2621. The Sinner’s Refuge

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No. 2621-45:217. A Sermon Delivered On A Lord’s Day Evening, Early In The Year 1857, By C. H. Spurgeon, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, May 7, 1899.

Then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you; so that the slayer may flee there, who kills any person accidentally. {Nu 35:11}

1. You are aware that the principle of blood-revenge is a deep-seated one in the Eastern mind. From the earliest ages, it was always the custom with the Orientals, when a man was murdered, or accidentally killed, for the nearest relative, his heir, or any person related to him, to take revenge for him on the person who, either intentionally or unintentionally, was the means of his death. This revenge was a very special thing to the Oriental mind. The avenger of blood would hunt his victim for forty years, — indeed, until he died, if he was not able to reach him before, — and would be on his trail all his life, so that he might kill him. It was not necessary that the manslayer should have any trial before a judge; his victim was dead, and if the one who killed him was not put to death, it was thought among some tribes to be legitimate to kill his father, or indeed any member of his tribe; and until someone in that tribe was put to death, as a revenge for the man who had been killed, by accident or otherwise, a deadly feud existed between the two clans, which never could be quenched except by blood.

2. Now, when the Lord gave to the Jews this law concerning the cities of refuge, he took advantage of their deep-rooted love for the system of the revenge of blood by the nearest relative; and God acted wisely in this, as he has done in all things. There are two matters mentioned in Scripture which I do not believe God ever approved of, but which, finding they were deep-seated, he did not forbid to the Jews. One was polygamy; the practice of marrying many wives had become so established that, though God abhorred it, yet he permitted it for the Jews, because he foresaw that they would inevitably have broken the commandment if he had made an ordinance that they should have only one wife. It was the same with this matter of blood-revenge; it was so firmly fixed in the mind of the people that God, instead of refusing to the Jews what they regarded as the privilege of taking vengeance on their fellows, enacted a law which rendered it almost impossible that a man should be killed, unless he were really a murderer; for he appointed six cities, at convenient distances, so that, when one man killed another by accident, and so committed homicide, he might at once flee to one of these cities; and though he might have to remain there all his life, yet the avenger of blood could never touch him, if he were innocent. He would have a fair trial; but even if he were found innocent, he must stay within the city, into which the avenger of blood could not by any possibility come. If he went out of the city, the avenger might kill him. He was therefore to suffer perpetual banishment, even for causing death accidentally, in order that it might be seen how much God regarded the rights of blood, and how fearful a thing it is to put a man to death in any way. You see, dear friends, that this prevented the likelihood of anyone being killed who was not guilty of murder; for, as soon as one man struck another to the ground by accident, by a stone, or any other means, he fled to the city of refuge. He had a head start on the pursuer; and if he arrived there first, he was secure and safe.

3. I wish to use this custom of the Jews, as a metaphor and type, to present the salvation of men through Jesus Christ our Lord. I shall give you, first, an explanation; and, then, an exhortation.

4. I. I SHALL ATTEMPT AN EXPLANATION OF THIS TYPE.

5. Note, first, the person for whom the city of refuge was provided. It was not a place of shelter for the wilful murderer; if he fled there, he must be dragged out of it, and given up to the avenger, after a fair trial; and the avenger of death was to kill him, and so have blood for blood, and life for life. But, in case of accident, when one man had accidentally killed another, and had therefore only committed homicide, the man fleeing there was perfectly safe.

6. Here, however, the type does not adequately represent the work of our Lord Jesus Christ; he is not a refuge provided for men who are innocent, but for men who are guilty, — not for those who have accidentally transgressed, but for those who have wilfully gone astray. Our Saviour has come into the world to save, not those who have by mistake and error committed sin, but those who have fearfully transgressed against well-known divine commandments, and who have followed the sinful dictates of their own free will, their own perversity leading them to rebel against God.

7. Note, next, the avenger of blood. In explaining this portion of the type, I must, of course, take every part of the figure. The avenger of blood, I have said, was usually the next of kin to the one who had been slain; but I believe any other member of the family was held to be competent to act as the avenger. If, for example, my brother had been killed, it would have been my duty, as the first of the family, to avenge his blood, if possible, then and there, — to go after the murderer, or the man who had accidentally caused his death, and to put him to death at once. If I could not do that, it would be my business, and that of my father, and, indeed, of every male member of the family, to hunt and pursue that man, until God should deliver him into our hand, so that we might put him to death. I do not mean that it is our duty now, but it would have been so regarded under the old Jewish economy. It was allowed, by the Mosaic law, that those who were of the kith and kin of the man killed, should be the avengers of his blood.

