A Sermon By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 7/16/2011*7/16/2011
Moab is my washpot. (Psalms 60:8)
1. Moab, which had threatened Israel, was to be so completely subdued, and become so utterly contemptible as to be compared to a washpot or basin in which men wash their feet. More than this, however, may have been intended — indeed, we feel sure was intended by the expression. Let us explain exactly what the language literally means. In the East the general mode of washing the hands and the feet is with a basin and pitcher; water is poured upon the hands or feet from the pitcher, and it falls into the basin. No Oriental, if he can help it, will wash in standing water; he prefers to have it clear and running. He puts his feet into the washpot, into the bath, into the basin, and then the clear, cool liquid is poured upon his feet; the washpot’s sole purpose is for the holding of the dirty water which has already passed over the man’s skin. Not wearing enclosed shoes as we do, but only sandals, the feet of an eastern traveller in a long journey become very dirty; the water, therefore, when it runs off from them, is far from clean, and so the washpot is put to a very contemptible use by being only the receptacle for dirty water. So when Moab became a washpot, it was far other than when it was said, “Moab has been at ease from his youth, and he has settled on his lees, and has not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither has he gone into captivity: therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent is not changed.” (Jeremiah 48:11) “We have heard the pride of Moab (he is exceedingly proud), his loftiness, and his arrogance, and his pride, and the haughtiness of his heart.” (Jeremiah 48:29)
What does Moab represent to you and to me? We are the children of
Israel by faith in Christ, and in him we have obtained by covenant a
promised land. Our faith may cry, “I will divide Shechem, and measure
out the valley of Succoth.” All things are ours in Christ Jesus;
“Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine.” Now Moab was outside of
Canaan. It was not given to Israel as a possession, but in the course
of time it was subdued in warfare, and became tributary to the Jewish
king. Even so our faith overcomes the world, and enables us to say,
“this world is ours” — ours for a useful, needful purpose. We place
very little value on it; it is nothing but our washpot, but we are
content to use it as far as we may make it to serve a holy purpose.
The best possessions we have outside of the spiritual inheritance we
put under our feet, desiring to keep them in their proper inferior
position; they are not the crown of our head, nor the comfort of our
heart, nor the belt of our loins, nor the staff of our support; they
are put to far baser uses. They yield us some comfort, for which we
are grateful to God, but it is only for our feet or lower nature; our
head and heart find nobler joys. The whole world put together, with
all its wealth, is only a mess of potage for Esau, and nothing more.
God’s Jacob has a better portion, for he has the birthright. Our
worst is better than the world’s best, for the reproach of Christ is
greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt.
We tread the world beneath our feet,
With all that earth calls good or great.
“Moab is my washpot,” nothing more — a contemptible and despicable thing as compared with the eternal realities of covenant blessings; still, for all that, there was a use for Moab, a use to be properly understood. A washpot has its necessary function; and even this base world may be made by faith, in the hands of God, to be the means of aiding the purity of the saints; its afflictions and troubles may work our present and lasting good. The world and its trials can never be compared to the water which cleanses our feet; for that purifying stream we look to a far higher source; but it may be compared to the basin in which our feet are placed while they are being washed.
3. If we regard Moab as representative of the unregenerate people among whom we dwell, we do well, like the children of Israel, on their march to Canaan, to let them alone, for their inheritance is not our inheritance, neither are their joys our joys. The less communion we have with them the better. If we ask of them, as Israel did of Moab, simply to be allowed to go on our way in peace, it is all we need. Moses sent his messenger, who said, “Let me pass through your land: I will go along by the highway, I will neither turn to the right hand nor to the left. You shall sell me food for money, so that I may eat; and give me water for money, so that I may drink: only I will pass through on my feet; until I shall pass over Jordan into the land which the Lord our God gives to us.” (Deuteronomy 2:27,28) Like the pilgrims in Vanity Fair, we only ask for a clear passage through the place, for we have no inheritance in it, no, not so much as we can set our foot upon. Yet, inasmuch as we cannot altogether separate ourselves from the sinful, for then we would need to go out of the world, we are compelled to feel the influence of their conduct, and we will be wise to watch that this does not become injurious to us, but be made under God to be of service to us rather than a hindrance.
