3061. The Rule Of Grace

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No. 3061-53:493. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, August 17, 1873, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, October 10, 1907.

Many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, except Naaman the Syrian. {Lu 4:27} {a}

1. Our Saviour never sought popularity. His ministry was so attractive that thousands thronged to hear him, glad to catch the accents of his instructive tongue; but he never for a moment sought to preach flesh-pleasing truths, neither did he keep back any doctrine by which it might be feared that his hearers would be disgusted. On this occasion, he was speaking to his own townsmen. The young man, who had left the place for a while, and who, during his absence, had acquired great fame as a teacher and miracle worker, had come home; and there was naturally much curiosity to hear him. They supposed that he would make the town, where he had been brought up, to be the chief place of his ministry. They were his fellow townsmen, so surely they had some claim on him; but our Lord, knowing very well that, if they really understood his teaching, they would not be pleased with it, and knowing that the blessings he came to bring were not such as they desired, at once dealt honestly with them, and told them that Elisha did not heal the lepers in his own country, but one was healed who came from a foreign land; and he led them to infer that, very likely, he would do his greatest deeds of healing elsewhere than at Nazareth, so that God might be pleased to bestow the richest supplies of his grace on heathens, — on Syrians, and not on those who seemed to suppose that they had some right or claim to it. Our Lord, in fact, preached to these people the great doctrine of divine sovereignty, the humbling doctrine of divine election, of which Paul wrote to the Romans, “He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.’ So then it is not by him who wills, nor by him who runs, but, by God who shows mercy.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 442, “God’s Will and Man’s Will” 433} That was the main point of our Saviour’s discourse, and his fellow townsmen could not endure it, just as many since have not been able to endure it; and, seeking to end such hateful teaching by murdering the Teacher, they rushed him from the synagogue to the top of the precipice on which their city stood, so that they might hurl him down and kill him.

2. I learn, from this incident in our Lord’s life, that it is not the preacher’s business to seek to please his congregation. If he labours for that end, he will in all probability not attain it; but if he should succeed in gaining it, what a miserable success it would be! He must lose the favour of his Master if he should once aim at securing the favour of his fellow men. We therefore ought to preach many truths which will irritate our hearers; we ought to declare to them the doctrines which are really for their present and eternal welfare, however distasteful they may be to their carnal reason and natural inclinations. Just as the physician must give bitter draughts to his patients if he would cure them of their diseases, so must the preacher, who is truly sent by God, proclaim unpalatable truths to his hearers, and he must preach all the more often on those very bitter truths because men are so unwilling to receive them. That part of the gospel which they will readily embrace without any persuasion need not be preached so often, but that part which they will kick at and resist must be enforced again and again, if perhaps at last their judgment should be convinced of its truth, and their heart won for its reception.

3. By the Holy Spirit’s help, I am going to preach to the unconverted with the earnest desire and hope that they will remain unconverted no longer, and my subject is the healing of Naaman the Syrian. There are two points in it that are especially worth noting. The first is, the sovereignty of divine grace which was revealed in it, and the second is, the unvarying rules by which that grace works.

4. I. First, then, let us consider THE SOVEREIGNTY OF DIVINE GRACE which was so clearly revealed in the healing of Naaman the Syrian.

5. And I will observe, at the outset, that the experience of Naaman equally teaches the freeness of divine grace. If our Saviour had selected his case as an example, not of the sovereignty, but of the freeness of divine grace, it would have been equally appropriate. Two truths, which sometimes appear to be in opposition, will often prove, if they are examined more closely, to be nestling side by side with each other. Suppose our Saviour had stated the case of Naaman like this, — “Every person, who was a leper, who applied to Elisha to be healed was healed; and though one of them came from a foreign country, and was a heathen, and a determined enemy of Israel, he was not rejected, for whoever came to the prophet was accepted, and received the blessing,” — that would have been a truth, and a most blessed truth too, and a truth which we delight to preach, and which we do preach incessantly. And that truth does not clash with the other truth of which our text speaks, — that, out of all the lepers who were in Israel in the days of Elisha, no one was cleansed except this one stranger from the alien land of Syria. The universality of divine grace is easily reconciled with its sovereignty. Perhaps we cannot reconcile it so that others can see the reconciliation, but we have felt the reconciliation in our own hearts and in our own experience; and for my part, it would be as stern a difficulty to see that there is anything irreconcilable between the two doctrines as it seems to be to others to see how the two doctrines can possibly agree. I cannot, for the life of me, detect where they clash, just as some others cannot see how they agree. I sincerely believe that Christ will by no means cast out anyone who comes to him, and I dare to say that to every man and woman of the human race; but I also believe just as firmly that no one comes to Christ except those whom the Father draws to him, and that all whom the Father has given to Christ shall surely come to him. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1762, “High Doctrine and Broad Doctrine” 1763} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2386, “The Drawings of Divine Love” 2387} Both these statements are true; and, therefore, both of them are to be believed, and we may rest assured that they both agree with each other.

