A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, July 28, 1867, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Those who are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, there shall they rehearse the righteous acts of the Lord, even the righteous acts towards the inhabitants of his villages in Israel: then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates. (Judges 5:11)
1. Deborah sang concerning the overthrow of Israel’s enemies, and the deliverance given to the tribes: we have a far richer theme for music; we have been delivered from worse enemies, and saved by a greater salvation. Let our gratitude be deeper; let our song be more jubilant. Glory be to God, we can say that our sins, which were like mighty hosts, have been swept away, not by that ancient river, the river Kishon, but by streams which flowed from Jesus’ side. Our great enemy has been overcome, and his head is broken. Not Sisera, but Satan has been overthrown: the “seed of the woman has bruised his head” for ever. We are now ransomed from the galling yoke; we walk at liberty through the power of the great Liberator, the Lord Jesus.
2. The results which accrued from the conquest achieved by Barak, are upon a small scale similar to those which come to us through the deliverance accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. I shall take our text and spiritualise it, viewing its joyous details as emblematic of the blessings granted to us through our Redeemer. Those who went to draw water at the wells after Barak’s victory, were no longer disturbed by the robbers who lurked at the fountains for purposes of plunder; and instead of drawing the water by stealth and in hasty fear, the women joined their voices around the wellhead, and sang about the mighty acts of God; and the citizens who had been cooped up within the town walls, and dared not show themselves in the common lands, ventured beyond the gates into the open country, transacted their business openly, and enjoyed the sweets of security. I think we can readily see that this is an instructive type of the condition into which our Lord Jesus Christ has brought us, through the destruction of our sins and the overthrow of the powers of darkness.
3. We shall, this morning, first, for a little while, think of the wells of salvation as cleared of enemies; then we shall speak of the songs of praise to be rehearsed at the wells; and, thirdly, we shall have a little to say upon the visitation of the gates, which we can now enjoy with safety.
4. I. Our text tells us of WELLS CLEARED FROM THE FOE, and speaks of those who “are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water.”
We thank God that we who are the children of the Most High, have
wells to go to. The world is a wilderness; say what we will of it,
we cannot make it into anything else. “This is not our rest; it is
polluted.” We are passing through the desert of earth to the Promised
Land of heaven, but we praise God that we have wells to drink from on
the road. Just as Israel drank at Elim, and as the patriarchs drank
at Beersheba, so we have wells of salvation, out of which we joyfully
draw the living water. Our great inexhaustible well is the Lord
Jesus Christ. He is, indeed, the great “deep that lies under,” the
“deep that couches beneath,” the secret spring and source from which
the crystal streams of life flow, through the wells of
instrumentality and ordinance. “All my fresh springs are in you.”
Whenever we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, we drink and are
refreshed. No thirst can abide where he is. “He who drinks of the
water that I shall give him,” he says, “shall never thirst.” Glory be
to his name, we know the truth of this—
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.
As often as we muse upon his person, commune with him in holy fellowship, think of his wounds, triumph in his ascension, and long for his second advent, so often does our spirit drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, and we lift up our head.
Arising out of this greatest fountain, we have wells from which we
draw the waters of comfort. First there is this book, this golden
book, this book of God, this god of books, the word of God, with its
thousands of promises, suitable to every case, applicable to all
seasons, faithful and true, Yea and Amen in Christ Jesus. Oh! how
frequently when we have been fainting and ready to die, we have found
that promise true, “I will pour water upon him who is thirsty, and
floods upon the dry ground!” when we have turned to the word, and
searched there and found the promise, and fed upon it, as one who
finds great spoil we have rejoiced in God’s word. The doctrines of
this book are inexpressibly reviving to us. He who understands them
shall find them to be a well of life and comfort. I need not itemise
those doctrines, for you know them, you feed upon them, they are your
daily bread. Beloved, when we think of God’s eternal love for his
people, when we meditate upon redemption by blood, when we consider
the truth of effectual calling by the Holy Spirit, when we remember
the immutable faithfulness of the Most High, the covenant suretyship
of our Lord Jesus, when we look forward to the perfection which will
be ultimately ours, and to the haven of eternal rest to which every
one of the Lord’s people shall be brought, we do indeed find that—
Here in the fair gospel field,
Wells of free salvation yield
Streams of life, a plenteous store,
And our soul shall thirst no more.
