3101. A Plain Talk On An Encouraging Topic

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No. 3101-54:337. A Sermon Delivered On Lord’s Day Evening, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

A Sermon Published On Thursday, July 16, 1908.

When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD: and my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple. {Jon 2:7}

For other sermons on this text:

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3101, “Plain Talk On an Encouraging Topic” 3102}

   {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3510, “Fainting Soul Revived, The” 3512}

   Exposition on Jon 2 {See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3101, “Plain Talk On an Encouraging Topic” 3102 @@ "Exposition"}

1. The experience of the saints is the treasure of the Church. Every child of God who has tried and proved the promises of God, when he bears his testimony to their truth, does as it were hang up his sword and spear on the temple walls; and so the house of the Lord becomes “like the tower of David built for an armoury, on which there hang a thousand bucklers, all shields of might men.” “The footsteps of the flock” encourage others who are following in their track to the pastures above. Every preceding generation of saints has lived and suffered to enrich us with its experience. One great reason why the experience of saints in olden time is of such use to us, is this, — they were men of similar passions as we are. Had they been otherwise, we could not have been instructed by what they suffered. They endured the same trials, and pleaded the same promises before the very same God, who does not change in any measure or degree; so that we may safely infer that what they gained by pleading may also be obtained by us when surrounded by the same circumstances. If men were different, or if the promises were changed, or if the Lord had varied, all ancient experience would be only an idle tale to us; but now, whenever we read in Scripture of what happened to a man of faith in the day of trial, we conclude that the same will happen to us; and when we find God helping and delivering his people, we know that he will even now show himself strong on our behalf, since all the promises are Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus to the glory of God by us. The covenant has not changed, it remains firm as the eternal hills. The preacher, therefore, feels quite safe in directing you to the experience of Jonah, and in inviting you to make its lessons a practical guide for yourselves.

2. We shall use the lesson of the text, first, for the child of God; and, secondly, for the sinner awakened and aroused.

3. I. OUR TEXT HAS AN EVIDENT BEARING ON THOSE WHO FEAR THE LORD, for such was Jonah. With all his mistakes, he was a man of God; and though he sought to flee from the service of his Master, yet his Master never cast him off; he brought back again his petulant messenger to his work, and honoured him in it, and he sleeps among the faithful, waiting for a glorious reward.

4. Think, then, of the saints’ condition. In Jonah’s case, as presented before us, the child of God sees what a plight he may be brought into, — his soul may faint in him.

5. Jonah was certainly in a very terrible condition in the belly of the fish, but the position itself was probably not so dark as his own reflections, for conscience would say to him, “Alas, Jonah! you came here by your own fault, you wanted to flee from the presence of God, because in your pride and selfishness you refused to go to Nineveh, that great city, and deliver your Master’s message.” It gives a sting to misery when a man feels that only he himself is responsible for it. If it were unavoidable that I should suffer, then I could not repine; but if I have brought all this on myself, by my own folly, then there is a double bitterness in the gall. Jonah would reflect that now he could not help himself in any way. It would serve no purpose to be self-willed now; he was in a place where petulance and obstinacy had no liberty. If he had tried to stretch out his arm, he could not; he was confined in a dungeon, which imprisoned every sense as well as every limb, and the bolts of his cell his hand could not draw; he was cast into the deep in the midst of the seas, the waters encompassed him all around even to the soul, the weeds were wrapped around his head. His state was helpless, and, apart from God, it was hopeless.

6. Children of God may be brought into a similar condition, and yet be dear to his unchanging heart. They may be poor and needy, and have no helper. No voice may speak a word of sympathy to them, and no arm may be stretched out to help them. The best of men may be brought into the worst of positions. You must never judge character by circumstances. Diamonds may be worried on the wheel, and common pebbles may bathe at ease in the brook. The most wicked are permitted to clamber to the high places of the earth, while the most righteous pine at the rich man’s gate, with dogs for their companions. Choice flowers very often grow amid tangled briars. Who has not heard of the lily among thorns? Where do the pearls dwell? Do not the dark depths of the ocean conceal them, amid mire and wreck? Do not judge by appearances, for heirs of light may walk in darkness, and princes of the celestial line may sit on dunghills. Men accepted by God may be brought very, very low, as Jonah was.

