A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 26 1869, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 4/16/2011*4/16/2011
Whereby God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of
promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath;
that by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to
lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to
lay hold upon the hope set before us. (Hebrews 6:17,18)
For other sermons on this text:
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Heb 6:17")
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Heb 6:18")
1. The Lord’s transactions with the patriarch Abraham are frequently used in Scripture as types of his dealings with all the heirs of promise. The Lord found him in an idolatrous household, even as he finds all his people far off from him and strangers to him; but the Lord separated him by an effectual call, and brought him out from his country and from his father’s house, even as he does to all his people when he visits them in mercy, and says, “Come out from among them, and be separate, and do not touch the unclean thing.” The Lord, then, was pleased to give to his servant a very gracious promise, just as he is pleased to give a similar one to every heir of salvation only even more clear and bright; and after awhile, that the patriarch’s faith in the midst of his increasing trials might come to a fulness of strength, the Lord was pleased to make a covenant with him, and to confirm that covenant by sacrifice of blood and by solemn oath. Even so he reveals himself to us, unfolding the ancient covenant of grace which he has made with us in Christ Jesus, and he asks us to look upon the solemn seal of the Saviour’s sacrifice, and of the oath of old which the Lord made to his Son. Just as he led his servant a stranger in a strange land, but yet surrounded and enriched with innumerable mercies, even so we are sojourners with him, as all our fathers were, but yet endowed with boundless favour in the blessings of the right hand of the Most High.
2. No doubt, the great end of God in this, so far as Abraham’s life on earth was concerned, was to produce in Abraham a model of unstaggering faith. God takes pleasure in his servants; he takes a delight in the training and education of his children, in the creating of his own image in their characters. And especially if there is one thing in a saint which delights God more than another, it is the choice grace of faith. Hence Abraham, who is the “friend of God” more than any other, is also the most believing of men, and the father of the faithful. Now, beloved, the Lord who has dealt with us as he did with Abraham, has the same purpose which he would achieve in us as in the patriarch. He would have us reveal all the graces which can adorn our character and make us imitators of God as dear children. Above all, he would have us strong in faith, giving glory to God. Oh that this purpose of God might be achieved in you and in me, so that we may be no more children, carried away with every wind of doctrine, may be no more puny in faith, tossed to and fro with anxieties and suspicions, but may become strong men who are able both to run in the race, to persevere in the pilgrimage, to contend in the fight, and to labour in the service, because the sinews of our strength are well knit, and the muscles of our faith are firm in reliance upon the living God, who is the strength of our life, and will be our portion for ever. How far, dear brethren, we have as yet reached to anything like the strong consolation and the vigorous faith of the text, it is for us to enquire; and if on enquiry we find ourselves deficient, let us plead mightily with God that he would continue his gracious work, that he would reveal himself still more fully, so that we may have a firm, unstaggering faith in him.
3. In order that we may have in ourselves the highest degree of assurance and confidence in God, the Lord is pleased to reveal himself to his servants as a God of truth and love very abundantly in multiplied promises, and, in addition to this, in the most solemn oaths. If we do not believe God, it is not because he has not plainly spoken. If we doubt him, it is not because he has left room for doubts, or given occasion for mistrust. His words are plain, often repeated, very positive, presented in the most assuring form, and ratified and settled with the most solemn assurances. Why, then, should I doubt? Why should I not, since God is willing abundantly to show to me the immutability of his counsel, be willing abundantly to rest in that immutability, giving glory to God, and enjoying peace in my own soul?
4. My discourse shall be aimed at the helping of God’s servants to attain to a strong faith in him. May the Holy Spirit help my infirmities, and bless your souls.
5. First, this morning, we shall, by the help of the text, find out the favoured people who are the rightful owners of the strong consolations spoken of in the text; secondly, we shall speak upon the condescending God, who is pleased to give such overflowing comfort; and, thirdly, we shall speak upon the strong consolation itself which flows from these immutable things of God.
6. I. First, then, dear friends, may you be able to see yourselves as in a mirror, while we look into this text, to notice who are THE FAVOURED PEOPLE OF GOD. In the seventeenth verse, they are described as the “heirs of promise”; in the eighteenth verse, they are portrayed as those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.”