8. We find the counterpart of this type, for the sinner, in the law of God. Sinner, the law of God is the blood-avenger that is on your track! You have wilfully transgressed, you have, as it were, killed God’s commandments, you have trampled them under your feet; the law is the avenger of blood, it is after you, and it will have you in its grasp before long; condemnation is hanging over your head now, and it shall surely overtake you. Though it may not reach you in this life, yet, in the world to come, the avenger of blood, the Moses, the law of the Lord, shall execute vengeance on you, and you shall be utterly destroyed.

9. But, further, there was a city of refuge provided under the law; indeed, more, there were six cites of refuge, in order that one of them might be at a convenient distance from any part of the country. Now, there are not six Christs; there is only one; but there is a Christ everywhere. “The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes to righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made to salvation.”

10. The city of refuge was a priestly city, — a city of the Levites; and it afforded protection for life to the manslayer. He might never go out of it until the death of the then reigning high priest; after which he might go free, without being touched by the avenger of blood. But, during the time of his sojourn there, he was housed and fed gratuitously; everything was provided for him, and he was kept entirely safe. And I would have you notice that he was safe in this city, not because of its walls, or bolts, or bars, but simply because it was the divinely-appointed place for shelter. Do you see the man running towards it? The avenger is after him, fast and furious; the manslayer has just reached the borders of the city; in a moment, the avenger halts; he knows it is of no use going any farther after him, not because the city walls are strong, nor because the gates are barred, nor because an army stands outside to resist, but because God has said the man shall be safe as soon as he has crossed the border, and has come into the suburbs of the city. Divine appointment was the only thing which made the city of refuge secure. Now, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ is the divinely-appointed way of salvation; whoever among us shall run from our sins, and flee to Christ, being convinced of our guilt, and helped by God’s Spirit to enter that road, shall, without a doubt, find absolute and eternal security. The curse of the law shall not touch us, Satan shall not harm us, vengeance shall not reach us, for the divine appointment, stronger than gates of iron or bronze, shields every one of us “who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us in the gospel.”

11. The city of refuge, I must have you note, too, had around it suburbs of a very great extent. Two thousand cubits were allowed for grazing land for the cattle of the priests, and a thousand cubits within these for fields and vineyards. Now, no sooner did the man reach the suburbs of the city, than he was safe; it was not necessary for him to get within the walls, but the outskirts themselves were sufficient protection. Learn, from this, that if you only touch the hem of Christ’s garment, you shall be made whole; if you only lay hold of him with “faith as a grain of mustard seed,” with faith which is very feeble, but is truly a living principle, you are safe.

    A little genuine grace ensures
       The death of all our sins.

Get anywhere within the borders of the city of refuge, and you are at once and for ever secure from the avenger.

12. We have some interesting details, also, with regard to the distance of these cities from the habitations of men in ancient Judea. It is said that, wherever the crime of homicide might be committed by any man, he might get to a city of refuge within half a day; and, truly, beloved, it is no great distance from a guilty sinner to the sheltering breast of Christ. It is only a simple renunciation of our own powers, and a laying hold of Christ, to be our All-in-all, that is required, in order to get within the city of refuge. Then, with regard to the roads to the city, we are told that they were strictly preserved in good order. Every river was bridged; as far as possible, the road was made level, and every obstruction removed, so that the man who fled might find an easy way to the city. Once a year, the elders of the city went along the route to see that it was in proper repair, and to provide, as far as they could, that nothing might occur, through the breaking down of bridges, or the blocking of the highway, to impede the flight of any manslayer, and cause him to be overtaken and killed. Wherever there were byroads and turnings, there were erected sign-posts, with this word plainly visible on them, “Refuge,” — “ Refuge, ” — pointing out the way in which the man should flee, if he wished to reach the city. There were two people always kept on the road, so that, in case the avenger of blood should overtake a man, they might intercept him, and entreat him to restrain his hand, until the man had reached the city, lest perhaps innocent blood should be shed, without a fair trial, and so the avenger himself should be proved guilty of murder; for the risk, of course, was on the head of the avenger, if he put one to death who did not deserve to die.