7. As the word read is so precious, so is the word preached. If we listen to one whom God helps to speak in his name, we shall often find ourselves returning from the place of worship in a very different state from that in which we entered it. How often have you lost your burdens when you have been sitting in the assembly of the saints! I know, you feeble ones, you have oftentimes been refreshed; you have bowed yourselves down to Siloah’s brook that flows close by the oracle of God, and as you drank from its cooling streams, you have felt as though you could face the enemy once more, and go back to a world of toil and trouble, strong for labour, and patient for the endurance of suffering. Happy are you to whom the word has come with demonstration of the Spirit and with power. The fruitful lips of the preacher who speaks from experience, who speaks clearly, who speaks of what he has tasted and handled of the good word of truth—these sanctified lips, I say, “drop as the rain,” and “distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb.” The mouth of the righteous becomes a well of life for the people of God.
So, my brethren, it is also with the well of the ordinances. I
think we shall never forget the time when we drew water out of the
well of baptism—when we were baptized into the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, upon our profession of faith.
We found believers’ immersion to be a most instructive emblem of our
death, burial, and resurrection with the Lord Jesus; and we have not
forgotten, to this day, that then we affirmed ourselves to be dead to
the world, dead to the law, dead to self, dead with Christ; nor has
the thought of resurrection with Jesus, as typified by the uplifting
out of the pool, been forgotten by us. We know and feel that we are
dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God, and we rejoice that
he “has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly
places in Christ Jesus.” The memory of that happy day when we gave
ourselves up publicly and unreservedly to Jesus, is still fragrant.
Oh! how sweet to sing humbly but heartily—
’Tis done! the great transaction’s done;
I am my Lord’s, and he is mine:
He drew me, and I followed on,
Charm’d to confess the voice divine.
9. So with the Lord’s Supper. My witness is, and I think I speak the mind of many of God’s people now present, that coming as some of us do, weekly, to the Lord’s table, we do not find the breaking of bread to have lost its significance—it is always fresh to us. I have often remarked on the Lord’s day evening, whatever the subject may have been, whether Sinai has thundered over our heads, or the plaintive notes of Calvary have pierced our hearts, it always seems equally appropriate to come to the breaking of bread. Shame on the Christian church that she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread, and showing forth of the death of Christ until he comes. Those who once know the sweetness of each Lord’s day celebrating his Supper, will not be content, I am sure, to put it off to less frequent times. Beloved, when the Holy Spirit is with us, ordinances are wells to the Christian, wells of rich comfort and of close communion.
10. But I must not forget the mercy seat. What a well that is to the Christian when he can draw near to God with a true heart! It is a glorious thing to have such a well as that in the family, where, in prayer with the children, you can bring all the needs of the household before God, and mention each child if you will, and all the troubles of the past, or all the expected difficulties of the coming day. Let us never give up that well. But, as for private prayer, brethren, this world would be dreary indeed if we could not pour out our sorrows into our Father’s ear. This is the poor man’s riches; this is the sick man’s medicine; this is the faint man’s cordial; this is the weak one’s strength; this is the ignorant man’s school; this is the strong man’s confidence. Neglect prayer, and you will soon discover that all your spiritual powers become weak; but be much in supplication—and he who is mighty on his knees, is mighty everywhere. He who looks God in the face every morning, will never fear the face of man; and he who looks Christ in the face each evening, may well close his eyes in sweet repose, feeling that, if he should never wake up to this world of care, he shall wake up in the likeness of his Lord. Oh, yes! the mercy seat is a well of refreshment indeed!