7. Observe, then, that the favoured children of God are first described as “the heirs of promise,” by which at once most solemnly are excluded all those who are relying upon their own merits. If there are any here present who think that they have led a blameless life, and have added to it a careful attendance to the duties of religion, and to all the decencies and amiabilities of society, and that, therefore, they have somewhat of a claim on God, and something in which to glory, they are obviously excluded from all the blessings of the covenant, for that is a covenant of promise, not a covenant of legal rewards. A promise is not a debt, but a grace, and if the blessing comes by promise, then those who receive it are not those who put in a claim by reason of good things done by themselves. What do you say, dear hearer, is your salvation based, and settled, and grounded, and founded upon the sovereign grace of God to you an undeserving sinner? Do you confess that you have nothing of your own in which to boast, and do you hope alone in the mercy of God in Christ Jesus? Then let me hope you are one of the heirs of promise.
8. “Heirs of promise,” again. Then this excludes those who are heirs according to their own will, who scoff at the mighty work of grace, and believe that their own free choice has saved them! The Lord said to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” And Paul adds, “So then it is not by him who wills, nor by him who runs, but by God who shows mercy.” (Romans 9:16) Dear hearer, here is a weighty question for you. Where did your religion come from? Did it come entirely from yourself and spring from your own inward promptings and nothing else, or are you a Christian because the grace of God came in opposition to your will, because the hand of grace took the helm of your vessel and turned it in an opposite direction to its natural inclination? Are you rather the subject than the user of grace? Are you rather sought by God than one who by himself looked for God; in short, is it your own will or God’s will that has the honour of your salvation? Remember they are not all Israel who are of Israel, “but in Isaac shall your seed be called.” God makes here a distinction, and takes Isaac and passes by Ishmael. And yet again, as the apostle reminds us, “when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (for the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not by works, but by him who calls;) it was said to her, ‘The elder shall serve the younger.’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.’ ” “Therefore,” again says the apostle, “he has mercy on whom he will have mercy.” It is a blessed sign of grace when we are willing to feel that it is just and right that pardon should be distributed according to God’s will rather than our will. The promise must be freely given by God, and who among us would interfere with his rights to give as he wishes? Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Shall he not do as he wishes with his own? All heirs of promise will consent to this.
9. One more thought: “Heirs of promise,” then heirs, not according to the power of the flesh, but according to the energy of grace. Ishmael was the heir according to flesh, but he did not obtain the inheritance: “Those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God.” Isaac was born not through his father’s or his mother’s strength, for they were well advanced in years, but he was the child of promise, the fruit of divine visitation. Now what is your grace in your heart? Did it spring from the strength of nature? If so, it is only an Ishmael, it will be rejected, it is only the bondwoman’s child, and will be cast out; but if your piety is the pure gift of God, an Isaac born when human nature was incapable of anything that was good, and when your depravity could produce nothing that was acceptable in the sight of God; if it has been granted to you according to the power of the Holy Spirit, then it is such as shall surely bring you to heaven. The children of God, then, are heirs of promise, not heirs by merit, not heirs by their own will, not heirs by human power. Just in this manner John describes believers as “born, not by blood, nor by the will of the flesh, nor by the will of man, but by God.” (John 1:13) Here are sharp distinctions. My soul, can you bear them? While listening to them, do you feel no rebellion, but rather feel a humble desire to sit down at Jesus’ feet and hopefully say, “I trust I also am a child of the promise?” Ah! then it is well with you.
10. A more plain description of the favoured people follows in the eighteenth verse. We will look at it. “Who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Then, dear hearers, all the people of God were once in danger. They have “fled for refuge.” Men do not flee for refuge when they are in no distress. The vessel does not put into the harbour of refuge when winds and waves all favour her. A man does not escape out of a city like Lot out of Sodom, unless he is persuaded that the city is to be destroyed, and that he is likely to perish in it. Ah! indeed, we who are saved today confess with gratitude to him who has delivered us, that we were once in danger. In danger, my brethren, is the word strong enough? in danger of eternal burnings! It was worse than that, for we are brands plucked out of the fire; we already burned with that fire of sin which is the fire of hell. We were already destroyed, already dead and corrupt. Our danger had overtaken us and overthrown us. The accumulated horrors of the tempest of divine wrath were gathering to pour themselves on our heads. But we have fled for refuge. Blessed be God, no longer do we dread that lightning flash of wrath, no longer are we consumed with that flame of reigning sin; Christ has called us to shelter in his wounds, and we have fled from the wrath to come.