13. Now, beloved, I think this is a picture of the road to Christ Jesus. It is no roundabout road of the law; it is no obeying this, that, and the other command; it is a straight road: “Believe, and live.” It is a road so hard, that no self-righteous man will ever tread it; but it is a road so easy, that every man, who knows himself to be a sinner, may by it find his way to Christ, and his way to heaven. And lest any should be mistaken, God has set me and my brethren in the ministry, to be like sign-posts in the way, to point poor sinners to Jesus; and we always desire to have on our lips the cry, “Refuge! Refuge! REFUGE!” Sinner, that is the way; walk in it, and you shall be saved.

14. So I think I have given the explanation of the type. Christ is the true City of Refuge, and he preserves all those who flee to him for mercy; he does that because he is the divinely-appointed Saviour, able to save to the uttermost all those who come to God by him.

15. II. Now, in the second place, I HAVE TO GIVE AN EXHORTATION.

16. You must allow me to picture a scene. You see that man in the field. He has been at work; he has taken an ox goad in his hand, to use it in some part of his husbandry. Unfortunately, instead of doing what he desires to do, he strikes a companion of his to the heart, and he falls down dead! You see the poor fellow with horror on his face; he is a guiltless man; but, oh! what misery he feels when he gazes on the corpse lying at his feet! A pang shoots through his heart, such as you and I have never felt, — horror, dread, desolation! Yes, some of us have felt something akin to it spiritually; — we will not allude to the when and the why; — but who can describe the agony of a man who sees his companion fall lifeless by his side? Words are incapable of expressing the anguish of his spirit; he looks at him, he tries to lift him up, — he ascertains that he is really dead, — what does he do next? Do you not see him? In a moment, he flees out of the field where he was at labour, and runs along the road with all his might; he has many weary miles before him, six long hours of hard running, and as he passes the gate, he turns his head, and there is the man’s brother! He has just come into the field, and has seen his brother lying dead. Oh! can you conceive how the manslayer’s heart palpitates with fear? He has a little head start on the road; he just sees the avenger of blood, with red face, hot and fiery, rushing out of the field, with the ox goad in his hand, and running after him. The way lies through the village where the dead man’s father lives; how fast the poor fugitive flees through the streets! He does not even stop to say good-bye to his wife, nor to kiss his children; but on, on, he runs for his very life. The relative calls to his father, and his other friends, and they all rush after him. Now there is quite a troop on the road; the man is still running ahead, there is no rest for him. Though one of his pursuers may pause for a while, or turn back, the others still track him. There is a horse in the village; they mount it, and pursue him. If they can find any animal that can assist their swiftness, they will take it. Can you not conceive of the manslayer crying, “Oh, that I had wings, that I might fly to the city of refuge?” See how he spurns the earth beneath his feet! What are the green fields on either hand to him; what the babbling brooks? He does not stop even so much as to wet his lips. The sun is scorching him; but still on, on, on, he runs! He casts aside one garment after another; still he rushes on, and the pursuers are close behind him. He feels like the poor stag hunted by the hounds; he knows they are eager for his blood, and that, if they once overtake him, it will be a word, a blow, and he will be a dead man. Watch how he runs on his way! Do you see him now? A town is rising into sight; he perceives the towers of the city of refuge; his weary feet almost refuse to carry him farther; the veins are standing out on his brow, like whipcords; the blood spurts from his nostrils; he is straining all his powers to the utmost as he rushes on; and he would go faster if he had any more strength. The pursuers are after him, — they have almost caught up to him; but see, and rejoice! He has just reached the outskirts of the city; there is the line of demarcation; he leaps it, and falls senseless to the ground; but there is joy in his heart. The pursuers come and look at him; but they dare not kill him. The knife is in their hand, and the stones, too; but they dare not touch him. He is safe, he is secure; his running has been just fast enough; he has managed to leap into the kingdom of life, and to avoid a cruel and terrible death.

17. Sinner, that picture I have given you is a picture of yourself, in all but the man’s guiltlessness, for you are a guilty man. Oh, if you only knew that the avenger of blood is after you! Oh! that God would give you grace, that you might have a sense of your danger tonight; then you would not hesitate for a moment without fleeing to Christ. You would say, even while sitting in your pew, “Let me go away, away, away, where mercy is to be found,” and you would give neither sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids, until you had found in Christ a refuge for your guilty spirit. I am come, then, to exhort you now to flee away to Jesus.

