3068. Unknown Depths And Heights

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No. 3068-53:577. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, In The Year 1861, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, November 28, 1907.

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” {Lu 23:34}


For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 897, “First Cry from the Cross, The” 888}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2263, “Christ’s Plea for Ignorant Sinners” 2264}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3068, “Unknown Depths and Heights” 3069}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3558, “Plea from the Cross, A” 3560}

   Exposition on Lu 23:18-25,32-34 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3512, “Are You Mocked?” 3514 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Lu 23:27-49 Mt 27:50-54 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2311, “Our Lord’s Last Cry from the Cross” 2312 @@ "Exposition"}

   Exposition on Lu 23:33-46 Joh 19:25-30 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2263, “Christ’s Plea for Ignorant Sinners” 2264 @@ "Exposition"}


1. It needs a tongue as eloquent as what uttered these words to properly describe the scene before us. Christ, the King of kings, and yet the sorrowful Substitute for sinners, has been stripped naked. The mocking soldiers have unconsciously fulfilled the Scripture which said, “They parted my clothing among them, and they cast lots for my vesture.” He has been thrown roughly to the ground; his legs and arms have been stretched out on the transverse wood; rough hands have grasped the cruel nails; stern blows have been dealt with the heavy hammer; he begins now to know the physical sufferings of crucifixion. He looks down to the faces of the men who have been putting him to excruciating torture and to bitter shame, and utters not a single word of complaint, much less of accusation or of vengeance, and he breathes a prayer, “Father, forgive them,” — my murderers, the rough men who have stripped me, the cruel men who have nailed my hands and pierced my feet, — “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

2. Brethren, the sayings of Christ, on the cross have a deeper meaning than what appears on the surface. {a} They were texts of which his eternal life should be the sermon; they were not common words. Just as no word of Scripture is of private interpretation, so no word of the Saviour on the cross loses its force and significance in later times. What he said then he is saying now; what he said then was only the utterance once of a sentence which shall roll through the ages, and which shall prevail with God through time and throughout eternity. “Father, forgive them,” was the prayer of a dying man, but it was not a dying prayer. “They do not know what they are doing,” was the plea of lips that were about to be closed, but it was no plea which was doomed to silence; it is heard in heaven today, as much as when Jesus first offered it on Calvary from his cross.

3. The text seems to me to be of great depth. I shall not attempt to fathom it tonight, but reserve it for some future sermons, only tonight exploring two of its parts, rather flitting like a swallow across its surface, than, like the leviathan, stirring its depths. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 897, “The First Cry from the Cross” 888} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2263, “Christ’s Plea for Ignorant Sinners” 2264}

4. There are two things in the text, the unknown depths of sin: “They do not know what they are doing”; and the unknown heights of mercy, as revealed in Christ’s dying plea: “Father, forgive them.” May God grant his blessing while I shall endeavour to explain both, according as the Spirit of God shall enable me to do so!

5. I. And first, my friends, it appears from the text that THERE ARE UNKNOWN DEPTHS IN HUMAN INIQUITY: “They do not know what they are doing.”

6. You will tell me, perhaps, that Christ applied this remark to his murderers, who did not know that he was the Son of God; for, if they had known him to be the Messiah, “they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”; and it might have been said to them, “You did it ignorantly in unbelief.” I grant you that this was the immediate meaning of Christ’s words; but I think to return to what I have already affirmed, this saying is true of the entire human family; whenever any of us sin, we do not know what we are doing. Do not misunderstand me. There is no man in the world who does not have enough perception left to teach him the difference between right and wrong. Even on the natural conscience of man there is inscribed so much of the law of God that his conscience either accuses or excuses him; and I can scarcely think that there is any tribe of bushmen, or that there is a single tribe of aboriginal savages, who have altogether lost that “candle of the Lord, which searches all the inward parts of the belly.” They know enough to leave them without excuse, so that, if they perish, they perish through wilful sin; yet I must admit, at the outset, that it is possible for the conscience to become so blind through prevailing customs, so seared through lengthened habit, and so perverted through absolute ignorance, that men may sin, and yet do not know what they are doing. There may be some in whom the judgment has left its seat; they have become maniacs so far as any moral judgment is concerned; they sin with both their hands, and perhaps write down that very sin as being righteousness, and their obscenity as being a sacrifice acceptable to God. However, there are none such here. I think, in a land like this, with an open Bible, with a preached gospel, with the presence of the Spirit of God, I need not address such an assembly as this as not knowing what they are doing in that sense. If you sin, my hearers, you sin against light and knowledge; you sin knowing that you do wrong; you put out your hand to touch the accursed thing, knowing that it is accursed; you sin wittingly, and many shall be your stripes, since you know your Master’s will, and do not do it. But still, of the whole human race it is nevertheless true that, when they sin, “they do not know what they are doing.” Let me show you, as briefly and forcibly as I can, how this is the fact.