4. My intent will be to show that, contrary to the ordinary course of nature, but not contrary to faith, even this ungodly world may be made to assist our advance in holiness. As of old the men of Israel went down to the Philistines to sharpen his axe and his sickle, so may we derive some sharpening from our enemies. We may gather honey from the lion, take a jewel from the toad’s head, and borrow a star from the brow of night. Moab may become our washpot.
While this is contrary to nature, it is also unusual in history. In
the Book of Numbers we read that Balak, son of Zippor, desired to
vanquish Israel, and therefore he sent for Balaam, the son of Beor,
saying, “Curse Israel for me, and perhaps I shall prevail against
them.” Balaam was not able to curse Israel by word of mouth, but he
cursed them in very deed when he counselled the king to make them
unclean in God’s sight by sending the daughters of Moab among them,
who not only led them into lustfulness, but invited them to the
sacrifices of their gods. Then the anger of the Lord was kindled
against Israel, and the plague would have devoured them, had not the
holy zeal of Phinehas turned away the divine anger. So it is clear
that Moab of old was foremost in polluting and defiling Israel. It is
a great feat of faith when the thing which naturally defiles is
turned into a washpot. Behold the transformations of grace! This
ungodly world outside the church, the world of wicked men, would
naturally pollute us, but faith turns them into a washpot, and finds
in them motives for watchfulness and holiness. We sigh, in the words
of the old psalm —
Woe’s me that I in Mesech am
A sojourner so long;
That I in tabernacles dwell
To Kedar that belong.
Just as we cannot sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, so neither can we very readily keep our clothes unspotted in a land deluged with uncleannesses. With difficulty we save ourselves from this perverse generation. And yet faith learns the secret of overcoming the ordinary tendency of things, and of making what might harm us be turned to our advantage; fulfilling that ancient promise, “And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.”
6. The defiling world may be made helpful to us in the following ways.
7. I. First of all, ungodly men, if we are in a gracious spirit, may be of solemn service to us, because WE SEE IN THEM WHAT SIN IS.
8. They are beacons upon the rocks to keep us from danger. The lives of many men are recorded in Scripture, not as excuses for our sins, much less as examples, but the very opposite. Like murderers in the olden times hung in chains, they are meant to be warnings. Their lives and deaths are danger signals, asking those who are pursuing a career of sin, to stop and think, and reverse course immediately. They are our washpot in that respect, that they warn us of pollution, and so help to prevent our falling into it. When we learn that pride turned angels into demons, we have a lesson in humility read to us from heaven and hell. When we read of profane Esau, obstinate Pharaoh, disobedient Saul, apostate Judas, or vacillating Pilate, we are taught by them to shun the rocks upon which they made eternal shipwreck. Transgressors of our own race are particularly suitable to act as warnings to us, for we always ought to remember when we see the sins of ungodly men, that “such were some of us.” Whenever you see a drunkard, if you were once such, it will bring the tears to your eyes to remember when you too were a slave to the ensnaring cup, and you will thank God that his grace has changed you. You will not pretend to thank God as the Pharisee, while you are flattering yourself, but with deep humiliation you will confess what grace has done. When we read in the newspaper a sad case of lustfulness, or any other breach of the laws of God and man, if we were previously guilty of the same and have now been renewed in heart, it will make us blush; it will humble us, and cause us to admire the power and sovereignty of divine grace. Now the blush of repentance, the shamefacedness of humility, and the tear of gratitude, are three helpful things, and all tend under God’s grace to motivate us to purge out the old leaven. Remember, oh believer, that there is no wretch upon earth so bad, but that you were once his equal in alienation from God and death in sin. There may have been much difference in the perverse acts, but how little in the inner man! The seed of all the sin which you see in him lies in your corrupt nature, and needs only a proper season to germinate and bud. You were once in that fire of sin, in which he is consumed by his passions; you have been plucked as a brand from the burning, otherwise you would have still been there. There is a prodigal, filthy from head to foot, but we also were once plunged into the ditch, until our own clothes abhorred us, and we would be sinking in the mire even now, if the mighty hand of grace had not lifted us up from the horrible pit, and washed us in the Saviour’s blood. We were “heirs of wrath even as others.” “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Our sins are different, but we were all without exception shapen in iniquity, and as in water, face answers to face, so the heart of man to man.
