2576. Zion’s Prosperity

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No. 2576-44:301. A Sermon Delivered On A Thursday Evening, Early In The Year Of 1856, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, June 26, 1898.

You shall arise, and have mercy on Zion: for the time to favour her, yes, the set time, is come. For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust. {Ps 102:13,14}

1. A selfish man in trouble is extremely hard to comfort, because the source of his joy lies entirely within himself, and when he is sad, all his springs are dry. But a large-hearted man, a man of benevolence and Christian philanthropy, has other springs from which to supply himself with comfort, besides those which are found within himself. He can go to his God first of all, and there seek abundant help; and we who try to comfort him, can use other arguments not relating to himself, but to the world at large, to his country, and above all, to the Church of Christ. The writer of this Psalm seems to have been extremely sorrowful; he says, “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am as a sparrow alone on the house-top.” And, finding there was no solace in his own circumstances, the only way in which he could comfort himself, was to believe that God would arise, and have mercy on Zion: though he was sad, yet Zion should prosper; however low his own estate was, yet Zion should arise. Christian man! you can always comfort yourself in God’s gracious dealings towards the Church at large; but, if the church of which you are a member is in a sad and sickly condition, how shall you comfort yourself? Surely, then, you will be compelled to say with the psalmist, “I have eaten ashes like bread, and mingled my drink with weeping, because of your indignation and your wrath; for you have lifted me up, and cast me down.”

2. We shall notice four things. The nature, necessity, means, and signs, of church prosperity.

3. I. The NATURE OF THE PROSPERITY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.

4. Here I shall differ from many, for I think that many churches, that are called prosperous, are far from being so; while some churches, which are despised, are the most prosperous in God’s estimation.

5. We do not conceive it to be, necessarily, a sign of a church’s prosperity when the congregation is large. We love to see people throng to hear God’s Word, and to hear assembled multitudes shout aloud the praises of Jehovah; but when we witness these things, we do not take it for granted that the church is prosperous. Concerning some places, we would pray God to empty every seat, for there is in them a going away to Rome, or a wandering from the fundamental principles of God’s Word. The building may be full, crammed to its very doors; but there may be a desolating blight in it. There may be more prosperity in a place where only six of Christ’s true people meet together, than where thousands congregate to worship God in a way which they think to be right, but which is not in accordance with his sacred Word.

6. Nor do we conceive that the riches of the people make a church prosperous. Ask some member of a certain aristocratic community, “Is your church prospering?” “Yes,” he says, “there were nineteen carriages waiting outside, the other Sunday.” Ask another the same question; and he will say, “Yes, So-and-so, who is worth so many thousands, has joined the church.” We say that a rich man’s soul is as precious as a poor man’s; but, at the same time, if anyone could bring to us all the gold mines of Peru, the church would not prosper by it. There are many churches which are rich in wealth, but extremely poor in faith, which might well barter all of their riches for the humble piety of the Methodist, or the earnest zeal of the ancient Puritan.

7. Nor do we think that a church is necessarily prosperous, because the minister is extremely eloquent. The tendency of the present day is towards what is called “intellectual preaching.” I never could see any intellect in it. I have heard literary men preach, and I could only say of them what Locke said, “If a man cannot make you understand what he means, very likely it is because there is no meaning in it.” If you cannot understand him at once, just leave him alone, for he probably does not understand himself. We hold it to be a wrong thing that intellectual Rationalism {a} should disgrace our churches; God’s pulpit was meant for God’s gospel. We have theatres and public halls, in which men may teach philosophy, if they wish to do so. Put away Christianity out of our pulpits, and what have we done? The pulpit is the main bastion of the Church, — the Thermopylae {b} of Christendom. Here the great truths of the Bible must be taught; and he who does not use his pulpit to preach the gospel in it, has disgraced it, even though his talents are almost superhuman; he has disgraced God’s Church in not unceasingly proclaiming the Evangelical principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

8. Then, my friends, you may ask me, how I can tell whether the Church is prospering? — I answer, — I must consider for what purposes the Church was formed; and, if it is not accomplishing that particular object, it is not prospering. The Church is established for two objects: first, for bringing God’s wandering sheep back to the fold of Christ; and, secondly, for fostering those sheep that are brought within the fold.