7. Who among us knows, to the full, the real meaning and nature of sin? I can give some description to you of what sin is; but I question, brethren, whether even the most enlightened of us know the extreme sinfulness of sin. Sinner, I address myself pointedly to you. Do you know that, when you sin, you call God a fool? You say that his law is not the best thing for you; that he has made a mistake, and has asked you to do what would not be conducive to your happiness. You call God a fool; is that nothing? Do you know that, when you sin, you call God a liar? He tells you that sin is a bitter and an evil thing. You say, “No, it is sweet; it is pleasant; at any rate, I will taste it.” You make the Eternal God out to be a liar; is that nothing? Whenever you sin, you call God a tyrant. You do, in fact, affirm that he has given laws which are harsh and arbitrary, which he ought not to have given, and which you are determined to break, because you feel that they are not for your happiness, — they do not promote your comfort. And is this nothing? Is this nothing, — to call the all-wise God a fool, the truthful God a liar, and the good and generous God a tyrant?

8. But there is more than this in your sin. Every time a man sins, he aims a blow at the crown of God. He refuses to let God be the King, but puts his hand, his wicked hand, on the diadem of Deity, and would dash the crown from God’s head if he could. Indeed, more; he aims a blow at God’s very existence. The language of sin is, “No God!” and every time a sinner sins, he tries to get rid of God, and his intention is to slay the Eternal One, and to expel the King of kings from his own universe. Is this nothing? Is this nothing? Does not even this, feeble though the explanation is, make sin to be extremely sinful? Truly, when we sin, we do not know what we are doing. I can hardly believe that there is a man in this assembly who would, in cold blood, stand up and say, “I defy God; I will do my best to drive him from his throne, indeed, and to drive him from existence”; and yet, sinner, every time you curse, or lie, or swear, or break God’s law in any way whatever, you do, in fact, do all these things, and I think I may say you do not know what you are doing.

9. Let us now turn the kaleidoscope again, and get another view of this great and solemn truth. None of us knows what we are doing, if we judge sin by its loathsomeness in God’s sight. There is not a man living who knows how much God hates and abhors sin. You may detest the loathsome toad; you may give way to a wicked disposition, and hate some enemy until you cannot live until that enemy is slain; but you cannot loathe the toad, you cannot hate your foe so thoroughly as God abhors and hates sin. Wherever sin is, there is God’s utmost hate, and anger, and ire. He cannot endure it; his eyes cannot light on it without burning it up, and his hand is always longing to strike it to the death. Why, look sirs, God had a choice archangel, — a glorious being, whose wings were like the beams of the rising sun, whose stature was like a great snow-clad mountain, and whose beauty was like a fair field covered with flowers. He sinned, and God spared neither him nor the angels who followed him in his rebellion, but cast them down to hell, and reserved them “in everlasting chains under darkness until the judgment of the great day.” Angelhood could not save an angel; angelic stature, a seraphic voice, and a cherubic flight, could not save Satan and his hosts when the stain of sin had fallen on them. How much, then, must God hate sin!

10. When God had made the world, he smiled, and said, “It is good”; the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, for the world was very good, and God’s own heart was glad at the sight of the newly-made world. But when Adam sinned, God did not spare Eden, with all its perfections of beauty; and, later, when the iniquity of man was fully ripe, he did not spare the round world itself, but ordered the floods to leap up from their cavernous darkness, and told the clouds to burst their swaddling-bands, and the earth was covered with a flood, for “it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

11. Indeed, if we want to see even more clearly how God hates sin, let us see how sin came on his own Son, his only-begotten, his well-beloved Son. It came there, not by any deed of his own, but because he took our iniquities upon himself, and therefore was numbered with the transgressors. And did his Father spare him? Far from it. He struck him with the rod, he scourged him with the lash, he pierced him to the heart with his sword; he gave up his darling to the power of the dog, and “Lama Sabachthani?” was a sorrowful proof that God hates and loathes sin, no matter where it may be. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2133, “Lama Sabachthani?” 2134} Now, sirs, would you go and press to your bosom, and dandle, and pamper, and pet that thing which God loathes and hates? I do not think so. If we had always before our eyes God’s hatred of sin, and this was revealed to our heart by the Holy Spirit, we should long to be rid of it; and therefore I say that, when we take hold of it, and embrace it, we do not know what we are doing.

