the insect of an hour, an aphid creeping on the bay leaf of existence, how dare I think of contending with you, my God, who existed long before the mountains were created, and who will be when mountains are gone for ever?

8. Our life, besides being very short, is exceptionally uncertain: “All the days of his vain life which he spends as a shadow.” We do not know that we shall have even another day of this life; while we are sitting in the pew, our life may end. We cannot tell that we shall see next Sabbath day; another Thursday night may never return to us. Do not let us forget this fact, for if the thought is unpleasant to us, it is because there is something wrong within. The child of God, when he is right with his Father, forgets the uncertainty, and remembers that all things are certain in the eternal purpose and decree of God, and that all changes are wisely ordained, and therefore the uncertainty causes him no distress. Yet this truth should make us live with much caution, and care, and tenderness, and watchfulness. If I may have to appear before my Maker before the clock strikes the hour of midnight, let me set my house in order. Since I may soon die, and not live; since I may be even now trembling on the verge of the unseen world, let me be prepared for everything by making my calling and election sure through faith in Christ Jesus my Lord and Saviour.

9. Yet again, my brethren, our life is not only short and uncertain, but, while we have it, it is exceptionally unsubstantial. Many things which we gain for ourselves with much care are very unsatisfying. Have you never heard the rich man confess that it is so? I have heard it often, and have noted it well. I have looked over his spacious estate, I have sat in his sumptuous mansion, I have heard from him all about his success in business, yet he has added, and added solemnly (the old man spoke not mere words, but spoke it from his heart as he said it), “But what is it all? It yields me no satisfaction now that I am about to leave it.” Have you never heard the scholar, who has won many degrees, and stood at the head of his profession, declare that, the more he knew the less he felt that he knew? In his acquirement of knowledge there was much vexation of spirit, and he could sympathize with Solomon when he said that “much study is a weariness of the flesh.” There is nothing truly substantial apart from God, the Everlasting One, who lives and endures for ever. Depend on it, we ourselves shall in a short time prove the insubstantiality of our own lives. Worms will be scrambling for our flesh; and if we do not have Christ as our Saviour, demons will be fighting for our soul, and we ourselves, unable to help ourselves, shall have passed away from all that we once thought real, with a groan because it was so false and so deceptive. “Truly, every man at his best state is altogether vanity.”

10. Now, look, my brethren; it ill becomes us, whose lives are so uncertain, and whose lives at the best are so unsubstantial, to begin to contend with him in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways. It would be far better for us at once to submit ourselves to him, and to learn that in him we live, and move, and have our being; and that if we live and move at all, it is all derived life and motion. It would be well for us also to give the Lord all this poor life, whatever it may be, to be used in his service, and to be spent for his glory. It will give us something comforting and cheering to look back on, if we have submitted to him, and laid hold on his way of salvation in Christ Jesus. And if, by his grace, we have lived in him, and with him, and through him, and to him, it will be real life, life that is substantial, “the life that is life indeed.” The shadow, as it really is, will be a substance veiled in a shadowy form. It will have been worth while to have lived, for I consider that angels envy men, after all. They do not have our battle-fields, they cannot have our victories. It is true that they do not have our sins, but they can never know “free grace and dying love” as we have known them. It is true that they do not have to deplore wanderings such as ours, but neither have they been brought back on the great Shepherd’s shoulders; nor has there been music made for them as for sons who were dead but are alive again. If we play well our part as Christians, they will think of us as Englishmen of old thought of their fellow countrymen on a hard fought battle-field, they envied those who were privileged to fight battles that should bring to them such honour; and unfallen spirits might almost envy martyrs who can suffer for Christ even to death, and men and women who, in their particular way, can contend against iniquity, and bear their witness for the truth and holiness of God, and for the precious blood of the Only-Begotten in this sin-stricken world. May God help us to lay our poor life, such as it is, at his dear feet! It is only a flower; but if the flower is once put into his hand, it will not fade. It is a frail vase, that is apt enough to break under its own weight; but if it is once presented to him, he will preserve it, and give it a place of honour in his palace above. If our poor life is given up to Christ, he will keep it for his own kingdom and glory, he will link it with his own immortality, and give to us eternal life just like his own. Can we ever think of contending with him? No, that can never be; rather let us come and creep beneath the shadow of his wings, let us be as little chicks that hide beneath the hen, and he shall cover us with his feathers, and under his wings we shall trust. His truth shall be our shield and buckler, we shall lose our nothingness in his eternal all, and we shall become great, blessed, happy, everlasting, in our God, through Christ Jesus, his dear Son.

