2819. A Caution For Sin-Sick Souls

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A Caution For Sin-Sick Souls

No. 2819-49:85. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, Early In The Year 1861, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Intended For Reading On Lord’s Day, February 22, 1903.

When Ephraim saw his sickness, and Judah saw his wound, then Ephraim went to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb: yet he could not heal you, nor cure you of your wound. {Ho 5:13}

1. There is a tendency, in the heart of man, to want something to look at rather than something to trust in. The children of Israel had God for their King, and a glorious King he was. Where else was there found such impartial justice, such tender compassion for the poor, or such perfect righteousness in every statute that was ordained, and every sentence that was enforced? But they said, “No, let us have a king whom we can see, — a king whose pomp and magnificence shall dazzle our senses, even though he will take our sons to be his slaves, and our daughters to be his confectionaries. Let us have a king, that we may see the gaudy glitter of his crown with our eyes, and hear the sovereign mandate from his throne with our ears.” God granted them that request.

2. Their sole allegiance was due to that almighty King whose superlative glory could not be compared anything else. The Lord Jehovah was the God of Israel, — a God always ready to forgive their sins, to hear their prayers, and to seek their welfare. But the children of Israel said, “Not so; let us make a king to judge us, like all the nations: and let us set up gods, just like the Gentiles, that our hands can handle, and that our eyes can behold. Let us have blocks of wood and stone. Let us have the carved images of the heathen.” Neither would they rest until they had set up for themselves, in every high place, gods that were not gods. For this, the Lord chastised them. He gave up their lands to famine, and their habitations to the spoiler. He brought enemies from far countries to lay them waste, so that the state became sick, and the whole nation impoverished. Then the people of Ephraim opened their eyes, and considered their condition.

3. But when Judah saw himself to be wounded, what course did he pursue? God was waiting to help him when he returned to his allegiance. Jehovah was ready to heal all his distresses, to give him back all that had been laid waste, and to restore to him everything that the spoiler had taken. But, no! the arm of Jehovah was not enough for Judah; Judah must rely on a force that could look imposing in its array. “Oh!” said the people, “let us send to the king of Assyria, and let him furnish us with tens of thousands of soldiers, and help us with his mighty men, so we shall be safe. So our state will recover itself.” But if they had trusted in God, my brethren, how secure they would have been! Note what God did for them in the days of Hezekiah. Their enemies came against them in great numbers. Hezekiah prayed before the Lord. And it came to pass, that night, God sent out the blast of his nostrils, and their foes were utterly destroyed. When the men of Judah arose early in the morning, “behold, they were all dead corpses!” As often as they trusted in God, they found immediate help, and their enemies were put to confusion.

4. But their heart did not continue in its confidence. No; they cannot rely on the unseen arm. They must have men, and men’s devices. They must have something they can see. Unless they have the spear, and the sword, and the shield of the Assyrian state, they can feel no sense of security. They went to the Assyrian king, they sent to King Jareb, “yet he could not heal them, nor cure them of their wound.” How foolish they were to hope he would, for, as soon as they sent their ambassadors to the king of Assyria, he flattered himself while he spoke to them, “Oh, you need help, do you? I will send you some soldiers to help you.” Remember that their houses had been stripped of all the gold and silver they contained to give a present to the king of Assyria. “I will send you soldiers to help you,” he said to them; and then he whispered to himself, “After they have helped you, they shall help themselves.” And so they did. When they had come, and for a little while had fought for the people of Israel, and set them free, then they turned around on them, and carried them captive, and spoiled them of all they had. This comes from trusting in man. “Cursed be the man who trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm; but blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is.”

5. Looking at this fallacy of a nation as illustrative of a common tendency of mankind, and using my text as the picture of a sinner in a certain particular state of mental anxiety, I shall observe, first, the sinner’s partial discovery of his lost estate; secondly, the wrong means which he takes to be cured of his evil; after which I will endeavour to direct you, as God shall enable me, to the right means of finding healing and deliverance through the atonement and obedience of our Lord Jesus Christ.


