MY HEART IS TROUBLED-TO WHOM ELSE DO I TURN EXCEPT TO CHRIST!

 Prayer:

Dear Lord, As I sit in the twilight hours of dawn, my spirit is burden with the woes of this life.  My cares I know you do take. I am weak you are strong.  Lord, for my sake, of Your Peace I must Partake.  You said you yoke is light and the peace You give is as no other.  My spirit cries, “Water of Life, Garden of Eden, Manna of Heaven, I pray to soar to your gate.”  Father God, on humbled knees I do bow, please forgive of my sins for to heaven I pray to ascend.  Not in my timing, but in yours for I know because you have a destiny for me instead of calamity.  Lift me up oh Lord, on your wings and in your strength; that I may honor you and bring You Glory.  My tears do run down my cheeks and flow as a river as I think the Love I could sow.  I’ve allowed the woes of this life get me down and the enemy is roaming and targeting my family.  The dark clouds are spirits of the End Time unleashed this I know.  Darts, dagger, and spears they do throw; their assignment is to get my family divided and look at each other and say, “So”.  Deliver us from evil Father God and lead us into your Hoopa; protect us from his evil throws.  Anoint our shields to be strong in You Father, and covered by Jesus’ Precious shed blood.  Our needs you know and to you they are important I know!  Holy Spirit guide us in Father God’s Word-manifest please according His will and help us to discern Father’s will.  Thank you in Jesus’ name. Amen

Sermon #1090 Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit
Volume 19 http://www.spurgeongems.org 1
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FOR THE TROUBLED
NO. 1090

A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD’S-DAY MORNING, JANUARY 12, 1873,
BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.

“Your wrath lies hard upon me, and You have afflicted me with all Your waves.”    Psalm 88:7.

IT is the business of a shepherd not only to look after the happy ones among the sheep, but to seek after the sick of
the flock and to lay himself out right earnestly for their comfort and succor. I feel, therefore, that I do rightly when I,
this morning, make it my special business to speak to such as are in trouble. Those of you who are happy and rejoicing in
God, full of faith and assurance, can very well spare a discourse for your weaker Brothers and Sisters—you can be even
glad and thankful to go without your portion that those who are depressed in spirit may receive a double measure of the
wine of consolation.
Moreover, I am not sure that even the most joyous Christian is any the worse for remembering the days of darkness
which are stealing on apace, “for they are many.” Just as the memories of our dying friends come over us like a cloud and
“dampen our brainless ardors,” so will the recollection that there are tribulations and afflictions in the world dampen
our rejoicing and prevent its degenerating into an idolatry of the things of time and sense. It is better, for many reasons,
to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting—the bitter cup has virtues in it which the wine cup never
knew—wet your lips with it, young man, it will work you no ill. It may be, O you who are today brimming with
happiness, that a little store of sacred cautions and consolations may prove no sore to you, but may, by-and-by, stand
you in good stead.
This morning’s discourse upon sorrow may suggest a few thoughts to you which, being treasured up, shall ripen like
summer fruit and mellow by the time your winter shall come round. But to our work. It is clear to all those who read the
narratives of Scripture, or are acquainted with good men, that the best of God’s servants may be brought into the very
lowest estate. There is no promise of present prosperity appointed to true religion so as to exclude adversity from
Believer’s lives. As men, the people of God share the common lot of men and what is that but trouble? Yes, there are
some sorrows which are peculiar to Christians—some extra griefs of which they partake because they are Believers. But
these are more than balanced by those peculiar and bitter troubles which belong to the ungodly and are engendered by
their transgressions, from which the Christian is delivered.
From the passage which is open before us we learn that sons of God may be brought so low as to write and sing
Psalms which are sorrowful throughout and have no fitting accompaniment but sighs and groans. They do not often do
so—their songs are generally like those of David which, if they begin in the dust, mount into the clear heavens before
long. But sometimes, I say, saints are forced to sing such dolorous ditties that from beginning to end there is not one note
of joy. Yet even in their dreariest winter night the saints have an aurora in their sky and in this 88
th
Psalm, the dreariest
of all Psalms, there is a faint gleam in the first verse, like a star-ray falling upon its threshold—“O Jehovah, God of my
salvation.”
Heman retained his hold upon his God. It is not all darkness in a heart which can cry, “My God,” and the child of
God, however low he may sink, still keeps hold upon his God. “Though He slays me, yet will I trust in Him,” is the
resolution of his soul. Jehovah smites me, but He is my God. He frowns upon me, but He is my God. He tramples me into
the very dust and lays me in the lowest pit, as among the dead, yet still He is my God and such will I call Him till I die.
Even when He leaves me I will cry, “my God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Moreover, the Believer, in his worst
time, still continues to pray, and prays, perhaps, the more vigorously because of his sorrows. God’s red flags drive His
children not from Him, but to Him. Our griefs are waves which wash us to the Rock.
This Psalm is full of prayer. It is as much sweetened with supplication as it is salted with sorrow. It weeps like Niobe,
but it is on bended knees and from uplifted eyes. Now, while a man can pray he is never far from light—he is at the
window, though, perhaps, as yet the curtains are not drawn aside. The man who can pray has the clue in his hand by

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which to escape from the labyrinth of affliction. Like the trees in winter, we may say of the praying man, when his heart
is greatly troubled, “his substance is in him, though he has lost his leaves.” Prayer is the soul’s breath and if it breathes it
lives and, living it will gather strength again. A man must have true and eternal life within him while he can continue,
still, to pray, and while there is such life there is assured hope Still, the best child of God may be the greatest sufferer and his sufferings may appear to be crushing, killing and overwhelming. They may also be so very protracted as to attend him all his days and their bitterness may be intense—all of which and much more this mournful Psalm teaches us. Let us, in pursuit of our subject, first give an exposition of the text. And then a brief exposition of the benefits of trouble.
I.

I will endeavor, in a few observations, to EXPOUND THE TEXT. In the first place, its strong language suggests
the remark that tried saints are very prone to overrate their afflictions. I believe we all err in that direction and are far
too apt to say, “I am the man that has seen affliction.” The inspired man of God, who wrote our text, was touched with
this common infirmity for he overstates his case. Read his words—“Your wrath lies hard upon me.” I have no doubt
Heman meant wrath in its worst sense. He believed that God was really angry with him and wrathful with him, even as
He is with the ungodly, but that was not true. As we shall have to show, by-and-by, there is a very grave difference
between the anger of God with His children and the anger of God with His enemies.
And we do not think Heman sufficiently discerned that difference, even as we are afraid that many of God’s children
even now forget it—and therefore fear that the Lord is punishing them according to strict justice—and smiting them as
though He were their executioner. Ah, if poor bewildered Believers could but see it, they would learn that the very thing
which they call wrath is only love, in its own wise manner, seeking their highest good! Besides, the Psalmist says, “Your
wrath lies hard upon me.” Ah, if Heman had known what it was to have God’s wrath lie hard on him, he would have
withdrawn those words, for all the wrath that any man ever feels in this life is but as a laying on of God’s little finger!
It is in the world to come that the wrath of God lies heavy on men. Then, when God puts forth His hand and presses
with Omnipotence upon soul and body to destroy them forever in Hell, the ruined nature feels in its never-ending
destruction what the power of God’s anger really is! Here the really sore pressure of wrath is not known and especially
not known by a child of God. It is too strong a speech if we weigh it in the scales of sober truth. It outruns the fact, even
though it were the most sorrowful living man that uttered it. Then Heman adds, “You have afflicted me with all Your
waves,” as though he were a wreck with the sea breaking over him and the whole ocean—and all the oceans were
running full against him as the only object of their fury.
His boat has been driven on shore and all the breakers are rolling over him. One after another they leap upon him
like wild beasts, hungry as wolves, eager as lions to devour him—it seemed to him that no wave turned aside, no billow
spent its force elsewhere—but all the long line of breakers roared upon him, as the sole object of their wrath. But it was
not so. All God’s waves have broken over no man, save only the Son of Man! There are still some troubles which we have
been spared, some woes unknown to us. Have we suffered all the diseases which flesh is heir to? Are there not modes of
pain from which our bodies have escaped? Are there not, also, some mental pangs which have not wrung our spirit? And
what if we seem to have traversed the entire circle of bodily and mental misery, yet in our homes, households, or
friendships we have surely some comfort left and therefore from some rough billow we are screened. All God’s waves had
not gone over you, O Heman! The woes of Job and Jeremiah were not yours.
Among the living none can literally know what all God’s waves would be. They know, who are condemned to feel
the blasts of His indignation! They know in the land of darkness and of everlasting hurricane! They know what all God’s
waves and billows are—but we know not. The metaphor is good and admirable, and correct enough poetically, but as a
statement of fact it is strained. We are all apt to exaggerate our grief—I say this as a general fact. Those who are happy
can bear to be told, but I would not vex the sick man with it while he is enduring the weight of his affliction. If he can
calmly accept the suggestion of his own accord, it may do him good, but it would be cruel to throw it at him. True as it
is, I should not like to whisper it in any sufferer’s ear because it would not console, but grieve him.
I have often marveled at the strange comfort persons offer you when they say, “Ah, there are others who suffer more
than you do.” Am I a demon, then? Am I expected to rejoice at the news of other people’s miseries? Far otherwise! I am
pained to think there should be sharper smarts than mine and my sympathy increases my own woe. I can conceive of a
Fiend in torment finding solace in the belief that others are tortured with a yet fiercer flame, but surely such diabolical