11. My brethren, every true child of God, not only was in danger, but he felt it; for, alas! if I say the child of God was in danger, why, so were all equally children of God and children of the devil too. Oh, how some of you are in danger this morning; you have only a step between you and death, and it may be you will never enter this house, or any other house of prayer again, but within the next seven days you will have to stand before the Judge of all the earth! You are in peril; but the sign of the child of God is that he has felt his danger; for a man must feel a danger before he will flee for refuge. Do you feel it? Dear hearer, have you felt it not merely as a transient fright that passed over you for a moment, and then you wiped away your tears and went back to your carnal security, have you felt the danger so that the fear haunted you by day and by night, and would not let you rest until you escaped for your life? I have nothing to say to you as a child of God unless you have felt like this. I cannot address you as one who has fled for refuge unless you have also felt that you needed a refuge, felt it solemnly with a broken heart before God, and confessed that you could not fight the battle yourself nor could you endure the storm alone, but must find a shelter other than your own doings or resolutions could afford you.
12. Still, even this does not quite describe the child of God. He was in danger, and he felt his danger, but the text says, he has “fled for refuge.” I have no doubt that the words here point to the old Jewish institution of the Cities of Refuge. A man had accidentally killed another man, and the next of kin would be quite sure to avenge the blood; but the manslayer fled with all his might to the appointed City of Refuge. When once he passed between the portals of that sanctuary, he was secure. So, brethren, the children of God have by nature provoked the just vengeance of heaven. They have been guilty against the law, and Justice, red-handed and swift, was pursuing close behind them. This they knew, and being moved with fear, they took to their heels with a solemn repentance and an eager faith, and they sped away to Jesus Christ, the appointed City of Sanctuary, and they have found protection in him. I say they have found it. Dear hearer, have you found it? No, it is nothing to say, “I hope I shall.” What if the avenger of blood strikes you with his killing sword even now? Have you found it? Remember, you are today either a saved man, or not! There are no middle places between these two. The wrath of God pursues you, or else you are at the horns of the altar, secure through the sprinkled blood. You are today condemned already, waiting for execution, or else you are absolved, and vengeance can never strike you. Which of the two is it? Oh, I know that many of us can say, “By grace I have fled for refuge. Jesus Christ, I have looked to you, and to you alone. You are my only confidence. If a soul can perish trusting in Christ, I shall perish.” If there is anything needed besides you, oh Jesus, I shall perish, for I have nothing besides you. But if simple faith in the once crucified Saviour can save the sinner, then I am a saved man, for I have so believed, and so I will, God helping me, to life’s last hour.
13. You have, then, reached the refuge. What a mercy this is! You can now walk at peace as a saved sinner. Sin is pardoned, the wrath of God is turned away from you. But the text goes on to describe these favoured people as running for a crown. There is a mixing of metaphors here, and yet at the same time no confusion. The first metaphor is over, they have “fled for refuge,” and now they continue to run, but for another reason, “to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” Beloved, every child of God is pressing forward towards the hope of everlasting life and undefiled glory beyond the stars. Is it so with us? God has promised to us a “crown of life that does not fade away,” and our life is a preparation for that crown, a pressing forward towards that unfading bliss. We are daily blessed with inward aspirations after it, hungry longings for it, divine impulses towards it, and moreover, we hope we are purifying ourselves by his Spirit, even as he is pure, so that when he shall appear, for whose coming we are looking, we may be found by him in peace, made ready to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb.