7. Note, it is only a partial discovery. Ephraim felt his sickness, but he did not know the radical disease that lurked within. He saw the local ailment, but was ignorant of the organic derangement of his very vitals. He only perceived the symptoms; he was uneasy, he felt pain; but the discovery did not go deep enough to show him that he was actually dead in trespasses and sins. “He saw his sickness and Judah saw his wound.” Yes, he saw his wound; it smarted; and therefore his eye was drawn to the place. But he did not know how deep it was; he did not know that it had pierced to the heart, that it was, in fact, a death-blow; that the whole head was sick, that the whole heart was faint, and that, from the crown of the head even to the sole of the foot, it was all wounds, and bruises, and putrefying, festering sores. There was only a partial discovery of his lost estate.

8. How many men there are who have gotten just far enough to know there is something the matter with them! They little know that they are totally ruined, though they do feel that all is not quite right with them. They are conscious that they are not perfect, — not even up to their own low standard of rectitude; hence they begin to be uneasy, albeit they still seem to think they can make themselves better, and that by degrees of reformation and daily prayer they will become superior to what they are. They have not yet learned the doctrine of the Fall, the deep depravity of mankind, the total perversion of the human heart; they have only gotten as far as some modern ministers, who speak of man as being a little marred, but not entirely broken; as having had a fall, and become somewhat damaged, and rather spoiled with respect to outward beauty, though not altogether ruined, or incapable of raising himself up, and recovering his strength. In fact, the fashionable phrase that has been recently coined is, “the lapsed state of men.” Depend on it, when men use Latinized words to express their meaning, they do not mean much. The fall of man is full and entire; and when people frame certain, phrases of rather uncertain significance instead of speaking plain English, they show a disposition to dispense with the bare facts. I know there are some sinners brought so far as to find themselves undone, and to feel convinced that, unless some change takes place, they are not fit for the kingdom of heaven. But they have not as yet seen the fountains of the great deep of their depravity broken up; they have not been taken into the shrines of imagery, and shown the abominations of their own hearts. They still cling with some hope to their own devices.

9. However, I would remark that even this, though it is only a partial discovery of their state by nature, is not without its good results. When a man gets this far, the first good sign in him is that he cannot speak against religion. While he is at peace with himself, he calls religious men hypocrites. He can rail at the things of God, and despise and trample them underfoot. But the man who is like Ephraim, in our text, will not be very anxious to find fault with others; his philosopher’s tongue has been plucked out, and he is now a little more gentle in his speech, as he sighs for something in religion that he would like to have. “Oh!” he says, “I do not now find fault with the good folk who are always praying and singing. Oh that I could become like they are! Oh that I had as they have, an interest in the blood of Christ!” So far, so good.

10. Such men, again, are generally thoughtful. I have known many a man who, before he came into this state, was a very dare-devil, and never thought anything with regard to his soul and eternity; yet, when brought to know his sickness and his wounds, he has become not only thoughtful but serious, until some of his former companions have noticed it, and called him “Old Sobersides,” or some such epithet, and laughed him out of that state. They tell him he is a saint. The man says, “I wish what you are saying was true.” They tell him, “You are beginning to be religious.” “Yes,” he says, “I wish I were really so.” Some man once called me a saint as I went along the street, and I turned around, and said I wished I could make him prove his words. I would like to be one certainly. Such is the condition of a man when he begins to discover, though it is only partially, his lost estate. He is thoughtful; he cannot laugh as he did; he does not now shut his eyes, and throw the reins on the neck of his lusts, and let them rush madly on down to the pit; but he tries to curb them, and hold them in with bit and bridle, for he knows that all is not right within him.

11. Such a man, too, has another good trait, another hopeful feature in his case, — that he begins to attend to the things that belong to the peace of his soul. You see him now coming into the house of God — whether chapel or church — to hear the Word preached. He never cared for that before. He worked so hard all the week that he was not able to go out on a Sunday; but now he feels he must go. He must be by the side of Bethesda’s pool. Even though the angel does not stir the water, he feels a kind of satisfaction while he is lying at the edge of the healing pool. He longs to be saved, and therefore he is found in the way, hoping that God may meet him.