6. But our Saviour, on this occasion, though he often preached on the freeness of divine grace, was pleased to preach on its sovereignty, for it was the sovereignty of grace that saved Naaman. He was a heathen, a worshipper of the idol-god Rimmon, yet, when he obeyed the prophet’s command, he received the healing he asked for, indeed, and more than that, he received the salvation of his soul too. In addition to being a heathen, this man was a sworn enemy of Israel. He had often led the bands of Syria to plunder the people of God, and yet, for all that, eternal mercy looked with satisfaction on him, and determined not only that his leprosy should be healed, but that he should be a perpetual monument of the sovereign grace of God. He also lived far away from the abode of Elisha; and, in those days, the difficulty of travelling such a distance was very great; and yet, for all that, the grace of God, which passed by the lepers who were living near the prophet’s home, went far afield, and found this Syrian soldier; and it is even so to this day. There are those who have lived ungodly, dishonest, unrighteous, unchaste lives, whom nevertheless God saves by his almighty grace. There are even those who have been enemies of the gospel, deniers and despisers of it, and some who have been persecutors of God’s people, who have, like Saul of Tarsus, breathed out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, and who have hated the things of God with their whole heart, yet, like Saul of Tarsus, these men have been overcome by the omnipotence of eternal love, and they have been saved by the sovereign grace of God. Some of these people have, like Naaman, been far off from the means of grace. They have seldom attended the house of prayer, they have been disregarders of God’s holy Sabbath; and yet, strange to say, the first time they went to the house of God, they found the blessing. They have been sought for by God, and found according to his sovereign grace. It is amazing, but it is true; and no one can long be pastor of such a church as this without observing that it is often the most unlikely people who are saved. Those, who seem to you not likely even to be influenced by divine truth, are the very people who do yield to it, many, whom you have written down as quite incorrigible, have been renewed by sovereign grace. Why it is so, is not for us to know; we can only say, “Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in your sight.”

7. This sovereignty of grace, in the case of Naaman, seems all the more remarkable when we think of the many others who were passed over, while he was healed. We should have thought, that surely, if Elisha can cure lepers, he will begin with those in Israel, of whom our Lord tells us that there were many; but he does not begin with them; what he does is done for Naaman the Syrian. We think, surely, if he can cure lepers, he will cure those who are observers of the ceremonial law, but he does no such thing; he brings healing to this heathen foreign soldier. At the present day, in every congregation, there are people who have been brought up in an atmosphere of godliness. The first sound they ever heard was the voice of praise and prayer, and they have lived in such surroundings all their lives, yet they are not converted. They have been at the house of God almost as often as the doors have been open; yet they are not saved. And they are respectable people too; of excellent morals, very good in many ways, and yet, for all that, while tax collectors and prostitutes, strangers and foreigners, occasional hearers and the like, have actually been converted, and are rejoicing in the blessings of full salvation, these people still remain in the leprosy of their natural depravity and sin, impenitent, unbelieving, unconverted, unpardoned.

