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2960. “Where Are The Nine?” Where?

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“Where Are The Nine?” Where?

No. 2960-51:529. A Sermon Delivered In The Year 1863, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, November 2, 1905.

And Jesus answering said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” {Lu 17:17}

 For other sermons on this text:
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1935, “Where are the Nine? or, Praise Neglected” 1936}
   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2960, “Where are the Nine? Where?” 2961}
   Exposition on Lu 17:11-32 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2944, “Hastening Lot” 2945 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Ps 113 Lu 17:11-19 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2294, “Memory of Christ’s Love, The” 2295 @@ "Exposition"}
   Exposition on Ps 146 Lu 17:11-19 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2347, “Lord’s Famous Titles, The” 2348 @@ "Exposition"}

1. The whole narrative connected with the text is worthy of your careful reading. There were ten men, lepers, who, according to the old proverb that “birds of a feather flock together,” had made a company, and seem to have lived in greater amity through kinship of suffering than they would have done had they been healthy and competent to share the fragrance of each other’s joys. Mutual woe may have softened some of their natural jealousies; for we find that there was at least one in the company who was a Samaritan, while the others were Jews. Now, “the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans,” yet, when both are placed beyond the pale of society, in their sickness an intimacy springs up between them. So does common calamity bring about strange friendships. These men, who, under any other circumstances, would have been mortal enemies, became comforting companions, — at least, so far as their disease would allow them the thought of comfort.

2. Do you not observe everywhere how sinners congregate together? Drunkards are gregarious creatures; they will not often drink alone. The lascivious song is hardly sweet unless it is sung by many tongues. In most kinds of merry-making that are not wise, we know that it is company that gives the zest, and yields the main gratification. Men seem to have a kind of anticipation of the time when they shall be bound up in bundles; they gaily forestall their gloomy doom, as they bind themselves up in bundles while they are yet living. Oh, that Christians would adhere as closely to each other as sinners do, that they would forget their differences, whether they are Jews or Samaritans, and walk in friendship and love! If common sickness made the lepers a band, how much more should common mercy bind us to each other!

3. Well, it so happened that all these ten lepers agreed to go to Christ, the great Healer, at one time. Oh, what mercy it is when a whole hospital full of sinners will agree to go to Christ at once! I remember — I can never look back except with pleasure on the time when a whole company of friends, who were simply worldly, irreligious people, and were accustomed to meet together constantly, were all moved with a desire to come up to the house of God, and it pleased God to direct the shot so that most of them were brought under the divine power. Some of them, who are sitting here now, will remember very well when they used to issue invitations for their festive parties on Sunday evenings; but now they are with us, and are some of the most useful and vigorous church members that we have. It is a fine thing when the ten lepers all agree to come together; it will be a grander thing when the ten lepers are all healed, and not one left to mourn that he has been neglected.

4. These lepers become an example for us, for they went to Jesus. Their disease was foul and loathsome; they felt it to be so. Their own company could not beguile them; they needed health, and nothing else but perfect health would satisfy them. How did they go to Jesus? They first of all went immediately, for it is written in the narrative that, as Christ entered into a village, these lepers began to cry out. They did not wait until he got into the nearest house, and had sat down, and taken some refreshment; no, but they meet him at the village gates; they waylay him at the very portals. They cannot wait; no delay, no procrastination for them. Oh leprous sinner, go to Christ at once; go now, do not wait until you have left the sanctuary! Do not wait until the sermon is over. It is written, “Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Young man, at the threshold of your life, seek Christ. Go now, you who have begun to be sick. Go now, young woman, now that your cheek begins to be blanched with consumption, go now, go at once, go instantly to meet the healing Saviour.