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comfort should not be offered to Christian men! It shows our deep depravity of heart, that we can decoct comfort out of
the miseries of others—and yet I am afraid we rightly judge human nature when we offer it water from that putrid well.
There is, however, a form of comfort akin to it, but of far more legitimate origin—a consolation honorable and
Divine. There was ONE upon whom God’s wrath pressed very sorely. There was ONE who was, in truth, afflicted with
all God’s waves. That One is our brother, a Man like ourselves, the dearest lover of our souls. And because He has known
and suffered all this, He can sympathize with us, this morning, in whatever tribulation may beat upon us. His passion is
all over now but not His compassion. He has borne the indignation of God and turned it all away from us—the waves
have lost their fury and spent their force on Him—and now He sits above the floods, yes, He sits King forever and ever!
As we think of Him, the Crucified, our souls may not only derive consolation from His sympathy and powerful succor,
but we may learn to look upon our trials with a calmer eye and judge them more according to the true standard. In the
Presence of Christ’s Cross our own crosses are less colossal. Our thorns in the flesh are as nothing when laid side by side
with the nails and spear.
But, secondly, let us remark that saints do well to trace all their trials to their God. Heman did so in the text—
“Your wrath lies hard upon me, You have afflicted me with all Your waves.” He traces all his adversity to the Lord his
God. It is God’s wrath. They are God’s waves that afflict him and God makes them afflict him. Child of God, never
forget this—all that you are suffering of any sort, or kind, comes to you from the Divine hand! Truly, you say, “my
affliction arises from wicked men,” yet remember that there is a predestination which, without soiling the fingers of the
Infinitely Holy, nevertheless rules the motions of evil men as well as of holy angels. It were a dreary thing for us if there
were no appointments of God’s Providence which concerned the ungodly—then the great mass of mankind would be
entirely left to chance—and the godly might be crushed by them without hope.
The Lord, without interfering with the freedom of their wills, rules and overrules, so that the ungodly are as a rod in
His hand with which He wisely scourges His children. Perhaps you will say that your trials have arisen not from the sins
of others, but from your own sins. Even then I would have you penitently trace them still to God. What though the
trouble springs out of the sin, yet it is God that has pointed the sorrow to follow the transgression—to act as a remedial
agency for your spirit. Look not at the second cause, or, looking at it with deep regret, turn your eyes chiefly to your
heavenly Father and, “hear you the rod and who has appointed it.”
The Lord sends upon us the evil as well as the good of this mortal life! His is the sun that cheers and the frost that
chills! His the deep calm and His the fierce tornado. To dwell on second causes is frequently frivolous, a sort of solemn
trifling. Men say of each affliction, “It might have been prevented if such-and-such had occurred. Perhaps if another
physician had been called in the dear child’s life had still been spared. Possibly if I had moved in such a direction in
business I might not have been a loser.” Who is to judge of what might have been? In endless conjectures we are lost and,
cruel to ourselves, we gather material for unnecessary griefs.
Matters happened not so—then why conjecture what would have been had things been different? It is folly! You did
your best and it did not answer—why rebel? To fix the eyes upon the second cause will irritate the mind. We grow
indignant with the more immediate agent of our grief and so fail to submit ourselves to God. If you strike a dog he will
snap at the staff which hurts him, as if it were to blame. How doggish we sometimes are, when God is smiting us we are
snarling at His rod! Brothers and Sisters, forgive the man who injured you—his was the sin, forgive it, as you hope to be
forgiven—but yours is the chastisement and it comes from God, therefore endure it and ask Grace to profit you by it.
The more we get away from intermediate agents the better, for when we reach to God, Grace will make submission easy.
When we know “it is the Lord,” we readily cry, “let Him do what seems good to Him.”
As long as I trace my pain to accident, my bereavement to mistake, my loss to another’s wrong, my discomfort to an
enemy and so on, I am of the earth, earthy—and shall break my teeth with gravel! But when I rise to my God and see His
hand at work, I grow calm, I have not a word of repining, “I open not my mouth because You did it.” David preferred to
fall into the hands of God—and every Believer knows that he feels safest and happiest when he recognizes that he is in the
Divine hands. Quibbling with man is poor work, but pleading with God brings help and comfort. “Cast your burden on
the Lord” is a precept which will be easy to practice when you see that the burden came originally from God.
But now, thirdly, afflicted children of God do well to have a keen eye to the wrath that mingles with their troubles.
“Your wrath lies hard upon me.” There is Heman’s first point. He does not mention the waves of affliction till he has
first spoken of the wrath. We should labor to discover what the Lord means by smiting us—what He purposes by the

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chastisement—and how far we can answer that purpose. We must use a keen eye clearly to distinguish things. There is an
anger and an anger, a wrath and a wrath. God is never angry with His children in one sense, but He is in another. As
men, we have all of us disobeyed the Laws of God and God stands in relationship to all of us as a Judge. As a Judge, He
must execute upon us the penalties of His Law and He must, from the necessity of His Nature, be angry with us for having
broken that Law. That concerns all the human race.
But the moment a man believes in the Lord Jesus Christ his offenses are his offenses no longer—they are laid upon
Christ Jesus, the Substitute—and the anger goes with the sin. The anger of God towards the sins of Believers has spent
itself upon Christ. Christ has been punished in their place. The punishment due their sin has been borne by Jesus Christ.
God forbid that the Judge of all the earth should ever be unjust—it were not just for God to punish a Believer for a sin
which has been already laid upon Jesus Christ. Therefore the Believer is altogether free from all liability to suffer the
judicial anger of God and all risk of receiving a punitive sentence from the Most High. The man is absolved—shall he be
judged again? The man has paid the debt—shall he be brought a second time before the Judge as though he were still a
debtor?
Christ has stood for him in his place and therefore he boldly asks, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s
elect? It is God that justifies. Who is he that condemns? It is Christ that died, yes, rather, that is risen again, who is even
at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.” Now, then, the Christian man takes up another
position—he is adopted into the family of God—he has become God’s child. He is under the Law of God’s house. There
is in every house an economy, a law by which the children and servants are ruled. If the child of God breaks the law of the house, the Father will visit his offense with fatherly stripes—a very different kind of visitation from that of a judge.
There are felons in prison today who, in a short time, will feel the lash on their bare backs—that is one thing—but
yonder disobedient child is to receive a whipping from his father’s hand—that is quite another thing. Wide as the poles
asunder are the anger of a judge and the anger of a father. The father loves the child while he is angry and is mainly angry
for that very reason. If it were not his child he would probably take no notice of fault. But because it is his own boy who
has spoken an untruth or committed an act of disobedience, he feels he must chastise him because he loves him. This needs no further explanation. There is a righteous anger in God’s heart towards guilty impenitent men. He feels none of that towards His people. He is their father and if they transgress, He will visit them with stripes—not as a legal punishment, since Christ has borne all that—but as a gentle paternal chastisement, that they may see their folly and repent of it—and awakened by His tender hand, they may turn unto their Father and amend their ways.
Now, child of God, if you are suffering today in any way whatever—whether from the ills of poverty or bodily
sickness, or depression of spirits—remember there is not a drop of the judicial anger of God in it all. You are not being
punished for your sins as a judge punishes a culprit—never believe such false doctrine! It is clean contrary to the Truth of God as it is in Jesus. Gospel doctrine tells us that our sins were numbered on the Great Scapegoat’s head of old and
carried away once and for all, never to be charged against us again. But we must use the eyes of our judgment in looking
at our present affliction to see and confess how richly, as children, we deserve the rod.
Go back to the time since you were converted, dear Brother and Sister, and consider—do you wonder that God has
chastened you? Speaking for myself, I wonder that I have ever escaped the rod at any time! If I had been compelled to say, “All the day long have I been plagued and chastened every morning,” I should not have marveled, for my shortcomings are many. How ungrateful have we been! How unloving and how unlovable! How false to our holiest vows! How unfaithful to our most sacred consecrations! Is there a single ordinance over which we have not sinned? Did we ever rise from our knees without having offended while at prayer? Did we ever get through a hymn without some wandering of
mind or coldness of heart? Did we ever read a chapter which we might not have wept over because we did not receive the
Truth in the love of it into our soul as we ought to have done? O, good Father, if we smart, richly do we deserve that we
should yet smart again!
When you have confessed your sins, let me exhort you to use those same eyes zealously to search out the particular sin
which has caused the present chastisement. “Oh,” says one, “I do not think I should ever find it out.” You might.
Perhaps it lies at the very door. I do not wonder that some Christians suffer—I should wonder if they did not! I have seen
them, for instance, neglect family prayer and other household duties and their sons have grown up to dishonor them. If
they cry out, “What an affliction,” we would not like to say, “Ah, but you might have expected it. You were the cause of
it”—but such a saying would be true. When children have left the parental roof and gone into sin, we have not been

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surprised when the father has been harsh, sour and crabbed in temper. We did not expect to gather figs from thorns, or
grapes from thistles. We have seen men whose only thought was, “Get money, get money,” and yet they have professed to
be Christians! Such persons have been fretful and unhappy, but we have not been astonished. Would you have the Lord
deal liberally with such surly ill-tempered persons? No, if they walk stubbornly with Him, He will show Himself
stubborn to them. Brother, the roots of your troubles may run under your doorstep where your sin lies. Search and look!
But sometimes the cause of the chastisement lies further off. Every surgeon will tell you that there are diseases which
become troublesome in the prime of life, or in old age, which may have been occasioned in youth by some wrong doing,
or by accident—and the evil may have lain latent all those years. So may the sins of our youth bring upon us the sorrows
of our riper years—faults and omissions of 20 years ago may scourge us today. I know it is so. If the fault may be of so
great an age, it should lead us to more thorough search and more frequent prayer. Bunyan tells us that Christian met
with Apollyon and had such a dark journey through the Valley of the Shadow of Death because of slips he made when
going down the hill into the Valley of Humiliation.
It may be so with us. Perhaps when you were young you were very untender towards persons of a sorrowful spirit.
You are such yourself now—your harshness is visited upon you. It may be that when in better circumstances, you were
known to look down upon the poor and despise the needy—your pride is chastened now. Many a minister has helped to
injure another by believing a bad report against him and, by-and-by, he has, himself, been the victim of slander. “With
what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again.” We have seen men who could ride the high horse among their fellow creatures and speak very loftily—and when they have been brought very, very low—we have understood the
riddle. God will visit His children’s transgressions. He will frequently let common sinners go on throughout life
unrebuked—but not so His children!
If you were going today and saw a number of boys throwing stones and breaking windows, you might not interfere with
them. But if you saw your own lad among them, I will be bound you would fetch him out and make him repent of it. If God sees sinners going on in their evil ways, He may not punish them now—He will deal out justice to them in another state. But if it is one of His own elect, He will be sure to make him rue the day. Perhaps the reason of your trouble may not be a sin committed but a duty neglected. Search and look—and see where you have been guilty of omission. Is there a sacred ordinance which you have neglected, or a doctrine you have refused to believe? Perhaps the chastisement may be sent by reason of a sin asyet undeveloped—some latent proneness to evil. The grief may be meant to unearth the sin, that you may hunt it down.
Have you any idea of what a devil you are by nature? None of us know what we are capable of if left by Divine Grace. We
think we have a sweet temper, an amiable disposition! We shall see!! We fall into provoking company and are so teased and insulted—and so cleverly touched in our raw places that we become mad with wrath—and our fine amiable temper vanishes in smoke, not without leaving blacks behind! Is it not a dreadful thing to be so stirred up? Yes it is, but if our hearts were pure, no sort of stirring would pollute them. Stir pure water as long as you like and no mud will rise. The evil is bad when seen, but it was quite as bad when not seen. It may be a great gain to a man to know what sin is in him, for then he will humble himself before his God and begin to combat his propensities. If he had never seen the filth he would never have swept the house! If he had never felt the pain the disease would have lurked within, but now that he feels the pain he will fly to the remedy. Sometimes, therefore, a trial may be sent that we may discern the sin which dwells in us and may seek its destruction.
What shall we do, this morning, if we are under the smiting of God’s hand, but humble ourselves before Him and go
as guilty ones desiring to confess most thoroughly the particular sin which may have driven Him to chastise us, appealing to the precious blood of Jesus for pardon and to the Holy Spirit for power to overcome our sin? When you have so done let me give one word of caution before I leave this point. Do not let us expect, when we are in the trouble, to perceive any immediate benefit resulting from it. I have tried, myself, when under sharp pain to see whether I have grown a bit more resigned or more earnest in prayer, or more rapt in fellowship with God—and I confess I have never been able to see the slightest trace of improvement at such times—for pain distracts and scatters the thoughts. Remember that word, “Nevertheless, afterwards it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”
The gardener takes his knife and prunes the fruit trees to make them bring forth more fruit. His little child comes
trudging at his heels and cries, “Father, I do not see that the fruit comes on the trees after you have cut them.” No, dear
child, it is not likely you would, but come round in a few months when the season of fruit has come and then shall you see
the golden apples which thank the knife. Graces which are meant to endure require time for their production and are not
thrust forth and ripened in a night. Were they so soon ripe they might be as speedily rotten.