7. Let me remark that the hearts of God’s servants may sometimes faint within them; yes, absolutely faint in them, and that, first, through a renewed sense of sin. In this matter, my tongue will not outrun my experience. Some of us have enjoyed a full assurance of our pardon and justification for years. We have walked in the light as God is in the light, and we have had fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son has cleansed us from all sin. We have often felt our hearts dance at the assurance that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.” We have stood at the foot of the cross, and seen the records of our sins nailed to the tree, as the sign of their full discharge. Yet, at this time, we may be suffering an interval of anxious questioning, and unbelief may be lowering over us. It is possible that our faith is staggered, and, therefore, our old sins have risen up against us, and are threatening our peace. At such times, conscience will remind us of our shortcomings, which we cannot deny, and Satan will howl over the top of these shortcomings, “How can you be a child of God? If you were born from above, how could you have acted as you have done?” Then, if for a moment we look away from the cross, if we look within for marks of evidences, the horrible bog of our inward corruptions will be stirred, and there will pour into the soul such dark memories and black forebodings that we shall cry, “I am utterly lost, my hope is hypocrisy; what can I do? What shall I do?” Let me assure you that, under such exercises, it is no wonder if the soul of the Christian faints within him. Remember, also, that soul-fainting is the worst form of fainting. Though Jonah in the great fish’s belly could not use his eyes, he did not need them; and if he could not use his arms or his feet, he did not have to do so. It did not matter if they all failed him; but for his soul to faint, — this was horror indeed! So it is with us. Our other faculties may go to sleep if they will, but when our faith swoons, and our confidence staggers, things go very hard with us. Do not, however, my brother, when in such a state, write yourself down as a hypocrite, for many of the most valiant soldiers of the cross know by personal experience what this dark sensation means.

   What though Satan’s strong temptations

      Vex and tease thee day by day?

   And thy sinful inclinations

      Often fill thee with dismay?

         Thou shalt conquer,

      Through the Lamb’s redeeming blood.

   Though ten thousand ills beset thee,

      From without and from within;

   Jesus saith he’ll ne’er forget thee,

      But will save from hell and sin;

         He is faithful

   To perform his gracious word.

   Though distresses now attend thee,

      And thou tread’st the thorny road,

   His right hand shall still defend thee,

      Soon he’ll bring thee home to God:

         Therefore praise him,

   Praise the great Redeemer’s name.

8. The same faintness will come over us, at times, through the prospect of prolonged pain or severe trial. You have not yet felt the cruel smart, but you are well aware that it must come, and you shudder at the prospect. Just as it is true that “we feel a thousand deaths in fearing one,” so we feel a thousand trials in the dread of one single affliction. The soldier is often braver in the midst of the battle than before the conflict begins. Waiting for the assault is taxing work; even the crash of the onslaught is not so great a test of endurance. I confess that I feel an inward faintness in the prospect of bodily pain; it creates a swooning sickness of heart within me to consider it for a moment; and, beloved friend, it is no strange thing that is happening to you if your soul also faints because of difficulties or adversities that lie before you. May you have wisdom to do what Jonah did — to remember the Lord, — for there and only there your great strength lies.

9. Faintness will also come over true Christians in connection with the pressure of actual sorrow. Hearts may long bear up, but they are very apt to yield if the pressure is continuous from month to month. A constant drip is felt even by a stone. A long day of drizzling rain is more wetting than a passing shower of heavy drops. A man cannot always be poor, or always be sick, or always be slandered, or always be friendless, without sometimes being tempted to say, “My heart is faint and weary; when will the day break and the shallows flee away?” I say again, the very choicest of God’s elect may, through the long duration of bitter sorrow and heavy distress, be ready to faint in the day of adversity.

10. The same has happened to earnest Christians engaged in diligent service, when they have seen no present success. To go on tilling a thankless soil, to continue to cast bread on the waters, and to find no return, has caused many a true heart to faint with inward bleeding. Yet this is very often the test of our fidelity. It is a noble thing to continue preaching, like Noah, throughout a lifetime, amid ridicule, reproach, and unbelief; but it is not every man who can do so. Most of us need success to sustain our courage, and we serve our Master with the most spirit when we see immediate results. There may be faint hearts of that kind among my fellow soldiers, ready to lay down the weapons of their warfare because they win no victory at this present time; my brethren, please do not desert the field of battle, but, like Jonah, remember the Lord, and still remain by the royal standard.