5. They went humbly; they stood afar off, — note that. They felt that they had no right to come near. So, we must go to our Lord for mercy, conscious that we have no claim on him; and standing, just as the tax collector did, afar off, scarcely daring to lift our eyes to heaven, we must cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” William Dawson once told this story to illustrate how humble the soul must he before it can find peace. He said that, at a revival meeting, a little lad, who was used to Methodist ways, — I do not tell the story for the sake of the Methodism, but for the sake of the moral, — the little boy went home to his mother, and said, “Mother, John So-and-so is under conviction, and is seeking for peace, but he will not find it tonight, mother.” “Why, William?” she said. “Because he is only down on one knee, mother, and he will never get peace until he is down on both knees.” Now, the moral of that story, using it metaphorically, is true. Until conviction of sin brings us down on both knees, until we are completely humbled, until we have no hope, no merit, no proud boasting left, we cannot find the Saviour; and we must be willing not to embrace him like sanctified Mary, but to stand at a distance like the unclean lepers.

6. Observe how earnestly they sought him. They cried with a loud voice, or, rather, “They lifted up their voices, and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.’ ” They emulated each other; one cried with all his might, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us”; and another seemed to say, “That is not loud enough,” and so he shouted, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” And so each one strained his voice so that he might reach the ear of the Saviour. There is no winning mercy without holy violence. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” You remember that blind man, who was sitting by the roadside, one day, when Jesus went by, and as he heard a great noise of a crowd passing along, he said, “What does this mean?” They said, “Jesus of Nazareth passes by.” The man, with keen perception, perceived that here was an opportunity for him, so he shouted with all his might, “You Son of David, have mercy on me.” Now, Christ was in the middle of a sermon, and some of the disciples — as some of our good deacons might do when there was a little disturbance, — slipped out of the crowd to say, “Hush, do not make that noise; you will disturb the preacher”; but he cried, “You Son of David, have mercy on me.” “Hold your tongue; the Master cannot attend to you.” And other zealous friends gathered around, and would have put him out of the way; but he cried a great deal more, “You Son of David, have mercy on me.” Well, now, it is just like this that we must pray if we would get the mercy. Cold prayers court refusal. Heaven is not to be obtained by lukewarm supplications. Heat your prayers red-hot, brother. Plead the blood of Jesus; plead like one who intends to prevail, and then you shall prevail.

7. Not to take more time where there is plenty of room for long observations, let me turn your attention to the way in which Christ cured these ten lepers.

8. There is an exceptional variety in Christ’s methods of cure. Sometimes, it is a touch; another time, clay and spittle; at other times, a word. This time, he said to them, “Go show yourselves to the priests.” They were not clean, and they might, therefore, have turned around, and said, “What a foolish errand! Why should we go and show our filthiness to priests? Master, will you either cure us or not? If you will cure us, we can then go to the priests; if you will not, it is a vain errand to go to the priests to be doomed to seclusion again.” They did not ask questions, however; they were too wise for that; they did just as they were told; and though they were white, and far from being like men whose flesh is sound, the whole ten set out on their pilgrimage to go to the priests; and, as they went, suddenly the cure was performed, and every one of them was clean. Oh, what a beautiful picture is this of the plan of salvation! Jesus Christ says, “Believe in me, and live.” Oh, do not be foolish; do not say, “But, Lord, make me whole, and then I will believe”; do not say, “Lord, give me a tender heart, and then I will come”; “Lord, forgive my sin, and then I will love you,” but do as he tells you. He tells you to trust him; so, do as he tells you, trust him; and while you are trusting him, while you are going to him with the white leprosy still in your skin, while you are still on the way, he will heal you. You know that we are not to be saved first and to believe in Christ afterwards; that may be the order of God’s covenant revelation, but it is not the order of our spiritual apprehension. We are to believe first, just as we are.

    All unholy and unclean,
    Being nothing else but sin, —

I am to believe that Jesus Christ is able to save me; I am to trust my soul with him, so that he may save it; and in the act of doing so I shall find salvation. Please do not be so foolish as to say, “Lord, I object to this method of procedure.” Seek no needless preparation. Do not hesitate and wait until you feel ready to come to him.

    Let not conscience make you linger,
       Nor of fitness fondly dream;
    All the fitness he requireth
       Is to feel your need of him:
          This he gives you;
       ’Tis the Spirit’s rising beam.