11. II. Now I lead you on, in the second place, to another consideration, which is in the text, WHAT IS BEST FOR US IS NOT KNOWN TO US. It is bad for us to quarrel with God about his providence, for Solomon wisely asks, “Who knows what is good for man in this life?” We certainly do not know, as for temporals, what is best for us in this life; neither do we know even in higher matters, in spiritual experience, “what is good for man in this life.”

12. Suppose we ask the question, “Which is the better for a man in this life — wealth or poverty?” — what will be the answer? Wealth — the eye is dazzled with it; it brings many comforts and luxuries; yet there is a passage of Scripture as true now as when the Master first uttered it, “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God.” Paul wrote to his son Timothy, “Those who will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.” Scripture all through represents the acquisition of wealth as involving very solemn responsibilities, and loading the soul with burdens. I do not doubt that there are some men who could never have sinned as they have done if they had not been successful in acquiring wealth. They could never have plunged into a damnation so deep as what is theirs if they had not been able to indulge their lusts without stint. It must be a dreadful thing for a man with an evil heart to feel that he can get anything that his evil heart desires. Who knows, then, that wealth is a good thing? Do any choose poverty? There have been some men who have willingly chosen extreme poverty as a help to grace, but I gravely question whether it has been a wise choice. There is as much to be said concerning the evils and the disadvantages of poverty as there is to be said on the other side. He who lacks bread, he who has children around him crying with hunger, he who shivers in the cold blast, is often tempted to envy, and to many other sins which he might not have committed if he had not been in that state. It is not for you or for me to be able to balance the answer to this question, “Who knows what is good for man in this life! — wealth or poverty?” There was a wise man who said, “Give me neither poverty nor riches,” and he seemed to have hit the golden mean. Yet I believe that there is many a man who has been helped to heaven by his poverty; at any rate, he has been incapable of committing some sins into which he might have fallen if the means had been in his hand. He could not destroy himself so effectively in certain ways for lack of the power to do it. Brethren, it may be that some of you will get to heaven best with many talents or pounds entrusted to you; there are others of you who would not get to heaven at all that way, so you do not have the talents or pounds committed to your charge. “Who knows what is good for man in this life — wealth or poverty?” We do not know, so we must leave the question unanswered.

13. Now take another question, — that of health or sickness: “What is good for man in this life?” It seems at first that it must be good for a man to enjoy the best of health, and the most sprightly vigour, does it not? We all wish for it, and we are allowed to do so. No one thinks that sickness and disease can really be in themselves a blessing. Yet I have seen some gentle, holy, devout, matured spirits that could not have come from any garden but what was walled around with disease, and grief, and woe. I could quote many examples, and I have seen very many of them. The engraver’s best art has been spent on them, the engraving tool has been very sharp, and the hammer has struck them very terribly. They would never have been such marvels of the Master’s grace if it had not been for their sorrows. As for myself, personally, I confess that I owe more to the hammer, and the anvil, and the fire, and the forge, than I do to anything else. I have learned to bless the hand that has struck me; I dare not invite its blows, but it has never come to me without being full of blessings. I have seen more stars by night than by day, and I have experienced more of my Master’s love and grace in sorrow than I have ever done in joy. Yet I do not doubt that there are other spirits who have been brought nearer to God in their cheerfulness, saints who, for very gratitude to God for their overflowing delights, and the mercies of this life, and the health of their bodies, have been drawn and bound more closely to their God. I am not going to decide the question; Solomon could not; so I will leave it unanswered, “Who knows what is good for man in this life — health or sickness?”