12. Again, what man among us knows sin in its awful consequences? Is there a mother here who would go home tonight, and ask herself what the quickest way was to damn her child’s soul? Is there a father here who would take counsel with his own wickedness concerning the best method of sending his son to hell? I do not think so; and yet, when the father is a drunkard or a swearer, what does he do but do his worst to ruin his child? And when the mother is prayerless, godless, Christless, does she not do her utmost to murder her child’s soul? Truly, we in our relationships, when we go into sin, do not know what we are doing. What employer could sit down deliberately to undermine the spiritual health of his workmen? What citizen would wish to become the deadly upas tree, dropping poison from all its branches? What man of influence would wish to be the basilisk {b} whose eyes should tempt men to their destruction? Not one; and yet, when you commit iniquity, — and especially those of you who occupy the responsible position of parents, or teachers, or ministers, or employers in any way, — you do your best to destroy the souls of others; so I can truly say, “Surely you do not know what you are doing.”

13. Do you know, sinner, that every time you sin, your sin affects the whole world? Let me not stagger you; it is only our finite vision which prevents us seeing the effect of even one thought on the entire universe. The word I am speaking, just now, sets in motion a wave in the air which reaches your ear; it will remain in your memory, to a certain degree, throughout eternity. In limiting the sphere of my voice to your ears, I have set eternity pulsating; you shall think these things over either in the waves of fiery hell, or in the fields of glorious heaven. Eternity has been affected by the speech of a man. And so it is with what you do; there is an effect produced on earth, on heaven, on hell, by whispered blasphemy or by an unseen lust; you cannot sin alone; you are part of a universe; you cannot disentangle yourself from the meshes of the net of society. You are in the ship of the universe, and you cannot get out of it. You cannot even be thrown out of it, as Jonah was cast out of the ship into the sea. Your sin is dragging other men down to hell, or else the grace that is in you is helping to lift others up towards God and heaven. Take thought when you sin; for, from this day, I think that you will hardly be able to say, as perhaps you may have done before, that you do not know what you are doing.

14. But sinner, let me speak to you solemnly, — to you, — about something in which no imagination is needed. Do you see that man over there? What is he doing? I see a pearly gate, within which I see the splendours of unutterable bliss and hear the hymns of the paradise of God. What is that man doing? He is putting bolts and bars on that gate to shut himself out. Do you call him a madman? Sinner, that madman is yourself. Your sins are shutting you out of heaven. Do you see that man? He is carrying fire wood on his weary shoulders, and stooping to the very ground as he bears his burden. For what purpose is he carrying that fuel? It is to make a bed of fire on which he shall lie and swelter in flames for ever. Do you call him a madman? Sinner, that madman is yourself. What is hell but whipping your back with a whip whose knots you yourself have tied? What is it, but the drinking of a cup of gall, every drop of which was distilled from your own sin? These are awful things to say; but I feel that, when I look at what hell is, in all its horrors, and what the loss of heaven is, with all its dreadful darkness, I must say to you, when you sin, surely you do not know what you are doing. The man who hangs himself, or drives the knife into his heart, or throws himself into his watery grave, may have some present griefs which may, to him, though not to us, seem to be an excuse for fleeing from them; but you, when you sin are a suicide without excuse, because you flee from good that stands before you to an evil that has no mixture of benefit or mercy. You leap into the fire yourself, — a fire which you yourself have kindled, and which your own blasphemous breath has fanned. Oh, may God teach us, when we sin, what we have really done, so that we may not do it again, and that, by his grace, we may be led to the precious blood of Christ, to have its guilt washed away!


   There is a fountain filled with blood,

      Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;

   And sinners, plunged beneath that flood,

      Lose all their guilty stains.