11. It may be that enquiries will be made concerning why and for what reason we should enlarge so much on the different ways in which Christians faint. Our reply is, we have been so particular in order to meet the temptation, so common among young Christians, to imagine that they are unique in their trials. “Surely no one has felt as I feel,” says many a young Christian; “I do not suppose another person ever hung down his head and his hands, and became so utterly overcome as I am.” Do not listen to that suggestion, for it is devoid of truth. Faintness is very common in the Lord’s hosts, and some of his mightiest men have been the victims of it. Even David himself, that hero of Judah, in the day of battle became faint, and would have been slain if a warrior had not come to the rescue. Do not give way to faintness; strive against it vehemently; but, at the same time, should it overcome you, do not cast away your confidence, nor write yourself down as rejected by God or one fatally fallen.

12. And now, brethren, we will notice the saints’ resort. Jonah, when he was in severe trouble, tells us, “I remembered the Lord.” What is there for a faint heart to remember in the Lord? Is there not everything? There is, first, his nature. Think of that. When I am faint with sorrow, let me remember that he is very sympathetic, and full of compassion; he will not strike too heavily, nor will he forget to sustain. I will, therefore, look up to him, and say, “My Father, do not break me in pieces. I am a poor weather-beaten barque which can scarcely escape the hungry waves; do not send your rough wind against me, but give me a little calm so that I may reach the desired haven.” By remembering that the Lord’s mercies are great, we shall be saved from a fainting heart.

13. Then I will remember his power. If I am in such a strait that I cannot help myself, he can help me. I have urgent needs and sharp pinches, but there are no such things with him. There are no emergencies and times of severe pressure with God. With him all things are possible, therefore, I will remember the Lord. If the difficulty is one which arises out of my ignorance, though I do not know which way to take, I will remember his wisdom. I know that he will guide me; I will remember that he cannot make a mistake, and committing my way to him my soul shall take courage. Beloved, all the attributes of God sparkle with consolation for the eye of faith. There is nothing in the Most High to discourage the man who can say, “My Father, my God, I put my trust in you.” None who have trusted in him have ever been confounded; therefore, if your soul sinks within you, remember the nature, and character, and attributes of God.

14. When you have remembered his nature, then remember his promises. What has he said concerning souls that faint? Think of these texts if you think of no others: — “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” “Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and just as your days, so shall your strength be.” “My grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Trust in the Lord, and do good: so you shall dwell in the land, and truly you shall be fed.” “No good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” When we get on this strain, and begin to talk about the promises, we need hours in which to enlarge on the very great and precious words, but we mention only these, we let fall this handful for some poor Ruth to glean. When your soul is faint, grasp a promise, believe it, and say to the Lord, “Do as you have said,” and your spirit shall speedily revive.

15. Remember, next, his covenant. What a grand word that word “covenant” is to the man who understands it! God has entered into covenant with his Son, who represents us, his people. He has said, “Just as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so I have sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from you, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed.” Truly, we may say with good old David, “Although my house is not so with God, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure.” When everything else gives way, cling in the power of the Holy Spirit to covenant mercies and covenant engagements, and your spirit shall be at peace.

   With David’s Lord, and ours,

      A covenant once was made,

   Whose bonds are firm and sure,

      Whose glories ne’er shall fade;

   Signed by the Sacred Three in One,

   In mutual love ere time begun.

   Firm as the lasting hills,

      This covenant shall endure,

   Whose potent shalls and wills

      Make every blessing sure:

   When ruin shakes all nature’s frame,

   Its jots and tittles stand the same.

16. Again, when we remember the Lord, we should remember what he has been to us in past times. When any of us start doubting and fearing, we are indeed blameworthy, for the Lord has never given us any reason for doubting him. He has helped us in worse troubles than we are passing through at this time. We have tested his faithfulness, his power, and his goodness at a heavier rate than now, and though hardly tried, they have never failed us yet; they have borne the strain of many years, and show no signs of giving way; why, then, are we unbelieving? Many saints have proved the Lord’s faithfulness for fifty, sixty, or even seventy years; how can they be of doubtful mind after this? What! has your God been true for seventy years, and can you not trust him for a few more days? Has he brought you to seventy-five, and can you not trust him for the few months more that you are to remain in the wilderness? Remember the days of old, the love of his heart, and the might of his arm, when he came to your rescue, and took you out of the deep waters, and set your feet on a rock, and established your goings. He is still the same God; therefore, when your soul faints within you, remember the Lord, and you will be comforted.