14. So it is with regard to publicity or obscurity. There are some people whose graces are best seen in public, and they minister for the good of others; they have to be thankful that God has placed them in a position where they are seen, for it has led them to watchfulness and carefulness. The vows of God have been on them, and they have been helped in their way to heaven by the very responsibilities of their public position. But, sometimes, I have wished that I might be a violet, so that I might shed my perfume in some lowly place hidden by leaves. I would have liked, sometimes, to take my place in one of those pews, and listen to someone else proclaiming the story of redeeming love. There must be a great privilege about going in and out of your humble home unseen and unknown; one would escape the public criticism and the unkind envy of many, and the weights of responsibility that are enough to crush us. Yet I do not doubt that obscurity has its problems as well, and that many a man would gladly escape from it. “Who knows what is good for man in this life?” I used to be constantly told by people that they prayed for me that I might be kept humble. Often, I have thought to myself, “Dear souls, if you would only pray that I might be kept alive at all, and preserved from despair, I would be much more thankful,” for if God sets a man up as high as the cross of St. Paul’s, he would be safer there than if the devil set him in an easy chair. If God takes his Son, and sets him on a pinnacle of the temple, he is safe there; and if he were to come down, and hide himself away, he would not be any safer, no, he would be in greater danger than he would be where his Father placed him. It all depends on your being where God puts you. Any man is safe if he is in the place where God would have him to be, and if he trembles for his own safety, and clings to the Strong for strength; but those who think that their position gives them immunity from danger are in peril already from their imagined security. “Who knows what is good for a man in this life, — publicity or obscurity?”

15. So I might go on with many other matters, and say that it is very difficult, indeed, impossible, to judge which is better. What, then? I think that we had better be content to remain just as we are, and be satisfied and thankful to be where God has placed us in his providence. Who knows what is good for us? God does, and that is better than for us to know.

16. Then let us enjoy what God has given us. Make the best of your position by enjoying every mercy that God has bestowed on you; not fretting because he has not given you certain other things, but rejoicing that he has given you what he has bestowed. And use whatever you have for his glory. Instead of repining that you do not have three, four, five, or ten talents, use the one that you have, and put it out at interest for your Lord. Do not sigh for another place, as so many do; they are hoping, wishing, and longing to rise in the world, and if they do not get what they hope for, they will be very grieved and greatly depressed. Rise, if you can; but if, with all your efforts, you do not rise, thank God all the same. You do not know what is best for you; that higher place might have been a snare to you, so be thankful to be where you are, and do not sigh for that position which God has denied to you.

17. Neither dote on the things that you have, for they will soon all pass away. We are travellers, and the world is only like an inn; if our room is uncomfortable, we shall be up and away in the morning. We are soldiers on the battle-field; if the field is rough and stony, let us fight the battle out, and win the victory; then we shall not care what the soil is on which we stand. Remember that, whatever you set your heart on is probably a bad thing for you; if you make up your mind that you must have a certain thing, you have made an idol of it already, and if the idol should really become yours, it would bring a curse with it. Whatever we sin to gain, whatever we sin to keep, must be bad for us; but whatever our heavenly Father sends to us must be right for us to have, and we may well be content to let his unerring wisdom supply what is lacking through our ignorance.

18. I believe that the same question might be asked concerning Christian experience: “Who knows what is good for man in this life?” It must be good to be full of high joys, — to rise to the loftiest heights of holiness and blessedness, must it not? Yes, yes, but it may be good to go down into the very depths, and to know the plague of your own heart, and to feel the scourging of your Father’s rod. “Who knows what is good for man in this life?” A mixed experience may be better than one uniform level either of height or depth. I have sometimes half envied those brethren who are very evenly the same in temperament, never going up and never going down; but I am not sure whether it is not better both to go up and to go down. I have had a taste of both experiences; and if I could change to the uniform even tenor of my way, I would not dare to make the change. I feel about this matter very much as the old woman did when she had been long sick, and one asked her, “Do you not wish to die?” She answered, “I wish the Lord to do with me as he wills.” “But,” said the friend, “suppose the Lord gave you the choice whether you would live or whether you would die.” “Then,” she replied, “I would give it back to him, and ask him to choose for me, for I should not want to have the responsibility of the choice.” Let us try to place ourselves into God’s hands wholly, spirit, soul, and body, and to ask him to do just what he wills with us, since we are quite clear that we do not know how to take care of ourselves.

19. III. Lastly, the text mentions another form of our ignorance, and it is this, WHAT SHALL BE AFTER US IS NOT KNOWN TO US: “for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?”

20. The question may mean, “Who can tell a man what he will yet go through in this life?” He is now well-to-do, he is prosperous, he is healthy; but who can tell him what is yet to come to him? No one; therefore, do not let the rich man boast in the wealth which may take wings and fly away. Do not let the man who is honoured by his fellows think that the applause of men is any more substantial than a vapour. Do not let any man boast in what he now possesses, for who can tell what may yet come to him, or be taken from him?