8. How is this, and why is it? It is not for us to give any reasons except the one reason that lies on the surface, which is this, — that God will have all men know that there is no one who has any right to salvation, that we are all lost and condemned to begin with, and that, if he does save any of us at all, it must be on the footing of his free, sovereign mercy, and cannot be on the basis of our own merits and deserts. Suppose that it were a rule of the kingdom that all the children of pious parents should be converted, there would be many who would say, “My mother was a godly woman, my father was a Christian; and that is all that is required.” But it is not so; you are a lost sinner, whatever your mother may have been; and you must repent and be converted just as truly as if you had been the child of the worst prostitute of the streets. Even though you may have descended from a long line of saints, you are a sinner, and must be pardoned through the infinite mercy of God quite as much as the child of the man who was hanged for committing murder. You must be saved on the same principles as the vilest of the vile must be saved; and, to make men see this, God often passes by the children of the godly, and calls the children of the godless into the kingdom of his grace. If everyone who went to the house of God was entitled to the blessings of salvation, many would say, “We attend such and such a place of worship, and that is sufficient to ensure us a place in the kingdom of heaven”; so you seat-holders would conclude that there was no need for you to be anxious, and that, one of these days, you would be sure to get the blessing. But, my dear hearers, how many have gone to hell from seats in places of worship! How many regular hearers of the Word are also regular unbelievers, who will one day be banished from God’s presence with a deeper woe on them because they knew their duty, yet did not do it; they heard the truth, yet did not heed it! And the Lord makes this to be known among men by often calling by his grace those who attend our services, as it were, by accident, and by making the Word preached to be the savour of life to life to them, while those who regularly hear it, yet do not receive it, prove it to be the savour of death to death to them. And, then, if all respectable people were saved, or only those were saved who were respectable, we should have this pretty thing, which is called “respectability” nowadays, seeking to make God its debtor, and to cause the Most High to bow down before the respectability of men. Let a woman only turn aside from the path of virtue, let a man be only once convicted of a crime, and how our self-righteous hands are held up against them. We are so pure, so good, so free from sin that we can afford to say, with the hypocrite of old, “Stand by yourself, do not come near to me; for I am holier than you.” We do not wonder that the Lord said, concerning such people, “These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burns all the day.” How the thrice-holy Jehovah must loathe those who hypocritically pretend to be pure when their heart is full of rottenness and uncleanness! Many a man may appear not to be leprous, but the fatal disease is on him all the while, and only waiting for an opportunity to show itself, as it will do before long. Oh, the wicked pious platitudes of this self-righteous world, how God hates it! And therefore he comes, and looks for sinners, for real sinners, for those who admit that they have gone astray from his ways like lost sheep; and he leaves those who think themselves good, those who are in their own esteem righteous, and he says to them, “According to your belief, you do not need a Saviour; therefore go your own way, and perish in your sin. But, as for those poor lost ones whom you judge to be so full of sin that there is a double necessity for them to be pardoned and saved, it is for just such sinners as these that Jesus died; he did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”

9. I have heard of a great man, who was once taken to see the French galley-slaves, and he had given to him the authority to set free any man whom he found at the galleys to whom he cared to give his liberty. He went to one man, and found that he was committed for ten years, and he asked him about his crime. He said that he thought he had been treated very unfairly; he did not know that he had done much amiss. Perhaps he had, once or twice, taken a little that was not his; but the temptation to which he had yielded was very strong, and he had done so much good in other ways that he really thought he was very harshly treated in being sent to the galleys. So the gentleman passed him by; he was too good a man to receive a free pardon. There was another, who said that he was perfectly innocent; he even swore that he was as innocent as a new-born babe of every accusation that had been brought against him. The gentleman also passed him by, for he too was too good to be freely forgiven. Then he came to another, who said that he might have tripped perhaps, but much more was made of it than was true, and there were liars in court, and perjury had been committed by a great many of the witnesses against him, and he knew a great many men, who were twice as bad as he was, yet they were at liberty while he was there in chains. That man was not the one to be pardoned. At last, the visitor came to a poor fellow who said to him, “I have a long sentence to serve, but I fully deserve even more than that sentence; I wonder that I was not condemned to death, for, had they proceeded to extremities, they might have proved me guilty of murder, so I look on my sentence as much lighter than I really deserve to suffer.” Then he, who had received the authority to pardon whom he pleased, said, “I pardon you, for, according to your own confession, you appear to be the only man in the whole place who is really receiving justice, and therefore I will show you mercy, so you may go your way as a free man.” In the same way, the Lord Jesus Christ, is always ready to bestow his mercy on those who confess that they deserve the heaviest sentence of his justice; but as long as we kick against that, we cannot expect him to look on us in love.

