Archive for the ‘C. H. Spurgeon’ Category

Our Duty and His Strength
Charles Spurgeon

“And they say unto him, ‘We have here but five loaves, and two fishes.’ He said, ‘Bring them hither to me.’” — Matthew 14:17-18

Our line of duty begins, first of all, in immediate obedience to Christ’s first command: “Bring ye them to me.”  “Five loaves, Master, it is all we have; two fishes.”  “Bring ye them to me.”  “Master, they are barley loaves; only five.” “Bring them to me.”  “There are two fishes; they are only two; they are not worth thinking of; let us keep them for ourselves.”  “No, bring them to me.”  “But they are such little fishes.”  “Bring them to me,” saith he, “bring them to me.”  The Church’s first duty is, when she looks to her resources and feels them to be utterly insufficient for her work, still to bring all that she has to Christ.  But how shall you bring them?  Why, in many ways. 

You must bring them to Christ in consecration.  There is a brother yonder who says, “Well, I have but little money to spare!”  “Never mind,” says Christ, “let what you have be brought to me.”  “Ah,” says another, “I have very short time that I can spare in laboring to do good.”  “Bring it to me.”  “Ah,” says another, “but I have small ability; my stock of knowledge is very slender; my speech is contemptible.”  “Bring it to me.”  “Oh,” saith one, “I could only teach in the Sunday school.”  “Bring it to me.”  “Ah,” says another, “and I do not know that I could do that; I could but distribute a tract.”  “Bring it to me.”  Every talent that the Church has is to be brought to Christ, and consecrated.  And mark you this – I speak a strong thing which some will not be able to receive – anything which you have in this world, which you do not consecrate to Christ’s cause, you do rob the Lord of.  Every true Christian, when he gave himself to Christ, gave everything he had.  Neither calls he anything that he has his own, but it is all the Master’s.  We are not true to the Master’s cause unless it be so. 

Bring ye them to me – not only in consecration, but also in prayer.  I think our prayer-meetings should be the seasons when the Church brings up all her barley loaves and fishes to Christ.  To get them blessed, here we come together around the altar.  We are weak and feeble, we come to be made strong; we have no power of ourselves, we come that we may receive power from on high; and we wait in the prayer-meeting, as thy disciples did in the upper room at Jerusalem, till the Spirit be poured out.  It is marvelous how a man with one talent can sometimes do ten times more than a man with ten talents, for he has ten times the grace.  A soldier, after all, is not always useful according to his weapon.  Give a fool an Armstrong gun [an early machine gun], and perhaps he will destroy himself with it.  Give a wise man but the poorest piece of fire-arms, and you shall find, with good and steady aim, and bold advance, he shall do more service with his small weapons, than the other with far better arms.  So there are men, who seem as if they might be leaders in God’s house, that are laggards, doing nothing, while there are others who are but little in Israel, whom God through his grace makes to be mighty.  Bring ye hither, O ye servants of the Lord, all that ye have kept back, pour ye all the tithes into his storehouse, that his house may be full. 

“Prove me now,” saith the Lord of hosts, “if I do not open the windows of heaven and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.”  Let us bring all we have to Christ, likewise in faith, laying it all at his feet, believing that his great power can make little means suffice for mighty ends.  “Lord, there are only five loaves,” – they were five loaves only when we had them in our hands, but now they are in thy hands, they are food for five thousand men.  “Lord, there are two fishes,” – they were paltry to insignificance while they were ours, but thy touch has ennobled them, and those little fishes shall become food for that vast multitude.  Blessed is that man who, feeling that he has truly consecrated all to God, can say, “There is enough. I do not want more talent; I do not need more substance; I would not wish to have more, there is enough for my work; I know it is utterly insufficient in itself, but our sufficiency is of God.” 

Oh! do not tell me, sirs, that we, as a denomination, are too feeble to do much good.  Do not tell me that the Christianity of England is too weak for the evangelization of the whole world.  No such thing: there is enough, there is plenty if the Master pleases it.  If there were only six good men living, and these six were thoroughly consecrated to God, they would be enough for the world’s conversion.  It is not the multiplication of your means, it is not the complication of your machinery, it is not the organization of your societies, it is not the qualification of your secretaries that God cares for a whit; it is your consecrated men who are wholly his and only his.  Let them believe that he can make them mighty, and they shall be mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.  I hesitate not to say that there are some pulpits that would be better empty than occupied; that there are some congregations to whom it would be far better if they had no preacher at all; for, having a minister who is not ordained of God, and not speaking by faith, they content themselves with things as they are, and grow listless.  Were the sham taken away, they might cry out for a real ministry.  God would bestow on them one taught of the Holy Ghost, who would speak with a tongue of fire, with inward witness and with spiritual energy, resting his confidence in God’s promises and his Word.  Oh dear friends, we ought to believe that there is enough means if Christ do but bless them, enough to bring in God’s chosen ones. 

“Bring ye them to me,” once more, in active service.  That which is dedicated to Christ in solemn covenant, and in earnest prayer, and in humble faith, must be dedicated in active service.  Are youall at work for Christ?  Are you all doing something for Christ?  I think there should not be a single member of this Church who is not somehow occupied for the Master.  Shall I except any? – except the weak upon their beds; and they can speak a good word for him when they are visited: except the dying upon their couches, and they can bear a blessed testimony to his faithfulness when they are going through the river: except the dumb, and they can act religion, when they cannot speak it: except the blind, and they can sing his praises: except the utterly incapacitated, and these can magnify the Lord by their patience.  Still we ought, everyone of us, if we be Christ’s, to be serving him. 

Now dear friends, if you want any inducements to lead you to bring all that you have to Christ, let me urge this.  In bringing it to him, you put your talent into his hand, whose hand was pierced for you.  You give to him who is your dearest friend; you give to him who spared not the blood of his heart that he might redeem you.  Do you not love him?  Is it not an honor to be permitted to show your love to so notable and noble a personage?  We have heard of women that have worked and all but starved themselves to bring food for their children; and as they put the precious morsels into the little ones’ mouths, they felt their toil to be nothing, because they were giving it to those they loved.  And so with the believer – he should feel that he most blesses himself when he blesses Christ.  And, indeed, when the Christian doeth ought for Jesus, it more blesses him that gives than him that takes.

Besides, when you give to him, you have another inducement, that you are thus giving to the multitude.  I know people think, when they are doing something for the Church that they are pleasing the minister; or pleasing the deacons.  Oh! dear friends, it is not so.  What interest have I in all the world but the love of poor souls.  There is a man, I think, present now, who I remember, some two or three winters ago, came to me to join the Church.  And when I sat down in the room to talk to him, I saw by the look of the poor man’s face he wanted bread natural as well as bread spiritual.  So I said, “Before I talk to you, I should like to see you a little refreshed;” and we fetched him something to eat.  I looked at him for a minute, for I saw his eyes glisten, and I left the room, for fear he should not eat so much when I was there.  This though I can tell you, when I saw the great pleasure with which he ate, it would have been sufficient compensation to me if that little had cost ten thousand pounds.  And when you see the poor sinner lay hold of Christ so greedily, and yet so joyfully, when you see his gleaming eye, and the tear as it runs down his cheek, you will say, I am too well paid to have done good to such a poor heart as this.  Lord, it is enough; I have fed these hungry souls.

