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Archive for the ‘Reforming Reflections’ Category

Having a Thankful Heart by Thomas Watson

‘Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name’ (Psalm 29:2).

Let us prove our godliness by gratefulness:

1. ‘It is a good thing to be thankful:‘It is good to sing praises unto our God’ (Psalm 147:1).  It is bad when the tongue (that organ of praise) is out of tune and jars by murmuring and discontent.  But it is a good thing to be thankful.  It is good, because this is all the creature can do to lift up God’s name; and it is good because it tends to make us good.  The more thankful we are, the more holy.  While we pay this tribute of praise, our stock of grace increases.  In other debts, the more we pay, the less we have; but the more we pay this debt of thankfulness, the more grace we have. (more…)

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Psalm 55

“But I will trust in thee.” (Psalm 55:23) …The value of a word and the power that it has over our hearts depends largely upon the man who speaks it and on the circumstances of its utterance. When Paul said to the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say rejoice,” how inexpressibly these words are deepened by the circumstances of the Apostle—no longer young nor free, but a prisoner in a Roman cell with his life-work seemingly shattered at his feet. Living words have the quality of life. They are born and bear the fashion of their birth. They may be robbed of meaning, or may be filled with meaning, by the hour in which the spirit utters them. So it seems to me the only way to enter into the grandeur of our text is to learn the circumstances of the Psalm. What kind of man was this who said so confidently: “But I will trust in thee?” What were his circumstances? Was he happy? Was everything going very well with him? A study of the psalm will show us that. (more…)

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The Great Birthday

Charles Spurgeon

“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” — Luke 2:10

There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence than the Lord’s day.  You will often hear it asserted that “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” but it is not so.  There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and, among other things, they have accepted the authority of what they call “the Church” and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered.  There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land has agreed to follow in the same track.  You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation.  We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them. (more…)

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“Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?” – John 21:17

 

This is a pointed question, which demands a personal answer and should, therefore, stir up full and frequent self-examination.  “Lovest thou me?”  It is a probing question that is likely to excite much grief when pressed home to the sensitive, tender-hearted disciple, even as Peter was grieved because the Lord said unto him the third time, “Lovest thou me?”  Yet it is a pleasing and profitable question to so many of us as can give a like solemn and satisfactory response to that of Simon Peter, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.” (more…)

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“My times are in thy hand.” — Psalm 31:15

 

David was sad: his life was spent with grief, and his years with sighing.  His sorrow had wasted his strength, and even his bones were consumed within him.  Cruel enemies pursued him with malicious craft, even seeking his life.  At such a time, he used the best resource of grief; for he says in verse 14, “But I trusted in thee, O Lord.”  He had no other refuge but that which he found in faith in the Lord his God.  If enemies slandered him, he did not render railing for railing; if they devised to take away his life, he did not meet violence with violence; but he calmly trusted in the Lord.  They ran hither and thither, using all kinds of nets and traps to make the man of God their victim; but he met all their inventions with the one simple defense of trust in God.  Many are the fiery darts of the wicked one; but our shield is one.  The shield of faith not only quenches fiery darts, but it breaks arrows of steel.  Though the javelins of the foe were dipped in the venom of hell, yet our one shield of faith would hold us harmless, casting them off from us.  Thus David had the grand resource of faith in the hour of danger.

 

Note well that he uttered a glorious claim, the greatest claim that man has ever made: “I said, Thou art my God.”  He that can say, “This kingdom is mine,” makes a royal claim; he that can say, “This mountain of silver is mine,” makes a wealthy claim; but he that can say to the Lord, “Thou art my God,” hath said more than all monarchs and millionaires can reach.  If this God is your God by his gift of himself to you, what can you have more?  If Jehovah has been made your own by an act of appropriating faith, what more can be conceived of?  You have not the world, but you have the Maker of the world; and that is far more.  There is no measuring the greatness of his treasure who hath God to be his all in all.

 

Having thus taken to the best resource by trusting in Jehovah, and having made the grandest claim possible by saying, “Thou art my God,” the Psalmist now stays himself upon a grand old doctrine, one of the most wonderful that was ever revealed to men.  He sings, “My times are in thy hand.”  This to him was a most cheering fact: he had no fear as to his circumstances, since all things were in the divine hand.  He was not shut up unto the hand of the enemy; but his feet stood in a large room, for he was in a space large enough for the ocean, seeing the Lord had placed him in the hollow of his hand.  To be entirely at the disposal of God is life and liberty for us.

 

The great truth is this — all that concerns the believer is in the hands of the Almighty God.  “My times,” these change and shift; but they change only in accordance with unchanging love, and they shift only according to the purpose of One with whom is no variableness nor shadow of a turning.  “My times,” that is to say, my ups and my downs, my health and my sickness, my poverty and my wealth — all those are in the hand of the Lord, who arranges and appoints, according to his holy will, the length of my days and the darkness of my nights.  Storms and calms vary the seasons at the divine appointment.  Whether times are reviving or depressing remains with him who is Lord both of time and of eternity; and we are glad it is so.