11. Over and above this, every form of fellowship with Jesus, worked in us by the Spirit, is a well of salvation. This is an unknown thing to the ungodly, he does not enter into this secret; but you, my fellow Christians, know what communion with God means, for often, even when we are in business, or taken up with the world’s cares, our hearts are away with our Beloved on the mountains of myrrh and in the beds of spices; we get away from the world’s toils to lean our head upon his bosom, to sit in his banqueting house, and see the love banner waving over our heads. Beloved, we are no strangers to Jesus Christ, blessed be his name, and he is no stranger to us; we have seen him through the lattices of the ordinances; we have found the means of grace to be like windows of agate and gates of carbuncle, through which we have beheld him; we have him in our hearts very often, he embraces our soul—we carry the fire of his love flaming on the altar of our affections. He is our dear companion, our ever present help in time of trouble.
12. Thus I have mentioned some of the wells. Now, concerning them all, it may be said, that they can never be stopped up by our foes. We read that in old times the enemies stopped up the wells, but neither hell nor its infernal train can ever fill up one of the wells which the Lord has dug and filled by his Spirit. If outward ordinances are stopped, yet the great deep that lies under will find a vent somewhere; and if we were forbidden to draw near to the Lord’s table, or to meet to listen to the word, yet, blessed be God, we could pray, and we could have secret fellowship with Jesus, and so the wells could not be stopped so that the thirsty Christian should be deprived of his drink in due season.
13. Moreover, just as they cannot be stopped, so neither can they be taken away from us. The Philistine king, Abimelech, strove with Abraham and with Isaac to take away the wells; but these are ours by covenant engagements, these are given to us in the eternal council, they are guaranteed to us by the solemn league of the eternal Three; and none of these covenant blessings shall be taken away from the heirs of life, who are heirs of all things in Christ Jesus.
14. Though these fountains cannot be stopped up or taken away, yet we can be molested in coming near to them. It seems that archers and wells frequently go together. It was the blessing of Joseph—“Joseph is a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well; whose branches run over the wall.” But what next? “The archers have severely grieved him, and shot at him, and hated him.” And so in the text: here are wells, but there is the noise of archers, which greatly disturbs those who go to draw water. Brothers and sisters—I think you know, but I will refresh your memories—you know what the noise of archers has been to you when you have tried to draw water. Years ago, with some of us, our sins were the archers that shot at us when we would gladly come to Christ and drink of his salvation. When we bowed the knee in prayer, a fiery arrow would dart into our hearts—“How dare you pray? God does not hear sinners!” When we read the word of God, another barbed shaft would be shot against us—“What have you to do with God’s word? There can be no promise there for such as you are. Do you not know that you are a condemned sinner, and that book solemnly curses you? Turn away from it, of what use can it be to you?” Do you not remember how you were accustomed to come up to this house sighing for comfort, and although the preacher frequently invited you to Christ, and tried to portray a crucified Saviour before your eyes, yet the noise of the archers prevented you drawing from the well? Arrow after arrow of remorse, conviction, terror, and alarm, pierced your soul, so that you could not obtain peace with God. You used to envy the very least of the Lord’s people when you saw them rejoicing in Christ, while you could not so much as hope yourself. You were told to believe, but faith seemed impossible for you. You were asked to rest upon the finished work, but you could only say, “I want to, but cannot trust.” The twanging of the bow and the whizzing of the shaft were a terrible noise which prevented all drawing of water; while sometimes Satan beat the big hell drum in your ears: “The wrath to come! The wrath to come! The wrath to come!” And as you thought about the judgment day, and the great white throne, and the resurrection, and the dividing of the sheep from the goats, and the “Depart, you cursed,” and the everlasting fire, and all the terrors of a dread eternity, divested of every beam of hope, it seemed impossible for you to draw water out of any one of the wells, although perhaps you tried them all, and tried them again and again, as I did, year after year, and yet could not obtain so much as a single drop to cool your parched tongue, while it seemed as if it would cleave to the roof of your mouth in utter despair. Ah! but beloved, you are delivered from the noise of archers now; your sins which are many, are forgiven you; now you can come to Jesus, now you can come to the ordinances, now you can read the Bible, now you can hear the word, and you find that God’s paths drop fatness. There is to you a river, whose streams make glad all your powers. Oh! how precious these wells have now become, because you can in unmolested peace draw water; and although sometimes the devil would gladly shoot at you, yet you know you have a glorious shield, who is the Lord’s Anointed, and has turned away all wrath from you, so that no one can lay anything to your charge, for you are accepted in the Beloved, justified by faith, and have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Will not you who are delivered from the noise of archers in the places of drawing water, bless the Lord?