9. When you see the wickedness of an ungodly man, make him your washpot, by remembering that you also, though you are regenerate, are enclosed with “the body of this death.” Remember the words of the Apostle: “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but I do not find how to perform what is good. For the good that I wish to do I do not do: but the evil which I do not wish to do, that I do. I find then a law, that, when I wish to do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” The old nature so remains in us, that, if we were to be deserted by God, we would even become such as the ungodly are. Need I quote to you the speech of John Bradford, one of the godliest of men? When he saw a wretch taken out to Tyburn to be hanged, the tears were in his eyes, and when they asked him why, he said, “There goes John Bradford, but for the grace of God.” Ah, and when we see a prodigal plunging into excess of riot, there goes the best among us, if we are not preserved in Christ Jesus. Indeed, and when the damned go down to hell, there I must go, unless the same grace which now restrains me from sin, shall uphold me to my last day; and keep me from falling. Brother Christian, you carry much combustible matter in your nature, be warned when you see your neighbour’s house on fire. When one man falls, the next should pay attention to his ways. You are a man of similar passions, remember yourself, lest you also are tempted. In these days of epidemics, if we knew that a certain house was infected with disease, and if we saw a person who had come from it with the signs of the disease in his face; what would we feel? Would we not take it as a warning to keep clear, both of the house and of him; because we ourselves are as likely to catch the disease as he was? So when we see a sinner transgressing we should say to ourselves, “I also am a man, and a fallen man, let me abhor every evil way, and guard myself jealously, lest I also fall into sin.” In this way Moab may be a washpot. By remembering what we are, and what we were, we may, by taking warning from the evil courses of others, avoid similar condemnation.
10. There are certain sins which we readily detect in others, which should serve as obvious warnings to us to correct the same things in ourselves. When a man sees the faults of others, and congratulates himself that he is far superior to such, he evidently does not know how to differentiate between good and evil; he is proud, and knows nothing. But when we see errors in others, and immediately set a diligent watch against falling into the same, then Moab is properly used, and becomes our washpot. For example, concerning the matter of bodily indulgence, the sinner is a man who puts his body before his soul, and his head where his feet should be; he is therefore a monster in nature. Instead of the world being under his feet, as it is with every good man, he inverts himself, and places his head and his heart in the dust. He lives for the body which is to die, and forgets the soul which lives for ever. When therefore you see a drunkard, or an unchaste person, say to yourself, “I must mortify my members, and give my spiritual nature the predominance. For this I must cry mightily to God, the Eternal Spirit, lest the body of this death prevail over me. I must subdue my body, as the Apostle says, and bring it into subjection, lest I too become a prey to the same animal passions, which lead sinners as captives.”
11. I see the ungodly man putting this poor fleeting world before the eternal world to come; by this he is a fool; but let me take heed that I in no measure imitate him. Let me never in my business live as though to make money; to get a good position, to earn the wherewithal to eat and drink, were the first thing with me. Do not let me fall into his error, but always seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and believe that other things shall be added to me. The ungodly man disregards God. God is not in all his thoughts. He says in his heart, “No God.” Now when I know that the ungodly man does that, it should be a warning to me not to forget the Lord, or depart from him in any measure. Alas, all of us are more or less atheistic. How little of our life is given to God! You who love and fear him are not always near to him, although he is always near to you. Do you ever enter upon your enterprises without him? When you begin your business with him, are you not apt to forget him in the midst of it? Or when you have gone on to the very centre of a work with him, are you not liable to leave him before you finish? Is this not to learn the way of the wicked and to be like them in wandering away from the living God? To have God always with us, to lean hourly upon him, and to feel each moment that he is all in all to us — this is the true condition in which our minds ought to be continually. The atheism of the outside world should warn us against the inward godlessness of our naturally atheistic hearts.