Then to close this point.  “Bring ye them to me, and ye shall have as much left as ye had when ye brought them.”  They took up of the fragments more than ever they gave.  Christ will never let any man die in his debt.  What ye have done unto him is abundantly repaid, if not in temporals, yet in spirituals.  The fragments shall fill the baskets that are so liberally emptied.  You shall find that while watering others you are yourself watered.  The joy you impart shall be mutual.  To do good is to get good, and to distribute to others for Christ is the surest way of enriching one’s self.

The rest of the believer’s duty I will briefly sum up.  When you have brought your talents to Christ and have a conscientiousness of your great mission, your next duty is to look up.  Thank God for what you have got: look up!  Say, “There is nothing in what I do; there is nothing in my prayers, my preachings, my goings, my doings, except thou bless the whole.  Lord, bless it!”  Then, when you have blessed, break.  Go abroad and actively serve the Master, and when you have thus broken and have thus distributed to others, mind that you only distribute from Christ’s own hand.  You are to put your talents and abilities into Christ’s hand.  He gives the blessing on it; then he gives back to you: afterwards, you give it to the people.  If I give you bread from this pulpit to eat that is my own, it will be of no use to you.  But if, having gotten it in my study, I put it in the hand of Christ and come up here, and Christ hands it back to me and I give it to you, you shall be fed to the full.  This is Christ’s way of blessing men; he does not give the blessing first to the world; it is to his disciples, and then the disciples to the multitude.  We get in private what we distribute in public.  We have access to God as his chosen favorites.  We come near to him.  He gives to us, we give to others. 

Now I want to end by making you say, “We can.”  Yes! Christ is with us, and we can.  God is for us, and we can.  The Holy Ghost is in us, and we can.  God the Holy Spirit calls us, Jesus Christ the Son of God cheers us, God the Father smiles upon us; we can, we must, we will.  The kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.  But have we believed in Christ ourselves?  If not, we can do nothing.  Come to Jesus first, then work for Jesus.  Give him your own heart first, then give him all that you have.  So shall he accept your offering, and bless your soul for his name’s sake.


Excerpted and edited from Spurgeon’s sermon, “Compassion for the Multitude.”

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The Resurrection Credible By C. H. Spurgeon PDF

By C. H. Spurgeon



“Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead?” — Acts 26:8


Concerning the souls of our believing friends who have departed this life we suffer no distress, we feel sure that they are where Jesus is, and behold his glory, according to our Lord’s own memorable prayer.  We know but very little of the disembodied state, but we know quite enough to rest certain beyond all doubt that —


“They are supremely blest,

Have done with sin,

and care, and woe,

And with their Savior rest.”


Our main trouble is about their bodies, which we have committed to the dark and lonesome grave.  We cannot reconcile ourselves to the facts that their dear faces are being stripped of all their beauty by the fingers of decay, and that all the insignia of their manhood should be fading into corruption.  It seems hard that the hands and feet, and all the goodly fabric of their noble forms, should be dissolved into dust, and broken into an utter ruin.  We cannot stand at the grave without tears; even the perfect Man could not restrain his weeping at Lazarus’ tomb.  It is a sorrowful thought that our friends are dead, nor can we ever regard the grave with love.  We cannot say that we take pleasure in the catacomb and the vault.  We still regret, and feel it natural to do so, that so dreadful a ban has fallen upon our race as that it should be “appointed unto all men once to die.”  God sent it as a penalty, and we cannot rejoice in it.


The glorious doctrine of the resurrection is intended to take away this cause of sorrow.  We need have no trouble about the body, any more than we have concerning the soul.  Faith being exercised upon immortality relieves us of all trembling as to the spirits of the just; and the same faith, if exercised upon resurrection, will with equal certainty efface all hopeless grief with regard to the body; for, though apparently destroyed, the body will live again — it has not gone to annihilation.  That very frame which we lay in the dust shall but sleep there for a while, and, at the trump of the archangel, it shall awaken in superior beauty, clothed with attributes unknown to it while here.  The Lord’s love to his people is a love towards their entire manhood, he chose them not as disembodied spirits, but as men and women arrayed in flesh and blood.  The love of Jesus Christ towards his chosen is not an affection for their better nature merely, but towards that also which we are wont to think their inferior part; for in his book all their members were written, he keepeth all their bones, and the very hairs of their head are all numbered.  Did he not assume our perfect manhood?


He took into union with his Deity a human soul, but he also assumed a human body; and in that fact he gave us evidence of his affinity to our perfect manhood, to our flesh, and to our blood, as well as to our mind and to our spirit.  Moreover, our Redeemer has perfectly ransomed both soul and body.  It was not partial redemption which our kinsman effected for us.  We know that our Redeemer liveth, not only with respect to our spirit, but with regard to our body; so that though the worm shall devour its skin and flesh, yet shall it rise again because he has redeemed it from the power of death, and ransomed it from the prison of the grave.


The whole manhood of the Christian has already been sanctified.  It is not merely that with his spirit he serves his God, but he yields his members to be instruments unto righteousness to the glory of his heavenly father.  “Know ye not,” says the apostle, “that your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost,’ surely that which has been a temple of the Holy Ghost shall not be ultimately destroyed.  It may be taken down, as the tabernacle was in the wilderness, but taken down to be put up again: or, to use another form of the same figure, the tabernacle may go, but only that the temple may follow.  “We know that if this earthly house of our tabernacle were dissolved we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  My brethren, it would not be a complete victory over sin and Satan, if the Savior left a part of his people in the grave; it would not look as if he had destroyed all the worlds of the devil if he only emancipated their spirits.  There shall not be a bone, nor a piece of a bone, of any one of Christ’s people left in the charnel house at the last.  Death shall not have a solitary trophy to show: his prison-house shall be utterly rifled of all the spoil which he has gathered from our humanity.  The Lord Jesus in all things shall have the pre-eminence, and even as to our materialism he shall vanquish death and the grave, leading our captivity captive.  It is a joy to think that, as Christ has redeemed the entire man, and sanctified the entire man, and will be honored in the salvation of the entire man, so our complete manhood shall have it in its power to glorify him.


The hands with which we sinned shall be lifted in eternal adoration; the eyes which have gazed on evil shall behold the King in his beauty.  Not merely shall the mind which now loves the Lord be perpetually knit to him, and the spirit which contemplates him will delight for ever in him, and be in communion with him; but this very body which has been a clog and hindrance to the spirit, and been an arch rebel against the sovereignty of Christ, shall yield him homage with voice, and hand, and brain, and ear, and eye.  We look to the time of resurrection for the accomplishment of our adoption, to wit, the redemption of the body.

How, this being our hope, though we believe and rejoice in it in a measure, we have, nevertheless, to confess that, sometimes, questions suggest themselves, and the evil heart of unbelief cries, “Can it be true?  Is it possible?”  At such times the question of our text is exceedingly needful, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?”