10. II. Now I think I have spoken sufficiently on the sovereignty of grace, so I want to enlist your earnest attention to another part of the subject as I try to show you that, in the case of Naaman, sovereign grace followed THE UNVARYING RULES OF GRACE.

11. God is a Sovereign, and therefore may save whom he wills, and he may also save them how he wills; yet, when he is about to save a man, he does not depart from his usual method of working, but saves him according to the way in which he is accustomed to save.

12. Let me call your attention, first, to the fact that, although Naaman was to be healed, and although divine sovereignty ordained the healing: it was necessary that he should first hear the good news of the possibility of healing. The ordinary way in which a sinner is saved is this, “Faith comes by hearing.” It is as simple as possible; we hear the message, and we believe it. So, Naaman must first hear about the possibility of his being healed; but how he is to hear? Where is the preacher who will wend his way to Syria, and tell him about the Lord’s prophet in Samaria? There is no need for any preacher to go on that long journey: a little maid is taken captive, and she conveys the necessary message; that is all that is required. It was through a suitable messenger that Naaman was healed and blessed, so let none of us ever get into our heads the idea that God will save his own, and therefore there is no need for us to go out to seek for them, or to preach to them when we have found them. He will not save them apart from his own way, which way is that the preacher shall be sent, and the person to be blessed shall hear the gospel, and when he hears it, he shall be constrained to believe it. Hence we, who are preachers, must continue to preach the Word, and you, who are unsaved hearers, must make a point of endeavouring to hear the gospel message, for that is both your privilege and your duty. God’s own message to you is, “Incline your ear, and come to me: hear, and your soul shall live.” Therefore give your most earnest attention to the gracious message of mercy which God sends to you by his servants.

13. Next, when Naaman has heard that there is healing to be had in Israel, he must give heed to the message, and make a long journey in order to reach the Lord’s prophet. He would not have been healed if he had sat down, and said, “I have heard about this possibility of being healed of my leprosy, but I shall take no trouble to see whether it is true or not.” Oh, no! he does not talk like that, but he gives orders for the horses and camels to be brought out, and the talents of silver, and the pieces of gold, and the changes of clothing that he will need for use as presents, and he departs for that far country where he hopes to receive the blessing that he desires. And, sinners, if you really wish to be saved, you must remember that God will save you through your attentively listening to the gospel message that he sends to you, and rousing your spirits to do what that message tells you to do. God does not convert sinners while they are asleep; the gospel is not absorbed by men as water is absorbed by a sponge, by a kind of unconscious action. The truth comes to the mind of the hearer, and he is impressed by it; and being impressed by it, he lays it to heart, and gives his whole soul to its comprehension and reception. And if you would be converted, you must get the truth into your very soul. You must not play with it, you must not toy with it, you must not trifle with it; but you must be in earnest about the matter; you must, as the apostle says, “Lay hold on eternal life.” There must be an agonizing and a wrestling that you may enter into the full appropriation and possession of the truth which is proclaimed in your hearing.

14. When Naaman had come to the prophet Elisha, he was not healed merely because he had heard the little maid’s message, and because he had heard it with such a measure of attention that he had given earnest heed to it; but it was also imperative for him that he should obey the command he received. “Go,” said the prophet, “and wash in Jordan seven times.” Naaman was ordained to be healed, yet he never would have been healed without the washing that Elisha commanded; and there is no sinner, no matter what the purposes of God may be, who will ever get his sins forgiven except by washing in the precious blood of Jesus. It does not matter who you may be, unless you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, you cannot have eternal life. Do not suppose, dear hearers, that there is some secret decree of God that will override this; there is no such decree. The truth with which you have to deal is this, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he who does not believe shall be damned.” If you do not believe in Jesus, there is no hope for you; there remains, neither in God, nor in anyone else, any hope for you. The way of salvation is set before you, and it is quite as simple as Elisha’s command to Naaman to wash seven times in Jordan. The gospel is, that Jesus Christ suffered in the place of all sinners who trust him as their Saviour, that he endured what they ought to have endured, and made atonement to God for all the sins that they would ever commit; and so if you trust him, you are saved. The simple act of relying on Jesus as your Substitute and Saviour puts away your guilt and sin for ever.