9. We enter a place where we hear divine truth proclaimed. We enquire, “How many have been added to the church this year?” “No addition, no progress.” We enquire again another year; the same reply is received, “No sinners saved, none brought into the fold.” We are very respectful towards all ministers of the everlasting gospel, we would sooner receive a bad one as our friend than reject a good one; but we will not flatter our brother, we will not care about his congregation; if he does not win souls to Christ, his church is not prospering; if the pool of baptism has never been opened to receive a convert, if the church-doors have never turned on their hinges to receive souls seeking salvation, if no new members are received, to sit down at the table of the Lord, if God’s elect have not been brought in, we have strong suspicions whether that man is a minister of God; we are certain that he is not a successful one. That church is in a sad, sad condition, which never hears the cry of new-born souls in its midst. God forbid we should preach for even a month or a week without winning souls! We think it would be worse than death to live a year, and not hear of hundreds brought to Christ. It is true prosperity when the Lord’s children are gathered out from among the ungodly, when God is pleased, by the agency of his Word, to break hard hearts, to bend stubborn wills, and to bring the mourners in Zion to rejoice in the love of the Saviour. Is your church increasing like this? Then it is truly prospering.

10. We also said there is another reason for the establishment of the Church of Christ, that is, for its own edification. It is a happy church in which the sheep of Christ are fed. Beloved, if God’s people are not fed, we do not think the church is prospering. Some have laughed at the term “fed.” We have heard people say, “What do they mean by being fed?” Ah! children know the meaning of that word, and our hearers know what is meant by it; they do not care about our garnishings, for the platter on which we serve the food, for the manner in which we carve it; we may cut it with a blunt knife, yet the child of God loves it; but if there is no food for the saints, if the members do not grow in grace, if they are not irreproachable in their conduct, if they do not have the spirit of Christ, if they do not enjoy fellowship with Jesus, if they have not attained to the knowledge of the love of God in Christ, if they have not entered into the rest of faith, if they do not live near Jesus, and endeavour as much as in them lies to imitate him, — we say, the church is not prospering. It may be the wealthiest under heaven, but it may also be the most impoverished. It may be the most learned, according to human views, but the most heretical; the farthest from prosperity, and the nearest to blasphemy. Let us look at our churches as they ought to be viewed. Are souls saved? Are saints edified and built up? This is the only thing I ask myself. Some say this, some that, and some the other, about our church; we do not care in the least about the ten thousand opinions people form of us; we only say, sinners are saved, and we will keep on preaching as long as this is the case; and if we can find men, and women, and children, declaring that they are spiritually fed, we feel that our mission is successful. Is it so in your church? Then you have the elements of a prosperous one.

11. II. We shall now consider THE NECESSITY FOR THE PROSPERITY OF OUR CHURCHES.

12. What does that matter to some? They come regularly to chapel, and occupy their pews; but they never ask themselves the question, “Does our church prosper?” Oh, no! that is the minister’s business; the deacons must look after that matter. Our friend comes to chapel Sabbath after Sabbath, like a very religious man; he does not go to sleep, I have that on good evidence. Sometimes, the sermon should stir him up, yet it does not. He approves of the idea of everyone minding his own business; and, while carrying out the old maxim, “Charity begins at home,” he allows it to end there. Now and then, he prays for the minister, if called on at the prayer meeting; but he does not regard the minister as his brother, so he does not pray for him at the family altar. He hears that missions are succeeding abroad; but, for all he cares, the mission stations might be closed. He would like the church to prosper, but he would not put himself out of his way even to secure that result; and, as for giving himself up, like Curtius {c} of old, and leaping into the gulf, to serve the church, — oh, no! he would never commit so rash an act. He would not endanger his own life, lest the church should be damaged by losing so good a man.