12. Such a man, too, you will find, takes no pleasure in sin. If he is asked by his worldly companions to go into the haunts of vice, where he once went, even should he go, he comes away, and says, “It was the dullest evening I ever spent; it yields no enjoyment whatever me. God has turned the sweet wine of my memory into bitter gall. ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ I can find no comfort in sensual pleasures.”

13. Have I been depicting the state of one who is present here? I hope I have, and I pray God that what I shall be able to say will, by the influence of the Holy Spirit be instrumental in leading such a one to the true remedy for his soul-sickness.

14. II. But when the man is partially aroused to know his lost estate, HE USUALLY USES THE WRONG MEANS FOR DELIVERANCE: “Then Ephraim went to the Assyrian, and sent to King Jareb.”

15. A sinner, when he finds himself lost, usually at first thinks, “I will make myself better, I will be diligent in religious observances, I will attend to every ceremony, I will keep my tongue from evil, and my life from speaking guile; I will restrain my steps from evil haunts, my hands from evil deeds”; and so he thinks within himself that all his sins will be forgiven, and that he shall have rest for the sole of his foot. Be it known, once and for all, that all this is a vain and useless effort to work out a radical cure in the soul of man. All that man can do apart from faith in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ, is utterly in vain. Let him do his best, and strive to the very uttermost, he has proceeded not one inch on the road to heaven; he has done mischief instead of doing anything meritorious, he has pulled down instead of having built up.

16. Oh you who are hoping now, while you are under conviction, that you will get relief by your own doings, let me remind you that you are undertaking a long task, which will tax your endurance. The men mentioned in our text went a very long way to the king of Assyria; it was a wearisome journey they took, while God, who was near at hand, was forgotten. How long do you suppose it would take you to work out your own salvation by your own good works? Why, my friends, you may bend your knees until your joints grow stiff, and you may work until there is no flesh on your bones, and you may weep until there is no moisture in your body from which to draw a tear, and you may persevere incessantly in every exercise of body and mind, trying new postures and trifling with new problems; but you will find yourselves not half a league nearer eternal life than when you left the life of sin you used to like.

    Not the labours of my hands
    Can fulfil thy law’s demands:
    Could my zeal no respite know,
    Could my tears for ever flow,
    All for sin could not atone:
    Thou must save, and thou alone.

If a criminal should get it into his head that he would climb up to the stars by going up the steps of a treadmill, he would be about as rational as when a poor sinner thinks of getting to heaven by his own good works. Tread, tread, tread; up, up, up; but never one inch higher! As old Matthew Wilks used to say, “You might as well hope to sail to America on a sere leaf as hope to go to heaven by your own doings.” This is not the way, man; and run ever so fast in it, if it is not the right road, it will not bring you to the right destination. If a man takes the road to the right, when he wants to go to the left, he may run as fast as a racehorse, he will only lose his labour, and find out that he is a fool for his pains.

17. And it is not only a very long task, but it is a very expensive one. If you would have salvation by the works of the law, you must give body and soul up, all you have, — hope and joy and comfort included. I used to live near some people who regularly attended mass early every morning, and I noticed how straight they used to look down the face. I thought they had good reason to be gloomy if they were trying to reach heaven by their own righteousness. It is enough to depress any man if he has to stand before God, and justify himself. We might put our hands on our loins, and roll in the dust in despair, if we had no hope but in our own deservings. Go and look for cooling streams in the arid desert, look around for fresh water to drink in the midst of the sea, seek shelter on the mountain top where the hurricane is spending its fury, and then crave for comfort in the law. Go and visit Sinai, you who seek to be saved by your own works. Look at it, shrink, tremble, and despair. Behold, the mountain is altogether shrouded in smoke while God proclaims his holy law! If it melted like wax of old, how much more now, after you have broken the commandments, and incurred the penalty, — now that God does not come to proclaim the law, but to execute his fierce anger on the law-breakers!