15. But if you say, “This plan of salvation is too simple to be safe; I thought that there would be some imposing ceremony to be performed, I imagined that there would be certain mysterious feelings to be experienced”: — if you talk like this, you cannot be healed. It is the eternal purpose of God that we shall be saved through faith in Jesus Christ; and if there is no faith in Jesus Christ, that is a proof that there is no divine purpose to heal that soul; but where there is the divine purpose to heal, it is evidenced, sooner or later, by a submissive yielding to the ordained way of salvation, and simple trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

16. Notice once more, Naaman was not healed until he was humbled. It was God’s purpose to heal him; he had been set apart by sovereign grace to be healed, yet he had to be humbled before the blessing could come to him. While his pride was so great, he could not be healed. Why should he wash in the Jordan? Were not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, quite as good as the Jordan? Why should he wash there? Is he not high in the esteem of his master, the king of Syria? Why should he stoop to this indignity? He will not do anything of the kind. But if he will not, not matter who he is, he cannot be healed. Though he is such a great man, there is no healing for him without humbling; and it is so with those who would be cured of the leprosy of sin. There is no hope of heaven for you unless you are humbled. As long as you have a rag of your righteousness that you trust in, you cannot have the robe of Christ’s righteousness to cover you. If you glory in what you have, and what you are, you are not the kind of man whom God delights to save. You must lie low at the feet of Jesus; you must plead for forgiveness like a poor guilty sinner; you must cry, “Jesus save me, or I die!” or else you are too big to pass through the gate of heaven, for “strait is the gate, and narrow is the way,” and no self-righteousness can go in there.

17. “But,” one says, “I have always been a regular attendant at a place of worship; I have always paid twenty shillings in the pound; I give a guinea to the hospital, and I believe myself to be, on the whole, a most excellent person.” I do not suppose that anyone will say just that, but I mean that a great many will think it, and I want all such people plainly to understand that, until they get all this horrible boasting out of their soul, they will no more go to heaven than the devil himself will. But if any man here confesses that he is a mass of iniquity, that even his best doings have something bad in them, that his prayings have to be wept over, and his tears of repentance have to be washed to get the filth out of them, — if there is a sinner here, real black or scarlet sinner, he is the man who is freely invited to come and put his trust in Jesus, for it is “a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners,” even the very chief. Pride must come down, self-righteousness must die, and the sinner must glorify the grace of God by acknowledging that he has no merit of his own, or he cannot be saved.

18. What shall we say then to these things? Just this; let us all go together to the throne of God whom we have offended, and let us confess that none of us have any claims on him. Let each of us say this to him, “My Lord, if you should destroy me, I must confess that I deserve it. If you should save my brother, who is equally guilty, and not save me, I dare not complain, for you have the right to exercise your mercy wherever and however you wish. I shall receive the sentence that is just even if I am banished from your presence for ever.” Submit to the Lord as the burgesses of Calais {b} came to the conquering king with ropes around their necks; that is the proper costume for a sinner to wear before God. Say, “Lord, I deserve to die; I deserve to perish; I deserve to be destroyed. I will have no objections with you about my sentence, for how can a worm dispute with the Almighty? Who am I that I should reply against my Maker?”

19. When you have taken that position, rely on the freeness of divine grace. Grasp, as with a death grip, this great fact, and say, “Lord, you do forgive sinners for your own name’s sake; you cannot find anything in us that is good, anything that can move you to pity; but, oh, by your mercy and your love, let men see what a gracious God you are! For your great name’s sake, have mercy on us, and save us!” And you can plead that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will by no means cast out”; and that he has told his servants to say, “Whoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved”; — “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” Plead with him that he has said, “Come now, and let us reason together, … Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Go and plead in that way, and trust yourself on the truth revealed in the Word of God. Try it, and prove it, and see whether God really means what he says. Say to him, — 

   Thou hast promised to forgive

   All who in thy Son believe;

   Lord, I know thou canst not lie;

   Give me Christ, or else I die.