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II.

Now, as time is failing me, I will take up the second part of my discourse and handle it with great brevity. I want
to give a very short EXPOSITION OF THE BENEFITS OF TROUBLE. This is a great subject. Many a volume has been
written upon it and it might suffice to repeat the catalog of the benefits of trial, but I will not so detain you. Severe
trouble in a true Believer has the effect of loosening the roots of his soul earthward and tightening the anchor-hold of his
heart heavenward. How can he love the world which has become so dear to him? Why should he seek after grapes so
bitter to his taste? Should he not, now, ask for the wings of a dove that he may fly away to his own dear country and be at
rest forever?
Every mariner on the sea of life knows that when the soft zephyrs blow, men tempt the open sea with outspread sails.
But when the black tempest comes howling from its den, they hurry with all speed to the haven. Afflictions clip our wings
with regard to earthly things so that we may not fly away from our dear Master’s hands but sit there and sing to Him!
But the same afflictions make our wings grow with regard to heavenly things—we are feathered like eagles, we catch the
soaring spirit—a thorn is in our nest and we spread our pinions towards the sun. Affliction frequently opens Truths of
God to us and opens us to the Truth of God—I know not which of these two is the more difficult.
Experience unlocks Truths which otherwise were closed against us. Many passages of Scripture will never be made
clear by the commentator—they must be expounded by experience. Many a text is written in a secret ink which must be
held to the fire of adversity to make it visible. I have heard that you see stars in a well when none are visible above ground and I am sure you can discern many a starry Truth when you are down in the deeps of trouble which would not be visible to you elsewhere. Besides, I said it opened us to the Truth as well as the Truth to us. We are superficial in our beliefs—we are often drenched with Truth and yet it runs off us like water from a marble slab!
But affliction, as it were, plows us and sub-soils us and opens up our hearts so that into our innermost nature the
truth penetrates and soaks like rain into plowed land. Blessed is that man who receives the Truth of God into his inmost
self—he shall never lose it, but it shall be the life of his spirit. Affliction, when sanctified by the Holy Spirit, brings much
glory to God out of Christians through their experience of the Lord’s faithfulness to them. I delight to hear an aged
Christian giving his own personal testimony of the Lord’s goodness. Vividly upon my mind flashes an event of some 25
years ago. It is before me as if it had occurred yesterday, when I saw a venerable man of 80, gray and blind with age, and
heard him in simple accents—simple as the language of a child—tell how the Lord had led him and had dealt well with
him so that no good thing had failed of all that God had promised. He spoke as though he were a Prophet, his years
lending force to his words. But suppose he had never known a trial? What testimony could he have borne? Had he been
lapped in luxury and never endured suffering he might have stood there dumb and have been as useful as if he had never
spoke. We must be tried or we cannot magnify the faithful God who will not leave His people!
Again, affliction gives us, through Grace, the inestimable privilege of conformity to the Lord Jesus. We pray to be like
Christ, but how can we be if we are not men of sorrows and never become the acquaintance of grief? Like Christ and yet never traverse through the vale of tears? Like Christ and yet have all that heart could wish? Like Christ and never bear the contradiction of sinners against yourself? Like Christ and never say, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death”? O, Sir, you know not what you ask! Have you said, “Let me sit on Your right hand in Your kingdom?” It cannot be granted to you unless you will also drink of His cup and be baptized with His Baptism! A share of His sorrow must precede a share of His Glory. O, if we are ever to be like Christ, to dwell with Him eternally, we may be well content to pass through much tribulation in order to attain to it!
Once more, our sufferings are of great service to us when God blesses them, for they help us to be useful to others. It must be a terrible thing for a man never to have suffered physical pain. You say, “I should like to be the man”? Ah, unless you had extraordinary Grace, you would grow hard and cold—you would get to be a sort of cast-iron man—breaking other people with your touch. No, let my heart be tender, even be soft if it must be softened by pain, for I would rather know how to bind up my fellow’s wounds. Let my eyes have a tear ready for my brother’s sorrows even if in order to that I should have to shed 10,000 of my own. An escape from suffering would be an escape from the power to sympathize and that were to be deprecated
beyond all things! Luther was right when he said affliction was the best book in the minister’s library. How can the man of God sympathize with the afflicted ones if he knows nothing at all about their troubles? I remember a hard, miserly churl who said that the minister ought to be very poor so that he might have sympathy with the poor. I told him I thought he ought to have a turn at being very rich, too, so that he might have sympathy with the very rich! And I suggested to him that perhaps, upon the whole, it would be handiest to keep him somewhere in the middle that he might the more easily range over the experience of all

7

classes. If the man of God who is to minister to others could be always robust, it were, perhaps, a loss. If he could be always sickly it might be equally so—but for the pastor to be able to range through all the places where the Lord suffers His sheep to go—is doubtless to the advantage of His flock.

And what it is to ministers, it will be to each one of you according to his calling, for the consolation of the people of God.
Be thankful then, dear Brethren, be thankful for trouble! And above all be thankful because it will soon be over and we shall be in the land where these things will be spoken of with great joy. As soldiers show their scars and talk of battles when they come, at last, to spend their old age in the country home, so shall we in the dear land to which we are hastening, speak of the goodness and faithfulness of God which brought us through all the trials of the way! I would not like to stand in that whiter obed host and hear it said, “These are they that come out of great tribulation, all except that one.” Would you like to be there to see yourself pointed at as the one saint who never knew a sorrow? O no, for you would be an alien in the midst of the sacred brotherhood! We will be content to share the battle, for we shall soon wear the crown and wave the palm.
I know that while I am preaching some of you have said, “Ah, these people of God have a hard time of it.” So have you.
The ungodly do not escape from sorrow by their sin. I never heard of a man escaping from poverty through being a
spendthrift. I never heard of a man who escaped from headache or heartache by drunkenness—or from bodily pain by
licentiousness. I have heard the opposite! And if there are griefs to the holy there are others for you. Only mark this, ungodly ones, mark this—for you these things work no good! You pervert them to mischief—but for the saints, they work eternal benefit! For you your sorrows are punishments. For you they are the first drops of the red hail that shall fall upon you forever.
They are not so to the child of God. You are punished for your transgressions—he is not. And let us tell you, too, that if this day you happen to be in peace, prosperity, plenty and happiness—yet there is not one child of God here, in the very deeps of trouble, that would change places with you under any consideration whatever! He would sooner be God’s dog and be kicked under the table, than be the devil’s darling and sit at meat with him. “Let God do as He pleases,” we say, “for while here we believe our worst state to be better than your best.” Do you think we love God for what we get out of Him and for nothing else? Is that your notion of a Christian’s love to God? We read in Jeremiah of certain ones who said they would not leave off worshipping the Queen of Heaven. “For when,” they said, “we worshipped the Queen
of Heaven, we had bread in plenty, but now we starve.” This is how the ungodly talk and that is what the devil thought was Job’s case. Said he—“Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not set a hedge about him and all that he has?” The devil does not understand real love and affection, but the child of God can tell the devil to his face that he loves God if He covers him with sores and sets him on the dunghill. And by God’s good help he means to cling to God through troubles ten-fold heavier than those he has had to bear, should they come upon him. Is He not a blessed God? Yes, let the beds of our sickness ring with it—He is a blessed God! In the night watches, when we are weary and our brain is hot and fevered, and our soul is distracted, we yet confess that He is a blessed God! Every ward of the hospital where Believers are found should echo with that note!
“A blessed God?” “Yes, that He is,” say the poor and needy here this morning and so say all God’s poor throughout all
the land. “A blessed God?” “Yes,” say His dying people, “as He slays us we will bless His name. He loves us and we love Him and, though all His waves go over us and His wrath lies sorely upon us, we would not change with kings on their thrones if they are without the love of God.” , Sinner, if God smites a child of His so heavily, He will smite you one day! And if those He loves are made to smart, what will He do with those who rebel against Him and hate Him? “Praise the Son, lest He be angry and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” The Lord bless you and bring you into the bonds of His Covenant, for Christ’s sake. Amen.

PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON—Psalm 88.
Adapted from The C. H. Spurgeon Collection, Version 1.0, Ages Software.
PRAY THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL USE THIS SERMON
TO BRING MANY TO A SAVING KNOWLEDGE OF JESUS CHRIST.
By the Grace of God, for all 63 volumes of
C. H. Spurgeon sermons in Modern English, and
more than 450 Spanish translations, visit:
http://www.spurgeongems.org

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CHRIST IS THE LIGHT-EACH CREATED IN HIS IMAGE TO GOD’S GLORY! AMEN

“Dispute Over Jesus’ Testimony] When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” John 8:12

ANY persons are greatly disquieted in mind because their experience of conviction or comfort has not been like that of others. They fancy that they cannot have come to Christ aright because they have not felt precisely the same joys or expressions as certain saints of whom they have read. Now, should these good people be so troubled? We think not. Uniformity is not God’s rule of working either in nature or in grace. No two human faces display exactly the same lineaments; sons of the same mother, born at the same birth, may be as different as Jacob and Esau. Not even in leagues of forest will two leaves be found in all respects alike. Diversity is the rule of nature, and let us rest assured that variety is the rule of grace.
    Mr. Beecher has given us this truth in a very beautiful form in the following lines:—”What if God should command the flowers to appear before him, and the sunflower should come bending low with shame because it was not a violet, and the violet should come striving to lift itself up to be like a sunflower, and the lily should seek to gain the bloom of the rose, and the rose the whiteness of the lily; and so, each one disdaining itself, should seek to grow into the likeness of the other?” God would say, ‘Stop foolish flowers! I gave you your own forms and hues, and odours, and I wish you to bring what you have received. O, sunflower, come as a sunflower; and you sweet violet, come as a violet; let the rose bring the rose’s bloom, and the lily the lily’s whiteness.’ Perceiving their folly, and ceasing to long for what they had not, violet and rose, lily and geranium, mignionette and anemone, and all the floral train would come, each in its own loveliness, to send up its fragrance as incense, and all wreathe themselves in a garland of beauty about the throne of God.”
    Reader, the saints are one in Christ Jesus, but they are not one in their peculiarities. Be we who we may, if we rest on the Redeemer our eternal life is sure; and if not, we are dead while we live. What is Jesus Christ to me? that is the main question. If he is my all, then all is well; if not, I may be very like a saint, but a saint I am not.