13. But I trust that some of you have a regard for the church’s prosperity; if not, you ought to have. Let me remind you why; even selfish as we may be, we ought to care for the success of the church, first, for our own sakes. If we do not, by divine grace, live and labour for our fellow creatures, their decline will have a deleterious influence on our own piety. The coldness of the church of which I am a member tends to chill me; the lukewarmness of my fellow Christians has a tendency to pull me down; but if I belong to a church which is rich in grace, the tendency will be to fill my mouth with marrow and fatness, and to make me rejoice in the ways of the Lord.

14. Your families, too, are deeply interested in the prosperity of the church. I know that many sons and daughters do not attend the chapels where their parents go; their parents do not ask them to do so, they would not like them to go there. “It does very well for us,” they say, “but it would not suit them.” Then, there must be something amiss there. What is good for the parent is good for the child, and what is good for the child is good for the parent. I like what Robert Hall once said when he had been preaching a doctrine which he was told was suitable for old women, — “If it is so,” he replied, “then it is suitable for everyone, and I shall preach that doctrine again.” Now, if you love your families, and would see them brought into Christ’s Church, you must labour with God in prayer for them, and ask that he would be pleased to have mercy on Zion, that her set time may come, that her servants may take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust.

15. Also, for the sake of the neighbourhood in which you live, labour for God, seeking his blessing, so that your church may prosper. Wherever a minister’s voice is raised in the cause of his Master, all around there ought to be a green spot; as in the desert, where water is to be found, there is an oasis, where the traveller can rest, so, where a house for God is built, there ought to be a green spot where the efforts of the tract distributor and the Sunday School teacher should tend to keep the soil fertile.

16. Again, for the sake of our nation, seek the prosperity of Zion. If we are to be a prosperous nation, we shall not accomplish that result by our commerce, or by the force of arms, but by our Christianity. As long as Christ’s Church ever remains faithful in this land, old England shall stand in the forefront of the nations. England has been the cradle of the gospel, and therefore she has flourished; and, rest assured that, just as the true faith grows strong, so England shall be mighty. The flag of old England is nailed to the mast, not by our sailors, but by our God. England is safe as long as she keeps firmly by the true Protestant principles of the everlasting gospel; her ministers need never fear for her, for firm as the eternal hills, strong as the mighty mountains, shall this our happy land for ever rest while she is true to Christ. May God grant that the Church may prosper for old England’s sake!

17. But, most of all, we want to see the Church prosper for Christ’s sake. He is everything to us; compared with Christ, our nationality is less than nothing, and vanity. But, oh! when we think of all our Saviour did and suffered for us here below, surely we can desire nothing less than for him to see the travail of his soul, and to be abundantly satisfied. When you bend your knee in prayer to God to bless his Church, think that you hear Christ groaning in Gethsemane, that you see him agonizing in the garden; think of him when the thorns were placed on his head, think of the shame, the spitting, the plucking off of the hair that he endured. Indeed, when you do pray for the Church, think then that you behold the Lamb of God expiring on the cross, think that you hear him cry, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani,” — “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” When you think of these things, surely you will say, “Did Jesus suffer like this to win a crown, and shall I not pray that that crown may rest on his head? Did Jesus die like this that his children might be ransomed, and his elect saved, and shall I not pray that he may achieve that desire?” For your Master’s sake, then, for your Lord’s sake, for his blood and agonies’ sake, I beseech you, always pray for Zion, “pray for the peace of Jerusalem,” “they shall prosper who love her.”