 

We assent to the statement, “My times are in thy hand,” as to their result.  Whatever is to come out of our life is in our heavenly Father’s hand.  He guards the vine of life, and he also protects the clusters which shall be produced thereby.  If life be as a field, the field is under the hand of the great Husbandman, and the harvest of that field is with him also.  The ultimate results of his work of grace upon us and of his education of us in this life are in the highest hand.  We are not in our own hands, nor in the hands of earthly teachers; but we are under the skillful operation of hands which make nothing in vain.  The close of life is not decided by the sharp knife of the fates; but by the hand of love.  We shall not die before our time; neither shall we be forgotten and left upon the stage too long.

 

Not only are we ourselves in the hand of the Lord, but all that surrounds us.  Our times make up a kind of atmosphere of existence; and all this is under divine arrangement.  We dwell within the palm of God’s hand.  We are absolutely at his disposal, and all our circumstances are arranged by him in all their details.  We are comforted to have it so

 

How came the Psalmist’s times to be thus in God’s hand?  I should answer, first, that they were there in the order of nature, according to the eternal purpose and decree of God.  All things are ordained of God and are settled by him according to his wise and holy predestination.  Whatsoever happens here happens not by chance, but according to the counsel of the Most High.  The acts and deeds of men below, though left wholly to their own wills, are the counterpart of that which is written in the purpose of heaven.  The open acts of Providence below tally exactly with that which is written in the secret book, which no eye of man or angel as yet has scanned.  This eternal purpose superintended our birth.  “In thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them.”  In thy book, every footstep of every creature is recorded before the creature is made.  God has mapped out the pathway of every man who traverses the plains of life.  Some may doubt this; but all agree that God foresees all things; and how can they be certainly foreseen unless they are certain to be?  It is no mean comfort to a man of God that he feels that, by divine arrangement and sacred predestination, his times are in the hand of God.

 

But David’s times were in God’s hand in another sense; namely, that he had by faith committed them all to God.  Observe carefully the fifth verse: “Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth.”  In life, we use the words which our Lord so patiently used in death: we hand over our spirits to the hand of God.  If our lives were not appointed of heaven, we should wish they were.  If there were no overruling Providence, we would crave for one.  We would merge our own wills in the will of the great God, and cry, “Not as we will, but as thou wilt.”  It would be a hideous thought to us if any one point of our life-story were left to chance or to the frivolities of our own fancy; but with joyful hope we fall back upon the eternal foresight and the infallible wisdom of God, and cry, “Thou shalt choose our inheritance for us.”  We would beg him to take our times into his hand, even if they were not there.

 

Moreover, beloved brethren, our times are in the Lord’s hands, because we are one with Christ Jesus.  “We are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.”  Everything that concerns Christ touches the great Father’s heart.  He thinks more of Jesus than of all the world.  Hence it follows that when we become one with Jesus, we become conspicuous objects of the Father’s care.  He takes us in hand for the sake of his dear Son.  He that loves the Head loves all the members of the mystical body.  We cannot conceive of the dear Redeemer as ever being out of the Father’s mind; neither can any of us who are in Christ be away from the Father’s active, loving care: our tines are ever in his hand.  All his eternal purposes work towards the glorifying of the Son, and quite as surely they work together for the good of those who are in his Son. The purposes which concern our Lord and us are so inter-twisted as never to be separated.

 

To have our times in God’s hand must mean not only that they are at God’s disposal, but that they are arranged by the highest wisdom.  God’s hand never errs; and if our times are in his hand, those times are ordered rightly.  We need not puzzle our brains to understand the dispensations of Providence: a much easier and wiser course is open to us; namely, to believe the hand of the Lord works all things for the best.  Sit thou still, O child, at thy great Father’s feet, and let him do as seems him good!  When thou canst not comprehend him, know that a babe cannot understand the wisdom of its sire.  Thy Father comprehends all things, though thou dost not: let his wisdom be enough for thee.  Everything in the hand of God is where it may be left without anxiety; and it is where it will be carried through to a prosperous issue.  Things prosper which are in his hand.  “My times are in thy hand,” is an assurance that none can disturb, or pervert, or poison them.  In that hand, we rest as securely as rests a babe upon its mother’s breast.  Where could our interests be so well secured as in the eternal hand?  What a blessing it is to see by the eye of faith all things that concern you grasped in the hand of God!  What peace as to every matter which could cause anxiety flows into the soul when we see all our hopes built upon so stable a foundation, and preserved by such supreme power!  “My times are in thy hand!”

 

Come, let each man take to himself this doctrine of the supreme appointment of God and believe that it stands true as to his own case, “My times are in thy hand.”  The wings of the cherubim cover me.  The Lord Jesus loved me and gave himself for me, and my times are in those hands which were nailed to the cross for my redemption.

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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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