21. But I think that the text has its main bearing on what will happen after death. That we must leave in the Lord’s hands; it is not for us to know what will be done when we are called away from the earth. Many are plotting and planning to settle what shall come to pass after they are gone; yet much of their scheming is in vain. Someone else will take that house which you have had such trouble to build; strangers will tramp along those halls, and laugh in those rooms, and know nothing about you. Your sons, whom you have brought up with the idea that they shall succeed you, may die before you do. You may have your estates permanently secured, as men try to do, and the chains of the law may seem to be riveted firm, but accident and the corrosion of time may bring them all to nothing.

22. “Who can tell a man what shall be after him?” I cannot tell what shall happen when my work is done, — what shall happen here, who shall come here, where these people will go, what shall happen to the College, what shall become of the Orphanage, — all these questions are proposed to me very often, and friends ask, “What is to be done when you are gone?” Well, dear friends, if you could tell me what will be done, I wish you would not, for I do not want to know; what has that to do with us? Are we not to leave the future as we leave the present, in the hand of God? And will not all be well! The Lord did very well without us before we were born, and he will do very well without us after we are dead. I will not say that he will not notice our departure, for he notices everything; but it will be an almost insignificant item in the innumerable details of his universal government.

23. So, with regard to our present service, let us just feel this, “It is not for me to be worried because of what happens to me, and to quarrel with God about it.” God sees the end from the beginning. He takes in the whole run of things, and it may be for his glory that some of us should work on throughout our whole life with very little success, because he intends that the “work” should appear to us, and the “glory” to our children. He may intend this age to be a time of sowing, and the next age to be a time of reaping. He may intend that this century may be spent in going around the walls of the Jericho of sin, and that, suddenly, there will come a day which he has ordained for the tumbling down of every castle and every portion of that vast wall. It is for you and me to know that God sees further than we do, and not to begin to measure his work with our inch line. Just leave it all with him, you who are troubled either about the present or the future.

24. As for you who have no God with whom you can leave either the present or the future, you have good reason to worry yourselves, and you may well do so, for you have no helper. You have no God to live with, and no God to die with, no God for the day of judgment, no God to help you when you are driven from his presence and from the glory of his power. You have turned your back on him; one day he will turn his back on you. You may well be afraid, you may well let care gnaw at your very hearts, for again I remind you that you have no helper. Oh, that you were wise, that you would seek God in Christ Jesus, and be reconciled to him! May his infinite grace bring you to this blessed condition!

25. But it is mainly to his children that I have been speaking; and to you who believe, I hope I need no longer to say, “Let us rejoice in our Father’s love and care, and not want to know what is before us, but be content to believe; not want to judge, but be satisfied to leave it all with him.” So, while we live, we shall praise his name, and when we die, we shall still go on praising his name for ever and ever. I feel as if I could not help ending my discourse with that verse which I have often quoted before, —

    All that remains for me
       Is but to love and sing,
    And wait until the angels come
       To bear me to the King.

May God bless you, for Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.

 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, A Happy Portion — The Christian’s Treasure” 757}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 39” 39}
 {See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement — Seeking Guidance” 626}

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 147}

1. Praise the LORD: for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant; and praise is beautiful.

“It is good,” that is to say, it is a thing that ought to be done, it is a right thing “to sing praises to our God.” “It is good,” that is to say, it is profitable, it is beneficial to our own hearts. Prayer is refreshing, but praise is even more so, for there may be, and there often is, in prayer, the element of selfishness; but praise rises to a still higher level. Prayer and praise together make up spiritual respiration; we breathe in the air of heaven when we pray, and we breathe it out again when we praise.

“It is good to sing praises to our God.” What a mercy it is that it is pleasant, too! There are many things that are good that are not pleasant, and many more things that are pleasant that are not good; but here is a holy duty which is also a heavenly pleasure. It is the bliss of heaven to praise God; let us anticipate that bliss by praising him now, “for it is pleasant.” And then there is a third commendation: “and praise is beautiful.” That is to say, it is truly beautiful, it is a good thing in its right place, it is according to the natural and spiritual fitness of things that God should be praised. In God’s sight, one of the most beautiful things in the world is a grateful heart: “it is pleasant; and praise is beautiful.”