12. We select these sins as examples of the general principle, but it is applicable to all forms of evil. Did you ever meet a vain man, who boasted loudly, and always talked about his own beloved self? Was that not a lesson for you? Surely it will help to preserve you from acting so ridiculous a part. Did I not hear you, the other night, laughing at the boaster for his folly? Let us hope, then, you will never cause others to laugh at you. You know another person who is morose, he always speaks sharply, and makes enemies. Be of another spirit; be courteous, cultivate the grace of cheerfulness and good temper as a Christian. The moroseness of the churl should enforce upon you the duty of godly gentleness. Moab will be your washpot. You know a certain person whose hands appear to be paralysed if they are required to make a contribution. How unlovely his meanness makes him! Will not the miserable exhibition of stinginess, which he presents, lead you to avoid all covetousness? Another person of your acquaintance is very soon irritated. You can hardly say a word to displease him but he makes a crime of it immediately, and falls into the temporary insanity of anger. Well, then, discipline yourself to be slow to wrath. Seek that love which is not easily provoked and thinks no evil. Maybe your friend’s blood is warmer than yours, and there is some excuse for him; but since you see how unwise and wicked it is in him, seek much grace by which to overcome the propensity in your own case. If a man should fall into a pit through walking carelessly along a dangerous path, his fall should be my warning, his experience should be my instruction; there can be no need for me to fall over the same precipice in order to know from experience how dangerous it is. How sad a fact it is that very few of us ever do learn by the experience of other people! Dame Experience must take each one of us into her school, and make us personally smart under her rod — otherwise we will not learn. Warnings are neglected by the foolish. The young sluggard sees the huge thorns and thistles in the older sluggard’s garden and yet he follows the same lazy habits. One sheep follows another into the slaughter house. Flies see their other flies perishing in the sugared trap, and yet rush into it themselves. May the Lord make us wise and prudent, and from the errors of others may we learn to steer our own course properly; then may we truly say, “Moab is my washpot.”
13. II. Another illustration of this practical principle lies in the fact, that WE SEE IN THE UNGODLY THE PRESENT EVIL RESULTS OF SIN.
14. We frequently have the opportunity of seeing in them, not only sin, but some of its bitter fruits, and this should still further help us to shun it, by God’s grace. Evil is now no longer an unknown seed of doubtful character; we have seen it planted, and have watched sinners reaping the first sheaves of its awful harvest. This poison is no longer an uncertain drug, for its deadly effects are apparent in those around us. If we sin, it is no longer through lack of knowing what sin will lead to, for its mischief is daily before our eyes.
First, are you not very certain, those of you who watch unconverted
and ungodly people, that they are not genuinely happy? What
roaring boys they are sometimes! How vociferous are their songs! How
merry their dances! How hilarious their laughter! You would think
that there were no happier people to be found under the sun; but as,
on many a face, beauty is produced by art rather than by nature, and
a little paint creates a transient comeliness, so, often the mirth of
this world is a painted thing, a base imitation, not so deep even as
the skin. Ungodly men know nothing about heart laughter; they are
strangers to the deep, serene happiness which is the portion of
believers. Their joy comes and goes with the hour. See them when the
feast is over — “Who has woe? Who has redness of the eyes? Those who
tarry long at the wine; the men eager to mix strong drink.” Look at
them when they are alone: they are ready to die with dulness. They
want to kill time, as if they had a surplus of it and would be glad
to dispose of the excess. A man’s face must be very ugly when he
never cares to look at it, and a man’s state must be very bad indeed
when he is ashamed to know what it is; and yet in the case of tens
of thousands of people, who say they are very happy, there is a worm
inside the apple; the very foundation stone has been removed from the
edifice; and you may be sure it is so, for they dare not examine
themselves carefully. Ungodly men at the bottom are unhappy men. “The
way of transgressors is hard.” “ ‘There is no peace,’ says my God, ‘to
the wicked.’ ” Their Marah is never dry, but flows with perennial
waters of bitterness. What does their great poet Byron say: —
Count o’er the joys thine hours have seen,
Count o’er the days from anguish free;
And know whatever thou hast been,
’Tis something better not to be.
