A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, March 15, 1868, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself: for I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof. Therefore neither did I think myself worthy to come to you: but say in a word, and my slave shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my slave, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” (Luke 7:6-8)
1. The greatest light may enter into the darkest places. We may find the choicest flowers blooming where we least expected them. Here was a Gentile, a Roman, a soldier—a soldier clothed with absolute power—and yet a tender master, a considerate citizen, a lover of God! Let no man, therefore, be despised because of his calling, and do not let the proverb, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” be ever heard from the wise man’s lips. The best of pearls have been found in the darkest caves of the ocean. Why should it not still be so that God should have even in Sardis a few who have not defiled their garments, who shall walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy? Let no man think that because of his position in society he cannot excel in virtue. It is not the place which is to blame, but the man. If your heart is right, the situation may be difficult, but the difficulty is to be overcome; indeed, and out of that difficulty shall arise an excellence which you would not have otherwise known. Do not say in your heart, “I am a soldier, and the barracks cannot minister to piety; therefore I may live as I wish because I cannot live as I should.” Do not say, “I am a working man in the midst of those who blaspheme, and therefore it would be useless for me to speak of holiness and piety.” No, rather remember that in such a case it is especially your duty not only to speak of these precious things, but to display them in your daily deportment. Where should the lamp be placed but in the room which otherwise would be dark? Rest assured your calling and your position shall be no excuse for your sin if you continue in it, neither shall your condition be any excuse for the absence of integrity and virtue, if these are not found in you.
2. Concerning the centurion, we may remark that perhaps we would never have heard of him, though he loved his slave; perhaps we would never have read his name, though he tenderly nursed his slave; perhaps, he would have found no place in the record of inspiration, though he loved the Jewish nation and built them a synagogue; nor would we have read the story of his life, though he had become a proselyte to the Jewish faith—the one thing which gives him a place in these sacred pages is this, that he was a believer in the Messiah, that he was such a believer in the Son of God that Jesus said concerning him, “I have not found such great faith, no, not in Israel.” There is the vital point. There, my hearer, is the notable matter which shall enrol you among the blessed. If you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, your name is in the Lamb’s book of life, but if you do not believe in him, your outward excellencies, however admirable, shall avail you little.
3. The faith of the centurion is described both in the eighth chapter of Matthew and in the chapter before us, as being of the highest kind, and the remarkable point in it is that it was coupled with the very deepest humility. The same man who said, “Say in a word, and my slave shall be healed,” also said, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” In bringing before you this noble soldier’s example, these are two pivots upon which the discourse shall turn. I shall direct you to this double star, shining with so mild a radiance in the sky of Scripture: This man’s deep humility was not injurious to the strength of his faith, and his gigantic faith was by no means hostile to his deep humiliation.
4. I. To begin then, THE HUMILITY OF THE CENTURION WAS NOT AT ALL INJURIOUS TO THE STRENGTH OF HIS FAITH.
5. Observe his humble expressions—he thought that he was not worthy to come to Jesus. “Neither,” he said, “did I think myself worthy to come to you”; and then he further felt that he was not worthy that Jesus should come to him. “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” Was this self-abasement occasioned by the remembrance that he was a Gentile? That may have contributed to it. Was it because he was penitent on account of various rough and boisterous deeds which had stained his life as a soldier? It may be so. Was it not far rather because he had had a deep insight into his own heart, and had learned to see sin in its true colours; and therefore he, who was worthy, according to the statement of the Jews, was most unworthy in his own apprehension?
6. You may have noticed in the biography of some eminent men how badly they speak of themselves. Southey, in his “Life of Bunyan,” seems at a loss to understand how Bunyan could have used such depreciating language concerning his own character. For it is true, according to all we know of his biography, that he was not, except in the case of profane swearing, at all as bad as most of the villagers. Indeed, there were some virtues in the man which were worthy of all commendation. Southey attributes it to a morbid state of mind, but we rather ascribe it to a return of spiritual health. Had the excellent poet seen himself in the same heavenly light as that in which Bunyan saw himself, he would have discovered that Bunyan did not exaggerate, but was simply stating as far as he could a truth which utterly surpassed his powers of utterance. The great light which shone around Saul of Tarsus was the outward type of that inner light greater than the brightness of the sun which flashes into a regenerate soul, and reveals the horrible character of the sin which dwells within. Believe me, when you hear Christians making abject confessions, it is not that they are worse than others, but that they see themselves in a clearer light than others; and this centurion’s unworthiness was not because he had been more vicious than other men—on the contrary, he had evidently been much more virtuous than the rank and file of mankind—but because he saw what others did not see, and felt what others had not felt.