2. The LORD builds up Jerusalem:

There is something for which to praise him. When the Jews came back from captivity, and found their beautiful city all in ruins, God helped them to build it up again, so they sang, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem.” We may sing the same sacred song, for the psalmist does not say, “The Lord has built, ” but “The Lord builds up Jerusalem,” he is going on to build it: the Divine Architect’s plan of salvation is still being carried out, the great Master-Builder is still placing stone on stone in the wondrous courses of his election of grace: “The Lord builds up Jerusalem.” Oh Lord, build up this part of the wall!

2. He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.

Those who were far away, captives in Babylon, he brought back again. God has a long arm, which he is putting around his outcast chosen ones, for he intends to gather them all to himself. He has an elect redeemed people, and they are scattered throughout the whole world; but even Caiaphas knew enough of the truth to declare that Christ “should gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”

3. He heals the broken in heart,

He still does it, notice that, for the verb is in the present tense: “He heals the broken in heart.” These are two of God’s great occupations, “to gather outcasts, and to heal broken hearts.”

3. And binds up their wounds.

Oh, what a blessed God he is, to interest himself so much in the sorrows of mankind, to give his infinite mind and heart to this wondrous work of healing the wounds of our lost humanity! You see, it is like this that the Lord builds up Jerusalem; the two verses are the complement of each other. “The Lord builds up Jerusalem,” — with what? Outcasts, and broken hearts, and wounded spirits. Many of the stones that God puts into his great temple are such as men would exclude. Broken hearts and bruised spirits, that look as if they never could have any strength in them, God uses in building up his Church.

What a wonderful leap it is from this third verse to the next!

4. He counts the number of the stars; he calls them all by their names.

Yet there is as much grandeur and glory in his compassion as in his omniscience. To bind up wounds, is as Godlike a work as to count the stars; God does both, taking perhaps a greater delight in the first than in the second. There is not a star in the church’s firmament to which God has not given the light, he knows the number of his shining ones, and he keeps their light burning; their names are all in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

5, 6. Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite. The LORD lifts up the meek:

That is the Lord’s usual way; those who are down, he raises; but —

6. He casts the wicked down to the ground.

This is what God is always doing, lifting up and overturning, putting people and things in their right places.

7. Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise on the harp to our God:

False gods have been served with discordant yells and cries of agony, but our God is to be worshipped with songs of thanksgiving. Do not think that he desires you to come before him with groans and moans: he will hear them if they are sincere, but he would have you raise your hearts to something higher and better.

8. Who covers the heaven with clouds,

Little children do not think that is a matter for gratitude; they are sorry to see the clouds and the rain, but wise men know how full of blessing the clouds are that God sends. It is even so in providence and grace.

8. Who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow on the mountains.

For every blade of grass, we ought to thank and praise the Lord. If he is a benefactor who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, what a Benefactor must he be who makes all the blades of grass to grow, without whom there would be nothing at all! Even on the mountains, where it may be that we have no cattle, yet there are wild creatures that must be fed, so the Lord makes the grass to grow there. We are often selfish, and we talk of things as being useless if they are of no use to us. Are there no other living things, then, but men; and is God only to care for those animals which most of all rebel against him? Let us think differently of this matter, and bless the Lord even for the grass that grows on the waste places, where only the antelope or the wild gazelle will feed, for they, too, have their purpose to fulfil in God’s sight.

9. He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry.

Unclean creatures though they are, God feeds them. We have known people to have only one bird in a cage, and yet forget to feed it; but God has myriads of birds, millions of beasts, and innumerable fishes, yet they are not starved. The commissariat {a} of God never fails: my soul, will he not feed you? If he hears ravens, will he not hear your cry?

10. He does not delight in the strength of the horse: he takes no pleasure in the legs of a man.

Man boasts about his strength, and he looks at his fine horse, and brags about its strength; but God has something higher and better than sinew and muscle to boast about.

11. The LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him,

That is his joy. Just as a man is proud of his horse, or of the muscles which enable him to run swiftly, so God takes delight in those who fear him, —

11. In those who hope in his mercy.

These are his jewels; these are his glory.

12-14. Praise the LORD, oh Jerusalem; praise your God, oh Zion. For he has strengthened the bars of your gates; he has blessed your children within you. He makes peace in your borders,

What a blessing this is, not only in a nation, but in a church! If you were ever members of a church where they seemed to quarrel punctually once every month, you would soon be sorry to be a professor of religion at all; but to live in a church where brotherly love rules, this is a thing for which to praise the name of the Lord. “He makes peace in your borders,” —

14. And fills you with the finest of the wheat.

There is generally peace where there is plenty. Dogs fight when there are few bones, and when God’s people are well fed, they do not quarrel with each other so often. If they are fed with the finest of the wheat, there will be peace in their borders.