Now then, if things are so — if sin brings after all an unsatisfactory result to the mind, if a man is not rendered happy by an evil course — then let me choose another path, and, by God’s grace, keep to wisdom’s ways of pleasantness and paths of peace, into which my Lord by his love has drawn me and by his grace has led me. I am happy in his bosom, I drink living waters out of his fountain. Why should I go to those broken cisterns, which I clearly see can hold no water? Why should I wish to wander over the dreary waste of waters? Noah’s hand is warm, and the peaceful ark is near: “Return to your rest, oh my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” When I read of aching hearts, and hear that great worldling, who had all the world could give him, sum it all up with this sentence, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,” does my heart not say at once, “Oh, empty world, you tempt me in vain, for I see through the fraud.” We have seen Madam Bubble with her mask off, and are not to be fascinated by so ugly a witch. We do not follow after those green meadows and flowing brooks, because they are not real, and are only a mirage mocking the traveller. Why should we pursue a bubble or chase the wind? We do not spend our money on what is not food. Moab is our washpot; if others have found earthly things to be unsatisfactory, we wash our hands of their disappointing pursuits. Dear Saviour, we wish to follow you wherever you go, until we come to dwell with you for ever.
16. But it is not merely that ungodly men are not happy; there are times when they are positively wretched through their sins. Sometimes fear comes upon them as a whirlwind, and they have no refuge or way of escape. I have been now and then called to witness the utter anguish of a man who has lost his gods. His great idols have been broken, and he has been in despair. His darling child is dead, or his wife is a corpse, and he does not know how to endure life. Did you ever see a godless man when he had lost all his money in a speculation which once promised so fair? Did you see his woe? Did you ever see the face of a gambler who had staked his last and lost his all? See him in an agony which can find no alleviation. He rises from the table, he rushes to imbrue his hands in his own blood. Poor soul, he has lost his all! That never happens to a Christian — never! If all he had on earth were gone, it would only be like losing a little of his spending money, but his permanent capital would be safe in the Imperial Treasury, where Omnipotence itself stands guard.
Even when no very great calamity puts out the candle of the
worldling, yet, as years go by, a gathering cloud darkens his day.
Hear again Byron, the world’s master songster. The confession will
suit many: —
My days are in the yellow leaf,
The flowers and fruits of love are gone;
The worm, the canker, and the grief —
Are mine alone.
The fire that in my bosom plays
Alone as some volcanic isle;
No torch is kindled at its blaze —
A funeral pile.
This is the world’s treatment of its old servants: it discards them in old age; but it is not so with aged believers: “they shall still produce fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing, to show that the Lord is upright.” When all our wealth on earth is gone, our treasure is still safe in heaven, where moth does not corrupt, and thieves do not break through nor steal. When we think of the despair of men, of blasted hopes, Moab may become our washpot, and may keep us from setting our affection upon their fleeting joys.
18. Here and there, in the Moab of sin, you meet men who are in their clothes, their trembling limbs, their penury, and their shame, living monitors and standing proofs that the way of transgressors in hard. There are sins whose judgment hastens as a whirlwind — sins of the flesh, which eat into the bones and poison the blood; sins of appetite, that degrade and destroy the body. If young men knew the price of sin, even in this life, they would not be so hot to purchase pleasurable moments at the price of painful years. Who would coin his life into iniquity to have it returned to him in this life, red hot from the mint of torment! Note well the spendthrift, void of understanding! I have seen him at my door. I knew his relatives; people of reputable character and good standing. I have seen him in rags which scarcely covered him, piteously weeping for a piece of bread. Yet a few short years ago he inherited a portion which most men would have thought to be wealth. In a mad riot, into which he could not crowd enough debauchery, he spent all that he had. He was soon penniless, and then loathsome and severely sick. He was pitied by his friends, but pity has been lost on him, and now none of his kith or kin dare own him. I too fed him, clothed him, and found him a place of labour. The clothes which love had supplied for him, within the next few hours, were sold for drink, and he was wallowing in drunkenness. The work was deserted almost as soon as attempted. He will die of starvation, if he is not already dead, for he has abandoned himself to every vicious excess, and already trembles from head to foot, and looks to be on the borders of the grave. Nothing keeps him sober except lack of another penny to buy drink; not even that can restrain him from uncleanness. He very knows well hunger, and cold, and nakedness and prefers to endure them rather than to earn an honest day’s wage and abandon his licentiousness. Tears have been wept over him in vain, and many must have been his own tears of misery when he has been in penury. The workhouse is his best shelter and its pauper clothing his noblest livery. Away from that retreat he is a mass of rags and indescribable filth. Young Christian professor, if you are tempted by the strange woman, or by the wine which sparkles in the cup as it swirls around smoothly, look on the victims of these destroyers before you dally with them. See the consequences of sin even in this life, and avoid it, do not pass by it, do not look on it, but flee youthful lusts which war against the soul. So make filthy Moab to become your washpot from now on.