18. III. We notice next, THE ONLY MEANS OF REVIVAL IN GOD’S CHURCH.

19. What is it? We may hear of some great evangelist going through the land; surely he will revive the churches. We will hold a convocation of the clergy, and they shall devise means of reviving the churches. The psalmist does not think so; he says, “You shall arise, ” as if God had nothing to do but to arise, and then his Church would arise, too; for, when God arises, Zion begins to prosper. How easy are the methods by which God accomplishes his great works! No doubt, if we had had to devise means for lighting up this earth, when the darkness of the evening first came over it, we should have recommended some fifty thousand great lights hung around in various parts of the world; but look at God’s wondrous means of lighting the globe — the sun rises, the light shines, and all is done! So it is with God’s plan of reviving his Church. We devise this plan, and the other; but God only arises, and has mercy on Zion, and “the time to favour her, yes, the set time, is come.”

20. Let us learn this lesson; if our church is to be made to prosper, God must do it; if we are to grow up in Christ, and see great revivings in these latter days, God must do it. Can the minister revive the Church? Can the people revive it? Certainly not; only God can accomplish that great work. He must arise, and have mercy on Zion. There are means which he puts into the hands of his people, and wishes them to use; but, still, the ultimate reason for a church’s growth is, that God arises, and has mercy on her. If the prosperity of a church consists in the salvation of sinners, must not God arise to save? If the building up of God’s elect is another part of spiritual prosperity, must not God arise to build up his people in their faith, for “unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it?” You may bring me a man filled with the Holy Spirit, possessing the zeal of Peter, or the eloquence of Paul, but there will be no prosperity in God’s Church unless God himself bestows the heavenly shower, and sends salvation down. What our churches need, just now, is not simply men of God, but we need more of God’s own presence and power in our midst. We think we have our God among us; but I fear we do not have so much of his presence as our forefathers used to have. I am inclined to look back with holy envy on the olden times, — the days of George Whitfield, or of Rowland Hill; then there was a larger influx into the Church than there is now, and a more visible display of God’s Holy Spirit. We are multiplying our places of worship, and doing very much towards evangelizing the world; but we do not have the shout of a King in our midst as we used to have. We have our soldiers clad in steel, their arms bright and glittering, their swords of the best metal; but the great lack is, we do not have the King’s presence as we once had. I am sure, having passed through many churches, there is a sad lack of the influences of the Holy Spirit; there is a lack of vital godliness and earnest piety; there is some supplication, but not that prevailing prayer which thunders in the ears of God, and brings copious blessings from on high. Where are the Elijahs now who can seal up the bottles of heaven? Where are there now on the earth those who can face a multitude, and prophesy to the dry bones, knowing that, when they speak, souls shall be saved? Go into many prayer meetings. In London, — I hope it is not so generally throughout the country, — the minister is obliged to say that he does not have enough people present to ring the changes, {d} but he himself has to pray twice to fill up the time; by all his preaching he cannot get the people to pray. Shame on such a church! This state of things proves that God is not in our midst as he was formerly. When God shall arise, his Church shall arise in earnest, fervent prayer, for the time to favour Zion, yes, the set time, will then have come.

21. IV. Now, beloved, let us consider the fourth point, which is, THE SIGNS THAT GOD’S CHURCH IS BEING BLESSED: “For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust.”

22. What are the “stones” of Zion? The Church of God is built of living stones, — that is, the children of God; and it is a good sign when God’s servants take pleasure in each other, and “favour the dust,” — that is, not the ministers, nor the deacons, but the poor members.

23. In these degenerate times, we do not take so much pleasure in each other as we ought; there is little Christian sociability, but it is a happy sign when the members meet in a cordial spirit, and begin to speak of what the Saviour did and suffered here below, and of Jesus’ charming name, which has a sweeter sound than the most melodious music; it is profitable indeed when Christians begin to speak often to each other, and God himself turns eavesdropper to his children. He listens and hears, and a Book of Remembrance is written; the Lord himself becomes a reporter, and records the conversation of those who fear him, and who think on his name. We shall be sure the church is prospering when all the members love each other, and the poorer ones are not overlooked. There are some chapels where a Christian brother and sister are divided by that rail in the centre; they have sat there for years, yet they do not know each other’s names. They showed each other the hymn one day, when one came late; but they have never shaken hands. They are members of the same church, and one of them may be poor and starving, but the other knows nothing about it, because he does not “favour her dust.” But, when God arises, and has mercy on Zion, his people say, —

    Hast thou a lamb in all thy flock
       I would disdain to feed?
    Hast thou a foe, before whose face
       I fear thy cause to plead?