(Credit: Tracts by Charles Spurgeon)

2 Corinthians 4:4
The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.


No. 17.—Sword and Trowel Tracts, by C. H. SPURGEON.—6d. per 100, Post free, 8 stamps.
Passmore & Alabaster, 23, Paternoster Row.

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BY FAITH AND THIS PILGRIM’S LONGINGS AS I SOJOURN

(Midi file:  http://www.hymnary.org/media/fetch/113749)
 
Hebrews 11:15-16
King James Version (KJV)
15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
http://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/kjv/Heb.11.15-Heb.11.16
 
  
A Sermon
(No. 1030)
Delivered by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington

The Pilgrim’s Longings

“And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”—Hebrews 11:15-16.

BRAHAM left his country at God’s command, and he never went back again. The proof of faith lies in perseverance. There is a sort of faith which does run well, but it is soon hindered, and it doth not obey the truth. That is not the faith to which the promise is given. The faith of God’s elect continues and abides. Being connected with the living and incorruptible seed, it lives and abides for ever. Abraham returned not; Isaac returned not; Jacob returned not. The promise was to them as “strangers and sojourners,” and so they continued. The apostle tells us, however, that they were not forced so to continue; they did not remain because they could not return. Had they been mindful of the place from whence they came out, they might have found opportunities to go back. Frequent opportunities came in their way; there was communication kept up between them and the old family house at Padan-Aram: they had news sometimes from the old quarters. More than that, there were messages exchanged, servants were sometimes sent, and you know there was a new relation entered into—did not Rebekah come from thence? And Jacob, one of the patriarchs, was driven to go down into the land, but he could not stay there; he was always unrestful, till at last he stole a march upon Laban and came back into the proper life—the life which he had chosen, the life which God had commanded him, the life of a pilgrim and a stranger in the land of promise. You see, then, they had many opportunities to have returned, to have settled comfortably, and tilled the ground as their fathers did before them; but they continued to follow the uncomfortable shifting life of wanderers of the weary foot, who dwelt in tents, who own no foot of land—they were aliens in the country which God had given them by promise.
    Now, our position is very similar to theirs. As many of us as have believed in Christ have been called out. The very meaning of a church is, “called out by Christ.” We have been separated. I trust we know what it is to have gone without the camp, bearing Christ’s reproach. Henceforth, in this world we have no home, no true home for our spirits; our home is beyond the flood; we are looking for it amongst the unseen things; we are strangers and sojourners as all our fathers were, dwellers in this wilderness, passing through it to reach the Canaan which is to be the land of our perpetual inheritance.
    I. I propose, then, first of all this evening, to speak to you upon the opportunities which we have had, and still have, to return to the old house, if we were mindful of it. Indeed, it seems to me as if the word “opportunity” as it occurs in the text, were hardly strong enough to express the influence and incentive, the provocations and solicitations, by which, in our case, we have been urged. It is a wonder of wonders that we have not gone back to the world, with its sinful pleasures and its idolatrous customs. When I think of the strength of divine grace, I do not marvel that saints should persevere; but, when I remember the weakness of their nature, it seems a miracle of miracles that there should be one Christian in the world who could maintain his steadfastness for a single hour. It is nothing short of Godhead’s utmost stretch of might that keeps the feet of the saints, and preserves them from going back to their old unregenerate condition. We have had opportunities to have returned. My brethren, we have such opportunities in our daily calling. Some of you are engaged in the midst of ungodly men, and those engagements supply you with constant opportunities to sin as they do, to fall into their excesses, to lapse into their forgetfulness of God, or even to take part in their blasphemies. Oh, have you not often strong inducements, if it were not for the grace of God, to become as they are? Or, if your occupation keeps you alone, yet, my brethren, there is one who is pretty sure to intrude upon our privacy, to corrupt our thoughts, to kindle strange desires in our breasts, to tantalise us with morbid fancies, and to seek our mischief. The Tempter he is, the Destroyer he would be, if we were not delivered from his snares. Ah, how frequently will solitude have temptations as severe as publicity could possibly bring. There are perils in company, but there are perils likewise in our loneliness. We have many opportunities to return. In the parlour, pleasantly conversing, or in the kitchen, perhaps, occupied with the day’s work—toiling in the field, or trading on the mart, busy on the land or tossed about on the sea, there are critical seasons on which destiny itself might appear to hang contingent. Where can we fly to escape from these opportunities that haunt us everywhere and peril us in every thing? If we should mount upon the wings of the wind, could we find “a lodge in some vast wilderness,” think ye, then, we might be quite clear from all the opportunities to go back to the old sins in which we once indulged? No. Each man’s calling may seem to him to be more full of temptation than his fellow’s. It is not so. Our temptations are pretty equally distributed, I dare say, after all, and all of us might say, that we find in our avocations, from hour to hour, many opportunities to return.
    But, dear brethren, it is not merely in our business and in our calling; the mischief lies in our bone and in our flesh. Opportunities to return! Ah! Who that knows himself does not find strong, incentives to return. Ah! how often will our imagination paint sin in very glowing colors, and, though we loathe sin and loathe ourselves for thinking of it, yet how many a man might say, “had it not been for divine grace, where should I have been?—for my feet had almost gone, my steps had well nigh slipped.” How strong is the evil in the most upright man! How stern is the conflict to keep under the body, lest corruption should prevail. You may be diligent in secret prayer, and, perhaps, the devil may have seemed asleep till you began to pray, and when you were most fervent, then will he also become most rampant. When you get nearer to God, Satan will sometimes seem to get nearer to you. Opportunities to return, as long as you are in this body, will be with you. To the very edge of Jordan you will meet with temptations. When you sit expectant on the banks of the last river, waiting, for the summons to cross, it may be that your fiercest temptation will come even then. Oh, this flesh, the body of this death—wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from it? But while it continues with me, I shall find opportunities to return.
    So too, dear brethren and sisters, these opportunities to return are adapted to our circumstances and adjusted to any condition of life, and any change through which we may pass. For instance how often have professors, when they have prospered, found opportunities to return! I sigh to think of many that appeared to be very earnest Christians when they were struggling for bread, who have become very dull and cold now that they have grown rich and increased in goods. How often does it happen in this land of ours, that a poor earnest Christian has associated with the people of God at all meetings, and felt proud to be there, but he has risen in the world and stood an inch or two above others in common esteem, and he could not go with God’s people any longer: he must seek out the world’s church and join in to get a share of the respectability and prestige that will always congregate in the domain of fashion. Henceforth, the man has turned aside from the faith, if not altogether in his heart, at least in his life. Beware of the high places: they are very slippery. There is not all the enjoyment you may think to be gathered in retirement and in ease. On the contrary, luxury often pulleth up, and abundance makes the heart to swell with vanity. If any of you are prospering in this world, oh watch, for you are in imminent danger of being mindful to return to the place whence you came out.
    But, the peril is as instant every whit in adversity. Alas, I have had to mourn over Christian men—at least I thought they were such—who have waxed very poor, and when they have grown poor, they hardly felt they could associate with those they knew in better circumstances. I think they were mistaken in the notion that they would be despised. I should lie ashamed of the Christian who would despise his fellow, because God was dealing with him somewhat severely in Providence. Yet there is a feeling in the human heart, and, though there may be no unkind treatment, yet, oftentimes, the sensitive spirit is apt to imagine it, and I have observed some absent themselves by degrees from the assembly of God with a sense of shame. It is smoothing the way to return to your old place; and, indeed, I have not wondered when I have seen some professors grow cold, when I have thought where they were compelled to live, and how they have been constrained to pass their time. Perhaps they were living at home before, but now they have to take a room where they can have no quiet, but where sounds of blasphemy greet them, or, in some cases, where they have to go to the workhouse, and be far away from all Christian intercourse or anything that could comfort them. It is only God’s grace that can keep your graces alive under such circumstances. You see, whether you grow rich or whether you grow poor, you will have these opportunities to return. If you want to go back to sin, to carnality, to a love of the world, to your old condition, you never need to be prevented from doing so by want of opportunities: it will be something else that will prevent you, for these opportunities are plentiful and countless.
    Opportunities to return! Let me say just one thing more about them. They are often furnished by the example of others.

“When any turn from Zion’s way,
Alas, what numbers do!
Methinks I hear my Savior say,
Wilt thou forsake me too?”
The departures from the faith of those whom we highly esteem are, at least while we are young, very severe trials to us. We keenly suspect whether that religion can be true which was feigned so cunningly and betrayed so wantonly, by one who seemed to be a model, but proved to be a hypocrite. It staggers us: we cannot make it out. Opportunities to return you have now; but ah! may grace be given you so that, if others play the Judas, instead of leading you to do the same, it may only bind you more fast to your Lord, and make you walk more carefully, lest you also prove a son of perdition.
    And ah, my brethren and sisters, if some of us were to return, we should have this opportunity—a cordial welcome from our former comrades. None of our old friends would refuse to receive us. There is many a Christian who, if he were to go back to the gaiety of the world, would find the world await him with open arms. He was the favourite of the ball-room once; he was the wit “that set the table in a roar;” he was the man who above all was courted when he moved in the circles of the vain and frivolous: glad enough would they be to see him come back. What a shout of triumph would they raise, and how would they fraternize with him! Oh, may the day never come to you, you young people especially, who have lately put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and professed his name, when you shall be welcomed by the world, but may you for ever forget your kindred and your father’s house, so shall the king greatly desire your beauty, for he is the Lord, and worship you him. Separation from the world will endear you to the Savior, and bring you into conscious enjoyment of his presence; but, of opportunities to return there is no lack.
    Perhaps, you will say, “Why does the Lord make them so plentiful? Could he not have kept us from temptation?” There is no doubt he could, but it was never the Master’s intention that we should all be hothouse plants. He taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” but, at the same time, he does lead us there, and intends to do it, and this for the proving of our faith, to see whether it be true faith or not. Depend upon it, faith that is never tried is not true faith. It must be sooner or later exercised. God does not create useless things: he intends that the faith he gives should have its test, should glorify his name. These opportunities to return are meant to try your faith, and they are sent to you to prove that you are a volunteer soldier. Why, if grace was a sort of chain that manacled you, so that you could not leave your Lord; if it had become a physical impossibility to forsake the Savior, there would be no credit in it. He that does not run away because his legs are too weak, does not prove himself a hero; but he that could run, but will not run; he that could desert his Lord, but will not desert him, has within him a principle of grace stronger than any fetter could be—the highest, firmest, noblest bond that unites a man to the Savior. By this shall you know whether you are Christ’s or not. When you have opportunity to return, if you do not return, that shall prove you are his. Two men are going along a road, and there is a dog behind them. I do not know to which of them that dog belongs, but I shall be able to tell you directly. They are coming to a crossroad: one goes to the right, the other goes to the left. Now which man does the dog follow? That is his master. So when Christ and the world go together, you cannot tell which you are following; but, when there is a separation, and Christ goes one way, and your interest and your pleasure seem to go the other way, if you can part with the world and keep with Christ, then you are one of his. After this manner these opportunities to return may serve us a good purpose: they prove our faith, while they try our character; thus helping us to see whether we are indeed the Lord’s or not.
    But, we must pass on (for we have a very wealthy text) to notice the second point.
    II. We cannot take any opportunity to go back, because we desire something better than we could get by returning to that country from whence we came out. An insatiable desire has been implanted in us by divine grace which urges us to—