9. Let us now fix our attention more closely on the text. I think I see those ten men; they are trudging along the road, and as they go they are obliged to wear a veil, and to cry, as they march along, “Unclean, unclean, unclean,” so as to warn the passers-by that lepers are on the road. Suddenly, while they are marching on, one of them turns to his fellow sufferer, and says, “I am clean”; and the next says, “So am I”: and the whole ten turn around, and look at each other, and each man, as he looks first at his own flesh, and then at his fellows’, comes to the conclusion that the whole ten have been healed in an instant. “What shall we do?” says one of them. “Why,” say the others, “we had better go on to the priests, and get officially cleansed, as soon as possible.” “I have a farm,” one says; “I have been away from it for a long while, and I should like to get back.” “Ah!” another says, “and I have not seen my wife for many a day; let me be off to the priest, and then go home to her.” “Ah!” says another, “there are my dear little children; I hope to take them on my knee soon.” “Yes,” another says, “and I want to join my old friends, — to get back to my former companions.” But there is another who says, “You do not mean to say you will go on, do you? I think we ought to go back, and thank the man who has healed us. This is God’s work; and if we are to go and thank God in the temple, I think we ought first to go and thank God in the man who has healed us, the man Christ Jesus. Let us go back to him.” “Oh!” another says, “I think we had better not; if we do not go to the priest at once, our friends will not know us again; and it will be a disgrace to us, later on, if they say, ‘That is John the leper; that is Samuel the leper.’ I think we had better go to the priest at once, get the thing done, and then get back as soon as we can. Let us see; you go to Bethsaida, and you go to Capernaum; let us get back as quietly as possible, and hold our tongues about it, that is our advise.” “What!” says the other man, — and he was a Samaritan, — “what! do that? Never has such love been heard of as what has been shown to us, and such a blessing as we have received ought to receive something like gratitude. If you will not go back, I will,” he says; and they turn around, perhaps, and laugh at him for his excessive zeal, and one of them says, “Our Samaritan friend always was fanatical.” “Fanatical or not,” he says, “I have received such a favour that I never could repay it, even if I counted out my life’s blood in drops; and, therefore, I will go back to him, and fall at his feet, and adore him as God, since he has worked a divine work in me.” Away he goes, down he falls at Jesus’ feet, adores him as God, and with as loud a voice as once he cried, “Lord, have mercy on me,” he cries now, “Glory, glory, glory be to your name.” Jesus answers, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?”

10. I am going to use the Saviour’s question, with that picture before you, and I hope we may give a satisfactory account of the nine. Gratitude is a very rare thing. If any of you try to do good for the sake of getting gratitude, you will find it one of the most profitless pursuits in the world. If you can do good, expecting to be abused for it, you will get your reward; but if you do good, with an expectation of gratitude in return, you will be bitterly disappointed. If anyone is grateful for anything you do, be surprised by it, for it is the way of the world generally to be ungrateful; the more you do, the more you may do; and when you have done your best, your friend will forget it. Alas! that this should be true, in a spiritual sense, with regard to Christians. I shall take that class first. How many are there, in this house of God, whose sins have been forgiven? They owe to Christ a healing far more wonderful than that of being cleansed from leprosy. The Lord has made them clean; they are saved from death and hell. But, of the saved people in the world, how many there are who never make even a public profession of their being saved at all! There are a few who come, — shall I say only one out of ten? They are baptized, we give them the right hand of fellowship, we thank God; this is good, “but where are the nine?” “Where are the nine?” Every now and then, a brother, who has been made a partaker of sovereign grace, comes forward, and says, “I am on the Lord’s side.” Bless God for that; but are there not many who are hiding themselves, like Saul, among the stuff? “Where are the nine?” Walk through the streets, traverse this great city of London; are we to believe that there is no more Christianity in London than what is apparent in our congregations? I cannot think so; I hope that there are multitudes of true Christians who never did come out and say, “I am a follower of the Lamb.” But is this right? “Where are the nine?” Are they where they are doing good? Are they not in the coward’s place? Are they not skulking like deserters? “Where are the nine?” How it is that they bring no glory to God? Purchased with Christ’s blood, why do they not acknowledge that they are his? Being one with him secretly, why do they not become one with him publicly? He said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Oh, you nine, where are you?