How are we to meet the demands of the case?

We would REMOVE THE DIFFICULTY.  We make no empty boast, the matter is simple.  Read the text again with due emphasis, and it is done.  “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that GOD should raise the dead?”  It might seem incredible that the dead should be raised, but why should it seem incredible that GOD, the Almighty, the Infinite, should raise the dead?  Grant a God, and no difficulties remain.  Grant that God is, and that he is omnipotent: grant that he has said the dead shall be raised, and belief is no longer hard but inevitable.  Impossibility and incredulity — both vanish in the presence of God.

I believe this is the only way in which the difficulties of faith should be met: it is of no use to run to reason for weapons against unbelief, the Word of God is the true defense of faith.  It is foolish to build with wood and hay when solid stones may be had.  If my heavenly Father makes a promise, or reveals a truth, am I not to believe him till I have asked the philosophers about it?  Is God’s word only true when finite reason approves of it?  After all, is man’s judgment the ultimatum, and is God’s word only to be taken when we can see for ourselves, and therefore have no need of revelation at all?  Far from us be this spirit.  Let God be true, and every man a liar.  We are not staggered when the wise men mock at us, but we fall back upon “thus saith the Lord.”  One word from God outweighs for us a library of human lore.  To the Christian, God’s spoken word stands in the stead of all reason.  Our logic is, “God has said it,” and this is our rhetoric too.  If God declares that the dead shall be raised, it is not a thing incredible to us.


Difficulty is not in the dictionary of the Godhead.  Is anything too hard for the Lord?  Heap up the difficulties, if you like, make the doctrine more and more hard for reason to compass, so long as it contains no self-evident contradiction and inconsistency, we rejoice in the opportunity to believe great things concerning a Great God.


When Paul uttered our text he was speaking to a Jew, he was addressing Agrippa, one to whom he could say, “King Agrippa, believest thou the prophets?  I know that thou believest!”  It was, therefore, good reasoning to use with Agrippa, to say, “Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?”  For first, as a Jew, Agrippa had the testimony of Job — “For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”


He had, also, the testimony of David, who, in the sixteenth Psalm, says, “My flesh also shall rest in hope.”  He had the testimony of Isaiah in the twenty-sixth chapter and the nineteenth verse, “Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise.  Awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust: for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast out the dead.”


He had the testimony of Daniel in his twelfth chapter, second and third verses, where the prophet says, “And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.  And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”  And then again, in Hosea 8:14, Agrippa had another testimony where the Lord declares “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.”  Thus God had plainly promised resurrection in the Old Testament Scriptures, and that fact should be quite enough for Agrippa.  If the Lord has said it, it is no longer doubtful.


To us as Christians there has been granted yet fuller evidence.  Remember how our Lord has spoken concerning resurrection: with no bated breath has he declared his intention to raise the dead.  Remarkable is that passage in John 5:28, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.”  And so in chapter 6:40, “And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”


The Holy Ghost has spoken the same truth by the apostles.  In that precious and most blessed eighth chapter of the Romans, we have a testimony in the eleventh verse, “But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.”  I read you just now the passage from the first of Thessalonians, which is very full indeed, where we are bidden not to sorrow as those that are without hope; and you have in the Philippians the third chapter and twenty-first verse, another proof, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.”  I scarcely need remind you of that grand chapter of massive argument, Corinthians the fifteenth.  Beyond all doubt the testimony of the Holy Ghost is that the dead shall rise; and granted that there is an Almighty God, we find no difficulty in accepting the doctrine and entertaining the blessed hope.


At the same time it may be well to look around us, and note what helps the Lord has appointed for our faith.  I am quite certain, dear friends, that there are many wonders in the world which we should not have believed by mere report, if we had not come across them by experience and observation.  The electric telegraph, though it be but an invention of man, would have been as hard to believe in a thousand years ago as the resurrection of the dead is now.  Who in the days of packhorses would have believed in flashing a message from England to America?  When our missionaries in tropical countries have told the natives of the formation of ice, and that persons could walk across frozen water, and of ships that have been surrounded by mountains of ice in the open sea, the water becoming solid and hard as a rock all around them, the natives have refused to believe such absurd reports.


Everything is wonderful till we are used to it, and resurrection owes the incredible portion of its marvel to the fact of our never having come across it in our observation — that is all.  After the resurrection, we shall regard it as a divine display of power as familiar to us as creation and providence now are.  I have no doubt we shall adore and bless God, and wonder at resurrection forever, but it will be in the same sense in which every devout mind wonders at creation now.  We shall grow accustomed to this new work of God when we have entered upon our longer life.  We were only born but yesterday, and have seen little as yet.  God’s works require far more than our few earthy years of observation, and when we have entered into eternity, are out of our minority, and have come of age, that which astounds us now will have become a familiar theme for praise.


Will resurrection be a greater wonder than creation?  You believe that God spoke the world out of nothing.  He said, “Let it be,” and the world was.  To create out of nothing is quite as marvelous as to call together scattered particles and refashion them into what they were before.  Either work requires omnipotence, but if there be any choice between them, the resurrection is the easier work of the two.  If it did not happen so often, the birth of every child into the world would astound us.  We should consider a birth to be, as indeed it is, a most transcendent manifestation of divine power.  It is only because we know it and see it so commonly that we do not behold the wonder-working hand of God in human births and in our continued existence.  The thing, I say, only staggers us because we have not become familiar with it as yet: there are other deeds of God which are quite as marvelous.


Remember, too, that there is one thing which, though you have not seen, you have received on credible evidence, which is a part of historic truth, namely, that Jesus Christ rose again from the dead.  He is to you the cause of your resurrection, the type of it, the foretaste of it, the guarantee of it.  As surely as he rose you shall rise. He proved the resurrection possible by rising, nay, he proved it certain because he is the representative man; and, in rising, he rose for all who are represented by him.  “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”  The rising of our Lord from the tomb should forever sweep away every doubt as to the rising of his people.  “For if the dead rise not, then is Christ not raised,” but because he lives, we shall live also.


Remember also, my brethren and sisters, that you who are Christians have already experienced within yourselves as great a work as the resurrection, for you have risen from the dead as to your innermost nature.  You were dead in trespasses and sins, and you have been quickened into newness of life.  Of course the unconverted here will see nothing in this.  The unregenerate man will even ask me what this means, and to him it can be no argument, for it is a matter of experience which one man cannot explain to his fellow.  To know it ye must yourselves be born again.  But, believers, ye have already passed through a resurrection from the grave of sin, and from the rottenness and corruption of evil passions and impure desires, and this resurrection God has wrought in you by a power equal to that which he wrought in Christ when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.  To you the quickening of your spiritual nature is an assured proof that the Lord will also quicken your mortal bodies.


The whole matter is this—that our persuasion of the certainty of the general resurrection rests upon faith in God and his word.  It is both idle and needless to look elsewhere.  If men will not believe the declaration of God, they must be left to give an account to him of their unbelief.  My hearer, if thou art one of God’s elect, thou wilt believe thy God, for God gives faith to all his chosen.  If thou dost reject the divine testimony, thou givest evidence that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and thou wilt perish in it unless grace prevents.  The gospel and the doctrine of the resurrection were opened up to men in all their glory to put a division between the precious and the vile.  “He that is of God,” saith the apostle, “heareth God’s words.”


