675. Spring in the Heart

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Charles Spurgeon uses the analogy of spring to talk about the spiritual growth that God provides.

A Sermon Delivered on Sunday Morning, February 11, 1866, by C. H. Spurgeon, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.

You bless its sprouting. (Psalms 65:10)

1. There is something very delightful in the springtime of nature, and although other seasons excel in fulness, yet spring must always bear the palm branch for freshness and for beauty. We are accustomed to thank God when the harvest hours draw around, and the golden grain invites the sickle, but we ought to thank God equally for the rougher and stormier days of spring, because all these are preparing the harvest. The April showers are mothers of the sweet May flowers, and the wet and cold of winter are the parents of the luxury and splendour of summer. God blesses its sprouting, or else it could not be said, “You crown the year with your goodness.” There is as much necessity for divine benediction in spring as for heavenly bounty in summer; and, therefore, we should praise God all the year round. As the God of seasons, Jehovah deserves our thanksgiving.

2. This month happens to be the springtime with our Church. I do not know when it began, but, I do know it still continues to be a springtime with us. We see youthful piety developed, on every hand we hear the joyful cry of those who say, “We have found the Lord.” Our sons are sprouting up as the grass and as willows by the watercourses, until as a Church we are ready to hold up our hands in astonishment and cry, “Who has fathered these? Who are these that fly as a cloud and as doves to their windows?” This is a happy springtime with us. There may come seasons of a more luxurious autumn, when the Church shall grow riper in knowledge and gifts and graces, but, certainly in the young days of this Church, when God is blessing her with so many conversions, she has great cause to rejoice. We have just begun a series of revival meetings, and this text seemed to me to be most appropriate since I heard about conversions which were already given to us. You bless its sprouting: you do not make us wait, oh God, for your blessing for months and years, but even at the very commencement, as soon as Zion travails, she brings forth children; as soon as the desire goes up to heaven the answer comes down, and while we are crying, God is blessing.

3. However, I intend to take the text this morning in reference to individual cases. There is a time of the sprouting of piety, when it is just in its bud, just breaking through the dull cold earth of unregeneracy. I desire to speak a little about that, and concerning the blessing which God graciously gives to the green blade of newborn godliness, to those who are in the early dawn, beginning to seek and to feel after God, if perhaps they may find him.

The Work Previous to Its Sprouting

4. I. First, I shall have a little to say about THE WORK PREVIOUS TO ITS SPROUTING.

5. It appears from the text that there is work for God alone to do before the sprouting comes, and we know that there is work for God to do through us as well. Beloved friends, before there can be a sprouting in the soul of any, there must be ploughing, harrowing, and sowing. Perhaps the minister may for years appear to preach in vain in a certain case, and yet not in vain, for all the while the soil is being prepared by the gospel plough so that afterwards it may receive the quickened seed. I do not think that we ought to be altogether hopeless for those who have heard the Word in this place for so long. It is a sorrowful thing that they should show no signs of grace as yet, but there may be a great work going on which we have not yet perceived. I do not say this at all to dampen our earnestness to see it, but to encourage us, lest we should faint in not seeing immediately the Lord’s hand made bare. There must be a ploughing, and we do not expect that as soon as we plough we shall reap the sheaves. It is so, blessed be God, in many cases, that the reaper overtakes the ploughman, but we must not always expect it. In some hearts God is long in preparing the soul by conviction. The spirit is broken, the conscience is stricken, pride is humbled, carnal self-sufficiency is subdued. The law with its ten black horses drags the ploughshare of conviction up and down the soul from end to end of the field, until there is no part of it left unfurrowed; and, deeper than any plough can go, conviction goes to the very core and centre of the spirit, until the whole heart is wounded. The ploughers make deep furrows indeed when God puts his hand to the plough; the soil of the heart is broken in pieces in the presence of the Most High.

6. Then comes the sowing. Before there can be sprouting it is certain that there must be something planted; so that after the preacher has used the plough of the law, he then applies to his Master for the seed basket of the gospel. Gospel promises, gospel doctrines, especially a clear exposition of the atonement made by the Saviour, these make the handfuls of seeds which we try to scatter around. Some of the handfuls of seeds fall on the highway, and are lost; but other handfuls fall where the plough has been, and these drop into the furrows and remain there.