“Forget the steps already trod,
And onward press our way.”
Notice how the text puts it:—”But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly.” Brethren, you desire something better than this world, do you not? Has the world ever satisfied you? Perhaps it did when you were dead in sin. A dead world may satisfy a dead heart; but ever since you have known something of better things, and brighter realities, have you been ever contented with earthly things and emptier vanities? Perhaps you have tried to fill your soul with the daintiest provisions the world can offer; to wit—God has prospered you, and you have said, “Oh, this is well.” Your children have been about you, you have had many household joys, and you have said, “I could stay here for ever.” Did not you find very soon that there was a thorn in the flesh? Did you ever gather a rose in this world that was altogether without a thorn? Hare you not been obliged to say, after you have had all that the world could give you, “Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity?” I am sure it has been so with me, with you, with all my kinsfolk in Christ, and with all my yokefellows in his service. All God’s saints would confess that were the Lord to say to them, “You shall have all the world, and that shall be your portion,” they would be broken-hearted men. “Nay, my Lord,” they would reply, “do not put me off with these biding presents; feed me not upon these husks. Though thou shouldst give me Joseph’s lot, the ancient mountains, and the precious things of the lasting hills,” “Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey;” yea, though thou shouldst confer on me the precious things of the earth, and the fullness thereof, I would prefer before them all the goodwill of him that dwelt in the bush. Give me thyself, and take these all away, if so it please thee, but do not, my Lord, do not think I can be content with Egypt since I have set forth for Canaan, or that I can settle down in the wilderness now that I am journeying to the land of promise. We desire something better.
    There is this about a Christian that, even when he does not enjoy something better, he desires it; of that, verily, I am quite sure. How much of character is revealed in our desires. I felt greatly encouraged when I read this, “Now they desire a better”—The word “country” has been inserted by our translators. It weakens the sense; vague but vast is the craving expressed in the sentence, “They desire a better”—I know I long for something far better, something infinitely preferable to that which my eyes can see or that my tongue can express. I do not always enjoy that something better. Dark is my path; I cannot see my Lord; I cannot enjoy his presence; sometimes I am like one that is banished from him; but I desire his blessing, I desire his presence; and, though to desire may be but a little thing, let me say a good desire is more than nature ever grew: grace has given it. It is a great thing to be desirous. “They desire a better country.” And, because we desire this better thing, we cannot go back and be content with things which gratified us once.
    More than that, if ever the child of God gets entangled for awhile, he is uneasy by reason of it. Abraham’s slips, for he had one or two, were made when he had left the land, and gone down among the Philistines; but he was not easy there: he must come back again. And Jacob—he had found a wife—nay, two—in Laban’s land, but he was not content there. No, no child of God can be, whatever he may find in this world. We shall never find a heaven here. We may hunt the world through, and say, “This looks like a little paradise,” but there is not any paradise this side of the skies, for a child of God at any rate. There is enough out there in the farm yard for the hogs, but there is not that which is suitable for the children. There is enough in the world for sinners, but not for saints. They have stronger, sharper, and more vehement desires, for they have a nobler life within them, and they desire a better country, and even if they get entangled for awhile in this country, and in a certain measure identified with citizens of it, they are ill at ease—their citizenship is in heaven, and they cannot rest anywhere but there. After all, we confess to-night, and rejoice in the confession, that our best hopes are for things that are out of sight: our expectations are our largest possessions. The things that we have a title to, that we value, are ours to-day by faith: we do not enjoy them yet. But when our heirship shall be fully manifested, and we shall come to the full ripe age—oh, then shall we come into our inheritance, to our wealth, to the mansions, and to the glory, and to the presence of Jesus Christ our Lord.
    Thus you see the reason why the Christian cannot go back. Though he has many opportunities he does not embrace any, he shrinks with repugnance from them all, for, through divine grace, he has had produced in his heart desires for something better.
    Even when he does not realize as yet, or actually enjoy, that infinite good, which is something better than creature comfort or worldly ambition, the desires themselves become mighty bonds that keep him from returning to his former state. Dear brethren, let us cultivate these desires more and more. If they have such a separating, salutary, sanctifying influence upon our heart, and effect upon our character, in keeping us from the world, let us cultivate them much. Do you think that we meditate enough upon heaven? Look at the miser. When does he forget his gold? He dreams of it. He has locked it up tonight and he goes to bed, but he is afraid he heard a footstep down the stairs, and he goes to see. He looks to the iron safe: he would be quite sure that it is well secured. He cannot forget his dear gold. Let us think of heaven, of Christ, and of the blessings of the covenant, and let us thus keep our desires wide awake, and stimulate them to active exercise. The more they draw us to heaven, the more they withdraw us from the world.
    III. It would be unreasonable if we did not vehemently resist every opportunity and every solicitation to go back.
    The men of faith to whom the apostle referred in our text were not only strangers and pilgrims, but it is specially observed that they confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. They were a grand company. From an unit they had multiplied into a countless host. Sprang there not even of one, and him as good as dead, as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the seashore innumerable? Now, brethren, you see we have here a very strong reason for not returning. It is because you are the descendants, the spiritual descendants, of the patriarchs. Let me try to show you how urgent a motive for steadfastness this is. Practically, it comprises two or three considerations of the highest moment. One thing it implies very obviously is that you thoroughly admire their example and fervently emulate their spirit. As you have glanced over the scroll of history, or narrowly scanned the records of men’s lives, the pomp of Pharaoh has not dazzled you, but the purity of Joseph has charmed you; the choice of Moses was to your taste, though it did involve leaving a court where he was flattered, for fellowship with enslaved kinsmen by whom he was suspected; and, you would rather have been with Daniel in the lions’ den than with Darius on the throne of empire. You have transferred their strong will to your own deliberate choice. And, when the jeer has been raised against canting methodists, you have said, “I am one of them.” You have confessed as occasion served before the world, you have professed as duty called before the church, you have accepted the consequences as honesty demanded before angels and men. Therefore, in your heart of hearts you feel that you cannot go back. The vows of God are upon you. It is well they are. Review them often: refresh your memory with them frequently; recur to them and renew them in every time of trial and temptation. Howbeit, repent of them never, or woe betide you. There is a secret virtue in the confession, if it be steadfastly adhered to and zealously maintained. It is a talisman, believe me, against the contagion of an evil atmosphere that might otherwise instil poison into your constitution.
    Again, there is another thing; you have joined yourself to an ancient fraternity that has something more than rules to guide or legends to captivate; for it has a combination of both, seeing it is rich in poetic lore. Why, it is on this that patriotism feeds as its daintiest morsel. “Thy statutes,” said David, “have been my songs in the house of my pilgrimage.” Brother! there hath no sorrow befallen thee but what thy noble ancestors have celebrated in cheery tones, and set to music in cheerful strains. Oh, beloved! if you could forget the statutes, can you ever fail to remember the songs? There has never been a revival in the church that has not witnessed to the value of our psalmody. God be praised for our psalms and spiritual songs. Oh, how often they have made melody in our hearts to the Lord! While our voices blend, do not our very souls become more and more richly cemented? They are, in truth, the pilgrim’s solace.
    Another thing strikes me. I should not like you to overlook it. There is, in this chapter, a special commendation for faith in a pleasing variety of operations. But the speciality of the strangers and pilgrims is that they all died in faith. So, then, you cannot go back, because you cannot accomplish the end for which you went forward till you die. You have joined the company that makes the goal of life the object for which you live. Your aim is to make a noble exit. “Prepare to meet thy God” was the motto you started with. To go back can hardly cross your thoughts, when to look back seems to you charged with peril. Our lease of mortal life is fast running out. The time of our sojourn on earth is getting more and more brief. Therefore, because our salvation is nearer than when we first believed, it is but meet that our desire to reach the better country, and to enter the heavenly city should become more and more vehement, as “we nightly pitch our roving tent a day’s march nearer home.” It comes to this, brethren. You feel that you have little to show for your faith. It never built an ark like Noah; it never offered a sacrifice like Abraham; it never subdued kingdoms like Joshua; it never quenched the violence of fire as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego. Well, be it so; but he that endureth to the end shall be saved; and all those that die in faith are gathered with the great cloud of witnesses. Is not this enough to cheer the rank and file of the church?
    IV. But, I must close with the sweetest part of the text, wherein it is shown that we have a great and blessed assurance vouchsafed to us as an acknowledgment, on the part of God, of those opportunities, and those yearnings persisted in. “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city.” Because they are strangers, add because they will not go back to their old abode, “therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” He might well be ashamed of that. What poor people God’s people are—poor, many of them, in circumstances, but how many of them I might very well call poor as to spiritual things. I do not think if any of us had such a family as God has, we should ever have patience with them. We cannot, when we judge ourselves rightly, have patience with ourselves; but, how is it that God bears with the ill manners of such a froward, weak, foolish, forgetful generation as his people are. He might well be ashamed to be called their God, if he looked upon them as they are, and estimated them upon their merits. Own them! How can he own them? Does he not himself sometimes say of them, “How can I put them among the children?” Yet he devises means, and brings about the purposes of his grace. Viewed as they are, they may be compared to a rabble in so many respects, that it is marvellous he is not ashamed of them. Still, he never does discountenance them, and he proves that he is not ashamed of them, for he calls himself their God. “I will be your God,” saith he, and he oftentimes seems to speak of it as a very joyful thing to his own heart. “I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” While he calls himself their God, he never forbids them to call him their God. In the presence of the great ones of the earth they may call him their God—anywhere—and he is not ashamed to be so called. Matchless condescension this! Have you not sometimes heard of a man who has become rich and has risen in the world, who has had some poor brother or some distant relative. When he has seen him in the street, he has been obliged to speak to him and own him. But oh, how reluctantly it was done. I dare say he wished him a long way off, especially if he had some haughty acquaintance with him at the time, who would perhaps turn round, and say, “Why, who is that wretched, seedy-looking fellow you spoke to?” He does not like to say, “That’s my brother;” or, “That’s a relative of mine.” Not so our Lord Jesus Christ. However low his people may sink, he is not ashamed to call them brethren. They may look up to him in all the depths of their degradation. They may call him a brother. He is in very fact a brother, born for their adversity, able and ready to redress their grievances, he is not ashamed to call them brethren. One reason for this seems to me to be, because he does not judge of them according to their present circumstances, but much rather according to their pleasant prospects. He takes account of what he has prepared for them. Notice the text, “Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” They are poor now, but God, to whom things to come are things present, sees them in their fair white linen, which is the righteousness of the saints. All you can see in that poor child of God is a hard-working laboring man, mocked and despised of his fellows. But what does God see in him? He sees in him a dignity and a glory assimilated to his own. He hath put all things under the feet of such a man as that, and crowned him with glory and honor in the person of Christ, and the angels themselves are ministering servants to such. You see his outward attire, not his inner self—you see the earthly tabernacle, but the spirit newborn, immortal and divine—you see not that. Howbeit, God does. Or, if you have spiritual discernment to perceive the spiritual creature, you only see it as it is veiled by reason of the flesh, and beclouded by the atmosphere of this world; but he sees it as it will appear, when it shall be radiant like unto Christ, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing. God sees the poorest, the least proficient disciple as a man in Christ; a perfect man come unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; such indeed as he will be in that day when he shall see Christ, for then he shall be like him as he is. It seems too, in the text, that God looks to what he had prepared for these poor people. He hath prepared for them a city. Methinks, that by what he has prepared for them, we may judge how he esteems and loves them—estimating them by what he means them to be, rather than by what they appear to be at present. Look at this preparation just a minute. “he hath prepared for them”—“them.” Though I delight to preach a free gospel, and to preach it to every creature under heaven, we must never forget to remind you of the speciality. “He hath prepared for them a city”—that is, for such as are strangers and foreigners—for such as have faith, and, therefore, have left the world, and gone out to follow Christ. “He hath prepared forthem”—not “for all of you”—only for such of you as answer the description on which we have been meditating has he prepared “a city.”
    Note what it is he has made ready for them. It is a city. This indicates a permanent abode. They dwelt in tents—Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob—but he has prepared for them a city. Here we are tent dwellers, and the tent is soon to be taken down. “We know that this earthly house of our” tent “shall be dissolved, but we have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” “He hath prepared a city.” A city is a place of genial associations. In a lonely hamlet one has little company. In a city, especially where all the inhabitants shall be united in one glorious brotherhood, the true communism of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity may be realised in the purest sense and highest possible degree. In a city such as this there are plentiful occasions for intercourse, where mutual interests shall enhance mutual joy. “He hath prepared a city.” It is a city too possessing immunities, and conferring dignity upon its residents. To be a burgess of the City of London is thought to be a great honor, and upon princes is it sometimes conferred; but, we shall have the highest honor that can be given, when we shall be citizens of the city which God has prepared.
    I must not dwell on this theme, delightful as it is; I want a few words with you, my friends, direct and personal, before I close. Do not wonder, those of you who are the children of God, do not wonder if you have discomforts here. If you are what you profess to be, you are strangers: you do not expect men of this world to treat you as members of their community. If they do, be afraid. Dogs don’t bark as a man goes by that they know: they bark at strangers. When people persecute you and slander you,no marvel. If you are a stranger, they naturally bark at you. Do not expect to find the comforts in this world that you crave after, that your flesh would long for. This is our inn, not our home. We tarry for a night: we are away in the morning. We may bear the annoyances of the eventide and the night, for the morning will break so soon. Remember that your greatest joy, while you are a pilgrim, is your God. So the text says, “Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God.” Do you want a richer source of consolation than you have? Here is one that can never be diminished, much less exhausted. When the created streams are dry, go to this eternal fountain, and find it ever springing up. Your joy is your God: make your God your joy.
    Now, what shall be said to those who are not strangers and foreigners? Ah, you dwell in a land where you find some sort of repose; but I have heavy tidings for you. This land in which you dwell, and all the works thereof, must be burned up. The city of which you, who have never been converted to Christ, are citizens, is a City of Destruction, and, as is its name, such will be its end. The King will send his armies against that guilty city and destroy it, and if you are citizens of it, you will lose all you have—you will lose your souls—lose yourselves. “Whither away?” saith one—”Where can I find comfort then and security?” You must do as Lot did, when the angels presses him and said, “Haste to the Mount lest thou be consumed.” To what mountain, say you, shall I go? The mountain of safety is Calvary. Where Jesus died, there you shall live. There is death everywhere else but there. But there is life arising from his death. Oh, fly to him. “But how?” saith one. Trust him. God gave his Son, equal with himself, to bear the burden of human sin; and he died, a substitute for sinners,—a real substitute, an efficient substitute, for all who trust in him. If thou wilt trust thy soul with Jesus, thou art saved. Thy sin was laid on him: it is forgiven thee. It was blotted out when he nailed the handwriting of ordinances that were against thee to his cross. Trust him now and you are saved; you shall become, henceforth, a stranger and a pilgrim. In the better land you shall find the rest which you never can find here, and need not wish to find, for the land is polluted; let us away from it. The curse has fallen: let us get away to the country that never was cursed, to the city that is for ever blessed, Where Jesus dwells there may we find a home and abide for aye. God add his blessing to this discourse, and give a blessing to your souls, for Jesus Christ’ sake. Amen.