True faith is the visible mark of secret election.  He that believeth in Christ gives evidence of God’s grace towards him, but he that believes not gives sure proof that he has not received the grace of God.  “But ye believe not,” said Christ, “because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”  Therefore this truth and other Christian truths are to be held up, maintained, and delivered fully to the whole of mankind to put a division between them, to separate the Israelites from the Egyptians, the seed of the woman from the seed of the serpent.  Those whom God has chosen are known by their believing in what God has said; while those who remain unbelieving perish in their sin, condemned by the truth which they wilfully reject.


Taken from a sermon delivered on August 25th, 1872.


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Jesus Declining the Legions C. H. Spurgeon

“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” — Matthew 26:53, 54

It is the garden of Gethsemane.  Here stands our Lord, and yonder is the betrayer.  He is foremost of the multitude.  You know his face, the face of that son of perdition, even Judas Iscariot.  He comes forward, leaving the men with the staves, and the swords, and the torches, and lanterns, and he proceeds to kiss his Master; it is the token by which the officers are to know their victim.  You perceive at once that the disciples are excited: one of them cries, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?”  Their love to their Master has overcome their prudence.  There are but eleven of them, a small band to fight against the cohort sent by the authorities to arrest their Master; but love makes no reckoning of odds.  Before an answer can be given, Peter has struck the first blow, and the servant of the high-priest has narrowly escaped having his head cleft in twain; as it is, his ear is cut off.

Then the Savior comes forward in all his gentleness, as self-possessed as when he was at supper, as calm as if he had not already passed through an agony.  Quietly, he says, “Suffer it to be so now;” he touches the ear, and heals it, and in the lull which followed, when even the men that came to seize him were spell-bound by this wondrous miracle of mercy, he propounds the great truth, that they that take the sword shall perish with the sword, and bids Peter put up his weapon.

Then he utters these memorable words: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?  But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?

For a man to have force ready to his hand, and then to abstain from using it, is a case of self restraint, and possibly of self-sacrifice, of a far nobler kind.  Our Savior had his sword at his side that night, though he did not use it.  “What!” say you, “how can that be true?”  Our Lord says, “Can I not now pray to my Father, and he will give me twelve legions of angels?”

Our Lord had thus the means of self-defense; something far more powerful than a sword hung at his girdle; but he refused to employ the power within his reach.  His servants could not bear this test; they had no self-restraint, the hand of Peter is on his sword at once.  The failure of the servants in this matter seems to me to illustrate the grand self-possession of their Master.

Let us now proceed to learn from the words of the Lord Jesus which we have selected as our text.

Brethren, I would have you notice from the text OUR LORD’S GRAND RESOURCE. “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father?”

Our Lord is surrounded by his adversaries, and there are none about him powerful enough to defend him from their malice; what can he do?  He says, “I can pray to my Father.”  This is our Lord’s continual resource in the time of danger; yea, even in that time of which he said, “This is your hour and the power of darkness.”  He can even now pray to his Father.

First, Jesus had no possessions on earth, but he had a Father. I rejoice in his saying, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father?”  He is a betrayed man; he is given up into the hands of those who thirst for his blood; but he has a Father almighty and divine.  If our Lord had merely meant to say that God could deliver him, he might have said, “Thinkest thou not that I can pray to Jehovah?” or, “to God:” but he uses the sweet expression “my Father” both here and in that text in John, where he says, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?”

O brethren, remember that we have a Father in heaven.  When all is gone and spent, we can say, “Our Father.”  Relatives are dead, but our Father lives.  Supposed friends have left us, even as the swallows quit in our wintry weather; but we are not alone, for the Father is with us.  Cling to that blessed text, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come unto you.”  In every moment of distress, anxiety, perplexity, we have a Father in whose wisdom, truth, and power, we can rely.  Your dear children do not trouble themselves much, do they?  If they have a want, they go to father; if they are puzzled, they ask father; if they are ill-treated, they appeal to father.  If but a thorn is in their finger, they run to mother for relief.  Be it little or great, the child’s sorrow is the parent’s care.  This makes a child’s life easy: it would make ours easy if we would but act as children towards God.  Let us imitate the Elder Brother, and when we, too, are in our Gethsemane, let us, as he did, continue to cry, “My Father, My Father.”  This is a better defense than shield or sword.

Our Lord’s resource was to approach his Father with prevailing prayer.  “Can I not now pray to my Father?”  Our Lord Jesus could use that marvelous weapon of All-prayer, which is shield, and sword, and spear, and helmet, and breast-plate, all in one.  When you can do nothing else, you can pray.  If you can do many things besides, it will still be your wisdom to say, “Let us pray!”  But I think I hear you object, that our Lord had been praying, and yet his griefs were not removed.  He had prayed himself into a bloody sweat with prayer, and yet he was left unprotected, to fall into his enemies’ hands.  This is true, and yet it is not all the truth; for he had been strengthened, and power for deliverance was at his disposal.  He had only to press his suit to be rescued at once.  The Greek word here is not the same word which would set forth ordinary prayer: the Revised Version puts it, “Thinkest thou that I cannot beseech my Father?”  We make a great mistake if we throw all prayer into one category, and think that every form of true prayer is alike.  We may pray and plead, and even do this with extreme earnestness, and yet we may not use that mode of beseeching which would surely bring the blessing.  Hitherto, our Lord had prayed, and prayed intensely, too; but there was yet a higher form of prayer to which he might have mounted if it had been proper so to do.  He could so have besought that the Father must have answered; but he would not.  O brethren, you have prayed a great deal, perhaps, about your trouble, but there is a reserve force of beseeching in you yet: by the aid of the Spirit of God you may pray after a higher and more prevailing rate.  This is a far better weapon than a sword.

I was speaking to a brother yesterday about a prayer which my Lord had remarkably answered in my own case, and I could not help saying to him, “But I cannot always pray in that fashion.  Not only can I not so pray, but I would not dare to do so even if I could.”  Moved by the Spirit of God, we sometimes pray with a power of faith which can never fail at the mercy-seat; but without such an impulse we must not push our own wills to the front.  There are many occasions upon which, if one had all the faith which could move mountains, he would most wisely show it by saying nothing beyond, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  Had our Lord chosen to do so, he had still in reserve a prayer-power which would have effectually saved him from his enemies.  He did not think it right so to use it; but he could have done so had he pleased.

Notice, that our Lord, felt that he could even then pray. Matters had not gone too far for prayer.  When can they do so?  The word “now” practically occurs twice in our version, for we get it first as “now,” and then as “presently.”  It occurs only once in the original; but as its exact position in the verse cannot easily be decided, our translators, with a singular wisdom, have placed it in both the former and the latter part of the sentence.  Our Savior certainly meant — “I am come now to extremities; the people are far away whose favor formerly protected me from the Pharisees; and I am about to be seized by armed men; but even now I can pray to my Father.”