7. Deep as was this man’s contrition, overwhelming as was his sense of utter worthlessness, he did not doubt for a moment either the power or the willingness of Christ. As for the question of willingness, it does not come under remark at all. The leper before this had said, “If you will,” but the centurion was so clear about Christ’s willingness to relieve suffering humanity, that it does not occur to him to mention it. He has long ago settled that matter, and now takes it for granted as a very axiom in the knowledge of Jesus, for such a one as he must be willing to do all the good which is asked of him.
8. Nor is he at all dubious about our Lord’s power. The palsy which afflicted the slave was a remarkably severe one, but it did not at all stagger the centurion. He not only felt that Jesus could heal it, could heal it at once, could heal it completely, but that he could heal it without moving a step from the place where he stood. Only let the word be uttered, and in an instant his slave will be healed. Oh glorious humiliation, how low you stoop! Oh noble faith, how high you soar! Brethren, if we can imitate this noble character in both respects, in the depth of his foundation, in the height of his pinnacle, how near to the model of the temple of God shall we be built up! He was empty indeed having nothing of his own; not worthy to receive, much less indulging a thought of giving anything to Christ, and yet confident that all things are possible with the Master, and that he both can and will do according to our faith, and that in a manner gloriously unveiling his kingly power.
9. My dear friends, especially you who are under concern of soul, you feel unworthy—that is not a mistaken feeling, you are so; you are much distressed by reason of this unworthiness, but if you knew more about it, you might be even more distressed, for the apprehension which you already have of your sinfulness, although it is very painful, does not at all reach to the full extent of it: you are much more sinful than you think you are, much more unworthy than you even know yourself to be. Instead of attempting a foolish and wicked soothing of your dark thoughts, and saying “you have morbid ideas about yourself, you ought not to speak so,” I rather urge you to believe that yours is an utterly hopeless case apart from Christ, that in your spiritual nature the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. I do not want you to gloss over the horrible ulcer of your depravity with specious hopes and professions. I do not want you to look upon this disease as though it were only skin deep; it lies in the source and fountain of your life, and poisons your heart. The flames of hell must assuredly wrap themselves around you unless Christ intervenes to save you. You have no merit of any kind or sort, nor will you ever have any; and even worse, you have no power to escape from your lost condition unaided by the Saviour’s hand. Without Christ you can do nothing, for you are abjectly poor, hopelessly bankrupt and you cannot by the utmost diligence make yourself any different than you are. No words that I can utter can exaggerate your deplorable condition, and no feelings which you can ever experience can represent your real state in colours too alarming. You are not worthy that Christ should come to you; you are not worthy to draw near to Christ. But, and here is a glorious contrast, never let this for a single moment interfere with your full belief that he who is God, but who took our nature, that he who suffered in our place upon the cross, that he who now rules in the highest heavens, is able to do for you, and willing to do for you, exceeding abundantly above what you ask or even think. Your inability does not prevent the working of his power; your unworthiness cannot put fetters on his bounty or limits to his grace. You may be an undeserving sinner, but that is no reason why he should not pardon you. You may be in your own apprehension, and truthfully so, the most unworthy one whom he ever stooped to bless, yet this is no reason why he should not condescend to press you to his bosom, to accept and to save you. I wish that as the first truth has impressed itself deeply upon you, the second truth may with equal force take up the possession of your heart, that Jesus Christ is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him,” and is as willing as he is able, and that your emptiness does not affect his fulness, your weakness does not alter his power, your inability does not diminish his omnipotence, your unworthiness does not restrain the heart of his love, which freely moves towards the very vilest of the vile.
10. By some means Satan almost always manages it this way, that when we get a little hope it is generally a self-grounded hope, a vain idea that we are getting better in ourselves—a mischievous conceit: proud flesh, which hinders the cure, and which the Surgeon must cut out; it is no sign of healing, it prevents healing. On the other hand, if we obtain a deep sense of sin, the evil one manages to put his hoof in there, and to insinuate that Jesus is not able to save such as we are. A great falsehood, for who shall say what the limit of Christ’s power is? But if these two things could only meet together, a thorough sense of sin and an immovable belief in the power of Christ to grapple with sin and to overcome it, surely the kingdom of heaven would then have come near to us in power and in truth; and it would be again said, “I have not found such great faith, no, not in Israel.”