It is a good sign for a church when its members “take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust.”

24. The next translation we will give of this word “stones” is, the doctrines of the Bible. By the term “doctrines,” I do not mean merely some three or four particular points, but all the doctrines which build up the Church of Christ. In these days, it is usual to hear people say, “Doctrines are of no importance; you may believe this or that, but you will go to heaven all the same.” It is not so, beloved; God has given us a Bible, and common sense, and judgment, and if we foolishly say, “It does not matter what we believe,” we sin against God by it. It is important that we should be right in doctrine, though not as important as that we should be right in heart. The tendency of this age is towards what is called “charity.” I hold that charity is not for us to give up our convictions, but for each of us to preach them boldly. The charity of this age wants us to get rid of our angles and points; it says, “Do not say anything to offend such and such an individual.” Nonsense! True charity is for me to boldly speak my views, and for my brother of an opposite opinion to do the same; and for me to love him, if he holds the Head, Christ Jesus; but it is no charity to put a gag on us all. There is a great evil in the universal charity of the present day; it is Satan transforming himself into an angel of light. He sees us divided into different squadrons, and he says, “Put down your flags; no sectarianism”; he means, “No religion.” But let us all keep to our own regiments, and fight manfully for them, yet combining against the common enemy. Let us hold God’s truth, but not with a slippery hand. If a doctrine is true, let us grip it firmly, though the earth shakes or the heavens fall. Christian men, where there is a love for God’s truth, God will bless his Church; but because this is a time-serving age, because we have not come out plainly with those things which distinguish us from each other, because we have paid too much deference to each other’s views, and have not boldly declared the great truths of his Word, — these are the reasons why God has to some extent deserted us.

25. You say, “I do not see so much in doctrines, after all.” Then you will not see much prosperity. I love so much what I believe to be true, that I would fight for every grain of it; not for the “stones” only, but for the very “dust of it.” I hold that we ought not to say that any truth is non-essential; it may be non-essential to salvation, but it is essential for something else. Why! you might as well take one of the jewels out of the Queen’s crown, and say it is non-essential, she will be Queen all the same! Will anyone dare to tell God that any doctrine is non-essential? Oh gracious Spirit, have you written what is non-essential? Have you given me a Book concerning which I say, “My father and mother believed it all, but it is not necessary for me to believe it?” God has given me a judgment; am I to follow in the wake of other people, thinking I shall be sure to be right, and that God will never ask me what I was? This is an easy kind of religion! It was not so in the days of good old John Bunyan and Berridge; they sang a far different song. But now people are saying, “I can listen to So-and-so and So-and-so,” — men who contradict each other. We cannot think much of people, who can hear opposite opinions, and yet believe both to be correct. We cannot expect much growth unless you hold the truth, and take pleasure in the stones of Zion, and, “favour her dust,” — every atom of it.

26. Once again, the stones of Christ’s Church are the ordinances, and God’s people ought to take care that they love her “stones,” and favour her “dust.” For those two divine institutions, baptism and the Lord’s supper, and the observance of them as handed down to us from apostolic times, there ought to be an intense love in the hearts of God’s people, that we may be kept from the innovations of men. Let us always love what God has given us; it may be thought by some to be antiquated, yet let us never let it go; for then God will build up the ruined walls of Zion.