19. The unconverted when they do not go so far may still be beacons for us. Observe, for example, the procrastinating hearer of the gospel, how certainly he becomes hardened to all rebukes. Early sensitivity gives way to indifference. Let us also beware lest we, by trifling with convictions and holy impulses, lose tenderness of conscience. They advance in evil, and at last commit with impunity sins which, years ago, would have struck them with unaffected horror; let us be cautious lest a similarly blunting process should be carried on upon our hearts. But time would fail me to show you in detail how readily the evil results of sin in others may preserve us from falling into the same; how, in a word, Moab may be our washpot.
20. III. A third point suggests itself. Men of this world are made useful to us since THEY DISCOVER IN US OUR WEAK POINTS.
21. Their opposition, slander, and persecution, are a rough pumice stone, to remove some of our blemishes. When young men come to college, one of the chief benefits they obtain is the severe criticism to which they are subjected from their tutors and fellow students. Sharp ears hear their slips of speech, and they are made conscious of them. Now in a certain sense the outside world often becomes a college for the Christian. When we are with our dear Christian brethren, they do not look for our faults — at least, they should not — neither do they irritated us and so bring our infirmities to the surface, but they treat us so lovingly and gently that we do not know our weak points. Young Christians would be like plants under glass cases in a conservatory, and become tender and feeble, but the rough world tries them, and is overruled by God to their strengthening and general benefit. The lynx eyes of men see our shortcomings, and their merciless tongues inform us of them; and, for my part, I see much advantage brought out of this maliciousness of theirs; they are our monitors, and help to keep us humble, and make us careful. If we cannot bear a little shake from men, how shall we bear the shaking of heaven and earth at the last day?
22. The world often tries us as with fire, and the things which we considered to be gold and silver perish in the ordeal if they are only counterfeit, but we are gainers by such a loss. In the world our temper is tried, and too often we become irritated. What then? Why just this; if sanctification has regulated our emotions, patience will have her perfect work, and love will endure long; but if we are soon angry and find it hard to forgive, let us not so much find fault with those who try us as with ourselves, because we cannot bear the ordeal. Our pride must be subdued, we must become slow to wrath, we must be content to be as our Lord, the meek and lowly Saviour. These irritations show us how far we are from the model, and should arouse in us a desire for progress towards his complete image. Perhaps you had fondly said in your heart, “I could bear a great deal. I could act the Christian under the worst abuse”; but now you sing another tune, and find how great your weakness is. So Moab again becomes your washpot, for now you will go to God in prayer, and ask to be conformed to his will.
23. Do not worldly men in some cases frighten professors out of their testimony for Christ? I mean, has it never happened that our cheek has blanched, and our tongue failed us in the presence of quibblers, and blasphemers, and sceptics, and have we not been silent when we ought to have affirmed our Lord? That also shows how cowardly we are at heart, and how cold our love is. We are to blame for not having more courage; for if we were strong in the Lord and in the power of his might, as we ought to be, we should be ready to go with Christ to prison and to death, and never think of shunning his service.
Do you not find that ungodly men, when you are obliged to be in their
company in business, will occasionally utter remarks which shake your
faith about truths which you thought you firmly believed? Too many
are content with a superficial creed. Their faith is not rooted deep
in their hearts, and therefore a little wind rocks the tree to and
fro, but before long the very motion of the tree tends to root it,
and it becomes all the more firm. God overrules for good the wicked
arguments of men against the truth. Besides, do not ungodly men drive
us from loving the world? We might think of finding our rest here
below, but when we hear their tongues cruelly and unkindly slandering
us, then we are sick of their company.
My soul distracted mourns and pines
To reach that peaceful shore,
Where all the weary are at rest,
And troubles vex no more.