15. Only one more thought on this point, and then I will leave it. “They do not know what they are doing.” Sinner, do you know that, when you sin, eternity is involved in every act? Faith binds me to eternal bliss, sin and unbelief fetter me to everlasting woe. I think I hear the voice of a spirit which has been these last ten years in hell. Listen! listen! there is a cry, a groan; and now the words are audible: — “Fool that I was to come here; here I am tortured in indescribable agony that is to go on for ever, — and for what? For a few hours of giddy mirth, for a few silly jokes, so that I might indulge my pride rather than submit to the free grace of God. Why am I here? Because I would serve Satan, and God knows that it was a bitter service, and what little sweet it had is all forgotten now.” Do you hear this man as he speaks to himself? “Oh! if I could ever escape from this dreadful dungeon, it would be a heaven to me. If these awful fires could only be quenched, if this gnawing worm would only die, then I would be content. If, after ten thousand, thousand, thousand years, I could hope to make my escape from this pit of woe, I would set all the bells of my heart ringing for very joy at the mere possibility that, at last, I might escape. But what is it that I see written before me? For ever! For ever, on my chains; for ever, branded on my limbs of pain; for ever, on those waves of fire; for ever, in the angry gaze of an incensed Deity; for ever, in those hungry depths, which seem to yawn to suck me into deeper woe; for ever, for ever, for ever, for ever!” Oh drunkard, swearer, fornicator, when you sin the next time, remember that the deed you do entails everlasting consequences, which will run on for ever, for ever, for ever! Surely, when you have sinned in the past, you must have been ignorant of this overwhelming truth, you could not have known what you were doing.

16. But have I some here who say that they do know what they are doing? They have been so faithfully warned, so affectionately dealt with, so earnestly prayed for, that, when they sinned, they sinned wilfully, knowing what they did. Oh my dear hearers, that is true of some of you! I have often felt, when I have come out of the pulpit, that you would be without excuse in the day of judgment. God knows that I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God, — divine sovereignty in all its absoluteness, and the sinner’s responsibility in all its fulness. I have preached to you the doctrines of grace; but I have not, therefore, kept back the demands of God on you; and I know that, should you perish, it will neither be for lack of preaching, nor of weeping. Well, sirs, if you do perish with the gospel preached in your ears, you perish fearfully indeed.

17. Make room there, — make room, — make way, you priests of Moloch! Stand back, you followers of Ashtaroth; you worshippers of Baal, stand back. Give up your choice seats, the highest places in the synagogue of hell. Make room, for here comes a man who read his Bible, and heard the Word faithfully preached; give him the choicest place. Now cannibals, pirates, and all you poor beings who sinned, but did not know what you were doing, make room; for here comes a man who sinned with God before his very eyes, and blindly rushed on the spear of the Almighty when the light of heaven was shining on his eyes; make room for him, I say. Get up, you who have been guilty of murder and of the shedding of blood in lands where Christ was never preached; get up, and give place to this man! “What!” they say, “are you become like one of us?” Yes, we say, not only like one of you, but deeper than your depth, more fiery than your flames, more horrible than your horrors, shall be the dread, the doom, the destruction of this man of whom it could not be said, “He did not know what he was doing.” May God have mercy on you, my hearers; may his sovereign grace be extended towards you; may the lines of his election embrace you, the blood of Christ’s redemption wash you, the voice of his effectual calling awaken you, and the power of his grace preserve you; or, alas! woe to you, Newington! woe to you, Southwark! if the gospel preached to you had been preached in Sodom, it would have continued to this day; and if in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

18. So I have tried, in all simplicity, as God’s servant, to expound Christ’s plea: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

19. II. Now, very briefly, — but oh, may God grant that it may be with the unction of the Holy One! — let me speak on THE UNKNOWN HEIGHTS OF GRACE.

20. If there were any men in all the world who, under the covenant of works, or under that mingle-mangle covenant which some preach, which is half law and half works, and neither law nor works, — if there were any men who should have been excluded from the election of grace, it was those men who nailed the Saviour to the tree; and yet, notice this, while Christ did not mention by name the best of the Pharisees, he did mention, before God, particularly and personally, those degraded men who, with many an addition of cruel mockery, nailed him to the tree: “Father, forgive them.” He did not say, “Father, forgive Pontius Pilate, for he sinned unwillingly”; he did not say, “Father, forgive Judas, for he repented, and threw down his ill-gotten gain in the Temple”; but “Father, forgive them.” There they are, the mark of the nails has not yet gone out of their hands, there is the print of the head of the nails in the centre of their palm even now. Look, the blood of Jesus is on their skirts, the very blood which spurted out from the Redeemer’s hands when they drove the nails through them; yet he prays, “Father, forgive them.” There they stand; they are grinning at their ghastly work, and saying, “Aha! aha!” and joining with the ribald crew, and thrusting their tongues into their checks, saying, “He saved others, he could not save himself.” And yet there is heard, above the clamour of their iniquity which appeals to God for justice, the cry of the Saviour, “Father, forgive them.”