Now, you troubled hearts, I have this word for you, and then I shall
pass on to another point. Your sense of your unworthiness, if it is
properly used, should drive you to Christ. You are unworthy, but
Jesus died for the unworthy. Jesus did not die for those who profess
to be by nature good and deserving, for the healthy have no need of a
physician; but it is written, “In due time Christ died for the
ungodly,” “who gave himself for our”—what? “Excellencies and
virtues?” No; “who gave himself for our sins, according to the
Scriptures.” We read that he “suffered the just for the”—for the
“just?” By no means, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to
God.” Gospel medicine is for the sick; gospel food is for the hungry;
gospel fountains are open to the unclean; gospel water is given to
the thirsty. You who do not need shall not have; but you who need it
may freely come. Let your huge and painful needs impel you to flee to
Jesus. Let the vast cravings of your insatiable spirit compel you to
come to him in whom all fulness dwells. Your unworthiness should act
as a wing to bear you to Christ, the sinner’s Saviour. It should also
have this effect upon you: it should prevent your raising those
scruples, and making those demands which are such a hindrance to some
people finding peace. The proud spirit says, “I must have signs and
wonders, or I will not believe. I must feel deep convictions, and
horrible tremors, or I must tremble because of dreams or threatening
texts applied to me with awful power.” Ah! but, unworthy one, if you
are truly humbled, you will not dare to ask for these; you will do
away with demands and stipulations, and you will cry, “Lord, give me
only a word, only speak a word of promise, and it shall be enough for
me. Only say to me, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’: give me only half a
text, give me one kind assuring word to allay my fears again, and I
will believe it and rest upon it.” So your sense of unworthiness
should lead you to a simple faith in Jesus, and prevent your
demanding those signs which the foolish so eagerly and impudently
require. Beloved, it has come to this: you are so unworthy that you
are excluded from every hope except Christ: all other doors are
securely locked against you. If there is anything to be done for
salvation, you cannot do it. If there is any fitness required, you
do not have it. Christ comes to you and tells you that there is no
fitness needed for coming to him, but that if you will only trust him
he will save you. I think I hear you say, “Then, my Lord, since it
has come to this—
I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must for ever die.
And so, sink or swim, upon your precious atonement I cast my guilty soul, persuaded that you are able to save even such a one as I am; and I am so thoroughly persuaded of the goodness of your heart, that I know you will not cast away a poor trembler who comes to you, and takes you to be his only ground of trust.”
12. II. I shall want your attention for a moment while we look at the text from another angle. THE CENTURION’S GREAT FAITH WAS NOT AT ALL HOSTILE TO HIS HUMILITY.
13. His faith was extraordinary. It ought not to be extraordinary. All of us ought to believe as well in Christ as this soldier did. Observe the form it took; he said to himself, “I am a subordinate officer, under authority. I am not the Commander-in-chief, I am merely the commander of a troop of a hundred men, and yet over those hundred men I exert unlimited control. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, I say to the other ‘Come,’ and he comes, and my slave, my poor sick slave (his tender heart comes back to him, and he puts him into the illustration), I say to him, ‘Do this,’ and he does it at once. I am simply a petty officer, under authority myself; but yet such is the influence of discipline that there are no questions raised, no deliberations tolerated. No soldier turns around and tells me that I have given him too difficult a task; no one out of all the troop ever dares to say to me ‘I shall not do it.’” The power of discipline among the legions of Rome was exceedingly great. The commander only had to say “Do it,” and it was done, although thousands bled and died. “Now,” argued the centurion, “This glorious man is the Son of God; he is not a subordinate; he is the Commander-in-chief. If he gives the word, his will most surely must be done. Fevers and paralysis, good influences and bad, they must be all under his control, he can therefore heal my slave in a moment. Who can resist the great Caesar of heaven and earth?” That was, I believe, the centurion’s idea. Therefore Jesus has only to will it, and to the utmost bounds of the earth those influences which are under his control will at once set to work to perform his will. The centurion pictured himself as sitting down in the house and effecting his desires without rising, by merely issuing an order; and his faith placed the Lord Jesus in the same position.—“You need not come to my dwelling; you can stand here, and if you will only say it, the cure will be effected at once.” In his heart he enthroned the Lord Jesus as a Captain over all the forces of the world, as the Supreme General of heaven and earth; as, in fact, the Caesar, the imperial Governor of all the forces of the universe. It was graciously thought, it was poetically embodied, it was nobly spoken, it was gloriously believed; but it was the truth and nothing more than the truth, for universal dominion is really in the power of Jesus today. If he were a true Caesar before he died, while he was despised and rejected by men, much more now that he has trodden through the winepress and stained his vesture with the blood of his vanquished enemies; much more now that he has led captives captive, and sits enthroned by filial right at the right hand of God, even the Father; much more now that God has sworn that he will put all things under his feet, and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things that are under the earth; much more I say can he now work according to his good pleasure. He has today only to speak, and it is done, to command, and it shall stand firm.