15, 16. He sends out his commandment on earth: his word runs very swiftly. He gives snow like wool:

Light and fleecy, it covers the plants, and protects them from the cold; the snow is a kind of garment to them from the frost.

16. He scatters the hoar-frost like ashes.

You must often have been reminded of white ashes as you looked at the hoar-frost in the early morning.

17. He casts out his ice like morsels:

Hailstones, like little pieces of bread, broken off and scattered abroad, —

17. Who can stand before his cold?

In all this, the Lord is really fattening the soil, and preparing food for man and beast in the coming spring and summer.

18. He sends out his word, and melts them:

He has only to speak a word, and the ice, the snow, the hoar-frost, and every sign of winter will disappear, and we shall begin to swelter in the heats of summer.

18. He causes his wind to blow,

That is all, —

18. And the waters flow.

Ice-saws and axes could not set free the frozen rivers but his wind, the very breath from the mouth of God does it at once.

19. He shows his word to Jacob, his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

And we have come into the place of Jacob and Israel, even we who have believed; for Abraham is the father of believers, and we are his spiritual seed according to the promise. So we have to bless God that he has shown us his word, his statutes and his judgments.

20. He has not dealt so with any nation:

There are no other people who know the Lord as God’s people do; and remember, they constitute one nation. We are Englishmen, perhaps, or Americans, that is a skin-deep distinction: but if we are in Christ, we are one family, we are of that one unique nation which, all over the world, is distinct from every other nation.

20. And as for his judgments, they have not known them.

If they have been left in the dark, let us do all we can to carry or send the light of the gospel to them; and as we think of the great things God has done for us, let us join in a joyful Hallelujah, as the Psalm ends, —

20. Praise the LORD.

{a} Commissariat: Any non-military department or organization for the supply of provisions. OED.

The Christian, Privileges, A Happy Portion
757 — The Christian’s Treasure
1 How vast the treasure we possess!
   How rich thy bounty, King of grace!
   This world is our, and worlds to come:
   Earth is our lodge, and heaven our home.
2 All things are ours; the gift of God,
   The purchase of a Saviour’s blood;
   While the good Spirit shows us how
   To use and to improve them too.
3 If peace and plenty crown my days,
   They help me, Lord, to speak thy praise;
   If bread of sorrows be my food,
   Those sorrows work my real good.
4 I would not change my blest estate,
   For all that earth calls good or great;
   And while my faith can keep her hold,
   I envy not the sinner’s gold.
5 Father, I wait thy daily will:
   Thou shalt divide my portion still:
   Grant me on earth what seems thee best,
   Till death and heaven reveal the rest.
                        Isaac Watts, 1721.

Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 39
1 Behold, Oh Lord, my days are made
   A handbreadth at the most;
   Ere yet ‘tis noon my flower must fade,
   And I give up the ghost.
2 Then teach me, Lord, to know mine end,
   And know that I am frail;
   To heaven let all my thoughts ascend,
   And let not earth prevail.
3 What is there here that I should wait,
   My hope’s in thee alone;
   When wilt thou open glory’s gate
   And call me to thy throne?
4 A stranger in this land am I,
   A sojourner with thee;
   Oh be not silent at my cry,
   But show thyself to me.
5 Though I’m exiled from glory’s land,
   Yet not from glory’s King;
   My God is ever near at hand,
   And therefore I will sing.
                  Charles H. Spurgeon, 1866.

The Christian, Conflict and Encouragement
626 — Seeking Guidance <7s.>
1 Heavenly Father! to whose eye
   Future things unfolded lie;
   Through the desert where I stray,
   Let thy counsels guide my way.
2 Lead me not, for flesh is frail,
   Where fierce trials would assail;
   Leave me not, in darken’d hour,
   To withstand the tempter’s power.
3 Lord! uphold me day by day;
   Shed a light upon my way;
   Guide me through perplexing snares;
   Care for me in all my cares.
4 Should thy wisdom, Lord, decree
   Trials long and sharp for me,
   Pain or sorrow, care or shame,
   Father! glorify thy name.
5 Let me neither faint nor fear,
   Feeling still that thou art near;
   In the course my Saviour trod,
   Tending still to thee, my God!
                        Josiah Conder, 1836.

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).

Terms of Use

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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