18. “Well,” one says, “but suppose we do our best, will that not suffice?” My friend, God requires from man, if he would be saved by his works, perfect obedience; nothing but perfection can be acceptable to a perfect God. One wrong thought, one evil desire, — not to say anything of one wrong act, — will effectively shut any man out of heaven, if he desires to go there by his own works. That one sin at once puts up an impenetrable barrier across that meritorious way to heaven which is known by the common name of “the law.” If you can be perfect, and have kept the precepts from your youth up, and shall do so until your dying day, then there might be salvation by works. But if there is one flaw, then that road to heaven is effectively blocked up, so that no human foot can ever tread on it.

19. And, once more, let me remind you, oh man, when you try to be saved by your works, you presume that your enemy will prove your friend! “And who is my enemy?” you say. Why, Moses. The law is sworn against you. It has become your enemy, and you go to your enemy for help? It is a device of Satan to try and draw poor sinners away from the path of faith into the path of law. Remember how John Bunyan graphically describes it. Poor Christian, with the burden on his back, is going to the wicket-gate with the light above it; and, suddenly, a very good-looking gentleman meets him, and says, “It is a dangerous journey you are going on, you had better turn aside to the right there; there is a town there known as the town of Legality, where lives a very skilful physician who will soon help you off with your burden; and if he is not at home, he has a very good lad who will do almost as well as his master. Go there, and you will soon get cured.” Away went poor Christian; nor had he gone far before he found that he had come to the foot of Mount Sinai, and the mountain hung right over the way, and there stood Christian; and while he was looking up, presently the mountain began to shake, the thunder to roar, and the lightning to flash, and he fell down on his face, and said, “I am undone, I am undone.” Then Evangelist came, and showed him the right way once more. Just so, sinner, if you trust in the works of the law, you will have to cry out, “I am undone, I am undone.” Mr. Morality cannot cure you; he may put on a little poor man’s bandage, and make your wound worse, and tie it up, and bandage it a little, but he can never relieve your pain, or heal your sore. It will go on bleeding, notwithstanding all the balsams he can apply. No hand can heal a sin-sick soul but the hand that wounded it, even the hand of God, through the person of Jesus Christ our Lord.

20. It is astonishing, after all the gospel preaching in England, how deeply-rooted is this constant fallacy of going to King Jareb for a cure. Not very long ago, having engaged to preach at a seaport town, I arrived some hours before night, and, as I was standing by the riverside, I thought I should like to go down the river in a boat. So, hailing a waterman, I went with him; and, while sitting in the boat, wishing to talk with him about religious matters, I began by asking him about his family. He told me that the cholera had visited his place and that he had lost no less than thirteen of his relatives, one after another, by death. So I said, “Have you, my friend, a good hope of heaven if you should die yourself?” “Well, sir,” he said, “I think as how I have.” “Please tell me, then,” I said, “what is your hope; for, concerning a good hope no man need ever be ashamed.” “Well, sir, I have been on this here river, I think, for these twenty-five or thirty years, and I do not know that anyone ever saw me drunk.” “Oh, dear! oh, dear!” I replied, “is that all you trust in?” “Well, sir, when the cholera was about, and my poor neighbours were bad, I went for the doctor for ’em, and was up a good many nights; and I do think as how I am as good as my neighbours.” Of course I told him that I was very glad to hear that he had sympathy for the suffering, and that I considered it far better to be charitable than to be churlish, but I did not see how his good conduct could carry him to heaven. “Well, sir,” he said, “perhaps it will not. I cannot be often going to church; but I think, when I get a little older, I shall give up the boat, and take to going to church, and then, I think, that will be right, — won’t it, sir?” “No,” I said, “certainly your resolutions will not renew your heart; and should you ever perform them, they will not purge your soul from its sinfulness. Begin to go to church as soon as possible, but you will not be an inch further, if you think that by attending the sanctuary you will be saved.” The poor man seemed perfectly astounded, while I went on knocking down his hopes one after another. Then I asked the question, “You have sinned in your life sometimes, have you not?” “Yes,” he said, “I have.” “On what basis, then, do you think your sins will be forgiven?” “Well, sir,” he said, “I have been sorry about them, and I think they are all gone, — they do not trouble me now.” Trying to rouse his conscience, I said, “Suppose you were to go and get into debt with the grocer where you deal, and you should say to her, ‘Now, mistress, you have a score against me, I cannot pay for these goods, I am sorry to say; but I’ll tell you what I’ll do, I’ll never get into your debt any more.’ Why, she would say that was not the way she did business; and do you suppose that is the way in which God does business, or that he is going to strike out your debts because you say you will not run deeper into debt?” “Well, sir,” he said, “I should like to know how my sins are to be forgiven. Are you a parson, sir?” In reply, I said, “I preach the gospel, I hope, but I do not go by the name of a parson; I am only a Dissenting minister.” I told him how the Lord Jesus Christ had paid the debts of sinners; how those who reposed in him, and rested in his blood and righteousness, would find peace and mercy; and the man was delighted, and he said he wished he had heard that years ago. “But, to say the truth, master,” he added, “I had not felt quite easy, after all, when I saw those poor creatures taken away to the graveyard. I did think there was something I needed, but I did not know what it was.”