Prayer is an ever-open door. There is no predicament in which we cannot pray.  If we follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth, we can now pray effectually unto our Father, even as he could have done.  Do I hear you say, “The fatal hour is near?”  You may now pray.  “But the danger is imminent!”  You may now pray.  If, like Jonah, you are now at the bottom of the sea, and the weeds are wrapped about your head, you may even now pray.  Prayer is a weapon that is stable in every position in the hour of conflict.  The Greeks had long spears, and these were of grand service to the phalanx so long as the rank was not broken; but the Romans used a short sword, and that was a far more effectual weapon at close quarters.  Prayer is both the long spear and the short sword.  Yes, brother, between the jaws of the lion you may even now pray.  We glory in our blessed Master, that he knew in fullness of faith that if he would bring forth his full power of prayer he could set all heaven on the wing.  As soon as his beseeching prayer had reached the Father’s ear, immediately, like flames of fire, angels would flash death upon his adversaries.

Our Lord’s resort was not to the carnal weapon, but to the mighty engine of supplication.  Behold, my brethren, where our grand resort must always be.  Look not to the arm of flesh, but to the Lord our God.  Church of God, look not piteously to the State, but fly to the mercy-seat. Church of God, look not to the ministry, but resort to the throne of grace.  Church of God, depend not upon learned or moneyed men, but beseech God in supplicating faith.  Prayer is the tower of David built for an armory.  Prayer is our battle-axe and weapons of war.  We say to our antagonist: “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father.”  Let this suffice to display our Savior’s grand resource in the night of his direst distress


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Pictures of Life PDF

By C. H. Spurgeon

What is your life?” James 4:14

It well behoves me, now that another year of my existence has almost gone, standing on the threshold of a fresh era, to consider what I am, where I am going, what I am doing, whom I am serving, and what shall he my reward.  I will not, however, do so publicly before you; I hope that I may be enabled to perform that duty in secret; but rather let me turn this occurrence to another account by speaking to you of the frailty of human life, the fleeting nature of time, how swiftly it passes away, how soon we all shall fade as a leaf, and how speedily the place which knows us now shall know us no more for ever.

The apostle James asks, “What is your life?” and, thanks to inspiration, we are at no great difficulty to give the reply; for Scripture being the best interpreter of Scripture, supplies us with many very excellent answers.  I shall attempt to give you some of them.

I. First, we shall view life with regard to ITS SWIFTNESS.

It is a great fact that though life to the young man, when viewed in the prospect appears to be long, to the old man it is ever short, and to all men life is really but a brief period.  Human life is not long.  Compare it with the existence of some animals and trees, and how short is human life!  Compare it with the ages of the universe, and it becomes a span; and especially measure it by eternity, and how little does life appear!  It sinks like one small drop into the ocean, and becomes as insignificant as one tiny grain of sand upon the seashore.

Life is swift.  If you would picture life, you must, turn to the Bible, and this evening we will walk through the Bible-gallery of old paintings.  You will find its swiftness spoken of in the Book of Job, where we are furnished with three illustrations.  In the ninth chapter and at the twenty-fifth verse, we read, “Now my days are swifter than a post.”  We are most of us acquainted with the swiftness of post-conveyance.  I have sometimes, on an emergency, taken posthorses where there has been no railway, and have been amazed and pleased with the rapidity of my journey.  But since, in this ancient Book, there can be no allusion to modern posts, we must turn to the manners and customs of the East, and in so doing we find that the ancient monarchs astonished their subjects by the amazing rapidity with which they received intelligence.  By well-ordered arrangements, swift horses, and constant relays, they were able to attain a speed which, although trifling in these days, was in those slower ages a marvel of marvels; so that, to an Eastern, one of the clearest ideas of swiftness was that of “a post.”  Well doth Job say that our life is swifter than a post.  We ride one year until it is worn out, but there comes another just as swift, and we are borne by it, and soon it is gone, and another year serves us for a steed, post-house after post-house we pass, as birthdays successively arrive, we loiter not, but vaulting at a leap from one year to another, still we hurry onward, onward, ever onward.  My life is like a post: not like the slow wagon that drags along the road with tiresome wheels, but like a post, it attains the greatest speed.

Job further says, “My days are passed away as the swift ships.”  He increases, you see, the intensity of the metaphor; for if, in the Eastern’s idea anything could exceed the swiftness of the post, it was the swift ship.  Some translate this passage as “the ships of desire;” that is, the ships hurrying home, anxious for the haven, and therefore crowding, on all sail.

You may well conceive now swiftly the mariner flies from a threatening storm, or seeks the port where he will find his home.  You have sometimes seen how the ship cuts through the billows, leaving a white furrow behind her, and causing the sea to boil around her.  Such is life, says Job, “as the swift ships,” when the sails are filled by the wind, and the vessel dashes on, cleaving a passage through the crowding waves.  Swift are the ships, but swifter far is life.  The wind of time bears me along.  I cannot stop its motion, I may direct it with the rudder of God’s Holy Spirit; I may, it is true, take in some small sails of sin, which might hurry my days on faster than otherwise they would go; but, nevertheless, like a swift ship, my life must speed on its way until it reaches its haven.  Where is that haven to be?  Shall it be found in the land of bitterness and barrenness, that dreary region of the lost?  Or shall it be that sweet haven of eternal peace, where not a troubling wave can ruffle the quiescent glory of my spirit?  Wherever the haven is to be, that, truth is the same, we are “as the swift ships.”

Job also says that life is “as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.”  The eagle is a bird noted for its swiftness.  I remember reading an account of an eagle attacking a fish-hawk, which had obtained some booty from the deep, and was bearing it aloft.  The hawk dropped the fish, which fell towards the water; but before the fish had reached the ocean, the eagle had flown more swiftly shall the fish could fall, and catching it in its beak it flew away with it.  The swiftness of the eagle is almost incalculable; you see it, and it is gone; you see a dark speck in the sky yonder; it is an eagle soaring; let the fowler imagine that, by-and-by, he shall overtake it on some mountain’s craggy peak, it shall be gone long before he reaches it.  Such is our life. It is like an eagle hasting to its prey; not merely an eagle flying in its ordinary course, but an eagle hasting to its prey.  Life appears to be hasting to its end; death seeks the body as its prey; life is ever fleeing from insatiate death; but death is too swift to be out run, and as an eagle overtakes his prey, so shall death.

If we require a further illustration of the swiftness of life, we must turn to two other passages in the Book of Job, upon which I shall not dwell.  One, will be found in the seventh chapter, at the sixth verse, where Job says, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,” which the weaver throws, so quickly that the eye can hardly discern it.  But he gives us a yet more excellent metaphor in the seventh verse of the same chapter, where he says, “O remember that my life is wind.”  Now this excels in velocity all the other figures we have examined.  Who can out stride the winds? Proverbially, the winds are rapid; even in their gentlest motion they appear to be swift.  But when they rush in the tornado, or when they dash madly on in the hurricane, when the tempest blows, and tears down everything, how swift then is the wind!  Perhaps some of us may have a gentle gale of wind, and we may not seem to move so swiftly; but with others, who are only just born, and then snatched away to heaven, the swiftness may be compared to that of the hurricane, which soon snaps the ties of life, and leaves the infant dead.  Surely our life is like the wind.