17. So I have shown you the saint’s plight and the saint’s resort; now observe the success of his prayer. Jonah was so comforted with the thoughts of God that he began to pray, and his prayer was not drowned in the water, nor choked in the fish’s belly, neither was it held captive by the weeds that were around his head, but up it went like an electric flash, through waves, through clouds, beyond the stars, up to the throne of God, and down came the answer like a return message. Nothing can destroy or detain a real prayer; its flight to the throne is swift and certain. God the Holy Spirit writes our prayers, God the Son presents our prayers, and God the Father accepts our prayers, and with the whole Trinity to help us in it, what can prayer not perform? I may be speaking to some who are under very severe trials, — I feel persuaded that I am, — let me apply this promise to them as their own; and I pray God the Holy Spirit to lay it home to their hearts, and make it theirs, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.” God will not fail you though you fail yourself. Though you faint, he does not faint, neither is weary. Lift up your cry, and he will lift up his hand. Go to your knees, you are strongest there; resort to your prayer closet, and it shall be to you none other than the gate of heaven. Tell your God your grief; heavy for you, it will be light enough for him. Dilemmas will all be plain to his wisdom, and difficulties will vanish before his strength. Oh, do not tell it in Gath that Israel cannot trust in God; do not proclaim it in the streets of Askelon that trouble can dismay those who lean on the eternal arm. With Jehovah in the vanguard, oh hosts of Israel, dare you fear? “The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” What man’s heart shall quail, or what soul shall faint? “Lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees.” Say to the feeble in heart, “Be strong; do not fear. God is with you; he will help you, and that very early.”

18. II. Now we must change the subject altogether. Having addressed the people of God, we feel very anxious to speak to those concerning whom the Lord has intentions of love, but who are not yet saved. THE SINNER, WHEN GOD COMES TO DEAL WITH HIM, IS BROUGHT INTO THE SAME PLIGHT AS JONAH. His soul faints in him. What does that show?

19. It shows very much what we are glad to see. When a man’s soul faints within him, it is clear that his carelessness is gone. He used to take things very easily, and as long as he could make merry from day to day, what did he care about heaven or hell? The preacher’s warnings were to him so much rant, and his earnestness fanaticism; but now the man feels an arrow sticking in his own loins, and he knows that there is a reality in sin, it is to him in very deed an evil and a bitter thing. Now the cup of gall is put to his own lips, and he feels the poison in his own veins. His heart faints within him, and he remains careless no longer; which is a great gain in the preacher’s estimation.

20. His faintness also shows that he will be self-righteous no longer. Once he hoped he was as good as other people, and perhaps a little better; and for all that he could see, he was every bit as excellent as the saints themselves. They might speak about their trusting in Jesus Christ, but he was working for himself, and expected by his regular habits to win as good a place in the world to come as the best of believers. Ah! but now God has dealt with him, and let the daylight into his soul, and he sees that his gold and silver are cankered, and that his fair linen is filthy and worm-eaten; he discovers that his righteousnesses are as filthy rags, and that he must have something better than the works of the law to trust in, or he must perish. So far so good. Things are hopeful when there is no more self-reliance left in the sinner. The worst of human nature is that, though it cannot lift a finger for its own salvation, it thinks it can do it all; and though its only place is the place of death, and it is a mercy when it comes to burial, yet that same human nature is so proud that it would, if it could, be its own redeemer. When God makes man’s conscience a target for his fiery arrows, then immediately he feels that his life is no longer in him, and that he can do nothing, and he cries out, “God be merciful to me.” Oh, that the two-edged sword of the gospel would slay all our spiritual self-reliance, and lay us in the dust at the feet of the crucified Saviour.