But I should not wonder if since that first race of archers called
sins has died out, some of you have been much molested by another
tribe of bowmen, who greatly trouble me at times, namely, the archers
called doubts and fears. These sad villains will, if they can,
attack every soul that desires to enjoy the means of grace and the
grace of the means. “Ah!” says Satan, even to God’s child, “remember
your slips and your failings! Remember your shortcomings, your
slackness in prayer, your indifference to God’s glory, your hardness
of heart! How can you think of receiving a promise?” Just as you are
going to grasp some divine word out of your Bible and suck out its
honey, it seems as though something struck your hand, and you were
obliged to drop the text altogether, lest you should be acting
presumptuously. No hymn of joyful assurance suited you, but you began
’Tis a point I long to know,
Oft it causes anxious thought,
Do I love the Lord or no?
Am I his or am I not?
It is poor work coming to the Lord’s table when you are afraid that you are not one of his; it is wretched work even listening to the ministry when you dare not claim the precious things which are delivered; yes, and even the word of God is a comfortless book when you cannot feel that you have a saving interest in its promises. Yet I thank God, when our faith is in exercise, and our hope is clear, we can see our interest in Christ; we come to him just as we came at first, and cast ourselves wholly upon him. Then we no longer fear the archers, but are rid of every fear; we “know whom we have believed, and are persuaded that he is able to keep what we have committed to him”; and, no longer disturbed by our enemies, we sit by the well’s brink, and are refreshed.
16. Yet, I should not wonder if another band of archers has sometimes attacked you when you have been at the wells, namely, your cares. Dear mother, the thought of the children at home, has frequently disturbed your devotions in the assembly of the saints. Good friend engaged in business, you do not always find it easy to put a hedge between Saturday and Sunday. The cares of the week will stray into the sacred enclosure of the day of rest, and thus the cruel archers worry you. Indeed, and perhaps in the case of those of us who are engaged in God’s work, even our solemn engagements enlist against us a set of archers unknown to others; I mean anxieties about the right conducting of services, and arranging the various departments of the church. We become, like Martha, encumbered with much serving, even though we are serving the Lord Jesus Christ himself, and this deprives us of the delightful sitting at his feet, which is heaven below. It is well to be able to cast all our cares on him who cares for us, and thus, by an act of faith in our heavenly Father, to be delivered from the noise of these archers.
17. One thing you have, dear friends, for which you cannot be too thankful, namely, you have a deliverance from the archers of ecclesiastical discord. We have peace within our borders. We do not have this bickering and that division, we are not divided brother against brother, as some of our churches are, which are torn by schisms, ripped in pieces by stripes, which might well cause them great searchings of heart; when we do come together, we come to edify one another in peace, for we love each other in the Lord. We do not have to lament that the house of God is a place of our severest wounding; it is to us a place of rest—where our best friends, our kindred dwell, where God our Saviour reigns. We are delivered from that noise of archers at church meetings; and you who know how sharply some can shoot, may well be glad for rest.