21. I tell you this little personal incident because I see here a great many working people, and I know they delight in a little homely dialogue. It is not what we do or devise, the religious rites we observe, or the romantic aims we aspire to, the self-satisfaction we encourage, or the sufferings we endure, that can lead us to the land of light; not all your probity, {moral excellence} however plausible, or your rectitude, however rigid you may be, will carry you to heaven. Your good works are good enough in themselves, — good enough in your generation, — but they will never do for a foundation to rest on. Do not run away, and say something like the foolish man, who went to a place where there was a house being built, and seeing the chimney pots standing there, he took them, and laid them in the trench to make the foundation. “What are you doing?” said one of the workmen. “Why, laying the foundation.” “What, with the chimney pots?” “I did not know that it was wrong,” he said. “Well, take them away; they will not do for a foundation.” “Oh!” said the other, “you are finding fault with them.” “No; I am not finding fault with them, but with the place where you put them; they are good enough on the top, but they will not do at the bottom.” So with good works; they will do at the top, but they will not do at the bottom. As a foundation for the soul to rest on, nothing will suffice but the righteousness of Christ and his finished work. This is our hope of salvation. Our good works are good enough afterwards, when God the Holy Spirit, by his grace, works faith, and love, and all other good things in us.


23. Whoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary he should know that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down from heaven, and was for our sin incarnate in human form, born of the Virgin Mary, lived a life of sanctity and of suffering; and at last this glorious Son of God — this grief-stricken Son of man — became obedient even to death. In the garden he wrestled, and shed, as it were, great drops of blood in the prospect of the coming terrors of his death-struggle. To the cross he was nailed, amid shame, and ignominy, and scoffing. There he endured incredible pain, pangs of body and agony of soul. He hung there, through the thick darkness, for three hours: and at last, when the appointed time was come, when he had suffered everything, when the full chastisement of our sin had been laid on him, and the iniquity of us all had received its dreadful retribution at his hands, he cried, “It is finished!” So he gave up the ghost, was laid in the tomb, and then arose from the dead on the third day, and ascended to heaven.

24. Now, if you would be saved, my friend, it is necessary that you should believe in him who was the Son of God and the Son of man, and that you should believe in your heart these things of him: — First, that he is a divinely-ordained Saviour, able to save all those who come to God through him. You must believe, also, that he is willing to save, and that he will save those who seek salvation, believing and trusting in his power. When you have believed this, you have gone a good part of the way towards that saving faith which shall bring them into a state of grace. It is by acting on this belief, by casting yourself simply on the merits of his blood, and of his perfect righteousness, as the basis of your acceptance before God, that you shall find peace. No man can be saved if he does not trust his soul into the hands of Christ. We must give up ourselves from our own keeping into Christ’s keeping, saying, “Lord, take me, save me, make me what you would have me to be; and then, when your Father shall require my soul at the last day, stand as my Surety, and bring me, perfect and spotless, into his presence.”