14. I shall not detain you longer with the description, but I shall press upon you all to ask yourselves whether you have fled for refuge and are pressing onward to the hope that is set before you? For everything must hinge upon this question. If it is so, brethren, the strongest consolation in the word of God is not denied to you, the richest promise and the rarest blessing of the covenant you may grasp without any interference, for everything belongs to you. But if not, and you do not answer to this description, so far from wishing to administer any consolation to you, we fear lest we should say a word that might lull you into a deeper and more dangerous peace. For you, no dulcet notes of consolation, but the shrill cornet must be sounded in Gibeah, and we must lift up the voice of alarm in Zion; for outside of Christ, not having fled for refuge, wrath comes upon you even to the uttermost, and there shall be no escape. If those who despised the law of Moses perished without mercy, of how much more severe vengeance shall you be counted worthy who shall despise the Son of God? How shall you escape if you neglect so great a salvation?
15. II. But we must pass on to our second point. Let us humbly look for a minute to the ways and dealings of our CONDESCENDING GOD to these favoured people; hoping that we belong to their number.
16. Notice each word, “God willing.” Whenever God does anything in a way of grace, he does it as we say cum amore, (with love) he does it in the highest sense willingly. In a certain sense, all the acts of God are willingly done, but there are some which in another sense he does unwillingly. “He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” It is not the will of God that sinners should perish; he has declared it, he would rather that they turn to him and live; but when he reveals himself to his saints, he does it with a sacred alacrity, a divine cheerfulness. It is an occupation divinely suitable to his generous nature. “God willing.”
17. “Willing more abundantly.” Do notice that expression. It has in the Greek the sense of more than is necessary, and is secretly meant to answer the objection concerning the Lord’s taking an oath. God is willing to reveal himself to his people, and he is willing to do that “more abundantly,” up to the measure of their need. He would let them know that his counsel is immutable, and he would not only give them enough evidence to prove it, he would give them overwhelming evidence, evidence more than would be or could be possibly required by the case itself, so that their unbelief may have no chance to live, and their faith may be of the strongest kind. The word “to show” is remarkable; it is the very word used in the Greek when our Lord showed his disciples his hands and his side, as if the word would say that God would lay bare the immutability of his nature, would as it were strip his eternal purposes, and let his people look upon them, handle them, and see their reality, their truth and certainty. “God is willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel.” Beloved, frequently a man will not give further assurance of the truth of what he states, when he believes he has already given enough assurance. Indeed, he stands on his dignity and he says, “Do you not believe me? I have already given you a promise, I have given that promise again and again, why do you ask for more? My character in all past life has been such that I am entitled to be believed. I have given you what I conceive to be overwhelming proof of my fidelity and honesty; if you ask for more, you shall not have it. I do not feel called upon to repeat my words as if I were suspected of untruth.” Observe with wonder that our ever gracious God never stands on his dignity in this manner at all, but he does not look so much at the dignity of his own person as at the weakness of his people, and therefore being willing more abundantly to show to his poor feeble trembling people the immutability of his counsel, he not only gives one promise, but he adds another and another and another, until to count the promises would be almost as difficult as to count the stars or number the sands on the seashore. Yes, and when he has done all this, he comes in with a master stroke to crown it all, and confirms every promise by an oath, that by not one immutable thing but by two, the promise and the oath, in both of which it is impossible for Jehovah to lie, his people might never dare to doubt again, but might have strong consolation.