18. Let me pick out one of you, to be an example for all the rest. There is a young man here who is guilty; the proofs of his guilt lie close at hand; he knows himself to be a great transgressor; he has foully offended against God’s law. Young man, young man, since you are guilty, the avenger of blood is after you! Oh! that avenger — God’s fiery law; did you ever see it? It speaks words of flame; it has eyes like torches of fire. If you could once see the law of God, and see the dread keenness of its terrible sword, you might, as you sat in your pew, quiver almost to death in horror at your impending doom. Sinner, consider that if this avenger shall seize you, it will not be merely temporal death that will be your portion; it will be death eternally. Sinner, remember, if the law does lay its hand on you, and Christ does not deliver you, you are damned; and do you know what damnation means? Say, can you tell what the billows of eternal wrath are, and what the worm that never dies is, what the lake of fire is, what the pit that is bottomless is? No; you cannot know how dreadful these things are. Surely, if you could, man, you would be up on your feet, and fleeing for life, eternal life. You would be like that man in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, who put his fingers in his ears, and ran sway; and when his neighbours ran after him, he cried, “Eternal life! Eternal life!” Oh stolid stupidity! Oh sottish ignorance! Oh worse than brutal folly, that makes men sit down in their sins, and rest content! The drunkard still quaffs his cup; he does not know that in its dregs there lies wrath. The swearer still indulges in his blasphemy; he does not know that, one day, his oath shall return on his own head. You will go your way, and eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and live merrily and happily; but, ah! poor souls, if you knew that the avenger of blood was after you, you would not act so foolishly! Would you suppose that the man, after he had killed his neighbour, and when he saw the avenger coming, would, coolly take his seat, and wait to be killed, when there was a city of refuge provided? No; that consummate folly was reserved for such as you are; God has left that to be the top-stone of the folly of the human race, the most glittering jewel in the crown of free will, the dress of death in which free will does robe itself. Oh! you will not flee to Christ, you will stay where you are, you will rest contented, and one day the law will seize you, and then wrath, eternal wrath, will lay hold on you! How foolish is the man who wastes his time, and carelessly loiters, when the city of refuge is before him, and the avenger of blood is after him!

19. Suppose, now, I take another case. There is a young man here, who says, “Why, sir, it is no use my trying to be saved; I shall not think of prayer or faith, or anything of that kind, because there is no city of refuge for me.” Suppose that poor man, who had killed his neighbour, had talked like that; suppose he had sat still, and folded his arms, and said, “There is no city of refuge for me.” I cannot imagine such folly; and, surely, you do not mean what you said just now. If you thought there was no city of refuge for you, I know what you would do; you would shriek, and cry, and groan. There is a kind of despair, that some people have, which is a sham despair. I have met many who say, “We do not believe we ever could be saved,” and they do not seem to care whether they are saved or not. How foolish would the man be, who would sit still, and so let the avenger kill him, because he imagined there was no entrance for him into the city! But your folly is just as great, and even worse, if you sit still, and say, “The Lord will never have mercy on me.” He is as much a suicide who refuses the medicine, because he thinks it will not cure him, as the man who takes the dagger, and stabs himself in the heart. You have no right, sir, to let your despair triumph over the promise of God. He has said it, and he means it: “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” If he has shown you your guilt, depend on it, there is a city of refuge for you; hurry to it, hurry to it; may God help you to go to it now! Oh! if men only knew how dreadful the wrath to come is, and how terrible will be the day of judgment, how swiftly they would flee away to Jesus! There is not a hearer of mine here who would delay an hour to flee to Christ, if he only knew how fearful is his condition outside of Christ. When God the Holy Spirit once convinces us of our sin, there is no halting then; the Spirit says, “Today, if you will hear his voice”; and we cry, “Today, Lord, today, hear our voice!” There is no pausing then; it is on, on, on, for our very life. I beseech you, men and brethren, you who have sinned against God, and know it; you who want to be delivered from the wrath to come, I beseech you, by him who lives and was dead, flee to Christ.