Oh, if you could but catch these idea, my friends!  Though we may be sitting still in this chapel, yet you know that we are all really in motion.  This world is turning round on its axis once in four-and-twenty hours, and besides that, it is moving round the sun in the 365 days of the year.  So that we are all moving, we are all flitting along through space, and as we are traveling through space, so are we moving through time at an incalculable rate.

Oh, what an idea this is could we but grasp it!  We are all being carried along as if by a giant angel, with broad outstretched wings, which he flaps to the blast, and flying before the lightning, makes us ride on the winds.  The whole multitude of us are hurrying along, — whither, remains to be decided by the test of our faith and the grace of God; but certain it is that we are all traveling.  Do not think that you are stable, fixed in one position; fancy not that you are standing still; you are not.  Your pulses each moment beat the funeral marches to the tomb.  You are chained to the chariot of rolling time; there is no bridling the steeds, or leaping from the chariot; you must be constantly in motion.

Thus then, have I spoken of the swiftness of life.

II. But, next, I must speak concerning THE UNCERTAINTY OF LIFE, of which we have abundant illustrations.

Let us refer to that part of Scripture from, which I have chosen my text, the Epistle of James, the fourth chapter, at the fourteenth verse: “For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  If I were to ask for a child’s explanation of this, I know what he would say.  He would say, “Yes, it is even a vapor, like a bubble that is blown upward.”  Children sometimes blow bubbles, and amuse themselves thereby.  Life is even as that bubble.  You see it rising into the air; the child delights in seeing it fly about, but it is all gone in one moment.

“It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  But if you ask the poet to explain this, he would tell you that, in the morning, sometimes at early dawn, the rivers send up a steamy offering to the sun.  There is a vapor, a mist, an exhalation rising from the rivers and brooks, but in a very little while after the sun has risen all that mist has gone.  Hence we read of “the morning cloud, and the early dew that passeth away.”  A more common observer, speaking of a vapor, would think of those thin clouds you sometimes see floating in the air, which are so light that they are soon carried away. Indeed, a poet uses them as the picture of feebleness, —

“Their hosts are scatter’d, like thin clouds

Before a Biscay gale.”

The wind moves them, and they are gone.  “What is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  So uncertain is life!

Again, if you read in the Book of Ecclesiastes, at the sixth chapter, and the twelfth verse, you will there find life compared to something else, even more fragile than a vapor. The wise man there says that it is even “as a shadow.”  Now, what can there be less  substantial than a shadow?  What substance is there in a shadow?  Who can lay hold of  it?  You may see a person’s shadow as he passes you, but the moment the person passes away his shadow is gone.  Yea, and who can grasp his life?  Many men reckon upon a long existence, and think they are going to live here for ever; but who can calculate upon a shadow? Go, thou foolish man, who sayest to thy soul, “Thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease! eat, drink, and be merry;” go thou, and store thy room, with shadows; go thou, and pile up shadows and say, “These are mine, and they shall never depart.”  But thou sayest, “I cannot catch a shadow.”  No, and thou canst not reckon on a year, or even a moment, for it is as a shadow, that soon melteth away, and is gone.

King Hezekiah also furnishes us with a simile, where he says that life is as a thread which is cut off.  You will find this in the prophecy of Isaiah, the thirty-eighth chapter, at the twelfth verse: “Mine age is departed, and is removed from me as a shepherd’s tent: I have cut off like a weaver my life.”  The weaver cuts off his thread very easily, and so is life soon ended.

I might continue my illustrations at pleasure concerning the uncertainty of life.  We might find, perhaps, a score more figures in Scripture if we would search.  Take, for instance, the grass, the flowers of the field, etc.  But though life is swift, and though it is to pass away so speedily, we are still generally very anxious to know what it is to be, while we have it.  For we say, if we are to lose it soon, still, while we live, let us live; and whilst we are to be here, be it ever so short a time, let us know what we are to expect in it.

III. And that leads us, in the third place, to look at LIFE IN ITS CHANGES.

If you want pictures of the changes of life, turn to this wonderful Book of poetry, the Sacred Scriptures, and there you will find metaphors piled on metaphors.  And, first, you will find life compared to a pilgrimage by good old Jacob, in the forty-seventh chapter of Genesis, and the ninth verse.  That hoary-headed patriarch, when he was asked by Pharaoh what was his age, replied, “The days of the years of my pilgrimage are an hundred and thirty years; few and evil have the days of the years of my life been, and have not obtained unto the days of the years of the life of my fathers in the days of their pilgrimage.”  He calls life, a pilgrimage.  A pilgrim sets out in the morning, and he has to journey many a day before he gets to the shrine which he, seeks.  What varied scenes the traveler will behold on his way!

Sometimes he will be on the mountains, anon he will descend into the valleys, here he will be where the brooks shine like silver, where the birds warble, where the air is balmy, and the trees are green, and luscious fruits hang down to gratify his taste, anon he will find himself in the arid desert, where no life is found, and no sound is heard, except the screech of the wild eagle in the air, where he finds no rest for the sole of his foot, — the burning sky above him, and the hot sand beneath him, — no roof-tree, and no house to rest himself; at another time he finds himself in a sweet oasis, resting himself by the wells of water, and plucking fruit from palm-trees.  At one time he walks between the rocks, in some narrow gorge, where all is darkness, at another time he ascends the hill Mizar; now he descends into the valley of Baca anon he climbs the hill of Bashan, and a high hill is the hill Bashan and yet again going into the mountains of leopards, he suffers trial and affliction.

Such is life, ever changing.  Who can tell what may come next?  Today it is fair, tomorrow there may be the blundering storm; today I may want for nothing, tomorrow I may be like Jacob, with nothing but a stone for my pillow, and the heavens for my curtains.  But what a happy thought it is, though we know not how the road winds, we know where it ends.  It is the straightest way to heaven to go round about. Israel’s forty years wanderings were, after all, the nearest path to Canaan.  We may have to go through trial and affliction; the pilgrimage may be a tiresome one, but it is safe; we cannot trace the river upon which we are sailing, but we know it ends in floods of bliss at last.  We cannot track the roads, but we know that they all meet in the great metropolis of heaven, in the center of God’s universe.  God help us to pursue the true pilgrimage of a pious life!

We have another picture of life in its changes given to us in the ninetieth Psalm, at the ninth verse: “We spend our years as a tale that is told.”  Now David understood about tales that were told; I daresay he had been annoyed by them sometimes, and amused by them at other times.  There are, in the past, professed story-tellers, who amused their hearers by inventing tales such as those in that foolish book the “Arabian Nights.”  When I was foolish enough to read that book, I remember sometimes you were with fairies, sometimes with genii, sometimes in palaces, anon you went, down into caverns.  All sorts of singular things are conglomerated into what they call a tale.