I will not say to you, — Go and risk it; for there is no risk. I will not say to you, — Go and venture, for it is no venture. Go and say to the Lord, “Oh Lord, if I must perish, I will perish trusting in your mercy through the precious blood of Jesus your dear Son! ‘Other refuge have I none.’ I cast aside all my former confidences, and all my boastings, and come as the worst sinner must come, for I feel that, in some respects, I am the worst sinner who ever came to you. I come as an utterly lost, undone, bankrupt sinner, and I look to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus for all that I need.” Then, if you perish like that, I am quite willing to perish with you; and I will stand at the judgment bar of God with you on the same terms; for if you are lost, I must be lost too. I solemnly affirm that I have no hope in anything I have ever done. I have preached the gospel these many years, but I have not preached one sermon that I can look on with any confidence as far as to depend on it as a merit in the sight of God. After we are saved, we may do something, in the way of alms-giving and other things, to show our gratitude to God; but they are worse than useless if we begin to boast about them as a reason for our salvation. My song is, — 

   I the chief of sinners am,

   But Jesus died for me.

I know he did, and I hope many of you can say the same thing. We are in the same boat, and if we go down; God will have to go down too, for it would stain his honour for anyone to be lost trusting in Jesus. But we shall never go down if we are trusting in him; we shall stand when the great floods are out, and the heavens are pouring out their deluge of devouring rain; we shall stand, for we are built on a rock if we are trusting in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. May God grant that we may all be found there, and his shall be the praise, for ever and ever. Amen.

{a} Other sermons by Mr. Spurgeon on the healing of Naaman the Syrian: —  {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 297,298, “Mr. Evil — Questioning Tried and Executed” 289} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 892, “A Serious Remonstrance” 883} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1173, “I Thought” 1164}
{b} The Burghers of Calais: England’s Edward III, after a victory in the Battle of Crécy, laid siege to Calais, while Philip VI of France ordered the city to hold out at all costs. Philip failed to lift the siege, and starvation eventually forced the city to parley for surrender. According to medieval writer Jean Froissart, Edward offered to spare the people of the city if six of its top leaders would surrender themselves to him, presumably to be executed. Edward demanded that they walk out wearing nooses around their necks, and carrying the keys to the city and castle. See Explorer "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Burghers_of_Calais"

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 107:23-43}

23, 24. Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters; these see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.

The Jews were never given to navigation. To “go down to the sea in ships,” seemed a very extraordinary thing to them; they looked on it as a going down, as it were, into a dreadful abyss. We, who are more accustomed to going to sea than they were, talk about “the high seas”; but they spoke of going “down to the sea.” They never went to sea except on business. King Solomon had no pleasure yacht. There was never one of that ancient nation who cared to trust himself on the sea except as a matter of sheer necessity, and those who did so were looked on with wonder by their land-loving friends. “Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord”; — that is, his greatest works, both in the sea and on it. They know what storms are, and they see what omnipotence can do, and they come back to tell about the wonders of God on the mighty deep.

This verse may be read spiritually as well as literally. God calls some of his servants, as it were, to go down to the sea in ships. They are tried with poverty, with personal sickness, with temptation, with inward conflicts, with fierce persecutions; and God never calls them to these trials out of mere caprice, there is always a reason for it. They go down to the sea in ships to “do business in great waters.” There is something to be gained from their trials, and something to be learned from them. They “do business in great waters”; and “these see the works of the Lord.” Others hear about them, and believe what they are told concerning them; but these see them. They see what God has done in their case, — how he sustains, how he delivers, how he sanctifies trial, and overrules it for his own glory, and his people’s good: “These see the works of the Lord.” And they also see the wonders of the economy of grace. They are made to experience the heights and depths, the lengths and breadths, of that love which surpasses knowledge; they see “his wonders in the deep.” You and I need not desire to have trouble, as though we put out to sea for our own pleasure; but, if God calls us to sail on a sea of troubles, if he sends us there on his business, we may depend on it that he intends for that business to end for our profit and his own glory.

25-27. For he commands, and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up its waves. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end.