11. But, out of those who do make a profession, to come closer home to most of you, how few there are who live up to it! The profession is made, and they call themselves the people of God. And there are some Christians, — especially some in the humbler walks of life, — whose daily walk is the best sermon on religion that can possibly be preached. With what satisfaction have I often looked on many a poor girl struggling hard to earn her daily bread with her needle, but adorning the doctrine of God even more than a bishop on the bench! And how have I seen some of you, in other ranks, too, and seen your consistency of life, the incorruptibility of your honesty, — how you will stand up against temptations, and are neither to be moved by bribes, nor to be subdued by threats. Now, this is true of many Christians. You will meet them every now and then, — men who are like pillars of light, as the saintly Basil desired to be, — men who reflect the image of Christ. As soon as you see them, you have no need to ask, “Whose image and superscription is this?” They live like Jesus; their holiness, their loving spirit, their prayerfulness, their gentleness, all indicate that they are like the Saviour. Ah! this is true of some; “but where are the nine?” “Where are the nine?” That shop counter-top can tell where some of them are, — cheating the public. “Where are the nine?” Some of them are inconsistent in their walk, — worldly with the worldly, frothy with the light and trifling, as giddy and as fond of carnal pleasure as anyone. “Where are the nine?” Oh brethren, if all who profess to be God’s people really lived up to what they profess, what a grand world this would be! How changed would business become! How different your merchandise and your trade! How altered the appearance of everything. How blessed the poor, how happy the rich! Where would be your pride? Where would be your aping of high gentility? Where would be your longing after so much creature respect and earthly grandeur? The whole thing would be done away with if we became like Christ. In the case of a few, they are delivered from this present evil world according to the will of God. “But where are the nine?” “Where are the nine?” Let their conscience answer.

12. And in our churches, too, how few there are who, making a profession of religion, are fervent in it! If you want good people, who go regularly to church or chapel, subscribe a little sometimes, do not mind walking through the Sunday School once in a year, feel a good deal for the poor and needy, only do not feel in their pockets, — if you want good people who wish all kinds of good things, but never do them, — I can find them as readily as I can find birds nests in winter-time, when the leaves are stripped off the trees. But if you want those who give body, and soul, and strength to God’s cause, — if you would have women who can break the alabaster box of precious ointment for Jesus, as Mary did, — if you would have those who love much, because much has been forgiven, I hardly think you will find one in ten; and very likely that one in ten will be a Samaritan, — one who, in her former state, was full of sin; or a man who, before his conversion, was one of the vilest of the vile. You will often find pure and perfect love there when you may not find it anywhere else. I thank God that, in this congregation, there are many who consistently and cheerfully give up their substance to the Lord, — one in ten, — “but where are the nine?” I thank God that, in this congregation, there are many earnest workers, so that the Sunday Schools in the neighbourhood are mainly supplied by our congregation. This is good, but, “where, are the nine?” I thank God for those men who stand in the streets, and preach, and for those brothers and sisters who distribute tracts, or in other ways seek to serve their Master. This is noble of you, — but, how many do it? “Where are the nine?” Summon the church members, march them all along, and let the officer’s eye run down the ranks, and he will say, “Yes, there is one there who serves his Master well. Step forward. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. You may go.” Here comes another, — “Yes, this man does live for the cause of Christ. You can step forward, too. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine. You may go; you do nothing at all.” I am afraid the average is even less in some churches; and I might, if I were addressing some congregations, not only say “Where are the nine?” but, “Where are the ninety-nine?” for ninety-nine out of a hundred among some professors do not live for God with zeal, with fire, with earnestness, and with fervour. Indeed, my brethren, when you bring out such men as Brainerd, when you bring into the front ranks such men as Henry Martyn, such evangelists as Whitfield and Wesley, such toilsome missionaries of the cross as Robert Moffat or John Williams, you may say, after you have looked at them, “Yes, these do well; they owe much to God, and they live as if they felt it.” But where are the ninety-nine? Where are the nine hundred and ninety-nine? We all owe as much as they; but oh, how little we do! The ground has been ploughed as much, watered as much, and sown as well, but we do not produce twentyfold, while they produce a hundred.