(Credit: Works/Sermons of Charles Spurgeon)

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God’s Providence

Daniel 4:3
King James Version (KJV)
How great are his signs! and how mighty are his wonders! his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his dominion is from generation to generation.
A Sermon
(No. 3114)
Published on Thursday, October 15th, 1908.
Delivered by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark

“Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the colour of a beryl: and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel. When they went, they went upon their four sides: and they turned not when they went. As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them: and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.”—Ezekiel 1:15-19.

HILE READING THE SCRIPTURES, we tried to hint at the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence. We attempted to explain that portion of Scripture which teaches us to “take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow will take thought for the things of itself.” Our blessed Lord had there uttered very precious words to drive away our fears, to keep us from distrust and from distress, and to enable us so to rely upon Providence that we may say, he that feeds the ravens, and clothes the lilies, will never suffer me to famish nor to be naked. Having shown you from our Lord’s own words the practical benefits of the doctrine of Providence, I thought I would endeavor to explain that doctrine more fully this morning. I am constantly talking about providence in my preaching, and I thought it quite as well to devote a whole sermon to explain what I believe are God’s great wonder-working processes which we call Providence. In looking for a text I found this, These “wheels” signify divine Providence; and I trust, while explaining them, I may be so assisted by God’s Spirit that I may say many things to you concerning God’s government which may rejoice any who are desponding, and lift up the souls of many who are distressed.
    I. Going at once to my divisions, my first remark will be that PROVIDENCE IS HERE COMPARED TO A “WHEEL.”
    When the prophet had seen the “living creatures,” which I take it were angels, he opened his eyes again, and he saw a wonderful illustration of the divine Providence, and this exhibition was in the figure of a wheel. You must know that this is not the only place where the comparison is to be found; for among the classics, the Romans and the Greeks were accustomed to compare the wondrous works of God in Providence to a wheel. The story goes, that a certain king being taken prisoner, was bound in chains, and dragged along at the chariot wheels of his conqueror. As he went along, he kept looking at the wheel, and shedding tears—looking at the wheel again, and lifting up his eyes and smiling. The conqueror turned and said, “Wherefore art thou looking at that wheel?” He said, “I was thinking, such is the lot of man; just now I was here; now I am there; but soon I may be here again at the top of the wheel, and thou mayest be grinding the dust.” This was well for a heathen. The prophet had the very same idea. He was permitted by God to see that the wheel is a very beautiful figure of divine Providence. Let us show you that it is.
    I have just hinted at the reason why Providence is like a wheel; because sometimes one part of the wheel is at the top, and then it is at the bottom.Sometimes this part is exalted, and anon it sinks down to the dust. Then it is lifted to the air, and then again by a single revolution it is brought down again to the earth. Just as our poet sings—

 