21. There is no consciousness of need of forgiveness in them; their hearts are hard as nether millstones; they laugh at the prayer itself. “Forgive!” they say; “we have done many a worse piece of work than this; we do not need to be forgiven.” They are as cold as ice and stern as steel, and unmelting as the granite rock; and yet Jesus prays, “Father, forgive them.” There are no past good works to commend them; they never did a good thing in their lives; they are soldiers who have slain, every man, perhaps his hundred men; they have learned to spit the little infant on the sword blade; they know how to rip up, and tear, and cut off the head, and rend out the eye; they are men whose deeds of blood must be written in fire, but whose deeds of goodness never yet have come to light; and yet Jesus cries, “Father, forgive them.” They are men who, if the gospel were preached to them, would reject it. If Christ were offered to them, they would refuse him; if they were moved by some qualms of conscience, they would stifle them; if they were wept over by the minister, they would ridicule his tears; if they were pleaded for by the Church, they would laugh at the pleadings; and yet the Saviour says, “Father, forgive them.” Amid such splendours of grace, where shall I find words to appropriately describe them? Language, you are a dull, cold thing in such a case as this! Words, you do not have enough strength to carry the mighty meaning of my soul just now! Was there ever grace like this, except when Jesus prayed for me, and said, “Father, forgive him”: and when he prayed for you, and said, “Father, forgive him?”

22. Oh my hearers, when Jesus pleads for us, it is not because there is anything in us why he should plead; it is not because we flee to him that he pleads for us; it is not because we long for mercy and value it that he pleads for us. He prays for us long before we pray to him. He died for us before we knew anything about our death in sin; and he lived and pleaded before his Father’s throne when we were cursing, blaspheming, and defying him. Ah, souls, I wish that you could get rid, once and for all, of any idea that Jesus Christ needs anything in you to move his heart of compassion towards you! Where he loves, he loves for his own sake, not because of the worthiness of the object of his love. The source of grace is in the God of grace, not in the receiver of grace. The reason for pardon is not in the penitent, but in the Pardoner. The basis for acceptance is not in our faith, but in Christ, the Author and Finisher of that faith; and hence it is that the gospel is adapted to the worst of sinners, to the scum, the draff, {refuse} the chaff, the offscouring, the parings, the filth, the vileness, the rottenness, the stench, the refuse of the world. Oh, if we had a gospel that was half grace and half human goodness, then the good, the upright, the educated, the refined, the moral, would have some degree of hope, but the poor outcast would have none; but now, tonight, I preach a gospel which comes right down to you, just where you are, in the bog, the mire, the slough, next door to hell, lying at hell’s gate; — not like Lazarus when the dogs licked his sores at the rich man’s gate, but lying at the gate of hell while the hell-hounds lick your wounds; — cast out from God, abhorred, detested, abhorrent to yourself, obnoxious to your own conscience; such a sinner that you wish you had never been born, or that you had been a viper, a snake, a toad, rather than have been a man. Yet God’s grace can reach even you, and “the word of this salvation is sent to you.” I do believe that over such sinners as you Jesus pleads tonight, “Father, forgive them.”

23. And now, my dear hearers, is there something in you which seems to say, “Unite in that prayer?” Does the Spirit of God whisper in your soul, “Tonight is the hour of mercy; Jesus Christ is passing by; he is interceding for the transgressors”? Then, please say, “Father, forgive me.” What! shall my Master say, “Father, forgive him”; and will you not pray for yourself? The adamant might melt, the steel dissolve, and will you not melt? Spirit of God, bring the fire, and melt the heart! And now, poor soul, say, “Father, forgive me; I did not know the full guilt of my sin; but I knew enough to make me so guilty that I deserve your wrath. I have no merits, Lord; I have no righteousness; if you do kill me, you are just; if you do curse me, I deserve it well; but, Father, forgive me!” Do not use Christ’s plea; that is his, not yours. He could say, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” You must use another plea, “Father, forgive me through your Son’s precious blood.” Oh! I think my soul would be ready to leap from earth to heaven if I could only be sure that there was someone here who was saying in his heart, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and am no more worthy to be called your son”; or if some heart were saying, “By his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, by his precious death and burial, by his glorious resurrection and ascension, Father, forgive me!” Soul, your prayer is heard; “go, and sin no more. Your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you.” Go home, and tell your friends and your relatives what God has done for your soul; and, eventually, come here, and tell us what God has done for you; and then come to this communion table, and with us spiritually eat his flesh and drink his blood, “for his flesh is food indeed, and his blood is drink indeed.”