7. Then comes the harrowing work. We do not expect to sow seed and then leave it: the gospel has to be prayed over. The prayer of the preacher and the prayer of the Church make up God’s harrow to rake in the seed after it is scattered, and so it is covered up within the clods of the soul, and is hidden in the heart of the hearer.

8. Now there is a reason why I dwell upon this, namely, that I may exhort my dear brethren, if any are working in parts of the land where they have not seen success, not to give it up, but to hope that they have been doing the ploughing, and sowing, and harrowing work, and that the harvest is to come. I mention this for yet another reason, and that is, by way of warning to those who expect to have a harvest without this preliminary work. I do not believe that much good will come from attempts at sudden revivals made without previous prayerful labour. A revival to be permanent must be a matter of sprouting, and the result of much holy effort, longing, pleading, and watching. I do not intend that it is necessary that when the minister begins his ministry there should be a preparedness among the people for his preaching; he is to preach whether they are prepared or not—that is not his business; but in order to be successful, depend upon it there is a preparedness necessary among the hearers. You may think it to be a strange assertion, but I can assure you I know who the preacher has been, what style of preaching he has given to the people, by the way in which I see them moved when I as a stranger happen to visit the church to preach the gospel. I find that upon some hearts warm earnest preaching drops like an unusual thing which startles but does not convict, and in other congregations, where good gospel preaching has been the rule, I can see the words drop into the hearer’s souls, by the glancing of their eyes and the expressions on their faces. I can perceive that it is no new thing to them to hear the living truth, and that God has been setting some other brother both to plough, and to sow, and to harrow, and that then he sent me, as he often does, to many Churches, to be a reaper, and, although I may seem to bring in the sheaves, yet it is the previous work that made room for the reaper to do his happy business. We must not expect to have results without work. People get the idea that we are to get rich in spiritual things without toil. Take the word of any experienced man for it; there is no doing anything worth doing without giving your whole soul to it, and there is no hope for a Church having an extensive revival in its midst unless there is an earnest continued waiting upon God, a bringing of itself into the condition of labouring, of intense anxiety, and of earnest expectation. There is in every case, I believe (of course there may be exceptions to this rule)—there is a work going beforehand which God does through his people.

9. But there is also a work with which his people have nothing to do instrumentally. After ploughing, sowing, and harrowing, there must then come the rain showers. “You water it,” says the text. All our efforts are in vain unless God shall bless—only he has promised that he will bless. I think we sometimes put words into texts and so spoil their meaning. “Paul plants, Apollos waters, but God gives the increase,” some say; but that is not a scriptural quotation. It is true, but it is not the truth taught in the text. Let me quote the text: “Paul plants, Apollos waters, God gives the increase.” There is no “but” in there by way of disjunction, but the sentences hang together; they come one after the other—“Paul plants, Apollos waters,” and, as soon as that is done, God gives the increase. He may sometimes withhold it for certain reasons known to himself; but, as a rule, where Paul plants and Apollos waters, the increase certainly and surely comes. We must understand that it is God’s rule to bless the earnest cries and tears of his servants, and to send us success.

10. This success is given, it appears, by a descent of rain in the case of the farmer; by a descent of spiritual influence in the case of the heart and conscience. Oh Holy Spirit! you, and you alone, work wonders in the human heart, and you come from the Father and the Son to do the Father’s purposes, and to give the Son to see the travail his soul.

11. There are three effects spoken of in the lines preceding my text, First, we are told he waters the ridges. All the ridges of the field get well saturated through and through with water. So God sends his Holy Spirit until the whole heart of man is moved and influenced by his divine operations. The understanding is enlightened, the conscience is quickened, the will is controlled, the affections are inflamed; all these powers—which I may call the ridges of the heart, and compare to the ridges of the field—come under the divine influence. It is yours and it is mine to deal with men as men, and to bring to bear upon them gospel truth, and to set before them motives that are suitable to move rational creatures; but, after all, it is the rain from on high which must really get into the ridges: there is no hope of the heart being savingly affected except by divine operations.