18. Again, we are happily delivered from political persecutions. We do not have to set lookouts on the mountains, as the covenanters of old, when they met in some lonely glen for worship. We do not have to put one of the deacons at the door to warn us when the constables were coming to arrest us, as the members of this very church did according to our records, in years gone by. The minister does not have to escape and hide himself from the officers, and the members have no need to hasten to their homes like scattered sheep, hunted by the wolf in the form of an armed band, but each of us sits under his own vine and fig tree, no one making us afraid, for which we are not thankful enough, I am quite sure. May God grant that, remembering our peaceful privileges in being now screened from persecutions, from ecclesiastical troubles, from carnal cares, from inward doubts, and above all, from the plague of sin, we may be like those who in the days of Deborah, were delivered from the noise of archers in the places of the drawing of water.
19. Enough upon that, only make sure that you give sufficient gratitude to your gracious God for this. This reminding you of your mercies I am afraid is dull work for some of you, but if you had them taken away, you would think differently. One might almost sigh for a brush of persecution to wake some of you up! Just a little salt cast here and there to make some of the sore places smart! Surely we go to sleep unless the whip is now and then laid on. A stake or two at Smithfield (a) might once again give back the old fire of enthusiasm to the church, but in these warm sunny days we forget our mercies. We go to sleep upon the bench, instead of tugging at the oar; and when we ought to be serving God with all our might and soul, I fear that most of us who are saved are dreaming our lonely way to heaven, indifferent to a very great extent to the glory of God, and forgetful of our indebtedness to Christ for what he has done for us.
20. II. Now we change the subject, and come secondly to notice THE SONGS BY THE WELL.
21. Just as when the people came to the wells of old, they were accustomed to talk with one another if all was peaceful, so when we come up to the ordinances of God’s house, and enjoy fellowship with Jesus, we should not spend our time in idle chatter, but we should rehearse the works of the Lord. In Deborah’s day, when one friend came to the well and met another, and half a dozen gathered together, one would say, “Delightful change is this! We could not come to the well a month ago without being afraid that an arrow would pierce our hearts.” “Ah!” another said, “our family went without water for a long time. We were all bitten with thirst because we dare not come to the well.” Then, another would say, “But have you heard how it is? It was that woman, the wife of Lapidoth, Deborah, who called out Barak, and went with him to the battle. Have you not heard of the glorious battle they had, and how the river Kishon swept Jabin away, and Jael struck Sisera through the temples?” “The Lord has done it,” said another. “It was the Lord’s doing, and is it not marvellous in our eyes?” And so, around the well’s brink, when they were delivered from the noise of archers, they rehearsed the works of God; and before they wended their way to their various homes, they said one to another, “Let us sing to the praise of God who has set our country free”; and so, catching the tune, each woman went back to her village home, bearing the pitcher for her household, and singing as she went. This is very much what we ought to do. When we come together, we ought to rehearse the work that Jesus Christ has done for us, the great work which he did on Calvary; the great work which he is doing now, as he stands before the Father’s throne. We should talk from experience, and tell one another of what we have known, what Christ has done for us; through what troubles we have been sustained; in what perils we have been preserved; what blessings we have enjoyed; what ills, so well deserved, have been averted from us. We do not have enough of this rehearsing the works of the Lord. It was a sign of the saints in the olden times, that “Those who feared the Lord spoke often one to another: and the Lord listened, and heard.” Oh let us get back to that primitive simplicity of conversation, and let us rehearse, as the text says, the righteous acts of Jehovah; let us go through our rehearsals for the grand orchestra of the skies. Let us begin to praise God and stir each other up to gratitude here, that we may be getting ready to join the overwhelming hallelujah with the ten thousand times ten thousand who for ever praise God and the Lamb. Around all the wells, whatever they may be, from which we drink, let our conversation be concerning Christ and his dying love; concerning the Holy Spirit and his conquering power; concerning the providence of God and its goodness and its faithfulness; and then, as we wend our way to our different homes, let us go with music in our hearts, and music on our lips, to take music to our households, each man and woman magnifying the name of the Lord.