24. May the Lord add his blessing, for Jesus’ sake! Amen.


{a} Sermons on cries from the cross: —  {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2562, “Cries from the Cross” 2563} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2803, “The Saddest Cry from the Cross” 2804} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2344, “Christ’s Dying Word for His Church” 2345} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2311, “Our Lord’s Last Cry from the Cross” 2312} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2644, “The Last Words of Christ on the Cross” 2645} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2133, “Lama Sabachthani?” 2134} {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3068, “Unknown Depths and Heights” 3069}
{b} Basilisk: A fabulous reptile, also called a cockatrice, alleged to be hatched by a serpent from a cock’s egg; ancient authors stated that its hissing drove away all other serpents, and that its breath, and even its look, was fatal. OED.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Ps 136} {c}

This is indeed one of the chief songs of praise which we find even in the Scriptures, and it is not surprising that such a poet as John Milton should have written that version of it that we often sing, — 


   Let us with a gladsome mind,

   Praise the Lord, for he is kind:

   For his mercies shall endure,

   Ever faithful, ever sure.


1-3. Oh give thanks to the LORD; for he is good for his mercy endures for ever. Oh give thanks to the God of gods: for his mercy endures for ever. Oh give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endures for ever.

Here, you see, we have three titles for God, first as Jehovah, secondly as the Elohim, thirdly as the Adoni or Lord. By whatever name God is known, he is worthy of our highest praise. Whether it is the name referring to his self-existence, or the name relating to his covenant engagements, or the name applying especially to his rule and governorship, in any and every capacity, let us praise him.

Notice that each of these three verses begins “Oh give thanks.” We are to praise the Lord for his greatness, and to give him thanks for his goodness. Our praise shall consist largely of the element of gratitude as we think of all that he has done for us. Although I lay no stress on the fact of these verses being three, and on the names of God being three, yet it is very remarkable that, throughout the Old Testament, even when there is no distinct allusion to the doctrine of the Trinity, yet still the threefold praise is constantly being repeated, as if this sublime truth lay latent, but yet was not unknown to those godly ones who dove deep into the mystery of the triune unity of God. Let us, who have this truth so clearly revealed to us, give thanks to the Triune Jehovah with all the powers of our threefold nature, body, soul, and spirit.

4, 5. To him who alone does great wonders: for his mercy endures for ever. {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1981, “God the Wonder Worker” 1982} To him who by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endures for ever.

The making of the heavens is a great marvel of wisdom; and inasmuch as that wondrous work sprang from the unaided wisdom of God, it is a subject for which we should unceasingly praise him. When men invent some notable piece of machinery, they are generally long in bringing it to perfection, and they usually borrow various ideas from those who have preceded them; but it was not so with God. By his own perfect wisdom, he stretched out the arch of heaven, and made all that it covers.

6. To him who stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endures for ever.

Once in the history of the globe, the earth and the waters were mixed together; but, at God’s command, the earth rose to its assigned position, and the depths received the sea, and they have kept their places ever since, except when God caused the Flood to cover the whole earth.

7-9. To him who made great lights: for his mercy endures for ever: the sun to rule by day: for his mercy endures for ever: the moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endures for ever.

Where would we have been without light? Could any poor unhappy creatures ever have lived in a dark world? Let us praise God for the light; let us bless him for the sun, — that great mercy, but let us not forget the lesser mercies, — the moon and the stars which he also made. It is good, when we are praising God, to dwell on all his bounties; for, sometimes, mercies which appear small from one point of view become all the greater from another point of view. Stars seem little to us, but what vast orbs they really are! Let us praise the great Creator for every kind of light that he has made, and let us especially praise him for all spiritual light, and even for his ministers, who are stars in his right hand. They are only little twinkling lights compared with the great Sun of righteousness; but, still, “he made the stars also.” Therefore, let him have due praise for it, “for his mercy endures for ever.”

So far, we have been reminded of the wonders accomplished by the great Creator. Now we are called on to give thanks to the Lord for his deliverance of his ancient people out of Egypt.