21. Perhaps I speak to some who faint because, though they have given up all self-righteousness now, and relinquished all self-dependence, yet they have not laid hold on Christ and his salvation. “I have been trying to believe,” one says, “but I cannot succeed.” Well do I remember the time when I laboured to believe. It is a strange way of putting it, yet it was so. When I wished to believe, and longed to trust, I found I could not. It seemed to me that the way to heaven by Christ’s righteousness was as difficult as the way to heaven by my own, and that I could just as soon get to heaven by Sinai as by Calvary. I could do nothing, I could neither repent nor believe. I fainted with despair, feeling as if I must be lost despite the gospel, and for ever driven from Jehovah’s presence, even though Christ had died. Ah! I am not sorry if you also have come to this condition. The way to the door of faith is through the gate of self-despair. Until you have seen your last hope destroyed, you will never look to Christ for all things, and yet you will never be saved until you do; for God has laid no help on you, he has laid help on One that is mighty, even Jesus only, who is the sole Saviour of sinners. Here, then, we have before us the sinner’s plight; and I will venture to call it, though it is a very wretched one, a very blessed one; and I heartily wish that every unconverted man were brought into such a condition that his soul fainted within him.

22. Now, hear the gospel, incline your ear to it, and you shall live. The way of salvation for you is the way which Jonah took. When his soul fainted, he remembered the Lord. I beseech you, by the living God, now to remember the Lord; and if you ask me what it is you should remember, I will tell you in a few words. Remember the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of sinners; remember him who suffered in the place of the guilty. Know, assuredly, that God has visited on him the transgressions of his people. Now, the sufferings of such a one as Jesus must have power to cleanse away sins. He is God, and if he condescends to die, there must be such merit in his death that he is able to save to the uttermost all those who come to God by him. You are invited, at this moment, in God’s name, to trust your soul in those hands that were nailed to the cross, and rest your life with him who poured out his soul to death so that you might live. In yourself, you may well despair; but remembering his name, coupled with the names of Gethsemane and Golgotha, remembering all his pains, and griefs, and unutterable woes, — remembering these by faith, there shall be salvation for you at this moment. Do I hear you sigh, “Oh! but I have nothing good within me?” Know, then, that all good is in him for you; and go to him for it. “But I am unworthy.” He is worthy; go to him for worthiness. “But I do not feel as I should.” He felt as he should; go to him for all that you should feel. If you bring a rusty farthing of your own, God will not have it; it would only insult the precious gold of Ophir, which Jesus freely gives you, if he should allow your cankered counterfeits to be mixed with it. Away with your filthy rags! Would you add them to the spotless garment which Christ has woven? The apostle says our best works are dross and dung, if we venture to put them side by side with the merits of our Redeemer. No one but Jesus can save; remember him, and live!

23. “But,” one says, “I have tried to remember the Lord; but I find that, while I can trust him to pardon my sins, yet I have such a hard heart, and so many temptations, and I am so weak for all that is good, that I still despair.” Listen, then, yet again: remember the Lord. At this time remember the Holy Spirit. When Jesus ascended on high, the Holy Spirit was given, and he has never been recalled. The Holy Spirit is here in this assembly now, and in the Holy Spirit is your hope against indwelling sin. You complain that you cannot pray, but the Spirit helps our infirmities. You mourn that you cannot believe, but faith is the gift of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. A tender heart, a penitential frame of mind, a right spirit, — these are the work of the Holy Spirit in you. You can do nothing, but the Holy Spirit can work everything in you. Give yourself up to those dear hands that were pierced, and the power of the Holy Spirit shall come over you. He will give you a new heart, and he will put a right spirit within you; you shall learn his statutes, and walk in his ways. Everything is provided for the believer that he can possibly need. Oh young man, anxious to be saved, the salvation of Jesus Christ precisely suits your case! Oh seeking soul, whatever it is you crave to make you fit to dwell where God is for ever, it is all to be had, and to be had for the asking, for it is all provided in the covenant of grace; and if you will remember Jesus the Lord, and the Holy Spirit, — the Indweller who renews the mind, — you will be cheered and comforted!