25. An extreme case of the way in which evil treatment may result in our sanctification, may be found in the life of one of the old ministers in the north of Scotland. “A cold, unfeeling, bold, unheeding, worldly woman was the wife of Mr. Fraser, one of the ministers of Ross Shire,” writes my beloved friend, Mr. John Kennedy, in his interesting book, entitled, “The Days of the Fathers in Ross Shire.” “Her godly husband never sat down to a satisfying meal in his own home, and often he would have fainted except for the considerate kindness of some of his parishioners. She was too insensitive to try to hide her treatment of him, and it was good for him on one account, that she was. So his friends knew of his ill treatment, and were moved to do what they could for his comfort. A godly acquaintance arranged with him to leave a supply of food in a certain place, besides his usual walk, of which he might avail himself when starved at home. Even light and fire in his study were denied to him on the long, cold winter evenings; and since his study was his only place of refuge from the cruel scourge of his wife’s tongue and temper, there, shivering and in the dark, he used to spend his winter evenings at home. Compelled to walk in order to keep himself warm, and accustomed to do so when preparing for the pulpit, he always kept his hands before him as feelers in the dark, to warn him of his approaching the wall at either side of the room. In this way he actually wore a hole through the plaster at each end of his accustomed beat, on which some eyes have looked that glistened with light from other fire than that of love, at the remembrance of his cruel wife. But the godly husband had learned to thank the Lord for the discipline of this trial. Being once at a Presbytery dinner, alone, amidst a group of moderates, one of them proposed, as a toast, the health of their wives, and turning to Mr. Fraser, said, as he winked at his companions, ‘You, of course, will cordially join in drinking to this toast.’ — ‘So I will, and so I ought,’ Mr. Fraser said, ‘for mine has been a better wife to me than any of yours has been to you.’ ‘How so?’ they all exclaimed. — ‘She has sent me,’ was his reply, ‘seven times a day to my knees, when I would not otherwise have gone, and that is more than any of you can say of yours.’ ” Ah, this is the way to make Moab our washpot, that is to say, to make those who grieve us most, act only as rough waves to hurry us on to the rock, or as biting winds that blow us all the faster into port. If the birds of paradise will stay in the nest, their ungodly relatives or neighbours shall be a thorn in it to make them mount into their native element — the heaven of God.
26. The attacks of the ungodly upon the church have been overruled by God to make his people leave the camp and forsake ungodly associations, in order to be separate. I know a beloved sister in Christ who was baptised; she had moved in high circles, but they told me that after her baptism she received the cold shoulder. When I heard it, I said, “Thank God for it,” for half her temptations are gone. If the world has turned its back upon her, she will be all the more sure to turn her back on the world and live near to her Lord. The friendship of the world is enmity to God — why should we seek it? “If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” If any man will follow Christ he must expect persecution, and one of the cardinal precepts of the Christian faith runs like this: “ ‘Come out from among them, and be separate,’ says the Lord, ‘and I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters.’ ” “Let us go out, therefore, to him, outside the camp, bearing his reproach.”
27. IV. Lastly, IN REFERENCE TO THE WORLD TO COME, the terrible doom of the ungodly is a most solemn warning for us.
28. My heart fails me to speak concerning the destiny of the ungodly in another world. Dying without hope, without a Saviour, they go before the throne uncleansed, unforgiven, to hear that awful sentence, “Depart, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” Pursue them for a moment in your thoughts, down to the depths of wrath, where God’s judgment shall pursue them. My Lord, I pray for your grace, save me from the sin which brings such a result at the end of it. If the wages of sin is such a death as this, Lord save me from so accursed a service. Will not the sight of their destruction drive us to watchfulness, and cause us to make our calling and election sure? Will it not make us anxious lest we also come into this place of torment? Oh the wrath to come! The wrath to come of which this Book speaks in so many terrible tones and dreadful images! Remember Lot’s wife! “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though you once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness until the judgment of the great day. Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities around them in the same way, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are given for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.”
29. In this way Moab becomes our washpot, by showing us what sin grows to when it has developed itself. This consideration will surely cause us more heartily to love the Saviour who can deliver us from it.
Dear friends, if you are not in Christ, much of what I have said
applies to you. Remember yourself, and pray to escape from the wrath
to come. I would not have you be made a mere washpot to be used and
broken as a potter’s vessel. Neither should you wish to be a vessel
without honour, a thing of no esteem; but may you have faith in
Jesus — life in him, and then you shall be a royal diadem, a crown of
glory in the hand of our God. May you have an inheritance among those
who fear the Lord, and are reconciled to him by faith in the atoning
sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Psalms 60]