“Here he exalts neglected worms
To sceptres and a crown;
And there the following page he turns,
And treads the monarch down.”
So it is with our life. Sometimes we are in humble poverty, and hardly know what we shall do for bread; anon the wheel revolves, and we are brought into the comfort of wealth; our feet stand in a spacious room; we are fed with corn and wine; we drink of a cup overflowing its brim. Again we are brought low through affliction and famine. A little while and another page is turned, and we are exalted to the heavens, and can sing and rejoice in the Lord our God. I have no doubt many of you here have experienced a far more checkered life than I have, and therefore you can feel that your life has been as a “wheel.” Ah! man, thou art strong, and great, and rich; thou mayest stand now as the uppermost part of it; but it is a wheel, and you may yet be brought low. And you, poor, who are depressed and downcast, who are weeping because you know not where you shall lay your heads—that wheel may revolve and you may be lifted up. Our own experience is never a stable thing; it is always changing, always turning round. The fly that sits now on the edge of the wheel may be crushed by its next revolution, and be brought to the dust of death the next day. The world may cry “Hosannah” to its minister to-day and the next day may say, “Crucify him, crucify him.” Such is the state of man. Providence is like a wheel.
    You know that, in a wheel there is one portion that never turns round, that stands steadfast; and that is the axle. So in God’s Providence, there is an axle which never moves. Christian, here is a sweet thought for thee! Thy state is ever changing; sometimes thou art exalted, and sometimes depressed; yet there is an unmoving point in thy state. What is that axle? What is the pivot upon which all the machinery revolves? It is the axle of God’s everlasting love toward his covenant people. The exterior of the wheel is changing, but the center stands forever fixed. Other things may move; but God’s love never moves: it is the axle of the wheel; and this is another reason why Providence should be compared to a wheel.
    Yet further. You observe, when the wheel moves very rapidly you can discern nothing but the circumference—nothing but the exterior circle. So, if you look back to history, and read the story of a thousand years, you just set the wheel of Providence revolving rapidly; you lose sight of all the little things that are within the circle; you see only one great thing, and that is, that God is working through the world his everlasting purposes. You sit down and take a book of history—say the History of England—and you will say of one event, “Now that seems to be out of place;” of another, “That seems to be out of time;” of another, “That seems to be adverse to the cause of liberty;” but look through a thousand years, and those things which seemed as if they would crush liberty in her germ; those things which seemed as if they would destroy this our commonwealth in our very rising, have been those which have caused the sturdy oak of liberty to take deeper root. Take the whole together, instead of the things one by one; look at a thousand years, and you will see nothing but one round ring of symmetry, teaching you that God is wise, and God is just. So let it be with you in your lives. Here you are fretting about troubles today. Think also of the past; put all your troubles together, and they are no troubles at all. You will see that one counteracts the other. If you take your life—not today, but look back on forty years of it—you will be obliged, instead of lamenting and mourning, to bless God for his mercies toward you. Let the wheel go round, and you will see nothing but a ring of everlasting wisdom revolving.
    I trust I have made the first part intelligible—that the Providence of God is here compared to a wheel.
    II. The second thought is that THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD IS IN SOME MYSTERIOUS WAY connected WITH ANGELS.
    Look at verse 15: “Now as I beheld the living creatures.” Then turn to the 19th verse: “And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.” These living creatures I believe to be angels; and the text teaches us that there is a connection between Providence and angelic agency. I do not know how to explain it; I cannot tell how it is; but I believe angels have a great deal to do with the business of this world. In times of miracles and wondrous things, there was an angel that came down and slew the firstborn of Egypt; and an angel cut off the hosts of Sennacherib. Angels did mighty things in those ancient days. My firm belief is, that angels are sent forth somehow or other to bring about the great purposes of God. The great wheel of Providence is turned by an angel. When there is some trouble which seems to stop that wheel, some mighty cherub puts his shoulder to it, and hurls it around, and makes the chariot of God’s Providence still go on. Angels have much more to do with us than we imagine. I do not know but that spirits sometimes come down and whisper thoughts into our ears. I have strange thoughts sometimes, that seem to come from a land of dreams; and fiery visions that make my soul hot within me. Sometimes I have thoughts which I know come from God’s Spirit; some which are glorious, and some that are not so good as those which the Spirit would have put there, but still holy thoughts; and I often attribute them to angels. I have sometimes a thought which cheers me in distress; and was not an angel sent to strengthen Christ in the garden? How do you think the angel strengthened him? Why, by putting thoughts into Christ’s mind. He could not in any other way: he could not strengthen him by a plaster, or by any physical means; but by injecting thoughts. And so with us. There was a temptation which might have led you astray; but God said, “Gabriel, fly! there is a danger to one of my people; go and put such a thought into his soul, that when the danger comes he will say, Get thee behind me, Satan, I will have nothing to do with sin.”
    We have each of us a guardian angel to attend us; and if there be any meaning in the passage, “In heaven their angels do always behold the face of my Father which is in heaven,” it means that every person has a guardian spirit, and every Christian has some angel who flies about him, and holds the shield of God over his brow; keeps his foot, lest he should dash it against a stone; guards him, controls him, manages him; injects thoughts, restrains evil desires, and is the minister and servant of the Holy Ghost to keep us from sin, and lead us to righteousness. Whether I am right or wrong, I leave you to judge; but perhaps I have more angelology in me than most people. I know my imagination sometimes has been so powerful that I could almost, when I have been alone at night, fancy I saw an angel fly by me, and hear the horse-hoofs of the cherubim as they dashed along the stony road when I have been out preaching the word. However, I take it that the text teaches us that angels have very much to do with God’s Providence. For it says, “And when the living creatures went, the wheels went by them; and when the living creatures were lifted up from the earth, the wheels were lifted up.” Let us bless God that he has made angels ministering spirits to minister unto them that are heirs of salvation.
    III. Our third remark shall be, that PROVIDENCE IS UNIVERSAL.
    That you will see by the text: “Behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces.” The wheel had “four faces.” I think that means one face to the north, another to the south, another to the east, and another to the west. There is a face to every quarter. Providence is universal, looking to every quarter of the globe. Have you ever been in a house where there was an old picture hanging? I have sometimes stood in a picture-gallery, and there has been some old warrior: he has looked at me. If I have gone to the other end of the room, he has still looked at me; wherever you are in the room, a well-painted portrait will be looking at you. Such is the Providence of God; wherever you are, the eye of God will be upon you—as much upon you as if there were not another person in the whole world. If there were only one, you might think how much God would look upon that one, but he looks on each one of us as if there were no other created being, and nothing else in the whole world. His eye is fixed upon us at every hour, and at every moment. Wherever we may be, we shall have one face of the wheel turned upon us.
    You cannot banish me from my Lord. Send me to the snows of Siberia or Lapland, I shall have the eyes of God there; send me to Australia, and let me toil at the gold diggings, there will he visit me. If you send me to the utmost verge of the round globe, I shall still have the eye of God upon me. Put me in the desert where there is not one single blade of grass growing, and his presence shall cheer me. Or let me go to sea, amid the howlings of the tempest and the shrieking wind, where the mad waves lift up their hands to the skies as if they would pluck the stars from their cloudy thrones, and I shall have the eye of God there. Let me sink, and let my gurgling voice be heard among the waves—let my body lie down in the caverns of the sea, and the eye of God shall be on every bone, and in the day of the resurrection shall my every atom be tracked in its wanderings. Yes, the eye of God is everywhere; Providence is universal.
    Now there may be some here who have friends far away—let me comfort them. The eye of God is looking on them. There may be some here who are about to part with beloved ones who are going to distant countries. Wherever they are, they will be as much in the keeping of God as though they were here. If one part of the world is not as near the sun’s light as another, yet they are all equally near the eye of our God. Transport me where you please—wherever the cloudy pillar of Providence shall guide me—and I shall have God with me. That thought comforted the great traveler, Mungo Park, when he was in the desert of Sahara. He had been robbed and stripped of every thing, and was left naked. He suddenly saw a little piece of moss, and taking it up, he saw how beautiful it was. He said: “Then the hand of God is here—here is one of his works; though I call loudly none can hear me, for there is nothing but the prowling lion and the howling jackal; yet God is here.” That comforted him. Wherever you may be, whatever may be your case, God will be with you. Whatever period of your life you may now be in, God is with you. His eye is at the bridal and at the funeral; at the cradle and at the grave. In the battle, God’s eye is looking through the smoke; in the revolution, there is God’s hand managing the masses of men who have broken loose from their rulers. In the earthquake, there is Jehovah manifest; in the tempest, there is God’s hand, tossing the bark, dashing it against the rocks, or saving it in his hand from the boisterous waves. In all seasons, at all times, in all dangers, and in all climates, there is the hand of God.
    IV. Our next remark is, that PROVIDENCE IS UNIFORM.
    It is only one Providence, and ever one. “Now as I beheld the living creatures, behold one wheel upon the earth by the living creatures, with his four faces. The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl: and they four had one likeness.” There were four wheels and four faces, yet one likeness. There was but one piece of machinery; and thus we are taught that Providence is all one. Sometimes providences seem to cross each other. One thing that God does seems to contradict the next thing; but it never really does so.
    It is a great truth, though hard for us to grasp, that Providence is one. Just look at the case of Joseph. God has it in his mind that Joseph shall be governor over all the land of Egypt: how is that to be done? The first thing to be done is that Joseph’s brethren must hate him. O, say you, that is a step backward. Next, Joseph’s brethren must put him in the pit. That is another step backward, say you. No, it is not: wait a little. Joseph’s brethren must sell him; that is another step backward, is it not? Providence is one, and you must not look at its separate parts. He is sold; he becomes a favorite: so far, so good. That is a step onward. Anon, he is put in a dungeon. Wait and see the end; all the different parts of the machinery are one. They appear to clash; but they never do. Put them all together. If Joseph had not been put in the pit, he never would have been the servant of Potiphar: if he never had been put in the round-house, he never would have interpreted the jailor’s dream; and if the king had never dreamed, he would not have been sent for. There were a thousand chances, as the world has it, working together to produce the exaltation of Joseph. Providence is one: it never clashes.
    “Oh!” says one, “I cannot understand that; Providence seems to be very adverse to me. Mrs. Hannah More, I think it is, says, she went into a place where they were manufacturing a carpet. She said: “There is no beauty there.” The man said: “It is one of the most beautiful carpets you ever saw.” “Why, here is a piece hanging out, and it is all in disorder.” “Do you know why, ma’am? You look at the wrong side.” So it is very often with us. You and I think Providence is very bad, because we are looking at the wrong side. We do took at the wrong side while we are here, but when we get to heaven we shall see the right side of God’s dealings; and when we do we shall say., “Lord, how wonderful are thy works: in wisdom thou hast made them all: glorious are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well.” You have been puzzled sometimes to think why that friend was brought into the grave. You have said, Why was I made sick at such a time? Why that trouble and that calamity? That is no business of yours. It is yours to believe that all things work together for one great purpose: that one thing never crosses another. But you must not expect to see it so just yet. Here on earth the machine appears to be broken into pieces, and we can only see it in confusion: but in heaven we shall see it all put together. Suppose I go into a place where some great artist is manufacturing a machine: I say, Do you mean to say this is a machine? Yes, and an exquisite one it will be. It does not look like it; I could not put it together. O, no, sir, you could not, but I can: and come and see it when I have put it together, and you shall see that each part fits—that each cog on one wheel will work on the cog of another wheel, and all the parts will move together when I adjust them. Do not find fault with it, and say, One is too small and another too large, because you know nothing at all about it. So, dear friends, you and I can never see but parts of God’s ways. We only see here a wheel and there a wheel; but we must wait till we get to heaven, then we shall see the right side of the carpet; we shall see it all put together, and then we shall see it was one piece of machinery, had one end, one aim, one object, and was all one.
    V. The next thought is, that, in this text, PROVIDENCE IS COMPARED TO THE SEA.
    Look to the 16th verse—”The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl.” The word beryl is commonly used in Scripture to denote the ocean, because it bears the greatest likeness to that deep green you sometimes see, and at other times the blue appearance of the sea. Let us transport ourselves for a moment to the top of some high cliff, and we look down on the noisy ocean. It has been the theme of a thousand songs; it has bome myriads of fleets on its mighty breast. Ay! and yet there it is rolling on. If you begin to think about the ocean, though it is one of the minor parts of God’s works compared with the constellations of the heavens, and the globes which he has hung on high, you begin to be lost in the vastness of your conceptions concerning the greatness of God’s works. And so with providence.
    It is like the ocean for another reason. The sea is never still; both day and night it is always moving. In the day, when the sun shines upon it, its waves march up in marshaled order as if about to capture the whole land, and drown all the solid earth. Then again they march back each one as if reluctant to yield its prey. It is always moving: the moon shines upon it, and the stars light it up; still it moves. Or, it is darkness, and notfiing is seen; still it moves—by night and day the restless billows chant a boisterous hymn of glory, or murmur the solemn dirge of mariners wrecked far out in the depths. Such is Providence; by night or day Providence is always going on. The farmer sleeps, but his wheat is growing. The mariner on the sea sleeps, but the wind and the waves are carrying on his bark. Providence! thou never stoppest; thy mighty wheels never stay their everlasting circles. As the blue ocean has rolled on impetuously for ages, so shall Providence, until he who first set it in motion shall bid it stop; and then its wheels shall cease, forever fixed by the eternal decree of the mighty God.
    Again, you will see another reason why the sea is like Providence. Man cannot manage it. Who can rule or govern the sea? Men cannot. Xerxes made chains for the Hellespont, and lashed the sea with whips because it washed away his boats; but what cared the sea about that? It laughed at him; and if he had not been too great a coward to put himself on its bosom, it might have swallowed him. Canute put his chair on the beach, and bade the waves retire. What cared they for him? They came and would have washed him and his chair away if he had not moved backward. The sea is not to be governed by man. A whole fleet sails over it, and it is only like a feather blown by the wind across the surface of a brook. All we ever put on the sea is as nothing. It can nevcr be restrained, nor chained, nor managed by man. Greedy man hath carved the land, but the sea has no landmark. It is impetuous; it follows its own will. So does Providence; it will not be managed by man. Napoleon once heard it said, that man proposes and God disposes. “Ah,” said Napoleon, “but I propose and dispose too.” How do you think he proposed and disposed. He proposed to go and take Russia; he proposed to make all Europe his. He proposed to destroy that power, and how did he come back again? How had he disposed it? He came back solitary and alone, his mighty army perished and wasted,. having well-nigh eaten and devoured one another through hunger. Man proposes and God disposes. Providence, like the sea, cannot be directed by man; it can be controlled by God. “It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”— 