12. Next it is added, “You settle the furrows,” by which some think it is meant, that the furrows are drenched with water. Others think there is an allusion here to the beating down of the earth by heavy rain until the ridges become flat, and by the soaking of the water are settled into a more compact mass. It is certain that the influences of God’s Spirit have a very humbling effect upon a man. He was unsettled once like the earth that is dry and crumbly, and blown about and carried away with every wind; but after the rain comes, the earth is compacted and knit together: and so the heart becomes solid and serious—no longer light and frivolous, and as the high parts of the ridge are beaten down into the furrows, so, the lofty ideas, the grand schemes, and carnal boastings of the heart begin to level down, when the Holy Spirit comes to work upon the soul. Genuine humility is a very gracious fruit of the Spirit. To be broken in heart is a most efficient means of preparing a highway for the coming of Jesus into the soul. “A broken and a contrite heart, oh God, you will not despise.” Brethren, always be thankful when you see the high thoughts of man brought down. This settling the furrows is a very gracious preparatory work of grace.

13. Yet again, it is added, “You make it soft with showers.” Man naturally is hardened against the gospel; like the Eastern soil, it is hard as iron beneath the burning heat of the sun. Man’s heart does not receive the gospel—it is hard against it. No adamant can be more stern than is the human heart. Against spiritual influences it is hell hardened steel. But, oh, how the Spirit of God softens the man through and through! He is no longer towards the Word what he used to be: he feels everything now, whereas once he felt nothing. The rock flows with water, the flinty rock gives forth its stream. The heart is dissolved in tenderness, the eyes are melted into tears.

14. All this is God’s work. I have said already that God works through us, but still it is God’s immediate work to send down the rain of his grace from on high. I do not know how many in this place may be going through the stages described in the text before us; as yet there may be no sprouting in your souls; not a single green blade has yet appeared: well, although your condition is still a sad and afflicting one; we will hope for you that before long there shall be seen the precious seed, sending up its tender green shoot above the soil, that we may see its sprouting, and bless God for it.

Description of its Sprouting

15. II. In the second place, let us deliver A BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF ITS SPROUTING.

16. After the operations of the Holy Spirit have been quietly going on for a certain season as pleases the great Master and Husbandman, then there are signs of grace. Remember the apostle’s words, “First the blade, then the ear, then the full kernel in the ear.” Some of our friends are greatly disturbed because they cannot, see the full kernel in the ear in themselves. They suppose that, if they were the subjects of a divine work, they would be precisely like certain advanced Christians with whom it is their privilege to commune, or of whom they may have read in various excellent biographies. Beloved, this is a very great mistake. When grace first enters the heart, it is not a great tree covering whole acres with its shadow, but it is the least of all seeds, like a grain of mustard seed. When it first rises upon the soul, it is not the sun shining in its zenith, but it is the first dim ray, not light, but visible darkness. You are so simple as to expect the harvest before you have passed through the sprouting time. I shall hope this morning that, by a very brief description of the earliest stage of Christian experience some here may be able to say, “I have gone as far as that,” and then I hope you may be able to take the comfort of my very precious text home to yourselves. “You bless its sprouting.”