The first immutable thing upon which our faith is to rest itself, is
the promise. How badly we treat our God! If a father should give
a promise to any of you, being a child, you believe your father. I
know, dear wife, you would consider it a great dishonour if anyone
assumed that you doubted your husband’s word. I know, dear sister,
that you would think it to be a sad discredit to your brother if you
had reason to doubt his word. Oh, no, we readily believe and accept
the truthfulness of those we love, and yet our God, our Father,
Christ our brother, our dearest friend, oh why, why do we not believe
him? But it may be whispered in times of darkness, “Yes, but God may
have given a promise that he will save those who flee to Christ, and
I hope I have fled to Christ, but suppose he should change his mind,
and retract his promise!” No, but he has told you it is an immutable
promise, and when a man says, “I will never alter my word,” we do not
expect he will; if he is an honest man, he cannot. If his promise
was only intended to be broken, why, he is playing the fool with us;
but when it is given with an intent to be kept, as God says his
is — for he calls it an immutable promise — let us not entertain
suspicions against it. The text implies that if God were to break his
promise he would lie. He cannot take back his promise without lying,
and do not let the thought even flit across our soul that God could
lie. “Has he said and shall he not do it? or has he spoken, and shall
he not make it good?” Beloved, when you are conscious that you are
great sinners, and have no good thing in yourselves, it is easy to
yield to the dark suspicion, “Suppose, after all, I believe in
Christ, and yet my faith should not be enough. Suppose this which has
been set before me in the word of God as the groundwork of a sinner’s
hope should turn out to be too little?” At such times, it really
appears that the gospel plan is too simple, and we are tempted to
think it may prove to be insufficient; but the text will not allow
such a supposition, for there is the promise of God, “He who believes
and is baptised, shall be saved”; and he tells us that is an
immutable promise, consequently if he did change it, if he did shift
the system of his grace, he would lie. But he cannot lie. Oh, what
consolation is this, then, our refuge is secure, our confidence is
firm! Look here, you people of God. This promise of God was not made
in a hurry. A man may make a promise suddenly, and he may not be able
to keep it afterwards, but through the everlasting ages the promise
was on Jehovah’s heart before he spoke it with his lips. Men
sometimes make promises that they cannot fulfil, they are in
circumstances which do not permit them. But can God ever be in a
difficulty? Can he ever lose his power to do what he wishes? He is
omnipotent. The heavens and the earth are his. “All power belongs to
God.” Men sometimes make promises which it would be unwise to keep,
and perhaps it is better to break them; but the Lord cannot be
unwise, his is infinite wisdom as well as infinite strength. The
promise, then, because of its wisdom, will surely stand. Besides, my
brethren, the promise he has made is for his own honour. It redounds
to his glory to show mercy to the unworthy. Moreover, his promise is
made to his own Son, and his love for him is intertwined and
interwoven with his promise. He could not break his word to one of
us without breaking it to his dear Son, since we are in him, and
trust in him. Oh my brethren, the divine promise must stand good.
Show me where it was ever broken! I will tell you where it has been
kept even to the end, in the ten thousand times ten thousand of the
blood washed, who with white robes are today surrounding his throne
with never ceasing songs. It has never been broken even to us on
earth. Here stand some of us, the witnesses of divine fidelity. Why,
then, should we mistrust a promise which has so far been immutable,
and has never been for a moment treated by God as a thing to be
tampered with? Why should we begin to doubt him?
Oh for a strong, a lasting faith,
To credit what th’ Almighty saith,
T’ embrace the message of his Son,
And call the joys of heaven our own.
19. But, brethren, it is added that God, in order to effectively prevent our unbelief, has taken an oath. An oath, if it is allowable — and I think our Lord Jesus has for ever forbidden all Christian men every oath of every kind — an oath, if ever allowable, as it was under the old dispensation, should never be taken except for the most solemn business, and in the most solemn manner. An oath of a man is a thing at which an angel might well tremble. What greater dishonour or shame could you pour upon a man than to convict him of perjury? We consider such men the pariahs of the human race, we put them henceforth outside the social scale as unworthy to be associated with. Their breath is pestilence, and leprosy is on their brows. Perjury! the man is no man, he has sunk below the level of manhood when he comes to that. But God has with an oath sworn by himself that all the heirs of promise shall be blessed for ever, saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you.” Now, brethren, who among us dares to doubt this? Where is the hardy sinner who dares come forward and says, “I impugn the oath of God?” Oh! but let us blush the deepest scarlet, and scarlet is only white compared with the blush which ought to mantle the cheek of every child of God to think that even God’s own children should, in effect, accuse their heavenly Father of perjury. Oh, shame upon us! Forgive us, great God, this deep atrocity; and from this hour may we hold it certain that as you have sworn, that he who flees for refuge to Christ shall be safe; that as you have promised that he who believes and is baptised shall be saved, we who have so believed are secure beyond all question. Let us no more doubt our salvation than our existence, and no more think ourselves in jeopardy in the darkest and the most terrible hour than we think God’s throne itself is in jeopardy, or God’s truth itself is in peril. Oh believer, stand by that fact that the Lord cannot lie. How I have rolled those words over in my thoughts; they have rung in my ears like a bell. “Impossible for God to lie.” Of course it is. Next, “Things in which it is impossible for God to lie,” as if there were some things more impossible than others. “Immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie”; and then the finale, “Two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie.” I do not know whether you catch the accumulation of the meaning, the tidal wave of reassuring thought. If you do, there is a force about it which is rather excessive than deficient, as though a huge battering ram were brought to crush a fly, or ocean stirred to a tempest to waft a feather. Surely we have too much instead of too little evidence for our faith. Here is more evidence than faith can require. Beloved, here is sea room for you; if you were the vilest sinners, your vessels which draw the most water may float here. Here is room for all the navies of sinners that ever swam the sea of sin. Leviathan may come here, and though he could make the ocean to be hoary, and to boil like a pot, in these immutable things, in which there is an impossibility for God to lie, there is room for him. Here is unshaken ground for a confidence that never shall for a moment dare to mistrust God.