14. Beloved, see whether this truth bears us as on eagle’s wings. Caesar has only to say, “Absolvo te,” and his guilty subject is acquitted; Caesar has only to speak, and a province is conquered, an army routed. Stormy seas are navigated at Caesar’s bidding, mountains are tunnelled, the whole world shall be girded with military roads; Caesar is absolute, and his will is law. So on earth, but so much more in heaven. Let the imperial Caesar of heaven only say, “I forgive,” and the demons of hell cannot accuse you. Let him say, “I will help you,” and who shall oppose it? If Emmanuel is for you, who shall be against you? Let him speak, and the bonds of sinful habit must fall off, and the darkness in which your soul has long been immured must give place to instantaneous light. He reigns as King, Lord over all; let his name be blessed for ever; let each one of us, by our faith, give him the honour that is due to his name. All hail! great Emperor, once slain, but now Lord of heaven and earth for ever!
15. Here is one point to which I draw your attention; this man’s faith did not for a moment interfere with his thorough personal humiliation. Interfere with it! My brethren, it was the source of it; it was the very foundation on which it rested. Do you not see, the higher his thoughts of Christ, the more unworthy he felt himself to be of the kind attentions of so good and great a personage? If he had thought less of Jesus, he would not have said, “I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof.” There was, of course, a sight of himself to humble him, but the far more wondrous vision of the glory of the Lord Jesus was the true basis and source of his self-abasement. Because Christ was so great, he felt himself to be unworthy either to meet him or entertain him.
16. Observe, my brethren, his faith acted upon his humility by making him content with a word from Christ. His faith said, “A word is enough: it will work the cure”; and then his humility said, “Ah, how unworthy I am even of so little a thing as a word. If a word will work a miracle, it is so great and powerful a thing that it is more than I deserve; therefore,” he said, “I will not ask for more; I will not ask for footsteps when a sound will suffice; I will not clamour for his presence when his wish can restore my slave to health.” His believing that a word was enough, made him humbly decline to pray for more, so that his confidence in Christ instead of interfering with his sense of unworthiness, aided its manifestation. Brothers and sisters, never think for a moment, as many foolish people do, that strong faith in the Lord is necessarily pride—it is the reverse. It is one of the worst forms of pride to question the promise of God. When a man says, “Christ has promised to save those who trust him: I have trusted him, therefore I am saved; I know I am; I am sure of it, because God says so, and I do not want any better evidence, that assurance is humility in action.” But if a man says, “God has said that those who trust him shall be saved; I do trust him, but still I do not know that I am saved,” why, you do as much as say you do not know whether God is a liar or not; and what is more impertinent, what is more proudly insulting than that? I know it is a most common thing to say, “It seems so presumptuous to say I know I am saved.” I think it is far more presumptuous to doubt when God speaks positively, and to mistrust where the promise is plain. God says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” If you believe and are baptized, if God is true, you shall be saved—you are saved. There is no hoping about it—it must be so. Let God be true and every man a liar; and far off from these lips is the insinuation of a doubt that perhaps God can be false to his promise and may break his word. If you question anything, question whether you do trust Christ; but when that is settled, the question is ended. If you believe that Jesus is the Christ, you are born by God; if you rest alone on him, your sins, which are many, are all forgiven you. Take God at his word as your child takes you at your word. It is not too much for God to ask: you ask it of your child. Although you are a poor fallible creature, you would not have your child mistrust you. Shall you be believed, and not your God? Shall your little one be expected to confide in you, though you are evil, and will you not believe the voice of your heavenly parent to be the very truth, and rest upon it? Ah! do so, I beseech you, and the more you do it, the more you will feel your unworthiness to do so. For it astounds me to think that I shall be saved; it amazes me to think I shall be washed from my every sin in the precious blood of Christ, that I shall be set upon a rock, and a new song shall be put into my mouth. It astounds me, and as I think of it, I say, “How unworthy I am of such favours! I am less than the least of all the benefits which you have bestowed upon me.” Your faith will not murder your humility, your humility will not stab at your faith; but the two will go hand in hand to heaven like a brave brother and a fair sister, the one bold as a lion the other meek as a dove, the one rejoicing in Jesus the other blushing at self. Blessed pair, gladly would I entertain you in my heart all the days of my pilgrimage on earth.