10-14. To him who struck Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endures for ever: and brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endures for ever: with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm: for his mercy endures for ever: to him who divided the Red Sea into parts: for his mercy endures for ever: and made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endures for ever:

It was a great miracle by which the Red Sea was divided. I suppose it was somewhere about eight or nine miles wide at the place where the Israelites crossed it; yet the sea rolled back, and stood in a heap on either side, and left a clear passage for the people through the very heart of the sea. God’s mercy made a way for his people through the sea, and a path for them through the mighty waters; but it was no less a mercy to make them go through the sea. They had not been accustomed to any kind of travelling, and certainly not to such travelling as that, through the heart of the sea; but the Lord inspired them with confidence, so that they went down into the very depths without fear, and came up again on the other side.

But God’s mercy is always consistent with his justice, so there was a very different treatment for the Egyptians.

15, 16. But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea: for his mercy endures for ever. To him who led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endures for ever.

In this Psalm, you have three leadings. There is, in verse 11, leading out: “Brought out Israel” In verse 16, there is leading through: “led his people through the wilderness”; and in the twenty-first verse, we shall find that there is leading into: “and gave their land for an inheritance.” So God leads us out from the region of sin, he leads us through the wilderness of this life’s trial, and he leads us into the rest which remains for his people.

“To him who led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endures for ever.” You are today, dear friends, experiencing that kind of leading. Long ago, some of you were led out of the realm of sin, now you are passing through this great and terrible wilderness where there would be thirst and hunger were it not for the heavenly water and manna, and we might fear the fiery serpents were it not for him who was lifted up on the cross as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness. Yet the Lord will safely lead you through the wilderness, and give you the land of promise.

17. To him who struck great kings: for his mercy endures for ever:

His mercy and his vengeance are quite compatible; the one has not done away with the other.

18-20. And slew famous kings: for his mercy endures for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endures for ever: and Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endures for ever:

Here are four verses where we think that one might have sufficed. Ah, brethren, we often use only one verse when we ought to use four! Scripture gives us a better example; it frequently repeats its references to some one thing because, in that one thing, there are included many mercies. It would be good if the diligence in describing details which we use with regard to our troubles could be exercised on descriptions of our mercies; for, then, we should imitate the psalmist’s style, and say, “Oh give thanks to him who struck great kings: for his mercy endures for ever: and slew famous kings: for his mercy endures for ever: Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endures for ever: and Og the king of Bashan.” {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1285, “Sihon and Og, or Mercies in Detail” 1276}

21, 22. And gave their land for an inheritance: for his mercy endures for ever: even an inheritance to Israel his servant: for his mercy endures for ever.

Here we have the same thought put into two verses, to show us how to dwell, with lengthened notes and repeated Hallelujahs, on the goodness and mercy of God.

Notice how many of these verses begin with “And,” as if every mercy had been linked to another which went before it, and would be linked to another which would come after it. I like to see these “Ands.” They remind us that there is more to follow. After all that we have received from God, there is still more to come; God has not come to the end of his mercies.

23, 24. Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endures for ever: and has redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endures for ever.

Redemption, — what a grand note that is! What voice can ever reach its fulness and its loftiness! Let us praise the name of the Lord as we remember the price and the power with which he “has redeemed us from our enemies.”

25. Who gives food to all flesh:

There is food for you, then, poor hungry one; there is food for you, child of God. He, “who gives food to all flesh,” can certainly give food to all spirits.

25, 26. For his mercy endures for ever. Oh give thanks to the God of heaven: for his mercy endures for ever.


{c} Spurgeon used as his text the refrain “for his mercy endures for ever” from this psalm for this sermon: —  {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 787, “A Song, a Solace, a Sermon, and a Summons” 778}

John Ploughman’s Almanac for 1908, and Spurgeon’s Illustrated Almanac for 1908.

The two Almanacs are once more nearly ready for publication, and it is believed that they will prove fully equal to their predecessors. The great broadsheet contains 366 proverbial sayings, &c., and five pictures of farm scenes. Five of the illustrated articles in the Book Almanac are from the writings of C. H. Spurgeon, and the 366 texts for 1908 have been selected by Pastor Thomas Spurgeon. The Almanacs are one penny each, and can be obtained from Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster, Paternoster Buildings, London, or through all booksellers and colporteurs.

The OCR quality of this sermon was poor and contained many spurious comas, italics and corrupted or missing 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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