27. I may mention also that it is a good sign of the church’s prosperity when the ministry of the Word and the prayer meeting are well attended; — especially the latter. A friend of mine said, the other evening, “I shall go to the lecture tonight, but I did not go on Monday, for it was only a prayer meeting.” Why, that is the best service in the week! What is to become of your minister, in the other services, if you do not meet to pray for him? Yet many professing Christians never think of meeting for prayer, they leave that duty to the old members, those who always speak about “the unthinking horse rushing into the battle.” A prayer meeting ought to be regarded as superior to any other service; and there should be at least all the members met together to pray. If you say, “It is only a prayer meeting,” even that is the “dust” of Zion, and God’s people “take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust,” — the little services as well as the great services: “You shall arise, and have mercy on Zion: for the time to favour her, yes, the set time, is come. For your servants take pleasure in her stones, and favour her dust.”

28. And now, dear friends, you may not agree with me concerning my ideas of a church’s prosperity, but there must be one thing you have observed, as the great need of the churches in the present day; that is, the need of more prayer, more firm attachment to the walls of Zion, and greater love for the doctrines of the Bible; and, I beseech you, be henceforth doubly in earnest in seeking for God’s Spirit to enable you to cling heart and soul to every “stone” and every grain of “dust” in God’s temple of truth, and let nothing be given up to please men; — cling firmly to all that God has ordained, and he will prosper and bless you.

{a} Rationalism: Theol. The practice of explaining in a manner agreeable to reason whatever is apparently supernatural in the records of sacred history. OED. {b} Thermopylae: Place where several hundred Spartans held off the entire Persian army of a million or more in 480 BC. {c} Curtius: A legendary hero of ancient Rome. According to legend, in 362 BC a deep chasm opened in the Roman Forum. The seers declared that the pit would never close until Rome’s most valuable possession was thrown into it. Claiming that nothing was more precious than a brave citizen, Curtius leaped, fully armed and on horseback, into the chasm, which immediately closed. See Explorer "http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/147219/Marcus-Curtius" {d} Ring the changes: This phrase derives from the practice of bell ringing. Each pattern of the order of striking the bells is called a change. In order to “ring the changes” all the variations of striking pattern are rung, bringing the ring back to its starting point. See Explorer "http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/302700.html"

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Eze 34:11-31}

The former part of the chapter contains a prophetic denunciation against the evil shepherds, — the men who did not feed the flocks, but fed themselves, — who fouled, with their filthy feet, the waters where the flocks drank, and trod on the soft grass that otherwise might have afforded pasture for the sheep. After pronouncing judgment on them, the Lord turns his thoughts to his sheep, and gives this precious promise, —

11. For thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I, even I, will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.

The shepherds did not do this; they left the sheep to wander, and they were lost on the mountains; but where men fail, God proves himself all-sufficient. My hearer, are you sitting under an unprofitable ministry? Then look to the Chief Shepherd, and not to the man who is unfaithful as an under-shepherd.

12. Just as a shepherd seeks for his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so I will seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all the places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.

It does not matter where the place is, the Lord will find his sheep. If it is the castle of Giant Despair, he will find them there; if it is the worst dungeon in Doubting Castle, he will find them there; they may have wandered on the mountains of Despondency and Dejection; they may have been lost in the gorges of some dark valley of Desperation; but the Lord says, “I will both search for my sheep, and seek them out.” And notice that he does not seek without finding. He finds them, for he knows where they are. Oh, is that not a “cloudy and dark day” when we wander from God, and do not know how to return to him? But clouds and darkness are banished when we see the light of his face.

13-15. And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them to their own land, and feed them on the mountains of Israel by the rivers, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them in a good pasture, and their fold shall be on the high mountains of Israel: there they shall lie in a good fold, and they shall feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down,” says the Lord GOD.