24. Yet let me not forget another Person of the sacred Majesty of heaven, — remember the Father as well as the Son and the Spirit; and let me help you to remember him. You, trembling sinner, must not think of God as severe or stern, for he is love. Would you be happy to be saved? He will be even happier to save you. Do you wish to return to your God tonight? Your God already meets you, and invites you to come. Would you be pardoned? The absolution is on his lips. Would you be cleansed? The fountain of atoning blood was filled by his mercy, and filled for all who believe in his Son. Come and welcome, come and welcome! The child is happy to be forgiven, but the Father is even happier to forgive. Jehovah’s melting heart yearn to clasp his Ephraim to his breast. Seek him at once, poor souls, and you shall not find him hard and cold, but waiting to be gracious, ready to forgive, a God delighting in mercy. If you can remember God, the Son, the Spirit, and the Father, though your soul faints within you, you may be encouraged.

25. And so I close by asking you, if such is the case, to imitate Jonah’s example, and send up a prayer to heaven, for it will come up even to God’s holy temple. Jonah had no Prayer-Book, and you need none. God the Holy Spirit can put more living prayer into half-a-dozen words of your own than you could get out of a ton weight of paper prayers. Jonah’s prayer was not notable for its words. The fish’s belly was not the place for polished phrases, nor for long-winded orations. We do not believe that he offered a long prayer either, but it came right up from his heart, and flew straight up to heaven. It was shot by the strong bow of intense desire and agony of soul, and, therefore, it speeded its way to the throne of the Most High. If you would now pray, never mind your words, it is the soul of prayer that God accepts. If you wish to be saved, go to your bedroom, and do not rise from your knees until the Lord has heard you. Indeed, where you now are, let your souls pour out themselves before God, and faith in Jesus will give you immediate salvation.

Exposition By C. H. Spurgeon {Jon 2}

1. Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God out of the fish’s belly.

What a strange place for prayer! Surely this is the only prayer that ever went up to God out of a fish’s belly. Jonah found himself alive; — that was the surprising thing, that he was alive in the belly of a fish; — and because he was alive, he began to pray. It is such a wonder that some people here should continue to live that they ought to begin to pray. If you live with death so near, and in so great peril, and yet you do not pray, what is to become of you?

This prayer of Jonah is very remarkable because it is not a prayer at all, in the sense in which we usually apply the word to petition and supplication. If you read the prayer through, you will see that it is almost all thanksgiving; and the best prayer in all the world is a prayer that is full of thankfulness. We praise the Lord for what he has done for us, and so we do, in effect, ask him to perfect the work which he has begun. He has delivered us, so we bless his holy name, and by implication we beseech him to still deliver us.

Notice that it says here, “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.”

He was a runaway; he had tried to escape from the presence of God; yet the Lord was still his God. God will not lose any of his people, even if, like Jonah, they are in the belly of a fish, Jehovah is still their God: “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly,” — 

2. And said, “I cried by reason of my affliction to the LORD, and he heard me; — 

You see that this is not praying, it is telling the Lord what he had done for his disobedient servant. Jonah had prayed, and the Lord had heard him, yet he was still in the fish’s belly. Unbelief would have said, “You have lived for so long; Jonah; but you cannot expect to live to get out of this dreary, damp, fetid prison.” Ah, but faith is out of prison even while she is in it. Faith begins to tell what God has done before the great work is actually accomplished; so Jonah said, “I cried by reason of my affliction to the Lord, and he heard me”; — 

2. Out of the belly of hell I cried, and you heard my voice.

He was like a man in the unseen world among the dead. He felt that he was condemned and cast away; yet God had heard him, and now he sings about it in the belly of the fish. No other fish that ever lived had a live man inside him singing praises to God.

3. For you had cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas;

The word Jonah used implies that God had violently cast him away into the deep. “Do not cast me off,” prayed David, but here is a man who says that God did cast him out like a thing flung overboard into the vasty deep: “You had cast me into the deep, in the midst of the seas”; — 

3. And the floods surrounded me:

“They rolled all over me, beneath me, above me, around me; ‘The floods surrounded me’”: — 

3. All your billows and your waves passed over me.

Jonah had evidently read his Bible; at least, he had read the forty-second Psalm, for he quotes it here. It is a blessed thing to have the Bible in your mind and heart so that, wherever you may be, you do not need to turn to the Book because you have the Book inside you. Here is a man inside a fish with a Book inside of him; and it was the Book inside of him who brought him out from the fish again.