17. III. I have thus, as best I could, brought before you the example of the centurion with a few incidental lessons. Now for the APPLICATION, with as much earnestness and brevity as we can summon.
18. The application shall be to three kinds of people. First, we speak to distressed minds deeply conscious of their unworthiness. Jesus Christ is able and willing to save you this very morning. What is the form of your distress? Is it that your sins are great? Believe, I charge you, and may God the Holy Spirit help you, believe that Christ can pardon all your sins now. See him upon that cross? He is divine, but how he bleeds! He is divine, but how he groans! He smarts! He dies! Do you believe that any sin is too great for those sufferings to put away? Do you think that the Son of God offered an inadequate atonement? An atonement of which you can say there is a limit to its efficacy beyond which it cannot operate for the salvation of believers, so that after all, sin is greater than the sacrifice, and the filth is more full of defilement than the blood is of purification? Oh do not crucify Christ afresh by doubting the power of the eternal God! My brethren, when in the stillness of the starry night we look up to the orbs of heaven, and remember the marvellous truths which astronomy has revealed to us, of the magnificence, the inconceivable majesty of creation, if we then reflect that the infinite God who made all these became man for us, and that as man he was fastened to the transverse wood, and bled to death for us, why it will appear to us that if all the stars were crowded with inhabitants, and everyone of all those inhabitants had been rebellious against God, and had steeped themselves up to the very throat in scarlet crimes, there must be efficacy enough in the blood of such a one as God himself incarnate to take all their sins away. For this great miracle of miracles, God himself paying honour to his own justice by suffering a substitutionary death, is an exhibition of infinite severity and love, which far down eternity must appear so glorious as utterly to swallow up the remembrance of creature sin, and to put it altogether out of sight. Yes, sinner, believe that this moment the sins of fifty years can drop from off you, indeed, of seventy or eighty years—that in an instant, you who are as black as hell can be pure as heaven if Jesus says the word. If you believe in him it is done, for to trust him is to be clean. Perhaps, however, your difficulty is to get rid of a hardness of heart. You feel that you cannot repent, but cannot Jesus make you repent by his Spirit? Do you hesitate about that question? See the world a few months ago hard bound with frost, but how daffodil, and crocus, and snowdrop, have come up above that once frozen soil, how snow and ice have gone, and the genial sun shines out! God does it readily, with the soft breath of the south wind and the kind sunbeams, and he can do the same in the spiritual world for you. Believe he can, and ask him now to do it, and you shall find that the rock of ice shall thaw, that huge horrible devilish iceberg of a heart of yours shall begin to drip with showers of crystal penitence, which God shall accept through his dear Son. But, perhaps, it is some bad habit which gives you trouble. You have been long in it, and can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? You cannot get rid of it. I know you cannot. It is a desperate evil, it drags you downward like the hands of demons pulling you from the surface of life’s stream down into its black and horrid depths of death and defilement. Ah! I know your dreads and despairs, but man, I ask you, cannot Jesus deliver? He has the key of your heart, and he can turn it so that all its wheels shall revolve otherwise than now. He who shakes the earth with earthquake, sweeps the sea with hurricane, can send a heart quake and a storm of strong repentance, and tear up your old habits by the roots. He whose every act is wonderful, can surely do what he wishes within this little world of your soul, since in the great world outside he rules as he pleases. Believe in his power, and ask him to prove it. He has only to say in a word, and this matter of present distress shall be taken away. Still I hear you say, “I cannot”; a horrible inability hangs over you. But it is not what you can do or cannot do, these have nothing to do with it, it is what Jesus can do. Can there be anything too hard for the Lord? Can the eternal Spirit ever be defeated when he wishes to conquer a man? Can he who “bears the earth’s huge pillars up, and spreads the heavens abroad,” who once was crucified, but who now ever lives, can be fail? Put your care into his hand, poor helpless wretch, and ask him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself, and according to your faith so it shall be to you.