20. III. But I must turn away to the third point, and note THE STRONG CONSOLATION WHICH FLOWS OUT OF ALL THIS. This is setting the wine bottles at the taps of the vat to catch the flowing juice from these rich grapes of Eshcol, these mighty clusters which we have been flinging into the winepress.
There is strong consolation, says the text, for the heirs of grace,
which implies that the children of God must expect to have trouble.
They have a promise and an oath, but then these are given so that
they may have consolation. Now, God would not give them consolation
if they were not to have tribulation. Wherever the Lord gives a man
comfort, it is because he will need it. You will need it, dear
brother. Write that down in your tablets, then: “In the world you
shall have tribulation.” The text says “strong consolation.” If you
are an heir of heaven, you may look for severe trials.
Crosses each day and trials hot
The Christian’s path has been,
And who has found a happy lot
Without a cross between?
All the followers of the Great Cross Bearer are cross bearers too; but then there is the strong consolation for the strong tribulation.
22. What is strong consolation? I shall occupy only two or three minutes in bringing that out; I think strong consolation is what does not depend upon bodily health. What a cowardly old enemy the devil is! When we are strong and vigorous in body, it is very seldom that he will tempt us to doubt and fear, but if we have been racked with hours of pain and sleepless nights, and are getting to feel faint and weary, then he comes in with his horrible insinuations: “God will forsake you. His promise will fail!” He is vile enough to put his black paws on the brightest truth in the Bible, indeed, upon even the very existence of God himself, and turn the boldest believer into the most terrible doubter, so that we seem to have gone bodily over to the army of Satan and to be doubting every good thing that is in the word of God. Strong consolation, even at such times, still enables us to rejoice in the Lord though every nerve should twinge, and every bone should seem melted into jelly with pain. “Though he kills me, yet I will trust in him.” Let him crush me, but he shall get nothing out of me but the wine of resignation. I will not fly in his face, but still say, “Not as I will, but as you will.” Oh may you have such strong consolation, my dear brethren.
23. Strong consolation is what is not dependent upon the excitement of public services and Christian fellowship. We feel very happy on a Sunday here when we almost sing ourselves away to everlasting bliss, and when the sweet name of Jesus is like ointment poured forth, so that the virgins love it. But when you are in colder regions, how is it? Perhaps you are called to emigrate, or go into the country to a barren ministry where there is nothing to feed the soul. Ah, then, if you do not have good ground for your soul to grow in, what will you do? Those poor flowers which depend altogether upon being watered, how soon they fade if they are forgotten for a little while! May we have root in ourselves and drink in the dew of heaven, and be like the “tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither.” This is to have strong consolation. Ministries are blessed, but oh! we must live on more sure bread than ministries if we would have the highest form of life. We must use the means as long as God gives us the means, but we must have a spiritual life that could live even if means were denied to us, in fact, a grace that would become the fountain of the means of grace to others if we were banished to any distant land. May we have such a consolation.