22. Did you observe carefully what it was they sang about? “The acts of the Lord.” But there is an adjective appended, “The righteous acts of the Lord.” Righteousness is that attribute which the carnal man fears but he who sees the righteousness of God satisfied by the atonement of Christ, is charmed even by the severe aspect of God dressed as a judge. The justified child of God is not afraid of the righteousness of God, for he can meet all its demands. He compares it to the golden lions which stood in pairs upon the steps of the throne of Solomon—not meant to drive away the petitioner, but to let him see how strong, how powerful, was that throne upon which Israel leaned. I see the righteousness and holiness of God like huge colossal lions, as I look at his throne, and I delight, as I ascend the steps to bow before the glorious Father’s face, to know that his righteousness is engaged to save those for whom Jesus died. Let us recount the righteous vengeance of Calvary, the terrors that God poured out upon his Son when he cursed our sins by making Christ to be a curse for us, though he knew no sin. This is a subject upon which we should delight to dwell.
23. Then, if you observe, it was “the righteous acts of the Lord toward his people.” Yes; the very marrow of the gospel lies in special, discriminating, distinguishing grace. As for your universal grace, let those have it who care for such meatless bones; but the special gospel of electing love, of distinguishing grace, this is the gospel which is like butter in a lordly dish for a child of God, and he who has once fed on it will take no lessor fare. I delight to believe in the universal benevolence of God—he is good to all, and his tender mercies are over all his works; but his saints shall bless him, for they are not received merely with benevolence, but with complacency; they are not only his servants, but his sons; not so much the works of his hands, as the children of his loins, the darlings of his bosom, the favourites of his heart, the objects of his eternal choice, the delight of his eyes, his particular treasure, his chosen portion, his precious jewels, his rest and delight. The Lord prizes his saints above all the world besides. He gave Egypt and Ethiopia for them—he did more, he gave his Son for them; he gave heaven’s brightest jewel, heaven’s glory, heaven’s heaven he gave so that he might redeem them from all iniquity, to be his own particular people. Thus, my beloved brethren, take care when you speak on the Lord’s acts, that you speak of his particular favour towards Israel, his chosen, his elect.
24. Notice with care that the works which are to be rehearsed are done towards the inhabitants of the villages of Israel. Does this not suggest that we ought to frequently magnify the Lord’s choice favour and tender indulgence towards the least and most feeble of his family? Those villagers, those who knew so little, those who possessed so little, those who could do so little, those who were so weak, so undefended, these were rescued by the divine hand. Speak, then, of the mercy of God towards the little ones of Israel, and you will have no narrow field of speech. Why, if there is a choice word in the Bible, it is always for the weak ones; if there is a particularly precious promise, it is generally for the feeble minded. The best carriage in all the world that I ever heard of is Jesus’ bosom, but then that is for the lamb, not for those who are strong, but for the tender and frail. Those most compassionate of sentences in which Jesus seems to have most fully expressed his gentleness, and to have employed the tenderest similes, are evidently spoken with an eye to the trembling and timid. Take for instance that one, “He shall not break the bruised reed, and he shall not quench the smoking flax.” “Do not fear, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Such words as these we may well talk about together when we meet at the wells of ordinances, and so rehearse the praise of God and his righteous acts, even his righteous acts towards the villagers of Israel.
25. III. Lastly, the text says, “Then the people of the Lord shall GO DOWN TO THE GATES”; by which, several things may be intended.