17. What then is the sprouting of piety in the heart? What is this green blade? We think it is first seen in sincerely earnest desires after salvation. The man is not saved, in his own apprehension, but oh, he longs to be. What was a matter of indifference is now a subject of intense concern. He could trifle once with eternal realities, but he cannot now. Once he despised Christians, and thought them to be affected with an earnestness quite unnecessary; he thought religion to be a mere trifle, and he looked upon the things of time and sense as being the only substantial matters; but now how changed he is! He envies the lowliest Christian. He sometimes thinks he would be content to change places with the poorest believer in the world if he might only be able to read his title clear to mansions in the skies. Now worldly things have lost that dominion over him which they once exercised, and spiritual things are uppermost. The joys which once delighted him now pall upon his taste. He thought them to be all, but now he thinks them to be nothing. Once with the unthinking many, he cried, “Who will show us any good?” but now he cries, “Lord, lift up the light of your countenance upon me.” Once it was the grain and the wine to which he looked for comfort, but now he looks to God alone. His rock of refuge must be God, for he finds no comfort elsewhere. His desires, which he had years ago were very temporary, they were like smoke from the chimney, soon blown away, like the morning cloud which disappears, and the early dew which is dissipates in the rising sun; but now his desires are permanent with him, not always to the same extent and degree, but still there they are; and at times these desires amount to a longing, to an earnest agony, to a breaking of his soul, a hungering and a thirsting after righteousness so that he may be filled, and yet he is not satisfied with these desires, but he desires to desire more. He desires to have a more anxious longing after the things which make for his peace. These desires are among the first signs of divine life in the soul.

18. In addition to these, “its sprouting” shows itself next in prayer. It, is prayer now. Once it was the mocking of God with holy sounds unattended by the heart; but now, though the prayer is such that he would not like a human ear to hear him, yet God approves of it, for it is the talking of a spirit to a Spirit, and not the muttering of lips to an unknown, unperceived God. His prayers, perhaps, are not very long: they do not amount to more than this, “Oh!” “Ah!” “I wish! oh that he would have mercy upon me! God have mercy upon me, a sinner!” and such like short outbursts; but, then, they are prayers. “Behold he prays,” does not refer to a long prayer; but is quite as clear and sure a proof of spiritual life within, if it only refers to a sigh or to a tear, as if it referred to an oration of an hour’s length. These prayers, these “groanings that cannot be uttered,” are among “its sprouting.”

19. Attending these there will also be revealed a hearty love for the means of grace, and for the house of God. The Bible, which laid unread, and which was thought to be of little more use than an old almanac, is now treated with great consideration; it is not altogether understood, but it is searched; and although the reader finds little in it that comforts him just now, but much that alarms him, yet he feels that it is the book for him, and he turns over its pages every spare moment he can find. Now, when he goes up to God’s house, he listens, if, perhaps, there may be a message for him. Before, he sat in the pew an a sort of pious necessity incumbent upon all respectable people; but now he goes up to God’s house so that he may, perhaps, find the Saviour, and may meet with something which shall set his spirit at liberty. Once there was no more religion in him than in the door which turns upon its hinge; but now he enters the house praying, “Lord, meet with my soul,” and if he gets no blessing, he goes away again with, “Oh that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat.” This is one of the blessed signs of “its sprouting.”