24. Brethren, the strong consolation which God gives his people is such as no mere reasoning can shake. People are often afraid that new infidelities will upset our holy religion, that diggings in the earth, or searchings in th skies, will cast suspicion on the word of God; now, beloved, I bear witness that I have never seen, as far as I can remember, any attack which touched in the slightest degree the central soul of Christianity. All the attacks I have ever heard of in my short life have always been upon what carnal men could discern, namely, the outskirts of religion, such as the correctness of the numbering in the book of Genesis, or the geology of Moses. But, my dear friend, how is it that they do not attack the spiritual life of the believer? Why are there none who touch the root of the matter by denying the fact of spiritual life, and showing that spiritual phenomena are to be otherwise accounted for? Let them prove that there is no such thing as prevailing prayer, and that God does not listen to the voice of a man; let them show that there is no such thing as joy in the Lord, no abounding of the consolations of the Holy Spirit within the spirit. No, they do not try to disprove these facts, because the only answer that the church of God would give to them, if they once attacked her real strength, would be this, “The virgin daughter of Zion has shaken her head at you, and laughed you to scorn.” If I cannot defend the book of Genesis against the arithmetic of a prelate, if I cannot defend certain dogmas against the sneers of a clever unbeliever, I still believe that I could do so if I were better taught; but if the reasoners will come to battle with me about my blessed Lord and Master, and the power of his blood, and the secret of the Lord that is with those who fear him, I will cut them in pieces as Samuel hewed Agag before the Lord, for my own experience makes me strong. Oh, it is sweet contending here, for reason is laughed to scorn. You might as well reason me out of the toothache, or convince me that I do not exist, as reason me out of my consciousness that I love Christ, and that I am saved in him. They cannot touch the essentials of vital godliness, and this is a strong consolation which reasoning no more wounds than men come at leviathan with spears and swords, for he laughs at them, and considers their spears as rotten wood.
25. Strong consolation, again, because it will bear up under conscience, and that is a harder pressure than mere reasoning can ever bring. Conscience says, “Indeed, but you are a wretch indeed! See what you did before conversion! and what have you been since? Those good works of yours are all spoiled, rotten like apples with the maggot in them, although they are bright red to look upon.” Oh, do you not know what it is to see your prayers, and your preachings, your givings, all tumble to pieces, and all blown away like dust before the March winds? Ah, then, it is blessed to have a strong consolation which enables you to say, “I know all this, and I know a great deal more. I, the chief of sinners am, but Jesus died for me; and if I were blacker still, Jesus would wash me; if I were more of a devil than I am, he could make me a saint. I rest in him, and in him alone, and not in self nor anything within, but wholly on the work of Jesus, and the perfect righteousness of my atoning Lord.” Oh, this is strong consolation which can quiet the clamours of conscience!
26. Indeed, and we can deal with Satan with his horrible insinuations and blasphemies, and still can say, “I will trust in the Lord and not be afraid.” It is a strong consolation that can deal with outward trials when a man has poverty staring him in the face, and hears his little children crying for bread; when bankruptcy is likely to come upon him through unavoidable losses; when the poor man has just lost his wife, and his dear children have been put into the same grave; when one after another all earthly props and comforts have given way, it needs a strong consolation then; not in your envisioned trials, but your real trials, not in your imaginary whimsied afflictions, but in the real afflictions, and the blustering storms of life. To rejoice then, and say, “Though these things are not with me as I would have them, yet he has made with me an everlasting covenant ordered in all things and sure”; this is strong consolation.
27. And it will be proved to be so by and by with some of us, when we shall be in the solemn article of death, for I do not doubt that the message will come to many of us, before long, “The pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel at the cistern, and the spirit must return to God who gave it.” Ah! then to lie quiet on the bed, and look death in the face and call it friend, and look into an eternity so surely ours, with all its natural gloom and all the alarm which this poor flesh and blood naturally feels at the parting pang, and yet calmly to prepare ourselves for undressing, expecting to be satisfied when we wake up in his likeness; this requires strong consolation. And to do even more than this, as many of God’s saints have done, to go down into the river, singing as they go, “Glory! glory! glory! hallelujah! through him who loved us, we are more than conquerors. Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” This is strong consolation indeed. Dear brothers and sisters, by these two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, may you have strong consolation from this time forth, even for ever and ever. Amen and amen.