20. Take heed that it is to Christ you flee; for, if the man who had killed his neighbour had fled to another city, it would have been of no avail; had he fled to a place that was not an ordained city of refuge, he might have sped on with all the impetuosity of desire, and yet have been killed within the city gates. So, you self-righteous ones, you may flee to your good works, you may practise your baptism, and your confirmation, and your church-going, or your chapel-going; you may be all that is good and excellent, but you are fleeing to the wrong city, and the avenger of blood will find you, after all. Poor soul! remember that Christ Jesus the Lord is the only refuge for a guilty sinner; his blood, his wounds, his agonies, his sufferings, his death, these are the gates and walls of the city of salvation. But if we do not trust in these, without a doubt, wherever we may trust, our hope shall be as a broken reed, and we shall perish after all.

21. I may have one here who is newly-awakened, just led to see his sin, as if it were the corpse of a murdered man lying at his feet; it seems to me that God has sent me to that one individual in particular. Man, God has shown you your guilt; and he has sent me to tell you that there is a refuge for you; though you are guilty, he is gracious; though you have revolted and rebelled against him, he will have mercy on all who repent, and trust in the merits of his Son. He has told me to say to you, “Flee, flee, flee!” and, in God’s name, I say to you, “Flee to Christ.” He has told me to warn you against delays; he has told me to remind you that death surprises men when they least expect it; he has told me to assure you that the avenger will not spare, neither will his eye pity; his sword was forged for vengeance, and vengeance it will have. God has also told me to exhort you, by the terror of the Lord, by the day of judgment, by the wrath to come, by the uncertainty of life, and by the nearness of death, to flee to Christ this very moment.

    Haste, traveller, haste, the night comes on:
    And thou far off from rest and home,
       Haste, traveller, haste!

But, oh! how much more earnest is our cry, when we say, “Haste, sinner, haste!” Not only does the night come on; but, lo! the avenger of blood is close behind. Already he has killed his thousands; let the shrieks of souls, already damned, come up in your ears! Already the avenger has wrought wonders of wrath; let the howlings of Gehenna startle you, let the torments of hell terrify you. What! will you pause with such an avenger in swift pursuit? What! young man, will you waste another night? God has convicted you of your sin; will you go to your rest once more without a prayer for pardon? Will you live another day without fleeing to Christ? No; I think I see signs that the Spirit of God is working in you, and I think I hear what he makes you say, “God helping me, I give myself to Christ even now; and if he will not at once shed abroad his love in my heart, this is my firm resolve: no rest will I find anywhere until Christ shall look on me, and seal with his Holy Spirit my pardon bought with blood.”

22. But if you sit still, young man, — and you will do so, if left to your own free will, — I can do no more for you than this, I must and I will weep for you in secret. Alas! for you, my hearer; alas! for you; the ox led to the slaughter is more wise than you are; the sheep that goes to its death is not so foolish as you are. Alas! for you, my hearer, that your pulse should beat a march to hell! Alas! that that clock, like the muffled drum, should be the music of the funeral march of your soul! Alas! alas! that you should fold your arms in pleasure, when the knife is at your heart! Alas! alas! for you, that you should sing, and make merriment, when the rope is around your neck, and the fatal drop is about to be given to you! Alas! for you, that you should go your way, and live joyfully and happily, and yet be lost! You remind me of the silly moth that dances around the flame, singeing itself for a while, and then at last plunging to its death; such are you! Young woman, with your butterfly clothing, you are leaping around the flame that shall destroy you! Young man, light and frothy in your conversation, carefree in your life, you are dancing to hell; you are singing your way to damnation, and promenading the road to destruction. Alas! alas! alas! that you should be spinning your own grave-clothes; that every day you should, by your sins, be building your own gallows; that, by your transgressions, you should, be digging your own graves, and working hard to pile the faggots for your own eternal burning! Oh, that you were wise, that you understood this, that you would consider your latter end! Oh, that you would flee from the wrath to come! Oh my hearers, think of the wrath to come, the wrath to come! How terrible that wrath is, these lips dare not venture to describe; at the very thought of it, this heart fills with agony. Oh my hearers, are there not some of you who will soon be proving what the wrath to come really is? There are some of you who, if you were now to drop dead in your pews, must be damned. Ah! you know it; you know it; you dare not deny it; I see you know it, as you hang down your heads, you seem to say, “It is true; I have no Christ to trust in, no robe of righteousness to wear, no heaven to hope for!” My hearer, give me your hand; never did a father plead with his son with more impassioned earnestness than I would plead with you. Why do you sit still, when hell is burning almost in your very face. “Why will you die, oh house of Israel?” Oh God! must I yearn over these people in vain? Must I continue to preach to them, and be “a savour of death to death” to them, and not “a savour of life to life”? And must I help to make their hell more intolerable? Must it be so? Must the people who now listen to us, like the people of Chorazin and Bethsaida in the days of our Lord, have a more terrible doom than the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah? Oh you, who are left to your own free will, to choose the way to hell, — as all men do when left to themselves, — let these eyes run down with tears for you, because you will not weep for yourselves!