4. Then I said, ‘I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

What grand faith Job displayed when he said, “Though he kills me, yet I will trust in him”; and here is another splendid display of faith, “I said, ‘I am cast out of your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ If God does not look at me, I will still look towards the place where he dwells. As I am being flung away from him, I will give one more look towards his holy temple.”

5. The waters encompassed me, even to the soul: — 

They seemed to get right into his spirit; his heart became waterlogged: “The waters encompassed me, even to the soul”: — 

5. The deep closed me all around, the weeds were wrapped around my head.

Like his grave-clothes, — as if the grave-clothes of the tomb were wrapped around his mouth, and ears, and eyes, and he was consigned to a living tomb. This narrative is a graphic description of the natural motion of the great fish which had swallowed Jonah. When the fish found this strange being inside him, the first thing that he did was to plunge as deep as he ever could into the waters. You will see that Jonah did go down very deep indeed. The next thing was for the fish to make for the weeds; since certain creatures eat weeds to cure them when they feel very ill, this fish went off to the weedy places to see if he could get a cure for this new complaint of a man inside him.

6. I went down to the bottoms of the mountains; — 

To the very roots and foundations of the mountains, where the big jagged rocks made huge buttresses for the hills above: “I went down to the bottoms of the mountains”; — 

6. The earth with her bars was closed behind me for ever:

Down went the fish, as deep as he could go: and, of course, down went Jonah too, and he might well imagine that he was in a vast prison from which there was no way of escape.

6. Yet you have brought up your life from corruption, oh LORD my God.

And, dear friend, God can bring you up, however low you may have gone. Though, in your own feelings, you feel as if you had gone so low that you could not go any lower, God can, in answer to prayer, bring you up again. Oh despairing one, take heart, and be comforted by this story of Jonah! God is dealing with you as he was with him. There may be a great fish, but there is a great God as well. There may be a deep sea, but there is an almighty God to bring you up out of it.

7. When my soul fainted within me I remembered the LORD:

It is a blessed memory that serves us faithfully in a fainting fit. Mostly, when the heart faints, the memory fails; but Jonah remembered the Lord when his soul fainted within him.

7. And my prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.

Think of Jonah’s prayer going right within the veil, and reaching the ear and heart of God in his holy temple. He said that he was cast out of God’s sight, yet his prayer went into God’s temple. Oh, the prevalence of a bold believing prayer! “My prayer went up to you, into your holy temple.”

8. Those who observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.

If you trust anywhere but in God, you will run away from your own mercy. God is the only really merciful One who can always help you; but if you trust in your own righteousness, if you trust in priestcraft, if you trust in any superstition, you are observing lying vanities, and forsaking your own mercy. God is the source of your mercy; do not run away from him to anyone or anything else.

9. But I will sacrifice to you — 

“I long to do so. I cannot do it just now, but I would if I could; and I will do it when you shall grant me deliverance from my present peril.”

9. With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is by the LORD.”

That is one of the grandest utterances that any man ever made: “SALVATION!” Write it in capital letters. It is a very emphatic word in the Hebrew, and I might read it, “Mighty salvation is by Jehovah.” This is real, old-fashioned Calvinistic doctrine spoken centuries before John Calvin was born. The fish could not endure it, and he turned Jonah out directly when he said, “Salvation is from the Lord.” The world does not like that doctrine, and there are many professing Christians who do not like it. They say, “Salvation is by man’s free will; salvation is by the works of the law; salvation is by rites and ceremonies”; and so on. But we say, with Jonah, “Salvation is from the Lord.” He works it from beginning to end, and therefore he must have all the praise for it for ever and ever.

10. And the LORD spoke to the fish, and it vomited out Jonah onto the dry land.

God only has to speak, and even sea monsters obey him. I do not know how he spoke to the fish; I do not know how to talk to a fish, but God does; and since the Lord could speak to that fish, he can speak to any sinner here. However far you may have gone from all that is good, he who spoke to that fish, and made it disgorge the prophet Jonah, can speak to you, and then you will give up your sins as the fish gave up Jonah. May God grant that it may be so this very hour!

That is the prayer of an ancient mariner, may it be ours, as far as it is suited to our circumstances, and may we be brought by God’s grace to cry, with Jonah, “Salvation is from the Lord!”

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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