20. Still more cheering is another, namely, that the soul in this state has faith in Jesus Christ, at least in some degree. It is not a faith which brings such joy and peace as we should wish them to feel, but still it is a faith which keeps them from despair, and prevents their sinking under a sense of sin. I have known the time when I do not believe any man living could see faith in me, and when I could scarcely perceive any in myself, and yet I have been able to say with Peter, “Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you.” What man cannot see, Christ can see. We may not possess any evidence except an inward consciousness that, if we perish, we will perish at the foot of the cross; a sense that, if we do not have Christ, certainly we have given up everything else; that, anyhow, we have no other reliance—all our help, if we have any help at all, on him is stayed—all our trust rests there; and we do feel (for there are happy moments with even those who are most distressed)—we do feel sometimes as if Christ were ours. And oh! the joy which these young believers have when they get a kind of glimmering hope that they are on the rock! Why, they are as merry as the happiest of us then, only they have their relapses; they slip back into the filthy Slough of Despond again; they get on the promise for a moment, but they slip down again. This is both their misfortune and their folly. It is a mixture of both. There is both sin and suffering mixed together here; but it is a blessed sign notwithstanding all faults of some “its sprouting” when your soul can say, “Sink or swim, I do rest on what Jesus Christ has done.” It strikes me that many people have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but they are so much engaged in looking at it that they do not see it. If they would look to Christ and not to their faith, they would not only see Christ but see their own faith too; but they look at their own faith, and it seems so little when they contrast it with the faith of full grown Christians, that they think it is not faith at all. You tried to pluck up the sycamore tree or to remove the mountain, and your faith would not do it; but if your faith can only say that Jesus is the Christ, you are born of God. If you only have faith to receive Christ, remember the promise, “To as many as received him, he gave power to them to become the sons of God.” Poor simple, weak hearted and troubled one, look to Jesus and answer, “Can such a Saviour suffer in vain? Can such an atonement be offered in vain?” Can you trust him, and yet be cast away? Can you look up into the tearful eyes of that loving Saviour, and yet not receive his regard? Can you after faith in him receive the sentence, “Depart you cursed?” It cannot be. It never was in the Saviour’s heart to shake off one who clung to his arm. He never did reject a single soul that helplessly laid down at the foot of the cross. If you are lying there, rejoice, rejoice, that he bless even “its sprouting.” You see the difficulty all arises from misapprehension on the one hand, and from lack of confidence in God on the other. I say misapprehension: now if you are not acquainted with grain (like some Londoners, who never saw it growing), if you have only seen it when it has been ripe, and your friends have sent you a little sheaf of grain from the country at harvest time—if you go into the field when it is green, you might say, “What! do you say that that green stuff is wheat?” “Yes,” the farmer says, “that is wheat.” You look at it again and you say, “Why, man alive, that is nothing but grass. You do not mean to tell me that this grassy stuff will ever produce a loaf of bread such as I see in the baker’s window; I cannot imagine it.” No, you could not imagine it, but when you get accustomed to it, it is not at all wonderful to understand that they are only stages through which it goes; first the blade, then the ear, and afterwards the full kernel in the ear. Some of you have never seen growing grace; you do not know anything about it, and when you get converted you meet with Christians who are like ripe golden ears, and you say, “I am not like them: I am no more like them than that grassy stuff in the furrows is like wheat.” Just so; but you will grow like them one of these days: you are undeveloped as yet: you must expect to go through the blade period before you get to the ear period, and in the ear period, perhaps you will have doubts whether you will ever come to the full kernel in the ear; but it will all arrive in due time. Thank God if you are in Christ at all, and do not mind so much  what you are in Christ. That is the point, “Am I resting in Jesus Christ?” Well then, whether I am highly sanctified, or sanctification is only begun in me, whether I have much faith or little faith, whether I can do much for Christ or little for Christ is not the question; I am saved, not on account of what I am, but on account of what Jesus Christ is; and if I am trusting in him, however little in Israel I may be, I am as safe as the very brightest of his saints, and as the very greatest of his servants. I have said, however, that mixed with misapprehension there is a great deal of unbelief. I cannot put it all down to an ignorance that may be forgiven: I think there must be much of unbelief. Oh sinner, why do you not trust, Jesus Christ? Poor quickened, awakened conscience, God gives you his word that he who trusts in Christ, is not condemned, and yet you are afraid that you are condemned! Why, this is to make God a liar! Be ashamed and confounded that you should ever have been guilty of doubting the veracity of God. All your other sins do not grieve Christ so much as the sin of thinking that he is unwilling to forgive you, or suspecting that, if then you trust in him, he will cast you away. Do not slander his gracious character. Do not cast such a slur and stain upon the generosity of his mighty heart. This man receives sinners, and rejects no one. “Him who comes to me I will in no wise cast out.” Come on the faith of his promise, and he will receive you just now; and then you shall glorify him, and no longer slander him by your doubts and fears.

21. I have thus given some description of “its sprouting.”

There Is One Who Sees This Sprouting

22. III. Well now, thirdly, and very briefly, according to the text, THERE IS ONE WHO SEES THIS SPROUTING. You, Lord—you bless its sprouting:

23. I wish, dear friends, some of us had keener eyes to see the sprouting of grace in the souls of men. I am afraid some or you do not care enough about souls, consequently you let many opportunities slip for helping the weaklings. If a woman had the charge of a number of children who were not her own, I do not suppose she would notice some of the incipient stages of disease; but when a mother nurses her own dear children, she scarcely for an hour permits the first symptoms of disease to go unnoticed. As soon as there is upon the cheek or in the eye some sign of approaching sickness, she perceives it at once. I wish we had just as keen an eye and just as tender a heart towards precious souls. Men who are making money, when their hearts are set upon gain, can always recognise their opportunities. Where a clerk employed in the office sees nothing, because he does not have an interest in it, the owner who is to make the profit, quick as thought, perceives the way to work; and when our hearts are set on winning souls and getting treasure for Christ, we shall soon see the first good sign and opportunity, and we shall be at once ready to do what is required. I do not doubt that there are many young people attending at the Tabernacle, who are weeks and even months in distress; who need not be, if you who know the Lord were a little more watchful to help them in the time of their sorrow. The shepherds are out all night at this season of the year to catch the lambs, as soon as they find them, and take them in and nurse them for a little while; and we, who ought to be shepherds for God, should be looking out for all the lambs, especially at times when there are many lambs born into God’s great fold; and, as tender nursing parents, we should watch over them in their first stages of weakness and of pain. God, however, when his servants do not see “its sprouting,” sees it all. Now, you silent, retired spirits, who dare not speak to father or mother, or brother or sister, I think this text ought to be a sweet morsel for you. “You bless its sprouting,” which proves that God sees you and your newborn grace. God sees the first sign of penitence. Though you only say to yourselves, “I will arise and go to my Father,” your Father hears you. Though it is nothing but a desire, your Father registers it. “You put my tears into your bottle. Are they not in your book?” He counts your sighs, and he is watching you as you return step by step; he runs to meet you, and puts his arms around you, and kisses you with the kisses of his accepting love. Oh soul, be encouraged with that thought, so that up in that room of yours, or down by that hedge, or wherever it is that you have looked for secrecy, God is there. “You, God, see me.” That is a precious text, “All my desire is before you”; and here is another sweet one, “The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his mercy.” He can see you when you only hope in his mercy, and he takes pleasure in you if you have only begun to fear him. Here is a third choice word, “You will perfect what concerns me.” Do you have a concern about these things? Is it a matter of soul concern with you to be reconciled to God, and to have an interest in the precious blood of Jesus? It is only its sprouting, but he cares for your concern. It is written, “A bruised reed he will not break, and the smoking flax he will not quench, until he brings forth judgment to victory.” There shall be victory for you, even before the judgment seat of God, though as yet you are only like the flax that smokes and gives no light, or like the reed that is broken, and yields no music. I shall leave this point, commending it to your careful thought. God does see its sprouting.

What a Misery It Would Be

24. IV. A few words upon a fourth point, namely, WHAT A MISERY IT WOULD BE, IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, TO HAVE THIS SPROUTING WITHOUT GOD’S BLESSING!