26. First, when the people of God are completely delivered from their sins, and their cares, and their troubles, by the great redemption of the Lord Jesus and the power of his Spirit, then they enjoy great liberty. At times we are like Jeremiah, who said, “I am shut up and cannot come out”; or like another whose way was hedged up with thorns; but when we live in great nearness to Christ, the gates are all opened, and we are the Lord’s freemen: instead of needing to keep within the limits which fear prescribes, we take our walks outside in the fields of blessed liberty and gospel privilege. We walk from Dan to Beersheba in covenant mercies. Do you know what the liberty of a child of God is, dear friends, or are you subject to bondage all your lifetime? If you are a child of God, you do know something of it, but if you are not initiated into the mystery of the inner life, you will very probably confound liberty with licence. The liberty of the man of the world is liberty to commit evil without restraint: the liberty of a child of God is to walk in holiness without hindrance. When the believer’s ways are enlarged, he delights to run in the statutes of the Lord; obedience is freedom for the Lord’s servant. Christ’s yoke is easy, and his burden is light. I fear that very many of you who are present this morning are slaves—some of you slaves to fashion, you wear the fetters most conspicuously. You are the serfs of custom, and you do not have the moral courage to rebel. You bow your necks to human dictation, and say that you must do what others do. You have neither the manhood nor the grace to strike out on a path of your own. Now, the true child of God does not care one snap of his finger what others may do, to his own Master he stands or falls. He does what is right, and would sooner take the lion of hell by the beard than do wrong. If others like his integrity, so much the better for them; if they do not like it, they are condemned out of their own mouths. I take it that the genuine Christian who has once come to fear God, fears no one else; that he scorns to hamper himself with the sinful customs which sway the slavish hordes of mankind. He chooses for himself by the light of God’s word, and when he sees a thing to be right, he does it, and he asks no man liberty on that account. It is a most glorious liberty which a man possesses when he is no longer in bondage to men, to smart under their threats or to fatten in their smiles. Glorious was that ancient father who threw back the threatenings of his enemies, and laughed them to scorn. “We will banish you!” they said. “No!” said the Christian hero, “you cannot do that, because I shall be at home anywhere; I am a citizen of heaven; I am a stranger and a pilgrim upon earth.” “But we will shut you out from all your friends!” “No!” he said, “you are not able even to do that, since my best Friend will always be with me.” “We shall deprive you of your goods!” But he replied, “That I know you cannot do, for I gave them all away to the poor only yesterday.” “Well, we will take away your life!” “In that, too, I am undismayed,” he said, “for death will only give me the life for which I long.” No wounds could be inflicted upon a warrior so invulnerable; just so is every man equally secure who is clad in the armour of faith. He is above the molestation of mankind, for his life is hidden with Christ; his conversation is in heaven; he is free from fear, since he has nothing to fear; all his interests are secure. He has cast himself upon his God in Christ, and since God has made him free, he is free indeed. “He is the freeman whom the truth makes free, and all are slaves besides.” You do not know what a joy it is to walk erect in conscious, mental, moral, spiritual, God given freedom. Slaves of priestcraft, we pity you, we would not wear your chains for all the wealth of India! Bondslaves of the law, we mourn for you, for your service is heavy, and your captivity is terrible. Serfs of custom, you are more to be scorned than pitied: break your bands asunder, and wear the yoke no more. Today we feel as emancipated slaves must have felt when the last fetter fell to the ground. Oh glorious liberty, no price can show your excellence, and all the things which we can desire are not to be compared with you.
27. To go down to the gates, however, means something else, for citizens went down to the gates to exercise authority and judgment. He who is in Christ discerns spirits, and distinguishes between the excellent and the reprobate. “The spiritual man judges all things, yet he himself is judged by no man.” The saints, being led by the Spirit, discern between the precious and the vile; they know the voice of their Shepherd, but they will not follow a stranger, for they do not know the voice of strangers. The saints judge this world, and by their living testimony condemn its sin. “Do you not know that we shall judge angels” in the day of the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ? Instead of being judged and following others, those who love God become the leaders in right, and are as God’s mouth rebuking iniquity.