There is a blessed state of rest. God’s flock are not only to be fed, but they are to lie down while they feed. You have sometimes noticed a flock, at noon, when the sun is hot, lie down on the grass, and feed while they rest; that is what God’s people are to do. They are to lie down in tranquillity of spirit; they are to lie down in a state of placid submission to his will, in a state of perfect security, — a state, not of idleness from the Master’s service, but still a state in which they know there is nothing for them to do for their own security, since Christ has accomplished their entire salvation. “ ‘I will feed my flock, and I will cause them to lie down,’ says the Lord God.” It is not every one of God’s people who has attained to this blessed experience, to be able to lie down in quiet confidence and rest.

    Thousands in the fold of Jesus,
       This attainment ne’er can boast;
    To his name eternal praises,
       None of these shall e’er be lost.

Deeply engraved on his heart their names remain. If you are his sheep, yet even if you have never come to lie down in peace, if you cannot say, “I know and am confident,” and cannot rest while you feed; it is still comforting for you to feel that all Christ’s sheep are his sheep, whether they are lying down or standing up, or even wandering from him.

16. “I will seek what was lost, and bring again what was driven away, —

Ah, one little thinks, perhaps, that there should be such a thing as a poor sheep driven away; but it is sometimes true! A legal preacher drives Christ’s sheep away from Christ. A seeking soul would gladly come to Jesus; but he is told that he must be something, and do something, before he can come. The poor sinner would trust in Jesus, but he is told first to get such and such a state of heart, he is told, “You are not the man who should be encouraged to come to Christ; you must have some deeper experience before you come.” But, blessed be God, the Good Shepherd says, if Satan has driven you away, or a legal preacher has driven you away, “I will seek what was lost, and bring again what was driven away,” —

16. And will bind up what was broken, and will strengthen what was sick: but I will destroy the fat and the strong; I will feed them with judgment.

Those who boast of being fat and strong, who glory in themselves, these God will destroy; but the poor, weak, sick souls shall be fed with kindness tempered with judgment.

17, 18. And as for you, oh my flock,” thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, I judge between cattle and cattle, between the rams and the he-goats. Does it seem a little thing to you to have eaten up the good pasture, but you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures? and to have drunk from the deep waters, but you must foul the rest with your feet?

Oh, how many there are, even of God’s sheep, who foul the waters very much! They come up to God’s house, where, perhaps, they get some sweet morsel in the sermon; but there are some things in it with which they do not quite agree. They are walking home with some young Christian, and he is thinking how blessedly he felt under the sermon; while, perhaps, that old professor is grumbling all the time, and stirring up the waters with his feet. If the pasture is not good enough for you, you should let the lambs eat from it, without treading it down; others like it, though you may not; and if you do not like it, you can always leave it! But what is the use of finding fault with it, and treading it under your feet, and not letting others eat from it? It is a great crime, says God: “Does it seem a little thing” to tread it down under your feet, to spoil the spiritual enjoyment of your brethren? It seems, to some, of very little consequence what harm they do to God’s weak ones; but it is not so, it is a great sin to tread down with your feet the rest of your pastures, so you complainers and critics had better beware.

19-21. And as for my flock, they eat what you have trodden with your feet; and they drink what you have fouled with your feet.” Therefore thus says the Lord GOD to them: “Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because you have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, until you have scattered them abroad; —

I wish some people would not thrust so much with side and shoulder in their controversies with their brethren. It may be all very well for a man to be honest and faithful, and push with his horns; but there are some diseased ones who cannot stand rough usage when they are only coming in all simplicity to drink at the fountain of life.

22, 23. Therefore I will save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle. And I will set up one shepherd over them, —

There is only one Shepherd now. As for the rest of us, we are only under-shepherds; there is only one Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ; we are simply the men he employs to look after his sheep a little; but he is the Great Shepherd, and when he shall appear, we also shall appear with him in glory. “I will set up one shepherd over them,” —

23-25. And he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the Lord have spoken it. And I will make with them a covenant of peace, and will cause the evil beasts to cease out of the land: and they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.