25. The text says, “You bless its sprouting.” We must, for just a moment, by way of contrast, think of how the sprouting would have been without the blessing. Suppose we were to see, as members of a Christian Church, a revival among us without God’s blessing. It is my conviction that there are scores of revivals which do not have God’s blessing, which are not from God at all; they are produced by mere excitement. Excitement will go with revivals, just as dust will go along with carriages on the high road; but the dust does not help the carriage, and excitement does not help revival. The banging of cushions and striking of Bibles, and stamping of feet, and the pumping up of tears from excited people, does not produce genuine revival. That was a very good remark from Dr. McDonald, the apostle of the North. He said, in reference to his experience of revivals, that the real success, he always found, was in inverse proportion to the excitement; that is to say, that the more permanent the revival was the less of noise there was about it, and the more there was of mere carnal stir, the less there was of God and his grace. I believe it is so. Now suppose we were to have a revival in this Church, as we have now, and that without God’s blessing—what then? Why, true conversions would be very scarce. We are looking for hundreds, not for tens. I shall feel no great delight if the Lord only give us tens this month, because that is his usual measure, for which I will give him my usual gratitude; but we want hundreds now—hundreds of conversions—and our soul will not be satisfied unless we see within the next few months hundreds brought before the Lord. We have asked for it: God has promised to give us what we seek in faith, and we expect it; he is a faithful God, and we will get it. But if we do not have his blessing, we shall not have the hundreds; or if we do, it will be all a delusion—all apparent, not real; a bubble blown up into the air for a moment, and then burst and gone away to nothing. We shall only see the people stirred to become the more dull and dead afterwards; and this is a great mischief to the Church. So in the individual heart, if there should be a sprouting without God’s blessing, there would be no good in it. Suppose you have these desires, but not God’s blessing on these desires, they will only tantalize, and worry, and disturb you; and then, after a time, they will be gone, and you, perhaps, will be more impervious than you were before to religious convictions; for, if desires after God are not of God’s sending, but are caused by excitement, they will probably prevent, to a great extent, your giving a serious hearing to the Word of God in times to come. If they do not soften they will certainly harden you. Oh to what extremities have some been driven who have had sprouting of a certain sort which have not led them to Christ! Some have been driven to despair. They tell us that religion crowds the madhouse; it is not true; but there is no doubt whatever that religiousness of a certain kind has driven many a man to madness. They have not understood the balm: they have only understood the wound. They have not known anything about Jesus. They have had a sense of sin and nothing more. They have not fled for refuge to the hope which God has set before them. Do not marvel if men do go mad when they refuse the Saviour. It is a judicial punishment by God upon those men who, when in great distress of mind, will not flee to Christ. I believe it is with some just this—you must either flee to Jesus, or else your burden will become heavier and heavier until your spirit will utterly fail; and if the sense of sin does not lead you to where Christ was crucified, it will in a certain sense crucify you, it will crush you to despair, perhaps to madness, and then to hell. But this is not the fault of religion, it is the fault of those who will not accept the remedy which religion presents. A sprouting of desires without God’s blessing would be an awful thing if it were possible.

The Comforting Thought

26. V. And now I have to dwell upon THE COMFORTING THOUGHT THAT GOD DOES BLESS “ITS SPROUTING.” I wish to deal with you who are tender and troubled this morning. I want to show you that God does  bless your sprouting. He does it in many ways. Sometimes he does it by the cordials which he brings to you. You have some very sweet moments: you cannot say that you are Christ’s, but at times the bells of your heart ring very sweetly at the mention of his name. The means of grace are very precious to you. When you come into this house or into the prayer meeting, wherever it may be, you feel a holy calm, and you go away from the service wishing that there were seven Sundays in the week instead of one. By the blessing of God the Word has just suited your case, as if the Lord had sent his servants on purpose to you: you laid aside your crutches for awhile, and began to run without weariness; though these things have been only temporary and transient, I would have you think of them as signs for good. On the other hand, if you have had none of these comforts, or very few of them, and the means of grace have not been consolations to you, I want you to look upon that as a blessing. It is sometimes the greatest blessing God can give us to take away all comforts on the road in order to quicken our running towards the great Refuge. When a man is fleeing to the City of Refuge to be protected from the manslayer, it may be an act of great consideration to give him something to eat on the way, to stop him for a moment so that he may quench his thirst and run more swiftly afterwards; but, perhaps, if it is a case of imminent peril, it may be the kindest thing to give him nothing to eat or drink, nor invite him to stop for a moment, in order that he may flee with undiminished speed straight to the place of safety. Now, God may be blessing you in the uneasiness which you feel. Inasmuch as you cannot say you are in Christ, as I hope you are, it may be the greatest blessing which Heaven can give to take away every other blessing from you, in order that you may be compelled to rest in the Lord. You perhaps have a little of your own self-righteousness left, and while you have, you cannot have joy and comfort. The royal robe which Jesus gives will never shine brilliantly upon us, until every rag of our own goodness is gone. Perhaps you are not empty enough, and God will never fill you with Christ until you are, and so this season of bitterness and sorrow is not to pass from you until you shall be compelled to follow Christ. I like the idea of John Bunyan, who says he was driven to such fear through sin, that although Jesus seemed terrible to him yet he could not help coming to him. He said, “If Christ had stood with a drawn sword in his hand, I would sooner have run on the point of his sword than remained as I was.” Have you never heard of a person walking in the fields into whose bosom a bird has flown because it was pursued by the hawk? Poor timid thing, it would not have ventured there, but a greater trouble compelled it. All this may be so with you; your fears may be sent to drive you more swiftly, and more closely to the Saviour, and if so, I will see in these present sorrows the signs that God is blessing its sprouting. In looking back upon my own “sprouting,” I sometimes think God blessed me then in a way in which I desire he would bless me now. An apple tree when loaded with apples is a very comely sight; but give me for beauty the apple tree in bloom. The whole world does not present a more lovely sight than an apple blossom. Painters have declared that there is nothing in the whole world to excel it in beauty. Now, a full grown Christian laden with fruit is a blessed sight, but still there is a blessedness, a particular blessedness about the young Christian in bloom. Let me just tell you what I think that blessedness is. You have probably now a greater tenderness about sin than some professors who have known the Lord for years; they might wish that they felt your tenderness of conscience. You have now a graver sense of duty, and a more solemn fear of its neglect than some who have known the Lord for years; and you have a greater zeal than many. You are now doing your first works for God, and burning with your first love; nothing is too hot for you or too hard for you. To go to a sermon, now—no matter what weather it may be—seems to you to be an imperative necessity; you would go over hedge and dale to hear the Word. But some who are of older growth want soft cushions to sit upon; they cannot stand in the aisle now as they used to do, everyone must be particularly polite when they come in, or they do not care to worship at all. At one time they were so hungry that if you had thrown them a piece of meat on a skewer they would have eaten it; but now it must be delicately cooked and all sorts of sauce served up with it, and it must be well garnished, or they cannot eat it. They hear this minister, and they are tired of the other. They are in the state of the fools in the Psalm, who abhorred all manner of food, and I fear their souls draw near to death; but at first there is such a good appetite, such zeal, such hunger, that I am sure you will look back in years to come to your sprouting, and say, “Ah, God did bless its sprouting!” Go on, dear friends, to something higher; press forward to something more full and complete, but bless God for what you have.