28. To go down to the gates also meant to go out to war. When a Christian man is saved, he is not content with his own safety, he longs to see others blessed. He can now go out of the gates to attack the foe who once held him in bondage, and therefore he girds on his weapon. When will the church of God be inflamed by the sacred desire of carrying the war for Christ into the enemy’s territory? I think I see a great deal in our churches now of a dangerously lethargic conservatism, a settling down contented with our churches, delighted to strengthen our own hands to keep together what we have, and careless about enlargement. The object of many churches of considerable age seems to be consolidation, and nothing more: but rest assured that the truest consolidation is enlargement, the best conservatism is progress, the truest way to keep what you have is to get more, the best way to retain the grace you now possess is to crave for more and more of the blessed spiritual gift. Brethren, if Christ has delivered us from the noise of archers, and we are at perfect peace with heaven, do not let us fold our arms and say, “The work is done, let us sleep in peace.” Oh you saved men, hasten to the armoury, array yourselves in a complete suit of armour, and grasp the sword, for now you are called by Christ to a holy warfare. If you are saved, you must seek to save others; if you have received the light, carry it into the dark places. If you have escaped from the jaw of the lion, and the paw of the bear, now go forth to fight with the monster and tear others from his power. I trust that most of you are engaged in some Christian service, but as often as I come into this pulpit and think of the numbers of believers in this church, I feel concerned that we should not allow any part of our territory to lie idle as waste ground, that we should not have a single member in this church who is doing nothing. I shall be satisfied, perfectly satisfied, if each one is doing what he can; we cannot expect more, neither does the Lord expect according to what a man does not have, but according to what he has. But are you, my brethren, who have been lifted up into the glorious position of saved souls, are you glorifying Christ and finishing the work which is given to you to do? I fear that some of you are not. You can eat the fat and drink the sweet, but you make a very small return for your Lord. I speak to you as a loving brother in Christ, and I urge you to think how life will look in the light of its last hour. Think of your life on earth as you will view it from those summits of bliss beyond the river! Will you wish then to have wasted time, to have lost opportunities? If you could know regrets in the realm of blessedness, would not these be the regrets that you have not served Christ better, loved him more, spoken of him more often, given more generously to his cause, and more uniformly proved yourselves to be consecrated to him? I am afraid that such would be the form of the regrets of paradise, if any could intrude within those gates of pearl. Come, let us live while we live! Let us live up to the utmost stretch of our manhood! Let us ask the Lord to brace our nerves, to string our sinews, and make us true crusaders, knights of the blood red cross, consecrated men and women, who, for the love we bear for Christ’s name, will consider labour to be ease, and suffering to be joy, and reproach to be honour, and loss to be gain! If we have never yet given ourselves wholly up to Christ as his disciples, now close by his cross, where we see his wounds still bleeding afresh, and himself quivering in pain for us, let us pledge ourselves in his strength, that we give ourselves wholly to him without reserve, and so may he help us by his Spirit, that the vow may be redeemed and the resolve may be carried out, that we may love Christ, and dying may find it to be gain.
Brothers and sisters, I cannot press this home to you as I wish; I
must leave it with your own consciences and with the eternal Spirit.
If Jesus is not worthy, do not serve him; but if he is very
honourable, serve him as he ought to be served. If heaven and eternal
things are not weighty, then trifle with them; but if they are solemn
realities, I beseech you as honest men treat them as realities. If
there is a day coming when all your business, and your worldly cares,
and your fleeting pleasures, will seem to be mere children’s toys, if
there is an hour coming when to have served God will be glory, when
to have won souls will be renown, then live as in the light of that
truth, and may God help you by his blessed Spirit. Amen and Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Judges 5]
(See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3564, “Publications” 3566 @@ "Gleanings Among The Sheaves")
(a) Smithfield: The fires that Queen Mary (1553-1558) ordered to be lit at Smithfield put to death such Protestant leaders and men of influence as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Hooper, but also hundreds of lesser men who refused to adopt the Catholic faith.