“Chained to his throne a volume lies,
With all the fates of men.”
Man cannot alter it, and cannot change it. Let him try to stand against God’s Providence; and Providence will grind and crush him.
    There are many more reasons; but I think it would be wasting time to notice them. I leave you to finish that part of the subject.
    VI. Again, GOD’S PROVIDENCE IS INTRICATE.
    This is our sixth remark; and that you will find is here too. “The appearance of the wheels and their work was like unto the color of a beryl; and they four had one likeness: and their appearance and their work was as it were a wheel in the middle of a wheel.” We have just said that Providence is intricate. When Joseph brought his two sons up to Jacob’s deathbed side, Jacob ordered the two boys to be brought; and when he was about to bless them, he guided his hands wittingly; and he put his right hand on the head of the youngest, and his left hand on the head of the eldest. “O!” said Joseph, “not so, my father.” But he said, “it is even so;” and he gave the blessing. He would not give the blessing in any other way; but he crossed his hands. And so God usually blesses his children by crossing his hands. We say, “Do not deal so with me.” “It is even so, child; there is a blessing on thy head.” Do not say, Uncross thy hands; that is the way to bless the most of all. I wish to put thee greatest blessing upon thee; and therefore I have crossed my hands. Providence is wonderfully intricate. Ah! you want always to see through Providence, do you not? You never will, I assure you. You have not eyes good enough. You want to see what good that affliction was to you; you must believe it. You want to see how it can bring good to the soul; you may be enabled in a little time; but you cannot see it now; you must believe it. Honor God by trusting him. God has many gordian knots which wicked men may cut, and which righteous men may try to unravel, but which God alone can untie. We see the wicked prosper; they flourish, and great is their power, while the righteous are cast down. We say why? There are wheels within wheels. Do not fret yourselves because evil-doers are more prosperous. There may be a nation that seems to have right on its side; that nation may be crushed, and another people who are tyrannical may get the victory. Do not say why? Do not ask? You shall know the reason when you get up yonder: 

“God plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.”
Do not attempt to do what Gabriel never dare do—to ask the reason why, for God will never give it.
    VII. PROVIDENCE IS ALWAYS CORRECT.
    I shall not detain you long over this. The prophet saw the wheels, and he well says, they turned not when they went, they always went straight forward; they never turned to the right or to the left. Such is God’s Providence. Man marks out plans: he says, I shall build this tower; he gets it halfway up, and he finds he has not enough to finish it with; he has to pull it down, lay a smaller foundation, and build again. God never does so; he has a plan when he begins, and he carries that plan out: he lays the foundation, and always finishes the topstone. There are some who talk about God’s changing his purpose; such people do not know what God is at all. How could God change? God must either change from a better to a worse, or from a worse to a better. If he change from a worse to a better, he is not perfect now; and if he change from what he is to something worse, he will not be perfect then, and he will not be God. He cannot change. It is not possible that God should ever change or shift in any of his purposes. Can he change because he has not power? Why, sirs, he could girdle this globe with mountains, or move the hills into the sea. Can he change because he has not patience enough? What, he who from his purpose never swerves? Shall he change because he has made a mistake? Shall the Most High, Jehovah, ever have an error in his mighty mind? To err is human. With the divine Being the whole goes on, and what he has ordained shall be. On the iron rock of destiny it is written, and it cannot be altered. God moves the wheel, and the wheel goes on; and though a thousand armies stand to stop it, it goes on still. “They turned not to the right hand not to the left when they went.”
    I cannot make out what some of you do with your comfortless gospel—believing that God loves you today, and hates you tomorrow—that you are a child of God one day, and a child of the devil the next. I could not believe a gospel like that. If I were a heathen, I could believe it at once, because I could manufacture a god of wood and stone. I would have a god of mud, that I could alter with my fingers, and change it to any fashion. But if I once believe in a God that “was and is, and is to come,” I know he cannot change; and I feel a constancy of faith, and a firmness of hope, which the cares and trials of this mortal life cannot destroy. He will not cast off his people whom he hath chosen.
    VIII. One more thought. PROVIDENCE IS AMAZING.
    We shall not dwell on this; but just show you that the text says so. “As for their rings, they were so high that they were dreadful; and their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” Even the man that knows that every wave that dashes against the ship is washing him nearer home—that every breath of wind that rises comes to his sail and fills it, and sends it to the white cliffs of his native Albion—even the man that feels that all is for him—even he must say that Providence is amazing. O! that thought, it staggers thought! O! it is an idea that overwhelms me—that God is working all! The sins of man, the wickedness of our race, the crimes of nations, the iniquities of kings, the cruelties of wars, the terrific scourge of pestilence—all these things in some mysterious way are working the will of God! We must not look at it; we cannot look at it. I cannot explain it. I cannot tell you where human will and free agency unite with God’s sovereignty and with his unfailing decrees. This has been the place where intellectual gladiators have fought with each other ever since the time of Adam. Some have said, Man does as he likes; and others have said, God does as he pleases. In one sense, they are both true; but there is no man that has brains or understanding enough to show where they meet. We cannot tell how it is that I do just as I please as to which street I shall go home by; and yet I cannot go home but through a certain road. John Newton used to say, there were two streets to go to St. Mary Woolnoth; but Providence directed him as to which he should use. Last Sabbathday I came down a certain street I do not know why—and there was a young man who wished to speak to me; he wished to see me many times before. I say that was God’s Providence—that I might meet that young man. Here was Providence, and yet there was my choice; how, I cannot tell. I cannot comprehend it. I believe that every particle of dust that dances in the sunbeam does not move an atom more or less than God wishes—that every particle of spray that dashes against the steamboat has its orbit as well as the sun in the heavens—that the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses. The creeping of an aphis over the rosebud is as much fixed as the march of the devastating pestilence—the fall of sere leaves from a poplar is as fully ordained as the tumbling of an avalanche. He that believes in a God must believe this truth. There is no standing-point between this and atheism. There is no half way between a mighty God that worketh all things by the sovereign counsel of his will and no God at all. A God that cannot do as he pleases—a God whose will is frustrated, is not a God, and cannot be a God. I could not believe in such a God as that.
    IX. Our last and closing idea is, that PROVIDENCE IS FULL OF WISDOM.
    You will see this by the last part of the 18th verse—”And their rings were full of eyes round about them four.” You will say this morning, Our minister is a fatalist. Your minister is no such thing. Some will say, Ah! he believes in fate. He does not believe in fate at all. What is fate? Fate is this—Whatever is, must be. But there is a difference between that and Providence. Providence says, Whatever God ordains must be; but the wisdom of God never ordains any thing without a purpose. Every thing in this world is working for some one great end. Fate does not say that. Fate simply says that the thing must be; Providence says, God moves the wheels along, and there they are. If any thing would go wrong, God puts it right; and if there is any thing that would move awry, he puts his hand and alters it. It comes to the same thing; but there is a difference as to the object. There is all the difference between fate and Providence that there is between a man with good eyes and a blind man. Fate is a blind thing; it is the avalanche crushing the village down below and destroying thousands. Providence is not an avalanche; it is a rolling river, rippling at the first like a rill down the sides of the mountain, followed by minor streams, till it rolls in the broad ocean of everlasting love, working for the good of the human race. The doctrine of Providence is not, that what is, must be; but that, what is, works together for the good of our race, and especially for the good of the chosen people of God. The wheels are full of eyes; not blind wheels.
    Let us close with the thought, that there is the greatest wisdom in the workings of Providence. Now you were in great distress probably, and you could not see why. The next time you are in distress, you must say, The wheels are full of eyes: I have but two eyes; but God’s wheels are full of eyes—God can see every thing; I can only see one thing at a time. I see it looks good for me now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I see what the plant is now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I see what the plant is now; I do not know what it will be tomorrow. I know not what kind of flower that herb will yield. This affliction is a cassava root, full of poison, and would soon destroy me; but God can put that in the oven, so that all the poison shall evaporate, and it shall become food for me to live upon. This trouble of mine seems to me to be destructive: God shall get all the destroying power out of it, and it shall be made food. Now, thou tried one, groaning down in the valley, up with thine heart; away with thy tears; put thy hand on thy breast, and make thy heart stop its hard beating—thou poor soul! dash the cup of misery from thine hand; thou art not condemned; thou art a pardoned Christian. Remember that God hath said, “All things work together for good”—more still, they “work together for good to them that love God, even to them that are called according to his purpose.” O! how I would like to make your hearts like flint and steel against trouble! We cannot bear the winds of trouble; we are soon cast down and broken-hearted. When we are in prosperity, we are giants; we think we can do like Samson; we can take hold of the two pillars of trouble and distress, and we can pull them down. But once tell us that the Philistines will be upon us, and we have no power.
    He who has faith is better than the stoic. The stoical philosopher bore it, because he believed it must be; the Christian bears it because he believes it is working for his good. Next time trouble comes, disease comes, pestilence comes, smile at it, and say: 

“He that has made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode;
Shall walk all day beneath his shade,
And there at night shall rest his head.”
Let this be thy shield to keep off the thrusts of distress, let this be thy high rock against all the winds of sorrow. Sing, 

“Though the way may be rough, it cannot be long,
So smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.”
 


EXPOSITION BY C. H. Spurgeon

Psalm 103

 

    Verse 1. Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name.1
    Come, my heart, be down in the dumps no longer, take thy harp from the willows, tune its strings, and begin to pour forth its music to the praise of love divine.
    2-4. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities, who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies;
    This is a better crown than any emperor ever wore, unless he also was a child of God. Priceless gems and jewels rare adorn this wondrous coronet; “who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies.”
    5-9. Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; is that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The LORD executeth righteousness and judgment for all that are oppressed. He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel. The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. He will not always chide.2
    Art thou suffering his chidings just now? They are good for thee, but they will not last for ever: “He will not always chide:”—
    9, 10. Neither will he keep his anger for ever. He hath not dealt with us after our sins;—
    It is all of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed: “He hath not dealt with us after our sins;”—
    10-12. Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us.3
    Then, surely, he will also remove our troubles from us; but if not, as he has removed our transgressions so far away that they can never be brought back again, we have real cause for joy whatever happens to us here.
    13. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the LORD pitieth them that fear him.4
    The very best of them are only objects of pity. Though they are the best, they need that he should look down upon them with infinite compassion.
    14-19. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. The LORD hath prepared his throne in the heaven; and his kingdom ruleth over all.
    What a comfort this is for us! Over the great as well as over the little, over all parts of the earth, as well where war rageth as where peace reigneth “his kingdom ruleth over all.” Nothing happeneth without his permission, even the little things of life are ordered by him; the foreknown station of a rush by the riverside is as fixed as the place of a king, and the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as surely as the stars in their courses; for, to God, nothing is little and nothing is great.
    20, 21. Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts;”—
    Let all the armies of heaven break forth into one song: “Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts;”—
    21. 22. Ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure. Bless the LORD, all his works in all places of his dominion: bless the LORD, O my soul.

Works/Sermons of Charles Spurgeon