13. “Where are the nine?” Come now, I should not like to leave this point until I have found some of the nine. Are there not some of my own church members who are doing absolutely nothing? You do not help the Sunday School. We require a number of young men and women to go to Kent Street Ragged Schools {a} to teach on Sabbath days, and that is one reason why I want to find out where the nine are. There is a noble field of labour amid the poverty and degradation of Kent Street, and I think we, as a church, ought to look after that locality. “Where are the nine?” Am I not addressing some who are doing nothing for Christ? When brethren now and then say to me, “Well, sir, what shall we do?” I usually suspect that they are rather lazy, for an industrious man soon finds plenty to do in such a city as this. But if there are any of the nine present, let me call them out. For your own comfort’s sake, for the world’s sake, for Christ’s sake, for soul’s sake, because men are dying, time is flying, eternity is hastening on, come, please, come out, you who are of the nine. One feels sometimes, in prospect of death, like the venerable Bede, who, when he had nearly translated the Gospel of John, said to the young man who was writing from his dictation, “Write fast, write fast, for I am dying. How far are you now? How many verses remain?” “So many.” “Quicker, quicker,” he said, “write more quickly, for I am dying.” When at length he said, “I have come to the last verse”; the good old man folded his arms, sang the Doxology, and fell asleep in Jesus. Quickly, brother, quickly, you will never get through the chapter if you do not work and write quickly. Quickly, quickly, your time of dying is so near; and then, when you are finished, if you have worked quickly for Christ though it is not of debt but of grace, you will be able to say, “Lord, now let your servant depart in peace,” and with the Doxology on your quivering lips you will go to sing the Doxology in sweeter strains above.

14. So having somewhat roughly handled professors of religion, I am going to address those who have received special favours from God. Like the ten lepers, there are many in the world who have had very special favours. How many are present tonight who have had fever, cholera, or some sickness which appeared to be to death! I bless God that, when I was last sitting to see enquirers, a very considerable number traced their conversion to sick-beds; they were aroused there; and they afterwards came up to God’s house, —

          To pay the vows
    Their souls in anguish made.

Yes, those are the ones typified by the Samaritan, “but where are the nine?” Is there not one of them under the gallery there, to the right hand, he who was nearly drowned at sea, and, just then, oh, how he vowed that, if God would spare him, he would live for God’s service. But he is one of the nine. Do I not have another over there, who was given up by the doctors, and, like Hezekiah, turned his face to the wall, and said, “Lord, only let me live, and I will be a different man?” But, if there is any difference, he has been rather worse than better. There is another of the nine. I need not go out to find the other seven; they are all here. Some of them have been sick, some of them have suffered from some accident, some have undergone operations, some have passed through imminent peril both on land and sea, and some have had their lives preserved — I think I see them now, — to a very advanced period of life. “Where are the nine?” There is one of the nine here; he has passed his threescore years and ten, and while some of his age have been brought to know the Lord by reason of his goodness and kindness in lengthening their span of years, he still remains, and does not give glory to God. Oh souls, to lie to God is to lie with a vengeance, — to promise to him, and not to perform. What! is God to be played with? Will you play fast and loose with him? Dare you fool around with the Most High, and promise him this and that, and then break your vow? In the name of God, you nine, I cite you to make your appearance at the last great judgment bar, unless you turn from the error of your ways now. May the Spirit of God turn you, for otherwise, when the question is asked, “Where are the nine?” you must be dragged forward, and your vows, and bonds, and privileges shall be all urged against you, and shall be swift witnesses against you for ever.