23. It is strange that I should feel more concern for your souls than you do for yourselves; my God knows there is not a stone that I would leave unturned to save each one of you; there is nothing that human strength could do, or human study could learn, which I would not seek after, if I might only be the instrument of saving you from hell; and yet you act as though it did not concern you, whom it should concern the most. It is my business, but it is far more yours. Sirs, if you are lost, remember that it is yourselves who will be lost; and if you perish, bear me witness that I am clear of your blood. If you do not flee from the wrath to come, do not forget that I have warned you. I could not bear to have the blood on my head which some, even of those who like sound doctrine, I fear, will have at the last day of account. I tremble for some I know, who preach God’s gospel, in some sense fully, but who never warn sinners. A member of my church said to me recently, “I heard So-and-so preach; a sound-doctrine man, he is called. I listened to him for nine years, and I was attending the theatre all the time. I could curse, I could swear, I could sin, and I never had a warning from that man’s lips during the whole nine years.” Ah, me! I would not like one of my hearers to say that concerning my preaching. Let this world hiss at me; let me wear the coat that sparkles, and the cap that garnishes a fool; let earth condemn me, and let the fools of the universe spurn me; but I will be free from the blood of my hearers. The only thing I seek, in this world, is to be faithful to my hearers’ souls. If you are damned, it will not be for lack of faithful preaching, nor of earnest warning. Young men and maidens, old men with grey heads, merchants and tradesmen, servants, fathers, mothers, children, I have warned you tonight, you are in danger of hell; and, as God lives, before whom I stand, you will soon be there, unless you flee from the wrath to come! Remember, no one but Jesus can save you; but if God shall enable you to see your danger, and give you grace to flee to Christ, he will have mercy on you, and the avenger of blood shall never find you; no, not even when the red lightnings shall be flashing from the hand of God in the day of judgment. That city of refuge shall shelter you for ever; and in heaven with Jesus, triumphant, blessed, secure, you shall sing of the blood and righteousness of Christ who delivers penitent sinners from the wrath to come. May God bless and save you all! Amen.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {1Co 10:1-14}

1-4. Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our forefathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized to Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and drank the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.

The history of Israel in coming out of Egypt was a very instructive type of the history of the visible Church of Christ. They were in slavery in Egypt as all men are in bondage to sin and Satan. They were brought out of Egypt as all the redeemed are delivered by the almighty grace of God. With a high hand and an outstretched arm, the Lord brought Israel out of the house of bondage; and, by a very wonderful baptism, “in the cloud and in the sea,” they began their career as God’s separated people. Then they all shared in the same spiritual ordinances: “They all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink.” Yet, for all that, they were not all God’s people. They were so nominally, and visibly; but they were not all really so. And, just as there was a mixed multitude that came up out of Egypt, together with the true seed of promise, so there is an alien element in every church at this present day. Among those who have been baptized into Christ, there are still some who, while they eat the spiritual food and drink the spiritual drink, yet for all that have not been brought into true communion with Christ, and do not in reality know the Lord.

5. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

There was no evidence of faith in many of them, and “without faith it is impossible to please God.” Is it not a sad thing that, in a people so highly favoured as they were, there should have been so large a proportion of those who did not have the faith which renders men pleasing to God? So they literally came out into the wilderness to die there, and they never entered into the rest of God.

6. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we —

We professed Christians, — we, church members, —

6. Should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

They gave way to their carnal appetites; they craved for meat when God had already given them angels’ food. Now, if we act like this, we cannot be pleasing to God.