19. A second application of our subject shall be made to the patient workers who are ready to faint. I know that in this house there are many who incessantly plead with God for their unconverted relatives and neighbours that they may be saved. You have pleaded long for your husband, or your son, or your daughter, but they have gone even further into sin. Instead of answers to prayer, it seems as though heaven laughed at your importunity. Take heed of one thing, do not allow unbelief to make you think that the object of your care cannot be saved. While there is life there is hope. Yes, although they add drunkenness to lust, and blasphemy to drunkenness, and hardness of heart and impenitence to blasphemy, Jesus has only to say the word, and they shall be turned from their evil ways. Under the use of the means of grace it may be done, or even without the means it may be done. There have been men at work, or at their amusements, all in their wickedness, who have had impressions which have made them new men when it was least expected such a thing would occur; and those who have been the ringleaders in Satan’s rebellious crew, have frequently become the boldest captains in the army of Christ. There is no room for doubt concerning the possibility of the salvation of anyone when Jesus gives the word of command. You are unchristian when you bar the prostitute from hope, when you exclude the thief from repentance, when you even despair for the murderer; for the big heart of God is greater than all your hearts put together, and the great thoughts of the loving Father are not as your thoughts when they climb the highest, neither are his ways your ways when they are at their utmost liberality. Oh, if your friend, your child, your wife, or your husband, is a very devil incarnate, or if there are seven demons, or a legion of demons within him, while Christ lives never mutter the word “despair”; for he can cast out the legion of evil spirits and impart his Holy Spirit instead. Therefore have faith; you are unworthy to receive the blessing, but have faith in him who is so able to bestow it. Many of you are going to your Sunday School classes this afternoon, others of you will be engaged this evening in preaching the gospel, and you are getting very faint hearted because you do not see the success you so much desire. Well, perhaps it is good for you to feel how little you can do apart from the divine ministrations. May this humiliation of soul continue, but do not let it degenerate into a distrust of him. If Christ were dead and buried, and had never risen, it would be a horrible case for us poor preachers, but while Christ lives endowed with the eternal Spirit, which he freely gives, we ought not so much as fear, much less despair. May the church of God take heart, and feel that with a living Christ in the midst of her armies, victory shall before long wait upon her banners.
The last application I shall make is the same as the second, only on
a wider scale. There are many who are like watchers who have
grown weary. We have heard that Christ comes—the great coming man—and
the Lord knows very well that there is a pressing need for someone
to come, for this poor old machine of a world creaks dreadfully, and
seems as though it were so laden with the sheaves of human sin that
its axles would snap. God’s infinite longsuffering has kept a crazy
world from utter dissolution by a thousand helps and supports, but it
is poor work, and seems to get worse and worse. Our state is rotten
at the very core, both in business and politics. No man seems to
succeed so well as he who has dispensed with his conscience, and
laughs at principles; all things are come to that point that there is
need for some deliverer to come, or else I do not know what will
become of us. But he will come, so the promise stands, and to those
who wait for him his coming shall be as the beams of the daystar
proclaiming the dawn. He is coming, and at his coming there shall be
a glorious time, a millennium, a period of light, and truth, and joy,
and holiness, and peace. We are watching and waiting for it. But we
say “Ah, it is hopeless to think of converting the world! How is the
truth to be preached? Where are the tongues to speak it? How few
proclaim it boldly! Where are the men to carry Christ’s cross to the
utmost bounds of the globe, and conquer nations for him?” Ah, do not
say in your heart, “the former days were better than now.” Do not
write a book of lamentation and say, “The prophets, where are they?
and the apostles have gone and all the mighty confessors who lived
and died for Christ have disappeared.” At the lifting of his finger
the Lord can raise up a thousand Jonahs for every city throughout the
land, a thousand bold Isaiahs to declare his glory. He has only to
say it and companies of apostles and armies of martyrs shall spring
up from the quiet nooks of old England’s villages, or shall pour
out from the workshops of her cities. He can do wonders when he wills
it. The worst plight of the church is only the time when her flood
has ebbed in order that it may return in the fulness of its strength.
Have confidence, for even should the instruments fail and the
ministry become a dead and effete thing, yet his coming shall
accomplish his purposes, and when he appears the kingdoms of this
world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus
is not under authority, but he has soldiers under him, and he has
only to say to this spirit or to that, “Go,” or “Come,” and his will
shall be done: he has only to quicken his church by his Holy Spirit,
and say, “Do this,” and the impossible task shall be accomplished;
what seemed beyond all human skill or mortal hope shall be done, and
done at once. When he says, “Do” it shall be done, and his name shall
be praised. Oh for more faith and more self-abasement. Twin angels
abide in this assembly for evermore. Go out with us to battle and
return with us from the victory. Oh Lord, the lover of humility, and
the author of faith, give us to be steeped in both for Jesus’ sake.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon—Matthew 8]