Now, says David, “we spend our years as a tale that is told.”  You know there is nothing so wonderful as the history of the odds and ends of human life.  Sometimes it is a merry rhyme, sometimes a prosy subject; sometimes you ascend to the sublime, soon you descend to the ridiculous.  No man can write the whole of his own biography, I suppose, if the complete history of a man’s thoughts and words could be written, the world itself would hardly contain the record, so wonderful is the tale that might be told.  Our lives are all singular, and must to ourselves seem strange; of which much might be said.  Our life is “as a tale that is told.”

Another idea we get from the thirty-eighth chapter of the prophecy of Isaiah, at the twelfth verse: “I am removed as a shepherd’s tent.”  The shepherds in the East build temporary huts near the sheep, which are soon removed when the flock moves on; when the hot season comes on, they pitch their tents in the most favorable place they can find, and each season has its suitable position.  My life is like a shepherd’s tent.  I have pitched my tent in a variety of places already; but where I shall pitch it by-and-by, I do not know, I cannot tell.  Present probabilities seem to say that —

“Here I shall make my settled rest,

And neither go nor come:

No more a stranger or a guest,

But like a child at home.”

But I cannot tell, and you cannot divine.  I know that my tent cannot be removed till God says, “Go forward;” and it cannot stand firm unless he makes it so.

“All my ways shall ever be

Order’d by his wise decree.”

You have been opening a new shop lately, and you are thinking of settling down in trade, and managing a thriving concern; now paint not the future too brightly, do not be too sure as to what is in store for you.  Another has for a long time been engaged in an old establishment; your father always carried on trade there, and you have no thought of moving; but here you have no abiding city; your life is like a shepherd’s tent; you may be here, there, and almost everywhere before you die.  It was once said by Solan, “No man ought to be called a happy man till he dies,” because he does not know what his life is to be; but Christians may always call themselves happy men here, because, wherever their tent is carried, they cannot pitch it where the cloud does not move, and where they are not surrounded by a circle of fire.  God will be a wall of fire round about them, and their glory in the midst.  They cannot dwell where God is not the bulwark of their salvation.

If any of you who are God’s people are going to change your condition, are going to move out of one situation into another, to take a new business, or remove to another county, you need not fear, God was with you in the last place, and he will be with you in this.  He hath said, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God.”  That is an oft-told story of Caesar in a storm.  The sailors were all afraid; but he exclaimed, “Fear not! thou carriest Caesar and all his fortunes.”  So is it with the poor Christian.  There is a storm coming on, but fear not, thou art carrying Jesus, and thou must sink or swim with him.  Well may any true believer say, “Lord, if thou art with me, it matters not where my tent is.  All must be well, though my life is removed like a shepherd’s tent.”

Again, our life is compared in the Psalms to a dream.  Now, if a tale is singular, surely a dream, is still more so.  If a tale is changing and shifting, what is a dream?  As for dreams, those flutterings of the benighted fancy, those revelries of the imagination, who can tell what they consist of?  We dream of everything in the world, and a few things more!  If we were asked to tell our dreams, it would be impossible for us to do so.  You dream that you are at a feast; and lo! the viands change into Pegasus, and you are riding through the air; or, again, suddenly transformed into a morsel for a monster’s meal.  Such is life.  The changes occur as suddenly as they happen in a dream.  Men have been rich one day, and they have been beggars the next.  We have witnessed the exile of monarchs, and the flight of a potentate; or, in, another direction, we have seen a man, neither reputable in company nor honorable in station, at a single stride exalted to a throne; and you, who would have shunned him in the streets before, were foolish enough to throng your thoroughfares to stare at him.  Ah! such is life. Leaves of the Sibyl were not more easily moved by the winds, nor are dreams more variable.  “Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”  How foolish are those men who wish to pry into the future!  The telescope is ready, and they are going to look through it, but they are so anxious to see, that they breathe on the glass with their hot breath, and they dim it, so that they can discern nothing but clouds and darkness.  Oh, ye who are always conjuring up black fiends from the deep unknown, and foolishly vexing your minds with fancies, turn your fancies out of doors, and begin to rest on never-failing promises!  Promises are better than forebodings.  “Trust in the Lord, and do good; so shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.”

Thus I have spoken of the changes of this mortal life.

IV. And now, to close, let me ask, WHAT IS TO BE THE END OF THIS LIFE?

We read in the second Book of Samuel, chapter 14, and verse 14, “We must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.”  Man is like a great icicle, which the sun of time is continually thawing, and which is soon to be as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again.  Who can recall the departed spirit, or inflate the lungs with a new breath of life?  Who can put vitality into the heart, and restore the soul from Hades?  None.  It cannot be gathered up again; the place that once knew it shall know it no more for ever.

But here a sweet thought charms us.  This water cannot be lost, but it shall descend into the soil to filter through, the Rock of ages, at last to spring up a pure fountain in heaven, cleansed, purified, and made clear as crystal.

How terrible if, on the other hand, it should percolate through the black earth of sin, and hang in horrid drops in the dark caverns of destruction!  Such is life!  Then, make the best use of it, my friends, because it is fleeting.  Look for another life, because this life is not a very desirable one, it is so changeable.  Trust your life in God’s hand, because you cannot control its movements, rest in his arms, and rely on his might; for he is able to do for you exceeding abundantly above all that you ask or think; and unto his name be glory for ever and ever! Amen.

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The Word Appreciated by Charles Spurgeon
“How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” — Psalm 119:103

It is delightful to find how exactly the experience of David, under the Jewish dispensation, tallies with the experience of the saints of God in these gospel times. David lived in an age of miracles and divers manifestations. He could have recourse to the Urim and the Thummim and the priesthood; he could go up to Zion and listen to the holy songs of the great assembly; he could converse with the priesthood; but, still, the food of his soul was supplied to him from the written Word of God, just as it is with us now. As that is the food of our souls, so it was the food of David’s soul.

Martin Luther says, “I have covenanted with the Lord that I would neither ask him for visions, nor for angels, nor for miracles, but I would be satisfied with his own Word, and if I might but lay hold upon Scripture by faith, that shall be enough for me.” Now it seems to be so with David here. The honey that gratifies his taste is not found in angels’ visits or miraculous signs or officiating priesthoods or special revelations, but in the words of God’s mouth and in the testimonies of Holy Writ.

Let us, then dear brethren, prize this Book of God. Be not ambitious, as some are, of seeking new revelations, or enquire for the whispers of disembodied spirits, but be satisfied with this good household bread which God has prepared for his people; and while others may loathe and dislike it, let us be thankful for it and acknowledge with gratitude the bread which came down from heaven, testifying to us, as it does, of the Lord Jesus, the Word of life that liveth and abideth forever.

This exclamation of David is clear proof that he set the highest possible value upon the Word of God. The evidence is more valuable, because the Scripture that David had was but a slender book compared with this volume which is now before us. I suppose he had little more than the five Books of Moses, and yet, as he opened that Pentateuch, he said, “How sweet are thy words unto my taste!” If that first morsel so satisfied the psalmist, surely this fuller and richer feast of heavenly dainties ought to be yet more gratifying to us. If, when God had but given him the first dish of the course, and that by no means the best, his soul was ravished with it, how should you and I rejoice with joy unspeakable, now that the King has brought on royal dainties and given us the revelation of his dear Son!