7. Neither be idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.”

That is, to go through those unclean rites and ceremonies before their idols which are here called, “play.” Ah, dear friends, may God keep us from the worship of anything which we can see with our eyes, or hear with our ears! May we never become idolaters! You know, we can very easily make idols of our children; we can make idols of our own bodies, we can make idols of our talents, of our respectability, and so forth. But, oh! it does not matter what the idol is; it is no more pleasing to God if it is of silver and gold than if it were of the mud of the river. No: “Neither be idolaters, as were some of them.”

8. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day twenty-three thousand.

Fornication in God’s people is particularly black and filthy. In the ordinary man of the world, it is evil enough; but when a man professes to be a Christian, he must flee from even the very thought of it, and keep himself chaste, for his body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Oh, may none of us ever come anywhere near to this great evil, but in purity of heart may we walk before our God!

9. Neither let me tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed by serpents.

I cannot take time to mention the many ways in which we can tempt Christ; but we can readily do so still. What a dreadful doom it was to be destroyed by serpents! Yet is it not very amazing that, in connection with this great sin, and its awful punishment, the bronze serpent was lifted high, so that whoever looked at it might live? And now, if any have tempted Christ by presumptuous sin, by their delay, or by their infidelity, let them bless God that they are not yet destroyed by serpents, because Christ has been lifted up even as the serpent of bronze was exalted above the camp of Israel. Remember our Lord’s words to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: so that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

10. Neither murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.

It is a dreadful habit to get into, — that of complaining against God. Occasional murmuring is doubtless sinful, but habitual murmuring becomes a very great evil. I am afraid that there are some who criticize God’s providence, and criticize his Word, until they come to be critics and nothing else; and what good is a man who can do nothing else but carp, and cavil, and criticize? Oh beloved, “neither murmur, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed by the destroyer.”

11. Now all these things happened to them for examples:

They were like a book in which we might read our own history in large letters. We see ourselves foreshadowed in them, and we read our happiness or our misery in their behaviour.

11, 12. And they are written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the age are come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.

For if he begins to think that he stands, it may be that it is nothing but his own imagination; there may be no real standing about it. And there is no better sign of the falsity of a man’s estimate of himself than the fact that it is a high one. He who thinks himself good has not begun to be good, for the door of the palace of wisdom is humility, and the gate of the temple of virtue is lowliness of mind.

13, 14. There has no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, so that you may be able to bear it. Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

I should like to see this verse put over the top of every “sacramental” table in every “church” in England: “Therefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” If this text were properly understood, every crucifix would be broken to pieces, and the altars themselves would be cleared away to make room for what should be there, — the table of the Lord; and we should have no more worship of visible things, which is idolatry. Oh you who are the dearly beloved of God, flee from it! Keep as far from it as you ever can. I remember reading about a man of God who was the rector of a certain parish, and who had in the church a very ancient and famous painted window of which he was somewhat proud. In the design there was a representation of the Godhead, — the Father was there, and oh, how blasphemous! — he was represented as an aged man; and, one day, this clergyman, who had seen no evil in the window, heard a rustic explaining to a companion that that was the God whom they worshipped. The rector did not deliberate for a moment, but he threw a stone right through that part of the painted window. I suppose that was an offence against the law of man, but certainly it was not against the law of God. He would never have that figure replaced on any account whatever, and I think that he did well: “Dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.” Put it out of your sight; do not tamper with it, but hate it with a perfect hatred. In God’s eyes, it is one of the most fearful of sins. He has said, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God,” and he will have nothing to come between us and the pure and simple worship of his own invisible self.

The Standard Life Of C. H. Spurgeon

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Orders for all or any of the volumes, or for the monthly shilling parts, should be given at once to all booksellers or colporteurs, or sent to Messrs. Passmore & Alabaster, 4, Paternoster Buildings, London, E. C.

The May Sword and Trowel also includes the first half of Pastor Thomas Spurgeon’s Presidential Address, with a full report of the proceedings at the thirty-fifth College Conference, the Annual Paper concerning the Lord’s work in connection with the Pastors’ College, and many other items interesting to the readers of C. H. Spurgeon’s Sermons. Though consisting of 96 pages, the price is the same as usual, 3d., or by post, 4½d.

London: Passmore and Alabaster, Paternoster Buildings; and from all Booksellers.

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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