Here we learn something of what sailors see, and of what tried Christians experience. These great storms arise by God’s commandment; — not as many say, nowadays, “by the laws of nature.” The wind, which had been quiet, heard God’s voice, and raises itself up, like a wild beast from its lair: “He commands, and raises the stormy wind”; and no sooner does the great wind begin to blow than the white crests of the waves are seen, and the white horses fly before the blast which lifts up the waves on high. Then the ship, however staunch it is, seems to have no greater power of resistance than a frail sea-bird; and it is tossed up and down, up and down, from the trough of the sea to the billows’ crown: “They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths”; and their very soul begins to melt. Brave men as they are, it only needs a sufficient amount of storm to make their hearts turn to water and their spirits dissolve into the turbulent element that is all around them: “their soul is melted because of trouble.” Then they cannot stand upright: “they reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man.” What is worse, they cannot control their brains; they “are at their wits’ end.” What can they do in such a case as that? There is an end to all human wit and wisdom when the great storms are out on the sea.

You who have ever had deep spiritual trials know the analogy of all this. There may come times — there have come times to some of us — when, at the command of God, or by divine permission, there has been a fierce blast of temptation or a fiery trial, and then all that was peaceful around us before suddenly turns into a whirlpool of tempestuous billows, and we are tossed to and fro at the mercy of the winds and the waves. Sometimes we ascend in presumption, and then we go down into the very depths of despair. At one moment, we are joyful with hope; and, a moment later, we seem ready to give up all hope, our courage fails us, and our soul dissolves within us. If you never have known this experience, I pray that you never may know it; but some of us have had stormy times when we have seemed to have no foothold, when we have reeled to and fro like drunken men, — when the best faith we have had has been little better than staggering. Still, it is better to stagger on the promise than to stagger at it; and we did still stand though we staggered, and we were at our wits’ end. We could not see what to do, and we could not tell what to do, and we could not have done it if we had known what to do; we were brought to such an extremity that we seemed to have neither wit nor wisdom left.

28. Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses.

This shows that, although they were at their wits’ end, they had wit enough or wisdom enough to pray. Their souls were melted, so they let them run out in prayer. It is a good thing to get the soul melted, for then it will flow out like water before the Lord.

Note that these sailors cried to God when there was no one else to whom they could cry: “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble.” Learn from this sentence that, when your soul is melted because of trouble, you can still pray. When you reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, you can still pray; and when you are at your wits’ end, you can still pray. Prayer is never out of season; it is a fruit of grace that is acceptable to God in autumn and in winter, in spring and in summer. As long as you live, and even when the worst comes to the worst, cry mightily to God, for he will surely hear you. Was it not so with us when we were in spiritual trouble, and could do nothing else but cry to the Lord? It was a poor prayer that we offered, but it was a real prayer that we presented when we cried to God.

Notice how quick God is to hear such prayer as this: “Then they cry to the Lord in their trouble, and he brings them out of their distresses.” He brought them into them, and therefore he brought them out of them. It was God who took Jacob into Egypt; and, therefore, though it took more than two hundred years to bring Israel out of Egypt, God brought them out at last. He kills, and he makes alive; he wounds, and he heals. Rest in this truth as a matter of absolute certainty.

29. He makes the storm a calm, so that its waves are still.

In the beginning, God made everything out of nothing, so he can easily make a calm out of a storm; and he can make the storm a calm for you whenever he pleases to do so. Your troubled feelings, your tossings to and fro, may soon subside into “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,” which “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

30. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so he brings them to their desired haven.

And there is no music that is sweeter to the mariner’s ears than the rattle of the chain as the anchor grips the bottom of the harbour, and the ship rests from all her tossings. The Lord will give you grace, my brother, my sister, to let down your anchor; — or, rather, to throw it up “into that within the veil,” for that is the way that your anchor goes; and then you shall be glad because you will be quiet. I believe that there is, often, a greater, fuller, deeper joy in being quiet than there is in making a noise. There are times when it is good to praise the Lord with the high-sounding cymbals and with the harp of a solemn sound; but, in the deepest joy of all, we are still before God, and praise is silent before God in Zion.

31. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Should they not do so? Those who have survived the storms at sea, or the even greater storms within their own souls, should surely take care to praise the Lord. If we know how to pray, we ought also to know how to praise. Prayer and praise ought to form the two covers of the book of our life, and our life is not well bound unless these are the two covers to it, with a good stiff back of faith to bind the two covers firmly together, and to hold every page in its proper place.

32. Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Let them not only praise the Lord in private, but let them also sound out their song of gratitude to God where the greybeards are gathered together, and let the men of experience, the officers of the church, the leaders of the Lord’s people, help them in the expression of their gratitude.

33, 34. He turns rivers into a wilderness, and the water-springs into dry ground; a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it.

Listen to this, you who are men of understanding. God can soon take away from any people the privileges which they cease to prize. He sent barrenness on the earth in the days of our first father, Adam; and he has long cursed with barrenness the very land in which this Psalm was written. He can give us what he pleases, and he can take it all away when he pleases. And, spiritually, God can easily turn a fruitful land into barrenness. The means of grace, the ministry of his Word, which was once very rich and fertile for you, may suddenly lose all its savour and all its fruitfulness. Indeed, even his own Word, which may be compared to water-springs, may suddenly seem to you to be only as dry ground; and your secret devotions, your reading of godly books, your conversation with gracious men and women, all of which were like wells of water, may seem to be dried up. If you walk contrary to God, he will walk contrary to you. “He turns a fruitful land into barrenness, for the wickedness of those who dwell in it.” When the people of God fall from their steadfastness, when they wander from the paths of holiness, it is easy for God to let them know that the best means are only means, and that the best earthly supplies are barrenness itself apart from him. May God grant that it may never be so with any of us!

But now see what happens when the Lord turns his hand the other way: — 

35. He turns the wilderness into a standing water, and dry ground into water-springs.

He can make the sandy desert into a lake of water, he can make what was barren as the desert of Sahara to become as fruitful as the garden of the Lord. And if you are just now mourning your barrenness, believe in the omnipotence of his grace which can work such wonderful transformations as these for you. “All my fresh springs are in you,” said the psalmist; and so they are with us; therefore, why should not those fresh springs now flow into our nature so as to make the dry ground into water-springs?

36,37. And there he makes the hungry to dwell, so that they may prepare a city for habitation; and sow the fields, and plant vineyards, which may yield fruits of increase.

See, brothers and sisters, when God blesses us, then we begin to work for him. When he works, we work. He blesses the barren land with fruitfulness, and then we sow the fields, and plant vineyards. We do not sit still because God is at work; no, rather, we obey the apostolic injunction, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do his good pleasure.”

38,39. He blesses them also, so that they are multiplied greatly; and does not permit their cattle to decrease. Again, they are diminished and brought low through oppression, affliction, and sorrow.

God has a great many rods, and we get a great many smarts because of our many sins. If we were only saved from our sins, we should not need all these rods, “oppression, affliction, and sorrow,” — tribulation, and anguish, and pain, and distress. I will not tell you the names of all of them, but they are very many, and their strokes are very painful. May God grant that we may be free of sin, for only so shall we be free of many of these sorrows.

40. He pours contempt on princes, and causes them to wander in the wilderness, where there is no way.

God makes very little of earth’s biggest men: “He pours contempt on princes.” He has wonderful ways of making very poor those who are very rich in themselves. He makes those who were lords of all the fields to be exiles and wanderers in the wilderness, where there is no way. Do not get proud, brethren, or else that may be your lot. He who is so near perfection that he does not need to pray, “God be merciful to me a sinner,” may before long be so near desperation that he will not dare to pray even the tax collector’s prayer. Let none of us become too great, lest we soon be made very little.

41. Yet he sets the poor on high from affliction, and makes him families like a flock.

God always has an eye of compassion for the poor, and especially for the spiritually poor. While “he pours contempt on princes” with one hand, he is lifting the poor from the dunghill with the other.

42. The righteous shall see it, and rejoice:

When God’s providence and grace are at work with men, the righteous shall see it, and understand it, and be glad.

42. And all iniquity shall stop her mouth.

She is generally very noisy and boastful; but, sometimes, when God’s judgments are abroad, she is obliged to hold her tongue. “All iniquity shall stop her mouth.” Oh Lord, stop it speedily, for she is making a great noise just now!

43. Whoever is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the LORD.

Those who watch providence will never be without a providence to watch.

The OCR quality of this sermon was poor and contained many spurious comas and corrupted words. Editor.

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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