25. I must add one more thing, — there must be what the old divines call a recumbency, a leaning on him, a dependence on him. But here I must warn you that some people have an idea that, if they get faith in Christ, it does not matter how they live, or what they are. Now, be it understood, once and for all, we are saved by faith, and not by works; but we must have good works if we are really saved. You know that faith is not only leaning on Christ, but obeying Christ. Suppose a case. There is a man who says to me, “You have committed such and such an offence; you are in such and such difficulties; but if you will implicitly trust me, and leave the matter entirely in my hands, I will see that you come through all right.” Well now, if I get meddling with it, that will prove I do not trust him; but, eventually, he comes to me, and says, “My dear friend, are you trusting me entirely?” “Yes,” I say, “I am reposing all my trust in you.” Suppose he says, “I want you to look over this document, which you must sign, and then I shall want you, on a certain morning, to be at such and such a place.” What if I answer, “I shall do no such thing; I will not sign the deed, nor meet you by appointment.” “Then,” he says, “you are not trusting me.” “I am leaning on you, and trusting you,” I say. “Well!” he says, “unless you do what I tell you, your faith is not genuine faith, neither are you trusting in me at all.” Now, if you are perfectly trusting Christ, your next question will be, “Lord, I am trusting to be saved by you, but how will you have me to be saved?” “Oh!” says Christ, “I will save you; but you must break off those old habits.” “Oh!” you say, “Lord, assist me with your grace, and I will renounce them all.” “Well,” says Christ, “and if you would be saved, I will have you, in the next place, attend to my ordinances. Come forward, and make a profession of your faith; be baptized; unite yourself to the visible Church; receive the Lord’s supper.” But you say, “No, Lord! I will do no such thing.” “Well, then,” he says, “you are not trusting me, because, whatever I tell you to do, you ought to do it.”

26. You may have heard the good illustration which Mr. Cecil gives of faith. His little child was standing, one day, at the top of a dark cellar. She was in the light, and he was down below in the cellar. “My dear child, jump down, and I will catch you,” he said; and the child, without a moment’s thought, sprang into the father’s arms. Now that is one kind of faith; that is, when we are enabled to trust Christ so that we do, so to speak, venture our souls on him, risk all with him; but notice that is not the complete picture of the faith of saints. This kind of faith some people profess to have, but their lives do not bear out their profession, and therefore there must be something else to make it clear, and Mr. Cecil gives another illustration through the same little girl. “I said to her, one day, as she had a necklace of beads, ‘My dear child, you know I love you, and you would do anything I told you. Take those beads off, and throw them into the fire.’ She did so at once.” Now, the first faith was the faith of daring, venturing herself; but the second proved her faith to be true and genuine, when she could obey at such a cost. To a large extent, faith and obedience are really one, and it is useless for you to say that you believe in Christ as your Saviour if you do not obey him as your Lord. Some try to do so, but their faith is worthless. But when we can unite unwavering trust with implicit obedience, we prove that we are really trusting in Christ, and then we are safe.

27. Oh my dear hearer, if I have puzzled you instead of making the truth plain, I can say I did not intend to do so. I would have you to understand, if you are troubled on account of sin, that God does not require anything of you but what he gives you. He only requires that you should depend on Christ for everything. That is all he asks for. Do it. Oh, may his Holy Spirit enable you to do it now! But I will tell you a parable which shall illustrate faith. There were two children, according to the fable, walking with their father along a narrow ridge. On either side there was a dark deep precipice. One of the dear children put his hand inside the father’s hand, and his father grasped it. The other put his little fingers around his father’s hand, and took hold of his father’s hand. It was not long before, in the midst of the thick darkness, the children grew weary, and the child who had taken hold of the father’s hand perished. But the child, who had put his hand into the father’s hand, and let the father take hold of it, was carried safely to the end. Now, put your hand inside the hand of Christ; and when he tells you to obey him, do not take it away. Give yourself entirely up to him to be his, come life, come death, for better or for worse, to be his to trust and his to obey, being from this time on his for ever. Oh, may God the Holy Spirit lead us to do this! It is easy enough when the Holy Spirit enables us, but it is hard enough when our human nature kicks against it. May sovereign grace subdue our hearts, and teach us to depend on Christ, and no more foolishly attempt to work out our salvation by impossible means! I can only pray that God will bless this brief, hurried discourse, and to his name shall be the glory, through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Isa 1:1-20}

1. The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

During the time in which Isaiah prophesied, the worship of God was, on the whole, maintained in Judah; yet, prosperous as the times appeared to be, there was visible to the eye of the Lord much iniquity. He who does not see as man sees, but who looks beneath the surface, and into the hearts of men, saw that the condition of the people was extremely unsatisfactory. Do not forget that these upbraiding words were spoken during the reigns of comparatively good kings, and try to imagine how the Lord must have felt towards the people who lived in the reigns of bad kings.