Those who have seen the watching of flocks by night in the East, could give you quite a picture of the meaning of this verse. Sometimes the shepherds will sit down in the midst of bushes and briars that may grow at the side of the woods, and taking some of them for firewood, they will light a fire in the night; and when the wolves come around them, the sheep are quite safe. I have read of this in books of travel; and what a beautiful thing it seems to sit, with the full moon shining down on the forest, and the fires alight, feeling that, notwithstanding all the wolves, the sheep are quite safe with the shepherds there to protect them! So it is with God’s people; they must always expect, while they are in the woods of this world, to have a scratch now and then from the briars and thorns; but “they shall dwell safely in the wilderness, and sleep in the woods.” God will always take care of his own, for “the Lord knows those who are his.”

26. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing; and I will cause the shower to come down in its season; there shall be showers of blessing.

My earnest prayer is that this church may be a great blessing to all who are around us, and I firmly believe it will be so, by God’s grace.

27. And the tree of the field shall yield her fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase, and they shall be safe in their land, and shall know that I am the LORD, when I have broken the bands of their yoke, and delivered them out of the hand of those who enslaved them.

The Jews will know that God is the Lord when they shall return to their own land. The poor tired sinner, best of all knows that God is God when he gets the bands of his neck broken off him. By nature, we all have bands around our necks; it is only God who takes them off. Pilgrim, you know, lost his burden when he looked at the cross; it rolled away down into the sepulchre; and if you had asked him then, “Is God, God?” “Yes,” he would have said, “otherwise, I should not have had the bands of my neck removed.” No man who has had the bands taken off him, will ever doubt that there is a God. Let him experience that holy calm which springs from the fact of his having been set at gospel liberty, and he will say, “This is the work of God; no man, no human power could have done it.” I can never be an Arminian as long as I feel myself a sinner. I am obliged to come back to this: Lord, I must be saved by sovereign grace, or not at all. A single day’s experience is enough to take all the self-conceit out of a Christian, if the Lord should leave him to his own unaided strength. We best know that God is God when we have had the bands broken off our necks. How many are there sitting here with bands on their necks; — slaves, wearing the yoke on their shoulders? They cannot see it, but it is there, nevertheless. Who is there who can say, “My bands are broken off from my neck?”

    My sins are drown’d, as in a flood,
    Of Jesus’ pure and matchless blood.

“I am finally discharged; the bands are broken off my neck, truly, God is God.”

28, 29. And they shall no more be a prey to the heathen, neither shall the beast of the land devour them; but they shall dwell safely, and no one shall make them afraid. And I will raise up for them a plant of renown, —

Jesus is “a plant of renown,” because you may go to him at all times, and you will always find fruit on him. That is more than you can say of any other plant. You may go to him, and you will always find the kind of fruit you want; is he not “a plant of renown?” You will find healing virtue in his leaves, and satisfying fruits hanging in clusters on him. He is “a plant of renown,” because his Father planted him; because he has food enough for all his saints, and a gracious variety for all their tastes; because he will blossom through eternity; because of the multitude who sit under his shadow, and rejoice in it. He is “a plant of renown” for his people, for under his shadow they are begotten and brought forth; the greatest transactions of their lives have taken place beneath the shadow of that old tree, “the plant of renown.”

29, 30. And they shall be no more consumed with hunger in the land, neither bear the shame of the heathen any more. So they shall know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people,” says the Lord GOD.

So they shall know it. Do you know it? Has God told it to you? Do you have the witness of the Spirit within your spirit that you are born by God? My hearers, never be satisfied until you get this; for you will never be truly at rest until you know that you are God’s people, and until each one of you can say, “My God, my God, you are my God.”

31. “And you my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God,” says the Lord GOD.

“However much I may have lifted you up, you are only men, after all; but I am not a man, I am your God,” says the Lord. And we rest more on what God is, than on what man is, for he “is able to do very abundantly above all that we ask or think.”

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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