15. “Where are the nine?” I may remind you of the common mercies that all of us enjoy. Fed each day by divine bounty, clothed by heaven’s charity, supplied with breath by God, there are some who live to praise him, some who give back that breath in praise which God prolongs in mercy, who spend that life for his honour which his longsuffering permits to last. But these are only one in ten, shall I say one in ten thousand? “Where are the nine?” Here are some of them; men who live on God, but never live for God. Men who go from morning to night without prayer; who roll out of bed in the morning, and get to their labour, and roll into it at night, and fall asleep again, but never utter, never feel a “God be thanked for this day’s favour,” never a breathing of the heart towards the God who is in heaven; like brutes they live, like brutes they will die; only, unlike brutes, they will rise again, and receive, for the deeds done in the body, the due payment for the evil that they have done. “Where are the nine?” Let the question provoke you to weep over your ingratitude, and lead you to turn to God.

16. Then again, to use the question another way, where are the nine who have listened to the gospel? Recently, the Lord has been very gracious to our city. Our preachers have not been quite so dead and dull as they once were. The theatres have echoed with the name of Jesus; men like Radcliffe, and North, with Richard Weaver, chief and foremost, and Mr. Denham Smith, have preached the Word with power, and from among the crowds who have gone in and out of the theatres, some have been converted to God, — but “where are the nine?” “Where are the nine?” And in this house, too, with its aisles and its seats thronged so constantly, how many thousands listen to our voice! Yes, I thank God, some not in vain, for some of all kinds, of every rank and condition, have believed in Jesus; — but, still, “where are the nine?” Christians, here is a solemn question for you. There is much good being done in London just now, but we question whether all the Evangelical labour in London is carried on by as much as one in ten. Then, “where are the nine?” When I was in some of the back streets in the neighbourhood of Kent Street last week, I was very pleased, as I went along, to notice in one little house, “Cottage meetings held here.” A little further on, a Ragged School; a little further on, “a prayer meeting held here twice a week.” I could hardly see a street, however low, that seemed to be without some traces of religious effort and action; you could not have said this seven years ago. I believe the signs of the time are favourable; but yet the effort exerted is not at all commensurate with the dire necessity of the age. You do much; the City Mission does much; your tract distributing, despite all that is said against it, does much; your street preaching does much more than critics will allow. I believe that there is more good being done by the preaching in the street than by the preaching within walls, with a few exceptions. Go on with what is being done, but multiply your agencies, for let this question goad you on, “What of the nine? What of the nine?”

17. Oh dear friends, if we could only hope that one in ten in this great city was converted, we might set the bells ringing far more merrily than when the Princess passed through the streets; but I fear we have not gotten to that; however, if we had, it would be a solemn question for us to ask, “What of the nine?” I am afraid some of that nine come here. You are here tonight unconverted. Oh dear friends, do you remember when you were young? There were ten of you; you are the only one left. What of the nine? They are all dead. As far as you know, they are all lost, and you are the only one left. Oh, that God would make you his tonight! Or it may be that you have been listening to the Word of God for a long time; and you have seen one converted, and another converted, but there you are and your other companions still unblessed. Oh, that you, the nine, might be brought in! We must pray to God to convert the nine; we cannot let him go with the one, we must have the nine brought in. The day will come when Christ shall sit on the throne of his glory, and there shall come up before him the ones, and he shall say, “Come, you blessed”; but after he has done that, he may well say, “I gave breath to more than these; I sent the gospel to more than these; I was merciful to more than these. Where are the nine?” And then, you nine, you must make your appearance. And he will say to you, “I fed you, but you did not live for me; I called you, but you would not come; I invited you, but you would not turn; and now, you nine, depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” But, “hope” is the word for tonight, even for the nine. May God be pleased to give you hope within, while I utter hope without! Jesus died; his death is your life; trust him, and you are saved; rest on him with your whole weight; throw yourself flat on him; have nothing to do with standing in your own strength, but prostrate at the foot of his dear cross lay yourself down, and you will not be numbered with the nine, but you shall return to give glory to God, even though so far you may have been a Samaritan, a stranger, the chief of sinners. May God add his blessing, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.

{a} Ragged School: A free school for children of the poorest class. OED.

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