27. And now to close. I think there are three lessons for us to learn. First, let believers be very gentle and kind to young believers. God blesses its sprouting—mind that you do the same. Do not throw cold water upon young desires: do not snuff out young believers with hard questions. When they are babes and need the milk of the Word, do not be choking them with your solid food; they will eat solid food by and by, but not just yet. Remember, Jacob would not overdrive the lambs, and neither should you. Teach and instruct them, but let it be with gentleness and tenderness, not as being their superiors, but as being their nursing fathers and their tender mothers in Christ Jesus. God, you see, blesses its sprouting—may he bless it through you! May he make you the channel of communicating comfort to those who are in their early days!

28. The next thing I have to say is, fulfil the duty of gratitude. Beloved, if God blesses the sprouting of our revival here, let us praise him: let it cheer our hearts. Let us feel that if he is beginning the work with us, we are happy, and grateful, and thankful, and will work still more. You who have this blessing in your own souls, be grateful for a little blessing. If you have only starlight, be grateful to God for it and he will give you moonlight; and when you have moonlight, bless him for it and he will give you sunlight; and when you have the sunlight, bless him for it until he gives you the heavenly light; and when you have the heavenly light, then your occupation shall be to praise him world without end.

29. Lastly, the other lesson is one of encouragement. If God blesses “its sprouting,” dear beginners, what will he not do for you by and by? If he gives you such a meal when you break your fast, what dainties will be on your table when he says to you, “Come and dine”; and what banquets will he furnish when he takes you to his bosom, and invites you to dip out of his own dish and drink out of his own cup! Oh troubled one! let the storms which howl and the snows which fall, and the wintry blasts that nip your sprouting, all be forgotten in this one consoling, comforting thought, that God blesses your sprouting, and whom God blesses no one can curse. Over your head, dear, desiring, pleading, languishing soul, God pronounces the blessing of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Take that blessing and rejoice in it for evermore. Amen.

[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Psalms 65]

Rescanned from the original sermon set. Electronic Bible Society edition was heavily edited and watered down. Editor.

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