Think a minute. The Pentateuch is what we would call, nowadays, the historical part of Scripture; and haven’t you frequently heard persons say, “Oh, the minister read a passage out of the historical parts of the Word.” I have, with great pain, heard persons speak in a very depreciating manner of the histories of Holy Writ. Now, understand this. The part of the Word which David loved so much is mainly historical, and if the mere history of the Word was so sweet, what ought those holy Gospels and sacred Epistles to be which declare the mystery of that narrative — which are the honey whereof the Old Testament is but the comb — which are the treasures of which the Old Testament is but the casket? Surely we are to be condemned indeed who do not prize the Word now that we have it all.

That Word of God, which David so much prized, was mainly typical, shadowy, symbolical. I do not know that he understood it all. I do know that he understood some of it, for some of his Psalms are so evangelical that he must have perceived the great sacrifice of God foreshadowed in the sacrifices described in the books of Numbers and Leviticus, or it would not have been possible that he should, in so marvelous a style, express his faith in the great offering of our Lord Jesus. I put it to some professors here: do you often read these at all? If, now, your Bible was so circumscribed that all was taken from you but the Pentateuch, would you be able, to say, “Thy Word is sweet unto my taste?” Are not many of us so little educated in God’s Word that, if we were confined to the reading of that part of it, we should be obliged to confess it was unprofitable to us? We could not give a good answer to Philip’s question, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” Oh, shame upon us that, with so many more Books, and with the Holy Spirit so plenteously given to guide us into all truth, we should seem to value at least half of the Word of God even less than David did!

A great portion of the Pentateuch is taken up with precepts, and I may say of some of them that they are grievous. Those commandments which are binding upon us are not grievous. Some of the commands of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are so complex, that they were a yoke of bondage, according to Peter, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear. Yet, that wondrous 20th chapter of Exodus with its ten commandments and all the long list of the precepts of the ceremonial law, which you may perhaps account wearisome to read, David says were sweet to his taste, sweeter than honey to his mouth. What! Did he so love to hear his heavenly Father speak that it did not much matter to him what he said so long as he did but speak, for the music of his voice was gladdening in its every tone to him? Now that you and I know that all the bondage of the ceremonial law is gone, that nothing remains of it but blessing to our souls, and now that we are not under the law, but under grace, and have become inheritors of rich and precious and unspeakably great promises, how is it that we fall so far short, and do not, I fear, love the Word of God to anything like the degree that David loved it?

David here speaks of all God’s words, without making any distinction concerning some one of them. So long as it was God’s Word, it was sweet to him, whatever form it might take. Alas, this is not true of all professors. With an unwise partiality, they pronounce some of God’s words as very sweet, but other portions of God’s truth are rather sour and unsavory to their palates. There are persons of a certain class who delight in the doctrines of grace. Therein they are to be commended, for which of us do not delight in them if we know our interest in them? The covenant and the great truths which grow out of the covenant, these are unspeakably precious things and are rightly enough the subjects of joy to all believers who understand them. Yet certain of these persons will be as angry as though you had touched them with a hot iron if you should bring a precept anywhere near them; and if you insist upon anything being the duty of a believer, the very words seem to sting them like a whip; they cannot endure it. If you speak of the “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord,” and speak of it as a holiness which is wrought in us by God the Holy Spirit and as a holiness of mind and thought and action — a personal holiness which is to be seen in the daily life — they are offended. They can say, “How sweet are thy doctrinal words to my taste, but not thy precepts, Lord; those I do not love; those I call legal. If thy servants minister them, I say they are gendering bondage and I go away from them and leave them as Arminians or duty-faith men or something of that kind; for I love half thy Word and only half of it.” Alas, there are not a few of that class to be found every here and there.

And there are some who go on the other side they love God’s Word in the precepts of it, or the promises, but not the doctrines. If the doctrine be preached, they say it is dangerous — too high; it will elevate some of God’s servants to presumption it will tempt them to think lightly of moral distinctions; it will lead them to walk carelessly, because they know they are safe in Christ. Thus they love one half of the truth and not the whole of it. But, my dear brethren and sisters, I hope you are of the same mind as David. If God shall give you a promise, you will taste it, like a wafer of honey, and feed on it; and if he shall give you a precept, you will not stop to look at it, and say, “Lord, I don’t like this as well as the promise;” but you will receive that and feed upon that also. And when the Lord shall be pleased afterwards to give you some revelation with regard to your inward experience or to your fellowship with his dear Son, you welcome it with joy, because you love any truth and every truth so long as you know it to be the truth of God’s own Word.

It is a blessed sign of grace in the heart when God’s words are sweet to us as a whole — when we love the truth, not cast into a system or a shape, but as we find it in God’s Word. I believe that no man who has yet lived has ever proposed a system of theology which comprises all the truth of God’s Word. If such a system had been possible, the discovery of it would have been made for us by God himself: certainly it would if it had been desirable and useful for our profit and holiness. But it has not pleased God to give us a body of divinity; let us receive it as he has given it each truth in its own proportion — each doctrine in harmony with its fellow — each precept carefully carried out into practice and each promise to be believed and by-and-by received. Let the truth and the whole truth, be sweet to our taste. “How sweet are thy words!”

There seems to be an emphasis on the pronoun, “How sweet are thy words!” O my God, if the words be thine, they are sweet to me. Had they come to me from the prophet, and I had perceived them to be merely the words of man, I might then have estimated them at their own weight, without reference to their authority; but when my Father speaks, when the Spirit lives and breathes in the truth to which I listen, when Jesus Christ himself draws near to me in the preaching of the gospel — then it is that the Word becomes sweet unto my taste. Beloved, let us not be satisfied with the truth except we can also feel it to be God’s truth. Let us ask the Lord to enable us, when we open this Book, to feel that we are not reading it as we read a common book — truths put there by some means, unimportant to us how; but let us recollect that we are reading truth put there by an inspired pen — that we have there God’s truth such as he would have us receive — such as he thought it worth his while to write and to preserve to all ages for our instruction.

The psalmist is not content to say, “God’s Word is sweet, and sweeter than honey,” but “How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” After all, the blessedness of the Word is a matter to be ascertained by personal experience. Let others choose this philosophy and that form of thought, let them gad abroad after the beauties of poetry, or dote upon the charms of oratory; my palate shall be satisfied with thy Word, O God, and my soul shall find an excess of sweetness in the things which come from thy mouth into my mouth!

The Word of God, then, while in itself certainly most sweet, and all the sweeter when we recognize it as coming from God, will only be sweet to us in proportion as we are able to receive it and to feed upon it. Every man must in this case feed for himself. There can be no proxy here. I wonder not at those who think lightly of God’s Word, notwithstanding the rapturous admiration they have heard expressed by others; for, unless they have tasted it, and felt and handled it, they still must be strangers to its unspeakable sweetness.

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