2, 3. Hear, oh heavens, and give ear, oh earth: for the LORD has spoken, “I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, my people do not consider.”

God’s own people were worse than the brutes that perish; they had no gratitude towards their Maker and Preserver. Am I not addressing many people of the same kind, who have little or no thought concerning him who made them, and who supplies all their needs? God seems here as if he were tired of appealing to his people, so he speaks to the heavens and the earth, as if he knew that even inanimate things would be more capable of feeling than hardened Judah was.

4. Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children who are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they are gone away backward.

If I am now addressing any who have backslidden from God, let them take these words of his to heart; he observes how you have forsaken him; he feels grieved at your provoking him; he mourns over your going backward from him. May you be moved by the Holy Spirit to mourn, too!

5. Why should you be struck any more? You will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.

One of God’s ways of bringing people to himself is by chastisement and affliction. He had tried that method on Judah; he had used his rod for so long that, at last, he exclaimed, “ ‘Why should you be struck any more?’ What is the good of my sending any more affliction on you?” Now, whenever the rod is of no more use, there will be a sharper instrument to follow. When men can no longer be chastened for their good, the axe of execution is ready to be brought out. What a sorrowful description is given here of the people of Judah and their land!

6-8. From the sole of the foot even to the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment. Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city.

The Lord had permitted invaders to pillage the land until it was almost reduced to a desert, yet, even then, the people did not, and would not, turn to their God. It is a terrible thing when sickness, or loss of property, or frequent bereavements do not bring men to their knees. Unsanctified afflictions prophesy certain condemnation for us. “He, who being often reproved hardens his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy.”

9. Unless the LORD of hosts had left us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like Gomorrah.

The state of the country, even under godly kings, had become so bad that, if there had not been a remnant according to the election of grace, there would have been no help for the land and its inhabitants, and they would have been burned up, like Sodom and Gomorrah.

10-15. Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the law of God, you people of Gomorrah. “To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to me?” says the LORD: “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I do not delight in the blood of young bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required this from you, to tread my courts? Do not bring any more vain oblations; incense is an abomination to me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear them; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates: they are a trouble to me; I am weary to bear them. And when you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you: yes, when you make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood.

It is very possible for people to be outwardly very religious, and yet really to be very wicked. The fact is, that the multiplication of rites and ceremonies, the observance of forms, and feasts, and fasts, and new moons, and all the rest of mere external ritual, may indicate an increase of sin rather than an increase of anything else. Often, in proportion as men’s hearts get further and further away from God, they have more and more of outward ritual, — more Roman rags on the priest’s back, more smoking incense, more gorgeous architecture; — more of all the externals of religion, the less they have of the internal and eternal. If a man is conscious that he needs something in the form of godliness, and he knows that he has none of it in his heart, he often tries to get it outside; but this is what God says: —

16, 17. Wash yourself, make yourself clean; put away the evil of your doing from before my eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good;

Repentance, practical change of life, renewal of heart, the giving up of evil, the following of right, this is what the Lord approves of. Otherwise, all your fripperies and trickeries of worship are loathsome to him. Do you think that your finest music is sweet to the ear of him who listens to the angels’ everlasting song? Do you imagine that you can build temples worthy of him who made the heavens and the earth? What does he care for temples made with hands? He despises all material things where the heart does not go with them, but purity, holiness, true spiritual worship, — these are the things in which he delights.

17. Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.

This is better than all your incense, or the fat of rams and he-goats.

18. Come now, and let us reason together,” says the LORD: “though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be a white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

This, too, is what God loves, — confessed sin, pardoned by his infinite mercy and grace.

19, 20. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land: but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured with the sword”: for the mouth of the LORD has spoken it.

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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